Mind the Gap

I am the King of Rationalization. Okay, maybe not the King, but I am a Senator or some other high ranking official. And there is no term limit to my reign. I possess the gift (or curse, your call) of being able to analyze any situation from every possible angle and then work overtime to place it in a specific slot in history. This allows me to explain its “whys” and “how comes.” Another term for this particular expertise is “over thinking.” I engage in this exercise because it fills in the life gaps. I hate gaps. Gaps make for a bumpy ride. I want a smooth ride, all the asphalt filled in, all the planks in the boardwalk nailed tight. I guess it is human nature to want to be able to explain why things happen, why they exist the way they do. To be able to trace the “gazzintas*,” the A to B to C formula of life, and see how everything is interconnected and essential in developing the lives we lead. And most of the time I can figure things out—even if I am wrong. It helps that most of my theories are unprovable and I may never know if I am right. Or not. Having an answer of any kind, no matter how flimsy and weak, is better than a gap.

That is the wild card. There always seems to be that one thing (or four) that doesn’t make sense. It eats at you because there is no comfortable slot for it, there is no peaceful resolution—right OR wrong—and it gets forcefully filed under the heading of “God’s Mysterious Ways” (GMW). God gaps. Just based on the largeness and all-knowing attributes of God, they should be easier to deal with but they usually aren’t. I will admit, age has softened my stance on the God gaps and GMW. I used to dislike it, fight it, refuse to bend to it. But there have been enough of them over the years that I am either too tired to gyrate the manipulations or my faith has enlarged to the point of acceptance. It’s probably more of the former but I use the latter as a rationalization to make myself feel better.

And that is what I worry about. Do I use these rationalizations just as a balm? Or do the events really have deeper meanings? Is there anything wrong with just accepting events at face value and moving on? Is that even possible? “Now we see through a glass dimly...” I need to accept that no matter how often I clean my life glasses there will always be a film over the lenses, at least in my current manifestation. One day, the promise is I will see clearly. By then, most of the rationalized stuff probably won’t matter (at least I hope it won’t). Until then, I can’t promise to look away from the tea leaves or not hold my damp finger in the air to test the wind. But I will promise to not hold on too tight to my theories and trust that, however things shake out, there is a plan, a God plan, and it doesn’t matter if I understand it or not. And I will continue to step gingerly over the gaps.

*gazzintas: a term popularized by Jethro Bodine of the Beverly Hillbillies television show. When asked about his 6th grade ed-u-cation, he would explain that he knew his gazzintas: one gazzinta two, two times; two gazzinta four, two times... Simple math made simpler.


Entry One Hundred Four: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is thirty-four of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

The day after he finished painting the outside of his house, Adam was driving to the school for his afternoon workout when the Volvo pinged, alerting him it needed some fuel. He was surprised how long he had driven on that one tank although one stretch of time he had been immobile on the sofa watching movies. All the other driving was short bursts around town and he wasn’t burning much gasoline with that schedule. He pulled into Olsen’s food mart again, confident because it was his second visit and he knew the ins and outs of filling his car’s tank. As he pulled his credit card out of his wallet and prepared to faux pay, he noticed a handwritten sign taped to the handle. He was at a different pump, one aisle over from his first visit, and although a similar sign may have been taped to the original pump, he had no recollection of seeing it before. The sign said, “Pre-pay with cash.” Adam smiled and said, “Damn, that makes a whole lot more sense than using my card.” He walked across the parking lot and entered the store, greeted by the acrid smell of black, squishy bananas, one of the few things the Olsen’s sold without preservatives. He pulled his shirt up to right below his eyes, trying to filter the air filling his nostrils, and started looking behind the cash register for the buttons to manipulate the gas payment. He found a box that looked like a separate register but with fewer numbers, all corresponding to the individual gas pumps. He craned his neck to see what the number was of the pump the Volvo was parked next to and then turned and selected number four on the register. Another space lit up and displayed a dollar sign so he punched in “20.00” using the small keypad at the bottom of the interface. When he returned to his car the pump had turned on and the LED readout was instructing him to make a selection and begin fueling. “Nice. No sense going in debt if I don’t have to.” The last man standing on the face of earth owed no one.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle


Day Six: California Trip

This will be a brief write up on a very long day. We were up at 4:45 am (PST) and heading to the airport by six. Thank goodness Kyle and Shannon had to be there at the same time because we would have never gotten all our luggage in the rental car. Instead, we loaded them up with our extra bags and had plenty of time after check-in and rental car returns to relax a few minutes and eat some breakfast with Kyle, Shannon and Tallulah. Today is Shannon's birthday so we serenaded her over California Pizza and McDonalds. The flight home was long. We had some celebrities on the plane with us from San Diego to Atlanta. Some of the members of Third Day were eating breakfast in the same area as us and we surmised correctly that they would be on our flight. Mac Powell (lead singer/guitar), Tai Anderson (bass) and, I think, David Carr (drums) were in first class on our plane. Kind of cool, but not real cool, just a little.

Basically it was a flight day. Long and boring. No delays, no lost luggage, no hassles; boring in a good way. The trip was fantastic and everyone had a great time. And we are all glad to be home. There are a few pictures—mainly of us eating—but no picture of the members of Third Day. it was 7 am and no one needs to be hassled at 7 am in the airport. I hope you enjoyed the updates. Technology is cool...

Day Five: California Trip

What is a trip to California without a visit to the beach? I'm sure it would be adequate but we decided to make our last full day in the other Sunshine State a trip to Huntington Beach. When we left the hotel the weather was nasty yet again. The dark clouds hovering over our destination did not give us a lot of hope for a nice beach day but we were committed and decided to make the best of what we were dealt. We pulled onto Main Street in Huntington Beach at 11:30 am and proceeded to do the regular tourist schtick—walking the pier, watching the locals, meandering up and down the beach looking for shells. Within an hour the weather had done a 180 and the rest of the day was sunny and cool. Chamber of Commerce weather and a welcome relief to the previous days.

We also sat on some of the stairs set up by the street and watched folks play volleyball, listen to hippies beat on drums, pet large reptiles, cruise through the art exhibits and generally enjoying the day. We ended up eating at Duke's, the seafood restaurant at the base of the Huntington Beach pier and feasted on really good seafood meals, looking out over the beach and preparing to head back home.

Once back at the hotel, we took a little time to pack our suitcases and then all met for one last session in the hot tub. We broke the rules for maximum people allowed in the tub but we deserved it on our last night. We have to leave at 6 am in the morning in order to make it to San Diego in time for our flight back to Florida. Fortunately, Kyle and crew leave at the same time so we will have one last caravan through SoCal together before we fly home. I imagine tomorrow will be a little light on words and photos but I will try to get something up to offer some closure. Check back for that tomorrow.

As usual, lots of pictures here. Home within 24 hours. Can't say I am disappointed to write that. As the saying goes, a great place to visit, but...


Day Four: California Trip

The idea for day four was to stay local and try to avoid a rushed and harried day. We were fairly successful, starting with a leisurely breakfast then showers and finally setting out to explore Old Town Temeculah and then tour the campus of Calvary Chapel Bible College. Tallulah blessed us with wearing the other princess dress we got her for her birthday but this time wore her black hi-top sneakers to round out the outfit. Before we began any of the walking tours we made a pit stop at In-N-Out Burgers for sustenance. The boys convinced Uncle Kyle to order "off the menu" and he ended up with a 4 by 4 (a hamburger with 4 patties and 4 pieces of cheese) and fries "animal style" (fries with cheese, onions and secret sauce on top.) Jordan and William were pleased with their prank but Kyle was brave and attacked the lunch. I'm not sure it was a great way to start the afternoon but he seemed to survive it.

We walked around Old Town Temeculah for a couple of hours and saw an old west shoot out, bought cheese and wine and laughed a lot. A major storm was blowing in so we took off to show the Kyle Colle family around the campus of CCBC before it rained. Of course, it never rained so the tour was completed successfully. Upon return to the hotel we all hit the hot tub for a long soak then gathered in the lobby to have our cheese and wine tasting party. The kids (and some adults) were still hungry afterwards so we got Mexican food take-out and ate it in the dining area of the hotel lobby. Kyle and I eventually burned a cigar out by the pool and then spent some more time in the lobby chatting with the wives and Laura. Tallulah had passed out on the floor right after dinner so we decided to let her sleep and try to plan Sunday. We never did figure out what we are going to do—I think we are going to Huntington Beach for the day—but whatever we do starts at 10 am.

