Author Archives: Nanci

About Nanci

I am a painter, web designer, B&B host living on a small island off Vancouver Island BC

Kakistocracy

What fresh hell can this be?*

                                —Dorothy Parker

 

But who will bell the cat?

                                —Ancient fable (predating Aesop)

 

Stupidity does not consist in being without ideas. Such stupidity would be the sweet, blissful stupidity of animals, mollusks and the gods. Human stupidity consists in having lots of ideas, but stupid ones. Stupid ideas, with banners, hymns, loudspeakers and even tanks and flame-throwers as their instruments of persuasion, constitute the refined and the only really terrifying form of stupidity 

                                 -– Henry de Montherlant, Notebooks, 1930-44

 

Kakistocracy— government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens,

                               —Thomas Love Peacock, English novelist 1829

 

 

It is meager solace having a name for the condition that is afflicting 63,000,000 of us.  Like chronic fatigue syndrome or sleep apnea, a diagnosis may help provide understanding and treatment.  Knowing you are not just a lazy person who snores loudly is some comfort and legitimacy.  Months after the election our nation is still in shock.  Many of us have physical symptoms like sleeplessness, irritability, and free floating anxiety,  We are worried, and feel powerless, cynical, and pessimistic.  We compartmentalize and become tearful thinking about the future. Literate readers of this space (oxymoronic) may already know the term kakistocracy.

 

Amro Ali a Middle Eastern scholar at the University of Sydney, posted a blog entitled “Kakistocracy:  A Word We Need to Revive.”  (Gotta love that Internet.) He encourages a more widespread application of the word kakistocracy to describe the current government of the United States.  Professor Ali warns that an overuse of the term by applying it to any unpopular government weakens its meaning.

 

Sadly that day is here.  We are full-on Captain Quieg, and James Comey smells of strawberries. We have forsaken democracy and its ideals and are currently living under a kakistocracy.  In further bad news, we likely have a comorbid condition kleptocracy, or rule by thugs and thieves.  Russia, always in the news, is a kleptocracy.  Putin and his cronies are amassing vast sums of money and precious resources but they are not stupid, they are not kakistocrats.


This is not a sore loser, aw shucks, “get ’em next time” partisan rant (see Bush v Gore HLP March/2001).    We have endured the leadership of racists, paranoiacs, simpletons and jingoists while still cramming ourselves into the bulging leisurewear of democracy.  Now we have split our pants.


How we got here is for better minds.  What happened to the Constitution?  Checks and balances?  Our current state is horribly embarrassing, like borrowing money from a relative, having a credit card refused at a busy supermarket, or making body noises on a first date.  We do not have death squads, though Attorney General Sessions is ramping up the penalties for drug offenses. We are closing the gap on the banana republics we once scorned. First World nations are treating us as if we have ceased bathing regularly.  

 

When I was a kid I wondered what color the sky was during The Great Depression, because all the newsreels and pictures were in black and white.  I catch myself feeling happy and then I remember the president and his minions are oblivious to the principles of Jefferson, the life of Frederick Douglass, and the sacredness of democracy.  Our past and our future are being looted.  Steve Bannon lurking around the White House is a greater threat than voter fraud or even foreign terrorism.  We are living under a kakistocratic form of government.  It is mind bending; the sky is still blue but we have all been diminished.  

 

Tom H. Cook is a formerly local writer still spry, terrified for the republic, and writing from a beach in California. 

 

Last Chance Post Mortem

It’s late September and I really should be back in school –Rod Stewart  (in Maggie May)

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.   –attributed to Vince Lombardi

Now maybe I’ll be able to get that song out of my head and concentrate on “The Arnold.”  It is late September here in California, and while it is early to do a post-mortem with the election a week away, it is my last chance.  Politics long considered one of the last bastions of geeky, pale, weasel-faced, high school debate club presidents is about to fall.  By the time you read this, Arnold Schwarzenegger will likely be bench pressing a podium — Gray Davis–or he’ll be challenging reporters to punch him in the stomach as hard as they can. Oh yes, and he will be Governor-elect of California.

