A Mix Of Things

One of the benefits of having hundreds of extra full-size candy bars is that it is easy to reward the growing list of delivery people showing up at the house. It’s rare for a driver to respond without appreciation as I hand them a couple of candy bars. It’s like a tip, except it’s for people we wouldn’t normally tip. If I were left to my own devices, I think I would have a basket of chips, cookies, and candy bars – and let the driver choose. If you’re interested in experimenting with it, I recommend you give it a try. It’s a benefit to the driver and it will lift your spirits a little. It might make the driver make a little more effort for your deliveries in the future.

Note: I have hundreds of full-size candy bars. But I haven’t eaten a candy bar in at least seven months.

Potato chips are a bigger risk than candy bars ever will be. The easier method to deal with temptation is to simply not have unhealthy snack choices in the house. I can’t make that decision for everyone, even if the presence of ‘real’ chips is akin to a bag of cocaine lying on the counter. The same is true for real cheese of any kind.

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I visited a Dollar General store the other day. As I often do, I grabbed a helium balloon from the party aisle, took it to a huge cemetery near my house, and let it go. This time, I wrote words on a scroll of paper, rolled it up, and tied it to the truncated balloon string. (Sort of like the “write-the-letter-you’ll-never send.”) I didn’t plan on getting a balloon that day. But the balloon corral on the ceiling was stuffed with innumerable balloons. I’ve done the balloon thing on and off my entire life. It’s a stupid bit of fun trying to see how long you can spot the balloon against the immense backdrop of the sky.

It was damn near impossible to take good pictures that day, being close to noon. The sun was relentlessly beating down, washing everything out in a bright pattern. I planned to park on the newer section but the caretaker was struggling to mow the 4,500-gravestone cemetery on that end. I walked out to a random section and took a couple of selfies. I noticed by coincidence that I was standing in front of one of tombstones of one of a friend’s grandparents. It gave me a laugh, the coincidence.

Recently, I told a therapist that I loathe the entire concept of burial, but that I love cemeteries. She laughed. We could have talked for four hours about the absurdity of our rituals. Cemeteries fascinate me. Not just the range of names and types of stones, but the idea that there are thousands of stories buried where I’m standing, lives as complicated as mine, and all of them extinguished.

Like the life on this eye-catching stone. Leonard “Cowboy” Kilpatrick. I could discover so much about his 37-year life. Were I to kick over a few clues, I have no doubt that I might find myself with a longer list of questions. He had a lot of siblings. Whenever I go deeply into someone’s story, one like Cowboy’s, it never fails that a strange series of revelations and coincidences would align. I’m still in awe of how many ways all of us are both separated and overlapping. I don’t find it macabre that we’re all marching toward oblivion, although the loss of so many stories continues to bother me.

I forgot how much I love the terse prose style of Robert Parker, and of his Jesse Stone character. Most people seem to know him from the CBS movies starring Tom Selleck. While Pat Conroy’s purple prose resonates in my heart, the stripped-down way Parker wrote fascinates me.

My cat Güino stares at me from his perch in the bedroom window. The sun is making sporadic appearances this afternoon. If the rays are bright enough, the prisms cast their rainbows around me. The absurd thickness of the pillow is amusing.

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Take a hard look at the circumstances and context of the words, “You’ve changed,” or “You’re not the person you used to be.” Clinically speaking, it is possible that the person saying this is saying it because you’ve stopped behaving in a way they want you to.

This isn’t necessarily an indictment of you – or the other person.

Sometimes, though, it is.

There’s no two ways about it. We all need to grow, change, adapt. Especially if any part of our behavior isn’t reflective of who we are or who we want to be.

I was asked to examine the phrase intensely: “You’re not the person you used to be.” It’s a therapy response. One of the things I came away with is this: IF someone says it to you in an emotional or angry way, it can’t be taken at face value. There’s no proper defense against it, and not just because all good adults change significantly.

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I almost forgot to start taking allergy medication again this season. Allergy medications confound my hunger response. And no matter what the packaging says, it causes both sluggishness and excitedness, no matter what it is supposed to do.

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Someone related to my deceased wife went back to prison for something related to her parole. I don’t have any details but it’s distracting and needless. A few years ago, I spent a lot of time trying to keep her connected to her old life and to imagine there was a reason to hold out hope. I can’t imagine going from living a normal life to being put back inside. She’s 26 with a young daughter.

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One of the objectives of me going to therapy is to figure out cognitively what shifted in me that makes it harder for me to sleep. I’ve never been one to require eight hours. But having gone through a phase where sleep evaded me taught me that it is very dangerous for me to go very few nights with inadequate sleep, especially less than five hours. I learned that it is stupid of me to try to make decisions or to hold conversations while in such a state. Trying to keep a sleep record is harder than it sounds, too.

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Regarding men on social media: As the tendency to post a profile picture of himself wearing sunglasses increases, so too do the odds he is a narcissist.

Corollary: the greater your resistance to this idea, the more likely that you tend to think such men are more attractive.

