The reason this blog isn’t as good as it could be – Spoiler Alert: it’s me

Many of the posts I write stem from something funny one of my kids said. With all the hilarious things they say (both intentionally and unintentionally), you’d think I’d have more than enough material to post quite often. And I would, if I could remember things.

Last week, Big Man and Buster had a hilarious conversation. It would have made for an excellent blog post. I remember it was hilarious, but I don’t remember anything they said. What’s more, I don’t even remember what they were talking about.

So why did I wait a week to try to write it down? I didn’t. I wanted to make something of it the very next day. Even then, I could not remember a single word either had said, or what topic they were discussing. All I knew was that they cracked me up, and probably would have cracked you up too, if their father had any kind of memory.

To be accurate, there are some things I do remember: the dates of a great many Civil War battles; lyrics to 1940s ballads; the Pythagorean Theorem and how to apply it.

Antietam (Sharpsburg, if you’re a Confederate): September 17, 1862. Just one of many dates locked in my memory.

On the other hand, there are lots of arguably more useful things I tend to forget: what my kid needs to take to school today; the coupons I have in my pocket at the grocery checkout; where I’m driving to – if it isn’t to or from work. Less important but still vexing: the plot of nearly every novel I’ve ever read.

When not traveling to work, I like a friend to drive me. Otherwise I will end up . . . at work.

Since I’m getting a little long in the tooth, you may naturally conclude that age is getting the better of me. While this is certainly true, it is not the cause of my forgetfulness. I’ve always been absent-minded. There is limited space for information in my brain. All the bits I try to stuff into that walnut shell compete with each other like rats in a crowed cage, inevitably killing each other off, until the sole survivor is the tune to a commercial jingle from 1975 – the winner and still champion!

So, the reason this blog doesn’t happen more often, and isn’t as sharp as it should be when it does happen, is me. Sure, those little comics who can’t be bothered to record their own jokes aren’t exactly helping, but the buck stops with the blog registrant.

I’m not one to write notes as things are happening; I noticed in school that when I took notes I ended up missing the important tidbits. I write too slowly to keep up and I’d end up missing all the punchlines.

The truly amazing thing is that I’ve managed to retain so much of their words to actually get what posts I have out of them. That must be some sort of redeeming quality. Or maybe, sometimes, they say things that are more important to me than where I’m driving to. Some days, their words are probably almost as important as that old TV commercial. Almost.

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Cross-pollination begins in the home

I’m not a great self-promoter.

If you visit here regularly, you probably know this. If you’ve never been here before, see above.

I bet most people who stop here don’t even know I have another blog. Yeah, it’s mentioned in the sidebar, but sidebars are the last refuge of people who are not great self-promoters.

To take it to center stage for a minute, I have another blog: scottnagele.com. On that blog, I write about . . . well . . . writing. I know it sounds like a real hoot, but give it a chance. I mean, some people make good livings marketing online videos of themselves playing video games. It has to be better than that. Right?

Good bloggers with multiple blogs cross-pollinate their readership. I’ve never been disciplined about that, which goes a long way toward explaining my opening sentence. I’m giving it a try. Let’s see how it goes.

One of my favorite things to do over at that other place is to post flash fiction. (Read more flash fiction from scottnagele.com.) In the spirit of cross-pollination, I will blatantly plagiarize a short-short from my other blog below. I hope I don’t get sued. I’m definitely suing.

What’s in Your Wallet?

I asked the nurse to hand me my wallet. She fumbled it a little and a condom fell out. She kept a straight face, discretely picking it up and setting in on my blanket. Then she left the room, not wanting to burst out laughing in front of me.

Rocky, my roommate, grinned at me from his bed. He was 50 years older than me, with his scraggly beard and glassy eyes.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

Rocky chuckled. “I understand. I was a young buck once. You a college boy?”

“Yeah.”

“I never went to college, but I did have my fun.” He nodded at an inevitable transition. “Then I got married. Margie and me was married 40 years, and I liked that a whole hell of lot better than carrying one of them things in my wallet.” He gestured toward the condom I struggled to stuff back into its home.

“40 years? That’s awesome!” It seemed like the right thing to say.

“It was.” He sighed. “Except for the last few. She got Alzheimer’s. I carried her license in my wallet ‘cause she’d lose it otherwise. She’d lose anything you gave her.” He shook his head. “Then she’d snip at me about it. Finally I said, ‘Margie if this next 40 years don’t go no better, I’m calling it quits.’ That was the last joke I told her.” He frowned. “Not a very good joke.”

“I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“She passed almost two years ago.”

I didn’t want to say sorry again. “Do you still keep her license in your wallet?”

“No. I couldn’t look at it every time. It only reminded me of the past. But I guess she told the last joke. After all that time wedged in that little sleeve, it left a faint impression of her picture on the plastic, like a ghost staring up at me.”

“Did you get a new wallet?”

“Oh no. I don’t mind the ghost. It doesn’t give me bad memories; it says she’s still with me. And being how I already invested 40 years, I guess I’ll keep her.” He turned his wet eyes toward the window and spoke at the sky. “Yup, I guess I’ll keep her.”

The blog days of August

The blogging world slows down in the summer. Some bloggers take a vacation. Some try to rediscover the real world. I, on the other hand, have just been slacking. It’s not my fault though. I blame society, because society is convenient to blame for everything, with its constant breakdowns. But mostly I blame this intellectually stifling season called summer.

It’s harder to get motivated to write in summer.

First of all, it tends to get hot and it’s harder to think when you’re hot. My best ideas leak out through my sweat glands in summer. Then, all I’m left with are horrible images of an old man perspiring. When the humidity hits, I start thinking again. I start thinking about the mechanics of breathing. I start thinking about how sweating like a pig is supposed to cool a body down. Lying science!

