Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Important Things in Life. (a short fiction)

          "The only things certain in life are death and taxes" was the last thing Robert said to his son. What a shame. He didn't even believe the well trodden words himself. Not like it would have helped the situation out any, but nonetheless he wished he would have added an addendum to the statement. Something that included a bit about how if you're clever enough, you can avoid taxes and that Death by the dictionary's definition is the opposite of life and that life was about living in the moment. He mulled over these thoughts for a while pointlessly as his son wasn't even old enough to understand or remember any life advice he might have for him. What his son really needed was his father to be present, a fact Robert knew more than any of the rationalizations swimming around and ricocheting off each other in his head. Unfortunately, when faced with such large decisions the loudest voices in his thoughts weren't always the right ones. 
          "But what is right? who decides this stuff anyway?" Another bumper car of existential mutterings came in and out as fast as he could think of it. 
          "Would you like some more hot water for your tea?" asked the waitress startling him from his meandering mind. In another five minutes he'll find out through eavesdropping that it's only her second week working at the diner but as far as he can tell at the moment she seems to be a permanent fixture of the place, no different than the worn out vinyl booth he was sitting at. Once he found out she was new he just accepted it as the new truth of the world he moved through instead of considering for even one second how wrong his assumptions were.
         "yes please, thank you" He replied not questioning himself if he really wanted more hot water or not. She returned within a minute and placed in front of him a small steaming pitcher with a sliced lemon on the side that was carefully selected to not contain any seeds.
         "Oh what a day, you get my best customer award my friend, I have had nothing but demanding ungrateful people this shift" she unprofessionally lamented. 
          "Well I haven't paid yet" Robert sarcastically replied. They both chuckled a little at his remark. She left his table as fast as she arrived but for some reason this last interaction finally caused Robert to see things through a different lens. He admitted to his subconscious that he would have placed himself as the last contender for the best customer award before she spoke up. The thoughts of how things are perceived versus what they really were began to domino inside Robert. He began to tune the frequencies in his brain so that the undeniably "right" voice was the loudest. 
          Although he paid for the hotel room around the corner from the diner, he didn't sleep. He just starred at the stained popcorn ceiling and squinted his eyes until the beams of light made his sober hallucinations dance and morph into anything and everything imaginable. Tragically, the morning finally came and the fleeting epiphanies turned back into primal needs of food, shelter, and sex. This was the closest he would ever come to going back to his family.    

         Do you think you can do me a favor God, and wait a couple more months before you off another one of my friends? Or at least take them out with a more traditional method like a drug overdose or suicide -something that would give me a reason to get mad? 
         Finny put the pen down before he cursed himself any further. He got what he wanted, the false sense of power by writing a scathing letter to the big man upstairs. There was no need to continue, in fact he crumpled it up and thew it away immediately after writing it. By the tone of the note you would think that Fin had lost an abnormal amount of the ones close to him in a short amount of time. Although it was true by the standard of any life at all is surely invaluable, the number two hardly seems God cursing worthy to most people so he never showed it to anyone.         
          First it was Casey who had a heart condition. Everyone was well aware that Casey had been on borrowed time for years and that one day everyone close to him would all simultaneously remember that they intentionally forgot about that. Nonetheless the story played out exactly like everyone knew it would, and they all eventually went back to leading happy lives, or depressed ones, whichever they were previously inclined. Predictably, each one returned to "normal" in order of closeness to Casey, ending with his widowed wife and her young bastard son. 
          Eddie was different, his demise was also expected according to statistics but of course like all others in his statistic bracket, no one could have possibly prepared for the news. Late on a Friday night, a drunk driver swerved and hit his car in the worst way one could hit a car and crushed in the driver's seat from the door. "T-boned" they called it. The driver lived and of course that made Finny mad but it wasn't enough. He could only stay mad at someone he never met or even saw a picture of for so long. He wished he could pass off more of the confusion and pain he was feeling into anger but it wasn't happening. At least then he knew he'd be advancing quicker through the stages of grief so he could he happier sooner or would he? Maybe he's part of the latter category of perpetually depressed folks now, all because of his two deceased friends. This revelation made him mad which of course made him happy. 

           It was a full week before Thanks Giving and Lloyd was already dreading the arrival of Christmas. Long ago he decided that he liked his large fluffy white beard and that he wouldn't cut it off just to avoid all the Santa comparisons for one month a year. The mosaic liquid pattern on the large windshield in front of him increased in intensity as the rain began to fall a little harder for a moment. Nonetheless, the large city bus lumbered on into the night as he depressed the gas pedal. 
          "Look Mommy, Santa's driving the bus" came a young voice from a few seats behind him. Lloyd couldn't even tell if it was from a boy or a girl. Of course he didn't put very much effort into analyzing it in favor of shuddering at the first "Santa sighting" of the year. 
          "Can I ask Santa to bring back daddy this year?" asked the voice followed by a quick indiscernible reply. This time Lloyd was paying more attention and the voice was identifiable as a young boy. The instant growth of Lloyd's attention span was because his own father was not around when he was young. He thought briefly how amazing it is that with a whole lifetime behind him, he could still switch on and off his fatherless sympathies with one overheard sentence. He looked up into his rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of the people behind him but couldn't see anyone younger than middle aged. 
          "Are you Santa?" asked the child, startling Lloyd as he suddenly appeared right next to him on the hydraulic off ramp. Caught off guard, instinct took over and he snapped a sharp "No" right as the bus tumbled over a large pot hole, shaking the oversized vehicle with a thunderous crack and a flicker of the interior lights. The young boy expelled no effort to hide his disappointment in his face and began to turn back towards his seat. 
          "Not yet, not till Christmas. Not…not for another week, then I'm Santa." corrected Lloyd. The words felt like they were spoken through him from an other-worldly entity that temporarily took control of his brain. He was shocked at himself. Now what? whatever had just seized his tongue for a stuttering 12 words had left him to deal with the obvious followup questions about to come. Lloyd waited but nothing came, no further inquiries from the inquisitive child. Finally the boy broke the silence;
          "Well I won't call you Santa till then if that's how you like it". 
          "Why thank you, yes, that is how I like it". Lloyd replied. 
          "What are you thankful for?" questioned the boy. The question once again caught Lloyd off guard and he didn't know what to say. Luckily, the child, wether aware of Lloyd's inability to talk or just restless, decided not to wait any longer to inform him about what he was thankful for.
          "I'm thankful for my mommy and my friends at school and….and….and that Santa's driving the bus-oops! I mean…. I mean…."
          "Lloyd. My name's Lloyd" 
          "Nice to meet you Lloyd" He politely said with an overly exaggerated wink. 
          "My name's Phineas Martin Garrison" he continued. Another pause in the conversation passed as the bus crossed the old Hawthorne bridge. The two observed the myriad of rain distorted lights across the river. The scenery seemed like it carried an extra weight of history tonight as Lloyd contemplated his past. 
          "So what are you thankful for" pressed the boy again. Lloyd was frustrated with himself that this simple question was so frustrating. Why couldn't he just give an answer? Anything will do. Just say something, he thought. For some reason he felt it extremely important to not lie to the child like he had when he shockingly admitted to being Santa just moments ago. He could sense the impatience growing within the boy so he decided to just start talking and whatever came to him first would hopefully semi-eloquently roll off his tongue. 
          "I'm thankful for, this conversation we're having right now. I was having a bad day until you started talking to me. Now I feel better." He told the truth and he did feel better. Phineas said nothing in response, instead he just moved closer to Lloyd and placed his small head on his shoulder. A burning yet pleasant feeling rushed from the point of contact on his upper arm to throughout his whole body for a moment as Lloyd remembered what it was like to be young and yearning for the important things in life.   

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nobody Parties Harder Than Rednecks.

          I was the poor kid by comparison at my high school but only because the majority of my peers were raised in multi-million dollar homes. Naturally, off-roading was one of the many expensive hobbies some friends of mine were in to that I did not partake of. I just put it into the same category as Wakeboarding, Golf, Snowmobiling, or whatever else they were doing that I could not afford. I wasn't world wise enough yet to realize that off-roading was one of those strange crossover hobbies rich kids did that also sparked the fancy of those described as rednecks. I knew they existed (rednecks) because of pop culture, but my corner of Washington State didn't have any rodeos or Nascar tracks nearby so I just assumed they all lived in Mississippi. Little did I know that a world of rednecks and their hee-haw off-roading mega parties were just over the mountains, a mere two hour drive away and were about to teach me how to party for real.
          When I was in high school, like most others I had my core group of friends, and then a few larger scenes of friends that hung out together. It was in one of these larger groups that harbored the off-roading enthusiasts of my grade. We were seniors about to graduate and looking for something wild to do. It wasn't spoken outright but a lot of us had recently earned the freedom of adulthood and wanted to take it out for a test drive so to speak. Drinking in the park had been done. We wanted a real party. It felt like there was a large balloon in the cafeteria that was crushing us with it's pressure as we silently ate our sandwiches in those final few weeks of high school. All we needed was one good lead for it to pop. Then one day it did. I showed up to school and a lot of people were talking about this huge off-roading festival that was described simply as fifteen thousand rednecks in the desert going berserk for a week. Apparently Joey had a brother or a cousin that had been to it the year before and confirmed it was the craziest time he'd ever had. With that as our only info, about fifty of us started packing up camping supplies. That weekend we all met in a large cul-de-sac outside someone's house to assemble a train of cars into the unknown. As everybody was loading up, I noticed lots of beer. Cases upon cases. Even a keg was being hoisted in to someone's truck. 
          "Did anybody pack any water?" someone shouted sarcastically to which someone replied from the other side of the cul-de-sac; "If we get thirsty, we'll just drink more beer!" Laughes ensued but there really was a water shortage that was not being seriously acknowledged. I wanted to stop at a grocery store to grab a few jugs but it was too late, the cheers were ramping up and the train was leaving. I had no cell phone and no directions so I had to follow. Next stop, the desert.
          Two hours later, the cars took a turn onto a sandy makeshift road that my '89 Volkswagon Fox could barely get through and I got my first reality check to where I had wandered to. There was a large monster truck parked with about six drunk mullet heads on top yelling and spitting while a boy about six years old held a sign down below that said "show me your tits". A pregnant woman was flashing him. This was going to be a wild weekend for sure but I noticed right away that our group was treading way out of our territory. This realization became very clear as soon as we set up our camp. Three guys from our high school party pack were African American and the camp next to ours didn't hesitate to raise a car sized confederate flag and proceeded to sit and stare at us all while chewing tobacco. It was uncomfortable but only made us all go for the beer faster. 
          Word was that about a half mile away in the center of the camps there was a large mud pit that served as the main stage for entertainment of sorts. To be clear, there was no official name for this festival, no hired security, no organization whatsoever. This was simply a bunch of people in the desert drinking beer and driving their ridiculous trucks, so there was no schedule of events at the mud pit, just whatever happens, happens. When I arrived there were three trucks driving in a figure eight as fast as they could just barely missing each other in the middle with each lap. The close calls caused a lot of yelling from the hundreds of beer toting onlookers. Eventually, to no one's great surprise, one of the trucks t-boned another and caused it to roll onto it's side. Immediately, fifty or so people rushed in to tip it back upright and when they did everyone cheered as if tipping it right side up somehow eliminated the bent axle and crushed paneling. The last thing on anybody's mind was to check on the driver, who although very drunk and dazed did appear uninjured for the most part as he swaggered around his wrecked truck cursing.
          After that incident the mud pit was somewhat quiet as people looked around anxiously in anticipation of what would happen next. A short while later we heard the familiar rumble of our friend Jason's tricked out rig cruising over the hill towards the pit. He took his raised Bronco straight in and started doing donuts, spraying mud everywhere. We were nervous and proud as we watched our brethren spin with testosterone. Ten glorious seconds later he wisely drove out. Silence. The crowd wasn't impressed. They were here for boobs or blood, anything less was a waste of time.
          The next vehicle to show up entered significantly more dignified with a slow commanding approach and just parked in the middle. It was a new Hummer with a tarp sign mounted on top that said "Hummdaddy". The door opened and a steroid infused, balding mullet head I presumed was Hummdaddy himself exited and climbed on top. He began waving his arms with authority and shouting something I couldn't make out. Before I could hypothesize any further to what his intentions were, girls of all sizes, ages, and shapes began lining up behind the Hummer in the mud. One by one Hummdaddy invited them up to it's roof where he would stand behind them, help them lift their shirts up, grab their boobs, and pan the crowd while wiggling them. The cheering was loud and only caused all the onlookers to rush the pit, filling in any vacant square foot of the mud hole. My friend David elbowed me during the stampede urging my buddy Mark and I to join him and get closer. The mob was thick and didn't give us much choice in the matter so we followed.
          There we stood knee deep in mud underneath Humdaddy and his impromptu boobie show and I thought it couldn't get any weirder but it did. A skinny well endowed blond got up to take her turn but this time she grabbed her own boobs and shockingly squirted two large full streams of breast milk onto the onlookers. David got it right in the face, turned to us completely stunned and asked us if that had just happened. Mark and I confirmed that it had and that we should probably get back to camp before it got even more bizarre.
          Night fell and the high school clan I arrived with seemed to split into two distinct groups; those who got way too drunk too early, and those who were hiding in their tents scared for their life. A few of us built a fire in the center of camp to make it more of an official establishment. As soon as it grew to a decent size, a dirt bike with two people on it came out of nowhere and drove right through it spreading sparks and pieces of burning wood throughout our compound. We determined that fire attracts crazy rednecks like a porch light does misquotes so we put it out for good.
          The keg was finally rolled out in the darkness and there was a chaotic frenzy of cups filling up with nothing but pure warm foam. In the midst of this seemingly lawless environment the cops appeared as soon as everyone was holding a cup. Even with drunk, fire thrashing motorcycle warriors abundant, the police always know how to sniff out the high schoolers. While my peers were getting in line to sign their MIPs I slipped away and began my solo adventure into the abyss.
          I started by hitch hiking along the main road. My first ride was a drunk dirt biker. It was fun for about five minutes then he ran out of gas. He pulled the bike off the road and began burying it in the sand muttering to himself about how someone would try and steal it if he didn't hide it. I stood there awkwardly for a moment and watched the squirrel bury his nut before I wished him luck on finding it in the morning then continued my quest.
          The next ride I got was in a huge raised pickup who was on it's way out to the dunes behind the campground for some good 'ol night time off-roadin'. Judging by the size of his vehicle and his flood lights I presumed he knew what he was doing so I buckled up and held on. He was a nice guy amped more on caffeine than booze so it seemed safer than my last ride at least. The dunes looked amazing with hundreds of huge foggy beams of light shooting every direction as vehicles of all types were plowing up and down the slopes. There was no route of any kind and within minutes there were already a few terrifying near misses. I suddenly remembered  a conversation I had earlier where some kid told me that six people had died at this event last year. I had no idea what amount of truth was in that statement but the validating evidence was starting to show up all around me. I politely asked my Mountain Dew swigging friend to drop me off the next time he drove by a safe area to pull over. He was understanding and obliged. He took me to the first stationary group of vehicles he came across and sent me on my way.
          I had no idea what the shape of the layout was for this place and it was dark so I was pretty lost at this point. I meandered casually over to a large fire where I heard lots of cheering to see if I could blend in for a while. I didn't get too close as I saw that the vocal outbursts were roaring every time some idiot jumped through the enormous bon fire. I wasn't in the mood to see someone get burned so I wandered further and came across a school bus with multicolored light rays flickering from it's windows. Based on my previous encounters, I approached it cautiously. It turned out that my night was not yet done delivering the unexpected. Inside was an ethnically diverse Michael Jackson dance party. I entered and immediately started dancing which drew shouts of glee from everyone inside. I got the impression that only one in a hundred people who poked their head in to this bus knew what to do and I was one of them. The magic bus was a welcomed oasis in the redneck mecca. As I shook my booty to "Beat It" I wondered if I had somehow temporarily warped to Burning Man. I stayed for an hour or so then decided it would probably be a good idea to begin my trek back to my tent since I had no idea how far or what direction it was. I gave a hearty farewell to my new bus boogie buddies and continued on.
          Another hour or so of asking directions and sketchy rides passed by and I eventually made it back. The wind picked up the next morning and was kicking up sand wherever it blew. It was hard to breathe or even open my eyes so I duct taped my sun glassed to my face. Once I was able to see I found out I wasn't the only one with tape on my face. It was completely miserable, I was hung over, couldn't cook my eggs, couldn't really do anything but fight the sand and as I predicted, water was as precious as gold. People started leaving and I decided that was the best idea. The road I had taken my car out there with had been completely destroyed over night and only vehicles equipped with enormous tires could manage it. There was another way out the other direction but it involved taking my trustie Volkswagon Fox over an almost vertical drop down the side of a dune. I had seen a few off-roading rigs take the plunge with ease the day before so I decided to give it a shot. It had a nice long sandy ramp shaped bottom to it like all the dunes did so it looked do-able. I couldn't really see what could go wrong as long as I didn't turn the wheel during the maneuver. I Revved up my engine, mustered my way out of the site, and took the drop. I made it out victoriously with a fanfare of cheers from the exodus of other campers in the sand storm. There seamed to be no damage on my car but a week later I had to replace all my wheel bearings which set me back almost a grand. Apparently Volkswagons aren't made to drive on sand dunes.
          That wasn't the last time I partied with rednecks but it was definitely the craziest. There's not really a moral to this story so I'll just end here.              

