It’s a Mystery to Me, Too

Only recently have I come to realize the incredible truth that many of us, as American citizens, are given an amazing opportunity to follow our dreams. You can, quite literally, be whatever you want to be, and even if your wildest aspirations aren’t quite attainable, you still have the opportunity to seek the fulfillment of those desires. Most other people from most of the rest of the world can’t say that, which  may indicate just why they call it the American Dream.

Still, not everything one wishes to do is deemed universally acceptable. Parents still discourage their boys from playing with dolls “designed” for girls, as if there were a fundamental difference between a Ken doll and a G.I.Joe. This example is humorous to me, since you could easily put Ken in Roadblock’s clothes and send him off to fight COBRA, just as easily as you could put Flint in one of Ken’s cardigans and let him take Barbie to the movies. Now that we’ve determined that encouraging imagination in certain forms won’t make your son gay, or your daughter a biker gang groupie, why haven’t we wholly embraced the child’s imagination, for it’s own sake?

Is he on a fiery path towards social awkwardness, or preparing for his future as an amazing father?
Is he on a fiery path towards social awkwardness, or preparing for his future as an amazing father?

When I was young, we were strongly discouraged from misusing firearms. Even on the rare occasion that we had a toy gun in the house, there was no pointing it at the dog, and strict safety rules applied. The reason? We had real guns in the house, and it was important that my brother and I be raised with a masterful understanding of their potentials. But, even in households where Nerf pistols are used to terrorize the cat, are we necessarily teaching those kids to be violent and disregard life? How many youngsters dressed up as cowboys and struck out west to chase outlaws, only to grow up and become movie directors, fast food cashiers, and business accountants?

Until about a month ago, few people had the imagination to create a world where a woman might be president. Here we are, and if no one has done so already, welcome to 2016. In the same time frame, we are also finding the imagination for believing that a reality TV host can be president. I know that this suspended disbelief was forced upon most of us, yet here we are, imagining the possibilities.

presidentkids

Now imagine what wonders the world would hold, if more people let their imaginations run wild all the time…

I’ve done my share of imagining the possibilities, which is the only way anyone can find a clear path to the wonderful world of realization, and have completed many endeavors because of it. My live band, The Alphabet Asylum, is still hard at work on their long awaited second album, but there wouldn’t have even been a first album, if we didn’t hadn’t dreamed it was possible. Twelve years ago, a good friend of mine dared to dream that we could be on TV, and so we produced 42 episodes of a public access sitcom. Fast forward to this year, and we put ten more sitcom episodes under our belt, and released them on YouTube.

I wrote my first feature length screenplay, with more to come, and am now working on a new project, with one of my creativity co-conspirators, a dramatic sci-fi mini series. This all illustrates what imagination and a little drive can accomplish, but what does it have to do with gender roles? I’m glad you asked.

I am also hard at work on my first (serious attempt at) writing a full-length mystery novel. I had originally wanted to put a character from my college creative writing days, a hard-boiled Sam Spade type, into a new book, and got about fifty pages into it before my wife suggested I might find more success by writing a cozy mystery.

I actually read this installment of the popular Stephanie Plum book series. I still can't figure out why they're called "cozies" with all the sex, violence, and crazy old people.
I actually read this installment of the popular Stephanie Plum book series. I still can’t figure out why they’re called “cozies” what with all the sex, violence, and crazy old people.

For those of you who didn’t click the link, a “cozy” is a sub-genre of mystery novels that are almost exclusively written from the first person perspective of a woman. They are also written almost exclusively by women; I can’t actually find a female driven cozy series written by a man. And why not? Are men not interested in writing for this genre, incapable, or is it something that we haven’t yet imagined could happen?

As the roles of men and women bleed together, to more and more become the roles of humanity, who’s to say there won’t be a place for my spunky young female detective? And who’s to say that Hilary won’t keep out of jail long enough to do a wonderful job as president? She obviously had an imagination strong enough to picture herself doing what she was raised to believe was the impossible, otherwise she never would have even tried.

You can only become as big as you can dream, so the sky’s the limit on that imagination. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible…especially Stacy.

