Untethered Dog

You Never Know Where He Will Go

I’m Good, Thanks

This morning at the gym I looked up to see the manager of a liquor store I had visited for the first time the other day.

“Max,” I said. I was reasonably sure my memory of his name was correct. I was certain the man before me had helped me pick out a Pinot Grigio.

He nodded.

Max was honest; he did not readily recall my name. I told him. “You answered my questions about Bailey’s [Irish Cream],” I added. I am not a great alcohol mind.

“Yes!” Max smiled.

Meanwhile, Max had also stuck out his hand. The same way he had the other night. The other night, I shook his hand. This morning, I feigned not noticing. It was easy enough in this case. I was already on the move, we were no longer face to face, and he held low. I decided I would rather be rude than take his hand just then. It’s nothing against Max. Of late, I have been avoiding handshakes. They are, after all, if you consider the unwitting transfer of germs that occurs during them, rather disgusting. (I have no doubt, by the way, that I give out as much or more as I am getting in these exchanges. A University of Colorado at Boulder study found that a typical hand has roughly 150 different species of bacteria living on it and that seldom does our particular batch of bacteria match that of the person we’re shaking hands with. [1])

Thus far, my efforts to avoid the various hands extended to me have been mixed. Sometimes I have a built-in-excuse, such as cuts on my fingers from lifting weights. Other times, I make one up, saying something about fighting a cold is usually what comes out of my mouth. This morning, after passing Max, I decided I need to become more elegant in my handling of hands. That is, a need to find a way not to lie and yet still be respectful. You can tell me I am being ridiculous — dude, just shake the guy’s hand — and I’m OK with that. I got sick last February, sicker than I ever have been as an adult, maybe sicker than in my entire life. Sure, I could again this winter pick up the flu and/or bronchitis combo platter another way. But I’m not going to go around asking for it, either.

To be sure, I do not believe we should attempt to sterilize all aspects of our lives. We are going to be exposed to germs and bacteria and a host of microbes. We are, after all, an accumulation of such creatures. Our homes do not need to be hospitals. Just as it’s not healthy to eat healthfully 100 percent of the time, it’s not possible or even desirable to avoid all contact with bacteria that is not your own. The woman at my financial institution who helped me the other day … I wanted to take her hand when she extended it. This is different than saying I want to shake hands with everyone I meet anymore than I want to kiss everyone I meet.

So: what shall I do instead of shaking hands?

In Tibet, they stick tongues out. Perhaps I could see how that goes over. The Japanese bow. They do in Thailand, too — with hands in the prayer position. I like that. Hmmm, though not sure. In several cultures people put their noses together. I like Max but probably not touching his schnoz anytime soon.

Like many such dilemmas, I thought about it then quickly punted. Perhaps I’ll come up with something later. Then, sure enough, later was fifteen odd minutes later, as I was in the basement warming up for my back-squats. That’s when I struck up a conversation with a guy about the Romanian deadlifts he was finishing. He set his bar down and headed right for me. He was done with his sets and his way upstairs. “My name is Dave, by way,” he said. He led with an extended hand.

If I knew Romanian it would be fun to have greet my new friend the way we would greet each other if we lived in that country: Buna dimineata! “I’m going to fist bump you,” I said instead.

Dave smiled. And for a second I did, too. A solid pressing of knuckles. That works. At least in the land of dumbbells.


*          *          *

[1] “Women Have More Diverse Hand Bacteria Than Men,” citing a study by Micah Hamady, Christian Lauber, and Rob Knight, CU Boulder Today, November 3, 2008.

We Interrupt this Program …

We are switching gears. The intent is to move toward a more traditional blog from this point forward. We’ll see how long that lasts. Thank you for reading.


I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

-Oliver Herford, ” I Heard a Bird Sing,” Welcome Christmas! A Garland of Poems (1955)


When I ask [Bruce] Springsteen about his childhood, he tells me, “There was the house — and then there was what was happening in the kitchen. And when you went into the kitchen, the force of what was going on there was intimidating. But you had to deal with it. So the kitchen became freighted with meaning and danger. It was a dark, quiet place. The air was thick. So thick. Like swimming through dark molasses. You had to make your way through and make your way out — without disturbing, or creating too much attention toward yourself.”

I tell him I find it interesting that he smashed that silence with rock ’n’ roll. A joyful noise.

“When I was a child, and into my teens, I felt like a very, very empty vessel. And it wasn’t until I began to fill it up with music that I began to feel my own personal power and my impact on my friends and the small world that I was in. I began to get some sense of myself. But it came out of a place of real emptiness.” He pauses. “I made music for that kitchen. Go to Nebraska and listen to it. But I also made music for my mother’s part of the house, which was quite joyful and bright.” He locks his eyes on me. “You have to put together a person from all the stuff that you’ve been handed.”

-Michael Hainey, “Beneath the Surface of Bruce Springsteen,” Esquire, November 27, 2018


You never get there. Nobody does. You become more of yourself as time passes by. … In the arc of your life, there are so many places where you reach milestones that add to your authenticity and your presentation of who you really are. But I find myself still struggling just for obvious things that I should’ve had under my belt a long time ago. You know, when I get in those places where I’m not doing so well, I lose track of who I am. … The only thing in life that’s sure is: If you think you’ve got it, you don’t have it!

-Bruce Springsteen, as told to Michael Hainey, “Beneath the Surface of Bruce Springsteen,” Esquire, November 27, 2018



Fall down seven times, get up eight.

-Japanese proverb


Every man dies. Not every man lives.

-William Wallace


They do not love that do not show their love.

-William Shakespeare


The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

-Eleanor Roosevelt


If you make a mistake today, it’s an excellent omen — a sign that you’re really going for it. You deserve a little credit for that, right? Maybe even a non-ironic pat on the back.

-Holiday Mathis, Horoscope, StarTribune, 10-09-2018