My First Hero by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir”

Tenzing Norgay

(October 2021 is the Silver Anniversary month of TheThinkClub. We’ll be publishing the best of TheThinkClub throughout this quarter.)

Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was the first person to climb Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953. He went up the mountain as a common man, but he returned as a hero – the first hero I ever knew.

I was seven years old then. Unlike today’s manufactured heroes, he was not imposed upon me as a role model. He didn’t make statements by wearing ribbons nor was he promoted by any special interest group. He was a mortal figure of supreme significance to me.

At the age of seven, I had just started shedding my innocence and started to think on my own. I came to know for the first time that my real mother had died when I was only six months old and the only loving parents I knew until then were, actually, my uncle and aunt. Growing up with my aunt and uncle was the happiest time of my life. I lived in a village about 100 miles from Mount Everest. On a clear day, one could see the cap of Everest from there.

Ours was a crowded place. We had lots of visitors as both my uncle and aunt were extremely gregarious people. They used to accommodate and feed everyone. I was a happy child. Everyone in the village loved and protected me. Whenever I needed shoes, I just ran to the village cobbler and got a pair made for myself. My uncle and aunt used to give them grain in return. Watching the jugglers come to the village or listening to the movie songs on the deafening amplifiers of a passing procession was the only entertainment. My friends and I would sneak out of home and jump streams and climb trees. We ran for miles or went to the graveyard in the hope of catching ghosts and then return home to a warm meal. The grains and vegetables came from our farm and the fresh catch from our own pond.

Tenzing came from a large family in a village in Nepal. He was considered a lucky baby as the family crossed many hurdles after his birth. His childhood house was small and crowded. They ate the simplest food, but there was always enough. His family made clothing from yak wool and hides to keep warm during the winter. He had a very happy childhood until he came to know that his parents wanted him to become a lama (a Buddhist priest).He believed in Chomolungma (a Tibetan expression meaning to climb Everest or a mountain so high that no bird could fly over it) and that’s what he did his whole life. Tenzing knew the dangers of climbing Everest. Thousands of Sherpas had perished in helping the mountaineers climb Everest. Tenzing later took Indian citizenship. When asked about his nationality, he said, “I was born in the womb of Nepal and brought up in the lap of India. I am both a Nepali and an Indian.

I never met Tenzing in person, but I remember his confident smile and his rugged but kind face. His personality had a unique combination of western squint and eastern immaculateness. After leaving my village, I always felt like a caged bird that had lost its freedom. I thought of Tenzing when yearning for freedom. We had a similar childhood, happy and full of innocence.

I left my childhood home and lived in many places because my father had a transferable job. Now I live in the U.S. Although I am an Indian by birth, I am also an American. Climbing Everest those days was much more dangerous than space travel. Unlike space travel, the climbers were on their own without any guidance. They had to face deadly avalanches and blinding blizzards. They spent nights on sheets of ice in sub-zero temperatures. Every step taken could mean death. If they slipped on the sharp-pointed icy slopes, they could slide hundreds of feet before regaining a foothold. At times they would be in a free fall, flying headfirst down the mountain. But Tenzing didn’t care. He only dreamed of Chomolungma.

Tenzing had three lives. The first was as a child in Nepal in the village of Solo Khumbu. The second, lasting twenty years, was as a porter and mountain man. The third began on the day he came back from the top of Everest.Like Tenzing, I also have lived three lives. My childhood was as described above. The next twenty years were terrible. I was removed from the loving home of my uncle and aunt. Although I was provided a better material comfort in my father’s home, emotional comfort was lacking.

Tenzing had to lead a tough life in Darjeeling, India as he had to compete against many famous Sherpas, who had already made their names in the world of mountaineering. Tenzing saw trains and automobiles for the first time in his life.

I too was like a new Sherpa in my father’s home. I saw many modern amenities for the first time and was often compared to more sophisticated relatives and children of the friends of the family. I had to prove my worth. Tenzing’s life and struggle inspired me and gave me the needed jolt. As for the third phase of my life, I still have to climb my brand of Everest. My Chomolungma is to be a good writer.

Tenzing had no formal training in mountaineering. I am an engineer by profession. English is my second language. I have to face the avalanche in the form of rejections, a blizzard in the form of competition, and falling rocks in the form of meager resources. But my first hero taught me that I should pursue my passion for the love of Chomolungma. I have to keep climbing and not worry about coming down to mortal glory.

