Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rule #2: Don't Complain

If you want to make God laugh, make plans. I conceived of the idea of writing about my rules once a month. When I wake up with words in my mind and a conviction in my heart, my plans change. I think that is the time I write at my best.
Rule #2: Don’t complain. 
Woah, boy do I struggle with this one. Complaining is something of an American national past time. Comedians and Politicians make careers on their epic ability to complain. Why do complaints resonate so strongly with other people?
First, I want to define complaint. A quick Google search renders the following definition:
  1. a statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable
  2. an illness or medical condition, especially a relatively minor one.
I like both of these definitions rather a lot. The first part is simple. “Pardon me, Frederick, but it seems you have backed your car over the whole of my right foot,” says Norman. While this is an observation of fact (and slightly British sounding in my head) it is also a complaint. This is not the type of complaint that applies to Rule #2. When Frederick recklessly weaves his Cooper over your Puma rendering you a literal flat foot, you should have something to say about it. Getting run over is a very valid complaint.
The above example also speaks to the second definition. Norman is valid in his medical complaint of carranovermyfoot-itis.  We only hope for our fictitious speaker that the condition is not chronic. “Sally, I seem to be bleeding from the rectum,” observes Midge. This too is a valid form of complaint. If Sally is Midge’s doctor, the complaint has a really valid audience and is contextually appropriate. If Midge is the ticket taker at the local movie theater it becomes less of both.
The spirit of Rule #2 is aimed at the every suffering person, the chronic complainer. We all know people like this. Their every response is a complaint. I often worry that I am a complainer, and the reason I make these rules is to improve myself.
The chronic complainer is easy to identify. “How is your day going, Marcus,” asks Reginald. “I am so glad you asked,” responds Marcus. “Starbucks shorted me on the Espresso in my Triple Vanilla Mocha whatsit. My dog insisted on me taking her for a walk even though it was raining outside. I am going to have to replace the breaks on my car. The IRS is auditing me. No matter how many times Brian and I make love I just cannot get him to get his O face just the way I like it. Honestly, I don’t know why I try so hard,” Marcus continues.
Marcus is a tool. Don’t be like Marcus. He complains about everything in his life. Reginald doesn’t know Marcus like that. No one knows anyone else well enough to just dump on them like that. Our parents shouldn’t have to hear this type of garbage. Priests in confession shouldn’t have to endure this level of over information.
Marcus is seeking attention or validation by complaining. He has embraced the negative and tosses out his problems like verbal dynamite hoping to elicit sympathy from any source. Having been in this headspace I can suggest that Marcus is probably intensely unhappy. If you have encountered Marcus or someone like him (since Marcus, like all these examples, is fictitious) put some distance between you. Retreat entirely if you can. There is nothing to be gained from this relationship.
Law 10 of The 48 Laws of Power states:
Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and the Unlucky. 
People who complain may or may not be unhappy or unlucky. Don’t stick around to find out. Their negative mentality will draw you into their troubles. Over time, your good intentions and attempts to help will become the source of new complaints to someone else. I have experienced this many times. The complainer cannot be helped because he or she is deriving a twisted pleasure from the act of complaining.
To square my own actions, I do my best to avoid complaint. When I am asked about an unfortunate situation that deserves some complaint, I will try to keep my answer more solutions based. “David, how are you dealing with your Mother’s passing?” I respond,” I am thankful that she didn’t end her life with a long-term painful illness. I miss her, but I know she is in a better place.”
There is a valid complaint in there. I miss her. The rest of the sentiment shores up that complaint with some positive thoughts. The person I am speaking to isn’t brought down by this answer. They likely have a bit of respect for my response.
Complaining focuses more on the problems at hand than their solutions. I have no solution for Death. None of us do. Instead, I correct my thinking about it. That puts the innate negative connotations of the subject on the back burner. I can solve myself. The person I am carrying on the conversation with isn’t burdened with feelings of sympathy or burdened with pity. The conversation leaves us both in a better, more resolved place.
Carrying myself this way also has the unseen upside of genuinely changing my thoughts from a dark place to a lighter one. I feel happier and lighter. Had I dove deeper into a complaint with,” My Mom was a unique person. She has left a hole in my life I can never recover from. I don’t know how to live my life anymore. I truly cannot ever be happy again,” the other person is left with a sense of horror and is forced to either act uncaring or take on the Brobdingnagian task of consoling me.
Not complaining is not the same thing as keeping all your problems to yourself. That is extremely unhealthy for your psyche. We all need confidants and people we can vent our frustrations with. That helps us come to solutions rather than dwelling forever on the problem side of the equation.
Not complaining also has the upside of not slapping yourself repeatedly in your own face with your troubles. I am a broken record. Poor Ethan, Contessa, Chris, and Whitley have heard more about me riding a motorcycle than any group ever should. I talk about it daily. “I wish it were warm enough to ride” “I don’t like leather riding vests because I am long in the torso.” “God it was a beautiful ride in.”
If everything I say on a subject is a complaint I become oppressive. My energy is rather large and can be overwhelming. Even a quiet and small complainer can be a complete buzzkill. That negativity can ruin your whole day if you let it. If you find people avoiding you, it may well be because you bitch and complain too much.
This applies heavily to relationships too. If you are always complaining to the other person about the time they don’t spend with you, the fact they didn’t come home on time, that they didn’t text or call, that this or that friend makes you uncomfortable, that you worry about them, etc. then you will eventually run that person off. Complaints in a relationship should be few and far between. Either the person complaining should just end the relationship, or the person being complained about constantly should run the other direction. Truth be told, the person complaining is probably doing so because the other person is already pulling away.
Again, there are valid times to discuss concerns. Relationships should be full of communication and everyone should have their needs met. At the end of the day though most of a relationship should be made up of positive interactions and experiences. I know I start ducking out when a relationship is completely soured with complaints. There are too many chances to surround yourself with happy people that will enjoy your company to waste time on people who want to bitch and complain.

