Today marks the 12th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
There is a campaign underway to, “Take a day to remember the day that changed us forever.”
Queue Robert De Nero:
“Take a day to pause. Take a day to reflect. To explore. To learn. To honor the best in humanity that overcame the worst. To remember compassion. Kindness. Courage.”
I remember the day that changed me forever. I was working the midnight shift at the St. Louis City Holdover. I got off work at 7:00 am CST and went to sleep. Shortly after that, my ex-girlfriend started calling me repeatedly, but I kept sending her to voicemail.
After the fourth or fifth call, I finally answered the phone. My ex was frantic and she said, “Get up and turn on your T.V.”
“What? No. I’m sleeping,” I said.
“Just do it,” she said.
“I don’t want to watch T.V. I’m trying to sleep.”
“We’re under attack!” she screamed.
I jumped up and turned on the T.V. The first Tower had already been hit, but not the second.
I said, “We’re not under attack. A plane just flew into a building. There’s got to be some kind of explanation. I’m going back to bed.”
I hung up the phone and turned it off so no one else could wake up.
When I woke up, I turned on my phone and had about 20 messages. I could tell without even turning on the T.V. yet, that the whole world had changed. Forever.
What’s to say about a girl fixing her hair in an abandoned storefront window?
I got pulled over this morning. It was about 2:15 am and I was on my way to work an overtime shift at the county jail.
The young cop walked up, shinned his flashlight in my face and said, “License and insurance please.”
I handed it to him and he said, “I pulled you over because you didn’t use your turn signal when you turned from Sulphur Springs onto Manchester,” which was three miles back, so I laughed out loud.
He shinned the flashlight in the car and saw my badge and said, “Who do work for?”
“I work at the county jail and that’s where I’m headed right now,” I said.
He handed back my license and insurance card and said, “Have a good day, brother.”
I wanted to say, “Thanks rookie,” but I didn’t and instead said, “You too,” and took off.
When you work in the field, getting out of petty tickets is part of the perks. But I later thought, he was just fishing for a DWI and for some reason that made me mad. But I guess it’s lucky he didn’t pull me over a few days ago around this time or there would have been a good chance that I went to work on my off day.
It’s just another reason that I’m taking a break from drinking.
A few days ago, I decided that after Labor Day, I was going to take a 30-day break from drinking. I drank heavily for the three days in a row—Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Each day had its own set of fun times and charm. There was lots of money spent that I shouldn’t have. There was arguing with people who I didn’t know, over things I didn’t know about. Headaches that lasted the whole next day that were blended with memories of things that shouldn’t have been said to people’s faces. Lovely times.
After three days of this, my liver told me it’s time to take a break. So did my head and wallet.
I’ve taken significant breaks from drinking many times in my life. But now that I’m 39 years old, I think I’d rather focus on something else more important in my life.
I only can imagine where I would be if I had stuck to my first major break at age 19. I’d probably be more successful than I am now. But then again, I never would have met my wife at that party and wouldn’t have had the courage to pull her into a vacant bedroom; which would also mean I wouldn’t have had my daughter.
I don’t feel regretful for drinking all these years. I just feel that I should be doing something a little more useful now that I’m older.
So tonight if you’re so inclined, please have one for me. And just to keep you entertained, here is a link on how to say “Cheers,” in 40 different languages.
My favorite being, “Okole Maluna!,” or “Bottoms Up,” in Hawaiian.
Labor Day pool parties signal that summer is coming to an end.
Grilled brats and hamburgers, chips, homemade salsa, and a watermelon filled with vodka are what’s on our friend’s picnic-table.
Oiled-bodies bobbing in the water, with bikinis that are a little too small from a summer of too much drinking and not enough exercise leave some of the girls constantly adjusting their tops and bottoms to avoid a wardrobe malfunction.
Guys with bad tattoos slam beer at record pace, while the sun slips away in the western sky effectively closing the pool, as summer comes to an end.
(BTW, this is my 200th post. If I stick to my daily project, by this time next year, I will have over 500.)
I was working overtime on the midnight shift at the county jail when I wrote this one. There was a man locked in his cell who was schizophrenic. He stayed that way twenty-three hours a day and it was my job to make sure he didn’t hang himself.
When’s my outdate?”
the man screams.
