Archive: Nov 2016

Don’t read


The first hardcover book I read as a kid was Watership Down. I was unsure of it because it was such a radically different form factor than my young adult paperback serials, but my dad convinced me that it would be like playing one of the video games I loved because there is a map printed on the inside cover. I didn’t know that books could have maps in them, especially a book without pictures. Unless you count the picture of the map, I suppose…

Though this book had words I hadn’t encountered and was four times longer than anything I had attempted before, I locked myself in my room and devoured it. As the story’s characters are almost all rabbits, I began to consider myself something of a household expert. For instance: Did you know that rabbits cannot count past four (anything higher than four is just called “hrair”)? It’s true. Read a book.

After that the floodgates opened and I couldn’t read fast enough. Weekly trips to the library ensured a steady supply. Even video games received less attention than before. My dad bought me a collection of literature classics and I became hooked on Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I read all of the classic horror stories and had long since completed Tom Sawyer when my class assigned it as homework.

My nightstand became the permanent home to the book stack. The stack was four or five books high and consisted of everything I was actively reading at the time. There was usually a healthy balance of science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and history to cater to various moods. As one book was killed off another sprung up to take its place, like a zombie horde. And it never ended; I feel comfortable claiming that I’ve read more books than almost anyone under forty.

Do you know that there are people out there who “don’t read books”? #unfathomable

Bare walls


I love my wife. She fills my life with art.

Back in my dating years (which lasted well into my 30’s, mind you) the various apartments I leased felt more like shelters than homes to me. A place to sleep, somewhere to keep a fridge. As I changed jobs (about once a year, most years) I would move within a five mile radius of the new company’s office to minimize commute time. First-time visitors to my place often jokingly commented on my lack of home decoration while secretly panicking about what sort of person doesn’t have a single item hung on any wall.

I just didn’t care. A painting on the wall didn’t bring me closer to my immediate life goals and making a statement through my home decor wasn’t important to me. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how to showcase my disconnected interests in a way that made sense. Doctor Who and the Cleveland Browns don’t have a lot of overlap in their fan bases and a record collection would be creepy if it only contained Paul Simon albums. So I just left the walls the way they came and left most horizontal surfaces bare. If anyone wanted to know about me, they could spend time with me.

And then I started dating an artist. On an early date we went to a painting class and each painted a mermaid. Hers was of course quite a beautiful painting, and mine was hailed by critics as “recognizable as a mermaid”. I’ll admit I got a little carried away with some of her proportions- it was my first painting. After such a successful outing I found myself the proud owner of two works of art! Mine went in the closet and hers went up in my bathroom. Bam! Bathroom furnished.

The longer I dated an artist, the more of her paintings made their way onto my walls. A large mantelpiece canvas in the living room, some abstract color pops for the bedroom. Before long my apartment was looking like some humans lived in it. I eventually noticed the trap, but too late; I would have to marry this girl or start all the way over on my home decor. It was an easy choice.

The art in my home is vibrant and messy and colorful. It is sometimes dark and then suddenly bright. There are careless splotches and wide deliberate smears. It is complicated and compelling and graceful. It perfectly reflects everything I love in this world.



To say this has been a year of great change would understate my situation.

I started the year with a new job and will end it with yet another. The business venture that caused such pain and loss (and growth!) was dissolved in the winter. After much planning I married the love of my life in the summer, and then with almost no planning at all we moved our newly formed family across a continent and away from all we had known. I now find myself surrounded by the strange and unfamiliar.

We traded trees for mountains, apartment for house, stability for adventure. The old trappings of my life were replaced wholesale with the new furnishings of our life. Everything is different- the silverware, the appliances, the roads, scenery, and people. I had to fight to hang onto my old couches and coffee table. They may be worn and unfashionable, but they are loved and they are mine. An island of familiarity in a sea of change.

Sometimes it overwhelms me, this unknown landscape. I wake up in a stranger’s house and an unrecognized life. For a time I found myself paralyzed with anxiety, never able to fully relax and let my mind rest. Was I missing something important at work? Is there someone I meant to call or meet up with tonight? Were all the bills paid and animals fed and obligations met? Was that a passing look of unhappiness that just shadowed my newlywed’s face? Oh God, am I screwing this all up??

But then one stressful day I sat in my new living room, staring at my old coffee table. The drink trays were long gone, ruined by a rubbing alcohol experiment gone wrong. That one screw that always pokes out and makes the back leg lopsided is still doing its thing. As I pondered the frayed seams of its fake leather top I realized that this object is mine and it is familiar and it is loved, as am I.

I have now come to think of my coffee table as an object of power. Whenever the nervous voice in my head starts its litany of fear, I think of my living room and remember that I have a place to rest my drink (we bought new drink trays; they don’t match at all but they are mine). I have the big comfy couches where I have held my cherished one for years and where we continue to laugh or cry or dream as the moment demands. And I think of the old television set that has accumulated the burnt-in logos of our favorite channels over the blissful, difficult, beautiful years. Like beloved ghosts of times not quite past.

The anxiety subsides and I remember that this life is mine.