Category Archives: Fayetteville

A Dog Bites, Gelato and Turkish Delight

Yesterday, I got bit by a dog. No, not the adorable terrier Max. It’s been a while since that’s happened. My downstairs neighbor Marshall was grooming his German Shepherd Artemis. She’s only eleven months old – and not fond of males. I was several feet away as Marshall sat on the opposite stairway landing steps. Artemis started barking again as I stood there motionless. Because Marshall has partial hand paralysis, Artemis unexpectedly lunged hard toward me and pulled the leash lock loose from Marshall’s hand. Luckily, my spidey sense reacted and I jumped up and away just as Artemis began to bite me above my left knee. I felt a sharp pain but managed to avoid a full clamp of the dog’s teeth. I only suffered a small puncture in the meat of my leg. It felt like I’d been pinched by a jealous girlfriend. Marshall was mortified as I pulled up my pant leg to see if I was excessively bleeding. I laughed. My leg is a little sore this morning. I don’t fault Artemis or Marshall. She’s a beautiful dog and Marshall is a caring, proud owner. My plan is for ME to bite Artemis’ ears next time to show her how it feels. I’m sure that will go well. You’ll know it when it happens because I’ll probably lose an ear. I have two of them, so one is basically a spare. It will give me the character I’ve always lacked. And an excuse to be hard of hearing.

Last night coming home, the world was beautiful. The March lightning fiercely raced across the sky above me. The streets were cascading with unexpected eddies of flowing water. I drove carefully in my small car as I made my way across Fayetteville. When I lay in my bed, I watched the sky through my open window in the bedroom. Güino lay next to me, his little ears intermittently illuminated by the flashes. I never put the blinds down in there. I fell asleep watching the patterns flash across the ceiling and walls.

One of my new favorite things in the world is Talenti coffee chocolate chip gelato. I like all the flavors, but the creamy texture of the gelato combined with the bits of chocolate is sublime. It’s like eating the Turkish delight that tempted Edmund when he visited Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe. (I loved the Narnia books as a child and read them all at least a dozen times.) I remember the first time I ate real Turkish delight, having no idea what it really was. I’d visited a store in Eureka Springs and the owner offered me a chunk, an item that wasn’t for sale to the public. I’ll never forget the texture of the citrus-sweetness that reminded me of a heavenly lemon – or of the surprise of tasting something I’d read about for years without having a clue what it really was. The Talenti gelato evokes the same delight from all those years ago.

Recently, I created a new logo for the hospital. I think it’s a certainty that my employer should adopt it. Not because I made it, but because it’s both simple and elegant. Names don’t define a place or a person – but they telegraph expectations. It’s one of the reasons I love my name. X is just a placeholder, the simplest of names, one that allows me to be whomever I want to be without contamination from other people who might share my name.

As I write this, I’m listening to “Just Breathe,” an unexpectedly calming song by Willie Nelson and his son. A fresh cup of coffee sits on my desk in front of me. Güino sits on the living room floor next to the plush couch, licking the recently-ingested cat food paste juice from his whiskers. The workday lies ahead of me. My head is flooded with a hundred disparate thoughts as I look out the open blinds onto the world across the parking lot and the railroad tracks across Gregg Street.

I’ve been cleaning the parking lot in increments, removing countless bags of decaying leaves and trash. Each time it rains, its underlying lines become clearer.

I hope the same is true for my life.

Small moves, insignificant in their individual transformations, almost imperceptible, until one day, one’s eyes see a new pattern that was always there. Just unclear.

I’m winging it, just like the rest of you.

The day is just beginning. I’ll wing it, too.

Love, X
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Now

I used my night vision lens to snap this picture at around 6:00 a.m. Scull Creek roars and overflows on both sides of me. The bright moon of course is diffused by the filter but I took a mental snapshot too. I’ll look back in a year and probably feel like 10 years have elapsed. A beautiful moment, full of thoughts and delights for the eye.
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Unseen Life

I woke up at 2 a.m., an instant awakening, one flush with a weird sense of foreboding. Güino lay next to me. I checked the apartment, then my phone. Nothing was amiss. The feeling that something sinister had transpired wouldn’t dissipate.

Instead of preoccupation, I chose to put on my shoes and walk. The early morning was a blessing as I moved. The night was quiet. Even traffic, usually dormant at that hour, was more so and devoid of travelers. The roads were mine to traverse.

My mind was calm, but memories and thoughts flowed effortlessly as I walked. Nothing noteworthy happened as the minutes passed. Just me and my thoughts.

It felt like meditation.

It felt like peace.

