Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dark Night of the Soul Redux

I wrote about it four years ago.  I stumbled on to the post tonight (really is early morning, it now being about 4:30 AM) and read it, along with the comments.  Thankfully, what I was feeling when I wrote it is not what I am feeling now, but I realized as I read it that my thoughts on that day are not particularly unusual for me.  I wonder if it's just who I am; a periodically depressed person who doesn't quite understand those periods of depression.  That's probably it. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Shards of Civility

Six days after the Boston Marathon bombing, I wrote (under a different name) a piece expressing my concerns about the manner in which the search for the perpetrators was conducted.  I was afraid, too, that the handling of the living suspect did not bode well for American citizens' rights in the future.  A few days after the first article, I wrote another one, my mind having been eased a bit.

My concerns had nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the suspect, only with my perception that the rule of law had not been followed and that the manner in which the suspects were found put our civil rights at risk. And I was concerned about whether a precedent had been set when the city of Boston was effectively shut down.

Now, more than a year later, I still believe an ugly precedent was set.  I do not know whether the precedent was considered at the time, but I remain fearful that it was, indeed, a precedent that may have awful repercussions in the future.

I am writing a piece of fiction based on what could happen if my fears are well-founded. It is set in 2016, just a few weeks before the presidential elections.  I suppose it might be viewed as a political chiller, but only time will tell...and only time will tell whether it is actually written...actually completed. I am not sure whether the title makes sense...I guess that, too, remains to be seen.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Toying with the Internet

It has been a year since I abandoned this blog in favor of a new one.  I had aspirations, I did!  My new blog would coincide with a new me.  The mindless chatter of Brittle Road would be left behind, and good riddance!  I would begin a new life, a life far more interesting that the life I led and shared on Brittle Road.

It didn't happen, of course.  My new blog failed to meet expectations, just as this one failed.  I would blame the readers, but there are none, so I'm forced to lay blame at the feet of the writer.  Writers deserve blame, you know.  They so often promise things they can't or won't deliver.  They play with the reader as if the reader were a private toy, something to be used for amusement.  That's what some do, anyway.

The paragraphs above might suggest the reason for this post, don't you think?  Well, you'd be wrong.  They don't.  I'm posting only to keep this laughable snapshot of my history of intellectual atrophy alive; I think might eventually kill blogs with no views, no posts, no reason for being.  This post is my feeble attempt to toy with the internet, to trick the internet into ascribing some modicum of value to this piece of useless digital real estate.  I'll see, in another year, maybe less, whether my trick worked.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You can't hide. Maybe.

I could see it coming, months ago.  The energy I once had for this blog was waning.  The time to take a hiatus was upon me.  I kept posting, occasionally, but nothing truly from the gut.  I decided I needed to do something else, so I created another blog.  It may not have the energy, either, but I'll give it a shot.  I won't abandon the Brittle Road, though.  I owe a lot to the Brittle Road.  My newest blog operates under my real name.  Maybe I've decided you can't hide.  Maybe.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

All Talk

I keep coming back to it:  I find religion in general and churches in particular repugnant in many ways, but I admire and appreciate the ability of churches to marshall the resources of their members to do good things.  You can argue about the motives of those who do good deeds, but usually you can't argue about the ability of churches to get good things done.  They may be there to save souls and convert heathens to god-fearing religious drones, but they attend to the immediate requirements of people who are in desperate need of help.

As I was driving back home from a 3-day bacchanal in New Orleans, I stopped to buy gas somewhere along I-49 in Louisiana.  There, I saw at least 3 pickups, attached to large enclosed trailers, that belonged to a Baptist church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  The pickups, the trailers, and the shirts of the 50-something and 60-something drivers were emblazoned with the name of the church and a message akin to "disaster relief services."  While I didn't ask, but I think it reasonable to assume,  the guys were either on their way to or from the areas of southeastern Louisiana most affected by Hurricane Isaac, probably to take supplies like food, water, blankets, etc. to people whose lives were disrupted by the storm and its aftermath.

I really admire people and organizations that spring into action to help people in need.  I'd like to be part of a group of people who do such stuff, but I'm not sufficiently invested in the idea to hold my nose and tongue and join a church for the privilege.  It is frustrating that there seem to be so few non-religious organizations that see it as their responsibility to respond to human tragedy and human need.  Sure, there's the Red Cross, but that's an almost quasi-governmental organization and it does not quite fit the bill.  There are too many staffers to manage the processes for it to be truly "volunteer-driven."  I suppose what I'm after is more of a fraternal, social a church...that's utterly disconnected from religion and that's driven by genuine desire to help people in need.

If I were sufficiently interested, I guess, I'd make it happen.  Well, my heart is in the right place, even if it is all talk.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Measures of My Mental Mediocrity

There are times when writing is therapy.  Unfortunately, I have not had therapy for quite some time.  Writing, what little I do, has become an unwelcome chore.  It has become a means by which I can more clearly see my lack of creativity.  Writing has become a short catalog of failed ideas and, even more so, the inability to think. It has become a measure of my mental mediocrity.

I have threatened to stop trying.  I have threatened to keep after it.  I have threatened to hide my writing.  I have threatened to make it more public.  They've all been idle threats. And they will remain so, I am afraid.

That having been said, I have been trying to generate a touch of creativity by coining some alliterative collective nouns.  Here is the paltry list I have developed so far:

MonkeymasturbationA masturbation of monkeys
DancerdervishiumA dervishium of dancers
RepublicansrepulseA repulse of Republicans
Tennis playertantrumA tantrum of tennis players
LinguistlaconismA laconism of linguists

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pockets of Wonder

Last night's dream, the parts I remember, was strange and disturbing.  I awoke just after a woman's entire arm, up the the shoulder, had reached into the left pocket of my shorts.

Initially, she had reached into my pocket to find my car keys because I could not.  Both of my hands, beyond my wrists, were coated in what seemed like a thick beige glue.  The glue had covered my hands when I'd reached out to catch myself from tripping.  When I held out my hands to catch my fall, I felt my hands plunge, very gently and slowly, through the ground into a soft, gooey pocket; it felt like I was punching a balloon.

