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Contest | Non-Fiction | Unspecified (February 2007)

 
 
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  #1  
Old 02-01-2007, 08:53 AM
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Default Contest | Non-Fiction | Unspecified (February 2007)


Due to the overwhelming number of submissions to the last non-fiction contest, we're trying a new angle this month.

For February, you have 1,500 words to ramble, rant or rave on absolutely anything that floats your boat. Sound like fun? Good. Because this is your last chance to keep the non-fiction contest alive.

You have until 11:59 PM EST on February 22nd to post your submissions. Good luck!

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  #2  
Old 02-04-2007, 04:26 PM
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Icon1 Pokemon History

This is the history of where Pokemon originated from.....

Pokemon was created in 1996 by Nintendo for their best selling portable video game system, "Game boy". Originally released in Japan. Pokemon are a class of unique little Monsters that battle each other when instructed to do so by their trainer. The original term for Pokemon was "Poketto Monstaa", the coined Japanese term for Pocket Monster. Soon the Japanese shortened the name to "Pokemon". A Japanese game designer by the name of Satoshi Tajiri invented Pokemon based on childhood memories of collecting bugs in jars and wishing he could make them fight like the monsters in his favorite science fiction movies. The game was so intricate that it took Tajiri six years to develop the Pokemon game. Once released, the rest is history. The over whelming popularity of the game prompted the creation of a Japanese Pokemon television series and a Japanese Pokemon Collectible Trading Card Game, both of which also became tremendous successes.


The Pokemon phenomenon began in the U.S. in 1998 with the release of the original Red and Blue Game boy games, the debut of the animated Pokemon television series on Warner Brothers, and the release of the English version of the Pokemon Trading Cards. The Pokemon television series immediately catapulted Kids Warner Brothers to the top of the cable ratings for kids shows. According to a February 2001 Nintendo press release, the Pokemon television show continued to be ranked No. 1 among kids 2 to 11, and among boys 6 to 11. Warner Brothers also released the first three big screen animated Pokemon feature films in North America: "Pokemon: The First Movie", also known as "Pokemon The Movie: Mew-two Strikes Back" (released in 1999), "Pokemon The Movie: 2000", and "Pokemon 3 the Movie (2001)".

For those of you unfamiliar with Pokemon, they are creatures who possess unique powers or special abilities. In the Pokemon world, human beings act as Pokemon trainers and capture as many of the Pokemon creatures as they can. The captured Pokemon then join the trainer's team and help them capture other Pokemon, enabling the trainers to become "Pokemon Masters". Pokemon battles have a rigid code of rules that do not allow dirty tricks or easy ways out. Also, Pokemon battles never end with a creature's death. The successful end to a Pokemon match occurs when one of the battling monsters faints and is rushed to a Pokemon Center for recovery, or when it is captured by a trainer and put in a ball called the Poke Ball. Lastly, the Pokemon storyline encourages cooperation and team work. Some interesting statistics from Nintendo on Pokemon interactive video games:

During Pokemon's first 24 months of availability in the United States, Nintendo of America reported a total sales of 20 million Pokemon video games for Game boy Color and Nintendo 64.
Six of the industry's 10 top-selling video games in 2000 were Pokemon titles.
Seven Pokemon titles were responsible for 10 percent of all software units sold in year 2000.
As of February 2000, there were 12 Pokemon games for both Nintendo 64 and Game Boy.
As of February 2000, nearly 27 million Pokemon games had been sold in the United States and more than 74 million Pokemon games had been sold worldwide.

Pokemon continues to be an outstanding entertainment and retail property in today's international market. Its success can be attributed to Pokemon's incredible appeal to children from diverse cultures and across sex and age barriers. Although originally designed for adolescent boys, Pokemon's popularity quickly spread to include girls, elementary age school children and even preschoolers. As summarized by Galil Tilden, Nintendo's Vice President, "Pokemon is much more than a phenomenon - It's now a children's entertainment staple here in America and globally… From the video games, to the toys, to the TV series, Pokemon's staying power is evident in its multifaceted appeal to its broad fan base."
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  #3  
Old 02-04-2007, 06:26 PM
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Default Angel Investors or Hell's disciples

In the summer of 1998, Rex Revorec and Gowin Jackson worked together in an environmental lab in New England. Rex had one year of College under his belt, while studying to get his associates degree in the Environmental Sciences. Gowin was a physics undergrad stuck in a job that was far from his goal, but he made the best of a bad situation.

The co–workers soon became friends. They seemed to respect each other for personality traits that each could see in one another. The lab was a basic assembly line of soil and water. The tasks were boring and repetitious and every day seemed more like a week. Rex was very creative and intelligent, but also had street smarts from growing up in a tough New England city. The city has been touted as the toughest city, pound for pound, in the nation. Gowin was the polar opposite - growing up in the woods of New England with no street savvy at all. He was just a simple and humble person who seemed to care greatly about other human beings with a flare for true honesty. Both of these guys worked closely in the lab for almost two years. Rex was bored out of his skull as usual, he always felt suffocated and controlled in any position that he ever had in life. He was a deep thinker and therefore a member of the suicidal depression club. Life never made any sense because he was so different. Even as a rough guy, Rex had a giant heart and was fast to forgive but reluctant to forget.

Rex got to the point of creatively removing himself from this equation. He always knew that he would be building other people’s dreams, and getting a few pennies for the all out intensity and thoroughness of his work. Well, on queue, the day came to complete frustration when Rex’s boss, Dutch Poppet, snapped the final straw on Rex’s overworked back. Dutch had the gaul to harass him about his work. After Rex had made the company $25,000 to $40,000 a day, the harassment that Dutch was dealing out was unfounded. This harassment, and keeping Rex in a position that he was clearly unhappy with, Dutch spewed his stupidity at Rex for the last time. Dutch was accusing Rex of not completing a lab task that was a “rush” job but was never put through the system. The reason for the task not being completed was that Eddie, the sample input coordinator, lost the soil sample and was too afraid of Dutch to tell him the truth.

