All posts by X Teri

Random Saturday

Random Saturday

I stood on the landing outcrop. Light rain started about 6:15. It felt like a gift to just let it softly pelt me. Rain has been a distant stranger lately. It’s odd because some Septembers have been torrential.

Earlier, I mistook a visitor to be one of my neighbors. We exchanged pleasantries from opposite corners. I gave him the rest of a bottle of vodka. I already knew he had stayed up at night playing the role of reveler. He is very young, so burning the middle night oil is a requirement for him. It takes a long time to discover that almost everything that happens after 9 p.m. is probably not as meaningful as it seems. Perhaps I sound old saying that. I am old. But I have luckily not forgotten how stupid most of us were when we were younger. When misadventure was mistaken as a sign that we were living life to the fullest.

The picture of the teacup is from my recent jaunt and stay in Compton. Arkansas, not California. Sometimes I sign the inside of one of the teacups from my dear departed friend Jackie – and then hang it in plain sight. Erika signed this one with me. I dared the tall grass, chiggers, and hidden snakes to put it in a tree on the perimeter of the wilderness. I love imagining people finding them accidentally. Surely there are others like me who get lost in wondering about what led to it being placed there. I’ve left so many artifacts in Northwest Arkansas, some in the most unlikely places. A lot of them have been right under the noses of the people I know. Such secrets make me happy.

Did you know that smart televisions use about 18W of power? That’s about two LED light bulbs left on 24/7. It’s not a significant amount, but most people don’t even think about energy consumption for items plugged in yet turned off. Remember when grandma would unplug EVERYTHING because of “the electricity!”

For newer houses or remodels, I can’t believe electricians aren’t installing whole-house surge protectors. They reduce almost all chances of a surge damaging your electronics. I’ve yet to see a homeowner have it explained to him or her and have them say, “No, I don’t want that.” If I were using a rural power grid, it’s the best little bit of money you’ll ever spend. And might save your life, too. I’m surprised that many people don’t know that all power strips don’t offer surge protection. There’s a huge difference in the distinction. Another misconception: most people’s houses do nothing to stop lightning strikes from frying everything (Even really expensive surge protectors you bought at Best Buy). Whole house surge protection going through your main line is about the only way to avoid that sort of catastrophe. Really. It’s true.

Although people think it’s a boring subject, I’d like to mention water heaters, which use a huge chunk of your energy budget. First, most people have their water heaters set too high. Second, when you get a new unit, you should always buy a hybrid heat pump water heater. They pay for themselves in two to three years. They are incredibly efficient and will save you a LOT of money compared to a traditional one. Third, for the love of god, please install moisture-sensitive alarms near your water heater. (And fridge, too, if it has a water line.) Since I’m throwing out random facts, the average shower uses 2 gallons a minute. If you have a luxury bathroom, it might be twice that. Your dishwasher uses between 4 and 6 gallons of water. Larger tank water heaters are more “convenient,” of course, but most of the cost of your water heater is lost efficiency, as it must maintain a set temperature in the tank even when you’re not using it. Tankless and on-demand water heating systems are the best if you don’t have a large family or all six of your siblings living with you “temporarily” for five years while they “figure things out.”

By the way, it’s good to brag that your fridge or washer/dryer is twenty years old. Really, it is. What you don’t realize is that old appliance is drastically more expensive to use than their modern counterparts. Replacing the old one would have paid for itself in a few short years. The energy consumption of a new fridge versus one twenty years old is staggering. You might be saving something from going into the landfill, that’s true, but your carbon footprint is amazingly bigger due to the old appliance’s inefficiency.

I still get a lot of flack for being mostly oblivious to gas prices. I just don’t notice. I have to have gas, so the price is irrelevant. It’s made me much happier than most of the people I know. If money is tight, I would drive less – rather than obsess over getting the cheapest gas. I know someone who drove 11 miles in each direction to save twenty-five cents a gallon. (Excluding the fact that you wait in line and spend thirty minutes of your life going there and back. Time is not replaceable.) I calculated that it cost them $4.05 to drive. They retorted, “Aha! That’s less than I saved!” To which I replied (expecting that answer), “Aha! It costs an average of thirty-five cents a mile for the wear-and-tear and maintenance of your vehicle, doofus. Even if you don’t maintain your car properly, let’s say it’s fifteen cents a mile. You spent MORE driving to SAVE than you saved. It’s math, not your feelings.”

Confession: I am not a money genius. I waste it like nobody’s business. I acknowledge my stupidity, though – and try not to defend it.

