Grad Done Good

It was very cool to see an old friend on the Colbert Report this week. Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Texas, has made news lately by encouraging the married couples in his congregation to have sex for seven straight days. Obviously, this has caught the eye of the national media and, whether intentional or not, it has provided Ed a national forum to share the intent of the challenge.

Ed and I met in college in a drawing class. We were both art majors and we hit it off immediately considering we were the only two happy people in the art department at Florida State. Tortured artists we were not. Before long Lisa, Ed, Hope and I formed a bond and spent a lot of time together playing Putt-Putt golf (Ed was a card carrying member of the PPPGA and had actually played in Putt-Putt golf tournaments), eating, watching wrestling and laughing. Always laughing. We ended up in each other’s weddings and, once they moved to Houston, I began following his career from afar. Watching the video’s from his blog I am happy to see that he is still as goofy and happy as when we were hanging out over 25 years (!) ago. He is still making me laugh. He is a busy man with some great ideas and is making a difference. Visit his blog here, his church here, his television ministry site here and his site supplying resources for pastors is here.


John Updike, R.I.P

I always wanted to be John Updike. I suppose it would be more accurate to say I always wanted to write like him. While reading Rabbit, Run, the first Updike book I ever read, I experienced a sensation much like eating too much wasabi on a California roll. My head cleared, all air passages expanded and I achieved a clarity that had previously eluded me. The dude could write. He could describe the mundane and make you think it brand new. You could always sense there was something more, lurking beneath the surface, deeper and worth more than a skim. Sure, he was a word smith extraordinaire (which could be a detriment at times), but it was more than that. He had a rare gift to be able to infuse words with life. Whether you were able to fully grasp all he was trying to say or not, you knew there was something there, dancing in the spaces around the letters and paragraphs. And I wanted to “get” it, so I continued to read.

That was what I wanted to do with my words. Heck, every writer should aspire to that but he was the first to give me something to aim for. Sadly, his kind of fiction is growing rare in print. I guess it would be labeled literary fiction today but most of what I read in that genre is long sentences that don’t register, are not memorable, and don’t offer a big enough payoff for the effort of slogging through it. (I must give a nod to Marilynne Robinson and her novel Gilead, which is one of the great stories I have read in the last three years, but she is an exception. A lonely exception.)

John Updike will be missed. Fortunately, the best thing about when a writer dies is his words do not die with him. May he rest in peace and may you go read one of his books.


Check it out...

My friend Jon Edwards just added a new post on his blog. You should read it and wait in glorious anticipation for the Snuggies reference. Any blog with a Snuggies reference should be linked to. Especially on a Monday. The blog is here.


Randomness for Randomness Sake

So, yesterday we found out that the man that has been tapped by the new administration to run the Treasury Department, Timothy Geithner, not only failed to pay his taxes two years but he used Turbo Tax to do his taxes. Intuit quickly released a statement to absolve themselves of any blame:

"TurboTax, and all software and in-person tax preparation services, base their calculations on the information users provide when completing their returns. TurboTax also has built-in, error-checking tools that routinely catch common taxpayer mistakes."

In other news, Jackson Hewitt was seen sharing a beer with H&R Block and giggling like little school girls.

I really like RSS feeds. Of all the technology widgets that have come down the pike, this one has been my favorite and the most useful. And they are also the most distracting software on my desktop. Even more than Twitter. Oh my, I seem to be easily distracted. Look, a pony!

Cynical Post of the Day: In the course of my many vain attempts to draw the attention of an agent or book publisher, I have read numerous blogs that purport to have the scoop on getting published. I have also signed up for way too many email alerts and receive (daily) offers galore for writing workshops and conferences. Since very few people ever get a sniff from an agent, much less a contract, these writing “events” seem more and more like cash cows for the organizers than offering any real opportunity to get published. Hey! So that's how you make money in the publishing business. (I told you it was a cynical post. And you didn't believe me...)


Comfort the Discomforted

Sunday, for lunch, I opened a bag of ruffled potato chips and drug a few through some sour cream as a side dish for my slaw dogs. (Yes, hot dogs and chips. I was wallowing in that five percent of the time that I ignore trying to eat healthy. It keeps me sane.) After the first bite of the chip and dip I stopped and marveled at how good it made me feel. It was a palpable wash of gloriousness rushing through my body. (Hyperbole? Not by a million miles!) I had just experienced a moment that was brought to me by ingesting “comfort food.” In fact, eating the hot dog (or two) with sweet slaw and mustard a few minutes later rocketed me to such heights of feel goodness that I had to take a nap before the NFL playoff games started. (Note to self: ingesting two comfort foods in one sitting should be avoided. Or not. Who am I to judge?)

What I found the most interesting about my comfort food “moment” was that my wife did not share the same feelings about the food. Sure, she liked and enjoyed the slaw dog, but she was nowhere near my red-lined excitement. I concluded from this in-depth experiment that we all have our own comfort foods, each chemically lined up to cause our unique DNA (and taste buds) to release a full body pleasantness. My wife could not readily name her comfort foods (once I told her that Pinot Noir was not a food group) but I have seen her eyes glaze over while working on a stack of pancakes with peanut butter. And no syrup. (Ugh.) I have no doubt that there is a correlation between the amount of grease and fat contained in a food and it’s status on the comfort food pyramid. Hmmm... Do people that eat fried food all the time find comfort in a granola bar or a rice cake? I really hope not. That would be sad and I can take no comfort in that.


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

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

Chapter Sixteen
Adam took the final steps into the cafeteria, stopping just inside the double doors to light a cigarette. It had taken no time to develop a rigid ritual for his few minutes of cafeteria meditation. Since there was no one else to consider, his ceremony was comfortably tailored for him alone; no one else mattered. He would light a smoke, step into the center of the large room—he had long ago moved the tables and chairs away from the middle, giving him a wide berth and enlarging his personal space—and slowly turn, drawing on his cigarette and taking in all four walls. He would start with the wall that fronted the kitchen area; its two sets of double doors, former portals for students to collect their sustenance, giving it a symmetrical look that he felt gave him balance as well. He would then turn toward the wall of windows holding back the outside and, depending on the time of day, overrun by sunshine and shadows. It was invigorating and he took his time scanning the entire length. The third wall, the wall that held the stage and was dominated by a large, garnet colored curtain, was his least favorite but he never rushed through his time there. He used this wall as a means of discipline, a barricade that he had to break through slowly to allow him to fully build the anticipation of what followed.

His favorite wall he saved until last. He would close his eyes as he got to the end of the third wall and continue moving, keeping them pinched tight until he was squarely facing the final scene. By this time he had finished his first smoke and allowed himself one more as he slowly opened his eyes and took in the grandeur of the mural of the United States of America. It never failed to take his breath away, the size and colors never disappointed him. As he examined each state, starting in Washington and moving south then east then north, snaking his way across the mural, he always experienced renewed hope. He still didn’t know why or to what the hope was attached, but it was a positive and profound experience every time. And this particular day proved to be the most profound of them all.

His eyes had just slid off the east coast of Florida, his last visual stop every time because it was the closest to Georgia, his home state. He tried but could never figure out a way to make Georgia his last stop. Every solution ended up leaving Florida out altogether and, even though he had no special love for the sunshine state, he held no particular animosity toward it either so it was only fair to include it. He put his cigarette to his lips and stopped, mid draw. In large letters--a bold, wispy script that looked out of place on the wall--were the words “See America!” Their appearance startled him. He knew they hadn’t been there before, would swear to it if there was anyone to doubt him, and the letter’s professional quality blared in contrast to the artistic crudeness of the rest of the map. Everything about it was odd and, to complicate an already twisted situation, there was something familiar about the lettering. “Where have I seen that before?” He grabbed a chair and placed it in front of the newest addition to the wall. He sat and stared at the letters, obviously hand-painted but perfectly executed. He fumbled for another cigarette and felt no guilt at breaking his self-imposed rule that only allowed him two smokes per meditation visit. This trip had obviously strayed from normal and had careened into something new and, possibly, interesting. He stared and studied, taking time to examine each word and then each letter individually, hoping something would spark in his memory and help him solve the mystery. On his final exhale of smoke it came to him.

“The note! It’s the same handwriting that was used on the note I got from the Squatters.” He jumped up, his legs straightening so quickly that they snapped into his chair, sliding it across the linoleum floor two feet behind him. “It’s another message from the Squatters. Damn, I guess I’m getting boring again.”

Adam hurried home, trying to process what the Squatters expected of him. He had some initial thoughts but every one of them had enough doubt attached to them that he couldn’t settle on any one idea. His biggest fear was that he would be wrong and he had no idea how the Squatters would react to a misstep. The memory of them nearly obliterating the human race for sport caused his stomach to churn at the thought of what they might do if he crossed them, intentional or not.

All words and images ©2009/J. Colle


Rideus Interruptus

Today was "Ride Home from Work Day." Or it was supposed to be. I had changed clothes and was mentally preparing to face a cold ride home as I leaned over the lock on my bike and twisted the numbers to line up the correct combination. But it did not open. I changed one of the numbers just to see if I had happened to forget the combination I had been using for two months. Nope, that didn't work either. I then spent the next ten minutes frantically twisting the dials and pulling to see if I could get lucky because luck was what I was reduced to relying on. Disappointed and perturbed, I called my daughter and asked her to come pick me up, still not sure what I was going to do with the bike that was secured to a rack with a spool of Kevlar.

On the ride home I got the 800 number for Bell (thanks Jim!) and prepared to try and explain myself to a faceless voice, hoping there might be some solution short of cutting the lock off the bike. To Bell's credit, the customer service lady was polite and apologized when she informed me there was no other solution than getting some bolt cutters and violently releasing my bike to freedom. At one point we were disconnected and she actually called me back. Why? Because she wanted to send me a new lock, gratis, to try to make up for the inconvenience. She also said I held the distinction of being the first person to ever call her with that exact problem. A day of highs and lows (but aren't they all?).

Now I need to figure out how I am going to lock my bike while I wait on the replacement lock to arrive. But I'll deal with that later, right after American Idol...


Birthday Girl

Tomorrow is my wife's birthday. It is a round number and, for some reason, those seem to carry a bit more emotional weight. (It helps that she has reached this milestone nine months ahead of me.) In order to assuage her fears (or at least to dull them a little), I now present this very public declaration:

To one of the coolest, hottest, thoughtfulest, patientest, sharpest, eight hours of sleep at a minimum or I am grumpiest best friend a dude could ever pray (and ask) for (and receive). Happy birthday to you and I wish you many more (with me). I love you...


Back in the Saddle

I rode my bike home from work yesterday. It was the first time I have done that in two weeks. I hurt my back on Christmas day—pulled a muscle in my lower back—and have been nursing myself back to health and, in the process, steering clear of any bike rides. Until yesterday. What I found discouraging was how difficult the ride was in terms of stamina. I started riding trails on the weekends in September and added riding home from work two days per week almost two months ago. I was laid up for a little over two weeks and yesterday felt like I had started over. Granted, in Tallahassee there is no such thing as level ground. You are either going uphill or downhill and the route I take home has six hills, three of which I would consider major. Yesterday, I only completed the last hill because I could see Jesus waiting at the top to take me to heaven. He didn’t, of course, and at first I was angry but, once my heart rate slowed and I was able to breathe consistently, I decided I was okay with being alive.

Has middle age turned earned stamina into a mirage? I now have to place it in the same category as G.P.A.s and debt: it takes one bad week to put you behind and months (nay, years in the case of debt) to get back on track. I am glad I got the “first ride” out of the way and I look forward to the easier rides in my future. I just wish sweat, effort and conquering a few hills was all it took to get me out of debt...


Happy New Year

Thanks for reading this thing over the last year. I can't promise it will get anymore interesting but I can promise I'll keep posting in 2009. I'm taking things one year at a time...

Have a great day and a blessed new year.