PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Before You Were Born

While trying to sort out details of my life back in the 1980s on Murdock Street with Guillermo, Ted, and Huatsu, my mind wanders, as it often does, to a recollection about Dear Old Dad, an accountant who did work for a few decades for the grumpy then-owner of the Syracuse, NY steakhouse restaurant The Scotch and Sirloin.

My father spent zillions (not really) treating us and other friends and family to drinks and dinner at "The Scotch," as did his brother George. But, from what I recall, he was never comped a single meal. That's what we learned by listening to my Dad complain about such things to my mom. 

OK, not a big deal.

But then my father dies, and we come to learn that this lucrative restaurant is in arrears several tens of thousands of dollars to him, which my uncle George – executor of his brother's will – made right via several strongly-worded letters, cc'ing a few lawyers. I thought it was somewhat unseemly to demand money as my uncle did, but later in life I came to understand that this was my father's money. He had done work for the restaurant and hadn't been paid for that work. I also came across form letters that were sent monthly to people who had accounts at the Scotch and hadn't paid on time, which called for additional interest of 1.5%. Per month! In other words, an annual rate of 18%. And this restaurant was notoriously slow to pay my father.

But that's not what I wanted to post about.

Sometime in the 1980s around the holidays, when parking was hard to find at the now-defunct "Shoppingtown Mall" in Dewitt NY, in whose parking lot, detached from the rest of the mall, the Scotch was and still is nestled, my father went to deal with some accounting BS and found that there were no parking spaces. What a hassle! My father had had several heart attacks by this point and wasn't the physical specimen that I am presently: an avid biker, who nevertheless is well overweight due to the consumption of bread products and good beer and so forth.

Keep getting sidetracked.

In the early 1980s "handicapped parking spaces" were brand new. There were no tags for your rearview mirror in Syracuse, nor were there norms around who could use the spots. As I recall, early on it was the honor system.

So my father, who had been circling the vast parking lot of the Shoppingtown Mall for several hours (or maybe mere minutes – sorry, no video footage to review, alas), was encountering some of the same cars over and over, whose drivers circled the lots also without luck. Frustrated, my dad decided to nab a handicapped spot so he could drop off a redweld folder or retrieve "the books" or whatever – a five-minute task.

As luck would have it, he emerges from his car, now parked in a handicapped spot, to lock eyes with the driver of another vehicle, who had been looking for parking for as long as my father had. The driver slowed and stared, and my father, who by today's standards would have easily qualified for a pass based on his heart condition, was forced to fake it. As my Dad told it, he decided to drag a leg from the car into the restaurant.

Let's face it, it takes a really good actor to do believable fake limp, but anyone can drag a perfectly healthy leg for 50 or so yards.

Or maybe it's harder than I thought! I've never really tried.

(Coming soon: memories of Murdock Street)! 

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Pure Rubbish

Years ago, when I was fresh out of school, I managed to get my foot in the door at Mass General Hospital, which I hoped would lead to a long career in medicine. I was hired to order supplies for a research lab but fancied myself a surgeon and had a way with self-promotion, and before I knew what was going on I was handed a hammer and chisel and invited into the operating room.

You can't imagine the things you see in people's brains when you're doing surgery on them! Honestly, people put tons of stuff up there and then totally forget that they did. Sometimes writers use the metaphor of an attic in an old house to illustrate the middle-aged brain, and it turns out to be a lot closer to reality than you might think. Lots of stuff sits in the corners of people's brains for decades completely undisturbed, swathed in cobwebs and random furfur. Average Americans rarely bother to do an annual spring cleaning of their brains, so the gray matter just gets more and more packed with useless junk until there is barely any room for new stuff. I'm convinced this is the reason that dads in midlife repeat themselves over and over. They want to store away their mostly boring tale of trying to obtain a cotter pin at the hardware store to fix their grandkids' wagon, but with all the cranial drawers and boxes full to the point of bursting, the anecdote sits there in plain sight for weeks and months so that friends and family can't get away from it.

As you can imagine, mixed in with the detritus are a few gems that a less-principled surgeon might have made off with. Noteworthy are bits of wisdom passed down through the generations that some people never paid attention to. Also, passwords to bank accounts. As an ethical person, I leave this stuff right where I found it. 

Anyway, I got tired of doing brain surgery after a while. It started to get depressing. I tried for a few years to coax people into letting me clean out their brains for them, the way ENT surgeons I know upsell deviated septum patients by suggesting that they get full-blown nose jobs, but the resistance was fierce. People don't like to part with old stuff, no matter how useless it might seem to you and me. Truth be told, my brain still contains keepsakes from my own childhood. Few of us want to throw away the little bit that we manage to retain of life with mom and dad. 

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J'Biden Era Haikuage

 

People's Arms. That's right!

200 million shots

In 100 days

 

We are good people

But we still have far to go

Repair. Restore. Heal.

 

There's nothing new here

The Affordable Care Act

We're restoring it 

 

America's Day

Democracy is fragile

The world is watching 

 

Strategy is based

On Science, not politics

Truth, not denial

 

 

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