I came home Friday evening from a full day of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to a picture message from my mom. She had found a dog for me. I was very hesitant and gave a soft “no.” Nevertheless, she said that I should come by the pet store Saturday afternoon when they were showing her again and I said I would be there.

The pup’s name is Harley. She is a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix. I was very sad to say no, but I did. Mom persisted and told me that Harley was a rescue and, that if things didn’t work out, I could return her in a week. She had all her shots and was healthy, except for some ear irritation that she was being treated for once a day with drops. Mom would pay for everything. Ultimately, it was the ability to return her that convinced me to take her home.

 

About a year ago, I had a horrible experience with a husky named Tonka, whom I was asked to adopt from my brother’s girlfriend at the time. I had such high hopes because I haven’t had a pet since childhood and have fond memories of having dogs. Tonka only lasted a week and it was one of the longest weeks of my life. Tonka was so destructive, jumping and chewing on furniture, peeing and pooping all over the house, and spreading garbage everywhere. I even had to leave work several times to stop the destruction. I moved him to the garage, but after a couple of days, he nearly broke down the garage door. I chained him outside, but that did not stop the destruction of everything in all directions. When I took him on walks, he would strain on the leash and attack other dogs. It was a very scarring experience.

Harley is the exact opposite of Tonka. She is a total lapdog. She acts like a 7 or 8 year old dog even though she is a puppy at 1 year old. She is so calm. She doesn’t really bark or whine. She hasn’t peed in the house once. She keeps your pace when walking and naturally heels. She doesn’t jump on the furniture unless invited. She has a kennel that she is willing to spend time in while I’m away. For a 1 year old dog, she is very low energy and is content to lay on the floor next to you while you watch TV or play games.

 

Just as I suspect Harley is doing right now, I find myself thinking about her here at work. Harley came from a family who had to move and couldn’t take her with them. She had other dog and cat companions. While at the pet store, I found that she was drawn to cats. I wonder how she will handle being the only pet in the house?

Harley reminds me of my first dog Spottie, who I’m pretty sure had depression. Harley hasn’t eaten much since she first arrived. She is fairly clingy, but I can understand that. Being adopted must be a very jarring experience and memories of old friends and family must still be fresh. She seems to like it at my house and my roommates like having her around. The only person who hasn’t liked her yet is my Dad, but he’s just a grumpy-grump.

 

I think Harley was named after Harley-Davidson, because she has similar colors. But I like to think of her like Harley Quinn – Medicine Dog. If I were to name her, I would give her a similar sounding name: Nellie. Long name: Arenal – The Volcanic Princess, named after the Arenal volcano of Costa Rica that I visited as a boy. But Harley has the opposite of a volcanic personality and I see no reason why I should confuse her by changing her name. Harley – Medicine Dog will do just fine, because she is very therapeutic and healing.

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Some Things Get Better With Age

This is another piece that came from Midtown Writers Group prompts. The idea originally appeared on paper on 12/31/2017, but it took awhile for me to get back to it and complete the piece.

 

“Some things get better with age,” thought the internet tycoon as he stared at the unopened bottle of Ancient Roman wine. He stood backstage awaiting the curtain call of the great revelation. The bottle rested gently on a red satin display under a plastic cube. The spotlights were ready to be turned on and, on the other side of the red curtain, a cameraman was preparing to take footage of the event. To the side of the display, on a small mahogany table, atop a hand sewn silk doily, there was an ornate piece of stemware – a wine glass.

Dressed in an unblemished tuxedo, the tycoon stood and listened to his guests file in and make polite conversation in the grand ballroom of his mansion on the French Riviera. His mind began to wander. He reflected back to the discoveries, first of the sunken ship and then of the wine bottle in the Mediterranean Sea.

For the breadth of human history and pre-history, there has been a fascination with the sea. Mankind has fashioned his watercraft, sailed the sea, and sunk to the bottom of it for thousands of years. Much has been lost in these aquatic catastrophes – gold, gems, pottery and so on. The real prize to the true collector is the preserved perishable items. Finding clothing is rare, but to find an unbroken bottle is exceptional. To find an intact bottle of the famous Roman wine, the wine sung of by the bards and written of by the poets, is absolutely inconceivable and beyond belief.

One the hobbies of the super-rich is deep sea scavenging and salvage. They can afford the diving teams, the latest equipment and the finest toys. Many graduate students and doctors of antiquity are eager to find patronage with these private collectors. However, the internet tycoon employed no one. He was in business for himself as a sole proprietor and amateur treasure hunter.

