The Grumble, Grouse & Grievance Guideline

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The Grumble, Grouse & Grievance Guideline

“Why don’t you offer some solutions instead of complaining?”

The pollyannas and positivity-infected among us are now evidently self-appointed gatekeepers for things which bother us. All complaints and problems are first-world from sufficient distance and a timeline lengthy enough.

It’s now another person’s job to curate their own words and behavior to accommodate you? Walk away or scroll. It’s the solution to the problem that you should’ve already have known.

In s-o-m-e situations, this type of question is passive-aggressive, as much as it pains some people to hear it. It’s also sometimes a backhanded silencing tool.

Some of the people who say it without malice are going to read this and get REALLY annoyed. But that’s just proof that they too will complain about seeing this, instead of following their own advice by offering solutions instead of complaining.

It’s true, most of us reach a point at which we simply tire of hearing unimaginative and repetitive whining. But if you’re tired of complaints, isn’t adding another one worsening the situation, thereby violating the rule of “Leave things better than you found them”?

A better use of your time is to focus your energy elsewhere and allow the complaining to flow past. Be Zen. Be silent. Be absent.

Otherwise, you’re just complaining. Pot, meet kettle.

25% of human conversation centers on things which we find to be unsatisfying.

P.S. If someone says this to you at work, it’s because it is almost certainly their job to fix things – and they are being well paid to both listen and address it.
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Look Up, Not Down?

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“Look up, not down,” said a wise man.

Sometimes, though, it’s a comfort to look back and inward.

To counterbalance the stories of unsolicited violence from my childhood, I’m sharing this picture of my dad and mom.

I’ve mentioned before that I have no pictures of us as a family at our own house. At one point in my life, I focused my attention and determined that I had lived in 20+ different places by my 18th birthday. This tally ignores the temporary places we huddled. Our lives were suspended in alcoholic amber and economic instability. Only when we appeared at other family member’s homes did any corroborating evidence of ‘us’ exist. Despite challenges to the contrary, no one can show me a picture that includes dad, mother, and three children. I don’t flinch from the fact that such photos would probably include cleverly turned profiles to avoid the camera and clues regarding the consistency and temperament of the group being photographed. Later, I learned that I could use photo trickery to unite us, much in the same way I fooled my mind into believing that the bulk of my life was normal.

This picture was taken in the living room at my Uncle Buck’s house on Ann Street in Springdale. To whoever bought the house once both Ardith and Buck passed, I hope that no spirits roam the hallway of that dwelling. I spent a chunk of my childhood there. My cousin Jimmy lived a charmed life, initially untouched by the lunatic gene passed down through the family. Looking back, I can see that it deeply affected Jimmy’s life and choices. This clarity wasn’t always available to me. It is maddening to know that adulthood would conceal this truth from me for so long. In the picture, dad is wearing one of his many Don Williams hats. He alternated hat styles. In my opinion, he seemed to be most natural wearing anything evoking Clint Eastwood. You can see that his hands are greasy from hours of being elbow-deep in something mechanical. Mom had a phenomenal job at SW Bell, a job she landed with the help of my aunt. Both my parents were imbibing at the time of this picture. Let’s be honest, had the picture been taken in church, it’s likely that one of them would have been drinking. had my parents been Catholic, I would joke that one of them would bring a straw for the priest’s chalice. Mom’s beer probably rested on the counter between den and kitchen. It’s hard to see, but mom has a lit cigarette in her hand, which presupposes that whatever drink dad enjoyed wasn’t explosive.

As my Aunt Ardith was trying to take this picture, dad told her, “Take the picture already, #&#(@^#^$%&.” He used his favorite curse word. It should have been engraved on his tombstone. It’s a terrible word and one which to this day I find to be hilarious. I have a book of stories about him and the usage of this word, especially around people who had no context with which to judge its usage. If I ever write a book, I may well title it #&#(@^#^$%&.