Arriving back at the apartment and making myself a cup of coffee, I sat at the computer and Güino jumped to my lap for morning appreciation and cuddles.

Whatever unseen force that awakened me still echoed as an almost tangible sensation in my head. Even if I couldn’t perceive anything out of place, I knew that somewhere, someone was experiencing life differently. It’s the way of the world, a constant battle of chaos, energy, and circumstance.

It felt like peace.

It was meditation.

I knew I had to start my routine, the one that cements me into the world of normalcy. And so it begins, this day, two hours already racing past, never to be recaptured.

Love, X

Anger’s Blossom

I’m reluctant to share this one. While my heart was in the right place, I felt a flare of righteous anger. That type of anger feels right at the moment but often sours with consequences. I am not a hero in this story.

About two weeks ago, I was driving about 35 mph in a way that made me feel alive. Music high, smiling. Not in a hurry.

Her green sedan pulled alongside me in the lane to my left.

She held her phone, crying.

Her black hair reached her shoulders.

She tossed her phone in the passenger seat.

And unexpectedly looked toward me.

Tears on her face.

She nodded and wiped her eyes with a sleeve.

I let off the gas, and she raced away.

Five minutes later, I pulled into the lot.

And saw the green sedan there.

Life reminds me there aren’t many coincidences.

As I parked, I noted she was next to the store.

Cigarette in hand, nervous.

I watched a man pull up and exit his truck angrily.

He hissed at her in a way I couldn’t hear.

She flinched and looked down to the ground. Because of my childhood, I saw the backstory written plain. I already knew what her private life was like. This wasn’t the first time, nor the tenth.

The man gesticulated and shook.

Without thinking, I walked toward them.

“How are you?” I asked her.

She looked at me in surprise.

The man interrupted, “Who are you?”

I replied, “I am the man just in time.”

“For what?” He hissed at me.

“To do what I need to.” The anger flared in me.

I prayed he’d move toward me.

I walked to his truck and opened the driver’s door. “Get the eff out of here, sir.” I smiled like a predator. I admit that it felt good. I’m not sure what that says about me.

The woman watched, fearful of what her man might do.

She should have feared what I might do.

A man in Canada filled my head, his volatile narcissism unchecked, his multiple victims attempting to regain normal lives in his wake. The law does nothing to aggressively meet the abuser’s behavior in kind, even though that is what is needed. Another man was using his long familiarity with control and emotional abuse to impoverish his fleeing wife. Both honestly deserve a measured dose of Southern Justice. This might be my surrogate, one to catch my vengeance. I hoped so. Waiting for ‘someone’ to help might lead to never. I’d felt the burn inflaming me for some time.

“Get home in ten or else,” he told the woman.

“She won’t be there in 10. Or 60. Go.”

He paced around me and pretended to lunge as he did. I didn’t flinch. Ninety percent of all aggression fails to materialize. Had the ten percent emerged, Bobby Dean laid in wait, anesthetized against anything except immobilizing pain. I wanted him to lunge and make contact. The law allows us to defend someone else. If it penalizes me for acting on impulse, that’s fair.

He got in the truck, slammed the door, and roared away. He put down his window momentarily and shouted the redneck equivalent of whatever angry, stupid people say. I laughed purposefully and ignored him.

The woman cried again.

“You know what you need to do,” I told her. “Today, before it’s too late. Do you have someone to go to?”

She nodded.

“Go there. And don’t go back to that. Do you need anything?”

“No,” she murmured.

“Go now in case he comes back.”

I didn’t enter the store.

I watched the black-haired woman get in her car and depart.

I saw a green car today and wondered if the woman was safe. And I wondered who the man’s next victim might be. That there will be is a certainty. I hope there’s a future me waiting for him. It’s evident that I will pull the curtain back and summon Bobby Dean.

My idle pacifist hands are anxious in an unexpected way.

Days later, I’m still thinking about how close I had to get to really hurting someone. And how the realization that the same Bobby Dean inside me was as guilty of the same misbehavior as the man was with his wife or girlfriend. He was a chronic abuser; ironically, I can channel that same energy to obliterate my doubts and step in on the other side of the situation.

There are no easy answers. But I do know that sometimes raw anger is appropriate. Sometimes it’s the only way. It’s not right, proper, or even intelligent. A lot of men need to spit blood to learn their lesson. And some men, men like me, ones who earned their abuse badges when younger, probably need to be more willing to violently be the one to administer a reminder.

PS I know that we’re supposed to call the police. But I also know that they constantly fail to protect people. The law exists to inhibit behavior, but it often does not remedy the need for immediacy. A few weeks after my surgery, I got a reminder of how precarious the idea of safety can be. The flare that lit inside me of me hasn’t abated. As I said, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this admission.

