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07/01 Direct Link
Summer is tragic not because it is brief -- it is the same length as the other seasons. It is tragic because of the enormous and unobtainable expectations we have about it.

We are supposed to take a vacation and travel to exciting places and have time for romance and a summer reading list. You cannot fit all of your planned activities into three months. Nobody asks how your autumn or spring are going -- people ask "How's your summer going?" because they want to know how much more you are squeezing in than they are. It's a competition, so get going.

07/02 Direct Link
I made myself some garlic bread at 9 p.m. tonight and included a glass of wine, because time will wipe us all out before we know it and I wanted garlic bread.

My Dad showed me how you can take a clove of garlic and rub it onto the rough surface of a well-toasted piece of bread so that the bread almost acts as a grater. Garlic covers the bread nicely, and then you can put olive oil on the bread and possibly some salt and pepper and for a pleasant moment forget about the oblivion that awaits you.

07/03 Direct Link
I'm not used to living in an area with a lot of kids, so this summer I am learning to readjust to neighborhood noises.

What sounds to me at first like a young child screaming in terror and pain was, in fact, my young neighbor's reaction to seeing a squirrel.

Now when I hear the same young lady in what sounds like the critical stage of dengue fever I do not even look up, because I know it is simply a happy child at play.

Friends who are parents tell me that children are in trouble when they get quiet.

07/04 Direct Link
I have also learned to temper my expectations that the parents of these loud neighborhood kids will help them learn to modulate their volume. The parent of my imagination says,

"My sugar pea, I understand you are outside, and we talk sometimes about the 'outside voice' to mean 'loud', but also please realize that we have neighbors and we need to be considerate."

Something tells me they have never had this talk. I look out and see Dad sitting right next to his daughter howling at a butterfly, and I realize his reaction to this noise is pride and love.

07/05 Direct Link
I found a cheap-as-free copy of The Artist's Way at a library book sale. I had heard of the book as the origin of the popular "morning pages" idea of writing three longhand pages first thing in the morning, so I picked it up.

I am not finished with the book, but I cannot say that I recommend it. It claims to be for the general reader, but I find its message aimed at women of a certain age, socioeconomic status, and frou-frou sensibility and worldview, and its appeal to someone in my demographic is somewhat limited.

07/06 Direct Link
In The Artist's Way's defense, though, and to my surprise, I have been doing the morning pages nearly religiously. I've been waking up thirty minutes early each morning, and now I have almost two notebooks filled, front and back of the page, with some of the most illegible and groggy stream-of-consciousness nonsense ever set on paper.

There is something liberating and head-clearing about it. In that sense, and probably in some others, the author is onto something, and so I will not pan the book. Just don't pay full price for it, because it is slightly goofy.

07/07 Direct Link
I wonder if the kids next door would benefit from summer camp. I mean the kind where you go to a lake somewhere and stay for a month or two, not the kind where you come home every night.

I wonder if I should go to the grocery store and buy one of those big poster boards and make up a little presentation for their parents about the social and intellectual benefits of summer camp, and how the lifelong memories will be worth the expense, and so on, and if they are receptive, make another one about quality boarding schools.

07/08 Direct Link
When I was moving into my first apartment in Albany, I had to choose a set of silverware. In my parents' experience, this was conventionally a task that would have been carried out with (or maybe by) a spouse, or maybe at a wedding(?), I actually don't know. Concerned, they admonished me to choose something "traditional."

"Traditional" was the exact opposite of what I wanted. I wanted a silverware pattern that would put the establishment on notice that I had arrived and was going to shake things up. I chose a $20 department store set with a scandalously modern design.

07/09 Direct Link
I spent all day in Albany, and I found the experience nourishing. I use the word advisedly; I realize how ridiculous it may sound. I live in a very small town whose social life is controlled by networks that have been in place since before I was born. Even for a socially competent person, it is difficult to break into these networks, and the "breaking in" involves violating some norms.

A city, even a small one, is more democratic. Everyone is a stranger and a relative newcomer. The energy is different. I found myself thinking, "I wish I lived here."

07/10 Direct Link
I wonder if a summer vacation would be right for the family next door. They don't seem to be motivated to hit the road for a few weeks, so maybe my duty as a neighbor is to find some travel brochures for faraway kingdoms and slip them under their door at night.

Don't they want their noisy children to experience the pleasures of Bhutan? The endless plains of Mongolia? The beaches of Australia? On quiet summer evenings, I would gladly raise my glass on my porch, thinking about the broadening of their minds and the adventures they would be having.

07/11 Direct Link
I heard someone asking a friend for advice about his diet. He said that sometimes he slips up and eats a piece of chocolate, and then he decides that, well, the day is ruined so he might as well eat ten pieces of chocolate. Is that the best way?

