D. None of the above

Image from Wikimedia Commons public domain

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I watch Jeopardy! and it’s a much more intellectual and challenging show than Family Feud, but, truth be told, I have watched several episodes of the Feud these days.

Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the show that entertains me or the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be much at stake. Sometimes, the questions seem ridiculous and, somewhere among the answers, is something about someone’s private parts, poop, or people’s mothers, almost as if I’m watching a game show version of an Adam Sandler movie.

Anyway, watching the show late at night, I have started imagining a farce, skit or just a show gone awry that I would enjoy watching, particularly when I’m in that time between mental focus and drifting off into an imaginary world where I am on skis and can jump over a mountain, land in a nearby ocean, communicate with dolphins and have dinner with a coed group of mermaids who particularly enjoy conversations about science, conservation and baseball.

In my imaginary episode, Steve Harvey starts with an apology, admitting that the word “theyself” isn’t a word. Then, as he meets the families, the first person in the family introduces their relatives.

“Hi Steve, I’m Joe and this is my wife whose favorite word late at night seems to be ‘no’ and who still hasn’t figured out how to bake chicken without burning it.”

Steve widens his eyes, takes a few steps back and lowers his jaw.

“And, next to her, is my sister-in-law Erica, who always knows better about everything and clearly thought my wife could do better when we got married. I have news for you, sis. Maybe she could have, but she chose me anyway, so get over yourself and show the world how smart you are.”

A little less shocked, Steve nods, looking past the mortified sister in law.

“Oh, that’s my brother-in-law Eric. If you were named Eric, would you date a woman named Erica? Eric and I share a beer once in a while, but he frequently has bad breath, so I wouldn’t get too close to him.”

Steve turns his head and makes a mental note.

“And, down at the end, that’s a neighbor of ours, Jessica, whom we’re passing off as a member of the family because no one else in our family could stand to be with us and because they didn’t believe we’d actually be on the Feud. So, hey, to the rest of the family, suck it!”

After an introduction from the other family, the two leaders come to the front of the podium for the obligatory hand shake. Joe refuses to shake hands and suggests that he has OCD and that he’ll tap feet instead.

Looking at the card, Steve shakes his head and says the top six answers are on the board.

“Name a time when you wish you were somewhere else,” he says.

Alex buzzes in first and Joe starts screaming that he’s sure he beat Alex and demands a replay review.

“We don’t do that here,” Steve says, frowning at Joe. “Have you ever watched the show?”

“But they do it in sports. Why not? It’s unfair. Don’t I get at least one challenge? I brought my own red flag,” Joe protests.

“I don’t care what you brought,” Steve says, forcing a smile on his bewildered face. “You don’t get a challenge. Let Alex answer.”

Steve turns to Alex.

“I was going to say ‘at the dentist’ but I’m changing my answer to ‘now.’”

Steve doubles over with laughter, holding the podium and shaking his head.

“Why is that funny?” Joe demands. “Besides, I have a better answer.”

“Let’s see where ‘now’ lands on the list,” Steve says, pointing to the board. It’s the third-most popular answer, which means Joe gets to speak. Steve turns to him, waiting for a reply.

“7:57 am on most mornings,” Joe says, smiling.

Steve doesn’t dare ask, repeating Joe’s answer, which gets the familiar red X.

“But it was a great answer,” Joe demands. “Can I challenge that?”

“No, you want to play or pass?” Steve asks, turning to Alex.

After Alex’s family clears all but one answer, Steve returns to Joe.

“Okay,” Steve says, treading carefully. “Name a time when you wish you were somewhere else?”

“When we first auditioned for the show?” Joe replies.

Steve laughs, pats him on the back and wishes him well.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The number of Advanced Placement courses has expanded dramatically since parents were the age of their high school children.

Whereas we could have taken, say, four or five APs, the modern high school student can graduate with considerably more.

Current students can and sometimes do take as many as eight, nine, 10 or more AP classes, in the hopes of knocking the socks off college admissions counselors, guidance counselors and future prospective employers. All those AP classes can also give students enough college credits to help them graduate in under four years.

