Archive for the 'Life the Universe and Everything' Category


The internet doesn’t need to be so overwhelming

The thing about the internet is everyone is an expert, and everyone has great advice, and almost all of it is mostly “helpful.” But it can be hard to know just how (or who) you have to be to succeed.

Everyone knows we’re not naturally endowed to survive. We’re not good enough on our own. Are you kidding me? We need Lifehacker and that list of 10 places we must poop before we die, and … well, you won’t believe what this rapist said to his victim, and her response was so perfect, if this 10-second video doesn’t make you cry you have no pulse.

Before the internet, we were practically painting our cave walls with our own shit.

But the only way to keep one’s head from exploding from the choices is to make a few decisions every day. Take what works and forget about the rest. (Do you see how I’m giving you advice about advice? Stop me before I hurt myself.) Continue reading ‘The internet doesn’t need to be so overwhelming’


Greek foot

His feet look strong. Rigid, you might say, sinewy. But not bony. They are feet well-used, but not calloused or dirty.

It suggests a lot of time spent barefoot. He has the sand-scoured soles and suntanned top skin of feet that spent the summer months on the beach.

Under the skin across each foot curves a pattern of athletic veins. From ball to heel, a graceful arch slopes high and tight, like the loaded spring of a catapult.

His toes spread wide at the broad, flat, flipper-like ends of his feet. They are each distinct and squared at the tip, not a one crushed against another or mangled by years of too-tight shoes. His big toe is neither bulbous and vegetal, nor stunted and incomplete, just the next step up in a natural progression from this little piggy to the next.

The toenails are clean, neat, but not meticulous, not manicured. Maintained, you might say, but not “cared for.” Not shiny. Rather, appropriately dull and masculine, but glowing at the same time with effortless, thoughtless health.

The flesh of his heel sinks in around the Achilles tendon, taut as a drawn bow. His ankles, stony and firm, yet vulnerable, look mechanical and ready. And the region just above, at the base of his calves where the leg hair starts to grow, peeks out from the turned-up cuff of his jeans like a hint, an innuendo, a suggestion.

These are among the things you’re likely to notice when you’re a college freshman, in circumstances foreign and uncomfortable and exhilarating, suddenly free to look—in fact, encouraged to look—at the world with new eyes, meeting the guy across the hall who, like you, is sitting outside the door of his room with a book while his roommate is on the phone. Continue reading ‘Greek foot’



I was shoulder-deep in my closet, quietly fishing for a shirt I wouldn’t need to iron, when his alarm clock went off.

He raised himself slowly on his elbows and turned to me and said, “Honey. Are you gonna talk about the project at all?”

His voice was thick and slow, but the words were careful and clear. I hardly knew what to say in response.

“Talk about the project?”

“Yeah,” he said, emphatically gesturing toward the alarm clock.

He wants me to turn it off, I guessed. The sound was wrenching him from sleep, but it wasn’t enough to pull him through to awake.

I walked over and tapped the snooze button, and he crumbled, like I’d just pulled the cord on him, and fell immediately back to sleep.

“Time to wake up,” I said, gently massaging his shoulder.

He rolled over. “Um, you should call Texas and find out what the story’s gonna be,” he said.

Oh, man. Where the heck was he? “You’re delirious,” I said.

Frustration showed through on his face — frustration with himself or with me, or with the fact of waking up? “No. Bromine…,” he protested. And then he trailed off and sank back down.


The last day of car acquaintance

We were just going for a test drive.

Sooner or later you reach a point where you have to sink so much money into your car to make it sellable that it’s worth just as much or more as a trade-in. And even if that’s not precisely true, it’s worth something to have someone else take it off your hands.

So Jeff and I drove to a suburban car dealer in a 1997 Jeep Wrangler, and we drove home in a 2011 Honda CR-V.

When Jeff bought that Jeep in 2002 he joked, “It makes me look 30% sexier.” And he was right. It was true for anyone. It was a hot little number. Now we’re lulled into a need for reliability and comfort, room for groceries and, one day, room for a kid. Sturdy. Sensible. Soccer mom.

The new car is lovely. But it sure is hard to say good bye to the old friend who saw us through three moves and three cities. Continue reading ‘The last day of car acquaintance’


tweedle-dee, tweedle-douche

It has been a long day. I need a little sit-down where everybody knows your name. Funny enough, I know none of the names of the half-dozen or so fellas scattered around the bar, and I suspect none of them knows mine. So I figure I’ll make it a quick one and head home.

