Strangers Say The Strangest Things

humor, life, never talk to strangers, Modern PhilosopherI don’t know about you, but I was raised to never talk to strangers, Modern Philosophers.

This is a philosophy that has kept me from being kidnapped and murdered over the years, but I also know there are times when not every stranger is a danger.

As an introvert who’s working on being more social, I understand that I’m never going to meet new people if I refuse to ever speak to them.

So when I’m out on a run or a walk, I will say hello to the people I pass on the street.

Of course, these are very brief encounters, and I am already on the move to help prevent being snatched up and thrown into a windowless van, so I don’t consider it very risky.

After an encounter I had yesterday morning, however, I might want to go back to my strict no talking to stranger policy.

It was about 9am, and I was out on my morning run.

There was a light rain falling.

I was on one of the busiest streets in town, but there is a wide shoulder, so the traffic doesn’t bother me.

I run against the flow of vehicles, so that I can always see what’s coming at me, and have the ability to jump up onto the sidewalk to avoid danger.

I’m just running and minding my own business.  Enjoying the quiet.  Thinking that the rain is very refreshing.

I hear a car coming up behind me, and then in my peripheral vision, I see it pull abreast with me and then stop.

So this vehicle has just stopped on a very busy road.

The driver, a blonde woman who I would guess is in her fifties, yells out to me, “You wanna beer?  It’s gonna be a hot one!”

humor, life, never talk to strangers, Modern PhilosopherShe remains there, stopped in traffic, staring at me, and awaiting my response.

I blurt out, “No thanks”, and offer a “Please leave me the @#$% alone” smile, and just keep running.

She cackles like a witch (clearly an evil one) and then speeds off.

There are so many thoughts zigzagging around in my head at this point.  They include, by are not limited to:

What the @#$% just happened?

Who’s stops a car on a busy street to offer a total stranger a beer?

Who is drinking a beer at nine in the morning?

Who drives around with beer in the car to give out to strangers?

Why would someone trying to be healthy want a beer?

Who chats up a runner from a vehicle?

Did she have any Snapple?

What might be even crazier, is that the Beer Witch, as I will forever think of her, wasn’t the first stranger in a car this week to stop me during a run to chat me up.

On Tuesday, when it was much hotter, an old man, who had to be in his seventies, pulled up next to me to ask directions.

humor, life, never talk to strangers, Modern PhilosopherWhile I wanted to snap back that I wasn’t a human GPS, I was just too hot to be mean and witty at the moment.

Plus he was just this sweet, little old man.

That’s probably what all his previous victims thought before he brutally murdered them…

The really annoying thing was that he was asking for directions to a building that was just up the block from The House on the Hill.

I was so out of it after running three miles in the heat, though, and a little turned around and unclear as to where I was, that I gave him very complicated directions.

What I should have done was told him to crank up the car’s AC, give me a ride, and I’d take him to his destination.

Again, probably exactly what he was hoping for to make it easier for him to kill me.

So I sent him off on a very circuitous route, and got the hell out of there before he could pull out his chloroform or a weapon to force me into the trunk.

What’s the fascination with talking to a complete stranger, who is clearly focused on his run and not looking to strike up a conversation?

These are not two isolated incidents, either.  I have been stopped at least a dozen times in the past year for directions.

This, however, was the only time I’ve been offered a beer.

humor, life, never talk to strangers, Modern PhilosopherI guess I just have one of those faces.

I look like I know my way around, would stop to answer a question, and seem harmless.

But people should know better.

The sweaty, exhausted runner is a perfect disguise for a serial killer seeking his next victim.

Didn’t anyone ever teach these people to never talk to strangers???

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Even Vacations Have Mondays

life, humor, Modern PhilosophersI stayed up late last night watching the Yankees game, Modern Philosophers, because I am on vacation and didn’t have to get up early to heed Monday’s call.

I don’t run on Mondays, so my only obligation was to be up by 10:00 because the guy from the oil company was company to clean the furnace.

So I enjoyed the Yankees’ fourth consecutive win, and then settled in for a peaceful night’s slumber without needing to set the alarm clock.

Until I was rudely awakened at 7:30 this morning by a pounding at the front door.

One of The House on the Hill’s most popular features is the lack of a doorbell.  It befuddles solicitors, and usually sends them scurrying on their way without pestering me.

I also latch my screen door, which prevents anyone from knocking on the front door.

But this person was pounding away at the screen door like he either had the most urgent news to deliver, or was extremely eager to being the process of murdering me.

I crawled out of bed, and peeked out the hallway window.  The service van from the heating oil company was parked in my driveway.

Two and a half hours early.

I stumbled down the stairs, still in my pajamas, glasses not on, and glowered at the blurry, overly peppy guy who was out on my porch.

