Saturday, April 4, 2015


I have, on occasion, handed out my share of advice here. But I don't mean it.

I have begun to think there is no such thing as advice. Advice is the box you use when you're reorganizing for "to decide later". Any organizing book, of which there are many, will advise you that in no way should you ever have a "to decide later" box. This is very good advice. I will take it under consideration.

If I take out all the splendid advice I have received in my life, like one of my art teacher's admonitions to learn a valuable skill, like carpentry, I find it is all beautifully preserved, like in aspic, just sort of jiggling around in an impenetrable gelatinous cube. My wife and I were once in a fascinating food shop in Belgium. We stood in line. I have no idea what we were buying. But an old lady in front of us proceeded to order slice after slice of mysterious aspics in loaf pans. These gelled loafs were chock full of mysterious body parts and obscure vegetables and mushrooms. The counter person meticulously wrapped each individual slice in layers of butcher paper as the line grew out the door. I can't imagine any of us minded. It was fascinating. "Is that a boar's snout and pickles in aspic?" we all hypnotically wondered to ourselves.

What did that old Belgian woman do with all that aspic? I like to think she arranged it on the many shelves of her apartment, in between her many, many bibles.

An alternate theory is that she ate them.

And so here is my advice to you:

Don't hand out advice unless you're prepared to have a couple of bites of the horrible stuff yourself.


  1. When I was going through a very difficult time in my life with a very big decision many years ago I was speaking w/ my father, who would, with great hesitation once in a while give minor advice (like, "it might be best to buy a slightly used car than a new one" or, "why wake at 3 a.m. for a long drive? why not go later and take two days?") but usually he didn't say much when it came to decisions and in fact thought it wasn't really his role unless I came to him. Anyway, back to the big decision, all he said is, "Grape, it's your turn to bat. You are at the batter's plate." I know that if I was for sure going to make a decision that was harmful my father would have said as much, but it was a decision that I had to decide on, and so he used his baseball metaphor. A few weeks ago my daughter called with a similar kind of question, though she wasn't as untethered about the issue as I was. I echoed my father, though I didn't use a baseball metaphor. I did give an inkling of advice, like, "be need to rush in, see how you feel and try to be where you are today." I hope I didn't say, "try not to worry," which is like saying, "try not to hiccup when you have the hiccups" I could have said, "when you start worrying, watch yourself worrying and go on with your day." On the other hand, I've had a few tough decisions that with the help of friends and my lovely wife J that I was able to make despite a great deal of fear and afterwards felt good about. These are as mentioned decisions that I *don't* make because of fear and worry but irrational fear and worry, mountain molehill stuff.

    1. There is plenty in this, eh? My memories of your father are all warm, and no less for him showing up in your comment here with him acting kind of beautiful-like and eschewing the giving of advice. And then there you are...


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