Dear Uptight Seattleite, You're old enough, you must remember when we used to sit in people's living rooms and watch their slide shows. God, what a bore. Now we get links to everyone's Flickr slideshows instead. Who has time to look at all that stuff?Moosewood Cookbook
Dear Moosewood Cookbook, Let's take a little stroll through the backyard of your question. Oh look, what a coinkydink! There seems to be a slide show going on inside the house right now! You can tell from the way the curtains light up with a soft glow of shifting whites, blues, and tans. Let's step softly so as to not disturb the people inside. Now we're in the garden, where we find, folded up in a neat little square and stuffed into the knot of a pear tree, the answer to your question. What was your question again? "How can I blow off friends?"—was that it? Ha, sorry, just giving you a friendly little poke in the ribs there, Moosewood Cookbook. I know that wasn't how you phrased it. But did you notice that hushed sense of calm just now, while we were taking our imaginary little walk? And how good it felt, especially in contrast to the frazzled tone you started with? Now, here in the garden, in the cool of the twilight, let's unfold that paper. It says...well, I could tell you what it says, but I think you already know. Seriously, though, if someone sends you one of those links, all you have to do is comment on just one of the pictures. Something like, "You're making me envious with that one of you guys in Los Cabos! Good times!" Choose a picture near the end so it appears as though you looked at all of them. Dear Uptight Seattleite, I left a blank check on the dashboard of my Golf. A signed blank check. (Can we please not get into why?) Then, driving merrily along, I rolled down the window before remembering the check, which vanished instantly. One week of shame and fear later, I found a rough-grained brown envelope tucked discreetly in my front screen door. Inside was my check! And a note. "WTF," it read, "Don't you know you should never leave a signed check lying around?" The note was unsigned. Now I'm having trouble reconciling my gratitude with my irritation.Jangled Jenny
Dear Jenny, Have you heard of Tough Love Yoga? It can surprise an uninitiated practitioner when they ask a question and the instructor shouts, "Who the fuck do you think I am? Stop looking for a guru! Figure it out yourself!" But they soon see there's a mischievous compassion at work, like a Zen master's staff on the top of one's skull. The journey of your check back into your life was likewise backed by a harsh wind, but its deck may be piled with a treasure of insight. If, that is, you can open yourself to the power of transformation. I'd like to think you can. That's why I'm going to take the liberty of recommending a Web site: eco-organizer.com. (A hat-tip to Conscious Choice's Green Living issue for turning me on to this site.) This is all by way of saying that the thing you specially asked me not to discuss—why you had a blank check on your dashboard in the first place—is exactly the dark, disheveled place into which you must venture. Dear Uptight Seattleite, I just saw some guy blasting "Whole Lotta Love" on the speakers of his Honda motorcycle. It was loud enough for everyone in a rolling kilometer radius to hear. And he was pulling into a Microsoft employee parking lot! Is he the biggest jackass in the world?Ear Violatee
Dear Violatee, Hmm, that does sound like a pretty ostentatious display. Anyone who wants to rebel that badly should just try thinking for themselves. That's pretty darn dangerous these days! Dear Uptight Seattleite, My boyfriend, who's in his late 30s, has recently developed a keen interest in local history. Is this a sign of impending geezerhood?Josephine the Singer
Dear Josephine, Often occurring in males, but by no means restricted to them, interest in local history is indeed a sign of aging. The onset of this condition, which can occur anywhere between the ages of 35 and 55, is caused by the human mind seeking to adjust to its own mortality. As it senses its limits, the mind naturally seeks out the larger patterns it's part of, and which will continue after it's gone. You see, Josephine, no one can cope with infinity all at once. It's better to start with tales of Doc Maynard and the city's first professional fire department, then slowly expand outward into larger time frames. One can eventually develop a vision of personal oblivion as peaceful as the primeval forest that once grew here. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to email@example.com.