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Archive for April, 2014

Pocketful

 

This is in response to the Daily Prompt, which was “Pride and Joy:  Describe your prize possession.”

 

My prize possession is in my shirt pocket.  It is a pewter and brass steampunk style pocket watch on a generous length of chain.  The cover flips open to serve as a magnifying glass.  No batteries, no beeping, no lights.  Just a journey to where I want to be mentally, every minute I need a “fix.”

But what makes it my prize possession is that eleven months ago, as we sat down to my daughter’s rehearsal dinner, she and her groom to be handed out small gift bags to the wedding party.  I was already in such a wonderful mood that I cannot adequately describe the feeling.  Okay, I’ll try, if you insist:  We had practiced what I consider to be a perfect ceremony earlier in the day, and now we were capping it with an enjoyable get together, knowing that the following day would be splendid beyond any experience to date (which it was!).

But here to top it off was a generous little gift.  I love little gifts, no matter what they are.  Everything from the thoughtfulness of the giver to the anticipation and excitement of the recipient makes gift giving one of the most remarkable and joyous things we do as a species.  As I opened the small box, I actually didn’t care what it was going to be…a nail file perhaps–I was simply lost in the moment itself.  But when I saw that watch, I do believe I actually yelped loudly.  It was incredible, and the care that my daughter and pending son in law had shown in selecting such a marvel was immediately apparent, and humbling.

I take it out not to check the time; we can look in any direction these days and see something glowing with the approximate time.  I take it out for an instant anniversary, and know that I am lucky to have these two loving and loveable new adults in my pocket.

 

 

 

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When I was a kid, Mom would take my brother and I with her to Manhattan pretty frequently.  Manhattan was…tedious.  We did not go to museums or Central Park or any of the skyscrapers.  We would go to Macy’s.  If we were good, we might end the day with a soft pretzel.  But it was hard to be good at Macy’s.  We weren’t headed to the toy department; we were headed to clothing.  Not just clothing:  there were outside clothes, under clothes, accessories, accessories to accessories, and the most dreaded words a kid could ever hear:  “white sale.”  I’m still not quite sure what it means, just that it is something I need desperately to avoid.

For me, the most interesting thing about Macy’s was the fire hydrant fixture on the outside of the building.  It is called a “Siamese Connection,” and a small part of my current job involves making sure Siamese Connections are placed correctly on buildings.  Boy, that’s “full circle,” isn’t it?  At any rate, one of my earliest memories is being so bored at Macy’s that I picked up a penny off the floor and swallowed that filthy puppy before my mother could even move her arm.

Mom freaked out.  The elevator operator (imagine that vintage scenario, with the folding gated elevators and the announcements of each floor’s departments) tried to calm her down as she alternated between hugging and shaking me, trying to spank that penny right out of me somehow.  In retrospect, spanking would tend to lodge that coin further down, along its unsavory journey…

“Relax lady,” he said, “I see this sort of thing all da time!  ‘S-gonna be okay…”

At any rate, my wife and I took our daughter to Manhattan for a graduation gift yesterday.  Manhattan was…splendid.

It was our third trip there within the last few years.  Though we aimed at different destinations and activities each time, all three trips were alike in several ways.  First and foremost, the crowd:  it was beautiful.  When I was a kid, the crowd was ominous.  The crowd was overwhelming, tall, and rude.  Now, the crowd is far different.  I scheduled my first trip to Manhattan in decades to coincide with both my shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff AND Christmas shopping.  Despite record breaking crowds, not one soul bumped into my sling.  Oh, I myself bumped into plenty of scaffolds, sign posts and door jambs, but no human being as much as glanced off my person.

The next two trips were the same, in that nobody ever bumped into us, the entire time.  Furthermore, while I felt completely at home on streets I had not set foot on in many decades, much was different.  The buildings were the same; in fact they were identical.  But the traffic!  There was more of it, but there was little to no honking.  When I was a kid, and later in my twenties and thirties, Manhattan was a constant din of honking horns.  Now, by general consensus, the place has achieved an awesome level of civility.  There is no trash, little to no inartistic graffiti, and…well, I just fell in love with the place.  Not “over again,” but for the first time.

A whole new world has opened up for me.  Manhattan is about a wonderful group of folks, well–two wonderful groups:  people who want to “be a part of it” and the people who host them.  New Yorkers are still the most quick witted (slash “sarcastic”), efficient, talkative, interesting, lovable and helpful souls you are likely to encounter.  Their remarkable island is not just (and justly) the capital of the world…it is a fitting microcosm of the world.  The crowd is a reflection of how we are currently feeling.  It can seem greedy, rude and self serving.  Or, it can feel like a group of like-minded souls, interested in exploring all the world has to offer, brought together in a way that is only possible when eight million people come together with every resource, culture, skill and ambition in the world, in an area much smaller than the county in which you and I probably live.

