Dear Friend

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Based on a true story…

Dear Friend,

It was so nice to see you the other day. We went for coffee at our favorite spot, you know the place with all the aproned baristas and the goodly smells? Of course you do, it’s your favorite. As we sat there, we spoke of life and friendship things, Instagram and philosophy. We sipped coffee. I said a joke and you laughed. Ok, maybe you smiled. And then I noticed something stuck in your teeth. I couldn’t tell what it was, it was so quick, so I said another joke to get you to smile again. It was a good one, and it definitely made you laugh this time, I’m sure of it. Because I caught a good look that time. It was brownish, like the mortar paste of a chewed peanut. Or maybe the remnants of a recently enjoyed cookie. Then, shame paralyzed me, and I did not do my duty. I did not notify you of the food debris lodged in your tooth crevice. I was cowardly. You were jamming off my joke, and I smiled appreciatively, but I kept my lips shut. I was running my tongue over my teeth self-consciously, just in case I had something, too. See, I was gearing up to tell you, but I couldn’t. Something about it was too weird. What was this awkwardness? It’s akin to the awkwardness that causes two friends to ignore a tiny projectile of saliva that might launch from one’s mouth in the course of talking. Both conversants simply ignore it: the spitter mortified, and the spat-upon sparing his friend embarrassment.

Dear friend, I want you to know that while my motivations were not so noble, they were not ignoble either. I fervently hoped that each swish of coffee you drank would flush that stubborn crumb down your hatch, but it was not to be. The minutes dragged on, and the conversation lulled, and you yawned theatrically to signal the passing time, and the brown crumblet was still there. Dear friend, you must know that I was sure you’d soon encounter a mirror, and discover the offensive food particle on your own. As we stood up to leave, you wished me a good rest of my day, and there it was still, clinging fiercely to your gums. I returned the sentiment, but I knew my goodwill was lacking. Guilt tainted my words, but you did not notice. “Let’s do this again sometime,” you said, and I nodded meekly. I would still like that.

Sincerely,
Your friend

Blessing on the Mango

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It is with humble gratitude that I offer thanks to the One Who is Most High, King of all Kings and indeed of all things, viz. hidden and revealed, Above and Below, G-d Himself and no other, for there is no other like Him nor unlike Him who can be compared or not compared, for he alone created Heaven and Earth and all that is in them —

— with the inclusion of this here mango, whose juices flow from its plump circumference with beneficent abundance, whose rich and tasteful meat-flesh has thusly been deposited into my open and grateful maw, and whose nutritional properties will certainly sustain me throughout the indeterminate duration of the —

— prayers that follow this event of ingestion, this act of consumption; whose sugars will excite me to exclaim aloud my rapture for His Creations; whose yellow radiance will inspire visions of His Divine Light as I enumerate and delineate that for which I am eternally and internally thankful and hold in appreciation, and am in general and in particular in many ways —

— seen and unseen by some or all… totally or partially undeserving of, for my words and thoughts and actions are wholly inconsistent at times with the true emotions and deep contemplations of my mind and heart, which are, once again and for all time, represented by the homely and comely shape of that splendid fruit, the mango…

(Amen.)

The Reaction

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The excitement’s in my eyes as I say, “You have to see this.” I steer you to the phone or the computer where the video begins to play. I hide the title, of course. Why would I want to ruin the surprise? The video starts. All the while I am silent. If the video is funny, I am ready with my self-control to hold back laughter. Maybe you laugh, maybe not. Maybe the video is serious, and the self-control is not required for something humorous, but shocking instead.

The video ends. The air is thick with expectation. There’s a sticky silence that might as well be filled with, “Well, did you like it?”

