Election Day

How can I think about anything at all other than the election? And the consequences of that election. And the potential outcomes. And my predicted outcome, which is that the tangerine tyrant will continue in office while the ostensible opposition party rages ineffectively, while the rest of America descends into (even more) violence. That’s all I’ve been imagining for months, going back to last year when the election season kicked off. The Democratic Party leadership seems, and continues to seem to me, to be completely unable or unwilling to challenge the GOP, and therefore the GOP is going to do whatever they like, including installing a fraudulent judge on the highest court in the land, supporting and defending an authoritarian nightmare in the Executive, and ignoring two centuries of precedent and rule in the Legislative in order to hold on to power.

Meanwhile, the D’s seem content to pretend everything is normal and that normal Robert’s Rules of Order will prevail if only they can keep doing what they’ve always done, ignoring the rioting citizens and the freshmen Congressfolk who want to kick ass and take names in favor of collegiality.

And people die, from the plague, and from the hands, guns, and vehicles of the right-wingers who pretended to want to eliminate fascist government but now take action to uphold and defend it by killing people who just want everyone to be treated like a human being.

I’m in a dark place this Election Day. It would be beautiful if our votes actually turned things around this time. If we could, in an overwhelming, unprecedented majority, reject the GOP and turn them back. The pundits keep talking about the amazing pre-election turnout across the country, but they are also reporting on the unprecedented levels of voter intimidation, voter suppression, and outright overt actions to simply prevent votes from being made and to not count all the votes. It would be beautiful if basic democracy could overcome all this, the result of decades of work by the GOP towards the goal of power and nothing but, of Realpolitik.

I want that to happen, but I don’t have any hope that it will. I’ve done all I can do in my small circles. I’ve argued, I’ve donated what money I can, I’ve voted. Today, for once, I’d like to rest, because I have a feeling that the fight isn’t over, and I’ll be needed tomorrow. I see a war coming. Wait, that’s not right. I see we’re already in a war, but the election is going to kick it into a higher gear. Things are already dangerous (for some Americans it has always been this dangerous) but I have the feeling it’s going to get even more so. Tyrants don’t let go of power easily, and it’s rarely the tyrants’ whose blood is spilled in order to get them to leave. I may or may not be safe, but my conscience does not let me rest while others are in harm’s way, so

how can I think about anything at all other than the election?

A Lack of Vision

A kitten peers out from behind a wall, only one eye visible.
It’s hard to find royalty-free images of blind kittens, you know?

Dreamt last night that…

Look, I know that other people’s dreams aren’t always the most interesting to read. It’s just that I haven’t had the energy to write much at all lately, but this morning, for some reason, my fingers itched to tap out something, and I had this weird image stuck in my head from the moment my eyes opened, and I’m taking advantage of it.

Journeys begin with a single step, and all that. Y’know?

So in my dream, I adopted a tiny baby kitten with one eye. A little floof, all awkward movement and meows, grey or maybe black, and it had exactly one eye, it’s right eye. The other eye wasn’t damaged or anything; there was just blank fur on the other side, like nothing was even meant to go there.

And this little kitten was very devoted to me. It would follow me around, up and down the stairs in my apartment, always wanting to be near, in what would normally be un-cat-like behavior.

As I went about my daily routine for hours, in dream-time, although it was more likely a montage of feelings and images, I’d reach out to pet its fur, and it would curl up next to me, or in my lap, or even climb up on my shoulders.

It was scooting around near my feet, and I was afraid of kicking it or stepping on it, so I reached down to pick it up, and… I fumbled briefly, it started to turn around, and… I popped its one eye off. Dream logic.

I distinctly remember an audible sound, a cork in a bottle coming free, and I saw the eye fly in an arc away, bounce off the floor, and roll randomly.

The kitten did not seem in pain, but it was suddenly confused, mewing, head scanning back and forth. It, and I, did not understand what had just happened. I apologized profusely, and carried it with me in the direction of the eyeball’s escape. I found a small box filled with things, and I rooted around among the contents, and did not find the kitten’s eyeball, but did find a package of googly eyes. You know the ones, they sell them in craft stores, little bubbles of plastic with a round black disk in them, and a sticker on the back for sticking to things.

I opened the package and got out two, peeled the protective tape from the back, and carefully stuck them on to the kitten’s face. And, again, dream logically, it could suddenly see again. It looked clownish and more than a little odd. But I’d given it vision again.

I had repaired the damage I’d done, but in a temporary or off-putting way. That’s the feeling I get from this dream. My intentions are good, but I’m just not quite up to the task of doing the thing being asked of me. Inadequate. Ineffective. Over my head.

These are strange days, my fellow quaranteers. Strange days, indeed.

