Upon further consideration
(over the last five minutes)
I think I have decided
that my favorite type of
is not sunshine in the summer
is not the cacophony of spring showers
is not the crisp autumn air
not even all of that weather combined
compares (in my mind) to
cruising down a busy street
after a snow storm has blown through
leaving everything covered in white
but it's been long enough that
the streets are (relatively) clear and
drivers are still cautious
(not having gotten used to the wet roads)
and the medians are largely untouched,
blankets of white upon white
and the light ahead turns to amber,
and the sea of brake lights
as traffic slows to a crawl, to a stop
and I can see the people waiting for
the bus on the opposite corner
hugging themselves in the cold air
as I stretch out in the manufactured
heat of my truck cab
and I notice a single snowflake as it
dances past my side window
and I watch its descent to the black pavement
and then the traffic starts to move
and the halo around the green light
mirrors the halos of the street lights
which have just snapped on
as if on command by some nameless,
faceless street light authority
and it's a flurry of individual snowflakes now
wafting through the wake of traffic
falling from the sky, at first tentatively
then with seasoned purpose, seeking
and I smile, thinking
this is my favorite type of weather.
It will come as no surprise (if you know me at all) that I should not be allowed to give names to things (although I must admit that with three kids and a few dogs and cats under my belt I am not all THAT bad at it) and that was driven home this morning as I struggled to explain that I needed a splash shield for my daughter's car (I Googled it later to see what it was called) and while my friend (who is a car guy and laughed and laughed) knew what I meant, he still rolled his eyes at "car undercarriage plastic thingy" Am I really that bad at it? Aglet? Shoelace thingy Ferrule? Metal pencil band thingy Tittle? 'i' and 'j' lowercase dot thingy Peen? The thingy on the other side of a hammer Snood? Turkey neck thingy I am not a lost cause though for I do know a few words for things that you may not realize have been named Petrichor? The smell of rain Tines? The prongs of a fork Barm? The foam on your beer Lemniscate? The symbol for infinity Defenestrate? To throw out of the window but would I ever in a million years have been able to come up with such mental-image-inducing words? Probably not. Which reminds me, the word for something that produces a mental image is anamnesis, but don't ask me how to say it, that's a battle for another day.
I text you, you text back sometimes, but not always at least not immediately but at least I hear back from you usually You call and we talk brief spurts of conversation but neither of us are brilliant conversationalists but at least we do our best generally We meet in that awkward way that future lovers do who are not yet lovers trying to quickly decide if this is it but at least we're cautiously optimistic occasionally I try my best to make you laugh or impress you with magic or the breadth and depth of my love of math but at least you don't run screaming from the bar this time You try your best to make it comfortable but not too comfortable, you don't want to give the wrong impression but at least you're laughing and drinking for now Can I see you again? one of us asks and it's usually me, but not always we feign disinterest to avoid discomfort but at least we'll always have Paris, or at least this bar until next time
I came upon a group of children playing in their yard in the snow as the dogs and I were walking three of them building two snowmen - perhaps a snowman and snowwoman? and two others kids standing twenty feet apart they had apparently been engaged in an epic snowball battle, but now the tall girl was on her phone texting and the small boy was making snowballs in his too-big gloves and gently lofting them towards the tall girl's feet until he turned and saw the three of us approaching from across the street and his expression was a familiar one can I pet them? so we crossed and stood on the snow-packed sidewalk while the small boy approached and I kneeled down as he reached first for Zeus, then Mac and I nodded toward the tall girl and asked, sister? and he nodded in turn while still petting the dogs and I asked a follow-up have you seen the Avengers movies? and he smiled and said yes and we made eye contact and I told him, she is Thanos, so what do you need to do, Thor? and he continued to pet the dogs and then it dawned on him what I was saying and a smile played at the edges of his mouth and he stood up and and met my fist with a bump and said a little too gleefully as he padded back toward his victim go for the head
I'm trying to watch the game but the little brachycephalic sleeping at my feet is snoring each first down punctuated by an unintended snort each reception marked with silence in the empty stadium noise in this empty den each run up the middle accompanied with a sudden shift in her sleeping position I'm trying to watch the game but can't help but smile at her contentment at rest after a long, snowy day resting at my feet not a care in the world asleep at the edge of the carpet while her brother occasionally raises his head from his bed in the corner by the fire to see what he's missing I completely missed that last score and the replay as well engrossed as I was with the sleeping habits of the little brachycephalic and I really could care less.
It is impossible (literally impossible) to adequately express the raw emotion that comes from listening to a well- executed soundtrack with the swell of brass and the plaintive cry of strings and the abrupt interrogatory of the timpani to accentuate the point Lines of Imperial troopers Rolling fields as the replicants escape Two steps, turn, fire at the closing circle I don't want to go, Mr. Stark, I'm sorry It is fragile (as fragile as an imagined thing can be) to fully embrace the raw experience that comes from watching a well- executed script where the words that are spoken and the orchestral score that is played, the combination of the twain transcendent beam directly into my soul Dogfights in space Rolling seas and a bottle of rum Two starships passing in the night I've got a bad feeling about this It is wonderful (literally full of wonder) what happens when silver screen and golden tones combine to deliver me away from this window, this keyboard that rules my every waking hour to transport me to the next great adventure to the next generation to infinity and beyond.
