This week has been loaded like a fast food baked potato…
The Weather: This week the National Weather Service issued their highest level of severe thunderstorm caution. We all expected to be under the rage of tornadoes all day, but it didn’t rain at all until the next morning, and none of that was severe. I know they have to follow the data, but it seems like a wolf cry.
The Cell Tower: after I posted a survey for a while at the top of this blog (which is now gone), the official nickname of the cell tower being built next door will be Nerdman’s Pride. The first crew from R&S Tower finished their work, installing the road, the gas and electricity, the foundation, and the pillars. They left yesterday, saying the next crew would “stack,” or build the actual tower part of the tower.
Dressing Up: I’ve very much enjoyed dressing up for covering area graduations the past couple of weeks. I am really thin now, and feel like I look really good in a dress shirt and tie. Most of the attendees are dressed very casually, but it still feels good to clean up.
Coming Out the Closet: The big clean-out continues for both my wife and me, as we are both a great weight now, and we have lot of clothing that no longer fits.
New Rides: I got new tires for my Nissan Juke. I always feel like my car is two inches taller when I drive on new tires.
The Carol Burnett Show: With the recent death of Tim Conway, YouTube has been suggesting more videos of him, particularly his appearances on The Carol Burnett Show. In addition to being surprisingly low-budget in appearance (the staging looks like it could have been done at a high school), it amazes and annoys me that we were so tolerant of truly offensive humor, skits and bits no one could do today because they are so politically incorrect. Some of them are also not funny on their faces; the joke is over in about 45 seconds, but the skit lasts 13 minutes. Watch this hilarity about Nazis torturing a prisoner of war…
Maximum Speed Boulevard, our male Chihuahua since January 2006, has died. He was about 15 years old.
We originally adopted Max from the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) on January 7, 2006, one day before he was slated to be euthanized (which PAWS no longer does). One of Abby’s coworkers told us about him, and Abby took her nephew to the shelter and got Max.
Max was a great pet. He was a trash dog and a burglar alarm, and when he was younger, dug out of the front yard several times every spring.
Max travelled with us to numerous locations from the glittering Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, the deserts of the Four Corners region, Christmas in New Orleans, the Great American Eclipse in Park Hills, Missouri, and even to the east coast of Florida.
At one point on one of the Florida trips, we thought we’d lost him, but someone opened the pantry door, and there he stood.
His health was failing in the last couple of years. He couldn’t hear or see, was reliant on two drugs for his heart and his joints, and was no longer able to leap onto couches or laps, which he did like a spider when he was young. His teeth were mostly going or gone. He was prone to yelping at the door when I was outside mowing, and in recent weeks got lost trying to find his food bowl.
After putting it off repeatedly, we decided to put him down. He was a great dog.
Abby and I discovered each other to be awake at 4:30 this morning. We talked for a while in the dark, petting the dogs, holding each other’s hands, laughing quietly, reaffirming our love, our marriage, our lives. We were like newlyweds, teenagers. It was intimacy at its very best, and it comes from the core of our marriage.
Workers are installing a long-awaited cell tower next door.
Why and when I prefer tablets over phones.
Everyone who knows me is aware that I seldom get sick, and even seldomer stay home from work sick, but the past two days have taken me down, with dizziness, vertigo, and malaise. I thought it might be a bad reaction to a medication, but Abby seems to be having it too, so now we think it might be a virus of some type.
Being down for even a day or two is very frustrating for me, as I am very healthy, very active, stay as busy as a bee, and remain super motivated to get things done. I’m feeling better enough today to be up and about, and will probably return to work tomorrow. If nothing else, being sick helps to remind me that many people deal with chronic debilitating illness, and I should always remain grateful for my health.
Although I mostly laid in bed yesterday, I did get up-ish for a while in the evening. Abby and I watched some game show bloopers on YouTube, then went back to bed, but not before I stepped out to photograph a major change to our patch of green: a cell tower is being installed next door.
My feelings about this event are mixed and complex…
It will be an eyesore. I have never liked the look of cell towers.
It is damaging to the land, as the crew dug a fairly deep hole for the foundation, and built a short gravel road to it.
It isn’t as damaging to the land as it potentially could have been. For example, they only tore down a couple of walnut saplings and a couple of elm saplings, which I had just kind of let grow.
All the work is on the other side of the property line, on the land that once belonged to the Milligans (Abby’s first in-laws), but which now belongs to the Nipps, our favorite neighbors.
The builders told me the first client will be ATT. We rely on cellular phone and data service, and Byng was a notorious ATT dark zone. We are glad the service will be better, although in the house now we use VoIP, not tower service.
The builders, who said they were from Saint Louis, also told me it will be a free-standing 300-foot tower. They said, “it’s not going anywhere. Cell towers like this in the Joplin tornado stayed up.”
I’m kind of an antenna guy, so it would hippocritcal for me to come down on antennas just because they are in my back yard.
