Nov 032016
 

In today’s Daily Prompt we are to write something involving the word “sincere.”  Ok.

What would happen if I just disappeared?  Who would be upset by this?  My sister and some other family members would be devastated, but beyond that, I think that my going missing would only cause a momentary ripple. I’d be forgotten with weeks, if not days.  And really, it would be my fault in a way.  I’ve done nothing of value with myself, I’m not worthy of being remembered.

Part of this, a lot of this, is that I just want to run away, to flee.  I feel trapped in a cycle of boredom and depression.  I exist, but I don’t really live.  Maybe it’s too late.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  All that I do know is that I’m not really satisfied with where I am but don’t have the energy or focus to break out of my rut.  Perhaps I deserve to just sit here and suffer, perhaps not.  In the long run, that really doesn’t matter.  What does matter is the here and now, a time and place that I want to flee.  I just wish I knew where, or how.  I doubt I will do anything other than wallow, but the day might come when I act on my desire to disappear, one way or the other.  I’m sincere about this, too.

Feb 042016
 

Today’s Daily Prompt asks “Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why?”

I get anxious when I speak in public, but that begins to fade fairly quickly, especially if I’ve had some consistent practice.  And therein lies the key to it all.  It may be cliché, but practice does make perfect.  And I have Hugh Ringer to thank for that.

The gentlemen of whom I speak was my high school’s speech team coach (we didn’t have debate as he was also our high school’s athletic director) for several decades.  And he fit the bill, a dapper dresser with a stentorian voice and dynamic manner, he was almost the prototypical protagonist in 50’s musical.  He would see to it that a system was in place.  You were encouraged to join in 7th or 8th and stay until 12th grade, and while you did, you practiced twice a week from December until March or early April.  This was my pattern; I started in 7th and stayed on until I was a senior (12th grade).  In short, I had a lot of practice during my formative years.

Speecifyin' JFK

 

Another way that being a member of the speech team helped was our exposure to those who were closer to what we call the “1%” today.  We were a group of small town kids of whom little was expected, and yet we won numerous tournaments that we entered and collected individual trophies by the armful year in and year out.  And we won by beating kids from other schools who being groomed to apply to – and be accepted to – Ivy League schools while most of us were encouraged only to shoot for a State of Pennsylvania-sponsored school.  We learned to see past that sort of class difference and not let it intimidate us.

So, yeah, I still get a little nervous, but after a while, I’ll do just fine.  One of my grad school professors even told me after a presentation that I “had a great future as a televangelist.”, so I thin I’ll be juuuust fine  with the Speechifyin’ , thank you.  And thanks, Hugh!

Sep 302015
 

Day 10 finds me at the Midtown Scholar updating everyone over a cup o’ Joe.  WARNING:  I am NOT photogenic.  Still, this is easier for me than typing away at a keyboard right now, so, tough tamales!  😉

 

Midtown Scholar Front Sep 30 2015

The Midtown Scholar – My Favorite Place!

Midtown Interior Sept 30 2015

The view from the coffee bar.

 

Sep 232015
 

Yup, I’m way behind.  But it’s not too late!  Let’s expand a quote!

 

So, when I suggested that text-to-speech software might be a good thing to try, , the author of Just Blank Pages replied that she really enjoyed the actual physical sensations that come from writing.  And I can absolutely see how that would be an empowering, uplifting experience.  She must not be left-handed.  I have had a lifetime of smudge marks that counter the notion that the act itself can be a pleasurable thing.  😉

Still, the deeper that she makes is that one must find what works to motivate oneself to write.  Taking pleasure in a particular ritual or act goes a long way towards overcoming thing like writer’s block.  (I’m still working on that one.)

Yup, I gotta get me one of them speech-to-text programs one of these days.

 

 

Sep 182015
 

Francis Bacon — ‘Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink,old friends to trust and old authors to read.’

I don’t even know if this accurate, as history can be as much plagiarism and guesswork as fact, but I still like it.  And it comes from a smart guy (he was Shakespeare, you know), so it brings the imprimatur of erudition.  In other words, it’s got a bit of that razzle-dazzle that wows others into thinking you’re actually smart yourself.  😉

More importantly, it brings to mind a quiet fall weekend in a secluded cabin in the woods.  You’re there, hanging out with your friends, reading a good book, and enjoying a few drinks, all while a fireplace is crackling and popping contentedly in the background.  It sounds like Heaven to me.  Now that I think about it, I really should look into putting something like that together for October.  Hmm…

Hey Bill, can you cover for me?

