HOT SHEET: Outrage over Baby Yoda’s eating disorder, ‘The Unicorn’ is the best kind of OK, and AC/DC rocks in the most unsurprising way

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: We thought of all creatures real and imagined, Baby Yoda would escape the wrath in the Age of Outrage.

This was not to be the way. On a recent episode of “The Mandalorian,” the child — colloquially known as Baby Yoda — ate some of the unhatched eggs of a frog creature whose line will die out if she doesn’t reach her husband in time.

Worshippers of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood flipped out because Baby Yoda ate some of the eggs when the frog lady wasn’t looking. “Genocide!” some cried. “Insensitive to people with fertility issues!” others bellowed.

The typist shakes his fist in rage. How dare they mock Baby Yoda’s eating disorder? The child seems to only be able to eat wet, slimy things. You never see him with a bowl of cereal, a PBJ on toast or some Doritos like a normal kid, which can only mean the poor kid has a debilitating gluten allergy. We mock him for eating the only food his little body can process. Baby Yoda clearly has space celiac disease, you smug bastards.

ITEM TWO: Pause for a moment to consider the following: Baby Yoda is a puppet. There are no frog people who need to mate on a nearby planet. In fact, everything in “Star Wars” and its related properties is fiction — what people in a forgotten age called “fun.”

ITEM THREE: Actors Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis have broken up after 10 years together, multiple news agencies have reported, but no, none of us ugly muggles have a chance with either of them.

ITEM FOUR: The Hot Sheet holds little love for romantic comedies or sitcoms, but the ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s best buddy, Memphis Paul, convinced him to give CBS-TV’s “The Unicorn” a watch last fall. The typist ended up enjoying the show about a widowed father of two girls whose neighbors try to get him to start dating. The show is sedate and involves adults who are roughly the typist’s age but don’t act like complete idiots. The children aren’t precocious and saccharine — though they can be annoying as children are known to be. The second season debuted last week and it begins with widower Wade (Walton Goggins) having a kismet with his latest potential paramour, Shannon (Natalie Zea). Actors and writers must work very hard to tug at the heartstrings of this grumpy middle-aged former newsman, but the moment when Wade and Shannon finally meet in the final minutes of the second season premiere shook loose enough genuine warmth to recommend folks binge-watch the first season and start recording the second season post haste.

ITEM FIVE: The new AC/DC album, “Power Up,” is unsurprising in every way and that’s what makes it wonderful. Angus Young’s unmistakable shrieking guitar coupled with lead singer Brian Young’s maniacal screams sound like every other great AC/DC album. Hell, it sounds like the crap ones, too. What makes it wonderful is that these rockers aren’t drifting into power ballads or moody poetry to listen to when the rain streaks down a window. This is music you listen to when you grab a plastic cup of keg beer in a room full of drunks and jump up and down and shake your head and act out the wild rumpus. We can’t get into big crowds and do that stuff right now, but it is good to be reminded that such music can tap our wild inside.

ITEM SIX: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker enthusiastically recommends Habaneros, the new Mexican restaurant at 3200 Forest Ave. The restaurant refurbished the dilapidated former KFC/Taco Bell in the same location. The food is terrific. Their salsa is on point. The chips run a little dry, but that’s never stopped the typist from eating a bowl full of them. Recommended dish: Chicken Fajita Nachos.

ITEM LAST: These are unquestionably difficult times. The virus, the economy, the politics. They all suck. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker has no special cure for any of it. All he can do is tell you how he copes: He calls and texts his friends and family almost every day. He enjoys simple pleasures like comic books and James Bond movies. He takes a lot of naps. And he tries, and often fails, to remember that for all the things in this world to be upset about, he is still alive and there are adventures still left to be had. The storm has made the skies black and the water choppy. Set your teeth, friends, and keep both hands on the wheel.

Daniel P. Finney puts ketchup on a hot dog. Fuck you, Dirty Harry.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.


