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 292015
 

Welcome everyone!  I’m doing my best to catch up.  In that spirit, I have ‘vlogged’ Day 9 of WordPress’s Writing 101 challenge.  Here is an open letter to my Harrisburg friends:

 

Life isn’t all bad.

 

 

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 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!

Jul 152014
 
Jul 082014
 

Gee whiz but it’s hot in South Central Pennsylvania these days.  Summer is here and the time is right, for vanity plates in the street!

I'm Isaz?  Imi Saz?  I could pretend this sort of plate frustrates me, but the truth I enjoy these puzzlers.  They keep the ol' brain from getting rusty.  I think.

I’m Isaz? Imi Saz? I could pretend this sort of plate frustrates me, but the truth I enjoy these puzzlers. They keep the ol’ brain from getting rusty. I think.

Is this one a play one "Somaili" maybe?  Or is it using the Dark Tower's formal address of "Sai" as in "Sai Mali?"  Again with a puzzler.

Is this one a play one “Somali” maybe? Or is it using the Dark Tower’s formal address of “Sai” as in “Sai Mali?” Again with a puzzler.

It's  a cool name, "Shadow Mover", but if you were so darned stealthy, you'd wouldn't have been caught on camera, eh?  Who's the clever one now, hahahaha?!

It’s a cool name, “Shadow Mover”, but if you were so darned stealthy, you’d wouldn’t have been caught on camera, eh? Who’s the clever one now, hahahaha?!

Jun 242014
 

I’m torn.  I’m either getting more timid or more judicious as I set out to recorded the automotive naming gaffes of South Central PA’s motorists.  I lean towards the latter, but I can’t help but feel as if I’m holding back.  Luckily, there still seem to be enough vanity plates out there to give me plenty of time and opportunities to make up my mind.  But, enough woolgathering!  Here’s this week’s selection:

It took me a little while to figure this one out until a chance conversation made me realize that the owner of this vehicle is likely a member of the 5 Percent Nation.  In my defense, I'm a crackery pale youth from rural Western Pennsylvania.  I didn't even hear of this group until I was in my late twenties or early thirties.

It took me a little while to figure this one out until a chance conversation made me realize that the owner of this vehicle is likely a member of the 5 Percent Nation. In my defense, I’m a crackery pale youth from rural Western Pennsylvania. I didn’t even hear of this group until I was in my late twenties or early thirties.

Ugh!

Yes, I’m sure it is. You must be great fun at parties. Or anywhere else you go, for that matter.

You're, um, missing a few steps there.

Ooohhh, lookee! You can count just like a big kid! Sorta…

Jun 232014
 

 Writing 101’s 16th assignment challenges us to imagine what it would be like to work in place where one would manage lost or forgotten items.  Here goes.

“What is that?” I asked.

“A loaf of bread.  What do you think it is?” my coworker Jordy (short for Jordan, a name he hated) shot back.

“I know what it is, but what’s it doing here?”

Jordy shrugged, “We’re the University of Pittsburgh’s Lost and Found Office.  We’re where lost things go.”

“Yeah, but a duck?  Isn’t that something that the city’s Animal Control unit should be handling?  The University Police, at least?”

“It’s like I said, we’re where lost things go.  And he is a lost thing.”  Jordy’s powers of logic were astounding.  “Besides, he seems like a friendly enough guy.  And his quacking is oddly soothing, don’t you think?”

“I…, well, yeah he is entertaining, and I don’t mind the quacking.  And we have had worse things dropped off here.” (Don’t get me started about the blow up dolls.  Just don’t).  “I guess we can hang onto him until his owners come back to free him or when it’s time for him to fly south or something.  He won’t be around for long.”

“Good, it’s settled then!  I’ll go scrounge up some bread for him.  Try to think of a name for him while I’m out searching.”  And with that, Jordy made his way down the hall of our basement office as he began his quest.  I turned around to get a good look at this mysterious mallard and started reeling off names “Scrooge?  Daffy?  Oregon?”  This was gonna take a while.

Three years later, Huey (yeah, we know,  we know) Jordy and I still work at Pitt’s Lost and Found Office.  Well, Huey doesn’t work.  But he is good company, and the ladies love him.  As work families go, we’re doing pretty well.  Here’s to the next three.

Jun 102014
 

It’s getting heavy.  People are on to me and my mission.  A few people look at me funny when I record this phenomenon.  One lady even asked that I delete a picture that I took.  I did.  There’s no reason to be rude.  All kidding aside, I sometimes forget that we live in troubled times.  I think I’m just having fun, but considering what’s happened since 9/11 and our turn towards pervasive surveillance and social media saturation, I can see why some people are on edge.  I must be more discreet.  I have no desire to get my lights punched out.

Still, the surfeit of vanity in this area is a reality, and I must expose it to the world.  *Hums the Battle Hymn of the Republic*

Or it could be alluding to the card game.

Is this short for Ginny? Or are you proclaiming your love for a certain type of liquor? Just don’t act surprised when cops assume the latter and look for a reason to pull you and your fancymobile over.

No, seriously, what the hell was that gum made of?

I too have enjoyed the exploits of that wacky Bazooka Joe! It was worth the risk of cracking a molar on that rock-hard gum just to get at those little comic strips. Whatever happened to that guy, BTW?

I have no idea, really.

You Marte? Me Shawn! Am pleased to meet you!

