Dumb Advice for the Alternate

A stranger knocks on your door, asking for directions from your home to the closest gas station (or café, or library. Your pick!). Instead of the fastest and shortest route, give him/her the one involving the most fun detours.


Type, type, type…

Ironing out the latest WordPress task…

Slurp, slurp, slurp…

Drinking down the last of the milk in my cereal bowl…

Knock, knock, knock…

Someone’s at the door…

I put down my laptop, move the black cat away, and go through the kitchen to see who’s there.PTDC0073 (2)

A tall, handsome man, who looks about 20 with short brown hair and a fair complexion, is standing outside on the steps. He is wearing a Darth Vader shirt and looks exhausted. I look over his shoulder and there is a bike lying on the driveway; he must have come a long way to my house in a hurry.

I hesitate for a bit and then open the front door. “Yes? What can I help you with?”

This man, who looks oddly like someone I know, asks, “Do you have directions to success?” His voice is deep and monotonous.

The question shocks me at bit. I’ve never been asked one like it before. I look at him a moment, scanning his face, looking for his motives, but, after thinking, respond to his question.

“Get a job at McDonald’s and you’ll be all set.”

He looks at me with a funny expression. “Really, that’s it?”

“Yup. See, you can work your way up through the ranks and eventually become head of the corporation.”

The 20-something man looks at me thoughtfully. “How long should I stay at McDonald’s before I become successful?”

I try to hold back a laugh, a smug smile coming across my face. “I’d say about five years and then you’ll start seeing progress.”

(The man starts working at McDonald’s and gets fired the next day for causing a big grease fire).

The 20-something then nods appreciatively. “Well, thank you. I appreciate your advice. Is there anything else you have for me?”

I look at him curiously, still wondering why this man reminds me of myself, and respond again.

“Um, yeah, I think you should also try to start a musical career. Just pick up your guitar, or whatever instrument you have, take it down to the corner, and start playing. People will love you.”

The man puts his hand to his chin, stroking it and thinking deeply. “Yeah, that sounds awesome. I have a guitar and know some music and could earn some cash doing so.”

(The man plays his guitar on the corner of Windham Hills. Most people laugh or completely ignore him. He sounds horrible with his guitar way out of tune, no accompanying back-up, and not to mention him having a terrible singing voice).

The man is not done yet. “What about going to college or starting a business? Aren’t those big ways to find success?”

At this point I just want to get back to my life and start winging more bologna at the man. “No, college is overrated and no one has ever achieved much by going. As for the business, if you want to start one, I’d advise you to go into selling bootlegged copies of music.”

The man, brainwashed by my silly advice, also takes this last piece to heart. “Okay, so no college and selling bootlegged copies of music seems good, I already know how to get the music without paying for it.”

(In an alternate universe, the man would have been a multi-millionaire with two yachts, if he’d not taken my advice and had graduated from college. As for the bootlegged business, he was arrested, fined for at least $250,000, and sentenced to five years in prison).

“Well, I will take your advice strongly. Thanks for the help! But I have just one more question – what about finding the love of my life? What should I do if I meet someone and have a strong connection to them?”

This causes me to stroke my chin thoughtfully. “Hmm…well, I would not answer her phone calls and every time a date comes up, say you are out with some of your friends at a strip club getting rowdy drunk. She’ll appreciate it and love you more.”

The man makes no sign of seeing false advice here, not even giving me a scrutinizing look, but says, “Got it! Thank you!”

He retreats down the steps, waves back at me, and hops on his bike, riding away. I slam the door and a chorus of laughter erupts from my belly. What a fool.

That fool turned out to be me from an alternate universe, who was still taking people’s advice too strongly without any thinking for himself.


Daily Prompt 10/18/14

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From Under the Coffee Table

What’s your earliest memory involving another person? Recreate the scene — from the other person’s perspective.


