I had an extra tub of sidewalk chalk in my little car. Who doesn’t? I’ve had so many little adventures grabbing chalk and drawing for people who’ll never know who did it. Quick messages, words of encouragement, poetry, and odd notes to perplex those who happen upon them. The outside world is nothing if not surfaces, ones unfortunately left blank and colorless. If I find a bucket of chalk, crayons, or markers marked down, I grab a set.
Yesterday, I went to Dollar General to find cheap mixing bottles for my protein requirement. I bought another tub of chalk and a set of crayons and markers for a couple of bucks. A man was walking across in front of Lucky Luke’s bbq. He said, “Cool pin, man” as he looked at my shirt. I had money in my hand, as well as my Dollar General bags. I was on the way to the laundromat a couple of doors down to get what is commonly known as an “assload” of quarters. It’s one of the habits I’ve acquired living in an apartment without my own washer and dryer. “Do you need anything?” I asked him. I would have given him $10 if he had asked. “Nah, I’m good for today.” I stopped. “Hey, how about a tub of chalk? Draw something interesting, pass the time?” He didn’t hesitate. “Hell yes, I’d love a bucket of chalk. I haven’t touched chalk in years. My nephew and I will burn through this.” I handed him the bucket. I could see a little glimmer of the child he once was flickering on his face.
This morning, on a whim, I took the other bucket out and walked over to my downstairs neighbor. His door was open. His young son was already outside, riding around in circles, waiting impatiently on his dad. I handed the dad the chalk. He smiled. “Thanks!” he said. I almost told him it was for his son, but I’d rather see both of them out there covering the pavement and sidewalk with beautiful colors.
I saw them minutes later, riding toward the trail on Poplar.
No one is bored holding a stick of chalk – unless they wish to be. Blank canvases everywhere, waiting.
A gaggle of young runners made their way up Poplar toward the traffic light. I was outside near the crosswalk measuring for an address plaque I’m making for the apartment simplex. The last runner was struggling to catch up. “You won’t always be last,” I told him as he crossed Gregg. “I hate running!” He said. I laughed. “You won’t hate it the day you leave all of them behind you, though.” I gave him the thumbs up.
Around 8 last night, I heard weird popping noises. I didn’t think much of it. I was standing outside on the deck. Waking up this morning, I discovered that an unidentified idiot shot into the apartments by the trail on Poplar Street. Automatic gunfire, too. I can see the apartments and trail from the crosswalk outside the apartment. Y’all can scoff, but I wish I’d taken a walk last night. There’s no better adventure story than gunfire after sunset. Have you noticed that almost no nincompoops get up at 5 a.m., drink a cup of coffee, and start shooting? We need a better class of hooligans in Fayetteville! Also, bullets are expensive.
I bought four pieces of bacon in the work cafeteria this morning. (No, I’m not authorized to return to work yet. At least not PAID work.) It’s been a year since I had bacon. Bacon salt has been my salvation in the interim. When I got back to the apartment, I made lettuce and bacon wraps. I may have blacked out with pleasure for a moment.
I also left a surprise brooch for someone today. Nothing says, “Good morning!” as inexplicably as a surprise brooch. Today, I’m wearing a spectacular fleur-de-lis brooch that I found at Peace At Home. I’d not thought much about the symbol until recently. Like so many symbols, it’s an ancient one. When I chose the name “X,” I thought I was simplifying things. Lord, the number of things “X” can signify is astonishing, even though it is just a single letter. It’s nice having a name that looks the same regardless of direction.
Seeing someone’s ASL post this morning made me realize that people around me didn’t know I was saying “Please” a lot of the time. It may look like I’m rubbing my heart. I learned it from a deaf man who attempted to work at Cargill years ago. “Please” and “Thank you” are both great visuals, even in normal conversation – not that I’m sure what that is. People running away from me with their palms clamped firmly over their ears give me the wrong impression.
