Month: August 2017

The Story Of Me and A Piano

There was once a piano–well, more of a decked out keyboard–and a boy who wished to play that piano. Blah-De-Blah-De-Blah. That intro’s kinda boring to me, let me retry:

In the last week or so, I have been trying my hand(s) at the piano, in the off chance that a change of mindset will trigger solutions for a problem in my second novel; however, it is also therapeutic, in a way.

Letting your fingers dance along the keys, one-two-three, three-two-one. Timing perfectly  the exact moment when you snap the pedal with your toes. It’s oddly interactive; and, I say oddly, but really, is it not crazy that a bunch of strings and keys can produce such interesting effects?

In no stretch of the imagination am I a professional. I don’t even think I qualify for a rank amateur. I’m just…playin’, man…playin’ the good songs. Sometimes, though, there are those moments: the Oh-My-God-I-Am-The-Reincarnation-Of-Beethoven moment, then the Oh-My-God-I-Totally-Suck-At-This moment.

I am working little by little on this nifty piano suite from a game known as Heavy Rain. It is a beautiful composition by the late Normand Corbeil, and, though the melody is simple to learn, the tempo and the notes are murder.

There’ll be a quarter note, quarter note, then a whole note; and then a note that looks as if a fountain pen has vomited all over the sheet music. What do they feed those guys? String Beans?

Eh-heh. I hope you got that…

Now, let’s not forget I am still learning, so these notes are slowly but surely making sense in my mind. It’s like I’m carving a new section in the Foreign Languages section of my brain, one entitled Sheet Music. The excavation is taking its time, but it is paving a path, so don’t knock me for that.

It also takes your mind off things, you know? When I’m practicing a song at the piano, much the same as writing, all of my previous worries disappear for the time, only to resurface in droves after the composition, or paragraph, has ended. Hey, you can’t beat ’em all.

Hopefully, some of you can relate to what I am saying. Music touches us in ways stronger than all other forms of art. It pierces your heart instantaneously, rather than build to a climax as in a novel; or the serenity in a beautiful painting.

It can be anything: Frightening. Exciting. Chill-Inducing. Heart-Breaking.

All of those emotions accomplished in the movement of a few keys–a few pitter patters to form a melody.

Beautiful.

What else is there to say?

I got a piano suite calling my name, what about you?

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

I Was A Teenage Videogamer.

The Summer of 2011:

I sit in the basement of our home at 8 o’clock in the morning–perhaps even later–and stare at the screen as I play a game on my X-Box 360. Mind you, I used to think this was the best present I had ever received on Christmas morning.

The game might be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or it could be Lego Star Wars. I fluctuated between those two quite a bit during that summer–and the summers following.

I care less what the game is, so long as I am playing the game and fulfilling myself.

Upstairs, on the kitchen counter, is a list of chores scrawled in blue pen. Mine range from scooping dog crap to finishing my laundry. My sibling’s chores–around the same categories. Simple chores, really; each of them, and more, can be accomplished in two hours or less.

But I am a sixth grader whose sole purpose is to shoot down baddies and collect Gold Bricks. A little known fact: when you enter into middle school, your brain goes into total shutdown. All of you can think of, all the time, is yourself and the things that make you happy; self-centrism I blame on hormones.

The chores…the chores are not finished that day.

The Summer of 2013:

I sit in the basement of our home at 10 o’ clock in the morning and stare at the screen as I  play a game on my Playstation 3. Now, I can’t quite remember if my siblings were playing with me; however, they were probably screaming at each other in cooperative computer games.

Beside me is a bag of Doritos from which I scoop a handful and stuff in my mouth. These chips are not a snack. Oh no, these chips are my lunch. My breakfast was a slim bowl of Frosted Flakes. My actual snack consists of two large Oatmeal Cream Pies that I unwrap as fast I can so I can return to shocking idiots in Infamous, or was it Infamous 2?

Upstairs, on the kitchen counter, is a list of chores scrawled in red pen. Mine range from cleaning my disgusting bathroom–as of late, I have moved into the basement bedroom–to wiping a wet rag across the baseboards of the whole house. My sibling’s chores–around the same categories, with the exception of my sister now having to finish her laundry. Simple chores, really; each of them, and more, can be accomplished in two and a half hours or less.

But I am an eighth grader whose sole purpose it is to zap electricity at baddies and gain new superpowers.

The chores…the chores are almost finished that day; yes, almost meaning thirty minutes before our parents come home from work.

