A Query to Ed

A Query to Ed

I sent off my manuscript at 11:30 pm last night mountain standard time.  Ed were you sleeping when this snuck into your inbox?  Most people who claim to have a professional career are sleeping around this time.  Unless there is a deadline.  Then my manuscript arrives at 1:30 am eastern time at the height of panic.  A project not completed by 1:30 am is very stressful.  I remember those days from engineering school.  I went to bed last night after checking the score of the Rockies game but I don’t remember who won Ed.  It was an attempt to distract myself from my excitement.  Still fanning the flames, I shut off all the lights, locked the doors and went to bed.  I was sitting there thinking about your response to my email when my son came in the room to sleep with my wife and I.  It was late so I picked him up and put him in bed.  I slowly faded off to sleep thinking about the position of my email in your inbox.  Am I the first one this morning Ed?

I know you woke up early to take the train.  Everyone in New York takes the train even though the city is overwhelmed with cars.  You know I take the train too Ed.  After I wake up, eat and walk my dog, I start the journey to work.  I’m supposed to be at work by 9 on Mondays and Fridays and 7 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but I’m usually late.  My boss implied that I was lying about my hours the other day.  I’m pretty sure this is not true.  You see Ed, right now I am only a temporary engineer at my job so I have to get my time sheet signed every two weeks.  I’ve been trying to leave for over a year but my well-crafted plans seem to creep off the cliff after a while.  From grad school to moving back home, Ed I’ve had options but they ended up being detours rather than destinations.  Now I’m back to square one again.

Engineering is just a bunch of approximations anyway Ed.  Nature can be so subjective at times, choosing obedience to your assumptions based on set parameters.  It can make the design easy or make it difficult.  But don’t you think the way it was might have been just as good or even better before we started applying some math to it?  I think about that sometimes when I’m in my cubicle doing some engineering. You know Ed, living in the Big Apple, you can say that us civil engineers are responsible for the creation of that human zoo you call home.  Read your Desmond Morris and you will see.  I aid in the creation of a world spoiled of its wild riches so behavioral control and physical safety become paramount…too far Ed…ok but anyway you are probably off the train by now, sipping your coffee in the promise of a New York morning.

Did you remember to shave this morning Ed?  I usually remember when I arrive at work, too late to remedy my forgetfulness.  I’ll stop at the bathroom and, inadvertently, take a look in the mirror.  Sometimes my neck beard is wild, undulating like snakes at the bottom of a booby trap or, even worse, I’ll notice hair on my ears. Are you at the age where you have hair on your ears, Ed?  I find myself to be too young to deal with such a scenario but it has become my reality.  Its scary Ed.  My pediatrician growing up had an enormous amount of hair in his ears.  It was like grass growing through the cracks in a sidewalk.  My mother would always remind me, as she pondered the presence of so much hair in one ear, to take care of the ear and eyebrow hair.  A few seconds manicuring these landscapes makes a big difference in one’s life Ed.  And, besides, Mama always knows best.

Do you see it Ed?  It’s right there, stacked like a cadaver in the morgue of your inbox.  It’s my dream Ed.  I need you to take a look and then breath some life into it.  Dreams are what set us apart in this monolith of a culture.  Do you have any dreams Ed?  Maybe travel the world or maybe you want to represent a movie?  Some big action thriller starring Taylor Swift in her first major movie role? Or maybe your dream is to be you, unfolding happily into the finest version of yourself.  Whatever your dreams Ed we should talk.  There is plenty of room in our hat.

Forgetful Jerry and his Winter Stash

These things just keep coming. My journey with Leo has taken a short break as I forge ahead with these silly little rhymes.  Good thing Bill is still focused on the task ahead.  Here’s the first installment of Forgetful Jerry.  Modeled after a dear friend of ours, Jerry cannot remember where he put his most precious treasure: his winter stash.  This is a disaster.   Without his stash, Jerry is afraid he will not survive the winter.  Desperate then despondent, he knows he can only count on one soul to guide him through this tragedy; Jim the Badger.  Read on….

Forgetful Jerry and the Winter Stash

Page 1

Snoring quietly, Jerry was dreaming

Of a quiet world with the sun beaming

When all of the sudden, he awoke with a flash

And tore out of bed to look for his stash

Page 2

Through his dressers, in the closet, under the bed

Jerry searched his room from toe to head

“Winter’s coming soon…it’s already September

And my acorn stash?…I can’t remember”

Page 3

Jerry looked at the ground and then shuffled his feet

His belly was hungry, he could feel the defeat

Was he going to have to wait until May

For acorn tacos, ice cream and soufflé?

Page 4

But the rising sun peeked through the curtains

And Jerry became inspired, no longer hurtin’

He tied his shoes and threw on his sweater

Blast through the door in the chilly weather

Page 5

But suddenly he stopped, tripping over his toes

“I’m not sure which way this journey goes.”

Perplexed, then confused then confident on a whim

“I’ll go where I always go…my buddy Badger Jim.”

Page 6

“Grr Grumble Grr whose at my door?

