If you have no idea what kind of bird is pictured here, join the club. But don’t try to join a birdwatcher’s club, because they will mock you relentlessly before kicking you out as the world’s biggest nincompoop.
Our photography group was taking pictures at the bird sanctuary when all the birders were asking each other, “Did you see it?”, “Is it still there?”, and “Have you ever seen one here before?” Etcetera. Turns out, there was a purple sandpiper hanging out on the concrete near the lake and it was a holy day for the cognoscenti in Birdland.
While it looked like just another bird to me—not as ugly as a pigeon, but not exactly a peacock, either—this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the folks who bring binoculars and notepads to the park. Turns out, these are Arctic birds more likely to cross the Atlantic than Lake Michigan, so seeing one this far south this early in the year was almost transcending for the lucky few at Montrose Beach.
I asked one guy why this was a big deal for them and he rebuked me for the question. “This isn’t a big deal,” he said. “This is a huge deal, a really huge deal.” I stand corrected.
While the prayerful gaped in awe at the rare visitor near the harbor beacon, the shutterbugs took our obligatory photos and moved on to the rest of our outing. We’d stepped into their world for a few minutes, tried to see what they saw when their checklists gained a major new entry, and then we returned to our own reality behind the camera.
Still, we were different people after our small detour. On any other day, we would have mingled briefly with the birders on the trail, taken a few photos of the avian beasts above us, and moved on to the boats in the harbor or the volleyball players on the beach. Instead, we got caught up in their excitement and shared, at a very, very basic level, their worldview.
I don’t think any of us is going to put down the camera and pick up a pair of binoculars in the near future, but all of us will be just a bit more curious and appreciative the next time we see a bunch of people gawking at a tree branch. Instead of asking what they were looking at, we asked them why they were excited about it, which made all the difference.
That’s the thing about connecting with strangers. Even the briefest conversation can make us smarter, wiser, more insightful about things we never considered previously. We don’t have to share their interests in order to see what’s driving them, and vice versa. When we make the connection, we change their perceptions, too. They won’t look at us the same way they did before, which is always a plus.
Perhaps all of us should join the birders in carrying a checklist throughout our lives. We could mark a box every time we add a bit of insight, even if it’s a small speck in the universe. There’s no way to complete a checklist of our ignorance, of course, but we can gain a bit of satisfaction from the smallest of starts.
BTW, we’ll be happy to alert you the next time we see a rare bird along Lake Michigan, but only if you click here to subscribe to Dad Writes.
I’ve been struggling to make this blog a cultural icon for our millions of readers and I think I’ve finally figured out the perfect plan to make it happen. From now on, we’re not Dad Writes anymore. We’re French Dad Writes.
See, isn’t that better? Yes, everything is still written in proper English, or as close to proper English as we get around here, but we’re going to get a lot more respect because we’re French now. Because, let’s face it, everyone gets more respect if they say they’re French.
“Look at that woman with her top inside her pants in front and hanging out in the back. What a slob!”
“No, no, no! That’s a French Tuck.”
“Ooooh. Tres coolio.”
No matter what it is, from fashion to food to furniture, adding French to the name creates a certain panache, a je ne sais quoi, a savoir faire that no other nationality can offer. Greek salad and Turkish taffy and Brazil nuts are all descriptive, but tying those foods to nationalities adds no prestige. Link anything to France, though, and the effect is incroyable.
Nobody wants greasy potatoes, but French fries are a hit. Even better, call them pomme frites and you can charge $12.50 for an order. Drop a slice of bread into your eggs and it’s a mess, until you call it French toast. Slobber all over someone when you’re smooching and you’re gross, unless it’s a French kiss. Drop a slice of onion and a grilled cheese sandwich into a tureen and, voila, it’s French onion soup.
It doesn’t matter if anything comes from France, is used in France, or is even known by the same name in France. Manicures, salad dressing, hair styles, postcards, vanilla ice cream…just call it French and we’re all agog.
Meanwhile, over here in the States, the best we can do is American cheese?
You’ve got to give credit where it’s due. France has won the culture war and the rest of us don’t even get a participation trophy.
We’re not quitters over here at Dad writes, but we are realists. The surest way to gain cultural credibility and unassailable status is to become French. (Turning Japanese? I don’t think so.)
