Monthly Archives: July 2014

Habit, or Tick (short story)

I had developed a bad habit. Or maybe it was more of a tick, I’m not entirely sure. I tried to ask my dad the difference but he told me to go back to sleep. In his defense it was late. It was also a school night but that distinction means very little to me anymore. At one point it meant that I needed, at the very least, eight hours of sleep to function the next day. Now I know that was not the truth. Coffee has awoken that truth to me. It has a weird tendency to do so. My father devours the stuff, even with dinner. Gross. I, now, love java but mostly need carbonation with dinner, or any meal actually. It was one of my things, you know? Like only using eight ice cubes in my drink. What a pain that was at restaurants with crushed ice. There was no way to anticipate the temperature of your beverage in those situations. It is a shame. I’m not horribly fond of the unpredictable nature of anything. I want to know. I used to say that I have to know but my father was quick to distinguish the difference to me. It took some time for me to understand but I got there. I have to have oxygen to survive. I want to watch Jeopardy promptly each evening. Even if Trebek is a substandard host to me. My mom finds him to be handsome. Our television does a great job because we do this split screen thing so I can watch baseball AND Jeopardy at the same time. Volume stays on Jeopardy though or else we would not hear the answers. On average I answer somewhere between 67% to 71% of questions correctly. Mom says I should take their yearly audition quiz but I worry I’d get pummeled. Maybe one day. That is the nice thing, it should be around for awhile! My dad gets mad sometimes when I yell answers at the TV or get frustrated by the baseball game. I’ve knocked my dinner off the TV tray before, that really upset him. We always record Jeopardy, just in case, though I have only missed three in two years, I swear. To watch the recorded copies would probably be nice because you can fast forward through the many commercials. Sometimes we watch old episodes that I have on tapes. Like one time mom got me a tape from a garage sale and I was thrilled because Peter Sagal was a contestant. Now he hosts NPR’s quiz show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” which coincidentally I never miss also. This is not irony, as some people may mistake, just simply coincidence. It is a common misconception sadly. I enjoy the commercials on the older tapes, it is like being in a time machine. The bad part is when you see a commercial for a product that is really entrancing but the product is no longer made. This has happened to me a few times. But skipping the commercials has its upside. I also like to use the restroom in this time. It is a race! I have to finish up before they return from the break. I wash my hands, thoroughly, with the warmest water possible. My hands always turn red like a beet. They shake. My skin started to crack after I began this. The skin is like a poorly built structure, like some of the old homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a very interesting guy, very meticulous but also kind of careless. I think I may be this way as well. I read a biography about him recently. His second wife died at their home after some disgruntled workers axed them and set the home ablaze. He was not home however. He was salvaged. So I wash my hands to recover from the negativities (and germs.) As he recovered and many others like Bobby Kennedy after President Kennedy was assassinated. “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which we live.” I recite as I wash. William Appleman Williams said this, Bobby liked this quote. I like this quote. If only his life had not turned even more so tragic. So I wash. But my skin is dry and mom tried to get me to use lotion but I hate lotion. It is gooey and lingers. My dad made me go to the doctor after a while. The best part about the doctor is the magazines in the waiting room. I try to find the oldest ones because you read old news but it is worded to be so current. It wasn’t horrible. They gave me these gloves. I think that they (parents, doctors) think that I do not know that there is lotion within them. I know. I know there is and I still hate it. But it does not really feel like it. There is no stinky lingering. So I wear them. Most of the time I cut the finger tips off and play the counter tops as if I’m Glen Gould on a steinway. I play for my fish Freckles, he is my biggest fan, even though he is only a beta. We got him at the store. There were some others placed in front of him but we made eye contact. We connected. He is the Molly Ringwald to my John Hughes! I feed him four pellets twice a day. Mom says that is “practically what survive on.” She gets upset, or used to at least, because all I want to eat are frozen dinners and peanut butter and butter sandwiches. I have expanded a little though as of late, now I will eat rice. I love rice. It is hard to hold the fork though because my hands almost always hurt. But I can’t stop. My dad says it’ll pass like the other ones have. He must not pay close attention because I still have all of them. Then some times they get worse.

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Work Space or Creative Sanctuary?

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I spent some time cleaning up my study a bit this afternoon. Now I’m left feeling as if I can’t tell if I’m relieved or if I’m going to have a panic attack when I’m working and can’t find things. Clutter to some can make them feel crazy, yet clutter can also be simply someone’s life. I know that when I’m working, especially on my novel, if I need something I want it to be right where I left it. The creative zone, for me at least, is a very fragile existence. When I am flowing there is no stopping it but if I have to wander off to find a quote or a picture that I remember inspires me I do not want it to take long. There is something to be said for having your own private place to work, one in which you follow no one but your own rules.

There is a great piece by the NYT’s Gretchen Reynolds entitled “What a Messy Desk Says About You” from last September that is worth a gander on the subject.  Messy vs Clean is all about personality traits. Many have studied the personality traits of all the different people on this planet and how it affects each and everything we do. We live in a world that enjoys analyzing every bit of the world and all that resides in it. This has its pros and cons obviously. Results are mostly varied on this particular subject. “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition which can produce fresh insights.” Dr. Vohs and her co-authors conclude in a study mentioned in the piece. This gives me a little hope that I can still achieve greatness with papers, sticky notes, and books spread out across my desk.

Some may see a messy desk but I see blood, sweat, and tears.

