Sunday, June 12, 2016

Second Hand Therapy

 I need a teapot.

Please don't get too invested in that idea. You will be disappointed.

Still, I need a teapot. Two weeks ago I had a very nice teapot. Well, I had a teapot that fit my very specific requirements. I like whistlers. Don't judge me I just like it when they whistle. I also want a kettle with a lid, which can be a problem. A lot of whistlers on the market these days only have the neck with a tight-fitted cap which facilitates the whistling. The combination of a wide, equally tight-fitted lid and a whistling neck isn't always the easiest thing to find.

But, like I said, up until two weeks ago, I had one of those. It took me a few years to find it. Besides those specifications, it had to have the right look. Simple, clean, classic – it can be a troublesome equation and I'd solved it. Then, my wife, my love and companion of +20 years asked me to move out and, as is her nature, very efficiently organized our divorce.

I take kitchens very seriously. I'll drive a POS vehicle for years and never give it another thought but if a kitchen I'm associated with is out of order in any way, I will not rest until the problem is rectified. So, in packing up my belongings, I could not bring myself to remove the perfect kettle that I'd found for that kitchen, even if it left me without one.

Which brings us back to the frustrating truth that I need a teapot.

This afternoon I stopped in on a local 2nd hand shop to find my teapot. In the meantime, my friend, Beth, was asking me to explain fractions to her. (We can talk about my choice of friends later.) I think I helped but, whether I did or not, I entertained myself by sending her some silly pictures of the stuff I found in the shop. I found a rack stuffed with bad ties and snapped a picture with the caption: All The Ties! There was a basket full of thin vases for $5. My caption for this was: I was hoping for a bag of dicks but a basket of vases will probably work.

I'm clever. My friends are lucky to have me.

There is an extensive collection of old, classy clothes in one section of this shop. I'm not what one would call a classy dresser but I like to slow down and admire the racks when I'm there. There's a wall there with nothing but ladies' hats. It's really stunning. I texted: All The Hats and lifted my phone to get the best angle to capture the amazing array of hats.

Just as I was just about to snap the picture...

Wait, first this. Among the beautiful, generations removed clothing and accessories I spotted the piece I would have to have. It's a heavy, cotton weave messenger bag. It's 70 years old if it's a day. It's busted to hell, worn and shredded on every corner. Still it's well made and despite it's state, there isn't a hole or flaw in it that would challenge it's functionality. As I admired it, I felt something in a side pocket. I stuck a finger in and pulled out a buckeye. How do I not buy that right then, right there?

Well, because my cash on hand was a dollar short, that's how.

Oh, well, I thought, maybe I'll come back later and grab it. Then I saw the hats...

I was ready to snap the picture when, from around the far corner, stepped a woman. At first, I truly believed that I was seeing one of the comically comely mannequins that the proprietors like to scatter throughout the shop. She was slender yet shapely and wore a snug, silk dress that would have been the jewel of the classic, outdated collection in this shop. It was tan, the color of stained pine, with a floral print in reds and greens, slightly and beautifully faded with age.

She was younger than me but I won't venture a guess how much. She had a beautiful smile and so happy eyes. Her skin was the blackest of black, gorgeously threatening to make the exquisite silk dress seem drab.

I never got that perfectly framed picture of the wall of hats.

Instead, after seeing my fellow shopper, I fumbled my phone/camera. It shlooped out of my grasp like a bar of soap. I juggled it for a few moments and finally lost the game as it clattered and broke open in a box of old post cards. The woman glanced at my antics and smiled as I tried to make a joke while gathering the pieces.

Pulling myself together as best I could, I headed for the nearest exit.

After driving a few blocks, I decided two things. First, I must have the buckeye bag. Second, I must offer to make dinner for my new beauty. Never mind, that I'm floppy, grey-haired old white dude with a scruffy beard and inability to speak to humans. It was just the necessary thing.