The Summer of 2014:

I sit in the basement of our home at 9 o’ clock in the morning, and I turn off my Playstation 3. From there, I head to my bedroom and lace up a pair of Asics sneakers–without so much as a healthy breakfast, I leave the house and run three and a half miles.

I return at 9:40 in the morning, breathing hard; and yet still I stretch and drink copious amounts of water. My siblings are in the office and are staring at their computer screens as they team up with one another in a game of Roblox.

On the kitchen counter is a list of chores scrawled in red pen. Mine range from completing several loads of laundry to doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. My sibling’s chores–around the same categories, with the exception of my brother now having to finish his laundry. Simple chores, really; each of them, and more, can be accomplished in three hours or less.

And I am a freshman whose sole purpose is to ensure the list is checked off.

The chores…the chores are finished that day, and only because I nag at my brother and sister to get off their butts and start cleaning.

The Summer of 2016:

I sit in the basement of our house at 4:30 in the morning and write the next chapter in my first novel, This Sudden Apocalypse. The rest of the house is still fast asleep–it is a wonder I can be so awake without so much as a cup of coffee.

At 7:30, upstairs, on the kitchen counter, there is a list of chores scrawled in red pen.

I don’t even have to look. I know what needs to be done.

Simple chores, really; each of them can be accomplished in an hour and a half or less.

And I am a junior whose sole purpose it is to ensure the list is checked off before I have to attend Cross Country practice at the high school.

The chores…all the chores are finished that day.

The Summer of 2017:

I stand outside the office of our house at 7:30 in the evening and watch my brother fight his way through a couple matches of Mortal Kombat X; and, all the while, I am encouraging him to get that punch, or kick him there.

Then, while scrolling past other games, he sighs, puts down his controller, and says, “Actually, I think I have some important things to do right now.” And he turns off the Playstation 4 and leaves the office, the controller still warm on the desk.

I have graduated school, and he is an eighth grader.

I pat him on the back and say, “Look at you, Mr. Responsible…”

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

 

 

How the iPhone and The Industrial Revolution Are The Same.

We live in the Digital Age, don’t we? We carry mini-computers in our pockets, watch any form of television we want from the comfort of our sofas and beds; hell, folks, we got these strange friggin’ hover boards–honestly, to me, they look like skateboards with an engine. What else? Too much to list? Perhaps. Yes, I would say there is a lot to handle in this generation.

It takes a little bit to get adjusted to the new fangled anything. It’s not because this product is more complex than the next–no, to simplify it to that would be to blatantly deny the past millennia of developments in life and the act of living.

In the early 1900s, America struck it rich with the Industrial Revolution, a Renaissance for the modern times. It was astounding. It was innovating. It was frightening. Don’t any of you think to tell me that any situation in which the old is knocked out of the ring by the new, gleaming, and glorified champion of the world of tomorrow is not the least bit  abrupt.

You can bet there were people, maybe farmers, who wanted to take a piss all over those giant iron machines; or, as I will call them, Crop Transformers. They probably foamed at the mouth cursing out the inventors and the businessmen whose purpose it was to move the world forward.

Why? They got scared.

How on Earth would they be able to support their families–and even if they were alone, themselves? It was like playing out your whole hand the second time round in a game of high-stakes poker. Neither of those scenarios would have an ending that satisfied both ends of the table.

So, the farmers thought, machines. All right, sure, machines could be a pain; but if there was no pain, then would we know calm? Wrong analogy. What I mean is, the farmers started seeing the machines as an asset, a comrade in arms against those pestering weeds, the bushels of grain that took hours to collect.

That was it. Time.

Whoever said money runs the world never took a good look at a clock.

Take the farmers. Harvest was their life; and, not only that, but their purpose–this never ending production–it rose according to the rise of the sun, and it set when that glowing ball sunk beneath their plains. The seasons. In spring, growth, and lots of it. Come summer, their products were spreading across the country; the farmer prepared for that cold breath of autumn and winter in which he harvested and cultivated.

Machines had no sense of time. You pressed one button, and it did the work of three farmers without breaking a sweat. No emotions held it down, nor simple laziness. The machines were the tools of men, used by men to improve themselves and their world.

So, then we had two sides of a coin. Somehow it always leads to those two opposing sides.

Of course, with all coins, it must be flipped; and, in this case, the coin landed on the side of the machines. No, that does not mean Arnold Schwarzenegger finally won the war against ol’ John Connor–it means the farmers settled with their conditions.

Now, cut to the Modern World, or the World Currently Ruled By Apple, All Hail the Mac Computer.