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Synchronicity, Poker, and Skepticism.

          Especially since the invention of the internet, spirituality and science have seemed to be at odds with each other. It is my personal belief that evolution will eventually blend the two seamlessly but we are many random advantageous genetic mutations away from that event horizon. In the mean time I feel the number one mistake people make is choosing sides, as if you have to believe in spirituality or science. I think the notion that one has to choose which one to believe in is as ridiculous as a two party political system. There is a plethora of different beliefs and theories out there that fall somewhere along the spectrum of cold hard facts and pure faith. It's not always just one or the other and furthermore there's no rule that they inherently contradict each other. In my humble opinion evolution doesn't contradict the Bible for instance but that's a whole rant in itself that I'll save for a future post. How do you determine what's "real" and what's not? The answer is keeping an open mind whilst maintaining a healthy dose of educated skepticism. That's my short answer anyway. Everybody develops that skill differently based on countless unique personal experiences and that is why there are so many different ideas of what goes on in the cosmos and why. As for myself, some of the most influential moments my brain experienced growing up involved a nerdy hobby of playing my favorite albums along with my VHS collection and many hours of Texas Hold'em Poker.
           I can't remember where I heard it first, but it was about the third time that someone told me that Pink Floyd's album; The Dark Side of the Moon "fits perfectly" with The film The Wizard of Oz that I decided to give it a shot. I already had The CD in my sparsely populated music collection. It was the second classic album I bought after Led Zeppelin II. My parents didn't own The Wizard of Oz so I borrowed it from my friend Tony who was interested in the results as well. I hit play on my CD player right at the third lion roar of the MGM logo as instructed...and nothing happened. If you're familiar with The record you'll remember that it starts with silence followed by a subtle heart beat that slowly fades in. It creeps up to a screaming crescendo that gives way to the first chord of "Breathe" after about 45 seconds. It was at this moment when the small text list of pre-credits faded away to reveal a much larger font that took up the whole screen: "Produced by MARVIN LeROY". I was hooked. The following forty two minutes played out as if every note, lyric, and tempo were carefully crafted to be the true soundtrack of the 1939 masterpiece. It delivered right up to the end where the tin man explains that he doesn't have a heart as the slow beating heart on the album escorts us out by fading into silence.
          To experience it right you have to turn down the audio of the film so the album doesn't compete with the original soundtrack, but the synch is so good that if you were to hear what the characters were saying, a whole new world of serendipitous matches unveil them selves. You'll hear Dorothy open up to Toto before singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that she believes that "There must be somewhere she can get to that you can't get to by phone or train...possibly behind the moon". Remember that the cover of "Dark Side" is of course a Rainbow. Not only that, but a single beam of white light over black that once it hits the prism exits in full color, a picture perfect diagram of a timeline representation of the Wizard of Oz (The film starting in black and white then becoming full color). Flip it over and browse the track list and you'll find that even the names of the songs could double for scene headings. "The Great Gig in the Sky" for instance plays out during the tornado scene. "Brain Damage" is when the Scarecrow confesses to Dorothy his brain woes, and so on.
          I could go on and on but the point is there is no end to the rabbit hole when you are looking for sychronicities in "The Dark Side of Oz" it just depends on how far you want to go and what you're willing to accept as a "match". I watched it about three times in a week and noticed more and more awesomeness with each pass. "Black and blue", sings Gilmore as the wicked witch appears on "black" then it cuts to Dorothy who's wearing blue of course. He continues to sing "Who knows which is which?" as Dorothy contemplates the two witches before her and the important choices she must make. I quickly decided that I was absolutely certain that the gentlemen of Pink Floyd were complete geniuses and not only made one of music's greatest accomplishments but carefully designed it to accompany Dorothy on her adventure.
          After researching it on the still infant internet, I came across a message board (remember message boards?) that shattered my theory. It was a list of one hundred reasons why The Dark Side of Oz was pure coincidence. Once again, I was blown away. The list was very compelling including the fact that the VHS version is the only one that the synch worked with and that VHS tapes and VCRs didn't show up until years after they recorded Dark Side of the Moon. I thought about this deeply and wondered how such a staggering coincidence could have occurred and the odds of it happening to two of the greatest works of art in their respective mediums. It was very hard to watch The Dark Side of Oz again and convince myself that it was all a massive coincidence but in doing this I ended up appreciating it even more. I reached a few epiphanies about art, how the brain works, and the cosmology of life itself.
          The experience taught me that the mind sees what it wants to see. If you're looking for it, you most likely will find it, even if it's not actually there. Or more bizarrely, your mind, by wanting something to exist with such intensity, makes it so. The brain creates it simply by observing it as truth and acknowledging it's existence. Or an even deeper level of crazy possibilities; everything already exists and as we grow and evolve, it is all gradually revealed to us. That last possibility seemed the most far fetched one to me at first but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in a weird way all these levels of possibilities are true simultaneously. It's the last one that accounts for religion, astrology, and just about anything people believe in. Of course even with this vaguely outlined all encompassing theory of everything there are plenty of limitations which will bring me back full circle (hang with me here). This doesn't mean that everything people label as a true belief is in fact right or "real". For instance, if I played a Justin Bieber record along with the Wizard of Oz, the list of perceived synchronicities would be severely diminished. Yes, even to a poor soul stricken with the Bieber Fever.          
          My conclusion is great art has a rhythm. There are mathematical universal truths in the cosmos and the art we make that withstands the test of time does so because it taps into these formulas that connect with everyone. That is why the scenes and song lengths are all almost exactly the same. The mood shifts mirror each other and the lyrics about life seem to be describing Dorothy's journey through hers. Victor Fleming also directed Gone With the Wind in the same year as he did Oz. I think it's safe to say that he was riding a wave of creativity and ambition that transcended through his body from the fabric of the universe. One could make a similar case for the groundbreaking album by Pink Floyd. Sure, in both cases there were many other people and factors involved but you can't argue that these artists were on the absolute top of their life's potential during the creation of these two works, and low and behold, they compliment each other. Take in the "rhythm of art" and combine it with human's penchant for recognizing patterns and viola! New art is made. Aside from simply counting the things that seem to synch together, the experience of watching the film with a different soundtrack drastically changes the movie and the music. New moments arise that weren't there before. Some scenes become strangely more emotional, some songs lyrics take on new meaning and so on.
          If my theory had any footing then it must mean there are uncountable great film/album match-ups out there. I needed validation with other examples so I hopped on the net again and searched my trusty message boards for other films that people had discovered that go well with certain albums. As it turned out, there were a lot of them. Hundreds in fact. I needed to watch them, at least a few of them to see if the claims that they were just as good as The Oz/Floyd connection were true. The problem was this was before Youtube and internet piracy. I would have to buy these albums and rent the movies to see for myself. I was an anxious high schooler so I decided to try my family's own meager VHS collection with my 15 or so CDs I had at the time. If my theory was right then I should be able to find some decent synchronicities with what I already had. I spread them all out on my living room floor and looked for any two that seemed like they would make a good match. Almost immediately there was one that jumped out at me. It was Disney's Beauty and the Beast with The Cranberries' first album. Before I hit play I was picturing The Cranberries song "Dreams" along with Belle dancing in her little town and got pumped up. It took a few attempts but once I found the magic spot to start it, sure enough, almost every second of the album seemed to have been written for the movie. Once again songs ended as scenes ended, darker songs played during darker scenes, and very literal lyrical matches were plentiful. At one point late in the album, The Cranberries sing: "Sitting in an arm chair/my head between my hands" as Gaston plops in an armchair and thrusts his head between his hands.
          I knew this was the beginning of a nerdy hobby that would last years and with each discovery would further validate my theory about art as the interpretation of the unknown rhythm of life. Along with sharpening my senses for noticing synchronicities in my everyday life, my new hobby also conversely, improved my nose for skepticism. Having a deeper understanding about how the brain sees what it wants to see makes it a lot easier to cry foul when someone tells me they are convinced they saw a UFO in the sky or Bigfoot in the woods, etc. My skills of skepticism were further honed once I realized that the chapter on probability in math class was probably the most important chapter and I probably shouldn't have slept through it. I ended up giving myself a crash course refresher so to speak in my early twenties by playing Texas Hold 'em poker on a regular basis.
          I lost a lot of five dollar tournaments at friend's houses before I learned the secret to winning was not about being a good bluffer. It was about having a deep understanding of the odds. Furthermore, realizing that the odds change every single step of the game. Even where you're sitting at the table in comparison to who dealt the cards greatly changes the probability that you'll win the hand regardless of who might be bluffing. Once I memorized a few standard odds like; how often you will make a flush compared to a straight when you have four of five of the cards you need with two community cards left to go, then I started winning more hands. I didn't have to lie. If I had a better understanding of the odds and how they fluctuate than my opponents, I could beat them while never bluffing a single hand. Bluffing only becomes a serious factor when you're playing with a full table of people who are so good that you must assume that they all have calculators for brains and have memorized the exact mathematical probabilities of every scenario.
          It wasn't long before I noticed that the skills I was learning playing poker, like the synchronicities, were applying themselves to other things in my life. Everything in life delivers results with the same probability principals as in poker. These are mathematical laws of the universe that cannot be changed. If I really want an apartment and I go to the open house and there's five other people there applying, I would think to myself; It takes about 20 minutes to apply, it's open for four hours a day for two days. That's roughly 120 applications. There's five people in the hand an they're all betting, with two aces showing. There's plenty of hands to go in this round. Odds are somebody's got the third ace, I should fold. I found myself considering multiple factors and the odds of each factor more carefully and accurately for almost everything I did. My conclusion is: it's fun to believe that you are master of your own destiny and can become anything you want, or make whatever you want happen if you put your complete focus on it. Although that's primarily true, there's always other factors to consider. life is like one giant game of Texas Hold 'em poker and you must take risks to win at it but not without patiently waiting for the odds to be in your favor and developing the skills to recognize when they're in your favor. Even with the odds on your side, you still might loose the hand, that's why you shouldn't play too many chips. You might even have to call someone's bluff once in a while but don't rely on it. Finally, don't forget to appreciate the beauty of the synchronicities along the way or it might just pass you by.
          Here are three links to sychronicites I've taken the time to synch up already. I even cut in the audio of the films intermittently for the ultimate experience (and because I'm a giant geek of course).
The first two are the ones I mentioned in this piece already. I added the Wall to finish out the Wizard of Oz after trying every one of Pink Floyd's albums. I almost gave up, but then tried it with the second half (disc two) of The Wall instead of the first one and it matches quite well, but don't take my word for it, check it out below. The last one is a synch I came up with more recently that blends three Radiohead albums with Baz Lurman's Romeo and Juliet. Like Beauty, Beast, and The Cranberries, I had a hunch before I even hit play that this match would fit nicely.