I’d like to propose my own list of AP classes for future generations.

— AP Listening. So many people love to talk, to hear their own voices, and to tell others how they’re wrong even before people can share a fully formed opinion. In this class, students would be required to listen to new ideas, to consider them and to react and interact with others. Speaking would be considerably less important than listening carefully.

— AP Conspiracy Theory. We all know that conspiracy theories are as ubiquitous as “Welcome” signs in corner stores. This AP class would look deeply at some of the most detailed conspiracy theories, giving students a chance to question everyone and everything, including those people who create and pass along conspiracies.

— AP Saying No. To borrow from former First Lady Nancy Reagan, saying “no” to drugs, among other things, is a healthy and important part of growing up and making the most of the college experience. The class could provide students with a wide range of situations in which students say “no” without damaging their ego or social status.

— AP Social Media Etiquette, or SME, for short. Some seniors get into colleges well before their colleagues. When they do, they post pictures of themselves on campus, their parents wearing gear from the school that admitted them, and the school emblem or insignia with confetti coming down from the top of the screen. Yes, you got into college, and yes, that’s wonderful, but other members of your class are still applying and don’t need to feel awful because they haven’t gotten in anywhere yet.

— AP It’s Not About Me (or, perhaps, INAM). Yes, this is a bit like a psychology class, but instead of studying theories and psychology legends, these students could explore real-life scenarios in which, say, Sue becomes angry with John. John may not have done anything in particular, but Sue may be reacting to someone else in her life, like her parents forcing her to take AP It’s Not About Me instead of going to soccer practice.

— AP Take Responsibility. When something goes wrong at school, work or in the house, it’s far too easy to point the finger at someone else. In this class, students can learn how to take responsibility, when it’s appropriate, and demonstrate courage, leadership, and initiative in accepting responsibility for their mistakes.

— AP Personal History. Each of us has our own story to tell. Colleges urge prospective students to find their authentic voice. That’s not always easy in a world filled with formulas and scripted and structured writing. In this personal history class, students could take a microscope to their own lives and to the lives of their extended family, understanding and exploring characteristics and life stories. Students might discover family patterns they wish to emulate or to avoid at all costs.

— AP Tail Wagging. While the world is filled with problems, students could explore modern and historical moments and ideas that inspire them and that give them reasons to celebrate. This class could blend a combination of historical triumphs with small daily reasons to celebrate or, if you prefer, to wag your tail.

— AP Get to Know Your Parents. High school students who are well ahead of their time emotionally and intellectually may come to the conclusion many others reach before their mid 20’s: that their parents are, big shock here, people! Yeah, we do ridiculous thing like send them in the wrong clothing to school, miss important dances, and embarrass them by kissing them in front of their friends. This course could help accelerate the process of seeing parents for the imperfect creatures who love them unconditionally.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Some historical phrases help shape and define the country the way landmarks like the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, and Mt. Rushmore provide a distinct national identity.

One of those expressions, for me, is “rugged individualism.” The combination of the two words suggest independent thought, an ability to decide for ourselves, and a willingness to eschew tradition in favor of something more personal, practical and self-directed.

We don’t need kings and monarchs to tell us how to behave or to dictate from on high. We favor the stories of Americans whose humble origins offered hope to anyone born in a log cabin, a la Abraham Lincoln, or whose compassion inspired them to build houses for others, Jimmy Carter, perhaps, long after they were no longer the most powerful person on the planet.

We think for ourselves, we live with the view that we have unlimited potential and that we don’t need to have the right name or address to realize our dreams. Our self confidence allows us to imagine that we can become the next “Cinderella Man” or “Working Girl.”

And yet, we the people of the United States sometimes appear to be living lives that are filled with paint-by-the-numbers decisions and that involve following other people’s footprints in the snow.

Why? Have we and our children become so accustomed to group think that we don’t want to separate ourselves from the pack? Are we living in a world where we are desperate to conform?

