Category Archives: Springdale

A Funny Burial Anecdote

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This is a truish story and names have been changed to confuse the guilty.

A famous writer, an author of at least 20 books, died in Springdale a few days ago. He was well-known for his sense of humor and dry wit. At my recommendation, his family went to a funeral home of which I speak highly. Although he usually doesn’t do so, the funeral director Scott offered to view potential cemetery plots with the family, even though he hadn’t yet met them and didn’t know the recently deceased. His dedication to customer service is quite legendary. I doubt he would have helped me had he not owed me a huge favor – but that’s a story for another day.

The family chose to visit Bluff Cemetery in Springdale. The place is known for its beauty and proximity to the creek running through downtown. Scott pulled in behind the new Cadillac the family of the deceased arrived in. The Springdale Parks worker had already arrived in a white pickup, his camera and clipboard in hand.

After the family exited the car and straightened their respective ties and dresses, Scott accompanied them to the periphery of the cemetery, situated below the overhanging trees. It was certainly a beautiful spot.

To make small talk, Scott nervously asked the family about the deceased. “What did your loved one do for a living?” he asked.

The youngest son answered, “Our dad was a famous writer. You’ve never heard of him?” He seemed surprised. “In fact, all of us are writers.”

“No, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know him or know of him. I read a lot, though.” Scott wasn’t sure what else to say.

The parks employee pointed out the available spots and mentioned that the price was adjusted, based on the reduced size of the plots. “We can dig with much more accuracy than we once could,” he added.

After a moment of silence, the youngest daughter looked along the edge of the cemetery where there were remaining spots available, seemingly measuring their size by her careful steps. She immediately started shaking her head.

“This simply won’t do. Not at all. Dad was too important of a writer to tolerate this kind of mistake.” She seemed agitated.

“How so?” Scott immediately asked.

“The plot’s too thin!” The daughter said, and then laughed loudly.

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PS Writers always get the last laugh.

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Springdale and Slartibartfast

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Later today, the throngs will be clogging the streets. Children will be studiously deaf to their parents demands to stop running, stay close, and to not touch things. Springdale is having its huge tree lighting ceremony, followed by the parade along Emma Avenue. For now, though, this downtown Christmas spectacle is mine. All that’s missing is a tinge of cold but its absence is a continued blessing as I wander the streets. Both sides of Emma are adorned with lit decorations, even at 4 in the morning. While there aren’t as many lights as I have in my living room, it’s still beautiful in the clear air. The stars were obscured by a thin cover of clouds. I didn’t care, though, because when you are enjoying something, it is as if the stars are shining inside. With the brilliance of the Xmas lights along Emma, it was easy to overlook.

I stood next to the massive downtown tree, admiring its wide ornaments. Later today, a thousand people will surround its base, waiting for the moment when the tree comes alive with dazzling light. I’ve already seen it though, this morning, in my imagination. Compared to that moment of imagining, its lights will be slightly faded. I can hear the murmur of contentment and possibly applause from the crown which will gather. This tree is another one of the great choices Springdale continues to make as it moves forward. Such spectacles are greater than the sum of the effort which created them.

Approaching the façade of the Apollo Theatre, I was singing along with “I Know What I Know” by The Monkees. Louder than expected, I learned. Someone popped out of the obstructed entrance to the bail bond shop on the street front. I finished singing the verse and curtsied toward whoever it was. I heard a laugh, which leads me to believe they decided I wasn’t crazy or dangerous – just a terrible singer. The person went around the corner and climbed in an SUV parked on the side street. I’d like to think whoever it was turned on their radio and sang along as they left. It’s darned near impossible to be unhappy while singing along to music you love.

As I passed the horrendous waffle/thunderchicken logo on the Chamber of Commerce building, I laughed. I’m always nervous about staring at it too long, in case it causes a round of spasms or nausea. It is always my hope that someone will have compassion on this logo and throw a blanket over it. (A concrete blanket, if you have one.)

At the house next to the Masonic Lodge and opposite City Hall, I saw animals scampering. As I passed in front of the house which sits close to the street, I was delighted to see that there were 2 raccoons frolicking in the yard, bordered by a perversely short chain-link fence. I chatted and cooed toward the raccoons and they lowered their guard and once again began scampering about as if playing a November game in the leave-strewn yard, a game whose rules were undisclosed.

The Tyson building across the tracks is a beautiful building. I didn’t think so until now, possibly due to being mostly completed and seeing it in the minimal light of the early morning. Much to the horror of the design engineers, I’m convinced that it is best appreciated on the park side, rather than from Emma. The glass foyer would be ideal to yodel or play music if such a thing were permitted. For a moment, I wonder what our previous mayor, the one I nicknamed Mr. Mumbles, would think of all of the bustle and beautification. It’s likely he wouldn’t recognize the bones of this city – and that’s a great thing.

