Check Please

Imagine me this: You and your sweetie have just finished a delightful meal of escargot with a small salade nicoise, full bodied pinot noir, and dessert of creme brûlée with coffee. With a glance at the bottom of your coffee mug you decide to leave the dredges for the dish washer and say to the waiter who has a think French accent, “Check, please.”

?????????????

Now, what exactly are you expecting at this point in the meal? A check? Perhaps, if the aforementioned dish washer is in fact you, but my guess is that you’re actually looking to pay the hefty price that such fine dining requires so you can take your snookums to the next adventure on your date. So why ask for the check? I believe you really meant to ask for the bill, whether or not you’re prepared to pay for it.

The etymology of the phrase is less fascinating than I had hoped. Originally, the word cheque means a paper on which a debt is recorded. Today it has been diluted to refer solely to restaurant bills, but it used to be many forms of debts.

Perhaps we should start going to restaurants and requesting our cheques (pronounced like Shrek without the ‘r’). But what would the point of that be? We would probably find on said cheque an additional fee for being a pompous ass.

As for me, I will continue asking for the check in hopes that one uninformed waiter or waitress will take me literally and bring me a pay stub.

Telephones

I like answering my phone when I get a call from an unknown number because it usually gives me material for my blog.

Old_box_telephone

 

Granted, I answer calls from unknown people all day every day for my job. Which sometimes is pretty awesome. One time I told the lady on the phone that I was the only Benjamin in the world, and I think she believed me. She at least got really confused.

Another time, late in the day, a lady was saying goodbye. But she didn’t just say goodbye. Her words, verbatim, were “Ok, bye sweetie, I love you!” It made my day.

Mystery calls on my personal phone are rarely less juicy. Several years ago a guy called me several times before I answered. And I’m not talking several times in one day. I’m talking several times over several weeks. So finally I answer.

“Hey, is Jess there?”

“Sorry, you have the wrong number,” I said, expecting that to be the end of our flourishing relationship.

WRONG!

“Oh, ok… so… do you want to talk anyway?”

Ugh. “Sure dude. Why not?”

So begins the long and many conversations about Arthur and his maybe-maybe-not-but-I’m-not-really-sure girlfriend, Jess. Her phone number is one digit off from mine.

Arthur lives in Texas.

Arthur calls me at least once a year. Twice during Christmas (three times per year. Math.).

Arthur and I have been friends for about six years now, and I don’t even know what he looks like. We’ve never made it Facebook Official.

I don’t know Arthur’s last name, so he’s in my phone as “Crazy Arthur.” I love that guy.

 

Which brings me to today’s experience. Today folks. This is current events right now. Which is the definition of current.

Today I got three phone calls throughout the day while I was at work, all from the same 800 number. I assumed one of my loan payments didn’t go through, or someone was stealing my debit card again (I’ll save that story for another post).

I didn’t think anything of it since there were no voicemails. Until the caller called again this evening.

“Hello?”

“Yes, hello. I’m sdfkenvoskenvsdlofj.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I’m sdfakjwe, and I’m calling from asdfkjwek nasdvoishe idewsd”

“Sorry, I have no idea what you’re trying to say to me.” Usually I try to be forgiving when it comes to thick accents, but this guy just had too many marbles in his mouth to push two coherent words out in a row.

After four or five times, I was able to piece together what was going on:

“I am calling from the United States (doubt it) Federal Grant office (I’m listening…). Your number has been randomly selected to receive a grant of $9,546.50 (very specific!). You never have to pay this money back as long as you live (done. You lost).”

What is the appropriate way to respond to an obvious scam? I pride myself on my tact, so let me tell you:

“Yeah, I don’t believe you.”

“Oh.” Hang up.

And this has provided me with almost an hour of laughter already. So watch yourselves, folks. Don’t answer any questions from 800-111-3344. Bad news bears.

Phones can be a scary thing sometimes, but don’t let that sway you from the adventure of answering a mystery call. You could get a great story from it!

 

Love and kisses,

Uncle Benjamin

 

 

Image credit: Wikipedia

Another Analysis of Friday

wrinkled-face11

Fridays can be hard to get through. Mostly because one is thinking about all the wonderful things one will do and accomplish on one’s two days off. Sunday nights are often a wakeup call for one when one realizes how much one did not accomplish during the break from employment responsibilities.

Or Sunday night is a go-to-sleep call because of all the funzies one had during the weekend in which one does not participate mid-week. It makes one realize that one is not as young as one once was.

Yet one still looks forward to Fridays. One looks forward to a paycheck, or perhaps an evening out on the town, or sleeping in on the glorious Saturday morning. Or perhaps one is going on a trip, or will have out-of-town guests. Or perhaps…well, perhaps one just doesn’t want to go to work sometimes.

Fridays can be a bit of a paradox. The overwhelming majority of the time one is sad when something ends, may it be the lease to one’s first apartment, a relationship, a life. But the end of the week usually brings nothing but unhindered joy, relief, relaxation, et cetera.

Why? one might ask. This question at the onset may seem simple. One is happy because one has two days to do whatever the hell one wants. But the question goes deeper than that. Why does one work if one would rather be doing something else?

One may wonder.

 

 

Image credit: Philosophical Disquisitions

Grocery Shopping

I hate grocery shopping. It’s probably the worst thing in the world next to wet socks. Wet socks are worse.

Grocery shopping, you’d think, is an extrovert’s favorite chore of the week, right? Because the extrovert gets to go out and see people and talk to strangers and sing at the top of his lungs, “I want to be where the people are!” ariel-on-rock1

 

But no. That is not how I feel about grocery shopping. The way I feel about grocery shopping is how some people feel about having Great Aunt Muriel over for dinner. It’s just something to get through as quickly as possible so the obligation is satisfied until next Easter.

So when I asked my wife to make brownies for a coworker’s birthday party, I didn’t realize that it would include a trip to the grocery store. By myself. Because Dana ran out of cocoa powder, and it’s my friend’s birthday, so it makes sense that I would be the one to fetch it.

I left the house. I sat in the car for a few minutes whimpering about what I had to do. But then I bolstered myself and turned the key.

Cub Foods isn’t that far from my apartment, but I was trying to find something a little closer to home. I noticed a dollar store that advertised grocery products and it was just two blocks from my house! Yes! I skirted the greater evil for a lesser one, and I’ll be home in ten minutes!

But upon arrival, it was hardly an improved situation. The dollar store had clutter through every aisle and people clogging my path to the grocery section while they looked at which party plates would go best with the lime green table cloth mom was holding. They weren’t talking about it, though. They were shouting about it. Because they couldn’t hear each other from 18 inches away.

I muscled my way through, tripping on cardboard boxes and soup cans, to where the hamburger buns were squished onto the shelves. I think the workers were trying to see if they could get two whole crates of buns on one shelf. Everyone loves flatbread, right?

And then there was no baking aisle. I should have guessed, but I was too hopeful to not try. I even went to the attendant and waited five minutes for him to stop reading his magazine so he could tell me that they don’t carry cocoa powder.

Back in the car I went. Waiting for the lights to turn green, I had another smoke to settle my frazzled nerves.

I then arrived at the actual demon den – the grocery store.

 

Let’s talk about a few of the reasons why by body shudders when it’s time to go shopping. I am in a store, filled with people who seem to have left their personal bubbles in the car. It doesn’t matter if I have my hand on a bag of rice or bag of apples, if that’s the product that the little old lady six people away from me wants, she will have it. She will push her way through five of those people to take the product out of my hand then talk to me about it.

“Oh, that looks nice. I’ve heard Dole makes really good apples, haven’t you? Do you think my grandson would like these apples? I think he would. He’s such a good boy. You remind me of him! Thanks for getting these apples for me, dear. Bu-bye!”

All the while I’m standing there dumbfounded and angry and my skin is crawling because she patted me on the butt on her way out. This has happened, folks. I kid you not.

I arrived at Cub foods with hell-bent determination to get the cocoa powder and be out of there in 6 minutes flat. Bracing myself, I gulped down air as my breathing tubes constrict in protest.

Grocery stores aren’t that hard to figure out. If you’re looking for cocoa powder, go down the baking aisle, right? It makes sense!

But that’s only if you are a logical thinker, because Cub does not put its cocoa powder in the baking aisle. And I would know, because I stared at every item in those mile long shelves for 20 minutes in search of my treasure. But it was not there. And people started reaching around me and brushing up against me with their purses and asking if I knew where things were.

“Sorry, I don’t work here,” I said with as much politeness as I could muster.

“Oh, I know. Would you help me anyway?”

“Check aisle 13.”

“Did you just make up a number without knowing what I’m looking for?”

“Yes.”

Still no cocoa powder, so I did the next logical thing. I looked in every other aisle in the store. Just so you know, they do not keep their cocoa powder with their cat litter.

Finally I found an attendant.

“Please,” I said after distracting him long enough from shelving canned tuna. “For the love of God where is your cocoa powder?”

“Cocoa powder?”

“Yes! Cocoa powder!”

“Like, for hot chocolate?”

“No! For baking!”

“You’re baking?”

“Are you going to tell me where the cocoa powder is or are you going to continue interrogating me until I spill my life story?”

