Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Drum by the Window

He badly wanted to lean on someone for support, but despite their best efforts, his wall did a better job and never let him hear the end of it.

She stepped over the line. She stepped over lots of things, including lines. Her trusty pencil and her walking shoes were her two most prized possessions.

He hated bonsai trees and all that they stood for.

She decided to ignore her best judgment and, instead, took her best friend's advice by putting "that" in her pipe and smoking it. Aside from the near-debilitating cough and occasional disconcerting thick black drool and series of hyper-annoying facial ticks, she was loving everyone minute of it.

He spent the day peeling potatoes, drinking mulled wine and plotting revenge, or in other words, Thursdays.

She always preferred the path of greatest resistance because, although it was very slow and full of friction, she felt that it built character and she was in desperate need of more character especially after all of those years travelling on really easy paths.

He climbed to the top of a tall hill and enjoyed a long, good laugh at all of the smaller hills nearby.

She spent considerable time each morning grooming herself, then grooming her cat, and finally spending a large amount of time looking at herself in the mirror just knowing that the person looking back at her was finally starting to look more and more like her cat. And now, on to step 2 of the plan.

He arrived at the party and checked both his coat as well as his ego at the door as he just loved the combination of being slightly chilly as well as being incredibly selfless.

She bolded and italicized a large number of words in her word processing as she believed it helped the words appear more thrilling and practically leap off the page. In her quieter moments, she often escapes to a fantasy world inhabited by bolded and italicized words that, while thrilling and leaping up and down, were incredibly boring to hang out with.

He spent the better part of his teenage years walking to the beat of his own drum. It was the drum his mother had bought him when he was 12. It was the drum that was always sitting there, in its spot, by the window. It was the drum that, when struck just so, created a beat. A beat that, after all of those years, he could finally walk to. A beat that gave him life. A beat that made him a man. A beat that made him whole again. It was that drum. The drum by the window. Thanks mom.

She cut out strips of black paper. The next day, she cut out strips of white paper. The third day, she cut out strips of gold paper. "There. Who has more strips of paper now, dad?" she remarked with  jealously as she knew he still had more.

He walked into the building hoping that they had removed and placed their shirts in a pile as asked, to make his weekly "literal taking shirts off their backs" collection easier. He once figuratively attempted this, but ended up on a small plane headed for Brazil. 

She spent her days admiring her golden locks, just longing to be fleeced knowing full well that she had no real idea what that really meant.

He really wanted to run away and join the circus, but it just seemed too obvious and stereotypical as EVERYONE he knows had already done that.

She badly wants to scream out "ME!" whenever her roommate inadvertently calls out "Who let the dogs out?" or "Who keeps on screaming?" or "Who borrowed my phone without asking?" or "Who got blood all over my phone?" or "Who called for an ambulance?" or "Who got da funk?"

He had an overwhelming desire to prune something, anything, just not those plums that were, for all intense and purposes, begging to be pruned. It just seemed wrong and a bit disturbing.

She took a long walk in the woods on a cool, crisp winter's day leaving fresh footprints in the white snow. She was surrounded, on all sides, by tall, majestic trees in all of their beauty. As she walked on, she breathed in the delicious mountain air and felt at one with the nature all around. How she loved the woods on a winter day such as this. Closing her eyes, the world seemed to disappear and time slowed to a halt and she smiled, as she felt so at peace. And then, she became acutely aware that she was the only one in the woods at that moment who was not covered with bark.









Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Speech at My Sister's Wedding

Good evening everyone. Welcome to Niki and Aram’s reception. My name is Tommy and I am the brother of the bride which is, sadly, a historically undervalued and underappreciated position, until today.

I will also be your Master of Ceremonies. When Niki and Aram first approached me about acting as their emcee, I paused and considered running as it was two against one, but I decided to hold my ground and play dead which didn’t work as, much to my surprise, they aren’t bears. I know, I was as surprised as you are. I then responded as any proud and eager person with my level of education and articulation skills could, I barked like a seal. Aram, you should know, that seal barking is quite the tradition amongst the men in our family going back many generations though my understanding of the original Hebrew texts, to be totally honest, is non-existent at best.

But, seriously, I was literally as proud as a peacock to be chosen –that’s right, that proud. This emcee gig had me instantly at a level of euphoria that is the reason my wife has her paramedic friend on speed dial. I considered covering myself with thick layers of creams and lotions, so that if the evening didn’t go as planned, at least people could take turns sliding me around like a human curling rock.  Human curling rock is, quite coincidently, what I affectionately called Niki as a young girl. I was dangerously nearsighted.

