A Cold Night and a Stick

Hey y’all, pretend it’s Thursday – I sure am.

I thought about being lazy and doing a re-post of Tuesday’s tale, but decided against it. We need something new, something fresh! Something with risk! Adventure! With a marginal police presence!

Besides, who wants to read anything about peace, love, actual monks, boobies, roller-blading luchadors, cock rings, and public feces…?

Here, ya weirdo (and thank you/you’re welcome ahead of time).

I was going to save this for a time closer to St. Patrick’s Day, but I got a bit impatient (though, the pretentious side of me wants to call it “inspired”). And I figured the present is as good a time as any.

Oh, and I should say off the top that I publicly do NOT condone half the decisions made by the following characters in the following story (though which half is up to you, and said characters are definitely my friends and I). But first, a question: do you believe in serendipity?

Because I sure as fuck do.

It starts innocently enough, a few 19-year-old-ishes at a house party on St. Patrick’s Day night. Of course there’s tequila, of course there’s vodka, of course they’re all pretty cheap, and so of course that is pretty much the party. I don’t remember much, but that isn’t because of booze intake, it’s because it was pretty nondescript to start.

Drinking happens, merrymaking commences, smiles broaden.

Then came my moment to be a hero.

A kid who’s name I forget – let’s call him Jordan – started complaining that he had to make it home. A problem anyone should expect is that there wasn’t a clear, stone-sober head in our entire gaggle, so no one was volunteering. Not that I recommend it in a million years, but I did my own little self-diagnosis, checked it against my ego and overly inflated estimation of my abilities, and figured, “Yep, good enough.”

So now we had a willing driver, I hadn’t driven to the party, so I was without a car. Glances were exchanged throughout the group – because I guess we’d weirdly made up our minds to make sure Jordan made it home then and there for whatever reason – as to who would volunteer their vehicle. Eventually, one guy – let’s call him Moose – says he’s no good to drive, but I can use his car if I want to. I say “Yes, cap’n” and he tosses me the keys before walking me out to his Honda CR-V.

Now, a couple of things to explore before we go any further.

Anyone who’s had their vehicle for long enough and then loans it to a friend for them to drive has learned there are a few things about your own car that you’re totally used to, but anyone unfamiliar needs a warning about. For example, I drive an ’03 Chrysler Sebring and yeah, sure, I’m used to the right-leaning list it has, the way the brakes sort of rattle, the crunching sound of the suspension going over speedbumps, and the horrible leprosy affecting the interior plastic handholds – but not everyone else is. So, if ever it needs to get borrowed, they get the run down.

Secondly, Moose’s CR-V was a manual transmission, and at that time, I was working at a car lot in town – my first job out of high school. On that job, my manager had been teaching me how to drive stick as part of moving vehicles around the lot, grabbing gas, so on and so forth. Still though, to say I could drive stick would have been a massive misrepresentation of my abilities. At absolute most, I could kinda manage it sort of if I’m really careful, lucky, focused, and everyone is really patient with me (and that’s remained true these seven years later).

So when he walks us both out to his car, and tells me it’s a stick, and that it doesn’t run smooth, that the stick gets caught pretty easy, etc etc – yeah, my heart let out a squeaky, arrhythmic fart; but I couldn’t turn back, now that Jordan was so full of hope and I’d already accepted the group’s mantle as hero-of-the-night.

So I was resolved to make this work.

We pull away from the curb easily enough, and we make our way off into the night. Jordan gave me slurred directions, and we slowly but surely made our way back safely back to his house, never once leaving second gear. Eventually he points to an apartment complex parking lot, saying, “in there,” and we pull into a parking space.

Mission Accomplished.

Jordan thanks me, walks over to where there’s a courtyard party taking place, high-five’s some guys, takes a shot, and goes full Woo Girl.

Then it dawns on me: sonuvabitch had me drive him not home, but to another party.

I check my pockets and realize two more things: I left my phone and wallet back at the house party.

Rather than freak out, I sat on the curb and took inventory of my situation…

I was in a town I didn’t know, at night, in a car that wasn’t mine, without I.D., without directions, without my phone, but with a blood-alcohol content above 0% on one the heaviest drinking nights of the year to ensure police presence.

I could just…sleep.

Not sure what good that would do, but it would put a hold on the situation and make it Future Evan’s problem.

Nah.

I could cry.

Again, wouldn’t do much good, but I might feel better and attract someone looking to cure a poor kid’s pitiful situation.

Instead, I sprouted my Social Butterfly wings and went into the party following after Jordan. The way I figured it, I could charm or beg a phone off someone for a few seconds to call someone back at my party of origin. Then I pause, realizing I don’t know anyone’s number off the top of my head – Socrates would bemoan my time’s failure of memory.

Then I saw him – we’ll call him Nick – a mutual friend of mine and the tribe I was trying to make my way home to.

“Holy shit!” I shouted.
“Evan, the hell are you doin’ here?”
“Long story, but I’m hella happy to see you. Can I borrow your phone?”

I explain my situation, he lends me his phone, and I search out a mutual contact back at Party Central. It rings, rings, rings, and goes to voicemail. I try another…which also rings, rings, rings, and goes to voicemail.

Well’p, still stranded. Awesome.

Finally, I get through to someone, give her the name of the apartment complex, and she shows up about fifteen minutes later. So, carefully, we make our way back to Party Central, her following closely behind – not difficult, since I’m topping off at about 20 mph and trying to slow down enough at stop signs for the engine to not stall. Once or twice, a sheriff’s vehicle drove along side me, sniffing for any mistake like a shark trying to find blood in the water; but ultimately, mercifully let me go.

We made it back and my Guardian Angel turned in its timecard with plenty of overtime logged.

Wish I could say there was a chase with attack dogs, a helicopter, something with a s’more somehow starting a fire, and a long lost love – but next time.

See ya Tuesday, turkies.

An Orange Traffic Cone: a memoir

Happy New Ye- oh, wow. This is…uh, this is pretty late. Like, “we’re the kind of folks that still have our Christmas lights from the previous year up” kind of late. But eh, oh well. It’s been good so far: Happy New Year, everybody!

