Mirror Mirror

Periodic surges of melancholy are preferable to unrelenting waves of it, but they’re still pretty inconvenient. At work last week, I used the bathroom and took a moment to stand a few moments looking at myself in the mirror. I look the same as always, although I am starting visibly to see the result of some of my physical activity lately. I’m dropping pounds.

I’m still unhappy with myself, and mostly it’s just this general unhappiness, nothing I can put a finger on. I’m not writing this so the world can hear me say woe is me, but woe is me, dangit. And I don’t like it as much as I usually say I do.

As I came out of the restroom, I muttered, “I hate myself,” while a coworker was passing. She said, “That’s an odd thing to hear from someone exiting the men’s room.”

I was caught off guard for a change.

She said, “Having one of those look-yourself-in-the-mirror moments?”

“That’s pretty much it,” I confessed.

“I understand,” she said, and left me alone. It was kind of beautiful.


I don’t think I plan to wallow forever, or even for much longer. I’m even sorta talking myself out of wallowing. This is what I figure.

The likelihood of two people being matches for each other is narrow. I know this. There’s nothing right or wrong with it; it’s just the way. If I took forever to get past R (and forever may be the right word, literally) it was largely because we were matches for each other. This is different. I just really like Crush Girl, not even like-like, necessarily. But like, enough to go out on the limb.

There are at least a thousand reasons I wouldn’t be as interesting to Crush Girl as she is to me. I know it. I can name seven hundred and fifty of them, easily. I put myself out there; she shot me down. It happens every day and most of the time it’s not a big deal. I’m smart enough to know that if I keep putting myself out there, I’m going to find someone who’s interested in me too. The odds alone would have to ensure it, but I’m not just talking about odds.

For as much as I loathe myself (and I do!), I know I’ve got something to offer someone, maybe even someone I’ll enjoy being with more than I enjoy being by myself. If there’s a plan for me, it doesn’t make sense for me to wallow in disappointment and hurt. That’s no way for a plan to unfold.

This is what I tell myself. It makes sense. I get it. The world turns. And as the dust blows in, the light blows out. It’s been a long time looking for you; it’s been a long time breaking through. Gonna be a long time getting over you.

Or not.


I’m rambling. It’s okay. That’s what this space is for.

I got permission last year to start a fantasy football league at the office. We had ten participants last year. This year, we lost two from last season but we added six new teams. Fourteen teams. I’m so excited. I was looking for a project related to camaraderie and inclusion, and some of the new participants are from departments that some of us feel kind of separated from.

We drafted online live last night, and ten of the fourteen people showed up. Ten people hanging out with coworkers online for two hours last night. I’m very happy.

Also happy because Yahoo and another source evaluated the draft and declared me the winner of the draft. Heck yeah. Bring on the NFL.

Shallow (also Friday 5: Smallifying)

It occurred to me yesterday morning while I was floating on my back in the Pacific Ocean, trying to soak up some of the peace its name promises, that if I’m as shallow as I suspect, maybe it won’t be so hard to get over Crush Girl.

I think about some of the shallow people I know, the guys who have a type. They pretty much roll from one relationship to another with seemingly little damage. This one likes Filipino girls; that one likes redheads. If you’re shallow and you know your type, perhaps you just bounce into the next person who satisfies the type.

Seriously. I know who I am, and an elite college gets me hot. Or at least warm. R went to Stanford. Mochi Girl went to Cornell. One of my former colleagues (a really good friend) went to William and Mary, and before I knew anything else about her, my interest was piqued. Man, I’ve always wanted to go out with a William and Mary girl. It was clear very early on that we were going to be great friends and that was it. I was totally fine with that, but for a few moments, I mean come on. William and Mary.

It makes sense, really. Some of my best friends went to upper-tier schools. Grace went to Wellesley. Karen went to Bryn Mawr. Mina Kimes went to Yale (okay, she’s not a friend but she’s responded to my comments on IG so it’s a start). And let’s not forget all the beautiful, brilliant women I know who went to UH Hilo. If so many of my good friends went to school like this, why wouldn’t I be attracted in more-than-a-friend ways to women who also attended them?

Mochi Girl was a botany major, but maybe that’s why that one didn’t go anywhere.

Do the dating apps let me filter for certain universities and certain majors? Hook me up with a Princeton English major, please. Or a Penn art history major. Or a Harvard education major. Does Harvard even have a college of ed? I have no idea, but I’d love to find out.

Shallow, I know, but maybe my shallowness is the key to swimming my way out of this misery, up to the surface where perhaps I belong. Those depths, I tell you, are fraught with currents of melancholy.


I had my annual performance review at work today, a formality I dislike with intensity, but one I understand is an important part of my job and my supervisor’s job. It went well; it was possibly my best one with this employer. I think I’m trending upward.

I could really use a hefty raise, though. I mean something that by itself would cover my rent. Honestly, if I were paying no rent I think I’d consider myself well off — okay, well enough off– with what I make right now. The employer has been good about boosting my pay each year I’ve been here, including the one year when I was only there six months before this annual review thing. I don’t think the raises have quite kept up with inflation, so I’m still getting poorer, but I appreciate the effort.

