Tag Archives: stream of consciousness

The Pen Makes the Writer (Except it Obviously Doesn’t)


The prompt for this week’s SOCS post is open book, point, write. Now that sounds great and funny and creative for most people, but the problem is that our house is run by this little monster and his little monster sister, and as a result our house is full of their books.

Pay no attention to the clutter. We just got home from vacation, so I’m going to pretend that’s the reason for the mess, and that the house isn’t totally like this all the time.

And because the house is full of their books, that literally means that their books are everywhere, so when the prompt says to reach for the nearest book, and you do it in good faith, you come up with this:

AKA “Pizza Cat”

And you don’t get an awesome word like “psychotherapy” or “Mondrian” or “motivation” or “clown car” (sure that’s two words but it’s a great concept in the book I should have reached for: Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson, more on that later). No, you reach for a Pete the Cat book and you get a word like “bat”, and it’s not even a usage of bat that’s fun for a writer to explore like, I dunno, vampire bats or something, no, it’s a literal bat because Pete is literally playing baseball. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I hate baseball (almost as much as I hate golf). Still, I’m a good soldier, and the prompt says to use that word, so here I go.

But but but, the prompt is also a Stream-of-Consciousness prompt, which means write whatever comes to mind, and my mind is decidedly not on bats or baseball. So I’m going to remain a good soldier by sticking to the intent of the prompt and going where my mind takes me, which is pens.

Literal pens, specifically, in fact one particular pen in particular, but also pens in the larger sense, the metaphorical sense. (See, if there were a Pete the Cat story about pens, we could have jumped straight to this point instead of all that dithering about with bats.)

Pens are on my mind because I’m having a sort of existential crisis about pens lately, and if you think that’s a silly thing to have an existential crisis about, then obviously you’ve never held a proper pen in your life. (Ok, that’s a little hyperbolic. A little.) Actually, I need to back up.

I’ve been writing by hand a lot over the last couple months, and when you do a thing a lot, you want to make sure you’re doing it right, which is to say, efficiently and, if possible, pleasurably. And while my Pilot G2 pens have been my go-to for years, with all this writing by hand, I wondered if there was a better option. (Writers, let me do you a favor. Stop now, if you value your sanity.) Well, you do a quick google on the issue, and you fall into a hole. Long story short, I invested a ridiculous amount of money in a single writing instrument (though not nearly as much as you could spend if you were of a mind to — the hole on pens goes DEEP) and quickly fell in love with it. It writes so smoothly! It feels so satisfying in the hand! All the good things! Seriously, if you fancy yourself a writer and you haven’t tried writing with a fountain pen, you are depriving yourself.

Thing about fountain pens, though, is they run out of ink and have to be refilled. I planned for this by buying some ink refills when I bought the pen, but I’m too clever for my own good; I took them to work with me (since that’s where I was doing my writing by hand at the time) and left them there. So my super nice pen ran out of ink, and I had no ink with which to refill it.

(Here I must detour to say, I know the amount of thought I’m putting into this is ridiculous. I KNOW. Okay? But again, if you think this is a silly thing to have an existential crisis over, then you obviously haven’t spent any time in a head anything like mine.)

It came time to write this morning’s pages and my fountain pen was down for the count. So I reached for any old pen sitting on the shelf, and I was immediately reminded why I have so quickly taken to fountain pens. The writing felt scritchy, the ink didn’t glide onto the page as smoothly … and as a result, writing my pages was not as much fun as it’s been lately.

Here’s where the existential crisis comes in. I’ve pretty much made it my mantra not to care about brand names, celebrity endorsements, advertisements … anything like that. If it does the job, it’ll work for me has basically become my phrase to live by. I only shop store brands at the grocery store, I order off-brand sneakers … I don’t even know the brand name of the clothes I’m wearing now. I drive my wife nuts because she has wanted to upgrade our almost-20-year-old Camry for years but I wouldn’t dream of it. Why would I? It runs fine. So why am I getting twisted up like hair in a blender about my pens?

Here, I think, is why: the fountain pen, for one thing, feels really nice to write with. It’s hard to describe, but it literally glides on the page. And when you’re writing multiple pages at a whack, it makes a difference if the tactile experience itself is enjoyable or irksome. Also — the fountain pen just looks like a Real Writer’s Tool. Seriously. Look at that thing!