How’s it going, Dude? Not too good, man. Not too good.

Down, down, down, down, select … no, it’s just down.

I’m exhausted.

This year feels like a rolling fistfight and every day feels like I’m going to go down for the count for good.

I started the year by writing the obituaries for the best teacher I ever had, Drake University’s Bob Woodward, and the best writer anyone ever knew, Ken Fuson.

Then came pneumonia. COVID-19 arrived. The world shut down. The greedy corporate hustlers took away my job and ended my journalism career of 23 years.

That was all by May 1.

It all blends into a fetid soup after that. I continue to look for a job in the pandemic. I failed to find one.

I returned to graduate school at Drake with the idea of becoming a teacher. The classes gave me purpose early on, but the Zoom meetings drain personality out of everyone.

I am surrounded by bright, sharp minds, but the whatever sliver of the brain that craves face-to-face interaction is powerful.

I feel disconnected and estranged from people who are learning the same lessons as me at the same time because of the distance required by COVID.

And then there is the struggle to manage my longtime issues with mood disorders of depression and anxiety.

I take my meds. I meet with my therapist. And I lean, oh how I lean, on my friends.

I call some of them every day. I exhaust some of their patience with my incessant calling.

The impotent Congress, overrun by soulless grandstanders such as Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, let any effort for a stimulus fail and let people like me and 22 million other Americans twist in the wind.

“Get another job,” the occasional wiseass says to me.

I’d love to. I spent nearly a quarter century doing a thing that is on the verge of being extinct. Since 2001, half of all the journalist in the country have lost their jobs.

I have applied for jobs every week since I lost my job, sometimes multiple jobs a day. I got two callbacks and one interview.

All I do is worry. It eats up my days and keeps me up at night. Will the new Congress get off its fucking ass and pass a stimulus? Will I sell everything I own and end up living in YMCA housing? What if I get the COVID?

And I can’t fight the feeling that I failed.

They tell you it isn’t personal when they lay you off. It’s not about performance.

And I know this. I know it’s about money. I made too much. I worked for 23 years and made a decent living, but my experience would have been worth at least a third more 25 years ago. I was born at the wrong time.

It sure as hell feels personal when they take your job away.

I’m insecure, probably more than most.

I never felt good enough. I always felt like a second-stringer who got a cup of coffee with the big leaguers.

Sometimes I let myself think I was halfway worth a damn, but in the end, I was trashed like a used coffee filter.

And I feel like a failure because I’m still unemployed, living off unemployment.

I know how society looks at people like me. I’m sucking off the government teat. I’m a drain on society. I’m a loser.

And you know what? That’s how I feel, deep down inside. I’m feel like a loser. A broke, 45-year-old loser.

That’s harsh.

And maybe it’s more than a little whiny.

But I’m not a person who does well putting a cork in his feelings. Right now, I feel pretty bad.

I hurt. I’m sad. I’m scared. And I need to get it out. I just want to acknowledge it. This sucks.

Am I gonna be OK?

Sort of.

I’ll get up Monday and go to school. I’ll write my papers. I’ll apply for jobs. I’ll do the best I can to survive and hope one day I’ll be able to relax enough to live.

I’ll be back with the jokes tomorrow.

Daniel P. Finney once wore a kilt to a friend’s wedding. He’s not been the same since.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.


HOT SHEET: Election Day recommendations; Saved by the Bell reboot and more jokes to learn and say

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Folks, we are seven days out from Election Day in America. We need to start thinking about our plans for the event.

Memphis Paul, the typist’s best friend, recommends stocking gin and tonic and the sundry accoutrements. Start drinking at about 5 p.m. and you should be good and sauced by 6 p.m. and passed out well before the results start coming in.

The ol’ Paragraph Stacker plans to take his prescription sleeping medication around 6 p.m., turn off all phones and electronic devices and settle into bed with a big glass of iced tea and a novel by Iowa author extraordinaire Max Allan Collins.

