Adventures

Misadventure: Catch the Mouse #1

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Hey all,

Starting tomorrow, I'll be chronicling my efforts to catch the mouse, or mice, that are getting into our house at night. Although we take excellent care of our 120-year-old brick cottage, we cannot fill every gap, crack and hole that mice might use to get in. So they sometimes visit our kitchen at night, and then we get to work evicting them. I've learned a few things during past efforts that I hope with make this year's effort especially successful (it seems like we need to deal with the issue once each year, must relate to their seasonal behaviors). 

How do you know when they've started coming in? More details on that in future posts.

I'm an animal lover, however, and do not want to set lethal traps or icky glue paper. So I'll be putting out trap houses that capture but don't harm the mice. I'll then drive them to a park and release the mice so they can start over.

There are opportunities for missteps and misadventures at all phases of this operation. 

Pictures and details to come. Watch this space.


Mini-Misadventures: Running Amok

I used the phrase running amok this morning to describe sprouting sweet potatoes that are vining all over my dining table. If I don't do something with them - kill or plant - the vines might just take over the kitchen. Then I wondered...where does running amok come from? Who was the first person to run amok?

Here's the fascinating story of the phrase quoted from the Mental Floss website

"The English word most directly comes from the Malay amuck more or less meaning “attacking furiously” or “attacking with uncontrollable rage” or, more aptly, “homicidal mania.” Some theorize this Malay word may have Indian origins or be from the name of a group of professional assassins in Malabar, called the Amuco. Others theorize that it came from the Malay word amar, meaning “fight,” specifically via Amar-khan, which was a certain type of warrior. Yet another theory is that the Malay amuck ultimately comes from the Sanskrit amokshya, meaning "that cannot be loosed."

I've been to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or KL, several times and enjoyed it. This capital city is both modern and traditional. I didn't witness anyone running amok there. The book, Common Phrases: And Where They Came From, suggested that the phrase was first used to describe opium addicts in Malaysia who, apparently, sometimes did extreme and violent things. I didn't hang with any opium addicts while in KL. That I know of. 

I think it's doubly interesting that so many words - amuck, Amuco, amar, and amolshya - describe something ominous or dangerous. Makes me wonder about a guy I dated decades ago named Amar who seemed a bit off. Hmm.

Back to my current problem. Are the sweet potato plants furiously attacking my table or should I have used a tamer phrase to describe their advancements?

I think they are.

Let's hope we don't transition into the homicidal mania stage...

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Four Degrees of Separation

Have you watched the 1993 movie Six Degrees of Separation? It's a brilliant film that explores the notion that we are all connected by six or fewer human links. It features wonderful performances by Will Smith, Stockard Channing, and Donald Sutherland and is set in New York City. 

It's funny, dramatic, and surprising. If you've not seen the movie, please watch it soon.

A few years after Six Degrees of Separation came out, I found myself in a book store in Taos, New Mexico. I'm not usually a chatty person, but I enjoyed a long discussion with the shop's owner, Lucile.  She connected me to an artist I admire, Georgia O'Keefe

Here's a short piece I wrote after meeting Lucile.

Four Degrees of Separation

Artist Georgia O’Keefe first visited New Mexico in 1917. She returned in 1929 for four months during the summer. She stayed in the Taos area at the home of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Pink House, a small adobe guesthouse across a field from Luhan’s main residence. O’Keeffe also rented a tiny studio next to a stream to interpret and paint the wild and wonderful landscape. It was during this trip she visited Ghost Ranch in Abiqui for the first time.  Eleven years later she bought her now famous property with its breathtaking view of the Cerro Pedernal (Spanish for flint hill).

Taos resident Mabel Dodge Luhan was a former easterner, wealthy socialite, and arts patron. She was celebrated for the avant-garde and intellectual mix of people she hosted at her sprawling hacienda she called Los Gallos (the roosters). Aside from O’Keeffe, a few of her famous house guests included writer D. H. Lawrence, photographer Ansel Adams, Psychologist Carl Jung, and actress Greta Garbo. After moving to Taos, Mabel divorced Maurice, her third husband, and married Tony Luhan, a tall, handsome, and influential member of the Taos Pueblo.

