No Limits

(day 31)

Finish line. Yesterday I bloviated about, well, today. And other things I guess. I wanted to end things this Slice making my participation a little more authentic. In post one I challenged myself to write up a streak of positivity for the month despite my usual writing tendencies to sway the other way. For evidence see: last year, the dozens of notebooks collected in boxes and around my room filled with years of tears and words, lots of my social media from a certain era, etc.

 

Leading up to today, because of this restraint I’ve placed on myself, I’ve felt a slight hollowness to it all. I respect writing. A lot. It is, or should be, a temple of truth. I’m just going to cut to it. What I was trying to avoid this year was letting one specific thing tinge what I wrote everyday. It’s like a BC/AD thing on the calendar. I’m self aware enough to recognize it and it isn’t very difficult. I was blindsided in my life with a major change that eviscerated who I was when I had to get divorced a few years back. Years, yes. Some people get over thing completely in a few months or a year. Some people get over things a year or more before even telling their spouses there’s a problem because humans are not perfect machines. So it goes.

 

So, yeah, years but I am also self aware enough to know that because I purposely try to infuse my life with positivity on a daily basis, I get “better” with every passing year. I am not stuck or stagnant. If I’m being honest I think I used to be, in the BC part of my life. Before kids and marriage I remember telling people that contentment was akin to death. That lil idealiotic ruffian was all about “drinking life to the lees” and never stopping or feeling like anything was enough. But then I had so much. I allowed contentment to settle and fester. Then it was ripped away.

 

Tangents, Eddie, tangents. Ok. My point is that my ever evolving afterlife since the change began with confusion and anger and sadness and all the normal things and my vulnerable Final Slice writer person inside wants to say in the name of full disclosure that yes sometimes little remnants of those things still flutter around from time to time but those aren’t the issues that led me to decide upon this positivity challenge for this year. It has been years after all. The negativity and stuff I was staying away from had more to do with my current state of constant adjustment. Acceptance of reality despite all the stuff that never made much sense took a while but has been here long enough. It’s just that in my head I’m still family guy, dad guy, “normal” guy. I still wear my ring. It’s on my other hand out of respect for what the symbol means but I have to keep it on. I’ve taken it off twice. When I wear it on my right hand I at least feel like I’m not just single guy in the world bachelor dude. Ugh. Both times I took it off horrible, horrible things happened. It’s not symbolic of a tether to the past, it ties me to who I am right now. My identity. Who I am and want to be. Family first, always no matter what. So, yeah. I get hung up still on all the things I should be and should be able to do for my family but can’t and that is big and it is heavy and I tried this year to shield that from my writing.

 

So I am not going to wrap things up by going back on that self placed challenge. Instead I will honor it. It took me a long time to figure out how to do that and inject the amount of authenticity I felt I have removed from my writing this year. The following is what I came up with. I’m not sure how well it will do the job, but it’s what I got. Yes, it seems my life for the past bunch of years is split up into before and after. I can accept that. But there was a me before all of that. I very much agree that the past is not a good place to set up camp, I learned that the hard way, but I also believe it is silly to think that your past, and every moment soon becomes past anyways, doesn’t play a huge part in building who you are. The good the bad the stupid the sad. All of it. And there was a me before all of this change and turmoil and in that me was authenticity and purity and the type of honesty I believe I took from my writing this year. So, to wrap up, I’m going to list some of the stuff that has always been here, through it all, that makes me who I am. And that is one thing, actually, that no one can take away from me ever. This stuff is where many of my true emotions resonate, reside, originate, and/or vibrate most. Stuff still here, untouched by any before or after anything. All me forever.

 

My favorite sound – any of my kids saying “dad”. BG says daddy still some times and, be still, my heart. But whether it’s simply conversational or with pain or sadness or joy or anything – that word from those lips. The best. That’s me, in a sound, and it’s perfect.

 

Saddest song – I know it’s weird and raw and arty but I went down the rabbit hole of Boston bands actually starting with one of two lesser-knowns in Belly back when I was younger and they led me to the Breeders and ultimately the Pixies and these guys, the other lesser known of the quartet – Throwing Muses. From the first time I accidentally heard it I get all sweaty eyed. So good.

 

Favorite animal – Penguin. I heard in like 4th or 5th grade that they mate for life. It has become sort of a trite romantic trope and I’m not sure it even stands for all breeds but I grabbed it and help on with my dumb little romantic self. I wrote a series of poems in my late teens about Hazy the Penguin. His trip was he always wanted to fly. Over time it made him different from the rest of his people and they made fun of his dreams and he never stopped trying. Until he found his person. Then he knew what it was to fly. Such a little weirdo, me.