To avoid temptation to check the news, he’ll put the phone, TV remotes and other electronic devices in a time-locked safe set to unlock at 7 a.m. the next day.

This may sound extreme, but his vote has been cast. There’s nothing he can do but get wound up by the TV news coverage heavy on scenarios but light on facts.

It’s best to follow the advice of the Ramones: “I wanna be sedated.”

ITEM TWO: The Peacock Network, NBCUniversal’s streaming network, is reviving 1990s teen Saturday morning staple “Saved By the Bell.” Everything in that sentence makes me question humanity’s right to continue to exist.

ITEM THREE: If “Saved By the Bell” comes back from the dead and “A.P. Bio” doesn’t get a renewal, Peacock deserves to become an endangered species.

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes to learn and say on Beggars’ Night in Des Moines:

Q: What do you call it when a dinosaur crashes his car?
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks.

Q: Why did the banana go to the doctor?
He wasn’t peeling well.

Q: What did the pancake say to the baseball player?
Batter up!

Q: How do you cut the ocean in half?
With a sea saw!  

ITEM FIVE: Retired World Food Prize President Ken Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia and possibly the finest public servant I’ve ever met, contributed the following Beggars’ Night joke:

Q: What do you get when you cross a tiger and a cabbage?
Man-eating coleslaw.

ITEM LAST: As we prepare for our COVID-19-adjusted Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, the Wall Street Journal interviewed psychotherapist Jeanne Safer, a Democrat who is married to a Republican senior editor at the conservative magazine “National Review” on how to talk — or not talk — about politics with people with whom you disagree.

The take away from the Q&A:

WSJ: Is it even possible to change someone’s political opinion?

Safer: No, no and no.

Daniel P. Finney hates the show “Friends.”

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor, mental health, People, Pop Culture, Uncategorized

HOT SHEET: 2020 Sadness Machine cranks out two more blows; more jokes to learn and say; and trick-or-treat rules

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: Two dozen of us stood under and around a tent spiked to a hilly expanse at Highland Memorial Gardens to say goodbye to our beloved Lois Newcomb, mother, grandmother and great-great grandmother.

The pastor reminded us Jesus shared our grief. When Jesus went to the tomb of his old friend Lazarus, he saw the sadness in the faces of Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus knew he was about to perform the miracle of raising Lazarus. And yet he sanctified grief, expressed in perhaps the greatest sentence ever written: “Jesus wept.”

Family recalled Lois’ open heart, empathy and ability to forgive. Others remember her teaching grandchildren how to drive in the wide lanes of the same cemetery where Lois was laid to rest.

We prayed. A grandson played one of Lois’s favorite songs. We hugged. We shook hands. We cried.

The typist was silent. He saw Grandma Lois as the linchpin that kept a big family together. He hoped her death reminded us we are stronger together than apart and that periodically renewing our shared connection would be the greatest tribute we could pay her.

ITEM TWO: The typist learned late Friday that one of his closest friends has cancer. His wife, a respiratory therapist, contracted COVID-19 earlier this year. It passed to the typist’s friend. His symptoms lingered. Doctors eventually found a mass the size of an orange on one of his kidneys. Treatment includes the loss of a kidney. The prognosis is uncertain.

Again the typist is reminded of how precious life is. We live never really knowing how much time is left on the clock. The typist doesn’t believe in living every day as if it were your last. That would be exhausting.

Instead, look for a moment each day that you can be kind, extend grace and friendship or remind someone they are worthy of dignity and respect. Forgive. Love.

ITEM THREE: Left blank for you to allow readers a moment of peaceful reflection.

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes to learn and say for Beggars’ Night in Des Moines:

Q: What is a tree’s favorite drink? 

A: Root beer.

Q: What do you call a broken window?

A: A plain in the glass.

Q: Why don’t ducks tell jokes while they are flying? 

A: Because they would quack up.

Q: When does it rain money?

A: When there is a change in the weather.

ITEM FIVE: The maximum age for trick-or-treating is 13 or eighth grade, whichever comes first. High school kids are close enough to jobs and driving that they can get their own candy. Stop begging off the neighbor.

ITEM SIX: Your trick-or-treat mask should be worn over your pandemic mask this year, but you still have to wear your coat over your costume if it’s below freezing.

ITEM LAST: Say thank you. This also applies for anytime someone gives you something or shows kindness.

One day, Daniel P. Finney held aloft his magic sword and said, “By the power of Greyskull …” and after a long pause realized everyone was staring at him, so he put the sword away and went back to eating lunch.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.


HOT SHEET: Where have you gone, Vin Scully? Fox Sports should have turned its lonely narration to you

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: Tuesday’s sign Major League Baseball is almost as dead as the American newspaper: Fox Sports chose all-time great NFL quarterback Tom Brady for the opening narration to Game 1 of the World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

ITEM TWO: Longtime Dodgers voice Vin Scully is arguably the all-time greatest broadcaster in baseball history. He retired in 2016 and is 92 years old, but he’s not dead — and he’s associated with baseball.

ITEM THREE: An optimist might think Fox didn’t use Scully because they wanted to avoid the appearance of favoritism between the two teams, but when has a Fox broadcasting outlet ever cared about neutrality?

ITEM FOUR: Joni Ernst promised to castrate pigs when she got to Washington, D.C., but we haven’t seen so much as a swine circumcision. Item Four paid for by the Palpatine and Vader Order for American Leadership.

ITEM FIVE: Liberal Theresa Greenfield eats Chinese takeout during riots. Radical Theresa Greenfield. Bad for digestion. Good for MSG. Bad for digestion. Item Five paid for by the Lord Voldemort Committee for Dark Arts in Government.

ITEM SIX: Not to belabor Monday’s minor snow, but can you imagine how giddy TV news teams must have been just to overhype a dusting of snow and some wind? No pandemic. No Trump. No election. Just a regular snowstorm to make it seem like the end of the universe. I bet WHO-TV’s Ed Wilson was practically orgasmic.

ITEM SEVEN: My cousin, the Rev. Robert Boudewyns, died Oct. 17. He was 80 years old. Bobby, as we all called him, possessed the serenity granted a man of his deep faith. Raised in a Catholic family, he served as a Lutheran minister. He taught me about the person behind the collar. He ministered to me after both my mom’s and dad’s deaths. Adept at new technologies, he found ways to keep track of me as I grew up. He emailed and even made video calls over the years. He and his late wife, Jan, brought a welcoming warmth to a world too often unfriendly and cold.

ITEM EIGHT: A private graveside memorial service for my Grandma Lois is scheduled for Saturday morning. She died earlier this month at 93. She, like her daughter Joyce, who raised me after my first set of parents died, possessed an uncanny ability to make people feel relaxed, welcomed and loved. Whatever the state of the world, we need more like Cousin Bobby and Grandma Lois.

ITEM NINE: Apropos of nothing, but it feels like we’ve been staring straight into the world’s asshole for six years.

ITEM LAST: The creators of the Florida Man blog, curators of the most bizarre news from the nation’s weirdest state, have created an adult coloring book based on real news headlines. Adults can sharpen their overpriced colored pencils and bring life to stories such as “Florida man arrested for trying to break into jail to hang out with friends” and “Florida man in bull costume tries to burn down ex-lover’s house with spaghetti sauce.” Remember to ask Santa early as shipping delays are expected due to COVID-19.

Daniel P. Finney just wants to spend about six weeks at a hotel with a swim-up bar.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.


HOT SHEET: 404 Error

ITEM ONE: I had typed a list of six or seven items, most of them political in nature and almost all of them serious.

ITEM TWO: Alas, I somehow managed to lose the Microsoft Word document in which I wrote them.

ITEM THREE: I recall one mildly amusing suggestion about the NFL, but you didn’t miss much.

ITEM FOUR: The storyline about Item Four has completed and no developments occurred in the lost document.

ITEM FIVE: I’m so discombobulated by the lost document that I’m not bothering to use the “typist” and “ol’ Paragraph Stacker” language endemic to Hot Sheet.

ITEM SIX: I could work very hard to reconstruct the thoughtful political takes, but I won’t.

ITEM SEVEN: I believe this is God’s way of telling me nobody gives a shit about what I think about politics.

ITEM LAST: This may also be God’s way of telling me to stop this silly blog.

Daniel P. Finney once had an editor who called his writing “ordinary and bureaucratic.”

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

politics, Pop Culture, sports, TV, Uncategorized

HOT SHEET: Unravel the mystery in today’s edition and you could win a BMX bike

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: The typist enjoys the idea of the force from “Star Wars” movies. If he had the power, he probably wouldn’t use his powers to engage in the never-ending battle for the Jedi or the Sith in the fate of the galaxy. But it sure would be nice to levitate a bowl of chips and a beer from the fridge during a ballgame.

ITEM TWO: These #IVoted people are just as annoying as the negative campaign ads. Congratulations. Here’s your sticker for performing your bare minimum participation in democracy. If you need someone else to encourage you to do the minimum after all we’ve been through this year alone, you know what? Don’t vote.

ITEM THREE: The typist has been listening to music from his college years in the 1990s. He seeks the energy of his youth when he felt wild, fast and free, when he was brave and kind of righteous. Efforts have been reached with minimal success.

ITEM 4: Item 4 requested and received its unconditional release from the Hot Sheet after the recent drug-fueled incident in the clubhouse. The organization has purchased the contract of Roman numeral IV, who takes Item 4’s place in the lineup pending a physical and drug screening.

ITEM FIVE: “Being grown up is no fun if you can’t be childish sometimes.” — The Doctor (Tom Baker), “Doctor Who”

ITEM SIX: The typist was watching an NFL game when the quarterback —

ITEM SEVEN: The following audio was transcribed by a Hot Sheet investigative reporter.

  • BANG! BANG! The wooden door of the typist’s apartment shatters under the jackboots of NFL Security.
  • Eddie Weddle, safety for the Los Angeles Rams, bounds through the door and fly tackles the typist.
  • Weddle drives his shoulder into the typist’s chest and a sickening sound similar to that of a pencil snapping in half echoes in the typist’s chest.
  • The typist whips back and slams into the top of his World War II surplus desk before he crumples to the ground like a rag doll.
  • Weddle gyrates his crotch over the supine typist and tears the typist’s laptop in half and crushes the screen with his steel-cleated foot.
  • One of the NFL Security officers heard: “You do NOT have the express written consent of the NFL to distribute accounts or descriptions of this game!”
  • The men leave. The last one knocks into the typist’s collector Incredible Hulk cookie jar. It smashes on the floor. The NFL Security guard can be heard whispering, “Deadbeat.”

ITEM LAST: As per Hot Sheet policy, the typist is undergoing concussion protocols and will be held out for further testing.

Daniel P. Finney once auditioned for the part of Count Gregor Mikhailovitch in the 1991 Winterset High School production of Neil Simon’s “Fools.”
Crime and Courts, des moines, Des moines police, humor, Iowa, Media, News, People, Pop Culture, sports, Uncategorized

HOT SHEET: #OldManStudent update, NFL notes, Iowa celebrates small COVID-19 gain, absentee ballot confusion and police success stories

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Precinct Station.

ITEM ONE: Update on #OldManStudent. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker takes all his classes online via Zoom meetings at Drake University. This format works better than anticipated, but there are pitfalls. Example: Your typist’s bathroom is about 12 feet from his computer. Always remember to mute your microphone when you answer nature’s call because mics will pick up certain sounds one would just as soon remain private.

