Nature and the Alien Boy

This past weekend, Vick and I took a trip up north for a bit of hiking. As nature likes to conspire against my family, we were of course greeted with rain. Almost every single time Vick visits me, it's raining or snowing. And this time around, it was not like, oh it's sprinking a bit. It was like, hey those two are nearing the park entrance, let's make it rain really hard now. Ok, they are disappointed and leaving the park, so let's bring it down to a drizzle. Oops, nearing another park -- step it up again! I think Mutha Nature was ticked because Vick is a better mother than She'll ever be. Jealous old biddy!

I guess She gave up on her game because at the second entrance to the third park in the area (we weren't giving up!), it slowed to a mere misty drizz. So onto the trails of nature we went. First off, I have to point out the signs at the park entrance because I love these warnings. First off, parks are so bossy, it's a wonder anyone goes there anymore. Don't do this, don't do that, adhere to this, blah blah. First off, why no booze between Jan and May? What kind of arbitrary randomness is that? I also love the dude Slip-n-Sliding down the mountain like he's on Jackass 2. And my favorite of them all, alien children are NOT allowed to swim here. Shame. They've come a long way for a dip, you heartless parks and rec bastards!

We wander off on this trail that is quite sludgy, and Vick is wearing brand new white tennis shoes. But she's a real state trooper, so nothing deterred her from communing with nature. And despite the disappointment in not being able to see more of the parks in the area, we experienced our moment of purpose. At one
particular point on the hike, we came across a misty fog and stopped to enjoy the view. Then as if on cue, the sun peaked out of the clouds and created this beautiful array of light and dark, accentuating by the fog mingling around the trees. Fortunately, we both had two cameras (yeah that's right, we had our Sony Cybershots, my digital Kodak w/ 10x zoom, and Mom's Sony DSLR 10 megapixel hottie). These were my two best pictures from that surreal moment.

We almost got turned around coming back, but my superb manly sense of direction guided us back to safety. I wasn't about to ask a squirrel for directions! Then I "pushed" Vick down to the ground because I'm not to be trusted on hiking trips. When I was young, Lola took me to a nature reserve. She was trying to help me down this slippery rock staircase and lost her footing, breaking her ankle in the tumble. We continue to joke that I had pushed her down. After Mom had her slip, I told her she should have known better!

So I end this here story with a badly framed self-portrait. The others were blurry, so this is what we have to work with! I also choose to end with a moral -- if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. Or in this case, if you want the sunlight passing through trees and fog in a surreal moment you tend to only witness in magazine photos, you have to put up with the rain. Somehow that doesn't quite roll off the tongue as well.

Practice Makes Perfick

This last week, Feyonce (like Beyonce/fiance melded -- okay, I just want to make sure we're all on the same page here) and I went frolfing again. Only this time, we went to a more legit course with the medieval torture baskets. The luck and strangness is that this course is within walking distance from my house! Who knew?

We picked up some regulation discs -- we're playing for keeps. And the verdict? We serially need some H-E-L-P in the frolf department! After a few holes, it became obvious that Feyonce is a hooker and I'm a stroker. Dirrtay! And let me just add that if you apply these labels to other aspects of our lives, the metaphor carries through. I'll leave it at that, for you to fill in the gaps yourself. I can only reveal so much to the electronic public.

But practice indeed makes perfick. And while we are less than, we saw some improvement, even in technique. See, Feyonce likes to grasp and I like to pinch. This is truly too much fun to write! But we're just a couple of young faux-ances experimenting on the frolf course -- it's what the kids do! Point being, we're getting better - she's hooking less and I'm stroking less. It's all about distance and length. Okay, I need to stop!

Well, Feyonce got to meet the Mother-in-Law this weekend. Vick and I had plans for breakfast before she headed back to Ohio. And Feyonce had breakfast plans of her own. Serendipity intervened, and we ended up at the same place at the same time! So they got to meet and of course, Vick loves the faux-ance! As if I had doubts.

House of Cards

As some of you may recall, I work in a beat-down old house on our campus. Trashy fraternity houses have seen better days even. It is on the "condemned - do not repair" list on our campus. Yes, you read that correctly. It's a shitty place. Literally. We had a sewage leak at one point in our basement. Nothing says shitty like a wading pool of raw sewage.

