Sopapillas and Pita Bread

I was going to write a riveting, brilliant, startling revelation of a post, today, about my improved emotional well-being and something that I’ve been giving a lot of though to recently.  It was going to be a amazing and you were going to love it.

But now I’m just pissed off and it’s all your fault.  Yours and yours and…  well, not yours.  You didn’t do it.

It’s all this bullshit I’m seeing everywhere I turn about the bills before the house and congress about censorship of the internet.  I’m just sick of it.

No!  You know what I’m sick of?  I’m sick of vigilante activism.  That’s what I’m sick of.  Occupy this.  Black out that.  Come on!  You want to educate people, then educate people, but this is ridiculous.

Last night I watched a really weird LGBT movie called “The Lost Coast”.  The movie was strange, but it had some really good moments in it.  Early on one of the characters picks up a photograph in another characters apartment and says, “Is this the lost coast?”  I didn’t even know the lost coast was a real place.  (Turns out it’s somewhere north of where I live, here in California.)  I did what I always do when I don’t know something.  I Googled it.  This was last night; about 9:00.  The first result, as is so often the case, was Wikipedia.  So I clicked on the link and the page loaded, and then just as I was starting to read about the lost coast, the screen went black and an annoying message popped up, whining at me about internet censorship and “Imagine a World
Without Free Knowledge”.  There was no way to acknowledge the message and move on.  Just, “nah-neh-nah-neh-nah-nah.  You can’t read my pages.”  Last night.  It annoyed me, but I found what I wanted to know elsewhere.

Today, as I’m reading through the blogs in my reader, I find post after post about these bills and how wretched and horrible and awful the bills are.  Now, I usually open the blogs and read them on people’s sites.  I’m not at all sure that reading in Google Reader counts toward people’s page views on their blog stats and while we like to pretend we’re cool and don’t care about such things, we’re lying.  We all care.  So I like to make sure it counts.  (This, by the way, is the reason you have to come to my blog to read the entire post… just in case you were wondering.)  Anyway, half of these posts have come through just fine in my reader and I could read the entire thing if I wanted, but when I clicked on the blogs themselves the blogs are blacked out “in protest”.  So, I can read teh whole damn post on Google Reader, but I can’t read it on your blogs and show you I’ve been there.  Vigilante Activism Fail!!!

It’s not that you wrote blog posts about it.  They’re your blogs.  You can write what you want.  Personally, I’m annoyed by the glut of posts on the subject, but at least by writing about the bills you’re making an effort to educate me.  It’s the “blacking out” of the pages “in protest” that’s got me pissed.  By the way, I haven’t read any of your anti-sopapilla bill blog posts.  I’ve even dropped a couple anti-pita bread bloggers from my line up.  Enough is enough!

I sent a link to a particularly funny lolcat to K this afternoon.  The lolcats did it right.  There’s a screen that pops up in front of the page and tells you to beware the bogey monster and then at the bottom it asks you  if you’d like to learn more.  You can click a “learn more” button and, imagine that, learn more.  Or you can click on the “no thanks” button and get on with your life.  K wouldn’t look at the lolcat because she wasn’t willing to click the “no thanks” button.  Her loss.

Look.  I get it.  Censorship is bad.  We don’t want these bills to pass and if someone presents me with an unoffensive petition to sign, I’ll sign it.  I sent the e-mails to my representatives.  I’ve done my part.  And the truth is, I don’t really understand what these bills are about.  What is internet piracy?  How are these bills supposed to make things better?  I. Don’t. Know.  What I do know is, blacking out or otherwise inconveniencing half of the internet, isn’t serving any purpose.  I guarantee you the talking heads in Washington, do not care that I couldn’t look up the lost coast last night.  The vast majority of them have not looked for a single website that happened to be part of this ridiculous protest.

IT.  DOES.  NOT.  WORK.

Flavor

A while back K told me about an on-line writing group; a website called Write on Edge.  I subscribed to the blog and started watching the writing prompts they offered.  Everything, at first glance, seems so vague.  The word limits are always too small.  We all know brevity is not my forté.