Man. I’d still like something more liberating. One of my colleagues (someone more than twenty years younger than me in a different department) asked me what I make. It’s taboo in America to talk about such things, but this person’s a friend, so I considered answering it the way a friend would answer it.

Before I responded, the person asked, “Do you make 50?”

“I make way less than 50,” I said.

“Do you make 45?”

“Shoot. If you consider 45 way less than 50, I make way, way less than 50.”

She was appalled, which gives me an idea of what she makes.

It’s okay. I don’t do it for the money. I make enough to scrape by; I love my work; I love the people I work with. There are so many worse scenarios. And thank God I don’t have anyone to support. Yes, what a blessing it is that nobody has deemed me fit to start a family with!

Anyway. I won’t find out about a raise until probably a month or two from now, based on past experience. It’s a good thing I love me some Princeton girls who can support us both. If they can find me.


Friday 5. From here.

  1. What mini version of a popular snack food is better than its original?
    I don’t think they make Butterfinger BBs anymore, but when they did that would be my answer. I loved those things. Ah, that link says they were discontinued in 2006. Those mini Nutter Butters are pretty dang irresistable. Also, I’d like to say that the optimal size for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is not the original or the mini, but the snack size (or whatever it’s called). The perfect ratio of chocolate to filling. Those minis were such a good idea, but there’s too much chocolate for the amount of filling you get.
  2. What mini version of a popular snack food is not as good as its original?
    Just today I was in a convenience store and I picked up these Rice Krispies snacks in little bite-sized bits. These were frosted. There were chocolate and vanilla creme; I went with vanilla creme. And blech. The icing was just like the white icing on those frosted animal crackers, only frosted animal crackers are yummy and these were gross.
  3. What food, not yet miniaturized as far as you know, might make a great hors d’oeuvre for parties?
    It’s been my goal for years to get a deep fryer and make mini chimichangas. Think of it. I use a cookie cutter to cut rounds out of tortillas, about three inches across. Smear some burrito filling on them, add a slice of cheese, roll, and fry. Then serve on toothpicks with little cups of salsa for dipping. I need to get on this, maybe before the next office potluck.
  4. What snack food might be better in a giant size?
    How about blueberry Newtons? Like, brownie sized, so you can put a scoop of French vanilla ice cream on top.
  5. What five mini-scoops of ice cream flavors would go really well together?
    Okay, ready? Coffee. Cookies and cream. French vanilla. Chocolate. Chocolate chip cookie dough. POW.

Friday 5: Timing is Everything

Today was a state holiday: Admission Day or Statehood Day, according to Wikipedia. I grew up with it as Admission Day but I heard someone smart a few years ago say the state changed it to Statehood Day and I accepted it without questioning it. Finally looked it up (just now!) and the Hawaii Department of Human Resources calls it Statehood Day. Good enough for me.

I was so tired last night I just collapsed in bed without putting myself properly away, something that’s been happening far too frequently lately. It’s disturbing, because I have the Darth Vader machine to put on or I don’t sleep well, which affects my blood pressure, which I’m trying to keep under control. I also have eyedrops for my high eye pressures. Those are fine if I put them in when I wake up in the morning but my doctor recommends I put them in before bed, and I try to listen to my ophthalmologist even though she’s a Broncos fan.

So of course I woke up really early. There was a rat in my live trap. I stopped at Starbucks before taking the cage up to the place where I let the rats go. I’m not saying where because I don’t want to get anyone mad who might live in the area, although if I told you where it is you would agree with me that it’s a reasonable place to let rats go. Let the wealthy deal with my vermin.

I had a latte, letting the rat sit in my car for half an hour while I did the NYT crossword puzzle and sipped my coffee. There’s a Starbucks in a spot that would have been enormously convenient when I was still teaching at HBA. I’m kinda-sorta glad it wasn’t there when I taught, although it seems like a total no-brainer. How Kalihi got a Starbucks ten years before Nuuanu is a bafflement.

I watched the rat run out of the cage, then do this weird bounding thing the rats do when they get to the tall grass. Then I hit the beach. It was nice. My shoulders were still a bit tired from pushing myself Thursday morning, so I took it easy. The physical benefits are one reason I get in the water but the mental health benefits are the bigger reason. Just cruised my usual distance and enjoyed the salt, sand, and sunshine.

At work I had this deadline for Monday at 9, so yesterday was focused mainly on that, and speaking of focus, I couldn’t find any. I was going a little crazy not being able to lock in and get the assignment done. Around 1:00 I went for a walk around the block (my boss is very understanding of a writer’s need for a change of scenery when the ideas aren’t flowing) and it occurred to me that if I were to put myself in a deep state of depression (maybe not that deep), the part of my brain I need to keep occupied so it doesn’t get distracted could wallow around in that while the part of my brain that does the writing could snap into its groove.

