(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.
The mundane laziness of distance infects me. In The Before, as I call it, I drove miles out of my way to enjoy the eatery’s healthy chicken and pico de gallo extravaganzas, either in Springdale or Fayetteville. The truth is that it’s just not convenient to drive to MLK, much less to Springdale. Quick minds will point out I’ve walked past it during the nights the Wanderer calls me to leave my apartment and walk for miles.
I’m spoiled by time and distance now, living in the midst of so much and so many. Since I don’t bring unhealthy things home to eat, it’s easier than ever to eat without much thought. I’ve tried to incorporate more from the work cafeteria; it’s ironic that now that I could eat there more, their selection has diminished to a series of undesirable options from which I can choose. You’d imagine that a medical cafeteria would be predominantly healthy, especially since visitors can’t use it, thanks to Covid. You’d be wrong.
After stopping at a couple of flea-markety boutiques today, I realized that I could easily have 19 projects going if I didn’t deliberately choose a couple at a time. Yesterday was a barrage of creative and practical projects. The last boutique I visited had a nice collection of brooches. One of the workers there commented profusely about the polychromatic hummingbird I had pinned to my bright orange-red shirt. Several people commented at work. I’ve amassed a large number of explanations for why I’m wearing brooches. It’s amusing to know that people are taking an extra-long look and wondering, “Why is he wearing THAT?” Most people are inquisitive and interested. I’m not expecting a resurgence in brooch popularity anytime soon, though.
It was at that point my stomach said, “Hey, you might want to eat at some point!” In my defense, I did have a bag of PopChips earlier and a cup filled with baby carrots and hot sauce for breakfast.
I went to Tacos 4 Life. Despite its reputation for being a little pricey, I entered intending to find something delicious and healthy. Given that I no longer worry about looking dumb, I asked questions. Lo and behold, they offer lettuce beds instead of tortillas. Since I have two CASES of PopChips in the car, along with a large bottle of Tajin seasoning, I came prepared. Opting for the grilled chicken taco deal, minus the sour cream, cheese, and other needless ingredients, I was pleasantly surprised when the cashier said, “Oh, health care worker discount!” Total? A little over $12. That might sound like a lot – but I can’t go to a Tex-Mex place without spending $20 thanks to my pico de gallo addiction.
The cashier brought me chips and salsa. Or it was supposed to be. He got queso and chips instead.
“You can keep the queso. I’ll bring a bunch of salsa for you.” He noticed my large bottle of Tajin. “Wow, you brought your own spice.”
I offered some to him and explained its history. He was intrigued.
I finished my meal, beyond satisfied by volume and flavor.
Going up to the cashier, I handed him my large bottle of Tajin.
“This is for you. Give it an honest try. It surprises people. And I’d love to be the one who makes you a life-long fan of the stuff. I eat it on just about everything.”
He told me about his everyday supper and promised he’d try it later.
I surprised him. It’s nice being able to surprise people.
I went home and started another project, a custom paper trash receptacle to go by my desk. It’s going to be made out of a cardboard box, at least 500 sheets of differently-colored paper, and two miles of clear tape. People have told me that I sometimes look like Rainman when I’m engaged in these sorts of tedious and labor-intense projects. I’ll have to decide whether this box will be a 5-hour effort or 15. Keep in mind that in the picture, this is just the first stage of craziness.
But? I’m full of good food and creative energy. Doing 1,500 pushups yesterday and not sleeping well for two nights didn’t drain me yet.
As long as I can surprise people, there might be hope for me yet.
There’s a blog link to a sample of my previous box decorating.
I bought a nice Blink wireless camera. It allows me to watch the birds on my plant/bird feeder balcony hook, as well as the world outside.
When I initially set it up, I was surprised to see that Amazon had somehow sent me the feed from the backyard camera at my old house on Vanleer in Springdale.
Having the camera also opens up a world of creativity, too, such as “Skits On The Balcony,” or “Let’s Look At Humanity” documentaries. (With “People of Walmart” in mind.) I will try not to be intrusive with this. However, that’s the problem with this sort of technology. I’m confident that I’m going to wake up to find I have an hour of footage of the neighbor romping in the parking lot in his skivvies. A few days ago, I stood on the balcony getting cooked in the sun. A car drove in, and a young woman hopped out without a shirt. From somewhere in the car, someone hurled a shirt through the passenger window. The woman caught it and put it on almost one-handed. There’s a lot of inferences I can make with this anecdote, some lewd, some amusing. When she looked up and saw me on the balcony, I gave her my Forrest Gump wave and laughed.