More Kindness

We made it, everyone! We made it to the Gregorian year 2020, a year I’ve mostly associated with cyberpunk and dystopian futures… bad news, this is pretty much the dystopian cyberpunk future William Gibson warned us about. But there’s still some cause for hope. At least, I still have hope.

I rarely do “resolutions” because they are sources of stress for me when I fail to keep them. The only resolution I made for the past two years is one I’ve learned from Dave Gonzalez, podcast host of The Storm: don’t fall down. It’s simple, straight-forward, positive in nature, and there’s no big stakes riding on its success or failure. And for 2019, I made it! I did not fall down at all last year. I’ll repeat the intention this year, with hopefully successful results, and no great shame if I don’t.

However, there are things I would like more of in my life this year. Wanting more of something good is normal, and since it’s vague enough, I can just keep these in the back of my mind, and use them to direct me towards better and more enjoyable experiences.

In 2020, I would like more:

More reading – Goodreads tells me I read 15 books in 2019. I can read 16 books this year; that seems doable.

More writing – On my blog, I published 91 posts in 2019, for a total word count of 52,892 words. That’s enough to win a NaNoWriMo, spread out over 12 months instead of one. And that’s with a huge gap in posts at the start of the year. I can write more, and the more I write, the more I seem to have to say.

More movement – I miss running. If you go back in the archives, you’ll see posts about running on a regular basis; both training runs and races. I want to move more in 2020 than I did in the last year. The Lose It! app on my phone tells me I took 1,352,414 steps last year. Is that a lot? Seems like a lot, but it’s just walking. It’s an average of 3,696 per day. I can do better.

More cosplay – I enjoy dressing up in costumes to connect to media and entertainment I enjoy. I only really have two costumes at this point: my Fallout Vault-Suit, and my Old Luke Skywalker costume. I have plans for more, and dreams to improve the ones I already have. I am going to Emerald City Comic Con in March, so I have a goal to get started. It’s fun, creative, and social! I want to do it more.

More travel – I love road trips, I love seeing parts of the world I’ve never seen before, I love getting out of my home town. Last year I think the farthest I traveled was to the coast and back, a couple of times. Travel costs money, though, so that’s a limiting factor. But there are ways to cut down on the costs of that: traveling with someone else, for example. As mentioned above, I’m already planning to visit Seattle in March, so that’s someplace I haven’t seen in a while!

More live music, more karaoke – I’ve gotten into listening to podcasts a lot, especially when I’m home alone or in my car. I think it’s because I’m a little lonely; having the voices of other people in the background helps me feel less alone. I would like to replace some of that time with listening to music because it stimulates a different part of my brain. In addition, though, I want to go out and sing in public — my birthday last week was spent in a karaoke booth at Baby Ketten Klub with my friends, and I loved it. And some of my favorite memories of 2019 were attending concerts with my friends. Want to do that more. Maybe just wandering from club to club in Portland and finding new music… about which I can also write and post here.

More kindness – The world needs more of this. We are all connected to each other, in many ways. This seems touchy-feely, but I would much rather push back against the darkness with kindness and compassion than with hatred and anger. Sure, anger is often justified, but can we use that passion for the protection of the vulnerable, and punishment of the abusive powerful (and maybe more of a focus on the former than the latter)?

What do you want to see more of in 2020? I’ll leave my comments open for a few days. Feel free to say hello and drop a note!

The Ol’ Double Nickel

Fifty-five years ago today, I was born, making today the anniversary of my birth, or “birthday” as the day is commonly known.

Feels weird. Time passes without much effort, but to be honest, for a lot of my life, I never dared to imagine my life beyond the next few days, weeks, or rarely, year. Did not believe I would get this far. Never really thought I would make it past 40, which is now a decade and a half behind me. And yet, here I am.

I have family, and my found family. I have memories and experiences, a tiny sampling of which are documented on this blog, but many many more lives only in my head. If I wrote 500 words a day, I could not set down all the things I’ve done. Might be fun to try, though. This blog has been going for 16 years, though; I might end up repeating myself.

And even as I never thought I’d be this old, it is likewise difficult to imagine what I could be like getting even older. I don’t have plans. Is that weird? Very well, I’m weird. Definitely outside of the mainstream. I’m a 55-year-old guy who has never been married (engaged twice, but both times fell through) who doesn’t own a home and has only owned a car for the last 3-4 years out of necessity. I don’t, as it turns out, like to own things, which puts me on the wrong side of capitalism.

I have my dreams and thoughts but no clue how to achieve them. I have my skills at computer repair and troubleshooting, my writing habits, and the desire to create: podcasts, videos, cosplay. I have this domain, with which maybe I could turn into some cash flow, but, again, not the faintest idea where to start with that.

