A really (really) nice….Hyundai

bentley

I went to the tire store yesterday and bought some new tires for the mail jeep.

I buy 50,000 mile tires and get about 10,000 miles out of them.

Driving the mail is hard on everything involved.

While I was at the tire store, the guy that runs the business came out and started talking about one of the cars they were working on.

It was a grey car…stylish, good looking…it was a really nice grey car.  It had a black leather interior…padded black leather dash…graphite dash inserts…some complicated shifter with a lot of numbers on it.

It was a really nice grey car.

The tire guy said, “This is one of the finest cars ever made…probably at least 240,000 dollars for this car..”

I was eating my peanut butter sandwich and looking at this car that cost, what…like 60,000 times what my old Jeep cost (?!) and I thought, “That must be a really nice car”.

It was some kind of Bentley…I don’t know enough about Bentleys to know what it was, but he called it a Bentley and I believed him.

I’d be nervous about using it on a mail route…too many gravel roads and unpredictable situations.

The tire guy told me that they raise special cattle to harvest the leather for the seats from…something about making sure that the cows weren’t around barbed wire so that their flesh remained creamy and unblemished…so that when a rich person plops their fat rear end down in the cockpit they don’t have to worry about sitting on substandard cow parts.

At least that’s the explanation I heard in my head.

That’s pretty amazing.

It was a really nice car.

When they were finished with the tires, an older fellow got in and drove off to the other side of the tracks…drove off to his mansion on the hill.

But you know….except for the details and the power and the luxury, that car was really just a very nice, very expensive version of a Hyundai.

That’s heresy to someone who bought into the mythos of a really nice car….no one wants to hear that after they’ve spent so much for something nice…but really, it’s pretty much the same thing on a basic level.

It’s a vehicle. A VEHICLE.

I guess I can relate on some levels.  An Epiphone isn’t really the same as a Gibson, a Poulan isn’t the same as a Husqvarna, a Whopper isn’t the same as a burger from 5 Guys…I know some things about quality.

I really do.

But I think I’d rather have a ragged out 66 Chevy pickup than a fully detailed 240,000 dollar Bentley.  There’s just something about it all that sounds more appealing to have the old pickup.

1966_chevy_pickup_1

Now, if I could sell the Bentley, buy the pickup…and then use the balance to build a decent cabin up in Idaho, well…that would be a good trade.

Of course, all this would be after setting up a fully funded college account for the kids.

I’d have to be at least a little practical before I went crazy and bought an old truck.

It’s really pretty hilarious.

We all roll down the road…even those of us without drivers licenses, even those of us who have never owned a car…we move on down the road.

That’s just the way it seems to work.

Whether we do it in a really expensive Bentley…or just mosey around in a pair of beat up Converse All Stars…the end result is the same… and inescapable.

That really was a beautiful Hyundai at the tire store, though.

turning

american_passport

We got everyone ready and out of the house by quarter to 9 to make our 9:30 appointment in downtown Hendersonville to get our passport applications processed.

Apparently, at five minutes past 9, they called the house to tell us the examiner was sick again and that our appointments were canceled.

So when I got to the Post Office, one of the most officious postal employees I’ve ever met told me that the appointment was canceled and that we were notified earlier this morning and that there was nothing they could do about it and ( in spite of there being no business in that main branch and the fact that it looked like everyone was just standing around) that there was nothing they could do to help me. “Sir….Sir…THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT… YOU WERE NOTIFIED…THE EXAMINER HAD TO CANCEL THE APPOINTMENT.  SIR….THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT….YOU’LL HAVE TO CALL THE HOME OFFICE IF YOU HAVE ANY COMPLAINTS.”

The large pile of paper with the home office’s number printed on them should have been a tip-off that this was her favorite tactic for deflection.

“Most officious postal employees” is saying a lot,too.  You know how “postal employees” can be.

This was all after and during my heated reporting of my employment as a Rural Carrier and the fact that I’d used one of my days off to make the appointment possible.

She gave me the number of a supervisor to call and register my complaint…I guess it was a way of passing the buck…handing me a slip of paper was a lot nicer than saying, “talk to the hand…”.

So I called the supervisor and actually got some help and before I knew it, we were back inside and the same lady who shut me down was processing our applications.

This is where it got interesting.

