Ooopy Spoooky

Happy All Hallows Eve, guys n’ gals.

Whether you believe in them or not, we all have a couple ghost stories. They might be for telling around a camp fire, sharing between friends, or recounting to a therapist. They have a habit of ranging from “just weird feelings” to seeing an apparition of some sort at the foot of your bed.

I won’t lie to you, I’ve never seen anything, but that’s SO MUCH for the best. I’ve heard things, felt things, and felt things, but never laid eyes on anything beyond the grave. I am completely convinced, however, that if I did, that would kick me straight into fight-or-flight mode. I realize there’s also a ‘freeze’ option there, but nope; if I see something, there’s going to be motion.

(First up, I want to remind you to check out a post from earlier this week, Lady Death, just as it’s a little appropriate for today. And what’s more, if you’re REALLY feeling a good ghost story, do me a favor and check out Episode 209: “The Scars of Eliza Gray” on the NIGHTLIGHT podcast. It was one of my first publications and remains one of my favorites.)

And now, a series of ghost- or near-ghost-experiences:

  1. The Christmas Ornament
    Little bit of backstory to start off: my father passed away when I was nine, December of 2003. As one might imagine, that had a certain impact on Christmas that year. For the first time, it was just my mother and I, and looking back, I think on it less of how I remember it as a kid and more of how well she handled it as a newly single mother – which was, for the record, very well.
    We moved house that next summer, and when December ’04 came around, as the story goes, mom had an encounter.
    I had gone upstairs and gone to bed, she was downstairs closing down the house preparing to do the same. The way the house was situated, her bathroom was at the end of a short hallway that connected it to the now darkened living room. She’s standing there, brushing her teeth, when she hears a sound coming from the Christmas tree standing at the opposite end of the hallway.
    There was a little electronic train ornament that was a staple of our Christmas decorating. It had my name written on it, and when you pressed the button on the steam spout, it would sing a little song out of choo-choo noises. Thing was, the button had stopped working years ago.
    So there she stands, toothbrush in mouth, watching this little, long-silent ornament sing its song at the shadowy edge of the bathroom light’s furthest reaches.
    As she tells it, she addressed my father by name, calling out, “Vern, you don’t live here anymore. Go upstairs and see your son, but after that, you need to go.”
    I joked the next morning that I found it pretty irresponsible to think there was a ghost in the house and have your first response basically be, “There’s a defenseless, sleeping boy upstairs. Go bug him instead.”
  2. Suddenly Awake
    This one remains my hallmark experience, and apologies up front as I still haven’t yet found that words do it justice, but here goes…
    It was a night like any other. I was maybe eighteen or nineteen at the time, fast asleep. Middle of the night, time unknown, I open my eyes. I wasn’t groggy, wasn’t sleepy or coming to consciousness. I was just suddenly awake, as if I had been for a while and was just now noticing; not startled, not scared or anxious or energetic, just suddenly conscious. I know that, because it was moments after I woke up where I began to wonder why I’d done so, that a dreaded creeping sensation came over the room.
    I didn’t hear anything, but some other sense was telling me that there was another person in the room with me. I felt myself being looked at, being observed or examined. It wasn’t sleep paralysis, necessarily. I could move if I wanted to, but chose to play possum, like if I’d looked over my shoulder at that moment it would incense whatever was in the room with me.
    The pinnacle of the experience came in two parts.
    The first was that – and as certain as I remain of this, the part of me that’s objective knows to acknowledge it may be the fault of memory – I finally heard something. There was a whisper, clear-as-fuckin’-day, right next to my ear. Couldn’t make out what it said, just that there was a voice inches from my head. And not a sound that’s half-heard, prompting a “Did I just hear something?” response; it was undoubtedly something.
    The second was that moments after the whisper, that anxious, defensive dread that had blanketed the room evaporated. It was a palpable change. As cliche as it is to describe something this way, it’s as though there was this weight to the air, and suddenly it vanished. It didn’t “lift,” it just…ceased. Right after it did, the exhaustion of sleep immediately took hold, like I’d been awake for days, and I konked out.
    Really, it was the suddenness of the experience that spooks me, here. Suddenly awake, there’s a presence, whisper, then nothing, then sleep again.
  3. “Can’t get me now, bitch.”
    I’ll be honest, this one’s more funny and a moment of pride than anything else.
    If you’ve ever seen the movie The Grudge, you’ll know that, especially for it’s time, it was goddamn terrifying. I’ve always had a weakness for horror films, and not in the sense that I can’t resist watching but in that they affected me A LOT when I was younger.
    The gist to the film, if you haven’t seen it, is that an American gal goes to Japan for reasons and gets haunted by a dead girl for other reasons.
    There’s a scene somewhere near the middle where she’s in her high-rise apartment and receives a phone call from a friend of hers, another American. He tells her he’s downstairs and wants to be buzzed in to come up and visit about something in person. She hits whatever button that unlocks the ground floor gate to let him in, and not moments later, there’s a knock on her door. She goes to look through the peep hole and sees it’s her friend who was supposedly just on the ground floor, some twenty-odd stories below her.
    She makes a joke about “why go through the antics if you were already up here?” and opens the door for him. Of course she opens the door to an empty hallway. A ghostly sound comes through the phone and lights in the hallway begin ominously going dark. So, like a responsible adult, she flings the phone to the ground, slams the door shut, runs to her bed, and hides under the covers. While there, a lump rises at the end of the bed and starts snaking towards her, and INSTEAD of wildly kicking her legs like she should, she anxiously lifts the covers and gets dragged into the abyss by the ghost only to awake an untold time later.
    I was maybe twelve years old when I saw that and found it ghastly amounts of frightful. But what did I do? I didn’t let fear get the best of me, I got creative.
    For the next two weeks, I slept on TOP of my covers in a zipped-up sleeping bag, confidently safe in the knowledge that, “Ha! Bitch can’t get me if I’m in a BAG! Winning!”

