A Snapshot of Memory

75252873_10156885297468931_1405832985999048704_n

*Guest Post

In this day of phones, digital cameras & easy(easier) photography the world is full of portraits & life-changing memories artfully posed, beautiful for sure yet simpler to catch. Engagements, births, holidays, moments in time long ago not as spontaneous if caught on film.

Back in my childhood photos of the ilk were less common unless you sat in a photographer’s studio- not as accessible to the working folk. You snapped a pic, waiting for the roll of film to be finished, brought it in to be developed, and usually, you got an envelope full of crossed eyes, blurry shots, laughable seconds. Few and far between were photos remarkable.

While we were not the kind to sit in a studio for a portrait, have on the walls framed photos of our time vacationing or spending a holiday, this one moment in time my father took of me is as artfully placed to be one.

Summer, on my front porch, resplendent in my bathing suit ready for running through the sprinklers. That, as I recall, was quite a looked forward to part of any sun-shiny moment then. Playing with my Rubik’s Cube- must’ve been 1980 or so.

I don’t remember much of this day, but I do remember (hindsight, mind you- as a kid I couldn’t register this) my dad got this sort of inspired look on his face and asked me to sit on the steps, against the column of the porch, and try to solve it. So I did. And he took this picture.

No digital cameras, no immediate pics to edit. Just a simple photograph on a camera with film he had to wait to develop to see if it turned out.

I think of this as my “portrait” to this day. It was a good moment. I’m thankful for that second in time captured. I think it still resembles me, captures the person I am inside. Sometimes the spontaneous becomes immutable…

 

65383380_622477088278788_2957919933528276992_n

A Party For My Mother-In-Law

20191102_105850

At my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party yesterday, we all had a laugh. The church we invaded for the party is in Fayetteville, not too far from the U of A campus. About halfway through, some of us heard a loud bang, followed by immediate darkness in the church. Because the game was about to start, we could only assume that a higher power was expressing disinterest in the game rather than our party. We were without power for the last half of the party. As it turns out, the Razorbacks were without energy for most of the game themselves. We got the better end of the bargain, in my opinion.

20191102_110022.jpg
Christ’s Church of Fayetteville graciously gave us the run of the fellowship and church on Saturday when we held the party.

I was tasked with getting the balloons for the roadside for the party. I bought mylar balloons and triple-tied them to each other and to a large traffic cone at the roadside entrance to the church. About 45 minutes later, I glanced through the frontside vestibule doors. A man was walking past on the sidewalk. He was holding a colorful balloon similar to the ones I displayed. It occurred to me that the odds of an adult man coincidentally having a balloon similar in appearance to mine on an early Saturday afternoon were about zero. I went out the side entrance and walked around. It turns out that the odds were indeed slim. For reasons unknown to me, he had cut off one of the decorative balloons as he passed. He looked happy, so I can only assume that a balloon was just what this fellow needed to improve his day. Besides, I couldn’t imagine calling the police to report a stolen party balloon, especially if it improved the gentleman’s day.

20191102_105955.jpg
Here are the two remaining balloons.

.

.

 

One of the surprises I made for Julia’s birthday was a 90-page bound book, stuffed with pictures of her life. Its contents did not reflect a life reduced to mere pages. Somehow, what filled it was greater than the sum of its photographs.

20191102_085435

.

.

There is no greater juxtaposition in life than of age and youth unless it is the smile of each generation celebrating a year, a life, and fellowship. That one of the participants in the picture has a touch of frosting on his lips further proves the efficacy of a life of humor and good food.

I unabashedly stole the picture of Julia and Marie’s children from Marie, who I finally met after a long social media friendship. The picture best reflects the life I hope Julia has experienced and for the years awaiting her.

 

marie download julias party on nov 2 2019 (9)

.

.

20191102_114458
My mother-in-law with the diamond painting of her favorite dog, a Chow; my wife worked hours on the painting.

.

.

20191102_121204
Julia happily looking her over surprises, as a slideshow of 300+ pictures of her life plays in the background.

.

.

marie download julias party on nov 2 2019 (2)
Another picture I stole from Marie, pictured on the left. This is her and Julia: cousins.

.

.

20191102_121226
We had somewhere around 25-30 people show up. It’s difficult to plan parties anymore. Those who attended were all happy. Julia certainly was.

Given that the lights were out for half of the party, it was a success.

.

.

marie download julias party on nov 2 2019 (1)

Listing To The Middle

20191026_163640.jpg

Make fun of my stack of index cards I always carry? Look at this totally legit “Coupon” I’m gonna use at Guido’s Pizza.

The young cashier got a huge kick out of the coupone when I handed it to her at the register. She went to the back to prank the kitchen staff. She proudly kept it.

.

.

20191026_151100

“No, it’s none of your business why I want a dozen of these.”
.
.