But I say nothing. In fact, I’m holding my breath. Perhaps you are, too. And then the crucial moment, when you realize your time has come, that your reaction cannot be delayed any longer. Your opinion is demanded. You can hear your heart beat in your neck. Prickly drops of sweat tickle your forehead. My eyes are piercing, looking right at you, seeing through politeness, demanding the truth on pain of death, if the criticism is indeed that harsh. The lights dim; the room gets hot. The static buzz of electricity –

Ari Gets an iPhone

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[A fictional story with truthful elements.]

For years, the extent of sophistication of Ari’s phone was its flip feature. That was the rage once, way back when the original Nokia with its green screen and punchy buttons and its game of Snake had been the only option.

The Motorola RAZR made its debut. It was in vogue. It was flashy. It was sleek and shiny. Inside, there wasn’t much happening, but it was years before that would matter. Ari didn’t get the RAZR, but nearly everyone had one. He got a Sony Ericsson flip phone, and that was fine with him. It did was it was supposed to do. He enjoyed it for a few years, trading wallpapers and ringtones using Bluetooth. Alas, as is the nature of personal technology devices, a replacement was inevitable. Eventually he got a phone with internet, a phone which had been sought after years before: the Palm Pre Plus. But it was an utter disappointment. It was slow beyond slow, with prolonged delays from the internet to its motion gestures.

It was foremost among the last generation of phones. The Age of the Smartphone had begun, and the Palm Pre was clearly an imposter, an oldie at a young people’s party wearing young clothes but failing to pull it off. It was a relic that barely functioned, and even then at a snail’s pace when the thoroughbreds of phone technology were beginning to flex their muscles.

Some Water Would Be Nice

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I fainted two months ago, right in the doctor’s office. No better place for it, I suppose. There I was, for something completely benign, like smelly feet or excessive sweating, and then I got really dizzy.

I feel very uncomfortable hearing medicals details, or specifics of drug experiences gone awry, and the good doctor was talking about meningitis shots and flu vaccinations, but I felt myself start to detach, trying to rise above the conversation as a strong sense of unease crawled up my back and tickled my brain intrusively.

I stood up, saying loudly, “I feel very uncomfortable.” I moved from the regular armchair by the desk to the examining table covered in white paper.

I started to explain to the doctor that this actually happens to me sometimes, how I feel faint and woozy when medical things are mentioned in elaborate detail. I started telling him about one time when a friend of mine got up to close a window in the room and it broke from the force it took him to shut it. A shard of glass cut his hand and blood started pouring out…

Then I woke up on the floor, in the doctor’s office. Mid-story, too. Apparently I just keeled over and took a little closer look at the linoleum tiles. My cheek was in pain when I woke up. I heard voices, saw faces looking down at me and I realized something wasn’t right. A cold sweat covered me suddenly, and the pain in my cheek intensified.

The door was open. One nurse stood in the doorway, the other was kneeling next to me. The doctor was talking about an ambulance, and the noises blurred. Then I regained a sense of perspective, ironically, looking up at the tall people who were standing. Someone put a pillow under my head, asked me if I could move my toes. I tried not to think about the implications of the question. My toes wiggled fine.

The doctor was talking about possible injuries (concussion, paralysis, etc.), and I interrupted him and told him bluntly to shut up, he was making it worse. And he was. The more I thought about the effects of falling and the more I tried to reorient myself, the dizzier I became, falling back into that deep well.

They asked if I want to go to the hospital. An ambulance was on its way. Do I want water? Juice? How about some juice, honey, would you like that?

I thought about it. “No.” It was Sukkos. But I agreed to go to the hospital. My shoulder felt strange. I didn’t want to risk moving, and they were telling me not to. The RN assistants helping were named Deb and Jen, the latter being a common name among nurses, I later learned. I asked them if they were both from Minnesota, and Jen said that she was from Texas.

The ambulance people came in then, one with his reflective yellow fireman jacket. At that point I couldn’t stop talking. I complimented him on his jacket. “Sorry about mine. I forgot it was Bring-Your-Neon-to-Work Day.”

A woman paramedic named Jackie asked what happened. “I hallucinated a swimming pool and took a dive.” She looked at me funny.