Clever joke: hand someone a pair of work boots. They will undoubtedly say, “What are these for?” Just laugh and don’t explain the obvious comeback line to them. Just shake your head disapprovingly.
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i jumped from the bed as i always do

not caring, not looking, not even for a shoe

i remember when my body was a weight

as if i’m not it and it’s not me

i don’t worry about how i look

i’ve done what i can

every other man in the world can worry

not me, not ever, never again

i will take what i have

my battery was once low, my spirit unproud

now it’s me, ridiculous perhaps

it seems like arrogance though it’s not

its acceptance for the cards i’ve drawn

and the hand i’ve played with them

i hear the sand trickling down the glass

so it’s me, it’s you

we both better get off our ass

acceptance is cheaper than fixing what ain’t broken

choose your path, now that i’ve spoken

so many of you are beautiful

some inside, some out

yet you let temporary worry

fill you with doubt

Love, X
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Already The Past

Already The Past

The headline is I have covid. None of my symptoms have been unmanageable. I, of course, have had every available shot. Not counting the tranquilizer darts at work, the ones they hit me with when I’m overactive. I would like to say I’ve been taking it easy. But that’s not the case. One of my memories on social media this morning is of me standing in the mirror, taking a picture of my huge scar a year ago. One of my principal complaints, other than being alive still, was that I couldn’t take long walks because of the surgery. Unfortunately, my scar has faded. I don’t ever imagine that I’ll forget the anxiety of waiting for my bowels to start working again. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced it.

I woke up this morning around 1:00 and decided that today would be the day for an ultra-long walk. It’s been glorious. With no plan in mind, I set out walking, having decided I would walk until I couldn’t anymore. Even if that required an Uber to get back. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. The days are blazing hot, but the mornings are always filled with a light breeze and the dead quiet of early morning Fayetteville. This city is an entirely different place once all the bustle dies down.

Yesterday morning during a decently long walk, two young people came into my sphere. Against my better judgment, I intervened right on the street on Sycamore. A domestic dispute and a baby were involved. I bluffed the young man involved. He seemed to listen to me. But I thought about them on and off the rest of the day. Lord, to be that young again when everything seems to be a life-or-death situation!

After a few miles, I crested the interstate. I stopped only for a minute to watch the scattered vehicles pass under me. It’s a little bit zen to do that at 3:00 in the morning. That was a handful of miles back, and it already seems like yesterday.

I walked along the road that leads to Mount Comfort, remembering the scarcity of that stretch just a few short years ago. At the outset of the walk, I listened to music, but after a couple of dozen songs, I pulled off my headphones and let the night sounds be my melody.

Recently I got the great news that perhaps my dead cousin Jimmy might have a daughter he never knew about. The possibility makes me happy. Both for the daughter in question and the memory of Jimmy. He would have been over the moon to find out he had a daughter. I can’t help but overlap the memories in my mind, remembering the feeling of finding out I had a sister I never knew about for 45 years. It’s just biology, of course. Family is mostly who we choose. I would love to have all the people who died sit with me in a room with food, coffee, and probably a few shots of whiskey. I shared my massive family tree with the potential daughter. I try to imagine what it would be like to go online and see a full history of a family you never knew you had. Just like I try to imagine my cousin Jimmy laughing in that special way he did when something tickled the crap out of him.

I can almost hear it here in the darkness.

The long straight stretch of Deane Street was deceptive. After crossing under the interstate and traversing the 90° turn, I could see the lights far ahead of me at Garland, and they seemed to be closer than they were. It’s a beautiful stretch of road in the darkness. The small lazy crescent moon, the aura of city lights along the cusps of the horizon, and the ear-shattering chirp of September insects. It’s somewhere around 1.5 miles along that straight stretch. That surprised me. Distance, like memory, is deceptive.

I think I will remember this morning for years to come. I hope it won’t be my last ultra-long walk. But I don’t take my stamina for granted anymore. All of us stand as witnesses to people being surprised by the mechanics of their bodies failing.

Regardless, I will have the memory. And that’s what life is mostly about, stripped away of the exciting intervals.

My cat Güino was unimpressed by my long walk. He demanded cat juice upon my return and then seemed to judge me for being absent for several hours.

Love, X
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The Beginning Of The World As We Know It (A Dream-Story)

The Beginning Of The World As You Know It

Before: I’m not one to engage in dream recounting. This one, however, was beyond hyper-realistic. I woke up and expected to be in the world and The Event precisely as I dreamt it. I sat down shortly after waking up and wrote it feverishly, without edit.

