Unforgettable things happen to us. Those pivotal events take on new meaning with the passage of time. Jan Chronister looks closely at those events in her past in her latest collection, Decennia (Truth Serum Press, 2020). The title means “decades.” Chronister splits her life into five of them and examines each in detail.
Two new Banff Mountain Film Festival movie packages hit the internet on Feb. 4 as part of the virtual world tour. Ruby and Sapphire movie bundles are joining the Amber and Onyx movie packages that are already online. The Duluth Cross-country Ski Club receives part of the proceeds when viewers use the link on duluthxc.com to get to the BMFF content.
This is a small town. So, we’ll probably meet and shake hands. You’re going to come away from it thinking, What the hell was that?
I’ll see it on your face. So, I’ll say, “It’s Dupuytren’s contractures.”
And you’ll say, “Doopa what?”
“My hand is screwed up. I’m not some perv going ‘deedle-deedle’ into your palm with my middle-finger. It’s an ailment.”
“Oh, I see. Sure, man,” you’ll say as you slowly back away. “Sure.”
So, I’m sorry for that. This is an open letter of apology.
It’s a real thing, though. Dupuytren’s contractures. Collagen collects in the fascia of my hands. It forms ropes and cords that slowly pull my fingers inward toward my palm. It started twenty years ago with the middle finger of my right hand. Then my left thumb got in the game. Not wanting to be left out, the ring finger of my left hand joined in. Somewhere along the line, hands weren’t enough so it started up along the bottom of my feet behind each of my big toes. Most recently, my right ring finger curled up next to my right middle finger. I guess he missed his neighbor. Now, I’ve got a fresh rope pulling my left middle finger inward. The good (maybe bad?) news is I can’t flip anybody the bird anymore.
I sat with my kids and played “two-thing story” as I tucked them into bed. This was a game where my kid picked two nouns out of the air and I had to come up with a story that included the two things. Then we swapped and I picked the two nouns and the kid would come up with a story. It was simple. Two kids, two things, and lots of laughs.
I like to make complex things simpler. I usually view my fellow man through a simple, digital filter. Ones or zeroes. Happy Shmo or Angry Shmo. Here’s an example: “There are two kinds of people: Those who think there are two kinds of people and those who don’t.” (Aren’t I clever?)
Here are some of the filters I use.
The first is called the Dunning-Kruger effect. David Dunning and Justin Kruger conducted studies and wrote a paper called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (1999).” They published it in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. I gather we live in a post-fact world, but this is science if you still care. This is what it says in the paper’s abstract: “People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.”
After several hours of splashing around, I pulled myself up to the dock. I held onto the edge and floated. My daughter said, “Your wedding ring is gone.”
What kind of kid notices that? I thought she was kidding. Then, I looked at my left hand. No ring.
I spent the next hour swimming with a scuba mask trying to pull off a miracle. The lake water looks like tea because of the tannins. Or maybe even darker like root beer. As I swam down, I could barely see. I hoped to see a little glint in the gravel. It never happened.
So, now I wear a replacement ring. The ring I put on twenty years ago sits at the bottom of the Whiteface Reservoir, a permanent part of the St. Louis River watershed. I sit like Gollum on the dock, sip my gin and tonic, gaze out over the water, and wonder about my precious. My precious.
When I was a kid, I didn’t notice things like rings on my dad’s hand. But I noticed his finger and where it pointed on the topo map. It was deer season in Plymouth, New Hampshire. I was in high school and an important part of the game plan to fill the freezer with venison.
“I’m going to sit here at the top of this drainage,” my dad said. “You walk down the road on this side of the ridge to here. Come over the ridge and walk up the drainage toward me. If you hear a shot, sit down for five minutes. Then, when you hear two shots, it means I found the deer and you can walk to me.” He said drainage so much during the huddle, I thought he was talking about nasal passages instead of a small mountain valley.
It’s probably been dealt with here before, but Richard Dreyfus (as Elliot Garfield) and Quinn Cummings (as Lucy McFadden) have a conversation at the supper table in the 1977 film The Goodbye Girl and have this exchange:
PDD local hero Brian Barber designed the cover of my new book. I think he did a good job. It makes me look like I know what I’m doing. You can buy a copy of Outside Duluth online via most major book retailers at my webpage.