The Minnesota connection makes us unindicted co-conspirators.  Schwarzenegger is frequently compared to Jesse Ventura, the other freewheeling, steroid-using, self-confessed 70s wild man.  Californians do this to cite precedent and to reassure themselves that what they are doing makes sense.  The first time some co-workers earnestly suggested this to me I was eating lunch and milk came out of my nose.  I attempted to explain the continual limit-testing Jesse had done. Whether it was moonlighting on weekends for the XFL, talking to Playboy magazine, or the use of the mansion, Jesse forced us into the role of parenting our petulant political prodigy.

Jesse really wanted unicameral government and mass transit.  One of which is still a good idea. Arnold is richer, tanner, bolder, and far more dangerous.  We are consoled that he cannot constitutionally become president and will have to settle for California, the world’s fifth largest economy.  He is Machiavellian, ego-driven, ambitious, and cunning.  Unfortunately his narcissism seems to be an end and not a means.  He appears to have no ideology beyond winning.  Granted, the list of selfless politicians is short, but Schwarzenegger seems to take particular glee in subjugating others to his torrid will.

The Arnold has completely revised his early steroid use, womanizing, and questionable business ethics.  He is a Hummer lover, and the metaphor is perfect, particularly if you have ever sat next to one while in a Miata  at a stop light.  A quirky short term race for Sacramento is perfectly geared to garner him mass exposure.    It is form over substance: “Getting Elected Governor For Dummies.” Perhaps we are all ADD, and this is as long as we can concentrate.  I fear my adopted state is making an impulsive decision we will all regret, and the poor will pay.  In which case I will be back as soon as Minnesotans disarm.

I may be overreacting, and Larry Flynt, Gary Coleman, Richard Simmons (accountant), Mary Carey (porn star), the 105 year old woman, or even Gray Davis may have won.  In that case, let me echo the words of Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live: “Never mind.”

Tom H. Cook is missing a real Minnesota autumn.  He also remembers–all too clearly–what comes next.

Tom with the paper

Great Writing

Great writing allows us to suspend disbelief and be spirited away to a world of larger than life characters more compelling than our own friends and neighbors. These complex, driven souls (who frequently have fabulous figures, chiseled features, raven hair, piercing eyes or some combination thereof) face staggering challenges. Their dialogue is witty, sardonic, immediate, and intense.  Their decisions are high stakes and life altering.  We rejoice and suffer with them.  Simultaneously admiring their convictions and resourcefulness, yet fearing where their misplaced idealism and naiveté may lead.

A novelist’s artfully chosen words evoke the full range of the human condition.  Their prose is like the dance of the seven veils.  We are left to ponder what part of their tale is autobiographical. Staring at the dust jacket photo of a bespectacled 25year old upper West Side writer from Keokuk, Iowa it seems unfathomable that they are so able to capture the plight of an enfeebled Etruscan shepherd and the poignant longings of his comely daughter.  Yet for 418 pages of laughter and tears we are absorbed: smelling the camel dung, searching for Shekabah, and shivering under the pitch-black desert sky.   Clearly there are didactic truths about the human condition that transcend time, culture, and social standing.

It is just as evident that I have no clue into this world.  I am as unlikely to hold a reader spellbound as I am at gunpoint.  I have examined my work for hidden meaning, prophetic insight, and even Talmudic wisdom.  Sadly none of these elements are present.  I am only able to bump along sharing what it is like to be middle-aged, frugal, rumpled, and reside within walking distance of Lake of the Isles.   The only event that passes for drama in my very pedestrian life is a sudden (if you call three years sudden) move to Southern California.

