Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Late Period Emoticon Crafting

Being a professional copywriter and someone who aspires to achievement in creative writing beyond e-mails, blogs and creating cryptic post-it notes in Emergency Rooms with text plagiarized from the Magic 8 ball and sticking them on the backs of complete strangers walking around ("It Is Decidedly So!"), I am guild-bound to never use emoticons in ANY communication I originate. I am not even allowed to retard my thought process to the speed of emoticons. That also goes for those other things...what do you call them, you know: LOL, ROFLMAO, BTW. Acronymicons?

But today at a construction site, I was sitting out on the end of a girder that juts 50 feet out beyond the framing on the 105th floor, far, far above the tiny streets below. I was eating a sandwich and looking at the ants below. I wondered how they got on my sandwich. Stowaways? If so, what amazing premeditated planning! And mystery: why?! [didn't really happen. Just having a go with a little theater of the mind.]

I was also thinking about emoticons and wondering if their use was on the wane. I reasoned that if simplistic icons representing  vague categories of inflection were being used by people who didn't appreciate the nuances and refinements of thought and emotion words can conjure up, their ability to convey meaning would be in the process of winding down, not up, and eventually they wouldn't understand emoticons or acronymicons either.

For them, the alphabet would start looking like a line of proof at the end of Einstein's chalk. These people would gravitate to jobs at cash registers where you push buttons with little pictures of the product and make change based on images of presidents, birds and state flowers.

Now, I realize emoticons forged from a standard keyboard have probably all been figured out, but the ones I made are ones I've never seen except for the first one, which was originally put together by my friend. She called it "jalapeno slice", I believe. I just went a different way with it.

Picasso Faced, as in, “Whoa, that quart of tequila I chugged through the enema hose got me totally Picasso Faced!”

: $ 
Braces. (sideways)

I am so bored I could tickle a lion's balls.

\ \\// 
live long and prosper

Damn, that salsa is muy caliente!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

20 Billion Tweets

I read that Twitter recently passed 20 billion tweets. That’s amazing -- that I know what that first sentence means. I come from a different time.

BWIWAK (Back When I Was A Kid), we didn’t have “reality TV” we had windows you looked out of. The only Internet was the Sears catalogue. Newspapers even then printed lies and damn lies but on Sunday, out of respect, they wrapped it in funny papers.

Gas was 15 cents a gallon and that included the pumping, window squeegee all the way around, oil check and air for the tires, even top up the radiator sometimes. No tip. And while that was going on the attendant and your dad talked about what was new or what was old and there was always plenty of both to discuss.

You did things deliberately that you would pay no mind to today, like “break a dollar”.

There was more time back then because we made time. We stopped doing that now. Now we chase the minutes and never catch up. A whole load of digital confetti got dumped over much of what really matters and we spend our days digging through the confusion.

We had mobile phones back then too. They were the ones with the long cords in the kitchen. My mom could walk around the kitchen, even sit in the dining room, without interrupting her conversation. But beyond that, we didn't need mobility. If you needed to talk to a friend, pretty much, they were right next to you or within hollering distance. That's why they were friends. Anybody else could wait till you got home or untill the mailman delivered the mail.

But this “tweet”. I don’t know. It’s folks continually presenting themselves. Broadcasting the molecular particulars of their life.

All the world’s become a stage, but BWIWAK we also had audiences.

Monday, July 19, 2010


What’d he sound like?
Like sin and salvation all rolled up and howling.
Like a woeful train passing a twilight city and moaning into a new night.
Like a choir psalm built from parole violations.

Got hobo fire eyes and tales no mortal should know in such detail.
Told me don't take too much stock in reality. It's just a collective hunch anyways.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Continuing Education

I guess there are two methods to understanding walls. One is to read about them -- their variations and purposes -- and go on a series of field trips to see them, touch them and compare them. The other way to understand them is to run into one and work it all out in recovery. I endeavor to someday engage in an education that embraces the first methodology.

In this picture I present evidence of my second-method approach to a study of pavement while on a Sunday afternoon bicycle ride through an affluent residential section of Pasadena, near the Rose Bowl. A woman ahead of me on a bike, head plugged tight with a music playback device, turned sharply left into me as I tried to pass wide. I was going 22 mph on an 18 pound bike. I weigh 158. Her bike was easily 40 pounds, she was about my weight and her speed was close to 4 mph. For extra credit, whose kinetic energy, displaced, will lead them to chaos faster?

I have previously discovered that gravity affects the slow and stupid in a different way than it does the fast and alert. Slow and stupid people are bound by a different set of natural laws designed to protect them in case they may be bearing seed relevant to our future. Apparently nature does not believe that stupid proceeds from stupid but is meted out on a case by case basis. Whatever. Her left handlebar caught my right handlebar just enough to turn my front wheel hard to the right and I went down on my helmet and left shoulder.

I am now studying "separated shoulder, type III".

At the time, I could neither discharge a firearm, throw a knife, or operate a garrote for 4 weeks, so I was the sole of politeness and courtesy to all I met during that time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


In March 2007, at age 57, suddenly and without prior symptoms, I came down with type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent) . I was healthy, trim and fit. Then this! I lost 34 pounds in 4 weeks and had no energy. I was tired and depressed all the time. It was awful.

For a new diabetic there is a lot to experience and get over. Hard to explain. To a diabetic, I can say, “Hey, y'know what I'm saying?” and they'd say, “Oh yeah!” and we might do our secret diabetic handshake. For a non-diabetic, forget it. It's like trying to read a Sumerian document in the original cuneiform.

So I want to tell you a little story but I need to give you a two paragraph introduction first. Please bear with me.

Being a type 1 means your metabolism is on manual operation. No more automatic transmission. No cruise control. It is all stick shift and clutch, buddy boy. You watch your carbs, you figure how much insulin you need to apply so that your body will uptake the carbs you eat, you watch your blood sugar like the oil gauge in a car that smokes.

In the beginning, the hit to your system is like a rock in a pond, the waves cause ripples and cross waves and the whole surface is rocking. And with it goes your emotional state. It does calm down, eventually, but it takes months and discipline, much longer if you let it get to you. You are in this alone. You may be blessed with a lot of people who care about you, but it isn't happening to them and there is no comparable experience.

Eight months after my diagnosis, I was in the Do It Center hardware store near my house buying something, I forget what. I was up at the checkout counter waiting for my credit card to be processed and I notice this dusty pad of cards off to the side of the counter. They were one dollar pledges for “Tour De Cure” but the word “diabetes” caught my eye and I picked one up and blew the dust off it. Some kind of bike ride to raise money for diabetes. Stuck off to the side, gathering dust. I noticed that the ride was coming up at the end of the month and I sighed to myself and thought, ahh, what the heck, I'll do it for myself and others like me but it doesn't look like anyone's really interested. I handed five cards and money to the checkout girl.

And she said.

Sorry for the dust.

We've been renovating the store.

And she stuck a bit of tape on the bright yellow cards and walked over to the big glass front window on the store.

And she climbed a ladder and found a free space near the top of the glass for my cards. There was a sea of squares, each one a pledge, silhouetted by the bright sun bursting through the spaces between them.

All these people thought diabetes should be eliminated too! I figured most of these folks didn't know what it was like to be a diabetic but maybe knew someone who had it. I was stunned. It's not like I think people are generally bad or indifferent but I wasn't ready for it-- all those pledges!

The girl came back to the counter and said, “my grandmother had diabetes. It sucks.”

I looked at her but my mouth didn't work. Big, tough guy that I am. I opened my mouth but burst into tears, then manfully tried to suppress a sob by compressing my face into something that must have looked absolutely frightening to a child. I gathered up my credit card and bag and simply nodded to her and left.

It came to me that compassion was the willful act of reaching into places where people carry a lonely burden. It is letting them know that their situation is understood. It is action. It is the power of organized resolve, involving many people, to improve conditions beyond the ability of the individual. It is humankind at its best and it is society at its most basic.

I cried because the dam around me broke.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crossing the line

Study the photo. I did not expect to find such candor at a County Clerk's Office. This was back in May. Notice what comes after death? Plus, isn't marriage supposed to come before birth? Or am I just old fashioned? When I walked past the sign I really felt like I had CROSSED THAT LINE WHEN I CAME TO IT.

For the first time in my life I was doing it, not saying I would do it should conditions arise that brought about my coming to a line of consequence. Not only that, but holy smokes, it's really more like three lines. I mean, what's left? TAXES, WAR and NASCAR I guess.

Edie and I went here to get our marriage license. After ten years of living together and into the front of our 60's, we are now on a learner's permit until the ceremony.

As it came our turn at the very narrow window in a very yellow wall, Edie approached from beyond the visual field of the employee. I pushed the papers through and the clerk looked up, looked to both sides and asked where my fiancee was. I leaned in to the shiny metal speaker disk and said, "I would like the court to appoint one for me."