I finished the address plaque for the apartments. I used reflective numbers. And I couldn’t quite bring myself to NOT put a little bling and beauty on there in the form of a dragonfly. I also installed a nice solar light above it, either to illuminate the reflective numbers I chose – or so that the idiots shooting automatic weapons will have something other than my ass to aim at if they find themselves with an oversupply of bullets.
Other: * While chatting with my case manager, I did offer to re-write my surgical report. It needs a plot twist and a little bit of pizzazz. And/or humor and brevity: “Patient failed to notice my approach as I used a #11 blade to gut him. We found a herniation near the appendix but this box of Cracker Jacks did not have a surprise.” * A random internet person read my post about Tammy’s weight loss: “You have no idea how seeing you and your friend have motivated me. I think I have your incremental idea in my head now. I’ve already lost ten lbs, just by deciding to do a few small things each day. Such as choosing differently, doing exercises every hour while at work, and keeping my mouth shut as much as I can. You’re right. Food can’t get in there if it isn’t open!” * Another person wrote me and asked me if this quote is mine: “Saying you aren’t photogenic is kinda like saying you’re better looking than all available evidence.” No, but I wish I had. It’s pithy and logical. * A Bit Of Daily Motivation: “Have you stopped to think that somewhere there’s a tree growing that might one day become your coffin?” *
A visit to Sam’s proved valuable in my quest for tomfoolery. The door checker was very adamant I use the Scan-As-You-Go feature. I told him I thought that was for the bathroom. (Is that joke funny?) Among my many feats, I went down the chip and nut aisle and scanned every item on it, about 50 items. And then asked for help to remove “a couple” of things I needed to delete from my app checkout cart. Several people asked for assistance because I still wore my work badge, soft purple shirt, and fantastic Dance Commander brooch. I did my best to help them except for the last guy, who was in a bad mood and couldn’t find the coffee on sale. Without missing a beat, I told him it was all the way in the back rear corner, past the paper towels. Note: it’s not there. But it was the furthest point from me in the store. He walked off, and I decided it would be a good time to leave. I hope he complains about me to the manager! If I don’t get Employee of The Month, I’ll know who to blame. . The picture of 3 photos is of the upper right corner of my fridge, which I’m loading with photo magnets. Everyone in the pictures except me suffers or suffered from addiction issues. Of the 5 other people in the photos, all but one of them died with their addictions. My sister Marsha is making another heroic effort to right her ship as I write this. Having phrased it slightly wrong when I said “other than me,” the truth is that everyone suffers if they love someone with addictions. Watching someone get on the diving board and stay there and then lose the battle is one of the most painful experiences any of us can live through.
There are no bystanders to addiction. . It’s nice having a metal door. Not because it heats up to 180 F in the summer. Or prevents most people from being able to kick it. No, I like it because I can fill it with photo magnets and nonsense. . The purpose of the picture of me against the brownish wallpaper background is two-fold: to show the brooch I wore today and to give publicity to someone’s kitchen wallpaper. I’m not standing in said kitchen. I took a picture of me standing near the trail and transposed myself onto the wild wallpaper background. The brooch inspired a lot of comments: Is it a pilot’s insignia? Was it a repurposed military medal? My go-to response was this: I’ve been promoted to Dance Commander. Whatever you do, DO NOT go to YouTube and watch “Dance Commander – Electric Six.” I love the song, but I’m guessing 103% of y’all won’t. (It’s more than 100% due to the number of my social media friends who have multiple voices in their heads.)
. The picture of the two pennies was the second brooch I made. I gave it to my Director as a gift. If the joke is too thin, it’s this: “Here are my two cents worth.” It might come in handy in conversations.
. The picture of the broken watch is sentimental. I broke off 1/2 of the band and attached a brooch clip on the reverse. I couldn’t bring myself to discard the broken watch. The phoenix in me told me to give it new life – so I did.
. The fuchsia-colored bird metalwork is something I had made by Married To The Metal on Etsy. I painted it when I moved here. If you’re interested, you should look up the word “Onism” on “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.” It’s delightful and an apt reminder while I live inside this box. It is where I discovered the word “Sonder” and many others that are a delight.
