Closure, with some napalm for kicks

This is the first entry I’ve made to this blog since September. September! No excuses, I just haven’t felt like blogging. Other things to do, kids. That first book of mine I’m renovating to make less a POS and more something worth reading? Still in progress. Kind of like doing a kitchen remodel and discovering your whole house has asbestos-based insulation and lead pipes for plumbing. May as well just burn it down, and that’s pretty much what I’m doing. Controlled burns, but still, fire. I love the smell of napalm on my writing!

Looking at its pages, this whole blog could use the same. The “Buy J.P’s Books” link is out of date. I have some new Seldom Asked Questions to add, and a few to update. Sheer Arrogance needs a lot more of it. All things that would semi-pleasantly kill a cold winter Saturday and hey, we’ve already got some of those. Give me time. I know, not so much of it left these days, but give it to me anyway.

So, what drove me back to throw in one more entry, probably the last for awhile? Discovery. I found an old friend.

It’s not the first time I’ve found this old friend. The first time was shortly after April Fools Day, 1991. I don’t wish to embarrass her, even accidentally, by writing here the gory details. Suffice it to say I was acting on a odd whim to see her for the first time since childhood, to see how she was doing twenty-seven years into life, because I wasn’t sure I was doing all that well. I needed a reference point. Seeing she was still in my head after all this time, she seemed like a good one.

It turned out she was doing well indeed. Well enough to do me a fantastic kindness that day. For about ninety minutes of her time–something which in her profession does not come cheap–she listened to me. Just listened. She knew that was what I needed and she just did it.

The older I get, the more I appreciate what she did. Someone willing to let another human being just be, is becoming a fantastically rare thing.  Have you noticed that? We all have to be the star, heaven forbid we get stuck supporting someone else. So we end up in dueling thoughtless competitive interruption calling itself “conversation.” I’m as guilty as anyone else. I’m sure I was damned guilty of it that day, but she was kind enough not to call me out on it–even if she should have. Kindness. Pure kindness.

Twenty-three years later, we have all kinds of wonderful new tools to promote even more dueling, even more thoughtless, even more competitive “conversation:”  Facebook and Twitter are your big two. Pinterest seems to be going that direction. Add Your Favorite Here, there’s a bunch.  Oh, and blogs, for old nerds like me to bitch about it.

Let’s stick with Facebook. Remember as recently as 2010 when you could have real conversations on Facebook?  You still can if you try hard enough, but more likely your feed and wall are covered with ads, memes, cat videos and ridiculous personality quizzes, punctuated by an occasional thought about something mundane or banal. Like mine. Guilty. 🙂  Fun is fun. But with the rule-proving exception of a truck driver buddy whose posts blow my mind every day, Facebook doesn’t lend itself to wit or philosophical depth.

One day, looking through that sea of junk food for the brain, I caught myself thinking about the friend I caught up with all those years ago, the one who actually listened to me if only just once, and wondered what she was doing now.

So, as millions of us now do when we want to figure something out, I invoked the Power of Google. I typed her name and added her profession, figuring it would help narrow things down a bit.

Two pages of links later, paydirt:  One click revealed she’s alive and well, apparently married, in the same profession she was the first time I caught up with her, but with a much bigger firm; and appears to be doing quite well with them. If  her picture is recent, she looks terrific, especially for someone… my age. Not important, but nice.

The important thing is she’s kicking ass and taking names. Good. I would expect nothing less of her. I’m happy for her.

No, I’m not going to go see her again, I’m not checking Facebook or Linked In or especially Twitter–I strongly doubt she, being someone with class, has anything to do with Twitter–to see if I can find her there. I’m not writing her business address, I’m not calling her business phone number, I’m not emailing her, I’m not crashing her life like I did in 1991. No way.

See, 23 years later, I have a spouse too, someone whom slowly but surely I’m learning really is the best thing to happen to me. I have work now proving rewarding and reasonably secure. I’m okay, dammit! And while it was great to see her, bluntly, my reason for seeing her was awful. Period. I feel like I used her. It’s no good to use people, for any reason.

That said: If she ever needs to crash my life like I did hers, for whatever reason, I’m here, no questions asked. I owe her that. Hopefully I haven’t made myself too tough to find if she ever does. If she doesn’t? No worries.

The shrinks call that “closure.”

I just call it well and good.

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Old memories and french toast

I’m in a happy state of mind right now. My belly’s full of french toast. My good wife made a loaf and a half’s worth, some to eat this morning, most to freeze for others so we can both have a yummy hot breakfast on cold days to come without either of us having to bust our tails. So now I want to write something, because I’m full of yummy french toast.

