My beautiful wife and I have never actually been on The Newlywed Game.
However, whenever I’m trying to log into an account that she initially opened, it’s often just like The Newlywed Game as I wrack my brains trying to answer the question often presented to verify her identity.
Dammit, what street did she grow up on?
Crikey, what was the best Christmas gift she ever got?
Yesterday at the comic book shop, the guy behind the counter gave me a discount because I was always in there buying comics (and by “buying comics,” undoubtedly he meant, “helping him clear the deadwood out by buying the dollar comics that no one else wanted”).
Good news, I got a discount.
Bad news, apparently at almost fifty years old, I’m the type of frequent comic book shop customer that warrants a discount.
I’ve had to start going to the comic book shop without my boys because whenever I take them by as a cover for my own comic book shopping, they’d complain even though I let them pick out something for themselves. “Ugh, not another new comic book, Dad.”
I think about, from time to time, talking about the newer (2014-2016) independent titles I find in the dollar bins from imprints like Dynamity, Boom, Black Juice, and whatnot (I mean, aside from the occasional tidbit, but I’m not sure how my regular readers (that’s you and you) would feel about it. I’m sure John Farrier would be all for it, but it’s been years since he’s been around.
Spoiler alert: A couple years later, I had LASIK surgery.
Perhaps it was when I corrected the misunderstanding:
Pardon me, but my family doesn’t have a generations-long tradition for opening the front of the eyeball like a can of french-cut green beans and firing a computer-guided thing-we-used-to-call-a-“laser” against the retina until it scorched enough of the cones and rods to make things better, as though it was a military expedition to win over the hearts and minds of my optic nerve with napalm. Oh, yeah, and then they close it back up, and it either works or you’re blind, oops.
In 2004, coincidentally the last time we had a Republican president, we had violence in the streets and one particular party Democrasplaining it:
But the fact is that the reason the Republican Party is feigning righteous indignation is because they don’t want to talk about the 30,000 jobs lost and the 180,000 Oregonians who have lost health care,” said Neel Pender, executive director of the state Democratic Party.
I’m in the process of slowly going through the old posts here and ensuring that all quoted sections have the <blockquote> style and that all posts have categories and post titles (because I was blogging before Blogger had a field for the post title, werd). One thing I’ve discovered (again) is perspective in that all the contemporary news and noise has its roots in the past, and also that we’re still quibbling over the same damn things fifteen years later.
My boys just placed a small grocery bag containing the mostly decomposed remains of a small animal on my desk in hopes that I could identify it for them. They had disifected it by spraying it liberally with Lysol and apparently washing it before putting it, wet and very clean-smelling, into the bag. The youngest had sandwich bags on his hands and reached into the bag to get the remains out so I could have a better look at them before I demurred in a tone of voice that was not very demure at all.
I have no idea what it was except an occasion to talk to my children about the sanitary handling of dead animals. That is to say: Don’t.
Walking the greenway out of Sequoita Park yesterday, I came upon two paths that diverged in the wood.
To be entirely honest, I’m not sure I could suss out which was the less taken, either. I mean, the asphalt goes to the right, but enough people have traveled the slight shortcut to have worn a path there. Did more take the shortcut than walked on the laid path? Who knows?
But it gave me something to think about as I took one of the two paths.
(You can refresh yourself on Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” here.)
I’ve used it with on and off frequency, but always full volume, for a couple of years, but it developed a bit of a glitch. Well, several, actually. It has a single switch on the side that is its power switch and determines whether to shuffle the songs on the playlist or to play them all in alphabetical order by artist.
It started to play the songs in order regardless of the switch’s position.
Then, it started to play if you pressed the play/pause button when the switch was off, which led me to some consternation the last time I was in the gym because it would stop playing after a couple seconds. Further inspection of the switch indicated that it was off, and when I turned it on, it worked better.
This week, I had it out of the gym bag because I went for an ill-advised run outside of the YMCA, and I left it on the dresser in my bedroom (by the Montaigne). And it started playing on its own a couple of times, including once at 5:51 in the morning when I did not want to hear music that early.
I’m so old that when I think of a switch, I think of a mechanical device that starts or stops something by moving actual parts. But in modern devices, especially the really small ones like an iPod, the switch is merely an input to the electronics of something, and often merely an input to software. So if the software decides that off is on, the device will be active when the switch is in the off position.
Give me the good old days when the switches were actual physical things and when volume knobs were potentiometers.
Of course, I could not clip a Pioneer or Kenwood hi-fi to my shirt while I run, but this iPod is breaking down to the point where it’s almost unusable, too, which means I’ll have to investigate and invest in another kind of MP3 player since Apple has decided that the iPod should really be an iPhone without cellular connectivity.
As you might know, gentle reader, I have a whole category on this blog dedicated to DeRooneyfication, wherein I try to clear out of my garage some small project or repair that has been out there a surprisingly long time. The latest example is the basketball hoop that needed a simple bit of decal gluing but remained unfinished in the garage for a number of years.
“Gee, Brian J.,” you might say. “I’d like to be like you and Andy Rooney and have stuff like that linger in my workshop for decades. Do you have any tips?”
Oh, boy, mister, do I!
On of my favorite ways to ensure that things pile up willy-nilly is a little technique I call The Blocker Project.
Now, a Blocker Project is a project that you want to complete, but you somehow dread the actual doing of it, and you avoid your workshop for weeks (or months! or years!) until you get brave enough to do it or, more likely, set it aside.
I inherited the lamp depicted to the right from my sainted mother, who inherited it from her mother because it was originally my grandfather’s. We’re not really table lamp people here (but, strangely, DeRooneyfication often involves lamps), so it never had a home on an end table at our home in Old Trees or here at Nogglestead. So it was put in the basement or in the garage. Eventually, it had a couple of chips in it, so I decided I would paint it. While painting it, I thought I’d tart it up a bit since it was just brown–you know, my grandmother was into painting ceramics–maybe this was one of her projects back in the day.
At any rate, that was some years ago. Back then, I believed that acrylic paints needed to dry overnight, so it was taking a long time, and I was probably disappointed with the imperfect job I was doing. So no doubt things other projects and raw materials purchased at garage sales piled up during the week or two I was actively working on it, and the time after that when I meant to finish it, but didn’t.
Eventually, it made its way to a corner of the workspace, where apparently it’s been chipped even more in the interim.
Since I worked with acrylic paints on the aforementioned basketball hoop and learned how quickly they dry, I set the lamp back center stage.
And felt a sense of, if not dread, certainly disinclination to work on it. It’s gathered a couple of chips since the first time I painted it, so I might have to repaint the brown parts. Do I still have paints to match that? Will I have to cover some of the existing painted parts that I have because I haven’t matched a paint color? Do I have a steady enough hand to paint the finer parts, or will the slight imperfections be the only things I see when I look at the completed project?
A Blocker Project like this can put you months behind in any projects you hope to complete and can leave you, like Andy and I (well, just I now, but Andy is here with us in spirit) meaning to fix that chair soon. Maybe next week. But not with that other thing you don’t want to do on the workbench right now.
(Sadly, I’ve not followed my advice in this post: I recognized and named the phenomenon, which gave me power to put the lamp back in its corner for a little while longer so I can do some other things.)
You know, gentle reader, every year I set a couple of goals for myself. Not resolutions, and not a little thing, but not a major thing (conquer the world is a centennial goal, not an annual goal). And sometimes I get a notion into my head that’s like a little goal, and two weeks ago in Michigan, I got an idea in my head kind of reminded me of my goals.
So we stayed at a resort that’s a seasonal ski resort (which meant it was very affordable in the summer). Our unit looked out onto the snow tube run, which meant we looked across the end of the run and some of the seasonal equipment, which provided a vista for my reading when I read all those books whose reports you’ve just read (or will read when you scroll down). From the edge of our balcony, though, we could look up Boyne Mountain (something that we can kind of scoff at even here in the lower part of the Ozark Mountains). But the hill behind us and the mountain itself with its ski runs rises something like 450 feet in the course of a football field. And I got it into my head that I wanted to walk up the hill.
I mean, I saw a bunch of people out for walks on the pavement, and a couple cutting across the fields to get up to the amenities across the road, but I didn’t see any hikers going up. I didn’t see any hiking trails listed in the amenities of the resort, but they did have a ski lift running to take you to the scenic lookout for a small fee.
The rest of the family planned a day at the waterpark, which left me free to pursue my stated goal instead of reading for the whole day. Of course, then the self-doubt and worry creeped in. Michigan up there is fairly forested. Might I run into a bear going up the hill? It’s cleared well to either side, but, man, would I feel dumb if I encountered a couple cubs halfway up and had to fight off the mother with a pocket knife. We didn’t cover that in tae kwon do classes, even the weapons classes. Also, I’m not twenty any more. Or thirty. Or, heaven forfend, forty. I’ve walked up some hills in my time, but this was nominally a mountain. At least it was on the brochures.
But I mentioned doing it, and as the morning evolved, the rest of the familiy did not dart out to the water park immediately, and when I asked if the boys wanted to accompany me to the top of the hill, the younger of my boys, the one most unflappable and with no sense of self-preservation or danger at all, said he’d go with me. So I was on the Daddy hook. No, he never called me Daddy–he always called me Father when he was young, but now I’m Dad, which is better than Fat. But now I couldn’t back out, even less than when I announced my intention.
So up we went.
The slope was, what, 45 degrees? Something like that. I was afraid of slipping and falling.
I mean, I haven’t done any hiking for reals, and certainly not in tennis shoes, since I was a kid. But I had my son along, and I had to show no fear of falling. Maybe a little concern about my age and having a heart attack (although a properly falling during a heart attack might have carried me down the hill to help). So I started up, watching my feet all the way up. I resolved not to look down or back as I climbed. Brothers and sisters, I could have saved Eurydice. Well, except for the music part, unless I bored Cereberus to sleep with my guitar practice like I bore my instructors.
I was a bit dismayed at my heavy breathing, which I tried to disguise in conversation with my son through clever ventriloquist tricks, but I noticed he was panting, too, and I felt better.
And then we were up the hill. The hilltop held a couple of buildings hidden from the lower view, but no real place to sit to share the water I’d brought. Don’t get me wrong–it wasn’t an hour’s hike. It was twenty minutes or so. But more incline than I’m used to in my super sprint triathlons (well, the one).
So we shared a bottle of water and took a picture.
At the summit, as it were, I didn’t enjoy the view that much or feel a sense of accomplishment, really, because I knew we had to go back down.
We climbed up the left side of the above picture, which is more steadily steep with a bit of a valley in the middle (for water run off, perhaps). On the way down, we came on the lit tubing side, which has some level spots. Of course, since I’ve never been snowtubing, I didn’t realize the level spots were ramps for jumps or bounces, and that the level spots were followed by sharper drops for those snowtubing thrills. Still, I did better than Wesley on the way down, still watching my feet. My older son had come out, a dot on the green below us, to take our picture, but he didn’t recognize the two specks as his kin, so I’m afraid there’s no picture from that angle. When we got about half way down the hill, the youngest started to run to his older brother, and he made it alive. But his cautious father continued a plodding pace until I reached terra level.
“So what does that have to do with your goals, Brian J.?”, you might ask. Even if you don’t, I’ve given it some thought, and here it is: It illustrates how I relate to my goals and my accomplishments.
It seemed daunting at the run up to the doing, and at the outset, but basically I put one foot in front of the other, and I–well, we–climbed the hill. When I was atop the hill, I didn’t really enjoy the view because I was thinking of what was next (in this case, the climb down, which was just as treacherous–which is to say, “Not Very”–as the climb up). And once I’d done it, it was not a big deal, and I’m not really going to bring it up lest I seem boastful.
Well, except with you, gentle reader. If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve done some things and met some goals, but having done them, of course I’ve done them. I get them done by carrying on, and I don’t necessarily enjoy the doing on the way to the accomplishment. Then I don’t get much enjoyment out of having done them. What a poor frame of mind.
Clearly, I’m more of a Camus Existentialist than a Neitzsche Übermensch. Which is also probably clear by all the Buddhism, Taoism, and Stoicism I read. Much of which I read because I keep trying to change my attitude for the better. Hopefully, I can plod my way to peace of mind eventually.
Once, when all the maize was planted,
Hiawatha, wise and thoughtful,
Spake and said to Minnehaha,
To his wife, the Laughing Water:
“You shall bless to-night the cornfields,
Draw a magic circle round them,
To protect them from destruction,
Blast of mildew, blight of insect,
Wagemin, the thief of cornfields,
Paimosaid, who steals the maize-ear
“In the night, when all Is silence,’
In the night, when all Is darkness,
When the Spirit of Sleep, Nepahwin,
Shuts the doors of all the wigwams,
So that not an ear can hear you,
So that not an eye can see you,
Rise up from your bed in silence,
Lay aside your garments wholly,
Walk around the fields you planted,
Round the borders of the cornfields,
Covered by your tresses only,
Robed with darkness as a garment.
“Thus the fields shall be more fruitful,
And the passing of your footsteps
Draw a magic circle round them,
So that neither blight nor mildew,
Neither burrowing worm nor insect,
Shall pass o’er the magic circle;
Not the dragon-fly, Kwo-ne-she,
Nor the spider, Subbekashe,
Nor the grasshopper, Pah-puk-keena;
Nor the mighty caterpillar,
Way-muk-kwana, with the bear-skin,
King of all the caterpillars!”
I’ve encouraged my beautiful wife to try this method, but to no avail. Of course, our gardens don’t have corn since it’s a little dry for corn around here in the late summer time, and she is probably right to be doubtful about native methods since my attempt to use the “three sisters” method of growing corn, beans, and squash together did nothing but leave us with a harvest of more spaghetti squash than we could eat (which, to be honest, is any).
Whilst in Traverse City, Michigan, my beautiful wife pointed across the street as we where on the way to our car at the parking meter into which we’d dumped all our available change. Traverse City, Michigan, has a hat store.
Friends, it’s been six years since I replaced my cover with something I bought off of the Internet because most of America lacks a hat store. So although I was quite concerned about the parking meter situation, I agreed to go in to look for something to replace my hat with. It’s starting to pill in spots, especially on the top of the crown. My hats tend to wear out there, where I grab them and where they get set upside down to hold sunglasses or whatnot.
At any rate, although I tend to buy pants from the top of the stack at Walmart and don’t even try things on at the department store, I tend to be fussy in choosing a hat. I have to try on candidates multiple times and look at myself in the mirror with them from various angles.
I mean, I know what I want: Fedora, crushable/packable, C-crown, classic brim (not the little contemporary brim), a thin hat band. This time, I was hoping for a lined hat because I was feeling luxe. Which took us from the hats on hangers to the behind-the-counter selection. I tried on some of the nice hats, but so many of them were made from some very thin felt. Eventually, though, I didn’t find something that suited me quite right, and the concern over the parking meter situation won out, so I left without buying anything even though I was in a hat store, dude.
Still, when I held my current hat against other black fedoras, I learned exactly how much it had faded in near-daily wear for six years. So I immediately ordered the same hat I did previously on the Internet.
It arrived yesterday.
Every new fedora comes with a feather in it. Friends, I might like a liner in my hat, but I’m not so swank as to want a feather in it.
Ah, that’s better.
So I’m inventing reasons to leave the house so I can wear my new hat. Not that anyone would notice because it’s the same as my old hat, but darker and a bit stiffer. But I know.
Also, I don’t want to leave you in suspense with a cliffhanger: We got a ticket, but overstaying your meter in Traverse City is apparently only five dollars, which is not bad considering a city parking lot or garage runs more than that in a bigger city. But I could have tried on even more hats and wasted more of the saleswoman’s time.
Well, it sure was quiet around here last week. That’s because unlike some people, I don’t have a variety of smart people to step up and keep you occupied while I’m on vacation. As it happens, my family and I travelled to the upper part of the lower penninsula of Michigan.
Here’s what I did in Michigan:
Visit a Walmart.
Did you know, gentle reader, that United Airlines has a little trick it calls “Bulk Out”? Neither did I until last Sunday.
Storms in Chicago led to delays across the board. Our flight to Chicago was a couple hours late, and then our flight from Chicago to Traverse City itself was a couple hours late. So United cancelled the next flight to Traverse City and split the people between our (late) flight and the next. Then, after we were all boarded, the cabin attendant said the plane was overweight and could not take off, so they were looking for a couple volunteers to take a later flight, but she offered no incentive. Then here supervisor stormed aboard, already angry with the passengers since no one volunteered, and threatened to just pull some random bags from the hold to lower the plane’s weight if no one volunteered. But she offered no incentives, and no one volunteered, so United Airlines removed checked baggage–which comes with an extra fee, remember–until the plane was light enough to dance lightly upon the sensitive runways at Traverse City’s airport.
It turns out, my bag was one of the chosen few. And by “few,” I mean “Most of the checked bags were taken off.” I had to file a claim at the counter in Traverse City and wait for them to (maybe) deliver my bag to my resort an hour and a half away.
So we went to Walmart to buy me a complete set of clothing and the toiletries I’d need for the coming days. The closest one to our resort in Boyne Falls was in Petoskey, 20 miles away. So we went late on a Sunday evening and pushed a laden cart through the only (Express) checkout open at that time.
The “Bulk Out” isn’t the only reason we hit a Walmart–as we often stay about a week in a well-appointed room, we also like to stock up on basic groceries and whatnot. So wherever we go, we end up at a Walmart or a Publix or something.
But it did give me an opportunity to remind you that, to United Airlines, you’re just cargo, and they’ve got fine print and procedures for ensuring you know it.
Try to convince the locals to call it the UCLP.
St. Louis residents often refer to the hinterlands as UCLA–the Upper Corner of Lower Arnold (Arnold being a small municipality in the extreme reaches of St. Louis County). I tried without success to introduce Upper Corner of the Lower Penninsula into the local idiom.