The most recent writing prompt was one word; flavor.  Four hundred words or less, either fiction or creative non-fiction.  I told K, “I don’t like it.  It’s too vague.”   She told me I should just give it a try.  So I did.  What follows is my first ever submission to this writing group, in the shadows of which, I have lurked for months.

I don’t think it’s very good (go figure) and it seems really contrived, but what the hell.  It’s not like I’m going to get a grade for it.  So here you go…

Flavor:

It took him a long time to open up.  Months of silent car rides, open-ended questions answered with a vague “I don’t know”, and doubts about what the relationship was accomplishing for either of us.  I began to contemplate giving up.  Maybe he didn’t need me.  Maybe he didn’t need anyone or maybe he needed something I wasn’t providing and someone else could.  Could I walk away?  Should I walk away?  After all, I had met my initial commitment.

Walking away just seemed wrong, so I stuck it out hoping to see something change.  I reduced the amount of time I spent with him; it took a lot out of me and I didn’t feel connected.  Half as much time would have to suffice.

I don’t know when it changed.  One day it was suddenly obvious; half the time wasn’t enough.  He wanted more and I wanted to give him more.  A new schedule.  More time.  Different days.  Dinners some weeks.  He lit up at the notion.

After the second dinner when he returned home he told his sister all about our outing.  “And he had five Diet Pepsi’s” he told her, excitement in his voice.  That’s when I knew he was watching.  Picking up on everything.  He sees all that I do.  I have to be constantly aware, vigilant about the example I set.  But I don’t mind.

I try to show him a good way to be, but it’s hard when what I want to show him is something different from what I am.  I know he’s following my lead.  I should eat better; drink more water.  But I love the flavor of Diet Pepsi.  It’s my one vice.  I’m completely addicted.  The sweet, refreshing, cola taste.  It’s the first thing to enter my mind when the all important, “can I get you something to drink?” is asked.

He talks to me now.  Still a lot of “I don’t know”, but there’s much more than that now.  Stories about school.  Stories about friends.  Stories about playing video games.  But he talks.  And when I taste that sweet, dark elixir, I’m reminded, once again, that our relationship matters; that he needs me and I need him.

And that tastes pretty damn good.

Mostly On Target

I’m cheating…  Well, OK, I’m not exactly cheating, but sort of…

I made no promises about daily blog posts, and I certainly didn’t make any resolutions of the sort.  But I did say I wanted to write more, and I have posted something new everyday this year… You hear that?  EVERY DAY THIS YEAR!!!  (Sounds like a really long time and major accomplishment, huh?)  😉

Anyway, I’m cheating because I’m writing this tonight, but it won’t post till tomorrow…  Except that by the time you’re reading this…

I’m cheating because I wrote this last night, but it didn’t post till today…  Yeah, I think that’s right. Tomorrow(today) I will be heading up to Cache Creek Casino and Resort for a day of nickel slot machines (probably) and an over night in the hotel, before coming back on Thursday, so I have to write this post in advance and schedule it if I want to keep up my EVERY DAY THIS YEAR!!! streak.

I had dinner to(last)night with a friend of mine named Shirley.  I met Shirley at work years ago and we developed a friendship.  She was blessed enough to be able to retire early from the company and has been living a very comfortable life since then.  We get together every so often to enjoy a meal and have a nice conversation and that’s what we did tonight.  We had dinner at a lovely restaurant called Hs. Lordships (most people pronounce it “His Lordships” – don’t know why), in Berkeley, CA, right on the water of the Bay.  Shirley asked to have an “early dinner”, which worked out nicely.  She lives about 30 miles away from me and she was coming to me since I came to her last time and she wanted to eat early so she could go home early… Or anyway that was the plan.  I made 5:00 reservations and it was nearly 8:00 when we left the restaurant and then we stood in the parking lot for another nearly 30 minutes talking.