The equipment has been roaring away for two days now, digging and moving earth. I expect it will be another week before the tower is up, and maybe months before ATT gets the service equipment in place, but it will be nice to have a cell signal on our phones for a change.
Finally, a friend of mine recently bought an iPad, nearly identical to the ones Abby and I have, and after using it for a day or two decided it wasn’t the game-changer he thought it would be. I guess he was looking for it to revolutionize his photography in some way, possibly making it easier to shoot and edit with the bigger-screened tablet.
One of the myths of tablets is that they are better than phones, but the truth is they are almost the same as phones, with the only real difference being the size of the screen. To me as a professional photographer, I would almost always carry and use the phone because of its compact size. The times I love a tablet is personal time, when I want to stream a movie or watch YouTube from the couch or the bed.
When Abby and I were first dating in 2003, Friday nights were often occupied watching a show that aired on ABC and ABC Family at the time, Whose Line Is It Anyway? We balled up together on the couch and laughed out loud all night.
In the Netflix era, we watch almost no “aired” television any more, but we own a couple of seasons of Whose Line on DVD, and last night Abby suggested we ball up on the big blue couch and watch. We laughed like hyenas.
It might be fun to pick out a couple of Whose Line games, like “90-second alphabet,” and do them at Open Mic Nyte.
I rode around on my mower for an hour tonight with a question in my head, one I’ve been pndering for years now. I am not attempting to bait and switch. I want an honest answer. I am leaning toward Wil C. Fry, who was well-educated as a Christian, to give me a clear-headed answer on this…
A Christian premise seems to be that the only correct path to eternal life is through Jesus.
John 14:6 seems unambiguous: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”
So my question is: is every Jew who died storming the beaches for the allies on D-Day in hell now?
Sometimes it feels like I want to do too many things. I want to write, I want to load the dishwasher, I want to mow, I want to play with lights in my studio, I want to take an extra walk with Hawken, I want to clean in the garage, I want to experiment with lenses, I want to shoot my guns, I want to tend my garden, I want, I want, I want…
We all get like this, and sometimes the tendency is to not do anything at all.
I, on the other hand, make myself stop for a second, and remember than I can’t do all these things at once, and I should do just one thing. That’s me today, and my first activity is writing what you are reading.
On another front, two good friends who are my age are having health problems. One of them might be having a heart attack (or may have had one), and is being stubborn about seeking medical care, and the other has a nerve issue combined with hypertension, which you can read about in his blog here (link.)
Yes, it’s disconcerting when my young friends are now old friends with old people problems, but the up side is that Abby and I are both fine at the moment, as are Summer the Chihuahua and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. To complicate the roller coaster ride is the fact that Max the Chihuahua, who is 15, is still sliding toward the inevitable: he can’t see or hear, and he is unable to move like he once could. He remains a loyal and wonderful dog, even though these are probably his last days or weeks.
The refrigerator guy is coming Tuesday to repair our 2009 model Whirlpool Gold series fridge. It is a beautiful, spacious machine with great features, and I was sad to find it was making less and less cold as the last couple of weeks progressed, so I expect it needs refrigerant or a part, but it’s such a great machine, it is worth fixing.
I moved all the perishables into the much older garage fridge, which we had repaired when we got the new one, for occasions like Thanksgiving, or when I need a cold water while mowing, or like this one now.
In advance of the repair, I decided to unplug it, remove all the removables, and clean it. The design is remarkably friendly to this task, and before I knew it, I had all the shelves and compartments in my bathtub for a hot soap shower, and the inside of the “icebox” (as Abby calls it) and freezer sparkling like the day we bought it. It was a surprisingly fun activity. My sister will tell you that cleaning, when it goes well, is ingrained in us by our mother Sarah Jo.
I will take a moment to carefully editorialize about the state of sales and service in our world (careful since my own profession relies on direct sales): as I was attempting to set up Tuesday’s repair, the specialist on the other end of the phone aggressively, almost insistently, tried to sell me a blanket warranty for all the other appliances in our house. I let her talk, but I didn’t buy anything else but the one repair, and here’s why: if someone is selling you something this aggressively, they are making a fortune off of you, and not doing you any favors. Extended warranties are another example. Stay away.
My wife Abby has been able to lose some weight since about August 2017. If you want to know how much and how she did it, ask her.
She looks thin to me. I temper this inclination to see her as too thin with the very real notion that almost all human bodies we see today are too fat.
I weigh about the same as I did on the day we got married, 150 pounds. I was never overweight, but in the last five years I’ve been more aware of the value of acting and looking younger as I get older. Some of it is vanity. Some of it is my perceived duty to society: I feel that we own it to those around us to be the best people we can be, and to lead through example. And part of it is health. At my peak, I weighed about 180 pounds, which I carried well as I aged into my 50s, but which older men tend to carry poorly. It makes them look old and lazy, which they are. This is also why I color my beard and (eep) a small portion of my hairline on the sides.