I’m sitting there with a lager, and a guy down the bar gets into an impassioned discussion with his companion about ’90s music. It’s ’90s music, I think. Why bother?

His friend pushes out from the bar to throw some money in the jukebox.

He calls out to the bartender to get his attention. “Hey, Vince. I have two problems,” he says, loud enough for everyone to hear. “We need a couple more drinks. And … all I have are large bills.”

He ceremoniously hands over a 50, slowly. I can see Grant’s stern, almost reproachful, gaze from six seats away. I think he must want me to see it.

Oh, Jesus, I think. What a problem. Oh, you poor thing and your burdensome cash flow. Please, honey. A 50 is not so huge.

Continue reading ‘tweedle-dee, tweedle-douche’


Notes on getting a new gym bag

1. You must not worry what your friends will think of you when they see you carrying around a smart new gray bag with robin’s egg-blue piping and a logo nobody recognizes. Try these excuses. (Note: Do not be troubled by too much regard for the truth.)

  • It was the last one left.
  • You should have seen the pink and purple “Dora the Explorer” bag.
  • The all-black one cost twice as much as I was willing to spend.
  • Look at these great pockets!
  • I was desperate.

2. Nothing will ever be where it is supposed to be. You will continue to discover new pockets for the first three months. The way you use those pockets will change almost daily, so sometimes you will be surprised by what you find — or what you don’t find — in them. Pocket change will go in and never come out. Also you will find items in there that you never put in there. You will swear your wallet would never be in that pock— er, oh… there it is! Rummaging through the bag, you may cut yourself on your razor. Always carry Band-Aids in the bag. Continue reading ‘Notes on getting a new gym bag’


It’s About Chime

Every hour, on the hour, a church in my neighborhood plays the Westminster chimes. I gave up wearing a watch years ago in favor of the time on my cell phone. Checking the time is almost more of an obsession now that it’s not literally on me, so I always know what time it is — usually because I am running late for something. The time-worn chime of those bells is totally superfluous, but there is some comfort in its regularity. It has not given up on us, if we care to listen.

I love those moments when I accidentally catch them. Usually I’m too busy, or I’m just not paying attention. Granted, the last time I heard them, I was sitting on the toilet. I find that shitting rivals showers and mowing the lawn for the moment I am most alone, in my own head. But hearing those bells reminds me to be quiet, to listen. Those chimes remind me it’s ok to pause for as many seconds as it takes to sound out 9, 10, 11 rings, and to count along, even though I already know exactly what time it is. (Apparently the church’s clock runs two minutes behind the time kept by AT&T.) Sometimes it’s just good to count along. Then you take a breath. Then you get back to work.


Half and Half

From today’s Writers’ Almanac:
“Today is the first day of fall, the autumnal equinox, where the sun is directly above the equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal. The autumnal equinox occurred early this morning at 3:09 UTC, Coordinated Universal Time. But here in America, the equinox occurred last night, at 11:09 on the East Coast.”


The gayest libra image I've ever seen.

Today is also my birthday.

It’s also the first day of Libra, which is all about balance, so it fits nicely that the number of hours of daylight is equal to the number of hours of night. Someone in ancient Greece probably already figured on that, and it’s probably intentional and not a coincidence, and I’m probably just late to the party. But I think it’s pretty neat.

However, the zodiac sign that corresponds to the vernal equinox is Aries, which is not nearly as cool — unless there is some kind of parallel to draw between spring time and amorous, uncastrated ruminants.


A Family Weigh

The 1976 film Network may most commonly bring to mind overwhelmed, despairing Howard Beale bellowing “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” His performance is genius, and his newsroom messiah complex may seem to presage this generation’s personality-driven Fox News and CNBC, but something else stood out to me when I watched the movie for the first time not long ago. A much smaller moment. And it had nothing to with Howard Beale, at least not directly.
Continue reading ‘A Family Weigh’


Now That’s Entertainment!

Maybe the cat has the right idea, perched on the radiator, watching the snowfall this morning through slitted eyes. She twitches just the tip of her tail from time to time as I might tap my finger. Not bored, but content. And maybe a bit expectant.

One can see the snow only against the buildings and cars and the skeletons of trees. Glancing skyward, it seems to disappear against the gray. But it’s there. Traffic is quiet; schools are closed: the world in slow-motion. I already hate the rain that will come later to beat it down and flush it away.

Actually, she might just be staring at the wall across the alley.

Still, I suppose the principle is the same.

the untallied hours