“Re-Gifted” Children Get a Second Chance to Disappoint

WESTLAND, Mass.  Twenty-year old Todd Blinstrup, Jr. is, in the words of his mother Elaine, the “spitting image” of her mother, a former stewardess who at the age of 89 retains the striking good looks of her youth.  “Unfortunately, he got my mom’s brain as well, which hasn’t worked out so well for him.”

In this high-achieving suburb, where failure is defined as not getting into an Ivy League school, Todd was carried along by the rising tide that lifts children from affluent households into competitive colleges and rewarding careers, but he eventually found out that he wasn’t equipped to, as he puts it, “swim with the sharks.”  “We all had programmable calculators in 8th grade,” he recalls, “but I re-programmed mine to play video games.”

So the Blinstrups, who had paid for various private schools and enrichment programs designed for “gifted” children throughout Todd’s youth, eventually decided to “pull the plug,” in the words of his father, Todd, Senior.  “You wouldn’t buy a diamond collar for a mutt,” he says with readily-evident disgust.  “Why would we pay top dollar to educate a kid who’s never going to be more than a middle manager,” he says of the decision to take his son out of an expensive private liberal arts college and put him in the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk, the least prestigious campus of the state university.

Todd Jr. is one of a growing number of “re-gifted” children; young people who are given every advantage starting out in life but nonetheless blow it, and are then downgraded in their parents’ expectations and budget.  “Regifting has become more and more acceptable,” says etiquette expert Priscilla Mainwaring of the practice by which the donee of a gift becomes a donor and passes it on to a third person.  “Rather than taking a gift–or your child–to the town dump, you simply re-purpose it in order to pay the disappointment  forward.”

Emily Froshtat’s parents had hopes that she would become a concert violinist and with that goal in mind paid for lessons and exposed her to the Boston Symphony children’s matinees throughout her childhood.  “We did everything we could for her,” says her father Joseph, an amateur flautist.  “The poor kid can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” he adds as he shakes his head ruefully at the thought of the time and money the family wasted.  And how, this reporter asks, have they re-directed her artistic energies?

“Her stage name is Lady Disaster,” her father says with relief if not pride.  “She’s a rapper.”

I Wish You Loved Me as Much as Your Phone

We’re here together, but I’m all alone.
Your body’s here, but your mind is gone.
I might as well be in The Twilight Zone–
I wish you loved me as much as your phone.

You call me baby, you call me doll–
And then you say “I gotta take this call.”
You talk to someone from parts unknown–
I wish you loved me as much as your phone.

When we get home from our evening date
I think of romance as it’s gettin’ late.
And then I hear that little nuisance ring
I don’t know why you can’t turn off that thing.

You say you love me as you stare at your screen
The way you treat me is beyond obscene.
When you look up you’ll see this bird has flown–
‘Cause you don’t love me as much as your phone.

Ask Mrs. Cheese

Miffed that a deli charged you extra to add a slice of Swiss to your ham-and-cheese?  Angry that your mother called your new outfit “cheesy”?  Ask Mrs. Cheese, they don’t call her a cheese-monger for nothing.

Dear Mrs. Cheese–

My boyfriend is very worldly, having traveled to Canada, the Caribbean, and Chicago, while I have had to stick “close to home” to mind my father’s tire and battery store whenever he is off at trade shows.  “Hal”–that is my boyfriend, not my father–has a very sophisticated “palate,” by which I mean sense of taste, not those wooden skids they use in warehouses or those things artists stick their thumbs in.

Anyway, I was invited to “Hal’s” house to meet his parents–he lives at home to save money even though he is a member of the “Platinum Circle” at the insurance firm where he works, having sold over a million dollars worth of property and casualty coverage in fiscal year 2021.

Hal’s mother prepared a cheese board before dinner and to show my appreciation for her hospitality, I dove right in and cut off a slice of the “edam” in its festive red coating, put it on a Triscuit and started to take a bite.  Hal’s mother yelled “Stop, don’t eat the wax covering!” and his father grabbed the “hors d’oeuvre” out of my hand.  An awkward silence followed because I didn’t know what to say:  “Sorry”?  “Thank you”?  “Close one”? “My bad!”

