Arbitrary Day

Maya Angelou said, "I am a human being; therefore, nothing human can be alien to me."  This is what I drew inspiration for when thinking about my Arbitrary Day gift for my random 'secret santa' giftee I had been assigned this year.

Every year, Reddit hosts a huge international Secret Santa.  People fill out basic profiles and are matched anonymously; outside of said profile, it's up to you to do your own internet research to find a gift this person would like.  Some folks just pick from an Amazon wish list and others really dig to find something special.  You might recall my participation last year involved a hand painted portrait of a recently passed dog for a college student in Austin, TX.  Needless to say, I'm more about the research method.

Not only do they do this at Christmas, but halfway through the year there's also an 'Arbitrary Day' gift exchange that is pretty self explanatory.  Being more familiar with the process, I waited eagerly in anticipation for matching, which occurred last week.  This time around, I was matched with a young lady in Maryland that had a lot of interests I could relate to, like gaming, wall art, dogs, and movies; horror movies in particular.  That's the path I looked down first.  Perhaps something related to John Carpenter's Halloween, one of my favorite horror films.  She's pretty big into Guild Wars 2 according to her posts on Reddit, maybe I could find something in that vein that would be appropriate.  Then, I found what I was looking for.

I found a mention of her sadness at Ray Bradbury passing.  A quick Google search turned up what would be her main gift:  a copy of the poem ‘Doing is Being’ by Ray Bradbury.  I felt the message was very appropriate for an event like Arbitrary Day:  the true blood of life comes from activity and giving of one’s self.  Not only that, but this particular item was the first printing of the poem, distributed on April 9, 1980 for Walt Disney Imagineering.  And it had his signature on it.  It was perfect and fit into my budget, surprisingly.

My mind returned to the horror aspect of her professed likes.  What could I add that addressed that?  It was then that Maya Angelou's quote came to me.  I needed something that represented the yin to Bradbury's yang.  I looked through my artwork and found the other gift.  It’s a picture I took inside S-21, or Tuol Sleng, a former high school turned prison in Cambodia used by the Khmer Rouge in the last half of the 1970’s.   It’s terrifying what people can be capable of, and being in a place where such atrocities were committed brought about a time of self evaluation and understanding for me.  

I wrote a letter explaining all this and shipped it off today.  She should receive it on Tuesday and I wait excitedly, hoping she will enjoy these things.


Cherished Memories

Tomorrow is Father's Day.  For the last month, advertising has been laced with reminders to remember your father and buy him something nice.  I've gone on about my daily business without paying it much mind.  I've noticed, however, that my emotions have been acting strange in the last two weeks or so.  It isn't anything specific, but just an understanding that I'm reacting differently and have a pit of anxiety in me that slightly influences everything else.  Sometimes it manifests as a desire to watch a sad movie.  Other times I just wander my house aimlessly, wondering why it's so quiet.

On Thursday, I decided to take the drive up to Pawhuska.  I don't think I've visited since last December.  I went out to my grandparents' old house in the country and took a few pictures.  Nobody was home, unfortunately, so I couldn't ask if I could get some close shots, but just the same it unearthed many memories.  I recall weekends running around the property, Fourth of July celebrations, and Christmas gatherings.  My feet crunching the gravel brought me right back to my youth and I felt 10 years old again.  I could hear the echoing sound of my hand hitting the propane tank.  I felt the flaking brick that lined the flowerbeds.  I could hear the spring in Grandpa's workshop door handle.  The feel of sliding down the storm shelter door.  I walked down to the creek where Grandpa and I fished a few times.  I was never big into fishing, but I still cherish those memories.  I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the summer countryside.  I could've just as easily been playing badminton or running around with the dogs.

Before leaving town, I drove up to the cemetery and knelt by Dad's grave.  Looking down at the marker, it was still hard to believe it was all true.  Not only that, but it was a year and a half ago.  On the way back to Tulsa, I took a few pictures along the road that brought back memories for me and wondered what I'd forgotten.  I'm thirty-one years old now and a lot of details have faded from my childhood and beyond.  I am thankful that I have the opportunity to capture my world, whether it's by camera or written word.  My brother and I had dinner on Friday and we remembered Tony Martin while we ate and laughed together.  I'm very pleased that we get along so well these days.  Dad would've liked that.

This Father's Day, I remember my Dad for his strengths, his faults, his life, and his laughter.  There isn't a day that goes by where something reminds me of him.  I strive daily to be a good man to those around me and display the same honor and integrity that he taught me.  I love my friends and family and try not to take them for granted.  I approach each day with an open heart and a hopeful spirit.

Love you, Dad.