All posts by X Teri

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee (A book)

7777777772

We all vividly recall colorful memories of carnivals, ocean beaches, or sunlit birthday parties. Many of us have an unseen bond with a few select books, ones so rich and engrossing that we often mourn a little with their completion. The memory of a great book fills our minds with joy as easily as childhood happiness.

Often, a first-time author will pour his or her soul and wit into a book. Without recognition, these books can fade, despite their hidden potential to ignite people’s minds. Those which pluck at our heartstrings and nostalgic memories deserve a chance to flourish and reach more people.

If you’ve yet to hear of “The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee” by Talya Tate Boerner, I envy you. Your first time reading this treasure is ahead of you. The prose flows like melting ice cream on the back of your hand and the people and places in the book walk through your mind with a vividness that’s difficult to master as a writer. Talya’s mastery of language is equal to Pat Conroy, though her words are more sparse and evocative.

I heard of the book through social media. An avid reader I know spoke highly of it. Since I hadn’t heard of it, at least not that I remembered, I had a tinge of doubt. Buying it on Amazon was one of the best decisions I’ve made regarding a book. Since then, I’ve given the book to several people, all of whom have nothing except warm praise for it. Each book has passed from the original owner to someone else, a secondhand gift of true love for those who might receive it.

For those who might have grown up in eastern Arkansas or in some other rural community, you’ll find yourself back in those tilled fields, with your hands touching the rough edges of a cotton plant or your bare feet carefully treading on the boards of a long front porch. If you’re really lucky, you’ll hear the muffled bang of a screen door slamming shut in the summer as someone you love hollers at you for doing it – for the thousandth time.

“The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee” is a love story for a young girl’s childhood. It will make you stand up and look out on your current world and feel like we might have taken a curved path as we grew up and turned away from simple connections. The book stunningly hides a story line of acceptance and redemption inside, one between a stubborn dad and daughter; many of us will find ourselves comparing ourselves to one or the other.

My only wish is that Talya Tate Boerner would write a dozen more such books. In a world filled with books equal to her first, most of us could find happiness in their pages. It is a book like hers which whispers to me long after I’ve finished reading it.

For anyone with a love for reading or storytelling, please find a copy of this book. I’m sure that you will not regret the time you spend inside its world.

Love, X

We Are All Stories For Other People

20181018_055542 tilt shift

As I was once again in the Little Rock area, I had no choice except to get up early and creep outside. Moronic it may be, but as I’ve aged, I’ve been delighted to discover that walking deserted streets is among my favorite ways to enjoy life. I walked across the river bridge this morning, trying not to scare anyone. I was dressed in black pants and jacket in hopes of being mistaken for a suspicious character as I walked the streets. I left my ID in the car in hopes of increasing my chance for a foot race in the event of a ‘suspicious person’ call and ensuing police foot chase. Note: coffee is redundant if you’ve been tased below the waist. (As is the need to use the restroom, depending on the voltage of the device used.)

Regardless of its purported problems, this town is spectacular in the pre-morning hours. If you’re asking if it feels unsafe to be out alone in the dark, the answer is still no. Potato chips are a more realistic threat to me than what some shadowy danger might plan for me.

Walking across the bridge, I could see the top of the capitol building. I passed a moment wondering if anyone was perhaps already inside, possibly leafing through piles of large bills, quietly but maniacally laughing to themselves.

Leaving the hotel property, I edged into the dark sidewalk near the baseball park. A man walking two harnessed and incredibly large labs tried to dodge me at the last second. The dogs, seeking new people to adore them, jerked him back into my path and began to dance and whimper as I petted their heads. “Sorry,” the man said. “Don’t be. The day just improved for all of us,” I told him.

There were a few joggers this morning. Two of them were very athletic women who were trailed by a bodyguard. All of them looked like they could throw me into traffic if I looked at them wrong. I briefly considered pretending to chase them to see if they’d run faster. Since I didn’t have my health insurance card with me, I thought better of the idea. I don’t know who the two ladies were but they reeked of ‘famous.’ They were wearing perfume that undoubtedly was made using the scent of money.