Took a second this time ’round, didn’t we? Hope everyone’s various holidays and celebrations went well and that you ate enough pie or whatever (heh, there’s a dirty joke in there somewhere) that you’re still working it off.

Oh! Before we get into the tale in earnest, wanted to quickly stroke myself in mentioning we have another publication on the way! Turns out my first ever fiction piece “The Sixth Gun Conspiracy Letters,” featured in Third Flatiron Publishing’s ‘Hidden Histories’ anthology, merited a spot in their upcoming “Best of 2019” anthology.

So…that’s pretty dope.

Anyway! I, like most of us, have myself a laundry list of New Year’s Resolutions. But I haven’t started running yet. Haven’t yet started reading the Harry Potter series (God, I KNOW, right? -said every woman friend of mine ever). And haven’t yet gotten back to learning to play the Overcooked main theme on my harmonica off-book (I’m almost there, but I’m a bit rusty).

I’m going to sidestep responsibility for another moment and say that I’ve been pulled away from those commitments by virtue of the fact that I started this year off on the wrong foot. Normally, I wake up January 1st bright and early, list of Resolutions on my desk, and start tackling them almost immediately.

This year, that ‘bright and early’ was a bit more ‘foggy and nauseous’, leering at the previous night’s festivities – but whatevs. What also set it off on an unexpected foot was THE FIRST thing that popped into my conscious mind this year: the story of the ‘How Weird’ street festival.

Now, this happened years ago, but it’s stayed with me and I’ve gotten to recount it enough recently that the details have come back startlingly crisp. It was pitched to me by my wonderful girlfriend Mandy (who I’m sure still loves being talked about on here) as a sort of street fair in San Francisco “just with weird stuff” (hence the name, right?). That was totally true, mostly. It turned out to basically be an outdoor rave/trance concert, with a bunch of cannabis vendors (or “totally-not-cannabis” vendors, given the legality at the time) lining the streets. But there were also, certainly, plenty of odd things befitting the name.

First thing we see when we show up was a line that went around the block. Nothing too odd about that, granted. But IN said line were plenty of topless gals in tutus (sweet), old dudes in chaps and nothing else (respect the move, so, sweet as well), and my personal favorite: a dude wearing a luchador mask, mummified neck-to-ankles in saran wrap, pink briefs covering his yoo-hoo’s, all the while coasting about on roller skates.

It was like coming home.

Once we’d made it inside, I’ll admit, details get a little bit fuzzy; but there three occurrences I do remember that made that trip what it was.

Firstly, and most prominently, there was one of the few vendors not hawking the Devil’s Lettuce who was giving away these little ceramic medallions, about the size and shape of sand dollars, in all sorts of colors. On them were reliefs of the word “Peace” in every language under the sun. He gave them away and accepted donations if you felt like it, and behind him was a big board with the amount he’d ostensibly given away to date: roughly 500,000.

Rad, right?

I chose a medallion with the word in Hindi (“shaanti”). No real connection or heritage to it other than studying the Vedic traditions a bit in college at the time, and it resonated more than Italian or Spanish or what-have-you.

Anyway, I gave the guy ten dollars, which was about all the loose cash I had left in my wallet for two reasons: 1) I always believe in tipping generously whatever the case may be, and 2) right at the moment Mandy and I were being given our medallions, a guy came up to the man giving them away. Apparently, the man had given the guy a medallion three years before, and the guy promised to pay him $100 sometime in the nebulous future when he was able; and that now he did in fact have the money, so he paid him what he promised.

I thought it was a pretty beautiful moment to be present for.

I won’t lie, I’m not much one for “crystal healing” or “nerve rings” or anything, but it’s funny how often this little necklace has become a bit of a totem. A serious moment comes up that requires focus or decision making, frustration bubbles to the surface for real or stupid reasons, traffic sucks – whatever. I find myself rubbing this thing with all its meanings – peace, calm, quiet, serenity, emptiness – and my blood pressure actively lowers.

Magic.

Speaking of magic, the second memory pillar to that day was The Storm. Not that anything out of the ordinary happened with the weather, it was actually a super nice, sunny one; but I bumped into a dude named Storm (adding the “the” just sort of makes it sounds more dun-dun-duuuuun).

Storm was a buddhist monk, maybe my age at the time (23) or a little younger. He, like Medallion Man, was there trying to give away messages of wisdom and love. He was in the usual saffron-orange robes, with a big ol’ honkin’ duffel bag hanging on one shoulder. In it, were stacks and stacks of copies of the Bhagavad Gita (and even now, just thinking about it makes my neck ache). He was trying, unsuccessfully as we saw it, to give them away. Wasn’t asking for anything, or even mentioning donations, as I recall. Just wanted to get as many books into as many hands as he could.

He approached us, told us all this, how and where he’d been traveling, what he was trying to do, and if we’d accept a copy. I told him I would accept it on one condition: that I get a hug.

Y’all…that was one of the best hugs I’ve ever received from a stranger.

It was like hugging the brother I didn’t know I had or had wanted.

I was given the book (still have it, by the way, in my keepsake trunk; that thing will move with me to every house I ever live in), and we parted ways. Knowing that I was given the hug by such a warm individual and that we’re likely to never, ever meet again genuinely fills me with hope and warm thoughts about this world; that people are generally good, kind, and are just trying to make it, no matter what that dick in traffic shouted out his window – give him a chance and you’ll probably find a lot of common ground, and there but for the grace of God go any of us, shouting our asses off in- okay, I’m ranting.

Storm. Book. Hug. Memories. Milk of human kindness.

The third and last wasn’t the most impacting as far as my world view is concer-

Actually, scratch that. It did. It super did. Not as much as Medallion Man and Storm, which is undoubtedly a good thing; but unfortunately it is the FIRST thing I think of whenever I reminisce about the How Weird street fair.

