The End Of Comedy

Apple cores on the counter
Apple cores on the counter

Pity the rich comedian, the court jester. Their richest material is off limits. Wits verses brawn. Everybody loses. Yes, we watched the Oscars and it was hard to sleep after the Will Smith/Chris Rock smack down.

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Gimmie That Old Time Religion

Trail off Zoo Road along Durand Lake
Trail off Zoo Road along Durand Lake

We broke a 127 year old record yesterday when the temperatures hit 67 degrees. We ran into our neighbor’s daughter walking her bike along the lake and exchanged pleasantries. Down on the beach we saw tracks from a bicycle in the sand and they stopped where the outflow from Eastman lake crosses the beach. There, written in the sand in large letters, was “Jesus Is King,” clearly the work of our neighbor. I never liked that image of Jesus as royalty. We cut through the golf course on our way back from the lake and came across a sheepish looking golfer standing in the path with his a bag of clubs. He told us he had just been scolded and informed that the golf course was officially closed.

Every long time Rochesterian knows Bat & Don. From their 60’s band, “The Showstoppers,”to their coffeehouse, “Hylie Morris’ Alley,” to their performances with Chuck Mangione and the RPO, they were foundational. Bat skipped his colonoscopies and went out with colon cancer and grace. Don got religion, the kind that says Jesus will take care of you even if you refuse to be vaccinated. He and his wife contracted Covid a few weeks ago and she has since died.

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American flag and Fuck Biden banner at 129 Avondale
American flag and Fuck Biden banner at 129 Avondale

How did the terrorist attacks on our country (and others) drive us further apart from one another? What kind of bungling leadership would feed this division? We were told they attacked us because they resented our freedom. We were told the the people who commandeered airplanes directly into tall buildings were cowards. None of this added up.

“You’re either with us or against us,” “Love it or Leave It.” After 9/11 the Pentagon paid $6.8 million to the NFL and other professional sports teams to put on patriotic displays. That felt genuine. It feels as though someone is engineering our demise.

Michelle Goldberg, writing in the NYT on 9/11 says “. . . this epoch of aggressive jingoism, ethnic profiling, escalating paranoia, torture, secret prisons, broken soldiers, dead civilians and dashed imperial dreams has left freedom in retreat both globally and here at home.”


Prison City

315 house with signs
315 house with signs

We hadn’t driven our car in weeks. We were meeting friends in Auburn at the new Prison City Brewery and we were determined to not take the Thruway so we drove out 104 and then let Siri take over. There are a lot of Trump signs still up. It’s a little disturbing just days before the inauguration but not as disturbing as this house was.

I’m sure every city in the country is finding out they have insurrectionists in their midst. I was particularly struck by Dominic Pezzola (disturbed guy in center) or “Spaz” as his Aquinas high school friends call him. A former Marine, he boasts of being a Proud Boy now and he gained national prominence when he used a Capitol Police shield to smash a Capitol window. He posted a video of himself smoking a cigar inside and saying “Victory smoke in the Capitol. I knew we could take this fucker over.” People who spoke to him say he planned to kill Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. My father graduated from Aquinas. In a statement, the school said it was genuinely saddened that Pezzola apparently had strayed from the Christian values taught at the school.

Prison City has some fantastic beers. We had a couple Mass Riots outside by a propane heater and tried to forget about all hate out there.

315 house with signs
315 house with signs

“We must learn to live together as brothers or persist together as fools.” – Martin Luther King

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This Is America

Picture of Trump in the back seat of a red pickup truck at Parkside Diner
Picture of Trump in the back seat of a red pickup truck at Parkside Diner

Now is not the time to be complaining about Biden so I will keep this short. When he got on tv just after the Capitol was stormed to tell us “This is not who we are,” I groaned. This is who we are, at least half of us, so please, can we address this? He is going to have to talk about their grievances.

We met our friend Kathy and walked along the bay down to the lake and then up Culver into the Sea Breeze neighborhood. Then down into the valley on Trelawne, a dead end street where the last few houses have a glimpse of the lake and a neighbor still working the Trump campaign with signs out front and in his window. There are plenty of Black Lives Matter signs (there can never be enough of those) and the “In This House We Believe In Science. . .” banners but they have a much longer shelf life. At this point the Trump signs are nothing short of aggressive.

With all of the wandering we’ve done, walking in and out of neighborhoods, we can’t help but notice that those Gadsden, “Dont Tread On Me” flags and Blue Lives Matter adaptations of the American flag are often right next door to people with Black Lives Matter, Biden/Harris or We Believe banners. You can sense the tension. The neighbors talk at each other through their lawn signs.

There was a cute little blue house on Breezeway with a For Sale sign out front with a young hipster couple peeking in the windows. Kathy asked, “Are you buying or selling?” and they quickly responded “Buying.” We looked it up when we got home and saw it was listed as “Sale Pending.” $99,000. Things are looking up.

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Biden Was Born In Africa

Stand-up paddleboard on Lake Ontario in December
Stand-up paddleboard on Lake Ontario in December

It was warm enough for horseshoes yesterday and paddle boarding today. We watched this guy bounce around in the waves while we walked the beach. We ran into our neighbors on the way back and asked if they were going to Florida this year. “We’re waiting to see if the restaurants are open” was the politically tinged response. And then, “Hope they don’t make you wear a mask on the beach.”

Our friends were telling us their daughter won’t get the vacine because she believes it will make her sterile. Our friends joked that that might not be such a bad outcome. I heard this same story from my dentist. I was sitting in the chair, mouth wide open, the hygienist on one side of me and the dentist on the other. “It’s a messenger RNA,” he said, “not a live virus. I wouldn’t take it!” This really rattled me. And then he tells the hygienist he heard Cuomo might try to make the vaccine mandatory (I wish he would). I interrupted that conversation by asking the dentist if he could explain what he was about to do before the Novocaine made it hard for me to talk.

Really, a microchip in each dose of the vaccine? The amount of mistrust and misinformation floating around is making me much more anxious than the virus. It is exhausting me.

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Sinking Feeling

Kimberly Guilfoyle at the Republican Convention
Kimberly Guilfoyle at the Republican Convention

We follow politics but probably shouldn’t. It can’t be that good for our health. We watched the debates last time around and saw the Trump train coming. I had the sinking feeling last night that he may be able to pull it off again. As much as I can’t stand the guy I am in awe of his ability to command our attention, to attract just enough votes in the swing states to stay in our face.

Imagine how whacked politics will be in another generation. Don Jr. and his girlfriend are but a glimpse. Four years ago I took a photo of Tiffany while she addressed the convention. We thought that one was surreal. They have ratcheted up the propaganda, the theatrics, the lies, the hysteria. Are they using augmented reality already? I was blown away.

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Mask Up

Carrots, tomatoes and basil from garden on my t-shirt
Carrots, tomatoes and basil from garden on my t-shirt

Today’s walking route finished down at the garden (in our neighbor’s backyard). I forgot to bring a bag so I used my t-shirt to carry our pickings home. Peggi had two nice looking beets in her hands. She took a photo of me as a six foot gauge, something to calculate the height of our tomato plants by. We don’t get full sun down here, maybe four hours, so the plants keep reaching. They are no less laden with fruit though.

We’re getting pretty good at avoiding people on our walks and we’re able get our masks up in a hurry when we do run into them. We walked to Aman’s Farm Market the other day and ran into the owner. We asked how he was doing during all this and he told us he was doing great. The market is close to open-air in this weather and it feels safe in there so we were glad to hear it. But he did lose some good, long-time customers, ones that wouldn’t wear a mask inside. One guy told him it was all a conspiracy and the owner said goodbye to him.

Paul as gauge of height of tomato plant. Photo by Peggi Fournier.
Paul as gauge of height of tomato plant. Photo by Peggi Fournier.
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Thou Shalt Not Wear A Mask

Worshipers at Durand Eastman during the pandemic.
Worshipers at Durand Eastman during the pandemic.

