Category Archives: Holiday

A Quarter Past Halloween

A Halloween Story For My Friends:

I’m normally not one to attend parties, especially if drinking or dancing are expected. Or being awake past 9:01 p.m. There’s too much temptation for me to do an unannounced gravity check and meet Mr. Floor during these events. Especially Mr. Waxed Floor, whose most trusted friend, “Mrs. Lower Back Injury,” seems to be everywhere.

My wife Dawn insisted that I at least try to go and enjoy myself. A local club was sponsoring an event near Downtown Springdale last year, during the prolonged period in which Emma looked like year 2 of the Vietnam War.

Dawn wasn’t amused when I asked if it was an “either/or” proposition. In typical fashion, she replied, “It depends on whether there’s a scented candle to mask the smell of blunt force trauma.”

As is always the case, I spent an inordinate amount of time planning my costume. Attending a Halloween party without wearing a costume is akin to eating the label from a jar of pickles and discarding the contents: it’s amusing, but in the end, not very rewarding. I take these things very seriously, as older adults get fewer chances to mock other adults without the risk of a scuffle. The riskiest thing I had done all last year was cast my vote for president and it seemed like I was still doing time for that error.

As you would imagine, I got kicked out of the party. But not for a reason you would ever expect. These party people sure don’t have a sense of humor to match their drive to hold gatherings of strangers. I theorize that their thickening wallets cut off the blood supply to their cerebral cortex.

“Why are you dressed like a quarter, X?” Several people asked me this as I milled around the Halloween party near Emma Street.

To which I replied, “Well, Gandhi himself told us to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.””

🙂

Don’t Hate Me Because You Missed Out on Wisteria Lane – Again

Dawn and I used a portion of our vacation time to spend some time of quiet reflection at some of the best cabins in the 4-state region:  Wisteria Lane Lodging. The owners don’t compensate for me being so laudatory, although PepsiCo does pay me to not talk about their products. I love the cabins at Wisteria. For someone who enjoys the internet, it is quite relaxing to have no phone, no internet, and no mundane concerns while being surrounded by deep woods.

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The above picture doesn’t do the porch justice. The porch overlooks the bottom of the valley as a creek winds below. It spans the entire valley-side of the cabin and is wide enough to keep the weather at bay. With a porch swing, it’s almost perfect. Unlike other places, you can use the grill during any weather, except perhaps a tornado.

For reasons of national security, Dawn wouldn’t let me participate in the next picture, citing “overwhelming historical untrustworthiness” and something else she mumbled as she pointed the camera at herself and the taser at me as I attempted an approach to be immortalized in her picture.

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P.S. I didn’t get many pictures of Dawn, both due to her subtle “no” and “you had better not” hand motions, very similar to the one people might use to indicate an impromptu throat slitting. In addition, she displayed an allergy to what I would call “clothes.” It’s not like she cavorted or pranced around sans clothing, but she insisted on wearing the clothes that no one except spouses and emergency medical technicians get to see us wearing. (Also known as “comfy clothes” in some circles.)

We were staying at Cabin #4, which is the definition of privacy and seclusion. We could have practiced yodeling at all hours and no one would have noticed.

The picture below is an example of several I took, after Dawn’s insistent editing skills of redaction imposed themselves on my beautiful pictures. She says this picture captures her essence like none other I’ve ever taken of her.

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The next picture is of me, wearing an ensemble from the 2016 Versace Collection. It looks like I am sniffing paint, which is ridiculous. Everyone knows the only way to sniff paint is to use a paper bag. (Although I’ve been told I look stupid because I put my entire head inside the bag and then spray the can directly into my face.)

Because Dawn and I wanted to do something different with our visitor’s stones, I maximized our effort by using a primer coat on each of the stones. It’s much easier than it looks and made a huge difference in the result.

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Note to all sane people and children under 30 years of age: I was only kidding about sniffing paint. If you’d still like to see me with my head shoved into a paper bag, however, send me $20 and I’ll make your dream a reality.

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Dawn loved the fact that I finally got around to doing our visitor stones differently. Instead of just doing one, we did 6. The last one is one I made, to be the head of the long snake of rocks. It’s several feet long. I cleaned them and primed them the day we arrived. We went out on the long porch the next morning as the mist rose from below, scattered our paints and brushes, and laughed as we drank coffee, the cool air enveloping us. The head stone says “Time flies” in Spanish, with the year in Roman numerals.

The only potential downside is that future visitors might be envious of the scope of our stones for this visit. If they attempt to surpass my effort though, they should be warned: I will return and do 100 the next time. Just kidding – I’d probably stop at 30 or 40.

Dawn snapped this next one of me as I prepared to work my magic in the culinary portion of the evening. She claims that I’m prone to “weird hands” in these poses, although she uses a more endearing moniker for the pose.

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Not to brag or anything, but Dawn was happy with all the meals I made, even when I made things that started with the warning, “I’m not sure if this will be edible or thrown at miscreants on the sidewalk.” We didn’t take any pictures of our prepared food, out of respect for the privacy of the food that perished for our survival. Dawn took pictures of the fridge, as she couldn’t believe the variety of food we bought.

We resembled religious fanatics at the SunFest grocery store on Holiday Island, preparing our larders for the end of the world. We were like Noah-Of-The-Grocery as we stuffed two of everything in inventory into our cart. I felt like a pack mule pushing around our spoils as we headed to the register.

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Saturday morning, I got out early and marched the roads around Wisteria Lane. Even the downhill portions of the road were, in fact, uphill. I know this sounds impossible, but when you get to be my age, the impossible supplants both the unlikely and improbable when it’s least convenient. I saw some interesting things and had some great thoughts running around in the middle of the wild. As the roads were dry and dusty, I also had the grace of good luck, as I met no one on the roads during my entire trek.

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The above picture is to prove that all roads were paradoxically uphill. The sunlight comes a little later to the deep valleys where the cabins at Wisteria Lane are situated. It was worth the hiking to see it from a few different angles.

As for the next picture, I apologize for the weird HDR-esque quality. I tried using the filters on my phone until a prompt popped up and asked, “Are you high?” It was actually much darker than is evidenced by this picture. I loved the accidental result so much that I couldn’t bring myself to edit it out. In the distance, someone is clearing an immense amount of brush and trees. It was so tempting to venture out through there and stand in the middle of it. It would have been easy to imagine I had traveled back in time had I done so. Except I couldn’t be certain that sound of shotguns wouldn’t chase me back out.

People in those parts don’t subscribe to “Tomfoolery Quarterly, so it seemed safer to admire the torn earth from a distance.

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For fun, one of the projects I finally completed was making the “Blair Witch” stick symbols and hanging them from the canopy of trees. I bought some twine in Eureka Springs. While at the cabin, I meandered around the basin amidst the invisible snakes and collected a nice pile of hearty tree falls and snapped off relatively straight portions of their limbs. I then used the twine to tie the sticks together in the infamous “stick man” pattern. Dawn was very much interested in how my project might turn out, but she, of course, wanted nothing to with the process, preferring to remain high above on the cabin-length covered porch of our cabin. Even I eagerly found new discoveries in the trees, Dawn only offered commentary, leaving all the progress to me.

Not that anyone who knows me is going to worry about my views about witchcraft, voodoo, or omens, but in case you do, don’t worry about it. Not only because all such beliefs are both stupid and entertaining, but because my efforts were geared toward a good laugh. The idea of making several of these and placing them around someone’s house was amusing to me, especially if they are prone to being supersticious.

When I finished, I placed them up in the trees, like so…

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I imagine that it would have been hilarious had I fallen and snapped my neck. Imagine the obituary and the endless possibilities of creativity for any headline writer tasked with summing up the cause of my stupidity and demise.

I left the stick figures hanging in the trees. I hope that whoever cleans the cabins doesn’t have a minor nervous breakdown from all of them – or that the next visitor to these great cabins doesn’t notice them until their first morning at the cabins. Mayhem might indeed ensue under either of those scenarios.

I apologize in advance if anyone falls off the porch or gets scared by my bucket list project with the sticks. I’ve been meaning to do this for the last dozen visits, even as I constantly joked about all the vampires roaming the woods near Wisteria Lane.

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Above, I stopped and took a selfie as I cleared the apex of the largest hill. Again, it’s darker than it looks.

Even as I type these words, I miss it already. Some places seem to exist exuberantly outside of time and Wisteria Lane is just such a place. For being so close to home, it is an appreciated privilege for there to be such a place available to me.

Dawn didn’t drown me in the hot tub, push me over the edge of the porch, or hand me the exposed wires of a toaster during this peaceful weekend. I guess I did okay. She’ll let me know, I presume.

If I awaken tomorrow to find a Blair Witch stick figure on my front doorstep, I’ll assume it is the owner of Wisteria Lane starting her own haunting, to repay my capriciousness.

The 4th Of Course

 

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I tried to take a long walk this morning, even as the intermittent rain came to say hello. It was foggy and misty and felt like an abandoned world. Most of the houses were quiet, shuttered against last night’s war-like barrage of amateur fireworks. I didn’t find any bloody fingers or stick-impaled eyeballs, which surprised me, given both the age and impaired decision-making from last night’s festivities. Some of the house sidewalks and streets were littered with the corpses of hundreds of dollars worth of explosives. When you live in certain neighborhoods, it is pointless to expect anyone to be sensible about such things. A few of the houses looked like a party had been mysteriously vacated, with all the attendees dropping their beverage cans on the ground, leaving their fireworks in the grass and scattered on the sidewalk.

Last night, I watched the children a few houses down. Though this is Arkansas, I was surprised by the level of shenanigans these kids were exhibiting. It’s hard to surprise me about anything firework-related, as I was one of those kids who had access to literally any fireworks being made. When I was young, we had bottle rocket and Roman candle wars and there was no dare or challenge which went unaccepted when the 4th rolled around.

I always overcome my old-age sensibilities about fireworks. If someone blows off a hand, I will rush out and help them but it is a losing battle to try to curtail fireworks in residential neighborhoods unless one’s house is set on fire. (PS: But I’ll keep the hand as a souvenir.) All things considered, the 4th of July is good for the ER business.

The noteworthy event this morning was the older car which drove by without any lights about 5 minutes into my walk. Whoever was driving didn’t understand the fundamentals of a clutch, either. I could hear both the horrible sounds of grinding metal and the circus-like beat of Norteño music, one of the few genres which holds no appeal for me. About 100 feet past me, the car ran up onto the curb and stalled. A man exited the car and stumbled around to the back as if looking to see how far up on the curb he had driven. He stumbled back and it seemed like his head bounced off the car door as he bent and dropped back into the driver’s seat. I laughed, which probably demonstrates something about my character. The car revved and the clutch screeched as the car jumped off the curb and back into the road. Just as I was about to cringe from observing an impending collision with a car on the wrong side of the wrong, the mysterious car veered back into the middle of the street and kept moving. Instead of succumbing to my curiosity, I turned and walked the other way. I’m assuming the driver made it to wherever he thought he might be going. For my part, I didn’t feel like being a reluctant witness to a property damage report this morning.

In so many ways, the early morning of the 4th is like New Years Day: most of the world is sleeping and momentarily ignorant of whatever bad decisions were made the night before.

One of these days, I’m going to buy several 1,000 or 10,000 pack firecrackers and light them in random places across the neighborhood at about 5 a.m. I’ll choose the houses which have piles of volcanic grenades and fireball launchers left on the public sidewalk or in the street. It’ll be hard for those hypocrites to complain as I laugh at them when they groggily open their doors or peer through their windows, cursing. I did this more than once when I was younger and as mean as it might sound, it never failed to elicit a laugh, even from the ‘victim,’ although the mirth on their part always came later. (“It’s hard to laugh when you’re wearing a bathrobe.”)

Being old has its advantages. I might not stay up to watch the fireworks (which coincidentally look like every preceding firework display ever made), but I will get up at my normal hour to conduct my own fireworks display in your front yard, should you choose to fire off enough explosives to launch a war in the Middle East.

PS: When I was young, I saw the national fireworks display and a few years later got to sit at the literal edge of an ill-advised display at Lake Atalanta, inside the launching perimeter. It’s hard for anything to ‘wow’ me after those.

A Small Story for Friday the 13th

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A small story for Friday the 13th and the full moon… (I made the picture to set the mood):

He didn’t relish the role foisted upon him. He didn’t shy away from it, either. His only concern was that each deserving soul met its end at dusk. Whether guilt or innocence played a role in each participant’s demise failed to register for him. Life hadn’t altered its casual disdain for the perceived importance each player brought to his or her small part in the universe. His tired muscles could feel the pull exerted by the thirst for endings, anticipating a busy nightfall. From off in the distance, he could hear the amassing footsteps of those unaware of the unfolding promise of the night. Each of them expected a demon or the angel of death; none expected a fatigued man with a full face of worry lines and eyes burning with purpose. He’d greet them all, while pushing them onward toward the great ‘next.’

The Hans Gruber Party Pooper Service – By X

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Tired of the same old Yuletide parties that turn out to be more boring than eating uncooked pasta? Want a low-cost and entertaining means to end a party that simply has no Christmas Charisma? My new company “The X Hans Gruber Party Pooper Service” is taking calls for emergencies this Xmas weekend. Just give us a call and we’ll burst in to your party dressed as the infamous Hans Gruber crew from “Die Hard” and disperse your guests. For an additional fee, we will exterminate any reluctant-to-depart guests with extreme prejudice, as featured in the timeless Xmas movie starring Bruce Willis.

(I already have several clients. One of them asked me to bring the detonators to help disperse his guests and I foresee they are going to need a truckload of screen doors if it plays out anything like it did in the movie.)

X-Mas (Yes, That Post Again…)

Each yuletide season, I preemptively cringe at the ‘Don’t spell it Xmas’ tirades. As an expert on the ante-penultimate letter of the English language, I can once again tell you the ‘X’ in Xmas represents ‘Christ’ in Greek. It’s been used that way for centuries – and has nothing to do with the conspiracy theory to secularize Christian observance of the day as Jesus’ birthday. Repeating a non-truth serves no purpose other than to indicate you don’t understand. And if you attack me from ignorance for writing ‘Xmas,’ you are offending both truth and the spirit of the very prophet who you esteem. Fill your heart with lovingkindness and avoid pointing culpable fingers at imagined insults.

A Thanksgiving

To have a hand in the darkness, or a still voice inquiring about your day, even a dismissive eye roll at your anticipated joke, these are the only required components for a thankful life; all else is but a pale reflection of a dim sunset in a curtained corner window. Were but the day not necessary to halt us in our collective haste, that the calendar should not chime the occasion for us to artificially pause in appraisal of our life’s balance. That thanksgiving could be exchanged for an unwieldy dose of awareness of whatever already satisfies us. As a stranger in your land, I only ask that you consider that the things which bind you to your life are proven only in the moments in which you doubt them the most. – X

Only Time

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We capriciously ask for things, though our greatest gift is ticking past us, moment by moment. Even with the briefest of pauses and with the most minuscule of sideways glances, time slithers past, confiscating the only irreplaceable measure of us.

Memory Day Each Day

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Starting the day with a gift of 5 lbs. of wild birdseed to Jimmy, scattering it for the birds to feed on noisily. The birdsong isn’t Metallica, but I would imagine that it is as close to heavenly as could be devised. There were no muffin-fetching dogs to scamper about, nor cacophonous, mischievous laughs to startle passersby – but there were echoes of these, fluttering in the late May breeze, above the creek, below the sky, observing us all. Memorials aren’t events; they are memories of daily life, shared moments that fade into whispers as we recall them. With love to Jimmy and the world he ineloquently slipped away from.

 

“If you say these words aloud, in soft awe, you may summon the times you would ask to revisit.” – X