Monthly Archives: September 2017

Little Things We Do


I was out for a run the other morning and I came across a gentleman walking in the other direction. Older guy, with a cane. Pants up a little too high, polo shirt that looks like it’s older than me. Not moving very fast, obviously, but not bothered by that — in fact, he had a big smile on his face, almost like the sunlight was just soaking in through his skin and lighting him up from inside.

“Morning,” I called as I approached, as is my wont. (Those of us out getting active at daybreak owe it to each other to salute our shared insanity.)

“I know you,” the man replied.

I pull up short. Not the response I was expecting. “Beg pardon?”

“You’re the guy going up and down the street before the sun is up, during the week. Bout five in the morning, right? With your dog, most of the time.”

“Yeah, that’s me.” Crap. Is his yard one of the ones my dog likes to stop and pee in?

“You run by my house three, four times a week, it must be.”

I nod. “That’s about what I shoot for, yeah.”

His grin gets a bit bigger. “You remind me that I need to be out here, moving around.”

“Oh, yeah?” (My vocabulary isn’t as impressive when I’m run-winded. I realize I’ve said “yeah” three times in a row. I wonder if he noticed it, too.)

“Sure. Doctor wants me to stay active what with my treatments. Always feel better when I do, but I don’t always remember to do it. The day gets on and it gets too hot and I can’t be out in that.” He waggles his cane for emphasis. “But I see you truckin’ past my house and I think, ‘well, I guess I’d better get out there, too.'”

Now I’m smiling, too. “No kidding. Good for you.”

“Naw,” he waves me away. “Good for you. Keep on doin’ what you do.”

I nod and fall back into step. “You, too.”

I finish the last leg of my run feeling a little bit stronger than usual.

This has been your friendly reminder that even the little things you do can inspire others. (As if you needed more reasons to do them.)

So, on this day, go forth and do.

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This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.

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A Week Away


We were away from the homestead for a few days on a much-needed vacation. Missed a metaphor Monday and a couple of other posts I might have made in the meantime. So instead of a deep-dive on a topic, here’s a rapid-fire scatter-shot swipe at a few things I think I’m thinking about the week.

The Orange One continues to have his own personal version of the Midas Touch, which is the same as the fabled king who turned everything he touched into gold, except in the case of the DT, he turns everything he touches to poop. This week he’s poopifying the NFL, getting his poopy little fingers into all its nooks and crannies and ensuring that we can’t even watch a brainless game for a few hours on Sunday without having conversation hijacked and steered into the mountainside that is the poop-in-chief. I’ll leave it to you to figure out that while DT claims he’s having a hissy fit about the flag and by extension the military, it’s interesting that he’s doing so by disparaging a league wherein something like 3/4 of the players are black. Let’s not forget that the taking-a-knee thing started out because of race issues and had to do with visibility, not the flag or the military. You might argue that the national anthem isn’t the place for such protests, and maybe it isn’t, but the point of protest isn’t to make things as comfortable and unobtrusive for bystanders as possible, now, is it? Oh, there was also that kerfuffle with the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry. (Also mostly black.)

Whatever, the Daily Show and Samantha Bee and other venues have handled this better than I can; if you haven’t watched their clips, you should.

And while I’m on the subject of the DT (sorry, it’s been a while and he’s on a roll — a sharknado-rolls-downhill kind of roll), he’s intimating that our aid efforts to Puerto Rico are in some way concerned with the island’s debt. Never mind that Puerto Ricans are citizens, so it’s kind of like a few major cities are crippled, starving, and barely in communication. They’re people. And he’s worried about their debt in the same breath as talking about their literal survival. If you’re not enraged, you’re not paying attention.

