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I apologize to those of you who have already seen this. I am revisiting these events (1) for my readers who are not social networkers and (2) so that I can pontificate ad nauseam about motivations, greater meanings, and the effect on the global/interstellar community. Also I’m sorry for the language, but it’s a necessary element of the story.

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It was late, 2 am or so. I had just returned from work. Whenever I return that late I have to perform what I call Homeward-Bound Ninja. I’ve been an apprentice ninja for most of my life, but haven’t found the time to make it a profession. Still, every once in a while it’s neat to use my ninja training. Homeward-Bound Ninja involves many steps, all of which are specifically designed not to wake the light-sleeping Alex O’Dell because she does real things during the daylight hours and she needs rest and she deserves respect.

The swift ninja does not wake a slumbering woman.

Homeward-Bound Ninja. Go. Remove shoes before entering apartment. (Ninja Rule #1: Rubber soles are a screeching crow; socks are a creeping puma.) Insert key into keyhole—to maintain quiet this shall take no less than ten seconds. Patience is paramount to Homeward-Bound Ninja. Turn lock, turn knob, open door, enter, close door—all squeaky, all require maximum concentration and conscious slowing of heart rate to under five beats per minute. Stand motionless in entryway for fifteen minutes, allow the energy to settle. Tiptoe to couch, place keys on cushion. Pet David Letterman vigorously about the neck and back. Strip down to sleeping attire (boxers) in living room. Brush teeth at a rate of one brush swipe per minute to keep volume at a minimum. Slip into bed. Done.

I did a hell of a job on this particular evening. Alex didn’t stir. And I lay my head down on my favorite pillow. Alex was stock-still, her back turned to me. The overhead fan created little wisps in her hair. My neck muscles whittled down and disappeared, relaxed. The weights tied to my eyelids drew down past my nose, it seemed. Waiting for the sleep to catch up, I watched the shapes morph on the backs of my eyelids. It was quiet.

But that’s when she spoke, a little bit of sleep lingering in her voice. Alex didn’t turn toward me or rustle the sheets. She simply said, Today some guy told me to fuck off.

Á la a Tom and Jerry cartoon my eyelids rolled up like a window shade. I immediately transitioned in to a maneuver called Skinny Unthreatening Theoretical Germanic-Barbarian Bounty Hunter in which I ask a whole bunch of questions with the intent of finding and dismantling this perp. Who was it? I don’t know. Is he one of our neighbors? Maybe. What did he look like? I’m not telling you. Will you tell me if we see him again? No. What kind of dog was it? A black one. Was it a pit bull? No. Could I take him? I could have beat him up. And what, pray tell, did you say to incite such a response? I just asked him to pick up after his dog.

Two hours later I fell asleep.

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Exhibits:

A) I love dogs. I love them. I love to pet them and let them lick my face and scratch their tummy wummies. I love it when they tilt their heads and perk their little doggy ears up. Dogs are awesome. I have no beef with dogs, per se.

B) The grassy area outside our apartment is overrun with dog crap. It always looks like they’ve just aerated. I can’t play bocce ball out there. I can’t practice my chipping. I can only play a little game called Tip-Toe: a game you can’t really win, you just hope to not lose and losing always involves washing your shoes.

If only...

C) Having a pet is a responsibility. It’s kind of like having a kid minus a few degrees of magnitude. When you have a kid or a pet it’s your responsibility to do everything in your power not to let that being become a giant hairy mole on what is otherwise this beautiful, milky complexion called Earth. Granted, you can’t control everything, but you’re not helpless either: clean up its crap and watch the Dog Whisperer.

C.2) I was tempted, here, to go further with the whole kid/dog comparison and say that no one   would allow their kid to go pooping on lawns without cleaning it up, but that’s just silly. Funny, though.

D) I’ve become more daring as I’ve grown older. Maybe this happens to everyone. I don’t know. I’m not as afraid as I used to be. I’ll tell people what I think. I haven’t turned into a jerk, but if someone—even a stranger—acts like a bona fide jackass I’ll come back with a smarmy, sometimes-snide, always-pertinent response.* It’s not meanness. It’s me trying to improve the world one butthole at a time. I like this.

E) Yes, I am a hypocrite. I am sometimes a jerk. I shouldn’t be. I know this. Granted, I don’t get raw like this guy did. But jerkiness happens. After the fact, I am trying to see my dog-guy response as a reminder that my own occasional jerkiness does nothing but diffuse grief to those with whom I come in contact. My bad day does not have to be someone else’s. Still, it’s often difficult to see beyond your own nose.

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The next morning went something like this: wake, snooze for a few minutes, wake, open eyes, feel pretty good, realize something is amiss, what is it?, go through the usual problems, hmmm, wake a little more, remember previous night’s conversation and the dream I had about the amazing jerk and his crapping dog, ruffle eyebrows, get up.

So I had to say something to this dude. The only evidence at my disposal was one black dog. Not much to go on. I considered a campaign called Angry Yelling Wacko in which I would confront every male I saw walking a black dog. But generalizations are bad. There was also Bad-Aim Insult Sniper where I stood camouflaged in the bushes and yelled through a bullhorn at whoever could hear.

I finally decided on Computer-Wielding Jungle Commando. I badly wanted to have a face-to-face with this guy. Since that wasn’t possible I did everything in my power to make sure he got the message. I wrote this response. Posted 25-30 copies in all. I put one on every building in our apartment complex. One on each mail station. One at the dumpsters. One at the dog park. One at each pool and each laundry room. Some were taken down after about five hours. Some lasted several days. One stayed up for over a week.

Blowing horns... and minds.

If Alex ever points this guy out I won’t go MMA on his ass. That is not my style. Instead I will don a Shakespearean-era outfit. I will hire horn players and a dancer. As this man’s dog is dropping a fresh turd by our entryway the horns will begin playing. They will blare a majestic, spirited tune. A red, plush carpet will roll out. The dancer and I will enter. I will unravel an aged scroll and begin reading. And the dancer will perform a heartfelt interpretive dance as I narrate the story of a foul-mouthed man too lazy to carry a plastic bag.