We were walking down whatever avenue the fair was on, asking ourselves the “are we ready to go?/have we seen all we want to?” questions. The fair saw fit to show us out with a 1-2 punch combination of sweet, sweet, San Franciscan imagery.

The first: two older gentlemen I assume were lovers, approximately late-60’s, stark naked save a pair of Nike’s each, and – my favorite part – light up blinky cock rings that just…we designed to draw the eye. (To this day, I’m positive one of them winked at me – not one of the men, the penises. One of the penises winked at me.)

The second: there was a turd on the sidewalk.

It gets talked about now, about how much public defecation is a problem in the City, but not back then. And yet, there it was. Corn-riddled, definitely human doo-doo. Normally, that’d just be a case of, “Ah, gross. But whaddya gonna do? It’s da Ciiiityyyy.” Not this time. Not this time, because of my favorite detail: to remedy the fact that there was a fat log of human poo-poo on the sidewalk, someone retrieved a bright orange traffic cone and set it down RIGHT BESIDE the turd!

BESIDE IT!

They didn’t SCOOP it, or DISPOSE of it, or even COVER it WITH THE CONE! They put the cone down BESIDE THE POOP!

It remains my favorite ever example of simply sublime problem-solving, and it still cracks me up.

Anyway, good to talk to y’all again. See ya Thursday (yes, for real this time).

Funeral for a Hamster: A Legacy

Whoa, hey guys. It’s been a minute, right? Like a real minute.

Been a helluva week, too. Work’s been nuts, some family stuff, friendly drama, took Honorable Mention in the semi-finals of a national fiction contest (#humblebrag), and my pet died.

It’s been a thing.

BUT, that’s not what we’re here to talk about (kind of). We’re here…to talk about Hammy.

That’s short for “Hamilton”, the hamster – it was my girlfriend’s idea, I didn’t vote for it; but grew to love the name and the little doofus in short order. Apparently, the average lifespan of a syrian dwarf hamster is about two years, and the Lil’ Hercules (name explained in a moment) made it twenty-nine months. We buried him out front, with neighbors and family, in the rain, and said some kind words while I played “My Guitar Gently Weeps” on my phone.

I hope I live the kind of life where I merit a funeral that’s half as cool.

So, in the spirit, I’d like to share a few tales about Hamilton’s legacy and why he was so awesome.

  1. He Ate Fucking Metal and Lifted a Fucking Book
    He had a pretty spacious cage to run around in with plenty of ‘floof’ to burrow through. But that wasn’t enough for Lil’ Hercules. At one point, Mandy thought it’d be a good idea to outfit his space with an old egg carton as a sort of makeshift ladder to climb on. Cool in theory, right? Problem was, now he could reach the metal mesh that was the top of the cage. No problem, right? Wrong. Problem. Very much problem, apparently.
    I wake up in the middle of the night to some weird noises, but was exhausted enough to just ignore them. Come morning time, I get up for work, walk groggily to the kitchen, and while I’m making coffee, something scuttles over my feet. I look down, thinking I’m about to kill a rat, when I see the rat is orange.
    I wrack my brains over how he got out. Did we leave the cage open? Did we leave it cracked? No, and no.
    I go back to his cage with him scooped up, and see there’s a fat fucking hole in the mesh where the carton reaches. He chewed through (and presumably ate) aluminum screen in the name of freedom.
    We spent the next week expecting him to leave a couple bloody turds, and then die painfully; but that never happened. Instead, we put a heavy-ass biology textbook to cover the hole and kept an eye on him.
    Apparently, not a close-enough eye, because a couple nights later, there come more weird noises. I wake up, turn on the light, and spot him rummaging through our closet. I scold him (thoroughly expecting him to understand me), scoop him up yet again, and inspect his cage to see the – let it not be understated – heavy-ass biology textbook scooted off to the side.
    That rodent was on ‘roids.
  2. He Got Me to Kiss his Nuts Once
    Not too much to delve into here, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
    We, and most of our friends, made a fair amount of fun of Hammy’s balls. But that was only because they were ginormous! They genuinely, actually made it seem like they made it more difficult for him to walk.
    That aside, when he’d gotten used to being handled and carried, it was a nice thing to be able to nuzzle him and kiss his back or his head. Problem was, he was quick.
    So I’m holding him in the crook of my elbow, nuzzle him, and lean over to give him a kiss to the head, when he ‘Swoop!’ scuttles over my arm, and my lips brush right up against those kidney-bean-sized testicles.
    I think that was the day I decided I loved him. I’ve never kissed a pair of testicles and not loved the…y’know what, never mind…
  3. He Stared Death in the Face (kind of)
    There’s a neighborhood cat around here that we’ve pseudo-adopted. Her name’s ‘Tiger,’ even though her owners named her ‘Kitten,’ but that’s dumb, so her name’s ‘Tiger.’
    Anyway, Tiger loved to come over, hang out for warmth and scratches, and then jump up onto the bench where Hammy’s cage was and just…stare at him (We called her doing this “checking out Food Network”).
    Part of what made his passing a bit more gentle was knowing that he lived a life in which he never knew pain or fear (except once when he fell off the bed, peed a little, then hopped right back to life). So when a giant monster that stared at him mere centimeters away, longing to eviscerate him, and play with his tiny intestines like Silly String, he just looked at her, smiled, shrugged, and peed in his corner.
    I’m probably attributing courage for what was actually hilarious Darwinian ignorance, but I like to picture him as staring death in the face and shrugging. So, there.

He survived two of California’s wildfires with us, scaled a bathroom cabinet like a parkour athlete, and loudly ran into about eleven-hundred doors in his plastic ball, then died peacefully in his sleep at the ripe old age of two-and-a-half.

We should all be so lucky.

Love ya, Hammy. We’ll miss you.

Hamilton, under his Rainbow Bridge

Catch you guys Tuesday.

Another True Story

On Thursday, I went to the beach for the first time in probably three years (except for Mothers’ Day this year, but that was an exception because it was a different beach than normal, and I got to help her fly kites like we used to do when I was a kid – but ANYWAY), and it was nice.