I found an ATM so I covered the cost of the bag which, I'm pleased to report, is now mine. After buying it, I found her and showed it to her. I showed her how it is so busted and told her how I like that. Then I showed her the buckeye. She didn't understand the significance but was engaged and listened as I told her about it. Then, I told her that I would like to make dinner for her. She was very nice and wisely declined with, “I doubt my boyfriend would appreciate that.”

I laughed – not nervously – and said, “Yeah, I suppose not.”

She smiled, warmly, and told me she appreciated the offer, even adding that it was flattering.

Who knows if there's a boyfriend. It doesn't matter. There's not a version of that scenario where she accepts. There are hundreds of versions of that scenario where I don't ask the breathtaking woman in front of me to spend some time. I rejected them and at no stage of the process did I lose my mind to dumb fright.

I've known my wife since I was 20; we've been together almost as long. To repurpose a line I think I heard in some TV dramedy, we had 21 amazing years in a nearly perfect relationship and then a year and a half suffering through hell together.

At 43 I'm back to single and I wasn't sure how I'd handle it. Thanks to some second hand therapy today, I think I might be okay.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Turn Signals or The Increasing Entropy of Common Human Relations

Turn signals are great. They’re so simple. They explain so much while being the easiest thing to understand. There’s no written language to understand to understand a turn signal. They communicate a pure, often important message to others. There is no nuance to a turn signal and the information delivered by a turn signal is only ever beneficial to everyone involved.

Most people who know me in real life consider me to be quiet, introverted, thoughtful and, overall, a bit of an asshole. That’s all probably pretty accurate but mostly because there aren’t turn signals. Human interaction is incredibly complex and I get it wrong almost every time. It would be so much better if motivations, needs and desires could be communicated in the same purely binary principles of the turn signal. Instead, we’re meant to receive a raft of spoken and unspoken information to understand each other.

Eye movement, posture, facial expression, hand gestures, personal space, tone of voice, verbal infliction and a whole mess of other subtle and not so subtle clues are continuously being delivered in even the simplest of conversations. Heap on top of that individual, familial and cultural differences mean that nobody is working with the same unspoken vocabulary. The whole thing is further complicated by the fact that spoken words, meant to be the most explicit form of communication, rely on living and therefore always evolving languages. None of it - definitions, word order, sentence structure, etc. - is static.

I just want to know if you’re turning left or right but somehow we’re involved in a heated conversation about the pros and cons of tapioca pudding. Is it any wonder I spend most conversations watching and listening? Receiving, interpreting and filing the information that I think is being delivered is often overwhelming. Then developing and delivering a clear response makes a complex situation nearly impossible. Is it any wonder that I spend most of my time actively avoiding conversations?

There aren’t many people I would count as close. There are a lot of people I like and, not always concurrently, admire. There are far fewer with whom I feel capable of communicating. I think those unfortunate few probably to find me exhausting.

Despite appearances, I do crave human interaction as much as anyone else. When I think I’ve found it, I quickly overload my new victim. Making matters worse is the fact that I’m almost always wrong. I haven’t established successful interaction. More often I’ve found someone who, for whatever reason, finds it in their interest to try to exchange ideas with me. I find myself in situations where I think I’m building a friendship or affection where the other person might simply fulfilling a specific need. Once done, I’m left wondering what happened to my new buddy.

I’m not saying I’m a victim or this is a situation unique to me. I imagine this is a universal experience and I’ve probably been on the other side of that situation quite a few times. I do think I’m less aware of it than most. Human relations are always a negotiation and most people understand that instinctually. I find I don’t and I have to stop and make myself understand that what I think is a fast, new friendship was, actually, a transaction.

Whenever I really put my mind to these matters, I almost always decide that I have Asperger syndrome. If I do, I’m on the functional end and there’s probably not a lot of benefit in knowing. Fortunately, I do have a few people in life and they’ll have to do.

I just wish the rest of you assholes would wear turn signals.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Shakespeare in the Writers' Room - Totally True History of Stuff You Should Totally Believe, for Reals!

This is an installment in the occasional series Totally True History Stuff You Should Totally Believe for Reals! It is researched, written, curated and maintained by Beth D. Carter and me. You should totally believe everything here because it's totally true, for reals.

For years the television industry has kept the lid on what I’m about to reveal. Careers may be at stake and reputations irrevocably damaged by what I am about to share but, in the end, the truth is always better than a lie. The mistruths behind the television show Cheer must be brought into the light.

Scholars and television executives alike will deny this. They will call me a whack-job and smear my name. As I’ve researched this I and my family have been threatened but I remain committed to the cause. I will make public supportive evidence in coming weeks. Today, I only intend to present a brief summary of what I’ve found.

In order to understand the import of these facts, you need to be able to conceive how it’s even possible. The first time one hears that William Shakespeare wrote the ‘80’s sitcom, Cheers, it may seem like pure fiction. But that most unlikely of facts is 100% true.

At the original Globe, costume and set design took a lot longer than in today’s theaters. The time between act one, scene two and act one, scene three could be as much as 20 minutes. Shakespeare could see that his audience would get restless and many would wander away. Most plays ended with half the audience they started with.

So, under the pen name Christopher Marlowe, he wrote silly little 15 minute vignettes about clownish oafs who were hanging out in a pub. His actors for these little pieces were stage hands in their street clothes, sitting at the bar, talking and joking in base language. The little side stage never changed and the costumes didn't matter so it filled the time perfectly with no real extra effort.

Problem was the pub scenes became more popular than the plays. The situation flipped. People were bored, wandering around, starting fights during the proper play. They were waiting for the pub scenes and didn’t care about Henry V, Much Ado, Hamlet...

This infuriated Shakespeare so he buried the vignettes and tried to start a whisper campaign about that hack, Christopher Marlowe.

In 1958, archeologists unearthed the manuscripts in a wooded area near Kensington known as the James Burrows. Once they were cleaned up and transcribed, it became clear that what was once thought to be just a rumor was, in fact, reality. The CHristopher Marlowe William shakespEARE, or CHEARE, plays were real.

The stories were brushed up for the sitcom to be more modern but the actual dialogue remained true. More than 85% of the words said on Cheers were originally penned by the Bard himself.

Parks and Recremation

A friend of mine asked me to write her obituary.

Camilla Parks's vast and varied contributions to the progress of humankind began several decades before her birth when she invented the photoscopic device that bears her namesake, the camera. She would later describe the pre-embryotic revelation that would lead to the creation of a tool that could transfer light images on to treated film thusly: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could save the shit we see on paper?"
It was this simple observation that marked the beginning of the amazing career and, later, life of Parks. The noted inventor, woman of letters, world-class phrenologist and all around awesome dude would go on to delight and astonish all citizens of the world from great thinkers and political leaders to those dumb-fucks who just sit around eating dirt. What is up with those people?!
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Harriet S. Tubman on exactly the right day in the twentieth century, Reginald Archibald Peachpot would later change her name to Camilla Park after reading a really interesting book about Haley’s comet. She changed her name to Camilla Parks after the birth of her second child stating, “Wulp, I guess we’re plural, now.”
It was her heroics during the Battle of the Bulge that first landed Parks in the national spotlight. Her Sometimes You Gotta Contract campaign swept the nation and is widely considered responsible for TV shows such as Laugh In and 60 Minutes by most historians. Stephen Ambrose said, “It was a heady time for Parks. Her ability to balance work and family life was a true inspiration for the nation.” He added, “Is that what you needed?”
Once, after a phone call, Parks was overheard saying, “I really wish they’d stop calling me.”
Parks is survived by her loving family and that beef she put in the refrigerator to marinate yesterday morning. Her last thought was, “There’s no way they’re going to cook that steak right.”
She will be missed.