The restaurant was deserted when we arrived, and they seated us at arguably the nicest table they have.  It’s right in the corner with windows on two sides, one of which was facing the Golden Gate Bridge.  I couldn’t not snap a shot with my iPhone and this was the view from my dinner table tonight!

Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset

I expected the restaurant to fill up but the entire time we were there, there were only two or three other parties at the restaurant so it was kind of nice.  We had a wonderful and enlightening conversation and I’m so glad we got together.  It can be so hard to maintain relationships with people you don’t see with regularity, but this is a relationship that is worth maintaining!  Next time we get together, Shirley told me, I’ll come to her house where she’ll cook and I’ll get to meet and play with her six to eight year old Black Lab, Jake, whom she rescued from a shelter two years ago.  I can’t wait for that!

After my dinner was over, I ran over to the nearby Target store.  I was going way out on a limb, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

You see, a while back I bought a printer.

Sometime after that, I bought an ink cartridge.

Sometime after that, I bought a new computer because the one I had spontaneously kicked the bucket.

Sometime after that, I attempted to install my old printer on my new computer, only to learn that they couldn’t play nicely together.

Recently, I bought a new printer (spoiling Michelle’s plans for her Christmas Gift to me, as I’ve previously mentioned.)

Even more recently, I was cleaning up and I happened across that printer cartridge, which had never been opened and had never been used.

I know I bought that cartridge at Target.  I do not know when I bought it, where the receipt is, or which credit card I used to buy it.  In general Target has a very liberal return policy.  From the perspective of a former retail manager, their return policy is TOO liberal, however, as a frequent shopper of Target stores, I’m grateful for this liberal policy.  (By the way, are the gays still supposed to be pissed off at Target and boycotting?  If so, shoot me.  I don’t care.)  In addition to not knowing which card I used to purchase the cartridge, my Debit card number was recently changed, as I mentioned in a previous post, due to credit card fraud activity at my local grocery stores.  I handed the unopened cartridge box to the customer service rep and told her, “I’m going out on a limb here.  I don’t know when I bought this or which card I used but I know I bought it at Target.  She worked her magic and determined that I had not bought it on either of the two cards I had given her.  I was fully prepared to be told that it had been too long and I couldn’t return it.  Instead she said, “I can give you store credit and you’ll get $XX.XX for it.  I was perfectly happy to accept that as I had some shopping to do anyway.

I have had a number of complaints about Target over the years.  They’re in desperate need of properly training their staff not to get in their customers’ way and to say “excuse me” when they must.  Pretty much every time I’ve gone to a Target since I moved to California I’ve had at least one, and usually more, employee step in front of me and stop to put something on a shelf right where I’m looking, without saying a word.  I’ve had a number of bad experiences in their snack bars, with them usually being understaffed by under-motivated, slow-moving workers.  But I must say that I was very impressed with the service tonight and how the young lady handled my return that I expected not to go so well.

Spending the store credit was no problem.  I’m down to my last case of Diet Pepsi here at home and that’s just a tragic event that can not be!  I must have a plentiful supply of Diet Pepsi at all times!  Otherwise I get itchy.  Heh.  I needed one or two other things as well, including a wart removal product.  You see, yesterday at some time I rather suddenly became aware of a painful bump on the little webbing between my ring and middle fingers on my right hand.  Don’t know where it came from but it just seemed to instantly appear.  At first I thought it was a pimple and I tried my damnedest to squeeze and pop it (isn’t that what one does with a pimple?) but I couldn’t get good leverage on it to give it a good squeeze.  And then I thought, “That doesn’t look much like a pimple.  I think that’s a wart.”  I don’t know how I would have gotten a wart in between two fingers and so suddenly but I didn’t know what else it could be.  So while I was at Target I looked for wart remover.  I found exactly ONE product, which I’m sure is not all that’s out there.  Dr. Sholl’s Freeze Away.  “Removes warts fast with as few as 1 treatment” the package says.  I’d like to get rid of this thing with as few as one treatment.  That might be just what I need.  Though I have to admit that “freeze away” scares me and it cost $14.00 for something I’ll likely only use once.  But they didn’t have any other product so I bought it and brought it home.

I decided to be a smart boy and read the instructions and warnings carefully.  The instructions are remarkably incomplete.  “Twist the applicator onto the can, stick the applicator in the activator, freeze off the wart.”  Um… Okay.  Not specific enough.  The warnings go on to say, “Do not use this product on anything other than a common wart or a plantar wart.”  “If you do not use Freeze Away exactly as these directions say to use it, or if you use it on any other condition that is not a common or plantar wart, it may cause serious burns, permanent scarring of the skin, or blindness.  If you are not sure whether the skin condition is a common wart or plantar wart, ask a doctor before using Freeze Away“.

Well, I thought I was sure…  But I’m not sure enough to risk permanent scaring or blindness.  How is this product even available over the counter?  For $14.00, I’m taking this back and I’ll go to CVS to find some salicylic acid to paste on it.  Sure wish Target had some of that; this sucker hurts and I’d like it to be gone already!

 

So!  Now that this commentary is out of the way, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and pack for this trip that I am already on while you’re reading this. 😉

2012 New Year Declaration

Well, here we are.  It’s 2012…  The last year of the world (Yeah, right!)  What are we going to do with it?

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t like to set myself up to fail and that’s what I think New Year’s resolutions do for me.  But I’ve been thinking about what I want for this upcoming year.  Lot’s of things have come to mind of course.  Yeah, I’d like to lose weight… again.  Of course, I’d like to get back into the habit of going to the gym and get in better shape… again.  I’d like to get back on the blogging bandwagon…. again.  I don’t write here nearly as much as I should.  Not as much as I would like to.

I read a while back on Jen Lancaster’s blog that writing is a muscle and like with any muscle, you have to keep exercising it or that muscle get’s weak.  That makes perfect sense to me and I’ve experienced it first hand.  If I don’t write regularly, I find it harder to get back into the habit.  So I would like to write more.  Ideally every day, though that may be easier said than done.  I’m going to try though.  If you’re looking for me to make a “resolution” to write more, forget it.  I ain’t gonna do it!  But keep checking back, hopefully you’ll see more writing more often in the new year.  According to that fancy pants year-end review thing that WordPress put together and I posted yesterday, I had 69 new posts last year.  Sixty-nine new posts out of 365 days…  That seems kind of shameful to me.  This year, I hope, will be better.

Anyway, thinking about 2012…  I’d like to eat better.  Cook more, learn to make new, healthy, but interesting recipes.  I took some time during my stay-cation this past week to really clean up and reorganize my kitchen and I’m amazed.  I should probably be ashamed to admit this, but whatever.  When I looked at this apartment more than four and a half years ago, I liked it a lot.  The guy who lived here before me didn’t have a ton of stuff and the apartment wasn’t terribly cluttered.  I liked it (except for the inordinately small closet) and I was interested, but the thing that put me over the top, was the kitchen.  It’s not large, by any means, but what put me over the top was this beautiful kitchen with the black marble slap counters, the stainless steel appliances, the gas range and oven and the over-sized sink.  I didn’t notice until moving in that it didn’t have a microwave or a garbage disposal, but I owned my own microwave and I’ve managed to make do without the garbage disposal.  Over the years, the kitchen counters became a dumping ground.  I walk in the door with my mail in my hands and I walk straight into the kitchen where I dump everything on the counter.  For months now, I’ve had so much clutter on my kitchen counters, that I had only one small section of counter space to do my chopping and mixing and plating.  My kitchen was no longer my friend.  The other day, I took some time to go through the stuff on the counters and put a lot of it away.  I threw a lot of things away and some additional stuff that I haven’t used, but I’m not ready to part with, got boxed up and taken down to the garage. I now have a wide open and beautiful kitchen I’ve regained the ability to appreciate.  Now it’s time to make proper use of it again!  I’ve even been remarkably consistent about putting dishes in the dishwasher the moment I’m finished with them, instead of piling up dishes in the sink and on the counter before they finally get into the dishwasher.  Yay me!  🙂

Like I said, I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of things I want to accomplish this year, and there’s one thing I keep coming back to more than anything else.  I want my book to be published.  So instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I’m making ONE 2012 New Year’s Declaration, by the end of this year, barring unforeseen, and very positive intervention, The Teacher, by Kevin Riggs, will be published in one form or another.  (And that does not include matchbook sized Christmas Tree decorations.)  I have very high hopes for some sort of successful deal with a real publishing company, but barring positive results of that endeavor, I will self publish this book before the year is out.  Stay tuned!

Counting Thoughts

Some people say that Holiday’s like Christmas are all about giving.  “‘Tis better to give than to receive,” and all that hooey.  I have very mixed feelings about the gift giving holidays.  I want to get presents.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all?  I think anyone who says, “I don’t care about receiving presents.  I just like giving things to people and watching their faces light up when they open the package,” is lying through their artificially whitened teeth.  (I don’t know why the teeth are artificially whitened, that’s just the first thing that came to mind and we’re going to go with it.)

I like to GET presents, but I HATE to give them.  I do.  It’s not because I’m stingy or selfish.  I’m not.  I do like to give people presents that they genuinely enjoy and appreciate.  There is a commercial that keeps playing on the radio right now: I think it’s for Roku (Obviously not a very good commercial because I had to try six different spellings, “Orocu, Orokoo, Arocu, arocoo, etc.” before I actually found ROKU with no O or A in front of it.)  The commercial says something about knowing the different between genuine appreciation and fake appreciation when you give a gift.  I?  I get the fake appreciation most of the time.

I don’t usually try to give people gifts that will blow them away.  I don’t make any sort of effort to surprise people, because I suck at it.  I ask people “What do you want?” and then if I can afford it, I give it to them.  If I can’t afford it, I ask, “What else?”  I hate it when they tell me, “I don’t know.”

I’m just not very good at gift giving.  I suck at gift giving and I come by it naturally.  Observe:

One year, when I was about fifteen, my mother decided, seemingly on the spur of the moment, that she was going to give us something for Christmas.  She ran out on Christmas Eve, in search of some kind of gifts for her children.  The next morning, after we had our traditional Pillsbury cinnamon roll breakfast, we each opened a small package with our name on it.  Each package contained one embroidered dish towel and one pot holder…  with Santa Claus on them.  Again…  I WAS FIFTEEN.

Last year my mother sent me a green t-shirt with a giant Grinch face screen printed on it.  She couldn’t have known by looking at the shirt that the dastardly smiling mouth on the shirt only serves to highlight my much maligned and despised gut.   I also don’t appreciate being referred to as “The Grinch”, which is what she calls me when she’s not calling me Scrooge.  I never have and never will wear the shirt out of the house.

Last week I received a text from my mother:

“I’ve ordered you some Christmas goodies from Harry & David.  Don’t know when they’ll arrive but be on the lookout.”

By chance I came home that night to a box on my front steps.  I opened it up and found a metal tin inside with three different flavors of Moose Munch.  If you don’t already know, this is Muse Munch:

And these are my teeth:

Give or take a few months and a different color rubber band.

I texted her, “This is some awfully mean stuff to send a guy with braces.  😉  Good thing they’re coming off soon.  :-)”

“I completely forgot about the braces!” she told me.

I answered, “It’s OK.  They’ll be off in a few weeks.  That stuff will certainly keep.  Thanks for sending it.  Should be tasty.”

She asked, “Did you get both boxes?”  I told her I only got one.  “The other one will be a little more braces-friendly, I think.”

The next day a second box appeared on my steps.  “This box has air holes…” I texted to her.  “Did you send me a puppy?”  This box had six pears, a small bag of mixed nuts and a block of cheese.  (See the picture of my mouth above.)  I’m not particularly fond of fresh pears, though I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect that she ought to have known that.

