DO YOU KNOW SUCK?

Remember those math test problems in school where they would tell you something like ‘Timmy was on a train traveling 60 mph for 20 minutes from City X and Joey, who left two hours earlier, was in a car traveling at 45 mph the opposite direction from City Y that had four two-minute traffic lights, two school zones and a White Castle drive-thru.’ Then magically from that sketchy given information you’re supposed to extrapolate, ‘if it took Timmy six minutes to perform CPR to revive Joey who had a heart attack while waiting for his friend at the train depot, how many square belly bomber burgers did it take to clog Joey’s arteries?’

What the hell? I never knew how to solve those problems. Math was not my thing. It still boggles my brain. To me ‘cosine’ is something you do to cash someone else’s check, ‘degrees’ tell me how cold it is, ‘rational’ is a deluded excuse, a ‘variable’ is kinda fickle and a ‘tangent’ is something I am on right now. Luckily in school, I excelled at other stuff like reading and writing. I was that annoying kid in class that loved the essay tests over eeny, meeny, miny, multiple guess. Although the gambler in me likes my passing odds in True and False.

From this, I learned pretty early that I’m damn good at somethings and, well, just plain suck at others. And that’s okay. I used to be hard on myself about it but I’ve mellowed. Even my wife is pretty forgiving of the messes I create when I try something that turns out to be one of those things that I suck at. Which is good because I keep learning new and creative ways to truly suck.

Let me preface my example of this with another one of those tangents (one that has nothing to do with circles and angles). Because of that ‘great at English / horrid at math thing’, I always thought of my brain as pretty darn average. I realized early on that average brains are fine if you are amazo- great looking, but if you were a Dork-a-saurus Rex like me, you better have something else going on upstairs or you were not going to make it.

Those thoughts stay with you as you grow up and once I became an adult I tried to find where my ‘bar of acceptability’ with myself was. Apparently, it’s fairly low. I got made fun for my appearance a lot as a kid so basically, my rule is, I just don’t want to be embarrassed by the way I look. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t think I could pull off perfect if I tried. But not embarrassing, that’s something I can strive for. I wish I did not care at all about what other people think, but I do.

So in my current neighborhood, everybody’s house numbers are not only placed prominently by the front door but are also painted on the curb. Ours was pretty faded when we moved in a couple of years ago and it has only gotten worse. After I had a pizza delivery guy get confused because he could not read it, I started imagining a fire breaking out and because our curb numbers were not legible, I pictured the fireman soaking my neighbor’s house while all my worldly possessions turned into a steamy charred ash pile.

About a year ago we got one of those badly cut out and poorly printed home-made ads rolled up and wedged on our front door handle. Because of my ‘not embarrassing’ rule, I likely would have done a better job producing the ad, but I still got its point. For $35 to $40 bucks the guy would paint any kind of rectangular background and stencil our house number over it. I could get my college mascot or flag or red polka dots or whatever I wanted slapped right there on the curb at the end of my front walk. The money was practically flying out of my wallet until my wife looked at it and her immediate thought $40 was a bit steep for 5 minutes work and 50 cents of paint. Then she got me with the ‘you wanna trust a guy who’s ad looks like this?’

My Wife assured me we had plenty of paint and even volunteered to do the job, reminding me that it took her seconds to spray paint our house numbers on the trash cans at our old place. But right around that time her world started getting busier and busier. Last week while she was out of town on business, I decided to be a good guy and tackled a bunch of little things from both our ever expanding to-do lists.

So, ummm… aaaaaaaa… painting numbers on a curb is harder than I thought. Apparently, I am as good at that as I am at math problems but it took a little bit to learn that. I dug around the garage and found some outdoor deck paint for my background rectangle. Then while looking for a brush I found the stencils my wife purchased for the trash can a decade ago, so I stopped,searched and found the receipt for the new ones I just purchased, so I could later go back to the store and return them.

Out to the curb I lugged the paint, a brush, an opener to pop off the lid, a piece of newspaper and a handful of paper towels because I know there is no way I could do this without making a mess. I shook the can like crazy, but upon opening it I discovered there was a hard lump on the bottom with some tinted water at the top. I forgot a stirrer.

