Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mas Feliz

This weekend, a friend that b&c made while doing some consulting abroad was visiting us from Colombia. As with all of b&c's gay male friends from foreign countries, M. is both charming and cute1. I considered asking b&c why he went so against type in choosing me as his partner, but I didn't want to be accused of being a wag, though now I think about it, I'm a bit sad that no one has ever accused me of being a wag. I am often accused of being a smartass, and I generally take that as praise, but I'm holding out for wag. Perhaps "wag" has fallen out of fashion, so perhaps I need to do something to encourage its usage. Perhaps the best way to be accused of being a wag is to accuse others of the same thing. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Not coincidentally, when we were discussing our favorite songs Sunday night, M. pulled up the Nat King Cole version of "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas," and I in turn showed him a scene from Strictly Ballroom featuring the Doris Day version. I will leave it to others to decide which is better: they are both terrific. I wouldn't be able to choose, and I'm glad I don't have to.

It was nice to have music (and YouTube) with which to communicate because M. speaks little English, and I speak even less Spanish. B&c's Spanish is better than mine, but it's still not great, so there was a good deal of trying to find comprehensible synonyms, combined with a good deal of passing around the dictionary. And there were plenty of times -- mostly when we were at the dinner table having a third glass of wine -- when I decided that getting the general sense of the conversation was sufficient. Sometimes too much comprehension is a bad thing. I am reminded, in particular, of a fellow bass from my choir who left the Catholic church after they started celebrating the mass in English: he no longer had plausible theological deniability.

Anyway, we were at table Saturday evening and M. mentioned that a survey had found that Colombians were the third happiest people in the world. I had always believed that the happiest people were Western Europeans, particularly Scandinavians2, but if M. is at all representative, then Colombians are a very happy people. Also, well dressed.

Unsurprisingly, there's no universal consensus on which country has the happiest people. I'm guessing that whatever M. read that said that Colombians are #3 was based on this, but there are many other surveys. There are also many different ways of measuring happiness, some of which attempt to factor in objective metrics. I guess some people can't just take someone's word for it that he's happy. Which sounds a lot like imposing your own definition of happiness on other people in an attempt to convince yourself that you (or your countrymen) are happier than you think you are, but whatever.

There doesn't seem to be any way to measure happiness that puts the U.S. in the top spot, but perhaps Americans are only happy when they're unhappy. Or at least when we have things to strive for. "Things" being the critical word there. It seems perfectly reasonable to be happiest when you're striving for, say, literacy in another language, or the addition of another third to the top of your vocal range (as if), but I can't help recalling how, nearly forty years ago, my mother told my father that if he got her a piano, she would never want anything else.

She was mistaken.

Anyway, yesterday I realized what is said to be the American dream when I closed on my house. I was on my way to the settlement when I got a call from my sister telling me that my mother's doctor had decided that my mother is not an immediate danger to herself or anyone else -- at least as long as my father stays safely in Texas. I was as elated about that as I was about closing on the house. Certainly, one happiness was relief and the other was joy, but if you owe someone $100,000, you probably shouldn't care too much whether you win that much in the lottery or your creditor forgives the debt. Both, by the way, are equally taxable events, though there are a number of exceptions to the inclusion of cancellation of indebtedness income under Internal Revenue Code §108, especially if the debt is on your principal residence.

Earlier in the week, Mom's doctor had been recommending that one of us come down to Florida and ask a judge to have Mom committed for a psychiatric evaluation, and I had been planning to fly down next Monday and file the papers at the courthouse. It's a good thing I had to wait: I had resigned myself to having to do it, but I was still dreading it. Mom's doctor feared that she might be bipolar as well as unstable and none of my sister's or my conversations with Mom had given any of us any impression other than crazy.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the very first song I'd pulled up on YouTube when M. and I were discussing favorite songs was Patsy Cline's version of "Crazy." So far, my mother's crazy hasn't done anything to lessen my enjoyment of Patsy's, and we must pray that doesn't change. If I were to lose any of my enjoyment of Patsy Cline's music, well, the terrorists would already have won.

Interestingly, M. said that neither terrorism nor drug concerns have made travelling to the U.S. especially difficult for him. He did say that Colombians flying into Miami are routinely subjected to extra cocaine-related security but that he has found flying into Houston (which is also cheaper) or L.A. hasn't caused the same problems. I offer no opinion as to whether the difference in levels of security is either because of or the the reason for the nonexistence of CSI: Houston. On the other hand, because much cocaine is, apparently, smuggled within the bodies of travellers and because the people who swallow it prior to travelling avoid drinking soda so as not to rupture the membranes separating the swallowed cocaine from their innards, M. was once searched because he doesn't care for Coca-Cola. One can only imagine what would have happened to him if he'd turned down apple pie.

1Is it wrong to want to learn Spanish mostly because the men are so attractive? I don't think so.

2As it happens, according to that survey, the happiest countries are Iceland and Denmark, so my assumptions were reasonable.


  1. Hope the closing went without incident, and that the new house and you will be a good match.

  2. I recently read that Costa Rica held the top happy people spot. Congrats on the closing and the staying of mom's incarceration.