Always the Tease

It’s 3:45 in the morning and I’m up as usual. My sleep-wake cycle is all weirded out much like half the country’s attitude right now. Social screens blowing up with contrarian viewpoints, arching flame-filled volleyballs across spiked nets … works of biased broadcasting to be sure. I’m certainly not one to kick sand in anyone’s face here. Or, am I. Atlas shrugged his shoulders at the man and then became a body of reckoning by facing down his bullies. Ayn Rand served up potential of the human mind and the consequences of our good intentions in “Atlas Shrugged”. Both are digging their heels, deeply, into the dark wet sand of our emotional ripples. We sit watching them play as the volley never ends.

Above looks like an itchy, painful, sand-in-the eyes mash of mix metaphors and cross-pollinating literary plaah. I grant you that. Again, it’s early (now, 4:32 a.m.), I’ve run low of hot tea, am checking in on Facebook as I type, and hear funny voices in my head. The latter not uncommon, by the way. Oh, and we are still Social Distancing … not from anything inanimate, mind you – just from anything breathing, moving, or otherwise capable of interacting on any level keeping me from losing my ever-loving mind.

So, let’s tie all this together .. the little bit I’ve here so far. Charles Atlas Shrugged (not shagged .. be careful – now, now) Ayn Rand at the beach playing volleyball. We’re watching them early in the morning on March 29th, 2020, during a mandated mindful-ish, societal time-out. I am sipping once again after filling my monopoly-themed mug once more with Garden Andes organic tea. Facebook became boring so I clicked out and the voices still remain but are less funny …

All this to say, you have my almost complete attention. For now. To the subject at hand: The word BUT. Not, BUTT, but BUT … only one “T”. Being ever so careful, I am clarifying for clarity, exacting for exactness. In the case of this word specifically, it’s … Always The T’s, … always. T’easing and pleasing, in the most joyous of ways, during these confusing, hard days.

This word has been peeking around the dunes lately, wanting to play with the big boys and girls on the beach. I am as guilty as the next bikini-clad, batman-boxer bathing suit, speedo sporting, sand surfing writer. We invite it on our literary towels, where tanner more sporty looking words lay, without considering its ability to shun onlookers. Once a but is seen, an interested glance accompanied by a wink and a nod turns away. Exposed to the sun’s light, a but cracks open a spasm doubt previously unkown to snufflers walking by. It negates any sweet smelling idea proposed by the sentence structurer. Therein lies the rub.

I’m not completely adverse to the idea of using the but word, however, it is used way too often. It’s crammed into sentences so often I don’t think even the most exquisite among literary laxatives would ease the log jam. So apparent in columns of online social and professional colonoscopical bloviating, I find its usage exhausting. No wonder we’ve seen a run on toilet paper. It’s not just due to the Covid-19 outbreak and panic buying ad nauseam. Some fault to all the professional editors who are scurrying about, raiding the big box stores, maxing out their corporate credit cards, driving up the stock prices of Charmin, Cottonelle and Angel Soft. They are trying to clean up the crap-storm, but messes of contradictory information floating around in every crevasse of porcelain popular opinions.

So, here we are … buckets upon buckets of wet sand starting to build castles on a beach that will, eventually, be washed out … BUT for now, we have to deal with what is. A world of he-said-they-said-she-said information where everyone is entitled to their opinion preceded by the word “but”. I see it everywhere, especially in the Facebook universe where a man-boy founder’s vision of a better, less ugly world is certainly not that right now. I would argue today is more in line with Zuck’s original intent, anyway. Lining up faces in a juvenile dorm room to poll away the pretty from the ugly … just now we are substituting opinions for faces.

We are caught, non-professionals and professionals alike, in this goofy paradigm. Our line in the sand is the constantly moving narrative of what is true and what isn’t. Every day the stories change. President Trump vacillates more than a well-oiled, grease pole of slimy day old engine oil and Congress couldn’t agree on where to take a sh*, well … I’ll keep it clean because they did, sorta, manage to pass a massive relief. err… bill, BUT

We will pay for it … eventually. There’s the rub, again.

Opinions are like ***s … as the saying goes, so I will get back to my original premise. But is a problem, Give me any proposition, follow it with “but”, and you’ve just negated your original position.

“I think you are gorgeous, but…”
“Wow, you certainly look nice tonight honey, but…”
“Thanks for your order, but…”
“I hate being Socially Distant from you, but …”
“Spiders can go suck on poison, but …”

See the problem? Now, to be clear, as a reply to another’s opinion, I could be persuaded. For example:


ME
“I’ve been up four hours now and I think the two mugs of tea I’ve consumed so far are making me delusional.”
YOU
“Yes, but think of all the fun you are having click-clacking away knowing you have all day to do absolutely nothing … abso-freaking-nothing!”

