Autumn Reverie

I’m headed out, and it doesn’t matter where. The autumn has exploded into color around me, and it’s taking me with it.

I’m a country guy, at heart; I like the arts and some other city things, but open stretches of road know my real name, and shorelines and hilltops speak a language I was born understanding.

Cities make feel trapped, and crowds are like leeches that suck the life out of me.

But, for today, I’ve got the open: road, sky, and heart.

The world is a cauldron of fantasy,
And life could be splendid for you and me
If we opened our hearts to the wonder inside,
And were less motivated by fear, or pride,
Or the feelings that come when we put our desire
Above what is right – maybe just a touch higher –

For there’re different songs that we’re all meant to sing,
It’s the rhythm and concord in everything.
And we all could be happier, yet, if we tried,
Not to say that there’d never be tears to be cried,
But we’ll never fix violence, hunger, or thirst,
If we don’t learn to fix
What is wrong with us

The Store

Many mornings, I stop at a convenience store near our house before or after going to the gym. It is typically before 5:00AM when I do.

There are three night-shift workers there, and they rotate nights. There is a young woman of about thirty or so; another young woman of about nineteen; and a man of around forty. I’ve gotten to know each of them fairly well, as I come in during a boring time of night for them and when there is rarely anyone (or anyone much) else there.

Yesterday, it was the youngest one. She and I have talked quite a bit in the past about sort of nerd-related topics: things like video games, and Star Wars, and comic books. I happened to be wearing a Hufflepuff House sweatshirt, and as I walked up to the counter, her eyes lit up. “You wear the coolest shirts.”

“Thanks,” I said, swelling a little with pride.

“I wish my grandfather would wear cool shirts,” she said as an afterthought.

“Maybe you could get him one,” I said as I turned to leave, considerably deflated.

Male ego. It’s the gift that keeps on taking.

As a matter of complete irony, the other woman at the store, the thirty-something, had, just a few days before, suddenly blurted out as I was about to leave with my purchase that I could call her if I wanted to.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m married,” I said, thinking that since I don’t wear my wedding ring to the gym, she probably just didn’t know.

“You can still call,” she said.

Well, I thought at the time, getting into my car, that was uncomfortable. Now, I’m thinking, Her co-workers would be shocked to know she’s trying to pick up grandfathers. Even ones with cool shirts.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of finding a new store to go to in the morning, thinking things would be really awkward going in there when she was on shift, but I decided not to. It’s not like she had committed a crime, and even if she had, she could plausibly plead temporary insanity.

As a sort-of-ongoing inside joke, the guy who works there always tries to sell me lottery tickets, knowing full well that I don’t buy lottery tickets.

It isn’t that I have anything against gambling, its more that since I’m in the professional statistics business, I shy away from anything outside of work that reminds me of it.

Once he realized I don’t buy them, however, it became a matter of humor for him to always ask me if I want any.

“What would you recommend?” I asked the most recent time.

He shows me the forty-eight kinds of scratch-off games, explaining that game #26 has been very lucky for people in our city.

“Nah, I think I’ll pass this time,” I said.

“Your taking more chances drinking those damned energy drinks then you would with these,” he said.

I had to laugh. “So I’ve heard.”

I have had, since my teen years, an incredible affection for convenience stores. I first learned to love them at the “Jr. Food Store,” a local convenience store in my hometown of Valparaiso, Florida. It would be a hundred degrees in the summer, and I would have just finished mowing the lawn; I’d ride my bicycle the four blocks down to the store just to feel breeze, and I’d leave with a cold Coke in a bottle and a couple of new comic books.

Cold drinks for a hot summer day and comic books. You name a store that sells anything better.

Convenience stores stopped selling comic books in this country back in the 1980’s and part of me died.

Even though I wasn’t buying comic books any more.

There is another convenience store, way over on the other side of town here in Georgia, that I have an extreme fondness for. It’s the place that hired my then-unemployed son after he’d been out of work for eighteen months.

He lives in Tennessee now, and is moving forward in his life. A big part of him progressing was that job and that convenience store.

Sometimes, on a weekend, I’ll drive over there while I’m out. I’ll stop in, pick up a few drinks and some chips or a hot dog, and look around the place. I still feel grateful there.

It’s kind of weird to be grateful towards a building, but, there you have it.

When I once again did encounter the woman who’d offered me her phone number back at my local store, she acted like nothing had ever happened. Which, in fact, nothing had.

“Headed to the gym, or coming back?” she asked.

