Touch

This is not one of the writing prompts, but it’s been on my mind for a while.

Humans are social animals, when it comes down to it. Look at our genetic animal ancestors. Social grouping, social grooming, touchy-feely animals. So it is with us. We like touch. We hug, we kiss, we hold hands, we sit next to each other. A slap on the ass, a hand through the hair, a pat on the shoulder, an arm around a waist. When you’re 2 and you’re hurt, you get a hug from mom to make it feel better. When you’re 40 and hurting, you curl up in a lover’s embrace for comfort. Touch is friendly and comforting and erotic and sensual and sexy and most of us, at least to a certain degree, crave it.

I know I do. I’ve always been something of a hugging type. A handshake is always good, but if you’re really friends a hug is better, right? Right. I can’t bring myself to link to the five love languages guy, but parts of it ring true to me. I’m definitely a physical touch as love sort of guy (‘words of affirmation’ to a lesser extent. Words are sexy, oh yeah). Most nights, I come home from work, I need a hug from Jenne. It hasn’t gotten old, even after so many years together. Okay, I like a good ass grab, too. I’ll admit it.

Are we touch-deprived as a society? I don’t know. I’ve heard that posited before. Americans do seem to be much less touchy-feely than other cultures. But deprived? I’m not sure. I wouldn’t advise going into work tomorrow and feeling up your coworkers, for example. Not happening. Personal space is important. Sure, I’ll give you a hug…if I’m comfortable with you.

I thought I had somewhere to go with this train of thought, but it’s getting lost. Go hug someone, you’ll feel better for it.

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Up Top

Describe the worst haircut you’ve ever had.  Pictures optional.  

I can’t pick out one worst haircut. In some ways, my current haircut is that worst haircut. I’ve basically had the same style for a very long time. Embarrassingly  it’s basically my father’s haircut. Except his hair parts the opposite direction mine does. And he’s had the same haircut most of his life. So, really, I have a 1950s style. I recently got it trimmed, by the usual barber I go to in Richmond. She fuses over it for a good twenty minutes or so and does a fine job. But I can’t really say it looks much different or better than last month, when she was closed, I needed a trim, and I went to one of those national haircut chains where the hairdresser buzztrimmed my hair in six minutes flat.

It’s the worst haircut because I’m not really happy with it. When I haven’t made it to the barber in a while, the part gets really long, and I think it looks kind of stupid. I’m from the ’50s, y’know. But I have no idea what other style to get. Much of the week, I slap a seed company baseball cap on my head for 9-12 hours a day while I’m at work. So it just gets matted down and when I take the hat off it leaves a nice impression around my head. When I ‘go out’, it just gets combed while I fiddle with the part. No hair product, no fancy Rod Blagojevich  brush (only my Illinois readers will understand that reference), and when the wind blows it around I just look silly. Or I feel like I do.

My brother is the opposite of me. He has very short hair, and uses every hair product in existence on it. He’s had a military-style buzzcut, he’s had long hair (looked bad), now days he mainly has this very short-but-not-a-buzzcut, over-gelled look going on. It actually works for him. He mocks me for having the same haircut I had while in high school. I mock him for once having a pornstache….totally didn’t work for him. His wife has threatened divorce if he ever tries facial hair, again.

I’ve asked Jenne what I should do with my hair. For years, the only suggestion she’s offered has been a mohawk. Thanks for that serious suggestion, honey! I keep threatening just to shave it all off….but I don’t think the Doolittle head really lends itself to bad-ass baldness. So, for the foreseeable, same old, same old. Hey, it’s me.



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Advice Mammal

What’s a great piece of advice you have recieved? Given? Wish you could give but haven’t? Wish you’d followed?

About a year ago, I was handed a customer by our finance division. ‘Look what we found for you!’ the loan rep said. ‘A new customer! He has a loan and everything!’ I knew guy a little bit, we had done a little bit of spraying for him the year before. He and his operation did not impress me. He wasn’t on my 2012 prospect list. But, there he was, shiny new operating loan in hand. Okay! New business! Awesome!