Luckily for me, depression is never very far away. Especially lately with Crush Girl friendzoning me. By the time I got back to my desk I was good and miserable, almost to the point of tears.

I banged that story out like I had it memorized. My keyboard was almost like a player piano, independent of the hands pretending to control it. It wasn’t really like that, and there were a couple of transitions I had some difficulty with, but I was utterly in control the whole way.

So. Add darkness and depression to my writer’s toolbox. I might try to turn that into an article for a writers magazine or something.

Jocelyn thinks I should give it one more shot with Crush Girl (she’s aware of the complications I’ve mentioned but not named) because she thinks I may not have been clear about what I want, which is to spend time with her in alternate contexts so as to get to know her better because I really like her so far. Jocelyn thinks I have to hurry because if I’m in the friendzone for too long (and it doesn’t take too long to get to too long) I’ll never get out of it, which could be unfair to us both.

I’m considering it. Goodness knows my own wisdom has yielded little more than warm memories and cold misery so far in my love life, such as it exists, so why not take the advice of someone who’s made it work? Yeah, why not?

I wish this were only physical attraction; it would be so much easier to deal with. While it’s definitely that, there’s so much more going on here. She makes me smile in strange, small moments I haven’t seen before.

R made me laugh all the time, and the ways she made me smile were always tinged with a little bit of sadness. She’s had a rough life, and her defense, at least in all the years before she had kids, was to cling tenaciously to a childlike way of experiencing the world, and expressing what she saw through this lens. It was disarming and tragic at the same time. It’s where her beauty came from, not to mention her art.

Crush Girl makes me smile in a completely different way I haven’t been able to define, mostly because it’s new. It took me ages (as in decades, plural) to define how R made me smile, so if it takes me a while to figure out what it is with Crush Girl I guess that makes sense although I’m thinking about it more directly than I ever did with R.

One theory I’ve floated to myself (and now to whoever is reading this) is that when you’ve been around the same people for a very long time, which I have with most of my friends, you become so familiar with each other’s timing and tendencies that while you continue to make each other laugh and smile, there’s nothing unexpected about any of it.

Crush Girl’s timing is so different, and her wording, and her sentiment. I don’t think she even knows most of the time that she’s making me smile, or how she’s making me smile.

A really, really smart guy I once knew (who played in this band) explained to some students we had in common how love at first sight is possible. I’ve never believed in it; love is too big a word. But this guy talked about how something about the way someone carries him- or herself can define a room, can alter a room, and it’s not difficult to fall in love with that.

I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it fully now, but the guy had a good argument.

You can’t really notice upon first sight someone’s rhythm or timing or diction in how she makes you smile, but if you could I might be convinced that love at first sight is possible.


Here’s this week’s Friday 5, whose questions are related to the stress of my work deadline this week.

  1. What’s your hurry?
    While I don’t know if I agree with Jocelyn about how long in the friendzone someone can be before any chance at romance is lost, I’m willing to entertain the notion that it’s very very very short. I think I need to make another move Monday. And if I get shot down again, that is it, at least until circumstances change.
  2. Where’s the fire?
    Geez. There have been an unusual number of deaths in house fires on this island this summer. I live in a very old house and I have to admit I get worried about fire sometimes. This isn’t helping.
  3. You need it when?
    This is going to be a lean week ahead, and the two weeks following may be just as lean. So if someone could sprinkle some fairy dust on my pay schedule and get me the next two paydays really quickly, can we shoot for this coming Wednesday? Thank you!
  4. What’s your ETA?
    We had to complete self-evals for performance reviews, and one of the questions was, “What new challenges, objectives, or career goals would you like to pursue in the upcoming rating period?”

    I wrote that I have no career objectives beyond doing good work, and it’s true. It comes from being a teacher all those years. If you teach and if you don’t hope to be an administrator, there’s no real upward mobility. You just teach, and you just hope to do better each year than the last. There are all kinds of objectives related to that, but I don’t think this is the same thing.

    I mention this because since I don’t have a spouse or kids, the way I might define my arrival has to be different. I’ve been in a weird state of arrested development ever since I settled into the identify of my profession, something that hasn’t really changed even as my professions have. I think (I hope) my arrival will be tied somehow to my writing. This may be a lame answer but it’s the one I’ve been pondering these last couple of weeks. Thanks to my job, I can now actually call myself a writer, but I’m not the writer I want to be. I’m going to set my ETA at five years from today.
  5. What’s the holdup?
    Immaturity, mostly, in the form of avoidance of things I don’t want to do in favor of silly dreams, infatutuation, imagining, and just getting myself out of bed every morning and (more difficult) putting myself to bed every night.

Friday 5: Scattergories Part 9

I made my move. I can’t say why, in this public space, but I pretty much only got one chance at this — there would be no wooing, none of my customary long game. It’s the main reason I waited so long. I had to pick a time when I thought the moment was good. I wasn’t getting a second shot.

I asked her (via text, of course) if she wanted to see a movie with me next week, one evening during the week. She said she’d already told other friends she’d see the movie with them. I said let me know if you change your mind. Then I said it wasn’t really about the movie, so if she wants to hang out, let’s hang out. If not, I’ll back off. And then something about really enjoying getting to know her.

