What’s in a name? Quite a bit, it ap­pears

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FORUM - MICHELLE HAUSER

Even though the name “Hauser” has been on my driv­ers li­cence for 14 years, I only re­cently dis­cov­ered what it means: “Some­one who gives shel­ter or pro­tec­tion.” I wish I’d known that sooner. It would have made life eas­ier had I un­der­stood the ex­tent to which my hus­band is driven by his DNA.

“He’s so ob­sessed with the house!” I’d say to my friends, who had lit­tle sym­pa­thy for a woman com­plain­ing about a man who does too many chores.

About four years ago, Mark and I had a con­se­quen­tial con­ver­sa­tion. He was hon­est about my un­set­tled char­ac­ter and (my words, not his) the loose mar­bles of wild and wacky ideas and other un­pre­dictable be­hav­iour that kept him from feel­ing on solid ground.

“My dream,” Mark said, “is a safe, se­cure, com­fort­able life.” “Fine,” I said, “Good. I’ll get on your band­wagon, but you have to take me some­where once in a while.” I didn’t mean Venice, just day trips, the Gananoque Pi­rate Fes­ti­val or some­thing like that, any place where a B&B and din­ner out might be part of the equa­tion.

And so we made peace: I would let the roots grow deep and he would man­age the de­mands of his mis­tress, a.k.a. the house.

This week I smiled read­ing Mark’s en­try in the fam­ily cal­en­dar: “Va­ca­tion: PAINT STUFF AND GET READY FOR SPRING!!” No joke, that’s my hus­band’s idea of a va­ca­tion.

Thanks to two real va­ca­tions on the docket this sum­mer, though, I could re­lax and spend the week in quiet ad­mi­ra­tion of a man so well suited to his tasks: put­ter­ing around the house, mak­ing our home safer and more se­cure, and “knock­ing things off the list!”

As my house got whipped into shape, I was struck by the painful con­trast south of the bor­der and watch­ing an­other more fa­mous house con­tinue to fall apart. Of course I’m talk­ing about 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue. A week like this one is the in­evitable fall­out of hav­ing a man so ill suited to pres­i­den­tial tasks ac­tu­ally be­ing pres­i­dent.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s un­stop­pable down­ward spi­ral has chal­lenged the world’s best head­line writ­ers to come up with fresh ma­te­rial. Ku­dos to CNN for this one Thurs­day morn­ing: “Trump’s most con­se­quen­tial evening of tur­moil yet.” How many more con­se­quen­tial evenings of tur­moil will there be un­til he is im­peached or, bet­ter yet, re­signs?

I feel sorry for the U.S. Coast Guard Acad­emy Class of 2017. In­stead of a proper com­mence­ment speech this week they were a cap­tive au­di­ence to yet an­other tirade from a drown­ing man — one that even the Coast Guard can’t save. It’s in­cred­i­ble that the cer­e­mo­nial as­pects of the job — the well-trained-mon­key-in-a-suit-could-do-it kinds of things — con­tinue to elude him.

But, like my hus­band, Trump is liv­ing into his DNA. Both the Al­pha and Et­y­mol­ogy dic­tionar­ies of­fer this def­i­ni­tion of his name: “Mid­dle English trumpen was bor­rowed from French tromper ‘to de­ceive, cheat.’ ... Quacks and moun­te­banks in olden days at­tracted the pub­lic by blow­ing a horn, and then cheated them into buy­ing their wares.”

To the grad­u­at­ing cadets, Trump was sell­ing his pe­cu­liar brand of Amer­i­can car­nage: sus­pi­cion, para­noia, de­fen­sive­ness, grat­ing per­pet­ual griev­ances and slights to which there is no end.

A com­mence­ment speech is a big deal. It is a con­se­quen­tial invitation and, if done well, can in­spire a group of young peo­ple at a sem­i­nal mo­ment in their lives. It’s a time and place to bring your best.

And the best is what the Class of 2017 at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia ex­pe­ri­enced. They didn’t get a pres­i­dent, but they got some­thing way bet­ter: a fear­less funny man whose sin­cer­ity was an an­ti­dote to Don­ald Trump blow­ing that same damn horn.

Co­me­dian Will Fer­rell — par­don me, Dr. Will Fer­rell — was be­yond well suited to the task of ad­dress­ing his alma mater. Was it solemn? Of course not. Was it funny? Hell yes. Was it in­spir­ing? Ab­so­lutely.

Fer­rell shared a story about one of his ear­li­est comedic char­ac­ters, “The Phys­i­cal Plant Guy,” that he played on de­mand for an en­thu­si­as­tic pro­fes­sor who of­ten re­quested Fer­rel­lian out­bursts to en­hance his lec­tures.

“I then walked in, as if on cue,” said Fer­rell, “and the whole class erupted in laugh­ter. Mo­ments like th­ese en­cour­aged me to think that maybe I was funny to whole groups of peo­ple who didn’t know me. And this won­der­ful pro­fes­sor had no idea how his en­cour­age­ment ... was enough to give me per­mis­sion to be silly and weird.”

Later, when Fer­rell was per­form­ing with Groundlings in L.A., he also learned how to be brave: “Yes, I was afraid; you’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid ... but my fear of fail­ure never ap­proached in mag­ni­tude my fear of ‘What if? What if I never tried at all?’”

In­ter­est­ingly, Fer­rell means “Man of val­our.” Val­our is the kind of old word that we take for granted we know, but, for the record, it means “bold­ness or de­ter­mi­na­tion in fac­ing great dan­ger,” which seems fit­ting for a standup co­me­dian.

This week­end I will raise a glass to men of val­our and to those who shel­ter and pro­tect.

As for the noisy trum­peters, they can toot their own horns.


Ac­tor Will Fer­rell ad­dresses the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia's Class of 2017 at USC's 134th com­mence­ment cer­e­mony in Los An­ge­les last Fri­day.


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