Rule #2 is very important. It is a social obligation. It is also how you can control the inside of your own head. Violate it to your own harm.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Wizard’s Task: Part Three

I spent most of the rest of the trip asking simple, perfunctory questions of Andris Wolfe. It seemed that the delivery of the book was important. The summer Solstice would take place on Friday, June 19th, 2015 at 6:35 pm. Wolfe believed, from what he knew of their rituals, that the Druids would use the occasion to destroy the book. By me delivering it in the early morning on Wednesday the Druids would have time to review the book and with any luck, they would agree to talks with Wolfe. He was remaining in the area for that very reason.  
The goblin drove us through Sevierville, through Pigeon Forge, and took us toward Cades Cove from the Gatlinburg side. I was surprised when we turned toward Townsend. Andris explained,” The fork in the road moving toward Cades Cove also marks the domain of the Druids. If I were to take you further it would be seen as a Trespass against them. I would not insult them in such a manner. I also want to provide you with a means of transportation to and from the meeting. As my emissary, I would be remiss to not see to your comfort before having you complete my request. All of that aside, the Druids do not make it their habit to venture into the tourist areas of the park. The dawn meeting is set to facilitate their affairs with the larger world.” 
I gave him a puzzled look not able to quite formulate my question into words. I wasn’t sure if he was reading my mind or my facial expression but he explained,” I know that there has been something of a modern interest in Druidry, but what you might call these pagans come nothing close to the original practices. Since the Roman cull of the Druids, they have become extremely xenophobic. While this is understandable, it is something I would like to remedy. A belief system needs believers if it is to flourish.” 
I lifted the book slightly and asked,” Why have you not begun to train Druids yourself if keeping their faith alive means so much to you?” His toothy smile returned and he said,” I would only consider teaching druidism if the Druids were truly extinct.  Luckily the Smoky Mountain Circle has remained strong since 300AD or thereabouts.”  
“If my history serves me at all the Roanoke colony wasn’t established until 1587. I think Erik the Red visited in the early 1100s, but there has been no evidence of European settlers in North America before then.” I said appreciating my degree in American History for the first time in many years. “After your delivery is completed I would be more than happy to enlighten you on the Croatoan Mystery. The Druids worked their magic to escape the Romans. As I understand it one of the ancient druids who founded came here before the birth of Christ. Waypoints were established which allow Druids to move from one place of power to another. It is a fascinating bit of spell construction. Those are stories for another time.”  
With my interest piqued I began rattling off history related questions. So much of what he answered just made sense. It wasn’t information that any college professor would present, but I learned more in a half hour of back and forth with the Wizard than I had in years. He spoke willingly and at length. It seemed to please him to pass along his knowledge and secrets. My mind seemed filled to bursting when we arrived at a  cabin rental office.  
Andris bade me follow him inside. The goblin waited in the car. As we exited I heard loud hip-hop music with a heavy baseline begin to pour from the car’s speakers. The car began to shake slightly with what I presumed was Githix seat dancing to the beat. I could just make out his over large arms waving about through the dark tint of the Cadillac’s windows.  
Wolfe conducted business with an almost brutal efficiency all the while keeping the grin on his face. I ended up with a small cabin of my own rented to me until Monday. The young girl behind the desk also agreed to arrange for a vehicle for me that would be available later this evening. Andris gave her specific orders to make the vehicle “fun”. That gave me a slight pause, but I realized I had embraced the adventure and would see it through to the end. I was surprised that the Wizard paid for everything with an American Express card.  
We came out of the office and Andris went to the driver’s window. The music vanished, the window dropped rapidly, and the Wizard spoke in low tones to the goblin. I heard one gruff response before my pack was pushed out the window. The Cadillac sped away. As it exited the parking lot the bass line returned louder than ever before. Wolfe watched the car fondly before turning to me and saying,” Githix has gone out to fetch us some food, supplies, and entertainment. He will take his time because that is his nature. Go and make yourself comfortable.” He passed me my pack and the keys to my cabin. I took a moment and stuffed the book reverently into the top of my pack.  
The sales girl came out a moment later and introduced herself as Amber. She guided me to a golf cart, and together we rode through row after row of little log cabins. We rode in silence. I appreciated that she did not need to fill it with meaningless chit-chat. I quickly lost track of the turns we took.  We finally stopped at a cabin that was a little bigger than the ones I had seen on our drive. She asked me for the key saying that she would show me around.  
The porch was covered and had four heavily padded chairs set around a round table. I had always enjoyed sitting on porches to watch the sunset and made up my mind to do exactly that. Living off the grid, I had not had many opportunities to enjoy simple pleasures.  
Amber showed me into a small sitting room. The comfy looking loveseat and chairs excited me more than the big TV and fancy satellite box. She showed me the tiny kitchen and dining area. There were delivery menus stacked neatly on the table. She smiled and said,” We used to stock a mini bar, but if you need anything like that just let me know and I will have it delivered to you.”  
Amber took me through the bedroom. It was a large room compared to the rest of the cabin with a King sized bed, another large TV connected to another satellite box, and a swing run through a ceiling beam. I eyed it in embarrassment that turned into a deep blush when Amber caught me looking. She arched an eyebrow and said,” Let me show you the washroom.” I followed her through the other door in the bedroom.  
The washroom took up as much of the cabin as the bedroom. It had a hot tub surrounded by mirrors from every conceivable angle including the ceiling. Separately there was another tub and shower with multiple shower heads. There was also a washer and dryer tucked away behind a set of folding doors. I looked around fascinated before finally sitting my pack on the top of the washer.  
I followed Amber back to the front door where she told me several times to call her if I needed anything. The words had an odd weight to them that I thought meant she was flirting. I had a sneaking suspicion that she was heavily attracted to the possible wealth Andris Wolfe had rather than any true interest in me.  I shut the door and put on the chain. 
I had made the decision several years ago to forsake the traditional life that American society offered and to live life on the road. I did not miss any of the bills, jobs, or structure that life had imposed on me before my choice was made, but I dearly missed baths. The first time I had read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I had been fascinated with Douglas Adam’s obsession with Baths. I tried it. I loved it.  
I wanted nothing more than to make use of both tubs, but the lifestyle I was used to had taught me that necessity has to be seen to before entertainment or pleasure. I needed a bath, but I needed to wash my clothes more. Nothing I owned would be considered clean by civilized society. Having my own private washing machine and dryer was a luxury I had not had in years. I had learned to appreciate the laundry mat but that always left me with at least one change of clothes dirty. With the Goblin on a supply run and the Wizard seemingly vanished, I decided to take a few hours for myself and clean up.  
Living on the road in modern America isn’t as simple as a “normal” person packing for camping. Even the poorest person tends to gather a metric ton of possessions during the normal course of their everyday life. When you don’t have a home to go back to you either have to carry it with you or leave that stuff behind.  
The bare essentials you need to sustain life are not simple. You need a means of obtaining food because there is no way to carry enough food to last a meaningful period of time on your back. You need a means of obtaining water, but you also need a small quantity of you all the time. Going without food is feasible for a short period of time. Going without water is not. You have to have the means to obtain more of both. Beyond that, you need a serviceable way to maintain your biological needs.  
To that end, I carry two old army canteens that I refill as often as possible. I carry two metal flasks for the same reason. On the side of my pack, I had a large steel thermos that works equally well for water or soup. Since I don’t always have a reliable means to wash the thermos is seldom contains soup. Water fountains normally aren’t too hard to find, but finding one that isn’t being observed long enough to fill up all of my containers almost never happens. Because of that I saved up and bought myself two camel pack reservoirs that fit inside my pack. All told it is possible for me to carry nearly three gallons of water.  
I took a moment to run the tap water and let it get cold before tasting it. It was cold and clean. I took all of my hydration gear to the kitchen sink and spent some extra time in cleaning it. I refilled one of the camel packs immediately and hung it over a chair in the sitting room. It simply wouldn’t do to get caught unprepared if the situation suddenly changed.  
Next, I dug out all of my hygiene kit. Being clean and presentable isn’t necessary to survival, but it does make survival in society easier. A scruffy beard and long hair come in and out of fashion, but at times it is a dead giveaway that you are living off the grid. A resourceful person can find tons of place to fuel up and pass time if they don’t look like a bum. I always keep myself as clean cut as possible, but long hair and a beard are small problems compared to dirty clothes, stains, bad breath, and body odor.   
I laid out my kit and started taking inventory of stuff I was running short on. I would need batteries for my electric trimmer, water purification tablets, some odds and ends for my medicine and first aid kit, some Ziploc bags, and mouthwash. I started to make a list using the little tablet and pen provided left by the phone in the sitting room. The money Andris paid me would easily replenish my pack. I even started considering luxuries like a crank-powered radio when there was a knock at the cabin door.   
Suspicious, I peeked out the window.  The Wizard was standing with two women. They both were carrying gym bags. One of the women had a large canvas bag that held something huge and square.Wolfe had several shopping bags gathered by their plastic handles in one fist.  He caught me looking and winked at me in an overly exaggerated manner.  
I rolled my eyes and moved to open the door. Wolfe said,” Greetings!” I stood back and let everyone inside. I eyed first one woman and then the other carefully. They were identical twins. They both towered over the Wizard putting them a little over 6 feet tall. They had tan skin that seemed to indicate that they spent a good deal of time in the sun or in a  tanning bed. They were both extremely fit and shapely. They both had dark brown eyes. The only difference I could find was in their hair.Both of them had straight, dark brown hair  One of them had dyed a wide streak of her hair forest green. The other, in the same area, had dyed her hair a dark blue.  
Wolfe sat his packages on the kitchen table, and then he made quick work of tucking things away into the refrigerator and the cabinets.  It seemed excessive even if I stayed in the cabin until Monday. The women disappeared into the bedroom area without a word. I went to Wolfe and asked,” What are you doing?” He smiled and said,” Seeing to your comfort,” as if that simple statement was all I needed to know.  My mind went to a dark place and I hissed,” I will not sleep with a hooker!”  
The wizard laughed loud and long. He laughed so genuinely that tears formed and trailed down his cheekbones to disappear into his beard. I stood in shock and waited for him to subside. Eventually, he quieted and motioned for me to take a seat at the kitchen table. I sat down and he sat opposite me. Just louder than a whisper he said,” Calliope and Callista are not prostitutes. They are Muses. They are friends of mine, and they have skills that will help to prepare you for the work ahead.” 
I frowned and said,” I am handing off a book.” I left it unsaid that this did not sound like a skill. He smiled and answered,” Callista is a beautician. She will cut your hair, and if you like, she can give you a shave. Calliope is a massage therapist. She is sitting up her table now. After you are groomed, bathed, and properly laundered she will give you a message to help you relax. They are also well versed in history and what you might consider the supernatural. I could think of no better companions for your evening to prepare you for what is to come.” 
I apologized for my assumption. He waved my apology away and said,” I can understand your concerns. The twins are muses. Very little inspires a man more than beauty and the vitality of a sexually attractive woman. They have been known on occasion to inspire men to greater heights in just that way. Just know that if you manage to bed one or both of them it would not be because they were paid to do so.” I blushed and said,” That won’t be an issue.” He gave me a fatherly smile and nodded.  
He rose quickly and said,” My apologies but I must take my leave.” He reached into his pants pocket and drew out a thick envelope. ” I have grown rather fond of you, and to reflect that I have doubled our agreed upon rate. This is half in advance. Either of the twins can contact Githix and have any requirements you have seen to at no cost to you.” He handed me the envelope, shook my hand, and then hurried out the door. I watched him go feeling confused at his abrupt departure. 
I took a deep breath and then walked into the bedroom. Both women were standing waiting for me to arrive. I introduced myself, they each introduced themselves, and then they smiled and spoke in unison,” Pleased to meet you.” Callista had the green stripe in her hair. I vowed to remember it. She motioned me toward the bathroom and said,” Come and I will cut your hair and, if you would like, I will shave you.”  
