D. None of the above

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

One day, you’re playing with your twin sons at home, running around with a ball on the driveway, calling and waving to neighbors who pass by when they walk their dogs or take their daily stroll through the neighborhood.

The next day, your life changes.

You want to know why or how, but you’re too busy trying to apply the brakes to a process that threatens the nature of your existence and your current and future happiness.

Your son had some gastrointestinal issues for a few weeks. You took him to the pediatrician and he said he’s got to get over a virus.

You wait, hope, and maybe say a few extra prayers, because the hardest thing for any parent to endure is the sickness of a child.

You check on him, day after day, hoping he’s better, only to find that there’s no improvement.

Suddenly, three weeks later, you’re in the hospital, trying to keep yourself, your spouse, and your other son calm while doctors remove a malignant brain cancer in a 5-year-old boy who defines “goofy” and “playful.”

One of our close friends in our neighborhood just started this unimaginable battle against a disease many of us know all too well, although the specific form of cancer varies.

Their babysitter shared the horror of the prior weekend with me outside the window of her passing car, where she normally would have driven both the twins to school.

I heard the story because I asked about the empty car seat in the back, where both boys typically showed me whatever stuffed animals or toys they had decided to bring to school, either for show and tell or because they were carrying an object that began with a particular letter.

As I talked with the babysitter, who spoke in the kind of hushed and dramatic tones often associated with discussions about serious health crises, I thought about how hard it was and will be for the other son. I thought he needed the kind of 5-year-old normalcy that might become hard to find when he’s worried about his brother and the anxious adults around him.

I asked him to show me what he was holding. He had a pink llama, who he said wanted to poop on my head or on my dog’s head.

I told him that my dog wouldn’t appreciate the poop unless the stuffed llama somehow pooped pink marshmallows.

He laughed, flashing all his straight baby teeth.

As I walked home, I thought of all the things my wife and I planned to offer our neighbors. Maybe we’d babysit the healthy son, walk their dogs, help with house chores, bring over food, do anything to lighten the unbearably heavy load.

I also thought about all the scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University I have known who are working towards cures for cancer.

Many of them know someone in their family, their friend group, their neighborhood, or their schools who, like my daughter’s beloved first-grade teacher, suddenly were in a battle for their lives against a disease that steals time and joy from people’s lives.

Their labs often invite or include family members of people with cancer to staff meetings and discussions about their work, making the connection between what the scientists are studying and the people desperate for solutions.

It seems utterly cliche to write it, but I’m going to do it anyway: we should appreciate and enjoy the days we have when we’re not in that battle. The annoyance of dealing with someone who got our order wrong at a restaurant seems so spectacularly small in comparison. 

We can appreciate that the person who seems like a total jerk for cutting us off on our way home may also be the one racing back to hug his child or spouse after an impossible day that changed his life.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

When our children were young, a friend recently told me, she viewed the parents of people she met through a binary process.

A mom of two boys, she figured she had a better chance, at least in the first 10 years or so of her sons’ lives, of interacting with the parents of other boys. When she met girls and their families, she was polite and friendly, without putting too much effort into getting to know them.

Fast forward almost two decades, and her children, like mine, are out of the house. She and her husband have an adorable small dog that they dote on, transferring their abundant parenting attention to a canine companion.

Nowadays, my friend said, she sees people through a similar lens. She takes her small dog to a dog park, where a fence separates pets under 40 pounds from the bigger, heavier versions. When she meets someone outside the park with a dog, she’s more likely to pay attention to their names and their stories if they have a small dog.

As I considered what she said about the parents of boys and girls, as well as the owners of dogs of different sizes, I wondered about the metaphorical fences we create.

Sure, those fences make it easier for us to find people who have similar interests and opinions and who might not challenge us or disagree with us in our decision-making. Those fences also, however, separate us from others with whom we might have even more connections or common interests than we thought, especially if the filter for our “in” and “out” groups is as arbitrary as having sons, daughters or small dogs.

What if a man with a large dog worked in a similar field, had two children about my friend’s offspring’s ages, and went to the same college at the same time? Then again, what if a woman on the other side of the fence had nothing in common with my friend? She had no children, grew up in another country, worked in a completely different field, and didn’t see any of the same movies or read the same books? Would that make her less or more interesting? Perhaps that woman might be fascinating for her life experiences, compelling for her opinions, and amazing in her own way.

