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.

One day in Berlin

I have a new favorite author. So far, he only writes short stories, but that’s fine with me, as he has already established himself as a favorite visual artist of mine. The kid is multi-talented.

Here is one of his latest literary offerings.

Berlin

Since the original may be difficult to see, I’ll type it out:

One day in Berlin there where [sic] nine people playing football. Then uncle Bob acsadentliy [sic] therw [sic] the ball at a ponty [sic] fence and the ball went pop! They went to a store but the footballs were all gone. Then they went home to look for a pump and patch but the stuff was lost. They where[sic] in bad luck. Then they went to Jakes house and they played catch. the end

In honor of discovering this new talent, I will now hold an impromptu book club meeting regarding this work. Let’s dig deeper into the text.

There’s a surprising amount of mystery surrounding this episode. For example, why is it set in Berlin? Well, actually, that’s not so much a mystery if you have followed this artist and seen the pickelhaube and Prussian flag requests in his Christmas letters to Santa, like I have. Berlin is the capital of Germany. That says it all.

Were they playing American football or European football (soccer)? We can’t be sure, but the fact that uncle Bob threw the ball indicates that, unless he was goalie or was throwing the ball in from out of bounds, it was likely American football. Also, the fact that he threw it at D-fence, or in German, Die-Fence, indicates he probably owned a cardboard cutout of a picket border which he took to NFL games.

Also, all the footballs being gone from the store lends evidence to it being an American football, as the German sporting goods shops would less likely be out of soccer balls.

Who misplaced the pump and patch? This is the question a father asks every time something goes flat. No one ever takes responsibility, and no one ever will.

Did Jake have another ball at his house, or did they make the best of things and play catch with the flat ball? I like to think Jake demonstrated admirable character development by showing his eight comrades that inflation is just a state of mind. The world thinks you can’t play catch with a popped ball. You can submit to that kind of limited thinking, or you can change the world. Way to go, Jake! You are a true football hero.

Sometimes the answer to great problems (global strife, world hunger, playing sports with an uninflated ball) are all about shifting the perceptions of the major players.

This is an uplifting story of human triumph. It shows that you can do anything your mind allows you, like playing with a popped ball, or even hyphenating and splitting single-syllable words onto multiple lines.

I think I’m going to be a fan of this guy for a long time.