Celebrating My Hekoya Nature

A friend told me today about the Native American archetype of hekoya. He described it as, “When the crowd goes right, the hekoya goes left.”[1]

[1]: (Wikipedia’s further description: The heyókȟa is a kind of sacred clown… [that] symbolizes and portrays many aspects of the sacred beings… [their] satire presents important questions by fooling around. They ask difficult questions, and say things others are too afraid to say. Their behavior poses questions as do Zen koans. By reading between the lines, the audience is able to think about things not usually thought about, or to look at things in a different way.)

In the spirit of the hekoya, I shall now celebrate my oddness. Here are things that I did today [well, yesterday as of posting this] that are completely reasonable and yet most people might find odd. Go, verily, and lead a more satisfying life:

  1. Drove 4hrs with a dear friend who dropped me off and then immediately hightailed her way back, thinking little of the gift. (As she described it, “I have a lot of books [to listen to on the drive]”). 
  2. Moved a bed into a closet and hung blackout curtains so I can sleep at my parents’ place in complete darkness.
  3. Bought a 65” flat-screen TV for my parents’ house, which I will only be in for ~2 months. (Gotta make your space your own!)
  4. Thought that buying a TV was weird (this thinking is perhaps more weirder than the buying… as I have never bought a TV. The only TV I have ever owned was an inherited little 15-inch doohickey installed by the guy who built out my camper van. (He used it, I assume, when he lived in the van. I used it a total of 3 times… ever… and it was… fine.). 

Pics of my new closet-room:

Now go, my children, and be the hekoya you were always meant to be.*

*: Most of you were not meant to be hekoya. Tough titties. It’s fuckin’ great.

A Chaotic Neutral Grocery List

A Chaotic Neutral Grocery List

  • Peachy-O’s stuck to the points on an aloe 
  • Hot Wheels cars joined as a bathroom mat
  • Cigarettes before bed, but not after sex
  • Cats in tiny bikinis 
  • Ringing the doorbell instead of calling upon arrival 
  • Toe socks*
  • Thinly veiled criticism 
  • Mr. Pibb instead of Dr. Pepper 
  • Not complimenting another drunk girl in the bathroom 
  • Arguments with your mom but not with your lover
  • “Enjoy your meal!” and responding “you too.” 

*Remind Chaotic Evil to pick up toe shoes

This guest post brought to you by Maggie “Maximal Awesomeness” Harper.

Two Delightful Ditties

I started a writing group. It was awesome. In our first meeting, we completed three 10 minute writing sprints, each followed by responses from peers. Here, my delightful darlings, you may find two of those creations:

Prompt 1: Picture an object from your childhood. Write something involving or inspired by it. 

I’m two years old and in a swing. A duck swing. A goofy, yellow duck swing. My sister stands behind me, pushing. I don’t have a fond memory of this first memory of my life but hey, isn’t that fitting for a constructed memory? See: 

I don’t actually remember being in that swing. I don’t feel my sister standing over me. I don’t feel what it’s like to be bald and big-eyed and have my lips puff out like Alec Baldwin doing a Trump impression. I can’t. It’s not a real memory. It’s a memory of a picture my mother (father?) took. A picture I’ve seen countless times and incorporated so much into my being it’s become what feels like my earliest memory. 

I feel sad when I think about it. 

It feels like the outside looking in, interposing on me in a nonconsentual way. Like we’re born and we die and in the middle we waffle around, buffetted and muffeted and ruffeted and scuffed by those bigger or stronger or wiser or older or first. Just first. Because first isn’t even a legitimate benefit. First is just first. It’s born at the right time or the right place or to the right sister or parents. And that reminds me of the melencholy in the world and that makes me sad.

I look back to that picture—that swing where I’m dangling form the ceiling, suspended in some ridiculous duck swing and I’m reminded no person is alone. No one is an individual. No being lives in true isolation. 

Still, at least I was supported. 

Prompt 2: Remember a time something made you angry. Like a 6 out of ten. Dial it up to an 8. Now a 9. Now a 4. What would it be like to live life feeling that level of angry in that situation instead?

“What is sanity?” The blue shrimp told me. 

It was tuesday, and tuesday is when the existentialists meet. 

“I don’t know, but he does,” he replied. 

“You can’t reply to yourself,” I told him, “It’s against the rules” and that’s when it 

broke. 

It shattered to tatters as my grey matter splattered. 

What’s it like to be an honest orange? 

How do orangutans pick a hand? 

What’s a perspective and how does it–? 

Can I please have another? or another? Or a hug. 

I don’t find myself flying most of the time. 

I don’t find myself crying most of the time. 

The words come in and I grasp what I can. 

Most tunas escape their captors. All salmon some day die. 

“This got weird”, I want to say, but then you’ll know that I could’ve stopped it, 

and we forgive those that can’t help it while

lighting aflame those that can. 

What is responsibility? 

What is it to be mean? 

Two Terrific Ten-minute Jottings

Dr. Seuss on Breakups

One sheet, two sheet, three sheet, four.

Slam that paper to the floor.

Rip it, tear it, burn it good.

Light it up as though it’s wood.


As you hear the crackling flames,

As you feel the warm remains,

Eyes reflect the flickering embers,

Spleen and liver scarce remember…


What he did to break your heart,

How you swooned back at the start,

How you cried o’er these letters,

Before he ripped your heart to fetters.


Now kiss all the gifts he gave.

Rub your cheek and feel his shave.

Toss this bear into the fire.

Hear it roar like your desire.


You may feel crick in your neck,

Weighty eyes as though you’ve wept

Tickling soft palate above your tongue,

Ringing ears as you’ve been wrung.


All these wants, stuffed in your mind,

Salty-sweet of love unkind,

Prickling poke of lover’s yoke,

Brilliant blaze, gone up in smoke. 

A Humorous Happening

“I did not knot the naughty Norwegian nurse, nay!” I say to the barrister as she lifts her haughty head higher, sliding her specs down her protruberant and bulbous nose. I wish to honk that nose and I know that she knows that I know she knows it!

“But sir,” the barrister bellows in a reedy, sinewy snarl, “You were locked in her chambers, the only one!”

I snort and hock a particularly phlegm-filled hunk of malevolent mucus into the bin.

“And I’ll have some decorum in my courtroom!”

“Awright,” I relent, congealing into the visage of an upstanding citizen. “I’ll take you there: see, the shipmate and I had spied a trifle of glinting gold in that there stowhole not two days prior to her nursehood’s ‘napping. An’ we, ‘aving ‘eard of ‘er reluctance to part with treasures, either internal or ex-, went a-sniffing our way ‘round the floorboards above, where the bilge’d been spilt and reeking and rotting salty sea water only a few days prior. So the mate, ‘e says to me, ‘why don’t ye stick yer wooden leg under that there board and heave to with yer hips and cascade it over, lettin’ us shimmy downward into Her Highness’s quarters and ransacking her all good ’n’ proper?’ Only that cankered, leprosy-ridden, flea-infested mate sneaks down ‘imself and grabs the gold and hoists ‘imself back up, only to push me down into the hole myeself, to be caught by yer most High and Honorable lawmen!” 

Eery comparison…

Cops in 1974 vs today:

I suppose I had implicitly assumed that things had dramatically improved in every area over the last 45 years…

Today in Music.

In which I attempt to play the intro to Thunder Road on Harmonica (I do not yet play the harmonica), do a poor, shrill, and off-key impression of Bruce Springsteen, and snuggle quietly with the dog.
(Also, at the end, the song ends rather abrup

Notes to readers:

  • If you have a harmonica in the key of F, play along.

Notes to self:

  • Yes, I always knew I was going to be famous.
  • Yes, I posted these in part to inoculate myself against public mockery and to get comfortable with being emotionally authentic in public.

Jaywalking & You: A Guide

This is not a guide to jaywalking. It’s a humorous story; I lied.

Now that I’ve got your attention, please enjoy this anecdote. ‘Twas written by a dear friend of mine, Archibald Smittens*, who is a real person** who actually exists***.

*: Not his real name.

**: Not true.

***: Censors have attempted to verify this for years. None have, as yet, returned alive.

[Your Humble Editor also feels obligated to preface by saying that the low-fat version of cream cheese DOES NOT taste the same. He does not wish to spread such malicious lies. Anyway, without further ado…]

3 Perspectives on Jaywalking

Perspective 1:

The red hand. Just great.

9:27—three minutes left. The coffee shop’s only what? three, four blocks away? I can still make it…

The woman next to me just quickly skimmed the empty road and then jaywalked. More like a leisurely jay-stroll. What’s she thinking? Back home, no one would ever do that. Ma would’ve killed me. It was either jaysprint or jaysplat.

Still no cars, and that red hand’s still there.

Well, maybe it is time for a jaysprint.

But I’m in a suit; that’d look weird…right?

Middle-aged guy checks his watch, gulps down a half-chewed bite of bagel, and then rushes across the street. Didn’t even look both ways. Actually looked kinda cool doing it.

Well, until he dropped the bagel.

Maybe I should bolt across too. Like one of those guys from the movies.

Oof, curbside puddle. Just great.

Ah a dry patch. Perfect.

Wait.

Who am I kidding. I can’t.

My foot returns to the curb, defeated.

The empty road stares back.

Maybe… Just maybe…

My foot lifts off again.

Maybe just this once…

And the red hand turns into the white man.

Oh well. Right. Left. Empty road.

At least, Ma’d be proud.

Perspective 2:

Damn good bagel today. Think I’m gonna stick with this low fat stuff. Tastes pretty much the same as the regular cream cheese.

Countdown stops. But that stupid hand’s still there.

Chunks getting stuck in my teeth? Gotta check before I walk in the office.

Oh wow, now dumbass over here walks across the intersection. No hesitation. No urgency either. The hell’s wrong with her?

No cars out there, but seriously, lady? Can’t wait like two goddamn seconds for this light?

What’s the deal huh? Late or something? What’s the time anyways?

It’s only 9:28. Really? C’mon lady?

9:28!

Shit! Move people, move!

Yeesh. Took ya long enou—

Shit! No time to pick it up.

Perspective 3:

Red.