ITEM TWO: Other Zoom meeting notes: No one looks good eating a sub sandwich on camera. If you happen to have the NFL season opener on in the background, mute the TV and make sure the TV is not in direct line of the camera.

ITEM THREE: The NFL season began Thursday. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs beat the Houston Texans. It still feels odd to say “defending champion Kansas City Chiefs,” perhaps the only good thing to occur in 2020. Then again, I’m old enough that it feels weird not to say Houston Oilers. The Bears also did well Thursday evening. The team owes this mostly to not having played.

ITEM FOUR: The typist turns almost all his sporting attention to pro football. His beloved New York Yankees cling to the eighth seed in the American League playoffs. This spot only exists because baseball executives expanded the playoffs to make up for the coronavirus-shortened 60-game regular season. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker questions the wisdom of Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman’s “protect all prospects” approach. The typist grimly notes the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals have won more World Series in the last decade than the Yankees. The Yankee batters may be “savages in the box,” but they’re sad sacks in the standings.

ITEM FIVE: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds held a press conference to celebrate Iowa dropping from No. 1 in coronavirus spread to No. 3. Wow. What an accomplishment. What did Reynolds do, bus some people to Missouri?

ITEM SIX: Just a day after Hot Sheet warned of absentee ballot confusion from well-meaning non-profits, two Iowa judges ruled absentee request forms that were pre-filled with the voter’s name and address were improper, per the Associated Press. The county auditors in Woodbury and Johnson counties sent the request forms to make it easier for people to seek absentee ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. Again, the typist supports efforts to increase voter turnout. However, at some point people must take responsibility for themselves — especially in challenging circumstances. To quote retired Drake University professor Herb Strentz, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

ITEM SEVEN: Recommended viewing for the weekend:

  • Louisiana at Iowa State, noon, Saturday, ESPN. The Cyclones are playing without fans in the stands and the Hawkeyes aren’t playing until spring. Regardless of your allegiance in the Cy-Hawk rivalry, you might as well give ISU your eyeballs.
  • Philadelphia Eagles at the Washington Football Team, noon, Sunday, regional coverage. Hot Sheet knows no teams of regional interest play in this game, but we want to see how many times the announcers accidentally say “Redskins” and then fall all over themselves to apologize.
  • The Boys, Season 2, streaming on Amazon Prime: Superheroes with sex, blood and breast milk reheated with heat vision. I’m not making this up.

ITEM LAST: Lest we be cajoled into thinking the local constabulary only makes news in officer-involved shootings or amid racial tensions, Hot Sheet turns your attention to three items of note in the most recent Des Moines city news letter.

  • Chief Dana Wingert promoted Lillie Miller to captain, naming her the first Black female captain in the department’s history. Miller, an officer since 1999, was also the department’s first Black female lieutenant under former chief Judy Bradshaw.
  • Jeff Edwards, a former public information officer and DMPD Medal of Valor recipient also attained his captaincy.
  • Wingert recognized Senior Police Officer Scott Newman, a 21-year veteran and a member of the department’s tactical unit, with the DMPD Lifesaving Award. Newman rescued five people from a burning car wreck on his way home from work early July 5.

The typist takes a lot of heat from liberal extremists for his support of police. That’s fine. Honorable people disagree. And who gives a damn what dishonorable people think? The ol’ Paragraph Stacker recognizes every police department has problems. No one lives in a utopia. But the typist notes that no matter how bad things get, no matter how many people hate them — when the shit breaks bad and the citizenry cries out for help, the police come running.

OK. That’s it. Listen to our podcast. Be careful out there and, as always, donations welcome and appreciated.

Behave and be kind.

Daniel P. Finney hopes Rick will finally return him to Earth C-137.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way poking fun at the passing parade.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.