Aside from me asking why you are sitting next to me and I can’t see you, get my point? As a reply, it is ok. After your own idea, though, I’d avoid it like the Covid-19 virus…especially on social media. You’ll confuse an already stressed, red-eye-ball popping public whose tolerance for anything less than a two-seconds meme is already stretched thinner than the skin of a …. _______ (fill in your own descriptor here). The above examples are fine for humor’s sake, BUT when politics get involved, nasty-nasties comes out to play. I’ve seen it. To my shame and pity, I’ve engaged in such malfeasance to such a degree … forcing my play shovel into the sand … causing me to say…

… Here I sit. Watching Atlas and Ayn lob and volley. There are consequences of good intentions. One of them being my ability to not sleep during the night. Another, a willingness to share deep, profound knowledge with you, my loyal reader. So, here it is:

“This whole Covid-19 virus could be a once in every 100 year plague, or a simple over-hyped common flu bug, but maybe neither one. Could be somewhere in between the two. What do I know?”

Let’s hold hands in agreement as we sun bathe together here on my Superman towel. Oh, by the way, could you put some SPF 50 on my back? I’m starting to burn here.

Think.

Thinking about thinking. This isn’t a good thing for me now. I need to be active – moving my body around in bigger areas, bouncing ideas back-and-forth with other humans. Changing the world within 6-feet of each other is a more ideal situation than what is currently in place. As I sit here thinking, too many hours inconveniently pass without a single word written. Hours into days. Thinking about thinking isn’t ideal … for any of us.

This is one of many unseen, small tragedies of this stay-in-place mandated quarantine / isolation reality. Time. Thinking time.

Our bodies are made for movement. I’m in that sliver of the self-employed population where motion produces a nice little income, so a forced voluntary stay behind your own walls and think isn’t very kind to my wallet. This situation makes an unhappy relationship between my bills and the dust accumulating in my checkbook. Other folks in my industry have been slogging their stuff about town, money-changing for goods, however, I’m not inclined to do so because of the risks involved. Thinking, in this regard, isn’t a bad idea … I guess 🤷🏻‍♂️.

I think about my mom. She died in 2012 and is lucky to be avoiding all this mess. As the quintessential social butterfly of our family, her world would be a deep crevasse of emotional isolation. A dark time this would be in her silence behind the smiles. Most unfortunate would be her unwillingness to show it as she personified the sweetness of every rose. Always the optimist … always the, “everything will be ok”-er no matter what. This was her thinking all the time. I hesitate, but think it may be true, … most in isolation right now are staying positive.

My thinking about thinking also confirms that these same people are hurting underneath. Mom was very lonely, but never let it show. Needing contact, but staying strong to keep the proverbial plates spinning, or ovens warm is status quo for now in the homes where nobody greets us at the front door. Entryways we should not be near anyway – violating our own social distancing mandates.

What are we thinking? It’s important we share the anger, doubt, and sadness with each other at home. Facebook and other social media don’t get to sit here at our table.

Pick a quiet evening once in a while with only family – no outside distractions. Perhaps a take-out pizza with extra cheese sits in the center among a few cold beers for the adults and sodas for the kids. No napkins, just pieces of torn paper towels to wipe the inevitable mistakes off Grandma’s table you’ve had for years. Good idea using her table. It holds memories from the hard years when milk and bread were much, much harder to find.

Think things through, together, out loud. I would argue every day if possible for a few minutes in between news updates, memes, texts, virtual lessons, (blogs), essential work obligations if necessary, home responsibilities, and whatevers …. Talk real emotions and feelings. This isolation is so unkind to all of us. Unnatural and uncomfortable. Don’t be positive if you don’t WANT to be. Be angry. Be mad

If you’re gobsmacked because thinking about thinking is getting on your nerves? Write a short, incoherent blog about it. Get it off your chest!! You may start to feel better …

I said, “May”.

Have a wonderful isolation everyone. I have some more thinking to do. Ugh.

Pink Monkeys and Party Balloons

A large swath of us are not going to be recognized for anything we do. We’re plog-alongers. Sure, there may be those rare times when local celebrity status is draped over our shoulders, but we inhale and exhale normal air so conveniently, so unconsciously, most of our lives. Day in. Day out. Day in-between.

Gonna say this is ok. I’m certainly willing to belly up to the bar of normal and have the server say, “What’ll it be, Mr. DougHugs person?” without any expectation of another shouting, “Hey! .. I think that’s … yeah … that’s him… the blog guy!” in my direction. The only universe that would happen is a an oxygen-starved one where realities are shifted so bad Spock, Vader, or Homer sit in a darkened corner pondering string theory over a bowl of blueberry yogurt. Or, the world is paralyzed in a COVID-19 crisis. Either one seems, ultimately, implausible ….

