Tuesday, January 13, 2015

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part III: 950-926

This is taking much longer than I thought.

Thanks, Obama!

I still have determination, though, and that will get me to at least 700. Everything after that will probably be about the variety of farts and boogers that once dwelled inside my body, but have since been set free into the world. 

It should come as no surprise that it's taken longer than anticipated to crank out three installments considering that it takes me 10 minutes to share a 90-second verbal anecdote.


The idea came from this site, and if I haven't said it already, the motivation in taking this on centers on increased mindfulness, the notion that -- as my wife said today -- "things are pretty good."

I'd like to remember that much more often than I do, and if you've chosen to join me on this journey, I hope that things are pretty good for you, too.

Nine Hundred Fifty: John Lennon

            I never met the man, and I won’t even try to speak to what kind of man he was, but from where I sit, it looks like he was a pretty righteous dude. I also don’t want to over-credit him for The Beatles’ success, but it seemed like a lot of the musical things he touched turned to gold. I don’t know the things that went on in John Lennon’s head. I don’t have a finger on everything he stood for, but from over here it appears that he had a pretty good idea of the way the world ought to operate. Caveat: I’m a giant hippie, so you have to take my opinion with a whole box of kosher salt. It’s interesting to think about whether the world would be any different were he still alive and a bit sad when you consider that -- based on what he symbolized -- it’s not. Anyway, I’m thankful he was around for 40 years. We could use another guy like that.

Nine Hundred Forty-Nine: perspective

            I work with an interesting mix of customers. I work with restaurant owners and operators. They run all kinds of establishments and they represent a ton of different backgrounds. One in particular has educated me a great deal on things that happen outside of this country. Be this customer right, wrong, or somewhere in the middle, our engagements have expanded my mind. When we spoke on Thanksgiving I was informed that this customer does not celebrate this holiday with their family. They aren’t opposed to it; it’s just not a thing they’ve ever done. The biggest take-away from that conversation was this:

            “The one thing I’ve never understood is that you’re supposed to show you’re giving thanks by eating. If you have enough to eat, you should be thankful every day, and on this day, you should be giving.”

            So…yeah. Perspective. It’s like that ice-bucket challenge, only without the cell-phone camera, the social media, and the monetary donation.

Nine Hundred Forty-Eight: dryer sheets

            Clean, folded, put-away laundry is pretty much aces. In fact, I’d file it up there with office supplies in terms of feeling responsible about your life. I feel like I’ve been doing laundry for my entire life, and I know I will feel like that forever. Unless I got all Into the Wild and shit, I’ll continue to need clean clothes, just like I’ll need to eat and wipe my ass after I take a dump. Clean laundry’s pretty rewarding, though. Making that pile disappear, emptying those baskets, and putting on fresh threads are just that: pretty frickin’ rewarding.

Fabric softener’s my favorite, though. Sure: good detergent is nice (or, if you’re married to someone like my wife: was nice; now we buy some clear liquid produced by harvesting rain water from reconstituted rose petals and thrice-recycled carrot juice). Dryer sheets, though, are the source that send you into that fluffy trampoline cloud of euphoria (just by pressing a t-shirt into your face!). I used to get all strung out on that fresh-laundry smell (before I got married and we started buying that flimsy-boxed impostor from Target that’s made from ground pine needles and repurposed tire rubber). It’s overwhelming.

 I’ll never forget the day my sister Tiffany told me you’re not supposed to use dryer sheets with towels. According to her, this lessens the life of the towel, reduces its ability to remove wetness from your skin.

I was crushed. I mean, run over my puppy while you’re at it.

But yeah: dryer sheets.

Nine Hundred Forty-Seven: sarcasm

Nine Hundred Forty-Six: my therapist

            I’ve been attending sessions more often than not for three years, and a sort of coincidence connected me with Theresa Hubbard. An entry for her, here in this collection, will not do her complete self justice, so I will touch on a few things about her that I admire.

            Balance. I haven’t a clue how Theresa juggles her many hats. She never seems to get to a spot where she’s content with her plateful; she’s always adding more.

            Ambition. Theresa’s focus is relentless. She knows what she wants and makes a plan of action for how and when she will achieve her goals.

            Patience. Little throws Theresa. She will wait, and listen, and suggest, and teach, and encourage, and be intentional both for herself and others.

            Empathy. Theresa appears to understand the struggles we all have. Even greater: She appears to care about them.

            I could also discuss Theresa’s positive energy, her sense of humor, her intelligence, and her humility. I could speak to her ability to soothe, her infectious calmness, and her positive energy. There’s an eternal gratefulness nestled inside of me that my path crossed hers. She’s a wonderful human being and many are the ways in which I would like to be more like her.

Nine Hundred Forty-Five: Sesame Street

            What Calvin & Hobbes was to my youth, Sesame Street was to my toddlerhood. I’m not sure what it is about nostalgia that invokes (in me, at least) such a taste for sorrow -- and I’m not even sure that’s what it is -- but it’s powerful. Maybe it’s subconscious awareness that innocence coincides with youth. Maybe an inherent idea of self-deprecation sprouts in our minds as we enter adolescence and adulthood. Perhaps the fear of death finding us before our bucket lists are complete contributes. It could be that the world seems to get a little shittier every year.

            I don’t mean to paint a minimalist picture; that’s not (I don’t think) how I view existence. People, though, continue to self-destruct. They appear motivated to spread hate, to hurt -- and to sometimes kill -- those unlike themselves, and I don’t understand it. The best five-word question I have ever heard came from the mouth of the late Rodney King: “Can we all get along?”

            Sesame Street represents the kind of world in which I want to live. No two people are alike. Each person is a different shape, of a different color, and everybody -- while laughing, learning -- works together to find solutions. Hugs and understanding happen on Sesame Street; never do they favor demand over supply. Children play; adults teach and love. Seldom (if ever) are individual families seen. Instead, the community acts as one cohesive unit, and the ugliest it ever gets come in the form of Oscar the Grouch’s pessimism.

            The ways in which the program aimed to improve the world are countless, but the best example that comes to mind would be the revelation of Mr. Snuffleupagus to the adults. Sixteen seasons and 2000-plus episodes into its massive run, the writers decided to end Big Bird’s frustrations, in large part because of the growing prevalence (or reporting of it) of sexual abuse perpetrated upon children in America. When a couple of national-television news shows reported on the issue, Sesame Street’s thought was that victims may choose silence over the fear of possible disbelief from their parents if they spoke the truth, so Snuffy ceased to be a figment of Bird’s imagination. All of the adults met him and apologized to Big Bird for not having believed him.

            My memories and thoughts of Sesame Street are symbolic of a purity, an unbridled zeal for finding the good in everything. Maybe I reflect upon my experience with it with such sentiment because I can think of nothing else in the world as nourishing as consuming the messages and lessons intended by the show’s creators, writers, and cast. I mean, it’s television, so of course there are real-life things of greater magnitude, but man, Sesame Street. Incredible.

Nine Hundred Forty-Four: my dad

            My father has been dead for over 12 years, and for much of that time I grieved. I felt pain for the suffering alcoholism caused him. I hurt for the anguish his disease caused his loved ones. I became stationary with the sense that I was cheated out of an adult life with my father in it. Those distresses still exist as fractions of what they once were, but now, having become a father myself, I’m grateful for the gifts he gave me. When my dad was alive, he continued to work on his relationship with me as his son; he never had the opportunity to directly teach me about being a dad. Unbeknownst to us both, however, he indirectly taught me most everything I needed to know. Thank you, Dad, for showing me how to put my love for my little people out there and to be sure that they feel it.

Nine Hundred Forty-Three: my mom

            My mother has always displayed persistence. She dedicated herself to single motherhood and raised me and my sister with minimal assistance and never wavered in her love for us or in her determination to instill her children with good values. For as long as I can remember, my mom has been a living reminder of the existence of adversity. She has shown me that sometimes it’s okay to display emotions and that at other times, it can be difficult to temper them. My mom has always valued humor, family, and honesty. My mom probably taught me more about responsibility than I realize, and for that, along with all of the other things she has been and done for me, I am thankful.

Nine Hundred Forty-Two: Bob Marley

            I am not a Bob Marley historian. I know the tracks of his studio discography well. I am familiar with a few basic details about his life, but above all I know that Bob Marley’s music has brought millions of people happiness in a time where they needed it, or already had it and wanted to up it a notch. I don’t believe you could live on reggae alone, but, as a genre, it’s pretty damn medicinal, and of course, Bob Marley will forever be the master of those irie roots. Not only am I thankful for having been introduced to his music, I’m grateful that it was long enough ago that I made it a point to own all of his albums. There will never be another and the human race ought to give a collective thanks that he was one of us.

