What Kitty Litter Taught Me About Life

There’s a meme I’ve seen floating around from the heartwarming, soul-crushing animated movie ‘Up.’ It features the main grumpy old man character when he’s young and enjoying life with his partner. They’re lying on the grass together smiling, and the text reads simply: “You never know the importance of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Savor life the best you can, because you never quite realize the moments that make it until you’re looking at them in the rear-view. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you feel the memory being formed like a camera taking a snapshot. But the majority of times, you don’t quite have control over the moments that will stick with you.

This is one of those.

I was eleven years old, or thereabouts, hanging with my aunt, uncle, and other friends. Among those friends was one of theirs, a man in his early twenties at the time named Ian. Like a lot of conversations around the time of the “I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER?” zeitgeist, we were talking about cats. Being the insightful little bugger I am, I added the thoughtful question: “Why do cats poop in a box full of sand anyway?”

Without missing a single beat, Ian looks at me and ripostes: “Why do you poop in a bowl full of water?”

You see, by asking my question about a box full of sand, I was trying to imply that it wasn’t natural for a member of the animal kingdom to be defecating in that kind of environment. Ian’s sharp response informed me that I wasn’t paying nearly enough attention to my own circumstances to be criticizing where cats poop. Since then, it’s become sort of a watermark for measuring my own hypocrisy and making sure I come correct whenever I think to criticize or form opinions about the situations of others.

So-and-so may be kind of annoying when they bring every conversation back to their favorite topic, but before gossiping about that, make sure to check how smooth a conversationalist you are in your own right before going there.

It might seem obvious to you how irresponsible someone seems to be with their money, but it’s worth a double check at your own spending habits and circumstances before forming an opinion.

On and on the list goes, but the absurd fact of the matter that a comment about where cats take a shit taught me a life lesson that’s so far spanned seventeen years and counting should say something about the mysterious, wonderful workings of the universe.

“Kindly let me help you, or you’ll drown” said the monkey as it took the fish and put it safely up a tree. Just because we think we know what’s good for us – which we absolutely don’t always – it’s worth a second look before applying that kind of hubristic approach to others.

This nugget of enduring wisdom, again, brought to us by cats taking a crap.

The world is funny.

Sin Walkers

Another year, another round of contests in the books.

Okay, I say that, but the thing I’m going to share is from a contest that’s underway. The following has been submitted and we’ll see how well it does.

If I haven’t shared this before or if you’re new, I like to take part in the NYC Midnight fiction contests from time to time. This time around was their Flash Fiction bracket, and they go like this:

You have 48 hours to write a story of a thousand words or fewer. You’re given a genre, a location, and an object which all have to be represented. So, say for example, your given genre is ‘Fantasy,’ placed at ‘a restaurant,’ and featuring ‘a length of pipe,’ you can see how you’d have to piece together those elements into a little diddy.

This time around, I was given ‘Horror,’ ‘a clifftop,’ and ‘a crowbar.’ I forgot that the weekend over which the contest was held, I actually had a number of obligations I’d committed to, so instead of forty-eight, I crammed this out in two.

The synopsis: “A group of five friends is on route to a weekend getaway when a highway accident diverts them, and the night quickly descends into terror as they flee from a monstrous hunter.”

Still though, I think it came together alright.

Sin Walkers

I’m sitting in the back seat of Travis’s Ford just watching the streaks of nighttime rain worm their way across the cold glass. We’re on our way to my dad’s cabin, and everything is just as normal as it always is. Travis is talking about this new job he’s about to land, and Chris is pretending to listen. Sarah won’t look up from her Switch, and Patrick sits between us pretending not to sneak glances at my legs. I fog up the window with a sigh and go back to counting the lines in the road when Chris suddenly shouts.

“Watch out!”

I don’t have time to see what it was or even to think. Travis wrenches on the steering wheel, there’s the screech of metal against the guard rail, and then just gravity. My stomach lurches into my throat, and I feel myself screaming. The cab is chaotic with light, dark, noise, and force all battling for rank. I think we swept right over the clifftop, tumbled end over end, and finally crashed through some trees.

My ears are ringing. In turns, we all fall out of the truck. I’m dizzy. Sarah pukes. It’s minutes before anyone says anything. There’s a howl in the distance behind us.

“Everyone alright?” Chris asks finally.

“I don’t know,” is all I can whimper out.

“Did you guys hear that?” asks Patrick, looking back up the short cliff we’d careened off.

Travis huffs. “It’s just coyotes, dumbass.” Then to Chris, he says, “What the fuck was that for, man? You ran us off the road!” He shoves him.

“I don’t think coyotes sound like that…”

Chris growls back at Travis. “There was a guy standing in the middle of the road!” he shouts. “You almost plowed right into him!”

Patrick doesn’t have time to do more than yelp when some kind of huge animal tackles him to the ground. It’s dark and raining. There’s a roar and a grisly crunch as Patrick’s screaming stops.

So we scatter. I bolt off into the woods crying like a maniac, and Chris manages to follow. I don’t know where the others go, I just run. I dart through trees, cut through bushes, jump over rocks, anything to obey this primal need to flee. I hear Chris breathing and struggling behind me, but there’s another noise too.

It doesn’t sound anything like a coyote.

We keep running, leaping over roots and dips in the ground, and I hear water ahead. I charge ahead with the last of what my legs will give me and dive right into the forest stream. We make it to the other side together and glance back. On the other side of the stream is this…thing. It’s partially hidden in the shadows of the trees, but it looks like a person with yellow eyes.

And the eyes are seven feet from the ground.

The thing looks from us to the stream, then steps back and growls. It disappears from view, but we can hear it running away along the stream, trying to find a way around.

“What the hell was that thing?” Chris asks breathlessly. “Did you see what way the others went?”

Another howl on our side of the stream keeps me from answering, and we start running again. About a minute later, we find the edge of a fenced property. We make our way through a hole in the links and can see that it’s some kind of scrapyard or cemetery for old cars. Chris finds a rusted crowbar on the hood of an old Chevvy, and uses it to get us into a ramshackle storage shed.

“I don’t know,” I say at last. I try in vain to wipe my wet hands off on my pant legs, but I wind up just nervously wringing them together and I can’t get them to stop shaking.

Chris gives me a confused look. “What?” he says.

“The thing that…” I swallow a lump in my throat. “The thing that killed Patrick. I have no idea what that is.” I start crying again. “I just hope Travis is okay,” I sob.

He moves to put his hand on my shoulder, but we both hear something.
“Chris? Chris, Rebecca!” a voice from outside shouts. “Where are you guys?”

“Travis?” Chris calls. He sets the crowbar down and jogs out to find him. I move to follow, but my heart begins racing anew, and some deep survival instinct anchors me to the spot. Something leaps out from behind a crushed car and shoves its arm through Chris’s chest.

It’s tall with taut skin, pink and white like it’s been burned, sickly shining with the rain. Its limbs are unnaturally long and has fangs like a big cats. It rips into the dead meat of Chris’s neck, but stops when it sees me. It howls this clicking, wailing shriek and starts stalking right toward me. With eyes fixed on mine, its mouth opens impossibly wide and its throat starts to quiver and vibrate. “Chris? Chris, Rebbeca!” comes the voice, perfectly like Travis. “Where are you guys?”

It lunges at me, and I react just in time to catch its head in the door. A clawed hand breaks the glass, rips into my shoulder, and I hear something break that adrenaline tells me to ignore. The wood quickly begins to creak and splinter, but I grab the crowbar Chris left behind and bash its skull over and over again until it stops moving.

I curl up against the back wall and just hug my knees with my good arm. I think about Patrick, about Chris, about Travis, and just pray to God and against hope that Sarah got away. Then I hear something outside, just audible over the drumming of rain.

Voices.

“Chris?” calls one from my right.

“Rebbeca!” calls the same voice from my left.

“Where are you guys?”

“Chris? Rebecca! Where are you guys?”

They’re getting closer.

Quick n’ Dirty Promo

Just like goodbyes at parties, I’m bad at these. So let’s be quick and sloppy about it.

We did it again! Got another couple of folks to say yes to the squiggles I write up!

Had a couple of publications this year, but these latest have definitely been the luckiest. Wrote a romp about some time traveling hijinks and someone said, “Hell yeah.” Then, wrote up a tale about knights and monsters and ACTUALLY convinced someone to say “Hell yeah!” to that too! lol Y’all, technically now I’m a bona fide sci-fi AND /high/ fantasy author now. Which is rad. Kade over at The Common Tongue Magazine is a wickedly sharp editor, and Jessica with JayHenge Publishing was one of the coolest to work and correspond with. Plus, the collections are dope and my contributions are a couple of my babies. (A COUPLE of them…I should have more news…like this…y’know…on the way. I been busy.)

PLUS, Common Tongue gave me a friggin’ Writer Page found here. I feel like a pirate ship that finally got its flag. So check out CTM’s Issue #3 and look out for my story, “The Bells of Kraeden,” here. And if you’re too busy or lazy to read, they honored me deeply by also adapting it into a podcast episode!

Lastly, go look’it Jessica’s “The Chorochronos Archives” collection with my piece, “30,000 B.C.” here.

With both and/or either, please feel encouraged to leave them a comment or some sort of review like this: “AhmyGodthiswassogoodbutdefinitelyEvan’swasthebestusemoreofhisstuffyeswooooow!”

Okay. <phew> As you were…

My Fiance’s a Potter Nerd

Nobody’s perfect, am I right? But I love her despite her imperfections, which is the whole power of love in the first place.

Kidding, of course. I get that I’m on the outside looking in when it comes to the Harry Potter empire. And it’s not like I don’t see why it’s great, just…well…two things. First, I’m a contrarian at heart. Have been since I was a kid, and have just come to accept that it’s a part of my nature in this life. I’m not sure why or where it started, but alas, The Dude abides. I see a massive crowd all headed west, my first inclination is to look east to see what we might be missing.

And secondly – this is the one that’s likely to get me in trouble, but – have you ever had a work of art, well, ruined by an overzealous fandom? Like, the show, movie, book, or whatever else might be perfectly fine, but being surrounded by fans, opinions, theories, toys, t-shirts, bags, Pop! vinyls, tattoos, baby names and everything else ALL dedicated to a particular franchise it just becomes a bit…much.

So like I said, I realize that I’m on the outside looking in on this one; but I try not to beat myself up too much. I’ve seen the movies, read the first couple of books (mostly), and feel like I get it. It’s just that the hype by hardcore fans haven’t just set the bar high, they’ve set the bar through the stratosphere.

Now, all that being said, I had a Harry Potter-themed dream last night, and really, I’m left feeling justified in that I know enough about the series, given how informed my dream was.

Something like this…

I’m standing in a dark, damp space. I realize after a few moments, not knowing how I came to be there, that I’m with two others who are in a panic and we’re not standing but running through a traffic tunnel. It’s late at night, but there are dim lights just above the sidewalks on either side and street lamps at either end.

I don’t recognize one of my companions, but I know the other to be Professor Lupin, fresh into his role as master of Defense Against the Dark Arts. He’s hurriedly covering and escorting our faceless companion as ominous organ music swells. Behind them I see fast approaching is a ghostly, horrifying Dementor. I get myself between the Dementor and my friends, draw out a wand I didn’t realize I apparently carried with me, and with a powerful breath and burst of will shout, “Expelliarmus!”

My Patronus doesn’t materialize, but the Dementor gets stunned a bit like it just got a cobweb stuck on its face. So I cry again, “Expelliarmus!” The same thing happens, the Dementor doesn’t quit its pursuit but reacts like it just got gently th’whacked. Frustration mounting at my failure to conjure a Patronus, I continue to call out, “Expelliarmus! Expelliarmus!” And while I fail to banish the Dementor, I harass it enough until Lupine and our friend have made fair escape to safety. Once I see they’ve made it clear, I throw my hands down at my sides to try something new.

“Okay, hey!” I shout. “What the hell? Can we talk about this?”

And like I’m sure it NEVER happened in the books or movies, the Dementor stops. In a voice somewhere between Nick Cage and Paul Giamatti says, “Uh, sure. The heck was all that?” It stops to flail and pantomime my wand-waving.

“You know, I’m not really all that sure. I just thought it was what I was supposed to do.”

“Well it was weird, and a bit rude.”

“Sorry, kind of. Can…can I go now? Or are you going to follow us?”

With what I think was a sort of shrug and a sigh, it waves me off.

When I woke up, I went into the kitchen to tell my fiance about the dream, which got a bit of a chuckle, especially when I mentioned that I couldn’t summon my damned Patronus. But now conscious, I realized my mistake: I wasn’t fueling the spell with a happy memory like you’re supposed to. Instead, I was just pumping the effort full of as much unbridled optimism as I could muster. I told her my mistake, and she just kept chuckling, which is when I realized the second part to my mistake – I was using the whole wrong damn spell in the first place. “Expecto Patronum” is for pushing away Dementors, “Expelliarmus” is for disarming fellow wizards.

What a doof.

Really though, I’m proud of my subconscious Potter knowledge for filling in the gaps despite my mistake. The way I figure it, I WAS disarming the Dementor of its usual weapon: that soul-sucky breath thing. Every time I hit it with Expelliarmus, I was making it cough, technically.

I grant free license to any ambitious Potter nerd out there that wants to use this as an element in their fan fiction.

Just send me a copy, cause that sh*t’s funny.

Ciao for now, y’all.

Making My Worry Work for Me

I guess I’ve just been in this sort of mood lately to ruminate on and dispense advice nobody asked me for.

I try not to complain. And by that I do mean in general, I’m not much of a complainer. It’s a habit that has some merit, but also means I wind up enduring a lot of stuff that I might not have to, otherwise. Let me explain.

It isn’t born from a spineless attitude, some sort of head-hung-low, “Okay, whatever you say, sorry,” disposition. As a little kid, I grew up in a house that saw more than its fair share of shouting and violence, and through life – like we all do at times, I imagine – have been surrounded by people with short fuses. And the takeaway, thank God, wasn’t that “shouting is totally the way to assert yourself and get things done so people know you’re not a push-over,” but that anger is ugly, more often than not. Really ugly. And if nothing else, I’m a creature of vanity, so I want everything to do with charm and nothing to do with ugliness.

That said, I have had two times in recent memory (meaning probably a dozen years) that I’ve shouted while beside myself. Once was while playing Settlers of Catan and Micah skyrocketed ahead to seven Victory Points and so I built my road up to try and close the gap a little bit for the rest of us but then Alan blocked me because “You got longest road last time” and even when I diverted he did it again even though the ONLY resources I was sitting on were Lumber and Brick so what the hell else was I gonna do, but he still felt super justified despite the fact that Micah had more than the three of us COMBINED, like are you kidding me with that f*cking STUPID lack of tactical awarene-……

Anyway, and the second time was at a doctor smugly refusing to help a loved one.

I’d say both were equally justified.

Patience is a virtue, and it’s one that all too uncommon these days, it seems; and so it’s one that I strive for with my utmost. I feel like with patience comes integrity, comes dignity, and comes a certain amount of peace. Not that it’s easy, at all. In fact, paired with a relatively undying sense of optimism, it can be pretty exhausting. It’s tiring to know that against whatever the odds may be, I’ll still hope; and even when those hopes have been dashed time and time again, know that beneath it all my core head will still insist that there’s a way for whatever it is I’m hoping for to work, and I’ll endure it quietly throughout the process.

I’ve blown a few gaskets, but still together, mostly.

And on the whole, I do find that honey wins more than vinegar. Gratitude wins out over attitude. Resilience beats out rage. Patience trumps pettiness.

But it is not easy, though some that know me have told me it seems that way.

Harkening back to the aforementioned vanity, yeah, when I’m told that I’m always such a cool cucumber, I lean into it because it feels sexy, but I’m human as hell, which means I still plague myself with nightmares of what could go wrong. All the time. I imagine those things I don’t want to have happen: people or pets dying, running out of money, losing a place to live, on and on and on. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (if you haven’t heard of it, check it out) defines the form they often strike me as Nighthawks. I can have a peaceful, happy day, and as soon as my head is on the pillow at night, I think of how one day I’ll have to eulogize my mother, or might outlive my partner and bear the burden of dying alone, or wrestle with my own mortality if I ever get cancer and just hope I’m loved enough that people will miss me…

You get it.

But what I try to do, since those things sound way too ‘woe is me,’ is think past them and, well, game plan, essentially. A recent example…

The topic of moving out of state has come up a lot recently. If you haven’t heard, California is expensive as balls, which makes prospect-building here rather low. With those talks, there are certain familial concerns that have to be taken into account before we could move anywhere, and my brain ran the Worst Case Scenario simulation, like this:
Theoretically, the strain of those familial obligations could be too much to bear for my partner and I, leaving us feeling anchored and without options and whereupon it’s ultimately what kills our relationship, and they breaks things off with me. Say that, a month or so after that, the family member in question passes away of health complications, leaving me with another set of pieces to pick up alone. Cherry on top would be that said partner hears of this and is so taken with grief and moreover guilt they take their own life. In a span of weeks, my life is turned upside down and my life loses two of its cornerstones.

It was a rough day.

But, mental/emotional nightmare that all that imagining was, I didn’t let it stop there. Much as it twisted my stomach and hollowed my heart, I made like an amateur improv artist and “Yes, and’d” the thought. If all that were to happen, take a few minutes to sit in how that felt. For a little while, look out at the scenery as if that was the world I knew at present. In a sense, pretend or fake myself into thinking that was the case I had to contend with…what would I do? How would I behave, what would that change about me? What prospects would I be left with, what options would I have then?

I was forced to admit it would probably change a few things about me – my personality, my tolerance for certain things, what I would choose to do with myself. But there was a certain amount of comfort that came from three things. Firstly, that was damn-near a worst of all worst case scenarios, and in a very facsimile-style sense, I’d lived through it; like I’d had a practice run of living in it. Secondly, when my car had issues later that day, it was no big deal at all. In fact, mentally putting yourself through the worst your anxiety can conjure makes small potatoes out of a lot of other problems.

Lastly- well’p, I’ve mentioned before a few times here that I’m a UFC fan. And any fellow combat sports fans on here would probably know the name Nick Diaz if I said it. I found a quote of his that actually sums up my third point a bit better than I would put it:

“Other people are always- you know they wanna think about the positive, don’t think
about the negative. And I believe that thinking about the negative is kinda- you know
a way of cancelling out all these possibilities one by one. Cause the odds are I’m
not gonna guess what’s gonna happen, but if I can guess every scenario gone wrong,
then um, you know, maybe, I can change the outcome.”
-Nick Diaz

It’s sort of that age-old bit of work advice: Don’t mention problems if you see them, mention problems and solutions. If you see a busted pipe and go, “Huh, that’s a busted-ass pipe,” that hasn’t really done much. Actually, it hasn’t done sh*t. But if you see a busted pipe, find someone, and say, “Hey, this pipe is busted. Should we turn off the water, do you know where the valve is?” Or, “Do you know who could replace this thing?” then you’re already a billion lightyears ahead of the first example.

My point is simply that if you play the “What if?” mind games that WE ALL DO, but let it stop there, that’s when it hurts you. WE ALL run the “What if X bad thing happened?” – some more than others, absolutely – and f*ck me, make no mistakes that it is not easy at all, but gee golly I’ve found it helpful.

Dunno. If nothing else, the next time you get hit with the Worry Hammer, try pressing forward a little bit. It ain’t painless, but it beats the hell out of building a world in your head of things that want to go badly for you and giving yourself no options.

Best of luck, all.

Why You Should Tip Big

I once heard somebody say, “Everyone needs to work a season of retail during the holidays so they know not to be disrespectful,” and I respectfully say, “F*ck that.”

Not because I don’t think people need better manners on the whole, mind. In fact, most definitely the opposite – all too common nowadays is it for people to feel insanely entitled – I just really don’t want to work a season of retail. Rather, I don’t want to work any retail, if I can help it, precisely for the above reason.

But that’s one of two occupations that experience a ton of entitled crap from a largely unforgiving public. The other, of course, being restaurant staff. (And yes, yes, before we go any farther, clearly there are other jobs that have to endure this too, but let’s focus here for today.) From complaints, to demands, to unreasonable privilege-seeking, Martha who grooms dogs or Bruce that manages a car lot seem to suddenly find a gem-crusted crown atop their domes the moment someone shows them to a booth at an Applebee’s.

And even setting those cultural, societal, (dumb) norms aside for the moment, working for damn-near free/”grovel wages” would be reason enough for the title. So yes, tip big if you find yourself able.

I tip between 20%-30% on average regardless of the bill for a number of reasons that will soon make painfully clear that those figures are in no way some sort of ‘humble brag.’ The first being that I can never remember what’s proper: Is it 15%? 18%? Is that with gratuity, or without? Was there a gratuity this time? I don’t want to leave 15% when 18% is the norm, and now that person thinks I’m stiffing, them or making a negative comment about their help, or something. So, if for other reason than laziness, err on the side of a touch more than a touch less.

Another shade to that reason too, actually, is embarrassment. Not at my powers of retention regarding customs, but at…hmm, expectation? Let me put it this way, if it’s Valentine’s Day and your classmate (pretend for a moment we’re in grade school, it makes the mental exercise work) gives you a Valentine’s Day card that states simply “Will you be my Valentine?” is that a sincere gesture, or just witnessing the fulfillment of a perceived obligation? Right? So if you’re given that card, it doesn’t say anything special and isn’t really even for you, it was just done out of tradition, but now you have to thank them or you’re the turd; but if you aren’t given a card, oof, well now you’ve been snubbed. Ouch.

But if you get a card from a classmate that goes a little above a beyond…? Oooo, that’s kind of sweet. That card has some hand-drawn glitter art? Got a little chocolate that comes with it? A personalized note? Oh, lawd, well now it’s kind of touching.

I don’t see how tipping is really all that different in form from the above situation with Valentine’s Day cards. It’s a win-win, too. If the service was great, the bonus tip sends the message, “Hey, you there, for real, thanks for taking care of me today.” And even if the service was awful and the person was kind of a butthole about the whole thing, you leave with the satisfaction that that person is probably going, “Aw, jeez. Well now don’t I feel like a rube…”

Moral victory secured.

But really, even all of that is just because I enjoy crafting a torturously long wind-up to my real point. And what I really draw from when I press this, is the following experience.

There was a time I went out to lunch with a friend (shocking, I know – I have FRIENDS), and I covered the bill. My memory’s a little fuzzy on who it was with, I don’t quite remember where we went, what we ate, or even clearly how many years ago this was, but I do very clearly remember what happened as we were leaving. I left a pretty sizable tip for all the above reasons (maybe closer to 30-35% this time; I was doing alright), and did so in cash just because it was what I had on me. As we were walking to the door, the fellow who’d served us ran interception and asked me if I’d made a mistake. Honestly perplexed, I just raised an eyebrow, smiled, and said, “No. No mistake, that’s yours.”

Now, there were no tears. No heart-pouring tales of hard times. But there was an indescribable look in his eyes that I didn’t know at the time I would one day understand intimately well. On the surface, he was just really grateful, and a bit surprised, so I took it that way. It was nice. Put a pep in my step, and I got to be That Guy (the good kind, not the bad kind) to somebody that day.

Fast forward a few years to Fall 2019, life’s gotten pretty hard. I’d left my job somewhat ambitiously only to wind up pouring most of myself and my worldly goods into a family emergency (Don’t regret it, do it again in a heartbeat only smarter), dropped classes I’d promised myself I’d finish that semester, had maxed out credit cards, and had $1.63 in my checking account…

It was rough.

I had a job lined up, but it didn’t start for another week. So I was taking a walk to a local deli, and I was going to put that last dollar and sixty-three cents to work (technically, I also had a paper dollar and two quarters in my pocket, as there’s a debit card minimum set above $1.63 at most places) on a cheap roll and a mini cup of salad dressing, which I knew to be a $1.25 in total. I get to the counter, and I guess prices had gone up, because the register rings me in at $1.89.

I stare at the numbers. My stomach drops out, anxiety and embarrassment prickle my scalp in turns, and I start muttering to myself about how it’s okay, I’ll just put the cup of dressing back. The fellow behind the counter waves it off after a moment with a smile. “You’re in here all the time,” he jokes. “Let me cover this one.” He presses a button on the machine and the balance goes to $0.00. I don’t know precisely how I must have looked to him, but in that moment it occurred to me with a painful lucidity that I must be giving him the same stare that waiter had given me years back. I choked out the same, whispered “Thank you.”

I barely made it to the door before I was bawling my eyes out.

So there you have it. You never know where someone’s at, and there’s no risk in being kind. Not just nice, but kind. Really, it’s a “There but for the grace of God go I” type of tale, a reminder to be kind in all those ways that can help even if you aren’t around to see it and it costs you next to nothing, because you could very well at some point wind up desperately grateful to be on the receiving end of a token like that.

Throw in that extra two bucks, Money Bags. You could make someone’s day, or leave an impact so deep and meaningful someone will preach about it online years later.

Ciao, everybody.

What Would you do with the Lottery? (You’re Wrong)

Hey everyone, and sorry – the title’s a mite too aggressive, but you can never be too careful.

Let me explain.

You know when you’re going through your daily life, and all of a sudden you’re struck all over again by something that got your irritated years ago? Something that really chive’d your spuds, ground your gears, got your goat, years ago? Well I had one of those moments the other day.

I was working in an optics factory at the time, and I had a coworker who regularly followed the lottery. Not one of those “If you just follow the numbers, man” types, just kept a healthy eye on it. Well, as I remember it, the Super Lotto Jackpot (if that’s what it’s called) was at some truly ridiculous sum. If you hit all the numbers, the winner would be given something like 500 million dollars, either in the form of a 350 million dollar one-time payout, or basically $300,000 every month for the rest of your life.

Three hundred thousand dollars, every month, until you died.

Naturally, the question roamed around work: What would you do with it if you won? And some of the answers I heard infuriated me. “Oh, you know,” they began. “I’d keep my day job, of course. I’d make sure that plenty of it went into savings, and I’d use the rest to take care of my needs and live comfortably. Maybe a small house.” Even now, years later, I can feel my pulse quickening at how stupid that is.

Do you-

Can you even-

Does it settle on you how much money $300,000 is? Much less, that much every MONTH. That’s $10,000 A DAY. For most of us, that’s more money than we’d know what to do with. “Keep my day job-” Listen lady/dude/you, fu** your day job. Your day job doesn’t matter anymore. Literally, whatever you were doing, it doesn’t outweigh the net good you can now do with these boatloads of cash. It would be the most actual waste of time. Your day job is now hiring the right people to make sure this money gets spent properly. Set yourself up, set your family up, then you know what you start doing? Start solving sh**.

Homelessness in your area? Not anymore there isn’t.

Local schools having issues with budget constraints? Thing of the past.

People with crippling medical debt? Be gone, foul financial demon.

Your main concern now is living a loooooong healthy life and putting together a network of qualified, trustworthy individuals who will make sure the funds hit their mark and achieve the most good. With that much money, there is no such thing as a savings account for you to squirrel away to; and if you did you’re a villain who will wind up in Dante’s Fourth Level of Hell (Avarice). In a single month, you make more than the FDIC will insure.

Maybe it’s the fact that it is so unfathomable that made my friends give such dumb answers, but it just struck me as sublimely poor reasoning. “I’d buy a yacht.” “I’d buy a private jet.” Sure, you do you, boo; but I say forget the luxury industry. They have plenty of Old Money twits to keep them in business. Be the hero the world needs. Buy whatever kind of house you want, pre-pay your life and your grandchildren’s lives, then fix the world.

In other news, I have another book out!

Well, one that I helped contribute to. Proper ownership goes to Jessica Augustsson, as she’s the editor. And due credit to her, as she was a joy to work with. So, if you’re feeling like a tale featuring a quirky future kid getting tangled up in the misadventures of time travel, check it out on Amazon, and look up my piece, “30,000 B.C.” [Here, if you’re in the UK, chaps.]

I’d be much obliged.

Stay frosty, remember ya beautiful, and I’ll see you around.

Life, Death, Redemption, and Cute Little Birdies

Hey all. On a trip, so gonna make this quick, but it weirdly came to mind as worthy of sharing.

I was on a job out in a rural part of the county a few months back. It was a big house up in the hills behind a winery, so it had a really nice view from the front deck we were working on. The house itself was shaped a bit like a horseshoe, and the whole inside curve of that shape was lined with floor-to-ceiling windows. It was cool.

Well, I’m walking along that path to get some tools from the truck when I look down and see a bird on the concrete walkway. It’s on its back, wings splayed, kind of contorted out of shaped. Aww, poor little guy, I think, and start looking around for a bush to set the remains in. It was pretty obvious he’d gotten ambushed by one of the windows, and speed plus little bird spine equals…well, this.

Then I get a little closer and see what I didn’t want to: little sharp, stuttering, haggard breaths.

“…Fuck,” was of course the next mental diagnosis of the situation. Now, rather than a dead bird, here I had one that was dying and very likely suffering from its injuries. Didn’t want to move it, for fear of scaring it and causing it to twist painfully with reflex. Couldn’t just leave it there, for fear of a coworker stepping on him, if not just the unsightliness (is that a word?) for the owner. Wanted to mercy-kill it, but all I really had on me that was appropriate was my framing hammer, and that would have been a bad look if the aforementioned owner came around right as I was dropping it on the little guy.

I asked my older coworker for advice on what to do, and his answer was something akin to, “Hmm…dunno. Sucks.” I came back by the bird, and by now the dog of the house was staring at it, salivating, on the other side of the glass. So I bucked up, knocked on the door, and told the owner – just hoping she wouldn’t let the hounds out to brutalize the little guy with ‘play time.’

She saw, laughed, totally agreed, and we figured we’d just try and leave the little guy in what peace he might find in his last minutes; knowing that around evening time, nature (or a cat) would take its course.

Eventually, I come back and find the bird sitting upright, and I’m shocked. That ruled out a broken back, far as I could tell. He sat up straight, but his head was a little off-kilter. Broken neck still, maybe? I think, and I approach him a little.
[By the way, I swear to God we got work done that day, even though this view may not make it seem like it. lol]
His eyes flittered in and out of sleep. He’d lean forward with the loss of consciousness, catch himself, and sit upright again, like he was dozing off. As I got closer, he regarded me with one of his eyes, but he could. Not. Give. A. Shit. That I was coming within inches of his person. His birdsman…ship?

That was a first. I don’t think I’d ever seen a little finch dealing with results from a concussion before.

Later on, a landscaping crew came by, and before I could warn them about the bird [Again, guys, serious about my job, I really was working on the deck as my primary interest of the day.] I saw that one of them had picked the little guy up and was lightly petting his back between the wings. Who am I to say he shouldn’t? So I just watched from afar and smiled at the sweet moment.

Towards the end of the day, I come ’round the bend doing a final clean up of the day [See? Working.], and I notice the bird was gone. I check the hedges nearby, seeing if he was set in the shade. Nothing. I asked the owner if the landscaper had moved him, and she told me that no, he’d pet it and put it right back where it was. Then I’m ’rounding the bend for the final time that day – and I swear to God this is true – I hear a single ‘tweet’ from above me on the roof.

Now, I’ll never know if that landscaper was actually a Mexican druid with healing abilities or not, but I’d like to imagine that the bird had just taken a massive hit to the dome, suffered a bad concussion, and just needed some time to shake the cobwebs out; and that that ‘tweet’ was some kind of, “Hey, buddy, thanks for not smashing me when you thought I was dead.”

Altogether, it was a tale of trial, hardship, patience, adversity, and the ability to rally and overcome, all wrapped up in a neat little quarter-ounce package with wings.

What I’ve Learned in my Time as a Tradesman

I fell into becoming a carpenter a little over a year ago. I had to renovate my mother’s house in order to sell it some time before that and get her into a better living situation, and learned a lot of it as I went. As that chapter was coming to a close, a friend saw the work I’d done, knew a guy, and asked if I’d be interested in learning the trade proper. I said “What the hey, why not?” and now here we are.

And I’ve learned a ton!* Chiefly:

  1. If you did it, then it was the best it could have been done and anything wrong with it was probably someone else’s fault anyway.
  2. If someone else did it and it sucks, then it’s because that person’s an idiot who doesn’t know a duck’s ass from its bill.
  3. If someone else did it and it’s great, then it still sucks a little bit, but maybe they’re not a total moron.

I…I do what I can to not carry this into daily life.

Cheers, everybody.

*This list was compiled from a combined experience watching or listening to experienced old tradesmen in their 50’s-60’s talk about their own work or work they’ve observed specializing in but not limited to: carpentry, plumbing, roofing, HVAC, pouring concrete, and refrigeration. I have a Jewish uncle that works with refrigeration that would likely concur with all points on this list, so you know you can trust it.

A Story about “That Guy”

I was musing on this the other day, but most of us have probably heard an adage or two about not being “That Guy.” You know the one: the guy who keeps his shoes on in the home of people that ask for shoes off, the guy who litters his trash in the park while everyone else cleans their own up, the guy who laughs or talks loudly in the movie theater, on and on. We all know a “that guy.”

Little known fact about me: I was at one point Emergency Medical Responder certified and on my way to being an EMT/Paramedic. It was my first course of study out of high school before I decided that path was very much not for me. That said, I still carry a bit of baseline first-aid know-how in my noggin, and was certified as such once upon a time, is the point.

One of the lesser-known things you’re taught as an EMT-to-be is scene management; that is, interacting/handling the injured, onlookers, Nosey Nellies, the works. It cultivates one sense in particular, that being knowing the fine line between being helpful and being in the way.

So, one day I’m at the bank. I’m using an outdoor ATM basically on the corner of two busy streets, and I hear a sound that goes something like “Uuurrrt- bang!” I turn my head to see that an elderly pedestrian had been struck by a van not heeding a red light. “Oof,” I think, and retrieve my card from the ATM before walking over to see what I can do, which I knew thankfully would be pretty simple: hold C-Spine on the patient (keep their head in the same position it is, in case there’s damage to the spine), keep them calm while taking mental notes to assess their overall condition, call 9-1-1, and gather information from witnesses and the driver if possible.

In the time it took for me to pull my card out of the machine, maybe six seconds, I turned around to see an individual already doing exactly everything I’d described above. He had his hands appropriately maintaining the patient’s head position and seemed to have a level head as he introduced himself and began asking appropriate questions. The driver was being a bit loony – no doubt a bit freaked out over the consequences of hitting the pedestrian – but the Samaritan was doing a fine job of keeping them enough in line. I decide the best place for me is somewhere else, so as to not just be another body in the way, because outside of that, there were only a couple of bystanders observing the excitement of the scene.

And then…there was That Guy.

That Guy was adamant this was an URGENT CRISIS, and HE was the one who was going to HELP BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. Then, That Guy decided all traffic in and around the area NEEDED TO STOP. RIGHT. NOW. Mind you, again, we’re on the corner of two notably busy streets around five in the afternoon, meaning there is a lot of traffic on the road at that moment which had suddenly come to a stop. Now, with lines of cars growing, they began to find their way safely around the scene of the accident.

Or, I should say, tried to begin finding their way, but not if That Guy had anything to say about it (and oh boy, did he). This man threw himself in front of cars that were nowhere near the stopped van and the patient in order to “help out.” I still vividly recall him running down the road in a panic – wearing slip-on sandals and a loose backpack, mind you – chasing down and screaming at passing cars that “You need to stop, right now!”

So, I hope that if you’re reading this, you’ve never been a That Guy; and if you were at one point, you’ve seen the error of your ways. He wasn’t helping, even the least bit, but in his insistent, unsolicited effort to help, he became a hindrance and a hazard. If this was a Public Safety Announcement, I’d hope it functions like a true cautionary tale and keeps a few more That Guy’s from spawning into existence.

Cheers, y’all. Stay safe out there.