Tag Archives: silly

Metaphor Monday: The Painted Closet


Metaphor Monday is a new thing we’re trying out around here. Every week, I’ll pick a thing and compare it to another thing. Probably writing, since that’s what this blog is about, but who knows? Metaphors are awesome. Alliteration, doubly so. Got a suggestion for next week’s metaphor? Drop it in the comments. And yeah, I’m a day late today — you’ll see why below.

We’re moving (finally!) and as a result, most of my thoughts bend in that direction. The whole affair got delayed and postponed and we ran out of time this summer to deal with it the way we would have liked, and now we’re having to rush through things. Instead of two weeks to sort our lives out before we got back to work, we were left with more like two days, so it’s a frantic rush of movers and building furniture and unloading boxes and the house looks like a war zone if the war were fought between rival manufacturers of styrofoam peanuts.

So we’re hustling to get the kids’ rooms painted (because if we don’t do it now, it’ll never happen), and I catch my wife sort of staring into the closet. Hands on hips. Thoughtful frown on her lips.

“What’s up?” I ask.

“I don’t know if I can handle these closets,” she says.

I look. While most of the rest of the house is immaculate, the closets are not — especially the ones in the kids’ rooms. They were obviously occupied by kids before, and bear the scars of it. Dings and chips in the drywall where toys or sporting equipment were chucked heedlessly in. Aimless, careless scribbles in crayon and marker — not a design or an attempt at artwork, just an outburst of uncertain creative energy.

I shrug. “It’s a closet.”

“I know, but it’s going to bother me.”

Really? I’ve got bunkbeds to build and a rain forest in the backyard to trim down and about a bajillion boxes to haul up the stairs and you want to waste time painting a closet? Why? Who’s going to see it?

Come to think of it, I mean, when’s the last time you saw the back of your own closet, let alone anybody else’s? Leaving the closet in that state is a crime without a victim; literally nobody will ever know. I begin to protest, but I don’t get very far.

“No, I really want to paint over them.”

Happy wife, happy life, they say. So I go down to the basement in search of the primer. We crack it open and go to work with the rollers, and the job is done in less than an hour. We don’t even do a good job, really — the color’s not a perfect match to what’s in there already, and some of the really dark marks show through — but the closets look miles better.

And my wife is smiling a little more.

And so am I.

So, what’s a painted closet have to do with anything? Well, it’s exactly what it is: a lovely little detail that nobody else knows is there. It’s Van Gogh’s signature twisted into the whorls of a sunflower. An authorial flourish added, not for the well-being of the observer, but for the well-being of the author.

An oft-quoted bit of advice for the writer is “kill your darlings.” Generally, it means that those weird little things that you stuck into the work for your own benefit? Because they made you laugh, or amused you, without serving the story as a whole? Those are things which distract from the narrative, that seem to stand for bigger things and thus demand the reader’s attention, and then frustrate the reader when they don’t. They’re a waste of time, in other words. Everybody involved has better things to do. So they deserve, to butcher syntax in a way I feel rolls right off the tongue, to be got rid of. (Diagram that sentence, Ms. Finch!)

But a closet doesn’t take that much time to paint, and there’s the odd house guest who might poke their nose into the nooks and crannies of the place; wouldn’t we rather give them a nice, finished closet to look at rather than a pockmarked and graffitied (graffiti’d?) hidey-hole we hoped would never see the light of day?

By the same token, a story needs a few diversions. A few rabbit holes for readers to dive into, even if there’s nothing hiding at the bottom.

And, after all, a happier wife is worth an hour’s worth of work with a paint roller.

 


Watch This


I’m one of those guys who still wears a watch.

I know, right? Older than old school. Positively ancient. Not only do I wear a watch to begin with, but I don’t even wear one as a fashion statement: I wear the tacky digital kinds (one of those backward primates who still thinks digital watches are neat).

Why bother? When we have what are essentially supercomputers tucked in our pockets, what’s the point of having an outdated piece of tech strapped to the wrist?

Well, regular readers know already that I’m a little bit preoccupied with time as a concept. I wrote an entire novel (still in edits — okay not in edits yet, but slated for it soon) about time-traveling teenagers. There’s no telling when that phone in your pocket will run out of juice or kick the bucket all on its own (as the technology increases, so does the crash potential). Not to mention the fact that — and perhaps I’m showing my teacher stripes here a bit — I find it enormously tacky whipping your phone out as regularly as breathing to check anything: social media, e-mail, the time, the weather. I’m guilty of enough of that without resorting to the phone to check the time several times an hour.

Further, something about my bare wrist bothers me. Hard to nail down why, but my unadorned body kinda skeeves me out. I wear all kinds of stuff, preferably the kind I don’t have to take off, just so that my naked skin isn’t just flapping in the breeze. Rings on both hands (I’m down to just one on each hand these days). A three-year-old glow-in-the-dark bracelet from a 5k. A really rather sharp man-chain necklace, a gift from my wife in our first year together. I even, back in times we won’t talk about, dabbled in earrings, and in my really dark days, an anklet. (I know. I KNOW. It was the nineties. God.)