. The picture of the edge of my deck is my color tile project-in-the-making. Several of the neighbors probably think of me as some kind of artist because, most days, I’m on the deck painting a variety of things that look out of place. The apartment simplex has a variety of people: dealer, disabled, dog people, and probable serial killer. I have a lot to shoot for if I want to become the most infamous resident here. To be accused of too much color and art would be a glorious compliment.
. I went outside and picked up a lot of trash. I quit, though, because my neighbor Bill got angry when I tried to put him in a trash bag. Please take a shower, Bill. Joking aside, I find myself picking up the mess here often. It’s not my job, but I hope I never get to the point where such things don’t register in my brain; doing so will mean I’ve accepted my environment. There are several things about this place that are very much in need of handcuffs, flamethrowers, or eye-rolling. While I was out, I managed to place another prank in plain view. Just call me Prank Sinatra. . A FedX truck barreled into the parking lot while I stood outside, relishing the breeze. The driver had salsa music blaring. For southerners, ‘salsa music’ isn’t music you listen to while you eat Tex-Mex, by the way. The driver was surprised I greeted him in Spanish. I love watching drivers pull up and always hope they need a signature. They can expect a lot of interesting scenarios with the crowd who lives here. Barking, sometimes even from actual dogs, suspiciously-folded window blinds, and a strange cast of characters. . I have to go choose among my 17 colors of paint and see what needs brightening now. I know I don’t. I hope the mood lasts. Last evening was a challenge for me. In closing, I’d like to add: no, Marilyn, I don’t have a cat yet, although I suspect I ate a bit of cat food in the cafeteria this morning at work.
I was given this Jesus pendant as a little surprise.
Since I received a bit of advice from Erika, who has a lot of jewelry experience, something many people don’t know, I chose it to be my first DIY brooch. Amazon and Hobby Lobby provided my first essential kits to get started. Anything can be a brooch if you’re sufficiently motivated. That’s fair warning. 🙂
I ordered a simple soldering kit to learn to make them properly. You’ll know when the kit arrives, because you’ll see a post of me being surprised I melted my fingers or stuck the soldering iron on my cheek accidentally.
I had the Jesus pendant on the window sill facing the kitchen, displayed.
It wasn’t until two weeks later that I discovered that it was actually a directional double image locket; one perspective Jesus, the other Mary.
Not to stretch the comparison, but I wonder how many other obvious surprises are hidden in plain sight.
The fact that I’m kind of a doofus for failing to realize it’s actually a visual illusion shouldn’t be a surprise.
It’s devilishly difficult to photograph these!
It’s the first brooch I’ve ever made, at least in an attempt to do so properly.
PS I’m not a Christian, but I love the message, even as I continue to fail to remember to do unto others.
Yesterday, I put up a 4-shelf system behind my metal front door. It’s wasted space and ideal to display curios, knick-knacks, or bric-a-brac. (If you like the hoity-toity French word for small pieces of goofiness on display.) Give me credit for using a neutral color. My inclination was to do a series of bright resonant colors.
I’m using the bottom shelf to display my favorite brooches. I guess I have a brooch addiction. What kind of 12-step program is available for such an affliction probably would be really fabulous.
For those with discerning eyes, yes, that is a pregnancy test on the far right. No, I’m not pregnant. I put that odd curio there to catch people off guard. In case they aren’t already on guard just strolling through the front door. It’s akin to the fun I have by putting underwear on the door or on the floor in plain sight. Since my friend Marilyn insists I’m circling the crazy drain, I see no point resisting filling this old apartment with a variety of easter egg surprises. (The apartment simplex has a few surprises I’ve put up – and as far as I know, no one has questioned them. It’ll be interesting to see how far I can task this long-term project before being called out. 🙂 )
As for the real confession, lately I’ve been taking puffs of small cigars. The first puff always gives me a buzz. No, these are not the cannabis kind. Despite what you’d guess by reading what I write, I don’t do drugs – and they don’t do me, either. Today is the day I stop taking puffs. This is one of those small habits that most people keep a secret, especially if it’s one they are about to give up. It’s a bit ridiculous to reveal that I’ve been doing it. I hate secrecy, which is ironic on several levels. I have no problem confessing such stupidities. I’ve found that if you don’t confess things, even the small ones, people’s idea of you grows increasingly disparate from reality.