Robert, a native-born Taos resident, was a driver for both Mabel Dodge Luhan and Tony Luhan in the late 1940s. Robert began driving for them when he was only fourteen years old, as licenses were not required. One day, while Robert was driving Mabel, she pointed to a piece of property adjacent and across the street from her main house and asked Robert what she should do with the property. Robert said it that there was an excellent spot for a house toward the back of the property. Mabel later gave the property to Robert, or rather to Robert’s father with the stipulation it be given to Robert when he came of legal age. Robert built his dream house on the property many years later for he and his wife Lucile. They sold their previous home to the famous Taos artist R. C. Gorman.

Lucile was the owner of a used bookstore one block off the plaza in downtown Taos. She had operated this small and overstuffed book gallery, as she called it, for over 25 years. Lucile had lived in Taos since her family moved there when she was four years old. She knew all the local writers and credited her loyal customers for enabling her to stay open through many building owners who imposed daunting rent hikes.

I met Lucile on a hot summer day in July 2005 while attending the Taos Writer’s Workshop. I was looking for a book about Roswell, New Mexico, and left with two books and an interesting story.

Four degrees of separation between Georgia O’Keeffe and me.


Lavender Sales are Soaring. Real placebo effect?

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We the people are buying a lot of lavender right now (according to this story on CNN)

I've not bought lavender and am now wondering if something is seriously wrong with me. Because I love lavender. 

Case in point: I named my purple motorcycle Hazel, that's short for Purple Haze. And while you might think the name referred to the Jimi Hendrix song by the same name (which I like), it was actually paying homage to a lovely lavender farm in Sequim (western Washington) called Purple Haze. We visited that Purple Haze several years ago during the Sequim Lavender Festival.

That's pronounced SQWIM, I know you were wondering.

I loved sitting in the lavender fields and breathing in the lovely fragrance. So much, in fact, that doing the same thing among lavender fields in Provence, France is on my bucket list.

On the when things get back to normal bucket list. The make it through the pandemic bucket list should apparently have "buy a bunch of lavender products" on it. 

We're buying lavender because we're stressed and we think it will help. That's what the article claimed. It also said that there's no actual proof that lavender helps us de-stress.

But does that matter? Placebo affect and all? If we love how it smells, and tell ourselves that it's calming, then BINGO, it will be. I suppose we could ask Dr. Lavender, but I bet his answer would be pro-lavender for stress, fear, loneliness, and, agoraphobia. For all the things, lavender is the answer.

Placebos, even when we know they're a placebo (inert) are often more powerful than things that claim to not be placebos. I bet there are more placebo things than not placebo things. 

I gotta go. Time to place an order for some lavender. How about you? Might make your weekend and week more ________ (fill in the blank with whatever you want, that's what's cool about placebos, they're flexible!). Perhaps I'll roast some root vegetables with Herbs de Provence, heavy on the lavender, which I'm sure will feel pretty close to being there.


Further on the Topic of Intrinsic Exercise

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As a follow up to yesterday's post, if you're interested in learning more about the concept of intrinsic exercise, here's an article with a good tee up that was published in Psychology Today. "Learn to Love Exercise," by Jay Kimiecik. And here's a post from the Mind-Body Medicine blog

I'll be talking to a potential virtual personal trainer today and one thing I'll mention is my desire to discover the best way to tap into and ignite intrinsic motivation for exercising. I know part of this is to find the activities that I enjoy or that provide some satisfaction.

Intrinsic motivation means that I'd engage in the activity for its own sake. 

Or as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called it, FLOW. That state when we lose track of time and are totally into what we're doing. I want more of this!

Given my love (obsession) for adventure, I know that there needs to be an element of adventure and misadventure to the activities I select. Or HOW I do them. For example: I loved riding my bike to school when I was in the 5th grade. This offered me an element of danger (the school was across town), independence, and fun. I bought the road bike myself from selling toys at a garage sale, and I loved it.

It was lime green, I know you were wondering. 

But is every bike ride going to jazz up my motivational juices? No. The situation and manner matter.

What might adventurous exercise look like in the time of covid-19? Don't mistake adventure for risk - I am risk-averse relative to the pandemic because I care about others and am at high-risk for a poor outcome if infected.

All good stuff to think about.


And now for some ridiculousness...

This pandemic has been soooo draining, don't you agree? Since I can't go anywhere - physical, out there - I decided to have a wee misadventure in my fragmented mind with some silly writing. This has not been edited, so you'll find lots wrong with it if you look. 

