Category Archives: Project

Saturday Morning

It’s such a beautiful October morning. It’s 73 now, which is hard to complain about. It’s overcast and the wind is blowing, eddying the leaves across the unkempt parking lot. It’s difficult to not be introspective standing on the landing observing it.

I’m working hard to remember all the things I have to be grateful for. I’ll return to work soon, which is both a blessing and a concern. My current tally for medical bills is 65-70K. It’s better to have the bills than to not have woken up after emergency surgery – there’s no doubt about that! It will wipe me out, of course. This not only reminds me that I wish we all had universal health care, but that any of us, at any time, can be subject to the caprice and whims of our bodies and the universe. I’m foolish because I’ve preached this lesson for years, to people who privately didn’t believe it. Everything is eventual.

My cat Güino is taking his job as a litter-scatterer very seriously, using his large paws to trap a surprising amount of litter. Previously, he stalked around on carpet. Wood vinyl floors start to look like a sandy beach with a nervous cat prowling around exploring. He’s getting old, but I’m considering teaching him to walk on a leash. I know, good luck, right? I have a neighbor who walks his cat on a leash like a dog. Either that or I’m high from all the cannabis wafting around here.

The other picture is a screenshot of some of the wi-fi networks. I have a “Stepbrothers” fan, as well as a fan of… hazy oblivion. “Porn Freak” comes up regularly, too. Noticeably absent is the drug dealer who always finds a place in most apartments. “Find Jesus” popped up twice, perhaps in response to, and as a reminder of, the others. I’m going to have to change mine again. I’ll pick something boring. 🙂

The third picture is of one of the two windowsills I completely redid to not only fix the horrid condition of the previous sills but also to expand and support a wider sill for plants. And now, fortuitously, a prowling cat. The backside of the apartment complex is indeed a wilderness. I’m glad I live on the second floor. You’d have to be crazy to live on the bottom level. I’ll have to be creative in the big front window. Previously, I built a privacy blocker for the bottom of the large front window, which is just a foot off the floor. I flipped it so that Güino can perch there if he wishes. I’ll have to get creative to recruit more birds to the feeder. My neighbor has a monopoly on all of them with the draw of a vast variety of plants and feeders. Güino is accustomed to up-close and personal views of plants, squirrels, and birds. I’m sure my ex-wife is going to get up and miss seeing him at the various vantage points of the old house. The squirrels, however, will probably enjoy the privacy.

The last picture is of Güino perching behind the desk and on the flipped window guard. It’s a contrast having a black and white tuxedo cat in comparison to all the colors here.

Love, X

Sling Blade Scenario DIY Kit

Well, I finally finished my ultimate art project, one celebrating one of the best movies of all time: Sling Blade.

Now, if I find myself in a Sling Blade scenario, I have a tool handy for the Doyles of the world.

It’s a brilliant piece of art, if I do say so myself.

Yes, that is a real lawnmower blade in the kit.

Love,
Karl aka X

Rainbow Lightning

This lamp was one of many of my side projects. I found the original child’s lamp at a thrift store. It was the one with the ornate and fascinating lampshade that I donated back to the store before leaving. I stripped it to pieces, took off the rough edges, and painted it a nice crazy pink color, reassembled it, and installed a Happy Light bulb in it. If you look closely at the lamp, you’ll see I left the pacifier on the end of the pull chain. I intended to put a firecracker bulb in it, similar to the one I left at my old house. A kind friend gave me one of the bulbs and knew that I would love to experiment with it.

Apps control these bulbs; when you play music, the bulb pulsates, oscillates, and changes color, intensity, and tempo with the music. When I have it on with the LED strips above my kitchen, it probably looks like rainbow lightning from the outside.

You can buy a minimalist lamp base and a bulb like this for less than $20, if such a thing interests you. Everyone should have one for visitors, especially when you’re ready for them to leave. Tell them, “I don’t like night lights. I sleep with this…” And then hit them with the polychromatic seizure-inducing light show. Tell your Aunt Hazel I said, “You’re welcome.”

I wish I could have a place filled with 140 colors, all of them competing. I love sleek minimalist design and color, too; it speaks to me.

But color? It makes me feel like the world matches the inside of me.

I’m calculating whether I can unscrew all the vertical banister rails of my landing and paint them red. “It was that way when I got here,” MIGHT be believable, right? It does amuse me to think about just going wild in this apartment and painting everything. I was promised that the apartment would be completely repainted before I moved in; it wasn’t. I could blame it on the handyman. The likelihood of him still being employed by the landlords gets increasingly smaller as time passes. 🙂

Knowing I took something old and rejuvenated with my energy tickles me, too.

I do hope they appreciate the body outline I’ve created on the floor between the kitchen and living bedroom.

I have more tiles drying outside. One of them is fluorescent green, otherwise known as the alien puke color. It’s lovely.

Love, X6All suggestions

A Bit Of Me And My Day

I wrote a heart-wrenching post and story today. This isn’t it. 🙂

After writing yesterday about coincidences, a couple of big ones popped up, like fish jumping out of the water and into the boat. It’s a bit mesmerizing, seeing unrelated things – and people’s stories – merge and overlap. A couple of these surprise coincidences were related to people having connections that I previously didn’t know about. Another was finding out that people had an entirely hidden life. (Or so they thought. People always know. And once people die, their stories become liquid and slide out of people’s mouths with greater ease.)

For those who take the time to share their stories, it is appreciated. Seriously. As with pictures, I love that people trust me with their tales and (often) invisible biographies. It adds a lot of value to my life. More so now than ever.

I made a huge pot of homemade chili yesterday. The apartment smells fantastic for once. 🙂 I’ll avoid the obvious joke here.

Yesterday and today, I painted several long floor tiles. Yesterday’s were cobalt metallic blue; today’s are deep, bright red. Instead of lacquering the deplorable countertops, I’m placing a series of tiles across some of the sections. I’m using felt on the bottom if such things interest you.

These also allow me to put hot pans all over the place, even if I’m not cooking. It’s essential to keep people guessing.

I also installed a hallway light where one didn’t previously exist. I was so spoiled at my last house. Because I planned, I had extensive photos of the house being built, including all the plumbing, wiring, and extraneous studs and braces in the walls. I have to be extra careful, like a barbarian, in this old apartment.

Though I won’t go into details, some of my overconfidence and previous exposure to violence finally worked on my behalf. I took a risk and confronted someone who needed a reminder of what constitutes civilized behavior. Shockingly, something in my eyes or deadpan delivery got through to him. I don’t know about y’all, but a whispered intention carries much more power than a shouted one. It is one of the few things that my Dad’s meanness resulted in a payoff for me. I don’t invoke it often. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t foresee a trainwreck if I didn’t risk it. It was a small victory and will add a little peace to a few people’s lives. There’s no need for me to understand the person’s cruelty. Sometimes I forget that. It just needs to stop, and there are times when playing it safe sometimes makes it less so.

My backings and kits to make my own brooches arrived. I’m sure all of you have thought, “X really needs a lot more brooches.” Realistically, it’s cheaper to convert pendants and other items into brooches than it is to buy brooches. And it might be fun. I’ll let you know after I’ve stabbed myself sixteen times. Or tried soldering, only to melt my fingertips. Fortunately, I have insurance for my failures. It doesn’t hurt to have a jewelry expert handy when I have several dumb questions.

In another project, I learned that you can use vodka instead of perfumer’s alcohol when making your own eau de toilette or eau de cologne. In other news, perfumer’s alcohol is a real thing. Unlike perfumer’s alcohol, at least you can drink the vodka if you botch an attempt at making your own eau du toilette. The confounding aspect of this project is that I haven’t worn any cologne or scent since the Jurassic Era.

I got a surprise gift of Ghiradelli Sea Salt Soiree dark chocolates. I’ve been craving chocolate lately. They’re small enough I can’t overdo it. Well, I shouldn’t say “can’t.”

My weird set of stainless steel rainbow bowls arrived today. They are ridiculous. And I love them.

I got an extended free trial of Walmart +, which includes home delivery. I realized how much time and effort I was expending shopping and lugging groceries. Until you’ve carried 22 34-oz diet tonic water bottles and 30+ cans of fruits and vegetables, you don’t realize how much exercise this is. My first order didn’t include any refrigerated items. The next one will.

Fingers crossed and elbows oiled! (That’s one of my phrases, a reminder to be hopeful but be willing to get to work.)

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my wife Deanne’s death. I’m not one to memorialize as much on the “day of.” I’d rather have nostalgic moments pop into my head unbidden. Memories can be like beloved books; on the shelf, waiting. Being divorced has pushed me to take a more complex look at the phases of my life; her death put a sharp boundary and divide in my life. I’m reminded that I survived the turmoil. Part of my secret was not to wait for life to come to find me again. Despite all my trouble, most of my own making, I wonder.

Love, X

The Color Box

I haven’t made a similar box in a LONG time; they take a lot of time, depending on the desired level of lunacy and intricacy. I’ve made them with hidden compartments, lever locks, plain, and in all manner of geometric shapes.

This one isn’t quite finished. It’s about 90%.

This one has a partial wooden dowel structure hidden inside a large cardboard box. The ‘lid’ is a decorative piece I stripped, painted, and attached hinges to. Each side is covered in various pictures: people, places, goofy photoshops, and keepsake memories. All of that is covered by a mile of pristine clear tape.

If you’re wondering how much time I spent getting to this point, you should just think of Stonehenge. After a few minutes of doing this sort of thing, I disappear a little bit into the effort. I don’t concentrate on the final result, in part because I often don’t know what it might be.

Yes, I jittered all the images on the box. It’s a thing that must be seen in person.

It’s not something most people would want.

It is interesting as hell to see, though, like a carnival ride on fire. 🙂

Love, X

Color 4 Life

I’ve missed Mr. Taco Loco.

The mundane laziness of distance infects me. In The Before, as I call it, I drove miles out of my way to enjoy the eatery’s healthy chicken and pico de gallo extravaganzas, either in Springdale or Fayetteville. The truth is that it’s just not convenient to drive to MLK, much less to Springdale. Quick minds will point out I’ve walked past it during the nights the Wanderer calls me to leave my apartment and walk for miles.

I’m spoiled by time and distance now, living in the midst of so much and so many. Since I don’t bring unhealthy things home to eat, it’s easier than ever to eat without much thought. I’ve tried to incorporate more from the work cafeteria; it’s ironic that now that I could eat there more, their selection has diminished to a series of undesirable options from which I can choose. You’d imagine that a medical cafeteria would be predominantly healthy, especially since visitors can’t use it, thanks to Covid. You’d be wrong.

After stopping at a couple of flea-markety boutiques today, I realized that I could easily have 19 projects going if I didn’t deliberately choose a couple at a time. Yesterday was a barrage of creative and practical projects. The last boutique I visited had a nice collection of brooches. One of the workers there commented profusely about the polychromatic hummingbird I had pinned to my bright orange-red shirt. Several people commented at work. I’ve amassed a large number of explanations for why I’m wearing brooches. It’s amusing to know that people are taking an extra-long look and wondering, “Why is he wearing THAT?” Most people are inquisitive and interested. I’m not expecting a resurgence in brooch popularity anytime soon, though.

It was at that point my stomach said, “Hey, you might want to eat at some point!” In my defense, I did have a bag of PopChips earlier and a cup filled with baby carrots and hot sauce for breakfast.

I went to Tacos 4 Life. Despite its reputation for being a little pricey, I entered intending to find something delicious and healthy. Given that I no longer worry about looking dumb, I asked questions. Lo and behold, they offer lettuce beds instead of tortillas. Since I have two CASES of PopChips in the car, along with a large bottle of Tajin seasoning, I came prepared. Opting for the grilled chicken taco deal, minus the sour cream, cheese, and other needless ingredients, I was pleasantly surprised when the cashier said, “Oh, health care worker discount!” Total? A little over $12. That might sound like a lot – but I can’t go to a Tex-Mex place without spending $20 thanks to my pico de gallo addiction.

The cashier brought me chips and salsa. Or it was supposed to be. He got queso and chips instead.

“You can keep the queso. I’ll bring a bunch of salsa for you.” He noticed my large bottle of Tajin. “Wow, you brought your own spice.”