Footnote:Colonel Sir George Everest (July 4, 1790 — December 1, 1866) was a Welsh surveyor and geographer, and the Surveyor-General of India from 1830 through 1843. Everest was largely responsible for completing the section of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India along the meridian arc from Southern India extending north to Nepal, a distance of about 2,400 kilometers (1,500 mi). This survey was started by William Lambton in 1806 and it lasted for several decades. In 1865, Mount Everest was named in his honor in the English language despite his objections by the Royal Geographical Society. This enormous peak was surveyed by Everest’s successor, Andrew Scott Waugh, in his role as the Surveyor-General of India. Everest was born in Gwernvale Manor, just west of Crickhowell in Powys, Wales, in 1790, and he was baptized in Greenwich. Commissioned into the Royal Artillery, in 1818, Lt. Everest was appointed as assistant to Colonel William Lambton, who had started the Great Trigonometrical Survey of the subcontinent in 1806. On Lambton’s death in 1823, Everest succeeded to the post of superintendent of the survey, and in 1830 he was appointed as the Surveyor-General of India. Everest retired in 1843 and he returned to live in the United Kingdom, where he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was dubbed a knight in 1861, and in 1862 he was elected as the vice-president of the Royal Geographical Society. Everest died in London in 1866[2] and is buried in St Andrew’s Church, Hove, near Brighton.

“Afghanistan: America Loses Yet Another War”by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

American Soldiers sneaking out of Afghanistan
Americans fleeing from Vietnam after losing
American soldiers sneaking out of Afghanistan

America just lost another war, the Afghanistan War upholding the belief of many around the world that the United States of America is a paper tiger. In my opinion, this is a prologue of China’s eventual annexation of Taiwan. Of course, the U.S.A. will make a lot of noise consequently and will come up with face-saving statements. The world will sympathize with the U.S. for a month or two and then will rally around China, the new lone superpower.

Talking of face-saving, the U.S. President had this to say about Afghanistan:

“The United States had achieved its initial objective — routing Al Qaeda from the country and hunting down Osama bin Laden — and that Afghanistan’s government and forces must be responsible for their own future. (Joe Biden)”

To save his own embarrassment, Mr. Biden said this in early July to a reporter. “I want to talk about happy things, man!”

Mr. Biden also stated this about the Taliban’s eventual control of Afghanistan, “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war.”

The fact remains that the Taliban have complete control of borders on all four sides of Afghanistan and they are closing in on Kabul from all sides. The Afghani soldiers are fleeing.

The U.S.A. abandoned Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left. Winners don’t pull out in the dead of night.

Other than losing the war, America didn’t meet any of its objectives.

1. They didn’t demolish the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They are getting stronger

2. They couldn’t stop terrorism.

3. They didn’t leave Afghanistan in strong hands.

4. The Taliban are inviting China to rebuild their war-trodden country. Obviously, the U.S.A. can’t contain China

Of course, Mr. Biden didn’t create this mess. He inherited this and is left with holding the bag. It was the short-sightedness of George W Bush (43rd) and his cronies who started the war in Afghanistan on October 9, 2001, without thinking of any exit strategy. They had created the same mess in Iraq on the false pretense of Saddam Hussein possessing the weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

For the terrorists, surviving is winning. They won and the Unites States lost. The world’s most powerful military was kept from achieving its aims by tribal forces. Alas! The United States could learn from its defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s. It was the Ho Chi Minh trail then. It was a forbidding, mountainous frontier this time. It was the Viet Cong then; it was the Pashtun tribe this time.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)”

“Little Things I Learned from the Pandemic of 2020” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Now that the great pandemic of 2020 is over in the U.S. (at least this is what we are asked to believe), scholars and historians will document the human misery brought upon us by COVID-19. Once again, we will reflect on the fragility of life and its meaning and worth after so much death. It’s not the first time we’ll go through this drill. This has been replicated many times before in modern times.

The pain and loss suffered due to the great plague of the 1300s have been documented quite elaborately. The plague particularly engulfed the Italian peninsula and forced young Florentines to flee their plague-ridden city to wait out the storm. Unfortunately, there were no medicines, personal protective equipment, or government assistance to mitigate the suffering of the populace in that era. Also, I was not born then.

