Losing a Good Friend

    At some point during my senior year of high school I thought it was a good idea to get a pet fish. I can’t quite explain what drove me to that conclusion, because since that time I never again felt the desire to get one, even though our time together, albeit brief, was filled with fun memories. I bought it at PetsMart in Little Rock, along with all of the necessities that a goldfish should have, including a home, a plastic container with a handle so that it could be a traveling goldfish, not confined to a countertop like most of his relatives. He would go with me on adventures, see the world, maybe even write a book about it, which is why I gave appropriately named him John Grisham, after one of my favorite authors at the time, thinking that perhaps the name would instill in him the confidence needed to achieve the goals I had set forth for him. Also in an attempt to start the relationship off on the right foot I bought him some plastic foliage and some oval shaped see through stones to bring some life to an otherwise boring environment, and he seemed to really like it all, swimming around carefree and looking at the big wide world through the glass, imagining all of the adventures he would have.
    After I got the little guy also situated and he had a good night’s sleep, we both awoke the next morning refreshed and ready for the day ahead. It was a big day for John Grisham, he was going to school for the first time in his young life, so it would have been understandable if he had been nervous but he was completely cool and unworried whatsoever. We strolled into my high school like the two most awesome beings in the universe, which we were, and as you can imagine, John Grisham was instantly popular. Everybody wanted to look at him and I even passed him around class so that my classmates could use his magical wish granting powers that I had imagined him to have by dropping donations into the portable container with him. He was now John “the wish fish” Grisham and everybody was eager to drop some of their dirty change into his formerly clean bowl of water for the chance to make dreams come true. In hindsight, that’s probably what killed him a few days later, but goldfish don’t really have really long lifespans to begin with so it’s completely plausible that it happened from natural causes. Or maybe it was the fact that I didn’t buy the special goldfish water that the PetSmart people told me I needed, but rather saved my money and opted for tap water that I had survived on for the entirety of my life. If it was good enough to keep me alive then surely it would be good enough for John Grisham, but then again, maybe it was not. Maybe there were some chemicals used for cleaning the bathtub that hadn’t completely been washed away that he came into contact with the time when I filled up the tub and let him swim free of the confines of his much smaller container, but probably it was the dirty coins. It was a short life but we cherished the time we had together and I wouldn’t trade those memories that we shared for anything.
    We had a nice funeral service for John Grisham, held in the teachers lunchroom, a small walled off portion of the cafeteria and it was filled with old friends of mine and new friends of his. Elton John’s voice filled the little room as Candle in the Wind gave the little guy a proper sendoff. I thought I’d gotten permission to use the room, or maybe in my grief stricken state I had neglected to do so, believing that anyone with a heart would want John Grisham to have the exclusive room for his funeral and had just taken it upon myself to use the room without asking. Whatever events led up to me hosting the funeral of my beloved best friend, but the end result was the funeral ending early after the school principal yelled at me and kicked everyone out of the teacher’s lunch room, so all in all it was a pretty tough day on all  fronts. Nine years later and the loss still stings, but at least he’s in a better place now, floating somewhere in the sewers below Central Arkansas Christian school, as peaceful as can be.

Searching for the Perfect Gift

IMG_4073My grandpa and cousin Abigail share a birthday, August 7, which is tomorrow, but since it falls on a Monday the whole family got together to celebrate the greatness that is the two of them. I procrastinate on a lot of things, and unfortunately buying birthday gifts is one of them, so that is how I found myself driving to Walmart at about 2:30 this afternoon. I know, I know, what kind of idiot buys somebody a gift at Walmart? Well again this is unfortunate, the answer is me, but in my pathetic defense it is conveniently close to where I live. Maybe that makes it even worse, I don’t know. Anyway, I can’t turn into the parking lot because a stream of Mustangs are flowing in a cohesive line through the parking lot like a funeral procession, no matter that I had the right of way and they should have been stopping. I finally butted in front of one and got honked at, but it was a nice tradeoff to being forced to look at anymore of these lame people who have nothing more interesting to do on a Sunday afternoon that meet up in a Walmart parking lot with other people who drive the same kind of car that they do.

So I head into the store, knowing exactly one gift that I’m getting and with a couple options in mind for the other one. For my cousin I’m getting her a stainless steel bottle/tumbler/whatever that keeps drinks cold or hot for an excessive amount of time. I got one of these last year and it quickly became my favorite cup, eventually becoming the only one I drank out of, so I’ve decided to share the experience and have given it as a gift to a couple of people who really like it, so I figured my cousin would too. Now my grandpa is quite a bit more difficult to shop for. He’s not the sort of person you can just buy any old t-shirt for. There are certain brands that have been met with his approval, so it’s best to stick to these, but since I’m kind of balling on a budget at the moment, his shirts weren’t really an option so I had to come up with something else. As I walked down the aisles I scanned the ground hoping it would be my lucky day and I would find a very rare and valuable coin lying on the ground, which would make a great gift for my grandpa who just so happens to be an avid coin collector. But then again if it was really valuable I could sell it and get him one of his shirts plus something for me, which would be the ideal scenario in my selfish world, but alas, I had no such luck finding a coin.

I decided to get him a puzzle, which is actually something I think he enjoys working on, so I walked past all of the board games to the microscopic puzzle section of Walmart. Most of them were really annoying to look at, so I could just imagine how excruciating it would be to stare at that same picture for hours trying to put the thing together, so once I weeded out all of the unacceptable ones there were very few options remaining, a Monsters Inc. puzzle for children and a one thousand piece puzzle featuring a house with some tall grass and a couple of deer out front. I got him the latter and it actually seemed to go over well when he opened it, as did the tumbler with my cousin, which just goes to show you that good gifts CAN actually be bought at Walmart.

The Gigantic Flying Cockroach

It was like the start of a typical horror movie, my wife and I sitting in our living room late at night, she watching something on TV while I read a book, just a regular Thursday night, but then it wasn’t. We heard a noise outside our door, very faintly, but loud enough to rouse our interests. We looked at each other then towards the door and as if on cue, something hit the door, sending the dogs into a barking frenzy and my wife and I into a state of worry. Since we’ve moved in, someone tried to kick in our neighbor’s door one night, so my mind immediately went to the extreme, jumping to the conclusion that this was now happening to us, so like any tough guy I went to the door to confront whomever the intruder could be, bringing along with me my forty ounce stainless steel water bottle as if that would serve as some kind of protective weapon. I looked out the keyhole but saw nothing and gradually our minds were eased and we almost forgot about the incident entirely, that is until it came time to take the dogs out to use the bathroom before bed. Concerned that maybe someone was lurking outside waiting to attack, my wife asked me to accompany her outside and like the chivalrous gentleman that I am, I begrudgingly agreed.

She opened the door to go outside and immediately a cockroach the size of a tennis ball flew up off the ground and began emitting a disgusting sound somewhere between clicking and whirring. My wife immediately shut the door, however the dogs had already run out before her so they on their leash were trapped outside with the monster. She opened the door quickly to let them back inside and then the debate began as we tried to figure out what we were going to do. The dogs have peed on our carpet before, so I was all for letting happen again if it meant we wouldn’t have to go outside and face the gigantic flying cockroach, but my wife wasn’t having it, suggesting instead that I use the broom to reach from the doorway and smash the bug, but given the size of this thing I wasn’t convinced it would do any real damage but would instead just anger it further so I declined. We spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to come up with a solution to our problem, when finally, my wife, the voice of reason, decided that we should hit it with something which in effect would make it fly away.

She stood with the door cracked, hoping not to draw any unwanted attention from the creature before she made her move, reached her arm back and hurled a little piece of dog food toward the roach, which she missed completely as it sailed overhead straight into the neighbor’s door. She shut the door quickly in case they came to see what had hit their door, and initially she felt bad about it, but after thinking it through further we decided that maybe it was a good thing to happen, that perhaps the neighbors would open the door and the largest insect in the world would go into their apartment, either that or they would scare it away. The minutes ticked by and still nothing happened, so we had to once again jump on the proactive side of getting rid of this thing. With the door once again opened a crack, my wife aimed a squirt bottle of water through the opening and fired a single shot, which unlike the piece of dog food, hit the intended target. This enraged the cockroach which quickly began flying around the landing outside of our apartment making that terribly disturbing sound again, probably swearing in its own language that it would have its revenge on us. I wish I could tell you that I realized how ridiculous all of this was and I decided to step up and be a man, walking right over to the insect and killing it without fear, but unfortunately I haven’t changed. We put the dogs to bed, and took them out first thing this morning when the cockroach had left its security post outside our door, so it all worked out okay, and hopefully I’ll never see that gigantic flying cockroach ever again.

Being Uncle Sam

Late in December of 2006, I sat at my grandparents breakfast nook in their kitchen, their acres of land laid out before me, completely covered in a blanket of frost. I had their newspaper spread out on the table in front of me, and I was perusing the job advertisements for some reason. The previous summer I had worked as a little league baseball umpire, but given the fact that I walked away from that job in the half hour break between the double header, there was no chance that I’d be rehired, not that I really wanted to do that anyway which is why I found myself on that cold December morning, looking for a job in the local newspaper. I looked for a while but being a sixteen year old kid, I didn’t really seem to qualified to become a certified nurse or a truck driver making seventeen cents per mile, but then, just as I was about to give up hope, I saw an advertisement offering “good pay” to dress up and dance on the side of the road, which naturally the performer in me couldn’t resist, so I called and got the job, sight unseen, which probably should have raised a red flag for me, but back then was a simpler less cynical time for me, excitement at having gotten the job was the only emotion I felt.

