Category Archives: Whimsical

Run Past

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I sprinted past the moment, though it didn’t truly exist in the way that things do.

I had looked forward with such intensity and anticipation that it had condensed into an impossibly small point in time.

Because I’m older, I now see that this is how most of us manage the span of our entire lives: increments, milestones, and anticipated moments.

There are labels for this sort of thing. “Futurizing” is one of my favorites.

Though covid fleetingly slows us from careening as carelessly as we once did, even its lesson of mortality will soon enough become a vague memory.

Each of us will step back into the tide of normalcy, whatever that might be, and pace forward.

Birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, achievements, all seemingly without terminus – although undeniably connected by an invisible strand.

I predict we’ll be more feverish postcovid. We’ll collectively feel the pause button click free and begin our mad dash to collect what we thought we missed while the world held its breath. People do not like to feel like they are missing out, even if what they have fills their lives.

Weirdly, I feel that we should take a breath and slow down. Sit and stare. Read and contemplate. Look within and around. We were not prepared, despite having history’s best medicine, technology, and logistics.

Our failure wasn’t external, however.

It lies within us where, in reality, each of us lives.

Density Of Time And Place

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I walked through a dense, foggy meadow in the early morning. As I moved through the tall grass and flowers in the growing light, I walked across the meadow and into the stand of trees on the other side. The dense smell of foliage and trees lay heavy around me. For several minutes I walked. Finally, I stepped through into a small clearing. In the middle, a man sat hunched near a small fire. Above it, a metal coffeepot swayed slightly.
As I cleared my throat, he turned and laughed.

“Took you forever!” He said. “Sit,” he said. I walked over by the fire as he poured me a half a cup of coffee. I sat on the ground. It was covered with dry pine needles.

As I took my first sip of the aromatic coffee, he spoke:

“For anyone taking the time to share their stories and especially for those prone to self-doubt, here is the phrase you need to consider: “the voice in your own head never needs to stop to take a breath.”

Even while you’re hearing this, it’s likely that the narrator trapped in your skull is talking to you in ways that seem slightly out of your control.

If this happens to you consciously, imagine the number of ways your mind is interfering with you in ways that you can’t or won’t notice.

Most of us don’t hang around people who embody what we’re aiming for. Absent such examples, the people who’ve shouted into our periphery through life get the front row in our heads. When you’re taking the risk of doing something meaningful for yourself, you look out into your life’s audience and the first faces you see are generally those packed into the front rows. You didn’t choose them as your audience. Be wary of all those who are spectators to your life. They aren’t you and don’t know you.

Even if we imagine several people applauding toward the back, we tend to assume that they are outliers and aren’t seeing something that those who know us best see. The truth is that your entire life will be different if you treat the outliers as the ones who matter most. They see something in you that those nearest cannot.

Each of us is lucky if we have one or two cheerleaders in life. Most people are too busy with things in their own corner of the world to encourage you; it’s the daily grind of life manifesting itself by taking people’s attention.

When you consider that every other person in our lives has a different version of us in their head, it becomes easier to understand that we’re never going to be understood in the way that we ourselves understand what motivates us.

Equally true is the fact that many people are insecure and don’t have experience with authentic people or those doing things differently. Most are dialed into the common routes and expectations of what being alive is supposed to entail. We focus on the process instead of why.

People dedicated to doing their thing also tend to reflect back honestly to those around them. It’s evident that many people resent their reflections and respond defensively. Silence is easier for them, even though it lessens their time here. They’ll work hard to push you into silence, too.

It is a rarity for someone to stand on top of the pile of all these tendencies and forge ahead. Think of someone you admire. Whoever it is, they laugh often and always share who they are, no matter where that is.

If each of us could witness the totality of a single life from a distance, we’d see that most of the struggle is of our own making. We cannot win in the sense of winning that we’re taught. You don’t win by playing. You win by not playing by the rules other people demand of you.

The voice of doubt in your head is there for a reason – but not for a reason that benefits you. Make it pause and take a breath. Somewhere in that absence, you’ll discover the absurdity of almost everything we take for granted.