Dutch wasn’t all that bright, but he was making a lot of money with his environmental company. Most of the success was due to his partner, and company president Jimmy Ditter. Jimmy was the brain, and Dutch caught a break by aligning himself with Jimmy in College.The day came when Dutch went loony tunes on Rex for the incomplete sample test, and Rex just lost it. He just threw his lab results at Dutch as hard as he could, and told him to fuck off! As he walked out and quit on the spot. He was a very impulsive person, and hated to be accused of things that he did not do; as anyone else on earth would. Rex left that day with a plan that would eventually become a new creation and a new direction for his life, and after a while Gowin followed to pursue a dream of their own. In 1999 Rex created a company called Tech Environmental.

Rex had already been using some company time for the 6 months before he left on a novel and seemingly simple invention. In the lab Rex noticed two inert chemicals working together to create a solid ball when wet. This got Rex thinking. The two chemicals were used in every lab in the world for doing a common soil test in the lab, but no one ever saw what Rex saw. He saw a million dollar idea and he blindly went about creating a new environmental product. At first it was just the two chemicals put together to solidify liquids, and it worked great! After fine tuning the mix and adding a buffer, and another safe and natural scent, a Ph balancing chemical, and he was off to the races.
Rex spent the next painfully grueling 3 years working completely alone on the project. He worked an average of 15 hours a day, including waking up in the middle of the night with a new idea to add on to the creation.

Rex was married the same week that he came up with this new invention and his wife Elana was as solid of a support system as they come. It was full speed ahead with Tech Environmental with Elana by his side. The product in question evolved to become a very unique type of spill containment product; called Bio-Bond. It was trademarked as Bio-Bond due to the distinct nature of the compounds that Rex used to create the prototype . Rex went into this with fully focused, and poured his life into the project 15 hours a day plus; 7 days a week. He would drag Elana into the whirlwind at every chance since he was drowning in the unknown tasks of becoming an inventor. He also went full blast not knowing of any other type of solidifier on the market. That was both a blessing and a curse.
  #4  
Old 02-04-2007, 07:48 PM
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Default The Sad Girl

I saw a picture a while back, and it made me sad.

It was a mural, actually; A black and white photograph blown up to larger-than-poster size. I saw it in a mall in my hometown, hanging up just outside some designer clothing store. In the foreground a man was sitting down. He was handsome, immaculately groomed, brilliantly dressed. He was looking smugly at the camera with his hands clasped just underneath his chin. He looked worldly, rich, and powerful.

Standing right behind him was a woman. She was physically beautiful, at least according to society’s standards; thin, blonde, somewhat large breasts. She was slouching in a sexually suggestive way and was lazily holding a martini glass. Her mouth was wide open in what was probably a laugh, and her eyes were half-closed and vacant.

I felt sorry for her.

I only looked at the picture for a few seconds, not even stopping to stare at it. But the image and everything it said to me were burned into my mind. In this mural I saw so many things wrong with society that I’m not sure where to begin.

For starters, the picture was not of a man and a woman; it was a picture of a man and his property. This was a man primarily concerned with his status. He didn’t have to tell people he was a big deal. He used things to display his importance; his designer clothes, his manicured hands and perfect hair, his woman. Here is a man who objectified the people in his life in order to elevate his own status. He was primarily concerned with his appearance and enveloped himself with things that improved it. The woman standing behind him was nothing more than a status symbol and, like all the rest of his property, he treated her accordingly.

There’s something worse about this picture than the attitude of the man. The woman’s presence, her participation, her acceptance of everything this picture said to me, is much worse.

Her presence in this picture implies that she has subjugated her will to the man in the photo. She looks for happiness only within the scope of her relationship to the man. For her, the world she lives in is one that revolves around the man in the photo. She is not a woman unto herself, she is his woman. Her identity does not exist outside the scope of his identity. Her sense of self is defined through his eyes. She dresses the way he wants her to, carries herself the way he wants her to, and probably speaks the way he wants her to. She is not his companion or equal. She is only his girl.

Her participation in the scene implies moral agreement with her objectification. This is how she describes herself, how she defines herself. Her identity begins and ends not so much with this man in particular, but with a man. Her individual identity vanished at some point in her past. She has lost the ability to define herself exclusively; that is, she cannot define herself without incorporating herself into someone else’s definition. What else is she if she is not some man’s woman? What else is there? I see a woman who asks herself such questions glibly, even mockingly. She cannot allow herself to see any answer to these questions that do not affirm herself as she currently is portrayed in the photo. I want very badly for her to know deep down that to define herself the way she has is fundamentally wrong, but I don’t believe she can do that anymore. Her eyes are vacant and empty.

Her acceptance of her status implies resignation of her objectification. If she ever saw herself as being something more than some man’s woman, that idea is gone from her mind. Any fire burning inside her that may have once told her that she could be more has been put out. She is no longer someone who can live for her own sake. Her ability to be a woman to admire, to look up to, is gone. There is nothing in her mind that communicates to anyone that she is or could ever be a peer. If she ever saw herself being a doctor or lawyer, politician or scientist, author or teacher, all she sees herself as now is some man’s woman. Her mind is gone, and her body is all that remains.

I don’t think much of the man. I don’t feel much either, except some mild contempt. He lives in a society that both encourages and forgives him for devaluing women. He is a symptom of the problem I have with this picture.

The woman makes me feel pity and resentment; pity at what she is reduced to and resentment at whatever reduced her to this. Was she molested as a child? Has she gone from one bad relationship to another? Did she have absent or apathetic parents? I see someone who has endured repeated attempts at putting her fire out. At some point in her past, she became too weak to resist, to hang on. She gave up, and her value system collapsed. Now all she is is some woman in a slinky black dress, sipping a martini, doing a careful dance around the man in the photo, hoping desperately to be whatever he wants her to be from one moment to the next. She does this so that he will continue to give her value, to give her the worth. She can no longer give these things to herself.

All this from a few seconds of staring at a photo designed to sell clothes. She is a sad girl, and she made me sad.
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Anadon contemplated that for a second, and then passed judgment on what Spanner was saying to him.
“You’re dumb.”
“Excuse me?”
“For someone who’s lived a gazillion years, you sure do have a lot to learn about romance.”
Spanner crossed his arms incredulously. “Do tell.”
“The way I see it, if I had to live forever, and I knew real happiness wouldn’t come around too often, I’d spend all of my time looking for it.”
“You’ve never mourned a wife.”
“Forever’s a long time to never let a woman tell you she loves you.”

New Elbestran: the First Tale of Spanner, 144,000+ words.
  #5  
Old 02-05-2007, 03:07 AM
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Default Wordplay

I have only words to play with. These are the curved and detached letters that appear whenever I press a key, each one an exquisite conception. I love words and I hate them. Maddening when they slip through your mind, like you have seen all infinity in an instant, and then forgotten it in a second. I see them in my head like coloured abstractions; they fold and twist into the distance, without an end. To be a writer, you enter a parallel universe.


Had we but world enough and time, we would not have to rush. Custom would not stale its infinite variety. We would know the difference between genius and talent. Poe’s kingdom by the sea, William’s kingdoms of clay, Carroll’s phantasmagoria.


Through thickening films of dusky rain, he is a migraine aura. Everyone must have a muse. Whether he knows I would fall to my knees for his acknowledgement escapes my logic. He is enigmatic. Where the shadows cross-hatch on his skin, one would imagine the equations of relativity reside. Dream-like, upon a hill, talking his computer words; he makes me forget my own. I long for the day when I find a word that fits him. It hurts like hell.


The day is elongated; I stretch my legs beside a dry riverbed, sleepy eyes half-closed. The seraph lies carefree, sublime; a bronze statuette in the evening. His voice is muffled in lackadaisical rhymes without rhythm. I wonder when the water dried up. He is reading from a leather-bound volume, rimmed with gold edges and tattered from years of wear.
Oh, let the wide arch of the rang'd empire fall. Here is my space.


He is a heap of limbs and skin, eyes and mouth, teeth and hair, something so human and worthy of disgust, but how does he catch the light on his mounds of muscle with such subliminal worthiness? So he does taunt me.


My mouth tastes like a landfill, my skin is blotched and sallow; I feel like I should be somewhere else. I think he wishes it too. With green eyes and waxy smiles, the day wastes away.


He points out the constellations in the marbled sky, and tells me that one day he will pluck one from the galaxy and bring it down for me. Then he turns away, something happens. Sometimes he crumbles like polystyrene. I love those coarse words that run off his tongue, often I hate them.


I feel like I know him from his synapses to his cerebrum. I could push my hands onto his body and only feel skin, but know he is underneath. Ah, but I have only words, and they are not enough.
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  #6  
Old 02-07-2007, 05:48 PM
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Default When Grandma Walks

When Grandma Walks
(1,056 words)

In July of 1993, a legend emerges from the small Arizona village of Chinle. The diminutive figure, carrying only a wooden cane and a black umbrella, sets off down the sun-baked highway for a seventy-two mile trek to the city of Window Rock. Marjorie Thomas, a local celebrity already for her series of Navajo children’s books, has decided to take a three-day stroll for a much greater cause: the children of Chinle. Everything Grandma Thomas does is for the children.

The summer wind plasters Grandma’s three-tiered skirt against her legs and tears at the umbrella. Grandma keeps her gaze to the ground and counts her footsteps. How many will it take? It is, at first, something to occupy her mind. After a while her mind shuts off, her feet growing minds of their own. Her body soon becomes nothing more than a machine providing locomotion for her legs. A few of the curious follow her and when they try to speak to her, her lips remain shut. She continues, undisturbed, on her silent three-day journey. If she hears their words, she gives no sign. A rivulet of sweat travels from her forehead, through the delta of crow’s feet around her eyes, then down into the canyons on her cheeks and disappears over the cliff of her chin. Grandma’s face, rugged and brown as the land, remains solid and unmoving as her spirit.

What is she doing, some ask right away. She’ll die out there in the heat, say others. She could have made her point in October, some of the Elders opine as they shake their heads. Still more Dineh notice in nearby towns and their jalopies park along the edge of the road. It seems that some have nothing better to do than watch, but every Dineh soul marvels at the elder-woman’s mettle. Why is she walking? Everyone asks each other that very question.

Meanwhile, Grandma Thomas disappears over the hill, only the top of her umbrella visible for a moment, then it is gone, too. The children alone know what Grandma is up to.

By the time Grandma reaches another native village, Ganado, she is limping. Her left foot drags with each step. By now the word has spread. Cell phones jingle all over the Rez, and a few more jingle in local press rooms across the upstate. By the end of the second day, a helicopter from Phoenix follows the old woman. The camera pans her slow progress while faceless radio commentators take turns in the debate over her motives. The children watch and wait. Grandma had told them that by the third day, everyone will know why she walks.

And so they do.

Day Three’s sun rises and Grandma becomes aware of her body once more when she glimpses a signpost. Window Rock, ten miles. Nerve endings in her feet mend their connections with her brain as the town grows closer. Her limbs sing the song of pain. In her self-imposed isolation, Grandma has discovered a new land in the country of her mind. A place where the children, free from the influences of drugs, alcohol and malaise, could run like deer through fields of waving golden grasses. They fear nothing and no one, and the gentle breeze whispers messages of hope into their ears.

In Window Rock the Dineh and non-natives alike gather to greet Grandma. Her feet clump across the asphalt, sometimes taking a full minute between each step. When she passes the "Welcome to Window Rock" signpost, a cheer is sounded. Everyone knows why she has come. During her journey, over a thousand dollars in donations was raised, the money going into a fund for a new youth center in Chinle. She wants it to be a safe place for the children to go and be educated. Happiness, she thinks, is wrought by the learning of the old ways and the new. Grandma’s next conscious thought as she sits down in a wheelchair brought to her by the EMTs is that she only has a little time left and it may not be enough. Only a thousand dollars has been gathered, as the upstate media informs her, but it's a start. She releases a sigh and someone wipes her forehead with a cool, wet cloth. Twenty-five million is needed, says the Navajo Nation, and Grandma's contribution is but only the tiniest of droplets in the water gourd.