It’s early and I am trying to sleep some more”

Badger Jim flung his sheets high in the air

And they fluttered behind him nicely on the chair

Page 7

He rubbed his eyes and stared out to see

“Grr Grumble Grr Forgetful Jerry…I wish he would forget about me”

Page 8

When he opened the door, Jerry rushed right in

Pacing and groaning and rubbing his chin

“Jim my friend I need your advice

Your such a great friend, so thoughtful and nice”

Page 9

“Grr Grumble Grr” said Jim “I’ve heard this before

Tell me your story before I start to snore.”

Page 10

“Jim” said Jerry “I’ve misplaced my stash

I’ve looked in my closet, the drawers, and trash

Have you seen it? Can you tell me? Oh I don’t know what to do

Winter’s coming soon..maybe I can live with you?”

Page 11

“Grr Grumble Grr” Jim said with a sigh

“How do I even know this guy?

Jerry my friend it’s going to be alright

You’ll laugh at the end of this silly plight

What do I think?  Well you know I say

I have no idea where you put your stash today.”

Page 12

“But a little bit of faith will keep you true

And blessed be Jerry we have plans to review

I would highly suggest you take this to heart

And go visit Steve the skunk whose memory is sharp”

Page 13

“Or Bill Moose who knows what’s going on out there

Or Big Jim Hambone the honey bear

I really sincerely believe in you

But I would get going now because there’s lots to do.”

Page 14

Jim slowly walked back toward his bed

Got under the covers and laid down his head

“Grr Grumble Grr” he began to snore

And Jerry slowly walked out careful not to slam the door

Page  15

“Now that was confusing,” Forgetful Jerry thought

“I don’t know if he helped me a little or a lot”

Confused and forgetful, Jerry was definitely unsure

“Hope Bill Moose knows a little bit more.”

 

Let me know if you would like to read more.  I did not include any pictures this week as our illustrator is still chipping away at them.  We will post them all in due time.

Cake

Cake

Now these children’s book or poems have become a way to discount those silly little things that seem to linger longer than expected.  For example, there is always cake at my work.  Every day is an occasion for cake and everyday there is a quiet urgency to get to the cake before it disappears.  Added to this guilty pleasure, these obsessed cake eaters do not like to eat cake alone.  Furthermore, I sit along the path of the pilgrimage so I see the faithful marching on their way. Quietly, fingers fiddling in a giddy excitement, they walk towards the cake.  Yet this journey that I witness is not to be taken in solitude.   All the devoted and beloved cake eaters insist that I, as well, sitting along the path, should join the journey in the expansion of my waist line.   I completely disagree and deflect, deny and disengage all cake inquiries that are tossed my way.  I have said things like I can’t have dairy, it gives me asthma, it makes my feet smell, I already had some and on and on it goes.  I’ve had success with these excuses until one day someone took it too far.

I got up to leave as the cake eaters began their daily procession.  The solution to today’s cake dodge was to be absent during feeding hours.  This was by far the best solution and I was happily enjoying a walk outside during this time.  I came back refreshed and rejuvenated only to find someone put cake on my desk.  “The horror,” I whispered as I turned around to see my supervisor staring at me.  She had left me the cake on my desk and was waiting for my return.  She said she noticed I was out and didn’t want me to miss out on any cake.  She motioned for me to try it.  I caught her eyes with a lactose intolerant stare as I tipped the plate towards the trash can.  “Thanks but I don’t really want this cake,” I said.  She looked at me.   I was baffled.  Why does everyone want me to eat this cake?  I took a bite.  She smiled, a smug smile, and waddled away.  I let the rest of the cake slide into the trash can and sighed. I can’t believe I caved and ate the cake.  I was demoralized. To deal with my spinelessness, I wrote the story below.

Hey you know what, there’s cake in the break room

You better hurry up and get there soon

Tres leches, Vanilla, chocolate and cream

More cake than I know I’ve ever seen

Cake for a birthday, cake for a holiday

Cake on your first day, cake on your last day

Cake in the fall or summer time

Cake with carrots, filling or lime

Cake with some ice cream, sprinkles or berries

Cake with some milk and then topped with some cherries

Cake with some coffee or maybe some tea

Lots of cake for you and more for me

So stop all this talk and get in line with the bunch

And gobble down cake for breakfast and lunch

But watch what you eat because your stomach will turn

And then hold your butt cheeks til they start to burn

But don’t you worry,  no need to fret

Just take a deep breath and wipe off the sweat

Now slowly stand up so you don’t get busted

And start to walk so everyone gets crop dusted.

I wrote this the day I had to put that piece of dejection in my mouth.  It helped and now I share with you.  Thanks for letting me indulge in my side dream here.  I’ll post some more as time goes so let me know what you think.

That’s a Big Hat

That’s a Big Hat

I imagine this hat to be a big, bucket hat like one of those Texas Cowboys out on the town one Saturday night.  Those seem to have plenty of room for another dream or two so I am throwing in a children’s book.  It’s still a book so it doesn’t stray too far from the path but it’s in a form that brings me much joy to write and even a little success. Let me explain.

