I have spent the last 42 days splitting my time between my second-storey apartment and a hidden complex of glass-walled rooms we call the lab. I could go into great detail about the lab, how all the walls on the inner rooms are made of glass from waist-high to the ceiling, and how if you are standing in D Room and look back toward the elevator it sort of feels like you're in a carnival fun house. Someone could easily just stand still in the hallway between the elevator and the D Room, and you probably wouldn't see them because of all the weird, eerie reflections and glares. I could go on at length about the creepy machinery here in the D Room, the circulator and the penning trap, or the centrifuge… Or how about the awkward and cumbersome helmet that hangs in the corner on a shiny steel post,…
I was talking to a friend the other day about what it's like to create. This friend has recently been welcomed into the small and selective group of friends I call my Ideal Readers Group, named after Stephen King's suggestion in On Writing. I know I've spoken about that book before on this site. Anyway, this group helps me attain clarity in my books, after I've written them, but before the first real edit. During my time of shelving the project and letting it simmer, they go through it with a fine-tooth comb and make notes of anything they find that doesn't fit. Continuity errors, misspellings, bad grammar, plot holes, the usual stuff. So we were talking about how I write. Or what it's like to write. To create. The magic feeling of seeing things appear on the screen as my fingers are pounding clumsily on the keyboard - things…
I am not an old man. I still consider myself a young man. I don't feel young in my bones, in the mornings, when I wake up and creak out of bed. But I feel young in the mind. In the spirit. I do young things. And I grant there might be some merit to the argument that cause becomes effect. Maybe doing young things makes one feel young. Maybe it's the other way around. All I know is that I didn't take the adult pill when I was twenty-three, driving off the Air Force Base with all my personal belongings stuffed in the trunk and backseat of my Cavalier. I grew up, sure. And now I had a job as a Software Engineer at a corporate web-hosting company. That's not a child's job. And I didn't make a child's wage. But in my head, I just chose to take…
You can usually tell by the state of my Jeep if it's a good night to ride. But that doesn't always speak of the month, or season. If we're knee-deep in the middle of a string of 40° days and suddenly get a nice 75er? You bet, I'm taking the windows and top off Amber Waves. Because it only takes five minutes to take it off, and about fifteen to put it back on. No sweat for me, I'm gonna enjoy the weather. It's nice to be able to leave the top off for a while, and have a place to park it. Did you know they make garages you can park your vehicle inside? Well, I just learned this when I moved into this house. Historically I've always turned my garages into bars or dart alleys or beer-brewing stations, so I've never been able to get more than one…
It’s morning. You’ve just woken up. It looks warm outside, the sun is shining, but there’s a thick blanket of snow on the deck. A large mug of coffee sits on the window sill, sunlight illuminating the steam as it lazily escapes the heat of the mug. You may be cozied up with your chin on your knees, a thick blanket wrapped round you as you stare out the window from the overstuffed leather chair. But it’s not a happy time. It’s sad. You’ve just lost a friend, finished the final legal hoops of a failed marriage. It’s a pensive, reflective moment. All cried out. Alone. Relieved, at peace, but saddened and forlorn. A complex web of emotions hangs stagnant amidst the lingering aroma of the coffee. They’re all real. Every bit of it as real as the snow outside. The sun, too far away to melt it, serves as a reminder that it will warm someday. This ain’t the last rodeo. The fingerprints on the window also serve that hope. There is life. And when the bell rings and the kids come traipsing in the front door, your silent melancholy will be abruptly shattered.
I’ve come to find that winter is my favorite season. I do like that cold. But that’s not it. It’s like a hard reset for planet America. Or at least planet North Texas. My world. It gets cold, freezes off the trials of the summer and the first nine months of a year, drops the leaves in the street and starts over. Let’s give it another chance. Let’s see if we can get it right this time. A perpetual trial and error in small, annual runs, like caption bubbles popping, saying “Once more”. Every year I contemplate what I could have done differently to make it a better year. Have I achieved what I set out to achieve this year? Have I grown as a man? A husband? A father? Am I where I wanted to be in life? On that third-grade questionnaire, where it asked ‘where do you want to be at forty-five’ what did I answer? Rich with a mountain home and a private plane? Warm with a red-haired wife and a black dog in a small cottage? Alone with a television blaring nonsense at a sub-audible level while I play solitaire on a sticky TV tray?
