Icebreakers

Y’know, I didn’t plan the title to be quite this appropriate, but after a quiet hiatus of two-ish months, it’s actually kind of fitting. I think of good icebreakers as fun little questions, or questions you ask “because why not?” And really good ones both break the ice and tell you something about the person you’re asking them of while they commence with said breaking of ice. Not totally sure why, but I’ve caught myself asking these kinds of things of my coworkers a lot more often lately – not because dialogue with them is awkward or anything, quite the opposite; I think it’s just because they’re sort of fun.

And why make it more complicated than that?

So without further adieu, Icebreaker #1: “If you were going to become an animal, what animal would you become and why?”

My favorite part to that one is actually all of the qualifying questions that usually follow it. “Like, at will, or forever moving forward?” “Right now, or is going to happen in a week or something?” “Will I keep my human intelligence, or just- poof! You’re a jaguar now?” And to answer those, the house rules we’ve been running with have essentially been “No, it isn’t an at-will kind of thing. It’s a permanent change. No, you don’t get a week to prep for it, it just happens here as soon as you answer – go with your gut. Yes, you keep your human intelligence.”

Obviously my second-favorite part are the answers themselves and their justification. That jaguar one was a real answer, and the given reason was that he wanted to be a house cat, but if he gets to keep his human intelligence, then a jaguar is like that but a bit more badass. Plus, if you’re going to answer the question and introduce a scenario wherein you’re now suddenly a giant cat, there are some follow-up questions that beg answers: How do you tell your family? Do you tell your family? Where do you set up your new home if so, or if not? If you’re a predator now, then what/where/how do you hunt?

The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Personally, I chose becoming a hedgehog; but truthfully, that was just a gut-reaction and I don’t think it was really a smart choice. I’d become super cute, sure, but I think, like, anything that lives outdoors can and would happily eat me. Or at least brutalize me.

Lookin’ at you, stray cats.

The other classic is “If you could have a super power, which one would you have and why?”

This one everybody has heard and/or given an answer to. Mine is pretty easy: telekinesis. It’s subtle enough that most times nobody ever has to know you can do it, but it can also get powerful enough that you’re a goddamn Jedi, plus there’s plenty of room for creativity with it. But you also run the gambit of Usual Suspects:

Invisibility – Ugh, says everyone. Though, credit where it’s due, one of my friends did say that she’d use it defensively instead of to be a creep. She’d just go invisible when she didn’t want people to talk to her, and I can respect that.

Flight – Sure, but how, wings or thought? And how fast? Either way, you’re going to need goggles or something, plus it’s going to get cold. That and a slew of other problems come along with choosing to fly. ALSO, it’s one of those powers where if you suddenly stop using it while you’re using it – you die.

Teleportation – See this one’s also problematic. Is it short-distance, Nightcrawler style? Or is it like in Jumper where you can just pop across the planet? And do you think you can focus enough and picture your destination clearly enough, honestly, to be able to not end up glitching into a wall somewhere?

This last one is a little niche, but I still think it can be pretty telling of the person who answers it: “What’s your favorite D&D class, and why?”

Naturally, this will be a little limited to tabletop gamers being the only ones who can give you informed answers, but we are a growing breed, and it can be a chance to introduce newbies. Also, it can be a good way to be surprised. One friend who I was sure would swing either for ‘stalwart paladin’ or ‘playful rogue’ hit me out of left field with “I think being a druid is cool. Taming beasts and kicking ass as a bear, or something. Rad.”

Rad indeed, Robert. Rad indeed.

Personally, my favorite class is and always will be the Ranger, even if they get a little screwed over by Wizards of the Coast in the stats department. But even if their class features receive lesser support than others, it isn’t really what they can do that makes Rangers the best, it’s…well, what they are. They are so freakin’ versatile – ranged support, melee damage dealers, exploration/expedition heads, utility spellcasting, animal companions if you lean that way, etc. I get that this statement is true for plenty of classes, but I feel it in my heart the most for the Ranger: you can build it so many different ways. System-wise, Pathfinder may have done it the best, with the inclusion of “Urban” environments as a possible Favored Terrain. One of my favorite Ranger builds was making an urban explorer that was a treasure hunter, with Constructs as his favored enemy.

