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Blue Star



By Scott Sullivan



I need help more than most. That’s why Blanche Dubois is my hero. Just as she always depended on strangers’ kindness, I seek important advice from people I’ve never met.

After Ann Landers and Dear Abby died, I was advised that newspapers would go too. I resorted to Drs. Phil, Oz and Jerry Springer, but TV gurus just things worse.

I was next advised social media was The Way, but that’s not worked either. The richer Mark Zuckerberg grows selling Facebook users’ personal data, the less social we seem to be. You would think interacting with keyboards and screens to comment untethered by standards of veracity would connect us like one big group hug. Instead, we’re more polarized than ever.

Going back to newspapers, I found Carolyn Hax. With a last name like that, I assume she is backed by a team of “life coaches” or whatever they call people these days who have your and my problems mastered.

“Dear Carolyn,” wrote one reader. “I want us to buy a home but my husband just wants to surf.” There’s a choice for you: Settle down and establish equity, or hang 10 and say “Dude” a lot.

As I surf waves of mortgage and home-repair bills, I wish I lived near the ocean. I’d dye my hair blond, get botoxed and detoxed until I looked like Brad Pitt, except gnarlier, with tan surfer girls begging me nonstop for woodie rides. Most excellent.

Instead, I keep getting potted kumquats. “Why?” I asked my wife.

“It’s the Chinese New Year is Jan. 25,” she explained. “Delivery of potted kumquat trees there is as sure a sign that the holiday’s inescapable as are stores here dressing up for Christmas.”

“This isn’t China,” I said.

“Oh? Where were your shirt and shoes made? The cheap Christmas trinkets you still haven’t taken down? We’re running out of room in this dump with them and those potted kumquats.”

There’s no use talking face-to-face with a spouse you see every day. “Dear Carol,” I wrote. “Surf or turf? What do you advise?”

“Follow your bliss,” Hax replied.

“I need more than slogans.”

“Something even more facile?” she wrote back. “The latest U.N. World Happiness Report advises that Finland, Norway and Iceland have the world’s happiest people.”

“Based on what?” I asked. “Click-bait polls, like the one that ranked Fennville one of 20 Coolest Towns in the U.S.?”

“Fennville is cool,” she replied. “Especially this time of year. The Experience Grand Rapids travel website praises its ‘vast stretches of sugar-sand Lake Michigan beach, rolling vineyards, and diverse, authentic food and art scenes …”

“Who writes crap like that?” I asked. “Let me guess, next they advise: ‘Don’t miss dining on locally-sourced methamphetamines at (name of meth lab that paid to advertise on the website), nestled in a bed of curated pseudoephedrine.’”

“Wait, there’s more,” she kept reading. “‘Fennville offers ‘the laid-back vibe of its more famous coastal neighbor, Saugatuck, without the big summertime crowds.’”

“At least they got that right,” I conceded. “Saugatuck is so crowded in summers that nobody goes here any longer. As for winters, the vibe is so laid-back you can hear merchants’ cries as they echo off icy sidewalks.”

“If they’re happy in Iceland, what’s the problem with winters where you are?” she asked.

You’re the advice columnist,” I advised her. “But maybe this helps. According to WalletHub, the Unhappiest U.S. City is — get ready for this — Detroit.”

“With all their great sports teams?” she asked. “The Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings … ?”

“You can watch two, even three lose each night,” I said. “Michiganders have an embarrassment of bitches. But there’s just one place to surf: the Internet.”

“You need an attitude adjustment,” she said. “I just Googled ‘Chinese New Year.’ The Year of the Rat has begun. It’s a fresh new slate.”