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Topics - berkley84

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Object Writing Word Of The Day / Purse
« on: February 14, 2020, 12:02:15 AM »
   In the summers I hand you my wallet and phone and keys and ask you to put them in your purse. And they fit just fine in the long leather pocket, with all your other necessities that come along with us wherever we go. I start to feel jealous when I have nowhere to put my things. I become a disorganized mess so easily.
   There was the time this Thanksgiving break when I set my phone down before going to change the baby, then came back to find it missing. I spent a half a day thinking it would turn up, then started to panic at night when it was still gone. Then all of us were searching beneath every couch cushion and under all the crap on every table. I was losing my mind. Your brother came up with the idea to check for ways to locate lost phones with an iPad, even when they are set to vibrate or silent mode. My phone started to ring, buried deep in the chair where Iíd been sitting hours earlier.
   I clung to it like a mother might to a long lost child. Like Gollum to the ring. I know it is silly, but Iíd been so certain it was gone forever.
   I still reach wildly for my pockets when I start to convince myself I have left something behind.
   I often find that my wallet is gone, and I only quell the panic that I feel by telling myself that I probably just set it someplace without thinking about it.
   Iím always right. But what will happen the one time it is stolen? Or Iíve accidentally mindlessly thrown it into a fire or down a sewer?
   What will happen the one time I take out all of my credit cards and cut them to pieces just because I was zoning out? What will happen when I literally flush all of my cash down the toilet?

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Windshield
« on: February 12, 2020, 11:59:21 PM »
   Today I stare blankly at the entrance to the freeway. The dump truck Iíve been following for a good 20 minutes stays in front of me, but merges into the right hand lane, so I have a chance now to pass. Itís been a rough day and I feel so tired and drained. I am willing myself to pay attention to everything anyway, because a few months ago Iíd been zoning out after a hard day at work and got pulled over by a state trooper. I wasnít going my normal route then and hadnít noticed a covertly placed 35 mph sign. All Iíd been thinking about then was the sound of wine being poured from a freshly opened box. Same thing today: I can practically taste the dry rose as I turn on my indicator.
   My speed is ticking up slowly. I get annoyed that the accelerator drowns out my music ever so slightly. Iím pulling up within a few yards of the truck when suddenly I hear a loud clunk on my windshield. I lay off the gas pedal for a second as I inspect; three months ago we had to get the windshield repaired because a pebble had ricocheted out of a passing truck. I hate this road. But there is no damage, as far as I can tell right now.
   I speed up and suddenly Iím zoning in and out of flashbacks from work. There are kids yelling, then Iím being passed by a white pickup. Iím getting bit and scratched, then Iím going over a bridge in the valley.  My boss is cutting me off as Iím trying to explain the situation, then Iím passing that rich smug little village where all of my put-together coworkers live. I keep driving. I keep getting blinded by the salt stuck to the windshield. I keep keeping.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Crate
« on: February 12, 2020, 12:16:56 AM »
...Apologies for how this ended up... :o

   I feel fine with where I been, dancing on the outskirts looking in. Feel outside is just okay, better than being stuck in a cage. Why am I so overdramatic sometimes? I donít feel comfortable with you looking me in the eye while I sit up here and sigh. I think we are all living in our own separate crates, on a pier where we are being loaded up and shipped to space. Picked up by our underarms like a baby, with simple expressions wondering where these monsters are taking me.
   I smell the salt of the Ocean and hear the chatter of two lovers over the tide. Sand in my feet as I walk alone, like a ghost, through every room Iíve ever been to.
   Here I am in Pittsburgh, playing songs that I havenít practiced enough in a semi-suburban coffee shop. My fingers slip uncomfortably from chord to chord and my voice forgets every other word. And thereís a stage from school. I look out into the blackened faces while a spotlight melts me.
   All you can hear is an acoustic guitar played by a shaky hand. You can hear it for miles and miles. It echoes over the rivers and through the valleys, into coal mines and steel plants, all the way to the plains of Western New York. And in a distant overtone comes the shame of my ego. The memory of my precognition, just knowing that I was going to blow everyone away. It might as well be a dookie sitting solemnly at the bottom of a boyís dorm toilet. Unflushed, forgotten.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Kiln
« on: February 11, 2020, 12:26:49 AM »
   I remember a room where we went when I was 5 years old or so. It was up some stairs and there was lots of traffic outside. It felt kind of scary, but my mom and dad were there, and so was my uncle. It was his place, but it didnít look like a home. The floors werenít carpeted and there werenít any comfortable chairs or couches. It was messy, with exposed brick walls that looked scratched and beaten and worn. The ceiling looked like it was in the process of being ripped apart and the walls in the hallway had nails sticking out.
