Sunday Snippet, Swallowed by Nostalgia by Bill Chance

“being alone never felt right. sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.”

― Charles Bukowski, Women

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

Swallowed by Nostalgia

Craig was never very outgoing, never comfortable around lots of other people. He was surprised when he found himself married with two twin children. Then, all of a sudden, he was alone again, his ex-wife and kids out on the West coast, with a new husband and father.

Still, he had his friends. Not a lot of them, but the ones he had were close. He had his activities, his clubs, his scheduled events. Craig never felt like the center of the crowd, but he was there. He didn’t initiate a lot, but people would contact him, offer up events and activities, and he would go along.

As he grew older, he slowed down a bit, still not outgoing, but not a hermit by any means.

And then the pandemic hit… and it all went to shit.

One day, Craig realized he had not been out of his apartment in almost three weeks. His food was delivered, either cooked or groceries. Every day he’d collect his Amazon boxes – everything he needed and more. It was a reflex to search and click “buy now.” Craig felt like a cave man hunting woolly mammoths with a mouse, keyboard and credit card. After a while he turned the camera off on his work Zoom meetings and would usually nap during the long ones. Nobody seemed to notice.

He ordered blackout curtains for his windows and the highest rated noise-cancelling headphones. Sometimes he’d wear the phones without music, even though his place was quiet – simply to kill off any potential interruptions.

This went on, month after month and Craig began to go mad.

The present became more and more gray and blurred, but the past became crystal and colorful. Events from decades before floated up through his memory and wedged themselves into his consciousness. Especially things he regretted – not stuff that he did, but things that he didn’t do. These errors of omission, vacuums of courage, kept flashing in his mind.

The time a girl at a club gave him her number and he didn’t call… the job offer he turned down… the friends that went to an exotic location and he decided not to go with them…. All these and countless more kept coming back to him. In his mind, though, he went ahead and took the plunge. In his imagination he called the girl, took the job, went along. And reaped the reward.

But then, later, he would realize what had really happened, where he was, and who he had become. Sleep became something he feared, not because of nightmares but because of these triumphant dreams where he corrected the mistakes he had made. And this made the morning even more gray, even more useless.

His health provider kept sending him messages about the vaccine, but he ignored them. Why get the shot? He never left his apartment, was at no risk to himself or anyone else. He didn’t care anyway – if it killed him, it killed him.

Then one morning, after a long vivid dream of driving across the country in a sports car that he had decided not to buy once he woke up and scheduled his shot. It might stop the dreams. He left his place for the first time in months and was surprised at how easy it was to negotiate the paperwork and get the jab in the arm. He actually looked forward to the second, couldn’t wait until the three weeks were up.

It was a beautiful day when he got his second shot – the air with a bit of a chilly breeze but the sun out and hot – cutting through the cold. On a whim, he stopped in a park on the way back.

It was full of people, very few wearing masks. They were in groups, grilling, playing volleyball, kids running around, old folks walking, even a keg of beer next to a boom box (he guessed that the park rules were being bent after such a long time away).

He parked and walked the sidewalk on the circular drive looking at all the people. Live people. Noise. The chatter and music rose up. The smell of charcoal lighter and barbecue sauce. The feel of the cool breeze and hot sun.

It was back. He was back.

Back to Handwritten

“She needs a new journal. The one she has is problematic. To get to the present, she needs to page through the past, and when she does, she remembers things, and her new journal entries become, for the most part, reactions to the days she regrets, wants to correct, rewrite.”
― Dave Eggers, How the Water Feels to the Fishes

The Window at Molly’s, the street (Decatur) unusually quiet, with notebook, vintage Esterbrook pen, and Molly’s frozen Irish Coffee

I have started writing in my physical journal on a daily basis again. For decades, I wrote every day into the computer, and published a lot (most? maybe, maybe not) on my Online Journal (these were days before the appalling word blog was invented). Then, when my kids were in high school, I had to stop the online thing – too many people were reading it and giving me shit.

So I went to the Moleskine. This was about the time my addiction to fountain pens started, so it was a good pair. I wrote every day in my Moleskine, at least a page, sometimes more, sometimes many more. I have a stack of journals I filled and go back and look at them sometimes.

Then I started to blog again (2011) and my daily scribbling fell off. I still wrote in journals, but not on a quotidian basis. I experimented with bullet journalling and planning and other techniques. But something was missing.

The other day, driving home from work, I was listening to a podcast – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Plannerverse – and the guy was talking about how he used his planner for planning… but he kept a hardbound journal to write in every day, to keep a record of what he was doing and how he was feeling.

And that resonated with me. I dug through my Moleskines and found one that was only a third full. The last dates in it were about ten years ago – toward the end they were getting irregular and gaps were appearing – I could tell I was on the way to stopping, only writing on through habit and inertia.

So now I’ve started back. I never realized how much I missed this. I have a small zippered pouch with a selection of pocket fountain pens (Kaweco Sport, Pilot Prera, Pilot Kakuno) that I can carry when I leave the house (usually on my bike) and I can stop and scribble somewhere. I have my grail pens (Sheaffer PFM, Lamy 2000, Parker “51”, Eversharp Skyline) and I love writing with them at my desk.

It is so odd to look at the ten+ years old entries in the same book I’m still scribbling in. So much has changed, so much is still the same.

We’ll see how many years I can keep this up now. How many do I have left?

Pomodoro
My Pomodoro timer, Moleskine, and Ivory Pilot Prera fountain pen.

What I learned this week, July 9, 2021

The More Options You Have, The Happier You Are

I have read some opinions that the opposite is true, that we are all suffering from too many options. This article makes more sense to me, though.

(click to enlarge)

New website allows users to track mesmerizing journey of a raindrop

Take a look, play around with this website. It is really cool. Try Western Colorado.

River Runner

The river and downtown, from the Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

How to Make Time Slow Down


Japan’s unusual way to view the world

Wabi-sabi offers a refuge from the modern world’s obsession with perfection, and accepts imperfections as all the more meaningful – and, in their own way, beautiful.


By Now, Burnout Is a Given

The pandemic has stripped our emotional reserves even further, laying bare our unique physical, social, and emotional vulnerabilities.

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, by Umberto Boccioni, Cole and Blackburn, Dallas, Texas

Fight Fatigue by Harnessing the Power of Your Internal Clock

Sluggish? Tired? Seven tips for getting your body into better alignment.


Bicycle and Coffee

“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup”
― Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

My Aeropress at a campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

As I (we) come out of the pandemic nightmare I (we) still grapple with purposelessness, boredom,and loneliness. I struggle for something to do, anything to do.

I have discovered one thing. I get up before dawn, make a thermos of coffee in my Aeropress, and then ride somewhere on my bicycle. I sip the coffee as the sun comes up, then I read a bit, then I ride home.

Unfortunately, I can only do this on the days when I don’t go into work, so it isn’t very often. If I could, I’d do this every day. I find myself looking at maps of my city and finding places to go… places that may look interesting at dawn, places with a place to sit, places just the right distance away.

I think this weekend I’m going to up my game a bit. I think I’ll ride to the DART station and ride the train somewhere, then ride my bike, then drink coffee. I might even take my grinder, Aeropress Go, and a few beans to make fresh coffee. There is a new park in downtown Dallas I’d like to visit.

Or maybe ride to the train station and get on the next train, no matter which direction it’s going in. Get off where I feel and then look for a place to sit.

It isn’t much… but it’s the best I can do for now.

My coffee thermos.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Halloween Spell by pocketmappoetry

Poetry is indispensable-if I only knew what for.

—-Jean Cocteau

Music cases and used books… and a bass.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, July 7, 2001 (exactly 20 years ago):

Half Price Poetry

In keeping with my post-mountain-vacation theme of trying to do some fun big-city stuff I sneaked out last night to go to the monthly First Friday poetry reading at the big main Half-Price book store on Northwest Highway. The crowd was a bit smaller than they were the last time I went, maybe because now it’s summer. I was actually able to get a place to sit.

The poetry, as always, was pretty variable in quality. A lot of it is too traditional, too Moon-June for my tastes. I want to hear something wild, emotional, and witty. Still, though, I enjoy going to the readings.

As a matter of fact – I realize that I can’t even hear most of the poetry. I like to sit there and watch the reader and the crowd – the shuffling of papers, the popping of the microphone, the smell of old books, and the taste of coffee.

One thing I did enjoy was when someone came up and read the from the theme song from “Petticoat Junction.”

Come ride that little train that is rolling down the tracks to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Forget about your cares, it is time to relax at the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Lots of curves, you bet, even more when you get to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

….

Well, we’ll soon be leavin’ town
There’s old Charley oilin’ round
Can she make it up the hill
At least to Hooterville
The pressure’s on the rise
Floyd is burning railroad ties
Everybody get inside
Doesn’t cost a cent to ride
Come one and come all and we’ll take that Cannonball to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

And today’s flash fiction (poetry):

Halloween Spell by pocketmappoetry

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Lepidoptera by Clio Velentza

“One grave in every graveyard belongs to the ghouls. Wander any graveyard long enough and you will find it – water stained and bulging, with cracked or broken stone, scraggly grass or rank weeds about it, and a feeling, when you reach it, of abandonment. It may be colder than the other gravestones, too, and the name on the stone is all too often impossible to read. If there is a statue on the grave it will be headless or so scabbed with fungus and lichens as to look like fungus itself. If one grave in a graveyard looks like a target for petty vandals, that is the ghoul-gate. If the grave wants to make you be somewhere else, that is the ghoul-gate.”

― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Parking Day Main Street Dallas, Texas

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, August 14, 2000

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Triple digits
deadly coughing air
The full moon is a bloated orange
colored by windblown dust
I haven’t had a decent breath in weeks

The heat cracks the dried clay
cracks the calluses on the bottom of my feet
’til they are bleeding and burn in the morning shower

My gardening – if I did it
would consist of gluing brown desiccated leaves
back onto stickly branches
I finally watered my lawn
it smelled of wet hay

I sweat at work so much
I’ll change lab coats
when it soaks through my shirt and coat
the other day I went through four
When I drove home
I can lick my arm
and taste the layer of salt
I taste like a giant potato chip

And today’s flash fiction:

Lepidoptera by Clio Velentza

from Claw & Blossom

Clio Velentza Twitter

What I learned this week, July 5, 2021

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

People Think What You Do With Your Shopping Cart When You’re Done With It Says A Lot About You

I remember sitting by the ponds at the end of my block, reading and enjoying the beautiful day. I saw two kids on the other side of the block pushing a shopping cart from the local Kroger with about three items in it. When the path they were on veered away from the water they took their items out and pushed the cart down the slope into the pond, where it promptly sank. They were across the water and too far for me to do anything, but I was disgusted.

A year ago they drained the ponds to clean out the silt, it was full of carts. The Kroger has gone out of business, replaced by an Aldi where you pay 25 cents (refundable) for a shopping cart.


Bicycle Drag Racer on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

He Didn’t Make the Olympics—So He Used His Bike Racing Skills to Rob Banks Instead

After fizzling out on a number of disparate career paths that included a go at social work, the Catholic priesthood, and underwater welding, Justice started robbing banks. As Leckart tells it, it wasn’t about the money—it was about doing something he could be exceptional at. At first, Justice gave away most of what he stole, leaving bags of money in alleys for homeless people to find, or in port-a-potties. But he later kept the cash to cover his growing drug habit.


From the Pistons and Paint Car Show in Denton, Texas

Whether slow or fast, here’s how your metabolism influences how many calories you burn each day

Does the speed of metabolism really vary all that much from person to person?