For many years now, I have had but one goal that has helped give me the motivation to keep going when times got tough: to bring something, anything down from the inside and failing that to emcee Niki’s eventual wedding reception. I know what many of you are thinking – wrong tie – and also, is he really planning on killing two birds with one stone? Bringing something down from the inside while emceeing this reception? The short answer, no. The long answer, nooooo. But yes, I do plan on killing two birds with one stone, if those two birds are Niki and Aram who I am “killing” with this “stone” of a speech.

I am living a dream right now as I’ve wanted to follow Niki around with a microphone and commentate parts of her life so badly for so long now. By the way, early reviews of this speech from the critics are in and they are calling it “the best speech since sliced bread” and “a call to arms” and “proof that exposure to large amounts of industrial strength glue is bad.” I like to think my job has been well done if Niki and Aram are smiling - not under duress this time, as this evening is all about them (and a little about me) as we celebrate their union. I also want to argue that we are also celebrating their intersection – don’t spend too much time thinking about that – I didn’t and I said it.

As you can plainly see, I am overjoyed for Niki and Aram. Or at least I was. Not that I’m making excuses, but I just spent the past 9 months living in such a state of extreme joy and it is just really hard to maintain that level of stress on my cheek muscles and brow area. And as happy as I am for the newlyweds, I must admit that my second thought upon hearing the wonderful news of their engagement was how is this a positive for me, Tommy? I know how selfish and horrible that sounds, as I recorded it at listened to a few dozen times. But all of you out there who claim to not be thinking about how you too can use this wedding for their own gains, either monetary or spiritual, are completely lying to themselves and everyone they love and care about. I, for one, refuse to lie to my loved one any longer.

But is that too much to ask, that the marriage of two other people who are both not me nor marrying me make my life noticeably better? Shockingly, some would argue ‘yes’ and that I need to get off my high horse once and for all as men of 46 shouldn’t spend so much time on a play horsey anyways to whom I reply, “whatever Niki and Aram.” But all joking aside, I am so happy for Niki. I will now resume joking.

I know for years Niki was looking and looking for Aram, even with her glasses on intermittently and once using a high-powered telescope that I “borrowed” from the local observatory, but he proved elusive. And then Aram finally decided to show up and their paths crossed sort of like those of two nearby large celestial bodies that would cause the cataclysmic end of our world, only with significantly less destruction.

Though Niki’s adorable belief that everything would work out in the end occasionally wavered, she continued to believe in the age-old clich├ęs that good things come to those who wait, that someday her prince would come and when a door closes a window opens. Little did she know, but a window was open the whole time thanks to yours truly who was just messing with her, opening random windows, letting the breeze in and leading her to buy tons of new sweaters and blankets that she didn’t need. Joke was on her. And now they are married and the joke is on me. Ha ha ha, really funny guys. I, for one, hope they don’t get too cocky and let this day of adoration go to their heads and we find them walking around acting all cool and stuff, like they are better than everyone as that would get insufferable, believe me, I’ve been there and I know.

But, what is marriage? What is it really if not a joining of two, hopefully healthy, mostly youngish, people who feel a love for one another that is infinitely more love than they feel for a good cup of coffee, to which some people would say “shouldn’t you know, you are married?” to whom I say “quiet kids, daddy is doing his speech right now.” It brings me great joy to welcome Aram into our family, which is quite exclusive I must add, I now see you as the brother I never had or the brother I once tried to bribe with...oops, that’s a bit too weird, scratch that.

Let me wrap this up by proposing a toast to the married couple. To Niki and Aram, may you have years and years of love and happiness and wedded bliss. May you also continue to find opportunities for me to write speeches and then perform them in public that will allow me to shamelessly plug my wonderful blog (search for Tommy Paley on Medium.com when you have time). May you continue finishing each other’s sentences, aggressively if necessary, and counting to ten in unison just to prove that you can. May you never cease being unrelentingly silly together for the rest of your lives only taking breaks when chopping vegetables using sharp knives and using the washroom as that is not a time to be silly I was told in preschool. To my wonderful and amazing sister Niki whom I am infinitely proud of, congratulations from the bottom of my heart. Also in the bottom of my heart, according to Wikipedia, are my ventricles.

To Niki and Aram! 

Their Love

He loved her like others loved the rain although he wished she stopped literally showering him with water unexpectedly.

She loved playfully chasing after him in a field of spring flowers up until her allergies caught up with her or until he handed over the allergy medication.

He loved watching her eat despite her protestations that it was creepy and weird especially when he insisted on recording it for exactly those reasons.

