Tempest-tossed

Years ago I saw an episode of Deadliest Catch in which the Time Bandit was passing another vessel through rough seas. Captain Johnathan Hillstrand happened to be looking when one of the men from the other ship was washed overboard. The Bering Sea is brutally cold and violent, and once overboard, one only has a few moments to live in the best conditions.

Captain Hillstrand leaped into action, and with several passes, steered his ship over to the drowning man. With great difficulty the crew managed to get a line out to him and pull him onto their ship. They didn’t know him, or the other ship, but they knew what it was to be on the unforgiving sea, and they moved without hesitation. With the man safely on board, Captain Hillstrand rushed below deck. They embraced, and both wept freely.

Today in a parking lot outside a mid-priced Mexican restaurant I saw a man drop his iPhone face down. I stepped away from my party and toward him, and said, “Did it crack?” “No,” he said, “not a scratch.” We didn’t know each other, but we knew what it was to drop a phone and hope it hadn’t cracked. We embraced, and wept freely.

Dos croissants, por favor

I took American Sign Language in college. I did this because I didn’t want to submit to the tongue vibrations required by languages like French and Spanish. I found the motions untoward. I’m a different person now, and would advise my former self differently, but here I am, barely able to order crepes.

At regular intervals we had to pick passages from music or literature and sign them to the class. One of the other students in my class was a cop, and one night he gave his presentation in uniform because he had either come from, or was headed to a shift. I can’t remember. He plugged in a small portable stereo, pressed play, and signed along with Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” It was a combination of sound and silence. The music was loud enough to to hear, but quiet enough to also hear the sounds of his keys jingling, and the zip of his hand across his polyester uniform as he made signs.

RE: I know y’all wanted that 808!

Chad,

Our department did not order any 808. I don't know what that is, or how much it costs, but it should not be taken from our budget as we have planned our Summer picnic within a few dollars.

Thank you.

Fran Williams
Associate Marketing Director, Clearcorp
Skokie Office

"Make it Clear. Keep it Clear."

--

From: "Chad Dunlop" <cdunlop@clearcorp.net>
Date: Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 1:09 PM
To: "Skokie All" <all.skokie@clearcorp.com>
Subject: I know y'all wanted that 808!

Can U feel that B-A-S-S bass? Whaaaa? Who put this beer in my desk fridge? LOL Happy three day weekend! See you jerks at the lake!

Chadbomb out!

Upon My Death

When I die I want one person as yet unaware of my death to say, “Where’s Charlie?” Then another person will say, “Probably creating some great content.” Then a third person, just arriving, but having heard the conversation up to that point, will say, “Actually, he just died, but good guess, because he was always creating really good content.” Then the three of them will create some content about my death.

Screenplay: Alien Destroys Earth

ALIEN: I will sweep your house, human, but I do it my way.

HUMAN: [nods]

ALIEN: [motions as if to levitate furniture; nothing happens] My powers don’t work on your planet.

HUMAN: You could just move the furniture with your arms like we do.

ALIEN: [gets back on ship; destroys Earth]

Blood Clots, Boat Parts, and Some Educated Guesses about Jack Johnson

Here are a couple interesting articles I’ve found over the last week, along with a report from a recent conversation over coffee with friends.

A Blood Clot in the Brain, and an Artist is Born

An accountant in his late 40s suffered a stroke and soon found himself compelled to sketch and paint prolifically. We have heard stories of this category before, but let’s make an agreement, you and I, that we do our best to never stop marveling at the vastness of the brain’s complexities and capabilities. There is some interesting (and mostly accessible) scientific conclusions in this article about how our brains produce new ideas, evaluate those ideas and process creativity in general. The event that temporarily “damaged” this man’s brain also unlocked part of it that was new to him. I don’t know what to tell you about that today besides, “Think on that.”

Boat Parts or Names of Unvaccinaded Children?

I love a good McSweeney’s list.

Other News

One morning recently I had coffee with two friends.

Jack Johnson was playing, and we were discussing the very likely probability of his lifestyle not requiring him to keep much more in the way of clothes than a couple pairs of board shorts.

I guessed his concerts were probably a pretty dependable place to find white-guy dreadlocks.

Then I thought this and did not share it: It seemed like there might be some guy, an eccentric, to put it politely, who collected white-guy dreadlocks as a hobby, and really only needed a sharp pair of scissors, a steady hand, and regular tickets to Jack Johnson shows.