During my senior year of high school, we were assigned to write a “speech” on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. This is a brutal book about European imperialism in Africa during the ivory trade.   One of the more famous lines in the text is “The horror, the horror,” uttered by Mr. Kurtz on his death bed, in response to what he had done with his time in Africa.  Not one to let such imperialistic endeavors bring me down, I chose to write my argument in rhyming couplets for three pages front and back.  I don’t remember the pursuit of this speech, as this memory suffers from a lack of details, but I do remember how quickly the class turned on me, only to win them back seconds later.

Somewhere in the book, Joseph Conrad talks about something “rearing its ugly head.”  This quote resonated with me, whether it was from a lesson plan or I read it on my own, so I built my speech around it.  About half way through, I used my English teacher, who was one of my favorites, as an example of the something that rears.   I looked up to see the silence from the shock.  “Did he just say our teacher has an ugly head?”  As the line lingered in the air amongst my classmates, I quickly moved on to the next line to recant the ugliness and say with an emphasis on much beauty, much, much beauty. Before they could boo, they cheered as I was able win back the crowd with its cleverness. I even saw my teacher blush a little.   In the end, though, I was only able to pull a B on my presentation.  The initial shock of my interpretation of the quote must have outweighed the delicate maneuver of retracting such a claim.  However, getting a B after momentarily implying that your teacher has an ugly head constitutes some success or maybe just a glimpse at some hidden talent.  Let’s throw it in the hat and find out.

 

A Shoebox

A Shoebox

Jean meets me half way down the hall.

“Oh you came up?”  She seemed surprised.

“Yeah”, I replied. “The…” Jean interrupted.

“You know we’ve had a lot of weirdos come up here lately.  I had a gentleman come in the other day and he was very upset at me.”

“Oh yeah.  Why?”

“Well,” she replied.  I could hear her English accent get a little thicker as we continued talking.  “ He wanted to do research whenever he wanted.  I told him the hours I am here and that he has to visit when I am here.  He started to get very upset.  I had to call downstairs and have him removed.”

She paused. “You know it was quite scary.  I was all by myself and this man was getting very upset.”  She looked at me above her purple glasses as we kept walking.  “He is no longer allowed in the library.”

“Wow,” I fumbled.” Do you, uh, get that a lot?”  Despite my lack of eloquence, I could picture people becoming obsessed with a topic.  Sometimes I wonder if I will be that obsessed individual.  Cracked up with all my eggs in the TBD basket, I’ll fly through the halls accurately depicting the 850 horsepower Pratt and Whitney engine in the Douglas TBD Devastators.  Jean would walk by and, when I was getting to be too much, she would say,” Now Ryan go land your TBD.”  I would bank off to the right and crash into the chairs sprawled out on the shiny, tile floor.  Just sitting there, waiting for my next flight…

“Not really,” said Jean.

She walked me to my spot on an old, lacquered dining room table.  I was surrounded by books, census records and military dispatches.  I sat down to my tower of sources.

“I found two new magazines here about the TBD.  Here’s a book on the Coastal Watchers.”

“Great. Thanks,” I replied as she walked back towards her desk.  Another librarian was here today and she was very disgruntled by the state of the book covers.

“That George,” Jean said trying to console her friend’s misplaced rage.  “He’s a schizophrenic.” She walked back toward me with a stack of paper. “Here’s what I found on that Ewoldt guy,” Jean said towards me.  “I looked through all the genealogical records and was able to make a family tree.  Here are some military records and pictures.”  She handed me a stack of about 50 pages.  There were handwritten notes and screen shots of her discoveries.

“How did you find all these?” I asked.

“In the genealogical records,” she replied.  Her tone suggested that she had already said this and I was being naïve.  “If I have a date and a name, I can usually find most anything. I can…”

“Is this part of your job?” I blurted out interrupting her explanation.  Slowly sinking into this large leather chair, I leaned forward thinking if I got closer maybe I could understand her better.  Why is she willing to do all this work and research for free?  I’ve offered her money but she did not take it.

“I love the challenge.  I love looking into people’s lives and finding things. I guess that makes me nosy.”  She paused with a hoot.” Aahh I don’t care about that.  It’s interesting to me.  I love to find the shoebox.”

“The shoebox?” I repeated.

“Every family has a shoebox.  It has all the letters, pictures and primary sources from the family.  Find the shoebox and you find your story.  I was working with one author and we started with the main character of the book.  Then to his wife, then after finding his wife’s maiden name, a brother, then a cousin, then another brother, but no one was calling us back.” Jean made eye contact using this time to catch her breath as a dramatic pause. “Then one of the brothers called back.  They talked on the phone and, at first, he was a little reluctant to the author’s pitch.  It took some time but he loosened up.  Then he offered to send him all the letters and pictures he had of the family..”  Jean paused again and raised her fists in jubilation.

“We found the shoebox.  All he had to do now was write his book.  Every family has a shoebox and I love finding it.”

She finished the story looking back at me.  Her faraway look, her flashback to the shoebox, was a genuine display of pure joy.  I couldn’t help but smile back, inspired by her shoebox discovery.  It was contagious.

 

 

Note: The picture for this post was taken from the following website.  We are still on the hunt for ours.

http://www.blackandwhitephoto.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/shoebox_scans.jpg