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A bit of fiction

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
I walked by the windows of the shop on my way home every day for a year. My steady pace rarely slacked, except in front of a particular pair of pristine glass window panes. No matter the time of year it remained transparent, so much so that it seemed as though there was no window to speak of. An open air shop, while not practical in the midwest due to the frigid winters, would carry a certain charm. Instead, I pretended and dreamed of that unsealed marketplace. Everyday I peered in with tempered enthusiasm. For within the dusty stands directly behind the immaculate window it contradicts sat an item that beckoned itself to me. Over the time in which I had swooned it seemed I may have been the only one to lay eyes on it. Despite the window's clear perfect complexion, it hid in a dusty shadow - forgotten. A month into the inanimate love affair I decided to do some research. This is a necessity. Year, model, etc. The internet is littered with manuals and guides. I even watched a few tutorial videos. The studying was obsessive, as if it were life or death. Each word traveled into my mind and sunk its teeth in. I wanted to master the possibilities.


Saving up my chips took a considerable amount of time, longer than I would have hoped. Life seems to find a way to get in the way. My car, while dependable, was growing exceedingly older. So new tires and a starter and everything in between seemed to crop up. Then my mother fell ill, so plane tickets and such. To top it all off, the air conditioning cut out in my small home. I thought the landlord would cut the expense, but he is a crusty old man who doesn't want to be bothered. Absurd but not worth the confrontation. So time crept on, as it does. A year, almost to the day, later I strolled in with a pocket full of bills that I counted and recounted (and then washed my hands repeatedly.) My smile was toothy, despite my mother vowing that it should never be so throughout my childhood. The young woman behind the counter of the pawn shop was the daughter of the shop's owner. She had taken to flashing me a warm smile as I stalked by each day. Her large halo of hazelnut curly hair framed the glowing smile meticulously. It was a highlight of each day. Now, we spoke! She expressed surprise that I was there, standing in front of her. The sentiment was shared. The day had arrived, I would be the proud owner of that old literary brownstone in the window. She lugged it over, money exchanged hands (her's far softer than mine.) With my fist clinched, knuckles white around its case's handle; shoe to pavement I sped home at a blistering pace. Far faster than any in the past year. I felt the need to close us off from the world, drawing the curtains and locking the doors after arriving to my small shotgun home.


Set down on the desk with a mighty clunk, the sound of angelic choirs. Clips actioned open, the lid removed. The shop girl dusted it off before boxing it in the case, I almost wish she hadn't. It was less familiar without the layer of gray fuzz. The first key, the first click was so loud it made me jump a little. The first letter written on a silky off-white sheet of paper. Only the letter was something odd, not a letter at all! Not the K I had chosen. It did not even remotely resemble such a letter, or any letter in the English alphabet. The small symbol was nothing I had seen before in the online manuals or any walk of life. It was equal parts square and squiggle. My hands rubbed their way across my excited eyes out of habit, as if I were miss-seeing the tiny ink blot. But it stood firm, its confidence abundant. I envied this confidence and wondered where it came from.


My fingers instinctually began to push the other keys with frantic immediacy. They too did not produce anything similar to their counterparts printed on each metal key. More symbols. Each one different, each with a different story to tell. While my mind told me to search them out, to learn their meanings, something held me back. I wanted to know, that was certain. The mystery, the wonder as I squinted at the line of symbols that drew me in. But my head was reeling. Then each one started to pang in my skull, as if each symbol was learning from the other, trying to explain their worth to my soul. In an instant I knew, I knew their message. The typewriter was teaching me the axiom.


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Based off of this prompt: After a year's wait, you finally strike - it's yours. But once you get home you discover that it's nothing - nothing like you thought it'd be...

500

Monday, September 14, 2015
It is hard for me quantify why I love baseball so much. Baseball is the greatest sport to ever be played. It’s the Great American Pasttime. I was raised to love baseball. Growing up my dad instilled in me the importance of the sport, as his father had with him. My grandfather was a giant Cardinals fan. My parents remind me time and again how much my baseball passion reminds them of him. It is my little way of carrying on his legacy. I've spent countless hours in the backyard playing catch with my dad and family. As the mitt pops back and forth, we fill the air between us with discussions of the history of the game. This discussion has evolved over time, beginning with my dad teaching me about the greats such as Musial, Gibson, and Williams and evolving into talks about current greats like Smoltz, Pujols, Jeter, and Ortiz. I’ve loved this game my entire life.