I was told to wear gym shorts and a white t-shirt to report to work, so I did as I was instructed and arrived at Liberty Tax Services abut ten minutes before I actually had to be there, because you know, I”m a real go-getter. I was shown to the little bathroom that doubled as the changing room and was handed my costume. The pants baggy, the beard was itchy, and the hat was too big and kept falling down in front of my eyes, which is not something you want to happen as you’re dancing around next to a busy street with cars careening past, but all of the negatives aside, I could have passed for Uncle Sam’s twin, you know the guy pointing his finger at you and saying to join the army. Apparently the tax place thought he was a good mascot for them, along with Lady Liberty, but since there was already somebody assigned to play her, I was stuck with Sam.

I stepped out of the bathroom, one hand holding up my pants and the other holding up the hat, the picture of idiocy, but my bosses told me I looked great, and sent me out into the cold winter day, but not before explaining to me that this was just a try out, and that if I did well, then I would be able to actually work there and get paid. I thought it was a little unfair to just be finding this out now, but I was determined to make a great impression so I could get the job, so that day I marched up and down the sidewalk, making elaborate gestures with my hands and arms and pointing at the little tax place. I was the best worker they’d ever had, each car pulling into the parking lot surely a result of my stellar performance. At the end of the long day I was tired, but invigorated, knowing that there was absolutely no way that they wouldn’t be giving me the job, and I was right. The next day I went back, only this time with nothing to work for, I didn’t feel all that excited or put much effort into the job, standing there on the sidewalk and occasionally waving at cars, knowing deep down that it didn’t matter what I was doing; they would either stop if they needed to stop, or they would keep going if they didn’t, I was just the idiot on the side of the road that didn’t factor into their decision making process whatsoever.

Talking to Strangers

As a child the mantra is hammered into our heads relentlessly. “Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t talk to strangers”, but once you enter the adult world, it turns out that almost every single person there is a stranger, and we have little choice but to talk to them. I get that it’s a necessity to talk to some people we don’t know, the satellite repair guy, the waiter at the restaurant, or the person showing up on your doorstep claiming to be your child, but there are certain instances when I think we should revert back to that childhood saying, ignoring strangers and refusing to talk to them altogether, like this morning for example. I was awakened before six once again by the raccoon that has become my wake up call, scratching the wall near my bed, and since I was up, I figured I would go out for a nice walk to start my Sunday. For the past two weeks I’ve gotten up early Sunday morning to go for a walk, which some might interpret as taking some initiative to exercise and start the day out on the right foot, but let me dissuade you from that notion immediately; the only reason I go so early is because I enjoy being outdoors and anytime after seven is way to hot to leave the house for anything except for ice cream and to get away from the child I previously mentioned, so that is how I came to be walking along the banks of the Mississippi river so early this morning.

There weren’t a lot of people out, but there were definitely enough to annoy me. It’s not that the presence of people is inherently annoying to me, but every time someone is approaching me as I walk I start to get really anxious and nervous, not because I think they mean me any harm, but because I’m wondering if they are going to talk to me or if I should initiate a greeting. This didn’t bother me at all the first time I was out walking, because I didn’t know any better. The first time I was approached I behaved like a normal human, politely looking straight ahead as if that person did not exist, but then I heard the words, “Good morning” he said, and I was completely taken aback. By the time I registered that it was me who he was speaking to we had already past each other, but I turned around and mumbled a feeble “g’morning” in his direction. From that point on I began to overanalyze the coming encounters with people on the trail ahead, and it made me really uncomfortable.

It doesn’t make any sense to me that strangers who have never seen each other before, would say good morning or hello to each other in passing. Is this common human courtesy or a ridiculous tradition that needs to stop immediately? The only time I’ve ever initiated any kind of conversation with a complete stranger was when it was required by my job to do so, because unlike some of these other people populating the earth, I still hold a firm respect for the words my parents spoke to me as a child; “Don’t talk to strangers.” I’ve also been burned on some of these walks too, initiating the greeting only to catch the other person off guard. I want to yell that I didn’t want to say hello in the first place but apparently it’s something we have to do now, but I figured they probably already thought I was crazy enough, so I didn’t divulge this information. Can we just all agree that there is nothing to be gained from talking to strangers in passing? It would make me feel so much better if everyone could just agree to act like everybody else just doesn’t exist.

