Category Archives: Personal

No Worse For The Wear (Or Non-Wear)

This is a true story, one which makes me proud. After you read the story, you’ll be proud to know me too.

This evening, as the darker clouds rolled in to meet the deepening sunset on this beautiful day, I stopped at one of the local liquor stores. (Which, for the uninitiated, is a place one might purchase alcoholic beverages.) My wife remained in the car, probably anticipating more antics from me. Plausible deniability is a virtue after so many years of marriage.

As the magical automatic double glass doors slipped open upon my approach, I entered with a smile. Three employees were near the rear left side of the store. All three proclaimed an enthusiastic version of “Hey, how are you?” to greet me.

Per my usual custom of saying something stupid, I used my cliché “Terrible!” as my reply.

The youngest of the three visible employees, a fresh-faced and enthusiastic man, laughed and said, “You don’t look any worse for the wear, though.”

Smiling even deeper and preparing to raise my voice, I half-shouted back: “You should see me NAKED!”

The younger employee stood with a stupefied expression on his face. The wizened veteran at his side burst out laughing as I continued walking.
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“Smallfoot” Was My Bigfoot Legend

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It’s interesting that there’s a movie named “Smallfoot” in theaters.

It looks like that I missed a chance to capitalize on the name “Smallfoot” and the marketing revenue that would have accompanied it.

For years, I’ve told stories about the ‘real’ Bigfoot: Smallfoot. The main story I’ve told: that Bigfoot is real, except that he’s exceptionally tiny and evades detection through his diminutive status. Everyone’s running around in the dark, desperately seeking a large creature when, in fact, Bigfoot is a tiny animal hiding in plain sight.

About 5 years ago, I created a Facebook page for the “Smallfoot” community. I filled it with the legends and sightings of a really small Bigfoot.

I even created a website (which I never took live) and made t-shirts. I had a REALLY large size t-shirt made for my co-worker Joe Buss. I made fake publicity stills and even wrote studios such as A&E to generate either buzz or confusion in their minds. For a while, I had a lot of fun with it.

I let it go and never went live with the website. Joe still has his t-shirt, though.

There’s no point to this post other than to say that I misjudged how much I could have taken advantage of my really dumb idea. Whether the studio saw my original nonsense or came up with it independently, I was first. Some of my friends and social media friends probably recall my flirtation with notoriety.

It turns out that my dumb take on the old legend wasn’t dumb at all.

 

Older Blog Post About Smallfoot

A Day

On my return walk home, heading south, not too far from the intersection of Emma and Butterfield Coach Road, I had reached the point in Il Divo’s song “Passera” when the Valkyries and angels began to lift the singers impossibly higher in their harmony. To my left, the high tree-filled mountainside was palely illuminated by an unseen light. Atop the hill stood a single solitary tower, its light blinking impossibly red. Above me, a billowy blanket of clouds was rolling in, barely overlapping the moon. The moon, in response, glowed with a corona of diffused rainbow colors. Slightly below, Orion’s belt and Betelgeuse vividly shone through. Venus and Sirius lurked on the horizon, brighter than normal. As I peered upward, a meteorite streaked down. And another. Even as I lost track of my footing, I laughed out loud, a lone cackle in the pre-dawn nothingness. I wasn’t expecting meteorites this morning and their arrival brought unexpected laughter. I laughed even harder, remembering the old cliché that the most dangerous laugh emanates from someone alone, in the night.

There are times when you know the day cannot possibly be improved, no matter who or what fills the hours of it. Perhaps I’m wrong, though, and a mystery as of yet not fully developed will greet me as the sun rises.

For now, though, I’m going to look out the window and listen to my cat tell me his story in a language I can’t understand, full of purrs and growls.

Just a Moment

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Because I skipped walking the day before, I loaded an unintentionally melancholy playlist on my phone instead of listening to TED or anything noteworthy. The hour was too early and my enthusiasm was too high but the darkness was beautiful. I walked the width of Springdale, down Emma, and a circuitous path toward nowhere in particular.

Someone I once knew too well called yesterday and told me that his days were now numbered and that he was tired of the pain and mediocre tenor of life. Like these things always do, it left a bruise on me that wasn’t readily apparent.

So, I left for a long walk this dark morning.