I don’t have a cat, though I’d like one. The last one I had was a handful and eventually ran off, sadly.

I have a job and a boss who says he believes in me. That’s nice, and a good thing. It’s a good job, and my boss is an ethical and decent man. My co-workers are all good people, too.

I have a beard that many people say they like. It’s fun to keep it trimmed and neat and clean and oiled, though I imagine I’m going to be shaving it off when the weather turns warm.

This is turning in to an inventory. What else do I have? I don’t know. You tell me. What am I known for? If you’re reading this, what is your sense of me? I always feel like I reveal too much, but maybe that’s just my natural caution and anxiety. Maybe I haven’t explained who I am at all. Or maybe what you get from what I write is very different than what I think I say. I would be very interested to know your thoughts. I’ll turn on comments for the next few days.

Happy birthday to me. Tonight I’m meeting my closest friends for dinner and then karaoke. That’s the perfect celebration of another trip around the sun, in my eyes at least. Here’s to another, and another, and as many more as I can get.

Feeling That Way

Took a nap, a late nap, today, Christmas Day, because I had nowhere else to be and no one left to see. Slept in the big bed in the house I’m watching, with a big floofy doggo on my feet, and dreamed of silly things.

When I woke up, it was dark in the house and the dog was downstairs, whining to go out. I tossed on a pair of jeans, some shoes, my hoodie, and walked the dog. Realized I was hungry, remembered one of my favorite diners was open serving prime rib dinner.

A short drive later, I was sitting in the dining room, with a giant slab of meat and potatoes in front of me, a warm boozy drink melting in my stomach. Was nice.

The sounds from the bar, through the doorway, felt fake, like foley from a TV show. Was I dissociating? Maybe I was slipping through the cracks in reality. Maybe I was dreaming. Maybe my dreaming mind didn’t wake up from the nap.

Merry Christmas.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Archer, waiting for a treat.

I’m house-sitting for my sister and her family this Christmas season. It’s a regular occurance; they go away for the holidays and I get to stay in a nice house with a friendly dog. Archer is an English spaniel, very smart, very affectionate, and generally well-behaved.

For the past several years, I’ve been working on teaching Archer a new trick. I want to teach him to speak on command. I spend a little bit of time every day I’m here repeating the command, with the hand gesture, and I try to only reward him when he actually makes a noise.

This year, finally, he’s starting to get it. He will make a noise of some kind, a whine or a soft “ruff”, more than half the time I try. Sometimes he gets frustrated and confused, and he’ll start cycling through all the other tricks he knows: sitting, getting down, rolling over. When he does that, I go back to something simple, like “sit”, and reward him, to re-center him, and then try with “speak” again.

My friend Terry, who is very good with dogs, taught me how to do all this. I’m following his instructions. And the main reason I picked “Speak” as the trick is because, Terry said, “If you can train him to speak, you can then get him to Not Speak.”

This afternoon Archer and I were working on the trick, and then I figured he had enough and started surfing and chilling. Shortly after, he spotted someone walking by the house and started barking. Time to try something new.

I walked over, got his attention, and making the hand gesture, said firmly, “No speak.”

He immediately stopped, and his expression was priceless. I could literally see him processing this new information. He cocked his head, he looked at me, looked away, looked back. It was hilarious and adorable.

He’s a good dog.

I Keep Not Doing Stuff

Hello, readers. Are you still out there?

It’s the middle of December, and I haven’t written here in a long, long while. I was busy during November, as you may recall, attempting NaNoWriMo, trying to write as many words as I could on one story in 30 days. I succeeded, in a way, and then stopped writing. Maybe I tired myself out?

And now I’m back. Today is the first day of the rest of my blogging. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Today, though, today I’m writing whatever comes to mind. I can do this.

It’s Sunday night, and I’m anxious about work tomorrow. I have a lot of stuff I need to get done before the end of the year, and the time crunch is primarily my fault, so I’m mentally beating myself up about it. One piece of me wants just to run away, and another, more serious piece, feels a sense of responsibility to at least show up and try to get it done, and the battle rages in my head.

And while the battle continues, my body sits here in front of the computer or wandering from room to room, with the pressure to do something, anything, warring with the pressure to run and hide, and as a result, I do nothing but feel guilty not doing it.

I guess this is what anxiety feels like? I don’t like it, no, I do not.

I just keep… not doing stuff.

