Thursday, May 21, 2015

What this man does will blow you away

I decided to do a series of posts about my resolve to give up coffee for a year. 

Bloggers do these types of wild things simply because they can. We answer to no one, and no one, in turn, cares at all, ever.

It was time to bring that joke to its obvious conclusion.

But the bigger point I am attempting to encircle with sweaty, stunted arms is that public interest in this blog has really been on the decline.

I blame three things in particular for this. First, I blame everyone but myself, because it's easy.

Second, I blame my inability to do enough "stunt" posts, ones that are carefully crafted to go viral, such as my hilarious coffee antics pictured above, or this mind boggling collage:

At the end of the long, terrible day we call life, though, I blame me. Always having to be the cool, aloof loner type. Keeping the world at an arm's length, making girls wonder what I'm thinking. Except my steady; I drop the mask with her, only for a moment, only while necking.

That is all about to change. I have decided to provide you with a rare glimpse into my cathedral of creativity, my sacrum santorum, my blogging studio.

Well, that's it. Thanks for reading. 

Just kidding, there is so much more.

Like these Dreidal crayons I bought one time, for I know not why.

I already said, I KNOW NOT.

I don't feel like doing that.

Stop it. That bothers me.

Look, I'm just trying to get more intimate-

-with my readers-

-so I can't be whatever strange companion you wish me to be right now. I'm stretched thin as it is.

Anyways, to get my creativity going, I require a certain amount of sensory deprivation.

This could be immersion in the lego pool-

or sitting in the Dark Place by this blue machine thingy-

Sure, it gets scary.

But, as Nicholas Sparks put it, you do your best writing when you are in the dark, terrified, and everything around you stinks of cat spray and mildew.

It's true. He wrote the entirety of The Best of Me while locked inside a Doskocil Pet Taxi. His assistant fed him Snausages through the tiny metal holes.

I'm sorry I made that dumb joke. It was because I got out of the lego pool too soon.

Here is the shirt I was wearing when I first met my wife, framed now, no longer meaningful as a garment.

Some kind of strange magic was in the air that night, and it is quite possible that I was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever seen.

Ah, well, you know how marriage goes. 

Years later, she confiscated the shirt from my wardrobe when she noticed my chest hair cravat spiking through its frayed surface.

Moving on, any blogger worth a salt has a vast collection of reference materials to turn to in times of need.

The Julia Child blogger from that movie was always looking at cookbooks, and I happen to know that the mighty Jenny Lawson herself is never a stone's throw from her dog-eared copy of Dr.Johnson's Shake Your Pithy Jowls.

Here is just a taste of my own blogging reference library:

There's one other book in the collection, too. I couldn't find it for the picture though.

Probably my wife did something with it. She's always ganking my tomes.

After my senses have been well and truly deprivated, I whiteboard a few key concepts in dreidal.

Well, it's an oversimplification, but okay, we'll get the ball rolling with it.

Anyone else?

Good, good; let's expand that to something more universal though.

Now, how about we drill down to some specifically applicable implementations?

Hmmm. I guess my hesitation there would be that it's kind of a juvenile, maybe kind of a tired, approach to the material?

As you can imagine, blogging is terrifically hard on the emotions. You have to keep yourself balanced by staring at things for long periods of time. 

I like to alternate between gazing at my Happy Shelf-

Each one has a story, and each is perfect in its way
-and my Life is Disappointment Shelf:

This is the part of my blogging studio that my wife calls "a big problem".

There are a lot more areas to the studio, but they all kind of look like the "big problem."

And when all is said, written, drawn, and yet another post has leapt from the snapping electric line of my teeming brain, I put all my blogging tools carefully away.

They wait for me, in the closet there, like a pantheon of slumbering gods.

I hope you appreciate how hard it was for me to open up to you all like this.

As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Let us to the sticking place our courage screw

Lest you worry that in my long blogging absences I allow my considerable talents to go to flab, let me reassure you: nay; verily nay.

I have, in fact, been dipping my ladle into the loamy foam of that brewing succotash called 'poetry'.

Poemy feelings have been with me since the beginning.

When I was just three years old, I was already composing little sonnets on my Etch-A-Sketch:

Long horizontal line
vertical line of shorter length
weird diagonal line that looks like curvy stairs
very bad circle

My father accidentally shook the poem away when he tried with trembling hands to share my genius with mother.

That is a made-up story, and I feel its impact is dampened by it's transparent absurdity. 

Skipping ahead, I recently submitted a poem to several literary publications.

Some of the resulting rejections were actually quite nice in their attempts to not only inform me of my baseline suckiness, but to instruct me a bit on how, in the future, I might possibly be able to suck less.

One critic thought that I ended too many of my spondees with obvious rhymes, such as "creature" with "double feature", and "outer space" with "mean butt face."

Another did not seem to appreciate my extensive instructions on how the poem should be read aloud:

"line beginning Priapus was this dude- please read in the style of Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man, but with a kind of sleepy machismo"

"please breathe heavily through hairy nostrils while reading the entirety of this poem"

Needless to say, it goes without saying that I was crushed, utterly crushed, by these rejections.

Poetry is my life, man; it's why I try to think of rhyming words or count syllables by clapping.

So I took my work to the people's literary publication: Tumblr.

There I found many a kindred soul; thousands of voices afflicted by the same weary gloom that I recognized within myself. 

If you scratch the happy surface of the Internet, you will find a teeming mass of sad people who like to write poetry. 

And they were so accepting of me! No scoffs at my dactyls, no pshaws at my limpid rhymes. Well, really not much of any response at all, but oh there is something blessed and rare in silence, is there not?

