week 5/52 — ten good shots, i’ll take them all

Jess was in Columbus yesterday, so with no real plans I decided to get a massage and take myself out to breakfast.  I know some people find dining solo at restaurants to be uncomfortable, like everyone at the restaurant is going look upon them pityingly as if they’re some sad loser with no friends.  But I’ve always enjoyed it.  It’s peaceful, especially when I have a book, which I did.  My current read is Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s excellent MEXICAN GOTHIC.

This morning I wrote 500ish words on a short story that has been in progress for a while.  I can see how to get to the end now, so I just need to finish it.  Maybe later this week.  I also figured out a name for it which I think will stick: “Belong to the Night.”

I really enjoyed this article about Chumbawamba from MEL MAGAZINE.  It talks about how the band’s one big single, “Tubthumping,” was a surprise mainstream hit for a band with decidedly anarcho-communist politics and that had, at the time, already released seven albums.

I was, I believe, 15 when “Tubthumping” came out, and I watched the music video daily on TRL.  I loved everything about the song, from its brassy, anthemic catchiness to lead singer Dunstan Bruce’s bleached blond hair, which I thought was so cool but, alas, never replicated for myself.  I bought the whole album, TUBTHUMPER, as we did back then, and it was good but weird.  A mélange of styles encompassing synthpop and punk, and a whole lot of social commentary that went completely over my empty teenage head.  Listened to it quite bit for a while, then moved onto the next thing.  Probably… Korn?

In the early Aughties, old comrade Nate acquired a batch of Chumbawamba’s earlier albums, which reintroduced me to the band, but with a different flavor, because now the band’s anarchist politics smacked me in the face.  I remember really liking some of those albums, especially ANARCHY (notable for having cover art that featured a low-quality but highly explicit photo of a baby being expelled from its mother).  Since the article came out a few days ago, I’ve been playing through Chumbawamba’s discography and am really enjoying it.  One song I’ve listened to several times now is “El Fusilado,” from their 2008 album THE BOY BANDS HAVE WON.  It’s a fucking earworm.

Gonna close this one out with a picture of Kirby, unhappily watching us while we hung out with his brother on the bed.

“Why have you forsaken me, father?”

week 4/52 — there goes my compassion, hurtling off into the aether

Is it gauche to frame a paycheck and hang it on one’s wall?  Possibly — but I’m doing it anyways.

My hope is that putting this check up on the wall next to my desk will help combat  the impostor syndrome that plagues me at times.  If nothing else, it serves as a visual reminder that I am a decent enough writer that someone once paid me a not insignificant amount of money for my fiction.  And that if I was able to do it once, I can probably make it happen a second time — if I’m willing to put in the work.

This is why I have made Put In the Work and Be Intentional With My Time my personal themes this year, especially when it comes to writing.  Writing is a very easy thing to put off until some later, fabled “perfect time” to do it.  The perfect time looks different for everyone; for me it, might be three or four uninterrupted hours in a coffee shop.  But what do you do if and when the perfect time never seems to quite materialize?  Waiting for the perfect time to appear can feel a bit like waiting for King Arthur to return and save England — i.e. impossible, especially when one has a dayjob, children and dogs to care of, meals to make, a house to be maintained, going to the gym, and spending time with one’s partner.  All are important and necessary to, you know, functioning and live one’s life.  But they can certainly throw up obstacles in trying to find the perfect time to write.  So, for me, it’s less about finding the perfect time to write, and more about finding a good enough time to do it.  Grabbing thirty minutes here, squeezing in an hour there.  Doing it during my lunchbreak or for a bit before bed.  Just put in the work, whenever and wherever I can.

Of course, once I do finally sit down at the computer with an intention to write, I am ridiculously good at using that time to do anything but write.  Not when I can endlessly revise the in-progress thing I’m currently working on instead of writing more of it.  Or catch up on the growing army of newsletters in my email box.

Write?  Sorry friend, I need to go doomscroll Twitter right now.

This is where being intentional with my time comes into play.  For me it means when I catch myself not writing, it’s pausing and acknowledging the fact that, yes, I am procrastinating, and asking myself, “Would I rather be doing the thing I am currently doing, or would I rather be writing?”  And then hopefully convincing myself that, yes, really, we should probably be writing.

None of this comes easily or naturally to me.  I am a professional procrastinator.  I am going to have to actively and mindfully work on this stuff and will no doubt fall short many times.  But hopefully I will also become a little bit better at it.

