Why bother with a Garage or the Sale?

Seattle has a preponderance of lazy people who put their shit on the curb or sidewalk because they don’t want to take it to a thrift shop or a disposal center.

Peep this genius move by some dumb ass who apparently forgot about something called THE WEATHER:

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I especially like the note which says, “It DOES WORK! :)” As if that is going to fool someone who can clearly see this unit has soaked in a day’s worth of rain. Way to go, Einstein. Now it’s useless to everyone.

Nary a block away sat this hollowed-out box spring which the homeless in my neighborhood (along with some woodland creatures) have conveniently converted into a cupboard.

bedI don’t know if you can see it in this photo, but those are actual groceries in there. Fruit, bread and other items. And they weren’t even rotten yet.

So at least someone had the foresight to re-purpose this wanton act of sloth. I might note this bed base has been leaned up against this fence for almost 2 months. And I know that because I’ve walked past it a million times on my way to the library.

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The Corporate Nanny State

Just the other morning in the office break room, I was overly tired and pouring myself a cup of “complimentary coffee”. A co-worker of mine swept in with some unnatural morning sunshine and made the comment, “Kick-starting your work ethic?”

“I guess,” I offered ambivalently.

She looked a little puzzled and said, “I thought you were really happy in your new position?” To this, I responded, “I absolutely love what I do, but I do not love WHEN I have to do it. I am not a morning person – whatsoever.” She seemed to shrug off my qualitative statement and just had to throw in the sarcastic “one explanation fits all” judgment: “There’s always something wrong, isn’t there?”

"Insomnia Sleeper" by John Jude Palencar

“Insomnia Sleeper” by John Jude Palencar

Normally, I would channel my rage into a cutting remark but I was so defeated by my lack of sleep I didn’t have the energy. However, the longer I absorbed that interaction in my mind, the angrier I became…and the more I inspected the thought of whether or not she may be right. After some careful deliberation, I determined that not physically feeling well due to lack of sleep is a very legitimate reason to not be happy. Aside from possibly winning the lottery or being proposed to by a decent partner, I can’t think of many things that would lift my spirits enough to change the fact that my bones feel like old iron pots and my skin hurts.

My mind made a leap-frog to an even bigger issue: Why the hell do people who have good work ethics and do their jobs well have to be at a prescribed building between certain hours of the day at all? Especially if they aren’t dealing with outside clients? And even if they are and 90% of the communication takes place by email, why can’t this be done from home? Heck, we even have cell phones that could handle the other 10%. Why are 30+ year old adults treated like toddlers in this day and age? I posed that question to another friend of mine who owns a blossoming business and he said, “Well, unless it is like a retail position, I imagine it is just because most employers don’t trust their workers enough to work from home or to work flexible hours. They think those people will fudge the system or take advantage of them, and honestly, a lot of them do when given the chance.”

Ok, fine. I admit some people may deserve the corporate shackle, but I’ve always been of the impression that if you give people a project and an allotment of time to do it, they either perform well or they don’t. And if they don’t, you get rid of them. I mean, if people weren’t actually working and projects were not getting done, someone is going to notice, right? Maybe I don’t know enough about the business end of it but it sure seems like allowing an employee some flexibility would mean a happier employee.

And after all, don’t you want someone who loves their job to do it when they feel their best? Seems like a logical way to improve your business, but I guess we’ll just keep doing things the way they’ve done them for hundreds of years because it’s too dangerous to think what might be actually good for the person could actually be good for your business.

The Punishing Life of The Most Distal Toe (An Aria in Red)

I stubbed my toe on the bed
And this little piggy sang
A choral harmony in red
I could’ve ran for bandages
But I sat and stared at it instead
Like a miniature train wreck televised
For the God of War inside my head
But a little pain is good for you
That’s what my father always said

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A Better Definition of Having It Better

I had a conversation recently with a friend of mine who has children. She was telling me how her family had fallen on hard times and she was very upset about not being able to “give her kids the things she never had.” I’ve heard this statement a lot from many people over the years, and while I understand the sentiment and where it comes from, I can’t help but think it’s an ideal that warrants refinement. I say this not from a place of judgement but from one of observation.

For full disclosure, I have no kids of my own (nor am I ever likely to) so I do question my place to dispense any advice on the best way to raise human podlings. However, since I was once a child (and a totally bratty one at that) it’s my personal philosophy that a good parent is an anchor and the kid is the sailboat: An anchor is heavy, but not completely immobile. It keeps the sailboat from being swept away by whimsical currents that could lead it to destruction, but it also knows when to rise from the seabed and allow the craft to travel when an appropriate direction is selected. I always thought if I was a dad, I might be a little strict with my kids; the “Great Denier” who would withhold impulse purchases at the check-out or disavow frivolous procedures like throwing a new toy in the path of a crying toddler – the types of tactics so many parents use to quell their offspring.

Of course, I say that but the practical application would be more like the following mental negotiation with myself: “For just 5 minutes of peace and quiet, I don’t mind buying a $20 action figure or video game.” I am guessing this is how the thought process goes for most parents. girlwithbirds

Anyway, back to my original point for writing this piece: My friend seemed to convey a disappointment in herself that she wouldn’t have the quick means to manufacture a happy mood in her children by giving them a material thing. I can only assume this approach had worked as a preventative measure for a very long time. I told her, “You know, my parents weren’t dirt poor but we weren’t rich either and from my own experiences I think what most kids want is just some kind of social engagement. They want something that inspires their imagination. They want to interact with you. I don’t think you need to have the means to buy lots of new things to give them that.” She seemed to tacitly agree but was dwelling on the upcoming storm of expectation she had already constructed – and would now have to dismantle. She seemed to fall back on that old adage “I just want my kids to have it better than I did.”

And that’s when the shit got real. I told her, “When people say things like that, I really hope they mean they want their children to have a better education, a better work ethic, a healthier body and mind. Because as far as I am concerned, more toys, more designer clothes, and more time to play video games didn’t do a damn thing for me growing up. I can’t use any of it now.”

And with the silence I got from that kind of response, I remembered my place. I remembered that I don’t have kids.

So of course, I couldn’t possibly understand.

How Television Became My Psychological Window

I grew up like many in my generation: worshipping the TV set. My Saturday morning communion with the almighty 14-channel Zenith consisted of a bowl of Fruit Loops and 4 solid hours of cartoons. It is almost embarrassing to admit that now, but those publicly-broadcasted waves shaped my youthful spirit and fed my childhood imagination. Then, I grew up and went to college where I became “too good” for TV and decided that cinema was where real ideas were happening. Sure, I still indulged in weekly episodes of Seinfeld, and I would catch the occasional cultural moment – like Ellen DeGeneres coming out in 1997 on her eponymous show – but I was pretty much wandering in the Sahara of no TV until the latter part of the previous decade.

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Through a wonderful ex-boyfriend, I became hooked on Breaking Bad, a twisted AMC series following the transformation of a man from high school science teacher to drug overlord. It is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on television. Multi-layered storytelling with complex characters that I would hate one minute and then fall in love with in subsequent episodes. However, the most interesting thing to me about the show was the subtle education I was receiving on human nature. Prior to the show, I had always had a hard time understanding why anyone would use or sell drugs, but the more I watched it, the more I understood. Now, I am not saying it instilled a desire to do either of those things, but it did make me understand the human intent behind self-destructive actions, probably more so than my college psychology classes. More importantly, as my feelings about the characters changed periodically, I realized that even when certain people do terrible things, you can sometimes see that they are not inherently evil people but rather very desperate people.

hocnetflixThis education continued when I got hooked on two recent Netflix series: House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. The former is a superb example of how people manipulate each other for the purposes of satisfying their own selfish desires. I watched the entire series in 2 days (however, I am also a political junkie). I think it’s probably an overly dramatic view of how Washington D.C. functions, but it’s definitely a mesmerizing pool of darkness.

oisnbOrange Is the New Black is a bit more light-hearted, but has a serious subtext as it approaches the various points of view in a women’s prison. My favorite thing about this one is similar to my reasons for loving Breaking Bad…when you learn the stories of the prisoners and how they came to be there, you may understand the motivations of why people perform certain crimes and whether or not they truly receive appropriate justice for their deeds. Aside from the heavier themes, the show pulls of a great balancing act of humor and humanity. I’m definitely waiting impatiently for the next season.

