My Most Prized Possession

I like to write. On more than one occasions I’ve said that I like to make my fingers go tappity-tap on the keyboard, that there’s a visceral thrill in rapidly negotiating those 26+ buttons, the satisfaction of getting so into it that sometimes I even use four fingers instead of just my usual hunt-and-peck two. But I need to having something to write about, and I’ve come to like that too. Mostly I like sentences. I like to make words bob and weave. I’d like to think that I could read my sentences out loud to someone who didn’t even understand English and they’d somehow get it. Not the meaning of course—the meaning is meaningless. But they’d hear that rhythm.

I also like to take pictures. I’d like to think that there’s a creative impulse in me, and the same on that likes to write is the one that pics up the camera almost every day. It’s not even the thing I’m photographing as much as it’s the challenge. Framing and lighting and depth of field. And then the real fun begins, in post-processing, turning a picture of something into a statement of some kind. But, like above, not a statement that says something meaningful. I’m trying to create rhythm in an otherwise static medium.

The topic of today’s post is my most prized possession, and for me, it’s my camera. I struggled with this idea for most of the day. I knew I wanted to reject going with something pithy or ironic. I cherish my wife, cherish our house, cherish memories of past vacations, cherish the small bag of M&Ms sitting next to me. But I wanted to address this subject without being clever. Wanted to find something to write about that is just an object, a tangible, physical object that I treasure

But I realized that I really don’t hold my possessions that dearly. Indeed, I’ve been trying to get rid of things for a while now. I love to read, I read all the time, but I can’t stand having books overflowing a bookcase. I don’t need to own a ton of esoteric DVDs. I’m a nerd, into nerd things, but nerds love stuff too much, doodads and figurines and all matter of effluvia. I can’t stand it.

Give me four plain walls and something to sit on, and I’m happy. And my camera. (My hard drive, on the other hand, is nearly over-full; apparently my disdain for stuff doesn’t apply to the digital. I was very much born into the correct place in history—I keep I create on my computer. I’m a regular e-hoarder.)

I take pictures, load ‘them up to the hard drive, and then delete them off the camera’s memory card so I can go take more. I’ve only been doing this for a few years now, but I am finding it hard to imagine not doing it. The camera bag goes with me everywhere. Even to the grocery store. Sure, it stays in the car, but I know it’s there, just in case I come outside with two loaves of bread and see an amazing sky.

blades by the seaI can give you a history of where I’ve gone with my camera, but that’s not the point. It’s not for making memories. It’s not for capturing something I’ve seen. It’s for creating. I’m a function follows form kind of guy. That aforementioned tappity-tap? It leads to stories. The stories aren’t there to be told, and the tappity-tap an artifact of the telling. It’s the other way around. There’s music in the tapping, and that music creates its own story. And with the photos, a field of flowers doesn’t say anything. But if I can get it at the right angle, and push the right buttons in Photoshop, I can discover something that’s never been seen before.

The onus, then, is not on perfection, or even communication, but on exploration. That’s very liberating, and let me urge you to consider embracing such a gestalt. Free your creativity of judgement and you’ll find yourself loving the process more than the product. Oh, sometimes, you’ll accidentally create a work of heart-breaking genius. No one has to know it was only one word in a dictionary of millions.

My camera has taught me a lot of things. There’s rarely a good reason to not take the picture. For every good picture I see, there were a hundred others that I didn’t see. Shoot now, think later affords a state of calm, a mindfulness that puts me in the moment without anxiety or fear.

So there, got my pith and irony after all: my most treasured possession is the one thing that helps me create more nothing.

Turn The Music Up Until Your Head Hurts More Than Your Heart

A canary is binary because its yellow or it’s not, and if you have one caged and aging, waiting for the sweet evanescence of oxygen deprivation, why not take a vacation from self-contemplation and sing songs sung by bards unbroken, the unspoken words that render a soul turgid and urge a libido earthwards.

You’ve delved these mines before and deplored the exploration of fruitless exasperation, each nugget discovered another brother you mother handed off to some other, and your grimy face replaced with the more splendid race that chosen for its taste in terpsichorean waste unleashes research into cheaply purchased haste.

A web of crates, sent too late and unpacked and stacked into great piles of unrelated lakes, swimming in chaos a hundred miles from the nearest earnest face, so all you have to play with are your own toes and the throes of poetry thrown over your shoulder like boulders burdened by burgeoning self-hate.