As invariably happens when I walk the Little Rock metro area in the early morning, I had a couple of moments of divinity, the brief seconds of recognition that I’ll always remember this morning in indistinct yet fond imagery. The breeze above the river was a caress and the sight of the river below me reminded me of how lucky I’ve been in this life. I’m too observant to think that the scythe isn’t already arcing to meet me at some point in my life. It’s probably disguised as an anvil or extra large pepperoni pizza.

Coming back through the motel parking lot, I startled a couple as they gossiped and smoked cigarettes. Whoever Ellen is, the couple would like her to know that she’s a vile excuse for a human being. I wish I knew which Ellen they were discussing. I’ll bet she’d had a vigorous reply to their parking-lot gossip.

As I write this, I’ll note that despite having my “Do Not Disturb” on the door, a housekeeper knocked and waited 1/10 of a second before entering with her master key. The look on her face was priceless as I said, “Hold on, I’m just starting the security cameras now.” It’s worth noting that I was sitting at the desk with two laptops and a pile of jumbled electronics, so my joke was probably taken as serious commentary. “I’m SO sorry” she yelled as she turned and fled. It’s too bad I hadn’t yet started my 30 minutes of naked jumping jacks. I went to the hallway and asked one of the housekeepers in Spanish if the lady who just exited my room was the supervisor. She said ‘yes,’ it was. If she tries any shenanigans tomorrow, let’s just say that her reaction will be befitting of a Halloween scream as I surprise her.

I really did walk past the governor this morning. I instinctively checked to see if my wallet was still in my back pocket as I passed by. Just joking, of course; small bills are a nuisance in a world of wealth.

The picture is one from the riverside walk. Those are fallen leaves rather than crumbled currency. I took a couple of the panorama of the bridge, the jutting dome of the capitol building, and even a selfie as a confused driver passed me as I held the camera aloft. I ran through the leaves, scattering them into the air and breeze. The river breeze blew across me, bathing me in the delicious fall smell. As I walked away, I could see someone sitting on a bench in the near distance, smoking. I hope he was wondering if he had just witnessed a middle-aged white man begin his inevitable nervous breakdown.

We are all stories for other people.

Move Over Russia, Here I Come

I went through the process to be vetted to run political ads and content on Facebook’s platform. (Which, as you may or may not know, isn’t limited to the site itself.

Because of the fallout from the 2016 debacle otherwise known as the election, Facebook instituted some exacting rules to ensure that people and organizations are whom they claim to be – and live where they claim to. The rules don’t affect what you post on your private pages; rather, they affect what you post on pages you control and advertising platforms you access. Facebook reaches a couple of billion people. In some respects, it is the biggest communication platform in our shared human history.

Regardless of what content is on Facebook’s platform, it is our responsibility, not theirs, to use our brains in the way they were designed. We don’t adopt attitudes or prejudices at gunpoint; we are the guilty party in almost every case in which advertising is claimed to have been misused. It’s too glib to blame Russia or Facebook for undue influence. We own our collective stupidity.

The 2016 election proved that voting sometimes has less power when compared the reach of a determined voice, even if the voice is shouting disinformation. You can get your opinion and voice heard more effectively than by voting or arguing in a closed system. Even though we know that shouting doesn’t work to change minds, only cement them, we still do it, instead of using appeals to humor, persuasion, and targeted communication.

The most persuasive voice is another human presence, one of open mind and ear. The only sermon or speech which spreads your message is one of example. As we learned from the last election, the next best thing is a communication platform which allows anyone to reach a staggering number of people. The effect is amplified when people are engaging with passion at the expense of their intelligence.

You’ve read my words and creations in other places, many times without realizing that they were mine. You shouldn’t assume that they were the ideas, words, or images you would expect from me, either. None of us is the imagined version in the minds of others.