She certainly has a nice hat Oh, this one - love her fashion sense! Cute dogs - check Hmm...too young No...too old Not pretty enough Far too pretty Runner, cyclist, gym rat Likes boards games? (Clue or Monopoly? Huge difference) Who calls themselves sapiosexual in every day conversation? (It's probably not true, anyway) Smoker? Pass Not tall enough Far too tall Avid reader - but, of what? (true crime, poetry, fiction. biography) Student of current events? I don't even know what that means, really Buzzwords Not smart enough Far too smart They show their faces but is that really their face? And who would market Themselves in such a manner As to elicit such stinging criticism? Me, for one.
There are to my left (your right) four windows, tall and slender shades drawn on the outer panes shades up on the inner panes the front yard in full view leaves covering the lawn (I raked recently but the huge oak in front doesn't care) wet with overnight rain and gazing past the barren branches of the bushes that line the front windows past the leaf-strewn yard the street is slick with rain cars scurry past the house on this relatively minor arterial residential street on which I live and my neighbors across the street have hung lights across their downstairs eaves, and in their front yard bushes and I have neglected to do the same for I've found it difficult this season to capture any of the "holiday spirit" this time of year is so famous for it has been such a long month, long season long year and I don't have the mental strength to play this festive game and although there will be no Sun on this Sunday morning has broken, and the sky has lightened considerable from where it was even twenty minutes ago and as the temperature drops I think to myself "I should go make more coffee" because I hear the kids stirring upstairs, and they've become coffee drinkers like their father before them and so I rise from my laptop preparing to make the thirty step trek to the kitchen to put on another pot and I think to myself "Oh, the rain has turned to snow."
There is a strange, unsettling, engrossing symmetry To us Not a cold winter to warm spring to hot summer to cool autumn to cold winter symmetry Not a we grew up two blocks from each other but were in different districts and didn't meet until we were in college out-of-state symmetry Not an opposites attract symmetry Not a distance makes the heart grow fonder symmetry Not an out of sight, out of mind symmetry We do not dress alike We do not root for the same teams We do not like the same music We do not read the same books We do not order the same coffee at Starbucks Ours is a symmetry of absence Dissonance Loneliness You once asked me years ago What it was I wanted, I needed And my answer has remained unchanged After all these years The heart wants what it wants.
I would proffer my hand to you But we really don't do that anymore (maybe someday) And we talk about old friends and new Did you hear what Billy said yesterday? Phil was pretty funny last night Frances really made me think this morning Mary Jo made me smile Katha and Galway were as irksome as always Did you miss any of that? Did you see? You blink and tell me of late Your mind feels like blinds that haven't been dusted in months rugs that have pilled from overuse a layer of dust thicker than the table itself Too many choices None of them of interest To an intellectual such as yourself I feel much the same A rabbit down the wrong hole in a warren not his own Tired autumn leaves ready to give up and drop to the barren ground Not enough choices Too many interests To a follower such as myself I don't have time to miss the old days I'm too busy wasting the new days
The space I inhabit Colder than the rest of the house (The windows leak, the fireplace is not sealed) More spacious than my last space But just as confining and empty The grey skies outside all eight windows Mirror my heart I shout into the void But cannot be heard over the sounds of everyone else Shouting into their own voids their own private hells-on-Earth Everyone seems happy Everyone is lying This is fine I mask my expression Literal and figurative I smile for a camera that No one sees Or can see or even wants to I ask myself and everyone I see what the hell is wrong with you? And their question of me mirrors my own of them Long night into longer day into longer night into A month of nameless days one month turns to two turns to three, turns to ten And we are still nowhere or perhaps no-when or perhaps no-why Hazy morning into wet afternoon Alone.
Man, dating really sucks. At any age, but more so as you get older.
I’m not a really a go-to-a-bar-and-meet-someone kind of guy. I’m not terribly social. So, my only option, particularly in this time of quarantines and pandemics, is online dating. Which is the absolute worst.
Online dating is much like social media for single people. Between inaccurate (or totally fake) profile pictures and messages that never get returned, there is a decided cowardice and lack of respect in lying to and then ghosting someone. And from stories I’ve heard from female friends, it’s endemic to both sides of the aisle, as it were.
And when did “I love tacos!” become a way to demonstrate your date-ability?1 C’mon, now – aim higher. Everyone loves tacos. And hiking. And being on the water. And world peace.
The one thing that dating HAS done for me is to grow more comfortable talking about myself. In fact, dating off-and-on over the past nine months has helped me develop a bit of a spiel that I can jump into, at any point along the continuum, to keep an awkward first (or second) date moving along.