I’m painting more tiles and attempting a wall rack. The wall rack is already a bit of a mess.
As for my small first-world problems, people I love are experiencing real heartache and the kind of life surprises that really hurt. I have hope that all of us end this day with more love and peace than we started with. It’s a small ask, one bordering on prayer.
Y’all signed up for this, so in deference to Ron White, who quipped (paraphrasing), “I know I have the right to remain silent, just not the ability.”
It’s a great thing that I love burned food. I made homemade pizzas (though you wouldn’t like the way I do…). I set Alexa for ten minutes. That’s what I thought I said. Because I mumble worse than a child who got caught pilfering cookies, I evidently said “twenty minutes.” The smoke alarm didn’t go off. I bought one of those new-fangled kinds that gauges the luxury of the residence. Mine evidently thinks I’ll be better off if the place turns to cinders. Though it’s a ‘smart’ device with built-in wifi, it calls 7-11 instead of 911. That’s a joke. I think it’s a joke. Flavor Flav once said, “9-1-1 is a joke in your town.” To that, I’d reply, “Yeah, until you need it.” And all of us eventually do.
Saturday, despite having great conversations with three lovely souls, I found myself doing projects to fill the quiet: colorful ones designed to invade both the interior and exterior of my old apartment. I keep hoping I’ll fill it with enough brightness to drown out the shadows. Don’t get me wrong; I’m so grateful for having my health and sanity. The latter is currently on hiatus.
One of the people I talked to told me that she found herself busy with projects when she was in my situation, filling time with movement and results. She said she could see through the tightly-slitted blinds of my writing that I was experiencing the all-too-human sensation of loneliness, and doubly so given my nature.
It’s not that I’m always alone, far from it. The universes watches me closely, though, and quite often waits to throw a shawl over my enthusiasm precisely when I’m not expecting it.
I got a call yesterday that was both gratifying and emotional; as with such calls, it took me time to process it and look at it from a different perspective. It’s all in my head, of course. That’s how we experience reality, isn’t it? In our own way, cherry-picking the parts that reinforce what we’re thinking. It varies by mood, day, and person. None of us share the same reality because the voice in our head is the overriding narrative that sometimes drowns out the positive things in our lives. Or at least dims it just long enough to doubt ourselves. I envy people whose narrative is overwhelmingly one of gratitude and acceptance. What a superpower they have. Imagine if Superman walked around convincing everyone that they’re worthy. He wouldn’t need to jump tall buildings.
This is all normal – or so I’m told.
Because I’m lucky enough to have seen behind the curtains of people’s lives, I know that normal is just a word in the dictionary. One of the most normal people I know thinks it’s a great idea to shower about once a week. He doesn’t smell bad, so I’m not sure what alchemy or process he uses to “save water and time” by not showering.
It’s the universe’s perverse sense of humor that catches me off guard. No matter how good my morning or day has been, there is always a risk of unexpectedly getting smacked in the head. Sometimes, it brings joy. Sometimes, confusion. The morning gave me a bit of joy seeing the neighborhood, running without stopping, buying something for a project to help someone else out, and talking to great people.
Lord, though, the shadows.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m on happiness auto-pilot. It’s why I tell a couple of my friends that I understand all too well how our minds lay traps for us and that I understand their coping mechanisms. Short-term coping mechanisms are essential. So many of us make them inescapable habits, ones which shut off the rational parts of our lives.
I took a diamond painting of my cat Guino, the one who owns the house I used to live in – and I painted it vivid red. I changed something of the old and made it my own.
