Don’t laugh. After quitting my job, I had planned to drive south this June for a southern road trip along the East Coast. The idea? To stop at the best mini-golf sites between Maryland and Florida for an in-family tournament while driving down the coast. Myrtle Beach and Orlando topped our list of vacation spots with excellent mini-golf courses, but a few off-the-beaten-trail locations in Georgia and North Carolina were also included.
Rodney has always bragged (see: lied) about his prized turquoise jacket for winning the National Mini-Golf Association (NMGA) title at some nebulous past date. He finds a way to shoehorn this imaginary title and jacket into any conversation whenever we’re golfing:
“This hole reminds me of when I won the NMGA championship and their fabled turquoise jacket. Only a man truly skilled in the art of the putt could conquer the course and himself for the sake of victory.”
To which, we’d usually respond:
“Dude, hit your stupid ball through the stupid castle.”
He’d get the final word though:
“Heh. When you’re a course record holder like I am, you see the world in a different way. You need to take your time, ya see? Look at all the angles and hone your skills, and you could have a record and a jacket too, Murph.”
A little explanation about that last statement. You see, the Murpheys are a pretty competitive family. Growing up with six brothers and a mother who cheats at all manner of card and board games (she’s quite proud of this personality flaw), bragging rights prove a valuable commodity in our clan.
“Alright everyone, I’m only going to explain this to you once so pay attention. The motion you make with the oars requires minimal effort. It doesn’t take much to move these vessels, but you have to follow instructions. If you do not, I will give you three chances to fix whatever you’re doing wrong and then . . . the coach comes out. The coach is six-foot two and a nasty SOB. He will get in your face, and trust me, you do not want that. I am strict and demanding, but you will learn the correct way to paddle today ladies and gentlemen. I will not hesitate to send you back to shore if you slow us down by not following directions. Do not force me to let the coach out, gentlemen.”
Dan, our kayak instructor, finished his tirade with a long hard stare at Rodney and me. Instinctively, I turned around. Not seeing any spider, snake or shark, I considered that Dan had already singled me out as the ‘problem child’ of our little excursion.
Attempting to pull me away from my ps4 and the latest Batman game, my siblings have kidnapped me this morning. We are currently heading south to Hilton Head Island, SC to enjoy the next ten days biking, golfing, and avoiding the occasional shark attack.
Compared with our Orlando vacations, Hilton Head decided is a welcome change of pace. Biking, golfing, swimming and eating encompass much of the island’s entertainment. And while fishing and kyaking are available by reservation — I’ll discuss these in a future post — the point of Hilton Head is to imagine a vacation without schedules, roller coasters, or hour-long queues outside of Space Mountain. I’ll post pictures of the resort and the island over the next few days with a proper write-up of our adventure after we return. See you later!
TTWA Assignment: Imagine you are on Yelp. Write a review of the restaurant everyone is talking about. In the fourth paragraph, admit you’ve never eaten at the restaurant, but argue why your misinformed opinion is still more important than the other reviews on the site.
I based this story on a girl I once worked with at the National Institutes of Health. Most of the story is true to a point. She was my first real ‘love’ I guess you could say. As is the way with these things, you tend to romanticize the past a bit, an error I’ve tried to remedy by mixing in a little farce.
True adventurers have never been plentiful. They who are set down in
print as such have been mostly business men with newly invented
methods. They have been out after the things they wanted–golden
fleeces, holy grails, lady loves, treasure, crowns and fame. The
true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and
greet unknown fate. A fine example was the Prodigal Son–when he
started back home. — O. Henry, “The Green Door.”
Jumping into the car on the last day of school terrifies me. For teachers, summer vacation can prove a daunting enterprise particularly if you happen to be single. “Balderdash!” you may shout in a Victorian accent. “I have a 9 to 5 job throughout the entire year. You teachers have it lucky what with this summer vacation nonsense. Pip pip cheerio. Fish and chips.”
Well, let’s field that common misconception first. Imagine you have trained your entire life as a scientist or a writer. After graduating with your Masters degree, you find jobs in short supply due to . . . let us say because of a ‘recession.’ You take a job as a teacher in a high school, which slowly consumes your entire life. You teach all day, and on nights and weekends, you plan new lessons, create tests or grade grade grade until your fingertips are permantly stained red with misplaced commas and imbalanced chemical equations. This is your life. These kids, their needs and their dreams, become your life. Tunnel-vision within a textbook.
TTWA Assignment: Imagine you have moved to North Dakota in the midst of winter. Write a postcard that will make Californians jealous.
This task is quite easy. I’ve always had a strong opinion about the value of winter. Christmas in my humble opinion while certainly a religious holiday exists as a winter festival, a celebration of warm food, white lights and warm fires. December and its holidays exist to chase away the fears and despair that accompanies the season. Temperatures fall far below freezing; snow and ice coat the roads; the trees extend from the ground like the living dead. Living things abandon the outside world; we hide in our homes and avoid any reminders that the planet has tilted away from the sun for the next four months.
Christmas for my family chases all that despair away. The smell of baked goods intermingle with pine wreathes. Cranberries and cinnamon pepper our food. As a family we draw close together before the oven and fireplace; lights dance across the treetops; children giggle beneath Christmas trees.
How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world. — Shakespeare
I cannot imagine Christmas in Florida or California. Sure, the holiday exists, but it has no meaning, no significance. You can drink hot chocolate in San Diego but without the bite of winter, how good does that chocolate taste? How can you revel in bonding with family when you are free to move outside? Some of the greatest myths and stories exist because families and friends would sit around a fire and talk to one another. In some respects, this may prove boring, but boredom often spurs creativity.
Yes, winter is not pleasant. Anyone living around the East Coast this year can tell you that, but all the good things associated with Christmas and the holidays are born of the cold and snow. I imagine North Dakota would prove a similar experience. Except for the bears. With that respect you’re on your own.
A thank-you note for a weekend visit where everything went wrong.
As a devout introvert, weekend visits are chimerical, that is rare and often terrifying. Attending family parties, being forced into polite but shallow conversations, and eventually seeking out a quiet place to hide and read or play games . . . the whole ordeal taxes my mind and spirit. Shame, guilt and anxiety build even if I do manage to escape to my comfort zone. Am I running away from my problems? Do I dislike the people with whom I surround myself? Maybe I’m afraid of crowds . . .Talking to two or three people at once is stimulating, but add half-a-dozen and the conversation nose-dives into general pleasantries or rehearsed opinions about sports. At worst, the conversation devolves into a lecture with the more competent speaker assuming the role of professor.
Over the past year, I’ve been reviewing the world through gold-rimmed glasses. You know, the kind that rest on the back of your head and coat the world you’ve left behind in gilded shades of light to the point that all your youth might appear a continuous Christmas, filled with joy, beauty and adventure. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been coping with this new phase of my life and the responsibilities that accompany ‘adulthood,’ or whatever life at 34 is called. The transition has not proven especially kind to me: anxiety, panic attacks, self-doubt, ephemeral goals, and an influx of nieces and nephews, who remind constantly that I am no longer a thirteen-year-old playing at ‘adulthood’ by babysitting his siblings, but simply an thirty-four year old trying to reconnect with his youthfulness.
Mostly, I’ve found myself idealizing the past: gazing at my college years and post-college interim at NIH with a fondness, which I never felt in the midst of it all. I spent so many years begging, searching, fretting over finding myself a job, and now that I’ve found it, the sensation leaves much to be desired. Thus, my mind idealizes those past moments, when the freedom to choose still lay before me, when life felt infinite and unexpected.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the boys and I had the opportunity to visit the San Diego Comic Con. Having just returned with oodles and oodles of pictures of cosplayers, figures, and convention halls, I’m a little behind with my post about the con itself. Luckily, while I organize myself and the details of the trip in my head, I wanted to post this little vignette from one of our afternoons at the con. Rodney, Shannon, Kevin and I had just spent six hours in the convention center and eager for sustenance (as Thor would say), we left to grab a sandwich and a beer. En route, Rodney relayed a brief story about a rather awkward party he had attended years ago. Considering myself a seasoned dabbler in the storytelling trade myself, I could not stop myself from criticizing . . . a little:
“And that’s the end of the story? You just left?” I asked, juggling my backpack from one shoulder to the other. “Lame.”
Three accounts. Three computers. If I thought it would improve my chances to heft some of the house’s scattered PCs — outdated, abandoned, or consumed by spiderwebs — down to my room, I might have risked electric shock and wolf spider bites to heave the towers into my room. But I had three accounts, thus only three computers.
The other members of my party were working across the street at Katie’s new house, knocking down trees and feeding the sap-soaked limbs into the chipper, giving Mother Nature the ol’ Fargo-special (as I call it). Thus, the task of procuring tickets to the Comicon fell to me.
Now, we’ve attended comic book conventions in the past here in Baltimore and DC. These are typically low-key affairs, occupying a single floor at the Baltimore convention center, which — to quote the Hulk — is puny in comparison to its counterparts in DC and Boston. Still it manages to stock the panels with some pretty awesome writers and artists: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Don Rosa, and Neil Adams to name a few that I’ve seen (Batman and Uncle Scrooge fanatic that I am). Continue reading →