Anyway, reality shifting aside, normal is normal until it isn’t, right?

I’m not J.K. with Harry, James Patterson, or IT on paper as penned by Mr. King. These folks are the not-normals. They are among the masters of many. So few achieve while many strive … and I am not a striver in this regard. I do not blog in the slow lane with my blinker on waiting for a opening. Quite content am I to be non-speeding my “one heartbeat at a time” auto-do-it down life’s express-myself-way. The whizz bys can go past. That’s fine because their cause and destination is as just as mine. They have fancier vehicles, anyway. I’ll spat-sputter along in my shifty little, two toned, paneled word wagon occassionally blumbling over a rumble strip or two. That’s normal.

So, I write.

It’s hard to separate from this problem. Lately, when I sit down to begin, a miserable malaise – this overhang of ugh -has an incessant drip of can’t get away from it landing on my intent. I can be full-in pink monkeys and party balloons only to be hijacked by social distancing, flattening the curve, shut downs, pandemic, Italy, ventilators, experts, thoughts and prayers

All of this is tiring. I know it is imperatively important and ultimately understandable. Normal, if I may, for the time that is now. I’ve reached epidemic exhaustion … if that can be a thing. Ugh, because we’re at the beginning of a long haul, towing a massive load of unknowns to a destination of who-knows with all variations of on ramps and exits along the way.

For a few hours yesterday, I had my 82 year old dad in my life’s car. We had to organize our way around some of his eighty-year old wonderful problems. It wasn’t easy. His normal isn’t my normal. There were many phone calls I had to make, back and forths necessary to make smooth possible for him again, and a few laughs to chuckle the stresses away.

Earlier, I made an attempt at opening my seasonal business. This is my 15th year – and, by far, the most challenging. It’s NOT going to be normal. I have to be closed – and remain closed – for some time until there is some settling down. There isn’t much else I can do. Wiggle room aside with some of my fellow restaurant compatriots offering drive-thru service, I’m content on the sidelines waiting this out. Supply chains are limited, customer sentiment and flow are both historically low and, overall, I just don’t want to be in the way.

So, in the true spirit of “blogging”, yesterday was “a day”. I realized (but already knew) being normal was my SOP, my business is going to lose money as the bills keep coming in, and my dad is pretty cool. He frustrates me like nobody’s business. If I had the time – and his permission – to tell you yesterday’s WTF’s, it’d be worth the ride … trust me.

If anyone says it’ll be worth all the aggravation – the shut downs and social distancing – to get to that final theme park of happy vaccines and cures, I’ll cheerio-clink a mug-o beer with them. Pull up a stool, I say, and join me. Be leery, however, of a crowd that may gather asking for my autograph once they recognize who I am – oh, though if it’s more than 10 people … or, wait .. we can’t be in the bar anyway they’re under a mandatory closure as of midnight last night. Buggers.

Dad’s free. Bowling alley is closed and I know he’d like the company. Can’t lose sight of the important things. It is so true. A large swath of us are not going to be recognized for anything we do. Maybe yesterday taught me a lesson.

I had to get some things done yesterday aside from COVID and dad. The little (aggravating, but necessary) get-along issues with dad had be completed, though. They were inconvenient and complicated, but resolvable. He needed help. I’m always around and willing to do so … and I do, laughingly, insist he buy me lunch for my efforts. Ultimately not necessary for me, but I know he likes to do it, so why not, right?

The lesson being, he has a normal. I have a normal. You have a normal. We have to try the best we can to be that normal and help our friends and family keep their normal as well.

The sash we proudly wear over our shoulders at the end can simply say, “I survived COVID-19 and stayed normal”.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s all pink monkeys and party balloons until it isn’t.

Hoping You Didn’t

It is, simply, a beautiful day. Mid-50s and sunny. Ladies: the kind of day you almost want to wiggle into that after-winter, slightly tight, vertical patterned little halter top and do some springing around the house. Gentlemen: it is either the kind of day you don’t want to do anything around the house except watch your lady chore-ily spring about … or, it is a time to take her out for a nice walk around the neighborhood while treating her to organic teas and salads afterwards. I would caution against the former. Any attempt at individual idleness within your partner’s periscope of expected errands is a fool’s folly.

Maybe today is a single day for you. A day to get the ol’ frisbee out and toss a few flicks into the head winds. Perhaps call up a few friends and mingle around the park, occasionally taking the football out from under your arm to toss a short out-and-up as remembered. Talk out some financial problems with the pigeons as you relax on the bench by the pond. Whatever appeals to your get-out from behind the walls today, do it. It is, simply, a beautiful day.