Recently, I sat in the window seat of a plane next to a large man who was stuck in the middle. An army veteran, he laughed as we reached our destination, saying he was unaccustomed to landing in planes. I took the bait, asking him why. He said he’d made over 150 jumps out of airplanes. 

He and his unit jumped out of planes at 800 feet, although he didn’t need to do much jumping, as he felt as if a hand pulled him out when he got to the opening. He never had to pull a chord, as the parachute automatically started opening within a second of leaving the plane.

On one type of plane, he stepped out and immediately started falling. Another had a small “bubble” outside the entrance, where he and others stood before leaving the plane. One of his army unit once forgot about the platform, took a small hop on the landing, and then rolled along the entire side of the plane. The others heard as his body scraped the airplane all the way to the back. Fortunately, the impact didn’t cause severe injuries.

One of the many instructions he received was to keep his chin on his chest as he exited. On his first jump, he didn’t, which caused enough discomfort that he never made that mistake again. He reached the ground at 38 miles per hour, at which point he was supposed to tuck and roll, ending on his back. Once, a crosswind turned him upside down and he landed on his head, cracking his helmet and causing a concussion.

Listening to his stories, I learned about something I will likely never do and connected with someone I will likely never see again. He did, however, expand my horizons and share his compelling life experiences, among other stories. I appreciated the opportunity to connect with someone who lives outside whatever fences I intentionally or unintentionally put up around me.

Pixabay photos

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Even as we study evolution, we ourselves evolve over time. No, we don’t learn to fly or to breathe underwater. We change over the decades, in part because of social pressure and in part because, well, our cells, organs and experiences align to make us different decadal versions of ourselves. With that in mind, I’d like to share some snapshots from my life.

First decade:

Likes: I adored my parents (most of the time). I also appreciated the opportunity to make new friends and to play any game that involved chasing a ball.

Dislikes: long distances running, homework, dark nights, losing electricity, sitting in the middle of a station wagon with my legs cramped under me. 

Favorite food: pizza and grilled cheese with ketchup. It’s not for everyone, but I loved it.

Favorite sport to play: basketball.

Favorite sport to watch: baseball.

Biggest worry: finding parents.

Second decade:

Likes: time with friends, the freedom to drive somewhere on my own (later in the decade, of course).

Dislikes: tough teachers eager to teach me too many lessons, rejections from friends, and too many questions from parents. Waiting for parents to pick me up (until I could drive). Developing an intolerance to dairy, which removed pizza, ice cream and mac and cheese from food options.

Favorite food: Good Steer burger supremes with a root beer and ballpark hot dogs.

Favorite sport to play: baseball

Favorite sport to watch: baseball.

Biggest worry: Losing parents. Getting into college.

Third decade

Likes: getting a job where someone not only paid me to do something I wasn’t sure I was qualified to do, but also sent me on planes to do it. Spending time with friends. Going on vacations with friends and family.

Dislikes: working on weekends and holidays. Going on horrible dates with people who were a little too eager to see fights where teeth got knocked out during hockey games. Then again, some of those unsuccessful dates still bring a smile to my face.

Favorite food: Thai food at a restaurant on the Upper East Side.

Favorite sport to play: volleyball.

Favorite sport to watch: baseball.

Biggest worry: Finding enough time to exercise.

Fourth decade:

Likes: enjoying the miraculous connection that comes from meeting girlfriend/wife. Listening to my wife laugh and seeing her smile. Holding my son and daughter and feeling them relax enough to go to sleep.

Dislikes: trying to figure out how to handle when children got sick, needing something we didn’t have, and packing enough stuff in the diaper bag and the car for needy children.

Favorite food: Who tastes food at this point? We inhaled it in between picking up the food the kids spilled on the floor or in the car.

Favorite sport to play: softball in Central Park.

Favorite sport to watch: my daughter’s active and exciting volleyball matches and my son’s soccer games. I knew nothing about soccer, so I could just be a supportive father and fan without offering unwelcome and unhelpful advice.

Biggest worry: How to keep kids healthy.

Fifth decade:

Likes: holidays, vacations and not needing to stand over the kids when they got too close to the water. Hooray for independent swimming.

Dislikes: driving everywhere with kids and their friends who made the car stink so badly at times that I opened windows in freezing temperatures. Watching kids disappear into their cell phones.

Favorite food: fresh fish on vacations.

