You never know...

I wrote the following while I was attending a very important meeting where very important things were being discussed. It is proof why I never have and probably never will get much higher on the corporate ladder.

During the course of the meeting, the buzz of engaged Blackberry’s could be heard above the drone of the individual speakers, like muted cicadas at dusk. Just like that except it was in a conference room and it was nine a.m. But other than that it was a lot like muted cicadas at dusk.

At least it looked like I was taking notes.


Walking Stick

Tonight I was driving through my neighborhood and I spotted an older woman earnestly walking toward me. She was obviously “power walking,” her determination evident in her gait and lean. What was unusual was she had a dowel, probably a broom handle, resting horizontally across her lower back, being held in place by both her arms which were wrapped around it at the elbow. Like a prisoner in shackles (only it was obvious the positioning was self imposed and she could escape whenever she wanted). The interesting thing about the incident is that I immediately understood why she did it. By keeping the stick across her lower back, it made her stand up straight and dissuaded her from slouching. It probably helped her breathing as well as strengthened her core. Plus she could still fend off dogs if needed.

As the explanatory thoughts completed their trudge through my mind, I realized I am old. Elderly people devising wacky ways to stay fit don’t seem to phase me. Ten years ago I would have wondered what the heck that lady was doing. Twenty years ago I would have mocked her. Today, I admired her ingenuity and sent her a silent “kudos.” Heck, maybe in another ten years I’ll have the guts to join her.


Mr. Goiter: Part Five

This was only funny if you found humor in the thought of the two goiters knocking up against each other and making the two fellows lean away from the center. It was before the internet so I obviously made up the French but lighten up with the criticism... it's only a cartoon.


Mr. Goiter: Part Four

I never considered whether Struma was a fresh water or salt water fish. At least I didn't put him in a pool...


Mr. Goiter, Part Three

I guess the "life work" theme has been with me for a long time. The disinterested dog with the bandanna collar is a puzzling addition. Maybe he thinks Mr. Goiter is contagious...


A little poetry

I read this today. It is just a snippet (the beginning) of a poem written by James Weldon Johnson. He is better known for a song he penned with his brother (for an event for Abraham Lincoln in Jacksonville, Florida) but I read this and thought it was worth sharing. Words, done right, are timeless. Enjoy...

The glory of the day was in her face,
The beauty of the night was in her eyes.
And over all her loveliness, the grace
Of Morning blushing in the early skies.

The Glory of the Day Was in Her Face
James Weldon Johnson

Mr. Goiter, Part Two

The depth and layers of the "humor" here leave me speechless. But I can still write stuff...


It once was lost…

I was digging through some old boxes of stuff this past weekend, trying to purge some things and take advantage of the job change to reorganize my… well, my stuff. One of the boxes contained a surprise, an assumed long lost folder that contained five ragged sheets of paper I thought I would never see again. Ladies and gentlemen, I found the original drawings of Mr. Goiter.

Mr. Goiter was a character that bubbled out of my brain in 1984 while I was unemployed and interviewing with advertising agencies in Atlanta. It was only five panels but it was inspired. At least I thought so at the time. Over the years I misplaced the drawings and have never quit hoping that I would find them tucked away in some obscure place. And that is exactly what happened. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s a good thing I don’t ever throw anything away but I will say that it is a good thing that I found the obscure place before my wife. She tends to toss first, ask later. Mr. Goiter (and his pet fish Struma), lives!

For a special treat (I realize that is subjective but I will assume specialness until informed otherwise), I am going to present the drawings to you one at a time over the next few days. They are presented as they were drawn, neither edited nor cleaned up, quickly drawn in my sketchbook, sitting in the lobby of an ad agency long ago shut down and forgotten. All added comments are by the author.

The only thing I regret is not making the establishment a “Bar & Gill.” Hard to believe that was drawn 24 years ago…


Reality Review: Hurl!

Warning: This is not one of my typically deep, spiritual, thought-provoking, life-changing posts. Seriously, it's not. I have to take a break every now and then and keep it real...

I finally got the opportunity to catch a couple of episodes of the new show on the G4 channel called "Hurl!" They have been running commercials for it for several weeks (which I see as I feed my "Ninja Warrior" addiction) and it looked to have some promise. The premise is this: five people have to eat a lot of food and then they are put in situations that try to make them vomit. The last person standing who has not lost it is declared the winner.

The first episode I watched had five guys eating macaroni and cheese and then having to survive rolling around in a cage/ball for five minutes. Whoever survived that had to eat pumpkin pies for four minutes and then get back in the cage/balls to get rolled around again. One guy finally hurled when they made them eat more pies while sitting in the cage/balls. The winner gets $1000 in cash and the Iron Stomach Award.

Frankly, I was a little disappointed. For one, you don't get to see the people actually barf. They cover it with a graphic of little buckets that is supposed to show how intense it is (three buckets, five buckets, etc.). The other problem was there were no girls playing. Both shows I have seen have had all male contestants. What ever happened to Title IX! I demand equal time not because I am fair or have a keen sense of justice but because watching girls throw up is a lot funnier than watching dudes. Pretty simple, really.

Two Buckets: Watch it if you want (but you will need to use your imagination).


Friday Report

I started a new job today. Odd starting on a Friday but it does get the whole first day drama out of the way so you can start the next week clean. I have had many a "first day at the new job" in my active work history and, to be honest, every time I really do think it will be the last one. But this new chapter is in front of me and the first bold step is out of the way. New surroundings, new people, new situations. I pray the stories continue to reveal themselves and that I can put them into words...


Food Musings

I eat a lot of frozen, pre-packaged meals for lunch. Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice... I've tried them all and have been eating them for years. One thing I have noticed is they smell better than they taste. If I was unfortunate enough to have had my nostrils seared shut by a blast of hot steam or a toxic chemical, my guess is I would not enjoy the little lunches as much as I do now.

(Wait a second. I don't really enjoy them. I would much rather be eating Chick-fil-a or sushi every day for lunch but budget and waistline constraints do not allow that to happen. Let's just say I appreciate the fact that I can get somewhat satisfactory meals for a pretty cheap price and that makes them palatable. I should run for office...)

The one thing that would really suck is if I could not heat them up in a microwave oven. They still print instructions on the boxes for heating the meals in a conventional oven and it takes 35 minutes! I feel really bad for people without access to a microwave oven (maybe a little worse than how I feel bad for me not owning an iPhone). I cannot imagine the disappointment one would feel after waiting over half an hour to eat ginger garlic stir fry with chicken and realize the kitchen smells better than the taste of the paste in the plastic bowl. There is no point here, people. I'm just saying...


“It’s a bad night to be an atheist...”

Last night I had the privilege of watching a wonderful story unfold at, of all places, the home run derby at the Major League Baseball All-Star game. The first round provided all viewers—at home or in Yankee stadium—with a remarkable display of skill and power as Josh Hamilton hit 28 home runs, at least three of them over 500 feet. “So what?” you may be asking. Well, Josh Hamilton’s story is a lot bigger than baseball. Follow this link for more detail in his own words or this link for a long article in Sports Illustrated. Read on for a synopsis.

In 1999, Josh, a high school senior, was the first player chosen in the MLB amateur draft. He was a “five tool player” and considered by many professional scouts to be “the best baseball player I’ve ever seen.” Instead of fulfilling his potential, he unbelievably squandered everything by abusing drugs and alcohol until he was eventually kicked out of baseball. His path was ugly and his spiral down was harsh. But he came out of it. With a lot of family support and a renewed relationship with Jesus, he overcame his addictions and was eventually reinstated into baseball. This year he is an All-Star and last night his hitting display left everyone speechless (except Joe Morgan, but that is another bone to pick for another day).

Two things stood out to me last night. One, he chose his 71 year old former American Legion coach to pitch to him during the competition. To share the stage at that moment had to be a thrill for him and even though he threw over 80 pitches during the night (and may never recover), you could sense the moment was very special to both of them. The second thing that jumped out to me was the statement by Rick Reilly, one of the talking heads on ESPN (who just started at the four letter network after a long career at SI). During the first round onslaught he mentioned where Josh came from and how remarkable it was. He was a “former heroin and cocaine user, three years out of baseball, has a spiritual rebirth and is now hitting bombs in Yankee Stadium with all the fans chanting his name. It’s a bad night to be an atheist.” I can’t add to that...


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

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

The weather had started to cool and Adam, unsure of the date, had to wear a sweatshirt for the first time when he drove to the gym. He had lost track of the month and day of the week during his movie induced trauma time on the sofa and had never been concerned about getting caught up. There didn’t seem to be a need. Adopting a primitive mindset, he reasoned he would adjust his clothes as the days presented themselves. He decided to take the long way to the school, winding his way through the downtown area, a route he had been driving more frequently over the last few weeks. The deserted downtown didn’t disturb him as much as it used to and he even derived some pleasure and comfort from seeing the places he had grown up patronizing as a child and young man. He felt much older than his actual 32 years but that only bothered him after a workout or during a severe bout of melancholy, struggling to stem the gnawing in his gut. If he stayed busy he could live in the present, forgetting the past and ignoring the future, but the slow glides down the main drag in town were different, affecting him on a distinct level. He couldn’t nail down why and eventually decided to quit trying, enjoying the moment for whatever it was offering.

As he came to the end of the street he glanced toward his right and saw a store he had completely forgotten about. The Blue Bell Hobby Shop was in the exact same real estate it had occupied for as long as he could remember but he had no recollection of it for the same reason; it had always been there and had become just another door in the downtown landscape. He stopped the car and walked to the window, looking at all of the rockets, planes and kits displayed for no one but him to see. The diversity of activities on exhibit was mesmerizing, revealing wider options of pursuits than he realized existed. He ran back to his car, grabbed his tire iron and knocked out the window pane on the door, shattering the painted name of the store but allowing him to enter easily. There was no alarm so he started browsing immediately, looking and learning, hoping something would capture his interest.

The amount of merchandise was impressive, especially since the store was not very big. The owners of the Blue Bell Hobby Shop ignored all established store display conventions and had created their own aesthetic based on high volume and low mobility. Floor-to-ceiling shelving, all completely full of boxes of varying shapes, rimmed the store. The center of the shop was intersected by three rows of similarly stocked shelves leaving a body-width moat for navigation. “Damn, where to begin?” Adam was a little overwhelmed but he decided to start down the aisle closest to him—aisle one, he guessed— and see if anything piqued his interest.

He got lucky at the end of the first row. What grabbed him and sucked him in was the section with boxes of model planes and cars. When he entered that area he was transported and immediately felt the excitement he had experienced as a young boy, clutching his few dollars, needing to make the right choice because he only had enough money for one model. If he chose poorly, it would be a couple of weeks of disappointment and saving his allowance before he could return and choose again. Now there were no limits and the choices were mind boggling. A 1966 Ford Galaxie was stacked next to a 1972 Chevelle SS. The General Lee on top of a 1965 El Camino. The shelves were tightly packed, filled with any and every make of car he had ever heard of and some he hadn’t. And there were planes and tanks as well, ripe for his picking, any and all that he desired. He ran to the front of the store and found shopping baskets, red with metal handles, stacked in columns by the front door. He grabbed a couple of them and returned to the models, filling both with as many boxes as would fit. He took that load and deposited them into the back seat of the Volvo then returned to gather more. After three trips to the car he decided he had enough to keep him occupied for some time so he then made one last trip to gather paints, glue and miscellaneous supplies, making sure he had enough so he would not have to return to the store any time soon. He sat in the car long enough to light a cigarette, adjusting the rear view mirror so he could admire the cargo in the back seat. “Hello, hobby. You got here just in time.”

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle


Best Seller?

I just finished reading “The Ground Beneath Her Feet: A Novel” by Salman Rushdie. It was a very good book, not a fast read, but one I enjoyed digging through. I noticed on the cover that it was a New York Times Bestseller. I read a lot of books. Some bestsellers, most not. At the risk of sounding like a snob, I find this “best seller” info hard to believe. Actually, it’s not hard to believe because the list is based on book sales and, supposedly, concrete data to determine who makes it. I guess what I have trouble believing is that everyone that bought the book read it. It is dense and full of word play, subtle metaphors and a whole bunch of things I have no doubt I missed. It just didn’t seem like the typical “best seller” fare. Most best sellers are non-fiction “tell alls” or “tell me hows” and, if they’re fiction, they are suspenseful spy novels or chick-lit. Given the fact that the book was published in 1999, does that mean that we used to read this heavier stuff in large enough numbers to register as a best seller? Or did a whole lot folks buy it because of the author’s name and never actually got around to reading it? It just confuses me and I had to say something. So there.


Back and Breathing

I had a wonderful three day weekend. My parent's were in town and having adult children makes for a more relaxed dynamic with meals and visiting. The kids can sit and talk to their grandparents and that is considered entertainment. For a little while, anyway. The night still calls with the promise of movies and friends but we are willing to let them go because they have done their time with us and done it well. There was a lot of laughing and a lot of eating so I must consider the three days a success.

I want to mention one milestone that passed on Friday. July 4th marked the tenth anniversary of living in our current home. When we moved in the kids were twelve, ten and six so a lot of family history has transpired within those walls. And it is still a comfortable, pleasant place to hang out. Hope and I haven't had any serious desires to leave and as each kid moves on, the place gets a little bigger. I suppose more chances to entertain and more time to chill on the Man Porch await us still. Here's to another ten...


Ruminations from The Road (Final Entry)

These entries will be snippets and observations from the road trip I took with my brother last week. We covered 1600 miles, five states and every subject under the sun. I'll post these as long as I can remember them. Enjoy...

Entry Nine
I would like to finish up this series of posts with a few photographs I liked but couldn't work in elsewhere. I hope the captions provide enough explanation but, if not, make up something. It will probably be better than what actually happened...

My brother consuming a cold burrito purchased at a convenience store at 11 p.m. When I asked him if he wanted to heat it up he waved me off and said, "It gets all mushy and soft when you do that." God bless preservatives.

Our Native American waitress serving us food prepared by an Asian cook in a Denny's in a very small town in Arizona. God bless America.

A typical landscape in Texas and Oklahoma (including the truck). God bless the folks that think we are running out of room.

The first family portrait on the porch of the new house in the new town starting the new job. God bless this family...

Ruminations from The Road

These entries will be snippets and observations from the road trip I took with my brother last week. We covered 1600 miles, five states and every subject under the sun. I'll post these as long as I can remember them. Enjoy...

Entry Eight
Kyle dropped me off at the St. Louis airport Sunday morning so I could begin my long day traveling home. My flight had a scheduled layover in Tampa before delivering me to Jacksonville where I would then drive the two (plus) hours home to Tallahassee. The small airport was a madhouse. People were finding any place they could to sit, lie down or lean against a wall. I walked to my gate, made sure the flight was still on time and began my search for a place to wait the hour before boarding.

All airports have one annoying characteristic that I would love to know the origins of: they all blare CNN 24/7 in the waiting areas. (What is this, 1984? Do we have no choice but to listen to the announcements of Oceania? I do not understand why they can’t have a Bloomburg-type screen broken into quadrants, quietly displaying news, sports scores and Wall Street tickers. Unobtrusive yet informative. But I digress...) This particular morning in this particular airport the televisions were loud. So loud that there was no fringe area to get away from the blasting of Sunday morning talking heads. And this particular morning they were discussing the economy and the near “recession” and our countries inevitable stumble toward “another depression.” I looked around. There were no seats in the airport and barely any floor space. This was the fourth airport I had been in over the last week and every airport was just as busy. The irony was not lost on me. (Besides, I was no economics major but I know that a recession happens when the country suffers two straight months of negative economic growth. We haven’t even had one yet... but I rant. There is more to the story and I should get on with it before I burst into flames.)

The more the heads on the television yelled their inane commentary, the more aggravated I got so, instead of yelling at the screen (like I do at home), I pulled out my iPod, popped in my earphones and got lost in some music of my choosing. At eleven a.m., I noticed the line forming at my gate, preparing for my flight that departed at 11:20. I put my things away, found my boarding pass and queued up, entered the plane and found a seat in the back. (It was a Southwest flight—no assigned seats). I was jarred from my usual ignoring of the mundane pre-flight rituals of the airline staff when they welcomed all of us to “Southwest flight 85 to Louisville.” What? I looked around and no one else seemed alarmed at this news. Unfortunately, the door was closed and we were preparing for departure. I was heading to Kentucky and it was CNN’s fault!

Apparently there had been an announcement in the terminal about a different flight using our gate and I had missed it trying to drown out the babbling T.V. I eventually found out the flight was going from Louisville to Tampa so at least I would end up in Florida at some point. Minimally, that helped quell the panic. After we landed in Louisville, I confessed to an airline attendant my mistake and, at first, she seemed nonplussed, assuring me that we would be landing in Tampa in time for my connecting flight to Jacksonville but she would double check for me before we departed. Then the ramifications of what happened seemed to finally reach her brain and she realized that I had just flown on a completely full flight, had my boarding pass scanned, occupied a seat and not one Southwest employee seemed to notice. She asked to see my boarding pass and then had me wait as she scurried off to pow wow with other personnel on the plane. She returned and quizzed me some more about “how I got on the plane” and I finally said, “Listen, you guys can have a staff meeting about your security issues tomorrow. I just need to know if I can make my connecting flight to Jacksonville.” She assured me I would and I hurriedly found an empty seat in the bulkhead before the new passengers started scrambling for seats. I wanted to be first off the plane when it landed. I was ready to get home.

This photo of the dogs displaying Penelope's balletic urinating stance has nothing to do with this post. Or does it?...