As old as these apartments are, somehow I was surprised to find no security cameras, even in the laundry room from “Nightmare On Elm Street.” They can be installed cheaply and require no monitoring. The type I bought can be used with a USB drive, hidden anywhere – and checked only when a tenant decides to test a flamethrower from the balcony. (Note: this isn’t unlikely.)
Last week, after a long interval of no additional improvements, a small crew showed up with a Bobcat (not the nocturnal prowling kind) and erected the bones of a lateral fence in front of the dumpster. This will ensure that passersby don’t see it, whereas the residents will get an enclosed cauldron of trash and insects. It seems like a fair trade. That fence will also obscure a big portion of my view of the intersection there. That’s too bad, as there are a lot of fender-benders there. Everyone attempting to pull in here runs the risk of getting hit from behind due to the unequal alignment of the apartment driveway versus the opposing cross street. The fence partially quashes my money-making scheme to sell the footage to those unlucky souls engaged in an impromptu demolition derby.
I’m making a list of tomfoolery in which to engage with this camera.
There’s something in the air this week with my apartment. And not just meth fumes and strange candles. I got a new shower curtain earlier in the week. Today, a custom pillowcase arrived. Also, a couple of photo magnets that I put on the inside of the metal front door. The pillowcase is similar to my curtain except with more pictures.
Not to be outdone by the fiercely competitive Jessica, Erika bought me a showerhead as a gift. The one installed in this apartment was installed in ’79. 1979, I hope. I can’t be sure. It may have had bloodstains or demonic etchings on it. Erika suffered the same indignity when she moved into this building thirty-two years ago. Everything was original and not in the excellent way that home-buying shows use the word. The National Historical Society almost decreed we couldn’t change out any of the fixtures due to their historical significance. George Washington may well have showered using those same showerheads.
The showerhead is an AquaDance, “…for the ultimate shower experience.” It sounds iffy, doesn’t it? First, there’s implied dancing on a slippery surface, an activity strongly discouraged by the AARP. Second, the word “ultimate” literally means “last.” I hope it is contradictory yet flowery marketing at work here.
Erika swears that this two-head detachable piece of bling is the best out there for the money. She even printed out instructions written by someone who wanted everyone to have the best installation experience possible. It’s apparent that she’s aware of my propensity toward imbecility. I don’t fault her for it.
Given my track record, I will attempt to be cautious when installing it. I’d rather not be the inspiration for the “Final Destination” reboot. Living in this apartment complex already has me a little bit worried. At any rate, once my neighbors realize that I am using my move as the basis for a lot of snark and satire, they may well acquire pitchforks and march over here.
In some ways, I’m going to miss taking spartan showers. I’ve always loved cool or cold showers, and doubly so when the equipment is impossible to use safely. The water heater and the shower installed as I found it when I moved here assist greatly in realizing these goals.
This new showerhead may well spoil me. Soon enough, I’ll be eating shaved cheese and sporting a goatee. The current showerhead I’m using shoots water randomly, almost maliciously. I’m going to miss it, as it reminds me of my mom’s parenting style.
Anyway, thank you, Erika. I suspect you may have bought this for me so that you and the other neighbors won’t hear so much screaming when I try to use the shower as intended.
I’ll be Aquadancing in luxurious comfort and style.
Also, this might be the most valuable thing in my apartment.
It’s a good thing I have renter’s insurance.
I love joking at the expense of this apartment complex. Anyone reading my stories knows that there are a lot of advantages to living here. No amenities, just advantages.
That’s an excellent metaphor for a simple life. I don’t need much, especially if I remember that almost everything essential to happiness is invisible. I live in my head, not in this place. I’m grateful for both. Nothing is certain.
As the August sun relentlessly heated the front of my apartment and the metal door that fronts it, I walked across the parking lot to the dumpster. The remnants of the chicken I’d baked wouldn’t fare well until tomorrow. It’s nice having a dumpster that I don’t need to roll out to the curb. On the other hand, I find myself cleaning up after the other residents and the trash company that does the trash maintenance.
I watched the traffic on Gregg Avenue and across the railroad tracks on the opposite side of the street. I should be tired. When I woke up last night, thinking it was morning, it was only 11:11. By rough calculation, I would guess I’ve walked twenty miles since then. Though I can’t explain why, knowing that the Greenway trail was only a couple of minutes away made me want to put on shoes and walk a dozen miles again.
Covid and my personal life have aligned to make my previous concerns a little bit less than significant. Everywhere, everything is changing.
The sunset, though? And the wall of music that the insects provide; they are a cacophony of sameness. Beauty, too.
I won’t answer the call of the wanderer tonight, though the sidewalks and trail whisper my name.