In an open society, that’s perhaps the best way. The best idea should be given consideration, even if it is disruptive to the beliefs and certainties we all cling to. Buried in the illusion of tribal affiliations of today, we automatically flinch and recoil away from the opportunity to hear new information. Our motto should always be: “I change my mind with new information.” This tendency is necessary for learning and growing. The greater our tendency to fight against flexibility, the more likely we’ll experience a breakage. 7 billion people in the world demand that we stop seeing ourselves as the torchbearer for truth.

I rarely share anything from another source on social media. It’s almost exclusively mine, even if it only my opinion, full of error and disinterest. Much of the problem with social media is that it is too tempting and too easy to use others to give voice to our presence. Much of the time, the voice we choose is whispering – or shouting – information which is slanted, incorrect, or completely false.

This is part of the reason why it is amusing to think that I now can anonymously sway your opinion across the entire platform of social media. The last election demonstrated the power and reach of interactive content. Why hack the vote when we can convince large groups of people that up is down or that everyone falls into neat categories of political and religious ideology? Obviously, most of us don’t recognize that we are being swayed or led astray – that’s precisely why it is such a powerful tool. All of us feel immune to it. Reality proves otherwise.

All of us, every day, see information on social media that we know isn’t true. We think, “What an idiot!” We rarely stop to consider that the idiot in our scenario is often us in the other idiot’s mind.

P.S. Facebook has trusted me to access your eyes, ears, and minds. Good luck to you all. It’s my turn to be the idiot. You’ll find me all over the internet, thanks to the largest communication project ever created. You’re welcome.

No Worse For The Wear (Or Non-Wear)

This is a true story, one which makes me proud. After you read the story, you’ll be proud to know me too.

This evening, as the darker clouds rolled in to meet the deepening sunset on this beautiful day, I stopped at one of the local liquor stores. (Which, for the uninitiated, is a place one might purchase alcoholic beverages.) My wife remained in the car, probably anticipating more antics from me. Plausible deniability is a virtue after so many years of marriage.

As the magical automatic double glass doors slipped open upon my approach, I entered with a smile. Three employees were near the rear left side of the store. All three proclaimed an enthusiastic version of “Hey, how are you?” to greet me.

Per my usual custom of saying something stupid, I used my cliché “Terrible!” as my reply.

The youngest of the three visible employees, a fresh-faced and enthusiastic man, laughed and said, “You don’t look any worse for the wear, though.”

Smiling even deeper and preparing to raise my voice, I half-shouted back: “You should see me NAKED!”

The younger employee stood with a stupefied expression on his face. The wizened veteran at his side burst out laughing as I continued walking.
.

Nothing New?

mag-pole-105542-unsplash

 

The stupefaction of those who say things like, “Great, another remake!” Or, “They don’t have any new ideas anymore.”

Like you, the guy saying it.

We’ve heard it before. We’ll hear it again. And again. From you.

The entire development of the human species, in conjunction with some amazing technology, movies, music, and literature, demonstrates that you are full of cow dung. It’s impossible for an engaged and attentive person to be bored at this buffet the world provides.

There’s a movie remake you aren’t interested in? Don’t see it. A song was redone by a new artist? Don’t listen to it. An unexpected revival of an old show that you don’t want to see ‘ruined’? Don’t watch it. I could write 50 such snarky extensions of my point. But I won’t – and not just because I’ll know you’ll complain about that too.

People have always complained about rehashing old ideas. Generally, the people who do it with the least creativity are older and tend to seldom contribute anything innovative to their surroundings. I’m generalizing, of course, and there are exceptions. Not everyone watches “The Office” 43 times or refuses to listen to any new music or mashups of old classics. Find a new genre, a new crowd, a new book, a different perspective.

The world is an interesting place. Not all remakes are worthy. Not all originals are, either. Sometimes, though, someone takes a new perspective on an old idea and breathes life into it. It’s a sight to behold.

So, before you bitterly opine about something being redone again, stop and consider: you are inflicting the same agony on us by voicing such an opinion.

Go out and create something. Anything.

The world is too full of interesting people with something to say for you to blame them for your lack of appreciation of what’s at your disposal.