Six months later numerous friends and e-mailers have asked what life is like in L.A. when JoAnne and I are not hanging out with Kevin Spacey and Bill Clinton (see HLP 10/02).  The best description is the baseball strategy of playing “small ball”.  In baseball terms, it is to be scrappy, execute fundamentals, win close games with defence and hustle, sacrifice for the good of the team, play base to base, take advantage of small opportunities, and play hard.  This is admittedly difficult to translate to a financial planner without them believing you are preparing to live in a bus shelter.  In non-sports terms, “small ball” is making due with less, enjoying the little things in life, devoting fewer hours to work and more time to activities that gratify the soul.

Not the final draft!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was never a big buck, free agent, homerun, and big inning, get by on raw talent over training, swing for the fences type.  This is more a function of a lack of opportunity and initiative rather than a philosophical aversion to money and power.    Nonetheless when someone with my meager assets decides to downscale it is an event that is barely perceptible to some.  Still this is what JoAnne and I are doing.

It is going well.  Stella the insane boxer is actually enjoying living out doors and having a small yard.  The cats, both given away and subsequently returned have adjusted nicely to the California adventure.  Our new place in Redondo Beach at 1,400 square feet is less than half the size of our East Isles home. Rather than drive on freeways, we are able to walk or bike to most anything we need including the ocean.

I miss running into people I know at the local supermarket.  Without young children or steady work we are somewhat isolated, but still well connected to our Minnesota friends.  There is less sense of community living here with the other rootless drifters.  Garage sales are pathetic, but year round.  We find more interesting stuff on our Sunday night trash eve dog walks around the neighborhood.  The local libraries are very good and we are card-carrying members at six of them.

Our modest living room is happily taken up with JoAnne’s very large (48 harness) loom and assorted weaving projects.  She has an amazing capacity for self amusement and her days fly by.  I am ensconced at the lowest rung of the education food chain.  With a bachelor’s degree, a passing grade on the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST), and a clear criminal record, I am qualified to substitute teach.

I have joined the less than elite pool of bored housewives, aspiring actors, downsized aerospace engineers, recent college graduates, and faded old duffers willing to trade a day in the sun for $100.00.  The work is challenging, ever changing, and fulfilling.  I live a teacher’s life for a day.  A  5:30 AM call may summon me to five classes of Calculus and Physics in Palos Verdes, or a Special Education setting in Manhattan Beach.  On mornings the phone does not ring I enjoy a day of California vacation.  Lurking below this calm façade there are crucial life decisions, but for now it is as JoAnne says, “A simple life for a simple man”.

Tom H. Cook lacks the power to enthrall.  His goal as a writer is to make the squiggly lines the computer uses to critique his writing disappears.  

 

 

 

Tom, Jo, and Kevin Spacey

“Come here, I want to introduce you to Kevin Spacey.”

“Come here, I want to introduce you to Kevin Spacey.”  When I heard that, I knew that I was taking a temporary leave from my very pedestrian life.  From 4:00 to 5:30 PM on a Thursday afternoon in early September, I stood elbow to elbow in a crowded living room in Holmby Hills (the cushy section of Beverly Hills) with people I had only read about or seen on a screen.  You can take Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, New Year’s Eve in Times Square, or even Norm Coleman’s wife performing in “The Vagina Monologues”.  I would not have traded my spot by the potted plants at this palatial home for any of them.

A lucky second-hand invitation to this cocktail party promised something out of the ordinary.  My wife JoAnne, ever the realist, cited the fact that we would not know anyone there as a reason to demur.  After I promised again that I would never mix the darks with the lights on laundry day she reluctantly agreed to accompany me.

What follows is intended to be a reasonably accurate although highly impressionistic and subjective account of an event that I have difficulty believing took place.  I did notice as we approached the palatial  estate that we alone were arriving in a 1993 Mazda.  Scorning the valet parking, JoAnne and I hiked up to the gates and were met by the first wave of  federal secret service agents.  These were not overweight middle-aged duffers recruited from a security company for minimum wage.  The two dozen agents (mostly men) were dressed impeccably in business suits that made them seem simultaneously both inconspicuous and omnipresent.  Using lapel mikes and ear pieces, they were in constant  communication, hovering, waiting with cat-like readiness for me to slip a partially eaten cheese puff into the creeping nussman plant.

