I answered the door without looking outside or using my blink camera. At least I had pants on this time I opened the door for a stranger. An enthusiastic young man was canvassing for votes for his particular brand of politician. I told him I could only vote for liberals or crazy people, and given that they’re usually inhabiting the same body, that I appreciated his enthusiasm.
Even though we were at different ends of the political spectrum, he told me that the outside of my apartment was one of the most interesting and vibrant he’s seen in a long time. I told him that I appreciated that. And that Redactyl did not think it had enough color. The canvasser raised an eyebrow, wondering who that might be. I pointed to my decorated dinosaur on the railing. Without missing a step, the young man said he could not tolerate taciturn dinosaurs. We both laughed.
He asked me if the fence was my doing. I asked him what made him think that might be the case. He laughed and said that his canvassing partner took a picture of it when they drove in. He added that he did not expect anything like that in the apartments.
Isn’t that the surprise of life, I replied.
Indeed it is, he said, and told me that he wished he had an hour to ask me a bunch of questions. Come back sometime and we’ll have a cup of buttermilk and talk about it then, I quipped.
I did not ask the darn dinosaur what his opinion of that scenario might be.
When I drove away and looked up at my apartment, I laughed again, seeing it with new eyes. That places like mine and fences that surround it aren’t all adorned in such a wild and unexpected manner is the crux of the problem. Why choose banality or normalcy when most of us secretly know that we’re all crazy.
I didn’t take any pictures when I went to see Noah and his family at the graduation lunch get-together. As I was leaving, his mom asked if I took a picture with Noah. I was having so much fun joking and interacting that it didn’t even occur to me. She snapped a few of us hamming it up. Alissa (my cousin Jimmy’s widow) ensured that a couple of them got to me. Noah is such a handsome and smart young man. I’m not sure he can be related to the Terrys. In a weird coincidence, I bought him a “pastor’s wife” card instead of a graduation card and did my thing of making an ornate and hand-made picture-covered series of envelopes. He told me that he’s considering becoming a pastor. It amazes me that he has a plan at that age. His dad Jimmy and I winged it like lunatics when we were his age. Alissa’s girls were so grown up and superlatively quick-witted, too. I don’t know why people seem to be so concerned about the world being in their hands. Their confidence at that age gives me optimism. I felt like I’d never been apart from them and that’s a feeling that can’t be bought or measured.
The power was out at Fiesta Square for a while. Luckily, the food was prepared inside catering-style, so we were able to eat in the dark, using only the light coming in from the wall-to-ceiling windows. It rained like the dickens while we were there, too. At one point, Noah said he didn’t like the rain. I quipped, “It’s odd for someone named Noah to dislike the rain.” I also asked him to quote the first creation from Genesis: “Let there be light,” to see if the lights would magically come on in an amazing coincidence. The power was restored shortly before we left. In my opinion, the power being out was both fortuitous and beautiful.
Yesterday, it finally happened. Even though I don’t use an antibiotic ointment. I prefer to use the “Be A Man” method, which is to just wash the deep cut and go on about my business. The Bacitracin is in a very small tube. I dropped it and put it back up in my lower cabinet. I knew I should have moved it. I also ran out of full-size toothpaste and used a small tube of Colgate. After showering, I brushed my teeth. Or started to. Just as the brush hit my teeth, I knew something was wrong. PS Bacitracin leaves an odd film on one’s teeth when you brush with it.
My incorporated business, Pretxel Fish, got its first piece of mail a couple of days ago. I’m still unsure how I’ll use it. Can you imagine my life if I had a plan?
I’m out painting small hexagon tiles, even at 4 a.m. The smell of spray paint probably has become the new ‘smell of spring’ for the neighbors. I was introduced to the Habitat store in south Fayetteville, where an odd cornucopia of sizes and styles can be had for cheap. Lord knows I need more tiles! The fence is utterly transformed. It even surprises me to walk out on the landing and look out to the fence. It’s 75-100 feet of pure color and craziness now. It’s hard to imagine it before, unmaintained, faded, and without color. The neighbors woke up yesterday to see that the colors had doubled overnight. I wish each of them had lives that were transformed in the same way. Just because we live in an old apartment simplex doesn’t mean that we can’t douse ourselves in color. And drown in it if we need to.