This time it was different in the sense that we had advanced technology to communicate with doctors, friends, and families. Many of us could work from home. Vaccines were produced rapidly and government assistance saved us from being in dire straits. The pandemic also yielded some valuable lessons for me and others.

I now realize more than ever what our family and friends truly mean to us. As restrictions begin to lift, seeing those we haven’t been able to connect with face-to-face feels that much more special.

I learned the importance of personal hygiene. When it comes to our health and wellness, there is no better prevention than a simple habit of washing our hands frequently.

Acquiring new hobbies such as learning a new language, reading, and writing, or learning to play musical instruments can be healing and invigorating.

Minimalism is not that bad after all. I learned to live without binge shopping, vacationing, going to movies and concerts, and living without extravagance.

I learned to appreciate the importance of essential workers like delivery drivers, supermarket employees, healthcare professionals, and other essential workers. The sacrifices they particularly made during this pandemic haven’t gone unnoticed. Showing gratitude for these everyday heroes will go a long way toward building lasting goodwill.

The unabated spread of COVID-19 reaffirmed my lack of credence in spiritual healers, self-proclaimed experts, and herbal diets.

Now I know that viruses can be created in labs by rogue regiments. The world should unite against them and prevent such regimes from doing this again.

Most importantly, The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated to me the value of freedom – the freedom to move, to be with those we love, to live in dignity and security – for myself and for those around me, from our loved ones to the strangers and the citizens of the world at large.

“For Sale: Social Media Followers”

by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

There is a new kind of enterprise in town. It’s called “purchasing Social Media Followers.” If you are on social media such as Instagram, YouTube, or if you write a blog, you don’t have to grow a following organically. You can purchase them and their likes through companies that will bring instant followers to your site. Big celebrities, businesses, and politicians do buy followers all the time. Some famous names and brands subscribing to such businesses include Kim Kardashian, Newt Gingrich, Lady Gaga, Sean Combs, Pepsi, Mercedes-Benz, and even some U.S. presidents.

Selling and buying social media followers is a lucrative business. Buying followers and their ‘likes’ can generate a tremendous return on investment (ROI). As an example, you can buy an entire existing Twitter page on eBay for $35 and instantly have 3,700 followers. Another company, Fast Followerz can provide 100 Twitter followers for merely $4.Purchasing social media followers can be a boom for people who use their social platforms and blogs for profit. YouTube pays $5 for every 1,000 views. More traffic to one’s site can generate more income for the owner of that site. A typical advertiser pays an average of $0.18 to $0.30 per view. For the sellers of products or services online, more traffic to their sites can surely create more buyers.

With the more followers you have, it is easier to become an influencer. An influencer is someone who has built a reputation and loyal following by sharing regularly on their social accounts. Influencers are able to convince their audiences to jump onto trends and buy certain products. To get to this point, one needs to grow following as well as come up with posts that generate strong engagement from followers.

Influencers make thousands of dollars per sponsored post. Celebrities are the biggest influencers. They earn millions of dollars in product endorsements, but ordinary folks can become nano-influences and earn hundreds or thousands of dollars per post.

People who like to write have become social media influencers and are making money through writing blogs. Some people are using forums like YouTube and Facebook to teach arts and crafts, and because of the various tools present on these social networking forums, they are earning a lot of money.

Of course, you need some kind of talent to engage and keep your followers loyal to your posts. The talent can be in any field, photography, writing, makeup, or fashion. However, the first requirement is to have at least 1,000 followers. That’s where “purchasing Social Media Followers” can be of help.

Who Is Afraid of A Hispanic Majority? Anil Shrivastava

Farm day laborers work at a strawberry field in San Quintin Valley, Baja California State, Mexico on April 23, 2015. Some 30.000 pesasants of Baja California denounced on March the conditions of exploitation in which they work, similar to those of two million day workers in Mexico, but their scarcity of resources prevents them from going on strike while they negotiate with their employers and the government. AFP PHOTO/ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)

Hispanics, mostly Mexicans and those coming from other Spanish-speaking countries are the largest minority group in America. There is an influx of undocumented immigrants coming into the U.S. from those countries. Many of us seem to be uneasy about this and are concerned that Hispanics will ultimately replace Caucasians as a majority ethnic and racial group in the U.S.

If we are so afraid, why don’t we choose to work as farm laborers in the potato fields of Idaho or become household servants to serve the affluent? Why don’t we line up on the street corners of New Orleans to be picked up by the contractors to do grunt work? We don’t because most of us already have better-paying jobs and some choose to live on welfare over doing tough gigs. If those jobs are taken by the Hispanics, why are we complaining?