I’ve written about some of this before, in previous blog posts. Here, then, is the more detailed, expanded version – The Origin of 56-year-old Steve: The Special Edition:
I’ve spent the last four or five years jumping from one interest to the other. It started with music, and continued with a renewed interest in math, followed by dabbling in computer programming, and then delving deeper into philosophy…but wait, it goes back farther than that.
I was a decent enough student in high school. I could have been a straight-A student had I applied myself. However, that was not the case. I piddled around the entire four years. My final two years of high school were marked by my step-father dying, leaving my Mom as a single mother having to work to earn money to raise me, my four-year-younger sister, and my twelve-year-younger half-brother. Money as always tight, and she did the best she could.
But college was never really an option as I began my senior year. The focus was solely on me finishing high school so that I could get a job and start supporting myself. So a few weeks after graduation, I found myself delivering pizzas for Straw Hat Pizza for nine months, then it was off to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, for USAF basic training.
Two years into my military service, I was married to a fellow service member. We spent five years overseas together, then four more years in Denver, CO, before calling it quits. We split up shortly after I left the military (she had retired once we returned stateside), and I was on my own for a while.
Another whirlwind romance that ended in disaster brought me to Oklahoma, and this is where I’ve been for the past twenty-six-plus years.
Somewhere along the line, I began to regret not having concentrated more on my studies when I was in school. I went back to school, getting a business admin degree from the local community college. I dipped my foot in the pool of an actual B.A. program at OSU-Tulsa.
My kids are super smart – much smarter than I was at their age, and certainly much smarter than I am now. They began feeding me interesting YouTube videos. At first it was VSauce videos – Michael Stevens’ deadpan delivery of interesting science facts and thought experiments was extremely engaging. Then one of them started sending me Grant Sanderson videos, and we were off to the races.
I can still clearly recall one video where Sanderson was attempting to explain calculus in layman’s terms (relatively speaking), and I had a light bulb moment ten minutes into the video.
In this particular video, which was part one of a ten-part “Essence of Calculus” series2, less than ten minutes into the lesson, Sanderson clearly and concisely explained how, when solving for the area of a circle, you are actually solving for the area of a right triangle, and my mind, to say the least, was blown. I distinctly remember thinking to myself (and repeating to anyone who would listen), “If I’d had someone teach me this in high school, I’d be a rocket scientist by now!”
I immediately hit Kahn Academy and began relearning all of the algebra I’d forgotten over the years.
In the meantime, I’d become enamored with British mathematician Matt Parker and his YouTube channel, Stand Up Maths. He is also a frequent guest on another great channel, Numberphile. One of my favorite parts of Matt’s videos is, on occasion after working something out on butcher paper or a blackboard, will then reveal that he wrote a quick Python program to verify his results. That sealed it – I had to learn computer programming!
. . . . .
My most recent obsession, philosophy, is another thing entirely. And yet, more of the same.
I’ve always been interested in philosophy – my first blog post dealt with stoicism, and that was almost two years ago. This time, I decided to approach it with the same academic rigor that I’ve explored math, science, and computer programming over the last few years. I started at the beginning with the father of pre-Socratic philosophy, Thales, and have been steadily moving forward through the different schools of thought over the last 2,500 years.
One of the things that fascinates me most about the study of philosophy is that the earlier philosophers had nothing else to go on but their five senses and their minds, and yet were able to develop such insightful, and often (overly) complicated explanations for everything.
While there existed schools of thought that invoked the four classical Greek elements (fire, water, earth, air) there was a school called the Atomists that supposed that everything was made up of smaller, unseen particles called atoms that actually made up everything we see – and they came to this conclusion 300 years B.C.E, nearly 2,000 years before the Janssen brothers in 1590 C.E.!
But more to the point, the early philosophers never gave up, and never stopped building upon the thoughts and ideas of their forebears, sometimes eloquently expanding on their ideas, sometimes developing totally new ideas and doctrines.
And that, more than anything, defines how I’ve overcome that lack of desire (and, to be honest, motivation) and am now attempting expand my horizons through the faux-academic study of things that interest me. I keep building upon what I’ve learned previously, always striving to expand my knowledge of the world around me. Or, in the words of philosopher Stephen West, to always “know more today than I did yesterday.”
The key (for me, anyway) is, word for word, to always keep moving forward.
. . . . .
- Self-proclaimed “snarky dating poster” Sarah Kehoe tweeted something to this effect – @sarahkehoe. If you have a Twitter, follow her!
- “Essence of Calculus – Chapter 1” by Grant Sanderson (3blue1brown) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUvTyaaNkzM
. . . . .
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my first book, “What I’ve Learned: Random Thoughts on Various Subjects,” now it the perfect time! Bounce over to http://bit.ly/what_ive_learned and pick up a paperback copy, or download it to your Kindle!