One Reason I’m Opposed to World War 3

As much as I would hate it, it almost seems inevitable that there will be a World War 3, given the egos and irrationality possessed by both presidents of North Korea and the United States of America, and when this happens, it will likely affect me in a very negative way. I have always been opposed to war, but when I turned eighteen, against my beliefs I registered for the selective service, not because I feel the need to defend my country, but rather because it’s the law, and I would much rather take my chances on the slim possibility that a draft is implemented rather than behind bars where my proclivity for sarcasm and eye rolling would likely turn me into the prison punching bag. So at eighteen years old I did what was required of me by law, and I thought that I would never have to think about it again, but then eight years later I started working at Fedex and my chances of getting drafted doubled.

Back when I first registered for the selective service I had a different last name than I do now, so when I began working at Fedex and had to prove that I had in fact registered, I procured all of the necessary paperwork to show that I had changed my name and was still the same person, already registered. I signed some papers and waited in an uncomfortable chair while someone behind a desk typed relentlessly on her keyboard and before I knew it she handed me a paper saying that I had been registered for the selective service, for the second time, which means now if a draft does happen, my social security number is in the system twice, seemingly making it twice as likely that I get selected, and for those of you that know me at all, it is abundantly clear that I’m not at all suited for war.

Can you imagine someone like me on the battlefield defending our country? I have a great respect for the men and women who do that, but I would make a terrible soldier. Let’s just set aside the fact that I’m out of shape, my infinite fears would render me completely useless on the battlefield. When I worked at a grocery store and my job included blowing up balloons for children I would break out in a heavy sweat and start to feel dizzy as I inflated the balloons, afraid that the balloon would pop. When I go to NBA basketball games I wait outside the arena, outside of earshot of the fireworks that go off before the game because I’m terrified of loud noises. Now imagine me surrounded by gunfire, dropping my weapon to the ground, freeing both hands so that I can use them for the more pressing task of covering my ears in hopes of stifling the loud sounds all around me. With the ceaseless shots all around me, chances are I would be willing to take a bullet just to make it stop, so clearly being drafted would not be beneficial to me or the well being of our country. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that because clearly I’m not cut out to be a soldier.

My Tumultuous Relationship With the Public Library

The relationship between myself and the public library has been a somewhat tumultuous one over the years, with many more negatives than positives, although this has been entirely my fault, and like a bad couple who seem to keep breaking up and getting back together, so it is with me and the library, thinking each new time will be different, but so far that has never been the case. There was the Little Rock Public library, the one I grew up visiting, a relationship that started off great as I spent summers throughout childhood checking out as many books as they would allow and returning back countless times for more, but as I got older things changed. I would check out books that seemed interesting at the time and then more often than not I would get distracted with something else and end up not reading them, which wouldn’t have been a problem at all had I remembered to return the books. By the time I left Arkansas to go to college in Minnesota I had racked up over seventy dollars in fees from the library, but my mom bailed me out, giving me a fresh start when I decided to venture into the world of checking out books again.

I stayed away from the library for a few years until I moved to Florida, but the allure of unlimited books drew me back in and I fell into my old habits once again. I didn’t accrue as many fines for not returning books, the total being less than five dollars, and I really did intend on doing the right and responsible thing of paying for my transgressions, but as it turned out, the Fort Pierce library didn’t accept debit cards, they were cash only, which posed a problem for me as I have never been one in adulthood to carry cash on me. A kind stranger overheard the dilemma as I stood at the counter explaining to the librarian that I would have to return to pay my fines after visiting an ATM, and the stranger intervened saying she would pay the fine for me. I had hit rock bottom. I tried to dissuade the generous woman from freeing me from my debt, but she wouldn’t hear of it, no matter how much I pleaded, and eventually, against my will, paid my fine. It was at that moment that I decided I was done with the public library system, preferring instead to purchase books so that I could read what I wanted on my own time, building a personal library that would allow me to choose whatever book interested me as soon as I was ready to read something new. Then I moved to Memphis and the library bug bit me again.

Within the first month of living here I got a library card, you know, just to have one, but I stuck to my guns and for more than a year I didn’t check out a single book. I had all but forgotten about my library card, that is until today. The bank I work at can be pretty slow in the middle of the week with the higher traffic days being Monday and Friday, so to pass the time I will often read until a customer enters the branch, which is what I was doing today, but unfortunately I finished my current book with more than five hours left in my shift, and the temptation to check out a book became to much to resist, so on my lunch break I walked across the parking lot to the library and began browsing the infinite selection of books. I did check out a book, but at least it was only one, telling myself that I would read it, then immediately return it before checking out another. Hopefully this time around I’ll be more responsible and my relationship with the public library will be better than ever before. Only time will tell.

The Problem With My Parking Spot

IMG_3603It’s a common theme throughout the landscape of the working class, that once the work day ends, nothing is better than arriving at home, seen by homeowners and renters alike as a refuge and a place to relax, so imagine arriving home one afternoon to find somebody parked in your driveway or parking space forcing you to park further away, prolonging that wave of peace that consumes you as the door unlocks and you step inside. Now imagine that happening frequently, say a weekly basis, and it’s never a pattern and no warning is given so you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen, thus disallowing your mind to prepare itself for the disappointment it will face to encounter this problem. This has been my life since moving into my apartment complex over a year ago, and unfortunately there are no signs that this unfair practice will stop anytime soon.

At my apartments we are assigned one designated parking space, right down stairs from where we live. My wife and I have two cars so one of us parks in the spot, and the other parks further away in the uncovered areas that are open to anyone, with the person arriving home first generally parking further away so that the other person will have the close space when they get home, a system that has worked well for us, except on the weekly occasion that someone is parked in our assigned spot, forcing us to find one further away, and since the open spaces fill up as the day drags on, that person ends up having to park much further away from the apartment, sometimes even all the way in front of the main office which is about a five minute walk away. This may not seem like a big deal, and I suppose in the big scheme of things that it really is not, but when you just want to get home after a long day of work, it can be rather annoying.

The main culprit I’ve found is one of the maintenance workers, who like to park in our spot because it is directly in front of their tool shed. They do work here and should have easy access to the shed, but why then isn’t there a designated parking space for maintenance workers in order to eliminate the need to park in a resident’s spot? It’s not like our spot is the only one in front of the shed and in fact there is a whole row of spaces directly in front of it, but it seems like every time a maintenance worker is in the shed, their truck is parked in my spot, more often than not with the spaces on either side completely empty. What is so great about my particular space that they seek it out over the others? From my extensive research, hours spent studying each parking spot on either side of mine, I have been unable to find even the slightest difference. I’ve considered purchasing a traffic cone to occupy my parking space when my car is gone, but it just seems like too much of a hassle to have to get out to put the cone in place when I leave, and then again to remove it when I return home, so I guess this is just something I’ll have to continue to deal with until I finally move, and I’m not one bit happy about it.

A Trip to the Mall on a Tuesday Afternoon

IMG_4082I have to work this Saturday which means that today I only had to go into work for a few hours, so when I got home I took my wife to her chiropractor, not because I love going to the dimly lit building where my wife’s spine gets shoved back into place, but because it’s rare that we are ever off work at the same time and I wanted to hang out with her today. After the appointment that took maybe ten minutes, and cost roughly two dollars per minute, which in all sincerity is money well spent since my wife could hardly even walk before, we decided it might be fun to go to the mall since we were already over in the area, and since school started here yesterday, we figured it wouldn’t be obnoxiously crowded like the rest of the summer. Sadly, we were wrong.

I’m not kidding when I say that the parking lot was as crowded as I can ever remember and I had to park pretty far from the entrance, not that I minded that aspect all that much since it turned out to be a pretty pleasant summer day. We walked into the food court, the place where any good trip to the mall starts, and got a snack of bacon cheese fries and a soda. You really haven’t lived until you try walking around the mall on a miserably full stomach. The cheese fries were overly salty, but they were devoured nonetheless, and with no particular destination in mind, we began to wander around the Wolfchase Galleria. There were quite a few stores that have opened up since we’d last been in there, so we ventured inside, were hassled by salespeople wanting to help us find something that we ourselves didn’t know we were looking for, and subsequently left, moving on to the next one.

The process repeated in this fashion with each store we went into, which left me remembering why I don’t like the mall that much in the first place, because browsing just isn’t as much fun without unlimited funds in the bank account, and it’s uncomfortable the way the shop owner’s eyes will follow you around the store, waiting expectantly to make a purchase that never actually happens. We went into Bath and Body Works, a store that I both loathe and love, because nothing is offensive as the combination of odors that you might smell, but there are few things as satisfying as walking away with the perfect scented candle that brings back some unknown memory that translates to happiness. We walked around taking the tops off of various candles and smelling them to see if that is what we wanted our apartment to smell like for the next month or so, but more often than not we shook our heads in disgust as candles with names like “Flannel” or “Pomegranate” gave off overwhelming scents that were altogether unpleasant. We did however find one that we love, an old favorite of ours, “Pumpkin Apple”, but agreed that was a scent better suited for a nice and cool fall evening than a warm and muggy summer afternoon that is currently our reality, so we left the store empty handed, vowing to come back for that candle once the leaves begin to change and life seems much more optimistic. Although we didn’t end up buying anything, I wouldn’t consider the afternoon a bust, because it was just nice getting to spend some quality time in the mall with my wife on a Tuesday, which in itself is a pretty rare occurrence.

When in Doubt Leave the Vegetables Out

IMG_4070An immediate stomach ache that hits you as soon as you leave a restaurant and a desperate need to find a bathroom as quickly as possible, are two telltale signs that the meal you just ate went terribly awry. Unfortunately, both of these symptoms hit me like a ton of bricks, or more specifically a plate of nachos as soon as I left El Porton, a Mexican restaurant where we ate dinner last night. My wife and I met the rest of the family there, gathering to celebrate the birthday of both my grandpa and cousin. I’m always in the mood for Mexican food and had actually been craving it lately, so when I was told that we would be having that for dinner, I was pretty excited, to the point where I actually caught myself thinking at random intervals throughout my day about what I might get to eat that night. The chips and salsa arrived before the drinks, as is typically custom at Mexican restaurants, but I showed a great deal of restraint that I normally lack, by waiting to dig in until my water arrived, which turned out to be a good call on my part since the salsa was a little spicier than I remembered.

I ordered fajita nachos with steak, because steak sounded really good to me but more so for the cheese dip that I’d been thinking about relentlessly throughout the day. I had the choice of ordering the nachos with or without vegetables, and despite the kid in me screaming that vegetables are gross, I ordered them anyway, to prove, if only to myself, that I am in fact an adult and vegetables actually aren’t all that bad. I was expecting some diced tomatoes, lettuce, jalapeños, and maybe even some onions, but in my haste to order the food, my brain neglected to register that the vegetables served with the fajita nachos would be just that, vegetables typically found in a steaming pan of fajitas, but don’t worry, I found out soon enough. The food arrived and I tried to not pre-judge my nachos based on appearance with the huge chunks of onion, tomato, and bell pepper being the most visible and populous foods on my plate, something that might have been aesthetically pleasing to a strict vegetarian, but I myself found it to be very unattractive.

