creative writing

Pisan Zapra

It starts with picking just the right one. So many to choose from. Not too green; it shouldn’t be crunchy. Too brown and it’s mushy and hard to swallow. It’s a texture thing. It’s got to be just right.

Then comes the peeling. Start at the stem and work your way down. No need to rush here. Take your time. Relish this common but extraordinary moment. Sometimes it seems like magic. When you’re done with the peel just toss it in the bushes, or place it discretely in somebody’s path for a hilarious display of slapstick.

Now all that is left is the fruit itself, the tender, delicious inside. Isn’t that just like so many things in life? If you can figure out a way past the unsavory outer covering there are precious treasures hidden within. Isn’t it funny where we can find these lessons?

The fruit is delicious yes, but also nutritious. Vitamin C. Potassium. Manganese, Vitamin B6. Enjoy it. Make it last. Give thanks to whatever you choose to thank, for supplying such earthly delights. Giving thanks is an important part of appreciation. Studies have shown that the act of giving thanks helps us truly appreciate things more. Do I even have to remind you to enjoy it?

See, that didn’t take too long, and we aren’t really in a hurry anyway, Maybe there is time to eat another.

Just one more.


Pisan Zapra – Malay (noun) – The time needed to eat a banana.

Number 1 of the Lost in Translation series

Overcoming Expectations

Our daily expectations are those unconsidered expectations about daily life, like the fact that the sun will rise in the morning, that my morning coffee will be delicious and probably the highlight of my day, and the fact that I will sit in mind-numbing traffic for an hour as I attempt to drive 12 miles to work. These are the expectations that we take for granted, the things we expect due to the fact they have become such regular parts of our daily lives. Expectations like these make life boring, repetitive, and depressing.  It is simple brain reflex that causes the human mind to attempt to predict what is going to happen, whether you’re watching television, reading a book, or going to work for the ten thousandth day in a row. But how boring is it to know exactly what is going to happen all the time?

If everything always plays out exactly like you think it should, then you have in essence learned nothing new. It is through the serendipitous discovery of the unexpected that the human mind finds meaningful existence in this sad little hamster wheel known as life. My 6th grade science students are always required to make a hypothetical prediction before they start each lab experiment, and sometimes they get disappointed at the end if their hypothesis is not correct, like they have failed somehow. But I always tell them that if your hypothesis is correct you have learned nothing. It is only when the hypothesis doesn’t match expectations that we have actually discovered something new. I think that this is part of the reason most people find traveling to new places and cultures so invigorating. Everything is new and unexpected. Each today truly becomes a new day with endless possibility.


But then there are more profound expectations, the long term plans we have for ourselves and the people we care about. The path we follow toward those expectations may be unexpected. My Grandma wrote me this letter (and many others also) when I was a “hopeless” surf bum living in my van. I surfed every day and worked as a room service waiter and bartender in Santa Cruz. It was by far the happiest time of my life. I had almost zero stress, and hours of free time to write and read every single day. Even living in a costly environment like Santa Cruz I had a very low overhead. A post office box, a storage unit, and my 1975 Chevy molester van with my surfboard and coffee pot felt like all I needed. Every couple weeks I would drive up or down the coast to hang out on some empty beach or campground for a couple days. I was rich in time but poor in money. In many respects I was the most successful person I knew.

But eventually the pull of more profound expectations made me question my own happiness. I wanted more money and more prestige, like these things would make me happier. I wanted people to not think of me as a dirty vagrant living in his van. I wanted a regular job with a regular paycheck. And as I returned to school and became more and more professionally successful, a little bit more of my happiness withered away. I transformed into what other people expected me to become, but it was never really what I expected for myself. It almost felt like I had given up, succumbed to the debilitating pull of my family’s expectations for me.

Now I work more hours and make more money than ever before, but the measure of my happiness seems to be inversely related to these factors. I have saved and scratched to buy a home only to find myself now more in debt than any other point of my life. Those paltry maxed out credit cards from my days living in my van feel like the good old days of financial stability.

