Bear Hugging

Quick Explanation
The plan was to review one Best Picture nominee each day this week, in the order that I thought they rank, culminating Friday with what SHOULD be Best Picture. However, nature conspired against me, as Sunday night the laptop suddenly just went black. As all my reviews are on there, and it may be a few days until I have regular computer time, I had to scrap that plan (the reviews will come next week or something.)

Speaking of the Oscars, I am still planning on watching all five Best Picture nominees in one day (Saturday the 23rd, if you're interested), and then writing a big mammoth column about the adventure. You may recall I got four columns out of it last time:

Movie Marathon Take 1
Take 2
Take 3
Take 4

Money has come in to help sponsor this year's trip, but if you would like to contribute, there's still time. Donate via my Paypal page, and I'll make sure you get a shout-out in the column and a free drawing. (You know how awesome those Movie Marathon columns were last year, so be part of Team Hyperion!)

Since all my finished columns are on the non-working computer, I needed some help from the archives. Good friend of the Institute Bear just celebrated his birthday, so I thought I'd highlight him, with a birthday top ten list and the first column I ever wrote with him in it. Enjoy. - H.


[List of Bear's ten best qualities, from February 2006. (One can only assume he still has them)]


#10 Capable of handling the ball – When Bear came up to visit me we went to church. We got separated, and I was a little anxious, wanting to make sure he was comfortable. Silly me. I looked over to see Bear doing just fine. I’m not saying it’s a bad trait if people are too shy or not confident or whatever to handle a social situation without holding their hand, but it’s so nice to know that whatever situation we came into Bear was going to do just fine by himself (which left me free to pursue the honeys, and that’s a friend).

#9 His family – Technically his family didn’t spring up from him, but Bear likes to point out they wouldn’t be nearly so great without his positive influence in their lives. Bear’s mom and dad have always accepted me into their home like a surrogate brother, which is comforting. And, his mom would always offer me something to drink (one thing Bear himself can’t quite seem to learn. He always says that once you’re family you get your own drink. Hater.) Bear’s dad was in our Fantasy Football League, and was a lot of fun. He took all the good-natured ribbing with grace (the first year he was a bit….green), and was pretty cool about the message board, which with a lot of guys can get…well, you know. Then there’s Bear’s twin brother Mandela (who, in a strange coincidence, shares a birthday). Obviously as a twin the two are tight, but Mandela has never been territorial or uppity about Bear having other friends outside their circle. He’s one cool dude himself. Bear also has twin sisters…..but I better quit right there. I can take Bear, but if he gangs up with Mandela and Papa Bear….let’s just say I didn’t just hang out at Bear’s house for the stimulating conversation and great food. Wowsa.

#8 Generosity – This covers so many areas. For example, you know those friends you go to dinner with, and then you cringe when the bill comes, worried they’re going to leave some crappy tip, which is a reflection on you? I love being out with Bear, knowing he’s going to treat the staff well. This generosity extends to other areas. There have been times when I needed a loan, and there was never any question from Bear. Or if I’m short on cash, he wouldn’t hesitate to pick up dinner. Of course, generosity goes to more than money. It also includes time. One time I needed Bear to cash a check for me, and on the way he got a flat tire. It was a huge ordeal for him, but after dealing with it he still came all the way over across town to help me out. That’s generous.

#7 Quick to play along – We can be at a restaurant, or just hanging with friends and family, and I’ll start in on one of my complicated jokes, and Bear will instantly play along, riffing right alongside of me. He gets it, and doesn’t need a nudge to jump right in. With my sense of humor it’s tough to find a comedic partner, and to have someone who can so effortlessly get involved—even after months apart—is a special thing.

#6 Dependable – So many people in this world are flakes, I can’t even exclude them from my life (there’d be no one left). But it’s nice to know you can count on someone. When Bear tells you he’ll do something, he’ll do it. When he tells you he’ll be there, he’ll be there. It’s a comforting thing, knowing there’s one fewer person to worry about.

#5 Positivity – I’m not saying he’s a pollyana, but Bear is a positive person, which is ten times better than being a negative person. How many of your friends are just negative, tearing down any idea you come up with, finding fault, assuming the worst. It gets old, you know? I mean, he has his bad days, but he tries not to get down about it, and I’m telling you, it’s a lot more fun to be around a positive person than a negative person.

#4 Adventurous – Bear has uprooted his life on several occasions to do something completely different. I like that spirit. He’s up for good ideas, whether it’s a road trip or a good game of Trivial Pursuit. He’s changed careers more than once, and doesn’t let the nay-sayers get him down.

#3 Interested in Things – You know me; I’m a fountain of knowledge, and I get passionate about new stuff I’ve learned. Sadly, very few people in my sphere care about it. They don’t want to learn, to make the effort. Bear is always interested in new things. They don’t scare him. He’s like a sponge, wanting to soak up as much knowledge as possible. That’s such a great trait.

#2 Enthusiastic Support - Bear is a realist, pragmatic even (which was #11 when I set up my list), but he’s still supportive of great ideas. I love running new stuff by him, getting his take. I know I’ll get thoughtful analysis, including possible pratfalls, but I also know he won’t criticize the idea out of hand or be negative. Many of my accomplishments have been achieved with his help, or at least knowing he was supportive and behind me. Good stuff.

#1 He can go toe to toe – I love sitting around and discussing new ideas, but it’s hard to find people who are willing or even capable of slugging it out on a high level. Not Bear. He’s always up for a good debate. What’s better; while he has definite ideas and beliefs, he’s not so stuck to them that he’s unwilling or unable to be convinced otherwise. I don’t mind someone convincing me I’m wrong, but it can be very frustrating not to have someone just as willing. I know not a lot of people care about discussing the great ideas of society, but I do, and I love that he does too.


[From the first column in which Bear ever appeared (April 0f 2001). The writing quality is atrociously bad, and my fingers itch to fix it, but I wanted you to read it as it was, if only to laugh at me. I still believe some of that stuff, too.]

#37 Social Obligations

Last night I dined at a restaurant with my friend “Bear”. Several high schools had their proms that evening, and so while waiting for a table we spent time taking pictures of various couples, dressed in their finery. The subject of Bear’s proms came up, and he regaled me with tales that led me to believe most of his prom experiences were nothing to write home about. “Yeah,” I said, “But at least you got to kiss the girl.”

“No.” he replied. “I never got one kiss.” This was too much. I patiently explained to Bear that one of the duties of the male during prom was to kiss the female, thereby making the whole prom experience better. At least in theory.

“Think of it as a Social Obligation.” I said. He disagreed (although I think he was just defending his own lame practices), but the concept of Social Obligations led us to start discussing other Obligations that we face in society. Soon some of the prom couples were joining in, and before long, we had spirited debate.

The first topic we came up with was tipping. “Maybe you feel gratitude.” I reasoned, “But the real reason you tip is because others are watching.” My claim is borne out by years of delivering pizza. Many are the times when customers, in the dark of night, would stiff this poor driver. At least at a restaurant, there are other prying eyes, which makes the person feel obligated to leave a tip. Sometimes.

One of the high school seniors, decked out in a black tuxedo with a red vest (to match his date’s dress), had another one. The Car Wave. On the road, if someone lets you in, it is a Social Obligation to give a little hand wave. After some intense argument, the consensus was that this rule did not apply to women. There were dissenters in the vote.

This gender inequity led to another topic; holding the door open for a woman. Here some of the guys lustily besmirched the practice, claiming women never did the same for them.

“That’s the point, Dufus.” One young man’s date retorted, after his outcry of unfairness. “You hold the door for us because we’re special.” This started another impassioned debate, the details of which I will omit, as this is a family column. One sidebar to this, though, was that someone brought up the Male-2 Door Obligation. What this means is that if there are two doors into a building, and a man holds the door for another man at the first door, the recipient then runs to the second door to hold that one open, and even the scales. Men are just weird.

Speaking of weird, I brought up, quite reasonably, I thought, how strange it was that we are obligated to say “Bless You!” or “God Bless You!” or “Gesundheit!” every time someone sneezes. To me this seems like a practice left over from the Dark Ages, but I was called down for lack of manners. Oh well, I guess I will keep fighting my own private war.

At this point someone brought up buying dinner for sex. It seemed we could just not avoid the Battle of the Sexes tonight. The young man was booed off the stage, and several of us guys tried to pull him aside and explain the idiocy of bringing that up when he was about to enjoy a meal with his date.

“Besides.” I said. “ I can’t write about that. My Grandmother would never let me hear the end of it.”

Right then Bear and I were called, and the conversation turned to weightier matters over dinner. I thought the discussion was finished until we were driving home, and somehow the subject of toilet seats came up. Bear was adamant that the default position should be up for the seat, and the woman could make the accommodation.

“Bear” I said. “You're crazy.” Argument ensued. Bear’s position, and I don’t want to cheat him here, is that he uses the toilet with the seat up most of the time, and it should therefore be that way. He also brought up the low class of most males, and argued that if the seat were left down, many men would still “take aim” and raise the possibility of a spill dramatically. Of course, I destroyed these points quickly.

“First of all, Bear, if you divide up the uses of the toilet, there are four (two for men and two for women). THREE of the four require the seat to be down.” Bear was unconvinced.

“Secondly,” I scolded. “Men have a choice. Women do not. Therefore, WE must make the accommodation, and not require women to do it. It’s just common courtesy.” Triumphant, I looked at him, awaiting his Mea Culpa, but I was to be disappointed this night.

Finally, we had reached his home, and had to depart with the argument still unresolved. As I pulled away I heard a banging on my truck, and saw in my rearview mirror Bear waving me to stop. He ran up to the window, and as I rolled it down he shook my hand.

“Thanks for dinner.” He said. As I drove away, I pondered his actions. He easily could have called me at home to deliver the message, but I guess he did not want me to leave without thanking me. Mulling that over, I hurried home to make sure the toilet seat was down.

Here’s hoping reading this is more joy than obligation,

April 29, 2001

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*sniff* *sniff*