I derived the title after hearing Justice Carradine singing “How It Ends.” The melodic syncopation strikes a literal chord in my head and heart.

Here’s the story, unchanged from when I sat and wrote it…
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I’m not sure why I’m writing this. You were there the day it happened. That Tuesday started like any other. We all started our day drinking coffee, working, or taking care of our kids. At 10:03, everything changed forever. The news started trickling in that navigation systems were malfunctioning. Planes scrambled to make emergency landings all over the world. Scientists believed that the sun emitted a massive electromagnetic flare that interrupted communications. The military went to DEFCON 1. Every talking head with an opinion emerged from their lairs to spout a theory.

By noon, most major communication networks, except the rudimentary ones, failed. No internet, no radio, no cellphones. Covid had amplified the paranoia of so many. Even the worst conspiracists felt like something significant was happening. No one could explain it, though.

Fifteen minutes later, vehicles stopped working.

We didn’t know at the time that all these things transpired to keep us safe.

At 12:46 p.m., an odd feeling of fatigue washed over me. I sat down on the floor at work. Within a minute, I was almost catatonic. Flickers of indistinct images began to fill my head. Galaxies, models of atoms, time-shifting rainbows of complicated mathematic formulas. It didn’t alarm me. I felt peaceful. This was followed by a voice in my head, a melodic androgynous voice, lulling me into calm.

“We’ve done this a million times. Don’t be afraid. We have perfected our first contact. You’re safe, all eight billion of you. It’s time you joined us if you wish. You will experience a flood of images and information. After which, the choice is yours.”

The images were dozens a second. Yet, I felt my brain envelop them without effort—exotic planets, technology, art, languages that required no voice, faster-than-light travel. Finally, images of alien races, some of which no longer required bodies. I’m not sure how long this really lasted. Some people later said it only lasted a few seconds.

At 12:50 p.m., I woke up, my legs crossed on the floor. I felt full of energy and enthusiasm. I did not doubt that an unseen alien presence offered us a gift, forever telling us that we weren’t alone in the universe.

All communications were restored. Vehicles and navigation systems worked perfectly again. My co-workers joined me in the upstairs conference room to watch the network news channels scramble to explain what every living human had just experienced coherently. It was chaos.

We all held our breath, assuming that whatever had just contacted us would do so immediately. It didn’t, though. You were there.

Within minutes, several world powers began to threaten military action against one another. We watched as Russia and China fired nuclear ballistic missiles. The United States launched almost all of its missiles in response. The news host shouted in disbelief, warning us to take cover.
“From what?” we all whispered. We were in shock. Most of us felt as if we’d just experienced a whisper of the meaning of life. Seeing our militaries respond in a way that might end all of our lives didn’t feel real.

We waited. Nothing happened. None of these missiles exploded or made contact. It was as if they had disappeared. News reports came in that the missiles went off the radar—all of them. Most countries began firing any available hardware they had remaining. None exploded.

Within two minutes, the President of the United States pre-empted the news channel. Joe Biden was obviously inside a bunker below the White House.

He immediately began to speak.

“We don’t know what has happened. All of our defense systems are down. You must prepare for further attack. Effective immediately, martial law is being declared.” As he cleared his throat, the monitor went blank.

A blue square filled the screen.

Words began to cycle across it in large indistinct letters.

It started with the word “No,” in multiple languages.

Images of entire fields of corn and oats and clear streams filled the monitor. They were followed by the same photos with towering alien structures behind them. We somehow knew that those same images had been transmitted to us while we were almost catatonic. Those structures were solar and wind generators, desalinators, and communication hubs.

“You failed the first phase,” the monitor said, again in multiple languages.

“We assume control of all threats against one another for the entire planet. No military can harm another. Any country trespassing its borders will be rendered incapable of action. We wish you could have figured this out for yourselves in the last hundred years. Humanity is a collective. Life will never be the same as you know it. We mean you no harm. We are not gods. We were once like you. We owe our origins to a common ancestor. Please go about your lives without fear.”

The screen went blue and then returned to the President. He was standing slack-jawed and in shock.

The screen went dark.

I stood with a dozen co-workers, trying to grasp what had just happened. It felt like God had finally intervened in our lives.

When the network news channel returned, it was chaos. Nothing similar had ever happened. The younger news anchor motioned for the camera to focus on him, and he began to speak.

“I don’t know what each of you experienced this morning. I feel like the meaning and purpose of life were just handed to me. I’m glad that whatever is doing this took control of the world’s military forces. We can’t trust people with power to make good choices. I ask that each of you take a moment and wonder if the future we glimpsed is worthy and attainable. For the first time, we don’t have control. I don’t think we ever did, frankly. Be calm if you can, and take a minute to hug and talk to the people around you. If you…”

The station cut to a digestive health commercial.

