Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Finished LB book of short stories

 Short stories don't get the credit they deserve. Some of the best, most memorable, writing I've read is in that format. Mark Twain's take the cake. Poe is right behind. William Faulkner, outstanding. A surprise for me was Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.

Those guys turned out some of the funniest, most frightening and deepest stories I've ever read.

What I also like about them is you can grab a book of their collected works and knock one out in a few minutes. Don't have time to settle in for an hour or two of reading, but want to feel like you accomplished something, grab a short story.

I seldom read two in a row, especially if the one was good. I feel like they should stand on their own and if you read two in one sitting it seems like they meld together a bit. Read one good one and marinade on it.

Lawrence Block's collection I just finished featured twenty-one short stories. Some better than others, as obviously you're always going to have your favorites. But there were a couple where I went to work the next day and regaled the staff with the plots. I don't know if I actually regaled them. I might have bored them with my telling of the story, but I regaled myself by reliving them.

"Cleveland in My Dreams" was like a long joke with a zinger of a finish. I'll be telling that one to captive audiences the rest of my life.

"The Tulsa Experience" was one where Block just drops the hammer at the end with a twist that makes you wonder "Did he really just write that?"

"Some Days You Get the Bear" was just so darn weird that it made me respect the writer's twisted mind so much I wanted to be like him but would be worried if I were.

In his introduction, Block says: "Short stories should speak for themselves. Writers, on the other hand, probably shouldn't." He goes on to talk about his stories anyway.

Block is a master and a delight and one of my favorite writers. I have some issues with him personally that I have written about in the past. But I'm guessing Edgar A. Poe wasn't always the most delightful person at times either. Actually, iy seems like a running theme with most of the greats. Watch Ken Burns' documentary on Ernest Hemingway for a prime example.

Writers. Go figure.

Friday, August 13, 2021

The 'have-to' rule of marriage

 It took a few years of marriage but wifey and I finally settled on "Is it a 'have-to?'" to settle some of our discussions. Mostly, okay, almost always, it's me doing the asking.

See, my wife is the social one. She likes people and people like her. I like my dogs and a few people. 

Given to my own devices, I'm very content staying home, puttering, gardening, reading, writing, watching the Twins, walking the dogs, running or working out. The other thing is we both run in separate circles, don't really have many mutual friends. We have two couples who when they are in the area we do things with; otherwise she goes her way and I go mine (home).

She also comes from a large family who like to do things together. Like everything. They have get-togethers for the obvious things: weddings, birthdays, funerals. But those are not limited to just immediate family. It's also those of cousins, aunts, uncles, friends of family, neighbors, homeless people, the plumber, etc.

I have one sister I see about once a year. I saw my mom last summer and hadn't seen her for three years before that. We talk on the phone weekly but usually just a few minutes. We Norwegians are not a talkative bunch, and when we are together mostly just sit around and stare at each other.

As for my wife, I go to the obvious stuff, like immediate family birthdays, weddings, anniversaries; not out of marital duty but because I usually enjoy them. But then there's the breakfast in the park-type events. "Why are you all having breakfast in the park?" I ask. "To see everyone," she says. "But we just saw them," I'd say. "But my second cousins from Oregon are going to be there." It's the extended stuff that usually led to me asking: "Do I have to go?"

Or they have parties for any reason they can think of, like: So and so just got new wallpaper. Somebody got a new job. Somebody lost their job. Somebody just got out on parole. 

Wifey, recognizing my personality and foibles and the extended reach of some of the events, settled on: "How about if I just tell you if it's a 'have-to' and for the others you can decide whether or not to come and I won't be mad?" The "I won't be mad" was kind of a warning sign to me, but she stuck to it. And sometimes I go even if it's not a "have-to." I just feel better knowing I made the decision and it wasn't made for me.

I also tend to live in my own world and am, admittedly, not always the best judge of what the societal norms demand of me, largely because I don't care that much about the norms but also am largely oblivious to them.

So, I just ask her. Like the other day, she had a co-worker's adult son pass away and she was going to the funeral on Saturday morning. I've met the lady like three times and never met the son. But it seemed like one of those borderline things I might not be the best judge of, so I asked: "Is that something I should attend?" She said, no. So I didn't and felt a little guilty about it, but not enough to make me get cleaned up on my day off.

Having said that, funerals are a deal I have changed my feelings about over the years. It used to be if I didn't know the deceased person, why the heck would I go? Then my dad died and I remembered the good feelings I felt upon seeing MY friends and coworkers and such who came, even though they may not have known my dad.

They were there FOR ME. It hit me. Funerals aren't for the deceased. They are for the the family of the deceased.