Nine Hundred Forty-One: my home

            If you were lucky enough to have read the piece I wrote about my mom selling her house, you might recall that I have moved. A lot. Like, an average of once every 18 months for the last 40 years. Barring any number of unforeseen misfortunes that could occur to my family, there’s a chance I might never move again. I mean, I’m sure my children will -- if I live long enough -- put me in a facility of some sort, but there’s a solid possibility of not moving again in the next 40 years, which is almost as mind blowing as a square of some righteous LSD. Almost. It’s still bizarre to me that we can afford our house, and I suppose it’s not necessary for me to get it, but we’ve now been here long enough that I don’t miss our old house, and I’m crazy thankful for this one. We’ve got plenty of work to do on it, but -- in due time -- we’ll get there. This should be the point where I add my thankfulness for my wife and my job and the multitude of reasons that got us where we are, but those things will have to come later. I’m too busy curling up to my space heater in my built-in man cave to type any more words.

Nine Hundred Forty: my post-secondary education

            Even though it took me six elementary schools to make it to seventh grade, every place I attended was pretty awesome. Middle school and high school, too. Pretty great, all things considered. It’s the school that came after, though, for which I would like to express my gratitude. I chose Pittsburg State University coming out of high school, and I’m glad I did. It’s hard to see my life winding up the way it did had I opted for the University of Kansas. I chose not to move to Lawrence with the majority of my friends because I was afraid of getting lost in the crowd and partying too hard. By junior year of high school, I pretty much had the partying thing down pat, so I went south instead of west.

            After a year in Pittsburg, I changed my mind and went west after all, only I didn’t stop in Lawrence. I went all the way to Colorado, after a year off, wound up on the campus of Fort Lewis College in Durango. I miss that town and the friends I have and made there. It’s a great town in a beautiful part of the country, but it wouldn’t be to me what it is without F.L.C. Amazing professors, programs, and opportunities. My years in Durango were some of the best in my life and I owe Fort Lewis and Pitt State a ton of gratitude.

Nine Hundred Thirty-Nine: Google

            I’m pretty pleased that, 60 entries in, I’ve only expressed gratitude for three Internet pages. I imagine another game-changing thing will affect the world before my time is up (or before I’m done with 1,000 of these things), but it’s pretty fucking crazy to think about life before Google. Like, you wanted to know something and you just started asking everyone you know, by calling them from your landline and hoping they were home. If they had a good enough answer, well, that was it. If not, you had to wait until, like, the entire next day, or Saturday when you might could ride your bike to the library and open miniature drawer after miniature drawer in hopes they had a book on the shelves that discussed the topic associated with your question. Now you don’t even have to fire up your computer; it’s right there on your frickin’ phone. Crazy times, people. Crazy times. So, yeah: I’m pretty down with the Googles. And, Bing -- You’re alright, too, I suppose. You know, if, like, the world stopped working or something, I’d probably hit you up for some information. Just kidding. Love you, Bing.

Nine Hundred Thirty-Eight: photography

            I was thinking the other day that it’s pretty weird how much we love pictures. Like, weird in that not-that-weird way. Photography captures life moments upon which we reflect, and if you think about it, it assists us with out-of-body experiences. That is, if you’re looking at a picture of yourself or of some scenery you visited, it’s as though you’re revisiting the thing. If you’re looking at a photo of something you’ve never seen before, it’s as though you’re experiencing something you’ve never before experienced. I’ve never studied primates, so I can’t speak for them. To be honest, I’ve never studied any animal on any kind of profound level, but I don’t imagine most animals would have any kind of reaction to a photo of themselves.

            Were it a dog, for instance, he or she would probably smell the print (or the screen) in an attempt to see if it were an edible item. For an animal to react to a photograph the way a human does, you would have to substitute the photograph for something more sensory, like a smell or a sound, or something visible with more dimensions than an image has. People, though, with their complex brains, can invoke sensory recollections via image identification.

I know. This is like explaining how creatures need food to survive. Photography’s pretty awesome, though, even if a great many of us rely on cell phones as our primary source of capture. It’s a trip to flip through albums that have photos from 30 years ago, and it’s pretty insane to flip through three-month-old pictures on your phone (provided you don’t do so daily). Better still is viewing the results from a professional photography session, be they from the recent family session or of some desolate landscape. Photography. Two thumbs up, man. Two thumbs up.

Nine Hundred Thirty-Seven: church

            Denominations do not matter here. Book(s) of worship do not bear any importance in this entry. Idolatries carry no weight. This gratitude concerns community. It concerns looking out for one another. It concerns a spiritual connectedness that dwarfs the sense of self. It focuses on the recognition of the individual as a single, flawed unit of life with the potential for being a part of a greater good. It spotlights something we -- at least in this country -- don’t magnify but a few times a year: the gift of giving.

            Whether it adds any merit to the conversation or not, I always feel it important to identify myself first in this sort of consciousness stream. I am a selfish human being. I have plenty, but want more. Where I lack, I become emotional. That which I do to better the world feels miniscule. All of these areas require improvement, and although I do not kneel before my bed with folded hands, I pray, seeking discovery of the methods by which I might better myself.

            Attending church serves as some sort of foundation for this journey. That’s what I believe, anyway. And trust me: it’s good feeling.

Nine Hundred Thirty-Six: Pink Floyd

            I’ve only given The Endless River two listens, but it doesn’t matter. Pink Floyd doesn’t need to continue producing music, and even if they do, who am I to judge it. They cemented their place in the Hall of Awesomeness before I was six years old. I’m not going to break down band members, albums, feuds, or song credits. I’m just going to say that if it’s true we only use 10 percent of our brains, the other 90 must resemble something similar to the experience of listening to Pink Floyd on maximum volume. The average, normal-day thought-wave trajectory can wither or swell with intensity, but it can’t touch the psychedelic state. Pink Floyd figured out a way to tap into that shit and put it on tape and for that my gratefulness will last an eternity.

Nine Hundred Thirty-Five: Mexican food

            I don’t want to imagine a world without quesadillas. Nothing hits the spot like a good plate of enchiladas, and every now and again, I feel compelled to try and eat my weight in tacos. Let’s not forget flautas, taquitos, tamales, rellenos, empanadas, sopapillas, chimichangas, and burritos, either. I’m not concerned with which of those items qualifies as authentic Mexican and which of them do not. If they’re done right, they’re all delicious, and everyone has their favorite delicious Mexican spot. If you don’t, you’re not doin’ it right.

Nine Hundred Thirty-Four: land

            Let’s suppose for a minute that God created this world. Guy gets an A+ without question. Let’s suppose that we were supposed to share the Earth with our fellow human beings. Let’s pretend that we weren’t supposed to invade already-occupied areas, murder its inhabitants and take the land for ourselves. Let’s imagine that, having claimed it to be our own, we weren’t supposed to parcel it up and sell it in individual plots and hang signs over the front door that say “Fucking Mine, Motherfucker -- Enter and Be Killed.”

            So God moves on to first grade and we’re stuck repeating kindergarten. You gotta look up at the first-grader’s accomplishments and be amazed. You have to recognize that there are stores that sell cheap-ass packages of seeds that, when put in the ground, will grow fucking food for our selfish-ass selves. In some cases, you don’t even have to till, weed, or water. The necessary actions just automatically fucking happen. What’s more: the shit that grows without yielding food exhales oxygen and inhales carbon di-fucking-oxide.

            Pretty fucking rad. And I’m pretty fucking sure there’s enough land to go around, be we seven billion strong and growing or not. So give thanks, people. Give. Fucking. Thanks.

Nine Hundred Thirty-Three: the Midwest

            “Flyover country” they call it.

            Fuck ‘em.

            The Midwest tends to kick out a pretty good breed of people.

            Yeah. We -- like everywhere else -- have our bad seeds. We have criminals, bigots, sexists, and hicks, just like other regions. We also have a healthy chunk of folk that invented the idea of hospitality. We open our homes and dig deep into our pantries to take care of our guests. We know our way around the kitchen. We tend to be hard-working and rearers of responsible, mannered offspring. We can also tend to be thick-headed and stubborn, though, so don’t go thinking we’re only interested in hearing the toots of our own horns. The best of us are humble. We’re meticulous in our dry-wit cultivation thanks to murderous summers and brutal winters that have learned us to harden our stance against the elements. They’ve also shown us the importance of looking out for those in need and it’s hoped that there’s some transparency in that.

