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My Father’s One-Liners

Several things my father said repeatedly occur to me. The first piece of useful information I recall him passing along, was "Hold your sleeves" when putting on a second or third layer of clothing.  I got this one right away, with good results.

He taught me to cook at a young age, a very useful skill but not a one-liner like "Nobody likes a smartass."  It took me a long time to absorb this basic truth. Other than "hold your sleeves," I have spent my life learning and relearning the truth of the one-liners. "Never do a half-assed job."

"Be patient." The companion piece to this was "If you're worried or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout."

He had a poster on the wall down in the cellar (down-cella in New England speak), where there was a workshop, not with a table saw or mechanic's tools, but with equipment for use in electronic pursuits.  Soldering irons and such. Resistors, capacitors, transformers.  An oscilloscope.  The poster was a cartoon picture of a boy with a dumb grin on his face, an apple on top of his head, and an arrow through his forehead, and sticking out the back.  The caption was "Keep Smiling, Have Faith."

"Never do a half-assed job."  This can be a complex issue depending on skills and interests.  We tend to do better work when we're interested, although some people seem able to fix or build anything.  I am not one of those guys, so it's better to choose projects or tasks accordingly.

Still, I've done a lot of half-assed jobs in my time, painfully learning what I should or should not try to do. And there's where patience comes in.

"Be patient."   "Have patience" might be a better way to put it.  But that is one of my natural abilities, the use of the English language.

This was inherited from my mother - a sharp-tongued daughter of a Scottish immigrant - who had no patience with stupidity or bullshit.  During one of the periods of civil rights unrest in the deep south, she heard some white Alabama KKK type on TV saying "I think the niggers should all go back to Africa."  Aside from the fact of how Africans got here in the first place, her immediate comment was, "There they are on national television, calling them 'niggers'."  To my ten-year old mind, her tone of voice seemed to cover the topic pretty well. As to my developing patience, it's taken a long time, to the point where everyone rushing around like headless chickens, has become pretty damn annoying. Some things are harder to have patience with than others. Part of learning to have patience was finding out what I should or should not attempt.  A good way to avoid the half-assed job.

I still hold my sleeves, too.


  1. Jeff Costello Post author | December 24, 2017

    Sephardic, ah… the Mediterranean variety. Superior food, for sure.

  2. Will Wachtel January 6, 2018

    Happy New Year, Mr. Costello – I also enjoyed reading about your father. My father had the same “Keep Smiling” cartoon on his office wall and I was searching that image when on the initial results list was a link to your column. Which was a pleasant surprise!

    In some sort of synchronicity, one of my brothers lives not too far from Anderson Valley…near Fort Bragg…and of course, his name is Jeff.

    In case you don’t still have your Dad’s poster, via the internet I did find that cartoon that I recall. I’m not sure what happened to the original but this will suffice:

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