Whatever you’re here for, I’m certain that you can see that silence and uniformity make us all lesser human beings.

Your time is here is almost up. When you finish that cup of coffee, you’ll wake up and wonder why you dreamed of me. Soon after, you’ll look up into the sky this morning and see your life reflected there. There is only one you.”

The clearing dissolved to nothing. Despite having a box fan turned to ‘high’ and thunderstorm noise playing in the room, I woke up instantly. Outside, a single bird squawked raucously. Before I lost whatever it was that the imagery provided, I went and made a picture for a friend, one treading the line between reality and fiction. In it, I captured the essence of a world she needed most.

All because of the smell of woodsmoke, fog, and coffee in a place more real than imagined, inhabited by a strange voice that was my own.

A Trashy Post

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Early last year, I wrote about our waste management company.  Previous post…

I discovered that many people didn’t know the precise rules about their curbside pickup. For example, they didn’t know the trash company must pick up all the extra bags you pile on the bin – or around it if necessary. My ignorance was compounded by observing neighbors furtively sneak around and put their overflow into other people’s bins.

The people at Waste Management were among those people who weren’t sure how it worked.

After writing to the City of Springdale and following up, the trash company realized that they offer an additional bin for residential use for just $7.50 a month.

They revised their CSR scripts and information to include the new details I had inquired about.

While you might be proud to own a shiny new luxury car, I can think of no greater luxury than having an additional trash bin at the house. Some weeks, there’s not much. Other weeks, you’d swear thirteen people live at the house, people dedicated to depleting all the earth’s resources.

We already get a large bin for weekly trash and a recycle for pickup every two weeks. I’d call it ‘bi-weekly,’ but a lot of people don’t understand if that means twice a week or every other week. I don’t blame them; English is a tortuous language absent much continuity.

To my credit, one recycle bin for us is not enough. It annoys me to need to put recycling in the regular trash bin. It annoys me worse than needing to repeat myself, especially when I’m the idiot that made it necessary.

Just to find out if the reality of having two trash bins matches my fantasy, I called and requested a second bin a couple of weeks ago.

Yes, jealous friends – you read correctly. I now have two trash bins to use.

I’ll be the envy of the neighborhood. Some of my neighbors already act like they don’t understand that the trash goes i-n-s-i-d-e the bin. They’ll pass out in shock when they see me displaying two trash bins and a recycle bin by the curb. No doubt the people working to pick up the bins weekly will not be as happy. My house will not be double the fun.

Now that I’ve done it, I’m wondering what it would be like to have two recycling bins.

Food For Thought(less)

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This post is a wild mix of fun facts, commentary, and anecdotes about my life. If you’ve ever ridden a rollercoaster while stitching up a hole in your own abdomen, this post is for you. I give you my word that at least one thing will make you ponder.

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“I knew my instincts were right about how stupid the guy was. Blondes kept telling jokes about him.” – X

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People look at me like I’m crazy when I mention déjà rêvé. It’s a cousin of déjà vu, except it’s the sensation you’ve dreamed the moment instead of experiencing it.

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“Yes, he listens carefully. The problem is that he’s the only one talking.” – X

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I was born in Brinkley, Arkansas, inside Monroe County. My Mom’s maiden name was “Winston,” we lived on “Easy Street,” and my first pet’s name was “Grandpa.” Some of that’s true if you’re guessing passwords.

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While I’m not going to cite the amount of beer supposedly lost in beards in the U.K., I am mentioning it only because it means someone has studied and calculated the amount. It reminds me of when I was younger and read “Innumeracy,” and discovered that hair growth rate can be expressed in MPH. (It’s also partially responsible for why I love the measurement “furlongs per fortnight.”)

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Related to the above, it’s also why I cringe a little when I hear someone say, “it is a fraction of the amount” or something similar. 7/6 is a fraction – and it’s more than 100%.

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If you don’t have two-factor authentication turned on for everything important, you’re in trouble. If you don’t know what that is, please comment below and provide the last 4 digits of your social security number and a photocopy of your Blockbuster card.

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Bela Lugosi, Jr., noted vampire actor, was buried in his cape. That’s not the part I find amusing. He was married five times. Are they SURE they know how his wives died?

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I spent most of my life saying “I have two siblings.” It’s hard adjusting to saying a different number. I’m fascinated by the idea that my long-lost sister is more well-educated, nicer, and honest than all the rest of us combined.

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I think Edward Cullen of “Twilight” would have been more interesting had he suffered from Arithmomania like Count Von Count (from Sesame Street) did, and as most vampires did in traditional vampire stories.

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“I had a brush with death, followed by a comb with injury.” -X

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Using physiological comparison software, I realized on Tuesday that my paternal grandmother is more of a man than I’ll ever be. I’m not sure which of us I’m insulting by saying so.

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Infrequently, someone will mock me for choosing my first name based on a coin flip. They look at me confusedly when I told them that Portland, Oregon got its name the same way. Had the coin landed on its obverse side, it would be “Boston, Oregon.”  (“Obverse” side is a clever way to call the coin toss when it’s thrown. Most people will say, “What the hell side is an obverse?” You, therefore, win on the vocabulary high ground.)

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I’m anticipating the next wood-cutting season. I’ve found someone who’ll cut me a few ricks of manchineel wood for a few people. You’ll have to google this to figure out the joke. Who knew such a tree existed?

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I took one of those courses in Intense Conversations. After meeting my first practice partner and to break the ice, I said, “Yes, I do have a collection. I now own 347 different skull fragments.”

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The term “buttload” is actually a legitimate measurement. I could explain it to you, but you wouldn’t believe me. Look it up for yourself.

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Regardless of what the McDonald’s window worker intended, what she said was: “Pull forward to #1.” I should have done exactly that, even though I was next to the highway. Next time, I dare her to tell me to pull forward and #2. It’s gonna get ugly.

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While I’m no arborist, there’s such a thing as a “fruit salad tree.” I like to mention it from time to time just to see who’s following the conversation.

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“Kill them with kindness,” the woman obsessed with optimism told me. Thanks for the felony conviction, lady.

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The first time I almost entered the U.S. Army, I was going to be in the U.S. Army Band. People with musical ability should consider it to be more realistic of an option than becoming a professional athlete. Also, it’s rare for a trumpet-player or guitarist to get shot. Unless they play “Freebird” in the wrong chord.

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Beth’s grandfather used to say, “She went to Muskogee!” Beth now uses it as a veiled threat to imply that bad kids go there.  Few people know that Muskogee is the only dictatorship in the United States. Okay, I made that last bit up, but you did kind of wonder for a second, didn’t you?

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“Quotation marks are the devil’s hemorrhoids.” – After reading a blowhard grammarian say that everything about grammar that needs to be said has already been said, I coined this new phrase.

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Of all the things that I cite for keeping me alive in my youth, I credit these: Grandpa, Grandma, band, books, Barbara, and an ongoing belief that somehow life couldn’t be the sum of what I experienced.

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“The Consequences Of My Own Actions” is a book I definitely don’t want to read. Ironically, this will be another consequence of my own inaction.

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I have officially petitioned to become the next Secretary of Defense. (Preferably of the United States.) In my first act, I will order that all bombs be replaced with glitter bombs. Not only will a fifty-five thousand pound bag of glitter exploding a mile over a city send a clear message, but it will keep everyone cleaning for an eternity. Additionally, pretty much everyone will look fabulous.

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They told me to put on “big boy pants.” Now, I look ridiculous with my legs stuck in really tight pants. Even though the effect is ridiculously slimming.

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“I talk to my brother twice a day. Luckily, I limit each call to three words per call.” – X

(Hallmark card in the making?)

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A lot more people would be vegetarians if they had an official hat.

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I think we can all agree: anyone asking someone to sing a high school alma mater song or fight song should be charged with a felony. If elected President, I will abolish these immediately, or that they all be sung in Gibberish – since that’s what it sounds like anyway. My sincere apologies to the three people in the country who like them, along with the five Bologna Ice Cream aficionados.

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“People put us in some strange positions. Monday, the mechanic put me into the lotus position and it took me an hour to extricate myself.” – X

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“Let there be delight…” is a phrase we can all get behind. – X

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I often say, “I look forward to serving you” while doing customer service because it’s a Hannibal-inspired statement more than one of service.

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Many people know the word “schadenfreude.” It’s not a German word anymore. It’s English – because we stole it. It’s okay to say it started as a German word, but not to insist that it still is. It’s a subtle difference, but one that purists and the grammar police should note. A few people know that there’s an English-language equivalent: “epicaricacy.” But if you hear someone use it instead of “schadenfreude,” you can be sure they should NEVER be invited to a party.

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My wife Dawn was actually born in Springfield, Illinois. Her mom Julia got kicked out of the state for illegally boxing without a license. Part of that statement is true.

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One thing you don’t see a lot of historical shows are squirrels. That’s weird because squirrels were one of the most common pets in early United States history. They were easy to acquire, keep, and replace. Also, people often mention their scratchy claws when objecting to their domestication. Those same people often have toenails that resemble the fingers of Nosferatu.

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The once ubiquitous breakfast cereal of corn flakes was invented by a desire to prevent masturbation. And not just at the breakfast table, I presume?
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103 Seconds

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This is a moment-in-time story from today.

Around me, the world continued, its billions of inhabitants each contributing their parts to the melee of the planet.

In the passenger seat sat an unusual amount of Mexican food I’d picked up from Acambaro, certainly more than two people should safely eat. In the bag, among other things, were five full orders of pico de gallo. Anyone who dislikes the smell of onions should assume my breath to be worse than normal after lunch. For anyone who doesn’t know: an order of pico de gallo at Acambaro is not your typical meager serving. Five such orders contain and order of magnitude of onions, cilantro, and chopped tomatoes. While you may challenge me to do ten pushups, I challenge you to eat five servings of this with a full meal without questioning your own sanity.

The car smelled like a restaurant as I drove east on Huntsville. Around me, several drivers seemed intent on reaching warp speed. For several, it was obvious they needed to be more concerned about the condition of their vehicles, their personal hygiene, and their ability to confine themselves to at least two lanes. Were in not before noon, I would have assumed several had attended a “Drink-All-You-Want” wine tasting.

As I slowly stopped at the intersection of 265 near the packed Kum & Go, I lowered my driver’s window. All the cars who’d been training for the Indy 500 for the half-mile were in the left lane. I turned my car volume to “19,” a volume that could potentially launch a satellite into orbit. My USB was playing “Automatica” by Nigel Stanford. If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for a treat. (And not the kind of treat that’s covered in lint in the bottom of the candy jar at your Grandma’s, either.)

As the young Latino in the first car looked over at me, I smiled like a lunatic, showing him all my teeth. I put the window up, even as I looked at him. I like to imagine how weird it must have looked to him to see me continue to smile like a hyena while the window went up in front of my face. “Inspired By Hannibal Lecter” probably approximates his discomfort. I had to laugh.

The light changed, and the left lane’s performance drivers rocketed off – but not before a small dark Honda vehicle sitting on 265 turned right and went across into their lane. As you would expect, the dark Honda immediately slowed to 25 mph. The fast drivers all hit their brakes as I went past them. I was amused.

As Huntsville curves south lazily, the throng of traffic began jockeying for position as the drivers neared Emma. At that point, Huntsville magically transforms into Butterfield Coach Road, a name so ridiculously preposterous that no one willingly wants to call it that. When Latinos ask me what it means or what the translation for “Butterfield” might be, I sometimes tell them that it is a medical condition characterized by high volume diarrhea. Sometimes I let them continue to think it’s true.

To the south and east, the sky was darkening rapidly.

The City of Springdale changed the roads a few years back to make them safer. I assume that was the reasoning. The stretch of road from Emma to the next huge curve has been beautiful for walking since the road deviated. Now, however, a spur is being built on the inside of the curve on the right side. Frequently, cones suddenly appear from the proverbial mist and force the right lane to suddenly merge with the left. That’s the theory, anyway. What it actually does is weed out those who are under the influence of marijuana and/or using their phones as they drive.

