Studio30Plus Feature Today!

I’m part of a fantastic community of writers over at Studio30Plus, and today they’re featuring a post I wrote about being a new blogger. I’ve been trying this for a while now and finally feel like I’m getting my feet under me. Go read my post and while you’re there, look around. It’s a very cool place to hang out!

The link above is to the Home page at the Studio. The following links you to my post this morning. Thanks to every one at the Studio and to all of you readers!

On Being a New Blogger

Watch where you’re going!

Max was late. If you knew him you wouldn’t be a bit surprised.  The classic line about being late to his own funeral? Probably written with Max in mind. As he stood to the side of the food counter at Lucky’s, tapping his red, low-rise Chuck Taylor’s and looking at the giant face of his over-sized diver’s watch, Max felt his iPhone buzz in his pocket.

“Ralphie, I’m almost there, dude, seriously, I can like, see the stoop in front of your building.”

“You’re so full of shit, Max,” Ralphie’s nasally voice boomed through the phone’s lone speaker, drawing a few glances from the other patrons in the lengthening line. “I’m ON the stoop you loser, and I don’t see you. Did you get the sammies? Man, the game starts in 20 minutes. Everyone else is here and we’re hungry!” Ralphie laughed, and Max pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes squinting.

“Okay, okay, no, I’m still at Lucky’s, the food’s coming, and yes, yes, I’m running late. You can sue me when I get there, how’s that? Hey, be sure nobody’s drinking my Guinness!”

“Nobody here’d touch that motor oil, man, relax. Just get here, I don’t want my stomach growling through kickoff.”

Max tapped the call dead and dropped his phone back in his pocket. He knew Ralphie wasn’t sore at him, but he felt the tiniest twinge of guilt at being late. Again. He figured if the food came out in the next 5 minutes he’d have plenty of time to run the 3 blocks to Ralphie’s walk-up. Ugh, he thought, running. Damn.

“Sixty-three! You need napkins?” The young man behind the counter hefted the greasy to-go bag up and offered it to Max.

“Nope, all good dude, thanks!” Max grabbed the sack of sandwiches, the smell of them making his mouth water and turned on his heel to head out the door. Plenty of time to spare, he thought, pushing through the door out into the crisp Chicago afternoon. He had his nose stuck in the bag, counting to make sure the whole order was there, not looking where he was going…

“What the f…!” Max blurted, crashing to the ground.  Stunned, he lamented the timing.  He was already late! Max sat up gingerly. Looking up he saw the reason for the disaster.

“Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” he muttered. “This is not happening.”

The Gateways & Doors of our Lives

This post was written in response to the Weekly Prompt over at Studio30Plus. Be sure to head there and read all the other awesome posts from the community!

As a species, humans are seemingly always on the move. We’re physically going to place to place, going to work, school, the store, or even the park. Rarely do we find anyone who, by choice, stays in the same spot all the time. We are driven to see more, see new things, meet new people, DO new things, and usually we have to step outside of our normal, everyday surroundings to see and do those kids of things. We also do a lot of mental and emotional travelling, up, down, through, and around a myriad of feelings, almost daily. Sometimes that’s enjoyable, sometimes not so much, but it’s part of who we are.

Despite the natural,  locomotive state of our species, we seem to be very adept at putting up barriers to restrict the very movement we take for granted. Walls, doors, fences, gates, roadblocks and traffic signs, stop signs, in our city streets and in our minds. There are doors and places locked to us, keeping us out, or maybe even keeping us in. Some people even live in gated communities or private neighborhoods, where visitors must be buzzed in by a guard or at the front door to the building. I don’t think about any of these things on a daily basis, they just exist. I lock my door behind me when I get home. I go through doors entering my office in the morning and when leaving in the evenings. “Park closes…” says the sign on the gate by the entrance to the city park, so you know you have to be on a certain side of it when the gate is shut. We just do them, ignore them, or take them for granted.  At least I know I do, most of the time.

This prompt made me realize that I’ve gone through some pretty important gateways in my life. Um, being born? You bet! Walking out the door of my high school on that last day before graduating? Definitely! The most important ones to me though, have been the metaphorical ones- becoming a dad, getting married, getting divorced, finding happiness again after a rough stretch. I’ll ALWAYS be happy I’m a dad, but you know what I mean. Things are going on for me right now that are making me happier than I’ve been in a long time. Those are all gateways, in my opinion. There’s a threshold to be crossed, and sometimes it’s closed and you have to make an effort to open them and walk through them. Some of them you’re thrust through, others you choose to make that forward movement.

What we do when we approach these sorts of gateways often serves to define us to some degree. At the very least those moments often shape our future, whether we realize it or not. Do you feel like you cross paths with these kinds of gateways with an open heart and mind, or do you fear them? Do you wish you could go back through some of them and pick Door #2 instead? Is the juxtaposition of my Let’s Make a Deal reference with my serious tone too weird? Just checking to see if you’re still with me 😉

“When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
– Alexander Graham Bell

Polite or Offensive?

Funny how the same word or phrase can be interpreted both ways depending on who you’re talking to.

I was taught to respect my elders. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, addressing men as “sir” and women as “ma’am.” Sometimes I do it without even thinking, it’s so ingrained in my manners.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a man who took any offense at being called “sir,” though I”m sure it happens. People are weird and kooky and just because I don’t have a problem with it doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be for everyone yes it does my opinion is all that matters I’m now testing you to see how closely you’re reading.

This is a dummy. I am empathizing with him right now. I feel both like a dummy and a little sad that I’m so clueless sometimes!

ANYWAY, it’s a much different story when it comes to calling a woman “ma’am.” Apparently, some women take offense at it as it makes them feel old. Older than they are anyway, or older than they look, maybe, is their feeling? Even when spoken out of respect, women apparently don’t like to be reminded of their age, ever, by anyone, especially younger women. Is that an archaic idea? Have things progressed? I think I established in an earlier post that I really have no grasp of the way things are with women these days, further evidenced by the fact I am divorced and single.

All that said, out of the handful of women I personally asked, only one of them said she takes offense at being called “ma’am.” When I asked what she would prefer to be called instead, she had no answer. That’s cheating in my book!

Dear (female) readers, what do you think? Obviously the poll question isn’t really for the dudes who slum around here, what guy is going to make a comment about a woman’s age? Maybe a married one? HA. Sorry married guys, but you know darn well you have less to lose than us single guys. You’re already not getting any, amirite? Sorry again, that took a turn I wasn’t expecting. Damn, I crack myself up.

Saving (by Saving I mean Breaking) Face

Fooled you, that’s Robert Smith of The Cure! Ha ha, I bet you thought my hair could actually look that good.

I was reading a post from The Reedster of The Reedster Speaks, about a (sort-of) self inflicted facial injury, and found myself sympathizing with her having taken a spill of my own some years ago that left me with a black eye and a broken orbital bone. Sounds worse than it was, I think, and I’m pretty sure I’ve suffered no lasting effects. I can’t remember if I’ve always had these headaches or… what was I talking about? Anyway, yeah, pretty sure the fall and subsequent damage was only superficial, no permanent scars or anything. It could have been SO much worse, and I’m thankful I only had to deal with being a Goth for a couple of weeks and didn’t end up dead. Shut up, yes, my black eye looked like I was wearing makeup. You’ll have to forgive the constant flip-flop from past to present tense in the following account. I was reliving the events as I wrote them and may have suffered from another concussion.

Allow me to set the scene of my near-disaster. It was the 4th of July, around 1997 I think. I’m not 100% certain that was the year, but I know it was back during my bachelor days and I was living in a 3-bedroom apartment with two friends. They were both women, a blonde and a brunette. Holy crap, I was living in an episode of Three’s Company! Not really, there wasn’t a bar called the Regal Beagle downstairs nor did we live near a beach. How cool would THAT have been?

The apartment was on the 2nd floor of an old but very nice, three-story, brick building. Normally we parked on the street and entered through the front, but there was a garage under the building where the brunette roommate, we’ll call her Janet, parked. Like I said, it was the 4th of July, and I was young, dumb, and full of, um, liquor at the time. I partied that day and into the night with friends at someone’s house across town. The plan was to get drunk, have a good time, watch fireworks, and generally just enjoy the holiday. I was totally down with that, except in the heat of the moment (it was July, after all) I forgot all about having to work the next morning at like, 8am or something stupid.  I proceeded with my evening oblivious to the fact. We drank beers, joked and had fun until we could barely stand up straight into the wee hours of the morning. I think.

