On the blistering heat and the visions it may bring

To stand outside at this moment is to stand next to a campfire. As long as we stand here, in this moment in time, we are impossibly warm.

Yet, take a step back and remember that the cold beckons. The heat we feel today shall pass, though it may burn a few things back from the edges. In many parts of the country, it will take a few lives.

We're simply creatures who are somewhat cognizant of our journey through this cosmic soup and today we're all impossibly worried about the heat.

Will our air conditioning units make it through and keep us cool? Will our gardens wilt? Will we manage to survive the walk to our car?

I can remember the cold of six months ago, and I imagine many of us then would have traded that moment for this moment. And many of us now are loudly wishing we could go the other way round.

This summer is perhaps the busiest I have had in my life. There has been no slow-down, no let-up in the information I've had to sift through in order to let people know the status of various road projects that have been raised from the dead. There has been no let-up in the need to stand behind a bar bringing people refreshing beverages, and to make sure the place is clean and well-lighted.

Last summer, it seemed I could relax a little, and I don't remember it being quite this warm. Last summer, I felt that there was still a sense that I was young, that I was foolish, that anything could happen if I just wanted it hard enough.

This summer, I feel impossibly cold despite the temperatures outside. I feel frozen and locked in to my duties and responsibilities. My emotions are secondary to the mission, so I move ahead as best I can.

Soon the heatwave will break, and this crisis will be over. Lollipops will not melt in seconds. Runners will take to the streets once more. The sky will return to a pleasant blue and the yellowish haze will fade into the cupboards of our collective memory.

"This too shall pass" someone important once said, and I don't know the source of the quote. A woman I was infatuated with back in 1996 was the first person to give me that particular thread of wisdom. It took me a long time to remove her from my mind, yet she's still there saying that somewhere in the endless library wrapped up in proteins linked around axons and synapses.

The heat shall pass, and something will take its place. This is the first time in a long while where the heat has seemed to be as much a threat as the cold. The world seems different outside right now, and I'm glad to be sitting here at the bar at Court Square Tavern finally writing, finally putting fingers to keys in order to breathe for a few minutes. I am in the moderate warm here, finally quiet, finally by myself after a long week that still isn't quite over.

Tomorrow is another day, said a heroine in a movie I saw once in high school but never have since, and likely never will again unless my children want to see it and I'll feel compelled to explain to them what it was all about.

On Sunday I will talk to them about the heat, and ask them what they think it means. How does it happen? How do the winds in the high high sky conspire to create these conditions? I do not know, but I want them to know. I want them to imagine that they are the only people on the planet sometimes and that they have to figure out parts of it for themselves. I want them to not complain. I want them not to react. I want them to act and to understand and to themselves explain. I want them to feel a sense of duty to other people, no matter what form their work-life takes.

I am proud I work hard. I am proud I am devoted. I am humbled that there will always be more than can be done, and that I can focus more closely on that which must be accomplished before the electricity that fires the synapses in my brain goes out once and for all.

Now I must go out into the heat, and I will feel it on my skin and I will breathe it in and I will take in the moment as best I can. I will try my best to remember this moment so that in six months I can perform some quantum mechanics mind trick.

And frankly, isn't that what writing is?


On comics and zombies

Of late, I've become readdicted to comic books.

Recently I discovered you could buy trade paperbacks and hardcovers through Amazon, and so I've spent some cash in that direction. Every day I go to my post office box in the hopes that my latest purchase from Y: The Last Man has come in. I'm disappointed that it has not yet.

The main one, of course, is the The Walking Dead. 

For years, I thought the zombie idea was pretty dumb. Then Shaun of the Dead came into being, and that got me thinking a little more about what it would be like if mostly every human being around me became a threat. What sort of a life would that be like? How would life change?

Yet, most other movies did not really do much of anything for me. The two-hour zombie movie isn't really that interesting, because I'm not nearly as interested in one-off films. I'm much of a fan of watching a serialized filmed narrative.

So, when AMC's The Walking Dead came on, I was blown away. Characters developed over the six episodes, and the cinematography of an abandoned landscape evoked such sadness and loss. Never before had I been so immersed in what it would be like to be in the world of the undead.

Recently I had a dream about surviving the zombie apocalypse. I woke up thinking it was crucially important for me to purchase a copy of the Walking Dead, which began as a black and white comic. And, so I did.