Part of our collapse in independent thinking comes from corporate America. That faceless, nameless, profit churning machine, with its fake wooden boardrooms and its army of handlers and focus groups, has encouraged us to believe that buying their products, supporting their stores and following the trends is a way of asserting our independence.

It’s a clever ploy, my friends. They convince you that eating what everyone else eats, saying the same words everyone else says and wearing what everyone else wears helps you realize your potential.

The argument is an easy one to make, especially as you drive through Anytown USA. You see the same collection of franchised stores, with their predictable food and products and their well-oiled experiences, where it takes 5.6 minutes from the time you entered the store to get exactly the same soggy french fries in Dubuque, Iowa as it would in Setauket, New York.

We resist risk. Going into a restaurant with an unknown name means we might consume food that doesn’t taste familiar or good to us and that might give us indigestion as we move, like cattle, to the next predictable destination and engage in an echo of the same conversation we had last week, last month and last year.

I get it: it’s hard to decide to go to a unique store or restaurant in a town, particularly when the parking lot in the franchise chain next door is packed with people driving the same model and color cars we see on our roads back home.

Well, it’s 2024, and not 1984. We can and should make our own decisions. I would encourage you, your children and your friends to decide who you are and what that means. Yes, it’s hard and yes, people might hide behind the cloak of conformity to encourage you to do as they and everyone else does. They might even peck at you verbally, uncomfortable with differences and unsure of how to react to “the real you.”

If we fit in too well everywhere we go, we run the risk of disappearing. As Frank Sinatra suggests, it’s time to do things “My Way.” Yes, we might hate tuna fish with peanut butter, but at least we’ll be listening to our own voice and getting off a nonstop conveyor belt of conventional thought in which we follow the same roads, the same thoughts, and the same routines. Different? Different is good and, best of all, it’s up to you to decide what that means.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The reality of aging is that we sometimes wake up feeling like we’ve got less than a full tank of gas, or, for those of you driving electric vehicles, a fully charged battery, with which to maneuver through the day.

Maybe our ankles are sore from the moment we imagined we could still dive across the grass to catch a foul ball. Perhaps, less ambitiously, we twisted our ankle when we took a bad step on a sidewalk as we did something much less heroic, like texting an old friend or playing a mindless video game. Or it hurts because it, like our jobs, our cars, and our homes, inexplicably needs attention.

What’s the antidote to the numerous headwinds that slow us down and make us feel exhausted earlier each day?

The start of a new year can provide that energy and inspiration. We get to write 2024 on our checks, if we’re still writing them, we can imagine a blank canvas on which we can reinvent ourselves, find new friends, get new jobs, travel to new places, live our values and contribute meaningfully to the world.

We can start jotting activities into that new calendar, smiling as we imagine seeing friends we haven’t seen in years or decades or fulfilling long-held desires to shape our lives, our bodies or both into what we’ve always imagined.

On a more immediate scale, we have other ways to boost our energy. We can grab a steaming hot cup of hot chocolate or coffee, loading our nervous system up with caffeine, which can wake us up and help us power through the next few hours.

We can also grab a donut, a cookie, or some other food loaded with sugar, knowing, of course, that we run the risk of emptying that short-energy tank quickly after the sugar rush ends.

I have discovered plenty of places I can go, literally and figuratively, to feel energized and inspired. My list includes:

Our children: Yes, they are draining and can be demanding and needy, but their youth and energy can be restorative. They take us to places we hadn’t been before, give us an opportunity to share books we might have missed in our own education and offer insights about themselves and their world that amaze us. Their different interests and thoughts keep us on our toes, focused and, yes, young, as we try to meet them where they live. As we relate to them, we can also imagine our own lives at that age.

Our pets: Watching a dog chase a ball, its tail or a frisbee, or observing a cat push a ball of string across the floor can be invigorating. If we threw that ball or tossed that string, we become a human partner in their games, giving us a role to play even as they expend considerably more effort in this entertaining exchange.

Nature: Energy surrounds us. Water lapping on the shores of Long Island at any time of year, small leaf buds responding to the cues of spring, and birds calling to each other through the trees can inspire us and help us feel alert, alive and aware of the symphony of life that serenades us and that invites us to participate in the evolving narrative around us.

Science: I have the incredible privilege of speaking with scientists almost every day. Listening to them discuss their work, when they don’t travel down a jargon rabbit hole filled with uncommon acronyms, is inspirational. The insatiable curiosity of scientists at any age  and any stage of their careers makes each discovery a new beginning. Each of their answers raises new questions. Scientists are always on the verge of the next hypothesis, the next great idea and the next adventure. Their energy, dedication and unquenchable thirst for knowledge invites listeners to participate in the next chapter in the evolving knowledge story.

Sunrises: Okay, if you’ve read this column often enough, you know I’m a morning person. I try to be quiet in the morning, for my family and for anyone else who stayed up late into the night. Sunrises, however, bring a welcome introduction to something new and original.

History: reading about or studying history puts our world into perspective. We not only can contrast previous time periods with today, but we also can enjoy and appreciate that we have the opportunity to share in and shape this moment.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Here we are, poised on the precipice of 2024, or, if you’d prefer, at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at the year ahead.

What a privilege to start 2024 together, to share the same air, to enjoy or brace for the same weather, to root for or against the same teams and to revel in the miracle of our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and neighbors.

As we venture into the days, weeks and months ahead, we can all see certain patterns continuing because, let’s face it, we know the familiar playbook people use. I would love to figure out how to capitalize on some coming certainties. If, for example, we had a dime for every time the song “Jingle Bells” came on in department stores around the country in the last few weeks of each year, we’d have enough money to buy our own one-horse open sleigh and fill it with presents. With that in mind, I’d like to consider certainties or near certainties in various realms.

Political:

Let’s start with former president Donald Trump. A dime for every time he insulted someone could pay for an enjoyable and deluxe vacation to Europe or, if you prefer, a week or more at a Disney resort.

A dime for each time he uttered the words “rigged,” “witch hunt,” or “socialist,” would also net some nice cash.

Collecting money when he referred to himself in the third person, as in “only Donald Trump can fix that” would also prove profitable.

President Biden, of course, has his go-to approaches and idiosyncrasies as well. Collecting money when he misspoke or stepped in the wrong direction would turn gaffes into cash.

Or, perhaps, adding money each time he became angry or annoyed with someone would also provide considerably more change than the typical back of the couch.

Collecting cash each day that goes by without the president taking questions from the Press Corps or reacting to unscripted moments would also build wealth.

A dime for each time Chris Christie insults Trump would help build a college fund.

Oh, and some change for each time Jim Jordan (R-OH) takes off his coat, MTG scowls, Ron DeSantis uses the word “woke” or attacks Disney, AOC insults NYC, or Nikki Haley smiles when she’s insulted would also make real money.

Sports:

Ah, yes, the world of sports not only is filled with cliches, but also has predictable patterns.

Fans and sports talk radio hosts always know better. Monday morning quarterbacking has become something between a religion and a profession.

The next day, everyone else always claims to have known exactly when to take a pitcher out of a ballgame, when to run the ball and when to take a time out. 

The pundits on the sidelines always know better about the Big Game than the people who are paid to make the decisions.

And, of course, with the Olympics coming in Paris this year, we can anticipate the back stories about athletes who are competing in memory of a cherished dead relative who inspired them. If we the viewers had a dime for every tear shed during these serious and melodramatic moments, we’d be able to afford the plane ticket to Paris to watch the Games in person.

I’m not minimizing the inspiration these athletes take from their relatives, coaches and friends. I’m reflecting on the types of stories, with their sad, moving slow guitar background music, these networks share, combining loss and grief with determination and the quest for glory.

Random but predictable moments:

As a coach for many teams, I am sure parents throughout the country are convinced that their children are being short changed. A dime for each parent complaint could provide a down payment for a new field.

I’d also like to collect money each time someone who talks all the time “breaks their silence” on something. It’s amusing when headline writers suggest that, say, Britney Spears or one of the Kardashians breaks their silence on anything. I thought these non-stop celebrities shared every thought in their heads. Ah yes, a dime for each deep internal secret of people who would do well to be more discrete would also build wealth.