She loved invading his space on the couch utilizing the most modern warfare techniques and strategies that she could reasonably afford given their tight budget.

He loved standing in long lines with her because of her unique way of making all lines paradoxically appear circular.

She loved that he never gave up until he actually turned molehills into mountains.

He loved the period of peaceful serenity each morning just after she woke up and just before she started screaming at him for putting lipstick and blush on the dog again.

She loved making him lunch for all of the wrong reasons.

He loved taking her on long romantic walks to his favourite spots while she argued that his definition of romantic needed a complete overhaul.

She loved helping nurse him back to health when he was sick, but she refused to have him sit on her lap while sucking from the bottle.

He loved spending weekend afternoons watching paint dry, while she absolutely adored painting him.

She loved packing up all of her belongings, leaving abruptly and waiting down by the train station that he built for her in the backyard as she needed a place to play make believe with all of her dollies.

He loved her way with words in all of its nonsensical, raving and quite worrisome detail.

She loved smashing his sand castles and then intimidatingly standing over him celebrating the fact that her castles were now clearly bigger.

He loved her smile and her laugh and, to a somewhat lesser degree, her unrelenting and quite brutally sarcastic satirical love letters.

She loved his carefree and whimsical approach to life except in those moments when he was operating heavy duty machinery.

He loved sitting next to her at the table both because it was her, but also because it was just a really fine table which displayed expert craftsmanship.

She loved when he first referred to her as his peach, though as time went on, it became more and more concerning especially considering the crazed smile on his face whenever he said it.

He loved walking a mile in her shoes equally because of the perspective it gained him as well as the comfort that custom-made insoles provided.

She loved his bear hugs which were now thankfully given using 50% less bear.

originally published in The Bitchin' Kitsch 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Emergency Staff Meeting

Okay, okay settle down. Quiet please.
Thanks for coming to this emergency staff meeting, everyone. Now that you are all here, I will say that the use of the word ‘emergency’ was almost definitely overstated and used primarily to get your attention. In the future, I will reserve that word for actual emergencies like we’ve had in the past like that flood, the most recent grease fire and the leech infestation which I am told is close to being resolved. For the hundredth time, I am sorry about those damn leeches.
But I really needed for us to meet, so I am glad you are all here. Yes, even you Gretchen. That was a joke I made last month about wishing I could use an over-sized eraser to remove you, before buying an actual over-sized eraser and chasing you around the kitchen screaming “out, damn spot, out!” I know it wasn’t a funny one, mind you, but it was a joke. Let’s get started.
It has been obvious for some time now that staff motivation is at an all-time low, so low that it often appears that many of you don’t want to be working here at all. Some of you have actually gone as far as literally not working here any longer, or just hiding in the washroom constantly complaining of debilitating stomach cramps. On an aside, we’ve finally received word from corporate that they’ve adjusted the recipes to address the issue of widespread debilitating stomach cramps. A bit late for my piano recital, but better late than never I think we’d all agree on.
But yes, you have made it abundantly clear, either in email or on pretty cool graphic t-shirts that you all chipped in to make, that you aren’t excited or thrilled or inspired when you are here. This has to change. Now, I have tried, you know I’ve tried, to “kick you all in the butts” and “prod you with hot irons” and “rattle your cages” to no avail especially after the word got leaked to the press about the cages. I even tried offering you more money or extra breaks or even access to unlimited free mustard between the hours of 4 and 6 and nothing has changed aside from a thin, and completely unwanted, layer of mustard on my car each evening.
Customers have been noticing your low desire to work here too, for some time now, commenting on homemade customer satisfaction cards that the staff “clearly hate each other” and “seem to be going out of their way to get fired” and “look like they’re in pain especially that one guy who almost definitely is in pain unless he’s some sort of actor and then give that guy a part already and if he isn’t then someone please call a medic”. One customer said that the low morale of the staff inspired them to write a poem that they submitted to a local poetry contest where it received honorable mention, but that is just one small positive from this situation among a sea of negatives.
“Why is the motivation so low?”, I’ve often asked myself while walking my dog before remembering that I don’t have a dog and wondering who's dog this is that I’m walking. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this problem before eating some nachos and taking a shower, before remembering that it is my job as your manager to do something about this before we get a visit from the higher ups.
So, you may be wondering, what is Larry the manager going to do? I keep telling you that my name is Harry! You may also be wondering if I’m going to shave my mustache which is long past the point of being “in any way attractive”. Finally, you may be wondering why there is a bucket on the stool next to me, or why I am am partially obscuring your view of this fantastic bucket? It is to be some sort of prize or incentive or even punishment? Is the bucket slowly going to take over as manager? If you are wondering about any and all of these topics, I, for one, am pleased as filling the heads of my staff with wonder was one of my goals for this meeting. And no, a bucket isn’t going to be your new manager as good and potentially outside-the-box an idea as that is.
I can almost hear the questions now:
“A bucket? Does he seriously have a bucket up there?”
“Is he going to use this bucket in some sort of convoluted analogy that initially appears to be deep, but in the end falls way short as a means to inspire us?”
“Did he forget his actual, and probably lame, idea at home and is now embarrassingly trying to sell us on this bucket as a means to motivate us?”
“He does realize that if he stands next to the bucket that while he is talking we are all subconsciously comparing and contrasts the two which is a lose lose situation for him?”
“When he is done, I hope one of us gets to take the bucket home, or at least get to borrow it for the weekend.”
To which I answer “yes, yes, yes, no and perhaps”
This bucket that you see before you may appear, on first glance, to be empty. On second glance, still empty. For those of you who continue to glance after a second time, all I can say is “it’s empty, Steve!” The bucket is meant to be empty and we are going to fill it, together, not with anything tangible or real, but with something to save this restaurant we call home and I fully realize that I am the only one who actually calls it home ever since my landlord changed my locks.
Now I’d be lying to you if I told you I had an easy solution to our problem here and I promised at our last staff meeting that I wouldn’t lie to you any longer unless I could prove that it somehow saved your lives. I also promised to provide nothing but easy solutions to all problems or else I’d shave my mustache finally. You know, I wish I could wave my magic wand and turn you into the happiest and most inspired restaurant staff in the country. I also wish I could walk up and down Main Street waving my magic wand without fear of reprisals.
I know many of you are sitting there looking up here at me and my bucket regretting dropping out of school. Well think of how I feel? I’m a fully grown man, by some standards, standing up here with a bucket in front of a group of people he’d love to call friends and maybe even invite over on the weekend for a movie night if they weren’t busy or anything and if his landlord wasn’t a big jerk. You don’t think I feel like a loser? You don’t think I still feel like the same little boy who used to cry on his mother’s lap after yet another harrowing day at school being teased for carrying around an imaginary bucket to share my imaginary toys with my hopefully soon-to-be real friends?
I also need to address the pink elephant in the room and no, I’m not talking about Heather, this time. In my defense, and I know many of you, obviously including Heather, haven’t totally forgiven me for mistaking her for a pink elephant back in December, but I swear that my glasses were heavily smudged and I honestly thought it was some sort of random dress-up day that I’d missed the memo on. The sensitivity training that occupied the past 9 Thursdays from 6:30 till 9pm were completely justified. No, the pink elephant I’m now referring to, is Frank.
I know how much you all miss Frank. I miss him to, aside from the fact that when he left for greener pastures — alfalfa farming to be exact — I did benefit by getting his position. But, he was amazing. I’ve tried to follow in his footsteps, but that dude walked a lot. There was just something about his smile, which seemed so genuine, and full of naturally white teeth. And the way he spoke to you like you were an actual human being with real feelings that he came across as if he really cared about. He also would never have treated you like you were elementary school kids by employing the use of a bucket in any way and I already partially regret the whole bucket thing, but we can’t go back in time or else I would have applied to theater school as my therapist/father figure recommended.
All I can say is, you can’t keep trudging around here like you are in prison. Prison is a whole lot worse I’m sure you’d say after our visit to one last month for comparison’s sake only. For those of you who had your parents call me to “stop threatening you”, I get that I may have crossed the line. But I need you to pretend to like each other. I need you to pretend that you want to work here despite the permanent tattoos and quite well-produced viral videos you posted online. I need you to pretend that you don’t feel like you have irrecoverably screwed up your lives by working here, though, I can’t fully guarantee that you haven’t. Finally, I need you to also take turns shining this bucket as I promised to return it to the store fully shined once we were done with it.
To be totally frank and I don’t mean totally Frank, as my impressions are this side of unwatchable, if you can’t summon up some actual motivation to work hard then heads may roll. And yes, that is a figure of speech, but the point is that changes may be in the works if we can’t turn those frowns upside down while leaving the rest of your faces the way they are already pointing.
Remember, these words, this meeting and, more than anything, this bucket. Never forget the bucket! I don’t know why, but this bucket holds the key to a brand new day for all of us here at this restaurant. Your job, on top of doing the work you are paid to do, is figuring out how the bucket can do this.
Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your evening.