The Dark Side of the Rainbow and Somewhere Over the Wall password: house

Beauty, Beast, and the Cranberries password: synch

Romeo, Juliet, and Radiohead pawword: synch

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pokemon's Puzzle.

          What is Pokemon's Puzzle?         
          "hmmm....It's kinda like Tetris but you match colors instead of shapes"
          "Oh so like Dr. Mario! Yeah I know that game!"
          "No, no it's....Dr. Mario pales in comparison. It's hard to explain"
          "No I get it, you match the colors and the blocks disappear, have you played Dr. Mario?"

          As someone who was born in 1981 I should not be as familiar with the characters of Pokemon as I am. I have an excuse...sort of. My knowledge of Squirtle, Bruno, and Mew 2 come from a single video game that used the Pokemon theme to push a rather complicated puzzle strategy game. It would be like if Tetris was called "The Disney Princess Puzzle Game" and the only difference was that Ariel and Jasmine were feeding the blocks onto the screen. In my opinion, it was a marketing blunder by Nintendo because the Pokemon theme turned off anybody who would have really latched onto it. It was released as one of the last wave of N64 titles right before puzzle games hit it big online. It's so obscure, I doubt anyone who reads this has ever heard of it. There are currently uncountable puzzle/strategy games floating around the net with new ones made all the time but none will ever come close to the speed, layers, and intensity of Pokemon Puzzle League.
          Before I go further I want to take a moment to try and explain what made it different than the others to put it into some sort of context. Imagine a grid of colored boxes in a chaotic order. The only thing you can do as the user is select two boxes and swap them left to right. If when doing this three or more boxes of the same color align, they disappear and whatever was above them falls into the newly vacant space. Instead of the pieces coming faster and faster from above as in Tetris, the mash of colored boxes scrolls increasingly fast up from the bottom until it reaches the top and you die. A fairly simple premise very comparable to Tetris at first glance. What makes it different is unlike Tetris there is no limit to how many moves ahead you can think or how fast you can make that happen. Tetris gives you one piece in a box that indicates what you will be getting next. Pokemon Puzzle league is designed so if you make a line and that causes blocks to fall into place making another line then you get rewarded by sending a large obstruction onto your competition's puzzle next to you. There's no end to how large a "combo" you can make by setting up a chain reaction of destruction. As you get better at the game you find yourself thinking more and more moves ahead of what your fingers are doing. Two player battles can get pretty fierce. The rounds hardly ever last more than two minutes.

           The first place I ever signed a lease on was a basement apartment built under an Acupuncture clinic. Over the course of six months I lived there about ten different people rotated in and out of residence with never more than five at a time. It was two bedrooms with a laundry room (the third bedroom), an out of commission sauna (the fourth bedroom), and a couch in the living room (the fifth person slept here, it wasn't really a bedroom). It was dubbed "The Cave" and as with anybody's first pad outside their parents place, every night was filled with debauchery. Pokemon Puzzle League was introduced to The Cave by my friend Jeff when he moved in. We played a lot of Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. but little by little Pokemon took over until it was the only thing we did, not just video games wise. With his previous experience Jeff dominated the competition for a while. One by one we each became better players and when we did, the games started to get really intense. I mean, REALLY intense. There would be a room full of silent people, eyes wide to the screen. All you could hear was the machine gun button clicking from the two competitors and the occasional soundbite of a Pokemon when a large payload of destructive blocks was being delivered to an opponent. When two experts are playing then you are both one shred away from losing for 90% of the round, so when someone dies it's always shocking and causes the room to erupt especially if the round lasts five or more minutes. I was sitting in a wooden chair once when playing a particularly serious round and when I lost I must have jolted by body from the shock because the chair collapsed into a pile of splintered kindling. At the end of every month the four or five people who were living there at the time would play an all day tournament for who would get which rooms. Those rounds were the most serious of all since there was more at stake. At night I would try and sleep starring at the ceiling which unfortunately was a white grid of boxes. Every one of my roommates confessed that they too saw the ceiling change into a myriad of colors and as they dosed off would be switching them around to make patterns.
          Eventually everyone went their separate ways. My new apartment had a ritzy bar at the end of the street which wasn't my scene. One of the young bartenders eventually recognized I lived nearby and started hooking me up with free drinks whenever I came in so it became my scene. One night a well dressed man sitting at the bar next to me struck up a casual conversation. I forget how it started but I quickly learned that he was a game designer at Nintendo. This made sense since the Nintendo compound was right next to the Microsoft one nearby. I mentioned Pokemon Puzzle League and his eyes lit up. He excitedly informed me that he was one of the lead designers of that game and although it never took off commercially, it was a favorite among Nintendo employees. I knew no matter how dramatically I explained my passion for it, he would never understand the true extent but I tried anyways. He was beyond thrilled to hear me talk about the strategies I developed with my friends. I told him that my only complaint was that there were no more difficulty levels to unlock after beating it on "super hard". He replied,
          "There's super hard. Super hard unlocks when you beat very hard"
          "No, we beat very hard AND super hard then there's nothing left to unlock", I said.
          "That's impossible, we designed Mew 2 to be unbeatable in super hard mode, we didn't even make a video to play at the end, what plays at the end?" He asked.
          "The same video that plays at the end of very hard. I was disappointed with that as well" I confessed. He was shocked and I think it was the first time in our conversation that he realized just how serious I was about our obsession with it.
          Years later I visited Jeff who still had his N64 and all his games and we played a few rounds. He killed me quickly every time, I had lost it completely. I was only thinking about three moves ahead maximum at any given time. I decided to write about my account of this game when I realized recently that I'm afraid of it. A few days ago I was browsing prices for used N64s on Amazon considering getting two or three of my favorite games of yesteryear. I looked up Mario Kart and Goldeneye but not Pokemon. I fear it like a recovering crack addict fears a room full of people smoking it. When I think about the game, along with the fun parts I'm haunted by those sleepless nights moving imaginary blocks around in frustration. I remember the bitterness I would feel walking in the cold for a beer run after losing an epic match. The game is just too intense, and that is Pokemon's puzzle. A conundrum where something is so aggravatingly enjoyable you can't indulge in it.    

Monday, January 13, 2014

Butt Breathing.

          I racked my brain for a more clever title for this post until I realized it might be best to just call it like it is. A fair warning of sorts. I recently asked an old friend of mine to suggest a topic for the next thing to write about and he replied with a series of two word phrases he knew that I knew what they would be referencing. One of them was "Butt Breathing". Although this subject is pretty much what it sounds like, the hilarity that surrounded it is too much for me to ignore just to protect my readers of the disgusting details. In fact, it's the vile content that makes the story worth reading at all. To put it bluntly, continuing further is a choice you make as a reader and you have officially been warned. It's also worth mentioning that the first post I ever made that I decided a prologue was necessary is titled: "Butt Breathing". I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm proud of that.

          There is a strange time in human development that occurs right before puberty. A time of personal discovery before the brain is consumed with nothing but sexual thoughts. The mind is old enough to experiment but still just ignorant enough to not be ashamed of the results. I once figured out that if I lick the palm of my hand and press it to my ear, I could make a farty squeak noise for instance. The list goes on but one of the funniest skills I discovered in my youth is how to breath through my ass. No, this type of breathing doesn't replenish the brain with oxygen to live another moment like that of the lungs. It's only benefit is to bypass the time it takes for food to ferment, gas to form in the intestines, to eventually exit with a delightful noise.
          The way it's accomplished is one has to "assume the position" and resist all urges to laugh. The technique is simple. First you arrange your body on the floor so your ass is the highest point. Do your absolute best to relax despite the overwhelming urge to laugh at the impending results. Once the anus takes in a gulp of air, pinch it off and blow it out as if you had brewed up a fart. If you can stay focused, the procedure can be repeated instantly over and over. Not Laughing is the hardest hurdle to overcome because the only reason you would be doing this in the first place is to elicit laughter and that's the very thing that stops the show. There, You now have a graduate certificate in Butt Breathing 101.
          As you might imagine, this amazing skill was a hit at 5th grade video game sleepovers. There was one time in particular that trumped them all. Like most kids who grew up in the 90's, every weekend I would get together with two of my best friends; Jared and Travis, who were cousins and play video games until we were ordered to go to sleep. Jared's younger brother Joel was with us as usual making it a foursome of very obnoxious boys. At sometime around 1:00am we heard the sound of Jared and Joel's father walking down the hall which indicated the silent ordinance had arrived. We could easily tell the difference between their mom, Susan's quick shuffle and their dad, Loran's heavy lumbering that spoke words of authority through the floorboards with each step. Loran was good friend's with both mine and Travis' dads but there were a few things that made his fathering different. One of the most notable details in my memory was with only boys in his pride he felt no need to put clothes back on when he had already taken them off for the evening.
          After about twelve thunderous steps, there he stood at the top of the stairs that led to the rec room in nothing but his tighty whities. The scar on his stomach from where he got shot years ago still visible in the low light. As expected, he ordered us to bed with a sharp command. Although our intentions were always to honor him, we all knew that this wouldn't be the only time we'd see the underwear ghost that night. Goofing off was what we lived for, and even when we'd make a pact to stay quiet someone would always start telling a joke, let out a hilarious fart, or even start a wrestling match. This night was going to go down in history as the night we would turn the tables and scare the ghost but for the moment all was silent. Who was going to be the first to violate the decree and with what? Then Travis let out a fart. A few giggles ensued. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. He let out another larger one and another and another growing faster in pace. I couldn't believe it, he must be butt breathing! I thought I was the only one who had mastered this special talent. Then as fast as it began, it stopped and I knew why. Travis was laughing hysterically.
          "He's butt breathing" Said Joel in a raspy whisper.  "I know" Jared confirmed. Wow, I guess everyone knows about butt breathing. I had no idea. It wasn't long before Joel and Travis were in the midst of a fart competition and we heard the familiar sound of an elephant on his hind legs tromping down the hall above us. Joel and Travis quickly straightened out their bodies from "the position" and pretended to be asleep.
          "Shut up and go to sleep! Don't make me come down here again!" barked the man. No one said a word. This time we all agreed that although the butt breathing was the most hilarious thing ever, we should put it to rest and try to sleep. A long time passed and the rec room stayed quiet. I was wide awake though and couldn't let the night pass by without impressing the guys with my own rump trumpet. In the darkness, I bent my sleeping bag up like an inchworm and cleared my mind. Once I reached my state of zen I sucked in an ass gulp of air and blasted it back out. Almost immediately after my explosion, another echoed form across the room. Jared had joined the ranks as well. With our initial outburst of laughter behind us we were all able to concentrate and within no time at all, the four of us were all simultaneously breathing with our butts. The sound in the room was as if it was raining woopee cushions. Deep in our meditation of collective fart consciousness, no one heard captain underwear stomping down the hall. This time he said nothing, he just flipped the switch on the wall, exposing our fart chorus with a flash of light. We kept going. eventually one of us broke down and began laughing which caused us all to stop farting and laugh as well. It must have been quite infectious because even Jared and Joel's dad, on his third trip to shut us up began to cackle. I think the only thing he said before retiring back to his bedrrom was "You guys are disgusting, it smells like a toilet in here."


          Over the years that followed the choir of ass we assembled that night, I occasionally butt breathed here and there for my friend's entertainment. However, I always knew that my display would never top that night in the rec room. Although I will probably make occasional references to farting or butts on this blog in the future, I promise I won't devote an entire column to the subject ever again. Happy butt breathing!     

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Paul Simon Pumpkin.

          Paul Simon has been one of my favorite recording artists for as long as I can remember. Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits was the only tape my parents had when I was a young boy that carried over into my personal collection years later. When I heard that Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were reuniting for a tour for the first time in twenty years, it broke my heart that I also learned at the same moment that it was already sold out. With ticket prices in the hundreds I knew I couldn't have afforded it anyway so when I got a call from my friend Steven concerning an opportunity to go to the show, my ears gave him their full attention.
          In an excited voice, Steven explained to me his predicament and where I fit in to the scheme. Earlier in the day he had called a radio station holding a competition and got through in time to earn himself a spot at an exclusive pumpkin carving competition held by the station for later in the week. One hundred people including Steven were slated to compete for a single grand prize of two tickets to the sold out Simon and Garfunkel show. Steven went on to explain to me the strict parameters of the contest. The tickets were to be awarded to whoever could carve a pumpkin that possessed the closest likeness to Paul Simon himself. No pictures for reference were allowed and the carvers must use the tools provided at the location which were a standard set of pumpkin carving tools that you can get in the Halloween section of your local drug store. Each person who called in to the radio station on time was allowed to bring one friend. Steven, being an expert wood carver himself could have easily taken on the challenge solo so why was he calling me? It turned out that the event was scheduled in the middle of the day in the middle of the week and Steven's boss was not going to allow him to take the time off to attend. Before calling me he had already asked the radio station if his friend he picked to assist him could come alone since he had to work. They had granted his request and now he was asking me if I was up for it. I understood why he called me first since I was clearly the next best pumpkin carver he knew. I accepted and that evening we started our preparation.
          Steven showed up to my apartment with two large pumpkins to practice on. It was like he was the coach in "Rocky" and every ten minutes I doubted myself to which he would raise his voice instilling confidence with a stop watch next to my temple as I carved away. We selected the cover of the album "Bookends" as our model after we both decided it was possibly the most recognizable photo of the man. I measured the distance from his lip to the bottom of his nose with the tip of my thumb to the first crease in my knuckle then repeated that procedure for all of the key facial features. We decided that the most impressive result would be imploring a tactic known in the pumpkin carving community as "gradient carving". This style of carving leaves the shell in places that you want to look black and carved out sections you want to look bright with thicker and thinner exposed pumpkin meat in places you want the gradient from light to dark to occur. It doesn't look like much during the day but once a candle is placed inside and it's dark out, if done well, the pumpkin comes alive and looks more like a painting than a festive gourde.
           Steven came over at least three days during that week leading up to the competition to practice on more pumpkins and it was beginning to be clear that the preparation was paying off. I was ready. We read on the website that the radio station encouraged people to show up in costume for the event. Not wanting to hinder our chances for any reason, it was agreed that I would attend as a "pumpkin-witch". The get up was basically a combination of a few Halloween artifacts we both had lying around and was pretty funny looking. I dressed in all orange clothing with a matching long messy orange wig topped with a witches hat.
          The night before the competition I got some bad news. I was called into work as well. The good thing was that I worked mere blocks away from where the carving was to be held. Furthermore, I was scheduled an hour after the contest started giving me time to still attend although cutting my carving time in half. Steven encouraged me that with our practice, he was sure I could crank it out within that time frame and still walk away with the win.
          The next day, I showed up on time and began nervously grinding my teeth as the organizers bantered on over the P.A. system gouging into our precious carving time at least fifteen more minutes. The first unforeseen obstacle I noticed was all the pumpkins sitting on the tables were a third of the size of the ones I practiced on, this was going to throw off my measuring system greatly. The next thing occurred to me was that it was the middle of the day and one whole wall of the room was windows. I didn't see any candles anywhere, how was I going to show the judges the final result? Without a light inside my creation and darkness outside, it wouldn't look like anything! With time slip sliding away, I decided to deal with the light issue later and stick to plan A.
          I carved away for about a half hour before I determined that nothing else could be done to improve it any further. It wasn't my best version of the likeness I had rehearsed but it was still pretty good. Since I had stuck to plan A (mainly because there was no plan B), the light issue still remained. It didn't look like much without the candle and a dark room to be placed in. In fact, in regular light the gradient technique almost looks like a negative of a photo.
          As everyone else carved away, I approached the judges' table. I asked them if there were any candles or dark closets nearby so I could show them what it was supposed to look like and they just shook their heads in unison. Frustrated and running out of time I resorted to desperate measures. I had an idea. It was a long shot but I was out of options. With the judges still looking at my masterpiece with perplexed faces, I knew I wasn't going to win unless I did something else. I quickly sawed off the entire backside of the pumpkin using the small serrated blade included in the kit they had provided. I then brought it over to the large wall of windows facing the sun opposite the panel of judges. I proceeded to triumphantly thrust the figure above me. I held it as high as I could so the angle of the sun would shine through the carefully carved out holes and exposed pumpkin meat. I immediately heard a chorus of ooohs and aaaahs from the judges and the sound of an electronic camera shutter. I turned around to see them all huddling around the digital photo continuing their musings. When I looked over one of their shoulders I saw a perfect Paul Simon likeness with rays of sunshine bursting outward in all directions appearing to beam the inspiring folk music out of his pores. The picture alone could have started a religion.
          I was now becoming late for work so I told them to call me when I win and left abruptly. That night I received a call from the radio station confirming that I had placed first place and won two tickets to Simon and Garfunkel along with an eight CD collection of their albums including all the officially released live performances. I called Steven with the news and was delighted to hear him laugh with joy. We went to the concert together and had a blast. The show was beyond awesome and it certainly made the whole experience more enjoyable knowing how we got there.         

Saturday, November 30, 2013

How I Passed High School Then Almost Killed All My Friends.