Either this or I will hand deliver a copy of my response.

-MC JLight

 

*This is sometimes dependant on said jackass’ height/weight/weaponry. But not always.

Warning: This entry contains a shade of sentimentality. I’ll go ahead and apologize to anyone who reads this and says, “That Josh is such a cheesy fruit.” While I do not like abundant fruit and cheese in my writing or otherwise, I’ve been thinking about things like this and I’m giving myself a pass this one time. Everyone should get the occasional cheese pass. This is mine.

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I’m not big on surrounding myself with canonical quotations by great thinkers. After a while quotes can just become a mélange of theoretical room decorations. So I try to stick with the ones I can actually deal with, that I can enact. And I have this one quote that I strategically place in my eye line so I’ll see it whenever I write. Show me a day when the world wasn’t new, it says. It’s the kind of thing I always consider when I’m writing: the amazing exists if I just try to notice. For the purposes of writing it’s a reminder to keep things fresh—that even if a character does boring things and speaks boringly and acts like a boring slug… even then there is something unexpected about that person. There is some reason to be amazed by him or her. If not, the story’s not worthwhile.

But finding amazement in real life is an entirely different tamale. I’m just as guilty as anyone and often find myself bored, bored, bored. I don’t mean this as an insult to the people I hang out with or to David Letterman—you regal little cat. But I am generally not enthralled by my daily activities. That’s why I have to write, to keep myself interesting and interested.

Why is amazing so difficult? Maybe it’s human nature, but it feels like the capacity for amazement is slowly being programmed out of us. For one, we just don’t have time to notice anymore. We’re always in a rush. I rush to get up. I rush to get my errands done and my run in and my writing finished and my grooming perfect (this always takes a while). We want things fast. We no longer have an attention span (whatever happened to just staring at the ceiling?) because we don’t have to wait for anything. I can have Steel Magnolias cued up, ready to watch in five seconds. Two more minutes for the popcorn to pop and sometimes that’s too long. We can get a fully cooked burger in 30 seconds. You can buy pre-made PB & J sandwiches. What? Worse yet, we’ve progressed to a point where we can explain away everything. Good? Yes. But bad for our capacity to be amazed. Thermodynamics, cloning puppies, ultrasounds, brain mapping, robots, satellites, infrared stuff and lasers… lasers for God’s sake. Right now my window shades are moving by themselves and that would (and should) be pretty cool in and of itself. And it is, right up until the a-hole fluid dynamicist in my head informs me that it’s simply the result of the sun heating up the window and creating hot air that’s moving up and taking the shades with it… or some such.

Perhaps the world’s newness has become invisible because we’re constantly focused on what we want, not what we have. That is, newness has become synonymous with faster, better, more gigabytes, sleeker, higher resolution, richer, happier. Newness in this sense is based not on noticing or appreciating, but on possessing the latest and best of something. We’re always told what we don’t have and, consequently, we’re unable to be impressed—as we’re walking down a street and talking on the phone to a distant friend about how much our cell phone sucks because it can’t take high-resolution video—by the amazing fact that we’re talking with our distant friend using a device small enough to fit in our pocket.

Amazement itself, too, is being somehow perverted. It’s like our capacity for it is redirected elsewhere: some dark and sinister place, like that basement in Silence of the Lambs. That’s right, I’m talking about reality TV. Reality TV is a dangerous two-headed monster. First, like it or not, we see this human image on TV and we identify with it, an identification that goes deeper when we know it’s “reality.” Secondly, we give precedence to the people on TV, their lives, etc. because a producer has deemed them worthy, i.e., they’re lives must be more amazing than ours because they’re on the screen. Thus, we have a presentation that is both close to us and, somehow, better. What results, I think, is a hermetically sealed, force-fed—albeit tasty—imitation of amazing. Our amazement at reality TV is like Krab. We think it’s real, but it isn’t. What’s worse, if we taste it enough our ability to appreciate the real thing slowly dissolves. Things like reality TV take amazing out of our hands and minds; we become numb. We watch the drunken, imbecilic cast of Jersey Shore do drunken, imbecilic things. We say, “Oh, how novel.” Kim Kardashian takes a dump. “Oh, how extraordinary.” Danny Bonaduce drinks himself silly, head-butts a limousine window, and—with blood streaming down his face—proposes to his girlfriend. “Oh, how heartwarming.”

In the face of Kate Plus 8 and 4G networks and particle accelerators all I can think to do is this: forget. Forget it all, even if just temporarily. Pull away and let all that stuff recede into the background. We often use the word naïve as a bad thing, an insult even. Naïve is the one who sees the world from a different vantage point: a distant overlook from which it’s only possible to see general shapes and shades, not the world’s details and faults and rigmarole. Naiveté resides in disavowing all the scientific and technological knowledge, all the explanations, we’ve amassed. It’s seeing just to see. This is the person who, despite everything we know about pollution, is still captivated by the reds and yellows of the evening. It’s the kid rolling around in the dandelions sending white parachutes all over the yard, germination be damned. Naïveté is when you forget any knowledge of osteoporosis and focus instead on the knotted beauty of your grandmother’s hands, on the clapping and handholding and exertion and worry and enjoyment that made them that way. (Thanks, Jourdan.) If nothing else naiveté is a hell of a lot more interesting than the alternative, even in small doses. Think of it as a way of writing the world.

Here’s some amazing stuff I saw today: David methodically grooming himself, a clump of dust twittering in the heating vent, a bike staying upright, a floating Cheerio, a woman walking a dog bigger than she was, a beaver paddling in the pond outside my apartment, a little girl’s wiry, cotton-ball afro.

Keep it amazing.