 

Most memorable live music experience – It was 1995 and a small group of us were all in on The Smashing Pumpkins. We had literal last row, backs to bricks, seats at Rosemont Horizon for our first Pumpkins show. The album just came out and they were, if not the biggest band in the world then right up there at this point having their moment of glory amongst the peaks that Nirvana and Pearl Jam had also been enjoying. I have gone to hundreds and hundreds of shows in my life. Back then it was our thing. Going to 3 or 4 in a week was not out of the question and it has led to some life-changing experiences (I’m looking at you, Radiohead, closing out your set on that dusty field with True Love Waits). But this is the one. By far. Like I said, their 3rd proper album had just come out. I was living in Florida but flew back just to see this show with my boys despite having tickets for the Tampa show months later. There is no video for the actual Chicago show but this one is the closest I can find. Besides the radio hit, the album was so new none of us had time to properly memorize it like we would very soon. I totally understand remembering the one time you heard that one song live with your friends that you all love but this sticks out for me because it’s the first time I remember being completely absorbed and loved and excited and spit back out changed by a song none of us even really know. I very specifically remember my goth dude skirt and eyeliner wearing freak kid self locking huge eyes with a kid who would, years later, be my best man during the area around the 3:15 mark in this video. I can still re-live that look between us in my mind – all the feelings and goosebumps and just being aware that we were out of body happy with everything within that very second because of the music our band was playing. Just before the song he was talking about how they always tell the crowds on this sold out tour that they too can achieve the impossible because they used to be just like them but how, in this specific stadium, he really means it because (as he points up to the cheap seats where we were) he actually was the kids standing exactly where we were not too long ago. And then to launch into something like this? I will never in my life forget it.

 

Meaningful teams – That pocket of time really formed a big part of me – the ‘84 Cubs and the ‘85 Bears. I can still name all the starters from both teams. My guys were Ryno and Wilbur Marshall though. But I loved them all. I can still feel inside exactly how I felt as a kid watching those teams. Thinking about them when they weren’t playing. Dreaming I was them in the backyard. It sparked a love and devotion in me that I know I wound up applying to many other areas of life. I remember clearly their biggest losses – for the Cubs it was just missing the World Series versus Garvey and the Padres and for the Bears it was their only loss in an otherwise perfect season blanket living room picnic Monday night against Marino and the Dolphins and my mom wept. All these years later I’ve die harded through more losses than wins. I loved the Jordan Bulls and very much lived through that and have had some epic Hawks moments as my extended family is very much a hockey family. You can call me fair weather for those teams though I guess. I just don’t have the love for those sports as I do for baseball and football as I watch anyone play those two sports and really only watch the Bulls and Hawks. And it all started with those two teams.

 

Most lasting inspirational scene – I was going to place a clip from the original Trainspotting “Choose Life” montage here because back when I was becoming me it really spoke to something inside and stuck. If you want to go find it and have never watched the film please do. I’m not including it for two reasons. One is that essentially all the characters in that movie are heroin addicts and the clip itself holds sentiments that really hit me but the language and visuals are meant to disturb and shake things up as much as the message and I felt uncomfy adding them here. The second reason is that they made a second Trainspotting movie where most of the characters are on to the next phase. I have never tried heroin, let alone been a junkie, but I am at an age like the characters where the timing is spot on and I am in a different phase of life from when the first movie was out as well. They knew, in filming the new one, that the Choose Life scene was iconic so they updated it for the new film and the new time. Seeing it a while back is what reminded me of how much I loved it back then and probably is why I’m including it here. So I’m going to put the updated Choose Life speech on my final post about what stirs up my emotions on a real level. Again – there are still raw sentiments and harsh language so skip if you want, obviously.

Favorite Love Movies – had to go with two and neither are conventional rom/coms but since first reading Romeo and Juliet I’ve always loved art that existed to tell stories about love. Neither of these movies are for kids or the faint at heart. They involve slut shaming, drug deals gone bad, prostitution and pimps, gross out humor, etc but at their hearts they are about love and I love them.

 

 

Biggest moral no-no – Lying. This comes from my dad. Trust is key. Not just between parents and kid but for the world world to work how it should. I do not lie. Ever. I have what I think is an impressive streak going and have yet to meet anyone worth breaking it for. It does lead to hurt feelings and other pain from time to time. There are very few people I care enough about to hide truth from if I know it will hurt them, but never lie. The only thing close to a caveat would be with my kids. Their protection is the only thing that is elevated beyond my insistence for truth in the world. A close second is entitlement. People who were always given everything so they feel they should have, or can take, anything. I learned work ethic and a sense of earning what you get from my very hard working parents. I knew from a young age that there were many people who had things easier than I had or would. I can’t and don’t begrudge people who won the birth lottery and came into the world with perks. I just can’t stand when those people don’t see it that way and condemn the rest of us to dealing with their self-serving attitudes. I don’t have much because I’m a single teacher but I do know I bust my butt to get what I do have and always will. Those who break this sort of social code I recognize and respect are, to me, the main culprits for what is wrong with the world. Don’t even get me started on entitled liars.