Losing weight has a couple of amusing consequences. Both Abby and I now have tons of clothes that no longer fit. We talk about getting rid of them, but (and I know this doesn’t sound like me), I don’t want to jinx our success. Some pairs of cargo pants that were my standard daily work wear are now so too big for me that without a belt, they literally fall to the floor around my ankles.
It only took a couple of changes in my lifestyle to lose my weight: 1. I stop eating when I’m full, and 2. I redoubled my dedication to eating a plant-based diet. It also doesn’t hurt that I walk our Wolfhound every day without fail.
Finally, losing weight and keeping it off hasn’t been difficult or a sacrifice, but a pleasure. I feel great.
A Collecticon of Rants and Thoughts that You Didn’t Have
Suburban culture. I know it’s dreadful, but never moreso than on reality television. By all means, cheap tv producers, tell us consumers what we should want. Define us!
Sanitary socks. I came across this headline in one of my high school yearbooks. Despite my efforts, I can’t seem to find any other reference to it. I don’t even really know what a sanitary sock is. This speaks to the idea that high school kids, in this case, the yearbook staff, really are still kids, and don’t really know what the world is like.
Emotionalism, emotionalists: My friends and I in college went through a high and mighty period during which we thought the stupidest thing in the world we to let emotions guide our lives. In our defense, we were on to something; I see people ride emotional roller coasters to their destructions, all because they couldn’t find the truth rationally.
Over the years: One thing has become increasingly clear over the years: I can count on fewer and fewer friends. There have been people who I regarded as “kindred spirits,” who have disappeared from my life without explanation. It leads me to believe that they were not really friends, but simply wanted something from me.
The formula seems to be: Ignore “nice” guys; hook up with douchebag guys; pretend to be surprised when they ignore you, cheat on you or hit you; break up or divorce; say, “All men are pigs.” Repeat.
The political power grab: The narrative seems to be, “We will consolidate our power so we can make the world the way we want it to be.” But has this ever worked out? Which super-powerful tyrants ever constructed the utopia they claimed to imagine? Stalin? Pol Pot? Are the people of North Korea happy? Have they ever constructed a masterpiece society? Is that even possible? Or do we have to accept that human life is a filthy stew of dissent and dissatisfaction? In the end, it’s important to realize that Hitler didn’t want a happy, productive society. He wanted to destroy the Jews and dominate the world. Beyond that, he didn’t really have a vision. In some ways, Adolf Hitler was mostly successful in achieving his goals. Seeing so many dictators want to the same things, power and control over people through violence and death, really speaks to the fragility of the human psyche. So sure, maybe Donald Trump or Mike Pence or Vladimir Putin could crush all the homosexuals and liberals and atheists and intellectuals, but why would they want to? When has that ever worked? And if it did work, what would be left? Robotic, monosyllabic cretins who have nothing to contribute but 40 hours a week and a house in the suburbs?
The sexual spectrum: Stop telling me that you don’t mind people “being gay, as long as they don’t force it on me.” No gays are forcing anything on you, and they never have. This is just another way of saying you hate gays. Also, stop saying, “hate the sin, love the sinner,” because sexuality is both an identity and an activity, so if you hate homosexuality, you hate homosexuals. Finally, stop saying that “all gays are born gay.” Until you have met every gay person, you don’t know this. It is very likely that everyone is born in a unique place on the sexual spectrum, and that every person makes choices based on that.
Peaked too soon: how many people do I know who peaked when they were 18 or 20, then let life blow-dry them with mediocrity? How many true geniuses did I hold in my arms, only to run into them later and hear about their boring jobs and boring kids and boring weight gain? The worst are the “writers.” Saying you’re a writer doesn’t make you one, and a handful of poems in a high school lit class isn’t going to cut it. I’ll never forgive them for not living up to my expectations.
The hero: I came into the living room to find my wife not in her recliner, but on the big blue couch. She told me she’d been run off by a jumping spider. I found it on the back of her recliner and killed it, but it did give me the willies. Question: why do I welcome these harmless, beneficial creatures in my garden, but am completely revulsed by them in the house?
You don’t put toast in a toaster. You don’t heat hot water. Cows don’t drink milk.
Tilly the Tiller won’t run, at least not usefully, so all my planting this year is at the end of my shovel. Yesterday I got all my tomato, cherry tomato, and bell peppers in the ground, and today I hope to get seeds in the ground; squash, cantelope, cucumber, and marigolds.
Last year I also put in radishes, turnips, and lettuce, but we didn’t eat any of them.
The garden overall will be smaller than last year. In 2018, I bought a huge number, 24 as I recall, of tomato and bell pepper plants, from a local high school horticulture program. That number determined the size of my garden in concert with the smooth operation of Tilly the Tiller. This year, I decided that so many plants demanded a lot of time and attention, so I got eight tomato plants (2 cherry), and eight peppers. I am also certain based on last year’s excessive (but fun) yield that this number of plants will provide all the produce I can pick.