Before leaving, I took my Spanish copy of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and walked over to the mini-library disguised as an upright bicycle. Since I almost always carry index cards or a notepad, I took a card and wrote “Merry Xmas -Enjoy a meal on me. Love, Slartibartfast” on it. I put four $5 dollar bills with the card and tucked them inside the book and placed it inside the holder. (Slartibartfast is a character from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” if your life is too devoid of craziness to know. Next to “Beware of the leopard,” it’s one of the best words or phrases in our language.)

At home, I stood in the yard, watching the competing alternating tower beacons to the north. To the east, a large house decorated with Xmas lights illuminated the hillside. As the breeze caressed my face, I took a drink of coffee and felt a little sad for all the people who weren’t outside enjoying the spectacle of nothing special, even as it satisfied me. From behind me, I heard a meow and knew that my cat was peering at me through the gap in the office window.

If you have a few moments, drive through Emma and at least take a look at the tree dominating Shiloh Square. If not, take a moment and find a way to ignite something inside of yourself during the holiday season. Sing a song to a stranger, put vaseline in the slippers of your significant other, or watch for scampering raccoons in the most unlikely of places. Hide a gift where it might never be found, leave a present for someone you don’t know, or take someone you love or admire to the tree and share a moment. And, for the briefest of moments, imagine the ripples of these moments.

Love, Slartibartfast

 

 

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Brad Paisley Couldn’t Have Written This

The wind insisted on stealing my enthusiasm this morning. My cat Güino had already sounded the alarm several times until I reluctantly got up. He’s lucky I’m able to overcome my fleeting urge to punt him into the next room. But I walked, cutting through neighborhoods, watching as endless security lights flashed on the houses of uncaring and slumbering folks. A dog ran up to me at one point, without barking, and I petted him, checking him for a collar. He accompanied me a block and then stopped. I gave him a few more rubs and off he went. We were friends for a few minutes. It was a mutual exchange of pleasantries, although he didn’t reply to my mutterings.

Feeling the urge to buy nonsensical items that I ‘needed,’ I went to the larger Wal-Mart on the west side of town. While it wasn’t quite a ghost town at that hour, I could hear echoes of Adam Lambert crooning. I needed a few trinkets for my yuletide project, the one I started yesterday, even as Dawn eyed me with suspicion, uncertain as to the intended scale of my efforts. Had she asked, I would have replied, “Think of the Eiffel Tower – only larger.”

I cut through the wide expanse of the store, observing workers hollering instructions and banter at one another. The night shift and the people inhabiting it have their own patois and rhythm. I wasn’t going to need any assistance, so I knew this visit was going to be stress-free. One of the reasons I feel like a rich man is that there was nothing in the store I couldn’t buy if I really wanted it. It sounds a little trite and dumb but I’ve come to believe it more forcefully.Once I got home, my wife might hit me with the rolling pin she hides under the couch, that’s true, but I could get it out of the store if I had the urge.

While standing near the Xmas aisles, I began to hear some terrible music. (As a Glee fan, I’m familiar with terrible music. There can be joy in music better suited to mask a garbage truck as it does its crushing. Brad Paisley fans can nod their head in agreement with this, too, as his voice sounds exactly like Tim McGraw would if someone punched him in the throat.) It grew louder and louder. I, of course, began to wonder what toothless cretin was shopping at that hour and what possessed him to believe anyone would want to hear that claptrapper music. Words became distinct. In the space of a few seconds, I heard the “N-word” 3 times, then “bitch,” followed by the even worse permutation of the same sentiment. Whoever the singer was, he was attempting to mimic George Carlin and insert every potential curse world imaginable into his lyrics.

It’s important to keep in mind that I am totally unaffected by profanity unless it is couched in denigration or anger. Words are just words, after all. Expecting to see a camo-wearing weirdo come around the corner undoubtedly amplified the surprise of the listener’s identity.

The music reached a crescendo and a male employee, pushing a cart, came ambling up at 1 mph. He had a music box in his cart, one which pulsated blue in rhythm with the alleged music. It was cacophonous and startling to see that the perpetrator was a Wal-Mart employee. He was walking so slowly that even a National Geographic slow-motion camera would not have been capable of catching his movements. He seemed to be in a catatonic state, listening deeply to the garbage emanating from his music device.