I nodded and followed her. Calliope followed us into the bathroom.  A chair had been set up. I sat down and Callista stepped behind me with a pair of shears. She did not ask any questions, but she immediately began to cut. Her hands were strong, but she seemed to make a point of being gentle. I had never been comfortable having my hair cut. Yet, with the twins, I felt no apprehension.  
I watched my hair falling from me in the mirror. Calliope asked,” Would you like something to drink or eat?” I answered in the affirmative and she left the room. I heard the sound of electric clippers and I closed my eyes. Gooseflesh broke out on my neck. I had always hated having my neck and around my ears trimmed. Callista was a quick hand. I relaxed into the seat and felt her begin to cut away the scruff of my beard. She evened up my eyebrows, and after asking permission plucked away my unibrow. I surrendered completely to her attention and began to enjoy the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. I didn’t even tense up when she shaved my face and neck clean with what felt like a straight razor.  
When she finished I had almost dozed off. A warm wet towel cleaned my face, neck, and finally behind my ears. Callista removed the drape and had me check my reflection in the mirror. A hand lifted mine and prodded my fingernails. One of the muses asked,” Would it be acceptable if we gave you a manicure and pedicure?” I nodded my agreement and felt her go to work.  
The manicure and pedicure were followed by a massage. The treatment left me more relaxed than I had ever felt. They brought me a small plate of sliced apples and cubed cheese to nibble on at my leisure. When the massage ended I was lead back to the bathroom where a warm bath had been run complete with bubbles. The twins left me to undress and bathe in private. It was amazingly relaxing and I spent more time in the tub than I should have.  
I got out, dried off, and found a heavy bathrobe had been laid out for me on the bed. I slipped it on and opened the bedroom door. The sitting room was empty though a light jazz was playing through the sound system just loud enough to project into the kitchen. I hadn’t even heard it through the closed bedroom door.  I went into the kitchen and found Callista and Calliope laying out a feast at the table. All my favorite foods seemed to be in attendance.  
I knew the pampering and the bath had taken some time, but I couldn’t see how they had managed to cook up everything is so short a time. The centerpiece was a well-done meatloaf that looked strikingly similar to the ones my Mom always made. There were several ears of corn, a large dish of baked Mac and cheese, a huge bowl of lumpy mashed potatoes, enough brown gravy to cover the meatloaf and potatoes both in a big tureen, cornbread muffins piled high on a plate, green beans, and a skillet of fried squash. My stomach gave a loud rumble of appreciation.  
Callista said,” There is a cheesecake in the icebox, and when the buzzer on the stove goes off the chocolate chip cookies will be ready. Let them cool for a few minutes before you eat them. There is also vanilla ice cream in the freezer.” They rose in unison to leave. I asked,” You aren’t going to stay and eat with me?” Calliope smiled and said,” The repast here would not satisfy our dietary requirements. We can keep you company, but my sister and I will not partake. We believe you would find it disquietening to eat in front of us. The Magus believed that you would want to perform carnal acts with us which we would not have been put off by, but we know that is not the case. Given your history, it seems respectful to take our leave. Enjoy this meal and be not troubled.” I stood quietly and watched them leave. It confused me, but not enough to warrant worry.  
I fixed myself a plate. There was far too much food for me to eat alone. The food was heavenly. Everything tasted as if it had been plucked from my childhood memories.  I didn’t eat enough day to day to have a large appetite. I got a little of everything and had the largest meal I had eaten in months. When I finished, I was pleased to find a few pieces of Tupperware. I packed a considerable amount into them before I covered everything in foil from one of the cabinets. Everything went into the refrigerator except the cooling cookies and the large piece of cheesecake I dropped onto a plate and summarily devoured.  
I was full to the point of drowsiness, relaxed, and almost in a stupor when another knock sounded at the door. Darkness had fallen while I was in the bath and I realized it was quite late. I tried to peer out into the dark through the window but all I could not make out anything. I called out,” Just a minute,” hurried to the bedroom, grabbed my heavy flashlight, tucked it into the belt of my robe, and opened the door just a crack.  
The man on the other side was more than eight feet tall. He was broad enough that I couldn’t see anything past him. As soon as the door opened he put a large fingered hand in the opening and pushed. I am thin, but I have plenty of muscle power when I need it. When the big man began pushing I put my back into the effort of keeping the door closed. My feet slid across the floor and I was pushed back as if my weight and strength were complete without consequence. I retreated several steps, tripped over a chair, and sprawled on my butt.  

He said,”Sorry,” in a rumbling basso voice and stepped inside. The man was completely bald and the biggest person I had ever seen. His shoulders would have touched the ceiling and he was forced into a strange crouch when he came inside. He barely even fit through the door.  Once he was inside he seemed to look around a moment in confusion before centering on me. He smiled showing huge squared teeth that would have been comfortable in the mouth of a Brontosaurus and said,” Hello! Krunk am here to save you from Wizard.”  

How I spend my Time

I am so happy that I have subscribed to and kept archives of my writing. Being able to get all my blog posts on this one website feels almost like compiling a book. Granted, that book would be a completely random and disjointed reading experience.
Still, I believe you make time for the things you care about without your ability to do so. There are so many people and things I want to spend time with and cannot due to my current circumstances. That is one of the greatest struggles of my life. Maybe giving a brief (for me) snapshot of a day of my life would illuminate my situation a bit.
My week runs Sunday through Saturday. I could spend a few hours writing about the illusion of time and the human perception of it. That would likely be much more boring than talking about my routine.
Since today is Sunday, it is an easy place to start. I do my best to be off on the weekends. My current role at work allows me to set my own schedule which really helps out. Since Mom died, there is just so much to accomplish.
Sunday I normally try to get up at a decent hour. By this I mean I am up by 9 and normally moving by 11 or so. I spend those intervening two hours catching up on any paperwork I need to do. I pay bills. I make sure my metaphorical ducks are in a row. More than anything I take a little time to blog.