Rebecca Greenberg, our social connection, met us after we ‘cleared customs’ and were permitted to mingle with the other guests.  We were introduced to actor James Cromwell and his wife Julie Cobb.  Their daughter had just left for her freshman year of college on the east coast and they were already missing her.  We talked about our son Ben spending his junior year in Scotland.  They had worked and traveled there and assured us he would have a wonderful time.

JoAnne and I moved to the corner in order to keep from wearing out our welcome with the Cromwells.  We decided as a general rule of thumb, if someone looked like someone famous, it was probably them.  Ed Asner was unmistakable.  I introduced myself and he seemed reasonably interested that I was from Minneapolis and lived near the Mary Tyler Moore house.

Next I met Tim Matheson who plays Vice President Hoynes on “West Wing”.  He told great stories about the show, and creator Aaron Sorkin’s ability to compose on the fly.  Matheson had received only the first half of an episode script  which would decide his character’s fate.  When taping began Sorkin was still writing feverishly and had not decided whether President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) would have a new running mate for his re-election in the coming season.  Matheson was delighted when he received the rest of the script and discovered he was still on the ticket.

Just then Rebecca appeared and the next thing I knew Kevin Spacey was greeting us warmly.   He was so easy to talk to that after a few moments JoAnne began to release the vice-like grip she had on my hand.  First Screen Actors Guild president Melissa Gilbert joined us, and then Ed Begley Jr. came by.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see the imposing figure of Reverend Jesse Jackson enter the room.  Watching him work the room,  I was awed by his range: no other public figure seems to be so skilled at connecting with such divergent groups as welfare mothers, flood victims, disenfranchised Enron employees, and the entertainment industry elite.

Soon it was time for the main event.  Former President Bill Clinton came in, hugged Jesse Jackson and began to greet his many admirers.  He called Kevin Spacey “Bobby” because of  his resemblance to singer Bobby Darin.  After mixing and mingling for a while, the speeches began.  When it was his turn, President Clinton climbed a few steps of the stairway so he could be seen.  He spoke in a personal manner to the eighty of us in the room.

Tom, Jo, and Clinton

Tom, Jo, and Clinton

Clinton thanked Jesse Jackson for the support and counsel he had received from him during a difficult time in his presidency.  He did not have to say “Monica”, but it was clear that was what he was referring to when he said, “I’ve done some things that I am not proud of…and I did them because I could.”  He let the words sink in, then talked about how recklessly he had behaved because (in part) the power of the office provided him so much latitude.  Unstated but on everyone’s mind was how Clinton finally got it, that the nearly unchecked pursuit of sex had been his downfall.  As a political junkie standing ten feet from former President Clinton, I was amazed to be privy to this candid discourse.

Clinton then spoke about President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and  Richard Cheney.  Whereas Clinton had squandered his near absolute power on phone sex with a White House intern (he implied), the Bush administration was pushing the nation to the brink of war because they could.  Clinton argued that the arrogance of power Bush’s people were exercising allowed no middle ground.  Since 9/11, no Republican or Democrat could hold a position contrary to the administration’s without it being construed as somehow helpful to Saddam Hussein.

Clinton admitted that he had been seduced by nearly limitless power, and he feared that his successor was also succumbing to it with the possibility of far more catastrophic results.  In closing, Clinton noticed Martin Sheen in the audience.  He said, “Martin, take care of yourself; you’re the only president we’ve got.”

After his talk, I feared that I had missed my chance to get a picture with Bill Clinton, as he was engulfed by the guests.  Rebecca said that Kevin could get it without a problem.  While JoAnne and I waited nervously, Spacey corralled the President and Rebecca took the photo.

Tom H. Cook is the Hill and Lake Press foreign correspondent.  His dispatches appear monthly or when there is news, whichever comes first.  For questions, comments, or to rent his Minneapolis house, reply here!

