I Wrote a Chair

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence is not an act, but a habit”
~Aristotle

It’s difficult to call myself a writer, when I write so infrequently these days.   Sometimes I feel like the last kid on the empty playground shouting “I‘m gonna be an astronaut some day, just you watch!”  to the dusty nothingness of cracked asphalt and faded lines as the afternoon sun of my youth slinks quickly behind the ever growing shadows and inevitability of adulthood.  Everyone else has gone inside and traded in their dreams for something more practical.  And I’m a waiter, who writes.  But not even the latter all that much.

It’s an empty word.  Writer.  A thin blanket so many others have veiled themselves to excuse their aspirations of greatness never blossoming into fruition.  Writer.  It’s a vague and incomplete title.  Tell someone you’re a carpenter and they’ll ask to see your wood-shop, or sit upon a sturdy chair you’ve built.  I’m a writer.  But I’m still working working on my novel.  Any day now… 

A chair either is– or it isn’t.  It exists in either of those two states.  Useless wood, or functional-something-finished.

And I think I’ve gotten it tangled up in my head.  This idea of the chair I want to make.  With the perfect spine and easy arm rests, and perfect legs, so much so that the very thought of constructing it, has me hiding from the shop.  But in truth.  I just need to touch wood.   To touch wood as often as I can, for as long as I can.  And eventually… something will come to fruition.

Deaf Fight

You just don’t listen anymore…

…what?  

I witnessed perhaps the most beautiful and honest fight of my lifetime.  There I was, stuck in traffic with mere minutes to kill before the lazy light gave me the right to go again.  And to my right through my window I witnessed a battle unfolding.  At first I thought my music was too loud.  So I turned it down.  And then I lowered my window, every the curious voyeur, hoping to catch the stray shouting wisps of someone else’s misery unfolding on the sidewalk.  As my ears perked up waiting for the cacophony of conflict… realizing there was none to be heard.

I was all the more intrigued.

There she blazed, on the walkway of her second story apartment, ready to scorch the world below her with vehement fury.   And there at the bottom of her steps, one foot on the asphalt, one foot on the first tenuous-tremulous concrete step, unsure of how to progress from here, HE stood– the object of her fury.

Her hands moved swiftly and deftly, her fingertips cutting through the sparse space in front of her with such veracity the air seemed to sizzle and pop.  He stood his ground in spite of his heavy-burdened shoulders, his drooping spine, his head tilted to one side, as if to catch her flaming arcane runes all upon his pale and exposed cheek.  And his hands weaving the soft swoops of appeasement and apology.

Her hands exploded in more fury, at her throat and in fists, her eyebrows bent into an angry red chevron in the middle of her face as her dark pursed lips holding back the words her hands shouted.  And he, with his pleading palms upturned to the heavens hoping to catch her mercy but instead finding nothing but the endless torrential downpour of her rage.

It was at that moment… the light changed.  And I was on my way.

Gross Boy

I am gross.

I’ve been living on my own for almost three years, and my bad habits have become exclusively my own.  I leave my dirty dishes in the sink, sometimes for days on end.  I judge the cleanliness of my clothes by smell more than anything.  I change my sheets when I start to stick to them.  Sometimes I eat mint chocolate chip ice cream instead of brushing my teeth, because cool and mint, is kinda the same thing, right?

But lately… lately I have someone in my life who makes me want to clean.  She teaches me things, like dish soap is different from hand soap, and laundry is something to be done regularly and not when I’m out of clothes.  And floss isn’t just for when things get stuck in my teeth.  I learned to exfoliate and moisturize.  And I use daily sunblock, almost every day sometimes.

And I like it.

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Moving Targets Pt. II

I stopped writing about relationships.  I stopped writing about finding love.  Because it happened.  And at first I was disappointed with myself.  Had I lost my passion?  Had I settled for something less than I imagined?   Had I gotten too comfortable in my own skin too quickly?

But in truth, I am the well fed man no longer hungering after food.  It was easy to daydream about candy and pizza while I was ravenously empty.  It was easy to write a book about all the meals I didn’t have.  But upon being satiated and satisfied– the target moved.  I had inadvertently stumbled up the staircase of Maslow’s hierarchy.

And when I dusted myself off I was working on my credit score.  And repainting the guest room.  And trying to figure out how to cut branches from the tangerine tree without it dripping acid sap on me again.   So bundled up in gloves and linens like some wilderness man on a stepladder with pruning sheers in hand… I took a look around, and realized this is who I am now.

And I’m happy.

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Childrens Books

I grew up in a very literate household, with teachers on both sides of my extended family.  My grandmother was a teacher, my aunties were all teachers, and my mother was a teacher. The vast majority of my adult cousins grew up to become teachers or school administrators.  So for Christmas and birthdays we didn’t get toys– we got books.  And all that literature made us speak good.  And read good.  And right good.