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The Boston Red Sox are like the heart and soul of baseball and my love for it. They went through 86 years of failure, of mishaps, and of heartbreak. And they came through it! Those guys day in and day out play their hearts out. It’s beyond me, it’s beyond you. A lot of my friends and family get annoyed with my mood swings during the season because if the Sox have a bad game, I have a bad day. And when the Sox are killing it, I feel like a million bucks. In recent years it has been particularly up and down. Some of the times have been unbearable like losing seasons and the worst of all, losing a post season berth on the final day of the season. But the highs have been so glorious. 2013 is a season that still, two years removed, I cannot quantify. It was all born of tragedy. The team put an entire city on its back and spent all of October healing wounds. It’s tough to be so wrapped up in something. It takes time and patience. But it’s a passion, it’s a real passion. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Red Sox Nation doesn’t give up. Red Sox Nation fights through it and is there for a heart breaking game 162 loss to fall out of the playoffs, is there for a 93 loss season, and is there when they clinch the division with the best record in all of baseball and go on to win the World Series. These moments are so sweet because we've earned them.

I never get sick of it. I follow all 162 games of the season. Factor in the month of spring training and the month of the post season, it is nine months out of every year. And there is nothing in the world like attending a baseball game. It’s the atmosphere that gets me. All the cliched things people say, but they are true. It’s the ballpark franks, the roar of the crowd, the peanuts and cracker jacks, the vendors yelling about how cold their beer is, the hecklers yelling at the players, and seeing your favorite player get up to bat. And even better when they deliver.

I have seen a lot of incredible things at baseball games. Beckett's one hitter in 2011 the night the Bruins won the cup. Nap's walk off homer against the Yankees in 2013. A 14 inning a marathon walk off against Oakland in 2011. Carp's pinch hit 10th inning grand slam at the Trop in 2013. I wasn't sure I could top it, but Saturday I did.

12004770_10153081388171766_7713911180555057543_nDavid Ortiz is probably the player who has meant the most to the Boston Red Sox franchise. A team with such a storied history, that is a bold statement. The man has meant a tremendous amount to the team, the fans, to the city. Tonight when I went to the game with him sitting at 498 career homers I was less than confident I'd see such a historical moment. Multiple times over the day leading up to it I said incredulously 'there is no way he hits two in one game for it' to push the feeling of dread that he may do it Friday, the game I wasn't going to. After his first inning three run home run for 499 I felt my chances gaining. My heart swelled. I was extremely nervous. Could I be so lucky? In his third at bat he led off the inning, with two strikes on him - an inside pitch. WHACK! To the seats. I was shaking all over. High fives, screaming, hugs, tears welling in my eyes. He had done it. It is the pinnacle of all I love in the game of baseball. David Ortiz, released by the Twins after the 2002 season, became Big Papi in Boston. He is a hero. The 2004 ALCS, in the face of elimination, he put the team on his back. We come back to beat the Yankees and go on to win the first WS the team had seen in 86 years. 'This is our fucking city.' 2013, bases loaded with two outs against the Tigers in the ALCS, GRAND SLAM into the bullpen. Going on to bat .688 in the 2013 World Series and taking home his first WS MVP. It goes beyond those moments. It goes beyond these moments. But he started with modest beginnings, a young man with a dream leaving Santo Domingo and coming to America to pursue it. Three World Series rings, one World Series MVP, one ALCS MVP, nine time All-Star, six time Silver Slugger, and now the 27th member in the over one hundred year history of Major League Baseball to hit 500 home runs.

Often it is hard to be a fan. It hurts, it is cruel, it will break your heart. But on Saturday it was a reminder of why you push through, why you shoulder the pain. It is a beautiful game. It is unlike anything in this world and I will love it until my last day.



500!!!!!!!!!

A video posted by Fox C. Mason (@kaitgolightly) on Sep 12, 2015 at 4:43pm PDT


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There has been an awakening...

Monday, September 7, 2015
Happy Force Friday!!!

Okay, so it is actually three days later and Monday now. But, really, Force Friday began Wednesday with the 18 hour unboxing live stream. That was the beginning of a whirlwind of weekend that was equal parts fun and exhausting.

To begin, I had been a little under the weather during the front part of the week. Short of death, nothing was going to keep me from participating in Force Friday. Luckily my lovely fiancée was there to support this and help me get to feeling better.

The tide of my sickness began to turn just in time for the live unboxing stream. What initially sounded a bit unnecessary to me ended up becoming something I thoroughly enjoyed. The real stand outs from the event, for me, being Poe's black X-Wing, Sphero's BB-8, and the Millennium Falcon quadcopter but more about that later. The fervor that grew with each hour of the stream (I did sleep for some of them but they showed recaps) was a great lead up to Friday. Grade A job from the marketing people there. Andi Gutierrez and Anthony Carboni were troopers and stayed awake through all 18 hours hosting. Major props there as I'm fairly sure I would have died, sick or not.

When Thursday finally came around I was as giddy as a kid waiting for Christmas (or just myself waiting for Christmas, truth be told.) We decided to head to Toys'r'us when they closed at 9 to scope out the situation. Equipped with water, iPads, and a wallet preparing to get lighter, we were ready. We were greeted by two small groups in front of us (four people in total) already forming the line. The humidity made it pretty awful but we powered through. We all struck up a conversation that would last until they opened the doors at midnight. We found no need for our iPads. Linnea told Josh via text that "these are her people" and it is true. It was nice to immerse myself with people who had the same kind of passion that I normally dealt with on my own. While I'm so grateful to Linnea for going with me, it was nice to compare notes with fellow fanatics. The awesome folks that were first in line have a Facebook group that I gladly joined and am enjoying posting in.

In comparison to them, I felt like a bit of an amateur. They were headed in with the intention of getting one of everything, ultimate collectors. I could only tip my cap. I'm not as much of the collector type. I like to open my toys and enjoy them. But I have complete and total respect for those who do collect, it takes an extreme amount of time, money, and determination. I couldn't help but be a little envious.

Some members of 501st showed up. Had to snap a picture. As time crept nearer Linnea and I discussed what I wanted most and a budget (one we'd both blow through and then some.) After a Starbucks run and two large bottles of water were crushed, the time crept closed to midnight. When doors finally opened we snagged our free poster - an excellent Kylo Ren poster, and free Lego brick featuring a first order stormtrooper. We headed for the aisle, my excitement level through the roof really. I quickly grabbed Finn and Poe figurines. Linnea grabbed an Artoo lunch box and the Funko BB-8. The latter garnered some attention as it was the last one and we even had someone try to barter for it. I was slightly disappointed to find that they had none of the large Poe Dameron black X-Wing so Linnea suggested selflessly that we go to Target as well. She's truly the best, considering she had to be up in six hours at this point.


Target was a total success. Not only did they have Poe's X-Wing with the figurine but I also picked up a giant 18 inch of, as Oscar Isaac said, "the best damn pilot in the galaxy." We left Target on cloud 9. I was so glad to share the evening with her and have a blast. Passions are the best when shared with the ones you love.


At the time, I thought this was essentially the end of our mission. Hardly. The worst thing for our bank account that happened was the pre-planned trip to Orlando with my family. The first day there we tried the Super Target where I picked up Rey on her Speeder, a First Order Stormtrooper coffee mug, Linnea got a cute BB-8 shirt, and I bought my nephew a Boba Fett hot wheels car that he clutched all weekend.


From there, we went to the Florida Mall. Also a mistake for our financial responsibility. I bought a set of figurines from the Disney Store. Even though they were just six little figurines for a modest $15, it ended up being one of my best investments. After all of the shopping, back at the condo, I sat on the floor and unboxed them with Luke watching me closely. Sharing this time with him, the same kind of moments I had with my dad during the prequels when I was young, was not lost on me. It is something that means a great deal to me.

I happened upon the ultimate prize of the weekend at Brookestone: the Sphero BB-8. Being championed by many as the best Star Wars toy of all time, this item is already selling out everywhere. Some have compared its future Christmas sales performance to huge hits such as furbee or tickle me Elmo. Linnea promised to get me one for Christmas but as soon as they started to sell out everywhere we decided to jump the gun. Let me tell you, I do not regret it. The thing is as cool, if not cooler, than I could've imagined.