As is the pattern, photos are here. Enjoy...


Day Three: California Trip

It is late and it has been a long but fun day. We started the morning by having breakfast with my brother and his family in the hotel lobby. We gave Tallulah her birthday presents that we had not sent her back in January on her real birthday. We gave her some dress up clothes and they were a hit because she immediately put on one of the dresses and the fancy shoes and did not take them off the rest of the day. The plan for the day was to head south and take the tour of the Taylor Guitar Factory in El Cajon near San Diego. The weather is still nasty—rainy and windy and cold— so it was a good day to be inside. We arrived in plenty of time and really enjoyed watching how they make the guitars from hunks of wood to finished pieces of art. William, Jordan and I were very disappointed that they did not give us a free guitar for being so attentive (or good looking or for having pleasant breath) but we consoled ourselves by purchasing some t-shirts.

From there we grabbed a bite to eat at Panda Express and then found a mall to wander around for a couple of hours. Mainly we watched Kyle and Shannon buy stuff which was cathartic and relaxing in a strange way. Maybe that was just me...

We then made our way to Extraordinary Desserts which had been recommended to me by several people who have visited San Diego. This place was decadent in all the right ways. We indulged in Kona coffee, red wine, cheese boards, panini sandwiches and ridiculously large desserts. I am not a good enough writer to describe them but fortunately for you, we have pictures. Along with the regular pictures of our day, I have added a set of artsy shots that Laura took today when I let her take over the camera during the Taylor Guitar tour (and a few she snapped at Extraordinary Desserts). She did a nice job and I wanted to give a set of her own to show off her skills. Come back again tomorrow for more fun and merriment with the Colles in California.


Day Two: California Trip

Graduation Day. After a rather odd and restless night of sleep (and waking up at 7 am which was 10 am EST which was a tad bit disorienting), we crawled out of bed and began the day. Laura called and let us know that she was bringing two friends to the hotel to get ready for graduation—showers, curling irons and blow dryers. They were all checked out of their dorms and didn't have a place to prep. Once they arrived the rest of us decided to give them their space and we left to run some errands. Target, haircuts for the boys and then we found a beautiful park to walk around and enjoy the weather. We eventually ate lunch at Chipotle and took Laura a salad back to the hotel. Graduation was at two in the afternoon so we had to be there a little early to ensure decent seats (i.e: a good enough view to use the video camera). The weather turned nasty at noon—rain, windy, cold— but it cleared right before the ceremony so apparently God was pleased. The ceremony was nice (and brief) and photos and video were obtained. Dad was pleased.

After the graduation ceremony they have a reception with food and lots of mingling, hugging, squealing and a few tears. William and Laura met with and said goodbye to all their friends which was pretty final since neither will be back to California in the foreseeable future. We were back at the hotel by five and as Laura took a nap the rest of us hit the hotel hot tub. It was a nice way to relax and wait on my brother and his family to arrive. Unfortunately, bad weather in Phoenix is delaying their departure so we are going to have to go eat without them. I will update before bed if there is anything to update.

Pictures are up for day two at the Flikr site. Check them out for a visual representation of the day.

UPDATE: My brother and his wife and daughter were delayed to the point that we decided to go get dinner without them. At one point, I received a text from Shannon that said: "Just slowed departures. We are #15. Tallulah is screaming from the depths of her throat. Buy wine." I'm guessing they are having a wonderful trip so far...

Day One: California Trip

It goes without saying that when you travel across the country it is a long day. So I guess I don't have to say that today was a long day. (Did I just say it was a long day? Sorry...) We left Tallahassee at noon and survived a 3.5 hour layover in Atlanta. We ate at South of the Border (which Jordan referred to as "microwave Mexican food") in the airport and discovered that sometimes a Shirley Temple is made with real Coke and cherry syrup. Yum! We flew out of the ATL at 4:30 (EST) and arrived in San Diego at 6:20 (Pacific), secured the rental car and headed north to meet up with Laura on campus. The homecoming was great and the weather was fantastic—windy and cool. We met a few of her friends and then whisked her away for dinner. I grossed everyone out by ordering liver and onions at supper but other than that it was fairly uneventful. We finally checked into our hotel at 10:00 pm (1:00 am EST) and everyone but myself are dead out in bed. I wanted to get an update in before I retire and to also point you to my Flikr site to view daily picture uploads. I will admit that today's batch is fairly lame but it gave me a chance to set up the page. They will get better as the week/weekend progresses forward. Hopefully, the updates will get better as well.