The doctor, who had betrayed no emotion during the actual appointment, and certainly none when I had fallen, took his leave at that point.

“Who programmed C3PO?” I asked Deb. There was a second’s pause, then she laughed. “The doctor?” I would’ve nodded, but I wasn’t moving my neck. Jackie asked me to stand up, but I wasn’t excited about the idea. Maybe it was a trick question?

The paramedics told me they were going to count to three before lifting. “I apologize for eating a doughnut last night,” I said contritely. They kept it professional though. On the third count they rolled me onto the stretcher. I was carried to an ambulance, wondering at the squares of drop ceiling, babbling away.

In the ambulance I suggested that they pimp out the vehicle. “You know, like those party buses.” One of the paramedics, named Jackie, told me that she had wanted to be something completely different, but somehow, being both a paramedic and a firewoman appealed to her. The other paramedic showed me digital illustrations his nephew made in college.

I was having a grand time, mostly because I wouldn’t shut up. In the hospital, I messed with the nurse who registered me – also named Jen. The doctor, let’s say her name is Dr. B., prodded my collarbone to see if it was broken (gosh, that’s how they check?) and it wasn’t, according to her. Hey, I trusted her; she’s a doctor.

There was a stenographer in the room who I couldn’t see from my position on the stretcher. Her name was Jillisa (I think that’s how it’s spelled), and she didn’t say a word. The doctor spoke for her. “This is Jillisa, and she’ll be taking notes.” And two seconds later I was saying loudly, “Hi, Jillisa. How’s your day going? Wait! Don’t put that on the record.”

A little later on, after the professional collarbone poke, I asked Dr. B. if Jillisa was still in the room. “She’s here,” she confirmed.

“Oh. I thought she was on a lunch break.”

“She  doesn’t take lunch breaks,” Dr. B. joked.

“No,” I agreed, “When she’s hungry, she writes about eating. ‘Dear Diary, today I thought about having a hamburger with a tomato and romaine lettuce and ketchup, no mustard, thank you…’ ”

This is when Dr. B. looked as if putting me under observation in the psych ward might be prudent.

And then they left me while they attended to real people. For the first time since I fell, I was alone. I had nobody to talk to. And it started to dawn on me why I was talking so much. I didn’t want to think about what would have happened if I’d landed on my neck. I remembered the way they asked if I could wiggle my toes. It could’ve been bad, but it wasn’t. I was in a hospital only because I was nervous about my back and neck. But now that I had taken that extra precaution, I was in a building that had actual sick people in it. People who were really suffering.

Then a male medical technician person came in and administered an EKG. I was fine. No X-ray. I was fine. Just a little shaky. My neck still hurt. My cheek was numb from the ice. I was fine.

I went home and started writing this up right away. Sometimes, writing helps me decompress. Writing helps me get objective, especially when I’m feeling powerful subjective emotions. But that day it was different. I started writing about the whole thing, and of course when I got up to the part when the actual fainting happened, I got a bit dizzy. I felt myself go cold. I had to lay down for a few minutes. It was just the thought of the thought of shots that did —

Oh no. I have to go. Everything’s pur


nothing

What Color is This Dress?

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You know… the whole Blue Dress Thing.

I’m kidding, I really mean the GOLD Dress Thing.

The point is, it’s everywhere. If you’re connected to the internet, you’ve probably seen this question being asked. What color do you see in this dress?, along with a picture of a dress that’s either blue and black or gold and white, along with the scientific explanation of why people see things a certain way. Either because of low exposure and high saturation, or being you’re such a terribly positive person that you see the good in everything. Or something to that effect.

Brilliant.

Also, what color is this dress?

If you see it as black and white, you might have a high IQ.

If you see it as black and white, you might have a high IQ.

I’d make that into a meme for the internet world, but why bother? Because here’s the thing: it will all go away. I guarantee it. It’s one of those things that you might remember in a year from now if someone brings it up. Maybe. Probably not.

But you have to marvel at how it got so big, so fast.

It’s not like the idea of people seeing color differently is a novel one.

It’s not the most fascinating thing out there. It’s not even close.

Yet, you can Google search just the word ‘dress’ and have at least 5 results discussing the ‘mystery’ and the ‘internet craze’. I don’t want to read about ‘solving the debate’, and the ‘scientific explanation’. I just want to shop for a blue and gold dress, alright?

Seriously though, what’s going on? Have we lost our minds? How much time has been spent, and how many words exchanged (including this post) as a result of this ridiculous color quiz? Don’t we have better things to be doing?

The silver lining here (or possibly charcoal, if you are left-brained) is that we see what social media can do.Yes, it’s weak. We already know all about viral videos and cat memes. We know about Ice Bucket Challenges and selfies. And we know that we can spread good ideas too. We know that technology and instantaneous communication is saving the world. Haha, so positive. Go home folks, and change the world from your desktop computer.

A New Punctuation Mark: The Question/Comma

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We have the period. It ends sentences.

We have the comma. It makes pauses in our sentences, and it also allows us to catch our breath.

We also have semi-colons; they allow us to complete a fragmented thought in the same sentence.

And we have the question mark, don’t we?

Well, why can’t we have a question mark that doesn’t end a sentence? you ask.

It’s incorrect to continue a sentence with lowercase words after a question mark (as in the line above), because the sentence has already been completed. The only recourse I have is to put a question mark and a comma like this — ?, — and it really doesn’t cut it.

I propose the use of a new unit of punctuation: The Question Comma. The goal here would be to use a question mark that wouldn’t finish the thought. Ok, maybe we can work on the name. Comma Mark? Quemma? Semi-Question Mark? Leave a comment if you have any ideas.

Comma Mark

The Comma Mark. The Question Comma. Or something.

Usage could include such examples as:

Who gave you permission?, because they must have been joking.

“Can I borrow your machete?,” he asked hopefully.

His name was… Jack?, Jake?, Josh?, and he was interning for the summer. 

In all of these examples, it wouldn’t make sense to end off where the question was. Not all questions are complete thoughts. Using this as semi colon or comma for questions would be swell. Sound great, right?

How to Pour the Perfect Bowl of Cereal

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So you want to learn how to pour the perfect bowl of cereal, huh? You’ve come to the right place. By the time you’ve finished reading this essay, you will be armed with a powerful arsenal of knowledge about the art of mixing cereal with milk. Let’s divide this skill into two important sections, each with their own sequence of steps. Section one would be called preparation, and section two is the act itself. Let us begin.

Section One: Preparation

The first step is to gather supplies. You will need a bowl, a spoon, your choice of cereal and some sort of milk. You can also use fruit or other food items as toppings. You will need to make choices. Will you use a ceramic bowl or a styrofoam one? How big will it be? Will you choose a metal spoon or plastic? Tablespoon or teaspoon? Make sure to factor in the price of disposable versus non-disposable, and the dull sounds of plastic on styrofoam compared to the real clang.

bowl

Those are only the utensils. Cereals get a lot more complicated. You need to ask yourself what grain it will be made of, whether it’s corn, wheat, rice, granola or some blend of several, or some other grain entirely. There are many reasons why the choice of cereal is essential ingredient. The outcome of the entire bowl will be affected dramatically, depending on what cereal you choose. Some of the factors include the nutrition, flavor, color, taste, and texture and absorption quality. It’s recommended to mix two different types of cereal together in the same bowl to increase variety of both taste and texture. (This will in turn increase the pleasure your tongue will experience, sending delightful messages to your brain, and congratulating it for commanding your hand to lift the spoon to your mouth in the first place.)