But don't look for typos! I hope you enjoy reading this warped, stream-of-consciousness, piece of play on the page. Perhaps my story will give you an idea or two for how to make your 2020 holiday letter more entertaining. Hehehe...

 

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Holiday Letter

Daggar and Bernice Marks here. This is our annual holiday letter.

Health Status: Daggar’s total cholesterol level is 213. Bernice’s total cholesterol level is 234. Daggar weighs 195. Bernice weighs 162. Daggar still has all his teeth. Bernice recently got a bridge with three fake teeth on account of a high consumption of Cadbury Eggs and gummy bears. Daggar credits daily shots of rye for his vigorous health.

Financial Status: Daggar and Bernice are happy to report a sudden and unexpected upswing in finances on account of a fake dog named Barney. Bernice wanted a dog but Daggar had put his foot down because they pee and poop all over the place. In the house, on the porch, around the yard, and inside the car. Daggar called dogs filthy beasts and set a criterion that any pet needed to meet which was a guarantee that it wouldn’t pee and poop all over the place. Not in the house, not on the porch, not around the yard, and never inside the car.  Daggar believed his criterion would guarantee they’d be pet free, but then Bernice found a robot dog named Barney on Craigslist. She bought the robot dog – Daggar told Bernice she could call it a robot dog or a thing, but not just a dog because it was inanimate – from two college kids who said they’d built it for a robot competition. Bernice should have known that the robot dog would be trouble because it did not win or place in the robot competition and cost her only fifty bucks, less than a real live mutt dog from the city pound. Given that it was a one-off creation, the robot dog did not come with an owner’s manual, remote control, or mobile app. The college kids told Bernice they thought its battery would last about five years.

Bernice was happy and felt Barney looked pretty similar to a real dog because it was covered in polyester brown fur and had a pink felt tongue and belly. Daggar thought it looked like a cross between a beaver and an alarm clock. On command, the robot dog sat, shook hands, rolled over, and slept on Bernice’s lap. Daggar hoped that it would satisfy her need to cuddle during the evening news with Lester Holt.

Two days after Bernice brought Barney home, Daggar woke to an unwelcome surprise. The contraption had peed and pooped all over the place. In the house, on the porch, around the yard, and even inside Daggar’s car. Daggar was very mad. And even though Daggar was not a dumb person, having risen to the rank of corporal in the army and scored forth best at the shooting range, he could not figure out where the robot dog was getting the product to pee and poop. Daggar then asked Bernice if she had fed Barney. Bernice said yes, she had, and it preferred canned over dry, so that’s what she gave it. Daggar asked Bernice if she gave it water and Bernice said yes, all dogs need water. Daggar told her robot dogs are made of metal and plastic and do not need food or water. Daggar told Bernice the thing had to go as it no longer met his criterion. Bernice cried.

But something unforeseen happened before Daggar and Bernice could determine how to dispose of the robot dog. The next-door neighbor, an unusual man named Spaz Romano who was rumored to be a drug dealer, claimed that Barney got his two dogs pregnant after it dug under the fence and raped them. Spaz also said Barney ate six cushions from his patio set that needed to be replaced. Something which, if true, somewhat explained the high volume of pee and poo the robot dog deposited in the house, on the porch, around the yard, and in Daggar’s car. Daggar asked Bernice if the robot dog had dug into the neighbor’s yard. Bernice said that yes, it had and that she enticed Barney back into our yard with a pound of raw bacon and then filled the hole.

Daggar reminded Bernice that Barney was a robot and could not have fathered puppies, even if the neighbor’s dogs were virgin Pomeranian twins and therefore highly attractive. Bernice then called Barney and told him to roll over, which he did. Bernice pointed at his boy dog robot parts. Daggar was surprised to see evidence of seepage from its pinkish walnut-sized plastic sacks. Daggar could not figure out where it was getting the product to impregnate the neighbor’s dogs but agreed that this was likely what had happened. Bernice said it might be nice to have puppies. Daggar told Bernice to call them robot puppies, not just puppies, because they would be at least half inanimate.

