Monday, December 6, 2010


Random memory:

When I was a kid, my father would occasionally ask me to dig a hole. He was an avid landscape gardener, and he used these holes for yard waste, weeds, leaves and other things he needed to get rid of.

Here's the thing: digging a hole was NOT punishment for me. It was simply something I was expected to do to help.

Here's the thing, parte deux: I liked digging holes.

In the morning, my dad would hand me a spade and a shovel, and we'd set off to some "back" area of the yard (in the belt of trees at the edge of the property) where he'd mark out where he wanted the hole dug. And I'd start digging.

Now, you might be thinking "yeah, but lots of kids dig holes."

True. But these were not just "holes." As a 9-year old, I put the fear of God into adult men who had made a career of ditch digging.

The holes were probably about 3-4 feet wide and 6-7 feet long. If I started on Saturday morning... I'd probably be about 6-7 feet down, by the end of Sunday... one end would be "staired" down in 2-foot increments, so I could get in and out. The big excitement for me was to get deep enough to where I was digging in the compacted golden sand that underlies much of coastal Denmark... and this was also what my dad was looking for, so he could spread it on the lawn to even out the bumps.

I have no idea why this appealed so much to me... conversations with my peers (at the time) and other people (since) points to the fact that most people would interpret spending a weekend (as a kid OR an adult) digging a large hole in the ground as a particularly heinous form of torture. For me, it never really was. There was something comforting about digging a deep hole... and being able to sit in a place where all I could see was the sky and clouds drifting by... no side view, at all. And I didn't mind being "in the Earth." And I felt none of the fear many (including my mother) shared: "Oh, but what if it collapsed in on you?"

The attendant conversations at school on Monday morning were a little bit awkward.... concerning the "what did YOU do this weekend?" issue...

Sven: "Oh, we went to the amusement park, I got a new air rifle and we hunted squirrels!"

Lars: "We went camping, and I caught 13 fish!"

Henrik: "We built a fort in the abandoned junkyard!"

Me: "I dug a hole in the ground!"

[Insert sound of needle scratching across the vinyl of a record]

"You what? What did you DO to get that kind of punishment?"

"No, I wanted to..."

"Dude... you are SO weird..."

Maybe we all have strange things we liked to do as kids... things nobody else "got" about us.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Random rambles about complaining... and growth

I talk to myself.

I have been talking to myself (especially while doing things) since I was a little kid. I suppose what I am really doing is processing thoughts outward, rather than keeping them inside my head. I just find that "thinking things through" in silence is far less conducive to "working them out" and "getting new ideas," than actually having an audible conversation with myself. Thinking inside my head feels like watching a YouTube video with "mute" on. So I talk to myself.

I'm not entirely sure whether this is a sign of insanity. Or, perhaps, a reflection of the fact that I was raised by wolves. Or maybe my honey is right-- I'm just crazy and ADD as fuck. OR... it's just perfectly normal behavior everywhere... but people are embarrassed to admit to it and label it "eccentric" rather than normal.

The point, however, is that I typically have my best ideas for articles and other writing when I am far from the computer. Or even a pen and notebook.

This is the odd paradox. When I am sitting in my office, trying to work, I don't so often talk to myself nor feel inclined to do so. On the other hand, when I am mowing the lawn, or going for a walk, or cooking, or folding laundry, I usually have a lot to say.

Which, I suppose, is just another way of saying that I do my best thinking when my brain is slack.

A while back, as a bold new experiment, I moved the laptop into the kitchen while I cooked... so I could basically write as I talked things through, in the three-minute pauses between flipping pork chops or whatever else was going on. Now, I'm well aware of the risks of grease on the screen and flour in the keyboard, but these are occupational hazards I'm willing to face... and this was-- as I said-- just an experiment.

Since the distinct possibility exists that my life may actually have assumed some semblance of normalcy (i.e. I may spend more days at home than in random motel rooms) in the foreseeable future, I have been toying with the idea of returning to writing. Ergo, I need ideas. As I talked this through with myself, I was considering some things that bug me about life might become good blog fodder, in a Dave Barry-ish sort of way, and even considered a sort of "Gripe of the Week" column.

As I looked at my various ideas, I realized that I am really incredibly intolerant... and I should probably scrap the whole "gripe" idea and just call the articles "Why I Am Not A Nice Person, part-whatever."

1. Why is it STILL a "surprise" to people that they have to pay at the grocery? Otherwise, why on earth would they not start looking for payment until the checker say "That will be $37.95?"

2. That little lever on the side of your steering column? Yeah, that one. It's called a turn signal. Especially handy at 4-way stop signs.

3. Many more, similar to the above.

I'm still considering that possibility...

After considering that my list of "things to write about" were basically a list of gripes... I got to thinking... why do we spend so much time focusing on the negative, while generally glossing over the positive? I mean, it runs the range of human experience, from the personal to the global. "War sells newspapers, peace does not."

Then I thought about what irritates me... and the why of things that irritate me. That was an interesting exercise in observation and self-inquiry.

Overwhelmingly, I get annoyed by situations where other people's lack of awareness and consciousness of their surroundings results in taking my time, and/or require my effort. I realized how this is often a big "trigger" for me, as far as getting annoyed and moody... especially when bad or no planning on someone else's behalf is the catalyst for my time/effort output.

Our irritants are often riddled with paradoxes, too. Going back to the grocery store example, above, I actually have endless patience with grocery store lines... I have little issue with being 47th in line, and if I subsequently realize that I forgot to buy butter, I have little issue with putting the groceries in the car and standing in line behind 41 people to go through a second time, with a single package of butter.

"They" say, of course, that the things that irritate us about other people are the things about ourselves that we really do not like. Indeed, I tend to be hypersensitive to/about wasting other people's time... and tend to overplan almost everything I do, lest my activity could somehow cause another to waste their time.

Most likely, there will NOT be a gripe of the week column...