Archive for January, 2010

Friday Night Mental Chex Mix

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 30, 2010 by tom
  • I have been writing these Mental Chex Mix posts for a couple years now, and I was shocked–shocked, I tell you–when chatting with a friend who had never heard of Chex Mix.
  • Chex Mix was invented on the Eighth Day, when God wanted an interesting snack with which to enjoy Monday Night Football.  Chex Mix is native to the San Dorito Islands, where it grows on giant trees.  Thriice annually, during the World Series, NFL playoffs, and March Madness, the trees shed pods filled with the crunchy, salty snack mixture. 
  • I think God would be pretty impressed with Wheat Thins and Triscuits, although whoever invented Funyons is most definitely going to the hot place.
  • Snackfoodally speaking, I'm sure Combos were invented by a really stoned MIT engineering student.
  • As God also invented marijuana, I'm sure He gives Combos the Big Thumbs-Up.
  • Allegedly brilliant as I claim to be, I have issues with capitalization.  I tend to overcompensate when it comes to writing about spiritual matters.  I guess some twisted synapse is convinced that bad things would happen were I not to capitalize "Big Thumbs-Up."
  • And Holy Crap, would that suck! (rimshot)
  • Congrats Emma, and welcome to the planet young master Corban!
  • April, who sits over there <————-  just gave me the look of death after I made a horrible joke.
  • She'd been talking about watching 24, and she said that after four seasons, you'd think Jack Bauer would realize there's always a mole. I told her it would be awesome if the mole were a dermatologist. 
  • "You see? Then he could have himself removed." "I GET IT!" (rueful head-shaking)
  • I'm pleased to note that all the technology and scientific expertise that enabled the Apollo missions has now been transfered to a suitable cause: RockStar ZERO CARB Energy Drink!
  • In this 24 oz can is the "Biggest, Fastest, Strongest" beverage known to mankind, "To keep those with active lifestyles lean and fully charged."

  • While drinking it, I fully expected some representative of the RockStar Energy Beverage Company to walk over and slap the can from my hand.  "YOU DON'T LEAD AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE, AND THE ONLY `LEAN' IN YOUR LIFE IS WHEN YOU LEAN AGAINST THE WALL BECAUSE YOU'RE TOO FAT AND LAZY TO STAND UPRIGHT!"
  • You just know those people would speak all in caps, too.
  • There's a full moon tonight, and with a beautiful halo around it. 
  • I saw Pink Floyd back in the 20th Century, and somehow they arranged for a full moon garnished with a halo.  They always had amazing lightshows, but damn.
  • I wonder what Pink Floyd would have sounded like with less acid, and more RockStar Energy Beverages. 
  • I work with a guy named Frank.  Frank and I had never really talked much until he began playing all sorts of Facebook games.  He added me, then he sent me a note that his wife was adding me. 
  • I've never met Frank's wife.  I'm sure she's a wonderful human being.
  • Nonetheless, I took great comedic pleasure in telling Frank, "Hey, Frank! Your wife gave me crabs last night!"
  • He laughed, bless him, and knew what I meant.
  • My mischief partner, Jenn, has had to be catheterized for the past month or so, following a surgical mishap.  She requested that I bring her two Diet Cokes from the break room one night, and I shot back, "Would you like to drink those, or shall I just pour them directly into your bag?"
  • She laughed, bless her, and knew what I meant.
  • I'm lucky people get when I'm joking, or I'd have been beaten to death decades ago.
  • Last night, I was a little pensive after reading about J.D. Salinger's death, and I drove to "the place with the stuff," aka "The Rally Station."  I brooded over there, bought lots of beverages, and was on the way back when the radio played "Hard to Handle," by Black Crows.  I guess the point is, sometimes, there's nothing better to yank me from the depths of melancholia than a really good rock song. 
  • At least when it's loud and I know the words.
  • Have a great weekend!

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For J.D. Salinger, with thanks and squalor

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 29, 2010 by tom

J.D. Salinger was something of a loon, but he's the kind of loon I'd be, given the chance.  Since Salinger died, all of the tributes and obituaries ramble on ad nauseam about "Catcher in the Rye," much the same as every rock band who puts out a masterpiece is said to have produced their "Sergeant Pepper's." 

This is an apt comparison, inasmuch as I think both Catcher and Sgt Pepper's are overrated compared to their creators' other works.  

I was going to write about how Salinger's greatest literary triumph was the Glass family, most specifically in "Franny and Zooey." Sadly, Jesse Kornbluth already did so quite eloquently here, in the Huffington Post

Like every zit-spotted, inexplicably world-weary teen with an IQ above 80, I read "Catcher in the Rye" when I was in school.  I bought it after Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon in 1980, since it must have been horribly controversial and powerful to elicit such a reaction.

I didn't get it.  I mean, sure: I understood the book, and I identified to some extent with Holden Caulfield, but no mountains moved, and I certainly wasn't compelled to bludgeon Ringo Starr with an andiron.  Holden seemed kinda whiny to me. 

Franny and Zooey struck a chord with me, though. Maybe it was the spiritual quest Franny was on, trying to find her way to God through the Jesus Prayer and the Pilgrim books.  Perhaps it was Zooey, who was outwardly arrogant, but secretly scared and insecure.  Maybe it was being a member of a family that was once close, but had suffered an unfortunate parting of the ways.

Many years ago, I was lost.  My soul and spirit were essentially dead; I was outwardly arrogant, but inwardly cowering, and I felt wholly alone.  I was drinking myself into oblivion, too, but even that stopped working.  I tried everything to find that one magic spiritual bullet, a golden ticket, as it were, to get some sort of peace.  One thing I did was read Franny and Zooey over and over.  I even ordered the Pilgrim book and read it. 

I didn't do well with the unceasing prayer thing, and if the Jesus Prayer writers were depending on royalties from me, their kids would never get braces.  I tried rosaries, reading the Catechism and other books about spirituality and religion, and Lord only knows what else.  Nothing worked.  

I couldn't find any Golden Ticket, any surefire way to access God's Peace and find meaning in my life.  During one week off from work, I devoted myself to distilling (ironic verb choice) everything I'd read and learned into one theology that worked.  I spent each night drinking Smirnoff CItrus Twist vodka and Crystal Light pineapple-orange Slurpees from my neighborhood 7-Eleven.  I found an idea that worked for me.

That image is this. God/The Universe/Whatever is like a radio tower atop a lonely mountain.  Different religions are camped around the mountain's base.  They can't see each other, but they are all looking at the same tower. Each theology has different paths up the mountain–some with saints, others with multiple gods, some with talking lizards, for all I know–and yet the goal of each person is to achieve the clearest signal from the tower.  Some people head away from the mountain, or turn their radios off.  The signal goes out anyway, whether or not we choose to listen.  Those who work at it, adjusting their radios, will hear the signal more clearly than those who don't. 

Anyway, that was my great, unifying vodkalogical concept.

The next summer, I went to rehab, and found that once I dumped the liter per night liquor consumption and treated my depression, I didn't worry so much about that Golden Ticket.  God is God, and I'm not.  No matter what we believe, we're probably wrong. 

But when I needed it, Franny and Zooey was there.  The idea that bright, educated people like these–like me–could be complete messes reassured me.  Holden Caulfield was kind of a nit.  I didn't hate him or anything, but I felt like I belonged in the Glass family.  I'd be right there, between Buddy and Seymour, protecting Franny from Zooey's taunts and teasings, and shining my shoes for the fat lady.

R.I.P., J.D.S. 

With thanks (and love and squalor).


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January 2010 can kiss my shivering ass

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2010 by tom

So far, 2010 sucks. I hurt my back shortly after Christmas, and reinjured it New Year's Eve. Ouch. I've had worse pain–nasty post-surgical wound pain that was so bad it shot out my head–but this has just been a constant, niggling annoyance.

In my constant effort to find the bright side of life, even when it sucks, I offer this little bit of optimism:

Watching the new Star Trek movie whilst on major back pills? Jean-Claude Fan-Damn-tastic! Seriously, my squashy-comfy partner in work-based mischief, Jenn, gave me a couple different medications to ease my pain. She gave me the caveat, "Don't drive." I didn't. I sprawled out on my bed, popped in the Star Trek dvd, and felt 1000% better. Don't know what these pills were–don't want to know. They were pretty, though, and the movie was great, full of action and comedy. The original Mr Spock was in it, Scotty was played by the ever-hilarious Simon Pegg, and I think there was a Muppet, although I'm not really sure.

Further adding to 2010's suckiness is the cold. Nasty cold. It freaking snowed here Friday night. I live in Florida. One of the tradeoffs for our six month-long sweltering, festering summers is that our winters are reasonably temperate. Our average January day goes from 50 F for a low to 70 F for a high. Sure, we get, ahem, "cold snaps," where we'll plummet down to the low 40's a few times, but nothing like this. The last week has been the coldest week here since…EVER. Ice on my truck, ffs. Yuck. See for yourself.

Lake Tom last Memorial Day:


And Lake Tom today, 11th January, 2010:


Still, it's great weather for sleeping, even moreso if you have two cats snorgling with you.

Punkin has been sick, too, with a nasty cold. One night, she needed Vick's Vap-O-Rub. I took it to her, and it was freezing in her house. She's kinda mental sometimes and she had her window open (as do I, also being mental). So we're sitting there, watching some Discovery Channel docudrama about three mountain climbers who were stranded on Mount McKinley. That made it feel all the colder, although we kept warm. During a commercial break, she switched over to the Disney Channel, and some movie about female cadets at a military academy. I told her it would be awesome if the mean commanderess cadet were to start making out with the younger cadet. Punkin womped me with a pillow.

It was a good whomp, though.

Thanks to everyone who left comments about Eliza's Garden, both on Vox and through e-mail or IM chats. Sara appreciates the comments, as do I.

This season has been a bad one for many of my friends, not just Puddin' and Sara. My friend S lost her mother suddenly a few months ago, and is left having to hold her family together through her still-acute grief. Another friend lost her brother a year ago, and it stings just as badly for her today as it did then.

2008 was my year for losing people close to me. 2009 was okay for me, but I had several friends who suffered horrendous losses.

The first time death really touched me was when I was 17. My mother's father died suddenly, and I was in the same position as S, trying to hold people together. I was stoic. I put on George Thorogood's "The Sky is Crying," and packed my copy of Camus' "The Stranger." It was my way of coping, I ended up driving all night, and watching my parents cry.

Death hasn't gotten any easier to handle as I've lost various friends. I can't imagine the horror of losing my mother or my brother, and my heart breaks for those friends. And for Sara and Puddin'.

I'm in my annual January fit of melancholia. I'm sorry I'm not writing more. I'll survive the depression; my back will heal, and spring will come. These things will happen. All I can do is cope with the bad as best I can, and treasure warp factor 8 back meds and being pillow-whomped by my menthol-scented Punkin.

And be grateful that I have 10 fingers, 10 toes, one belly button, and a steady pulse. Happy Monday, and thanks for your support.

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Eliza’s Garden

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 2, 2010 by tom

As I wrote before, 17 year-old Eliza died Christmas night.  I wrote a thing about it, and thanks to everyone who left comments, said prayers for her family, or thought good thoughts.  I'm sad for Sara and Bubba, Eliza's parents.  As a good friend pointed out during a chat, "I can't imagine their loss, not only of their daughter, but when you've been battling something that long, what do you do when it ends?"
Turns out, what Sara and Bubba are doing is celebrating Eliza's incredible life, not lamenting how short it was.
In that spirit, my tribute to her is two-fold.
First, I ask that you do this.  Next time you're depressed or world-weary, when life's abrasive beatings become overwhelming, drink a root beer. 
Eliza loved root beer.  I was trapped in the hospital for five weeks two years ago, and I had it relatively good.  I could eat and drink and talk and sleep.  I had pain, of course, but I wasn't fighting for breath.  Friends brought me my favorite beverages by the 12-pack–Diet Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Diet Sunkist Orange Soda–and I was able to drink them like crazy.  Even better, I had a Foley catheter, so I didn't spend all day running to the bathroom.
Root beer was Eliza's champagne, but she couldn't drink it much of the time, due to one problem or another.  As bad as things were for her, she remained positive and vibrant, and when she WAS able to drink root beer, it was all the more special, an effervescent celebration with foamy mustaches all around.  So when you get the blues, enjoy a root beer, maybe toast the memory of someone more positive in her sicknesses than I usually am in my oft taken-for-granted health. (recipe idea: J√§germeister and Diet Coke tastes a lot like root beer, if you need yours with a little kick)
The second thing is that I planted a memorial garden on Farm Town.  Yeah, I'm a dork, but I like my Farm Town farm.  I took down my mountain, and set up Eliza's tribute garden, putting careful thought into each element. 
First of all, I put in an orange tree, for Eliza was a Floridian.  Moreover, Eliza was a Tallahasseean.  As Sara wrote, "She LOVED it here! She loved everything about Tallahassee."  In spring, Tallahassee veritably explodes with dogwoods and azaleas blossoming everywhere.  Thus, I planted dogwoods and azaleas to celebrate the beauty that surrounds us, the beauty Eliza appreciated so much.
I put in cherry blossom trees.  They say Washington, DC, is like heaven when the cherry trees blossom, so it seems apropos. 
My Eliza celebration garden also has a pine tree covered in Christmas lights.  Tallahassee has lots of pines.  One of my favorite spots during college was in the middle of the Appalachicola National Forest, a small clearing surrounded by slash pines.  I loved the sound the wind made through those trees, even when I went home all sneezy and yellow with pollen.  I picked a pine tree covered with lights as a sign of celebration amidst mundanity.  Pine trees aren't as interesting or beautiful as maples or oaks–they look the same in winter as in summer, like giant poles with green needles.  This pine is covered with Christmas lights, representing the celebration Eliza managed to find even in her hospital room's stark bleakness.  Sara writes that Eliza never met a Pixar film she didn't like.  That says a bunch.
Flower-wise, I spelled out Eliza's name in blue hyacinths.  In the Victorian language of flowers, the Hyacinth stands for play, and the blue Hyacinth for sincerity.  In addition, they're just pretty, even in Farm Town.   Around the letters, I planted daffodils.  Eliza had a sharp mind and vivid imagination, and used these tools to  find a happy refuge amidst some horrible situations.  I used daffodils to reference the Wordsworth poem, the last two lines: "And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils." It's an idyllic image, but I can imagine Eliza dancing through a heavenly daffodil field.
There are other flowers, too, many of which I chose for their beauty; others because they were given to me by friends.  Friends and family were a huge part of her life, and everybody who knew Eliza loved her.  So thanks LauriMoo, Drude, Debra Jo Bob and everyone else who has given me trees and flowers.  If you're on Farm Town, and you'd like to add a flower, gift one to me.   I'll put it there.  Hey, if I have to make a whole new farm to fit them all, I'll do it. 
There's also a bench next to a small pond.  Stop by.  Sit awhile and reflect.  Behind the bench, there's a cart with five huge barrels of root beer.  Help yourself, count your blessings, smile, and enjoy your 2010.  Celebrate Eliza, and celebrate your life.
(The hyacinths and daffodils haven't bloomed yet, but they will!)

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