Friday Free-for-All #82: Three words, tattoos, grail, oldest friend, bestest friend

Time to answer some random questions again, this time covering tattoos, home ownership, and friendship.

Here’s the next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website, and it’s a rare five-banger. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers or ask your own questions in the comments.

What three words best describe you?

I think this depends on whether you ask me or my friends. I’d describe myself as shy, depressed, and lazy. Apparently, though, my friends seem to think that I’m super-smart, outgoing, and happy. I love my friends, by the way, because they clearly think more highly of me than I do of myself.

What do you think of tattoos? Do you have any?

I have mixed opinions on tattoos. One or two subtle ones in places that aren’t normally visible are fine. But once somebody tries to go for the full-body, double sleeves, or (worst of all) the “make me unemployable” hand and face inkings… that’s too much.

I don’t have any tattoos myself, although I have considered a Phoenix tattoo many times for very personal reasons. But there’s no way that I’d ever turn my entire torso or back into some inker’s canvas, nor would I get my ass inked.

I mean, come on. Why destroy a beautiful view by slathering it in ink? It just gets in the way of enjoying what your momma gave you.

Speaking of which, Peter Davidson finally wised up to it, and he’s going to be spending the next few years getting all of his 100+ tattoos lasered off. Smart move there, Pete.

But, yeah… basically, if you get naked and look like you’re still wearing clothes, that’s way too damn much ink. Get back to me when you’ve had it lasered off, thank you.

What is the “holy grail” of your life?

It’s the promise that the Boomers made to those of us in Gen-X and beyond, but then totally fucked us out of. Home ownership. Honestly, the only way that’s ever going to happen for me is either moving to some city and state I really don’t want to live in, via winning the lottery, or by duping enough people into financing it through Kickstarter. (Hint: please don’t do that.)

And it’s not like I don’t make good money. If I did move to some semi-rural area in a reddish state, I could probably buy a really nice house on a decent sized plot of land with a big down payment and mortgage payments a lot lower than my rent is now.

But, again, the trade-off wouldn’t really be worth it. It would probably be far from the ocean, subject to flooding, tornadoes, or winter snowstorms, and I would be isolated from all my friends, except online.

Not that the last part isn’t so different from how it’s been for nearly the last nineteen months and I work remotely anyway — my employer is in Florida. But still, the idea of everyone being so physically distant would be unsettling, to say the least.

Who is your oldest friend? Where did you meet them?

This really relies on the definition of “oldest.” Do you mean the person in my life I’ve known for the longest time, or the person I now know is older than any other friend of mine?

Okay, let’s start with the assumption that “friend” excludes family because, obviously, I’ve kind of known all my living relatives since birth.

So for the friend I’ve known the longest, I was going to say that it’s definitely a friend I met in high school — my junior year and his senior, I think. Then we lost touch for a long time, then reconnected later.  So, where did meet him? It was actually in marching band in high school.

And I write that I was going to say that because then I realized that this isn’t the answer. The oldest friend I have is technically my half-brother’s current girlfriend. They hooked up fairly recently after his previous marriage ended, but they’d dated in high school, so I would have met her at home, when they came to visit my parents. Well, his dad and step-mom.

Since my half-brother is a lot older than I am, I met her when I was a kid, but then didn’t see her for years. I’m actually in touch with her a lot more than him because he doesn’t like to do social media. She’s also the genealogist of the family, a hobby that we share.

But if you mean the oldest person chronologically whom I know, that’s much more recent. I think I met him around 2017 or 2018, when he was about 93 or 94. I met him at his home on Mulholland Drive, which he shared with his husband, who is 35 years younger. And he’s still alive and kicking.

Who was your best friend in elementary school?

I’ll just give his first name, Mike. He moved into the area with his family and transferred into my elementary school around fourth grade. He was a little over two months older than me, but we hit it off almost immediately and we had a lot in common that we bonded over but enough differences that we worked well together.

We were literally like a best-friend team designed by Hollywood writers — one blue-eyed brunet only child (me), one brown-eyed blond middle of three brothers (him). I was the bookish, writerly musician. He was the hands-on crafty builder. Through the rest of elementary school, we seemed to manage to constantly get in trouble together even though I seriously don’t remember us ever actually doing anything bad.

But the principal had it in for us for some reason. Maybe it was because whenever we were together, we settled into our own little world and we did have rather anarchic senses of humor.

We continued to be friends through middle school — still Jr. High at the time, since this was pre-90s — and were all set to continue on to high school together, but then on the last day of summer school between 9th and 10th grades (I enrolled early so I could take driver’s ed as soon as I hit 15 1/2), I ran into him on the high school campus to find out that he was moving away. Apparently his parents had gotten divorced, and he was going with his father.

They were moving to one of the beach communities at the southern edge of L.A. County, which might as well have been another country. The last time I saw him was in the parking lot in front of the school, and the memory, which should be vivid, is a jumble in my mind, possibly because of my emotions over what was going on.

I think he invited me to come down for the weekend because this wasn’t the permanent move yet, and got the impression that he really wanted a friend with him as a buffer so he wasn’t stuck with “dad only” for the whole time. And I wound up not going, but to this day I cannot remember whether it was because I called my mother to ask and she said “No,” or because I didn’t want to make the trip.

One of the biggest mistakes of my life, really. If I’d gone, it would have given us the opportunity for more bonding and, more importantly, for figuring out how we were going to stay in touch during the separation.