I didn’t realize it then, but as an adult looking back at some of the things I read as a kid… some stories are fucked up.

The Rainbow Fish
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What it’s about:
Here’s a story about a fish that is born inherently shiny and beautiful.  All the other fish don’t like him because his beauty makes them feel uncomfortable and self-conscious of their own inherent value.   So the shiny fish has no friends.  But he figures out by giving away one of his scales to every other fish, eventually they all become his friends.  By the end of the story everyone is the same because they all have one shiny scale, taken from the Rainbow Fish.

Why it’s wrong:
This is a book that is supposed to be about friendship and sharing.  And from a cursory six-year-old read through– sure it is.  But when you think about it, those other fish with whom he’s sharing his scales– they’re assholes.  They don’t like the shiny fish until he gives them something.   And it’s not like he’s not giving them a snack, or a soda, or one of his Pokemon or some monetary appeasement to make them happy; he is giving them an essential part of himself.  He IS the Rainbow Fish, and they resent him for it and take it away from him piece by piece.  But it’s just as much the Rainbow Fish’s fault; rather than face and overcome adversity, he lowers himself to their level of mediocrity.  The message is, “Don’t shine to bright, or others will resent you”  or conversely “If you are dull and ordinary, you can gang up on unique and brilliant individuals with superior numbers to pull them down to your level

I want my kids growing up embracing their awesomeness.  Childhood is rough, and nobody escapes unscathed but I want my kids to be able to handle criticism without buckling and conforming to the status quo like the Rainbow Fish.

Five Chinese Brothers
Fivechinesebrothers

What it’s about:
As the title would suggest, it’s a book about five Chinese brothers.  They all have seemingly random super powers, like a dialed down Mr. Fantastic if he was only able to stretch his legs, or one brother is fireproof Khalisi-style, and one brother can’t be decapitated (which raises the question, how did he figure out he had this power?)  Anyhow, one of the brothers inadvertently murders a kid and is sentenced to death.  The rest of his brothers take turns standing in for him during his execution using their unique powers to avoid death.

Why it is awesome:
Okay first off, you might be going “wait wait, one of the brothers murders a kid?  Explain yourself.  Well one of the brothers can hold the ocean in his mouth, and he does so with his kid-friend so the kid-friend can pick up seashells and treasure off the ocean floor.  The kid is given specific instructions to come back to shore when the brother he waves his arms or else he might spit out the whole ocean and drown the kid.   So of course the kid is a little shit and doesn’t listen to the brother, and ends up getting stuck at the bottom of the sea and killed.

swallowthesea

That’s the first great lesson in this children’s book: “Follow directions or you – might – die!”

Okay the second great lesson: Family.  The family of brothers band together, each one offering up their own lives as forfeit to the executioner in order to save the one brother.  Granted each one has a special ability that helps them avoid death, but they’re still all at risk.  The executioner could easily say “Y’know what, instead of trying to burn you, because I’ve heard rumors one of your identical brothers is immune to fire… I’m just gonna shoot you in the face”  But the family works together to help the brother get away with the murder of a small child.

Yay…  I think.

Butter Battle Book
Butterbattlebook

What it’s about:
Two feuding nations feud over whether it’s better to butter toast on the top on the bottom.  A small act of aggression by one side results is an arms race leading to near nuclear annihilation.

Why it is awesome:
Oh let me count the ways.  One. they’re feuding over toast.   It’s a super laughable premise but it’s extremely applicable to real life.  Swap toast for religion, politics, nationalism… and you pretty much have most of the world’s problems explained.  Two. the illustrations are awesome.  One guy starts off with a stick with some pokey things at the end of it.  In the ensuing arms race they get bigger and bigger weapons.  I’m talking one guy with eight cannons sitting on two elephants:

butterbattle
(pew pew pew pew!)

Finally, the ending is great.  The two characters are standing on the border of their countries with little red bombs that will ensure their mutual annihilation.  Each one is poised to destroy the other, waiting for the slightest provocation to use their weapon of mass destruction.  And then the book ends!  Just like that.  No happy warm and fuzzy ending.  No peaceful resolve with everybody coming together singing Christmas carols even though the fuzzy green guy jacked all their stuff.  Just anxious anticipation of the inevitable.  “Who’s going to drop it?  We’ll see

And that’s a great message for kids.  Nuclear destruction is just a button push away.  Sleep tight!

We Don’t Ask Where Darren Is

We don’t ask where Darren is.  

He was the bravest and strongest of us as kids.  When we played ninja turtles swinging from the playgrounds he was always Leonardo, the fearless leader.  Each day he’d arrive like a snap of lightning, smiling and ready to play with great discoveries to share, our Moses from the mountain.  From magic cards played on sleeping bag forts at drive-in movies, to hair gel and combs that look like switchblades, which were perhaps the coolest thing an eight year old kid could own.  He let the charge for our roller blade formation zipping through the old neighborhood, and was always there to lift us from our scraped knees and bruised chins.  He was the first to stick his marshmallow in the campfire, but always made sure the sticky fingered little ones had gotten their fill.   

We don’t ask where Darren is.

Ever since his wedding day we watched him parade down the aisle with his white clad bride waiting at the end, never knowing that this was perhaps the last we’d see of him.  Because in the stories we heard as children, it’s dragons and foul beasts that steal fair maidens– not maidens stealing knights with silk scarves and swollen abdomens.  Especially not the bravest and strongest amongst us men, disappearing from the table at birthdays, and anniversaries without so much as a fight.   

We don’t ask where Darren is.  Because we know… his bride stole him away.  

Rainy Day Car Ride

I have a playlist called the “Rainy Day Car Ride”.  It’s a compilation of all the emo music and dramatic stuff I listened to in high school, plus a whole myriad of other songs and artists I’ve picked up along the way.  It encapsulates that theme: what to listen to on a rainy day car ride… when the world is pouring misery and gray, and yet life continues in a constant forward trajectory through it all.   Basically everything downbeat, muted and depressing.  I used to listen to it a lot last year.  Practically every day on my drive everywhere…  But bit by bit, it stopped being so important.  It stopped being the soundtrack to my life.

Tonight is my birthday.  Every day is the oldest I’ve ever been, but birthdays in particular give me a day of reflection.  I haven’t played my “Rainy Day Car Ride” playlist for so long, it seemed appropriate that I listen to it on my drive home.  To remind  me what it’s like to feel sad.

Because I haven’t been… in a really long time.

Fear of the Future

I used to be terrified of dying alone.    But now, I have fears of extinguishing hope.

I’m afraid of tracking dirt across your life.  Because I’ve been places and done things and had the indecency to write a lot of it down.  And for the longest time I was proud of this growing ledger of clever anecdotes and stories and jokes to tell my friends over drinks… but upon meeting you, I wish I had an eraser rather than a history.  I wish I had a blank page empire, rather this long and harrowing tapestry.  But if every black eye and bad choice was what it took to end up with someone as great as you, then I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m afraid of your parents, and the heavy silhouette they’ve imagined for your Happily Ever After.  From your first baby steps, to your satin graduation caps they’ve been imagining a man deserving of every moment of your glowing laughter.  And when they meet me I’m scared I’ll never measure’ to everything they’ve had in mind.  But I’m determined to show them just who I am, and exactly what my intentions are for you.  Which is to make you happy as frequently and as deeply as I can for as long as I can.  And to buy you cats.  And hello kitty things.  And possibly one day in the future, a genetically engineered hello kitty cat.

 

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The Mother Loom

Every time I try to write about you, it tumble-crumples down and out as one big cliche’.   These heavy hackneyed words that someone else has mouthed and slurred– and I hate it.  Because to me this is the most uncommon-and-uncouth uncut-diamond-in-the-rough Prometheus discovers fire for only the third time in his life.  And I hate the way everything I say feels like something someone else already said…

But then,
I think:

Maybe this is my inclusion into the great union of poets, all those pining’ rhyming fools striving to twist the written word to confess their undying love.   Each leaping from the shoulders of their predecessors, screaming “what I feel in my breast is original and unique!” but all unknowingly-sewing from the same machine, spouting one single woven fabric from the Mother Loom that ultimately all these iterations spill forth… some indelible swelling well-spring beneath humanity that is coursing and bubbling and brimming to the top with those same fathomless words whispered by so many, reverberating and echoing against the halls of mankind until they resonate in one voice, in one singular symphony, the words– I love you.

Because I do.

Neither first, nor last but somewhere smack dab in the great sea of humanity, are these blinking twinkling moments– of Me and You.

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Shelf Life

So many of my stories begin with a ticking clock.  A temporary fling, swiftly burning to the ground, and I try to see how long I can keep the coursing kerosene running in our pumping veins.

But with you, with you there is no shelf-life.  There is no clumsy, fumbling for the ripcord to escape-eject.  And this slow and steady upward traject’ory has me scared.  Because I never want to see you in hindsight.  I never want to write the epitaph to this story.  You don’t get some clever nickname and a few strung together paragraphs of how I made it all blow to hell.  No, I want you until I’m old and gray and they drop me into a deep hole and shovel the earth in after me.  Because now that I’ve found you I don’t plan on spending another day on this Earth without you.

And the tools of my trade, the adventures and the games…  One by one they fell down into the dirt along the wayside of where I was.  Discarded willingly, like baby teeth falling from my mouth with something more permanent sprouting up just below the gum line.  And I haven’t felt this way in a long time.  And you’re more frightening than any blazing flame to light my face… because with you… I never want to put you out.  With a hasty breath or a clumsy miss step.  And I am not proud of where I’ve been but if it took all that wander’ing to bring me here then the journey was worth it.  All I can hope now is that I deserve this.

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