Pay Attention to Glowing Lights
This evening while in the midst of a shift, my car’s red battery light illuminated in the dash. Naturally, my initial instinct was to pull over, and while the car was still running, Google all the possible scenarios here. The internet told me it was either the battery or the alternator. It was the alternator.
I can only blame myself for this fiasco. Illuminated adjacent to the red battery light lies an orange check engine light, which has been lit on and off for no less than five months. I ignored it. Why? Because I felt justified in ignoring the light given the fact that I had already had the car serviced a number of times throughout the year. It had to be random. There was no way that check engine light would dare come back on after I just had the car fixed. Apparently that warning system on the car was put in place for a reason. What the light was probably indicating was that I should take the car in so that a mechanic could say, “Well, we need to change the alternator”. I guess the lesson is pay attention to the little things, especially if they are glowing warning systems.
Car maintenance is horrible, and I immediately feel bad for complaining about something this trivial when people in Ferguson are being tear-gassed and having guns pointed at them, and journalists are beheaded by terrorist groups. But I suppose this is what we do. We are concerned about what’s happening beyond our day-to-day existence but not enough to let them disrupt our day-to-day existence. And this doesn’t make it any less shitty to acknowledge this behavior. In fact it makes it worse. We see things like this happen, and we pause and reflect, “Oh man. This is pretty serious. Geeze, I hope nothing like this ever happens near me”. But it could! It could easily happen, because we aren’t paying attention to the little things. We notice when big things happen and that’s it. People are dying and we still don’t get it. I don’t know what the answer is other than pay attention a little more. Speak up a bit. On a recent episode of his podcast Harmontown, writer Dan Harmon posited that in order to help, you don’t need to drive out to Ferguson to join the fray. You just need to side with the people getting tear-gassed rather than the tear gas canister, and you need to speak up if you hear someone sticking up for the tear gas.
Sorry for the somber tone this evening. Crazy stuff happening. Let’s talk about it though and not forget in a couple months.
Be well friends. Hug your loved ones.
Unfriendly reminder that in America it’s reasonable to say an unarmed black kid deserved to be shot six times because he might have robbed a convenience store, but a white kid shouldn’t be kicked off the high school football team just because he violently raped a girl.
The Man With Spiders In His Throat
The first Tom Waits song I ever heard was “Anywhere I Lay My Head” off Rain Dogs. I didn’t even have the album. My friend Ben put the song on one of the best mix tapes I have ever been privy to listen to. Initially, I liked the song because of the vocals. Waits was in control and out of control at the same time. He opens with a lone organ holding steady on each of the chords in the progression before coming in with this guttural singing of “My head is spinning ‘round…,” and the way he sings convey how the character in the song actually feels. The song moves steadily through this pace before reaching its climax with what sounds like old-timey burlesque arrangements, complete with raunchy horn lines. I listened to that song over and over again until I finally broke down and bought a Tom Waits album. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Rain Dogs, because the record store didn’t have it, so I went with Small Change. Now, this record is an earlier Waits record, when he was still playing jazz and blues numbers, and his vocals hadn’t yet hit the gravel. Still, I liked it not only because the songs were good, but also because it showed the range of music that Waits was capable of creating. As per usual with any new music I find, I became obsessed with Waits, seeking out more and more of his records, and while I enjoy a majority of his catalog, “Anywhere I Lay My Head” still holds a special place in my heart.
A few years back, my brother-in-law got me a Tom Waits poster, and what makes this poster great is that it’s a tongue-in-cheek illustrated poster based on Waits’ style and lyrical content. It’s a profile of Waits and various parts of his head are diagrammed a la the game, “Operation”. There’s a black cloud in his head labeled, “Here Be Monsters”; a rough tongue titled, “Sandpaper”; a throat labeled, “Spiders and Gravel”; and finally, a heart labeled, “Steam Engine,” and lungs dubbed, “Boiler Room”. I’ve had this poster on my office wall since I received it, but today my eldest daughter seemed to notice it for the first time. She started asking me about the various parts depicted in the poster, so I explained each one. She immediately perseverated on the whole notion of someone having spiders in their throat. “Why does that man have spiders in his throat, Dad?” I tried to explain, but complex metaphors are slightly difficult to grasp for a 3 year-old, so I decided to put on a video. I chose “God’s Away on Business” from Waits’ Blood Money record. Immediately, she was simultaneously fascinated, confused, and scared. She asked why the man sounded like a monster. I explained that this was just one way that the man sings and this was why the poster said he had spiders in his throat. And the crazy thing was, she really got into it. She kept wanting to see and hear more Tom Waits, but always went back to request for “God’s Away on Business”. Later at dinner, she fired question after question, inquiring where the man lived, did he like his backyard, did he have a family, did he like to take walks around his neighborhood, is going to come to our house and get in, why won’t he come to our house, etc. She asked for a poster for her own room, so I printed a picture off and gave it to her. Right now, as she sleeps, a picture of Tom Waits sits vigilant on her bookshelf, slightly illuminated by the glow from her nightlight.