          When I was seventeen years old passing high school wasn't high on my priority list, I'll admit that first and foremost. In fact; Snowboarding, hanging out with friends, and making silly videos were much more important to me. I knew that I was not planning on going to a four year college and that I would most likely end up in a community college if I ended up anywhere at all. I was confident of this because I knew I wasn't going to get the kind of marks that earned a scholarship and paying for college with loans was a terrible idea. Furthermore, I knew that I wanted to do something in the arts and that art school couldn't even guarantee me a job making chalk menu specials. I also knew that community college didn't give two flying shits about your GPA as long as you gave them money for classes and bought their stupid books for a hundred dollars a piece. I took all this in and weighed it against my passion for skipping class to ride down the mountain and decided that I would aim for my diploma and nothing more. I researched what the absolute minimum required grades were to accomplish this and discovered that straight Ds with a C in math for some strange arbitrary reason was what was needed.
          Everything went as planned right down to the wire except for my government class. My government teacher was known to run a tough class with no slack. She was an outspoken member of the NRA and talked with a booming voice through her wide mouth. Like most classes, grades were based on a point system and the final project made up half the points in the whole class. I needed to pass it with flying colors to make up for the lack of points I had not accumulated throughout the semester. The problem was I had procrastinated even on this dire project and was faced with only a day left and I hadn't started. Buckling down and working through the night was not going to be enough so I decided to exploit a loop hole in the system I had figured out a few years back. If I were to do something that got me a multi-day suspension, the teacher has to accept my work late since I'm not allowed on school grounds in the mean time. I didn't like going to school anyway so I decided to go for it.
          Getting a three day suspension was my goal. This was a tough situation. I Had to do something clearly worthy of more than a single day suspension but no where close to permanent expulsion. One sure fire way to do this was to get in a good 'ol fashioned fist fight. I considered a short list of guys that deserved it but couldn't rationalized hurting someone just so I could circumvent the system to graduate. To be certain, I had to find something that had been done multiple times by different people that always earned three days. After revealing my plan to my lunch table, it was unanimously decided that starting an epic food fight was pretty reliable especially since it had become a thing that year and the staff had had enough of it. Also, food fights are awesome. Cameras were recently installed in every corner of the cafeteria to assist in the prosecution of the perpetrators so I knew I would have no problem getting caught.
          That day at lunch I went through the line at the sandwich bar. Standing shoulder to shoulder with six or so fellow sandwich artists, I began loading up with everything piled way higher than a normal portion.
          "Are you gonna eat all that?" asked a geeky dude standing across form me.
          "Nope. I'm going to throw it" I calmly replied. Now I had the attention of everyone around me.
          "I'm going to start an epic food fight" I continued, "would any of you guys like to help out?" I went on to explain my plan to be a martyr and told them where to stand to be out of range of the cameras if they wanted to help initiate the chaos. I recruited two guys and then returned to my table.
          My friends saw the tower of lettuce and tomatoes and without speaking cleared out immediately leaving me all alone. I knew it was time so without aiming, I launched it over my head behind me and immediately heard screaming. The return fire happened fast and in mere seconds the cafeteria was a haze of muti-colored flying food. Girls ran down the isle to escape only becoming prime moving targets. Someone threw a chocolate milk carton and it exploded on the glass window with a sheet of brown. It was the third or fourth full out food fight that year so people knew the drill. It was; forget your hunger and throw what you are eating. Hit somebody. Anybody. It's worth it.
          As I expected, an hour later I was sitting in a chair in front of the principals desk while he and two of his cronies stood above me. One of them pressed play on a VCR plugged into a television they had wheeled in on a cart. There I was, easy to spot at the one table with no one else sitting at it. In choppy twelve frames per second I got to see the replay of my glory through the cockeyed fisheye lens. They stopped the tape when they saw the slight smile forming on my face when the fight started erupting.
          "Well Jon, we have no choice but to suspend you for three days" one of them said. I sat there quietly for a moment before I broke the awkward silence to ask if I could go home.
          With phase one of my scheme to graduate complete I was faced with another problem. The project was so huge that even though I had plenty of time to do it, I still really didn't want to. Senioritis was kicking in pretty seriously now that I was not at school and it was hot and sunny weather. I went back to the drawing board to see how many points were necessary to barely pass within the project itself. I checked the fine print of the syllabus and discovered that the visual aid was 30% of the grade. This was way out of proportion compared to other similar projects I had that year so I thought if I could ace the visual aid part then I could almost fail the other sections and still scrape by with a C. My topic had to do with Bovine growth hormones so I did what I do best and made a paper mache cow that stood about 4 feet high. It was obnoxiously huge and painted well. It commanded the room's attention during my presentation a week later and earned me my C I needed to get a D in the class. I successfully graduated highschool.
          "Bessy" became a mascot of several parties that ensued during the weeks that followed graduation. The fourth of July was coming up and I was about to make my yearly visit to Boom City to prepare Bessy for her final hurrah. Boom City is the name of a large collection of firework stands on the Indian reservation an hour north of my house. A few years earlier while haggling at a stand and probing for the big stuff, I met a seller named Jimmy who invited me to the trailer he lived in for a more serious consultation. He had tennis balls with long wicks coming out of them and red tubes the size of toilet paper rolls. Some of them had duct tape on them. The first year I bought a couple of the smaller red tubes and was delighted by the results. This year, I bypassed Boom City and drove straight to Jimmy's trailer. He remembered me and invited me in. I explained my plan and upon his recommendation I bought a tennis ball.
          I made an incision into my flour and newspaper friend and installed a small system of fireworks. It started with a Roman Candle firing out her ass and ended with the wick tied to the tennis ball. Bessy was now more than a mascot for the 4th of July party I was attending. She was a bomb.
          The location of the party was ideal. It was in an old house that existed at the end of a long road in the woods. Developers were planning on building many houses on the street but all they had installed at the time was a larger than usual cul-de-sac. When the time came, Bessy was placed in the center and I instructed all my friends to stand on the perimeter. I emphasized the importance of not stepping into the cul-de-sac during the demonstration. Everyone was making wagers to what would happen. Some suggested the head would reach the grass, others were not so optimistic and pictured it just ripping out the center. I was hoping for a good show but I personally had no idea what was in Jimmy's tennis ball.
          I lit the small wick sticking out of Bessy's ass and ran to the driveway. After a moment of tension she started shooting out multicolored balls that looked like psychedelic farts. The force of the shots were just enough to hilariously scoot Bessy forward a few inches with each shot. Everyone was laughing hard, then it stopped. What seemed like an eternity passed as she silently stood there for the next 30 seconds. I began to wonder if my wick tying strategy had failed and how long it would be before I would be confident enough to approach her. Then it happened. There was no spray of sparks or crackles just one large BOOM! The blast was much larger than anyone had hypothesized. There was no head left to discover later on the neighbor's lawn. In a fraction of a second there was nothing left of Bessy that could be measured larger than a quarter. The shock wave hit people in the chest and knocked a few down. After a small awkward moment where everyone panned the scene to make sure no one had lost an arm, everyone cheered.
          I was the hero that night. Bessy not only helped me graduate high school but delivered a spectacular show for my friends for which I am grateful for.