On those days when both sets of parents weren’t angry, the level of laughter could lift the ceiling, especially when Aunt Ardith and Uncle Buck joined in. Uncle Buck was an accomplished musician with nice electronics due to his job as a tech at Montgomery Ward. Country music always accompanied the mood. At the time, I despised it, failing to see that all genres have something to offer anyone who is careful enough to notice. The kids in the house could move freely in those moments, unafraid of a squall suddenly building and releasing its fury around us. There were times when each of us was truly alive and glad to be present, even if most the music and conversations of the adults made us wince.

Other times, it was a race to discover who would silently become the most belligerent as the whiskey and beer slowly did its magic act by disappearing swallow by slug. In those moments, we became adept at using unobserved doors to make our escape from their immediate wrath. Even some of those moments, though, were filled with muffled laughter.

I’m guilty of forgetting many of these moments. Anger and violence often evoke a pattern of amnesia and discolor surrounding moments, no matter how vivid their imagery.

It’s strange to look at this picture and know that after each visit, no matter how late, I’d have to climb into a car or in the bed of a pickup and go home with someone drunk. As often as possible, I stayed the night with my cousin Jimmy. For several years, my cousin Jimmy had a waterbed. He cherished that cliché of a bed. There were a couple of times when he would wake up shouting at me. Some people call it ‘wetting the bed,’ although a more apt description would be ‘urinating near another person,’ as it more accurately describes the reaction of anyone else in the bed at the time of the incident. One night, after I had indeed wet the bed, Jimmy was shouting at me. It wasn’t so much the fact that I wet the bed, but that he was going to have to get up long enough to put more sheets on the bed. Jimmy was a grouchy sleeper. He was ranting at me when I looked at him and said, “Hey, it’s a WATER bed.” When Aunt Ardith burst into the room to see what the ruckus was all about, Jimmy was trying to kill me with his prized Dallas Cowboys pillow. I was laughing.

As the golden moments of life crest behind me, I still feel the effects of moments, most forgotten, accumulating behind me. Doubt is winning this war of details.

As you read these words, stop and consider how much of our lives transform in our memories. Jimmy’s dead now, as are his parents. Several years later, he’s still mobile within my memory.

Dad, mom, cousin, aunt, uncle, all of them departed. The place remains. An imprint persists, as long as someone like me continues to remember it. My day approaches, a slow, inevitable slide toward the abyss.

There is a majesty somewhere in this, one born of being a surviving witness to life.

As it approaches, I find myself seeing this picture as an evolving truth.

Look up, not down.
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Neverland

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The above is a picture I made – and made with too much difficulty. The baby is me, held in paternal grandmother’s arms.

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This is another picture I made, using photos of me and other family members.

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The lady on the right is another one of my 2nd great aunts, Mattie L. Cook Jones, with her daughter, Antonia Jones Mueller.

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This picture is another I made piece by piece. It includes a variety of relatives

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In a strange twist, it was discovered that the language of angels is college algebra.

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I randomly found this yearbook picture while going through 15,347 pages.

P.S. It’s not a photo of anyone who graduated near Springdale, but they live ‘around’ here.

I enjoy finding people’s forgotten pictures and posting them without identifying or tagging them.

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Obscure Prince fact: The original title to his huge hit was “When Daves Cry.”

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I owned a .357 but my math teacher made me round it up to .4

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“Narco Polo” is a game you play when you can’t find the drug dealer in a crowded room.

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Just to prove that I like satire whether it’s liberal or conservative… I bought my wife a surprise gift from Amazon for Christmas. It’s a book titled, “The Presidency of Hillary Clinton.” It also contains a list of everything good she did as Secretary of State.

All 104 pages of this educational book are numbered – but completely blank.

I might donate it to the DJ Trump Presidential Library and Penitentiary.
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My supervisor called me in to his sparsely furnished office.

“X, I need to talk to you about the defibrillator issue yesterday.” His face, usually already wrinkled in perpetual irritation, was darker than normal.

I took a seat. “Our CEO needed it,” I exclaimed before my boss could continue.