The evening ended pleasantly enough given my “faux pas,” but I think I may have ruined my last chance at marital bliss as Hal is pretty much the only eligible bachelor left in my age group here since Donnie Bruker, the son of our local Chevy-GMC dealer, was “taken off the board” by Mary Lou Pfenniger.

Is there some sort of “pocket guide” to when you eat the skin off the cheese and when you don’t?  If I ever get another chance with Hal and his parents I want to get it right.

Crystal Brucheimer, Ottumwa, Iowa


Sorry, he’s taken.

 

Dear Crystal–

Sadly, this is one of those situations governed by “unwritten rules” in much the same way that the programs for orchestras don’t tell you not to clap between movements of a symphony.  Why the “authorities” in these areas never write down these unwritten rules is beyond me, seems like it would help everybody.

Anyway, your letter caused a light bulb to go on over my head and create a handy dishwasher-safe guide that gives the do’s and don’t of when you eat the “rind” of the cheese.  As a general rule, if the skin subtracts from the overall enjoyment of the cheese, stop immediately, but if it enhances the flavor, go for it!  You can order one of my “cheat sheets” with a major credit card for only $14.95 when you “check out” of my website.

This “rule of thumb” does not apply to cream cheese, which should always be removed from its cardboard box and foil wrapper before consuming.

Dear Mrs. Cheese–

My fiancee Janine says that Velveeta is a disgusting food that barely qualifies as cheese, while it is my understanding that it is native to the Velveetian region of Switzerland.  I should add that Janine went to a hoity-toity private girls college, and when she’s had a few drinks at a social occasion will disparage the “cow college” that I attended, North Central Alabama University.   I am just waiting for the chance to throw her “education” back in her face next time she tries this with some on-line authority to back me up.  “If anybody should know something about cheese,” I’m going to say, “it should be somebody from a ‘cow college’ since cheese is coagulated milk.”

We don’t have money down on this because Janine is a Baptist and so doesn’t gamble, but I’m thinking I might trick her into a friendly wager involving my favorite sexual position, the “Mongolian Cartwheel.”  And yes I know the old joke about Baptists not engaging in pre-marital sex because it might lead to dancing, but four years at an all-women’s school turned Janine into a nympho.

Thanks for your time,

Dwight (“Ike”) Flournoy
Decatur, Alabama

 

Dear Dwight–

I’m sorry to disappoint you but Velveeta processed cheese was invented in 1918 by Emil Frey in Monroe, New York, not in Switzerland.  It was nonetheless considered a “cheese” until 2002, when the buttinskies at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent in their jackbooted henchmen and forced Kraft Foods to re-classify it as a “pasteurized prepared cheese product”–whatever that means.  Velveeta is nonetheless the source of fond memories for many–including me–as it was our first introduction to the Wonderful World of Cheese.  Tell Janine to “come down off her high horse” and support the hard-working men and women of the American cheese industry.

Dear Mrs. Cheese:

My son “Greg” and his girlfriend “Mindy” just got engaged, and their friends threw a party for them featuring “fondue,” which I understand is a trendy food that young people are wild about.  That is fine with me–if it keeps them off meth and the other crazy drugs that are ruining our nation, I am all for this fad.

My problem is this: I gave “Greg” my grandmother’s engagement ring to give to “Mindy” since at present he is just a sales associate at an office supply chain store and can’t afford anything nice.  When they got back from their party Mindy tells me she is sorry but she dropped the ring into the fondue pot and because the melted cheese is very hot, did not feel it was safe to stick her hand in and grab it.

Mrs. Cheese–I am literally beside myself because we are talking about my maternal grandmother Francine Kukas, not my father’s mother Ethel Weininger, who was a mean-spirited battle-axe.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Gloria Nuxum
Battle Creek, Michigan


          It’s in there somewhere.

 

Dear Gloria–

I know this is not the news you want to hear, but your son and daughter-in-law-to-be will probably die of metal poisoning because fondue is typically heated to temperatures not found in our solar system until you reach the planet Venus.  While it can never replace the sentimental value of your grandmother’s ring, you should be able to finagle a payout from your homeowner’s insurance policy.  When you file your claim, be sure and include that exercise bike in the basement you never use and the snow-blower you have listed on eBay.  No sense in letting a minor personal tragedy go to waste!

I Wear My Erudition Lightly

I wear my erudition lightly,
or at least I really try.
If you put on a heavily learned cloak
folks won’t think you’re a regular guy.

So I drop bon mots at cocktail parties
when the conversation starts to flag.
Like “Didja know that a guy named Tiresias
used to walk around all the time in drag?”

Or the fact that Lincoln crossed the Rubicon
to end the Peloponnesian War?
It was either that or the French Revolution,
I’m sure I read it somewhere before.

I’m also good with orthography,
I’m a former spelling bee champ.
I’ve never misspelled H2SO4
And I know why the lady’s a tramp.

I know about quantum mechanics,
Which is a concept thought up by Niels Bohr.
I take my quantum in every three thousand miles
and they lube my four-on-the floor.

I took some classes in vers libre,
which I found to be most stimulating.
I also drink mojitos and daiquiris,
and I find them all very intoxicating

If you want to display your brainpower,
don’t be afraid to let it all out.
When people say they think I’m unlearned,
I don’t leave any room for doubt.

My Lunch With a Nobel Prize-Winning Author

“Did I ever tell you about the time,” I began, but before I had a full sentence out of my mouth my wife stood up and blew past me into the kitchen of our neighbors, Carl and Jen Sitzfleisch, to refill her glass of chardonnay.

“Yes?” the distaff half of the other couple asked in an encouraging tone.

“. . . the time I had lunch with a Nobel Prize-winning author?”

“Good heavens!” Carl exclaimed.  “You unsuccessful writers lead such interesting lives.”

Xavier Cugat Siboney

“Actually, it was back when I was in college, when I had a serious case of Pediatric Writer’s Block.”

“Tell us about it!” Jen exclaimed, and I could hear my wife yawn in the kitchen over the refrigerator door slamming shut and our hosts’ chosen background music: Xavier Cugat Plays Songs for Repressed Suburbanites.

“It was 1970,” I began.  “I walked into the faculty club at the University of Chicago and saw  him.”

“Who?”

“Saul Bellow, author of The Adventures of Augie March.  Surely you know its famous opening line: ‘I am an American, Chicago born–Chicago, that somber city–and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style.'”

“Wow!”


Bellow: “Actually, I’m not hungry.”

“I didn’t actually have lunch with Bellow.  I had lunch beforehand, in the kitchen with the rest of the help.  I was just a waiter, not a member of Bellow’s inner circle of friends.”

“Still, that’s a big deal!” Jen exclaimed.

“I wasn’t even a member of his circle of enemies, which may have been a slightly larger group, if one reads his works as romans a clef.”

“Let’s get your wife back in here to hear this story.”

“That’s okay, she’s probably plucking her eyebrows.  She’s heard it before. ”

Image result for plucking eyebrows
“Yes it hurts, but it’s less painful than listening to that story again.”

“Eyebrows make the woman!”  That was Jen, in case you hadn’t guessed.

“So I didn’t eat with Bellow, but I was at a lunch that he attended, which was as close as I’d ever been to literary fame at the time. And probably ever will be.”


Joseph Conrad: “Bellow? Never heard of him, but then I’m already dead.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Bellow,” Carl said.

“I hadn’t either at that point in my life.  He wasn’t on my freshman reading list, and maybe he’ll never displace Faulkner, or Joseph Conrad, or Scott Fitzgerald. But he was a living, breathing novelist with an international reputation, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize six years later. It was all I could do not to rush up to him like some stupid Hollywood autograph hound and say ‘Mr. Bellow, you’re one of my biggest fans!'”


“Why is that waiter staring at me?”

“So . . . did you talk to him?” Carl asked.

“Nope.  I respected his privacy and stuck to my role, bringing out the food, filling water glasses, sneaking a peek at the two greatest hits underneath the blouse of the Barbra Streisand look-alike on my shift.”

“She does have a balcony you could do Shakespeare from,” Carl added with a leer.

“I watched his every move, because I wanted to see how a famous novelist looked and acted. Would he be ferocious, skewering the chalky professors at his table?  Would he be captivating, regaling his listeners with stories of his years in Europe? How exactly was a minor living legend supposed to behave–just in case I ever needed to know.”


Dog-and-pony show

“And?”

“He acted . . . bored.”

“Bored?”

“He sat down at an empty table, crossed his legs, folded his hands in his lap, and looked around the room with an expression that said he’d rather be dead in a ditch than where he was just then. My guess is the luncheon was a dog-and-pony show for potential donors–just the way a guy who probably had to fend off high-brow literary women with a stick would want to spend his day.”

“That’s a nice problem to have,” Carl said.

“Being a big-name author in academia isn’t a bad gig. You give a graduate seminar every semester, boff a couple of coeds–it’s in the contract, right after the ‘Whereas’ clauses–get your picture on the cover of the alumni magazine.  But you’re also there for some contact with actual human beings, like say a wealthy alumnus/alumna who’s written a first novel.”

“I see,” Jen said.

“Bellow’s aspect was distant, reserved,” I continued.  “Everyone who passed by knew he was–famous. So no one joined him at first.”

“Writers must be such lonely people!” Jen exclaimed.

“It’s their lack of social skills,” my wife said as she rejoined the group.  I noticed she looked at her watch as she sat down.  “Our reservations are at 7:30,” she said.  “How much longer is this story going to run?”

“It’s interesting,” Carl said.

“To each his own,” my wife said, then checked her phone to see if it was her move in the eight different games of Words With Friends she has going at any one time.

“After a while Bellow took his butter knife, stood the pat of butter on his bread plate up on edge, and put his knife down again. A few people eventually sat down at his table, introduced themselves, and he broke into a slight smile, which did nothing to dispel his air of ill-suppressed discomfort.”

“It would have been sad if he’d had to sit by himself,” Jen said.

“Not sure he wouldn’t have preferred that,” I said.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.  I was distracted for a moment by someone at another table and when I turned around–he was gone. The only evidence of his brief presence that remained was that pat of butter on its edge, as he must have been the whole time he was there.”

bellow
Cheese Stonehenge

“So, a Literary Man of Mystery, huh?” Carl mused.

“On the nosey,” I said as I took a sip of my Malbec.

“Has this close encounter with fame ‘informed’ your work?” Jen asked.  She’s taking an adult education course in The Literature of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

“It has, it has,” I said, putting my glass down and making a little church-and-steeple with my hands as I looked off into the middle distance.  “I learned a valuable lesson that has come in handy over the years.”

“C’mon–spill the beans,” Carl said.

“Just this: If you want to be a successful writer, you have to appear superior to everyone around you at social gatherings.”

“How do you do that?” Carl asked.

“Look bored–and play with the stuff on your table!”

“Gosh,” Jen said.  “I thought it was about the beauty of the writing, and the universality of the themes, and the feelings of sympathy for the characters a good writer can elicit in the reader.”

“Nope.  All that stuff is for saps, as Nelson Algren, another Chicago writer, might say.”

“Can you tell us how, exactly, you do it?” Carl asked.

“Sure.  Here are a few of the techniques I’ve perfected that lend me an aura of literary snootiness at gala dinners, business lunches and power breakfasts.”

“Honey,” my wife interjected, “we’ve got to go soon.”

“My favorite is to balance two forks on a toothpick.”

“How do you do that?” Carl asked.

“Snap a toothpick at its mid-point and stick one end in a salt shaker. Join the forks at the tines, and suspend on one end of the toothpick.”

“Where are you going to find a toothpick in a faculty club of a major university?” Jen asked.

“Just ask the Assistant Professor of Long-Haul Trucking sitting next to you.”


Assistant Professor of Long-Haul Trucking

“Still, that sounds hard.”

“If you can’t handle that one . . .”

“He’s kind of a klutz,” Jen said.

” . . . try balancing  your fork on your index finger at a right angle.”

“Like a teeter-totter?”

“Right.”

winecork
One out of three ain’t bad.