Shohei Ohtani. Photo by Mogami Kariya/Wikimedia Commons

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know when you were younger and your parents, grandparents, teachers and adults in general urged you to “make every second count.”

“A second,” you’d scoff incredulously. “How much could I do in a second? It took me longer than a second just to say those words, and those, and those, and they don’t seem to count for much.”

While that may be true most of the time for most of us, it’s certainly not the case for sport’s best paid athlete, the baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani, who signed a $700 million contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the next decade.

To borrow from the Tom Cruise movie “Jerry Maguire,” the Dodgers showed him the money!

Wait, don’t go if you’re not a sports fan. This isn’t about baseball. It’s about money!

Just for fun, let’s take a closer look at the approximately $33.5 million Sports Insider Andrew Petcash estimates Ohtani will earn per year after taxes and fees.

Assuming he’s paid for every second of each year, that means, he earns $1.06 each second. That’s what he’ll earn each second he sleeps, eats, sits in traffic, brushes his teeth or waits for an announcer to say his name so he can run on the field.

Assuming he has a healthy 60 beats per minute heart rate, that means each time his heart goes “lub-dub,” he earns about a dollar.

According to a website called covers.com, the average time to sing “The National Anthem” is 115.4 seconds, which means Ohtani makes $122.32 each time he listens to the national anthem of a country where he’s earning much more than a living.

Extending the math a bit, Ohtani clears $3,824.74 per hour.

As for each day, he’ll make $91,780.82. At that rate, it will take the star pitcher and home run hitter (yes, he can do both) 11 days to make a million dollars.

Each month, his after tax take home pay will be $2.79 million. Assuming Ohtani, who is single, follows the General Rule for engagement rings, namely, that he should spend at least two months of salary on the ring, some lucky future partner may be in line for a ring that costs $5.58 million. That assumes the value of the ring comes from what he’s taking home and not his overall salary. If he chose a ring based on his gross pay, he’d spend a whopping $11.7 million, which is the equivalent of 16 average priced homes in Setauket.

So, speaking of cash, what does $33.5 million look like? If you stacked dollar bills, which are 0.0043 inches wide, one on top of the other without any extra space between the bills, the pile of money would reach 12,004 feet. That would stretch 2.3 miles into the sky. 

Now, if he were to try to hold that money — and no one uses cash anymore, so why would he – he would need more than a few teammates. There are $454 dollar bills in a pound, which means that $33.5 million weighs 73,788 pounds. 

Realistically, dollar bills aren’t the most likely currency for someone who earns over $1 for every second. Maybe you’d prefer to stack $1,000 bills? That would still present a pile of money that’s about 12 feet tall. Imagine how much money you’d make if you were standing downwind of that pile during a sudden gust? That sounds like the winner’s circle for a future game show. 

Of course, you say, the first player since Babe Ruth to demonstrate proficiency as a pitcher and a home run hitter is not getting paid for every second, but, rather, for the magic he works on the field.

If we want to break it down just to the time he’s paid during games, the average time for a baseball game in 2023 was two hours and 42 minutes. The season has 162 games. Let’s throw in 19 additional games, assuming his Dodgers win each series in the maximum number of games and become World Series champions. That means, he’s a part of 29,322 minutes of baseball or 1.8 million seconds. Assuming his paycheck covers games and not all the practice time and spring training, he clears $38.88 per second. So, depending on how you look at it, he earns somewhere between $1.06 for every second of each year and $38.88 for each second he plays. 

Yeah, and you thought your lawyer was charging you a pretty penny!

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We have friends who live close to us who are pregnant. Okay, that sounds weird, right? She’s pregnant, and he looks sheepish, like he’s not sure what’s coming.

That’s not entirely fair. He was socially awkward before he brought his small package of genetic material to the pregnancy party. Why would anyone imagine he would be any different in the months before he makes a head first dive down the rabbit hole into the wonders and challenges of parenthood?

Now, if their families are anything like others I’ve known, they are bound to have a wide range of pre and post delivery discussions.

“Are you going to name the baby after my side of the family?”

“Make sure you put sugar, spice and everything nice in the crib or the baby will become colicky like your Aunt Michelle. She was one of the most miserable babies we’ve ever seen and that’s because her mother forgot about the sugar and spice under the crib.”

One of the most fascinating and sometimes confounding parts of the baby discussion, which can extend well into the years that follow, is the family credit for various traits.

To wit, “He’s incredibly serious and focused just like his Uncle Oswald. That Oswald was a man with a purpose from the time he was born, just like your little baby Joey.”

Or maybe, “Morgan has the same broad smile, laugh or sense of humor as her Aunt Carol.”

Each family can dig in, sharing ways that the developing child has characteristics they are convinced come from one side of the family, often from the speaker who has a proprietary interest in propagating the enduring myth of a family heritage.

Such talk suggests somehow that heredity is much more important than environment. The credit can go beyond physical characteristics such as long eyelashes, rounded shoulders, or sparkling eyes: they can include artistic talent, an ability to relate to other people, or a proficiency for languages.

That somehow seems un-American. After all, we the people generally believe that hard work can help people become proficient in any area, developing the kind of talent that differentiates them in their field and allowing them to control their destiny.

Such strong genetic links, while providing an appealing way to connect to ancestors and to those who aren’t around to smile and play with their descendants, is akin, if you’ll pardon the pun, to linking someone’s last name to their profession.

“Oh, the Jones family? Sure, they all became teachers. The Berringtons went into the clothing business, while the Shimmers all became dentists. They all have such gifted dental hands.”

Such blanket statements about where someone’s exceptionalism originated also throws the other sides of the family into the shadows, as if their only role were to ensure the ongoing survival of the dominant and more important family tree.

Family trees, however, like the trees that people decorate around this time of year, have bilateral symmetry, with people decorating each side in popcorn, cranberries and/or holiday lights.

Rarely does anyone do a deep dive into the other side of a family, learning whether the Jones family had faster legs, a quicker wit, better grades or a stronger work ethic.

Then again, the point of these claims isn’t to be scientific, thorough or even fair. It’s a way to connect the children of today with those who came before. Even if people don’t believe in reincarnation, focus on genes, or contemplate the enduring qualities of any family culture, they might feel tremendous joy and comfort hoping that this person’s unwritten life includes future chapters that reflect a familial past that need not be exclusive to one branch, one side or one person.

Story weaving may help give a developing life context and meaning. Ideally, those attributes and connections may remind the family and this new person about the kind of strong and accomplished roots that can help him or her develop into the kind of person he or she chooses to be, which would be a win for everyone.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Rufus is not sure what to do. He’s never there first. He circles the yard carefully, looking back at the fence. Bob sits in his usual seat at the picnic table, talking on his phone.

He doesn’t want to run before the others arrive. He sits under a tree, closes his eyes and allows the smells to fill his ample nostrils.

“Hi,” chirps Peanut, jumping up to reach his face. “Hi, hi, hi, hi!”

“Back up,” Rufus barks, “you’re too close.”

“Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry,” she says. Peanut repeats herself in that high tone that annoys Rufus. “Even though I can’t see red or green, I know that holiday sweater is hideous,” Rufus said.

Fifi lowers her head.

“On the plus side,” he adds, “your fur looks great.”

Fifi prances in approval. She likes it when others notice that she’s been to the groomer.

Rufus glances at Andrea, Fifi’s human. He likes the way she scratches his ears and looks directly in his eyes.

Finally, the rest of the crew races over, tongues hanging out, fur flying off Oscar as he skids to a stop.

After the customary butt smelling, Oscar, the golden retriever, speaks.

“You had Uncle Doug’s sweet potato?” he asks Cole, an apricot poodle. “Does that taste as good as it smells?”

Cole barks his agreement, although he eats it so quickly he barely tastes anything. “And you had asparagus,” Cole says to Rufus.

Rufus sticks out his tongue. He doesn’t get his usual treat from Bob during Thanksgiving unless he has a few pieces of asparagus, which he hates.

“Stories?” King demands.

A French Mastiff, King regularly reminds the group he has the shortest life expectancy so he can’t waste time on food chatter.

“Bob’s got a new girlfriend,” Rufus starts. “She reminded him to walk me earlier than usual. She makes him shut the bedroom door, but she makes up for it by giving me more leftovers.”

“Nice,” barks Roxie. “Glad someone had a good holiday.”

“What? What? What?” barked Peanut.

A basset hound, Roxie hates her name and her short legs. Her ears also annoy her because they fall in her water when she drinks

“My family had a huge gathering,” Roxie barks. “These new kids thought they could teach me to fetch. I don’t fetch. Do they think I’m a golden retriever?”

“Hey!” Oscar barks.

“No offense,” Roxie adds. “What about you?”

“Aunt Linda spent the entire dinner saying she shouldn’t eat garlic. She didn’t listen to herself and was in the bathroom for an hour, groaning and cursing. How about you, Cole?”

Cole is among the tallest dogs at the run, particularly after he went to the stylist. Cole wanders over to the water bowl, with the rest of the group following closely.

“Cole?” Fifi asks. It is one of the rare times she doesn’t repeat herself.

“We watched movies in the dark,” Cole shrugs.

“There’s more,” says Rufus. “What’s going on?”

“Audrey looked out the window and wiped her eyes all weekend,” Roxie says. “She kept whispering how much she missed her brother.”

“What happened?” Oscar asks.

“I don’t think she’s going to see him again,” Cole says. “When I leaned into her legs, she ran her wet hand over my face. Other than a few walks, she spent most of her time on the couch. She barely ate, so I didn’t eat much, either.”

“Sad, sad, said,” barks Fifi.

Rufus agrees.

“You did what you should have done,” King says, the folds under his lips turning down. “You’re going to help her and we’re going to need to help you.”

“Help? How?” Oscar asks. Whenever Oscar became anxious, he circled the water dishes at the run. He knocks one over.

“My bad,” he says.

“Cole drinks first,” King says. “And we let Cole go to Andrea before the rest of us. We all know she’s the favorite human.”

Fifi nods, indicating she would share.

“How about you, King?” Rufus asks.

“It was great,” King says. “My family welcomed a new baby. At first, they kept me away, but they slowly let me see him. We’re going to be friends.”

“How do you know?” asks Cole.

“He touched his hand to my nose. It was soft and wonderful. He made me feel so young,” King adds.

A Thanksgiving postcard. Photo courtesy Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Sending a text message to friends and family half way around the world and then getting an instant response is pretty incredible, shortening the distance between any two people.

And yet, as Thanksgiving approaches, I appreciate some of the earlier, albeit slower at times, elements of my younger years.

Take, for example, the postcard. Sure, people still send them, but postcards and letters are not as necessary or, in many cases, even considered. Even if people don’t send us texts, we can follow them on any of the social media sites where they’re showing us how they’re having the time of their lives and eating incredible food.

Over three decades ago, when my father died, I remember the exquisite and bittersweet pain from seeing the handwritten notes he’d left for himself. He didn’t have a smart phone where he could make electronic lists. Reading his pointed and slanted script was so deeply personal that I felt as if the letters and words connected us.

Once, years before he died, my father flew for a business trip. Eager to write to me and without any paper, he took out the barf bag from the seat in front of him, wrote about his travels and shared some dad humor, put it in an envelope and mailed it. I remember smiling broadly at the words he shared and the unconventional papyrus he’d chosen to carry those words.

The modern world of digital pictures and digital cameras gives me the opportunity to relive numerous experiences. I can easily sort those images by year and location, without needing to buy an album, find the right sequence of photos and slip them behind the translucent cover.

Still, remember when we used to bring rolls of film to the drug store for them to develop? We’d come back two or three days later, open up the often small green envelope and pour through the photos, wondering what we caught, what we missed and how the image compared with our memory.