The steak was delicious but the pieces of juicy meat were far overpowered by the crunchiness of the peppers and onions that I was desperately trying to make an asset of the dish but was rather hindering and taking away from the best ingredient. The cheese dip of course was amazing, because white cheese dip has a way of never letting you down, but again the giant vegetables were doing their best to make themselves known above all else. I gave some of the onions and peppers to my mimi and wife, the only two people at the table of nine who wanted anything to do with them, and finished my nachos in peace. Not long after, the storm hit and I was clutching my stomach which hurt like I’d eaten a half dozen creme filled doughnuts that were a few days old for breakfast and washed it down with a big glass of expired milk, not that I would know from experience. I don’t know if my body was having that reaction because it was shocked by my vegetable intake after years of neglecting healthy food or if something else was causing my growing discomfort, but I was completely miserable. The one good thing to come from this terrible experience was a valuable life lesson that I won’t soon forget; when in doubt leave the vegetables out.

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.

What I’ve Been Reading: Late July/Early August

IMG_4066While the past week has been a little bit cooler than the unbearably hot temperatures that seem to be intent on ruining my life this summer, it has still been too miserable to spend any significant amount of time outside, so I’ve focused a lot of my time lately on doing one of my favorite indoor activities, cross-stitching. I hate to burst your bubble if you read that last sentence and were instantly excited by the prospect of me cross-stitching you something cool and unique to you for Christmas this year, but I was just joking about that, and reading is what was meant to end the last sentence, but at the last second I called an audible thinking that perhaps cross-stitching might provide a few laughs, but now that it’s written, I realize that it’s less funny than it was intended to be, and for that I am truly sorry. Anyway, what I’m trying to talk about is reading, and more specifically what I’ve been reading lately, so without further ado (distractions), I present to you the three books I’ve read over the past couple of weeks.

The first one, “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan, is a book that has traveled with me from Memphis to Florida and then back to Memphis again, always occupying a place on my bookshelf but never really catching and holding on to my interest until recently, and I think it has everything to do with the title, or more specifically the last two words, goon squad. When I hear the word goon my mind takes me back to a Batman television show that I have absolutely no recollection of aside from the fact that the villains were called goons, so in my mind I jumped to the conclusion that this book would be about unsavory characters who lived in a super hero universe, which didn’t seem all that appealing to me, but I finally gave it a chance and I’m very glad that I did because it turned out to be a pretty good read. It’s a story that centers around music and the music industry, jumping around in different time periods in the characters lives, focusing on different characters and then showing how they are all somehow connected. My only problem with the book was that it felt a little clunky to me, all of the jumping around and trying to figure out whether whatever is currently being talked about happened before or after something you’d read, chronologically speaking, but there wasn’t a second of the book that I found at all uninteresting, so if you’re looking for something that will keep your attention, this one is a good one to check out.

Next on the list is “The Other Side of Mulholland” by Stephen Randall, a book I picked up at a used bookstore last year and had no knowledge of what the novel was actually about. There wasn’t a plot summary on the back, but I like a goldfish I was intrigued by all of the pretty colors that decorated the cover, so I bough it anyway. It’s the story of two brothers trying to make it as writers in Los Angeles while their parents constantly worry about them through all of their ups and downs. It’s a decent enough book, but there was really nothing that kept me wanting to keep reading, nothing that insisted I turn the page to find out what happened next, which is the reason out of all three of these books, although the shortest in length it took me the longest to get through, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Lastly I read “Dry”, another memoir by one of my new favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs, which I can’t seem to get enough of. Dry is the story of Augusten’s journey from alcoholism to sobriety, full of ups and downs, written by one of the funniest voices I’ve ever read. It’s like every book I read by Burroughs is another piece of the puzzle, revealing a completely different side of one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever read about. Seriously, it’s actually pretty amazing that after all he’s been through that he is still alive, so if you haven’t jumped on the Augusten Burroughs bandwagon yet, you are really missing out, because now I’ve read three of his memoirs, and all of them have been very funny, and have easily been the books that I’ve read the most quickly over the last year because of how smoothly they flow combined with the fact that you’re dying to find out what happens next. “Dry” is probably my least favorite book I’ve read by Augusten, but that’s not a condemnation about how bad it is, but rather praise at how good his other two books are, and while it has been my least favorite that I’ve read by him, it was my favorite out of the three books I’m writing about today and I would definitely recommend you checking it out.