Life and Its Little Ironies

Ironies, contradictions, incongruities, disparities, call them what you like life is full of these amusing little gems. Recently some of the small contradictions of life have been in the forefront of my brain.

For instance, I recently took my family out for a late Sunday breakfast. I wouldn’t call it a brunch because of the setting. It was one of those twenty-four hour, breakfast all day that I so love. Upon walking in, while I was day dreaming about the prospects of a country fried steak and two eggs over easy with a side of home fries and a buttermilk biscuit, we passed an innocent little gumball machine. My daughter took immediate note of this, because it apparently dispensed what was apparently the cadilac of bubble gum. By the time our order was taken I found myself explaining to my child that she couldn’t have any candy unless she ate her pancakes first.

2417434820_1cc7e9c0cb_mIn other words I was telling her, “No, I won’t let you have this wad of bubblegum, wrapped in a candy shell and impregnated with dozens of crunchy sugar bits. But, if you’re good and eat your plate of fried batter smothered in strawberry syrup, maybe you can have some later.” Apparently good parenting is about putting your foot down about what type of glucose delivery vehicle is acceptable at a given hour of the day.

One day I was going through the motions at work when it finally dawned on me; I was hired to do a job based on skills and experience that I rarely if at all use in any capacity that I have held during my tenure there.  Oddly I left a position which fueled my passion and creativity, because this one seemed to offer a wider range of experience and Bracethe prospect of better pay. While this has been marginally true I now seem trapped in monotony to ensure a modicum of financial security.

This startling revelation was probably induced by the bitterness I feel due to having resorted to wearing a brace on my wrist for repetitive strain. In other words I have started using a device to enable me to continue working in a field which is injurious to myself. I mean beyond the cuts, burns, and bruises that I have long since accepted as being part of putting in an honest day’s work.

Did I mention I sold my truck. That evil, foul-smelling, expensive mode of conveyance. That one and a half ton monument to my laziness. Yes well, I foisted it off on someone else. Doing so I bid farewell (though most likely not goodbye) to the constant expense of pouring gasoline down into an ever thirstier hole. I also am now rid of its ample cargo bed. See I have to move soon. I sold the damned thing to cover my moving expenses, but I sure as hell could use it when the day comes and I have to haul all my families crap across town.

I do suppose it is for the best in the long run. I have no excuses left about whether I am going to ride my bike for my daily commute. Ninety degree heat or thunderstorms be damned. I could use the exercise, I know that for sure. I might even lose some of the excess baggage around the waist that’s been pissing me off lately too

On a final note only a bit of fairly shallow introspection is needed to see I use my writing in a cathartic way. It remains the cheapest and most effective way I have for staving off my depression. Life gets in the way sometimes, and my little fits spiral outward. The tricky part is that if I fly too far from my center I become nearly paralyzed with fear, sadness and self doubt. Hover too close and I become complacent, lazy and unmotivated. It would lead me to the foregone conclusion that in order for me to accomplish something that makes me happy, the universe first requires that I partake in a certain amount of prescribed misery.

I suspect that life quite enjoys its little ironies. I have to admit it can be amusing if you look at from the right angles.

At any rate, that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately

Happy Monday.

Top left image: Strawberry Pancakes @ IHOP by Ankur Gulati (CC BY-ND 2.0)

After the Sun

I have a sunburn.
It’s the first time in years.
I had forgotten. About the soreness.
The feeling of heat flowing out from me, like I am on fire. The reddened, dying skin shrinking.
Itching for days.
Then it begins to bubble. Small drops of fluid under the damaged flesh.
Eruption. Cooling for just an instant.
Then the peel.
I shiver, breathless at the barely audible sound.
Almost a sigh, as I pull.
The sickly, satisfying, tugging sensation as old the separates from the new.
Exhale.
Bizarre  fascination. I can’t help it.
I reach for another loosened piece of flesh.

The Thing In the Tunnels

It had been some weeks since my arrival in Berian, and thus far the majority of my time for this quarter was spent in my classes, quietly contemplating the various possibilities of sneaking out and exploring the wondrous city beyond the walls of the university.