And speaking of being intentional with one’s time, I am going to hit publish on this post now and go work on that other thing for a while.

No Business Like Snow Business

It is snowing here in Dayton, Ohio.  A big ol’ winter storm has been making its way inexorably across the southeast part of the country, the western edge of it just barely crossing over my part of the state.  We’re expected to get less than an inch of accumulation.  Seventy miles east of here, in Columbus, they are expecting 3-5 inches, possibly more.

Earlier, while there was still daylight left, we bundled up and went for a walk.

This was our first time out of the house since Thursday.  I woke up Friday morning feeling like shit: head all congested, sinus drainage trying to drown me, fatigued as fuck.  No headache, fever, or aches, though.  Which then meant it was time to play the always fun game of Covid, a Cold, Allergies, Sinuses?  I didn’t think it was covid, but we have recently been out in the world more…  So, since we had some at-home tests, I thought I’d take one for a spin — or swab, rather.  It came back negative, as I thought it would, but it was nice to have confirmation.

I wasn’t feeling much better come Saturday morning.  Jess was now feeling crappy, too.  I was supposed to do some things this weekend, like play archery dodgeball for a friend’s 40th birthday and attend another friend’s birthday party, but it seemed the universe was sending a message of STAY HOME.  Instead, we’ve stayed in, slept, and I binged ARCHIVE 81, a truly excellent noir-horror show on Netflix.

I can think of worse ways to spend a long weekend.

Flocking Birds

Was outside earlier, snow flurries falling around me. I watched Fozzie tentatively sniff at a pile of frozen poop (his own, from earlier in the day), trying to decide if he wanted to eat it. (He did, but I ran over and cleaned it up first, stealing his “treat” from him.) I looked up and saw a flock of birds moving southwards across the gray sky.

Birds making me jealous by getting the flock out of Ohio.

Gray and cold, cold and gray. This time of year in Ohio is my least favorite. Dark by 5pm and, if you’re lucky, maybe a few errant rays of sunshine during the day. Here in the midwest, a sense of gloom haunts the landscape like the world’s most depressed ghost. Even my SAD lamp seems like it would prefer to hibernate until it’s time to go on spring break. There’s a reason why — at least in pre-pandemic times — I travel to San Diego every March, so that I have something to look forward to, to motivate me to just get through January and February.

I thought a return to San Diego might be in the cards this spring, but with Robert Ludlum’s The Omicron Variant still wending its way through the world, that seems less and less likely. So since I can’t change the fact that I am cursed to be living in interesting times, I’m instead working on changing the things I do have control over — like my mindset when it comes to the winter months. To accept them for what they are — just a season — and perhaps even try to find some joy in them. I turn 40 in a few months, and while I don’t feel old — hell, I barely feel like a grown-up (whatever that is) most days — I am becoming increasingly aware that the desire to skip ahead of the coming days, weeks, months and arrive at some vague, future endpoint, where things may not necessarily be better, and could possibly be worse, is maybe not how I should want to spend my life. And that means focusing more on the here and now, even if I really don’t feel like it some days.

So how’s all that going, you, my imaginary interlocutor, might ask? It remains a work in progress — but it’s going.


Okay By Me in America

First Monday of the new year. For me, the end of a four-day weekend. As my sister texted to me earlier, I always want to have the first Monday of the year off. I’ve only worked a few days the past several weeks, which has been pretty fantastic. Always nice to have the opportunity to pause, take stock, and rest and recharge. I have a good job with a good company, and my colleagues are all good people, so I try to never take these good things for granted.

Last night I saw the new WEST SIDE STORY. I can’t say if the 2021 version is better or worse than the original film or any of the Broadway productions, since I’ve never seen them. It means I also didn’t come in with any sort of preformed emotional attachment to those earlier incarnations. What I can say, however, is I enjoyed it immensely, and will probably be singing the seven or eight words that I know of “America” to myself over and over the next several days.

In other news, I think it’s time to toss out my pumpkins.

Beginnings of a pumpkin wasteland.



Yesterday we ventured out into the world to see the new Guillermo Del Toro film, NIGHTMARE ALLEY, at the Neon. I was really excited going in. GDT is one of the most interesting directors working today, and I am a sucker for a good film noir. It boasted an all-star cast and was gorgeous to look at, but it went on for too long (2 hours 30 minutes) and felt tonally… evil? It’s the best way I can think to describe it. I didn’t find myself sympathizing with any of the characters or caring about their fates.