I’m classy, no?

Sep 152015
 

This writing challenge asks us to talk about where and how we write.  And with that, I give you my ‘happy place’ where the Muse pays me a visit.  That, or it’s just really damned comfortable and I’m really damned lazy.  Either way, here’s where most of my writing gets done

Sloth is definitely my favorite sin.

Sloth is definitely my favorite sin.

I used to think how super-cool and inspirational it would be to write at a coffee shop or some other public place.  But after trying it a few times, I had come to terms with the fact that all I wanted to do was drink coffee and people watch.  No, more often than not, I just wind up sitting or lying down on this thing and typing away.  The blue light is supposed to help with improving one’s mood.  We shall see.

Sep 112015
 

Day 5 asks us to center a post around a Twitter embed.  Sure thing!

Humor on Twitter’s something of an art form.  Fitting an a clever aside or a witty aphorism in 140 characters is quite a challenge.  Nihilist Arby’s rises to it brilliantly.

It can be ready as tragic or horrifying.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hilarious, too.  Personally, I find dark humor to be therapeutic.

We’re doomed.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh about it.

Sep 102015
 

Okay, day 4 of this here challenge lies right in the ol’ wheelhouse, yessiree!

It all started about a year-and-a-half ago.  I got a ride from a coworker to a local garage to get my car picked up for some repairs needed for it to pass inspection.  It was on the way in that I saw this:

So perfect.

I love “Coming to America” as the next person raised in the 80s, but not as much as this guy.  And I’m willing to bet that it was a guy.  Honestly, I can’t see any woman putting that on her plate.  I could be wrong, but somehow I doubt it.

Shortly afterwards, I started this blog.  It was then that it suggested by the good folks at WordPress.com that a recurring feature is a good way to attract followers and build a “brand” for one’s blog.  All of this had merit, but, more than that, it meant that I would get to make snide, bitchy remarks about people’s vanity plates.  And oh Lord in Heaven has the Harrisburg area been obliging!  I’ve posted almost 150 of these pictures – three per post with very few exceptions – and I still keep coming across more.  A friend of mine recently pointed out the obvious in that we’re so close to the DMV that is makes it exceptionally easy for people to get these things (Harrisburg is Pennsylvania’s state capital).  Still, it’s remarkable in a way how strong everyone’s desire is to stand out.  I’m sure some clever soul could produce some riff on this being part of the Society of the Spectacle.  All I can really do is chuckle.  And, as snotty-nosed as I can get, I realize that I’ve got my little vanities as well.  But still, what else am I gonna with my time?  I’m too old to go out blowing cash on decadent pursuits every night.  I’ve neither the constitution nor the wallet for that.  No, instead I’m just sitting in the balcony, pointing and laughing for fun and entertainment.

Hardly a novel approach, I admit.

Hardly a novel approach, I admit.

And really, when you come across gems like these, how can you resist?

 

Some seem to want to hitch their wagon to a strong identity:

DKNYC

When Branding Goes Very, Very Wrong.

Some plates (unintentionally) cultivate an air of mystery:

 

Either this person owns a Brown Newfoundland dog or is proud of being born in Newfoundland. Considering the jokes that other Canadians make at the expense of "Newfies", I'm guessing the latter. Still, one never knows.

Either this person owns a Brown Newfoundland dog or is proud of being born in Newfoundland. Considering the jokes that other Canadians make at the expense of “Newfies”, I’m guessing the former. Still, one never knows.

 

 

And still others seem to beg your indulgence:

Ok, fine, I'll hear you out. But this had better be damned good - I'm on a clock, you know.

Ok, fine, I’ll hear you out. But this had better be damned good – I’m on a clock, you know.

Yup, Harrisburg and its surrounding area has vanity.  Lots and lots of vanity.  So, if you’re looking to score a few points with a quick anthropological or sociological study or just looking to kill time with a cheap, easy, and wholly legal hobby, it’s the place to be! Toodles, all!

