Thursday, December 17, 2015

One Shot...

You know, over the last few years, something has become painfully clear: I’m not really good at anything.

I know, I know, and before you say anything, YES, I’m involved in a shit ton of things and am decent at a lot of stuff. But sometimes, I don’t want to be simply decent. Sometimes, I want to be good, you know? Like, damned good.
And I’m just not.

I’m good at playing the drums, it’s true. But, that being said, after twenty-two years, I should be a lot better. I’m good at computers, just not good enough to get paid. I’m good at being funny, just not good enough for a career in standup. I’m good at AutoZone, just not good enough, apparently, for them to pay me anywhere near a respectable wage. I’m good at this, I’m good at that, I’m interested in a thousand things, but nothing in there really stands out as exceptional.

Except writing.

Do I think I’m an exceptional writer? I don't know. I truly don't. But I do know that it’s my only hope. I’m just not good enough at anything else to make it matter. I mean, yes, they make me happy, which is important. Metal detecting, for instance, makes me very happy. I’m just not good enough at it to be on the show Diggers. Singing makes me happy, too, but you won't see me on American Idol next season.

You get what I’m saying.

If I’m going to make it, really make it, in this jacked up, crazy world, I’d better not quit writing. It’s the only thing I can do better than my friends. I don’t expect to gain Stephen King fame or be studied by college students for the next hundred years, but a living would be nice. A fiction living would be so, so nice.

And therefore, wrong or right, I plod on and on with my words, writing as much as I can when I have the time in hopes I can sell a few tales to the readers of the world. While writing is rewarding and I love every second, it sure would be nice to say I’m a writer when people ask what I do for a living.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What is the truth?

I believe that being a good person takes much more than simply avoiding being a bad person. Besides that, bad people and things are relative, completely. To a multiple felon doing ten years in prison, smoking pot or getting drunk might not even make the bad person radar. But to a churchgoing mother of three young children, those infractions could be very serious.

Lately, a certain word has been on my mind, and that word is Truth. If one were to think about that word long enough, he or she might just find it’s one of the deepest, most complicated words in our language. There are a dozen ways it can be used, and correctly, but the way I speak of is actual, rock-bottom truth.

Yes, it can be true that it’s Wednesday or that it’s sunny outside; a line or bicycle rim can be true; we always speak of true love in our culture; we like to say we know who our true friends are, and “the truth” is supposed to be revealed in courtrooms across the land.

But I mean real truth, our truth. What I’ve found in my musings is that truth has (at least) three angles: What we think or tell ourselves is happening, what we’d like to have happen, and what is actually happening——this last one would qualify as truth.

For instance: Beth is a weekend meth user. She tells herself it’s okay because she isn’t on the streets, doing nasty things for the drug on a daily basis, and therefore doesn’t have a problem. She can walk away whenever she wants, but she has fun with her new friends and, frankly, a part of her enjoys being a little rebellious.

She’d like to be out of the scene entirely because she knows it’s wrong, it’s unhealthy, and it’s a bad path to take. However, how is she supposed to tell all her new friends that she’s decided against what they feel is an okay thing to do? How is she to walk away now when there is so much more potential fun to be had? After all, she isn’t paying for the drug because her new friends already have it and share.

What’s actually happening is that she’s at risk of becoming an addict. She’s breaking the law, she is possibly doing permanent damage to her body, she’s risking her life and her freedom. That’s the truth of it, but the truth isn’t what we like to hear, say, share, or remember.

Sometimes we tell ourselves that someone picking on us at the workplace is okay, because maybe that person outranks us or has promised us something in the future. What we’d like to have happen is for the abuse to stop, but because we tell ourselves it’s temporary, we deem it as acceptable. What’s actually happening is terrible and very likely grounds for termination or even a lawsuit against the offender. Fear prevents so many people from blowing the whistle.

In chess, the old masters like Alekhine often talked about finding the truth in a position. I imagine their thought process was much the same: Here’s what I see happening on the board, here’s what I’d like to see happen on the board, and here’s what’s actually happening on the board. In other words, they looked until they took their own blinders off, until the position became clear and all the false dreams and emotions attached to the situation were under control and/or gone entirely, and only then would they make a decision, a move.

Once they’d found the truth.

Wouldn't it be neat if we could do this more often in real life? How cool would it be to possess the time, education, and resources to step back from any given situation, break it down, and then act only when we were certain we were doing the right thing for ourselves and anyone else involved? I think a large majority of people would hop on that train were it to stop at their depots.

But life doesn’t work that way, does it? It isn't cut and dry, we can't break everything down into magical threes and sift through the sand to find our diamonds. Life is tough, some decisions are permanent, and most of the time, only our general mindset is there to guide us. If we are negative and think the worst is coming, then it probably is. If we are neutral, if we wish to blend in and disappear and not be involved fully, then it’s likely we will go unnoticed.

If, however, we have a good, positive mindset, if we care and make an effort, any effort, to do the right thing, to do the good thing, and to avoid getting into harmful situations, then life will give back accordingly. Of course, we will all experience good and bad and sad things as we go through life, but the way we think on a daily basis can and will help us define our own truths. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

I'm eighties and I don't even care

Every day I check the weather on, and they always feature little tidbits like video shorts or interesting photograph-heavy articles. Today, the article in question was about spring break back in the day——my day, to be exact.


Now, since I was born in 1975, one might argue that the '80s weren’t my day, because I’d have only been a boy. Well, surprise, that’s where my days were, not my teens or my twenties. At least I can remember my entire childhood.

Anyway, the article, of course, sent me back to times that were better, simpler, full of hope and magic. As I scrolled through the photos, I realized that not only was I most influenced by the '80s, I am and will always be '80s in some way shape or form. What exactly does this mean? I’m glad you asked, because here’s a bullet list of things that helped to shape me and many, many other kids who were ten years old in the mid-eighties.

  • I like pink and black sunglasses that bend and don’t break. Also, Don Johnson blacks were all the rage.
Image result for pink black 80s sunglassesThey flex. 

  • Boom boxes ruled the roost——dual tape decks meant you were serious.
Image result for magnavox boom boxAww, yea. 

  • Men drank Busch, Michelob, or Coors regular.
Image result for 1980s coorsIt was even for the kiddos, see? 

  • Hard rock was Quiet Riot and Motley Crue. The real bangers listened to Metal Church and Krokus.
Image result for 80s headbanger jean jacketDid nothing to keep us warm.

  • Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the first LP I bought with my own money. Yes, the 33 RPM big boy.
Image result for thriller record jacketWhy, why?

  • Red Hawaiian shirts with completely clashing yellow Hawaiian shorts and Jordan high-tops sans laces was completely acceptable school attire. Oh, and Don Johnson black shades.
Image result for 80s hawaiian shirtProbably thanks to this guy.

  • Bikes were acceptable in two forms: knobby tires and v-bars or freestyle bikes, usually reserved for the kids whose parents had a little more jingle than mine. The occasional ape-hangered, banana-seated Schwinn style was okay, too; they were falling out of fashion fast but still given the nod.
Image result for yellow blue huffyNote the chain guard. 

  • Cameras could take 12 or 24 pictures, so one had to click very wisely.
Image result for 80s vivitar cameraFor the shutterbugs with style.

  • Push-button phones reduced dialing time by 90% or more.
Image result for 80s phoneYou could dial your best friend's number in 0.5 seconds.

  • Break dancing. That is all.
Image result for breakin'Like crunk only better.

  • I like Chevy vans with murals on the sides. I like orange Chargers and black Pontiacs and big rigs. Sunroofs still impress and, of course, white letters on the tires always go to the outside. Always.
Image result for 80s vanNeed I say more? 

  • A hot rod was anything with a V8 engine, long shackles and big back tires. Grandma's maroon ’78 LTD qualified as a candidate.
Image result for 1978 LTDGet you some. 

  • Ball caps were worn forward or backward only. Mesh caps weren’t a style, they were just what was there.
Image result for 80s trucker capHells yeah.

  • Big wheels, red tricycles, skateboards with very loose trucks and huge, soft wheels.
Image result for 80s big wheelFun 'til the flat spots arrived. 

  • Four-wheeler skates and magical rinks.
Image result for 80s rental skateI hope those don't have the one crooked wheel...

  • Robots. Thanks, Black Hole!
Image result for maximillian black holeI'd do what it says, bro. 

  • Scooby-Doo, Galaxy High students, Smurfs, Mighty Mouse, the Looney Tunes gang, and Dr. Who kept us company Saturday mornings, along with whatever the special movie was if you were man enough to put that kind of couch time in. I’m gonna need another bowl of Fruit Loops. Goonies is on and shit just got real.
Image result for 80s cartoonTimes were very, very different. 

  • Flip-flops weren’t a statement, they were comfy.
Image result for 80s flip flopsTo the lake!

  • Digital watches from Casio meant no more headaches reading cumbersome hands and confusing numbers in a harrowing circle. Also, the light button. That button.
Image result for 80s digital watchCheck yourself.  Colors. 

  • Explaining to mom that Bad actually meant really cool. Rad was a thing of the past.
Image result for 80s that's badThis guy was Bad.  All the way.

  • Construx, M.U.S.C.L.E. wrestlers, GI Joe dudes, Hot Wheels cars with rubber tires and hi-jack rears, Star Wars stuff and magical toys waiting for me at garage sales. Oh, the butterflies each time grandma would shut down the big LTD in front of a new garage sale; if I had a dollar in my hand, I had access to the world.
Image result for 80s barbie vetteYes, even Barbie on occasion.  Hey, I had a sister. 

  • Garbage Pail Kids.
Image result for 80s adam bombRemember the bubble gum?  Daaaayum. 

  • Toy guns that looked frighteningly real.
Image result for 80s toy gunWere parents insane? 

  • Station wagons with wood-grain side panels and fold-out back seats for the kiddies.
Image result for 80s station wagonAnd still had room for the weird neighbor kid.

  • Waiting for the DJ to shut up so you could capture your favorite song on tape, being careful to hold down Record and Play just right so the tape wouldn’t be eaten.
Image result for 80s cassette tapeCouldn't score the 90-minute job, eh? 

  • Realizing that you wished you had more of that DJ on tape today.
Image result for 80s walkmanPfft, flipping tapes is sooo last year. 

Oh, there are a slew of other things, and maybe I’ll revisit this in another post at another time. Maybe not. Now I’m feeling nostalgic and think I’ll listen to some Lisa Lisa, maybe watch The Breakfast Club.

Image result for sixteen candlesOr this one.  This is cool.  Yeah.