Monday, May 2, 2011

Fish in the Sea

I used to sleep with four stuffed fish.  Each of them had different colors, a different shape to their fins, and eyes that shined like gems even in the twilight of bedtime.

They were all from Sarasota, Florida, but I like to think they were all from some tropical locale like Australia or New Zealand or Costa Rica. Or maybe they were from somewhere in the Caribbean or just visiting from the Bahamas.  Wherever they were from, they were stunning examples of the beautiful pupils in the deep, dark oceans.  Not only were they strikingly detailed, but as a crafted toy—for lack of better word—they were remarkable.

It’s distressing now that I can’t remember a single one of their names.  I can see them on my sheets, scattered across my floor, and even resting on the sill of my wide basement window.  I can see them in my loft, playing in fleece blankets and conversing with bubbles and still, quiet communication.

But I can’t remember their names.

I feel like I’ve lived some bizarre one-night-stand with my stuffed animals.  Wham, bam, thank you ma’am—err, fish—and out the door of my memory bank.  Of course, back when I had the fish, a one-night-stand was not a concept I was familiar with, nor one that crossed my mind when I would cuddle up next to them beneath a giant comforter or amidst a nest of pillows.

Still, it’s oddly painful and slightly disconcerting that, regardless of the years we spent together, I cannot remember their names.

One was light yellow with blue eyes and a tail that was flimsy and sinewy like a strand of fiber optic lights.  She was the pretty one, I remember that.  She had a fin on her back like a row of lilacs growing out of her spine, and if you wanted to, you could smell them and make believe that everything was calm, was comforting, that everything around you was okay. 

She was like a good friend or nice bath in that way.   

There was another, like a clown fish.  Orange and white bands that moved like waves across his tummy and over his tail.  He was small, but I know he was feisty.  If you asked me then, I would have told you that he had a sailor’s mouth and a bad habit of smoking seaweed in the depths of deep ocean trenches.  Still, he was good natured—the fish you loved because it was the right thing to do and you couldn’t help but do so.  His tail was stitched up, and my dad would tell me how he barely escaped the jaws of that terrible shark.

But I was smarter than that; our golden retriever could barely keep her head above water, let alone swim with all the aggression and speed of a the sea’s greatest predator.

The red one was small.  A green iris and blazing, burning body.  He was like Christmas without the family tension.  But small, yes, he was the littlest of them all and he slipped around those silky sheets like a minnow wriggling out of your hands.  He was the youngest, of course, the one that pretty fish and smoking fish put up with because they had to.  I suppose they pitied him too, what with the missing fin.
He was smart.  He was quick and cunning and witty and could make you laugh like no one else at home or at school ever could.  But shy, yes, so very shy and quiet.  The introvert, the hidden and the hiding.

The last of the four was the first of the bunch.  Of course, he was my favorite, and I don’t think I could have asked for more beautiful bed-mate. 

He was blue, bluer than the water he adventured in, bluer than any reef he swam over, bluer than the sky he peeked up at when taking a quick breath above the surface.  His scales shimmered like rain on a pavement when the light baked his sides.  His eyes were orange, orange like the thin pipes of burnt ochre that curved around his fins and ran from his face to his tail. 

He was fire.  He kept me warm at night.

And it’s funny, yes, the way a fish can keep you warm, when they’re the ones who sleep in the cold oceans and beneath the waxing and waning and crashing tide.  How a creature that comes from water, comes from anti-fire, is capable of enveloping you in a sense of soothing heat.

I suppose that heat is not really physical warmth, but rather the connection that imbues a sense of love and presence into the space between your hugs. 

Presence.  Hmm. 

It’s unfortunate to use a word like that when even his name escapes me. 

I remember the little girl that picked that fish out of the Garage Sale bin.

I remember the way her blond hair was disheveled and dirty and matted.  I remember the white t-shirt that wasn’t actually white anymore, but still partially maintained the face of Barbie and a small speech bubble that said “Too Cool for You!  Barbie!” with a little heart that could have been pink or purple or brown, depending on the way the sun hit the iron-on design.

Her face is dirty too.  Of course it is. 

But her hands are spotless, and almost seem to glow white hot in the sun of an early Saturday morning.

She is standing next to her brother, who is much younger and cares much less about the garage sale and more about the bugs that litter our driveway, crawling in and out of leaves and acorns and twigs.

I don’t think I thought much of her at first, but I know I couldn’t take my eyes off of her when I saw her pick the blue-orange fish from the animal bin and hug it close to that filthy t-shirt.

“She’s so pretty!” the little girl yells. “She’s so pretty and she’s going to be so happy.”

I whisper to no one that she is a he.

“She’s going to be so happy.”

As they weave through tables of knick-knacks and clothing we’ve all outgrown, they make their way to the register—a tackle box that looks all kinds of official—and hand me a quarter.

Twenty-five cents.