I have no doubt that we would have, and he might have even been the type of friend I would have conspired to go to college with. Instead, that early August day was the last time I ever saw or heard from him and, since the internet didn’t exist yet, finding him again would have been too daunting a challenge at the time.

If he happens to read this and recognizes himself, he knows where to find me now.

Sunday nibble #45

Keep in mind that I try to keep my post-writing a week or two ahead of the dates they go live, so for all I know everything could have gone downhill in the past week, given events from last weekend, which is when I’m writing this.

The Sunday Nibble is back from hiatus, which began with my Christmas Countdown, and the last installment was the eighth and last in a series of short pieces I’d originally written with the intention of publishing them on a friend’s website, The Flushed.

The series title was “A short guide to knowing your shit,” and it fit right in with The Flushed, which is about all things having to do with the bathroom — although the title they would have gotten used the word “poop” instead, because they’re more PG-13. But the series never ran there.

However… I am now also guest-blogging four times a month over at Paw.com, a site all about pets, mostly of the canine and feline variety. I wound up with this job because I used to write for “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan’s ecommerce website, and one of my former co-workers there recently became Creative Director for a company that does content creation for various client sites.

He contacted me almost immediately to offer the gig, and how could I say no? It was a natural fit. Check them out, and yes, they do sell stuff, specializing in beds, blankets, and other pet-friendly products.

So yes, it’s another case of “it’s who you know,” but Creative Directors are good people for artists and writers to know in general, since they tend to have a lot of clout within their organizations. And, being Creative Directors, they hire us — the creatives.

Also, from time-to-time, I’ll still post the random movie review to a site called Filmmonthly.com, which I founded two decades ago with a pair of fellow film-lovers, one of whom was the other roommate during the tenure of the very bizarre Strauss, about whom I wrote on Friday, and the other was the roommate who took over when Strauss abruptly departed — the one whose cousin accidentally torched their kitchen with a toaster oven.

We ran the thing for a good while, and all three of us were the publishers, racking up a ton of reviews. Eventually, we all stepped back and turned it over to the next generation, although for a long time our prior work was there — until one of the people trusted with the site at some point muffed up and wound up losing a lot of the older files forever.

Things that make you go “Grrrrr.” Unfortunately, if you search my name and filmmonthly, you’ll get a ton of hits because, as publisher, my name was on every page. Most of them will not be my work.

But I did recently review a low-budget adaptation of the King Arthur story that surprisingly did not suck, so there’s that. There was also a fun little indie comedy about incest, Call Me Brother, that I also liked and reviewed.

I’ll share another secret with you. The Christmas and New Year Countdowns are my way of giving myself a vacation. I program everything to publish automatically before Thanksgiving arrives, and then on the Friday after, boom. I don’t need to write or post anything for over a month.

This works out great IRL, because this also coincides with the frantic tail-end of my busy season at work, which pretty much entails seven-day weeks and ten hour days from October 15 to December 7. Every. Single. Year.

The only exception, of course, is when the Out of the Blue Oxford Boys drop their charity single for the current year. That always gets its own special post, because they and what they do are both very special.

Which is to say that, looking back at 2020, I’m kind of amazed that I managed to post something every single day when there were many days that I felt no motivation — and I think that’s true of a lot of us who lived through lockdown.

Kind of ironic, really. All the time in the world to write, but it was hard to get motivated. Except… it did give me time to focus in on The Rêves, which I started serializing here weekly back in July, long before I actually finished it.

And now it’s 2021, and it feels like we’re going to have a new beginning, maybe, but it won’t be soon and it won’t be fast. What it will probably be is the final general realization that if we want to fight this thing, we do have to take it seriously and sacrifice.

It may not seem like it, but “sacrifice” is something that Americans can be good at when they actually do it, and when they’re not being cheer-led on by greedy, selfish leaders.

Nobody really complained when security tightened up after 9/11 and it seemed like it took an anal probe and two blood samples to get into any government building. No one complained back when they could only buy gas on days based on their license plate number.

No one complained when everything was rationed during WW II. And on, and on.

Now, I don’t know what percentage of people who voted for a certain losing presidential candidate last year are also staunch anti-maskers, but I can give you these numbers. Out of the total U.S. population, only 23% voted for the outgoing incumbent. But if we cut that number down to “all people eligible to vote,” whether they do or not, then it’s 38%.

The other candidate got 25% of the total population, and 42% of all people eligible to vote, although based on the actual vote count, it came out as 52% to 48%.

Or, in other words, for the politically engaged, a divided world, but if you look at the total population, one thing stands out. The selfish people fall to around one-fifth of the population.

And that is very hopeful, because there are more of us who can be good Americans and sacrifice, whether we vote or not (and why the hell don’t you, if you’re eligible?) than there are greedy Americans who want to burn it all down.

So… for every Karen, there are four Americans willing to stand up to her shit. And that is how we are going to turn it around in 2021, albeit slowly, and finally see normalcy return in 2022.

Simply put, there are still more Americans willing to do the right thing. We’re just not as vocal or visible as the selfish ones who like to kick and scream like infants to get their way. But their tantrum will end soon, once they’ve woken up to reality. If they ever do.

Okay, it’s another Sunday Nibble turned into a full buffet, but that’s okay. It feels like I’m coming out of hibernation, so there’s a lot on my mind.