My Tattoo at Work Dilemma

Today was supposed to be a great day, and it was, for a short time. I woke up happy, because today, I was going to be comfortable at work, finally able to wear short sleeves rather than the long sleeved button downs I wear on a daily basis that leave me drenched in sweat by the end of the day. Yesterday my supervisor told me that I could wear short sleeves but would just need to put bandages over my tattoos, because although we are living in the twenty-first century, a lot of people find those with tattoos untrustworthy, so a tattooed banker is apparently a big no-no. I have two tattoos on each of my arms that are visible when wearing short sleeves, so I was pretty skeptical about putting enough bandages on to cover up that amount of my arm, but before leaving work yesterday, I checked the first aid kit and saw that they were big enough to only put two on each arm, and as they appeared, through the wrapping to be the tan color, I figured it wouldn’t be that noticeable on my somewhat tan arms.

I had several options to choose from this morning as my new life began, but settled on my short sleeved black button down, the shirt that is primarily reserved for funerals and nice dinners. I put it on with my black pants, going full funeral mode because every day at work I die a little bit, and left my apartment with a spring in my step, ready to take on the day. When I got to the bank I retrieved the bandages and began ripping them open, determined to cover the degenerate markings on my arms before someone saw and called for my immediate termination, but I quickly realized that there was a problem. The big bandages that I thought were tan colored, weren’t actually bandages at all, but squares of gauze with no adhesive, and they weren’t actually tan at all, but were bright white. Seeing as how there would be no way to make these invisible on my arm, I returned to the first aid kit in search of something more suitable, and I found some tan bandages, but they were a lot smaller than I needed, and ended up using all four that we had on just one of my arms. I called out to my coworkers to be extra careful as we wouldn’t be able to stop the blood flow should a workplace accident happen today.

So with no other options of concealing the tattoos on my right arm, I placed a piece of gauze on each of my two tattoos, then secured it in place with three bandaids going across it. I looked like an idiot. It was so apparent that I didn’t need anyone else to point it out, though my coworkers did so happily, laughing at my expense. It was in this moment that I realized how ridiculous all of this was. Why would I be allowed to wear distracting bandages that cover my arms that would surely prompt many questions from the customers but not be allowed to show tattoos that aren’t offensive and most people wouldn’t even comment on in the first place? I wasn’t wearing the bandages and I couldn’t have my tattoos exposed so I did the only thing I could think to do; I got my polo zip-up hooded sweatshirt from my car and wore it the entire day, pretending to be cold when the customers inevitably commented on it. Today was not the cool day that I had hoped for.

My New Addiction

Last week our internet bill went up, because apparently, after paying on time each month without ever missing a payment, that is how you’re rewarded. I wasn’t happy about it, but we live in a world where daily access to the internet is more common than drinking water, so what were we to do? I can just imagine the groups of people standing outside my apartment, yelling up to me, begging for me to get the internet once again so I can resume writing my blog. It makes my stomach hurt thinking of the disappointment I would cause, plus our apartment complex has some pretty strict rules about loitering, so I was really left with no choice but to pay the bill, but we weren’t just going to roll over and pay more money for the exact same internet service. In all honesty I definitely would have paid, albeit begrudgingly for the same service, but my wife, whom doesn’t shy away from confrontation like myself, took matters into her own hands, and called up Xfinity to give them a piece of her mind.

I was at work when said phone call was taking place so I don’t know how the conversation between my wife and the Comcast employee went, but if it was anything like the time I used the last of the milk to make chocolate milk when she needed it the next morning for her breakfast, I’m sure it was a very one sided conversation that left the offending party speechless and feeling terrible about what they’d done. Whatever she said must have struck a chord because they agreed to throw in faster internet and an HBO streaming service, although unfortunately they stood firm on the new, higher price, but at least we were getting something else out of it, rather than paying more for nothing. This came at a time when we’d just decided to get rid of Netflix, after several faithful years together, so I was pretty excited to be getting a whole new streaming service with all new shows to watch, but I never could have predicted how it would take over my life in a matter of days.

Sunday the new season of Game of Thrones began and it seemed like that was all anybody was talking about, but since I’d never seen that show before, it didn’t hold much interest for me, but then I realized I could watch the series from the beginning on my new HBO streaming, so that is exactly what I did, and within hours I was hooked. I watched the first season in two days, one of which I had to work for eight hours. I never thought a tv show could consume virtually all of my free time, but when I’m not watching it, I find myself thinking about it and wanting to get back to it as quickly as possible. My reading has taken a massive hit over these past couple of days, but as the old saying goes, “I can read when I’m dead”, but for now, I’m happy to spend my days consumed with the mystical world full of kings and lords, betrayal and murder.