The hit-or-miss nature of those photos made the imperfections somewhere between disappointing and perfect. They were real moments, when hair got in our eyes, when we shared our disappointment about a birthday present, or when we spilled a container of apple juice as we were blowing out candles.

What about all those photos from people in the early part of the 20th century? Didn’t they look utterly miserable? Was it the shorter life span, the challenging early days of the camera, bad dentistry and orthodonture or, perhaps, a culture that hadn’t yet suggested saying “cheese” or smiling for the camera?

My theory on those miserable faces, though, is that the pictures took so long to prepare amid challenging weather conditions — it was too hot to wear that overcoat — that people wanted the process to end so they could stop trying to hold a squirming child or ignore the need to scratch an itch.

Maybe I grew up in the sweet spot, where pictures weren’t instant but were easy enough to take that they didn’t require endless retakes. Yes, I have friends and relatives who insisted on taking 37 shots of the same moment, just in case someone was closing their eyes, which triggered the kind of fake smile in me that I recognize in my children when they’re eager to be somewhere else, doing something else, and, most likely, looking down at their phones to see pictures of other people.

This Thanksgiving, I appreciate not only the gifts of the present, with the endless storage space on my phone and the ability to capture life in real time, but also the perspective from a past, where the anticipation of seeing a snapped photograph or receiving a postcard turned the pictures into keepsakes and memory gifts.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We’ve come a long way from the “my dog ate my homework” days.

I mean, come on, let’s give our society the credit it’s due. We have taken the blame game, the finger pointing and the it-couldn’t-be-me-because-butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth game to an entirely new stratosphere.

Gone are the days of simple, linear and mostly nonsensical excuses.

Let’s start in Washington, DC, which is the biggest clown show this side of the Atlantic and where the notion of a democracy gets battle tested nearly every day

Who is responsible for the national debt? That, of course, depends on whom you ask. The democrats point to former President Trump, while the republicans accuse President Biden and the Democrats.

Maybe those wily politicians are onto something. You see, if no one takes responsibility for anything and we can point fingers at the other side reflexively and without any effort to compromise and work together, we can live without consequence, create our own economics and come up with judgmental and schoolyard bully nicknames for the other side.

Brilliant! Blame someone else convincingly enough and not only do you not have to look in the mirror or come up with solutions, but you can also turn your entire reason for being into defeating the other side or, at the very least, enjoying their losses.

Look, I’m a Yankees fan. I know all about Schadenfreude. The next best thing to a Yankees victory, and it’s a close second, is a Red Sox loss.

But I digress. People have turned blaming others into a fine art. In sports, athletes and coaches deploy the modern blame game to excuse their losses or to step back from accepting responsibility or, perish the thought, to give the other team credit.

Like a zebra in the Serengeti to a hungry lion, referees in their striped uniforms in football games become convenient targets. They took away a victory by calling a game against us. Athletes and coaches can dig their verbal claws and teeth into those officials, who stole what would certainly have been a more favorable outcome.

How about school? It couldn’t possibly be the fault of our angelic children, who were busy watching these athletes on TV or on their phones the night before, for doing poorly on a test. It has to be the teacher’s fault. If teachers could only inspire their classes, our children would learn and excel. 

You know who I like to blame? I like to focus on tall people. Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are tall. It’s just that, well, have you noticed that tall people get a lot of attention? Some of them are CEOs of big companies and make enormous salaries. They are also picked first in gym, which gives them the confidence to become successful.

While we’re affixing blame, let’s also shake our heads at gym class. Sure, it’s healthy to run around and have a few moments when we’re not listening to teachers who may or may not inspire us, but gym class can bruise egos and create a Darwinian world where height, which is kind of the fault of our parents and their parents and on and on, is an advantage.

Hey, I’m not whining. Okay, well, maybe I am, but it’s not me and it’s certainly not my fault. I blame society, commentators on TV, coaches, politicians, teachers, my parents, your parents, the parents of the kid who served as a bad role model for my kids, and maybe Adam, Eve and the snake for putting us in this position.

Oh, and you can be sure butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth. I have a dairy allergy, which, ironically, is the fault of my dairy farmer grandfather.