I have done things this weekend. I finally topped up the automatic transmission fluid in my car, for example. My gas mileage has been getting worse, and when I’m driving uphill, the transmission does not shift until very very late, and when that’s happened before it was because my transmission fluid was low. I had bought a quart of it a week ago, but I just never got around to checking and topping it up until Saturday. Saturday, I checked—the dipstick was bone dry, bad bad bad—so I dumped the whole bottle in there, and the rest of the weekend it’s been shifting as it should.

I had bought a shirt from Target back when I was trying to piece together an Old Luke Skywalker costume, but then I bought a full costume, and it arrived and was great, so instead of just eating the cost of that Target shirt I took it back to Target last night.

I’m in a Secret Santa gift exchange with an online group I’m part of, and I had most of the gift purchased, but I wanted to add something local (my giftee is on the East Coast.) Today, in the spirit of getting things done, I went to a little shop in Sellwood and bought a cool artists’ rendition of my favorite street in Sellwood and a book about Portland to include in the gift. Now I have to package it up and mail it out.

And, as you can see, I visited the glorious Bins (a.k.a. The Goodwill Outlet in Sellwood) and, while looking for cheap boots I could wear as part of my Old Luke costume, found the perfect toy lightsaber! Such a serendipitous find. I can’t believe it.

…that’s it, that’s all I can think of for Getting Things Done this weekend. There’s paperwork I could do, and of course packaging up that gift for shipping, and laundry, and probably lots of other things. I can feel the anxiety returning to my brain.

Wait, I can add one other thing: I just wrote a 500+ word post for my blog, something I haven’t done in weeks. Whoo-hoo! That also counts. Hello, readers, I have missed talking to you. Thank you for sticking around!

NaNoWriMo 2019 Wrap-Up

Did I win this year? No… but yes.

My total official wordcount for NaNoWriMo 2019 is 35,735.

Officially and technically, I did not win. I did not reach 50,000 words between 1 November and 30 November. This is the 8th year I’ve attempted it, and the 8th year in which I did not reach the goal.

Why didn’t I finish? Why did I hit a wall about the 20th day in, and grind to a halt? I began to have doubts about the story. I started to overthink the plot I had discovered and started to pick apart the scenes I had already written and how they fit in. I also felt my old friend, my Inner Negative Voice, start to tell me that the story was dumb, it wasn’t worth telling, and it was not interesting to anyone else. I had that old anxiety. Once that fear crept it, it became more and more difficult to continue writing.

However, as many participants have pointed out, every word I wrote was a word I’ve never written before. I wrote 35K words that no one has ever written before, and just by attempting it I’ve done something no one else has ever done: tried to tell my own story, and challenged myself to write something every day. I made it to the 24th day, writing something, even if it wasn’t the goal average of 1,667 per day.

I wrote daily for the first 24 days, then hit a wall. But it’s still better than I’ve ever done before.

This year is the best, the most, I’ve ever done in all the times I’ve tried NaNoWriMo; my previous best was 22,145 in 2016. All told, I’ve written 75,775 words, officially, which just seems like a lot.

I learned many things from the experience. I learned that I can go in with just the vaguest idea, and as long as I keep writing, a story will develop. I didn’t know where the story was going on the first day, and somewhere along the way, I discovered the shape of the story. I don’t yet have all the details, and I created some loose ends and dead ends along the way, but I can see where it should all end up. And I think it’s a story worth telling.

I learned that even though I started with no direction, a direction or path would come to me as I wrote. At least twice, I would realize “If I’m here, then the next logical things to happen are this, this, and this,” and I would write down notes for future scenes, which comforted me. Those future scenes gave me peace of mind that I wouldn’t sit down the next day not knowing what to write next.

I learned that a good way to just get some words down was for me to just rant. There are several passages that are just me, ranting about the ideas and themes I’m working from. Whether or not those stay in the story, or just inform my understanding of the characters’ actions and their world, remain to be seen.

I am going to finish this draft. I’m not done with this tale at all. I owe it to myself to finish the scenes I had figured out I needed, and try to wrap up this version of the story. After it’s done, I can go back and re-draft it, taking out the parts that didn’t work, and moving things around to make more sense, and fixing the plot holes that came up because I was making it up as I go (that’s another thing I learned: if I spotted a plot hole, it’s best to just make a note, and keep going; I did not go back and re-write anything earlier because of something I decided later.)

It was worth it to try. I will do it again.

NaNoWriMo Day 7

I passed 13K words tonight. The writing is going well. I’m seeing the shape of the story now, and I’m having fun.

I probably shouldn’t (many writers advised against it) but I’m going to share a scene from my work in progress. Just a little bit that gives the flavor of what I’m working on, presented without context.

Feel free to let me know what you think; you can reach me through the social medias listed on my About Me page. Or wait for this weekend’s Community Post and share your feedback. I’d love to hear what you think!

Excerpt below the cut.