When I pulled my hands back, they were coated with the goo.  The woman, who is someone I know (but not very well), seemed to know I could not simply wash my hands off or use a towel on them; the goo was not so easily removed.  She suggested she could drive me to a convenience store to wash my hands.

I felt uneasy telling her my keys were in my pocket.  I had a sense she would react as if I were trying to seduce her by asking her to reach into my pocket.  But she readily agreed.

She reached in my pocket.  I was surprised that she could not reach the bottom of the garment.  She kept reaching and I got increasingly embarrassed.  And then she reached it, but recoiled and said something like "ewwwh!  There's shrimp in here!"  And sure enough when she pulled her hand out, she was clutching the remains of some shrimp.  I could smell it.

And then I woke up.  I wonder what she was going to do.  I just wonder.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Walking for Beer

Despite having missed a number of walking days in August, and thanks to going well over my 100-mile-minimum in July, I remain on target to reach 1000 miles of walking by year's end.  As of this morning, after walking 5.25 miles, I have recorded 606 miles of walking since March 6.  Of course I must now really pour it on to make it.  This month, I've only walked 78 miles and I seriously doubt I'll put in another 22 miles before the end of the month.  So, I will have missed the target for the month.  I cannot let that happen much between now and the end of the year if I expect to make the goal.

In other news, Hurricane Isaac has slammed into the Louisiana coast and is causing widespread flooding this morning.  The expectation is that it will continue to drench the state for the remainder of the day, at least.  What that will do to my plans to go to New Orleans next week remains to be seen.

Now, it's time to shower.  We're picking up a friend of mine at 11:00 am and heading out to the Flying Saucer on the Lake for lunch and a couple of beers.  He says this location is exceptional!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Listening to the Emerging Morning

For the second morning in a row, I awoke late, though this morning I was up before 5:30.  Yesterday, it was after 6:00 before I got out of bed.  This is odd for me, in that I'm normally up before 4:45.

Despite the late start to the day, I went for a fairly long walk, logging 6.35 miles in just over one hour 35 minutes.  That's not racing, but it's more than a plodding stroll, though the heat this morning was more than I had hoped for.  The weather widget on my computer claimed it was 77 degrees, but I am certain it was at least 80, if not warmer.  I much prefer walks when the temperature is under 70.

Sunday morning walks are my favorites because there is very little traffic along the streets on which I walk, very little road noise from nearby thoroughfares, and I see only a few people out and about.  It's calming to walk alone in the predawn darkness and the early morning light.  Even though I'm not simply out for a stroll, I feel more at peace when the world around me is quiet and doesn't require so much of my attention to avoid becoming a hit-and-run statistic.

While there is very little traffic, most of the cars I see seem to be operating urgently.  They speed by as if their drivers are consumed with FOCUS on the destination...time's-a-wasting and I gotta get to my church service!  Of course I doubt any of the people who drive by me at that hour are heading to church. Some of them, the ones inching along in comparison to the others that zip by, are delivering newspapers.  I hear the loud music coming from those cars long before I see them, as they surge forward between delivery points, their music devices blaring the drivers' current early-morning favorite tunes.  One newspaper delivery driver who careens through nearby neighborhoods in an old blue Dodge van, though I didn't see her this morning, likes to listen to very loud ranchera music.  I like that music, though I prefer it after I've had breakfast and coffee so I can process the sounds in my brain just a bit better.

Lately, as I head out the door, I've heard the cheeps and peeps of birds I do not recall hearing before.  I do not see them, but I can tell they are very near by, especially as I walk past trees and bushes with dense foliage.  The birds' chatter gets noticeably louder and more insistent as I get closer to the plants where they are hiding. I wish I could tell from their songs what they were.  That gives me an idea!  It would be great to have a smart phone app, like Shazam for my iPhone, that would identify bird songs.  When I hold my iPhone up in the direction of speakers playing a piece of music, Shazam usually is able to pinpoint the name of the song, the artist, and the album on which it is found.  I wonder if there's any reason the same mechanisms used in Shazam could not be used to identify bird songs?  If you see that app in the near future, know that there goes another of my ideas I could not/did not implement and, therefore, the fortune that goes along with it has gone to someone else.

How does one turn off his "idea generator?"  It only makes me glum when I find, months after I have conceived of idea I think has market potential, someone has taken the idea and put it in motion.  Think. Plan. Act.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Several years ago, my late sister mentioned to me, praising it as a great service for people who have items to give away and for people who need items but don't have the money to buy them.  I signed up for a week or so ago, with the objective of having a resource to get rid of usable things directly to people who need them, versus going through an intermediary like the Salvation Army or Goodwill Industries.  Let me hasten to add that I think both of those latter services are very valuable, but there's something about that I find extremely appealing.

The way it works is this: if someone has an item to give away, they post the item. If someone needs something, they post what they need...or they look to see what's available.  No money changes hands.  There is no bartering.  It's purely GIVE and TAKE, with no exchange of money or promises.  It's a beautiful concept.

I guess it's the fact that the beneficiary of one's contributions are know to be "real" people.  It shouldn't matter; ultimately, it doesn't but it still feels good to know I may be helping someone directly and immediately.

Today was the first time I've posted an item to give away, a lawnmower that has a working engine but whose  front wheel assembly is broken.  Someone with more tools, more energy, and more motivation than I have should be able to put the mower back in service relatively quickly and inexpensively.  Relative to me; it would have taken weeks and multiple trips to the parts supply house, I'm sure.  Better for a more capable person to take on the task.

I have been impressed to see the kinds of things people are offering: refrigerators, air conditioners, furniture, bicycles, tools, canned just goes on and on.  When I view the list of available items, the hard shell surrounding my faith in humanity begins to soften, if only just a tad.

I have had just one inquiry about my lawnmower.  That's OK. If the guy needs it and will pick it up, it's his.