She replied the next morning with thanks — you’re a good friend.

Oh yeah. Friend-zoned right out of the gate.

At first I felt lousy, of course, but I also felt pretty good. “I’m back in the game,” I wrote in some public social media space somewhere. I even texted two friends saying the same thing. “I asked her out. She shot me down in flames. But I’m back in the game so I’m okay.”

That lasted almost a day, and now it pretty much just feels crappy, and here’s why. For most of my life, I haven’t pursued female companionship for dating’s sake. I casually dated rather a lot, especially in high school and early in college, because I love female companionship, but it was never really about long-term relationships. I didn’t pursue relationships after my first high-school girlfriend as the object themselves.

With R, it wasn’t about wanting to be in a relationship. It was her. I just liked being with her more than I liked being with anyone else, including alone by myself. When I asked Mochi Girl out, it was her, not a relationship, I was interested in, and we’re talking about a lot of years between R and Mochi Girl. Except for K (a very long story I should probably tell, now that all interested parties are married except me), someone I pined a very long time for without ever making a move, it’s pretty much just been R and Mochi Girl since I graduated college 24 years ago.

Mochi Girl didn’t work out mostly because I liked being alone more than I liked being with her, and I rather liked being with her. So it takes someone rather terrific for me to start thinking moves.

Don’t get me wrong: there have been crushes galore. Pretty much non-stop ever since things ended with R. But, you know. Just crushes.

This one was (is) different. I really like her, or at least the her I know so far. Circumstances (those blasted circumstances again!) sort of make it difficult to get to know her outside one or two contexts. I don’t know what she’s like when she’s angry, or how she treats people who are uncool to her, or whether she’s pre- or post-millennial about the rapture, or what she thinks of predestination (possible deal-breaker, I tell myself even though I know it’s a lie).

What I do know, though, was enough to get me out of my crush stasis and into move-making mode.

That’ll teach me.

Because you know, I have this dating app (I’m not saying which but some of the stuff three paragraphs up would give you a clue) on my phone and I considered opening it up.

I installed it months ago but haven’t opened it yet. At first it was because I had to ask myself what my approach was going to be, but then it was because I was into Crush Girl, and the stupid dating app seemed meaningless. I wanted Crush Girl, or at least I wanted to see if Crush Girl and I could be a thing.

But hey. I’m back in the game, right? Let’s take that dating app for a spin.

Not as easy as I kind of thought it would be. Crush Girl is pretty outstanding. I’d post a few bullets here but circumstances make that impossible for now; I’d have to find some kind of code to write it in.

If you know me well, you’d just say, “Well of course.” Certain things about where she went to school and what she studied, and what she does on Sundays, just shallow LinkedIn profile kind of stuff, might have you shaking your head too. Like, don’t I ever learn?

I’m not saying someone on the dating app would have to have those bullets (which R and Mochi Girl both did). But at least in the immediate aftermath of being shot down, I have to say it’s difficult to imagine anyone not having them catching my interest.

‘Cause it’s not about the dating. I’m fine without dating. It was about her, and now I’m not sure I’m fine without her.

It kind of hurts to type that.

It’s been ten(ish) years since Mochi Girl. It took someone like Crush Girl for me to make a move. Someone find me someone like that!


Friday 5, from here. The annual Scattergories theme. The random-letter generator rolled me an R. I am not making this up.

  1. What beverage do you enjoy but seldom have?
    Root beer for sure. I love it, but there’s just too much sugar in regular soda, and I have some blood sugar issues. I still have a root beer wall in my house, though, where 20+ glass bottles of root beer from different bottlers tells the story of my love.
  2. What’s better now than when you were a kid?
    I want to say rock concerts. When I was a kid, the local concert scene semed so not-happening, although I remember missing a good number of great shows just because I wasn’t old enough to go anywhere. In fact, one reason I got my first paying job right after turning 14 was so I could buy my own concert tickets and not have to ask for money. The first one came along in 9th grade, a few months after I got the job. .38 Special with Golden Earring. I presented my case to my dad, even though I already knew the answer. It was a school night. My parents were religious about school nights. My dad said he appreciated that I’d worked hard for the money and if it hadn’t been a school night, he’d have let me go. Dang! The concert scene is pretty lively now. I’ve been to more concerts in the past three years than in the previous 20.
  3. Who makes you happy?
    Speaking of concerts, Rush was my first, and something inspired me to listen to lots of Rush this week (not that I ever need a reason), and there was a moment, sitting in front of my computer at work, when I wanted to say aloud that Rush really makes me happy. I can’t say that of many people, so thanks to Geddy, Alex, and Neil. I’m flicking my Bic in Canada’s general direction.
  4. Where do you go when you want to indulge?
    There’s an Italian restaurant in my parents’ neighborhood called Ricado’s, and I’m a big fan. Some friends and I used to go a lot, but it’s been rather a long time since I’ve been there. I think I’ll try to organize a weeknight dinner with those friends this week. Take my mind off what’s-her-name. IT WORKED! Just kidding. That’s an old Peanuts joke.
  5. Where’s a comfy place to sit?
    I have great difficulty finding comfy places to sit. I don’t do chairs very well, although I’ve known a few pleasant rockers and recliners in my day. Denise, who rolled an H, says hammock, which is a great answer. Hammocks are ridiculously comfortable. I’m afraid my answer is Regal Dole Cannery IMAX and RPX, the movie theater in my hood. It’s a quiet, air-conditioned, dark, comfy place to catch a nap, something I’ve done many times over the years. I have better naps in that theater than anywhere, other than the theater close to the office!

