🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Books & Covers 🕮
Seeking Balance ⚖️
We’re taught at an early age to not judge a book by its cover. If I remember correctly, that was impressed upon me sometime around the first grade. Yet to be honest, I don’t think it’s a lesson that ever really sunk in. I imagine I’m not alone.
Case in point: It’s been a long while since I’ve watched American Idol. Yet when I did watch it, every season started out with auditions, and there was always this one person who would come out to eyerolls from Simon and that “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry” smile from Paula. She or he might look like a frumpy old woman — think Mrs. Doubtfire — or a skinny, awkward nerd. I and the rest of America would wait for something William Hung-esque to stumble forth … and then the person would start to sing.
We’d be wowed that this person so unlike what we think of when we imagine a great singer starts belting out such a powerful song. We’d be awed at the range and the power of their voice. We’d scream into the kitchen, “Honey! Come here! You’ve got to hear this!”
Simon would apologize sheepishly before voting to send the person to Hollywood, and Paula would jump over the table to hug her, and we’d feel good about ourselves because, hey, most of us at times feel like that awkward person up there on the stage of life, standing before those who would judge us by what we looked like instead of what is inside us.
If you haven’t heard the name, you’re not alone. If you haven’t heard the voice, you’re missing out on something. Boy The Elder, his girlfriend, Div, and I went to The Pageant in the Delmar Loop of St. Louis last night. It was about a year or so ago that BTE texted me, telling me I had to listen to this guy. BTE is very much like Wifey Poo in just about every way, but his deep love and appreciation of music comes from me — and he’s taken it to the next level.
I listened to Marcus King and was wowed. The voice is soulful, rich, powerful, able to go from sweet, soft melodies to James Brown-like screams in an instant. He is music. He’s what we all should be listening to.
He also looks like this:
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to write anything about how he looks. He is perfect just as he is. His story doesn’t need to be “look at the music that comes outta that guy.” No, this is about us, this is about how we do judge a book by its cover.
I’ll admit to my own failures here and put myself out on a limb in the hope you’ll nod your head. But I do look at a dude with a sleeve of tattoos and make judgments on everything from his career to his personal life. I do look at a woman with short hair, a more athletic build, no makeup and a certain walk and form opinions on her sexuality without any other evidence. I do see a large Black man walking toward me and think something completely different than if that person were a smaller white dude or a middle aged Asian woman. I don’t like any of these things about myself, but if I’m being honest, though I’m working on making this not true, right now, it still is true.
Marcus King can sing. Marcus King can perform. Marcus King can play the guitar like few others ever have… ever have. Marcus King is at home on stage entertaining people like he did the crowd last night in St. Louis. I was blessed to be there, blessed to be with my son and his amazing girlfriend. I’m exhausted this morning, as Marcus kept rolling until the very last second before the curfew kicked in, and then I had an hour drive home. It was 1,000% worth it.
Give the man a listen:
There’s something that’s been increasingly bugging me. It probably belongs more in the “Wrestling With Myself” section of this website, which is where I deal with figuring out who I am, why I am who I am and how I want to live my life, but here we are so here we go: I am not happy with the box I’ve been put in, put myself in and allowed myself to be shoved back into for a lot of my life.
Let me explain.
I was a good kid. No, I was far from angelic, and I got in my fair share of trouble and should have been in more trouble than I got in, were it not for being wily, wise and innocent-looking. I grew up doing The Right Thing and taking The Right Path. I Just Said No and was Kind To Others.
I worked relatively hard in school, got good grades (except for high school math. Fuck letters in math), graduated, went to college, figured out life through a myriad of trials and struggles and always kept going. I’ve been a good husband (better, these days), a good father (ditto), a good employee, a good basketball coach, a good home-fixer and a good whatever else I needed to be in the moment.
Again, have I been perfect? Absolutely not. But have I been good? Absolutely.
Around my 44th birthday, I started feeling really penned in. There was something inside me that was growing and struggling to get out, but I kept pushing it down, pushing it down, pushing it down. Then, in one week in July, I stopped fighting against it and decided to see what it was all about.
And here’s the thing: I loved it. That person was still good. That person still did The Right Thing. But it was The Right Thing by a different judge, a different standard. This John was less uptight, was more into living and being free and finding a path of his own choosing. This John felt alive.
Old John looked at This John and said, “tsk tsk tsk.” He wasn’t alone in doing that. Sadly, This John immediately got stuffed back deep down in his hole. The problem was that This John had seen the sunlight and wasn’t content to being shoved back inside. So he fought harder to get out. Oh, and did he ever get out.
This John grabbed onto the pendulum that had been stuck over in that “good” area and swung it way the hell over to the other side. Yes, there were many really amazing things that came from that. But a lot of good people got hurt in the process. This John had been given a few inches and took a few miles. And there was Old John, standing there saying, “Ya know, just because you got out doesn’t mean I’m not still here … that I don’t need to still be here.”
So Old John fought back.
And so it has gone for, well, far too fucking long. The four years since that time has been largely a constant struggle for control and numerous false starts down various paths in search of the ultimate destination: Contentment and Peace.
I have had too many “this is a significant moment!” moments to say this moment is significant. Too many of those significant moments have been those false starts or, when looked at with the benefit of some time and space, been just another swing of the pendulum. Here’s the thing: The pendulum needs to be centered. It needs to be motionless, or, at least, as motionless as possible in this wild, spinning world in which we live.
So maybe this moment? This moment right here? Maybe this is a significant moment, as I feel as if I’ve discovered the roots of some of what has been plaguing me for, well, 48 years or so.
Here’s the deal: I am many things, yes, but above all, I am me. And me is a combination of Old John and This John. Both are good. Both are necessary. Both need each other. Allowing others, allowing myself, allowing the dominant circles I’ve traveled in to constrain This John hasn’t been any healthier than giving This John the keys to the Ferrari. There’s a balance out there, and I have yet to find it. Part of the reason I haven’t found it is because Old John has been refusing to let This John look for it.
Perhaps they can find it together.
Here’s something about This John: He’s not conventional. He’s, well, kinda weird. He believes in things like trips to There and soul traveling companions and in his empathic abilities to feel other people’s shit and discern things through his intuition that appears to be more finely tuned than the one in your av-er-age bear.
He likes restorative yoga and meditation and reiki (maybe) and Taoism and the Dalai Lama. He believes firmly he’s been dead and seen There and came back. He thinks that the reoccurring image in his not-dreams comes from a different lifetime, which he guesses means he’s ended up in a camp that believes in some sort of reincarnation though he doesn’t quite now how he got there.
He’s not sure about the power of crystals but gives latitude to the fact that they could do what fellow weirdos think they do. He wants to go to the drum circle down in Delmar Loop. He’s curious about psychedelics’ use to treat mental health and to find greater spiritual significance. He sees how organized religions are all based on attempts to understand what’s really not understandable and that none is right — yet none is wrong. He has stopped trying to explain things that have no explanation simply because humans don’t have the words for them.
He’s lonely — lonely as fuck — because this path doesn’t seem to be inhabited by a lot of people in his everyday existence … and because it seems like the few he does cross paths with are female and he wants dude friends.
This John is much more aware of the injustices throughout history and the failures of his nation from its inception. This John seems to have a huge heart for the homeless, though he’s not sure exactly why.
This John understands a lot about the mind, about consciousness and about the limitations of our brains — and the limits we place on ourselves because of the limited understanding of our brains. This John knows there’s more. There’s not just five senses. There’s not just this ordinary life. There’s more. This gives This John purpose, which he sorely needs and is only just beginning to tap into.
Everyone, please meet This John.
Since Then … Every morning holds that moment Every mile, a reminder Every night sighs a silent prayer Since Then … The music tends to a hurting heart Harmonizing with the memories of what was Before ripping the wounds open once again Since Then … A million words haven’t fixed what I didn’t know was…Keep reading
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- Looking forward to the weekend.
- Looking even more forward to having our basement drain issue solved today.
- Looking even more forward to the eye doctor today and hopefully a report that all is clear.
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩 Death Cometh Sooner 💀Twitter Security 🔓Game Over 🌑 Average life expectancy in the United States dropped in 2020 by almost two years in 2020, the biggest decline since World War II. Every state and the District of Columbia saw a drop. Guess it was a little bit more than that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Worm brain 🧠Chicken Big Mac 🐔Eye Twitch 👁️ Caenorhabditis elegans is probably too elegant of a name for something that is really just a disgusting little worm about a millimeter long and most easily found in rotting fruit. It is more commonly known as a lab roundworm and was the first…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Agliata Homeschool Academy 🚌Hypnosis 😳Sunburn 🌞🔥 When you tell people you homeschool your children, you typically receive one of three responses: An enthusiastic: “Oh, that’s so cool!” An I’d-rather-be-dipped-in-acid: “Oh wow! I could never do that!” A you’re-one-of-those-weirdos: “Oh… really… homeschooling, huh?” The percentage for each has changed in the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Indycar 🏎️Best Friends 😎Baseball Irony ⚾ There are certain people who look at car racing as an endless series of left turns. These people are idiots on whom nuance is lost. Boy The Elder and I crossed the border yesterday late-morning to head just past the fine city of East St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Swine Inflation 🐖Swamp Thing 🎥Phone Calls 📱 Life was different when I went to college in Iowa after growing up in suburban New York City. This isn’t to suggest I was a city kid. I wasn’t. The city was a place we went to a few times a year, and where…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Triple-Threat 🖥️🖥️🖥️Tasmanian Tiger 🐅Video Work 📹 Humans were not meant to stare at laptop screens. At least, humans of a certain age were not meant to stare at laptop screens. I say this after successfully lobbying for a second monitor at work, which effectively turned my laptop screen into a third…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Look Before Brewing ☕Hoop Construction 🏀Nuclear War ☢️ If you’d like an indication of how much of a Monday yesterday was for me, know that I ended up with an orange in my coffee. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a full-blown orange. It was something called a Cutie, which is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cash 4 IRS 💰Cash 4 Workers 💸Sound of Silence 🤫 Be extra careful on your taxes this year. The IRS is expected to receive nearly $80 billion when The Inflation Reduction Act eventually becomes law, and its plan is to hire 87,000 full-time workers. More than half of the $80 billion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Spoon Nose 🥄👃🏻Dump Truck 🚚Twitter Traitor 🐦 Every night, I strap a mask attached to a long hose to my face so I don’t die. Not satisfied with looking kinda like an idiot, I then wrap a flexible Velco-enabled strap around my chin and fasten it on top of my bald…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thanks, Yankees ⚾Kitchen Moment 👩🍳McDonald’s Glasses 🥛 Wifey Poo and I were recent college graduates and months away from becoming Married Folk when our relationship nearly faced its greatest test. The New York Yankees were rolling toward their first World Series appearance since I played with Matchbox Cars, and the St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mammoth Dilemma🦣Zombie Pigs🧟🐖Stadium Pals⚾ Finding the fossilized remains of a Wooly Mammoth in New Mexico isn’t exactly news. It seems the furry elephants loved to hang out in the land so frequently visited by aliens. What is news is the condition of the fossils from the latest find. Some of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ankle Shot 🦶🏻Teamwork 🤝🏽Talkspace Stupidity 🤪 Over the years, I’ve played catch with Boy The Younger dozens and dozens of times. From those early days of him aimlessly flinging an oversized soft thing a few feet forward, to now when he’s zipping a real baseball the regulation distance from a pitching…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Creative Desert 🎨So Long, Supra 🏎️Taco Truck 🌮 I have absolutely nothing today. On most days — even the really, really bad days — I can push out something creatively worthwhile. A blog post. A flyer. A video. Not today. Today I have jack shit. This is professionally problematic, considering my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hungry=Stupid 😋Strategic Planning 📅Bed Sizes 🛏️ Hunger is a strong motivator. This, most of us know. Yet I witnessed this truth at a whole new level this weekend. Wifey Poo and I traveled up to Hannibal, Missourah, for a few days. Hannibal, for you uncultured folks, is the hometown of Mark…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Change 🌀Me, Different 😷Bad Baseball ⚾ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Most everything in humanity is governed by two intertwined forces. Supply and demand. Scarcity. Whether its the economy or human emotions, everything about us is geared toward responding to these two things. For example, when there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double Standards 🦅Birthday Deals 🎁Video Guy 📹 The United States has a problem with hypocrisy. Don’t worry, though; it’s nothing new. It just happens to be glaringly apparent right now. Our revered Founding Fathers got things off on a really bad foot when they penned the lofty statement that all men…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Revolution 🌍Rain 🌧️Refund 💰 By this time tomorrow, I will have completed 48 trips around the sun. Or is it 47 and I’ll be starting my 48th? Whatever. I’ll be 48 years old tomorrow. I have to admit, I’m feeling kinda blah about it. Looking back, this past revolution was busy…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bitchy Mother Nature 🌧️⚡Tech Woes 🖥️Maturation 👦 Overnight storms made for a restless night, as waves of rain and thunder rolled through our section of Missourah. Flash flood warnings pinged my phone sometime in the middle of the night, and by the time I left for my drive to work, eastbound…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rollercoasters 🎢Sad Puppy 🐶News Roundup 🤖 It’s possible to think a lot of thoughts while plummeting 90 feet at a 90-degree angle while staring up at the sun. This I learned yesterday while at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missourah, with the Core Four, Div, Wifey Poo’s baby sister and baby…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Date Day 🤟🏽Prison Justice 👊Universe Questions 🚀 Wifey Poo and I ended up having more than 12 hours to ourselves yesterday here in the Midwest Redneck Mecca of Branson, Missourah. Boys The Elder and Younger, along with BTE’s lovely girlfriend of nearly three years, and Wifey Poo’s baby sister and family…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩WFH WTF? 🧑💼Rebel Ball ⚾Psych Myth 🧠 As a writer/columnist/blogger/thought-spewer, I always enjoy when I get something out there before anyone else. I dug that when I was a newspaper journalist, and I dig it now. That’s why I’m happy to be hearing national publications and sites like Business Insider starting…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fahrenheit 🌡️Blindingly White ⬜Alone Time 👴 Muricah is very much a reactionary nation. Much of what we do and who we are is because we were pissed off about the way someone else did things. Monarchy? We’ll have a democracy, thank you very much. The metric system? We’ll measure stuff our…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tryouts ⚾BBQ Sauce🍖TMNT🐢 There is cause for celebration in the Core Four: Boy The Younger has been drafted. Sadly, we’re not talking about the ongoing Major League Baseball draft. Rather, we’re talking about the sick modern world of Little League baseball. Not to get too “Get off my lawn!” on you,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Growth 💗Dreams 💤Redecorating 🛋️ There are moments in a dad’s life in which he can see the growth of his sons quite clearly. Sometimes that growth is physical. One day, Boy The Elder was a short, stocky little boy and then, boom, he came home from his high school job at…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Burn Pit🔥Alaska Ass🍑Nose Hair🐽 Having a plan is a far different thing from having a plan work out. I’m really good at the former, yet the latter seems to be extremely elusive. Yesterday, my plan was to take the huge pile of chopped-down cedar-tree limbs that have been in my backyard…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Jewel💎First Kiss💋Slow Ahead🐢 Wifey Poo and I are headed out into the sweltering hell that is Missourah this evening to see the woman who, should she knock on my door and say “let’s go,” I am fully empowered to join in the next part of life’s journey. I jest. Sort of.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Parenthood 🚓Alexa 📋Quick-Hitters 👋 Just about every statistic imaginable tells us we shouldn’t have kids — at least, not if we’re concerned about our own happiness, mental health, marriage, career, finances, time or ability to buy a really boss car instead of a freaking minivan. Yet here we are, still a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Lawrence Pfaff Sr. Sucks 🚓Engagement Talk 🌯Quick-Hitters 👋 From what I know of Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr. of Belmont, NY, he was kind of a douche. The 81-year-old man died on June 27. I never met him. Never even heard of him. Until I read his obit. And about that obit?…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Travelling Companion🚓Free Beans 🌯Unfollowed 👋 Brandy Bottone is either stupid or brilliant. Whichever it is, she’s also right. The Texas woman was traveling in the HOV lane — which, for the country folk out there, stands for High Occupancy Vehicle and is reserved for cars with two or more people to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Slots 🎰Dude Perfect ⚽Bye Bye Facebook? 👋 My mother-in-law (AKA The Judester) is nearly 81 years old and has knee problems that keep her from getting around too well these days. Watching her stand up from a chair is to feel pain yourself. Yet when I walked into the Ameristar casino…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Reflections on Grandma 👵Kids & Death 👨👦👦Don’t Say It 🤫 My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sleepwalking 🧨DnD Gang 🎲Gas Idiots 🛢️ If there were a day-by-day measure of the collective output of workers in these here United States of Amuricah (and for all I know, there is), I would venture to guess that July 5 ain’t our most productive day. I base this on my observations…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stupid Parade 🧨Math Matters ➗What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Not being a hugely patriotic person at this point in my life, I made no plans to go to any Fourth of July parade this year. It seems mighty foolish to be celebrating freedoms that are eroding right before our eyes, though I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone Time, Girl Time 👩👧Picture Hanger🔨What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Wifey Poo and I found ourselves in an interesting position at home today for a little bit: Alone. Boy The Elder took off for Six Flags with his buds, and Boy The Younger left with a friend and his family (Chicken Owner,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oil Change 👨🔧Goose Lover🛦Church & State⛪ Based on my history, the last place anyone should ever look for me is underneath a car. Yet that’s where I found myself late this morning, side-by-side with Boy The Elder as he showed me exactly how stupid I’ve been all my life. I’m not…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Media Bias 📰Rudy’s Sandals 🩴Lack of Faith ⚖️ I’ve watched with interest the blowback against newspaper tyrant Gannett following its reminder to its journalists in the wake of the Supreme Court’s undoing of Roe v. Wade that they are not to take sides on social media. “You cannot use social media…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Censorship 🍈🍈Newspaper Talk 📰Toothbrush 🦷 I did my first actual “work” thing at my new job yesterday. The first two-plus days have been filled with meeting new people and learning about the kazillion awesome products we sell so I can talk somewhat intelligently about what we do. But then Nu Bossman…Keep reading