Friday, June 13, 2008

A Brief Writing Exercise...Exerpt From My Manuscript

The only other kids in the store were a teary-eyed toddler in a shopping basket (with a very harassed looking woman pushing it, her hair whisping every which way) and a kid sweeping out the produce section with one of those big floppy cloth push-brooms. Every other human under eighteen appeared to be doing something else, probably hiding out under rocks with the oppressive heat that was already forming outside. Yannick peeked out the front door at the shimmering heatwaves already distorting the image of their rental car. He turned back to look at his dad at the queue to the counter, then the lady pushing the shopping cart, and finally back to the broom kid. At least the broom guy looked like a kid, he was blonde haired and had a baby face, but a slight transformation happened as he drew closer--and Yannick felt one of those brief moments of disorientation--a pale goatee shimmered to life on the man's chin and upper lip, and wrinkles formed between his furrowed eyebrows as he scrutinized the floor. The only people under voting age in the store were the little tyke and Yannick.

He turned back to face the booth. It had a large orange plastic sign suspended from two dusty chains hanging over it titled Service in bold italic trebuchet font. David was now standing in the front of the line, the lady with the walker who had been in front of him was walking away clutching a carton of Camel Crush cigarettes with a shuffle click, shuffle click. David asked a question, then cocked his head sligtly, listening now to the woman behind the glass window reply. Yannick could see she wore an olive green cap with the letters Chaco stitched across the front, a white polo shirt, and a red vest over it with a name tag. He couldn't see her pants, but he bet they were shorts, and the same color as the hat she wore. Her feet probably had been tucked into sandals too, judging from the hat. She seemed like the kind of lady that would accessorize from her hat--bolstered by the fact that she was very tidy, her clothing impeccably pressed. Yannick could see the creases in her sleeves even from where he stood. Her name tag read Cheryl, and Cheryl was obviously describing directions. David held a Red Rocks map in one hand, a Moab map in the other, and his day pack had been dropped to the floor and kicked to the side. They'd come in to pick up a few goodies; some Gatorade, a pack of batteries (the ones in Yannick's flashlight had died last night on the way back from the bathroom), and get some directions. Yannick knew his dad was lonely, he could see it in his eyes when he met a woman he thought was good looking, but David never went out on any dates. David leaned slightly in, placed the two maps on the small counter between the glass panels, and put his elbow on the counter, never breaking eye contact.

The trail maps he'd held were the glossy laminated ones, the ones that never seem to fold up correctly. Yannick preferred the paper ones, but after their trip to Zion last month, David now swore by laminated ones. The Zion Narrows had put the kibosh on the paper maps, their only one had been soaked and torn in half when unfolded 30 minutes into the hike.

He asked a question, Yannick just outside earshot to catch it clearly, only hearing a slight murmuring and a few lower tones of his dad's vocal registry. David had said something that obviously excited the lady, she began gesturing emphatically with her hands. She took the Moab map from the counter, flipped it over and traced out directions, pausing and narrating at key points. Then she leaned in too. Yannick yawned and turned back to looking around the store. He walked the few steps from the magazine rack to the service booth, tapped his dad's shoulder and pointed to himself, then gestured back to the store. David continued their non-verbal communication and nodded in reply to his gesture. Yannick turned away and began to walk, knowing David would be busy for a good ten minutes talking shop with the tidily dressed hiker-woman behind the counter.

He walked past stacks of kidney beans and crackers on the aisle ends, turning down one that seemed most likely to have camera and camping gear. Yanick wandered along displays of fishing lures, egg holders, portable toilets, and hunter orange clothing, then found himself in a section that had some rock climbing stuff. He read the tags on the boxes; carabiner, rappel ring, jumar, crash pad. He looked at the pictures of the climbers on the tags, read the descriptions of each device. Some of the photography was really quite good. He thought back to the girl who he had watched climbing that boulder that morning. Maybe he could go take some photos and see how they turned out. That spot by the outhouse seemed to have a nice setting, good light, good landscape, even the outhouse was mercifully blocked by the scrubby juniper trees. It was a definite possibility. Tomorrow he'd have to go ask some of them if he could take their pictures.

He walked back around the far end of the aisle, heading back toward the service desk where his dad and the lady would most likely still be leaning over the map talking. As he turned the corner back onto the main area in front of the check stands, he spotted his dad. He was still talking with the lady behind the counter. Yannick grabbed a pack of trail mix and some Wrigley's spearmint gum. He paid the checker, a tan thin woman also wearing a red vest over her white blouse and tan shorts, and walked back to the counter. He heard Cheryl laugh as he was approaching, watched as she wrote something and handed it to David, clicking the button end of the pen before tucking it up under the band of the cap she wore. She stood and smiled, looking at them both, arms folded under her breasts.