“Headed to. You working later over at Hibachi Express?”

“No, thank God. I get to go home and SLEEP.”

“Well, you have a good one.”

“Thanks! You, too.”

And all of you, too. You all have good ones.


Gratitude comes in waves, leaving colored streaks as the Gulf inhales at my feet.

The world is reflected the surf, and time itself swirls in it’s eddies.

Friends, both met and as-yet-not-met gleam like flecks of paint on a well-composed canvas. I know them, because they let me; I love them, because I’ve come to know them.

The teal and green waters cover my feet again as the Gulf exhales. I ran joyfully here as a child. I walked pensively here as a young man. Now I stand here, awash in wonder.

And color.

And friends.

And love.


A Fantasy in Lights

In dreams, she’s always as I remember her: young, slight, and full of wonder.

She left this life in her late twenties from cancer, leaving behind a husband and two small children, the youngest being not quite a year old. That child is now around thirty.

I watch her slowly make her way towards the lights. The landscape is beautiful, otherworldly.

Towards the end, she was bitter; and I, young as I was, didn’t understand. She didn’t want to die. She had lived an open, joyful life. Why was this happening to her?

There is a light breeze blowing her hair, and beautiful music. There’s a sort of domed city at the edge of the trees.

She was the younger sister of a woman who was (and is) a very good friend. On the anniversary of her sister’s death, my friend posted a number of pictures of her late sister on Facebook. Love may come to terms with death, but the parameters of the negotiation are very one-sided.

It seems to be winter, but the dome is giving off warmth. She’s dressed to sleep.

I wish the good didn’t die young, but I’m not in control of that; none of us are. We’re in a play we didn’t write, and don’t produce: players leave the stage, sometimes, and we don’t see them again. Except in photographs and dreams.

She reaches her hand for a door. The dream dissolves.

The Shame

As I walk through a grocery store, trying to find extra-pulp orange juice and the specific type of flatbread my wife requested I buy, I see all kinds of people.

Young mothers with children riding in baskets. Couples, trying to figure out the most economical ways to do things. Individuals, some dressed up, some dressed down. Young men, older men, women of all ages. People of all ethnic and national backgrounds.

It’s a pretty big store.

People where I live tend to engage in any number of politeness rituals: “excuse me”-“no, you’re fine” and “sorry about that”-“oh, it’s no problem” type of exchanges are going on all over the store. People occasionally make eye contact and try to appear friendly, or, at least, not hostile.

Going around a corner, I nearly collide with a woman who was steering her cart through a very tight space. I apologize and back up, leaving her room to pass. I make myself look at her when I’m speaking. She smiles fleetingly, in a distracted sort of way.

I have to force myself to make eye contact, when I do. Becoming aware of this, walking by frozen foods, I try to think of why that is.

I realize it is because I was raised to believe that men should be ashamed of being men.

I stop.

Since I was pretty young, I have more-or-less tacitly assumed that every girl or woman I meet is innately hostile. I knew this was a psychological oddity (to say the least) but I never pinpointed exactly why I felt this way. But I just realized — just now — it’s because I have been told, over and over, that to be a man is to be something inherently bad.

So I’m standing here, looking at frozen Snickers bars (which look really good, by the way) trying to figure out if this is fair or not. I’m not sure.

That people are capable of great evil is beyond dispute.

That people have usually abused power when they have it is also beyond question.

I am capable of evil. And I have some power, such as it is. Do I abuse it?

Sometimes. I don’t sexually harass women, though. Most of the time, I don’t even make eye contact.

I notice them, of course, and I tend to think of all women as beautiful.

I have known any number of men in my life who were what one might call sexually amoral. Their view was that any woman who wanted to have sex with them was okay with them.

I’ve also known some (fewer) who were immoral (criminal): abusing their power, pushing themselves on women who didn’t want them. I’ve learned of three of these men at my current place of employment, and every one of them was fired over it, with one going to jail.

I never actually witnessed it, though. Not since I was eighteen, when I intervened (badly) in a situation where a waitress at a restaurant I was cooking for got cornered after hours by the assistant manager.

I helped her get away. I got fired.

I wasn’t proud of helping her. In fact, I felt ashamed.

Anyone with the patience to read my poetry blog knows: I think about all kinds of things, and sex is one of them.

For any female readers who want to know how men really think, or have wanted to know since they were girls how boys really think, I’ll let you in on a couple of secrets.