 

Walking to the backstage window, the internet tycoon looked out to see his parking lot filled with luxury and exotic cars. Young women, with their furs and dapper dates, had made their way to his palace entrance, the last of which were entering now. The internet tycoon continued musing, his mouth watering in anticipation. He reminisced with pride as he thought of his fleet of submersible drones, casting a radar net over the ocean floor. He felt the giddiness again of the discovery of the radar blip in the channel between Corsica and Sardinia. There was the competitive rush of adrenaline when he realized that diving teams from the British Museum and Cambridge were nearing his discovery. He was there first!

He had sent a swarm of drone submarines to the radar blip and turned on the search lights. What a discovery! Such a well preserved Roman wreck! He had to keep them away. As the scuba divers neared the wreckage, the internet tycoon released additional swarms of miniature tactical submarine drones armed with electric shocks, similar to cattle prods. These undersea bees were relentless to the diving team. Helplessly, they tried to swat them away, but the friction of water makes everything happen in slow motion and salt water is a great conductor of electricity. Eventually, the drivers surfaced to lodge a complaint, which was promptly forwarded to the attorneys.

Meanwhile, beneath the sea, the drones carefully searched the Roman wreck. In the cargo hold, its stopper and glassware intact, sat the prize. With extraordinary care, he sent in his extractor subs. The subs carefully removed the bottle and placed it in a pressurized container to eventually return to the surface and be carefully depressurized. After another pass of the wreckage, he took the gold, jewelry and gems. He even took the remainder of an old Roman sword with him, since he had some extra room in one of the containers. He left the remainder of the pottery and junk to the divers that would come back. He even knocked over one of the pots, not of clumsiness, but out of spite, as he recalled his drone submarines.

 

As the red curtain opened, the internet tycoon felt a surge of pride and accomplishment as the display lights came alive to reveal the ancient bottle and its liquid contents. This was his bottle. He owned it. Critics would demand that he hand it over to a museum, let scientists and researchers study it, but it was HIS. What he would do with this wine from antiquity would be the most blasphemous, heinous crime in their eyes and they were powerless to stop him. For this was his bottle, found and salvaged, and he owned it.

The internet tycoon gave his presentation to a packed house. He was broadcasting live across the internet, where the self-righteous trolls spat upon his decadent ways. After an hour of self-aggrandizement, the moment came. He lifted the plastic cube and held the bottle in his hands, displaying it for all to see. Next, he removed the stopper from the millennia-old bottle. He did this with the aid of one of his modern contraptions so as to neither damage the stopper nor the bottle. Finally, he poured.

Thick, black syrup oozed out of the bottle and into the fine crystal stemware. He put the glass to his lips and tasted. As the internet tycoon swished the Roman wine syrup in his mouth and swallowed, he allowed himself to reverie on a life well spent. He closed his eyes, breathed in and held it.

What the audience saw was his collapse on the red felt carpet. Paramedics were called, but he was dead. The cause of death was poisoning. When medical science got ahold of the remainder of the wine, they discovered that it contained an ancient, lethal and forgotten foodborne illness that had also been preserved in the bottle. Centuries of dormancy beneath the sea only heightened its lethal potency. The internet tycoon had been cursed by his own ancient wine.

midtownwritersgroup

“Some things get better with age,” thought the internet tycoon as he stared at the unopened bottle of Ancient Roman wine. He stood backstage awaiting the curtain call of the great revelation. The bottle rested gently on a red satin display under a plastic cube. The spotlights were ready to be turned on and, on the other side of the red curtain, a cameraman was preparing to take footage of the event. To the side of the display, on a small mahogany table, atop a hand sewn silk doily, there was an ornate piece of stemware – a wine glass.

Dressed in an unblemished tuxedo, the tycoon stood and listened to his guests file in and make polite conversation in the grand ballroom of his mansion on the French Riviera. His mind began to wander. He reflected back to the discoveries, first of the sunken ship and then of the…

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Fogy Lovers

This was a story that I wrote from today’s writing prompts in the Midtown Writer’s Group. I like how it turned out.

midtownwritersgroup

Author’s Note: This story is a bit of a stretch assignment for me. I rarely venture into erotic fiction, but today’s characters and writing prompts led me in that direction. I’ve italicized the writing prompts so you can follow the glide path of the story. Please judge kindly – Thanks.

You would think that investing your life in a neighborhood or community for 27 years would get you somewhere, but with the recent string of drug arrests made, Vidalia’s home value plummeted. It was time to sell the house and move to a condo, but to even get a reasonable price, the house needed repairs.

Out of the fog, there emerged a balding man with a tool belt and a toolbox. He wasn’t much to look at, so he went largely unnoticed. He performed maintenance at the low income high rise, but with so many tenants returning to prison…

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Poisonous Snakes Frozen in the Mountain

Last night, I had a dream where I was travelling with the Top Gear guys, excuse me “Grand Tour” guys: Jeremy, James and Richard. We were in a mountainous region and I think I was working as part of the camera crew, like a grip or something. I was holding reflectors and carrying battery packs while they were being filmed for various segments in the morning. We were either in the Alps or the Pyrenees. It was late spring and it was sunny and pleasant. By the afternoon, shooting had wrapped for the day and I was free to go for a walk along the mountainside.

I climbed one of the mountains up to the snowline. As I got closer to the snow line, I began to notice lots and lots of what I thought were dead snakes. I carefully stepped around them to get closer to the ice and snow of a melting glacier. I could hear the melting babble of a nearby brook as the glacier melted beneath the warm sun, the gorgeous blue sky and a couple of stray white whispy clouds.

The glacier was fascinating. Snakes were frozen inside of the ice. Lots of snakes. Big snakes and small snakes. As the glacier melted, tails and heads and various parts of snakes emerged from the ice, all seemingly dead.

As it happens, I like snakes. I looked around and I began to realize that most of these snakes were poisonous. Most were asps or rattlesnakes, but there were also a few coral snakes. I even saw an anaconda frozen in the glacier.

As I studied the snakes in the ice, I saw some stray movement out of the corner of my eye. First the tail of one snake, then another, started wriggling in the ice, trying to free themselves. I looked down the mountain and some of the snakes were slowly starting to move. It was time to get out of there. I carefully crept my way around the awakening poisonous snakes and, once clear, I started running down the mountain towards the chalet. Running down the mountain, I turned and to my horror, the snakes were chasing me!

I reached the chalet and climbed the stairs to the deck. A coral snake and a few asps were still behind me and climbing the stairs. On the deck there were 3 white poofy Maltese or Pomeranian dogs barking and jumping towards the snakes. I tried to open the sliding door to get in to the chalet, but it was stuck. The little dogs were going ballistic on the snakes and were holding them successfully at bay for a time. Little by little the sliding door was cracking open. That was when I got bit twice – once on my right ankle and once on my left knee. It was painful, but I was panicking to get in and hardly noticed.

I made it in, but I was struggling to the close the door. I was panting and my breath was short. I was starting to sweat. I collapsed on the floor and one of the asps got in. Someone from housekeeping noticed me, grabbed a broom and brushed the snake outside, but not before it bit me on the right shoulder. The person with the broom got the door shut. One of the dogs had made it back inside and started licking my face. I could hear the other dogs barking. My heart was pounding and I was struggling to breathe.

“Stay calm. I’m getting help,” the housekeeper guy said. I could feel my blood thickening and my heart struggling to pump the blood syrup though my body. My mind travelled back to the image of all those snakes in the ice, wriggling to get free and that’s when I woke up.

The Revolution Will Be Built With Questions

These are ______ times. Some of my friends are filled with joy and optimism, while aggravated by the dire apocalyptic prophecy and protest of the majority of the rest of my friends. It is very polarizing with neutrality, consensus and dialogue being hard to come by.

 

I share in the belief that we are entering an apocalyptic period for mankind, where our environmental protections are dismantled, our ability to collectively work for the benefit of our families and community will be hampered, our education and economic power will be stripped from us by those entrenched in power, and everything we hope to accomplish and work hard towards will be dashed to pieces by great forces beyond our control, such as our government or the changing climate. For the first time since I was a toddler, we could have nuclear war. Woe upon us all.

I discovered my own powerlessness when I protested against the impending Iraq War back in 2003, knowing that the evidence for war was falsified and that the wool was being pulled over the eyes of the nation and that global sympathy for 9/11 was going to be squandered pointlessly for a personal vendetta in the middle east. A new generation is just now coming to this realization as the United States swings back the pendulum to, whatever this is. This is their Iraq War moment and they are just now coming to terms with their own powerlessness, whether it was the loss of Bernie Sanders or the election of Donald Trump as the leader of the world.

 

Powerless does not mean hopeless. Donald Trump won because he saw and understood things differently from how urban liberals do, myself included. The institutions that we established to understand and manage the world are disintegrating, the founding premises forgotten and challenged. Donald Trump is the wind that knocks down the sheds, scattering tools, debris and seed across the farm in the aftermath of a political tornado.

 

If protest doesn’t work and political engagement doesn’t work, what is left?

 

Let me take you back to a similar time – the 5th Century BCE in Athens. Athens was an amazing city and had successfully defeated the armies of Persia with the help of other Greek city states, such as Sparta. However, after the successful defense against Persia, Athens was defeated by Sparta, leading to significant political upheaval. Not to give away any spoilers for those of you who haven’t read Plato, but there is this guy named Socrates and he asks a lot of questions. Ultimately, in the end, Socrates starts a movement and ends up being brought on trial for “corrupting the city’s youth” with his teachings. He is condemned to death, which turns him into a martyr and modern philosophy, knowledge and, eventually, science is born. One could draw parallels between the Peloponnesian War and the cold war; the defeat of Athens by Sparta to the War on Terror.

