Thursday, May 5, 2011

Somewhere Over the New Jersey and Writing Good...

I thought it was clever, and probably a good move that they did not use that song in Wizard of Oz, but perhaps Newark was a different place then, and not as dingy cramped as it is today – I just spent three days and two nights in the Hilton Newark Penn Station staring at a giant inflatable rat that proclaimed I would carry home a suitcase full of bedbugs and have massive issues from my visit there. Alas, to this point, I have yet to break out in rashes and hives, and considering the surroundings, the Hilton was a Mecca compared to the rest of the city. I am not quite sure why Newark was chosen – perhaps because it is an easy airport with quick access and close to the big city, perhaps it was convenient, I just don’t know. I like to think it was because of the homeless folks that trolled the walkway between the train station and the hotel looking for a random Midwesterner to pickpocket. Lesson to be learned all around…funny, I have never been infested with bed bugs, never been pick pocketed, and to this point, have been close to homeless, but not quite there. Close is a relative term – I did get evicted from the trailer park in college, and did have to live with the owner of the bar on a couch, or hiding out in my girlfriends room lest her roommates see me (that girlfriend eventually became my wife, then my ex-wife, and just like our relationship started, I ended up hiding out and sleeping on her couch again…) Full circle. The next 1,612 words are so are about nothing in particular – so, if pressed for time, feel free to read the first and last sentence of each paragraph, there will not be a test, and remember, none of us are getting paid for this.

That’s not where I started this piece, but if felt good to get at least that point of reference out there, right now I am buzzing along at 500 miles per hour somewhere close to one of the great lakes – I can see the shoreline out the window, and am on my way to Seattle, via Minneapolis. The flight attendant on this flight is one of those all too attractive flight attendants – she has been quick with a smile, and even laughed at my half hearted attempt at travel humor (something about the snack pack with the non-perishable meat and the vegetable oil spread that she probably has heard innumerable times from innumerable middle aged fat guys like myself) and went about her business tending to the rest of us folks looking to go somewhere fast. It is not often that I actually talk on these flights. I, like most of us business people who jet from there to here, tend to keep to myself. Occasionally, I do get one person who wants to discuss their most recent groin surgery, and why they really should be more careful about not getting a window seat, or their drug addicted relative who just needed an intervention and how they saved them from sure fire death by flying to where ever from some small town in Texas to bring multiple week long doses of biblical wisdom and hugs. Most days though, we are all quiet. It is not a social club – flying that is, it is a get out of town club for those of us that do it a lot – we are done being social by the time we get through the x-ray machine. Its nothing personal, it just is. I think I used to be more social, and certainly after a five hour flight to Seattle, nine drinks, and a chicken or pasta meal served lukewarm, I am a little more social – but for the most part, I just keep my mouth shut, and hope the snack pack does not make me too gassy…

Describing beautiful women is not something that I am well versed at. I know in my stomach when I see someone who is physically beautiful, I know when I speak to someone who is engaging, creative, smart, and mentally attractive. I just don’t get much practice sitting down and talking or writing about their hair and eyes and figure and the way they speak and those sorts of things. It is a weakness, and a point of embarrassment for me to sit down and describe the exact color of brown that her eyes are, or the way her cheeks flush when she smiles or laughs, or the way she arches her back when she stretches in the morning. Some people are really good at comparing eyes to an obscure body of water or some geological formation or one of those colors in the Crayola box that I melted on the radiator right away because Brick or Burnt Sienna didn’t mean shit to me. Spun silk and flax and all kinds of exotic fibers just rush right by me when describing hair and I would never think to liken the stretching to a cat sunning itself in the window. I mean those folks who are able to describe in detail down to the creases in her lips and the jaw line – they are good folks. They practice. I am the impressionistic writer. I say general things – and hope you can paint the rest of the damn picture. If not, stand back, you are looking too close and can only see the dots. I see beautiful (physically beautiful) women everyday. Some of them ruin it by talking, but most of them, I never get close to. That’s the way I like it. I am lucky enough to be close to a woman who is, to me, beyond beautiful – see, that’s not a very good explanation – actually, the first thought that came to my mind is that she is beautiful like clean laundry – you know, the smell of the dryer that fills the house, the warm towel, the soft dry sheets – and hell, now I have everyone thinking that I have some sort of odd washcloth fetish, and randomly apologizing to my girlfriend. But that’s what I think about when I think of describing someone – particularly someone who affects me in that way – I don’t think of the actual physical attribute – but the way it makes me feel – for instance, if I were to tell you that when she looks at me, I feel like I do when I take the first sip of a good glass of Cabernet – the sweet warm feeling in my throat, the comforting slow relaxation, easing shoulders – I think you could fill in the blanks about what you thought she looked like. If I said to you that when we argue, I am confused, sort of like when you turn around and your child is not where they are supposed to be, or you cannot find your wallet, you know that 99% of the time there is going to be a solution, but what if there was no solution this time – I think you could sense what that feeling is like. If I described her walk to you as strong, proud, and graceful as a field of poppies blowing in the wind – you could paint the rest of the picture – if I actually tried to tell you how she walked – holy shit, even she would be insulted by the attempt.