In the great scheme of things, in the shower of memes, in the glossary unorganized and reading like a screed, the only explanation is an expletive deleted in the heat of fearing that repetition of one more lamb’s bleating.

Laugh with me now: the twilight’s last gleaming.

Thin wisps of smoke in the morning steaming off the top of your noggin and the sun also rising, rinsing the night’s agonies from your forehead, retreating, your heart in five four time beating, counting on the countless encounters that mire you in reality, fleeting, as that self-contemplation once more takes over and your rose colored glasses dyed the hue of your own eyes fog up and clog up the bog that make up your lungs as you trudge up another sisyphusean incline.

Birds of a feather flock together so long as their colors align, so if what’s yours is mine than for me to be a coward too I also have to be afraid of you.

And I am, friend, scared of the air we have to share, because my exhalation is your consternation and the music I’m screaming has no meaning to even me, it’s just inevitable breathing, solace taken in switching between erecting sentences and spelling correction, taking direction from dictionaries compiled by guys who died before I’d even been alive.

Tradition a glue stitching together the leather of the book that binds up this structure that has made us both four hundred words richer.

A For Rent Sign Stuck In The Yard The Next Day

fiction by Jason Edwards

No TV before 5 PM is a stupid rule. Mom says that when she was my age she would play outside all day. That’s because they didn’t have Netflix in the dark ages. What am I supposed to do, read books? It’s the middle of July!

At least the sun’s out today. It was cold all day yesterday.  I was trying to figure out how to climb our tree when Duke came over. He said he saw on YouTube this kid with one arm who could play baseball, and could I do that. I just stared at him till he walked off.  Decided not to climb the stupid tree.

Later a guy in a black car drove into Mrs. Pauley’s driveway. He got out and stuck something on her door and drove away. I was going to go over there and look at it but then it was time for shots. Mom hollers if I make her wait.

And now he’s back. If I was allowed to watch TV, I wouldn’t be out here watching. So it’s mom’s fault. I don’t like the stupid shots, they hurt. They make me wanna barf. But I think I’d rather have shots than watch this. Mrs. Pauley’s crying, really hard. Mom says she’s got six kids. She went over there when Mr. Pauley died and saw their pictures. “Every branch of the service, so I guess the country’s safe,” mom said.

She was being sarcastic. I know what sarcastic is. Sarcastic is when I holler at mom that I hate the shots and she says fine, go outside and die then. But you’re not watching TV.

There’s a police car too, so I guess she’s going to jail. Maybe she killed Mr. Pauley? But that was months ago. Mom took over a casserole. I hate casserole. We used to go to McDonald’s when we did shots. And then we started doing them every day. And mom said we could still afford tuna fish. Barf.

The screen door creaks open but I don’t move. I can feel mom standing there. The guy comes out of the house, holding a clipboard. Hands it to Mrs. Pauley, who just shoves it away. The guy says something to the cop. The cop crosses his arms. Mom puts her hand on my head. Come inside, honey. The screen door again and I’m all alone.

I’m going to be thirteen in three months. If I make it that far. Mom said that, not to me, but on the phone. But she was just being sarcastic. I bet I make it that far. I just bet. A taxi cab pulls up, and Mrs. Pauley gets in. Her front door is still wide open.

I can hear the TV come on so I stand up. I don’t even feel dizzy. The theme song for Gossip Girl. Sometimes mom lets me watch TV if there’s extra shots. She’s always breaking her own rules.

The Great White Nope

fiction by Jason Edwards

43 year old Bran Downson sits in a home office, stabbing furiously at a keyboard. His biggest fear: that a great white shark will come bursting through this office window, and devour him whole. Its steely teeth like knives stabbing into him as he’s rendered into so much pulp. An irrational fear, to be sure, and yet what fears are not rational in the face of the truths of existentialism? That we are, all of us, disconnected entities afloat in a meaningless, hostile universe, a bittersweet knowledge that only serves to make a democracy of the great human fearscape, and the only terror that compels you are the ones you’ve voted to a place of leadership? Bran Downson is also scared of spiders.