I’ll lie in bed and listen, if need be, to the day swiftly approaching. I’ll rise to meet it, whether sleep embraces me or not.
I put off laying down until I thought I would sleep like the dead. Thoughts of the day still swirled mercilessly in my head. Because of a promise, I took melatonin. Sleep grabbed me and pulled me under. And at 11:11, it spit me back out, leaving me awake and wondering what had prompted my brain to so completely jostle me out of my reverie.
This time I did as I had promised myself I would. I got up, dressed lightly, and left my phone, wallet, and usual artifacts of life on the stool I use as a table. There are times when walking without distraction can be one’s only peace.
I went outside into the night.
And walked, directionlessly.
Mile after mile, both time and distance unmeasured.
Despite finding the heat of the night and the sights and sounds invigorating, I realized I had to go back. Because I didn’t have my phone, I couldn’t Uber. I made it back to my apartment with time to spare.
But I used the calculus of those who often don’t sleep well to determine that I’d be better off to take a shower and go to work early. I did smile toweling off, seeing all the wonder and color of my new shower curtain.
Now, I’m trying to convince myself that I didn’t dream that long walk. The long muscles of my legs are whispering to me otherwise, though.
Returning, and looking at my phone, I laughed. My thoughtful cousin had sent me a link to read the next time I found myself gripped by sleeplessness. Ha!
I’m frowning at my sleeplessness.
And smiling at all those miles of asphalt and concrete.
A long day lies ahead of me, and a longer night lies behind.
I am here, enough, and waiting for next the next surprise. It’s Wednesday for us all, and yet I feel like I got an extra day between today and yesterday.
It’s not. It is the housing for one of two kitchen lights. Both of them were hideous. And, as it turns out, were also a hazard, more so than I am doing minor electrical work. I’m very careful. I haven’t shocked myself electrically in a while. The last time reminded me that I am mortal.
I have an older apartment. When I moved in, I discovered that the disposal didn’t work. Tracing the wiring, I discovered it was the switch. Luckily, I decided to fight the stripped wiring and replace the receptacle, as the ground wire wasn’t connected to anything. Water and electricity combined cause a whole lot of stories to be written, usually under the “Obituary” heading. (Which explains why my combination Coffee Pot/Toaster For The Bathroom idea was rejected.)
I bought modern low-profile lights, when left at a certain setting, remind me of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind -except without the mashed potatoes. When I took off the original light, the housing was burned and the connectors turned to ash when I pulled at them. Needless to say, this is NOT what one hopes to find inside wiring boxes.
Because I’m making permanent improvements to my apartment, I unfortunately had to choose “Practical & Stylish.” I wanted “Fabulous & Ridiculous.” I hate that I can’t paint the walls like I’m on an acid trip. My neighbor keeps admonishing me to dial it down, take a step back, and to NOT do anything crazy. It’s like she knows me well or something. A good example of this is that I watched a paintball episode of “Community” and thought, “Man, now that would be a great way to paint a room!”
I bought an array of switches and plugs when I moved here. I’ve replaced a few. It’s a hard fight, given that the builders didn’t leave much extra wiring sheath to work with. For anything I want to keep from being fried, I installed surgery protectors on top. These older buildings tend to experience more power surges than __________. (I left that blank because the joke I wrote there, while amusing, was NSFW.)
I’ve only used my dishwasher three times. All three times were to scald the heat and air vent covers after I scraped them. I’m not saying they are antiques, but the serial number for the first one was just “1.” I experimented with paint until I got it right. (Which means I did it REALLY wrong three times before I stopped being a dumbass.) I painted them whitish, too, even though I have 13 different colors here I would have rather used.
I don’t mind fixing things here. It’s just a place. I can sit at the front window on mornings like this, my hair full of dust and fiber from doing electrical work, and watch the expanse of sky above the trees, the crows warring over imaginary territories, and my weird neighbor with the forest on the balcony. I miss my cat Guino and still sometimes turn to look for him at the foot of the bed or next to me. I do hear traffic a lot. But right now, I hear the wind bending the trees and the birds telling each other secrets.
I suppose I need to get up and paint something else.
I think the whole world needs to be painted.
PS I listened to the voices of reason and bought renter’s insurance immediately. After seeing the wiring, I’m more confident than ever how smart that decision was. It will also come in handy next year when I use the bedrooms to start my Build-Fireworks-At-Home kits. .
After decades of not having to do laundry like a barbarian, I’m living at an apartment complex that has a laundry room. (I hesitate to call it a ‘complex,’ though; it’s more akin to a ‘simplex.’)
For fans of horror, you’d love the laundry room here. It’s not a place you’d want to be if the lights suddenly and unexpectedly began to flicker. Even the bugs have little bitty locks on their hiding places down there. I’m tempted to put a little speaker and transmitter in so that I can pipe maniacal laughter in there and then film people running out of there like they got trapped in a Republican budget meeting. If I were to drive up and see a film crew nearby, I would assume they’re scouting potential locations for the next installment of “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” with a particular interest in my apartment’s laundry room.
A few minutes ago, I went to move my clothes from the washer to the dryer. Exiting the room, I found myself toe-to-toe, so to speak, with a very large spider. Keep in mind that I’m not afraid of spiders. This one, however, was large and had a discernible attitude. I say that only because it seemed to have a knife, as well as several tattoos.
Also, I propose that we immediately start using the phrase “clothes yoga” instead of “folding clothes.”
I’d write a bit more, but I’m working on this story about a haunted laundry room. . P.S. As people keep saying, the internet is where you find out who has a sense of humor. Likewise, I tend to employ a bit of hyperbole in what I write. It doesn’t negate the nuggets of truth I incorporate honestly in my stories and anecdotes. Nor does it mean that things are devoid of positivity or advantages. If you read things I write with an active asshole filter, some things will indubitably cross your wires. Also, this laundry room does not spark joy. If it ever gets remodeled, I do hope they use CSI as the new theme. (If only to save money on needless extra touches…)
At the end of the week, I’m moving to Fayetteville to an older apartment off of Gregg. I chose it because someone I trust lives in the same small complex. I had to wait because the last tenant detonated a White Trash Bomb inside. So, I get new, albeit warped floors (no carpet), and a new metal door. You know bad things went down if the door has to be replaced. I get a new fridge, too. I suspect the previous tenant’s fridge went to the Hoarder’s Hall of Fame in Biscoe.
I have a renter’s insurance policy. If someone breaks in, they will regret it. Not because I’m going to hurt them, but because I will make them grammatically diagram sentences until they repent from their life of crime. Anyone who breaks into an apartment where I’ll live hasn’t analyzed the cost/benefit of choosing WHERE to commit a crime. Which reinforces my assertion that if a robber breaks in, I do not doubt that he will LEAVE something for me as a gift rather than take something.
Note: I have a priceless Thomas Kinkade collection of reprints worth about $4 if the apartment burns down.
There are “X”s and a “10” on the door if someone has any doubt who lives there. It’s a bit embarrassing that they think I’m a 10. I assume that’s what they meant.
It’s not too far from work. I can walk fast and be there in 22 minutes. I can walk normally and be there in 30. (If I skateboard there, it’ll take 57 minutes, with 45 minutes of those waiting on the ambulance to pick me up.) I’d rather not live alone, although everyone tells me that I need to, just once. Each time, I feel like I’m being prepped for a timeshare pitch. Or maybe membership into a cult. 🙂 I’m not certain why people espouse the joy of single living. I’m a great roommate, and generally speaking, I would always opt to be around people. There are so few people who live alone who seem to be joyous. Content? Yes. Clint Black, the dubiously eloquent country music star, put it best: “…so we tell ourselves that what we found is what we meant to find…”
One of my superpowers is that it’s almost impossible to bore me. I assumed everyone was this way until I was much older.
The apartment has two bedrooms. Once I get an exhaust fan installed, I am going to perfect my recipe for Blue Sky. (Sorry, “Breaking Bad” fans.) Let’s be honest here, though. Most of you who know me probably wonder what in the heck I’ll be doing without adult supervision. I am practicing both my yodeling AND maniacal laughing. I may learn to play the bagpipes, too, just in case the yodeling and maniacal laughing doesn’t convince everyone that I’m strange. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to discern a novice bagpipe player from an accomplished one. I can make the same music by squeezing an opera singer much too hard.
I am going to miss Springdale. Not East Springdale, per se, even though it’s been good to me despite the awkward access and relative lack of restaurants. I’ve walked and learned so much about it during the pandemic. It is a bit strange to have intimately become familiar with so much of it only to move a town away. I hadn’t planned on moving away from this area, but that’s how life is.
I would list the amenities for my next place. There’s one problem, though. There aren’t any. Door, walls, floor, ceiling. The minimum. (And that’s more than enough, to start!) The Razorback Greenway is close, allegedly 5 minutes to walk to the nearest crosspoint. I love the trail system. But I also discovered that I love urban walking more than the trails. The train tracks run parallel on the opposite side of Gregg. It’s a good thing that I have a universe inside my head. It might be the only thing keeping me on the right side of sanity and happiness. I don’t need much. Most of us don’t, even though we drown ourselves in things and distractions. I’ve already walked dozens of miles around the area in the last few weeks. Subway is 10 minutes away if I walk, as is a great coffee place. The bonus is that there there are two pubs/breweries very close, too, in case I decide I need to follow the family tradition of drinking myself into oblivion. (The family motto: I don’t drink to remember, I drink to forget that I don’t remember.)