“I can’t see how that’s going to impress anybody,” Carl said.

“I agree, it’s too easy.  One that’s easier than it looks–and my personal favorite–is to drop a wine cork so that it stands up on one end.”

“I could never do that!” Jen exclaimed.

“Sure you could.  You hold the cork horizontally, so that it ‘s parallel to the surface of the table.  My preferred grip is between the outstretched second and fourth fingers, although this leaves the middle finger pointing across at your tablemates, which may lead to misunderstandings. Hold the cork gently, then release both fingers at the same time. At first, if you succeed in making the cork pop back up on its end just one time in ten you’re doing fine. With practice, you should be able to do it in three tries or less, causing ingenue poetesses to look on you as a God of Belle Lettres.”

bellow1
“Do the wine cork trick again–it drives me wild!”

“Sweetie,” it was my wife again.  “We really should be going.”

“Is there any way you can get others involved?” Jen asked, and I noticed she blushed just a bit.  “In case there’s . . . another budding writer at your table.”

“Well, you could try the matchbook field goal trick.”

“I like football,” Carl said.  “How does that work?”

“You can’t smoke in most fancy restaurants and clubs anymore, but for some reason you can get a book of matches–what you’re supposed to use them for is not exactly clear.”

“Except play football?”

“Right.  You stand the matchbook on edge and flick across the table at finger goal-posts set up by a table-mate.”

“So you need the cooperation of another bored person?” Jen asked.

“Right,” I said, “but the Nobel Prize in Literature is optional.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Dead Writers Make More Money.”

To Make Ends Meet, More Poets Turn to Discounters

NEEDHAM, Mass.  Curtis Bascomb, Jr. is a third-generation family business owner, so he has more than just his time and money invested in his workplace.  “Grandad founded this place on a promise,” he says with a trace of a lump in his throat.  “He believed no poet should ever go without a figure of speech because of high prices.”


“I’m looking for a synechdoche for wine.”

 

And so the Poets Discount Supply House was born, a harmonic convergence of New England thrift and the historically impecunious nature of the poet’s trade.  “I’m entering my coming-of-age collection in twenty chapbook contests at an average of $22.50 a pop,” says would-be poet Todd Heftwig, who prowls the aisles looking for bargains.  “If I can pick up a slightly-used simile or metaphor at half-price, I may be able to recoup my investment.”

poetry1
“There’s a size 7 and a half sestina back here with seagulls in it.”

 

In addition to garden variety figures of speech such as similes and metaphors, the Poets Discount Supply House carries more exotic forms such as synechdoches and metonyms, as well as a deli case stocked with onomatopeia and tropes.  “We buy this stuff fresh every day,” says Bob Vibeck, who started with the company when it was run by Bascomb’s father, Curtis Sr., in the 1960s.  “That’s why poets come back to us even when they hit the big time, which is really still the little time.”

The store is located in an undistinguished warehouse off a busy commercial street, part of the family’s business plan to keep costs down.  “We can sell you a package of three generic themes–seagulls, unrequited love, the effect John Coltrane’s music had on you in college–at half the cost of the high-end retailers,” says Curtis Senior.  “That’s our sweet spot.”


“If you need a rhyme for the word ‘love,’ line up on the right.”

 

The store is ramping up for what is usually its busiest time of the year, as shoppers stop in for a turn of phrase for a Thanksgiving toast, or get ready for Christmas proposals, when the family will bring in temporary sales help to handle the crush of smitten but unlettered Romeos.  “These guys come in here with something scratched on a cocktail napkin looking for le mot juste,” says Curtis Junior, shaking his head.  “I tell ‘em you can’t bring in your own stuff, you got to buy it here.”

 

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”

Knee-Jerk Moderates Caught in Political Crossfire

NEWTON LOWER HILLS, Mass.  This quiet village just west of Boston looks much like any other suburb on a rainy Tuesday; well-tended lawns sprinkled with a few early-fallen leaves that are sent swirling by a gust of wind.  There’s one striking difference however; yard-signs, considered a tacky declaration of partisan politics in Wellesley Falls, one town further west, are par for the course here as election day approaches.


Home in Newton Lower Hills, Mass.