Hot is the new Sweet?
When shopping for plants yesterday, I only found a few bell pepper plants, but hundreds of hot pepper plants. It’s possible that most people have gotten their regular peppers in the ground already and the only peppers left are hot, but based on the layout of the garden center, I think it more likely that more people are buying and growing hot pepper plants. Neither Abby nore I care for hot peppers, but I know a lot of people who do.
Also I took our toddler bed to Abby’s hair stylist for her child, then went to Walmart for supplies. On the way home I bought lunch, mixed vegetables for both of us from Famous Wok, and felt like a real husband bringing it home to her, and a real husband sharing it with her.
I’d been letting my hair grow since last summer at the behest of my lovely wife, who says she loves my hair, and if there is more hair, there is more hair to love. I liked that idea and and attempted to let my hair grow through the various stages: shaggy, pre-mullet, mullet, pre-pony tail, pony tail…
By the time I was just about to be pony tail guy, spring arrived, meaning I would be working outdoors in warm climates, and at a baseball game last week I was constantly fighting hair blowing into my face.
Anyway, it is springtime on the patch, and that means firing up our many internal combustion engines as we prepare to use them to manage our patch of green.
The riding mower, “Wildfire,” gave only a slight argument when the nozzle on my air compressor was the wrong type, letting me only air up the right front tire slightly. The mower started and mowed as requested, but the tire was too low, so I parked it to wait for the right nozzle to air up that tire.
The push mower started on one pull Wednesday, but wouldn’t start at all tonight until I gave it a shot of starter fluid.
Tilly the tiller tilled a very tiny patch in the garden before cronking out. My neighbor Stevie and I both had a crack at it, to no avail. Small engine repair?
Abby and I went to renew her driver license today to find that it’s free for a senior citizen. Huh. Afterwards, we shared a nice breakfast. It was nice to be out with her.
Finally, not feeling worked enough, I decided to wash the truck, which hasn’t been clean since before the first of the year. I lovingly hand washed it with a brush on a stick, plus a wash cloth soaked in soap for the bugs stuck on the chrome. Bling!
Earlier this week I weighed 151 pounds. I stand 6′ 1″ tall, which means that I am thin. I happen to think this is a really good weight for me. Part of my success at being a good weight is that I am active; in addition to my work as a photographer and the necessities of taking care of a five acre patch of land, my adventures in walking our Irish Wolfhound are a real plus… winter or summer, come rain or come shine, the 160-pound Hawken needs to be walked, and we try to walk a mile every day.
Another real plus for my health has, for a long time, been my devotion to eating a plant-based diet. For 10 years before I was married, I was a practicing dietary vegan (I didn’t eat any animal products at all), but after I got married, I found I could fold dairy and eggs back into my diet in moderation so Abby and I could share more meals.
A diet like this might seem alien to a lot of my readers, but when I look around, I see a lot of unhealthy people, who are often unhealthy because of the foods they eat. I’m not a doctor, but I like to think of myself as well-read, and as a success. Here are my thoughts about diet in 2019…
Carbohydrates are not the enemy. Carbs get a bad reputation because people diagnosed with type II diabetes are told not to consume very many, but this is a result, not a plan. Carbohydrates are essential nutrient, and your body needs them. Their bad reputation comes from white bread and powdered sugar doughnuts. Think real whole grains; problem solved.
It’s not gluten. In recent years, gluten, the protein in wheat, has been vilified. I think this perception persists because people associate gluten with white bread, which isn’t a good dietary choice, and when they give up white bread, they think it was the gluten that was the source of the problem. Unless a doctor tells you you have celiac disease, gluten probably isn’t an issue. I also recently watched a man-on-the-street video on the web in which almost no one interviewed who said they were on a gluten-free diet could actually identify what gluten is.
You get enough protein. It’s almost too easy to dispel the myths surrounding protein: look around. Do you see anyone who is protein deficient? If you are getting enough calories to maintain your weight, you’re getting enough protein.
The trouble with cheese. If you enjoy cheese, keep in mind that it is one of the most calorie-dense foods in the human diet. A little cheese goes a long way.
Drinking is eating. The most important nutrient in the human diet is water, and the fastest way to ruin water is to add a huge sugar load to it. Soft drinks are, in my opinion, one of the least healthy substances we can consume, and I don’t. I haven’t had a soda in years.
The garden. Not only does a vegetable garden provide an excellent source of fruits and vegetables, tending it is a productive outdoor activity.
Healthy snacks in the house. This is the real trick: if you don’t want to consume unhealthy foods, especially sugary snacks, don’t buy them and bring them into your home. If your pantry is full of Snickers bars and Frosted Flakes, you’ll snack on Snickers bars and Frosted Flakes. If your pantry is full of apples and hummus, you’ll snack on apples and hummus.