Love, X

Make The Scammer Work For It!

The scammer leaned against the brick facade of the inconvenience store as I pulled up. Luckily, someone distracted him as I exited my car. On the way out, though, I made the mistake of eye contact. As he began his elaborate and well-rehearsed story, I listened attentively.

“What do you need the money for?” I asked him, smiling.

“A room, as I said.” He paused.

“I’ll give you $50 for your headphones. Will that help?” His headphones were worth as much as two of my car payments.

He smiled broadly. “Okay, you got me there.”

I laughed. “I tell you what. IF you tell me an interesting story, I’ll give you all the cash I have, $8. Is that fair? Just make it a true story.”

He thought about it a second. “Ooh! That’s easy. For $8, I can tell you ten great stories.”

I leaned against the brick facade next to him. “Hit me, dude.”

Here’s what he told me:

“Back a few years ago, I was in Nashville to scam my way into the VIP area at a private concert. I managed to get inside, of course, insisting I was the sound engineer for the band. I’ve met Nelly, 50 Cent, and a few others doing that. After about an hour, a few of the entourage went to a private bar nearby. Everyone was doing drugs. Even the waitstaff. I like to smoke but I wouldn’t touch the stuff they were using. I’d grabbed at least twenty joints from the little case one of the entourage had and stuffed them in my pocket. After a few minutes, a couple of men entered the main room, and one of them shouted, “Police. Everyone stay put. You are all being detained.” I ducked down to the floor, hoping I hadn’t been seen. I crawled around the bar and crouched low. I pulled out a case of wine from underneath and quickly yanked a couple of bottles out and put them on the floor. I could hear the mayhem on the other side as people were frisked and handcuffed. One of the detectives walked around the bar and saw me there. I looked up at him and nodded, and kept pulling wine bottles out of the case. The detective assumed I must have worked for the bar as he nodded back and walked past me. After a few seconds of that, I stood up and lifted the case of wine to the bartop. Everyone was sitting at tables, most of them cuffed. I kept pulling bottles out and putting them on the bar. This went on for a few minutes. Because of the confusion, I then started putting full bottles of the good vodka, whiskey, and gin in the wine case. When I had it full, I waited for the detective who’d seen me on the floor to look in my direction. I pointed to the case and then toward the back storage area. The detective nodded. I picked up the case of liquor and headed through the storage area. There was a plainclothes cop at the back door. He assumed I had been waved through because he didn’t stop me as I strolled past with my stolen case of goods. I walked out of there, laughing. I sold the liquor for $250. I shared the joints with my friend who was in Nashville with me. We got so high we could barely walk.”

I laughed. “That is a good story!”

“I learned that if you act natural, a lot of times you’ll skate by. And be polite, no matter what. I got caught with an unbelievable amount of pot in Atlanta one time. Enough to smoke up an auditorium full of people. When he asked me what it was for, I told him the truth, that it was to get higher than a kite for about a month. It wasn’t true, no one could smoke THAT much pot in a month. But he laughed and told me to be more careful about driving around with that much at one time. “I get a bulk discount though,” I told him. I think he was just caught off guard by how nonchalant I was about it.”

“Here’s your $8. Thanks for the story.”

As I went to get into my car, he quipped, “Are you sure you don’t smoke? That car color screams “high as-f” to me.”

“You’re right. On the other hand, those shoes you have on bring up an entire litany of questions.”

He was surprised as he looked down at his shoes.

He laughed. “You got me.”

“Offer to tell a story for money. You might make a lot more money.” He nodded.

Snow Moon Morning

I woke up at 3 a.m. to a snow moon this morning. I didn’t know until today that it’s called that thanks to Native Americans. The white billowy clouds moved across the sky rapidly and the wind created silhouettes of witch fingers across the parking long as the bare limbs danced and swayed. Güino gleefully ran outside and across the landing, enjoying the 59 degrees of the February morning. I walked down the landing in my bathrobe, waving at the neighbor’s security cameras, in an attempt to corral him back toward home. Since I had to do a metabolism test this morning, I tried to summon the spit demons to produce enough to fill a vial that seemed larger than a beer stein. And then, in the ultimate act of self-amusement, I jabbed myself with the needle to produce enough blood for a blood sample; this resulted inadvertently in enough blood to mimic an impromptu crime scene. The downstairs neighbors had to hear me laughing like a fool up here.

