Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bike trail etiquette...

There's a way to do these things.

When a bike is approaching you from behind, the rider is supposed to shout "On your left" or something about "left" short of "I loved the Left Behind Series" if he's passing on the left. Same goes for the right, except they should use the word "right". But yesterday, when a few bicyclists were passing me, all I got was, "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!" All of them shouted simultaneously and literally weaved around like they were drunk once they were past. When my turn came to do things the right way, I shouted to a rider in front of me, "On your left"... and he moved to his left... oy.

It's probably not proper etiquette to stare at female joggers as you ride by, something I still have to learn.

One thing I love about biking is the level of friendliness riders have, which is all over the map. Some riders wave and say, "Good morning!" I'm too busy thinking, "Don't have a heart attack. Don't have a stroke." to reply. I usually give a single head nod, which is probably indiscernable since my weary head is already bobbing-a'plenty and might explain why some people give me an odd look and ride by. Others avoid you, caught in their fear of being alone on a river trail rumored to house muggers, murderers, rapists, and Episcopalians. Lighten up, folks.

Recently, I started riding before work. I'm up to about 16 miles each morning or so but, to do that, I have to leave at 5:am. It's still dark at that time of the morning and it remains dark until I hit the farthest point of my ride, where I head back home. Then, the diffused sunlight, itself appearing too weary to be up - who in their right mind would be? - slowly begins to bring relief to the east. I stop. I step off the bike. I think about my life, count my blessings, and try to set a positive attitude for the day. Up until then, the only signs of humanity are individual headlights coming towards me on the trail in the darkness. After, there are bikes a'plenty, bunny rabbits, egrets, a few cute jogger chicks, a congregation of life using the river and I am just one. My iPod keeps my legs pumping. I count streets until my exit. And I nod at those I pass.

Once in a while, I catch sight of someone less fortunate than myself, a guy who sleeps on a bench in one of the picnic areas or another with a bike so loaded up you think it won't work but it does. It reminds me that there's more to this life than riding alongside a scampering rabbit or waving at the jogger chicks doing their stretches and that I am enjoying a priviledge. Keeping that in mind is my bike trail etiquette.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Conflict Resolution...

The thing I love about writing - and this probably applies to anything you love to do, such as acting, or painting, or sex - is that I'm constantly learning my craft. Things get better and I'm easily impressed, so...

But I figure this would be a good time to lay down my most recent lesson in the art of playwriting: Conflicts and How NOT to Create Them.

I finished Act One of the new play this weekend. In it, the Conflicts are obvious and right up front. I think that's the best way to go. Look at Shakespeare - I'm not drawing any comparison here! I'm just saying! - his conflicts were right up front: Romeo and Juliet couldn't be together. Hamlet had to avenge his father. Cesar had the whole "stabbing" thing.

My plays are not on such a scale. I write about typical, common, average... geez, boring people... In the new play, the conflicts are: an inability to conceive and insecurity. Nobody's left guessing after the first act what's going on, just how they're going to get out of this mess.

So, now that that's clear, let's look at my last play. In Whatever Happened To Me, the conflict between the main characters was clear: a couple struggles through an agonizing divorce when a younger version of the man comes to steal the woman away. But it's never been my favorite play and I'll tell you why. The relationship between the father and the son is forced. It's uncomfortable. It's wrong. You know why? Because you have no idea what the conflict is until the end of the play. The conflict isn't resolved; it's just illuminated! And the illumination is a copout because the conflict between the father and the son has nothing to do with the ultimate illumination (turns out the mother died of cancer, blah, blah, blah); the conflict is the conflict! Sometimes, fathers and sons can't stand each other. I know! So, trying to find an excuse for the conflict is amateurish and forced.

That's one of the great things about learning the craft. Now, I can go back and fix that. I can remove the stupid excuses and deal with the conflict itself.

And maybe, end up with a play I like.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Church of Charlton Heston...

So, I was surfing on rather tepid waves of the Web the other day when this picture caught my eye. Looks like the Mormons actually worship Charlton Heston...

... which makes a lot more sense to me...

More slogans they don't want you to hear...

"You can take the boy out of the priest, but you can't take the priest out of the boy." - Catholic Church.




... oh yeah? Well, it's hard to be topical!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Summer. 1983.

My first love.

I broke up with her in the most horrible, petty way – over the phone – over another girl – I was a louse.

25 years later.

I reconnected with Teresa through a miracle called the Internet and the first thing I did was apologize. I didn’t do it for her benefit. I did it for my own. I did it because I hurt myself with that act. I degraded myself and behaved as less than a man.