I walked back down the path passed the yard, through the house, into garage where I found a stirrer. After bringing it all the way back out to the curb, I tried to mix the stuff but it was too hard and the wood stick broke leaving half of it submerged in the paint muck. I decided to try using the liquidy glop at the top but it dripped down into the street like I poured vanilla ice cream into a hot dish.

I walked back into the house to soak my paper towels and then mopped up the dribbly white tinted stuff that pooled up in the gutter. I then walked all the way back to the garage again and found some other white paint that was not oil based but I was already over a half hour invested into this five minute job and really wanted to get it done.

My white rectangle came out fairly good. I kept trying to make the sides even but with each swipe it got wider and wider till I decided my options were to paint the entire street’s worth of curb or accept that it will not be perfect. Again, I left it at the ‘not embarrassing’ point. Then when I went to pick up my mess, I discovered my newspaper was on top of an ant hill and that all of my supplies looked like they were covered with moving chocolate sprinkles. After a good de-ant-ing, I dragged all my crap back down the path, through the house and into the garage.

The next day I got my stencils ready and looked for the spray paint, but the black had dried up so all we only had red and silver. I assumed the red would immediately fade and the silver was too hard to read. I found a small can of black enamel paint. Perfect. I lugged all the crap out again, dodging the ants, I crouched in the street and proceeded to learn that I suck at painting house numbers on a curb.

That not embarrassing thing kicked in again. Yeah, this one is way over the bar. My numbers looked like a blind one-armed man with Parkinson’s was trying to paint hieroglyphics. I stepped back to assess my work, cringed, dragged my crap back inside and added this task to my ‘suck list’.

There are things I can do well and there are things that I suck at. Now if you want me to write a long wacky story about a dumb little task, I can do that with ease. But if you want a good example of some major suckage, ask me to paint some house numbers on a curb.

house num

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MY EYES FEEL OLD TODAY

My morning started the usual way. A small group of ethereal angels gracefully flew over my sleeping body in a loose circle pattern. With the back of their soft hands, they each reached down and lovingly caressed the side of my face gently easing me from my dreamy sleep world, off my cloud-like fluffy pillow, fully refreshed, to the glowing early sunbeams of the crisp peaceful Texas morning.

Yeah, Okay, No…

After hearing the dog stir at 4:55am, I jarringly lifted my sweaty head off my hot mushed pillow and abruptly leapt out of bed dodging the swarming cats anxious for their breakfast. Trying not to wake up my wife, I fumbled my way out of the dark bedroom stubbing my toe on the ottoman while racing to shut off the house alarm and fling open the back doors before my elderly near-incontinent dachshund exploded. Not the ‘Ka-Boom’  kind of explode but the slightly less messy ‘Ka-Poop’ or Ka-Pee’ version of explode.

For a change,  we made it out to the yard in time for him to empty in the appropriate place and letting me comfortably delay the diaper debate another day. Nothing is more embarrassing than a doggy diaper; BJ is already a wimpy introvert around other animals, he does not need Pup Pampers or Hound Huggies making it worse. At least adult human diapers are hidden under clothes. I know I’ll put off becoming Depends Dan as long as possible, so I owe the dog the same courtesy.

As I waited for the for the Lil Leaky Guy to finish up,  my body finally relaxed from my zero to a hundred ‘bed to backyard’ sprint. That’s when it hit me that I too was in danger of a Ka-Pee explosion. To ease the pressure,  I tried to take my mind off the obvious and started shifting from one leg to the other like Lurch doing a Waka Waka dance.

It was earlier than I would normally choose to get up, and the problem is when I have extra time I start doing other stuff, then discover I’m behind schedule. After rushing through the mass animal feeding, a shave, shower and breakfast, my chaotic morning continued on my commute to work and only got worse when I got to my desk.

The guy next to me calls me a fireman because he says I spend half my day putting out fires.  At least it’s not because he thinks I’m a hoser.  Although some days I might be. While trying to get to the bottom of a particularly picky problem with a client in Massachusetts, I ended up typing their address into Google maps. I finished my call but my eyes stayed transfixed on the map, I recognized the suburban Boston neighborhood. Looking at the screen, My brain transported me in time.

Looking at the streets, suddenly, for the first time since I jumped out of bed, my world became tranquil. My morning angels must have touched everyone in the office because the entire floor magically seemed serene and oddly quiet. I remembered wandering around alone on those exact streets one afternoon while visiting my brother during my first High School summer vacation. I was investigating the town with no real destination, no schedule, no appointments and nowhere I really had to be.

Wanting a snack to nibble on the Subway ride to downtown, I recall getting a couple of veggie samosas from an Indian restaurant my brother introduced me to a few days earlier.  I was still a kid but I felt worldly and grown-up wandering in a strange city eating foods that my folks would never have served.  Then it hit me, that was almost 40 years ago.

Even in an old City like Boston, 40 years of changes is a lot. Neighborhoods transform in culture, character and complexion. The old buildings remain mostly the same but the storefronts and inhabitants continuously change.

I have changed too. The eyes that I looked through back then were young.  The sights were new to me. The way I saw the world was different. My life still in front of me with no clue what direction I would go, where I would live or what type of career and lifestyle I would pursue.  Maybe I would walk those same streets thousands more times. Maybe never again. Anything could happen. At that time, my world felt like a deep long hall with an infinite number of wide open doors I could step through. These days it feels like my options are far more limited.

A few years ago my Wife and I went on an anniversary trip to New Zealand. Walking around the foreign land, sharing a fresh baked local meat pie with my Wife before getting on the bus from Rotorua to the Waitomo Glow-Worm Caves,  I had that same exhilarating feeling I had as a kid in Boston.  But as the trip drew to an end my emotions were very different. then when I was young.

Hours before my flight home I stared out the window of my Auckland hotel room trying to burn mental images into my skull because I knew full well I likely will never be there again.  Although I have walked through a lot of those imaginary hallway doors, far more have been forever slammed closed. I see my own future in my 90 year old Dad whose world is now very small and limited. My eyes have seen a lot. Over 20,000 days of adventures. Maybe its just last night’s cigars and scotch, but today my eyes feel old.

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BLASPHE-ME BLASPHE-YOU

I completely understand why most people believe in God, Allah, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammad, Elohim, Sheela-Na-Gig or whichever version of ‘The Big Guy (Gal)’ your personal religious beliefs say is in charge. It gives life comfort, reason and cause. But most importantly it offers an easy to understand explanation for an awful lot of extraordinarily unexplainable things. I mean, just look at humans.

When you think about the intricacies of how the human body works with its pumping heart, dexterous hands  perfervid senses, bazillions of daily reproducing cells and despite what I see on the roads every day, remarkable brain cognitive functions, it’s hard to imagine such an amazingly complex beautiful living machine could be created by anything less than Divine intervention (no I am not suggesting the universe was created by Harris Glenn Milstead, although that would be a very interesting world to briefly visit.)

I doubt a team of the most brilliant minds in mankind’s history could design and manufacture something even close to a human. I mean, do you really believe the same species that  gave you the Hindenburg, Titanic and Ford Pinto could even design a functioning limbic system? If those guys were on the human being design team, half the people that got kicked in the butt would catch fire and explode.

As much as the ‘in the beginning /created in six days, snooze for one / Adam and Eve’ story might take a leap of faith to believe, a lot of folks find that explanation of how we got here easier to fathom than the theory of evolution. Although if you want proof man descended from apes, you should check out the hairy missing-link baboon-brained gym teacher I had in Junior High. That will fill in enough blanks to help it to all make sense. I do not have any similarly good examples to prove man’s rise from the post-Big Bang primordial ooze muck-pits, but I am pretty confident that, even without Trump’s Space Force building an anti-alien wall,  evolution was not hastened by meddling ancient space dudes, volcano loving Thetans or various visiting Vulcans.

But what do I know about any of this?  I am not a theologian or scientist. I’m just a regular Joe (or Dan) who is at least smart enough to keep my beliefs to myself. Sharing that stuff only seems to start arguments and I get enough of those in my life just following friends’ political posts on Facebook. What I will say is that no matter how we came about and no matter how stupendously remarkable humans are, we all seem to also have defects. Just like every car coming down the production line is not perfect, neither are people. Although I do not remember a Human Recall notice ever being issued. We are just left to deal with the problems ourselves.

