Adulting.

All the way back on day 12 of NanoPoblano, Charlene from “The Illusion of Controlled Chaos” recounted a brief story about troubleshooting a small toilet problem, and that got me thinking. My comment at the time was specific to toilets, but my thoughts didn’t stay there.

Before long, I was thinking about all the things that being an adult involves, both the good and the bad. On the good side, I like that my time is my own, and I can make my own decisions about where to live, what to do with my free time, and the like.

I was also trying to list all the things that I really don’t like about being an adult. I’m not talking about the big obvious ones like bills and taxes and the health issues that come from getting older, I just mean the silly ones.

For example, I mentioned toilet maintenance in the comment on Charlene’s post as a thing that I don’t enjoy about being an adult. Specifically, I was talking about that little dance with the bleach tablet and the scissors and holding up the top of the toilet tank which is somehow ALWAYS DRIPPING WET while putting the cleaning stuff down into the tank. I don’t enjoy that at all, although I appreciate the effect it has on my toilet.

Another thing I don’t like about being an adult is going to sleep at a reasonable time and waking up at a reasonable time. I’m not a morning person. My chronotype is “get sleepy around 2am, naturally wake up close to 10.” My employment requires that I be a DayWalker, though, so I have to wake up earlier each day, which means I almost never really get enough sleep. I think being an adult means managing a never-ending cycle of caffeine and poor sleep.

Perhaps the thing that I dislike the most about being an adult is the never-ending march of deciding what to eat for my next meal. Some people delight in meal planning, but for me, it’s a significant chore. Ordering from restaurants doesn’t really make it any easier, either. If I let the decision-making process go too long, then I get into a cycle where I’ll look at different things whilst being very hungry, and will have trouble deciding on anything at all. I know from experience that if I’m TOO hungry, I will default to the worst possible food, but only after a very long period of indecision and waffling.

What are the things you dislike the most about being an adult?

48/52 (and 27 of 30!)

Shadows of the Past

Palimpsest.

I was reading a novel, and the author kept using this word. I remember learning the meaning of palimpsest a long time ago, but I forgot over time because it’s not the sort of word that gets used a lot in casual conversation.

pal·imp·sest | ˈpaləm(p)ˌsest | noun 

• a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain. 
• something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

It’s an unfortunate and often frustrating fact of life, but things are always in motion. Entropy is the law of the land. I see it every time I return to places I used to live. I spent a large part of my life living in more or less the same area, and seeing the changes as I drive through certain parts of town makes me a little bit melancholy.

Time ate the 1980s for a snack. An ice cream shop I loved in childhood is long gone. The SupeRX pharmacy where my father worked when I was little eventually became a Rite-Aid. I don’t think many people even remember SupeRX.

I stole this image from a blog about the history of the Kroger-SupeRX drug stores. If you’re really curious, you can read the whole timeline here.

The movie theatre where I saw “Ghostbusters” and “The Goonies” and “Karate Kid Part 2” was razed and reborn as a Ross Dress For Less. The theatre where I saw “Superman 2” and “The Great Muppet Caper” was flattened and left as an ugly portion of strip-mall. The original, really awesome Chuck E Cheese was turned into a Cinema and Drafthouse until that too failed. (Which is good- I still blame them for my mistake of watching “Se7en” while eating pizza. Bad idea.)

The Candyland Arcade, a huge favorite in my high school days, is nothing at all now. The same goes for the comic book store that was a few doors down from the arcade. My father switched from SupeRX to Albertsons, but that store is gone now too, bought up by Publix.

Time went clogging on into the 90s. My mental map of Palm Beach Community College doesn’t contain all the buildings that are there now. It doesn’t even have a third of them. A big ugly fence went up around my old high school- as much to keep the kids in as to keep interlopers out, I imagine.

The Clock Family Restaurant, a big favorite haunt in the early 1990s, is long gone, replaced first by a Denny’s, and then later on by a Tijuana Flats and a Sleep Number mattress store. (There’s still a Clock in Gainesville, but it’s not the one I know.)

The Motorola factory where I earned my paycheck in 1995 has been demolished and rebuilt as fashionable condos and shopping. Dad started working for Winn Dixie Pharmacy, and he managed to retire before most of the Winn Dixie stores vanished from the area.