 

Where am I going with this? My point is that the best challenge to our current period of facts, alternative facts and fake news is to ask questions. It is really easy to declare something wrong, whip up a bunch of emotion and move on, but the real trick isn’t convincing yourself or your disciples that you are right. You need to convince your opponent. In order to do that, you need to embark on the premise that your opponent believes what they say. Next, draw them out with questions. Break things down to smaller pieces or take the factoid on a journey and see if you arrive at similar conclusions. Ask the why, what, who and how.

In reading Plato, you discover that Socrates uses his question as a tool. He doesn’t just say, “You’re wrong,” but asks, “What do you mean by that? Is that like this other thing?” and so forth. You can guide your questions to a conclusion. Leading questions. Direct examination questions. Cross-examination questions. True or false questions. This forces all involved to look closer at what is going on and arrive at better knowledge. So spend more time asking questions once you get tired of protesting and advocating.

 

As an aside: When I first read Plato, I didn’t like Socrates. I thought he was a jerk. He just kept destroying people and they things they believed in. Nevertheless, Socrates definitely opened my eyes to the power of his tool – the question.

Enthusiasm and Confidenc

I made a personal discovery last night. Last night, I decided to play soccer after work with the Meetup group that I’m a part of. When I played last week, I did well. I even scored a goal. But last night, for the first half of play, I was bad. I didn’t warm up, I was sluggish, and my heart wasn’t in it. I lacked confidence. My play improved in the second half after I gained some confidence by completing passes and moving around better with the ball.

I like to analyze myself after soccer – think about what went well and what could be improved. This issue of confidence was something that turned itself over and over again in my mind until I struck upon the solution. I did not enter the field with the same level of enthusiasm as I have on previous occasions. All day long, I was on the fence as to whether or not I wanted to go or stay home. I’m glad I went.

 

I hate the word “confidence.” I hate it because people have talked to me about my confidence from time to time. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I have low confidence. I think that’s bullshit because I have very high self-esteem. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was all about self-esteem: practice, discipline, achievement. To be told that I lack confidence to achieve what I want makes me angry. I see confidence as something that people ascribe to you rather than something which you control. So to me, it becomes all about gaming the “confidence” concept, which I neither have neither the tolerance nor patience to deal with.

I’m trying to break “confidence” down to other skills, skills which you can practice. Things like boldness and talkativeness. After last night, I’m going to add enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you want to do it, you get excited about it, and when you’re excited for it, you get other people excited and they want to join. BOOM – Confidence.

 

It is 2017 and it has been a long time since I have been enthusiastic for anything. I can count on one hand the things I was excited for in 2016. I can probably say the same thing for 2015. 2013 and 2014 were exciting years. I need to build the enthusiasm and raise the energy level. I’ve been a passive observer, biding my time, for long enough. I’m not getting any younger. Time to get excited again!

2017 Resolution

One of my resolutions this year is to do more journaling. Specifically, I want to post more to WordPress and explore some of the other bloggers on this site.

 

In reflecting back on the past, I have discovered that the catalyst of my social success was blogging and commenting on other people’s sites. The voice I developed online translated to a voice I spoke in real life. Sadly, I’ve noticed in recent years that I do not say much anymore. I mistakenly thought that it was because I had nothing valuable to say. I kept thinking of one of Dave Walker’s “Dullest Blog In The World” entries from March 11, 2003 –

 

“Not Saying Anything

I was at a meeting and became aware that I had nothing of any interest to add to the discussion. So I said nothing, and the discussion continued.”

 

My life was gradually becoming more and more passive, imperceptible at first, like gaining weight, but then one day you wake up and realize, for better or worse, this is who you are. If you want to change it, you need to take steps to change it. Start with small changes and watch the small changes grow.

 

Thus, I’m returning to blogging so that I can exercise my voice, set a place for my opinions, and receive feedback from strangers. Personally, I happen to enjoy hearing what other people have to say, positive or not. We are our own worst critics, so I doubt internet words can hurt me (a very conceited and self-centered viewpoint, but this is my blog and what did you expect?).

I don’t take the internet seriously at all. I’m rarely online, and when I am, I’m bored easily. I’ll scroll down the feed on Facebook for a total of 3 swipes, eliminate the notifications I get, and give up. I’ll check my dating apps to force myself to send a message or 2 and give up. It is all so blasé. I miss the dynamism I once had for the internet, the thrill of getting a new comment or response, and I think blogging will rekindle that.

 

So that’s my resolution for 2017 – More Blogging.