Favorite sport to play: I barely played anything. I coached kids and bobbed and weaved between the entitled requests from parents.

Favorite sport to watch: daughter’s volleyball and son’s baseball.

Biggest worry: helping steer kids in the right direction.

Sixth decade:

Likes: time with family and friends, days when pain in my hip stays the same or, rarely, is less than the day before.

Dislikes: not knowing how to handle important technology, an awareness that I’m older than my friend’s parents were when I was growing up, and I thought they were old.

Favorite food: anything that doesn’t keep me up at night.

Favorite sport to play: baseball or anything that doesn’t cause pain the next day.

Favorite sport to watch: baseball.

Biggest worry: the speed at which each day, month and year passes. The prevalence of anger for its own sake and the health of the planet our children are inheriting.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I heard from a friend, who heard from another friend whose neighbor’s cousin is the babysitter of someone who works in Congress. So, it has to be true.

Here’s the deal: I know some of the concessions Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made to become speaker of the house.

The person who heard it fourth hand was in the bathroom, minding his own business, trying, from what I understand, to make his best guesses at Wordle on his phone while battling an upset stomach when three of the principal negotiators in the process entered the bathroom and spoke in whispers.

The first concession is that McCarthy must begin each day by saying the words “we are all equal, but some are more equal than others,” at which point he’s supposed to subtly make the letters G and O in sign language with his hands to show that he’s thinking about “Animal Farm” author George Orwell.

Then, he has to look at the audience carefully to see if Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has had a bad night. If Gaetz gives him a particular signal, he’s not allowed to bang his gavel too loudly, to prevent a headache from getting worse.

Once he’s gotten everyone’s attention, he then agreed that he’ll lead the house in the Pledge of Allegiance, pausing when he reached the “under God” section to make it clear that religion is not only okay, but that many people, particularly those who might not have otherwise voted for him, believe in God.

When President Joe Biden (D) gives his state of the union address, he will give at least 15 head shakes, five winces and nine arched eyebrows. At the end of the speech, to defend former president Donald Trump (R), he plans to take a page out of the previous speaker’s playbook by picking up the copy of Biden’s speech and tearing it up in disgust as it were the first chapter of a book he’d like to ban from libraries around the country.

Speaking of beyond belief, McCarthy has then agreed that if Rep. George Santos (R-NY), whose name might have changed by the time this is relevant, is still in the house, McCarthy should ask him to sing a few songs.

For starters, according to Santos’s resume, he has won at least three Grammy awards, which means he has a wonderful and lyrical singing voice.

When things get too tense during deliberations with other Republicans, let alone the Democrats who are ruining the government and the country, McCarthy has a playlist for Santos. He’s going to sing the Meghan Trainor song, “Lips are Movin,” with a slight modification in the wording.“If my lips are moving, then I’m lyin’, lyin’, lyin’, baby.”

If things continue to be tense for hours, as a politician continues grandstanding, Santos can provide a Billy Joel encore, again with a slight tweak:

“Honesty is such a lonely word

I am certainly so untrue

Honestly is hardly ever heard

And rarely what I give to you.”

Following the example of Trump, McCarthy also agreed to hug a flag in public at least three times a year, to normalize the behavior and to demonstrate his commitment to America and the country’s values.

He also promised to support at least 13, for the original colonies, investigations in his first year as speaker, with a commitment to at least another dozen in his second.

Finally, in a subtle gesture meant to celebrate the political right, he planned to stand to the right of the podium and only to hit the gavel with his right hand while pausing to emphasize the word “right” every time he utters it.

Elon Musk. Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Our story begins some time around now. No, there’s no chocolate, despite the season, and there’s no meadow where everything is edible.

No, our modern-day story begins where so much of us live these days, online.

You see, a famous and once marvelous company called Twitter is run by an eccentric, wealthy and successful businessman named Elon Musk, who somehow figured out how to create and mass produce electric cars that require no gas and that sound like spaceships.

Musk has decided, after many hours of running Twitter, that he needs to find a successor.

So, borrowing a page from Willy Wonka, he provides invitations that cost 3 cents per tweet to enter a sweepstakes.

When he narrows the field down to those who get the golden tweet, he plans to invite a group of five people to come to a virtual, top secret Twitter tour.

A few people try to make fake tickets, but the ever vigilant Musk spots the fraud. Day after day, people wait until, finally, five people, some of whom have never tweeted in their lives, have a chance to run the company.

