Showing posts with label Heady. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heady. Show all posts


Something Coming

It was just one of those things.

I never knew about it until almost the end. In hindsight I should have seen it coming. I was told about it, then it happened. Not so close as to wallop me over the head with obviousness, but still a close enough cause and effect I should have been able to together.

My grandmother passed away earlier this month. She lived a long life, but that never makes it easier for those left to live with the loss. She was my mom's tether to her childhood. My grandfather Hugh had passed away when my mom was a little girl and my mom was an only child. In many ways they were each other's connection to the world they once shared. Now my mom has her own family for support, but her sense of history has been thrown off balance. 

It was just old age, really. It wasn't cancer or heart disease or diabetes. She had grown old and her kidneys had completely shut down. When one essential thing goes, the rest of them start to fail. That's it. She was in surprisingly good health until the last week or so. I got to say goodbye when she was still her normal self, still sitting and eating lunch, waving me off because she wanted to get back to her routine. She didn't know, and I didn't want her to know, that I was saying goodbye. I had known her kidneys had failed and what it meant for her not to opt for dialysis, but she hadn't seemed to see the gravity of the situation.

Towards the end, my mom told me something that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. It's the kind of thing I would think about and dismiss as an over active imagination or seeking a pattern in the randomness of life, but here I am writing about it. There was a song that would serve as a harbinger. Not like a curse, but a sign of impending change or bad happenstance. Like an omen that arrives as a musical motif, several times over the course of her life.

I don't recall the specifics but I can't keep pestering my mom about it until more time has passed. Here's the long and short of it: when my grandmother had suffered a fall back in mid to late November, my mom had taken her to the doctor to make sure everything was okay. They had returned to her room at the home, with no bad news but no improvement on her health. As my mom helped her mom get out of the car a snippet of music drifted out of the window of another residents room at the assisted living facility. My mom said that her mom told her whenever she heard that song 'It Was Just One of Those Things' something bad would happen. It was never an immediate reaction, like a spring loaded trap. It had been more of a sign of impending change. She would hear the song in an incidental manner (someone's party, a passing car, an open window) and within a few days or a week something would happen. A serious illness. Losing a job. A bad accident. However she made the connection, she held it in her mind for decades. She recognized the song and off handedly explained it to my mom as though it was this harmless old superstition.

My mom had made note of it, and hoped it wasn't the sign it turned out to be.

I've thought about it constantly since my mom told me about it. The first connection I made was to 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' on LOST - an incidental motif that served as a larger sign of connection, a peppy number that clashes with the unpleasant thing it accompanies. I've been racking my brain to see if anything in my life has happened like that. I've been on a constant vigilance to see if anything happens like it. I know our brains seek to create a pattern out of random occurrences  similar to how we are hard wired to see faces even where there are none. Maybe that's what happened to her. I don't know. 

Almost every night, now, I've been having conversations with my grandmother in my dreams. Maybe it's just me processing things I haven't dealt with yet. Maybe I'm looking for answers I never got to ask about. She's never able to answer hard questions before I wake up, though. If I can, I'll see if I can remember to ask her about this in my dreams. It's just one of those things.


Map Lines

End of the world, again. 

No, not anything political. Like me, I'm sure you are sick to death of anything even tangentially related to the election. 

Since I've moved into my new home with my better half we've both noticed a strange thing happening in our minds. We drive home from where ever we have been, almost always taking the same way. The other option is less traveled but no less familiar. This more frequent route sees us taking a stretch of highway unworthy of note. It is a number and that is all. There is nothing remarkable beyond it. There are no major cities beyond our exit, no developing suburbs. We come to our exit, take the off ramp and turn down our street into our neighborhood, never looking over the horizon at what is beyond. My better half hit the nail on the head when she explained it to me as "like the edge of a map in a video game."

What lies past that last exit? 

Seemingly, nothing. Not in the sense of goon docks and tall grass. I mean in the sense that we have no preconception of where that highway goes. Think about that - don't you usually have an idea of where a road goes, even if you don't take it? There's a makeshift grid in your mind, an adaptive map that adjusts to where you are, where you've been and where you're going. Rarely do we contemplate the road less traveled. 

So we're left with a highway that stretches off into the ether - overly dramatic, sure, but my mind can't construct what is out there. Eventually one of the Dakota's I suppose...but what's in the vast stretch of mid-west nothing in between? It's just developed enough around the area to suggest small towns or the gradual emergence of another suburb, but I have no frame of reference for it. 

To rectify this we did what we always do - we turned to tech. 

Google Earth, duh. There it was, our highway. Stretching out over the screen, leading to a series of small burgs dotting the western half of the state. Nothing of particular note, just what you'd expect when picking a random point on a map in the flyover states. It didn't really help, though. Maybe not enough frame of reference? 

I found it to be more fun and revelatory when looking at my childhood haunts on Google Earth. Forests that bordered parks spilled out on the other side. Shortcuts were instantly justified. All the odd things about where I grew up fell into an easy to understand and digestible world of North, South, East and West. Yeah, yeah, I had maps as a kid. But never like this. Now I can zip instantly to where I remember things and twist the orientation and see things in real time. Provided the data is fresh enough and the screen is detailed enough, it's like being there. 

It's super dorky, I know, but I love this kind of memory tinkering. This weird, video-game inspired world of mine slowly gives up its secrets with every technological development. Fewer boundaries every day. The world ends somewhere, just not where we think it does.