It was Arkansas’ to lose

I work from my local library once in a while. It’s quiet and the wifi’s pretty good. I like to sit at a small desk positioned near a load-bearing beam because it’s next to an outlet, and it has a nice view of whatever temporary, employee-made, art work is hanging over the help desk in support of their monthly promotions. Currently it’s a four foot by three foot paper collage of Frida Kahlo that is not doing her any favors.

There is a sign on the small desk that reads, “RESERVED FOR NOTARY,” but I sit there anyway. Who do I think I am? I think I’m a guy who knows a social experiment based on people’s fear of authority when he sees one. The kicker is, “notary” is obviously a fake title they made up to prove their point. And it’s clear my choice to sit there passes the test because no one has ever asked me to move.

A few weeks back I was sitting there getting my work done when I was approached by a little old lady interested in passing the time. She did most of the talking. She knew a lot about football and had some strong opinions about the local team, I forget their name. I do know the name of the guy who owns the team. Jerry Jones. A man with that much money, and that little taste tends to make himself known well outside his immediate industry. I get the feeling that were it not for the iron bonds of time he’d be having regular coaching lunches with P.T. Barnum in which P.T. would mostly repeat himself: “Chill, bro. Chill.”

The little old lady seemed to have a higher road from which to object. Something about management of the franchise and greatness. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to track with sports conversation. I need Ken Burns to make me a 20 hour football documentary staffed with the same weepy poets as his baseball work and maybe then I’d buy the cap.

I got the impression over the course of our chat that she was in the early stages of her mind not being what it used to be. At one point she asked me to highlight some of her hand-written notes for her. “Which lines?” I said. “The whole page, and the same for these other two sheets,” she said, “I can’t seem to press hard enough to get a dark line, and it’s taking me too long. You might be able to do it faster.” She leafed back through other pages that had been highlighted top to bottom. “Oh, I think it’s that your highlighter is out,” I said.

I offered her my highlighter, but it was pink, and she said it was imortant that it was yellow. She had to pack up and go catch her ride, and seemed to be troubled by not getting the pages highlighted. So do we all slowly plod if we live so long.

Before the highlighting thing, while still on her screed about the local football club and its garish owner, she said this:

“I never forgave Arkansas for giving us the Clintons. And I never forgave Arkansas for giving us Jerry Jones.”

What was there left to say?

Old Man

2013-07-09

There’s an old man in this coffee shop wearing a red polo, red beanie (sailor style), black pants, black shoes, and an oversized black watch with a red face. He is reading a book titled “Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History.” The book is also mostly red and black. He has a packet of highlighters standing by, from which he has carefully selected one in particular. He also has with him the day’s newspaper and an enormous hard copy of the Oxford American Dictionary, I assume for self defense.

2014-08-13

He’s back today, now in a blaze orange polo and beanie. Again, the beanie is worn sailor style, cuffed high and sitting high on his crown. I can tell he’s bald under the beanie. That’s his business, but I can tell. He came in with a gray and blue flannel over shirt, which he has taken off and draped over the chair on the opposite side of the cafe table.

2014-09-08

It’s a blue tshirt and blue beanie today. A stack of newspapers, a book, and three different plastic packets of markers and pens of assorted colors. Another flannel. He takes a pen, ball point, from its pack and makes a note on a receipt.

It’s Summer in Fort Worth. Every one else in this city, save this man, wishes the humid, 100º heat would just end them and enjoy its prize. He wears a beanie. So help me.

The Prettiest Woman on Earth

When I was a kid I believed Vanna White was the Prettiest Woman on Earth. I didn’t believe it because I looked at her with a critical eye and drew my own conclusions. I was in basic agreement that she was a pretty lady, but I was mostly unmoved. She was no Daphne from Scooby Doo. And I had better things to worry about, like the tilt of my bicycle’s handlebars. How did Chad stand to have his so far forward? I didn’t know anything about ergonomics then, but I knew that setup, cool as it looked, wasn’t going to do me any favors.

I believed Vanna White was the Prettiest Woman on Earth like it was a job title, similar to Poet Laureate, in which she would be expected to show up and perform her gifts on special, or trying occasions in the country’s history. “We are going to war with Greece, and Billy Collins has prepared something. Someone call Vanna and see if she can come out and turn the pages for him.” I was a kid, and I didn’t understand how objectifying that picture was. Now I understand that professionally beautiful people do more than just stand there. They are also great for raising awareness of causes on which homelier folks are struggling to keep people focused.

I must have heard an adult say it at some point, that Vanna White was the Prettiest Woman on Earth, and just accepted it. Most adults I knew seemed to grasp the complicated things of life firmly and easily, like how the government, or the church worked, and that just about everyone was doing both of those things terribly wrong. If they were right about that stuff, surely I could trust them to keep me up to date on the planet’s currently Prettiest Woman. Why would I question it?

