The Legend of LOBO and LOUISE



For more than 20 years, living in Arizona, I slept on a beloved waterbed. It sloshed happily when I climbed into it, and night after night, I drifted happily to sleep on its gentle waves.

Here in Ipswich, my waterbed is nothing but a bittersweet memory. My vertebrae begin their day complaining. Why? Because of LOBO and LOUISE. They run my life.

You think your life is governed by the Supreme Court, or Mr. Obama? You think your five fine Ipswich selectmen are running your life? You think Robin Crosbie is boss? No. Life is governed by LOBO and LOUISE. Allow me to introduce you.

LOBO is the Law Of Blind Observation. We look at the future, and we think we see it clearly. We think if we look ahead carefully enough, we can somehow control the future, and all will be well.

But all the while, we’re actually blind to most of the details. Try as we might, we can’t see the future. We don’t know what butterfly flapped its wings in China last week, moving a few molecules which then moved another few molecules, until finally, here in Ipswich, it rains on a weekend. We’re dutifully observing, but we’re governed by LOBO: the Law Of Blind Observation.

Of course, the future isn’t all bleak. There are also wonderful surprises. Another butterfly flaps its wings in China, and EBSCO moves to Ipswich. Life is just as full of pleasant surprises as the other kind. We just can’t count on them, because we can’t see them coming! Because our lives are governed by LOBO: the Law Of Blind Observation.

We’re also governed by LOUISE: The Law Of Un-Intended Side-Effects. Even when we get what we expect, it comes with unexpected consequences. Your kid loves you for that video game you bought at Christmas; by Easter you hate your kid for the video game addiction. I claw my way into a great new job, only to find that the travel schedule or the office politics or the “unofficial” expectations make the new job worse than the old one.

Romance is governed by LOUISE, too. You fall in love, you imagine the future with this person, you get married, and then there’s the snoring, and the hairs in the bathroom sink, and the cigars. And that’s just the wife!

Of course, LOUISE operates the opposite way as well. Expect something bad, discover something good. That new neighbor you didn’t like the looks of? Now he’s your best buddy. LOUISE has been at work: the Law Of Un-Intended Side-Effects!

LOBO and LOUISE are in charge of my life. They were in charge when I first laid eyes on a 200-year-old house on Linebrook Road. I imagined myself and my family, transplanted from the dreadful desert of Arizona into this cozy, comfortable new milieu. Everything would be as it was, except that now I would drive on winding roads instead of straight, and blow snow instead of grit off my driveway. The differences, I figured, would all be lovely differences.

Then, after taking ownership but before moving in, we walked through the house with an expert restorer of antique properties. Looking at the wide pine floorboards of the second-floor master bedroom, he heard the word “waterbed” and blanched.

“You know what a waterbed weighs?” he asked. “A ton. Literally. Two thousand pounds.”

I shifted uneasily on my feet. A floorboard from the John Quincy Adams administration creaked wearily under me.

“You wouldn’t put a waterbed up here?” I asked.

“Well, it’ll start up here,” he replied evenly. “But it won’t be up here for long. When it crashes through, it’ll hit the first floor with quite a bit of speed. Those floorboards are even flimsier than these. You’ll be in the cellar before you know it. I’d say ten seconds, maybe fifteen.”

The cellar. Dirt floor. Spider webs. Not the place for a bedroom.

I love Ipswich, and I love my creaky old house.

I do not love my new, ordinary bed. And I am not really crazy about LOBO and LOUISE.

But I’m stuck with the bed. And we’re all stuck with LOBO and LOUISE.



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