I found everything I wasn’t looking for.

I walked so far that I texted my wife to see if she was up. 30 minutes later, I tried Uber to discover that no one wanted to drive around Springdale at that hour. Another 30 passed and I decided that I would wait for Uber’s system to either get me a ride or kick me off the system. A driver pinged me in less than 5 seconds. My legs were numb at that point, so I leaned against the utility pole on the street and watched the sun come up above the skyline somewhere near the roofline of AQ Chicken.

 

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As I sat in the back seat of the stranger’s car, I was surprised by how far I had walked, mile after mile. The raccoons had greeted me across from the Apollo Theater, and someone’s tiny tuxedo kitten ran and jumped on my side as I warmly rubbed it and whispered to it. I left him purring underneath the front bumper of his owner’s truck. A solitary worker moved in the darkened interior of Neal’s Cafe. Several empty storefronts looked out upon me as I traversed Emma.

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In the distant geography beyond, I knew that the person who called me yesterday was awake and restless, shuffling through his memories and attempting to reconcile his time.

There are no easy answers and no direct path to peace. But, there is time enough to walk and to look out upon the unknowable expanse of people and places around us.

 

Read With Caution – But This Story Doesn’t End In the Manner You Imagine

 

I’m writing this story in one sitting, one draft, and without polish.

I don’t know who they were or where they were from, the couple that forced my day into an uncomfortable U-turn. I’m still a little nauseated, an hour later. When I came home, I immediately took a shower and did my best to avoid throwing up. The perfume or cologne of the couple is still on me, even after. My “What Would You Do” moment did call me to action, though. It also exposed my hardened view of so many things. The older man of the couple demonstrated an incredible amount of patience in the moments we shared. I am hesitant to tell any part of the story as even the most gently expressed truth often wounds people in ways which are unintended.

My wife and I capriciously decided to find a Mexican food place to eat today on the 4th. We drove by several and found all to be closed, one of which we missed by 30 minutes. On a whim, I turned at the last moment to check Las Palmas. My wife and I smiled at each other when we saw the mismatched cars aligned in the parking lot.

While we were eating, a woman and her children were behind us. The older boy regaled his table with stories involving vomit, bathroom misadventure, and the sort of thing one would expect from such a tender idiotic mind. Dawn was especially taken with the stories, given that the back of her head was a foot away from the mouth sharing the stories as fajita-scented smoked wafted in the air.

The restaurant had some unusual characters in it. The oddest was an unlikely couple seated in front of me and to the right, back against the bathroom area. The man seemed to behave almost like a caregiver. The woman, a painfully thin middle-aged woman, sat with her face mostly turned away from me. She was wearing a summer dress and several things seemed not quite right about her. In front of her was an almost empty margarita glass, the frosted and salt-rimmed kind one typically finds in Tex-Mex places. Toward the end of my meal, the antics seemed to grow more pronounced, much like a play in which the actors start to feel the audience respond to their comedy. I watched as the woman tried several times to get the straw of her drink to connect with her mouth. I was wrestling with the question of whether the woman had a mental condition. The margarita seemed incongruous to such a hopeful conclusion, however.

As Dawn sat across from me telling me stories, I found myself increasingly looking past her at the strange couple by the bathroom. I watched in horror as the woman tried to stand, much like a confused flamingo might do if its frail legs were tied to bowling balls. The man with her grabbed her as she started to pitch forward into the basket of chips of the Latino man seated nearby. He had her purse in one hand and somehow managed to grab her like a striking cobra.

“She’s going to fall!” I fiercely whispered to Dawn. “Don’t look,” I added, as she, of course, turned her head to look. (It might as well be a law in these situations, much like the involuntary cringe in one’s neck as someone shouts, “Watch out!”) I didn’t know it, but I was finished eating for the day.

After six or seven additional dramatic steps, the woman simply collapsed onto the hard tile floor, her male companion helpless to stop her. It sounded like a half-empty bag of potatoes as she hit the floor. My heart stopped for a second.

I locked eyes with the Latino man who had been seated near them. He looked down and away. Because I didn’t want John Quiñones and his crew from “What Would You Do” to jump out of the pantry and stick a camera in my face, I jumped up and ran over to help lift the woman. I didn’t know that my call to action was going to be so graphic or consuming.