Is this thing on?

So yeah. My brain’s been a little drained lately, specifically the part that writes stuff. I get home lately, have a small dinner, and hit the sack. Consequently, this will probably be short and will undoubtedly be a bit shallow, not to mention ineloquent.

Reading. I just finished Flour Babies, something I picked up used at the annual Friends of the Library book sale. Proper review later, but it was an interesting read. I couldn’t decide until the very end whether I liked it or not. I did. Anne Fine, the writer, does something really strange, unless I misread the novel. She’s certainly a fine writer, but in the last five pages or so she really cranks up the writing, and it sounds almost like a different person. The last five pages are lovely, almost heartbreaking prose. I’ll probably skim it again to see if I missed something earlier.

I’m now in the middle of Lynne Rae Perkins’s Criss Cross, my favorite book of the 2000s for sure. It received the Newbery Medal in 2006, the year I wrote my master’s thesis on the Newbury Medal, and honestly it’s the book I’ve been trying my whole life to write. It’s possibly better this second time through.

Amazon says I’ve purchased the book six times, which doesn’t include my original purchase at the local Barnes and Noble. I like giving it as a gift.

I saw Spider-Man: Far from Home last week. Fun movie! It’s really sweet, like a good teen flick, and the web-slinging is the coolest it’s ever been. And holy moly Marisa Tomei.

In the evenings before bed, I check my BP, but I have to sit still a while before I hit the button on the machine, and then I sit still a while more so I can take a second reading. Usually during this sitting still, I watch an episode of Silicon Valley, of which I’m nearly finished with season three. It doesn’t match the first two seasons’ creativity and genius, but it’s still pretty smart, and despite one story arc that’s distracting and stupid, it seems to have concluded that arc and done something pretty neat with the character involved. I’ve got season four on DVD on its way to my mailbox. Ordered it on physical media so I could pass it around.

Concert scene’s been a little dead after what’s been a pretty great previous twelve months. I’m okay with it, really. My last show was Michael Franti in early May, and I left the concert while it was still going on. I think he’s great but his audiences drive me crazy. I didn’t enjoy myself the last time I saw him a couple of years ago either.

But Keb’ Mo’ is coming next month, and he’s terrific, and last week I purchased tickets I can’t afford for Patton Oswalt in the lovely Hawaii Theater. It’s the night before my birthday so I couldn’t resist. Now I gotta find someone for the other ticket. Still on the fence for Keb’ Mo’. Gotta decide this week.

Friday 5: A Week

I’m reading Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, winner of the National Book Award for Children’s Literature in 2010. The momentum I had coming out of my Harry Potter re-read carried me through several pretty good books (and one really good one), but this one’s been a speed bump. It’s a short book, too, so that’s kind of a disappointment.

It’s written from the point of view of a ten-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, whose brother is killed in a school shooting. If you’ve worked with Asperger’s students, you know they require a lot of patience, patience I have (almost) always had because they were my students. Reading inside the mind of one of these students who isn’t mine requires a bit of patience I don’t have. It’s been a little frustrating, but I may have turned a corner. Something in the novel I hadn’t thought of, a connection to To Kill a Mockinbird, may have emerged, something I find intriguing.

Still takes a bit of effort to pick that thing up during my usual reading times. I’m finding it easier to stare at my phone.

Friday 5 from here.

  1. If I give you $20 to spend selfishly by tomorrow evening, what do you spend it on?
    Almost surely a meal out. Maybe a bowl of pho and some Vietnamese iced coffee. Heck yeah.
  2. What’s a delivery you recently waited too long for?
    I ordered a book to give a friend for her birthday, even though I don’t know when her birthday is. I just want to have it ready for when it comes up. The book has had a few covers, but I wanted the hardcover edition with the original cover, so I ordered it from an Amazon seller who claimed my order was Prime eligible. They shipped it out the next day, all right, but they sent it USPS media mail! Do you know how long media mail takes to get to Hawaii from the U.S. East Coast? In this case fourteen days. Since I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to get it and since the book is in terrific shape, I’m not going to complain (‘though I mentioned it in my review of the seller), but next-day MEDIA MAIL is not what I’m paying for when I renew my freaking Prime membership every year. Gr!
  3. How annoying have you been lately?
    I’d say pretty annoying. I’ve been having difficulty getting myself locked in at work, which always makes me a little distractible, which makes me a distraction to those around me. Sorry, office-mates.
  4. When did you last give someone a ride in your car for the first time?
    Hey, but I did give a coworker a ride when she had to leave her car in the shop before work one morning. Met her at a nearby Starbucks with a cup of coffee, and drove her in. That was two weeks ago I think.
  5. What was the last piece of candy you ate?
    We have this bucket of candy on the reception desk at the office, and I threw a bag of li hing mui honey drops in there last week. I often throw candy in there and seldom indulge, but I have a weakness for these and had four of them Thursday and another few Friday.

Friday 5: Back Turn

Super tired. I hit the water early Saturday and planned to take it easy — I’ve been a little sore all over from all the stepcount-chasing and the regular swimming, and I’ve slept pretty horribly all week. It was a combination that told me to mellow out for the weekend.

And a weird thing happened in the second half of the swim. I can easily point to halves in my swimming because I jump in at one buoy, swim a varying number of buoys down the beach and then turn around and swim back. On the way back I thought I ought to do at least a short stretch of strenuous swimming, and I just kept going, doubling my usual goal. It was insane because I didn’t really feel strained while I was in it. Just kept swimming swimming swimming swimming. My body wanted to go.

Then I did my errands on foot and got my stepcount without even really trying. So I am rather tired despite a 90-minute nap this evening. My arms and shoulders feel dead.

It might not help the sleepiness (although it helps the writing some) that I’ve got Enya’s Shepherd Moons in the headphones. I was just in the mood. While I won’t argue against “Orinoco Flow” from Watermark being her best song, Shepherd Moons is the slightly better album. For a time in 1992 it was my main way of relaxing and getting to sleep, when I was in probably the worst period of my life for insomnia. And “Carribean Blue” is quite nearly as good as “Orinoco Flow.”

This is the album with Enya’s lovely recording of “How Can I Keep From Singing?” It’s really a cover of Pete Seeger’s less overtly Christian version, but it still works for me. Pretty pretty pretty.

I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel fitter after only six weeks of pretty hardcore focus on regular exercise, but I don’t. Honestly, except for swimming faster and longer, I don’t notice any difference. I suppose the faster and longer thing is a good indication of progress in my primary aim, which is not to die. My BP is going down too, so okay. But naked, I still look terrible, and I wanna get lean for Crush Girl (secondary aim but more effective motivation). Or at least slightly less doughy.

Here’s the Friday 5 for this week, from here.

  1. What are you ahead on?
    We have this staff newsletter at work, something I work really hard on every month. I mentioned to my boss last year that I would eventually like to take it over entirely, rather than just edit the publication draft and contribute my two monthly columns (a one-minute writing tip and a short movie review). Because of a few major organizational changes recently, my boss is a lot busier, so last month she just sent me the material and I put it together and made it sound nice. It was fun. I love this kind of work because I’ve been working really hard to transmit a sense of inclusion among my coworkers as much as a lowly staff writer can, and this newsletter is one nice way to do it. This month I’m putting it all together myself for the first time and I’m excited to do it, and I’ve been really on it, far ahead of my usual timeline for this thing. And coworkers have responded well, sending me some really nice contributions. I kind of wanted to give a life answer and not a work answer here, but work is on my mind a lot lately.
  2. Who’s slowing you down?
    I suppose the answer for everyone is going to be “me,” and I’m going with the same answer. Seriously, who among us can really say we aren’t the ones most effectively getting in our own ways? I wish I could find a way to — oh, never mind. There’s really nothing to say here except “me too.”
  3. When did you last stumble getting out of the gate?
    Man, Wednesday and Friday were difficult. Because I’ve slept horribly, I had an unusually difficult time Wednesday getting up and out to the beach before work. I have to drag myself out every morning anyway, but I manage okay most of the time by telling myself that sleeping in is for people who didn’t let their bodies go to hell for a decade and a half. Don’t knock it; it totally works. I don’t psych myself up to hit the beach. I psych myself down. Anyway, I did get there but I got there so late I got lousy parking and was only able to jump in and jump out. Friday I had similar difficulty but for different reasons. Thursday I woke up SUPER early to get my dad to the hospital for some knee surgery. While he was under the knife I hit the beach for the unusual Thursday swim, so Friday morning I was utterly beat. Skipped the beach (even though Friday is usually the best morning for it) and stumbled into the office close to ten! One more reason this job may be better than teaching for my longevity. School bells are a bit less forgiving of this sort of thing.
  4. How’s your mane these days?
    Ugh no no no no no no. I don’t want to talk about it, but I’m grateful for the reminder. I need to make an appointment with a doctor to talk about it! It’s thinning at an alarming rate now. I mean, it’s sort of on schedule because I’m FIFTY this year and holy moly. Okay switching subjects because the hair thing is really a sensitive issue.
  5. When did you most recently find yourself unexpectedly hoofing it somewhere?
    Walking is (once again) a regular part of my existence, so it’s seldom surprising to me that I’m walking anywhere. So the unexpected part would have more to do with the where than the how. A couple of weeks ago on Administrative Professionals day, I was invited to lunch by another department who was taking its Administrative Professional to Aunty Pasto’s. I was happy to be included so I quickly grabbed my stuff, locked my screen, and joined in. And we had a very nice time. I had a mixed mushrooms pasta dish, great conversation, and a nice walk. I take most of my lunches by myself, mostly because I need some me-time sometime during the workday, but also because I usually have breakfast after a swim, so I’m not ready for lunch until most people have eaten, like 2:00 or 2:30. I wasn’t about to say no to such a nice invitation, though, and it was the right call.