Fair warning, this is going to be a long and rambling entry because I’ve been away from the blog so long. I’m fully aware what TLDR means, even at 50. So if you crave constant action and suspense rather than deep thought and introspection, you’re welcome to watch these videos instead:

They should all play in order, but if they don’t, the link to the playlist is right here. Knock yourself out.

Fishing at Lake Vermilion in Minnesota is one reason I haven’t been blogging lately. I went the middle of August with my dad and two of my brothers. We had a good time and yes, I “filmed” it, a good three hours worth at least of it in glorious 1080p high definition this time, part of it with an obsolete Kodak camcorder and part of it with one of my employer’s fine non-GPS products, a Garmin VIRB. Editing that sucker down to something presentable should kill a few cold winter days.

So far as the past few weeks where I haven’t been fishing, I wish I could tell you it’s because I’ve been putting hour after hour into making my first self-published book, The Rain Song, a legitimate novel if not an outright work of art instead of the overwritten emotionally-stunted POS the original version is. I wish I could say that.

I can’t say that.

I haven’t been writing at all.

Which, applying a Calvinistic approach to some of the entries on the “Sheer Arrogance” pages of this blog, makes me one of the more evil hypocrites to ever walk this Earth. I know. Writers write, you haven’t been writing; therefore, you have no right to call yourself a writer. Begone, poseur, and let us never mention your name again.

That’s a lot of nonsense, frankly. I have a life, and I have been living it, and living it is time-consuming, and consumed time lived well doesn’t leave a lot of room for navel-gazing. You want rationalization? There it is, and for most people it’s legitimate. I’m no exception. It’s been a busy time.

So why am I writing this blog entry now?  Guilt? Pressure? Narcissistic tendencies bubbling back to the surface? A stubborn refusal to grow up and accept what my life has become, even though it may not include being a successful novelist with millions sold?

Nah, none of that. It’s an old yearbook page.

A Facebook friend of mine, for reasons all her own I do not know, has been posting class pictures from an elementary school yearbook. She had the wrong person tagged as me in one, so I politely let her know.

This morning she posted the right one. And there they all were, out of the dust of sixth grade, Mrs. Bodine’s first-ever class at Neil Armstrong Elementary, circa 1975-76. Me, in big dorky plastic-framed glasses, a striped orange-and-green dress shirt and with my hair in its usual never-combed state. My best friend of those days a few pictures down, looking happy and confident and ready for anything that came, three things I could never manage. My first serious unrequited crush a few rows down, looking elegant and graceful and intelligent, three things I could never appear. All these blessedly normal kids… and me. A flood of memories pouring back of what was, in spite of so many awkward and stupid things, a very good year.

And suddenly I wanted to write something.

Anything.

Except about those experiences, of course. Jean Shepherd I am not and will never be. Sorry.

So who am I?

Why not figure it out, then write about it?

Or vice-versa?

Maybe I will, after having some more French toast. Hm? 🙂

… and in with the “now”

First things first.  Because I really didn’t stick a Mother’s Day entry in this year, and the little dude turns six months old (for real this time! 🙂 in about a week, here’s my grandson paying due homage to his momma (photo credit to his daddy; he’s taken almost all the pictures of him you’ve seen on this blog):

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I’m going to let myself get gooey.  I love this little guy.  I love his parents and how devoted they are to raising him right.

Lots of my Facebook friends have been posting pictures of their graduating children–call it the other end of the spectrum, if you want.  Two in particular whose privacy I’ll respect have posted a daughter and a niece in gown and mortarboard.  I wish I could post their pictures here too.  Their pictures say how well their mothers and fathers raised them.  They are strong, confident young ladies whom you know will do well.

Last year was the 30th anniversary year of my high school graduating class. I didn’t pay much attention to it, at least here, but I did think about it.  It’s natural to use even numbers as an excuse to compare then to now, see how you’ve grown, maybe even pat yourself on the back a little.  Hopefully.  Maybe even give into wonderful narcissistic fantasies like imagining yourself in front of this year’s class, watching them go wide-eyed and nod with recognition and revelation as you impart your indispensable wisdom upon them.

Of course I didn’t do that ;), but if someone asked me to give their kids advice, there’s really only thing I could tell them with any confidence:  “Now is where we live.”

Not the past.  If you’re my age and the best part of your life so far was high school–I’ll clean this up for more sensitive readers–you’re #%#@$#* up.  Period.  Get a life, NOW, while you still can.

Not the future.  No one is guaranteed a future.  This world would kill us as much as keep us.  Good grief, the weather alone takes people out without warning.  You can’t count on tomorrow.

So focus on NOW.  Leave yesterday behind.  Let tomorrow take care of itself.   Live NOW while you’re blessed to do so.

If there’s one thing I love most of all about the little man above, and his parents, its how much they remind me of how important that is.

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Gooey sentiment of this entry aside, how do you like the new digs?  So far all I’ve done is cheap out and use a more modern WordPress template and tweak it here and there as much as I can for free.  I’m debating if it’s worth the thirty bucks they charge to have a little more appearance control.  Your feedback is welcome, of course.

You might have noticed there’s a new tab at the top, too–“SHEER ARROGANCE.”  That’s a quick and easy way of saying “A guy who has no real writing experience other than this blog and two self-published novels thinks he can tell you how to write.”   Yeah, that’s it, and a little more I’ll elaborate on over the months to come, but the gist is I’d like to make that page my feeble little effort to keep alive the concept of writing as everyman art.  I firmly believe that writing in some form or fashion is for all.  Everyone has a story to tell, and modern technology is at once making it easier to do while destroying the way it’s done.  No big surprise there, plenty of studies in the wild indicating stuff like iPads and Twitter and the big bad ol’ Internet is changing the very way we think.

And that brings us right back to writing.  Writing is thinking, expressed as verbiage either electronically or in print.  To write well is to think well.  To think well is to reason well.  To reason well is to make the decisions which benefit both self and all.

In other words, yes, kids, this IS important.

I hope to have an entry under the Sheer Arrogance tab by the end of this weekend.  Until then, you’re welcome to click the link there to the old “Writing Tips for Non-Writers” page.  Many of SA’s entries will elaborate on concepts presented there.

Have a great week.  And please, write something. 😉

“Much better, thanks”

2:52 a.m. Monday morning.  For the first time in about a week my head isn’t in either a fog or on a Mucinex-D high, or both at once.  I’m coming off a slam-bang headcold that mentally shut me down really good.  Can’t complain, it was karma, or divine retribution, or serves-ya-right, call it whatever you want–I caught it from my wife.  Only fair, seeing I gave her the cold that gave her the bronchitis that won’t let go back in January.  If things were perfectly just I’d be typing this from inside an iron lung.  No, she’s not in an iron lung.  But some days she feels like it.

Anyway, just when this blog was getting on a roll, I find myself out of practice.  Can you indulge me a ramble to get back into shape?  Thanks.

Let’s cheat a little and update you on my grandson.

ImageStylin’, little man.  Stylin.’

As of April 6 he turned 4 months old, and is a very healthy 17 pounds.  I forget the inches but he’s, well, most wonderful upper-body exercise.  Fifty pushups and fifty above -the-shoulder grandson lifts a day and I’m sure I’d knock ten years off my appearance.

I won’t publish pictures of theirs because I’m just not into violating people’s privacy like that, but some friends of mine became grandparents for the first time twice within a week.  Their oldest daughters had their first children–sons both–barely six days apart.  What are the odds?  Grandpa’s convinced from their body movements that they’re good Ohio State fans, as he is.  Lay them side by side and one makes an “O” and the other makes an “H.”

He, like me, is not a blood grandparent; the oldest girls are his wife’s from a prior marriage. He, like me, couldn’t care less about such things.  He, like me, loves those little critters to pieces.  He, unlike me, for now will have to go halfway around the world to see them.  Both mamas are in Germany.  Something tells me a long plane ride is in his future.

I had all these wonderful observations I was going to make about destiny and society based on grandparenthood and the cold has wiped them out.  Do me a favor, please?  Run with this and make a few of your own.  Post them if you like, blog about them on your own, pass ’em on over coffee or two a.m. feeding, but share them.  Such thoughts need sharing, before fear and technology make us too insular to even consider such a thing.

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I do have more of “Reed’s Story” done, but not enough to post it yet.  Fact is it’ll be awhile before I have more ready to post.  Once I got my first “twist” out of the way I hit a nice big Hoover Dam-sized brick wall of where to take the story, and writing through or even around it hasn’t been easy.  And then I got sick.  Ideas welcome, please.

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I also need to call out another blogger, “The Booky Bunhead,” and apologize for my bad manners.  A good month ago at least, she nominated me for a Liebster Award. And what the heck is that, you ask?  Apparently it’s an award one blogger can share with another blogger whose blog is an at least halfway-decent read but has a relatively low follower count.  You, in turn, for receiving this award, are supposed to answer ten questions the blogger asks you, then come up with ten questions of your own, nominate ten other sites, and keep the award spreading through the blogosphere, replicating like a benevolent smiley-face virus, building your readership.

I haven’t done it.  Until now I haven’t even acknowledged the nomination.  This is no knock at all on the Booky Bunhead.  She strikes me as a pleasantly quirky young lady whose blog is very fun to read.  I’m just not big on awards or self-promotion.  They tend to go straight to my head and make me someone I don’t want to be.

Still, she went through the trouble of tagging this blog as worth reading, meaning I should at least acknowledge what she did, and give her thanks and a verbal hug for it.  Very nice of you, Ms. Bunhead. Very nice.