 

Happiest song – Back when I was a stay at home dad to just one kid, the Big One, and I honestly thought for close to 4 years he’d be the only one because money was going to be tight and the world is and was the world, we were inseparable. Lots of walking and lots of driving and always always music. This was the first song he used to sing along to once he started talking. The CD came with a dvd of the video and I’d put it on in our condo and he would dance and stare and sing all the words and I can still see that cheeky little face. Sometimes his 6’2 16 year old face framed by peach fuzz and usually the carefully maintained countenance that all teens carry themselves with is blasted away when he touched somewhere inside of himself pure joy and that cheeky adorable beaming beautiful smile shines through with such perfection and I know my little guy is still in there and I love him with all my heart.

Ok I got choked up bringing forward all that inner me-ness. The point in closing like this was to explore how we aren’t defined by our worst moments, regardless of how worst they are. Or our best, but we try to pile those up so they start to sway the argument. I wanted to close by bringing something real I felt was missing and realized I could stay true to my mandate while still baring my honest soul. Not because I have any delusions that anyone who might read this cares. But because this challenge was about writing and about writing about our lives. I respect writing so much and try every day to respect the preciousness of life and I couldn’t walk away from this year’s challenge worried I didn’t show the respect I believe both deserve. I think I can now. Not because I know I did something good or worthwhile, not based on any kind of success imagined or otherwise, but because I tried to honor it. All we can do, ever, is just try. In the end I just want you to know, moving forward trying is something I plan on being a constant, no filter – patience, effort, and dedication. Always.

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writer wrong -the search for authenticity

(day 30)

One day to go. 31 days to some may not be a lot but, guys, to some people 31 days is everything. To some it’s more than everything whether they know it or not. We’ve agreed to be in this thing all together for 31 days and that’s something on this planet where everyone is at everyone’s fingertips yet so, so far away.

 

Tomorrow is the last day and I’ve been thinking how to wrap up. If you’ve read any of my stuff you can probably tell I’m not the kind of guy who’s final post will be something like – “that was fun, I pushed myself and grew and read a lot of great stuff and am so glad it’s over!” I am in no way disparaging those of you for whom I’ve just summed up tomorrow’s post. I wish I could clean cut say stuff like that. Sigh. I can’t. I need a way to tie it in to the whole experience and I need to write so much that anyone who clicks on my thing passes right by because ain’t no one got time for that.

 

Last year for my second to last post I posted reflections I did for each of my posts the next day throughout the 31 days. I kept track and then by day 30 I basically had the thing written and it was fun looking back on the month. I did not do that this time. So it looks like my second to last Slice will be me worrying about how I’m going to wrap things up tomorrow. Sounds about right. Haha. Awesome.

 

Seeking inspiration I just looked up last year’s final post and the first thing I can say is I can’t believe anyone read any of my stuff. Geez. I really like to hear my fingers click keys I guess. But there is something in that post I’ve lacked this year. I remember creating that post. Like this year I thought ahead of time about how to wrap up the challenge and began and edited and worked on the 2018 swan song. After a few paragraphs though I remember it all just falling out. Venom and fire and love and tears just flying out and I didn’t care what it looked like or sounded like because it was my last gasp and I was going to go for it. Writing about writing. About honesty and purity and life itself. I made myself read it again and yes it is cringeworthy overall for sure but I bleed through lots and for that I am kind of proud.

 

This year I decided to specifically aim for positivity. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it up the whole time and I didn’t but I think the trying may have limited me. I am aware that I still don’t really do this thing right. My tangents and paragraphs and consciousness streams that wind into oblivions of self centered nothingness. But it’s like this year has a filter on it. I gave myself a lens through which to write and attempted to adhere to it so it’s fine but I’m left thinking it took a chunk out of who I am on these pages and so I think I may try to wrap up tomorrow by at least addressing, if not partially remedying, that plastic scratch of inauthenticity I am feeling. Or I’ll be tired and just peace out.

 

Either way, it really has been a Slice. As I’m writing and thinking, yes, it is about me. But once I submit and go out into the day’s work done by all of you, that’s when the purpose of this thing hits me full blast every day. I have been so inspired and moved by both your stories and your craft. Honestly. Such a great collection of minds and hearts. So, from the bottom of mine, thank you.

Soul Survivor

(day 29)

In the pilot episode of a podcast I recently got into where the hosts break down an album by a band, song by song, one of the co-hosts began with a poetically delivered disclaimer about how he had always wondered if others perceived the world the way he did. He continued on about how he felt this was a deep but rational question for a sentient being to ponder from time to time and eventually folded it into discovering this band and like-minded thinkers and word perceivers and so on. It was a pretty good season of a podcast but that intro stuck with me most I think.