The first is this: when it comes to sex, boys don’t have thoughts, thoughts have them. It’s like having your body and mind and emotions taken over by an alien lifeforce. Since most boys aren’t that popular with girls in early adolescence (there’s usually around six boys in a school who get all the girls’ attention) it is a world of energy with no place to go.

It’s torture, basically. It wakes you when you’re sleeping, sometimes leaving embarrassing stains. It causes easily evident physical changes when you are around girls that they (and everyone else) notice.

And laugh at.

Meanwhile, all the female classmates who are the constant subject of your newfound erotic obsessions are mooning over pop stars and the six guys at school I mentioned earlier. Many boys grow up thinking that girls would all belong to harems, if they could.

Much that is unexplainable in male behavior goes with the view — and you can see it all too evidently in the news these days, although it shouldn’t be news to anybody — that if a man is a “star” every woman will really want to be his “groupie”.

Which is ridiculous, of course.

A second secret about how men look at sex is that many boys (men) give up even trying to understand how girls (women) view relationships (sex). Guys just know: sometimes gals like them, sometimes they don’t, and it all seems mysterious and unexplainable, so why try. Particularly if you often observe at a young age that girls seem to very often like guys who don’t treat them that well.

I went through a phase of my teen years where I consciously attempted to treat girls worse than my natural inclinations. Sure enough: suddenly, I had girls interested in me. The lesson I thought I learned, interestingly enough, wasn’t that girls liked “bad boys”, it was that girls liking me or not liking me really didn’t seem to have anything to do with me at all.

Essentially, I concluded at age seventeen that relationships, like weddings in this country, are completely about what the female wants, and the male is just along for the ride. Or so I thought.

I’m all the way over in the pharmaceutical section of the grocery store now, and I’m still thinking about the original question: should I be ashamed of being a guy?

No, I think. Ethical generalizations about groups of people are inherently wrong. There’s no difference in saying “All men are bad” and saying “All members of ethnic group X are bad”. It’s just wrong.

What should I be ashamed of, then, if anything?

Being a bad guy, not being a guy. And being a “bad” guy is what it has always been: abusing power and hurting people.

And what about these strongly rooted adolescent ideas you formed about relationships and sex?

They’re messed up. In every type of relationship, men and women have to be respectful of each other’s wishes and desires: to listen, and to respect the voluntary nature of all interactions — not to attempt to coerce or manipulate. Men have to understand and embrace the idea of… well, propriety, for lack of a better term. They also have to accept their own sexuality for what it is, and what it is not. Strong desire is not license.

Is that extra pulp orange juice?

It’s not even orange juice. I picked up some kind of mixed fruit concoction.

And did you ever actually get the flatbread?

Dang it. Now I have to go back.

You should be ashamed.

“The Haunting and the Haunted”

Headin’ in or headin’ out
Standing on the shore
Pause a moment to reflect
Which trip costs you more
Between the ever restless crowds
And the silence of your room
Spend an hour in no man’s land
You’ll be leaving soon

Victims come and victims go
There’s always lots to spare
One victim lives the tragedy
One victim stops to stare
And still another walks on by
Pretending not to see
They’re all out there in no man’s land
Cause it’s the safest place to be

But sanctuary never comes
Without some kind of risk
Illusions without freedom
Never quite add up to bliss

The haunting and the haunted
Play a game no one can win
The spirits come at midnight
And by dawn they’re gone again…

– “No Man’s Land”, Bob Seger

I remember her tear-streaked face looking at me. “Why? Why did all this have to happen? Why?”

I had no answer.

She left years ago, in search of answers. I hear she found them.

The years rolled by, doing the kind of damage only time can do. I stand here now, looking out at the restless movement of the Gulf, wondering, what could I have said? What do you say in the face of a grief that demands answers?

The problem was – and is – that I don’t really traffic in answers. I have found my own, of course, but I’m not their best exemplar — judging by the uniformity with which my own adult children have rejected them. My one, halting attempt to share what I’ve learned, summarily dismissed.

So I’ve moved on from my parenting stage, and I’m back where I was with her, all those years ago, both emotionally and geographically.

I don’t know why. I don’t know why all this had to happen.

Nor do I know why we ever thought it wouldn’t.

…And so it seems our destiny
To search and never rest
To ride that ever changing wave
That never seems to crest
To shiver in the darkest night
Afraid to make a stand
And then go back and do our time
Out there in no man’s land

Food for Thought

I read an article online about the 20 worst foods for you, and I saw (unsurprisingly) that I eat or drink most of things on the list, including diet drinks — both sodas and energy drinks.