Taking silver is sort of a two-way tie between Bards and Monks, but that’s a separate discussion.

Anyway, so, yeah.

That Time I Upset a Karate Master

(I came across this gem while digging around through some folders on my laptop. It’s a story back from 2019, and I think one of the first ones I shared on here. That said, it’s been a bit since it’s been aired out, and I don’t want it to ever be said that I pass up an opportunity to humble myself with an embarrassing tale. Like the Half Man from clan Lannister once said, “Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
So, before further adieu, a story about me f***ing up in front of a whole bunch of people…)

If I may, let me set the scene:

We’re in a martial arts studio currently packed full of kids in their gis, parents line the room, an old guy with a white ponytail stands in front of them all, and there’s a giant tiger painted on one wall with its claws sinking into a big ol’ Ying-Yang. The front door is open so you can hear the cars passing and see the Chinese food place across the street. I’m a cheerful, curly-headed eight-year-old in the judo class that’s wrapping up. I’d just earned my orange belt probably the week before, so I’m smiling big and feeling powerful.

Class wraps up, we bow to one another, and clear the mat so the karate students could have their time. I grab my dufflebag and head off to the bathroom to change, knowing some sweet, sweet orange chicken and fried rice will soon be mine.

Let’s pause real quick to address two personality traits that will soon unfortunately take center stage. They don’t sound that bad, but by their powers combined led to the most embarrassing moment of my life (and I’ve farted in front of a middle school crush in gym class).

One, I’m generally a pretty jolly, easily excitable guy. It was true as a kid and has largely remained that way into adulthood.

Two, it’s really, really, really easy to mess with me. Like, I’ve had to grow a thick shell of skepticism to protect my soft, gullible underbelly, but that doesn’t always work (and has actually been used to enormously great effect, but more on that later – lookin’ at you, Pierre). Nonetheless, I’ve seen more than my fair share of gas-lighting and stupidly easy pranks.

Right, we all set? Good.

So class wraps up, I grab my duffle bag, and hit the bathroom to change. To this day, I have no idea how to explain what took over, but I started singing. I don’t remember what it was or why I felt the need to do it, but I apparently felt a song in my heart and needed the porcelain throne to know it (maybe it was the acoustics). I don’t even remember what song it was, but I’d wager good money it was Celine Deon’s “My Heart will Go On” or something. So picture that.

Anyway, about a minute into my solo, there’s a knock at the door. First hunch that comes to mind is that it’s my friend being impatient for the bathroom, so I pause, tell him to give me a minute, and get right back to belting out my tunes. I only get a couple more words in before there’s another knock. It never crosses my mind that maybe he has to poop or something, so I tell him again, a little less patiently, that I’ll be out in a second and try once again to resume my singing. Immediately, the knocking continues.

Now, I realize what you’re probably thinking, oh Rational One: “Hey, Evan, it’s probably a kid who needs to poop. Give up the john.” And to you I say, “Yeah, that would have been great advice at the time. I really wish I’d had you there” (not IN the bathroom, God, but you get what I’m saying).

What did I do instead? Well, you remember that orange belt I was so proud of? I coiled it up and whapped it against the door like it was a disagreeable stepchild and I was a parent in the 1930’s.

…yup.

I was proud. I’d stood up for myself, didn’t fall for my bully’s antics, and stopped the knocking. I looked at myself in the restroom mirror and put my hands on my hips proudly.

The silence was interrupted by three more knocks, this time quiet and timid ones.