It’s clear my mother doesn’t know how to give good gifts, though certainly she means well.  I wrote yesterday about all the pressure, expectations,  and demands on holidays and this is just part of it.

I’ve been thinking, these last several days, about gifts and how I feel about them.  There was a time when I bought into the addage, “It’s the thought that counts” only, I don’t think I believe it anymore.

I’m fully prepared for the one person who actually comments on my blog with any regularity (and the one person who just has to talk to me in person about it because she’ll explode if she puts her thoughts down on the blog instead of – or maybe in addition to – talking to me about it in person) to give me all kinds of grief over this, and that’s okay, but just hear me out.

I have so much stuff.  Way too much stuff really.  I don’t need more stuff.  And I’m beginning to feel like gifts for the sake of gifts? are just stuff.  It’s stuff I can’t throw away, or give away or return, because if the giver catches wind that I got rid of his gift so that it won’t be just stuff, the giver will get his feelings hurt.  The thing is, if the giver gave me a good gift, then it wouldn’t be just stuff it would be something of value, something I might treasure and therefore, would not get rid of it.  I’m coming to a point where I feel like, if  I don’t need, or didn’t already really want, the item the giver is giving me, it’s actually a burdon.  And because I feel this way, I feel very ambivilant about giving gifts because I don’t want my gifts to be seen that way, and so I’m just adding to the pressure on myself to give good  gifts so that they won’t be just stuff and I’m no good at it.

If you’re like me, though, you buy yourself all the affordable things that you need or really want and it’s the things that you can’t afford that you really want someone to give you, only they can’t really afford it either and so there’s nothing for them to give you because you’ve already bought all the things that people can afford that you want.  It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m not sure, now, where this post was going to go, though I’m certain it was a very different direction.  What I do know, now, though, is…

Give money!

I think that’s what I’m going to do from now on.

If everyone who was going to give me a gift, just gave me money instead, maybe I could pool all that money together and spend it on something I really wanted, like an iPad or a new television instead of a box of pears and a —  Well, I don’t know what else, because I really only expect to get one other gift and I have no idea what it will be…  probably Glee DVDs.

Apparently, Michelle was going to buy me a new printer since the one I had doens’t work with my new-ish computer…  But I bought myself one on Saturday so now she has to come up with something else.  Way to go, me!  But in “me’s” defense, Michelle stood right there and watched it happen and didn’t say anything until we got back to her house with it.  She could have stopped me.

OH!  I know where I was going with all that!

I’ve been struggling for the last several days with the idea of gratitude and appreciation vs. expectations and dissappointment.

When I opened the box of Moose Munch, I was dissapointed that my mother sent me what amounts to caramel corn and chocolate chips.  (You Moose Munch enthusiast can just back-off.  I’ve never had it and I can’t eat it for at least another two weeks and probably six.)  It’s food.  She sent me food for Christmas.  I can afford to buy my own food so this didn’t fill a need.  A quick glance at the Harry & David website tells me she probably spent close to $30.00 on this caramel corn and chocolate chips.  Plus she sent the pears and cheese.  Another $40.00? At least it is food and will go away.  It’s not just stuff.

On the other hand, there were lots of years when she didn’t give me anything.

So I can’t help but wonder…  Am I making too much out of this?  Is it really “the thought that counts”?  Am I just ungrateful?  Is it my own fault for having too high expectations when I find out someone sent me anything at all?

Then again, it occurs to me that since I can’t remember any of the gifts I did get when I was a kid, and more often than not, I can’t remember a few months later what I gave anyone or what anyone gave to me…  Maybe it is the thought that counts…

The truth is, I’m feeling simultaneously grateful and dissapointed, I just would like to open a package and just be delighted by what I find.  But the fact that I feel grateful and dissapointed at the same time is soemthing in itself.  I’m certainly not accustomed to the ability to acknowledge two contradictory feelings at the same time.

By the way, the pears are awesome, much to my surprise.