Didn’t take anyone with me, just packed up a bag with a thermos of cocoa, my notebook, a couple of pencils (they’re Pokemon pencils), and a towel. In Northern California, for the Uninitiated, our beaches aren’t those sexy, Santa Barbara kind of soft sand, warm water, even warmer sun; our beaches are like Russian grandmas from the early 1900’s: hard, cold, gritty, and smell sort of like salt and turnips.

But it’s a great place for being an introspective (pseudo-pretentious) douche.

So I walked down the shaky steps, took in the salty, crisp air, and found a big ol’ rock to sit on, contemplate things, and take notes.

If you haven’t yet, do me a favor and check out the “You Are a Human Being” post from Sunday. It’s worth a smile, and there were a few things I meant to dig into there, but never got around to.

One of those things is something called the Overview Effect. In brief, it’s described as a change in awareness and a shift in consciousness by astronauts during spaceflight when they see Earth in space – surrounded by nothing, baseless, floating, and moreover…tiny.

There are books on the idea, movies on the idea, and now blog posts on the idea; which is all a good thing, because it is a truly marvelous concept. Everything you know, love, hate, cherish, have made, eaten, seen, or what-have-you, is all on that tiny dot.

And that’s the reality, which is weird, isn’t it? But also provides a sort of privilege.

After I heard about it a couple of years ago, I started thinking of myself, at times, as a micro-explorer. Mountains aren’t giant, bacteria isn’t tiny, they just are the sizes they are. We just use ourselves to measure them relative to, well, us.

So it was thoughts like that which floated around my brain while I sat on that rock, beside a craggy cliff face which shored up along the tides. I started to think about the shoreline less like a huge wall of broken rock (which broke down into big rocks, which broke down to smaller and smaller rocks, until it was sand, until it was water, etc), and more like a flaky pie crust.

From up top and way up high, that’s all it probably looks like. You see the slab of land that stretches off into hills one way, like paper that gets a bit warped, wavy, and crinkled; and the other ends at the shore.

Do the visuals I’m trying to paint make any sense? Or is it just me?

Me?

Sweet.

Well, while out there on that rock, thinking of all these hilariously-too-big ideas (Jesus, that sounds like I’m stroking myself a bit: “Heh, look at me with all my big, genius, philosophy thoughts. I’m so wise and smart and- anyway), I hear something kind of funny.

I fit my pen into my notebook, lean over the edge of the rock, and look down.

Down by the rocks is a sea otter! But it looks different and like it’s holding something, a couple something’s, actually; and it isn’t scattering when I make noise. So I pack up my things, climb down my rock, and try to get a closer look; all the while, still hearing this weird “ching, ching, chang” sound.

I get down to the sand, round the rock, and find the otter. Up close, I realize why he looked strange from up top: he was wearing a helmet. A bright yellow construction helmet. And he was holding a chisel and a hammer, whacking away at a rock.

“Well, this is new,” I said.

“Yeah?” said the otter, turning around. He pocketed the chisel, leaned on his hammer, and adjusted the cigar between his teeth. He also spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent. “What’re ya lookin’ at, kid? You ain’t got anywhere to be?”

“Uh, no. Well, yeah, kinda, but, I mean…”

“Spit it out, kid. You thick in the head or somethin’?”

“You’re an otter.”

“Yeah, and who’re you? Beethoven?”

“If I’m talking with an otter wearing construction gear on beach, I might be.”

“Yeah? Well nice to meet you’s. Name’s Ralph.”

“Shit, Ralph. It’s nice to meet you too.” I hold my hand out to shake, and he takes it. He’s got a strong grip – a good sign. I tell him that.

“Yeah, kid. You too,” he says. “None o’ that limp-wristed bitch shit, m’I right?” He laughs. “Hey, know what kid? I like you. How ’bout me and the wife have you over tonight fa dinnah?”

Whatever plans I had, I cancelled. I was going to have dinner with this otter’s family. So he finished up his work on the rock, and when the tide came in, he ushered me off to a space along the shoreline. It was, for lack of a better term, a cave that wound down and around a ways that finally came to a light at the bottom. I expected it to be cold, but it warmed up rather nicely and kept dry, not humid at all.

“Honey!” Ralph called. “Honey, I’m home. And I brought a friend.”

When she walked around the corner of the comfortably furnished cave, my mouth fell open. “Catherine Zeta-Jones?” I said in astonishment.

She welcomed me in, we all had dinner (cioppino with red wine), I caught up on where CZJ’s been, chatted philosophy with Ralph, and got wine-drunk with both of them…

I woke up a couple hours ago, which is why I didn’t manage to post on Thursday.

Mea culpa.

Anyway, catch you guys Tuesday (barring any more run-in’s with praeto-natural mammals).

Ciao.

Always Say ‘Yes’ to Pills (and Don’t Trust Pink Duct Tape)

Happy Tuesday, y’all.

For starters, duh, there’s an obvious caveat to the title – you could always say “yeah,” or “uh-huh,” or something else to accept medication.

But for real, I don’t know what brought this to mind, but I was thinking today about the one and only time I’ve ever broken a body part, and the lesson that came along with that experience. Mm, and while I think on it, I’ve technically also had Osgood Schlatter Disease (which is weird to call it a ‘disease’ when it’s a…like a…more of a ‘boo-boo’) when I was a kid. And even though the little bit of homework I did says it’s an “inflammation,” I heard a loud goddamn snap when it happened to me – BOTH TIMES. So, it’s “inflammation” in the same way swallowing a grenade leads to a “bit of bloating.”