Now, we’re corresponding – and I can hear you out there. I can hear what you’re saying. “Ken! Sherryl and Cindy and now Teresa! How does Vicky handle you talking with all these ex-girlfriends of yours?”

I want to address this but let’s move Sherryl over to one side because she and I talk once a month; we’re more acquaintances than friends. Cindy and I are friends but Vicky’s met Cindy and knows there’s no threat there.

Now, Teresa. My first love. A girl I haven’t forgotten for 25 years. How can Vicky deal with my corresponding with her? Well, first of all, Vicky trusts me.

But enough about her. You’re wondering what I feel – I know I am. I was sitting on the sofa just now and that very thought fluttered by the landscaping of my mind. What do I feel?

First, I’m amazed. Life is so ripe with hope. It’s all around us. I mean, right here was someone I wronged, who has forgiven me, and is opening a friendship. It’s really amazing.

But who is this person? Is it Teresa? She sent me a picture of the girl I knew back in 1983 – almost like she was holding her hostage in a way, this other person who holds her name now in the present. I looked at that picture and felt pierced. Here was the face that I had etched into my brain as Teresa. That was her! Who was this person who sent me the picture?

Yes, who was this person? That’s the thing, really. She’s not the Teresa I knew. I’m not the Ken she knew. The most interesting thing about all this is that we both are total strangers, connected by a similar past. We may get to know one another and we may find each other completely wonderful – or completely annoying. The Teresa I knew exists only in my memory and I am thankful for that. This new Teresa may be my friend. I hope so.

Signs of hope in humanity don’t saunter by every day. I like to enjoy every single one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Something about a fifth Indiana Jones film...?

Here's a movie I'd love to see them make:

Curse of the Holy Crap

That's it. That's the joke. Just something about the juxtapotion of those words just makes me smile...

... or, at least, if a TV announcer could be eaten by a shark as he read it...

Friday, July 11, 2008

There’s a definition that needs “tweaking”…


Really? Racy?

I was greeted this morning with the banner headline “Web Site Posts Racy Miss Washington Pics”. Now, Miss Washington is no dog – so, being the perv that I am, I looked. Of course.

But seriously, someone has GOT to do something about our definition of racy. A little standardization, please! When I think of “racy”, I think of just shy of hardcore porn. Topless in a Jacuzzi, say. But whoever broke this story – Woodward and Bernie, they ain’t – must have been raised in an Amish township. To this idiot, “racy” is a picture of someone in her bra. Uh, that’s just a bikini top. It’s also someone flipping off a camera. Don’t go into the city much? It could also be making “suggestive hand gestures”… CALLING DR. FREUD!

Seriously, I’m a busy guy. If you’re going to turn me on to some high-class porn, fine. But don’t waste my time with this!

Seriously, I think this is how the FISA (Fourth Is a Superfluous Amendment) Bill got passed. We Americans allow ourselves to be too threatened by boobs to use our brains… and the contents of Miss W’s bra ain’t too bad, either.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More like Obamaybe…

Dear Mr. Obama,

When you voted for FISA, you took a horrible turn down the wrong direction. You betrayed the principles of the Constitution. No worse than the others who voted for it, perhaps, but you’re supposed to be better. We should be able to hold you to a higher standard.

This FISA bill gutted the fourth amendment and you know that. It’s going to be very difficult for me to vote for you come November. Will others? Sure, they will. You’ll win. I don’t doubt that. But principles are no more about voting for the winner than they are about taking the easy way in order to get more votes.

People will vote for you because they don’t dare allow McSame to win. But you know this should never be allowed to become a race between the lesser of two evils and that’s what you’re creating.

So, you owe us. You owe us big. When you take office, it will be your duty as President, as a Constitutional Scholar, as an American, as a Reasoned Human Being to right this wrong. I only hope you have the strength to do that. Because you didn’t have the strength today.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Leaving Cambria…

Vicky and I went up to Cambria this weekend for three days of great food, fantastic wine, and general R&R On the way home, Vicky asked me what I’d be writing about in the blog. We went over a few things, some you may see over on One Path, but the one that’s most pressing to me, the darker one which is why it’s over here on My Side (My Side has become the default setting for the more jaded, cynical, and generally weathered and worn Ken), is the one I want to write about first.