I write any time I get a free window to do so. I carry a tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard and a writing journal all the time. Blogging is not the most important writing that I do, but it is really near and dear to my heart.
I take a little time on Sunday mornings to build on the blog. I post up some older things I have written and then try to scratch out at least one new post. This time puts me in a (more or less) reflective state of mind. The hamster that runs on the little wheel in my head probably goes into fits Saturday night knowing I am about to put him through his paces.
After blogging, I tend to clean myself up, grab food, and then work on whatever project needs doing around this house. Two weeks ago we were building a steel shed. Last week I was tearing down an old wooden shed. This week I am cleaning out my old trailer so we can get it moved off the property. I normally work from lunch until after dark.
When the sun goes down it is time to eat again. I catch a meal with whatever members of the family are around. Weather permitting I try to ride the motorcycle to and from meals or when running errands on the weekend. This allows me a little time to relax and unwind. It also saves a bit of fuel. The Ninja gets almost double the fuel economy of the Veloster.
After dinner, I try to get my clothes washed and my bag packed for the work week. Lately, I try to work 4 ten hours shifts to get three day weekends. This is great because it is fewer hours spent driving and fewer days committed to work. I cannot afford to leave money on the table so I try to work a couple of hours of overtime each day I am scheduled.
I aim to take Monday or Friday off. Both of these are great days to keep appointments. I am also blessed to get an hour on each of these days with my youngest. I often also have a therapy appointment. This day is also when I try to upkeep the housework.
Those twelve hour days are normally eaten up by work, driving (or, weather permitting, riding), and other appointments. When I can I snag a meal or a few minutes with friends and family. I am not one to miss an opportunity.
Wednesday is new comic book day. I leave an hour early to give myself time to stop by Nirvana. A few minutes of chatting with my fellow nerds is therapeutic. I try to keep up with the latest and greatest in the comic world. Most of my reading time happens on breaks at work or right before bed. I am perpetually behind.
Saturday is a lot like Sunday. I normally get up earlier. When the sun goes down, I always plan to do something fun. Most weeks those plans fall through. Something perpetually comes up. I cancel board game night far too often. I neglect my friends because of this. I am happy that I have only lost the few dozens I have lost. The ones that stick around are really precious to me. They all seem to have more patience and understanding than most humans possess.
Any free moments not already accounted for are taken up by drama and disaster. I would say I spend 3 to 4 hours a day just putting out metaphorical fires. This is the part of my life I want to escape. Part of the reason that I titled my website “David’s Boring Blog” is that I want a nice mundane and boring life. I want to have ample free time to have to find ways to fill.

More than anything I want more time with my family and friends. I want to have long days spent talking, laughing, eating, and doing simple things together. I believe those days are coming. I spend a lot of time praying for the patience to get there.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Wizard’s Task: Part Two

We sat in silence as the Cadillac accelerated smoothly down interstate 75. After a few miles, I said,” I don’t understand why you need someone you don’t know to do something as simple as delivering a package. Why can your driver not do it? For that matter why can you not simply deliver the message yourself?” Wolfe smiled his disturbing smile at me and said,” I can tell that you noticed my driver is a touch unusual.” 
I nodded staring at the top of the black hat that was all I could see of the driver who Wolfe had previously called Githix. ” He is a Goblin. Much of the lore,” at this he made air quotes and I instantly disliked him for it,” around his kind would have us believe that they are stupid, violent, and evil creatures. That bigotry is unfounded and unfair, but it doesn’t stop the prejudice against him and his kin. I wouldn’t have them suffer on my account needlessly.” 
I heard a faint chuckle from the front seat at this, but it did not seem to offend Wolfe. “The reason I chose you, Ethan, is that you have a choice of the life you lead and you have chosen the road of the vagabond.”  I frowned at this and said,” How do you know my real name?” He tapped his temple with a long index finger and said,”Your mind is quite disciplined and I have to compliment you on the fact that you do not think of yourself by anything relating to your real identity, but to someone such as myself it is a simple trick to read your mind and peel back the layers to the truth.” 
Telepathy didn’t surprise me at all. It was as believable as anything else that had happened with Andris Wolfe. I briefly thought about not speaking and just thinking about him. It felt like a very science fiction movie thing to do. Wolfe flashed me his big predatory smile obviously reading the thought. To deny the impulse I said,” I will deliver your message if you will explain why you need me to do it in the first place. I may not read minds, but I am good at telling when someone is trying to bullshit me.” 
He pulled a face that was clearly meant to show offense, but simply looked put upon and arrogant. His expression softened slightly as if he had practiced looking earnest in the mirror and he said,” There is rather a long history lesson to give you the full story. Would you like to hear it all or do you prefer the abridged version?” I considered a moment before answering.  
Andris Wolfe might be a Wizard, but his whole attitude screamed at me that he was an old school con man. I suspected if he could read my mind he could also influence it, and there might be very little real chance of me saying no. The best I could hope for is getting enough of an education out of the situation that I could keep myself alive, if not safe. I also felt that he was being honest in his intention of paying me. Like most good con men his bait was real. 
“I want to know as much as you can tell me without diluting the story with detail,” I answered feeling as if I had chosen well. He nodded taking on a serious nature and said,”When I was a very young man I was cursed. The curse drove me mad, and it caused me to hurt people. Over the course of some long years, I sought out knowledge to end my curse.” 
“How were you cursed,” I interrupted to ask.  He sighed and said,” I was cursed to transform into a rabid monstrosity. In the beginning, I was a beast all the time except for during the purity of a full moon where I was returned to the form of man…” I interrupted and asked,” So, you are a Wizard who used to be a werewolf and your name just happens to be Wolfe?” I snorted in derision. It seemed too cliché to be told as a story much less as the viable truth.  
He frowned at me and said,” Wolfe is not my real name, but one that I chose for myself to fit into modern society. It is something of a nod to my origins.  My birth name is one of those details that are not important to the story and so I have left it out.” I didn’t agree with him, but I didn’t see any advantage in interrupting his story again.I kept silent.   