Of course, this came the same week after discovering a web-comic called AMERICUS which depicts an attempt to ban a fantasy novel in a fictional Oklahoma town. One night I came across it when I needed a second stream of information while I processed some audio. I caught up with the entire thing in an evening, and found myself craving the flesh of the comic narrative. And when that ran out, what better comic to turn to than the Walking Dead?

And now I'm less than a third of the way through the saga, which deviates fairly quickly from the television show. I'm always fascinated with the different approaches taken when different media are used for the same story. As an entertainment, I'm riveted by the possibilities.

And, about three times a week, I am having vivid dreams about what it would be like to survive a world in which everyone is out to get me. I should stress, these are not nightmares. These are practical situations where I am trying to avoid threats. I'm finding that I'm much happier when I wake up after these dreams and I'm dreaming better than I've dreamed in years.

And all because I'm devouring an art-form I've generally stayed away from. I'm using my entertainment budget on something that's truly keeping my brain occupied, helping keep me sane in a world where sometimes it really does feel like everyone is out to get me, even though that's just a healthy dose of paranoia.

The other thing I'm reading at the moment is Grant Morrison's All Star Superman, which is such a breath of fresh-air. This 12-issue series isn't set in any particular continuity, but assumes the reader is familiar with the basic concept of the Superman universe. My favorite era is from the Silver Age, when writers concocted ridiculous notions about Superman. Morrison updates all sorts of strange minutiae, such as Superman's one-time predilection towards keeping a museum at his Fortress of Solitude in his own honor. Bizarro makes an appearance, and it am not good. It's been such a treat to read, and I'm savoring every page.

I even spent 30 minutes reading an issue to my kids, who have taken to comics like a politician to soundbites.I think this is a brilliant marvelous thing.


On working

I just finished a nine-hour shift at Court Square Tavern. There was a party afterwards I could have gone to, but I have to be up early to hang out with my children. I also smell like I've been working.

I have a party to go to tomorrow afternoon, and I'm going to enjoy it, even though I have to write what I would consider to be an important story. I received new information today that I need to put into a narrative. That narrative will be read by thousands of people, possibly more.

But tonight, I'm sitting and enjoying the end of my work week. I try not to do any writing on the weekends so I can have some form of downtime. The tavern is a break from my writing job, but it's still work no matter. I'm paid to be there to bring people what they want.

I'm also paid to think about certain issues so that I can explain them to other people. Hopefully I explain these issues to thousands of people.

These days, I don't seem to do much of anything but work. This summer has been much busier than other ones I've had. I've put all of my personal pursuits behind so that I can do the jobs I need to do.

We're desperately understaffed at Court Square Tavern. There are only three of us who are currently working at night. I've had to pick up more shifts, which isn't so bad because I do my part for the team.

Everything I do, everything all of us do, has a purpose. There's a narrative that undergirds all of it. Working so much without much time for proper relaxation sometimes kicks up so much dust that it is hard to see the bigger picture.

All of us have challenges to overcome. Once we do, another one takes its place. Maybe this is the purpose of being human. Solve what we can so we can get on to the next one.

So, when I sit here late at night when I finally have some time to myself, I have the opportunity to think as the bigger picture resolves itself.

But the best thing about down-time is that I don't have to put my attention on the next challenge at this moment. I can recharge and get ready for more.


Making sense in a cluttered world

At a government meeting, I can hear bird song behind the chatter of elected official and staff and citizens. I no longer have any official duties here and I'm just listening to people say things in favor or against a particular high-profile project.

I no longer feel the need to write things down. I am hoping this is temporary, but I'm not sure anymore. This tremendous cloud of apathy has settled in, and the winds have stopped blowing.

Perhaps its a form of paralysis. A Medusa has caught me in her gaze and no antidote has yet been found. So, I continue to think thoughts that sail past me into the ether.

I know the reasons why I am stuck, but I can't bring them into the light. I lack the muscles, the neurotransmitters, the chemicals, the animating force.

I also lack the courage. My life has become so leveraged, just like so many people's lives do when satisfying the mortgage becomes more important than living out a dream. The risks are too high to force action.

This is temporary, I feel. Everything I know and believe about myself leads me to think that a new geological era will spring forth. I will hear a melody shortly that will cause the facade to begin to break apart.

Perhaps that melody will sound a bit like birdsong.