“I’m caught in the middle,” complains Carol Pierce.  “To my left I’ve got Marie Sansone,” the wife of a firefighter whose family would benefit from a proposed budget override that will be on the ballot next week, “and to my right I’ve got Polly Endicott,” a widow on a fixed income who wants to stay in the house she’s lived in for forty years.  “If taxes go up, Marie’s happy, but Polly’s pissed.”

Carol suffers from OSV, for “omnisympathetic vision,” the ability to see all sides of an issue.  Her warring neighbors have forced her to make a choice, however, as the Sansones have placed a large “We Support Our Firefighters!” sign on their lawn, while Polly Endicott has joined the “No New Taxes!” movement that is fighting to keep municipal assessments low.


“I like the platform of this None of the Above fellow.”

Carol, who prefers to stay out of local politics, agonized over her dilemma until she came up with what some are hailing as a grand compromise: “Knee-Jerk Moderates,” a loose coalition of similar-minded folks who are somehow able to live their lives without getting bent out of shape by local, state or national governmental issues.

Image result for angry neighbors
“Either you compromise with us, or we crush you like a bug just to watch the juice run out.”

 

“I had a nice sign printed up that said ‘I Support Our Firefighters–Up to a Point,’” Carol says, and passers-by began to wave and honk their horns.  “The Sansones are nice people, but so is the kindergarden teacher who’ll get laid off if the override passes.”

Pollsters say this state, whose elected officials are almost exclusively Democrats but which also has large numbers of independent voters, may be the launching pad for a nationwide movement of people who are indifferent to political controversy.  “Exit polls in 2020 showed that voters thought the economy was the most important issue,” says Charles Culver, president of Opinion Research.  “After that there was no consensus, with national security, healthcare and long lines at Chinese restaurants tied for second place.”

Were Your Pockets Full of Stones?

I suppose I know now why you chose the river,
reading that Virginia Woolf put stones
in her pockets to sink herself down.

She was for you a perplexing guide of sorts,
she with her fierce pride in womanhood
who drowned herself rather than spoil

her husband’s life.  At the end she heard
voices that kept her from working, from even
writing her suicide note properly.

You wandered off alone and I wonder,
as you reached the water’s edge,
were your pockets full of stones?

As Helicopter Kids Grow Up Bring Your Parents to Work Day Spreads

NEW YORK. Safra Cohen is a lowly first-year associate at a corporate law firm with offices in mid-town Manhattan who has spent her first three months on the job as the junior member of a team working on a billion-dollar merger. Her office is furnished with a standard-issue desk and file cabinets, but she has managed to soften it by a floral print and a potted plant that could have been purchased by thousands of other young lawyers like her across town. There is one fixture that is totally unique to her surroundings, however; her mother.


“You’re going to work dressed like that?”

“I’ve been involved in Safra’s education since I wrote her first application to the Solomon Schecter Day School,” says Sheila Cohen. “I’m not going to leave her hanging out there now that she’s getting started in her career.”

“Helicopter parents,” so-called because of the way they hover over their children as they face life’s challenges, have moved on to the next stage of their off-springs’ lives–the world of business and the professions–creating new workplace tensions and challenges for business etiquette.


“He looks old enough to be my father because he’s . . . uh . . . married to my mother.”

“A helicopter parent is one who simply can’t let go of his or her precious little baby,” says Ellen Dowling of Hinsdale College in Illinois, a no-nonsense liberal arts school that prohibits parents from accompanying children to class or providing them with answers to tests. “They’re baby-boomers who never got over their sense of entitlement, and they’re passing the same spoiled mind-set down to their children,” she notes. “Either that or they actually own a helicopter, which is even worse.”


“Seriously sweetie, having me on the honeymoon will make things go a lot smoother.”

So major companies who compete for top graduates to fill entry-level positions have begun to offer “Bring Your Mother (or Father) to Work Day,” a once or twice a week accommodation for children who, while they may have received top-notch academic training, have not yet developed a sense of mature judgment to guide them through tough negotiations or intra-office politics.