The parking lot at Durand Eastman Beach was packed this morning, as crowded as it is on a hot summer day. And this was one but it was still early. And these people were not dressed for the beach. They had their Sunday finest on. Many of of the women looked as if they had made their own, the long skirts and head coverings. You’d think they would have made some masks for their families.

Celestial music was playing from a sound system and the hillside which slopes down to the beach was crowded. A row of men dressed in all white were dunking parishioners in the water. The crowd was entirely white and no one was wearing a mask.


Institute For Living

Altar boys Paul Dodd, Andy Finn and Rick Switzer, alter boys eating their lunch after serving mass at Holy Trinity in Webster
Altar boys Paul Dodd, Andy Finn and Rick Switzer, alter boys eating their lunch after serving mass at Holy Trinity in Webster

My large, extended family was solidly Irish Catholic. But my parents canceled church as an obligation when they bailed on the culture of Catholicism. I was in high school and was thrilled with their decision. I had been begging them to let me attend public school where my friends were. Bishop Kearney (named after an early Rochester bishop) was run like a prison. A lot like “Orange is the New Black” but the uniforms were blue and there were a lot less Black people.

The church was changing but not fast enough for my parents. They thought priests should be allowed to marry and women should be allowed to serve, something that is still out of the question. The church is desperately hanging onto an anachronistic, dark ages script. Bishop Clark, in his recent testimony followed that script, a script that attempts to keep the clergy above the law.

“There is also to be a secret archive in the diocesan curia or at least a safe or file in the ordinary archive, completely closed and locked which cannot be removed from the place, and which documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely.”

Clark claimed he never looked at the secret files when he took over as Bishop. Two of my first cousins, both near my age, were abused by priests. Bishop Clark was asked about a long list of area clergy, most of whom he acknowledged knowing about, who were accused during his time as Rochester’s bishop. A pdf of his testimony is available online but it will make you sick to read. Here are some excerpts.

Father O’Neill 
Q. Were there other complaints during your 32 years at the Diocese of Rochester that priests had sexually abused minors other than the first two Bishop Hickey told you about?
A. Oh, yes. 

Q. What position did you hold at Albany when you had that kind of responsibility?
A. I was the chairman of the Priest Personnel Board.
Q. Were you aware of any allegations prior to arriving as bishop of the Diocese of Rochester that there had been complaints that priests had had inappropriate – –
A. Oh, yes, yes.
Q. And after Father O’Neill admitted
A. Well, I sent him to — what’s the word I’m looking for?
Q. Rehabilitation center?
A. Yeah. That’s — I’m not sure that was the exact title, but, yes.
Q. Was it the Institute for Living in Connecticut?
A.  No.  It was in St. Louis.

Father Larrabee

Father Eugene Emo
Q. Did Father Emo ever admit to you that he had acted inappropriately with minors?
A. Yes.
Q. And did you meet with Father Emo on this or did he meet with somebody at your direction?
A. I met with Gene, I would say, three times.
Q. Okay. After Father Emo went for treatment, was he reassigned to a position with
the diocese?
A. He was.

Father Paul Cloonan
Brother John Walsh
Father Albert Cason

Father Ronald Frederick
Q. Was he allowed to still work at parish assignments?
A. Yes.

Father Vincent Panepinto
Father John Gormley
Father Dennis Sewar
Brother John Walderman
Father Joseph Beatini
Father James Burk
Father Thomas Burr
Father Robert Guadio
Father G. Stuart Hogan
Father Robert Meng
Father Thomas Kent
William O’Malley
Francis Pilecki, a teacher at Aquinas
Father Foster Rogers
Father John J. Seger
Father David Simon
Father Anscar Sullivan
Monsignor Joseph Vogt
Father Francis Vogt
Father Otto Vogt
Steve Ward

Father Paul Schnacky
A. I know he offended, and I know he eventually returned to ministry.

Father William Lum
Brother John Farrand
Deacon George Finch
Father Gerard Guli
Father Robert Hammond
Father Robert Klem
Father Bernard Kuchman
Father Gereon Lindsay
Father Joseph Lynch
Father Charles McCarthy
Father Neil Mille
Father Bernard Newcomb
FatherLawrence Pais?
Leonard Riforgiato
Brother Dennis Sewar
Father Dennis Shaw
Father Gary Shaw
Father Francis Taylor?
Father Zenkel
Father Gary Shaw

Many of the clergy have been profiled on the Democrat & Chronicle’s site where Steve Orr has been doing some bang-up reporting. Add to this list John Tobin, Father James Curry and Father Harry Utereiner, three McQuaid teachers who were named yesterday in sexual abuse cases involving students there.

When I was going to Kearney it was common knowledge that Brother Heathwood was chasing the girls. The Irish Christian Brothers, who ran the place, agreed to pay $16.5 million to satisfy about 420 abuse allegations. The Kearney building on Kings Highway South was put up for sale to help fund the order’s abuse settlement. Billionaire philanthropist B. Thomas Golisano purchased the building in 2014 for $3.4 million and gave it to the nonprofit that was then running the school.

I still have a deep soft spot for the iconography and rituals. And Christianity without the miracles is fine by me. But Bishop Clark’s testimony illustrates how corrupt and morally bankrupt the organization is. He comes off like a good soldier if there is such a thing.

Q. What is Exhibit 2?
A. It’s a draft of a book I was working on at the time and I have yet to complete it. Maybe I never will.  

From the book: “It is the abiding pain in these young people and their loved ones who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests in whom the young — by instinct and training — so readily place deep trust.”

“It makes it incumbent on us to learn what systemic deficiencies, what actions or omissions helped to create an environment in which such horror could even be possible.”

Q.    When you had priests go to psychologists or psychiatrists for evaluation did you usually get back a written report from the psychologist or the psychiatrist?
A. Yeah.  They would send reports. And they would be —

And with that, the three hours of allotted time for testimony was up.

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No New Normal

"No New Normal" sign
“No New Normal” sign

I always liked the Ramones’ “I’m Against It” and I think of it often. Especially when I see something like this. But just what does this mean? The two of us walking up to Aman’s Farm Market with our masks is not the old normal. So the guy likes the old normal and denies the very existence of the new.

When we got home I visited the web address listed on the sign. According to the site “There’s quite a lot of medical debate about whether masks work.” They want to flatten a different curve than the rest of us – the economic curve. “We believe that the government has overstepped its authority and is impeding our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. They are no longer able to prove a clear and imminent threat.” And that does sound like the old normal.

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Big Ass Truck Messages

Big ass truck with obnoxious bumper stickers at Town Hall
Big ass truck with obnoxious bumper stickers at Town Hall

While I worked to crop this just right in camera I realized the owner was sitting behind the wheel. He was wearing a cowboy hat. I braced for a conversation but none came. If you’re a glutton for punishment or perhaps you’re wondering where the other side is coming from you can click on this photo for clarity. The “AMAC” sticker at bottom left is the weirdest. The Association of Mature American Citizens.

We stopped by to visit our neighbor this afternoon. Peggi made some corn bread for him. I’ve talked about him before. We see him out walking his dog while wearing his MAGA hat. He was cleaning his leaf blower, a Toro model just like ours, and cut some of his fingers off. He’s the nicest guy but we don’t talk politics.


Can I Not Help You?

board at Spectrum TV customer service
board at Spectrum TV customer service

With only the semis and final ahead of us and the Jazz Fest behind us we are out of the woods with DVR issues. Our Spectrum box went rogue on us. Soccer matches that we recorded would freeze while we were trying to watch them or sometimes they would not even be there when we got home from Jazz Fest. 

Spectrum’s customer service number is manned by a dumb AI maze, designed firstly to not get their employees involved. I take it they get lot of calls about streaming issues, which rightly they should not have to field, so if you have a real cable issue you have work your way to that topic. And when you get there, there is only a limited menu of problems to report. Why did we have to wait while they checked for an outage in our area? Why do we have to watch while they reboot our cable box when we already did that? 

We gave up and took our box to Spectrum’s office. They gave us one that looked brand new but it had apparently already been refurbished and the first soccer match we recorded jumped from the 82nd to the 90th minute in the blink of an eye, We missed the game winning goal. The second debate gave out in the middle of Kamala Harris’s take down of Joe Biden. When we rebooted the box the whole recording was gone. 