I’m enjoying a bitter cup of coffee, one made so strong that it might melt through the cup. As the minutes fly by and music plays softly on Alexa and Güino sits on my lap as I type, I realize that it’s a beautiful morning, a perfect one, to start the day. I’m going to laugh a lot today, get some sublime hugs, and wonder about the surprising ways that life still sneaks up on me with lemon moments. Whatever I had envisioned for myself in the previous months, this is a morning that’s difficult to complain about.

Güino agrees and purrs as I finish this.

I’m ready for the day. I hope it’s ready for me, too.

Love, X

Of Life (And Literal Limbs)

Over the last few days, I painted another 6″ X 24″ tile. I drilled holes in six places to make it easier to secure safely in my surprise location. I glued dozens of multi-colored glow-in-the-dark rocks to the front. On the back, I wrote a truth of mine in marker. The truth is very personal. Anyone who wants to know it will have to climb a considerable height to do so.

This makes me happy.

After work today, I climbed a tall tree before I lost my nerve. It’s the first tall one I’ve climbed since my surgery. It was tricky getting up there with a two-foot-long tile strung around my neck as I ascended. As far as I could tell, no one noticed me as I rose the vertical surface of the tree, carefully finding my foothold. After twenty feet, my reluctance vanished, and I forgot all about the possibility of falling. I’m just as likely to get killed by a rogue intestine or a plane falling out of the sky as I am climbing a tree. Besides, I laughed at the idea of my precarious fall being covered on the local news or the What’s Up, Fayetteville group. “Arts & Crafts Take Local Man’s Life” would work nicely. “Idiot Falls While Doing Performance Art” also serves its purpose.

As the limbs thinned out, I stood, watching the area below me. It was beautiful. I took the tile, ran steel wire through the open holes, and secured it from one primarily perpendicular limb. Not wanting to leave the view behind, I sat near the trunk and just felt the wind around me.

It was a stolen moment!

After a few minutes, I climbed down in one quick descent and stood back on the ground. I looked up at the pretty colored rocks and the brightly painted long tile. Yes, that would do nicely.

Where did I place the beautifully decorated tile? That’s the question, isn’t it? Take a moment and stare up into the slowly appearing upper branches of the trees around you. “Look up, not down” is not only a symbolic reminder to find yourself and answers looking directly into the world, but now also a practical guide to ever finding my hidden-in-plain-sight tilework.

Beauty is anywhere you find it, y’all. Even if you never find my tilework, look around and find the people and things that light you up. Give them attention and appreciation. From time to time, look up to behold the wonders that we forget to see. If you can do so, look at yourself in the mirror and remember that no matter who you are, someone loves you. Merry Xmas!

Love, X

Sunday Christmas For Janice

Sunday evenings often provide me with encounters that other days don’t. I’m not sure why that is.

I was out and about, buying mismatched birthday/get-well/occasion balloons, a flutophone, spatula (all of which are of course traditional birthday surprises), and various ridiculous things for a belated work birthday shenanigan. A woman was at the register. She had only two dollars. “I’ll pay for the rest with my credit card.” She sweated a bit, waiting to see if it would be authorized. The clerk wasn’t the most sympathetic. He radiated irritation. The woman hid her embarrassment well but I watched her body language as she cringed at the treatment. It took her two tries to get it to go through.

Although I had entered with a light heart and a bit of joy due to being creative in trying to let someone know we hadn’t forgotten them, I have to admit a bitter flare of anger lit me up. I could feel it behind my eyes. I flicked my wrist and saw that my heartbeat had elevated considerably on my Fitbit. I wanted to shout at the clerk but then I reminded myself that I have a superpower that all of us have if I could just stop judging. Even the few one-on-one rapid self-defense sessions I had reinforced the idea that we owe it to each other to disengage before we act.

“Hey Janice,” I said loudly to the woman as she got her bag, a little red-faced. “Wait a second. I have that money I owe you.” Her name wasn’t Janice, but she stopped and turned. I held up a finger to ask her to give me a minute to check out. She was just confused enough to wait.

“Merry Christmas, sir,” I told the young male clerk.

“Yeah, ok.” He seemed unhappy. He looked at his watch.

“Are you having a rough day?” I asked him, smiling.

“You have no idea,” he said.

“What can I do to make it even a little better?” I asked.

“Let me go home. My girlfriend texted me and told me she was putting my stuff outside if I didn’t come home soon.”

That stopped me cold for a second. I was surprised by his honesty.

“I don’t know what you’re going through but I can see you’re stressed. I would be too. Take a minute and call her, don’t text, even if your manager doesn’t want you to. Tell your girlfriend you love her and you will talk to her when you get home. Trust me.”

“Just like that?” He asked.