Tomorrow is the graduation ceremony and Kyle, Shannon and Miss Tallulah arrive in the evening. Then things will get hopping. 'Til tomorrow...


Our Own Little Worlds

Right now is a very busy, interesting, potentially stressful time in the life of my family. Along with the constant day-to-day requirements of work, providing and accountability to bosses, friends and each other, all of us have something big and consuming we are dealing with. It may be temporary and it may be a positive thing but whatever category it falls under it has the potential to preoccupy and take most of our focus. My wife’s mother is seriously ill and in need of constant care. My daughter is graduating from college this week and planning on moving to Italy for a year in the fall. My oldest son and his girlfriend are engulfed in wedding plans for her sister as well as juggling work, school and ministry. My youngest son is preparing for finals in high school and becoming a senior and all it involves. I am maneuvering through some unexpectedly treacherous waters on the career front. My parents are planning their 50th wedding anniversary later this summer. My brother is preparing to move to another state in June to settle down and start a career. My sister is in the middle of the failing health of in-laws as well as her first born preparing to graduate high school and go off to college. There is a lot going on (not even bringing up earthquakes and other natural disasters all over the world) and, surprisingly, it is easy to lose sight of that. At least where it concerns everybody else.

What I worry about on a personal level is getting so wrapped up in my situation that I forget that other folks in my circle are dealing with their own circumstances. Or worse, I expect others to be as consumed with my issues as I am, regardless of what they may be dealing with. Both scenarios can play out and breed resentment and pouting. (I assume this would be one of the definitions of “selfish” but that puts such a harsh spin on it that I would rather not try and label it.) We are so wired to be self serving that, sadly, it takes effort to be concerned about someone else. And when we do make the effort it isn’t always repaid. Should that matter? Does it make it any less “right” if others are not “playing along?” Before you answer, remember that thinking of others is a command straight from the mouth of Jesus. This is how our pastor succinctly describes the Christ centered life: Love God. Love folks. Those are the essentials. At times like these—and aren’t they always “times like these”?—it is good to be reminded.


Death by Dietary Supplement

I recently received some information from my brother about taking a new dietary supplement. He had read some research and was impressed with the results so he wanted to pass it along. The pill is something called CLA and it is supposed to help deal with weight gain, specifically in the belly area. At my age, any type of voodoo treatment to slow down the expansion of my girth is, at the minimum, worth checking out. He told me that the main ingredient in the pills is something that humans used to ingest regularly through our beef when cows were allowed to graze on grass. I suppose this means it is a natural ingredient and therefore safe to ingest. (Then again, there are 60 mg of Ox bile extract in the digestive enzymes I down after meals so “natural” is not always pretty.) Cows are mostly grain fed these days so they can get fat and to the market faster and the farmers can make their money quicker and the circle of manufactured life can chug along seamlessly. What we are supposed to infer from all of this information is that grain-fed cows have made human meat eaters fatter because we aren’t getting enough safflower seeds in our beef. Whatever. My brother is a doctor and he can read medical journals and follow along without nodding off so I tend to trust his information. (Although I notice he does sleep a lot...)

My wife and I decided to buy some CLA at our local Vitamin Shoppe and watch the pounds begin to melt away. Apparently, this CLA racket is big business because there were seven different manufacturers of this particular supplement lining the shelves which complicated the decision making process. I refused to buy the one with the label that had a hand drawn dragon on it so that was an immediate help. Two others were more expensive than the rest of the options so they were quickly crossed of the list even though there was a chance that the cheaper pills saved money in manufacturing costs because they employed illegal immigrant children to harvest the safflower fields for a dime a day. Then I noticed that the Vitamin Shoppe brand CLA was two-for-one and the fact that I could save even more money caused me to quickly forget the Safflower Kids. It is interesting how being shallow and on a budget go hand in hand. We had just had lunch so my wife cracked open a jar of CLA in the car so we could start the process immediately. The pills were a deep reddish brown color and gigantic. I made her read the directions carefully to make sure they were not suppositories. The saving factor was that we had inadvertently grabbed the gel cap versions of the pills which gave us a fighting chance at swallowing them. I cannot think of a worse fate than to be known as the guy who choked to death on a dietary supplement. Irony does not begin to describe that scenario.

We have been taking the pills for two weeks—one with each meal—and the results are mixed. It is too early to give specifics but stay tuned and I will continue to share our progress.


Dreams, Realized

I found out yesterday that my middle child, my only daughter, has been accepted as the intern to the Dean of Women at the new Calvary Chapel Bible College extension campus in Northern Italy. She will depart late August and work both semesters until next May. She graduates next week and this was the next post-college step she wanted to take. She is very excited and rightfully so; she wants nothing more than to be an available, pliable container for God to use and he led her through this door. She is running through it with enthusiasm.

I am thrilled that God paved the way for her to follow through on her first option. Any of us crusty veterans of prayer and The Journey can testify that is not always the case. I’m also proud that she is growing into the type of woman that a startup extension campus wants to have on staff to minister to their students. Her application (which she let me edit--I’m still allowed in that circle and I am thankful) was a deep, well thought-out verbal breakdown of her heart. After reading it I would have hired her and I am pleased that someone else had the sense and foresight to see the same thing.

Occasionally, in the midst of all the gushing and excitement, a small taste of loss jumps up and taps the back of my throat. It’s natural; the bond between us is strong. I will miss her but I can’t begin to kid myself that I didn’t see this coming. She was destined for this, her heart wide open, begging to please, ready and willing for anything—as long as it was God-directed—and it has been a privilege to watch her grow into this phase. For now, I will enjoy the summer with her home and make sure her mom and I get our passports up to date. God may direct us to a European vacation next spring (I’ll have my daughter pray for us...)


Entry One Hundred Three: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is thirty-three of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Thirteen
Adam returned to the school gym every day, eventually increasing the intensity of his workouts to a respectable level although there was no one to gain respect from but himself and that would just have to do. In between he started several projects around the house and eventually got all six neighborhood yards mowed and edged. He finally made a trip to Phelps Hardware and after several rounds with the paint mixer, was able to create the right shade of robin’s egg blue for the exterior of his house. That project alone kept him occupied for several days although the task was made easier by all the ladders and high-end painting equipment he was able to procure from the hardware store.

He also had to make another trip to the IGA but knew it would be his last unless he took the time to shovel out all the rotting “fresh food.” The stench was overwhelming and the flies were multiplying to Biblical plague numbers. To delay having to clean the place out he doubled up on canned goods and made sure he had enough frozen dinners to fill his freezer. It finally crossed his mind that there shouldn’t be any flies if, as the Squatters had promised, all life—including animals—had been wiped off the earth. Then he spotted the Dove Bars in the freezer and forgot all about that annoying contradiction.

Adam had established a new rhythm, a healthier pace, and his outlook slowly improved. His decisions were safe, not adventurous at all, but his mind was beginning the healing process and, even though the chasm was still prevalent, the workouts and the active chores at home helped him ignore the gnawing emptiness, solid and unmoving, still echoing inside him. He had answered the question “What can I do?” at least temporarily, with trying to maintain normalcy, going about his life much as he would have at any other time, only now he was by himself. It wasn’t perfect but, considering the situation, he was starting to assume it was as good as it was going to get.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle


Mother's Day

Right now, my wife, the mother of my children, is sleeping in her favorite chair in the family room. It has been a hectic morning which started at the early service at church (which we required the boys to attend much to their chagrin) and was followed by lunch at Carraba's then a visit with her mother. (We supplied the lunch for her mom and her friends which was chicken pot pies and sweet potato's from Boston Market). With all the requirements out of the way, we are home and relaxing, spending Sunday afternoon as God planned it--me listening to a baseball game on the radio and her napping. This is Mother's Day, her day, and what makes my wife the greatest mother in the world (after my mom) is that she has requested we go see Iron Man this afternoon as the capper to her day. Is she cool or what?

Speaking of cool, my very own mother--69 years young--completed the 2008 Danskin® Women's Triathlon this morning at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. She is a cancer survivor (over 25 years) and was joined by my sister in the event. I am very proud of her and wanted to give her some digital love and congratulations. The women in my life are amazing...


Casual Friday Humor Post

P.J. O'Rourke has an article in the LA Times which is the speech he would give at a commencement ceremony—if only someone had asked him. Very, very funny and worth a read. I especially liked this section:

The Bible is very clear about one thing: Using politics to create fairness is a sin. Observe the Tenth Commandment. The first nine commandments concern theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, et cetera. Fair enough. But then there's the tenth: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

Here are God's basic rules about how we should live, a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts. And, right at the end of it we read, "Don't envy your buddy because he has an ox or a donkey." Why did that make the top 10? Why would God, with just 10 things to tell Moses, include jealousy about livestock?

Well, think about how important this commandment is to a community, to a nation, to a democracy. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don't whine about what the people across the street have. Get rich and get your own.

Have a great weekend...


Random Thought

I check a regular list of blogs each day, usually in the morning before I get fully cranked up with the necessities of the day. The odd thing is I always check them in the same order even though that means jumping around in my list of bookmarks. What is up with that?


Entry One Hundred Two: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is thirty-two of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Adam sat on one of the wood benches between the lockers, bent at the waist, head between his legs, trying to catch enough air in his lungs to get past his dizziness. He knew he had overdone his workout, but in a perverse and nauseating way, it felt good to be physical again. Once he started, he had trouble stopping, even though his body had clocked out ten minutes before his mind had agreed. He had walked for fifteen minutes on the treadmill, keeping the pace very slow, and then had worked the weight circuit twice on the universal weight machines. He had used very little weight but the resistance was adequate for his torpid constitution. He then spent another fifteen minutes on the treadmill and that is when he physically shut down. He was able to muster enough clarity to turn off the machine and stagger to the locker room where he now waited for some relief.

When he felt strong enough to stand he lit a cigarette and made his way to the coaches office, not sure what he would find, but hoping to find some towels. The office was open but there weren’t any supplies, as least in plain sight. As he was walking out he noticed a wooden dowel with a loop of wire extending out of one end, hanging on a nail in the door jamb, a key, secured by the wire, dangling to one side. He picked it up and the word “laundry” was written on it in marker. He turned left out of the office, looking for a locked door, and found it around the corner. The key worked and when he turned on the light he faced several wooden shelves stocked with white towels, rolls of white tape and plastic tubs of orange analgesic rub. The room smelled like a spearmint greenhouse, much more pleasant than the room he had just vacated. He grabbed two towels off a shelf and walked back to the lockers. He hadn’t brought any shampoo or soap but assumed he could find something in one of the lockers. After ten minutes of searching he turned up nothing and came to the conclusion that the males of Lincoln High School had been pigs. “I’ll bet the girls used soap,” he said, and he walked out the locker room door, back into the gym and pushed through the doors leading into the girl’s locker room.

The first thing he felt as he entered was the strong sense that he shouldn’t have invaded that sacred space. It was empty, of course, and it looked very similar to the boy’s locker room. The lockers were blue, the benches were made of wood and it too smelled like feet, but the aura of estrogen was still strong and even without a host body to work through, its ability to make him uncomfortable and to feel he was in forbidden territory was creepy. Adam lowered his head and marched toward the first row of lockers, opening the first one he came across without a lock. His faith in women was vindicated when he found shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap on the small shelf at the top of the locker. He grabbed all three and turned to leave but then hesitated. “What the hell; I dreamed about this in high school so I might as well take advantage of it now.” He turned around, walked toward the back, stripped off his clothes, placed them in a pile at the entrance of the girl’s shower, stepped in and turned on one of the shower heads. Although he was still uncomfortable he knew he didn’t have to be and that was a small but noteworthy perk of being the last man standing on the face of the earth.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle


About Mr. Mahoney

It has been brought to my attention that the snippets of my current story that I share occasionally on this blog can be annoying if you are joining it in the middle and have no idea what the heck is going on. To allay those frustrations, I present a brief primer on "Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!"

Adam Mahoney awakes one morning to discover that he is the last man standing on the face of the earth. Overnight, a small group of aliens (they prefer to be referred to as Squatters) have wiped out every living creature on earth except for Mr. Mahoney. They inform him that he is on his own (though they have disposed of the bodies) and they will be watching him to see how he responds--mainly for entertainment value but they also have a wager between them as to the results. So begins Adam's new life, trying to figure out what to do to survive, initially, in a small town in Georgia and eventually in the world at large.

The excerpts start here. Reading them in this format can be extremely frustrating because you are reading "up" the page instead of down but Blogger is free and it is what it is. If you are really interested in the story let me know and we can work something out. Enjoy...


Entry One Hundred One: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is thirty-one of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Even after several weeks void of human activity, the locker room still had the funky scent of sweat, balm and feet. Adam stopped at the entrance and looked around, smiling at the immediate memories that flooded him. High school gym class was never his favorite but the familiarity of a room that looked exactly as it had 14 years earlier was enough to make him smile. In the midst of everything that had changed—his life, the world--the recognizable blue, metal lockers and wooden benches dissecting the aisles between them gave him a secure feeling. He moved slowly between the rows of lockers, running his fingers along the outside of the closed doors. Some had locks on them, most did not. He remembered sharing a locker with two friends and the ghastly stench that was generated by damp clothes and towels, ignored in the bottom of the chamber for weeks. He followed the maze to the far side of the room and pushed through two swinging doors, entering the weight room. The equipment was new, as was the graphic painted on the wall of a bulldog, the school mascot, snarling and growling at some unseen opponent. The artwork itself was amateurish, probably commissioned to one of the social outcasts toiling in an art class. “The Squatters spared them a life of frustration and disappointment, if the mural represents the best they could do.” He walked over to a treadmill in the corner of the small room and he turned it on. It immediately started humming, its sound building as the walking surface broke through its lethargy and began a consistent spin. He found the control for the speed and dialed it down to the pace of “leisurely stroll” and straddled the moving base, holding on to the safety rails with his hands. When he felt he had good timing on the speed, he lifted one leg and gingerly placed it on the spinning belt and smoothly dropped into a walk. He swung his arms, emulating a natural walking motion and continued for several minutes. Satisfied he could handle it, he stopped the treadmill and stepped off as it slowed to a stop. “Let’s do it,” he said, and he made his way back to the locker room to change clothes.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle


Take A Moment

A few weeks ago, my 16-year-old son, my youngest child, quit running track. On the surface it seems pretty innocuous, just another decision in an active life. Sure, track was a long shot, an attempt to scratch an athletic itch after a promising baseball “career” was abruptly ended because of three elbow surgeries. And his decision to walk away from running and concentrate on his music was mature and absolutely right. Regardless of all the sane logic attached, I had a surprisingly concrete, physical reaction when the decision was made. Maybe it was a sense of loss—after more than twenty years of sports activities with my kids, it was no more. Combine that with the complicated ache of unsatisfied athletic potential in my youngest child, and “loss” doesn’t feel like a stretch.

He is such a good athlete and he faced so many obstacles, almost as if athletic success was working against him. He fought a good fight—we all did—but the reality is he’s done. The loss (or sadness or whatever it should be labelled) is just another moment to deal with. Life is crammed with them, wall-to-wall. Some are big—not too many, I hope—but most are small. I would categorize this one as medium. String all those moments together and you have your life. This might be a right-brained characteristic, but I am conscious of the moments. I can’t be certain but I don’t think everyone senses the small moments; they only see the medium or bigger. They may notice the gaps created by the small moments, the empty spots on the string between the noticeable ones, but what causes those gaps escapes them. I don’t see gaps. I feel most of the moments, if not all. The way a book feels in my hand or the power of a quality pen dragging across paper. The first sizzle and smell as the bleu cheese burger hits the grill. The first sip of wine and the unexpected chord in a song. Lots of little, small moments.