Despite my family’s relative affluence, we apparently had not been wealthy for a sufficient number of generations for the general aristocracy to converse with me. I was shunned by the majority of the students for my decidedly rural upbringing. As a result my closest companions were also from the, by comparison, lower stations of society, conveniently we somehow managed to end up sharing the same dormitory.

Harmon was a tall, strong backed fellow from the northern reach. His father’s rather successful mining venture afforded his tuition and acceptance by the deans of the esteemed foundation which we attended. He was not the sharpest of wits but he was kind enough and had a generous sense of humor. His imposing stature rescued me from more than one assault on my person during our friendship.

Our other roommate, Lethan was the son of a foreign sea trader; who I had been assured, on several occasions, was a completely legitimate businessman. Handsome, slim, and possessing an accent that had the charming and remarkable ability to grow more pronounced around members of the opposite sex. He was always sent the most wonderful packages from home, smelling of exotic spices and containing delightfully strong intoxicants in deceptively labeled bottles.

It was after sampling one such package when a rumor that a long forgotten tunnel had been unearthed by work men clearing debris of a building that collapsed in a recent fire in the southern quarter of the city.  My compatriots and I, armed with lanterns, rope and a misplaced sense of adventure, made the decision to venture out to explore this portal.

***

One by one we lowered ourselves into the hole. Harmon went first and myself taking the rear. As I slid the last few inches down the rope my feet came to rest on finished stone, We found ourselves in a curving hall built of large stone blocks.. We followed that passage, listening to eerie silence, broken only by the sound of our feet shuffling across the dusty floor. We walked, single file, down that abandoned in mild fear until it opened into a rough square chamber. Harmon stumbled across the threshold, his fall extinguishing one of our lanterns. The clatter of the light hitting the ground broke the silence and the tension of  the moment. We let out a short burst of laughter and help the tall man back to his feet. He set about relighting the lantern, while Lethan walked the perimeter of the room. As he walked he waved his own lantern  making a ghostly sounds. Harmon’s match finally struck despite his hands trembling in an attempt to control his giggling. With both lanterns lit we took stock of our surroundings.

The room was of plain finished stone, with and arched passage leading out from the center of each of the walls. I looked down and tracked our footsteps  across the dust ridden floor. The long skid left by Harmon as he tripped. The trail of oil drops left as the lantern tumbled away from him. The long loping stride of Lethan as he acted out his taunting pantomime of a lost spirit. My own steps mingled in with theirs.

Then, there in the interwoven impressions in the dust, I was certain I could see a fourth set.  They were mostly covered over by our tracks, but I was certain they were there.

Short, shambling, barefoot steps.

I cleared my throat to bring my discovery to my companions attention. That was when I heard a long and piercing scream erupt from Lethan’s throat. I quickly raised my head and saw my friend staring gape mouthed, lantern raised high, his eyes wide and distant as if he was staring at something mile away.

I followed his gaze across the room and there in on of the arched portals, it stood.

Hunched, head forward. Grey mottled skin, hanging loose. Large eyes,circular bulbous. Twisted hands, nails overgrown. Distended jaw, teeth like razors.

My horrified friend stood paralyzed by the monstrous visage. It opened its maw as if to scream but only a low hiss emanated from it as it lurched forward towards Lethan. I began to shout, but Harmon was already moving. He threw himself towards the beast.

The thing grabbed the large man as if he was just a child , snapping his arm like a twig and tossed him aside. It turned its head and followed his arc as he landed in the corner near me, screaming in pain. Returning its reptilian eyes back towards Lethan and stalked onward.

I stared in terror, watching helpless as it drew closer towards its prey. Toward my fiend. I barely heard Harmon as he said my name in a hoarse croak.

Something inside of me stirred and I looked down to see Harmon’s lantern, still lit, laying at my feet. As in a dream, I found myself reaching for it. The thing shuffled forward, Lethan stood still frozen under its dread stare. I hoisted the lamp up and back. The thing began to stretch its arm towards my friend. My arm swung forward, and the light sailed forward through the air.