 

 

Wellstone

Fun for 50-year-olds

This is not going to be another rant about all of the parties I was not invited to in high school. In the ensuing years I have attended a few of what passes for fun for 50-year olds, namely political or charity fund-raising galas at stately Kenwood homes. I did not move to California to make one last desperate attempt the join the ‘in crowd’.  I have made peace with the realization that the ‘hip’ recognize each other by some vibration sense they emanate similar to how dolphins communicate (see John Lilly’s early work on  pecking order, “Dolphins: Too Cool For School”.  Random House, 1964).

Even if I make it to nursing home age, I know that I will end up off the lower lobby by the ice machine away from the digitized laser projection room where the action happens.  Still I am not some rube who is so easily impressed that I will write gushy words about anyone who offers me a crab puff or a warm glass of domestic wine.  In short, I am not some open-mouthed goober who fawns over my social betters in a pathetic search for acceptance.  I have been around and take my responsibilities as the Hill and Lake Press foreign correspondent seriously.

Whew, so much for the disclaimer, now let me tell you about the way cool party I somehow was invited to in the toney Holmby Hills/Bel-Air section of Los Angeles on August 13th.  It was a fundraiser for the only national politician I believe in, Paul Wellstone.  Because the Republican Party has targeted him and funneled considerable resources to his opponent, Wellstone needs to aggressively seek contributions from supporters in other parts of the country.  Wanting to do the paper proud, I  employed the journalism techniques of pleading and groveling to be included.

It was great to rub elbows with Hollywood’s liberal chic.  I felt like I was back in Kenwood, but instead of hanging out with sewer commissioners and tenured humanities professors from Augsburg, these were television and movie people.  The producer of “Pulp Fiction”, Lawrence Bender, who was conveniently in China, made his home available, and some of his minions made my wife and daughter and I feel welcome as they steered me away from some of the more fragile artwork.  The home, gated and stately, was made of stone and elegant woods.  It would not have been out of place on Lake of the Isles.  The gathering was in the back yard on a beautiful summer evening.

I am not C.J. or Sid Hartman, and it is difficult for me to calmly intersperse famous names and keep a coherent narrative going, so I will just spill.  JoAnne and my daughter Rachael cautioned me that they would leave me “with my new friends” if I embarrassed them in any way.  I remained calm in my conversation with the valet and did not start gushing for over two minutes. In my defense, the first person I met was Bradley Whitford.  I am a devoted fan of “West Wing” and his character, Josh Lyman.  We spoke of his work at the Guthrie in the 80’s and of his wife, Jane Kaczmarek (“Malcolm in the Middle”), being from Wisconsin.  He then went off to talk with Ed Begley Jr. (“St. Elsewhere”), while I mentally replayed our conversation a few hundred times.  I gave myself a B-.  I was not obsequious, nor did I ask fan questions, but in hindsight I may have shaken hands with him a few too many times (4), and he did kind of sprint over to Ed Begley.

Mike Farrell (B.J. from “M.A.S.H.”) was very gracious.  He was born in St. Paul and still has many relatives there.  I also enjoyed meeting Esai Morales (“American Family”) who is very committed to environmental and social justice issues.  I did not speak to Ariana Huffington, but she seems to have forsaken her political career after spending millions of her own money running for Congress.  She was one of the hosts and is clearly a Wellstone supporter.  Josh Hartnett was there and we were able to catch up about the neighborhood and the Faveros, our mutual friends in East Isles.  Senator Paul Simon of Illinois came to lend support for Wellstone.  He was quiet and unassuming.  Although he declined to make a speech, his presence spoke volumes. Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader, was the host, but he didn’t stay to help clean up.

Senator Daschle was introduced by Brad Whitford which provided an interesting blur of television and real life.  Though Daschle’s task was to introduce Paul, he also took time to speak about the wonderful partnership the Wellstones have and the key role Sheila plays on behalf of those struggling with mental illness.  She shares his zeal and commitment to the disenfranchised.