At the end of it all, I know that I'm really grateful to have Linnea. She puts up with my crazy obsessions and passions. If anything, she encourages them. That's all you can ask for in life. 101 days until the Force Awakens and I can't wait.

Not SW related, I got a great book at Sci-Fi City:

A successful weekend indeed.

State of the Union

Monday, August 17, 2015
The last three weeks of my life have been exciting (and equally tiring) in multiple ways ranging from thrilling to mundane. To begin with, Josh bought a house. We had been wanting to move into a house for as long as I could remember, whether renting or buying. I much prefer this route, as it gives us the freedom to do what we want without consulting a landlord. So we packed up our things from the apartment we'd grown increasingly annoyed with, and began the process. You never realize how much shit you have until you move, that is a certainty. So after an exhaustive move, which was made even more difficult by a dog's leash tearing two to three layers of skin off of my ring finger in a bloody and tender mess, we settled in. House life suits the three of us immensely. Josh and I have our offices (though I refer to mine as a study.) Linnea set up her sewing table and the kitchen. All of us enjoying our own little galaxies in the house universe. My quality of life, while not awful before, has skyrocketed. I'm exceptionally content. Also, we have a pool and it makes me feel like a child again.

Around the same time as the move I started contributing to thebeardedtrio. This blog involves all information regarding George Lucas, John Williams, and (probably most significant to me) Steven Spielberg. My first post was a wildly successful essay I wrote about the two stages of Spielberg's film catalogue, revolving around the seminal classic Schindler's List. (If you haven't read it, you can do so here.) It felt like a small victory, a sort of validation in the goal to be the best writer I can be. It is easy to let the words flow when you're writing about something you feel passionately about. Spielberg is certainly a subject that calls to me, he is my hero. I'm on a mission to watch, or re-watch for many, all twenty eight of his films. The biggest hurdle I've encountered with that is my desire to revisit my favorites before viewing some of them for the first time. I'll finish eventually (before the year is out.)

Over the weekend we finally visited Kennedy Space Center. I had been wanting to go back for some time now, having not been since I was a young child. It exceeded my expectations. It was educational and fascinating. Linnea and I made the wise decision to purchase annual passes. I was immediately glad we did because it is simply too much to take in in just one visit. We did not get to everything and many things we glossed over a bit due to time constraints. I'm already looking forward to going back. The best moment, by far, was viewing the relatively new building that houses the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Though the STS has finished, its legacy lives on. This mammoth sucked me in. It left me in wonderment. The space program is a never ending inspiration for me. The fact that we did something, as a country, that we didn’t have to do. Our lives didn’t depend on it, but we did it to explore. We did it to reach something beyond imaginable. Only for the greater good of science. We sent giants into space, the greatest giant there is.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” - JFK

At my large wooden desk nestled in my study I began working on models and model rocketry. It is a very calming and time consuming hobby. There is something extremely rewarding about holding the model when you're finished and looking at the intricate details that you did yourself. My first one was a snap together Back to the Future DeLorean. I soon had a craving to do a real model; glue, paint, and all. So I ordered a model of the Hughes H-4 Hercules. Do not dare call it the Spruce Goose to me, it was made out of mostly birch. Howard Hughes is an on going inspiration in my life. He was a modern day renaissance man. I bought a kit to begin making model rockets as well, which I'm hoping to launch at least one this coming weekend. That will be a whole new adventure.

Most importantly, I've been making an effort to read more. This may make some who know me well laugh because I've always been an avid reader. But I have been feeling as though I've been drifting away from it, getting distracted by other mediums. So I've dug in. First it was October Sky. I cannot stress enough how much I recommend it. It immediately became an all time favorite. I feel inclined to read it again already. Then I read An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, which was like a self-help book from two hundred and forty nine miles above. Now I am onto Ready Player One. I'm only forty pages in and can feel myself being pulled into the labyrinth of the story. Full disclosure, it was brought to my attention because Spielberg is doing pre-production to make the film adaption. But the story contains so many elements that I enjoy: gaming, pop culture, dystopian reality, and adventure.

Many other things occupy my thoughts on a daily basis; the new Star Wars films, my novel, writing in general, the Ninja Turtles, my new Apple Watch, and gaming. The last is stirring because there are a few xbox one games being released in the next few months (Star Wars Battlefront, Halo 5, Fallout 4, etc) and my dad just got me a new gaming PC. I think I have spent more time downloading games than playing them, but it will even out. It reminds me of moving in that way, the excitement fizzles a little as you have to unpack everything but once you're in place, excitement ensues. The new Star Wars, the Force Awakens, is slowly exposing more and more details but is still 122 days away. In JJ We Trust. If it is anywhere as good as Super 8 then we're in for a treat.

This post may sound like a long string of ramblings about mundane life features, to me it is something more. In An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, Hadfield says "Life is just a lot better if you feel you're having 10 wins a day rather than a win every 10 years or so." Maybe we'd all be better off if we applauded the little things and valued tiny victories. It is my effort to do so.

An Unfortunate Waltz

Wednesday, July 15, 2015
“Hey there, Sam.” The broad bartender wiped his paws on a musky, faded blue rag that Sam could smell from five feet away. “What can I get you?” Samuel bellied up to the old wooden bar with a grimace. He was wet from the rain but had barely noticed until the draft of the bar’s curiously strong air conditioning caught him. It had rained on and off for the better part of the last week. Mostly he was just tired of his hands being wet, a pet peeve of his. He ran the right one through his dark rain slicked hair and worried idly that it might be thinning.

“Bookers, rocks.” He sighed; the man should know his order by now. His long six-six frame slumped awkwardly atop the creaky barstool. Sam rubbed his hands on his pants but they were sopping too. Every night that he was in the seedy saloon he told himself he would sit in a booth the next time. But people who sat in booths alone were losers, he thought. Psychopaths or cross dressers or evangelical Christians or something of the sort. His tight damp face curled into a frown. Who was he to categorize someone as a loser? He was no better himself.

“Alright,” Dan interrupted his thoughts by sliding the eight-ounce glass across the small expanse of marked wood. The sound was like a green ocean crashing. “Here you are. Sorry to make you wait.” He stomped away leaving Sam perplexed. He had not waited at all; this was actually unusually quick service. A melancholic thought erupted in his mind – maybe he had not noticed Sam come in, perhaps to him it is as if Sam never leaves. That is what happens with regulars in low-lit bars, they hardly ever truly leave. Sam stared down into the glass, dwarfed by his large fist. The ice cubes danced and swirled a beautifully crafted routine – an unfortunate waltz.

Dan owned this bar. From what Sam had overheard the last year (overheard because he does not partake in the bar discussions) is that it was his father’s. His father was an old drunk who was not much of a father at all. He consumed as much as he sold. He died young, leaving the bar to his only son. His sisters got their house and the responsibility of taking care of their mom until she passed away a few years ago. Dan got the bar. Upon first blush he slapped a black and red Wal-Mart bought For Sale sign on it and thought very little about the dive. He had bitter memories of neglected Sundays when he was just a boy, before he became the stout broad shouldered man he is today. He’d sit in the sticky booth and play card games with himself or read old Hardy Boys books his mom checked out of the library for him. He was utterly alone in a bar of adults, unlike his sisters. His sisters were always out shopping or getting pedicures. Dan would have rather grown up to be a burly man with nice nails before enduring another Sunday at the bar.

One Sunday night after every bar in the area was shutdown, including his own, he received a call from an old high school friend who was now a cop. There was a reported break in at ‘his’ bar. He scoffed over the phone as nothing about the bar was truly his but he agreed to come down. Four in the morning he trudged in wearing an old sweatshirt squeezed over his shoulders, beat up jeans, and his house slippers. The front door hung at an angle as he opened it. The place was a dump, truly. His slippers clapped and then peeled from the floor like clammy flesh on flesh. Jeff turned down his walkie talkie to inform him that the only thing lifted was a bottle of Crowder’s Whisky. Dan nodded appreciatively, shrugging. They shared in some minor talk before he walked the familiar officer out, clapping and pealing the whole way. When he was finally alone he felt the tidal wave. Dan’s giant chest heaved as he stumbled to a dilapidated wooden chair. His long head pressed between his knees, he tried to breathe. Dan could not swallow, his Adam’s apple climbing up to his teeth. They chattered with the same voraciousness that his long sausage fingers trembled. Crowder’s was the only thing his father drank, it seemed. He might as well have had an IV of it. He had never met a soul besides his woeful gasbag of a father who drank the stuff. His mother called it battery acid. Why would someone break into the shittiest bar in town and steal Crowder’s? That night, after he had shattered every bottle in the bar, he laid in bed until sunrise and thought of his father. The tide had turned, the next day the For Sale sign disappeared.

