Fear not...I need a few more days to rest my jets, and will be back on May 1st. Promise.
If you're one of those two or three loyal fans who read my work, I've been taking a break, and enjoying it.
Fear not...I need a few more days to rest my jets, and will be back on May 1st. Promise.
Dear Laurie and Joe,
The first thing I want to say is, thanks a whole lot. In fact, this whole letter is just about thanking you for one thing after another.
The first thing I want to thank you for is the squirrel feeders you set up in the backyard. It’s really hard to find food, and you guys have made it a lot easier. It would be nice if you filled it up a bit more—there’s, like, maybe one day of food in that feeder—but still, it’s great.
As long as I’m thanking you for the feeders, there’s something else about them that’s great. What I’m saying is, you turned getting food into a game. Let me explain.
We squirrels really like video games. We discovered how much we liked them when you let us hack into your router without asking so that we could play them. This actually allowed us to download copies of video games by hacking into the root code of Steam without asking, and it was really nice of them to let us do that.
Anyway, when we were done with Steam and figured out a way to get a free deluxe account on Guild Wars 2 without asking—which was really nice of the Guild Wars 2 people, by the way—we noticed something that reminded us of you.
In Guild Wars 2, right, there are these things called vistas. They’re these special places on top of mountains and buildings where it’s tough to get there. It’s a real challenge sometimes, because you usually have to find this special way there that involves jumping from one place to the next, and being in just the right place.
This is my favorite part of the game. Whenever I get to this part, I always imagine that I’m right there, trying to get to the top of that mountain or building. And when I succeed, I kind of imagine myself standing there, feeling all proud and mighty.
It kind of makes me wish that I were a video game character in real life, and that’s the reason I want to thank you again.
I notice you’ve been setting up all these obstacles around the squirrel feeders, and I have to think really hard to figure them out. It’s a lot of fun, and when I eat the food from the feeder it tastes even better, because I feel like I earned it.
So thanks for everything. Thanks for the squirrel feeders. Thanks for the obstacles. Thanks for letting us use your internet. Thanks for taking the blame when the FBI comes by to investigate all the break ins to all those websites.
If you go to jail, we’ll figure out a way to set you free. It’ll be another challenge. It’ll be fun.
Oh, yeah, just a heads up: a lot of birds are getting into the squirrel feeders. I just figured you’d want to know about this, because stealing is wrong, and I don’t want anyone stealing from you. So you might want to do something about that.
Forager, Second Class
Today I had Yerba Mate tea. According to my friend Joe, it is a traditional tea that people drink in Argentina.
To drink Yerba Mate tea, you fill a cup with it, basically to the top. It looks a lot like catnip.
Then you add water. Because you now have what looks, in your cup, like soaked catnip, it is necessary to drink it with a straw that works as a sort of a strainer. This straw is called a bombilla.
I’m noticing that as I’m writing this, I’m writing in clipped sentences. It’s kind of giving this essay the feel of one of those things that I used to read in front of class when I was in The second grade. You know: “I drank tea. I drank tea from Argentina. I drank tea from Argentina that’a called Yerba Mate.” That sort of thing.
Anyway, I think I know the reason for the clipped sentences. I will get to that in a moment.
Once you’re done drinking the tea, you fill the cup up again, and pass it to someone else, for Yerba Mate is a social drink. You can basically get about fifteen cups of tea out of a single one of these cups that’s filled to the brim with these leaves.
Anyway, Joe and I each had a cup or two, and then Joe went into the living room to do some work. I liked the tea, so I had a few more cups of it.
After a while, I began to notice that my sentences were getting shorter. I also noticed that I was hammering away at the keys, as if I wanted to drive my fingers though the keyboard to the table.
So I looked up Yerba Mate, and found out that it’s a heavily caffeine infused tea, and that ancient Argentinians called it The Drink of the Gods.
The world is a shimmering, shimmering place now. I feel an intense desire to pace around the house, rub my hands together, and make plans. Big plans. About what, I don’t know. But they’re plans.
While making these plans, it just feels appropriate to start muttering “oh, yes, oh, yes, oh yes,” and to start cackling wildly. For they are big plans. Big, big plans. Huge plans.
I am chewing on my thumbnail. It is a good feeling.
There is a voice in my head, at the moment, saying “Yorba Mate, man…Yorba Mate. This stuff is great. Really great.”
Anyway, I have things to do, places to go. What exactly I’m going to do, I’m not exactly sure. Where, exactly, I’m going to go, I don’t know either.
But I will do these things, and go to these places.
When I go to these places and do these things, they will no doubt inspire me to go to other places, and do other things. I think that I shall rub my hands together furtively as I do this. Perhaps I shall say “oh yes,” as these things occur.
Whatever the case, I shall go places. And I shall do things.
And I shall make plans. Big plans. Oh, yes.
I read with interest your essay from the 3rd of April, 2018, “Dispatch From the Land of Blah.” Here, at last, was an essay that conveyed the true state of life’s condition most of the time. I found it refreshing to read sentiments that echoed my own perception of the way the world is so often.
I do take issue, however, with the general tone of the essay. Time and again, you depicted your so called “World of Blah” as a grim, depressing place. In this aspect, I must disagree.
There is a vast swath of satisfaction to be found not only in The World of Blah, but in its noble twin, The World of Meh. Nothing is more impressive than the ability to look at the world, and declare that it just isn’t that impressive. I’ve lived my life this way, and it’s been a reliably empowering and rewarding viewpoint to take just about all of the time.
It’s a brave person, when life’s judges are holding up signs that say “10,” to be the sole dissenting vote that holds up the sign with the number 1 on it. When other people say that it’s vital to stop and smell the roses, it is a brave person who says “I’m allergic to flowers.” When others talk about how life is a vast spectrum of joy and excitement, it is a brave person who has the fortitude to say “color me unimpressed.”
As you know, The Transcendentalists believed in rising above the everyday perceptions of life, and finding grace and peace in a mystical union with all things. Look, I guess that has its place, but I far prefer looking at someone with that beatific look, and saying “I’m just fine where I am, and you’re blocking my view of the bird I want to kill.” Cynicism is a virtue, and I intend to fly my gray flag of jaded indifference with pride.
It’s vital to remember that the Great Wall of China was basically a fence to keep the neighbors out. It’s important to remember that The Last Supper was basically a dinner party where the guest of honor was a serious buzzkill. And as for the Holy Grail…it was a cup; you can buy drinking glasses at Ikea, and save yourself a lot of time and money.
It’s amazing how much better life becomes when you learn to look at it through jaded eyes. Life loses its burnished luster, and instead maintains a dull sheen that teaches you the best kind of facial expressions to wear as you make your way through the world. When people say “turn that frown upside down,” you’re empowered to say “this is my smile. If I turn it upside down, I will be sharing an insincere viewpoint of life with the world, and will be a liar; I don’t like lying, and I’d like to know why you do.”
In conclusion, embrace your Blah. Let it be your armor. When people tell you drink deep from the chalice of life, don’t be afraid to say “no, thanks, I’ll just sit here and sip my coffee.”
Keep writing. It’s good. Not great, but good.
Empress, 31 Pratt Avenue
LETTER FROM SAMSON, GOODWILL AMBASSADOR, 31 PRATT AVENUE, TO MEGAN, FRIEND AND CONFIDENT RE: A PRODUCT I DON'T UNDERSTAND
First thing I want to ask: is it okay if I write “Dear Megan” instead of “Dear Miss?” I just find “Dear Miss” to be very stuffy. I like “Dear Megan” a lot better; hope that it’s okay.
Another thing I want to say is that I’m sorry that this letter to you has a whole lot of sheets of paper, and is written in crayon. I have big paws, and can’t write small letters. Those large crayons fit in my paws easier; hope that’s okay.
Anyway, I wanted to write to you because I’m curious about something.
The other day, when I was surfing the web, I read about this thing called Febreze.
A lot of people don’t know this, but Febreze is different from a lot of other things that people spray around if they don’t like the way something smells. Other things that you spray around sort of cover up the smell. Febreze doesn’t do that.
What I read (and yes, I do read…people tend to think that I don’t) is that Febreze contains a chemical called hydroxypropyl beta-cyclodextrin. This chemical actually latches onto the molecules that create the scent, and basically wipe it out.
In other words, that smell that Febreze has is sort of a bonus. The real thing about Fabreze is that it doesn’t cover up the smell. Instead, it eliminates it entirely.
So okay, that’s what Febreze does.
My question is this:
Why would anybody want to do that?
Maybe it’s because I’m a Basset, but I cannot imagine why anyone would want to create a world where there are fewer scents to check out. I know that people find some scents to be bad, but I honestly think that’s just because they don’t take the time to really appreciate them.
Okay, I admit that there are some scents that aren’t really very nice. When something dies, it doesn’t smell that good.
On the other hand, it’s still interesting.
Actually, even dead things smell kind of nice. To me, anyway. That's just the way it is.
What I’m saying is, to wipe out all those smells is sort of the same as going to a library and erasing all the pages because you don’t like some of the things that are in the books. I know that some of the books have things that may be hard to read, but even there, those things are usually interesting.
In that same way, if something doesn’t really seem that nice to look at, it’s not always a good idea to just say “well, I’ll just shut my eyes and never look at anything again.”
I admit that, being a Basset, my sense of smell is a lot better than yours, which probably means that I’m able to find things in certain scents that you don’t. Stuff that you find just awful is actually stuff where I find really interesting things in it. Because of it, I find it kind of disappointing when those smells just sort of vanish.
To tell you the truth, the whole thing kind of bugs me. I imagine huge clouds of Febreze drifting across the earth, getting rid of every smell in the planet. It’s kind of a scary thing for me to think about.
Anyway, I guess if people want to use Febreze, they can keep using it, because I’m not going to tell anyone what to do. I just wanted you to know that if Basset Hounds ruled the world, we’d probably outlaw Febreze. It just takes away too many good things.
31 Pratt Avenue
Alas, yesterday, my streak came to an end.
After almost four months, I did not post a piece of writing.
To be sure, I wasn’t spending the day lazing around. I had a lot of other writing to do, boring stuff for an official document that I’m working on. I spent a few hours on it, got it done, and was proud of myself.
\After that, Megan and I went to the The Bit Bar in Salem, and played some pinball. Our two favorite machines are Star Wars and Dialed In. Addams Family, alas, is absent, but they tell us it’s coming back soon.
We had chicken fingers and Tetris Tots, which are tater tots in the shape of the blocks from the legendary video game. It was great, as it always is.
We went shopping, went home, had dinner, and watched the miniseries “To Serve Them All My Days.”
I got tired. I realized that I hadn’t written. The notion of getting some sleep appealed to me far more than writing 500 words.
So I went to sleep, and for a day, my blog was silent.
Just as well, I thought to myself. Yes, it’s a noble goal I set for myself, this pact to put something up here every day, but there are times that it weighs me down like a millstone. Oh, no, I think to myself…must post something, must post something.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Avery told me that it was probably a good idea to take a break. I told her that my only problem with taking a break was that I didn’t want one day without posting to grow into two days, then three, then a week, and so on.
And now, sitting here, working on a post, I see that such fears were unfounded. It’s okay to rest every so often. The world does not come to an end if I take a break.
I tend to have a problem with moderation. If I decide, for example, that I’m drinking too much coffee, the solution is not to cut down to a cup a day. Instead, the solution is to stop drinking altogether. If I decide that I’m eating too many sweets or too much junk food, the solution is to eliminate them from my diet.
And so it is with writing. Either post something every day, or stop writing entirely. The notion of writing more or less every day and taking a break every so often is alien to me.
Yet this is the healthiest way to go through life. So often, the healthiest choices for most things lie not at either end of them, but somewhere in the middle. Finding a place that balances the two extremes of things is something that a person spends the rest of their life doing, and when they’re fortunate enough to find that fulcrum point where things balance out, they tend to be more content in that place than they could ever be at either end.
So yes, I didn’t post anything yesterday, but I posted something today, and will probably post something tomorrow. Or not. Either way, I’m still writing.
ESSAY-LETTER FROM HOLLY, MINISTER OF AESTHETICS AND PULCHRITUDE, 10 BERRY STREET, #1113, TO HER LOYAL VALET
Occasionally, in my travels, I come across a piece of correspondence from a colleague (a friend, in this case) so wise and precent that I seek to share it with you all. Such is the case here.
Apartment 29 D1
You have spent a great deal of time recently asking about the meaning of life. No doubt this is due to your study of philosophy at the present. Indeed, life’s mysteries and meaning are a constant source of thought and contemplation.
You asked me about this recently, and though I wish not to surprise you—catch you unawares, as it may be—I nonetheless confess to having little problem answering this question. Perhaps, as is often the case of my kind, answers to life’s riddles are often right there in front of us.
Having said that, I offer three words that have been, for me, a guiding principle that gives my life meaning to the point at which I deem it the meaning of life itself:
Strike the pose.
Life, my darling, is too short to fade into the background. It is necessary, instead, to be in front of life, and do so with style and grace. Every person has a mental camera, and when they take a mental picture, it must be a keeper.
Striking the pose is not simply an ethos that applies to the visual aspects of one’s being. It is necessary, always, to look one’s best in the very personality they embrace. To strike the pose is to put one’s self before the world, and proudly proclaim “this is who I am; and if it is not to your liking, the problem, it would seem, is with the observer, and not the observed.”
To strike the pose is to cherish yourself, and present your being as a gift to the world. Perhaps, for those who choose to present an aesthetic as unique as the one you embody, this is not always to their liking. No matter; to those who appreciate you—those who “get you,” as I believe they say in the current vernacular—striking the pose means being yourself, and therefore presenting yourself as the gift that those worthwhile eagerly seek to appreciate.
Again, there is no doubt that along life’s travels, you will find those who do not appreciate the pose that you strike. This can often have the insidious effect of making a person doubt their own pose, and believe that the pose that they strike must conform to the dictates of the person who seeks to impose their own aesthetic standard on you. When such people impose such a standard and deem you worthy only if you conform to such a standard, it is a good sign that the fault lies not in your being, but in their blindness.
I fully appreciate the fact that there are many more complicated philosophies that pursue life’s mysteries to far greater depths. In no way do I seek to criticize such a belief. At the same time, however, I do offer the observation that often, the grace of simplicity is an overlooked source of aesthetic beauty.
So it is, in my humble opinion, with my ethos. It is simple, and even if, as Albert Camus says, life has no meaning, there is meaning in the three words that have been, for my life, a beacon, a trail mark of principle that has guided my life, making it fulfilling and rewarding. In short, I am who I am, and what I am is fabulous; the same applies to you, and your friends.
In conclusion, there is a world out there. I know that the world is a better place for my being in it, and I eagerly encourage you and and your friends to remember that as well. And when you make your way in the world, always remember to put your best self forward, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Strike the pose.
Minister of Aesthetics and Pulchritude
10 Berry Street, #1113
I must, at this point, discuss the difference between your perception of certain things, and mine.
I speak, specifically, of what you call The Scansnap ix 500.
I am well aware of how you see what has been, for you, a valuable accessory. Often, I have heard you speak of how you are able to scan bills, large packets of information, receipts, and just about everything else, and how you have then converted these files into dated PDFs. I have also heard you discuss how, for the first time, you are able to keep all of your papers organized, and how during key periods, such as the preparation of your taxes, it has saved you a great deal of time and stress.
For these things, I am glad. As my trusty valet, I look to you to handle the assorted tasks that go into the general affairs of the empire. Every dominion has its day to day operations, and I am glad that this device allows you to attend to these tasks with the aplomb that I have come to expect from you.
With that said, however, I must share with you my perception of said device, which may explain my somewhat enthusiastic collation of the papers therein:
Sir: I love this thing.
It is awesome.
When I see papers leave it, I am suddenly, quite wonderfully, several epochs in the past. I am a mighty jungle cat, and the papers that spew out of the Scansnap ix 500 are my prey.
They do not stand a chance against me, for I am no longer Hugo, Emperor of Apartment 29 D1. Instead, I am Shalma, Jungle King and Ruler of All He Surveys. The papers stand no chance against me, for I am their mighty hunter.
This device mesmerizes me. When you are using it, time slows, and the moments stretch out, locking me in the primal moment of the predator’s sacred Moment of Truth. I sight the papers, I stalk the papers, and I slay the papers; never, at any other time in my existence, does life have such vivid clarity.
I do offer my sincere apologies for the fact that there also seems to be a difference in the way that we react to these successful hunts. For me, the proper thing to say after such a successful hunt is “ah, yes, once again the mighty hunter has established himself at the top of the food chain.” For you, I believe the reaction is something like “aw, man…I have to fill out my W4 form again.”
For these moments of inconvenience, I offer my deepest regrets. At the same time, sir, and here, I hope that this offers some comfort: I give you my deepest thanks. With the Scansnap ix 500, you have rekindled my contact with my sacred, neolithic spirit.
With that said, sir, should any of these papers prove a nuisance to you, fear not. All you need do is feed them into the Scansnap ix500, and I shall make sure that they feel the full force of my hunter’s heart. Simply leave these unwelcome intruders to me, and I shall make sure that they never bother you again.
I am Spartacus.
With the utmost potency, I remain
Apartment 29 D1
I wish to comment on a concern that you have expressed to your significant other. Specifically, you discussed a life goal, and I wish to provide you assistance so as to cross said item off of your emotional To Do list, and turn to other matters, other ambitions.
I tend to have eidetic recall in matters of speech, so, if you will indulge me, I shall restate your words to the best of my recollection, and then offer what I hope shall be helpful comments.
“I’m just so tired of regretting the past,” I believe you said. “I spend so much of my time thinking about things I did that I wish I didn’t, and even worse, things I didn’t that I wish I did.”
Your significant other listened attentively. She is a patient woman.
“What I just want to do is stop doing that,” you said, in what could have been said in fewer words (in the future, may I suggest “I just want to stop”). “There are so many things right here, right now in the present, and I just want to put my regrets behind me, and embrace all of those things that are there, right in front of me.”
Here, sir, I believe you have set a noble goal, one with which I heartily agree. What particularly piqued my interest, though, is what you said next:
“My problem is that I’m totally up for embracing the present, and embracing the opportunities that are there, but I just don’t seem to be able to see them.”
It here that we come to the issue at hand. You state, correctly, that the opportunity for happiness is right in front of you. You also state that if you just opened your eyes, you would see that all you need do is reach out, and it is there for you to embrace.
To this, I offer the following suggestion:
Open your eyes.
Look straight ahead.
Here I am.
Let me be this moment, sir. When you sit at your desk, remember me, sitting there, in the diamond formed by your arms as you position them to transcribe my memoirs, and philosophical musings. Stop occasionally to note the weight of my head upon your wrist, which makes a superb pillow; it is me, sir, and I am here, right now, at this very moment.
Remember this about the past: I was not in your life, and you were not in mine. And sir, I say without hesitation: how much poorer that life was without you, my trusty valet, at my side. With you, my life is not just happier…it is complete.
With that said, sir, if I may be so bold: is your life not far richer with my presence? Have you not said, on numerous occasions “Hugo, buddy…you’ve always been there for me?” Have you also not asked “Hugo…who’s the guy”? And have you not answered “You, Hugo…you’re the guy. I mean, you’re just…the guy. It’s that simple”?
To sum up sir: we are the present, and the present is us. In the present, we stand side by side, and whatever challenges we face, we meet them. And whatever joy comes our way—and it does, and more will—we share it.
This is the moment, sir. Embrace it.
For that matter, embrace me. Right now.
I’m not ashamed to admit it, I really like it when you sort of envelop me in your arms. It’s like being surrounded by 360 degrees of Derek.
Now scratch my neck. Right there, under my chin.
Perfect. Zen. I am the moment, and the moment is I.
From this moment of perfection, I remain:
Apartment 29 D1
On Thursday, it will be four weeks since I’ve had a cigarette. I wear my 14 milligram nicotine patch, having stepped down from the 21 milligram patches. In about a week, I will step down to 7 milligram patches, and then, two weeks after that, will be nicotine free.
I miss cigarettes. I will continue to miss them.
Of course there are many things that I don’t miss. I don’t miss the constant dry throat, and the smell of smoke in my apartment. I don’t miss the absolutely horrible way I felt in the morning when I woke up.
I also don’t miss the way that smoking seemed to suck the energy out of me, so that long stretches of time consisted of sitting around smoking cigarettes. I don’t miss the constant, troublesome awareness that I was doing something truly horrible to myself, and that I needed to stop.
So I stopped. And when I stop something, I stop.
I miss it.
I miss those first two or three cigarettes in the morning. A morning cup of coffee and a morning cigarette…bliss. Smokers will speak fondly of those morning cigarettes, even as they contemplate how each drag is taking them one step closer to cancer or emphysema.
I miss those occasional breaks during the day to have a smoke. There are just times during the day where stepping outside to have a smoke is a beautiful thing. It just is.
I miss those cigarettes that I would have when I ate out. I’d get up, and have a smoke, and then I’d come back, and my appetizer would be waiting for me. I’d eat my appetizer, get up again, have another smoke, and when I returned, my meal would be waiting for me. I liked that.
I miss those times when I would smoke a cigarette with someone. There is something about the way that people bond over cigarettes that I can’t exactly describe, but it’s a bond like no other. Yes, people can have coffee together, but smoking together forges a certain bond that coffee simply doesn’t.
I miss having people bum smokes from me, and the look on their faces when I would give them two or three, and say “what goes around, comes around.” Cigarettes are, after all, expensive now, and giving someone two or three cigarettes (sometimes I’d even give four) is the equivalent of giving someone a buck or two. It just always gave me a feeling that was giving something to the karma bank, even if it could be argued that what I was giving someone was cancer and emphysema.
I remember last 4th of July, when I was with Megan, and an African American woman came up to us and asked her for a cigarette.
“Wait a minute,” I said, taking out my box of Newport 100s as Megan took out her box of Camel Platinums, “just to give you a choice, I smoke menthols, if you want one.”
I still remember the smile on the woman’s face, because African American folks tend to smoke menthols (and white people tend not to). It was just such a nice look of happy surprise.
“I owe you one,” she said.
“Here,” I said, “take two.”
“You’re kidding,” she said.
“Hey, what goes around, comes around,” I said. “Pay it forward. Happy 4th.”
I will miss those times that I would go for walks, sit on a bench, and just smoke a cigarette. I still sit on benches and think, of course, but there was something about just sitting there, cigarette in hand, thinking about nothing in particular. It was a great kind of nothing, and I when I sit on benches, I will always remember it fondly.
I don’t remember who said this, but there’s a quote that goes something like this: there are few achievements less satisfying than resisting a vice. It is just so true.
I don’t smoke. I am saving $300 a month. I am doing good things for my health.
I miss it still.