The first three months of the year, it seemed like there were one or two major new metal releases every Friday. That’s sort of slowed down lately, so I’ve been going back to the old favorites. Lately I’ve had the Springsteen playlist on repeat, and it’s been good for my ears. I’m mentioning this now in hopes of reminding myself to put a few thoughts together about “Thunder Road,” which in recent years has dislodged “The River” and “Born to Run” as my favorite of Bruce’s tracks.

That would be a good list. Ten favorite Bruce songs. Note to self.

Flesh Becomes Water; Wood Becomes Bone

Okay this will be a fast one just because I haven’t done anything in super long and I should put SOMETHING in this space.

The simplified life continues. Three days during the work week, I get up early and hit the beach for a swim. I’m in the water close to an hour, sometimes cranking out a nice, strenuous swim and sometimes sorta cruising, but I do feel myself getting stronger. More important is the peace and happiness (or something approaching happiness) I get just from spending that time in the water as the sun’s coming up. I don’t know if this is doing my body any good, but it’s doing my mind a lot of good. My mood on beach days is usually terrific.

I’ve tried different breakfast options, including overnight oats, which I love, but on beach days there are few things better than a footlong sandwich at Subway. I can’t explain it. On both college campuses where I’ve worked, Subway was the only thing open during winter and spring breaks, and for a couple of weeks during the summer, so I’d usually get my Subway quota during those periods and really never eat there otherwise, but dang. After an hour in the ocean it’s all I want to eat. Though I know it’s not the best choice, I try to assure myself that I could do a lot worse for my body.

I usually take the mornings to read while I’m having that sandwich. Then it’s off to work, where I’ve been pretty dang productive lately. Lunch is usually somewhere nearby, although I try to get a few thousand steps in too. After work I walk the rest of the steps toward my weekly goal (which is something like 91K steps, or 13K per day) then get home.

Then it’s just getting ready for the next day.

On non-beach days, I sleep in. I would like to get it up to six beach days per week (Sundays off) but my body won’t take that yet. I had a week when I went five days and my mood was the opposite of good.

Does any of this have to do with Crush Girl? Maybe.

Crush with Eyeliner

It’s been a rough April and also quite a good one. I’m doing a little Halloween stories project for Camp NaNoWriMo, hoping to come up with something good to polish for a Halloween stories contest in October. The local daily had a contest every year for decades (I entered it a few times), but didn’t have it last year, so I may be looking for other options.

I’ve come up with a couple of good ideas, one of them stealing from a theme I came up with during Camp NaNo last July, when I wrote those fifteen microfictions in 31 days. It’s a fun theme to wind a story around: dumb things guys do to impress girls.

The focus on Camp NaNo has meant almost no real media consumption in the post-work hours. I haven’t seen a movie or watched a TV program in what feels like ages. It’s kind of nice, to be honest, but the Criterion Channel launched its new streaming service on April 8, and I purchased a yearly subscription back in February. I haven’t been able to take it for a spin, thanks to Halloween stories month.

I’ve spent mornings and lunch breaks rereading Harry Potter, and finally finished the Deathly Hallows this past Saturday. More on that later. Without TV and movies, reading books and writing stories has proven not a bad way to go through life.

I’ve ramped up my beach game this month, too. When I bought the wheels last September, the main reason was to get myself back in the water on a regular basis, but man. We had an incredibly rainy winter, with the kind of rains that push lots of runoff into the ocean. You really don’t want to swim in that, so I sorta went from November through March without a trip to the beach.

Which is really inexcusable, considering where I live. So April has been about reestablishing formerly excellent habits, and I’ve been swimming four times a week for the past (nearly) four weeks. It’s been mostly outstanding. I hit a few personal milestones I thought I was far away from the last time I was a regular beachgoer, a few years ago. It’s like some switch was flicked, and I’ve totally rediscovered my stroke and a surprising reserve of stamina I didn’t know was there.

I’m motivated primarily by just not wanting to die. But there are side benefits, such as a very good mood at work on days when I hit the ocean first. Oh yeah, I go in the mornings before work. My new office is super close to the beach.

I can’t really talk about it here until I figure out a way to do it in code, because this writing space is too public and too Googleable, but I’ve been crushing pretty hard on someone, and the swimming has made some of it a bit more bearable. Just taking that 45 minutes or so to let my brain rest a little, to let my whole body breathe, helps with the other 23.25 hours of the day when I can’t seem to stop thinking about whether or not there’s another relationship left in this battered and (let’s face it) aged heart.