I submitted my concealed carry gun permit application. Because it didn’t have my category, I scribbled in “Glue Gun.”

.

.

Iguess holding up a $3 bottle of Oakleaf wine at Walmart market and shouting, “I’ve got supper!” is somehow not a good idea?

.

.

There are times when I catch myself forgetting how nice it is to be able to communicate in another language. English is a bastard of a language and I pity anyone trying to feel comfortable with it as a second language.

.

.

If it is one thing I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t count on, it is an abacus.

.

.

Bad news: my neighbor’s new pet Rhesus monkey died during an explosion.

Good news: now there’s enough Rhesus Pieces to give out to the kids on Halloween.

.

.

 

Today is a day when I truly need Shoresy to accompany me as I encounter the rash of degens in my path.

P.S. If you don’t know who Shoresy is, you have my sympathy, loser.

.

.

white

Another deconstructed social media post…

.

.

thought-catalog-kkysaOcVE94-unsplash.jpg

A bit of foolishness, a bit of satire…

If you suffer from GSS, please accept my non-apology.

.

.

“Thumbless people have no middle finger” is both true and deeper than the words themselves belie.

.

.

76603163_10158941194979115_3579966317660209152_o

The market is getting too specialized. Now they’re identifying foods by the hour of consumption.

.

.

 

A Personal Story

 

 

paul-gilmore-sKV_vD4dZnw-unsplash.jpg

This is a personal story. It explains a sensation that infrequently overcomes me. Maybe you’ll find something interesting in it.

I’m re-watching “Breaking Bad.” When the episode “ABQ” came around, it hit me like an anvil, exactly as it had during the first watch. Not only is the episode one of the best television episodes ever made, but it also resonates with me like a gong. It’s not just the contrasting complexity of circumstances in the show; it’s the familiarity I feel when I observe people around me as they incorrectly calculate risk and probability. On a long enough timeline or with sufficiently strange variables, darn near anything is likely to happen to any of us on a given day.

On Saturday, Sept. 28th, 1991, around 11:30 a.m., a plane crashed on the trailer I lived in. I was inside, watching a movie, and attempting to forget the fact that I had called in for the first time from work that Saturday. Like Walter White, I was deep inside my own head until the pilot crashed. I too looked up toward a crisp blue sky, seeing a jacket and parachute slowly descending toward the ground. It was surreal, unnatural, and moments passed before I saw the plane, followed by the pilot dead at my feet.

Every time I mention the story of pilot Joe Frasca crashing and dying, someone new comes forward with a crazy tidbit to demonstrate how intertwined we all are.

Because I watched “ABQ” again, I now find myself looking up like an OCD sufferer. It happens every time that something drags me back 29 years ago. The urge will pass, as it always does.

The concentric, albeit hidden, circles that surround us also bind us.

One lingering effect of the plane crash back in 1991 reminds me of the bewildering complexity of probabilities. It’s why I look at lotteries a little differently than most people.

We’re all on the timeline. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

Whatever ‘it’ is, it is coming.

Ready or not, the anvil awaits.

Nuance

6-CHILDREN-OF-THE-CORN-Malachai

Your Monday options: will you be Malachi or Isaac today? Regardless of where you work, I suspect you might think you too are in a dangerous cult, led by madmen.

.

.

Do you call them “buffet pants” or “comfy pants?” Or “fat pants?”

.

.

“Forever Box” is my new favorite word for coffin.
And people say I can’t learn anything from the internet.

.

.

20191016_203747.jpg

Last night at supper, I inevitably did my artwork with index cards, markers, and the tools around me. Thus was born “Shredded Cheddar President.”

.

.

Box fan from home.
Check.
Full set of pillows from home.
Check.
Two individual comforters from home.
Check.
I pity everyone else in the hotel.
Savages!

.

.

According to my manager, I should not refer to my workplace as “The Badlands.”

.

.

qweeq

*Content warning: I love mocking positivity memes and clichés. My version expresses a greater truth, one rarely voiced by our great poets, yet still affecting us all.

.

.

Last week, my friend Josh invited me to his church. “It’s right up your alley, X. We do things differently.”

At 10:05, I entered a bit late. Josh was already seated up front. I nervously walked past all the congregants. An unusual, high-pitched sound filled the air. I was too distracted by my lateness to figure out what was afoot.

I sat next to Josh on the second row. “Sorry I’m late,” I whispered.

I soon figured out what the noise was when I entered.

The pastor looked across the pews and said, “If everyone will get out their Humnals, we’ll hum #456.”

.

.

 

“The more violent the sport, the sexier that those on the sidelines dress. Which means politicians should be wearing negligees.” – X

.

.

 

Subway

dddd

 

I love Subway. More accurately, I have a love/hate relationship with the eatery. For every great experience or store (such as is usually the case in Eureka Springs), I have a terrible one. Despite it seeming like an exaggeration, I’ve eaten at Subway somewhere around 500 times in my life.

