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. 


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.


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.


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.