Despite the surprise, I bid the gentleman good morning. He looked at me, and continued on his way, without any acknowledgment. I stood at the endcap, observing him. About 20 feet away, another employee approached the first and passed him. I could see that he was shaking his head in disapproval after passing the employee with the bad music. I could still hear the music plainly as the somnambulist worker shuffled down the main aisle. Why I picked up my phone and took a picture as this employee passed, I’m not sure. When I hit ‘click,’ though, I was horrified to note that my flash went off – twice. Luckily, no one turned to glare menacingly at me. I’ll note though, given the employee’s apparent molasses feet, there’s no way he would have been able to catch me.

During checkout, the cashier and the younger man behind me in line had a great time one-upping each other’s crazy quips. It sounds a little unbelievable, but I think the young man was lonely. On a whim, I jokingly pretended to introduce the cashier to him, inventing a short, fake bio to accompany the introduction. They both laughed. I walked away, wondering if my impromptu introduction might have created new friends.

After finishing shopping, I found a female employee who seemed to be in charge. I asked for the manager. She, of course, asked me the reason and I told it was a sensitive issue and would be better suited to be only said once – and to the manager. She radioed in and after a minute, a tall gentleman approached, his face reflecting the dread of yet another customer interaction. Were I myself a manager, I think I would rather eat from the floor of a crowded bus station bathroom than field complaints or questions.

I introduced myself, as I didn’t want to make an anonymous complaint. It seemed like it was worth it for me to complain in full view of the consequences. After I told him what happened, his eyes widened a bit and he told me, “I’ve had this problem before. I will definitely take care of it.” He seemed both relieved and pleased that I had told him. Whatever this manager’s background, he listened closely, the single most important trait when a customer comes forward to say something, no matter how barking-crazy the person might be.

I won’t divulge the other details of the conversation, as it was sensitive. For those who might criticize me, it’s difficult to explain why I complained. There were a couple of details I omitted. I’m almost certain that the employee listening to the profanity-laden ‘music’ at high volume was going to be fired. I’m equally certain that he was already not only skating on thin ice but carrying an anvil on his shoulders while he did so. I requested that he not be fired – that a compromise solution was available. Whether the manager would heed my request was up to him and he seemed too familiar with the mentioned employee already.

As I exited the Wal-Mart parking lot, I considered putting the windows down and blaring some Brad Paisley music, just to torture anyone unlucky enough to be on the west side of town at that hour.

Armadillo By Morning

Last night, my wife asked me how I choose where to walk next. I answered honestly that I had no clue. Most mornings, I seldom end up anywhere that I had intended. I could point out that my life has taken the same course, but for the moment, I’ll skip the cliché of a life without compass.

This morning, I lay in bed with the cat nipping my shin and toes for at least an hour. It was too early to get up, so I used my other foot to pet the cat until my calf muscle was insisting that I stop. I felt guilty for having delighted in petting a neighborhood cat last night, one we alternatively name “Marsha,” or “DevilCat.” Last night, as my wife and I sat on the bench in the front of the house, DevilCat darted around the corner and demanded affection. Our own cat Güino peered suspiciously and contemptuously through the bottom of the blinds as the intruder greeted us outside. This is the very same cat who screeched and hissed at the office window yesterday morning at 4 a.m. startling me as I sat there trying to navigate the complexity of getting both of my shoes on the correct feet at such an hour.  DevilCat’s eyes are hilariously large in the dark, like a teenage girl getting to order her first mocha frappuccino at Starbucks.  Marsha the DevilCat, as it turns out, is quite the friendly feline, despite having a demeanor which would frighten Freddie Krueger.

Although I left this morning with the intention of going to Emma to walk and check out the new goings-on (including the crater recently added at the first stop sign), I ended up in Lowell, along Goad Springs Road. North Goad Springs has a beautiful stretch of trail extending for a long distance. For no reason whatsoever, I parked across from the convenience store there, on an empty and graveled area near the road, and walked South instead, on a portion of the trail I had never walked. The trail below my feet was a wide expanse of modern concrete, a vague grey ribbon marked with intermittent yellow dashes that I could barely see. If only life would take a moment to give us such direction, even if only in the most dimly-lit way possible. (I promised clichés, remember?)

The first portion of the road there is dense and people have little cause to drive the road near the trail at that hour. It was a wide open sky, one without clouds but decorated by a hazy sliver of a moon above, in the shape of a cookie bitten once by an overzealous 5-year-old. It’s scenic and quite beautiful during the day; at night it is magnified into something beyond. I think I’m going to need to coin a word describing the overlap of differences between scenes during daylight and night, one which conveys the magic of both isolation and of something just about to happen at every moment. If other worlds exist, they certainly exist in the margins of what we think we see and no time of day is more prehistoric than the swath of minutes before sunrise.