His friend was horrified, and said no, if you eat one piece of chocolate, just leave it at one. One is better than ten, right? You have to forgive yourself for slipping up occasionally and strive to do better.

I notice this "one=ten" mindset in some of my own behaviors.

07/12 Direct Link
Henchman 1: Boss, apologies -- I'm a family man and I want my children to grow up in a safe world. (*shoots boss*)

Henchman 2: Actually, I believed in our boss' vision, and the decision to shoot him was not yours to make. (*shoots h1*)

Henchman 3: If we activate the device, the world will end. Did you notice that part? (*shoots h2*)

Henchman 4: (*accidentally shoots h3*) Personally, I am neutral on the doomsday issue. I am undecided. All my coworkers are dead now, though, and h1 was my ride home, so let's just see how it works. (*presses button*)

07/13 Direct Link
A friend asked me if I wanted to go to the Renaissance Fair; the big one in Sterling.

And the first thing I thought of is what a weenie I would feel to go up to the man selling big turkey legs and ask him if he has any vegan options. Any medieval-themed hummus w/ carrot sticks? No?

And then I walk around all hungry seeing spots before my eyes as my blood sugar crashes while little kids poke me with plastic swords and call me a varlet and a knave, and I unfortunately told that friend "no thanks."

07/14 Direct Link
I have to ask whether you are availing yourself of the opportunities for summer romance. You might say that you have better things to do, or that your romantic days are over, but please reconsider. This is the right time of year for that kind of thing, so tell me what your excuse is, and I'll write it down.

This info is of interest to marketers. For example, some people respond, excuse-wise, "my teeth are yellow," or "I have an odor," or "I don't have the proper hat," and within weeks we can have the product on the shelves.

07/15 Direct Link
I'm beginning to wonder whether another state entirely might not be better for my neighbors and their children. I've looked for new jobs in their fields and found a few good leads, and I've begun to circle some real estate ads.

There are some very nice schools in these areas, and lots of open space in which the children can shout and holler without restrictions. They can have a pet goat and/or alpaca, which you'd think would seal the deal. "A storybook childhood" is how I will describe it to them as I help them pack their belongings tomorrow.

07/16 Direct Link
CLYDE: Frozen peas? At MICK's place? Gee! Come on, gang!

NARRATOR, WHO IS A PENGUIN (singing, as the GANG skips):
Frozen peas,
Frozen peas,
What a good boy am I!

Frozen peas,
Frozen peas,
A good-time summertime treat!

MICK'S MOM: Nothing cools your youngsters down on a hot day like frozen peas. They're nutritious, and so thrifty, too. A five-ounce package costs only thirty-five cents. Mix them into a cold pitcher of broth and watch the fun begin.

MICK: (drinking, crunching of peas audible): What a good boy am I!

GANG: (laughing, slapping MICK on the back)

07/17 Direct Link
The standard mnemonic for treble clef lines is "Every Good Boy Does Fine," but my music teacher had taught us "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge." Oh, how I cursed her as my classmates' laughter rang in my ears after I offered this variation, how I wished I could have had a real musical education as the other children pointed and laughed for what felt like hours as red hot shame crept up my neck and onto my face.

This was nothing, however, when I later offered the (apparently very nonstandard) sharp-order mnemonic, "Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bologna."

07/18 Direct Link
I've only just realized that, re: the neighbor children, I am the cartoonish movie villain.

The problem is not just that the CMV is indifferent to children, or that he fails to really see them as human beings. It's that he knows he has this attitude, and considers it to be the correct one. He pursues an agenda that is at odds with either their agenda or their values, knows this, and considers it a sign that he is on the right track.

Like a true villain, knowing that I am one does not change my plans in the slightest.

07/19 Direct Link
In China it is easy to find amazing scallion pancakes. They are flaky, with paper-thin layers, the top and bottom are perfectly browned while the inside is chewy, and they are full of scallions and sesame oil.

I have been trying for years, and I've never made a really good one. If we were talking about a kind of salad I would have figured it out by now, but because scallion pancakes are greasy white-flour treats, the very definition of a "sometime food," I have to space out my attempts to several times a year, which doesn't help.

07/20 Direct Link
My big problem tonight is that I have all these ideas and feelings and I want to get them all down at once, but I am frustrated by the fact that in writing you have to go one letter at a time.

It is like trying to push a watermelon through a juice box drinking straw. If I were a college sophomore, I would put a blob of ink on the page, title it "BLAP!" and explain in my artist's note that it is a comment on the frustration of trying to write, and I would (maybe) get a 'C'.

07/21 Direct Link
Without setting out to, I have been reading more fiction written by women lately, and it has been interesting. One item of note is that I have read more about menstruation in the past few months than I have in all the previous months of my life combined.