Musk appears on screen wearing a top hat and a menacing smile. He demands that no one record what they see or take a screenshot of the secrets he is prepared to share.

Each person has a tiny image — about 1/4 the size of Musk’s — as they virtually walk through a factory floor.

On the first stop, Musk invites them to join him in the secret Hunter Biden/ New York Post room. Ah, yes, the story about the infamous laptop, which will undoubtedly become a part of an extensive investigation into the Biden progeny, is in this room.

“Don’t try to read anything!” he snaps.

But, of course, one of the contestants can’t resist. With a special tool that tracks eye movements, Musk knows that contestant No. 1, who is chewing gum constantly, is trying to decipher all the information. Her screen develops a horrible virus that turns it (and her entire computer) purple.

“You see?” he says, shaking his virtual head at the other small characters. “That’s what you get when you don’t listen. Oh, look, here they come now.”

Wearing virtual clothing embroidered with the Tesla logo, a modern day group of Oompa-Loompas appears on screen.

“Oompa, loompa, doompa dee do.

I’ve got another riddle for you.

Oompa loompa, doompa dee dee

if you are wise, you’ll listen to me.

What do you get when you don’t listen to Musk?

A virus on your computer that will kill it before dusk.

Who do you think should have the last laugh?

It certainly won’t be you or your staff.

Take a moment to ponder this fact,

Running Twitter may take too much tact.”

“Well,” Musk interrupts, waving away the virtual characters. “That’s enough of that. Now, let’s go for a virtual boat ride.”

In everyone steps as a boat careens through a choppy river, passing one door after another, with the names of celebrities who have been suspended hanging from each virtual room.

The boat stops near an embankment. The Musk character invites his guests to look at some special doors.

When he turns around, his virtual eyes widen in shock, his lower jaw drops down to his knees, and he hunches his shoulders.

“How? What? Wait, what’s going on?” he stammers, looking closely at the faces of his remaining four contestants.

Sure enough, on screen, Musk recognizes that two of the faces are the same as his, while the other two look like versions of Donald Trump.

“No, but, I made this game,” he whines. “How will we find out who wins?”

“Ah,” one of the Trumps says. “For that, you’ll have to tune into the sequel, which will only cost $99 and will become a collector’s item in no time.”

Takeout food. METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I could take it personally, you know. I mean, come on! Does this happen to everyone?

Okay, so, check it out. First, I’m coming back from the airport, and I’m starving. I don’t tend to eat too much on days when I’m on a plane. I have a sensitive stomach, yeah, right, poor me, and I’m a bit, which is an understatement, of a neurotic flier. The combination doesn’t tend to make travel, food and me a harmonious trio.

Okay, so, there I am in the car, on the way home, and my wife can tell that I’m hungry. Ever the solution-finder, she suggests I order food from a local restaurant. When I call, the woman on the phone takes my order, which includes a salad with blackened chicken, and tells me I have to get there within half an hour because they’re closing.

When we arrive home, I bring in my small bag, grab the keys, and race out to the restaurant.

“Are you Dan?” she asks hopefully as I step towards the counter.

“Yes,” I say, realizing that I’ve cut the half-hour mark pretty close.

“Here’s your food,” she says, shoving the bag across the counter.

“This is everything?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says, as she rings me up and is clearly eager for me to step outside so she can lock the door and go on to the portion of her evening that doesn’t involve taking food requests, handing people food and charging them for it, all while standing near a gratuity jar that says, not so subtly, “Even the Titanic tipped.” That, I suppose, should inspire me to consider forking over a few extra dollars.

I stop at the supermarket for a few items next door, drive home and bring the bag into the dining room, where my wife opens it.

“Uh, Dan?” she says tentatively. “They forgot your salad.”

“What?” I rage, between clenched teeth in the kitchen as I unload the groceries.

“Your salad isn’t here. Did they charge you for it?”

“Yes,” I say, as I grab some slices of turkey I bought for lunch and a few salad items.

The next day, I called the restaurant to explain that my food didn’t come. The manager said he came in that morning and saw a salad with blackened chicken in the refrigerator. He says he can make a new one that day or can leave me a gift card. I opt for a new salad,

When I arrive, the same redheaded woman with a nose ring from the night before greets me.