“That’s difficult to argue, X, and you know it!”

“I don’t see how,” I answered. “I adjusted the device to administer the intended shock.”

“Well, the problem is that you did it while he was at breakfast and drinking hot coffee.”

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I went to a boxing match last night. The third round had just started when the Walmart manager broke it up.

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¿ #mariekondo ? I can declutter your house in one day. Valuable? Sentimental? Beautiful? If your house burned to ashes today, what would you mourn? That’ll be $10,000, please. Thanks, X

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Social Media Reciprocity Courtesy Expectation

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A greater error than pretending to hold a door open only to slam it against someone’s backside as they attempt to use it is the sin of failing to comment or interact with someone who has taken the time to respond to your post. It is tantamount to interrupting someone answering a question you’ve asked, giving the bird to someone who is waving at you, or hanging up on someone in mid-sentence after you called them.
 
Recap: If you start a conversation, finish it. It says ‘social media’ right there in the description, not ‘soliloquy.’
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We Are Social Media

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Many of these words could be wrong. I wrote them after seeing a couple of friends make impassioned and yet illogical claims regarding social media. I’m not writing these words to sway opinion. I’m writing them to exorcize them out of my head. I should take more time to get the ideas ‘just right.’ But I’m not going to. In part, this is because it’s exactly the way social media works best when done correctly. Perfection and the pursuit of it is one aspect of social media that we all find a bit suspicious. It’s okay to make errors. We do it all day every day whether we have social media to amplify it.

If you’re asking if social media is a good thing or bad thing, the answer is “Yes.” Regardless of merit, we tend to self-destruct using every other thing in our lives. We carry the dichotomy inside us. Because social media is primarily on newer devices, it seems as if the concerns inherent in it are new. They’re not. They’re simply disguised under shiny new packages under the same old calloused fingers and jaundiced minds.

It’s weird to me that people talk about deleting their social media. Per Nike, “Just Do It.” Talking about it is a symptom that you’re exactly the person who is using the platform in a way that isn’t healthy. If you’re not sure, delete it for a bit. It’ll be there when you want it to be, no matter how long your absence. Much in the same way that it’s impossible to go to the gym without talking about it, many people can’t seem to simply exercise a choice without confusing their reasons for doing so. If you find yourself looking up from your interactions and finding unhappiness, do something to change it. Just as some have an aversion to alcohol, some people might not be hard-wired to engage the complexity of unlimited interaction.

Being evangelical about your decision sounds a little weird to the rest of us, much in the same way as someone shouting about the dangers of drinking. It’s possible to drink responsibly and enjoy life a little more. The same is true of social media. Your truth might be that you can’t even sip from the bottle without your life spiraling. It’s not our truth and certainly not universal.

I’m surprised that everyone doesn’t use social media to connect to people they might not ever meet, confederates in ideas or causes you probably won’t find in your real life. Many people, like me, find it to be a gateway to people that we’d love to surround us if such a thing were within our grasp.

I’ve yet to personally know anyone who has deleted Facebook who hasn’t used another platform to quench their voyeurism. I know people who c-l-a-i-m it’s not true but a little forensic sleuthing proves otherwise. For those who know me well, you also know that this isn’t an exaggeration. I’ve done my homework. Of all those who claim they’ve shut it all down, none have really done so. They’ve simply substituted one brand for another. It’s not the app or platform specifically that is your problem. In a roundabout way, it’s your addiction to your device and the method you choose to interact with what you see and hear when using it.

You might look at social media and see danger. It’s true, it can be. So can answering the phone, talking to strangers, or walking unknown streets after dark. I see the breadth of possibility, of creation, of ideas. It’s a portable way to interact with every single person on the planet, if you choose to do so.

So many of our digital systems have social media embedded inside them, whether it is a forum, comment section, or another method of interaction. The idea of social media as a separate entity is misguided. It cannot be measured separately from the rest of our human interactions, even if you remove all the devices.