Anyway, I’m talkin’ about my toe, today. Which between breaking the (tendon/cartilage/whatever) entailed with OSD as a kid, and this, I haven’t actually broken a bone, just always something near or connected to one. With my toe, it was the ligament on the right side of my right big toe; but, like, a full snap. Do me a favor. Hold out a thumb’s up with your right hand, turn it towards yourself so your palm is parallel with your chest, now bend your thumb at about a forty-five degree angle. Boom. Same angle my toe was at. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that I used to do parkour and make artsy-fartsy videos about it. As you’d expect, injuries were pretty common, but usually outdoors, not in the gym – except this time. The gymnastics center I took classes at (stay in school, fool!) had their spring floor marked out with colored duct tapes to measure distances. At the end of one of these classes, the coaches set up stations for that night’s work out. One of these was an area on the marked spring floor for running suicides (we all did them in middle school basketball – or these if you were home-schooled or something).

Well, at the first pivot, I hear a loud SNAP! and instinctively, instantly think, “Oo, that didn’t sound good,” and start limping off the floor, with my right toes raised when I step with that foot. My coach calls out, “Evan! You’re getting blood on my floor!” I still haven’t looked down yet, think he’s joking, and give him the ol’ ‘ha-ha-you-so-funny’ wave. Until I sit down, see it (cue thumb’s up exercise), with a pool of red starting to spread under my toes, and the trail of AB Positive breadcrumbs I’d left behind.

(That was also when I learned what almost passing out feels like – and it was NOTHING like what I expected. I thought it was this “you watch the circle of black close in over your vision” sort of thing. Instead, I just suddenly, even though I was all adrenaline-y, got very, very, very sleepy.)

Anyway, longer story short-ish, I got to the hospital, got cleaned out, sewn up, put in a bootie, and given pain meds. This was all when I was maybe nineteen, so when I got home, my mom said, “Hey, here, take a Norco before you go to bed.”

Now, to this point, besides the shock and the almost-fainting, I haven’t felt a thing. My toe was about ripped from my body – oh yeah, by the way, this all happened because one of the tape markers was slightly lifted up and caught my toe when I slid into my pivot – and I’ve felt next to Absolute Zero pain thanks to adrenaline followed by on-site injections of anesthetic before that wore off. So, when she offers the Norco before bed, my cocky dumbass ego says, “Haha, nah, mom. I’m fine. Maybe in the morning.”

Y’all…

Y’all, it was truly one of the most painful experiences of my life.

I’m a stomach sleeper, I’m 6′ 4″, and at the time, was sleeping on a twin mattress (a thing we’ll discuss later). So, even with my feet hanging well off the edge of the bed, I woke up at 2:00 am, and felt like my foot had been thrust up to the knee in a bucket of hot coals. I quickly went up in sweats that drenched the sheets, but I couldn’t move because every small shift was like an Iron Maiden biting into my leg.

Have you ever had a painful experience that, for some reason, sent tingles along the flanks of your neck? Or literally put a bad taste in your mouth? Or just made you laugh? Even if not, imagine everything in these past two paragraphs, in the silent dark, sleep elusively dancing just out of reach, unable to move, for six hours.

So, yeah. That’s why you should always say yes to pills and never trust pink duct tape.

I hope we all learned something.

Catch y’all Thursday, you beautiful folks.

Ciao.

A True Story

Happy Friday, happy people.

So, there I was, sitting in the parking lot of my usual coffee house haunt at the end of a daunting week. I grab my bag, make my way in through the back door, give my usual order of a House Black, and take a seat at the window bar. Out comes the notebook, out comes the laptop, out comes a pen to chew on, when BAM! – a hand smacks on the window in front of me.

There’s a man standing there, disheveled, dirty, a wild look in his eye, his hand pressing a piece of paper to the glass. Scrawled messily on the note, it reads, “bathroom on left, under sink.” I don’t know what else to do, so I glance around, meet his eyes, and nod. His jaw quivers, he bites his lips, then he peels the note off the glass and walks briskly down the sidewalk out of view.

I turn in my seat and look around. No one’s looking up. Their heads are either in a tablet, book, or cup. I was the only one who saw the man at the window. I try to ignore it, initially. There’s a bit of a homelessness problem in the area, and you get the odd kook walking around the bike racks every so often, but this was a first. I open up my files and get to work, but I don’t get anywhere. My eyes keep checking over my shoulder to the hallway between the restrooms, checking whenever there’s traffic.

Finally, I get fed up and just pack my things, get up, and settle my curiosity. I hand in my mug (didn’t even get to finish the damn thing) and hit the head. I lock the door behind me out of habit, set my bag down, and take a leak. I look over at the sink and laugh, shaking my head. I zip up, flush, wash my hands, and lock eyes with myself in the mirror.

Are we really gonna look? I say, then my reflection sighs and nods a few seconds later. I crouch, feel around, and ho-ly shit…there’s a small parcel taped to the underside. I peel it off the porcelain and get a look at it in the light. It’s no bigger than a pack of Marlboro’s, wrapped in brown paper, tied with twine, and light, but it’s warm and hums very faintly. I’m doing the diagnostic in my head of what a bomb probably feels like when there’s a knock on the door.

“Uh, yeah. Gimme a second.”

The handle rattles a bit.

“Yeah, man. I’ll be out in a second.” I stuff the box down the front of my pants, positive I’m gonna get dick-cancer, grab my things, open the door, and stop dead. I’m looking eye-level with a tie clip. I crane my neck and see said tie clip is attached to a seven-foot-six tall suit with a giant inside it.

“Sorry,” it says, completely without expression. “I really have to go.”

“Uh, yeah, yeah, sure,” I stammer, and spill out into the hall. I look over my shoulder on my way out of the cafe to watch him crouch under the doorway and close the door behind him. I pass by two more, normal-sized suits on my way out. I don’t even have time to ask myself any questions before I hear the bathroom door smash open and a deep voice shout, “He has it! GET HIM!”

All common sense is screaming at me to just pull out the box, throw it aside, and run; but – and for the life of me I don’t know why – I skip the first part and I just run. I take off down Second street and hear the motley of footsteps behind me. I dash past Toad in the Hole just down the road, knocking over their sign like it’s going to do anything to stop my pursuers, but it works in the movies. Next I round the corner and beeline it to the construction site next to the new garage downtown.