David watched Yannick and pursed his lips out for a moment. He turned back to Cheryl, nodded and fire off a quick thank you, not one of those professional kind of niceties, but sincere, and nodded again as he left. He joined Yannick again and they walked past the magzine rack, past the paper maps. Yannicks hands twitched momentarily and he chuckled to himself ruefully. They walked together to the drink aisle, grabbed a tin of powdered Arctic Shatter Gatorade, and made their way perpindicular along the aisles, trying to find some AA batteries. David broke the silence first. "You know, there's a lady at work from Ecuador who says if your shoes squeak that they're complaining they've been stolen." Yannick turned to look at him, puzzled, lost at his train of thought. "What do you mean? Are my shoes squeaky?" David laughed and nodded. "Your left one, and every step." Yannick looked down at the pair of hiking shoes he wore, gray Asolo hiking boots he'd gotten before their trip to Zions. A lot of things had changed in that trip. He never had hiked before that time, never really talked with his dad, certainly hadn't joked with him for several years. They found the batteries, a ten pack with a bonus Shrek flashlight, and went to the checkout. The same thin woman was at the register, she winked at Yannick like he was a five year old as David paid for the groceries. Yannick put the stuff into the backpack, and they walked out the door into the heat.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Internet's False Carte Blanche

This morning I wandered into the comment section of a news article on ksl.com. Normally I avoid the comment sections like I would avoid the plague, but today for some reason I wanted to check in to see if the ugliness was still as rampant as I remembered. A bare ten seconds into the read confirmed it was.

It never ceases to amaze me what anonymity will embolden people to post. Hatred. Anger. Stereotyping. Ill humor. Small mindedness. The most appalling thing is the hate. People spray it all over the place, their cheeky comments reeking with oily sticky hate.

If you were to put these same folks in a room and make them talk about these things face-to-face the reactions would be vastly different. Sure, the feeling of an Internet forum would lead one to believe that a knife or two might be pulled, but I have to believe that is a false impression. Most of them would behave like a group of embarrassed seventh graders at a school dance. There'd be a lot of embarrassed shuffling of feet, no dancing out on the floor, and not a heck of a lot of interaction. The truth is, all the hubris hack posted out in the ether has to be due to the false sense of security the Internet allows us to engender.

The real troubling thing to me is that it fosters hate. Especially across demographic, space and time. We have folks who would never speak uncivilly to one another face-to-face airing their thoughts out for all of cyberspace to see. It's a false pretense, yet to the people posting it, and receiving replies to it, take it as a very personal affront. A scene from Romeo and Juliet comes to mind, and the scene where the Capulet and Motague boys, fueled by testosterone, find an excuse to pounce on one another (Act I, Scene I).

Enter ABRAHAM and BALTHASAR

ABRAHAM
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

SAMPSON
I do bite my thumb, sir.

ABRAHAM
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

SAMPSON
[Aside to GREGORY] Is the law of our side, if I say
ay?

GREGORY
No.

SAMPSON
No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I
bite my thumb, sir.

GREGORY
Do you quarrel, sir?

ABRAHAM
Quarrel sir! no, sir.

SAMPSON
If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.

ABRAHAM
No better.

SAMPSON
Well, sir.

GREGORY
Say 'better:' here comes one of my master's kinsmen.

SAMPSON
Yes, better, sir.

ABRAHAM
You lie.

SAMPSON
Draw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.

They fight


'Not so!' you might say, claiming that the Internet empowers people to be honest in what they're thinking. Whereas a muttered-under-the-breath comment may have been spoken and discarded, now one can, with full a breath and aided by the diaphragm, sound his YAWP from the rooftops of the world. And relive/rehash it ad nauseum. There's the true honesty. There's the truth unpainted, unfettered, unrestrained and in a ten second sound byte.

I read an article in the April 2008 The Atlantic titled The Britney Show. The author, David Samuels, meets up with and runs around with several paparazzi while they chase Britney for that million dollar shot. It goes over the well documented melt-down and raises ethical questions separate from this posting, but I took a key point from it. Mr Samuels talks about how popular gossip websites proliferate the media frenzy by creating forums and allowing the readers to comment and hash it out for their favorite celeb. All in the attempt at getting us to buy into it. All in the attempt to sell us the news and make some cold hard cash. Pretty slick method, yet nothing new. Gossip rags have sold for years at the newsstands. The e-form has also been around for close to a dozen years in various listserv and forum guises. The issue I have is that it's widespread and may be consumed wholly as reality for some folks. Where will the balance come from?

Don't we need a little restraint? Especially in today's busy road-rage-filled society?

Imagine if we didn't restrain ourselves a wee bit. Everyone would be pulling guns on one another on the freeways. The checkout lines at Wal-Mart would be a constant brawl. Disorder and anger would reign everywhere. Sounds very Bradburian doesn't it? But still...it could happen. If we become a nation of narcissists, bent on our own opinion and not concerned about the feelings or views of others, it could happen.

Order is built on the fact that we need to suck it up, swallow the snide comment, beg pardon when bumping elbows in a crowded space. Society demands it, propriety demands it, tolerance understands it.

So lay off the hate. Tolerate.

-Jay

Friday, June 06, 2008

Your Random Tidbit of the Day


I saw this Western Tanager from my kitchen window today while I was preparing a bottle of formula. Perhaps you, like I was earlier, are wondering what a brightly colored (nearly tropical!) bird is doing at our chilly parallel. I figured him for an escapee, but Utah falls in his native area. Point of fact, that native area stretches across most of the western US. Also of note, the riot red coloring on his face is not produced by the bird, he has to get it from the diet of bugs he eats.
I call him a he, the females are harder to spot; they are olive colored and more camouflaged. This specimen is not in it's mating season colors either. As mating season approaches, the blaze can cover the entire head. I am pretty amazed that I've not seen one before, garbed like a road worker in tux and tails. It just goes to show me that if I stop and stand still for a moment, hidden things like this reveal themselves.
And that's your random tidbit of the day.
Jay

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Up To Date

This is going to be a posting designed to bring you up-to-date. Expect ramblings. Expect loose association, if any. Think of this as a journal entry.

Saturday before last I bought a couple of rock climbing walls from a fellow off ksl.com. He drive them down from Bluffdale at the song of $100 a pop, free shipping. I've wanted a bit of a rock climbing wall for a while now, and between the lumber, the screws, the holds, assembly and delivery the single Benjamin price tag seemed reasonable.

They've been great. Two weeks of climbing on them every day, two weeks of getting Melissa and Hyrum out there, two weeks of climbing exercise (which I normally don't get, seeing as how my exercise has been limited to a radius of 5 miles from home). The ability of going out to the garage for a short crank session is fantastic. The fact that Melissa can climb, Hyrum too--well that makes it downright priceless. Well, OK, maybe not in the literal terms of an ancient artifact, but valuable nonetheless.

The past three Saturdays I've been running. Ogden was the 17th, then the next Sat was a 3.25 loop by my house, the 31st the same loop. For some reason it just feels right to get out. So I continue, slowly running, breaking it up with sections of walking, no grand intentions involved. Exercise merely for the sake of exercise. It's nice to get out and do it.

Work is going pretty well--we're continually growing and learning new ways of helping our customers. We've gotten a new batch of hires this week (on Monday), and that alone is a challenge. But this group of folks seems pretty sharp so we'll see how they all fit in with the batch of Engineers we currently have.

I interviewed for a Team Manager position, a series of three interviews, ending in a pleasant talk with the Site Manager, Jeff. Cool guy, never felt the sort of camaraderie with the previous Site Manager. Will be finding out shortly how that shook down. The extra income would be fantastic (and that segues beautifully into my next section).

Melissa and I have been house hunting for months now. We have been a bit on-again, off-again as the price of the things is a bit scary as hell--we will either make an offer and get slapped by the owners (for a not-unreasonable offer nonetheless!), or be interested only to find we were beaten out by an earlier offer. We hae our eyes on a beauty of a home in our ward boundaries now, but even after getting an unofficial offer accepted, we're having second thoughts due to the sheer cost of a place. All those zeroes staring back from that paper may as well be gaping mouths of hell hounds for the amount of fear they instill.

Funny that, but it keeps on happening.

I'm not really intending to come off completely discouraged. There is a great fact in the truth that we will find our place, and with the debt to income ratio as a more balanced number.

This makes me think back to the whole income thing, and Melissa's job. She has been interviewing for a Supervisor position as well, one which would bring a $2.40 an hour raise. That's pretty dang significant. If I get a raise, and she gets a raise, well then. That's more money! Opens a whole set of doors to fight all those gaping maws of zeroes on the mortgage.

The kids are growing like crazy. Maddy and Hyrum are pretty much toilet trained, occasionally they'll have an accident if outdoors and having fun for an extended amount of time. They continually surprise me with what they say, how big they are, how much they love to be learning, exploring, and searching out bugs. Miles is rolling around all over the place and is eating lots of solid foods (both a bit of old news I'm afraid). He is such a smiley kid.

It's 6 am now, and I am tired...will probably go out to the break room and get a bite to eat from the vending machines.

See? I told ya this was going to be a rambling post.

-Jay