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Nostalgia |näˈstaljə, nə-|

Nostalgia |näˈstaljə, nə-|

noun

a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations

DERIVATIVES

nostalgist |-jist| noun

ORIGIN late 18th cent. (in the sense ‘acute homesickness’): modern Latin (translating German Heimweh ‘homesickness’), from Greek nostos ‘return home’ + algos ‘pain.’

We pine. Nostalgia is in some ways is a very fickle thing. While we may find ourselves awash with emotion over a particular moment in time we feel as though the image or thought may never leave us. We worry that we may never shake the feeling. This is almost never true as we are often onto a different mind set mere minutes later. Having passed on from what we once knew, we remain with our feet in the mud of our current lives. This existence of ours is all too changing.

Yet we eventually let ourselves wander and return to it, whether it is hours or days or months or years later. Something will rouse the powers of recall. The memories may become damp over time but they refuse to disappear. In this way it is the opposite of fickle, it is sustainable. Nostalgia is forever lasting. For a moment in time the bits of bygone days captures your imagination so much that in later days you’ll pray for some type of science fiction-created time machine to transport you back. To return to the past for various reason. To return to your since deceased grandfather so he can bounce you on his knee, your round infant face deep with joy. To return for one more moment with your childhood best friend before they move away and your daily life and relationship is changed forevermore. To return and cherish the moments when you meet the one you will love for the rest of your days. Emotional artifacts that elicit such a strain on your heart are what count, not the trappings of tragedy or oversight that create regret filled scars upon the mind.

Nostalgia owns the innocence of wanting to relive, not change! Nostalgia owns a fantastical yearning for targets known only to your soul. Those feelings are only magnified by concrete items such as photographs or old home videos. They lend a voice or face to the airy pictures and voices that paint a vivid landscape across our minds. These time blown generated memories are easily trumped by viewed timepieces of the naked eye. They stay with us like a finely poignant song that hits just the right spot. Imagine a world without memories, as if we were idly floating by like the walking dead. Some may wish it were this way, to forget and to proceed on. But in my time I have chosen to incessantly remember, just as I hope the memories choose to regulate the memory of me.

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I Want To Believe

Why are we so desperate to believe in something beyond the logical or concrete existence we live in?

This question puzzles me a great deal. I don’t pretend to be a religious individual, I have my doubts in just about everything. The only times I’ve ever found myself in a state of prayer was concerning either a family members’ health or amidst a Red Sox game. I have always been skeptical about any discussion of the afterlife. In the last year or so I’ve wrestled with the existential crisis of oblivion, of how when we die all that we have strived for disintegrates. Every book that I’ve read, all of the knowledge I have taken the time to accumulate during my lifetime, will vanish. That is a depressing notion. I would assume that is why everyone is consumed with the concept of leaving a mark on this world, whether it be through a child or an idea or an invention, etc. Why do we so badly want people to remember us after we are gone? What does that actually accomplish for us? I may never know the answer to this.

On the subject of death and the precious time leading up to it, I contemplate something more metaphysical. Today I was discussing with my partner in over-analytic crime (and best friend) Josh about the human ability of intuition. I posed the question: “Do you think it is possible for people to intuitively and subconsciously sense what is going to happen? Or do you think what we perceive as hints before the fact are just coincidence?” I asked this because on this day (July 2nd) in 1937 was the last time anyone heard from Amelia Earhart before her disappearance over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.  Before her fateful circumnavigational flight of the globe, in the Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, she said of the trip: “I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it.”

Josh, being the skeptic that he is, surprised me saying he believed it to be a little of both. “I’d like to think that you can grow that sense like a muscle. You just have to try to pick up as much detail as possible.” But he did imply that we may read more into what people say after historic and/or tragic events. This is an unfortunate truth, I believe. “She may have just been saying she was retiring. She may have known more, who knows.” That is certainly the easy and most accepted way to view it. I think that is why it’d have to be intuitively. Perhaps she perceived these feelings as the impression that it may be time to retire, but could the feelings be a misinterpretation of something more?

My interest in this type of phenomena dates back to many other subjects, one in particular being Jeff Buckley (a favorite musician of mine.) In the days before his accidental drowning in while swimming in Wolf River Harbor, a slack water channel of the Mississippi River located in Memphis, [according to David Browne’s excellent biography Dream Brother] Jeff spent time getting in touch with friends and loved ones. The day before his drowning he phoned his former drummer and friend Eric Eidel who was living in New York City at 5am. “Hey… It’s Jeff. I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to see if you were doing well. And to say I love you.” Eidel, in Browne’s book, explains that Jeff wanted to see that everything was good. Eidel said “It was quick, but it seemed like it had a point.” As detailed in Browne’s book, Eidel was hardly the only friend contacted in those days leading up to his death, it was simply one of many out-of-the-blue calls received. Most of which were to people Jeff had barely seen or spoken to in years. I recall reading this biography some six or seven years ago and being stricken with this passage. Could he have known? Or do I just wish for my idol to be something more than a mere man when he wadded into the water for a swim?

It is all very heavy to ponder upon. I have been a scaredy cat my entire life, I can’t even watch cheesy scary films. I can’t help but look over my shoulder as I type this. The goosebumps are numerous. I posed the question to some other peers and got varied responses. Most seemed to believe that deep within the recesses of our minds, hearts, and souls we can quantify things subconsciously that we would never be able to explain. One friend described it as a belief that certain people are better in touch with a sense of death, using JFK and Lincoln as examples.

This leaves me wondering how many would want to be in touch with such a thing?

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