Take it easy and goodnight, everybody.

Jake, the Road Trip Guy: Symbol of an Odyssey

I’m 99.8% confident we haven’t gone over this one before, which is good. And this time, I’ll note off the bat that I’m doing the same name thing as last time. I have no idea if the guy I’m about to talk about was actually named Jake; but he looked like a Jake and did some Jake-shit. So if you’re a Jake that’s offended at being misrepresented, take it up with Jake, the Road Trip Guy. I’m just the messenger here.

A few years ago, I took a trip to the Grand Canyon. It was something I’d been “planning on doing” for years but never pulled the trigger on actually doing. Finally, after enough pressure from Mandy to actually pony up, we made it happen. Loaded up the car with WAY more supplies than we needed, and started the drive at 5:00 in the morning.

Thus began the adventure, thus began the troubles.

The day of driving was actually incredibly smooth. The problem came when the sun was setting on the town of Kingman, Arizona. For context, I drive a 2003 Chrysler Sebring (and I named her Phoebe). She ain’t a powerhouse. No indomitable work horse. Not a racing star. But dammit, she’s been reliable. We drove for 15 straight hours, averaging about 85 mph through state highway and open desert in 100 degree+ July summer heat, loaded down with two adult asses and way too many camping supplies. So when we pulled into the Travelodge and I rolled down my window to hear a crunching, grinding sound, there was some concern.

“Is that your car?” Mandy said.

I looked around at the numerous cargo trucks driving and idling near us, saw the low-flying plane overhead, and replied, “No. Don’t think so. Can’t be. There’s a lot of noise here. It’s probably that.” But after checking in and parking somewhere quieter, I changed my tune: “Nope. Yup. It’s definitely my car.”

The awesome part? I had just that morning written “Grand Canyon or Bust” in the dirt of my rear windshield. But, as I told myself, it was all part of the adventure. It was tomorrow’s problem to be solved in the morning.

Waking up with the sun, I google nearby auto-shops and am fortunate enough to find one just down the road. So we check out, croak and grind our way down the road, and pull in. I put on my best helpless Californian young man charm (which is a delicate line; you either appear like the adorable, handsome puppy you’re going for, or come off like a witless douchebag). By a combination of, I’m assuming, my efforts working along with their natural good-heartedness, they fit me in.

I’m told that, depending on the problem, it can either be $1,200 and they’ll need my car for about three days, or it might be a $200 patch job and I’ll have it back in three hours. Thanks being to Odin, Vishnu, Yahweh, and whoever else, but it was the latter, and we were back on the road in a matter of hours. The one caveat: no more air conditioner. It was a bypass sort of fix, which mean the air compressor and drier was toast, but the car would run. I told him that it didn’t fuckin’ matter because he saved my trip and that we’d be fine.

As it would turn out later, spoke a little too soon on that last part.

We hit the road again in high spirits at having overcome the obstacle with the power of good fortune and were on route to making it to Mather Campground by around 4:30.

That was when I discovered how deliciously freaky the whether in Arizona can be during the summer.

Having no AC was pretty rough, but at the time I was pretty thin and had an affinity for the heat, so it was bearable. That said, when we crested one of the desert hills to see thick storm clouds in the distance, we didn’t take a second to question it and zoomed ahead for the shade they offered. To this day, that remains one of the most refreshing sensations I can call to mind. The rush of cool air, the smell of fresh rain on desert sand, the relief of shade from the clouds.