I can't do my work.

I can’t do my work.

The boys want to be outside, running around like maniacs who laugh in the face of the heat index, instead of staying cooped up in the house where I can easily hear and see the funny things they say and do. They become totally selfish and don’t care at all about their responsibility to give me good blog material.

Since between one and two of the children are too young to be outside, running around like unsupervised maniacs, I find myself always outside running around like a supervising maniac, preventing kids from changing neighborhoods like the wind. I can’t type while jogging, let alone at a full sprint. We might be outside until dark, which is practically tomorrow in summer.

As Captain Oates famously said, "I am just going outside and may be some time." It should be noted that Capt. Oates was never seen again, and it wasn't even hot weather.

As Captain Oates famously said, “I am just going outside and may be some time.” It should be noted that Capt. Oates was never seen again, and it wasn’t even hot weather.

Then they want to stay up late, because, hey, there’s no school in the morning and it’s still kind of light outside. This leaves me hardly any time at all for a muse-provoking scotch on the rocks, because, hey, there is work in the morning and it’s going to take me two hours to fall asleep in this heat. Kids tend to supply zero writing prompts when they are standing between you and a quiet nightcap.

This makes me grumpy. When you are hot, sticky, and grumpy, it is the perfect time to write – if you are due to fire off another angry letter to the electric company. When you are grumpy, you tend to lash out at people, which is just what the utilities need and expect. Unfortunately, utilities probably make up a minority of your blog audience. So you should probably just go to bed and stew in your own juices until you fall asleep, as figuratively as you can manage.

All of this not thinking and not writing leads to large gaps between blog posts. This is not the end of the world because your audience is outside playing and getting heat stroke too.  The real problem comes when you get frustrated and give up on the thinking altogether because you figure you can still do the  writing without it. That only ever leads to a third-rate blog post.

And I hope you enjoyed it.

I’d like to thank all the little people

I’m not good at this.

Blogging Award Nominations are odd creatures. They aren’t given out by some panel of blogging experts, but by individual bloggers as a show of appreciation and support for other bloggers. They are  touching gestures and a means of community-building within the blogosphere.

As a Virgo of German heritage, I’m not practiced at touching gestures. As a Level 1 Introvert, I’m not the best architect of community.

Even so, I am resolved to do my best.

Syracuse-based blogger Mark Bialzcak recently nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Thank you, Mark. I first started reading Mark’s blog because he lives about 90 minutes up the Thruway from where I grew up. I continue to read his blog because he is a great blogger. Being a fine writer can make you a good blogger, but it takes more than that to be a great blogger. Great blogs have a charisma that draws and keeps readers. Mark has a gift for celebrating humanity which makes his blog like a never-ending Super Bowl party. I admire that.

It’s a great honor to be nominated, and I would still be basking in that honor, except that it always comes with homework. This is where the edges of honor become tinged with my laziness. There have been times when award nominations have caught me pressed for time and lacking the inspiration to respond publicly. It’s never been because I didn’t appreciate the honor. I’m trying to do better.

VIBA

The easy part of the homework is displaying the award badge. Done.

As part of the homework, I am supposed to list 7 facts about myself. Let’s see how this works out.

  1. There have been times in my life when I could have vanished from Earth for months without anyone knowing. Now, if I’m five minutes late home from work: Amber Alert.
  2. I am getting close to publishing a new novel, A Housefly in Autumn. This will be my third book of the modern era. I define the modern era as the time after I got my first clue about what it takes to publish decent books.

    Housefly

    It’s my award and I’ll use it to pimp my new book if I want to.

  3. I have one pre-modern era book that I am tempted to take out of print, but my wife claims reading it made her fall in love with me. Maybe I should just take my personality out of print.
  4. I have four unpublished novels, all written B.C. (Before Children). You haven’t made it in the literary world until your “lost” material is published after your death. I’m counting on the posthumous material to put me over the top (so to speak).
  5. I have another blog about reading and writing. It’s tone is generally more serious than this one. So if you think this one isn’t funny at all, you could head over there and not laugh on purpose.
  6. I used to be an avid reader, cross-country skier, and home brewer; now I have three kids and no hobbies.
  7. I’d like to thank all the little people (ages 6, 2, and nearly 1) who made this award happen. And my wife, who while petite in stature, must stand tall in character as the only female in a family of five. Despite the whining you might read from me here, I am thankful every day for my kids and my wife. They have saved me from a life where I could ski off the edge of the world with a book in one hand and a beer in the other, without anyone noticing.

    My Little People.

    My Little People.

For the last bit of homework, I’m supposed to nominate 15 other bloggers. I’m going to fudge this part. I’d like readers to check out these blogs, but it’s hard to visit 15 new blogs in one sitting. So I’m cutting it down to three. These are three of my go-to blogs – the ones I try not to miss. They are smart and funny and heartfelt, but see for yourself.

Also, because they’ve all already posted similar acceptances for other awards, I’m not holding them to the homework part. They are all Very Inspiring Bloggers, and I happily nominate them for this award, but they are welcome to view this as a simple appreciation of their work from another blogger and leave it at that.

Naptimethoughts – A parade of embarrassing moments and a festival of descriptive euphemisms for human body parts.

Ah Dad – English isn’t his first language. From the words he finds to describe the frightening sights he sees at the gym, you’d never know it.

South of the Strait – How does a funny, insightful writer deal with a family health crisis? By tickling your funny bone and tugging at your heart strings all at once.

I’m going to ignore the fact that I cheated and call the homework done now. Sorry I broke the rules, Mark, but as I may have mentioned, I’m not very good at this.