I’ll get over this particular moment, this sports moment, because my son has plenty more to provide. But I won’t rush the recovery. The ache is a reminder of an eventful, memorable past as well as that another corner has been turned. Besides, even the painful moments are worth remembering.


Thought to Ponder on Casual Friday

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow.
The shadow is what we think of it;
the tree is the real thing.

- Abraham Lincoln

Entry One Hundred: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is thirty of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Twelve

Adam pulled into the parking lot of Lincoln High School, his alma mater, and veered to the left, looking for the sports wing of the school. He hadn’t been to the campus in years but it didn’t appear to be radically different from his days roaming its halls so he was confidant a building as prominent as the gym would be easy to locate. And it was. He parked along the outside of the large, metal building, grabbed his bag of new clothes and the shoes for cross training and walked to where the gym and the school building connected. If his memory served him correctly, he thought he could climb through a window near that intersection and gain entry into the gym through the double doors inside. The windows were slats of glass, the kind that rolled out by cranking a handle, so most of them were loose and it didn’t take him long to find one that was easy to dismantle. Once inside, he was happy to find everything unlocked and accessible.

He pushed the handle on one of the double doors leading into the gym and the loud clank of its release echoed throughout the large, empty space. Light was filtering through the windows lining the top of the walls but it was not enough to brighten the floor. He scanned for the big gray box that held the light switches and thought he saw it on the far end of the gym. His shoes squeaked with each step on the varnished parquet floor and the absence of any other sounds amplified his noisy soles. When he reached the light box, he pulled open the cover, the sound of the metal latch releasing giving off a loud popping sound that bounced off the walls, and he pushed the three handles up to turn on the lights. They did not come on immediately but there was an instant buzz, like a large electric razor had been switched on, and the overhead lamps slowly warmed to a slight glow and held, the same routine they’d followed for years. Adam stood and stared at the lights, all of them covered with wire cages to protect them from wayward throws and bounces, waiting for them to kick in to full illumination. As the lights slowly grew brighter and his eyes adjusted to the darker surroundings, he saw a wheeled, metal frame that held several basketballs under one of the basketball goals. He walked toward it, shoes still screeching even though he tried to walk on his toes, and pulled one the balls off the top of the wheeled rack. He bounced it once, caught it and the thud reverberated against all four walls, flying all around him and surprising him with how long the noise sustained above the drone of the lights. He bounced it again, this time pushing it down with his hand twice, two dribbles, and then grabbed it, letting the echoes fade before repeating the exercise a few more times. The noise of the bouncing ball off the floor, singular and unaccompanied by anything else, sounded lonely to Adam. It reminded him of his situation and he knew he couldn’t deal with it, at least not that moment. Combined with the squeak of his shoes, the gloomy duet was too much and he placed the ball back in the rack, bent down, untied and took off his sneakers and started walking toward the locker rooms in his stocking feet. He veered right, choosing to enter the boy’s locker room, “because that’s what I am.” At least that hadn’t changed.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle


Write, Right, Rite

One of the dangers of trying to be a writer is that it is sometimes easier to study writing than it is to actually sit down and write. No, that is wrong. It is much easier to read and talk about writing than to commit to the “butt in chair” time that is required to produce something. Having said that, I want to share some thoughts from Flannery O’Connor. She is one of the patron saints of writing deeply spiritual stories that don’t appear as such on the surface. She died fairly young but she left us a trove of thought-provoking stories and thoughts on writing. The following blurbs are from her book “Mystery and Manners.” It is a collection of articles, speeches and essays and the majority have to do with being a writer in general and, in some of the most interesting pages, a writer of faith. Time for me to shut up and hand the reigns to Miss O’Connor...

Any discipline can help your writing: logic, mathematics, theology, and of course and particularly drawing. Anything that helps you to see, anything that makes you look. The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that doesn’t require his attention.

The fact is that anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days. If you can’t make something out of a little experience, you probably won’t be able to make it out of a lot. The writer’s business is to contemplate experience, not to be merged in it.

In fact, so many people can now write competent stories that the short story as a medium is in danger of dying of competence. We want competence, but competence by itself is deadly. What is needed is the vision to go with it, and you do not get this from a writing class.
And one of my favorites...
Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.

Enjoy your day. Start reading a new book.