Best Part? I Paid to be Here

It’s been some time since my last actual blog, so I thought I’d give it a go, to see if I still had the formula down.  A quick catch up is in order, I suppose:

  • I’m not just some bum anymore. I’ve taken a job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as an Electronics Technologist. It sounds like it might be important, but really I just install conference room audio/visual systems. Pays good, though.
  • My web-based sitcom, K’s House, has completed it’s first season run! We had a lot of fun making it, and I hope people will eventually stumble across it to watch.
  • I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s very slow and boring, and yes I got the point of the story.

There, all caught up!

Cute schoolboy keeping open book on head in classroom
My biggest concern is that we’re failing with education in some major ways. This kid, for example, is probably going to forever misunderstand the meaning of the word “classic”.

Not that I’m trying to attach an age to myself, but my twentieth anniversary high school reunion was this passed weekend. An old friend, who felt that it was our duty to ourselves to go to this event, requested that I accompany him. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was fairly certain I would be in for an evening full of, “Nope, sorry, I just can’t place you.”

Nor was I disappointed, at least where my expectations were concerned. Actually, that’s a bit snarky; I had a really good time, and will leave the fact’s dependence on the copious amount of alcohol I consumed to the discretion of the reader.

Purely by accident, my friend and I wore matching outfits.  His collared shirt was black, his tie was red, and I was the same type of sleek and sexy in reverse. When we arrived at the country club, my friend was immediately recognized by the alumna handing out pre-printed name badges, embraced, and inquired after. When he mentioned my name, she immediately began writing out a name badge for me, taking for granted that I was my friend’s date for the evening.

Straightened out, we headed for the bar, and I followed around as my friend mingled a little. For some time it appeared that the type of person that came to such an event wasn’t the kind that recalled folk like me, but I was enjoying the buzz, the music, and the observations. Eventually, a woman that I did remember approached, and I got to have quite a pleasant conversation with her about life, the past, and being mistreated in high school.

The young woman, who was a mousy, silent thing at age 17, had found her voice, and her confidence. She was (is still, I imagine, it was only a few days ago) very attractive, had a good looking husband, and spoke of her wonderful child. She also spoke of looking around the room, picking out a majority of the night’s guests and fitting them into the category: you were mean to me.

(Note**: see writer’s addendum at the bottom of this blog) 

If this picture is accurate, Sisyphus would have been the strongest person ever... if he weren't already dead.
If this picture is accurate, Sisyphus would have been the strongest person ever… if he weren’t already dead.

If for no other reason, then to show everyone that their childish bullying held no lasting effect, I would have come as well. As it turned out I, apparently, wasn’t so much the victim in high school as I was the juvenile tormentor. Now, I’ve always been a bit of a bear when it comes to my opinions, especially when they concern people I care for and want to see succeed, but I’ve never really considered the lasting effects even the best of intentions might have.

Late in the night, after I had raced through those three sheets, and was club dancing with an old friend’s girlfriend, while he and my traveling companion spirited off for something in more of an inhalant, another of my schoolyard fellows approached me, and asked if I remembered her. I did, although I did far better the next day (read: late in the afternoon) after I had sobered and napped extensively. How my movements must have seemed to her, jolting around as I did on the dance floor! Some time after her initial attempt at contact, it suddenly became necessary to me that I ask her cordial questions about how she’d spent the last twenty years. With this in mind, a darted over to her, startling her greatly in the process. Maybe I was drunk, but there’s no mistaking that wide-eyed look, especially when accompanied by a quick effort to lean back away.

When Grumpy Cat doesn't approve of your bad behavior, you know you messed up.
When Grumpy Cat doesn’t approve of your bad behavior, you know you messed up.

Well, it happened and the night went on. I felt bad, poor woman, but was overjoyed when I suddenly found a Facebook request from her. I used the opportunity to attempt an apology, and received a very pleasant reply, in which she detailed my ceaseless efforts to tease and torment her throughout our high school acquaintance. She went on to say that she harbored no ill will towards me for any of it, that quite the contrary she felt stronger for the tough skin I had helped her to grow.

