Don’t Hold Hot Things: A Melt-y Thumb Tale

Sup, everybody.

If the title didn’t give it away, I have a lesson to share, one I earned myself the other day on account of a terrifically dumb mistake.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I day-job as a carpenter. Not a day at work goes by without me having a 50/50 debate in my head on whether or not the job is worth it. Some days, it’s fulfilling, good work that leaves me feeling grounded (in the good way); others, it’s just…fuckin’ hard.

And dumb. But sometimes that’s my fault.

So the other day, we were…hmm…reconstituting an old concrete barbecue setup. It was built out of bricks and spackled over, but the years had worn it down, cracked parts of it, and generally had it falling apart. Job was to remove all the old framing, reinforce the body of it with rebar, and build out a new framing for it.

Wielding our mighty angle grinder, I set to work cutting down all the exposed, rusted bolts sticking out of various parts of the structure. It’s fun. It’s a spray of sparks, some “nnnn’eeeeerrrrrrrrrggh!” from the grinder, then I sweep away the debris with my hand and onto the next.

Now, I KNOW two things: 1) Friction, like that built up by grinding metal to nubs, creates a lot of heat, and 2) not to touch hot things (burned my hand pretty good as a kid getting Snoopy cookies out of the oven, and thought I learned my lesson).

So, obviously, as I’m picking up the heads of these freshly-cut bolts and screws, it’s a quick engagement so I don’t burn my fingers. But here’s the thing: they weren’t hot. I thought it was weird, but was busy so didn’t give it too much mind.

There I am, grind, sweep, grind, sweep, repeat; until something weird happened.

I pass my thumb over the nub of a fresh cut, and it feels like…hmm, picture dragging your fingertip over a Elmer glue stick. Kind of tacky, bit of resistance, and just a ‘sticky’ sensation, right?

Immediately, my brain goes, “Uh-oh, the only thing that should be kind of all melty is the nail, which means- oh, shit, I have molten steel on my thumb!”

So I bite down and brace for the burn to catch up to the thought, but it doesn’t happen.

No molten metal? Then what…?

I look at my thumb, see the browned, whitened, bubbled, and crackling skin describing the line that had passed over the nail and quickly realize two things: 1) “Ooooh. The steel wasn’t melty. My THUMB was melty…shit.” And 2) “It doesn’t hurt now…? Oh…it doesn’t hurt now because this is one of them gonna-hurt-later’s.”

Heh heh heh, aaaah…I still just kind of chuckle at that phrase: “One of them ‘gonna-hurt-later’s.'”

So, yeah. Don’t touch hot things.

Take care of yourselves, y’all.

The Time I Smuggled Explosives Across Europe (kinda by accident)

(Welcome to an ‘In Case You Missed It’! This will be one of those I re-post for a few days since it’s a tale I really wanna share as much as I can. If you’ve already seen it, think of the first time as a nifty pre-order bonus. I guess where the bonus is…a slight sense of superiority.)

I’ll be honest, the tale I’m about to share, I was saving it. But now that we’re about to dive in, I’m not totally sure what occasion I was waiting for: 100 followers, a one-year anniversary, my first book deal, etc. It’s a favorite of mine to share at parties or over campfires, but being shut in like we have been, I guess it’s just eek’ing out of me.

So here goes.

When I was sixteen, my mom blessed me with one of the single greatest experiences in my life so far. We merited invitation to (fucking somehow, by the way; still no clue where it came from) a program sponsoring “student ambassadorship” called People-to-People (apparently founded in 1956 by my main man ol’ Dwighty D). The idea was pretty simple, though: send high school-age kids to different countries to paint them with the brush of culture to promote a more global viewpoint and international friendship.

And that’s mostly what happened.

The tour we went on took us through six western-European countries: England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. There’s A LOT I could wax on about, a ton of granular experiences captured in those three weeks that will absolutely last a lifetime, and volumes that could be filled with all of that, but this one centers around the hallmark segment of the trip, which was the German Home Stay. In the weeks running up to the trip, we got to hear from alumni of the program, and the German Home Stay was absolutely heralded and touted above and beyond as the thing you’ll remember most, and it TOTALLY was.

But before we get there, some stuff happened in France a week earlier that sets the story up for its climax, shall we say.

France was fun, it was cool, all to say the least. The Louvre, the Palace at Versailles, the fooooood, and the markets – I could go on for days. Almost bought a man thong for six euros, egged on by the peer pressure of my travel mates, a decision I deeply regret not indulging, to this day.

But Paris was also the first place the trip organizers sort of loosened our leashes, so to speak. Regrettably, I don’t remember the name of the region or the area itself, I just know we were in a Parisian market. They posted us up by a central fountain and told us, “Alright, here’s where we’ll be for the next hour. Go ahead, set your bags down, go run around and browse, but so help me God be back here in an hour.”

