Real world advice for the reality-challenged. |
Always looking forward to what's around the next bend.
Don't do this: Almost delirious inner seven-year olds
|I had planned to head out for the family farm today but I am in no shape for that. I can’t understand simple sentences, or even utter one for that matter. I am having animated discussions with myself and neither side is being reasonable. My mood is swinging from jittery and irritable to morose and irritable. It is giving me fits (literally). My side of the family on the farm hasn’t been treated to the glory and spectacle of the Crazy Dave variety show and I want to keep it that way.
I have been fortunate in that my wife feels blood letting is inappropriate viewing for grandchildren. They are gone now so the moratorium may be lifted. It is more likely she will simply flee as the only thing worse than being crazy is being confined with a crazy person, and that only marginally.
I recently discovered that hiking to the point of delirium is a symptom of a Bipolar mixed episode. Since I am in a mixed episode now, and close to delirium anyway, it should only take a brief hike to close the gap. A great labor saving measure if being delirious is one’s goal. I will be able to spend most of the day too miserable to argue with myself. Warning – Attempting full delirium is only for accomplished practitioners. Don’t do this if you are just getting started. Almost delirious inner arguments are very unpleasant.
The inner arguments get tiring. I would prefer to have a reasonable internal debate, but it never goes that way. It may be that I have not chosen the right topics. Tapioca – pro and con, extraterrestrials – why so shy?, confused vs profused, there are plenty of things to consider but they may be too advanced for the inner seven-year-olds who seem to be the combatants.
I guess I need to locate my inner adults. I think they fled the scene, possibly with my wife, and are waiting for things to settle down. As it is, the discussions start with an accusation and continue on with uh huh! Na ah! Uh huh! Na ah! This continues until I intervene with a pointed comment, often shouted and always obscene. Not the stuff of insightful converse.
Things might improve if I could even locate my inner sixteen-year olds. Way! No way! Way! might be better. You're bogus! You're lame! It wouldn’t matter that they are from the Eighties since no one can hear them anyway. I think.
I can get the whole bunch to shut up if the weather gets hot enough and I hike hard enough. If I can make it home exhausted but otherwise pleasant, my wife may be able to get a few hours of peace before she has to go back to work. It hasn’t been the best 4-day weekend for her. It may not have been the worst either, but there is a seven-year old shouting uh huh! I think I will let them fight it out. I don’t want to wake my wife up swearing at the little fools.
Don't Do This: Keep the meter out of the brown range
|While researching Type II Bipolar mixed episodes, I came across this as an indicator of a mixed episode:
“Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences”
On the plus side, I no longer have to try and justify my compulsion to hike until I am almost unconscious. On the minus side, it is a symptom. Those are bad. I think I had better stop bragging about the 6-hour hikes and find out how many other things I am doing that are mixed episode symptoms. This weekend has been a pretty good example.
I am having a fingernails-on-the-blackboard weekend. This has not been my shining moment in the annals of Long Weekends With Children. The mixed episode I feared was coming materialized just before the kids arrived. A member of the extended family passed away on the third. That didn’t help a thing. The many splendid things I have for acute anxiety are off limits because I have to be able to drive in case of an emergency.
If one can avoid mixed episodes, I recommend that they do. If you are experiencing severe anxiety about being depressed, or are depressed about your anxiety, you may have failed. I have failed as well, so my advice is suspect. As offering suspect advice is my mission, I offer the following.
After considering “Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences”, I believe these fall into that category:
Drinking is a well-known ineffective treatment for both anxiety and depression and can have painful consequences. That is not pertinent. But, adding “drunk” to “anxious” and “depressed” is not an effective relationship tool. That is pertinent.
Who doesn’t like thrill sports? Everyone enjoys an occasional balancing challenge from a respectable height, or hang gliding with a sheet of plywood. Don’t do this. It will aggravate your depression.
If one is confined with screaming children and unable to escape mentally or physically, they may be tempted to hit their fingers with a hammer as a distraction. Fingernails only! Breaking a finger is also a relationship stressor.
I have made low flyovers through hell and this is not it. This is plain-vanilla misery. I will be able to lather on anti-psychotics tomorrow and hopefully get the Dave-o-meter into the very narrow “green” range. Although, it might be “brown”, depending on the relationship readings. The range to avoid is “black and blue resulting from excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences”. I am going to temporarily exempt drinking.
Don't Do This: Do not attack yourself with phosphorus
|There is a Code Red emergency looming on the horizon. A confluence of events and a rising tide of Bipolar Weirdness are about to combine. The Fourth of July weekend is fast approaching. There are bound to be a lot of fireworks set off in our neighborhood. They have about the same effect on me as they did on the dogs when I don’t feel well. We will have all three grandkids for at least a portion of the weekend. And, I am going to the farm as soon as I can get out. That is a good thing, but trying to secure the home front is going to be difficult.
The effect of these three things combined is going to lead to unconsciousness and hangovers. That isn’t the problem. The problem is the marital discord that is likely to occur when it becomes apparent I can’t handle any of it.
I have yet to complete the home study course Coping 1a. I have a long string of incompletes, failing grades, unconsciousness, and a blatant disregard for the course material. The course monitors have done their best to keep me on track, but I have no aptitude for the subject.
In my opinion, the course omits a large chuck of practical solutions. To hear the course supervisor (my wife) tell it, if I would stick to the lesson plan, use medications as directed, avoid alcohol, and act like I have a brain, I would pass the course. Of course, if I could act like I had a brain, I wouldn’t have written Don’t Do This.
Faking having a brain is tough. If one knew they were being brainless at the time of a brainless act, that would constitute having a brain. So, what is left is mitigating the fallout of said brainless act. This is not covered in Coping 1a. In fact, Coping 1a has nothing about mitigating evidence or disaster cleanup at all. Those are the two subjects I am most interested in.
Even though Don’t Do This is not an accredited course, it still contains useful free information (the best kind) pertaining to Big Weekends. Here are a few items apropos to the Fourth of July to consider from the section Combustibles, Corrosives, and Oxidizers:
Fireworks are fun. Don’t get any. If you are reading this, you don’t have the temperament for it. Naturally curious and inventive people may be inclined to tamper with them. Tampering with fireworks is brainless and is an automatic F in Coping 1a.
If you obtain fireworks, do not disassemble them in hopes of combing materials. They can be touchy.
If you combine materials in hopes of creating a more impressive display, be sure you know what the behavior of the components is. The modifications may cause things that are supposed to go up go sideways instead.
Phosphorus is banned for weapons use by international agreement. It is not banned for use in fireworks. Some of the materials which had unexpectedly gone sideways may be burning at 1,000 degrees if you are lucky. It goes up from there. Evidence mitigation may not be possible.
Passing Coping 1a is probably not in my future. I hope my experiences will help you avoid chemical burns and holes in vinyl siding so that you may get further in the course than I have. Remember, you only have to act like you have a brain.
Vicarious misery is much the same as real misery.
|(A swirl of red dust curls up and over the toes of his boots with each plodding step, the tiny clouds trying to escape the tortuous heat of the road. They are hoping to reach the breeze and be blown from the blistered red clay. There are no breezes.)
I like hiking in extreme conditions, if you can call our weather extreme. The running narratives that accompany the hikes are clear, focused, a very real story to match a very real experience.
(Only the buzzing of the hardiest of insects breaks the stifling silence. Nothing that touches the ground will be out today. Except for him. He will be out for quite a while.)
My doctor says I am experiencing reality second-hand by creating a fantasy world and living vicariously through it. To that I say, what’s your point? I have tried reality-based hiking and it is just too damn miserable. I prefer experiencing misery vicariously.
(The sun is a weight upon his shoulders, a weight too great to bear. A moment of carelessness sends him stumbling to his hands and knees. He quickly rolls onto his back. The moment his hands had touched the road had come close to raising blisters. He shouldered the ponderous weight and arose to his knees slowly, his head swimming with the effort. The shimmering red dirt road stretched up and away, turning out of sight several hundred yards on. He struggled to his feet and began anew.)
So, there it is. To write about complete misery, I apparently must be miserable. I don’t know if that excuse as to why I hike in these conditions plays any better than “I don’t know”, but it sounds better. Besides, don’t all writers do that, find inspiration where they can?
I adore walking along springtime paths lined with flowers and the love stories and poems they inspire, but hiking a red dirt road in 100-degree heat is about as real as a vicarious fantasy world can get. Fall face down on it and see how vicarious that feels. Be sure and wash your clothes or concerned parties will know exactly which planet you have been exploring. They seem to favor reality-based planets. I do that when I’m home. When I go for a hike, there is no telling what world I will end up on.
(There is a cool, shady forest up ahead. He believes he will make it. The tiny clouds of red dirt fly higher as he picks up his pace. He hopes they will escape. He hopes he will. Neither is certain.)
It will be in the nineties today, I am going to go see if I can get that poor guy someplace better. It will be touch and go. There may not be any place better.
(There is shade under the trees, but he is dangerously over-heated. The confusion and disorientation that comes with high heat will be hard to dispel if he can’t find a cool place. There is a wet drainage a mile further on. He will make for that. The tiny clouds rising over the toes of his boots are making their escape now, lifted by a slight breeze. He envies them.)
Don't do this: Mean drunk Blanch DuBois
|After I completed the extended gripe about the entertainment industry which appears below, I felt I should attempt something less dour. After all, one can find an endless supply of depressing diatribes but this is the only place you will find truly helpful free advice (the best kind). This issue is devoted to gardening.
Gardening is very therapeutic. Done the way I do it, it requires therapy. I have often said that if I were just a little smarter, life would be much easier. I have an advantage in that I can become a little smarter by reducing the medication I take which causes one to be, in the medical jargon used, dull. However, the increase in mental agility is just a passing phase between sitting here typing and sitting here arguing with invisible people. If I am going to have any viable ideas, it has to be done quickly. I have failed at this in the past.
I love large garden containers. Everyone does, I suppose. The pot we recently bought is so large that I could fit inside it if I were 100 pounds lighter and an employee of Cirque du Soleil. A large pot begs for a large plant. We chose to transplant a eucalyptus tree that was planted near the septic tank in a moment of dullness.
Here is the little smarter/much easier part. I filled the pot and watered it at the planting table a full 100 feet from its final location. If I had consulted Don’t Do This, section Gravity is not Your Friend, I would have known better. It is a sad truth that the adage, “live and learn” does not apply to me. While one can’t teach an old dog new tricks, one can’t teach me anything at all.
It has been one year, one week, and one day since my wife and I made a tether ball stand for the grandkids. I chose to pour the cement, 250 pounds of it, thirty feet from the stand’s final location. Moving the large pot rivaled the Herculean effort required to move the tether ball stand.
Given that my options are continued dullness or confinement, I am likely to be dull for a long time. Saying that those who don’t remember mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them is not helpful as I can’t remember last week, let alone one year, one week, and one day ago. It is an acknowledged fact that I do not posses Good Sense. It has also been confirmed by many informed sources that I am crazy. These factors do not indicate I will ever be filling a large pot with a hundred pounds of wet soil at its intended location.
I feel great empathy with those poor individuals who do not rise to the level of intelligence which would make life much easier, myself being among them. (Feeling empathy with one’s self is a difficult concept unless one sometimes watches from a removed location, which I do not recommend). If you know or suspect that you are dull, the only self-help book you need is Don’t Do This. Consider these few items:
Being a fool is better than being a thoughtless fool. Be prepared with an excuse no matter how poor. No one expects much better anyway.
Keep in mind the cardinal rule of avoiding being a danger to yourself or others. This condition can lead to a serious curtailment of one’s bar privileges and access to essential medicinals. Reference Evidence Mitigation.
Consider the Blanche DuBois defense, relying on the kindness of strangers. Being dull will put one out of sorts, but if one is hoping for the kindness of strangers as opposed to the hostility of strangers, Blanche DuBois is the way to go.
That is enough for now. I’m sure there is something stupid or foolish I should be doing. Perhaps I will make a very large container out of cement on the other side of the house.
He saved everyone but insurance companies
|My wife and I will go for years without seeing a movie at a theater. The last movie we went to was the first Sherlock Holmes. That is until this month when we have gone to a record two movies in one month.
We saw Star Trek earlier and enjoyed it, the both of us being fans from way back. I will not critique the movie because I can be somewhat long-winded about these things, except to say the cast was very good and the optical lenses used in shooting the movie added nicely to the look.
Last night we saw Man of Steel. We enjoyed it as well. The “re-envisioning” of the fable did not conflict with the traditional vision greatly. The acting was very good and there only a few minor plot weaknesses.
I do have an issue with the state of the art. In both movies we have seen this month, the emphasis was much more heavily dependant on action than plot. As a writer, you may believe as I do that action sequences should serve to further the story, and not be an end unto themselves. Action for action’s sake, as it were.
In Man Of Steel, the final fight scene extends for probably twenty minutes and served no purpose beyond destroying downtown Metropolis. In an unintentionally humorous moment, when it appears Superman has defeated the villains, a woman says, “He saved us”, missing that 1) he has caused billions of dollars of damage, and 2) he is the reason the villains are there to begin with. My wife reminded me that guffawing during dramatic scenes is bad etiquette, a breach I am often guilty of.
I once suffered a complete breakdown during a movie. A mountain lion was stalking a family in a manner even people who don’t know anything about mountain lions would doubt. To me, it was ludicrous. I was doing OK with it until the main character said, “This is hard to believe”. I had to leave the theater. The only way it could have been funnier is if Marty Feldman had spoken it as an aside to the audience ala Young Frankenstein.
I understand the movie industry needs to get people into theaters, and that young people represent the bulk of movie goers. I have the opinion, one unsupported by any sort of facts, that young people have been largely weaned of the desire for meaningful stories, preferring instead endless action sequences or broad comedy. There have been some wildly successful exceptions, but sometimes I feel that if a movie doesn’t emulate the unending action of a video game, it becomes boring to them. A gross generalization that I apologize for to those young people who enjoy stories.
Soon we will see Gone with the Wind featuring one hour of Scarlet and Rhett, and one hour of Sherman razing Atlanta. Casablanca with one hour of Rick and Ilsa, and a one hour fight scene between Rick and the Nazis. I do believe I am having a re-envisioning! I need to end here and start on a remake of Lost Horizons in which Shangri-La is invaded and the natives inspired to defend themselves by the English party they are harboring. In the end, a very old Chinese woman will look to the sky and say, “They saved us.”
Don't do this: Water is not recommended for external use
|We had been getting some rain last week. It was a nice warm rain and being outside was very pleasant. Then the ominous warnings began. There was a heat wave on the way. Temperatures would be in the nineties. The humidity would be through the roof because of the recent rain.
People here aren’t used to that. They have about the same environmental requirements as slugs. Sixty-five and drizzly is perfect. Foreigners are easily spotted because they are the ones with umbrellas. Golfers golf, runners run, bikers bike, and all through a light rain. Why? Because if they didn’t, they would never do anything.
But, occasionally the unthinkable happens. The temperature will attain 100-degrees. The mucus-based life forms have nice little damp holes and crevices to hide in which I water religiously. The bipeds are less well equipped. We are unaccustomed to high humidity and the present situation represents a health hazard. People are advised to find air conditioned places to hang out, to drink plenty of fluids, avoid over exertion. Unless you are me. If you are me, it is time for a hike.
I have given up trying to dissect the reasons I enjoy hiking in extreme heat. I know it reminds me of when I was a firefighter. I can be almost completely sure that there is no one else around. In truth though, I suppose the answer is the obvious one. Yesterday was a classic in the annals of core temperature mismanagement.
It was a five-hour hike, a good hike even in decent weather. I went to near the top of the mountain and then through a rabbit hole of jungle that I refer to as “the trail I am building”. The return route is over three miles of bare gravel road and the temperature was well above the nineties. I wasn’t cooling properly because the humidity wasn’t allowing for evaporation of my soaked clothing. Don’t Do This stresses avoiding unconsciousness while hiking and I had to stop several times to keep to the rule.
By the time I reached the truck, I was miserable. My head was pounding, I was dangerously over-heated, my water had been used up a mile back when I decided pouring it over my head would do more good than drinking it (it didn’t), plus I wasn’t convinced I was glad to have lived through it. It was great, just what I was hoping for.
I went to the doctor earlier in the week. He asked what I did for exercise. I told him, and he thought it was great. He said I should keep doing it. It is going to be even hotter next week. I am going to have to bump up the protocols. Add a bottle of electrolytes, maybe an ice pack, a wide-brim hat vs a cap, another pair of socks, food that I actually want to eat, and spare cell phone battery (just in case). It will be a grueling, tortuous experience. I will struggle just to keep to my feet. Mounting the 1,000-foot peak may incite a riot in my intestinal tract and will be accompanied by questions of why in the hell I do it. It is comforting to finally have an answer. It is doctor’s orders.
Don't do this:Future you will not remember past you
|Warning: Guitar geek speak ahead.
I apologize for writing something of interest to only a few. Still, that describes the majority of what I write, so I don’t feel too bad about it. The fifth guitar I constructed was an acoustic made from this same piece of redwood shown here. I had enough for two tops so I decided to build a single-cutaway sold body electric for guitar number seven. The neck will be mahogany, but I am on the fence about the body.
The wood most commonly used for this style of guitar is mahogany, but the redwood is very soft and mahogany is not very dense either. The tone is likely to be very subdued. That isn’t a bad thing, but I am looking for tonal sustain and better attack. That makes maple the better choice, but there is a problem.
The boundary between the redwood top and the maple underneath is likely to be a source of waveform disruption because of the radically different densities. A solution would be to anchor the bridge posts in the maple, but that is an engineering problem.
These are esoteric questions that need to be addressed while I am asleep because they are beyond me while awake. The reality is that I will go down to the shop and fiddle around until a guitar appears. I will disregard any logical decisions I have come to because I can barely think at all, let alone logically, and any decisions thus arrived at are suspect.
Besides that, I am only fiddling around in the shop because it is rainy. It is suppose to be in the eighties and nineties starting two days from now. That means I will only go into the shop for reasons unrelated to doing anything productive. By the time I get back to thinking about guitar number seven, I won’t remember anything about it unless I read this entry.
So, to the future me: Wave form boundary problems are meaningless when applied to a 1.7-inch thick block of solid maple. Go back to the shop and stare into space in the direction of the wood until you decide to do something. Write a blog entry about it so you don’t forget. So far you have promised guitars to three people, it might be time to step it up a bit. I hope you wrote an entry about who they are and what they wanted in an earlier post because I sure don’t remember. If you remember, please come back and fix this entry. It will help both of us.
Don't do this: The Cherry Trot is not a running event.
|It is time once again for the annual Camp Adair Cherry Festival. The festival is a yearly event celebrating the arrival of the huge cherry crop on the site of the Camp Adair army base http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Adair. The event was originated by Dave Gordon, organized by the same, coordinated by the same, and usually attended only by me. Attendance is expected to be light again this year since I haven’t been able to get anyone to go out with me yet.
The signature event of the festival is the Cherry Trot. This event features contestants walking as far as they can while eating as many cherries as they can, and then rushing back to the car when one’s intestinal limit has been reached. I went out yesterday for a qualifying run (so to speak) and was nearly disqualified. Clearly, more training is in order.
The event has become a “blood sport” in recent years as the biggest and best cherries are always just out of reach in the blackberries and poison oak. That could, I suppose, explain the light attendance as many people don’t consider cherry picking worth the thorns and rashes. There is no doubt that the event is more exciting when an urgent situation is realized while encased in blackberries. It is also true that the best berries are located the furthest from the gate as non-participants eat much of the closer fruit. That makes the Cherry Trot a thrilling, action packed event full of drama, disastrous failures, and victorious relief.
The state has implemented a permit system for parking on the entire camp. That is going to cut down the competition. I have a permit because my buddy is a disabled vet and gets one for free. He gave it to me. He is clearly insane, as certified by the U.S. Government, and has no interest in attending the festival with me. I tell him it is further proof that he is crazy. He tells me that my continued attendance is further proof that I am.
I continue to promote the festival by asking the family if they would like to go. A spike in attendance occurred in 2011 when my wife, my daughter and her family went with me. My daughter later took some friends out. That set the attendance high water mark at nine.
The camp is an eerie place. There are miles of straight streets where barracks that housed the four infantry divisions once stood. All that remains are the foundations that once saw armories and armored vehicle shops. Ghosts and memories haunt the streets and avenues. It is impossible to clamber over the cement bunkers draped with blackberries without recalling that terrible past.
It is a good place for kids to ride bicycles and for adults to overindulge in fruit. It is a quiet and peaceful place full of bird song and wild flowers. One might lose the cares, clear their mind. For the participant of the cherry festival, it is also a place of remembrance and gratitude.
Epic heros require beer and angle brackets
|I’m feeling a little off this morning. I am going to have to do something about this anxiety before it gets out of hand. No more coffee would be a good first step. I have already drunk a pot of it so that measure may be a little late in coming. Cutting back on the alcohol would be good. That one is easy as I drank all of it last night.
My wife couldn’t get the person responsible for such things to assemble her three-drawer filing cabinet so she brought it home. My guess is that he had assembled one before and knew better. He told my wife that it would take me three hours to complete. I appreciate his generous estimation of my abilities.
Many of us have had the experience of assembling furniture such as the filing cabinet I tackled. They are always a bit frustrating. The instructions may make sense to the team that wrote them, but they do less so to me. I almost always prevail and end up with something that resembles the picture on the box to some degree. I have only nearly destroyed one piece, and that was fixable with angle brackets and screws.
This filing cabinet was orders of magnitude more difficult than any other piece of furniture I have ever attempted. The aggravating factors were that there were a dozen different sizes of screws and they were all were black, the instructions showed as many steps as would fit on one page, some of the stickers identifying the pieces had fallen off, and my anxiety abatement measures had been effective.
I finished assembling it in four and a half hours and it very much resembled the picture on the box. I could have done it faster if this was some different reality were I could think straight and hold on to a little-bitty screw. I spent a good bit of time looking for the minute L7 and L8 eight screws which became invisible when dropped.
I wouldn’t describe the experience as being overly annoying or as frustrating as some in the past have been. My anxiety abatement measures have become refined over the years and it takes more than four hours of confusion and disappointment to make me throw a flimsy piece of particle board across the room. It takes about four and a half hours. It was a close shave.
My wife was very appreciative. She was not going to have the thing assembled this decade as it had already sat in her office for four weeks. I don’t get a lot of chances to be heroic, and the project followed an epic heroic poem to a point (if one allows expletives in the form). Holding true to the form, I was transformed by the experience and am out of beer as a result. Not to belabor the analogy, but the epic often features divine intervention in human affairs, and I won’t dismiss that as being partly responsible for the successful completion of the project. Good thing, too. I don’t have any angle brackets.
Know thyself perhaps on a casual basis
|I have been relieved of the burden of sunlight. It is raining and I will hopefully be able to resist working in the garden or going for a hike. It is an unfair punishment foisted upon the unwitted that muscle and joint pain don’t really begin until the day after the damage is done. All the work subsequent to that may be chalked up to stupidity or worse. The result of unwitted labor and stupidity has almost disabled me. Another couple of nice days and I would have been immobile.
I had the foresight and wisdom to call the doctor for an appointment next week because I foresaw the terrible result of nice weather. If there is only one small bit of wisdom I can lay claim to, it is understanding that inscription on the wall of the forecourt at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi: “Know thyself”.
Great advice, but it should also be noted that the Oracle of Delphi was only just a short distance away and she didn’t even know her name. People came from all over to see her so it begs the question just how important the inscription is. In another twist, there have been times when I didn’t know my name either and had visions to boot. I didn’t get nearly the respect that she did. The oracle gig has really gone downhill in the last few thousand years.
Still, it is beneficial to know one’s self, and to even issue mystifying oracular pronouncements now and again because one never knows when that might come back as an employment option. The downside is that once one has discovered their true nature, they could be terribly disappointed.
Forewarned is forearmed, as has been said. If you have done some soul searching, tried to grasp the other sayings scratched into the temple walls, hung out in a cave filled with intoxicating vapors like the oracle, have come to be disappointed, and made the mistake of admitting it, then you have come to the right place. I have done all those things and can offer this advice:
If you make a prophetic statement, do it in your native language. I once sat up in bed and spoke something that sounded to my wife to be Russian. We didn’t have an interpreter, it being the middle of the night, but that didn’t matter. It freaked her out and did nothing to bolster my claims of sanity. Avoid speaking languages you don’t know even if you are awake.
Knowing yourself as you have come to, you will not be surprised by the things you do. You may, however, be surprised by both the magnitude of the mistakes you have made and the severity of the consequences. You may know yourself, but there is a good chance you don’t know how your spouse will react to a burn mark in the carpet.
Use discretion when telling your doctor that you have finally come to know yourself and have decided you want a divorce.
Take particular care to avoid speaking a language you don’t know in front of your doctor. I have never done that, but the myself I have gotten know strongly recommends against that.
The best things in life do not cost $14 a bottle
|I was the very model of moderation yesterday and completed a relatively short 3-hour, 7-mile hike. The route gains a thousand feet in elevation but does it evenly over three miles. It is hard to get hurt unless one practically runs up it, which I have done. It is worse if one practically runs down it, which I have also done. I’m glad I have given that up. Falling on a gravel road is even worse than falling in blackberries, which I have also done.
I am claiming to have become older and wiser because I can substantiate half of it. People may buy into the notion because of the familiar saying. It seems as though people give credence to old sayings without consideration. Becoming wiser with age, for instance. All age has done for me is make me crazier. I have become better at hiding it, so maybe that counts. Hiding rampant mania by getting wasted doesn’t sound wise, but I have gotten better at it with time. I don’t have any wisdom consultants that are any less crazy than I, so it is an open question.
I enjoy considering adages. Take, “a penny saved is a penny earned” for instance. If one worked at it religiously, they would still make less than garment workers in the far east. Additionally, earning the same money twice sounds like a bank scam. I feel that, “all’s well that ends well” sets too high a bar considering our times. That one should be truncated to, “all’s well that ends”. Just simply getting through it is about as good as one can hope for.
One of Aesop’s fables absolves a scorpion of murder because that is just what scorpions do. That seems outdated. It is also rather depressing for those of us who are routinely stupid and gullible. We can only hope we never run into a hitch hiking scorpion. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” encourages criminal behavior. “A stitch in time saves nine” is difficult for young people to grasp since garment workers in the far east labor ceaselessly in order to provide replacement garments well before they require nine stitches.
But I digress. My buddy and I opened the beer we were to review. This beer is aged in Cabernet casks and flavored with currants. It was awful. It tasted nothing like beer. It tasted more like a bad cabernet which had been left sitting out all night with a frizzy, beer-like substance added to the glass in the morning. It costs $14 a bottle.
It became apparent after reading other reviews that our palates are not educated enough to discern the hints of tobacco (yuck), floral bouquet, and strong finish they spoke of. I was as nice about it as I could manage, but the best I could do was to say I would have enjoyed it more if it had tasted like beer.
Maybe the beer game isn’t for us. If the free beer we are to review tastes like bad wine with a cigarette butt in it, we may have to back out. I can’t imagine our benefactor liked it. He is a straight-ahead beer guy. Maybe he gave it to us so he wouldn’t have to drink it. The best things in life may not be free, but they are certainly less than $14 a bottle.
Don't do this: Reactive materials community service
|I’m cycling low today. Looking back, I see the last time was just about a month ago. That’s not too bad. If the high/low get too close together they can start overlapping into what is called a mixed episode. Those are not just merely bad, but really quite sincerely bad. Kind of like the conjunction of the suns in The Dark Crystal when all hell breaks loose. I don’t recommend it, but if you have done it anyway, write and we’ll compare med sheets and detention records.
None of that today, this is going to be a mild one. I am not going for an epic hike today as those are best left for times when I am stable. I will try a shorter, 4-hour trip and try not to go exploring. My wife prefers it when I am ambulatory and able to speak full sentences on the weekends. That limits what I should do on Fridays. “Should do” is a tough one when the impulse control is on the fritz.
My buddy and I went to town and received our instructions for being on the beer tasting panel. The owner and proprietor of Yeasty Beasty Pizza, 167 Main St W Monmouth, OR 97361 (503) 837-1222 open 11:00 am to 10:00 pm seven days a week, good pizza, good beer, what else do you need to know? told us that we had two duties. 1) Drink free beer, and 2) Post a review on a couple of beer sites mentioning his business. He said it didn’t matter what we said in the review, as long as we mentioned Yeasty Beasty Pizza, 167 Main St W Monmouth, OR 97361 (503) 837-1222 open 11:00 am to 10:00 pm seven days a week.
We are going in tomorrow for a tasting of the entire Stone Brewing line. Stone Brewing produces real beer. I may not be ambulatory and able to speak full sentences after that, but this is a commitment I made and if I have to drink several pints of free real beer, then that is what I shall do.
We went out to dinner last night and our daughter plus one grand daughter joined us. I told our daughter that I had taken on a volunteer job. It is something that I have been urged to do for some time. I told my daughter about my new commitment. She laughed. I think that meant she approved. There was some discussion about whether the task counted as a volunteer job. No one could produce any ways in which it was not, so I view it as a community service job.
