The Long Night

I entered the long night in 2009, three years ago.  I had seen the night coming long before that and the twilight of that night was as obvious as twilights always are.  As the long night fell and the last of the light of day faded over a faraway horizon, I did as I had always felt was right, I tried to light a candle against the encroaching dark.  My wife chose to ignore the dark.  She used my candle to fool herself into thinking that the night was so very far away.  In the end, as the flame guttered and faltered, she began to curse the darkness as she allowed herself to see, for the first time, the cold night we were in.

I started seeing just how deeply in trouble we really were.  The economy was crashed, jobs were incredibly scarce and I was just off an injury leave.  The situation was somewhat dire and I was having a lot of trouble getting any kind of traction in the job market.  My wife had gone through three jobs in as many months; she’d get hired for some low-level counter position then start showing some form of competence (well, more than the “fresh from high school” regular hires they had so it wasn’t hard), they’d give her some real responsibility or fast track her towards a management position and she’d have a low-level nervous breakdown and either quit or lose the job.  She’d lather, rinse and repeat until, finally, the offers stopped coming.

For my part, I was hammering away at “the breadwinner” job.  She’d decided that I had to be the breadwinner.  That way, she could become a little hausfrau after I’d built up some seniority and stability and she’d not have to work.  Therefore, most of my efforts were concentrated in upper management and eventual high-dollar positions.  That was fine, really, since lower-level opening wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole.  I had too much experience and they knew for a fact that I’d dump their minimum wage position the second something better came along.  I was having little luck and what few nibbles at the hook I was having would invariably get screwed up by the wife nagging me to do things a different way until I did.

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A Quick Note – Update

For those who were wondering about why I’ve gone a little quiet here…

The project I spoke about is still a work in progress.  What I wanted to do was seek advice on a book that will include this blog as part of its content.  I wanted to get some advice from a trusted friend who has some experience in the publishing field about what I was planning.  I was afraid that making this part of the future book public could be a showstopper for the rest of the project as a commercial venture if I manage to get it working the way I want it to and in a publishable format in the future.

In the near future, I have an essay I’m posting tomorrow and I am planning (or working on) a post on the closing of the City of Heroes MMO.  I am also still working on the fourth installment of Why Men Date Crazy Women (and it’s still very difficult to write that part).  Additionally, I have several essays that may or may not see the light of day soon; it will depend on if I decide to finish them and publish.  I am also working on a second painting which will make an eventual appearance here.

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10 Ways to Improve Your Life

I don’t know why we like groups of ten.  Maybe it’s because it’s a nice round number.  Maybe it’s because it’s small enough to seem digestible but large enough to seem satisfying.  Maybe it’s some deep seated love for base 10.  Maybe it’s because we have ten fingers and ten toes…  I don’t really know, but I do know we like them.

Therefore, I set up a “Ten List” of ways to improve yourself and your life.  I make no specific claims about any specific person with these.  I just suggest trying them and seeing if they work for you.  Give them an honest chance to work and if one doesn’t discard it.

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Categories: Armchair Psychology, Art, Arts, Life, Reading, Relationships, Self-Awareness, Self-Improvement, The Arts, Visual and Performing Arts, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nostalgia Relived: The Old Leather Jacket

In the late 80s (AKA high school) and the early 90s there was a piece of wardrobe I was almost never without: a brown leather jacket.  The first one was bought in 1989.  It wasn’t expensive; in fact it wasn’t nearly what I really wanted.  It was a more modern design with elastic gathers at the knit cuffs and around the edge of the coat tail.  I did love it though.  It was a beautiful creamy shade of brown and was a thick but supple calf skin.

In 1991 that jacket was damaged in the car wreck I talk about on my About Me page.  It was damaged by the gasoline spilling out.  In retained a faint gas smell for the rest of its life.  In early 1992, it was severely damaged when the pocket hooked on an iron bar and I was moving rather quickly and the pocket was ripped almost entirely off.  I had it repaired, but it was never the same.

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Categories: About Me, Life, Men, Nostalgia, Self-Awareness, Self-Improvement | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My “First” Painting: Untitled 2012

My last attempt at painting and sculpting was about fifteen years ago.  I produced my last painting in 1996.  It was junk.  It was a pink and green experimental nightmare.  Even I hated it.  It was an 8X10 panel of dreadful with a little appalling tossed in for flavor.  After that I just didn’t pick up the brush again.

In a previous post I made mention of some of my better pieces.  I also mentioned I was starting up again.  Two days ago, I finished my first piece in the last 16 years.

At the risk of it sounding like false modesty, it’s not very good.  I like it.  I intend to frame it and hang it but I cannot say it’s “good” by any standard other than my own.

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Reading Corner: The Complete Works of O’ Henry (1926 Edition)

So, today was a little local event called the “Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale,” an event I was for years a regular at, but, in recent years have no attended.  It is basically a gigantic used book flea market for a few days only.  You can find some really awesome books and you can find some complete and utter garbage.  A lot of people use it as a “once a year” book shopping trip and buy dozens if not a couple of hundred books at one time.

The friend from an earlier post, Darla, and her mother went today and they brought me back a present.  They got me this:


That is a very old edition of The Complete Works of O’ Henry (Special Literary Edition) published by Doubleday, Page & Co in 1926.  It’s in fair shape, but the spine is pretty well broken and it is a touch fragile.  Age is starting to rob the pages of their litheness and the edges have grown brittle with time and sun.  I will definitely get one careful read out of it, maybe two or three if I get very lucky.

However, it is an old book.  86 years old and carrying the weight of all those years.  It has the smell of an old book; that slightly musty paper scent with a hint of dust and just a pinch of paper in decay.  It’s an irresistible aroma for a book nut.  In fact, before I had a title or author or anything else, I recognized the age (I actually thought 40s or 50s) and smelled the top edge of the book.  The scent is almost an intoxicant.

I have just now gone through and, as I always do with older books, removed the dog-ears from pages from the previous owners.  I don’t want their opinions of a piece to remember to influence me.  I have my own tastes.  I did, however, write down the page numbers of their marks, just for my own curiosity once I have read it.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I like to know things.  Sometimes those things are obscure.  Sometimes they’re practical.  For me, it’s not really the knowing, it’s the “trying to find out” that amuses me.  I like to look into things.  I may not do it in depth, but I do like to poke around and find things out.  So, the first chance I got I looked up this particular book.

I found out a few things.  First, there are two versions: a red cover and a green cover.  It appears that the red cover is more common now.  The Green cover version appears to be extremely rare.  The red cover in good shape will cost you $20 to $30; the green about $40 or $50.  The red cover was leather and originally gilt in gold and the pages were all gold gilt as well.  The green was the “common” version and had no such finery and simple board and cloth covers; it was meant to be the “regular” version.

More interesting, though, is that I know who one of the owners, perhaps the first, was.  A Mr. Emmett B. Ray of Kosciusko, Mississippi (that’s central Mississippi if you’re curious) wrote his name in the front page with the words “Please Return” underneath.  Out of curiosity, I punched his name and the town into Yahoo and may have found him:

“Emmett B. RAY, M.D., 8 Jan 1910 – 4 Dec 1955”

as well as his wife:

“Gertrude Cassel RAY, 27 Dec 1912 – 23 Sept 1977 (wife of E.B.Ray)”

and infant daughter:

“Perri Suzanne RAY, 22 Apr 1947 – 20 July 1948 (dau of E.B. & G.C.Ray)”

from a listing of graves in the local cemetery.

Naturally, I can’t be sure that’s the guy who owned this book.  I can’t be positive he’s even related to the guy who owned this book.  He was 16 when it was published, so it definitely could be him.  I like to think it is.   Like to think he sat down as a kid with this book and read it cover to cover a half dozen times.  I like to think that it was with him when he became a doctor.  I like to think his wife dusted it every week on the bookshelf and he occasionally pulled it out and read a favorite story.

After he died young at the age of 45 in 1955, I’d like to think that Gertrude hung onto it for a while and eventually gave it to a friend or relative and it wound its way here through some convoluted series of exchanges until it found its way into my hands to be enjoyed again.

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Nostalgia Relived: Scrabble

I suppose at my age it is common to get a little nostalgic.   I still love the things I loved when I was twenty.  I still love to do the things I did when I was twenty.  Naturally when I do those things, even today, they make me very happy.  When I cannot do those things, I am not very happy.

Yesterday, I got to do something I used to love to do.  I got to play Scrabble with my oldest friend.  Exciting, eh?

Ohhh, yeah, that’s the one – the late-80s/early-90s version

Seriously though, it was a lot of fun to get together and do something as simple as sit around eating snacks, drinking tea and playing a board game.  15 years ago, even 20 years ago, it was a commonplace thing.  I’d go over to her and her mom’s house for a visit, we’d sit, watch some TV or a movie, talk, laugh, joke and, eventually, the Scrabble board came out.  We’d set up and play for a few hours and poke at each other, and try to slip nonexistent words past one another.  It was a lot of fun.  We did it so often that one year I got them a Deluxe Edition Scrabble set with the hard, rotating board with the ridges to hold letters in place and the hardwood tiles.

We’d not played in a long time.  I think we played once when my (now ex-)wife and I were down for a visit before we got married.  The ex-wife was never much for games like Scrabble – she was more “Trivial Pursuit: Young Person’s Edition” and “Trivial Pursuit: 80s Edition” and the like.  By the third word, we were playing like we’d never stopped.  It was like we were still playing all those years ago.

There were changes though.

First we were in the wrong house.  He and her mom lived in this fairly large “log house” back then.  We’d gather around their six person dinner table in the kitchen and play.  The TV would always be on in the living room and you could, if you sat in the right seats, both still see the screen when the TV was in the right place.  They had to give up the log house a long time ago and now her mom lived in a place on the lot beside the log house and Darla lives in her own place.  The log house is one of those “long gone” things for us now.

I ate a shocking, frightening, horrible amount of these…

Second, her mom wasn’t here.  Her mom used to get a big kick out of hearing us poke at each other and rib one another and try to lie our way past a fake word.  She’d look over our shoulders and grin when she found something we’d missed.  Sometimes she’d play, sometimes not, but she always seemed interested in the game.  She always kept a pitcher of lightly sweetened tea around and a box of Little Debbie Fudge Rounds for me to get into.  We had none of her tea, no Fudge Rounds and no mom looking over our shoulders and grinning.

Third, we were missing a hand.  Originally, when Darla and I played, it was just her and I and sometimes her mom.  Then, another friend started joining us.  She didn’t join for every game but Lou (that’s a girl, by the way) was in on about half of them after she became a standing part of our little crazy group.  I messed that up when Lou and I started “not-dating” and things ended badly.  I made a right mess of that and maybe someday I’ll write about it, but it’s beyond the scope of this post.  Needless to say, she wasn’t at this game either.  I doubt she’d have wanted to be in the same city as me much less the same room.

All in all though, despite those oversights, it was just like it had been.  We’ve mellowed a bit.  We used far fewer obviously fake words.  We didn’t really argue with one another as much, but that comes with time.  We have to get comfortable with each other’s play style again before we can really g after each other.

I hope it becomes a regular thing.  I hope it becomes more common.  It’s so rare to find something like that that is just as it was.  I hope it stays that way.

Categories: About Me, Gamer, Games, Nostalgia, Relationships, Self-Improvement | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brief: My “First” Painting

I am having trouble understanding just how overjoyed I am with painting.  I know I’m not very good at it, and I’ll soon prove that with some pictures of the work in progress, but I am really enjoying myself.

I’ve been working on one particular piece for the last few days, spending an hour or two a day on it, slowly working it over and trying to remember what little I did know about painting.  It was, I admit, very little and I learned it all via observation, listening to the art students in college and “bash you head against a wall”-style trial and error with a little minor osmosis on the side.  However, I do remember a good bit of it and what I don’t remember I have some vague remembrances of and that’s enough to figure it out again.

The piece has taken on some significance since it’s become a very personal piece.  I didn’t expect it would, but, rather like my diary entries, I’ve started pouring some of myself and my feelings into it at a much higher rate than I originally expected I would.  It’s become an important piece to me because it’s the first in a long time, but also because the subject I choose and the message I hope it will convey.  Even if it fails to convey the message, which I would consider a failure, the piece will always hold some important significance to me because of what I see in it.

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A Second Quick Note

Earlier in My Artistic Side I mentioned I was getting back into painting, but I had to wait for the right moment.  The right moment was about seven hours ago and I have started on my first piece.

I’ll be posting pics when I finish it.  Don’t expect too much.  I wasn’t very good when I did it originally, and I’m rusty now.  I am, however, overjoyed to be painting again.

Categories: About Me, Art, Arts, Painting, Self-Improvement, The Arts, Visual and Performing Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Quick Note

I have been on a short vacation from most of my standard writing for the last day or two and likely the next day or two while I focus all my energy on a special project I’ve been meaning to get some serious work done on.  Thus far, it’s absorbed most of my free time except a few “writer’s block breaks’ where I did some very light work on some blog articles.

I’ll get back to regular posting as soon as I get to where I need to be on the special project.

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