3 September

The Whistling Handyman

by Jon Katz
The Handyman
The Handyman

Jay Bridge is an engineer by trade, he kind of retired when he moved up to the country, he has a farm with horses and sheep. He works as a handyman for people he likes doing work that he likes to do. He is quiet, he comes and goes with little fanfare, although he is a compulsive whistler, I usually know he is here when I hear the whistling outside.

Last winter, the donkeys were trapped in the barn for days, they began eating it, they did quite a number on the gate leading into the old cow stall, and they chewed a huge hole in the back of the barn. Jay loves carpentry work, he loves working alone.

We have become friends, we go to lunch every now and then and I asked Jay what made engineers different from other people. We don’t talk a lot, he said, and this is true. Jay rarely talks much, but he is quick to smile and laught. We are easy together, I like his company. Like a lot of people who don’t say much, what he says is interesting. Jay does amazing work, and he keeps faithfully to his own schedule.

He goes home to have lunch with his wife Judy, and often takes a tea break. He had open heart surgery also, and was helpful to me when I had mine. He has recovered beautifully, he works in the cold and the heat, on ladders and in dirty basements. We are lucky to know  him, he is often busy but he well worth the wait.

When he takes on a job, he stops and studies it, ponders it, thinks about it. He never complains about the heat, the dirt, the difficulty. He loves the arts, and is a fervent supporter of Hubbard Hall, our opera house and arts center.

We have a system. I ask him if he can fix something, he says yes or not, and that is the last time he discusses it with me, and that is good because I have no desire to talk about it. When I talk to him next, the work will be done beautifully and the price will be honest and low. The perfect handyman for us, really, you can’t do better than having an engineer work on  your house.

I think he saved our barn this week.

3 September

A Kind Of Poetry. The Working Animal Opens It’s Heart

by Jon Katz
Giving Its Heart
Giving Its Heart

How did the working animal ever open its heart?,

the dog,

the big horses,

the elephant,

the donkey,

and give the world it’s beauty,

it’s own kind of poetry,

it felt the power of light,

and grace,

working against it’s very being,

the rest of us remain too tired,

too angry,

too selfish,

too frightened,,

to open up our heart,

and give it away,

like that.

3 September

Getting Trumped: A True Journal Of My Brain Enhancement.

by Jon Katz


Brain Support
Brain Support

(This is the third and final in my series on “Getting Trumped,” whereas Donald Trump not only gets onto my head but into my head. I am moving on.)

I wrote earlier in the week that I had read about Donald Trump’s glowing recommendation for a brain support formula called Addium, a so-called miracle brain supplement only available online. Several Trump recommendations for the pills showed up on my Facebook Page, it is possible they were ads, or even fraudulent – how could one know? – and then I saw recommendations for the same pills from Denzel Washington and Warren Buffett.

Last month, I turned 68. I make my living from my brain, my mind is everything to me,  the idea that my brain can be supported and re-furbished – “cerebral enhancement complex” – says the pill, was irresistible, a fever.  Smart pills, they call them, capitalism is an amazing thing, it is all about changing our notions of what we need.

The Amazon listing calls Addium “the most powerful brain enhancer in the world.” Jeez, I thought, three older and successful guys all swearing by a brain supplement they said they had been taking for years. Who would not want his brain enhanced, especially a writer? Maybe I could make some more money, like these guys.

When you get older, you worry about your body, the air if filled with old people talk, chatter about memory loss and fuzziness. In America, there is little grace in the public view of aging, it is mostly all about fear, less, money and worry. Older people are bombarded with warnings about retirement, income, the cost of health care, the loss of memory, the burdens they place on their loved ones and society, their warehousing in the new ghettos of the aging.

I like to think I am immune from many of these fears, but that is just hubris of course, they are in the very air we breathe, the culture we follow, the politics of our world. No wonder so many of the angry old white men follow Trump and hate the hordes coming to take what they have already been given.

What did I have to lose by trying some pills? I had open heart surgery last year, focus and memory are important to me. I never want to burden Maria with the care of me.

The pills came  quickly in a cardboard box.  I believe they worked, and immediately, just like the testimonials said they would. They had no side affects of any kind, said the Amazon reviews.I wrote several pieces about Trump – what else? – and I thought they were sharp and creative.

Isn’t the mind an amazing thing, I have lived awhile and been around a bit, we can talk ourselves into almost anything but compassion and reality. Instead of giving thanks for the good life my brain has given me, I am already looking to buy myself a new one for $40. Only in America.

True, Addium had not been tested or approved by the FDA or any other scientific or government agency, but there were hundreds of positive reviews online, and as many cautionary and negative ones.  Lots of warnings about hoaxes and misleading statements. When I wrote about ordering Donald Trump’s brain enhancers – there is an oxymoron if ever there was one – most people thought I was kidding. Maria laughed at me, she thought I was losing my mind, not saving it.

I did not listen to her or to the doubters. I liked the idea that I could enhance my brain by taking one pill a day. Like the chronically ill and vulnerable in search of miracle drugs and miracle cures, I went to Amazon and clicked the button. Nothing could be simpler. I think I would have been embarrassed to ask Bridget for such a pill at her pharmacy, but I am not embarrassed to buy from Amazon’s bots.

