Three years ago today was a Friday. I’d slipped out-of-town for an over night visit with my son. By the time I arrived, Fred had passed away back home.
Despite a heroic effort to contact me, I didn’t know we’d lost him until I read the news the next morning. I remember staring a lot that day. There were other things, but mostly there was staring.
That Saturday night, back home in bed, I was still staring. I published what I felt that night, and then went to work at 4:30 a.m. Sunday on no sleep. I wasn’t the only one sleepless and staring.
The staring returned this morning. I’m angry about the accident that cost his life months before he was to retire. I’m hurt for his family as they move on without him. I’m disappointed that I can’t call him to laugh about some of the stories we lived through and compare notes on how much being retired from The Job doesn’t suck. Read the rest of this entry »
Back when I was about to go to junior high school, I had a concern. I’d been taught to take a shower behind a curtain that was behind a door. I’d grown up changing clothes by myself, then emerging fully dressed into the world where others could see me. But now I’d be taking a phys-ed class that required showering and changing clothes with others nearby.
My father, who understands all things, explained to me that in a locker room the etiquette was that people busy themselves with showering and dressing. As long as they did that, the system worked without the shower curtain and door. Of course, dad explained this in his own inimitable and unprintable style. He was right, that’s how it worked.
And the gym teacher reinforced what my dad passed on with phrases like “wash it down and cover it back up, no one want to smell or see that stuff”. Read the rest of this entry »
At the start of my retirement, I have the chance to chase my dream of writing a book. I’m fortunate to have this sort of adventure and blessed with the support I’ll need to make it happen.
Support doesn’t equate with words on the page. Those have to come from me. Some days the words don’t come. By “some days”, what I mean is “a lot of them until recently”. Fortunately, what I mean by “until recently” is that I’m finally getting some chapters drafted that make sense.
But this isn’t about me writing a book. This is about when I wasn’t writing a book and how I regained my focus.
When the book wasn’t rolling at all, I thought about dropping the idea. More than once I voiced those thoughts; I always got a smile and a gentle “not yet” that sent me back to the keyboard. Still, the words didn’t flow. Frustration did. I spent some of my writing time looking at want ads. I was so discouraged that I started making notes to help assemble a résumé.
Kung-Fu Movie Night
And then came Kung-Fu movie night.
One of the things most of you don’t know about me is that I love old Kung-Fu movies. I know that they’re awful. That’s part of their appeal. They’re not for everyone, so some evenings when I’m alone I order Chinese take out and stream a movie with Shaolin in the title.
On a recent Kung-Fu movie night, I stopped by a Chinese restaurant to pick up dinner. There was a help wanted sign on the door.
Have you ever seen a help wanted sign at a Chinese restaurant? Me neither. But there it was. And as I sat there, waiting for my dinner to come out, I thought about the help wanted sign. I wondered what it would be like for me to interview for a job waiting tables in this place.
Restaurant owner: You really want to work, here?
Owner: Well, this is unprecedented.
Me: Really? No one has ever applied for a job here?
Owner: It’s just that you’re not…well, perhaps it’s better that I say it’s just that we’re all…it’s just, you’re not what we’re looking for.
Me: But you really haven’t asked me any interview questions.
Owner: Fine. Tell me about your work experience.
Me: Well, I was a police officer for twenty-eight years and I specialized in hostage negotiation for twenty-two. I also…
Owner: Did you ever negotiate in Mandarin?
Me: Mandarin, like those little canned orange slices?
Owner: Yeah, Sparky, like the orange slices. Your food is ready. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Of course, if you want more food, you should call us.
Write, Or Get A Job Peeling Tiny Oranges
As it turns out, my food was ready at about the same time my imaginary job interview ended.
While I drove home, I thought about the interview. If I couldn’t get through an imaginary job interview with a Chinese restaurant manager whose conversational style was oddly similar to my own, my prospects out in the world were not very good. The book, if I could get it out of my head, would be very good.
And so I started working on the book again the next morning. The dry spell ended. I’m going to give myself a fair shot to make this book thing work. It can’t be harder than learning Mandarin, can it?
The dream lives.
So does my smile.
Back when I was a kid, my parents made sure to keep me attentive to my manners. I fought them on one of their teachings. I didn’t see the sense in putting my napkin in my lap.
It seemed to me that if the napkin was on the table, it would be easier to see. I’m a visual kind of guy, so I still believe that, but… Read the rest of this entry »
Last year, I learned that the town of Gävle in Sweden has a tradition of building a Christmas goat out of straw. I learned that at the same time that I learned that the goat burned down last year.
Inspired by the sight of last year’s Christmas Goat in flames, I wrote a post proclaiming that when writing this blog made me rich I would commission straw goats all across North America. My goats would be constructed and burned for charity. These charity goat events would be called Get My Goat. I stand by that proclamation, though the blog has not made me rich yet. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday night, I saw a deer while I was driving. That’s pretty common. I’ve seen plenty of deer. What makes this sighting notable is that I spotted the deer as he was bouncing off my car.
This encounter happened as we followed some friends along an unfamilar road. I later learned that the friend’s daughter spotted the deer standing next to the road before the collision. The deer let the first car go by, then decided to cross the road. It was a most unfortunate choice on his part.
We Had An Agreement
Before this little meeting, I was sympathetic toward deer. We built roads through their wilderness and they’d get hit by cars as a result. My opinion has changed.
If you fly over this country, you’ll see that the majority of it isn’t urban development. There are forests, meadows and farms – plenty of room for deer to conduct their business. Even in developed areas, people’s yards and public park land are perfect for deer. We cede all this land to them. “Do whatever you do, out there” we say, “just stay off our roads and everything will be fine”. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve recently noticed that the Do Not Disturb signs in hotels almost always have the same message on both sides. The old signs, with a message on one side to the housekeeper that the room was ready for cleaning, are rare.
While this isn’t a change that’ll end the world, I feel somewhat responsible for the fact that it became necessary. I regret my part in causing it.
Yes, I flip other people’s “Do Not Disturb” signs to the “Please Make Up This Room” side.
It started when I was a kid. I’d noticed the sign in a hotel room my family shared. On the way to check out, I flipped my first sign. What could be funnier than some person having a hotel housekeeper walk in on them sleeping? I didn’t know, so I picked a door and changed its “do not disturb” to “make up this room right away.” It was an impulsive, childish thing to do.
Once we were on the road, I told my parents what I’d done. Perhaps it seems odd that I did that. There was some logic in my decision to tell on myself.
I think, as a rule, funny stuff isn’t funny unless you share it. I shared with my mom and dad. They did not see the humor in what I’d done. There are exceptions to every rule. Read the rest of this entry »
Dear Food Court Kid,
I’m in my fifties and I forget a lot of things. But you know, I remember being nineteen, just like you.
Yup, I remember picking up a third job during the summer to be able to pay for school. I recall working my butt off in college. In my free time, I did things I probably wouldn’t do now. And I remember how awkward it felt on that precipice between being a kid and an adult.
You’re Kind Of A Tool. Well, A Lot A Tool.
Well, maybe I wasn’t just like you. On my worst day, I wasn’t nearly the tool that you seem to be.
Being loud sometimes is part of being nineteen. But part of successfully navigating that precipice into adulthood is recognizing that there’s a difference between “loud sometimes” and being so loud that you can assure yourself that all around you can enjoy your wit. You see, there is a difference between someone hearing you and them enjoying what they hear. Read the rest of this entry »