Category Archives: Gift

Random Saturday

Random Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

not caring, not looking, not even for a shoe

i remember when my body was a weight

as if i’m not it and it’s not me

i don’t worry about how i look

i’ve done what i can

every other man in the world can worry

not me, not ever, never again

i will take what i have

my battery was once low, my spirit unproud

now it’s me, ridiculous perhaps

it seems like arrogance though it’s not

its acceptance for the cards i’ve drawn

and the hand i’ve played with them

i hear the sand trickling down the glass

so it’s me, it’s you

we both better get off our ass

acceptance is cheaper than fixing what ain’t broken

choose your path, now that i’ve spoken

so many of you are beautiful

some inside, some out

yet you let temporary worry

fill you with doubt

Love, X
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Already The Past

Already The Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can almost hear it here in the darkness.

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

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

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

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

Love, X
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Personal Post 76

It is possible that one death prevented another catastrophe.

It woke me up to the fact that other people would be devasted by more loss.

I don’t know what another two weeks might have brought.

Whether a fortuitous accident, fate, or simple happenstance, the universe rolled in my favor this time.

It’s been almost a year since my emergency surgery.

Thereafter, I committed to a ‘reset’ project. I failed at that on a couple of levels. I’ve kept the weight off and stayed active. My failures were personal.

The funk I experienced not so long ago wasn’t that much more profound than others I’d temporarily passed through. It was like a mile-long curtain of beads hanging from a doorway I was attempting to go through. I did, however, get wrapped in those beads, ones which got heavier the further from their source I traveled. The feedback loops in my head trapped me there. My feet were moving step by step, but no motion propelled me.

It’s a dangerous place to be.

I understand it much better now.

Being humbled does that to you. Having to look at yourself harshly is never a comforting experience.

Our egos have a way of whispering with too much bravado.

Someone in my circle recently suffered a profound loss, one which will forever demarcate her life into the before and after.

I don’t want to be a part of anyone’s loss or regrets.

The curtained beads are behind me again. I hope I retain the lesson, though. I always hate that I forget the primitive lesson of loss I learned in 2007.

No matter what happens, you have to “Get busy living or get busy trying,” something I originally was going to add to this post.

I woke up this morning with so much energy that I could feel it radiating off of me. I hope that energy converts to motivation and enthusiasm. Without those, life is a series of responses to the world around us.

I chose the picture for this post because it’s one I took a year ago when I was just happy to be outside feeling the sun on my face. That was enough – just literally standing outside in a foreign place, surrounded by trees and distant people in the periphery. Gurus have maintained for centuries that simplicity is one of the components of happiness. I’m not sure any of those gurus had to live life in this modern world.

Love, X

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Made Myself Laugh

I pulled into the inconvenience store to gas up the car. It seems to need it every once in awhile.

At one of the businesses nearby, I saw a man taking photos of a really nice deep blue sports car. I don’t know if it was a Jaguar, Toyota Celica, or what because I stink at identifying cars.

After filling the tank, I walked as close as I dared and took my shirt off and started waving it above my head. After a few pictures, the young guy taking the pictures noticed me in the background and realized I was probably in the shots.

I don’t know whether he was about to admonish me or not, so I preempted him my laughing and waving as I walked away.

Yes I put my shirt on.

There’s no need to torture innocent bystanders with my amazing good looks.

X
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Suspicious Mistache

Suspicious Mustache

As I stood on the landing this morning, the people I call Crew 14 were all standing around their front door. They were hilariously making fun of the new mustache of a mutual acquaintance of theirs. I’m assuming they were talking about a man but you never know. They were saying it made him look like an ’80s cop or a creeper. I couldn’t help but laugh. When they turned towards me, I then told them that’s why I trimmed my facial hair yesterday; that a creeper look of my own would be fair warning to anybody who wants to talk to me. I do sort of like look like a San Francisco policeman.

PS I was standing in the Harps parking lot this morning. I had just purchased a butane torch and 16 gallons of flammable floor wax. I’m just kidding about my grocery list. Someone kept hollering hey. I almost didn’t recognize my cousin Diane. I think I might have given her too many hugs. The fact that she put a taser on my neck and said I have to go was a subtle sign!

Bonus: I found out yesterday why Batman keeps the lower half of his face uncovered. I laughed and laughed at the dumb punch line.
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Of A Morning Encounter

Earlier this week, at a very early hour, I had a human moment, one which I will write about cautiously, against my nature.

Just a couple of nights earlier, I listened as a neighbor sat outside. His mind was at high elevation, so to speak. He had his phone in front of him, singing loudly and with an absent melody. His voice carried, even against the strident insistence of insects. I couldn’t help but laugh at the content of the song he sang. I wasn’t laughing at him per se; but his delivery and vocal content were so amusing that I couldn’t help but laugh involuntarily. So much so that even days later, I find myself singing a certain segment of what he sang.

On the morning in question, I stood on the balcony. The neighbor sat below. Something about his demeanor signaled that something was amiss. His mind was clear – and that surprised me. “I just need to talk to someone.” So, even though I needed to leave for work, I did. And he told me a story about dear friends, ones who’d moved away. Betrayal had struck them like it does so many. As we talked, his mood lifted, and I gave him a practical distraction about the absurdities of human behavior and its consequences.

It’s the terrain I know too well. I suspect most of us find familiarity in the map of mixed emotions.

I went inside, petted the cat, and headed out again. As I sat in my car, way before sunrise, I looked at him again, still sitting in silence in front of his apartment.

I ignored my inner voice and exited the car, walked over to him, and hugged him. He sobbed for a bit and then thanked me.

Presence.

It’s overlooked and sometimes feared.

But who among us doesn’t want it and need it like the oxygen we breathe?

Each of us will have a turn in our own flooded boat. Perhaps it will be invisible to those around us.

The rain falls on all of us.

I don’t have a moral to the story or a tidy bow to crown it.

Just shared words.

Sometimes, that is more than enough.

Love, X
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Drug Shed Adventure

Drug Shed Adventure

Oh, it is a serene enough scene now. An hour ago? Had you casually turned the corner, you would have witnessed a 55-year-old man kick off his sandals, peel off his shirt, followed by his pants, leaving him with a pair of underwear covering his body and nothing else.

Except for several hundred allegedly harmless ants.

I’ve been periodically deconstructing the drug shed behind my apartment. To avoid overpiling the dumpster, I split up my 40 or 50 trips back and forth hauling the contents of said shed to the dumpster. I should have done it last year, along with the cleanup and all the tree cutting. In winter, I mean, to reduce the varmint probability.

This afternoon, on a foolish whim, I went back there with a screwdriver and a small cutting tool. Yes, I had on a pair of rubber sandals. I realize that they are not on a construction workers list of advisable shoe wear in those conditions. All I can say in my defense is that I had a couple of major head dramas when I was younger.

Spiders? Check. Snakes? Check. It wasn’t until I was crammed up between the side of the drug shed facing the old wooden fence that I realized I was itching. I’d seen a few ants pour out one of the seams of the metal siding. A few were on my hand. Much to my surprise, I looked down at the mass of trash and leaves and realized I was standing on top of thousands and thousands of ants. Undoubtedly there was a colony underneath the steel and rotted wood platform, one which extended out into the untouched confines between the shed and the fence.

It took me a few seconds, I will admit – to connect my itching to the probability that I might be covered with ants underneath my clothing.

When I peeled off my shirt, I was covered in them. Which led me to the conclusion that my legs and nether regions were probably being invaded too. Because these weren’t flying ants, they had to have used my legs as a ladder to get up there right?

I jumped several feet away from the shed and began undressing like a music fan at a Phish festival. I used my hands for several seconds and then grabbed my shirt and began hitting myself.

Had anyone looked out the windows facing the back side of the apartments, they would either be shocked or just assumed that it’s another typical day where I live.

Tomorrow I will get my vengeance.

I’ll go out there with my professional strength insecticide and drown them. Please don’t feel sorry for the ants.

They got the last word today.

I guess it could have been worse: 10,000 spiders, a pit of snakes, or two dozen managers trying to have a meeting with me.

X
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Here & Now

Roaring rivulets of running rain follow their path into the storm drain

The cooler air cracks and sparks with thunder and lightning

The chilly August air feels alien in comparison to days past

I don’t know where the water might go, and I don’t need to

It always finds a way

Holiness is knowing your ignorance and being aware of your limited imagination

Things follow their own path and nature takes its course

Were we able to allow ourselves to do the same…

We bring our past along like treasured baggage

We think it defines us when in reality it confines us

You can’t live the day until it arrives and you survive it

And perhaps it will put a smile on our faces, both the rain and this realization

As we run our races, barreling towards our own finish line

No matter where the water goes or where we shall end

This day is new

You should be too

X
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No, I Am Not

I had a real belly laugh earlier.

I went outside in the afternoon to sweep the parking lot below my apartment. I do this frequently to ensure that anything that blows off my landing doesn’t become someone else’s problem. If everyone did this, it would solve a lot of the messes that accumulate in the world.

I talked to one of my newer neighbors quite a bit. He was convinced I am gay. I think he thinks his gaydar is broken now! Everything from my car color choice to my art projects, to my glasses, and the way I dress. He also took the time to complain that he hates that I took my massive fence project down. He said that it reveals a lot about the person who tried to complain, something that was coincidental, given that someone else told me the same thing today about an entirely different situation. I told him the landlord tried to take back the request a couple of hours after asking me to do so.

Just because I like to be personal, I’ve never had a gay experience or been the least bit interested in the same sex. I am so glad I came out of my violent, racist, and prejudiced childhood without those attitudes of judgment toward people who are gay. Even when the same sex hit on me, I just smiled and explained and went about my day. Anyone brave enough to express their interest, much less in this seemingly growing era of backlash prejudice, deserves grace for being who they are. Sexuality is complicated enough without the added burden of falling outside the alleged norm. Almost everyone I know is trapped in their own personal cocoon of concealment and worry about their perceived sexuality and behavior. I’ve never understood why some people are so obsessed with other people’s sexuality. Except to gossip! Gossip is the exception – one that everyone claims they don’t do.

Although it’s not directly related, if you find someone you like, tell them. It doesn’t have to be awkward. It probably will be, though, because rejection is about as welcome as a spider in one’s shoe in the morning. From experience, I learned the hard way that you should NOT use a bullhorn to tell them. Or shout it out in church.

While talking to my neighbor, I was reminded of how small the world is and how interconnected we are. Because he knows a few people I know. And some of them have secrets, secrets that belong to them to keep private or to live openly. But I wish the world were filled with grace. Not acceptance… because that belies that people different from us must be accepted. They don’t need to be accepted. They need to be who they are without our individual judgments or perceptions affecting how they live their lives. Unless we’re having a laugh about the absurdity of individuals and their choices. I love it when people snark about me, as long as they are creative.

So if you see me driving around in my little blue cotton candy car, I’m not going to give you my number. I won’t go to Applebee’s with you either for a cocktail and hot wings. Unless you’re buying, of course.

Love, X

PS That’s a crescent wrench above my thumb. I keep one magnetized on each side of my metal door. It looks like a floating key. The “Sadboy” t-shirt I’m wearing, the one I splotched deliberately with paint, it’s the most comfortable shirt I’ve ever owned.
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