“If it makes you feel better, I forgot much bigger parts of other people’s order,” she says, with a curious mix of sheepishness, humor and pride.

“No, how is that supposed to make me feel better?” I ask.

Still in food ordering mode, and perhaps not having learned my lesson, I ordered two breakfasts the next morning and, this time, received a single order that was a hybrid of my wife’s and mine.

That night, my wife and I went to a professional basketball game. Stunningly, the person operating the scoreboard had the wrong statistics for each player and the wrong names and uniform numbers of the players on the floor.

What’s happening? Is customer service a thing of the past? Are we better off with artificial intelligence or online systems?

I realize that the missed food could have happened with anyone at any time and that the thankless job of taking orders, preparing food and making sure people get what they order isn’t particularly exciting. 

Are people not taking responsibility in their jobs? Are they proud of their mistakes? Has customer service become like our appendix, a vestigial organ in our culture?

I’m the type of consumer who would eagerly become more loyal and would recommend services when the people who work at these establishments show me they care, want my business, and can be bothered to provide the products I purchased. Companies, and their staff, should recognize that I’m likely not the only one who enjoys efficient, professional and considerate customer service.

Ukrainian flag. Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

As we round out the second week of December, I’d like to offer some suggestions for a 2022 time capsule.

A Ukrainian flag. Ukraine, with help from Americans and many other nations, has fended off Russia’s ongoing military assault. The question for 2023 will be whether they can continue to defend the country amid a potential decline in international support.

A waterlogged dollar. With inflation at decades-high levels, the dollar isn’t buying as much as it had been.

Florida man makes announcement. I would include a copy of the New York Post front page the day after former president Donald Trump, to no one’s surprise, announced he would be running for president in 2024. A previous ardent supporter of the former president, the Post may be leading the charge in another political direction to find a new standard bearer for the GOP.

A red dot. Certainly, the Republicans taking over the majority in the house will have important consequences, with numerous investigations and a divided government on the horizon, but Republicans didn’t win as many national elections as anticipated.

A miniature replica of the Supreme Court, with the words Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in front of it. The Supreme Court case, which reversed the Roe v. Wade decision, removed the federal right to an abortion, enabling states to pass new laws and contributing, in part, to smaller midterm wins for Republicans.

On the much smaller personal front:

Throat lozenges. I got COVID-19 for the first time this year and my throat was so painful for a week that I couldn’t talk. The lozenges didn’t work, but they would highlight numerous efforts to reduce pain from a virus that was worse than any flu I’ve ever had.

The number 62. This, yet again, wasn’t the year the New York Yankees won the World Series. Nope, they didn’t even get there, yet again falling, this time without winning a single game, to the Houston Astros. It was, however, a wonderful chase for the American League home run record by Aaron Judge, who just signed a $360 million extension with the Yankees.

Wedding bells and a tiny nerf football. For the first time in years, my wife and I attended two family weddings this year. We loved the chance to dance, catch up with relatives, eat great food, and run across a college baseball field with a $7 nerf football we purchased from the hotel lobby store.

A miniature swamp boat. On one of the more memorable trips to New Orleans to visit our son, my wife and I saw numerous alligators and heard memorable Louisiana tales from Reggie Domangue, whose anecdotes and personal style became the model for the firefly in the Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog.”

A shark tooth. During the summer, Long Islanders worried about local sharks, who bit several area swimmers. The apex predator, which is always in the area, likely had higher numbers amid a recovery in the numbers of their prey, which are menhaden, also known as bunker fish and, despite the prevalence of the music from the movie “Jaws,” does not include humans.

A Good Steer napkin. My favorite restaurant from my childhood closed after 65 years, leaving behind an onion ring void and shuttering the backdrop to numerous happy family outings. If I had a way to retire expressions the way baseball teams  retire numbers, I would retire the words “Burger Supreme” on a food version of Monument Park.

A giant question mark. Scientists throughout Long Island (and the world )constantly ask important questions. Some researchers will invent technology we may use all day long, like cell phones. Others may make discoveries that lead to life-saving drugs. Let’s celebrate great questions.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

As we reach the beginning of December, we are only a month away from the inevitable promises to shed unwanted pounds.

Today, however, only a few days after our journeys to visit friends and families for Thanksgiving, I’d like to urge you to consider shedding unwanted baggage.

Metaphorically, we all lug unwanted baggage with us — remembering the spot where a girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with us; the moment we decided to substitute the wrong player in a game we were coaching; and the time our teacher gave someone else partial credit for the same answer on which we received no credit.

Some of that baggage is constructive, giving us the tools and the memory to learn from our mistakes and to have a perspective on the things that happen to us.

We might, for example, learn to cope with losses on the athletic field more gracefully when recalling how we felt the time we shouted at a coach, an umpire or an opposing player. Days, weeks, or years later, we might realize that we have the tools and the distance to understand the moment better and to develop a grace we might not have possessed when we were younger.

Extending the baggage metaphor, it seems that the more we carry with us everywhere, the harder it is to move forward. Baggage, like those unwanted pounds that make it harder to hike up a hill or to climb stairs, keeps us in place, preventing us from improving and moving forward.

Shedding pounds, which isn’t so easy itself, has a prescribed collection of patterns, often involving an attention to the foods we might mindlessly eat and a dedication to exercise.

But how do we get rid of the emotional baggage that gets in our way? What do we do to move forward when the burdens around us weigh us down?

For starters, we might learn to forgive people for whatever they did that annoys or puts us down. Forgiveness isn’t easy, of course. We sometimes hold onto those slights as if they are a part of our identity, becoming a doctor to show our biology teacher who didn’t believe in us that we are capable and competent or developing into a trained athlete after a neighbor insulted us.

Holding onto those insults gives other people unnecessary power over us. We can and should set and achieve our goals because of what we want and not because we continue to overcome limits other people tried to set for us.

We also might feel weighed down by our own self-doubt. As I’ve told my children, their peers and many of their teammates, we shouldn’t help our competitors beat us. Believing the best about ourselves is difficult.

We also don’t, and won’t, always win. It’s easier to carry the memories of the times we failed a test or when we didn’t reach the top of the mountain on a hike. Carrying those setbacks around with us for anything other than motivation to try again or to go further than we did before makes it harder to succeed.

Now is the time to set down that baggage, to walk, jog or even run forward, unencumbered by everything that might make us doubt ourselves and our abilities and that might make it harder to achieve our goals. While all that baggage might feel familiar in our hands, it also digs into our palms, twists our fingers and slows our feet.

Even before we resolve to eat better, to exercise, to lose weight and to look our best, let’s check or even cast aside our emotional and psychological luggage. Maybe dropping that baggage in the last month of the year will make achieving and keeping our New Year’s resolutions that much easier.

Photo from Unsplash
Daniel Dunaief

By Daniel Dunaief

Yes! Republicans have retaken the house.

Now, we can really get down to some important, democracy building and unifying investigations. Undoubtedly, these investigations will get to the bottom of some important political questions that people absolutely want answered.

Hunter Biden is and will be a prime target. How can he not be? If you look at some of the pictures of him that newspapers have found, he looks guilty, and that should be more than enough. Besides, who doesn’t like a few insightful, incisive and critical First Family questions?

Once they finish — assuming they can get it done in two years — with the important questions, I have ideas for investigations that I’d like to lob in as well. They range from the obvious, to the quirky to the frivolous, but, I figured I might as well make my suggestions now.

I’m going to write it here because you know it’s inevitable. Hillary Clinton. She might be a private citizen now, and she might have run for office six years ago, but she’s got to be responsible for something. Maybe she knocked the nose off the sphinx. Or maybe she tilted the Tower of Pisa. Come on, she’s got to have done something wrong.

I’d like to know why my email fills with stuff I talk about, but don’t type into my computer. Is someone listening? My wife and I might discuss a trip to Bora Bora and then, the next morning, I find an invitation to visit. Is someone listening all the time?

Jose Altuve. The Houston Astros star second baseman, whom baseball fans in other stadiums, particularly Yankee Stadium, love to hate, still seems to be operating under a cloud of suspicion. Did he cheat? Did he have a tattoo that he didn’t want anyone to see when his teammates seemed poised to tear off his jersey many years ago against the Yankees? Is it safe for purist baseball fans to root for him again? Will he be eligible for the Hall of Fame someday?

Open Water. Did you see the movie? It was incredibly popular. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but, well, I’m going to do it anyway. These two people suffer through endless torment and fear after their boat leaves them behind while they are scuba diving. It’s not a feel good movie. Injured, cold and miserable, they try to fight off sharks — guess who wins that one? Afterward, I overheard someone say, “seriously? I watched those people for two hours for that?”

Jan. 6th. There’s likely to be a committee investigating the committee investigating the riots. Fine. But wouldn’t it throw Democrats, Republicans and conspiracy theorists for a loop if another committee then investigated the committee that investigated the original committee? It’d be like seeing images several times in a combination of mirrors.

Tom Brady. Okay, I know he’s not having his usual spectacular world-beating season, but the guy is 45 and strong, muscular, athletic 20-year-olds are putting everything they have into throwing him to the ground. How is he still functioning? He’s not playing golf. Did someone replace him with a robot? Has he discovered some magical diet or fountain of youth that makes it possible to compete at such a high level when he’s at such an advanced age? I throw a ball with my son, and it takes me a week for my arm to recover. The world needs to hear his secrets.

Socks. I’m not particular about my socks. White ones that go above my ankle are fine. Most of the time, I buy socks that look like the ones I already own, which makes matching them pretty easy. And yet, somehow, I wind up with an odd sock more often than not. Where is that missing sock? Is someone stealing socks from dryers?

Asparagus. I kind of like the taste, but I’d prefer that my pee didn’t smell later. Can’t someone do something about it? It’s the only vegetable that has that effect. Let’s figure out a better-smelling asparagus.

Photo from METRO

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Even months after we emerged from our Covid caves, I still appreciate the wonder and joy of getting out again, of seeing people, of making plans, and of going on a date with my wife.

Recently, we went to see “Hadestown.”

We didn’t know much about it, except that it had won several awards. As soon as we sat down, we fell on the playbill, reading about the origins of the story, checking out the cast, and immersing ourselves in the experience.

I will admit, sheepishly, that we also used our TV app to watch a few minutes of the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions. Our son thinks our addiction to that show is laughable and he didn’t even see the movie “Rainman,” in which Dustin Hoffman’s character is addicted to the show “The People’s Court.”

Anyway, after Jeopardy! ended, we took in the room. We studied the arrangement of the set, where it was clear the musicians would be on stage. When I was in high school, I thoroughly enjoyed playing in the pit orchestras of “West Side Story” and “The Wizard of Oz.” One of the wonders of the experience was the opportunity to dress casually, as we played in a true, recessed pit where we were heard and not seen.

As we got closer to the start of “Hadestown,” the auditorium filled with people sporting a wide range of attire, from casual to festive.

In the first few moments of the show, we were transported, as a colorful Hermes pranced around the stage, interacting with the other actors and reaching out to the audience.

The appreciative guests lapped up his over-the-top gestures and movements, as he introduced us to some of the characters and the band, who filled the stage with vitality, music and movement.

During intermission, I watched two women in the row in front of me. One was talking, while the other nodded absent-mindedly while playing solitaire. Perhaps that’s a carry over from too much time at home. Then again, who am I to complain? We watched a TV show in the moments before “Hadestown” started, so we’re also accustomed to our isolated entertainment.

To my left, two women with bright blonde hair opened a ziplock bag filled with small sugar cookies. After they each ate one, the woman holding the bag dropped a cookie on the floor. I felt it hit my shoe before it settled on the ground.

Now, I am a bit OCD with germs. Okay, fine, that’s like being a bit pregnant. I’m OCD and have been known to wash my hands so often in the winter that my skin becomes incredibly dry, cracks and bleeds.

So, what would I have done with that cookie? I would have picked it up, put it in my coat pocket, forgotten about it for about two weeks and, upon rediscovering it, would have thrown it in the garbage and, of course, washed my hands immediately afterwards.

What did she do? The woman picked it up, briefly scraped off the parts she imagined must have touched the floor and my shoe, blew on it and broke it in half. She gave her companion one half, she kept the other, and they both, gulp, ate it.

I laughed nervously and made a mental note, not that I ever need one, to wash my hands just because, well, yuck!

In the second half of “Hadestown,” the show followed a similar pattern, as one sad, longing song gave way to another.

At the critical moment of the story, the woman who had been playing solitaire in front of us objected to the tragic turn of events.“Oh no, don’t do it!” she shouted.

While I wasn’t surprised by the ending to a story filled with mournful songs and that Hermes told us was sad, I chuckled as she tried to change the script from the balcony.

Yes, it was great to be out and to appreciate the show, the music, and the other guests.

All the world, as Shakespeare suggested, is a stage, including for the appreciative members of the audience.