I threw on my pants (yup, hadn’t gotten those on yet) and opened the door. To my shock, I wasn’t met by my friend Troy, but Sensei Ponytail. I don’t remember what he said, I was just too busy looking at the ROOM FULL OF STUDENTS AND PARENTS PRETENDING NOT TO LOOK AT ME.
Like, shit. I wish they’d just laughed outright. Trying to spare my dignity in that moment as I realized what I’d been doing was like emotional keelhauling – which Adult Me now congratulates Ponytail for doing. I can honestly say it was a fuck-ton (metric, of course) of character-building in a pretty small window of time. But my mind was suddenly arrested by imaging that first minute before the knocking, the minute where they’re all just sitting there, listening to me, smiling and thinking “No. What? He’s- he’s still- he’s still singing? Like, he knows that door is thin as hell, right?”

He brought me in front of the karate instructor as the students went to their drills and I apologized to him. To this day, I’ve been as sincere as I was in that moment probably just a handful of times. He played the Tough Guy move and told me to give him push-ups until he got tired.

I did…like, three.

Remember the “orange chicken and fried rice that would soon be mine”? Mmhm, well, I focused on that a lot more than push-ups as a kid, so when he called for push-ups, he got, like, three. A heartfelt and earnest three, but also shaky as hell and absolutely no more than that. All the while, the parents’ hot gazes bored into the back of my head like angry little gophers.

I’d love it if this was my superhero origin story and I could tell you that today I’m a total Marine-bodied stud who doesn’t take his morning shit without pumping out fifty push-ups, but I’m super not. Instead I’ve chosen just to never sing loudly in bathrooms like a dick again. (If you sing in bathrooms, by God more power to you. Just don’t be a dick about it.)

Anyway, on that note, catch y’all later.

The Laundry Disaster of ’05

I’ve alluded before recently that I can take instructions a little too literally at times, and that that’s had a history of getting me into funny spots. As I’ve thought on it, I’ve come to realize that’s actually been a bit of a longtime habit and not something I’ve just started doing in recent years.

One occasion that is a favorite of my mother’s to bring up was a time I ruined an expensive household appliance as a kid.

The year is 2005 – got up to a lotta sh*t when I was twelve – and I’m upstairs in my room. I’m probably playing PlayStation when my mom calls up the stairs, “Hey Evan, make sure you do your laundry.” I probably make some complaining, groaning sound, to which she out-groans me and shouts, “Just take all of your clothes and do a load, okay?”

Well’p. You heard the woman.

So I do. I take all of my clothes, jaunt down the stairs, start the load with an indeterminate amount of detergent, and bound back upstairs to get back to my game. About thirty minutes later, I hear my sweet mother’s voice again screech, “God DAMMIT, Evan!”

Hmm, can’t be too good news what follows, me’thinks.

I peer around the corner of the top step to see the door to the garage open, light spilling from the doorway, and a ton of smoke. Thin, white smoke, so not a huge fire or anything, but still: a lot of smoke. I run down the stairs, look in the garage, and see the dead, fried up remains of what used to be the washing machine, choked to death by an <ahem> unknown assailant. She asked me what I did, and I told her: I took all of my clothes and did a load of laundry.

All of my clothes, a load of laundry.

What she didn’t care too much for was the way I’d taken all of my clothes – dirty ones, clean ones I thought I’d “freshen up,” snow pants I’d worn once a year ago and no longer fit, a sweater I’d worn last Thanksgiving that had gum on the sleeve for some reason, a dress shirt or two that was hanging in the abyss of my closet, everything – and stuffed it all super-pack style mercilessly into the yawning pit of the twenty-year-old appliance.

That poor machine died a thankless, inglorious death.

I’m not saying that I stand by the actions of my twelve-year-old self, but it does make me think I might be part genie for the way I can happen to find any possible Monkey’s Paw approach to requests.

Take THAT, Ancestry.com!

My Peak as an Athlete

I’m going to put up here at the top that this may be one of those better-in-person stories to recount, but ah well, let’s give it a go.