I soon discovered that people like to put "asks" in other people's "inboxes".

With an eager refreshing of page, I awaited my first "ask".

"@tumblrbot asked you a question" YES!

"What is your favorite color?"  

"Well, first of all, I would like to give you a hearty welcome to my Tumblr page. How did you find me? As to your question, I don't really see the world in terms of color; I see it more as the eternal interplay of beauty and brutality, so.....maybe Kelly green??"

Some time later, I realized my new fan was some kind of automated response. 

Through further study, something else became crystal clear to me: everyone seemed to be using the "ask" feature simply to ask sexual questions.

"@wienerherzog asked you a question: Have you ever made whoopie?"

"I am not one to kiss-and-tell, but I will say I have THREE children"(suggestive emoticon)(suggestive emoticon)

Actually, I asked myself that question from a different Tumblr account that I had started, mostly because I was lonely. 

I detest the use of the word "whoopie" for sex, because I had a bad experience with "The Newlywed Game" when I was little. I was home from school and secretly watched it on T.V. 

Between the constant use of whoopie, and an argument one couple had over whether or not the husband would describe his wife's breasts as pillows or marshmallows, I was left feeling troubled by the pervasive sexiness of the world. 

Navigating now the waters of Tumblr inboxes, that troubled feeling returns.

Does no one care how delicately I sculpted my iambs? Is no heart shuddering at lines such as

bursitis in his pitching arm
so he cannot fling the woo

"@wienerherzog asked you a question: are you the only true poet on Tumblr?"

"Ha! Oh wiener, you flatter me. But yes, it seems your words ring true."

Sunday, May 10, 2015


One of our students recently moved here from some beautiful Serbian coastal town.

"She would walk the little streets for hours, all by herself," her mother told us, in the IEP. "It's so lovely there; everyone knows her."

Welcome to our American classroom. We have a car wash across the street. Fresh wood chips. Sometimes a bird alights upon the tree, but it flies away pretty quickly because the nearby truck traffic scares it off.

I continue on with my little speech, long after the mom has ceased her polite chuckling. She keeps looking at me like she is not sure if I am supposed to be there. 

"I'm just joking," I say, with a shrug.


No one says anything for a minute, and then they pick up where they left off, as if the loud man with coffee stains on his nearly transparent T-shirt had never brapped his unfunnies all over the sacred IEP table in the first place. I decide that I should be finished talking.

A few minutes later, when the mom has been going on for awhile about their breathtaking villa on the edge of the Baltic Sea, I am so wrapped up in her description, I murmur a request to visit there someday. 

The mother laughs nervously.

"What? You ask to come to Skolvenskya Puraschko with us?" I can't remember the words she really said, but it sounded like that. It seemed like her eyes narrowed suspiciously as well.

Just so you know, compulsive speaking when you are uncomfortable is a sign that God has a special plan for your life, and you are going to be super good at it. 

"So you speak Serbian?" I asked Iva a few weeks later, as I lead her around the city and helped her orient to the bus system.

"Yes. Oh yes." 

I kept asking her to tell me things in her language, but she either muttered obviously invented syllables, or simply repeated what I said in plain English. 

A group of young Hispanic women got on the bus and started chattering away in Spanish.

"My God!" Iva gasped, "they are speaking in my language!" She tilted her head towards their conversation.

"I don't think so," I whisper to her.

Whenever Iva even thinks you might, in some tiny, tiny way, be correcting her, she takes it like a true lamentor from the Old Country.

"Oh my God! Everything is ruined!" she roars, slamming her breast with a fist and shoving a handful of her short, unwashed brown hair into her mouth. The hair is chewed vigorously, brought out for a sniff, and then smashed back in.

"Don't eat your hair. It's not a big deal." That's my motto for this soon-ending school year: it's not a big deal.

I am surrounded by constant drama and explosive emotion, so, in a quiet, reassuring voice, I keep telling everyone how nothing is a big deal.

I bought a 12 pack of Little Debbie donut sticks, just for me, and, as I ate a few while hiding in the bathroom stall, I noticed I was still saying "it's not a big deal" out loud. I quickly choked myself off with another stick and squeezed my hands to stop the shaking. 

Just kidding. It's not so bad. I did buy the donuts, but I ate them in plain sight and with a weird sense of take that! in every bite. 

We got off the bus and started the long walk back to the classroom. 

Angela regaled us with tales of her past glory, like:

"You know what my nickname used to be? Bree. That's a very expensive cheese. They also used to call me Cabrini Green-I think that's a car, a fancy car." And all the time she talked, I could here Iva mumbling to herself. I have butterflies in my stomach. I'm scared, I'm so scared. These trees are scary.

We neared a tiny crosswalk between two utterly dead side streets, and Iva screamed.

"OH MY GOD!!! We are going to die! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, we are going to die!" 

"It's just a crosswalk. CALM DOWN." She crossed the street like it was a frayed rope bridge over the cauldron of a volcano. Angela prattled on.

"And when I was little, I looked just like Shirley Temple, my hair, my makeup, everything".

"That's terrible," said Iva, "I mean, that's so nice."

"You guys, let's go in here. I want to get a coffee." They obligingly trudged in behind me. 

As we stood waiting at the register, Iva stared intently at the showcase of pastries.

"Would it be a good April Fool's joke if I told you I had money?" she asked.

"I don't know what you mean, Iva."

"I have money."

"Are you saying you want to buy something?"

"April Fools," she said in a meek, fading voice, and returned to the anxious munching of her hair.