Wear Packers apparel in enemy territory.
Apparently, the lower penninsula is full of Lions fans who suffer from some false optimism this year, as in many years. Of course, I did not wear my Packers shirts outside of the resort. Not because I was afraid, mind you. I just tend to wear collared shirts and khakis along with my signature black fedora out.
Buy the latest copy of Ideals.
The book store in Traverse City had the latest issue of Ideals so I bought one.
As you know, I associate the magazine of popular poetry with my youth, but it’s still a going concern. It’s a different publisher in Tennessee, but apparently the target market is still upper Midwest old ladies and middle-aged men trying to recapture something they didn’t actually capture in their youth.
I’ve mentioned before how much I lilacs, and how I’ve tried to grow them wherever I go. Well, spoiler alert to that post from 2012: The lilacs don’t grow so well in southwest Missouri. Or when I try to grow them in southwest Missouri. But when we got to the resort, it was the height of lilac season, and as a matter of fact was during the local lilac festival. So I got a snootful of lilac on the balcony while reading or on the pool deck while reading or in just random places while perambulating. It was very nice.
It was a five day trip if you lop off the travel days. A couple quick one hour flights, and I was back up north where people talk right (although on the east side of Lake Michigan, people don’t talk all the way right like they do in Wisconsin and Minnesota). We visited Mackinac Island, which means I’ve now been on two of the five Great Lakes. We drove down to one of my beautiful wife’s home towns in Michigan (she has many). And we hit the fashionable Front Street in Traverse City. A pleasant trip, and I got some reading done as you’ll see in the coming days.
The neighbor calls me up; she has a message for her son, could I drive down to the back pasture at the Jones place where Warren is raking hay and give it to him?
I did, of course.
Even though I live in the country, I spend a lot of my time in my home office connected to a computer or driving into Springfield and doing things in the (small) city. So I forget where I really am.
I must need to sit on my back deck a couple more nights and watch the luciernagas or the wah-wah-taysee at sunset, when it’s quiet and the wildlife come out. Although clearly I’ve done that, since I learned the word wah-wah-taysee from “The Song of Hiawatha” when I was reading it last night at sunset. Luciernaga I learned some time ago.
Both words mean “firefly.” But the one from Sesame Street is not my favorite firefly song, as you might guess.
What was my point? Probably that I shouldn’t be sitting connected to a computer right now.
Trying to teach my children about the value of things you buy, I strongly discouraged my child from spending money on something in a game that would help him out. A game that he would probably not be playing in six months.
This, from a man who as a boy spent plenty of money on these:
Probably more than my son wanted to spend on his latest in-game need. Which he could use for however long he plays the game at the level where the purchase would be helpful, which is far longer than the twenty seconds it took me to play each card.
Still, I encourage him to buy personal relics which can trigger memories, unlike soon-to-be-forgotten collections of algorithms on his borrowed video gaming device.
I’ve reached an age where decades are a drop in the sink beneath the mirror in which my face suddenly sags. You know, a couple years ago (six being “a couple,” where ten is “a few”), I started a category on this blog called DeRooneyfication, which covers projects I’ve completed after the passage of time. It’s not a very big category, sadly, as so many projects remain incomplete.
But what’s rather striking to me today is the copy of Montaigne’s essays atop my dresser.
You know when I set it there?
I carried that book on one of my trips to Kansas City the beginning of last summer. I read a couple of the essays in the beginning, and then I laid the book aside for later reading.
And a year has passed. I’ve moved the book to dust (infrequently), but it’s been atop my dresser for a full year. It sits there with the rotating cast of carry books that I put in my gym bag when I make my (infrequent) trips to the martial arts school, (weekly, mostly) trips to church where I can read the book over the Sunday School hour, or to various sports practices where I sit in the bleachers while my child or children run around. A book of poems that I take out to read on the deck sometimes at night joins the stack. But the Montaigne? That’s been a year.
I don’t know what it says that books that I pluck from my shelves to read sometime languish on side tables or dressers for years before I pick them back up or, in a fit of cleansing, put them back on the to-read shelves. But a year.
The vertigo of passing time that I get from these realizations might explain why I don’t open my nightstand drawer. Within it, a couple of poetry books I started to read to my children when they were very young, when I would read poetry to them while they played their toddler games, reside. Pablo Neruda and Ogden Nash en media res. I haven’t lived in this house for a decade (yet), but these books might make it a decade in the nightstand before I find them or before an estate sale appraiser looks them over and marks them fifty cents.