We turned to one another in the conference room and hugged one another. It was eerily silent except for the blare of the monitor on the wall.

“We have to go back to work. That hasn’t changed.” I don’t know who said it, but his voice propelled us to walk out and quietly back downstairs to our department. Nothing seemed important. Oddly, everything seemed monumental. You were there and might understand what I mean. The minutes and hours passed in a blur.

By the time I finished work, people were coming out of their shock. Almost all the major churches in the world were reacting to the morning. The Vatican issued a statement indicating that whatever was communicated this morning wasn’t godly and that such interpretation violated the church’s canons. Most of us felt like it had been, though. Whatever it was that had talked to us individually in our heads felt like a universal presence. Church attendance increased dramatically in the first week. By the second week, it dropped constantly. Within a month, it had fallen to less than 10% of what it had been before The Event.

In the following weeks, there was no more overt communication from whatever had contacted us. Reports began trickling in of scientists, engineers, botanists, and doctors having sudden breakthroughs in their fields. An engineer from NASA figured out a way to increase solar energy generation by using living organisms as a living battery. The same batteries could power vehicles and homes with no emissions and harmful byproducts. A doctor in Mexico City researching viruses discovered that most cancers were caused by previously undetected DNA structures hidden inside cells. A graduate student in Oregon invented a desalination system using no outside energy, which returned the extracted salt to the ocean without affecting the environment. Linguists in Japan wrote an AI that could learn and translate any known spoken or written language to any other almost in real-time.

World governments continued to bicker and argue over laws and resolutions. Canada proposed a new direct democratic system that required no governmental body, using a new AI that allowed every citizen to formulate ideas and submit them. China and Russia attempted to invade several countries. All involved equipment became inoperable.

One morning, I realized I was only sleeping about two hours a night. Many of us gradually began to sleep less, thinking it only affected us. We found ourselves with more free time and energy. Most of us read more, exercised more, and spent more time with friends and family. Though the world seemed to be in turmoil, the truth is that most of us were slowly becoming happier and at peace.

Unfinished… because something stirred me into wakefulness.

You Do You Part Two

I’ve written a few clever things about the folly of mocking other people’s hobbies or interests. This is not another clever take.

Soap operas, sporting events, reality tv, crocheting, video games, reading, stamp collecting, or having a skeleton display in your yard two months early (excluding serial killers). Putting up a Xmas tree in July. All of these are stupid to some people. It’s likely you love doing something that makes others roll their eyes. I know one woman who is so weird that she attends Billy Idol concerts. On purpose. (I put the last joke in for John K.)

The same is true about complaining about each holiday appearing early at retailers. It’s shocking news, I know, but they wouldn’t do it if sales didn’t justify it. We can laugh and ridicule the stores for doing so, but practically speaking, it wouldn’t happen if human behavior weren’t driving it.

If someone wants to put up Halloween decorations in September, good for them. A Xmas tree in August? Even better. It’s their life, time, and money. If you snark, we’re going to comment on your large belt buckles, commemorative plate collection, or shelves filled with what-knots or tchotchkes. (I included that last word for oddballs from Pennsylvania.)

A considerable portion of the adult population watches reality tv or sporting events. Taken from a certain context, both are equally ludicrous on a couple of levels. If you enjoy them, you don’t think so. That’s the point. We won’t vote you off the island; we might not let you on the boat, but we won’t banish you.

If you want to careen around with your cellphone and collect Pokémon, even if you are seventy years old, go for it. We’ll try not to run you over on our bicycles or cars.

If you’d rather sit on your couch and relax instead of going out and about to socialize, then do it and enjoy it.

If you want to watch grown men and millionaires throw inflated balls around while wearing absurdly tight pants, please do. I mean, it seems perfectly normal if millions of people do it, right? We don’t question your time or masculinity. Not to your face, at least.

Xmas trees in the fall are normal. So are Halloween decorations two months early. Valentine’s candy in January? You bet. Nothing says “love” like diabetes-inducing sugary treats. Except, of course, for doing the dishes without giving an Emmy-worthy “Did you notice?” performance afterward.

Get excited about whatever you enjoy and enjoy those things without guilt.

The next guy is just as full of crap as you are.

We can revel in that.

Just please stop complaining about seasonal merchandise appearing early in stores. It’s not going to lessen or abate in your lifetime.

Just like you can’t drive in traffic without BEING traffic, you can’t participate in capitalism without contributing your own version of “Xmas in July” at your favorite store.

You just don’t see it as weird to some people.

Because it’s not.

It’s just you doing you.

Keep up the good work, y’all.

X
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Lejósia

Lejósia

(lay-HO-see-uh)

Noun. That primordial and overwhelming feeling of homesickness as you travel back to your nest. The eternal feeling that you’ve been gone forever and might not make it back.

No matter where you’ve been, once your focus returns to your everyday life, you want to be home, surrounded by the mundane and familiar. Excitement and travel are interposed moments, transitory and impermanent. They comprise only a tiny percentage of your life.

My word originates in Latin and then passes through Spanish.

DIY Fresheners

Because I want to, I will start with a random weird fact: the first McDonald’s Drive-Thru was created for military customers who weren’t allowed to be in public in their uniforms. I’m guessing nudity wasn’t an option.

Pre-emptive Intro: Look at those retro Elvis sunglasses! Feel free to submit my pictures as a visual for a “douche photo.” Even I cringe and laugh when I see it.

Listen, I know y’all are rich.

This means you don’t like your place smelling like dog farts or cat tootsie rolls. If you’re married to a man, you should be accustomed to it. If you have teenage boys, you might as well live in an Army dorm.

As noted philosopher SpongeBob said: “I smell the smelly smell of something that smells smelly.”

You can make really cheap do-it-yourself Febreze.

If you don’t love throwing money out, make your spouse or teenagers make the stuff for you at home. You can make it for much less than half a dollar a bottle. And it works just the same.

It’s not as cheap as a clothespin on one’s nose.

Febreze isn’t good for birds or Venezuelan Poodle Moth (which is real, and you should look it up!), but it’s pretty safe with all other animals. People with respiratory issues of any kind already know to be careful around this type of product. A lot of the commercial cleaners you buy can be replaced with simple things you make at home. I’ve noted that many homeowners wait until they need a flamethrower to clean some areas.

Most of the things you need for a basic homemade Febreze are already in your house. If not, your neighbor probably leaves their door unlocked, which is tantamount to implicit permission to borrow liberally from them.

Fabric softener, baking soda, alcohol, essential oils. You don’t need ALL those. There are various competing recipes on the internet. The ones which use fabric softener, white vinegar, a bit of alcohol, and water are the easiest. You can search for it using your favorite privacy-robbing web browser.

“Cleaning is putting stuff in less obvious places.” To which I’d reply: “Turn off the lights, and suddenly the mess disappears.”

Having said all that, do you know what works the best because it attacks odors at its source? Vinegar and water at mostly equal concentrations. Yes, the strong initial smell might throw people off, but it does a much better job after the application dissipates, as it attacks a lot of bacteria, something Febreze and knockoffs don’t. The smell will disappear. But so will a lot of what is causing the odors in the first place.

“Everybody wants to save the earth; no one wants to help mom do the dishes.”
P.J. O’Rourke

Did you know that psychologically speaking, just spraying something that smells like a cleaner often gives a person a mental boost? It’s associative; the scent triggers a similar feeling to actually having cleaned. Even if you spray and then walk out on the patio and drink a cup of coffee.

If you make your own, you can make anywhere from 10-20 bottles for the price of one bottle of Febreze or a can of air freshener.

You can use the extra money you saved to buy something nice for yourself. Like one of those virus-zapping robots. It won’t remove the dust, but your dust will be germ-free.

Hint for bad housekeepers… remember some of my helpful tips. Hang underwear on the door, or leave a murder scene outline inside your front door and then apologize for the mess. Tell everyone the coroner just left. Either usually stops the Q&A or wrinkled noses as visitors enter your nest.

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Time’s Rustle

i got a brief unexpected glimpse

through peripheral eye

not indistinct
not vague

of a branched and labyrinth truncated future

every choice, each decision, and contrary whim

a scarcity of calendar turns

i stood breathless and in wonder

breathe in, breathe out, I whispered

above me, a bird perched on a branch

above it, a sky shielding me from the illusion of infinity

below me, the ground that belies impermanence

and the wind invisibly rustling

what more can I say
like another, just a day
if I squander this one
surely I must pay

not in dollars but in minutes

they do not casually pass me by

they flutter, then they fly

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We Cut

“If you never heal from what hurt you, you will bleed on people who didn’t cut you.”

I’ve written about this topic before. We carry our wounds and issues, often in plain sight of everyone except ourselves.

This statement states it in a way that exceeds pithiness.

I made the image, too.

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