He continued,”I was driven from my homeland and spent many years, more than I could count at the time, only really aware of myself when I woke in human form under the light of the full moon. I had little memory of my time as a wolf. In that form, I moved with animal instinct from place to place with little or no seeming reason or logic. “ 
“During one of these human moments I awoke in a pit. I came around slowly, which was not uncommon after a transformation, and as I gazed thankfully up at the moonlight shining down on me I saw that many men were gathered around the edge of the pit above me. I, naturally, feared their intention as it seemed clear that they had trapped me in my beast form and had witnessed the change. It would not have been the first time that I had been found thus, and it often leads to dangerous confrontation.”  
“I spoke to my captors in my native tongue and they answered in a language I did not understand. There was a brief conversation above me and one of the faces withdrew from the pit. Sometime later another man took his place and called down to me in words I could understand. I nearly wept in relief. The men were not there to harm me. Instead, they could, through some magical means, detect my cursed nature and had resolved to cure me. A rope was lowered, and they hoisted me out of the pit and helped me begin finding ways to cope with my curse.”  
Between the comfort of the car and the even tone of the Wizard’s voice I was drawn into his story and shook myself long enough to ask,” They were not able to cure you?” He shook his head and said, ” I remain uncured to this day. These days you might say I am managing the symptoms rather than finding a cure.” I felt very sorry for him and found myself saying so. He patted my hand and thanked me for my sympathies in a fatherly manner.  
“The man I want you to meet with,” He said,” is a descendant of the men who helped me out of that pit. I spent many years with them. They managed to hold off my curse and keep me in the form of a man. I learned from them and eventually was initiated into their Druidic order.  We performed many rituals and I learned mysteries. At times I still was taken by the curse, but the Brothers kept me from hurting anyone.” 
Confused I asked,”If you are a part of their group, why can you not deliver your own package?” He held up his hands in a gesture of placation and said,” This part of my story is a sad one, and I do not like telling it.” I nodded my understanding and waited for him to continue. He remained quiet gathering himself for several minutes. I shifted myself into a more comfortable position and worked my backpack between my boots.  
I watched the exit for Knoxville Center Mall, always East Towne in my heart, pass us by and realized we were making excellent time. The goblin driver seems intensely focused on the road as we passed by most traffic as if it were sitting still. I did the majority of my traveling on foot or by bus. It surprised me how comfortable I was in the back of a stranger’s car.  
Andris cleared his throat and said,”I’m sorry. I had to gather my thoughts. It has been many years and a great deal of distance since our parting, but these men were once very dear to me.” I mumbled out some comfort and asked him to go on. “It all came down to a difference of tradition.A misunderstanding really. I came from a world of learned men where collecting knowledge is considered the most important undertaking of mankind. After years of studying with the Druids I had written a dozen volumes on the nature of their rituals, their ways, and I had gone beyond that to begin to cultivate a better understanding of Magic in the universe as a whole. My curse gave me keen insight.”  
“When I brought my work before the Archdruid she was furious. It was against the law of the Druids to write down their traditions.  She banished me from the protection of the druids and the lands they served. In the face of her fury, I fled like a frightened child. The Archdruid alone held terrible power, but with her druids united behind her, I was in fear for my very being. I managed to steal a few things that allowed me to survive my curse and I was again lost in the world,” he finished sadly.  
I thought for a few moments on what he had told me and asked,” You wrote down things you were not supposed to and they banished you for it? Could you not have simply destroyed the books and stayed with them?” He shook his head and answered,” The crime was to have written them at all. It was a betrayal. It has taken me many, many years to come to terms with my sin against them. I was named an enemy of the druids and hunted for a time. Had the Romans not nearly wiped them from the Earth I likely would never have escaped. “ 
“So what am I delivering to these Druids,” I asked. He made a gesture almost too fast to follow and a heavy cloth wrapped package appeared between his hands. He unwrapped it reverently. Inside was an ancient hidebound book. I wanted more than anything to look through it, but the impulse felt somehow perverse. Instead, I looked up at Andris to find him smiling a seemingly genuine smile. He said,” I am going to make a gesture of peace and return to them that which I have stolen. My hope is this will allow me to begin to atone for my sins.”  
I knew then that I would take his money and deliver his package. My fear of having issues with the police had been erased. I could understand from my own history a desire to make up for past wrongdoings. I could even understand how Andris had not intended to do harm to the Druids that had helped him. With so noble a purpose what could possibly go wrong? 


Blog News

It should not be a surprise that I take a lot of pride in what I write and post. I have been writing a blog off and on for 13 years (as of July 29 this year).Today, I had a great discovery. I can post older things I have written on this website under the date they were originally written.
This may not seem important, but it should give my site a bit deeper continuity. That means that my Archives will have depth and weight soon. I want this site to be complete.
There are some exceptions to my plan to repost everything. First, I am going to edit heavily for grammar. I have grown as a writer. The unedited posts would pain me. Second, I am not going to post The Wizard’s Task on the original dates. I have already reintroduced it. I see no sense in keeping the timeline strict. Finally, some of my more controversial old posts may just not make their way here.
Editing for content feels acceptable, but I am going to accelerate this process. If the post is hateful or ignorant I won’t post it rather than trying to clean it up in a rewrite. I also may or may not have all of the pictures from the original posts. Hard drive failure is a real problem.

I hope there are folks out there enjoying what I write. I want subscribers. Currently, I am my only subscriber. I hope that will change. Getting my new posts via email is kind of neat. Then again, I may be my own biggest fan.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Wizard’s Task: Part One with new Introduction

I  have made a mistake or two in this blog. I write as if the reader should understand what is going on with me going back to 2006. I do this because, in my mind, I have always been writing one narrative. My blog has had a few different titles, hosts, and purposes over the past 12 years, but it really is one big project.