One of the things about the list that I found most interesting, however, was that alcohol is no longer bad for me. I would have thought (for instance) that drinking a gallon of, say, Everclear would be worse for me than two 2-liter Diet Pepsis; apparently not, though.

I know that hardly a week goes by in this city that someone doesn’t have one Fresca too many and wrap their car around a telephone pole.

High fructose corn syrup and sugar apparently have lost whatever harmful effects they had, too. As it happens, I like to minimize my sugar intake for mood-related reasons; conditions like that and diabetes apparently aren’t real things now, either, according to health food “experts”.

If you have lived as long as I have, it appears the cycle works as follows:

  1. “Experts” complain about the baneful effects of some food.
  2. “Companies” produce food made with some other substance, instead.
  3. People flock to use this new food, having been convinced by the “Experts” that what they were eating in prior times was the most poisonous substance known to humankind.
  4. “Experts” change their mind, and decide the new thing is the worst thing ever. This becomes the new step A), and the process repeats to infinity.

The city I live in is home (or the original home) to a number of famous or semi-famous name brand foods; the people who I know from these companies are interested in providing foods

  • that people like;
  • that people can afford; and
  • that are reasonably nutritious.

From a mass production standpoint, however, these three things tend to pull in different directions.

  1. There’s quite a bit of food out there that is delicious, nutritious, and unaffordable.
  2. There’s a considerable amount of food out there that is affordable, tastes good, and is not that nutritious.
  3. There’s also affordable food that is good for you, but that few people find enjoyable. Like beets.

Parents tend to feed their kids food from each of the last two categories: vegetables and other things kids may not like the taste of, along with just enough of what they enjoy to balance out nutritional goals and having some enjoyment at mealtimes. That is what real parents do (and have done) everyday, in the real world.

Nutritional experts, however, like to encourage people to use category 1, or sometimes, an even less popular category 4, where the food is unaffordable, nutritious, and tastes horrible.

Every so often, nutritional “experts” try their new to them (old to us) theories out on school districts. They find, to their surprise, that kids will go hungry for a meal rather than eat food they don’t like. These experiments typically end when they realize the food is ending up in garbage cans.

Go figure.

Like most other things in life, balance turns out to be key in making choices that are both wise and sustainable. I am saying this as a person who has lived an unbalanced life along any number of dimensions. Which sucks, by the way.

I put the “20 Worst Foods” article aside, wondering: will wars soon be fought where opposing sides drop aspartame on each other?

Revenge is supposed to be sweet, after all.

Three Threes, and A Paradox

The more we have of any thing, the more devalued that thing becomes.

With abundance, comes scorn. This is a paradox.

The age we live in makes more “good” things possible than ever before. The largely unforeseen consequence of this has been a greatly heightened degree of anxiety. We have more choices than we are capable of making.

We all have economic limits, of course. But if you have an Internet connection — and if you are reading this, I can assume you do — you have more music, art, poetry, literature, news, and history available to you than did the most learned or affluent person of prior times.

As supply has become more plentiful, choice has become more difficult — even overwhelming, at times. Online, people nudge, wink, grab, and even scream for our attention.

As it is, two ultimate boundary conditions seem to dominate many of our discretionary choices:

  1. That a thing be completely new: a new movie, new book, new music. It did not exist before now, so it is a completely new choice.
  2. That a person be dead. When an artist, musician, actor, producer, or writer dies, it creates a new boundary: no new works by that artist or producer will ever be seen again. (With the exception of artists like Tupac who had a large unreleased library that almost no one was aware of.)

The first one above has been part of popular culture for as long as anyone can remember, but as to the second one: how many of you, within the last few years, have found yourself listening to musicians you hadn’t listened to in years, simply because they died? It’s not to say you didn’t enjoy or even love them all along, but limitations in supply, of whatever kind, make choice more appealing.

To add to our general level of anxiety, much of what we read that claims to be factual is not. This has been much discussed with news, but shows up in more homely places; for instance, the ubiquitous prevalence of quotes with false attributions. I come back to this example often, because few things seem more utterly depraved and pernicious than dressing up “inspiration” in falsehood.

For example: Albert Einstein did not say, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I am willing to bet most of you reading this think he did, because the false attribution has been requoted (according to Google) a hundred and fifty gajillion times. Modern times have made reinforced falsehood something of a popular art form.

Lying has always been an art form, of course. Early novels in the English language gained much of their cachet at the time from being thought of as true stories.