I’m glad I saw NIGHTMARE ALLEY, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it.

We rang in the new year last night as we do every year — like motherfucking sorcerers.


Twenty Twenty Too

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the impending new year.

I am glad to see 2021 draw to a close. It’s been a shit year. An extended pandemic, the optimism of a vaxxed-and-waxed spring fading into a grim, variant-dominating autumn and winter of uncertainty. Then on a personal level, losing Molly, which was much harder than I ever thought it would be, and perpetually sick dogs in general, plus other shit I won’t bore anyone with. It’s all left me feeling very tired.

While 2021 can’t fuck off fast enough, it’s important to acknowledge the bright spots that managed to shine through the gloom. Nearly 8.5 billion Covid-19 vaccines were administered globally. I got to see family and friends again. I got published. And providing a timely and much-needed shot of serotonin, this belated Christmas gift arrived in the mail today.

It’s supposed to be a Christmas tree topper, but I suspect it will remain out somewhere in our house all year round.

I am under no illusion that 2022 will be easier. Too many variables, too many unknowns for that. But no matter how tired I may be, I remain optimistic that 2022 will be better than the year that preceded it. I don’t know how not to be optimistic, frankly. Not being optimistic means letting despair win, and I am too stubborn to let that happen. Pessimism will find no sanctuary here.

Instead, I am clubbing my optimism over the head, shoving it into an unmarked white van, and stealing away with it into the night, while fires rage, blue and red lights strobe, and sirens blare in our wake.

So let’s give 2021 the middle finger as we cross the finish line. We might be limping, might be bloodied and dragging one leg behind us, but the important thing is… we made it. And that’s not nothing.

See you on the other side.

It’s Friday, Friday

At my team’s holiday party today — virtual, of course — we held a white elephant exchange, and one lucky colleague walked away with this magnificent coffee mug.

11oz Coffee Cup Ceramic Novelty Magic Nicolas Cage Creepy Face Meme Funny Geek Nerd Color Changing Nicolas Cage Fan Gift Nic Cage Secret Santa Creepy Gift Present Cup 1pc 11oz Funny Present
I always enjoyed Nic Cage in FACE/OFF.

After the party wrapped, we let everyone have the afternoon off. Now I am indulging in a caramel-pecan sticky bun and Great Lakes Christmas Ale, and watching the new season of THE WITCHER, a show whose plot is incomprehensible to me but which I enjoy nonetheless. (Seriously, I can never keep the characters straight or tell when in the timeline a specific storyline is taking place. Even with the aid of wikipedia I can barely follow along.)

Anyhow… Happy Friday, sinners.

Do Shit That Makes You Happy

The weather has been so weird this weekend, so very un-December like. Warm and windy. So much wind. Raining like it was spring. Today I worked outside in a t-shirt, cleaning up the pile of broken glass that was, until Saturday morning, the top pane of our storm door, which smacked against the side of the front porch and shattered due to the aforementioned wind.

We took Friday off work to have a spa day.  A simple enough sentence to write, but something we’d been trying to make happen since seemingly forever.  Because of dog health stuff we’ve had to reschedule a couple of times this year.  I’ve actually had a gift card that Jess got me for Christmas 2019 and which I’ve never had a chance to use (for obvious reasons).  It wasn’t until we were in the car heading to the spa that I said out loud, “Hey, I think we’re actually going to do this.”  And we did: massages, facials, and pedicures.  It was expensive and amazing, and totally worth it.

When the pedicurist began working on me, she asked me, in a joking/challenging tone, did I want color?  I said sure, let’s go with black.  She suggested a different color.  Our compromise was High Waisted Jeans.

If you like these feet, my venmo is $thatjoshbales
If you like these feet, my venmo is $thatjoshbales.

I also had four cranberry mimosas in between services, and felt like a million bucks by the time we left.

Then yesterday I went to a belated Friendsgiving, delayed because of illness and — surprise, surprise — dog health stuff.  I saw people I hadn’t seen since early summer, ate delicious food, drank too much the perfect amount of red wine, and laughed more than I have a while.  It was a loud, magnificent time and so very much needed.

This was the most active weekend I’ve had in months, and it felt so good to be out in the world, amongst people.  I would say one of my goals for 2022 is to do more of it, more being out in the world, but it feels more urgent to me than just a goal — more of an exigency.  A thing I must do, for so many reasons but mostly because it will make me happy, and in 2022 “do shit that will make me happy” will be a top priority of mine.