But I need meat. Before you tell me you need meat to be big and strong, answer this: what do horses and cows eat?
Good for the environment. It’s worth noting that production of meat, dairy and eggs is one of the most resource-intensive operations in America. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States is fed to livestock.
Coming up with a plan. Plans like “keto” and “paleo” won’t work in the long run because they are unsustainable, and don’t represent the kind of balance your body needs for the rest of your life. These diets might create weight loss in the short term, but…
The only diet. The only dietary choice that will work in the long run is one you can adopt for the rest of your life.
One thing that frustrates me is that the Ada area seems to get new restaurants featuring old foods, like fried chicken or Tex-Mex. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a Thai or Indian place?
An enduring myth about vegetarians is that they don’t enjoy delicious foods, either because they can’t or they don’t want to. But in all honesty, I think I get more enjoyment out of foods because they are naturally complex and fulfilling. How much more appealing is a Stratford Peach, for example, than a doughnut?
I know this is a lot to take in for our community, who were mostly raised on white bread, ribs, and fried foods. But take it from me, if you so desire, the best foods for you are plant-based foods: beautiful fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables. I’m 55 and an active, long-time vegetarian, and I feel great.
Seasons don’t normally come as a surprise to me, but just in the last couple of days we’ve transitioned from gloomy to gorgeous weather, and despite working, both commercially and for my newspaper, on both my days off, I made time to be outside for long periods the last couple of evenings.
Here is an odd one: in both January and February, two different people gave me two different astronomical telescopes. It’s practically raining telescopes. They both work, and with this week being spring break and not as likely to be overly busy at my office, I might get the chance to play with them more.
My Early Elberta peach tree bloomed and froze last month, but the rest of my trees, peach, plum and cherry, waited until now. After walking Hawken and organizing in the garage a bit, I made time to photograph them with my aging 50mm f/1.8. I have a 50mm f/1.4 as well, but the f/1.8 has its own look, and I liked what I got.
I also managed to till some of the garden yesterday, despite my tiller not running well. I cleaned its carb, filters, and spark plug, and hopefully can till ’til I’m done.
It’s been one of those weeks as a news photographer; one of those weeks we will all remember years from now. It started eight days ago with a brutal fatality crash south of Ada involving a sand truck, which I covered. Later that night in Seminole County, an SUV and a Konawa activities bus collided, killing three people, the two in the SUV, and a 12 year old girl from Konawa School.
As the week went by, my newspaper and I got incredibly busy with not only of our usual sports and news, but also the coverage of the vigil, funeral, and fundraiser for the girl. And though the Oklahoma City television stations and I (there was no other print media present) were restricted to designated media areas (understandably), we were able to do a solid job covering these difficult events.
Then yesterday I covered yet another crash, involving a pickup rolling over, seriously injuring four people, three of whom were taken by air ambulance to Oklahoma City hospitals.
One result of this hectic schedule was that my wife Abby and I didn’t get to see each other as much as we usually do, and we really felt it. When I got home last night from an 11-hour day, she and I couldn’t hold each other close enough or long enough.
Let you had forgotten, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound remains the talk of the town. I still walk him every day, usually on our “winter route,” which includes an extra mile way back in the woods.
A friend of mine called February a “hard month,” and I can’t dispute it. Many around me have struggled with one thing and another, and there is a climate of discouragement about.
I’m shooting well, both for news and sports. Last night I covered the Class 5A area consolation basketball game between the Ada Cougars and my alma mater, the Eisenhower Eagles. It was oddly comforting to see the Ike cheerleaders dressed almost exactly the same as they did in 1981. Aside from that, read Lines on a Map to divine my feelings about loyalty to schools and their teams.
The forecast low tonight is 12ºF, so I bought a tank of propane for the heater I place in Hawken’s area under the back deck to keep him warm. I got under there with him, and it is actually decently comfortable. Sleep well, my giant companion.
As a safe and sensible firearms owner with a handgun license, I thought I would weigh in. I will not take sides on this law. The lines are drawn and the law is signed, and opinions about this law are very inflexible. As I hope I often do, I want to offer some sanity outside of the rhetoric.
If you want to carry a firearm, get some training. I don’t mean go to the river and empty your grandfather’s .357 into a paint can. I mean you should get some real, vetted training that includes force-on-force encounters, and at least somes elements of how the law regards deadly force encounters.
The training my wife and I were required to receive to get our permits wasn’t useful. No one came out of that class more knowledgeable about the real world of self defense, since the class was required to hit certain points, and was left to ignore others
The shooting portion of our permit class might have been the weakest part of it all. We were all asked to shoot 50 rounds at paper targets at an indoor range. No, that was not a typo. Shooting 50 rounds at paper is equivalent to backing a car out of the driveway to get your driver’s license.
