Skin in the Game

” We are all of us, obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few follies in ourselves.” Proust – Within a Budding Grove

It is good fortune that has set me on meanderings where folly is often directly in my path and thus permits the full enjoyment of a most endurable reality. A folly of note, and one undertaken on the encouragement of my good friend Tom, was the act of innocently wading into the unfathomable depths of Remembrance of Things Past. Not surprising to anyone who has spent the better part of middle age grasping the context of one of Proust’s page long sentences, these volumes are also known by another and more fitting title – In Search of Lost Time. However, without a few follies, what have we?

Yes my friends , the humor that folly provides us abounds. Our lives are now predominantly folly, with the exception of brushing and flossing – and not in that order. We have procreated, raised and successfully fledged our offspring and unless something changes are contributing little to society other than what we add to the local landfill. We are the creatures out to pasture that the working world sees grazing in the shade while they rush to jobs, daycare and a world of obligations. Fond memories remain of those days but let’s be real – grazing is good.

To introduce a bit of folly to this scenario, it turns out that Susan and I are actually not very good at grazing, especially if a real meal is within grasp. We have always needed a project that required physical involvement.

So in the vacuity of a moment we bought a house that required a full remodel. Maybe required is too strong a word but that’s what we did. It has been a year of misadventures and of learning to endure the reality that things will not be done as we thought and surely not when. There have been language barriers because we still don’t speak southern. We didn’t know that Monday doesn’t mean Monday here or that 9:00AM pretty much means anytime. So we have been renters for seven months now with an, as of yet, undetermined move-in date and the following is an indication of why.

We hired a “floor guy”, Marvin, several months ago who would do our floors for us when we finally got to that stage. He said “Just give me 48 hours notice”. Great! So I gave him two weeks notice. The day he was supposed to start he doesn’t show up at all! This is not remotely surprising having witnessed similar scenarios with the plumber, the dry wall hangers and the drywall finishers who went on a cruise in the middle of our job and returned “under the weather.”

We are assured that the next day Marvin will begin “first thing in the morning” which turned out to be 10:30. But upon arrival the discovery is made that the key piece of equipment they need is back in the shop in Jacksonville and their truck which is now in our driveway has a dead battery. His former, best employee stole his other truck and charged out over $3,700 on his Home Depot account. To make matters worse, two weeks previously he had a new baby boy but “the mother” died in childbirth. He is awaiting the results of the DNA test. The baby’s name is M3 which signifies that it is his third son named Marvin. Turns out M3 prefers to be awake at night so Marvin isn’t sleeping and his sister who is taking care of his newborn during the day is $2,400 behind in her rent. You can’t make this stuff up! Although I wish I was!….. So my day is actually seeming pretty good! He thinks there is a gray cloud hanging over his head. In the days that followed it was determined that he is fully capable of staying under that cloud.

Fast forward ten days into what was a supposedly a five day job. Marvin has fired all his employees due to incompetency and wants to be paid for a job that really can’t be finished until the walls are painted and the other trades are finished dragging their ladders across the floor. So I explain that I’ve already given him a lot of money and the balance will be paid when the job is done. He explains to me that I don’t want to pay him because he’s black and I’m white and I don’t think he’ll come back to finish the job………….. In the colorful conversation that followed I explained that the same rules applied to the white subcontractors as well. This will be a sweet remembrance of things past!

Enough about the house. Susan was looking in the mirror the other day and queried as to the abundance of skin present even after three years of body pump workouts. In as delicate an explanation as I can muster , which is not my strong suit, I explained that muscle is more dense and compact than what was there before so there is skin left over with nothing left to do but hang around. This is why our body pump instructor advises that while doing planks or pushups “look straight ahead – do not look down!” Our discussion led to the idea of being skin donors to burn clinics. I get requests every week to donate blood – why not skin? Perhaps there’s not a huge market for skin that’s already sun damaged, pre-stretched and covered with age spots but maybe we can spin that into something positive! Seems like when everything else starts to go downhill with age we can still grow skin! And ear lobes! And chins! Must I go on? In the retirement rich zone in Florida in which we find ourselves there are acres of the stuff! Also, my friends – while I still have a few left – we are at that delicate time of life when if someone calls you skinny it is not necessarily a compliment.

If we make the commitment to stay in this life long enough we will all have a lot of skin in the game which I am sure is where that saying originated.

We are currently vacationing at the beach in North Carolina with Susan’s sisters and families; yes, an odd vacation destination for us since we live at a beach. It will be great fun though when all of our children and grandchildren arrive and there are eleven of us in two bedrooms! The opportunity for folly abounds!

I am off to search for some of that lost time. And remember …………… Don’t look down!

From high on the Grump-stump.


  1. jackmcclung

    The body pump folks have clearly never tried running in the woods! He (or she) who does not look down will BE down before too long.

    —J .

    • jmccutch

      Looking down while running through the woods is sage advice and much less disconcerting than the view from a plank position.

  2. tomc

    I am sure somewhere in those 4,500 pages Proust has the perfect quote about the passage of time to lay on your contractor to motivate him.

    As for the race card being played; all you can say is that you treat all of your contractors as shabbily.

    Don’t look down ? This is how I know if I am gaining weight. Should a familiar sight become eclipsed it is time for drastic dieting.

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