I sent my blog link off to a group called Aspiring Authors on Facebook. It looked like I was the first blog to post there, seeking some guidance, advice, maybe connect with one or two folks who were in the same boat I was in – middle aged, balding, and hopelessly putting words on the paper – I think I got one of the three right – but at least, and thankfully, I did get some guidance on something that I have never been a real stickler for – the grammar and proofing and spelling and you know – the stuff that makes writing work – and I certainly appreciate it. I did come to a conclusion about that stuff – I have the utmost respect for the people who can sit down and see instantly what should be crafted to make things sensible and clear. I don’t do that. In fact, I cannot do that. Somewhere, in my neural network, the wires are crossed between make things right, and make things. In fact, I probably would have a hell of a lot more children – they would just be unruly, undisciplined children, given the opportunity to procreate more than I already have. I am good at making things. I never have been good at making things right. My model aircraft carrier was the only one with a ships propeller on the helicopter and the helicopter propeller moving the ship. See, in my mind, the bigger the propeller, the faster the ship. My Lincoln log houses never had four walls. I always ran out of the right pieces, and besides, three really really big walls are significantly better than four strong walls to keep the imaginary bad guys at bay. My math problems always had an answer – just typically the wrong answer. I was smart enough to get it close enough to partial credit my way through college calculus, geometry, high school math, and I am pretty sure that I still have not memorized the 11’s and 12’s on the multiplication table from third grade.

Let me make this clear – writing is not easy. Writing well and using all of the correct things and stuff – well that’s just plain tough. Those folks at Aspiring Authors (they were complimentary, and it made me feel good) had to have been reaching for their air sick bags when they got a hold to my artistic endeavors. For this, I thank them. I have rarely, if ever, been read by a large audience, let alone a large educated audience. I certainly have never been complimented by anyone in New York City, except for when I held the door for some lady who packed eleven bags for her weekend trip to Times Square. Most of all, I have never had anyone actually take the time to read more than one blog entry, and not only comment, but edit in a non-obtrusive way without changing the feeling of the piece – that’s what my crack head friends call “really good shit” – and not to downplay their help with a crude joke, I certainly appreciate it. I would recommend anyone to join the group – who knows, the great author may be hiding out in cyberspace.

That’s my thanks. I think that is enough thanks, but hell, I am not sure anymore about what is enough gratitude and what crosses the line of patronizing babble infused with sweetened bullshit nuggets. (I like that new phrase and am officially claiming “sweetened bullshit nuggets” as my own platitude and way of describing things that may or may not have a direct correlation to things that someone may or may not mention in the near future – to my knowledge sweetened bullshit nuggets is now officially my intellectual property – and to hell with the next person who steals such a wonderful catch phrase. I want to now be addressed and known as the guy who coined the phrase “I just served up a bowl of sweetened bullshit nuggets, and still got the job “ – I can see the SNL parody commercial now, maybe I should go ahead and hire an attorney).
I threw in the title of the piece just for them – my sense of humor tempering my gratitude – hell, I know it’s supposed to be good writing and writing well, but then again, I should get at least partial credit for trying…

Until next time,
New Jer

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Worthwhile Things....and not so worthwhile things...

That's a worthwhile pursuit above - don't forget to share this link - the readership is actually starting to pick up, hell, before you know it, I may get an offer from an obscure midwest town to do their obituaries twice a month - so keep sharing, and as always, thanks for reading!