That was Dan’s favorite story to tell, called it his ghost story in his gruff voice. Sam always thought maybe it was simply insufficient police work. He could not imagine how shitty the bar must have been if this was the cleaned up, revitalized version. The place was still a dump. It probably would always be a dump. His ice cubes had begun to shrink. Sam rushed his long grey lips to the sweaty glass and took a long draw of whisky into his mouth. He swished it for a few moments, liquid swashing up the sides of the cavernous mouth, before it burned a path down his lengthy throat.

Sam had no ghost stories, nor did he really have exciting father stories. His dad kept to himself, which is where he learned it. He was a dentist in a Midwest town who never called in sick. On the weekends he drank coffee and read James Patterson novels. That was Sam’s father in a nutshell. His mother cooked and baked and volunteered locally. They were common folk. They certainly wouldn’t like this place. He had not seen them, or even talked to them for that matter, in some time. He took another long sip of whisky and sighed. Why had he moved here? There was nothing for him here, but that was what he wanted all along: nothingness.

Sam lived in an old converted garage adjacent from a big blue farmhouse an old couple had occupied for decades. He had planned on renting an apartment. His first day into town, his Camry ambling down small overgrown two lane roads, he saw a small hand crafted sign. Alone? 1BR/1BA for $300. The sign had stickers of hearts and smiley faces, the kind of thing you’d pick up at a dollar general. It was made with care. He U-turned the car and slowed in front of the sign to read it again. Alone? 1BR/1BA for $300. Beyond the small yard sign he saw a little white haired old lady in a rocking chair. Across her lap was a woven blanket with purple, blue, pink, and white swirling. She placed her knitting needles down and raised her hand into a slow wave. Impulsively he maneuvered his car down the gravel driveway and turned the key. The wind smacked him as he stepped out of the car.

“Hello,” Sam said with a wave. After being alone in a car for so long his voice sounded foreign. The old lady slowly stood and knocked on the screen door behind her.

“Hi there, like our sign?” Her proud face, wrinkles hardening and lips curled, exposed the artist behind the sign. The dollar general shopper.

“Love it.” Sam said with a small chuckle as a tall older gentleman appeared behind the screen door. His pointed nose and strong jaw created a commanding presence before he uttered a word.

“Rich,” the older man said as he bounded down the stairs and presented his hand. Sam placed his hand in Rich’s grasp and gave it a firm squeeze.

“Samuel.”

“Helluva grip, Samuel. This here is my wife Rosie.” He gestured over his wide shoulders. She had already sat back down and resumed her knitting.

“Ma’am,” Sam nodded. She smiled and returned to her work, her hands weaving the sticks to and fro with precision.

“Well,” he crossed his arms over his chest. “Would ya like to see the place?” Though Sam was not quite sure if he wanted to see the place, his interest unknown to even himself, he nodded politely. To his surprise Rich led him to a small building behind their farm style house. “This here used to be a garage but we converted it for our grandson. He is off to college now, playing ball. We don’t want it to go to waste so…” He trailed off as he retrieved keys from his breast pocket and slide the right one into the small hole. The living space wasn’t much. A small kitchenette, what you would see in an extended stay hotel, a small TV with a VCR (Sam tried his best to not laugh), a couch, a small wooden table, murphy bed, lots of books on two bookshelves, and a space heater. The floor remained chilly cement from its prior identity as a garage but lying across most of it was a brown shag rug. The place wasn’t much but Sam took an immediate liking to it.

“So,” Rich shuffled the toothpick in his mouth to the side. “Whatcha think of the place?” He was spinning the key ring around his finger perfectly. It never stopped spinning.

“I love it!” And that was that. He took his things from the Camry, mostly trash bags of books and clothing, and moved in on the spot. The Milton’s were trusting, unflappable people. They never bothered him except to invite him over for dinner every so often. Sam usually accepted more times than not. Rich would tell tales of fighting in the war. Rosie would brag about her grand children. Sam never talked much. They tried to learn more about him by asking question here or there but they were always met with terse, compact answers. “No, not married. “Insurance sales.” “Iowa.” “Only child.” “Read and watch baseball.” Rich, at some point in the evening, would tell Rosie to “stop pestering the boy.” And that would conclude the grilling. Sam lived a solitary life, which he preferred.

So he sat at the dive bar drinking his whiskey and sighed once again. He was always sighing. But that day he had a reason. He had been laid off. Never in his young thirty years of life had he been fired or laid off. But that day his boss called him in and said they had to make some cuts. His ears immediately began to burn. The one who had been there the longest got to keep their jobs, so there it was: the axe. The worst part was when he offered for him to do freelance temp work for them “at a fraction of his former pay.” Sam did the only thing he could think to do, he calmly stood up, walked to the door, and told his boss to go fuck himself. It seemed like a lot to expect graciousness when laying someone off. He packed his things, including all of the company owned office supplies at his desk, and left. The boxes sat in the trunk of the Camry like monuments of his failure. They sat in the same car that sailed down the small streets that day with some amount of hope. Sam had done the math; he could continue his current lifestyle for two years without finding a job thanks to savings and a severance package. That math included one drink five nights a week at this bar. But he knew he wouldn’t be coming back.

Sam felt sadness; an unfortunate waltz took place in his whisky-wet stomach. He finished his drink and left cash under the sweaty glass. No one said goodbye to him or even noticed him rise to leave, just like every other night. Pulling into the driveway he noticed each light in the large house had been turned off for the night, it was eleven after all. They were early risers so you could count on them to be in bed by nine.

After turning off his car everything became incredibly still. The only sound to be heard was the whistling of the wind and the crunching of his shoes on the pathway. It was so quiet that the sound of a gunshot would be nothing short of deafening.

Jokes as Entertainment & Entertainment as Reassurance

Friday, May 29, 2015
I'm trying to figure out why we are so obsessed with finding some deeper sense of self in life. We have created this. It is a perverse rite of passage that has been crafted over time. It is almost as if when a child hits a certain pre-pubescent age they must immediately begin to foster doubt, storing it away so that they can obsess over it as soon as they hit puberty. Furthermore, that is what every teenager is told about college and adulthood, that they’re required then to go on a grandiose search. The run of the mill, coming of age years were created mostly by the entertainment industry. This concept is not meant to demean anyone. There are certainly folks who deal with strife and have to overcome it, but that does not mean every person must wrestle with inner demons. You are not broken if you simply exist. In ‘Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness’ David Foster Wallace hits the nail on the head, as he often did: “The horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle.” It is a vicious cycle. All of this just to meet some predetermined objective. Is it possible that maybe we are not all special snow flakes? It sounds cynical, I’m aware. But honestly, can’t we all just exist? We all want to be bigger, smarter, stronger, more attractive, and most of all we want to be well liked.

Being well liked doesn’t really appeal to me. I’m sure that isn’t a believable statement to many but it is true. Sure, there is the burst of excitement when someone shows interest, but after the jolt turns to tingles and then disappears all together it only becomes tedious. There is so much expectation that comes along with human interaction. For example, even the smallest one, how fucked up does it feel when you lag back an extra moment to hold open the door for a stranger and they do not say thank you or even acknowledge your existence? That is expectation strangling us, leaving our necks spurned with black and blue resentment. I hate any expectation. The pressure is as unbearable for me as a plane ride with no chewing gum next to a screaming baby. It is in my experience that I often rise to the occasion when pushed into action but I hate meeting it. My loved ones have likened it to some kind of psychopath behavior. I will hate every moment of things but damn it, I’ll be good at it and use it to my advantage. This might be my entire life in a nutshell. I tend to joke with others about how I hate people despite my various social skills. This is almost worse than having no social skills at all. It is like having some gift you certainly do not want. A lot of money has been made with superhero stories similar to that premise. I would gladly relinquish the power if I could. But I cannot. So I fight expectation and I stress over remaining solitary. It is essential to my survival.