This was an excellent turn of events today, and I’m really excited that I got to share something like this with her. I am worried though, because if she starts liking Tom Waits too early, will she loathe him later? Will she reject Tom Waits in favor of some shitty douchebag like Luke Bryan (sorry to any Luke Bryan fans out there. I know that he really floats your boat and is writing songs specifically for your demographic, but I personally find his bro country quite awful). I think the best course of action is to not have an agenda. She can listen to what she wants to, and if it’s Tom Waits, well then she and I get to share a fondness for that music. I’m sure somewhere in the coming years there’s going to be a “Luke Bryan” playing in my house and I suppose I’ll just grin and bear it, so that occasionally she sits down to listen to some Tom Waits records with her old man.
Be well everyone.
Today was a good day, overall. So muggy outside though. How muggy, you ask? So muggy I’m missing my wallet. Oh, c’mon. Give me that one. As far as lame jokes go, it’s pretty good.
I took my eldest gal to the playground today so she could practice riding her “bike” (tricycle). She did a pretty good job. She still has a hard time remembering to keep her feet moving with forward momentum. Sometimes she gets this back and forth thing going that’s so well timed, you’d thing she planned it. Maybe she did.
Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated with the process and then I have to remind myself that’s she’s only 3 1/2, and that it’s supposed to be fun, and then I feel like a jerk. What if I ruined cycling for her? I’m supposed to be the clearheaded one. If I fall apart, what happens? She’s looking to me like, “Help me. You’re the Dad,” and I look to her like, “Sorry, you’re going to have to handle this. I’m going to sit on this curb and take a moment”. She ended up practicing for another ten minutes, and I gave all kinds of encouragement, but not praise (I’ve learned there’s a difference). Then we put the “bike” away and she played on the playground for 30 minutes like a champion. No other kids there, so she had run of the show. Great morning overall.
I cleaned the clutter from the office and it feels a lot better in there now. My wife went through a years worth of mail we’d saved in an accordion folder. Our “2013 Files”. That feels even more cathartic. Hurray for catharsis!
I wrote quite a bit this evening, adding a fair amount of dialogue and oddly exposition. The information feels pertinent to the story but pops up in the second act. A flashback is used to explain the setting and set up third act conflict. I’m sure it’ll all work out, of course. I like where it’s going.
Bye for now,
The End is Nigh
Summer is coming to a close soon. The air is starting to change. Squirrels are making a mess out of the oak tree in the back yard. I’m trying to convince myself that I see leaves starting to change already. Football games are back on, and while they don’t really matter, it’s still football which signifies the advent of Fall, which is my favorite season.
As this transition looms ever closer, I’ve started looking back at the summer and given how quickly it’s lapsed, it seems as though I frittered my time away. That’s right, frittered. But in reality we (Audrey, the girls, and myself) did a lot, which essentially made the summer move by much more quickly. It’s like when you’re working shit menial jobs. You don’t want it to be busy, but really you do, because the busier it is, the faster the shift goes by, and the sooner you can get the hell out of there to get back home and binge on television shows. Good television shows, but television shows nonetheless.
In the same regard you don’t want the summer to go by too fast, so you might be inclined to laze it away, but it makes infinite more sense to fill the days enjoying new experiences. There’s no sense in trying to hold on to time. It’s elusive and indifferent to the our wants and wishes.
Throughout the duration of the summer, we had visits from family, visited family ourselves, and spent a great deal of time exploring more of MN.
So why do I feel as if I’ve squandered my time?
I only feel I’ve been somewhat wasteful. I’ve shared meaningful experiences with my family, but when I wasn’t doing that, I was consuming media (video games, tv, movies, etc). I like all of these things but in excess they’ve lead me to apathy. What I should’ve been doing is writing. I fancy myself a storyteller. It’s what I want to do for a living, eventually, but I put zero effort in this summer. I have a lot of ideas and I write them down in a little notebook or share them with my wife but I never do anything with them. What good are the ideas gathering dust in some pocket notebook? I need to be adamant and put my nose to the goddamned grindstone. Have you read Michael Chabon’s “Wondeboys”? You should. It’s fantastic and deals with naricissism, self-doubt, triumphs, and failures. What it means to want to do the right thing, but getting in your own way.
Here’s what I’m working toward:
Completing and publishing short stories and poems. Continuing working on a novel. Writing on this blog regularly. Most importantly, pushing ever onward to step away from the tv shows (no matter how good they are and no matter how much I justify watching them as a means to examine good storytelling) and to instead tell my own stories.
Please forgive any typos. This is on a phone and it won’t let me turn the keyboard horizontal. Also, forgive the rambling, ambling nature of this post. It’s late. I’m pensive and feeling self-indulgent.
Be well everyone.