Not a dumb person, Daggar saw a business opportunity to sell Barney’s robot sperm and its interspecies offspring. Daggar offered to pay for the patio cushions and half of the neighbor’s vet bills in exchange for half of the half-breed puppies. As of this writing, no one is sure when the puppy robots will be born, or power up we’re not quite sure, given the difference in production rates of real dogs and robots.  If you’d like to get on the waiting list, Daggar and Bernice will let you know when you can buy a robot puppy. The cost will be two thousand dollars each. Daggar and Bernice have put Barney out to stud and will be renting its services for ten thousand dollars per night with no reimbursement for damaged or consumed furniture. You can book a stud night with Barney by going online to Daggar and Bernice’s new website DogRobotSperm.com. Advanced payment is required, and the next three months are sold out.

Entertainment Status: Daggar went fly fishing up the Black River with four army buddies this summer. Daggar broke last year’s record of thirty-seven trout caught and released in three hours. Bernice cooked up a batch of poisonous forest mushrooms with stew meat for the fishermen that tasted good but was not, in fact, good at all. All five men recovered and Ruben Smith reports that his dreams are more interesting since eating the toxic stew. Although he ate two helpings, Daggar’s dreams have not improved.

New Year’s Resolutions: Daggar plans to take up whittling life-sized venomous snake statues in his newly renovated office in between processing payments from the DogRobotSperm website. Bernice has started taking computer programming classes at Greendale Community College and hopes to learn robotics before Barney’s batteries die. Barney does not have a New Year’s Resolution because he is inanimate.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Marks.

Daggar and Bernice

Written by Daggar Cook


What "In the Middle of Greatness" Feels Like

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I was thinking about what it must feel like to be in the midst of doing something epoch - a grand accomplishment.

And here's the odd thing. It feels like ordinary living with healthy progress. I suppose there are big adventures that start off and remain larger than life, but most are big ideas executed with quiet daily perseverance. It's something to consider if you are, like me, drawn to the idea of epoch adventures and misadventures.

Instead of asking, what's next, maybe we should notice what's now, because our adventure is unfolding and we would hate to miss it.

This might also be why many of us give up on things too soon - because the reality of getting it done does not match our romantic notions of what we thought manifesting the endeavor would feel like.


Misadventure: Al Jarreau, No Money, Needing a Ride Home

This is a true story of a misadventure from 35 years ago that has impacted how I think about success today (in good and bad ways). In 2005, I attended an Al Jarreau concert. As I soaked in every word he sang, I remembered the night I was first introduced to his music. I was about 20 years old and in a pickle caused by my drunk roommate.

I was living in Florida at the time. My roommate and I went to a club to dance. We were both broke and nursed our drinks for hours. The drinking age was eighteen at that time. We went our separate ways in the club after a couple of hours. I preferred to be on my own and she was more of an extrovert. I got alarmed, however, when it I couldn’t find my roommate thirty minutes before closing time. I circled through the club several times, checked the lady’s room, and looked for her in the parking lot. She’d left - probably with the cutest-guy-in-the-world-du-jour.

The bad thing about this situation was that she had driven us to the club. And I didn’t have enough money for a cab. Ft. Myers didn’t have public transportation at this time, either. I was stranded well beyond walking distance to my apartment.

After brainstorming options, I knew I’d have to ask someone—a stranger, because I didn’t know anyone left at the club—for a ride home. I didn’t want to make a request that seemed like it was more than I intended (no quid pro quo, if you know what I mean).

I observed a well-dressed middle-aged man at the bar. He seemed poised, pleasant, and not yet drunk. My nerves made my face go flush as I walked up to him. He smiled, but it was a reserved smile like perhaps he was surprised I was approaching him (maybe he thought I was a prostitute?). I explained my situation as humbly as possible—party-animal roommate, no money, apartment across town—and told him I needed a ride. He was gracious, sweet, and agreed to help me out.

I worried that he might not be as nice as he seemed—people are often no what they seem—but didn’t have a Plan B. This happened before people had cell phones, so there was no way to call or text a friend or family member for help.

Unimaginable, I know!

We left the bar and walked through the thinning parking lot. The man pointed toward the passenger side of his car, which was a Mercedes two-seater convertible. He got in, unlocked the doors to let me in, started the car, and put down the top.

Remember, I was twenty. I was thinking what I now know are highly illogical thoughts like how even if this guy was a perv, it might be worth some trouble to get to hang out at the riverfront mansion I imagined he owned. The car was cherry, so it was reasonable to assume he owned an enormous house and boat. And maybe a helicopter.

As we got onto the parkway, he turned on the built-in cassette player (cassettes were hot then, having just replaced the 8-track player in cars). What did the man play?

Al Jarreau.