Obviously, some folks have some very serious issues but all of us seem to have something that does not work perfectly. My wife has an iron deficiency while I have too much potassium. Hormone imbalances, diabetes, the old heartbreak of psoriasis… everybody seems to have some defect.

I have several allergies, the worst being to mosquito bites.  If I get too many I break out in clusters of massive quick rising hives.  That makes me a joy to go camping with unless you enjoy the smell of a sweaty human saturated in enough DEET to kill a rainforest worth of bugs. My allergies even make it hard for me to hang around with friends at a simple backyard barbecue. To make things more complicated, the hives get worse when I am stressed and getting the hives makes me stressed, so you can imagine that fun cycle.  As the years have passed I have somewhat adapted but that was not always the case.

I might have desperately tried to hasten things by repeatedly praying to each of those earlier mentioned Gods, but it was not until my first year of High School that I finally had a steady girlfriend.  One afternoon, very early in the relationship, after school my girlfriend and I parked for a make-out session in a wooded area on the edge of town. Even though it was hot, I could not afford much gas so we couldn’t keep the car running.  With the air conditioner off and the windows open,  the mosquitoes quickly started visiting.

‘Rapture’ is defined as either “an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion”, “a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion ” or “a mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to a knowledge of divine things.” To clueless inexperienced mid-teen Dan, a make-out session was about as close to a feeling of rapture as I’d ever had.

I was not going to let a few little skeeters interrupt my pimply-faced teen-aged euphoria.  I was steadfastly resolved not to let the itchiness interrupt my joy.  I was determined not to let a zillion giant swelling hives all over my body interrupt that moment…  But the more I got bit, the itchier and bumpier I got.  Between the heat, the bites, the hives and the stress of the situation, I quickly became a massive scratchy welty mess and no amount of praying to any or all the various Gods was going to make it go away. Party over… get me to the Benadryl now!

I am still amazed at the remarkable complexities of the human body and I understand that no matter what God you believe in, he/she/it/them likely does not have time to worry about a scratchy kid in a hot car on a dirt road.  But it sure would have been nice if on that one day, so many years ago, the great almighty would have cut the dweeb a break.

Danvolution

DAN-VOLUTION

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KIDZ THESE DAYS… WHY BACK IN MY DAY WE WERE ALL AVERAGE

If I walked onto a New York City subway barefoot wearing a 1350 BC Egyptian style thigh-high gold lame’ tunic with a King Tut headdress, I likely would not look as out of place than if I was wearing the late 1960s /early 1970s straggly-long hippie hair, high-waisted mile-wide bell bottom pants and loud colored poofy polyester shirts of my childhood era. At the time I really paid no attention to fashion and just wore what Mom purchased for me from the sale racks at Alexanders and Mays or the large bins at the discount clothing stores down Myrtle Ave. My self awareness of my true dorkiness did not hit till Junior High.

During my first few years in elementary school, my classmates were all pretty darn average. I don’t recall any phenomenally accomplished Baby Mensa members, child stars, musical prodigies or draw outside-the-line Montessorian candidates. We were just a bunch of average kids with bad goofy hair and very flammible polyester Brady Bunch-esqe clothing.

We were run of the mill kids. Stephen looked like he never washed, Heidi was afraid of her own shadow rarely saying a word, Andrew ate his boogers, Stacey developed breasts first, Lee could patiently make the thinnest dried Elmer’s glue sheets in his desk, Toni always played with her long hair, Alyssa  dressed like she was going to a groovy kid cocktail party, Scott knew the names of most every professional wrestler… Those guys, and all the rest I don’t recall anymore, might have been unique individuals but were all just average kids.

You could go to any of the other zillion New York schools and basically see the same children, just with different faces. No one was anything special except to their parents, especially me. I was that kid who was the diametric opposite of cool. A loud obnoxious fat-faced dofus looking for attention who by second grade, because of my extra unhip thick black horn-rim glasses and mouth full of shiny metal braces, already had two strikes against him when he walked into the room.

We always heard there was another school somewhere in town that they bused the super gifted kids to and another for the sad low spectrum ones, but I never knew anyone that went to either. I was not sure if those places were real or just some sort of rumored myth held over our heads, like heaven and hell, to get us to obediently walk the straight and narrow.

Maybe I am talking out of line here since I do not have any children of my own, but it sure seems to me that every kid nowadays is special. The top percentile of this, the most talented in that, advanced this, upper echelon that…  Parents use words like ‘gifted’ and ‘brilliant’ so frequently that they pretty much have become interchangeable with ‘breathing’ and ‘walking’.

It feels like at that young early age, my peers were still flinging feces at each other like chimps in a zoo while kids today are seemingly prepping for Harvard, playing Segovia on a ukulele, writing computer programs to hack into foreign government mainframes or signing contracts with modeling agencies and sports agents.

Where are all the little talent-less regular kids like myself and the ones from my class? Somehow the bell curve has shifted. What happened to average?  I’m trying to figure out what is really going on here. Are kids truly more advanced these days? Are the parents more delusional? Or are the standards for greatness lower? And more important, to actually have a ‘special’, doesn’t there need to be a big giant clump of average and sub-par that they are better than?

Yet my Facebook feed is frequently filled with friend’s kids doing above average stuff.  When my friends start going on about how amazing their kids are I always think of Garrison Keillor’s old weekly Prairie Home Companion monologue ending line: “That’s the news from Lake Wobegon where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

I was a fairly happy oblivious little kid till around Junior High when I started realizing where I was mentally, physically and social strata wise in reference to the rest of the world. It was not a pretty realization and I had several classmates that made sure I never forgot that in their eyes I was hovering near the bottom of the totem poll. Eventually moving to Miami and basically getting a fresh start was hard but changed my world for the better. I really have been always okay being average. Average is not a bad thing; we allow the stars to shine brighter and the dregs to be seen for what they are.

 

4th grade edit

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THE FORCED OF JULY

The other day my mind drifted to those old ‘busier than’ jokes. I’ve been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, busier than a one armed wallpaper hanger with a case of hives, busier than a one-toothed man eating corn on the cob, busier than a termite in a sawmill, busier than the handicapped parking lot at the Special Olympics… Well, the Wife and I truly have been that busy lately and with the recent holiday landing smack dab in the middle of the week, we decided to just spend a lazy 4th of July alone together.

As we started formulating plans for a delightfully decadent day around the house, I could almost see her face change when she realized, if it’s only us, she was going to have to take the brunt of listening to me re-retell the homespun tales of my childhood Independence Days.

Ah, the fond nostalgic gems from the sidewalks of the miserably hot humid New York City summers of my youth. Like when the neighborhood teens would try to blow up metal garbage cans in the street below my window with a half dozen M80s strapped together, or wasting all my savings at the corner store on punks, caps and those horribly anti-climactic magic black growing snakes while the other kids were buying mats of illegal firecrackers, or when Lil Dan just about crapped his kiddie pants as the big bag of fireworks accidentally caught on fire from some unobservant adult’s cigarette and started exploding under the neighbor’s picnic table I was sitting at, before it rolled itself down their small concrete driveway prematurely shooting off the entire night’s worth of bottle rockets, fire crackers and roman candles.

A couple of days earlier, the Wife and I went to the market and filled the fridge for our holiday bonanza. We purchased the fixins’ for a twisted Tex-Mex brunch of chorizo/egg tortillas along with plantains and avocados, dinner was to be brisket bacon blue cheese burgers with fresh sweet corn and buttermilk-soaked onion rings, we loaded up on yummy poolside snack foods and we even got all the ingredients for a homemade chicken korma, basmati and naan (yes I’m still hooked) for a special celebratory international eve before Independy-Day dinner.

We also picked up a bag of key limes to make my wife’s beloved marga-tini cocktails that every time I sip transports me back to a vacation late-afternoon on an Austin outdoor porch before waking down to see the nightly bat’s exodus from under the Congress Avenue bridge. Unfortunately, the limes are still sitting on the counter-top next to the slowly rotting avocados, some rapidly color changing naan and a pile of other untouched treats.