Just…dude.

I held my hand out the window to feel the cool wind, and it was like running my skin under silk. Then, I felt a little rain drop. Mandy and I looked at one another, giggling about the mana from heaven. One more drop, and then another hit my windshield…

Moments later, and I shit you not even one little bit, moments later – I couldn’t see. The rain appeared so suddenly and in such dense sheets, I was driving utterly blind. The only reference I had to go on were the reflectors in the middle of the road, but even those were scattered and obscured. Every few moments, water that had flooded any little dip in the road’s curve was slamming my wheels and threatening to wrench us off into the unknown.

I was so intensely focused on maintaining control of the vehicle, I did what I could to run a list of options. I started a mental countdown to when I would pull over, put on my hazard lights, and pray we weren’t hit from behind by an equally blind driver.

5…

4…

3…

2…

Right when I got to “1…”, just as quickly as it appear, the rain completely vanished. The air was utterly clear, out of nowhere. I’d been warned about how spontaneous and strange the weather could be, but experiencing it first hand was…just a real trip. We made it the rest of the way to the town outside the Grand Canyon, which played host to the national park, in actual safety.

I should mention here that although I had bought an overabundance of supplies – physical things one might need when hiking and camping the Grand Canyon – I didn’t actually plan anything. I didn’t make an itinerary, I hadn’t picked a camp ground until that afternoon, hadn’t made a reservation of any kind, nothing.

So when we showed up to the front gate and saw the big sandwich board sign reading, “No Vacancy”, it threw a wrench in things.

Or did it…?

This was where my power of undying, stupid optimism came into play. I saw the sign telling us to go away because all hope here was lost and figured, “What the hey? The worst case is that we’re in the same boat we’re in now.” So we drive up to the gate.

The ranger leans out of his post, smiles, and points out our lack of placard/park pass. I smile back, tell him I totally don’t have one, explain our situation, and said, “Now, in our shoes, what would you do? Like, is there a reason we can’t go in to look around?” And he explains that he would probably go in, drive around, and see what we can scrounge up as there’s no harm in trying. We trade high-five’s and I go in to explore the campgrounds.

Zone after zone, more signs all reading in big red block letters: No Vacancy.

“S’all good,” I figure, and we keep plugging ahead. Finally, we come to another ranger post to another campground with yet another sign reading: No Vacancy.

Well’p, it’s worked so far.

I park off to the side, and approach with the ranger giving me a bit of a quizzical look as she eyes the sandwich she knows has told me to go away. “Hi,” I say a bit sheepishly. “So, I see the sign, and totally get that things are booked up, buuuuuut I’m holding out hope.” Even as I’m saying this, she’s nodding and reaching for a(n already familiar at this point) map of the area. She makes marks and points out other areas we could try instead. I smile, take the map, nod, and head back to the car.

Now, we face the decision to race to other destinations and explore other hopefully available options, but something in my gut told me to hang on. So I stood there, making sure to be in plain view of the ranger’s post, while I pulled out my notebook and made a list of options – the first bit of any real planning I’d done or would do for the rest of the trip. And it was more of a flow chart, “We’ll try this, and if that doesn’t work, try what? These, and if these don’t work, then what? Go here. And if that doesn’t work, go here,” so on and so forth.

Then, the most wonderfully serendipitous thing in my life to date happened.

It’s 4:55. The ranger station closes at 5:00. And I hear from off to the side, “Ahem. ‘Scuse me. Sir?” I look over and see the ranger smiling and waving me over. “You still wanted to camp here, right?”And y’all, I DANCE my way back to her post, nodding, smiling, and all the rest of it.

Apparently, there at that moment, about five minutes before the gates closed on us…someone cancelled their reservation. The best part (and the weirdest), was the type of thing that if you wrote it in a story, you’d be called a hack: the people that cancelled their reservation, there, five minutes before the chapter closed on us, right before hope wasn’t an option anymore, had reserved the EXACT bracket of days we wanted to be there.

Hope…hope is a weird thing. Especially being an optimist, it forces you to dance the shadowy line between being persevering and being heinously stupid and delusional. But this, moments like this where the impossible, least likely thing works out, is why we do it.

Because of the nature of it, the ranger could get us in for one night, whereupon we’d have to try to re-reserve the space in the morning. So we made our way to our camp spot, set up the tent, and lived it the fuck up. Utterly in the moment. Tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed, so we did all the camping shenanigans in one night: s’mores, drank too much, got a big-ass fire going, did firespitting, BBQ’d, everything.

Morning came, we made a grand ol’ breakfast, wondering where the day would take us, not knowing where we might lay our heads that night. We packed up came, and drove out to the front gate, content with the uncertainty….whereupon we got there first, totally reserved the spot for ourselves the rest of the week, went back, unpacked everything we just bloody packed, and settled in for a week of camping at the Grand Canyon.

Now, a LOT of stuff happened that week, and it’s already been – like the trip itself – a long road to get here. To the point. To the main meat of the the trip and this tale.

It’s time we met Jake, the Road Trip Guy.

So the Big Hike of the week was that next day, where we took on the Bright Angel Trail. Just like the rest of the trip to date, I hadn’t done any worthwhile planning – just operated on a whim and improvised where necessary. So, why change up what had been working?

We would later see plenty of signs all saying distinctly not to hike between the peak hours of 11:00am and 4:00pm, which I still think is a little dumb; because when the hell else are you supposed to go? But whatever. Nevermind. The point is that you can safely bet your shapely buttocks that we began our hike into the canyon RIGHT at 11:00am.

And you know what? It was BEEEEAAAAUUUUTIFUUUUUL!

We saw all manner of strangely colorful bugs, terrific people, watched a line of mules climb on by us (their pee is gross, take it on faith), and got to take in the majesty of the canyon.

That said, it was also grueling. Peak heat in the shadows was about 130* Fahrenheit, and while there was a rest stop every mile and a half where one could get water, our bottles or canteens were reliably dry by the time we made it to each one. (That said, never urinated once, and never noticed any sweat. That’s how much you sweat and how quickly it evaporates. Y’all. It was the surface of the Sun.)

Along with these rest stops were NO SHORTAGE of signs ALL saying: “DO NOT try to make it down to the Colorado River (the bottom) AND BACK in the same day. You WILL die.”

Queue: Jake, the Road Trip Guy.

We made it about 2/3 of the way to the bottom (just about the maximum safe distance for a 1-day hike), and turned back for the ascent – which was about 100x more painful than going down. Who’da figured? It was during this climb back up that we meet Jake – being attended to by park rangers and kindly hikers – and hear his story.

Jake was from Seattle, apparently, and was on a one-man road trip of the American Southwest. He’d been to Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, and Zion, and he was finishing up his expedition with the Grand Canyon itself. In truth, I’d long loved the idea of doing exactly that, so I was totally on Team Jake. I was ALSO on Team Jake, because he made my lack of preparation look like a fully stocked Bat Cave complete with a top-of-the-line Alfred.

As the story goes, since he was only going to be in the Canyon for so long, he was determined to make it – yes, exactly – down to the bottom to the Colorado River and back up in the same day. Were that the extent of it, stupid, but no harm-no foul. He was a solo hiker (something you’re not advised to do) from a city along a cool coastline at sea level coming to perform an arduous hike at elevation, for one. His equipment for the endeavor? Basketball shorts, shoes, and a single heavy glass growler for water.

His reasons? He didn’t bring food because he wanted to “lean out,” and he thought the growler was cool and would be enough – which it, decidedly, was not.

The reason he’s (probably) still alive today and didn’t die then and there in that canyon: another hiker that spotted him and his hilariously shitty gear and said, “Uuuuum….what’cha doin’?”

That said, I’ll end it with this: I admire Jake, the Road Trip Guy. He embodied the spirit of adventure that pervaded my own journey those several days. When I got back home, I had to attend a wake some weeks later, and when sharing the story with family members for sake of small talk, I told my Uncle Forrest: “You know, it was great. We made it through that trip on a combined 10% wit, cleverness, charm, and calculation, and the remaining 90% was all total dumb luck.”

I’ll remember his answer until the day I die.

“You know,” he said, “you might be surprised to find out that those are actually the same proportions for getting through life.”

An Orange Traffic Cone: a memoir

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

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

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

So…that’s pretty dope.

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

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

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

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

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

It was like coming home.

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

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

Rad, right?

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

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

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

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

Magic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second: there was a turd on the sidewalk.

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

BESIDE IT!

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

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

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

“If you look out the window to your left…”

Hey everybody, happy Tuesday.

A couple months ago, I swore to do a post every Tuesday and Thursday, and despite life’s hurdles, we’ve kept to that pretty well.

Won’t lie, though. Today is…ah, kinda comin’ up with zilch.

Nada.

Goose egg.

Nothin’.

Also, been busy as hell so I’m just now getting to it 10:00pm my time.

So this is a fly-over post. You know how you have fly-over states (here in the United States, anyway)? The places you fly over (ha-ha, like the name!), look out your window, and there’s nothing crazy to see?

I have another premise to work off of, but don’t have even thirty minutes to throw it together today, so that’s gonna be Thursday.

In lieu of that, I DID have a personal story I thought of that would fit this time slot. It’s good, quick, qwirky, and has a nice little lesson attached to it.