I mentioned to a colleague who doesn’t work for my company, but who works with us on several of my large accounts. ‘Don’t do business with that man,’ he said. ‘You’ll get screwed. I worked for him and he owes me thousands of dollars that he’s never going to pay.’ But I explained about the loan, and I’d be careful, and he can’t be that bad, right? Right?

I didn’t follow his advice.

Long story short, I spent two hours with a lawyer yesterday, going over who said what when, all of our invoices, potential strategies for when I have to testify in our collections lawsuit against him, and his countersuit against us. It’s a fucking mess.

I have this thing where I always give people the benefit of the doubt. I always think the best of people. I want them to think the best of me. And then, sometimes, I get screwed. This is the second time, professionally. I don’t want to become a cynical old bastard of a salesman, but I need to get a filter in place for the assholes of the world. Because they can put on a good front, right before they turn around and stab you in the back. You’d think that at nearly 36, I’d have this figured out about people. Still working on it.



Besties

The writing challenge was technically a February thing, but  prompts are still being posted and there are prompts I didn’t get to last week that I might like to do this week, and writing here off and on through the month has been kind of fun. So I’m going to keep going for at least a few more entries this week.

Tell us about your childhood best friend. Are you still friends?

Adam lived a couple miles down the road from me, which meant he was my closest friend. We were close when I was in junior high, so probably age 10-13 or so. He lived on the property of a large farm operation. His father used to work as a herd manager for the dairy part of the farm, before they sold off the cows. The property now was corporate-owned, huge, and parts of it were completely wooded. A stream ran through the wooded property and there were several ponds scattered through the woods. The entire area was patrolled by a private security company, but since Adam lived on the property, we were allowed on it. We went everywhere on bikes and on foot and did a lot of fishing. One pond was awesome crappie fishing. If we went down to the bridge/dam across the stream it was mostly bullheads and some bluegills. A few bass in the pond up from the bridge. I would spend an entire day with Adam somewhere in the couple hundred acres of woods, no cell phones, no parental contact, just the grumpy security guards getting pissed off that we were allowed to fish in their territory. At night, we would sleep outside, on top of the Quonset shed by their house. Seriously. On top of a shed.

Do parents even let their 12 year olds run free like that, anymore?

Once, we were on bikes on one of the graveled roads through the woods. Both of us saw a man up ahead, around a curve. When we went around the curve just seconds later, there was no one in sight. The trees were not really large enough to hide behind. We stopped. Looked around. Looked at each other. Then we completely freaked out and pedaled away as fast as we could, feeling like someone was watching us the entire way.

Adam was a year older than I was, and when he went off to high school we kind of fell out. Then I went to high school and he turned into a jerk; one time even shaking me down for money with two of his older friends. I avoided him after that. We got briefly back in contact a couple years ago, his wife (who I also knew in high school) found me on Facebook. I went to a Halloween party with them (that’s a story in itself)…then he got weird, went to Afghanistan as a contractor, divorced his wife from the other side of the world, and now I’m friends with his ex-wife instead of him.

The forested part of the property is now Forest Preserve owned, and public access is allowed, although it is difficult as there is no on-site parking, yet. I need to go take a walk through the woods this spring, and find the bridge we used to fish off of. I wonder what it looks like now, twenty-plus years later.



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Cleanse

Next to godliness, or just keeping yourself off of Hoarders?  Where do you fall on the cleanliness/organization spectrum?

I started this post a week or so ago, and never got around to finishing it. So, as the snowfall outside  creates near white-out conditions, I’ll try and get five hundred words out of this topic.

I don’t like to clean, but I like things to be clean. That’s a bit of a conundrum right there. My wife doesn’t like to clean, either, and she doesn’t really care if things are clean. You see the difficulty. It’s a constant struggle. Sometimes it’s a passive-aggressive thing: we wait and see who gets more disgusted by the overflowing bathroom trashcan. Or the bathroom in general. I usually lose that battle. In the kitchen, as I do the majority of the cooking in the household, I often just refuse to cook unless the kitchen is mostly clean and the dishes are done. I usually win because Jenne likes to eat dinner. The cat litter boxes are reluctantly cleaned on a rotating weekly schedule. I’m still not sure how I let myself be talked into that…the cats are her thing, not mine.

