Category Archives: Misc.

The 15-year-decade

salvador-dali-persistence-of-memory-clocks-meaningDon’t worry, this won’t be one of those look-back posts where I sum up everything that happened to us last year.

Though, admittedly, 2015 was a big year.

But it’s been a big decade, for that matter.

Only they don’t have names for 15-year increments. At least they don’t have common names everyone can use like decade or century.

There’s actually an old name for 15-year cycles that comes from medieval Europe called the indiction and which had to do with a periodic reassessment of an agricultural or land tax.

What I’m talking about is the last 10 years of our lives, a cycle that I can’t quite fit nicely into a decade.

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Radio Silence

radio silenceThe long, hot summer is giving way to what could be a long, warm fall and winter.

The daytime temps still reach into the 90s, but at night you can feel the chill in the air that precipitates fall.

Weekdays bleed into weekends in slow motion with little delineation.

The toxic glow of Fox News permeates the living room, so I hide away hunched over the laptop. And when the noxious wind of judgment and hatred from various numbered clubs and televangelists reaches its fever pitch, I head out on the bicycle trying to put miles between myself and my world.

The kids are spread out over two sets of grandparents trying to find a foothold after eight years away.

We pick up where we left off with old friends like it was June, 2007. Except their kids are grow up and leaving, which reminds of us of the advance of years.

Parents are more linear, more set in their ways, but then so are we, which provides the friction that causes the smoke that tells us there is a fire somewhere.

It’s months-long therapy for a chronic condition picked up in transit. Or a way to sift though life’s choices, to read the map looking for wrong turns and detours missed.

An unplanned rest stop in a slightly familiar place.

The radio silence is deafening.

When everyone else is living out loud.

 

The Storyteller’s Dilemna

Chinese Prison

I was listening to my son tell a story last night.

It’s the one where he gets arrested in Northwest China, along with a bunch of other young people and his grandparents, my mom and dad.

He loves to start with the line, “Oh, yeah, I got arrested in China.”

“What?” His younger brother asked, skeptically. “Why didn’t I hear this before?”

“Maybe because you run off to spend the weekends with your friends every chance you get,” his mother said, disapprovingly from her end of the dinner table.

That little interruption aside, Cole launched into the story, perhaps the sixth or seventh time I’ve heard it, but more likely approaching the 50th time he’s told it since he traveled to the remote region of China with his missionary grandparents last summer.

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The Optics of Ice Water

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My boss likes to use a particular phrase when she talks about presenting new ideas.

She often tells me to “think about the optics.”

Optics means, among other things, the way an event or course of action is perceived by the public.

Sometimes when you’re enveloped in a project or an event, you get caught up in the details, and it’s difficult to think about the optics.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the optics of ice water.

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Why you shouldn’t Google yourself

googling oneself

I didn’t mean to.

It just sort of happened.

I was perusing the usual tabs this morning in an attempt to see how everyone’s day will be better than mine, (I’m moving today) and I came across an interesting article referencing a story I worked on many years ago as a reporter at The Oregonian.

After reading the sad story, I wanted to go find my original story, so I Googled Tim Akimoff, Oregon State Hospital, Urns.

In and of itself, that search is fairly tame. I learned not to search for things like Tim Akimoff, scarification or other such search terms that lead me down very depressing pathways filled with haters and trolls.

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Writing: The Nightstand

I don’t believe in writer’s block, but something happens in the spring. I can write a thousand words every day in winter, but when the sun comes out, I want to live it not tell about it.

Still, things happen every day. Lessons are learned, experiences are had. Some you catalogue out of a sense of duty, some are buried away for contemplation on a rainy day, and some are fleeting, like a cool breeze on a warm day.

This is why you write every day. Some of us have minds like vast containers capable of storing every imaginable thing. And some of us have minds like cluttered drawers, chalk full of the detritus of our travels and adventures. 

My nightstand looks like this. I cannot cram the old drawers shut any longer. The bottom drawer is full of small things that remind me of long ago. There are marathon bibs and medals, an action figure I’ve always loved, a badge a friend gave me, papers and notebooks I save, even if there are just a few notes in them. The top drawer is full of newer memories, manila envelopes with old tax statements, a knife I earned on an outdoor adventure, some newspaper clips from my reporting days and a leather pouch with some favorite pipe tobacco in it. 

Writing is like this. You file away the pieces of your experience in sentences and paragraphs for later reference so you don’t have to make up the details later on. 

You write to capture all the in betweens, the intangibles leftover from the stuff in the drawers.

I this way, you have a more complete picture of your life or the life you’re trying to create.

Bears smell like cinnamon

800px-Grand_Tetons_black_bear

The department of fish, wildlife and parks biologist parked his rig up along a small ridge in a remote part of northwest Montana and got out to address the reporter and photographer waiting for him.

“What we’re going to do today is try to relocate a small, 2.5 year-old male black bear to a prepared habitat where he will hopefully hibernate the rest of winter away and awake in the spring with no memories of the human food he was consuming,” the biologist said.

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Hello Kitty, box stores and existential angst: Otherwise known as Saturday

It should’ve been simple.

And if I would’ve just ordered the damn thing on Amazon, it would have been.

I’m a procrastinator by trade.

My daughter’s eighth birthday was no different than my last news deadline.

That’s how I found myself at three different Wal Marts and two Targets in a major snowstorm trying to hunt down a Hello Kitty sewing machine.

I hit the first Wal Mart in the city, hoping that I could kill a few different birds with one extra stop on my way home from work.

The kid who helped me asked me if I was looking for the Hello Kitty sewing machine for myself.

I played along.

“Yeah, man, I collect Hello Kitty stuff and travel around the world to conferences.”

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The cold is all in our head

Macro of frost on glass

It’s cold in Chicago for the second time this January. A stark contrast from last Juneuary, our first (mild) winter in the Windy City.

By cold, I mean all that air that normally oscillates around the North Pole and makes it particularly uninhabitable, has wobbled out of its usual orbit and is swinging, seemingly at random, into latitudes not quite used to these temperatures.

Meanwhile, our old comrades in Alaska are reporting green lawns, buds on trees and spring-like temperatures during a particularly balmy winter.

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Brown Line

Brown Line
This is a brown line train to the Loop

Slow crawl through brackish
brick and mortar

North Side dissonance, so
poorly named

You should run to warmer
neighborhoods

White train, brown line
better off with green

Salt-stained floors gray out
your browns & beiges

Even your graffiti is
too soft core

Glass-free parking
spaces

And pristine platforms, condos
winter boots

Bros & wool jackets
Merino scarves

This is a brown line train
to the Loop

where else? what else?
what more? what’s left?

Take me some place special
somewhere nice

Break the mold and tease
the status quo

I’m just standing here
waiting on the train

Take me across the river
toward my dreams

This is a brown line train
to the Loop