Some of the people in our class had no business handling a firearm because of their inexperience or ineptitude, while others had no business handling a firearm due to their arrogance or violent inclinations, yet all of them passed the class.
Carrying a firearm isn’t about being a hero or a vigilante. One person in the back of our classroom would occasionally mutter, “I’m only gonna need one shot,” which is not only demonstrably untrue (watch some videos of trained police in deadly force encounters), it also has an air of desire to kill. If you carry a firearm hoping to one day kill a bad guy, you are carrying for the wrong reason, and you are probably dangerous.
The internet cannot train you to shoot or how to defend yourself.
Never, ever mix guns and alcohol or drugs. Keep your guns safely away from children.
It’s never about caliber: if you can’t defend yourself with a .380, you can’t defend yourself.
My wife and I carry when it is safe and legal to do so. Know the law. When you cross a state line, you have to know a whole different set of laws. We carry with utmost respect for what it means to possess a firearm, and we understand clearly that use of it only comes as a very last resort.
Your best options for self protection are avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.
I expect I will have more thoughts on this as it develops.
Am I attending Open Mic Nyte for all the wrong reasons? Am I there just to be the center of attention? If that is the case, has my whole life been one giant egogasm?
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!~Pink Floyd
We all have some insecurities. Some of us are defined by them, while others bully those insecurities into silence.
Self awareness. At the center of insecurity is self image. We see ourselves differently than anyone else does. In the mirror. In pictures. In the eyes of our parents and spouses and children.
I know a lot of people who are not self-aware. They have no idea how absurd, ridiculous and annoying they are.
When I was a teenager, I was very insecure about talking to people in general, and especially about talking to girls. Most teenagers feel this way, though it’s not always true: the Proud Crowd had it worked out.
For the record, most of those early bloomers ended up fat and bald, with soul-crushing jobs and a few divorces, and when they tell me they “really admired” me or thought I was cool, I know it’s not true.
I’m taller than I realize. Sometimes I can seem like an intimidating goon, particularly when I am talking to smaller women.
Once when I was eavesdropping on my next door neighbors, a young, attractive, shallow couple of newlyweds, I overheard them talking about me. “He’s wweeiird!” I heard the girl say, in an accent so hickish it almost parodied itself.
They didn’t stay long in that apartment, and I have no idea what became of them, but I’m willing to bet it was boring.
Do I sound a little bitter? If so, why would I care what two strangers thought of me in 1993?
Are they actually afraid of me because I am “weird?” Do they think I don’t wash my hands after I pee, or that I’ll open up with an AK-74U at the mall?
And what, young judgemental neighbors, would you do about it? Do you think weird people should be shunned? Walled off? Locked up? Finished off? Do you think hating weidos and loners will make them better? Make them go away?
A girl I was dating in 1998* knew my next door neighbor. “He thinks you’re an idiot,” she told me.
Scene from Fight Club...
Narrator: When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just … Marla Singer: … waiting for their turn to speak?
Is that who we are? Are we a race of non-listeners?
Flash back to 1978, when I first started writing in my journal. By many measures, it was brilliant, I was brilliant. Most kids who just turned 15 are still giggling at farts and pretending to be in the NFL. But me? Obsessed with a girl, and writing real, deep thoughts. But by many measures, it was far more idiotic masturbation than brilliance, and if there was a wayback machine and I was there on that first day, I hope I could quote Voltaire and Nietzsche.
For many years, I not only let people read my journal, I sometimes kind of insisted on it. I made at least a few people mad about that, but some, like Frank R. or Melissa B. actually thought it connected us.
What have I been doing this whole time?
Then I think about ex friends. At one point or another in my life, I knew people and got close to them such that we felt like brothers and sisters, that we knew each other inside and out, that we really cared about each other.
Now, we not only make no effort to be in each other’s lives, we probably say terrible things about each other. How many of those terrible things said about me are true? Am I self-involved, egotistical, manipulative? Is my manner so weird and awkward that those neighbors were right?
I Know You by Henry Rollins (excerpt)...
Yeah, I think I know you
You spent a lot of time full of hate
A hate as pure as sunshine
A hate that saw for miles
A hate that kept you up at night
A hate that filled your every waking moment
A hate that carried you for a long time
In conclusion, how many of us have it all together? Who among us preaches the right sermon while believing the right facts, while putting everyone at ease with their smooth handshakes and neatly ironed lapels? Who would my neighbors welcome to dinner, to drinks, to play with their kids in the yard?
And how much of this judgement, this rejection, this hatred is merited? Do I deserve to be cold, to be lonely, to be that target of faraway laughter? Do I deserve to be called “weird.”
And should I hide? Should I change and fix it? Hang out with the cool kids? Learn to wear the right tie and the creased trousers? Or should I stand up and be weird from the rooftops?If so, who am I? Who should I be?
I said it once, years ago, and I’ll say it again: it’s easy enough to pat yourself on the back. The hard part is to keep everyone else from kicking you in the crotch.
*I had lunch with her not long ago. I was pleased to see she’d gotten her life together and was happy.
Recently I’ve been grabbing music CDs from our collection when I’m heading out the door. My car has a CD player in addition to its iPod interface, and my thinking is that I have a well of untapped or undertapped music hanging on the wall of our home office. Sure, I’ve ripped a bunch of this music to MP3 and it’s in the player, but music is an oddly inconsistent medium, and does sometimes depend on its delivery system as part of its message.
As I was putting away a few CDs this morning, a k. d. lang album, Invincible Summer, fell open in my hand, and I instantly remembered the experience of buying a CD, opening it up the first time, reading the lyrics and looking at the pictures. Neither my wife nor I have enjoyed doing that for some years, but she recently asked me to pre-order a CD she saw advertised in a magazine, and insisted it be physical media, not a download, so when it arrives on March 1-ish, we should be able to enjoy that again.
I also recently unsubscribed from Sirius/XM satellite radio in my Nissan Juke. In the five years since I first subscribed, I decidedly underused it, and was often disappointed by in both the content and the tech.
I found it very peculiar that a service with 151 channels would devote one of those channels to Jimmy Buffett, for example.
The other problem I had was reception. In the middle of Doctor Radio or 70s on 7 or CNN, I would hear hissing, then nothing, then after a few seconds the program would return. Calling the service resulted in the inevitable “reset your radio,” followed by me explaining it happened in both of our cars all the time.
Another reason to cancel Sirius/XM is how aggressively they tried to stop me from canceling. Not only does that encourage me to cancel even faster, it means I’ll never return.
I still have several entertainment options in my Juke. The iPod has a gadrillion songs (although I feel like I need to finesse my playlists some), the CD/MP3 player, and, of course, AM/FM radio.
Hmm. Radio? Scanning up and down the FM dial was an urgent reminder of the state of things today… Hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today. Rock 100 The KATT. Public Radio. Religious radio. AM radio hasn’t changed a bit… Sports Animal, conservative talk radio, hillbilly preachers talking about the end times. Tons of Spanish language programming fill in the rest.
On that last point, I would love to learn conversational Spanish, but I only made one short stab at it on a road trip years ago. I need to borrow someone’s Rosetta Stone and make it happen.
I am on the road enough that entertainment is important to keep me fresh and awake, and I am feeling good about my present situation.
Am I really such a huge egomaniac that I believe that nothing counts if no one saw it? Is my life not the center of it all?
Pînch Pøke; Sück Mæ D!ck
When I asked if she played any instruments, she said, “just the meat flute.”
I then looked at her job application, which said, “I’d like the missionary position, but I’m willing to start at the bottom.”
You aren’t truly in a long-term relationship until you’ve uttered those five magic words: “Can I tie you up?”
The awful, dumbsplittingly obvious drawl of the southern minister on FM radio…
The fist Matrix … okay, it’s super funny that I typed, “The fist Matrix.”
The first Matrix failed because all the porn was clean and legal.
“Obi Wan? I thought you were in prison?”
Reach around or comb over: the gentleman’s choice.
Would you suck a woman’s dick? For $37? For $15? For $7?
Autocorrect changed regards to rectards.
“I’m sort of seeing someone right now, but you seem like a really sweet guy, though.” ~LPOC*
“Her barnie** smelled like man butt.” ~Judge Clitbag
“I cradled my soul gently and breathed into its mouth, but it died anyway.” ~M7
“No one can hear you scream when you have your head up your ass.” ~M7
Just to keep things on a fifth grade level here, I am posting this audio of The Fart Tape sped up to 300%…
For those of you who don’t know the origins of this masterpiece, you’re probably better off.
Squinch a pookie
Run the nozzle
33rd degree masonry
If I had an alpaca, I’d name it “Suitcase.” Alpaca suitcase.
I recently tore some pages out of an old journal because what I wrote was unnecessarily revealing about what a perv I am…
“I _____ed her _____s, then ______ed her. While she protested, I _____ed her. Then as she begged me to stop, I took off her _____s. She begged me to stop again as I _____ed, _____ed and _____ed her _____.”
Need to know basis only: basbysitter porn is the best… Uh, correction: babysitter bondage porn is the best.
One of my peach trees has responded to a recent warm-up, producing blossoms. Blooming this early means I won’t get any peaches from this tree, since a hard freeze is forecast for tomorrow night. But the blossoms are beautiful, and are my favorite thing about having these trees.
Walking Hawken yesterday afternoon was a different experience. The second I opened the back door, I smelled the strong odor of grass fire smoke. The wind had shifted and was coming from the north, and someone, or probably many people, were burning the pastures in preparation for the spring growing season.
Mom made soft-boiled egg on buttered toast for us all during our childhood. Periodically since Mom died, almost 10 years ago, my sister Nicole makes it, but I never tried it.
Today my wife Abby and I needed a light meal for lunch, since we plan to have our usual pizza party for dinner as we watch the Super Bowl*, so I decided to give it a try. I called Nicole and she ran down the process: put eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit for three minutes, rinse in cold water, peel and spread over buttered toast.
Its flavor did not leave us wanting, and Max the Chihuahua even got a little chunk I dropped on the kitchen floor.
Soft-boiled egg on toast is delicious, and for Nicole and me, brings back something great from our childhoods.
*I read recently that the Super Bowl is second only to Thanksgiving in terms of one-day food consumption.
“You can bend my ear We can talk all day Just make sure that I’m near When you’ve really got something to say…”~Toad the Wet Sprocket
I admit to writing a lot. I don’t claim much of it is great. I think this is common to writing, moreso even than photography. How many times, for instance, do major motion picture scripts get rewritten and rewritten, only to end up being not very good?
At Open Mic Nyte Monday, I suggested the idea of writing a short story every month. I know I could do this, but at what point will I start to repeat myself, bore myself, lose my audience, become a word masturbator?
The "KISS" Rule Applied to Writing...
I prefer to write short stories because I believe, as Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” I have neither the patience for reading and writing very long pieces, nor do I feel it is fair to ask someone to devote days or weeks to some story of mine that should have taken 20 minutes to ingest. I know there are zillions of people who like to get lost in novels, including my wife, but what could I possibly have to say that would be worth so much of your time?
As I prepared to read my newest short story, The Crying Girl, I mentioned that my stories tend to be autobiographical. Does this mean I am a stenographer? Am I uncreative, reliving and copying essentially the same story over and over? Many phony writers talk about living life to provide material for stories, but they are usually just putting off writing and making excuses for not having 50 short stories and 12 novels in the bag. Is that me?
Finally, is it the ultimate form of intellectual self-indulgence to write about writing, which this very entry is?
“A kitchen light at midnight, all her flatmates are asleep Before she makes me go, it’s about to go deep You’re going to miss us when we grow up I miss your sweetness and your grief I may be a mystery but you were beyond belief…” ~Third Eye Blind
The gym was crowded, noisy, and hot. The game on the court had engrossed the crowd. Tie score after tie score in the first quarter, and every time another three pointer rolled around the rim and fell in, one side of the crowd would burst into cheers.
I photographed it. That’s what I do. I photograph everything I can and put it in our newspaper. Much of that can be intimate, like a family standing on their curb watching their house burn to the ground. I wondered as my ears rang in that small high school gym if what I was witnessing… the shouts, the clasped hands, the raised arms, the noise… was a form of intimacy, or a chance to escape the intimacies we face every day, intimacies that can both liberate us or burden us.
At the end of the first quarter, I was finished with this game. I travel from venue to venue when we are busy, covering three or four games in a night. I made my way to the doors, through an opening between the plywood stands and the cinder block front wall of the gym, probably built by a shop class in the 1950s, and almost certainly a bottleneck in case of fire. They don’t make them like they used to.
I stepped out into the December evening. Though it wasn’t cold, compared to the tightly packed human throng I just left, it felt suddenly nicely cool.
On the sidewalk in front of me I saw a girl, about high school age, dressed in all black. She sat on the pavement with her knees drawn up to her face, which was hidden in her hands. Her long, deep red pony tail hung spread out on her back. She was quiet and motionless.
Then, a miracle. Just as I walked past, she started crying. It was that crying we’ve all heard and recognize: the break-up cry. It was so beautiful, maybe the most beautiful form of human sorrow, so tender and innocent and heartbreaking. Her tears made me thirsty for youth.
That kind of sorrow disappears as we become grown-ups, replaced by uglier, less worthy sorrows like late mortgage payments, asshole bosses, disappointing politics, indifferent children.
But her sorrow, this simple, sweet crying on the sidewalk at the high school in a town of 500 people was the opposite of all that.
Or was it? Was this crying a show? A manipulation? I remember in tenth grade, one of my sisters fringe friends locked herself in my bathroom at a birthday party one night, and cried and cried. It wasn’t the sweet, simple crying like the girl on the sidewalk, but a “pay attention to me and my drama” crying. In some ways, it was like the squall of a hungry week-old baby, completely helpless and demanding so much.
Is this really the intimate moment I want it to be?
When I was 16, a girl I knew wrote to me, “the tears are beginning to sting my face.” When I read that, it seemed like all the honesty in the world, that her tears were real, they were important, they mattered.
I was so tempted to go to her and put my arm around the crying girl, look into her tearful eyes and tell her it’s okay. But I don’t even know her. I’m a grandfather now, old enough to be her grandfather, and the last thing she needs or wants is me. What she really wants in that moment is to cry.
I hope she writes it down. I hope she remembers that moment as vividly as I do right now. It’s a terrible, wonderful, perfect, moment. She mattered. She was alive.