Okay, so enough heavy stuff about athiests and all - just had to get that off of my chest. I am not in the business of offending people, or being offended, I prefer to want my pieces, and let you have your pieces, and sometimes we can put all of those pieces together. None the less, I have been bothered by worthwhile things lately - what really is a worthwhile thing - I have been reading too much about philosophers, and was really disturbed to the point of actually obsessing on the definition of worthwhile - if anyone has a definition of what worthwhile is, share it in a concrete sentence - if not, then you are like me, and probably like many other folks, who begin to itemize what really is worthwhile in their day to day routine -

My lifetime has been filled with what I believe are worthwhile things - and I guess to some degree that is all that really matters - I don't see much of an issue simplifying that to a few core items -

1. The kids - they are worthwhile. Where else can I get to tell them why I believe they should or should not do something - and not have to tell them that I tried it both ways, and found the right way is usually the path of least resistance.

2. The relationship - it is worthwhile. It is hard work to stay on the same page - or to get back to the same page - but waking up next to someone you love, or just holding hands is worthwhile.

3. The job - it is worthwhile. Simply put, you have to eat. You might as well do something that you love, or at least something that you are good at, and seek a means to an end. It pays the bills - so there you have it.

Okay - so now I have listed my worthwhile things. Okay, so there are many others, but those represent the core for me - now for what I continually do that I think is probably ot so worthwhile -

George's Top Ten of Less than Worthwhile Pursuits -

1. Hair. Yup, as you guessed, I want to have hair. Not the kind that seems like it wants to grow as you near forty, and only sprouts on your back, your nose, and your ears. I want hair on the top of my head. Truth be known, if the generic rogaine from Costco stops working, then I am heading straight to that place that will make my head look like a newly sown yard. Plug my head full of hair until it looks like a freshly planted cornfield. Then send me a bill.

2. Collections. Every week when I clean my house, I clean around the 30,000 or so baseball cards and memorabilia items that I have. Sure, I have no earthly idea why I collect these things. I have no idea why I don't ebay the whole lot of them, and make space for a dining room table. I just know that I have stack and stacks of sorted, unsorted, opened, unopened, shiny, glossy baseball cards sitting downstairs. Perhaps it is me capturing my lost youth, but it is probably more realistic to think that I am just a little OCD, and baseball cards fit the bill.

3. Romanticism. I like to be romantic. Those of you who know me, probably think this is the wierdest damn thing that has ever come out of my mouth, but I at least like to try. Sure, I am probably going to fart in bed as soon as we get home from the super nice dinner, and I am probably going to throw in the F-bomb in traffic, but I still like to try to be a little romantic from time to time.

4. Reading. I have not gotten any smarter since the eighth grade - but I can assure you that I have read a shitpot of books. My credit card bills can attest to that, and I could neatly summarize all of them into one sentence - "I cannot remember for the life of me what the fucking conclusion was". Still, I like to read, at the time, it seems important to study how cheap calories are in the United States because of processed food, or the history of how the United States took advantage of the folks in territorial islands, but now, if you were to ask me what I thought about it, I would refer back to the sentence above.

5. Saving money. This would be worthwhile if I had any to save, but given that I now officially take home less money than I was taking home five years ago (long story, but taxes are a bitch, and a piece of advice - you can always give more child support - but never agree to give more - just follow the state guidelines, that way you can afford little things, like toothpaste), but saving seems to be futile in its own right. There are too many other things to do, and I figure that by the time I retire, Social Security will be fixed, and only 28% of the population (down from 42%) will be paying taxes.

6. Scheduling. I schedule my time to the nearest minute. I have to. My schedule changes every week. I don't know why I bother. Everyone that I have a relationship with knows that my appointments usually begin at or around or maybe before or perhaps or certainly not before some time in the near future, but if you look at my calendar, it really looks like I know what the fuck I am going to be doing June 3rd at 4:30.

7. Physical fitness. Is this really worthwhile? The more I work out, the faster I reach my deductible on my health insurance. It does my absolutely no good to go to the elliptical for an hour long date five times a week. Why you ask? I am too damn sore to walk down the grocery aisle for beer and Oreos. I see those folks who weigh about thirty seven pounds, and I know for a fact that most of them eat slim fast and condiments (only slim fast and condiments). If I keep working out, my titanium body part collection (neck) is going to expand to my knees, hips, and lower back. None the less, I will pursue having a six pack of abs - and see where that gets me.

8. House Cleaning. I like the house to smell like the laundry aisle in the grocery store. Not that I am obsessive about clean, but I don't like shit on the counters, floors, walls, carpet, or anywhere else for that matter. I like things in order. Then, I like to get things out of order. Compound that with a teenager and a ten year old, and I don't understand why I do these things every Sunday. I have never had company at my house, really don't have too many folks to impress, but I can assure you, it is clean.

9. Gardening. I don't have one in Florida, but I do like to keep Cadence's yard looking nice. In the northwest, gardening is more like putting shit into the ground until it freezes again next week. You rake up evergreen needles, maple tree leaves, and dead things - and then you sit and enjoy a beer. You repeat this weekly, and then once a year, rip all of that old shit out, and put new shit in so that you can repeat that weekly for another year.

10. Writing. I saved the best for last. This is really not a worthwhile way to spend your time. I mean really, I could be surfing the best in internet porn right now, or doing some online gambling, or better yet, trying to balance my checking account - but why would I do that - when I have this.

That's the most of them - there are more - many more, but I have run out of time, I am supposed to be at the pool at noon, and it is 12:58 - so much for that scheduled event....

Until next time,


What not to do when talking to an Athiest....

May 1st - I was hoping to write more in April, but alas, I was distracted by other things - not sleeping being one of them - and red eye flights back from Los Angeles being another one - but at least I will start off the month with a bang.

I suppose I should give the rights to this photo to the AP journalist who took it. There you go, I stole this photo from the web.

So today, they are digging up a dead guy who dressed in robes and calling him a saint - what about the dead cop or the dead soldier who actually contributed to the world as we know it - the more I see any church take action to make someone a saint, the more I am reminded of the number of churches that have had to shut their doors because they covered up sex with children, or decided to throw someone else's holy book into the flames, or better yet, have shown a higher rate of suicide, a lower rate of higher education, and still refuse to admit that man never saddled up a dinosaur and went strolling off into the sunset...really, I am sorry if that offends you, but millions of people spent their weekends watching a prince get married and a pope get dug up - monarchy and monarchy hand in hand - and I question whether either case made our lives a little easier, or just filled the news with more crap.

So Cadence forwards me this link, that was forwarded to her by her nephew or cousin, or some relative that apparently wants to arm the rest of the Christian world against us harmful Athiests who are out to takeover the world (or at least be first in line at all of the rated PG movies, seeing how we don't have to rush home from church on Sundays) - and you know, normally I am not too bothered by this sort of stuff, but this time, it is almost an afront to my somewhat tolerant sensibilities - I don't care where you go to church - I don't care what you place your faith in, in fact, I want you to be content and happy with whatever it is you choose to do - just don't harm me and mine, don't ask my taxes to pay for it, and don't hang out at soldiers funerals with signs that proclaim "God Hates Fags" or decide to get the rest of your inbred congregation together to burn classic rock albums or burn a Koran. Pretty simple shit from my point of view - you see, the reason I am an athiest is because I grew up around Christians - and I can assure you that just because you are in church everytime the doors are open, or you ask for forgiveness every day, or whatever - it does not make you a better person - but that's just my opinion - but I did think it was prudent to share this little list, so just in case you ever have to sit down and discuss your religious beliefs with me whilst we are drinking, please use these five important tips (I quote and paraphrase and digress throughout - so please be prepared)anyway, here it is - in it's entirety with my thoughts posted throughout...

Labeling Atheists
1.Some Christians have labeled atheists as stupid or morally void. Though there may be some atheists who fit these categories (as would many in the general population), atheists are not categorically stupid, degenerates with no morals. Many of them are fine citizens, honest, caring, loving, and patient. For a Christian to start off with such a blanket statement can backfire. First, ask questions. Find out what their presuppositions are.

Okay, so good point. I am stupid and morally void. I am all things at all times - that's the beauty of being an athiest - I can accept that I am human and have two major life events that pretty much sum things up - I was born, and I will die. I would think Christians could agree on that with me, but I am wrong. I am a sinner, born short of some sort of glory, and need to repent. I want a Christian to ask me my presuppositions, and I will tell them that it is wrong to steal the neighbors water, and that taxes are a bitch, and growing old is hell. What more really matters?

2.Ignoring Atheists' Questions 1.If you were standing on a railroad track and a train was heading your way, closing your eyes and ignoring the locomotive will not make it go away. If an atheist asks a question and you ignore it repeatedly, it would be fair for him to conclude you were incapable of answering the objection. Of course, this does not mean you always have to answer everything, because dialogue flows both ways. But, it is important that you face issues. If you don't have an answer, admit it. That's okay. It doesn't mean you are wrong, it means you don't have an answer. Go study, get an answer, and get back to him.

Okay - so standing on a railroad track is probably some sort of penance or something, but I don't get it. Standing on a railroad track will get you killed. Blindly following and claiming faith might get you killed as well. Hell, it may do you some good, but for the most part, it pretty much has proven that it will probably get you killed. Here's an even better part - how do you study to answer an athiest's question - do you go study the bible? What does the bible say that Epicureus or Hemingway or Vonnegurt or other authors have addressed a million times - they all give you hope and a new outlook - they just don't ask for 10% of your paycheck. Go study, and when you find the answer, save it for the next athiest.

3.Stating that Atheism is a religion 1.Atheists will repeatedly tell you that they are not in a religion. A religion is usually defined to include belief in a deity of some sort. Atheism is non-belief in a deity. It isn't necessarily a "belief that there is no God" (though it can be), but is "not believing either way." To label an atheist as a religious person is to put up a roadblock to effective communication. It would be like someone saying to a Christian, "You believe in a mean, tyrannical being who likes to torture people." The Christian would simply roll his eyes and think that the person doesn't know what he's talking about. So, how much effective conversation could there be in either instance? Not much.

I like this point. The reason you don't see churches for Athiests is because we don't hang out in those places. Typically, we are keeping the bars busy while we wait for good Christians to get out of church. Then, we have rituals and dress in finery and spread incense around, eat a few crackers made by child laborers in third world countries, and speak in tongues. I stated it earlier, that most of us don't really care what you believe in, not that we are self-absorbed, but we do respect your ability to believe in whatever you want. Just don't knock on my door at eight thirty on Saturday morning, leave shit posted to my windshield, or ask me to come see a guy hang from a cross as a sign of respect. If you like, you can pray for me, pray for me to hit the Powerball.

4.Stating unsupportable facts 1.No one has all documentation for everything they say. It is not reasonable to require proof from an atheist on everything said. Nevertheless, if you are going to state a fact or two, it is good to have the documentation at the tip of your tongue -- at least occasionally, or have access to it. It adds to your credibility. Of course, you don't have to document everything, but if you have some illustrious fact to use, try and have it documented.

Where do you get these facts from - most athiests get their facts from things called Science Books, or History Books, or Math Books... What holy book is the right holy book - do you go to the teachings of Buddha, do you go to the Torah - or is there some secret society of scientific christian books that actually proves that there are things out there that can prove without a shadow of a doubt that evoloution is wrong, that the King James version was a poorly concieved translation (proven wrong in many cases), and that tomorrow Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the king of kings are going to break bread with me. It is best not to state facts to an athiest - better yet, just invite them to dinner, and avoid the subject all together.

5.Never admitting when you are wrong 1.Pride is a harmful thing. It caused the fall. It ruins marriages. It leads to anger and self-righteousness. It has no place in the Christian's life. Never admitting you are wrong is being prideful. If an atheist, or anyone, proves you wrong in something, be kind and courteous. Admit you made a mistake and go on. Everyone makes mistakes, even atheists. There is nothing wrong with admitting an error. That doesn't mean you are wrong about Christianity any more than being wrong about the color of a boat means boats don't exist. On the other hand, if you never admit when you are wrong, you will not be able to convince anyone of your position when in a discussion. You will simply lose the respect of the one with whom you are debating.

Pride is a harmful thing. Not just because it is un-christianlike. It is just because it will make you come across as a prick. I am proud of my family, their accomplishments, my accomplishments - but not too proud to know that it took a whole hell of alot of human beings pushing, pulling, lifting, and helping to get those people and myself where we are. I don't give that credit to an unseen everpresent being - I give that credit to the people who have made it happen. What's funny is that Pride is bad for Christians, but crank up your television any given day, and flip through the channels, and they damn sure are not afraid to boast of their rewards being reaped ten-fold.

See - this athiest does not want to discuss Christianity with you. I don't want to discuss any religion with you. I want to enjoy your company, ask how your family is doing, know if there is anything I can do to help. That's what I want to know - I don't want the offer of eternal greatness and streets paved with gold - what is gold if it flows like water? I don't want to think of myself being a pawn to a greater good - I have enough of that already - I go to work every day, I pay taxes, I follow the laws - so that is enough for me -

I am happy, for the most part, that folks are able to find some peace and serenity in those places - for me, and for many others, the damage that those places do will never overcome a need to prove what is right and wrong - so that's where I choose to leave it - have yours, I will have mind, and in the end, perhaps they will be digging up the dead guy they buried next to me, and calling him a saint.