Because I drive it frequently, I tend to assume that someone’s going to do something stupid. Today, as the music blared, I watched a black Grand Cherokee Laredo approach from the rear going at least 70 mph. (Contrary to popular belief, and even though there are a lot of people who want to get out of Springdale as quickly as possible, we don’t have 70 mph zones. Note: the police allow you to drive 90 on 412 if you’ve eaten at Taco Bell – and do so for obvious gastrointestinal reasons.) As the Laredo neared me on the right and then passed, I noticed that their tag was a paper one. I had a sudden insight that it was their turn to be an idiot. There was no sign on their car to indicate this. I just knew.  As they came into the cones pushing them left, I saw the Laredo eat one under the bumper. I assume the driver woke up at that point because the brake lights lit up vividly. I could almost feel the driver’s butt clench up from inside my own car. The Laredo lurched left, like a drunk who’d hit his head on the chandelier. The Laredo then went back and forth quickly. I was convinced I was going to see the driver go off into the large dirt valley that had been recently excavated for what appears to be a new access road. It’s right on the inside of the curve, too, where it will probably inspire more accidents.

Luckily, the Laredo didn’t do a Dukes of Hazzard. We stopped at the next light at Parsons Road.  I noticed a black Escalade in front. On each side of the vehicle was a group of yellow balloons. On the rear, there was a sign wishing someone a happy 2020 graduation. The “O” of 2020 was a roll of toilet paper. I didn’t catch the name on the vehicle. The emergency lights were flashing. I couldn’t see inside the vehicle due to the near-total tint on the windows.

In 2020, maybe it’s a good thing to not see where one might be going.

103 seconds had elapsed since I noticed the time on the usb device on my car stereo.

In a way that you might understand, those 103 seconds felt almost accordion-like in my mind.

When I had time a little later, after writing this, I visited Google Maps and went back in time to 2008 to travel these same roads virtually. What a strange thing memory is, wrapping itself in blankets of time in an unending crescendo.

 

 

 

64,578 Things To Have In One’s Pockets

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It’s a rarity to get two Airplane! references on a text screen. I’ll never have a million dollars, but this was an accomplishment.

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It turns out that I’m going to get sued for my last book, titled “The Unwritten Rules.” I guess people wanted me to actually write the rules on the otherwise blank pages. I’m pretty sure the title said it all.

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I’ve got butterflies in my stomach.
Strangest supper I’ve ever eaten!

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Given that I went through the trouble of downloading the mp3 of the 2018 World Scream & Shout Invitational, the least my coworkers could do is to stop complaining and listen attentively.

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Losing a car key is expensive. I’d rather lick a toilet than go to a dealership. It’s in their best interest to get me out of here! I already sent one potential buyer to Honda.

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The new Pizza Hut tamper packaging allegedly ensures that human hands haven’t touched your pizza. No mention was made regarding human feet, however.

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Not My Joke!

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This metric thing is out of hand. Tuesday I went to find another copy of my favorite Miles Davis CD and it was indexed as 1.6 Kilometers Davis.

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Observing her actions and listening to her spew vitriol, I regretted coming to work without garlic and a crucifix…

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I’ve done genealogy for years. Ancestry revealed my family crest: a nutcracker.

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Lesson… I grilled an entire bag of carrots for lunch yesterday – and ate them all. As delicious as they were, it is a mistake I’ll avoid repeating. Or re-eating, I should say.

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My coworker was holding his one year old nephew. “I think little Sammy had an accident!”

“Did you let him drive the car?” I asked.

“Weren’t that kind of accident, X.”

“If a one year old poops his britches, that ain’t an accident.That is inevitable.”

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Context Is Everything

“Tears are the words the heart can’t say.”

One of my best laughs of the weekend surprisingly came from the rapid-fire delivery of several pithy quotes from a sitcom. Seriously. And more surprisingly, from “The Goldbergs.”

Many people don’t know that this maudlin quote is from a book titled, “Root, Petal, Thorn,” by Ella Joy Olsen. It’s been stolen so many times that most people don’t know it isn’t a random bit of puffery from one of the million social media pages filled with vague quotes that fit almost any situation. They’re the horoscopes of social media.

Barry Goldberg used the quote humorously and unexpectedly. I howled.

Despite its use in a sitcom, it burned into my last three remaining brain cells.

Thanks, Barry Goldberg
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Notwithstanding the odd perspective, I wanted everyone to notice how much the halo wears away my hair. Additionally, I keep hoping Dunkin Donuts will license the top of my head as a logo for their flagship product. I know I’m getting a more pronounced donut up there due the fact the police who get too close to me lick their lips.

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“What’s the most incongruous or strange thing you can imagine, X?” The business consultant looked at me expectantly.

“A drowning man laughing,” I said.

For whatever reason, I was excused from the class for the rest of the day.

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Weird For Normal’s Sake

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“What’s wrong for being weird just for weird’s sake? Plenty of people are being normal for normal’s sake. And they look anything but normal in the process. Normal isn’t a thing and it never has been. It’s a fraud masquerading as an ideal. We have people putting fake fingernails on top of their real ones, injecting fat into their lips, acting like their human emotions and reactions should be repressed in favor of whatever the prevailing notion is. Worse, we have people who don’t recognize what real humor is or the difference that motive makes in regard to everything we do and say. Be authentic. That’s normal. If you want to shave one eyebrow off, do it. It’s no weirder than having painted on eyebrows – or gluing fake eyelashes onto your real ones. The next guy can put a quarter-size hole in his earlobe or another hole in his nostril but thinks he has the right to tell you that you can’t say “Hello” in Klingon if you damned well want to? Get your banjo and play it as loudly as you want to, even if you sound like you’re being electrocuted.”

– From “The Old Man Chronicles”

The B List

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My neighbor’s dogwood kept me up all night. Its bark did, anyway.

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The Rule of Vocabulary And Insults

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The Questionable Enunciation Rule

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Weird Al just got a lot richer. Congress just voted to replace the national anthem with his hit song, “Dare To Be Stupid,” and for self-explanatory reasons.

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I bought a non-area rug for my sister-in-law’s new house. It violates the laws of physics and literally takes up no room at all.

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Get out there and live a Joe-Exotic kind of life, minus the murder-for-hire part of course – unless you’re surrounded by people who listen to Luke Bryan.

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Judith Priest, local librarian, couldn’t figure out why everyone assumed she had a lisp when introducing herself.

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Tired of using boring masks to protect yourself? Just in time for the upcoming Friday the 13th, from my new line of PPE… No one will get close enough to infect you.

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Meeting doodle: each time something vague or contradictory was stated, I drew an arrow. At least now I know where we’re headed?

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“It’s not fair that Buffalo Wild Wings doesn’t get a routine restaurant inspection,” my coworker complained as he read the inspection list online.

“No, it makes perfect sense,” I replied.

“Really? Why is that?”

“Because there is absolutely no evidence that Buffalo Wild Wings has ever served food – or anything actually edible.”

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Afternoon Update: Mr. Good, aka The Cat, aka Guino, smells what I’m cooking. My wife snapped this picture moments ago, one of Guino sitting at the bar, evidently awaiting an undetermined meal. I’m on the other side of the bar, attempting to catch a picture of him. His face is illuminated by a flash from my camera, rather than the aura of my angelic yet diabolical presence out of sight to the left in the kitchen. P.S. After a delicious morning meal of beans, we had air-fried pickles for supper. The cat has so far not registered any complaints.

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Mr. Good, aka The Cat, aka Guino, sits on a mountain of blankets, looking toward me in the kitchen. The house is filled with the aroma of onions, garlic, and beans cooking in the Instapot. The cat better hide now, anticipating the aftermath of my enjoyment of 5 servings of beans.

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Stolen messenger picture: What heinous act did this cat just commit? He’s awfully comfortable as he either expresses derision or hunger.

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Stolen quote of the week: “I knew they wouldn’t kill me, there’d be too many questions from outsiders.”

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“There is beauty in the breaking,” is one of the most beguiling and contradictory observations that I keep having. The teeth of it aren’t sharp, but certainly insistent as they gnaw.

Ransom’s World

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Ransom stood at the kitchen sink, the book folded open in front of him, the fingers of his tired right hand forcefully holding the pages down so he could see them. Minutes before, he casually opened the book and skimmed the first paragraph. Minutes later, he was on page six and his mind was in the new world created by the book he underestimated.

He briefly looked up, across the wide living room, and out into the rainy street, trying to extricate himself from the clutches of the book. He failed to note it wasn’t raining when he started the book or that the cup of coffee next to him on the counter by the coffeepot had long cooled. He began devouring the thickly layered plot. Each word seemed interminable as his eyes flashed across them, vivisecting the complexities of language and people inhabiting the pages. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the words were somehow written in a foreign language.
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Last Saturday afternoon, Ransom went to Birdsong Books in a town over from him. It was his little secret place, one filled with books of both beauty and content. Minutes seeped past him at an alarming rate while he walked the shelves inside. It was the embodiment of how he felt while discovering new worlds inside of books.

“What are you looking for?” a small voice asked him. Ransom looked up from his shelf to see a young girl standing about five feet away from him. In her hands, she held a sloppily bound book.

“Everything,” he replied, with a smile and mischievous wink. He could already tell that the girl was interesting. Her hair was pulled away from her face and the ponytail was stuck haphazardly along the right side of her head.

“It’s a good thing I found you here. I’ve been waiting to give you this.” Upon pronouncing the words in her little musical voice, she stepped forward and extended the book toward Ransom. Without thinking, Ransom reached out and accepted it. It weighed much more than he expected. His hands cradled the sides of the book as he took it, as the pages seemed slightly loose inside it. It reminded him of the sensation of being handed a cage with a restless animal inside it.

Behind him, a book fell from a shelf. Ransom momentarily turned to see what had fallen. When he turned back toward the girl, she was gone.

“Hey!” Ransom weakly shouted. He quickly went around the shelves, only to see the owner looking at him with an odd glance.

“Yes?” asked the owner.

“Oh. Did you see the girl who went by? She handed me this book by mistake.” Ransom was certain he was being pranked. The girl certainly seemed capable of such an endeavor. The owner, although witty and personable, wasn’t the type to participate in shenanigans, however.

“If she handed it to you, it was no mistake.” The owner peered at Ransom knowingly over the rim of his glasses. The edges of his eyes belied a slight smile forming on his face.

Ransom handed him the book, and the owner skimmed through it. “It’s not mine. That much I can tell you for sure.”

The girl was nowhere to be found inside the bookstore.

After a few minutes, Ransom took the book home with him. He placed it absentmindedly on the table adjacent to the front door and forgot he had done so. Until this morning, when he awoke, certain that he had been dreaming about the girl he’d met at Birdsong Books.

In the dream, the ponytail girl sat on a bench next to him, pronouncing each word as she lovingly read a page from the book open in her lap. Ransom heard himself say in the dream that the girl sounded like she was reading out loud in italics.

The girl turned to lock eyes with Ransom. “You must finish the book! Time is escaping.” She grabbed his arm with her small fingers. In the distance, someone played a xylophone with keys tuned to be slightly off.

Ransom woke up fully energized as he started his morning routine. While starting coffee, he looked across the kitchen bar counter and to the front door. Next to the door sat the book. As the coffee brewed, he could hear xylophones, ones which sounded familiar and provocative. Without realizing he’d done so, Ransom went to the book, picked it up, and returned to the kitchen. He poured a cup of coffee and flipped open the cover of the odd book.

As he began to read, the xylophones filled his ears, and the world slipped away.

( ~ )

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I can hear the whispered and fragmented melody in my mind, its composite notes melting away the stress and confines of the world that lays siege to me. Yet I can find no translation out in the world; the buffering of angry, terse words, frustrated glances, and dismissive behavior wash across me like a litter-filled wave of salty water. I live here, inside and cloistered. The notes seldom fail me, cascading in a series of fulfilled promises that anchor me in a past that never was.