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I letter bombed Ford Motors. They chose to not do the right thing in regard to a failed transmission with my Ford Focus, which had only 55K miles on it. I bombarded their social media people first. When that went nowhere, I shifted to a comprehensive letter containing the history of the failed transmission design and my involvement. I mailed that letter to several different people within the company. It was like the old days, when “Letters From A Nut” was something I aspired to. I finally got a tepid response back from Ford. Just like Andy Dufresne did in “Shawshank Redemption,” once he got his foot in the door with the bean counters, he started writing TWO letters a week. After all, what is it really going to cost me to try to get Ford to do the right thing? Shame on Ford. Callous behavior is expected of large impersonal corporations, of course. But that’s why I shouldn’t take it personally: they screw everyone equally. Or mostly equally. There’s comfort in that.

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I bet you will find something interesting in this article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2021/04/deep-friendships-aristotle/618529/

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A Bridge Close To Home

Jane stood by the bridge railing, peering down to the surface of the river below. It didn’t seem so far down now. Every year on May 5th, she drove a county over and illegally parked on the bridge, got out, and peered down at the river. It was a ritual to mark her survival. Until this year, she made a point to drive over around the time of the original accident. For no discernible reason, she waited until five in the afternoon to drive over today.

Eleven years ago, she had plummeted over the railing and landed in the river. She had no idea who rescued her. The man who witnesses saw leaving didn’t come forward afterward. Some thought that the man was the driver who clipped her from behind and spun her out of control, sending her car over the railing. While it was possible, Jane didn’t believe it. She knew that whoever saved her had a darned good motive to stay out of the spotlight.

Jane returned to her car, turned off the emergency hazard lights, and pulled away from the railing. She slowly rolled the length of the bridge. As her car reached the end, she noticed an older yellow Chevy Cheyenne pickup on the side of the road past the bridge. A man wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt stood in front of the truck, looking down toward the river.

Not knowing why she did so, Jane pulled a little further along and parked on the grass. She didn’t bother with her emergency lights this time. She reached into the passenger floorboard and picked up her flask of whiskey. Exiting the car, she walked along the far side of the Cheyenne pickup and stopped a few feet from the man in the white t-shirt.

She stood silently, staring at the river. She took a pull from the flask. As she wiped the side of her mouth with her hand, the man turned to look at her. Without a word, he took a step and reached for the flask. Jane didn’t hesitate. She handed him the flask and watched as he took a long sip.

His eyes widened in surprise, as he probably expected something of lesser quality. Jane never skimped on whiskey and she certainly wouldn’t have thought to do so during her yearly visit over to the bridge that changed her life.

“What are you watching?” Jane asked. “My name’s Jane, by the way.”

The man made eye contact with her and smiled. “The name’s Mark. Just thinking about a day a long time ago.”

“Oh? Me too. This bridge changed my life. It woke me up, if that makes sense.” Jane didn’t know what propelled her to speak honestly.

“I know exactly what you mean. This bridge saved my life. I used to come here every year, thinking I might find what I was missing. This is my first visit in five. It’s still beautiful.” Mark stopped talking and seemed wistful.

Jane took another pull from her flask and handed it back to Mark.

“This is great whiskey, Jane. Thanks!” They looked at each other and held eye contact for a second longer than normal. “I saved someone’s life here once. On a beautiful day exactly like today. It went from sunshine to hell in three seconds that day.”

Jane held her breath, calculating the odds of such a coincidence.

“I had my life saved her on a day exactly like today, Mark. One minute I was driving and the next, I was waking up on the riverbank right there.” She pointed below as she spoke.

They each took another sip of whiskey and let the silence accumulate between them.

Mark turned to face Jane directly. He seemed to struggle to say something. He shrugged and said, “Can I hug you?”

Jane stepped toward him and allowed Mark to wrap his arms around her, holding her against him. The sun beat down upon them and they held their pose. A vehicle passed slowly. Neither looked up to see who it was or whether they noticed the odd couple hugging on the side of the road and bridge.

Mark pulled away. “Would you be interested in going to eat, Jane? There’s a pretty spot up the road a couple of miles.”

“Are you kidding? I’d love to.” Jane smiled.

Mark smiled, showing his teeth. Jane watched the smile travel to his eyes.

“I might have a few questions for you, though, if that’s okay.” Jane watched Mark’s smile grow larger.

“I figured you might. Let’s eat and see what comes next.”

And so it began.

UnderWhere

Some milestones are preposterous. The one I reached today is both ridiculous and noteworthy: I bought new underwear. It’s not a life event, the act of buying new underwear. But it can make you feel markedly different, especially if you fail to put on pants while wearing them. It’s best to skip over any accidental mental image the last joke might have inspired.

Not to be stylish or because my other underwear was old and worn; quite the contrary. My last set of underwear was remarkably new, at least on a timeline representing men’s underwear. There are two types of men: those who need stylish and updated underwear and those who change underwear with each new president. (If they’re lucky.) As I do with my socks, I buy an entirely new set when I buy them, discarding all the old ones. It’s quite the ritual, one that people mock until they try it.