“Yes, just like that. Assuming you do love her, she will give you a couple of hours to come home and work it out. And if she doesn’t, it wasn’t going to matter what you did now or not. If that happens, I am so sorry.”

He looked at me like I had burst into flames.

“Okay, thanks. I’ll try anything.”

“Would you do me a favor as a kindness?”

“Yes,” he said.

I softened my voice and leaned in: “Tell my friend Janice there that you are sorry for snapping at her and wish her a Merry Christmas.”

He did. Janice listened, stunned, as the clerk said, “I’m so sorry. I’m stressed. Please have a Merry Christmas, Janice.”

Janice smiled, still a bit confused by it all, but happy the clerk had acknowledged his rudeness. “Merry Christmas to you too,” she replied, her voice cracking a little.

I nodded at the clerk and smiled. “I wish you the best. Now go call your girlfriend and let her know how much you need her. Everyone needs to hear it.”

I grabbed my handful of bags and bundle of helium balloons.

I turned to Janice and pulled the ten-dollar bill out of my pocket and handed it to her. I’d been given the ten dollars to help buy a few goofy items for the birthday shenanigan. The person who gave it to me would have wanted it to go to Janice instead. Of that, I am certain.

“I know you’re not Janice. I just wanted the clerk to think we know each other. This is for whatever you need. It’s not a lot because I don’t have a lot.”

Janice took the bill from my hands as I balanced all the things I’d purchased.

“It’s okay. Don’t say anything. Just remember that sometimes the universe is listening, okay?” She nodded. I think she was a little choked up. I know I was.

I smiled and walked out of the store, my anger gone, and my thoughts filled with hope that the anonymous girlfriend was going to get a call to let her know she was loved. And that Janice forgot the embarrassment at the register and remembered only that someone wanted her to have a Merry Christmas.

Love, X

P.S. I’m going to go wrap a flutophone and spatula. As we all agree, they are ideal birthday presents for someone who has everything.

A Gift From Him

The 30ish man sat on the grass next to the little pantry. Beside him was a box of Pop-Tarts that he had removed from it. As I walked up I couldn’t help but notice how dejected he seemed. A worn backpack sat to his right. Something about him radiated either loss or being at the end of his rope.

I put my unneeded jacket in the car. I remembered that I had an emergency $20 bill folded below my driver’s license. Removing it, I walked over to him and said, “Not that you need it, but this is for you and Merry Christmas.”

He looked up at me and at the $20 bill I extended to him. I can’t be sure what went through his mind but I saw it on his face. The $20 might as well have been a thousand and he was incredulous that someone was just giving him money. I’m not going to lie, but I felt this overwhelming urge to tear up.

“Merry Christmas to you too! God bless you.” He didn’t smile but his face registered a type of relief that I hate to see on someone else’s face.

“God bless you too,” I told him as I smiled and walked away.

I don’t write about these moments to make myself feel or look better. The moment already elevated me and gave me a boost that I didn’t even know I needed.

I hope the man remembers that life is sometimes good and surprising. I know I do. I wish I had a thousand to give him, no matter what he might do with it.

Love, X

Sunday Night Tomfoolery

Last night, as I winding down and trying to sleep in my actual bedroom (instead of the living room), I went outside one last time, letting Güino prowl the landing. There were several police vehicles near the entrance of the apartment simplex, lights off. I heard whispering. When I looked down to the bottom of the landing of the stairs I use most, there was a huddle of police officers standing there, talking in subdued voices, about five feet away from me.

Because I’m me, I leaned over and softly said, “Don’t let me make you nervous.” ALL of the officers looked up at me in unison, surprised. All but one nodded but didn’t say anything. They whispered some more and then all walked away toward their parked cruisers at the dumpster. Two of them exited and drove across the street to the gravel parking on the opposite side of the train tracks.They remained there until I finally slept.

The dad from the apartment on the end said something. I said, “WHAT was that?” He laughed. “I don’t know, but they are here for someone, and it ain’t us.” We both laughed.

It was the weirdest moment of the day, one similar to one I predicted at the end of a Sunday. Earlier in the afternoon, I told a neighbor, “It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Something weird like a domestic disturbance always happens.” I didn’t know I was speaking prophecy when I said it. 🙂

I wouldn’t have been surprised if a SWAT team showed up. Like most apartment simplexes, this one has its share of miscreants.

The parking lot is quiet this morning, with very few vehicles.

I don’t know what I expected when I got up this morning. Because I didn’t sleep deeply, it feels like it was a dream. I’ll bet whoever was the focus of last night’s shenanigans slept less than I did.

Happy Monday.

Love, X
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