Old Lang Sign

Rounding out 2018 in relative quietude with: reading, snoozing, and sneaking popcorn to three dachshunds who perpetually act like they haven’t eaten in daaays.

We did go out for an early dinner with friends, to a Brazilian steakhouse. There were so many delicious meats, but the desserts were my favorite: caramelized plantains, and this rabanada.

2018 was a very good year for me. Lots of change, nearly all of it positive. I met an amazing girl in July who’s made an already good life great; started personal training in January and have stuck with it; and moved into a lovely apartment downtown. Also, I am writing again, which has been such a relief. I can only liken the feeling to holding one’s breath for a year, and then finally being able get a lungful of air.

Historically, I shy away from talking about good things that happen to me. It makes me feel uncomfortable, like I’m being a braggart, or rubbing it in the faces of others who maybe aren’t in the best of places. Nor do I want the universe to misconstrue such an attitude as me staring it in the eye and daring it to try me. But what I’ve come to realize is that, from time to time, it’s okay to acknowledge and appreciate the good things in one’s life.

My attitude going into the new year is one of “resetting expectations.” With myself, and with others. As part of this effort, I’m setting four goals for myself. They will hopefully help build on some positive things I’ve already been doing, and also help me create good habits in other areas. I’m not going to really talk about them in this space, because ha ha, why publicly set Future Josh up for failure?

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According to my comprehensive authors and books spreadsheet, now in it’s fifteenth year of use, I’ve read 19 books this year, not including graphic novels, which is down slightly from last year, which was down from the year before it. That’s not a trend I am super thrilled with, which is why I am making one of my goals to read 25 books in 2019. This is the only exception to my “not publicly talking about it” goals policy. Future Josh, hopefully when you’re reading this next year.if you don’t like reading this next year… well, get stuffed.

My favorite book that I read this year — even though it came out in 2014 — was BROKEN MONSTERS, by Lauren Beukes. It’s a weird crime novel full of vivid prose, strange but compelling characters, and a brilliantly fucked up serial killer. Beukes has become one of my favorite writers in recent years, with MOXYLAND and THE SHINING GIRLS also being among my favorite reads. She has a new book out in a few months, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m talking about it in this space next year.

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2018 feels like it’s been interminably long but also gone by in a blink. 2019, I think, will be very much the same. And I am okay with it. So time to strap in, take a long pull of champagne, and kiss a pretty girl in a few short minutes. See you next year.

Old Lang Sign

Changes

Some time back I was “ordained” by the Universal Life Church so I could officiate my sister’s wedding. Then today at work someone referred to me as an “Internet Priest,” and, while not technically accurate, it amused me greatly.

The wedding was a couple of weeks ago, held at a charming farmhouse-y complex in one of the local Metroparks.  The sun was shining and the temperature was crisp, which meant we could pose for outside photos without melting.  The wedding was THE PRINCESS BRIDE themed, my sister’s idea, and a thing I am only slightly jealous of because now I won’t be able to use it one day for my potential future wedding.  The ceremony was short, the party long.  No guests were unduly unruly — “no more rhymes now, I mean it” — which meant the bride and groom did not have to murder anyone on their special day.  It was great to spend time with family and friends and celebrate the bride and groom, who by all accounts had a blast.  Oh, and there were donuts.

And how did I perform in my official capacity?  Well, I didn’t screw up my lines, and I managed to slip in a STARSHIP TROOPERS quote, so I was pretty fucking pleased.

Really, the day couldn’t have been anymore perfect.

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The photos were of course taken by the official Bales family photographer, the renowned Bill Cunningham, who as always did a wonderful job.

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October also saw my long-planned move to a new apartment finally happen, from the suburbs to Dayton’s small but mighty(ish) downtown.  This change was needed for multiple reasons, not least of which is that my former residence would get frigid during cooler — not even cold, but cooler — weather, thanks to poor insulation and an old furnace as efficient as Soviet bureaucracy.  A change in scenery was also needed, and thankfully timing, finances, and the stars all aligned in a way where I could make it work.  Not sure I’ll be a city-dweller forever, but for now, so far, I like it a lot.

“Being downtown” always sounds in my head like the way it’s said in this scene from WAYNE’S WORLD 2, i.e. terribly awkward. It could be that’s because I sometimes struggle to not feel self-conscious about enjoying nice things, or I could just be tired.  Regardless, i think I am rambling at this point, so here’s a picture from my patio. It’s peaceful, especially at night.

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Currently reading: THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, by Claire North (GR)

Changes

Hecking Hills

Labor Day always feels like the liminal point between summer and fall, despite, as of this writing, fall still being three weeks away. And also despite this disgruntled Earth currently basting its idiot children.

I spent this Labor Day weekend in a cabin in Hocking Hills, for a Birthday in the Woods celebration for my friend D. This was my first time in Hocking Hills, and it was an altogether enjoyable experience. My phone lost its signal a few miles away from the destination, and that was before I drove into what felt like a forested hole in the ground. Eventually the narrow, muddy road led to a clearing, in which stood two luxuriously appointed cabins.