It was two o’clock this morning when I heard the voice. I was lying in bed playing poker on my tablet because – well, for two reasons really. Number one, my red-haired wife is traveling. So I’ve no motivation to go to bed early. And secondly, because I’m insomniac, so there’s rarely any sleep for me these days. And thirdly, because I – wait… I only promised you two. So that’s that. I was, therefore, not awakened by the sound of a voice. But I was startled by it. That’s for sure.
It sounded at first like a woman talking in my kitchen. I was alone in my bedroom with the door closed. So it could have been coming from anywhere. But it sounded about as far away as it could be while still being inside my house and downstairs. The kitchen is the answer to that. I perked up and listened a minute. Then I went back to my poker game. Some people get arrested for taking other people’s money. I get badges. I was well into another good hand when I heard the voice again. And this time it was louder.
I’m not very big into antiques. In fact, I think I don’t much care for them at all. I’ve stopped at antique stores before, and browsed through the old roll-top desks and the antique china cabinets. I’ve seen the old grandfather clocks and the coffee tables that were built back in the early nineteenth century. And I do a whole lot of yawning, but not much else. That stuff just doesn’t do it for me. But I got a phone call yesterday that changed everything.
Well, not everything. That’s just a cool way to close the opening paragraph of a column. It changed something though. My grandmother called, you see. And she’s the last living grandparent I have. She happens to be my dad’s mother. Happens to be. I mean, I guess she happened to be the one to marry my dad’s dad and thus, happened to end up becoming my dad’s mother. Funny how that happens. She actually didn’t even call me. She called my dad. And she had something she wanted to pass down.
I’ve been thinking a lot about tree houses lately. I’m not sure why this is. But Stavi and I have been sitting out on the driveway drinking beer and looking up at my massive trees in my front yard, and it has come to our attention that those are some damn fine tree house trees. I’ve been thinking, therefore, that maybe we should construct a tree house up in one of them there trees.
I’ve long been obsessed with awesome tree houses, and used to try to build them all the time when I was a kid. I was also always jealous of those friends of mine who had really nice ones. My Pop built me a helluvatuff fort when I was a kid. My sister and I had our own two-storey house in the backyard. But it wasn’t a tree house. There’s just a difference. Maybe a tree house can be hidden in the trees. Heck, I even wrote a poem about a tree house when I was younger. Don’t hate.
I’ve been home since Saturday. But I’m still getting used to it. Like I said before, it feels like I’ve been in a different airport (and hotel) every week. And indeed, I pretty much have. It’s nice to get home and know you’ll be staying there for at least a little while. Our next trip isn’t scheduled until August, so I have at least a month here before I have to use a suitcase again. Gah, I’m so tired of putting stuff into suitcases.
But you know what I’ve found about being back in the house? Well, besides the fact that when you’ve been gone for a week you get to see what your house actually smells like. I’ve found that it’s too big. You know, 7500 square feet can just get overwhelming for a guy like me. No, seriously it’s only about 2500 square feet, but when you’re home alone, it feels like a whole helluva bunch of wasted space. Of course, when you’ve been living out of a suitcase in a hotel room every other week, you start realizing that you’re doing just fine without all your big luscious space. And furthermore, all your stuff.
The church I attend is spread across two campuses. I go to the North Campus. Not sure why I capitalized that, but there you are. It wasn’t always like that, though. Not the capitalization thing, the two campuses thing. There used to only be one campus. It was the South Campus. But of course, back when it was the only one, it wasn’t called the South Campus. Or the south campus. Or even the campus. It was just called the church. And if I capitalize that, you’ll start thinking of Under the Milky Way.
Anyway, the point is that when it used to be just one building, and that’s where I went, I was married to a different woman than I am now. I have nothing negative to say about my ex-wife. She’s a lovely gal. We just weren’t meant for each other like I used to think. When we went through our divorce, which was one of the most difficult times I’ve ever gone through, I stopped attending that church. I also lost forty-five pounds. That should tell you how stressful it was, and – therefore – how seriously I took it. I hate divorce, and can often be heard saying I don’t believe in it. But that’s a whole other column.