Problem is, I forgot it. I don’t remember which one it was.

So really, if you’ve made it this far, I guess I’m talking to you now. Yes, YOU! And just you, because I’m sure between the timing, the quality of my words thus far, and how long this has already gotten, you’re the only one who’s made it this far. So, congratulations, I guess. It’s actually sort of cool, if you think about it. You’re the only person ON THE PLANET (in all likelihood, don’t hold me to that entirely) who gets to read these specific words. So, enjoy this. You’re seeing a thing that you and only you will EVER see.

Because really, who would make it this far? In earnest, I’m surprised even I’m still going. This genuinely should have ended a few minutes ago. And boy, if you’re new, like, you’re not a follower yet (ha-ha, I said “yet”, like this is a good advertisement for what this blog is about)…I…just, sorry, I suppose. You deserve better.

So hit ‘Heed the Call’, and we’ll do better from here on out.

Damn. I really thought I would have remembered the story I’d meant to tell by now. I’ve just been shamelessly vomiting a stream of consciousness for, like, ten minutes, which should be enough time, but still – zilch, nada, etc etc.

Well. Okay. It’s time this shit comes to an end. Um, how about a preview? The prompt for Thursday: “You’re approached by a stranger on the street. He walks up to you briskly, hands you a package, and departs just as quickly. You open it to see an old fashioned pocket watch. The moment you touch it… [Must include magic.]”

Got a fun idea for this one, but like always, we’ll work on it in the moment. Again, if you’re the one person who’s actually made it, see what you can do with the prompt and come Thursday we’ll compare. And-

HOLY SHIT I JUST REMEMBERED THE STORY

Okay, so for context, I’m not generally a believer in so-called “hocus pocus” or “woo-woo” things like crystals in one’s pocket, psychic visions of the future, past, or other lives, so on and so forth. If you’re down with those things, I would also say that I’ve been wrong about a ton of shit and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was here again.

Anyway, a few years ago, Amanda and I went to a festival in San Francisco called “The How Weird Street Fair”. It was basically an outdoor rave in the city streets. That said, had a whole ton of experiences in the span of an hour or two. I:

-Saw a dude in roller skates wearing nothing but whitey-tighties, a luchador mask, and saran wrap from the neck down.
-Saw a lot of naked people, including two old dudes with light-up cock rings (that was a hell of a thing)
-Hugged a monk named “Storm” who gave me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita.
-Was given a small necklace with the word “Peace” written on it in Hindi.

The one I wanna focus on is that neckla- Oh! Also, my favorite part: We saw a turd on the sidewalk. RIGHT on the sidewalk. And the best part? Someone solved the problem by putting an orange traffic cone NEXT TO IT. Not over it. Not cleaning it up. They put a cone next to it, as if to say, “Hey, check it, but watch out, there’s a turd here.” Anyway – let’s focus on that necklace.

Have you ever had an experience wherein you remained calm despite reasons not to?

I’m gonna keep this brief because I’m getting sleepy.

When I was taking a few classes at the local junior college, I always parked in the campus garage. On this one particular day, I remember I backed into my parking spot perfectly. Like, it was flawless – perfectly straight, perfectly even. Anyway, after classes, I came back to my car real quick to change out some books and noticed something weird: my car was askew. Looking at it now, my car was diagonal in the lines, and my first thought was, “Huh, I wonder who hot-wired my car just to repark it weird.”

Then I noticed the front bumper was peeled clean off.

Long story short, my car had gotten hit by someone coming around the corner too close and too quick. They left their information and everything got sorted out. But the thing I always think back to and chuckle about is how calm I was through the whole thing. I even found it funny that my first thought was that it got hot-wired (heehee, that’s dumb). It was just so unexpected the only choice was to find it funny.

Anyway, if there’s a lesson here, it’s either: plan out your posts because otherwise you wind up with a disappointing, aimless rant, or just don’t sweat the small stuff, ie don’t cry over spilled milk, ie don’t make mountains out of molehills, etc etc.

See ya Thursday.

RE: The Legend of ‘MegaBoom!’

(Happy Thursday, all! By a combination of time constraints and outside distractions, we’re doing a re-post! Though, I will say, we have a cool somethin’ coming for Tuesday [if not before then, but we’ll see].)

Sorry we were absent Thursday, but celebrating Independence Day meant making sacrifices…

…like camping…and swimming in a lake…

…and s’mores.

Don’t feel bad for me.

Anyway, what I’m saying, is I missed one. BUT it’s okay, because it actually ties in.

Last Thursday saw all of the above-mentioned activities and many others. The one we’re going to focus on is one I think everyone (and especially any Lord of the Rings kids) should at least try: archery.