What I am going to do here today is introduce again my fiction. I have such a passion for writing. I enjoy all kinds of stories, but urban fantasy is at the top of the list. When I sat down to consider the type of novels I want to write I developed an interesting plan.
I believe strongly in giving back when you benefit. If a friend does something nice, I take note. When I get a contextually appropriate time to return that kindness, I then give back. That balance is so important.
I am such a bibliophile (look it up). I certainly feel that I owe the world back some unique stories. Specifically, I feel I owe a fantasy story, a science fiction epic, a romance, and a truly twisted tale of horror.
I have made some progress on fantasy, romance, and horror. By that, I mean that I have story ideas that are developing. I have at least high-level concepts, and in the case of fantasy and horror, I have some decent development underway.
In my fantasy universe, I keep coming up with these short stories. They expand on my fictional reality, but they aren’t really a prime narrative. Sometimes a character or concept is too good not to give some time. To that end, I once set out to build a blog in that fictional universe. It served to gain an audience for my world, keep me inspired and making progress, and also to separate my opinion from my fiction.
I don’t see the point in keeping things separate any longer. Some days I sit in front of the keyboard and all I want is to talk about the real world stuff that I am doing or feeling. Occasionally, I want to tell a story. There is no reason those ideas cannot exist side by side.
That means I am going to be posting stories here from time to time. I am going to start with The Wizard’s Task. This is a fun little story that I blogged out in five parts between August of 2015 and January of 2016. I got quite a bit of feedback on the original post. Each time my blog as moved I have regretted taking Wizard’s Task down.
I plan to post The Wizard’s Task again in pieces. Hopefully, if you enjoy part one you will stick with me through the five weeks of release. If you already know you enjoy the story, I apologize for teasing it out in pieces again. No matter your feelings, give me all the feedback you can. Untended gardens run wild. I appreciate criticism and comments very much. I hope you all enjoy.
The Wizard’s Task: Part One
I was sitting in the Starbucks on Merchants Drive in Knoxville, Tennessee pecking away at my laptop when the man tapped me on the shoulder and asked,”Can I buy you a coffee and join you?” One of the first rules of living off the grid is to stay beneath the notice of normals. I wondered if the hiker’s pack at my feet had drawn his attention or if there was something about myself that I was missing. I had intentionally made a point to hit the Starbucks after the usual morning crowd had made their commutes. Normally Tuesdays after 10am are not prime hours to run into trouble.
I sized the man up as he pulled out the seat across from me. His teeth, showing in a broad grin, were large and square and the too white that you get from ample use of cosmetic dentistry. He had a dark brown, neatly trimmed beard that seemed to be popular these days and fashionably long hair slicked back so that it didn’t get in his face or touch his collar. It made me self-conscious about the scruff that framed my own face and the loose ponytail hanging out the back of my cap. It had been a few weeks since I had batteries to put into my portable trimmer sitting dead in the bottom of my shower kit in the lower end of my pack. I couldn’t tame my scruff easily, and a haircut or styling product wasn’t even a consideration.
Behind his hipster glasses, I could see eyes of a green so pure I could only describe them as emerald. The look was filled out perfectly with a plaid shirt tucked into a pair of form-fitting jeans. I suspected the black t-shirt underneath would display the logo of some obscure band that I wouldn’t have heard of. Between his very together hipster ensemble and his I-go-to-the-gym-daily build, I suspected the intruder was a young man of some small means. I wondered for a moment if his rather modest height, I put him under 5’7″, was what lead him to the gym with such intensity. If he had me pegged as a drifter this would be a short conversation. Muscleheads often assume drifters are easy marks.
“I prefer tea,” I answered trying not to sound too surly. He had interrupted me as I read through the local drifter postings. Homelessness is still a problem for a lot of people in America, but some of us have chosen it as a lifestyle. A smart drifter can live like a king if he is smart enough to stay mobile, keep to himself, keep his load light, and stay connected to the web when he can.
I carried a pair of matching prepaid cell phones that both have wifi functionality. I hadn’t put any minutes on them in months. I get a lot more done with social media, web boards, and IRC than I ever did making phone calls or sending text messages. Craigslist can read like a road map to food, work, wifi, and shelter to the web-savvy drifter like myself. A drifter legend posting under the name Randall Flagg, a nod to the Stephen King character that I have never fully understood from his posts, is something of a drifter legend. His advice has never steered me wrong, and I had been in the middle of marking my map of Knoxville with some of his hotspots when the stranger interrupted.
The man grinned a touch wider. It gave me the disturbing impression that his mouth could open wide enough to bite off my head and he was considering the possibility. It was a wolfish and predatory smile. He nodded once and said,” I will be back with your beverage in a moment.” I looked back to find that my screen had blacked out.
The Hipster put in an order much more quietly than most of Starbucks patrons do. I have never understood how ordering a fancy coffee is some point of pride, but it does seem to be. I considered picking up my stuff and taking off, but my laptop was only at about half charged and I had not managed to plot my trek for the day. Flagg had put in notes about a couple of places where I could pick up a few bucks and a great place where I might be able to wash my clothes for free.
“Here you go,” he said sliding a large cup toward me. I opened my mouth to say,”Thank you,” and he interrupted and said,”You’re most welcome. I got you a Raspberry Chai with a splash of honey. I felt that is what you would drink.” It was exactly what I ordered when I had the extra couple of dollars to pay for it. I had opted for a muffin and a small black coffee instead because I had been hungry and that was what I could afford easily.
“How did you know what I wanted,” I asked with almost dripping skepticism. He stuck out his hand which I hesitantly shook. With another overly wide smile, he said,” My name is Andris Wolfe. I am a Wizard, and I would like to ask a favor of you.” I grinned widely. I couldn’t help myself. Even in my chosen lifestyle, which is famous for encounters with the mentally ill, you don’t hear too many claims like that one. I suspected that a put on like should come with hidden cameras or something.
