468,419 HOURS IS NOT ENOUGH

I have been walking the Earth for approximately 468,419 hours.  Okay, so maybe I was doing more crawling and crying the first 14,000 hours than walking and talking but the point is I have logged in a lot of hours being a living breathing human.

Now a few years ago Malcolm Gladwell, a poofy haired pop psychologist lecturer trying to sell books, popularized a somewhat older concept that you can master a field of study and become an expert if you practice it for 10,000 hours.  He used Bill Gates and the Beatles as examples. Now  I have a hard time buying into this because like I mentioned above, obviously I have been practicing being a living breathing human for well over 40 times that amount of time and yet I still find myself relatively oblivious about much of my world.

So is there something wrong with me that with all this practice ‘humaning’, I’m not a grand master expert at it? I’ll even knock it down a few notches and say that for years I’ve fancied myself a kinda observant, common sensey, street smarty kinda guy but now I’m questioning that.

Like the other day I looked down and thought, well how long has there been an ‘Fn’ key on my computer keyboard lurking between the space bar and Ctrl key?   ‘FN’?   Does this turn on some odd radio frequency or link me to some lost chemical element cross between Iron and Francium?  More to the point, how long has that thing been hiding in plain sight down there?  I felt like one of those clueless neighbors to a terrorist interviewed on the evening news about them being pleasant, quiet and nice but oblivious to them building a 40foot-tall enriched plutonium nuclear grade weapon in their front yard next to their pink petunias and garden gnome.

Look, I’m not completely drooling in a cup,  coma girl Terri Schiavo, Brian Wilson in the 1980s, out of it.  I know the ‘FN’ button is a shortcut ‘function’ key but I have typed on this damn keyboard almost every day for the last seven years and I truly never noticed it lounging down there on the bottom of my keyboard. It’s obvious I’ve never used it. The white printed letters on most of my vowel keys are completely rubbed off. All that is left on my ‘A’ is a kinda crippled worm looking dash. Actually most of my keys are pretty well-worn but that little ‘FN’ is sitting there all out of place untouched and pristine like a well-dressed religious virgin girl in a pure white dress at rain-soaked muddy Insane Clown Posse juggalo gathering.

Heck now that I am looking, there also seems to be a shortcut button on my keyboard to my computer’s calculator right there above my number keys. When did that get there? Just a couple of paragraphs ago I was fumbling around some sleazy dark corner of Windows 10 making small talk with Cortana, the love child of Siri and that little paper clip guy that used to annoyingly pop up when I screwed up in Word or Excel, hoping to get a clue where the damn calculator is hidden so I could figure out how many hours I was alive.

For a couple of decades the calculator was always in the accessories folder but 10,000 hours of practice computer boy, Bill Gates, apparently this year decided to shove it deep into the stinky bowels of the current app based operating system. It’s in there somewhere probably next to some worn tired code that when activated will magically open Minesweeper. I obviously found it or else that hour thing would not be up there at the beginning but I had to search all over for it. You would think a master super practiced human would have noticed sometime in the past seven years the happy little shortcut key with a picture of a calculator on it that works without even having to hold down the ‘FN’ key to use it.

But back to my feeble point, what else am I missing that is right in front of my nose.  I used to think I was a very observant person but being alive for nearly 500,000 hours has put me in my place. Along with all the wisdom I have gained, I also have learned that I don’t know everything; as a matter of fact I know closer to nothing than everything. Oh don’t worry, I’m not just putting myself down. I’m dragging you down into the muck of existence with me, because the sad truth is no matter how many hours of existence you got under your belt, you too know closer to nothing than everything too.

I think my life will become easier once I admit I just can’t know everything nor do I need to know everything. I’m not saying I should give up learning more and trying to better myself but just keep it in perspective.  Why do I expect perfection out of myself but I do not expect everyone else to be great at everything. I don’t expect Albert Einstein to be an expert scuba diver or Ernest Hemingway to be an astronaut or Leonardo Da Vinci to be a chef… well, actually along with everything else he did kinda design kitchens and food presentations and stuff… OK bad example, Da Vinci could do friggin everything but I’m not Lenny… and that’s okay too. I just need to be a pretty good me. And if I can get that through my skull, I think I will be a happier camper for the rest of my hours.

dan-and-hand

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MINI DEVIL DAN AND HIS MEDDLING BUDDIES

You know that scene where the little miniature devil and angel version of the guy magically pop onto  each of his shoulders than take turns talking into his ears urging him to follow their respective path? Well lately my brain has been wandering like an Appalachian Trail hiker and I feel like I am not only carrying around a gabby Mini Dan Angel and persuasive Mini Dan Devil on my shoulders but I also have their pals Mini Dan Overwhelmed, Mini Dan Stress-boy, Mini Dan Apathy and Mini Dan Curmudgeon spewing their opinionated advice right up the old cochlea express directly into my brain.

The wife and I are in the thick of a whirlwind year highlighted by such relaxing events like buying and selling a house, both of us changing jobs, incurable illness, death in the family, elder care issues and more… Basically a whole mess of those top 10 life traumas have cluster bombed our happy little idyllic world bubble. It might have been imaginary with an unrealistic rose tint to it, but I miss my friggin’damn bubble.

Lately it’s been run, run, run and not a lot of fun.  But this current roller coaster ride is far from over so I need to find a way to tighten my seat belt, raise my arms to the wind and figure out a way to enjoy the rest of this ride because at this point there is no getting off.

I finally had an open afternoon and evening just to myself with little planned except to grab some dinner, toss down a couple of drinks and attend a groovus concert. Of course the real goal was to take my mind off my worries but my brain and all my advice giving Mini Dan shoulder buddies had other plans.  Like a broken water spigot, I could not shut off the flow of thoughts. I attempted to drown out the chatter by reminding myself that my life really truly is not so bad and so many others have it so very much worse than I, but my little gang of Mini Dans would have none of that misery loves company crap and kept dragging me back into their wallowing mire of blah.

Normally one of the simple joys of my life is just sitting alone reading the newspaper over a late afternoon cold beer in a quiet dank pub but I could not bring myself to crack open the paper. What was going on?  If one of my go to forms of mind drifting relaxation was now depressing me, I knew something was amiss. I thought maybe I needed to use this time for a little self-analysis. At the risk of sounding a bit too much like the Son Of Sam killer taking victim suggestions from the neighbor’s talking dog, I opted to address each of the little Mini Dans and talk some of these clowns off my shoulders.

First I checked on who was causing the most problems. The more famous usual suspects, Mini Dan Depression, Mini Dan Mid-Life Crisis and Mini Dan Male Menopause, were nowhere to be found. That was good because those jerks are hard to evict. They also can really mess with you, causing some bad decisions and instigating some real wacky crap you’ll regret later.

This was going to take some time, I ordered a second beer. Like they were little flecks of dandruff, I flicked off the easy ones like Mini Dan Grumpy, Mini Dan Short Fuse and Mini Dan Surly.  Those guys come and go with the wind and if I get to the root of the problem they rarely rear their ugly little mini Dan heads. Like a weird morphed mix of Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud I start hunting for mental clues buried deep in my mushy grey matter.

After getting rid of a few more issue causing idiots it hit me.  After 40 years of avid readership, which Mini Dan was causing the newspaper’s world news to depress me and make me flip straight to the comics. Is it Mini Dan Agoraphobia, Mini Dan Paranoia or Mini Dan Old Age Fears that is making me feel like the world around me is out of control? Control!  Control!!!

That’s been the main culprit. Mini Dan Control Freak. That little bastard!!! I almost fell into his trap. I was not going to need a third beer, that would have just given more fuel to that wee shoulder standing old nemesis of mine. Mini Dan Control Freak  has been causing me problems for decades going way back in school, my work carrier and relationships. Now I was pretty sure he was the guy who lately had been stirring the pot and dragging all his pesty Mini Dan buddies to the shoulder pity party.

I have always had control issues and this year its felt like I have so little control over the events of my life  its been like riding on an unstopping driver-less train. Even the vacations I have taken  were not of my own design or choosing. Even if the control I have had over my world has been a false illusion, I was still able to find comfort in it.

I leaned back in my bar stool and looked knowingly at the rolled up newspaper. The bad news in the paper is no worse than usual but now it was just appearing to be more out of my control. I might have been forced into the job change and move but in the right frame of mind those are good things. There are things I can do and getting a handle on those is the key to me feeling better. Like I can’t control getting older but I can use the wisdom I have picked up along the way to my advantage. I can still read the paper but just skip to the crossword puzzle when the real world chaos starts to get to me. And I can evict all those meddling Mini Dans… well maybe all of them except that Mini Devil Dan guy, he is kinda fun.

01-02-2008-044145pm

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EX – Ohhh – DUS

Just like the very first Star Wars movie, the Bible has had several different versions of the original released. Both also have had numerous sequels and prequels that cause a lot of arguments over which is better or more true among its avid fans and followers. I would prefer not to debate ingrained beliefs and making fun of them does not always go over so well.

I’m more of a Trek then Wars guy so it’s easy for me to sidestep that one. Religion is a whole different can of exploding worms like abortion and presidential politics. Whether you’re the type to jump into the deep end of the religious pool and be engulfed by its teachings or you wade into the shallow end to just let little bits of it splash on you when you want it, I sure as H-E-Double Light Sabers am not qualified to dictate what is right or wrong.

It is never my goal to alienate or aggravate a reader so I usually don’t touch those topics. Yet this morning I was thinking about the biblical story of Exodus. You know the one; around 1200 or1300 or 1400 BCE (no one agrees on these damn dates) good old burning shrub chatting Moses led his enslaved people on a rougher trip than the one ‘over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house’.

For a whole bunch of years my main man Moses and the gang were wandering through a parted river and shvitzing through an arid desert till they set up shop in a less Pharaoh-y neighborhood with a mountain view and a hiking trail to a tablet dispensary. Aside from a little bit of last minute American ‘Idol’ like fervor of false god worshiping, the whole mass of travelers still managed to hold onto their same old culture and all the old important possessions they laboriously dragged with them. You can almost hear the kvetching old Jewish man voices crying out from the crowd “oy my feet are aching in these sandals” or “who forgot to pack the damn yeast” or “why did we drag all this crap with us when we could have bought new”.

Not to belittle this important tale in any way shape or form, but that is kinda the way I was feeling the other morning about the cross town move my wife and I just made. It’s been a long arduous difficult journey but we are hoping to gain more comfort and freedom in the new house plus we are no longer enslaved by our old evil Home Owners Association. The new house has all our old stuff but it looks and feels different.

For better or worse, most of our practices and routines have moved with us. The wife and I still work too much, don’t get enough sleep and have bad eating habits. Even the pet’s morning ritual has been transported without change. Somewhere between 4:30 and 6:30 AM one of the three cats decides they want breakfast. After they discover that dancing on my sleeping head won’t make that happen they use the dog as a pawn in their twisted manipulative indoor hunt for vittles (tender or not). They start jumping over, around, under and on our half deaf, almost blind, elderly, weak bladdered dachshund.

When the dog finally wakes up I have three options:

  1. Get up that instant to take the dog out. Then immediately crawl right back into bed to the sounds of a grunting moaning dog begging for breakfast while three cats attempt the same goal by using my semi-sleeping body as track and field venue performing various high jumps, sprints and hurdles on the bed.
  2. Drag my half-awake ass out of bed at that instant to let the dog outside then go through a 15 minute highly complex series of circumvolutions and gyrations otherwise known as our complex bi-daily pet food distribution drudgery focusing on everyone’s medical necessitates and finicky food moods.
  3. Sleep for two seconds longer, than bitch and curse at the dog, and mostly myself, while cleaning up massive quantities of stinky dog pee from the floor (I mentioned the weak bladder thing right?). Then continue with either option 1 or 2.

On my Exodus thinking morning, I won the lottery and the dog part of the ritual did not happen till after 7:00. Around 7:30 I finally started my own morning routine and plopped in front of the computer with a steaming cup of eye opening joe and no thought whatsoever of what to write about this week. My blank mind got tired of looking at the blank page on my blank monitor, so I headed to the kitchen for a second cup of coffee… not for inspiration but for science.

A few nights ago while out to dinner with friends, I got quizzed about my coffee intake levels and the effects it has on my bowels. Apparently he has a more direct response than I do, thus the brown coffee mug he showed off to us that his wife gave him reading ‘coffee make me poop’.  Although I see the huge benefits to some folks, I don’t think his wife should suggest it as an ad campaign to her bosses at Starbucks.