The lantern struck the alien thing and its pallid flesh caught fire in an instant. The thing crumpled to the floor. The jagged mouth opened and shut in silent screams as the monstrous thing’s body rendered in a pillar of fetid smoke, and quickly turned to ash.

The minutes that followed seem so insignificant. After seeing that thing destroyed Lethan recovered from the petrifying fear he suffered when he first met its stare. Through the shock of the encounter we managed to help our injured friend back to his feet and somehow managed to find our way back to where we began our explorations. We used our ropes to pull our companion back up to the street. We returned to the university and placed our friend in the care of the infirmary.

In the weeks that he spent healing we related our story to the authorities. We were told, by the faculty of our school and several representatives of the civil powers, that this was not a tale to be loosely told in taverns and public houses of the city. We were assured that it would be look d into. It was inferred that keeping the existence of such a beast a secret was for the public good. We were reminded that we were also members of the public.

The burned out ruin of the house was cleared and the tunnel was filled in. We were left with the memory of what we saw.

An Open Letter to the Goblins

 

Dear Goblins,

Why didn’t you kidnap me as a child? What? I wasn’t good enough for you? Or is that bad enough? Honesty I’m a bit confused on that bit. Anyway, I mean I don’t think I would have enjoyed being eaten very much, but there were other possibilities.

You could have put me to work in your mines and factories. Not that I agree with forced labor practices, but at least there might be the possibility of social reform. Even us humans got rid of slavery. Well mostly. It only took us a few thousand years. We might have begun something historic there.

Better yet, you could have raised me as one of your own. I might have made a great goblin. Now we’ll never know. It could have led to a life of adventure as I struggled to find my true identity in a world where I don’t fit in. Oh wait, that was my teens anyway. And probably most of my twenties.

Also if movies from the eighties are right (and when have you known them not to be) your king is David Bowie. Seriously, David FREAKIN Bowie! How cool would that be? To have David FREAKIN Bowie as you sovereign? I know, pretty rad huh.

I just wanted you to know that I feel we both missed a great opportunity.

Warmest Regards,
Doug

P.S.: You didn’t by any chance swap my daughter out at birth did you? Because that would explain a lot.

Re: The ongoing conversation

I need a drink.

I haven’t published a single word for over a week now.  This is despite my recent commitment to build better habits concerning that area of life, including joining a challenge for just that and that is  best I can come up with. A whole week of processing a long string of bad news, focusing mostly on uncertainties involving my housing status, which in the very long and short term screws with my finances. Literally, hours and hours of internal dialogue.

“I need a drink.” That’s what you got for me?

Really?

So I guess we’re going there, again.

I have grown quite tired of this conversation. I long ago have realized that drinking doesn’t solve any of my problems.

Except for the immediate one of wanting a drink. It might take two. Well okay, the usual prescription of about one gallon of beer and the better part of a pint of whiskey, that should do nicely.

The old habit is getting creative in it’s arguments with me. Citing real and imaginary statistics about relapse rates, as if some how I am entitled to backslide. I feel it is prudent to remind it how all those other times over the years I tried to quit count as relapses.

Shortly after I got married. Right before my daughter was born. After I fell and broke my knee. Every morning that I ever woke up and swore I wasn’t going to get hammered, but was ready for a party by sundown. All those times, yeah remember those.

The conversation eventually revolves around how much more entertaining life was when I drank.  I used to have a social life. I was a lot more fun to be around.

Yeah I was a fun drunk, that was true. I’m pretty sure I am still fun to be around. Quite frankly I am still the same lovable jerk that everyone laughed with previous to sobriety. I just have lost all taste for watching people get drunk around me. Admittedly I should get out of the house more often. Maybe join the PTA. That’s a funny thought.

But, it would be for my own good right. What about that article I read about drinking being good for the creative process. That sounds like it would sure help out with that writing thing there. They did a study and everything. It’s basically science.

I skimmed a 2013 article, which happened to briefly mention a study done in 2012, and now my drinking problem manifests a PhD in psychology. That’s really cute. It is equally adorable how it conveniently forgets that the subjects of that study were at a blood alcohol level of .075, my proclivities have lead me, at times, a bit closer to the area of .36. Let me say that again, point three six. That is roughly the equivalent of being under anesthesia. It’s kind of hard to write when you might slip into a coma.

I really do get bored with all this. The worst part about this ongoing argument is when it gets this loud it occupies too much of my head space. It pushes out other thoughts. I can’t concentrate. I lose focus. I become depressed. Well maybe I become depressed, and then I think about drinking.

Focus on that bit of circular thinking too long and you might go mad.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday

Piano Lesson

5007302545_91a2e38c2d_zDressed in her new bedazzled flip-flops, jean shorts and, what is becoming her signature, black t-shirt that proclaims she is BREAKING ALL THE RULES, my daughter bursts into the studio. There sitting quietly in front of one of the keyboards, almost leaning on her father, is another little girl.

Sh head looking down, hands folded in her lap. She is wearing a simple pair of sandals, a dark ruffled skirt, and plain blue top. My daughter smiles at her and bounces over to another Casio and hops up into her own seat, still vibrating with excitement.

When it was time for introductions my daughter quickly blurted out “Kate!” almost before the instructor finished the question.

The other little girl looked to her dad before whispering, “emma.”

My wife and I took seats at the edge of the room.

While she was distracted for a moment,  Emma’s father inched his chair a little bit further away from her.

This being the first class the instructor asks about what kind of music they like. Kate’s hand shoots up and she begins to rattle off the name of every kind she’s ever heard of. From rock, to jazz, to marching band, and even ignoring that ballet is actually a dance. When asked about her favorite musicians and songs, she cheerfully mentions Katie Perry.

When it’s Emma’s turn she just looks fearfully towards her father fo guidance. When gently prompted she looks down and just shakes her head “no” in response to almost any question. I think the only reason she eventually gives a positive answer because she’s afraid the questions won’t stop otherwise.

As the session goes on Emma looks more and more worried as her dad moves in small increments farther away. I look at my own little girl, smiling and giggling, enjoying  each time she’s called on to give an opinion, even if she is making up her answers as she goes. I think how despite her tendency towards outburst, her penchant for interrupting people when they’re having a conversation, I am so lucky that she isn’t socially anxious or stricken with paralytic  shyness.

Finally after the instructor has written down all the answers he needed from both girls he tells them to switch the synthesizers on. He gives them a few minutes of free play on the keys. This is the first time we see Emma relax and smile. Both girls giggle their way through the rest of the lesson, letting them come to an even field as the enjoy just listening to the music they make.

I think they will make a great pair.

Image: Musical Keyboard by, Natesh Ramasamy (CC BY-2.0)

Day Pass

He had gotten a day pass from work release to visit his dying grandpa. I, being the family chauffeur by default, am tasked with picking him up.

I spot him, in the rear view mirror, and shake my head slightly as I watch him swagger towards the car. He tugs at his clothes and tries to smooth the wrinkles from his faded, preppy attire. He looks around, like someone is more likely to judge him about his brand of clothing being slightly out of fashion than the fact that he was walking out of the county lock-up. He gets in the car and barely says hello before his little claws seize hold of my phone, a moment of reflection makes him decide it wold be wiser to ask me, before dialing his girlfriend.

After the call, without asking he adds her to my contacts list. He turns the phone over in his hands, his narrow, avaricious eyes sizing it up for its approximate value. He proceeds to tell me how cool the new iPhone is, that he wants one when he gets out, but my phone is pretty good too. I tell him I bought a phone not a status symbol.

He breathes in deep, as if trying to suck, from the air, all the freedom that this tragedy provided him in one gulp. He talks about getting out of jail, and all the things he’d going to do, all the things he’s going to buy. He doesn’t ask about his grandmother except to remark about how cool it is that she’s just giving me her car. He can’t believe that it’s not like that, it’s still her car I’m just driving her around when she needs it.

He talks to me about how it’s all past him. About how he’s just ready to be with his kid, to be there for him. How he wasn’t going to go back to jail. How he was glad for the second chance he was getting. How he was going to stay sober, and how hard it was to have an addiction. I tell him about how I haven’t had a drink in almost a year.

I try to talk with him about being sober, the one subject we might have in common.  Mostly the conversation revolves around focusing on yourself, and not paying attention to what other people do, or what they have that you don’t. About making consistent choices. I glance over and he is staring out the window, not really paying attention, talking without listening.

We pulled up outside the palliative  care building at the V.A. hospital. He get’s out of the car and spots my wife, it’s only a matter of seconds before he is asking her for a cigarette, and trying to weasel a free lunch out of her. He had already forgot why he was here. That’s when I knew.

He wasn’t going to make it, he wasn’t going to change.

Late Delivery

I turned the letter over in my gloved hands before reading it one last time. It was a damned shame. If he had just waited one more day. He would have checked the mail one last time, everything would have been fine.  One more day and he would have gotten the news. He would know that she was coming back. He would know that she  forgave him, and I wouldn’t have to cut him down from the rafters. I placed the letter in the plastic bag and zipped it shut.

These are the days I really hate being a cop.4461758553_a9ca106e58

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: stolica by, Milos Milosevic (CC BY 2.0)

Little Boy’s Loss

It had been such a great day at the fair until now. Why did it have to happen, why him. They had done everything together, walked the midway, visited the livestock pavilion, gotten corn dogs and cotton candy, even the guess your weight booth. Then on the ferris wheel he made his mistake and it all slipped away.

Now his friend was gone and he just stood there red-faced and shaking, with big blubbery tears streaming down his cheeks. His heart ached and he sobbed uncontrollably. Nothing would ever be the same anymore. He missed his friend, like only a small boy could. No matter what his parents said or did he felt bad all over. it was gone now and it was never coming back, and all the ice cream and funnel cakes in the world wouldn’t change that.

Now he was going to be sad forever.

Forever and ever.

He really loved that balloon.699751062_114d1fc712

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Lost Balloon by Ruth and Dave (CC BY 2.0)

 

 

 

 

Three Little Songs

 

I know music has had a profound effect on our lives whether we like it or not, but I don’t often find myself thinking all that deeply about it. If I had to pick three songs that were important to me it would be a hard decision but it would be safe to say that I could easily get mired down choosing just one from the catalog of one man and he always, always is at the top of the list.

2580990298_c3b17677d8_n Leonard Cohen has long held a special place in  my life. Several friends throughout life have associated his song Waiting for the Miracle, with my presence, often saying that the tune seems to follow me. All things considered I’ll it as a compliment, but it probably has more a bit to do with periods I’ve spent obsessing over his music than any ethereal quality on my part. This song, and Cohen’s music in general, first entered my life during a long series of emotional down turns. Its melancholy lyrics always picked me up, I mean if someone could feel like this how bad could my life be. Now the song really marks my past disconnects with the people around me who were trying so hard to just be there for me, and I just kept looking for that one perfect thing, a job, a relationship, whatever that would make it all fall into place for me; then realizing that I was waiting for myself to just move on the whole time.

I had all but forgotten about Adam Ant’s music and his general ” just do what you like, be yourself, and don’t worry about what other people think, and everything will be just fine” attitude. That is, until I began to approach becoming sober.

Goody Two Shoes, is a great jumpy, catchy tune straight from the memory of an adolescence spent watching MTV, you know back when it used to actually… oh you get the point. Listening now just makes me feel that it’s okay if I want to be sober. It’s weird but, given who I deal with on a daily basis, sometimes I need to be reassured of that.

Though it was written in 1842 and was only relevant once in my life Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March in C Major, never sounded better than when it was played through the speakers of a dumpster dived electric keyboard by my friend Ben as he sat cross-legged on the lawn of the courthouse on my own wedding day.

ben

Due to the circumstances of our wedding only a few people were able to be in the cramped little office where my wife and I exchanged our vows. Ben decided he was going to be part of that day regardless and waited outside the building to surprise us. Eleven years later, every time that cliché little piece of music is played, even if it is just part of a movie or a TV show, I am reminded not only of the love I have for my wife, but of how true friends will go out of their way to make themselves part of your life.

Image of Leonard Cohen  by, Simon James CC BY-SA-2.0