I offered some to him and explained its history. He was intrigued.

I finished my meal, beyond satisfied by volume and flavor.

Going up to the cashier, I handed him my large bottle of Tajin.

“This is for you. Give it an honest try. It surprises people. And I’d love to be the one who makes you a life-long fan of the stuff. I eat it on just about everything.”

He told me about his everyday supper and promised he’d try it later.

I surprised him. It’s nice being able to surprise people.

I went home and started another project, a custom paper trash receptacle to go by my desk. It’s going to be made out of a cardboard box, at least 500 sheets of differently-colored paper, and two miles of clear tape. People have told me that I sometimes look like Rainman when I’m engaged in these sorts of tedious and labor-intense projects. I’ll have to decide whether this box will be a 5-hour effort or 15. Keep in mind that in the picture, this is just the first stage of craziness.

But? I’m full of good food and creative energy. Doing 1,500 pushups yesterday and not sleeping well for two nights didn’t drain me yet.

As long as I can surprise people, there might be hope for me yet.

There’s a blog link to a sample of my previous box decorating.

Love, X

“I am bent, but not broken.” – X

I recently learned a little bit of Nepali to be able to surprise the clerks at a local convenience store. It’s already lead to some interesting interactions. It started with a clerk who was very reluctant to accept a tip of any kind when I bought lottery tickets.

Today, I was reminded of the interconnectedness of… well… everything.

I went to a local thrift store in search of a lamp I could disassemble, paint, and repurpose. Within 10 seconds, I found an interesting lime green children’s lamp, one with an ornate inset lampshade. Looking around, nothing else drew my eye. Getting into the long line to checkout, a woman stood in front of me with an adorable little brown-eyed girl. A minute later, another woman walked up to talk to the woman in front of me. She then stepped behind me. I turned and said, “Please go in front and stand with your friend. There’s no hurry here.” I wasn’t sure how much English she spoke, so I gestured dramatically. She thanked me and did so. The first woman turned and said something I didn’t understand. On a whim, I said “How are you?” in my weird accent in Nepali. Her eyes lit up and she rattled off something really long. I pulled my mask down and smiled, telling her that “How are you” was the only phrase I knew well. The little girl looked up at me and smiled. I said, “Hello” to her and although she did a little dance when I spoke to her, she then turned shyly away.

I wasn’t sure if the universe was trying to tell me that Nepali is in my future or if I needed to expand my narrow range a bit further.

Paying for the lamp, I asked if the clerk could take the ornate shade and resell it. “Yes! Thank you.” She then asked what I was going to do with the lamp base. The man behind me listened and said, “Well, that’s interesting.” So we all spent a few moments chatting. The clerk asked me if I sold the things I made. I laughed. I did appreciate the implied compliment though.

On the way out, the young man who’d been standing in the front calculating the cost of the few items he had temporarily placed on a table was still thinking. I put a $10 bill on the table and lied. “Someone gave this to me accidentally. It’s yours.” He looked confused – just long enough for me to hastily walk away and out the doors before he could respond.
.
…different topics…
.
I channeled my anxiety into overcoming the illusion that I couldn’t do more than 1,111 pushups today. Doing 500 by 6 a.m. signaled that it would be stupid to waste the opportunity. Lying in the bed and on the floor last night, sleepless, I knew I should have jumped up and gone outside to greet the Wanderer. Had I done so, today would have been a normal pushup today.
Now, though? I broke my record again. I’d like to thank the academy, my pushup obsession, as well as lingering anxiety for making it all possible.
.
.
I bought an outside light for my apartment door today. Opting against anything too interesting due to the likelihood of surprises ‘under the hood,’ so to speak, I didn’t want to risk buying a waterfall or prism light. After cleaning and disassembling the children’s lamp I purchased, I loosened the outside light screws. They were just screwed into the vinyl siding without a circuit box. Not exactly a surprise. A couple of days I’d seen a wasp go behind the light base into the vinyl. I used my sprayer to douse the area. Prior to loosening the screws, I pounded on the vinyl 2-3 feet in every direction, just to be safe. I stood on my upside-down Home Depot bucket. Just as I pulled the wires out, several wasps angrily swarmed out. They weren’t saying “Hello.” They were saying, “You’re dead, _______!” How I avoided getting stung is a good question. I swatted as I jumped off the bucket. I hit a couple and knocked them to the wood decking. After a few seconds, the remaining ones flew off. Though I value life, I stomped the daylights out of those I’d somehow stunned by hitting them with my hand.