I’m not sure why I saved this letter from my Grandma. I reflect on it sometimes to remember where I was and where I want to be, and remind myself that the path we follow to live up to our expectations is not always the path we expect. The letter used to make me angry, but now it makes me laugh. It’s not that I necessarily enjoy having the last laugh, but I think I will in this case, even if it means I am laughing at myself.

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Great Expectations

(This was an unpublished post that I rewrote. It didn’t end up like I expected. They rarely do, and that’s a good thing.)

Sandals, Camera and Great Expectations (by Elizabeth Thomsen on Flickr)

Weekly Photo Challenge – “Selfies”

“Your ego is not your amigo.” – Tony Alva

I take lots of photos, but rarely any featuring myself. Every once in a while a selfie sneaks into my photo roll, but it is never a direct attempt. I see my students take hundreds of selfies in the course of a few minutes. They exalt in the fact that the word “selfie” has been added to the official lexicon of the English language. I know because they tell me about it every time I question their motives. Sometimes it seems that their main purpose in possessing a powerful portable phone in their pocket is to take pictures of themselves and their friends. How many different pictures with pouty lips and finger signals can one person take? More and more it seems that kids are truly the centers of their own universes.

I like this challenge because it gives me a a chance to share some of the things I have done and continue doing, and some of the amazing places I have visited during my doings. But I will never be the center of my own photos, but rather a small and after thunk accent. Sometimes I think I take so many photos because I have such a horrible memory. The photograph stands of proof that I was there, and helps me remember all those moments muddled in the memory banks. Why the hell do I need to be in it? I took the photo after all, didn’t I? I was there somewhere. I may not remember taking the photo, but it got on my camera somehow.

And despite my best attempts to quell my ego and lose myself in the moment, these photos stand as proof that even during my attempts to stay hidden, the evil amigo sometimes makes an appearance. I must try to remember that I am not the center of the known universe, despite the illusion of such provided by my unique and limited vantage point. 

Easier said than done.


The start is the hardest part, and also the most important. It is imperative to begin in the right place and at the right time if you want to finish strong, or you run the risk of not finishing at all. Starting from the wrong spot,or God forbid in the wrong direction, can prove costly, inefficient, laborious, frustrating. Know the flow and with it go, or you may be on the fastback toward failure. Fabulous, unforgiving, unforgettable failure.

Sadly for us, the point beyond which it is no longer possible to return to the start has long passed. Life rarely offers restarts.

But luckily life often offers us new starts.

Finish/Start (by I like)

Fear and Loathing in California

(a dp writing challenge, Gonzo style)

not a true story, but based on actual events

Dude tells me to call him Dude. It may be his actual name but I can’t be certain. As far as I can tell the word dude constitutes about fifty percent of his spoken vocabulary. Dude is wearing a shirt that says Stoned with a picture of rocks on it, like it’s not obvious enough. Trying to have a conversation with Dude is like speaking to an echo. There is a five second delay between the question and response, and usually he just repeats the question back with a slightly altered emphasis. Dude may have hearing loss or terminal brain damage or both, his synapses clogged with resin and his ears stuffed with gummi bears. He’s sucking on a straw and holding a cup of soda so enormous it should have a diving board attached. I’m betting there’s more than just soda in there.

“Well, Dude,” I tell him, “you can’t loiter here,” and he gives me a blank stare punctuated by squints and blinks. It takes a few seconds for my words to filter into his auditory process, draining in slowly between the charcoal and other crispy obstructions in his brain.

“Dude, I never litter.” He looks at the ground around him to confirm his  own report. There is a backpack at his feet, and a sign scrawled on cardboard that reads Need Money 4 Weed. Tied to the backpack is a tiny puppy that looks like it might actually be a fluffy, battery operated toy. “Those butts aren’t mine, dude,” he says. “I don’t smoke that poison, dude.”



“I’ve had it up to here,” said Fitch, holding a hand up to the top of his enormous forehead. “It’s a managerial style that doesn’t account for the intelligence of the managed.”

The reflection of the fluorescent lights between the strands of his comb over made me doubt his intelligence myself.

image VIA