In other eff-you-I’ve-got-mine news, I was sitting beachside with my kids, watching them do their best sandpiper imitations — chasing the waves and foam around, cackling and basically being adorable — and a pair of old ladies comes strolling up the beach. One of them slows down as she nears us. This isn’t totally unusual — grandparents tend to love watching little kids play, and as far as little kids go, mine are particularly adorable — but I glance at her and notice not the usual smile of watching the younger generation at play, but the sneer of the put-upon. Turns out, we were right in her walk path, which I guess I should have known, given that there was only an entire beach around us in literally half of all the available directions. She huffs a little and detours around us as closely as possible, even going so far as to step on my little finger as she resumes her path.

I feel like this may have been her little way of making the beaches great again, but I can’t be totally sure of her political leanings after such a tiny interaction.

While walking to a restaurant to pick up dinner one night, I saw a group of kids (and man, that sentiment crossing my fingers onto the page made me take a good, hard look at myself, because they were certainly college-aged) sitting at a sidewalk table in front of an ice cream shop. Six or seven of them, clearly all there together. In total silence. Not a word being said. Their attention, instead, entirely engrossed in their cell phones. I stopped. I stared. They didn’t notice me. (I’d have taken a picture, but I left my phone charging in the hotel room — it was dead from playing video games while my kids splashed in the pool all afternoon.) I continued to stare, and they continued not to notice, until a full thirty seconds had passed and I became uncomfortable.

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I know, I know. It’s nothing new, these youths and their cell phones. But it shook me. I mean, Panama City Beach (aka the Redneck Riviera) is a haven for college kids having a good time, and here they sat, passively shoveling ice cream into their beaks, staring blankly at their little hypno-boxes. Creepy.

Vacation is great, but it’s terrible for eating. I figure my diet was roughly 60% grease-based, 35% straight-up fried, and maybe 5% green — and that green was only in the form of guacamole smeared on something else deep-fried. I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier to see my own kitchen and my cast-iron murder skillet (come on, that thing is a home-defense system as much as it’s a dream for searing a steak).

And on the six-hour drive back from the beach, I was amused to be barraged with example after example that my theory about the rampant-yet-undiagnosed road disorder, PBV syndrome, is a real thing. Give me a minivan doing 75, and I’ll show you a beat-up old chevy that was doing 65 a minute ago now driving 80. Maybe I’ll mock-up a pamphlet and plant a few of them in doctors’ offices around town.

That feels like a heck of a lot of negativity. Here to right that ship is the sunset from our last night. I’m pretty sure there are at least a hundred shades of crimson in the sky, and I’m almost certain that the blue of the ocean here is described as “cobalt conundrum.”20170927_193132

 

 


Make Sure You’re Wearing Clean Underwear Today in case of Apocalypse


Did you know that the world is ending today?

You could be forgiven for having missed this news, though depending on what circles you travel in, there’s been no avoiding it. Biblical prophecy foretells it, don’tcha know.

What’s that? Biblical prophecy has also foretold the end of the world several times in the last decade?

Well, they were wrong before. This one’s for real. This one’s backed up by science. Planet X. You know? NASA recently discovered a new planet waaaaaay out past Pluto, didn’t they? Yeah, that thing. That’s Planet X. Gonna destroy the world. How? Well… Probably it’s gonna smack into Earth. Yep. Gonna knock us off our orbit and into the sun like the eight-ball, corner pocket. Or maybe it’s gonna fly by and zap us all with interplanetary radiation, you know, turn us into a bunch of crispy human-shaped hot pockets. Or maybe the planet is just loaded down with lizardmen bearing superior technology who will descend upon the Earth and enslave us all. Force us to make them chef salads at every meal of the day and watch nothing but reruns of The Bachelor until our brains turn to mush. (Joke’s on them; my brain has already been mush-ified by two months of teaching after a summer without rest.)

Or maybe not, you know? Maybe Planet X is just an omen and not the cause of our eternal demise. Prophecy is funny that way. Like, it might seem to say that the weather is gonna be 74 degrees and partly cloudy, and in actuality it’s four below and hailing frozen frogs, and you’re all upset at first because you wore shorts that day, but then you go back and re-read the prophecy and then, somehow, it all makes sense. And no, I know what you’re thinking. That’s not post hoc justification. We just didn’t read the prophecies right to begin with. We make the mistakes, not the bible, after all.