-MC JLight

P.S.-Here’s a great little short film that accentuates newness in the face of ordinary. Directed by Ramin Bahrani and narrated by one of my favorites, Werner Herzog.

Andy Jesus, a.k.a. Mayor McMoron

I had the opportunity last month to spend a couple of weeks with one of my favorite people in the world: my youngest brother, Andy J. We went to the beach, ate ice cream, swam at all hours of the day. Nothing complex, just good simple time spent with family. Wind whistled through the trees, bullfrogs burped out on the pond. There were lightning bugs and giggling. So serene. And it was this serenity, this pure medium, that allowed me to realize a certain truth… Namely, that my brother is indubitably a moron.

I love him dearly. It’s not his fault. After all, he is thirteen and male. When you’re thirteen and male you don’t leisurely eat ice cream. No, you take it as a challenge. You dominate the ice cream. You consume over a pound of the stuff (17.5 ounces to be exact) in one sitting. You don’t just go swimming; you wrestle-swim. You Kung fu in the water. You Jujitsu in the water. You leave your swimming partner with an ache in his most sensitive areas. You don’t just go to the beach; you make the beach your bitch.

And why do you do this when you’re thirteen and male? Why do you shoot BB’s through windows and blow up hot dogs with firecrackers and run around waving some poor girl’s underwear over your head that inadvertently ended up in your laundry at camp? Simple. Because it’s cool. Coolness is the sole justification. Coolness. People will blame this behavior on hormones or caffeine. Freud would say that the young man is trying to achieve some libidinal pleasure. No, no, Siggy. He’s trying to be cool.

“That’s domination, fish.”

Coolness is bliss. Upon performing an act of coolness you, at that moment, have reached the pinnacle of life in this or any other universe. At thirteen you have usurped the laws of physics and chemistry, thus creating a momentary ether in which you are the center. You glow fluorescent shades of blue. You emit never-before-smelled pheromones. You’re not a man, you’re The Man. This is coolness. But, like any high, it’s fleeting, so you become a chaser. You seek out other opportunities for coolness. You are relentless and, if nothing else, original. You realize that sledding in and of itself is not cool, but sledding off a six-foot, coccyx-shattering jump is. You discover that simply lighting the charcoal is a sad substitute for incinerating the charcoal with a gallon of gasoline. Who cares if the burgers taste like a trucker’s leathery hand because in doing all this you are striving for the ultimate, hoping that all these acts will somehow weave together, like an Arthur Fonzarelli spider web, and become law. You’re hoping to become the lifetime sheriff of cool.

photoProblem is, cool is not universal. Cool is in the eye of the beholder, but the thirteen-year-old beholder is too encased in coolness to know it. He sees coolness in having an indoor water fight using pitchers and pitchers of water. For his father, however, this event produces the polar opposite of cool; it produces red. It produces your-are-so-uncool anger. It produces go-to-your-room-for-a-week-and-only-come-out-to-help-me-tear-up-the-carpet anger. Anger, if anything, can thwart coolness.

And the thirteen-year-old male idiot does get his fair share of anger. It sometimes piles upon him like sticky tar. For a while he doesn’t understand what the big deal is, but then the reasons behind the anger soak in. He grows older, too. To some extent he starts to understand how to function in the world. He learns that coolness isn’t the only force in the universe. He learns the rules. But—and this is the scariest part about the male, cool-seeking moron—the urge for cool never… goes… away. Never. You just learn how to manage it. You dole it out in smaller doses. You get better at lying and making excuses.

Keeping it cool.

You know when the time is right. But the search for cool never leaves you. So, at 19, you create a floor-to-ceiling barrier of phone books in your dorm hallway while everyone else is sleeping. At 25, under the cover of darkness, you jump into bushes for no reason at all. You, at 32, take utter joy in stealthily whipping your friends with a towel. As a father at 40 you tow your children on sleds behind your truck, sending them whipping along the frozen streets, but you make sure their mother doesn’t see. At 45 you have to fight the urge, when walking with someone next to a swimming pool, to push them in. Doesn’t matter if it’s your wife, your mother, or your boss. And, at 55, you sneak off on the 4th of July with a Black Cat and a hot dog, knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that blowing stuff up with firecrackers is the coolest thing ever.

Keep it cool.

-MC JLight

That was the day that mother told me I was too old to listen to rap music. Mid spring, 2002. I was twenty-four and moving out of my apartment. Mother was helping. We got into my car; I turned the ignition. When the engine started the radio was blaring a song by my friend, Snoop Dogg. He was extolling the virtues of a gin and juice cocktail. My mother, needless to say, did not appreciate his music. Mommy quickly flicked the volume knob and broke the news to me. It was so traumatic, so perverted that it has stuck in my head ever since.

In her sweet, irritation-laced voice she said to me, “Josh O’Dell, you are too old for this. You don’t need to be listening to such scary music.” Ahhh. But I love it so much. Scary? It’s not scary.

Since then I have not stopped listening to my beloved musical genre. If anything I have listened to it more even though I’m now thirty-two. Truthfully, I don’t know if I’ll ever retire my library. I can’t envision a scenario in which I’ll say, “Oh, what silly music. What was I thinking?” Of course when I have kids I’ll have to listen in private because no one likes a toddler who tells his grandmother that he’s got ninety-nine problems but a ______ ain’t one. She really might hit him. (Check your Jay-Z lyrics.) (Mom, I would never let my kids listen to Jay-Z. Not until they’re eight.)

I love rap music because of those satisfying moments when I am in the car bobbing my head to Biz Markie’s rough beatbox or the knotty rhythms of Dangerdoom…. In those moments I am cool. Possibly the coolest I will ever be. I’m not kidding. At that moment, when I’m spitting verses I am part of the musical collaboration That’s when I’m MC JLight, standing on stage with my hand cupped around the mic. I am a badass. I’m Steve McQueen with rhythm and gold fronts. And not even you—the staring lady next to me at the stoplight with your finger halfway up your nose—can tell me different.

The coolness factor is a big deal because those of you who know me well also know that my everyday alter ego, Joshua O’Dell, is patently uncool. He crosses his legs because it’s comfortable. (Sorry, it is.) He eats granola. He can’t tan to save his life. And, worst yet, he listens to NPR.

I like many other genres, but nothing is cool like rap. Classic country is twangy-cool. I’m going for urban-cool. Jazz is very cool, but I can’t participate in it unless I want to break out the old saxophone, which I don’t. Grunge is cool if you’re into sitting in a corner, thinking about why life sucks. Bluegrass is moonshine-cool. Metal just makes me weep—very uncool. There’s all that emotional, whiny, songwriter stuff. That’s sensitive-cool or don’t-watch-me-leave-you-but-listen-to-me-describe-the-rain-drops-for-five-minutes cool.

I love rap because, to put it bluntly, I’ve got beats in my bones and I’ve got a sweet booty that deserves to be shook. And it’s always been largely about the beats. Lyrics are cool, but the rhythm is the skizm. Rap allows for the baddest moves on the planet, e.g., break dancing, pop lock, cupid shuffle, stanky legg, lip gloss, Bugs Bunny, scuba hop, lip gloss, Aunt Jackie, running man, a-town stomp, SpongeBob, chicken noodle soup, the robot, the cabbage patch. I can do every one of ‘em.

Without rap there are so many things that I still wouldn’t know. Without Snoop Dogg I wouldn’t have realized that I need to have my mind on my money AND my money on my mind. Without Young MC I couldn’t truly bust a move. Without Busta Rhymes I wouldn’t know how to speak gibberish. If not for Freestyle Fellowship who’s going to tell me that the potato is hot? And without Black Sheep I wouldn’t have the option of this or that.

Besides, I grew up listening to this stuff. And it was okay back then, i.e., Mom knew I was listening to it. So it was okay until I turned, what, eighteen? Twenty? After that I was supposed to skip straight to Larry Welk? I mean at this point it sounds like I ought to keep rapping seeing as I’m so removed from being a grown-up. If I suddenly stop listening to it I might get the urge to sit in an office or eat a tapa.

Now that sounds scary.

-MC JLight

An Obscure Conversation Between Josh and Dave the Cat (Part IX)*

-Hey, Josh.

-Hey, Dave.


-You know that cats, like me, are nocturnal?

-I think I read that somewhere.


-Which means we like to sleep during the day.

-You sleep plenty at night, too.


-Stop talking. I’m trying to make a point.

-Sorry.


-What time is it?

-Noon-ish.


-Which is daytime, which means I’m….

-Sleeping.


-Right. So stop blowing on that thing.

-I can’t do that. I’ve got World Cup Fever.

Dave-"There are so many things wrong with you."

-Do you want me to explain how stupid this is?

-No, it’s a real thing, kind of like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.


-Then go to the doctor. Blow on your plastic trumpet there. God knows you’re a hypochondriac anyway. Besides aren’t you one visit away from filling up your frequent visitor card at the urgent care clinic.

-It’s two more visits—thank you—until I receive my free tongue depressor.


-Babies are smarter than you.

-Hypochondriac is such an ugly term. I prefer self-diagnoser. I’m telling you that I’ve got the World Cup Fever. I’ve got it bad.


-And that means you have to fill this apartment with obnoxious sounds?

-I think so. Everyone with World Cup Fever has a vuvuzela.


-It looks like a plastic trumpet to me.

-It’s not.


-I wish you’d put some clothes on.

-There’s no one here. Body paint is kind of like clothing. Ivory Coast orange.


-Well I’m here and you’ve never even been to the Ivory Coast and you’ve never played soccer for that matter.

– It’s called football. And I have played football… back when I was a kid. I was a stellar goalkeeper.


-Soccer, excuse me, football is pretty big in rural Colorado?

-Huge.


-Doubtful. I’ve been there.

-You hid under the bed the whole time you were there.


-I was… in need of some privacy.

-By the way to be proper, call it Côte d’Ivoire not Ivory Coast.


-French, huh? Your pronunciation is horrible.

-Française.


-Stop being a smart ass. You should be rooting for America.

-I am. But Côte d’Ivoire is my adopted team.


-You look like an orange creamsicle.

-Their colors are orange and green and white.


-So where’s the green?

-Under the Speedo.


-Please don’t remove the Speedo. No. Please leave it on.

-You don’t want the full effect?

Noisemaker

-Alex is going to kill you when she sees orange paint all over the new couch. It’s leather you know.

-I know.


-And don’t try to blame it on me. I’m too sweet for that. (Spoken in a falsetto voice) I’m such a sweet little kitty. Such a sweet little baby cake kitty face who can do no wrong. Such a sugar bowl little kitty cat with silken whiskers and a furry sweet face you could just eat like butter. Cutie pootie baby facey honey love. Poppy schmoopy lovey moomy tootie suckle love lump fur cakey. She loves me so much she’d eat my boogers for dinner and ask me for more. She’ll never buy it.

-I’m going to blame it on you.


-No you won’t.

-I will.


-I’ve always thought you were kind of a jerk wad. Blaming orange paint on little kitty.

-You’re not a kitty. You’re five years old. You’re fat.


-If you’re an Ivory Coast fan then I’m a kitty. And it’s muscle.

-That’s not what Dr. Sunshine said.


-Dr. Sunshine is a hippy vet. He’s a goober. He meowed at me while he stuck the thermometer in my butt.

-He was just trying to be friendly.


-New subject please.

-I’m not afraid to fly you back to Colorado to pay a visit to Dr. Randy Sunshine.


-Would you change clothes first or wear the orange paint?

-Don’t try me.


-Alex will be pissed.

-No she won’t. You’re taking the fall.


-Says who?

-Says this bag of kitty treats.


(Crunching) Fine. Give me one more and I’ll take the heat.

-Told you you’re fat.


-Told you you’re an idiot. By the way, you know that The Netherlands wear orange uniforms, too.

-I do.


-Is that why you’ve strapped fake elephant tusks to you head?

-Les Éléphants de Côte d’Ivoire. That means The Elephants…


-Your pronunciation still sucks.

-The Elephants of the Ivory Coast


-You’re an imbecile.

-You’re a sweet little kitty.


-Why are you writing this down?

-Because I love you.


*When you’re playing at home Dave’s part is to be read in a snooty French accent.

Me and rejection sailing together. That's me on the left.

Ahoy. Let me first say that I’m not looking for any pity here. Read this with a hint of derision in your mind’s voice. This is me trying to do something I’m very bad at, incidentally something that should have been included in the Parade of Stupidity (see previous blog): turning negative experiences into positives. Blah, blah. Oh boy.

This is going to be contemptuous and silly and dopey, but it makes me happy. Plus, I don’t have anything better to do. And, yes, perhaps I should keep these things to myself. But what’s the good of having a blog if you can’t subject people to your every self-pitying whimsy. Let the voyage begin.

Raise the mainsail and waggle the jib. Tie the halyard with a double mummy Oprah knot and take two shimmies on the rudder. Make sure the stanchion is bubbling and turn the wheel to a heading of east-northsouth at a speed of 8 million knots. Very soon I’ll make the jump to hyper speed. Set your sextants to stun.

I’m sailing a majestic boat. I’m wearing a pair of Top-siders without socks. I’m sporting sunglasses with Croakies and on this trip I’ll develop the most bodacious tan on this side of the Tropic of Capricorn–which is saying a lot because I usually go straight from whitey white to daddy-please-don’t-hit-me-with-the-belt-again red. This voyage will almost certainly be awesome. I’ll keep a journal, a memoir of my journey because that’s what you do. Should my mechanical pencil run out of lead I will slay a mighty squid and use its ink. I will not, however, write in my own blood because I get queasy around needles.

A double mummy Oprah knot. Just in case you were wondering.

Day 3: Navigated successfully through the Straight of WeRegretToInformYou. It looked a lot friendlier than it actually was. Once between its canine-shaped rocks I experienced a what I’d thought, until that moment, to be a fictional feature of the S.W.R.I.Y.: pockets of halitosis gas bubbling from the sea floor.

Day 25: Running out of freshwater faster than I anticipated. Could have something to do with the long shower I took after being pooped on by an entire flock of ThankButNoThanks Birds. They came out of nowhere while I was eating cheese and crackers on the deck. Ruined the rest of the day. After my long shower I sat in a dark corner chewing on a toothpick.

Day 49: Been doing repairs after I threw my knife at a small WeLikedItBut Nymph last night. Some people say they don’t exist, but I saw it clear as could be. Doesn’t matter that after I tried to attack it the darn thing disappeared and my knife gashed the jib. All I have is a needle and thread to repair the hole. Hoping it will hold.

Day 72: So thirsty. Thought I saw fresh water on the deck, but it only turned out to be a puddle of WeGaveYourStoryaSecondReadingHowever. Didn’t realize it until I was getting splinters in my tongue.

Day 99: Get it? I’m sailing in a sea of rejection. I’m tired of this metaphor.

I’m getting rejected a lot lately. It’s kind of a daily thing. Job opportunities, writing submissions… it doesn’t matter. I know rejection is part of the deal considering my interests and career (?) path, but it’s still not that fun. So I’m looking for ideas. I’m not quite sure what to do with all of them. Unfortunately almost all of them have been delivered via e-mail. If they were printed I could use them to make some lovely wallpaper. As it is, though, I just catalogue them in my psyche.

What else to do? I could always write the infamous writer-writing-trying-to-overcome-rejections story, but that’s just a big cliche. Besides, I’ve already written a silly blog about it. Maybe there’s some sort of business opportunity to be had. Maybe I could be a rejection consultant. Start some kind of service where I counsel people on how to compose more humane rejections. Businesses could use it: Thank you for applying, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction. It may not be the right direction, just a different one. Heck, it may just be the wrong direction. We don’t even have a map! Not hiring you may be the biggest mistake we’ve ever made! You don’t want to work here anyway. There’s asbestos in the walls and all our male employees have mustaches.

Fed-up girlfriends could use it too: Dear Kenny. Don’t think of this as a break-up. It’s an opportunity. I’m giving you the time necessary to become the professional Xbox player that you so long to be. I’m only holding you back from realizing your dreams. I don’t deserve someone with your digital dexterity. You’re welcome. I will love you always and watch you from afar. Yours, Mona.

Realize the dream, Kenny.

Insurance companies: Dear Mrs. Huffington. Unfortunately we must deny your claim for medical services rendered on January 15, 2010. But please take solace in the fact that we didn’t even review your claim. It’s nothing personal. Furthermore, your money will be a vital part of helping one of our lucky executives to realize his dream of owning his very own sail boat. Ahoy.

Ahoy.

That’s good stuff. Rejection still sucks.

-MC JLight

P.S. I’ve gone to the dark side. Follow me on Twitter @THEoriginalJLO.

For a nothing-doer I’ve been awfully stressed lately. When I get stressed I get cranky and there’s only one thing I can do went I get cranky: rant. It’s about to happen. Don’t judge me. I hope you’ll keep reading.

Without further ado, I present to you my first annual List of Things that Might be Stupid or The 2010 Parade of Stupidity.

Humidity. Humidity, I’m pretty sure, is stupid. Think about this: I’ve walked outside my apartment during the summer and my glasses have fogged up. I’ve had to flip on my car’s defrost because of the humidity… DURING THE SUMMER. So stupid. Sometimes I feel like I’m wearing a wetsuit and hanging out inside a giant mouth. It’s disgusting. Things get sticky. I chaff in certain places that I don’t like to talk about.

People Who Don’t Know When It’s Appropriate To Have A Loud Cell Phone Conversation. On a bus, in a quiet restaurant, at a golf tournament, in a doctor’s office, in a movie theater, in a napping lion’s enclosure, while you’re in the pool, when you’re in line somewhere, in a public restroom, at your arraignment, in a movie theater, in a movie theater. This is a short and very incomplete list of places and situations in which people do not need to start yelling into their cell phones. But without fail, someone always does and doing so is very, very stupid. Quite stupid. Sure, things come up, but not that often. Please don’t interrupt my bus ride by screeching into your cell phone about the totally hot guy you met at the party even though you were totally hammered, the guy who totally held your hair back while you puked and who’s so totally sweet. I don’t care. To deal with you he must have been totally hammered too and totally doesn’t remember you and totally lost your phone number and he totally wouldn’t call you anyway because you’re a total loser. Shut up.

Shut your trap, Buddy. No one cares.

Here’s the underlying problem: The convenience of cell phones has slowly conditioned us to believe that because they can be used anywhere, they should be. No, no, no. Save some conversations for the house.

My Hair. It’s always been a little stupid, but I don’t realize it until it gets longer than usual. That’s when I remember why I always cut it so short. I have what you might call a puffy problem. And the humidity (see above) doesn’t help anything. The longer it gets the closer I get to being able to safely ride a bike without a helmet.

The NBA. Overwhelmingly stupid and frustrating. Where do I begin with this one? How about with the officials who don’t really enforce rules anymore. Instead, they kind of, sort of call certain fouls on certain players, but only if the foul is really obvious or really imperceptible depending, of course, on the player committing the foul or receiving the foul and they bend certain, but not all of the rules to favor certain players and often they forget the rules completely to ensure that the game is exciting and they always look good doing it, making sure that they gesticulate wildly so as to show everyone how athletic they are and how, if they wanted, they could be playing basketball too and, most importantly, they ensure that at the end of the game the viewers know their names even though it’s ludicrous to know any official’s name in any sport. There’s no other sport in which the casual fan can notice and name so many officials. Officials are an apparatus of the game for God’s sake. We shouldn’t know anything about them. What’s next? Are the commentators going to start talking about the baskets before the game? Maybe discuss where the iron’s origin. Or, better yet, let’s make every one different so that the players have no idea how big it is. Maybe they can’t even get the ball through it. And they can also change rims after each quarter to really keep the players on their toes.

I’ve become so angry that this doesn’t even make sense.

I love basketball. That’s why I love the college game. The NBA, however, isn’t basketball anymore. It’s a player popularity contest and a showcase for officials who are given way too much leeway.

Soggy Apples. Nothing worse than being eager to sink your chompers into a nice crunchy apple only to find that the stupid thing is actually filled with apple sauce. Mealy texture, apple flesh falling apart before you can even chew. When this happens I sometimes pretend it’s a pear just to make myself feel better. This, however, does not take away from the stupidity of the situation.

Get after it, Pal.

Golf. Usually stupid. How else do you describe the act of trying to hit a little ball into a little cup? Twain was right, golf is a good walk spoiled. I’d like to go further by saying that golf is a good walk that quickly becomes an angry, obscenity-laden slog. Even more stupid, I continue to play it.

There are way too many good angry golfer pictures to choose from.

Parents Who Refuse to Recognize the Messes Generated by Their Children. Let me begin this rant by saying that I love ankle-biters; I am by no means anti-child and I understand that they specialize in making messes. But, parents of the world, if you go to, say, a restaurant and your child makes a mess of cosmic proportions at least recognize that some else will be cleaning it up. A simple “Sorry about the mess” will do just fine. I’m not asking you to get on your hands and knees and coral all the Cheerios on the floor. Just say thanks to the person who does.

P.S.-This segment is brought to you by a family of four who I waited on last Sunday, the children of which made a colossal mess by throwing rocks all over our outdoor dining area while the parents simply enjoyed their mojitos then quickly scooted out the door after leaving me 10%. Truthfully, the tip doesn’t matter. What matters is that I spent thirty minutes sweeping rocks back into the garden. An oopsy-daisy would have made it all better.

Moving. S-t-u-p-i-d. People say that a good friend will help you move. I’d never do that to a good friend. I say you should only ask people who you really, really hate.

Moving. Is. Stupid.

Pat Robertson. He insinuated that the people of Haiti had it coming because they don’t share his religious beliefs. Enough said.

Rants. They don’t make you feel any better. They only get you more worked up about the things you dislike and make you notice other things you didn’t realize you disliked in the first place. Dammit.

You’d think that someone who does nothing, such as myself, would have more time to write a silly little blog. And you’d probably be right. But doing nothing is often very hard work. There’s a lot of thinking and planning that goes into it. Do I continue making kissing sounds at Dave the Cat for another hour or should I philosophize about why Velveeta is not per se a cheese in the classical sense. (Yes, I have thought about that. What, exactly, constitutes cheese? But that’s another blog.) In fact, I go so far as to say that doing nothing is often back-breaking and time-consuming—my nothing is so intense that it requires two compound adjectives.

Jealous Cereal.

Take today, for instance. Today I thought about cereal for a while. Let me begin by saying that I adore cereal. In Spanish there’s fourteen-ish words for love and I’d use them all to explain my affinity for cereal if I hablaed Espanol. For now, “love” will have to do. I started the day off with some Kashi Strawberry Fields, which has a hint of sweetness and some nice red (dried) berries and flakes don’t get too soggy in milk. Delicious. There’s the Beatles reference, too, which doesn’t influence the taste necessarily, but does put me bouncy mood. Second course consisted of some banana nut Cheerios. This may sound gross. Personally I remember the fake-banana -flavored stuff that Dr. Gary Vance, DDS would use to numb my mouth just before sticking a needle in my gum. This was always followed by the drilling of and/or yanking at teeth. But banana nut Cheerios do not taste like fake banana. If they did, I wouldn’t eat them. They taste like heaven… heaven wrapped in glorious sunsets and served atop a shimmering rainbow. I love you, Cereal.

