Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I discovered a few things about myself in this process, the foremost thing being that I hate my wife's laptop (every time I go to hit backspace I get backslash and I keep moving everything thanks to the touchpad mouse). I learned that I don't get writer's block. I have plenty of things to write about and I am only stymied when I try to write in a manner that is untrue to my voice. I think there were a couple of other things but I forgot them so the other thing I learned is that applying to graduate school is the worst experience ever. It is very slightly similar to any job application but all your dreams about the future are tied up in the process. Very few of the schools do anything to help because they make their websites so poorly organized that it is much easier to make a mistake than apply correctly and they give you three different ways in which you are required to submit your materials. I'm sorry but I haven't yet sired any children so I don't have the blood of my innocent progeny to sign my name with (sure it dangles but that's how I likez my participles).
While I edited and re-read all my writing samples several dozen or thousand times, I have lost all confidence in my submissions. I have to fend off panick attacks twenty to fifty times a day as I rethink every word. I am not allowing myself to read any of the stories I submitted but luckily I have up to five months to wait to hear back about my dreams.
I think I had a point to all this but I guess I just better get back to learning the banjo so my street performance career can take off.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Sleepwalking aside, I still don’t know what I’m doing. I write a bit here and there and end up with absurdist bullshit about prank calls and dreams. I’m working on short story samples for my applications to MFA programs in creative writing and this is all I am able to slur out? I want to be a better writer, I want to help other people become better writers too, but you have to be a pretty damn good writer already to get into a program and I don’t think an honest desire for betterment will supersede shitty writing samples.
When I scored in the ninety-seventh percentile for the GRE verbal section I was invincible. Well, 97% invincible. I called everybody to brag about my quantified brain skills and was sure that I had guaranteed my place in graduate school; my score would give me confidence to polish my writing samples and would easily land me an assistantship to boot. And then I received my essay scores. I did not improve at all and my previous score that put me in the sixty-seventh percentile would have to stand as my best effort.
Who has two thumbs and appears to be a bit of an idiot savant in that he knows tedious words to a fairly impressive extent but can’t seem to string together enough words to form a cogent pair of essays? This guy.
And so I doubt and delay, never quite finishing a story, opening three documents at once about obsessive counting, a petty creator of imagined universes, and a smoky conversation about pain. That is, when I am actually working. Most mornings I distract myself with the internet while I wake up, checking email, discovering the best sales on items I can’t purchase, watching videos of people hurting themselves. I then make myself some coffee or tea or whatever caffeinated beverage catches my fancy and sit in my backyard reading.
Today I read a whole book from start to finish. This is ridiculous excess. I glut myself every morning on caffeine, nicotine, and literature. As the chemicals seep in and the literature draws me out I am thankful that nobody sees me laugh maniacally (the GRE word for this is cachinnate) and dry sob from sentence to sentence till I can’t stand it anymore and have to go inside to write. By then my hands are too cold to type correctly so I check my email again.
I don’t know what I am doing. I write to exorcise the constant internal narration, writing because I want to (need to?), hoping that someday somebody will read and say “I’m glad he wrote that.” I feel like a polished writing sample is just my current excuse because I need some sort of goal when what I really need is a reason for why I’m writing.
I don’t know what I am doing but I seem to be doing something, and just like my nocturnal adventures in fashion, I hope it means something interesting and mysterious and is not simply the restless wanderings of an overactive subconscious.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
There are snakes, always snakes. Red and copper fanged adders that threaten but never strike. Frightening me into stillness when I know I must be moving on.
I’m peeing on a hollowed stump. A monstrous viper is perturbed by my micturition. I jump back and turn to grab a stick to kill it. When I turn back around it has vanished. This might be a problem. . .
I am an officer walking the lines during a campaign of some sort of trench warfare. Or maybe I am a camp counselor walking between a dry ditch and a creek, I’m not sure. “Check this out. There’s snakes down here.”
“I know there are snakes down there, that’s why I’m not in the ditch. Don’t lean over it, can’t you see it’s poisonous? ‘Red to yellow, kill a fellow’ and all that.”
“Oh, it can’t strike us, it has to coil in on itself to be able to strike. Plus it’s too cold for it to be active.”
Somehow I find myself sitting right next to the snake. It is frightened by my presences and winds in on itself to be able to strike. It won’t strike, though; my body heat is all that is keeping it alive. If I attempt to leave it will bite me. I’m afraid of being bitten, but am sure that it will never strike if I stay still. I know that more snakes will be drawn to my body heat throughout the night and I will be surrounded when dawn comes. I’m not as scared as I should be, mostly annoyed because there was someplace I was supposed to be. . .
I watched an oafish man visit prison hoping to be raped. The clown smearing shit on the walls, the sheets, the hands of those he lied to. “See! I was raped. He forced me and I couldn’t escape.” The warden, his wife, nobody believed him; everyone leaving, shaking their heads at this man’s foolishness. The inmate rejecting this idiot’s pawing, wanting only to shower and be left alone. That moron made everyone feel dirty.