I’ve mentioned recently that I got up to a lot of stuff when I was twelve. Don’t know why, but I guess that tiny age in particular was one for trying new things and getting into the unexpected. One of those things happened to be joining my tiny Lutheran middle school’s basketball team, despite having next to absolute zero interest in doing so. But heck, it gave me a shot at some street cred, so I went for it. Said street cred, much like my level of interest, amounted to zilch, but I got a good story or two out of it.

A thing to note: our basketball team sucked. Not that we didn’t try, not that we didn’t win a game or two, but we sincerely weren’t very good. To put it another way, Disney wasn’t about to use us for any inspirational children’s sport movies. We were so not-good, that when we won, I usually felt that it wasn’t exactly because of skill on our part, but that the opposing team was either having an off day or somehow shockingly worse than us.

But even a broken clock gets it right twice a day.

We were having a scrimmage match against another school and we were doing surprisingly well up to that point. My moment of glory came after they managed a basket on us, I had the ball out of bounds and was passing into our point guard, a fast wiry kid named James, when he suddenly passes it back to me. I was shocked, because I never run the ball up the court. As the tallest (and fattest- ahem “big boned”) kid on the team, and in fact the entire tiny school, I played center. That meant I was responsible for defense, rebounds, and not much else; definitely nothing that involved actually handling the ball. So I reacted accordingly.

“What the heck are you doing, dude?” I ask James loudly, flabbergasted.

“You take it up this time,” he replies calmly before continuing up the court. I follow him, dribbling the ball with clear uncertainty.

Dude,” I stress to emphasize my point, “I never do this though.” I don’t know if our coach privately asked him to do this so that I can practice, if it’s a setup for a prank or mean joke, or what, but I’m continuing this dialogue in the whole open air of the court, in front of him, the parents who are watching, the other team, everybody. “I’m no good at dribbling!”

“Don’t worry, you got this,” he says as we approach the half-court line, then separates. The opposing team was running a man-on-man defense, and I can see the kid who’s going to guard me, having listened to my whole bunch of complaining about how much I suck, closing in on me like a shark that’s smelled blood.

“James, man,” I continue to call after him as the kid closes to within a couple paces, “I can’t! I don’t know how to-” I cut myself off, pump-faking a one-handed pass to the right, which draws a lunging reaction from the kid guarding me. My teammates are positioned wide around the three-point line, so the key was wide open. I cut to my left then up the center for an easy layup, then I start back peddling down the court like the whole thing was an easy planned con, rather than a completely, artfully seized accident of opportunity.

But what makes it my peak, what really makes it an unforgettable moment, was the look on my classmate Kylie’s mom’s face in the audience: eyes wide, jaw on the freaking floor. Because all the yammering I was doing beforehand was completely legitimate – I NEVER run the ball, I never handle it, dribble defensively, none of it, and I’d been a pretty terrible player long as anyone had seen me in action. So no matter how surprised I might have been, it didn’t hold a candle to the upturned expectations of those watching.

I guess, looking back now, that it also seared into my mind the value of the “Fake it til you make it” school of doing things.

Who’da thunk it?

Another Tragic Cookie Tale

What’s up, everybody?
Not that long ago, I briefly alluded to having a terrible cookie-related story to share. (I’d argue “terrible” in the sense of the tragedy it represents, rather than the quality of the story, but really that’s up to you to determine, I guess.) And before I begin, I’ll admit a disclaimer up at the top here that I understand perfectly well how, from the outside, it looks like I’m totally full of it and making something up. I’m not. But besides asking for your trust, I don’t have much evidence to offer by way of earning it.

Anyway, let’s have a larf…

It was holiday season, the year is 2012, and there’s a plate of cookies in the break room at work. Chocolate chip, everyone’s favorite. Next to the little white plate is a short stack of papers with the deliciously simple recipe printed out on them. As it turns out, the secret to the recipe is a sprinkle of sea salt on the top. <Mmm’waaa! Chef’s kiss>

Now, at this point, Amanda’s already known for being the genius behind the baked goods that I bring in, so I see this as a wonderful opportunity to show everybody that Evan here’s got some chops with an oven, too. So I swing by the store on my way home, throw on some music, and whip up a batch of cookies. Next morning when I bring them in, everyone is telling me to pass along their thanks to Amanda for the tray of treats. I rebut and tell them that, actually, I made them to share.

