Sparks (or not)
Emitted from the fire, their tiny illumination endures for the briefest of moments…then, they are gone

London 2012: Company’s Coming—Quick, Grab the Broom!

Every household knows the drill.

The occupants are kicked back—bare feet on the coffee table—perhaps in their underwear, comfortable in varying degrees of their own residue.

Then, from somewhere under a crumpled newspaper (or is it behind a lint-ridden seat cushion?), the cell phone rings.

Long-lost Uncle Charlie (who is mistakenly perceived as being above such casual behavior) is just blocks away and wants to drop in for a visit.

Out comes the vacuum, the dust mop, the air freshener.

Within 90 seconds, a facade of elegance is ready to greet Charlie, while behind the closet door and under the pristine rug, reality is in hiding, holding its breath until company leaves.

And likewise, the Olympic ritual of whisking the unmentionable, the seedy, the scum, back into a deeper, darker recess—as if the host city were the only place in the world without such clutter—begins again.

Beijing in 2008, and Vancouver in 2010 both did it.

London is doing it.

Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 Summer Games, will have some big-time primping to do as well.

As pretentious an act as it truly is, this preening illustrates a very human trait to which most of us can relate.

Putting on a good face for guests can be a gesture of honor. Or it can be a matter of hiding our shame.

At the household level, it’s only inanimate crumbs and dust. At the metropolitan level—though some consider it simply a higher form of debris—the rubble speaks of human beings and of our shortcomings as a society.

In either case, it’s not going away when the guests depart—without a good dose of creative problem-solving.

After a while, Uncle Charlie does leave.

For a brief moment, there is a basking in the hastily-arranged tidiness. Maybe even a thought of doing some genuine deep cleaning…

Nah. Back to the couch and Jeopardy.


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