I met J at the gym. Gradually, we found we have much in common, but are also quite incompatible.
For example, in the stuff in common category, we are both Jewish (though do not much regard it as a meaningful label), both come from unhappy families, both at times lived in the New York City area (though Joe much longer than I), both have had some slightly dangerous and disquieting experiences. (J worked for an alarm company for a while.)
For one thing, my wife and I are both still alive, and both in reasonably good health, despite a variety of aches and pains (not unsurprising to people in their 60s) and despite my recent leg infection and hospital visits.
J, on the other hand, lost his wife to an illness a few years ago. Evidently, the experience left him bitter and angry, as he was I gather, quite fond of her. (Perhaps there is some guilt involved, but I can’t really decipher if this is the case.)
J has contemplated suicide, and as he is a bright fellow, he has thought through the most effective way to perform such a deed. He finds it difficult to amuse and distract himself, but he says what works best is to read books with short anecdotes. I tried to find some books for him that fall into this classification, but he is very prickly and and more often than not, says, “No. That does not amuse me that much,” when I suggest something, though on a couple of occasions I did have some success.
J, also considers himself a libertarian, and rails about big government and taxation. I gather (though I am not sure) that over the years he has amassed (through investments) quite a bit of money. We don’t have much money, though, for now we get by comfortably enough. I suspect, that now that his wife is gone – his money does not comfort him that much.
I attended the recent Republican presidential caucus for my part of Whidbey Island, though through most of my life I have more often voted Democratic (though not rigidly or exclusively). As this was before Romney became the probably nominee, people were all over the map in their choices, with interesting ironies and paradoxes. (Such as members of the party of “family values” fervently supporting Newt Gingrich, hardly a paragon of keeping it in his pants.)
There was a strong contingent of libertarians present. I was not entirely surprised to see J there, advocating for Ron Paul. I have an emotional attachment to anarchism/libertarianism, though I consider it quite impractical as an actual system of organizing human society.
J was there, crankily muttering about Ron Paul. Everyone got a minute or so to speak to the assembled group, before breaking up into small groups and then with members of our own precinct). I spoke in favor of Gary Johnson instead of Ron Paul. Gary Johnson is younger than Ron Paul. While Ron Paul seems fit and coherently incoherent, he is a bit on the elderly side, and as I am as well, I felt entitled to speak in favor of a younger person. Also, as Gary Johnson has actually held public office (as governor of New Mexico), he seems surprisingly pragmatic for a libertarian. No one paid any attention to me, including my acquaintance J.
Washington State is going through a commotion about gay marriage. My daughter and her partner don’t want to settle for civil union or domestic partnership. I spoke to others asking them not to sign the petition to repeal Washington State’s gay marriage law. [A while after the caucus I write about, it has been submitted, and there will indeed be an election in Washington state.]
I was amused. In a small group where I spoke in favor of gay marriage, limiting myself to one minute, and disclosing that my daughter wants to marry her partner). A gentleman politely responded, explaining that some of his best friends were homosexual, and that he had nothing against homosexuals, etc., etc., and going on for 15 minutes, (I checked my watch) and explaining about what God and Jesus wanted, etc.
Finally, after listening and not arguing, I politely said I had to rejoin my caucus group and left his table, where he may still be going on about what God and Jesus want, for all I know.
J has a thing about social workers. Apparently (I never quite got all the details), as his wife was dying in her hospital bed, a social worker told him something, or reassured him about something, or simply said something that upset him. Anyway, he speaks of social workers with great bitterness and contempt.
I have known a few social workers. Similar to how I regard people of various religious groups, ethnic groups, etc., I think they come in a variety of qualities as far as intelligence, ethics, likability, etc. J was having nothing of it. On the other hand, he doesn’t care a whit about homosexual marriage, though I doubt he objects to it. Side bread is buttered on, etc.
After listening to him rant about social workers a few times, I finally revealed to him that my aunt Arlene had been studying to be a social worker at UCLA and was murdered. J had the grace to restrain himself from blurting out, “Served her right,” though I suspect the thought ran through his mind. Whatever.