Mueller & Night Invasions
Happiness is a function not only of what you have, but also what you don’t have. It’s great to have freedom from worry. We, Americans, take a lot of this type of freedom for granted. People who can’t swim jump into rivers, with toddlers on their backs, hoping to experience the income inequality, Chipotle, and stresses of everyday American life. Many drown.
My mom slept in the London tube during the Blitzkrieg. My children sleep in bunk beds in a room where one wall is littered with Warhol-inspired skateboards, and the other is a makeshift climbing wall. As a kid, I would digest my stomach waiting in the living room, after school, for my mom to get home so I’d tell her I had lost another $33 jacket. My 8-year-old spent $44 for an in-app Princess Celestia Pony and, when confronted, beamed with pride, as spending money is a new skill he’s mastered, similar to math or (not) feeding the dog. It took just one generation for spending money to evolve from a crime to a competence.
I remember waking up as a kid and being scared of the monster under my bed. I’d seek refuge in my closet, where my mom would find me in the morning and reprimand me for not sleeping in the bed. My kids, if they wake up mid-slumber, reflexively stumble into their parents’ room, where they are met with 1.5 seconds of reticence, then welcome, as we are a pack. What happens next, for me, is a 3-minute sense of contentment. I’m the leader of this pride. Then follow 30 minutes of being on the wrong end of restless blows from a surprisingly strong 8-year-old. Finally, 3-4 hours of sleep alone in the lower bunk of a room with skateboards and a climbing wall.
I expected that fatherhood would involve dozing off in my kids’ room, like falling asleep reading a book to them. What I didn’t anticipate is how much time I’d sleep in their room alone as a refugee from the soft invasion of the master bedroom.
Mueller and Freedom
One of my takeaways from the Mueller hearings is that we all need more freedom from our Dear Leader, who seems obsessed with being in our faces every day. One definition of freedom: a week goes by and you haven’t thought about your president. I believe he’d rather be accused of sexual assault than be absent from the news cycle for more than 24 hours. Autocrats (Kim Jong Un, Putin, Mugabe) want more attention. Competent leaders (Merkel, Xi, Modi) want less.
A clear blue-line path to a better America is our citizenry taking fewer opiates and our president taking more.
What I’d Ask Mueller
In 1998, Red Envelope was set to go public on the NASDAQ, and I was going to be, well, rich. As a white guy in his thirties about to be worth tens — maybe hundreds — of millions, that meant one thing: I should run for Congress.
Yes, white + rich + outdoor plumbing = Congress.
My doppleganger was Jared Polis, founder of e-commerce peer ProFlowers. White guy, innovator/genius, also balding, brother from another mother. Red Envelope and ProFlowers were seen as peers — similar concept, run rate, etc. And, in the end, both our firms were purchased by Liberty Media. His for $477 million, mine out of bankruptcy in 2008. But that’s another post.
So, Jared was elected to Congress and is now the Governor of Colorado. He’s inspiring. I’m neither of those things. However, last week I hit #13 on Apple’s bestseller list for nonfiction hardcover. Governor of Colorado, and #13 — same/same. Anyway, let’s assume I was more inspirational, and Liberty had purchased my firm for a half a billion dollars, and I was in Congress, and on the House Judiciary Committee.
The questions I would have asked Director Mueller:
— Were you captain of the soccer, hockey, and lacrosse teams and won the Gordon Medal as your high school’s top athlete?
— Did you receive an MA in International Relations from NYU?
— Did you decide to enlist in the Marines after a friend of yours was killed in Vietnam by small arms fire?
— Is it true you went to the Army’s Ranger School, along with the best soldiers, where you learned jungle combat and “how to react with no sleep and nothing to eat”?
— Is it true that during an engagement in Operation Scotland II, you earned the Bronze Star with V device for combat valor for rescuing a wounded Marine under enemy fire during an ambush in which you saw half of his platoon become casualties?
— Is it true that in April 1969, you received an enemy gunshot wound in the thigh, recovered, and returned to lead your platoon?
— Is it true you received military decorations and awards including the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, Purple Heart Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat “V”, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Parachutist Badge?
In sum, people who focus on the “optics” of the hearing and attempt to disparage the integrity of a 74-year-old who has stood watch for this country, in Southeast Asia and at home, for the last 55 years all share one truth: Captain Mueller has pieces of better men in his crap.
Not that Generous
My dad is dying. Granted, we’re all dying. But at 89, he is dying faster than most people. And, unfortunately, his wife is dying even faster — she’s not well. One of my greatest sources of pride is giving my mom (his second wife) a good death. I’ve boasted/virtue signaled about it in previous posts and in this podcast. My dad is at that stage, and it’s time for me to step in and be the generous, loving person I’d like to think I am.
And I haven’t. Some of it is situational — I have my own family now and more on my plate. However, it’s more likely that I’m not that generous, and that the love I extended my mom was simple interest on the massive investment she had made in me from day one. Up late at night, calming me with math problems as my nosebleed would not cauterize for hours. Honking the horn, after a 10-hour-day at the secretarial pool she managed, as she drove into the garage of our apartment complex, to then spend more hours teaching me how to drive stick in her lime green Opel Manta.
As Suze Orman says, small regular investments/savings at a young age have immense payoff when you’re older. Compound interest holds true in relationships. The mothers, aunts, and strangers who invest in you early warrant immense returns decades later. My father wasn’t a bad father, but he left us and didn’t have the chance to make the investments my mom made. As a result, in his sunset years he doesn’t have the bank of goodwill. Or maybe I’m just not that generous.
However, my father has accomplished something more important. The species needs to evolve and prosper. Key to this are decisions and actions that make the next generation smarter, faster, stronger, and more loving. Simply put, better. My dad is a much better father to me than his dad was to him — his father beat him. He was a better father to my younger sister (granted, she’s more likable) and, as he grew older, he’s been a better father to me. The efforts he made and didn’t make still resonate, and inspire me and my sister to be better parents to our children.
Our relationship with our parents is complicated. However, near the end things get simpler. When he’s gone, I will miss him a great deal. And while here, he’s better than what he came from. He inspires me to do the same.
Life is so rich,