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Favorite Reads
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2003
I’d hate to let my persistent and well rehearsed sloth carry over from real life to Diaryland, so I’m taking advantage of a rainy day to update the ol’ profile and add some people to the list of fav’s, probably not nearly enough people considering that I try to read everyone in the universe, but you get the idea.

Captainron is probably wondering who the hell is constantly coming in from Battens’ site to visit for a while. Well, now you know.

Roadiepig is probably wondering what took me so long, since I read him all the time anyway. Sloth, remember? You have to practice sloth in order to get good at it.

Invinceablegirl was a bit of a surprise find, but I read every one of her entries one Sunday afternoon and felt like I just got done doing 3 rounds in the Toughman competition. With Tyson. Actually I think she could take Tyson handily in 2, with a round leftover to do an entry about what a wimp he was.

The Pine Barrens Debutante puts you in her living room within 3 sentences and describes the everyday with complete clarity. That’s a rare gift, I usually get so bogged down with references to Watering Holes and good food and bizarre behavior patterns that I distract myself and never finish a complete thought.

There should be more, like I say, but I felt compelled to limit myself to two guys and two gals.

All in the name of political correctness. Which, as you know, I stringently adhere to.

Whoo boy.

Looking out this window, which for the first time in several weeks is without a hint of frost, gives me a little bit of hope. It might be gray and raining and all today, but it’s a nice change when I can walk outside without mincing steps. You know, the “I just know there’s one more patch of ice on the driveway and I’m about to bust my ass yet again” kind of steps.

That kind of action typically has my neighbors glued to their own windows every morning. Hey, I’m not here for your entertainment. I’m here to spread the gospel of crabgrass and take pride in my filthy, mud and salt-encrusted pickup truck. The kind of filth that speaks of labor, and the casual disregard for pressure washing it all away at some trendy auto boutique. That hardly fits in with the image I want to uphold here in yuppie-ville.

Way back in the annals of this journal I described a day back in 1989 where Ally and the kids were involved in an automobile accident. En route to school / work, a tractor-trailer chose to blow through a red light at a blind corner in the neighborhood and subsequently used Ally’s car for return service in a game of asphalt tennis. And I rambled on and on about a lot of it, the hospital, the legal issues, the insurance. The whole thing was so very much not pretty, and I would not wish such a thing on any of you.

It never ceases to amaze that it still continues to haunt, more than 13 years later.

Beth, the eldest, was 5 years old at the time. She had the misfortune of sitting in an area of the car which was closest to the impact. And while no one could quite explain how it happened, exactly, she walked away from it with her forehead split open from her eyebrow to the middle of her skull. That’s the image I still can’t shake, seeing her in the emergency room with blood seeping out of that wound and a flash of bone below it.

The surgeon stitched it up. It was all very garish, she had a Frankenstein scar complete with black thread for a month thereafter. It was made very clear to us that she would bear a scar there for the rest of her life, that it was not the sort of thing that could be made invisible. Yes, it’s there to this very day, a fine white line on the forehead of my blonde child. Without any drama (somehow I can’t picture drama and Beth when it comes to anything regarding her appearance) she goes about her day with hair pulled back in her familiar ponytail because it’s practical that way, and the scar is there for all to see, and she couldn’t care less. She plays softball, goes to class, she doesn’t give it much thought at all.

She was rewarded for the scar, in the way that the legal system and the insurance industry of this country deems most appropriate – cash. It seemed like such a sellout at the time, my lawyer (less said the better) painted grand pictures about money to cover her injuries and a settlement as a result of them, enough to “Put her through college eventually. Think about it Outfoxed, this could set her up for life!” After seeing the pittance thrown her way, and after the lawyer dutifully removed his third, and after it was set up in a trust account and a few more beaurocrats got a piece of it I was hardly convinced that it would get her through college at all, let alone set her up for life.

It’s a trust that has been sitting there for years now, a bank account with me being the Guardian as well as trustee. And naturally enough I get to deal with the once a year review of the account, I get to sit down and submit irrefutable proof that as her father and trustee, I’m not in there rooting around and spending her money. I get to pay for the privilege of submitting that report, of course. For the first year, I had a lawyer draw the report up but stopped when it became apparent that he was charging nearly exactly what the account drew in interest during the course of a year. The lawyer was dismissed. Rather curtly. It was completely legal and within his purview to charge that sum, but not in the law of Outfoxed. Which plainly states “Thou shalt not rob from children, you scum-sucking bastard.”

This has been going on for 13 years now.

I pay somewhere around $75 a year to have this irrefutable proof reviewed (in less than 5 minutes) by a bored paralegal at the Commissioner of Accounts. Who generally has little to offer other than surprise that I’m paying it out of my own funds. “Why don’t you take it out of the trust fund?,” she often exclaims. “It’s all perfectly legal. So long as you don’t touch the principal. Why, everybody I know of takes our fees out of the trust fund.”

I don’t know. I wasn’t raised that way, I guess. I wasn’t raised to take money out of a daughters pocket to pay an exorbitant legal fee at an institution which is setup and run by judicial appointees, a much overlooked crony operation that deals in the divvying up of money from other people. Sometimes innocent people. This being the same legal institution which demands a review by and bench order from the judge if ever I was to need some of that money to, say, have Beth’s teeth repaired or some such nonsense. Something not benefiting a member of the beaurocratic system.

In the world of Outfoxed law, Beth’s money would be Beth’s money. It would be parked in a treasure chest, many gold coins in a hope chest tucked under her bed, locked with a key that her Dad kept on his watch chain. Come the day that she arrived as an adult, the key would be hers. And she might take me out for a beer and we’d clink glasses and get misty eyed about the whole issue of her scar and remember old times.

She’s a senior in high school. She’s 18. In the eyes of the law, that makes her adult enough. So the other day, I had her take the final accounting of her money and a letter from me to the same bored paralegal. I don’t know what compelled me to have her do that, maybe I wanted their one and only meeting to be the one where Beth got to deliver her emancipation from the tyranny of the Commissioner of Accounts and collect what was rightfully hers all along. In a manner both legal and ethical. Their legal and my ethical.

Beth came rolling back in (after only 2 frantic cell calls to confirm directions and names) with a shake of the head. “Dad, that paralegal lady? She’s a . . . she’s . . .” and she frowned and struggled for a minute.

“A royal bitch?”, I offered.

“Yeah, Dad, she said she’d have to review the whole thing and send you some papers to sign. So I guess I won’t be getting my money for school anytime soon. She looked kinda mad about the whole thing.”

And I had to chuckle a little bit. “Sweetie, she’s just mad because you’re pulling out of the program. That’s another $75 a year she’s gonna have to get from somebody else. And trust me, she has just about as much say about what you do with that money right now as all your friends at school do.”

Which is to say zero, we’ve already had that talk. The one where I told her that having a bunch of money tossed your way, the teenaged equivalent of winning the lottery, means a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean that your financial advisor should be somebody named Ashley who plays third base on the softball teams and “. . . is in two of my classes and a real whiz at math!” Uh huh.

Probably, in the politically correct and yuppie centered world (you just know I was going to work that back in somehow), I’d advise her in just the right way. I’d tell her to put the money in a safe, growth oriented investment account, to use it sparingly for some of her college, to look favorably at life insurance and T-bills and CD’s and all that sort of Motley Fool palabum.

This being Outfoxed the Accountant from Hell, and knowing what she has in her account (or more importantly, what she doesn’t have), I did no such thing. When it comes to advice, I am the most grounded of financial planners.

“Get yourself a car, a good used car (resultant clapping and high-pitched keening sounds from Beth), pay for your first years tuition, stick the rest in a big CD and get a freaking job, why don’tcha. That way, I can give your car to Maggie (more high-pitched keening) and get her off my back.”

Beth pondered. Considered. Her first day in the adult world, and she was being asked to make adult decisions. Things which would affect her for at least another 4 years. Job? She’s been reluctant, citing softball and other time consuming duties related to school. College tuition? Yeeeeeeaaaaahh . . . I wanna go to college. I wanna stop playing softball for somebody else and join a casual team, a beer team, a summer team. All this are part of my wants.

But it was the car that made her crumble.

“Dad, I agree with everything you say. Let’s do it.”

Just like that, I’ve got another adult on my hands.

Possibly, but no guarantees, she’ll be an ethical one. A realistic one, someone who has seen the darker side of legal systems, bears the scars of misfortune and rises above it, beats hell out of a softball on a muggy summer night and knows the joy of doing that for yourself. Just for yourself.

I think she’ll make a fine Miss Outfoxed. She’s got the bloodlines and she does well in the stretch. And I love watching her run a muddy track and pull away at the finish.

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