I made a runner of felt-backed tiles and put them on the deck outside my apartment. They don’t serve a purpose, except to add color and juxtapose themselves against the faded boards of the landing. I’m sure my pixie Larkma will appreciate the ornate sidewalk of the tiles. (And it tickles me that people will read the last sentence and wonder what in the hell I’m talking about.)
The burned pizzas were delicious. I didn’t plan to burn them but then wonder why I didn’t do it on purpose. No one is here to ask me what in blazes I’m doing in the kitchen.
Notes: *To the FedEx guy who got excited when I explained how easy it is to change his name, I hope you do. You’re forty and it is ridiculous to not choose a name you’ll love.
*To the bicyclist who went by earlier, wearing bright pink ankle shoes and a hat that looked like it was a spray-painted magician’s hat, more power to you, sir.
*To the neighbor who thinks no one sees that you sometimes hold the leash and let the dog walk onto the landing to pee, you’re wrong. One day soon, as a joke, I’m going to sneak over there and hang a urinal on the railing, and mark it “For Canine Use Only.” This idea pleases me.
*The best pizza recipe in the world: however you want it. I’m constantly preaching that all food is subjective. All of us eat stuff that would make a college freshman retch into his tiny decorative beer box, the one he uses temporarily, albeit for an entire year, as a bathroom trash can. I humbly ask everyone to stop arguing from the perspective that there is a right choice about food choices. Live and let eat, even if you have to wear a blindfold and a clothespin on your nose. Also, both of these devices might make walking around this world more palatable at times.
*The breeze this morning is sublime and filled with humidity from the rain. It’s scented with foliage and the unmistakable aroma of someone’s massive cannabis habit. I’m not sure that sentiment would work well in an Emerson poem. But it works well for a Fayetteville, Arkansas moment.
*A few of my neighbors borrowed a large screen tv to watch the Razorback game. I’m not a fan. I’m a fan of large TVs, but not college football. They are still happy this morning, being able to celebrate their team winning. I would be a hateful bastard to dampen that enthusiasm. I smile, nod, and say, “…and they won by a huge margin.” That’s the extent of my game facts for yesterday. That’s enough, though.
*I never thought about “Hype Man” being a part of several people’s Wikipedia biography pages. I can’t any college that offers a major in “Hype.” I’m irritated about this oversight.
*People sometimes tell me to cool it and stop writing so many dumb jokes and to shut my brain off for a day. The last time I tried that, the City of Fayetteville offered me a job on the Urban Planning Commission based on qualifications.
*I’d plant more ideas in your head, except I definitely don’t want to get in there and water them.
This lamp was one of many of my side projects. I found the original child’s lamp at a thrift store. It was the one with the ornate and fascinating lampshade that I donated back to the store before leaving. I stripped it to pieces, took off the rough edges, and painted it a nice crazy pink color, reassembled it, and installed a Happy Light bulb in it. If you look closely at the lamp, you’ll see I left the pacifier on the end of the pull chain. I intended to put a firecracker bulb in it, similar to the one I left at my old house. A kind friend gave me one of the bulbs and knew that I would love to experiment with it.
Apps control these bulbs; when you play music, the bulb pulsates, oscillates, and changes color, intensity, and tempo with the music. When I have it on with the LED strips above my kitchen, it probably looks like rainbow lightning from the outside.
You can buy a minimalist lamp base and a bulb like this for less than $20, if such a thing interests you. Everyone should have one for visitors, especially when you’re ready for them to leave. Tell them, “I don’t like night lights. I sleep with this…” And then hit them with the polychromatic seizure-inducing light show. Tell your Aunt Hazel I said, “You’re welcome.”
I wish I could have a place filled with 140 colors, all of them competing. I love sleek minimalist design and color, too; it speaks to me.
But color? It makes me feel like the world matches the inside of me.