We drove over to Spectrum again the next morning and signed in on the iPad at the door. I sat down and noticed there were two Paul Ds on the monitor. I thought I may have submitted my name twice. Two clerks’s were helping customers. The one on the left of us was talking to a woman who thought she was being overcharged. She was. The Spectrum employee pointed out the promotional offer she had signed up for had expired. She didn’t remember ever signing up for a promotion. Listening to this conversation was painful but I wasn’t being paid by the hour.

On the other side of us someone was looking at a list of cable packages and trying to decide which one included the stations he wanted. We were planning to meet at a friends house to watch the US France match in a half hour so we getting antsy. He finally decided on a package and left. The Spectrum clerk went in the back room. A third clerk came out to man another station but as soon as she did her phone rang, the one in her pocket. She was still carrying on a personal conversation when the clerk on our left called “Paul D.” 

I stood up at the same time as the guy across from us, the other Paul D. I said “I’m Paul D” but he just gave me a blank look so I went up to the desk and traded in our gear. 

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Say It Isn’t So

Red glove on the street in lower Manhattan
Red glove on the street in lower Manhattan

The neighbor across the street found a tick on her back, a big one, big because it was so engorged. She went to Urgent Care and the attendant called another worker in just to look at it. It was the biggest one they had seen. It was easy to get off because it had already done its thing. She was given some antibiotics and sent home. No symptoms of Lyme as yet. If you can believe what you read, the chances of that are only one in fifty.

We’ve both had ticks attached and we know a few people with Lyme so we are somewhat short of super-vigilant. We wear Permethrin-treated socks for the most part and if we’re gardening or walking in the woods we wear pants that we have sprayed and a hoodie we bought at LL Bean that is treated. Ticks are on our radar but I don’t want to buy into a conspiracy theory.

I remember someone we worked with coming in with a video about the government being behind 9•11, something produced by a guy named Alex. And we have a few friends who still believe there’s much more to the Kennedy assassination. Our niece won’t vaccinate her kids! I try to steer clear of the theories.

The research on Lyme is so sketchy. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey wants Trump to investigate and he is calling attention to an explosive book that alleges the epidemic started with an American biological warfare experiment gone awry. The theory has been around for years. A naval base off Long Island where the government ran experiments and deer swam from there to Lyme Connecticut with the tick borne virus. Say it isn’t so.


You Hit My Car

Twigs drawing on pavement with snow
Twigs drawing on pavement with snow

“You are damn right I hit your car.” Actually I didn’t but I said I did. It was Peggi who whacked the back of the guy’s car with her hand after he drove through a red light. We were crossing at the sidewalk. The walk light was on. As if any of that matters. He never saw us and nearly took us out turning right, right in front of us. You think your life is so important and then you realize it could end so quickly. And this guy rolls down his window and yells, “You hit my car.”

We were walking up to the post office on Waring. The commemorative stamp selection had been depleted with Christmas so we came home with a sheet of Hot Wheels stamps and one dedicated to a Muslim holiday.


Way Past “Time To Educate”

Laurie Simmons's "Clothes Make The Man" at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea
Laurie Simmons’s “Clothes Make The Man” at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea

Rochester is one of seven cities in the US that can claim half of their children are living below the poverty line. This is something that is hard to believe for those of us lucky enough to be on the other side. And according to the Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester compounds the poverty with extreme racial and economic segregation. New York State is the most segregated state in the country. What is a kid born into these circumstances gonna do?

The Urban Suburban program is growing but they’re simply syphoning off the best, those that could be role models for the rest. And one sixth of city students go to charter schools, the ones without disabilities or language problems. Last year at Kodak Park School fewer than ten percent of the students were proficient in math and and English.

The newspaper, in a series called “Time to Educate,” is looking for solutions but right now they are in probing mode. They are asking for suggestions as to what they should be investigating. This a problem that belongs to all of us and it will bring us all down if we don’t do something about it.


