Writing Practice 11/23/2018

[because I was riding past it when I pulled out my notebook]

Write about Greenville, Illinois…

Greenville, Illinois, is one of those middling little places in the middle of america, one of those places that is inconsequential by itself, but if every one of the Greenville’s and Dubuque’s and Florences and Albions across the country were to fall, the entire economy would come to a screeching halt. Greenville is lubrication in the bearings; it is oil in the crankshaft, it is the spit-and-shine of the modern economy.

It is one of those places in between the agricultural rurality and the intellectual city. It is a straddle, a middle, an in-between in which you don’t have the full commitment to farming of the plains, nor the devotion and history of industrialization like the factories back east, nor the intellectual / commoditization / technological of the big cities of St. Louis, Chicago, Austin. It is a hybrid, but not the cool kind. It is a chimera of things, some good from a few different disparate parts, and yet without the flaws of each of these places the aggregation of “good only” smacks so false that nobody believes it, nobody that trusts it, nobody really tries to help it succeed.

So Greenville sits, squats, waits, behind Highway I-70, waiting for the passing travelers and transporters to almost run out of gas, and then be there to resupply them, and, oh, by the way, while you’re here, why don’t you also fill up your stomach with overpriced chips and hotdogs, or satisfy that sweet tooth craving with a candy bar or a slushie, or even get ready for that long, lonely alone night coming up by lubricating yourself with a convenient 12-pack of beer, or a fifth of distilled spirits, perhaps even pick up a couple of smokes along the way.

Because that’s what Greenville is. It doesn’t make anything itself. It doesn’t grow the food, or process the cotton, or assemble the automobile, or develop the software that everyone else uses and consumes and lives in and with and appreciates and, even, needs. But it is strategically placed, carefully, precariously, dependent on the multifaceted nature of our economy which says “live local” but acts completely different. They are dependent in Greenville on the transportation industry and yet, too, the industry is dependent on the network of Greenvilles and Peorias and Waynesburgs around the country, for without them, without this quantum-connected network, this “cut out one you’re okay, cut out one too many and everything falls”, everything would be different.

Used to be. And then the transition started. May come again, too. But for now, Greenville and its ilk remain, waiting, supporting, remora-like, providing a small benefit for a small cost, skimming just enough off the top to keep their host alive, like a good vampire, who doesn’t drink too deeply from any one victim, for if you do that, everything falls.

Writing Practice – 11/17/2018

An acorn falls from a tree.

It bounces on the sidewalk, for this tree is inside a neighborhood. or, rather, the neighborhood was built around the tree. It has been here for two hundred years; the sidewalks for two decades. The acorn bounces along the hard surface and comes to rest against another pile of acorns, all very similar size, shape, color, consistency, for they have all fallen from the same tree in the past two days or so, have all bounced a couple of times on the sidewalk, all have rolled to his stop here in this pile at the base of the little slope, where the sidewalk makes a slight curve around, following the road.

In a few days there will be a thunderstorm, a big one, and at that time much of this pile of acorns will be swept away. They will tumble and roll, haphazardly forced into their swirling gambol by the flowing rainwaters, which will make their own way down the hill, around the curve (they are not impeded in their progress by such little inconveniences as curbs and humps), and then the rainwaters will flow into the storm sewer and take the acorns with them. They will waterfall down over this manmade edge, and will cascade into this manmade pit; and then follow this manmade riverbed for miles and miles and inside in the dark underground silently, and perseverantly making their way from high ground to the lower. They will flow with their acorn hitchhikers through the sewers and finally into the discharge zone, another manmade chute that looks like a huge, hollow phallus jutting out over the river, and once there they will emerge into the daylight, waters mingling with waters, acorns floating on the surface and bobbing, gently, repetitiously, until the river flow them away, away, away away neighbor.

The river flows on, inexorable, a much bigger bath than the rainwater or the acorns have yet experienced. It, too, moves at its own pace, sometimes flowing wide and slow, sometimes hurrying through a narrow channel, sometimes meandering back and forth in a serpentine path which takes many leagues to travel only a few kilometers, as the crow may fly.

Along the way the acorn dries in the sun. It may seem ironic to think of a waterlogged, floating acorn as dry, but that is exactly what happens. Part of it remains submerged, of course, but the tilted over part remains a little less than half of its apart body and exposed to the sun and the wind at all times, and so this particular acorn, nothing particular about it, really, remember, it was essentially just like all the others, it is floating on the river and making its way downstream, and all the time the sun’s baking the upside while the river leaches in, or at least tries, to, from the underside. Soon the hard-backed edge begins to flick away, at the eroding insistence of the wind, or at the teeth and claws of passing sparrows, or at the random insistence of a wandering mayfly or mosquito or midge.

These things take their toll on our beloved acorn. Before its journey along the river has ended, our hero has become much less. Weather-worn and hollow, hollowed out, [illegible] [illegible] [illegible] of some future out or nothing more than the floating shell of its former self, all of the good, rich, hearty valuable fats and proteins inside hollowed out by the destruction of water.

All that is left is for the shell to float, undisturbed now, on the rover for these last few distances, until the river mouth empties in to the wide ocean.

And from there? Well, the story has just begun.

Writing Practice – 11/16/2018

Winter Wonderland

Is the name of an old, abandoned theme park in southern Mexico. When you walk in, all you see is rust. Orange, crumbling dust particles, eating away at the edges of the rails, at the supports to the roller coasters strut, turning the insides of the buildings, which once housed happy families, laughter and a population of teenagers to staff the place, into the outside.

The rust has come on gradually, over the years, eroding the color of the paint on the walls, and in partnership with the creeping vines and roots of the invading trees, the place now has a falling-over-from-three-too-many-beers look.

It used to be a fun place. It opened over forty years ago to much acclaim, fanfare, parties, raucous celebrations nearly every weekend; the place was a blast. Families loved coming throughout the summer, because southern Mexico is, how shall I say this delicately, beastly hot even on a good day. The place had backers willing to pay ungodly sums of money to create snow in summer, so this thing was a cultural marvel. An attraction that brought tens of thousands to its door every morning, waiting for the chance to go sledding down a hill, to dive into the Polar Plunge with the Polar Bear (not a real bear, just a big fat guy with white body paint), and throw snowballs at one another and lick icicles they pulled of themselves from the special drip-factories sprinkled liberally throughout the place. And the could do it all in the comfort of their shorts and t-shirts, because these tourists were on vacation, they were having a good time, so they just wanted to go with the flow and make everything happen just right.

They enjoyed the experience. They watched the animatronic dancing penguins. They rode the Arctic Rush, the big, bad roller coaster. And, they apparently trafficked in a lot of drugs.

Because, you see, I guess fake snow looks a lot like cocaine. It was about three years into the whole thing that they (mostly just employees – mostly. There was one or two higher-ups who knew, they claimed they didn’t, but come on, with that much going on beneath you, how could you not? If you didn’t, then you should be fired for incompetence and jailed for stupidity, too) got busted, literally, for smuggling drugs through. The park was apparently a big front for a refinement center, and they used the whole “trucking in snow” idea to then “truck out snow to the regional operations centers” to move the product around.

So the cops busted them, shuttered the place, sent like eighty or more to jail, and now Winter Wonderland sits, slowly decaying , succumbing to the forces of nature – wind, rain, root, and creepy-crawly thing. Should someone ever try to revive it, it would be one hell of a job. And not likely to succeed – memories run deep around here, and to jus the people. The land remembers, too.

Writing Practice – 11/13/2018

Write about this picture…

courtesy of MJK

There is a stillness, a calm, settled about the scene. The grey and white of the sky blends with the grey and white of the grounds, blends with the grey and white of the tree, stands contrasted by the bright, electric blue of the trash can. It is as if everything else is trying to hide, to disappear, to blend into the surroundings, but the trash can, like a Broadway star, or a passing comet, chooses to burn brightly in the foreground, so that none shall miss it. It makes its presence known not so much by action, but by stature, by being, by character.

It is strong, it says. It is resilient. It is powerful and enduring. It lasts, it holds across the years and decades and centuries and eons, it remains when the transience of all the others have come and gone. Grass, green now, will wither and die in the summer heat. Snow, white and soft now, will first harden and freeze as the ambient temperature drops, then will evaporate or melt as the sun warms up the surface again. The tree, even, with its green-orange-brown cycle, will not have any similar claim to permanence. It will transform, will grow, will fade, will fall eventually rot or fire or man, will be no longer, but the can, solid, stark, knows no such fear.

And, because of its boldness, because of its resilience, it fears nothing. Fears no wind, or water, or predator. And thus it has no need of camoflage. No worry about hiding, no chance of discovery and destruction, so it can be bold, can be proud, can be prominent, and clothe itself in brightness, in radiance, in vibrancy, and stand as a beacon to self-awareness, resilience, permanence, and the truth across the days and across the [illegible].

Writing Practice – 11/11/2018

Write about how fabulous Melissa is…

Melissa is so fabulous that RuPaul faints when he sees her.

Melissa is so fabulous that she taught Chuck Norris karate.

Melissa is so fabulous that when she farts, the glitter comes out. And then it magically transforms into little glittery butterflies, and they fly back up into her butt, just for the privilege of being farted out again.

Melissa is so fabulous that Jesus swears by saying, “Oh my Melissa!”

Melissa is so fabulous that the migrant caravan in Mexico isn’t coming to the United States, they’re coming to get her autograph. When they get here, they’re each going to take a selfie then turn around and go back home.

Melissa is so fabulous that when that happens, Donald Trump is going to actually see that for what it is and call her on the phone to congratulate her, and he’s not even going to try to spin it to look good on himself.

Melissa is so fabulous that Victoria’s Secret is planning to change their name to “Melissa’s Inspiration”.

Melissa is so fabulous that she makes water flow uphill.

Melissa is so fabulous that when she shoots a free throw, the hoop moves to catch the ball for her.

Melissa is so fabulous, she doesn’t drive her car to places. She just gets in, and the world moves under her to get where she wants.

Melissa is so fabulous, she can do 8 Minute Abs in seven minutes.

Melissa is so fabulous she can actually understand the movie Primer.

Melissa is so fabulous that there’s a secret society, like the Skull & Bones or the Masons, that every member of those groups are trying to get into. The group simply sits around all day and thinks of how fabulous Melissa is. It’s a pretty sweet gig.

Melissa is so fabulous that the first time travelers from three thousand years in the future are planing to come back just to see her. Forget stock tips, killing Hitler, or ending poverty or war. Those are small potatoes compared to seeing her.

And, finally, Melissa is so fabulous that she can write a whole essay about herself, just using ESP and mind-controlling my pen!

4 Simple Steps to Lose 20 Pounds

Step 1: Lose 1 pound

Step 2: Lose 1 pound

Step 3: Lose 1 pound

Step 4: Lose 17 more pounds.

And it’s a little facetious, I know, to just say it so flippantly. But that, apparently, is how people think. They think it’s easy to lose weight. Just eat less, exercise more, it’ll come off.

Sure, it does. It comes off. But losing 20 pounds, or 50 pounds, or 150 pounds, is not a simple process. It must happen one pound at a time, and it must be consistent progress, and you’ll get bored along the way, and you’ll get injured, and your internal homeostatic systems will conspire against you to stop your own weight loss (because your brain will think it’s headed for lean times so it will actually do whatever it can to avoid starvation, including hoarding more energy and burning less of what’s available), and your friends will tell you “You look great!” when you haven’t really done anything, and because of that you’ll be afraid to admit that you’ve cheated on your diet in the past two days and actually gained a pound, and you know in your head that it’s really just water weight, that pound, it’s not like you actually put 3,600 extra calories within your body from that doughnut, but now you start to wonder whether it really is worth it, I mean, damn, who gives a shit if you’re ten pounds overweight or if your doctor wants you to lose 20, I mean, really, he could stand to lose like 30 himself, what the hell does he know? He’s never been in your shoes with a full-time job and three kids and a shrew of a mother-in-law and no real time to exercise and just happy that the kids aren’t pouring their milk on their heads anymore at dinner time, that’s a victory in itself, no way you even have time to plan going to the gym and just forget about a sex life, goddamn, both of you are so exhausted after the day that just even the thought of trying to get excited is a no-go, I mean, really, who has time to think about all those things and plan meal schedules and hit the gym and track everything like they want you to and report your progress to your accountability partner and remember to encourage them, too?

So you look for the “easy” way. You look for “tips and tricks”. You look for the next 5-step, 4-step, 3-step process that will get you the results you want, without doing the work necessary to get there.

Let’s face it. I’m in this same boat too. I want to BE thinner, I want to HAVE six-pack abs, but I don’t want to GET thinner, I don’t want to BUILD six-pack abs.

I want the secret sauce. I want the magic beans. I want the Ab Roller to actually roll my goddamn abs into place! I don’t really want to work and sweat and measure my food and manage my sleep and say “no” to that doughnut or that sweet, sweet ambrosia of a culinary delicacy called the Five Layer Burrito.

Here’s the real deal: there are no 4 Simple Steps to Lose 20 Pounds. There are 20 steps, and they are simple, but they’re not easy:

  1. Lose 1 pound
  2. Lose 1 pound
  3. Lose 1 pound
  4. Lose 1 pound
  5. Lose 1 pound
  6. Lose 1 pound
  7. Lose 1 pound
  8. Lose 1 pound
  9. Lose 1 pound
  10. Lose 1 pound
  11. Lose 1 pound
  12. Lose 1 pound
  13. Lose 1 pound
  14. Lose 1 pound
  15. Lose 1 pound
  16. Lose 1 pound
  17. Lose 1 pound
  18. Lose 1 pound
  19. Lose 1 pound
  20. Lose 1 pound

Each pound of fat is worth approximately 3,500 calories. So, in order to complete step 1, either: take in and process and metabolize 3,500 fewer calories than your current baseline without changing anything else, or expend an additional 3,500 calories again without changing anything else. How do you burn 3,500 calories? Let’s say a rule of thumb is that you’ll get 100 calories per mile. But remember, we need to do ADDITIONAL miles over and above our baseline. If you’re running 15 miles a week already, you’ll need to add 35 miles to lose 1 pound. That’s 5 miles a day. Ain’t gonna happen.

Alternatively, how do you take in 500 fewer calories without changing anything else? If you’re already taking in 2,500 (not unreasonable), you’ve got to cut out 20% of your food intake. Every day. All week. No cheating. No extra “because I earned it” granola bars. No extra beer “to treat myself”. No extra dressing because “it’s just salad, there’s no calories there”. No mistakes, no slip-ups. No falling off the wagon. No regerts! Do all that –

To lose 1 pound.

And then you have to do that 20 more times. And then you have to hope that your body, this homeostatic system that has adapted over millennia to survive droughts and famine and starvation times, won’t sabotage you by producing less energy, burning less while you sleep, converting your current muscle cells into fat cells and storing more for the apparent lean times ahead, or harvesting more from the foods you do take in.

So, it’s the without changing anything else part that is the toughest. Actually, no, I take it back. It’s not. It’s the repeat 20 times that’s the toughest. Actually, no, I take that back. What’s toughest is to change the mindset, from I want to BE thinner, to I want to GET thinner.

Actually, no, I take back my take back of my take back. What’s toughest is to pretend like I don’t give a shit how I look and it’s all about “how I feel”. Let’s be honest. We all care how we look. We want to be fit. We want to be sexy. A lot of the current mindset of “feel” versus “looks” is pandering to the mindset that isn’t willing to work for something. And it works. I’ve bought into it. I’m more concerned with how I “feel” versus how I “look”.

But it doesn’t make me healthier. It doesn’t make me sexier. It doesn’t make me a better person.

It just makes me able to get through the day.

Writing Practice 11/1/2018 – Write about cats

Write about cats…

Nobody can tell me that ghosts don’t exist. Because I’ve seen cats. Have you ever been watching a cat, just sitting in the hallway, and all of a sudden it takes off like bullet out of a gun? Ricochets of a wall, bounds down the stairs and back up, bounces over the sofa, up on top of the counter, knocks over three vases and six cups onto the floor, scrambles like hell on the marble surface, then with one leap lands on top of the chair, where she stops on a dime, goes from sixty to zero in 0.7 seconds, and proceeds to lick her paw like nothing happened. Yeah, she saw ghosts, probably two or three, that spooked her sideways and when she was done destroying the house those ghosts had seen enough, they’d gotten their entertainment for the afternoon, so they disappeared and as soon as they did your cat went back to normal.

Cats are fickle too, they like you one day and claw the hell out of your leg the next They want attention when they want it, fuck you if you’re doing something else right then, they need you to scratch behind their ears, or on their hops, or under their chin.

And you’ll do it, too, You could be ass-deep in something, like a six-nation International crisis affecting the lives of sixteen million people, threatened with nuclear winter or a Zika outbreak or a huge meteor is only one hour from hitting the ground, and you know you’ll stop and take 30 seconds to scratch or pet that kitty. You will. You know you will. I will, damnit, I know that. They’re just so damn irresistible. I think it has to do with the softness of their fur. Not like dogs, which are normally more stiff, more tough, they don’t feel good under your hands so much. That of cats is gentle, soothing to you and to them at the same time when you rub hit. Hey, maybe that’s one of the reasons we have the same word in English for a woman’s pubic region! Soft, fun to touch and both of you seem to enjoy it when done right. But – try to touch it when you’re not supposed to: look out. You’ve initiated the wrath position, it’s now up to you to eat the hell way, to defuse the situation, to somehow found out how to either get it right or get bloody trying.

Because you just don’t do that when they’re not expecting it. You [illegible] give them some advance notice, or wait for them to make the first movie. If you startle them, goddamn, they jump like they’ve been hit with an electric wand. So you don’t startle, you don’t scare, you proceed with measured amount of caution and you plan accordingly for what you want your outcome to be. Remember, too, that all the time you must have in the back of your mind an exit strategy if things get dicey. Too much excitement, and you’ll be unavailable for a long time. So beware – approach with caution. Trust, but verify. By all means, enjoy yourself, but always sleep with one eye open and be prepared to retreat ASAP. Good luck, we’re all counting on you.