   Taking up about half of the room was my uncleís kiln. When my mom told me what it was, I thought she said ďkill,Ē which is what I thought it was called, probably right up until high school. It looked scary, the kind of thing that adults put children into to incinerate their bodies when they grow weary of their mischief and mayhem. My uncle opened the door to reveal a giant flame with a large ceramic bowl in the center. He was just showing us his work. We had several of those ceramic bowls in our house, hanging on the walls. They made me feel comfortable, although I struggled to find the words to say why.
   I wiped sweat from my forehead after he had closed the kiln up. I looked around and noticed that there was no bed. This was not where my uncle lived. This was where he worked. His studio. It wasnít until much later that I realized how insane it was that he owned his own kiln.
   Later, I was at a summer camp ďcollegeĒ course for teenagers, which included many art projects. I was playing around with some clay and realized I was forming a pig. I gave my pig wings. I had been obsessing over idioms lately, and ďwhen pigs flyĒ was one of my favorite expressions. Why not let my clay pig fly?
   After the pig was fully formed, it was time to go into the kiln.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Toad
« on: February 10, 2020, 12:15:21 AM »
   I run into them often while Iím mowing lawns, see them hopping madly away from their impending doom. I try to stop and let them go, but sometimes Iím not so quick to respond to seeing them there. They must be swept into the blades and sent flying with the soggy patches of grass. My heart stops when I know Iíve killed a toad. Thereís no way to cut grass without a few natural casualties, but Iíve always felt toads were special creatures. Maybe itís because they are the rare amphibians that I can consider ďcute.Ē Maybe I read too many childrenís books with toads as main characters. Usually I sweat in the summer heat and take a moment to wallow in my sorrow (Sorrow that is about 1/64th the sorrow I might feel for, say, missing a movie that I wanted to see in the theater, or wanting pizza for dinner when all we have is a flavorless bean casserole).
   We would find them hopping on the edges of the creek too, while we were overturning rocks looking for Crayfish. Toads and salamanders. And even more frequently, we found big schools of tadpoles. Under the shade of the forest, we were explorers with no purpose. One time we had a net and a bucket and caught some of the tadpoles and brought them home to wait for them to transform. But my mom was too sure that the right thing to do was to return the tadpoles to their home. Disappointed, we marched back through the muddy path. We had already given about 10 of them names. But what was Mama Toad going to think when she returned to find all her babies gone?
   Maybe nothing. Iím not too sure about the thought process of amphibians. Maybe she would just think, ďI guess thatís one less thing I have to deal with.Ē Maybe she would just sit there, in the creek, and think about the meaning of it all. Or just enjoy the cool water on her legs.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Creek
« on: February 09, 2020, 03:46:22 AM »
a notebook in hand and just stared at the rushing water with a pen hovering over the page. We used to have so many adventures here on the banks of the Canadaway Creek. Letís start at the beginning.
   Mom took us down here forever, with a dog or two swimming out after sticks and the boys diving methodically into the deep section. Once I dived head first and chipped a tooth. For a few days, I breathed in and felt a weird sensitive tinge in my gums. Iíd look at myself in the mirror and take note of the odd slant in my once-buck teeth. Was I tainted? Impure? Later in my life, I wanted more scars. I think I know better now?
   Later we went down there on our own. We were ready to explore. One part we called Death Lagoon, because there was black mud with dead trees everywhere. We walked on the outskirts, but never to the inside. It smelled like dead rats. I thought of the scene in Never Ending Story, where the horse sinks in the sea of mud. Oh my youthful fear.