Right. Left. No cars.

Let’s go.

A Step-By-Step Description of How I Edit for Flow

One of my clients was impressed by an edit. We then shared this delightful exchange:

Them: `How did you edit this section to make the article flow better?` 

Me: `I can use any information to prove any point.` 

Them: `That’s scary.` 

Me: `I know. That’s why I don’t work for Philip Morris.`

I then described my process. Here’s that walk-through:

You expressed curiosity about how how I solved the “disjointed” problem. I mused on my approach a bit and can better articulate it in writing here. It’s somewhat of an engineering approach… I think… (I have never done engineering outside of that one time I built a shelf):

  1. What are our aims? What are our problems?
    1. The two sections feel disjointed. We want them to feel connected smoothly.
    2. The comment _______ made has interesting info–let’s find a way to include it. 
  2. Implicit step: What are our requirements? What are our constraints?
    1. We’re constrained by our medium, so “published on the web” (Writing, web formatting (especially headings & subheadings), hyperlinking, bulletpoints, and pics/drawings are the big ones.)
      1. Meta: I don’t think about this so much consciously any more. Not for this medium, at least (for other media, yes!). There was a time, however, when I thought obsessively about “what are the constraints of the written-for-web medium?”, which was super formative in becoming facile with the tools. (The biggest one that people mess up in this medium is headings and subheadings. It’s like a table of contents to guide you while reading! Who doesn’t appreciate an easy-to-use map?)
  3. Structure the content to achieve the goal.
    1. ________’s comment had very interesting info, albeit some of it was framed off-topic-ly. However, everything can be on-topic in one sentence or less. 
      1. This is kinda a cool idea. I think of it as “bridging” because that’s how I was taught: you find a relevant trait of topic A, highlight that piece, bridge to a similar nugget in topic B, and then go to point B. This parallels the way our brains process language: we fire neurons in clusters around each word. So, to go from “Sheep” to “cloud”, one could use “white” or “fluffy”. These are trivial examples, but the concept stays the same: From my dog to Trump could be The Adorable Smidgen -> Chihuahua -> Mexican wall -> Trump. You get better at it over time, finding the shorter (and in the case of logic/business, actually relevant) paths. (That said, in persuasion, you don’t even need relevance! Crazy concept that’s super scary when you think about it…)
    2. In this case, we had a starting point (the paragraph before) and an end to get to (the next section). We also had the content of the middle bit (which I got by breaking ________’s points into their constituent pieces). Now use the technique “bridging” and the thing structures itself! It naturally lends itself to an order… the one that links most logically!
  4. Make the new text as short as possible while still being easily readable.
    1. Good writing is short. Good nonfiction, especially. For me, this comes from a concatenation of “aims” and “medium constraints”–we want to give the reader the most value for their effort/time. It also aligns with standard writer wisdom that “shorter is better” (and, I suppose, the simple economic notion that wasting resources is bad).
    2. The easier an article is to digest, the more readers will value it (i.e. there will be more economic surplus since it took them less time). 

I don’t always think about these pieces consciously. Some are now gut instinct (like “eliminate the maximum number of words”). Others are more well-defined and intentional, like the order in which I do each step in my writing process.

^I hope this is interesting! You expressed curiosity; thought you might find it cool! Feel free to poke if anything interests you. (I’m always a sucker for writing about my process. For some wonderful reason, it’s one way I improve… 🙂

Musings on the future of work (or, why you should be excited–not concerned–that I’m currently nocturnal)

Individuals (and small teams) have always been the ones acting, but now they’re more movable (you could imagine the Google phone team basically “stealing” the Apple phone team by wooing them over. This seems unlikely 20-100 years ago). The game for corporations, therefore, becomes more along the lines of “make an environment that’s attractive to the right sort of individuals/teams”. Now, this is probably obvious for anyone who asks the question “why does every startup have pingpong tables and free lunch?” but let’s take it a step further:

The top performers have always been eccentrics. Weirdos. I live in a van and drive around the country. (Not that I’m necessarily a top performer, but I’m certainly working with more successful people than most people who have the job title “writer”.) These are people who will form their own unique strategy for working (I’ve been nocturnal for the last week because it seems to help my novel writing).

This is mainly interesting to me because it creates opportunities for people to create highly-specialized products/services that assist very specific (i.e. unusual) people with very specific needs.

If an individual is such a great, high, top performer, they often have an assistant. I bet the assistants for top performers in many fields have similar jobs, though, and there wasn’t previously enough value created by these oddballs to warrant tools to help them.

Now, we’re recognizing that (a) no number of Walmart greeters could equate to one Sam Walton (just as no number of gazelles would ever hunt a lion [it’s a bad analogy but you get the point]), and (b) we can see how much value Sam Walton created (he built Walmart!) as compared to your average joe, so we’re able to create tools that will help, say, the 10 Sam Waltons in the world be 1% better, which is huge value but would previously be uncapturable. (Or, more accurately, provide tools to make the 1000 people in the world who are 2 orders of magnitude lower than Sam Walton be 5% more effective.)

I guess, what I’m saying is: could someone please make me a business-casual onesie that I could wear in public?