Besides, I had to figure out if I wanted to look like a jerk on my bike, or be cool and uncomfortable. I opted to look like a jerk, but I still ended up uncomfortable, generally speaking.

Roadside Assistance

Long ago, my wife and I lived in Florida. We had a lunch gathering a couple of towns over one Sunday, so we piled into the car with a friend and her +1 (hereafter, Mr. +1) and off we went. We ate the typically incongruous lunch of church potlucks: fried chicken, lasagna, taco salad. Thus it has always been, and always will be.

On our way back I was driving about 90mph because I was hot on the trail of an afternoon nap. My wife noticed and insisted I slow down. So I eased it back to between 80 and 85, where the car began to vibrate.

Mr. +1 perked up and said, “Feels like you got a shimmy!”

“Yeah it shimmies between 80 and 85,” I said, “Anything above or below that is pretty smooth.”

Then the back left tire exploded.

Suddenly, roughly a decade later, I had command of everything I learned in Driver’s Ed about regaining control of a vehicle.

  • Turn into the skid
  • Downshift
  • Stay calm
  • Move to the shoulder as soon as possible

It was a success. I was proud, and my passengers were relieved.

After taking a moment to collect myself, I remembered we had a spare tire, but didn’t have a jack. Mr. +1 and I got out to take inventory of our supplies and make a plan.

About the time we ran out of ideas, the first Nissan Sentra ever made rattled up behind us. I went to the passenger door and opened it. An older man greeted me. His car was gutted, and his stubble looked like a field of Czech hedgehogs on which the armies of lunch had broken in great numbers. “Are you kids OK?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “We have a spare tire but no jack. Do you happen to have one?”

Now his face changed, “Yeah, I got a jack but I’m not gonna let you borrow it because I don’t like your face!”

“Uh…”

“I’m joking! I’m always joking,” he said, “Don’t punch me in the face or anything.”

While he pulled his car farther off the road, I went back to the trunk where Mr. +1 had not heard any of this and said, “Hey man, this guy’s a little off so be ready for anything.” I grabbed the short, rusty tire iron next to the spare and went out to meet the stranger.

He walked over to the car with his jack and his own tire iron. I offered to take them and do it myself but, his voice sharpening again, he said, “No, I’m going to do it!”

“OK,” I said, and backed off.

He had some difficulty getting the jack under the car, so again, though with more care this time, I offered to do it. “Yeah, you do it. I don’t feel like it!” he said.

While my friend and I busied ourselves jacking up the car with the ladies still inside, he was sitting on the side of the road breathing hard.

A few moments later, he noticed the ladies. He struggled up to his feet, tapped on the window, and waved. “Which one is your wife?” he asked.

My skin crawled. I guess it was harmless, but it seemed way out of line. “The one in the front” I said. Mr. +1 and I were both fumbling with the iron. This could have gone faster if only one of us were turning it, but it gave us something to do besides addressing him directly.

The stranger turned to Mr. +1 and said, “The other one your wife, or just a friend?”

“Yeah, something like that,” he said

We redoubled our speed.

An age of men passed, and finally the doughnut was on, and the car was down. I grabbed the jack and the stranger grabbed the iron and we walked back to his open trunk. I half expected to find the body of the last person he helped, but I only saw a gas can and another iron. Being sure not to let him out flank me, I placed the jack in the trunk.

I reached to shake his hand and he said, “Hey, do you have any money?”

Midwesterners, like anyone else, have a Lizard Brain, and mine might have wanted to tell him no to protect my money, or strike him and run away, but thanks to careful breeding and rigorous training, my people have grown a Labrador Retriever Brain that completely encases our Lizard Brain, and as we all know, if you ask a Labrador Retriever if he has any cash, and he is in fact, as though he were a night club promoter, carrying $110 in cash, he can neither send nor receive signals to the Lizard Brain because he can only hear the sermons against lying.

I gave the stranger a surprised and put out look. The 10 was my lowest bill. I knew my wife had some smaller bills but I wanted this to be over, so I grudgingly handed it to him.

“Oh, thanks! Gee, I hate to take your money, but I’m not working right now, and it’s hard,” he said.

“No problem,” I said, and we walked back to our cars.

Though it seemed longer, we were back on the road within 15 minutes of the initial blowout. I suppose that’s worth $10. As we watched him merge back onto the interstate, we noticed his bumper sticker. It covered the full length of the bumper and the letters went right up to the edges. It said this:

“You can’t argue with a sick mind.”