So maybe Planet X only tells us the apocalypse is here, and the apocalypse is actually going to come in the form of nuclear war brought on by the two mad boy-kings of the world, or a superbug unleashed on the population when a sheep farmer in New Zealand gets a little too familiar with his livestock, or a global flood or something. What’s that? Well, sure, the flood happened once before, but it worked then, didn’t it? Why fix what ain’t broken?

You say there’s not actually evidence for the global flood? That flood myths are an inevitable byproduct of cultures that spring up around rivers, as nearly all cultures did originally?

Well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

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You believe what you want. But the rest of us? Us, over here, with the doomsday bunkers and the year’s supply of food-paste and toilet water?

We know what’s really coming.

And even if it doesn’t come?

We’ll know when the next thing is coming, too, before it happens.

Because if the world doesn’t end pretty soon, we’re all going to look really silly for believing in all these prophecies. Currently, doomsday prophecies are something like 0 to 72,000 against reality. We might have to start questioning our holy books and the people who interpret them for us.

Then again, all it takes is one.

So, brb going to read Revelations again and search for tenuous metaphors suggesting the present day. And I’m going to put on my tuxedo t-shirt in case the rapture does come. You know, so that when I meet Jesus, he’ll see that I wanted to dress it up for him, but keep it casual at the same time.

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Stone-cold classy.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.


Metaphor Monday: Splinters


Over the long weekend, I built this kitchen bench.

Our old kitchen was enormous, you see. Cavernous, you might even say. And while our current kitchen is by no means tiny, it’s also definitely and noticeably smaller than our old digs. So we’ve been economizing the space in as many ways as we can: shelves over the backs of the doors. Stuff stackers on the tops of the cabinets. Racks and organizers galore. (Minimize, I hear you say. Pshaw, I say. This is America.)

Then, my wife had a great idea. We have this recessed window area in the kitchen. Why not put a thing in there that can hold other things and not look like just a pile of stuff?

Yeah, that’s cool, I think. I love a little weekend project.

So I build this bench. Heavy as a bale of bricks and long enough to store a dead body or two. And it fits pretty snugly under the window. It blends in well enough with the space, in fact, that despite having some family over during the weekend, nobody noticed it squatting there, disguising the economy bundles of water and diet soda we picked up in advance of the storm.

Thing is, it took me most of the morning to build it; a good three or so hours, to say nothing of the trip to Home Depot for lumber and screws and so forth. Lots of frustrating work by myself in the garage, balancing things on edges, leveling them off, toiling to make sure the thing came out even in my modest home-fix-it setup.

It’s a weird thing, building stuff. I know enough about construction to get myself into trouble, as they say; I know a little bit about carpentry principles and if I really work at it I can build stuff that’s sturdy, but forget about making it look particularly presentable from any closer than fifty feet away. (Incidentally, this makes me fantastic at building things for the stage, which — surprise! — is a not insignificant portion of my job.) And because I’m decent but not great at building things, I have this love/hate relationship with building things. I love it — for a while. When it comes to building the thing and making it structurally and functionally sound, boy howdy, I can jump in with both feet and work ’round the clock without even really noticing the passage of time. But once I reach the limits of my expertise? Once the thing is built, and functional, and it’s time to make it look pretty? I lose interest faster than a goldfish in a dark room.

But that’s the problem, innit? Because the thing’s done only when it’s done. Which the carpentry gods reminded me of, painfully, with my bench.

I build the thing. It’s sturdy. It’s functional. Its edges are square. Its lid goes up and down. It’s basically done. The thought goes through my brain: you should probably sand it down. But having just put the hinge on, and having seen that the lid fits just so perfectly, I figure I’ve earned a break. The plywood I built it with, after all, is sanded on the outside anyway. I go upstairs. Poke at the wife until she agrees to come have a look at it. She agrees with me: it’s not bad.

“Is it done?” she asks.

“Basically,” I say.

“What’s that mean?”