Sep 092015
 

Evening all.  Today’s assignment is take a single word from a list and write something around it.  I chose the word “Home.”  It’s meaning has started to change for me.

If you had asked me five years ago where home was I would have said “Pittsburgh” or “western Pennsylvania.”  Now, I’m not so sure.  Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to go back to Pittsburgh to get together with my college buddies and had a lovely time visiting relatives up in Mercer County.  Even better, I got to bond a little with my niece and nephew on Labor Day.  It was a lovely time, and I felt the bittersweet tug of remorse that one does when leaving a place where one is loved.  And yet…

And yet I found myself eager to get back to settle back into my routine here in Harrisburg.  At first I thought this was just going to be another stop in my life; a place with a job that would lead to another place with a better job.  That hasn’t turned out to be the case.  Instead, I found myself battling some personal demons (a story for another time), buying a house, and building a small but steady circle of friends and acquaintances.  I used to scorn this town.  Now I kinda miss it and the people here when I’m away.  Maybe I’m starting to make my peace with things.  Maybe I’m just getting old.  Maybe both.  No matter how you slice it, though, it’s a funny old world.

The ol' hometown

It’s home now.

 

Sep 082015
 

Ok, here we go, day 2 of this assignments wants us to make a list.  Fair enough.  Here’s a (subjective) list about what I’ve learned about depression:

  • Depression Lies – As Grant Morrison once said, we are not our emotions.  We may feel like crap at any moment, but we all need to take that feeling with a grain of salt.  That’s because depression lies.
  • You’re not alone – It’s a cliché’ but it’s also true.  There are more people than you think that wrestle with this illness.  If you doubt this, find a support group in your area and go to a meeting.  You’ll be surprised at the cross-section of people you meet.
  • Routines Help – Getting into a routine protects one from the tendency towards inertia that depression creates.  Having a regular schedule forces you to get up do something when you’d rather just sit there.  And when you just sit there, you start to think.  And then you begin to think the worst as often as not.  Structured activities and a timetable help to fight this.
  • Self-Care is not Self-Indulgence – There are times when you will want just sit back and relax and treat yourself.  Go right ahead and do it.  Being good to yourself is beneficial, even if that means breaking your routine a bit.  However…
  • Self-Care includes Self-Discipline – There are many times when you won’t want to do anything.  You won’t want to do routine tasks like cleaning your bathroom sink or exercising.  This is a trap.  You’ve got to do your best to push through that and do what needs to be done.
  • It’s not all or nothing – You’ll make mistakes along the way.  Sometimes you’ll fall behind in keeping up with a routine, sometimes you won’t cut yourself some slack when you need to, and sometimes you’ll believe the lies Depression is telling you.  This doesn’t mean you’ve failed.  It just means that you slipped a little.  The key is to realize that you’re not perfect and to forgive yourself and keep working.  This is because…
  • Battling Depression is a process, not a goal – There will be good days and there will be bad days, but what matters the most is to stick with what’s working for you regardless of how high or low you are at that particular moment.  I liken it to running – there are days when I feel as if I am gliding effortlessly and then there are days when I feel like I’m carrying a 50 pound weight behind me.  It’s like that with Depression: You shouldn’t decide to quit because you think you don’t need to work at it anymore or because you’ll feel like it’s just not working.  Either way, you have to keep trying.

And that is a list of what I think I’ve learned about depression.  Feel free to tell me what you think about it, however.  I could always you some good advice and/or insights.

 

Yup, I've been there.

Yup, I’ve been there.

Sep 072015
 

And so once again I take up the WordPress Writing 101 challenge.  Day 1 prompts us to tell the world “I write because…”  And so, with that, I am here to tell you.

I write because I always talk and think a lot.  I’m prolix and flighty but do manage to come up with the occasional bon mot or interesting thought.  I decided that I may as well get some of these down on paper screen.

I write because it’s good practice.  My job usually requires that I write, but in a very limited and basic fashion.  Most of my emails are two paragraphs long at most.  Most of my other writing is barely that but more basic copy editing of cut and pasted text from other instruction guides or manuals or memos.  I need to keep to keep this skill from atrophying.