Front of the apartment. Fancy, huh?

At one point, I’d left that party (to which I’d driven) to ride to another friend’s house to party there for a while. Why would I go over there? Oh, they have a bunch of tequila? Great! Why wouldn’t I go! That makes sense right? Looking back on it, I guess not really. Huh. Who knew tequila could ever cause any problems? That isn’t usually a thing, is it? Regardless, I happily went to the other party with the promise of free tequila. Promise fulfilled, and then some. Good thing I didn’t drive to that second party, ’cause after the tequila we went back to the original party. It was getting dark and close to fireworks time. Oh wait, I drove to that first party. Oops, yeah, this is setting up to be a problem. Not that I saw it yet, of course.

So, back at the original party all is well. Dancing, drinking, laughing, smoking, fireworks, Happy 4th of July everyone! Woohoo! At some point after the fireworks ended, it finally hit me, through the alcohol induced haze my brain was in, that OH MY FREAKING GOD I HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW! What? Seriously? Crap. Okay, no big deal, I’ll just go home now, so I can get some sleep. I had no idea what time it was. Only thing I do remember is that, THANK EVERY GOD EVERYWHERE, I couldn’t find my keys. I don’t know if some responsible host had taken them when we arrived, or if they were locked in my car, or I had simply lost them, but I didn’t have them and that meant I couldn’t drive my car! Not, “Oh, yeah, I’m way to drunk to drive, just, “Oh damn, I lost my keys, I can’t drive.” I know, brilliant. Tragedy likely averted and I’m alive (and not in jail) today to share this story.

Frantically, I asked my friends if someone would take me home. Sadly, no one would oblige. Whether they were all too drunk, or everyone was blocked in, or they were just all big assholes, nobody would drive the belligerent drunk home. So I did what any perfectly sane (drunk, out of his mind) person would do. I walked. Home. Across town. This Google Map is an approximation of how far it was, and the route I took. I don’t remember exactly, but I know I was walking on some pretty major thoroughfares, and I definitely had to cross a bridge spanning a major interstate. It was about 5 miles. Maybe not a big deal under normal circumstances, but I was three sheets to the wind and it was probably after Midnight. In hindsight I can’t believe I didn’t get picked up by the cops. C’est la vie.

These are the stairs I somehow navigated without, to the best of my recollection, falling down. That would come later.

The real trouble didn’t even begin until I finally made it home. God only knows how long the hike took. But I was a trooper and found my way there, went inside the front as usual, and managed to stumble up to the second floor. I was down the hall to the door before it hit me again, OH MY GOD I DON’T HAVE MY FREAKING KEYS!!! Epic fail. I had survived the longest walk in the history of drunk dudes only to be thwarted from blissful, sobering sleep by a locked door. So again, I did what any rational (ridiculously, stupidly inebriated) person would do at probably 3am or so. I began to BEAT on the door and YELL for one of my roommates to come unlock the door. Genius, right? My neighbor didn’t think so. I remember the person next door coming out to see what all the fuss was about and gosh, golly was anything wrong? Actually, I’m pretty sure there was a profanity laced tirade directed at me, but I explained (I think) that, “No, it’s cool, I live here, I just forgot my keys.” In all likelihood, it sounded something like, ” BLAHAW, IITZASHHH KAYYYY, LADHHDVERRRRR FERRGTTTTOOOOA KEEESSZZZZFGHH.” Yikes.

Mine was on the left. Doubt that stuff was there back then, but if it was, safe bet I ran into it.

Again, I’m shocked, in retrospect, that cops didn’t somehow become involved, but evidently the neighbor went back inside his apartment without calling them. Good for me, right? My neighbor clearly didn’t see how badly I needed to be saved from myself. As you can probably guess, neither of my roommates were home that fateful night (morning?) Maybe it wasn’t even that late, I have no clue at present, but I vaguely remember, being desperate to get in my apartment and to bed, going back down the stairs, out the front door, and walking around to the back of the building. You see, my bedroom was in the back, and it had a small balcony just off it. Once more, as any average, clear-headed (nearly at the point of blacking out from drinking) Joe would say to himself, my next thoughts were, “I bet I could climb up there and get in a window or something! Those things are always unlocked, right? Probably! Let’s go!”

Now, this whole post started because I was reminded of breaking my face, having a concussion, and getting at least one black eye. Long story for that I know, but stay with me. I took these pictures so you could relive this with me dammit, and no, I’m not proud of this, but the world needs to know how close Janet came to killing me that night! Janet’s boyfriend actually, as he was the one driving. Intrigued? Thought so. Back to the story!

The rear of the building is where all of the balconies were located, and I figured that was my way in. “I’ll just Spiderman up the side of the building and I’m sure a window is open, has to be.” Obviously I wasn’t thinking super clearly so the window thing isn’t really that big a stretch. Also in the back of the building, leading out to a busy, major street, was the driveway to our building. It came in off the road, and down a slight ramp into the garage. Now, I have no idea how the actual climbing went except to say I did NOT make it up to my balcony. I’m sure you can tell from the pictures what a hairbrained idea it was to begin with.

Here’s the back of the building. My balcony is the second one up on the right.

 [an aside- I’m writing this and the song, Another Place to Fall – KT Tunstall, comes on Spotify, fitting. Oh, and followed by, Learning to Fly – Tom Petty! LOL Okay, I’m a little creeped out now]

There were obviously plenty of places there to slip from and fall. There’s the climb up the first porch fence, the wall, the other wall, the balcony… you get my drift. INSANE. At some point during the execution my plan failed miserably and harder than walking all that way and forgetting my keys. I fell and was knocked unconscious. I don’t remember that. I only know it happened because I woke up the next day in my bed, and when I got up, probably after puking my guts out, I stumbled, probably squinting, into the living room, where Janet described to me the horror she returned home to the previous night.

Janet and her boyfriend were just arriving home (at some point after I’d already fallen) and as they were pulling into the driveway she screamed for him to stop the car. There was a BODY in the driveway! It was dark and I’m actually pretty surprised she saw the body laying there in the driveway before they hit it. The body was of course me, unconscious. Imagine Janet’s shock when SHE realized! LOL . Yeah, I doubt she or her boyfriend laughed. Anyway, boyfriend, being this giant of a man, 6’6″ probably 250+ and built like a professional football player, or rugby player, or some player who is in great shape and huge, and because the man is a prince, he apparently picked up my dead-weight, no doubt stained, foul-smelling body and hauled me upstairs and deposited me in my bed. Yes, Janet mentioned things were, um, soiled. Let’s leave it at that. I’d like to come out of this with a tiny SHRED of dignity.

I of course called in sick to work, blah, blah, etc,  and explained to Janet what the Hell I had been doing the night before. As I mentioned way back at the beginning of this rambling tale, it left me with (as I’d find out quite a bit later) a concussion, and a hairline fracture in my orbital bone. If you aren’t familiar with your orbital bone, it’s the practically eggshell-thin part of your skull-bone that curves around behind your eyeball. I don’t even remember which side it was on now, but I remember being kinda freaked out when the doctor told me there was (obviously) nothing they could do to help the bone heal. It would just heal, or not, I guess, was what I remember from that visit.

I’ll leave you with one last image, of what was nearly my last resting place, of sorts. Picture it dark, oh and with a body. Yep, that was pretty much a low point for me. Yikes, bad pun, sorry. I have to go take some aspirin or something, I have a terrible headache and cant figure out why.

I like to believe that crack was there from where my head, obviously GIANT because of my GIANT brain because only a GENIUS could have come up with this plan, hit the pavement as I fell. Surprised there’s no blood stain.

Pandemonium in my head, Hollywood style.

This was written in response to a Weekly Writing Prompt over at the wonderful Studio30Plus. Be sure to head over there and enjoy all the wonderful writers. Yes, it’s late, I know. I was trying to find  a good picture of the Creature! Didn’t happen, enjoy it anyway.

I used to have a recurring dream that exemplifies “pandemonium” for me. I had this same dream for months, though not every night. I’m not big on dream interpretation, but perhaps one of you is and will share your insights in the comments. I’m sure it will be interesting, lol. This was easily 10 years ago, but I still remember 99% of the dream in startling, Technicolor clarity.