Twelve years later, Grandma completes her journey in a wheelchair, pushed by none other than the Speaker of the Navajo Nation himself. The Navajo Nation has finally agreed to help her. Well, sort of. They will form a committee that will think about helping her. She cries from frustration and exhaustion as they wheel her into Window Rock. The word comes about the reaching her goal of over a hundred thousand in the fund. Twenty-five million seems so far away. Diabetes and other ailments addle her, breaking her body and leg muscles down. But her spirit is intact. Grandma gets out of the wheelchair and hobbles toward an ambulance. Maybe in three lifetimes her mission will be completed. After a trip to the hospital, she goes home again, wondering if she can make the journey one more time in the summer of 2006. Interest has waned, she knows, but as long as she’s able, she will walk for the children of Chinle.

April, 2006. She rests in her rocking chair, stares out at the barren landscape of rocks and rolling, golden hills beyond the village and thinks of the youngest of the children, a boy with eyes as large, round and clear as the fall moon. His chances of staying out of gangs and jail are slim. Right now, he listens to her stories of the ancients with unalloyed wonder. She knows in a few years, his gentle, loving face will harden to a sullen sneer. He needs something to do, she thinks aloud to the elder rocking beside her, something with purpose. Until the day the summer winds steal her breath, she says, she plans to walk, roll or crawl from Chinle to Window Rock if she has to. The youth center will be a reality, even if she suspects she won’t be there to see it.

For the children and for all of the Dineh, the elder beside her thinks, Grandma Thomas will always walk in beauty.

*****
This is a story about a factual woman and her real-life journey, I just put myself in her shoes for this one.
Please see the following site for more on Marjorie Thomas & her cause:
http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096411297

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Last edited by OnceUponATime; 02-07-2007 at 07:00 PM..
  #7  
Old 02-08-2007, 12:14 PM
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Default Danglers (1500 words)

Full blown puberty wouldn’t hit until my sophomore year (it’s a heredity thing – I come from a long line of late bloomers) so as a freshman, I was the still the smallest person in most of my classes. I was desperate for something that would let me be one of the guys, show that though I might look like an eleven-year-old, I was really in high school.

I got a bit part in the all-school production of “The Mouse That Roared”, a comedy, about a mythical country who declared war on the United States just so they could surrender and collect war reparations. I was number three of the twelve soldiers and had one line. I probably got the part because I was so small which was used for comedic effect.

The director was Mr. McSorely or Mr. Mac as he allowed us to call him. Mr. Mac was in his mid forties, had grey thinning hair, and wore black horn-rimmed glasses. We loved Mr. Mac and he loved what he was doing.

Mrs. Carmichael, veteran teacher just a few years from retirement, was in charge of set design and costumes. We never saw her laugh out loud but she would occasionally cover her mouth and giggle if something struck her funny. She was our grandma by proxy.

We soldiers wore black tights, green tunic, wide belt, green Robin Hood hat with red feather. During dress rehearsal, Mr. McSorely noticed white underwear showing through some tights and declared in his bellowing voice, “You soldiers will not wear your white underwear under your tights. I don’t want to see one pair of underwear.”

Ahh, the literal mind of a fourteen-year-old boy. He didn’t tell us to wear anything else so I wore nothing but those black DanSkin tights. I quickly discovered that tights are designed for girls and do nothing for holding in the extra parts that boys come with.

Opening night was typical opening night chaos. The set was not finished and there were nails and screws sticking out of some of the flats. I tripped on a board laying in the shadows and a protruding nail caught my tights at my inner knee and caused a run that went all the way up to my crotch.

I looked down in shocked disbelief. I quickly found Mr. McSorely, showed him the run, and asked what I should do. He looked impatiently at his watch and said, “That curtain goes up in ten minutes! Find Mrs. Carmichael – she’ll know what to do, but I don’t want you out there with that big tear in your tights, so snap to it!”

I found her helping the set crew paint the flat skirts black. I showed her my leg and she pursed her lips and shook her head slightly. She reached out and started to lift the hem of my tunic to see how bad the damage was but without even thinking, my hand jerked down and pushed her hand away. She looked at me in surprise and I quickly whispered, “People can see me here”.

She nodded, picked up the bucket of paint and the brush and whispered back, “Over here”. I followed her to the back corner of the stage behind one of the side curtains. I’ll just put some black paint on your leg and no one will even see this run. She lifted my tunic, handed me the hem, and said, “Here, hold this up.”

She was squatting down as she said, “Now, there’s nothing to worry…”. She stopped in mid-sentence and released a puff of breath in a quick exclamation of, “Oh!”. I felt a breeze across bare skin where I never expected to feel a breeze. The blood rushed to my head so fast I thought I was going to faint from embarrassment. I didn’t know exactly how much of me was hanging out of that ripped pair of tights, but any at all was entirely too much.

She didn’t look up, didn’t say a word. She dipped her brush in the paint and wiped it on my leg from knee to upper thigh. She dipped the brush again and I squinted my eyes closed from the touch of wet brush across nether regions. Now I knew the extent of the damage. The palm tree was safely covered, but the coconuts were hanging free. She pulled the hem out of my hand, my tunic fell back down, and she silently walked away.

My mind was racing in horrified panic. She saw me. Not only did she see me, she painted me. This had all the earmarks of a nightmare but I knew I was awake. Then my panic increased when I thought ahead to the play. I was supposed to be pushed to the ground in my first on-stage scene. I couldn’t go out there like I was – black paint or no black paint. I had danglers! I briefly considered running out the back door, finding a passing freight train, and riding it to a faraway place where I could spend the rest of my life in secrecy. But, what about the play? The show must go on.

I ran to the cafeteria where we had left our street clothes in little neatly folded stacks (the girls) and heaps (the boys). I grabbed two large safety pins. I thought about it a few seconds and realized that pins alone wouldn’t be enough to keep me from exposing myself on stage when I took my fall. I needed a piece of black cloth.

I spotted a pair of shoes on the floor with black socks draped over them. Not in the least concerned with whose they were, I grabbed a sock and ran to the boys bathroom to close the hole and banish the danglers.

I put the pins and socks on one of the sinks, pulled my tights down around my knees, raised my tunic, and tucked the hem under my chin to keep it out of the way. In hindsight it would have been a better idea to take the tights off and fix them in a more controlled manner rather than standing there bare-assed with my tunic under my chin fumbling with a sock and safety pins between my knees, but a frightened fourteen-year-old faced with the possibility of indecent exposure in front of the cast and an audience doesn’t always think logically and rationally.