I like to think I am an observant person with a keen eye for the nuances of the world around me but I am often reminded I can sometimes be as oblivious as my sleeping almost deaf, nearly blind elderly pup when the cats are dancing on his chair trying to wake him up. I had been shaving my face for decades before a friend casually mentioned just prior to his wedding that he was purposely not going to shave the day before the nuptials so he would have a cleaner shave for the wedding pictures.

What?. All shaves are not created equal?  How did I not know this? I tested it. Yes I got a cleaner closer shave if I skipped a day. Fascinating. I felt a confused mix of education and astonishment like Mr. Spock watching a Gallamite and a Ferengis making out. How had I lived so long not knowing this simple easy factoid that was, for a change, truly literally right in front of face. It’s the same thing with this coffee stuff. I did not know there was a coffee-poop relationship thing; a relationship so real that they are slapping it on the side of brown mugs.  Am I the last one to know?

Like the shaving thing I had to test the theory.  I did some personal research adjusting the quantities of my coffee intake and I think I can cut myself some slack. Apparently my mug would have to be yellow and say ‘coffee does NOT affect my poop but it sure makes me pee’. But that is another type of exodus and for propriety reasons I likely should not co-mingle the two.

coffee-makes-me-poop-mug

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RIDING THE MEMORY-GO-ROUND

In 1966 the old Forest Park Merry Go Round burnt to the ground. It had opened in 1918 and suddenly in a massive dark cloud of sooty smoke, its hand-carved wooden horses were destroyed forever. The people in the neighborhood, my neighborhood, looked over the charred ashy remnants and cried. The carousel was just a very short walk from the house I grew up in, but I don’t remember the fire. I was only three years old. Isn’t that one of those traumatic memories that’s supposed to make a permanent etched mark  somewhere deep inside the grey matter-of-facts stored away between my ears.

At this point in my life, I’m losing track of what memories from my young childhood are actually mine created, logged and saved at the time versus just an amalgam of old discolored Polaroids and rehashed family stories I’ve repeatedly heard. Like the 1964/65 World’s Fair was less than 5 miles from my house.  I know I went but my memories of being there are strictly based on a single photograph of me sitting upright in a carriage in the shade on some unknown outside wood planked floor, no doubt cooling off with my Mom while everyone else was exploring something like the original pre-Disney Carousel Of Progress (which did not burn down). But that is an assumption I am making based on our family dynamics and stories; it is not based on any memory.

All the blanks being filled are made up in my meandering brain, the only fact I have is that pic of me sitting there all big eyed with the same goofy semi-confused grin I have worn on my mug most of my life. If that photo is ever lost, the only proof I was there will be from my family; unfortunately my Sister’ memory is as bad as mine and my brother Arthur seems to have conveniently disposed of 90% of his memories prior to attending college… I guess he needed the space to get through M.I.T. That leaves my oldest brother as barer of all family knowledge since my folks have been mixing up which of the kids did what for last half dozen decades. Apparently raising five kids will fray your nerves and fry your brain because they have always mixed up who did what when. They might have named me but that has not stopped them from calling me everyone else’s name including the family dog.

Truth is all my recollections of that Worlds Fair outing are from family stories and the handful of photos taken that day: Dad’s not particularly successful attempt at trick photography with my brother Neil holding the Fair’s iconic globe almost in his hands or the shot of the human cannonball snapped just at the wrong time with the flying stuntman hidden behind a pole. Or maybe that is just an oft retold story and not really in a photo? Or maybe it was from some other family outing and I am mixing up my tales of family lore. I’ll have to ask my brother.  It’s a jumble in my head not based on the actual experience.

I have listened to my Mom and her sister debate over their very different versions of events from their childhood 75 years ago. Perspective and time obviously can tinker with the truth which makes me wonder if we can really trust the accuracy of those old family tales or even history books and bible stories. What is the truth?

How soon until my brain starts rewriting and reassembling other stories? Has it already? When do I stop trusting my mental archives? Lately I have been wondering if my bad memory is a curse and a gift. Like I want to remember every minor detail about all the fun stuff growing up with my late brother Neil (his memory was crap too so he would not have made a good archivist either) but I am okay forgetting my images of the painful physical difficulties he experienced prior to his death. Maybe selective memory for self-preservation is not a bad thing. I don’t need to lug around the bad stuff everyday besides I look good in rose colored glasses.

I do have crystal clear memories from when I was 11 years old back in 1974 not long after they moved a ‘new’ old circa 1903 carousel from Massachusetts to the same Forest Park site where the old one had stood. I recall several summer Sunday mornings right after watching Davey And Goliath at 6:00 AM, slipping out of the house before everyone else was awake (except my sister who unbeknownst to my folks, might not have snuck back in from her Saturday night yet) and walking down to the carousel. New York neighborhood streets are oddly quiet at that hour and the world felt like mine alone; a rare feeling for the youngest of five kids. I would watch the workers slowly arrive and after much coffee and conversation, eventually slide open up the ugly metal protective gates surrounding the magnificent old hand-made Daniel Carl Muller merry-go-round. Sometimes they would let me slip on for a couple of free rides while they set things up for the day. There are no photos of that but that memory stuck.

I read that the old neighborhood carousel shut down a few years back but recently reopened and has since been awarded landmark status to keep it going round for years to come. That’s good news but my head is still spinning on this memory thing. There is not a committee that can vote to preserve my recollections and if they burn down no one can come along later to rebuild and restore them. Watching my mother-in-law deal with Alzheimers has been real tough and I do not wish that on anyone. My Wife is worried it’s in her genes; I worry too because I was counting on her mega-super brain remembering all the stuff I was forgetting. I can just imagine in 20 years it will take us both three hours to find the car keys and by then we won’t remember where we were going.

Nowadays with a phone camera in every other pocket, everyone’s daily lives are preserved and life’s events are easily pieced together with a zillion pictures and videos floating in a cloud or hard drive. You don’t have to rely on old crusty memories to retell the stories of your life. I have one picture of me at the World’s Fair and none at the Carousel but that’s OK. I think my re-created story of my family abandoning me in the shade covered carriage while they traipsed off to the “best times of their life” Carousel of Progress is likely far more entertaining than what really happened. Which likely is they were all absolutely miserably bored waiting forever in the blazing summer sun just out of the lens’ sight while my Dad took an eternity (as he always did) framing and shooting the shot of me with his bulky Polaroid. Yup, maybe forgetting some details is actually a good thing.

Click to see a rather long video about the merry go round’s recent restoration

Be awed by the carousel of progress… and get the insipid song ‘now is the time, now is the best time, now is the best time of your life’ stuck in your head for the rest of the day

forest park carousel

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A FLOOD OF INAPPROPRIATE RAINY DAY MUSINGS

The rain fell hard with angry loud drops that blocked out the sound of everything else except the occasional crack of thunder. It was not a torrential calamity storm like the one that flooded my old friend Tom’s southern Louisiana neighborhood last week but it was a harsh enough rain that I kept checking the seals around my new skylight, watched the street for flooding and certainly wrote off any chance of mowing my shaggy lawn the next few days. My elderly dachshund opted to hold rather than risk a brief dog paddle through the belly high backyard puddles and the cats decided to skip part of their daily 22 hour nap schedule and stayed very close to me becoming an odd looking 12 legged shadow to my every movement.

The morning rains reminded me of those blistering Florida tropical storms the Miami weathermen would call gully-gushers where roads instantly turned into rivers. Those downpours were as blinding as an early morning English coast fog and felt like someone shooting a thousand BBs at the top of your head, which is a particularly uncomfortable experience for those follicly challenged folks like me.

Eventually my grey faced old dog’s bladder overtook his desire to stay dry and he started doing his ‘I need to go’ dance, which is very similar to his ‘give me treats NOW’ dance except it is performed a little closer to the backdoor with a few less spinning circles and a lot more grunting. I carried him to the small swatch of grass covered by the eaves of the house where the two of us huddled keeping relatively dry until a gust of wind shifted the angle of the hard rain. Already wet, the dog decided now was as good a time as any to prove again that he is hollow by emptying out so much bodily waste that he appeared to be breaking  scientific laws of weights and measurements by leaving behind what appeared to be double his own body weight and mass.

This gave me time to think. A sort of follow up ponder to my somewhat semi-self-motivating head trip I took late last night while sitting in my yard watching the clouds amass in between storm waves. Yes, the wife and I have a lot on our plates right now but lots of folks do. Many, many people have it way, way worse than us. I convinced myself it’s time to slip on my tight fitting big-boy pants (which unfortunately look like those stretchy faux-jeans that everyone’s grandmother seemed to have had at some point) and face the world with my usual optimism and humor instead of wallowing in the sticky mental muck that sloshes around one’s feet and drags you down when they are feeling out of sorts and overwhelmed.

I don’t have it so bad, hell, my friend Tom’s whole city was underwater, his parent’s house flooded, neighbor’s rescued by boat and helicopter, yet with his same twisted sense of humor that I loved back when we were in High School together, he posted a photo on FACEBOOK of multiple unearthed caskets washing down his flooded muddy deluged local streets with the caption “Looking on the bright side, I have seen old friends and neighbors I haven’t seen since before they died.”

That’s classic Tom; no wonder we always got along, he has the same warped sense of humor as me. Of course it’s even funnier nowadays because he is a judge! More important than that, he is a good guy. When the floods receded he rolled up his own sleeves and did back breaking manual labor to help get his family, friends and neighbors back on their feet again. I think both selflessness and wackiness are necessary reactions to adversity.

I am in general a positive person and my off kilter humor has always helped me. When I was working on my degree, the head of the Florida State Advertising department once walked into my office, looked at the guy I was working on a major project with and said “you just keep this guy around to think of wacky shit. Don’t you?” I was never more complimented.

Just yesterday as the day was getting tense around the office, I almost made coffee come out of a coworkers nose when I told him you could destroy any waiter or sommelier’s chance of selling you a bottle of wine, if you follow up their explanation of it, with saying “wow, that’s the exact same description I used for my last fart”: ‘A rich full-bodied bouquet with a lingering hint of fruit.” or ‘complex and oaky with an earthy opulent finish’. It’s like saying ‘in bed’ after reading a fortune cookie, it always works and it’s always twistedly funny.  My cubical neighbor mentioned that he will now never be able to order wine with a straight face again but more importantly he turned around and went back to work forgetting the issues bogging him down minutes before. Success.

So you might ask, what is the point of this blog entry besides rationalizing an appropriate reason to tell an inappropriate fart joke?   Well yeah, that was an important part but also it is to point out that for me, sometimes when things feel a bit overwhelming I need to stop and take a break. Stare at the sky, walk in the rain, crack an over the top bad joke… whatever it takes to break that cycle of negativity and put things in perspective and back on track. No matter how long a depressing rainstorm lasts, no matter how much damage it does, it will always end. The sun comes out, the world dries up, the broken can be mended and we keep moving on.

dan wine

Ponderously plummy with supple woody overtone.

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THEY’RE TOO THERE

I swirled my finger on the screen of an I-Pad creating a signature that looked more like a four-year-old’s Etch-A-Sketch doodle then something normally found on the bottom of a legal document. Next, with little fanfare but much difficult hammering, digging, poking and wedging, a metal For Sale sign was finally wrestled into the famous hardened Texas summer clay/mud lurking just below my semi- pseudo-manicured-ish front yard grass. Was this a mystical sign from Mother Earth saying ‘don’t go’ or just another example of how every easy task this year seems to have turned out more difficult than it should have been.

After a few more obsessive swipes of touch up paint, caulking and cleaning  the wife and I decided 9 hours of back breaking labor was enough;  at this point anything else we might do or not do was not going to affect the listing or sell price of our ex-home, so we called it day.  What happens is out of our hands now. I loaded the cars with that weird assortment of left for last odds and ends.  A mixture of ‘I might still need here’ tools, paint and cleaning supplies along with that last strange little pile of ‘do I move to the new house or throw away’ stuff that that did not make the keep cut on the previous dozen trips.

“Do we need this cut piece of 2 by 4 wood at the new house?” I yelled from the garage through the now oddly echoy empty entrance way. “What about the ¼ full bag of Quikrete, the mop handle with no pad or wing nut on the hinged paddle or the faded cracked thermometer still hanging on the back porch that I think was a housewarming gift from somebody nine years ago?” She replied with a quadruple ‘no’ that reminded me of my long ago single days trying to extend an evening with a possible new friend at a closing-time pub. “Okay… ummm, yeah” I said in a voice that sounded more like Lumbergh than I had planned, “I’m gonna take that thermometer anyway, okay?” Expecting a ‘why did you even bother to ask’ which again was the similar reply to single Dan’s late night bar propositions of yore.

And so went what likely will be our last full day together at the old house. Maybe now we can start dealing with the 500 boxes in the new place, also known to the cats as the coolest multi-level play maze ever.  I assume we will still be in and out of the old house a bit as our trusty realtor starts dragging critical eyed strangers through the sterilized, neutralized personality-less shell of our previous happy home.  She wisely recommended painting over our bright red, silver, blue and black accent walls along with removing the red bedroom carpet.  We understood not every potential buyer would like our Pee Wee’s Playhouse-ish decor sense.

About halfway through the move I noticed my wife had shifted to calling the old place her ‘dream house’.  I am confident our new home can be pretty damn dreamy too, once we get the kinks worked out, but I have been trying to resist the urge to slip into ‘guy fix-it mode’ and let her ease into the change at her own pace. The new Casa de Dan y Dawn has some pretty cool features and is in an amazing location but it is 30 years older than our last place.  Because of that, no matter how good a shape it might be in, it will always have more quirks. I think of how my body worked 30 years ago verses the way it is now. I still get around just fine, thank you, but I have a lot more aches, pains, creeks, cracks and plenty of things that work but just not quite as good as they used to three decades ago.

I really, really want my wife to be happy and I know she eventually will be but unfortunately every time I see her start to fall in love with the new place, something else breaks and I see that ‘I just bought a money pit’ look in her eyes. Nothing is critical and it will all get sorted out but we have been focusing so much on prepping the old house for sale that we have completely ignored the task of turning the new house into a home. All we have done is address problems so I think it has skewed our view.

Were those cracks in the wall always there? Are we supposed to have hot water? Are all the kitchen electrical outlets supposed to work?  Until we have the time to dig in, unpack and make a new dream house maybe I should try to use my old advertising skills to subtly put a positive spin on things like when you call an unsightly mole a ‘beauty mark’ or when you call processed meat leftovers ‘deviled ham’ or when you refer to a scary snake as a ‘danger noodle’ or when you call a spooky graveyard a ‘campground for those that have passed’. Of course that task is actually very easy here because the place really is crazy nice; it just does not feel like ours yet.

We moved to make our lives easier, which is hard to wrap our heads around when we think of how difficult the past couple of months have been, but given time I am confident all will be well… if we don’t kill ourselves or each other getting there. I was really hoping this major change would be a distraction to all the other stresses in our lives this past year but it seems to have had the opposite effect and just added and exasperated things. Instead of enjoying the process of cleaning out the massive excess in our old house, hunting for a new neighborhood and putting together a new fun place, our lack of sleep and a feeling of being overwhelmed by how much has to get done, has made us depressed, tired and snippy with each other.

Please don’t take all this negative grousing the wrong way. We really did move into a dandy place in an amazing location for us. But it’s like the last leg of hiking up a mountain. You know just around the next few bends is that beautiful view from atop that will make it all worthwhile but that last part is steep, hard and tough to navigate. You constantly question yourself if it is worth all the work and effort. We will get up there and it will be great… but maybe I can take a short cut to that peak and make it easier by building a giant staircase out of our 500 unopened moving boxes.

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PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE OR OUR OLD HOUSE… HARD TO TELL

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PICKLE PUSS AND THE FLIGHT BACK TO REALITY

All flight the stern faced women wedged next to me looked just ‘plane’ mean. By the angry dumbfounded expression she flashed me when I first pointed past the aisle seat she had glued herself into, you would have thought I had asked her to head down to the tarmac, chop off her legs and use the bloody stumps to guide the plane out of the gate, instead of just motioning that I needed to get passed her to the open seat by the window. Maybe she confused my red shirt with a Star Trek uniform and thought I could magically transport into my seat without her having to get up; of course being a red shirted crew member I also would not say a word and be dead soon.

Her puckered puss never changed from that ‘I smell rotten eggs’ expression the entire flight. I was not really in the mood for innocuous chit-chat either but it might have been nice to get a ‘bless you’ when I sneezed or at least a vague pleasant acknowledgement when I picked up her phone she dropped in the middle of her flight-long solitaire match. I guess with that attitude solitaire seemed the appropriate game because who else would would want to be around Ms. Sunshine.

My flight was only a few hours long but it still gave my head time to wander… which is usually a good thing I look forward to but now I’m not so sure. Between the non-stop duet of ear rattling ‘front-row rock concert volume’ screaming babies a few rows behind me, the delayed beverage service bladder busting stay in your seat with your belts tightly attached turbulence and the sardine-like over full airplane conditions on my late-night vacation-ending flight, I know my head was not in the best of places and, like my anti-effervescent angry-faced neighbor, I likely looked a bit surly myself.

I knew slogging around in my noggin like the ebb and flow of the tides was a mush and mess of emotions, fragmented memories and tidbits of feeling overwhelmed by my current plateful of reality. Luckily before I got swept under by the introspective undertow, my brain thankfully shifted from self-examination and mental flagellation to wondering why Ole’ Ms. Sucking Lemons Mug was so grumpy?

What was her back story? What caused that well practiced scowl? Is she actually happy but years of working in a pickle factory caused her permanent snoot expression? Was a life of misery about to cause her to snap like one of the mass-murdering loony de-jour constantly slapped all over the front page these days?  Is she traveling to funeral? Does she have a deep-rooted hatred of bald men with contrived beards caused by doing too much meth while watching Breaking Bad?

I thought about my little slice of the world. What kind of image was I projecting about myself? Despite all the amazing good in my life that I have to be thankful for, it has still been a very tumultuous year and I might be letting the bad overshadow the good. My difficulties have been playing with my head lately. I’m not enjoying the alone time that I traditionally longed for.  Lately, left on it’s own, my brain has been messing with my normal optimism as it obsesses over the death, sickness, moves and the job changes I have been faced with.

Of course the giant pink elephant dominating all my mind’s attention is that my wife and I are in the process of moving across town. The whole packing up the old place and sterilizing the bright colors of our fun old life with a few coats of neutral paint to prep the house for sale while at the same time slowly cutting through the packing tape on those just sealed hundreds of boxes in the so far vain attempt to turn the new place into something resembling what we call home, inside of a 60 day window has been leaving me in a permanent state of feeling tired, overwhelmed and wondering how to squeeze 48 hours of work into a 24 hour day.

I’m not sure if it was the best thing or the worst thing to do but this past weekend I ran away. I went on a long ago planned wacky boys trip up the California coast with a couple of my oldest friends.  It was a few days filled with drinks, silliness and good conversation among the beautiful scenery. Unfortunately I think I was like the lady in the seat next to me with the grumpy grouper face.

Try as I might, my head was at home where I felt I had left so much unfinished work on my wife’s shoulders. One afternoon I was teased for wanting a few extra drinks (actually I was picked on all weekend because I had asked to get a drink to hold us over while we walked to the next place to get drinks) but I think in hindsight I was just trying to flush my brain a bit farther away from reality.  Unfortunately, if sitting on a riverbed behind a cabin a short hike from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific is not enough to take me away from my realities at home, an extra sip of alcohol sure as hell was not going to do trick.  Great… now I’m also worried I’m turning into a vacation alchy.

Maybe it’s easier for me to worry about what is wrong with that woman on the plane than to address my own issues. I know in a few weeks my universe will be much better. The old place will be sold and the mountains of boxes in the new house will be reduced to small hills as we slowly shift away from feeling like we are living in someone else’s space .

So what is the big answer? What is the big conclusion? How do I solve my woes and what about the snarling plane lady? I got nothing. It’s just one of those time things and eventually things will get better. Maybe the woman on the plane is just a simple reminder to me to focus on the good and not let life’s crap turn me into a dour sour grump.

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Dan in Big Sur this past weekend. Focusing on the good and losing any of the sympathy I got from this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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