Off to one side of the trail a solitary yard light last cast an orange sherbet glow, creating a diaphanous haze like one sometimes gets over one’s eyes coming out of the pool. I couldn’t see what the light was supposed to be illuminating. For me, it was simply an unexpected orange beacon casting thousands of beams of light into the trees and brush as I walked by.

At the first bridge at the curve at the bottom of the valley, the temperature dropped precipitously as if 17 ghosts sneaked up on me to send a shiver down my spine. (Ghosts always travel in odd numbers, if you were wondering.) It was as the valley hadn’t gotten the message that it was still warm above.

As I exited the valley and began my slow climb it was startling to see on my left a huge reminder of civilization in the form of a multi-floor building off in the distance. It was comprised of 200 stacked and similar brightly-lit rooms, all of them lit unnecessarily.  I imagined that a mischievous janitor had run through the building, flipping all the lights on for his own amusement. In his defense, no one would stop him. Why all the lights were on was a mystery I thought about for a moment and forgot as I moved past.

And just like that, before I’d even settled into the idea of possibly being tired, a huge construction crane towered above me, against the night sky. I couldn’t believe that I had already reached the unlikely intersection of the trail, the interstate, and the area where the new East-West corridor above Springdale met them. As I walked under the interstate, the whump-whump of the vehicles passing above created the otherworldly post-apocalyptic feeling that I had anticipated. It brought to mind a period over 30 years ago in the mid-80s, when the interstate was being built and still referred to as “The Bypass.” We weren’t sure what it was bypassing. And we certainly had no idea that such a road would transform every aspect of our lives in this corner of the state. Even back then, in another incarnation, I spent many nights running, walking and biking on those unfinished lanes, even when they were still just miles of compressed gravel. It’s a memory that I cherish and one that is almost impossible to replicate in today’s more modern world, governed by strange ideas of safety and caution. I owned those roads then and in some way, I still own them. The great cycle of time has provided me with a way to relive those hours in the dark, all the while experiencing new incarnations of the same fleeting feeling of isolation in the midst of so much.

Before deciding to turn back, I walked under the mammoth overpass of the new road, stopping to look straight up and feel the dizzy recognition of immensity. The twinkling stars above it and me provided the perfect backdrop. It would have been the best possible picture to have somehow captured the perspective of it. Providing no catastrophe strikes, in a blink of an eye in the course of time, someone will stand in the same spot, years from now, seeing the same sight I did this morning.

Doubling back and retracing my steps I had forgotten that the cool valley would be waiting for me. It enveloped me in a cool haze. All I can compare it to is that first blast of cool air when you are 8 years old and you’ve been banished to the great outdoors for most of the afternoon.

I stopped to look up at the silver moon that reminded me of an older movie logo, the one with the small boy fishing off the cusp of a bright partial moon. On my right, there was a single solitary tree towering above a bench several feet away from the trail. I thought of some future afternoon, one with a cool breeze, when I might return and sit on that bench, a visit without real motive.

Apart from the impersonal interstate I only encountered two vehicles. One was a white truck which was being driven so slowly I speculated they might have been attempting to go back in time and the second vehicle was a police car out of jurisdiction driving so fast I thought it might be a DeLorean attempting to reach 88 miles per hour. It’s possible that the police car driver was also accumulating frequent flyer miles. I met several armadillos, too, none of which seemed interested in making my acquaintance.

There’s no message in this story, just moments.

As you slumbered, I walked with the moon and made friends with old memories. Or vice versa.

No Law Against 365 Days of Xmas Decorations

Please forgive my passive-aggressive, tongue-in-cheek commentary…

Off the wall observation: Springdale has no law which prevents someone from leaving up holiday lights all year. So, if the POA/HOA doesn’t have one either, this means that I am perfectly fine installing the gaudiest, ugliest, flashiest nonsense that I wish to- and never, ever remove them, no matter how pitiful they begin to look or how many passers-by become strangulated by their hanging presence. This also means that those neighbors who have already decided they were going to do this starting last year are free to continue to do so.

I’m torn about this absence of a rule requiring holiday displays to be removed after a certain period of time. On the other hand, though, it presents a lunatic such as me plenty of room to make the city of Springdale regret this oversight. Who among us doesn’t want to see all the reindeer and a 9-foot Santa 365 days a year?

PS: I’m going to sneak over to a couple of houses and ADD lights to those they left up last year. I might even fix the string of lights a couple of houses down which shorts and arcs sparks across the guttering from time to time. It’s pretty at night, though, so maybe I won’t.

The Morning of Shoes

I walked down the middle of Pleasant Street this morning. It lived up to its name for once. There was a single shoe in the exact middle of the road. It wouldn’t have surprised me to find an unattached foot in it but it turned out to have a pair of sunglasses inside. I tossed it to the sidewalk, hoping that no one with sun allergies was wandering the metropolis sans shoe. I know it’s not safe or smart to walk in the road, especially when every fifth car is probably being navigated by someone smelling of the fumes of a Corona or Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I’ve often mentioned how liberating it is to own the road and the slumbering town around it. It is a sensation that I already know that I’ll miss when infirmity eventually robs me of my ability to walk the abandoned nighttime roads.

Seeing the high school from every angle certainly amplified the size of the place compared to when I crawled the halls there. It is much more majestic in the deep night, each light inside highlighting a plaque, a shadowy doorway, or polished surface. It was the embodiment of an empty world awaiting its inhabitants, both timeless and anticipatory. It is a haunted place, its souls imprinted there from the thousands of students and faculty who’ve resided within, concentric lives centered upon a collective of buildings with a single purpose.

Walking around business 71, I couldn’t help but intercept a group of young people exiting an eatery. One of the young men had a mostly finished bottle of beer in his hand. He raised it in salute and then turned to laugh with his other friends. I couldn’t imagine drinking at 5 a.m. and still be laughing. It’s a sure sign of old age when a cup of coffee and a comfortable chair defeats the call of the wild and youth. Although they wouldn’t understand the joke, I wanted to yell, “Get off my lawn!” in mock humor.

As I passed McDonald’s, I had the momentary urge to run inside and order 15 breakfast sandwiches and eat them all, without even bothering to take the paper off the outside first. The aroma was momentarily maddening, like when you visit a pizzeria and get your first sniff of the yeasty crust, certain that you will literally die before getting a bite of it. After a moment though, the siren call of the aroma changed and soured in my head to one of cloying grease in a pan of cooling water.

Heading back to my car, my feet demanded that I walk another long circuit, this time around the circumference of Murphy Park, a beautiful place transformed by the recent modernization of its features. As I was watching the geese and the ducklings circling around them near one of the central fountains, I didn’t notice the form seated on one of the trailside benches. He was seated, motionless, a hoodie covering his head against the chilly air. Had he screamed “Boo!” as I approached, I would have undoubtedly needed a new pair of underwear. I said “Guten morgen” instead of “Hello,” and he didn’t reply, move or give any sign that he saw me – or indeed that he was even alive at all. I’ll admit I looked back at least twice as I moved away from him. For all I know, he was the grim reaper, having lost his scythe. I saw no reason to invite any trouble, despite that fact that trouble has me on speed-dial.

Peering into the library from a distance, it occurred to me that I’m a terrible criminal. I’d rather break into the library and sit among the million books than magically appear in a bank vault. At the heart of the matter is the insufficient number of minutes allotted in life. No matter how pronounced my greed to consume even 1% of all the books, life’s stop sign will reach me before I can fulfill such a desire. Even though I love libraries, I still dislike hoarding books myself. I have a very few at home, nestled in a box, ones with names like “Night of the Avenging Blowfish” and titles in Spanish. The best books live a little each day in my mind, memories of other worlds and people. They are far safer there, virtually comforting me.

If you find another solitary shoe in the road in Springdale, pick it up and drive by the park and library. Toss the shoe into the bushes. Just don’t make eye contact with the faceless void of anyone wearing a hoodie.

An Anecdote and Some Thoughts

 

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This morning, I walked on the Elm Springs side of town. Because a social media friend reminded me of him yesterday, I listened to Ludovico Einaudi, a neglected Italian pianist and musical friend I discovered 3-4 years ago. I walked westward for a while and when I looped back, I cut through along Oak Grove road. There’s a beautiful white-planked country church about halfway down the road, and I wanted to see it in the mysterious hours of the morning. Along 48th Street, the next streetlight in front of me went out, probably on a timer, and everything turned to black. Until Macadoodles way ahead, the entire swath was empty – and mine. To my right was the huge expanse of undeveloped land next to the interstate. To my left, more empty land. I turned down my music and stood in the middle of the road in this darkness, watching the bullets of traffic hurl along the interstate, each one undoubtedly destination-focused. After a minute of observation, I turned Ludovico up and continued along the urban sprawl. Even though I had meandered much longer than I intended, I walked across the interminable Wal-Mart perimeter, going down the road which warned, “Street Closed” by way of traffic barriers. I ignored them and walked along the dead end avenue. It ends abruptly fairly close to the interstate as it travels parallel to it. Dawn and I had visited this terminus shortly after the road was constructed; it still has an other-worldly feeling to it in the dark of night. Coming back, I watched the silhouette of a Wal-Mart worker as he used a jabber to collect the never-ending trash from around the store. Even though I was just a dim outline to him, he waved toward me and I responded by waving both arms above my head for no reason whatsoever.
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If you ever feel life is too short, ask a friend who is “taking a break from social media” about his or her reasons. The explanation will be so tediously long that you’ll beg for the sweet release of death.
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“The hurricane became disorganized and weakened, then wandered off course and disappeared” would be an ideal way to describe a typical day where I work.
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Grammar is the comfortable refuge of anyone choosing to write ideas as if everything is “bcc.”
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Also, as the frequency with which a person uses “bcc” increases, so does the likelihood that you should NEVER take this person to an amusement park or with you as you try a new restaurant.
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It’s either comical or tragic to realize that the highlights of your life could be used exclusively as a blooper reel for a documentary on the human condition.
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Never start a fight with someone who has one twitchy eye.

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Minimalism isn’t about taking things away. It’s about posting pictures of exotic living rooms you’d never want to be in, at least judging by 90% of all minimalism websites.

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Part of my healthier eating plan includes potatoes. Potatoes are the bath towels of Xmas gifts. You love them if they are disguised as french fries or buried in sour cream but otherwise, meh. But I love them unconditionally, even in raw chunks. Sliced and roasted though, potatoes are the platform which propels this simple food into the realm of ‘gourmet.’ I’ve eaten so many potatoes in the last few months that I thought I was buying marijuana, as they have names that vegetables shouldn’t have: Yukon gold, Russet Burbank, Duke of York, Kennebec, and… Laura. And then I see news stories like this one, which make me an amateur in spud consumption by comparison: Man Eats Only Potatoes For a Year.

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It’s strange to confirm what I’ve known for a long time: it’s a waste to feel impressed with most people, as they are literally ‘winging it’ about much of what they seem to know and certainly for the decisions they make. We have so much self-doubt only because we know the gaps in our minds and life, while those same chasms in other lives are mostly invisible to us. These sort of revelations also tend to trigger disillusionment toward those we hope might help us live happier lives. There are many people out there to learn from – but beware, as the number of delusional ‘one-answer’ folks tend to shout the loudest from the highest podium.

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I’ve had this crazy idea for years that radio stations should intersperse songs with fascinating bits of trivia or news, very short in length – and not just about music, but about the world, arts, history, and people. I think it would be a spectacular thing that would lessen the monotony of over-the-air radio and get people to talk about different things again. For example, after a Beiber song, we should hear a short anecdote about how to apologize.

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A wise man once said, “To do two things at once is to do neither.” I can see that you agree with this idea; yet, you’re probably reading this, making coffee, and juggling live otters as you nod your head. Isn’t it amazing how we know these simple things and spend our entire lives fighting their application?

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From The Book of Platitudes, Chapter 5, Verse 2: “Thou shalt not assume the role of superior, even when circumstances apparently warrant it.”

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Contradictory Law of Argumentation: As you get older, you inevitably realize that almost all arguments are pointless and stop participating. Logically, then, at some point, only those who haven’t learned anything are the ones still arguing.

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I love you all, but…: expecting people to stop putting their feet on the dash while in the car is pure fantasy. We can’t even get people to stop drinking and driving – much less waving guns in the air from road rage.

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“Your god is a TV channel, one filled with word static and droplets of fear. Mine is the one granting us complete autonomy of this universe, to understand it or not, improve it or don’t, and to stop squandering every opportunity to move forward.” – John The Catalyst

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A Road By Another Name

Last week, I discovered that South Hewitt Springs road is the same one as a county road by a number which escapes me. It seemed blindingly obvious once I walked off of it onto Parsons Road. Due to a condition I refer to as “being old,” I hadn’t made the connection coming from the other direction. There are times when I set off walking not sure where I’m going or that the road I’m following comes out somewhere recognizable. Dawn has joked that I’m going to end up on a milk carton; this would be doubly amusing given my aversion to drinking milk. It would be triply hilarious if I accidentally wander inside a cow pasture and get tenderized by the hooves of a herd of dairy cattle.

As I cut through Parsons Road, a very elderly man was inching his way from an outbuilding back to his house. While he wasn’t 100 years old, he walked as if he personally had carried the last 3 generations on his back. I guessed that he was 90+, which means he has 40-something years on me. I wondered how many miles I might traverse before my body gives out. Life already feels long to me. To look back after 40 more years is going to look like an infinite encyclopedia, its pages laid carefully end-to-end, without end, so to speak.

I’d like to think in 10 more years, I will have walked every street, lane, avenue, and road in the city of Springdale. It seems more likely as I continue to discover places which have been previously hidden in plain sight.

PS: When I got home, I used a map to find the house of the elderly man on an aerial overlay and then used this to find the owners on actDataScout. (DataScout superimposes an overlay with the owner’s names and property limits directly in your browser. It is a powerful tool.) You might be thinking that this leads to more questions than answers. In this case, you would be correct. After my eavesdropping incident earlier in the week, I didn’t resist my curiosity this time. The problem with knowing a little, though, is that I always want to know more.

Below, I’ll put a sample screenshot of what you can see if you use the mentioned website. Before you have a privacy-induced nervous breakdown, please stop and remember that this information is already publicly available, without charge. I’ve written about it before but sometimes people think I’m exaggerating or have omitted some crucial step.

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Wasps, And Wasps Behind Walls

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On the way home today, I followed my instincts and pulled over somewhere I had not yet walked, a place not aligned with pruned trails nor convenient walking. I left my car parked in a place better suited for vertigo-afflicted mountain goats and started walking. Most of the road was built without regard for humans; vehicles were the intended possessor of the asphalt strips I chose today. I knew that off in the distance as I reached an affluent area, the sidewalks would magically appear. It’s strange that it is more likely that roads will have sidewalks in the very neighborhoods where people seldom use them and yet, among those who are in need, they are absent like one’s written family tree at a reunion. I decided that if a vehicle didn’t wish to move slightly over as I walked, that I would fling myself into the thorny underbrush in deference to their overwhelming mass.

As I reached the immaculately-maintained area of the Cleverly Hillbillies, I heard voices tinged with venom. Two voices went from indistinct to perfect diction after about twenty steps. It was apparent that they were sitting in the unseen backyard of their property, oblivious to the world outside. The neighborhood is one of those with an elaborate stone and brick wall, one reaching 8 or 9 feet high. I think that perhaps those two people arguing beyond the great stone wall near the Italian-villa neighborhood would be embarrassed to know that I could hear the intimate and complex shadings of their traded barbs. It seems as if this million-dollar wall somehow had failed to provide the promised happiness they sought when they were younger. I shouldn’t judge because I can’t know for certain that this type of argument isn’t routine and that the verbal daggers I was hearing were imaginary. My experience tells me, however, that this verbal duel was both routine and viciously new. I wish they would sell their mansion and argue on a beach. At the least, the sand in their feet would overlook a new perspective, even if they still turned toward one another to punch each other verbally.

I briefly considered yelling, “Shut up! You’re rich but you sound like my neighbors, the ones who can’t even afford a trip to Bethel Heights.” I very much wanted to match faces to the disembodied voices wafting from over the tall wall. I took a golf pencil from my pocket and made a small “X” on the gray stone of the nearest vertical column holding the immense structure vertical. I did so because it occurred to me that I could then return and use the address on the other side to discern names, then faces, then details of their lives. Being modern people, I had no doubt that much of the superficial nature of their lives would reveal itself to me. While they might have their privacy settings on social media locked to prevent unwanted eyes, they had forgotten that beyond their high wall, the one purportedly providing security and distance from the world, had also made them drop their guard against people walking the street beyond it. I was able to hear them in their most intimate moment, teeth bared in anger at one another. As soon as this idea of discovery struck me, I abandoned it, knowing that the mystery of the unhappy lives on the other side was more compelling to me than knowing their stories. I left them behind, their voices still crescendoing and ebbing in turn.

It seems absurd to know that a couple of people of decent wealth took time out in the middle of their day on Tuesday to rant at one another, doesn’t it? Not that Wednesday is the ideal day for such a thing, either. It occurs to me that I should send them a postcard to let them know that I hope their marriage survives. Would such a card help or hinder this effort?

So, I walked on, alone, in the middle of the day, the sun watching me as I made my progress along the new territory. The sidewalk was lined on both sides with beautifully-coiffed trees, their overhead limbs creating an austere canopy above me as I moved. It was strange to enjoy the tranquility of these trees, knowing that the residents behind the security wall paid a monthly reminder to keep it so elegant. I wondered, “Who owns it? He who pays for it or he who enjoys it?”

Before I turned to make my way back, a red wasp emerged from the recesses of a green trash container on the edge of the road. It flew directly toward me; had I not been looking directly at it, I’m sure I would now have a bright red stinger emerging from the tip of my nose. As it was, I reacted with grace. I’m kidding. I shrieked involuntarily and flailed around as if someone had just thrown a cupful of spiders into my knickers. I’m certain my idiocy was apparent as I writhed around to fight off the ongoing approach of the wasp as it buzzed around my head. I ran away from the red demon and kept walking.

Like most delicious stories of vengeance, however, this ended badly for the miscreant wasp. While it had forgotten me, I had not forgotten him. As I approached the scene of the initial (and unreported attack), I watched the confines of the green container closely. I crept up from the rear with my hat upraised. As I peered on the far side, I could see that the wasp was about to launch after me again. I swatted and scored a direct hit on the bastard, knocking him to the ground. Since I couldn’t Mike Tyson his ear, and not only because wasps don’t have ears), I jumped and reduced the wasp to particles. Victory was mine. It didn’t occur to me until much later that it could have ended badly had there been more than one wasp at the container. The aura of vengeance was therefore reduced by the uncertainty that the wasp I killed in revenge might have been an innocent bystander at the same container. I hope the owners of the trash receptacle were watching me from their windows. Perhaps if so, they are at this very moment writing a story regarding the ridiculous of a grown man waging war via his hat with flying insects.

PS: I wanted to use the marker in my pocket to draw a tiny outline of the wasp’s body on the pavement, as a warning to other wasps. While amusing, I had my doubts the owners of the driveway would see the humor in such a thing.

 

 

Of Skunks and Autumn

I make friends quite easily, no matter how many legs they have.

This morning, I could hear a visitor approaching from behind as I walked, its claws clicking the pavement in a strange pattern. I assumed it was either small animal or a demure middle-aged woman with poor nail hygiene who decided to walk the dark trails without shoes. (It’s Springdale – you never can be certain.) Despite previous history demonstrating that it’s ill-advised to assume, I was certain it was a small dog, enjoying some early morning freedom after it had tunneled under a fence or chewed a leash loose.

More than once as I walked I could see eyes in the brush or in the clearings ahead. Like humans, most animals scurry away when they detect my presence. I saw no other human beings in the dark as I walked. It’s fun to imagine that there are dozens of them beyond the reach of my vision, either zombies or those suited for jobs such as purchasing clerks, engineers, school administrators, or bank tellers.

The small dog continued to pace behind me. I didn’t want to startle it so I refrained from turning on my phone light. As I walked out of the canopy of trees, lights dimly reached me. I walked a few more paces and stopped to say hello to the dog as it came very close. It was an adult skunk, its thick black and white fur puffed around its face.

Before you say something ‘adulty’ like “It could have rabies,” you are of course correct. Given last year’s election results, however, I’ve abandoned logic for a system I refer to as “winging it.” I had the sensation that the skunk sought some sort of interaction as it too stopped about 3 feet away from me, sitting on the grass next to the trail. For a brief second, the part of my brain dedicated to self-amusement thought it would be fun to lean over and place my headphones on the head of the skunk to determine if he understood music in Spanish and the stylings of Maria Conchita Alonso. It was at that point it occurred to me that the skunk could have rabies. I don’t mind the idea of the painful rabies shots if I were to be bitten, but I make it a point to avoid any avoidable interactions with nurses, long known to be associated with all manner of ill luck and tragedy. (This joke sponsored by National Nurses Week.)

I wished the skunk well and continued walking. The skunk decided to continue to scurry along behind me so I slowed my pace to see how long it might follow me. It ran behind me for at least 200 paces. I finally stopped and tried to take a picture of it. I have a beautiful photo of absolute darkness and shapes devoid of any recognizable structure to show for it. In other words, it looked exactly like 90% of all vacation photos ever taken and most action plans devised by one’s boss.

Since I was walking in another new place, there were a few places where I was able to practice faith in the continuity of things, as I couldn’t see the ground. I walked and tried to use the less-dark places to determine the path. I felt as if I were walking on a literal metaphor for life at that point. Above, the bright stars shone and the leaves rustled. It was my moment and mine alone. It is the last day of summer and I walked mile after mile to pay homage to the approaching cooler days, the kind which demands that you sit at the kitchen table to read a few pages of a good book, only to find yourself 9 hours later, living inside that great book and within your own mind. Summer is a time when extroverts rule the earth, whereas fall belongs to introverts, writers, avid readers and other strange beings.

It was just me. And the skunks. I’m not sure who was getting the better bargain.
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On the way home, I had to wait a few moments as a snarl ensued ahead. Dozens of lights, the kind that always signal that someone is unexpectedly having a bad day, were blinking in synchronized alarm. As I neared the point of interest, I could see a man lying on the ground in the middle of the street as a few of our city’s finest attended to him. It looked like he had either been hit by a vehicle or that he had watched 5 minutes of the national news, both of which tend to result in such a trauma.
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Don’t look at the calendar to confirm Autumn’s arrival. Go outside when it the sun sets and breathe deeply. You can already detect the slightly fetid smell of encroaching decomposition. The acceleration has commenced.