I sometimes speculate that one of the reasons Jenne never cleans anything unless I make a big deal about it is that she never really had to growing up. Her mother is obsessive about cleaning. All the time. Constantly. If you put dishes in the sink, she’s standing over the sink washing them five minutes later. Mom’s a bit nut s in other ways, so if the other craziness comes with the cleaning craziness, I’m probably grateful Jenne missed out on that.

One of my hobbies is brewing beer, and it’s a hobby that involves a lot of pot washing, scrubbing and sanitizing. I like the end results of my hobby, but not the process. There are a lot of homebrewers opening professional breweries right now, and I always get asked when I’m going to do this, because my beer tastes so good. Not in a million years. Brewing is mostly about the cleaning up after the last batch of beer in preparation for brewing the next batch. Nothing like shoveling two tons of wet grain out of the mash ton, crawling inside with a pressure washer wand shooting near-boiling water, and scrubbing beerstone off the sides of the tank to really make you hate your life. I’ll just stick with grumbling about the stains on my ten gallon pot, thanks.

Our house isn’t hoarder level, at least. Well, aside from the collection of Amazon shipping boxes in the corner of the dining room, maybe. Hey, it’s cheap cat entertainment. Don’t judge.

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Trippin

Talk about a car trip you’ve been on. Do you like to travel by car? Do you prefer to drive or be a passenger?

Roadtrips are awesome. When travelling, I almost always prefer to drive. It’s cheaper for two people by far and I don’t have to put up with TSA security theater that does nothing except cause inconvenience. Yes, it always takes longer, but I have enough flexibility and vacation time that I can pad a trip to include the extra travel time. It’s true that America’s interstate system can be a mind-numbing experience, but when Jenne and I travel, we make an effort to get off the four lanes, at least occasionally. My friend Melissa takes epic road trips on a regular basis and says everything I want to about them better than I can in a blog entry.

The best road trip Jenne and I have taken was our trip to Montreal, Canada in the fall of 2010. We were part of a group trip with a bunch of friends, and we had rented a house for a few days up in the mountains north of Montreal. Everyone else flew in. We drove. I maintain that we had the better trip. Despite the several hours of driving through a pounding thunderstorm in New York on our way to our Buffalo overnight stop. Since we were driving in, we hauled in a lot of cooking supplies to the house, and ended up hauling out a case or two of leftover booze. Thanks for restocking my home bar, guys! We took a gigantic circle tour; driving out to Montreal via Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Our return trip was north of the border, with a stop in Toronto. Most of the way between Montreal and Toronto we kept off the four lane highway so I could do a little tour on Ontario agriculture country.

We haven’t been on a very long road trip since then; lots of long weekends up to Minneapolis. A couple trips to Michigan in the last year. We’re in the process of planning our August/September vacation, now. I think it’s going to involve forests and maybe some mountains and hiking. It’ll definitely involve a lot of driving. Maybe far northern Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan? Maybe the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with a stop at Mammoth Cave (and whatever else seems interesting along the way). Maybe the Finger Lakes region of New York–we drove through it at 70mph on the way to Canada and we both decided we should go back and see more of it. Or maybe we’ll go back to Toronto again…there were some farmstead breweries north of the city that I need to investigate…

Is it August, yet?

Montreal

Placed

Show us a specific Google map location and tell us about its significance to you.

 

This is 804 McKimber street in Knoxville, Iowa. Well, obviously, it’s not in Knoxville. The town is four miles or so to the east. Zoom out. There’s not much around aside from rolling Iowa farmfields and pastures. 804 McKimber is where I spent the last year and a half of my time in Iowa. It’s a manufactured home sitting on top of a hill on a gravel road, under a few old oak trees, next to a couple of grain bins. It was owned by a customer of mine, and I rented it from him after the house I was renting in the town of Knoxville was sold and my lease terminated. I worked in Pleasantville, which was a few miles west and north, and I joked that my customer could get a lot of free field scouting out of me, seeing as how I’d be looking at his field out my back door every day.

This picture was taken from the corner of the house. So was this one:

Tree, car, corn, PLANE! Aerial applicators are insane, folks. Absolutely insane This is Agri-Tech Aviation applying fungicide. It was like an airshow around the house for a week or two in July and August.

The first winter we were in the house, we had a massive ice storm. There was a half inch of ice on everything. Power lines were down, a tree branch came through our roof, and I had to chip ice off my car for a half hour before I could open the door. Winter was extra fun; we only got plowed out once or twice a day during snowstorms, so sometimes you had to take a running go at drifts in the road and hope the car would make it through. Luckily, it was less than a mile to the main state 4 lane road. Our mailbox was usually buried by the plow. The next summer was a very active thunderstorm season, combined with a tornado or two…there was no basement at this site. We were on a hill. We were in a manufactured home, aka tornado magnet. The closest neighbor was a 1/4 mile away and I didn’t know them. There were a couple nights where we sat awake, waiting to be blown away. Rural weather, folks. It wanted to kill us.

We shared the two trees out front with a hive of bumblebees. We had a clothesline strung between them, and the bees would alight on the line and watch us hang out laundry. They were pretty friendly creatures; we didn’t bother them, they didn’t bother us.

We had escaped cows wander through the yard when the snow drifts got big enough for them to walk over the fences. The coyotes would howl at night just to remind us they were still there. A neighbor a mile away kept dogs, and we could hear their barking at night. Talking to their wild cousins, I think. The area had a lot of wild turkeys, too. Flocks of them.

The last night I was there I was outside, getting the last of our stuff out of the small storage shed, I think. The sky was clear that night, and I happened to look up. Oh. OH. I could see all the stars. And the milky way. And I knew that I would miss that.

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Skillz

Tell us about a skill (other than writing) that you’re currently working on building in your daily life.

Fitness.

I see this problem in my industry a lot. Farmers are often really, really out of shape. So much of modern farming involves sitting your butt in a tractor seat for 12 hours a day, eating junk food, seven days a week. Even if you’re a livestock farmer, more of your job is automated now than it used to be. Us industry guys are worse. We ride desks and pickup trucks and get fed fattening lunch buffets  at winter meetings. Sure, there are days when I walk a few miles scouting fields, and sometimes I have to unload two pallets of seed by hand, but a couple months of slightly heightened physical activity per year just isn’t going to cut it. I need to exercise.

I’m not fat. Even when I topped out at nearly 210 lbs a couple of years ago, I was just a bit squishier around the middle. But it bothered me, so I got a gym membership at the local SnapFitness. And that worked, a little bit, until spring rush hit, and eventually I never went back. Not a fan of treadmill running, folks. Or the monthly fee. The next winter, I stumbled into acquiring a never-used elliptical from friends who were moving to Boston and didn’t want to take it with them. I still use it, on and off. That spring, I got a hybrid-style bike.

That really worked. I went from being barely able to ride 3 miles around town to regular 15-20 mile rides. I did two 50 mile organized bike rides that year–mostly while being passed by everyone on fast road bikes, but I could struggle through the distance. Between that and the elliptical the winter before, I lost a bunch of weight, got high on a lot of endorphins, and saw a lot of southern Wisconsin countryside from my bike.

Lately, I’ve been running. I ran a little bit in high school, but that was pretty much it until I got it in my head to do a 5k a little over a year ago. I worked up to completing a half marathon last September. I’ve found running to actually be fun…in a torturous sort of way. I’m never going to be really fast and I’m never going to run crazy long distances like some people I know. My training is too lackadaisical for that; even though I manage to run somewhat regularly, I’m still fundamentally lazy. A 15 mile week is pretty typical for me. Lately I’ve been struggling with a foot injury and haven’t run much, so it’s been all elliptical training again. I’m hoping to get that figured out soon, and do some more distance races later this year.

So, fitness. It’s a skill that’s required me developing several other skills. I’ve found that having a defined goal keeps me motivated. The need to train for a race. The desire to bike to Aurora via the interconnected bike trails of the northern Illinois suburbs. I’m hoping to keep the habit for a lot of years.

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Cornwuff


If there was a tattoo ink that disappeared after exactly one year, what tattoo would you get today?

It would be an image of a corn plant, or an ear of corn. And a wolf.

What?

Let me back up. Fourteen years (holy fuck). I was in college.  Bored, nerdy, and spending five hours two or three nights a week in the res hall computer lab as a lab monitor. Basically, I got paid to sit around and surf the web. Eventually, I ended up in an online, text-based role playing game. You actually logged into it via telnet, or a command line client. It was early days in the internet, yet. At any one time, two or three hundred people would be logged in, role playing, chatting, doing nothing, whatever. It passed the time. Here’s the twist; in this game, we were all animals. Y’know. Balto. Or Scrooge McDuck. Or Rats of NIMH. Or any number of Disney movies featuring talking, anthropomorphic animals.

I decided to be a wolf.

I ended up being on this game for years. I met bunches of these weird online people in person, and turned online friendships into ‘real friendships’ (as if they weren’t real already). My friends knew I was studying agriculture/in the agriculture business, and I honestly don’t know who hung this nickname on me first. I’m pretty sure I didn’t come up with it. But eventually, I was no longer a wolf. I was a cornwuff.  Wuff being slang for wolf (wuff, woof, ect.). Somehow, that silly term has stuck with me to the point where it is my Twitter username.

When I’m asked by people I know professionally on Twitter why cornwuff, there’s actually a wikipedia entry I can cite that doesn’t make me sound completely like a geek. Or maybe it makes me more of one, not sure:

[...] This conception is common in France, Germany, and Slavonic countries. Thus, when the wind sets the corn in wave-like motion the peasants often say, “The Wolf is going over, or through, the corn,” “the Rye-wolf is rushing over the field,” “the Wolf is in the corn,” “the mad Dog is in the corn,” “the big Dog is there.” When children wish to go into the corn-fields to pluck ears or gather the blue corn-flowers, they are warned not to do so, for “the big Dog sits in the corn,” or “the Wolf sits in the corn, and will tear you in pieces,” “the Wolf will eat you.” The wolf against whom the children are warned is not a common wolf, for he is often spoken of as the Corn-wolf, Rye-wolf, or the like; thus they say, “The Rye-wolf will come and eat you up, children,” “the Rye-wolf will carry you off,” and so forth. Still he has all the outward appearance of a wolf. For in the neighbourhood of Feilenhof (East Prussia), when a wolf was seen running through a field, the peasants used to watch whether he carried his tail in the air or dragged it on the ground. If he dragged it on the ground, they went after him, and thanked him for bringing them a blessing, and even set tit-bits before him. But if he carried his tail high, they cursed him and tried to kill him. Here the wolf is the corn-spirit whose fertilising power is in his tail.  (Wikipedia)

So I can be the cornwolf (wuff). And if I ever had something tattoed on me, it would have to involve wolves and corn. There’s actually little pieces of artwork floating around the house that I’ve gotten as gifts or bought over the years from artist friends. My wife gave me a little statuette of a wolf with an ear of corn in his mouth that she commissioned. None that would really work as a tattoo design, so something new would have to be created. The cornwuff has been a bit of my identity for over a decade, so it seems only appropriate.

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Uniforming

If you had to (or could!) wear the same thing every single day, what would you want it to be?

Oh, I pretty much do this already.

Working in the ag industry, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to go to work every day in jeans, work boots, and maybe a nice shirt. Maybe. In the summer it doesn’t matter; I’ve worn ratty old tshirts with a vendor’s logo on them, gotten soaked with sweat before noon, and tossed on a different shirt for afternoon sales calls. Or maybe just cooled off in A/C somewhere over lunch and gone on the sales calls anyway. My customers are often dirtier than I am, and to show up in dress slacks and loafers would just get me laughed at. The environment is a cow barn, a greasy shop, the combine cab. It calls for jeans and steel toed work boots. If I know for sure I’m making customer calls that day, I’ll ‘dress up’ a bit with a nicer-looking, button down, collared shirt. Long sleeve in the winter, short sleeve in the summer.

This carries over to my off-work life as well. One of my friends once pretended he was mock-horrified when he saw me wearing a sweatshirt. I like my collared shirts, even for casual wear. But that’s about as fancy as I get. Style, fashion, suits? Not so much. Sometimes I wish I was a sharper dresser, but my wardrobe isn’t up for it.

Short post, today, after the book I wrote on Monday. I’m sort of keeping up with this…I’m aiming for 4 or 5 out of 7 days. So far, so good.

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