Four different movie theatres that I worked in have been closed or demolished. One of them is an L.A. Fitness now. The Carefree Theatre, home to so many of the best stories of my early twenties, was first abandoned, then knocked down, and is now an open field awaiting the construction of fashionable little condos. The car dealership next to it has been demolished to make way for, you guessed it, more fashionable little condos.

The places where I went to dance and love and breathe in the music in the late 1990s are almost all gone now. I already talked about the Embassy Music Hall in a previous post; it’s a Walmart Neighborhood Grocery now.

When I moved back to Orlando in 2017, after eighteen years away, the same thing happened. The places I knew in Orlando were gone, or irrevocably changed. The roads were different in places.

With all of this change, it’s no wonder that the word palimpsest resonates with me. With new names overlaid onto old places and the ghosts of all my past lives marching past with every visit, it’s a concept that I’ve been keenly aware of for a very long time.

When I go past a place that was part of my life before, I see every version of it that ever was. My memory is often absolutely terrible, but I remember the past clearly when it comes to this.

Palimpsest. The shadows of the past overlaid onto whatever crap is there now. I just wish it wasn’t such a clunky word. Palimpsest doesn’t really roll off the tongue easily, you know?

Now nostalgia… there’s a word that springs easily to the lips.

What are you nostalgic for?

46/52 (and 25 of 30!)

My Prime Directives

Several of the other Nano Poblano participants this month have posted entries which led me to respond with comments about the set of rules that I have taken to calling my Prime Directives. Yes, that’s a nod to Star Trek, because of course it is.

Obviously I have to obey certain rules and customs to get along in this world, like wearing clothing to the grocery store and so forth. “Thou shalt not give people involuntary haircuts.” Aside from the basics, I don’t have a lot of rules though.

Being an adult with no real requirements on my time besides work and basic existence means I can pretty much do my own thing, and that means I get to set my own rules for getting along in life.

That’s where my Prime Directives come in.

This may not be a complete list- sometimes I add or remove directives on the fly, as they occur to me. I might also have forgotten something as I write this up.

For this precise moment in time, at least, and in no particular order, this is my list of Prime Directives.

Rule the first: Be kind.

This means exactly what it says. I try to be kind to other people, and I hope very much that when most people think of me, they think of me as a kind person.

Sometimes I’m bad at this one. Very few people in this world have seen me truly angry, but those who have seen my anger know that I can be a spiteful, vindictive, cruel bastard. I have Bruce Banner’s problem. It’s always there, the rage, right under the surface. I try to negate that as much as possible by choosing to be kind whenever possible.

It seems like the thing to do.

Rule the second: Never eat anything bigger than your head.

This one is lifted from a 1976 B. Kliban book I read when I was a kid. When I was little, it was funny to me, but as I got older, I realized it’s actually really, really good advice. I have stomach issues, and eating too much is a trigger for Very Bad Things to happen to my digestion. Plus I could make some earnest noises here about moderation being good for you, I guess.

Rule the third: Share the music.

Music is life. Music is very often the one thing that truly saves what’s left of my sanity – if I don’t listen to it for too long, I get cranky. It calms me, reduces my anxiety, helps me concentrate, and elates me.

If I had to choose, right now, between a life without delicious food or a life without music, I would say “sign me up for the cream of wheat, and then let’s go to a concert.”

It’s precisely because I love music this much that I believe it’s important to share it. When I was in high school, I made mix tapes. Later in life, I made mix CDs. Even now, sometimes I’ll put together mixes to share with people- the method changes over time, but the goal is always the same: “Let me play this amazing song for you! I hope you love it as much as I do!”

Music is life. Sharing the music means sharing life. It’s that simple.

Rule the fourth: Embrace your whimsy.

I am a silly, silly man, and don’t you forget it.

My second favorite thing to do with other people, right after sharing music, is to make them laugh. I’ve said on numerous occasions that my resting state is whimsy, and I think that’s basically true. If I am drained of my other emotions, and free of anger or ennui or despair, then what remains is just pure unbridled whimsy.

Leaning into my own whimsy helps me keep things light. Embracing my inner Muppet keeps me balanced.

Rule the fifth: Never wait longer than 70 minutes for a theme park ride.

This one is just good common sense for logistical planning. No ride is worth standing in line for more than an hour and ten minutes when you’re surrounded by the entire rest of the theme park. Especially when the entire ride only lasts five or six minutes. Just go do something else instead of waiting in line. You’ll definitely have more fun that way.

A Questionable Rule the sixth: Nothing good happens after 2 AM.

While I never heard this one articulated until I was watching “How I Met Your Mother,” it’s an often true statement. I can think of many, many times that I’ve stayed up late on the off chance that something cool would happen, only to have nothing happen, or worse, to have bad things happen instead.

I marked this one as “questionable” because I can think of a handful of times that I’ve had really cool stuff happen well after 2 am. Only a handful, though. Most of the time, it’s just better to go to sleep.

Everyone says you should get enough sleep, right?

Rule the seventh: Family is important.

I am fortunate to have a fairly close-knit family. My siblings and I get along really well, despite all the times they’ve tried to kill me. This extends to more than just that first ring of family, too. Just last week, I had lunch with my cousin because she’s not far away and I enjoy her company. It’s important to me to try to nourish those relationships when I can. Speaking of which- Happy Birthday, Older Brother! (Even though I’m positive you’ll never see this blog post.)

Obviously this Directive doesn’t work for everyone- I have loads of friends who don’t speak to their birth family or have disowned parents or siblings over long and sustained pain. That’s why this isn’t just limited to families of blood. Families of choice are important too.

The people you choose to thread through your life are another kind of family. I have friends all over the world, and many of them are, in my estimation, a type of family. There are people in Germany who are dear to me, and people in Orlando, and people in Long Beach, or in New Orleans, or in South Florida.

Family is important, whether you grew up with them or added them on later in life.

Do you have any Prime Directives of your own?

42/52 (and 21 of 30!)


Getting To Know You

Allllllllll the way back on the second day of Nano Poblano, Anyes posted a “Let’s get to know each other” entry on her blog, and it posed a few questions that I thought would be fun to come back to.

What’s the #1 most played song on your playlist?

When I saw this posted by Anyes, I checked the play counts in my iTunes app, and found that “Undisclosed Desires” by Muse was at the top of the list. Well, a non-musical binaural sleep track filled with white noise was actually the most played item, but Muse was right behind.

Here are the top five played (musical) tracks in my iTunes library. It is undeniably a fascinating cross-section of some of the music that makes me tick.

  1. Muse – Undisclosed Desires
  2. Anthony David – God Said
  3. Information Society – Run Away
  4. Sara Bareilles – Let The Rain
  5. La Roux – As If By Magic

There’s a problem with this list, though. Several problems, actually. First of all, I suffered a library glitch with iTunes on October 5th, 2008. All the data was reset on that day- no song in my iTunes library has a “Date Added” later than 10/5/08, and any plays from the years before are gone. I started using iTunes with my first iPod back in 2003, so that’s five years of play data gone.

Secondly, this question doesn’t specify which playlist. I have many, many, many playlists. Or even which audio source- there is still a CD in my car’s deck, although I’ve forgotten which one- but I used to spin it a lot. Before that, there were mix tapes and soundtracks that got played until they were practically worn out, and I’m confident some of those had more plays than the count on that Muse song at the top of this post.

Third, this question doesn’t take into account things from streaming sources like Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Music- and you’d better believe I use all three.

Music is life.

I checked my Spotify account, and while I can’t find actual play totals, I can tell what the two most played songs on my Spotify account are. The first is Shriekback’s “Nemesis,” which I love in part because it’s a dance-floor banger and in part because they managed to squeeze “parthenogenesis” into the lyrics and it totally works. The other one is Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen from Nashville singing “If I Didn’t Know Better,” which is an absolute smokeshow of a song.

Clearly, the most played song is flexible, frangible. It can be changed by time, or mood, or salinity, by life events and tragedy or triumph.

Sometimes I just like to hear certain harmonies, certain orchestrations.

I strongly doubt that this has helped you to know me any better.

What is one of your favorite quotes?

I have loads of favorite quotes, but the first one that came to mind when I was writing this post was-

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” The words were Yoda, but the delivery was Frank Oz. This line is from a four minute long scene on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back which contains a heap of Yoda’s most famous lines: “Do or do not; there is no try.” “Judge me by my size, do you?” “That is why you fail.” These are all lines from the same scene, but the one that always gets me is this one. If this movie is playing on television and I happen to be walking through the room, I will stop dead in my tracks for this line.

I feel like my explanation for why I like this quote so much is inadequate. I do believe in the shining potential of most people, though, and I think it sums that up pretty well.

What sound do you love?

Anyes already claimed rain, so I can’t use that as my answer. I guess I’ll have to go with the sound of a rolling suitcase moving over sidewalk- that roll-click-roll-click-roll-click sound.

My apartment in Germany was less than half a kilometer, about a third of a mile, from the city’s main train station. People would walk past all the time with those rolling suitcases. Since I had no air conditioning, I kept the window open through most of the year, and that rolling thumping noise became very soothing to me.

Now that I think about it, all the other sounds of the train station are soothing to me as well. On a clear, quiet night, the announcements on the platforms were audible from my apartment. I could hear the sounds of trains rolling in or rolling out in the distance.

I loved all of it.

Now it’s your turn. Care to answer any of these questions?

33/52 (and 12 of 30!)

State of the Steven

I did it again. I mentioned my upcoming move in an offhanded comment on Heather’s blog, and she said, “And does this mean you’ve made a decision?? Spill!”

One again, I was absolutely certain that I had talked about this on the blog, but I haven’t. I scrolled back through the last few posts, and when I talked about this in February, I was still thinking about it and I hadn’t locked anything in.

So with that in mind, I thought it would be a nice time to do an overall check-in, a sort of “State of the Steven” post as it were. We’ll start with the topic I already brought up-

I’m moving! I spent a lot of time thinking about the things I mentioned back in February, and I talked the ears off of anyone who would listen about the possibility of a move. Most of the people in closest proximity to me figured out that I was definitely going before I knew it myself.

I did a ton of research, looked at dozens of possible places to live, talked on the phone with one helpful-but-also-standoffish realtor, and took several “virtual tours” of possible apartment buildings. Just a hair under two weeks ago, I signed a lease for an apartment in Arlington, VA, just outside of Washington DC. I have about ten weeks left in Florida then I’m headed up to the new place in August.

map of where I will be living relative to DC
The red pin is approximately where the new apartment is located.

On January 1st, I posted about my theoretical goals for the year, and one of them was blogging more consistently. I’ve obviously let that one slide, so let’s take a quick look at a few of the other biggies:

Health, exercise, and sleep: I started out the year strong on this one, but then we got a pandemic. My access to the treadmill went away. Grocery shopping involved more and more junk food and beer. All the things that keep me sane like live music and trivia out with my friends went away for more than two months. Time began to lose all meaning, thanks to the stay-at-home orders, and my sleep went off the rails. So overall, I would say this goal could be better.

Travel: Unfortunately, Covid-19 and the stay at home orders have killed this one. I’ve had five trips involving air travel killed so far this year, and one remaining for September is in serious doubt. I’ll probably be going up to DC in late June, partly to collect keys to my new apartment and partly because the planned Seattle trip with my sister got squashed and we’re trying to make up for it with a smaller East Coast city-hop. We have to wait for touristy things to open though; if we went now we wouldn’t be able to do anything.

Live Music: This is an utter failure, again because of the pandemic. I’ve honestly lost count of how many shows have been canceled, postponed, or rescheduled, but it’s more than twenty so far. The picture to the right is the little whiteboard in my office. The left column is cancellations and it’s only shorter than the other column because I erase shows once a refund is received. The right column is any show that’s been postponed but hasn’t said anything else about the status. If a show gets rescheduled, I’ll either erase it from the right column or move it to the left, pending a refund. I’ve given this WAY too much thought.

And some of the smaller goals from the January 1st post-

  • See more Shakespeare – I watched a little on YouTube, but the pandemic has put a kibosh in this one. Still, there’s a great Shakespeare theater in DC, so I’m optimistic for the future.
  • Make a decision about moving – Finally, a goal that I can actually say is DONE. All that’s left now are the move itself, the acclimating to a new city, and so forth.
  • More decluttering – I’ve actually done a heap of this in preparation for my move- I got rid of the kitchen stools I never sit in, the second television I don’t need, some other small furniture items, and a few odds and ends. I still have way more than I really want to bring for an interstate move, but hey, it’s a start.

How’re you doing so far this year?

18/52