A movie I had seen years before echoed through my mind, A Knight’s Tale, and I said,” I’m King Richard III, pleased to meet you.” His smile dimmed slightly and he said,”I assure you, sir, I do not jest. I am Andris Wolfe and I am a practicing Wizard.” My amusement faded completely. I should have left when my instincts indicated it was time. I let myself get greedy at the thought of a free tea and now I was caught with a crazy man.
“I assure you, sir, I am not crazy,” he said as if reading my thoughts. I considered the possibility seriously and then chided myself for allowing his insanity to sway my thoughts. “I am more than happy to give you a demonstration of my power. Would you please take the lid from your cup?,” he asked politely motioning with one hand casually.
I had no intention of drinking anything that this man put it front of me so I saw no harm in allowing him to put on some sort of show with the cup he had bought. I worked the lid off the hot tea carefully and looked at the tea inside. The steam from the cup smelled wonderful. As I watched he tapped an index finger to the outside of the cup and the tea began to spin and swirl.
A rainbow of colors spun from the vortex and ran in the opposite direction that the liquid was spinning. The colors, impossibly, remained distinct and separate as they spun to the outside edge of the cup. I glanced up from the cup to the man’s face and found him smiling contentedly with his eyes slightly narrowed. He pulled his finger away and said,” The cup is completely normal. Please pick it up.”
Fascinated, I lifted the cup from the table. When I had taken the lid off a moment before it had been too hot to drink or even sip. Now it barely was warm and seemed to be cooling rapidly. The sense of cold grew and the cup seemed to grow heavier. I looked down to see that it had frozen solid The surface of the ice was shaped into an intricate rose in full bloom. Beneath the surface of the ice colors were moving to turn the petals a deep crimson.
I sat the cup down hurriedly and as it touched the table tea sloshed from the brim and left a steaming puddle across the table top. I heard the girl behind the counter make an exasperated sigh and her coworker let out a juvenile chuckle before he could help himself.
The Wizard, now I couldn’t deny that he had some sort of power, sat back and crossed his legs at the knees before putting his hands in his lap. We sat in silence as the girl wiped off the table, rolled her eyes, and went back to her station. I didn’t dare take my eyes off him. I had goosebumps all over my neck and arms. Every instinct told me that I was in the presence of a dangerous man and to run away. After a long silence, he said,” I apologize if my demonstration made you ill at ease. I assure you that I mean you no harm. I simply am in need of an agent to act in my stead, and I sense you are a capable young man quite prepared for adventure.”
I wanted no part of any sort of adventure that involved things beyond my understanding and I said so. In an almost reproachful voice, he said,” You never favored me with your name though I have freely given my own.” Using a fake name while traveling is a tradition. I actually carried three wallets with three separate sets of identification. Deep in my favorite book, I also had copies of my real legal documents. There was no way I was going to even give one of my fake identities to him.
“Call me Shadow,” I said naming the protagonist from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. He raised an eyebrow momentarily and said,” Well met.” I nodded before he went on to say,”All I need from you is to deliver a package to a man in the picnic area of Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The delivery needs to happen tomorrow at 7 am. If you agree to do this for me I will give you $2,000 in cash. $500 up front and $1500 upon delivery. In addition to this, I will pay you any expenses that you incur, reasonably, in the execution of these duties and I have arranged your transport to Townsend and back.”
The money was too tempting to simply get up and walk away, and I decided that was exactly what I needed to do. “Mr. Wolfe, I’m sorry, but I cannot accept your offer. When something sounds too good to be true, it always is. Thank you though,” I said and began to stand up taking my pack in hand in one practiced motion and slinging it onto my back. He nodded once as if giving me my leave. I immediately hated the feeling of being dismissed.
I was three steps past the door when the Wizard appeared out of thin air a few step steps in front of me. I stopped short and said,” I do not want any trouble with you, sir. I admit you are the first wizard I have ever met, but you aren’t the first person of power who has asked me to do something for them. Jobs like that come with strings. I am not interested.” I watched his face and realized that any trace of a smile had vanished.
“I could certainly threaten and cajole you into doing my bidding, Ethan, or Mr. Shadow if you prefer. That somewhat defeats the purpose of me offering to reward you and having you do this task of your own free will, I’m afraid. I need you to understand I am trying to continue a conversation here not force you into anything,” the Wizard said while looking into my eyes. I saw enough sincerity there to make me reconsider hearing him out. In my experience, people can fake a lot of things, but the conviction is hard to layer on.”Will you hear out the rest of my proposal? I assure you I will tell you every pertinent detail,” he said.
I nodded and said,” I won’t carry anything illegal. That means no drugs, no money, nothing living, not even a plant that isn’t native to the area. I won’t hurt anybody, and I won’t take the fall for anything. If your job doesn’t cause me to do any of that I will hear you out.” The Wizard said,” The package is nothing but a letter. You are even welcome to read it before you agree to take the job. Come with me. Let us discuss this and put some miles between us and this place. I fear my displays of power have not gone unnoticed.”
He waved his arms in front of him in a flourish that looked like the start of a martial arts routine and a large black Cadillac pulled from the road into the parking lot and stopped. One second the road had been empty. The next the big shiny car had been there and aimed at us. A tiny little man climbed out of the driver’s side door, walked awkwardly around the car as if every movement hurt him, and opened the rear passenger’s side door.
The little man was wearing a baggy suit. It was ill-fitting and the overlarge jacket seemed to hang from a thin frame. The pants might have come from a children’s section and seemed to be rolled up so as to not drag the ground. Shiny shoes and a pair of black leather gloves covered the man’s hands and feet and a large chauffeurs cap covered most of the strange little man’s head and face. He seemed to almost bow as he opened the door.

The Wizard slid inside, I pushed my pack ahead of me, and I followed. As I moved in I noticed that between the little man’s glove and the start of his sleeve his wrist was showing and the skin was a dull green. I was about to comment on this when the door closed. A moment later the little man climbed into the front seat. The Wizard said sternly,” Drive at a reasonable speed toward Sevierville, Githix,” and the Cadillac sped away from the Starbucks with squealing tires.

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget