Category Archives: Life

The Testimony of Matthew the Agnostic, Book 1

My blogging and writing output these days seems rather pitiful compared to the halcyon days of LiveJournal. Frequent posts averaging a minimum of a few hundred words have devolved into far less frequent pithy Facebook bursts of no more than a few sentences. There is no one but myself to blame, and it’s a shame for numerous reasons, not the least of which is since that time I’m sure that certain events and memories that would have been nice to document and save are now lost due to the unavoidable effects of being middle-aged.

Thankfully, those efforts resulted in saving much about my past. In particular, I wrote plenty of  material relating to my college experience with White Evangelical Christianity (WEC.) Alas, I don’t believe there exists a concise summation of that period and how it ultimately changed me in ways I still might not fully grok. All my previous attempts — before, during, and after the LiveJournal era — to compose such a narrative never came close to completion, though a few still exist in Word documents that have lain undisturbed on computer hard drives and backups for many years.

The problem is that it’s a rather difficult subject to summarize in absolutely no more than a couple thousand words. It’s amazingly easy to share stories and anecdotes and indulge in tangents that provide meaningful insight into the opinions and views I now hold. It’s just that those diversions create difficulties in controlling the narrative. That’s the reason every single previous attempt remains incomplete — it became easier to walk away than to attempt to properly pare everything back down to a manageable length. Nonetheless, recent events have provided inspiration to make another effort. The fact that you’re reading this means that this attempt finally achieved the previously elusive success, or it at least worked just well enough for sufficient satisfaction. 

The important thing to understand about this testimony — and, yes, that word choice is deliberate — is that the journey started with the absolute desire to believe and experience God’s love the same way that so many in that faith profess to feel it. When starting on that path, I chose to view and interpret a number of events in my life as God trying to make himself (using the “male” designation because WEC very clearly both understands and depicts God as gendered that way) manifest to me. However, it would be utterly disingenuous to not note the importance that Denise played at the start. 

My girlfriend at that time, Denise (not her real name) was the primary reason this was all happening. Raised in the WEC world, she still lived at home and resolutely held those beliefs. During the first few dates, we shared our respective religious experiences, and because I found myself rapidly falling in love with her, her presence became the clinching factor in my deciding that God was attempting to work in mysterious ways.

So, akin to the way my heart opened to Denise, I attempted to experience and feel God’s love by fully devoting myself to the precepts of her faith. Bible studies, daily devotionals, joining an explicitly “Bible-based” church (as if other Christian branches didn’t actually base their beliefs upon it), scheduling meetings and having discussions with the Pastor of that church, giving thanks before meals, attending services more than once per week, spending entire Saturdays at the WEC equivalent of TED Talks, writing frequently about my experiences in the college newspaper… and, most notably, doing nearly all of these with Denise.  

Looking back on the effort, it’s amazing to see the fervor I displayed. Yet, over 25 years of distance results in some clarity of vision lacking at the time. There’s a reason why Evangelicals talk about the importance of properly indoctrinating children in the faith. Instead, I came into it with a background rooted in wildly differing efforts by my grandmother and father to raise me in two unrelated faiths: Catholicism and Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. Despite nothing but the best intentions and sincere efforts when starting out, I was also a well-read intellectual with moral and ethical beliefs firmly grounded in feminist and humanist values.

In retrospect, it comes as no surprise that every single wholehearted attempt at some kind of leap of faith resulted in a spiritual face plant. Obstacles that proved impossible to overcome certainly played a part: an inability to reconcile contradictions in Biblical text, rigorous objections to a very black-and-white way of looking at the world, finding extreme fault with certain aspects of WEC dogma (just to name a few.) At the end of the whole experience, it simply seemed that I completely lacked the mental makeup — in the words of Dennis Miller, back when he was funny, the “ecclesiastical whiteout” — required for someone to maintain the kind of faith demanded by WEC. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

It certainly didn’t help that I regularly experienced events and conversations that brutally undermined my ability to simply just accept certain things on unadulterated, simple faith. Numerous anecdotes come to mind, and at some point in the future I will attempt to compile the most memorable of them into a second narrative (hence, the “Book 1” in the title.) For now, I’ll simply relay an experience at one of those WEC TED Talk-like events.

In it, a speaker attempted to explain how certain aspects of my life (and those lives of others) were sinful and un-Christian. Somehow, much of the music and fiction I enjoyed and saw no religious issues with was taking me further away from God. It was best to remove and forever avoid all of it from my life. The justifications for these assertions involved exceedingly questionable interpretations of Biblical passages that were divorced from meaningful context. This was followed with the audacious assertion that if you felt uneasy about what they just said, then that was the result of Satan’s influencing you — any discomfort you felt was because your soul knew deep down what was just said was true.

I shit you not. The only reason why I didn’t walk out before the event ended was that I went there with Denise, in her car.

By the time we had been together for nearly two years, desperation had settled in. Despite all my efforts, God’s presence felt no closer than it did on the day Denise and I met. Desperate times call for equally distraught measures, and one conveniently presented itself: full immersion baptism. Although properly baptised in the Catholic faith, that meant almost nothing in WEC circles. The true way to experience baptism was as an adult, and preferably fully submerged in water (not just sprinkled with it.)

So, attired in an baptismal robe, I metaphorically climbed to the top of the highest diving board I could find and sprung off the end of it with all the energy available to muster. This was the ultimate leap of faith. Or, if you’ll please forgive the tortured mixture of Christian faiths, the frantic Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. When I literally emerged from the backwards dunk into baptismal pool, there was no spiritual renewal, no feeling God’s presence, and nothing akin to the spiritual weight of the world removed from my shoulders.

I just felt wet.

That’s not entirely right. I knew at that moment the relationship to Denise was over, but I still felt a sense of responsibility to her and her future happiness. Suffice it to say there was simply no realistic scenario wherein we remained together without my active involvement in the faith. The relationship ended with lots of tears, some white lies to cushion the blow, and no small amount of guilt. I don’t know what became of her, but wherever she is, hopefully Denise is happily living a good life.

I’m grateful for the sojourn into the WEC world. It’s responsible for many of the lessons I learned about myself and the world around me, and it allowed me to see and experience first-hand a few wonderful things to be found in living that faith. More importantly, I read the Bible in its entirety (some portions many times over) and came to appreciate red letter edition Bibles. Though I may not have found God, much of what Jesus actually had to say was enjoyably enlightening.

With that in mind, it was clear that much of the dark underbelly of White Evangelical Christianity resulted from placing far too much emphasis on the parts of the Bible printed in standard black. This causes an appalling lack of compassion to those outside the faith, coldly moralizing judgment, and a disgusting amount of thoughtless, casual cruelty. It also allows for a misguided use of one’s own belief in salvation to excuse dreadful behavior in the here-and-now. Most appallingly, the WEC belief system actively encourages the belief in dominionism and the assertion that America is really a Christian nation. 

Those were my conclusions back when leaving the faith in the fall of 1995. Their insisting on a religious right to treat the LGTBQ community as second-class citizens, their venomous rejection of any validity to the Black Lives Matter movement, their refusal to support government policies that help the downtrodden and poor, or any of the other public issue stances they’ve voiced since Trump started campaigning for President back in 2015… none of these came as any surprise to me as those events unfolded.

Any residual good fuzzy feelings that remained in the moments while toweling off after stepping out from the kiddie pool for adults are long since gone. I’m good without God. Do not confuse this with somehow hating him, which many of the WEC faithful want to believe that atheists do (see the God Is Dead movie series.) There’s a whole lot to unpack in terms of my feelings to a possible higher power/creator. That’s a subject for another time — maybe in a Book 3, perhaps. 

Whatever their, her, its, and/or his place in our universe — let’s go with “its” — I’ve found a way to find meaning in everyday life. If something is responsible for my experience, it also knows me and the way I operate. It sees my gratitude for this life and my thankfulness for the good fortune I’ve experienced. Whatever the truth is, I know it wants nothing more than for us to all be excellent to everyone.

Start of the Summer, 2021

Looking back on my 20s and 30s, just where did all the time and motivation to read and write come from? It feels far different now, well entrenched in the middle-aged years. Finding that twin-barreled resource to engage in those activities in the same way has seemed elusive for some time now. Being a different person and having different priorities at this stage of life surely is getting in the way, but it seems like that it shouldn’t require as much effort as it clearly does. 

I will choose to blame laziness and inertia. They surely are a bitch…

It’s been a few weeks since writing a post such as this. Shortly after putting the last one online, it occurred to me to start using the Notes app on my phone as a way of capturing thoughts and ideas as material for posting more regularly. However, when looking at the fragments and brief thoughts currently in the file created for just that job, it appears some of them just don’t contain enough information to fully recapture the thought(s) from that moment. Clearly, at least some of my future jots need to be more robust.

One brief note that needed no other information: “Star Trek comfort watching.” Lately, my comfort television watching involves lots of Star Trek — in particular, Picard and Lower Decks. Both are actually rewatches, but, actually, Enterprise is the only series that wouldn’t be a rewatch.* However, that’s totally fine. Comfort television watching often means indulging in the familiar. More importantly though, getting immersed in a show providing an optimistic look on humankind and the future is something that I really need these days. The present provides plenty of reason to believe that the future is only going to get worse, and frankly it worries me.

In fact, those worries actually keep me awake at night. It’s not uncommon to wake up at 4:30 in the morning, go to the bathroom, return to bed, and then find myself unable to go back to sleep while the various frets and concerns completely overtake my thoughts. Runaway global warming, the rise of authoritarianism in this country and around the world, the plastic pollution crisis, the continuing upward redistribution of wealth and power… Averting the future suggested by these ills will require a global coordination of the governments around the world in a manner that is just unprecedented in human history. At the moment, there is little to suggest that could happen any time soon.

No, the not-distant-at-all future currently looks like something like one of the nightmarish scenarios described in a Kim Stanley Robinson novel: meta-national corporations and oligarchs becoming so powerful that the traditional nation-states are unable to properly constrain them, and the efforts of humankind are directed solely for their own enrichment. The general welfare of the planet or the species? Well, that just gets in the fucking way of profit…

Let’s see, what else to mention at this time…

Sally and I spent some time in downtown Frederick yesterday. Spent a little time with an old high school friend and his girlfriend, enjoying good comfort food and drinks, visited some or our favorite stores, and, most importantly, came home with a small disco ball. We just need to figure out how to hang it from the living room ceiling and properly direct some light onto it for the nights we decide to enjoy ourselves by listening to our favorite music while having a few drinks…

Speaking of alcohol, the new version of The Match Game, starring Alec Baldwin, has been one of our favorite Friday night activities for some time now. We tend to have a couple adult beverages while watching, which means that we’re fairly certain that much like Drunk History (which is also watched while having a drink or two,) we’ll be able to enjoy rewatching the episodes seeing as the alcohol impairs our ability to recollect what we’ve seen before…

As the final note for this post, searching for a new favorite local Irish-style pub is now a priority. It still seems patently wrong and utterly unfair that the pandemic killed O’Faolain’s, but with the large-scale reopening now taking place, finding someplace that serves a similar purpose is simply something my soul needs. More on that once the search is properly underway.

* As much as I love the universe, I needed a break from it when the show started to air. The first handful of episodes did nothing to convince me otherwise, and if new Trek is needed while waiting on future seasons of the various new series, it’s still there waiting for me. 

Sunday Morning Thoughts and Contemplations

It’s been months since posting anything to this blog, I’m currently the only one awake in the house, and there are some thoughts careening around my head. So…

  • I really need a Lego workspace. I’d certainly attempt far more displays given a safe-from-feline area to go wild with. It’s possible that with a little more decluttering and rearranging, a portion of the garage could be turned into one. To do that though, insulating the garage door (something we should really do anyway, given the design of the house) becomes a moral imperative.
  • Spending three days in Philly last week and then going to Winchester, VA a few days starkly illustrated the difference between blue America and red America. In Philly,  nearly everyone was still wearing masks and doing their best to be responsible and considerate to those who haven’t been vaccinated yet. In Winchester, it was almost as if the pandemic had never happened. I guarantee you that the vaccination rates of those in Center City Philly is much higher than in Winchester. Red America is going to be in for a rude awakening at some point in the not-to-distant future. 
  • Barenaked Ladies is putting out a new album next month, and for the first time ever since becoming a fan 30 years ago, I’m not feeling any excitement or anticipation. Their last two albums weren’t all that good, and the first single of the new album, “Flip,” was simply grating to my ears. I’ll almost certainly buy it and give the album every chance to surprise me, but my expectations are just about as low as they can get.
  • It’s likely that at the end of the month Sally and I will be attending our first concert since the pandemic started. We purchased Jonathan Coulton tickets in December 2019 for a show originally scheduled to take place in May 2020. The show never actually got canceled, and after numerous reschedules, it is taking place on Tuesday, June 29. If we do decide to attend (the deadline to request a refund is still a week away,) we are going to be counting heavily on the hope that Coulton fans (at least the ones in this area) are sufficiently like-minded and that the overwhelming majority will be actually following CDC guidelines and not acting like the unvaccinated in Winchester.

That’s it for the time being. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch you with his noodley appendage. 

End of 2020/Start of 2021

I don’t think I can really say anything that hasn’t already been expressed by many others since the pandemic started. Much about the year sucked, but all things considered, in many ways I was extremely fortunate in 2020. I know we are all “in the same storm,” but it doesn’t make me feel any less self-conscious about writing or talking about my struggles living in the time of COVID-19. So, I will simply state that I am happy to see this year end, and will be celebrating its demise later this evening.

Given the slow rollout of the vaccines and the still ongoing slow-motion attempt by Der Katzengröpenführer and his enablers to undermine American democracy, I don’t want to get too hopeful about the coming year, as the first few months will mostly represent an ugly continuation of 2020. However, there is a visible light at the end of the clichéd tunnel. So, provided we get through the month of January without a true Constitutional crisis (extremely low probability) and/or a bunch of 2nd Amendment solution types deciding to finally enact some of their fantasies about killing libtards (slightly higher probability, but still hopefully trivial), there is legitimate reason to hope that overall the coming year will be better. 

Another Week, Another Series of Bullet Points

Another week, another series of bullet points. Really, at some point, a proper blog post will appear here. No, I mean it… Stop laughing!

  • The sixth week of the eating and exercise routine went well. I’m now slightly over 15 pounds lighter than I was on the morning of October 12. The hope for this week is to merely maintain, as the plan for Thanksgiving is to gorge like Homer Simpson on Super Bowl Sunday (“Good bye, belt!”) Even if the weight goes up slightly this week, the year-end goal to get to 220 pounds, which is currently just under four pounds away, still seems very attainable.
  • My phone now contains three dictated/mostly written posts in need of some editing before they can be posted. The current plan is to get them online during the long Thanksgiving weekend. This plan, however, may easily be compromised by the other big weekend plan: fully assembling the 5,500+ piece Lego Diagon Alley set.
  • This household will be doing the right thing this Thanksgiving, in light of the explosion in COVID infections and deaths: we are staying home and inviting no one here. In fact, I have even tongue-in-cheek left a comment on one of my mom’s Facebook posts telling her that she is lovingly and cordially invited (with absolutely zero irony intended) to stay far from us this year. We want her, and everyone else we care about, to be healthy and able to see us next holiday season.
  • Along those lines, I have to give giant kudos to my friend Tommie. Brandon and I had plans to get together with him this past Sunday to watch some football, and he was the one who smartly canceled, without hesitation. I, on the other hand, was stubbornly obtuse enough to follow through with the plans had he not done so. I’m glad that he wasn’t being as willfully ignorant as I was. It’s highly unlikely any of us were sick or would have spread COVID to the other house, but it was absolutely the right thing to do regardless.
  • Because this past Sunday marked the day in the calendar that is the earliest possible date Thanksgiving could fall on, Sally and I decided to go ahead and start playing Christmas music. Given the past year, jumping the gun by five days is an absolutely defensible decision to make.
  • I am not getting ads in my Facebook feed for hair ties for men, by a company called “The Longhairs.” Really? I’m sorry, but men don’t need hair ties designed especially for men. What’s even funnier is the advertising copy in the ad: “Our products do 3 things – inspire confidence, develop masculinity & foster community.” Foster community? Seriously!? When I decide to start smoking pot, I am going to find out who their supplier is.

Mid-November Update

I hope to have a lengthy post online within the next day or two. Until then, more bullet points.

  • Today marks five full weeks since the newfound motivation to get myself back into proper shape. Official loss thus far is over 13 pounds. Even accounting for the fact that five of those were in the first week (which is typical when getting this serious about eating right and exercising), averaging two pounds/week is probably going just a little too fast. I haven’t been starving myself, but a slight increase in the average intake seems to be called for.
  • For over a week now, I’ve sat on two posts dictated into the phone and simply in need of proofreading and minor editing. It would be nice to state that there wasn’t sufficient time to get that work done and post them over the weekend, but I think we all know better. There’s another longish post half planned out in my head, so there’s plenty of material for posting online this week – provided I force myself to spend the necessary time pounding away at the keyboard.
  • Breaking down the Lego Halloween display and properly putting away the component sets was the big project this past weekend. Not only was it completed, work also began on the Christmas display. This year’s is going to be both the largest in terms of total pieces and involves the least amount of creativity. Essentially, it’s just going to be the new Diagon Alley set, with modifications to give it a holiday look and feel. The hope is to have it completed by the end of the month, but that may be a little ambitious.
  • Thanks in large part to the pandemic, our ninth wedding anniversary was a low-key affair — we ordered some Thai for takeout and watched some television together on the couch. Given that last year was spent at Universal Studios Orlando (in particular the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and poolside while a snow squall raced through the homestead, it felt like quite the step down. Hopefully, the pandemic will start winding down in time for us to properly celebrate our tenth anniversary next year.
  • It has now been over a year since my last haircut. No current plans or even ideas as to when the next one will be. Even if it is a low risk activity, it just doesn’t seem to be one worth taking. Admittedly, the fact that there is barely any visible gray in it all makes it easier to let it simply grow out. However, the beard is not following suit, and the difference has become rather striking. Nonetheless, there are no plans whatsoever to either color the gray in the beard or to shave it off.

Life as a Series of Bullet Points

  • Today marks three weeks of exercising and eating properly following the newfound motivation to properly take care of myself again. The official weight loss thus far: 8.6 pounds. Alas, goal weight is 40 pounds away. However, Halloween came and went without gorging upon fun sized Kit Kats, Hershey’s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Milky Ways, which means the first potential end-of-year obstacle didn’t present any problems.
  • With two months left in the year, I’ve already read the same number of books I read last year. That’s not as impressive as it could be, however — 2019 saw me read the smallest number of books I’ve read since 2010. It’s embarrassing to state that finishing 20 in 2020 would actually be the highest number since 2017. In fact, I’ll probably get started on my next book shortly after putting this post online.
  • One of my plans for later this evening is to simply put the Geek Tree out, without decorations. This will be the first holiday season for Otis, Charlie’s kitten, and we want to see how he chooses to interact with a tree before placing fragile decorations all over it. 
  • At Sally’s request, this year’s Christmas Lego display is simply going to be the new Diagon Alley set, with additions and alterations to give it a Christmas feel. The only problem is that the set is so big that it won’t all fit on the bookshelf. One or two of the buildings won’t make it, and I won’t know which ones until I start putting it together. Having said that, there is no way that Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes isn’t included. 
  • The dropping temperatures mean that our ability to find an outdoor table at a restaurant or bring takeout to a picnic table is rapidly decreasing. This also means that with the exception of going out for walks, there will be fewer opportunities to do anything outside of the house. As it is, I can do go days without leaving the house (other than to check the mail), and I’m not looking forward to the decrease in safe options for getting out of the house.

Something to Obsess About During the Pandemic

My body has ways of making it clear when it hasn’t properly been tended to for far too long — when the excess weight is more than just an inconvenience or annoyance. It did so during the early spring of 2011, and the health problems that surfaced in turn motivated me to drop 60 pounds. For most of the time since then, the desire to prevent those issues from happening again drove me to take significantly better care of myself than I ever had. 

But, like many people, I put on weight during the pandemic. Fortunately, that meant a small increase of between five and 10 pounds. However, that’s only because when the pandemic started my weight was already at its highest in over nine years. Without getting into the details, a few years ago a couple high-stress, chronic situations resulted in my employing the coping tactic that soothes me best: stress eating. Not that I want stress in my life, but it would be awesome if it resulted in the pounds shedding off rather than stacking up on each other as easily as LEGO Duplo bricks. Thank to this, when the pandemic started my weight was already the highest it had been since 2011.

A common sentiment going around these days is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up for weight gain during such a stressful time — it’s more important that you maintain your mental health stability. Without question, I subscribed to it. By the start of this month, my weight was hovering roughly 10 pounds below my all-time peak. Then, on what should have been one of the best days since the start of the pandemic, my body decided to emphatically inform me that it was time to stop making excuses.

To be fair, it did send me a warning notice last month, when I experienced the worst hive attack I’ve had in years. At that time, Occam’s Razor provided the simplest explanation for my body freaking out: the months of cumulative stress brought about by living during a pandemic and mindfully trying to do all the right things (other than eating) finally became too much. Unfortunately, the simplicity of that explanation provided on easy excuse for me to ignore my physical fitness.

That purposeful lack of self-awareness came to a halt on Saturday, October 10, 2020. It should have been one of the best days of the year. It was my first day back in Philly since the pandemic started, Sally and Brandon were both there, I was seeing my dad for the first time since January, and the weather was exactly the kind we needed to safely spend most of our time in the city outdoors. When we did go into a few select shops, we felt relatively safe given that everyone was wearing masks, social distancing was readily evident, hand sanitizer was in ready supply, and the number of customers in them was actively being controlled.

Actually, it was the best day I’ve experienced since the pandemic started, but enjoyment of it was notably tempered by the fact that my sciatica announced its presence with authority throughout the day. The thing is that it’s only a problem when I’m grossly overweight and spending a significant amount of time on my feet — especially if most of that time is standing still or walking very slowly. To make matters worse, grabbing a table somewhere we could sit for a while and have a snack and beverage — the thing that would have best helped to alleviate the problem — simply wasn’t an option. Although we were able to settle on some solutions that eased some of the pain, such as simply sitting down for a half hour or so in the park immediately next to Christ Church in Old City, it didn’t lessen my overall frustration with simply having to deal with it.

That frustration and annoyance did not subside after returning home or during the following day. The more I thought about how the sciatica affected my day, the greater the frustration I felt about myself. So, much like the health problems back in 2011, that day in Philly is now motivating me to lose weight all the excess weight yet again. Using all the techniques that have worked in the past has already yielded results: I’m now down nearly 10 pounds in just 2½ weeks. Of course, knowing the holiday season is nearly here makes me question the wisdom of starting this endeavor at this time, but I also know to take full advantage of this kind of motivation.

So, I’m now obsessing about calories (both the quantity and kind of), getting enough exercise, and getting on the scale every morning. With some luck, the holidays won’t present too much of an obstacle. Hopefully, the next time I’m in Philly, the sciatica won’t flare up at all.

Accountability Posting

Back at the beginning of January, one of my cousins stated on Facebook that she was going to start periodically posting about her various goals for the year. The notion was that it would help her keep herself accountable, and I thought it was a great idea. In the past, I used weekly updates as a similar means of keeping myself motivated to eat healthily and exercise regularly. However, despite my previous success with such posts, I did not follow her lead.

Over this past weekend, I decided that was a bad idea.

Two first two months of the year went as planned: I managed to spend more time reading and got off to a good start embarking upon yet another round of eating properly and exercising. March devolved into a disaster on both fronts. Although Gravity’s Rainbow became my new most-hated book I’ve ever set eyes on and understandably brought my reading pace to a halt (more on this in a future post), it wasn’t a viable excuse for my reversion to last year’s crappy eating habits and sporadic visits to the gym.

So, in an effort to get myself back on track, I am beginning my own accountability posting this week. Tonight’s post is the return of the Weekly Weigh-In, which I supposedly made a permanent feature of this blog at the beginning of last year. Rather than wasting anymore time preambling about it…

Today’s weight: 229.0
Target weight: 190.0

All future weigh-in posts will be on Mondays as well.

Tomorrow: the first reading accountability post.

Gone Fishing

This past weekend, Moosito and I made the trek up to New Jersey for a long overdue visit to see the family. Much of it was your typical family get together – though I’m sure most families don’t have a brief Saturday night discussion over whether to play Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity with each other. However, Sunday morning started off in a much more Norman Rockwell-esque manner, with all of us going to a nearby diner for Sunday breakfast.

Shortly after we settled at our table and placed our order, a balloon animal artist came over and asked if any of us were interested in having him make something. I thought this was a little bit of stretch. Moosito was the youngest one there, but at 15 he is well past his prime balloon animal loving years. Actually, he never really liked them. Thanks to his non-neurotypical settings, he harbored a serious aversion to balloons for most of his formative years. The noise from popping balloons scared the bejesus out of him.

But, I digress.

After a little bit of banter back and forth, I experienced a burst of inspiration, and launched into a quick monologue: “I’m speaking for myself here. I appreciate the offer, but I am totally over balloon animals now. I’ve had too many of them break my heart. You care for them with all your heart, but one small slip, and… BLAM! If that wasn’t bad enough, they clog the toilet when you attempt to give them a proper burial. Then it gets even more tragic and heart-breaking when the plumber has to snake out the remains. I’m sorry, but no.”

I was proud of myself for that; I managed to both gracefully decline and make the balloon artist laugh. Following a little bit more banter, he moved on to the next table, and shortly thereafter our food arrived.

I was enjoying my Spanish omelette when balloon guy returned to the table. He proceeded to tell me that I had inspired him and that he wanted to bring me the final result.

IMG_4337

I loved it. Almost immediately I thought, “It’s the inevitable conclusion to Pixar’s Nemo trilogy: Flushing Nemo.” I thanked him profusely, and my dad tipped him for his work.

Nemo safely arrived back home in Virginia with me, and he’s now sitting on a living room bookshelf. I sincerely hope it will be a while before I have to call the plumber.