Got too much stuff? Try these 7 tips to help pare down

Most of us have no problem admitting that we have more than we need. The difficulty lies in the next steps: How to get rid of it? What room to tackle first? Should we toss, regift, donate, recycle, repurpose, sell?


Over 60? Here Are 5 of the Best Exercises You Can Possibly Do

This total-body workout builds strength, stability, mobility, and better posture.


You Fail to Reach Your Goals Because You Designed Them Badly

Reaching any goal requires motivation, self-discipline and commitment. But where do those things come from?


Want to taste the sweetest onions in Texas? Order the rings at Lakewood Landing

A few miles south of Tyler, in the little town of Noonday, the soil is the right mix of sandy and rain-soaked for growing onions. Accordion to legend, as written in Onion World Magazine, it happened by accident:

“Several farmers here in East Texas started experimenting with growing yellow onions and soon discovered they had the proper type of sandy soil to produce a sweet onion.”

They’re both easy and difficult to find. They show up at Central Market every now and then for a little bit more money than your other local onions. Or you can make a phone call and gas up the car:

“Tomato shed, how can I help you?” “Tex” answers the phone. There are no social media handles, and the online store leads you to a physical address. They’ve got small-to-large bags of Certified Noonday Sweet Onions, ranging from eight bucks to 30, right from the ground of the vice president of the Noonday Sweet Onion Grower’s Association.

Sunday Snippet, Aliens Abduct Cheerleaders by Bill Chance

““You’re the hunter, the warrior. You’re stronger than anyone else here, that’s your tragedy.”

― Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

Sunset High School Cheerleaders

Aliens Abduct Cheerleaders

There are a few people in this world that everyone would consider to be a BADASS. Navy jet fighter pilots, gangsters, hitmen, boxers, bullies, Seal Team Six, high voltage repairmen… that sort of thing. Within that world of people that are badass there are a few that are REALLY BADASS. Think of a bell curve representing the amount of badass someone has – that right hand bit of tail and you have the badass people. Spread that out and you get another curve – to the right of it, the second derivative – and these are the most badass of the badass.

If you meet one of these people (and you better hope you never do) you probably would not even recognize their badassness – at least not right away. There is a saying among the super-badass, “They that do the mostest, talk the leastest.” They will never, never, ever talk about how badass they are. No tales of derring-do, no boastful bluster, no bombastic braggadocio. They are comfortable in their skin, confident in their abilities.

This is a small group, but among them are a handful of the most badass of the badass of the badass. These are the people that keep the badass of the badass up at night, send shivers down their spine. I’m not sure I know about all these people but I know six of them and I doubt there are very many more.

Who is more badass than these six? There is only one. He is not only the most badass person on the planet, he is an order of magnitude beyond; he is so badass that the word almost ceases to have meaning; he is made of pure badass.

He is Spencer Bowman.

Bowman carries an old fashioned pager. It only beeps – doesn’t even display the number calling. He may be the only person in a first-world country that still carries a pager like that.

One day, it beeped. Bowman stomped on the pager, shattering its plastic case, then dropped its remains off the first overwater bridge he came to. He drove his perfectly nondescript and average car to a working class suburb outside of DC and parked in front of a Speedometer Repair Shop in a run-down strip mall. He nodded at the middle aged receptionist and pressed a hidden button. A section of wall opened up and a stainless steel elevator appeared. The walls of the car had slits and Bowman nodded at them, knowing that an unseen man with a machine gun was behind each one.

At the bottom, deep underground, Bowman walked down a bare concrete corridor and pushed open a heavy steel blast door. Beyond was an ordinary drab government-issue office, with a bespectacled man at a desk. Not even Bowman knew what government agency ran this operation. It was so secret and dark it didn’t even have an acronym. Bowman suspected that not even the man behind the desk knew for sure who he worked for.

“Bowman, glad to see you again, have a seat,” said the man at the desk.

“What do you need me for?” was all Bowman said.

“You don’t waste much time, do you,” the man replied.

Bowman said nothing, not even a nod. It wasn’t really a question anyway.

“Well,” the man said, “aliens are stealing cheerleaders.”

“Really?”

“Really. Not just here, all over the world, though, of course the United States leads the world in Cheerleaders and most of the kidnappings are here. The total number isn’t huge, but it’s enough to worry… well, worry the people that know you.”

“And you want me to?”

“Find out why.”

“Maybe it is for breeding stock. There was a movie about that.”

“Probably not. They have mostly been taking female cheerleaders. But there have been a few male ones too. Actually, the ratio is pretty much the same as the total cheerleader population.”

“So, find out why. Anything else?”

“Well, it would be nice if you could get some back. If you can.”

The man handed Bowman a tiny, encrypted USB drive. Bowman already knew the password. And that was it.

There was a surprising amount of information on the drive. Enough for Bowman to figure out a couple of starting points. The government had a lot more data on the recent plague of UFO sightings than the public had been allowed to see. After a month of work, a series of educated guesses, and using some of his more exotic contacts, Bowman was able to figure out where the Alien’s base of operations was – an abandoned water pumping station in Dallas, Texas. The Aliens had a complex, subtle, and deep series of security measures protecting their base which Bowman was able to methodically and completely penetrate.

The Aliens resembled human beings in general, and their advance agents had established an odd cult of bizarre plastic surgery that made them able to… if not fit in, at least pass with their origins unguessed. Bowman reached the leader of the Alien mission with a maximum of stealth and a minimum of violence. They faced each other across an odd seven legged table lit by the unsettling greenish light of the Alien’s home planet.

“Spencer Bowman,” said the Alien mission leader.

“You know me,” said Bowman. Again, it was not a question.

“Of course, our knowledge of your society is more extensive than your own.”

“But why cheerleaders?”

“We need warriors.”

“Cheerleaders? Why not trained military? Or ninjas? Or snipers? Or at least gang bangers?”

“We are so very far advanced technologically that your crude killing methods are no longer relevant. Our weapons need a very specific and subtle mix of physical and mental capabilities and proclivities to operate efficiently. The Earth Cheerleading corps possess these qualities in greater accuracy than any other group we have found in any of the major galaxies.”

“But you can’t just kidnap people.”

“Kidnap? Oh you don’t understand. We present our proposal and they come along if they want.”

“But what if they refuse?”

“What if? Nothing. They return to their life.”

“What if they talk?”

“What if? Would any one believe them? Nope, they would end up a joke in the tabloids. And that’s the thing.”

“What?”

“Nobody has refused. No one. The call of destiny is strong. This is their purpose, they are perfect intergalactic warriors and when this is pointed out – the call is irresistible.”

Bowman knew he had the information he needed and it was time to escape. He turned away from the alien leader and fled out the door, taking every element of the situation in and avoiding the obvious traps. He was confident in his ability to get out of the alien headquarters unscathed and deliver his message to the government.

But Bowman was not prepared for what waited for him in the corridor beyond. There was Amber from the San Luis Obispo Wildcats in her red and blue uniform. She carried a Light Antimatter Laser Cannon and a Neutrino Shield. Next to her was Jeff from the Iowa City High School tumbling squad with a Quantum Saber glowing in his palms. Behind them stood their commander Crystal from The University of Virginia with a Superstring Grenade… just in case.

The fight didn’t last long. Withing a few seconds Bowman was reduced to a series of grotesque smears along a few feet of corridor. The Alien cleaning robot immediately emerged from a hidden closet and began scrubbing at the gore.

Spencer Bowman was without peer in the ranks of earth’s BADASS. But he was completely outclassed by Amber, Jeff, and Crystal, Intergalactic Warriors.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Cell Phone by Roger Colby

Modern man, if he dared to be articulate about his concept of heaven, would describe a vision which would look like the biggest department store in the world, showing new things and gadgets, and himself having plenty of money with which to buy them. He would wander around open-mouthed in this heaven of gadgets and commodities, provided only that there were ever more and newer things to buy, and perhaps that his neighbors were just a little less privileged than he.

—-Erich Fromm

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, June 26, 2001 (exactly 20 years ago):

Gadgets

I’m one of the last people in this best of all possible worlds to get a cell phone. I always resisted the idea – thinking it was too much or too far or too expensive. Now I have one and I really like it. It is pretty damn amazing, isn’t it – especially when I can remember when the phone company owned all the phones and only the richest of the rich could even have an extension. I was in college, in Lawrence, when we were one of the first cities to get the modular plugs. I remember when digital dialing seemed pretty cool.

I’ve even downloaded custom ringing songs to my phone from websites. Sometimes I use Dock of the Bay, but usually I use the theme song from Thunderbirds are Go.

Somewhere, I read an article about server farms that said the world was ruled by stocky men carrying cell phones and pagers. I guess that’s me. I have my pager on one pocket and my cell phone on the other. Ready for action, like a wild west gunfighter.

Driving too and from work has its own ritual. I have the little hook where I hang my phone after I remove the belt clip. I plug it into a cord that runs to my cigarette lighter socket. I haven’t seen anyone light a cigarette with one of those in years – now they are simply twelve-volt outlets. I wonder when they will change the name of them and supply them with a plug that doesn’t heat. Our MiniVan has an extra one by the back seat; the kids plug their game boys in to it.

The center console of my car has three different drink-holders. I remove my sunglasses from one and use it to hold the belt clip. My pager goes in the second cup-holder. The third holds my ID badge – which is a technological marvel in itself. Inside the badge is a slim chip. Automatic doors flanked by badge-swipers guard the complex corridors of my workplace. Some places allow me entrance, some don’t. Under the console is a space that barely holds the pack of cassette tapes I listen to on my commute. A British voice intones, “This is the end of cassette nine of The Robber Bride, please fast forward to the end before loading cassette ten.”

My cell phone hangs next to the tape player. The player pops whenever I move from one cell to the next and the phone broadcasts its new location.

Above all this, the crack in my windshield hasn’t been fixed yet. It gets longer and longer.

And today’s flash fiction:

Cell Phone by Roger Colby

What I learned this week, June 25, 2021

My commuter/cargo bike along the Duck Creek Trail. Taking a break while riding a circuit of grocery stores, looking for Banana Ketchup.

The 50-mile trail around Dallas: When White Rock to Trinity Forest will open and why that matters

The 7.5-mile Spine Trail segment will mean that, for the first time, residents south of Interstate 30 “won’t have to use a car to get out of our neighborhoods.”


What Happened When I Told Marie Kondo I Have a Better, Higher-Tech Method of Tidying Up

Throw them away? “By keeping less — documents, folders, files, emails, etc. — you create more space in your life,” Kondo told me. “Though digital clutter is not tangible like clutter in your home, I believe it carries the same weight.”

I don’t agree. Precious memories don’t need to go into dusty photo albums or the trash. They should go online.


I Know the Secret to the Quiet Mind. I Wish I’d Never Learned It.

Of all the injuries we suffered, mine is the worst. My brain injury has shaken my confidence in my own personality, my own existence.


Hey, There’s a Second Brain in Your Gut

Scientists have known for years that there’s a “second brain” of autonomous neurons in your long, winding human digestive tract—but that’s about where their knowledge of the so-called abdominal brain ends.


Recycled Books Denton, Texas

8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year

How much do you read?

For most of my adult life I read maybe five books a year — if I was lucky. I’d read a couple on vacation and I’d always have a few slow burners hanging around the bedside table for months.

And then last year I surprised myself by reading 50 books. This year I’m on pace for 100. I’ve never felt more creatively alive in all areas of my life. I feel more interesting, I feel like a better father, and my writing output has dramatically increased. Amplifying my reading rate has been the domino that’s tipped over a slew of others.


The Damaging Double Standard Behind Intermittent Fasting

Is it “optimization” or an eating disorder?


This Is the Most Bizarre Grammar Rule You Probably Never Heard Of

But I’ve been following it all my life, and so have you.