We don’t get too many of these this early in March. Strange that today happened to be the day after our spring-forward clock event, when an hour of lost sleep became the drama disturbing the distractables. These folks see the sun, but absorb the shadow. They welcome the extended daylight as additional time to see more shadows extending back from themselves. We must remain ever vigilant to walk around … but at the same time, recognize sincerity in the pain and embrace an opportunity to join them with compassion because the beauty in a day can be the healing of a soul as well.

Single, or partnered up? One of the few missing, badly, an hour’s sleep? You’re a human who should find some way to grab a minute of marvelous merriment when offered up on a planetary platter like today.

Why am I writing this?

I eagerly started this post at 11 a.m. and the little white clock on my PC, now, says 9:20 p.m.. With the exception of an hour around 2:00 and a trip to a friend’s place, I’ve been sitting at my desk organizing receipts, stabbing at this blog off and on, and playing games on the computer … all day long. At 6:00, I shuffled over to a friend’s house to grab some snacks and visit – inside her basement, mind you – leaving around 7:30. The hour above was spent taking a leisurely walk about town. I pretty much missed the whole freakin’ day because I am a hypocritical, blathering blogger of the highest order. This is my need to purge my current penitent personae.

Feeling better now, though I’m sad I missed most of this simply beautiful day. Hoping you didn’t. My receipts are done and organized. I was, ultimately, successful on-line and feel pretty good about my diet today. The walk about town did help relieve some minor back pain I’ve been having – probably from sitting too long at my desk. Correlation? Maybe so.

More outdoor time might be warranted if we are so fortunate to have more off-season, beautiful days like this was today.

I think I have some old vertical patterned tops upstairs from my awkward junior high years. They’re not halter tops – just real ugly brown and yellow 70s button down, collared, short-sleeved, cotton blend shirts that are probably too tight, but I can use as dust rags. I may have some springing to do around the house if the weather cooperates in the next few weeks.

Clocks Ahead

“Push ahead, spring forward!”, they say with great anticipation. Words spoken … expected to extinguish the causes and pauses of a long, laborious winter season. And they do. Early mornings suddenly walk away from their partnership with bleak and creaky, cold-lit shady wakenings.

We are happily reminded, once again, to spring the hour hand (showing my age) forward on our clocks. This wee little tweak and twirl of the littlest worker, clicking by at a sixty-minutes pace, gives us renewed hope in the magic of time. Time being one of the assets we have to give away or hold … to use, or to waste, …. to treasure or lose.

Some believe there was a certain, specific timeline assigned to us when we were born. Randomness of events leading up to an unexpected end could never occur in their scenario of a pre-determined final exit. Others embrace a what will be, will be thinking and give no mindspace to possible pre-natal preludes of prognostication. Time is time for all of us. Birth to death. It has equal weight on the life scale as we stand side by side – whether or not our beliefs differ about its function.

Equal weight in the balance of nature as well: loss and gain

We’re losing an hour tonight. Giving it away, I guess you could say. Whatever anyone thought that hour may have represented, it won’t matter. In one swoop, it’ll be gone. Tomorrow, and days that follow, will be longer light with gradual, graceful, decreasing dark.

We’re gaining also. Now, what to do with the extra sunshine in your life? Just push ahead and see where the warmth leads, I suppose. Still only 24 hours to fill, so get some extra Spring in your step, drink lots of water, wash your hands frequently even after the covid19 shakey-head syndrome fades, breathe, sleep a good 7-8 if you can, and eat lots of really cool food!

Time is in your corner wanting the best for you. And remember, in six months, we’ll be falling back into …. ah, never mind. For now, just enjoy whatever time has for you in its magic bag of wonder.

Oh, and please DO turn your clocks ahead one hour!

Thank You Interview

New experience yesterday. The walk-about kind blogs are designed to talk-about. I guess.

This writing thing is still new to me. I’m baffled beyond amazed at how much fun the journey has been so far. Over 115 entries into this Imagineer’s Workshop of ideas and counting … with no barriers in front of me that I can see. 🤞 As a man with limited knowledge of grammar, a few ideas on how life should be, and an unpredictable sleep/wake cycle, I’m enjoying every solitary keystroke from my PA Keystone state of mind.

We are not having a normal winter here. One minor snowfall dusting and a few below normal, ice-scrapey days are scant entries in the diaries of expectant winter lovers. Ice melt sellers, snow blower repair shop owners and plow drivers rest easy inside local donut shops eagerly sipping coffee … waiting. Weather forecasters, climate experts, global warming alarmists, environmentalists, … everyone on social media, earth humans in general all wondering why West-Central Pennsylvania is having a mild winter. Me, too.

Yesterday was my “Me, too” movement. The simple act of moving my left leg out of the car onto the pavement of the radio station’s space in which I chose to park gave me pause. I, also, was wondering why the warmth of the sun felt so unseasonably pleasing on my nervous face. Or, why I didn’t remember walking across the slightly windy parking lot at all when I sat down in the lobby. The papers I prepared had little wind damage, nor did my black checkered sport coat, so all was well as I sat momentarily next to my good friend, Donna. And waited.

This was a radio interview to introduce a business venture/partnership between my Doug’s DAWGS concession thing and ArtsAltoona. In addition to this, the hour-long show also highlighted my music and blogging interests as well as a personal dive into the deep end of my family history swimming pool. Donna is the President of ArtsAltoona and was my support, friend, and compatriot in the process. A true, honest-to-greatness asset in our community and someone I am so honored to call a friend.

“The 11th Hour With Doug Herendeen” began as I would have expected since I listen to his show almost every day. The perspective inside his small, padded studio is quite different. He’s a real person, first of all – not just a voice. We had to sort out who was Doug #1 and Doug #2, get the microphones in order, and calm my nerves a bit. Bottled water at the ready, buttons knobs and switches lit and prepped, commercials done, …. the “on air” bulb lit up outside our small wooden door and words started to push up through the large satellite dishes …. into the invisible universe they went.

I enjoyed every moment. Every word. Every sputtering syllable (even though I believe I am a good public speaker). The creaky floors of our local radio station speak for the many who have walked upon those boards – delivering a message they believed to be important to them. Yesterday, Donna and I were honored to be counted among them.

As I left Donna behind to discuss other matters, the same sun I felt an hour before still appeared in noon glory through the front windows behind the leather, worn chair I sat in a short time ago. It was still unseasonably warm. Even more so … being high noon, and a little after twelve which meant I was due for a really nice lunch. A lot more relaxed, getting back in my car required much less movement and reason to question my anxiety. The uncertainty of underperforming, or not doing my best, had passed. I was going to be o.k.

Isn’t that what we want at the end of all the noise and confusion? We want to be o.k.. Things may not seem normal – like the weather – but somehow we manage. Yes, it’s hard and we ask why a lot, …. Why am I wondering if I’m going to say the right words, on the spot, live, with a large fluffy mic and untold numbers of strangers listening? Does it really matter? In my goofy past mid-years, am I still concerned what others think? Why, yes. Yes I am. If you were me, you’d be feeling the same, I’m quite sure. That’s ok, too. If you think you’re alone, you’re not.

Thank You for allowing me this space to tell you about my new experience yesterday. Next time I visit my friend, Doug, at the radio station, maybe you can join me. We’ll sip a bottle of water together in the lobby and maybe, just maybe, catch glimpse of a snowflake sledding down a seasonal breeze of arctic cold. Until then, live in unpredicability. There’s magic in the unknown.

Coronavirus Today, Anyway

Holding my cell phone as I type … and wondering: Are there any coronavirus molecules on here? … if molecules is even the correct term to use. I don’t know.

How could I know? No one has sneezed on it or held it lately, so odds are in my favor. I wash my hands regularly – in hot water and soap for 20 seconds – at least 10 times each day and sanitize the case of my phone with wipes once in a while. Travel is limited due to lack of free time and money. I avoid my friends at all cost because they don’t find my jokes funny. Finally, the news reports have me wondering why I am even alive at this point, so I’m at an impasse … ARE there molecules here …. or NOT?

I woke up 45 minutes ago with a stuffy nose. Details unnecessary. Under normal early March circumstances, I’m thinking too much white flour in my diet yesterday combined with not enough water consumption, or a seasonal allergy. I did have a large, leafy salad for lunch yesterday which probably saved me from a pit of misery this morning. Anyway, at first light bleeping, my cell phone MSN feed reports additional cases of Covid-19, blacklighting my already germ-anic, panic-laden nose closure. Did I wiggle a finger in my eye the past few days? Was my mouth open to the possibility of airborne particulates precipitating possible pathogens?

Sipping organic tea, casually nibbling on a Clif bar, and occassionally stabbing a few honey nut cheerios are the three things I can do right now to quell my supposed fear of coronavirus. An agitation I’m told every day to tattoo on my must-worry-about armful of things to carry around, like paying my bills, working, eating, and … living.

We know the statistics. Facebook friends have been sharing all the graphs and charts. There are more pies and bars on Facebook right now than in a drippy glazen bakery attached to an oozy, nutty chocolate factory. Doctors sitting under fancy lighting, presenting 5 minute professional summaries, with cartoon-bubbly spiked balls of badassery popping up on my feed every day. This-and-thatery being hyped from New York news rooms to Bay area think tanks.

I am a piano playing blogger with NO medical experience, save the safe application of a band-aid on a finger once in a while. I am also a very compassionate person who grieves the loss of any person, for any reason. Our extended family has been touched by the tragic loss of a young lady who lost her life battling a super-virus. Truly nothing to mock or satirize in a demeaning manner. I would honorably stand by the side of any person and console them while still convinced the Covid-19 news cycle now, intended or not, is way overblown.

There’s no reason sanitizer bottles, wipes, and surgical masks should be selling out like milk and TP during a snow storm. Additionally, if people thought President Trump was incompetent before all this, any response to a super-virus is akin to him entering the nuclear codes. Travel overseas and cruise ship considerations I do see being reevaluated … those make sense. Some friends are looking into changing modes of transportation from planes to cars for interstate travel. Hey, if they want to switch three hours in a plane for multiple days in a sweaty (possibly germ infested) heat box laden with blabs of kids, juice boxes, snack crumbs in the seats, traffic, a nag-i-vator in the passenger seat, and no control over anything? … go for it!!

We need to make our own decisions. I get that … there was a day all this seemed easier. The news wasn’t so overwhelming. We woke up with stuffy noses, blew them, and thought no more about it. If coughing ensued, a call to the doctor was warranted. I guess today’s world is better with easier access to Googles of information as well. Good and bad. WebMD and common sense. Coronavirus hype and settled-psyches.

I’ve been breathing comfortably through my nose since sipping my tea … refilled twice. Clif bar gone … and cheerios? Quite yummy. Still wondering if I have an infected phone, though. I’ll run a scan! Oh, wait. I can’t do that. I can’t run a check to see if the Covid-19 molecules are dancing the merengue on my phone. Damn! Why am I paying for an antivirus program if I can’t use it … especially now?

Alert the press!!

Here’s to the future of all this … much of which I don’t have a blasted clue. For now, wash your hands, wipe off all phones with sanitizer pads if you can find them, and please don’t sneeze or cough on anyone. Stay away from anything looking ooey, gooey, or pooey. Love your neighbor, stand by anyone needing compassion and care … and please filter all the news through a common sense brain I know you have.

I’m out of tissues, patience, and time. Be well.

Urge to Purge

Up for consideration is the great American urge to purge. The greatest past-time activity of adults with a few extra minutes and specific, idealistic thoughts about how things should be. Is this a new thing? Or, can we just define “new” as the latest iteration of already existing behaviors and notions? Maybe “Nothing new under the sun” is the answer, idiomatically accredited to the book of Ecclesiastes.

As assumed, it isn’t every one. Some sit in their boats with thankful hands free in the air. “Whatever is, is, and there’s no reason to fret about it”, according to reasoning in their boats not-a-rockin’. Others, anticipating purge-atory word-wobbling, white knuckle the sides of the very boats in which they sit … spouting thesis and assumptions. Two very different ways. Should be easier to live the former, in my opinion, but I’m seeing the latter more and more.

The urge to purge. Spouting about things by creating mountainous geysers of presuppositions upon molehills of misinformation. This is what is being done. Over and over ….. and over. I see it in Facebook strings, other social media sites, national media, print, local chatter, and online articles. Some responsible journalism sprinkled in, to be sure, but much ado about nothing otherwise.

Today’s purge wasn’t going to be such, however. Stepping aside and allowing the words of should be to pass me by, I planned a different kind for myself – one requiring physical effort and mental memory cleansing:

A STORAGE UNIT / GARAGE / HOUSE / SHED Clean-Out !!

Two ladies came quickly at the precise time scheduled, 15-foot cargo trailer in tow. First stop? A two car storage garage where years of not-so-stackable, leaning cardboard boxes of all shapes bend into corners and crevasses. The near final resting place of my grandparents’ china patterns, old records, tools, rusty advertising signs, and Tupperware bins full of cards, comics, and collectibles. Three adults in a garage, moving stuff – not seen in years – into a trailer … along with little memories, one at a time. Necessary purging. Absolutely awesome.

Contractually, the two nice ladies helping me aren’t finished. We are about 50% done with the project (the house stuff remains and storage has some items yet to be removed). They are organizers who sell clean-out inventory and split proceeds 50/50 with their clients. I love the plan, mainly because the idea of yard-saleing all the porcelain, pipes, perfume, pottery, pillows, pens, and packrattery defies everything I believe about what to do with my spare time.

One emotional hang-up still to be resolved is my mom’s jewelry box. It sits silently on a table and will remain there until I decide something … a something as of yet undefined. This is one of the stuffs unpurgable…and they are the should be’s in life: memories so deep and meaningful never to be purged. We have them collecting tiny, tucked-away particles in our brains, attics, closets, and storage garages.

This simple box was not to be my unpurgable today, but it ended up being so. I knew it was there among the leaning. I understood the risks inherent among the inherited boxes saved and stored. It opened my memories when I gently peeked the padded cream colored top and saw her faux beads, rings, earrings, necklaces, key ring full of keys, and all the shiny, glittery glam inside that really wasn’t her … but knowing her hands graced the very top of that box was enough memory for me. She was there with me. All the memories of my life with her before she died, in that moment. This moment I never need to have purged from my life as I stood in the midst of obsolete objects.