   Of course, then we started to go to the creek to drink. It seemed like everybody had a 30 rack and the smoke of the fire rose to the trees. It clung to my clothes in the morning, when I felt a total emptiness, because I had nothing. Nothing at all to do.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Bench
« on: February 08, 2020, 02:47:03 AM »
   I remember sitting on the bench my first year of little league. First I remember going to sign up. How you and I brought our baseball gloves and hoped to be on the same team. How the man who was sitting at the sign up table laughed at our gloves and condescendingly said, ďWow, you boys sure are excited.Ē
   But I was too old to be starting fresh, they said. I never knew there was a starting age, but I was too old. For forever and ever. And so my mom dropped me off at the field behind the peanut butter factory and I walked towards all the kids my age who I didnít know. And I felt suddenly different. The blood rushed into my face and I didnít know myself anymore. My heart beat weakly, and when the other kids asked me questions I felt like a brick wall. I had nothing to say at all.
   One of the coaches watched me try to throw the ball to a teammate and how it fell flat at his feet. So we went to the side and he showed me how I should move my arm for the best distance. But every time I tried it just did the same thing; it fell flat at the feet of the boy I was throwing to.
   Then they put me in right field, notorious for being the place where you send your worst player. I sat and played in the grass. Or I stood, nervous that I was being seen screwing around. When the ball came in my direction, I panicked and ducked. I let all of my teammates down, even that kid Luke who used to call out supportively to me. I thought he forgot who I was a few years later when we sort of became friends, but I never asked if he remembered. He was the only one I trusted, and turned out he liked cool bands like Tool and Joy Division, so I had good judgment.
   They put me in right field and during one practice, a kid hit the ball right to me in a line drive. I put my glove down to stop it and it ricocheted right into my eye. I walked around with a very very black eye for weeks. I sat on the bench for most of the game, until I was called up to bat and always struck out.
   It was always quick. Iíd have my bat, Iíd think, ďNow, Iím gonna show them what I can do.Ē Then a quick one two three, and Iíd be back to the bench.
   I quit. But this was still important.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Moonlight
« on: February 06, 2020, 10:11:05 PM »
   We sit on a picnic table out in the yard looking out at the fenced in yards in the early twilight. I take a sip of my boxed Merlot and enjoy the sweet taste and the quick buzz that enlivens my head. I feel clearheaded and I want a million more nights just like this with you. You always look so beautiful, and the moonlight reflects off your blonde hair tonight; such a lovely sheen. Your smile melts my heart. Forget music, all I want to hear is your laugh from now on.
   Itís a little buggy, so we walk up the stairs inside. After all, it was getting a little chilly out there. I throw on a hoodie and you get into your pajamas. I pour another couple glasses of wine while youíre flipping through the Netflix menu. This is every night, despite the season.
   But summer is undoubtedly special. The stars shine in through the open windows and our neighbors throw all night parties on their front yards. They have kids who are doing god knows what, but itís been a rough life and they deserve this taste of happiness. For us, we just walk by with the dog and say hello sometimes. They love the dog. They ramble endlessly while rubbing her cheeks, making her smell like cigarettes and Steel Reserve. I just smile and listen politely, wishing weíd brought open containers. At least two people are playing conflicting music on their phones. Itís time to go home, but our one neighbor likes to show us pictures on his phone of his most recent vacation. He says, ďWe work hard so we can play hard,Ē at least a dozen times. Iím probably lowballing that.
   Itís time to go home. We politely cut ties. And we walk under the moonlight.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Branch
« on: February 05, 2020, 10:13:22 PM »
   I hold on to the branch as it dips and bends and I bounce into the air and back to wear my toes dip into the rushing creek water. Sometimes it hurts and Iíve stubbed my toes a number of times, but today I realize Iíve mastered this skill, even if the stretch on my arms makes me feel a little tense. I feel like a monkey in the jungle, a dream of mine from childhood. I let go and run forward, letting the water splash to my knees. Now my shirt is soggy, so I just submerge and relish the rush that comes from the sudden perception change of being under water. Everything is sort of gray and green, and the sound is symphonic madness. Then it returns to normal, even if snot is covering my upper lip and Iím struggling to gasp in oxygen.