 

Jun 092014
 

Day six of Writing 101 asks who’s the most interesting person we’ve met in the past year.  I’m sad to say that after wracking my brain for a few hours on and off that I don’t have anyone I can point to.  This must be one of the perils of middle age.

So, instead, I leave you all with this, the intro the Batman t.v. series from the sixties:

Jun 062014
 

“Brevity is the soul of wit” I said.
“I agree” she replied.  She then smiled coyly and said “So why don’t you stop talking and get that drink you promised me?”
I never promised her anything of the sort, but how could I say no?

Jun 052014
 

So, Writing 101 bids us to write about loss.  I could get into some heavy stuff, but I prefer to keep it light tonight.  So, let me tell yinz about a mix tape that went *poof* just as it was taking shape.

It was the spring of 1991, and there weren’t no interwebs.  No sir, if you wanted to mix and match songs, you hadda go out and record ’em off of another cassette or CD.  You hadda work for it!  It took not only time and effort to record each song but it was often a challenge to search for and physically gather the music you wanted to record also.  It could take weeks.  As a result, it often became a challenge to build one that stood out.  Sure, you could just blandly copy a favorite release from a friend to save a few bucks or just slap together a few random favorites of yours, but that wasn’t very satisfying in the long run.  No, if you wanted something that would satisfy you and impress your friends and (hoped for) loved ones, you had to stretch your creative muscles and put a lot of thought and effort into it.

Now, one route was to build one based on a theme of some sort.  It could be, say, a mix tape filled only with songs that featured the saxaphone in them (something you don’t hear a lot of these days – R.I.P. Clarence!) or maybe your best-of alternative breakup songs.  Or, you could go for eclecticism.  The tape I was building that spring was headed that way.

It started with a trip to Washington D.C. with a friend (He would later become a roommate and in the process a bitter enemy.  But that’s another story.) I had made at WPTS, Pitt’s radio station.  I was working as a news reader and he was the news director.  We hit it off, and so I hopped a ride down to D.C. with him one weekend in late March on a road trip.  On the way down and back, he played a most excellently varied tape of his own.  It had everything from “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” to a couple of comedy bits to “Master of the House” from Les Miserables.  I was suitably impressed – and inspired.  And so, I got to work.  I shamelessly borrowed his tape to copy “Istanbul” and “Master” but then followed my muse.  I manged to find N.W.A.’s “100 Miles and Running” and included it.  Best of all, I managed to get one of my fellow radio station news readers (and also future roommate – also part of that other story) to copy the theme to Late Night With David Letterman.  I’m talking the original version that played to the opening of his NBC show, back when he was mean, bitchy, and awesomely hilarious in his own gonzo way.  That theme.  Oh yeah.  He had to go in a record it from the old, blocky 8-track type radio cart tapes onto cassette.  That was the icing on the cake.  I was on a roll now, I was putting together something special, it was lightning in a bottle.

Or so it might have been.  Joe asked to borrow the tape just before the end of spring semester in late April of ’91.  I agreed.  And that was the end of that.  I never saw it again.  I should have taken it as dark omen of that guy’s ways, too, but again, that’s another story, and I was young and naive.  Still, that loss hurt.  Sure, I would go on to make more mix tapes in the years to come, but it was never quite the same.  I never had the drive to craft something truly special.  My muse had left me by then.  I still mourn the loss of that tape, and now, in this era of digital music, it’s too late.  Putting together a song list isn’t the same.  What takes 5 minutes now could have taken, as I alluded, 5 weeks back then.  Farewell, oh fading ember of my youth.  You are gone, but never forgotten.

 

Jun 042014
 

I would have gone with Day 3 of Writing 101’s assignment, but this is more important, so, welcome back to what appears to be a feature with no end in sight.  I’m not even trying anymore, they just *appear*. These things seem to be cropping up like mushrooms.  Still, I do feel a responsibility to show everyone the truth about this area’s weird vanity plate fetish.  So, here we go, again:

Double Deuce O' Dumb

When I was in the Army, we had to drop and give 20 (push-ups), not 22. Or is this a reference to the novel Catch-22? Either way, I ‘ll take a pass.

You best be backin' a future Cy Young winner with a plate like that.

Ok, I’m guessing this is a plug for Harrisburg, PA’s own Senators, a minor league baseball team and subsidiary of the Washington Nationals. Still, a minor league team?  And baseball at that?  Eech.

Die Wort is "Kraft", ja?

Achtung! Well, at least you were smart enough to put a “Kaiser” vanity plate on a German auto, I’ll give you that. Still, Mercedes woulda been a better choice. But let’s not nitpick, hmm?

The reality of my situation has started to sink in and now I’m just counting the days until the Powers That Be silence my reportage .  In the meantime, I feel duty-bound to bear witness to this automotive farce.  Riis, Sinclair, Steffins, and Tarbell would have been proud.

Jun 032014
 

And day two of Writing 101 presents a much easier challenge for lil’ ol’ me.  Specifically:

We’re all drawn to certain places. If you had the power to get somewhere — anywhere — where would you go right now? For your twist, focus on building a setting description.

So, where would I go right now?  I would go to Istanbul.  And no, I’m not gonna sing the They Might Be Giants cover of that song, tempting though it may be.

Building-wise, the first place I’d want to see is the place to see:  the Hagia Sophia!  Take a look at it – how could you not want to go see a place like this?:

Hmmmm, come to think of it, I need to start thinking about booking a vacation somewhere this fall.  I need a rest.

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