Moment of Terror

This is a photo of our back patio. This is where, this morning, a very small rabbit startled me by darting out from the bushes just under the windows through which this photo was taken (about where the "dragon fly" is located) and across the patio to the bushes under the windows to the left of the photo.  I was kneeling on the right side of the patio, where you can see (just barely), the aloe vera plant about mid-way on the right side, under (on the image) the Adirondack chair on the right).  I heard nothing but, just as I turned to look toward the house, I saw something dart out from the plants behind me.  It scared the wits out of me for a second (known herein as the "moment of terror), then I realized it was a rabbit.  I went looking in the overgrown bed to the left, just above the table in the photo, where I saw the tiny creature huddled next to the foundation.  Just as I saw it, it moved to the right to take cover under the leaves of the plants. I just had to record my moment of terror for the record, complete with a photographic representation of what the evidence would look like if I had evidence.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ancient Eyes

I walked again this morning, just a tad more than 4.6 miles.  I fumbled with my keys for what seemed like a full minute as I felt my way in the darkness for the knob and then the deadbolt to lock the door as I left.  It would make sense for me to turn on the porch light before I leave, but by the time I get back home an hour or more later, daylight has brightened the sky enough to make it easy to overlook the fact that the light is on.  So, I cope with darkness as I leave the house.  The street lights near my house provide sufficient light for me to see the sidewalk and street, once I'm far enough away from the house to leave the shadow of the big Arizona ash that is directly between the street light and my front door.

It's probably not that the mornings are darker now than they were a year ago.  It's probably that my night vision has worsened considerably.  Just a year ago I felt perfectly comfortable walking through my rather dark neighborhood in the pre-dawn darkness, but now I do not see well enough to notice and compensate for broken sidewalks, mud-covered walkways, and other obstacles I might find in my way on my neighborhood streets.  So, I leave the neighborhood, walking in the street to a north-south thoroughfare a couple of blocks away.  That street, which serves as an artery for commuters heading for freeways and retail centers, has many more and much brighter street lights than my neighborhood.  There is ample light to expose the pot holes and street debris that would be dangerous in complete darkness.

Fortunately, I only have to walk just under two miles in one direction or just under half a mile in the other to reach an entry point for a concrete hike and bike trail.  The lack of light on the trail, and there is virtually none along most of it, is not a problem because the trail is absolutely smooth.  Where the trail intersects with streets there is ample light.  At least for now.  I do not relish thinking about going for my morning walks with a red-tipped white cane.

I wonder whether my noticeably worse night vision is just normal deterioration or may be an early sign of cataracts or what have you.  I shall know reasonably soon, as I've decided to visit an ophthalmologist soon in an attempt to get some answers about the lousy vision in my left eye; the vision in that eye is abysmal and getting worse. Only by holding my glasses far, far from my head and looking through a tiny band in the center of the lens can I see clearly.  That's true for near and far vision; getting older (if that is indeed the culprit) is not as wonderful in some ways as in others.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Food Freak

I had planned on going to lunch with a friend yesterday, to a place called Flying Saucer.  Flying Saucer is a beer emporium, a place where beer is, almost literally, worshipped.  I join my friend periodically at the place near my house, where we meet and chat while he "logs three" beers.  This place encourages patrons to join a growing group of people who commit to drinking, I think, 200 different beers.  Once the objective is met, the successful drinker is immortalized on the ceiling of the place with a metal plate which bears his or her name.

Yesterday, though, we were to go to another location (I think there are about 15 locations, 7 in Texas and the remainder spread out among a few states north and east), this one on a nearby lake.  My friend tells me the lake location has a beautiful deck overlooking the lake and is a brighter, lighter place.  I like the one near me (but I really like it only before it gets late in the day, while it's still possible to find a seat and hear the words of the person next to you), but I want to try to the lake location.  My wife was to  join us this time so she, too, could see the lake location.  My wife is even more contrary than I when it comes to crowds and noise; I tolerate more than she, so she doesn't go as often as I do (which is not terribly often).

My friend had to cancel, though, because his wife's 19 year old cat, which is almost blind and gets around quite slowly, began having seizures.  The two of them had to rush the cat to the vet and, therefore, my friend could not make lunch.  We'll try it sometime next week.

Normally, we would have simply made lunch at home, but we've not gotten back into the pace of living at home since our trip to visit my sister on the west coast, so there was very little to eat that appealed to us.  So we opted to try a recently-opened spot nearby, a place called Hoffbrau.  Hoffbrau is (I think) based on the original which is located in Austin.  The decor of the place is rustic Central Texas, which is to say the walls are made of recycled ship-lap siding and the ceiling is decorated with old screen doors, the kind I remember from my childhood.  There is a lot of Austin stone and plenty of galvanized metal siding in use, as well.  The entry to the building is a replica of an old galvanized steel water tank.  Despite the schtick decor, it's actually an attractive place that just oozes casual good-old-boy sensibilities.

Both my wife and I have a tendency to try chicken fried steak whenever we think it might have the potential of being "the real thing," so we both ordered the lunch version of the dish.  It had a crispy coating, but neither the coating nor the meat was particularly tasty, nor was the obligatory gravy very flavorful; nothing noteworthy.  For me, good chicken fried steak requires 1) a very good piece of round steak (or better cut, if possible) that has been mechanically tenderized and 2) a very peppery coating (lots of black pepper in the flour in which the steak is dredged, after it has been dipped in a milk bath).  The gravy for the cooked steak, too, should be quite peppery and very smooth.  And for my taste, the finished product--steak with gravy on top--must be adorned with a LOT of slices of jalapeños.

While the CFS was not to my standards, the place is worth a return visit.  There are traditional grilled steaks on the menu and the prices are quite reasonable.  So, I expect to return some day in the not-too-distant future.

After having a large lunch, we weren't planning on having much for dinner.  We talked about options; the one that won out was a DiGiorno frozen pizza (light...I know).  I don't know why I like those pizzas so much, but I do.  I do not need to have another one for a long, long time, though.

