Writing

The Book Hoarder

I’ll admit it–I am a borderline hoarder. I keep things I know I probably won’t need, thinking that in some convoluted wrinkle of fate it will come in handy during a future crisis. In truth, I’m afraid the ironic tendency of the universe will cause me to need any item I  dispose of, most likely moments after the recycling truck takes it away forever. Some items have travelled with me through numerous moves, and though I don’t need it currently, I just might someday, and then who will be laughing?

But books are different. Back during my impressionable twenty somethings I used to love to go to used book stores and peruse the shelves for esoteric and thought provoking books that I didn’t necessarily want to read, but I wanted people to think I read. Sometimes I actually attempted to sit down and read the books, but for some reason or another never finished. I usually read just the introductions or maybe the first chapter so I could sound like I knew what the book was about, in case anyone asked. I wanted to seem all philosophical and well read without actually putting the time in to read. My problem is I am a pretty slow reader and I have ADD. Sometimes I read so slow that I get distracted in the middle of the sentence and have to start over. I can’t read fast enough to keep my own attention.

I bought the books because I was always told that writers must read a metric ton to find inspiration and to learn the craft. I was also told that if you want to be a writer then you should buy books written by other people to support the business. I liked to imagine what my own book would look like on the shelves. At one point I had milk crates full of these used literature and philosophy books that I schlepped around with me so I could put them on my bookshelves and look at them. I have sold and donated boxes of my books in recent years, but not all of them. Some I have held onto. Some I still hold the illusion that I will sit down and read someday, which is why I haven’t gotten rid of them yet. I was curious what books I hadn’t sold, so I went into the garage and looked.

So without further adieu, here are twelve plus one of the outrageous, audacious, and courageous books I found hoarded away in my garage. I will include a jacket blurb, and just what in the hell I was thinking when I bought it in the first place. (more…)

The Power of the Deadline

As a writer, one thing I need to stay productive is a deadline. The common meaning of deadline is a measure of the latest time a given project can be completed. Another less known meaning of deadline is an imaginary line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners are likely to be shot. As a writer I find both types of deadline the most inspirational cattle prods available to force my words out into the world. I like to set my timer and draw a line around my computer. I ask my wife to shoot me if I venture past the line but apparently we don’t own a gun. Instead she shoots me with her evil eye, and I sit my ass back down and get back to work.

At first I was very good about posting things without a deadline, but now that summer vacation has begun I have lost all motivation to keep up with life. Not just writing, but all aspects of daily living. I can barely get out of bed in the morning to make coffee and use the bathroom, let alone sit at a keyboard and coordinate letters into the sequences necessary to impart meaning. I usually have to do some serious research just to figure out what day of the week it is. I have been quite busy writing, but I’m currently working on much longer pieces (a never-ending 90 page essay, a novel, my manifesto) that don’t really fit into this short form blog format. But I want to change this.

So in order to keep a consistent flow of words emanating from my keyboard I will be following this self imposed schedule of postings to keep myself moving forward. There may be additional posts if the muse slaps me with her lugubrious smooches of inspiration, but no guarantees. Please keep a look out for my posts, and feel free to shoot me should I wander past any of these deadlines.

  • Monday =====> some manner of fictional story
  • Wednesday ===>  rants and existential crises
  • Friday =======> DP weekly writing challenge  (or other writing exercise)
  • Sunday =======> DP weekly photo challenge (or other visual proof of the universe)

I love deadlines (by vapour trail on Flickr)

The Package

What we have here is a failure to communicate.” –Cool Hand Luke (1967)


How can two people communicate when the word one says means something different than the word another hears? We take these things for granted, the fact that we are all speaking the same language, but just because we can use the same words doesn’t mean we are really communicating. We package our ideas into words and send them across space to other people, hoping that when they unwrap the present they will see what we intended them to see. But we all package and unwrap our ideas a little differently, and we all find something a little bit different inside the package when we open it. I send you an orange across space, and you peel the layers away to reveal the sweet fruit inside, and instead you discover a lemon.

So what is really inside the package?

Package! (by lemonhalf on Flickr)

now what

I’d like to talk about what.

What does what mean? What is a question. What is an action. What is that thing you can’t remember. What is what I’m trying to say. Do you know what I’m saying? That’s not what I meant.

What I meant was. . . What was I thinking? What is the point? What the bloody hell? What is supposed to happen? What’s the next step? What am I doing here? What can I do to help? WTF? What have I done? Oh my God, what have I done?

These are the kinds of whats I want. Now what are we going to do?

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? (by nolifebeforecoffee on Flickr)

Letter to My Future Self

Greetings to me in the future.

I am writing this letter to relate a peculiar happening and also provide a reminder of the utmost importance to you.  The happening occurred fairly recently, and I am only relating it to you now because you play an integral role in its passage despite my current ignorance of the exact methodology. Of course you probably already know this, and if I think on this fact too deeply I find myself paralyzed by a logical fallacy deeper than my tiny brain can endure, so I must just continue on and not consider the implications of it all.