The world could be a calmer place if we were a little more concerned with meeting our own goals, not the ones others regulate. I wonder what it would be like to live a life in which you did not worry about what another would think. Dreaming is a powerful tool. Success only comes when it is paired with the idea that any dream is worth pursuing. We will not all become uber successful entertainers, or leaders of countries, or rich business investors, or famous athletes. A lot of us will do seemingly mundane work but it does not diminish your worth. It is okay to be ordinary. What is ordinary to one may be extraordinary to another.

But this soapbox is a little high for my liking. It is my own crank psychoanalyzing at play here. I only share this diatribe out frustration. Maybe it is all too frank but maybe that is what I need more of. This week I joked that I had finally become a writer because I received a rejection letter. My own humor trying snuff out insecurities. In the same piece by David Foster Wallace he explains that “our culture has trained to see jokes as entertainment and entertainment as reassurance.” Maybe that is what all of this is: reassurance. In the absence of confidence there are only words.

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Infinite Summer Revisited

Thursday, May 28, 2015
In 2009 some folks made a lovely website dedicated to reading David Foster Wallace's magnum opus Infinite Jest. Infinite Summer broke down the beastly 1000+ page novel over parts of four months. The website also featured links to glossaries, guides, and essays on the novel. I've decided to revisit Infinite Summer and tackle it myself (along with some friends.) I'm inviting everyone to join in with me. The book can be purchased on Amazon for just under $14 in paperback or $10 for kindle. I've revised their schedule to start on June 1st and ending on September 1st. I'll be blogging some about it here, but also tweeting about it as well. My twitter handle is @kaityballgame. Shoot me a tweet if you decide to join in.

To get started, read over this guide on How to Read Infinite Jest from the aforementioned Infinite Summer. I'll be posting a list of various websites I find helpful over time.

It will be a big task but I'm excited to get started.

Revised calendar:

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*Featured photo belongs to Corrie Baldauf.

The Void

Friday, May 22, 2015
"Where did it go?" I asked the void. The only reply I hear is a sinister laugh, deep and saturated. This is how it works, unfortunately. There is this giant void; it is as deep as it is wide. It is dark and thick, like trudging through miles of Florida swampland. You never can actually see the ever-elusive light on the other side. More times than not I am convinced that it doesn't exist. It is a pinprick in the grand scheme. We do not find it; we stumble upon it by chance like fools. The void doesn't do a damn thing to lend a helping hand, and why should it? I let myself lapse into an unexceptional zone. This is on me completely. The zone is teeming with excuses and doubt. Fear is the path to the dark side, as they say in Star Wars. Or it is the path to the void in my case, at least. Slowly but surely the void thins out over time, as it has every instance before. But one of these days I fear it will not. It is all time lost. I then mourn the wasted potential of time-gone bye. It will not rest in peace. It will linger, serving as a reminder of my inadequacy. At least for today the void is nowhere to be found and pen has found its way to paper.

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Deliberate Rooftop Rover

Friday, January 23, 2015
The figures were to be descending from rooftops shortly. Through the window they were clearer than this dreary Friday morning, posted like taciturn sentinels. They stalked deliberately across the peaks of the clustered apartment buildings. One foot on each side of the apex, they carried on. In their saggy green canvas pants, speckled with chalky paint, they took in the sights from above. The sky cast grayness on everything it touched below, like a light mist on a foggy dawning. A hushed final day for the workweek was in full bloom. Upon first blush the men did not stand apart from the scene despite their odd shuffling positions. Surrounding each building stood tall bare trees of various southern varieties, branches like tentacles reaching out and upward. Behind these limbs they blended beneath their muted colors and solemn faces. The wind was playful, a jest of a zephyr. If one blew tried and true would they hold on strong? What a sight it would, as tragic as it seems, if one were to topple over the side in defeat. They seemed too composed for such a thing. The pace of the day was sedated. Everything moving sluggishly, as if these rooftops were miles long and they may never reach an end. With an ear to the sky the nearby highway plays on but even it sounded tame. They walk atop our lives attempting to be nonintrusive. Here for a day or here to stay, perhaps they’ve been there all along without notice. After they have gone, we’ll dream of them still. Dream of the day they stood so high on heavy feet when the sun could not remain so bright.

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