Speaking  of food, tonight we're having something I whipped up this morning before breakfast: scallop ceviche.  A few weeks ago we were served scallop "ceviche" that was marvelous, but the scallops had been seared, so it was not really ceviche (it was extraordinarily good, though).  Ever since, I have been wanting to have a real, traditional ceviche made with scallops.  So, we decided to do it.  And this morning, after my 4 mile walk and before my wife awoke, I minced some serrano peppers, diced some red onion, chopped some cilantro, squeezed some lemons and limes, and opened a "store bought" container of orange juice to create the marinade for the scallops.  I took about a pound of frozen sea scallops from the freezer, thawed them in cool water, and cut them into small pieces, and put them in the marinade.  We'll see how good this ceviche is when we have dinner tonight.

What else did I do today of note?  Nothing of note, but I'll write it down anyway.  I walked 4 miles (just a shade under an hour), mowed and edged and trimmed the yard (2-1/2 hours), and applied teak oil to two teaik Adirondack chairs, a teak table, and a teak footrest (about 1-1/2 hour), and communicated with my friend of Flying Saucer fame about letting him borrow my old beater pickup tomorrow so he can move a couch he bought from a Craig's List ad.  There was more, but I don't really want to write a lot about my shower, my shave, or my lunch of canned sardines and accompaniments (besides, I already posted a photo of my lunch to Facebook).  Oh, I have played a LOT of rounds of Words with Friends and Scrabble over the course of the day.

Tonight?  Dunno.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Death of Creativity

These last two, and now three, days my right ankle has been sufficiently angry at me to prevent me from talking my usual morning walks.  Instead, I have tried to return to creative writing, posting little bits and pieces of stream-of-consciousness writing here.  As I read what I have written, the fog in my brain begins to lift and reveal the desolate landscape it has been attempting to hide.

I recall, now, the reason for drifting away from writing.  I am more of a creative walker than a creative writer.  Until my ankle decides to cooperate, though, I cannot do much of either.  So, instead, I'll use this long-ignored piece of literary real estate and the meager supply mental building materials to fashion at least a temporary shelter for my random thoughts.  If the words I write are like all of the others I have allowed to flow from my fingers to the screen in front of me, they will inadequately represent what's going on inside my brain, but that may be for the best, knowing what I know about that.

Yesterday, I visited an acquaintance who is developing into a friend.  He's a guy who was fired from his job as an association executive after putting up with as much of the bullshit his board sent his way as he possibly could. Finally, he stopped allowing himself to be brow-beat; as a consequence, he was fired.  It's a strange "firing," though, as they require him to go in one afternoon a week to keep the place afloat.  His contract was written in such a way as to permit his employer to require him to be at the association's disposal during the time he was collecting severance pay; his severance provision provides for one year's pay, so he is in the odd position of having to work for the people who fired him if he wants to collect severance.  Of course, he wants to collect severance.

The purpose of my visit was not to discuss his job, though.  It was to see his woodworking shop, which he has told me about.  He uses his garage as his shop, but his wife insists on parking her car in the garage at night, so he has to move his tools and equipment each day he works in his shop.  Cleverly, he has put wheels on every piece of equipment so it's easy to move them when required.  On one piece of equipment, a wood lathe, the wheels raised its height to the point that it was uncomfortable using it.  He built a wooden platform to stand on to use the lathe; it, too, is on wheels so he can move it easily.

I am in awe of his equipment and tools: lathe, drill press, drum sander, router (with an exceptional router table that allows him to move the router up and down from on top of the table, instead of underneath), and an incredible assortment of clamps, calipers, and specialty tools of all sorts.

His main woodworking hobby is making writing pens by turning wood and, to a lesser extent, acrylic blocks.  I had never used a lathe until yesterday when I went to visit.  After showing me around the shop, he offered to make a pen for me and I readily accepted the offer. From several pieces he offered, I selected a piece of raw wenge wood, a coarse textured, porous dark brown African wood.  We went through the entire process: cutting the wood into two pieces appropriate to the length of the top and bottom pieces of the pen, boring a hole in the center of each piece, gluing and inserting the metal tube into the pieces of wood, placing the wood into mandrels designed to fit into the wood lathe, turning and shaping the wood, sanding and polishing and waxing the turned pieces, and finally fitting the pieces of the pens together to create the final product.  It was fascinating.  If I had the space and the money to buy the equipment, I would do it today.  I really enjoyed using the lathe, learning about the use of progressively finer grits of sandpaper to smooth the turned wood tubes, and seeing and using the equipment to put the pens together.  I admire the guy for his focus; he assembled his exceptionally well-equipped shop over a long period of time, working to build a shop that would allow him to build damn-near anything made from wood.

I have neither the space nor the money to do that, but I do have the desire.  I may explore what I can do to get to at least the point of creating a smaller version of what he has created, something that will get me to an entry-level position of woodworking.

After that little adventure, I spent the remainder of the day doing odds and ends around the house.  That included removing the blackened skins from roasted Hatch chiles, removing the seeds from the peppers, and preparing a bunch of them for later use on green chile hamburgers.  I also chopped quite a number of peppers and attempted to make a Hatch version of chile con queso, using only the chiles, a can of chopped tomatoes, a block of Velveeta cheese and some cumin and garlic salt.  The outcome was a bit disappointing. The flavor was OK but the queso was, and remains, too soupy, certainly not worthy of the work I put into it.  I do like to experiment with such stuff, though, so all was not lost; I consider it a learning experience.

Let's see, what other useless crap can I write about?  Well, my one flirtation with real creativity yesterday came as I was writing a comment on a friend's Facebook page, responding to a post about the current insanity involving the insistence that religion has a place in politics. I wrote:
"I thought, years ago, we had developed as a country far beyond the point at which anyone seriously thought religion had any legitimate (I hate to use that word) place in government. Apparently, there were seeds of stupidity sprouting all over without me realizing it until I was choking on divine kudzu."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bait--for later use

I used the chihuahua as bait.

In my neighborhood, where muscle-bound tattooed guys wearing wife-beaters strutted with their spike-collared pit bulls, walking my chihuahua was an open invitation for jeers and insults.  When Linda launched into a string of strident, screeching barks, the barrel-chested mass of canine flesh to which the vocal attack was directed would recoil in startle reflex.  I would then laugh at them, both owner and dog.  Usually, that would do the trick.  The dog's owner, embarrassed that his badge of bad-ass would respond in such an un-macho way to a wiry puff of energy, would say some variation of "You better get that piece of shit out of the way or Santana will eat it for breakfast!"  My response: "Looks to me like Santana is afraid of becoming Linda's breakfast!"

I'd defuse the guy's growing flood of testosterone-fueled rage: "Seriously, Linda is just stupid!  She doesn't know how close she comes to being breakfast when she pulls that shit!"

If nothing else, my deferential acknowledgement of the power of the guy and his dog saved us from becoming victims.  Usually, though, it allowed me to initiate a conversation with the goon.  More often than not, it opened the door to talk of fighting.  "How does your pit do with other pits?"  "See those scars on his ears," the guy would say.  "That's the worst he got.  The other dog that was supposed to be the meanest motherfucker around died right there.  Made $500 on that one."

Twice, I took the conversations to the place I wanted to take all of them.  I probably could have done it with all of them, but that would have inevitably led to my capture, so I opted to be selective.  Randomness, or at least the appearance of randomness, makes the job of catching the perpetrator much more difficult.

[walk through process of befriending the mark]

Later, after I sedated him, I chained the self-described king of dogfighting  to the stainless steel table in the basement.  With his mouth shut with several layers of duct tape and his head held perfectly still in the vice I had affixed to the table, I waited until he awoke.  Then, I calmly explained the procedure to him as I removed his scalp, first slicing through the skin just deep enough to allow me to get my fingers underneath, then pulling his scalp back slowly as he writhed and screamed almost silently.  Duct tape can't eliminate the sounds, but it keeps them to levels low enough that my upstairs neighbors can't hear them.

Monday, August 20, 2012


At the very moment he realized the finite store of available cash was shrinking more quickly than the time available to spend it, he absorbed all the worries his father carried with him from the birth of his first child until his last breath.  Abject poverty had been, until then, an abstract concept that tugged at his heartstrings, triggering his idealistic sense of detached sorrow at the plight of others unknown to him.  But the concept became visceral at that instant.  In his brain, it collided with shock and fear and stark terror.. Those things and a deep sense of worry.  Not worry for himself, but worry for his friends and family who would become the targets of his uncomfortable pleas for help if his money ran out before his time.

Abstractions sometimes do not serve us well.  They allow us to think and behave in ways that will be impossible when concrete reality slams our heads against the arrogance of our wishes and dreams.  There's no time to call up logic and abstract thought when emotions and pain flood our brains with incendiary tides of burning biochemicals.  We react as the animals we are, not as the advanced beings we like to believe we have become. Our instincts, not our minds, control our reactions. The fight or flight response becomes real; it is no longer a theory against which tests can be conducted to determine the probability of the theory's is the embodiment of certainty.

Certainty was something about which the new woman in his life knew little.  Kneeblood was about to teach her, though.  He would teach her about the certainty, absent appropriate action, of his financial ruin and about the certainty that the security of banks, all banks, is deeply flawed.  He would teach her, too, that sociopaths do not have the same sense of morality that you and I have.  And that fact can be used to one's  benefit if handled delicately.


It's possible, I suppose, that I am the very same Rickard Fultz who became wealthy and moderately famous through the success of his novels.  More likely, though, I adopted his name when I found myself unable to remember my own.  Maybe it wasn't that I couldn't remember; maybe it was that I could not bear to know what I knew about me, so I chose to be someone else.

Yes, you can choose to be someone else.  It's done all the time. Often, it's done unconsciously, but it is done with some regularity.

My first recollection about my identity as Rickard Fultz was during a morning walk.  Apparently, I routinely have been taking long walks for quite some time, the testament about which may be found in my very large, unattractive calves.  Only a seasoned  walker would have such calves.  Runners' calves would be more elongated.  Mine are knots of gnarled mesquite.

It happened when I was out for a walk.  I began speaking what would become a novel.  I was fully aware of what I was doing, but I was upset that I had no pen, no paper, and no other way of recording what seemed, at the moment, to be stunningly well-produced prose.  And then it hit me: I was carrying my iPhone.  I used my iPhone to measure and record my walks: the distance, pace, calories burned, etc.  I used an application called RunKeeper, which made good use of the device's built-in GPS to record movement.  Using complex algorthyms designed by a benevolent god, the device plots my  walks, calculates my pace and the speed of my walk, compares my walk to those I've taken earlier, and otherwise invades my privacy in ways humankind once only dreamed about.


Only through careful review and painstaking appraisal is anyone likely to come even remotely close to understanding my motives, my emotions, and what drives the sometimes utterly unlikeable me.  The thing is, that careful review and painstaking appraisal would be time and energy wasted.  We must all come to the inescapable realization that we, neither collectively nor individually, have even the remotest amount of importance to the life of the star we call our sun.


Graveyards are peaceful places, on the surface.  They are places of reflection and introspection.  There was a time when even the worst examples of humanity would treat graveyards the way they would treat chapels; with dignity and reverence and, indeed, fear.  Even today, though, in these times when it seems nothing is sacred, graveyards generally are peaceful.  Beneath their tranquility and solemnity, though, they are boiling cauldrons of emotion gone awry.  Don't send your children there.  They will never come back.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No Reason to Expect More

It has been more than six months since my sabbatical began.  My plans to live the life of a vagabond have been largely derailed by, first, the realities of dealing with bills, lawn care, and the like and, second, the death of my brother-in-law.  But still I have spent these past six-plus months enjoying a life without an 8 to 5 job.

I've spent more time on my one remaining business obligation than I'd like, but far less than I should have done if I want to keep the business alive, much less prosper.  I have come to understand, though, that I have no love for the business, not even a little.  In fact, I have almost no tolerance for it.  I want to be shed of it, though it could be my only financial resource when the inevitable time comes for me to go back to work.  That time is far too soon, I'm afraid.

Several of my projects have been addressed during the past several months, though, including getting some work done on (and doing some work myself on) my house.  But there are way too many projects remaining undone.  I want to get to them, but I want to travel, as well.  When push comes to shove, I think I'll opt to work on the house.  It is, after all, where I spend the bulk of my time.

I feel like I've wasted a big part of the year I planned to reinvent myself.  I want to reignite my entrepreneurial spirit, but I want to relax, too.   As always, life is a series of compromises that sometimes lead to discontent.

But I have oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and shelter.  I have no reason to expect more.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Enlightenment of Another Kind

Early one recent morning, just before 9:00 am, I attained a certain level of enlightenment. It may be transitory, like so many epiphanies before it, but it doesn't feel impermanent. But then, neither did the myriad others.

I'd been scratching my head about existence. You know, why we are here, where "here" is, where "there" is, and other questions with no unequivocal answers. The easy answers come from "faith," which I do not have. 

This morning, for no apparent reason, I was wondering why it matters to me. Why do I care about "why," anyway? It hit me in an instant. It's simply an emotional response to uncertainty.

We are all about our emotions. That's it. That's all it is. Emotions control us. They drive us. They are in control. Not us. When we ask ourselves, or others ask us, to control our emotions, we're being asked to do the undoable. We cannot control our emotions. It's impossible. If we could, we'd be empty vessels. There would be nothing to us but meat and bone. Walking corpses. Zombies. Humans are, well, human because we possess a unique combination of intellect and emotion.

All of this relates directly to another question that has been nagging at me for eternity as I know it. That question, of course, has to do with spirituality and a related state of confusion, belief in a supreme being. The question is: why do so many people believe in some god or other? I have long asked myself: why can't they see how utterly fantastical such a belief is?

And today's answer: it's all about emotion. Just as I have emotional responses of one kind or another to music, poetry, human suffering, uncertainty, and so on, some people also have emotional responses to unanswerable questions. Their emotions are so strong, their needs to understand are so great, that they accept divine explanations. They allow "faith" to fill the void created by an emotional need for answers. I am different only to the extent that I don't "need" to know, I just want to know. I accept that I cannot know, because it is my conviction that there is no explanation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Money Pit

The money pit continues to consume my savings and my patience. UckingFay OuseHay.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Not What I Planned...But...

I've been walking quite a bit during the last couple of weeks. A couple of miles or more most mornings and the occasional midday walk have been good for me. I awoke this morning with the intent that I'd go for a long walk, but sloth and the desire for coffee, coupled with bad knees and the knowledge that I'll spend a good bit of the day mowing the yard and doing other yard-work conspired against my good intentions.

So, instead I am spending my time futzing around on the internet and otherwise being unproductive. Speaking of coffee, I had been enjoying my new Keurig coffee maker immensely since buying it a couple of weeks ago, but then something went awry. I loved the fact that I could drop in a K-cup and have a fresh, hot cup of coffee in just a minute. But then after only a week, it stopped working correctly. It insisted it needed to be "primed" in order to produce a cup. I followed the troubleshooting directions, then called Keurig. The customer service tech walked me through the process of getting it operable again, but I was concerned that it was giving me grief so early in the process. The next morning, it happened again. Again I called Keurig. Instead of the usual insistence that I go through a lengthy process of troubleshooting again, the tech apologized for my inconvenience and said a new machine would be shipped to me in short order. The old machine obviously is defective, she said, so I need not return it; just discard it. But she asked me to mail in the K-cup holder from the old machine as evidence that the machine had been taken out of service. I hate that I have to delay my coffee gratification, but love the actual customer service Keurig delivered! This will provide fodder for my languishing customer service blog.

My wife returned home earlier this week from visiting her sister, whose husband died unexpectedly about five weeks ago. We'll be making another trip to Boston soon, though, to accompany my sister-in-law when she takes her husband's ashes to Illinois for burial in his family's plot. His 94-year-old mother lives there and wants him buried with his other siblings and his father. We will accompany her on the trip, which probably will be via Amtrak from Boston to Chicago and then on to Aurora. I'm not sure yet how we'll get to Boston; we may drive, as my intent to go on long road-trips during my year-long sabbatical has, thus far, been derailed by one thing and another. I had hoped to drive from Boston to Aurora, but my SIL would rather take Amtrak, so that's what we'll do unless she changes her mind. It's a 26-hour trip to Chicago from Boston via Amtrak. I look forward to the train trip; I enjoy travel by train.

For the past couple of days, I've had a guy working on replacing the soffits all around my house. The existing soffits had been painted several years ago by incompetent painters who had done virtually no surface preparation, resulting in bad blistering of the paint. The cheap masonite material, coupled with the difficulty of removing the old paint, argued for replacement instead of repainting, so that's what we're having done. It's an expensive proposition, but one that's been desperately needed for some time. After that job's done, he'll fix the rotting bases of the columns on the front of the house and will replace the front door and the door leading from the house into the garage. There are a few other odds and ends he'll do; these are things that are not apt to be highly visible "fixes," but they are badly needed and obscenely expensive. I sometimes wish we could sell this house and build a new one from the ground up. At least that would give me several years' freedom from expensive repairs.

But expensive repairs on the house are only part of the equation. If the weather cooperates and the contractor shows on Monday and Tuesday next week, we'll have our driveway and front walkway jackhammered and removed, then replaced with fresh new concrete. The sidewalk is tilted badly and cannot be righted. The driveway is cracked in pieces and heaves and swells with every season. New concrete, I hope, will improve both the appearance and the utility of both of them.

Enough of this. It will be time, soon, to begin the yardwork.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I can feel summer coming on. If it were within my power, I would put the brakes on that nasty progression, as summer in Dallas can be overwhelmingly miserable. During the worst of the worst days, the air itself is scorched and brittle. On such days, every breath one takes fills the lungs with tiny, sharp shards of burnt molecules of air. It's enough to make dogs growl and cats scratch and humans lash out with sharp razors, the latter in vain attempts to cut through the oppressive envelope of super-heated air to reach the cool comfort just beyond.

But that's not the case today. Though I feel summer coming on, as evidenced by yesterday's high of 82 degrees, this morning is absolutely glorious.

