Monday, April 4, 2016

The Best Things in Life

Dear George,
Lately I seem to be down in the dumps.  It might be the aftermath of a long winter.  Or I could still be mourning the loss of our sheepdogs.  Or maybe I’m just characterologically gloomy.  Whatever the case, I tried making a list of my favorite things in my life.  Like favorite movie, favorite board game, etc.  The longer my list got, the more cheerful I found myself becoming.  This was such a heartwarming task.  After I got about 50 different things, I decided it would be best to put them into alphabetical order and pick the best one for each letter.  I’m putting my list here to encourage readers to try this exercise for themselves.  I’d say it’s guaranteed to boost one’s spirits on a cold, miserable day.  

Best Things in Life

Actress: Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates on Bates Motel) 
Book: the I Ching
Cowboy: Hopalong Cassidy
Downton Abbey character: Daisy
Everyday wine: Gato Negro Shiraz ($5.49) 
Fast food restaurant: Subway (Veggie Delite footlong on Parmesan Oregano)
Gadget: FitBit
Humorist: David Sedaris
Ice Cream flavor: Lemon Flake (Ideal Dairy, Hwy 577, Menominee — long defunct)
Jazz musician: Thelonius Monk
Kentucky day trip: Berea
Line dancing routine: Blue Night Cha
Ludlow Avenue establishment: the Esquire Theater
Musical: Chicago (1975, starring Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera)
National park: Mammoth Cave
Ohio day trip: Yellow Springs
Pop singer (all-time): Patti Page 
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Road trip: To San Francisco and back (1959)
Standup comic: Louis C. K. 
Superhero: Captain Marvel
TV show: Ray Donovan (Showtime) 
U.P. legend: Paul Bunyan
Vehicle: 1941 Lincoln V-12 (purchased by my father from Lou Reed, ca. 1952)
Website: Rotten Tomatoes
Xylophonist: Milt Jackson
Year: 1960 (graduated from college; got married; began graduate school) 
Zoo: DeYoung Family Zoo, Wallace, MI (Menominee County) 

Making my list was so pleasing that I encouraged Katja to do it.  I gave her a bunch of categories, and she picked the most meaningful ones.  Here is how her list wound up. 

Best Things in Life

Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Book: Moby Dick
Classical composer: Frederic Chopin
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
European city: Venice
Flower: Pansies
Grade school teacher: Miss Kruger, 3rd grade, Spring Garden School, Phila.
Ice cream flavor: Bisque rum raisin
Jazz musician: Miles Davis
Kentucky day trip: Berea
Leisure activity: Reading a book
Movie: Lawrence of Arabia
Newspaper: New York Times
Opera: Madam Butterfly
Pop Singer: Adele
Queen: There’s only one — Queen Elizabeth
Road trip: Our cross-country trip to the West Coast (1963)
Supreme Court Justice: Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Theater: Fiddler on the Roof
Unforgettable event: Our marriage (1960)
Vacation: Three months in Europe together (1964)
West Coast location: Dixon, CA
X-men: Wolverine
Year: 1969 (J was born)
Zany: Groucho Marx

After Katja finished, I asked how the task made her feel.  Much to my surprise, she said, “Depressed.”  She added, “It makes me feel like I don’t know anything.  I just feel narrow and limited, constricted.”  “But what about all those positive things?” I asked in amazement.  “I have to choose between them,” Katja said, “and that makes me feel bad.”  That was bewildering to me.  I think I will read her list back to her tomorrow.  I think she will feel much better about it.  I’m still confident that this is an excellent psyche-nourishing task, though it may not be infallible. 


  1. Is "characterologically" a real word? (Spell check doesn't like it!)

  2. I have never ever again found an ice cream flavor to equal the Ideal Dairy Lemon Flake.