Old grills, tables, and vases melted moments into hours as we pushed forward. Their tow along creaked as bigger, heavier picture frames and boxes were pushed into place toward the back end, behind buckets and bins filled with trinkets, toys, and tawdry towels. In the top spaces where only skinny folks dare go, we swifted thin paper goods – posters, pretty pictures, pastelled prints – to lessen the burden of tomorrow’s haul.

Tomorrow will arrive with expectations just as today did. I hope to have this project done by the day’s end when my friends pull away – towing a trailer full of purged non-words away. Stuff taken for the enjoyment of others. I may see a financial return from the sales, well… I most likely will due to the area where I live. It’ll be nice to have some money in return, however, walking out of a garage today … and by extension tomorrow… knowing I had the urge to purge, is the better feel good feeling.

I’ll take tonight to think about mom’s jewelry box. Maybe jump over to Facebook and check out some opinions about this-and-thats. So many have purging to do these days. Taking into consideration all they have to say, I still contend my purge today is the better way to go.

Good Deeds, Indeed

Not about me at all. Three circles in a very familiar logo.

Again, today isn’t about me. Let’s consider three different meanings for the circles:

  1. ACCEPTANCE: Being open to do any kind act at any time.
  2. MORALITY: Doing the right thing when called upon by a moment.
  3. GRATEFULNESS: Accepting an outcome, but expecting none.

The other day I found a packet of insurance papers / registration cards resting comfortably on the sidewalk outside a local restaurant. It was immediately obvious this fell out of a car previously parked in the space I just – not so graciously – nudged a fresh set of tire marks on the curb. No harm done. I must humbly say if there existed annual awards for parallel parking, I’d have many dinners in my honor. That day, however, was a beautiful, sunny, seasonably-off, distractable-weatherish confundery, so I can be excused for not paying as much attention as necessary. Skid marks and a few mph’s extra aside, the cutting in and angle was only a degree or two off, anyway, and the back tire of my inexhaustable Honda spend only mere seconds atop an already cracked curb. So, again, no harm done … except to maybe my ego.

The packet I saw almost immediately, face up, slightly soiled, as if to say, “I’ve been through something, but not here”. Names, address, policy number, … all the pertinent information I’m quite sure the owner didn’t want to be in the hands of a stranger – who I was at the time. Fortunately, the sticker – with three circles in a very familiar logo – had above them a name. An agency owner. A friend. A wonderful coincidence.

A chance for the owners to take a deep breath they didn’t know they could take at the time – IF they even knew this packet was missing. I knew it was, but couldn’t really do anything about it at the time being a weekend with my friend’s agency closed at the time. My purpose for being in town, anyway, wasn’t to claim a lost insurance packet runaway. I wanted a three-egg veggie omelet and iced-tea from the black-and-white awning cafe on the corner 1/2 block down … where folks were already gathered around heavy black iron tables enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Umbrellas up, kids laughing, brunch plates full, piled high with fruit, toasts-a-plenty, veggies and bacon club sandwiches as I made my way down the sidewalk.

Passing through those enjoying the company of their soon to be full friends, I settled into one of the back smaller tables for two, by myself, under a flat screen t.v. infrequently watched. This cafe, one seldom visited for common everyday, mundane news, finds itself a home for those less interested in national chatter. Personal stories and local heart warming trends trump all the international intrigue caught in the net of vanilla noise. It was the perfect place to sit, order a healthy omelet with only two out of three yokes, and slightly pat the packet I slipped in my left breast checkered sport coat pocket. “What to do until Monday?” I whispered under my breath as the couple very near at the table to my right quizzing looked over. “Oh,”, I leaned over, “I have a small decision to make … I have plenty to DO. I wasn’t trying to figure out my time until Monday.”. They had no response. Thinking back, that may have been twenty-three more words than necessary. My answer back to myself, eventually was … nothing. Do nothing.

And that’s what I did.

Today I stopped in to my friend’s agency and turned over the packet. This was after taking a few minutes yesterday searching through Facebook for the folks. Thinking maybe I could find them – address being only a few towns over – and then send the packet in the mail? Or, call them. Pretty much all the options were on the table, except the obvious one I already agreed upon with myself previously, alone, in a wonderful cafe. Relaxed and in control.

That’s the story. Nothing different from yours, perhaps. Except, maybe the tire marks. Well, c’mon now. Different time and place, but I KNOW you have done it, so fess up.