I managed to get the sock fastened to the back waist-band of the tights and was fumbling to fasten it to the front when the door of the bathroom opened, and Mr. Mac walked in. He stopped in mid stride with one foot still off the ground, squinted his eyes when he saw my look of a deer caught in the headlights, looked down and saw the stripe of paint running up my leg and over the danglers, and burst into uproarious laughter.

He stepped closer, took the pin from my hand, and started to fasten the sock to the front for me. He was still laughing and his hand was unsteady. The pin popped loose and stabbed me in the side of my leg. In an involuntary reaction, I jerked my leg up and my knee caught him in the chin. It knocked him off balance for a moment. He stopped laughing and looked up at me in stunned surprise.

I was appalled. As bad as things were, I had just made them worse by smacking the director in the chin with my knee. I expected him to yell but instead he started to chuckle, then laugh, and then one of the loudest guffaws of laughter I had ever heard. It was infectious and I started laughing along with him. He was able to get the second pin fastened and I dropped my tunic, as if I had any dignity left. He grabbed a couple of paper towels out of the dispenser, wiped his eyes, and blew his nose. He was still chuckling when he left the bathroom.

I pulled my tights up and arranged my danglers in my makeshift thong. Not satisfied with just bending over and looking between my legs to check for escapees, I climbed up on the sink on my knees, lifted my tunic, and checked things out in the mirror. Satisfied that the black paint was hiding the white skin below the run and that everything would stay in place, I hopped down and ran backstage to wait for my entrance.

Mr. McSorely and I never said a word to each other about the incident, but every once in a while when he caught my eye he would chuckle and I would grin. However, through mutual unspoken agreement, Mrs. Carmichael and I never made eye contact for the remainder of that school year. She unexpectedly announced her early retirement just before the end of school and I’ve always wondered if the black tights, black paint incident had anything at all to do with it.
  #8  
Old 02-09-2007, 07:26 AM
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Default Stonehenge 622 words

Barriers surround the henge, not because it is ancient, nor because it is magical, although these two factors may contribute to the mystery that enables the barrier-makers to persecute those who break them. Larger, more ancient, more magically mysterious sites in Britain are shat on by sheep and pissed on by late night pub returners. Avebury, West Kennet Longbarrow, the White Horse of Uffington, are all accessible to the public who are free to worship, gawp, ignore or desecrate as they see fit.

What makes Stonehenge such a mystery is that people think it is a mystery. People have imbued into the site more significance than necessary. Like a scrappy sketch of Leonardo Da Vinci’s, or another super-thin supermodel, Stonehenge is simply one of many similar items made famous by being famous.

Clearly a Pagan site of worship, the stone circle has spent the greater part of the last four thousand years in disrepair. Already a ruin in 50 AD, it was visited by Roman troops as a tourist site; souvenir shards of rock were chipped off by Medieval pilgrims; the Victorians tried to restore the uprights to their original positions. Suddenly in the twentieth century, the henge was cordoned off and access is restricted. Plans now are to redirect the nearby road so that it cannot be seen up close unless payment to English Heritage is first made.

Is it a coincidence that this has only happened now that Stonehenge has publicly become a place of worship again? When it was simply a tourist attraction, simply an oddity, not threatening to the powerful Christian minority of Britain, it was left alone. Pagans, hippies and other alternative people, who may be seen as undesirable to this minority who think they are a majority, congregate around Stonehenge and are suppressed. Thus the stone circle amasses more interest in a snowball effect.

What to do to defeat them? Certainly we can break in, break the law, worship as we wish and be arrested and persecuted. This some people will always prefer. For myself, I’d rather worship in a place that is not frequented by hordes of tourists clicking cameras and jabbering on with their opinions of who made it and why. There are two ways this could happen. Plan A: the ideal world and Plan B: what is most likely to work.

Plan A.
Pagans should be allowed access to the inner circle, to worship in Stonehenge without payment. As with a great Cathedral, there should be times when it is closed to the public so that true believers of the religion can perform their rituals without being gawked at by tourists. Then at other times there can be guided tours and clicking cameras, Disney-fied side shows and children being dragged around by their parents saying ‘I’m bored’.

Plan B
Pagans should give up Stonehenge as a lost cause. It is no longer spiritual. Any vestiges of magic left have been diluted by the noise of the irreverent rabble. Other more worthy sites, such as the nearby Woodhenge, Silbury Hill, Avebury or any of the thousands of other sacred sites around the UK, should receive fairer portions of the attention that is currently afforded to Stonehenge. The profile of these sites will be raised, and the persecutors will be unable to keep up with Pagan activities. We will be free to worship without making a fuss and being the centre of attention. Those who only say they are Pagan because they want to make a fuss and be the centre of attention will be shown up for the shams that they truly are.

This may be a controversial view, but I contest that it is the only way to win in this situation. In a society where we are forced to disperse, we can organise in the way that Pagans always have organised: locally. Why travel hundreds of miles to visit someone else’s church when there are plenty on your own back doorstep?
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  #9  
Old 02-10-2007, 01:20 PM
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Default The Most Dangerous Site on the Web!

I blame this on the kids. They turned me on to this website a couple of years ago, and recently, over the holidays, I rediscovered it and now it takes up all my time. Is it gambling? Nah. Porno? Nope. Donations to the Republican Party? Wrong again. The dastardly site of which I speak is Craig’s List. For those of you that don’t know it, Craig’s List is a site of free classified ads that are local to any city you choose. I have always liked to peruse classifieds for some reason. Jobs, cars, discussion groups of all kinds, music, just about everything. There’s the problem I can see who is selling a car for what price in say, Hong Kong! Why would I want to waste my time doing that? Because I am an idiot.

But why is it so dangerous? Well, for starters, it seems, based on my perusal of the classifieds, that I truly wasted my life with a law degree and education in financial management. Because, I found out that I could have been making billions of dollars an hour just by doing marketing surveys online! Is that depressing or what? What a sap I’ve been all these years. What’s more, I could have done just as well stuffing envelopes, returning phone calls or processing payments for some Nigerian prince who, poor fella, seems to have fallen on political troubles. All he needed for me to make a ton of money was my banking info.