I spent most of my time drinking and sweating with some excellent co-celebrants. And since the general theme was summer camp, we even made friendship bracelets. Beautiful, profane friendship bracelets.

Not fully certain the cabin-in-the-woods life is for me, but it was a pleasant way to spend a hot, not-quite-fall weekend, celebrating a friend.

Hecking Hills

Leaving San Diego

I returned home yesterday from a brief excursion to San Diego.  Ohio, in truly reliable fashion, greeted me with a snow-covered windshield that required scraping.

Leaving San Diego, one of my favorite cities, is never easy. I love it at any time of the year, but especially so in winter. The perpetual glow of the sun and moderate temperatures is rejuvenating, and is a marked contrast to Ohio in January. San Diego is also home to one of my favorite humans, which doesn’t make leaving any easier.

A few highlights:

Caught a double feature at the Digital Gym, and both films were quite good.  The first was a bonkers Chinese horror film called ZOMBIOLOGY: ENJOY YOURSELF TONIGHT, which featured a gigantic chicken mascot that could shoot eggs that exploded heads, and somehow also turned people into zombies.  The second was the charmingly violent and funny TURBO KID, a clever film that plays like if ’80s-era Steven Spielberg had directed MAD MAX ON BMX BIKES.  If TURBO KID sounds familiar, like it did to me, it’s because it’s been — or at least was — on Netflix for some time. If it’s still on there, it’s definitely worth a watch.

Also went to the San Diego Museum of Man to take in their excellently-staged Cannibals: Myth & Reality exhibit. The topic was already intriguing, because cannibals, but the presentation and flow were top-notch and really drew you in.  Favorite bits include:

  • Real-life incidents where folks were forced to eat each other, or were faced with that decision, because Not Eating Your Friends and Family would otherwise spell certain doom;
  • The Cannibal Tribe trope, AKA “all brown-skinned people already living in lands ‘discovered’ by European explorers are deemed cannibals because the dehumanization of indigenous populations makes enslaving and slaughtering those populations all the more palatable”; and
  • The Oregon Trail-like game Donner Trail.

We also got a quick tour of the shop where the exhibits are built and accidentally met the Post Secret guy, who it turns out is really nice.

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And on my last night in town, dinner was acquired at the nearby Viejas Casino buffet. I have sampled many fine buffets in my day, but this was by far the best.  I gorged on prime rib and desserts, and, since all-you-could-drink alcohol was included in the price, I accompanied the food with champagne. Delicious and decadent. A perfect way to end the trip.

Leaving San Diego

Here We Go Again

Ringing in the new year like…

Hah. Or something like that.

The transition from 2017 to 2018 has been a quiet one for me. I have either a head cold, unhinged allergies, or a sinus issue, or some charming combination thereof. So tonight I’m staying in, sucking down cough drops like it’s my job, and watching the terribly bad but entertaining THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER. Don’t be jealous.

I haven’t been a total hermit today. Went out earlier with friends for a fancy steak dinner and some time at the casino, where I played blackjack and ended the evening $190 ahead. This was my first time playing blackjack at a casino, and even had I lost my precious monies, it would still have been more entertaining than feeding pennies into the greedy maws of the slot machines. Las Vegas is in my future next summer, so I’m looking forward to losing my savings at blackjack, then trying to win it all back at “Guess a Number Between One and Ten” in some rinky-dink casino, just like Clark W. Griswold. Does anyone else remember VEGAS VACATION, other than me and Nate?

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2017 has been by all accounts a long, bizarre year. I feel like I say some variation of that every year, but damn it, this time I really mean it. I’m not even going to try to collect and summarize my thoughts about the abysmal political and social landscape that’s dominated 2017, except to say: (1) in respect to all things politics, 2017 can fuck right off; (2) my picture appeared in the local newspaper; and (3) I am still emotionally abusing Chrome’s Word Replacer extension by making it replace a certain person’s name with “My Ass,” and thus making my eyes bleed a little less when I read the news. So to paraphrase the meme, Word Replacer is the real MVP.

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According to my comprehensive authors spreadsheet, I read 22 books in 2017 (not counting graphic novels), down slightly from 25 in 2016. I would like to get that number closer to 30, but we’ll see. Life is a lot busier than it was, which I am not unhappy about. Still: it’s good to have goals.

Favorite book from 2016 was Michael Swanwick’s NOT SO MUCH, SAID THE CAT. Swanwick is a wonderful novelist, yes, but he is also one of the finest short story writers alive, and with this collection he again demonstrates why.

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2017, for me at least, is ending on a relatively high note. 2018 may be worse or it may better, but despite my occasionally affected cynicism, I remain a cautious optimist. No resolutions this year, except to read more books, eat better, and drink more wine.

Here we go again. Strap in. Happy New Year.

Here We Go Again