There are an estimated 12 million undocumented Hispanics in the U.S. working as waiters, maids, gardeners, and laborers. They are needed because market forces have created a demand for them. They are here because America and the Americans need them. The employers hire them despite the dysfunctional 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli Act that made it a crime to knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

If it were not for those undocumented Hispanic laborers, many establishments in the U.S. would immediately shut down, giving rise to chaos. Furthermore, the Center for Immigration Study’s data show that “the average undocumented household pays more than $4,200 a year in federal taxes, for a total of nearly $16 billion” (Center for Immigration Studies). Undocumented immigrants can pay taxes using a nine-digit individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). In addition, “about 43 percent, or $7 billion, of the federal taxes that the undocumented immigrants pay go to Social Security and Medicare” (Center for Immigration Studies).

The perception that the Hispanics will dilute American values and will not assimilate is wrong. The first-generation Hispanics speak Spanish for the same reason other first-generation non-English speaking immigrants speak in their own native tongues. According to research conducted by Jack Citrin, Amy Lerman, Michael Murakami (all of the University of California, Berkeley), second-generation Hispanics tend to accept English as their primary language and third-generation Hispanics only speak English.

The Hispanics are equally religious, if not more, compared to any other ethnic group living in America, and “there is no evidence that they or their offspring are quicker to abandon God or country than other Americans.” (Harvard scholar Samuel Huntington). Antonio Villaraigosa, the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles (2005-2013) is a good example. He was an American mayor, not a Hispanic mayor. His first act as mayor was requiring all city commissioners, his entire staff, and all city employees to sign an ethics pledge. In addition, he removed all lobbyists from city commissions and made it his policy to never appoint them to a city commission any time during his term. These efforts were completed to remove what he believed to be a sense of corruption and lack of trust in the city government. What is wrong with that?

More Hispanics have fought for America than any other immigrant group in recent years. Twenty thousand Hispanics took part in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990-1991). By 1997, Hispanics made up almost a third of the infantry, artillery crews and specialists deployed to Bosnia for peacekeeping operations. Hispanics have also been on the frontlines in the war on terrorism and in Afghanistan.

Hispanics have made significant contributions to the American music and sports scene. They have enriched our lives and have mesmerized us with their sweet melodies and vibrant rhythms. Hispanic music’s wide variety is represented by artists like Jennifer Lopez, Selena, Gloria Stefan, and many more.

In my personal dealing with Hispanics, I have found them to be more polite and courteous than the rest of us. If in doubt, compare the aides, porters, and other support staff at any of the northeast American airports with their counterparts in San Jose, San Diego or Phoenix. Visit any gas station in those cities and ask questions to the attendants. The difference will be very apparent.

This is not stereotyping. These are my experiences after living in America for forty-seven years and upon dealing with both the Hispanic and the mainstream population. It is time we made Hispanic people a part of mainstream America and provided legal status to the twelve million undocumented immigrants living in fear so that they can also receive equal treatment and achieve their American dreams like the rest of us.

A Tale of Two Souls by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Two souls accidentally met in the darkness and void of the universe traveling at FLT (faster than the speed of light). Since they were traveling in the same direction, they seemed stationary relative to each other and decided to chat (in English, of course).

Soul 1: “What will be your next assignment?”

Soul 2: “Don’t know! Right now, I am simply hurtling through space sideways. How about you?”

Soul 1: “I am going to reside in the body of thermophiles. They are cursed to live at high temperatures. Unfortunately, they feel the burn but cannot get out of the situation.”

Soul 2: “Too bad! How was your last assignment like?”

Soul 1: “Very complex! I was stationed inside the body of a human being belonging to homo sapiens species.”

Soul 2: “Where was that? “

Soul 1: “It was on the planet earth in the Milky Way galaxy about 28,000 light-years from the Galactic Center and 20 light-years above the Galactic Equator.”

Soul 2: “Why was your assignment so complex?”

Soul 1: “The earthlings are the most intriguing piece of machinery. They have fluctuating metabolism, puny memory. They are unpredictable and inconstant. They spend all their time worrying about water oxygen and food. They have an incalculable short life but they carry a big ego. They spend one-third of their lives sleeping. And worst of all, their structure starts to break down in their midlife.”