It hasn’t been that long since I replaced all my underwear. I did it because I had lost so much weight and size that I floated in them. The same is true today. I put off buying another set, as it seemed stupid and wasteful. (But not ‘waistful.’ Ha! I just added ‘waistful’ to my dictionary.) For reasons unknown to me, a woman at work said, “Hey, you look amazing!” as I retrieved a diet soda from the case. We briefly chatted, and I shared my deep secret of weight loss with her. (Don’t open your mouth so often.) She told me I was starting to look invisible, and she wished me luck in the future. She’s older, so she well knows that the yo-yo effect is no laughing matter, especially as we age.

Almost all my clothing is different now, over the last several months. It didn’t occur to me that I might need to downsize underwear twice during the process.

The picture on this post is of me wearing another vest. This one makes me look a bit pastorish for reasons that are hard to pinpoint. (I added ‘pastorish’ to my dictionary, too, because I am one of the millions of owners of this language we share.)

It’s hard to believe that I had trouble tucking in my shirt six months ago.

It’s even harder to believe I let myself stay fat for so long. I’m still processing why that was the case.

But for today, it’s new underwear – and bragging about it on the internet. Some people run marathons. The rest of us take our small victories where we can get them.

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“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
― Mark Twain

Be My Zest

The bowl of lemons remained on the end of the kitchen counter, taunting him. Darel continued to refill the basket in a mindless and intermittent ritual. He wasted a minute, lost in his thoughts, wondering how inanimate objects often contained invisible power. Before thinking too hard about it, he grabbed the wooden bowl of lemons, opened the back door, and stepped outside. He placed the bowl on the railing of his deck. One by one, he grabbed the lemons and hurled them across the yard and into his neighbor’s yard. Within seconds, he had thrown all of them.

“Hey, Darel? Is everything okay over there?” Darel looked up to see his neighbor John standing about twenty feet from the rear of his own house. John must have been standing outside when the barrage of lemons started pummeling his yard.

Darel surprised himself by shouting, “No!” to John.

John walked toward Darel. Darel, for his part, struggled to control the urge to turn and run back inside and barricade the door.

“It’s okay, Darel. It was just lemons this time. You must really be angry at lemons!” Even Darel smiled at John’s joke.

John now leaned against the chain-link fence separating their back yards. Darel walked over to the fence and stopped a few feet away from John, who now stood silently, waiting for Darel to speak.

“John, I don’t know what to say. Looking at the lemons in the kitchen just made me sad. I’ll be okay, I imagine.” Darel looked up at John as he nodded.

“I know what you mean. This pandemic has ruined us all a little. You’ve had it harder than most, Darel. My offer still stands: if you need an ear, a beer, or a meal, or maybe just someone to sit in the room and not talk to you, come on over. Anytime, okay?” John looked directly at Darel, who nodded and then smiled. Darel instinctively reached toward John to shake his hand. John took it and gripped it over the chain-link. “I mean it,” he said. “We can sit in my living room or on the back porch and ignore each other.”

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The following day, Darel slept in late, until about 6:30 a.m. He made a pot of coffee out of habit, without thinking that he’d be the only one there to drink it. When he poured his first cup and noticed he made a whole pot, he decided that since it was Sunday, he might finish it off. He stood at the counter, sipping his first cup until he finished it. He poured a second cup and peered through the blinds and into the backyard.

“What the eff?” he asked, looking outside. It looked like one hundred tennis balls were scattered around his yard.

Darel took his second cup of coffee and went outside to his desk, peering at the ground. It took him several seconds to realize that the tennis balls were lemons. He jerked his head up and looked at the back of John’s house, which was still dark.

Darel walked out in the wet grass barefooted. He had the idea that John might be watching him from a darkened window, so he flipped a high bird in his direction. And then he laughed, his head thrown back in genuine amusement, as he imagined John out in his yard last night, tossing dozens of lemons into his yard.

“I need some vodka to go with all these lemons,” Darel said to himself as he sipped his coffee and shuffled his toes through the wet grass.

He decided he’d take John up on his offer. It was about time to stop looking into the rearview mirror. The pandemic had stolen enough from him.

He laughed again as he looked at all the lemons scattered in his yard. After he sipped the last gulp of his morning coffee, he went inside.

A Pandemic Romance Story With A Twist

It was love at first sight. He stood between the well-stocked aisles, mouth agape, shocked at the beauty in front of him. He had successfully ignored the growl of hunger inside himself for what seemed like days. A woman stood to the side, wearing blue jeans and a long-sleeved blouse, a smile as big as Christmas on her face. She wore simple casual white shoes. More importantly, a wall of chips stood behind her, a collection of colors and flavors as diverse as any he’d witnessed. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on those chips, his fingers covered with a variety of flavorings. If only the woman would get the hell out of the way so he could get started.

A Cure For Insomnia

Serious question: which vehicle do you suppose is mine? 🙂

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One of the lesser-known laws from the Murphy collection…

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“I’m sorry I hurt your feelings when I called you stupid. I really thought you already knew.” – This one is for anyone needing a scathing insult. Someone used it on me and I laughed.

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The cold surprises me. What a great morning for an early morning walk, though. You’ll note my awesome command of both my phone’s camera and photography in general in this photo.

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