That got it’s fair share of laughs.

That attitude spreads itself around the office for the better part of the morning until finally, around midday, I snap and begin countering with, “Okay, f**kers, this time I’ll film it!” So I do. I grab any stray ingredients I might need from the store again that day after work, kick off another kickass montage, set my camera up on its little tripod atop the refrigerator, and get to work.

Y’all, I was in the zone. Every movement is second nature, my measurements are precise, my area is pristine (always clean as you go), and the cookies came out even better than before. I was even throwing in some swag and showmanship, posing for the camera as I went. When I’m done, I set the cookies on a cooling rack, turn the oven off, and retrieve the camera from its perch…

And find that I never hit the record button.

After my heart re-inflated after dropping out of my ass, I packed up the cookies and figured, what the heck, I can always just get Amanda to act as my witness later. Besides, these cookies are bomb.

Naturally, the next day at work, got all the same rounds of, “Oh, tell Amanda thanks!” and “Whoa, two days in a row, huh?” And when I told them everything I’ve just shared with you, of COURSE nobody bought it. And when, weeks or months later, I had the opportunity to have my fiance admit to everyone that the cookies were my doing and not hers, to her credit, she did…

Which nobody believed. And it continues to haunt me to this day.

But f**k it. I know. God knows. You do now too. That’s good enough for me.

I guess just remember: Check the temperature. Check your time. Check your batteries, and I guess check that you hit the damn record button.

High School Age Catharsis

It might be the encroaching presence of my thirtieth birthday looming over the distant horizon a year-and-change hence, but I’ve been finding myself strangely reminiscing over my teen years a bit more lately. And that comes in a few forms. Basking in warm memories, obviously. Laughing at the folly of my youth, even more obviously. But also the growing that was done in those years. Namely, the first time I had an experience that gave me context for the idea of “catharsis.”

I’ve never made any bones about how this, being my own tiny slice of the internet, is basically a glorified little public diary. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad as heck to have you here and any involvement/feedback I get on here is received like a warm batch of cuddles; but it remains just that, a place for me to stream my consciousness a little, workshop some things, limber up some mental muscles at times, and post stories that I’m positive will never see the (Say it with me, now) Light of Day otherwise.

What it boils down to is that writing’s healthy, I find. It helps you expunge some of the plaque that builds up in your machinery, and offers a net to catch pesky wandering thoughts, granting the peace of mind that you have them now, no longer risking them to forgetfulness. It’s cathartic. And the first time I can remember discovering that for myself was when I was seventeen.

Brief back story: I went to religious private schools off and on growing up. Catholic one year, then most of my middle school years attending a little Lutheran school. That meant a lot of religious inundation, and a Judeo-Christian lens for most existential explanations growing up. That meant it felt, while freeing, a bit culture-shocky when I attended public high school and made friends who didn’t think that way. Also meant I was in for a bit of a metamorphosis as I encountered more and more new ideas that challenged the worldview established growing up.

The tipping point, funnily enough, was reading “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore. In summary, it’s about an average Joe that accidentally becomes responsible for ferrying souls, essentially, from one life to the next. It painted something reminiscent of a case for reincarnation, and had a very humanizing and personal (while hilarious) prism to it. But it stoked a bunch of questions I’d felt building the last couple of years.

Maybe…God…wasn’t. Wait, what? Maybe…this – this being life – isn’t structured as neatly as I thought. But if that hasn’t been right, then- but if not, then…what? Wait, what?

With the challenged worldview, I wasn’t given a thoroughly convincing new answer to replace the firm ones I’d known until then, only questions.