Soul 2: “Well, at least you can count your blessing that you had a very short assignment.”

Soul 1: “Yes, that‘s amazing. Doesn‘t that make you wonder that instead of letting the earthlings die so soon and having to make new ones, why can‘t He keep the ones He already has now?”

Soul 2: “That‘s a waste alright. What else about the earthlings?”

Soul 1: “Talking of waste, they are endowed with sense, reason and intellect, but they have decided to forgo their use. As a result of their karma, I have to take another assignment now. Some call it rebirth.”

By this time the two souls were traveling through Galaxy NGC4414 compressing the space in front of them and expanding the space behind them. That‘s what naturally happens when non-matters travel at FLT.

Soul 1: “What about you now? Where are you headed to?”

Soul 2: “I don‘t know. I have been wandering for more than five light years hoping to meet God. Sometimes I feel like shouting out loud, ‘God, are You real, or are You playing a tricks on me?”

Soul 1: “Well, tell me about your last assignment. Hopefully, I can solve the mystery.”

Soul 2: “To start with, I belonged in antimatter – the mirror of this universe. Everything there was opposite to this universe. This asymmetry is also called baryogenesis.”

Soul 1: “That‘s interesting! How was the creature you were assigned to?”

Soul 2: “Every creature of that baryogenesis spoke the truth, let alone the body that I was assigned to. Everyone loved his/her neighbors. They had no desire for riches, False-prestige, status or fame. They never yearned to harm others. Greed and attachment were completely absent from their lives.”

Soul 1: “I know exactly what has happened to you. You are liberated from the cycle of rebirths. You won‘t have any assignments anymore.”

Soul 2: “That‘s scary! How do I pass my time now?”

Soul 1: “You should stop wandering; suspend yourself right here and meditate until you merge with God, the ocean of all souls.”

Soul 2: “Why meditate?”

Soul 1: “Well, that’s better than doing nothing!”

Soul 1said goodbye and parted way and continued his journey to enter into the body of the thermophiles.

“Fragility of Technology” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

In the mid-1980s when computer-aided automation was coming of age, technology loomed large on my mind. I switched to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and made a recognizable contribution to the Factory of the Future projects. Now retired, I still keep myself aware of leading-edge marvels such as the Internet of Things, BlockChain, cloud computing, and Internet coding languages.

Despite my fascination with technology, I worry about its fragility. I don’t think that the Internet technology has yet achieved the Six Sigma status that it must have in order to be 99.9997% perfect or to achieve a failure rate of 3.4 parts per million.

My wife teaches college-level courses online. Very often she faces system outages for hours either related to the fault of our Internet provider or due to the crash of the university’s network. This occurs at least two times a week, a far cry from Six Sigma.

Problems with technology are not limited to online schooling; it occurs quite often in banking, hospital records, insurance companies, automobile factories, power grids, social media to name a few. Yesterday I was in an optical shop for new glasses. They couldn’t access my electronic prescription and insurance information because their system was down.

The fragility of technology leaks into the physical world as well. Once I was inside the Costco stores when I had to use their toilet. While washing my hands, the faucet suddenly stopped working. I looked for the old-fashioned faucet handles. There was none there. Their entire hydraulic system including the flush was controlled electronically. They don’t work when the system stops working.

Approximately, two years ago, I purchased a state-of-the-art computer that also works as a tablet. Due to my fascination with technology, I decided to use biometric identification instead of using a traditional password. Every time I turned on the computer, I gazed at the camera. It refused to recognize me.I realize, based on my experiences, that we shouldn’t depend on technology entirely. I cannot do any mental math anymore. I double-check simple additions with the help of a calculator. I am totally rudderless without a global positioning system (GPS). I worry about dementia quite often because I hardly exercise my faculties for day-to-day functions. I also worry about what will happen to us if our satellites are destroyed by our enemies or are damaged by a sudden burst of the solar storm? We would certainly go back to the early nineteenth century. The problem is that we are no longer cognitively and physically equipped to lead an archaic life. Will our grandchildren be able to function without electronic gadgets? These thoughts worry me.

The problems are more far-reaching than that. Imagine, our first responders will not have access to their location systems. Delays in the ground and air traffic will begin to develop. Systems that depend on GPS time stamps — ATMs, power grids, computer-data, and cell-phone networks — will begin to fail; our planes and ships will go astray. We’ll lose the capability to defend ourselves and operate drones against our enemies. The internet will collapse. We’ll be crippled and will not know how to follow daily routines.

