I am just reaching the apex of the hill I must scale to get home. I have just finished my run on a chilly morning so my body is steaming like a plate of dim sum. But it’s post-run, Friday, and there’s nothing in my immediate future but reading, writing, and coffee. My level of joy on a ten point scale would be 10 if I could eat carbs today, but even so still resides at a lofty 8.9.
And then I see Mr. Misery. No, that is not his real name.
Mr. Misery, the manager of my apartment building, exudes all the pleasantness and warmth of a prolapsed hemorrhoid. He is sour, negative, and his features are pinched into a permanent state of complaint. The only time I have seen him smile was when I slipped on ice and fell on my ass in front of him. Mr. Misery and I avoid each other, sharing words only when the direst building situation arises. And every time he speaks to me his voiced is laced with arsenic.
It’s amazing how many opportunities there are to look like an idiot in public. Now, if you’re an idiot everywhere – in private, in your bathroom, at work – then there’s a solid chance you’re going to look really stupid in public at some point. Also, if you regularly urinate in your pants on the tram or pick half-eaten hotdogs out of the trash, this list isn’t for you. This list is for you normal(ish) folks who occasionally look like schmucks for some random anomaly.
Trying to go in through the out door or vice-versa is a minor blow to anyone’s ego. This is probably because such an elementary task should be executed with little to no problem.
We all know the feeling, too. Walking up to this door, not even thinking, your brain on autopilot, pushing the door, pushing it again, and then doing the ‘where is the door I need’ look around the room. Then the sheepish exit.
It doesn’t matter how well dressed or how attractive, as you leave the room people strip 30 points off of your possible IQ.
I turned forty years old on Saturday and immediately found the closest bottle of alcohol to sip at and ponder the unfairness that had brought me to this affair. At first the only thing I could mutter into my drink was “Well, that happened fast.” And it really did. It seems a week ago I was celebrating my 21st and now I’m saying things like “How can you drink tequila on a Tuesday?”
There are lots of disadvantages to turning forty. I get heartburn by looking at pizza. Standing up and sitting down requires a good groan. My body randomly decides to shut down parts, such as ankles and knees. My doctor performs tests on me that I have only seen in internet videos.
Plus. I’m forty.
Maybe it was the variety of liquids I was ingesting, but I finally decided to look at the positive side. There are some major benefits of turning forty.
October is for Halloween, right? It’s a holiday which fits right into October, the spooky time of year. The leaves change, the cold weather comes, it gets dark, and Kansas City is still playing baseball. October is when things get spooky.
It’s gotten spooky in October for a long time, which is why Halloween comes then in the first place. Halloween’s 2,000 year old grandfather is Samhain, a pre-Celtic festival which marked the end of summer. End of the summer meant beginning of the winter, a scary time for anyone who doesn’t live in a block of flats or have a refrigerator and central heating. Long story short, Halloween now rules October.
But Halloween isn’t October’s only holiday.
Researching on the Internet today (taking buzzfeed quizzes) I come across a few other October holidays. There are some predictable ones, such as Black Cat Day, Wicked Witch Day, Jack-O’Lantern Day and Trick-or-Treat Day, which for some reason is on October 25th. There are also holidays dedicated to traditional monsters, such as Frankenstein’s Monster Day, Frankenstein Friday, and Dracula Bite Day.
But there are a few October holidays that aren’t so predictable.
If you are interested or involved in linguistics then you know that new words are added to the dictionary each year. The last couple years have seen the birth of words such as selfie, adorkable, hangry, and defriend, to name just a few.
One of the reasons new words keep being created is that existing words aren’t adequately defining somethings specifically. For example if you say that you’re angry it’s not clear that you are angry because you’re hungry (unless you’re me). We satisfy this by saying we are hangry. I am hangry right now. In fact, usually when I’m angry, I am hangry. Now you might think I’m downright adorkable.
In any event, I offer these five words which bring some much-needed specification to my wild world. I ask you to add to this list, dear reader (Mom and Grandmom).
Crapobatics (n. un. crap-o-bat-ix): The arm waving and upper body acrobatics one does when the automatic light has gone off while they are sitting on the toilet.
In our university, some sadist has set the automatic light to about 2.3 seconds. So I do crapobatics a lot. Especially in the morning.
Collin: Are you free tomorrow evening?
I pause. Are you free? Can mean lots of things. Of course, it can mean “Do you want to get a drink” or “Let me buy you dinner for being awesome.” However, it can also mean “Can you help me remove a wasp nest?” or “I need help dumping a very heavy sack in the river. No questions asked.”
