Chatological Humor update

Nov 08, 2016

Gene's next monthly chat is Tuesday Nov. 29 at noon. You may submit questions here.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Greetings, update readers.  I am about to leave my house to cast a statistically meaningless vote in the most important election of my lifetime, which is long and eventful.  Also, I am going to be live tweeting Election Night!   I have promised to take a shot of bourbon for every bit of good news, and a shot of espresso for every bit of bad news.   I am really hoping I will be shitfaced by 9:30 or so.   Yes, I wrote out the s-word because this is important.  If I am fired, I am fired.  The future of the Republic is at stake, for shit's sake. 

This column ran on Election Day, 2004.  It is no longer linkable online for some reason, so I have cut and pasted it.   I'll be back here when you have read it. 

(My father died in 2006, at 92.)

My Father's Vision

BYLINE: Gene Weingarten

SECTION: Editorial; A21

LENGTH: 550 words

My father, Philip Weingarten, is 90. He wears hearing aids in both ears. At night, before he goes to bed, he removes them as he stands with his head above an open dresser drawer. That is because, if he dropped one on the floor, he could never find it. He cannot see the floor. 

His right eye sees nothing. The sight that remains in his left eye is so limited that, to read, he must use a machine that magnifies each letter to the size of a baseball. In this manner, he reads The Washington Post every day, all day. The retina in his functioning eye is a rubble of scar tissue, so ravaged from diabetic damage and macular degeneration that his doctor doesn't know how he sees anything at all. Somehow his brain has learned to cobble together into vaguely recognizable images the fractured signals from the few neurons that still fire. 

When he walks the halls of the assisted-living facility in which he lives, people greet him by name, but he cannot do the same in return. The friendly blobs are indistinguishable. I have always joked that my father is the reincarnation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. That is because he was born on June 28, 1914, the day the archduke and his pregnant wife were assassinated, touching off World War I. Ferdinand's dying words were selfless -- concern for his wife and family -- which pretty much sums up the way my father has lived his life. 

Though his eyes have betrayed him, his mind remains as sharp as yours or mine. He was an accountant, and has attended to his own affairs ably until just last week, when he found he could no longer see well enough to write checks or keep records. And so my wife and I brought him to the bank, where he conferred power of attorney on his daughter-in-law. Intending no disrespect, the banker began by directing questions to my wife and me, but quickly checked herself when my father volunteered not only his Social Security number but the precise number of his savings account. 

He moves in a determined shuffle, behind an aluminum walker. When he ventures outside, he needs a companion to warn him of the presence of a curb, or a sidewalk anomaly. The ground is a soupy mist to him, swallowing his legs at the thigh. Daylight can play mischief with his eyesight. Sometimes, the empty streets before him are aswarm with pint-sized people, or blocked with poplar trees, or are a landscape of yawning craters. These are the only things he sees in sharp focus, because they bypass his ruined eyes entirely. They are inventions of his brain, a medical syndrome not uncommon in people with profound loss of vision. They are hallucinations, but not delusions. He knows they are unreal; still, it is an act of faith and no small courage to step confidently forward into an abyss, just because someone you love tells you it is safe. 

It is through this foggy soup and minefield of phantasms that my father will walk this afternoon, with me at his side, into a church in suburban Maryland. There -- as he has done every four years since he chose Roosevelt over Landon -- he will cast a mathematically insignificant vote for president of the United States. Because he knows it is the right thing to do. 

So, what are you doing today?


Vote, okay?

My column on Sunday contained two secret messages, one in the illustration by Eric Shansby, and one in the column itself.  Judging from Comments and emails, many people saw neither.  Look again. 


And that leads me directly to one of the best letters to the editor I've ever received.   It is from Brian Schilling, who I hope is unrelated to Kurt.  Here it is:  


Cheap shot, Gene! 

Only a tired, addle brained, partisan hack like you would try to place a pro-Hillary message in the Post this late in the game by spelling it out on the down low with the first letter of each sentence of his last  (supposedly funny) Sunday column (“This bland is our bland” 11/6).   

Unless I miss my guess, though, your effort was largely wasted.

Let’s just assume for a moment though that someone actually noticed your secret message. 

Do you think you’re actually going to change minds at this point?  

Not likely!

Trump supporters are Trump supporters and Hillary people are Mexicans. 

And those few people left on the fence aren’t, I assure you, combing the Post in the hopes of finding a secret message so blindingly clever that it will tip them into one camp or the other. 

God help us indeed! 

Responsible humor columnists don’t act this way, Gene! 

Ever read Coulter, Cavuto, Will, Colmes, Breitbart, Drudge, Erickson, Limbaugh or Beck?  

Every one of those guys (note to self: check Coulter) is just straight up funny, not I’m-so-clever-you-probably-won’t-get-it funny. 

Maybe that’s why Trump is going to win.

Or don’t you even care? 

Really, sometimes I wonder if your whole party wouldn’t rather be clever losers that lose rather than unfunny winners who win.

Enjoy the laugh, Gene – I’ll enjoy watching the returns on Tuesday


I'm with you, Brian.  

And I'll be with all of you on Twitter tonight, I hope. 




In This Chat
Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

Gene's latest columns, chats and more.
Recent Chats
  • Next: