Wednesday, July 20, 2011

LSE #1: 3 Months Expired.

     There was a period in my life where every week on Thursday, I would be asked to briefly describe a "lens shaping experience" in my life. The idea is that everyone sees life through a lens that shapes their interpretations of experiences, people, ideologies and any other aspects of living. Now, any logical person would consider this concept, and realize after the slightest amount of thought that any given experience in life would shape a persons lens. The idea behind this exercise, however, wasn't to enlighten us on the existence of lens shaping experiences, as much as it was to force us to recognize them. In that spirit, I intend to regularly post descriptions of events in my life, and the shape my lens has taken as a result.
     During my first year at Ohio Northern, I did not live where I lived. My parents were paying for a room in an on-campus dorm which had a bed, my computer, and my then-small movie collection, but I didn't spend any time there. Shortly after arriving at Ohio Northern, I located someone I knew from high school remotely well, and latched on to him and his lifestyle. He was a member of the fraternity that I would soon pledge, and in which I would grow through my college experience. He lived in the fraternity's house, and I quickly developed friendships with everyone else who lived there. Before long, even though I slept in my campus dorm room, I lived at the house of Sigma Theta Epsilon.
     What I mean by this is that every day, after class, I would make my way to the house (which we affectionately called it,) instead of going to my room. I would eat the food we got from Taco Bell there, hang out with the guys, and sometimes even got schoolwork done there. I became enough of a fixture in the house that when a terrible ice storm hit Ada, and all the power was gone from the town, closing down the school and requiring the students to evacuate to home, the guys waited an extra 3 hours for me to arrive before they left.
    Needless to say, I loved spending my time at the house. The guys in the house, however, didn't always have the greatest of interpersonal relationships. On one particular evening, the house manager was angry at the residents of the house who were neglecting to do their chores. As a means of punishment, he decided to disconnect both the cable and internet from the house until the chores had been done.
     Now, the reasonable, responsible thing to do as a resident of the house (technically,) would have been to have simply done the chores and get our provisions back. My closest friends and I, however, decided that this would be giving in to the oppressive ways of authority, and we would have absolutely none of that. We, therefore, decided to borrow an alumni brother's DVD collection of the TV show Viva La Bam, and watch that for the remainder of the day.
     Later in the day- probably around 9 or 10 in the evening- I decided to write a short paper I had due the following day. I borrowed a brother's computer, and began to write. About 5 minutes into my room I heard a huge commotion from outside the room. There was rustling from the other side of the wall, followed by the loud thumping of someone running down the stairs. This person was screaming as he ran, and I immediately identified him as a brother we called Baseball. Whatever he was excited about, I decided it was in my best interest to stay at my borrowed computer, and finish my paper.
     Although I wasn't there, I have heard the story a million times. As it turns out, Baseball was obeying the warning carried out by the house manager, and had been cleaning out a fridge we kept in an upstairs common room. In the process, he came across several expired items, but none so wild as a half gallon of milk, completely unopened, that had expired in February. This whole event happened in late May. As I sat diligently writing, I plot was taking shape beneath my feet.
    When Baseball showed his new found treasure to the other brothers, they decided that something fantastic needed to be done with it. The obvious solution was to break the jug to spill its putrefied contents in a creative way. After a short period of deliberation, the brothers involved decided that the jug needed to be launched into the parking lot of the Hardees restaurant behind the house.
     The idea was to build a contraption that would launch the payload in a beautiful trajectory to hopefully hit some kind of target. They ventured into the house's basement, which was, and remains to this day, filled with an incredible variety of things. They emerged with a sawhorse, a 2x4 plank, a short length of binding twine and a cinder block. All of this was used to construct a catapult. They positioned the wood on the sawhorse, put the milk on the low end, tied the cinder block to the high end with the twine, thinking that it would help their aim, and attempted to lob the block onto the end.
      The first attempted resulted in an overshot of the cinder block. It hit at the fulcrum of their lever and somehow rolled off without breaking the milk. A second attempt with the same set up saw the cinder block hit precisely where it had been intended. The integrity of the wood, however, hadn't been taken into account. The 2x4 snapped down the middle, and the milk barely moved. They also attempted to launch the milk with a similar set up using a PVC pipe instead of wood. This resulted in the PVC pipe bending down to the ground, and the milk once again remaining unmoved.
     At this point, Timmy, the alumni brother from whom we had borrowed the DVDs, started getting frustrated. He grabbed a wood splitting maul from the side of the house, and took a run at the milk jug in a manner resembling the 90s comedy classic Happy Gilmore. During his run, the head flew off the maul, and he ended up whacking the jug with the handle. Not much really happens when you whack a jug with a wooden handle when you had intended on hitting it with a heavy metal axe head. In the words of Timmy in his own written reflection of this whole event: "this milk would not die."
     Finally, Timmy decided to return to the short length of twine. He tied it around the end of the jug, and whirled the whole thing around his head as if he were an Olympic hammer thrower. I feel now is a good time to remind you that I had not actually been there for this event, but the image of Timmy whirling that milk around his head that i have in my mind could be baked onto an ancient Greek vase. He released the milk and it flew perfectly over the fence right into the corner.
     The boys took turns moving toward the impact zone and breathing deep, daring and cajoling one another to see who could withstand the stench for the longest. It is my understanding that Timmy was the champion of this contest, after having read what he had written on the subject.
     It was right around that time when I was finishing up my paper. It was also right around that time that one of the brothers- the one I had known in high school- decided that I needed to experience their terrible smell. He came in the house just as I was coming down the stairs and told me I needed to come with him. He brought me out behind the house where everyone was standing, and told me to stand for as long as I could with my hand on the corner of the fence (the opposite side from where the milk had hit.) I shrugged my left shoulder, true to habit, and stood by the fence. A few seconds in, the others started to look disappointed. I smelled nothing, and was incredibly confused. They told me the entire story of the milk, the failed attempts, and the dares to stand in its stench. I had not just missed the action; I had missed the smell altogether.
     I was very disappointed to have missed this event. It was talked about for the entire remainder of my college experience. In fact, it's still talked about. I had missed possibly the most memorable thing with which I had been involved.
     Since I had driven my car to the house at some point, and wanted to get my car back to the parking lot by my dorm room, I drove back to campus that night. It's only a mile, but sometimes I wanted to have my transportation nearby. I do enjoy driving, after all. When I got out of my car, I paused for a moment to look at the stars. I do that often. As I paused, I noticed something strange. There was an odd scent on the air that smelled just a little like curdled milk.

Sometimes, doing the proper thing means missing the things you would otherwise have remembered most. When there's something worth distraction, get distracted by it. There will be time to be responsible afterward.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So There Was This One Time I Created a Blog

    So there was this one time when I created a blog. I imagined it as a near supernatural incentive to begin writing again at length, the way I used to around the end of high school through my first year of college (or 2/3 year of college as it turned out.) I even went and wrote a long manifesto of how I would write regularly, and every word would be dripping with pure, distilled genius. You can read that post here:
     Needless to say, all that writing has not yet come into being. The blog I created sits unattended in a cluttered corner of internet things I never use like my Hotmail account, Myspace and Xanga. Every now and then, I'll get an idea of a topic that would produce an amazing short piece of writing, but by the time I reach my computer, the whole thought is muddled and mangled by so many other things that my attempts to put it into words result in shit that I'm embarrassed to even acknowledge. Yes, I am embarrassed right now at having acknowledged said shit.
     All of this leads me to wonder why I don't just write something for the sake of writing more often. It doesn't have to be some kind of brilliant masterpiece. I just want to have some words out there for people to read sometimes. In fact, someone I care about recently said just that to me: I need to just write. After all my earlier promises of material, every day I go without writing something, the more I will feel pressure to produce something amazing. In the spirit of that thought, I decided to examine a week of my life with absolutely zero writing involved to find out what exactly I'm doing otherwise. This isn't an excuse as much as it is an exploration. I will be remembering the events of this past week from last Tuesday to today as I write. The good news is that last week was, for the most part, extremely boring, so you have lots of exaggeration to look forward to. The bad news is that last week was extremely boring, so this post might turn out to be extremely boring. So, without any further delay, I give you a week in the life of Hozer where he didn't write anything.
      When I woke up the power was out. It had been out when I had returned home the night before, and it was still out. The house was starting to get muggy and there was no internet so I went to work. I roasted in the heat all day, working ropes courses and came back home. When I returned, the power had come back on, and the air conditioning was starting to cool the place down a bit. It felt like the sensation you get after a day of physical labor and you first lay down. I quickly fell asleep, and woke up an hour after camp dinner had been served. Having nothing to eat in my pantry and fridge, I hopped in my car (which also didn't have air conditioning because it had gone out the day before,) and drove to Clarksville to pick up a cheese burger. When I got home, I turned on Netflix so I could watch a show while I ate. That one show turned into a short marathon (I think it was an X Men cartoon.) At around 11:30, I decided to go to bed so I watched one more episode and hit the sack.
     At this point, it's safe to assume that every week day, I worked until 5:00. Also, I went to camp dinner every night from Wednesday to Friday so my descriptions of the days will, from this point on, begin at about 6 PM.
     After work on Wednesday, I spent some time studying for the GRE. After a few hours, I went out to the porch of my house to take a phone call. While out there, I heard voices from down by the farmhouse. For those of you who don't know the layout of Camp Joy's residences, the farm house is the next house south from where I live. As I looked to see if I could tell who was there, I spotted Max, my friend Travis's little dog. As soon as he noticed me, he stopped and stared for a second. He barked once, suspecting me to be a stranger approaching, and upon realizing who I was, he ran forward and attempted to wrestle for a brief moment. He quickly decided against wrestling and found a stick to devour, so I went and said hi to Matt and Travis who were standing by the house. We had a fun night of hanging out, drinking a few beers and playing video games until Travis's sugar crashed. I grabbed him some food, and also my guitar, and sat around while he recovered from his sickly state, picking around. Travis left once he felt better, and Matt and I entartained ourselves with some video games until bed time.
     On Thursday, a new toy came into my life. I got my hands on a brand spankin' new Xbox. I had 3 games to test out, so I did my best to get a half hour of play in on them before leaving for Monroe. In Monroe, I saw my closest friends in the first time in nearly a month, and enjoyed some good deep conversation over scripture and a few beers. This, of course, came after some good stupid conversation about a bevvy of things I can't even remember except that I enjoyed them thoroughly. On my way home, I stopped off at Wal Mart in Lebanon to grab a rechargable battery for my Xbox controller and some toilet paper, waited way too long  in line for the register, and returned home at about 11:30. Of course, I couldn't bear to leave my Xbox sit for another day before playing it again, so I played some Fallout until finally turning in at 1, accepting that Friday would be a sleepy day.
     And it was. I decided to drive to the ropes course instead of walking from the parking lot to the pool house as usual. On the way, I was stopped by Nicole, our intervention specialist who, in a very serious tone, said "Harry Potter tonight. Don't go running off without us." She pointed at me with an accusatory finger as I drove off. I wonder if anything in my character would have suggested to her that I would jump the gun, and leave to go see a movie on my own, leaving a large group of friends behind. When I got home after work, I realized that I had no idea when we were supposed to meet, but assumed they would swing down to get me. They all know where I live, after all. At about 6, I turned down an offer for dinner from my sister who was speaking for my father. It's all just as well. I had eaten earlier. Finally, at around 9:00, I resigned myself to the knowledge that I had missed the bus for the movie. Eric from camp had come down to visit in his boredom, so we played some Xbox games, I had a talk with an old friend from college, and I went to bed.
     Saturday I woke up and decided to get some cleaning done. I tidied up some of the stuff in my room, and threw together a load of clothes to be washed. Once the clothes were safely in the washer, I turned on the video games to pass the time until I needed to move them to the dryer. An hour later, I went to check on them, and they were already in the dryer. My housemate Bobbi had to do some laundry, so she had moved them. I went back to my game, and another hour or so later, Bobbi came up the stairs from the basement and told me that the clothes were on the table. Deciding that I had played way too many video games, I grabbed the pile of clothes, threw on a fresh outfit and hopped in my car to visit my Dad. At home, we talked about various things involving the next steps my life is taking, and once these conversations were done, were both entirely absorbed into a tv show called Swamp People. My brother came down from Columbus to visit as well, and got caught in the same television trap as me and my Dad, and about an hour later we decided we should get some food. Another half hour of indecision later, we hopped in the car with no destination in mind, and started driving to town. Finally we stopped at a bar where my sister joined us. We talked, ate and had a pretty good time, and afterwards, I joined both my brother and sister and my brother's girfriend's family in watching Harry Potter using tickes my Dad decided to buy for us. After the movie, we went back home, and I decided to drive back to camp to go to sleep.
     I turned off my alarm in my sleep Sunday morning, and I had only set one instead of my usual 3. At 9, I woke up, looked at my clock and realized how late it was. My best friend was preaching his first ever service as a church pastor, and the service was beginning at that very moment. I hopped out of bed, threw on the same outfit I had worn the day before and made it to Xenia in record time, arriving just in time to catch the end of Drock's personal introduction to the church, and the beginning of his sermon. Afterwards, I went out with Drock and his family to eat at a little tavern in Yellow Springs where Rock's brother cooks. On the way out of town, we looked across the road from the tavern and spotted Dave Chapelle sitting around and talking with some locals. It was pretty cool, but we didn't make too much of a fuss about it. When we got back to Rock's parents house, we hung out for about another half hour, and I went home. I played some more Xbox, studied a little more for the GRE, and went to bed.
     Monday night's dinner was fantastic. We had Skyline chili brought in by Cincinnati Children's Hospital for their kids who are here for camp this week. I enjoyed the biggest 3 way I have ever eaten while taking in the entertainment of watching 2 coworkers who had never eaten Skyline in their lives. After that, I fell headfirst into another lazy night, and went to bed.
     That brings us up to speed for the week. In retrospect, I wasted a ton of time last week. Any of that time when I was watching TV or playing video games, I could have easily written something down. As  for my goal for this week: I want to write something new every day. It's probably going to be simple, stupid and short, but at least it will work me toward getting into the grove of writing some stuff again. Hopefully, with the changes next year are sure to bring, I will be able to bring back a passion for words that seems to have faded from my mind.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Inaguration and Intent

     Some 5 years ago, my first computer began to malfunction. In frustration, I decided to reformat the hard drive, losing its contents, but saving my computer. Prior to this event, I had a pastime of writing short stories. I would regularly sit down, write something simple, and save it, intending to return and clean it up at some point. Sadly, a reasonable sized collection of material was lost, and along with it I lost my enthusiasm for writing. Losing so much work was heartbreaking, and I soon moved on to cultivating other talents.
     For the past 2 years now, I have been living in the woods, working with children. Often, this kind of work can be very inspiring, but it can also be extremely draining on both my physical and emotional constitutions. Furthermore, I recently was enlightened to the fact that I am not alone in noticing how much I am affected when life gets too stressful. There are a lot of people out there who count on me to be my best all of the time. I want to be enthusiastic and energetic in all aspects of my life, and I don't want to have daily stress diminish the kind of person I know I can be. I am creating this Blogger in hopes that having the means by which to "publish" my work will prompt me to return to taking time to calm down and write more often. After all, what good is an incredibly inspirational lifestyle if you don't use that inspiration now and then.
     I chose my blog's name because I am not a famous writer. I do, however, have a reasonably strong command over the language after several years of English study, and a few writing workshops full of vicious critics (some of whom, I hope, will read this.) Charles Dickens' first publication was an unpaid compilation of short stories titled Sketches by Boz. (You can feel free to look up the story behind that title on your own time.)
      My hope for this page is to capture that spirit of writing for the purpose of writing. As Dickens wasn't paid for anything in Sketches by Boz, I don't intend to be paid for anything in Sketches by Hoz. This is just me writing because I want to write. There may be nonfiction writing, essays on a topic of interest, short fiction, or developments on and future chapters of said short fiction which build it into longer fiction. My purpose, however is simple: to write, and to have others read what I have written.
     I therefore welcome you to Sketches by Hoz. I look forward to writing more in the future, and for the opportunity to hear feedback from anyone who reads my material. I will try to post as much as I can, so check back regularly, and don't forget to comment. I always appreciate criticism.