Have I mentioned that I’ve solved the question of Free Will? It’s simple and takes only a few, basic, physical laws. I know that’s my next book of philosophy but getting down to write it is another issue entirely. Part of the reason I want to write about free will has to do with my unique perspective on the subject. When my brain makes me see things that aren’t there or hear voices or muddies my vision by throwing up life-sized pictures in 3D or when I sleepwalk or when things get generally fucked up, I have to wonder how free will applies. How can I be said to have free will at times like that?

This takes the question of free will out of the realm of predestination and puts it on a more existential footing: What do you do about it?

You get through, that’s what you do.

And so it was that Vicky and I were sitting at a table in Lynn’s in downtown Cambria, I was eating my steak, when – like some carnival funhouse – my vision split. This is a singularly unpleasant experience. On one hand, I was at the table. Vicky was in front of me. We were carrying on an innocuous conversation about the kid at the other table looking like the guy from Napoleon Dynamite. (“Ghaa! Idiots!”) On the other hand – almost like I was in two places at once – I was sitting in a living room with my dad and we were watching real estate listings for desert properties. (In case that description is too difficult to understand, here’s another way. I sat inside the living room and two windows looked out over dinner. Still confused?) It was such a random image that it nearly hurt. I had to clench my eyes tight to try to shut it out. Opening them, I noticed the label on the A1 bottle was printed in Cyrillic. The hell??? I clenched my eyes shut again.

Vicky asked, “What’s wrong?”

I said, “It’s not in English.”

That’s what it’s like being married to Ken. Here’s what it’s like being married to Vicky. She solved the problem by simply turning the bottle around. I doubt she even knew what I was talking about but she waited for whatever was happening to pass. (One answer to this problem may lie in the fact that the part of your mind in charge of dreams and hallucinations is far from the language center.)

Problem was, it didn’t pass. Over the next few hours, I worried away at the image like a rotten tooth. I thought that my dad and I were in Seattle. But why were we watching real estate listings on TV for desert properties in Seattle? I realized Rosa was there. Slowly, the image came into a sharp relief.

But it was no relief at all. Almost like remembering part of a lyric and trying to remember what song it’s from, I dissected the image. Over a day later, and much to my surprise, I realized that this image that kept colliding into my psyche wasn’t one image at all. The house in Seattle was real but my dad and I didn’t look at those real estate listings there. The real estate listings came from a time in the mid-1980’s, when my dad and Blanche and Dwight and Richard lived in Bloomington and my dad would often check out real estate listings and explain them to me. But the third part of the image – Rosa – why was she there?

Do I need to tell you?

And so, I came to realize that the different parts of the picture were nagging at me as much as I was nagging at them. My dad’s been out of town and out of contact for over a month now. As sick as he’s been, I am very worried about his health – his life.

But what does this have to do with free will, anyway? I had planned to write a book about free will, set amidst fictional conversations with my father. Now, here was my father, slamming into my right eye – as if to ask me, “Why do the conversations have to be fictional?” I was the only member of my family who could write my father’s biography and now, in the final days of his life, it would be best to get started before too late.

I could write about his life and the actions the set his course, time and again, using these as examples of what free will actually was, what it meant, how it worked. I followed the progression of his life up to my mother and through to Blanche. I thought about the destruction my parent’s divorce wrought on my mother’s life and that’s where Rosa fit, because losing her had destroyed me so, with repercussions still felt to this day. (It was with Freudian irony that the first relationship I had after Rosa was with a single mother of three children!) And I realized that my own life is a series of exercises in free will. Maybe correlations can be drawn between the two lives. After all, I’m no biographer; I can’t do a proper biographer but I can use history to show how free will works in our lives and how the physical laws I mentioned earlier can be expressed in time.

Finally, this could all come together to show how free will functions in the life of someone whose own brain often works against his will and, possibly, his own best interest.

I don’t know if I can do this. The situation at work does not allow me to write. But I know that there’s something in all this and maybe I’m working on it without my knowledge. Either way, I’m running out of time, my brain doesn’t want to wait and, as I’ve so often been shown, I’m doing it whether I want to or not.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Shrub decides Mandela’s not such a threat after all…

It’s nice to know we’re finally sorting out the terrorists from the Nobel Prize winners. It took Bush a while because, after all… he is… black…

Next week, they may decide that war does not equal peace… but don’t bet on it.

Everybody must get stoned… in the US, at least…

So, it looks like the United States is full of stoners. It’s a good thing we made all those drugs illegal and treat usage as a crime so our Prison Industrial Complex makes lots and lots of profits for the rich people who invest in… while the poor get hooked on…

You know, if I was inclined to find conspiracies, I just might… nah! Surely, it’s all a coincidence!