As someone who has taken the motto "I am human, and let nothing human be alien to me" seriously, I find myself without a point of reference on this subject. I have read about feelings of guilt and shame and blasť acceptance and everything in between. I have nothing useful to say.

07/22 Direct Link
It is a hot night. This is maybe only the third or fourth night all summer I've actually had to turn the fan on. So I'm here at my big table and the mini-fan is not quite blowing on me, but I'm too tired to get up and adjust it.

I wonder what various people I know are doing right now. Do they have a mini-fan too, and a lemon water? Are all of them OK? I sometimes worry, but I shouldn't let them know.

And what about you? Is it hot where you are? Are you OK?

07/23 Direct Link
I know I write about bugs a lot. I don't like or dislike them, they are just always on my mind.

Their bodies are so different from ours that they might as well come from another planet, but their motivations are recognizable to us.

We build walls and they fly over them; we build houses and they crawl into them and eat our food. They bite us, they suck our blood, and they burrow under our skin, but they also glow magically on summer evenings and charm us with their colors and sounds. They make our world more interesting.

BUGS.

07/24 Direct Link
Sometimes I don't want, I really don't want to continue. No, no, no.

Let's stop, let's shut it all down. We've had a good run. Let's stop while we're ahead.

We can't do that, and I know it, as much as it hurts. We have to slug it out, and the more I think about it, the more I don't want to do it, and, and, and... ... ...

So what then is this waiting, it feels like malingering. It feels wrong. You mean I actually have to do something, too? It doesn't seem to me fair at all, not at all.

07/25 Direct Link
I was just thinking that it has been quite a while since I've seriously hurt myself.

So, to pass the time, I began wondering things like "what if my legs were crushed," or "how would it be if I shattered my pelvis," you know, as you do in quiet moments alone.

Remembering or imagining pain is weird. I can remember that it is deeply unpleasant, but the actual physical pain is difficult to recreate mentally, which I guess is just as well. It's just interesting to think about.

(I'm not a masochist, I swear, I just sometimes get really bored.)

07/26 Direct Link
A whole bunch of moths want to enter my kitchen because they see the light. They are clustered at the window.

Guys, come on. It is 2017. Get with the program: we have artificial lights now. That's not the moon, it's just a convenient way for me to find snacks after the sun has gone down. As nocturnal creatures I'd think you would also be more concerned with finding snacks than bumping into my window, but suit yourselves.

I turn off my light for those poor dum-dums, although I know they're just going to flit to the streetlight next.

07/27 Direct Link
I'm a little bit heartbroken that the viral Internet quote by Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson was revealed to be fake. I was starting to think about life in terms of slumps entered into and busted out of, and I was spending more time than usual thinking about dinosaurs. I guess I'm glad I didn't get it tattooed on myself.

The fact that the piece was written by a comedy writer should not diminish its power, but it does because I can no longer believe that a real person really took comfort from his belief in a supportive group of dinosaurs.

07/28 Direct Link
gorilla time
welcome to gorilla time
the show about gorillas, YAH

I am gorilla, welcome to gorilla time.
Today we feature a man who doesn't know what to write in his little box.
(*applause*)

Man, what do you have to say for yourself?

"Meow, meow, meow, meow..."

That is good stuff. You should just fill up the box with that.

"Miao miao miao miao."

This is even better. Gorilla time has never been so thrilling. Give us more!

"Meu meu meu meu"

You, sir, are a true filler of boxes. Please come back to waste our time again some day.

07/29 Direct Link
welcome back to Gorilla Time, YAH

friends, welcome back
the meowing man has returned

"Meow meow meow"

When I invited you to come back, I didn't think it would be so soon.

"Meow meow"

If I'm understanding you correctly, in a world that increasingly feels as if it is on the eve of destruction, meowing like a kittycat-slash-crazy person is the one form of self-expression that feels legitimate and true to you at this point in time?

"Meow!"

And language is part of the problem, you say?

"Meow!"

And you aren't the slightest bit embarrassed for yourself?

07/30 Direct Link
I am curious about the process of writing something longer than 100 words. Supposedly there are people who do just this, and people who read these lengthy texts.

How does it go? Do you just write 100 and then another 100 and so on, and then just stick the whole mess together with glue? 100 words seems like the perfect word-unit, but there may be others. I am curious and I want to try. I wonder whether I have the attention span for it and enough words and ideas to keep something going for more than, say, 300 words.

07/31 Direct Link
The problem with writing something longer than 100 words, the first problem that I can think of, anyway, is that the first attempt will probably be laughably bad. "Gorilla Time"-level bad. That has to be kind of a blow to one's self-esteem.

I think you have to accept that whatever you write will come out as something terrible before you start, and hope that over time you can revise it into a smart and hip piece about gorilla conservation or maybe a modern-day gorilla tale. Don't you think it's worth a try? Shouldn't we try new things?