A Minus Over B Plus

Steve Hoy English paper on the 4th Dimension, written for Paul Dodd in 1969

Steve Hoy was the best man at our wedding. But before that he was my college roommate, back when they were randomly assigned without any profiling or preferences being stated.

I coasted through high school and had a great time but I was a terrible student, learning only what I needed to get by. I was determined to turn over a new leaf in college and planned on applying myself. That idea went out the window when Steve showed up. The first thing I remember him saying was, “Is it ok to put one of my stereo speakers on your desk?” He was already a junior. He had a car, a white Barracuda. We had a good time.

We rented a small, coal-heated house the next year and I eventually dropped out but before I did, Steve wrote an English paper for me. I think the assignment was to make something up and that was too much for me. Steve’s paper got me an A-/B+, one of the best grades I received. Steve, a sci-fi buff, entitled the essay “The Fourth Dimension.”


Integration Now

Lake Ontario on a warm October Day
Lake Ontario on a warm October Day

Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke tonight at the Third Presbyterian Church. We were there. Now we must act.

Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative reporter who covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times. She was just named a prestigious MacArthur fellow. She is a truth teller. Here first chart had a few key dates in American history. 1607 when the English landed her. 1619, twelve years later when the first African slaves were imported. 1776 when the Constitution was signed. 1954 when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, or the Fair Housing Act. Peggi remembers canvasing her neighborhood with her friend Christine Latti in Suburban Detroit in an effort to get the Open Housing Bill based. Up north we discriminated by redlining, obstructive lending practices and impediments to home ownership.

The second graphic that hit home was one that showed the narrowing of the achievement gap between white and black students. That was in 1988. Integration was working but it became branded as “forced integration.” The gap has continued to widen since then. Nikole says its funny how we never hear anyone call it ‘forced segregation.” “Separate but equal” is a crock of shit. She says the one thing that has been proven to work is the one thing we are unwilling to do. Our schools in Rochester are some the most serrated schools in the country. NYC is worse.

Someone is going to have to sacrifice if once again integrate or schools. Many more being sacrificed now. Justice is not easy.

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Unity, Pride, Strength

Teamster truck and fans at Durand Eastman Beach on 4th of July
Teamster truck and fans at Durand Eastman Beach on 4th of July

It was a perfect day for cruising along the lakeshore. Full sun but not too hot. The sand beach, which is still mostly underwater, was packed with bathers but most people arranged themselves on the lawn where the old railroad tracks were. Giant boom boxes were cranking competing salsa tunes and barbecue equipment was everywhere, even those stainless steel consoles that run on propane. One group was grilling a whole pig on a spigget rotating above a double wide oil drum cooker. The whole trick was riding our bikes slow enough to take this all in.

On top of it all, a super patriotic trucker drove slowly through the parking lot with a sound system mounted on the outside of its cab. The playlist included AC DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

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Go Cut Down A Tree

Little Free Library Culver Road in Rochester, New York
Little Free Library Culver Road in Rochester, New York

We walked up to Wegman’s this afternoon and while we were cutting through the cemetery our neighbor, Steve Greive, yelled out his truck window at us, “You’ll be there soon enough.” I had no idea what he had yelled. Peggi translated. On Culver we walked by one torn-out book page after the other. Some high school kid had dropped pages every few steps for ten blocks. I picked up one of them and it was Sarah Palin’s book, “Going Rogue.” I couldn’t believe it. I had photographed that book in the Little Free Library in front of a house Culver Road just a few weeks ago. Sure enough the trail of pages stopped at the library. I thought it would be fun to transcribe one of the paragraphs from the page I picked up but it is too mundane.

We ran into Jan, another neighbor, in Wegman’s and we told her we saw her husband and Dave Pitt, the tree surgeon, down on Hoffman Road this morning. She told us Dave had run out of firewood and he was borrowing some. This made no sense at all and we all laughed.

Speaking of funny. I have not laughed so hard for so long in quite some time as I did to Dana Carvey’s stand-up Netflix show, “Straight White Male, 60.” The Church Lady was never this funny.

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