Nine Hundred Thirty-Two: unnamed friend #4

            There’s a dude with whom I should probably be pretty tight. Circumstances lent us enough in common that we should hang more often than we do, which is almost never. If asked, we probably wouldn’t even identify one another as friends, but acquaintances. We like a lot of the same shit, live close to one another, and even have kids of similar ages. Our wives get along, and on the annual occasion(s) on which we cross paths, our company has been enjoyable. On my end, anyway. I’m not sure that anything will ever change, though. I suppose it’s worth a conversation with the wife. Perhaps we’ll have them over for dinner

Nine Hundred Thirty-One: Bob Dylan

            I’ve written enough about this guy that I’m concerned with repetition here, but in short: No artist has taken ideas and concepts, summarized them with precise verbiage, and put them to magnificent music in any fashion that will ever touch the eloquence of Bob Dylan. Don’t get me wrong: I’m aware that plenty of criticisms of the man and his productions exist. I realize that some hate the electric stuff. I know people have seen shitty shows. Hell, I even know there are people (Note: Hi, Mom!) that straight-up don’t like him.

            The fact remains that no one person’s words can change my mind about the incredible career that came from the mind and the heart of Duluth, Minnesota’s Robert Allen Zimmerman. I never tire of his songs; they speak to me now just as much (and in many cases more) as they did the first time I heard them. For the creation of him and the creations he begat, I am grateful.

Nine Hundred Thirty: matches

            What a cool invention. Be it the jar of cardboard books atop the tap tower at your local pub, or the box of strike-anywheres on the shelf in your grocery store, matches are fucking rad. If you think of what they produce in the primitive sense, you can get your caveman on and grunt, “Fire. Fire good! Me like fire!”

            Those dudes had to work their asses off, though, to make fire. Like, sore-triceps-and-sweaty-temples work their asses off. Not us, though. We’ve got practical, neatly packaged, weightless twigs of carbon-tipped fire makers, and access to them almost everywhere we go. You can start your grill-chute coals with them, light a pilot on the range, fire up a doobie, and cover the stench of that rank deuce you just dropped in the can, all for next-to-zero effort and for the price of like, one-tenth of a penny. Yay, matches! Unless you’re my kids, in which case, matches make your toys disappear. Stay away. Stay far, far away.

Nine Hundred Twenty-Nine: flip flops

            I could probably craft a badass paragraph or two about my favorite type of footwear, but when you’re as lazy as I am, you say, Fuck it: flip flops are a) affordable, b) easy, and c) why the fuck would you need a “c”? I just gave you everything you needed to know.

<fake stadium-crowd cheer erupts from your screen>

Nine Hundred Twenty-Eight: The Kansas City Star

            For 15 years, I’ve taken a delivered subscription to my hometown rag. In that span I’ve seen chunks of missed editions, probably a dozen price increases, product shrinkage, and I seldom even have the time to read it anymore. All of that said, I will continue to give them my money every month and I will do so with pride because the print edition of the newspaper is something I believe in and until it goes away, I will support it. Even though I don’t have a ton of comparison from which to draw, I’m of the opinion that The Kansas City Star puts out a damn fine product, and they’ve earned the right to have -- dwindling as we may be -- a loyal customer base. So thanks, Star people. I’ve every reason to quit you, but the stubborn Midwesterner in me tells me not to.

Nine Hundred Twenty-Seven: my job

            I work hard at my job and it causes me considerable stress. My boss can be a knob and from time to time the company crafts a policy with which I am wont to disagree. What matters though, is that I earned this position and it’s up to me to monitor my loose-lipped mouth and questionable decision-making skills to keep it.

            The provider role in me remains grateful for the excellent benefits and the potential to generate more income down the road. I have no ambition for climbing the proverbial ladder. I like the gig I have. I’m qualified for it and it would appear decent at doing it. So I’m grateful for twice being graced with the opportunity to go out and get it and once being offered the opportunity to take it. Now, to paraphrase Chris Rock: I hope I don’t say nothin’ too stupid.

Nine Hundred Twenty-Six: beer

            It’s delicious. It’s frosty. It quenches, and when consumed with a sense of responsibility, it can take the edge off of a day’s work. For some time now, I’ve been stocking my fridge with a non-alcoholic variety. That flavor is delicious and frosty, and it possesses that quenching characteristic as well. It does not, however, take the edge off like a good, old-fashioned alcohol-inclusive concoction. This is not a problem at home. Social functions arise, however, and I find myself in situations where an abundance of regular beer beckons, and the ability to recall my now virgin-level tolerance all but vanishes. The point is that I’m grateful for beer. I love it. It’s just difficult to remember that, like a lot of those cute girls in college, it doesn’t exactly love me back.

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