I’m calculating whether I can unscrew all the vertical banister rails of my landing and paint them red. “It was that way when I got here,” MIGHT be believable, right? It does amuse me to think about just going wild in this apartment and painting everything. I was promised that the apartment would be completely repainted before I moved in; it wasn’t. I could blame it on the handyman. The likelihood of him still being employed by the landlords gets increasingly smaller as time passes. 🙂
Knowing I took something old and rejuvenated with my energy tickles me, too.
I do hope they appreciate the body outline I’ve created on the floor between the kitchen and living bedroom.
I have more tiles drying outside. One of them is fluorescent green, otherwise known as the alien puke color. It’s lovely.
I haven’t made a similar box in a LONG time; they take a lot of time, depending on the desired level of lunacy and intricacy. I’ve made them with hidden compartments, lever locks, plain, and in all manner of geometric shapes.
This one isn’t quite finished. It’s about 90%.
This one has a partial wooden dowel structure hidden inside a large cardboard box. The ‘lid’ is a decorative piece I stripped, painted, and attached hinges to. Each side is covered in various pictures: people, places, goofy photoshops, and keepsake memories. All of that is covered by a mile of pristine clear tape.
If you’re wondering how much time I spent getting to this point, you should just think of Stonehenge. After a few minutes of doing this sort of thing, I disappear a little bit into the effort. I don’t concentrate on the final result, in part because I often don’t know what it might be.
Yes, I jittered all the images on the box. It’s a thing that must be seen in person.
It’s not something most people would want.
It is interesting as hell to see, though, like a carnival ride on fire. 🙂
(The video is of a fairy light set I made by inverting a blue glass hummingbird feeder and installing solar lights into it.)
My intention to do fewer projects lasted…about as long as you’d imagine.
I went to buy powerful magnets, which led me to investigate every single aisle in the store. During my visit, I helped three people find things. I spent about five minutes answering a woman’s questions about a wood project she was undertaking. In so doing, I saved her a LOT of money. She then asked me several more questions about other things she was considering. Before she walked away, she also asked me about my butterfly brooch.
She added, “You know, I’m going to go the aisle with the pins and brooches and buy a couple. It’s an easy way to add color and draw the eye.”
I laughed. “Yes. I think the way you smile probably does that, too.” As soon as I said it, it crossed my mind that it sounded like I was flirting. Before I could utter a word, she stopped me. “It’s okay. Thanks for that.”
At Lowe’s, I bought more electrical items; this apartment begs for a total renovation. Along with those, I purchased more practical things, too. Possibly in a nod to more inevitable painting projects, I also bought more paint, which led me to justify buying a couple of surprise things at the next store. The clerked seemed surprised that I would take all the hardware off and paint a box I’d purchased. “Can you do that?” she asked. “Ha! Yes. And in at least two colors.”
Because I had paint all over me within 30 minutes of arriving home, I opted for Dominos. In case you were wondering, I order cheeseless thin-crust pizzas with vegetables. My stove looks like a sauce/spice madman was let loose. Using four sauces and four spices (so that each piece tastes distinctive) to eat such a pizza makes my taste buds go wild. Taking another look, make that six different sauces-and maybe a smidgen of paint, too.
I rigged two hangers on the balcony to paint without continuing to paint my hands and arms accidentally. And face. If I show up for work tomorrow with paint still across my neck and forehead, mind your business. It’s interesting when I’m doing these things because the neighbors get curious and find ways to look up or over to see whatever thing or contraption I’m working on for the day. It’s tempting to drag out ridiculous things just to convince onlookers that I’ve lost my mind.
When I stopped at the convenience store to get a soda and lottery tickets, the skies had opened up for a surprise rain. It was a beautiful sight, despite the mugginess. The clerk who speaks Nepali didn’t object to a tip this time, though she did insist on adding something to my purchase to reduce her tip. Little did she know she was dealing with a wily expert on such subterfuge. I added two dollar bills to the counter, saluted, laughed, and walked away. She smiled. “Karma,” I said to her in a weird accent.
I’d write more, but paint is calling my name and in all caps.