I was wandering along the beach (you no doubt remember the one) lost in many moments of deep contemplation, such as consideration of the number of sand grains on the shore, the exact hue of the ocean’s blue, and the seeming pointless existence that I appeared to be carving for myself through the passing of days. The general melancholy and malaise that had been filling my gut recently had started to take purchase in my physical body in the form of stressful headaches, near debilitating back pain, and a battery of sleepless nights. I had just finished my college education and felt no more prepared for life than the day it had started. My job was a tedious dead end of triviality, and left me each day with a sense that I had accomplished nothing but a continued trajectory carrying me one step closer to the grave. There never seemed to be enough money, enough time, or enough love in my life to allow me to even feign happiness.

As I was reveling in my self-induced circling of the drain, a strange elderly gentleman approached me. I tried to ignore him so I could concentrate on the existential dread that seemed to be so important at the time, but his insistence was difficult to avoid. His hair was grey and frizzed out in the style of Einstein, and he walked with a pronounced limp accentuated by the soft unevenness of the sand. He waved to me and I continued past him, so he turned and shuffled after me across the beach. It was only when he called out my complete name that I halted and provided my attention.

I asked him how he knew my name. He responded that despite the fact that I was not familiar with him he knew me well. I asked if he had been spying on me, and he responded that he had indeed, but from a distance greater than I could comprehend. I then asked him who he was, and he told me he was me from the future, that he had traversed the very fabric of time to provide me with an important message.

The rigors of doubt immediately flooded my mind. I wondered if was he crazy or dangerous, what mental institution he had escaped from, and whether the authorities should be alerted. Of course he was able to understand my skepticism since he had presumably experienced the same moment of doubt himself at one time. He told me that he knew I didn’t believe him, and that was understandable, and someday soon I would come to appreciate this peculiar rendezvous. He told me that he had one simple thing to tell me.

“Just keep writing.”

I am providing it in quotes so you will know what to say to me when the time comes. Indeed the words seem to reverberate through my head without end recently, a mantra that I am unable to forget even with my most determined effort. I decided at the time that even if the man was crazed the advice was indeed useful. I at that point still didn’t believe anything he had said except those three words, not that I felt inclined to act upon them immediately. He then told me that was all he wanted to say, and that he felt it important enough to travel back to this beach to provide me this message using some as of yet unimagined technology. He then turned and started walking away, leaving me in the confusion that had overtaken my conscious thought.

On a whim I asked him what had caused his limp. He turned to me and smiled, and told me it was a motorcycle accident. I found this to be the final straw of discredit to his claims, as I did not own nor had I ever ridden a motorcycle. He winked at me and repeated those three words to me again, Just Keep Writing, and then hobbled off down the beach in a lurch. And I continued on with my woeful meditations and general unease with the process of living for many years after the encounter, positive that it had been a short foray into an old man’s dementia. But just to be safe, I avoided every temptation to ride, touch, or in any way come into contact with all imaginable manner of motorized cycle.

It wasn’t until I was standing on a street corner many years later and witnessed a motorcycle run a red light, get struck by a truck and sent careening through the intersection into me and my now destroyed leg that I realized the true value and importance of the man’s visit.

And of course, after the accident, I sat in my wheelchair during my rehabilitation and started writing immediately.

You know what to do.

Sincerely,

A Man Transformed

DeLorean Time Machine (by Anime Nut)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine, and/or the DP Daily Prompt: If I Could Turn Back Time

 

Humorous Sorrows

I deal with the blues by using humor. I don’t know how but it makes me feel a little better, but also can have the unintended consequence of hiding my true sorrow.

I was in an accident recently that was pretty bad, and ended up missing almost 3.5 months of work. Here is an email update I sent to my boss (the principal). He took it as an indication that my spirits were doing well. It guess it masked the serious depressed sentiments I had at the time. I sent this email exactly one month after the accident.


re: News from the doctors…

Thursday, November 07, 2013 12:39 PM

From: Science Teacher [SV]

To: Mr Principal  [SV]‎; Mrs Office Manager [SV]
Cc: Mrs Vice Principal [SV]‎; Miss Union Rep [SV]

Greetings,

I got some good news and some bad news today. First the good news. My ankle looks great, and the surgery went perfectly. I got a plate and four screws installed, and I think my ankle will now be both bulletproof and bionic. It may also help improve my cell phone reception and be usable as a wifi hotspot, and the hardware does come with a one year warranty. I also got my stinky old splint off and got a shiny new boot. Even after only 12 days the stench on that plaster splint was debilitating and probably neurotoxic. So yeah for the shiny new boot!

Now for the bad news, which unfortunately is more plentiful. I’ll number the items so you can keep track.