 

A while back I was chatting with friends. One of those nights where frivolity tends to deviate into the philosophical and then back as the tides of the night turn. I think I mentioned something about my long standing belief, or theory anyways, on the afterlife, meaning of life, purpose for living – you know, the nutshell everything. I have long had a fascination with all the big whys and hows. Some of my theories are, admittedly, out there. I wrote about one of my “more colorful” ideas on what life is last year here – I think that night with friends I mentioned that I have always leaned toward the possibility of reincarnation as such: you keep coming back, your unknowing soul, until you do it right. Like, perfect right. Then you get one last go-round as like the beloved puppy to a rich family that treats you like an equal member and you have a perfect life chilling and playing and the catch is, on this final spin, you know. You know it’s your victory parade and you know you’re being rewarded and you know what matters and what doesn’t and maybe that’s why those dogs (or cats or whatever) just seem to have that extra special inner something. But like Hitler came back a bunch as tortured lab rats and unfairly mutilated Time Magazine expose features.

 

Anyways, the best kinds of books are those which happen into your life because a friend hears you say something like this and immediately has it pop into their head that they have something you should read and then let them know what you think. That’s always so awesome. I’ve been separated from volumes of books that way and I’m glad about it. I don’t always hear back, I’m never pushy, but it’s a book and maybe years later those people will remember and pick it up and that spark I thought needed stoking in that perfect way will ignite. Time bomb of goodness.

 

I’ve been so busy and to be honest that was a while ago that the book was placed in my care and I’m still only about three quarters through it. Not only is my time limited but I’m kind of savoring it. It’s technically not the best writing ever done and the conceit of the thing is a little flimsy for my liking but the idea it’s trying to convey brings lots of clarity to this idea about everything I’ve been cultivating for as long as I can remember. We love that, don’t we? Ha. When something vibes with our own thing but it’s official and published and stuff.

 

The part I’m not spiritual or hippy enough these days to fully buy is the device the ideology is told through. There was a quasi-famous psychic, tops in his field according to the author, and he had a sort of assistant? An intern? Not super important. Anyways, dude died and shortly thereafter began communicating with this woman via typewriter from the other side with the plan of writing a book, the book in my very hands, explaining to all of us Earthlings how things really work so we can live good lives and be prepared and informed and such. Again, I totally understand how in certain spiritual circles this method for storytelling helps to sell books. Especially if you like the actual dude supposedly having these thoughts ghost written from the great beyond. Again though, not important to my post or why I find the book’s “insights” so great.

 

Like I said, I’m not done yet but what I’ve gathered so far is that, yes, reincarnation is sort of a thing. He explains that yes there is a god but god is us, all of us, and of course that’s a sort of concept the human brain can’t fully wrap around but the more people on earth and afterward are doing good things, the closer we are to completing the kind of paradise god always planned for humanity. It goes beyond religion and stuff like that but also includes all of them and the purity at their bases.

 

He (she) tackles all the hard ones like babies who die young or even in utero or good people taken suddenly or after long bouts with horrific and painful disease. These are the explanations I think I like best. Obviously we don’t know our soul’s past lives. I understand the solace many take in saying like “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” or whatever but these theories take even that a step further.

 

See, according to the book we are here, over and over again, to complete the specific perfect human experience. And once our soul finally accomplishes that we go on to the place afterward and help out there. Help souls coming and going. Etc. But that’s not the part I gravitate toward. I don’t think I’m far enough in my journey (if I even ever accept this fully as what I think is going on , which, that possible acceptance doesn’t mean anything anyways) to care too much about being some afterlife professor or something.

 

But as my linked post from last year and my aforementioned theory on reincarnation hints, I have always wondered if there was some systemic, rational, understandable reason for everything. Something almost too simple for us to see. Questioning the ins and outs of how life goes. For a while there I thought there was a good chance I was maybe mentally handicapped and everyone around me was just so cool about it or it was so awkward for anyone to tell me this late in the game that everyone just let me believe I was of sound mind and whatnot. I just felt like I saw everything so differently.

 

But what I have taken from the book is that all the problems everyone faces, from the unfortunate departure of the very young and innocent to those who live triple digit lives of toil and strife, are there for a reason. It’s not that we are only given what we can handle because people every day prove that they cannot. The notion I like is that the troubles that befall us, either seemingly randomly or through our own missteps, are there for a reason. The long game. Our souls need to deal with them because they stand for obstacles that prevented them from attaining the next step toward that perfection we strive for the last time around. And we keep coming back until we conquer that specific obstacle. And we keep getting to try and “fix” all of them until we have no more.
There’s an eerie quality to the bad sad sack novella of things that I have struggled with in life. A sort of current runs through them that I cannot define or otherwise place my finger on. But it has always felt like there was a purpose behind their strung together similarities. Tracking it back probably helps explain my early on Truman Show theory I wrote about last year. And no, I don’t feel like I deal with anything well enough to graduate from whatever all of this is with my remaining years this time around, but thinking that I’ve been given what I have for a reason helps some of it click into place. And whether this is close or not even or we are really inside of a computer simulation (yes I’m sticking with this as a very real 50/50 possibility because it just makes too much sense) I do believe, because through all these weird questions I can palpably feel it in my heart as all of you can, that trying to do good and better yourself for the benefit of others is just right. Regardless of reasons, in this life, I have kids. I also have family and friends who stand by me and because of that my life needs to be something that honors them. And I know that by striving to be a good man through everything that tangles my brains and mangles my heart is what ultimately provides those kids, who never asked consciously to be born, with a good father. Further, it allows me to honor those who have decided I am worth spending this life helping and growing with. So regardless of the whys or hows, that’s what I’m going to try to do.

memory glitch

(day 28)

My grandma called in about the 5th inning of today’s opening day Cubs game. She can’t get her computer to work. I asked if the problem was that it wouldn’t turn on, or? She assured me it was nothing like that, shwe just couldn’t get to her Facebook or fantasy baseball team and there was baseball today and what should she do?

 

First off, yes, my grandma plays in our family’s fantasy baseball and football leagues. We are spread out between here and Florida and we all love sports so it’s fun. My grandma, like many mature human individuals, has issues with technology. I will go after finishing my traditional opening day viewing with my kids and “fix” her computer. I’m not sure what the problem is and I am by no means an expert but it will be fixed somewhere between 5 and 45 seconds is it’s broken like it usually is.

 

My parents moved us all to Florida just before my senior year in high school. I moved back and forth a lot before meeting my wife after graduation. I usually had a fun house or apartment with friends but when I didn’t I could always stay at Grammy’s on literally zero notice. As far as her and my grandpa, Pop, knew I was still living in Florida. Or New York. Or whatever, and I’d show up with my duffle bagged life’s possessions and there I’d be for a few months.

 

Even before we moved we always loved sleepovers at Grammy’s. She had a pool in her back yard and a basketball court right down the street and my parents had 3 kids by the time they were 21 and worked their butts off to afford us. So we were there lots. We LOVED it Before we moved our whole extended family was, for the most part, stationed here in the Chicago area. We’d go to each other’s houses for holidays but when it was a Thanksgiving or Xmas at Grammy’s was basically home turf for us. They would cook and host and it was just, life.

 

My aunt and her family and I live down the street from Grammy’s house now. That’s it. I manage to get the kids there once or twice a week. She insists on making them dinner. It’s usually sausages she had ready by 3 for our thrice agreed upon 4:30 arrival time after at least one call while I’m trying to teach my after school club asking where we are. Sometimes I pop out to change or hit the gym. Regardless of the food quality in comparison to when I was their age, my kids love being at Grammy’s just like my brothers and I used to. Those days when I leave them there for a bit I’m pretty sure my daughter has at least 3 ice creams.

 

It goes like this, in my mind. My grandma finishes washing the ice cream bowls and puts them away. Then she asks my daughter if she is hungry for ice cream. This repeats once or twice and then she yells at my now-diabetic grandpa for eating “all the kids’ ice cream”. My grandma, the sharpest, quickest, most involved grandmother (and great-grandmother) I’ve ever known, and one of the best and closest friends I’ve ever had, forgets things. All the time. All day, everyday.

 

I could go in detail but I’m not going to. She’s funny, not serious. We tease sometimes and it’s fine. Laughing covers scary well. She still makes it rain sleet or snow to every one of my kids’ sporting events that she can. She’s very much still in there. The spark has not diminished. Her memory, like, short term, is just no longer a thing really.

 

It happens with aging and I’m lucky to have an intact pair of grandparents that were integral to my life and now no matter how much longer we’ll be lucky to have them around it will be the same for my kids. They have already gotten so much from them. And I have to believe there’s so much more to come. She may not remember the moments individually, but we will. She may not remember the moments individually but she does know they exist and that we build on them with every passing visit.

 

Cubs win. Computer fixing time. And a stolen visit for me and the kids to Grammy’s house.

The Miniscule Miraculous

(day 27)

“But then again, when was the last time you were struck dumb by the profundity of a moment?”

For some reason out of the gagillion lines of bad poetry or random “deep” thoughts I’ve been writing since I was a fetus that is one that I remember. I wrote that in a folded spiral notebook I used to walk around with in my back pocket like the kid DiCaprio played in Basketball Diaries. I was nothing if not unoriginal. I was nothing if not susceptible to inspiration-driven stylistic persona larceny. Remembering that line from time to time the thing that made it stick in my later years is that I wrote it some time in my late teens or early twenties. Even then I guess I was fascinated by the desire to be amazed or feel in some way significant. Not just me but existence itself. It seemed like it should be miraculous. Filled with…well, filled.