“She’s got a bad leg and is going to have surgery on it,” the man told me. My heart hurt for him a little bit at that moment. I could feel his pain. I knew then that the woman was drunk and probably had a little pharmacological help mixed in.

Being careful of my back, I helped pick her up. I wanted to sit her in a chair for a moment and to give her time to get her bearings. The man with her forged ahead, trying to walk her, so I continued to lift and assist. Everyone inside was now looking at us. The restaurant had come to standstill.

We somehow managed to get her near the door despite the constricted walkway between tables. We were basically carrying her by this point. I wanted to sit her on the door side bench while the man went for the car. Instead, he said he’d never get her back up if she sat down there. Despite the voice in my head threatening me to continue, the man and I kept walking and made it outside. It’s hard to change course once you’re swept up in what seems to be impossible momentum.

I assumed his vehicle was the one two spaces from the door, given the woman’s condition, one which I assumed was normal for her. “Is this one yours?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied. “You’re not going to believe this, but THAT one is mine.” He pointed to the literal edge of the parking lot. The vehicle was some type of conversion Jeep, and the bottom of the door was more than two feet from the ground. I should have run. If I could go back in time, I’d go back and slap myself for not doing so.

The woman continued her best to succumb to gravity and fall to the pavement as we fought against it, moving slowly across the parking lot. She mumbled incoherently as the man continued to ask her to use her legs, to hold herself up, to move forward. I assumed everyone in the restaurant was pressed against the tinted windows, watching us do the impossible. I could hear the opening bell of Rocky in my head. My back sent warning shots to my brain. I couldn’t put the woman down, though, because the pavement was incredibly hot. The man seemed relentlessly insistent on marching to his vehicle, even if he had to drag all of us there by sheer willpower.

As we neared the Jeep, I got one arm from her and opened the door. It was going to be impossible to get her in there given the access available past the door. I knew then that the woman was most certainly not in such dire straits before her meal. Whatever medical condition was present before her arrival was at most responsible for no more than 10% of our current predicament.

We tried everything to get the woman up. She stopped responding to basic motor commands. At one point, the man ripped the belt from his cargo shorts in an attempt to fashion a lifting harness for her hand. We lifted her up and down no fewer than ten times. It was blistering hot in the parking lot. I knew it was burning the woman with each attempt, if not breaking her legs. I asked about an ambulance and should have insisted on calling one.

Honestly, though, I cannot express the pain I felt for the man as he struggled with a total stranger like me. He struggled to maintain his composure and sanity as the situation became more and more outrageous. I knew how sharply he was feeling the concern for the woman, while simultaneously being embarrassed and upset. He told me I could leave and that he appreciated the help. It made me wince even more.

On our last attempt, the woman’s sundress went completely up to the waist, leaving her exposed. I could not imagine a worse predicament for either the man or the woman. The woman, though, wouldn’t know it had happened unless someone tells her later.

After a long interval, Dawn came outside and watched as we continued to struggle. I wanted to both run and burst into tears. The man agreed that he might have to call an ambulance, even though I knew as he said it that he wouldn’t, for a variety of reasons.

The woman was curled into an unnatural ball in the passenger seat and floorboard, her limbs in seven distinct directions. The man was pushing at the small of her back, trying to keep her inside. He couldn’t do anything about her dress being around her waist.

“I’m not going to call an ambulance if you don’t want one, sir,” I told him, putting my hand on his back. He was in great shape for being in his late 50s or early 60s; It probably explains why he was still making the attempt.

We gave one more try to push the woman far enough inside. It looked impossible, but she was ‘inside’ in the most loosely defined way possible. The man told me he’d pile her in there like a spilled bag of oranges if he had to. Without exaggeration, I think about 15 minutes passed between the first time I picked the woman up from the floor and leaving.

I said a few things to get him to reconsider. I don’t remember exactly what I said because I was upset, whether I showed it much or not. As Dawn and I left, we drove around the lot so that I could see that the man hadn’t dropped her. Thankfully, he was standing by the Jeep, looking at the ground, a look of despair on his face. I was trying to picture what it might look like when he got her back to her house or his house or wherever they would end up.

I turned right and went the long way around, trying to convince myself to go ahead and call the police or an ambulance. If a police officer had been patrolling, I would have. None was to be seen. It was a relief in a way. Those two people have unimaginable problems in their lives. I don’t know who they are – or even the man’s name.

Dawn told me as we drove away that the woman walked into the restaurant without assistance. It confirmed my suspicion that alcohol had mixed with something else.

I can’t tie this story up into a neat little bow yet. I’ll let you know how mad I become at myself for helping. I’m glad I helped when someone needed it. I feel a deep sadness for the man who was put into that situation. I know nothing about who he is or his relationship to the woman. The not knowing makes it easier for me to avoid anger at the woman. My youthful exposure to so much alcoholism and addiction sometimes brings up a vengeful eye in me and it is something I struggle with when I’m around the consequences of someone who desperately needs help but won’t accept it.

I forgot to mention one key detail: it was an unfortunate choice of days for the woman to fail to wear underwear.

Of Love’s Comprehension

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Nothing is entirely real, not even much of our memory. We revisit the places of our past and often find our footing slightly unfamiliar.

Emotion and bias tinge everything, a spreading patina of ink from a single drop. The more desperately we cling to our version of events, the less firm is our ability to live a life worthy enough to satisfy us. The emotional context which surrounds us shapes our ability to recall objectively what precedes us.

My parents were a volatile mix of temper and tantrum and no one could be an innocent bystander. To be a witness meant participation was mandatory and choosing sides wasn’t optional. There was no Switzerland in the households of my youth.

Yet, my parents chose to marry each other again, despite their long and violent history and while ignoring incredulous scrutiny from friends and family. Both had married other people during their marital hiatus and neither found adversaries willing to suffer and share their scarring.

I’m guilty of allowing my own history with them to cloud my ability to see that somewhere out of my reach, they shared a connection with one another. While it was forged in years of anger, it was real to them. Alcohol, jealousy, and unhappiness were the fuels of their mutual fire. Both of them were adept at stockpiling these lesser tendencies for the upcoming fires that would rage. None of us was equipped with the right tools to combat their wildfires. Each of us tried and failed.

Mom and dad married on Feb. 12th, 1964 and again on Feb. 12th, 1993. Dad died 9 months later, once again with mom in his life and while trying to make his dream work, in a rural little gas station on the edge of highway 49. The gas station is gone and a field has enveloped even its memory. If my father has a ghost, these greening acres along a nondescript highway are one of its homes. Most of these stretches of rural America certainly feel as if they are inhabited by lost souls.

This picture is of us in 1993, at a small Lutheran church that still manages to survive today. Mom and Dad had just exchanged vows for the second time. Although Dad was visibly uncomfortable in the suit he was wearing, he was at home with mom once again in his corner. Twenty-five long years have intervened. The church sits defiantly and almost directly across the road from the gas station dad attempted to make successful during two tries in his lifetime. Small communities need churches to bond them, serving both spiritual and mundane connections. Many of us in this world converged upon that small church in different stages of our lives; most of us have at least a few memories that are rendered opaque and wistful by having done so.

None of the facts has changed, but I have. I’m a stranger in the lands of my memories and I take comfort in my distorted reflection.

Somehow, experience has wrapped me in its strange embrace and violently shaken me. Not only is the sum of my parts now more than whole, but things I knew and things in my field or ignorance have exchanged residency.

I’m not certain of anything anymore.

Yet, paradoxically, I think that it might bring me greater happiness to see a fuzzy world instead of one sharply focused by my own opinions and experience.

The gas station and church both left footprints somewhere inside me, just as my parents did. I struggle with the same forces now that tormented me when I was younger. I learned ways to mitigate the disaster of my upbringing. There was no easy road or prolonged escape from the lessons I learned involuntarily.

I can see immeasurable violence in those whispering the word ‘love’ openly in the world and compassion in the eyes of someone with snarled lip and ready fist. I saw both in Carolyn and in Bobby Dean, the people who played the roles of my parents.

Love’s mystery is that it flourishes at all, as we teeter on the edge of loss at every moment.

Love, X
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A Song I Wrote To Amuse Myself (NSFW Language)

 

I made this from a friend’s social media. She posted a short video of her scaring her husband. Something about it tickled my funny bone.

Instead of obsessing over making the song in my head, I made something that would scratch the itch of wanting to do ‘something’ without spending 15 hours making a song I’d end up hating.

 

I laugh at this one!

 

X

 

 

Furlongs Per Fortnight

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Assuming that everyone has the same frame of reference is a problematic concept. Some people, like me, measure speed in ‘furlongs per fortnight,’ which is an actual speed measurement. MPH might be more convenient, but not nearly as interesting or capable of inspiring fits of math, a condition shared by most school children and all rational adults.

The security guard ran past me as I stood near the main lobby. I use ‘ran’ in the loosest sense of the word. If he were a cheetah, he would be an arthritic three-legged one.

30 seconds later, he half-jogged to the main door and stopped, his love of donuts now severely impairing his ability to continue on whatever chase occupied him.

After a few heaving breaths, he asked me, “X, did you see a woman run by here before I came by the first time?”

“Yes, I sure did.” A woman had nervously and quickly passed by me a minute before the security guard. She seemed to be fidgety, like someone trying to light a short fuse on a stick of dynamite. I assumed she had eaten in the cafeteria, a mistake often preceding a very quick and unexpected tightly-wound walk to the nearest bathroom.

The security guard impatiently followed up with another question. “What did she look like, X?”

“Well, her hair looked like Tourette Syndrome would look if it were a visual thing instead of an auditory one.” It seemed like it was the most distinguishing thing about her.

I now realize that the security guard was unaccustomed to descriptions by allegory, however, as he rolled his eyes and waved his hand dismissively.

As he headed back around for another look, I shouted after him, “She also had on pants that reminded me of an LSD-inspired fractal!”

It seemed like the only thing I could do to help him.
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Spices and Altercations for $1000, Alex

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I made a quick trip to the store. As always, things go awry. In this case, though, the maelstrom didn’t involve me. I was just a witless witness.

I stood near the spices, admiring the universe of flavorful options. Not only was my mouth watering, but also so were my eyeballs. (Though the detail adds nothing to this story, I highly recommend both the chipotle bacon and garlic jalapeño seasoning.) I can eat cardboard with the right spices or sauces. My wife would testify that I, in fact, often do, given my irreverence for what constitutes ‘food.’

Voices rose, obviously in dissent, and probably emanating from a nearby and unseen aisle. In a few moments, an employee of the dubious retailer walked into my peripheral vision, taking small steps backward, yet still barking at someone I couldn’t yet see. As he stopped, an older woman approached from the other side of the endcap of the aisle. Her finger stabbed the air in irritation as she spoke. She was adamantly demanding that the employee go self-procreate and accompanied by his terrible attitude, even though her recommendation was couched in both vernacular and anatomically specific language.

It should have been awkward to witness, given the venom in the air. It wasn’t, though. It was more like Live TV and comparable to the scene which ensues when the three guys attempting to put the alligator in the SUV suddenly find themselves being violently schooled by an uncooperative lizard.

I laughed. Both the woman and the employee took a moment to throw quick glances of scorn my way and then turned on one another again.

Since neither of them had swords, daggers, nor jousting sticks, I assumed the scene was safe. At least for me.

Exactly .5 seconds later, a man wearing an industrial uniform approached and stepped in front of the woman. She stopped her malevolent incantations. His arms were hanging directly down, probably to signal a benign intervention.

He spoke to the retail employee. “Sir, did you bring a mop with you?”

“What? Why do I need a mop?” the employee asked. “No one told me there was a spill.”

“If you keep talking to people the way you were just talking to this lady, I’m going to mop the floor with you.” He didn’t even wait for the employee to reply. He turned to the woman and said, “I’m so sorry. I think I fixed your problem.” He walked away, perhaps to right another wrong. If he wore a cape, it was well concealed.

The employee continued to stand at the opposite end of the aisle. His face was becoming increasingly redder. It seemed like his head was expanding as it did so and I feared his glasses might burst from his face like shrapnel if it persisted.

When I went to check out, I could see the employee near the end of the register area, animatedly telling his story to another obviously disinterested co-worker. His arms waved and moved like a broken windmill as he spoke. I’m not sure what version of the truth he was telling but I was certain his eyes were keeping watch for the mysterious man in uniform as he did so.