Archive for August, 2020

Story Thief

Every storyteller is a complete, unabashed thief. They nab a character description here, a quip there, a lunatic aunt over there.

I steal all the time. I’ve nabbed lines, pets, locations. I don’t care. If they are better than something I’ve got, I grab it and implant the hell out of it. Why not? It’s all in the pursuit of a better story.

It’s been happening since I was a kid. I come from a family of storytellers and I have always considered myself lucky. In my family, we spent hours around the table telling stories and interrupting each other harshly. It was an education.

My mother has spent a lifetime putting herself into stories. She talks to random people in the mall or while finding the right sized shirt for an old man in a JC Penny. On one of our mall jaunts I found her in front of a dressing room.

“Hey, what—”

And that’s when a woman came out of the dressing room. “So, what do you think?”

“I like the pink one more,” said my mother.  

“Knew it, Mrs. G,” she said. “Thank you.” The girl twirled.  

“Good luck and have fun at the prom.”

“Thanks, Mrs. G.”

“Who is that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Let’s go to TJ Maxx. I hate those shoes.”

It’s a minor point to say that her stories are usually devoid of plot. They will always be descriptions of either completely enhancing or ruining a total stranger’s day.

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The Day of Not Doing Shit

From left to right: Phil, Larry, Alex, Nora, Tom and Susan. Not pictured: Scooter

It’s one of those days where everything fascinates me but the manuscript on Microsoft Word. I play with the cat, water my plants, talk to my plants, and then name my plants. Phil, Larry, Alex, Nora, Tom, and Susan. I then text a friend to tell him how I cleverly named my plants in the acronym PLANTS. He does not find this as astounding as I do. I carry the cat around and try to get her into a forced impromptu fight with a spider who’s been edging his way closer to my bed.

The cat doesn’t take the bait and the spider runs away from us into my bedroom. They both kind of seem embarrassed for me. I am failing at not doing things.

I’m procrastinating today. Big time.

And while it’s something we all do, especially if we work from home, I take it hard. The thing is, I fling a lot of ‘don’t procrastinate’ rhetoric at students, so when I fall victim to the calliope of fucking off, I feel like a fraud. My particular rhetoric: get things done early and it’s like a vacation from work for the rest of the day.

Now, I truly believe and usually put this advice into practice. I get up early, have a nice routine of reading, stretching, journaling, and sitting quietly. I make coffee, tidy up, water my plant guys and girls, and then I get to work.

But sometimes, things go horribly wrong. I have diagnosed the mistakes which lead to the procrastination. Among them are drinking the day before and starting late, reading too much and finding it hard to motivate myself under the watchful gaze of the crushing talent of Louis de Bernières, Sarah Vowell, or James Clavell. But the most common mistake is allowing myself to check the internet before I start writing.

The internet is a temptress. Come on, sailor, don’t you want to confirm your political bias with a traipse through CNN? Don’t you want to see what makes Trump the world’s biggest cunt today? (Because there’s a brand new reason literally every day). Don’t you need to go look at the rating scores and commentary for Modern Family and Breaking Bad and do a crossover comparison that will be sure to take up hours?  

Yep.

It’s infuriating.  

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Cheat Day and Jogging Pants

Chugger: jogging pants

In June I was forced to once again don pants. This was both a personal choice and one thrust upon me by the sneer of judgment. Lee met me for a beer one day in late June and said, “dude, are you still in pjs? Corona’s over.” As it turns out he was both right and wrong.

In the beginning of the Corona we were all in it together and nobody judged anybody. Our weekly trips to the store found neighbors in robes, muumuus, and hazmat suits and nobody blinked (the only part we could see). I went everywhere in what we will liberally describe as “jogging pants” and slip-on shoes. Nobody judged. Recently, however, I tired of being looked at on the metro like a guy wearing a thong to a museum of art.

At first, I looked right back at them thinking Who are you to judge, what with your fanny packs and socks under sandals? Still, I finally decided to come back to the world of the be-pantalooned.

I imagined that re-panting might bring about a transformation. Like suddenly I might feel more clearheaded and ready to take on the world with vigor, ready to be a productive member of society again. I imagined myself in a perpetual state of just showered state, wherein my hair and skin was clear and warm and soft but not pruned.

This – and I can’t stress this enough – did not happen.  

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What’s up, Doc?

Before going to my doctor, I reminisce fondly about the time before. I went to him about 16 months ago for a lump on my back that was bugging me out. Of course I don’t reminisce about the examination, I reminisce about the good news, the clean bill of health, the note to watch my salt intake in an offhand casual way that translated as “I had to find something to say. You’re fine!”

To paraphrase Bart Simpson’s views on church, leaving a reasonably successful doctor’s appointment is the best feeling in the world, because it’s the longest period of time before more doctor’s office.  

Preach, Bart.

I casually mentioned my success at the doctor’s for a while. I’ve just been to the doctor and he says I’m fit as a fiddle. As with many time-sensitive references, I am eventually betrayed by grammar. If I’m being honest, I’ve just been … becomes I was just at my doctor’s and eventually falls into I was just there a couple of months ago… and then, for grammatical accuracy, the just has to be removed. I was at my doctor’s a few months and he said….

What will happen is that my memory of his words become slightly distorted. “Your bloodwork is all good” becomes “Your bloodwork is perfect” and then “Your blood could be used to fuel an F-16 Falcon and lubricate Walk Disney back from the dead.”

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Walk in the Woods to a Brewery

It’s mid-summer and we have grown weary of many things. The COVID news is perpetually bad. The numbers in Prague and the Czech Republic are growing daily. And somehow, as if we live in one of Stephen King’s dystopian novels, not only are we forced to hear Donald Trump’s voice every day, what he says has bearing on the world’s events. What hell is this?

Anyway, we decide to escape it for the day by walking through nature. I love nature. I mean, sure, I don’t really like wasps or hills or the sun or cows who have a bit too much attitude for future steak or rocks or not being able to have pizza at a moment’s notice, but nature’s great. What makes it better is that we are enjoying nature in the Czech Republic, which means that all along the places where people enjoy nature there are pubs filled with pickled cheese and tank beer. And best of all, we’re not only hiking through nature, we’re hiking through nature to a brewery.

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