Interestingly (or not!), I’m not at all worried about getting hurt, or making myself vulnerable, or going out on a limb to say hey, wanna see a movie and get dinner this Friday night? And I’m only slightly concerned about messing up what seems to be a growing friendship. I think if certain realities were different, I’d have asked this person out already, but certain realities are what they are, and there’s more at stake than just my feelings and this new friendship.

Once upon a time, the stakes would have been prohibitive. I’m slowly talking myself out of the prohibitions, though. But I can’t actually do anything about it until I decide if this crush is more than a crush, and that’s usually a matter of time.

Maybe it is. I’m so into women that I’ve always got a crush going on, plus a crush in waiting and a crush emerita, and time is almost always the factor that nudges the line along, and I’m grown up enough not to take any of it seriously or to mistake a crush for something else. It’s just a nearly constant feel-good.

But holy moly. This one doesn’t feel good. This one aches. It’s been some time since I’ve felt that. Could be an illusion, so I think the only thing to do is nothing.

This week’s Friday 5 is about impressing people. It’s related to this topic. I’ll answer the questions later.

Friday 5: Clicker is Quicker

“There’s a very fine line betwen a groove and rut,” sang Christine Lavin, and and I’ve fallen into what feels like a groove, but I’ve basically stripped my life down in the past few weeks to work, rest, and feeding myself. The side work has slowed down, and I’m finding my time away from the office enjoyable again. I’m putting myself to bed at a reasonable hour, although still not habitualizing the Darth Vader machine the way I need to.

My focus at work has been unsually keen. I’m not ready to credit the new office, but I need to be honest and say that certain truths about the new space have worked better for my writing focus. Other circumstances make a difference too, like having reliable wheels and not taking an hour to get from home to work, or two hours to get back home. I’m having most of my breakfasts and dinners at home (I’m getting home early enough because I haven’t been stopping at cafes to do the side work), so I’m mostly letting myself eat out for lunch. Not having to deal with all that lunch prep every week makes a difference too.

This whole routine of waking, having breakfast, going to the office, working an honest day, then coming home for dinner and downtime feels like what it’s supposed to be like for a single, middle-aged guy. Sometimes I run errands after dinner, or go to a flick, or get groceries. It feels like life. If I made a little more money I would almost call this contentment.

Can’t stay like this, though. I’m about to try and add something to my evenings, and because I don’t make a little more money, I do have to ramp up some of that side work. And getting exercise hasn’t been a priority lately, and I have to work that back in. I don’t see how I can add any of that stuff back in without throwing me out of this groove.

One way I think I can do it is to make more strategic use of my vacation days. I get twenty-two days a year (or thereabouts) and can carry over fourteen or fifteen days from year to year. Last year I only took as many days as I had to not to lose any to that carryover limit, and maybe that’s not the best way to use them. This is a new thing for me, these vacations days not dictated by the academic calendar, and my approach so far has been that having them is more valuable to me than using them, kind of like this little stash of giftcards I have for lean times when I could really use a dinner out. Using a day today might be nice, but it feels nicer knowing I can.

Today is a state holiday, and I never get enough stuff done on holidays, so I’m taking the morning half of my day off tomorrow. It feels good not feeling pressured to do everything on the to-do list, knowing I have a little bit of overflow tomorrow. This might be the new strategy for those vacation days. Just add a half day to each state holiday or three-day weekend.

Friday Five from here.

What’s something you’d like to increase the volume of?

My fridge has been feeling a bit cramped lately, and it’s plenty big enough. Still, it’s very old and I think I need to start with a fresh one, one with a bit more freezer space.

Who would you like to mute?

I can’t say the answer that comes first to mind because for Lent I’m sort of not bad-mouthing this person. I mean, I’m doing something more than not bad-mouthing the person, but bad-mouthing definitely works against the goal (if there’s actually a goal) I seek. I’ve already kind of blown it and am assigning myself a few makeup days after Easter to make up for the slippage. You know, like snow days in those parts of the continental US where snow days exist. So maybe I’ll say I’d like to mute myself.

When was your body (or part of your body) most recently scanned?

I had some blood work done last week, so my blood was scanned, and that’s a much nicer answer than what I would have had to say before the blood work, because I recently had to mail something in for colon cancer screening. That test came back negative. Yay. I guess before that it was at the airport coming home from Boston.

What part of the upcoming weekend would you like to skip?

I’m getting to this after the weekend in question, so the part I would have said is the time set aside for some house chores. I didn’t do the chores anyway. I guess I did skip that portion of the weekend.

Whose input could you really use right now?

Ah, geez. I had lunch with a former colleague yesterday, and without bringing up something that’s been weighing me down, I managed to get a little bit of input anyway, and it really helped. If I felt ready to talk about it with anyone, I suppose it would have been her. I mean, I could definitely use some input on this certain social situation (yeah , the situation is a woman) but I think talking about it now would be creating a situation that might not actually be a situation. Better to keep it as hypothetical as I can for now. I guess.