It started to rain yesterday, a surprisingly torrential downpour with no warning.  As my head became soaked, a rather shabbily dressed man rushed up to me and sold me an umbrella for three dollars.  Bless his heart!  Earlier in the day we had met and chatted with a celebrity, were served an incredible lunch by the waiter whose skill and class I had so admired the previous year when he had the table next to ours, won the Indy 500(th) with our taxi driver, and now this umbrella fellow was saving the day with his imperfect grin.  No, make that:  his unshaven, dentally shocking… sincere… perfect grin.

Yeah, I’ll be happy to take Manhattan.  And so should you, whatever moment you are offered that chance.

In fact, please tell me about a New York Minute YOU may have had?

 

 

 

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This is in response to the Daily Prompt, which was “Dust in the Wind:  describe your Bucket List of things you would like to do before you become dust in the wind…”

 

I have a hard time appreciating my actual age, using every possible definition of “appreciate.”  So often (too often), I view things more as a thirteen year old might.  Who’s this old turd? I might think as someone just slightly above my own age approaches; and it should be no surprise that the more inappropriate the humor, the better I like it. But every once in a while, I do a quick mental calculation and recall that I am in fact 57 years old.  I have two careers under my thankfully consistent belt, and one more kick-ass career left in me.  But what to do about that final frontier…  Could the hour be getting late?

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it is not my unilateral decision–there is the pesky “vacancy, application, interview, offer” dance to endure.  My dance card is not as full as it once was.  There was a time that I was getting a job offer a week out of the blue, and I was not even in the market.  And those were tempting; it now seems the more recent the less tempting the offer.  Could I be getting older?

My dream job is Head of the Borg collective.  If you subscribe to this choice of candidate, I shall be happy to assimilate you at your convenience.

But that job code does not yet appear in the Department of Commerce’s numerical list of job identifiers.  You would think it would be a natural inclusion, in such a document.  Could I have been born too early?

I can more realistically see my career path, among the existing job identifiers, as taking two separate paths.  In the first, I continue to be a remarkable public servant of the most accomplished kind…but with a more rewarding environment and salary.  This is rather likely, and I can certainly throw myself into that role.  In the second, which is actually my preference, I meld two part time jobs into one full time career.  Those jobs are adjunct professor at a university or local community college, and member of a corporate board of directors.  I have done both, teaching continuing education classes at night, and serving on the board of directors of a nonprofit corporation.  I enjoy both activities immensely, and would love to step up both games as my full time focus.

I would like last call to take me completely by surprise, while I am doing what I am best suited to do.  If I so often lose track of the timer now, I would really ignore it in my dream routine.

But this is supposed to be a bucket list, and I have listed only my most significant item.  The others are not as weighty:

2.  Ride a horse.  I have ridden a camel, an elephant, a canyon burro, a giant tortoise and a dolphin.  But never a horse!

3.  Own a beach house and either live there or visit it whenever we like.  “We,” because it is not a beach without my beloved wife beside me there.

4.  Live debt-free.  How many of us cannot ever take risks or take advantage of opportunities because of the hand-to-mouth existence our financial burdens place upon us?

5.  Travel.  I would like to go anywhere my wife wants to visit.  The destination does not matter to me so much as the company, and the smile on her face.

6.  Learn to dance.  More accurately, unlearn what I currently do, and learn to dance properly, in a way that makes my wife proud.

7.  Write more.  I have my next seven books outlined.  I need to get cracking, and turn outlines into words.  Because the hour grows nigh; and I need to finish these while we still even have the activity we old timers used to call “keyboarding.”

 

Now then, how about if you stop reading the bucket lists of others, and tell us your own bucket list?

 

 

 

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Apply Some Mojo…

This is in response to the Daily Prompt, which was “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights:  Tell us your tried and true techniques for focusing when that deadline looms and you need to get work done. In other words, how do you avoid wasted days and wasted nights?”

 

My answer is tried and true:  slip some bizarre aspect of your personality into the thing!

I once had a task that I absolutely abhorred:  running a monthly meeting about an 18 month-long project that was about as boring as you can imagine.  I had to have spiffy reports that I made in the weeks leading up to the meeting.  I hated the project itself, I hated the information gathering for the report, I hated the report and the creation, collating, copying of the damned thing, giving the two hour long briefing that practically read the report to them….and I was beginning to hate the people who attended the meeting as well (TMI?).