I don’t think this is exactly what was happening, but it should generate the appropriate pant soiling reaction,

I find myself in a typical office/cubicle farm, situated in an apparent high-rise building in a coastal city. I only think it’s coastal because a message is playing over a loudspeaker that the water is rising/building is sinking into the water, and everyone is being urged to make their way to the roof for evacuation. Maybe we’re next to a lake. Maybe the dam burst and our valley is being flooded. I don’t recall. There are probably 20-30 other people scrambling about the office, which appears to take up an entire floor, and it seems we’re on the top floor, because there are a dozen or so hole in the ceiling above us, the only visible access to the roof and safety, according to the voice from the loudspeaker. The kicker is that in order to get up through the holes to the exterior of the (now noticeably listing) building you must pair up with someone, combine your equipment which will allow you to reach the surface.

You know how dreams are, stuff just pops in randomly sometimes. Well, each person in this office has either a step-ladder, or a length of knotted rope. You can’t reach the holes in the ceiling without both, and once they’re used they disappear. I told you, pandemonium. So, people are pairing off and climbing up and out, and I’m sort of stumbling around, trying to find someone to partner with. Yeah, I know, there’s no ominous psychological explanation for THAT circumstance looming over this dream. Right.

So as the crowd thins with most of us finding their way up and out to the roof, I am, of course, the last person left in the office. I can hear the bullhorn blasted directions and the helicopters whisking everyone away to safety. Everyone but me. At this point I’m suddenly viewing the building from outside, from a fair distance, and I can see the water swallowing it up. This was no 2-3 story building, we’re talking 15-16 stories here. I literally watch the building sink completely under the surface fo the water, knowing full well that I was still stuck inside. It is horrifying yet I don’t feel panic-stricken.

In fact, the entire rest of the dream plays out like a movie with me watching as a 3rd party viewer. But I’m still in the building. Sinking and drowning, one would think. It wasn’t as if I was magically teleported out, I’m very definitely still in there. Probably dead, I think to myself, and I’m not sure words here can convey that feeling of having a thought about yourself in that manner. You’ve all had dreams and probably know the feeling, but it was WEIRD. I remember how it felt- I can replay this entire thing in my head today even though the dreams happened years ago.

This is all happening at what I’ll call real speed. There’s no slo-mo, nothing out of the ordinary except for a few cut-shots I guess, jumping great physical distances in seconds to show the scene from a wider angle. I can still see the helicopters, the flashing lights, and even a mob of people gathered at the shore/edge of whatever malevolent body of water this was. I guess it wasn’t a tidal wave or dam break, ’cause I can see a whole town laid out before me (the camera I guess?) now, and it’s night, all the lights are on, it’s raining, and traffic is chaotically speeding through the streets. On the edge of town I can see what I guess to be the National Guard or the Army moving in- tanks, troop transports, Jeeps, and I think, “I wonder why they’re here, kinda late to the party if you ask me.”

 I can see the soldiers massing in the streets down near the waterfront, trying to control the crowds. They look, I kid you not, exactly like the little green army men we used to play with as kids. No bases under their feet, but totally green, totally in all the poses, just kind of moving around, all stop-action like. It’s loud, people are shouting, pointing, and I can’t figure out what in the world everyone is so exited about (beyond the whole building sinking episode, of course) when the camera (my eyes?) pan over toward the water to see the surface roiling and churning, steam or something rising from it. Imagine something on the scale of say, Godzilla, but it actually looks more like the Creature From the Black Lagoon a la the Scooby Doo cartoon…

And the creature is ME! Yes, I’m still viewing this from afar, as a movie-goer would, but even so, I know that the creature is me, back from a watery grave to TEAR SHIT UP. It’s going to get ugly and fast, I can tell. So, I proceed to stomp my way through the people along the shoreline, kicking over emergency vehicles, swatting choppers out of the night sky like gnats, and basically inflicting more collateral civilian damage than a Michael Bay scene. I mean, I’m picking people up in handfuls and devouring them, screaming and kicking. The Army opens fire with all of their artillery- tanks, missiles, guns, grenades, all of it. There are explosions left and right. I’m still the creature stomping through the town’s buildings now, knocking over walls, tons of bricks burying people, and I’m also watching this and in a sort of halfway state between horror and elation. This creature guy (me) is a badass! He’s really taking it to the humans.

The only part of the dream I don’t really recall is the end, or whatever was happening when I woke up. Maybe it was a cool fade to black or something, but I know up until that moment the place was rockin’. It was a madhouse. IT WAS PANDEMONIUM.