Social media is one of our biggest creations precisely because of its ubiquity and reach. It both delights and angers us – just like every human interaction out in the real world. Some of us can’t take a drink without downing the entire bottle. Some can’t make a wager without losing their houses. Other people can’t see information they disagree with without being personally accused. All of our methods of communication contain a method of destruction if we are not in control of ourselves.

Looking back into history, it’s safe to say that all major paradigm shifts in society caused the same learning curve for all of us. These include mass-produced newspapers, radio, TV, and movies. Technology is the same challenge packaged in a different container. Because I grew up in a very rural county, I lived in houses without telephones and in houses with party lines. Among my ancestors were many who preached that the telephone was going to destroy civilization and that it would allow people to stop visiting their family and friends. They were certain that front porches and living room parlors would be empty. Instead, the telephone opened up an entirely new way to stay closer than ever to those who matter. Some of those same ancestors also remembered the same fears with cars. They’d believed that no would slow down long enough to appreciate life if they ride in a car.

Some of incorrectly think it’s a new challenge. It’s not. We are the challenge, precisely because we as humans are using the biggest communication system in the world in a way that doesn’t empower us.

“I don’t watch TV,” people used to say.

“I don’t use social media,” people now say.

Yes, you do. And even if you don’t, you’re on it.

Welcome to the world you can’t reject.

Use it as you see fit or choose not to use it. As for whether social media is a good or bad thing, the answer is definitely “yes.”

Just like us. Just like our choices.

Love, X
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A Small Story for Friday the 13th

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He didn’t relish the role foisted upon him.

He didn’t shy away from it, either.

His only concern was that each deserving soul met its end at dusk. Whether guilt or innocence played a role in each participant’s demise failed to register for him.

Life hadn’t altered its casual disdain for the perceived importance each player brought to his or her small part in the universe.

His tired muscles could feel the pull exerted by the thirst for endings, anticipating a busy nightfall. From off in the distance, he could hear the amassing footsteps of those unaware of the unfolding promise of the night.

Each of them expected a demon or the angel of death; none expected a fatigued man with a full face of worry lines and eyes burning with purpose.

He’d greet them all, while pushing them onward toward the great ‘next.’

A Token, A Remembrance, An Echo of Melody

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Because I’m not inclined to have a defined path, prepare yourself to leave with uncertainty, much in the same way you climbed from your bed this morning. You assumed the floor would still lie below to meet your feet as you started your day. No matter your plan or itinerary, the day you’re living doesn’t align with what greeted you in your slumber last night. This post is primarily for one person. Even so, the truth is wherever you find it.

This isn’t about “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” although it rips a webpage from its book. If you’re not familiar with it, I envy your initial discovery. The entries with video are sublime. Here’s a link to the introductory video: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Some of the ideas contained therein are familiar with you already if you know me. Words like onism, morii, zenosyne and most of all, sonder. Their existence is in part responsible for my joy of language and aversion to anything which presupposes a rigidity in its structure or usage. It gave me greater power in knowing that I own this language and its forms are not preordained.

I have a custom metal piece of bird artwork above my back door, one attuned to the concept of onism. Once you grasp the idea, you’ll see why it gives me pause from time to time as I find myself trapped in the cocoon of a typical and confining day, especially as I peer through the slats of the window on the door. We’re always peering through slats into the external world; it’s just that we forget that we’re doing it. This post also isn’t so much about onism or existential moments.

I’ve created several words myself. Disvidisia might be my favorite. Observing people who complain of boredom or express disinterest in ideas or works people share evokes this feeling in me with regularity. This post isn’t about that, either, although it authentically encompasses the reaction many people will have to it.

Given enough time and depth of experience, some people and places ebb and flow in their importance. The tumblers which lock and prevent our understanding find themselves without a connection for years – and one day, when our eyes are averted and our minds distracted, an insight or epiphany strikes. More often than not, by the time we understand what we’ve missed or misunderstood, the cliché of ‘too late’ pains us. It’s difficult to fight realizations which germinate in our own minds.

As for what this post is about, it’s a response to a flash of recognition a few days ago. While we’ve diluted the meaning of the word token, I realized that I needed to make one. In its strongest form, a token is a tiny portion of the original and a keepsake harkening to a greater whole. Once you’ve read this post, go to this link: Avenoir. You’ll learn a new word and perhaps peer inward for a moment. Toward the end, at about three minutes, you might see or feel the token of connection that I’m referencing. For those with strong family ties, especially ones which bond with you even after a death, I suspect that the recognition of the images in your mind will break you into pieces – even if just for a moment or in the tiniest of ways.

There are no new things to see, just our own reflections as we scramble to remember what brought us to these places, even as some of those on the journey with us transform into echoes and invisible companions. We can live in reverse through memory if we can row our boats while seated in the wrong direction.

I’ve made you such a token, for inscrutable reasons that are elusive in their complexity and simple in their expression. The picture in this post isn’t the token, although if you examine it carefully you might find a clue. It should arrive in the next few days.

With remembrance.

Avenoir.

 

Baby Diaper Domino’s

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Dawn and I were headed back home. I opted to take the scenic route through Tontitown. As I turned off Hwy 112, or Maestri Road if you’re weird, I began to smell the unmistakable odor of old baby diapers in the air.

As I continued driving east, the smell grew in intensity to the point it smelled like a mountain of baby diapers left carelessly out in the August sun.

My wife and I were both making odd faces of disgust by this point. Both of us were actively questioning the source of such a foul, inhuman odor. I don’t have a weak stomach but this stench instinctively made me want to roll the car into a ravine and risk possible death to escape it.

“Look, there it is!” shouted Dawn excitedly.

She pointed in front of us. A newer gray Toyota Camry was cresting the hill about 100 meters in front of us. Evidently, we were gaining on it as we sped down Har-Ber Avenue. I could see that its windows were all down – and for good reason.

On top of the car was a Domino’s Pizza delivery sign.
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Legal Note: this post is not endorsed by Domino’s, much less appreciated.

A Band Story Inspired by True Events

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Springdale Band Story – Inspired by True Events

While in high school, I was lucky enough to go to D.C. with the Springdale Band. We took several buses on the lengthy drive. One of our buses broke down at one point and all 200 of us had a layover at a house of one of the superintendent’s family. True story. Imagine having to go get fast food for two hundred people and serve it in a single residence. You thought that sharing a microwave and bathroom with four people was complicated, didn’t you?

Once we got back on the road, we were trying to recapture the lost time due to the bus malfunction.

Despite being in a hurry, our band director Ms. Ellison still took the time to instill in us some valuable life lessons. Near Ft. Knox, we passed a small entourage of entertainers from the University of Kentucky stranded on the side of the road. Ms. Ellison asked the driver to stop and pick them up.

There were a couple of guitarists, jugglers, mimes, and a couple of dancers. Most of them were actors and singers, too. We made room for them in the front of the bus. Any break in the routine of being on the road for so long was appreciated.

Ms. Ellison welcomed them warmly and we all talked back and forth with our new visitors. One of the mimes asked the driver about where we were going and the length of the trip. The driver answered and one of the other mimes began to drill him with all manner of intrusive questions. After a few minutes of this, the driver suddenly whipped the bus to the side of the interstate.

“Get out!” he yelled at the mimes. “No more!”

In shock, Ms. Ellison stood up and attempted to calm the agitated driver.

“Why are you kicking our new friends off the bus? They just needed a ride for a few dozen miles.” Her voice rose in irritation. She was a very strong-willed woman.

The driver reached over and used the door lever to throw open the bus door.

Pointing at the door, he shouted, “They have to get off the bus right now!” He’d reached the end of his rope. We were all sitting in silence, watching the events unfold.

Ms. Ellison got directly in his face.

“Why? What’s your problem?” Her face had turned red and her famous riot act recitation was about to commence. We’d seen it before.

“We just can’t go on with suspicious mimes!”
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