Category Archives: Personal

You Don’t Bring Me Flours Anymore

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Several days ago, I brought my wife Dawn a nice vase of flowers.

It was, therefore, a surprise when she said, “X, you don’t bring me flowers anymore,” a couple of days ago. (Much like the old Barbara Streisand standard…)

Later that day, as I was reading, it struck me that she was, in fact, using one of her favorite communication tricks: the homophone. I won’t bore you with a redundant reminder of what constitutes a homophone because I’m sure that you all, much like myself, spent a good portion of the weekend reading your “Obscure English Quarterly” magazine.

So, today, I granted her wish. Now, she can no longer say, “X, you don’t bring me flours anymore.”

Quizzical initial looks of consternation aside, I think she enjoyed the surprise.

When I bought this gift today at Richard’s Flourist Shop, he told me to not add water to these flours. Even if I was going to make bread.

Another Nostalgic Surprise

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Recently, I wrote a story about finally discovering exactly what type of coffee cup I had used to drink my first cup of coffee with, back when people like my grandpa Willie believed that such things should simply just happen regardless of one’s age. I ordered a jadeite Fire-king cup from Etsy, more as a tribute than a keepsake.

A cousin of mine read my post and reached out to me. It turns out that she had a blue Fire-King cup, a cup my grandpa used to hold his razor and shaving cream brush. He was a minimalist, too, but for totally different reasons than mine.

My grandpa died on a Saturday back in October 1977. The cup he used most days sat dormant, waiting for me to wind my way through decades of intervening years. My cousin graciously offered to send it to me. I received it today. With the piece of ‘art’ I already posted about, this was a day for both something old and something new.

As sentimental as it may sound to say it aloud, holding the cup has already peeled back the foggy curtains of my youth.

The half-broken nail in front of the ‘shaving kit’ is the infamous nail that I wrote about in another blog post. This is the shortened version: A Rusty Nail…

P.S. My post about the jadeite green coffee mug on my blog and public figure Facebook page opened many doors for other people, people whose memories were triggered by the same recollections of family and home.
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The Perfect Art For the Discerning Bathroom

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Using the excuse of our impending anniversary, I ordered another amazing addition to our decorative theme, most often referred to as “What has he done now?.”

This one is 16X20, on a thick wood panel. I revamped all the picture’s elements, mainly to enhance the colors.

As always, I would like to know what the person who made this for me was thinking when he or she fabricated it.

This artwork is going to look huge hanging in the bathroom. Y-U-G-E, even.

I’m sure it is going to be inspirational for everyone who visits me.

My wife Dawn seemed amused by this one.

I’d like to take a moment to point out that you should try to hide your coveting of this beautiful piece of art.

P.S. I’m not sure which role is for me in the movie “Dumb and Dumber.” I’m leaning towards Dumber. On the other hand, I’m the genius who wisely decided to get one of these lovely reminders of life’s zaniness. The colors in my bathroom are a hint of what I’d like the entire world to look like, one huge and chaotic splash of paint and color.

 

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This is the artwork once mounted on the bathroom wall. In the background, you can see the beautiful shower curtain, also decorated, as it hangs in reverence toward the artwork.

“The Picture” Lives On…

 

I originally posted this in 2014.

Enough time has passed since Jimmy died for me to remember the goofiness more than the anguish of cancer that he endured. It’s natural that death works that way, as he was alive and kicking for much longer than he was suffering. There are still those days when I catch myself wondering what Jimmy might make of something or I half-expect him to drive up to the house after getting more stuff for his hoard from a local garage sale.

Fair or not, a lot of Jimmy’s energy was siphoned away by his one family member’s obsession with money and getting what she thought was hers. It was a travesty and I learned a lot from it, whether I wanted to or not. It angered Jimmy that he was being punished with cancer. Had he survived and not relapsed, I think he might have begun to feel pity for his family member again, as she was at the whim of her own addictions and demons – and he could see it.

The above picture is one which my cousin Jimmy insisted I take of him. It was immediately after his first cancer surgery. We were at his mom’s house. (My Aunt Ardith.) As you can see, Jimmy was still smiling and laughing. His mom wasn’t too thrilled with our brand of humor. Our custom was to make the most outrageous, tasteless and macabre statements that we could imagine. Between the two of us, we used to come up with some epic craziness. Aunt Ardith would sit in her perch on the couch next to the sliding glass doors, drinking her whiskey and coke, smoking, and feigning surprise and mirth at some of our goofiness. We had the ability to literally say anything to each other or about each other, directly, without fear of anger.

Jimmy was very confident that he was going to beat cancer. When this picture was taken, I was very hopeful. Realistically hopeful, I thought. Jimmy joked that this picture would make an ideal Christmas card. His mom specifically told me that I had better not make cards with the picture on it. (My reputation for doing that sort of thing was quite well known…) Jimmy then chimed in that it would make an ideal “All I got was this lousy bout of cancer” t-shirt. It’s still funny, although with a slightly different twist to it now.

The plan was going to be to post this picture on Facebook after-the-fact. Jimmy was interested in being able to talk to people about his experiences. As a well-liked employee of Budweiser, he knew a lot of people and would have a lot of opportunities to talk to people. Unfortunately, his cancer came back to take him down.

This picture might as well have been taken in another century. It both seems like both yesterday and ten years ago simultaneously. His mom became ill and died a few short months before him after he relapsed. His mom’s house is sold to strangers and Jimmy’s life is fading in everyone’s collective consciousness.When Jimmy died, I had tried to get people to write anecdotes and stories to share with me. I had made a commitment to share them out in the world in such a way as to attempt to keep those memories alive. I did my best to disseminate his pictures to friends and family, sharing them on public drives and makings disks, printed copies and any other method I could think of. We all have our stories and moments to remember with Jimmy. Some of us have a strong collection of memories, many of which were times that weren’t fun while we were living them but are as much a part of his life as the “good” times. As time slides past us, our stories will slide into the fog with us.

Whether it is wrong to say so or not, Jimmy’s death affected me in countless more ways than my own mother’s death did. I was with Jimmy for much of his final time and was with him when he finally had nothing left with which to fight. He weighed so little that it seemed only his soul remained in him.

Not only were we contemporaries, but we shared a common bond of ridiculous attitude toward many of life’s idiocies. We were both forged in a family where laughter could be replaced by drunken rage without notice. My youth was fuller thanks to Jimmy and his parents, even when the times weren’t so good.

Jimmy’s life was one of potential. His younger years were full of missteps and mistakes. (Isn’t that true of all of us, though?)  It would have been interesting to see what he would have made of his promotion at Budweiser, of his relationship with his girlfriend (and then wife) before his passing, or of his new appreciation for the scarcity of life. Had cancer not kicked him, I think he would have been one of those people who would have flourished with another lease on life. His laugh would have been a beacon to people and his youthful impatience would have dissipated.

 

 

(Jimmy is on the far right. Picture from Dogpatch, USA, the 1970s.)
If you’re interested, you can find a few more stories about my cousin Jimmy on this blog by using the “Category” drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the main blog page.
Here’s one: A Reminder…   and An Unfinished Blog Post.

An Imperfect Note Regarding Jimmy Fallon and Redemption

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The meme regarding Jimmy Fallon in his “Man Show” era versus now in his redemption and entertainer role does contain an element of harsh truth to it.

It also contains an oblique admission on your part, though, if you share it.

Jimmy’s former show ended about 15 years ago. That’s approximately 5,500 days of opportunity to transform oneself.

“You’re not the person you used to be,” is one of the best compliments someone can give me.

I hope the same is true for you, too. It’s almost as important as the cliché, “My opinion changes with new information.”

It’s easy to fake a change of heart, especially if ambition, power, money, or politics shape your enlightenment. We fall toward vanity and greed with too much ease at times.

It’s a complicated and fluid process to gauge another person’s transformation and soul. Many religions confer redemption merely by accepting a central tenet of faith. Most adults, however, in their personal lives, require penance, punishment and a long learning period from those seeking redemption.

Skepticism rules in regards to other people, even as most people demand acceptance for their own stories and changes while doubting the changes that others profess.

By outright refusing to concede that it is possible that Jimmy Fallon may indeed be the person he professes to be, you are also indicating that you doubt that personal transformation is possible.

That’s a strange, cynical point of view from where I’m standing.

Keep in mind that I’m not a big Jimmy Fallon fan, nor defending the criticisms toward his previous alter ego.

A few years ago, Tom Cotton, someone who I dislike intensely, suffered a backlash from some regarding his writings when he was much younger and attending Harvard. Many screamed without knowing whether those words reflected who he is today. That denial of possibility is a problem for me.

I think back to my youth and all the indoctrination, fear and shame I had to work through to thrive. All my errors, ignorance and stupidity were indeed mine. To create a timeline which fails to reflect my transformation would be a disservice to me and anyone else who has shed their previous skin. I don’t defend some of the stupidity I said and did.

Even if I attempted a defense of who I once was, I wouldn’t be defending myself.

While my personal views about redemption aren’t religious, I continue to hope that anyone can stop and reboot if self-recognition allows it.

I would hate to think the world wouldn’t encourage anyone to turn away from their past and renew.

It’s okay to be skeptical of those who’ve wronged us or behaved like the Cookie Monster at a bakery convention. As we do, though, we should remind ourselves that some people do in fact change.

 

 

 

Real Man of Genius

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I decided to take advantage of the weather this afternoon. I drove over and parked near the best dog park in Springdale to take a walk.

As enthusiastic as I was, I opted to forego taking a really long walk. It was a stupendous afternoon and I was able to give an older couple on their first visit a tour and explanation of the area. It should make everyone reading this nervous to think that in many ways I am an unofficial ambassador for Springdale.

Arriving back at the car after a decently long walk, I discovered that I didn’t have my car key in my pocket. In a moment of disgust, I realized that I had either locked the car and left the key somewhere in the front or dropped the key somewhere on my long and circuitous route along the trail and back road. I’m sure that bystanders wondered if I had lost my marbles because I checked my pockets at least three times and then inexplicably removed my hat to check it, too. You never know -at my age, it’s possible to put your wallet in the freezer so a car key in my hat wouldn’t be impossible. Besides, if Seuss can put a cat in the hat, a car key seems benign.

Having no choice, I walked the same route again, vainly hoping to spy my key lying somewhere on or near the trail. My plan for a “not so long” walk evaporated. I knew that if I didn’t find the key, I would be calling my German friend named Über to come pick me up.

As is the case in so many stories, the key was at the very end of my original walk, where both sidewalk and pavement ended. I had turned around there, pulling my phone from my pocket to check the time and change the music selection. This spot is very near an infamous hoarder house I’ve written about before.

I saw a little black object in the middle of the sidewalk from quite a distance, hoping that it would be my key and thus save me from dealing with the persnickety car dealer to obtain another one.

While I was glad to see that my temporarily lost key was indeed the object on the sidewalk at the end of the road, I was a little melancholy to know that I would have to walk the route again to get back to my car. These first world problems are such a nuisance.

I forced myself to walk back to my car, as the breeze lifted me, the sun warmed me, and the music accompanied my thoughts, lost in that beautiful March afternoon. My dogs were barking as I neared my car and the dog park. There were several human and canines shouting, barking, laughing, and cavorting. As I stopped to pet one of the dogs which ran toward me along the fence, my own dogs were forgotten, even as I reached over and laughed too, as the dog licked my entire arm in happiness.

I Think His Name Was Johnny

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It is strange how the human mind works.

This is a picture of a neighbor of mine, from years ago. I had a picture of us once. I took it in a moment in which he was feeling spontaneous. Jokingly, he asked to see it one afternoon and so I went inside and found it, handing it to him with a smile, so that he could look at it and make a wisecrack.

“Thanks,” he said, and put it in his pocket. I never saw that picture again.

This picture is one I took when I came out of my place and saw him sitting on the stoop, watching life pass him on the nearby street.

 

He lived near me and I spoke to him at least 100 times. While I have the ability to newly discover his name, I don’t recall what it is without using the power of the internet. He spoke with his hands, always, as his fingers moved through the air to document how much he had seen in his life.

I think his name was “Johnny,” and even as I tell myself that this is the case, I doubt my memory. I remember how animated he was when another neighbor left their car in the wrong gear. It rolled down the slight hill and smashed his older and meticulously-maintained older car. I also remember asking him for a lit cigarette (I didn’t smoke) and sticking it up one of my nostrils. He laughed so hard I thought he was going to need CPR.

He killed himself with a pistol as he sat mired in his loneliness, near the narrow road in that insufferably small town, where the community pool once existed. The road is no longer so narrow, but my memory remains constricted.