My hat is off to you TV, you have come back from the wasteland of reality programming.

The Two Faces of Back to School

Me about this time of year (circa 1990):

“I don’t want to go back to school! I want to sleep in every day, hang out with my friends at the drive-in, and secretly smoke cigarettes at the baseball diamond and ride our bikes until 3am. If they ever make us go to school year-round, I swear I will DIE!”

Me about this time of year (present):

“Gosh, when do those goddam kids go back to school? Good for nothings. Just more warm bodies clogging up the mall and the streets while I am trying to get stuff done. They should go year round to keep ‘um outta trouble and make sure they are smarter than all those kids from other countries who are whipping our asses in math and science.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

TIME.

The great transformer.

"The Guardian of Time & His Henchmen Clocks" by Polish artist, Jacek Yerka.

“The Guardian of Time & His Henchmen Clocks” by Polish artist, Jacek Yerka.

Weird Shit My Mom Says (Vol. 2)

My mother called me the other night to wish me happy birthday. Among the fragments of unrelated conversation she dropped this completely serious nugget on me:

“You know, you should really get a nice suit to wear…that way we’ll have something to bury you in.”

:-I

My immediate reaction was, “Am I dying soon?” And then she was like, “Well, you know what I mean. Whoever buries you will have something to choose from.”

Thanks for the fashion advice/planning ahead/birthday wish, mom.

The Metaphor of Corrective Eyesight As Supplied by a Birthday

I recently had a birthday. It was no. 39 and therefore the “deep breath” before the plunge into 40.

In many ways, it was like an old stone by the side of the road where you stop to sit and rest a bit. Not far ahead lies a great, walled city with menacing turrets and a massive iron gate which lies open for you like a dark, foreboding mouth. Behind you, is a sun-baked road that is heavily worn and offers no comfort, save for a few good memories lost behind the distant hills where the dusk now rises. Are your best days behind you? Is the city a dark and lonely place? Or does it just appear that way due to its overly defensive presentation?

"Chmurolamacz" by Polish artist, Jacek Yerka (1994).

“Chmurolamacz” by Polish artist, Jacek Yerka (1994).

39 is definitely a totem of reflection; the last slice of limbo before middle age wraps you in its arms and carries you off into the future. Mine wasn’t as depressing as I expected, however. I always try to do something memorable on each birthday – either by traveling some place new or hosting a uniquely themed party. It is important to me to celebrate every revolution around the sun that I have survived as such benchmarks are worthy of noting. Survival on this blue rock is no easy feat, and although my life is nowhere near as difficult as those born in war-ravaged Sudan or other parts of the world, I do try (every so often) to appreciate that my path has given me wonderful opportunities. Not indulging in those opportunities is like leaving perfectly good fruit to rot in a bowl on your kitchen counter. It’s a waste, plain and simple.

This year, I went to the remanent crater of Mount St, Helens and stared into its desolate shell. This quiet volcano (fairly dormant since its 1980 eruption) reminded me that even in the face of what we perceive as certain doom and destruction, there is a promise of a peaceful after-effect. It’s been 30+ years since the side of this mountain blew out and devastated the surrounding forest. However, today, the area is teaming with life and thousands trees have regrown in shadow of the magma-filled monster. I imagined if all this fear I have of turning 40 is the equivalent of that explosion in 1980, I would be happy to know that eventually, things will take the place of ash and cinder. Life will pour into the space hollowed out by age, and something new will take root.

So stopping to rest at that rock along the road called “39”, I can see that no matter what is waiting for me in that walled city, I will be alright. And as I get closer, maybe that place won’t look like a prison, but rather a busy port with a sailing ship to new places and adventures.