I didn’t call it this then, but it was a bit of a spiritual crisis. I felt a little cast adrift all of a sudden. And at seventeen, with proper adulthood and college around the corner, it came at a hell of a time. I had questions. A LOT of questions. Plus thoughts, theories, models trying to draw themselves in my brain, what felt like a forced but unsubstantiated new way to look at the world, and a lot else all competing for rank in my mind.

It. Drove. Me. Nuts.

For any other Avatar: The Last Airbender fans (which you should be, because it’s awesome), looking back on this is what gives me a greater appreciation for Zuko’s arc; specifically when he decides to help Aang rather than hunt him, and that identity/spiritual warring sends him into fever-stricken convulsions.

But while it’s tough, I think it’s an objectively beautiful part of the human experience.

Anyway, I felt insane for the better part of a week, at least. Stopped hanging out with friends, f**ked off my homework, the whole nine. Until one day, during my free fifth period, I went to the library and wrote it all down. I scratched out every thought that plagued me, every unanswerable question, every idea and model until my hand cramped. Then at the end of it, I set my pen down and instantly felt better, like someone had thrown a valve and the mental pressure just evaporated. I’d taken all the chaotic thoughts and questions, captured them, and sealed them in ink on paper.
And just, oh boy, I recommend it as a matter of good practice to anyone who finds or has found themselves feeling in similar straits.

Take care of yourself, you’s guys.

The Snoopy Cookie Disaster of ’99

I meant to put this out before Christmas, but the holiday season being what it is, it – like my practiced habit of delayed shopping trips – comes now at least a couple of weeks after I planned on doing it. And if I’m being honest, even this is too much preamble for the story that follows; but heck, I’m like an enthusiastic gravedigger for leash cemeteries: I love burying the lead.

Tortured similes aside, HI EVERYBODY. Here’s to hoping your respective holiday celebrations were everything you hoped for and more, whether that was caroling, gift giving, traveling to see family, or baking cookies. Speaking of baking cookies – haHA! I told you I’d get to the point eventually! – I’m not very good at it. (Well, actually, I’m not bad, but that’s a story for another time. One story at a time, Evan! Focus!)

This time in particular, I was about six or seven years old, it was Christmas time, and my Mama Bear was having me help her bake a batch of cookies out of a tube. I remember distinctly that they were cookies with Snoopy placing a star atop a little Christmas tree, and while I’m not, I should be really good at baking because even at that age, I’m very good at following instructions. My critics might counter that by saying I can be an overly literal drone, but I prefer to think of myself as an adherent listener. (God, as I write this, there’s another story that comes to mind, too. Okay, more to come, I guess.)

On this particular occasion, we were all huddled on the couch watching a movie while the cookies baked and my mom says to me, “Evan, would you go grab the cookies and take them out of the oven?” I smile cheerfully, pop up, and skip into the kitchen to do what she says like a good little boy.

precisely what she says.

It may not have occurred to you, being a normal person and without all my tortured leadup, that Mom left out the seemingly bloody obvious yet crucial step of donning oven mitts to her instructions. So I dawdle up to the oven, open the door, take out the cookie sheet, and it isn’t even until I’m going to place them on the stove top that my bare hands finally inform my brain that they’re holding a slab of aluminum that’s above 350 degrees Farenheit. My brain receives the message and runs the appropriate protocol: I drop the sheet, scream, and cry.

What followed may have been a memory of my mom asking me what the hell I was thinking and why the heck I didn’t put on oven mitts or at least a dish towel, but my brain must have blocked that part out too.

A developing young mind, and all that.

Anyway, (belated) happy holidays and a merry New Year and stuff.

Highland Falls, NY

One trope I had at one point or another felt was a lazy narrative device was the what I called “unexplained calling.” You know the one. The call to adventure wherein a character’s motivation to go to a place or do a thing doesn’t come from interpersonal conflict or an aspect of their past, but just a feeling they get. They set about their adventure because they feel called upon to do so. You don’t need to substantiate it or justify it. They just feel that way.

A little bit of life experience has told me that that kind of sh*t sometimes totally just happens, though.

Now, I can – like with any example of the above gripe – do a psychological deep-dive on the in’s and out’s of maybe why the motivation manifests the way it does, and with the confession I’m about to make, I will.

When I was a kid, we moved around a lot for the sake of my dad’s health some, but mostly my mom’s job mobility. Born in Oregon, spent some time in California, moved out to Kentucky, up to New York, and back to the west coast. In New York, we were in a tiny little hamlet called Highland Falls. A quick check to Google Maps will show you it’s along the Hudson River, and about forty minutes’ north of New York City. It’s tiny, a drive-through town. We lived there for about two years while I was six and seven years old before we moved out to California where I really did my growing up.

So even though California has become my home state and where I’ve spent most of my life, part of my brain has remained doggedly rooted to Highland Falls, and I’ve been what I can only describe as “viciously nostalgic” for that little village ever since moving away. Now, I’m no psychologist beyond the garden ‘armchair’ variety, but I have a hunch as to why I’m that way. When we moved out here and I turned eight, it began a long series of life events and landmarks, from 9/11, my dad passing away, and a series of new schools as we continued to bounce around, to the tumultuous nature of teenager years with all the first’s that come with them and every struggle that’s followed since in my twenties. If I had to guess – and I do, citing my aforementioned lack of credentials as well as not being an all-knowing genie – my psyche sort of sees that quiet little town as The Good Ol’ Days, and the move out to California as when The Trouble Began (“Trouble” being just what growing up is). So it latches onto my foggy memories of that time with the rose-tintiest of rose-tinted glasses.

Even accepting that as true enough and explaining somewhat rationally where the impulse comes from, it doesn’t really stop me from really wanting to visit the place again. Which, to put that into perspective, would mean taking time off of work, organizing flights, rental cars, hotel stays, and more, all totalling to a couple grand of travel costs…to see drive-through town that can’t possibly resemble the one I knew growing up.

For…what?

Like, really. For what? To see a childhood home I lived in for two years that’s probably been repainted? Is that really worth the time and the price tag? No. Of course not. The obvious work around is to just look up my old address on Google Maps and take a Street View tour of the town, if the nostalgia means so much to me, right? Well, guess what smart guy? I already did that. Here’s the thing: The street I grew up on is the ONLY ONE that the Google car DIDN’T map out. So what we have now is an implacable calling to a small New England town in the middle of nowhere, to see a house that shouldn’t hold any value to me sentimental or otherwise, and a global mapping service that has said house strangely blurred out, only fueling this feeling of mystery.

The way I see it, this can only go one of two ways.

One: I fly out there, rent a car, the Whole Nine, and I make it to my childhood house to find the town even smaller than I remember and the house with new owners who would be understandably perplexed to see a thirty-year-old staring at their front door with his sole explanation that he lived there more than twenty years ago. The town is just a town. My childhood is well and truly gone. The house is just a house. There is no calling. I just wasted a couple thousand to see a regular old town like any thousands of others and should reexamine some things in my life.

Two: I fly out there and all the rest, uncover some real eldritch, funky Stephen King sh*t, and am never heard from again by my friends and family.

I guess, if for positively no other reason than posterity, let this post stand for the record when, in a year or two, I decide to make the pilgrimage, announce it on here, and this blog abruptly ceases being updated forever. Like, I know I take breaks here and there, but if I say “Hey, I’m off to Highland Falls. I’ll update you,” and y’all never hear from me again, it’s some weird It stuff. Aliens. Monsters. Men in Black, some kind of funky stuff, and this meager slice of the internet can stand as dubious proof of that.

So…I guess…’til then, right?

Ciao.

Misfit Holidays

Misfits.

Mis-fits.

Missing fits. Fits that miss.

Misfits.

It’s funny. Words can come up so often that we ascribe certain meaning to them that’s beside their literal intent. Like “intercourse” just means an exchange between to people, usual dialogue; but it’s used so often as a euphemism for sex that that’s just what it means now. “Misfits” is the same way for me, just meaning someone whose behavior sets them apart (albeit usually in a negative context, but alas).