I felt stupid and selfish, watching the thunderstorm of police and bystanders near the road. His wife was there, waiting for the rush to subside. I drank at least 6 cups of coffee, one after another as word spread that he had killed himself. He had lived a fascinating life, one filled with great moments and great turmoil.

I feel like my own unseen and upcoming suffering erased him from my mind.

I see his picture in my photo archives. It picks at me for reasons that I can’t quite place.

I added the hyperrealistic effect to the colors because my memory of who he truly was has made its escape from my grasp.

A Non-Birthday Celebration at The Cabin

 

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Under the pretense of an early birthday celebration for me, Dawn and I went and stayed a couple of nights at our favorite cabin: Wisteria Lane Lodging. Dawn insisted on that elusive ‘something’ for me, despite my general lack of enthusiasm. Without hesitation, I voted for a getaway weekend for us both to enjoy. As we always do, we stopped at the grocery store at Holiday Island and marched up and down the aisles several times. We’ve always found something interesting to try. Stores which exist near retirees tend to have a few things that are difficult to find elsewhere. I picked up a couple of extras, as I was certain that my unblemished cooking record would be irrevocably tarnished this time.

We arrived at the cabin, embued with a certainty that it was going to be a great weekend.

The creek below the cabin was still flowing with cold, clear water, but both days were warmer and dry. It started raining a little as we were packing up to leave. We prefer the rainy days while at the cabin, but our request for a deluge went unheeded.

Despite being forced to endure the sunlight, we somehow managed to enjoy ourselves anyway. 🙂

While we ate like royalty, we took the time to plan healthier choices. I grilled several times and despite my vegetarian proclivities, we had steak, chicken, steakburgers, corn on the cob and even grilled bell peppers. Just to expand my limited abilities, I brought a grill glove and basket, both of which were very useful. I still managed to burn a finger nicely, though, in a moment of inattention.  Given my general disregard for protocol, I’m always relieved that I once again avoided burning either the cabin or the forest around me. It’s hard to believe other adults once trusted me with charcoal. I still suspect gas grills were popularized in anticipation of some future mishap on my part.

The picture below reveals how long and wide the covered porch is. The swing is on the opposite end. The difference with Wisteria is that it’s easy to grill regardless of the weather.  The porch is the best feature of the cabin, one which is overlooked by most vacation cabins.

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On Sunday morning, as I was grilling, a thunderous clomping of feet came from the right. I thought an antelope had entered the planked walkway alongside the cabin. Before I could react, a large labrador poked her head around the corner, very hesitant and nervous. I’m not sure who the dog belongs to or how far it had traveled, but after a minute of cooing at her, I went inside and retrieved a couple of large grilled chicken breasts from the day before. As I fed her, the dog’s reluctance evaporated. Within minutes, I had a new best friend who wanted belly rubs. It was difficult to stop petting this adorable dog, especially as she looked at me eyes filled with appreciation.

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Dawn came outside to see what all the dancing and laughing was about.

We also finally got to watch “Three Billboards,” a copy I had ordered from Amazon to coincide with its release. We never watch movies on DVD. Despite the violence, we laughed several times. Even when the son jumped up with a butcher knife and casually placed it under his dad’s chin, I laughed in recognition of the casual truth of the way it unfolded. The story resonated with me as I sat in the middle of a place where no people were anywhere around. My memories provided the nonsensical backdrop. Since I was at one of my favorite places in the world, I will always remember seeing this movie.

It was a rare treat to enjoy the movie in the middle of nothing, without access to phones or internet. I also took my laptop and connected it to the large TV, to watch a couple of our favorite shows, along with my huge digital music collection. In combination with Dawn’s nice bluetooth speaker, we had an excessive amount of portable entertainment.  We tend to have a laugh at being in the middle of nowhere while maximizing our technology reach. It requires us to plan a little better, as there are fewer and fewer places without access to cellphones or internet. One day, we’ll look back in fascination at how quaint such a thing will seem to us.

