A Sign of Evolution

I’m sure I mentioned this before but, I used to smoke.

Like a freakin’ chimney.

At the top of my game I smoked three packs of non-filtered cigarettes a day. But then I realized that I didn’t really have that kind of free time.

When I started smoking, at the completely appropriate age of fourteen years old, it seemed like one of the most socially acceptable vices ever conceived. It was easy to buy smokes with your allowances, because they were cheap and readily available in vending machines. You never got busted, mostly because no one cared.

Me and my buddie, Lefty and Sing-Sing Tommy just killing time outside The Gap. The good old days

Me and my buddies, Lefty and Sing-Sing Tommy just killing time outside The Gap. The good old days

I’m serious, literally not one adult gave a rodents rear-end when they saw kids smoking. At least not enough to do more than grumble about those damned delinquents with nothing better to do but hang around the malls in their black denim jackets smoking cigarettes.

That’s right you could smoke in the mall.

You could smoke pretty much anywhere. In restaurants nonsmokers would huddle in small, cramped separatist camps, the boundaries of their clean little world clearly demarcated by signs on brass poles, open doorways, and (if you were in a real classy joint) velvet ropes. All of seemed things seemed sufficient to ward off dreaded second-hand smoke.

Things started to get a little serious just before the time I was old enough to buy cigarettes legally. Someone shouted, “Think of the children!” and so they got tough on sales to minors. I got carded once or twice but that was easy to get around. Most of the Einsteins they had jockeying registers couldn’t imagine a seventeen year old being ballsy enough to present there driver’s license in expectation that they weren’t going to be paying enough attention to notice he was a minor. Either that or they really sucked at math.240px-No_smoking_symbol

Also I started noticing a lot more of these odd little signs every where.

Flash forward a couple of years and by the time I was in my mid twenties the tables had turned. These signs were practically everywhere and it was smokers being herded to a few scant tables in the dark recesses of local eateries. Gone were the tall sand filled ashtrays that once lined the halls at local shopping centers. My friends and I would constantly complain how it wasn’t fair. We talked with some indignation about some imagined rights of ours being overlooked, ignored, and just plain violated.

Time passed, I grew older. I became a homeless wastrel, faced the harsher realities of life. At some point you see that there is more to existence than when and where you can smoke. So when, after I spent sometime getting my crap together, the state I reside in decided to outlaw smoking in restaurants I didn’t take it as a personal insult. I did think it was dumb that it became a matter of legislation rather than the property owner’s choice but whatever. So it became that you could only smoke outside. Well, except if your standing outside the airport waiting for your ride.

 

No smokes, no gum. Now your screwed

Their really cracking down on this second-hand chewing thing.

Eventually I quit smoking. Not because anyone was making harder to do, because lets face it they’re not. You can still get all the nicotine you want at your corner drugstore.  I quit because it was bad for me and I was tired of doing it.

The thing that got me thinking about all of this was on my way to work I saw this sign I had never seen wpid-img_20150325_125033.jpgbefore. It caught my eye and made me think.

I started wonder if this was some sort of symbol of us evolving as a society. That we didn’t have to bother telling people that they couldn’t smoke somewhere anymore, because it was just expected that you couldn’t. That finally we have accepted that the health of the many, might outweigh the desires of the few.

It was in that moment I realized how fortunate it is that we, as a society, have finally sorted out where people can and can not stand while smoking.

With any luck and another couple of decades or so worth of work we can finally deal with smaller social justice issues, like poverty or civil rights. That would be nice. Maybe we could get a couple of guys to get some real work done with public education, you know if we can spare them.

Anyway, that’s what I spent some time thinking about in the past week.

Happy Monday.

P.S.: Can someone go get a ladder and help me down off this horse?

Photo of newsies smoking by Lewis Hine and is in the public domain.

No Smoking placard pictured at the right side of this article modified from
No Smoking Sign by Zubi CC BY-SA 3.0  

Status Update

Ellis Durant entered the suite and walked along the only path not cluttered by the entropy that had taken over in the two weeks since he had last visited. He looked around at the empty take-out boxes, stacks of photographs and reports that he had sent over, the random placement of magazines most of them laying open and face down. There was a pattern here. There was always a pattern

As he walked, he looked. He was observant. It’s what he lived for. To observe, to watch, to see. Sometimes you had to see what wasn’t there. There was always a pattern.