And then there’s my watch, which is the only functional accessory in the lot.

I dunno, I think there’s something elegant and classy about being able to track the movement of time — time, dictated by the very movement of the planet around the sun, or, in a less direct sense, by the actual vibrations of Cesium electrons (and yes, okay, they’re not “Cesium electrons” but rather electrons in orbit around a Cesium atom GOD this isn’t a science class) — just with a flick of the wrist, an adjustment of the sleeve. Plus, and I know I’ve mentioned this before, I’m a teacher, and teaching types live and die by the number of minutes left in the period, so I like to have that information handy. (I am so sorry. No I’m not. Every pun is deliberate.) Seriously. Digital watches are neat.

And my watch broke the other day.

Well, the band broke. And with the caliber of watches I traffic in, that basically means the watch is dead to me, because it costs only slightly more to buy a replacement watch than it would cost to buy a replacement band, not to mention finding the right band and fiddling with microscopic screwdrivers and tiny pins and pieces that can barely be seen with the naked eye. No thanks. Plus, that battery will be going soon, for that matter, and … yeah. It’s quicker and easier to shell out $20 for a new watch than to sink time and repair into the old one. (#firstworldproblems, I know.)

How did I break the band? Fair question. Here’s my humble-brag: push-ups. Apparently my wrist bulges like an inflated python, and after — man, how long did that watch last? let me ratchet this humble-brag up a step — let’s say a few thousand reps, that thing snapped like a fat man’s belt at a Vegas buffet.

So I have to muddle through a few days, watchless.

20160816_205727.jpg

Don’t look at the tan-line too long. You could go snow blind.

And it’s painful. Because I have no idea what time it is, outside of knowing that it’s generally night or day based on the light coming in through the window. Sure, I could check the systems clock at the bottom right of my computer screen — or the digital display on the cable box — or the Roman-numeral-analog job hanging on the wall — or the other digital display on the stove — or the one in the dash of my car — or my alarm clock that shows the time TWICE (once on its face and once projected in foot-tall letters on the bedroom wall — OR OKAY FINE MY PHONE — but no.

NO.

I needs my watch.

I feel naked without it.

So naked I’m thinking of putting an anklet on my wrist.

Please, think of the anklets.

No, wait. Don’t. Don’t think of the anklets. EVER.


The Fruity-Smelling Guy


Note that the title of this post is not “The Fruity Smelling Guy” (the somewhat effeminate dude who goes around sniffing things). Come to think of it, do people even use “fruity” as a pejorative anymore? Anyway…

We’re back from vacation now.

I could write about the beach and how relaxing it was: the soft ocean breeze, the sand that gives way beneath your feet like so many microscopic gremlins and then swallows your feet up just as quickly, the tireless wash of the surf, the alligators cruising by just off the coast.

I could write about the weather and how backwards it was. We spent the week leading up to the vacation with lovely, cool (for summer) days in the low 80s and nights in the 60s. We traded that for a monstrous heat wave all week of temperatures in the upper 90s, with a heat index of well over 100 every day. (Keep in mind, this is the South — specifically Savannah — where even a moderate amount of heat can quickly transform your average city street into a slow-cooker thanks to the humidity.) Then, the day we came back — literally, that evening, and possibly while we were on the highway — the heat wave broke, a cold front moved in or something (I don’t know, I don’t weather) and we returned to the calm and really delightful 80s-60s range. Had we had that weather on the vacation, I think, at the very least, the kids would have asked about 80% less “WHY DID YOU BRING ME HERE”s and “DADDY WHY IS IT SO HOT”s.

Or I could write about the really amazing thing about vacationing with family that wants to help out with your kids: Grandparents putting kids to bed, grandparents getting kids dressed, grandparents changing diapers, grandparents waking up with the kids at the crack of dawn. I really can’t recommend bringing your kids’ grandparents on vacation enough, at least assuming that said grandparents are not the sort who will sit idly and ignore the kids’ screaming in a restaurant (they’re only children after all).

But what’s really on my mind?

What, in some strange way, I miss about vacation most of all?

Smelling like fruit.

Not because I eat a lot of fruit on vacation, or anything. (If anything, I slack in that department. Because who can manage a diet on vacation? If you can, please ship yourself back to Mars so you can resume life with the other non-humans.) But because when I’m on vacation, I use my wife’s body wash.

This isn’t a conscious decision or anything. (At least, it wasn’t always.) We’ve been vacationing together for about eleven years now (help!), and this is a trend that started some time ago, though I’d be hard-pressed to identify the first time. The fact is, I’m a forgetful Ferris, and on one of these vacations, I forgot to pack soap. I pointed this out to my wife in explanation of why I was grabbing my keys to head for the nearest overpriced island-monopoly grocery/convenience store, and she hit me with something I really hadn’t thought of:

“Why don’t you just use mine?”