It’s no secret that prices have been inching up in the last few years, mainly after they got rid of $5 footlong promotion. The company has closed a huge number of stores since 2015. Many factors are contributing to its demise, ones not tied to cost. The margins are low, so franchises tend to short-change their employees, both in wages and training. Most keep labor painfully short. We’ve noticed.

Visit any local Subway location and you’ll note a revolving door of faces.

Recently, I noted that some Subways had added a “Tip” selection to their payment kiosks. I have mixed feelings about this.

If Subway were new and tips were on the payment options, I might not stop to consider it carefully. Because I’ve eaten at Subways since they first opened in NWA, it is problematic for it to be an option suddenly. Especially so since I’m standing face-to-face with the employee as I opt-in or out. The sandwich artists are not providing any new value; in fact, I’d say in general that I have to be more careful and repetitive than ever to get my favorite sandwich done the way I like.

That’s not the employee’s fault – that responsibility falls directly on management and the owners.

Whether places like Subway should tip or not is a separate conversation. I’ll agree that’s it not a simple issue.

Most of the time, I get a vegetable sandwich with lettuce, double tomatoes, and Subway spice. That’s it. It is easy to make and cost-effective for the eatery, too.

Generalizing a bit, I’d say that the labor margins have also resulted in less clean stores, longer waits, and dirtier bathrooms. (And a sometimes a comical shortage of napkins.)

Given the uptick in prices, most people realize that they can easily eat a full dine-in meal at another restaurant for about the same price as Subway charges for a combo sandwich meal. In places with many restaurant choices, Subway can’t compete on location, selection, or cost. That didn’t use to be the case.

As an otherwise good tipper, I can see that adding a tip option to the payment isn’t going to go over well for the average Subway customer. I’ve asked several people about it. Most feel a twinge because while they wish to tip when it’s appropriate, they also feel trapped by management’s choice to underwrite the same wages with an upcharge disguised as a tip.

Two-Factor Authentication For Everyone

sebastian-herrmann-jzTQVxCyKYs-unsplash

If you don’t have two-factor authentication (2FA) turned on for social media (much less your financial accounts and email), I hope elves visit you in the night and pluck your nose hairs with tweezers. If you don’t know what 2FA is and you’re using the internet for anything, you’re probably not going to like me telling you that you’re almost certainly giving away all your entire identity. 2FA isn’t perfect – but it is the minimum standard for anything you value.

Parking Lot Oscar Goes To…

666666666666666

We stopped at Conway to eat. Interestingly, I had an interaction with a homeless man wrapped in a large, dirty blanket. He spoke with such a soft voice that I could barely hear him. I gave him $5. He reminded me so much of Omar from “The Wire.” As I waited for my wife to go to the restroom again, I watched the cashier take the bill from the young man and hold it aloft with the very tips of her fingers of her left hand. She didn’t realize that she was also making a very disgusted face as she did so. I’m not judging her. The young man didn’t either. He was laser-focused on getting something to eat. Whatever else was going on, his hunger was real.

After departing Conway, my wife and I had another conversation about being careful around people. Being a hypocrite, I ignored my advice several times already. I used to joke that someone beating me up might accidentally render me better looking.

I don’t worry about getting killed by a stranger, either. It’s obvious to everyone that pepperoni and Mexican food will be my assassins.

As my wife and I arrived at the hotel, we heard a car horn beep a few times. I didn’t see anyone. My wife thought it might have been directed toward us. In general, I ignore all horns until I have reason to believe they’re directed at me, such as the case when the hood of another car suddenly comes through my windshield. This behavior will serve me well, provided I survive to an older age.

On the third trip back to the car, I heard someone shouting. “Hey, you from Arkansas?” I heard a deep male voice shout but couldn’t discern from where it emanated.

I heard it again. As I walked toward the exterior of the hotel, a large man exited his car. Jokingly, I said, “Yes, can you tell by how dumb I sound?” He responded by saying he was from Arkansas, too, and proud of it. He couldn’t be a hog fan. It seemed odd. We were both in Arkansas.

The man had tears running down the right side of his face. He held out his right hand. In it, his driver’s license. My alarm bells rang like they might at a fancy wedding. He began to weave a tale about where he was from, his brother, a pastor, and his mom in a hospice home somewhere in what seemed to be at least two different places.

It’s important to note that in general, I’m a softie. There is an element of danger in these encounters. There are unicorns – cases in which the person truly needs a hand. Honestly, almost all of them are scams.

I gave no sign that I was aware of the long con unfolding in front of me.

As he talked, I already imagined his turn at the podium as he accepted his Oscar for Best Actor. He made Jennifer Love Hewitt look like an amateur as he spun his verbal gold to me.