There were no clothes. All this chaos and there were no dirty clothes strewn about. Ellis blinked. The clothes would all be found neatly folded in drawers or hung in the wardrobe, each hanger facing the same way. The laundry stored neatly in a hamper, waiting for the service to come pick them up.

The mess was window dressing. An elaborate prop.

Sometimes the pattern was a lie.

Ellis came to a stop behind his employer, who was standing at a purposely cluttered counter fixing a drink.

“How’s our boy?” The older man dropped a handful of ice cubes into a glass, and poured the amber liquid over them before turning to receive his answer

“Tired,” the gray faced man replied flatly, “and nervous. He does not like it that you do not return his calls”

“Can’t do it, you know that.” He swirled his drink, watching the ice spin for a moment “I can’t have any direct contact with him at this stage.”

“So you have said.”

“You don’t believe me?” The old man took a long sip off his drink. “I’ll have to say I’m a little hurt by that.”

“To be clear Mr. Davis, I do not see my beliefs, or your feelings needing to enter into this.”

Davis smiled broadly and patted his shoulder. “You’re a good man Ellis.” He looked his companion over quickly, shrugged and then added, “Well you know what I mean.”

Ellis stared at him, waiting.

Davis turned and topped off his drink. “What has Jerry been up to lately?”

“As planned he has been meeting with Mr. Maslow and his associates. They are thoroughly satisfied with the credentials you have provided him. We have overheard several of them discussing offering our Mr. Standish a position in their organization.”

“What about her?”

“Jerry still spends most of his later evenings in the company of Ms. Karns,” little else on Ellis face besides his mouth moved as he spoke, “they were at his hotel room when I left.”

The older man pinched the bridge of his nose. “I ain’t askin about Janice. I know what they get up to at night, I order it. I mean Maslow’s boss, you know our actual objective. Any word on her.”

“They are certain she is on her way. They do not know when she will arrive. Some think she is already here. The word on her appears to be Baba. They don’t use her real name.”

“Neither should you. Especially, not in my presence.” Davis briefly fiddled with something around his neck, then dropped it back down his shirt. “We clear on that Mr. Durant? You do not speak her name anywhere near me.”

Ellis nodded, “I assume this measure is for security.”

“Yeah, mine. While we’re talkin security, from here on out if Jerry starts trying to discuss me you get him to change the subject, pronto. What about his language studies?”

“He uses the interactive course some. I have been helping him practice. His usage is crude but passable.”

“You speak Russian Ellis?”

The grey man just blinked at him.

Davis shook his head, “Of course you do.”

This Is the 12th installment in a series of scenes that bears the uninspired name The Untitled Thing. The rest of the serial is indexed HERE.

In the Dark

“Are you sure it’s down here?”

“Yes damn it, now be quiet.”

He walked silently behind them through the cold murk, as they argued in whispers.  Walking in circles for hours. Blinding each other with flashlights. Pointing guns at the shadows as they rounded corners. Following every odd noise, spray of blood’ or smear of slime glistening along the wall. Given their haphazard, second-hand knowledge of these forgotten tunnels, they should feel lucky they made it this far. You had to admire professionals.

“You”re sure it’s down here?”

Yes, he thought as he unfurled his claws. Yes, I am here.

This drabble (which by the may now be one of my new favorite words) was written in response to a flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds. So you should check that out too.

My Stalker

I don’t want to alarm anyone or, freak you out but I am fairly certain that I have a stalker.

Well stalkers really, maybe.

See there’s two of them, sort of. I wasn’t sure at first but, every where I go they are there. I’ve noticed them at the supermarket, at department stores, sometimes at restaurants. I’ve even caught them hovering around at work once or twice. They obviously have been watching me for sometime, they know my schedule and my preferred travel routes. Sometimes, when I go places, instead of simply following me they are already there, just waiting for me when I arrive.

I’m not paranoid. It’s not just a coincidence. Frankly readers, I am starting to get more than a bit worried.

I know it sounds crazy.

Seriously, I think I am being followed by Seals and Crofts.

You'd be a little creeped out too if you knew these guys were watching you.

You’d be a little creeped out too if you knew these guys were watching you.

Why would this seventies soft rock duo and smooth music pioneers go to such lengths to shadow my every move? Well… to be honest I am not sure.

I can, however be sure that everywhere I go I will be haunted by the gentle melodies of their 1972 pop hit Summer Breeze.

 

Has anyone else noticed themselves being mysteriously followed by some song or artist?

Image of Seals and Crofts from Wikimedia Commons
 and is in the public domain.