The weight of it! That nib! (Horrible word, that — “nib” — but who cares, the point of this thing looks like something Shakespeare himself would have used) The user of a writing utensil like this, my brain whispers in my ear, is a user who Knows What He Is Doing When He Puts Pen To Paper. I just feel like a real writer when I use it, and being suddenly deprived of it makes me feel the ever-dreaded less than.

Which is STUPID. A pen no more makes the writer than the clothes make the man (an idiotic expression if ever I’ve heard one). But the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants my Real Writer’s Pen back. Which is why, even though I dutifully wrote my Morning Pages with an Any Old Pen I found in the drawer, I plan on picking up more ink when I head out later today.

I know, I know. It’s stupid. First world problems in the extreme. What can I say? My brain is broken; this is just the latest example.

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

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Yes, There Is A Try


Do, or do not; there is no try. — Yoda

That used to be my stuff, right there. Say it, little green man. You’re either gonna do a thing or not do a thing, so quit pussyfooting around and saying you’re gonna “try.”

Oh, you’re gonna “try” to get that job? You’re gonna “try” to write today? You’re gonna “try” to do a push-up? Like hell you are. You’re either gonna make it a priority and bend your entire existence toward it and DO IT, or you’re gonna not, and the opportunity is gonna pass you by, and here you will still be, a little bit sadder.

Except … life isn’t always that simple, is it?cx


Canine Curling


Your dog is smarter than my dog.

I know this because my dog is the dumbest dog living.

Our neighbors are having a yard sale this morning. Lots of cars coming and going, doors slamming, muffled voices from the driveway.

These are all signs our dog (naturally) associates with my wife and I coming home from work. And our dog is the quintessential Attention Whore Dog (AWD for brevity ahead). She has to be in the same room with us at all times. If we step out on the back porch, even just to take out the trash or hose out a litter box, so must she. Going to the bathroom? She’s coming with you (though thankfully she’ll dutifully stop before coming in, and wait with her nose on her paws for you to come out). Headed to the kitchen? She’s on your tail with hers wagging. Cleaning house? She’ll follow you from room to room, simultaneously keeping you in view while keeping her distance from the vacuum cleaner.

All of which is to say that when we come home from leaving her alone all day, she’s a little keyed-up to see us. She greets us at the door, bounding all over the place, sniffing at our crotches, bashing her nose into our low-hanging hands. And she knows to do this when she hears the sounds that indicate we’re coming through the front door: cars grinding to a stop. Doors whumping shut. Muffled voices from the driveway.

And like I said, the neighbors are having a yard sale today — so she’s been hearing those sounds on repeat all morning. So she’s been in a perpetual state of getting revved up to see us without the payoff of actually seeing us so she can let it out and calm down.

But that’s understandable. She’s a dog. She doesn’t know the difference between strangers making those noises and us making them. Here’s why she’s dumb.

When she gets hyped up or stressed out, she doesn’t do typical dog things. She doesn’t chew up our shoes or shred couch cushions or pillows (and I guess we should be thankful for that). She just runs around. She darts from place to place, shoves herself into the tiniest spaces she can find (under the dresser, into the back of the closet, behind the toilet, etc), stays there for about five seconds, then finds a new place. And she forgets how big she is during these forays. So she’ll knock over chairs, rattle glassware on counters, upend lamps.

And for some reason, she’ll dig into her food bowl and just spread it all over the place.

I don’t understand this. It seems like it can only inconvenience her. But it happens every time she gets stressed — we find kibble all over the kitchen, and I do mean all over the kitchen. It’s like she’s playing puppy shuffleboard with it. Or canine curling. (Oh man, just picture it.)

So, needless to say, I found the kitchen just swamped with kibble when I got back to the house this morning.

Fortunately for her, she’s too cute to kill.

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What do you think? Is your dog dumber than mine? You’re wrong, but I’d love to hear about it.

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


Superdetectives are my Jam


It’s funny how I made it through just about 20 years of life basically indifferent to — and uninterested in — Sherlock Holmes, and spent the next (almost) 20 years with Sherlock Holmes and his myriad derivatives being my favorite kind of superhero.