Also, it’s 9 p.m. on a Tuesday, and almost no good messages come at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Could you give me a hand with something?
I need to put something together.
Put something together? I look around me. I’m lounging on the couch, utilizing all three pillows. A cat is sleeping on my back, I have a warm glass of milk, and I am wearing a floral-printed Yukata. I don’t exactly feel like a “put something together” kind of guy. But then I remember that Collin has spent his summer feeding and cleaning up the poop of my cat, the B Monster. I relent.
Sure, I’ll see you at 6.
A morning run can be beautiful and it can be awful. And usually, I know which after just a few steps. There are times I chug down the river, feeling strong, healthy, and solid. Sometimes it’s so good that I feel like an actual athlete, with real muscles and all. Men nod at me, women notice me, and when they do I flash a little calf.
It’s during these wonderful runs that mind and body meld together. My mind goes to a story I’m editing or one I’m writing, and I slip into this place with ease. My body goes on autopilot and my brain reworks or brainstorms. We work as a perfect unit and I become a meditative running Yogi. It is beautiful.
But sometimes, sometimes, running is an agonizing experience. After just a couple of steps I can tell that not only are my mind and body not working together, but that my entire body is not one whole body. My limbs, lungs, and core break into separate rebel insurgency factions and fight against each other. My legs seemingly forget how to work and I stumble and stagger. This stumbling gait is enhanced by a shaky panting that should alert bystanders to call the emergency medical authorities. This is all topped off with my arms swinging like confused possums.
It’s during these awful runs that I need a hobby. This hobby only has to remain a hobby for about thirty minutes. Its main goal is to distract my head and body, tricking them to work together while keeping me from a fall into traffic or the river.
Sometimes I’ll bird watch, count slugs and snails, or squash leaves. Other times I’ll count cyclists, people wearing spandex, or just practice my obnoxious operatic baritone. And sometimes I just work with what Prague gives me. The Vltava River is a central active point in Prague, there are several stories hidden in its discarded items, garbage, and bodily fluids. I try to notice them and put together the story; I sometimes feel like a thirty minute detective.
If that detective is insane.
There’s not much to do in departmental meetings. There are charts and discussions and the furrowing of brows and rolled up sleeves. But there’s just not much to do. Most meetings, I have found, usually take place because we haven’t had a meeting in a while and we either want to talk about what we have done, what we haven’t been doing, or what we’re planning to do.
Oh, and in September, the university holds meetings the way Elmer Fudd holds wabbit hunts.
One positive is that there are usually treats and refreshments at these meetings. So if there’s a meeting, we usually stave off our hunger all morning and gorge on cookies, cakes, sausages, or chlebíčky.*
The quality of refreshments and treats is upgraded when we are celebrating a special occasion. Today we are celebrating three name days.** So there are cakes and chlebíčky as far as the starving mid-level academic can see.
And I am in hell.
A few weeks ago I took part in the 3 Day Novel Contest. The gist was that I had to write a novel (around 100 double-spaced pages) in three days. All entrants started at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, August 30th, and had to finish by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 1st.
If this sounds like a ridiculous goal to you, then it probably suggests that you understand setting timed goals with reasonable attainability. It sounded ridiculous to me as well, and when I registered, I reveled in this ridiculousness. I planned and outlined. But as August 30th approached I realized that the time for reveling was coming to an end and the time to sit down and do the work was fast approaching.
The strategy. I set a goal for thirty single-spaced pages per day. So this broke down to three three-hour writing sessions per day, each one resulting in ten single-spaced typed pages. So, three days work would yield about 90 single-spaced typed pages and therefore about 130 double-spaced pages. In other words, my goal: a novel.
And then the contest started.
My moment of clarity comes as I use the word lotion as a verb in two different conversations about my morning routine. It just came out, as though it were a natural thing to say. I lotion right after my shower. I even mention the brand. Oh, Dove Deep Care Body Milk is the best. I don’t add what I’m thinking, something out of a commercial: It’s like a vacation for my nipples.
There’s no going back. I admit that I am not the same man who once used toothpaste as underarm deodorant.
I am a middle-aged metrosexual.
OK, there’s a difference between a metrosexual and a middle-aged metrosexual. At least there is in my head, where I work nonstop to rationalize things.
There are many adjectives and phrases we might use to define a metrosexual. So in the interests of concision, here’s Google’s definition:
A heterosexual urban man who enjoys shopping, fashion, and similar interests traditionally associated with women or homosexual men.