Paper Cut

Bits of confetti fall. I think of chaos and symmetry, and of a brief article I read, but didn’t understand about the crystalline structure of meteorites.

What she wanted was much simpler.r My hand cramps as I work the scissors around the triangle of paper folded to impossible thickness. She never was happy with her own results.

I never thought my own attempts looked all that genuine.

We make a pair, two would-be-creatives burned out from a life of bad decisions made in desperate, impassioned pursuit of nothing.

That’s what we ended up with.

It will just have to do.

Snowflake

I Have Written

I have written.

For the first time in months have written something more than a grocery list.

It felt good.

I sat down to type and there it was nice, neat and fast. A few quick little edits and I had something workable. I really liked it. I saved it to draft and moved on. Next, I got started on a fluffy little filler piece. Something nice and bloggy.

I got about half way done with that. A good start for returning from a long absence. I wanted to keep going but, I had an early start to a long day in a few hours. So, feeling quite pleased with myself, I turned in. I lay there for a few minutes listening to a podcast that I had been meaning to catch up on, waiting for sleep to catch up with me.

That’s when it crept in. That feeling I had forgotten about. That doubting little piece of crap feeling I always get when I try to put myself out there in public. That whiny little voice proclaiming that everything I think and feel is trite bullshit. That I am nowhere near as clever as I think I am (which admittedly could be true but highly unlikely). That whispering coward telling me that they’re all going to laugh at me.

I strongly suspect that this voice is some bastard cousin of the other voice. The one that keeps telling me that it would be all right if I only had just one drink. We already know that voice is a lying prick.

I lay there floating in my little eddy of self-doubt, listening to my cowardice echo around the inside of my head, drowning out the story of a sleepy little desert community being piped in through the headphones. I got very little sleep, and barely dragged myself through the day; and when finally I slumped into my chair, full of exhaustion and loathing, I realized something.

I don’t give one turd what that jackass in my head has to say on the subject.

Now I return to the keyboard, because it doesn’t matter if I have doubts. What matters is I have written, for the first time in months.

It felt good.

Happy Monday!

We never lived here

“Daddy, did we used to live here?”

An innocent question asked some distance between a park and an ice cream shop. Maybe it was the butterfly that drew her attention.

An echo of shame bubbles to the surface. Memories of having to run for refuge during evictions from various homes, or the power being turned off in the Florida summer when the bill money got misspent on inebriation. Excuses made to hide the slinking back here after a night drinking. No rent money, but enough for a buzz.

“No, baby. We never lived here.”

Can’t really call it living anyway. wpid-cam00413.jpg

It’s Been a Long Time

 

I have a long, firmly held, belief that no one really likes Led Zeppelin. We were just told we were supposed to at a young and impressionable age, and most just blindly accepted it. It’s not anyone’s fault, we were all naive in our youth, we’ve all made mistakes. I know I’ve made a few. Throughout the years many people still defiantly cling to this misguided notion, mostly likely too embarrassed to admit that they were wrong.

I do suppose we should be grateful that there was a group of white guys from London that brought the blues to the attention of a whole generation of suburban white kids in America though.

Anyway, I digress.

I have been on a hiatus from blogging and writing for a couple of months, due to a transition in housing, which led to complications with unpacking the computer and a temporary lack of internet (not sure if you’ve ever tried to type a blog post on a phone before but it kind of sucks) as well as a few medical problems (not my own). Then there was the whole getting the kid ready to go back to school. I also discovered Ingress, during this time which is a great and wonderful time waster if you are in need of one. Toss in some drama with the extended family, and that pretty much sums up my litany of excuses for this quarter of the year.

The moving thing was just boring and exhausting so I probably won’t mention that again. I will probably touch on the medical issue, and Ingress in the coming weeks as I am sure they will hold someone’s interest other than my own. As always my daughter is a hoot, so you will hear plenty about her.

And yes there will be fiction soon.

It’s good to be back. I missed you guys.

This Little Talk.

I am glad we had this little talk, that we cleared this up.
It’s good you finally see it.
I am not the person you lost, or the one you’re looking for.
I am not going to change. I am simply not interested in doing so.
I don’t think it is possible, not like that.
Over the years I may have grown, and learned new things about myself.Still, I am always the same in my core.
People are who they are, it’s in our nature.
I am glad we had this little talk, that we agree to part ways6084516475_09263eae70

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: He is leaving by Hartwig HKD (CC BY-2.0)

 

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)