And another thing, who ever decided that we wanted to watch TV while pumping gas?
When I first saw the movie Blade Runner, I was struck by the bleak cityscape of 2019 Los Angeles, smoggy, dark, and — most especially — dominated by TV screens, most of them apparently selling something. Flying billboards, sides of buildings and vehicles serving as advertisements, storefronts full of television screens.
It was nowhere I would want to live — overcrowded, ugly, and with your every thought interrupted by TV screens of all shapes and sizes. No, thank you. Brilliant movie, though. Wow.
Fast forward to the spring of 2020, in real life. I walked into Costco wearing the stupid mask because the store wouldn’t admit anyone inside without one, and pushed my shopping cart toward the food section. Literally every 10 feet they had set up 55-inch TV screens with Dr. Anthony Fauci selling customers on the idea of staying at least 6 feet from each other, wearing masks, and well, you remember the drill.
We weren’t overcrowded, but it was ugly, with our every thought interrupted by TV screens of all shapes and sizes. “Life imitates Blade Runner,” I remember thinking.
And now here’s a little TV screen in the gas pump, shouting news and trivia at us while we fill up. Why? Why? Why? Life imitates Blade Runner. No, thank you.
I added 392 words to Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus on Sunday afternoon, 392 words that will anchor the whole story if the exercise was performed properly. The proof in the pudding will be if the story expands to its full length from where it has been mired all these months — or at least expands to further along the path.
Am I stealing time from Jeep and my other fiction projects when I take time for this blog? I don’t think time is the problem as much as commitment. After all, I rose from my sleep when I remembered I haven’t blogged yet today — I can’t remember the last time I rose in the dead of night with an idea about furthering Jeep’s story.
And then Saturday afternoon, there was the voice of my favorite cousin (with all due respect to all my other cousins) across the miles. It was a bittersweet connection because she was checking in to see how Red is doing after more than a month in the hospital — but the news on that front is positive; she is emerging from the fog of illness and starting to regain her personality. Although she has a long way to go, she has come a long way in the last week.
Cuz allowed as she liked “Two mugs in a bar” enough to share it on Facebook, and then one of her friends asked if it was OK for her to share it, too.
“Of course, it’s the dream of writer-types to have their stuff spread far and wide,” I said, or something like that. “Since I never fathered children (as far as I know), it’s my way of leaving some kind of something behind, a legacy or whatever.”
“Ashes from your fire,” she said, or something like that.
“Exactly,” I said. “I’m scattering my ashes across the universe.”
“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,” she said, and we laughed.
When I wrote about how, as I approached my 1,000th consecutive daily blog post, it felt like Satan and his minions were ganging up on me (hey! who says Satan is a male?) to prevent me from reaching the milestone, Red’s illness of course was the biggest distraction. It’s hard to write words of encouragement or entertainment or enlightenment — or anything at all — when your mind is consumed with your partner of 26 years’ struggle against a malignant disease.
It was good to hear my cousin’s voice through all of that mind static. My high school pal called on his birthday the other day, too, and that also was fun and comforting.
Now I’m starting to think of times my friends and family went through trials and I thought of reaching out to them and didn’t — I’m a bit of an introvert, and so that sort of thing is not easy for me. Having been on the receiving end of kindness of late, I’m learning more about how to be a human, and I’ll try to apply those lessons in the future when I can.
Summer, who succeeded Willow The Best Dog There Is™ but can never replace her, has been much more snuggly of late. She nuzzles under my shoulder and leans against me. I know she and Dejah miss their human mom almost as much as I do, but Summer especially is growing into my companion/therapy dog. And maybe I’m becoming her therapy human. I will always grieve for Willow, and we both miss Red, and Summer and I comfort each other. At least I hope she gains some comfort while she is comforting me.
And in one of those coincidences that can’t be a coincidence, in my reading immediately after writing these words, the very first thing I came across was 1 Timothy 2:1 …
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”
At some point you either succumb to hopelessness or you stamp your foot, shake your head and your booty, and cry, “Enough!” A person gets tired of felling tired and worn down by the various and sundry injustices of the world. Tyrants petty and large loom over the landscape wreaking sundry havoc, life in general is unfair and often harsh, and oh bother, Eeyore, just trouble and bother, eh?
People are shouting and whispering in your ear, “Stand up! Get off the mat and fight,” and though you are content to lie on the mat and rest, at some point yes, you have to get up. You make your way through the unfairness and the injustice and you make a life despite all that dross and detritus. All you have been given to work with are your life and your body, and it has to be enough. And come to think, all anyone is given is a life and a body, and it IS enough. You may not see it as you lie there, feeling defeated, but God, the universe and everything everywhere all at once have given you the tools to make a life, and so off we go — Off we go on the adventure of a lifetime, because a lifetime IS an adventure, don’t you know.
Perhaps this little pep talk is brought to you by Humbug Incorporated, and I am trying to conjure a miracle out of smoke and mirrors, but even the humbug has to rise off the mat, doesn’t he? Somebody has to make the smoke, and someone has to invent a mirror, and it may not be what you want it to be, but it’s fine smoke and a grand set of mirrors, and if you work hard enough, someday it just may become what you want it to be after all.
What’s that you’re saying? I’m full of excrement? Did you know everybody poops? You’ll find excrement deep inside all of us. What’s your point? We can focus on the waste product or we can focus on the building blocks. Every moment of every day presents a choice: Wallow in the excrement or rise above. Once choice may be easier than the other, but the more challenging choice is more likely to bring contentment.
Time to rise above? It shouldn’t even be a question. Choose to rise every time and oh, the heights you will reach.
Two mugs in a bar — kind of an old bar, somewhat clean, but you know how hard it is to get an old bar squeaky clean. Maybe they’re old friends, or maybe they just happen to be sitting within earshot of each other at this particular moment.
The news is on TV, or maybe it’s some politicians arguing over what the gummint should or should not do and how people can’t be trusted so this has to stop.
One mug rolls his eyes.
“You know what nobody says anymore?” he says to anyone who will listen, or maybe to himself.
The other mug stares forward. The bartender dries a glass down the way.
“You know what nobody says anymore?” the mug tries again.
The other mug stirs from his reverie. “I don’t know,” he says. What does nobody say?”
I am not a lifetime fan of Doctor Who — Matt Smith was chasing dinosaurs on a spaceship when it finally clicked — but of all the moments I have experienced in my limited experience, my favorite moment is Peter Capaldi’s last moments as the 12th doctor.
“Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never ever eat pears! Remember, hate is always foolish and love is always wise …
“Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.”
What a wonderful set of last words. What a wonderful way to live. Well, except that I really like pears.
It may not be easy for me. Red is still in the hospital and fighting to live — although she is better than she was a month ago. I have become a septuagenarian and running can be a bit of a challenge.
But I can laugh hard sometimes, I can be kind almost always, and I can run fast if I really have to — at least for a few seconds.
So let my goal for the coming weeks and months be to laugh hard, run fast, and be kind above all. (“How hard could it be?”)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think for breakfast I’ll have that can of pears from the pantry.
So I stayed up late the other night reading a book about writing called Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell. The idea of the book is that the hero of a novel almost always faces a defining moment almost exactly in the middle of the story, and you can build the story around that moment.
I went to bed, got up at about 4:15 a.m. for a biological function, had a thought about how Bell’s suggestion could apply to a character I’m writing about, wrote down the thought in my journal, and went back to sleep.
I had no memory of that thought when I woke, until I picked up the journal and saw what I had written in the early morning fog. It turns out the thought may be a linchpin that helps me finish the book after all these years.
It’s probably startling how many late-night and early-morning thoughts — how much wisdom — is found as we lie there thinking and then lost because we don’t think to preserve the wisdom in writing.
And of course this is not the first time I’ve written about having a pen and pad next to the bed, and yet I do not regularly keep a pen and pad next to the bed. This time I happened to have set down my journal within reach. Just lucky this time — if you believe in luck.