It is all the little stories like this, throughout our lives, that make a difference. Thankful, in a way, Mr and Mrs Anonymous parked in that space and left just in time for me to find it. I’m forever indebted to the invisible hands that lifted a slightly soiled packet out of their car and placed it comfortably on the sidewalk. Pleased I found, kept, and returned it.

Maybe still a stranger to my new friends a few towns away, but never to Acceptance, Morality, and Gratefulness. The three circles in a vary familiar logo that is our life. I saw them last week and had time to hold them in my hand for a few days.

Reminded that we should be open for moments to do the right thing, expecting nothing in return. Except it is never nothing. We always do get something back. I walked out of my friend’s agency feeling good. There was never a second thought of mis-using the information I had in my hands. That’s not how I roll. When her secretary told me they’d take care of it, a sense of completeness and “You did a good thing, my man” took over my day and will remain in the bucket of hours until the midnight of the clock spills into another day.

Again, today isn’t about me. It’s about three circles. Yes, small things. Feel goods. Good deeds, indeed, for all of us when we can.

Fair Game

Life lesson #1 If STAYING AHEAD OF THE GAME is the object, you need to first ask yourself: “What game will I be playing?”. When headed to the park expecting to play checkers, it’s really cool being prepared with two different colored circle pieces and an 8×8 board. It isn’t cool finding out you actually needed hip streamers, an oblong inflated ball, an old college Greek t-shirt, and smelly sneakers to play flag football in the park. When you show up with a little bag of checker chips, SPF-100, an inflatable bench seat, and picnic basket, you’ll soon be bored. Sitting beside a checkered board on the sidelines, your mildly irritated friends consider the formerly innocent moves of “king me” and “double jump” as a possible forms of punishment. You begin to see the memo you missed – clearly written in the dust left behind from the wind storm of your regret.

Life lesson #2 If KEEPING YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME is the object, you need to first ask yourself: “Am I paying attention to the players around me?” Let’s assume you are forgiven and invited to participate. Big assumption, but we’ll go with it. The very friends you had fruity cocktails and vodka shots with the night before, now take every opportunity to surround your hesitant soul with with one goal in mind: Embarass the over-lathered lotioned checker chip bagger. Some friends call this forgiveness at all costs and you wear a multi-colored target on your back as the chosen one. Chosen to participate in a game not of your choosing.

Life lesson #3 If IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE GETS HURT, you need to first ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” Is the grass crunching under everyone’s feet and stale air whistling past your ears worth the jeers, fears, tears, and time with your peers? Certainly must be because you are still in the game, right?. Play’ahs smile and wink ever so slightly when they whisk by you … still consumed by your checkered past. The same counter belly-rubbers who bent over a smokey bar table the prior evening and said, “Let’s meet tomorrow and play a game!”. They who should have wiped the glasses of conversation a bit clearer when describing the game. A game they, themselves, are certain to be flagged – more than you – for their pregame ambiguity and in-game dust ups. On the field of play, hurts happens – it is an until, not an if. So you’re really in a defensive position at the mercy of well-mean(ing) compatriots who knew better, but chose to play by a different cruel book. Sometimes it’s not the game, it’s the players.

Life lesson #4 If AT THIS STAGE OF THE GAME, you need to first ask yourself, “Is this where I want to be right now?”, either the game or the players need a second look – possibly a third. Running through the options in your head is the best option coming out of the huddle-puddle these mud ruckers put you in. What looks like an innocent game of flag pulling has become the biggest contest of run-around with you at the center of it all. As the non- ball bearing appeaser – an uncompensated, unrecruited position to boot – you will spend valuable time defending the indefensible friends living on their narrow field who will never see your extraordinary field of vision.

Life lesson #5 If AT THE END OF THE GAME, you need to first ask yourself, “Was it worth it?”, and the answer is “no”, return to the sidelines. Pick up your wonderful bag of checker-chips, head back to the bar from where it all began, and sit beside players of life who recognize your vision of an inflatable bench seat for two or more … where real friends sit together…

…. on the sidelines watching the game of life play out while engaging each other in a fair, respectable game of checkers. One expecting and knowing the game of the other. All conscious of one another. No one getting hurt.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Flag football people, life lessons #1-4 … the unfortunate expectations we place on friends who aren’t genuine friends; Co-workers who aren’t real co-workers. Family members who aren’t honest family members. They are, but aren’t in the truest sense. In their minds, it is Fair Game to play with us … our minds and emotions. We allow the game assuming our best interests are in play, but they aren’t. This is why we show up on the sidelines unprepared, … and play anyway. Trust.

There is hope as mentioned. Belly up to a latte, deal yourself in a card game, spin a stick in almost dry dirt …. whatever. Someone will nudge up beside you with an open arm and become a teammate for life. Find them. You need them to help carry your extra large bag of checker chips when a crowd of extra-special friends meet at the park to celebrate your extraordinary field of vision.