It cost $47 for a 30 day supply. I dismissed the warnings and cautionary alarms online. Everything in America is controversial,  and the government is a muddle. You have to close your eyes sometimes and take a leap of faith.

Addium sounded revolutionary, of course people didn’t like it.

It was worth a shot, if my brain was powerfully enhanced, I could write more, publish more books, be more productive, say focused, improve my memory rather than see it trickle away over the years. Maybe I’d get my big blockbuster book out of it. Maybe I could stay sharp longer for Maria.

I should say that I do not generally believe in this stuff, I do not believe in magic, I do not rely on positive thinking to accomplish my goals. I do not buy into the American vision of aging – denial, bribery and delusion.

I remember telling my nurse-practitioner that I could control my diabetes myself, I didn’t need Western medicine. I have been on insulin since. I remember telling my nurse-practioner that I was having trouble breathing because I had asthma, she called am ambulance for me. I got a new heart.

But I am at heart  practical man, hard-headed, I believe in accepting the passage of time and life, not fighting it. I do not believe in magic or miracles, I have never solved a single problem with either, I have never been saved by one or the other.

So I ordered a bottle online. I was suddenly into the booming world of brain pills, nootropics they call them, there are dozens of them available online, they are supposed to “support” clarity, focus, memory.  Brain enhancement is, of course, a big business Lenin was spinning in his tomb, the capitalists are nothing if not ingenuous. These new pills all claim to support the brain in various ways.

I am not here to tell you if they work or if they don’t.

I have no idea. You will have to make up your own mind, if you choose.

I took Addium for three days. There is some caffeine in it, so I felt a bit speedy and edgy. I thought I felt a change in my focus, I thought I felt sharper and a bit creative. I thought I was writing well and was filled with ideas.  I realized this morning that I was waking up angry at people – my family, my friends at me. My head was spinning a big, like the old days. Reviewing my grudges, giving speeches to those that had wronged or hurt me.

Maria and I went for a walk this morning, and I didn’t speak. My not speaking is a bit like Donald Trump admitting a mistake or having nothing to say at a press conference. A warning symptom for sure. I went for a walk by myself. Did I really wish to take pills that Donald Trump is recommending? Do I have anything in common with Denzel Washington, Trump and Warren Buffett? Do I wish to be like any of them, assuming they actually did recommend Addium?

Do I believe in science? Do I want there to be some evidence or testing behind the pills I take. Do I really think I can alter destiny and biology and change the course of my brain, it’s health, evolution, or  eventual decline?

I tossed the Addium away this morning. I’m giving up on brain enhancement.  I can’t really say if it works or not, I didn’t give it much of a chance, but more importantly, I don’t want to lose myself in the hype and fantasy that surrounds life and death in America. I like my brain, I don’t care to have it enhanced. I’d rather it be authentically me.

My own idea of brain enhancement is hard but free: find love, show compassion, be authentic, love your life, live it fully. It has been working for me.

If I’m really thinking about Donald Trump (I have no quarrel with Washington or Buffett), then I don’t want my brain enhanced in the way his brain has been enhanced, or perhaps damaged. I don’t wish to hate people and belittle them.  What they really sell in America is the idea that we can alter the nature of life, avoid death and decline, buy our way to glory and powre eternal life.

We are always, always, stunned by death and suffering. We deny the reality of aging and take away it’s dignity. We force the elderly to spend their lives fearfully saving for the end, and when the end comes, we blame them for the high cost of keeping them alive, and then stick them in no-kill warehouses where they are kept alive beyond all reason – mostly for money – and so often lead meaningless lives without purpose or joy.

I don’t want to live that way. I don’t want to die that way. I support my brain as it is, and I apologize to my brain for patronizing it,  for doubting it and feeding it the strange stuff of betrayal and confusion.

It’s my brain, it is in itself a miracle,  it has given me 28 books and 15,000 blog posts and 40,000 photographs and a person to love. I’m sticking with it.

It’s time for Donald Trump to get off of my head and out of it. I am an American who loves his country in the way only a grandson of poor and brave immigrants can love this country, and I know he will be gone from our consciousness pretty soon. My brain tells me so.

3 September

Fun Dog. Ball Dog.

by Jon Katz
Good time girl
Good time girl

Fate is a good time girl, a fun dog. She and Maria have a blast, throwing balls, catching frisbees. I have fun working with her and the sheep, training this explosive and intense creature. Fun is a big part of working with a dog, I know some awfully grim border collie people, and some even grimmer training people. Some of them seem to have forgotten to have fun, or to value it.

Fate has brought a lot of fun into our lives, and we try and return the favor. She is an amazing ball dog (what an agility dog she would make, though it’s not for me or Maria), she is faster than a Lab and just as determined. She runs after the ball, tracks it down, brings it back and demands to do it again. Two obsessives, having fun.

Fate’s purpose in life is not to herd sheep, her purpose in life is to shake up our lives, brighten them, challenge us, and get us to smile about 100 times a day. Good and precious work.

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