“The first day I got here I looked around and checked out the other kids’ offices,” says Martha Lynch whose son Toby is an assistant loan officer at Credit Banque, an international trade bank in lower Manhattan. “Every other new hire got colored paper clips and Toby was stuck with those yucky metal ones that get all rusty when they sit for too long in your files. I marched straight down to the Senior Vice President’s office and gave him a piece of my mind, not that I’ve got that much to spare.”


“Hey–he’s got a bigger stapler than my kid!”

The parents themselves say they are merely protecting their expensive investment in an education–prep school and undergraduate and graduate study–whose price tag is in many cases more than they paid for their first home. While the term “helicopter parents” has been around since the early 1990′s, it has recently achieved more serious consideration as economists have become concerned over the effect the phenomenon may have on America’s long-term competitiveness. “Say you’re in Tokyo negotiating a big joint venture with Mazda and you hit a bottleneck over labor costs,” says Ryan Coburn of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “Do you want somebody representing you whose mother’s heating up Lipton Cup-a-Soup for her little darling? I don’t think so.”

Speaking of food, it’s lunch time at Alexander, Fanning & Co., an investment bank with offices on Wall Street, and senior partner Whitney Stillman is walking the halls looking for a “warm body” to accompany him to a client lunch. He sticks his head in the office of Alexandria Keats, a 2022 graduate of Wellesley College, and asks if she can join him. “Spencer had to cancel on me and I’ve got the folks in from Glenmore Industries–are you free?” She starts to say “yes” but her father, a retired lawyer, intervenes. “If you’ve got two seats–fine,” he says. “Otherwise, my little girl is staying put.”

New England Ends Suicide Watch as Patriots Even Record

SAGAMORE, Mass.  Richard “Richie” Guertin is a forlorn-looking figure as he sits in a police cruiser sipping a cup of coffee while Adele Smithers, a volunteer from a local suicide prevention charity, assures him he’s made the right decision.  “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you,” she says cheerfully.  “A meaningless job, annoying neighbors, a crappy 2019 Kia Ray–what’s not to like?”


“Don’t do it!”

The source of Guertin’s despair that caused him to contemplate a leap to his death from the Sagamore Bridge, the #1 site for suicides in New England?  “You can’t really blame me, can you?” he says to Sergeant Dan Hampy of the Massachusetts State Police.  “I woulda had nothin’ left to live for if the Patriots opened the season 0-2,” he says of his abandoned effort to kill himself.


Kia Ray EV: Something to live for.

 

Hampy surveys the scene and decides to let Guertin off with a warning.  “People like you cost the state a lot of money in overtime for people like me,” he says tersely.  “If it keeps up, I may be able to buy a place on Lake Winnipesaukee and retire early.”

Law enforcement officers have been on high alert since the New England Patriots, winners of six or seven Super Bowls, no one knows for sure, lost their opening game to the Miami Dolphins, a group of highly intelligent aquatic mammals.  Because of the Patriots’ past success, fans have grown complacent and feel entitled to regular season victories and at least one (1) home playoff game per year.

Disaster was averted when the Patriots squeezed out a 17-14 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team whose own glorious past has faded due to competition from low-cost, high-tech steelmakers in other countries.

The New England professional football team provides vicarious meaning to the lives of men in the region who otherwise suffer from the quiet desperation spoken of by Henry David Thoreau, a local 19th century sage who died shortly before the merger of the AFL into the NFL.

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Thoreau: “Take the points on the road.”

The Patriots went two decades between losing seasons before falling to 7-9 in 2020.  That disaster set off an extended period of soul searching that ended only when television re-runs of “Soul Train,” a dance show that aired from 1971 through 2006, had been replayed in their entirety on the region’s cable TV stations.

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Grief counselors say it is unrealistic to expect spoiled Patriots fans to recover immediately from the team’s fall to mediocrity following the departure of quarterback Tom Brady, and that the healing process will take time.  “In a situation such as this a change of scenery is critical,” says Dr. Linda Sentri of MGH-Brigham-Pilgrim-Vanguard-Partners, the region’s sole remaining health care provider following a series of mergers.  “If Mac Jones gets a supermodel wife like Brady, male fans can find closure by ogling her.”