It’s probably because they’re surrounded by the two popular kids – Halloween and Christmas – but I’ve long felt that Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve/Day are underrated and don’t get enough attention. Coming by my contrary nature, well, naturally, I consider these my favorite holidays. Thanksgiving, to me, is as pure as western holidays can get, being about time with loved ones and gratitude. It leaves aside all the bells, whistles, and commercialization as the big ones, focusing instead on the important stuff. The meat and potatoes. Brass tacks and all that jazz.

New Years is the same way. It’s a reset button. You get a new year, a clean slate, a fresh start. As such, I really like making Resolutions, and genuinely enjoy keeping to them as best I can. I of course understand that life will make other plans, so they aren’t ironclad, but I use them to better myself as best I can. Not with things like “Read more” or “Be kinder,” because with those you can read a pamphlet or hold the door open for someone once and feel like it’s been checked off.

For 2021, for example and among other things, I set some financial goals and wanted to read ten books. I overshot my financial goals (thank God) and am set to finish Book #26 just in time for 2022.

I started this thinking I would list out my Resolutions for 2022, but I’m gonna recall that. Resolutions genuinely are better as personal goals for you to know, you to accomplish, and you to share (maybe) once they’ve been accomplished. Broadcasting your intent is GOOD, no doubt, but maybe just with BIG moves. Studies somewhere allegedly show, I’ve heard, that broadcasting intent for small achievable goals makes one less likely to finish what they start because we’ll usually receive encouragement for said broadcast then give way to complacency and laziness from there; and I can believe that (totally unverified bit of factoid I’ve just shared with all of you).

Point being this: I hope this New Years, it being one of my favorite holidays, you take it for the healthy reset and opportunity it represents and that you make the most of it. Set some goals, write down your lists, and take steps to make them happen.

Good luck, everybody. Tough to remember sometimes, but we’re all in this together, and I’m rooting for you. ❤

Faith: More Advice from a Wizard

Sup, y’all. Been a second.

I took my pedal off the gas a bit lately when it comes to making scribbles (my term of endearment for the time-honored art of literary practice), handling a move, job change, usual life drama, and all the rest have just gotten in the way. Those, and I’ve kept chugging along with this reading binge I’ve taken on this year.

I’m a sucker for New Years Resolutions. Like the rest of us, I’ve abandoned my fair share, but managed a doable list of items this time around for 2021. One of them was that I wanted to read/finish ten paperbacks before the years was up…

…I’m halfway through #23.

Of those, a fair share have been from the Dresden Files series of novels by Jim Butcher, stories about a Chicago-based wizard and private investigator. They’re fun. Well written, paced well, exciting, imaginative, and just plain good. From time to time, it gets deep, too. There come points here and there where the narration reflects on aspects of the human experience that resonate frighteningly well. We covered one life lesson a couple of months ago, and I’d like to share another excerpt from his work today about faith as he sees it:

“But there were some things I believed in. Some things I had faith in. And faith isn’t about perfect attendance to services, or how much money you put on the little plate. It isn’t about going skyclad to the Holy Rites, or meditating each day upon the divine.

“Faith is about what you do. It’s about aspiring to be better and nobler and kinder than you are. It’s about making sacrifices for the good of others – even when there’s not going to be anyone telling you what a hero you are.”

-Harry Dresden, Changes, pg. 251-252

Self-improvement, at the end of the day. You obviously can’t give all of yourself away, you can’t help everyone on the planet, you have to take care of yourself, but it’s a good compass heading, a good reminder of our shared responsibility to help those around you when you’re able.

Aaaaaand now I’ve gone and made it sound a bit preachy. So here’s something dumb to balance it out: “Why did the baseball stadium get so hot after the game ended…?”

Because it lost all of its fans.

Have a good night everybody!

Ciao.