In the last two months I have purchased a used drum set to continue my quest at age 55 of learning how to become the next Ginger Baker. Without lessons. Sandy is thrilled as hell! Especially these past few days with the outside temperature hovering around “absolute zero”. What else you gonna do? Seems like there was something else Sandy and I did when we were locked up alone in the house, no what was it? Anyway “Inna Godda Da Vida, baby....” right? I picked up the drumset on the way home from picking up my son, Dustin at the airport when he was home for Christmas. Dustin grudgingly helped me get the drumset because we had engaged in the typical parent child blow up within nano seconds of his arrival. You parents with children over the age of 5 and have managed to keep your sanity know what I’m talking about.
Dustin comes through the airport and greets us with a smile and a big hug and conversation goes something like this:
Me: “Hi son, good to see you, how was your flight?”
Dustin: “WHADDYA MEAN I NEED A HAIRCUT!!”
Maybe it’s not what you say but how you say it.

Oh well, I digress. But while I’m digressing I should give my daughter the PhD in the family a little credit for making our lives interesting. She is 29, going on 14, married and employed in psychological research. The irony will soon become apparent. Not long ago, she calls home with “wonderful news”! We parents, being the fools that we are, think that she is at last going to provide us with grandchildren, are somewhat taken aback by her announcement that she has been picked up by the Chicago “Roller Derby” team. Not grandchildren, “ROLLER FREAKIN’ DERBY”! Am I nuts, or does this sound a tad risky for a woman, almost 30, to be going out and roller skating around an oval track, participating in a sport whose major goal is to make your opponent look something like a Salvatore Dali painting? “Don’t worry,” she says trying to comfort her now distraught parents while in the next breath she asks me for my thoughts on her buying short term disability insurance! Don’t worry. Right! O.K. digression over.

After buying the drums I found an ad looking for a writer for a start up newspaper in New York. Someone who can write sarcasm. So I applied, knowing I rate pretty low on the Jon Stewart Sarcasm Scale (those of you who now me can back me up on that), but I sent in some samples from my blog, (shameless plug “Aging Disgracefully http://aging-disgracefully.blogspot.com/ ) and the next thing I know, Oscar, the owner calls me and says he wants me to do more. It sounded a little like he may have been calling from a heroin addict convention, but hey, its a gig, right? He is a nice young man who obviously knows talent when he says it. Whether on drugs or pure air, who knows.

And finally the coup de grace. It looks like I’m going to be a movie star. Well, not a star, but an extra in an independent film entitled “The Bald Truth”. The ad said the director wanted several “bald men” to be in a scene in an office where every one is bald. So I said to myself “Self, you might be able to do this”. Sure enough, I got a reply from the director after I sent him my “head shot” (this is evidently movie jargon for a picture of, well, your head) he contacted me and said I’m in. Marlon, Clark, Robert ... Bob? (for you youngsters I guess I should have said Brad, Leonardo, Johnny) So, I’ve now got that going for me. Don’t be jealous Dustin, (he’s our budding movie director son, chasing the dream in La La Land) I know you’ll want me for your next production, so have your people give my people a call and we’ll do lunch.

So you can see that I know what I’m talking about when I say Craig’s List is the most dangerous site on the Web. Do yourself and your friends and relatives a favor and advise them to keep away from that site at all costs! You can probably humiliate yourself a lot quicker with a quart of Jack Daniels and a good lamp shade.

Well, I’ve taken enough of your time, those of you that are still awake and reading, but I have to get going it seems I can make obscene amounts of money selling travel packages. All I have to do is send them $1,000 and I can’t miss. OH BOY, am I gonna get in on this or what? Also, my caller ID says some guy named Spielberg is calling.
  #10  
Old 02-11-2007, 08:54 AM
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Default A Dream of the Amazon

Ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to see the Amazon rainforest. I grew up with romantic notions of the Amazon, particularly the "enchanted forest" images of the film based on William Henry Hudson's novel Green Mansions. I wondered if there were really spirit girls like Rena somewhere deep in the Amazon.

When I was a young man, I read a short story about the Amazon that haunted me for years. Among The Dangs was written by an obscure black author, George Elliot, who had spent time in the Amazon as an anthropologist. It's the strange tale of a man who parachutes into unexplored territory to begin a wild adventure. He is captured by a tribe of headhunters who had never seen a white man, undergoes mysterious rituals involving hallucinatory jungle drugs, and barely escapes with his life. He goes home to the U.S., but soon he becomes restless and dissatisfied with modern life. The story ends with him parachuting back into the same Amazon region where he intends to stay for good this time.

Later, when I majored in anthropology in college, I was fascinated by a study of a tribe of real Amazon natives written by a French anthropologist. He was the first white man to live among the Yanomamo, who called themselves "the fierce people" because they constantly engaged in warfare.

After college, I got my first chance to visit the Amazon. My Argentine friend Gary and his wife Sylvina planned to go there on vacation and they invited me to join them. Gary's family had lived for generations in the country adjacent to Brazil, but he had never seen the Amazon himself.

At the last minute a monkey wrench was tossed into the trip plans. His name was Bob and he was a complete jerk. For some reason Gary invited him to come with us and I was convinced that Bob would ruin the adventure. He was the quintessential ugly American and I had no intention of traveling with him. I had made that mistake before when I gave in to pleas from another jerk, Steve, to accompany me to Mexico. Steve spoiled the whole trip, as I should have known he would do.

While Gary's group went to South America, I decided to visit Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) to study the original form of Buddhism in practice.

We all returned to Hawaii disappointed. I told Gary the wisdom of Buddha was nowhere to be seen in Sri Lanka -- only the misery of civil war and daily starvation deaths and suicides on a grotesquely over-populated island. Gary told me the Amazon wasn't there anymore.

When I asked what he meant, he explained that he and his wife had gone to Manaus without Bob after the jerk embarrassed them in Argentina. Manaus was a city built by rubber barons around the midway point of the Amazon river. Gary took a days-long boat ride beyond the city, expecting to explore virgin rainforest, but he was shocked to see only vast deforested areas.

"It looked like Paradise Park with a polluted river," he said.

Paradise Park was an inside joke on the Big Island. In contrast to the name, it was a tacky rural subdivision where the ohia trees looked stunted or dead and the bush houses were too close together.

Gary and I got roaring drunk and comisserated about our similar travel disappointments on the opposite sides of the earth. Of course I had read about the gradual deforestation of the Amazon, but I had no idea it was as bad as Gary described. I wondered if it was too late to see the place I had dreamed about for so long.

Some years later I tried to talk another friend, Ron, into going with me to Iquitos, the Peruvian jumping-off point at the headwaters of the Amazon river. At first Ron seemed enthusiastic as we studied maps and watched TV travelogues about Iquitos, but in the end he decided he would rather spend his money on something else. I didn't want to go alone and I cancelled my plans.

I realize now I will never see the Amazon. I had my chances and blew them. Gary says it isn't there anymore and I know he wouldn't lie about that. At times I think the Amazon I pictured in my mind was more of a myth than a real place I could visit in person.
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Last edited by starrwriter; 02-11-2007 at 08:57 AM..
  #11  
Old 02-18-2007, 02:42 PM
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Default Exploring Liverpudlian Arts. 1703 words.

I recently refreshed my memory of all the places I and my classmates had visited during a module of our course based on discovering your surroundings. The high culture although not everyone’s cup of tea can be excellent for embellishing previous ideas and finding new inspirations.

The first on my list was the Anglican cathedral, its imposing gothic structure has dominated Liverpool’s skyline for only a few decades but it feels as though it has always been there. The dated architecture in comparison to its Catholic counterpart is intricate and intense. I can’t help but look up from my window at night and be captivated. It feels like I could be anywhere in the world, not in my home town.

The statue at the fore front of the cathedral was designed to make Jesus look more like a human not a god and it succeeds, perhaps a little too well. The statue is of a man, just a man and it inspired me to think of the life of Christ, how he could have coped being mortal and with such great burden. How can you turn your back on an omnipresent father? The Anglican cathedral is one of the largest in the world; its cavernous interior cannot help but make you feel small and insignificant, possibly the desired effect: to keep religion oppressive even in the 21st century. No one thinks about the good things anymore, the art created in the name of the lord; stained glass windows that flood huge expanses with light and colour, tapestries that brighten up cold brick walls. This cathedral is a stunning place to stop and think. I believe a belittling in the house of God is a good thing for the soul and I have often sought sanctuary here, to write freely and honestly.

The graveyard below has been transformed into a park, an inner-city oasis where sounds and stress cannot transcend upon the monuments and those that seek refuge there. From up high on the cathedral’s rooftop the monuments to Liverpool’s long lost look like pebbles, small and insignificant.

I then walked along Hope Street, to the grand processional entrance of The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. This building, set on a pedestal for all of Liverpool to see, golden sunlight on the steps, God’s favour perhaps, or maybe it was just the time of day?

A friend once told me that the Metropolitan reminded them of something from Star Wars or Independence Day. That a beam of destructive light should burst through the top and cause chaos on a neighbouring planet. I agreed at the time, this non-traditional Cathedral was not how I expected the Catholics to praise the lord. So modern it could have easily been garish. It is strange to think that it was completed ten years before the Anglican, both unfinished versions of the original designs. If this is only the potential, how much would the completed structures inspire?

The Metropolitan cathedral focuses on Light. Jesus after all was the light of the world. So many colours emanate from the central tower; the design shows a crown above and below the stained glass. A gospel choir would not seem at all out of place in this building. The rainbow of light urged me to think about natural light and the colour I could include in my writing, a detail I think I often forget. This wondrous light causes your gaze to be caught and drawn to different aspects of the cathedral. This amazing building of hope and glory was built from the money of the people of Liverpool.

“They did it, bless ‘em, by giving when they had so little to give.”

I couldn’t help but be endeared by this memorial to those people. The benefactors are forever listed in a book for anyone who wishes to see.

Since beginning at university I have seen Liverpool in a new light, everything I see and hear inspires me, or has the potential to. The Walker Art Gallery, a place I once thought was full of stiff religious paintings. Yes the talent is astounding, the paintings are so life like its unnerving but I never felt like there was a soul in them. I was wrong. The Victorian notion of unrequited love has been a great influence; a love that goes unreturned does often bear the greatest art and literature. Pelagia and Philammon actually made me gasp. Pelagia is stunningly beautiful. But she’s dead, even in a lifeless state her splendour was consuming. Echo and Narcissus also show a great unrequited love. Echo staring desperately while Narcissus only stares at his reflection. My heart went out to this poor girl, a wall flower in her own painting. Although I have been around this gallery countless times I have always failed to notice Daguerre’s dark and gothic “The ruins of Holy road Chapel”. It’s startlingly supremacy over the room held me slack jawed. It would be a wonderful setting for any tragedy or romance. I just don’t think I have the competence yet to do it justice with written words. I have the emotion but not yet the eloquence.

Liverpool’s famous docks disgusted me as a child. We grew rich and fat from our port, and from the lives of others we stole. When I learnt of the slave trade I hated this town, but we all have skeletons in our past, and they must be forgiven. Now at the water’s edge I feel my closest to the people I love around the world, and I’m inspired constantly by the waves and sludge. I could stare out for hours and often have. It’s beautiful as the sun sets, even more so as it rises again. A new day; a new chance to write that novel burning inside me.

The Tate gallery more often than not leaves me at a loss for words in a negative way. The summer of love exhibition actually made me feel ill and quite scared. It wasn’t art, it was horrific. However there is a Jackson Pollock on the first floor that I simply adore. Black and white drizzles of paint, it speaks to me of the fragility of life, and if you look closely in Pollock’s artistic vigour he has killed an unsuspecting moth. I always wanted my work to come across with relevance on that level. But I’m just starting out; there is plenty of time yet.
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  #12  
Old 02-21-2007, 10:04 PM
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Default Things That Make You Shudder (please omit if reposts are not allowed)

I can’t eat Hershey’s Kisses. Just eating any form of chocolate is hard for me, but those little pointy stubs you see wrapped in colored foil around Valentines Day are the worst. It’s not because I know they aren’t healthy, or because there’s some secret ingredient that Hershey’s doesn’t want you to know about.