I could publish my research into which antipsychotic goes well with whiskey and why four mood stabilizers are too many. I have a lot of information on Fun with Household Cleansers. I know that an egg will blow up in a microwave but a tennis ball will not. This is not to mention Extending Driver Courtesy to Hallucinations (don’t do this). There are a thousand ways in which I could volunteer these and oodles more items, but instead I chose to sample beer. In this way, I will be performing two valuable services. The first will be to inform and educate the public about real beer. The second will be to forego arming amateur lunatics with knowledge of potassium/water device delivery systems. I should get an award for that.
Don't do this: Better when empty is not a review
|Good news! My buddy and I have been appointed to a beer evaluation panel. One of the local food establishments is operated by a beer aficionado. It is a pizza parlor with eight types of pizza and thirteen types of microbrewery beer on tap plus a number of bottled beers. My buddy and I went there the first week it opened and have been going back at least weekly ever since. My buddy and I prefer a very hoppy IPA to anything else, but as one might suspect, we will drink anything offered.
Every time we go in we are brought several samples. We offer our opinion and then order a real beer. The proprietor is more discriminating. He appreciates a good lager (not real beer), he has some single-hop ales (not real beer), but every now and then it will be something that makes one squint and lean back in their chair. That is what we order.
In the past, my evaluation might have read, “goes well with chocolate”. I am going to have to step up and become more informative. We just received the first beer to review. The bottle has a champagne-style cork secured with wire. There are two cases available. He is donating a case to a fundraising event at the local college and the rest goes to the reviewers. This is spendy stuff. I don’t think, “better when opened” is going to suffice.
One who reads this blog occasionally will recognize that I don’t have any difficulty with verbosity. They may also recognize that I don’t have a problem producing pieces with almost no content. It is writing concisely while saying anything meaningful that I have a problem with. I have written a few short articles here and there. They were torture. When writing fiction, I can’t get a character out of a door in less than 500 words. But, I have a plan.
The difficulty is not that I am unfamiliar with beer and the different qualities that make it good with chocolate or better when poured down the drain. Nor is it that I am unaccustomed to writing. The problem is that I don’t have much experience doing them in conjunction. The obvious solution is to practice.
I am going to propose to my buddy that we go to the restaurant, drink a beer, and then describe it using at least three sentences. I believe we may become accomplished reviewers if we repeat this exercise often enough, possible getting up to five or six sentences over time. Everyday for a couple of weeks should do it at first, then two of three times a week as a maintenance regimen.
I am taking this responsibility seriously. There legions of beer drinkers who are bewildered by the number and types of beer available. It is important we consume each one, maybe more than once, if we are going to be helpful. I must confess to an ulterior motive. If we become good at it, we may be asked to join other beer tasting groups. This prospect makes it worth the extra effort. Besides, we don’t have to drink the ones that would be better poured down the drain. Unless they are free.
Don't do this:There is no such thing as only three hours
My friend and relative went for a hike with me yesterday. I was very happy to have a companion because no one will hike with me. As you can see, he is a well-built guy. He is younger than I by at least ten years and works out regularly. He is a basketball coach and player. I knew he would survive the hike in fine fashion. I planned a conservative hike none the less because I have damaged people in the past.
He arrived in the outfit above, which is what he wears when he works out. I was dressed in heavy boots, Levis, and a long sleeve shirt in order to minimize blood loss. He didn’t bring anything with him. I brought two water bottles and enough food to last overnight because you just never know. I began considering alternatives to the mild hike I had planned because there is a thirty foot stretch with some poison oak and he wasn’t wild about walking through it. The least difficult of the remainder was the trail I had taken his son and daughter-in-law over last week.
The picture above was taken just past the two mile marker. As you can see, we had gained a little elevation at that point. He asked how far it was to the top. I told him it was a mile of pretty steep ground. He said he wanted to go to the top so he could brag to the kids about it. That was when I began to fear for his condition. He hadn’t weathered the climb to that point in great fashion, but upon considering his age and condition, I didn’t think it would kill him. It was a near miss.
The elevation gain is only 500 feet, but it does it all in a mile and a half. It was quite hot when the sun came out. He was immensely relieved when we got to the top. After that, the route goes downhill quite steeply on loose gravel. Not great ground for tennis shoes. The last mile he would say “Whew!” about every twenty steps. When we got back to the car, he said the hike had, “kicked his ass”. This was a 6 mile, 500 foot elevation, 3 hour hike. That is an afternoon stroll for me. I had once again broken a hiking companion. We didn’t set a date for our next hike.
My wife was patient in explaining the ways in which I had gone wrong. She explained that:
Many people who live in a city, work out in a gym, and play basketball do no own hiking boots unless they hike. We already knew that he did not. Hiking boots are an essential part of hiking. Tennis shoes are not.
Even if they workout for a couple of hours several times a week, they may not be accustomed to three-hour hikes straight up a mountain in the eighty-degree heat.
I may be the only person I am ever likely to meet that thinks three-hour hikes straight up a mountain in the eighty-degree heat is fun.
She also explained, as she does every time something like this happens, that this is the reason no one will hike with me.
It is becoming apparent that I am making a fundamental mistake in my assumptions concerning hiking companions. I had thought my interview was complete, but I didn’t factor in that he might chose destruction himself. Perhaps I should have asked if he had ever been on a three-hour hike straight up a mountain in the eighty-degree heat.
I am disappointed that my plans for something more difficult and longer are not going to come to fruition. I feel terrible about damaging my prospective hiking buddy. I am still somewhat mystified as to how a little three hour stroll could wreck a younger person who is in good shape. My wife says that is the reason no one will hike with me.
First a little fun, then a whole big bunch of it
|I have a “free” day today. They are never very action-packed, but this one should be even less so. All my responsibilities are up to date and I don’t believe there is a single spot in the garden where I can plant another flower. It should be an entertaining weather day. According to the Portland weather forecaster, we will have sun in the morning with possible funnel clouds in the afternoon. She didn’t mention rain or lightning, just funnel clouds.
It is an indication of my improved mental health that I haven’t considered taking my climbing rope out and rappelling down a very steep ravine that has been calling my name (literally). I am almost sure comes out someplace cool. Some of those assumptions have gone terribly wrong in the past. Three years ago I wouldn’t have cared. Now I am more inclined to put the climbing rope in a place where I won’t see it everyday. A dirty climbing rope is a very incriminating thing, by the way, so keep it clean.
I have given up trying to relax by keeping my mind as quiet as is possible. The cooperative parts are compliant; it is all the other parts that won’t shut up. Those parts have a lot of good ideas. Now I put the headphones on and drown them out with classic soul, Motown, and Jimi Hendrix. If you try it, avoid shoveling soil out of a truck while listening to Voodoo Child.
I have been improving at boredom. I used to be terrible at it. After only a few minutes I would be considering creating a fire ball by putting a few tablespoon of gasoline in a jar lid and putting it on a hot plate. It is hard on the hot plate but it sure works. Now I can channel surf for as long as ten or fifteen minutes. I hope to get up to a half an hour someday.
I contacted a relative who is in the area for a couple of weeks to see if he wants to go hiking. He is a “jock”. I am confident he will not be damaged by the mild hike I have planned. No one will hike with me anymore because of the errors I have made in assessing that in the past, but this guy is big, younger, and works out. A three-hour hike will surely not faze him at all. If he looks good at the two hour point, maybe we will go for the full meal deal and head for top. That is a five hour hike. We’ll see.
I have a couple of days until the summer solstice, the day on which I traditionally take the longest hike of the year. No one will be going on that one with me unless my new hiking companion knows what fun is. Twelve miles and seven hours of big blackberry vines interlaced through thick brush. Ticks, biting flies, and poison oak on a murderously steep, hot grade. It is as much fun as you can have and still get back to the truck (most of the time). But, first things first. We’ll see how he does on a three mile pleasure cruise. I can’t wait.
Re-enacting "Close Encounters" using headlights
|I have a good memory, but it’s short. I remember things perfectly well for sometimes as long as twenty minutes. Other times I may forget mid-sentence. I have developed tools and techniques for coping with the difficulties my excellent-but-short memory presents. These are effective for sometimes as long as twenty minutes.
For instance, my wife’s car had a headlight go out. This happens surprisingly frequently. The dealer said I wasn’t replacing them properly so they did it once. Then it burned out again. Several headlights ago, I went to the auto parts store and forgot which light had gone out, so I bought both the high beam and low beam. I did that three times with both the low and high beam lamps so now I have a supply of them at home.
When my wife first told me her headlight was out, it was too late to replace it so I took a spare out and placed it on the counter as a reminder. The next morning I saw someone had taken the lamp out of the drawer and I put it back. That went on for a couple of weeks.
Last night we went out for a Father’s Day dinner. The parking lot was nearly empty as most fathers were seemingly required to cook their own dinner. We parked in front of a store with large windows. The headlights of our car were reflected in the windows and it reminded us both that a lamp needed to be replaced.
Our position caused the reflection to appear differently to my wife that it did to me. I remarked that the driver’s side low beam was out. She replied that she had been telling me that twice a week for a month. Then she said that both of the low beams were out. A discussion ensued about which lights were not working.
My wife switched from high beam to low beam, back and forth, on and off, each time disagreeing with me as to which light was out. This went on for several minutes. Since the trip home was over twenty minutes and it was unlikely I would remember the outcome anyway, we decided to wait until we got home to debug the problem.
When we turned off the car and got out, we saw two of the store’s employees standing at the windows with bewildered expressions. It hadn’t occurred to us the store might be open. My wife and I dissolved into laughter and staggered to the restaurant holding on to each other for support. We tried not to look at the windows when we left.
It is hard to guess what the employees had been thinking. They were young, so they may have assigned it to senility, which can’t be ruled out entirely. Perhaps they thought we were just simple people who are easily entertained. Also true. Being young, they may not have considered that the universe is simply a very strange place and people screw with their headlights because people do that sometimes.
As a member of the older generation, I feel I have an obligation to mentor young people, lead by example, and guide them towards understanding. Some of them will turn out to be crazy, and they need the same thing even worse. Who better than I to help show those future crazy people what they have to look forward to? If they are lucky, they will only remember it for twenty minutes. When we got home, my wife reminded me the headlight was burned out, which I had forgotten, and I replaced it.
Don't do this: A nursery is no place to be sane.
|My wife tells me we are going out to get a Father’s Day gift today. She suggested the nursery. I am all for that. There are only about three places I like to shop, discounting the liquor store and the meat isle of the grocery store, and the nursery is one of them.
I like to shop in sporting goods stores. There is almost nothing in them that I would ever buy, but it is fun to contemplate the purpose of camouflage underwear and why bicycle riders wear those clothes. I wish I had a use for a giant knife, but I use knives as chisels and a two hundred dollar knife isn't required for that. If I were going to spend two hundred dollars, I would buy a lawn bowling set from the games section and build a well-constructed potato gun.
I really enjoy shopping for expensive tools but I would never buy one. In my experience, there are two immalleable laws concerning wood working tools. 1) One almost never has the right tool. 2) If one has the right tool, it is not good enough. One may extrapolate to the conclusion that buying an expensive tool would simply lead to buying a more outrageously expensive tool. Experience has shown that I do not do well on slippery slopes, so I avoid expensive tools.
However, the nursery is a different story. I stagger through the exotic greenhouse plants besotted with the aroma of designer dirt and spend enough to buy a good chisel or a really cool hunting knife. By the time I am done with the nursery, I could have purchased a full set of Japanese chisels and a giant knife. I am a green fiend, a garden path psychopath, a garden tool fool, a water feature creature, color spot sot, an organic manic. In short, it is a place where I can be as crazy as I am and it is viewed as a good thing.
I would never buy anything from a high-end sporting goods or tool store. But, my favorite nursery has the most expensive designer plants and exorbitantly priced statuary on the planet. Marble fountains, fifty-gallon ceramic ports, plants that no one has ever seen before which are priced to explain why. I would barter my soul, two bottles of fine cognac, twenty pounds of chocolate, and my best potato gun for even the smallest of them.
Last time we were there, my wife found me in the Garden of Earthly Delights container section offering up everything I owned in hopes of finding a big pot on sale. I was successful. The pot had been marked down to an amount equaling the loan payment on my truck. I began to lust in my heart for the immense pot.
This morning I know even as I sit here in my bathrobe drinking coffee that we will be taking my truck to the most expensive nursery in this quadrant of the galaxy and purchasing a monstrous pot. I don’t care how much it cost. I haven’t brought up that an outrageously expensive container must hold an even more expensive flowering tree. I avoid slippery slopes in the other stores, but at the nursery I dive down head first and wonder if Bosch foresaw what a great flowering tree section his garden would have.
Don't do this:Talking to yourself like a pirate is risky
|As any of you who were fathered probably know, Sunday is Father’s Day. I regard Father’s Day with the same reverence I reserve for Arbor Day and National Speak Like a Pirate Day. National Speak Like a Pirate Day originated in Portland, which is every bit as crazy as the show Portlandia makes it out to be, so we feel obligated to at least utter one “Arggg”. In a strange twist, that is the same thing I say about Father’s Day.
It is touching that the family comes on our honorary Father’s Day, which is Saturday. We are the B team and the actual day is reserved for other fathers. I am not complaining. Mother’s Day often goes completely unmarked. For whatever reason, if it weren’t for the hanging basket and other gifts I give her, she wouldn’t get anything. She says that since she is not my mother, the gifts aren’t necessary. I have misplaced my Mother’s Day handbook, but I don’t recall that requirement being listed.
I, on the other hand, get a lot of things. I get to cook on the barbeque I got for Father’s Day a couple of months ago. I was surprised to learn at the time that it wasn’t actually Father’s Day. But, if it weren’t for fireworks and Mexican beer sales I wouldn’t know when the 4rth of July or Cinco de Mayo was.
I will get several testimonial arts and crafts creations from adoring grandkids. Those I like. The wall space of my shop that isn’t covered with abrasives, corrosives, flammables, and “Don’t use in an enclosed space” materials are papered with them.
I am lucky our daughters come out at all. I was a wild and crazy guy when they were young, and not in a fun way. I wasn’t an overnight success at improving, either. As an indication of the scope of the situation, our younger daughter took off to follow the Grateful Dead at the age of 16, preferring, I suppose, the relative sanity. Our older daughter hung in there and got a job when she was 17 and moved out.
I seem to have survived the test of time, even if having failed competency and lucidity, and the girls come often. I am preparing to go to town and buy groceries, an inflatable swimming pool, and some Father’s Day materials which I can assure will not be among the testimonials presented. Sunday I will sit in damp grass and contemplate if I should pull the weed in front of me or simply stare it to death.
It will be a much better Father’s Day than when nether girl was in the state. I can offer a testimonial of my own to other fathers as a word of encouragement. Even if the light at the end of tunnel turns out to be a hallucination, you may still get a barbeque and glitter-encrusted popsicle stick sculptures if you play your cards right. Just save the “Arggg” for later.
Don't do this:Think you are wrong and know you are right
|The first job I had that was not in the “trades”, roofing, drywall, etc, was working in a pizza parlor. One might think that was a step down, the trades paying much better. But, there is a reason for that. It was hot, miserable, and dangerous work (at least the way I did it). The pizza parlor was air conditioned and the work did not involve rattlesnakes or heat exhaustion.
I was stationed at the bar much of the time as I was over twenty one and most of the employees were not. On the wall opposite the bar there was a poster reading, “I have never been wrong except for once when I thought I was wrong, but was mistaken”. The quote was attributed to H.L. Mencken. A number of wonderful quotes are attributed to Mr. Mencken, but if he ever uttered the one above, the internet is unaware of it.
As the years have passed, I have adapted the saying to read, “I have never been right except for once when I thought I was wrong and was right”. I have nearly given up hope of being right. Except, of course, for believing I am wrong and being right about it. I am not talking about mundane things such as believing the traffic light is going to change to red because the driver ahead of you has apparently had a stroke and forgotten where the accelerator pedal is. I am talking about larger truths such as why you couldn’t have been just thirty seconds earlier and ahead of the poor impaired driver sitting motionless at the light.
The unanswerable and unknowable are all around us. Science has shown why buttered toast lands butter side down when dropped and why the laws of chance don’t necessary mean that you personally will ever win a 50/50 bet. The larger question is why any deity would persecute you by causing you to lose a 50/50 bet 90 percent of the time. One would think they would have better things to do, but I am apparently wrong about that as well.
The laws of probability are the most troubling of unknowable things. The scientists and statisticians who work on such things have produced solid science, but that doesn’t stop them from mis-buttoning a blouse or shirt and going to work with a comically skewed collar. If such a thing could happen to them, what possible chance do you have of preventing it? Hint – not a 50/50 chance.
All of this is brought to mind by a seemingly simple occurrence. My seat belt will retract most of the time, but sometimes will not. As an aside, I would ask why a nation that produced an one-atom thick fabric can’t produce a reliable seat belt retractor? Anyway, I got into my truck yesterday and, managing to avoid brain damaged drivers, arrived at the store. People seemed to be looking at me oddly. Nothing unusual about that. I went to the next store and the same thing happened.
This can sometimes be cause for concern as it means I might be imagining things (that’s bad). I went to the rest room to see if I looked normal, and saw there was a pronounced wet stripe across my crotch.
The deity which seems to delight in practical jokes at my expense had caused my seat belt retractor to fail the night before. Then it rained. Not noticing that my lap belt was damp, I put it on and it produced a wet spot on my crotch.
Why this deity takes such delight in tormenting me is unanswerable and unknowable. I believe that, like using a laser pointer to torment a cat, it is because it is easy and funny. That, and there is a 100% chance of success. That doesn’t make my odds very good. At least I am right about that much.
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