   On the walk back, my feet still feel slimy on the dirt path. The smell of pine needles is thick and I can still taste the creek water that inadvertently entered my mouth. Our dog runs around, smelling every tree and strategically peeing here and there. I like to look up at the sunlight that sifts through the leaves. It is strong and inviting. I used to love to climb trees, even after that first time, when I started climbing without planning a pathway down and I got to a point where I could no longer move. I needed my friend to come and guide me down. I felt so scared and so ashamed and so sure I had a fear of heights for years after. Then I climbed the tree again one day, just to prove that I could. And I found that it was easy, like taking an elevator. I changed, but I missed the fear somehow. I always wanted that fear to live forever, even if I couldnít.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Steam
« on: February 04, 2020, 09:52:22 PM »
   The steam rises in dancing swirls above the mug of green tea. It makes me think of the frozen smoke blown out of drunken lips in murky city light outside of the bars where one could hear lightly strummed acoustic guitars and untrained voices singing passionately just to feel an iota of usefulness.
   It makes me think of standing around in the thick of the music, at the front of the stage while the drummers adjusted their kits and the guitarists set up their rigs, where the bar owner refused to turn up the heat so all the young kids in hockey jackets and hipster hats would breathe out of their mouths and you could see it twisting together into a symphony of aggression and apathy and disdain and hope and cynicism. It reminds me of the smell of molding concrete by the urinal and the sickly sweet pink cake pretending that an effort was being made to rectify the utter mess that surrounded it.
   It makes me think of hungover mornings where you couldnít stop drinking coffee even if you wanted to, and how you kept bringing the mug to your lips even though it burned your tongue and you lost your taste buds even when you gained the courage to try to eat some toast or a piece of old pizza or eggs that were just rubbery enough to require some real bite.
   It makes me think of a time when my heart was as wistful and gaseous as a string of steam floating into the air and vanishing.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Whistle
« on: February 04, 2020, 12:25:55 AM »
   ďYou could get Eric to whistle on it,Ē you say with a grin about a mile wide.  Itís after school and all Iím thinking about is getting home to my wife and baby boy, but I had to make a pit stop in your classroom so I could play you my song. Itís just been a long time since Iíve had this feeling, where everything seems to fit and my brain is buzzing with the need to make more music. And after all, weíre in a band together so I thought I should get your thoughts. And it seems we agree, thereís something special here.
   I like the whistling on your song, the one instrumental interlude that maybe didnít have any of your writing on it except for a single whistled melody that repeats over and over. I listened to it in my car on the way home from some meeting for Grad School. I remember how your album soundtracked the industrial skyline on the coast of the Niagara River. It was seven or eight years ago and I was so touched by your gentle tenor singing. You sounded like a mix between a robot and a monotone standup, but you sang with all of your heart, with lyrics that hit upon so much anxiety and love.
   I added a whistle to one of my songs in February seven years ago while I was writing a song every day. I had a nifty easy classical guitar part and not much else. It was late in the process; I only had a few days left to go and my creative juices were not flowing the way they had been a week before. So I threw a mic up in front of my face and hit record, without any idea of what this song needed. And I whistled two notes and I slammed a desk drawer and I felt satisfied with the final product. I soaked it in reverb and went to bed feeling like I was finally doing something I loved.
   And here I am scrounging minutes like a songwriter scavenger, trying to make lemons into lemonade or whatever. Itís easy when you have the time. Itís impossible when you convince yourself otherwise.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Tailgate
« on: February 02, 2020, 02:55:48 PM »
   We all feel a little groggy wearing our red, white, and blue outfits with the scratchy long underwear. Most of us arenít used to waking up this early, definitely not to get to a parking lot to drink heavily for three hours. The roads get clogged up outside the stadium and there are police guiding cars. Some people are already stumbling drunk at 10 in the morning. No one harbors bad feelings for them; weíre all in this s*** show together.
   We pay a young man for parking and pull in. People with orange flags guide us to a spot next to some older Canadian gentlemen. Flags are being raised all around, tables are set up with spreads of chips and dips, of course almost everyone has a grill smoking and speakers set up blaring classic rock and AM radio morning hosts getting overly optimistic.
   Itís November. Soon I have the hoppy IPA flavor prevalent in my mouth. We watch a man standing outside his car drink four Labatts in about 10 minutes. Our playlist is blaring from our speakers as we stand on the perimeter of the black metal fire pit. We listen to Lizzo and ďWeird AlĒ and Toto and a bunch of 90s Alternative classics. We start pounding chips and pass around a flask of whiskey.
   The noise from all around is crescendoing. Everybody is getting excited. The Bills have a winning record and a legitimate quarterback for the first time in decades, everyone here is expecting a fun win. Little flakes of snow start to fall.
   Itís almost time. I get anxious as we stop at the portapotties before we get in line for the metal detectors. Iím slurring every word. Iím having a hard time understanding whatís supposed to be in and out of my pockets while the man with the detector scans me for anything dangerous. Then we are in! We get seated while the national anthem is sung.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Prize
« on: February 01, 2020, 10:42:21 AM »
   One time we were at some auction thing and there were various items spruced up on tables lining a dank dim hall, with baskets and ribbons and Stars and Stripes, and the old people who I vaguely knew from around town looked at the things with intent eyes and we all just walked around and around. My mom got into a thousand conversations with people who didnít look familiar at all. The din of the hall became a mantra and I zoned into my own thoughts, which were mainly about cartoons. And commercials. I loved commercials when I was a kid, loved the brief humor and the attractive toys. I loved old 80s commercials that hadnít been aired for years, I love commercials from Europe, or even Canada. I watched TV during the daytime just to tape commercials and had a VHS with two hours of them.
   Even now, 30 years later, I can drift off onto a tangent that has nothing to do with anything as I think about the conversations my mother had with people of whom I knew nothing.
   Somewhere along the line, I had got a ticket which I held in my hand. And late in the evening, we sat at a table while a man on a stage called out numbers. It reminded me of Bingo. And I wished we were just playing a game. It didnít smell smoky, but it had a musty odor still, and Iím sure most of the people present had spent some time smoking in the parking lot.
   I kept checking my number. Then it was miraculously called! I won a prize! I walked to the stage and the man handed me...a bottle of RC Cola?
   I was so proud of my Cola, even though I hated pop. It stayed on the shelf for about a year, before some adult in the house took the initiative to make it disappear.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Ring
« on: February 01, 2020, 03:43:10 AM »
   I donít exactly feel myself this morning and I lay in the sun and watch the clouds drift listlessly over the lake while some of our restless friends dip into the leftovers of the kegs and cannonball off the deck. Someone is on the paddle boards way out, like a model in a photo for a Caribbean vacation. Iím not quite used to the squeeze on my finger, but Iím growing restless too and I ask, ďDo I need to worry about my ring getting wet?Ē
   Everyone is polite about it. ďNo no no,Ē I hear a bunch of married voices say at once. ďIt should be totally waterproof.Ē
   Sensing my discomfort,Colin says, ďIt might feel a little weird, but only for a little while. Pretty soon you get used to it and it sort of just feels like a part of you.Ē
   I believe him immediately, the old seasoned marriage pro, beating out much of the competition here this morning at a solid 5-6 years. I still rotate my ring around my finger tirelessly. It has a tight fit and it wonít come off without a fight.
   But it is new and I only got married yesterday, so I will have to finagle my comfort level.
   For now I look out at the pristine water and feel the warmth of early September wash over me. I bathe in the memory of all the faces of everyone I love. I relive all the greatest hits of my time up here in the mountains. The surprise party you threw for me. The dog walks through the mountain thresholds. It all comes rushing back like an Adirondack stream.

Object Writing Word Of The Day / Mask
« on: January 31, 2020, 02:30:13 AM »
   At the door to the bar, I pull out my ID from my coat pocket and eagerly peer inside. The music is loud, the chatter is jubilant. It smells like puke, but that has its charms! The bouncer is someone I recognize from high school. He evidently doesnít even recognize my name, but thatís cool. Thatís just what I want: a little anonymity, a little sly jaunt under the radar. I donít know if the mask is going on or coming off, but something starts to change.
   We sit for a while waiting for the bartender to come over. She always looks a little disgusted by the brethren of townies. I mustíve gone to high school with her too, but maybe not. Maybe sheís one of those college girls who adopts this place as her hometown. In the meantime, we enjoy the framed pictures of bands that used to play here. Some of them are really famous and others are really good. We order PBRs and someone mentions car bombs. They are there before I know it and someone tries to explain this process to me.
   I know Iíll wake up soon, ten years later, and try to connect the dots from the bar to my bed. Where did the mask go on? Or did the mask disappear into the ether? I tell myself, this doesnít feel right. This isnít where I was headed. Who woke up here? Why arenít I back in the bar?
   If Iím being 100% honest, I guess I just donít know.

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