***

Corrupt Law Enforcement Officer Clancy Thompson grips with steely fingers the steering wheel of a Mark IV Ryan-Class Aquato-Ride tanker-transport utility vehicle. Traffic is superb on I-5 today, flowing like the tresses of an ethnically ambiguous woman dangerously but only morally and not legally close to the age of consent. His biggest fear: that the great white shark swimming in the hold of his tanker-transport will not do the job when Clancy has it flung through the upper-floor home office window of his next target. An irrational fear, to be sure, considering the 15 years of training under his belt, the ten thousand hours of practice in performing this particular operation, and the solid-gold crucifix he wears under his vibra-tech bullet and taser and naughty-glances proof vest, proof that God Himself is on his side. Still, operations like these, unnecessarily complicated for the sake of an outlandish and therefore entertaining plot, are too oft wrought with unforeseeables. To take his mind off of it, Clancy Thompson thinks about his favorite Eagles song.

***

He seems to cling to the steely girders like a june bug on tree bark in the syrupy warmth of a Kansas July. His back hovers above the racing asphalt, a black unspeckled by sunlight here in the shadows of the truck above. Rogue Librarian Cutter Cliverson checks the security of the carabineer holding him to this speeding vehicle. All is good, despite the speed at which he travels, just a few inches from a messy death. His biggest fear: that great white sharks will continue to be abused by men for otherwise righteous causes. His mission: to thwart an attempt to fling poor Carol into the upper floor home office of an evil poetaster. Not because the poetaster doesn’t deserve justice. He does, and Cutter has in his various pockets blades that will carry out the job. But not at the shark’s expense. Cutter Cliverson checks his GPS-enabled watch one last time, sniffs the air for that tell-tale scent of Callery trees, and readies himself for action.

***

Bran hears a screeching of tires, ignores it. He is literally miles from the nearest body of water, a fresh-water lake, and many more miles from the Puget Sound, too orca-choked for great-whites to survive, and thousands of miles from San Diego. He continues to smack the keyboard around.

Clancy tugs the wheel and turns off the highway. He needs to maintain momentum. Running a red light, he ignores the honking horns. An alarm on his dashboard flashes; he’s losing water out of the tanker hold. No matter. He’s within a quarter mile of his destination.

Cutter pulls a small explosive from a pocket on his combat cargo pants, wedges it in his mouth and unhooks the carabineer. He begins to climb up the backside of the truck, clinging tightly is it rounds a corner at top speed. A cacophony of honking horns applauds his efforts. He ignores the pain as his shoulders are nearly wrenched from their sockets.

Bran hits a few more keys, grabs the sticky mouse, clicks send. He is furious. His superiors need to know that the mission is a bust. The writer is nowhere to be found.

Outside, Clancy tugs the wheel again, nearly tipping the truck. Ahead, the driveway of his destination. He calls into his mind memorized maps and schematics. The driveway is a good 500 feet in length, long enough for him to get up momentum. He flips a switch on the dashboard, opening the hatch that holds the shark.

Cutter sees the hatch opening, knows he has only seconds left. He spits the explosive into his hand, and sticks it to the servo that will lift Carol into launch position. He hesitates before arming it. Carol will be harmed in the explosion. Cutter grits his teeth. It’s for the greater good. Carol will die, but people will learn that using sharks to attack people is not a viable option. With tears in his eyes he drops back. His pant leg are caught in the mechanical launch arm. Damn it.

Bran stands up, catches sight of the truck hurtling towards the window.

Clancy floors the accelerator, and with a triumphant scream, pounds the large red launch button on the dashboard.

Cutter feels the sharp tug of the mechanical arm on his cargo combat pant leg, as he and Carol the Great White Shark are flung into the air. The small explosive goes off, three milliseconds too late.

Bran dives out of the room as the shark and librarian come crashing through the window. The truck slams into the closed garage door below. Clancy pulls a knife out of his pocket and cuts away the airbags. He jumps out of the truck and dives through the hole made in the garage door. Into the house and up the stairs. He turns right, towards the home office. Sees Bran, staring into the office through the door. The smell of Callery trees and rapidly bleeding great white shark. Clancy sees Bran peer into the room, and hears him say “What the hell are you doing here?” Clancy is about to answer, when Cutter emerges from the room, brushing Bran aside. Clancy’s eyes go wide in shock. “What the hell?” he says. Finally Bran notices him, and his eyes, already wide in shock, doubled in size. Cutter sees Clancy too, looks again at Bran as if recognizing him for the first time. His eyes are also wide.

“What the hell!?”

“What are you doing!?”

“Where’s the target!?”

“Who’s the target!?”

“What the hell!?”

Carol, in her last throes, thrashes a bit, and dies.

The three men descend the stairs, and walk into the kitchen. Bran opens the fridge, pulls out three beers, opens them and passes them around. “This is messed up,” he opines.

“Where’s the target?” Clancy manages, after taking a long pull on his beer.

“I don’t know.” Bran says. “I came here for what looks like the same reason. He wasn’t here. I just found some old guy, tied up in a closet.”

“Who’s the target?” Cutter says. He knows, but he asks anyway.

“The writer,” Bran replies.

“What?”

“The writer, the guy who wrote this crap, who’s writing it right now.” Clancy says. “I was sent to take him out. I don’t know why. He’s trying too hard, I guess. Not towing the line, pumping out nonsense like, well…”

“Like this.” Bran says. He frowns, hard, drains his beer.

Clancy nods. “And you were sent to stop me, Cutter? I thought we were on the same side.”

Cutter shrugs. “We are. I want him gone too. But not at shark-kind’s expense. I didn’t know it was you driving the truck. Besides, I failed. You were able to fling the shark through the window.”

“Yeah,” says Bran. “And thankfully, I got out of the room in time.”

Clancy stares at his beer bottle label for a few beats. “This old guy you say you found. What’s up with that?”

Bran pauses too. Then smiles an evil grin. “Let’s go find out.”

***

Two minutes later, three men crowd around an old man sitting in chair, his hands tied behind his back.

Cutter pulls the gag out of the man’s mouth. “Who are you,” he says.

“I’m Thomas Berger!” the old man shouts. He looks to be about seventy, round bald head, thick lips, eyes that suggest he’s actually probably a pretty good author himself.

“Any idea where the writer is?” Clancy asks, holding a knife in his hand, idly running his thumb along the blade, drawing blood.

“Yes! He went to the 7-11! It’s just a few blocks from here! To get a Dr. Pepper and a bean burrito! I think he forgot about me!”

The three other men look at each other. Bran nods. Cutter nods too, and pulls out his own knife. “let’s do this,” Bran says.

They start to leave. Behind them, the old man shouts “Wait! I have a knife too! Take me with you!”

The three turn and looked at him. Cutter shrugs. “Sure, why not?” He cuts the old man loose.

***

They see the writer walking towards them as they leave the house. He doesn’t even seem to notice the large truck crashed into his garage door, the gallons of shark blood pouring out of his home office windows.  “Oh, hey guys,” he says, carrying his stupid Dr. Pepper and his stupid bean burrito.

They did not hesitate. They attack him, sharp metal flashing in the rare Seattle sunlight. The guy falls, bleeding. He has time to say “You too, Thomas Berger?” And then covers his face in shame.

They don’t stop. Not for a long time. They stab him with their steely knives. But they just can’t kill the beast.

You Don’t Have to be a Fanatic to be a Fan

The name’s Stan. I don’t know what it says on my birth certificate, or even how long I’ve been on God’s Green. But people call me Stan and treat me like a guy pushing 60, so I guess that’s who I am.

I work in the Lost and Found at Safeco Field, home of the Mariners. Been working forever, it feels like. I got a calendar on the wall (lost but never found) that says it’s been 40 years. Which is odd since Safeco was only built 16 years ago, in 1999 and the Mariners themselves have only been around since 1977.

But nevermind that. Down here in Lost and Found, logic isn’t really all that important. I mean, people lose things, and they come here to find them again, and sometimes they do even if it don’t make sense to.

Like the time this fella shows up, looking for his dad. Says his old man passed-away a week before, and he’s not sure what he’s supposed to do now. So I look through one of the boxes and there’s this old beat up hat. Hand it to the guy and he starts tellin’ me about how when he was a kid his old man would take him to ball games. They’d sit there up in some sky-scratchin’ upper-deck, all the players on the field small as ants. Eat boiled hot dogs and if it was rare sunny day his old man would even let him have a sip of his watered-down beer. I ask him, you got any kids, and he says yeah. And I tell him, supposed to be sunny next Wednesday, and Anaheim’s in town. Then he smiles and walks off.

We got all kinds of stuff down here. Hats, like I said. Lots of sweat shirts and jackets cause maybe it’s a little bit cold when you get here and then King Felix gets fired up and pitches a one-hitter through seven innings and you’re on your feet hollerin’ the whole time. Then Seager or Ackley busts things open and the bull pen cleans things up and you’re so high you don’t remember your wind breaker.

Gloves, necklaces, bracelets. Sunglasses. Did you know Seattle sells more sunglasses than pretty much any other city in America? Cause we don’t got enough days of sun in a row to remember where you put your last pair I guess!

There’s a few stuffed animals down here, too. An old chewed-up Mariner’s moose. That one makes me a little bit sad, I can admit. I mean, some kid probably got that when he was here, dragged it back a few times maybe. It became a good luck charm, and then one day the Ms do their usual one-run showing and the kid sets the moose down and doesn’t bother to pick it up. Someone brings it to me. Sits here until, what, 2001 happens again? Probably not.

It’s not a bad job, though. I get to come to most of the home games, get to watch sometimes if I want. Other times I’m down under the concrete, sorting and arranging, taking calls, sending notes up to the box seats. Players lose things too, and I’m in charge of that.  Derek Holland lost his stuff in that game a few years ago, and the Ms got 8 runs off of him. I wrapped it up and put it in the mail for him, and he got it back, eventually.

But one thing they got me doin’, lately, is to hunt around for the Ms mojo. It’s been lost for a while now. They have me searchin’ high and low for it, all over the place. Last season they kept finding it in other ball parks, which is great, but I don’t workin those, I work here. And I just can’t find it. Mariner’s lost again last night, this time to the Twins, which isn’t shameful or anything, but still. Givin’ up 12 runs in two games? No wonder they got me lookin’ for it.

Anyway, that’s what I got on my plate, most of today. The Ms are on the road for a while, Rangers, Astros, Angels. I’m hopin’ I can find something by the time they get back for the As in the middle of May.

Cause you see, I’m not what you’d call jaded. I’m not a cynic. I’ve been around for a long time, and expect to be for a long time still. People talk about “fair weather” fans, and in a place like Seattle where it rains a lot, that metaphor’s got some weight to it. But I don’t judge. Baseball’s for everybody, season ticket holders and once-a-season folks alike. Everybody deserves to find what they’re lookin’ for: a nice day at the ballpark. A win, now and again.

So I’ll keep huntin’, I guess.

Hey, you know what? LoSTANdfound. That’s why they call me Stan! I just thought of that!

The Trouble With Those Mothra Girls

It’s dark inside Chop Suey. The floor is sticky from spilled beer. I mean a hope it’s beer. A sour smell in the air, of marijuana sweat, the ozone coming off of poorly-wired amps, a few cheap candles back by the novelty photo booth. I’m waiting to see Daikaiju, a surf-guitar band out of Huntsville, Alabama. It’s a Monday night in Seattle.

There’s barely anyone here. One band played, something fuzzy and forgetful, to a crowd of about 30 people. They broke down their set while I grabbed another beer. I least I hope it’s beer. The next band managed to hang on to half the people in attendance. And now, guys in dirty white t—shirts and ten thousand miles of road weariness on their shoulders are setting up a drum kit. There are so few people left inside, they’re not even bothering with the stage. They’re setting up right on the floor.

A drum kit, surrounded by speakers, surrounded by guitar stands, and a black web of licorice wires, spaghettied on the floor, draped over soundboards. It’s a mess. A complete mess. But no microphones.

What if, right now, there’s an asteroid hurtling towards Earth. And it’s the perfect size to do nothing more than punch through the roof of Chop Suey and kill those four guys who are at this moment putting on kabuki masks. Would I be grateful? That I’d seen them perform before, that I’d always have those memories?

Or would I envy you, reading this now, who have probably never seen them perform, and don’t know what would be missed. Because as much as I can describe for you this place, this set-up, these four guys, I can never convey to you the amazing. I’m reduced to resorting to vague words like “amazing.”

If an asteroid were to punch through the roof right now, that itself would be sort of incredible. A story to tell people. An extremely unique experience. I bet they’d interview me, the papers or the TV or some magazine. And that’s too bad—because I can describe that for you just fine. The sound like a freight train, the heat, the vibration, getting knocked on my ass. Confusion and chaos and running to the back… and then?

And then trying to tell you that Daikaiju will never perform again? You’d think me shallow, to focus on THAT and not the fact that an asteroid nearly killed me.

daikaiju2013But if you’d ever seen them perform, you’d understand. Because here they come, running up to their instruments, throwing their guitars onto their bodies. Daikaju IS the asteroid. They’re going to destroy everything else for the next hour as they run around the floor, wrapping us up in their spaghetti licorice, knocking us over with so much reverb, we’re never ever going to be able to describe it.

People are flooding into Chop Suey now. We’ve gone from 30 people to 15 to 5 to about a hundred. And yes, that’s beer spilling everywhere.  For this writing assignment I was supposed to tell you how I’d feel if something I loved was suddenly gone. But I just can’t do it. Tell water what it feels like not to be wet.

Dear Over-Caffeinated

To say I’ve missed you would be a lie. I only ever notice you’re around when you make me feel, frankly, terrible. Jittery, obviously, nervous. I tend to spill things. Like the coffee cup you come in, yes?

It’s not as if I’ve avoided you acidulously. Just the way things have been. Fewer morning lattes, fewer shots of 5-Hour Energy Drink, fewer green tea pills. And not because I’m trying! Just the vagaries of life.

And yet, for all of that, I do wonder if I’m getting enough done these days. I “wake up,” (i.e. crawl out of bed. Hard to call the next several minutes actually “awake.”) Stumble around the house, end up on-line, browsing increasingly stupider websites. Maybe a load of laundry goes in the washing machine. Maybe a dish or two gets rinsed and shoved into the dishwasher. On Thursdays, trash day, a bin or two gets emptied. Maybe.

Remember when you and I would tackles everything though? Like that time we did three loads of laundry, ran 5 miles, emptied and filled the dishwasher, worked on my (our, over-caffeinated, our) novel for an hour, vacuumed, and beat Grand Theft Auto V ALL BEFORE NINE AM?

Yeah, I was sick as a dog the rest of the day, and just sort of sat in a chair and ate saltines while watching old episodes of Burn Notice on Netflix. But still. A sense of accomplishment as my skin slowly turned gray.

The thing is, over-caffeinated, you’re one of those friends I could maybe hang with when I was younger, once in a while, but as much fun as we had one or two times, I have to call-out the bad times too. The aforementioned jitters. The two-dozen trips to the bathroom. The heart palpitations—I mean, I’m in my forties now, not exactly cardiac-arrest territory, but not so alien as to be ignored, either.

Just “using” you to “get things done,” isn’t really an option anymore, or, if I think about it, necessary. The laundry gets done, eventually, and the dishes too. And if we’re being honest, getting everything done before nine AM just leaves the rest of the day for, well, browsing increasingly stupider websites.

I have to pace myself. That’s the lesson here, over-caffeinated. The day is 24 hours long, and even if there’s lots to do, there’s lots of time to do it in. And if it doesn’t get done? Maybe it’s not important.

Don’t get me wrong, pal. We’ll see each other again, on occasion. I’ve got a few projects due at the end of the month, so I’m sure I’ll be giving you a call. There’s that 200 mile relay race in July, of course, and we’ll always have the last few days of NaNoWriMo!

But not all the time. Not everyday. And I don’t really miss you. Miss “it,” I should say. I have to stop anthropomorphizing experiences. Have to stop taking them so personally.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few more letters to write. Got a few tough things to say to Mr. One Pound Bag of M&Ms.

Finding Myself in (Sports) Losses

I worked as a consultant for a $40 billion-a-year company, 12 years, and then they hired me full-time. Less than a year later, I was laid off, and then about 8 months after that, I was brought back as a consultant again. At a better pay rate than before. During that “sabbatical” I worked at a small start-up that made brain-training games. Part of my job was to read brain-blogs all day long, on all sorts of subjects, from biology to psychology to philosophy. By this deeply personal and circuitous route, I bring you to my discovery of “mindfulness,” which has been a pretty hot topic in brain science for a few years now.

The relevance of mindfulness to the above, of course, is being aware that end results are always only the very smallest part of a journey. It’s a more complicated way of suggesting one not sweat the small stuff. So the Mariners lost AGAIN last night. How can mindfulness help me deal with this sports anxiety?

I mean, thinking about it, new-age philosophy and sports fandom go together like peas and chocolate. Indeed, the only place they would ever meet is in the head of a self-indulgent, middle-aged, upper middle class, privileged white male living in Seattle in the new-millennia teens. Nevertheless, here I am.

The Mariners, after 14 games, are five and nine. They have to win four games in a row just to break even. They have to do better than they’ve done, so far, just to be considered mediocre. There’s an irony there. Hard work is supposed to be its own reward, but here’s what I’m finding in all of this: no it’s not.

If the journey is the thing, then the current record doesn’t matter. And we hear this in sports all the time. Athletes will tell you they don’t think about the last game, they only think about the next one. They don’t think about the play-offs, they just think about the next game. And when they’re playing, they only think about the game they’re in.

Turns out, good athletes are expert practitioners of mindfulness. And that’s the reward: not needing a reward. “It isn’t whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game.” So, ignoring the winning and the losing of my home-town team, how am I playing this game?

All I can do is try to find something in this game I’m playing, this ridiculously close examination of my feelings vis-à-vis the losing record of one of the highest paid teams in baseball. My discovery: mindfulness. Being self-aware. Knowing that I’m darn lucky to even have access to the misery of watching my team lose. Being grateful for my existence.

And laughter— the look on the average fans face if/when I tried to explain all of the above. “Every loss is a gift,” I would say. “So is every beer,” they’d reply. Sounds like a win-win to me.

The Recipe Isn’t Difficult

Potatoes, eggs, mustard and mayo. People think the secret ingredient is the parsley, but it’s really the dill in the chopped pickles.

Nowadays 19 is fairly young but back in the early seventies, 19 was old enough to join the Navy, meet a nice fella, get married, get knocked up, start raising a few kids. And so on a nice summer day in Wichita, Kansas a bunch of years later, one boy on the front porch reading a book, the other in the back yard swashbuckling with ninjas, the husband catching up on some paperwork, why not break out those old 3X5 cards with your mother’s recipes on them, bright blue ink in a flowing cursive.

Boil potatoes just enough that they’re still firm. Use that creaky chopping machine on them, and on the boiled eggs too. Mustard and mayo, give it a stir, starts to make that sticky sound and the smell is family, nice weather, full bellies, quiet hearts. The pickles have to be chopped by hand. Toss them in, sprinkle in dried parsley, mostly just to give it color. Salt, but no pepper. Now put a few hot dogs in the new “micro-wave.” A lot faster than boiling them, and the cancer’s still five years away.

Call in the kids, tell the youngest to set the table, the oldest to make a pitcher of lemon kool-aid. The youngest fetches out those Looney Tunes collectible glasses, the ones from McDonald’s. He always chooses Daffy Duck for himself. He’ll grow up, join the Navy too, but he won’t meet a nice girl; Nothing bad will happen to him, but life will take a little longer to get started.

The potato salad goes in an enormous green plastic bowl. That bowl has seen some action. That bowl was purchased at a Tupperware party in Springfield, Massachusetts, made its way across the country to Bainbridge, Washington, then down to San Diego, California. Now it’s here, smack dab in the middle of the country, smack dab in the middle of the supper table, heaped to overflowing with potato salad.

The youngest has that permanent grin on him, eyes wide, trying to grab ketchup for his hot dog and a spoon for the potato salad and a glass of lemonade, all at the same time. He says, who’s birthday is it, because he associates potato salad with parties. The oldest smirks, cause he knows better, and because he’s a little smart aleck. He’s going through a phase; no ketchup or mustard for him. But plenty of lemonade, and heaps and heaps of potato salad. Growing boys.

The husband gets the lion’s share, though. He’s a good 210, working on 230, and his desk job doesn’t help any. In a few years the cancer will knock him down to 175. But they’ll catch it early, it’ll back off, and never return, not for thirty years. Potato salad will put the pounds backs on. Potato salad and nice weather and quiet hearts.

He says, oh, it’s probably somebody’s birthday somewhere. The youngest laughs at that. Everything delights him. The oldest smirks again. He’ll come into cynicism, the smart ones always do, its own kind of cancer. But he’ll get over it. How can anyone be a cynic, for very long, with potato salad likes this stored in the memory banks?

He’ll get a copy of the recipe, more than a bunch of years later. His own wife will make it for him. Will it be as good? Of course it will. The recipe isn’t difficult.

Knit One, Purl Two

Fiction by Jason Edwards

She’s a spy and he doesn’t even know it. They sleep together and he tells her secrets, but her favorite part are these walks in this little park, tucked between his office building and hers and a few others. A secret park, something for top-floor executives to look at while they execute orders for, well, let’s face it, execution. The spy game is a dirty game, it’s all about money, and sex, and occasionally killing people.

She’s not afraid of any of that, and if her bosses told her to kill him she would, because it’s her job and she’s good at her job. But there’s nothing wrong with taking a few moments to walk through a park on a nice day with a nice guy and talk about nice things like a new pair of shoes she’s going to buy, about a sale they’re having, about the dress they’ll go with and the lipstick she’ll put on, just for him. He’s married, so they can’t go out, of course, he can’t take her someplace fancy, but then she doesn’t need fancy, she just needs those secrets. So she can do her job and get paid and buy shoes.

It’s way more complicated than that, of course, and she’s not some stereotypical floozy who gets hot and bothered over a pair of marked-down pumps. Except she is. Obviously, she’s not, she’s a spy, a good one, on the fast track to promotion and maybe even a shop command or, if the wind blows just right, a spot in the leadership, a policy maker. But speaking of wind, there’s a delicious breeze coming over that small green hill, there’s a shady spot underneath the tree as the path turns, making her shiver, there’s that old woman on a park bench, knitting something for her great-grand kids. Steel blue knitting needles, winking in the sunlight.

This small park nestled between tall buildings, this is the only time of day it gets any sunlight.

***

He’s a spy and she doesn’t even know it. Seducing her was easy, mostly because she was probably told to let him, and now he feeds her bad intel so his bosses can play games with her bosses. But this part he doesn’t like, listening to her drone on and on about shoes or lipstick or something, these stupid walks in this shitty little park where no one goes. He likes the sex even though she isn’t very good at it, but then neither is he. It’s just that, after sex, he sleeps better, and normally, he doesn’t sleep very well.

Mostly because he’s killed so many people. It really gets to him. Other guys, and gals, in his shop, they seem to deal with it so well. Get a job, get close, make the hit, move on. Sometimes they even sleep with the future-deceased, just to get their guard down. How can they do that. Do they imagine walking in the park with them, day after day, so mind-numbingly bored that it’s either kill or commit suicide?

This is why they took him off hits, put him on counter-counter, not exactly a chump’s game, but not nearly as exciting as executions. But oh well. It has its perks. She thinks he’s married, thinks she tricking him with the pillow talk, lets him do things to her that a lot of women wouldn’t. So he’s conflicted. Which is why, when they turn the corner, and there’s the old woman, but this time her knitting needles are blue, a small tear falls from his eye.

Blue is the signal for assassination. He’s just not sure if its sadness or relief that makes him cry.

***

She’s an old woman, but everyone thinks she’s a spy. Ha. She’s just an old woman, nestled in that sweet spot where she’s got enough income to stretch out her final years, but not enough to worry about politics. Men in suits and cold office buildings dictate world policy, a million peasants in some back water die, the minimum wage goes up and down, and she just wakes up and goes to the park and does some knitting, waiting for the mid-day sun. Feels good, deep in her bones.

She’s had a life. She’s gone from innocent to informed to impassioned to jaded to indifferent to philosophical to, well, there’s no word for the final stage. Zen, if you believe in that Buddhist crap. But she’s not going to slap on a pair of tight pants, squat down on a shiny purple mat and make her joints go pop for the entertainment of the universe. She’ll just wake up, have her tea, open her mail, and walk down to the park.

They think she’s a spy because she’s here almost every day. A bunch of office buildings filled to bursting with agents, special agents, double agents, assassins, operatives, provocateurs, and analysts. And so my bureau men. So many executives, so many suits. She’s seen more dead drops than Carter’s got pills. It was entertaining once, now it’s just background noise. She sits and knits. Her grandson, sweet kid, he sends her picture of her great-grand daughter, requests for more booties. He even sends her knitting needles.

But she can’t find the ones he sent her last week, so today, she’ll use an old blue pair. Use to be her favorites.