The application started off with her being just as officious as I’d known her to be up to this point.

I’m not sure she was really happy about having her hand forced and being told that she’d be doing the other woman’s job this morning.

She wasn’t really very friendly.

Every question or comment I made trying to draw her out of her shell was met with a stare and a question like, “What do you mean?”.

But….after a lot of probing and subtle questions…I hit on the thing that made her light up.

I got her talking about cruises…and suddenly the shell fell away and we were having a lot of fun with a real human being.

What was a real ordeal turned out to be a really pleasant experience.

I think we’re going to try and go on a cruise sometime in the near future.

She really sold us on it with her enthusiasm.

I didn’t think I would see her be enthusiastic about anything.

I enjoy a lot of different things.  One of the things that I really get a kick out of is watching how someone can change if you can get through the public or work “mask” they’ve developed.

When they’re having fun, the chances that I am going to be having fun go up a great deal.

I don’t mind working a little bit to have more fun.

We got our passports handled.  We learned about cruises. It was a pretty decent experience after all.

I “turned” her.

VICTORY.

smokin’ cat

smoking cat

I saw a lady come out of one of the trailers on my mail route the other day.

I saw her out of the corner of my eye when I stopped to put a piece of junk mail in her box.

A big cigarette was smoking her, and she looked at me suspiciously as she hurried to throw a large black bag of trash into the dumpster next to the trailers.

I thought to myself, “She looks just like a smoking cat scurrying around so suspicious of me…”

“She looks just like a big, feral, smokin’ cat.”

A big, feral, smokin’ cat.

Feral Smokin’ Cat.

I couldn’t get over myself…thinking up something like “smoking cat”.

That was so weird.

If I didn’t have a well-developed ability to “self-amuse”, my job could get kind of monotonous.

( We have two young roosters who roost for some reason on the porch outside our bedroom window.  One has a robust crow.  He’ll crow and crow at our neighbor’s security light….doesn’t matter how early in the morning it is. He’s pretty loud like you’d expect a rooster to be.  The other one has sort of a wheeze going on…like he’s whispering “yeah, that’s right…what he said.”  I think I’m going to go throw them both off the porch right now…)

There are so many smoking cats out on my route.

They’ll come out and look…like a cat looks out from the overgrown grass around an abandoned car and then darts away.  They’ll look through the screen door and then run out to get the mail when they think I can’t see them in my rear view mirror.

After five years of driving the route, a lot of them have gotten used to me…so we visit occasionally when they catch me at their boxes.

That feels like a real victory.

Some of these “smoking cats” are pretty nice people.  Shy…but pretty nice.

I guess that you can’t really judge a book by its cover all the time.

I’m not a big fan of smoking…it’s kind of an obnoxious habit…kind of intrusive.  I don’t want my health to be compromised because somebody enjoys doing something that damages their health.  It’s hard to get away from the smoke.

But I know some great people who smoke…so it’s not a huge deal to put up with it so I can enjoy their company.

I do enjoy their company more in between puffs, though.

We’re going to go get our passports this morning.

We’re going to go get our passports at the “smoke free” USPS facility in downtown Hendersonville.

They have a reputation for being “buggers” at the main office….the non-smoking version of rude smokin’ cats…so we’ll see how that goes.

Our secret weapon is a sweet little three-year old who can turn cranky, cranky, cranky at the drop of a hat.

It really encourages people to expedite when my little guy gets “cranked up” to maximum volume.

It’s a skill that I’m sure we’ll appreciate when they quickly process us and say, “OK….there you go.”

“Please….go.”

 

 

my new johnson smith

johnson smith pageI used to get this catalog “back in the day” that came from a company called Johnson Smith.

It was a company that specialized at the time in the weird and the novel items that were all pretty darn appealing for a growing boy or girl.

I remember being fascinated by plastic dog poop…rubber vomit…joy buzzers…joke gum…and, even though I was probably too shy to even consider ever using or owning a pair…x-ray specs.

If a kid had a pile of Mad magazines and a Johnson Smith catalog, he or she was set.  You could build a pretty twisted world view with those two items.

Now it looks like the company has branched out into a number of different areas….it’s not just a bunch of really twisted novelty items anymore.

It looks like now they have a division that sells helpful things like hemorrhoid doughnut cushions and spaghetti portion measuring tools.

It’s all still pretty useful…maybe not as useful as plastic dog poo…it is important to measure your spaghetti before cooking…but it doesn’t have the same power that the old catalog had.

I loved that old catalog.  It was pretty twisted. There wasn’t a page that didn’t spark something in my imagination that didn’t really need to be there.

Who really needs joke rubber vomit?

My new Harbor Freight flyer was laying on the end table when I walked by to go make my morning ration of coffee (ration…it sounds like I’m really disciplined…ha….it’s not like that, really.  But what a great way to describe the situation…”my peanut butter ration…my pizza ration…etc”….sounds so rigid and self-controlled).

I realized that this catalog…this collection of tools both practical and weird…was my new Johnson Smith catalog.

I could pore for hours over pictures and descriptions of “infrared hands free thermometers” and “variable speed pro multifunction power tools”.

I’m so freaking mature.

No more plastic dog poop for me….I’m on to the new thing….tools.

The man thing…the grown-up thingtools.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to shop with Harbor Freight.

It’s a pretty weird mix of items.  A lot of it is so cheaply made that I couldn’t recommend buying those items…but some of it is surprisingly good.  It’s a real buyer beware kind of deal.

Most of it is made in China…hand tools, power tools, all the tools…but if you check the labels on the brands at Lowes or Home Depot, you’ll find that it’s pretty hard to find anything that isn’t “made in China” these days.

The Chinese work cheap…and we like that.

As long as we have enough “cash for clunkers” that we can ship over to China to keep them in cheap steel, we should be able to go to Harbor Freight and buy an inexpensive crappy hammer.

We don’t need plastic dog poo, but we can buy as many “crappy hammers” as we want.

Do check out Harbor Freight….it’s an interesting store and company that let’s you support those old “Johnson Smith Catalog” feelings.

But it’s more legitimate for an adult.

It’s tools….macho tools.

No rubber vomit, just torque wrenches.

 

“eco-village”…….whaaaattttt?

Here’s a short video of an “eco-village” that was defined as being “somewhere around Asheville”.

What is going on?  All these little shacks right next to each other….what’s up with that?  I remember seeing videos of field worker’s shacks on the sugar cane plantations that looked more inviting than these.  Are they for the commune members? For the eco-tourists who are sure to flock to this new utopia? I can’t figure it out.

There’s more to the village than these little shacks, but….

what’s up with all of this?

Here’s another video that I found after doing some more “Tubing”….

I have neighbors who quietly have been doing what these people are talking about doing….and they’ve been doing it for years.  They don’t live in yurts…they live in trailers and old houses (houses that were small out of economic necessity and because they could heat them…not small because of some “tiny home” trend).  They grew their own food because they needed to eat. If they grew organically it was because they couldn’t afford chemical fertilizer.

Here’s another video…looks like another tour of what’s going on up in Candler, NC….just outside of Asheville.  That’s where the retreat is located.

I used to be really into communes and alternative ways of living.

Now that I’m a parent I just want my kids to get a decent job that they can live with….and to have a good life.  Big adventure is great…but lets start with the basics, get that aspect covered, and then move into the big adventure.

I guess that’s what “maturity” does for you…turns you into the person on the other side of the conversation when your child is excited about going to live with the hippies on the mountain, the one who says “I don’t think that’s such a good idea…do your own thing, don’t align yourself with a commune…”

I shouldn’t criticize these guys.  They’re actually doing something up there…it’s just kind of weird to hear all the “touchy feely” philosophizing and crystal worshipping strangeness of living on the land while figuring out where to plop down and have a yoga session.

It’s just strange to me.

The thing that makes Asheville cool is the same stuff that makes it kind of weird….so I guess I shouldn’t complain about any of it. Western North Carolina’s a good place to live…I just like my space to be my own….no communes for me right now.

Here a link to their website…sacredmountainsanctuary.org

 

tiny, tiny, tiny….houses getting small

Here’s another short video about the “tiny house movement”.

The tiny house movement seems to be a nice and more socially acceptable bridge between living in a van down by the river and a typical large house…just takes a little creativity and the willingness to do with the bare essentials.

Maybe that’s the real trick to living with less….downsize the house until the only things it can fit are the things we really need.

Unless we build a 5,000 square foot warehouse in back of our tiny house to hold all of our belongings.

That’d be kind of crazy.

This movement is interesting to me.

Check out Lloyd Kahn’s blog for more great information on tiny houses and other alternative forms of building.

I couldn’t resist…here’s another short video about tiny houses and freedom

i had a dream

dream

Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech had some weight and importance to it.  It was a major speech given by a major man.

When I wake up in the morning, and the first thing I say to my wife is, “I had a dream”….well…she hates doesn’t like it very much.  My dreams don’t make sense…it’s boring for her to hear somebody else’s dreams.

My dreams don’t carry the same weight as Martin Luther King’s dreams.

They’re often kind of goofy.

But if you think about it, Martin Luther King probably had his share of goofy dreams that didn’t make any sense, too.  He just didn’t try to share all of them with the world.

I’ve heard the phrase “lucid dreaming” before.  I guess that’s where a person is aware that they’re dreaming while the dream is going on.

I know I’m dreaming in the middle of my dreams fairly often…usually it’s kind of a relief to remember “it’s just a dream”….but my dreams are seldom lucid.

They just don’t make sense.

Last night, I dreamt that I was supposed to meet a good friend from High School at a concert close to where I used to live.

I took a wrong turn somewhere and before the dream was over I’d abandoned my old Volkswagen bus and was frantically scooting back from Atlanta on a wheeled djembe drum when I woke up.

I was wearing a pair of pink HiTec hiking shoes that I’d gotten as a hand me down from my sister. That part didn’t make sense, either…I don’t usually wear pink…but I remember that in my dream I told myself, “I can wear whatever I want…”.

It’s wacky.

You know….getting back to that whole Martin Luther King thought….I bet that he really did have a bunch of goofy dreams, too. He just didn’t try to share them with the rest of the world.

He might have tried to share them with his wife.  She might have told him, “OK, Martin…that’s fine…let’s just keep that one between you and me, though, OK?  It’s kind of weird.”

It’s not that he didn’t have weird dreams.  He was just judicious about what information he chose to pass on.

That’s a great skill to have…the ability to “self edit”.

This blogging thing is almost too easy in that way.  Type…Post, Type….Post, Type….Post….day in and day out I’m hitting buttons and putting words on a screen.

A really coordinated monkey with a few typing classes under his belt could do the same thing.

“Hit this button now, Mr. Chimpy…yeah, that’s right!!  Good boy…the “post” button…good!!  Send it all out into the cloud….good job, my simian compadre!”

Doing all this before anyone else is up guarantees that no one is going to “edit” me, either.

I’m a self directed loose cannon…ready to hit whatever inconsequential target I wasn’t really aiming at.

Now that I think some more about it, I want a bunch of goofy dreams.  Voluminous goofy dreams….a cornucopia of dangerously indecipherable dreams…DREAMS, DREAMS, DREAMS!!!

Bring on the weird dreams.  I’m ready.

Because in the midst of all those really strange dreams, I know I’m going to have at least one or two that are going to be the springboard to something great.

I can dream, can’t I?

That wheeled djembe thing sounds like an idea that could really get off the ground.

image from here.

dude with a beard singing a song

My oldest and first-born son has been into video games for a while.

Now he’s pretty into music.

When I wake up with a head full of mush, and the self-imposed responsibility of another morning blog post is staring me in the face, why not turn again to YouTube?

There’s room in my head for a little more mush.

There are a lot of dudes with beards singing songs on YouTube.

This is one of the talented ones.

He’s a pretty good “dude with a beard”.

Enjoy.

 

what did he just say?

talking head

I was thinking about words again this morning.

Yesterday, I closed my post with the word “immolation”.

This morning, I woke up thinking about “emulation”.

I also thought about “emollient”.

That’s a pretty amazing thing to me….so many different words, so many different meanings.  That’s a lot of stuff to learn in a lifetime.

And the funny thing about it is how many words sound similiar…but have such different meanings and effects.

Like if we tell someone we love them it has a completely different effect than if we tell them that we loath them, even though the two words roll off the tongue with the same ease.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of a really subtle inflection in our choice of words and how we deliver them…so even the same words can have a different meaning depending on how we say them.

It’s all just some weird recipe…”lower the heat” or “misread the instructions” and we’re going to get some bad results.

How about the tribes who use a series of clicks and pops to talk to each other?  Are there masters of sarcasm in a language system like that?

Is there someone in the tribe who is constantly saying, “what did he say? What did you just click to me?! Oh no you didn’t!!”  click click, pop pop.

I’ve tried to be careful about what I say.  I’ve tried to be careful in my choice of words.  I’ve said things before that if I was fishing, I’d say to myself, “REEL IT IN!  REEL IT IN!  DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME?  I SAID YOU’VE GOT TO REEL IT IN!”

For something so ephemeral, it’s hard to get some things to fly back into my mouth and brain.

Some words seem to be boulder sized hail in a land of perpetual ice.

It’s just another bad wind that won’t float away…some dark firefly that someone’s captured and put into a Mason jar.

Because I think that’s really what I do…at least I seem to…put all the hurtful things that I’ve said or that other people have said to me into a clear container so I can look at them as frequently as I want to.

“Do you want to see my collection?  See….down at the bottom of the jar…all those dead things…yeah, that’s my collection.  It may not mean a lot to you, but it must be precious to me. Why else would I have held onto it this long?”

15 Carpenter Story

You can’t really fly a kite on a sour dead wind.  I can’t really enjoy my life with a Mason jar filled with regret and past transgressions.

Here’s the second part of that David Wilcox song.  It’s from a collection called East Asheville Hardware that he released in 1996.

16 Fearless Love

I don’t know…my intentions are usually good. But my bones get tired and my head starts to ache and soon I’m trotting out all the mean and coarse words I can muster.

Nothing really rough (usually) …but I could be kinder.

“Ideals” are easier first thing in the morning.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll talk about the difference between “tiny fish” and “microfiche”.

 

 

albatross

PF-Albatross_1438672cI built a skateboard once when I was on the cusp of really turning old and brittle.

I’d found a skateboard truck…the part that attaches to the board and holds the wheels on…at a great price and decided to build a skateboard.

I was obsessed with surfing at the time…and I figured that skateboarding might be the closest I’d get to surfing for a while.

It’s strange how obsessions go.  I still think that surfing is pretty amazing.

I’m over any interest in skateboarding…or at least I’m more realistic about my chances of surviving an attempt to skateboard.

Anyway, I built this skateboard piece by piece…bargain by bargain…until I’d finished what turned out to be a fairly decent board.

And then I was too chicken to really ride it much.  The fear of cracking my head open was too big a hurdle to jump.

No double ollies with a twist for me.

Sometimes a blog post is like that skateboard…a word can be a springboard into something that can veer off the road at any time.

I woke up this morning thinking, “what the heck am I going to write about now?!!” and the word albatross popped into my head.

Albatross.

Now why would I think of that word?

In the Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the Mariner is forced to wear a dead albatross around his neck after shooting the bird with a crossbow.

The albatross is seen as being a sign of good luck, so when he shoots it down it’s an issue with the other sailors on board.

So that’s where we get the definition of albatross that explains that it’s a “worrisome burden…a hindrance to success”.

My subconscious must be working while I’m asleep.

Now that has to be a novel concept.

I suppose that I have my “albatrosses” that I carry around.

I think that there’s an app for that now.

Or at least a special sling or pouch or well designed carrier that helps to ease the burden.

Maybe that’s the thing about albatrosses…if you carry it long enough, it just becomes a part of you and you don’t notice the weight?

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m some sort of junior Woody Allen….full of neurosis and angst, nervous and apprehensive of his future.

I’m not like that.  I’m not completely like that.

And if I am like that, I try and keep a lid on it as well as I can.  My albatrosses are all figurative…they’re easier to hide that way.

I don’t know why I keep revisiting these old, dead issues, though.  I guess it’s just a part of how some of us are put together….feeling the need to figure out something that happened in the past.

All these dead issues that I trip over…the only thing keeping them alive is my tendency to pay them a visit more often than I need to.

Then again, it may be that I just liked the sound of the word “albatross”.

I don’t think that the dogs on the route can really understand me, but I know they like it when I say the word “bone”.

So maybe it doesn’t go any deeper than liking the sound of the word.

Tomorrows word might be “immolation”…that kind of rolls off the tongue.

Now I’ll just have to look up the definition and we’re off to the races.