We always joke that our house is a breeding ground for a new age plague. It sucks to be right sometimes. Almost everyone was out today because of illnesses. We have 13 employees and only 7 of us were there today (4 of which were sick or getting sick). I think I work in the Portal to the Nexus of Hell. Otherwise known as the White Sickly Elephant on Campus that No One Notices. My home away from home. It even has a tub in it. Yeah, a nasty old bath tub. Jealous?

I was talking with HH about The House one day. I was actually impressed that in my 2.5 years there, I'd never really noticed any bugs or spiders lurking. Seemed odd for an old house. She looks at me matter-of-factly and says "that's because they know better not to come in here." Wow. How true that is. Even the vermin have half a mind to steer clear. Who's the unevolved ones here?

There's also another mutation going on in our halls. The house breeds the contemptuous, the catty, and the eccentric. The exhaust of its furnace breath is a slow poison, and like the Joker villain, so do we have our own irradiated cadre of malcontents. You've already met Blurt McLoud. There's also Mean Face. She's like Two-Face, Jekyl and Hyde, and the borderline woman from Fatal Attraction rolled into one. Only she doesn't need to drink a potion to turn into Ms. Hyde. Oppositely, when she doesn't take her lithium, the Portal to the Nexus of Hell breaks loose. Her stare rivals Medusa. Her comments bite like serpetine hair. Her contempt for humanity is revealed. This woman can be a super beyotch, and her venomous strike comes from the shadows. She is a viper that cannot be charmed. I've tried to kill her with kindess. Her mutation is too evolved.

So I write this now from the throes of an illness that hath no name. I have blown my nose two thousand times and consumed eight gallons of orange juice. Between the two activities, I have likely killed and stripped more trees than a rain forest slasher. But I write this post to share the fruits of my labor with you -- and perhaps as my final entry, for I may in the middle of the night, sneeze my heart out. Literally.

And yet if I do survive another night, I must once again face down The House, that messy house of cards that, despite all of it flaws, just won't fall down.

Meet Blurt McLoud

I have this colleague at work who is a major loud talker. His voice is a blast of sonic boom. He is all crescendo and cacophony. My eardrums are harrassed in his presence. Can you get a court injunction against a voice? Like, don't create vocal soundwaves within 25 feet of me or else? I think the judge would agree to it after he met Blurt McLoud.

I'll put it this way, sometimes Blurt makes me cringe when he talks. That's right, I have an actual physiological response to his voice. In Psychology, I saw this video of Little Albert, this infant who was trained to have a scare response to white bunny rabbits because it was presented along with this loud noise behind him. Poor kid was traumatized in the name of science! And a SOCIAL science, at that!

I feel like Little Albert. But I haven't told you the worst part. His volume actually operates according to a logrithm function - else said, the more inappropriate the topic, the louder he gets. Exponentially! Hence the logrithm. Conversely, at some meetings when he introduces himself, I seriously have to focus to hear what he is saying. It's like a soft "soothing" mumble. Not understanding all the math talk? Yeah, me either. If you're like me, you prefer the "show" to the "tell." Here's my graphical point:
Another example: A while ago, a female coworker and I arrived at the office a few minutes late. We happened to meet up on our block. As we enter the building, Blurt overhears our conversation, which was about who-remembers-what. We were debating a number of something-or-other, and I said, "It was six." We go upstairs and a few minutes behind us, Blurt stomps up the stairs and sonic booms from the hallway into our office doors, "WHAT'S GOING ON YOU TWO? FIRST YOU BOTH COME IN LATE TOGETHER, AND THEN I HEAR YOU TALKING ABOUT SEX!"

Mind you, I work in a student services office. It was normal business hours. Thankfully we had just opened, so there weren't many, if any, students around. But c'mon, show some tact. So I have to explain that I said six. "OH OKAY, I THOUGHT YOU SAID SEX!" Good lord.

If he sees you a block away, he will yell at you. He's yelled at me from his car as I'm walking down the street on campus. One of our ex-coworkers, a mental health counselor by training, used to model a very calm and quiet tone when Blurt was being particularly robust. It was funny to hear the extremes, and he never did catch on.

I feel bad because he is a nice guy who means well. He's just clueless that he is a contributing factor to nerve deafness. Fortunately, I haven't experienced any ringing of the ears yet. If that happens, I'm taking Blurt McLoud onto Judge Judy's show. Do not attempt to adjust the volume of your TV - your technology is useless against him.

Spoken Word

This past week has been quite surreal. One of the residence halls on our campus is very much a center of all backgrounds of creative and expressive students. They frequently have guests-in-residence who are artists. This last week, their guest was Aya de Leon.

I had heard Aya perform on campus three years ago. Among other things, she mostly performs spoken word poetry, and she is amazing. I came across a schedule of events she was hosting this week and found myself attending each evening. There were workshops on tapping into our creativity, how to stay motivated during big projects, and writing from short prompts. It felt great to be with all of these creative people, mostly students, but also some older-timers like me. She creates such a safe, anything-goes environment, which is how art should be. She tells you it's okay to have a "shitty first draft" and that at first, it's all good. To turn off the inner critic. And to realize that as children we are all so creative and that we are told by society to stop doing this or act right or quit being so weird. She had us create affirmations and anthems to get into the mood and stay the course.

My affirmation became: there's a lot of shit out there, so my shit should be out there with it.

My anthem: "Fiction" by The Lucksmiths - it's a beautiful song that has a chilling instrumental climax; the lyrics are about the singer encountering a woman who had a tatoo on her arm that read "Fiction." She said it reminded her of what she wanted to be doing, whether reading it or writing.

Even though all of that was a great experience, the two best experiences this week were the performances. On Wednesday, Aya performed. This woman can turn words on you, go from rage to reflection, and bust out a perfect performance. My favorites of her works are Cellulite (about the pressure in media for women to be thin to be considered beautiful and the celebration of having cellulite), Sensitive Guys (like it sounds, a very funny piece about all guys, even South Central gangsters are really just sensitive guys), and Vieques (about a small island off of Puerto Rico the US Navy used for weapons testing, it portrays the island as a young girl being abused by her stepfather). Her performances rocked! And she showed a video of her one-woman stage performance which was at times very uncomfortable. She plays this role of a girl in hip-hop who's been exploited and thinks her sex appeal is what makes her a person, and in the middle of her song, she has a breakdown. It's really power but hard to watch. Aya said instead of criticizing women like this character, she wanted to inhabit her and experience her life.

And the finale on Thursday was open mic night. Now, I have stood in front of a crowd of strangers twice in my life to share my writings aloud. Once it was for a Poetry class I took in college. The other was an open mic night event I was in grad school. I told myself I was going to perform my first spoken word at this Thursday's event. And I did!!

At first I picked six-seven pieces to share because they all fit the universal theme of time. In fact, all of my pieces from the Vignettes of Time series I wrote on this blog were included. All of them did come from posts on this blog:
- Sleep Debt
- Time Capsules
- Corporate Methods of Savings
- Fairy Tale or Fairly Tale
- Still Spring After All These Years
- Sleep Debt (Reprise)

I practiced them and called up The Gouda herself to get her constructive feedback as my test audience of one. As expected she had wonderful ideas for improvement.

On show night, I found out there was a 3 minute time limit, which never occured to me but makes sense. So I tried to decide if I should perform some of them or just one. Allie and I both thought the most powerful was Sleep Debt, and being my first experience with spoken word, I decided less is more. Besides, I start shaking when I perform, so best to contain my jitters!

I had come to know several people during the week, one of which was Mohawk Guy. Mohawk Guy is a senior and quite cute. And possibly gay, but it's hard to tell with those artsy types. Anyway, he's been helping out Aya during her stay here. I had a chance to interact with him during the last workshop before the open mic. He plays guitar and piano, sings, and writes music. He and I talked before the open mic, and like many people this week, thought I was a student. I explained I was an academic advisor, and he asked where I live. Then he gets close and says with this mischievious smile, "I have something to ask you and feel free to not tell me." I'm thinking, wow, he's being rather forward, and yes, I will make out with you afterward. Then he says, "Is there any way for me to get out of the foreign language requirement?" Without missing a beat, I say, "Actually yes," to which he gets all excited, and I continue, "if you can prove you have a language learning disability." So we talked about that for a while. Hmm... I still think he was being playful. Anyway, he's starting up an artist support group that I joined, so I don't think I've seen the last of Mohawk Guy.

