Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I'm fascinated by model railroading.  Plain and simple, fascinated.  My dream (or one of them, anyway) for as long as I can remember was to be able to put a layout of my own together, and I've envied anyone and everyone with the means to do so.

I came close to doing it about a year ago, but finances got the best of me.  I convinced my father to build me a table and began to make lists of needed supplies.  And then I stopped.  I don't really remember why.

But as of today, that table has been moved into my room and I've purchased a substantial amount of supplies and track.  It's not enough to finish yet, and to be honest I can't really afford it, but for very deeply personal reasons I cannot afford to not at least give this my best shot.

Among several major others, my single most far-reaching reason for wanting to make a model railroad is my grandfather.  He was the single greatest man I have ever known, and he gave me the unique opportunity to grow up (at some times literally) on a model railroad that has been in his and my grandmother's basement since shortly after I was born.  It began quite simply, as an oval on a table with no other features, and grew to fill the entirety of a room and even spilled out through a hole cut in the wall to make a freight yard.  The layout was never finished, or even given proper scenery, but it remains my eventual goal to learn what I need to finish it someday.

My own layout as it has begun is my first real step towards that goal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back to Minorities

I've had a bit of a departure from my core topic lately, but I feel it's time to come back and write another entry about one of my personal minority groups.

I'm a dreamer.

Now, I've heard plenty of definitions for "dreamer," and I think all of them are more or less accurate.  But the way I define it is someone who is idealistic, and who looks past the boundaries of the physical and material worlds and into the mind and heart and soul as a matter of course.  I do this.  To the point where sometimes I forget to look at the physical world at all, instead just thinking in terms of the "inside world."  I dream almost as much as I live awake, odd though that may seem.

I'll be honest, what I'm about to say is probably gonna weird some of you out.  Maybe a lot.  But it's still very important to understanding my perspective on this.

I have people, living people, inside my mind.  They are not human, certainly, and some of them are extraordinarily outlandish in appearance.  Most are fairly humanoid and easily-understood, though.  I've been told I'm a very good writer, especially by fans of my original fiction.  The reason for my skill is that I only describe what I see.  If I need to figure out how a certain character would act in a certain situation, I usually just go inside and ask them in person.  Or I'll let events play out however they will, and record my perspective on it all as it happens.  As a result my writing tends to be at least immersive, if not "realistic."

Most of these self-aware entities are separate from me, and live in their own discrete worlds -- mostly separate from each other as well.  But occasionally, one will stand out from the crowd as being able to connect to me in a more personal fashion, and these are usually the ones that end up being the series mascots, as it were, and most "alive" to me.  I draw them, I write about them, I show them off, because other people cannot see what I see -- as it is only happening in my head.  I haven't been able to track down just exactly where, but at some point in the past I remarked to someone "Of course it is happening inside your head... but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

I firmly believe in that statement.  People are constantly worrying that what they perceive is "not real," or somehow invalidated by the fact that it is non-physical.  I don't think most people are dreamers by this definition, but such individuals definitely exist.  They hold their ideals high, and they have whole internal worlds to back those ideals up.  None of us, dreamers or otherwise, will fully live up to all our ideals, because we all make mistakes and screw up, sometimes a lot.  But the dreamers hold the highest ideals of all, usually.  The dreamers know how important it is to make things the best they can be, or at least to try.

I am proud to be a dreamer, even when it comes with the very strange parts that my life now includes.  I am proud to see beyond the limits of physicality.  I am proud to be an idealist.  I am proud to dream.

Bad Customers

I work retail.  Ace Hardware, to be specific.  And I hate it.  There are a lot of reasons for that, and many of them are very specific to my own situation, though many are likewise very common to retail work anywhere and anywhen.  However, the angle I want to show you folks is one that only sometimes (as in the case of Not Always Right) gets much real attention.  Bad customers.

Now I know from long experience that the worst of the bad customers will always, always fail to realize that they are a bad customer.  This is common sense.  But what you don't realize is that there are no good customers.  Anywhere.  There are bad customers you don't like, and there are bad customers that you do, but there are no good customers.

No matter what store a person walks into, if it is a retail outlet in any form, there is a magical force field of some kind that with no warning whatsoever turns even the kindest and most courteous of human beings into the slavering horrid beast that is the customer.  I haven't yet worked out just why this is.  The force field or pixie dust or whatever it is doesn't work on employees -- they still see all the ugly and all the crazy and all the rude that customers have to offer.  I've been on both sides of this plenty of times.  One of the things that makes me dread going to work is that I know I'll be faced with an apparently-endless stream of irritating, rude, and frankly insane people to help (or at least put up with) until I'm allowed to leave.  There are all kinds of idiosyncrasies that people have that bother me -- not reading the instructions on our electronic pinpads, paying sufficiently and then searching around for exact change, leading the employees on a massive wild goose chase all over the store... and yet, for all the suffering I go through at the hands of people like that, I have caught myself doing each and every item on that list at some point or another to other unsuspecting employees in other unsuspecting stores.

In short, when I go shopping, I turn into THAT GUY.  And then, upon walking out the door with my merchandise, I turn back into the nice, caring, more-employee-like person that I am.  And so does everyone else.  Well, almost everyone.  Some people are just rude in general, and I'm sorry to say that they don't turn nice whenever they leave a store.  But still, the majority of our customers actually aren't bad people.  They're just bad people to us.  And on those occasions where I'm out shopping and see someone working that I know as a customer, I dread it a little, because I know I'm being a bad person to them, even though I'm not a bad person.

There's some idiosyncrasy that I have that drives them nuts.  I don't know what it is, because in many cases they're actually being paid to overlook those annoyances, as I am.  But it's there.  I'm a bad customer, just like everyone else.  And if you've ever been in a store, so are you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


In his now-typical fashion, Landon Wilkins has left me another couple of questions to answer -- which I am more than happy to attempt.  Landon writes:

So here are my two questions:

1.What are the most valuable/important lessons you think everyone should learn? 

2.What are the most valuable/important lessons you've learned?

As a knee-jerk reaction, I admit I want to think that these are the same question phrased a little differently.  But then, of course, I think further and realize this is not the case.  I think I'll answer the second one first, since it's easier to talk of myself before making broader generalizations.

My personal greatest lessons, certainly over the last few years if not through my entire life, have dealt with my ability to help those I care about.  Probably the single most important of those would be that I cannot do everything for everyone.  Trust me, I've tried.  It doesn't work.  I can get close, sometimes, at the expense of everything I feel necessary in outside life, but even then some people get let down.  You have to pick your battles, lest "the bear" get you every single day, as the saying sort of goes.

The next-most important lesson that I've picked up recently may seem odd, or too obvious to even mention.  But it took me until just this past year, and many painful ordeals, to finally figure it out.  The lesson is one that I feel applies to both questions, and to all people, not just me.  That lesson is this: maintain perspective at all times, and at all costs.  Never, but never, allow yourself to forget exactly how much you have to do with what goes on around you -- and how much or how little you affect the outcome of any given situation you are invested in.  Forgetting to keep this perspective not only hurt many people, myself certainly included, but also nearly cost my life and a close friend's sanity.  For the sake of the privacy of those involved and for the sake of space, I will not recount the story (even if asked; please trust me that for now it is best that this remain hidden), but suffice to say it was a very sharp wake-up call for me and for all that I was doing and feeling at the time.

Since that lesson seems to apply so well to everyone, I suppose I may just as well move into the first question.  What do I think everyone should learn?  Well, there are a lot of things we all need to learn in life.  I think some of us are just born better-prepared for certain lessons than are the rest of us, but then each person has their own unique strengths.  It's up to all of us to capitalize on that and use it to get a leg up over our weaknesses.  Anyway.  The single most important lesson, or rather the most important challenge, is in my opinion to learn to defeat pride.

That's right, pride.  As in Seven-Deadly-Sins pride.  Wrath, envy, lust, sloth, excess, and greed are all important to avoid, but pride is in my experience the root of all of them, and far more problems besides.  One form of pride is the source of lust and enemy to love, believing that others are just objects to be used for gratification rather than companionship.  Another type believes that others are not as much entitled to their property or status and fosters greed and envy and excess alike.  One type believes that it is above working and engenders sloth.  Wrath is derived from the belief that one's feelings are more important than others' and that offense must be retributed against even if it was with good reason.

Pride is essentially at the root of all selfish or sinful or misanthropic behavior, and must -- must -- be stopped if we as human beings with souls and hearts are to function in harmony with one another.  In a comment on a previous entry here, IamtheEnder writes:

It is painful to see harm done. Why would anyone want that? It doesn't make sense to me to do anything but good.


I agree that it is very painful to see harm or pain inflicted on anyone else... but it is often actually a relief from pain that drives such an action.  We see something that hurts us, and we feel the need -- a prideful need (lest this seem too tangential) -- to fight back against its source.  Someone inflicts pain on us, and the natural and instinctive response is to drive pain into them tenfold, to get revenge or to serve justice on behalf of another for whom we care.  It's wrong, morally, but it's natural.  What we should do, in all cases, is to accept the action that caused us pain in the first place and try to make amends as best we can. But this is not easy.  It requires forgiveness, and it requires strength.  More so than I personally feel I have.

All I can say, in the end, is good luck to all who genuinely want to rid themselves of pride and to exchange it for perspective.

Music Sympathy

I don't know about anyone else, but when I'm in a bad mood, I can't deal with listening to happy music.  Or not much of it, anyway.  And usually, the music I do listen to is even more depressing -- it synergizes with my current bad mood and makes it worse.  I listen to music that sounds like I feel.  Good moods mean happy music and playful sounds, while bad moods mean dismal, gloomy melodies with depressing lyrics when applicable.  However, certain songs with neutral styles (most notably Duran Duran's What Happens Tomorrow and Lover Reef, a collaboration by several contributors to OC ReMix) in my experience have the baffling ability to fit with almost any mood at all and even to enhance it.

Sometimes, even I cannot quite define my musical preferences.  Some songs that fit with the outward mood grate at me and don't sound "right," while others that are totally dissonant with how I think I'm feeling just seem to click for what seems like no reason.  In some rare cases, I'll be listening to a song, even one I'm not very familiar with, and I will be able to think nothing short of "that's it: that is how I feel right now."  One such song I heard for the first time on a very, very grim day during which I was thinking over my whole life and how messed-up it was at the time.  That song, Suzumebachi's The Ballad of Sir Kibbles, resonated with me in a way songs rarely ever manage to, and to this day I feel that it is the story of my life crammed into a three-minute instrumental.

But still, all music has a distinct "color" and mood associated with it.  In fact, perhaps that very concept of "color" explains the strangeness in my choices sometimes.  Mostly I like colors of music that are close to the color of my mood, but sometimes a triadic color, to borrow the color theory term (melancholic to my angry, or orange to my red... or something like that, I suppose it's not an exact science), can resonate just as deeply.

For my readers and respondents: what are your favorite songs for certain specific moods, and how do they affect you?  What kinds of songs do you find you listen to when you're in a happy mood?  Or sad?  Or angry?