Archive for March, 2015

Pride can drive stupid behaviors, even when subject is just car lights

by David McElroy

Volkswagen squareback

I don’t know why I remember this so clearly, because it wasn’t a big deal. It was an argument with a girlfriend in college. Why does it stand out this many years later? Probably because I knew I was wrong, but I was too prideful to admit it.

For most of my college years, I drove a red Volkswagen Squareback just like the one above. I can feel nostalgic about it now, but it seemed like nothing other than a 10-year-old underpowered economy car with no air conditioning at the time. (In an odd coincidence, a history professor I had at the University of Alabama who happened to be named Dr. David McElroy also drove an identical car.)

I happened to be dating a woman whose father had driven this car as a company car when it had been new 10 years before. Fairly early during our relationship, we were in that Volkswagen one day on some holiday when she asked me to turn my lights on, even though it was broad daylight.

She explained that her father had always told her it was a good idea to turn lights on for holidays, because more people were likely to be driving drunk or otherwise impaired. Anything you could do to aid visibility was a good idea, he had told her.

I refused.

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Going through old relics tells me I’m still the same person I used to be

by David McElroy

Bits of the past

Packing a house where you’ve lived for more than 20 years is a bit like an archeological dig into your own life. It can stir up a lot of buried thoughts and feelings.

Looking at the past version of yourself can sometimes tell you something about the present.

I moved last week, so I’ve spent a lot of time lately going through drawers and boxes, trying to figure out what to save and what to throw away. Each layer of things from the past seemed to represent something different.

When it comes to paper, I’m a bit of a packrat. I keep my notes, records, random ideas, cards, letters and dozens of other types of things too difficult to categorize. And with each bit of paper or file or box, there’s a story that comes with it.

I dug up many relics of the days when I was in business for myself, back when I owned a couple of small publications and a typesetting company. There were also plenty of things related to my community newspaper days working for other companies in a series of small cities. There were detailed profit-and-loss statements from newspapers 25 years ago, along with lists of story ideas and design concepts for some of the newspapers. There were faded awards and paste-up sheets and even a pica stick. (Hardly anybody even knows what a pica stick is anymore.)

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Goodbye, Emily (2009-2015)

by David McElroy


When four kittens were born to a feral mother cat nearly six years ago, one of them was different from her sisters.

There were four kittens born to this small feral cat named Molly. (You can read her story here.) Three of the kittens survived and two of them inherited at least some of their mother’s fear and lack of interest in humans. (Click here to see the four kittens at about 6 weeks, just before the fourth died.)

Then there was Emily.

Almost from the beginning, this tiny little girl — about 4.5 pounds, very much like her mother and sisters — wanted attention and affection. She quickly decided that her favorite place in the world was on top of me. Every night for almost six years, she slept on my back. When she was a tiny baby, she slept next to my head, as in this next picture, but after a few months she switched to climbing onto my back instead.

Emily-on David's shoulderShe was so light that I could sometimes wake up and not be certain whether she was there or not. Even if I turned over, she would adjust her position and climb back on top. She claimed me as her own.

Late last fall, Emily started losing a little bit of weight. She had always weighed slightly less than her surviving sisters, Charlotte and Anne, but she slowly lost down to 2.5 pounds. In mid-December, the vet tested her for various things — feline leukemia, parasites and other possibilities that I don’t even remember — but none of the tests revealed anything. She was still eating well. Her body just didn’t seem to be absorbing enough nutrients anymore and she had persistent diarrhea.

If something didn’t change, she was going to die.

The vet put her on a daily steroid pill to help her put on some weight and increase her appetite. She hated her daily pills and drew blood from my hands and arms many times with her claws and teeth over the past few months, but we got the medicine into her every day. Her weight got back up to 3.2 pounds and her stool solidified quite a bit. She continued to eat well, but then she plateaued and remained about 3 pounds.

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Eyes convey wordless messages when others seem to disappear

by David McElroy


As I walked down a crowded hallway Friday afternoon, I saw a very attractive young woman coming toward me. Our eyes met for what had to have been a fraction of a second, but in that moment, time slowed down and there didn’t seem to be anybody else in the hallway other than the two of us.

Her blue eyes were warm, intelligent and open. In some way that I can’t explain, I knew what she was unconsciously communicating: “I’m interested in you. I’d like to talk with you.”

The moment was gone as quickly as it arrived, and we were going in opposite directions. The encounter left me slightly shaken and wanting to understand what had just happened.

I was inside a very busy large hospital in downtown Birmingham — it was UAB for any local people who are curious — and I was looking for a specific place where some information was supposed to have been posted. The instructions I had been given were very vague, so I had stopped several times to ask for help from employees.

I put the woman out of my mind and continued looking for what I’d come to find. The odds of me ever seeing her again — just a random stranger among thousands in a hospital — were tiny. So I moved on and figured I’d think about it later. I went back to a lounge next to a cafeteria on the second floor, where I’d been told I’d find what I was looking for.

I suddenly saw her standing alone in that lounge. She was looking at her phone, but she glanced at me several times from across the room.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

Watch this short film

What kind of "educational film" would the U.S. government release today to teach Americans how to be good citizens?
We're the Government — and You're Not
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