Now that we’re French Dad Writes, all our posts will reek of the arrogant superiority that only a cultural icon can ooze. Our articles de blog will be so much more compelling, so much more convincing, and tres something or other I’ll have to look up later.
Doesn’t this blog sound sexier already? Why yes, yes it does. Or as we like to say over at French Dad Writes, mais oui very much.
Bon voyage, y’all.
We were going to translate our subscriber request from English this week, but we’re pretty lazy over here at French Dad Writes, so just pretend this is cleverly written in French and click here to subscribe.
I’ve never been a big fan of cruises and the reasons are many, but one particular issue is looming large in my mind these days.
In most of the world, it’s tough to get through a week without some form of wind and rain, or both, and this is absolutely true on the ocean. As a result, anyone on a seven-day cruise is going to experience a 52-magnitude earthquake at least once. It’s a thrill ride on steroids and a great reminder that even the largest vessel is a drop in the ocean. Shockingly, this little bit of excitement is never mentioned by the cruise lines in any of their ads.
Now that we’re deep into hurricane season, I think about the people who choose to experience this kind of torture, including those who live in places that are prone to natural calamities. Florida is in hurricane alley, more than half of New Orleans is below sea level, California is perpetually on fire and, sometimes, earthquakes, a huge swath of the country is always in drought, and there’s undoubtedly a hundred chronic disaster zones that have slipped my mind already.
Frankly, I feel a lot safer in Chicago. It’s not that we don’t have our challenges with rain and cold and sleet and hail, but let’s get real here. We have crime, absolutely, and it makes for nearly orgasmic coverage on cable news. But there are no sharks swimming in our streets, the water is clean, and we haven’t had an Armageddon Fire since 1871.
Regarding crime, by the way, let’s take a look at the stats from the past few years:
The five cities with the highest murder rates this year are St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Detroit and Cleveland. By state, the top five states to be murdered in during 2020 were Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri and Arkansas. Broaden the topic to include all violent crime and the top five are Monroe, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Detroit, Michigan; Saginaw, Michigan; and St. Louis, Missouri. The sources and specifics vary from year to year, but it’s rare to find Chicago on the top five list per capita, or the top ten, for that matter.
Yes, there is crime, and, yes, I am certain to become a victim a minute after I post this, but the reality is not even close to the myth. We’re safer walking down the street in Chicago than in more than a dozen other major cities that never seem to make the evening news.
Besides, there are steps I can take to reduce my risk when it comes to crime. I avoid walking down unlit streets at night with $100 bills sticking out of my pocket, for example, and I avoid picking fights with tattooed beasts when the bar is about to close. When it comes to natural disasters, though, my defensive strategies might not succeed as well.
Every so often, usually during the bleakness of winter, I’ll think about moving to a sunnier clime, a location where my bicycle tires would fail from overuse instead of dry rot. When I scroll through the listings, though, the pickings get very slim very fast. Of course, the competition with Chicago is already slanted in our favor.
We have the most vibrant live theater community in the country, a ton of great restaurants, world-class museums, incredibly convenient airport connections, clean water, and more than four million craft beer breweries. Yes, our taxes are high and some of our political leaders are legendary idiots, but we don’t have to worry about weekly hurricanes, forest fires or drought.
The next time a storm brings Lake Michigan into my living room, maybe I’ll rethink this whole thing. Until then, though, I’m staying put.
Regular readers know we just hype the crime statistics for Chicago to keep the town from getting overcrowded in summer. For more inside info on The City That (sometimes) Works, just click here to subscribe.
Happy Beams Day! Hoping you are having the most special holiday ever.
What? You’ve never heard of Beams Day? Maybe that’s because we just created it, and it’s the holiday we’ve all been waiting to celebrate togeth…uh, celebrate. Anyway, you’ll love it, just like all the other holidays we’ve added to the calendar to brighten your years.
Okay, so here’s the deal. Inspired by one of my favorite passages from the New Testament, Beams Day celebrates the moment we become aware of the giant two-by-four sticking out of our skulls, rather than picking endlessly at the pimples on our neighbors’ noses. (Not very sanitary, btw.) Jesus said motes and beams, or some Aramaic version of those words, but I think pimples are funnier and this is my blog, not his.
Anyway, I was torn at first about whether to call this Beams Day or Motes Day, since the New Testament mentions both, but it ended up being an easy decision. Looking around the world, both online and IRL, it appears that every day is Motes Day, and it’s only fair that beams get their own acknowledgement.
And it turned out to be really easy to find the exact right spot on the calendar for Beams Day, which is observed on the first Monday of November in every even-numbered year. By a remarkable and unplanned bit of timing that nobody could have foreseen, this is also the day before Election Day in the United States.
It’s a really lucky, and did I mention unplanned, coincidence that Beams Day comes before our elections. Based on all the ads we’ve been unable to avoid over the past eternity, this holiday is seriously overdue.
As always, the guy who voted against funding for the police department is complaining about crime and the woman who voted against cheaper insulin is complaining about the cost of drugs. I think there were two or three ads this year from people who wanted to tell us why we should vote FOR them, but those folks are dopes. The real money is in demonizing our opponents, and doing it so much that theirs is the only name voters can remember when they vote. I have no idea who I want to vote for in my area, but I absolutely recognize the satanic beasts they are running against.
Fortunately, today is the day when we don’t say a single word about any of our neighbors’ failings and only pay attention to our own. This is the day when we look deep inside and recognize our own limits and those of our own tribe. On this very special holiday, which we just made up, we avoid the hypocrisy of castigating kettles.
From all of us at the Dad Writes Holiday R&D Lab, have a simply fabulous Beams Day. Hurry, though. Motes Day returns at midnight and it will be a lot like the purge.
If people actually switched targets for their vitriol for just one day, would all the algorithms on social media have a nervous breakdown? Hmmm…worth a shot, right after you click here to subscribe.
I think I’ve mentioned more than once that I have a fuzzy memory, or maybe I only meant to mention it and it slipped my mind.
The past 102 years have been a blur for me, as evidenced by my inability to remember anyone at my high school reunion or my college reunion or the receiving line at my wedding. Somehow, I can remember a handful of formulas from chemistry class, my phone number from 60 years ago, the year King Kanye signed the Magna Carta and, of course, advertising jingles.
Everything else? Good luck.
I can remember that I saw a movie, but not what it was about, and I can remember that I read a book, but not what it was about. The only thing I can absolutely remember is how to do the Hokey Pokey, because that IS what it’s all about.
There’s a sadness to this hazy recollection. People will remember great times and share details with each other and I just smile as if I was actually there, which I was, or so they tell me. I’ll run into someone at an event and they’ll ask a million questions about my wife, my kids, my hobbies, how I got that stain out of my shirt after our last meeting…and all I can think is that I might have met them once.
Sometimes, after a great evening with new acquaintances, I will warn them that I will absolutely not remember them the next time we see each other. It’s embarrassing, but it’s one more fun fact for them to remember about me while I forget everything about them.
Still, if you look hard enough, you can find an upside to anything.
It turns out that I am very bad at holding a grudge. I try. Really, I do, but it all gets blurry and I can’t remember who started it or who said what or why I’m ticked off, anyway. My circle of friends is probably five or six times as large as it would be if I could remember how terrible all these people are and how much I hate them.
I almost never miss an appointment, which might seem counterintuitive, but it works. Since I know I’m going to forget half the things I promised to do, I keep a very thorough to-do list and check it about 20 times a day.
I never say anything embarrassing to people, because I always forget which ones are on drugs and which ones have been indicted and which ones are having sex with goats. Or maybe it’s chickens. I forget. But the good thing about forgetting is that I can't spill the beans if I don't remember what kind of beans they are. I still say lots of stupid stuff to people, but much, much less than I would if I could remember anything about them.
People think I’m really interested in whatever they have to say, even if it’s an old story they’ve told me a million times. I give everyone the impression I’m savoring their story as if it was the first time, mostly because I think I am hearing their story for the first time.
I’m much calmer than I used to be, and I sleep better, too. When you can’t remember all the bills you owe and how many people are out to get you, the dark isn’t nearly as scary.
Beyond calm, I think I’m actually happier. Life is much more pleasant when you’ve unburdened yourself of the slings and arrows, the resentments and regrets. I really think forgetfulness, intended or otherwise, can add measurably to our joy in life.
Now, if only I can remember to post this message, the rest of you could be happier too.
Of course, both of us would be immeasurably happier if you’d click here to subscribe to Dad Writes. Do it now, before you forget.
Who writes this stuff?
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.