Unfinished Business, If We Choose
I keep thinking that Lenny was really unhappy with his painting, but he didn’t have enough time to fix it. He kept making little adjustments until he died, and then the world fell in love with the very screw-up that he regretted. At least that’s how I would tell the story.
It was the smile, or the smirk, or the half grin that made the picture so appealing, but what did it mean? Had Lenny witnessed her pleasure when she recalled her affair with Cesare or was it the moment when she had just passed gas and grimaced, hoping he hadn’t noticed?
Whatever it was, it was done. Or, more accurately, he was done and his favorite painting would never be completed. Da Vinci is said to have fiddled with the Mona Lisa until his final days, never quite achieving whatever perfection he was seeking. Like the rest of us, he died with a to-do list.
Now I’m wondering about other great works of art, along with the lesser lights, in all the museums I’ve visited. How many of their creators regretted a stroke or daub, wished they could add another frog to the pond or a tire swing in the tree? Is there any artist anywhere, or any person for that matter, who doesn’t have second thoughts about their stories, a yearning for something just a bit different, a need for just one more opportunity to get it right?
In fact, we all have a million unfinished projects in our lives. Most of the time, we just let them go and move on. Too often, though, we dwell incessantly on the Three Horsemen of Regret: Woulda, Coulda and Shoulda. It’s not over until we say it’s over and, for some self-destructive reason, we find it impossible to close the door.
Somewhere along the line, we probably make a choice about the issues we’ll drop and the ones we’ll hold dear. From a million slings and arrows, we pick a handful to fill our quivers and toss the rest to the side, never to be addressed again. I can’t imagine there’s that much difference among all these hurts, all these unfinished conversations, but somehow we select the ones that will haunt us and we never, ever let go.
Why am I still mad at Max for ditching me at the party, but I didn’t care when Ed did the same thing? Why can’t I forgive Sandy for blabbing about my arrest, but I didn’t have any problem when Danny spilled the beans? Very complex, and confusing, isn’t it?
Looking back at Da Vinci, we’re clearly in good company. Still, there comes a time to turn the page and write a new chapter, to declare the competition over and a new game begun. Today is a good day to say goodbye to some unfinished business, simply by deciding it’s done.
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Living life one mistake at a time
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So Valentine’s Day is coming up and I would say that I’m panicked about what I should do, but what guy gets panicked about this before midnight on February 13?
No guy, that’s who, and I can prove it with real scientific science. According to research at the Human Genome Project, the third exon of the DLG3 gene makes it impossible for men to learn from past mistakes. That’s why we never remember to put down the seat, run the dishwasher, open the car door or order flowers. And, yes, it absolutely is in our DNA, so anyone who criticizes us for this is a hater and a geneticist.
Being a manly, man’s man, I am not doing any planning for Valentine’s Day, at least for myself. For the benefit of my millions of followers, however, I have undertaken intensive research about ways to make this VD very, very special. Just follow these three simple rules and you’ve got your own romcom, minus Drew Barrymore.
Seriously, how would you survive without our heroic rescues?
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Really? Just for oysters?
It’s time to admit we made a big mistake and just start over. And I’m not talking just about Western Civilization here. This problem is global and it’s costing us billions in lost productivity and waste every day.
Yes, we're talking about the stuff we use to shovel food into our faces, the hoity toity pointy things that separate us from the savages who eat with their hands. We’re talking about forks and knives and spoons, of course, and especially the worst invention of all time, chopsticks.
Yes, there’s history and tradition and folklore at stake, but it’s best to fess up now and move on. We made a mistake, we can fix it, and we can do better in the future.
Let's start with forks, which are a perfect example of too many options and no real differences. We’ve got salad forks, dinner forks, fish forks, oyster forks, pasta forks, even ice cream forks, and basically they’re all just sticks with extra points. Skewer the food, put it in your piehole and chew. Why make it more complicated than that?
Our most frequent plague is the salad fork, which offers no benefit whatsoever. They’re smaller than dinner forks, as if that makes some functional difference, and they’re absolutely useless for eating salad the way it’s made today. There was a time when salads were all the same...tiny pieces of lettuce with a chopped tomato tossed in for color. Now, your typical piece of “salad” is a whole spinach leaf that you have to fold over twenty times before it becomes a bite-size morsel. Try picking one up with a salad fork and you have to keep shoveling in the pieces still hanging after the first two feet get past your lips. Tongs would work much better, if you ask me.
Then there’s the butter knife, which is designed for the stick butter nobody uses anymore,. We’re all using whipped butter now, but butter knives are still too long to fit into the tub to scrape out a serving and they’re pathetic at spreading the butter anywhere.
Teaspoons are just plain silly, since sugar comes in packets, not bowls, and stirring our tea is an archaic affectation of the landed gentry. And don’t get me started on soup spoons, those gigantic shovels that are so big they leave half the soup stranded in the bowl. I think Mad Magazine invented a combination soup spoon/straw that should have caught on decades ago, if we weren’t so fixated on custom that we can’t change for the better. Now is the time, friends, even though straws are on the defensive in our fight to save the sharks.
Table knives? What’s the point? You can cut the soft items with the edge of your fork—even if it isn’t exactly etiquette 101—and they’re not sharp enough for anything that actually requires cutting. Why not just change the name of steak knives to dinner knives and save us all a ton of time and aggravation. Also, one less piece of inventory we’ll need to keep on hand in the kitchen drawer and one less item on the bridal registry.
And then there’s chopsticks. Yes, I know, ancient traditions, cultural touchstones, yada yada. But, really, let’s get real. They’re sticks. As bad a job as the rest of the world has done in designing stuff to get food into our gullets, these are not exactly Asia’s finest contribution to civilization. I use them when I’m eating Chinese food, but I have yet to find a meal where a fork would not work just as well or better. And, well, they’re sticks.
In fact, the perfect food for chopsticks isn’t Asian at all. It’s Cheetos. The worst thing about eating Cheetos is that the “cheese” crumbs and grease get all over your hands. You can’t eat them with a fork or spoon, but with chopsticks? Problem solved.
So maybe we don’t need to get rid of chopsticks, or salad forks, or soup spoons, but a whole ton of repurposing is definitely in order. Where are all those out-of-the-box thinkers when we need them? The last great invention in eating utensils was the spork, and we’ve all aged a ton since then.
Meanwhile, try the veal.
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Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.