KingMidget's Ramblings

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It Makes Me Sad

Yesterday morning I was weeding the vegetable garden, pruning the roses, and cutting back a potato vine that tends to take over. Somewhere in there, I got what I thought was a rose thorn jabbed into my left hand. Right in the space between my thumb and index finger. What they call the snuff box.

I noticed it when the spot started to bleed. I wiped it off and kept going. Not realizing what lurked below the skin. When I was done with the yard work, I went for a short run. Really short. Almost embarrassingly short. Apparently a little over an hour of weeding and pruning can leave a 52-year-old man too weak to run. Sigh.


I got home from the run and started looking at my left hand. I could tell there was something in there. I thought it was the pointy part of a rose thorn. I dug around with a needle and couldn’t get to anything. The wife tired as well and couldn’t find anything. But it was there, I could tell. I slathered it with antibiotic ointment and slapped a bandaid on. Did the same thing this morning, except for the pruning and weeding.  (By the way, I also went for a run — it went a little better, but still I just feel so weak when I run these days.)

After the run, I showered. I went to meet a friend for lunch. She forgot. I was forlorn. I came home and took a nap. Started working on a work project while waiting for the moment when I could start making pizza for dinner.

At some point I peeked under the bandaid. It was starting to look a little inflamed. A little pussy. A red patch surrounding the area was growing.

I went to urgent care so a trained professional could dig around and get out whatever was in there. She did. a wood splinter that was almost a half inch long. Gave me antibiotics. A tetanus shot. And drew a purple circle around the red area so I could tell if it grew instead of shrunk. If it goes … COME BACK!

But that’s not what this post is about. I just wanted to tell you about that as the introduction to …

I was sitting in the waiting room of urgent care for close to an hour. The entire time I was there, I watched two little kids who sat with their mothers.  One was a little girl who couldn’t have been much more than two. The other, a boy probably around four or five. The entire time they both sat in their chairs with a cell phone inches in front of their faces while whatever game or video or whatever danced across the screen. They didn’t interact with their mothers. Nothing that happened around them registered with either of them.

I get it. Parenting is hard. Sometimes you want a break and don’t want to be on constant watch. But I see this all too frequently these days. A parent handing the phone off to a little one … my god, a two year old! … so they don’t have to talk to them, entertain them, make then laugh or giggle. No, the phone is the thing.

I always looked forward to those situations where my kids and I were forced to interact with each other. When we were captive and couldn’t escape each other. For a couple of years I drove my younger son to middle school. He was always grumpy at having to get up, so I took it as my mission to get him to laugh and to smile during the ride. And to drop him off in a better mood than he was when he got int he car. So, too, with trips to the doctor’s office, or trips to a store, or just sitting in the car during a drive. It was a time to talk, to interact, to think about the world and talk about things.

I firmly believe we are raising a generation of kids who won’t understand the basics of human interaction, who won’t know basic social skills, and who will prefer the soothing solitude of a screen over the rambunctious noise of human interaction. Much to the detriment of all of us.

Put the phones away. Connect with a life that is real.


I Continued On

In recent weeks, I have written a couple of times about Stephen King’s Dark Tower series of books.  First here and then here.  I am now pages away from finishing the fourth book in the series and I plan on continuing on.  Why?  Well, I’m curious about the thing and how my knowledge of the ending colors my view of the story as it progresses.

Here’s the thing …


You’ve been warned.


Hold on a sec … I’ve got a waiver in my pocket for you to sign should you wish to proceed.  Thou shalt not hold me responsible for ruining it for you if thou shalt decide to read further.

Sign here ___________________.

So …

Are you still with me?

This long … over both time and books and words … series ends with a recognition that the story is just a figment of the imagination of the author.  Which is understood.  We readers are kind of smart that way, you know.  It’s fiction.  It’s imagination.  But, you know, while we’re reading we want to believe that this is a world of its own.  Whether it is a romance or a detective novel or literary fiction, while we wallow in the thousands of words that fill page 1 to page XXX, we want to believe this is a world.  Of its own.  Of something.  But a world.  And for those moments we read, we are there.  The best fiction transports to another place we can occupy in the quiet moments we read.  And Stephen King at his best was a master of this.

The ending of the Dark Tower series flashes this in big bright lights, but in a way that I think most readers don’t want to see it.  And then there is this unsettling feeling I have as I read through the series again.

The main character is Roland, the last gunslinger in a world that has moved on.  At some point in his life he began a quest for the Dark Tower, which I can only describe as the center of all things.  My recollection of the end of the series is that once he finally reaches the Dark Tower, after many of his friends have died and he has committed many wrongs in pursuit of his quest, we that we, and Roland, are just in the author’s mind and upon reaching the tower, Roland must … well, start over and repeat the whole thing. Again and again and again.

As I read today, I began to realize that Roland may represent one of two things.  The more favorable interpretation is that he represents an author who never stops searching for his or her Dark Tower.  In this interpretation, the tower represents the story.  THE STORY!  The one.  Where everything comes out.  Perfection is obtained and one can finally rest.  The voices can be silenced.  And life can go on.  But we writers realize something.  That’ll never happen.  Once a writer, always a writer.  And with every completed story, the recognition that it is time to start over again.  In that quest.  For the tower.  For perfection.

My more cynical thought is this.  Roland represents us.  The readers of Mr. King’s stories over the last 20 years or so.  And the joke is on us.  I came to this thought because of my frustration with much of what he has written during that time frame — which oddly enough coincides somewhat with the devolution of the Dark Tower series.  My frustration stems from the idea that King’s creativity and ability to write new and unique stories has withered quite a bit.  What he really is doing with the Dark Tower series and Roland’s neverending quest that must be repeated over and over and over is to point out to us, his “beloved” Constant Reader, is that we are engaged in the same endeavor.

With every book King publishes, he puts us through the same drill.  The hope that he has found the magic again.  He has produced a story that brings us back to The Shining or The Stand or name your favorite early King story.  My favorite was the short story in The Night Shift in which a box of plastic Army men came to life and attacked.  Anyway, maybe, just maybe, the end of Dark Tower was King’s acknowledgement that he had lost the magic and he was just going to keep sending us out — to read his latest work, the product of his failing imagination — only to do it all over again, dissatisfied and hopeful of finding the magic he had produced once upon a time.

My belief in the more cynical interpretation is buttressed by the fact that the series pulls in a number of characters and story lines from other King stories.  Like Randall Flagg and Captain Trips.  It also pulls in other ideas from non-King stories.  Like The Wizard of Oz.  It’s like this grand trip in which King does everything he can to make this long, epic, monstrosity of a tale as convoluted and meandering as he possibly can, pulling in whatever pops into his head and then making it work in telling the tale, to demonstrate just how hooked we are on what he does.  I can’t help but feeling like he is the Man in Black, he is Marten.  And he is laughing at us.  All the way to the bank.

Three more books to go.  Three more books in which I can’t help but to feel massively manipulated.


On Father’s Day

Looking Forward

Over the next 6-8 weeks, this will be my life.

A four day weekend trip with the family to my sister’s house near San Luis Obispo. It’s been quite awhile since we’ve done this. I’m looking forward to it. She lives in a beautiful part of the state with plenty of options for beaches and nature’s beauty.

A weekend camping trip with my boys. Or solo if they can’t make it. We’ll be headed to Lake Almanor for a couple of nights. I’m ashamed to admit we’ve never done this before. I’m looking forward to it and hope it begins a tradition that will eventually expand to some backpacking trips as well.

An overnight work trip to San Diego. I’ll let you decide whether I’m looking forward to it. 😉

A five day trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. I’ve never been there. I’m looking forward to it.

A two night camping trip into the Sierra Nevadas with a group of about 25-30 people. We went on this trip last year. The organizer provides and makes all of the food. We get to just show up with our tent and sleeping bag and relax. I’m looking forward to it.

An overnight camping trip to Tamales Bay that will include a night-time kayaking trip where we will be able to see bioluminescent sea life. I’m looking forward to it.

A month or so ago, I told myself I wanted to make sure that I did something every weekend this summer. A long bike ride. A long hike. A day trip to the ocean. An overnight here. A long weekend there. I want to do every one of those things I just listed up there. And I look at the list and ask myself … where’s my opportunity to relax. Sigh.

There will be plenty of opportunities to relax within those trips. Yes, there will.

I’m looking forward to it.

Maybe This Is The Point

People may have noticed that I haven’t had much to say lately about the state of politics in America.  On some level, the reason for that is somewhat … well, it is what it is.  What can I possibly do except read the headlines and the stories and shake my head.

But…  Maybe this is the point.

As James Comey gets ready to testify on Thursday about all sorts of things, likely including conversations he had with President Trump, word comes down that our President will be “live-tweeting” while Comey testifies.  Responding in real time to whatever Comey might have to say.

It’s not enough that he fired the man because he was upset about the Russia investigation.  It’s not enough that he is upset that a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the matter.  It’s not enough that his Attorney General recused himself from the investigation because of his own meetings with Russians that he failed to disclose. No, the man — the President of the United States — has to live-tweet while Comey testifies.

While the President was off on his Middle East/European vacation, I read a story about how his advisors and White House staff were working on a plan that would allow attorneys to vet his tweets before he actually clicked the “Tweet” button.  Apparently, that plan came to no avail.  The last few days have seen an utterly astounding cavalcade of self-inflicted wounds via the ol’ Twitter.

And now, he wants to live-tweet Comey’s testimony.  He’s the President of the United States.  Shouldn’t he be involved in more important matters.  Like, oh, golf.  Or plundering his son’s non-profit for his own profit and gain.  Or misquoting the London Mayor in his efforts to demonstrate solidarity with other victims of terrorism.  Or, hell, grabbing women by their P%$#ies.  Something, anything.  Doesn’t he have a communications staff that is supposed to be able to respond to whatever Comey says? And all sorts of other spokespersons and representatives who can put his message out?

Can anybody see the problem with his plan?  Can anybody see the likelihood that in live-tweeting Comey’s testimony, the chances are that he will tweet something that is even more damaging to his legal arguments regarding all of this.

Of course not.

He is Donald Trump.  He can do no wrong.

Or maybe he has realized he doesn’t actually want to be President.

Can you imagine working for this man?


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