Granola

Lastly, you must pick your choice of milk. The standard type of milk is cow’s milk, which comes in three popular varieties: full, 2% fat and skim milk. This is another area of personal preference. Skim milk is favored by dieters and old women who have no taste buds. Full milk is popular among children and skinny people. 2% milk is good for those with a balanced diet.

milk_all3

Say, however, that cow’s milk doesn’t do it for you, either because you have a distrust for milk, or an allergy, or you don’t appreciate the taste in your mouth. There are a number of alternatives you might seek. There’s almond milk and soy milk, both of which are not actually milk, but are only called that because it sells better. I guess the more accurate (and less appetizing) name would be ‘juice’, or perhaps ‘extract’. There are other varieties, such as rice milk and even hemp and quinoa milk.

milkes

Lots of different milks to choose from.

Non-dairy milks differ from cow’s milk in that they usually run in flavors like vanilla, cappuccino and chocolate and usually unsweetened varieties of those same flavors. Careful though, because using alternatives doesn’t mean you can get away with leaving them out of a fridge. They will spoil and pour out with a greyer than normal tinge, in thick, clumpy chunks. You might also find people that will pour water in their cereal. Stay away from them.

Section Two: The Act Itself

Now that you have your materials, it’s time for the cereal pouring itself. Assemble your supplies on a table, or if you want, on a counter. Place your bowl on the flat, clean surface. Leave your spoon on the side for this next step. Take the cereal of your choice and open the packaging. Whether it comes in a smaller granola package or a traditional cereal box, the most important thing about opening the cereal is that it must be easy to pour from without a mess, and that it can be put away without the contents going stale. If this takes an extra minute or a favor from a family member to accomplish, so be it. It is well worth the effort invested, trust me.

This is wrong.

This is wrong.

At this point, you want to make sure that there is ample space for the cereal pouring. Lift the cereal package or box three to six inches away from your bowl, and angle it so that cereal begins to pour (an acute angle of 45 degrees is ideal). If the cereal is stuck within the package, you must widen the opening. Sometimes, even though you opened the package correctly and poured at the right angle, it still won’t pour. Don’t panic. This happens occasionally due to the shifting of the contents. Just give the bag or box a tap. Sometimes a good shake will be necessary to ensure that the cereal goes into the bowl. Be careful! You only want to pour in as much cereal as you want for this sitting. You must be mindful of the next step, which is to pour the milk. If you pour too much cereal, you won’t be able to fill the bowl with the adequate amount of milk. Remember, you can always add more later, but nobody wants to waste cereal.

45 Degrees of Awesome.

45 Degrees of Awesome.

Now it’s time to pour the milk. Notice how the spoon has still not been inserted. This is to lessen the chance of splatter. Bring the lip of the milk carton right up to the bowl. We don’t want a mess now, do we? Begin pouring slowly, and pay very close attention to the milk level. Preference varies with the type of cereal being used, but keep in mind that coarse granolas may require more milk to counter their dryness, while quilted cereals like Life Cereal might need less milk due to their airy mass.

88551359

That’s right. Nice and easy, 45 Degrees.

At last your bowl of cereal is poured. You can now add toppings, such as strawberries, blueberries, chocolate chips.

Put these in your cereal. Now, before I eat them.

Put these in your cereal. Now, before I eat them.

For a particularly bland cereal, you can mix in peanut butter or maple syrup for some extra flavor. You can also choose add these before pouring the milk, to determine a more accurate ratio of milk for the bowl.

512px-Froot-Loops-Cereal-Bowl

It’s really up to you of course, but this ratio sucks.

08261_129867946613668

…Much better.

Now all there is to do is pick up your spoon and eat your perfectly poured bowl of cereal! If for any reason your calculations were off, you can add either cereal or milk as needed to compensate for any imbalance. You should have no sludgy milk left over in your bowl, unless that was what you wanted, in which case you should slurp it up noisily in public, because that’s probably what type of person you are. Thanks for reading this essay. Enjoy your future cereal and milk career!