So we scattered. We ran free, scoured, and had a hell of a time. And, naturally, it took about ten minutes to hear someone say this: “Guys! I found a place that sells M80’s!”

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with what M80’s are, growing up, I always heard them called a “quarter-stick of dynamite.” I’m not totally sure how accurate that is, but even if it’s an eighth-stick, you get my point. They blow up toilets, tear apart fingers, and all the rest. They’re also totally illegal for civilian use in America (without proper license, and…c’mon).

So the second we hear this, of course a gaggle of us beelines it for the shop we’re directed to and I buy two fat bricks of these things. I fork over whatever I was asked for and leave the shop grinning from ear to ear. I’m holding explosives that I now own and can do whatever I may with.

The sense of power was intoxicating.

That was, until we got back to the fountain, I bragged about the acquisition and another traveler asks, “Cool, but…how’re you going to get them home?”

I look at them, smile, and say….nothing. I…I say nothing at all for several long moments, because I don’t have any fucking idea how I’m going to get these home. I just stand there, pants quickly un-tightening, realizing the bricks of explosives in my hands aren’t the terrific playthings I wanted, but had quickly turned into burdensome contraband.

Not emotionally prepared to just leave them behind.
Can’t fly back to the States with them in my backpack/bag.
Can’t ship them plane or boat.

Fuck.

So the next week or so sees me wondering how best to handle them.

Now, setting that aside, the German Host Stay.

I stayed with a terrific family whom to this day I still consider my relatives overseas. They treated me phenomenally well, took me out, showed me places, toured the town with me, and when everybody else went to school the following Monday, we went to a Green Day concert instead.

(Which, actually, was one of my favorite parts coming out of this whole trip. My host brother, wonderful man named Florian, told me that Sunday night, “Tomorrow, you will go to school, and mom with take you to a museum. I will not be going, because I will be going with my father to a Green Day and Rise Against show.” He saw the twinkle in my eyes, the quiver to my chin, and said, “Would…would you like to come with us instead?” Somewhat un-diplomatically, “Fuck yes I want to go with you!” So the next day I was on the autobahn going 100 mph+ on my way to a rock concert with Florian and his dad while everyone else went to class.
Aaaaah….fond memories.)

The time came and went, and before I knew it, I was waking up on the morning of my last day. We were instructed to, when this time came, make our beds neatly, write a thank-you note, and leave said note along with a gift from home on the pillow. I made that bed tight enough to bounce a euro off the sheets, poured my heart into the thank-you note, and left a little plush Snoopy on the pillow, explaining that he’s a character of a cartoonist from my hometown.

That, and two bricks of M80 explosives.

It was a difficult decision, but time was running out, and I could think of nothing better to do with them. Besides, when I explained how and why I had them, it led to a pretty resounded laugh as to the circumstance (and it seemed like the American thing to do, if we can be honest). “Oh, excellent!” Florian’s mom exclaimed at the news. “We actually have a holiday coming up, and we will light on in your memory!”

The sentiment filled me with both honor and dread.

“Ooh, awesome,” I said. “Just…ooo, boy, please be careful with those.”

“Oh, yes. We will be. Do not worry.”

“Heh, awesome….but, like, for real. Please, be careful. I don’t want an email a week after I get home saying Florian doesn’t have fingers on his left hand or something.”

I didn’t actually say that last part, but I thought the hell out of it.

Ultimately, I made it home without being detained, and got an email some time later saying that the firecracker went off splendidly without hurting anybody. It’s also the reason I put in my bio that I’ve technically smuggled explosives internationally. So, really, everybody wins.

Ciao, for now.

The Time I Smuggled Explosives Across Europe (kinda by accident)

(Welcome to an ‘In Case You Missed It’! This will be one of those I re-post for a few days since it’s a tale I really wanna share as much as I can. If you’ve already seen it, think of the first time as a pre-order.)

I’ll be honest, the tale I’m about to share, I was saving it. But now that we’re about to dive in, I’m not totally sure what occasion I was waiting for: 100 followers, a one-year anniversary, my first book deal, etc. It’s a favorite of mine to share at parties or over campfires, but being shut in like we have been, I guess it’s just eek’ing out of me.

So here goes.

When I was sixteen, my mom blessed me with one of the single greatest experiences in my life so far. We merited invitation to (fucking somehow, by the way; still no clue where it came from) a program sponsoring “student ambassadorship” called People-to-People (apparently founded in 1956 by my main man ol’ Dwighty D). The idea was pretty simple, though: send high school-age kids to different countries to paint them with the brush of culture to promote a more global viewpoint and international friendship.

And that’s mostly what happened.

The tour we went on took us through six western-European countries: England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. There’s A LOT I could wax on about, a ton of granular experiences captured in those three weeks that will absolutely last a lifetime, and volumes that could be filled with all of that, but this one centers around the hallmark segment of the trip, which was the German Home Stay. In the weeks running up to the trip, we got to hear from alumni of the program, and the German Home Stay was absolutely heralded and touted above and beyond as the thing you’ll remember most, and it TOTALLY was.

But before we get there, some stuff happened in France a week earlier that sets the story up for its climax, shall we say.

France was fun, it was cool, all to say the least. The Louvre, the Palace at Versailles, the fooooood, and the markets – I could go on for days. Almost bought a man thong for six euros, egged on by the peer pressure of my travel mates, a decision I deeply regret not indulging, to this day.

But Paris was also the first place the trip organizers sort of loosened our leashes, so to speak. Regrettably, I don’t remember the name of the region or the area itself, I just know we were in a Parisian market. They posted us up by a central fountain and told us, “Alright, here’s where we’ll be for the next hour. Go ahead, set your bags down, go run around and browse, but so help me God be back here in an hour.”

So we scattered. We ran free, scoured, and had a hell of a time. And, naturally, it took about ten minutes to hear someone say this: “Guys! I found a place that sells M80’s!”

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with what M80’s are, growing up, I always heard them called a “quarter-stick of dynamite.” I’m not totally sure how accurate that is, but even if it’s an eighth-stick, you get my point. They blow up toilets, tear apart fingers, and all the rest. They’re also totally illegal for civilian use in America (without proper license, and…c’mon).

So the second we hear this, of course a gaggle of us beelines it for the shop we’re directed to and I buy two fat bricks of these things. I fork over whatever I was asked for and leave the shop grinning from ear to ear. I’m holding explosives that I now own and can do whatever I may with.

The sense of power was intoxicating.

That was, until we got back to the fountain, I bragged about the acquisition and another traveler asks, “Cool, but…how’re you going to get them home?”

I look at them, smile, and say….nothing. I…I say nothing at all for several long moments, because I don’t have any fucking idea how I’m going to get these home. I just stand there, pants quickly un-tightening, realizing the bricks of explosives in my hands aren’t the terrific playthings I wanted, but had quickly turned into burdensome contraband.

Not emotionally prepared to just leave them behind.
Can’t fly back to the States with them in my backpack/bag.
Can’t ship them plane or boat.

Fuck.

So the next week or so sees me wondering how best to handle them.

Now, setting that aside, the German Host Stay.

I stayed with a terrific family whom to this day I still consider my relatives overseas. They treated me phenomenally well, took me out, showed me places, toured the town with me, and when everybody else went to school the following Monday, we went to a Green Day concert instead.

(Which, actually, was one of my favorite parts coming out of this whole trip. My host brother, wonderful man named Florian, told me that Sunday night, “Tomorrow, you will go to school, and mom with take you to a museum. I will not be going, because I will be going with my father to a Green Day and Rise Against show.” He saw the twinkle in my eyes, the quiver to my chin, and said, “Would…would you like to come with us instead?” Somewhat un-diplomatically, “Fuck yes I want to go with you!” So the next day I was on the autobahn going 100 mph+ on my way to a rock concert with Florian and his dad while everyone else went to class.
Aaaaah….fond memories.)

The time came and went, and before I knew it, I was waking up on the morning of my last day. We were instructed to, when this time came, make our beds neatly, write a thank-you note, and leave said note along with a gift from home on the pillow. I made that bed tight enough to bounce a euro off the sheets, poured my heart into the thank-you note, and left a little plush Snoopy on the pillow, explaining that he’s a character of a cartoonist from my hometown.

That, and two bricks of M80 explosives.

It was a difficult decision, but time was running out, and I could think of nothing better to do with them. Besides, when I explained how and why I had them, it led to a pretty resounded laugh as to the circumstance (and it seemed like the American thing to do, if we can be honest). “Oh, excellent!” Florian’s mom exclaimed at the news. “We actually have a holiday coming up, and we will light on in your memory!”

The sentiment filled me with both honor and dread.

“Ooh, awesome,” I said. “Just…ooo, boy, please be careful with those.”

“Oh, yes. We will be. Do not worry.”

“Heh, awesome….but, like, for real. Please, be careful. I don’t want an email a week after I get home saying Florian doesn’t have fingers on his left hand or something.”

I didn’t actually say that last part, but I thought the hell out of it.

Ultimately, I made it home without being detained, and got an email some time later saying that the firecracker went off splendidly without hurting anybody. It’s also the reason I put in my bio that I’ve technically smuggled explosives internationally. So, really, everybody wins.

Ciao, for now.

The Time I Smuggled Explosives Across Europe (kinda by accident)

I’ll be honest, the tale I’m about to share, I was saving it. But now that we’re about to dive in, I’m not totally sure what occasion I was waiting for: 100 followers, a one-year anniversary, my first book deal, etc. It’s a favorite of mine to share at parties or over campfires, but being shut in like we have been, I guess it’s just eek’ing out of me.

So here goes.

When I was sixteen, my mom blessed me with one of the single greatest experiences in my life so far. We merited invitation to (fucking somehow, by the way; still no clue where it came from) a program sponsoring “student ambassadorship” called People-to-People (apparently founded in 1956 by my main man ol’ Dwighty D). The idea was pretty simple, though: send high school-age kids to different countries to paint them with the brush of culture to promote a more global viewpoint and international friendship.

And that’s mostly what happened.

The tour we went on took us through six western-European countries: England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. There’s A LOT I could wax on about, a ton of granular experiences captured in those three weeks that will absolutely last a lifetime, and volumes that could be filled with all of that, but this one centers around the hallmark segment of the trip, which was the German Home Stay. In the weeks running up to the trip, we got to hear from alumni of the program, and the German Home Stay was absolutely heralded and touted above and beyond as the thing you’ll remember most, and it TOTALLY was.

But before we get there, some stuff happened in France a week earlier that sets the story up for its climax, shall we say.

France was fun, it was cool, all to say the least. The Louvre, the Palace at Versailles, the fooooood, and the markets – I could go on for days. Almost bought a man thong for six euros, egged on by the peer pressure of my travel mates, a decision I deeply regret not indulging, to this day.

But Paris was also the first place the trip organizers sort of loosened our leashes, so to speak. Regrettably, I don’t remember the name of the region or the area itself, I just know we were in a Parisian market. They posted us up by a central fountain and told us, “Alright, here’s where we’ll be for the next hour. Go ahead, set your bags down, go run around and browse, but so help me God be back here in an hour.”

So we scattered. We ran free, scoured, and had a hell of a time. And, naturally, it took about ten minutes to hear someone say this: “Guys! I found a place that sells M80’s!”

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with what M80’s are, growing up, I always heard them called a “quarter-stick of dynamite.” I’m not totally sure how accurate that is, but even if it’s an eighth-stick, you get my point. They blow up toilets, tear apart fingers, and all the rest. They’re also totally illegal for civilian use in America (without proper license, and…c’mon).

So the second we hear this, of course a gaggle of us beelines it for the shop we’re directed to and I buy two fat bricks of these things. I fork over whatever I was asked for and leave the shop grinning from ear to ear. I’m holding explosives that I now own and can do whatever I may with.

The sense of power was intoxicating.

That was, until we got back to the fountain, I bragged about the acquisition and another traveler asks, “Cool, but…how’re you going to get them home?”

I look at them, smile, and say….nothing. I…I say nothing at all for several long moments, because I don’t have any fucking idea how I’m going to get these home. I just stand there, pants quickly un-tightening, realizing the bricks of explosives in my hands aren’t the terrific playthings I wanted, but had quickly turned into burdensome contraband.

Not emotionally prepared to just leave them behind.
Can’t fly back to the States with them in my backpack/bag.
Can’t ship them plane or boat.

Fuck.

So the next week or so sees me wondering how best to handle them.

Now, setting that aside, the German Host Stay.

I stayed with a terrific family whom to this day I still consider my relatives overseas. They treated me phenomenally well, took me out, showed me places, toured the town with me, and when everybody else went to school the following Monday, we went to a Green Day concert instead.

(Which, actually, was one of my favorite parts coming out of this whole trip. My host brother, wonderful man named Florian, told me that Sunday night, “Tomorrow, you will go to school, and mom with take you to a museum. I will not be going, because I will be going with my father to a Green Day and Rise Against show.” He saw the twinkle in my eyes, the quiver to my chin, and said, “Would…would you like to come with us instead?” Somewhat un-diplomatically, “Fuck yes I want to go with you!” So the next day I was on the autobahn going 100 mph+ on my way to a rock concert with Florian and his dad while everyone else went to class.
Aaaaah….fond memories.)

The time came and went, and before I knew it, I was waking up on the morning of my last day. We were instructed to, when this time came, make our beds neatly, write a thank-you note, and leave said note along with a gift from home on the pillow. I made that bed tight enough to bounce a euro off the sheets, poured my heart into the thank-you note, and left a little plush Snoopy on the pillow, explaining that he’s a character of a cartoonist from my hometown.

That, and two bricks of M80 explosives.

It was a difficult decision, but time was running out, and I could think of nothing better to do with them. Besides, when I explained how and why I had them, it led to a pretty resounded laugh as to the circumstance (and it seemed like the American thing to do, if we can be honest). “Oh, excellent!” Florian’s mom exclaimed at the news. “We actually have a holiday coming up, and we will light on in your memory!”

The sentiment filled me with both honor and dread.

“Ooh, awesome,” I said. “Just…ooo, boy, please be careful with those.”

“Oh, yes. We will be. Do not worry.”

“Heh, awesome….but, like, for real. Please, be careful. I don’t want an email a week after I get home saying Florian doesn’t have fingers on his left hand or something.”

I didn’t actually say that last part, but I thought the hell out of it.

Ultimately, I made it home without being detained, and got an email some time later saying that the firecracker went off splendidly without hurting anybody. It’s also the reason I put in my bio that I’ve technically smuggled explosives internationally. So, really, everybody wins.

Ciao, for now.

Grenades at Work

Sup everybody.

I’ve done some thinking and have come to the conclusion that enough time has passed that this story can be shared without anyone getting in trouble. Not that I’d particularly mind questions from my bosses where it happened since…well, I’m not there anymore.

Evasive attempts to sidestep possible repercussions now behind us, a question: have you ever worked an off-shift? You know, one of the ones besides a nine-to-five? It could be night shift, graveyard, swing, or best of all, weekend.

If you have or do, you might know what I mean when I describe them as…just, another color. We’re like specialists, called in to handle out-of-the-norm operations. And while there are the obvious drawbacks of an alternative schedule, the team-politics that come with it between various shifts, there’s also a certain degree of freedom.

Like a little bit less scrutiny. And in circumstances like those, creativity is allowed to flourish.

Allow me to demonstrate what I mean.

I worked at an optics company for some time a bit out of high school (shit, I don’t know why I’m putting it like that; I’m 26 now and I was there for six and a half years, it’s been my longest running job to date – but you get what I mean). It had its up’s and its down’s like any place, but one of the up’s was being able to handle some pretty neat stuff used in production from time to time. In this case, a large amount of dry ice.

One of the engineers there – we’ll call him Tugg, cause that’s funny – called a few of us into the break room one Saturday. The project that required the dry ice had been completed, but before disposing of the stuff, Tugg wanted to show off. He broke pieces off and held them in his mouth, making puffs of frost breath like some mid-forties dragon. He played Hot Potato with others, poured water on some to make sudden, big-ass clouds of “smoke.”

But best of all, he blew the tops off plastic bottles.

He’d take a small piece of dry ice, add a small splash of water, then twist the cap on real tight real quickly. The pressure would build up, and a few moments later – POP! The top would fly off with a bang. It was a neat party trick, but things grow boring if they stagnate, so Tugg up’d the ante.

He found a larger and thicker Snapple bottle to use for the same trick, and this time used a much larger piece of ice. He shoved the thing in there, followed it up with some water, and screwed the cap on tight, quickly setting it on the break room table and backing away…

After a few moments, we were wondering why it hadn’t popped. So we stood there. And stood there. The longer the top went un-blown, the less anyone was willing to approach the table. What had been a sweet peach-flavored beverage was now a highly pressurized container that would explode as soon as someone got close, we were sure. We egged one another to be the first to test it, but no one would brave it.

So we kept…just…standing there.

I turned to one of my coworkers to make some snarky comment, when the most miraculous thing happened.

The room, in less time than it would have taken me to even blink, had been filled wall-to-wall with fog. I also felt like I’d been punched square in the sternum and couldn’t hear anything besides a ringing in my ear which had followed a huge bang I was only just now registering had happened. But mostly, I cannot express enough in words alone how instantaneous the change was: one moment in time, the room was clear, and the next conceivable instant my vision was obstructed. Not even a chance to blink. Not even enough time for the reflex to engage.

A few moments of coughing and popping our ears later, we saw the Snapple bottle prone on the floor with the cap some distance away. With the dry ice, Tugg had successfully, accidentally created a dry ice flashbang grenade.

Moral of the story?

Not sure there is one, really. Be brave, I guess. Be bold? Provide helmets to your weekend employees if they’re anything like Tugg?

Anyway, that’s my tale. Ciao.

In My Own Bed Tonight”

What’s crack-a-lackin’?

I just remembered something that I wanted to share, and it’s cool because the reason it came to mind is that I used it just a short while ago. What “it” is, is advice I gave myself when I was about eight. And I know that sounds self-aggrandizing and lame to say – because it is, no doubt – but believe me when I say it’s worthwhile (as verified by…well…me…hang in there!).

The advice itself is best served, like any superhero or do-gooder, with an origin story:

I’m an eight-year-old little boy going to K-Mart with his mom. We were probably there because I’d just gotten out of school and she needed to grab some things for the house before taking us home. I, obviously, was there to scout Yu-Gi-Oh cards and other toys, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that while we were there, I got lost.

No biggy, it’s just a department store, but I was a kid. I was a kid and we’d just moved to California, which meant I didn’t really have any friends or neighbors I could hope to bump into. One minute I’m looking at Transformers, the next I realize I don’t know where mom is.

The panic starts to settle on me, the anxiety tickles my scalp with its pins and its needles.

I’ll never know what brought it on, but right as my chin is beginning to tremble, a thought dawns on me: “It’s alright, because tonight, I’m going to be asleep in my own bed.”

The relief came almost instantly. I went from lost in a city of strangers to temporarily inconvenienced while I looked for someone.

It’s taken me eighteen-or-so years since then for the full weight of that to fully take root, and even still, I’m not sure I have all of it, but: “Whatever is the problem now, it’s alright, because later is going to be different.”

There are versions of that thought all over: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” –everybody (but specifically found John Lennon being quoted this time)

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I fully realize that not every problem can be set aside so easily as with this little mental trick. If a family member is in critical condition after a heart attack or something, just saying, “It’s alright, because tomorrow’s a new day” won’t alleviate the worry on its own (and it won’t solve shit).

But I’ve used this perspective so many times for similar issues (to getting lost, not the heart attack, though we’ll get to that). Lost in San Francisco at night because I can’t find the car? I’ll make it home eventually and this will all be a story for later. In a fight with a friend? Life finds a way to sort itself out one way or another? Driving during a dangerous storm? Keep focused, and you’ll be feeling the sheets soon enough. Just having a shitty day at work? Ride it out, and that cotton will feel even better for getting through it.

In a rut just with life in general? That will require work, probably lots of it. But those restful nights will be critical, and after enough effort, life will change in a much more colorful, flavorful, storied way.

So the next time you’re in an uncomfortable situation, it’s worthwhile to look ahead knowing there’s something on the other side of it.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.

#twopennies

Insanity isn’t What I Thought it Was

Sup everybody.

(Hmmm…word of warning up top: this one is a little heavy. I was going through some of my random files and found the following. It was deep into a really tough life event (about a year ago), and is basically a diary entry from then. I’m mostly putting it on here as…well, going on whim, really; but also in case it resonates with anyone. I’m going to omit some names, given the nature of the thing, but otherwise, it’s just something I sat down and typed out as the feelings arose. Anyway, consider yourself informed [sounds less dramatic than “warned,” and we’re trying to have fun here- well, not today, exactly, but just in general and you get what I- oh God, okay, onto the thing]).

I think I might be going insane.

It’s been about seven months since mom went to the hospital, and about that long since we first heard the word “dementia” as it relates to her. Since then, it’s been neurology visit after neurology visit, insurance call after insurance call, email after email with hospital management – everybody either not knowing what to do or trying to get rid of us.

I just woke up from the same nightmare, three times in the same night, and bawled my eyes out.

I cried for an hour.

In it, mom died, the bank wanted to take her house, [landlady] said she couldn’t keep me as a tenant, and nobody was around – Mandy, [uncle], [aunt], [cousin], [in-law], [in-law], [aunt], [Pierre], even city workers from the damned coroner’s office – absolutely nobody.

There were people, but no one I knew and no one who was willing to help.

I was utterly alone.

And I woke up feeling that way, thinking that way.

Mandy came to bed when I called and lie there, consoling me. I told her the voice in my head kept telling me that the dream was right, that no one would miss me if I was gone. She told me that I was loved and listed people who felt that way.

In the nightmare, though, that was just the thing. Nobody was around, nobody cared. And all the people who would love me…the feeling just didn’t go that far. Nightmares have always been that way: I need to run, I’m slow; I need to punch, I hit light as a feather; I need love, the most someone can feel towards me is casually like me.

It was a world where love towards me just didn’t exist.

Every name she gave, the voice found a way to tell me why that wasn’t true. (Except when she said “Jeremy”. Weirdly, the voice said “Yeah, I guess him, actually”.)

She told me that I was family, and that her family was mine too, that I needed to let go of this feeling that I’d be so easily abandoned. She gave [a sibling] as an example of how persevering her family was with troubles.

Again, the voice piped up and told me that that was different. [A sibling] is family by blood, it said. Of course they won’t abandon him, it continued, he’s a son and brother by blood – you, though…?

“Even marriage,” it said, “is different.”

It seems true for everyone else, I tried telling it.

“For them, yeah. But for you…?”

I went from crying to laughing into her chest and shoulder. And I’m not sure why. I think it was because I could see how crazy this all looked and sounded, and the laughing didn’t help but kept going anyway.

When we had to put Ferdinand (our cat) down a couple of years ago, it was the reminder of how harsh but sure a teacher experience can be – or rather, just is.

I stood in the bathroom and she brought me a glass of water and a hug. After she left, I swirled the water around and drank it. And I think I know why people prefer the burn of whiskey or scotch in moments like that, like in the movies.

I’m starting to wonder when people describe voices in their head, whether they mean actually hearing someone speaking to them inside their head or if it’s impulses or thoughts that just don’t sound like what they’d usually think to themselves. Foreign ideas and concepts that feel like invaders.

Because this voice was fully the latter.

But boy it was convincing. And I think that’s because it sounds like I’m talking to myself, telling myself things. But it still sounds like a voice that’s not mine.

So I’m starting to think that’s what insanity is. It may not just be a sudden crack into mad raving, but soft touches like this, a voice that tells your low worth, how easily you’ll be forgotten, and that if you confide this in anyone, that gives them power over you and they might use it just for fun, because they know they have it now.

The more I woke up, though, the quieter the voice got – which isn’t really a super sign in and of itself. You shouldn’t be afraid of sleep, afraid of whatever-this-is waiting for you when you’re tired. But as I woke up, another voice spoke up that told the first to shut the fuck up.

It told me that I’m not the only who gets like this, and I believe that.

Which is both comforting and kind of scary, isn’t it? I don’t want the people around me to wake up crying and then cackle about it, and to have that be something normal.

But se la vie.

Which is what the voice said next. “That’s part of the human experience, baby. Learn to love it. Happiness, anger, thrill, depression – they’re all in the same basket.”

It didn’t say the parts past “baby”, but I know it’s what it meant.

While I was crying into Mandy’s shoulder, I told her something. Something very true that I don’t think I’ve told anyone – even myself.

I’m afraid of dying alone.

Not “dying while single” or “dying and not being in a relationship” or even “dying with nobody around at that particular moment” even though they’re all definitely true.

I’m scared (ironically to death) of dying and nobody caring.

Then my team of mental coaches – Deadpool, Kevin Hart, and Kratos – ganged up and beat up the voice in a cartoon dust cloud.

And I’ve been pretty optimistic and comfortable in my skin since.

Also, because I think I learned something.

When I was a kid, I thought going crazy was scary, but maybe a little fun. I thought you’d get used to seeing people that weren’t there or hearing voices no one spoke and you could just make it a fun new world view.

But I think insanity’s a little softer than that and a LOT more intimate.

We’re all a little bit insane.

Or at least part of me hopes so.

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!

I Left my Comfort Zone and I Paid for It

Happy Tuesday, 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!

Confessions of a Criminal, pt. 1

Happy Tuesday, everybody.

The other week, I went to a local event in my area called “Coffee with a Cop” as part of an attempt at character research for a novel I’ve got cooking (I actually sort of chickened out then had to come back after being light-heartedly berated by a department clerk, but that’s a story for another time). Point is, it’s a really cool shin-dig wherein members of the local police department convene at a designated coffee shop and are available to the public for questions, conversation, and general hang-out.

Reflecting on it and my notes, it got me thinking about the, precisely, two times I’ve been at odds with The Law – both simple traffic violations.

The first was a simple speeding ticket, and not worth mentioning besides this note telling you it isn’t worth mentioning.

The second was a bit more fun.

For a bit of context, let’s rewind. You all remember Pierre, the roommate who ignited the apartment-wide Cold War? Well, maybe six years ago, he had a girlfriend who’s father had the following belief: “Eh, I just use the carpool lane year-round and whenever. Whenever I get caught, I just treat the ticket like my membership fee.”

As a 19-year-old, I thought this philosophy was goddamn brilliant.

So that’s what I did. For years, I was “that guy,” the one who blazed passed you losers caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour. I did this as a renegade road warrior for years; and you know what? I was always on time (sort of kind of not really not the point).

Well one day, I hopped on the freeway, scooted over to the fast lane like usual, and was on my way. Except this time was different. This time, I got a little funny feeling in the back of my brain. A little tingle like ESP that told me, for some inexplicable reason, today was the wrong day to do this. Some would call it paranoia, some would call it guilt, others might call it an impending sense of divine CHP justice (I’d probably side with the latter). But whatever you want to call it, in that moment I was certain I’d made a bad move. So I started trying to merge back in line. Thing was, my plan worked TOO WELL.

I was flying passed columns of barely-moving vehicles, making really good time to my next job (yeah, by the way, it was during a summer where I was working a second job to help teach an English class – well, tutor, but you get me), but all the while thinking that today it was a bad idea, and for the life of me I couldn’t find a spot to merge back into line.

Well, about five minutes into this master class of seeing the future, that’s when I saw him: Officer Powers.

And no shit, I’m not making his name up either to make him sound cool or ‘protect his identity’ or anything. His name was legitimately Officer Powers (like, I’m sure he had a first name, but you know what I’m saying).

Anyway, the freeway passes under an overpass and time…just…

Well, you ever have one of those experiences where you experience a single second of time, but it feels slowed down and stretched into fifteen? That happened here. As I drove under the overpass, I turned my head (slow-motion eyes blinking included) and saw a motorcycle cop that had been hidden on the other side of the barrier. I watch his eyes (behind his badass sunglasses) slowly rise from his radar gun and – y’all – I could feel the eye contact. With our eyes alone and all in an instant, we had the following conversation:

Me: “You see me, right?”
Him: “Oh, yeah.”
Me: “And you see me seeing you, right?”
Him: “Mmhm, most definitely.
Me: “And you can tell I’m seeing you seeing me, right?”
Him: “Totally.”
Me: “Shit.”
Him: “Yup.”

Then, just as quickly as it had slowed, time resumed its usual pace, and as it did, my heart started thumping. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap!” it kept saying.

Then OF COURSE a spot opens up in a regular lane, I scoot into it and start hoping, “Well, maybe that whole thing was imagined. Maybe that badass hawk-eyed cop lost track of me.”

Nope.

A few seconds later I heard the ‘Whoop-Whoop’, saw the lights, and he pulled up behind lil’ old me.

Now, here’s the problem. Like I mentioned up top, I’ve been pulled over precisely once before on the freeway. That time, it had been a complete piece of cake. Freeway, nighttime with no other cars, just before an off-ramp that pulled directly into a gas station. Super safe, super easy, no mess, no fuss.

This time, it was on a hot, bright, busy day, with the Great Migration of Southern Traffic happening, and I didn’t know to/how to pull over onto the shoulder.

So…I…just kept driving.

Like, I was in the right-hand lane and trying to choose and exit to take, but couldn’t find a similar, utterly perfect one; so I panicked and stayed on the freeway.

I took so long to pull off that the car driving in front of me must have had a guilty conscience over something and pulled off to the shoulder themselves (or they were demonstrating for me, I don’t know). Point is, I take so long to pull over, the guy rides up to my window.

Him: “Hey, are you gonna pull over or what?”
Me: “Um, erm, I, uh, um…downtown exit?”

I can’t see his eyes roll behind his shiny-ass aviator glasses, but I felt it.

I finally pull off the freeway at the designated exit, but then I encounter another problem: where to park?

I come up to a stop light, and take a right because I know it goes into a neighborhood with, normally, plenty of street parking where I can proudly receive my traffic citation. Except today, the curbs are all super busy. So I come up to a 4-way stop intersection thinking this: “Well, I mean, there’s a little bit of space over there, but it looks like it’s a bit of red curb and, ho-ho, I don’t wanna double down. That spot looks open, but- oof, looks like a yellow curb…”

Meanwhile, Officer Powers has again approached my driver’s side window as three other cars have approached the intersection, but are all awkwardly sitting there since it’s my turn to go and nobody wants to go out of order while a cop is present. I roll my window down.

Me: “Hi again.”
Him: “Yeah, hi. You see that patch of curb over there?” -he points-
Me: “Yessir.”
Him: “There.”

He holds his hands up to hold the three other cars back as a way to direct traffic for me as he waves me forward to my parking spot.

The [French accent] piece de resistance?

I smirk and nod at one of the cars I pass. Y’all, I felt like such a pimp getting my very own police escort that I chest-pumped at a stranger.

Anyway, once I park, it was nothing but a (further) pleasant experience. He told me I come off like I’m new to this sort of thing, to which I confess I am, to which he responds that he guesses that’s probably a good thing.

In the end, I was late to work, got my ticket and a story, and I haven’t violated the rules of the carpool/HOV lane since. #thesystemworks

Also, I told my mom about the whole thing, and she laughed with me. I told my girlfriend and got my ass chewed plum off for it. Learned a lot that day.

Catch you guys Thursday!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

ALSO I HAVE MORE NEWS!!

My episode with the NIGHTLIGHT podcast dropped last Friday!! It features a horror story of mine: “The Scars of Eliza Gray“. Go, it’s free, give it a listen, and if you wanna, stick around after the 25-minute mark to listen to my interview with the podcast’s creator, Tonia Thompson. It was a TON of fun to do and I’m sure we’ll have more news like this in the future.