The face of Thomas Jefferson is stoic and I know that I do not smile as the little girl holds him out before me, my fish in her other hand.

“Thanks!”

I nod.

“She’s going to be mine and we’re going to be so happy.”

“He might not like you calling him she or her,” I say. 

“She. Her. She. Her.  She’s mine now.”

My neck is hot and all I want to do is throw her quarter on the ground and tell her that he’s not for sale, that I’ve changed my mind, that I guess I haven’t grown up after all.

She walks away with her new fish and I stand there with tears in my eyes because he should still be mine.  He should still be there in the middle of my blankets, floating among the waves of pillows and the wake of a tossing and turning boy who’s too grown up to sleep with toys.

Thinking back, I guess she just needed him more, that the fish had so much more purpose for her than he had left for me.

I think, that maybe I was just in love with that fish because that’s what I knew at that time, what felt comfortable, what felt right.

But that thought will never extinguish the burning desire to just have him back, of that I am sure.

I just miss him, you know? 

I just want things to go back to that moment when he is swimming up the currents of sheets and blankets and duvets and throw pillows and warm, fuzzy feelings.

I just want to be happy with that goddamned fish and I don’t want anyone else to have him because we are so happy together even when I’m too old to play with stuffed animals, to talk to my toys.

I just want things to be like they were and I wonder if there’s anything wrong with that?

I wonder and I shout and I cry because I just want someone to answer me when I ask: Why? Why? WHY?

But in my mind, in that memory of that little girl walking to her car and throwing her new friend into the air and holding her close, my Mom comes out from the garage and yells toward her and her mother and her brother.  And the little girl looks back and says “me?”

And mom says: “Don’t you have a name for her?”

Little Dirty Girl looks down and thinks out loud: “ummmmmm”

“Maybe you can call her Coral?” and the little girl is giddy with glee. 

Mom looks back at me and she winks.  “There.  Now, whenever you need to know that things are okay, you’ll have the knowledge that your fish, your Coral, is somewhere safe, being loved, and he will think of you every his name is used.”

I wonder now if I’ll ever see that fish again, if he’ll somehow find his back through the streams and rivers and channels and back into my little, tiny land where fish can talk and you don’t have to grow up.  Mostly, I just want.  Mostly, I just think we’d be happier than that damn disheveled girl and her dirty face.

Mostly, I think of me and my Coral.

Coral.

Coral.

His name was Coral.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nature vs. Josh

It’s not every day that you pee yourself out of fear and then openly admit it to the World Wide Web.  Today, however, is not every day.  Today is a day in which I sit before you, shivering to the bone out of terror, and readily type: I WET MYSELF TWO DAYS AGO.

Luckily, I was in the shower. 

Perhaps you’ve noticed through my tweets or constant barrage of Facebook statuses that nature and I have not been on the best of terms lately.  It’s a silly little argument, really.  Right now, we just to see eye to eye, and, because Mother Earth and her inhabitants do not care to come in second in our daily race to the finish, I’ve been the victim of several animal related incidents in the past few weeks. 

I won’t lie, folks.  She’s taken her toll on me with these every day struggles.  I guess I have no choice but to write through these pains. Fortunately for you, I am a natural born storyteller and have the ever wonderful gift of tale, voice, and intrigue. 

Oh, and a massive, faux ego that I use to pump myself up but then immediately back down from because I fear it makes me sound pretentious, arrogant, and unappealing. 

And Josh Plattner is none of the above. 

They say aversion therapy works for smokers and drinkers.  You become exposed to excessive amounts of your problem and then, suddenly, you’re no longer addicted/afraid/abusive.  Well, I don’t have massive amounts of nature’s finest creatures with which to fill a bathtub and then roll around in.  But: I do have a laptop, Microsoft Word, and some frightening memories that make funny/sad/relatable stories.

Here’s to catharsis!

Close to Argus

One of my favorite episodes of 30 Rock—and how can you even pick!—is about the last will and testament of Don Geiss.  In his will, he left Jack his proud and ever-strutting Peacock, Argus.  It’s a magnificent bird, though somewhat terrifying in speed, and is referred to as a “living dinosaur” by Liz Lemon.  In the episode, Argus marks Liz as his wife by placing his wing feathers in her mouth: “WHY ARE THEY SO OILY?!”

I laugh every single time it happens because the thought of a bird’s feathers slapping someone across the face and then permeating their taste buds is hilarious!  Seriously, that’s funny!

Well, it used to be funny.

It was a beautiful Thursday morning.  I can’t tell you if the sky was blue and the sun was shining, but I remember it was stunning because I was already hopped up on copious amounts of caffeine and downing my second coffee beverage of the day on my walk up Old Main hill.

Lady Gaga was blasting into my ears (“I’m on the right track…!”) and everything was coming up Josh.  I might have even broken out into song on my little walk up the hill! 

I was minding my business, whistling along with my iPod—named Grapes—when I came across a robin in a tree that was also whistling.  I was touched; I was really connecting with nature.  The connection turned literal, however, just a minute or so later.

So here I am sitting with my iPod in my hands and watching with this little robin bop it’s little head back in forth like it’s listening along.  And then Gaga sings: “Black, white, beige…” and I say (out loud like a lunatic talking to himself) “hey, Robin!  You’re sorta beige!  And you know what?  You were born that wa—” Well, I didn’t quite make it to the ‘y.’  You see, as I turned away from the robin on “way,” another robin flew directly into the right side of my face, knocking off the novelty glasses I unnecessarily wear on a regular basis.

Ironically, the gross and, YES, oily feathers of the robin that had just made my face his crash pad slipped across my lips and even managed to flutter gently across my tongue, leaving the faint taste of after-shave and dead lady bug on my teeth.  Yes, it was left on my teeth.  I could taste the robin’s oily ickyness all over my bicuspids and canines. 

I no longer laugh at Liz Lemon’s peacock panic. 

I just empathize.

Wait, They Nest?

The answer to that question is yes.  They do.

It’s the same day and I’m still jumpy because I am more than certain that every robin on the ground, busily pecking at earthworms or, hopefully, centipedes is about to rise from the dir or grass or cement and sky attack my face.  Paranoia had set in. 

But I am off with my geology lab for a “field trip.”

I want to be very clear that field trip in this sense is nowhere near as exciting as it was in elementary, middle, or even high school.  In fact, field trips might even be worse than regular class periods these days!  You see, field trip in the geological sense means: we’re going to look at rock outcrops in the St Peter area and then talk about why this rock is there and why that rock goes there and how they arrived in this beautiful city.

Honestly, leaving campus is somewhat pleasurable, even if it is just to look at boring ol’ rocks.  It’s unfortunate that Laura Triplett doesn’t teach something more exciting; she’s a great professor. 

Anyway, we’re bussing all over the place, taking peaks at river deposits, at some quaternary till, and even some erratic boulders deposited by glaciers!  WOOT!  Soon, we arrive at a sign on 169 that says, NO TRESPESSING, and I read: You will be shot for stepping foot on my property.  Seriously though, you don’t know what people will do.  Ever since watching that episode of South Park where the farmer just up and shoots anyone on his property without a second thought, I can’t help but think: these could be my last steps.

I guess I don’t trespass very often so those thoughts are sort of irrelevant.  Whaeva!!!

So I step passed the sign and I remain alive.  Yay!  And I’m walking forward listening (sort of) to Laura telling us to grab rock specimens and present them to the rest of our group.  So we scatter.  As we do so, I get excited because there’s a river right next to me and GOD KNOWS I love little outdoor activities and enjoy getting dirty in nature.  So I scamper off toward the stream bank to get a closer look at the sandstone—rockdropping, no big deal.

I take three steps or so and I hear someone say, “snake!”

I turn, and sure enough, slithering behind me, a good distance away, is a garter snake trying to climb an embankment of a sloping rock mass.  I laugh because snakes are stupid.  Sure it’s nervous laughter cuz lord knows if it comes near me I’m gonna kill it or kick it into the nearby culvert.

Off to the river!  I turn and take a few more steps and then think about how odd it is that the earth beneath my feet, not-so-safely confined in the care of flip-flops, is softer than the rest of the packed dirt around me.  I think it must just be part of the river, but look down just in case.

I am standing in—not on, in—a writhing, wiggling mass of garter snakes.  There’s probably eight to ten, and three of them rocket into the air when my foot comes reeling out of their scaly, squiggly nest.

I stepped in a snake nest.  A snake nest.

A. Snake. Nest.

The worst part is how dry they felt as they skittered between my toes.  Not quite a dry rag, and not quite a pumice stone.  It was like taking a dry loofa and dragging it through the spaces between your toes. 

Oh, and if you’re trying it for yourself, don’t forget to cut a little fiber of the loofa so that it sticks out slightly.  Pretend it’s a tongue. Pretend it’s a snake tongue licking your foot and that there’s nothing you can do but make a whimpering noise and flee to the river.

How to Lose a Toenail

I spend a lot of time in the courtyard cafĂ©.  Usually it’s late night work that just didn’t find a way to get done over the course of the day, or was intentionally put off out of laziness or boredom or any other excuse I could make up. 

So it follows that I spend a good amount of time outdoors, at night, walking home in the dark.  I don’t mind it; in fact, I almost prefer it.

Of course, if you know me well, you’re aware that I love me some flip-flops.  Flip-flops, while more comfortable, freeing, and wearable than normal shoes, are not always the smartest choice of footwear.  This is especially true at night, in the dark, when it’s raining, and when it’s cold. 

Two nights ago, all four of these conditions were not only present, but I was also hopped up and caffeine and thought that it would be a fine idea to skip gleefully home in the rain.

Turns out there are creatures that appear more readily in the rainy nights than in otherwise pleasant weather conditions.

Any guesses?

Allie Schulte could tell you: WORMS.

Yep, they are frequently seen on campus on rainy nights, rolling around on the sidewalks, inching along and minding their own business.  Unfortunately, they aren’t so easily seen in the nighttime, especially when the sidewalks are not that well lit.

So here I am, walking along the sidewalk, just trying to get home in the rain.  As I am walking—skipping, you caught me—I step on a giant mass of worms and slide on their slippery skin for a couple feet and then grind my big toe into the cement because of my flip-flop preference. I look down and notice that I can’t tell the difference between my blood and the blood of the worms that are now pulped against the sidewalk.

I apologize and curse.  Seen on the sidewalk: bloodied, broken worms and a segment of my toenail. 

Awesome.

Shower Sneak-Attack

The shower is supposed to be a safe place.  It’s supposed to be a calming, relaxing time of day when the outside world just lingers on the outskirts of the curtain or the door. 

Alas, this cannot always be the case.

I am rinsing the soap off of my face when it happens.  I feel water splashing on my feet—as I should, I’m in the shower!  I notice that the water feels like it’s lingering though, like it’s somehow sticking to my right foot.  So, naturally I look down.

HOLYSHITHOLYSHITHOLYSHITCENTIPEDECENTIPEDECENTIPEDEHOLYSHIT

And so I pee—sorry, Kirsten, I promise I cleansed the shower thoroughly—because I am scared to the point of urinary release. 

You guys, I don’t like the word I’m about to use, as most of you can attest, but: I HATE centipedes.  I hate them.  Not only do I despise their existence, but they are actually the single most terrifying creature I have EVER, EVER come into contact with. 

Ugh.  Yuck. Ish.

Not only do I pee, I fall over in our tiny-ass shower which only provokes the little bastard further. 

Side note: HOW THE HELL IS THE CENTIPEDE ABLE TO MOVE IN THE WATER?  Shouldn’t they be washed away?  Shouldn’t the water pressure knock him into the drain? 

Oh, wait, Centipedes use black magic (obviously) and are evil and that’s how they can stay functional even in a shower drain. 

So when I fall over, the centipede rears back on his haunches and spreads each of his other three million legs apart in a mortifying display of aggression.  I can almost hear him hissing like an angry cat as here rears back, ready to pounce.  I scramble to my feet and he scurries into the corner.

Is that water on my face from the shower, or is it a profuse amount of tears?  Not sure.

I take my conditioner bottle off of the rack and DUMP a whole bunch of it on to the leg-ridden, hell-born monster that I am pretty sure has quadrupled in size since his arrival. 

The conditioner carries him back the drain and I hear him shout: “I’ll be back!” as every single one of his flailing legs disappears back into the abyss.

SICK.

Nature – 4    Josh – 0.



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Juggler

There are three balls on the table in front of you.  One is red, another blue.  The last of the three is green and green is your favorite color.  The green one is heaviest though, and it has a texture that is unpleasant: slimy and unkempt.

The red ball is the lightest of the three and it’s the one that takes the least amount of effort to keep in the air.  Easy to keep track of, controllable, malleable, fitting: the qualities that readily come to mind. It’s a pity, you think, that the ball is so far out of your reach on the table.

Blue.  It’s a nice color.  It’s bright, eager to please, friendly.  It’s simple.  It doesn’t take much to manage.  It’s fun, thoughtless; it’s not tricky.  But blue doesn’t make sense to you when you throw it in the air.  It shifts on the wind easily and falls quicker than the other two: hard to balance. 

It would be so pleasant, really, if you could just pick up all three and throw them into the air and watch them flick from hand to hand like bean bags or bowling pins.  Or even chainsaws like those most specialized in the dangers of coordination and entertainment.

Or: what if they were the same size and weight and texture and density but retained their colors?  It would be dazzling to see!  To watch as three balls spin through the air like a prism reflecting and refracting light as it rotates through the sunlit world of grass, sky, and brick. The colors of the world make it even more difficult to choose which ball you will throw into the breezy day, into the afternoon of springtime.

There are other factors for you too, of course.  You start thinking about gravity and inertia and the way that surface area interacts with wind currents and how the directionality of pressure keeps everything in motion, keeps everything volatile.

The blue ball rolls into the green one and you feel like they are talking about your hands.  You wonder what else they could possibly have in common other than the touch of your fingers or the gentle toss of the air.  Still, they stay on the table, touching, their boundaries connected and showing no intention of separation. 

The red ball stays in its place, up there at the top of the table.  It’s like the ball is watching, observing, and you think: of course!  Of course that’s what would happen!  The red one is quieter, calmer than the other two.  When it spins through the air it does so quickly, more readily than the others.  It falls faster too.  It flies higher, but plummets faster than green or blue and that’s why you can’t toss all three at once. 

Blue and green drift apart from one another on the table and you snatch the green one up and throw it up as high as you can.  You hope it goes into the sky forever because you won’t ever have to see it again.  You pray for it to go far, far away and just as you’re saying ‘amen’ the ball comes crashing back to the table, scattering red and blue into the grass.

The grass. Now red and blue are saturated in green, surrounded by wispy blades that cut you deep, and you are certain that green will come rushing out of your skin as soon as you pick red and blue up from the ground.
But you need to get them back to the table somehow, right?  So you pick them up and green does not ooze from your pores or spread from your fingertips.  You roll blue and red in your hands and mash them together as if it would be easier for purple and green to juggle up and down.

You know it won’t be easier to juggle with two balls because nobody is impressed when you throw balls up and down and absently catch them in your hands.  No, your audience expects spectacle, expects impressive feats of concentration and skill.  Your audience expects you to amaze them, and until you figure out the ball you need most you will never be much of an entertainer.

But, still, you try.  You attempt. 

You’re figuring it out.

All three balls are back on the table and red and green somehow meet up and shine like Christmas while blue rolls around the outer edge and keeps your eyes glued to the movement, to the tension.  You hope it doesn’t fall of the table because the blue ball is one of your favorites.

But, you think, if the blue ball fell to the ground, where piles of bricks and spots of grass have scattered all around, you would only have to pick between the other two.

So you watch the ball kiss the edge of the table and hop off and disappear over the edge while red and green part ways and say hello to the palms of your hands.  The green one is heavier and more comforting in your grip, but you like the way the red one flits between your fingers.  You toss the green one up first and when it hits your hand again you begin to bleed like you’ve been pummeled with spikes or thorns or needles and you drop the ball onto the table, screaming and yelling that it hurts, it hurts.  And when you cry, the green ball rolls over toward your hand you suddenly stop bleeding.  You pick green back up and you think that everything is okay.

And then you throw red up in to the air and it floats higher and falls faster than green and you wonder why everything is best with red and how it is simultaneously the worst.  You think about polarization when the ball falls back into your hand and pins you to the table.

You think about polarization, about highs and lows and hot and cold and yes and no and all three balls somehow find their ways back to the center of the table and begin to converse.

Where you found the balls is irrelevant.
What you know about them is immaterial.
Who they belonged to last doesn’t matter.
When they were last used is extraneous.

How you feel about them…

How you feel about them is really all that counts.

And when you think about each of them together, you cannot decide if you’re being selfish or good-willed.

Hopefully, you think, you’ve fallen somewhere in between.

      

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Novel x Life: Skippy Dies

Skippy Dies is one of the more quote worthy novels I’ve read.  Not lately, but ever.  It’s fantastic.  It’s refreshing to find a book with so much to say—and I’m only half way through it! 

“With each passing second, though, the school’s morbid gravity reasserts its control: the old familiar inertia sets in, and soon encounters with the world outside have become little more than dim dreams, wild jumbles of shapes and colours quickly fading like Patrick Noonan’s tan, until by the end of the first day’s classes, it’s as if the boys have never been away at all.”

Welcome back from break, Gusties.  You all look so tan, toned, fit, and ready! Meanwhile, yours truly is struggling to back into the swing of things—since when is school something I have trouble with?  Oh, right, since I’ve been a second semester senior that doesn’t care about anything other than enjoying his daily existence.  And that’s not even going that well these days…

Alas!  Happiness, though mitigated by environment and nature, is often a choice. So perhaps it’s time to work on choosing to be happy?  Anxiety is carving out the veins in my arms these days and I am feeling jittery even when I’m asleep.  Have you ever slept on a bed of crawling skin?  For the last four nights: I have.

“Gradually the awful truth dawns on you: that Santa Claus was just the tip of the iceberg—that your future will not be the rollercoaster ride you’d imagined, that the world occupied by your parents, the world of washing dishes, going to the dentist, weekend trips to the DIY superstore to buy floor-tiles, is actually largely what people mean when they speak of ‘life’.”

Not literally, of course.  Sleeping on a bed of skin, let alone the crawling variety, is sort of a gross image.  Not one that I am particularly fond of either. 

But that’s what it feels like; I am sure some of you can identify.  It’s that overwhelming feeling of: “wow, I should have done so much more today than I did and I don’t even care that I didn’t and suddenly nothing matters because falling asleep just sounds perfectly fine when my mind just won’t shut up and every hair on my head and every pore of my skin is shuddering with anticipatory failure for tomorrow”

I think maybe I am scared of success. 

And success is inevitable.  I mean, I’m Josh Plattner.  The name is practically synonymous with achievement!  And, if I tell myself this a million times over, repeat it day in and day out, maybe it will stick in the folds of my brain and I will believe it.

“Outside, the storm has finally blossomed: it roars, howls, thrashes against the window like something out of the Paleozoic, or an epic movie; and as the demonic machinery of hands, mouths, hips takes over, Howard, perhaps not quite at the level of consciousness, but some substratum just below it, finds himself back again, as he has been on so many days and nights, at the edge of a windswept rockface, in a half-ring of shadowed faces, a hand holding out to him a slip of paper on which is written his own name, like a scales weighing up his soul—”

I slept with my window open for the first time this week.  The breeze at night: are you for real?  It’s fantastic.  Spring has definitely made visible improvements to everyone around this place.  Smiling is more frequent, and that’s probably the best part.

“He is still trying to understand when Shaved-Head’s face suddenly changes from a question to a snarling, like he’s taken off a mask and beneath it there’s fire.”

I like to think that it’s not even forced!  I really believe that the atmosphere is genuinely happier, is actually better and better with every degree the temperature rises, with every little ray of sun that pins us down through uncovered windows.  I don’t think it’s a mask: I think that everyone is just happier the closer we get to summer, the further we journey into spring.  And it’s great.  It’s so nice to feel like everything is getting better and better and better.

But that’s the point, right? It gets better.    

Spring is sentimental to me, I think.

I think?  Oh, no, I am very much aware that spring makes me sentimental.  Well: more sentimental.

“For another twenty seconds, thirty, her thin body crushes up tighter and tighter against him, as if she’s screwing herself into place with her tongue.”

Did I say sentimental?  I meant sexual.  Clearly.

But really, what a line!  All I can think about when I read it is how delightfully charming that experience would be.  The thunder that pounds away outdoors definitely reminds me of a desire to be kissed in the rain. 

Perhaps it could be the lightning that screws me into place?

“And before you can say anything, she is walking away, every step she takes a sledgehammer whomping his heart into little tiny pieces.”

But I want it to matter, you know?  I don’t want the rain to be falling and the flowers to blooming and the earth to be moving beneath me without someone there who makes me feel like, even amongst the magnanimity mother nature’s kingdom, I’m the only other being in the world.

Is that too much to ask, universe?  You tease me every time it rains into thinking that something might actually come to fruition and then leave me out to dry: figuratively, metaphorically, literally. 

Apparently spring not only makes me sentimental, but ridiculous as well?  I sometimes write things like (see above) and then realize: sweet baby Jesus, you need to settle down boy.  You need to take a chill pill and just let this world run its course.  Appreciate it though.  Love every moment and take it one day, one minute, one moment at a time.

I was reminded recently that we’re only guaranteed one moment.  This moment.  We’re given nothing but now, nothing but this instance.  So I guess it’s important to make the best of it?

Still: there’s something terribly heartbreaking about that thought, too.  You might not ever get that chance to tell someone how you reel or show the world what you’re capable of or listen to that one song for the last time.

So just do it.  I guess the lesson here is the same one Nike has been imprinting on our lives from day one…haha, odd right? 
  
“He is thinking about asymmetry.  This is a world, he is thinking, where you can lie in bed, listening to a song as you dream about someone you love, and your feelings and the music will resonate so powerfully and completely that it seems impossible that the beloved, whoever and wherever he or she might be, should not know, should not pick up this signal as it pulsates from your heart as if you and the music and the love and the whole universe have merged into one force that can be channeled out into the darkness to bring them this message.”

I once wrote: “above all things, I believe in love.”

I wrote that because it was true. 

Today: I feel the same way.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to fall asleep on a bed of crawling skin.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Lesson from London v1.0

The Fray never fail to force introspection.

I was asked again today what my favorite part of being in London was. 

Honestly, I think that my answer to the question changes every time I am asked.  Sometimes I say, “The people, hands-down.”  Other times I offer, “the culture” or “the food” or “living in a city.”

Most often, though, I simply say it’s impossible to tell, the whole experience was just too relevant, too present all of the time.

Driving home from Duluth, I was thinking about what London meant to me, and I tried to sum it up in as few words as I could.  Turns out, that’s just not easy to do.  So I started thinking, deeply, reflectively, about what my answer to that inevitable question really is.

I came up with this:

The most spectacular thing about being abroad was learning to love myself.

I’m resisting the urge to qualify my selfishness here in typing that.  But, it’s the truth.  Learning to love the inner you, the being you can never escape, is a lesson in patience, health, honesty, and—predictably—love.

I haven’t quite managed to perfect the message here, but I’m trying.  Like most things in life, this is a process, a challenge.  Luckily, it’s one worth rising to.

Tonight, love yourself, because you’re adored, embraced, and loved by one lonely blogger in Northern, MN:

That’s enough for now, I would never have left you broken,
I would have held you: things your father never told you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Asshole


It’s not that kids are irritating, or even that I don’t understand them.  It’s mostly that kids, regardless of how delightfully cute or endearingly funny they can be, serve as an ever-present reminder of how painfully awkward being a child was in Walker, Minnesota.  Home towns are silly that way, too, at least in this neck of the woods.  Every time I return to the City on the Bay—the water tower’s words, not mine—I feel so oddly adolescent.  I feel like I’m going through puberty all over again.  I get sweaty, struggle to speak, and frequently find myself saying “wow, that wasn’t there before!”  In many ways, entering this little city is just a stream of flashbacks, of repressed memories, of secrets and lies woven into the fabric of growing up.  Dairy Queen is still around, but they have touch screen computers now; The Village Square still serves the best pizza, but the menu looks different every year; and the casino is still loud and colorful as ever, but the parking lot is fuller and fuller each time the stoplight changes from red to green.

But that’s sort of the nature of life, right?  Places change, people change; friends move on, tourists become locals.  Change is inevitable, in same way that love and sorrow and grief and joy are inevitable.  You accept that everything is capable of happening, and that everything, indeed, does happen.

So it’s not surprising that being home this time around is full of little changes, of alterations barely noticed.  Zona’s is closed on Mondays for now.  This is neither awesome nor helpful.  How am I supposed to marathon drink over spring break without my favorite bar open twice a week?  I swear things have never been worse!  My mom and dad have their own new homes, both of which are superb and absolutely fitting for each of them.  Scout is a little grayer in the face and her shoulder rarely fails to bother her.  Mambo still has one eye, but at least her leg is back to functional.  Lucee is whiter, a little slower, but thinner than I remember her being.  The speech team has lost anyone I recognize, I’ve grown too old to know any of the young blood that’s tearing up the circuit in the northland.

But, if there is one change that seems to be prevalent in my own life, as of recent, it is this: Josh Plattner is a newly minted asshole!

I know, I know.  Pish-posh, right?!  Me, an asshole?  Pardon?!  At the risk of sounding like the very word I am trying to deny, I am nothing if not positively wonderful to be around and in demeanor.  Asshole? Ha!  I couldn’t be one if I tried. 

(That last statement probably throws up a red flag for most of you.  Yes, I can be an asshole, and I have been one before, but I really don’t think that if I tried to be one that I could pull it off.  Whenever asshole-mode-Josh comes out, it’s not because I’m trying.  It just sort of happens.  Ugh…that totally sounds like I AM an asshole, but I promise I’m not.  Not completely.  But, hey, we all have our moments, yeah?)

Right.  Explanation. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been seriously called an asshole in all of my 21 years of life—not seriously, anyway; friends can joke, people tease, etc. But within ten days of each other, I have been called an asshole with the intention of actually labeling me as, you guessed it(!), an asshole.  So being the smartass that I often am, I just had to look up what qualifies being an asshole on the Internet’s most trusted website for realistic definitions: UrbanDictionary.

Here are a few of those definitions:
1)      Your current boss.
2)      Someone being rude, arrogant, obnoxious, or just a total dickhead…
3)      An inconsiderate, arrogant, uncaring, selfish, borderline sadistic, apathetic, mean, spiteful, dishonorable, bastard of a man who could tempt the Pope into a fight.

Now, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but really?  Really? 

I am no one’s boss, let alone the person in charge of the two gentlemen who think I’m an asshole.  Though, currently, I cannot help but think how wonderful it would be to actually be in charge of their employment.  Oh, the maliciousness!

I am rarely rude or arrogant, and never a total dickhead.  Obnoxious?  Yeah, probably, I’m loud and weird all the time, but, contextually, I think we can agree that I slip passed this one too.

If anything, I am too caring, too willing to invest in others.  I’m not spiteful, dishonorable, or sadistic, and I certainly would never attempt to fight the pope.  (Although…that’s a funny image right?  I would totally take that hat thing after I broke his feeble, feeble knees and wear it around my house.)

If anything, the closest definition of “asshole” I came across, the one that gets closest to yours truly is this little gem:
An obnoxious, arrogant, self-centered male who women can't seem to get enough of.

If you get rid of two of those adjectives, I am, indeed, an asshole!  Most of me believes that this definition was just poorly sorted.  It probably just belongs under the heading:

Gay Man.
Don’t even pretend I’m wrong.

Tangents aside, I have been called an asshole twice in ten days!  More importantly, both of the people saying it meant it!  To be fair, the first instance was in a fit of rage from my ex that quickly subsided when he checked himself.  (Sometimes we need to be read, need to hold up that mirror!)

The second instance happened just this afternoon.  With that said, I’d like to tell you a little story.  I think it’s a good’n.

I finished my book just in time for a family of five to walk in, order some ice cream, and talk quietly amongst themselves about what a quaint, comfortable little town Walker is.  (For those not in the know, ‘quaint’ and ‘comfortable,’ when used by tourists or passingthroughs, mean ‘boring’ and ‘uneventful.’)  I was on the verge of tears when they came through the door—my book was that good—and when I set Beatrice and Virgil down, I accidently knocked the book off of my table.  When the book flopped onto the tile, and because I often forget that I am in public where people can hear, view, and respond to my insanity, I loudly said: “Yann Martel!  What are you doing on the floor?  You get back up here.”