Dawn had never tried a pickle-ice ice freeze pop. She wishes she had never tried one, now. The look of horrified amusement when she tried her first while we were at the cabin is now etched in my mind. Given her desire to spit in every direction upon tasting it, I’d rate her impression as “Unfavorable.” She also claims to have never tried pickle juice over crushed ice, a delight once available when we were younger. By the way, Dawn loves pickles, so I’m not sure how to attribute her distaste for ice pops. I’d like to point out that she loathes tomatoes, but two of her favorite foods are marinara and salsa. She also doesn’t suffer fools lightly – which doesn’t make sense, either, because all evidence points to her having married me voluntarily.

 

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At night, I played my13-hour thunderstorm-creek-waves sound file I made. Much of the component sounds are ones I’ve recorded on previous visits to Wisteria, standing in the overflowing creek or under the edge of the porch. It crashed and ebbed all through both nights. Though the skies were clear above us, if you had stood outside our cabin at midnight, you would have heard and felt the slight reverberation of the virtual thunderstorms inside.  Friday night, the moon shone through the gaps in the skylight like a beacon pointed down on us.

We also painted rocks again. I spent a little time cleaning them and applying a horrid bright green primer coat, possibly in an attempt to frighten any passing squirrels. We avidly grabbed our paints and started gossiping on the porch, in the sunlight, attempting to paint the rocks instead of our own fingers and faces.

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For mine, I decided to use the excuse of my birthday as a macabre prognostication of my departure date.  For those who despise Roman numerals: 1967-2037.

 

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I’m inevitably reluctant to leave the cabin. It’s a privilege to be able to enjoy it and I never fail to ask myself why I don’t adopt more elements of living simply.

We live in suburbs, aligned in symmetrical houses that seem to give our lives order.

For a couple of days, as Dawn and I lived a short while in the forest, our lives were in order.

 

A Day in 2006

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As you get older, photo albums become museum exhibits, each page containing an increasing number of people who’ve departed. From life to history, exchanged laughter to memory, photos measure our metamorphosis into two-dimensional objects, even as our minds scramble to keep the growing blank spaces filled in.

One day, if we are lucky, loving hands will choose our picture to honor a place in their album. We’ll sit in frozen repose, our life encapsulated inside a rectangular slice of paper. Maybe someone will look at our features and shed a tear for our passing and perhaps even laugh uproariously as we are remembered in our glory of ridiculousness.

In time, though, even those hands will succumb to frailty and find their own place in an album chosen by another friend or family member. We are each a link in the perpetual chain of human memory.

This is not a call-to-action, nor another “carpe diem.” Rather, it’s a call-to-inaction.

I ask you to sit in silence and look at the arc of your life, one measured in mirth, connections in time, and moments. It’s impossible to reflect on one’s own life without appreciating the immensity of days most of us have been given. Each passes us by, though, and afterward, we are left to wonder how they slithered past.

Your series of rectangles will wait there for you, somewhere in the nebulous fog of time, even if you reach then unprepared.

We ask for things when moments always suffice.
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P.S. This is a picture I took years ago, in 2006. I was feeding the ducks and the half-submerged and hesitant turtles lurking near the bank of the pond. The lady and boy were visiting. While it was her clothing which caught my attention, it was the incredible wit of the young boy who stole the moment. He was a delight and my wife kneeled down to discuss important matters of zoology with him. I didn’t snap a picture because I was overwhelmed by the interesting people and moment. I don’t remember any other details about the encounter, except that it was a late Monday afternoon.

 

Mistaken Feline Identity

I was in the bathroom trying to shave, a doubtful enterprise at best, especially after being sick and deciding that my appearance was even less important for several days. My neck resembled a cheese left long-forgotten in the bottom drawer of the fridge.

My wife Dawn energetically opened the bathroom door, regardless of my current state, and breathlessly asked, “Why is Güino outside?” (Güino is our tuxedo cat and our current landlord.)

My mind began racing, attempting to imagine the scenario wherein the cat dematerialized and passed through a wall – or in a more sinister fashion, learned how to open the front door.

Dawn raced to the living room window facing the street and peered through the blinds. “He was looking at me through the office window!”

Just as I decided that I foolishly let him escape through some unimaginable series of events, Dawn exclaimed, “That’s not Güino!”

I almost regret that Dawn figured out the bewildering puzzle before cat-whispering the outside doppelganger strange cat into the house, only to be face-to-face with Güino.

What a strange tale we might have told, as our house morphed from a solo to a duet, cat fur flying in the background, one of the rarest cases of mistaken feline identity.

P.S. Dawn already wears glasses.