Curmudgeon Corner: Dream on

Greetings from Blue Mountain. As I write this I’m frying an egg on the steel roof of my shop. (Not really, but I could.) You see, I’ve been banished from the big house by my wife ever since I took a shot at a groundhog from the bathroom window. She said she knew I’d get into trouble after I retired and this was just the sort of thing she was talking about and did I want the neighbors to call the police again?

Let ’em, I say! The only thing that bothers me more than groundhogs making Swiss cheese out of my field and causing a hazard that could break the horses’ legs are idiots from the city who move up here looking for a “peaceful country setting” and promptly put the police on speed dial for noise complaints. My buddies on the force agree with me.

She just gave me one of those looks only those married 50 years will recognize; the old “Lord, is this man ever stupid, but better for the grandkids if I keep it to myself and let him die before me as he is fated to do, at which point I will slowly reshape his legacy.” History: Written by the victors and long-lived women!


I said nothing and made a strategic retreat to consider my next move.

It may be hot today but nothing like North Carolina, where I spent about three weeks this summer visiting my brother. I know it doesn’t show a great deal of intelligence to go south for the summer but I’ve always been a contrarian. It was 100 degrees in the shade but I didn’t tease him about it because I knew if I did he’d bring up a sore spot for me.

“How much you pay in property taxes, brother?”

He knows that’s enough to make my blood boil. I won’t even disclose what I pay but I’m sure you have some idea. You know what he pays? $800 a year! And somehow they manage to mow the grass in the parks, pick up the dead animals off the road and hand out dog licenses. What exactly are we paying for in New York State?

Something else I noticed down south— young people live in houses, and not their parents’. There’s no “affordable housing” using our taxpayer dollars to subsidize people who don’t pay taxes. They don’t need that down south because housing is affordable. Imagine that? For the cost of a crappy two-bedroom apartment in Saugerties you can get a house on a couple acres.

Am I saying southerners are smarter? Heavens no. The opposite seems to be the case. They move slow, talk slow and think slow. And yet… there seems to be more common sense. They take action based on the actual situation, not what they wish it were.

Maybe it starts in the schools. I read the write-up on the most recent SHS graduation. Typical stuff. “Follow your dreams… You can do anything… be true to yourself.” They even say this stuff to university graduates! Complete and utter B.S.!

Here’s my advice: don’t follow your dreams! Chances are, you don’t really have any. Let me explain. Yes, you’re a teenager, so you have a lot of fanciful notions, and you think maybe you know something the other generations didn’t about what constitutes a meaningful life… but that’s because you’re dumb, not because you have this grand dream that must be allowed to incubate in a cocoon of positivity for an open-ended gestation period.

In my experience, the type of people who need to follow their dreams don’t need to be told to do so. They can’t help themselves, and it’s that persistence that allows them to succeed in endeavors that a lot of other people imagine they’d want to do as well but aren’t naturally driven enough to attempt. And it’s that latter group that’s taking that encouragement and borrowing $200k to take pointless college classes and ultimately end up back at home ranting about “the system.”

Graduates, let me tell you what your dreams will be about a decade or so from now once the hormones fall to sustainable levels— a job that won’t break your back or take up all your time, coworkers who aren’t total pains in the ass, enough money to support a family and help out your friends or relations if they get in a jam, a yearly vacation, good health, time to be able to indulge in a hobby if it suits you, retirement savings and a good husband or wife to build it all around and keep you from getting squirrely.

Boring, right? Old-fashioned?

Well, guess what, human nature is human nature. Even with Facebook. We all want basically the same thing and the vast majority of us are lucky to be able to achieve basic competency before keeling over, never mind changing the world.

Speaking of humble pursuits, that groundhog is venturing out again…