Yes, we must embrace technology, but in a manageable way. We must have a backup system that should include learning math the old-fashioned way, being skilled enough to switch to the analog system, and learn basic survival skills. We should always keep in mind that technology, after all, is fragile.

“The Mayhem of May” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

I’ll call this the mayhem of May. I have been getting news about people I knew in India dying of COVID. One of our friend’s brother and his wife’s brother both died of COVID on the same day in different parts of India. It is heart-wrenching.

Medical facilities in India are already limited and inadequate and now it’s overwhelmed with people suffering from COVID-19. One of my friends who just returned from India stayed there with a family where both the husband and the wife are medical doctors. According to my friend, the couple return home every day late in the night enervated after attending to dying patients. Then they receive phone calls from their relatives and friends all night begging and crying for hospital beds and oxygen cylinders. Scenes like this and far worse – are playing out hundreds of thousands of times every day across India.

“We are in a helpless state,” the couple told my friend. Then they broke into tears. My friend left India and came home on the next available flight. That was the least he could do for the couple.

This is what it’s like to be in India at this time. A couple of factors are responsible for the second wave that India is facing now. A denial to wear the mask and a lack of social distancing are major reasons for the surge. The last time when the sense of COVID-19 was down, people started attending weddings, political rallies, and religious ceremonies. They turned out to be super-spreaders

Secondly, the major cities of India are overpopulated and their amenities are busting at their seams. As an example, in Mumbai – home to more than 20 million people, more than 40 percent of them live in overcrowded slums where disease can spread like a wildfire.

As a consolation, the countryside in India is much better off than the cities. I regularly talk to a couple of folks in my ancestral village. Not a single case of COVID has been traced there. The states in India need to create employment opportunities for the natives. For example, the laborers from the state of Bihar emigrate to major metropolitan cities of India such as Kolkata, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Mumbai in search of per diem wages to avoid starvation at home.

There are always lessons to be learned from any kind of disaster. It is essential now, more than ever before, that public health plans be improved in India. There is no sense going to the moon or Mars; building the tallest statues and largest stadia or making comparisons with other countries to look better than them statistically. Taking care of its own citizens should be more important than anything else.

The good news is that an array of mathematical models predict that India’s surge will peak sometime towards the end of May. Hopefully, the governments in India will learn the lesson from the Mayhem of May and will work towards a better health care system and regional employment opportunities for their citizens.

Out of My Mind: The Cardigan” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir”

I was gathering clothes for donation when I found a dark brown cardigan hanging in the corner of my closet. “Embrace me! Wrap me around yourself,” it seemed to yell at me. I had bought that front-open sweater years ago but had never donned that on purpose.

Cardigans remind me of Mr. Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame. He was handsome and he certainly gave off a feeling of possessing a distinguished personality, but I had no desire to look like him. He reminded me of someone phlegmatic and filled with ennui. It’s not only Mr. Rogers, most men who don cardigans look dull, effete, and enervated. Of course, that’s my personal point of view which may not be true. Regardless, I avoid looking grumpy or ascetic at all costs.

Winters in Michigan are long, dark, and cold which can definitely affect one’s mood unless someone is in winter sports or ice fishing. On top of that, I can’t imagine adding to my miseries by putting on a cardigan.It’s not that I hate winter but I don’t want it to dominate over me either. I love the cold air. That keeps us free of insects, snakes, and mosquitos. I love to dress up in hats, jackets and boots. I love sitting by the fireplace enjoying warm snacks, drinks, and a good read. I do like looking at the golden sunshine falling on snow through my patio windows, but when one day turns into many without sunshine, I get into the winter blues.

I turn the lights on every day for hours. It brightens the room and my mood. I also sit in my bright sunroom with the heater on full blast with a cover over me. That’s a blessing. I also go to the gym for walking. it not only gives me a place to exercise but it provides a social life. Interacting with other people keeps me from becoming isolated.

Well, I decided to put on the green cardigan one last time before saying a final goodbye. As soon as I looked in the mirror, my wife remarked, “It looks good on you. You look distinguished just like Mr. Rogers.”

That was it. I didn’t want to look distinguished like Mr. Rogers. Suddenly, I rushed to the mall for buying a new sweater. That turned my gray mood into a little sunshine.