But then I couldn’t help but think about all the other things I love to eat for breakfast. Donuts, for instance, make me light-headed. Don’t get me started on omelets, especially when they involve bacon. I made an Italian omelet once with mozzarella cheese and homemade marinara sauce that made me weep. Biscuits and gravy make me want to Sweat to the Oldies with Richard Simmons. (I’m not sure what this means, but I think it’s really, really good.) So it’s not just cereal. I like breakfast… a lot.

Oh, Cereal. Don’t be jealous.

By this time it was almost lunch. Lunch is the lovely intermezzo between the opening tympani of breakfast and the fat lady that is dinner. Lunch, for me, means sandwiches. Holy crap. Sandwiches. I like sandwiches with mayo and lots of black pepper. I like good bread. I like rich cheese and fresh veggies and mustard and… turkey. Dammit, I love turkey. And bacon. I like a Reuben sandwich and I don’t know if they named it after the guy from the bible, but it makes sense given that one of the name’s etymological roots is a Hebrew word meaning, he will love me. A Reuben sandwich will love you and love you good. (This information came from Wikipedia, which we all know can be suspect, but it works so I’m going to run with it. Regardless of its accuracy, trust me, a Reuben sandwich will love you.) I like crunchy chips with my sandwich and an orange soda. I used to make sandwiches out of nothing but hamburger buns and BBQ sauce. I called it a BBQ sauce sandwich. What’s not to like? I like sandwich’s cousin, the wrap. The wrap is a one-handed sandwich. I once made a wrap out of yellow mustard and Gold Fish (the cracker).

Reubens: so loving.

Okay, so I like lunch too. Who doesn’t? Cereal, it’s not a denial of what we have together.

While I’m thinking about dinner I snack on some hummus and veggies. Hummus is a weird thing, but I love it. Wait, I should use a different word. I don’t want Cereal to think I’m cheating on it. Rephrase—I rely on hummus for intellectual stimulation…

No, no, Cereal, it’s not that you’re not intelligent… We just have a different relationship… No, don’t leave… Of course you complete me… How many times have I told you that we’re soul mates… Yes, but I’ve said it different ways… Do I have to actually use the term “soul mate…” But that was just one time… I don’t have a problem…  You’re just being emotional… Come sit down.

Oh, Cereal. Sure I love dinner, too. What do I love so much about it? I love… Sorry, I enjoy casseroles. Come out with me some time and we’ll get a nice chicken mole enchilada. Gnocchi with a Caprese salad to start. No, you don’t pronounce the “g.” Oh, Cereal, now you’re just getting nitpicky… It’s not hoity-toity, it’s part of the language… Yes, I love simplicity… You’re simple, Cereal. Maybe once in a while I’ll eat an entire large pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple and jalapeños. Sure you can have bacon for dinner… It’s not gluttonous… You can have bacon for any meal… Oh, the Canadians have just as much right as anyone else. Well, now that you mention it I also like a buffalo burger… Yes, bison, tatonka. I’m being unreasonable?  Fine, how about this: I love butternut squash ravioli with fried basil leaves. That snooty enough for you? I love lightly seared Ahi tuna. I love raw tuna for that matter. You won’t even try sushi. Sure I like Velveeta… And bacon.

Bacon.

Don’t bring dessert into this… Because it’s unfair… Well, there are brownies and ice cream and homemade ice cream. Cobbler in the summer… I’m smiling because I like cobbler… It makes me feel nostalgic… I’m beginning to think you don’t understand me, Cereal. What about cake? Everyone loves cake. And there’s banana pudding. My mom makes the best banana pudding… Oh, this has nothing to do with her… Leave Sheryl out of this… Pecan pie and popsicles and bread pudding and cookies and panna cotta and tiramisu and…

What?

Why’d you have to go there, Cereal? I don’t have a problem… Well, yeah… But doesn’t everyone love to eat?… Of course you’re enough for me… Most of the time… Twelve step program? Isn’t everyone a little skinnier in high school? It’s not a coping mechanism… What do I have to cope with? I’m needy? You’ve thought this all along? I’m just craving attention? The blog has nothing to do with it… Sure I eat to make myself feel better. What’s wrong with doing nothing?

I guess I’m bored… It might make me feel a little better… Yes, that sounds nice. Let’s go with the Honey Nut Cheerios. Not too much milk… And a big spoon… Have the Lucky Charms on standby.

-MC JLight

When I’m in the middle of doing nothing—I mean, when I’m really doing it well—I’ll sometimes Google little questions that I’m looking to answer. Are soul patches cool? Turns out they’re not as cool as they used to be. Where did Waldo go? Somewhere in the South Pacific. How much money should I save each month? More than I currently do. Am I too old to get pregnant? Yes.

Here’s one that I did today, just cause I worry about this kind of thing: How old is too old to change careers? I asked Google this for several reasons. First, honestly, if I got a real job, even my dream job, I’d consider it a career change, as I am currently the VP of Jack Squat. Second, I’m extremely worried that my chosen career path is evaporating before me. And third, because I feel like I’m starting to get past the age where anything is possible.  You know, I’m not sure I can go back to school and I doubt if people want to hire someone my age as an intern and I’ve got to earn money somehow. So basically I wanted to know if all hope for me is gone… And Google seemed like the place to go for this vital info. Besides, my Magic Eight Ball was broken. It just kept saying, “Ask again,” so I threw it into a lake.

The first link that popped up directed me to a message board on which a man of my exact age came a-wondering if he was too old to become a journalist. The responses poured in and were all very positive. Of course not. You’re only as old as you feel. Never say never. One person mentioned many famous people who started careers later in life.

But one response stood out. In it the respondent questions the asker’s negative language, which, strangely, is a lot like mine, e.g. I won’t go back to school. I can’t find a job that makes me happy, etc. He suggested that the wannabe journalist ought to rework his vocabulary. Agreed. For many people, positivity has worked miracles in the past. Our forefathers’ positivity helped found this great country in the face of insurmountable Red-Coated odds. Positivity has helped countless sports underdogs (notably the 1997 Denver Broncos). And who hasn’t used a little positive thinking on a road trip through Nevada when there’s fifty miles ahead until the next rest stop and fifty miles have past since you stopped at Taco Bell for a bagful of bean burritos.

So me and the wannabe journalist should go with positive stuff. I will…. I can… Fine. Sort of. Perhaps I’m a Negative Nancy, but I usually reserve I will for certain things that I will do. I will take out the trash. I will eat some ice cream. I will take you to the airport. These are things over which I virtually have complete control. The wheels stop turning, though, when I try to be positive about tasks of less certainty (I will drive this ball down the middle of the fairway) or, even scarier, goals that depend on the willing participation of others (see below). Those scare the dickens out of me

Most applicable to my “professional” life is something like this: I will sell/publish this or that screenplay/story. **Silence, cricket chirp, cough.** Oh boy. Again, I may be a Debbie Downer, but how can I even begin to utter such a sentence. My brain starts working overtime: I have little control over such an event, I might jinx myself by saying it, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. C’mon, the only way I could convince myself that it was possible for me to write a novel was by getting a few words of it tattooed on my body as motivation. Because who wants to be the guy who had a small portion of an unfinished/unrealized novel permanently etched on his skin? Not me. So what’s next? Do I need to brand myself? (This is the kind of situation that leaves me wanting to eat a carton of fudgesicles and veg out on the couch watching The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. He makes me feel better.) Moreover, if I can’t utter the aforementioned difficult sentence, how am I supposed to get anything done, much less take myself seriously as a writer?

But wait. You’re saying there’s another word between will and won’t. And you’re right. There’s also that lovely word: try. I love this word. I fall back on this word. It’s cuddly. It’s theoretical positivity. It’s exact middle. It’s hoping for the best without being cocky. I like that.

But Yoda had to step in and be a jerk. In The Empire Strikes Back he clearly says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” He took a choice, the best choice, away. I can’t even try to be positive. I can’t try to not try. I have to do or not do. I have to either be negative, which is nearly impossible for me (even though I’m a quasi-pessimist, I don’t like quitting), or there’s that other thing…

Crap.

-MC JLight

My friend Benjamin recently posted the following as his Facebook status: “kinda wish plants would have sex in private and not all over my car. yellow.”  He’s referring to the amazing amount of pollen in North Carolina. It’s all over the road and on every car in town. On today’s run I saw clouds of the stuff. Little particles swarming like Africanized honey bees. I saw a car actually emit pollen from its exhaust. Seriously.

Benjamin - irritated about plant sex.

Sound like a good time? It ain’t. I have what doctors refer to as “allergies.” Which means the abundance of pollen, or male plant sex dust, in the air gives me fits. Honestly it’s the only thing worse than the heat here. And I think they’re doing it on purpose.

Personally, this is the first time I’ve seen plants have sex so haphazardly. No regard for personal boundaries or religious beliefs. Just frivolity. Usually they’re so docile, so Martha-Stewart-ish. But right now it’s like the floral version of spring break. Female plants parading around with belly rings and too-tight bathing suits. Male plants ‘roided-up and glossy, their sexual awareness heightened by a mixture of Red Bull, hormones, and tequila shooters.

When parents around here give “the talk” I doubt it’s even necessary to use the old birds/bees euphemism, namely because the flowers here don’t need birds or bees to make little flower babies. Instead it should go something like this:

Well, little Kenny, when the male part of the flower really loves the female part of the flower it departs its pollen in heavy sheets onto a tall man’s 2002 Toyota. Then the tall man comes out of his house and inadvertently inhales the pollen. The rush of histamines makes him so dizzy that he bumps his head on the car. The yellow devil dust gets in his hair and on his favorite Broncos t-shirt. After a long sneezing fit, buckets upon buckets of snot, eyes so itchy they might fall out, and a lot of cursing, the tall man gets out of his car and a gust of wind blows the pollen off of him and onto the female part of the plant. And that’s how baby plants get made.

Think about it. Little Kenny can go to school the next day and brag to his friends about his new-found knowledge of the Tall Man and the Toyota. Or the Sneeze and the Snot. He can tell the story of an angry man with snot raining from his nose and how that man makes baby flowers. Sure it may lead to years of confusion and a few therapist bills, but it will stick with him.

That isn't magic fairy dust.

Hell, parents of North Carolina, you could even use this copious plant sex as a deterrent. Let’s say you have an allergy-prone teenager in the house and you want to deliver the old Wait-Until-Marriage Sex Talk. Don’t. Talk is cheap. Action speaks volumes. Just sit the kid outside on the patio and tell him or her to breathe deep. As he’s sneezing uncontrollably, crying, writhing in pain, and begging for a Zyrtec you jump out and say, “And that’s what happens when you mess around with gratuitous sex like those hornball plants. Keep your hands to yourself until there’s a ring on your finger.”

I’ve come to blame the tree-hugging liberals of North Carolina and, specifically, Chapel Hill. (Even though I am mostly liberal myself.) I imagine they parade around encouraging the trees and flowers to explore their bodies, to do what feels natural, to make love, not war… Blah, blah, blah, achoo. Colorado allergy season was nothing like this. They somehow keep their plants in order. Granted, there are plenty of liberals in CO. I mean Obama carried the state in 2008. But there’s also the Focus on the Family influence. While I may not agree with everything that organization stands for, at least they keep plants from sexing all over the place.

Yes, I need a hobby. More nothing to come…

MC JLight