The Wellstones’ recall of campaign volunteers and events is staggering.   I believe that Sheila and Paul actually remembered me from some rallies in Minnesota.  They are such absolutely authentic people with a genuine congruence between their private and public selves.  They are a truly inspiring couple and my face hurts from smiling just knowing they are in Washington working tirelessly for issues and causes rather than the narrow self interests of corporations.

As the featured speaker, Paul Wellstone did not disappoint.  He spoke eloquently, and took questions, displaying his passion and encyclopedic knowledge of issues ranging from the Twins to the Middle East.  As usual he was casually dressed and as he spoke his jacket became an encumbrance to making  points about the economy so he took it off.  Soon he was sweating through his collarless shirt.  When James Brown does it, it is a show, with Wellstone it is sincere.  There were perhaps seventy of us gathered around him.  He speaks with the same sincerity, urgency, poignancy and dedication, whether he is on the Senate floor, in front of thousands at the Minnesota State Fair, or at a small gathering in the Hollywood Hills.

An hour later, as darkness fell, the powerful guests, the behind-the-scenes Hollywood movers and shakers had hurried off to dinner at Spago’s.  Paul remained in an animated discussion with Josh Hartnett.  Soon they were wrestling playfully.  Next Wellstone spoke earnestly with Esai Morales  who later whispered to me in awe, “He (Wellstone) is Mr. Smith,”  (meaning from the old Frank Capra film).  Finally my family succeeded in dragging me away, but Paul and Sheila were still involved in a passionate discussion with the five or six remaining guests.  In this world of gray interchangeable politicians all I could think was how truly fortunate we are to have Paul Wellstone representing us. Wellstone 2

Tom H. Cook is still a Minnesotan at heart and will be voting by absentee ballot this fall.       

Tom with the kids

Throwing Things

Tom,

How about a fireplace/good cheer/apple cheeked/Rockwell/ jewel neighborhood/leaf- bagging/amber lit/home for the holidays number? Lose the edge/ angst/adolescence lost/fumbling everyman/ irony paradigm schtick.  Don’t forget our talk:  More !!! and less ??

Ciao, Babe,
Your editors at HLP

The holidays are special.  Many of us resolve to work less, be home more, and “cocoon” with family and friends as the weather turns colder.  It is a warm and appealing notion.  If a family is a cordless phone (and even if it is not), it is a good time to return it to the base and recharge.  Holidays are a time for reflection.  It is an opportunity for introspection, to go back to childhood or a simpler era.  What we leave out in the way of conveniences and gadgetry is as important as the candied yams that we include for the sake of tradition, not taste.

 On the maybe list is the modern invention, the VCR.  Videotapes, particularly old black and white movies rented from Panorama, qualify for inclusion, along with cable TV (grudgingly).  But this is nostalgia time, everyone under one roof.  No isolated “Net surfer” coming out for food every ten hours.  No faxed holiday cards or emailed Season’s Greetings.  It is an opportunity to express our gratitude for our good fortune.  It is quality time, with egg nog, a good book and DNA test-confirmed relatives.

The problem with so much indoor togetherness is that quirks and habits, overlooked in the rush of the faster paced work-a-day world now take center stage as the snow flies.  Magnanimously, I will not reveal the foibles of close friends and family members.  Trust me, they have them.  Instead I will model self-disclosure and use myself as an example.

In my life I have wasted afternoons, days, and weekends.  I have squandered my youth.  I spent cities like a handful of change.  This isn’t even the confession part.  I just want to establish that I am not a robotized, time-obsessed Type A efficiency expert out to make every minute count.  I was also never an athlete, although I enjoy sports, particularly basketball.  Somehow these two unrelated non-talents have caused me more trouble in my home, workplace and community that I care to admit.  It is exaggerated around the holidays because I am home and in the way a lot.

I do not revere Time the way I should.  My “bal skills” in sports are at best average.  Still, any time I am holding an object smaller than a filing cabinet that needs to be disposed of, something comes over me.  There is a Voice I hear.  We are not talking psychosis or Brigham Young in the desert.  There is no vision or insight.  The Voice never has stock tips, clever palindromes, my cash machine code number or the name of a colleague as I fumble through introductions.

The Voice simply believes that I, a shy, unimposing, rumpled, average-looking sort, was put on earth to amaze those around me with my savant-like ability to send empty half-pint milk containers into trash cans so far away that I need my glasses to distinguish them from the family cat.  In the world of grey flannel bureaucrats, I am a scoring machine, an amalgam of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in their prime,

In this maddening, solution-less world of consensus politics, less of evils, and amorphous long-range goals, it is gratifying to take, say, a hoagie wrapper and wad it up into a tight ball (for maximum velocity and control) and launch it toward a receptacle.  As the missile leaves my hand I can tell first whether it has a chance, and then if it is “in” or not.  (Yelling “Short!” or “Left!” is little consolation to my wife, who is more concerned about the potential hoagie oil that may land anywhere on the flight path trajectory.)  Still, there is closure and the immediate resolution, unlike poverty, Bosnian politics, the deficit, or race relations.  “The shot is up…It’s good!”  The clarity is satisfying.

People ask what comes over me.  Their tonal range is anything from solicitous to nervously condescending.  Family members take another tact, more like Albert Elis on a bad day.  I tell everyone the same thing The Voice seduces me. When I sense the presence of an object that needs to be discarded, I am Zeus, invincible and confident in a manner that eludes me in other aspects of my life.

The Voice begins quite rationally with a plea to my favorite motivators, logic and guilt.  “You are 30 feet from the receptacle.  It seems kind of silly to walk all the way to the trash can, drop the paper, egg shells or banana peel into the can and then come all the way back again.  You’ve made this shot before.  Remember that coleslaw last week?  Nothing but net.  You have hit Dixie cup lids in from further out than this.  Here is an opportunity to “get well” and reclaim some of the time you lost reading Wink Martindale’s life story.  Besides, you need to 1) get back to work or 2) yikes, Friends is coming out of commercial.”

If I do not succumb, the ante is upped.  I am flattered and cajoled.  My manhood is questioned.  I get into a zone.  I feel I cannot miss.  The Voice prods me.  “Remember that game winner back in Wayne Price’s driveway.  You were on fire!  This is a gift shot; you are OPEN, take it!  Come on, a 3-pointer and you are back in.  From this spot your keys will land softly in the drawer, your socks will break their fall, you won’t chip the buffet, your wallet won’t roll behind the bookcase.  Give it a little spin; it will slow like a chip shot onto a wet green.  Shoot!  Shoot!  Shoot!”

 I am suddenly at the Palestra in Philadelphia, home of Big Five basketball and the best rivalries ever — Penn State vs Villanova, or Temple vs St. Joe’s or LaSalle.  The crowd is up. I am left of the key, 35 feet out.  The laundry basket sits, with only my wife reading the newspaper and drinking a very hot cup to tea to clear.  Dirty sweat socks in hand, I fake left and launch a rainbow. It is short…

 The Voice is gone, and it is me alone, apologizing profusely and running for a paper towel.  Yet even as I am wiping up the Early Grey and hurrying toward the trash can to dispose of the wet Bounty, The Voice returns.  Have I learned my lesson?  I do realize that I do not want to again stain the white wall with a bank shot, yet from this spot a perfectly launched jumper would restore my confidence in my shooting eye…

So bring on the Holidays, and all of that time spent trapped indoors while we watch pretenders like the Gophers and Timberwolves.  My family is skeptical, but if basketball were played on shag carpeting instead of hardwood, and the court was not 90 feet long but instead shaped more like my study, I would be a star.

Tom H. Cook cannot stop flipping things in the hopes of hearing the roar of the crowd.  He holds a lifetime .582 shooting percentage from the floor.  His walls and baseboards show it.