Monthly Archives: May 2015

Wal-Mart for Memorial Day

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Happy Memorial Day week from Fayette County!

Okay, so I’ve been slacking and didn’t get a post out on Memorial Day as I’d planned… But it’s still Memorial week so I’m still pretty close. And I was traveling over the weekend – 17 or 18 hours in the car to see relatives – so I’ll use that as my excuse. After all, I’m still trying to catch up on sleep after that late night/early morning drive home…

Now it feels like summer is starting. A time for sun, grilled food, the smell of fresh cut grass and men in XXL tank tops letting their back hair out to blow in the breeze. A time for women to get tan lines riding on the back of Harleys in stained white wife-beaters and for thirty-year-old men to cruise around in low-ride shorts, athletic socks pulled up to their knees and baseball caps worn backwards to cover up their own personal battle with male pattern baldness. Ahh, Fayette County…

It’s interesting how they celebrate around here. On the Saturday before Memorial Day, they put out flags, lining the main street, set out every twenty yards or so on both sides. And it looked impressive and patriotic. But now, as it gets close to a week later, and it’s rained a couple of times, the flags are dropping and lack the image they’re supposed to portray.  It’s like they were excited about the original patriotic idea, but then realized that taking them down too quickly would require overtime pay.

My travels were prior to the actual holiday, so I was back in Fayette County on Memorial Day and running errands, picking up the necessities for a cookout that day.  And, because it was completely last minute, stores were running out and I had to go to three different stores to find everything on my list.

I found most of it at the first store (a normal, typical grocery store). Then, I headed to the second – the scariest, most run-down excuse for a grocery store that I’ve ever seen. And know what’s worse…? People tell me I should have seen the place before they fixed the place up and added the 4th wall… Wait, what?!?

Of course I didn’t find anything there and had to go to the next place down the road. Wal-Mart… And yes, it was as scary as always, even on a holiday when people should have been out enjoying the day instead of nonchalantly blocking the aisles in their extra tight shorts, their curlers and their flip-flops.

Of course I can’t say much since I just threw on whatever I could grab the quickest to run to the store(s) myself. And, I didn’t realize until I was at the Wal-Mart register bagging up the few items I purchased, that my jeans are a little too old and have a hole forming in exactly the wrong spot. Whoops! Time to carry that plastic bag in a way that strategically blocks the view…

I never felt so at home in that place before. Just for the day I was one of the Fayette County crowd. But I’ve already taken those jeans out of circulation. So maybe there’s still hope for me yet…

 

The Walking Dead Backdrop

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My daily drive is always interesting. And I was thinking this morning that the areas I pass through as I drive over the winding road would make a perfect setting for an episode- or a season – of The Walking Dead.

Most of the area is already overgrown and looks like no living soul has run a lawnmower, a hedge trimmer or a weed whacker over it in years. There are winding roads that pass through the hills without limited areas to escape. And there are weird things to see that would match well with the eerie music that would accompany a group of weary travelers wandering their way through a zombie apocalypse.

There’s a rusting pontoon boat set up on blocks in the middle of a field. There’s a house with a yellow brick road (er, driveway) winding its way from the road to the missing front porch. Seriously, you should see it. I would have stopped to take a picture but everyone around here owns guns and a lot of them are at home through the day…

Then the other day, there was even a family playing out in the front yard – six kids, all between the ages of three and ten (that’s my guess anyway) all wearing nothing but their underwear. Granted, usually during the zombie apocalypse you’d be happy to see real, live people. But this was just way too creepy. I think you’d walk way out of your way to avoid the group playing with six kids in their underoos. Or maybe that’s just me…

And so many people in this county have their “houses” built right up on the highway. So survivors could easily pass from porch to porch searching for anything they need all within sight of a number of other houses along the road. And 90% of what those people own is laying on the porch or out in the yard so no one would ever have to step foot inside a trailer or a collapsing one-bedroom shanty.

Then, there would be the threat of running into Bigfoot out there in the mountains. But maybe that would just be too much to add on a show that’s about zombies. Though maybe…. Bigfoot zombie…? Hmmm… If you happen to see an ad for a show like that on the SciFi channel in the next couple of years, I need you to back me up. ‘Cause that was my idea!

Why did the…?

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It’s been a crazy week in Fayette County. Not only did I find out that Graham, the world’s most interesting cat, absolutely LOVES sauerkraut (a revelation that’s also surprising in that it hasn’t caused any issues or surprises on the carpet), but I also had some issues on my way to and from work.

I actually drive across the Mason Dixon line each day. And it’s like a magic line you can physically see as you reach it… Instantly, as you pass over it heading south, the paved road turns to a mishmash of potholes held together with dirt and a prayer. One day this week, as I hit the edge of this line – literally – and wound around the corner, a chicken crossed the road in front of me causing me to slam on my brakes. When an old joke plays out in front of you to start your day, you know it’s going to be an interesting one.

Then, the next day, I had to watch out yet again… Don’t let anyone tell you that turkeys are flightless birds. They’re only ‘mostly’ flightless. This means that they can actually get up to around five feet off the ground when they try to cross the road. And this one managed to get just high enough to only need a slight boost from my car’s roof as it flew overhead, it’s feet tapping and scratching their way across the metal over my head before it was gone into the trees on the other side of the road. We even got a good look at each other from only inches away, and I think it probably saw as surprised a look on my face as I saw on his.

But the good news is that I wrote the final chapter of my novel this week. That doesn’t mean that I’m finished (there’s still work to be done in previous chapters before I can claim to be finished with the rough draft) but the end is now in sight. Especially when the actual ending is all typed out.

The story didn’t end as I had originally planned, which is completely fine with me. I love it when the characters become real enough that they begin to make their own decisions. I know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quit writing Sherlock Holmes when Sherlock started taking control of the books and was telling him what should happen. It frustrated him to no end. But I love those moments when the characters exceed the level of mere thoughts and start being complete enough to surprise me. And I love where they took me this time. No one has actually read this novel yet (which is a major change from the process of how I wrote my first one and had wonderful, continuous feedback). So I’m curious to find out how this one will be received. And anxious. As scary as it is to put something so personal out there to be read, that’s the ultimate goal of writing. For people to read the story and hopefully be completely taken along over every page. To laugh with the characters, to feel pain with them, cry at times, and feel for them through the decisions that are made, whether they’re right or wrong.

My main character surprised me. And I’m happy that he did. It made the ending so much more rewarding to write than I ever expected. So now I need to get it finished quickly to start to get the reactions from readers.

After all, if the Mason Dixon line is my own personal Bermuda Triangle, who knows what other wildlife will be out there just waiting to throw themselves in my way to stop me… Gotta live life to the fullest if I’m living on borrowed time. Because, as far as I know, Bigfoot can’t fly. And he’d make a pretty big impact on the hood of my car. Maybe I need to just call in sick tomorrow and write! You know, just to be safe…

Get Your Armpits Their Whitest

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Spamers are the enemy of any website.  Going through all of that garbage and deleting the links and completely unrelated messages is a long, frustrating process.  I make sure to at least glance through everything to make sure I don’t delete anything ‘real’ though.  Which is how I manage to catch some of the unintentionally funny ones…

This morning it was a spammer from another country who either had a slight language barrier issue, or knows something that I don’t.  Because I’ve never spent a moment’s energy concerned about the possibility that my armpits might be a little too tan.  ‘Get your armpits their whitest’ was the user name this spammer had created and, all of a sudden, all I could think about was how fortunate I was that it was a gray day with the possibility of rain today and that I’d worn a long sleeved shirt to work.  Well…maybe that wasn’t the only thing I could think about, but it definitely entered the top 1,000 thoughts of the day.

What if my armpits aren’t their whitest?  All this time I’ve spent making sure that only my teeth are their whitest, or that my fingernails are clean and my nostrils are clear… And not one moment dedicated to the lightening of the skin a few inches beneath my shoulders.  Have I been wasting my life?  Has my focus been completely out of whack?

And it makes me wonder what other valuable pieces of information I might discover as I dig through the rest of my daily spam.  Oh wait…the next message is from ‘reno plastic surgeons’.  Maybe there’s a way to get my armpits whiter without the hassle of hard work and exercise.  But then I’d better skip the ‘vietnam motorbike tours’ because that fresh air and sunshine might undo all that hard work.

Sheesh…who knew being so caught up on the latest trends could be such hard work?  Makes me curious to read more!  And wait!  A spammer from Sweeden just invited me to play clash of clans… That’ll take my mind off of my pigmentally challenged pits, right?

Where am I?

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Have I told you yet that I just don’t get this place?

Every drive everywhere becomes an experience.  Every person I encounter becomes a character to remember.  As a writer, that definitely has its perks.  But one of these days I’m not going to be able to help myself and an innocent laugh that escapes at the wrong time is going to get me a black eye.

For example… I’ve never before laughed at someone riding their motorcycle.   At least no one riding a real one… Sure, I may have laughed at a few rich boys on their plastic, neon colored Yamaha’s, but they couldn’t hear me over the loud buzzing they were creating as they sped from stop light to stop light.  And they didn’t live around here anyway.  But yesterday… Yesterday I couldn’t help but laugh at a man driving on his Harley.

Of course he was asking for it.  He was wearing camouflage shorts (not rare whatsoever around here), black socks, and bright orange Crocs.  Can you blame me?  Fortunately he was heading one way and I was driving the other. So I was free to let it out without worry as I flipped through the area radio stations for something decent to listen to as I wound through the back roads home.

At the time I was trying to escape from the song ‘Sultans of Swing’ by the Dire Straights.  And that’s because I’d already heard it twice that day.  I don’t think the band members’ children – and their grandchildren- even listen to them that much.  And the other stations are all repetitive and behind, probably sharing the same vinyl records between them.

The Human League (‘Don’t You Want Me’), Huey Lewis and the News (‘The Heart of Rock & Roll) and Steppenwolf (‘Magic Carpet Ride’) had already been heard multiple times throught the week.  I passed by one of the fire ‘n brimstone religious stations and caught Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ for the fourth time this week.  I almost stopped at the next station playing ‘Jack And Diane’, but I’d already heard it the previous two mornings and enough is enough, even of good old songs.

There are Country stations that come in pretty well  as long as you’re not going through the lower curves down by the river (or break up their broadcast power by driving past a tree), and they’re just as repetitive.  And there are a couple of talk radio stations that make the same complaints about the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins week after week.  And probably year after year.  They’re repetitive.  Have I said that yet?  They’re repetitive.

So at least there are unique people to see as I pass through the back roads to keep me entertained  Mr. Croc wearin’ Harley Man is only one of many.  There are yards full of them.  Great for story telling, but…if my car breaks down out there I’m not knocking on any of their doors for help.  I’m walking to Ohio…

 

Productive Slacking

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I used to love taking any classes in school that involved essay answers rather than memorizing facts and figures.  Being able to use your own thoughts and explain an answer through words was always far better than trying to point out the medulla oblongata on a blurry photocopy or explaining how you determined the mathematical answer for ‘x’.  It took an ability to explain yourself and communicate in an effective way.  And it took imagination, especially when comparing and contrasting Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with another work when you avoided reading Chaucer entirely because he gave you a headache.

In college, when papers were due, I used to hang out in the computer lab with everyone else, filling up the appropriate number of required pages with my opinions, thoughts and findings, just like everyone else.  But, because my brain just happened to work in that way, I could finish quickly and have extra time while all of my friends were still working.  So, while they were stressing through page after page, I would sit at a computer I the back of the room playing Tetris.

Why the college computers had Tetris programmed on them I have no idea.  But it kept me entertained while I waited.  And, it became a tradition that people would print out copies of their papers and bring them back to me to review in between games.

I would review the drafts, scribble notes and comments, scratch out sections that didn’t work, add things I thought were necessary, and pass them back for the next draft to be typed in.

At first it was just friends – the guys I played football with, the guys who lived in my dorm, classmates that I studied with, etc – but it soon expanded to anyone who might be in the lab at the time.  People would bring their pages to me with a pleading look and I’d enjoy reading though them and editing and revising.  And it simply became a habit.

I guess they must have gotten decent grades on these papers because they kept coming back.  And I kept getting better and better at Tetris.  But, as I look back,I wonder if I should have at least charged for my services instead of doing it out of the kindness of of heart.  If I had a nickel for every word I fixed, every dangling participle I removed, or incorrect version of ‘there’, ‘their’ or ‘they’re’ I fixed, I might have been able to afford to get out and enjoy those days a bit more.  Though I wouldn’t have had the high score on Tetris.

And you’ve gotta have priorities…