On the morning of the 3rd I confirmed I was coming down with the office cold that has been going around faster than chlamydia in a Belize barrio brothel. Nobody likes having a cold. Nobody. They are a reminder that humans really have no control over their universe. We put roofs over our heads for shelter, build fences for a false sense of protection, come up with monetary units to trade, systems of government to organize us, religious rationalizations to control civility, create art to enrich our minds, use decades of brilliant research and zillions of dollars to prolong life, yet no matter who you are, rich or poor, genius or dullard, king or serf, we all still repeatedly catch annoying colds. And all the vitamin C, zinc and steroid shots in the world won’t prevent it.

The Queen of England, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud, Trump, Cher, Beyonce, People’s current sexiest man alive Blake Shelton and even obviously me, all occasionally get that same frustrating scratchy sore throat, stuffed painful sinuses and continuous snot dribbly disgusting runny nose. And none of us can stop it from happening. We are all slaves to this simplest of maladies.

The common cold reminds us that we are all the same. The beautiful and the ugly, elite or everyman, we all have to wipe our butts. Catching a cold, just like our forefathers did, illustrates we are powerless animals flailing our way through our brief meaningless lives with only the thinnest veil of a self-created somewhat-delusional version of reality. All of humankind has no real control over anything. Nature, the universe and all that is beyond will continue long after the blip that is our species has died off.

Hmmmm, what’s in those cold meds?

To feel better and function at work, on the 3rd, I started popping pills like they were M&Ms (if you eat just one M&M would it simply be called M?) but that gave my head a fog and slowed my synapses. The hours of the day warped and bent expanding and shortening the already difficult pre-holiday afternoon as if I had dropped acid and jumped into a galactic wormhole. My watch turned into something from a Dali painting. It was not till an hour after the fact that I started wondering if I should be worried that a coworker said: “the 4th of July is the best day to shoot someone with a gun without the sound being noticed.” Of course, once my head finally cleared, I remembered I lived in Texas so no matter what day, the sound of gunshots would never really seem out of place.

Despite me not feeling 100% the Wife and I still managed to celebrate our freedoms by having an extraordinarily nice day together although less over-indulgent than originally planned. As always, we fried way too many onion rings and as usual, my wife said throw them away, but my cheap side made me shove them in a bag and put them in the fridge where they sat untouched turning mushier by the minute until I tossed them a few days later. During those same days, my congestion slowly disappeared as did a lot of the food sitting on the counter.

Feeling guilty about the uneaten leftovers on Saturday I tried to make an overly-trendy bourgeois breakfast by busting open one of the mushy avocados and shmearing it on a slice of toast with a squirt of one of the key limes but my way overly ripe avocado toast made my stomach turn a little versus turning me into one of the beautiful people. It was worth a try. If I’m going to live with all the other cold-getting common folk behind a veil of illusion, I might as well try to do it in style.

4th july 2018

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WALKING AND FALLING AT THE SAME TIME

More U.S. citizens are killed each year in bathtub accidents than by terrorism. Now obviously if someone dies in the bathtub during a terrorist attack, that could really throw those numbers out of whack, but even though I’m not an actuary or Vegas odds-maker, I must assume that chance is statistically minimal.

There have been some arguments made by folks in certain dark corners of the political spectrum that feel if there are way more deaths from bathtubs than terrorists, we should pull some of the bazillions of dollars we are spending combating terrorism and move it towards regulated distribution of those little grippy shower floor decals of ducks in raincoats holding umbrellas.

I try to stay out of those borderline quasi-political debates here in the old blog but what I will say on the subject is sometimes perception and reality don’t always go walking together hand in hand.  Sometimes they even get permanently separated from each other.  Like I know the chances Asteroid TV135 will slam into the Earth are far greater than me winning the Mega Stupendo Powerball, yet I still occasionally buy a lottery ticket and have never added an asteroid insurance rider to my homeowners. The statisticians say the odds of me being buried alive are much higher than me being killed by an immigrant-initiated terrorist attack, yet in my heart of hearts I am sometimes fearful of those different than me but I brazenly walk by the shovel section of Home Depot without batting an eye.

But I’m not here today to talk about death probabilities, politics or government spending nor am I trying to stir up the Bathtub Fallacy debate. I’d like to talk about falling in the shower. I’m against it. But even with that stance, apparently, it happens.  Obviously, I am not yet dead so I am not a part of the above mentioned fatality from bathtub vs. terrorism death debate but I have dealt with both in a more maintaining aliveness sort of way. You see I have been in an international hijacking and I have slipped in the tub. Both kinda suck.

Now my goofy story about being hijacked to Cuba decades ago is certainly well documented but my  most recent tub slip was just the other day.  I’m sure I have fallen in the shower before but I do not really recall any specific events so they must not have been that bad. I do know there were no drownings or major noggin knocking otherwise I either would either not be alive or I would be writing this as my anoxic brain injury amnesia-addled alter-ego Ynnad Lebwel.

One morning last week I had already shut off the water and was drying my leg when my foot slid off the edge of the tub. I lost my balance tilting forwards and then overcompensated flailing backward.  I attempted to catch myself as I flopped down towards the tub but all I managed to do was pull down the shower curtain causing the rod to dramatically land on my head in a cartoonish add insult to injury sort of way.

Luckily I did not hurt myself except for a little mental anguish relating to my fear of being an older guy, with flimsier bones than when I was a kid, stupidly mangling myself.  The actual fall just took a couple of seconds, but as usual during these things, it felt like slow motion.  In the moment of the fall I recall my brain analyzing the angles of my collapse in an effort to safely contort myself like I did in my skydiving training where I learned how to land hard with the least damaging impact not blowing out a knee or crushing vital organs.

As I fell the lyrics of the obscure Laurie Anderson song Walking And Falling ran through my head where she describes “with each step, you fall forward slightly, and then catch yourself from falling.” Your entire life “over and over, you’re falling and then catching yourself from falling… at the same time.” Like those old friends perception and reality, walking and falling are not that different but can cause dramatically different results.

I thought to myself ‘I have walked through my life rather easily so far and not had to many serious falls.’ My brain continued down that path. I have blindly walked through my life trusting my perceptions but what if I really am not walking?  What if I am really always falling and my perceptions are not quite reality?  Can I trust my instincts?  These days the country is very divided, and everyone seems to be digging in with the I’m right your wrong attitude. One side sees the country as walking and the other side falling. Which is reality?  Can they both be right? There has to be a balance, a common middle ground somewhere.

I stood back up and assessed the damage to the curtain and myself. I finished drying off, put the rod up and hung the curtain. No damage in sight, just my bruised ego and reinforcement of the byproducts of my fears of aging.  My wife was in the other side of the house and did not hear the echoy loud Dan in the tub thud, it was like it never happened. All is normal again, but I wonder, what is normal?

 

 

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DRIVING… ME CRAZY?

It takes about 35 hours to drive from where I used to live in Central Florida to Los Angeles. A straight through drive would require a pair of eye propping toothpicks, something to wedge behind your lower back and quite a few mondo Red Bull / 5-Hour Energy / En-doze / black coffee / Rockstar cocktails, which I really do not recommend unless you are keen on exploding your heart ventricles like a shaken bottle of Coke filled with Alka-Selzer tabs and tossed into an active volcano.

It’s been almost two decades but there was a time when I made that trek a couple of times a year. That was back in the stone-age before cell phones and navigation systems when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I still had hair… well some. Based on my level of fatigue, I used to stop for the night once or twice on those long drives but it was never an easy process. Nowadays you could make a couple of clicks on your smarty-ass phone to find hotel locations, vacancies and TripAdvisor reviews but back when I was on the road finding a decent place to stop was more of a blindfolded dart game.

