Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Second Thought... The Final Countdown!

I had a moment when I wrote the last entry. Searching for photos to illustrate the topic, I stumbled across cover art for the song "The Final Countdown", the great hit by the Swedish rock band Europe (learn about this famed song at Wikipedia). It just so happened that this was the first album I ever bought, back in 1986; I was 8 and music had just enchanted me for the first time. It was a cassette tape, and I remember buying it at the music shop with my mother. That first night, I sat on the edge of my bed listening and listening and listening to that song, wearing out the rewind button on the cassette player. It was a short time later that I got a Walkman portable cassette player as a birthday present, and my horizons were expanded again. I remember walking in my neighborhood with headphones on, listening to that cassette as well as various radio stations. The sound was bursting out of those headphones and seemed to encircle manicured lawns and mature trees that dotted the sides of the street. I was a kid, walking with music, and enveloped by the experience.

Funny how seeing the cover art of a long-ago album can do that to you; music has that sort of power. Come to think of it, so do other things like the smell of certain foods on the stove and the sight of a familiar face from long-ago lurking in a crowd. These visceral experiences are reminders of a past that disappears everywhere else but in our head. For such memories, the web is an interesting medium to revive such experiences at the drop of a keyword.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Final Countdown

My last weekend as a bachelor just passed, and I am equal parts excited and nervous about putting a wedding ring on my finger. Crazy for a guy to say that, but I am also crazy about Wendy and have been anticipating this day for quite some time. Just checking in to share my feelings in the final countdown...

And Then There Were Four

How quickly we become attached to pets. No later than the end of a thunderstorm that doused the heat choking the air today (some reports put the temperature above 100 with very high levels of humidity), Wendy and I made our little trek into the backyard to feed our fish. But much to our surprise, we saw something absolutely shocking in the nibbling on the flakes - a veritable newcomer black fish!

If you recall from last weekend, there were three fish that accompanied us back from Petco in the plastic bag - Oscar (brightest orange face), Minnie (slighter orange face), and Mickey (mixed color face). And, in case you are also keeping score at home, these are newly minted names as the fish had no name when first returning home. Back to the point, at hand, though - where did this new fish come from?

At this point, we have no clue as to the mysterious appearance of our new pet. But I can only guess one of two things: either our fish are super-fertile and breed like gremlins or we have unknown fish that are miraculously spawning from beneath the plants that have cast off so much algae this summer. In either case, our pond is cultivating its own ecosystem - and then there were four.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Favorite Things

On an unusually warm Friday evening, Wendy and I ventured into Bethesda to experience what the rest of the world calls date night. Amidst the bar vultures at Houston's, we lingered over drinks - she of a French martini, me of a Campari e soda. We had front-row seats for a couple of guys looking to impress their dates, best part witnessing their bumbling efforts to validate their manhood. Asking the bartender in a quizzical, uncertain way, "What do you think of a scotch and soda, you know, to show the women that we are real men?" they got a bemused response from behind the bar: "So, I know that you cannot drink that. You might want to try something with vodka in it." She went on to mix the gentlemen vodka tonics while delivering up Pinot Noirs for their dates; it turns out the women knew much more about libations than the men.

But that was only the opening act for the main event, namely the comfort food that followed back in our cozy booth away from the bar. Tucking in to some gooey spinach dip and and a fat cheeseburger was just the sort of thing that made up for a long, stressful week at work. Which was no match for the ultimate finale - the signature apple walnut cobbler. A simple mound of vanilla bean ice cream surrounded by caramelized walnuts on top of an apple cinnamon cobbler, tastes that blend smoothly together to create a brief moment of bliss.

Ah, such a wonderful moment to let the taste buds transport me to a place far away from deadlines and wedding planning. Of course, apple walnut cobbler cannot fully match gelato in Roma and cherry blossoms in springtime, golf shots hit flush that find tight pin locations. But suffice it to say when I think in this way, Houston's apple walnut cobbler is one of my favorite things.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Where It All Happens

Wendy was trying to guess what I was going to write about this evening. Work? Gardening? Wedding? These seem natural topics, but no - I defy. This evening is about writing.

She forgets that once upon a time I was a (ah ha - Wendy spotted a missing "a"!) single young man with a lot of angst. During those days, I used to fill up journals with all kinds of anxieties and ambitions and hopes and fears and all the little peccadilloes that surrounded my travels. Because travel I did as a consultant. Now, I am a bit more grounded and "normal", worrying about keeping a house going and not getting fired at work.

But I am distracted. What I was really thinking about was sitting down at the old computer to do some writing. Good, old-fashioned, unadulterated writing. Feet on the desk kind of writing where the thoughts spill all over the screen, and all one needs to do is mop them up into short story or poem. Sometimes, I get these moments, but not as often as in those bachelor days. You see, I am contented by a beautiful young woman who is keeping me busy with wedding plans. And gardening (yay - Wendy's contribution to this entry!).

I digress - where I was going with this entry was that every so often creativity strikes like thunder and pours out like rain. And where it all happens is here at this desk, feet on the table and pondering over a thought that needs some massaging to reveal itself clearly to the reader. No worries - I'll keep working at it (even as Wendy lurks behind the computer screen, and I am distracted) until someday, a masterpiece results. In the meantime, there is always the next entry.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Some New Family Members

Out back of the townhouse, there is a small pond. Upon move-in, this pond included a nameless koi of decent size, about 8 inches. He was a fine fish but shy; I thought nothing of his hiding tendencies in the early days.

It was only a few months later that I realized the nameless koi was no longer part of the family, so to speak; he literally disappeared from the pond. A befuddling occurrence, considering I never found the body of this fine fish. It took many months more for the idea to sink in that, in fact, some animal might have made friends with the koi and escorted him somewhere outside of the pond. Since the koi disappearance, the pond has been vacant... until this past weekend.

Some new family members joined us on Sunday, three new goldfish that came courtesy of Petco down the way off Rockville Pike (thanks to Wendy for showing them off!). They don't have names yet, but they do have the luxury of spreading their gills to take in the nearly fresh water of our little pond. We wish them well as they join our backyard and hope they find a better fate than our nameless koi, whose whereabouts are still a mystery.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Deadlines

There is nothing like a pressing deadline to get the blood pumping. One just moves along without a care until a date is associated with an activity, and then the thrashing begins. What have I left to do? What really needs to happen? Who is going to do these things still remaining? And what I have gotten myself into anyway?

These days, I know all about deadlines of the personal and professional variety. Important presentations and big events, these are coming quick in the coming days, with associated pomp and circumstance. And it seems, at least for me, that the pomp and circumstance is getting more and more involved. I used to be able to meet my commitments with a bushel of email inquiries and a few hours of online research, but now that is only background towards reaching real progress. Could this be the true mark of an adult life coming on?

Perhaps so, but the fact of the matter does not change - deadlines regardless of magnitude are all around and bring about the swiftest of change. Because once deadlines are met, the world reveals itself anew to what deadlines were meant to encourage - a reality conceived by an activity's full completion. Now if only I could meet deadlines with a lower heart rate!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Books

As a sometimes aspiring writer, I cannot imagine a world without books. My fiancee' cannot imagine a world with as many books as I try to cram onto an office library wall, but that is another topic altogether. Books are a direct passage into the wandering recesses of our brains, encapsulating knowledge as idea, moment, or discipline as well as a writer could possibly hope to capture it for posterity.

I remember elementary school days, when Scholastic provided book order forms to teachers so that pupils in their class could order straight from the source on all the best children's stories of the day; this was before big chain bookstores and Amazon. I would always leaf excitedly through those order form pages, dreaming about having the infinite time and money to buy up the list: "Rover", "The Indian in the Cupboard", and anything by Dr. Seuss. If I was fortunate, my mother would cave on my simple requests, and the order form would turn into a submission envelope that I would march back to school so my teacher could send it off with the class order. Then, I would anticipate a glorious day 2-3 weeks later when my teacher would hand down the neatly bundled Scholastic book club selections I convinced my mother to order; such a simple pleasure, but it was so exciting to handle those newly arrived books for the first time.

Most of my childhood books are gone now (no doubt stuffing bookshelves at my parent's house!), but I have kept the book-buying habit and feed my addiction as often as my budget allows. I still find pleasure browsing through the selection on display at the local Barnes & Noble. Times have changed: there is usually a Starbucks adjoining, and the tables are always full of punk-ish high school kids or nerdish types slaving over textbooks with iPods cabled to their bodies. Somehow, those agitant groups find room to coexist among books, just as all sorts of books with their opposing ideas have come to coexist on the bookshelves in my office at home. And in that coexistence, I find hope that the following generations will continue to appreciate what a treasure books can be, and that as much as our age becomes a digital one, there will be room enough to accommodate the sort of pleasure I experienced as a child upon cracking open the spine of a fresh paperback for the first time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Whirlwind Weekend

Sleeping in. Baseball game. Wedding. Presentation revision. Night out with friends. Contract review. Emails. Multimedia uploads. Blog.

I'm ready for bed, now that I have lost all advantage that I might have picked up from earlier efforts to try and catch up on sleep. That work should be the culprit again this evening is no surprise, and I cannot help but think of what life could be like if I could better manage the "scope creep" that my work affairs do to the other parts of my life. At least there is the upcoming honeymoon and the 2.5 weeks of pure bliss that di fare niente in various European cities will mean. Beforehand, I have a boatload of things to do - not unlike this past whirlwind weekend.

So off to bed, sleepy head - only a precious few hours separate me from the next week of avalanche workload at the office.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Speed typing

Wendy warned me - 15 minutes until I absolutely need to get off the computer. I've been blazing through some action items and trying to get on top of the work stuff that prompted my prior post. Now, I have to quickly jump in the shower before we go out for dinner with friends.

This gives me pause to hurry up and log some sentences before I run off to the bathroom. Not such an elegant post, but enough to remind me that I need to make this more routine as I noodle out more thoughts from the creative subconsious. It is amazing what just a few moments of cleared mindspace can do to find the inner voice. Speed typing, and I am done with this entry in less than 5 minutes!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A chance at productivity

One moment out of the day to keep the writing end up does not seem like too much to ask. However, these past few weeks the idea of penning a few small paragraphs of text has seemed like a major chore. With work pressures, big project deadlines, and wedding planning swirling about, I am at a loss for time. And so I am left figuring out what item next gets crossed off the list - the idea of blogging does not even seem to make the list.

I have figured that this eternal quest for "being on top of things" is nothing more than a hope that perhaps any one of us have a shot at controlling our own destiny. The hope is alluring, but the reality is much more daunting than our greatest wishes. That leaves me sitting at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning, allowing myself a nice, old-fashioned sleep-in, and a few paragraphs of text.

Of course, I am in the process of re-prioritizing my list of things to do, but that process has been ongoing for quite some time. All for the chance at productivity, and if I am lucky, some ideas might stick before the next wave of deadlines and pressures washes the rest away.