Obviously, the vague memory of my mother and the time she picked me up off the floor to go to the hospital is the first thing that comes to mind. That was the first time I can remember seeing her. I was a little older than one. According to mom’s frantic pants and hints about “It’s acting up again”, I was having digestive problems once more. The following is me following the experience as my mom.

~~~~

“Matthew!”, she shouted with panic in her voice.

He was crawling under the living room coffee table, hitting his head against the wood and making some sort of grunting sound. Jill immediately became concerned and thoughts of those grueling doctor visits came back to mind. Obviously it was his digestive problems again. Bob was working the night shift at Meijer so she was the only one around to take action.

“I can’t do this anymore, we’re going to the hospital.”

Jill scrambled over and picked up the little baby, dressed in his red and white striped outfit, in her rough callused hands and rushed out the white front door and into the chilly air in the middle of the night. Running across the slick pavement, her motherly instincts kicked in with more worries of trouble with Matthew arising. She reached the family’s purple mini-van and slid open the side door with Matthew in one arm.

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Jill tucked him into his car seat, he just sitting there and not saying anything, and hopped into the driver’s seat, pulling out of BA’s parking spot with the fierceness of a deranged woman. She kept looking in the rear view mirror to see if Matt was okay. He still couldn’t talk so her assessment of his problems was tough, having to go by certain signals that arose, things that immediately made Jill know he was in trouble. Matthew just sat there calmly, probably having no clue what was going on right now and would likely not remember much of tonight’s events.

Rushing out of the subdivision and into the bustling city of Jackson, Jill arrived at the hospital, checked in, and got Matthew into a room quickly. The nurse already knew about his problems and calmly nodded and placed the baby carefully on the bed.

“I’ve been through this so many times already”, Jill said sarcastically. “How long will it be before you are done with him?”

The nurse looked apologetically at me and said calmly, “He’ll stay overnight, but you’re free to stay with him if you like.”

“Yeah, that won’t be a problem.”

So as a mother protective of her first newborn, Jill sat through the night in that hospital room, as Matthew was treated for his IBS. But she didn’t remember all the details since the nurse told her to step outside while certain procedures were done. So Jill waited in the lobby, impatiently sitting in an uncomfortable armchair, her face all flushed, heart rate jumping a mile a minute. She just wanted to have her baby back and have everything be okay with him. Jill was tired of these regular trips to the wing. Something needed to be done quickly about her boy’s problems.

The next morning, she went in the room and saw the nurse standing at the end of Matthew’s bed. He was lying near the headboard, quiet and innocent looking. The nurse was checking something off a clipboard she held. White curtains hung around the bed, shielding Matthew from disturbance and creating a peaceful canopy for him.

“Is he okay?”, Jill asked.

“Yeah, it was a rough night, had to get him to stay still while I took care of things. He cried a lot”

“Will we have to do this again or is this it?”

“No, I believe he is going to be okay now. Everything has been taken care off. But if the problem resumes, you can always come back and we’ll do more tests.”

“Okay, well, I’ve got to get to work soon.”

Jill looked at her baby thoughtfully, just happy that he was still there, as unassuming as could be. Her love for him increased largely.

“You’re coming home with mommy now,” the nurse said to Matthew in a playful voice. He looked at the nurse curiously while fidgeting with the folds of the blanket he was lying on.

There was a certain airy feeling in this room, almost like a dream, or at least that’s how Jill felt, feeling joyful, waiting eagerly for her baby to be back in her arms.

“Are you okay, Matthew?”, she asked with light concern. “We’re going home today, you should be all better now.”

“Yup, he’s doing fine now”, the nurse agreed, moving over to the bed to pick up the baby.

“Matthew”, Jill cooed. “Hey, look up here at mommy.”

And indeed, everything was fine now because the nurse smiled happily at Matthew as she held him and then at me, and Jill chortled softly, knowing that this was just one of countless experiences to happen with her child down the long road. She wondered if he would remember even the faintest details about it.

– Obviously what you just read here might not all be true. I improvised some of it since I do not remember what happened in between the trip to the hospital and the next morning.


Daily Prompt 10/17/14

In A Prison

Did you know today is Blog Action Day? Join bloggers from around the world and write a post about what inequality means to you. Have you ever encountered it in your daily life?