I started the day by getting out of bed a good 40 minutes later than I had planned, thanks to getting to bed later than I should have done. It was still dark, though, and by 6:25 AM I had weighed myself, put on my walking clothes, positioned my iPhone and ear buds just right, and headed out for a walk. Inasmuch as I've only recently returned to what I hope will continue to be a regimen of daily walks, I did not walk as far nor as long as I once would have done on a Saturday morning. It has only been this week that I've finally persuaded myself to muster a bit of discipline and go for morning walks, and some afternoon walks, as well.

Today, the Runkeeper app on my iPhone tells me I walked 3.68 miles in 57 minutes 39 seconds. I started off much slower than normal because I was wearing a new pair of shorts to which I had clipped my iPhone and had to get used to the way they felt. I kept getting the sensation that the iPhone was weighting them down and that they were slipping down. That apparently was not the case, but it felt like it. So, I started slowly. But it felt good. I was ready to call it quits by the time I got back home, though; I look forward to building up my stamina and addressing concerns about chafing, both of which will permit me to take longer walks. Before slot overtook me last fall, I was walking 5+ miles per day on weekends, topping out at just under 10 miles on a few occasions.

Before I summarize my week in walks, I want to record what this morning is like as I sit at my breakfast table looking out the window. Since I returned from Boston, leaving my wife to stay for awhile with her sister, I have made it a habit of opening the casement windows in the kitchen, breakfast nook, and living room. Not only does this allow in an abundance of fresh, cool air, it fills the rooms with light that no ceiling fixtures can ever replicate. It is absolutely delightful to sit here, after I return from my walks, and sit facing the windows. The early morning temperature when I start my walks is in the low to mid 60s. As daylight comes, the temperature rises fairly quickly, reaching 70 or above by 10:00 am. With a light breeze, 70 degrees feels wonderful.

When I return from my walks, I turn on the ceiling fans in the house to help the air circulate, hoping to replicate inside what I experienced during my walk outside. I then make my breakfast (one egg, two slices of turkey bacon, a glass of tomato juice, half a clementine, and at least one cup of coffee from my new Keurig brewer, which I adore) and then I sit and gaze out the window.

Many of the trees in the neighborhood have begun to leaf, some extensively, and the lawns have begun to get green. With a blue sky punctuated by puffs of white and grey clouds as a backdrop, the trees and lawns and houses look welcoming and happy. I know...but "happy" is the best word I can use to describe how they look.

The occasional walker or jogger comes by, but rarely do they acknowledge me when they pass. I suspect they may feel a bit embarrassed to look in the window and see someone looking back. I wish they would stop to chat, or at least wave and say hello. But, then, I think of myself as I'm off on my purposive walks: I don't want to stop and chat with anyone, I want to get some exercise. Maybe a walk a little later in the day might have better social results.

I do feel summer coming on, but for now I am entranced with this wonderful, but brief, spring.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


My wife has been helping her sister cope with the immediate challenges of widowhood for almost three weeks. I returned home after just a week and have been playing bachelor for nearly two weeks. In many respects, this time to myself is welcome. I'm learning a bit about myself as an individual versus one component of a couple.

It is good and important to recapture, if only on occasion, one's individual characteristics. I find myself with more time to reflect on things that rarely receive a moment of my thought. What I don't find, though, is the discipline to capture my thoughts by recording them in words. Even now as I type this, my ability to put my thoughts into suitable words seems to have escaped me.

I miss my wife and want her to come home. On the other hand, I may need more time yet to remember who I once was...if that person is someone worth remembering.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Muscle Memory

Yesterday, while my wife and sister-in-law and I were having lunch at a seafood restaurant just up the road from my sister-in-law's house, I began having muscle pains in my mid-to-upper back. By the time we'd finished lunch, the pain...which felt like pulled muscles I'd experienced before...had spread around to my side and to the left side of my chest, just to the left of the base of my sternum. I was worried that it might be more than just muscle spasms, but didn't want to get unduly alarmed (or unduly alarm them). I was conscious, too, that my worry might have been influenced by the fact that my brother-in-law had died, just six days earlier, from what is assumed to have been a heart attack or other such cardiac "event."

So, I just took aspirin and hoped the pain would disappear. My wife and sister-in-law expressed worry, but I assured them it was just a pulled muscle. I hoped deeply it was a pulled muscle. When we got home, I decided to take a nap so my muscles could rest and recover. More than three hours later, I awoke just a short while before my wife and SIL were ready to prepare dinner. They made a very nice "chicken hash" dinner. We watched an episode of House Hunters. The pain had not improved much, so a almost immediately after dinner I decided to try to sleep some more. That was about 8:30 pm. I woke up about an hour ago, at around 5:00 am. The pain is better, but still very much with me. I took a shower, shaved, went downstairs to make a cup of coffee, and here I sit, wishing the muscles would cooperate. In less than five hours, the services for my brother-in-law will begin. I don't want my muscle pain to divert attention from the remembrance. I won't allow it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Private Grief

The past several days have made me reconsider all the posts I make on Facebook. This week, the grief my sister-in-law is dealing with should be private grief. Facebook is too public, too open, too much like papparazzi poking cameras in one's face. I'll have to think about that when I return home Sunday night. While my wife continues to help her sister deal with her grief, I'll be home alone for a week; perhaps I'll be private for a week. Perhaps not.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Death in the Family

My brother-in-law, John, died today. It was utterly unexpected; a complete shock. At this point, I don't know the cause, at least not with certainty. The conjecture is that it was a heart attack.

After lunch today, my wife and I went out for a drive. We had no objective in mind other than to stop by the bank ATM to get some cash and go shopping for a few groceries. As we wandered about on the rain-slick streets, we approached an environmental educational center that we've been watching as it has been developing over the past many months. It's really just a demonstration garden, coupled with examples of solar collectors, composting bins, rain cachment system, and other odds and ends designed to serve as educational resources, mostly for school children, I assume. Being curious and somewhat "in" to the stuff, I stopped. My wife stayed in the car while I got out and walked around, exploring the demonstration site. When I got back to the car, my wife was finishing a conversation with her sister, who had just called to tell her what happened.

More calls took place later in the day. My wife and I will leave tomorrow for Boston to try to help her sister deal with the trauma and shock of what has just happened. I'm glad we can do it. But it's a hard, cold reason for making the trip.

Such things serve as brutal reminders that no one among us knows how much time we have left and when our lives might abruptly end. That realization can give rise to bitterness or despair, I suppose, but I choose to try, at least, to use it to try to reshape my cynicism into joy and appreciation. I will most certainly try. We are all we have. WE. You and me. All of us. We should serve as one anothers' treasurers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Heartfelt Tribute to Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day post redux. Just read the post from last year. I'm a romantic, really. But that's not what Valentine's Day is all about, is it?

UPDATE: But wait! Now it's über-cool to become a Valentine's Day afficionado! Now, the über-über cool people are writing snarky, sarcastic bits about how those of us who snipe at Valentine's Day are just tragically unhip, uncool, and deeply behind the latest trends. If we were REALLY cool, we'd adopt Valentine's Day as a great opportunity for sex and chocolate and we'd just shut up about how it's an opportunity for certain commercial ventures to make out like bandits. After all, they reason, is it any secret that Valentine's Day is a consumerist's bacchanalian fuck-fest? Let them snark. I haven't changed my mind. I opt not to allow myself to become a tool of Hallmark, spreading the gospel about how perfectly GOOD it is to spend needlessly on crap that ostensibly quantifies my love. Thanks, Hallmark, but I'll pass on the currently über cool Hallmark moment.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Few Chapters

I woke up this morning a few minutes before 4:00 a.m. Most of the time when I awaken so early, I look at the clock and roll over and go back to sleep. Not today. Today I got up, unloaded the dishes from the dishwasher, made a pot of coffee, and went online, looking for something to catch my attention. An acquaintance who had just gotten home from a night of partying noticed that I was online. We chatted briefly on Facebook, then I looked at the "to-read" books on my desk and picked up When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chödrön.

The book has been sitting on my desk since October, along with others that have been there even longer, waiting for that elusive time when I would be in the right mood to read them. Today, the mood was right for When Things Fall Apart. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but I was not expecting what I got upon reading the first few chapters. I suppose I was expecting to read an instruction book on how to cope with difficult times in one's life. And perhaps that's what was intended. Instead, though, I began reading a book that seemed to me to have been written to enable the reader to have a conversation with himself about the real world. Not the world as it has always been understood to be. The real world.

I suppose I expected the book to be more "spiritual" in its approach, which always has been a bit of an issue with me. On the one hand, I think "spiritual" often is code for "you must believe what I believe with respect to religion," but on the other hand I think "spiritual" is simply a way to classify how one integrates one's personal sense of morality with the way in which he interacts with other people. Come to think of it, maybe the latter meaning may get at my experience in reading the first few chapters. But there's more than that. I just can't quite put my finger on it yet. I suppose the concept of circularity that seems to me to underpin Buddhism became clearer to me. Previously, I had interpreted that concept of circularity as requiring a belief in reincarnation (if one were to accept some fundamental Buddhist principles). But what I understand now is that circularity or rebirth in the Buddhist sense may simply describe the constancy of change.

As I write this, I realize I am not able to express in words what I believe I am beginning to understand intellectually. That is a bit disturbing, because words are my currency, my pathway to knowledge and understanding. But that notwithstanding, I find I feel more about what I am beginning to realize than I can articulate. For inexplicable reasons, though, I am comfortable with that, despite my discomfort. That, is circularity. But it makes sense in a ways it did not before I began reading the book. I'm only four or five chapters in, but I feel that I've learned much more than could be held in just a few chapters.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I learned tonight that a cousin, who is considerably older than I am, has breast cancer. Some time ago she decided that, if she were ever diagnosed with breast cancer, she would not accept treatment. She has since lost her ability to recognize her friends and family, due to Alzheimer's. I gather she is unaware of what is happening.

The prognosis is that she may have six months to live. As the end nears, she will be put in a hospice.

Such abrupt information of such import.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I suppose it's possible that we're all living lives of mass hysteria. Nothing is real. It's all imagined. The daily drudgery, the surprise birthday parties, the unexpected attraction to happily married women who return the favor. It's all fantasy, hiding the reality buried deep under the dry, gritty sand.

I listen tonight to "Take This Waltz" and I wonder why it seems so so and so true? "Take this waltz, take this waltz, it's yours now, it's all that there is."

"With its very own breath of brandy and death, dragging its tail in the sea."

"My mouth on the dew of your thighs."

"I yield to the flood of your beauty, my cheap violin and my cross."

The thing, the unexpected yet utterly unsurprising thing is that it's all fantasy. It's all artificial. It's all built from plastic made especially to assuage the bewilderment of the ones among us who question the legitimacy of the corporate elite.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I once had a very close friendship with Mary. We shared a lot of the same ideas, attitudes, beliefs, questions, hopes, and dreams. She was one of my closest friends for a very long time. I would go so far to say as she was my very best friend.

But people grow in different ways. We took different paths, followed different dreams, made decisions that were contrary to maintaining what was a close friendship. Her views on religion were very different from mine, though I have since mellowed a bit and can better understand now what she tried to tell me about what she believed. Our assessments of the human condition were at once quite similar and very different. I was, and remain, deeply skeptical about the fundamental goodness of people. On the one hand, I believe people will be good and kind and helpful if left entirely to their own devices in development, that doesn't happen. She believed humans have an inate core of goodness about them. I want to believe that. Some days I do. Most days I don't...or, at least, that point is deeply in question.

But we both had high hopes for the future. We could imagine good things happening. We both were advocates for equality and justice. We were the liberal poster children.

Something went awry. I think she absorbed some of my skepticism and distrust and I absorbed some of her trust and faith. Those things happened without the opportunity for us to have conversations about what was happening in our mental evolution. A friendship that had seemed as solid as granite just disappeared. I miss that. I miss her. I miss whoever I was back then.