I barely make it over the chain link fence when I catch a glance behind me and see the giant bounding down the block like a goddamn gazelle. He’ll make it over the fence with no problem, so I sprint toward the low cover of the lifted temp structures on the site. In a spray of gravel, I slide under those just as a humongous arm claws under after me. When I’m out of reach, I hear his deep voice strain, and the supports on the building start to creak. The son of a bitch is lifting the whole building, and I know I’m dead.

“Pssst!” I hear to my right. It’s the homeless guy from earlier, peaking out from a sewer grate. He waves me over and I scramble on hands and knees. I’m through the hole right as the building cracks in half above me. The manhole cover gets ripped out of place and the giant leers down at us, but we’re out of reach. I hear the clamoring footsteps of the other suits, the guy pulls me, and we run.

“Do you have him?” he shouts.

“Have who? What? What the fuck are you talking about?”

He leads us with a flashlight as we take turn after turn in the scattered dark. Eventually, he stops suddenly. He turns around and I can feel him staring at me. “Where is it?” is all he says. I pull out the warm, buzzing box. He draws a knife and cuts the paper, and when he does, a blue light spills out from the slit. A small hand, made of luminescent, opulent blue reaches out, then another, then a little body follows it. A tiny creature made of blue light, with two darker blue, almond-shaped spots for eyes, is standing in my hand now.

He sets his flashlight down and reaches into his coat. When he pulls his hand out, he’s also holding a blue glow in the shape of a small person with dark eyes. The two people of light walk on air, out of our hands, and meet. They touch foreheads with one another, there’s a bright flash, and then their gone. At that same moment, the tunnel’s silent – the shouts above us, and the pursuing footsteps all just vanish.

The homeless guy gives a sigh of relief.

“They don’t live long,” he says. “A day or two max, so there isn’t a whole lot of time to make sure they meet and pass their lives on.”

I shake my head. “What…what does that even mean? What are these things, where do they-“

“Hey man,” he interrupts. “I get that you have questions, and thanks for your help, but I couldn’t really answer them all if I wanted to. All I know is I can feel when a new one is born and that these things gotta meet, so I help out.”

Things get a bit fuzzy for a second, and next I know, I’m waking up this morning. So…yeah…

…that’s why I didn’t post yesterday.

See ya Tuesday!

Bees?

Happy Thursday, y’all. Treatin’ yourself right? Good.

This one came up between my mom and I recently, and I figured it would be a funny one to share with all of you.

I was probably fourteen or fifteen during the summer in question, and my mom had a couple of projects around the house she wanted help with. I love her, but these usually amounted to small things I didn’t see the point in putting the energy toward. That said, fuck it, she’s my mom, I’m her son – ya help ya mama out. That day, it was repainting the trim around the upstairs windows to clean them up a bit. Since my bedroom was up there, it was just a matter of climbing out the window onto the roof while she stood in the driveway to direct me.

From what I remember, it was hot that day, probably high 90’s. I’m out there on the roof, standing just under the top-level awning, painting these damn trims. From my bedroom, I have a little radio that’s playing whatever rock station I was into at the time, and all’s going well. I’m thinking I’ll get this done pretty quick and then be looking at going out for burgers or something.

Right after that thought, I’m sure, is when things got weird.

First, was the weird shadow. I go to reload my paintbrush (sounds kind of bad-ass put that way, but just amounts to dunking it again – I suck at painting) and on the rooftop is…well, it’s like a shadow. But it’s a shadow in the same way that heat distortion (the stuff mirages are made of) can sort of cast a shadow, or the way fumes can cast a shadow – it doesn’t really have a defined border, it’s loose, and it’s not even that there’s blocked light, just sort of a shimmering; kind of like an underwater light effect, just…without the water.

I see that and go, “Huh, that’s weird, but it is hot today,” and chalk it up to the aforementioned heat distortion.

Second, was the weird sound. As I’d said, I had my radio going in my room, when it suddenly starts to get all static-y, like getting cut with interference. No problem, it happens, but like with the shadow, it’s not quite static. It’s a tough sensation to put into words, but I guess imagine an audio engineer had to custom mix the sound of static (if that’s even a thing they do, I’m just going by the name – use your imagination!), but they wound up half-ass’ing it. That’s the best I got.

But again, I hear it and think, “Huh, that’s weird, but it is hot today,” as though the heat itself is interfering with the radio signal. (#dumbkidthoughts #thatsnotscience) Finally, I guess these things got strange enough for me to eventually look up, and what do I see?

AN ENORMOUS FUCK-OFF CLOUD OF BEES!!

And when I say “cloud,” I truly cannot emphasize that enough. A bit of YouTube diving sort of shows off what words fail to paint, but even that doesn’t compete with the live sensation (though I will say, the sound comes close).

Like the Persians’ arrows, these sum-bitches blotted out the goddamn sun.

So I dove through my window and slammed it closed behind me (if you’re picturing something Jason Statham would do, you’re correct). I looked down to the driveway to see my mom just standing there with her jaw on the ground. After the swarm passed, I went out to meet her, shouted something to the effect of, “What the fuck was that?” to which she responded, “Oh, yeah. I saw it coming and was just like, ‘whaaaat?'”

I know what you’re thinking, and to this day, I also don’t know why the-scrambled-eggs-on-fuck-toast she didn’t say anything to warn me.

Anyway, love y’all. Smash “Follow.” See ya Tuesday.

Ciao.

A Moment of Rambling Reflection…and then some Nonsense (feat. Ron Perlman)

Happy Thursday, everyone! What’s good? What’s new?

I’ve managed to make it a little more than a year since leaving my full-time job. Would likely have been longer, but life never goes as planned and that’s alright. But over the past twelve months, I was able to sell two whole stories, start this lovable pet project, treat my better half to a memorable anniversary, and handle (mostly) the maelstrom that was my mother’s sickness – got her house sold and she moves in a few weeks.