Inequality is like being locked in a prison
With no one to see or hear you
No matter how much you shout for help
You are all alone and there is no one around to care
I’ve been in this type of prison many times in life
Nowadays I feel more free but as a young adolescent it was a tough battle
I had to endure taunts and long uncomfortable stares
Whispers behind my back, little things that cowered me further into a shell
I feel like I was born with the most unforgiving inequalities:
Bad eyes, can’t drive, trouble with relationships, futile job searches, being turned down every time, bad hips, scoliosis, getting discouraging thoughts about life, feeling of hopelessness
The broader inequality prison today for me is in terms of money and power
How certain people get top priority and special treatment over others just because of fame or name recognition
It angers me inside how unfair life can be
How the world still views money as the driving force between individuals
But there is nothing I can do about it
Because I am within the boundaries of a prison
I can only go so far before hitting a hard invisible wall like in video games
Looking up, I can see the faintest way over this barrier
But it is very, very high and slick and all I have is a single length of long rope
I’ve tried many times to throw that rope over the wall
Only to have it fall back down to earth in a pathetic heap
I still have not given up hope though
There is still a chance for me
Graduating from college with a degree has given me an edge
Someday I’ll be strong enough to get that rope over the wall
And scale over it to reach new, exciting places
But for now I’m trapped in an inequality prison
And life is neither good nor bad, but mediocre


Daily Prompt 10/16/14

Non-conformist

From your musical tastes to your political views, were you ever way ahead of the rest of us, adopting the new and the emerging before everyone else?


There is a lonely road somewhere in the world
Where only the non-conformists go
It is quite lonely because not many stay on this road
Choosing to be swayed into the appetizing jaws of popular culture
But I’m one of the 10% that has not given an inch
I’m never ahead of the pack because I refuse to swim with the same pack
The pack is full of conforming, small-minded people who all follow the same rules and lines of society
I’m a lone wolf, choosing my own likes and interests and many of those things never see the light of day
The new and emerging? It doesn’t matter to me. I prefer to stick to my roots and stay with what I like best
Culture is changing way too much. I don’t try to keep up with it anymore. Once something gets popular I might sway over to it if something inside clicks but most of the time I hate trying new trends or going where the grass collects most water.
I’m a non-conformist when it comes to trends and popular culture. Had to survive an entire two years or so of Bieber Fever and every time something on TV or the internet would try to sway me, I would gallop my pony straight away from it.
Twitter? Tweets? To this day, I have still not conformed to them. Makes me rage inside when society goes crazy over the latest trends on Twitter. It’s all a popular culture thing anyway and is good for maybe five minutes at best. I barely get on the Twitter-sphere more than a couple times a YEAR and that’s just for big events like the Super Bowl.

I don’t usually discover things before others simply because I am not always out there looking for new things, keeping my head above water per say. One exception in this matter was in the case of Chris Daughtry who I started following back before he became mega-successful when he was apart of the grunge band Absent Element that produced one album that is exceptionally hard to find nowadays.

Politics I could care less about. Bores me to death. Everything flows together like butter and syrup in my opinion. No originality whatsoever.

Most of the time I’m playing catch-up with the trend slaves of popular culture because I feel superior while doing so. I like being behind because it makes me the one who is choosing to like what comes best for me, not because others are going crazy about it. I’m not much of an avant garde person. There really isn’t much I am doing that hasn’t been done already. I’m not a trendsetter, there are other, more creative and talented people for that. I’m usually a bandwagon guy, a sheep, catching on to something when it has exposed itself to the broader public.

The paradox of conformity/non-conformity:

I want to be a non-conformist…just like everyone else…so that’s means I really want to be a conformist…who non-conforms against the non-conformists…but then I would be a non-conformist…who non-conforms against the conformists…but still a conformist because I’m non-conforming like everyone else…but I’m still a non-conformist….or a conformist?


Daily Prompt 10/15/14 

Abandoned

To access the state of this room
I had to sit in a while
And think how it came to be
How it reached it’s chaotic ways
How it was abandoned by me

The troops came marching in
Everything was horrid
Had to be disbanded
No more place for snoring

The need to stay here waned
The desk became cluttered
Clothes scattered everywhere
Steps became stuttered

This of long time ago
When so much talk was about
TV watching, bed gazing
And maybe thoughts of getting out

Piled higher than Mount Everest
Chairs littered with books
Now posters hang on the walls
Still giving me funny looks

Like a perpetual museum
Everything collecting dust
Guitar still sits in the closet
No string plucked in months

Bed frame upturned, forever unslept in
Taped up walls, always decrepit

Music passes through my ears
Taking in the sights and sounds
I am the champion
Of this old playground

The one that started everything
Raised my spirits and gave me pain
Round and round I go
Cycling in and out this plane

Things keep changing, changing
Time keeps moving, moving
If beige walls could speak
They’d tell me of all the memories rooming

Lone shoe
Unworn in years
Now I clear my slate
And cast away my fears

Finally basking in my finest hour
My little square sanctuary
Where I can think about tomorrow

This room is like a jungle
So much strewn about
A forgotten business idea
Now just cards of thought

Cedar poster on the wall
Christmas stockings still hang about
Until when needed
They never shout

This room was abandoned 
But now it is filled 
Seeing my love again 
Thawing out the chilled

But it might not last long
For there is little here to see
The only thing keeping it afloat
Is the creative mind of me


What’s messier right now — your bedroom or you computer’s desktop (or your favorite device’s home screen)? Tell us how and why it got to that state.

Eudaimonia

Aristotle, one of the greatest thinkers of western philosophy, taught us that happiness is a virtue, not its reward. This means that happiness is a gift that is not to be taken for granted. It is the ultimate purpose of our existence. It does not come and vanish in a mere couple of hours. Happiness depends on ourselves. We choose to be happy. Aristotle gave a true definition of happiness:

…the function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, then happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. (Nicomachean Ethics, 1098a13)

Am I a good judge of other people’s happiness? That depends. I don’t know if I’m truly happy myself. My self-absorption clouds my judgment, I can’t look past my inner demons to realize others are facing predicaments that question the nature of their existence. This is tough. I am more inclined in seeing the sadness in people. Since I am a loner and often have depressive states, seeing people on a level of my own makes me feel better because I know they have something in common with me: this insurmountable wall that I cannot seem to get over. But I feel safer on the other side anyway because I don’t have to face my struggles with human interaction and emotion. Stepping out into the light bothers me. I feel better being isolated and not having to win the acceptance of someone else because when I fail at that I often become even more depressed.

I close my eyes for a while, trying to think of a time when I knew someone was happy. For some reason, my late grandmother comes to mind. I am standing by her bedside, seeing her lying there, pale and cold as ever, holding on to her last few breaths of life. She has lost all focus of the world and her words and actions are not entirely hers, coming about from the Alzheimer’s that has progressed ruthlessly. I can tell she is happy and content inside, even if it isn’t readily apparent, because very soon she will be going to a better place, away from the agony and suffering that has been cast upon her. This is not like her. She has always been a strong woman, always alert and on her feet. I hate to see her struggle like this, acting like a totally different person and scaring me. I can tell she doesn’t want to go through with this sickness any longer, wants to rest in peace, be in a state of happiness. A deep depression washes over me. My mind is numb as ice. I can’t quite decipher any emotions for this experience. I guess I just realize dying is the natural part of life and learn to get over it. Grieving is painful. I don’t know how to deal with it. I’m trapped in my mind. Nothing can get out. It is a dark void. There is no where to go but straight. Behind me is just the shadows of despair. The road is foggy up ahead. I am so young, unable to take the burden of this loss.

I’m tired. I can’t go on any longer.


 In Response to the Daily Prompt: Happy Radars

Am I in a Movie?

My family and I were in Lansing on the twelfth of February – my sister Emily’s 18th birthday – and heading over to the CSL Plasma center to donate for some money like we’ve been doing for over 2 years now, excluding her and my dad. Not the best way to get by but it helps out a lot since we are so cash-strapped and can’t even afford a new dryer. It was supposed to be a great day for my sister – I mean, this is her last day officially as a kid and will soon be able to do anything she ever dreamed of, except drink yet, of course, which isn’t a big priority for her anyway.

First, my dad pulled into the Speedway/Sunny Day gas station to, you know, fill er up. It’s usually a stop and go, normal everyday situation. But today I sensed something different. For one thing, Dad was slower than usual, and he is pretty slow anyways; he was in the store for quite a while. Finally, he came out of the store with a receipt, crinkled it up, and threw it in the trash. We were making jokes about him being slow and a putz and other jokes about Charles and Al, two lovable buffoons, who didn’t go to donate today. The commotion broke out as my dad, Bob, was pumping gas. I was in the middle seat, thinking away absent-minded, and heard some shouting behind me. Then I heard a gunshot but was oblivious to the moment, didn’t know exactly what was happening at first and didn’t react immediately. Then a grey SUV backed up into another behind a gas pump and smashed its front bumper up pretty good, pushing in the front end of the car like an accordion. The damaged car turned around and fled, the driver obviously pissed. We thought at first that a riot was going to break out and this was some sort of dispute. But then Emily and my uncle Jack, who saw the action from the backseat, believed it was an undercover cop after they saw a man in a brown coat running after the criminal’s car. The details were murky from my point of view but all the undercover cop did was shoot the guy’s tires; I thought someone got shot and was lying on the ground; It could have ended up much worse. The criminal fled in his car and jumped over a snow bank.

Later on, behind the snow bank, I saw a couple of men chasing the fugitive after he ditched the car which either crashed into something or was cornered by the police. The guy was obviously wanted and had been staked out perfectly at the gas station. As we were finally getting the hell out of there another grey SUV pulled into the gas station and seemed to drive over the debris left over from the collision as if the driver didn’t notice it was there. I thought “how stupid can this guy be?”

I guess it’s a good thing we weren’t in the middle of the commotion or dad wasn’t walking towards the store as that SUV backed up into the other one. We should have ducked our heads when that gun went off but I guess we’re not so used to situations like this. It was fairly controlled and the cop knew what he was doing and obviously had some backup to stop the criminal from getting away. Still, though, shooting a gun off in broad daylight in front of innocent bystanders is a bit risky. Jack had this crazy idea afterwards that it was a scene being filmed for a movie and the people at the gas station were extras. It sure seemed like it because I’ve probably been to gas stations a million times and nothing like this ever happened. It was like an action scene from an old Bruce Willis’ flick or an episode of COPS. Either way, it was surreal.

Dad was so slow getting out of there, just taking his merry time with pumping the gas; Mom and Jack were yelling for him to hurry up, and it is funny when my uncle Jack gets nervous because he sounds like a little schoolgirl with his voice getting high. A blue-shirted employee of the Sunny Day convenience store came out and looked around like “What the hell?”

In front of us was a brown car at the pump and an African-American man near it with a winter hat and a red plaid, Paul Bunyan-esque shirt on. He was just laughing like what just happened was no big deal. Yeah, I’m sure he’s seen his fair share of eruptions in the cruddy city of Holt-Lansing.

“Just another day in Lansing” I said.

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and then…

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Another thing like this happened on July 7, 2007. 7/7/7. Supposed to be one of the luckiest days ever but not for an unfortunate driver in Detroit. As we were heading out from Detroit at night from a 14-inning stint with the Red Sox, the Tigers winning by the way of a walk off double, we came upon an intersection on MLK Boulevard. We were about to cross it when a car came zooming by from the left and hit the side of a car coming from the road in front of us, smashing in it’s side door and spinning it around several times. The other car just kept on going through the intersection and never looked back, the driver not stopping and facing up to their reckless, life threatening mistake. This night was another lucky break for us, being in the right place at the right time. Dad called in the accident like a noble Samaritan would.

Afterward, back in 2014, we donated and got our money and left the strange city of Holt-Lansing where there are shoot and runs, people just nonchalantly walking out into the street full of cars, and poor beggars on every corner. As day turned to night, we arrived at Ruby Tuesdays in Okemos to eat dinner. A fine restaurant with a nice salad bar that really upped the meal I got (a slice of hickory bourbon chicken with a side of onion rings). We had a young waitress that looked like in she was in her 20s, blonde and kind of ditzy like a pre-Penny at the Cheesecake Factory. I thought she was kind of cute and I smiled at her and tried to get her attention and it worked quite a bit. Even walked by the section where she and the servers were and then walked right around the middle bar and stool section. So silly of me, I thought afterward.


DP