I followed her to the bathroom, where she showed me a bottle of fragrant orangey gunk with little beads of alabaster foam floating in it. Blood orange extract. Orchid essence. Jojoba juice. She saw the look on my face and popped the lid for me to sniff it. With trepidation, I did. It smelled even fruitier than it looked. Like a produce truck carrying a million melons had crashed into a perfume factory and exploded in a fireball of flower-smell and aerosolized pheromones.

“No way,” I said, with a characteristic macho folding of my arms. Man’s soap, I explained, is supposed to smell like the woods, or the earth, or something blue and cool and vaguely industrial.

“So you’re going to go spend five dollars on a bottle of something you have at home anyway?”

That appealed to my spendthrift spirit, and I lathered up with the fruity goop. I spent the rest of vacation smelling like an orchard that’s maybe just a little past ripe, and I’m happy to say that I was no less manly for the transgression.

These days, I don’t pack soap for our trips at all, of any length — not because I forget, but because I know my wife will remember, so I don’t have to. (It’s surprising how much easier your life becomes when you adopt a maxim like this. Or maybe that’s just when you have a wife like mine. This is a woman who starts packing five days in advance for a two-evening trip.) Rather, I happily embrace the fact that, when I’m on vacation, I’m going to smell like whatever aromatic mixture of scents was sitting on my wife’s shelf waiting to be used. Gingerbread Cookie, Tropical Tango, Peppermint Dream, Lavender Lullaby (some of those names are made up, but some, I assure you, are real) — I have used them all and paraded my un-manly-smelling self around the locales of much of the Southeast.

20160620_184640.jpg

Note the absolutely useless comb that I still keep next to the sink, for some reason.

And why not? Smell is the sense most closely tied to memory, and when I’m on vacation, smelling like the entryway of a florists, I’m reminded of the other vacations I’ve had with my wife (and, more recently, of my awesome — if exhausting — kids). Which is not such a bad thing.

Plus, it’s one less thing I have to remember to pack. And that’s a good thing, too.

I wonder if my wife will notice if I just start using it all the time…


Clearance Rack


Is there anything more fun about Target than trying on the accessories?

20160320_095042.jpg

Here’s a photo in desperate need of a caption. Or maybe it’s a story prompt.

Try it. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Balls


The prompt for the week is “ball,” and while I usually use the prompt to re-evaluate and re-motivate myself for the week, I’m just not having the coherent thoughts needed for a post like that this morning. Maybe it’s the fact that I was up way too late last night, or maybe it’s because I’m reaching a fatigue point between work and coaching and writing and everything else. So, a little different today:

A series of different types of balls (cue the Beavis & Butthead laughs) and the way they’re like writing.

Begin!

Sports Ball (any type): The game can only be won if you keep your eye on it and move it deftly toward the goal, overcoming the defense mounted by whoever ow whatever your opposition happens to be.

The Ball, Stadion, Football, The Pitch, Grass, Game

Ball and Chain: No, not your wife (or husband!); sometimes the project gets heavy, like a weight attached to your 20’s era black-and-white striped prisoner’s leg. We have to know when to set the project aside and focus on something else to relieve us of the weight and the stress.

Caught, Prison, Chain, Metal, Fig, Ball

Snow Ball: The project rolls downhill, gathering snow and twigs and squirrels and whatever it rolls over. When it’s moving under its own weight, stay out of its way.

Idiot Ball: A tvtropes favorite of mine. The idiot ball is a metaphorical object carried by a character who is being hopelessly obtuse and overlooking something obvious that would solve the problem of the day. If you’re not careful, this can become you. Double-check yourself from time to time to make sure the problems and solutions you’ve created actually make sense.

Ballroom dance: Sometimes the narrative needs to be as graceful as one: every step measured, every gesture flawless. Of course, the opposite is also true:

Latin, Dance, Tango, Ballroom, Dancing Couple

Wrecking Ball: Sometimes the narrative needs some devastation. Hop on the wrecking ball and smash it through some walls, knock down some central constructs, destroy what you thought your story was all about. Then rebuild it better than before.

Ball of Yarn: It seems like a good idea to have tons of different storylines woven together into an un-tangle-able knot of overlapping conflicts. But too much of a good thing quickly becomes a bad thing. The central conflict of a story has to be straightforward, though not necessarily simple. Less ball-of-yarn, more frayed sweater. Tugging on that loose thread should lead us inexorably toward the end of the story.

Wool, Yarn, Balls, Hobbies, Craft, Knitting, Needlework

Ball Lightning: one of those things which doesn’t seem like it should exist, and maybe/probably it doesn’t. This is a ball of pure condensed energy that falls to earth, rolls around unpredictably, then blows the fargo up, effecting some degree of burn damage and electrical disturbance and, you know, death. Sounds like a good template for a character.

I’m tapped out on this one, which disappoints me a little. So I turn to my readers. What other literary balls (huh huh, huh huh) am I leaving out?

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


%d bloggers like this: