In my opinion, once the holidays are over, it should warm up instantly. In reality, however, it never snows and gets truly cold here until the end of January–the point at which everyone’s tired of the cold and wants to go outside again.
So with no outdoor projects immediately available to me, here’s a list of what I did last January:
Every artist has their medium. Snow is not my daughter’s. My theory (based on the current state of her basement art studio), is that snow is too monochrome (#FFFFFF is sooo pedestrian).
Yet this irritates me, probably due to my own childhood memories. Texas didn’t offer much in the way of snow, and as our culture as a whole is heavily influenced by the Midwest and New England and their associated images of holiday blizzards, Christmas time always carried with it a bit of melancholy as I peered out the window across a wind-swept and barren Dust Bowl landscape. I never once rode a sled in my childhood, and on only one notable occasion do I remember building a snowman (to which my dad added breasts, followed by mom administering a mastectomy via garden trowel).
But the joke’s on this youngest generation. Climate change will either warm the region beyond the point of regular snow, or cool it to the point that it destroys us. Either way, those quaint Rockwellian scenes will vanish alongside the planet’s biodiversity. And I, Dad, will mock my child for her youthful indifference.
As a non-football watcher, I’ve spent many a conversation pretending to have watched something I didn’t, or to care about something I don’t, and to use grammatically unsound complex sentences of negation.
At first, I would maintain the charade as football fans, when discussing football, are complete conversational narcissists, and would never notice that I wasn’t adding anything meaningful to the conversation. These one-sided discussions would invariably crescendo to an emotionally-charged climax, upon which I would just agree with whatever was said last and laugh, which in turn led to some mutual conclusion that escaped me because I don’t watch football.
Now, I just don’t care enough about garnering favor with random people at the coffee station, so I don’t humor the smalltalk anymore, or so was my intent. Unfortunately, a surprising majority of people take the dismissive comment to be a joke (for what kind of American doesn’t watch football?), and interpret it as encouragement–thus putting me into the conversation anyway.
So I decided that, as it’s been said: If you can’t beat ’em–kill everyone. Or rather, inwardly sigh sadly and pretend to follow along. But I need assistance. I need information…obtained through any other means than reading, watching TV, or conversing with my fell Man.
I needed an aggregator and summarizer. I needed the absolute bare minimum content required to form a cohesive thought. I needed the equivalent of a Twitter feed of sports commentary, but without the racism/sexism/homophobia (the entire social aspect, basically). I needed a means by which to trawl football articles and identify the most-used words, negating general sentence structure such as definite articles and conjunctions.
Fortunately I found this site: wordcounter.net. Probably not its intended use–I began pasting the top football news articles into its form and analyzing their content. I checked 5 such posts, and compiled their keywords:
Okay, I could work with this. This Bryant fellow seems to be a highlight. I’m sure I could muddle through the rest.
I decided to test my theory on Liz, and texted her the following message:
“I heard that in Bryant’s week one, he scored enough points that it’ll be his big season. He’ll make a good five-star Fantasy Football pick. Despite the initial loss, Arkansas will recover with enough victories to stay in the running.”
“What are you reading?”
She was intrigued! Had I pulled it off?! I replied, ambiguously:
“Just the highlights.”
She validated my success by sending me an unrelated photo of a dog that was up for adoption.
…Okay, maybe my method needs a little refinement. Maybe I can pull a larger sampling of articles and write a formula to analyze the character strings.
Or maybe, just maybe…when I tell you I don’t watch football you could stop talking to me about football and I wouldn’t have to design a logic-based analysis of textual media to formulate responses to your banal and pointless rambling. Now quit hogging the coffee machine.
“Hey, who’s Doc Holliday?” He gestured in my direction as he spoke with my boss. A colleague, he was in town to meet the rest of the team that worked at this location. And as what so often happens when meeting people who are normally only a voice, I failed to place the face with a name. Apparently, he suffered from the same problem, and chose to associate an actor’s particular character with my own.
I’ll note that no one ever sees me and says: “Hey! He looks like George Clooney! So devilishly handsome!”. No, instead I was being compared to Val Kilmer’s character–the emaciated borderline psychopath on the cusp of death from Consumption. That was me. And it wasn’t the last time that I would hear that observation.
In truth, I had never seen the entirety of Tombstone. As far as Wyatt Earp movies went, I found it to be a forced rendition with unnecessary drama. The story itself is one of violence and drama, so I felt it odd that they pushed it so. Plus, it didn’t really address Holliday’s backstory. Instead, he just kind of shows up as a stylish badass with an uncanny ability to attract the ladies, despite his debilitating and infectious disease. I guess if I was going to be compared to someone, it was a lot better than Elijah Wood’s Frodo. I could live with it: a dying wealthy gunslinger with sexy ladies. Fine.
So when the office held a costume contest for Halloween, I decided to see just how convincing the emulation could be. I bought a cheap black cowboy hat and red vest. The rest of the outfit I conveniently already possessed, down to the silver pocketwatch. I even shaved (though I required mascara to darken the mustache that was increasingly turning white).
It’s not every day that I can make the security guard burst out laughing.
In the end, I lost the contest to Mary Poppins (bitch). But more importantly were the costume assessments I received. Notably, from multiple people, that my costume wasn’t all that different from the way I normally dress, and were it not for the hat, they might not have even noticed it was a costume at all.
I guess, in the end, the comparison had been accurate all along. For better or worse, I’m now permanently associated with the persona.
A pretty young woman smiled at me in the grocery store.
This is noteworthy for a couple reasons. Firstly, it’s rare that anyone makes eye contact with me. Sure, I could bemoan the sad state of our current society, wherein we shun our fellow humans as simple and inconvenient co-habitants of the environment, but I doubt that the explanation is so simple. Perhaps it’s because we work ourselves to exhaustion and simply don’t have the mental reserves to allocate to simple camaraderie–or by the same argument, we don’t have enough time.
Second, based on simple observations of a personal lifetime, it’s rare that women in passing find me terribly attractive, or (as it’s been mentioned on one particular account) approachable. Maybe I should shave the mustache? Nah.
In any case, the scenario usually plays out as me approaching a woman’s proximity for unrelated reasons, at an indirect vector, and I–being cognizant of another sentient being, offer the most basic of friendly gestures–a smile. But rarely is this sentiment properly delivered, for the woman never acknowledges my own existence, and even seems to make a conceited effort to avoid the mere awareness of another living being. Ah well, that’s par really.
But a pretty young woman smiled at me!
Why would she do such a thing? Did she need assistance? No–she was merely pushing a cart. And I didn’t have the kid with me (which is generally the only time women acknowledge me). Could it be possible that she felt a simple and basic connection to another living being? There’s more to this. Let’s figure it out!
I didn’t have time to take a cursory glace at her cart’s contents, but she had chosen the full-sized version. Was she shopping for her family? She was on the cusp of being too young for me, and usually women that age aren’t performing full grocery runs. Maybe she was practically frugal? I dunno. I don’t have enough information to make a proper analysis, and all conclusions are mere conjecture.
But a pretty young woman smiled at me!
Maybe it was the mere sight of a well-dressed man approaching her. Could it be so simple? Was it possible that there were other women in the world who found me not only mildly attractive at first glace, but also approachable–enough to risk encouraging me?
Perhaps she merely felt basic empathy for her fellow humans. I’m no stranger to isolation, and the detrimental consequences of extended solitude. I recall my clinical psychology course in college, which recounted the sad tale of a lonely man who’s last written words were that he was headed to The Bridge, and if just one person would smile at him during his journey, he wouldn’t jump. Things did not work out so well. Not one soul in San Francisco between him and the apex of the expanse bothered to acknowledge him. Maybe this woman was aware of this story. Maybe she knew the power of a simple gesture–the way it flooded my neurons with dopamine and brought me momentary peace and contentment. I longed shake her hand or proffer a high-five–some minimally-invasive action that would allow me to perceive her existence in a tactile manner, to prove and acknowledge that she was the tangible being that brought me so much ephemeral joy.
Maybe she was the one on the bridge, reaching out to someone in the most subtle of ways–too afraid to do more–crying out to a world that doesn’t care if we continue to exist. I should do something.
A pretty young woman smiled at me!
I didn’t do anything. I thought for so long about the encounter’s implications that we passed, and I never even smiled back.