Earlier in the week, I found the large metal X at Potter’s House. For $9. Something like that would cost $100 new. I wish I’d had it when I completed my built-in table in the kitchen. I didn’t ask permission to install it. I got the metal-covered wood tabletop, in perfect condition, from the dumpster in the hospital. I polished and stripped the single support pole. Though it doesn’t look like it, that table will support several hundred pounds. Not that my lunch is ever that heavy. I love finding ways to use things that are discarded. That the metal top accidentally goes with the surroundings was a bonus. I’d rather have a blue or red top but the landlords might get testy discovering those colors were a permanent part of the apartment. On the other hand, they don’t seem to mind my miscreant neighbors.
Everyone have a great Sunday. Whatever that might look like. Don’t do the thing obligatory things. Do the things that give you a little bit of tranquility, even if that thing is hoeing the garden and sweating, or being on the couch with your feet being rubbed by someone with enthusiasm.
The number of wrong-number texts has increased lately. Which I love. It gives me the chance to try out new ways to answer them and keep them engaged.
What a beautiful morning. Despite the rain and lightning moving in, I went outside and started hanging more painted tiles on my fence project. This week, I painted 20+ more tiles and a couple of dozen wood samples to attach to my out-of-control art project out there. It was sublime feeling the wind howl through the vertical slats of the fence boards and the light rainfall across my face and neck. I woke up with a reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. Nature repaid me with its light caresses as I stood there in the dark, loaded with washers, screws, and tiles leaning against the old boards. I know I looked foolish, standing there with no shirt on, smiling. The temperature dropped 10-15 while I was out there feeling the storm front coalesce above me.
I missed a couple of phone calls last night. I called my sister back around 4 a.m. She, of course, didn’t answer. I hope she’s fixing her hair. I know that such an endeavor will take her literal hours. Lord help all the people who don’t have their do-not-disturb turned on. Everyone lives a different life and schedule. I wake up with the same enthusiasm at 2 a.m. that I have at 4 p.m.
I thought about my cousin Jimmy’s son Noah. Jimmy died nine years ago, which seems like a lifetime ago. Noah is graduating as valedictorian of his high school class. I can’t help but imagine how proud Jimmy would be – and that Noah is going to college. Jimmy would want his son to be happy much more than he’d worry about finishing college. As someone who died in his early forties, Jimmy would be right to do so. So many plans, so many assumptions about the seemingly endless days ahead to love, laugh, and do the things that are within our grasp. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Noah. He’s grown unimaginably and has the youthful looks of someone who reminds me of a young Matthew McConaughey. I hope he keeps that handsomeness. Otherwise, he’ll grow into a jowly-cheeked Englishman like his grandfather, my Uncle Buck.
In the graduation picture, Noah is the one on the right. (ha!) The woman on the left is Alissa, my cousin Jimmy’s widow. They were married about a month before he died. I could write endlessly about the complexities of that, and of lives forcibly derailed by an unexpected circumstance. It’s a lesson I know too well. I’ll limit myself to saying that if you want something, grab that sh!t while you can. Tomorrow is never promised and plans for the future are all predicated on the false belief that there is always time and that youth is our protector. The other picture is from 2004 when Noah was a beautiful little baby. Jimmy and I had such fun watching Noah’s mind react to shenanigans. He smiled a LOT.
I included a picture of Noah’s mom from the first time I met her at my trailer in Johnson, in the part of my life I refer to as ‘the before.’ It didn’t work out with her and Jimmy. They had chemistry. Jimmy had many demons that would have made it almost impossible for her to make him happy. It’s no disrespect to Jimmy’s memory to share that truth. The Terry side of the family unfortunately is prone to shattering opportunities by succumbing to vices. Jimmy, like the rest of us, could sabotage the best things.
As the rain started, I looked up to the apartments. One of my neighbors had covered the railings with sheets. I went and pulled them down and took them to the dungeon/laundry room and stuffed them in the dryer and turned it on. When the neighbors exit and see that their sheets are missing, I’m going to say, “The Fayetteville police just issued another warning to advise everyone that the Infamous Sheet Bandit is up to hooliganism again. I saw him take the sheets.” I might as well use my act of consideration as justification for a little verbal pranking. I’ll let them think their sheets are missing for a couple of minutes before letting them know what I did. After the wife goes back inside to tell her family about the Infamous Sheet Bandit. It’s Fayetteville and such a miscreant may be indeed running loose on these streets.
I took a picture of my right hand a couple of days ago. Ribald interpretations aside (I’m left-handed, by the way), putting almost a thousand screws into boards in the last couple of weeks using only hand tools has given me an artists’ scar, one of tough callouses in the palm of my hand.
I rescued a really old tiny rocking chair from the hospital dumpster a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have the skills to make it beautiful. But I do have the enthusiasm to fix it and paint it and give it new life for a child I know. I so badly want to paint it a beautiful rich color. We have enough unadorned and practical things in life.
Though it’s not done, I also added another picture of my dead tree project. I put one living branch on it, as well as three bright songbirds. Since I’m a fan of sentimental metaphors, I like to think it symbolizes that even dead trees provide beauty, comfort, and the possibility of adaptation to whatever comes next.
I added a dozen more limbs to my dead tree project.
I thought about making a fake bird nest to perch inside it. I didn’t want to buy an artificial one.
Today, I made a quick getaway at work to walk down to the creek. I’m lucky to be so close to such a place of serenity.
On the Appleby bridge above Scull creek, I found a perfectly-preserved nest in the road. That it hadn’t been damaged by traffic was a surprise. I took it inside with me and brought it home.
As I painted tiles this afternoon, I painted the nest a vivid blue, which is rapidly becoming my favorite decorative color. I gave silent thanks to the birds that spent countless hours carefully constructing it. Their loss will become a part of my art project. It fits perfectly with the theme of bringing something dead back to life.
It’s odd that yesterday afternoon I was thinking about what to make a bird’s nest from. And voila, magic, one appeared in a place that it had no reason to be. (“Voila” is actually two words in French, meaning to ‘look there.’ I’m glad I did.)
I am still amazed that things just appear in my life when I’m not looking. There’s hope for me yet.
Don’t be confused by the door in the background. That’s how my pixie/fairy gets into the apartment. It’s not a full-size door.
I dreamed such vivid dreams last night. I’m not sure what fueled them.
Even Barb, Mike’s mom, made an appearance. She woke me up, laughing. She reminded me that I once thought 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. was early. She worked hard and one of her jobs started incredibly early. It was my ‘job’ that summer to get up and go to Mike’s to be with him and his brother after she left for work. In my dream, she handed me a cup of coffee and sat and talked to me. She’s been gone for almost seven years. Over forty have passed since that summer I was paid to babysit my best friend.
I dreamed of Jimmy and Noah. Time has skipped fifteen years somehow. i posted this clip because it starts with Jimmy’s infamous laugh. If Noah inherited anything, I hope it’s that.
Moats around castles and fortresses served to deter easy direct attack. A lot of people don’t know that they also served to collapse any potential underground tunneling. Bruce Lee often preached for people to be like water: fluid, yet immensely and and inexorably powerful. Water is the most patient and universal substance on Earth. Another thing most people don’t know is that the tide doesn’t actually go in and out. It is actually the Earth rotating into the bulge of water created by the moon’s gravitational force. During a full moon, the higher tide is created by the sun’s gravitational force following along the line opposite the Moon.
I don’t have a metaphor or a life lesson to tie this up neatly.
I don’t know if my dead tree project will ever be finished. I continue to add new painted limbs and branches to it. It’s currently standing in my extra room. I rescued the dead base of the tree from the woodpile near where I found the baby shower box a couple of weeks ago. The little branches I’ve added are from some of my favorite spots along the trail and near the hospital, so it’s a well-traveled creation. I love the idea of it in part because it’s something made from discarded and desiccated remains. That I can add an infinite number of pieces to it, all rendered in luminescent color makes me happy.
The day contains the same elements of any other day. It can be a repeat of the familiar. It can also be an anomalous remix, both familiar and strangely new. Like freshly-sliced jalapeños on vanilla bean ice cream.
For fans of both Merle Haggard and Survivor, I ask you to search for “Survivor and Merle Haggard – Eye of the Haggard.” It’s an example of juxtaposing two things that should not work together but somehow do. Musically, it’s a masterful bit of wild production and melody.
In other news, I don’t like to watch baseball. Albert Pujols joined Babe Ruth as a 600 HR hitter and a pitcher. I love it when anything interesting happens in baseball. It joins bowling and golf as two sports that are like watching my hair dry. Yes, all 11 of them.
I’m looking at the new day with the eye of a tiger and the pancreas of a hyena. (That joke might be a little too esoteric.)
Before I leave for work, I will turn off the light in the room with the dead tree project. The colors will fade to the eye until the sun washes through the window and illuminates it.
It will have its day in the sun.
I hope each of you does too.
My cat will jump up to the windowsill multiple times during the day. I added extra-wide sills to all my windows so that both he and the few plants I have can enjoy the second-floor view and light.
It’s what Mondays are made for, though most of us begrudgingly wake up groggy-eyed and unready for the presumptive start of the workweek. If you’re going to spend 20% of your work-life experiencing Mondays, you might as well find a new perspective to enjoy them.
Take the pieces that don’t work and refresh them. Remix and enjoy.
In my new life I have countless stolen moments. Both in the late night and in the early morning. Whatever lies next and unseen in the path of my life, I know that these moments will scatter and disperse and become less frequent. I call them lemon moments because they are pungent and sour, but also fill my mouth and heart with delicious taste. A mouth of lemon provides a bite.
As I sit here on the deck drinking a bitterly delicious first cup of coffee, the wind occasionally lifts flotsam that’s been carelessly left outside or deliberately discarded. The lightning and thunder grows closer and the wind increasingly grows in intensity. I can hear raindrops begin to drum on the waiting vehicles. The insects are roaring and providing background melody.
Yesterday, I returned to the creek. Its water had subsided as the flood receded into the past. The water was still cool and refreshing. A single snake slithered across the causeway and into the upper stream above it. A man hollered down to me, warning me of snakes in the water. “Yes, I know.” As if they didn’t belong there and that I were not the interloper into their world. Snakes may bite when startled. It is nothing personal. I wish I could remember that when their human equivalent surprises me with their hurtful way of navigating life.
If I come across as introspective or pensive it is because I am. But I’ve smiled like a fool multiple times this morning. As the fire trucks and police raced past me to a developing emergency, as the wind gusted and spit rain on me, as my cat resisted capture and darted away from me, and as I looked at the bottle lights and my art-filled fence vaguely lit seventy feet away.
I love these early mornings. Projects and activity are waiting for me. I think of Taoism. It is supposed to teach us the lesson of action through inaction. To allow the natural process of life to cascade around us and envelop us. We of course resist, wanting it to unfold in the way that we think is most beneficial to us. Most of us don’t appreciate the lemon moments when they happen.
The news and the world will always disappoint us. It has always been that way. People falsely believe that the good old days aren’t constantly renewed. If you’re wired for pessimism you will find justification. Optimism is knowing that your life is homogeneous and filled with both delights and disappointments. The trick of this dance is to remember to look for the things that light you up or give you a smile and to look away from the things that don’t.
When I took a picture of the bottle light, it was rendered in white. I had to filter the noise to reveal the color. That’s either metaphorical or practical.
As the thunder races and a lightning bolt illuminates the upper reaches of the sky, I am sitting here with myself and my thoughts.
I will stand up and break the spell in a minute.
For now, I look at my cat whose silhouette is comically backlit by one of my bottle lights. He meows at me, asking me for something I can’t decipher.
I can’t decipher myself sometimes. And I love it that way.
Welcome to Sunday y’all.
The minutes are falling away and the day will start whether you want it to or not.