How horrible! I thought and still think, that I should stick in someone’s mind, simply because of what they perceived to be the negative way that I treated them. Even if she attributed the outcome positively, I can’t help but consider the time she must have spent feeling accosted and unhappy, all the while being too shy or kind or passive to say anything about it. Or worse, she did, and I laughed it off and continued on with my merry berating.

She turned out okay, and so did my friend from the earlier story. Maybe they were both right about the teasing of their peers in youth making them stronger. I, too, got quite a bit of it when I was younger, and I came out pretty tough skinned and confident. Something to prove became a way of life for me, and while I’m still waiting for that “ha ha, see!” finger pointing moment, I feel my negative childhood experiences are a part of that.

From the other side of that coin, it all just goes back to seeming to be a cause of grief, something I would never have intended. How many people did I treat this way, that didn’t turn out okay, just lost any remaining confidence and gave up? People will say you can’t change the past, but I shudder at the prospect.

The final question: are we better off as adults, when we’re taught the harsh lessons of society by classmates? Is the promotion of anti-bullying environments for kids today detrimental to a generation’s ability to traverse the sea of personalities they are thrust onto and forced to sail? If the nerds, dweebs, fat kids, dorks, and nobodies, aren’t told that’s what they are, will they ever know to push back, and become lawyers, doctors, presidents, and blog writers?

We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

No matter how it happened, you chose to become stronger. Get on with your bad self.

 

(**Writer’s Addendum: After having heard from one of the people that inexplicably found their way into this blog, I’ve discovered that I may have slightly overstated the nature of her high school experience. I’m glad that things weren’t as bad for her as my writing portrayed. I still believe the core argument of this article holds merit, however)

The Do it Yourself Conundrum

Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with the expression, “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.” There’s a paradox attached to this, since he believed it but failed. This begs the question: does doing a thing yourself guarantee that thing is done well enough to succeed?

People would argue that a men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are among the most successful people of the modern era. However, is it because they are single-person armies of DIY greatness, or because they knew how to properly manage a large enough group of people that knew what the hell was going on?

That's why he kept his hand in his jacket: he totally forgot to pack warm enough for the Russian offensive.
That’s why he kept his hand in his jacket: he totally forgot to pack warm enough for the Russian offensive.

So, Napoleon wouldn’t listen to anyone, and failed. Gates surrounded himself with brilliant people, and now spends his life giving away money. Is it possible for people to succeed without one another? Trump would probably say yes, but even he’d have to admit that a team could easily defeat one star player.

Not all teams are winners, and you do need strong leadership, that’s what my take away is from this. Michael Jordan couldn’t do it alone, but as a great team leader, he led by example and mentored greatness in others. He also exuded confidence, as proven by his commercial contract with Hanes.

I just recently cut ties with a program I was volunteering for where, as the only non-paid employee, my natural position should have been in the background. Somehow, I ended up taking lead on developing a project, yet never got any of the things I needed from the “team” to succeed. In the end, when things weren’t being handled properly by the people needed to do the things I could not, all the fingers pointed at me, probably since I was the only one doing anything, and also since I was the only one whose job wouldn’t be affected by a show of poor management.

On the other side of the coin, my web-based sitcom K’s House has just finished shooting, and while we had many, many setbacks, I was completely in charge of production. Even though I have the basic knowledge needed to do everything myself, I left things to the people who were most experienced. The quality of the product will be evidence of this, by contrast to the public access show I produced twelve years ago, where I tried to do every little thing by myself.

“K’s House” premiers May 13th.

Trust becomes the key issue, I think. I trusted others to do their part, and got burned. I’ve worked in groceries, where you have to be very selective about whom to trust, since anything they do wrong will have those aforementioned fingers pointing your way once more, and in a hurry to boot.

Where’s the line? In a world where everyone is out for themselves, where close associates will chuck you right at the street in front of that bus if it means safeguarding their own situation, where strangers are just as apt to steal mail from your porch as give you a dollar for gas, where is that line?  From what I can tell, it moves. A lot. So good luck finding it.

A song about being alone, but they still needed each other to sing it.