I sprayed more insecticide into the hole around the wires. While I waited, I gave the lamp parts a second coat.

As I did, the hummingbirds came within two feet of me, watching, and then darting slightly up to the hummingbird feeder to grab lunch. They chatted and cheeped at one another as they did so.

I made homemade pizza; instead of sauce, I used Wickle’s hoagie spread. It’s hotter than a mom’s temper after a missed curfew, but delicious. I put the laundry in the machines down in the dungeon disguised as the laundry area for the apartments.

Sometime in the last few minutes, my prisms have washed the deck with several hundred little rainbow dots. The wall with the terrible light fixture is awash in them.

I’m going to go turn the power off now. I’ll change the horrible inside switch and put the new fixture outside.

I’ll let you know if the wasps even the score. If you hear screaming, it’s me.

Love, X

Intentions

“When consequences come knocking, intentions ring hollow.” – X

Each of us has a personal narrative in our heads, one in which events seem linear and inevitable. We impose meaning and logic on the process of our lives. The truth is often that we are fooling ourselves. Examining our decisions and what we’ve done, it is obvious that we must conclude that we’re likely clueless about what pulls our levers.

I’m 54 and found myself shocked and surprised by some of the things I didn’t know about myself. I’m fortunate, even though I broke things getting to some of the conclusions. A lot of people around me didn’t survive the discovery process of seeing just how badly (or well) they could do things. Even as I grimace in recognition of some of the consequences I’ve caused, I try to remind myself that at least I’m alive long enough to do them. Getting older usually brings that pang of “What was I thinking?” while also shouting “You can’t change the past.” I think that’s why most of us go deaf when we get older. We’ve heard it all before and often at high volume.

An example of a harsh reminder? These fourteen $1 bills, each signifying a year that I was around for Xmas after my wife Deanne died – and when my ex-wife found me again. Talk about the long game! The first year, I saved a dollar bill and told my ex-wife, “Each year, we’ll sign another one, along with the year.” The first yuletide, it was a lonely dollar hanging like a wreath. By last year, it was fourteen. Honestly, even though it was my creative idea, I think it was sublimely fabulous.

That’s how you build a life – one little increment at a time, errors and right choices mixed unequally.

And then, consequences.

I took the dollar wreath with me when I jettisoned into another life. It’s a poignant reminder to find ways to celebrate life, in small ways and large. The last year proved to me that it is possible to be successful and a failure simultaneously. My intentions to find a better way to finish my life also led me to stumble into an alternate timeline, one I hadn’t anticipated. Against the backdrop of what could have been, it is a jab. But it is also an admission that I’m sometimes stupid and incapable.

It’s a little ironic that money, dollar bills, were what I chose to mark the passage of shared time. Money is the illusion that powers so much of what we do, even though we all know that everything that lights us up is intangible and invisible.

Though I’m not sure why I wrote this post, I know someone will find value in the idea. Odds are that someone reading this has a surprising year ahead of them, one they couldn’t predict. They’ll think that they have a handle on their choices.

Life will of course notice them and roll a boulder down the hill for them to remind them that most of this isn’t predictable. If you’re lucky, you will find value in the breaking. That’s your only choice, anyway. Things ARE going to break in a long arc of surprises. Most of us are lucky enough to not have it all break consecutively; we have time between to consider and reassess.

Though I claim not to believe in karma, I also tip each time I buy lottery tickets. It’s brought me a lot of stories and surprises, so in that sense, it has already paid off. It’s a pain to hoard this wreath and it’s also a pain to let it go. But I am a minimalist and know that all these things will soon enough be left behind by me. In an optimistic nod to the universe, I’m going to put these dollars back into circulation by buying lottery tickets. If I win, my promise still stands: I will use almost all the money to surprise other people. And if I don’t win, I am left with the optimism that I could have. It tickles me to think that these dollars will be in circulation, traveling in potentially infinite directions.

Intentions do matter, but we live with consequences.

Don’t read this post and forget that, at its heart, it is optimistic. I don’t understand people who can’t hold the disparate ideas of joy and wistful loss in their hearts, entwined like twin siblings.

I’m writing this after a blissful night of sleep, something that wasn’t always easy for me. And, in theory, I could be a millionaire. 🙂

It’s about 4 a.m. so I have to answer the call of the wanderer. Maybe you’ll see me out on the streets, in the unlikely event you’re wandering, too?

Love, X

The Color Of My Life


My new polychromatic shower curtain is here. It’s part of what has made this old apartment lack a bit of accustomed craziness. It’s a large, high-resolution mix of words, symbolism, and ideas. I can’t take a picture of the whole curtain as it hangs, given the reduction of my bathroom, so I’ve included a draft image.


A few of my favorite “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” words adorn it: zenosyne, oleka, onism, and sonder. IF you’re not familiar with this, visit it on the internet and YT channel. I envy everyone who visits with fresh eyes.


There are two phoenixes on this shower curtain, and for a good reason. One is depicted as a live phoenix. The other is in transition next to an “X” in fiery metamorphosis, taking seven flying birds with it.


Along the top, there is an “X,” alongside Earth hanging on a bow, adjacent to an incomplete infinity symbol and the words “thank you.” It’s a reminder that time is short and that I have a world of choices if I dare and have a grateful heart. I’ve learned that if I can breathe through the flareups of doubt with hope in my head, things will probably work out well. And if they don’t, I still have only two choices: move or don’t.


There are also a couple of dozen other symbols and imagery, many of them hidden from casual viewing. Some of them are deliberately misleading, but all of them are added with hope and delight. None are metaphors for ill will or negativity. .

Today Only

Someone is back at arts and crafts today. Y’all will be happy to know I haven’t significantly injured myself today. I did get my feelings hurt earlier but it wasn’t billable for Blue Cross, so it doesn’t count. Yesterday’s project with the window panel miraculously fit perfectly where it was supposed to. It was spa blue, similar to my car. As I put it in the window, I realized I’d probably always remember breaking a drillbit off on my shinbone while making that board.

These boards are for an old desk. I’d removed the raw wood top off it weeks ago, as it wouldn’t fit through a standard door. Because I’m dedicated to adding color (and more color) to things, I opted for a deep blue. It’s going to stand out like a streetwalker at Sunday lunch once the boards are on the desk. I’d like y’all to know that by the time I put these boards on the desk, I could have bought another desk for the same money. It’s not about the money. It’s about the likely brain damage I suffered as a child. (Insert confused laugh pause here.)

You can also see that I wisely have been painting and sawing (mostly) outside. It seemed prudent, given my approach to painting. It’s kind of like performance art. Residents and passersby alike tend to watch me while I’m out there. I’ve decided one of these days I’m going to go out there shirtless (and/or pantsless?) and just start spraying MYSELF. The lease does prohibit vehicle maintenance but shockingly omits spray painting oneself. Or self-immolation for that matter. I probably should do the landlord a favor and make a running list of things that occurred to me to do but aren’t forbidden.
.
.
PS No matter where you are, take a moment and think of your friends and family and who might need a word of comfort. Reach out and listen. I was reminded yesterday that what we see is no gauge of how someone is really doing. And the smart creative ones are often undetectable in their protective bubbles. It breaks my heart to know that people are in so much pain. I write a lot of nonsense but the other half of me is zeroed into the holes I have – and those I see in others.

.
.
“My mom cursed so much that the Navy paid her to train the recruits how to do it properly.” – X
.
.
I often pause when I read the phrase “SERIOUS INJURY,” as if there is an alternate and opposite “COMEDIC INJURY.” (For the person suffering I mean – we all find humor in watching someone else get hit with an anvil.)
.
.
I don’t know the attribution, but someone sent me this, saying it sounded like something I had written on my blog: “Discipline is cheap compared to how expensive regret can be.”
.
.
I hope you’re happy, wherever you are. And if not, that you run outside right now and laugh at the sky.
.
.
Look up, not down.