  1. Even though I am in a boot I can only put partial weight on my foot, so will still need crutches until the big screw gets removed. Putting too much weight on my foot may result in the screw breaking, which I’m told would be very bad. In case you didn’t know, breaking things in your ankle is bad, even if they are things that aren’t really supposed to be there in the first place.
  2. The necrosis on the front of my shin has finally revealed a large open wound in the center where the impact occurred. The wound is so large they recommend a skin graft operation, which will happen as soon as the wound heals a bit more underneath. In the meantime the doctors had to debride the dead flesh, which looked like an impromptu scene from the Walking Dead. What is left is a great big window through my flesh straight down to the bone. Luckily the extensive nerve damage in the area means I could not feel any pain during the procedure, and feel no pain now. Who ever thought nerve damage could be lucky? Perhaps this should have been included in the good news above.
  3. They finally took a much closer look at my knee. There is an MRI scheduled for Monday to confirm for sure, but the initial diagnosis today was that I most likely completely tore my ACL, MCL, and possibly the PCL, but the LCL is strong like bull (3 out of 4 ain’t bad). My knee is extremely unstable and I am recommended not to put any weight on my leg at all to protect the knee, even though I am supposed to put partial weight on my foot to help heal the ankle bones. The burly medical knee brace that is supposed to help protect my knee from twisting and popping wildly out of joint can’t be worn with a boot, and my eventual skin graft will probably also inhibit my ability to wear the knee brace properly. I am thinking of designing a hybrid walking boot knee brace to help fulfill all my doctor’s wishes and improve my locomotive potential.
  4. I was referred to a plastic surgeon about the skin graft. The area is so messed up and swollen she told me it may be a month or more before I would be able to undergo the procedure. She told me I should keep my leg elevated above my heart at least 22 hours a day. I’ve decided the easiest way to do this is to learn to walk on my hands like an ambidextrous acrobat from Cirque du Soleil. Unfortunately my initial attempts have not proven successful. I fear the percoset may be inhibiting my powers of proprioception, but luckily also makes the prospect of falling on my head less inhibiting.
  5. I have basically been given three completely contradictory courses of treatment from my doctors. Foot doctor: start putting partial weight on your ankle to stimulate healing, but don’t break the screw. Knee doctor: don’t put any weight on your knee without wearing the knee brace that you can’t actually wear. Plastic surgeon: keep your shin above your head at all times except when using the toilet or trying to take a one footed shower with a plastic bag over your leg. Luckily percoset not only helps with pain, but also helps one deal with paralyzing bouts of irony.
  6. Each of my doctors has told me that completely removing my leg and installing a fully bionic model is not an option.

Okay, so what’s next? I’m not sure honestly. All I know right now is that unless I can perfect my hand walking technique, my date of return is still up in the air. I was really hoping that I could return by November the 18th but that’s looking less and less likely, as I will possibly be needing additional (up to four) surgeries. My numerous doctor’s notes excuse me from physical activity until 2014!

It is getting harder and harder for me to keep up with the planning and grading of my different classes. At what point does hiring a long term sub become an option?

I really really really really really really wish I had more good news to share. Unfortunately this is what I got. Let me know what the options are moving forward.

Cordially, Jefe

the shiny new boot

Reposted for the DP Daily Prompt: Singing the Blues

Pretending to be a Grown Up

I feel like I’m always pretending to be something I’m not. I won a Teacher of the Year award a couple years ago and I still worry that they’ll eventually  discover I’m some sort of fraud and cart me away, just another impostor pretending to be teacher. Apparently pretending is one of my strongest skills. Sometimes I wonder what I’ll really be when I grow up, if I ever do.

Here’s my list of things I’ve at one time or another wanted to be when I grow up.

  • Comic Book Artist
  • Dinosaur Expert*
  • Stephen King
  • Professional Baseball Player
  • Circus Clown*
  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Fireman
  • Pizza Artist*
  • Hobo
  • Herpetologist*
  • Matt Groening*
  • Zookeeper
  • Graphic Designer*
  • Photo Journalist
  • Mountain Climber
  • Bank Robber*
  • Entomologist
  • Radio Announcer*
  • Screenwriter
  • Science Teacher*
  • Marine Biologist
  • Professional Skateboarder*
  • Cowboy*
  • Fabulously Wealthy
  • Stunt Man*
  • Retired
  • John Carter of Mars*
  • Professional Surf Bum*
  • Organic Farmer
  • Microbiologist
  • Landscape Architect*

When I was younger I used to think that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up.

I wonder when this idea of endless possibility became some silly childhood fantasy?

Hopefully it’s never too late to grow up and become anything you want.

( * indicates things I have actually been and/or pretended to be)

when i grow up i wanna (by globochem3x1minus1)

Posted for the DP Daily Prompt: The Great Pretender