I realized the family was watching me.  The two youngest children, around 6 and 10, giggled because I was a) using an odd voice, and b) taking to myself.  I smiled and picked up my book, and then started the second novel I had brought to the coffee shop.  As I siftedged through the slippery pages of Skippy Dies, the children that had been laughing earlier decided that asking me an enormous amount of questions would be a better use of their time than mowing down there chocolate shakes. 

“How old are you?”
“What are you doing?
“Can I trade my drink for your computer?”
“Are you reading?”
“Is your favorite color blue?”
“What’s your name?”

Instead of humoring them with answers, I would shake or nod my head, keeping my eyes glued to the pages of my freshly started novel.  When they asked for my name, I looked up and said, “Josh.”

And they laughed!  Is that really all it takes to make children laugh?  Speaking?  Maybe my name sounds funny to young ears.  I guess I never thought of Josh as chuckle-worthy.  Mostly it’s commonplace, a little boring.  I even tried to switch what people called me my freshman year by introducing myself with my middle name.  Alas, Leo never stuck.  Wah wah.

Anyway, they were loudly commenting on the rainbow sticker I have on the back of my laptop and its “JUST WEAR IT” counterpart in the shape of a condom—do kids really know what those are at that age?  Seriously, I would have been like, “look, it’s a wand!” or “wow, that’s an odd hat!”  But these boys knew what a condom was, which sort of impressed me.  But then the oldest one said:

“I use condoms ‘cuz I’m gay and weird and gross.”

Here’s a look at what went through my mind:

LISTENYOULITTLESHITIWILLSERIOUSLYENDYOUIFYOUSAYONEMOREWORDABOUTGAYBEINGWEIRDANDGROSS.

But then I realized, his dad and mom are both listening, surely they will say something.  And, they did.

“Hey, boys, leave him alone.  He’s working.  Mind your language.”

I was impressed.  Good work, dad! I thought. 

The kids continued to pummel me with questions as I pecked away at my keyboard, editing some short pieces of writing I had done earlier over the weekend.

“Where are you from?”
“Do you have friends?”
“What are you typing?”
“Are you a writer?”
“Who is your favorite pokemon?”

Oddly, I only responded to two of them. 

“I am typing some stories, and my favorite pokemon is Starmie.”

They giggle again. 

As their father is getting up, I step away from my table and take out my earbuds so that I can scamper off to the bathroom.  As the dad passes me he says: “Sorry that my kids are bothering you, they can be a bit much.”

“Not at all,” I say with too much Minnesota Nice.  “They’re not bothering me.”

“Well they should be.  They’re annoying and can be a bit obnoxious.”

“Nah, they’re just being creative,” and I mean it.  I think it’s important that kids ask questions and act silly.  But, then, I say: “No reason to squash their creative energy.”

At this point he turns and looks at me sternly, and I get sweaty and lose the ability to speak and suddenly I think I am pubescent all over again.  (There really is something about this town, I think…)  He is clearly upset.  “Are you saying that I’m doing something wrong?”

I laugh to ease the tension, “Haha!  Oh, no, not at all.  I just would hate for them to feel punished for being creative and inquisitive.” 

“Don’t tell me how to raise my kids, buddy.”  I’ve never been called buddy by an angry adult.  It really is the strangest thing to be called when someone is becoming argumentative.  I can’t help but laugh.

“Yeah, because that’s what I’m doing, I’m attacking your parenting.”  I roll my eyes and then suddenly remember that not everyone knows me well enough to wade through the sarcasm that I feel flooding out of my mouth.

“And what would you know about parenting?  How would you know how to take care of kids?” He is asking these questions in a series of quiet yells.  It’s that way of speaking that sounds really loud to you and the other person, but no one else has any idea that there’s even a problem. Not that there is anyone around anyway…we’re the only six people in the non-restaurant portion of the shop.  “How would you know anything about setting an example for your children?”

And, because I am me, I reply: “I know you’re setting quite the example right now.”

I don’t think he liked that. 

“Listen, asshole…” but I cut him off.

“Asshole? This from the guy who thinks creativity is bad for kids and yells at strangers in public.”

Well that seemed to hit a nerve or something because the gentleman got rather huffy and puffy and blew out a significant amount of hot air and turned to his wife and children to say: “We’re heading out.  Let’s go.”

The bells above the door eventually stop jingling and I stare through my computer screen into the blustery outdoors where snow and ice have built up around the window panes. I am flabbergasted for about a year as I sit there thinking about what just happened, replaying the conversation over and over in my head.  I can’t decide if I was wrong or not in snipping away at his comments, but I debate the situation for some time. 

I ask myself: What just happened?!

Eventually, I come to the same conclusion as the children, the ones that were so full of questions just moments earlier:

I laugh.