On a routine trip to the At&t store, my grandfather and I went to purchase his first -iPhone, as well as an iPad, because it was a sweet deal. He chose the latest edition–the iPhone 7 Plus, and; of course, who wouldn’t choose the best version, right?

Me, I guess. I still have my iPhone 6. Yeah…

The clerk informed him about almost all of the things an iPhone can do, many of which, to me and my generation, have become common knowledge:

Internet Connection? Psshh, I’ll just use data, suckers.

Games, Games, Marvelous Games. Hit the damn pigs, you stupid bird!

Yeah…I don’t know what the hell a Kodak is, but I’m gonna take your picture–actually, before that, let me find the right filter.

Despite the clerk explaining the iPhone well, my grandfather still looked confused. He was replacing an Android phone; and yet the complexities of an iPhone are a tad more…complex, shall we say.

Then I thought–

Grandpa is not used to the smart phone; in fact, in his time, it was the rotary dial and the pay phone–and, god damn, if I ever see one of those, I am totally reenacting that one Matrix scene.

Grandpa is like the farmer in the Industrial Revolution. The iPhone is a machine created to make his life more efficient. He can carry the basic idea of a pay phone in his pocket!

Whoopdie do dah! Don’t you guys love it when analogies work out in your favor? It’s like peanut better and horse radish!

Then I also thought–

There is going to come a time when I am the farmer.

There is going to come a time when a machine threatens my comfortable existence.

What will it be?

A holographic writer; or, worse, an actual ghost writer?

Nah, it’ll probably be interviews in virtual reality and disposable underwear.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

 

Life–Well, It’s A Cheesecake, Isn’t It?

Life–well, it’s a cheesecake, isn’t it? I’m not talking a single piece of cheesecake, no; in fact, I mean a pie of cheesecake. See, you can say you love every flavor in one of those creamy things, but we all know you’re lying. No one, no one likes all those pieces. There’s always the singularity–the missing link, if you would, that we all wish would get the hell out of Dodge, you know?

Life is interesting for me. It has been interesting for me. I work a pretty fair job in the field of manual labor. I’m a regular blue collar, sweeping brooms and wiping out toilets. It’s meh, to be truthful–and if there is one thing I have learned from this job, it is the sometimes nasty truth.

Drugs, for example, are nowhere on my to-do list. Day in and day out, I see people ravaged by constant drug use. Their faces are old, older than their age; and in their eyes is a haze that never seems to dissipate. I can see the blankness in some of their faces, and it is hard to watch at times.

These folks do this for fun, mind you; and, hell, perhaps it’s to find an escape. But, for me to know what it will do to them in the long run…it can be heartbreaking to see someone throw away their potential like that.

I speak from no experience; and, yes, I might also be speaking from a safer perspective, but I am innocent, after all.

I come from a small town where the craziest thing I have ever witnessed is a bleeding lady taken away on a stretcher after her husband’s psycho ex-girlfriend drove her motorcycle into the back of their car. Before this job, before this peek into another life, that was the craziest crap.

I have seen stuff since then. People who absolutely loathe their lives. Temper tantrums that can get way out of proportion. Worms swimming in some worker’s shit, and let me tell you, that was in two different Porta-Potties.

It is disgusting, but at the same time eye-opening. Would I have experienced this bit of life, this slice of cheesecake, if I had not taken this job? Would I be less of an innocent man than I am now? Would I even be writing this post?

The answers aren’t clear. When are they?

Life is a lot larger, a lot nastier. There are tendrils where I used to see sunshine. Adults can be total assholes, immature for that matter; or, they can be some of the best of the best.

A cheesecake? How about a loaded die? I’m serious. You don’t get to choose what happens in this world. The die is rolled–the numbers are chosen, and you either deal with the unfair, or you get out and do the best you can to force those numbers into your favor.

Win-win, or a lose-lose. No way of telling until you’re standing right in front of it. By then, too, the smell can be so bad, you aren’t sure you want to test your luck.

I say do it, but do it wisely. If you’re dumb when it comes to making those important decisions, you’re going to get landed with a nightmare, one of which you have to climb out of yourself to reach those sweet dreams.

Be smart out there, guys. It will pay off.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

Memories From A Strawberry Shortcake Roll

Forgive me, Dear Readers, if this post is the teeniest bit unusual. As I am writing tonight, I am working under a haze of heavy doses of Benadryl and a bunch of other weirdo drugs–just your average trip to the Emergency Room. So, knowing that, let us proceed with the post:

I was at Wal-Mart the other day with my mother; in fact, I believe it was yesterday–who can know with this scrabbled mind? We were getting food and more food…and more food, and we had made it to the checkout aisle when this little girl came into the aisle with us.

At first I thought she was lost, since she had that mystified glaze over her eyes, the type of look kids give you when they’re pondering some of the greatest mysteries of the universe. She would stick her thumb in her mouth, glance over the various impulse purchases beside us, then take out the thumb and do that little “kid stretch,” where they bend slightly backwards until it looks like they’re about to fall over; however, they always stand right side up again within a moment, a new curiosity about them. Did anyone see me, they think. Am I the focal point of attention yet?

Her mother came into the aisle a minute later, a stressed look over her face. It was the kind of face you see on a mother who is quite obviously fed up with their kid’s crazy antics. It’s like if in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we got to see the parents’ reactions to Ferris’s antics–let me tell ya, they’d be wide-mouthed gapes and the slightest irritated wrinkles beneath the eyes.

I smiled at the little girl, who was giving me the who-the-hell-is-this-stranger look; and then, while the mother was herself perusing the impulse shelves, I glanced at their cart.

Then I saw it. The box of Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake Rolls.

Images of the clamshell hat wearing Strawberry Shortcake from that cartoon back in the late 90’s filled my thoughts. That show was the bane of me, as well as a pleasant memory of a time revisited–but it wasn’t just the show that came out of nowhere.

In the early 2000’s, our family lived on Maelstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. Nice area. Friendly neighbors. Happy times. I was a young kid who had no idea of what life or the world meant, so, in simple terms, inexperienced and more innocent than I am now.

What I remembered then, in that Wal-Mart aisle, were trips to the Commissary–a military-only form of Wal-Mart–with my mom and my sister. We’d go on any old day in this sweet minivan to go buy groceries and–can you guess?–boxes of Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake Rolls.

Back then, I think Little Debbie was printing the picture of 90’s Strawberry Shortcake ; so, when we saw those boxes, we always thought of the cartoon and pleaded to our mom to buy them for us.

See, it wasn’t the taste of them that made us so eager. Trust me, as an eighteen year old who has eaten his fair share of healthy foods, Little Debbie is not always your best friend; rather, it can lead to a shitload of indigestion and a sour feeling on your tongue. We wanted the Shortcake Rolls because they reminded us of a happy time.

I admit to watching Strawberry Shortcake prance around with her little desert-named friends–and this weird dog thing that wasn’t quite a dog. There were days when my sister and I would just binge-watch the only episodes we had for hours at a time; and we loved the stuff, couldn’t get enough of it.

I knew some of the lines. She knew most of the lines.

I liked this episode. She liked that episode.

It was a varied experience for both of us, but it was enjoyable.

There in Wal-Mart, I was taking a pleasant journey down Memory Lane, and it wasn’t just the Commissary or Strawberry Shortcake, it was–Blockbuster and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures and a brand-new game of Operation, or Chutes and Ladders.

It was being a child and having the whole world at your fingertips to mold, to build, to destroy–all of it at your whim; that, or how many tears you could muster out of your chest when you didn’t get whatever you wanted.

Let me tell you about Blockbuster, this pre-Netflix Shangri La of movies and imagination–at least, for a kid. It had movies, movies everywhere, specifically, movies I didn’t think existed.

One time I can remember strolling through the aisles on a nice Friday night, feeling like I was King of the World, and I came across a movie called A Nightmare on Elm Street. Well, of course, I looked at the back of the case, and I saw some terrifying images for a child at the age of seven. A man with a razor glove. That same razor glove rising out of a bathtub, between a girl’s legs for that matter–mind you, around then, I was enrolled in this strange Christian pre-school, where we watched Bible Veggie Tales and ate chicken tortillas all day.

I didn’t even ask my parents about Elm Street, just threw it back on the shelf and hurried back to the Disney films. Unfortunately, about a month later, when I was home alone and flipping channels on the box television in the basement, I came to a channel playing the beginning of A Nightmare on Elm Street TV show; think it’s called Freddie’s Nightmares.

I, uh–well, I saw a man, maybe good ol’ Freddie himself, getting burned alive and screaming.

Then I threw my hands up over my eyes and tried frantically to forget what I had just seen.

Ah, they were good times, though, despite how I might phrase them here.

Seeing that little girl and her personal box of Strawberry Shortcake Rolls brought out  a lot of nostalgia, and I have loved every second of reliving those many, many moments.

So, Little Girl in the Wal-Mart Aisle, if you ever read this, take pleasure in those Strawberry Shortcake Rolls and just remember that life can go faster than you think.

It has for me.

Think daily,

A Southpaw