I love a great scam if it’s creative and intricate. I consider it to be performance art.

He proceeded to tell me about his mom in hospice. He turned and said, “____, give me that envelope.” I didn’t catch his wife’s name. Until he said her name, I didn’t realize anyone was seated in the front passenger seat, despite it being fully light outside. I didn’t need to see proof of anything. His license had blown up the facade of his performance for me. I would have been a fool to cut his act short, however.

Nevertheless, his wife made an angry face and fished an envelope out of the console. The man reached inside the car to retrieve it. He opened it and then pulled out a letter that had seen much use. Across the top, it read “Hospice” something. He then mentioned his daughter in the car. I didn’t see her. His speech then went up three gears, and he recapped his initial spiel and fluffed it up with an additional fifty details. It was impeccable. It’s the best such rehearsed plea I’ve heard.

I got out my wallet and handed him a $20 bill. On a whim, I stepped toward him, very close, and reached out to him with my left hand. As his hand came up, I crossed my right hand over to shake his hand and gave him the bill. It’s difficult to describe, but the veneer of desperation he had on his face disappeared for a split second. I was watching his wife from the corner of my left eye. As I stepped toward her purported husband, her head swiveled rapidly toward me; her disinterest vanished as she seemed to go on high alert. In her defense, with my head freshly-cut, I do look like a skinhead weirdo. The reactions of them both convinced me they thought their scam was successful.

“I just wanted food, sir,” he said, even as the bill expertly vanished into his right front pocket.

I shook his hand and nodded. “Good luck on wherever you’re going and whatever you’re doing,” I told him. “I mean that.”

Before I even got back to my car, I looked back. Their vehicle was already disappearing around the backside of the hotel parking lot.

I don’t know how they’ll find him to let him know about his Oscar nomination.
.
.

P.S. I hope his mom stops violating the laws of physics by being in multiple places simultaneously. Had it not been dangerous to bring up, I would have gladly critiqued his story for him so that he could adjust from the errors I caught and improve his act. Practice makes perfect.
.

Cursed Crossed Crosswalk

etetr.jpg

Due to a medical condition known as laziness, I didn’t take a bona fide pre-dawn walk this morning, as is my custom when I’m out of town.

I did take one later. It was coolly fresh and the riverwalk was mostly devoid of the pests otherwise identified as “other people.” It was divine. I listened to music and noted a few clever hiding places that homeless people had managed to find and use in the chilly weather.

Having miscalculated how far down I walked, I traversed an expanse of wet grass and exited onto a busy arterial street. Due to construction on the right, the entire swath of the sidewalk was gone.

Given that the road was marked with substantial 4-foot white letters, a series of bright white perpendicular lines, as well as signs on all sides indicating “Crosswalk” for both sides of traffic, I thought it would work like I’m accustomed to. The Indy 500 roar of engines proved me wrong. I waited. I waited some more. Because I’m brilliant, it dawned on me that I might have to dash to the middle and then proceed the remainder of the way if traffic abated. It was obvious no one was going to stop, despite the multitude of indicators they were supposed to.

I waited for a couple of minutes. As a considerable gap appeared ahead, I waited and stepped from the curb. Just as my foot hit the pavement, a car miraculously zoomed out of a parking lot on the left and took the right turn onto the arterial street, going at least 30 mph. It was very close when it popped out. The driver of the compact and ornately decorated Honda hit the horn and brakes. He came to a complete stop, a little inside both lanes.

As expected, his morning cup was filled with angst and cow manure. He opened the driver’s door and stepped out. He looked like his car if you can imagine what I mean. His hat was on backward. He, of course, wore a bright blue sports jersey advertising an unknown athlete.

“What the f you doing, man? This ain’t a crosswalk!” He seemed excited to see me – except for all the wrong reasons.

I pointed at the markings literally at my feet and then the diamond-shaped “Crosswalk” sign.

“Whatever. I got places to be. Get the f out of the road!” He started to get back in the car.

As he did, my mouth did what it does best: it overpowered me. I’m proud of it, though, if only because it didn’t get me killed this time.

“Jesus loves you!” I shouted.

“Yeah. And?” He asked. It was perfection.

“And everyone else thinks you’re an asshole!” I shouted as he stood there, shocked I had one-upped him.

Behind him, a driver honked his horn, which ratcheted up the man’s obvious anger issues. I hot-footed it across to the median as the Honda driver slammed his door and hit the gas, screeching away.

I’m going to miss him. Jesus misses him, too.

But really.

Everyone else assuredly thinks he’s an asshole.
.
.

P.S. I’m glad this happened because it resulted in a great story. Plus, the Honda jerk will live forever on the internet. I sure hope he figures out what those strange lines on the pavement mean, though, if not those weird signs dotted along all the roads. It’ll save him some trouble.