“Most of us cook with two pans – yet have dozens. It explains why there’s a lot wrong with how we live.” – X
The next part of my life is going to be utterly alien to me, anchored by necessity. It’s a certainty that I’m going to continue to walk endlessly and find everything interesting for miles in each direction. I laugh when people tell me, “You have to be careful, X. It’s a different place over here.” Be careful? Life has already reminded me that the dangers that cause the most upheaval cannot be avoided, no matter how careful you are.
The most significant current danger to me in this life is failing to remember the lessons I’ve learned. Getting robbed is an inconvenience – but temporary. Dealing with the consequences of my stubborn stupidity – that’s timeless.
I’m going to struggle with being unanchored for a while, and that’s okay. And if it’s not, well, that’s too bad. I made my bed, and now I’m going to lie in it. On that note, I will not have to make the bed if I don’t want to. I’m not one of those nutty people who insist that a made bed sets the stage for a great day. A peaceful mind does that, not the surroundings into which one arises. I’ve slept with a comforter-only for decades. The only reason I can think of to ‘make’ my bed is in the rare event I suddenly begin to worry about such goofy considerations as “What your bed says about you to other people.”
I am, of course, afraid of the uncertainty, the loneliness, and the ‘new normal’ that I’ll have to adopt. I have to “choose my hard,” so to speak, and pay the price for my choices.
Life moves forward, even if we try to avoid it.
I’ll be looking at my ugly trim in my new apartment, listening to the foreign sounds of other people around me. But I’ll also be laughing internally, wondering what my neighbors think of the “Police Tape – Do Not Disturb” ribbon tapes in an x-pattern across the entryway of my door.
I’d write a bit more, but I need to go listen to feral cats screaming. I’ve been told it’s the best way to appreciate bagpipe music.
P.S. Anyone who wants my address can have it. I mean literally. Just kidding. Write a message if you want or need my phone number or address. Unless you thought my “Breaking Bad” joke was true. Or you’re a die-hard Thomas Kinkade fan. I doubt the Venn Diagram of those two types of people ever converges, much in the same way that Mensa doesn’t recruit at NASCAR events.
I’m out walking through the allegedly iffy stretch of town. The moon is beautiful and a little iridescent against the horizon, before the sunrise. I can feel the heat of the day waiting to blanket everything. But it cannot bake away the beauty of the morning before the sunrise. Last Saturday morning, I ignored the lightning and the rain and walked anyway. It turned out to be an extraordinary walk.
My path was different this morning. New things to see, places to find, and streets to mentally catalog. Walking these places touches them into my memory in a way that driving never will. Though there is nothing magical on these streets, I know that I will probably remember this morning. I have been continually surprised by the equidistant nexus of places I can reach in thirty minutes. Because of the campus and the number of people living over here, the ebb and flow of activity never ceases even if it’s difficult to sometimes spot.
My first conversation and interaction happened as I made my first left turn. A very physically fit man was walking a mastiff on the opposite side of the street. He would have to be fit to corral that large dog. Even the leash or rope he was holding looked to be over an inch thick. In his hand he had a travel mug of coffee. He lifted it and said, “This is the most beautiful part of the day.” I agreed and laughed. He told me to have a great Saturday. As I told him the same, it occurred to me that expectations often wildly contradict reality. Sometimes, they render everything with a sheen of mystery; others, with an ache.
Almost everyone waved or saluted me as we passed. Even the Latinos up on the crane against the large expensive building they were working on. So much of the architecture over here is distinctively beautiful viewed without people or complete light to interfere with it. I think all the people trying to enjoy life late at night with crowded spectacle are missing out.
But what do I know? I’m just a dude, walking. I couldn’t have reached the glass and steel of this architecture without traversing the allegedly iffy.
I think that is my metaphor for today. One day, looking back, I hope to discover that the same metaphor will encompass my recent past. If your yesterday wasn’t what you wanted or needed, shake it off and call it your allegedly iffy. It’s damn hard to appreciate the good times without a kick in the teeth every once in awhile. I’d prefer to evade the kick, but if we could vote, trauma would never touch us.
The sun is crowding the top of the horizon now. Although I’m in the deep shadow of this stretch of the trail, slivers of the sun pierce the canopy, like verdant curtains swept open inside one’s living room.