“Mornin'” and “Boogie Down” filled the air and my head with their complex and upbeat vibes. Fast car, cool breeze, and jazzy tunes. It was unlike anything I’d done or heard, and I was hooked.

The man didn’t say a word during the drive, although he smiled a few times when he noticed I was enjoying the music. I leaned back in the passenger's seat and soaked in the experience.

This was success.

As he reached my apartment parking lot, I thanked him, and we parted ways. I never knew his name, just that he was a gracious man who had impeccable taste.

Fast forward to today. When I need to feel successful or nudge myself out of a mental funk, I play jazzy tunes in my car, windows down, and let the breeze carry my hopes and intentions through my breath and body. And if I’m in a tough spot, I turn up the Al Jarreau. It works every time.

We all have metaphors for success—things, places, or situations emblematic of how we want to live. It’s helpful to reconnect with these experiences and explore why they resonate. I mentioned that this experience affected how I’ve thought about success in good and bad ways.

The good is obvious, I think. That music is evocative and can lift our moods and energy. The right song can make us smile.

The bad is likely obvious, too. That having a Mercedes and lots of money equals success. While this might be true for some, it depends on how we define success (an important topic for another day!).

At twenty, getting stuck at a bar because I didn’t have a car or enough money to call a cab shaped my view of the man’s success. He seemed to have it all, and I wanted a life like I imagined he lived. That’s the kicker, right? My imagination. All I saw was the outfit, the car, and the cassette tape. For all I knew, he might’ve been unhappy or lost. He was drinking alone. Or he might’ve been in town to close a lucrative new deal and was heading back to his blissful life on his private island.

I’ve written a lot about the power of small actions (the Butterfly Effect) and this is an excellent example of how a particular moment can reverberate in ways that change who we are, how we define success, and how we live.

We all play the role of Lisa-at-twenty at some point.

And we’re also the-man and have the privilege to transform how another person perceives their world.

I’m glad I experienced this mini-misadventure. Al Jarreau died in 2017, but he remains one of my favorite singers. “Mornin'” and “Boogie Down” are magical songs.


Covid Crisis Silver Lining - Permission to Say NO.

It has occurred to me that this awful covid pandemic crisis could have a silver lining.
 
No, not that more people work from home, but that's true.
No, not that we're all more aware of how we spread our germs - all kinds - but that is a good thing.
No, not that we've figured out how to better appreciate time spent at home, but that is cool.
No, not that we've all learned to bake banana bread, but I won't complain about that.
 
The silver lining I'm thinking about is that this crisis offers us a stock/standard reason to say NO to some things...to get out of some commitments...to make changes we've wanted to make but have thus far hesitated.
 
Have you noticed how tolerant we've all been with each other during this time (not all, but many)? When people say they're having a hard time focusing, we say, "it's understandable." When people lament that they weren't able to meet _____ expectation, they get empathy and support. People get it - this is a weird time. We're in flux.
 
Sidebar: After I was first diagnosed with cancer, I got all kinds of grace and understanding when I backed out of things or changed commitments, or changed my mind or goals. It's understandable and was warranted. This is what loving human beings do for each other.  AND...every now and then, I played the "C-Card" to make a change that I would otherwise have been too self-conscious or guilty to make. And while you might be thinking I was being a manipulative person, using my disease to garner unwarranted support, hear me out. If I was no longer committed to something or still inspired to accomplish a goal, I should never have felt bad about making that change. But sometimes we do feel weird, because we don't want to disappoint others. But here's the kicker, people are often more disappointed when we aren't straight with them about what's really important to us and - perhaps - what is no longer as important.
 
Back to covid. It's a great time to take stock of your life and identify and changes that you've been wanting to make but have hesitated. Use the current situation to provide a bit of cover, to make it feel less weird. I LOVE this idea and have already implemented a couple of changes. Several more are in the works. And the lovely thing is that these changes will set me up to experience a more fulfilling and misadventurous life. 
 
What might you STOP, START, or CHANGE that would make a big difference?
 
Repeat after me: You know, this covid crisis has turned parts of my life upside down and I've been thinking about what it all means or should mean. And what I realize is that _____________ (this is where you say, what you want to stop, start, or change).
 
And this is all true and authentic. This crisis, like any (even like being told you have cancer), has made us all take stock a re-think some things. Let's use this opening to act upon what we know is best for us now.