I perambulate through the garage, winding up extension cords, sweeping up piles of sawdust. Job’s basically done, after all. “Well, it’s almost ready for painting, but seeing as we don’t have the paint yet, I figured I ought to take a break. Maybe try it out and see how it looks in the space. Maybe we’ll see what color we want to paint it when we get it up there.”

So we haul it upstairs. Plonk it down in the corner. Sit on it, test it out. Yep, it’s a bench seat.

“Looks good,” she says. (Actually, she lays it on a little thicker than that. She strokes my ego a bit. I think she must’ve been reading some articles or something lately; I feel her psychologizing me.)

“Yeah,” I agree.

“So, what now?”

I ponder. What I really don’t want to do is haul it back downstairs, or work on it at all anymore right at the moment, or perhaps, ever. It’s functional, after all. You can sit on it. The lid opens and shuts. Case closed. (So to speak.) Finally, my answer: “I guess it’s not hurting anything here. We can just keep it over here until we get the paint; then I’ll prep it.”

She gives me a look that I should recognize by now, but I let it bounce off me.

Fast forward a day, and I’m sitting down with the Sprout to work on some sight words. He wants to sit in the kitchen while mommy cooks. Hey! I just made a brand new bench seat for exactly that purpose! So I sit down, scoot over to make room for him, and catch a dagger-sized splinter in the meat of my hand.

Needless to say, after a healthy bit of cursing and an unpleasant bout with some tweezers, I find myself out on the back porch doing the job I should have done to begin with: sanding down the damn bench. It takes all of twenty minutes, and at the end, the thing is well and truly safe and pleasant to sit on, painted or not.

You see where I’m going with this.

I left the project nearly but not entirely finished, and its rough edges caught up to me almost immediately.

The parallel to writing is striking: the thing is not done until it’s done. That means whatever it means for the stage of the project you’re in: the draft isn’t done until you actually write an end to the thing (and go back to write all the things you intentionally skipped over on the way). The edit isn’t done until you’ve been through every inch of the project with your fine-toothed editing comb and fixed all the little fitzy bits. The submissions aren’t done until you’ve written and perfected the query letter and delivered it to the inboxes of everybody you can stand to send it to.

I’ll admit, I’m somewhat of two minds on this topic; I’m acutely aware of the dangers of overcooking an idea. You work at a thing too long and it turns to mush. You break yourself trying to perfect a thing which will never be perfect. There’s a virtue in being able to say, nope, that’s enough, and let a Good Thing simply be good.

But there’s a difference between stopping before you overcook the thing and leaving it properly unfinished, covered in jagged little splinters or worse. (Mixed metaphors, for example.)

Make no mistake — it’s easy to get sick of a project. To want to slap the last chapter in place because you’ve been after it for months and you want desperately to think of anything else. But if you don’t knuckle up to the tedious work that comes with dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and making sure that all of your plotlines properly resolve and don’t just wander off into the ocean or something, well…

Somebody’s gonna catch a splinter up their backside. Maybe even you.

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How *you* doing?


Me? Over here?

Oh, you know, just having one of those weeks where it feels like every single thing I write or do or even think seems to me like a sentient pile of bear poop that is, itself, shaped like a bear. A bear with sharpened poop claws and poop fangs just waiting to slice into me for the crime of bringing its poopy mass into existence.

You know, a week where anything I create just gloms together into a seething, roiling mass of crapness. So much crap that it begins to collapse under its own weight, swirling and coalescing into a crappy black hole in my backyard; a black hole into which I might gladly toss my laptop, my current project, my other previous projects, and any and all potential future projects I might have thought about conceiving of. An entire alternate universe of projects that never had a chance of existing; those can go, too. Reality and possibility themselves bend around the gravity of my ineptitude.

Drive it all into the ocean and drown the world in the tsunami.

Douse it with gasoline and outshine the sun with the fireball.

Bury it underground and dwarf Everest with the displaced earth.

Ahem.

How am I doing?

Fine. Everything is fine.

How about you?


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