Fiction is that form lying where the listener, reader or viewer, to use the popular phrase, “willingly suspends disbelief” in order to enter into the drama of the story. A good rule of thumb, then, when reading any story, is not to suspend disbelief when it either (a) doesn’t openly claim to be fiction, or (b) has been written by someone you feel is trustworthy on other grounds.

Much of marketing, then, (in its broad sense) consists of trying to create grounds for belief in one set of people, or to destroy any grounds for belief in opposing parties, brands, or ideologies. This is done using all of the psychological techniques available: good-looking people, artists or athletes we admire for what they can do, humor, or our desire for acceptance, or sex, and so on; or, by portraying opposing parties, views, products, and services through opposite means, as ugly, evil, humorless, socially unacceptable, or undesirable.

If limitations in supply make a commodity more valuable, my poetry must be nigh on worthless. I’ve posted 1,714 poems this year (as of this writing), which is an average of 6 poems per day.

I am not going to reread them all this moment, but hopefully there are no misattributed quotes in there.

However, as to the lying part, I freely confess that much of what I write is pretty heavy fictionalized.

Which is not lie, and you can quote me on it.

Recumbent Truth

When people are limited to clear and cautious truth, they often have very little to say. I know, because in much of my professional life I am limited in that way.

Here is a typical exchange from my work:

Me: “… we’ve seen incidence rates going down now for the last four years.”

Them: “Why is that?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Them: “What do you mean ‘you don’t know’?”

Me: “We’ve been able to eliminate some theories as to why this is happening, but we do not as yet know the underlying cause.”

Them: “Well, then, what good are you?”

Me: “I don’t know that, either.”

We human beings love cause-and-effect relationships; in fact, we often see them when they aren’t there, like some sort of ex-lover we mistakenly think we see pass in the streets. To some people, this might seem depressing; I find it hilarious, for whatever reason. In fact, I like to find faux cause-and-effect relationships wherever possible.

Her: Did you notice the neighbor’s recycling bin was in the street?

Me: Yes. I think maybe they’re protesting.

Her: Protesting what?

Me: The plight of recycling bins, abandoned to the streets, far too young.

Her: You are weird.

I get interesting reactions whenever I post any (other) of my wife and my bizarre, stream-of-consciousness sort of conversations. Reading back through them, we often are playing with whole concept of “causation”, which is slippery at best, and widely misused. Deliberate misuse seems a logical next step.

And I’m all about logical next steps.

In a former career, I worked for the United States federal government. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, but I found myself one day, at work, standing with some coworkers and trying to see if we could come up with better euphemisms for “lying” than those we were currently hearing from various people higher up in the governmental structure. Here are a few stray bits of that conversation that I still remember:

  1. “It’s not lying. We’re creating ‘new truth’ where there was no truth before.”
  2. “Don’t think of it as lying… think of it as recumbent truth… just, you know, having a lie-down.”
  3. “Nothing that beautiful could possibly be a lie.”
  4. “This is war. Truth is a peacetime luxury.”

The first one of the above list was mine, and was based on something I heard an acquaintance of mine tell his girlfriend when she caught him cheating on her. He actually said, “I wasn’t lying, it’s just, there was some new truth out there I hadn’t gotten around to sharing yet.” She (thankfully for her) left him shortly thereafter, “shortly” here meaning about 1/2 second later.

I always loved the second one listed; the woman who said it was originally from Norwich, England, and she was employed as a writer. The word “recumbent” isn’t one you hear in this United States very often.

The third one was a guy who had formerly worked in the oil business, so I assume he had some experience with dissimulation, either as a purveyor or observer.

The last one, reminiscent of the quote “truth is the first casualty of war” was the one I found most disturbing, at the time, because I’m pretty sure the young man who advanced it, meant it.

It’s hard to achieve anything without honesty, because problematic situations can’t be bettered if we won’t see them for what they are.

While we’re on the subject of honesty, I want to talk for a moment about platonic male-female friendships. Here is what I’ve learned, from real-life experience: these can be easily maintained, as long as both parties want to, and are impossible to sustainably maintain otherwise.

Where honesty comes into play, however, is in realizing that what we “want” is often a set of conflicting wants, some one of which is “winning” at the time we are asked: some combination of circumstance, opportunity, and (often) alcohol may change what we want.

I have always been from the “no means no” school of interpersonal relationships. To use the language of mathematics, physical relationships have an asymmetrical risk distribution, therefore the greater power should always lie with the female. Young men (and I know, I was one) often find this to be frustrating and unfair. Too bad. We have to get over it.

If boys are not taught to protect girls before sexual madness kicks in, then these same boys (as men) are unlikely to protect women, and will often abuse them. “Protecting” here means protecting them even from us – especially from us.

So, what do cautious truth-telling, bizarre husband-wife conversations, sort-of-euphemisms for lying, and male-female friendships have in common?


Come To Think Of It

It’s early on a Saturday morning, and I’m out at the River Walk. After some warm months, autumn has finally arrived, and it couldn’t be more welcome. As I head down the ramp for the walk, proper, the University is behind me to my left, and the River Club and the old mills are behind and to my right. Two young women jog by (college students) looking both healthy and determined.

I decide to walk south, the longer walk from where I’m starting. As recently as five or six years ago, I would have brought rollerblades out here; nowadays, though, I just walk. I gave up skating. I think I got tired of falling.

Come to think of it, I know a few people who have given up dating by employing the same principle.

I’m always “coming to think of it” – whatever “it” might happen to be. My whole day is a series of come-to-think-of-its.

I walk a ways past a little amphitheater. My wife performed her first marriage ceremony there. The couple from that wedding are one of the few couples she ever married who are still together. That got depressing for her after a while, so, she’s given up presiding over weddings, for the most part.

A half mile or so further, a woman is stretching by the rails in front of me. I recognize her from the gym I go to in the morning. We have never spoken: I don’t like to bother people when they are working.

Or any other time, come to think of it.

She always smiles at me when we make eye contact, which we’ve just done, so I return the smile, then keep going. Within a few seconds she runs off in the other direction.

This is, in a nutshell, pretty much every relationship I have, nowadays. All the friendship I can muster crammed into three second interactions.

As I round a bend in the river, the Civic Center looms up on my left. I know I’m at about the three mile mark here. I’ve taken my boys to that place to watch wrestling, including seeing Chris Benoit wrestle there days before the murders and suicide he became infamous for. His family lived within about 90 minutes drive from here.

That was in June, ten years ago. My son was only twelve at the time.

The year before that, in 2006, a Little League team from our city, managed by my brother-in-law, won the Little League World Series, defeating a team from Japan.

For any of you who might wonder, by male standards, my brother-in-law has (officially) accomplished something.

As I walk past the Civic Center, two young men on bicycles go by. The autumn colors are really beautiful this year, albeit late.

Come to think of it, a lot of really beautiful things happen later than we thought they should or ever would. Try as we may, we can’t really imagine the future to any practicable degree.

I reach a sort of wooden covered walkway, which I like to walk on, even though I turn around to head back the other way at the end. For some reason I’ve never quite figure out, the trail looks completely different when I’m headed in the opposite direction.

Come to think of it, a lot of things look different as our destinations change.

I pass two inline skaters, three skateboarders, and a busker. I thought about busking as a career when I was younger. However, busking is a little harder to bring off effectively when you play the piano as opposed to something more portable, like, for instance, a guitar.

This particular musician is playing a saxophone.

You don’t see a lot of musicians up this early. Nocturnal habits seem to go with that profession.

Of course, he might just be practicing, and decided to do it in an environment where tips were at least possible.

Come to think of it, that’s not a bad way to choose a career – figure out something you like doing, then figure out how to get paid to do it.

I run into my “friend” from the gym again. She has that kind of seemingly careless beauty that comes with people for whom healthy living is a joy. At any rate, with this particular encounter she doesn’t happen to notice me, so, by the unwritten rules of our relationship, I head by her up the ramp (shown on the picture affixed to this piece) and back to my car.

Much of our behavior is a function of various unwritten rules, of course; there is little that simultaneously fascinates and frightens us quite like the freedom to make our own choices. Rules help, because they keep choices to a manageable set of alternatives.

As I’ve written elsewhere, anxiety itself is a function of having more choice than we are constructed to handle. I have chosen not to ever speak to the woman at the gym (or anyone else at the gym, for that matter), because it eliminates a potential cause of anxiety. I can’t say anything stupid if I don’t say anything, in a nutshell.

I’m not quite sure why I am always putting things in nutshells. A lot of people are allergic.

But then, come to think of it, I suppose there is a reason why “idiomatic” and “idiotic” are so close to being the same word. As is “idiopathic”, for that matter, a word I always hear used to characterize the seizures I have, and which means “of unknown origin”.

Much of the human condition is idiopathic, come to think of it.