It comes to sign up time, and I cleverly decide (as the first person on the list), that I'll sign up for slot 3. Then it occured to me, what if no one signs in slots 1 0r 2? Then I'm going first! Fortunately, one person did sign up before me, so the "first performer" pressure was off. As I expected, Aya set the tone that we support everyone with loud cheers and clapping before and after, and the crowd did just that. I'd say there were about 40 people there. It's my turn, and I know I'm going to unleash something on an unsuspecting crowd. I'm usually reserved with people I don't know, and in workshop settings, I tend to me quiet.

I can't explain where it comes from, but when I perform "Sleep Debt" I turn into someone else. It's very angry and frustrated, and I channel that into this hip-hop stylized voice I don't really ever use. I like to think it's my alter ego Warren Peace coming out. I told the crowd this was something that pisses me off. And I launched into it, and despite losing my place once, which I covered with a joke about being too pissed off, I thought I did really well. By the end, as it builds up, I started to visibly shake. It felt liberating to do this. It felt liberating to say this to a supportive audience. Afterward, Aya came up and said, "You have to be careful with the quiet ones, they surprise you every time."

It was nice to then sit back and enjoy the rest of the performances. Two cats who performed were just amazing. The guy who followed me, Moses, throws so much at you that you can't take it all in. Later I found out he's been doing spoken word and freestyling since his childhood. Last, Mohawk Guy performed a song he wrote. It wasn't what I expected from him at all, very mellow, and his voice sounded muted and smoky. In all, a surreal experience.

Afterward, I thanked Aya for the entire week, and she hugged me and said she loved my performance and encouraged me to keep it up. I also talked to Moses, and he and I talked about each other's performances. He told me to definitely come out to other open mic events to share my voice. I told him I certainly plan on it, now that I've found a venue where I can channel my bitching in a constructive way. Cuz lord knows (and those who know me personally) that I got plenty to complain about. Lastly, I congratulated Mohawk Guy on his song, and he also said great things about mine. I told him I'd hope to see him again in the support group.

This week was a shot in the arm for my creative spirit and my life in general. I made some commitments to write plenty of shitty first drafts, to get my fiction project going, and to not make so many excuses. I'm jazzed!

Business As Usual

I took a healthy chunk of my Sunday to review resumes for our upcoming search. I relocated to Aroma for some fresh brew and concentration time to pass judgment over 50-60 applicants. As I read and read and the words became a blur, a particular applicant snapped me from my highway trance -- she mentions in her cover letter that no two week notice is necessary because she operates her own business (which was conspicuously absent from her resume). Is this woman really self-employed or just unemployed?

And if the latter, when did unemployment become running your own business? Did she think that going about her personal busyness was her business? Maybe she figured that she could write it off on her resume, like some kind of pride tax. Too bad she got audited by me because I'm calling her on the "clearly detail your employment history" rule of thumb -- or as our math teachers in middle school used to say, "Show your work."

Then another applicant listed a Masters of Science in Home Economics. I kid you not! How 1950s is that program? It reminds me of those old filmstrips where we see Jane the dutiful homemaker wearing an apron and taking classes to please her husband. Even now I can hear the distorted, almost monotone voice over (set in front of some cheesy synthesized muzak): "In the not-too-distant future, the modern wife can enjoy the conveniences of a technological society. (beep) With a state-of-the-art robotic workforce around the house, Jane can forget a few of her chores and do more to provide a comfortable living environment for her family. (beep)"

Sew What?

So this guy at Aroma sitting at the next table is cross-stitching. It strikes me as odd that a guy would choose to do that in public. I'm all for him breaking the gender stereotypes, but most men would closet that hobby or at least not put it on display. He was this stocky, masculine guy with a nose ring, sitting there with his plastic box of stitching materials, threading a needle through a pink hoop. Pink. I was in stitches! And it was kind of serendipitous because I broke out the thread and needle to reattach a button to my shirt earlier this afternoon. Perhaps there was a fate pattern to all this related needlework? And speaking of patterns, I had to figure out what this guy was creating. It took several glances and some progess on his part, but I finally saw the big picture.

It was a scene of 4 unicorns drinking at a bar. Serially! One was passed out on the floor, and another is slumped over the bar. And there they are, horns attached on their heads like permanent dunce caps. Then again, if you missed Noah's Arc and ended up a lost species, it would drive you to drink, too. And you'd feel a bit like a horse's ass yourself.

There you have it, readers. Our expectations change with our experiences. Life itself is a stitch-up. Our minds lace what we know into a pattern of ideas and in the end we hope the picture makes sense. Sometimes a stitch in time saves nine. Other times you lose a button. But you can always mend what comes undone and create something new using your imagination. Just make sure you aren't fabricating your employment history or weaving tales on your cover letters because it's a sure way for your resume to become a resu-maybe-not-so-much.

You and Whose Army?

I'd love to see a law firm called Dearth and Bevy.

I want to create a clothing line of jeans targeted for gay men (besides Express for Men, of course). My label will be called Homojeanous.

I know two people who have the most distinct handwriting I have ever seen. I need to create a template of their letters and make a font for each of them. The best part is, they have the perfick last names for font names: Mulvaney and Sturdyvin.

Can someone please teach two horses to play pattycake. That would be funny. I still need to see a bear riding a unicycle, too.

I want to go by myself to a restaurant and give them the name Pity. That way, they can call me as "Pity, party of one?"

My children will be named: Vaughn Ravenscroft, Zefram Diaz, Zyatrice Frost, and Gypsy Jones. Too bad I don't want kids...

Musical groups I currently belong to: Crisis Averted, Two For You, Pepperstroke, (edited in post-posting) Warren Peace

And speaking of music, I want a company named Vestigial to create a line of organs.

I've decided that my new theme song is Radiohead's "You and Whose Army?" Check it out sometime.

Frolfing in the Woods

Sounds dirrty, don't it? Well it was - figuratively! For those of you not in the know (Gregor and Frisbee Girl, back me up on this one), frolf is not just a scandalous sounding word conjuring up all sorts of connotations, it's also a nickname for Disc Golf or Frisbee® Golf. Yes, golf with a frisbee!

This game is sweet. There are frolf courses all across the nation. There are differently kinds of discs -- driver, medium range disc, and putter. They kinda petered out on the middle one, didn't they? I like to call them the longwood, iron shaft, and putter -- cuz its dirrrrtay!

As you may imagine, I am no longer a frolf virgin. And I lost my frolfinity with none other than my Feyonce... and another woman! We threw LP into the mix because we just frolf that way. We headed out to Kickapoo State Park because it features a 9-hole course. They don't have regulation holes and we were using regular throwing discs, but it was a good way for us to break in the action.

Basically, you hurl and toss a disc toward a post with the goal of hitting it. There's a lot of flicking, flinging, finger and wrist action going on. In regulation, they have these baskets that remind me of a medieval torture dungeon and that game we all played at recess that was really boring. But at Kickapoo, they just had wood posts. I have to say they did provide some challenges on the course (no sand traps or bear traps, mind you), but plenty of variety to spice up the holes.

For golfers out there, it's all about a good lie. Stay on the fairway. Same's true for frolf, or a penalty "stroke" is in order for a slice or hook into the woods. And I think each of us stroked it good at least once. And of course, because it frolf, we want a good lay, not a good lie. In fact, I once exclaimed, "That's a HOT lay!" And I had to mention a few times that I was putting from the rough. We loved it! I think that was right after we caught this guy peeing in the bushes. He and his friend hauled a cooler of beers and proceeded to have a round or three, which I'm sure induced the call of nature. It's high society on the frolf course!

And LP loved to yelp when she threw a good or bad one. "I'm a screamer!" she pointed out. Ridonkulous! After a dodgy first 9, we sat down for some lunch. As you can see, I wore a yellow shirt. And not that the food didn't attract them, but the bees were flocking to my hues. More than likely, they say something big and yellow and thought they found their Queen. Not a far stretch of truth. The whole truth is that not only am I the Queen, I'm a bee charmer!

Second round saw a great improvement on my part. We even had interference from some children straying from nearby picnics. My favorite was Zack, this little guy about 3-4 years old who would literally catapult for the frisbee when it landed and try to throw it. It was a true Zack Attack! I noted my lay and let him take a few, giving him words of encouragement. We all must do our part to encourage future generations of frolfers. He did this twice during our 18 holes. After the second time he ran off and called back to me, "You guys be good!" Classic! And then there was the young feller with the rat tail. No foolin. Possibly the only thing worse than a mullet is the rat tail. The rat tail requires intentionality, not just a lack of making a good choice. The mullet may be a faux pax, but the rat tail is just wrong.

After two rounds, we decided to stop by Kickapoo Landing, which is a boat dock and restaurant on the lake. When we pulled in and I saw the green school bus with the trailer of canoes, it reminded me of the summer camp I never attended. So I coined the locale Camp Heywoodjablowmee. I'm so adult. We laughed about it and checked out some of the water-bound activities. Apparently, paddling and canoe-dling are just a few tastes of fun one can experience at Camp Heywoodjablowmee. But there are limits, yes. NO MORE THAN 3 alcoholic bevs per adult allowed on the watercrafts. Should we encourage the marriage of boozing and boating? Is this a new tandem sport? Are we going to legitimize every activity as a new sport or something? Like frolf, right?

Serially though, don't knock it (up) until you've tried it. In fact, Feyonce and I are buying some frolf clubs, practice our putting and hitting the driving range, and who knows -- join the Frolfing Illini?


It's mentally and physically exhausting to invest yourself in someone else's business all day long. Especially when you do it for ten to twenty people each day. While advising has its rewards, it can sap you sometimes.

So of course, any kind of social outing is in order during these trying times. And having Becca and Smartens present means it will be nothing but surreal. I had lunch with Smartens and two other coworkers -- I updated her on our candidate search because she and I were on the committee together last time. I asked if she remembered this repeat applicant, and she's like, totally. This person applied immediately after we post the position, as if it was a stimulus-response moment -- to which Smartens says, "I think he prematurely applicated!" We all lost it! Then came the reenactments and the "Oh oh oh jeez!" Can't put a price on humor... But on a serious note, dear readers, there is hope for those who suffer from premature application. You can be the life of the applicant pool again.

My "fiance" Becca got a new license recently, which she showcased to me on the shuttle bus from the parking lot on the edge of known existence to the center of campus. And by the way, we both came in late that day from appointments and happen to show up about 10 till 10 -- pulled into the parking lot at the same time! Coincidence? I think not. Lover's synchrony? You decide. Anywho, I saw that she is an organ donor. We mockingly interlocked fingers and I told her they can't take her heart because she's already given it to me. Don't you just love it!! How randomly awful is that? Man, we're funny. And the scurry part is that there's someone out there who has said that and meant it. Ugh! It's perfick!

Then at a happy hour with all manner of advising folks, I managed to work out a verbal bet with Holster from the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics that if I finish this big ol' plate called the Horseshoe, I'd snag two tickets to a Fighting Illini basketball game (which is near impossible to get unless you are a student or manage to mug/kill a season ticket holder). The horseshoe is basically this big mass of buffalo fried chicken with a huge mound of fries on top, covered with cheese sauce. It's awe and then some! And I managed to eat it all with a Guinness under my belt, I might add. I'll be waiting for those tickets, Holster, so pony up! And then there was this funny slip of the senses where I swear Holster was talking about this guy named Ty Noodle, I kid you not! It was something close to that, but even when he repeated it, I swears it sounded like Thai Noodle. LOVE IT!

As a side note, Becca called me today and I told her the guy who fixed my lawnmower was named Warren, and she said, "Like Warren G?" which is what I was referencing in my mind, but it sounded like she said, "Like Warren Peace?" Isn't that a kickin' rapper name? I think I'll mint that for myself before some playah tries to bizzle my street cred, f'real. Yeah, totally the farthest thing from a rapper, by the way.

Army, AKA Warren Peace

The Sense of Right Now

I'm weakened by
the demands of
a dependent generation
of people on TV
who drink from empty cups
of karmic dharma
and caramel dogma
sticky weather, a
slow autumn strangle
I yearn for
breathing room

I'm weakened
the comfortable underbelly
of a mild manic