What I Did On My Blogger Vacation

And how are you? Good, good. Me? Can’t complain.

Oh, let’s stop the charade, shall we? Yes, I’ve lost track of the times that I reached for the keyboard, only relying on will power to stop myself from posting, knowing that this way madness lies.

Actually, I’ve accomplished a fair amount of writing, although it’s bizarre after all these years of immediate regurgitation. It’s strange to write something somebody else won’t be reading next week at Burger King or Starbuck’s or sitting on their back deck, watching the whales. Much less the zippity-do-dah of blogging. But I’m getting stuff done, a new book, and with any luck and hard work and some subprime financing, it’ll be available for hot little hands by the end of the summer or early fall. Way totally in time for Christmas.

In other news, some Arctic air parked over our neck of the woods this past week, bringing morally suspect snow (i.e., it was fun and we suffered no consequences), at least to my elevation. Julie came back from Boston and started a new quarter of teaching. I have mowed the lawn now three times since February. John is doing better than he was. Nobody is dodging sniper fire in Bosnia, in other words.

And I myself head for Boston late next month, where I not only get to visit with Beth and Cameron and see the sights, but I hook up with long-time Internet friend Liz(ardek) and long-time Internet friend’s mom, Lizardmom. Looking forward, as always.

In the meantime, I continue my long walks and late nights, during which I sometimes do strange things. I’ve watched every episode of “The Office” and the whole second season of “Weeds,” for example, between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m. the past few weekends.

And I had this idea. It was a blog idea, back when I was blogging, sticking with the theme of turning 50 and the joy of having a new computer. I decided at first to make a list of movies, one chosen from every year of my life, but then I rethinked that. Why not take advantage of a better processor, etc., and, you know. Make a montage.

So I did.

It was a game, first of all. The rules involved mostly spontaneity and speed. I had to look over the list of movies from any given year quickly, find the one that jumped out at me, and go with that. Then I had to be able to find a clip on YouTube within five minutes or so. The scene didn’t matter, since with 50 films I wasn’t planning on more than a few seconds each anyway, although I got some classics along the way.

Several times a week I did this, 20 minutes or so at a shot, and last night I finished. So now you get to watch.

And you’d better watch.

First, though, an apologia. THESE ARE NOT MY TOP 50 FILMS OF ALL TIME. Far from it. Some of them I will never see again and that will be too soon. Although some ARE all-time favorites. What they have in common, though, are memories. I remember each of them — seeing them, thinking about them, talking about them. I have affection for most, and sentimentality plays a big part. Some were date movies, for example. Some I watched during interesting times of my life. Some just represented an era.

Some, of course, I didn’t see for years after they were released, but that’s allowed in my game.

And I realized I could make this all over again and choose 50 different films. I like movies.

Since all of them were snatched from YouTube and have now since undergone several digital iterations, the quality is questionable but it’s the thought that counts. So here we go, loyal readers. Fifty films between 1958 and 2007 (inclusive). It goes pretty fast.

(Changed to a link.)

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On Absence Making The Heart Grow Weirder

From Dictionary.com

INORDINATE

–adjective
1. not within proper or reasonable limits; immoderate; excessive: He drank an inordinate amount of wine.
2. unrestrained in conduct, feelings, etc.: an inordinate admirer of beauty.
3. disorderly; uncontrolled.
4. not regulated; irregular: inordinate hours.

While Julie has been in Boston, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time:

Watching the first three seasons of “The Office” and the first two episodes of Season Four. All of them streamed from NetFlix and Hulu.com.

Recharging AAA batteries.

Attempting to digitize a cassette tape recording of one of Julie’s concerts from the late 1990s.

Assembling a montage of films, one from every year of my life, using only YouTube.

Making pizzas (11 so far).

Listening to Internet radio, mostly Elvis Costello, the Beatles, and Mel Torme.

Waiting for a phone call from Julie.

On the other hand, I’ve written around 10,000 words that no other human being has yet read, which is sort of a first. Still, I’ll be glad when she gets back.

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No Exit. Well, Sometimes.

It occurred to me one day, toward the end, that I’d begun to drink in three-quarter time. One big gulp, followed by a sip, then another sip. Gulp. Sip, sip. Gulp, sip, sip. I’d started to waltz, dancing in circles, going nowhere.

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One of my favorite jokes is the one about the guy who sits down in a restaurant and studies the menu. When the waiter arrives, the customer looks up and says, “Can you tell me how you prepare your chickens?”

The waiter thinks for a moment, and then says, “Well, to be honest, usually we just come right out and tell them they’re all going to die.”

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I can’t tell you anything about myself — about my passions, my interests, my likes and dislikes, my goals and dreams — without, in pursuit of rigorous honesty, at least mention that for a long time I was convinced I was going to die, and I didn’t.

I didn’t. It was the most profound thing that has ever happened to me, and I get lost in it all the time. I end up jogging in cul-de-sacs, waiting for a sign or at least a hint about what I’m supposed to do next. This is not all bad; I’ve bided my time, more often than not, with interesting things, or at least interesting people.

But nitty-gritty? I am Guy Interrupted. I was on a path to somewhere not very nice, and I got distracted, and as pleasant as that is I can’t help feeling that the natural order of things has been thwarted. I was supposed to die an ugly, miserable death, even if it took another 20 years or so, because that was the road I ended up on and as we all know, I stay on the road. If I’m going to Damascus, then Damascus I shall go. I don’t veer a lot, or I didn’t and haven’t. I tend to walk straight ahead, surrender to inertia, stay the course, and thus I made a really excellent addict.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

— Dr. Seuss, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

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It was a trick question. “If you were counseling a client, and you could only ask one question, and it couldn’t involve any of the DSM IV criteria for abuse or dependency, what would it be?”

Well, whadda ya wanna know?

It was a trick question, at least in my mind, because the answer was too obvious. Existentialism 101 obvious.

“Why are you here?”

But it occurred to me that night, several weeks ago, that maybe I wasn’t all that interested in asking that question. Maybe I was interested in other questions. And while I was mulling this over, thinking that maybe I was taking the wrong classes, another question got posed.

“If you could only say one thing to a client, what would it be?”

Hmmm.

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I’m going to take a blogging break. I had this idea that the discipline of posting something every day, counting down to 50 and making it count, would be good for me, but yesterday, in the midst of whining out loud about lack of readers, I realized that it felt familiar. It felt like…waiting. And then I realized that the answer to dwindling readers was not that tricky, either. It is, in fact, the answer I want to give people who email me from time to time, wanting to know the secret to getting published. Well. First of all

write something good

So I’m going to work on writing something good. Time to get out of the cul-de-sac. Hey, I got a title and everything.

I’ll be around. A link here, a video there, a comment from time to time, maybe. If my lovely wife takes pictures with her new camera in Boston this week, some of those. And we’ll see where we are in a month or so. I just want to break the rules a little.

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I would say this, if I could only say one thing to someone lost, someone suffering, someone walking the path I know so well. By the way.

“I have enough hope for both of us.”

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I do, too. Hope was my exception to the rule, it saved this wretch, it changed everything, it keeps me alive, and today I brought enough for everybody.

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See ya.

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Thursday, 135 2 Go

Rick Lazio, who served New York in the U.S. Congress for eight years and then lost the 2000 Senate race to Hillary Clinton, turns 50 today.

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I deleted a whiny post here, as I got the solution as soon as I posted it. So its work is done. What’s a blog for if you can’t count on it for insight from time to time?

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Remember a few days ago, when I wondered what possible use anyone would have for a web cam? Well, here’s one. Let’s say you’re a teenage boy and you want muscles. You put time and effort into lifting weights, and you’re starting to see a difference. Particularly when you’re working out, and you see those bulges and definition. So you turn on your web cam to capture some of this for posterity.

Don’t forget to feed the fish first…

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Wednesday, 136 2 Go

Dough called me Sunday, out of the blue.

“Dude. Long time. Wassup?”

Dough is 22.

I spent a couple of years baking bread, rolls, pizzas, calzone — if I could roll it, knead it, proof it and deflate it, I was doing it. And then I stopped eating it, sort of, and just lost interest. I had other issues, too.

But Sunday I got the notion, and as it turns out baking bread, like damn near everything else in my life, is done through this new prism. Baking has always been about patience and measuring, solid attributes for anybody, and not my strong points, but I’m a little different these days.

So I melted butter on low heat, brought the milk up to lukewarminess, sprinkled the yeast on top and gave it some space. When it bubbled and smelled just right, I mixed and kneaded and waited.

Baking bread, done properly, is a four-hour job, all but 20 minutes or so spent waiting. And I do waiting now, so I let that dough get a good first rise, took it down a notch, split it in two, let it rise again, and we got some really excellent bread. Country white, with milk and butter and lots of sugar, sometimes honey, an insulin reaction waiting to happen. No good can come of bread like this but of course it does.

And last night, having found a rhythm, I made myself a pizza, stretching that rich dough over my knuckles until I got the right thinness, and man. It had pepperoni and mozzarella and jalapeños, and I ate several slices and then went to wrap up the leftovers and I ate them, too.

This was indulgence on my part, letting myself wallow in my late winter whatever. I ate carbohydrates and watched a crime movie (“Zodiac”), and while it didn’t necessarily elevate my mood it didn’t hurt. Do no harm is the rule here, and although my pancreas might argue with that it felt like an accomplishment. I’d kept ennui at arm’s length another night, and I learned another lesson. Sometimes it’s not enough just to eat, get some nourishment and stoke the fire. Sometimes you have to get proactive. Sometimes, somehow, pizza just tastes better when you go out and kill the cheese yourself, and this one did, and I might make another one tonight, too.

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Tuesday, 137 2 Go

James Pinkerton, Stanford alum, former adviser to Presidents Reagan and Bush #41, senior adviser to Mike Huckabee, and political pundit via Fox News, turns 50 today.

As does Flemming Rose, Danish journalist and cultural editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Rose was pretty much responsible for those cartoons of Muhammed that created all the fuss. If fuss is the right word, which I’m thinking it’s not.

Speaking of Danes, today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Ole Kirk Christiansen, the man who made wooden toys and invented, ultimately, Legos. This Web site celebrates his life today.

Speaking of death, this would have been the 50th birthday of Anissa Jones, had she not taken a lethal mix of Quaaludes and PCP, among other drugs, thus inadvertently depressing her central nervous system and causing her to never wake up. Anissa Jones was only 18 when she died, apparently troubled but, again, she was 18. We can extrapolate some life yet for her, but no.

If you’re wondering who Anissa Jones was, and you can resist the urge to look her up before reading further, I’ll tell you in a bit.

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I think about people who died young, sometimes, people I knew, and I knew several, of course. It seems traumatic at the time, but later on you realize it’s just statistics. Someone you passed in the hallway at high school died young, whether you know it or not.

In my high school class, the tallest boy and the shortest boy both died soon after graduation, for example. Imagine that. I have no idea how.

Mike Giordano also died young. Mike was real smart, and a gifted athlete. I believe he went to West Point, although I could be remembering wrong. I found him a little arrogant in high school, but only in the way that some people are superior and aware of that, and accept it. We had a nice conversation one day after graduation, when I ran across him at a store. He seemed curious and interested in what I was doing, which always makes for a nice conversation, of course.

I have no idea how Mike Giordano died, either. Somebody out there in Google land is wondering about this, too, and now they’ll come here, particularly if I mention that he went to Maryvale High School in Phoenix, Arizona. There. I’ve done my part to preserve Mike’s memory in a small way.

People search for me all the time. They type in my name and end up here, eventually. They can find out lots of stuff. I can’t really keep my mouth shut. This can drive people in my family crazy, so there are things I don’t talk about much. John, for example. I worry a lot about John lately, although I’m still hopeful. He’s having a rough time with life, and I’m afraid that I’m just too old and messed up myself to help him out. Nature arranges a nice order of thing, cycles, times of life, and then a little odd neurology comes along and throws a wrench into the whole thing. He’s supposed to be heading off to his own life right about now, seriously dissing his dad for being old and worn out, and he’s not. Heading out, I mean. Not even close. Sigh. What’s with all the challenges?

But at least I have them. Fifty years of them, more or less, and I’m grateful for that, and love and music and democracy and all the rest, and for the knowledge that some didn’t make it, and somehow I miss them.

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The Original Buffy

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Anissa Jones (1958-1976)

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Monday, 138 2 Go

Sharon Stone, who can be a very good actress in addition to an inspiration for gynecologists everywhere, turns 50 today.

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Marilyn Vos Savant, who as far as I know wears underwear, mentioned once that she liked getting lost. She found it stimulating, I guess, and sometimes would drive into strange neighborhoods and leave the map at home just for the thrill of it. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I do this all the time.

I understand, though. There’s something invigorating about not knowing where you are or what’s going to happen next, and doing it on purpose. With caveats, of course.

I embraced lostness last summer, shedding some responsibilities and trying to find peace in uncertainty, which is harder than it sounds. I’m not sure how it worked out. I did a lot of work in the yard. I made some really outstanding ice cream. I didn’t write worth a damn.

And I think I got acclimated, or conditioned, or desensitized. Or maybe I just grew up. Finally. Because a fuzzy future doesn’t seem nearly as oppressive as it used to. There’s a bus with my name on it anyway, eventually, somewhere down the road, and worrying about it too much seems a waste of life. Digging flower beds sometimes feels like a better option.

The most lost human in history, in a way, was probably Michael Collins, who orbited the moon on the Apollo 11 mission while Armstrong and Aldrin played in the dirt. There was a lot of talk about that at the time, although Collins dismisses this and smiles about it. It’s a confidence I envy but also imagine having, eventually, the awareness that being lost is temporary, something to be enjoyed and cherished. I feel that on good days and fear it on bad ones, but I have more of the former, at least lately. A sense of perspective helps, and a dose of realism, and maybe an awareness of history, time and space. I can be as lonely and lost as the next guy, but I still always really know where I am, and hey. I can see my house from up here, anyway.

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Sunday, 139 2 Go

Ah yes. Spring forward. Dump that hour; you didn’t need it anyway. How shall we look at our biannual temporal adjustment today, based on the well-known fact that the proprietor of this blog has been having trouble getting sleep lately?

This should do it.

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Enjoy your day.

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Saturday, 140 2 Go

Gary Numan, the “godfather of electronic music,” turns 50 today.

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Julie heads for Boston on Thursday, leaving two now legally adult male-type people alone for a week. Welcome bedlam. God knows what havoc we’ll wreak. Probably eat pizza and download a lot of music. Let’s hope we all survive.

Survival has been on my mind a lot lately. It can only take you so far; breathing will eventually get boring, if that’s all you do. And I’m well aware that I’ve been spinning my wheels here this winter, trying to get traction again and not doing so hot. But bottom lines hang out at the bottom for a reason, and I know that just getting up, moving, staying sober and breathing are default states for me. The rest is just about hope.

Still, lack of focus is a bad thing. Need a Chuck Project here. Not make work, either; something substantial. Unfortunately, immediate gratification is in my genetic makeup, apparently, which is why gardening isn’t quite going to cut it (I’m not ruling it out, just saying). Staying busy helps, making money is always nice, the lawn will always need mowing and the dishwasher emptying and the weeds pulling. I’ve got a basement full of junk; there’s a job.

But the definition of my insanity, once, was doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting to do it again tomorrow. I remember those days, I know what they were and where they were leading. I ain’t going back to Kansas, man, to quote myself.

So we’ll see. I could start with a haircut, for sure. This bedroom really needs painting. Since I have a title, I guess I should write a book to go beneath it. There’s always walking and mowing. I’m heading for Boston myself, in the next couple of months.

One of these days, though, I’m going to have to start building something, either literally or figuratively, aside from blog entries and spreadsheets. I know this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, especially if you know my tendency toward measuring once and cutting a whole bunch of times, but even a disaster would be change, and change is keeping me alive, and so is the thought of spring, which is right now sort of wafting through my window. It’s coming, I know. About time.

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