I write because I need to keep my mind sharp.  My job is very detail-oriented, but in a narrow way.  If I’m to keep myself agile I need to put some of this ADHD mental energy that I carry with me to good use.  It’s like exercise for my brain.

I write because I like to make fun of people with vanity plates.

I write because…well, I don’t always.  In fact, the reason I’m taking this course over again is that I need to get back in the habit of doing it more often.  I must confess to being a gross hypocrite in this respect.  All the reasons I’ve given are valid and true, but I get lazy, or get uptight, or get writer’s block.  I need to write in order to push through these barriers.  Even if it’s crap, it will be better than not writing anything.

And that is that.  Day 1 is down.  Let’s see how I do for the rest of this exercise.  Good luck everyone!

Oct 062014
 

Today’s Daily Prompt asks: “Train stations, airport terminals, subway stops: soulless spaces full of distracted, stressed zombies, or magical sets for fleeting, interlocking human stories?”

My answer is, it all comes down to context.  For example, the New York City subway system is not a magical place, not by a country mile.  This was something that I had to learn PDQ when I moved to Jersey City and then Astoria.  When I got there in the summer of 1999, it was scorching hot.  This meant that waiting for the subway while job hunting meant sitting inside what was essentially a giant convection oven.  This didn’t help things.  But even as the temperatures started to lower, things didn’t change much.  More than a few people waiting for their train were either commuting from the outer part of the outer boroughs, Long Island, New Jersey, Westchester County, and even Connecticut to Manhattan and  using the subway get to their (often stressful) jobs or going back home the same way with their tired, sweaty, and not infrequently inebriated fellow commuters.  In short, most people were a little wired in the a.m and a little fried in the p.m.  This was not conducive to friendly conversation.  I learned this hard way when I, partially Midwestern person that I am, tried to strike up the odd conversation to pass the time.  I learned quickly that when you tried to do this people thought that you were either 1.) running a scam, 2.) crazy, or 3.) both.  And so, I adapted and just put on my headphones with my portable cd player and stared ahead.  I also started standing a bit towards the back of the platform as the fear of some nutjob pushing my pale hindquarters onto the tracks took hold.  Granted, this was a one in a million chance, but fear trumps actuarial tables.

NYC Subway, Transit, Grim Commute

Hustle and Bustle.

On the other hand, one of my best friends met his wife during a layover in O’Hare airport.  So, again, it all depends on context.

 

 

Oct 042014
 

Yup, I did it.  I took the big leap and have moved over to a self-hosted wordpress.org site from wordpress.com.  The training wheels have been removed!  Now just sit back as I make my way in what will no doubt be a rather wobbly manner, at least at first.  This is fine as long is doesn’t wind up looking like something like this:

Chaos! courtesy of National Lampoon

But somehow I doubt the good folks at WordPress will let it come to that.

 

 

Sep 282014
 

Today’s Daily Post asks if we agree with the statement ““Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.”

I have to say yes, I agree.  I mean, look at what happened to this guy when he got a lot of everything:

If he’d only known when to stop, he wouldn’t have wound up getting blown to smithereens by some punk “Jedi.”

Aug 082014
 

Hey yinz guys, today’s Daily Post asks us to find a word and a sound that go together as if they were made for one another. I got this.

The word “curt” means “rudely brief in speech or abrupt in manner.” It’s a short and snappy word with a short and snappy sound.

This is a word that most straight guys learn by their late teens or early twenties.  Usually in a scenario resembling this one:

GUY:  Is something the matter?  What’s bothering you?

GIRL: Nothing, I’m fine.

DId you see that?  She gave a curt answer to your question.  In fact, the answer is significant in what it doesn’t say.  As in, what she didn’t say was:
“Not only have you done and/or said something to offend me but you have also failed to recognize this fact.  You are now on Double Secret Probation, Mister.  The best you can hope for is a cold shoulder for the rest of the night and the worst thing that might happen to you is that this relationship could very well be over unless you at least wise up enough to start grovelling for my forgiveness.”

And that is how many guys come to know this word even if they’ve never heard of it before.

BONUS:

For your entertainment, here’s Mr. Todd Rundgren singing about Onomatopoeia: