The Trek to Oyster Doom

“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness; that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” -Theodore Roosevelt

**********

A friend of mine, let’s call her “Dawn”, often spoke of the wonders of a certain hike.  Dawn and I even had plans to travel the route with a group of our coworkers.  But as these things often go, plans fell apart.  A year or two passed without me ever seeing this mysterious Oyster Dome.  All I knew of this mysterious land was that Dawn and several other friends spoke of the plentiful joys that this scenic escape had to offer.

Now, given those accolades and emotional urgings to explore said land, what could I do?  Early this week I finally made the trip out to Oyster Dome.  However, after my adventure I have found a more appropriate name.  I choose to call that most “exciting” of places, Oyster Doom.

The warning signs were plentiful; I just chose to ignore them.  Caution flag number one was the drive there.  I tend to be a little frightened by detours.  I am sure that the folks who place those imposing and unyielding orange signs know what they are doing.  However I like my roads to run in a straight line.  Therefore, I had some trepidation about driving down a stretch of freeway where there existed an infamous gap in the road.  Oy.  I have issues driving where chunks of the road is missing.  Sure, it worked for Speed, but I was alone.  Sandra Bullock was not behind the driver’s wheel encouraging and coaxing me on to victory.  (A point which I happen to think is a cruel injustice.)

Oops.  But it's getting better?

Oops. But it’s getting better?

To be fair, the detour was just fine.  Personally I think a few more signs would have been helpful.  But when in doubt, follow the semi-trucks; works every time.  Thanks to those multi-wheeled behemoths, I was able to get back on the highway with no problems and two exits later I was cruising down a quiet little paved road looking for a place for the trailhead.

The guide book claimed that there would be parking along the side of the road.  The book and I disagree on the term “parking”.  When I think of parking, I like to have bold white lines spray painted on the ground.  Ideally, there are concrete blocks on the ground or some sort of barrier to ensure that one’s car doesn’t go out of bounds.

The “parking” here was a strip of gravel.  On the edge of a cliff.  With a speed limit of 55.  I’m sorry, what?  In every story I’ve ever heard of a car parking along the side of a lonely road, it tends to end up with some guy carrying an axe and chasing them into the uninhabited woods.  (Showing their courteous side, the planners of the park even gave the crazed woodsman a way to hide the evidence; simply shove the innocent hiker’s car off the road.  No railings to get in the way, just a nice steep drop and tall trees to cover it up for ya.)

You're a lumberjack?  Okay, but explain the mask...

You’re a lumberjack? Okay, but explain the mask…

Now, folks that know me will attest that I am a might stubborn.  I had already driven out to the park.  It was broad daylight.  And I had managed to find the tiny little path of dirt that was to be the start of my expedition.  I figured I’d roll the dice and take my chances.  That was when I came upon the next sign of impending danger, which was an actual sign.

The short version:  "Dangerously dangerous danger!"

The short version:
“Dangerously dangerous danger!”

After reading the entire notice I realized that I had no intention of hiking along the closed route.  Why would I add wet rocks, another cliff, and the threat of angering thousands of bats to the already treacherous day?  Still, the words, “close this area” effectively concerned me.

Having considered and dismissed all warnings, I hit the trail.  It hit back, hard.  I am a tall fellow, but those hills are not for the faint of heart.  Or knees.  Or ankles.  Or lumbar.  Uphill the path led and uphill I went.  As I crested the first ascent, I was greeted by another mighty mound of dirt.  Things tend to happen in threes and so another hill presented itself.  Of course, the more the merrier, right?  Bring another order of steep earth to table one!  Apparently Oyster Dome is one big block party and the hills are only too happy to RSVP.

To the park’s credit, there were plenty of trails.  At least, I think they were trails.  The first few miles were dotted with white splotches on trees.  I can only assume that those white blobs were meant to identify the route as correct and safe.  Of course, those markers were utilized when there was a massive hill or glacier rock on one side, and a steep cliff on the other.  It was much like walking down the grocery aisle and having a staff person ask that you refrain from taking your squeaky-wheeled shopping cart and leaping and bounding over the high shelves.  Further into the woods; when

For all I know, it was just bird poop.

For all I know, it was just bird poop.

the trails started to get confusing?  That’s when the white splotches conveniently disappeared.  (I maintain that the mystery guy from the horror movie is to blame, but I haven’t yet figured out how.)

With or without markers, the routes appeared regardless of my desire for them to c ease.  There was the aforementioned closed trail that didn’t need the professionally-made signs to ward me off.  I think there was a glacial view trail, but the word “glacier” invokes two mental thoughts to me; slippery and sharp.  Needless to say, I declined the invitation.  And then there were the little paths that sure looked like trails.  A patch of dirt here, a wide expanse of forest there; my fear of getting lost only increased the higher up I journeyed.  I prefer not to take the Lord’s name in vain, so I did my best not to mutter, “Dear God I’m going to die”, “Dear God this is terrifying”, and “What in God’s name were these people thinking?”  However, I assure you that statements very similar in tone to curses ran around in my head as I looked at each intersection with concern.

In the end, I did the only logical thing I could think of.  I followed the slugs.  Come on, what animal looks like it prefers the safest path possible?  Slugs, that’s what.  A cougar, a bear; even snakes would have been wildlife that might have sent me packing.  But I am a Washingtonian.  Slugs are our friends.  If a path of dirt is deemed a suitable strolling area by a slug, then I am going to follow along.  Scoff if you must, but much of the success I had in getting up to that summit was from a slug pointing the way with its antennae and sage wisdom.  (And yes, a trail of slimy goo.)

At the end, I would say that I would make this trek again.  It really is not all that far from where I live and now that I know that the terrain’s grade is equivalent to trying to climb out of a well, I am prepared for the climb.  I have an idea of which trails will not lead me to my demise.

Also, I firmly believe that the view is worth it.  Or rather, I choose to believe that what should be the view is majestic.  I could not say myself.  When I got up to the top; when I finally broke free of the tree line?  I was met by a 180-degree view of clouds.  Add in a smattering of trees, some clouds, and then really smother that sucker with another layer of clouds; that is the sort of “picturesque” moment I experienced.

Obligatory scenic photo from early in the hike.  If somebody lugged a bench up that trail, you -must- take a photo there.

Obligatory scenic photo from early in the hike. If somebody lugged a bench up that trail, you -must- take a photo there.

I shall try again.  I was almost attacked by a non-existent axe-murderer, my knees are still sore, and I have never been so afraid of being lost in the woods as I was that day.  The moral in all this is that hiking buddies are highly underrated.  Take someone with you to take in all that nature has to offer; even if it kills you.  Because of Dawn’s recommendation, I have just the person in mind.  What better way to thank her than by taking her along?  No good deed goes unpunished, y’know.

A Four-Colored “Rest of the Story”

(I’ve spent much of the last few weeks listening and reading stories by Paul Harvey.  If you’re too young to know who that is; do some research.  For now, you’ll have to content yourself with a story I don’t think he ever told, but one that his nonetheless true.)

“Neither a man nor a boy ever thinks the age he has is exactly the best one- he puts the right age a few years older or a few years younger than he is.” –Mark Twain

**********

The world of comic books has never been an easy one to break into.  Oh, I don’t mean that comic book shops are frightening or that Archie Comics have disappeared from the checkout lines in groceries.  No, any person that wants to can quickly and easily immerse themselves in the four-color world which the professionals have created for them.

When a person tries to be a comic book writer or artist; that is when the real challenge began.  If it is difficult today, it was almost impossible back in the mid 1960’s.  Legendary creators like Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, and Steve Ditko would be some of the first to start DC Comics as fresh new talent.  But James didn’t know any of that.  Or perhaps he did, and simply didn’t care.

James started out, as many comic creators do, as a fan.  He found himself with a stack of comic books, eagerly flip through each page, and became motivated.  It wasn’t long until he started creating comic books of his own.  He scripted them, drew them, and soon had a finished project.  Having successfully crafted his own stories, he thought they were suitable for publication.  So he did what any ambitious young fan would do.  James mailed his story ideas to DC Comics.

Nowadays there are policies.  Comic book companies typically do not accept submissions by mail.  Work that is sent in unsolicited is unilaterally returned.  The editors have their contracted staff that is already assigned their titles months in advance.  Big companies take care of their big-name properties.  Taking the time to read through work that they probably couldn’t read?  Well who has time for that?

72119809 But this was a different time.  In the mid 60’s comics were about to be surprised by Bat-mania and earlier in the decade the cover price had surged from a dime to twelve whole cents.  So perhaps editor Mort Weisinger was feeling reckless.  Perhaps he simply liked the conversations that he had with James through their letters.  Whatever the reason, Weisinger took the crude story that had been crafted and offered James a job.  The inexperienced fellow was now in charge of writing and drawing the Legion of Super-Heroes feature for Adventure Comics.

This was only the beginning of James’ career with super-powered heroes.  Not only did he have a successful run on Legion of Super-Heroes, but he also scripted Superman Family tales and in 1968 he would be the writer on the new Captain Action title.  He took a break from comics for personal reasons, but rejoined the industry in the mid-70s.  He wrote some more stories for DC Comics before he headed across town and signed on with Marvel Comics.  It was there that this previously rookie fan had the job that thousands of folks only dream of.  From 1978 until 1987, James was the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.

Now, James had other things to do with his life.  He would eventually step away from comics and pursue other employment.  Still, back in 2007 he would return to the title that started it all and script one more run on Legion of Super-Heroes.

You might be thinking how impressive it is that this man could have such a lengthy career.  The 1960’s up until only a few years ago?  That’s quite a record in comic books no matter who you are.  However, James had a secret.  A secret that even Weisinger didn’t know as he communicated with the youth.  It wasn’t a terribly scandalous piece of information; there wasn’t anything the creator could have done anything about.  Yet, one wonders if he would have gotten his first job had his boss known the truth.

paulharveySee, Jim Shooter’s first foray away from comics; the one he took just as 70’s were starting off?  Well he took it just as he was graduating high school.  He used many interactions from his high school life to shape the scripts of teenage heroes.  For this man, this legendary weaver of stories that sent in his story ideas and received a job offer through the mail?  Well when he was first hired, he was only 14.

“And now you know… The Rest of the Story.”

Intermission- There’s More to Come. Honest.

Howdy.

I’m not dead.  I swear.  Most of my three month absence can be blamed on Christmas gifts.  I decided to make ’em this year.   Oy.

The first gift took a month.  The next gift took two months.  I forgot how completely time-consuming cross-stitching can be.  I didn’t have time to read any books, let alone write.  But at least I’m now an expert at threading needles.  Please tell me that counts for something.

The other excuse I have is this: 

 

I want to write stories this good.  I want to convey the shadows and the texture and the little details like thumping your head against the window frame of your office wall when things go awry. 

I’ve been thinking.  And pondering.  (You have oodles of time to think about stories when you’re putting camel-shaded threads around the coral ones.)

More to come, I swear.  My fingers haven’t fallen off, my desire for stories is still there, and my keyboard is calling out to me. 

Be patient, they’re coming!  (I’m looking at you, S1ngal.)

And if nothing else, you get to watch the best animated short I’ve ever seen for free.  Everybody wins!  Happy weekend.

Ever So Friend-ly (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(I may be taking a break due to National Novel Writing Month, but I can’t shrug off the pull of The Weekly Writing Challenge.  This week, we’re supposed to talk about, “I wish I were”.  Sorry it’s not much of an anecdote, but it’s what I’m supposed to write today.)

**********

It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month,
Or even your year…”  –Friends theme song

I do my best to live a fairly introverted life.  Over the forty-eight hour weekend I spent about three of those interacting with fellow church-goers.  The rest I devoted to my couch and my cat.  There were Halloween parties, there were lectures; the world was wide open to me.  However I like my free time to be occupied with a quiet that my living room and my furry sidekick create.  Not surprisingly, friends still find a way to sneak their way into my heart.

Somehow I seem to have gotten a free pass in the ways of the world.  I don’t have any serious problems.  Everything that’s wrong with my life merely rates as a hiccup.  My life, in a nutshell, is ninety-five percent perfect with a high contentment rating.  I don’t have the exact existence that I pictured for myself, but it’s pretty darn nice.  The cat is alive, the jobs pay the bills, and those around me let me have my wacky moments.

It seems that everybody else has things harder than I do.  I’m on the West and the East is living with a storm barreling towards them.  I go for a morning jog and dry my socks over an electric fan while I warm up.  Only blocks away, homeless people shiver in doorways and constantly wage an unending battle to stay comfortable and fed.  Friends around me are undergoing stresses in the relationship, sometimes taking up completely opposite stances on the exact same issue.  I don’t think my friends are suicidal, but we all struggle to be happy now and then.  As I sit on my comfortable chair in a peaceful area, I don’t always see those quick and convenient roads to a better tomorrow for my pals.  They share their frustration and all that appears before them are roadblocks that stand much higher than any of my pithy speed bumps.

I wish I were able to help my friends wtih all their woes and worries.  I wish I were wise enough to give each of them the advice they needed to make the choice that was right for them.  I wish I were in control of each situation that seemed to be tormenting them.  Guess what?  I’m not.

As I come across people that I care about with their own sets of struggles, I’ve only found one trick that works with a darn.  I do my best to shut up and listen. 

Sometimes I can do more.  There are occasions where I can buy a hungry individual a meal.  I’m pretty quick to hand out hugs or rides here or there.  I’d like to think that the loved ones know that I’m praying for them and that I have their back.  But usually I just try to be the one person that won’t judge and won’t shove my solutions on them.  I wish I were the friend that others need me to be.  Hopefully, more often than not, I am.

Intermission- Postaday vs. NaNoWriMo

Well, my book is written–let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn’t be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can’t ever be said.” -Mark Twain

**********

Howdy,

This is your heads up that I won’t be Postadaying in November.  I’ll be too busy staring at my computer screen, cursing myself for having writer’s block, and generally wishing that the whole process came easier.

Yes, once again National Novel Writing Month is coming.  For those of you that haven’t tried it?  You should.  It may very well kill you, but what a way to go!  Who wouldn’t want to spend a gray and dreary month of bitter cold hunched over their computer typing 50,000 words in thrity days?

It sounds more fun than I make it out to be.  Honest.

NaNoWriMo
Just WRITE, darnit.

I’ve “won” three times.  The first was a story about a teenager getting an unexpected superpower and an arch-nemesis that came with it.  Two years ago it was a girl who came across a virtual reality machine and quickly became addicted to it.  Last year I wrote about a boring old night-stocker at a grocery store, and how his life changed when this mysterious woman entered his life.

I’ve gone from seventy-three page stories to one hundred and twenty-six page stories.  (Ya gotta love dialog.  It fills up space like nothing else.)  Each year it gets a little bit easier.  And after all, that was the whole point of me posting six times a week; practice for when the next novella wants to fall out of me.

I have my plot (A jerk wins the lottery.  He’ll be Scrooge-loveable, honest), I have a computer bought specifically for writing, and I think I have the time.  But that means I’ll be shunning WordPress.  I’m sorry, there’s just no way I can write a novella and twenty-five short stories in one month.  It just ain’t gonna happen.  Besides, I could use the time to think of more ideas.

Go back and read some old stories.  They’ll tide you over.

and about 150 other stories you haven’t read yet.  C’mon, already!

I’ll try to still stop in.  I tend to complete my novellas early.  Hopefully I’ll go back to being a daily writer after NaNoWriMo, but we’ll see.  In the upcoming weeks, I’m going to enjoy not having to scour Google for clip art and delight in writing more than four thousand words a day.  And of course, I highly encourage you folks to tackle the same challenge as I.  😀

A Labor of Love

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” –Confucius

**********

I sit at a desk, typing this at my job.  The clock reads 7:11 on the bottom right hand corner of my screen next to two computers hanging out with a red “x” near them and two orange icons.  I look up to the timepiece on the opposite wall and it confirms what their brother has already stated.  I was off work at seven.

Being the diligent employee that I was, I came in about fifteen minutes early to acquire my projects for the day, enjoy a little quiet time, and generally prepare myself for any visitors that might stop by.  An eight hour shift is reasonable.  My job is one that does not require a lunch break.  I rule over all; the lone employee, deciding how I should spend my day.

I read articles on my favorite websites.  I play a move against my mother in Scrabble.  I file.  I play another move.  I read.  I eat lunch.  I play a word, wishing that I had room for the word “talents” on the crowded board.  More reading and filing occurs as I chat with customers about their selections and the newest episode of their favorite television show.

And that is how I find myself still sitting in front of this computer with the lights on.  I have a stack sitting next to me that begs to be finished.  I shall probably spend at least an hour attacking that quest.

What’s that?  You pity me in this little snapshot of my life?  Oh, posh.  Today I manned the comic book shop.  I could have left quite a while ago; I’m not getting paid anymore.  However, I’m sitting in a room full of four-color fun and I refuse to leave until I’m all caught up. 

Batwoman is teaming up with Wonder Woman to find a killer in an underwater maze.  Animal Man is joining Swamp Thing to keep the darker side of the world from taking over the plant and creature aspects.  There’s a brand new Iron Man series that’s started.  Words and images combine for entertaining stories that literally (ha!) have the fate of the world in the balance.  Every week a new tales are told about good struggling to overcome evil.  Heroes attempt to save those in need and art shines through as powerfully as Superman’s punches.  How could I leave all this fun behind?  Why would I stop having all this fun? 

Those that write stories should be those that devour them as well.  I know I do.

Technologically Challenged

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Technologically Challenged

Technology enables man to gain control over everything except technology.” –unknown

Harvey had been lied to all his life.  Growing up, his parents had waxed on about the inventions of the world making his life easier.  “Just you wait”, his dad had said.  “There will be countless advancements that will increase productivity.”  For the last ten years of school, the message had been echoed over and over.  “Learn to master this equipment now”, his teachers and professors had demanded.  “If you figure these computer systems out you’ll be better off.”  Harvey shook his head.

Bull, he thought to himself.  Bull and malarkey.

Harvey always harbored suspicions that the electronic world was out to get him.  The day so far only perpetuated that notion.  First off, Harvey’s wristwatch had failed to wake him up.  When his sleepy eyes finally managed to pry themselves open, they were met with a blank screen.  Despite the expensive watch’s claim that the kinetic movement of his body would power the timepiece, the clock had died.  Harvey scurried out of the house, not taking time to shower or eat, and just managed to beat the bus to its first stop.

He was a little rushed, but Harvey felt that he could still make his breakfast date on time.  However, a mile down the road, the bus was forced to stop.  The overhead power lines specially created for the transit system had been knocked down in the evening’s storms.  The bus driver was therefore required to stop the bus, get out, unlatch the feeding mechanism from the lines, drive the bus past the damaged section on gasoline, stop the bus again, reconnect to the city’s power grid, and then continue service.  Harvey hoped that this would be the last unscheduled stop that the bus would have to make, but he would soon find out how wrong he was.

Two stops later, the bus came upon a disabled man in a wheelchair.  Perhaps a regular metal wheelchair would not have been any grave concern, but this was a deluxe wheelchair.  The behemoth that transported the man from place to place might as well have been a sports utility vehicle.  Its mammoth wheels with studded tires barreled onto the bus’s ramp when it was lowered.  The multi-battery operated chair lurched back and forth at the controller’s slightest gesture.  Piercing chirps resonated whenever the one-man RV moved so much as an inch backwards or to the side.  It came as no surprise that the wheelchair was too heavy for the lift.  Upon hearing a grinding sound, the busload of people groaned.  The exertion that the electric system had undergone had frozen the ramp in its current position.  The driver tried to lower it, close it; he even got out and jumped on it.  The driver turned the bus off, toggled the switches; nothing worked.  Since the bus could not move forward with the door open, all the passengers were asked to wait until a replacement bus was available to carry them.

Finally, after Harvey had survived riding on the next vehicle, which had been unavoidably crammed full with the double load, the man arrived at the café.  He had ended up being fifteen minutes late, but he hoped that Rosalind would have the patience to understand.  He looked around at the different coffee tables outside.  They appeared to be oases of calm.  Harvey wanted to sit on their padded seats, sip a latte, and watch the frazzled world go by.  Instead, he found himself pacing back and forth.  He leaned against a planter which once housed a tree, but now served as an oversized ashtray.  He looked back and forth for any signs of his breakfast date.  They had been talking about coffee for weeks and he was wondering if he had ruined his shot with the woman by being too late.

Finally, twenty minutes after his arrival, Harvey pulled out his phone and called up Rosalind.  Her mumbled voice was just barely audible.  Through barely comprehensible tones, Harvey managed to decipher what the woman was trying to say.  She had apparently been kidnapped to a work party that had gone late into the night.  She had sent Harvey an e-mail from her phone cancelling their breakfast date.  However, due to the service coverage in the bar, the message might not have sent.  “Either way”, Harvey commented, “I only check my e-mails in the afternoon.”

Giving up on any pleasantries occurring before work, Harvey hopped on another bus and headed to work.  The bus worked perfectly.  There were no expected stops.  Harvey dared to believe that perhaps technology was on his side.  Then someone from the next bus depot joined him.  Seated snugly on the bench seat next to him, a woman listened to music on her phone.  She wore earplugs, but Harvey would never have known the difference.  Every note, every word, was completely discernible as the tune blasted towards his eardrums.  He closed his eyes and tried to block out the blaring noise.

Three stops later, Harvey was at work.  He ran off the bus, accidentally pushing a few people as he went.  He found himself standing in front of the elevator doors.  Much to his chagrin, the only set of stairs was alarmed.  They were only to be used in case of emergency.  So it was dictated that Harvey stand with the huddled masses waiting for the arms of the elevator to take in the down-trodden working class.  Harvey heard the familiar ding, watched the shiny brown doors open, and stepped to the back of the elevator.  He knew to expect a long wait.

Sure enough, the elevator stopped on the second floor.  Then it ceased moving long enough to deposit fellow building-dwellers on the fourth floor.  After that came the fifth floor, the seventh floor, and the eighth floor.  Harvey closed his eyes and tried to ignore the ads that were displayed on the monitor above the button panel.  It was as if the elevator knew that he was a captive audience until the thirty-seventh floor.

Twelve minutes later, Harvey arrived at his office.  Before leaving work yesterday, Harvey’s boss had stated that he would be unreachable.  There was a closed-door meeting, complete with phone conferences and presentations, which simply could not be interrupted.  However, he assured Harvey that everything he needed for the day would be waiting in his e-mail.  Harvey turned on his computer, dreading the list of things that his demented boss thought could be achieved in one day.

Just as his monitor warmed and lit up with electric-life, Sara came along.  Harvey did not know what Sara was supposed to accomplish for the company, but he knew what role Sara relished most.  Sara liked to be the dispenser of information.  It did not matter if Sara was talking about the newest work initiative, the names of the recent hires, or what Bob from accounting did over summer break.  Sara simply wanted to spread news.  Harvey had never seen a memo or phone call that could compete with Sara’s speedy delivery.  There was no successful way to keep secrets from this woman.  Harvey tried to ignore her, but that only made her that much more interested in impressing him with the latest news.  Therefore it was absolutely no surprise when Sara clawed her overly manicured hands into the top of Harvey’s cubicle walls and stood on tip-toe to convey her wisdom.

“Hey Harvey, how’s it going.”  The woman did not pause for a reply, and Harvey knew well enough not to attempt one.  “Did ya hear about the computers.  It is really quite sad.  All the internet lines are down.  I guess there is something wrong with the sever.”

“Server”, Harvey corrected.  “It is called a server.”

“That’s what I said”, Sara glared back through her grandmother pink-glasses.  Harvey had seen uglier frames before, but never on a person’s face.  Most visually repellant frames had the decency to stay on the spin rack in the stores.  Sara was the only one that actually gave them a chance to show their hideousness in public.

“Do they know when the server will be up again?”

“Oh, it won’t be until later.  They told us that we should just assume it’ll be out all day.  I guess there’s some sort of power sugar that got knocked out by the storm or something.”

“Surge”, Harvey corrected.  “Power surge.”

“Right, that’s what I said”, Sara replied.  “How’re we supposed to get any work done?  I mean, I’m an important person in this organization.”

Harvey gathered a few files and held them in his arm as he stood up.  “I’m sure you’ll manage to be just as productive today as you are on any other day.”

Leaving Sara looking confused, Harvey headed to the back hall.  He knew a secret.  Over an inter-office bowling game, a maintenance man had taken Harvey into his confidence.  They were located so high up in the building that the fire alarms were largely overlooked.  Someone had taken the liberty of disabling the door sensors.  Harvey had not directly asked, but the way the maintenance fellow talked and winked, he knew who had taken that liberty.  And today, it was going to be Harvey’s key to freedom.

Harvey opened the door, made sure no one saw him, and climbed the last two flights of stairs.  He opened the door to the roof and breathed a sigh of relief.  No one else was about this early in the morning.  In the summer elaborate parties were hosted on the roof.  Railings had been installed and there was even an awning attached to the access stairwell.  Around lunchtime, a crowd gathered to have lunch and enjoy the view.  But today Harvey was early enough to be the only one around.

He breathed in the fresh air.  The skyscraper was on the edge of the city.  From his spot, Harvey could see a few buildings around him, but mostly it was the ocean that filled his view.  The overnight storm had cleared away nicely.  All the scenery had been wiped cleaning from the wind and rain.  He found a dry chair, sat down, and pulled the files from their folders.  He sat, looking at paper copies, resting in a seat with no controls or buttons, and read by the sun in the sky.  This, Harvey felt, is how simple it is supposed to be.

Family Binding

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Family Binding

A half-finished book is, after all, a half-finished love affair.” –Cloud Atlas

From Wikipedia.

I come from a family of book people.  It’s just who we are.  Before the world of the internet intervened and we all retreated to our separate laptops, we would all sit around and spend family time with our own individual books.  We don’t take family trips too much, and the small children running around the house tend to sap what energy we have out of us pretty darn quick.  But at some point, someone will yank out a book and we’ll all follow suit.

I try to add a little variety to the group.  Nobody else reads comic books, but I can’t get enough of them.  I don’t read devotional books; I want stories.  In tandem with my love of stories in book form is my appreciation of a good movie.  When I hear that a book is coming to the movie screen, I want to read the book first.

On the one hand, it’s an ego thing.  When the movie finally does come out, I can have bragging rights.  “Oh yeah, I read the book.  Did you?”  This additionally allows the option of spouting a pompous phrase like, “They left out three chapters of the book.”  I have yet to say such things, but I like to know that the possibility exists.

In addition, once you see the movie, it’s almost too late to go back and read the book.  The actors will always be stuck in your head.  (The only exception I’ve come across is Pride and Prejudice, and even then I still had Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle dancing around in my head.)

Tonight I got the e-mail that all true book huggers wait for.  The library wanted to let me know that a copy of Cloud Atlas was waiting for me.  The book is about six hundred pages and the movie comes out just before Halloween, so I had to get a move on.  (If any movie is made with Tom Hanks and Jim Broadbent, I’m forced to see it.  Those two actors cannot be denied.)  That was how I found myself in the local library this evening.  The sooner I had that book in my hands, the sooner I could put the rest of my life on hold.

I walked into the library, made my way to the reserve shelves, and plucked my book off the shelf.  Being the somewhat-considerate brother-in-law that I am, I checked the shelf to see if my relative had her normal stack of books.  I was on my way to babysit my nieces and figured I could save the other family members a trip.  There were no books for them on the shelf, so I assumed she had already been in earlier this week.

I needed to keep my nieces entertained and they like books as much of the rest of us.  I made my way towards the children’s section.  I assumed something worthwhile would jump out at me.  If nothing else, I figured I could inject a little Shel Silverstein into their lives.

Appearing out of nowhere, a small girl with blonde curly hair started running towards me.  It took me by surprise, but this sort of thing has happened to me a few times before.  Her blue eyes wide open; she ran to me in her spring dress and threw her arms around my leg.

“Uncle Phil!”

“I was just on my way to see you guys.”  I was taken aback, but not floored.  This was the third time that I have run across my family in the library.  Book junkies need a fix rather often and the librarians are good at pushing their wares.

Carrying a large cloth bag of books, my sister-in-law approached.  She gave me a little tsk-ing because my phone had been turned off.  She had been trying to offer to pick up my book for me since we were going to see each other.  Great minds think alike.

Instead of blindly guessing what sort of selections I should grab for my nieces, one of them helped picked the stories out with me.  Happily, she agreed that The Missing Piece sounded like an interesting read.  As a matter of fact, she made me read it twice to her tonight.  I tried to talk her out of it.  She wouldn’t have it; the munchkin likes books as much as the rest of us.  There’s no escaping that genetic trait, nor do we plan to.

Creaky Chairs and Those that Love Them (Daily Post Challenge)

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Creaky Chairs and Those that Love Them (Daily Post Challenge)

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” -Epictetus

Asking a person about their favorite possession can be tricky.  My first notion was to answer, “My cat”.  However, there are some, including my cat, who would state that a cat is a roommate, not a possession.  I don’t own her, especially since she was free.  (Mylar would also state that she is no one’s “thing”.  She is her own creature with plenty of attitude to show off.)  So I must share an anecdote about my favorite possession, one which Mylar happens to approve of.

Not my chair, but you get the idea.
From Wikipedia.

I once made a point of mentioning that I wanted my Dad’s rocking chair.  There are plenty of grand things in my parent’s house, but all I really cared about were the grandfather clock and rocking chair.  I like wood furniture.  Give me a bookshelf that I can hammer back together over a rusting metal rack any day.  However, waiting for my father to pass on is both morbid and requires more patience than I have in me.  So I went out and got my own dang rocking chair.

There is a furniture shop a few miles from where I live and they specialize in wood furniture.  That fact alone makes it my kind of place.  I stepped into the glass door and right near the front entry was a nice collection of rocking chairs all lined up like The Rockettes.  I was a happy camper.

Now, even as a young college student, I knew enough to respect the classic rocking chair.  I have no use for gliding chairs.  Chairs should sway back and forth soothingly on two long and curved slats of wood.  A rocking chair should not pivot to and fro on a parallelogram assembly.  Two horizontal pieces and two vertical pieces attached by metal screws constantly creating and changing angles as the wood yields weekly?  No.  That is not a rocking chair.  That is some cute little chair for tea parties.  I need solid wood construction.  I don’t want some pithy little twigs that are going to snap if they get bumped the wrong way and throw off the entire functionality of the chair.  Give me a classic rocking chair or nothing at all.

I’m a writer, not artist. Clearly.

I admit that I may be biased.  I was raised with a rocking horse that was really just one big runner with a flat seat and the wooden head of a horse attached.  In some morbidly macabre act of practicality, the handle for children to hold on to was not a piece of rope, but a pole crammed straight through the horse’s head.  “Hey kids, let’s all take a ride with Phineas Gage!”  Regardless, the seated see-sawing motion on this generations-old toy got me hooked on rocking chairs from an early age.

The salesman at the store was quite helpful.  I’m not sure what he thought of a guy in his early twenties buying a rocking chair, but he helped me find a simple one that I could afford and even carried it out to the car with me.  That’s when his skepticism began.

“How were you planning to get this home?”

“Oh, I’ll just put it in the back seat.”  I hadn’t actually thought the whole process through.  I somehow assumed that a four-foot tall piece of furniture with ski-like runners and no disassembly allowed would magically fit into my compact Dodge Neon’s rear area.  I knew it wouldn’t fit in the trunk, so it had to situate itself in the back.  What could possibly go wrong?

“I don’t know about this”, the man said as he turned it on its face and pushed.

I locked the front car seats as far forward as they would go.  The actual seat and back had plenty of room around it, but those runners that I cherished were troublesome.  Somehow, someway, the chair was the exact length of the back of my car, and the runners just barely fit inside the frame.  Okay, so the car window was pushed out a little bit.  It didn’t break, so I was content.

“That is the first time I have ever seen a chair like this fit in anything but a truck.”  I’m always glad to happily surprise seasoned salesmen.

That chair and I have bonded.  There is a blue scrape on its armrest from when I moved from one apartment to the next and my dresser got a little too frisky with its advances in the back of the truck.  I could try to scrape off the paint or cover up the abrasion, but why not let the chair have its war wound?  My cat has tried to show her affection for the piece of furniture by sharpening her claws on the lower pieces.  Happily, the finish is so slippery that she can’t get a good grip.  Her paws, much to her annoyance and my delight, just slide right off without leaving a mark.

I make it up to her though.  Whenever I am having my quiet time in the rocking chair, Mylar gets to hop up on my lap.  Together we enjoy the guaranteed world of calm.  She gets to have her ears and back scratched.  I get to blissfully rock back and forth.  Sometimes I let my head lean back on the highest point of the frame that is in the perfect position to rest comfortably on.  Other times I sit up straight and put my free arm on the armrest that rises up to meet my sleepy arm at exactly the right height.

If it’s good enough for Twain, it’s good enough for me. (Photo source: here)

No matter how I sit in it, my rocking chair gives off the proper amount of “creak”.  Everyone has heard the sound that should emanate from a well-made rocker.  It should softly and reassuringly greet the user with a “creak-crauk”.  One backward movement provides the “creak”, and forward movement creates the “crauk”.  Like the cousin of a frog, it sings you to a simpler, more peaceful place.  Gliding chairs don’t have that sound, and therefore they are less worthy in my sight.  Then there are the shabby, abused chairs that make nothing but sound.  Every gesture and adjustment in one’s posture creates a symphony of noise.  I can’t handle that.  I may live on the ground floor, but I still have neighbors (and my sanity), to think of.  No, a rocking chair should only make two different sounds; three if you count the sigh of contentment from the user.

Bean bags chairs are great, but hard to get out of.  Recliners, back-massagers; they all have their place.  But for me, when I want to escape the trials and tribulations of the world, nothing is more relaxing than closing my eyes and swooping to and fro in my reliable wooden rocking chair.  That is, except for the one time my cat put her tail under the runner.  (She’s fine; her lesson was learned.  Both possessions have learned to respect the other.)

Projecting Sound (Daily Post Challenge)

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

(This week’s writing challenge was to craft a story about sound.  So blame The Daily Post for what follows.)

Projecting Sound

If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.” -Alfred Hitchcock

There are mechanical beasts in the world that should not be trifled with.  Sometimes they are monster trucks that drive over any obstacle in their paths.  Other times they are a massive train followed by a seemingly endless row of cars that could flatten a person in a second.  However, the best of the by-gone machines is the film projector.

Specifically, an IMAX projector from the late seventies is a prime piece of entertainment.  The metal panels are held on by screws which have been loosened and tightened many times over the decades in order to allow access to the inner-workings.  The two-by-two foot panels warble and warp, sending eerie reverberations as they try to maintain their shape when removed.  Even the fasteners that hold the metal to their bracing bars screech with protest when they are wrenched on as tightly as can be.

The separate sound reel adds to the fun.  With forty pounds of analog soundtrack, the long spoke turns and revolves the magnetic tape.  When it rewinds, the revolutions send out a low “whurrrr” until it reaches its peak speed.  Then the noise shifts to a whine as high-pitched emanations come from the metal disc whizzing along fast enough to knick one’s skin.  However, the real (or is that reel?) joy comes when the projector is in full operation.

It starts off quietly enough.  As the massive motor beneath the rotor starts to pick up speed, the sound echoes throughout the booth louder and louder.  “Chung chung chung”.  The film moves horizontally through the behemoth as it goes faster and faster.  Within seconds, the rhythm of the projector is joined by the almost-inaudible cry of the film as it accelerates to twenty-four frames per second.  A mile and a half of film zooms through in a brief forty minutes, the entire time the flashing pictures are accompanied by the comforting “thrumb” and chugging of the analog relic.

In theory, all goes just as it should.  The squawk of a walkie talkie produces an incomprehensible “skkrttch” from the usher below.  Quiet murmurings from the audience are heard through the booth walls and panes of glass.  The projectionist calls back down to the usher in his own voice.  That response also becomes distorted and muffled through the static as the electronic devices try to transmit across the short distance.

Suddenly the vexing and headache-inducing hum buzz of the overhead lights is cut short with a sharp snap as the breaker sends the world into darkness.  A lone thumb pushes against the starting button.  It responds with a satisfying “chunk”.  The audience falls into silence just before the screen grabs their attention and the speakers on all sides come alive with an increasingly majestic soundtrack.  That is, assuming everything goes as planned.

Every once in a while another sound or two might be heard.  Sometimes the film refuses to turn or speed up as smoothly as it should.  In that case, the horrifying sound of “CRRRRCKKKK” is bellowed across the room as the film rips itself in half.  Of course, one such noise wouldn’t be enough.  The platters that contain the film still want to keep turning, so there is the drone of those motors in motion while the loose ends dangle off the end, producing a “ka-flap, ka-flap, ka-flap”.  The rotor, used to being the star of the show, cries out louder than anything else, “KHKHKHKHKKKKKKKK” as it tries to chew through the film.  The existing perforations are soon joined by new, more ragged ones created by the sharp teeth indiscriminately piercing random spots on the film.

As the projectionist is brought to attention by the “crrrrrrckkkkk”, the “khkhkhkhkhkhkkkk”, and to a lesser degree, the “ka-flap, ka-flap, ka-flap”, he rushes forward and pushes several buttons.  The three previous noises slow as one or two “thunk” and “chck” sounds stop all operations.  Then the resonances of a projectionist’s cursing can be heard through the booth.  (We’ll let you imagine those words without any help.)  Hopefully it is confined to the booth, but the afore-mentioned windows sometimes allow the crowd to hear the hard consonants, which cause the younger attendees to giggle and squeal in delight.  Finally, as the projectionist surveys the sight before him, he uncontrollably lets out a whimpering sound.

There is much to be said for digital technology.  Yet it lacks the richness of sound that only an analog projector can provide.  With the newer generation of projectors, all one can hear is the constant, boring, droning noise of a fan cooling of the lamp.  But with an analog projector, a lonely projection booth can come alive with an endless array of sounds.  Even if those sounds are quite what the audience expected to hear.

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