The lake/campground/recreation territory whatsamagidget we went to had a ton hiking trails, and of those, one that is itself a walking archery range. I’ve had my bow for about seven years and have practiced the art of flinging arrows off and on in that time. (In fact, anyone else remember that Mayan Calendar Apocalypse that was supposed to happen back in 2012? I’m not saying that I thought the world was going to end…I’m not…I am saying that I had my bow ready just in case it was the Time of Mutants and Raiders was nigh, though.)

All of that, however, is just context for what we’re talking about today: The MegaBoom.

That whole off-and-on habit of practice translates roughly to: “practicing regularly for a few weeks and then taking a few months off.” That means that, after seven years, I’m pretty good alright I can hang… I do alright. And yes, of course, I check that my grouping is good enough to hit a human-sized target in case the Green Arrow needs a break, duh. So bulls-eyes at 40-meters happen, albeit infrequently, but I’m no Robin Hood or freaky good shot.

However…

…there’s one guy out there who thinks I’m fucking fantastic.

Let’s focus on that guy.

It was one of those times where I was taking up the hobby again off a hiatus and I go to my regular shop (I would super give her a shout-out, but I’m not totally sure that what happens in the story was entirely legal, so let’s just call the shop “Maggie’s.”) I pay for my time and begin stringing my bow.

For a Friday, it’s unusually thin, with myself and two other guys taking up lanes. One of them has his son with him, who’s receiving beginner’s lessons at the firing line. The owner, Maggie, is teaching him basic form and safety, and he’s eagerly drinking it all up. It’s cute. During this time, myself and the two other guys (the boy’s father included) begin chatting it up. I explain that I’m coming off a regular layup and they both say how they’re each taking it up for the first time, roughly, since childhood. So we’re all on relatively even ground skill-wise, which was comforting (after all, it’s humbling to be on the line, shooting wide, while Katniss Goddamn Everdeen steps up and zeroes her quiver with bulls-eyes). At this point, I overhear Maggie teaching the kid the importance of a full draw:

Maggie: “Mmhm, well yeah. This time it didn’t stick in the target because it wasn’t going fast enough. If you want it to stick, it has to go faster; and if you want it to go faster, you have to pull back all the way, buddy. Okay?”

Then, bless her heart, she puts the spotlight on me. Without ever breaking eye contact with the kid, she then says:

“Hey, Evan. Step up to the line and take a shot for us, hmm?”

I politely pause my conversation with the other patrons and step up to the line. I line up my feet, my hips, shoulders, and even crack my neck. I nock an arrow, grip the string, then finally look at the target. One big breath in then out, I raise my bow, draw back to my nose (a habit of form that I’ve always had weird difficulty adhering to), hold a moment, and release.

Fuckin’ bulls-eye.

Calmly, I smile and step back into conversation but on the inside I am: screaming, windmill-playing air guitar, and thinking of what sponsorships I want when I make it to the Olympics. The two other men had kind things to say, and while I outwardly received them coolly, my heart was on fire in my chest.

The rest of the day proceeded pretty uneventfully from there, but I came back the next day to practice, still riding high off my cool moment from the day before. Who do I see but the father from yesterday (let’s call him Tyler)? He greets me as “that bullseye guy” (to which I blush) and we get to practice.

That day, the store was being managed by a friend of Maggie’s rather than Maggie herself (I think she’d come down with a stomach bug). [We’ll call him] Franky watched us shoot, gave us pointers on form, made jokes – the usual. That was, until he said something about a “Mega Boom.” After a run collecting my arrows, I returned to the line and asked what that was all about.

Rather than answer me in words, his eyes just lit up and he ran around the corner to the back office. About a minute or two later, he returned holding what looked like a bike pump, a small mesh net, a clamp of some kind, and an empty 2-liter soda bottle. I watch as he assembles the whole thing and begins apparently pumping air into the empty plastic bottle. When he’s done, he’s left with a highly pressurized soda bottle fixed to a little stand, and I suddenly see what’s going on: an explosive target.

Now, for context, Maggie’s since moved to a larger location, but the range at that time was relatively small, maybe 15-meters long from target to wall. Thing was, the wall was a warehouse door that opened out into a parking lot. When he sees that we understand what he’s offering us, Franky goes, “Yeah, we might want to head outside for this.” He sets the bottle on top of one of the targets at the end of the range, opens the door, and motions us out into said parking lot. He walks us to approximately 50-meters away (approximately 160-feet, for my imperials) and gives us the green flag.

(Which, as a side note, was a bit premature because as we’re looking at each other as to who is going to try to set off this pseudo-domestic explosive first, a couple of nervous, first-time customers were just walking out the front door – next to the door INTO WHICH WE’RE ABOUT TO FIRE. They freaked out and left before anything happened though…so…all’s well that ends well.)

Anyway, Tyler looks at me and says, “You’re the likeliest to hit it, so you go first.”

I still don’t really understand his logic here, as wouldn’t you want the likeliest shot to go last? But I was too taken by the flattering reference to yesterday’s freak accident but well-time bulls-eye to say no.

Now, at that point, I’d never attempted a shot from that far away before, so my hopes were pretty low. I was also shooting at an empty plastic bottle…a thing which is TRANSPARENT. So I just adjusted my eyes best I could and focused on the blue Pepsi label that wrapped around it. I follow the form from yesterday, raise, draw, and release. Normally, at such close ranges, the sound of an arrow shot sounds kind of like “thuum-tak!” in pretty quick succession, right?

This one was different.

I release the string and hear: “thuum…f-f-f-f-f…BOOOOOM!!”

For the second time that weekend, I felt like Green Arrow, Katniss, Hawkeye, the huntress-god Artemis made flesh. And y’all, it was so loud even from outside and that far away, that I can’t imagine what would have happened to our ears or brains if we’d been standing inside.

After a few moments of stunned silence, we walk back to the wall of targets and look at the damage. I’d hit dead center of the bottle. On one side was a small hole the diameter of an arrow shaft, and the other was split and blown out entirely. I also realize then and there that my arrow itself is utterly missing. I dig into the target a little and find the front half of it and start laughing until I cry. I look around, but can’t seem to find the end with fletching until Franky calls out from the usual firing line that it had blown back to the tape. He brings it over to me and apologizes (fair enough, arrows are expensive); but I told him something I very much mean to this day: I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

The next Monday, I went to work with the ruptured bottle and two frayed arrow pieces and put them proudly on display atop my locker, praying that I’d get asked about it.

I probably told this story to over twenty people that day, and I haven’t matched it with a better one since.

But Tyler doesn’t know that. To that guy, who happened to be present for the singularly best moments in my archery career, I’m a goddamn sniper.

Anyway, y’all take it easy until Tuesday!

The Legend of ‘MegaBoom!’

Happy Tuesday, all!

Sorry we were absent Thursday, but celebrating Independence Day meant making sacrifices…

…like camping…and swimming in a lake…

…and s’mores.

Don’t feel bad for me.

Anyway, what I’m saying, is I missed one. BUT it’s okay, because it actually ties in.

Last Thursday saw all of the above-mentioned activities and many others. The one we’re going to focus on is one I think everyone (and especially any Lord of the Rings kids) should at least try: archery.

The lake/campground/recreation territory whatsamagidget we went to had a ton hiking trails, and of those, one that is itself a walking archery range. I’ve had my bow for about seven years and have practiced the art of flinging arrows off and on in that time. (In fact, anyone else remember that Mayan Calendar Apocalypse that was supposed to happen back in 2012? I’m not saying that I thought the world was going to end…I’m not…I am saying that I had my bow ready just in case it was the Time of Mutants and Raiders was nigh, though.)

All of that, however, is just context for what we’re talking about today: The MegaBoom.

That whole off-and-on habit of practice translates roughly to: “practicing regularly for a few weeks and then taking a few months off.” That means that, after seven years, I’m pretty good alright I can hang… I do alright. And yes, of course, I check that my grouping is good enough to hit a human-sized target in case the Green Arrow needs a break, duh. So bulls-eyes at 40-meters happen, albeit infrequently, but I’m no Robin Hood or freaky good shot.

However…

…there’s one guy out there who thinks I’m fucking fantastic.

Let’s focus on that guy.

It was one of those times where I was taking up the hobby again off a hiatus and I go to my regular shop (I would super give her a shout-out, but I’m not totally sure that what happens in the story was entirely legal, so let’s just call the shop “Maggie’s.”) I pay for my time and begin stringing my bow.

For a Friday, it’s unusually thin, with myself and two other guys taking up lanes. One of them has his son with him, who’s receiving beginner’s lessons at the firing line. The owner, Maggie, is teaching him basic form and safety, and he’s eagerly drinking it all up. It’s cute. During this time, myself and the two other guys (the boy’s father included) begin chatting it up. I explain that I’m coming off a regular layup and they both say how they’re each taking it up for the first time, roughly, since childhood. So we’re all on relatively even ground skill-wise, which was comforting (after all, it’s humbling to be on the line, shooting wide, while Katniss Goddamn Everdeen steps up and zeroes her quiver with bulls-eyes). At this point, I overhear Maggie teaching the kid the importance of a full draw:

Maggie: “Mmhm, well yeah. This time it didn’t stick in the target because it wasn’t going fast enough. If you want it to stick, it has to go faster; and if you want it to go faster, you have to pull back all the way, buddy. Okay?”

Then, bless her heart, she puts the spotlight on me. Without ever breaking eye contact with the kid, she then says:

“Hey, Evan. Step up to the line and take a shot for us, hmm?”

I politely pause my conversation with the other patrons and step up to the line. I line up my feet, my hips, shoulders, and even crack my neck. I nock an arrow, grip the string, then finally look at the target. One big breath in then out, I raise my bow, draw back to my nose (a habit of form that I’ve always had weird difficulty adhering to), hold a moment, and release.

Fuckin’ bulls-eye.

Calmly, I smile and step back into conversation but on the inside I am: screaming, windmill-playing air guitar, and thinking of what sponsorships I want when I make it to the Olympics. The two other men had kind things to say, and while I outwardly received them coolly, my heart was on fire in my chest.

The rest of the day proceeded pretty uneventfully from there, but I came back the next day to practice, still riding high off my cool moment from the day before. Who do I see but the father from yesterday (let’s call him Tyler)? He greets me as “that bullseye guy” (to which I blush) and we get to practice.

That day, the store was being managed by a friend of Maggie’s rather than Maggie herself (I think she’d come down with a stomach bug). [We’ll call him] Franky watched us shoot, gave us pointers on form, made jokes – the usual. That was, until he said something about a “Mega Boom.” After a run collecting my arrows, I returned to the line and asked what that was all about.

Rather than answer me in words, his eyes just lit up and he ran around the corner to the back office. About a minute or two later, he returned holding what looked like a bike pump, a small mesh net, a clamp of some kind, and an empty 2-liter soda bottle. I watch as he assembles the whole thing and begins apparently pumping air into the empty plastic bottle. When he’s done, he’s left with a highly pressurized soda bottle fixed to a little stand, and I suddenly see what’s going on: an explosive target.

Now, for context, Maggie’s since moved to a larger location, but the range at that time was relatively small, maybe 15-meters long from target to wall. Thing was, the wall was a warehouse door that opened out into a parking lot. When he sees that we understand what he’s offering us, Franky goes, “Yeah, we might want to head outside for this.” He sets the bottle on top of one of the targets at the end of the range, opens the door, and motions us out into said parking lot. He walks us to approximately 50-meters away (approximately 160-feet, for my imperials) and gives us the green flag.

(Which, as a side note, was a bit premature because as we’re looking at each other as to who is going to try to set off this pseudo-domestic explosive first, a couple of nervous, first-time customers were just walking out the front door – next to the door INTO WHICH WE’RE ABOUT TO FIRE. They freaked out and left before anything happened though…so…all’s well that ends well.)

Anyway, Tyler looks at me and says, “You’re the likeliest to hit it, so you go first.”

I still don’t really understand his logic here, as wouldn’t you want the likeliest shot to go last? But I was too taken by the flattering reference to yesterday’s freak accident but well-time bulls-eye to say no.

Now, at that point, I’d never attempted a shot from that far away before, so my hopes were pretty low. I was also shooting at an empty plastic bottle…a thing which is TRANSPARENT. So I just adjusted my eyes best I could and focused on the blue Pepsi label that wrapped around it. I follow the form from yesterday, raise, draw, and release. Normally, at such close ranges, the sound of an arrow shot sounds kind of like “thuum-tak!” in pretty quick succession, right?

This one was different.

I release the string and hear: “thuum…f-f-f-f-f…BOOOOOM!!”

For the second time that weekend, I felt like Green Arrow, Katniss, Hawkeye, the huntress-god Artemis made flesh. And y’all, it was so loud even from outside and that far away, that I can’t imagine what would have happened to our ears or brains if we’d been standing inside.

After a few moments of stunned silence, we walk back to the wall of targets and look at the damage. I’d hit dead center of the bottle. On one side was a small hole the diameter of an arrow shaft, and the other was split and blown out entirely. I also realize then and there that my arrow itself is utterly missing. I dig into the target a little and find the front half of it and start laughing until I cry. I look around, but can’t seem to find the end with fletching until Franky calls out from the usual firing line that it had blown back to the tape. He brings it over to me and apologizes (fair enough, arrows are expensive); but I told him something I very much mean to this day: I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

The next Monday, I went to work with the ruptured bottle and two frayed arrow pieces and put them proudly on display atop my locker, praying that I’d get asked about it.

I probably told this story to over twenty people that day, and I haven’t matched it with a better one since.

But Tyler doesn’t know that. To that guy, who happened to be present for the singularly best moments in my archery career, I’m a goddamn sniper.

Anyway, y’all take it easy until Thursday (for real this time)!