He excitedly told me that he had a cancellation and wanted to get my job out of the way if it was alright with me.

Whatever, dude.

Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something very important?

So I let him into the basement to do his thing.

life, humor, Modern PhilosophersIt’s not like I could go back to bed.

There’s a stranger with a toolbox in the house. I’ve seen and written enough scary movies to know you don’t let down your guard in that scenario.

Plus, he made so much noise, which led to the cats freaking out.

I had breakfast, watched TV, and told the skittish kitties a hundred times that the man in the basement was not there to hurt them.

Now that he’s gone, after what sounded like an hour and a half of vacuuming and trudging up and down the basement stairs, I’m too awake to return to slumber land.

I decided to go for a long walk to burn off my bagel, and to give that icky, oily smell in the basement some time to dissipate.

The good news is, it gave me a jump start on my day, and inspired a blog post.

The bad news is, I’m not as handsome as I should be because I lost out on two hours of beauty sleep.

But at least that chore is out of the way, so there is one less stranger in the house to worry about over my vacation.

Now that my brain is in creative mode, I can switch gears and get to work on the second episode of my TV series.  Does the show need a bubbly maintenance guy who shows up at all hours to add a little levity?

No, it does not.  I might not have gotten a full night’s sleep, but I’m not that tired.

Monday, life, humor, Modern PhilosophersThe moral of the story?

Even vacations have Mondays.

Hope your Monday is off to an exciting start!

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Waking Up On Vacation

vacation, life, humor, Modern PhilosopherNot much beats the feeling of waking up and realizing that you are on vacation, Modern Philosophers.

Don’t be jealous.  I work very hard and I deserve a little time off to rest my brain.

Let’s be honest, though.  I’m not going to rest my brain much for the next ten days, but I will be putting it to much better use.  Because I’ll be writing all day, and not wasting brain cells on much not related to writing.

As always, people asked me if I had any plans for my vacation, and I just handed them a business card with my usual answer typed on it in an easy to read font…

NOT GOING TO WORK

I find the cards make life easier and keep me from repeating myself.  Plus, I got a really great deal on them at Staples, and they even laminated them for free.

You can’t beat that!

My vacation plan is simple: relax, write, run, and watch the Yankees.

vacation, life, humor, Modern PhilosopherI’m totally executing that plan to this point.  I ran 7.4 miles this morning.  I just finished watching the Yankees beat the Orioles, and now I’m relaxing out on the front porch while I write this blog post.

Day One and this vacation is a huge success!

When people inevitably ask me how running 7.4 miles is relaxing, I will answer that if I hadn’t been on vacation, I obviously would’ve run 7.5 miles.

Seriously!

Of course, my main goal is to crank out Episode 2 of my TV Series about my life in college.  That’s been percolating in my brain ever since I put the final touches on the Pilot.

It has been so much fun discussing the Pilot with my friends Dave and Fitz, who were the inspiration for two of the show’s main characters.  It puts me in a very creative state of mind to talk it out with them, and it makes this whole project seem much more real.

We are chatting about characters, their arcs, and potential story lines as if this show is moving forward.  Definitely provides me with all the motivation I need.

vacation, life, humor, Modern PhilosopherThe MLB Network has also made the great decision to broadcast the Yankees almost every day of my vacation.  I guess it was a good idea for me to send them all those letters demanding that they show my favorite team during my time off.

And they say no one listens anymore…

I’m not sure if I will be blogging much during my vacation, but if you don’t hear from me, it just means that writing Episode Two is taking up most of my time.

Just assume I’m out here on the porch of The House on the Hill, sipping a Snapple, and writing a TV show that you are definitely going to want to watch.

I hope you are all having a great weekend, because I definitely am!

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The Pilot Is Written!

humor, writing, TV Pilot, NYU, Modern PhilosopherGreat news from The House on the Hill, Modern Philosophers…

I have completed the first draft of my TV Pilot.

It took me less than a week to crank out this first episode, and I would have been done even sooner had I not had to work four days at my non-writing job.

I put the finishing touches on the first draft last night, and then did a read through and quick polish today.  Before I show it to my Producer, I’ve decided to entrust it to two of my college buddies to see what they think.

After all, these friends are the basis for two of the main characters in he script, so I’m eager to get their feedback before I put it in front of professional eyes.

For those of you who have not been following the story, I’ve decided that the world needs a TV series based upon my days in college.  I had first come up with the idea shortly after graduation, but this version of the story is much different, now that my college memories have become much hazier.

Okay, that last part was a joke.  However, this series would be very different from the idea I worked on when I was in my twenties.  While that would’ve been a half hour sitcom, this incarnation is an hour long dramedy.

I’m not surprised that the script spilled out of my head and onto the page so quickly.  The idea for the story had been percolating in my brain for a couple of weeks, and I had gone so for as to write up an outline, which is totally out of character for me.

Even though I had a clear plan for the Pilot, I am excited to say that I ended up adding a couple of new scenes, and a character who was not supposed to appear until later in the series, because creativity just took over.

While I was writing all week, ideas for subsequent episodes kept popping into my head.  I will definitely have enough material for a series, and I’m sure my old college friends will keep popping up on Facebook to share memories that they think should be included.

humor, writing, TV Pilot, NYU, Modern PhilosopherOf course, as I pointed out to my buddy Fitz last night, this is not a documentary.  The series is inspired by my years at NYU, but it is also a work of fiction.  So not everything in the script actually happened, but there is definitely some real life experience in those pages.

In fact, the very first scene in the Pilot is about something very embarrassing that that happened to me on move in day of my Freshman year.

It has been a blast strolling down Memory Lane again, even if this journey back to Washington Square Park has led to some very vivid nightmares about a certain someone I met at NYU.

I’m excited to hear what my friends think, and I can’t wait to send the Pilot to my Producer.  We did chat about it the other day, and he told me he couldn’t wait to read it.

I’m having so much fun working on this, that I might just keep going and get to work on the next episode.  It’s always good to be positive, plus The House on the Hill is much more alive these days with all these characters running around in my head…

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The Morning I Went For Two Runs

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherI went for two runs this morning, Modern Philosophers.

That wasn’t at all the plan, of course, but that’s what happens when Mother Nature decides to get involved in my fitness routine.

When I left The House on the Hill for what will now be forever known as “Run #1”, a light drizzle was falling.  That wasn’t a problem because I figured it would keep me cool over the six or so miles I planned to cover.

I always cut up and down side streets at the start of a run, and I had almost two miles on my FitBit when the skies opened and a torrential downpour began to pound the blacktop.

I knew I’d never make it another four miles without either drowning or being washed away, so I shifted gears from a steady, six mile pace to full sprint mode.

Luckily, because of all the side street work, I was only about three-quarters of a mile from home.  And I needed to be that close because I have never seen so much rain fall in such a short period of time.

I raced for The House on the Hill, but could not outrun the deep puddles and little rivers that had already formed.  My socks and sneakers were soaked.  I had to wring out the water from my shirt and shorts.  My hat felt ten pounds heavier from all the rain it had absorbed.  I couldn’t see because my glasses were covered in raindrops.

I might have looked something like this when I finally reached the safety of my porch…

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherI’d only gone 2.75 miles, though, which isn’t nearly enough for a Saturday morning run.

Now the old Austin would have been fine with that distance, and seen the torrential rain as a sign from the fitness gods that I wasn’t meant to run today.

But I knew that I had more work ahead of me.

So I sat on the front porch and waited out the storm.  The rain was relentless, and I knew that I had definitely made the right decision in heading for home.

After about half an hour, the clouds finally ran out of precipitation.  I had managed to dry off pretty well in that time, so I stretched a little and hit the road again.

I’d never gone for two runs in the same morning, and I wasn’t sure how to approach it, or how my body would react.

I decided to just run my normal route, and let my body tell me when it was time to turn around and head for home.

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherI ended up doing almost four miles the second time around, and was much dryer when I returned to The House on the Hill.

It was incredibly satisfying to know that I could get out there twice.

I was pleased with myself for wanting to run a second time because I had every excuse I needed to call it a day once the rains came.

So if you ever need an extra little push to be active, think about the morning I went for two runs…

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Opening Pandora’s Dream Box

Pandora's Box, NYU, dreams, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherI’m on a creative roll, Modern Philosophers.

Yesterday, I sat out on the porch and started writing the pilot episode of the TV series about my time in college.

I churned out seventeen pages, but was constantly rewriting along the way.  On top of that, I outlined ideas for the rest of the pilot, as well as for further episodes.

When I went to bed, I tossed and turned as I mentally plotted out the upcoming scenes I planned to write today.  Everything was so clear in my head, and I was tempted to get out of bed and just keep writing.

I am off today, so after feeding the kitties, I headed back out to the porch, still in my pajamas, and picked up where I left off yesterday.

But let’s rewind for a moment and talk about what happened last night after my mind finally slowed down enough for me to fall asleep.

I had the most vivid dreams about life at NYU.

The big dream, and the one that’s still sitting with me today, involved my ex-wife.  We were still married, but she was breaking the news to me that she wanted a divorce.

Pandora's Box, NYU, dreams, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherFifteen years after my divorce, I’m still having nightmares about my ex ending our marriage, and silly me is trying to get her to change her mind.

I knew that writing about my college days would conjure up all sorts of memories, but I was hoping they would be more of the “happy, happy, joy, joy” category, rather than about the woman who crushed my heart.

Yes, I did meet my ex-wife at NYU.  She was a cute Freshman on the Swim Team before she grew up to be my ex-wife.

The thing is, I haven’t even introduced her character yet.  In fact, I’m not even sure she will make it into the pilot.  I will probably put her in the big party scene just so I can say she was in the first episode, but my point is, I shouldn’t be dreaming about her.

Not yet at least.

I haven’t even unlocked those memories for the page yet.  Good lord, does that mean the dreams will get even worse once I start writing about her?

Gulp!

Pandora's Box, NYU, dreams, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherFor your enjoyment, and to help distract myself from my dreams, I dug out some old graduation day photos to use for this post.  I hope you enjoy them.

I had quite the fashion sense back in those days, didn’t I?

I think I can put up with the dreams for now while I write the pilot.  However, if this gets picked up as a series, I might need to find a way to keep myself from dreaming.

After all, it’s one thing to break my heart in real life, but it’s an entirely different matter to do it night after night when I’m just trying to get some sleep.

The good news is that the ideas are flowing faster than I can type them.  At this rate, I should have a first draft done by next weekend.

Assuming, of course, that I’m able to get some sleep along the way…

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Don’t Disturb The Writer!

short story, writing, The Devil, humor, Modern PhilosopherI can always tell when The Devil is staring.

It is a sensation one does not soon forget, and it is also annoying as Hell.

“Did you need something?” I asked without looking up from my laptop.

I was out on the porch, working on the pilot for the TV show about my college years.  He was inside The House on the Hill, on the other side of the screen door, looking out at me like some sort of weirdo.

“Just checking if you needed anything,” Lucifer replied.  “Perhaps an ice cold Snapple might get the creative juices flowing.”

“Already got one,” I told him and held up my bottle of Snapple as proof.

Sure, I felt bad.  Sunday was the day The Prince of Darkness visited every week, but I never know when inspiration is going to hit.

I’ve been plotting out this pilot for weeks, and just waiting for the right moment to sit down and churn out the pages.  Today just happened to be that day, and I’d been out on the porch for hours.

The ideas were just flowing, and I didn’t have time to sit on the couch and shoot the shit with my Sunday guest.

“How is the writing going?” Satan asked in a tone that clearly announced he was desperate for attention and human contact.

“Why don’t you come out here for a second and chat?” I offered because even though I don’t like to be disturbed when I’m writing, I’m not completely heartless.

short story, writing, The Devil, humor, Modern PhilosopherThe Devil bounded out onto a porch like a puppy excited to see its master after weeks of separation.

As always, he was well dressed in an impeccably tailored suit.

“You really have been busy,” Lucifer observed.

“Thirteen pages so far,” I updated him.  “But you know my process.  I write a little, then go back and edit.  I’ve rewritten the opening scene three times.”

The Prince of Darkness flashed a charming smile, delighted to be let in on the creative process.  “So you’re happy with what you’ve written?”

He pulled up a chair next to mine, and took a long sip of the Snapple that he had originally offered me.

It was my turn to smile.  “Yes, I am.  I mean, I’ve had this pilot playing in my head on an endless loop for months.  Slowly, I’ve tinkered with it.  Adding scenes.  Tweaking characters.  Fiddling with the order of events.  I always want it to be perfect before I ever put the first word on the page.”

“I definitely admire your process,” Satan admitted.  “You really allow the story to percolate before you even dream of putting it on paper.”

“And even with it so well thought out, things change the moment I start writing,” I confessed.  “I knew how my character was going to meet Dave’s, but I had no idea the way the scene was going to end until I was writing it.  I just let the words guide me.”

“So have you told Dave that his character has been brought to life?” The Devil inquired.

“Oh, he knows,” I answered with a chuckle.  “He had some questions that I was willing to answer about his character, and others that I would not.  We also had a nice chat about two characters that are partially based on our friends, but also figments of my imagination.  It was a big help to talk them out a little and get a better grasp of who they are within the story.”

“How about Fitz?” Lucifer queried.  “Have you let him loose on the page yet?”

“Not yet,” I answered with a silly smile on my face.  “The world of my pilot is chaotic enough as it is at this point.  Why make it crazier by unleashing Fitz?”

We both had a good laugh at my old friend’s expense.

I glanced down at my laptop’s screen.  The pilot was beckoning me.

“I’ve bothered you enough,” The Prince of Darkness acknowledged.  “Get back to work before the creative juices dry up, and you blame me for your writer’s block.”

short story, writing, The Devil, humor, Modern Philosopher“Thanks for checking on me.  And for understanding the writing process.”

“Hell is full of writers, who sold their souls for a little success,” Satan informed me.  “I know how to deal with your kind.”

He laughed and vanished into the house.

Finally, I had some peace and quiet.  Time to play with my characters again, and to rewrite history to my liking…

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