So, while certainly different from the Hakuna Matata, coffee house Bohemia I’d imagined, it’s been several times more rewarding; especially when I think of where things might be if they happened after my year was up. It is funny to think, though, that after 163 submissions to date, two have landed (of course not counting those which are still pending; full of my hopes, dreams, and sweet kisses). But from what I’ve been told, that’s a more common story than one might think. One might think, as I have, rightly so, I’d imagine, that if you attempted something 163 times and only succeeded twice – swung at bat, shot a basketball, threw a pass, baked a pie – you pretty objectively suck at baseball, basketball, football, baking, whatever. But that’s just…not quite the case with writing. In fact, two hits inside those first hundred attempts is a deceptively fast start; especially when done independently, outside of any organizations, clubs, or associations.
It…can be hard to keep that in view, however.
In the same way, in the day and age of Instagram or Twitter followers only ever mattering when counting by the million, every time I punch a key (like right now), I imagine the sizable crowd of 40 brave souls that clicked the Follow button on this humble blog out in my front yard.
I’ll bring the sappiness to an end by saying that you guys make me feel like a king.

So thank you for listening to a poor sap ramble and spin stories about made up things.

So…the other night, I had a dream that Ron Perlman beat up my problems for me.

It was great. Not like I just went around town pointing at things I didn’t like and The Ron would strafe over and hit it with a straight right. We were in a Coliseum like the Roman times, dressed in modern day attired and without weapons. The gates lifted and out walked these monsters, all shadowy and black, but with labels in white lettering on their chests.

One, a hulking minotaur-looking thing with wriggly squid arms, runs up and tries to th’wack me. It’s labeled ‘Credit-Card-Debt,’ and Ron Perlman dives out of nowhere and plants his boots on its cheek, putting it in the dirt. Next up comes ‘Phone-Calls-from-the-Hospital,’ and it resembles a sumo wrestler with a jackal’s head. It charges, but doesn’t get very far before The Ron gives it a step-in elbow followed by an uppercut that puts it in the stands. “Ron! Help!” I shout, as ‘Check-Engine-Light-that’s-been-on-Forever’ grabs me around the neck. In a flash, Ron Perlman is by my side and he flying-armbar’s the sonuvabitch.

Soon, after dozens more heel hooks, tornado kicks, and left crosses, the army of shadowy demons lie defeated, squirming, and for some reason steaming in the dust of the arena. Then The Ron and I do a freeze-frame high five sweet custom handshake and I rouse to consciousness.

The point is, life will get tough if you live it, and that’s the point. If there’s something you want to do or need to do (sometimes they’re the same thing), then do it. You’ll have to persevere, stick with it, and endure, even if it doesn’t always seem promising. But stick with it long enough, there’s a success story in it somewhere.

Find your Subconscious Ron Perlman.

A Sad Story

I had a pivotal moment growing up when, at the age of seventeen, I found out a classmate of mine couldn’t tie his shoes (we’ll call him Alessio, because this happened in our senior Italian class).

The funny thing is that there wasn’t a big wind-up to the news, either. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about in the lead up, just shooting the breeze near the back of the room while class was on break or something and boom, “Alessio can’t tie his shoes.”

A swell of mixed emotions probably came next. Here was someone my age, no physical or evident mental impairments that would keep him from it, just “wasn’t raised that way.”

Naturally, the first thing I do is put on my deer-stalker cap, puff my pipe, and look down to see he is, in fact, wearing laced shoes which are, in fact, tied.

“How’d you tie those, then?” say I, skeptically.

Alessio hangs his head and quietly whispers, “My mom ties them for me, okay?”

In that moment, I was his confidant. I’d been let on his secret that only the four of us in that corner of the room which was our Italian class knew about, and so I would guard his secret…

Until the following week, whereupon we got into some sort of banter – again, don’t remember the decade-old exchange, but I trust it was witty – and I used my newfound ammunition.

“[Evan], you can’t put maple syrup on pizza,” I assume he said to me.

“Yeah, Alessio? Well, you can’t tie your shoes, so you don’t get a vote,” I retort.

Of course I wasn’t quiet, so the others at the lunch table heard and there followed a storm of questions. Alessio hung his head, and I had my hands ‘pon my hips, triumphant.

After all, I’d won.

I used that ace a couple more times, if I remember right. Each time the same thing: an embarrassed smile from Alessio, an explanation, some chuckles, another medal for old Evan.

We were back in Italian class, just after lunch, and we get into it again. As had become pretty routine, I fall back on my zinger. With an enormous roll of his eyes, another part of the group, Ed, threw his hands up. “Dude! Alessio can tie his shoes!”

I sh’narfed and dismissed the peasant for speaking out of hand. Looking to Alessio, I said, “Is that what you’ve been telling him?” And I laughed. “Alessio, tell this guy you can’t tie your shoes.”

Ed looked me in the eye with a cold stare, and held that gaze as he reached over and undid Alessio’s laces. With the shoes loose and undone, Ed then looked to Alessio and solemnly nodded his head as if to say, It’s time.

There was a brief moment where Alessio looked back and forth between us like a child being called by two divorced parents. He turned a face like he’d made up his mind and just said, “I’m sorry, man.” Then he bent over and tied his shoes…

…perfectly.

I was stunned into stuttering silence as I realized that I’d spent the better part of the past few months proclaiming to my peers what was now a gobbsmackingly (it’s a word) obvious lie. I was a fish that had taken the hook, the line, the sinker, better part of the pole, and most of the goddamn boat.

To…to clarify, in case this isn’t sinking in: I was almost a legal adult, and believed someone who was going to be headed off to college soon telling me he couldn’t tie his shoes…for months! And was confident enough to tell a bunch of people about it!

If there’s a lesson to be gained from any of this, let one be to obviously not believe everything you fucking hear, but also to reserve an ounce of sympathy for anyone that makes what you find to be stupendously dumb proclamations; because odds are that one day they’ll realize they’ve been had, and hang onto the experience in such a way they write about it publicly ten years down the road.

Ciao.

Another Anecdote from a Gentleman…Again

Happy Thursday (ahem- pretend it’s Thursday. You get it.), everybody!

Just like last time, flooring remains, unsurprisingly, difficult. Eeh, really it’s more tedious than it is hard, but it’s plenty hard, too. My back’s sore, my knees are sore, my feet and neck are sore, but by the powers of Math and Patience, it’s almost done, dammit! Anyway, enough about me.

Well, almost.

I went camping this weekend! It was pretty rad, kind of just a repeat of the one from earlier in the year, just a bit longer. There was hiking, archery, swims in the lake, swaying in a hammock strung between two trees – The Works. There were differences, of course, but here were the highlights:

  1. Learned a New Way to Make S’Mores: Turned out we left out marshmallows behind when we packed up, but I’d bought – completely on a whim – a 25-pack of Rice Krispie Treats. As it turns out, they make a fuuuuucking awesome substitute for marshmallows (you’re welcome).
  2. Overcame My Fear of Water: So, last time, I swam out on open water (-ish, it’s a man-made lake), which was worth a trophy in its own right. This time, however, I swam ACROSS the lake AND BACK AGAIN. I Bilbo Baggins’d that shit. It was awesome.
  3. Spontaneously Jumped into Water Fully Clothed: My girlfriend Amanda and I went for a sweet hike, were having a conversation about if we’d ever or would ever just jump into a pool or lake with our clothes on (pretty sure you can make out where this is going), and each concluded, “I mean, I’d like to one day.” Well, Nature heard us, and we immediately turned a corner on the path that sloped down to the lake’s shore. We stopped, looked at one another, ran down, and dove on in.
  4. Left My Comfort Zone and Paid for It: I…well…actually, this is what today’s post is about, so I guess we’ll just get on to it.

For any that read the title and remembered the last Anecdote from a Gentleman post, you might remember it’s about poop. Same is true for mighty Number Four up there and for those seemingly self-evident reasons, I thought it would be better to frame it as coming from The Gentleman. If you journey on to the rest of what’s written below, just remember: read it in a typical 1800’s American/British (your choice) “bully!” accent.

Without further adieu…

Another Anecdote from a Gentleman

Oh, hello! Why, I didn’t see you there. By the look of your weathered shoes, I can see straight away you’re a fellow of the Great Outdoors. I myself just returned from one such venture, with quite the harrowing tale to tell, you might be sure. Might I share it with you?

Splendid!

All had gone swimmingly, I might say. And I don’t use the term loosely, I should warn you, as we frequented the cobalt waters of the wilderness often, but I digress. The tale at hand is of a far more sinister nature.

You see, when my dear beloved and I had last sojourned to that lovely piece of natural beauty, there had been…ah, well, issues with the facilities’ plumbing. As such, those governing bodies overseeing the estates had been so kind as to generously provide portable loo’s for we campers. Or, as they’re otherwise hailed: “Honey Buckets,” I believe (detestable name, that – downright deceitful). Well, on our initial visit, I became quite accustomed to these “Honey Buckets” in lieu of a proper loo (ho-ho! Did you notice the cleverness of wordplay? Brilliant!).

On this most recent venture, however, the facilities were amply functionable. Despite this being the case, I found myself gravitating towards those bright green boxes in lieu (ha! I’ve done it again!) of a proper potty. I, personally, found them safer and far more private than the boisterous sounds of the all-too crowded men’s room. So, I contentedly sat in my plastic palace, the master of my own space while I heeded Nature’s Call.

Then, on the penultimate day of our adventure, my love gives me a queer glance. “I’ll never understand,” she says to me, “why you prefer that to a proper toilet.” I tried to explain, but she wouldn’t have it. Instead, my case fell on deaf ears within the court of her judgemental expressions. So, on the last day we were there, what would you suppose I decided to do whence I heard the distant howl of Nature ‘pon the wind?

That’s right. I opted for porcelain over plastic. I overrulled my better judgement and the instincts which begged internally that I stay the traditional path. I strode into the men’s room, took my place in the stall beside the northern wall (I’m not some barbarian), and began my business.

What do you suppose happened next? That I, perhaps, simply went about the deed, washed, exited, and that was that? It would be nice were that the case, don’t you think?

But no.

No sooner had I sat down and finished my mantra (“You’re faceless here, they will never see you nor know your name,” in case you were curious) had an anonymous pair of purple shoes trampled into the stall beside me. What do you suppose I heard next? The dignified sounds of what is perfectly human and natural for any of us, performed with a manner of integrity and unoffensive volume?

No again.

Not only was I lambasted with the bellows of a dampened explosion which echoed on the walls, but in between those bouts of hellish, trumpeting fare: sobs. The poor man was crying – shedding very real tears – while committing those atrocities on the toilet near enough I might touch his foot had I the will.

I felt trapped.

I couldn’t make my own noise lest he feels I was trying to upstage him or worse, my trumpeting might upset the poor lad further. But neither could I exit and risk him doing so coincidentally. I couldn’t bear to meet the man’s eyes, knowing what I know, and him knowing the same.

So, rather, I waited. I bided my time until he left. Though, cruel was my fate as no sooner had the man left and I thought for one brief moment I might make my escape, he was replaced by a pair of equally anonymous sandaled feet. I was trapped again, pinned in place, riveted to my seat by a perhaps unending volley of perpetrating poopers.

Then, something magnificent happened.

I heard nothing.

I thought for one moment that perhaps the man was wrestling with constipation, and my heart felt for him. Then, elsewhere in the restroom, someone turned on the faucet and the loud sound of water splashing gaily in the sink filled the space for a brief moment. And it was during that moment, my neighbor produced noise – and no other! As soon as the water stopped, he did as well. It was then that I realized who I had in my midst: this man was a nervous pooper.

We can always recognize one of our own. He wouldn’t judge me for any noise I might make, for he was all too engaged in concealing his own presence to the best of his ability. The groundswell of confidence that followed allowed me to quickly do what needed to be done and promptly exit that nesting ground of nightmares.

All’s well that ended well, I would say, with some valuable lessons to boot!

END

Yup. See y’all Thursday!