I tried to stay in clean safe reasonably priced motels but the more tired or isolated I got, the more questionable some of my choices became. In Amarillo Texas, the Roadway Inn was so close to the noisy highway, it should have been named ‘Inn The Roadway’. The decor of the Gallop New Mexico Quality Inn showed a distinct lack of quality that could best be described as Early American Dumpster Dive featuring a mattress that was somewhere near ‘wet sponge’ on the firmness scale. The Blue Fountain Inn was neither blue nor had a functioning fountain; if they were choosing a name based on their most prominent feature it should have been called The Curry Reek Inn

Based on appearances, I might have been the only one not cooking up meth in their room at the Blyth California desert edge Comfort Inn. Although nowhere near Memphis, my Knight’s Inn room looked like a brothel designed by Elvis with purple velour bedspreads and curtains, thick red shag carpets and large dark brown exposed faux wood beams. The dingy-white painted cinder block concrete masonry walls of the southern Louisiana Days Inn I stayed at gave the room a lovely minimum security prison cell feel and the long-ignored Tucson Arizona Holiday Inn felt like a bad trip in a pukey green time-machine to a fictitious family-fun fabulous fifties era.

35 hours is a long time to sit in a car alone. Odd things float through your brain on lengthy lonely drives like that. You have time to sort the priorities of your life, solve the world’s woes and make massive to-do lists for when you actually get the hell out from behind the wheel. In that era, cross-country road trips made you feel disconnected from the rest of the world. It was a strange head-trippy mix of independence and loneliness peppered with waves of confidence-building resourcefulness and blinding fear. The only real difficult part was the second quarter of the trip when it felt like I had been driving since the dawn of mankind yet I was not even halfway there.

But overall I found the open road addicting. The quiet forced time alone compelled me to confront thoughts that normally stay hidden in the dingy shadows of my brain’s limbic system. Out in the desolate expanses of the west with my hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, my brain would travel much faster and farther than the car. As the nondescript scenery would race by my windows, I’d contemplate my life and dissect my every decision. Like an ant in outer space, my importance in the universe felt minimal and my very existence unknown to everyone and anything for miles and miles and miles.

My world is different now. I have a wife that I do not like being away from for prolonged periods of time (although she sometimes initially seems happy to get rid of me for a few days of peace and quiet once in a while, luckily she too does not like me away too long). Also work-wise these days does not allow me the luxury of time to just sit in a car and drive for days on end. I wonder though, even if I did, with smartphones, laptops, satellite radio and dashboard navigation systems, things are different. For better or worse, we are all more connected which changes that feeling of just being out there on your own.

Back one summer night in the mid-1980s I was driving straight through the night from Houston To Tucson. At 2:00 am I was in dire need of a bathroom break and a cup of joe to go but everything I passed was closed. Eventually I saw a glowing light off in the distance that as I got closer engulfed the night sky in a blinding brightness surrounding a busy New Mexico truck stop.

As I walked in the door, the bright overhead florescent lights blinded me and caused me to squint. Like in the movies when a sheriff walks into an old time saloon, the place briefly went silent as I felt all eyes in the place turn towards me. Truth is, I am not sure that part really happened. It was late and my brain was still out in the car in driving mode. But what I do know is as my eyes adapted, things slowly came into focus and I realized I was standing among a large crowd of people that all looked like grungy biker versions of the pig-face people from the Twilight Zone episode Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder.

I tried to remain calm and not look at anyone in their twisty snouty faces because I sensed just like on the Twilight Zone, I looked as disturbing to the pig face people as they did to me. After very quickly emptying my bladder, I slipped between two swiney featured freaks sitting at the counter and got my coffee. The hair on my neck was standing and my fingers twitched with nervous energy as the pig-headed waitress filled the waxy cardboard cup with a tar-like sludgy coffee that might have been brewed 140 years earlier on an open fire by a thirsty member of the traveling Donner party after a big humany meal.

At that point I did not really need the coffee to get my heart racing, but with cup finally in hand, I tossed way too much money on the counter and mumbled keep the change. Before there was any trouble, I bolted out the door into the dark desert night and sped away from there as fast as I could.

Nowadays I would have been able to snap a picture of the piggy people on my phone as proof that really happened as I remember it. But back then the world was different and all I have is my perception and memory. Sometimes those things are the same as reality and truth while other times they differ. But is that really such a bad thing?

knight beauty

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