Bad Mojo

How could I forget?

I struggled a bit with what to post on Halloween proper. I was afraid the magic was fading a bit. It's been hectic around here, there have been all sorts of obligations and things at the office and early colds/bugs...I wasn't really feeling it.

I know, I know.

Comparing the volumes of words last year to the scant posts this year, it's clear my head wasn't in the Halloween game. It felt like the intangible special air of the season hadn't appeared. But then I got home to my better half's chili and the giant bowl of candy to hand out. Suddenly it clicked. It was last minute but it was there. Spooky tunes on Pandora. Treehouse of Horror. Trick or treaters are coming for the first time! We've waited so long for this (and no more huge lines at bars and paying a cover and getting a cab and all the other adult Halloween misery)!

So I got jazzed here at the last minute.

To celebrate, I'll impart something I had forgotten (thankfully). In a recent post I mentioned how I don't believe in this mumbo jumbo about ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Supporting my steadfast adherence to science is the fact that nothing...paranormal...has ever happened to me.

Until I was house shopping.

My better half and I had looked at probably 30 houses and were growing frustrated. One day while out with our realtors we stopped at a bit of a fixer upper in the west metro area. Decent, but not great neighborhood. The house was in fine shape from the outside. Inside, though, it I don't know. It's still hard to put a finger on what did it. It had this funny salmon color all over, and I think it had been foreclosed on? Or maybe the owners were renting it out and the people that were there weren't taking care of it. Whatever it was, they weren't taking proper care of it on the inside and everything was kind of slap-dash and in disarray. Seemed like a guy and a little girl, from the toys strewn about. 

As soon as the door had closed behind us something was happening to me. As far as I can recall, no one else felt it. I sure did, though. It felt terrible, like I was drowning, or there was a gas leak and only I was getting the fumes. My head was heavy and throbbing. My eyes hurt and I wanted to lie down and die. My chest felt like it was being crushed. I took maybe five minutes to get my bearings in the house, all the while my better half is imperviously seeing promise. She and the realtors are walking around admiring the kitchen and I practically vomit the phrase "I'm leaving. Now. We're not interested." They were totally perplexed by my sudden change in demeanor, but since I had never exhibited any kind of displeasure on this level, they shrugged and went with it. 

By the time we were in the car and driving away, my head cleared out and I explained what happened. They were a bit surprised but they accepted my reaction with aplomb. My better half was a bit bummed to miss out on what she saw as a great kitchen, even if I felt so horrible. We moved on, they were all cool with it. I'm sure the realtors had seen weirder and worse in their time.

It was so strange. I've never had such a bad feeling, this sense of malevolence or foreboding space. It was as if the house had the strongest bad vibes I'd ever felt. I don't know what to chalk it up to. My religious childhood and paranormal pop culture obsession wants to knee-jerk to call it spirits. My logical mind wants to call it undetected electromagnetics and low-level sub-audible humming. Hey, maybe it was low blood sugar and high stress. I just know there was no way I was going to spend more than five minutes there, let alone buy the place. It gives me the creeps to think about it, so I was glad to put it behind me. Dredging it out for you guys is kind of therapeutic. 

So, there it is. My only spooky deal. Not fun. Like I said, I don't beleive in any of it, which when considering how it felt, is just fine with me. I'll stick with cartoon skeletons and candy and the Monster Mash. Werewolf Barmitzvahs and all that. No real haunts, just real thrills. 



This took me back.

This took me aback.

Last post I wrote about how I've (somehow) started enjoying the process of mowing my lawn. Yes, yes - domestication and all that. I don't care. I like me. Moving on. In that piece I mentioned how I no longer listen to music when I do any kind of chores by myself. When it's my better half tackling something with me, we're all about some odd-ball jams. When I'm operating as el lobo solo, though, I'm almost always listening to podcasts or comedy albums. I like the idea of POTENTIALLY bettering myself, either through some sort of instructed or guided dawning moment of insight. Otherwise, to quote Anthony Jeselnik "Life is full of horrible things that will eventually get you and everything you care about. Laughter is a universal way to lift your head up and say 'Not today, you bastards.'"


I made my way through most of my comedy albums over the summer. By the end I had made my way to something I had been putting off. Someone who is known in smaller circles, one of those comedians who gets a lot of praise but never popped like others of his era. Bill Hicks.
My roommate in college did me a life changing favor in introducing me to Bill Hicks. I had never heard such acerbic  intelligent breakdowns on the subtle miseries of life. We bonded over the absurd bits on hooligans in light of American gangs, the heady stuff about LSD on the nightly news and nodded along about the never-ending threat of the world ending. It was a complete game changer for how we interpolated the world around us. We consumed all of Hicks we could and moved on with our lives. Like most things you're enamored with, though, you obsess over it for a while and then just carry it with you. 
I hadn't listened to much of anything by Hicks in the last eight years. So on one of my recent days spent doing yard work I listened to a couple of his seminal works. I weeded, picked up compost, mowed and trimmed, my head cocked the whole time as I digested what I was hearing with a fresh set of ears.

It awesome as I had remembered.

Maybe I've softened in the last decade or so. Maybe I'm (somehow, despite what I say) less cynical. Maybe I just bottle it up more. Whatever changed in me, I was struck by how it didn't hold up and how little I enjoyed it. To clarify, I certainly enjoyed choice bits, but more for the wit and less for the bite now. 'Changing the world' seems flatly impossible now. To listen to some grand proclamations to which I used to nod feverishly, I winced and shook my head. It was grating. It was dismissive and vitriolic. A surprising amount of it was straight up homophobic, which was really surprising. 
Listening to Bill Hicks after being introduced to it almost a decade ago, I was struck mostly at how I had changed, as well as how his material ages in light of his reputation. Was a genius? No. But he was insightful and incredibly ahead of the curve. He cut a (very premature) path in the world for others to slip into. But the murmurs you hear about his reputation being better than his material are not entirely unfounded. Kind of a bummer, of course, but also enlightening as to how I've grown and changed in this short span of time.

I'm not saying you should never listen to his material. I'm saying I heard it for the first time in the right place and mindset. You should absolutely hear some of it. There are some real gems in it. Just dig in for yourself and remember it's just a ride


Lawnmower Man

So Fall is here. 

Mixed emotions! 

I say mixed because I absolutely adore Fall. There are way too many reasons to list - the crisp, clear air. The cool, sunny days. Leaves crunching under foot. Making chili and cooking hot meals to warm up. Sleeping with the windows open. Look, I could go on and on. 

There's also a downside, though - it's the end of any measurable light in Minnesota. From now until April it's pretty much dark all the time. I can make peace with that, but there is definitely a physical toll on the body. The cold, unrelenting winter. It's the price we pay for having three amazing (truncated) seasons. 

There's a new reason in the mix this year.

When I was 14 you could not have paid me enough money to mow the lawn. Actually I did not get paid for my own lawn. My dad knew better. Neighbors, though. They paid. Not as much as I wanted, but some. And I loathed it. Owning my own home, now I look for excuses to get outside and tinker with my lawn. What has become of me? Who is typing this? Who is this young man wandering around, picking weed, laughing to himself while listening to oddball podcasts?
There's a certain zen aspect to it, though.

A friend of mine said if she has to mow her lawn, she's having a couple of beers to ease the process along. I heartily agree. Yard work becomes a calming, manageable thing when you nurse a beer or two on a warm Summer afternoon. Now it's a cool Fall afternoon and it's not the same thing. Mowing the lawn has a hypnotic effect, though. You get outside of your head as you follow these little grooves in the lawn. There's the white noise of the mower. After the two-thirds point I can start to feel when the blade hits the grass, with a zing in my hands. It's soothing and eases anxiety the way doodling while on a phone call or putting together a puzzle while having a conversation takes you mind off matters - you distract your conscious mind just enough to let thoughts rise to the surface, free from constraint. What comes to mind is free and accepted. It's not unlike having a brilliant idea while taking a shower or vacuuming - you're free from thinking about thinking.
The joy of mowing a lawn. Man, that's some malarkey. When did I become this suburban stereotype? Did I watch that much King of the Hill? Am I going to be obsessed with my lawn? Give me two years and I'll be out there with a ruler and some kitchen shears, micromanaging like a true neurotic.
It also doesn't hurt that it's a thing that I can put a pin in and call 'done'. I can point to my yard and say "It's not perfect, but I don't have to deal with it for another week." Such a tangible, concrete task in my ADD, screen-filled life is a relief, to be perfectly frank. It's exercise with a definite benefit. 
It's not the end of the world that Fall is coming. I have next Spring to gear up for the whole process. I'll have a driveway to shovel (woof). Also, I'm getting way ahead of myself - after all, the leaves haven't all hit the ground, yet. I need to rake pretty soon.

Now there's some home-owning torture, right?


Old Vinyl

I just sent my mom a bummer of an email.

When I was in high school I entertained these notions of what life would be like when I got older. I'd be this hep cat, cooler than my high school self-conscious brain would allow. I'd read all these books about big ideas, man, and then write some. You know? Simple, undefined ideas of an unrealized self that never has been realized.

Some things did come to pass, although in a different manner than I would have expected. I did live in the Big City for a spell. A couple, actually. I played in bands. I rapped. I wrote a lot of bad free-verse. I started this blog. Acted in an indie flick. I fell in love. We moved into a happy home and learned to cook fantastic food together. Bought a house together, learned the joys of simple things together. Life is great.


There's always a but. This time it was me responding to an email I received regarding what was to be done with my old record collection. A pause. A moment of recollection and head tilts. Right. Those things. I barely have time to listen to music at all, any more. If I didn't block out white noise at the office with podcasts and dubstep, I'd never listen to much beyond the car. Actually, that's not entirely true. The better half and I tend to push each other on to new tunes. 

The thing is...this idealized self that would eventually have a real bitchin' Hi-Fi with a rad old record collection no longer exists. Instead I find myself excited about listening to new episodes of podcasts as I mow the lawn. I want to listen to comedy albums while I cook. I zone out to techno while I run. Who am I? When did my dad's copies of Who's Next no longer become relevant? When did I give up on his copy of Beggar's Banquet? 

I'm more than a bit disappointed in myself. It's not the end of the world though. There's always some new, unanticipated adventure just around the bend. Better than anything else I could have predicted is that I have my best friend and better half to go with on these adventures. Forget what I wanted to be. I'll be whatever happens to us next.

Besides, vinyl pops and clicks anyway.


Irrational Fear

I'm an idiot. 

Not all of the time. 

Just some of the time. 

You see, last night before I went to sleep I was reading an article on the game Slender. It's a free-to-download PC game that has the player running around a park at night collecting pages of a book, avoiding the titular Slender Man, a meme that plays on our fear of the unknown and undefined. You look at him too much and you die. That's it. Sounds simple, right? It sure does, but according to almost all who have played it, it is supposed to be pants-fillingly terrifying. Something about the premise, setting and execution have made a simple yet disturbing game. Needless to say I'm stoked for it. It's sitting on my desktop but I'm waiting for Halloween. Or at the least, the month of October. My terror induced diarrhea must be timely. 

That's not why I'm an idiot, though. At least, not this time. 

No, the thing was that in the article was a link to this video from a series of YouTube clips about...something. I don't even know, really. However, that short clip was so effective in its use of framing timing that I was unnerved to the point of continuing anxiety. I had to put it out of my mind to sleep last night, and all during my run (in the dark, natch) this morning I would get these bolts of memory that would jar me and I honestly found myself looking back over my shoulder know? 

Look, I'm no scientist. But! I majored in Logic and Philosophy in college. I spend most of my brain power working out the rules and systems of the world around me. When given a game to play, I love looking for ways to break the system, to test the boundaries of a pre-established world. That we, as a species, have worked out the cosmos from the multiverse down to subatomic particles astounds me and makes me marvel at being alive. But I don't believe in the supernatural. I know a few people reading this will be disheartened to hear that as much as I love Mysterious Universe, I don't think of it as a journalistic endeavor - it's more a source of entertainment. Much of my ability to deal with the horrors of the world and the cruelty of fate stems from the cold, hard logic of science and how cause and effect operate, coupled with a good ol' dose of Chaos Theory. There's a lot of math I don't understand, but even cats can use an iPad even if they'll never build one. 
The point is - I know this stuff is pure, Grade A baloney. Noises in my house are the house settling or creaking in the wind or my cat being a little unhinged. No one chases me during my run except my thoughts and the local rabbits. Despite knowing these things...I still get the creeps. The willies. That little tingle up the spine that lingers from an evolutionary holdover in which was originally supposed to warn of large animals watching from the bushes. 
I'm not saying there's not danger in the world. Of course there is. Cancer. Car accidents. Random acts of violence. Super volcanoes. But I only control my own self and how I react to things. So why can't I control getting creeped out by stuff like that video late at night? Why do I love to torture myself, especially non-stop in October? Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Or maybe I like to pretend there's more out there. See how the other half lives. Who knows. 

I'll just glance over my shoulder every now and then to be sure. 


Social Situations

We give some people way too much power over us, don't we?

At the end of a fantastic week I found myself stalking the produce section of a grocery store I don't frequent. Rather, I used to haunt this one, but a closer one opened up to my better half's office and now we go to that one. Thing is, at the end of a pretty great week I was on the hunt for a couple key ingredients for some curry we planned to make as soon as I came home. I was a bit disheveled. Nothing drastic, just a bit rumpled and more than a bit greasy after a productive day. Tie loosened, collar unbuttoned. My alleged hipster hair flopping down into my eyes like the 11th Doctor. I turned the corner around the vidalia onions and there he was.

This dude I used to know.

He was a cool dude. We didn't know each other that well, but he had been a tangential social connection in college who had done me a few favors when I needed them. We always got along just fine but there was a clear social dynamic - he was cool. He was the alpha male. I was not cool. I was the clear beta. He still possesses this unspoken confidence and carries himself very well. I still slouch and second guess every single thing I do. I don't even know if he recognized me, but neither of us acknowledged the other. 

I pretended nothing clicked in my head and went about my business, keeping an eye peeled and watching for any recognition from him. None came. When he checked out and left before me, I relaxed a bit. There was no bad blood between us, so why the anxiety? Simply because it would be awkward to reintroduce myself to someone I knew, and I guess to explain who I was? That sort of makes sense, but it doesn't make me feel better about it. Just being surprised by him threw me off balance and the old dynamic reared into being. Years have passed since I even spoke to this dude, yet there I was, all nebbish and strange as though my years of personal growth and accomplishments vanished due to proximity. 

I've been thinking about this weird encounter all night. It shouldn't bother me, but it's going to linger like a bruise, I can tell. It's foolish. It's not like I'd send him a text and say "Hey! How's it going?" at this point. Waves in the ocean. I'll cross paths with people like this again. I need to remember not to let it sway me. I like who I am. Dynamics change. Relationships grow and wither. People don't care as much as we think they do. I'll shrug it off.

Ah, well.


Donor Card

I donated some blood the other day. 

Not a lot. Just a pint. 

I know there's a certain squick factor here, but I rather enjoy the whole bizarre process. Being fortunate enough not to have a fear of needles, that's reason enough. I also happen to be the picture of health - no diseases, allergies, pre-existing conditions of any sort. I've never even broken a bone. So the least I can do is make good use of a healthy specimen and donate some blood to someone who might need it. Does it alleviate the guilt of having all the advantages I do and not doing much to make the world a better place? No. But, it does a small bit of good. Someone needs it. I guess it goes bad after a while, so fresh, healthy stock is needed. So why not?
It's a weird process. The more you think about it, the more unusual it becomes. There's this viscous goo inside us that we donate, and you feel really dopey and light headed afterword. Any other time you lose blood like that, you're probably terribly injured and at least a little traumatized. This time, you're okay, just have a cookie and relax for a minute. People can joke about oil and being a pint low and all that, but really - that there's this operating substance in us that can be siphoned out is so bizarre. It makes you reexamine your sense of self - there you are, draining out of your arm into a bag. It is both marvelous and humbling. We are a sum of parts, yet so much more.
Additionally, there are health benefits to donating as well. Apparently most Americans (possibly others, but I can only speak for my country of carnivores) have diets that are much too high in iron. These iron particulates, when unabsorbed in the bloodstream, behave as free-radicals, which are rarely a good thing. There is a saturation point at which our bodies fail to process all of the excess iron and it can build up to a detrimental level. Donating blood both removes some of this excess as well as allows the body to freely generate and replace the missing pint with its own fresh supply, thus redistributing the remaining amounts. 

So I probably sound like as ghoul, dissecting all this. Eh. It's a fascinating thing, one that more people should do if they're up for it. Gives me a break in the day and makes me appreciate the wonder of a functioning, healthy body. Good gravy, how's that for a glimpse under the hood, eh? #NoVamps #Twitterjoke 


Drop In

This past weekend I attended my 10 year high school reunion. 

It was...enlightening. 

I had no idea what to expect, beyond the venue. It was at a place I had waited tables during my junior and senior years, working with a bunch of friends who all happened to be girls. All that afforded me, beyond the expectation of mediocre pizza and where exactly the restrooms were located, was the reminder that I was an odd duck. From what I gathered there, I think that same nature persists. At one point during the alcohol fueled festivities I looked around the room at how people had congregated and remarked to my better half "...nothing changes - dudes over there talking shop, girls over there kind of dancing, me watching and waiting for an appropriate time to leave." While that statement may have been more than a tad reductive and overly simplifying, I stand by it. 

This isn't some self-pity party, I should clarify. 

I wasn't the ostracized, beat-down outcast you see portrayed in the media, like a taped-horn-rim-glasses dweeb or some trench coat wearing demon. No, it was much more innocuous than that. My graduating class was under 70 people in a rather isolated area, socially and physically. It was a small town before the internet really grew roots. It's only natural that you pick a group of 60 to 70 strangers, lump 'em in together and subsequently fail to really connect with more than a few. I am not disparaging anyone for the fate of being born and raised in a scenic place like ours. Rather, I'm just expounding on the realization that I'm okay with understanding I really only connected with a handful of kids in high school. It's no fault of mine or anyone else's - do I take umbrage as an adult that not every single person in my office wants to go to a happy hour? Of course not. Nor should I have any long-since irrelevant feelings of rejection over not being one of the guys back then. I just wasn't my scene. We had nothing in common, and introducing a fair number of people to the love of my life I became more aware of this - I thought she was the bee's knees, where as most of these people would have no common ground over which to converse. Different circles, different lives. Had any of my close friends from this epoch of my life accompanied me, they most likely would have had a similar experience. 

To be fair, I also made little effort to be more like the typical dude. 

There were more than a handful of times it was apparent to me in high school (and earlier) that I didn't fit in, in that town. I was teased for being verbose, for dressing differently, for liking weird music, for playing the wrong music in my band, for not excelling at any sport besides (gasphorror) soccer. You name it. Did it stop me? Did it make me try to change myself to fit in? Nope, not a bit. I was stubborn. I also felt terrible about myself, but I didn't acquiesce - I just developed a healthy, mid-west WASPy sense of guilt about enjoying life and being happy. In their defense, though - I couldn't name a single other person I knew who liked Bjork or had seen Reservoir Dogs or loathed Bon Jovi. I was the statistical outlier, in this case, and I didn't make concerted efforts to find people around me who shared my tastes, although I did share some cultural overlap. There are still a number of albums that bring back memories of summertime road trips to cabins, a bunch of teenagers driving with the windows down, trying not to get ash on the car seats. These were the exception rather than the rule, though. I often questioned (and as a result, still do) my own taste. If I like something, does that mean it's terrible? 

Eh. Shrug. 

More than a handful of cats simply avoided the whole shebang. Even people who lived in town, less than a mile away, didn't attend the reunion. Some from spite, some from convenience. I don't know. I just know that any juvenile feelings of not belonging or being an outsider have long since dissolved. Not that they didn't influence me in a significant way, more so that they are vestigial, no longer needed in my life. High school was forever ago. I don't really care. There are people I stay in touch with and people I try to stay in touch with. It's on them just as much as on me to keep the connection. Similarly, when I walked in to the room I had a sense of heaviness. Not from dredged emotion or unresolved feelings, but from the realization I'd have to give the same story to about 40 people - I like who I am, I just get tired of the small talk. 

Maybe that's all it is, now. Realizing that even if you like yourself and are proud of who you are, you still have to grin and bear it. As I drove back to my real life, hours away and that whole part of my life in the rearview, I was surprisingly pleased with how I felt about the whole thing. It wasn't necessarily pleasant, but it wasn't torture. Getting older isn't always fun, but there are moments when you understand it's all for the best. Just play the hand you're dealt and try to smile as you do it. 


Cadaver Caper

I really should be saving this for next Halloween.

You know what? I can't - this story is too good to share and I don't ever want to forget it.

My better half had a coworker who, contrary to her bright, life-affirming disposition, had a previous career as a mortician's assistant. While this, in and of itself, is worthy of ample amounts of dissection (dear goodness, no pun intended) over a happy hour, the seeming disparity between her persona and the occupation are not the heart of the matter. No, an event on the job, a particular incident, is what prompted me to jump to the keyboard. This was simply too amazing and horrifying to let slip into the ether. I feel compelled to share it with the world.


A brief word on the nature of our inevitable end. 

We're all doomed. Death is one of the few things in the world we will all experience. There is both a universality and taboo surrounding it. We are fascinated by it, yet speak of it in hushed tones. Our lives are seemingly spent in denial of it, yet only when we embrace it do we live to the fullest extent. We are meat containing something special. When that light behind the eyes goes out, all that remains is a vessel, a shell. What we leave behind is not us, but a reminder that we are something more than bags of mostly water. There is, to say the absolute minimum, a mental phenomenon unlike anything else we've seen in the universe. It is to be treasured and valued. Having been present at the moment a loved one has passed, there is certainly clear distinction between "they are with us" and "they are gone". It is simple, yet wholly distinct. 


What I am about to impart is meant in no way to desecrate that remarkable, ephemeral essence. Instead, it elucidates the mechanical nature of our existence that we mistakenly assume to be the beginning and end of who and what we are. But enough preamble. On to it.

This happy little pixie of a woman was a mortician's assistant. She assisted, among other duties, in the preparation for burial through the embalming process. This process involves draining the body of fluids and replacing them with substances that preserve our remains. At some point in the process a high powered suction device is used to drain the body cavity. It would seem that one must always be mindful of where you place such an item when taking a break, because this happy-go-lucky woman made the unfortunate mistake of dropping the suction device on the open throat of a deceased person. The suction and force of the device dropping onto soft tissue allowed it to break through the wind pipe, and begin drawing air (backwards) through the throat and over the vocal cords. The uncanny scream that erupted from the deceased's throat was enough to send the woman sprinting from the room, too terrified to return until the physical reaction was properly explained. All the while, due to the mechanism of the vacuum, the impossible screaming continued.


A horrifying little tale, no doubt. However, it reaffirms the absurdity of our mortal confines and allows me to thoroughly creep out friends around Halloween. I just wanted to make sure I could share it with everyone before the memory escaped me. So have fun with that, and feel free to share!


Worlds End

I've been thinking about The End of The World. 

Not in the biblical sense, fire and brimstone. Although I suppose in this case it would apply. Moreover, it's in the sense of my life as I know it ending. 

Like any human in this modern age, I have too much imagination with too little to exert it against. I wake up, go through my work day and come home. During that time, things are always happening. At home, more stuff happens. Something is always going on. Decisions are being evaluated, plans are made and executed. Meals are prepared and eaten, chores and duties are dealt with. During all the usual stuff, I'm also writing, tweeting, consuming pop culture and doing the usual 20-something crap that seems important but in actuallity is frivolous. Also, I'll get up at offensively early hours and go running, sometimes in the dark but now there's at least a little sunlight. Despite all of this, that imagination never seems to run out. 

See where I'm going? 

There is no shortage of stuff to deal with in this modern life. You get an extra hour and it fills up with obligations. Indulging in relaxing activites usually has a subcurrent of guilt permeating it, as though worrying about what I ought to be accomplishing makes it acceptable that I'm otherwise supposedly wasting time playing a videogame or reading a book. It's become hard to simply relax. The mind is constantly fretting, worrying, anxiously creating scenarios in which things go wrong or disaster falls or who knows what else. Having no actual dangers to avoid (war, pervasive crime, large predatory animals), my mind is constantly presenting potential scenarios, no matter how unrealistic, in which my world and life as I know them cease to exist and All Goes Wrong. 

Who cares? 

No one. 

Should I worry about it? 

Absolutely not. 

But see, that's the problem. Try to convince yourself that you shouldn't worry about a thing in the future. There's a reflexive instinct to reassert the notion that by not being concerned about it, it will come to pass in a negative light. 

This is not true. 

Worry is not a talisman against bad fortune. 

There is a world of difference between being prepared for bad fortune and constantly being wary of it. One is intelligent and resourceful. The other is a needless waste of energy. "But what if this and what if this and this thing could happen and then all this would happen" but it hasn't. Not yet. Odds are it most likely won't. This is just a wishful direction of energy in the hopes that we can exert some sort of control on the universe. 

The world hasn't ended. It won't. Even if it does, what does that change the here and now? Say I go broke, get cancer and lose everyone I love. Okay. Done. Then what happens? Wailing and gnashing of teeth? Perhaps. But whatever the series of circumstances, my life will have to continue on. War could happen, more terrorist attacks. What good, what possible benefit is there to fretting about it? It simply expends energy I could use to tell my better half I love her, or cook a nice meal, or finish the same book I've been slowly writing. 

Enough worrying. Enough self-caused anxiety. 

I'm going to go enjoy my day. You do the same. 



So I read Stephen King's novel about the Kennedy assassination. 

It was surprisingly good. 

Unfortunately, the enormity of the subject makes an elegant and simplified analysis difficult, if not impossible. I was 18 when the terrorist attacks occurred in New York and DC. Considering how much that shaped my world, I can't begin to fathom how such an event like the one on 11/22/63 would shatter innocence and alter lives. To my admitted dismay and shame, it made for absolutely engrossing reading and fascinating storytelling. 

Let me explain a bit. 

11/22/63 tells the story of Jake Epping, a man who is given access to a gateway to the past by an elderly friend. This friend, being not long for this Earth, has become obsessed with using this possibility as a means to divert history and save Kennedy, hopefully setting the world on a different chain of events that would undo Vietnam and spare thousands of lives as a result. Jake, fascinated by all of this, goes along with it and travels back to 1958, into a world of heavy smoking and the red scare. After some exposition and a series of trial and error establishment of rules regarding time travel, he decides to go along with the plan and sets about changing history. What follows is an engrossing adventure into the past, aided by an impressive amount of research and historical details from King. 

While I could give my typical emphatic endorsement of the book here, I'll sidestep the process to offer a few thoughts on the idea as a whole. I've certainly made my apologist stance for King's canon clear before, so instead of making a plea for you to give in to his writing, I'll simply say that it's the best he's written in years and it feels like he moved away from his wheelhouse a bit, in a good way. Give it a chance. 


I can't imagine what it would have been like to experience an event like the one in Dallas in November of 1963. I was 18 when the attacks happened and I could most likely spend the rest of my life trying to make sense of what happened. I probably will, in some ways. Such events are so massive in effect, despite their simple human beginnings, that our instinct is to force them into some sort of comprehendible, easily digested capsule of logic. This is, of course, impossible. 

For my generation, the scale of the events on September 11th will always be too large to grasp on any human scale - they are, by matter of fact, larger than one person can easily reconcile. All the more difficult it must be, then, to fathom how one lone person can be responsible for skewing the world off on to another course of events. It is of no surprise that conspiracy theories arise when we try to explain what happened in either event. To have some shadowy cabal of power players be responsible somehow seems so much more comprehensible than the reality of the actions of a few people. The events fly in the face of our understanding of how the world works. 

This being said, King's exploration of the subject is harrowing and humanizing. His exhaustive research into what (most likely) drove Lee Harvey Oswald to do what he did grants him an exhilarating yet horrifying place from which to tell a story. In some ways it's an the ultimate example of wish fulfillment - saving Kennedy is one of the classic cases cited for the potential of time travel. Who else is better suited than the long winded and exhaustive King to delve into the specifics of time travel and life in the 60s? 

I have to admit, I was almost giddy with excitement to see little scenarios play out, like rigging sports bets like in Back to the Future, or reveling in classic cars and examining knowingly outdated world views. Every time the protagonist started to risk revealing his nature or started to change the past in any way, I was on the edge of my seat, furiously flipping pages. Granted, I'm a fairly sizable nerd and time travel is some of the nerdiest stuff in fiction, but as engrossing as it may be for someone still under the age of 30 it was fantastic. I can't imagine how interesting it would be for anyone who actually experienced that time. 

I think, though, that some of the most significant lessons of the book come from the authors closing notes. In particular, a single sentence about our current state of vitriol and political fervor - "If you want to know what political extremism can lead to, look at the Zapruder film." That single, sad sentence says more about what our actions can lead to than the preceding 800 pages of human drive and desperation. One miserable, crazy person can do terrible things. It's a fascinating, scary ride to read about what makes them tick, but the moment they take action, it can't be taken back. The past won't change for us.

It would do us well to remember that.


On Growing Up

Hey gang.

It's gotten way too serious around here, as of late. So in the interest of lightening the mood while still getting personal, how about I share with you some of the insights I've had in the transition from being a confused adolescent to a functioning adult? Sound good? Let's go! Brace yourself, it's about to get all self-aggrandizing in here. Without further ado, I present to you some of the things that I enjoy about growing older:

-Being in the best damn shape of my life. Just getting this one out of the way. I already covered this one in depth.

-Dressing better. I've learned enough about fashion versus style in the slow development of my taste that I feel pretty confident that I dress well for a young man. You don't want to be showy, you want to be timeless.

-Realizing all religions are equally arbitrary and based on the same basic principles. Hey, I'm not raining on anyone's parade but it took a lot of anxiety out of the equation once I realized they're all as valid as the others, and whatever you choose is your choice. I don't care.

-Understanding why I save and invest so much. Not going broke? Sounds great. Having savings? Even better. Understanding why that's important is the crucial difference, though.

-Being happy with my significant other. I'm still fascinated and saddened that people stay in unhealthy relationships and I am so thankful to have found someone who loves me for who I am and vice versa.

-Having a clean, organized and well lit home. Seriously, there's a difference between kitsch and clutter. I like knowing where my things are and knowing there are no bugs crawling around on an inch of dust. That makes me an old man? I'll take it.

-Not having to put up with people I don't care for. For real. You're a dick? Leave. Or apologize. I've learned you don't have to take guff from someone in this life. Ever. Treat people with respect and they more often than not give it back. If not, they're not worth the hassle.

-Sleeping well and understanding why it helps. Oh man. I wish I understood this in college. Waking up and not hating the world for being exhausted was a game changer. I love that sense of recharge I get from a solid 7+ hours. Screw bars if they get in the way of it.

-Eating healthy food and knowing I'm not poisoning myself. Again, been there and done that. Lots of veggies, less meat. Little to no chemicals. Basically, go with as few ingredients as possible. Feels great and tastes even better.

-Not feeling like a damn child. I don't walk into a room and feel as outgunned, socially, anymore. I get tons of anxiety about normal any situation, for sure. But I don't feel like I'm fresh out of college and wearing a rumpled suit that smells like smoke. All these little things have a cumulative effect.

-Enjoying rational reasonable debate. Particularly over a meal or drinks. I know, don't discuss money, politics or religion. But that still leaves stuff to really gnaw on. I love a good, passionate debate, one where you really sell your idea and maybe learn a thing or two in the process. Maybe you even find yourself giving ground.

-Enjoying silent contemplation. Now I really sound old, huh? I love silence, a brief reprieve from the mad world we live in. Just a small quiet space wherein I hear nothing of car horns, shouting, Kardashians and breaking news. Bliss.

-Stronger BS detector. Through experience or whatever else, you just get a better sense of lies as you get older. Including your own, which leads to lots and lots of honesty. Which is always the best policy.

Sounds pretty pretentious, huh? Yeah, I know. What it all boils down to is the simple fact that I like my own little piece of the world to inhabit, a small place with my better half in which to contemplate the day and reflect on our lives. I like getting older with her. I look forward to being an old man. Years downs the line, of course.


On Malaise

I should start this off by saying things are never as bad as they may have seemed. 

The thing is, I've had the mixed blessing of suffering from depression for most of my life. It's only a mix in that you at least get the peaks with the valleys, a fuller range of the emotional spectrum. For as long as I can recall, there has been this lingering presence, lurking just beyond the boundaries of my perception. It waits for the right moment, then steals back into my mind like a squatter waiting for the opportunity. I know it's always out there, waiting for just the right moment of weakness that affords it a foothold in my life. 
It wasn't always as intense as it has been in the last few years. As a child it manifested more as a sense of isolation and detachment. This may sound like it borders on solipsism, but there was always a feeling as a child that I was the only one suffering from these feelings, as though all the other kids were running around, oblivious to a whole subset of feelings that dragged down a youthful exuberance into quiet solitude. I didn't fit in. I was weird. The older I grew, the more pronounced it became. By the time I hit middle school there were month long fugues that, when coupled with teenage hormones and a burgeoning sense of identity, left me wanting to live my life curled up in a ball. Going to school was an exercise in coping with anxiety and pressure that didn't seem to alleviate until I transferred to a much smaller school. The smaller school, though, had more constricted and closed social circles which further isolated me. 

Entering high school saw the emotional sine wave elongate, but not ameliorate. I would have long stretches of unbridled idiotic giddiness followed by unrelenting turmoil. There was a lot of up and down, with the few level times feeling like boredom rather than normal life. I suppose, though, that such wild all-or-nothing mood swings are a part of teenage life. At this point I became more aware of having pronounced depression, and began seeing a counselor. It helped articulate what I was experiencing. It put a spotlight on the darkness covering my mind. Although I was generally unhappy with my geographical location, I was becoming happier with who I was. 
College made it worse. I was on my own and free to deal with the world at large as I saw fit. This brought about massive amounts of self doubt and social anxiety. I really struggled to cope with who I was, what I was doing, where I was going with my life. I lost a sense of purpose. Seeking further help, I started taking anti-depressants. They seemed to alleviate the problem, but it felt like the solution was a chemical lobotomy of sorts. I felt like a zombie. I had no highs or lows. Any sort of creativity I previously possessed dried up almost as soon as the pills started to take effect. Along with this new found fog was the rapid change in health. I ballooned up to well over 220lbs, having previously never passed north of 160. I hated it worse than the depression. 
In a move of inspired idiocy, I simply up and stopped taking my medication. When I graduated, I stopped seeing the counselors I had seen previously. Slowly but surely, I found myself taking solitary steps to improve myself. They were hardly intentional steps, and certainly not coordinated in any way. They came almost as instinctive acts of self preservation. I moved to a new place in a part of the city that brought me out of my shell. I found work that had regular, steady hours instead of erratic retail schedules. I had a better half who always tried to see the best in people, which slowly (unbeknownst to me) began to rub off on me. I quit smoking. I started to eat better. I even started exercising. Bit by bit, I took steps to improve the person I was stuck being. I was realizing that, even if I had to be me for the rest of whatever life I chose, I could at least make the best version of me that I could. 

Years later, I find myself in the best health of my life, with a stronger outlook than I can recall ever possessing. This doesn't mean I'm free from depression, however. It still returns, often when I'm least expecting, and stronger and more pronounced than it ever did in my youth. It's a sense of pointlessness and futility that begins to strip away zeal and confidence. I feel the bottom drop out and I become heavy with arbitrary despair. The difference now, though, is that I can recognize it. Whereas in my youth I would isolate myself and rail against the world, now I have an understanding of what's happening. Where it used to sink its claws deep into my psyche, now I can push the demon back and keep it at bay when it strikes. Longer, more pronounced bouts are more rare. 
It still comes back to visit, and I don't think I'll ever be free from such pronounced depression. My understanding of the situation has me thinking that it really isn't a chemical imbalance but a mindset, an awareness of my place in the universe that sometimes becomes overwhelming. The further I've delved into the magnitude and nature of the cosmos, the more I feel humbled and insignificant. Whether that is the root cause is subject for another post. I think, though, that I am in a good place that allows me a greater perspective on a life-long struggle. I appreciate my life so much more now than I ever have. No matter how depressed I become, I am always thankful for my life, unhappiness and joy and all.