So I decided that the one thing I could at least have a little fun with was the cover of the report.  I experimented wildly, and gave myself full artistic license.  My boss asked me about one report cover, and my answer was:  “I replaced the sun with our organizational symbol, which is casting light and shadows on the hard-hats of the equipment operators as they work on a giant set of blueprints with their equipment, rather than on the ground itself…”

The next month, he asked about that cover as well…  “It is as if our equipment has been rendered into a cubist symbolism, and the blocks the crane is stacking suggest that perhaps the scale is in question as well–is this a full size project, or the machinations of a child’s imagination?”  He shrugged and let me carry on; the data inside the report was still satisfactory.

I came to look forward to the bizarre covers that had everyone scratching their heads.  The anticipation pulled me along, through the information gathering, the copying–I was now relishing the collating of the report, setting at each place around the conference table.

Several months into the project, a subordinate asked if I wanted him to copy and assemble the report this month.

“No thanks,” I said.  “I actually enjoy doing it.”

Wait….WHAT did I just say?!

 

Why not try this strategy on your next “blah” mission, and see if it perks you up as well?

 

 

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This is in response to the Daily Prompt, which is “Express Yourself:  Do you love to dance, sing, write, sculpt, paint, or debate? What’s your favorite way to express yourself, creatively?

 

 

“…to see oursels as ithers see us…”  It has been nearly 230 years since The Greatest Scot expressed that haunting notion.  In response to today’s Daily Prompt, I would submit that it does not matter what I think my most creative channels are; the trial is what others determine them to be.

I was once flabbergasted that my cousin bestowed an unexpected compliment upon me.  In his wild, adventurous life, he once managed a popular nightclub. It was a perfect venue for the Rolling Stones tribute band that he also leads (guitar AND lyrics!).  The club was so popular, that they often featured headliner bands on concert tours. When various members of such bands are ever ill or otherwise unavailable, every major city has a list of standby musicians.  My cousin was fortunate enough to be on this list, in his city.  He had the pleasure and honor of standing in with The Police when they were just starting out (“three really polite young men”), Badfinger and later Mike + The Mechanics, and several other bands.

We were playing around with his collection of guitars at his house one lazy July Saturday.  Neighbors trickled over and made themselves comfortable for the impromptu concert.  The finale was Abbey Road, start to finish.  As the final note let her echo fade, my cousin turned and said:  “You know I’ve played with a lot of musicians.  You are the greatest guitarist I have ever known.”

I have not touched a guitar in over a decade.  This was not where I perceived my own avenue of creativity, and I did not wish to pursue it to higher levels.  I always imagined that I would be more successful as a cartoonist.  But the panels I submitted to various magazines, the entire cartoon books I submitted to publishers, were consistently ignored.  One hundred percent ignored.

I next imagined that I could be a more serious artist.  I do have some skill, but I completely lack the patience to make everything “just right.”  I am also unwilling to make to much of a mess creating the thing.  I won’t mix every color.  I want the product to be done “now;” and I want the cleanup that follows to be easy.  Yeah, I’m not an artist…

I imagined that I could make things…a “maker,” I think they are called.  But also see “want it done now” above, to see how that usually turns out.  I am however absolutely great at painting little inch-tall plastic army men–a lifelong skill, if you were.  Is there any demand for that in the world, do you suppose?

Some people say I have a way with…those things we say to each other…   At any rate, I’m not so sure they are summoned as easily as those good people imagine, in my case.

I was once describing to my most trusted male friend (my wife being my most trusted friend) whatever creative outlet I decided throw myself into, for the rest of my life.  He said that it–whatever “it” was, that week–was not what the world wanted from me.  I leaned in, ready for the wisdom that would follow.

“What do they all want from me, exactly?” I asked, using those talking things and ready to hang on his every one also.

“We just want you to continue,” he said (and I pause to report, building the drama…), “to brainstorm.”

(I always have to remind myself that the word is not “barnstorm”… that I am not being asked to fly too close to a building in a biplane…)

“Guh?” I managed.

“You are invited to be on every committee, and in every meeting that happens around here,” he said, “because you create situations or solutions that no one else in the group thinks of.  That is your gift, as far as the world is concerned.”

Interesting, much appreciated, and interesting…

Would anyone on this forum like to purchase a rather kick-ass set of carpentry tools?

 

 

 

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Wrong Answer

This is in response to the Daily Prompt, which is “If I Could Turn Back Time”

 

“Wrong Answer”

 

To not meet mates we should resist,

Would make our children not exist;

Where turning right instead of left,

Could open memory to theft;

Regret, what-if, and could-have-been,

Assumes that “different” is “win”;

 

We chose, we lived, we played each hand,

Our time was satisfying sand;

Each game, played well or not, was real,

We learned the range our hearts can feel;

Would “content” all the time suffice,

Without the counters “rage” and “vice”?

 

Our balance is what weighs the good,

Make some events brass, others wood;

Make children, whether or not ready;

Makes hearts pound with acts unsteady;

Varies tastes in every cup,

And truly mourns, when time is up.

 

 

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