So I started attending more funerals out of sympathy for my friends whether I knew their lost loved one or not. This last one was just pretty borderline and I err on the side of staying home in those situations.

I will say, I've never gone to a funeral and then wished I hadn't. I probably should err more on that side. But hey, a guy can only grow so much in 57 years. I'm still a work in progress.

Until then, the "have-to" rule still comes in handy.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Heart rate rising with every brush stroke

 I've mentioned before how much I enjoy my FitBit. One of the things it measures is BPM (beats per minute) for my heart. Like most things, I obsess over it a bit.

It's helpful in knowing my resting heart rate and my maximum heart rate when running. As for the resting heart rate, it's interesting to watch it rise or fall week to week or day to day, and I try to figure out the reasons for the movement - stress, not feeling well, too little sleep, etc.

The most recent change seemed to coincide with buying furniture.

Wifey and I have been married 30-plus years and have always had a hodge-podge of furniture, some hand-me-downs, some used stuff, an occasional new recliner. All different colors and brands. Heck, for the first 7-8 years living in Rapid City, we had a glass patio table as our dinner table, though we never set up the umbrella. We aren't that big of rednecks. Mostly, we just aren't very pretentious and lean toward the functional. If somebody doesn't want to have dinner with us because we have patio furniture in our house, so be it. 

But that changed a month ago, with my heart rate, because we bought our first new, matching set of living room furniture. Couch, sofa, recliner. The whole ten yards. Which, actually, turned out to only be five yards, because then I learned we needed to paint our living room, dining room and kitchen to match the furniture. And we needed new window treatments to match the paint. And new hanging decor to match the window treatments. Fortunately, the dogs are the right color.

It wasn't so much the buying the stuff that caused my heart to jump, it was the process of doing all the extraneous stuff: Picking a color, taping, painting, hanging things. And, while it's generally a good thing to be taller than average, it's not good to be the tall person when you're doing all that stuff. "Hey, tall guy, I can't reach up there!"

This past weekend we finished it all (with the help of daughter and son-in-law), but guess what? Our new furniture hasn't arrived yet!

Back to the heart rate. Apparently, when you're at your fittest, your heart rate is generally at it's lowest. For me, that's generally mid-summer. Between more running, more hikes with the dogs, and more back and forth to the garden, I'm at my peak by end of July.

My resting heart rate has been at 54 beats per minute. This past couple weeks it's started rising, 55, 56, 57, now 58.

That's not something to get concerned about. 58 is still good. But something caused it to go up and I think it happened somewhere between balancing one foot on the ladder on the stairs and the other foot on a ledge as I tried to hanging a huge 20-pound picture above the stairway to the basement and doing the same with wife holding the folded ladder at an angle while I hung another.

Or it could have been: "This white paint was supposed to have a gray tint, but it looks blue to me?" So we took it back.

Or it could have been: "I think we need to paint the ceiling too."

That was actually the one argument I won, or then we were looking at high 70s for the ol' ticker if I'd been stuck (tall guy) doing that..

Now, it'd just be nice if the new furniture showed up. Hope to hell it matches.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Some pillow talk

 I've got a soft spot for my pillow. My wife hates it.

I've had it for I'm guessing 20 years. I don't know what's in it, could be dog hair and dead prairie dogs for all I know. It's yellow. Not it's natural color. And it's always damp. I can set it on the railing of the deck in 90 degree weather all afternoon and it'll still be damp. Don't know what's up with that. Not sure I want to know.

Every time my wife changes the pillow case she threatens to throw it away. But she doesn't throw it away because she knows I'm a man who doesn't like change and who gets grumpy when things do change. Mostly she just doesn't want grumpy me grouching around the house.

She told me the other day she almost bought me a new pillow on Amazon but it was too expensive. (As if that's ever stopped her before.)

So the pillow lives on. It supports me and I support it. We have a bro code.

The thing is, when I come to bed late, I find her using MY pillow. I ask her, if it's such an awful, gross pillow, why do you use it every time I'm not here?

She says: "I like it. It smells like you."

Which I guess is a good thing. That scent consists of Old Spice deodorant, Listerene drool, OFF insect spray, and garlic-scented sweat. You can find it in your finer cologne sections. Just ask for: Ode deHaugs.

I laugh scornfully at those pillow commercials. I don't want a Purple pillow, a MyPillow, a TEMPUR pillow or one with magnets or one that supports my neck and is recommended by chiropractors nationwide.

I don't want a lavender scented one. I don't want a down one, a goose feather one, or a cotton one. 

I want the stinky, moldy, wet, yellow-stained pillow that forms to my head perfectly. It's gotten me this far, and I pity the nursing home that won't let me bring it in due to hazardous materials regulations.