 

Last night I took a walk and looked at the stars. Those twinkling pin holes have always demanded my attention. All the stuff up there always has. I sometimes just text my son, the Big One, one word – “moon”. He knows it means he should find it because it’s putting on a show. Some of my favorite early dad memories involve waking him up at like 4 am and pulling the car out onto the street with blankets and laying on the roof of the car with an unobstructed view of a meteor shower or eclypse that facebook or whatever told me about. Back around when I wrote that line we worked so we had rent and beer money. That was it. We were young and went out to our local and holy dive bar sometimes 5 or 6 nights a week. Afterward, before going in, I always spent time, regardless of how blurry my state, just gazing at stars. Thinking the Capulet/Montague thoughts of a hopeful hopeless romantic and somehow believing the answers would all come from that unknowable eternity above me.

 

I got my first tattoo back then. A bunch of us did. We picked Japanese symbols, as American kids are wont to do for whatever reason, and only those of us who pulled the trigger were allowed to know what each other’s symbols meant. I can release the secret now that mine has long been covered up by something more meaningful from a person with a more fully formed brain, I don’t think those guys remembered what mine meant a few months later and I definitely forgot theirs or even who exactly was in that weird little club. I know I loved them though and still do. My symbol meant “star”. Partially, I think, because of my relationship with the night sky and partially because I always entertained ideas back then that I would become something significant. It had a layered duality and I was an intellectual. Haha. Youth is wasted, and such.

 

Last night I looked up and I saw Mars or some planet like that. It was red. We went camping and had a great view of two different planets last year. Someone we were with had one of those app things and the kids were enthralled. It was cool but made even more so by their interest in something so grandiose and yet, simple. But in looking at that red glow of a shimmer in the sky last night I, from my speck of infinitesimal patch of sidewalk on Earth, perspectived the whole thing in that I realized that other planet was basically hugging us when, in comparison, all of those stars were as far away as an ancient, long passed 23 and Me’s relative’s twice forgotten memories were.

 

On Netflix Darren Aronofsky has this new series hosted by the Fresh Prince that looks at Earth from the perspective of 9 astronauts. It’s like Planet Earth from the BBC but looking at the stranger parts of our planet. I’ve so far only watched the first episode but it was a game changer for my brains. The first one was about air. Our air. So, basically, life. For most of my life I held the belief that the rainforests gave us most of our oxygen. “The lungs of the planet” – spoiler alert – fake news. Not a single breath ever leaves the rainforest. The intricacies of just how life is allowed to exist on Earth as posed by this TV show? I can’t even explain how miraculous it really seems to be, even with the great way they scientifically explain it. If you’re interested at all in understanding stuff like this, watch it.

 

But I do teach science and I actually have a unit on space that covers the stars. I know that a lot of those twinkles have long since been extinguished. It wasn’t the comprehension of distance I so clumsily pointed out with the 23 and Me thing that struck me and kept me thinking leading up to this Slice. I knew that stuff too. But whether or not the stars I was seeing were still there, I have to believe there are millions up there in existence now. Out there. And for the first time when I looked at them last night for whatever reason I envisioned each of those burning inferno suns, so enormous in size and power that, like our own, is visible from unfathomable distances, even after their demise, each with possible planets orbiting them. And I envisioned that just maybe, of those millions too far for us to explore or otherwise know, there may be now or in a million years from now whether our sun is still burning or gone, someone standing on their patch of infinitesimal sidewalk and seeing our little pin hole twinkle and wondering epiphanic wonders similar to mine.

 

I probably mentioned this last year and try to sneak it in every year to students but the two things I know my brain is not wired to even begin to understand is the fact that the size of the universe is forever, depending on how limiting your definition of the universe is. I just mean everything. Because after everything, there has to be something. Even nothing is something. And the second thing is that something has always been somewhere and always will be. Always. Just that word, “always”, stretching back behind us and out ahead of us is incomprehensible. Because before there were things, there had to be something, and after all we know is done and over, there will be something else.

 

It would be pretty egotistical of us to believe that with all this space we’re the only ones alive. And yes, in that Will Smith show my eyes were opened to just how incredible it is that our planet even works. This looking at the stars last night and imagining other solar systems and sentient beings possibly seeing our sun as a star wasn’t quite as mentally unreachable as those last two mind-benders but it did strike me dumb in a new way. And once again it made me think about significance. I’m not sure where I land. It sways I guess. Am I, are we, the miniscule insignificant flecks of nothing in the great expanse of everything? Or is the fact that we are a part of such a magnificent mysterious experience with such great enormity proof of our extreme and ultra meaningful significance?

 

Or we are just a part of one of millions of computer simulations being conducted to find out about a world we will never fully know? Haha. Either way, I’m going to keep looking for moments. In the end I think that’s all we leave with, and they can be so miraculous.

obsessed

(day 26)

A while back, I’d say around 7 weeks ago, my buddy told me about this new place in town that, according to him, has the best wings around. This is huge news. Monumental, even. When I was a kid, just about legal drinking age time, a new sports bar opened and it was shiny and great and had all the TVs including little private ones at many of the smaller tables. I would not like to say exactly how long ago that was right now. But on top of all of that they had, hands down, the best wings around. Huge. So good. Over the years the place started to slide, and with it so did the quality of the wings. It died a slow death that I know more about than I should but it’s not germane to the story so I digress.

 

I obsess. I am aware. See, about 7 weeks ago is when I started my diet/weight loss contest at the gym. Yes, I know, I’ve covered this multiple times. Obsessed. I get it. But it is what my spring break is. Tomorrow I do my second to last weigh in. The thing ends the following week. Finally. I have been in the lead by 2 percent at least from week one. I won the thing last year. Among the prizes for first place is 6 months free gym membership. But I know that’s not the main prize.

 

I am now being pushed. The lead has been cut to 1.5 percentage points. Someone is working very hard. I have this break all mapped out so I can do two a days. This includes a couple very early days for session one the next two days due to my daughter’s karate and a promised Captain Marvel excursion and then a dentist appointment and our annual Cubs opening day festivities. I’m still going to try and get two in both days. If I can get to Friday I’m golden.

 

I walked out of gym session two and was viciously assaulted by the thick aroma of literally every suburban everybody grilling out in the sun. Yikes. Not only do I super stereotypically as a dad guy love to BBQ, love the smell, the process, etc – but the first few times every year it hits me in the sad nostalgia hole back to when I owned a house and had a Weber charcoal grill  that I made magic with on the reg. Ugh. Whatever. I tucked my nose in my shirt to shield it from the noxious deliciousness and got the heck right out of there.

 

At this point in my day I have gotten both two hour workouts in and until I sat down had not yet eaten a bite. Well, I broke down at the store since I had to grab a couple things anyways and added to my stock of 2 lbs of baby carrots, sliced mango, two apples I’ve been saving that was gifted me by my teaching partner, 2 oranges, and a banana. Don’t get sushi, don’t get sushi – I chanted to myself at the store and instead I opted for three-quarters of a pound of on sale roast beef and a thing of awesome looking mustard. I squirt a line and roll it up. So as I’m typing with a mouth full of mango I have to admit that this was one time where the lady showed me the first deli counter slice and asked if I’d like to eat it as a sample, that I melted. In that moment I loved that lady from her hair net to her comfortable yet handsome footwear. Good call on the meat. It’s not the best for you. I know that. I really like it but my go-to at Jimmy Johns is the turkey unwich because I know (I think) it’s a little better for you than roast beef. But whatever – that’s not what makes me take pause. It’s three-quarters of a pound. I can quantify how much weight I’m adding tonight when I plow through it. Which I most definitely will.

 

I’m sorry. I will find other things to write about between now and the end. I’m thinking maybe one more post if tomorrow’s results are posted before Slice ends. I’m sure that homestretch will wrench a post from me. I had this big idea for today’s post. Deep stuff. But, obsessed. Saturday after next is my last weigh in. The Cubs play at 6 and my kids don’t have baseball and my mom will still be in town for a visit. I can wait for those wings until then. I really can. I can do it. Seriously. Ugh. My buddy says they’re the best around and something tells me regardless if he’s correct or not, on that glorious day, he will be. My kids and my mom celebrating the end of this dumb thing I signed up for.

 

On that day it doesn’t matter if I come in first or third or whatever. Honestly everyone who signed up for this thing, and really everyone who doesn’t need to do some weird contest to try and better themselves in any way be it physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally or otherwise, should celebrate the fact that they’ve tried. Whether they go full-boat obsession or just pick away, trying is what pushes our ability to evolve into something better than we are. I need that. I have needed this obsession because it is a positive one. It’s why I keep so busy. “Idle hands”, and all.  So thank you for indulging me as I do the opposite and deprive myself. Tomorrow I’ll fend off hunger by promising to notice something else to write about. But for now, I have a bag of meat to swallow.

Psychopath

(day 25)

I got to the gym this morning for the first of what I hope will be 6 or seven two-a-day workout days over break heading into next week’s final weigh in for my gym contest. And also so I can take my shirt off at pools or whatever over summer. I walked to my elliptical machine. Mine. Second from the right. All dudes at urinals unspoken rules are eschewed when it comes to this machine. If the other 4 are open but the one next to mine is not, I’m sidling right up to whoever that in place runner is and getting down to business. Somehow I feel like I trust it best. Whether I input difficulty level 13, 16, or 17 depending on what the day calls for, for whatever reason I feel like the give/resistance ratio is perfect for the simulated random hill workout I always choose and the calories lost data it presents me with is correct every time. I don’t understand exactly but it chose me after giving all the rest a twirl on the dance floor.

 

I usually watch History channel while I do my cardio. 20 minutes on my elliptical and 20 more on a bike. Mystery of some treasure island, Forged in Fire knife making, American Pickers, Ancient Aliens – all good stuff. Alas, today the TV on my machine wasn’t working. Black screen all channels. Oh well. I also always have my music. My Spotify playlist for the gym is called “Halpert”, rather, it’s “Halpert 2.0” after it got an upgrade. If you get it, you get it. So I turn that on and the vaguely British lady in my ear says, “power on” followed as always by, “bluetooth connected” sweet here we go, wait a second, “battery level, low.”

 

What?! I do quick mathematical equations with a brain for which such operational functions do not exist. The result I come up with is that I really hope there’s enough juice to get me through and then I can charge in between my two workouts. But for the first day of my rigorous break schedule this is a bummer of an omen. These Sony things have lasted about a year. I didn’t go top of the line. I never go top of the line I’m a single teacher with kids. But I didn’t go Fisher Price either. These were on sale for like 50 bucks I think. Over the last few months there were workouts where it would just skip songs constantly as if my little brother had the remote and would change the channel from behind the couch over and over so I thought it was the technology ghost. Then there was about a month straight where the power button would not work for shutting the thing off so I would just always have to bring it home and charge it. But those things seemed to have fixed themselves for the duration of this now 7 week (almost) contest, thankfully.

 

I measure my 20 minute increments by songs. I always make the menu take away the clock and stuff so I don’t focus on that. So it’s like 4 or 5 songs usually. Unless an epic number like Guns n Roses’ underappreciated masterpiece Estranged or Tripping Daisy’s very inspirational Prick. Then there are less song but more awesome. The machine tells me when 20 minutes have passed of course but I don’t want to know before then because I might dog it or whatever. It’s a mental thing. I get to my second song and it’s the following song. I am going to post it in here because as the song was finishing up, like 9 minutes into my day, the headphones died. Now I don’t usually “work blue” on my blogs here because it’s mostly teachers and I’m a’scared. In my usual writing I am more like a Dr Thompson. That is with the obscenity quantity, not writerly quality. When I write for me or catharsis it’s usually way more loose than I am here and, basically, more of a rip off of writers I admire who happen to swear and stuff.

 

I say this because the song I am posting here has adult words and content. Not safe for work, as the kids say. But I think it’s important to the heart of my Slice and I love it because I think the girls here are so talented and weird and artistic. The song is dark and so personally sad to me, yes, but ultimately uplifting and empowering and it means a lot. The beatbox guy is real good as far as beatbox guys go and I love love love this live version so you can skip about a minute in to miss the beatbox solo as it’s not actually part of the song.

So that song plays and my thing dies and the TV is blank and the first thing that runs through my head is this meme I saw a while back. For some reason I always remembered it as having the word “psychopath” in it but that’s probably just something I mentally added. I don’t mean to implicate anyone who works out with no headphones – this just resonated with me because I am such a die hard headphone guy when it comes to the gym. Or shoveling snow or cutting the grass or other lawn work.

gymmeme

So I am running on my elliptical with the echoes of that song ringing in my head and it is the power of a song that I was meaning to meditate on here. I was looking out the window across the parking lot of the strip mall my gym is in at the town’s water tower but also I was running along the water in California where I first became smitten slash obsessed with these girls and this song, and then I was driving driving always driving alone or alone in my head with this song playing through sunsets and rainstorms and other assorted chaos and nothingnesses blurring street lines and timelines and never really finding any type of destination or landing space.

 

Music helps the time go when you’re straining and pushing through robot-like. Now I was suddenly open and vulnerable. I could hear the metallic squeals and leaden thuds that were somehow equally clattery and dull. These are all sounds muted but felt when I have music playing. My ears were cooler, but the rest of me felt way less so. Get it? Because my tunes are so cool.

 

And all the other people. Yes, I am gym polite and realize others are around and stuff but when I’m doing the stuff they may as well not exist. Today, when my song-induced flashbacks of imagery and feeling were suddenly shattered it reminded me that even though most of the people milling about actually had their sonic sarcophaguses and were blocking me out, I could help but hear the grunts and dropped weights and actual conversations I didn’t even know were a part of that building. It gets a little weird. The piped in tunes shift from what I believe is the fabled Nickleback band to Daft Punk. I remember I used to have an old pair of ear buds in my gym bag but I remember quickly that when I switched over from Middle Guy’s old BMX backpack (it lit up on the pouch, so dope) to my daughter’s pink camo one as a gym bag last month, those ear buds did not make the cut.

 

I muscled through on the power of the memories of that great song and the need to stay with the plan and not let all the things that happened throw me off. I know what was happening. The pretend brother behind the couch was giving me excuses on the first day of the hard part of the 8 week challenge to cut things short and make the hard push tomorrow. And then tomorrow. And then never. But I made it happen. Got back and found that the old headphones wouldn’t take a charge on any of the 3 chargers I have that sometimes work. RIP. Off to Target. Round 2 commences in about 4 hours and I am never going through that again if I can help it!