Immigrant workers rolled out paths of AstroTurf in my backyard. My neighbors were claiming it as their own. I was angry about this, but not the AstroTurf. That seemed like a good idea.
There was a young boy always looking to me for comfort. A man would hold him back until I approached within a couple of paces. The child would be released and he would jump into my embrace. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” I would repeat and after a time the tears or his fearful quaking would cease. He never explained, but would eventually begin laughing and run off to play. By morning he had grown heavy enough to necessitate my sitting while I comforted him.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Watching Dr. Who on the back patio at midnight when the wife is away for the weekend is a perfect idea. I recommend it to anybody.
A Seattle number eh? I get wrong numbers from time to time. Living in Redding and having a Seattle area number invites that sort of thing. I tend to assume that these mistaken calls will be more interesting than anything intentional so I pick up the phone.
I hear a man’s voice. It sounds like he’s at a party.
“Hello, can I help you?” expounding on my initial contact.
Normally I would continue with my episode and ignore what has happened but today I am an asshole. Today I dial the number.
“Hello” I hear.
“Yeah, you just called me?” I respond.
Who was that? Why did he call me? It is officially the AM so I assume it is some sort of booty call or prank. I’ve got nothing better to do so I dial again.
The number rings, several times, but then is picked up and hung up within a second. I like to think I am fomenting paranoia.
I dial again. This time it only rings twice before it is hung up. I’ve got all the time in the world. Something about oysters or opportunity or something like that.
I could dial again but I don’t. Perhaps I will wait until I inevitably wake up in four hours’ time and leave a message then. I would hear his voice. I assume that by the message I would at least know his name. Nevertheless I create one for him. Jared David Burrows. Yeah, that sounds like the name of somebody who would call me at this time.
Hello Jared, I’m sorry I couldn’t get a hold of you last night. I look forward to speaking with you soon. I have lots of time on my hands these days. . . you know what I mean. I’m sure I’ll speak with you soon.
Yeah, that would be a perfect message. I would blow his mind. Confuse the shit out of some stranger and get him to start checking his shadow. I like the idea of forcibly entering one’s dreams, strangers don’t ask my permission so why should I?
Then again, I tend to shy from adversity. Sure I still wake before seven, the stranger’s number stored in my phone. I am sure he is asleep now. Even if he is not, he probably lives at least seven hundred miles away and who gives a fuck what he imagines he might be able to do to me, I’m the one with nothing to lose here.
Even though it is getting light, I roll over and fall back asleep. We all have regrets: opportunities missed, chances neglected, might have beens that never will be. I guess this is simply mine for this week. We all have crosses we must bear.
Monday, July 26, 2010
You're pretty much a person now and it's time you've mastered a couple of skills, namely: being still and being quiet. You might think that I want you to learn these things for selfish reasons and, while I am excited about the day I can put you in the corner of the grocery store, between the radishes and lunch meat while, I go shopping and get a couple of rounds of free samples in peace, I also know that these are life skills that will aid you in many of the challenges ahead of you. You never know what life is going to throw at you. Just imagine if you were in a "Most Dangerous Game" situation; the ability to be still and quiet is more valuable than any type of woodcraft or self defensed you can think of. If you knew who Anne Frank was I would tell you that she is a pretty good example of what I am teaching you but. . .Actually, no more "Dirtiest Little Puppy" we are starting The Diary of Anne Frank at the next night night. And you better pay attention because I want you to be able to tell me what her greatest errors were by the end.
Now don't start thinking that these skills are only good when your life is at stake. If you are able to be still and quiet, untold fun awaits you. I've seen you play hide-and-go-seek and sometimes, I am ashamed to call you son. It's obvious that you put a lot of effort into hiding. You take your time and choose creative hiding places while half of your idiot friends try to crawl under the couch cushions. It's just that once you are safely in your hiding spot, you are so proud of your sneakiness that you start giggling and getting careless. That, son, is hubris, and hubris is unacceptable. If you master the ability to be perfectly still and quiet, you could stand in a a slight shadow and disappear. Just picture all the kids looking for you and getting worried because they can't find you. You let them get almost to the point of being frantic before you step out from right behind them and quietly say "I'm right here." They will shit their pants, and trust me, though that may seem normal now, eventually, you will be able to hold that over their heads and it will be awesome. Couple these skills with silent movement and you will be a ninja.
Don't tell mommy about this, ok. Sure she would be pissed at Daddy and say that I was filling your head with craziness and trying to make you weird or something, but if she knew about your lessons, she wouldn't be as easy to trick, and you've got to practice on somebody, right? Oh, and don't practice this on mommy when daddy and she are together, I'm not supposed to give you that talk for a couple more years yet.
Let me see your notes. . . Well, I guess this is my fault. The first lesson really should have been on note taking. Time to get your jammies on kiddo. Sure it's still light out but it's never too early to develop a nice healthy fear of Nazis.