It started when I watched Monk sometime in college. Tony Shalhoub played this detective with OCD — a totally understandable dysfunction for a detective to develop, actually. He was a germophobe, perfectionist, and kind of a genius. He couldn’t shake your hand, but he could figure out where you’d been when your neighbor said you were over for crappy grilled cheese sandwiches by the grease stains on your shoes.

Image result for monk

Thus began my fascination with the character who sees what the other characters don’t. In the intervening time, some of my favorite stories have been House (a doctor show based on Sherlock Holmes), Criminal Minds (a detective show where everybody has superpowers for determining truths about psychopaths based on their preferred method of decapitation and/or sexual abuse — a pretty messed up show, actually), and a host of other shows based on the character who had that vision for the thing misplaced, the nose for the detail that didn’t fit. Oh, and of course I went back and read the entire Sherlock Holmes catalogue (loved it), watched the newest iteration of Sherlock Holmes movies (loved the ones with Robert Downey Jr., despite the knocks against them. Hated the one with Ian McKellan as Holmes … so boring), and then there’s the brilliant Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (which is the funnest name to screw up ever — Flumbybums, Drumberdroops, Pookersnoots), which belongs in your life if it isn’t already there.

So it’s no surprise, I guess, that my latest protagonist — even in a novel that is decidedly not a detective story by any stretch — has a bit of that vision.

Funny how the right story can unlock your brain.

I’m gonna have to think about this more at a time when my brain isn’t as fried as it currently is.

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

 


Sunburned Eggs (or, Atheists at Easter)


My son and I were in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart today.

Okay, so mistakes were made (never enter the toy aisle at Wal-Mart with your kid — better yet, never enter the toy aisle at ANY store with your kid — better still, never enter Wal-Mart) but it led to this interesting tidbit:

Me: Hey, bud, you like this one? Looks like he does magic.

Sprout: Magic isn’t real, daddy.

Me: Oh, really? It’s not?

Sprout: Well (he prefaces all his profundities with “well”), magic tricks are real, but real magic isn’t real.

(Whoa.)

Me: (the militant skeptic, hoping that this, right here, standing in the toy aisle, is the end of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and all manner of insufferable BS that parents pretend at for the “benefit” of their kids, but not wanting to come on too strong) oh, really?

Sprout: Yeah. Nobody has real magic.

Me: I see. Well — do you think the Easter Bunny is magic?

Sprout: Well, he only brings eggs filled with candy. That’s not magic.

So, you know. His skeptical instincts are apparently well-formed but still developing.

None of which kept me (a staunch atheist) and my wife (a wobbly atheist) from taking the kids to a local church for an Easter Egg Hunt (what gets capitalized there, really? Easter is the holiday, but Easter Eggs are specific things, and Hunts for Easter Eggs are certainly specific things too, though eggs and hunts are not typically specific things, and sometimes I hate the the fact that I taught English). This was not a purely cynical exercise, mind you. We were invited by one of my wife’s co-workers who, I think, thinks she can “snap us out of it.” And because we apparently think these kinds of things are good for the kids to take part in — as a cultural phenomenon, if not as a religious one — we went.

Anyway.

At said hunt, the organizers were dropping eggs from a helicopter, which is a thing that’s become more of a thing in recent years at your bigger Easter events. Of course, this is all flash without substance — it doesn’t change the intrinsic sugar-frenzy of the kids scrambling to get all the eggs before their peers, it just hypes them up and instills a good, solid bloodlust beforehand. But at this particular event (which was the first helo-drop), all the bugs had not yet been ironed out. So the helicopter circled the field once or twice, with the anticipation building, landed nearby to collect the eggs, then descended and dropped (apparently) thousands of eggs in a single spot on the field.

Thanks to all the rigmarole with the helicopter, the waiting for the “hunt” to begin (and the field in question was a literal soccer field, so it was less “hunt” and more “frenzied Thunderdome for all the clearly visible eggs in the grass”) took over an hour. Which resulted in a lot of cranky toddlers, frustrated parents, and at least one seriously sunburned bald atheist.

Which left my wife and I wondering why we went through it all.

Of course, the kids had a ball.

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I want you to note how really, thoroughly, unimpressed my kids are by all this.

So I guess there’s that.

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


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