He lies in crisis
naked on a concrete floor,
the words “Nooooo! No, no, no, no. Nooooooo!”
escapes his Ted Kaczynski beard.
The radio crackles,
“Go ahead with your counts.”
“Count in K—King 5,L—Lincoln has 22. 433.”
433, being the officer’s badge number.
“That’s clear. K-King 5, L—Lincoln has 22.”
As the count is rattled off I hear,
“Have a happy, happy birthday,
because I can do this for years!
Paralysis from lights, swirling around
in my brain,
insuring you’ve actually
looked in the cell.
But who know what will happen
in the next 15 minutes?
I have decided what I want to do for my 365-Day Daily Project.
I’m going to pick writing as my medium. And the topic that I’m picking is going to be based on what is written at the top of my homepage, “Observations on the human experience,” in 500 words or less.
The reason I’m saying 500 words or less is because I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. When I decide to write a piece for my blog, it might not look like it, but it can often take several hours with editing and what not.
Things may evolve over a year, and I might lift the self-imposed 500 word limit if it advances the essay. But I really want to stick to two double-spaced pages or less.
I also have made the decision that I’m probably not going to post an essay, poem, or blurb every single day. I have several reasons for that:
1. I really don’t like to turn on my computer on the weekends.
2. I don’t want to have to deal with it while I’m out of town.
3. I just don’t want to start flooding my reader’s inboxes every day.
So if I don’t post daily, that doesn’t mean I didn’t do one. I might combine a couple of days together in one, I’m not sure yet. It’s a work in process. Besides, I don’t know how long (or short) each post will be. I’m sure that there will be some days that the “6-word story,” will seem like a good option.
Yesterday was the first day starting this project and I already wrote four new pieces. I also typed up two other poems that I had written down on napkins a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t do anything with.
So now that I’m almost a week ahead of myself, let me give you the best “6-word story” ever written on a part of the human experience that no one would wish on anybody. This story was written by one of the best writers this planet has ever seen. It goes:
For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
My sister Mary sent me a book for my birthday called 365—Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life.
The book was written by Noah Scalin after he decided to make a skull a day for 365 days.
Why did he choose skulls? He just liked them.
I have already completed a year-long daily-project like Scalin’s; so has my wife.
My daughter was born in late September 2009. The New Year was rolling around and I decided that starting on New Year’s Day, I would write one piece of advice to my daughter a day, until the following New Year’s Eve.
I ran out and bought a big spiral note book and started the project on January 1st. I told my wife about it and around Jan. 5th or 6th, she started writing in it too.
Some days we would scrawl grand advice that a Greek philosopher would be envious of, especially if I had had a few drinks in me. Other times we’d just say, “I love you. I’m going to bed.” Or, “Hope you had a good day today.”
I think out of the whole year, I may have missed three days of writing to her. I remember the first day I missed. It was probably three or four months into the project and I felt a little shocked at first, then disappointed.
I didn’t miss writing to her because I was lazy though, or because I didn’t feel like it that day. I missed because I fell asleep in my chair and when I woke up, it was morning.
After the initial disappointment wore off, I realized, it didn’t matter if I missed one day. I just needed to keep on going. It wasn’t about doing it every single day and being perfect. It was about giving my daughter some guidelines of how I would like to see her grow up. And I began to get that feeling that if something ever happened to me, or her mom, my daughter would always have our words to read and hopefully that would bring her some comfort.
I wrote about everything in that journal: drinking, drugs, boys—and what they want. I wrote about what was going on in our life at that time. I wrote about her grandparents. I wrote about food.
It was such a great experience that when New Year’s Eve rolled around, my wife and I both had a bitter sweet feeling about the project ending. I kind of wanted to continue writing to her, but I knew that I didn’t want to have to do it every day.
I am glad I did it though. And now that I have this book my sister gave me, I’m thinking about doing a daily-project for a year again.
Scalin suggest you pick either a topic—like his skulls, or you pick medium—like painting.
So now I’m excited and in full-on-creative mode. At first I thought about studying and writing about creativity. But then I thought, “Is this the Hedonistic Paradox all over again?”
(Basically the Hedonistic Paradox is the principle that says, if you try to achieve happiness by concentrating on happiness itself, you won’t ever get it. It’s only by doing things you really like, that you find true happiness.)
So as much as I like the idea of studying creativity for a year, I don’t know if that’s the route I should take?
Several years ago, I was in India for a month with my wife and her family. When we arrived to the first place where we were staying, my father-in-law pointed to a neighbor’s door and said to me, “See this door? While you’re here, you’ll never see two front doors on any appartment that look the same.”
And for the most part, he was right. I took pictures of doors everyday that I was there. Many were elaboratly carved and decorated with leis or garlands. Some had paintings on them. Some had little gods attached to them.
It was always wierd feeling when someone would come out of their apartment door just as I was snapping a shot of their front door. Awwwwwkward!!!
When I got back to the States, I held on to the pictures and the following year I made a calendar from the photos and gave them out as gifts. I’d love to do another door project, but I don’t think American doors are as interesting as the ones in India.
Some other ideas include: writing a 250 words or less short-story a day, learning at least 12 different graffiti fonts, and taking one picture of my little girl a day.
I could probably pull that last one off fairly easily, but I don’t necessarily want it to be easy. The topic needs to be interesting enough to keep my attention for a full year. But for now, I’m going to let it marinate for a couple of days before I decide. And if you are actually reading this blog right now, chances are you are going to be just as tired of my idea after a year as I will be.
Want to find out more for your own project? Then check out these sites:
Here’s Scalin’s: http://www.makesomething365.com
Here’s one for photographers. http://365project.org/
Here’s one on hearts: http://www.aheartaday.com/
And finally, one they made a movie from: The Julie/Julia Project.
Today is my 39th Birthday.
My little girl told me yesterday, “Daddy, I’m so happy it’s your birthday tomorrow. I can’t wait for your party.”
“I’m not having a party,” I said.
She looked perplexed and said, “Why not? Don’t you want to have some presents?”
“I’m turning 39,” I said. “Most people don’t have a party at that age.”
“But you’re not going to be happy if you don’t have a party,” she said. “Then I won’t be happy either.”
Through multiple conversations throughout the day, I stumbled on the idea of the Hedonistic Paradox. This idea and philosophy has been around for thousands of years.
I’m not a trained philosopher, but the more I hear about ideas that the ancients had, the more I know I really don’t know shit. (I also wonder why schools don’t make us study more philosophy. They’ve already asked and answered all the big questions and they didn’t even have the internet.)
Basically the Hedonistic Paradox states that, the more you try to focus on happiness (or pleasure) the less likely you are to receive it. Happiness in itself shouldn’t be the goal. Pursuing things that make you happy should be.
Here is a clip: click here
So after researching this topic for a couple of hours, I have concluded that these are a few things that bring me happiness:
Hanging out with family and friends
Riding my bike
Playing music—guitar, ukulele and even the radio
A good meal (Seafood and Steak especially)
Beer–specifically a glass of Indian Pale Ale with a small glass of American Honey—three ice cubes and a splash of water
Sex (Hey, you can’t have a hedonistic list without this one, right?)
A good view, especially one that involves overlooking a body of water
Talking to a stranger, usually about things you wouldn’t tell someone you know
The Ocean—especially the Pacific
Shooting clay birds
Riding 4-wheelers with my daughter
Driving fast down a windy-road
Watching really big waves roll in
Going on a float trip
BBQ–preferably from Kansas City, St. Louis or Memphis
I’m sure there’s at least 100 other things I could think of, but these are the ones that came to me. Notice that most of them cost very little money, or are free.
You also might have noticed that work wasn’t on the list, which has just inspired a few more:
And sleep in general
And now I’m actually looking forward to my birthday party, because as I was forming the idea for this post, my mom called to say she’s taking me, my wife and my daughter out to dinner for my birthday. So I will get to have a few things marked off from this list tonight, mainly: hanging out with family, having a good meal with seafood, steak and beer. Yummmmm! And who knows, maybe even a little sex?
F-the-Hedonistic Paradox. I’m looking forward to tonight and I’ve decided that I’m going to feel happy about it in advance.
Sometimes you need a swift-kick in the ass to get motivated. That kick for me came from a 19 year old, 2nd degree black-belt, who just happens to be my wife’s niece. She is visiting us from New Jersey where her family lives and where she goes to college. She’s, gasp, an Art-major!
Now before I get her in trouble with all her Indian-relatives, I should say that she’s a computer-art/design-major. She’s sensible about her career. She doesn’t want to be a starving artist.
But what is really cool to see, as someone who is 20 years older than her, is that she has already claimed her, “artist-status,” at such a young age.
There is a special thing that happens when you start telling people that, “I’m an artist.” It’s almost like saying, “Hi. I’m a creative person and I don’t care that you know it, or even what you think about it. Now have a nice day.” (My wife would say that most art-majors would then say, “Would you like fries with that?”)
I think that publically claiming that you want to be an artist is almost as stressful as a gay-person coming out; mainly because both carry a social stigma.
Now I’m not gay, but I do remember coming to terms with my own decision to tell people that I wanted to be an artist. It was hard for me to even say it out loud for a while because I thought people were going to make fun of me. I also knew there would be a lot of questions.
When you tell people that you want to be an artist, it’s usually followed by questions like: “Well, what kind of art do you want to do? How are you going to make a living doing that? Aren’t you afraid of being unemployed? What are you going to do full-time until you ‘make it.’?”
“An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision.” James Whistler
I didn’t claim my artist-status until I was in my 30’s. I always loved art. I used to draw a lot when I was in high school. I was a senior in high school when I got my first tattoo and have collected 12 others so far at a cost of over $5000.00. But when I was in my 20’s, I lost interest in making art. Drinking took the place of a lot of creative things that I used to do.
I have been a writer since I was a young kid. But I didn’t claim my writer’s-status until I was in my late 20’s or early 30’s.
I called myself a writer for at least three years before I ever had anything published. I remember sitting in a Humor in American Literature class one evening at the local community college. (I already had my first Master’s degree in Communications.) We all had to introduce ourselves and when it was my turn, I said something like, “My name is Doug and I’m a writer. The reason I’m taking this class is because I’ve been working on a memoir about my trip to India for the last year. I just finished writing it and I wanted to take a break from it.”
The teacher shook her head up and down in agreement and then delivered an ego-crushing blow by asking, “Have you ever been published anywhere?”
I frowned and said, “No, not yet because I’ve been focused on finishing my book.”
I felt like the teacher had checked my writer’s-card and with one question, revoked it.
But shortly after that experience, I had three pieces published in a row. And for the record, I still haven’t had my memoir published yet, even though it’s been finished for a year now. But I am much more secure in my self-proclamation as an writer/artist now than was I was then.
“Every artist was first an amateur.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s refreshing to see my wife’s niece not be afraid to claim herself as an artist, but that doesn’t mean she’s not concerned about her future. It’s scary to decide that you want to base your profession on your art.
I’ve considered myself a, “serious writer,” for over 10 years now and I haven’t had the balls to try to do it full-time for a living.
My niece has the same fears as a lot of artists. She said, “A lot of my friends are going to be doctors and stuff, but I just can’t see me doing that. I got into Drexel, which has one of the best med-programs in my area. But I just don’t want to be a doctor. I think I would feel stuck if I did that, like locked in a box. I want to be creative, but at the same time, it’s kind of scary because I don’t have set career path like I would if I went into medicine.”
I completely understand her feelings. I have enough schooling under my belt to have been a doctor, or lawyer, or have gotten a Ph.D. But here I am, sitting in a job that anyone with a high school degree can apply for.
So after talking with my wife’s niece, I decided I needed to dust off the old artist-card and finish some my projects that I hadn’t worked on in months.
I had a children’s book that I wrote for my daughter some time back and did nothing with. The story is called What Did We Do Today? It basically goes over the day’s events.
Yesterday I finally looked up a bunch of clip art and made a booklet out of it. Now I plan on taking it up to Kinko’s and making one color printing and then I’m going to have it spiral bound so I can give it to my daughter as a one of her birthday presents.
I also have poem about the hot rod culture that I wrote almost two years ago. I had wanted to make a mixed-media video out of it, but never seemed to have the time to do it.
So I found a bunch of hot-rod images, made sure to document the sources as my niece had reminded me to do, and now I plan on reading my poem over the top of those images on a video. I’m not a real technical guy, but my niece gave me a bunch of ideas on how to get it accomplished.
It’s funny how your creative juices can get flowing when you’re around another artist. I’ve been blocked for what feels like a few months. Now the creative-dam has burst yet again and my mind won’t turn off. I feel like I’m back in my element of creativity and I’m going to ride the high as long as I can.
I know I will come crashing down eventually. But one thing I need to remind myself is,
“Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”George Bernard Shaw