Friday, June 11, 2010
I felt really enlightened at that moment, like I was about to turn into a cycling enthusiast and I was going to start getting emotional boners (henceforth to be referred to as "heart-ons") over cycling, preaching about the evils of fossil fuel and danger of cars and bringing up my bicycle every time I open my mouth because I love it so much and how the only thing that gets me through each day of dream crushing work (yes I feel like my job is crushing my soul's dreams but crushing dreams is actually 65% of what I do at my job) is knowing I am going to hop on that bike and pedal, pedal, pedal.
The next morning, my enthusiasm was squashed more thoroughly than Lenny's puppies as shortly after Jen left for work I discovered that I had two flat tires. I carried my bike two miles to the nearest bike shop where I was informed that they were out of inner tubes (fucking silly) but was allowed to borrow a bike to go to the next nearest bike shop to buy some tubes. I hate bikes.
Anyway, the Redding century was the most enjoyable bike ride I've ever been on. I never once thought about the futility of riding in a big circle for no reason beyond bragging rights. In fact, I even enjoyed the scenery. I came very close to appreciating Redding. . .ewww.
Including rest stops and a flat tire, I finished in exactly eight hours. I figure that means I had about seven hours pedal time which, according to math, means I averaged over fourteen miles per hour. They gave me food at the end of the race and I felt pretty good and decided that it hadn't been absurd enough, so instead of calling Jen to pick me up, I decided to ride home with "Boombox" on repeat. I know I said that there are only two options when attempting a century: finishing it or not finishing it. I'm going to have to add a third and that is "fucking a century in the ass". Yeah, it sounds dirty. Yeah, I'm okay with it (ooh, I'm going to add a fourth category "being hit by a car" because it is better to have a category and not need it than need a category and not have it).
For years, heavy physical activity for the sake of exercise has brought forth interestingly twisted yet wonderfully cathartic thoughts to my brain: I would spend the entire time envisioning painful ways to die. Maybe a mugger would jump out of the bushes and stab me repeatedly in the gut. Perhaps I'd get hit by a car, the impact crushing my torso in a way that would allow me to feel my intestines being squeezed out of my body through my groin. Possibly I would trip on the sidewalk, hit my head on a parked car in a very specific manner that would cause me to be paralyzed but still able to feel my body. I would, of course, soil myself because I'm sure that is the natural reaction to this type of injury, which would anger a herd of feral cats who would begin to devour my incapacitated (but still feeling) body with their small mouths of very sharp teeth and I would not be found until the next morning when somebody would come out to get their paper and see my bloody mess of a body which will send them into a catatonic state of shock as they notice one of the sated beasts curled up and sleeping in what was once my ample belly as I mouth the words "Please kill me."
It would be easy to say that these fantasies are a coping mechanism as running any distance carrying two hundred and seventy pounds on bad knees is awful, but doesn't seem all that bad when compared to ridiculous evisceration. One could even argue that this is a very clever trick that my mind plays which forces adrenaline into my bloodstream allowing me to run faster. I think, however, that it would be somewhat more accurate to describe these thoughts as a sort of mental sweat, a sloughing off of ephemeral toxins, exorcising while exercising. I have forced myself to do physical exercise without allowing my mind to dwell on thoughts of a tortured death but I never feel as refreshed or euphoric when I am done. I never feel as clean. Something magic happens when I sweat death that allows me to end up feeling carefree and simply happy.
During the Redding century, I never thought about my own death, I thought about my wife's. I imagined that I would come home after triumphantly finishing my century only to find her brutally murdered. Around mile ninety-two I habitually smelled the air and checked for smoke as I was within a half mile of my house and kept thinking it was burning down as I rode. I don't know how similar sadness is to fear, but it seems to me that both can be pretty cathartic. The tricky brain/adrenaline theory may be appropriate here as I was able to average better than twenty miles an hour for seven of the last ten miles but I like to think of that ride's daydreams as more of a sign of maturity. Apparently personal torture no longer involves harm to my physical body, my inner demons no longer base my affliction on insularity but on a relational nature, and when my mind naturally envisions that which would cause me the most pain, it doesn't even involve myself anymore but my wife Jen. I don't care how much this disturbs most of you, but this gives me a bit of a heart-on.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I love shitty movies. I'm not talking about Ryan Reynolds romantic comedies, Twilight films, or Nicholas Sparks adaptations. I love campy, ridiculous, stupid, gory films that push the boundaries of the absurd. There will always be a special place in my heart's soul for the hundreds of truly silly horror films I've watched and the thousands that have yet to be seen. VAGINA DENTATA!!!
MS v GO is awesome because it isn't even trying. Sure they bust out some poorly stated political commentary but I'll take a comparison of prehistoric aquatic behemoths to hurricane Katrina over pictures of oil covered birds any day.
As I watched MS v GO while drinking large gin and tonics (see I totally could have written "mammoth" instead of "large" right there but I didn't because I have integrity. . .no, it was probably so that I could have the opportunity to write this explanation. THIS IS A BANK ROBBERY!) I felt that it was important to jot down a few notes that I would now like to share with you.
Why you got to bring Tokyo into this? Seriously, a giant, prehistoric creature coming from the ocean to attack Japan. Now that's some fresh shit.
I love the science in this movie. It consists completely of mixing various colored fluids in various sized test tubes. Let's mix this here red liquid with that blue fluid and. . . AW SHIT PURPLE?!? FUCK!!! Well how about we take this green vial and add a couple of drops of light blue and GODDAMMIT STILL GREEN!?! What the fuck are we doing wrong? (tortured dream sequence) How about we use a big ass needle to inject glow stick fluid into a bucket of more glow stick fluid but this time call it pheromones. . . MOTHER FUCKING BINGO!!!
It seems logical for ancient sea creatures to envy the technological advancements in flight, but killing two planes does seem a bit excessive.
Do we really need a love story plot arc in here? Oh yeah, awkward scientist sex is probably the only way they could have brought pheromones into this story.
NO SHARK! NOT THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE!!! No wait, I'm totally fine with that one.
Why are there some Mexicans in the Japanese navy?
"Only a hate stronger than their combined survival instincts could force these results." And for some reason, two lines later they imply, nay demand that physics proves that success of this plan is inevitable. Now this really bothers me. WHAT THE FUCK DO PHYSICS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHI no wait I'm just out of G&T.
Oh Shit! Shakespeare Quote!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
INTENSE SUB DRIVER FACE! Apparently subs have emergency turbos. Who knew?
Of course the pilot freaks out and pulls his gun on the captain forcing the Irish marine biology professor who happens to have once been a nuclear submarine operator to take the helm to keep the submarine from crashing into the ice shelf. I'm just surprised the heroine didn't get shot in the ensuing struggle to increase the scene's dramatic impetus.
Wait just a minute. Are they really going to end the movie that way!?! They totally forgot their blanket on the beach. This movie makes no sense at all.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Autocorrect says "donut" is wrong but is fine with "donuts". Okay, how does it feel about doughnuts. . .oh, it's fine with it. Fuck it, I'm sticking with donut.
I spent summers almost exactly like I spent the rest of the year when I was little because I was "home-schooled". In the summertime, however, Saturday mornings were often spent going yard-saling with Grandma Kooy and the cousins.
Driving back to Kooy's Irrigation, Grandma pulled over because she saw something lying on the shoulder of the highway that looked edible. I just want to pause for a second to allow everyone to ponder that last sentence while I point out that this actually happened and that not only was this not weird when we were kids, I still only think of this as weird when viewing it from a non-Kooy perspective. I was the nearest child to an accessible door so I was sent out to run back down the highway to find out what it was. Non-Kooy perspectives are weird because I am suddenly questioning the sanity and safety of my childhood as six kids under ten in a pickup with two seat belts doesn't seem too safe, not to mention having a five year old run down the side of a highway to pick up discarded donut for a snack. . . aw dammit, now I'm starting to think that eating things found on the side of freeways sounds like a bad idea too (especially when stated so direct like that). Damn you common sense, you are no longer allowed near my childhood.
Anyway, what I found was a giant donut. In my memory it is much larger than my head, maybe the size of my torso. It was mostly encased in saran wrap, sitting on a Styrofoam tray similar to the ones that I only ever see holding meat these days. The tear in its covering caused a couple of inches of donut to be soiled with road debris but Grandma cut that part out. And, since it was open to the elements it was a little stale, but Grandma had a solution to this as well: ten seconds in the microwave.
Grandma was able to cut the road donut up into enough pieces so that all of the cousins and all of the uncles who were working at the shop that day could partake in our fortuitous discovery. One of the older girls thought it was gross so I got two pieces. That was a good day.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Not all titles make sense, but the one referring to Radiohead and bicycles totally did, I just never got around to that part.
The course for the Chico Wildflower was designed by an asshole. There is over 4,000 feet of altitude gain on the course, which wouldn't be too horrible except this elevation is exclusively located in the climbing of two mountains. The first mountain comes before mile thirty and is the longer of the two climbs. It is a seemingly infinite series of switchbacks which turned my legs into a lactic acid factory. As I neared each blind turn I pleaded that the summit would be revealed, but I think that I started hoping that in the middle of the climb so I had a lot of disappointment ahead of me. I guess whoever designed this course isn't too bad because they could have put this climb at mile ninety.
The second mountain is situated around mile fifty which occurred, for me, around one in the afternoon on the first quite warm day of the year. On paper, the second climb is easier as it is about three hundred feet less of elevation but in reality it is far worse because I had already climbed a mountain and though this one was shorter, it was still a nearly half mile of vertical gain within a three mile span of road. I nearly passed out, so I walked the last 1/4 mile up the mountain. I felt quite sick at the top of Table Mountain but pushed on thinking/hoping it would pass.
When I got to the mile 65 lunch stop I had reached a special level of exhaustion. It reminded me of the upsetting senselessness of being tired as a small child. My body was extremely sore and I was so fatigued that I felt like crying. I remember thinking that I felt like a 3 year old who had just gotten kicked down a flight of stairs at 3 a.m. The sound that came out of me as that thought went through my brain was a depressing chuckle-sob which inspired me to turn up my mp3 player as I forced down my sandwich.
The rest of the ride was fairly bland. There were no huge climbs and there was also absolutely no shade. Before I get to the eventual failure, however, I must go back to the mountains.
Downhills are pretty crazy for a fat guy. I have always biked alone so when I take on a sweet downhill on which I will meet or exceed the speed limit, I generally just take over the lane. I love it when drivers get pissed because you are on a bike, in their lane, going their speed. They usually want to pass me or attempt to make it look like I am inconveniencing them in some way. By the time I get to the bottom of the hill, however, they are 300 yards back and generally continue to give me a fair amount of space. Do they think I'm crazy for going so fast or have they just realized the size of a dent my extra large helmet would put in their car? When there are bikes as well as traffic, the descent becomes a bit trickier.
After the first mountain, I was excited for a long downhill run. After the second mountain, I hit every down-slope by saying "Fuck this pedaling shit. You owe me this one, gravity." I let my speed get a little out of hand on the first hill, however. I can feel fairly comfortable in the low 40s, but that is when I am the only biker on the road. About three quarters of the way down the hill I was flying by other riders and swerving into the turn lanes hoping to miss the cars driving up the hill as well. Luckily, my odometer stores my fastest time. I was going 48.9 miles an hour. I'd like to try for 50 at some point in time, but not any time soon.
I felt steadily sicker as I rode, and at mile 75 I started experiencing very painful back spasms. I now think that this was probably not a muscle issue as I drank my camelback dry twice (it holds 100 oz) and about 100 oz more of sports drinks at the various stops as well as another 150 oz of water at dinner afterwords and I didn't pee once all day until 7 at night. I'm thinking that back pain might have been my kidneys screaming for help. After dinner, I got the special opportunity to experience the literal reality of a cliched phrase as insult was added to injury and I was completely debilitated for an hour and a half writhing in horrible pain with the hiccups.
Since the ride looped back on itself, I could have cut off the last ten to fifteen miles and go straight to the finish. But, despite feeling ill and being in pain, I had to keep trying to do the full 100. I didn't allow myself to stop and rest in a spot of shade for a moment until mile 93. I figured this was safe because I ride seven miles every day to and from work. I stood straddling my bike with my head resting on the handlebars. After a couple of minutes I realized that I would not be moving from this spot and at that moment one of the ride volunteers drove up and offered to give me a ride back to the finish line.
Just about everybody had already finished as evidenced by the two remaining cars in the parking lot. I thanked him for the ride as I dropped my bike in the grass and called Jen to come pick me up. As I lay on the grass in the shade of some rose bushes, I remembered that I had put my headphones in my pocket without turning off my mp3 player when I hopped into the car. I slipped them back into my ears and heard:
"You do it to yourself, you do
and that's what really hurts
You do it to yourself, just you
you and no-one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself"
Luckily I had turned the music up, because I'm pretty sure the laugh/sob/whimper of pain probably sounded pretty depressing.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Immediately after having my interesting thought, I noticed a truck driving towards me and the guy driving and his passanger were looking at me with cartoonish sneers. As he passed me, the woman sitting next to him shouted “I hate your stupid fucking face, asshole.” I assumed she was shouting at me.
I watched a crow fight off a flock of pigeons and fly off with a whole piece of pizza.
I saw a woman with an ICP tattoo in Winco and was a little bit shocked to see a possible juggette in Redding but then I remembered that I’m in Redding and this kind of seems like ideal juggallo country.
I think I just remembered my amusing thought and it was “I think the greatest hurdle for a chubby guy wearing purple is to not look like Grimace.”
Saturday, May 8, 2010
When I got home early this morning I remembered that I had written something down about my first trip and found a piece of paper with "sad-sack sorry gamblers and their drunken ramblings" written on it, and I remembered how much I love words. One of the things I find most personally rewarding about writing is a perfect sentence, a fantastic turn of phrase, or a beautiful pairing of words. I have written papers around single instances of words I really enjoyed. I doubt this is a very good writing technique, but I'm not going to change because I see no reason to stop loving the lyric beauty of a thoughtfully crafted phrase.
Friday, May 7, 2010
I can understand why somebody would turn off half the lights in the bathroom and sit in the darkened stall the day after Cinco de Mayo, but this has been going on for a very long time.
In my previous job there was a point where I considered the bathroom to be the only safe haven from the all women, post-menopausal work environment. This was taken away when one of my bosses started using the men's restroom for her foul death shits. I never found out which one was destroying the last thing I enjoyed at work but I suspected all three of my bosses thought they were very clever in hiding their digestive problems from other ladies in the office. Either that or a single culprit had a very interesting diet as the tone of the air quality shifted from horror to horror throughout the day.
My current workplace commode is quite nice. In fact, when I was a student here I would relieve myself in this same bathroom, if given the choice, as it is generally cleaner and better air conditioned than many others on campus. As this restroom has become the sole fecal repository I frequent, I have observed the habits of some of my coworkers and what started out as an odd mystery probably should have remained a mystery but I figured it all out nonetheless.
About half the time I enter this bathroom, the light is off. This does not cast the entire bathroom into darkness but leaves no light in the entrance and leaves the handicapped stall quite unlit. I usually accepted this as a power saving effort by somebody on staff until one day as I was sitting on the toilet the lights were extinguished by an incoming waste management patron. With the lights off, the unknown man slipped into the far and newly darkened stall and I left the bathroom (after I washed my hands of course). This started happening on a regular basis. Sometimes I would be in one of the stalls when the lights went out and other times I would walk into the bathroom and the lights would already be out and somebody would already be in the stall. This became an odd mystery because I could never quite catch sight of whoever was doing this but I started referring to him as the Midnight Pooper. I would write 80's hair metal ballads about the Midnight Pooper, fraught with shredding guitar solos and would always turn the light back on when I left because that's kind of weird.
After a couple of months I realized that many times when the Midnight Pooper is doing his business, you can hear the clicking of cell phone buttons. Texting? Surfing the Internet? Who can really tell? I know I'm not going to ask them because there are too many awkward possibilities and I would rather continue my crusade for well-lit toilets with my current motivation.
This isn't the end of the mystery, however. One day as I washed my hands I was plunged into semi-darkness as the head of the counseling services walks in and enters the darkest stall. This was when I realized there are multiple Midnight Poopers and began to wonder what the reasoning was behind obscured defecation that was not due to an attachment to technology. My current theory is that the counselor has phobia about seeing his own feces. Maybe his dad was a plumber and died in a horrible septic tank accident and was raised by his puritanical mom who refused to be in the same room to potty train him and would shout through the door "You better clean up all your filth you dirty little sinner." And at some point he asked her what poop was and she shouted at him "It's your dirty sin you beast." and then she locked him in the pantry for three days and beat him severely for soiling his trousers.
It's a theory. No matter the reason, I hope I freak every Midnight Pooper out each time I turn the light on and disrupt whatever it was he was doing.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
"Just" is my favorite Radiohead song. You got a problem with that? Are you challenging me to a duel? Fine then, I get to choose the weapons. I choose bicycles. A slow, painful, endurance race to the death is the only thing I can prove my point with now.
I completed my first century at the beginning of the month. I rode from my house in Redding to my in-law's house in Paradise. It was raining the entire time and there was a headwind of ten miles per hour that increased to about forty miles an hour. The last five miles of the ride gained nearly half a mile of altitude. If it had been a ten mile bike ride it would have sucked. This ride was straight stupid.
Don Quixote helped me keep going. I listened to the king's portion of the book on that ride. It is wonderfully cyclical to be listening to the exploits of a crazy person doing absurd things while attempting to complete an absurd task yourself.
Lauren also helped me keep pedaling. In January I was speaking with my sister about some of the feats and challenges I was to attempt and she added another: she challenged me to ride one thousand miles on my bicycle before she gave birth to her baby. I had a little over three months to complete this challenge and in that time I started training to ride a century, eventually coming up with a plan to have the completion of my first century coincide with my thousand mile challenge.
I believe, however, that the main thing that kept me from stopping is my amazing stubbornness. I used to think that I was a pretty patient guy. It has taken me a long time to realize that biding one's time may look very much like waiting patiently though in reality it is an entirely different sort of beast. You may have faith that moves mountains but I have the stubbornness to wait for the rocks to melt and the dust to drift away on the breeze.
It may have taken me almost thirteen hours but I completed my first century, and in doing so, reached one thousand miles. I was surprised at how sore one's entire body can feel after a bike ride of this nature. Football never made me feel this sore, and I sucked at football so I got smashed around a lot. I felt the way Bruce Willis looks by the end of every Die Hard movie. But I didn't fight terrorist or avert any disasters; I defeated my unborn nephew. That little sucker was so embarrassed, he didn't even show his face for another couple of weeks. You may call him Titus Ransom Soini, but I will always refer to him as that kid I already beat. Not that I beat kids on a regular basis, but I probably could if I wanted to. It would be totally easy actually: They are small and lazy and I'm pretty sure they're illegal immigrants because most of them can't even speak English.
Anyway, this weekend's century was a little bit different. This is already kind of long so I will start out by telling you the ending: I only rode ninety-three miles. And by start I mean end. . . for now. My drink wants ice and my brain wants drink. Three more days till my third century: one success, one failure there's no third option so it's all repeats from here on out.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
We all had to read our poems in class, and after hearing several of my classmates’ work, I knew my poems would be the best. When it was my turn I proudly stood, ready to bare my soul as I shared the poem that had come directly from my heart. A very strange thing happened as I recited my poems; every couple of lines one or several of my classmates would laugh. “What are they doing?” I thought, “This is serious stuff.” I began to blush and would chuckle nervously with the other students in an effort to fit in with the group. As I read the lines “John the Baptist lost his head / Jesus died but didn’t stay dead” I came to the realization that what I had written was patently absurd and in a moment of brilliantly quick thinking that spanned the intake of breath from one line to the next, I made a decision that I now believe shaped much of my adolescence: I owned it. Because all of my classmates thought it was funny and they liked it because it was funny, I decided that it was funny and that that had been my intention all along.
I believe that may very well be the moment I decided that I must be the funny guy, a class clown. Being hilarious was my invincibility because even if you put your heart and soul into a project, if the final product was stupid or a total failure, you could always laugh it off. Comedy is the invisibility cloak of baring your soul gone awry. I held onto this identity until my senior year in high school.
It is amazing how thoroughly a person can trick one’s self. Somehow, at the time, I never felt disappointed or embarrassed by that terrible poem. It took me a while to remember that I had written those poems in all seriousness but I think of it every time I consider writing poetry, or reading poetry, or when things rhyme.
I have almost never attempted poetry since junior high. In fact, I have hated and avoided poetry for most of my life, and it was only in the last few years that I came to appreciate or understand poetry at all (this is hard for an English major to admit) and this was mostly due to a love for Aesop Rock (I have no problem admitting this).
I am currently going insane. Working in finance is antithetical to everything I want to do in my life and I have been forced to put a shit-ton of energy into work lately by working the odd ten hour day and some Saturdays (I typed "work" so many times in that sentence that I nearly gouged my eyes out with highlighters). I have had almost no time to sculpt or write and the little bit I have written of late has been steaming piles of shit. This has brought me to a decision: I have decided to own it. I am going to take my horrible scribblings and poorly worded rants and make them worse by turning them into poetry.
I am pretty sure my brain isn’t working very well right now because this seems like a good idea.
Am I reaping the results of a youthful indiscretion or am I simply growing older?
I pierced my nose seven years ago.
Ever since then
My nose hair has grown wild.
It may very well be the natural course of things
Growing hair in odd places
Losing hair in others,
But I like my explanation better.
From time to time
I have to pull my nose hairs out.
If I do not do this,
My nose gets irritated
And I sneeze a lot.
And my sneezes are pretty violent.
People at work,
Two walls separating my office from theirs,
Will call to say “Bless you.”
I no longer pick up the phone when it rings after I sneeze.
I did not sneeze very much today;
I plucked nose hairs before showering.
The pleasant pain conjuring nascent tears
Was better than a pot of coffee to wake me up.
And when I looked down
The sink looked as if I’d shaved off an eyebrow.
*The magical wordsmith behind Toothpaste for Dinner, Drew, is responsible for this excellent phrase. If I was a doppelganger, I would definitely eat his soul and assume his identity.
Friday, January 8, 2010
We had only been in Mexico for a couple of weeks before Tequila Nights became a midweek staple. I am not sure about the logic of prefunking for $2, face-sized margaritas at Mama Mia but no one ever said that the world of drinking made sense. We would eventually come to be familiar enough with the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende that we would make our separate ways to our host homes, but we started out the tradition with the home-bound mindset of strength in numbers, which was why it was weird when just as we left the bar, Antonio said, “I’m gonna take a short cut this way. See you at school tomorrow.”
It wasn’t until I had walked halfway to La Academia with Antonio the next morning that I thought to question his directional sense, “I wanted to swing by El Lounge,” he replied.
“Is there really a place called ‘El Lounge’ here?” I scoffed.
“Yeah,” he said, “it’s the only bar open till daylight.”
I would later come to find out that this statement was not completely factual. There was another bar that was open nearly every hour of the day called La Cucaracha, which, aside from being named “the Cockroach”, I did not want to drink there because women were not allowed entrance and the patronage of gringos of any kind was strongly discouraged, usually through violence (I have always thought of as the Cantina and since I have neither the Force nor a fully functional light-saber, I wisely stayed away). So, while Antonio’s statement wasn’t technically true in an absolute sense, it was true in enough senses that made El Lounge the only after-hours bar I would enter during my time in Mexico.
“You seem awake enough. How late did you stay there?”
“Uhh, I didn’t actually go in.”
“Why, what did you do?”
“Well, I got to the door and just as I was going in, this chick walks out and asks me if I want to go home with her.”
“That’s ridiculous.” I said to the five foot four, pudgy, sun-burnt, Texan “There is no way that happened.”
“I have been here for four months and I can assure you that that does indeed happen, and quite often I might add.” He continued his story while I made numerous mental notes reminding myself to not shake his hand or share a drink with him for the remainder of our acquaintance. “So, this chick invites me to her place and I think ‘why not?’ so I go to her place. Now later, I’m on her roof and I say to myself ‘Whitfield, you’re gonna need to smash this window’. . .”
“Whoa! Hold on a sec there. It seems to me that a large and possibly important part of your narrative has been misplaced. How did you come to find yourself on this roof and was I correct in hearing that when you speak to yourself you call yourself Whitfield?”
“Well, Whitfield is my actual name. I started going by Antonio because that’s where I’m from and no one here in Mexico can seem to pronounce Whitfield.” This being a suitable explanation I was able to move on and with the aid of the crowd that had now gathered,I was able to urge Whitfield to fill in the gaps of his story. It was revealed that the diminutive Texan had indeed engaged in sexual relations with a stranger who had passed out promptly after their coupling. Whitfield let himself out only to find that he was trapped in the courtyard which was hemmed in by a large wall topped with broken glass and jagged metal. The door to the house was locked and his lover could not be roused by any conventional means, leading him to climb upon the roof so that he could break a window, climb inside, and rouse the stranger long enough to gain access to a key that would allow him to make it beyond the courtyard and into the street.
Though this story was odd and entertaining, it seemed like Whitfield was still keeping something from us and, after further probing, it was discovered that the amorous activity was anal in nature, he had not used a condom, and that Whitfield had been so drunk that he could not recall if he had ever glimpsed the front of the stranger leading him to grudgingly question the sex of his partner. Luckily, one of the twins soon began dating a horse-faced local girl whom even the instructors at La Academia referred to as “Cabesona” who had been outside El Lounge on that fateful night and was able to clear up our mystery.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I have recently finished an experiment which lasted the whole of 2009. I committed myself to a reading list, but one that was descriptive rather than prescriptive in that I only added books to the list once I had completed them. I have never had too much of an urge to create a reading list to follow for any period of time but I have toyed with ideas of recording my reading habits, and must thank Evan for suggesting this wonderfully simple one that I overlooked. Below is a the list, broken down by month, of what I read in 2009:
Twilight Watch, Starship Troopers, Care of the Soul, The Reason For God
House of Leaves, Preacher TPBs 1-9, A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings, Bird by Bird, Y the Last Man TPBs 1-10, A Storm of Swords, A Feast of Crows, On Bullshit, Fables and Fairytales
American Gods, Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin
The Bible, War and Peace
Dead Until Dark
Hood, Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead
Les Miserables, When You Are Engulfed In Flames, Luck in the Shadows
The Name of the Wind, Foreskin’s Lament, Player Piano, Last Watch
First of all, I am a little bit ashamed that I only completed 36 books in 2009. True, The Bible, Les Miserables, and War and Peace are all beasts that are several times longer than the average novel, but I still feel like I should have been able to complete more books in a year's time. One may look at this list and say "Shit Andrew, you sure have a lot of goddamn silly books on that there list." To which I would reply "That is true" as I fire my automatic shotgun into the advancing zombie horde (because obviously this question was asked by a well read yokel during a zombie apocalypse in which we are fighting our way to freedom through a bayou. I think that it is important to talk about things like reading, self reflection, as well as future goals during the realization of any type of apocalypse, because, aside from basic survival, there are many good reasons to clear the land of the violent undead. Not the least of which being that as one of the sole survivors (due mostly to my excellent shotgun skills) I would be in an excellent position to reshape society into one that once again prizes books above other forms of entertainment).
I have read a lot of fluff in the last year, and I hope to change that somewhat, but the fact remains that reading, for me, is definitely a form of entertainment. I love the books that require a bit of brain sweat, but I also like the books that allow me to turn off the unending self-reflection, social commentary, insane ideas, and inane chatter that is my cerebrum. Also, I feel I can defend almost every book on this list (except for Luck in the Shadows, fuck you Powells for suggesting this book as an acceptable place holder for George R. R. Martin's tardy novels. Fuck your stupid face and this awful waste of paper.). Even the Sookie Stackhouse series contains some very interesting complexities and social commentary. Plus, I read that series via audio book (if you want to argue with me about the validity of "reading" audio books, go right ahead but I cannot think of a safer way to read a book while driving or riding a bike.) and I am falling in love with the accessibility of audio books and find that I would rather listen to a book for a half hour than watch just about any show on television.
For the next year, I plan on continuing my reading list, but I hope to post it each month with a short defense of each book I read. I say defense because I don't want to do a full fledged book review, and I know that I will continue to read many fun books but feel that I ought to try and keep myself accountable that the books I read are also reasonably worthwhile. I also hope to read a lot more books this year, and, as I have already finished three books this year and in the midst of two more, I believe I can reach this goal.
This is but one of several challenges I have set for myself in the next year, and, like this reading list, I believe that I will only post them once I have successfully completed them. That way, if I fail miserably, no one will ever know. But if I don't post any completed challenges, feel free to assume I have died or my life has fallen apart completely and I have moved into my parents basement/tool shed where I chain smoke in between shots of some horrific grain alcohol as I play World of Warcraft and masturbate furiously in my specially reinforced chair that is necessitated by my corpulence.