Almost Spoiled


  • Connotations of “spoiled” are generally identical, although exact definitions vary.  A good picnic can be spoiled by a sudden rainstorm or visitation of mosquitoes.  A person can be spoiled with access to too many good things and a belief that the world always owes more.  An expectation (watching a movie, reading a book) can be spoiled by someone giving away the ending.  And food, of course, is spoiled when it rots into uselessness.  In so many ways, this place and time seems tinged with being spoiled right now.
  • I know, this is supposed to be a nature-related musing.  And I suppose I can make a case that summer happiness has now been spoiled by cool damp weather.  Or that perfect flower gardens are now spoiled by spotty leaves, drying husks, and decaying blooms.  But the second part of my meandering thoughts each day does focus on me, and I sometimes am forced to realize how truly spoiled I really am and have been.


Spoiler alert _ you’re gonna die
Spoiler alert _ we’re gonna fry
Might be a billion years or ten
But everything just has to end
Dust to dust and ash to ash
Nothing here is built to last
Some names are known some thousands years
Some simply vanish without tears
Sad to say, but this is so
We live a while, and then we go
If I can, I’ll make mine seem

A long, exciting, brilliant dream


  • People miss the sun only when there have been clouds for days, miss the rain only when nothing falls for weeks.  Human nature often takes the good in life for granted and concentrates on problems.  After all, that is how the struggle to survive has to work _ no use wasting time and energy on what is not threatening.  Fish only notice water when it is not available. 
  • Our capacities in the last century have grown boundless.  Many of us are well supplied and well fed by a global supply chain that depends on a basically peaceful world where commerce is more profitable than war.  I never cease to be thankful for being born in my time, place, and situation.  We are certainly right to worry about ongoing problems and horrors _ life is far from perfect for anyone, wretched for some.  But if the core of what we now take for granted every day is ever shattered, the misery and destruction that will follow will certainly make these times, in retrospect, seem the most idyllic golden age that ever existed on this planet.


Mike is staring up at some of the carnival equipment parked on the Hecksher ballfield.  Trucks have left huge mysterious structures everywhere, waiting to be unfolded, unpacked, and plugged in.  Columbus Day is always marked by the Huntington Fall Festival.
“Too bad it’s going to rain all weekend,” he notes.
“Can’t tell for sure yet,” I respond.  “Hurricane predictions are always tricky.  Might be nice both days.”
“Might be a monsoon,” he answers.
“Well, any outdoor festival takes a chance …”
“Unless it’s in the desert …”
“But things often turn out better than we expect.  I think we worry too much.  If they just canceled things every time someone thought there might be a problem, we’d sit around doing nothing at all.”
“And here I thought that’s what you do anyway!” he exclaims.
“I’m taking my walk.  Carnivals hardly excite me any more.  At this point in life, I have to be careful about how much junk food and treats I eat.  I remember when I could easily down a sausage and cheese sub on garlic bread without heartburn.”
“I suppose you avoid the rides as well,” he muses.
“Yeah,” I laugh.  “Not even grandchildren can get me on the graviton or anything else.  I get enough thrills on the LIE.”
“Or getting out of bed, some mornings.”
“But life goes on.  Look _ here comes the sun now.”  A few leaves have turned, so there are bright orange and yellow sparkles here and there near the tips of the crowns.
“Betcha a nickel it ends in gales and downpours.”
“No bets.  I need every nickel, and anyway I’ve learned at least a few things in life.  One of the main ones is to never count on weather predictions.  Or my own intuitions.”

The crews begin to unpack, and we watch operations with a growing crowd of the curious and bored.


  • Nice warm sunny days are precious now.  People who a few weeks ago were slightly bored with summer have discovered that lately the few hours of free time they have available are often cold, wet, or dark.  It doesn’t take a woodsman to notice creeping signs of advancing season.  Leaves tumble in each light breeze, poison ivy blazes scarlet patches on trees, autumn fruits like crabapples are glossy and complete.
  • The nicest thing about being comfortably retired is the sense that all time is my own.  I need not rush about like frantic younger generations.  I need not worry about what the future holds _ I know damn well what it holds.  That allows a sense of distance from the world providing perspectives I could never before achieve.  No longer a mystery that serene sages are always pictured as old and sitting still.  Often in autumn.


  • Most fortunate people in any era probably believe _ with reason _ that they have been lucky to live how and when they did.  Certainly I appreciate how spoiled I have been.  This is not to minimize the hardships and horrors faced by many others.  Nor would I claim that I am particularly normal _ anymore than anyone else I meet is normal.
  • Baby boomers in America have passed through interesting times.  Predictions of Communist takeovers, global nuclear Armageddon, universal mass starvation, deadly ubiquitous pollution, rampaging plagues, and various other horrid fears have not quite come to pass.  On the other hand, glorious hallucinations of free love, peace, and prosperity have vanished into the same clouds as flying cars.
  • Nevertheless, it has been a time to enjoy.  Technology has been breathtaking, globalization has made us aware of corners of the world as never before.  Civilization faces tremendous challenges in climate, extinctions, and social stability, but all of these are just beginning.  In the meantime, there has been food on the table, constant entertainment, and new wonders every week.
  • Usually, I avoid political comments, which flare and die with each passing hour.  But I must note today that some people, in the same culture of which I speak, have used their lives to become ever more wretched and ugly.  It is easy to admire people who have overcome adversity to become shining examples of wisdom and strength.  It is normal to accept people who have used their natural gifts, talents, and fortune to survive and lead some measure of happy social lives.  It is possible to forgive people facing great adversity who have been broken by the weight of their burdens.  But it is impossible to admire or accept anyone _ like Donald Trump _ who has used supernatural fortune, immense inherited wealth, and superior leadership talents to sculpt his being into incarnate evil and profound destructive demagoguery.
  • There are those who are spoiled by too much, or who do not understand how much has been offered and delivered.  They should be pitied their ignorance.  The worst spoilage emanates from those who _ like the proverbial bad apple _ manage to ruin an entire bountiful harvest with their deadly oozing blight.


  • Appearances deceive.  To an untrained or uncaring eye, nothing has changed.  Tree canopy remains lush and green.  Breezes are mild and gentle.  Vigorous weedy plants crowd each path and roadway.  Yet, in a month, all will seem to have been struck by death and ruin, brown and desolate.  Like those pictures of state-mandated patriotic rallies in places similar to North Korea, where vacuously happy elite multitudes cheer the shiny social surface, although deeper investigation reveals rot and terror bubbling treacherously underneath.
  • We have evolved to expect tomorrow to closely resemble today.  A period of light, a later dimming, hours of dark while we sleep.  In spite of occasional hopes and fears, we deeply believe that if we have been healthy and well fed on Tuesday, our only care on Wednesday will be to choose what’s for dinner.  Those of us who realize how fragile this illusion of stability really is _ we are only one nuclear button away from global destruction, only one distracted driver removed from personal tragedy _ pause as often as we can to give thanks for what is.  Even that, I think, is not enough.

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