My brother once told me what they put into marshmallows; all those animal bi-products that are too useless to be put into a grocery store’s meat department. The bones, horns, and hooves of any animal turned into food aren’t just thrown away. They get ground to ash and used to make gelatin. Sometimes the ash is even used to give sugar that perfect white color.

I can still eat marshmallows with no more than a thought about what I’m really eating. I can stuff whipped topping and cake into my mouth knowing it contains the blood of cattle. Maybe it’s because I’m not a vegetarian, but I can eat candy by the handful, even knowing that there’s a chance it may contain animal hide.

It’s not what I am eating that makes me shudder. It’s what I’m not eating that has the ability to make me feel sick. It’s what certain things remind me of that seem to cause the most trouble.

No one needs to be reminded what chocolate looks like, but sometimes reality hits you hard enough to make you see things you could have previously ignored. It’s those little unavoidable experiences that can take a loved luxury like chocolate and turn it into a repulsive reminder of something you’d like to forget.

I work in concrete restoration and nearly every week sees me to a different job site. One week you could be on the south-side of town jack-hammering away at a support column between cars in a parkade, and the next you could be downtown grinding and polishing a floor for the University’s new building. Some days, you could even end up doing both if you don’t mind working between fourteen and sixteen hours that day.

People call my company for everything from leaking basements to applying protective coating on entire parking lots. They call with a problem involving concrete, and my company tries to solve it.

But when one of the city’s wastewater treatment facilities calls about cracks that are leaking in some of the plant’s underground tunnels, you know that it won’t be a pretty job. No one ever wants to hear the words wastewater and leak in the same sentence.

What we ended up with is my job site foreman and I pulling into the treatment facility at around 7:30 on a Monday morning. After a brief drive and a lot of walking through the foul methane-smelling air, we got to where the leaking cracks were. The underground tunnels can only be described as being a labyrinth. There were so many tunnels leading everywhere, so many stairwells, that I wouldn’t have been able to find my way out had I no one there to guide me. We were working several meters beneath the surface. Above us, through several feet of concrete, were about a half a dozen foul-smelling pools of waste set into the ground. Because it was winter, these pools gave off thick steam so when you’re on the surface you can’t really see what’s stirring inside them. They reminded me of those old witch’s cauldrons you see in movies and read in books. These pools probably smell worse, though.

Down in the tunnel, in hard hats equipped with face shields, my foreman and I looked at the ceiling where two cracks spanned the width from wall to wall. Occasionally a barely visible drop of something would fall from these cracks and splash into a murky, crusted pool on the floor.

And yes, the cracks were leaking about half of a city worth of toilet flushes and shower drains right above where we were working.

Every morning we worked there, my foreman would raise his medium hot chocolate and say, “Here’s to us spending another day in the smell of raw sewage.”

As if it had gotten funny within the last twenty-four hours.

The worst part of this job was that whenever a drop leaked out of the crack you had to be sure that you weren’t anywhere near it. Nothing is worse than feeling a freezing drop of human waste hit the back of your neck and then roll down between your shoulder blades before you finally shudder and shake it away.

The only tell-tale sign of where the drops would fall was where thicker drops had seeped out of the crack, and hardened into build-ups of waste – stalactites – that look like a dozen Hershey’s Kisses hanging from the ceiling. Soon after we arrived on site, my job was to take a utility knife and scrape these tiny hardened stubs off the ceiling so we could seal the crack with epoxy.

Here’s to me getting pelted by cold drops every time I scrape one of the Kisses off the ceiling. Here’s to me finally understanding why the guy’s at the facility recommended that we get hepatitis and tetanus shots before we stepped into the underground maze. Here’s to me not listening to them.

What was weird was that every night after I got home, I would hesitate to flush my own toilet, knowing where all of that waste would ultimately end up. I couldn’t walk into a bathroom without thinking about those cracks. What ran through my mind was that whole notion people have that no matter the mess they make; someone else will clean it up. I remember thinking how even I would do my business, flush it down, and never give it another thought. I thought about my grade seven science teacher telling me that matter can neither be created nor destroyed; only changed. I never thought about whom or what were involved in the changing of my own discarded matter.

I didn’t care. I didn’t know. I wish I were still that naive.

Here’s to me being too afraid to go to the bathroom for five days because I thought I might ultimately end up pissing or shitting on myself.

In order for us to fix the cracks, we need to clean them by “flushing” them with a mixture of acid and water. Since we’re working beneath a leaking pool of several hundred thousand gallons of waste, there really is no way to completely clean the crack out. You flush out what’s there, and in the next five minutes, the crack is full with waste again.

And by the time my foreman says we’re done cleaning the crack, our boots are drenched in whatever came out of that crack. We had used an entire box of latex gloves, but our hands still managed to get wet and slick. Our face shields were streaked with residue from whenever they were dripped on or splashed with acid. At this point in the job we’re only half done.

Here’s to me regretting not calling in sick that whole week.

Over the next five days of working in that hallway, we finally sealed the leaks with an epoxy dam. We pumped a special type of foam that expands and fills in every portion of the crack. We packed up our gear and we got the hell out of there. No words can describe just how relieved I was to finally be done with that place.

But in a way, I guess I was never done with it.

Now, every time I look at one of those Hershey’s candies, I can’t help but remember what it was like to feel those drops go down my back. I can’t help but think about the people who spend every day at the plant turning my toilet water into something less disgusting.

No one ever needed to tell me exactly what they look like – it’s not like it was a secret, but actually seeing them hanging from a ceiling and dripping down on me makes it sickening to see them anywhere now, and it makes me shudder to see people eating them. It’s probably the one time I will ever ask someone to chew with their mouth closed.

Here’s to me hearing my boss tell me that the facility management was pleased with our work, and that there are around fifty more cracks that need to be done sometime next year.

Of course, that has opened up for constant jokes and jabs from family and friends. Every Christmas or birthday, at least one of those gifts is going to be a pack of Kisses. Every Valentine's Day I’m reminded of what it’s like to get shit on by an entire city. Every birthday I can’t go to the bathroom for around two or three days after because somewhere in the future there are fifty more cracks waiting to rain on me.

All this, just from looking at a single piece of candy.
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