Late night lessons from a kind locksmith

I ate a bowl of macaroni and cheese with a club sandwich at Jethro’s one recent evening. I sat around after hours to drink a pitcher of tea and chat with the staff in between glances at the NBA playoffs on one of the TVs above the bar.

Things wound down about 11:30 p.m. I shuffled out to my car and pointed it toward home. I picked up my mail at the end of the parking lot. I received a package. I tossed it and a couple bills into the passenger seat and found my spot.

I pulled my keys out of my pocket. I keep a small multitool on my key ring, mostly to open packages. I opened my box, admired the contents and flipped through my mail.

I set the keys in the front seat next to the box. I made a mental note not to forget them when I got out of the car.

I received a text. An old friend was having some troubles. This started a lengthy text exchange. I shut off the car. The night air was cool and dry — pleasant for late August.

I did my best to be uplifting to my friend. She cried at one point. She described it as a “good cry.” I am dubious of the good cry, but multiple sources confirm it is a good thing.

Our exchange ended around 12:30 a.m., maybe 12:45. That seems long, but conversation where you type everything with your thumbs take longer than talking. 

I gathered up my package, locked the car doors and walked to my apartment. I reached into my pocket for my keys and immediately learned my mental note was forgotten.

I walked back to the locked car and saw the keys in the passenger seat. I tried the door handle in vain.

I have three extra key fobs in my apartment. Alas, the keys to my apartment were also on the same ring.

Maybe I would get lucky and someone would be coming in and out of my building and they would just let me in.

But no one did.

I finally called a locksmith shortly after 1 a.m. The man who answered the phone was pleasant. He arrived in less than 30 minutes.

He wedged some sort of device into the door frame at the weather stripping. He pumped an air bladder that looked like thing they use on blood pressure cuffs.

He fed a thin-but-ridged blue wire through the space he created and pressed the button to release the lock. I retrieved my keys and, despite social distancing protocols, vigorously shook the man’s hand.

“That will be $100,” he said.

That was the late night rate, he explained.

I grimaced. I quickly checked my bank balance. I had $87 and change left after buying supplies for the upcoming school year, buying groceries, paying bills and having dinner. Unemployment covers survival. Just.

I admitted to the man that I didn’t have it. He agreed to take $80. I thanked him for his kindness. He said it happens all the time, especially now in the middle of a pandemic with people unemployed all over.

Still, I felt shame. Our economic system values buying power. Buying stuff makes up more than 70% of the nation’s economy. So an individual’s purchasing power can feel like a statement of their moral worth.

It isn’t, but it feels that way. A person who is frugal and always has savings to cover crisis is lauded in society, even though 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 saved, per GOBankingRates. 

The rich are envied.

The poor are often viewed as failures.

In that moment, and in many moments since I lost my job, I felt like a failure. I’ve felt is if I wasted 23 years of my life on a career that got a little bit worse every year I practiced it.

I’ve cursed my past mistakes. For example, I would be doing better financially and physically if I hadn’t wasted so much money earlier in my life treating mental health problems by buying things and eating things to make me feel artificially better.

And I felt failure when I accepted the kindness of the locksmith.

I know that I should not have. Always accept kindness, especially when it comes from understanding. There’s not much of either in the world. Enjoy the rare treat and look for your opportunity to do the same for someone else.

As for my failures, well, the past has passed. 

I can only look at how I deal with things going forward.

Now I take pills and go to therapy to seek healthier ways of elevating my mood. 

I decided to go to graduate school rather than keep looking for corporate jobs I didn’t want.

So I’ll be thankful that there was a good man at the towing company willing to help a fellow human down on his luck.

I’ll be thankful, too, that I hadn’t blown that last $87 and change on comic books and ice cream.

I’ll be thankful there’s a program that lets me continue on unemployment while I work through graduate school.

And I’ll make two mental notes:

  1. I’m doing the best I can.
  2. Don’t forget your mental notes.
Daniel P. Finney covers the scratch-and-sniff sticker industry for ParagraphStacker.com.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.