“You just don’t look like–”

“WHERE’S THE DAMN POWDER?!”

“Aisle 15.”

Seriously? That’s the one I had started with.

Low and behold, there was the cocoa powder in the same place where the lady had started talking to me. It was at that point when I walked away to avoid other folks taking my kind face for a kind face.

With my precious cargo in tow, I saw the end of my suffering in sight. I just had to pay and walk out the door. Fast lane fast lane fast lane. Come on! Papa’s gotta get home before he yells at another undeserving bystander.

“Welcome!” the automated cashier said in her mechanical voice. “Please scan your first item.”

Scan.

Scan.

Scan-whyisthisnotworking?!

Scan-Beep!

“Have you scanned your rewards card?”

Bypass. BYPASS!

My hands were shaking with frustration to the point where I can barely swipe my card.

“Excuse me–”

“NO!” I yelled without turning around. I took a glance to see that the little girl wasn’t even talking to me. But now a lot of people were staring at me.  I grab the cocoa powder and almost run out the door.

Keys. Where are my keys?! I thought in a panic before realizing they were in my hand. Close call. My sanity was waning.

By the time I got home an hour and a half later, my hair looked like I had stuck my finger in an electrical socket. My face was twitching like a stressed out hen and my grin was a little wider than socially appropriate.

 

Then my wife greeted me with a sympathetic smile, a kiss, and a beer.

I guess grocery shopping isn’t so bad.

 

 

 

Image credit: SpeakEasy

Poetry

I believe there’s a place for poetry in everyone’s life. My wife was sending me poems today that made me realize there is no one way to approach writing. The poems she sent me got me out of my comfort zone. They got me to reimagine imagery and to reassess my approach to poetry.
I began writing by writing poetry. Well, I began writing in my adult life by writing poetry. I never wrote poems as a child. I wrote a lot of stories.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written a poem. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a poem. Until today, when I started reading Tyler Knott Gregson.
I have a book entitled Good Poems which is a compilation of poetry, compiled by Minnesota’s own Garrison Keillor. I devoured that book. For one who is not fully engrossed in the poetry field as I once was, this book was my lifeline to the world of imagery.
If you have poetry that you have written, or poetry that you would recommend, please share it with me. I think it would be good for all of us to re-view the world in a lens of a different shade.

Love and kisses,
Benjamin

On Being Old

I posted last night that I needed to write for a little bit before I went to sleep. Once again I am crouching up against bedtime and I’m trying to pound out another few minutes before I turn in. You will be happy to know that last night’s productivity enhanced my manuscript a solid sixty words.

I have been thinking about the fact that I have to go to bed at a relatively early hour. I believe typical twenty-six-year-olds can stay up until wee hours of the morning, turn around and be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work the next day. “Not I!” said the writer.

When my bedtime approaches, my body shuts down. This is not the only aspect of my life that connects me to the geriatric. I recently found myself sitting on a porch, in a rocking chair, smoking a pipe with people considerably younger than me sitting at my feet. With nothing better to do, I told them a story.

These along with other qualities may put me in the superannuated category, but I’m ok with that. I understand that getting out of a chair kills one’s back. Maybe I don’t get all of the newspeak kids these days are talkin’. When I was their age…

I like to think that I’m preparing myself for old age. By the time my body catches up to my soul, it’ll be like friends meeting for the first time since grade school.

Too bad people don’t laugh off my wise-ass comments like they do for Grandma.

mark-twain-rocking-chair

Image source: BartCop

must

It’s 10 o’clock at night. I am finally home from band practice. I’m home from work. I’m exhausted. I’m ready to lie down and allow these heavy eyelids the rest they demand. 

But no. I have been encouraged, pressured and challenged to write every night. I have fifteen minutes to invest into my writing. I can stave off sleep for another 20 minutes; fifteen for writing, five for getting ready for bed. 

Now I write. Ten-thirty I sleep. 

Does going to bed this early make me old? That’s another post. Right now my protagonist is telling a story that I must put down on paper. 

Goodnight, friends. 

The Liebster Award

What an honor to be nominated for this award! Thank you, Channyn, for the nomination. Check out her awesome food blog here!

liebster-award1

 

 

The Liebster Award is an award that welcomes “new” bloggers that have less than 1,000 followers. It’s an awesome award that brings recognition to new bloggers and also opens up an opportunity to get to know more about them (which is fun!)

Here are the rules:

1.) Link back to the person who nominated you.

2.) Share 11 facts about yourself.

3.) Answer 11 questions that were asked by the person who nominated you.

4.) Nominate 11 people who you think deserve the Liebster Award.

5.) Ask 11 questions to your nominees to answer. 

 

Facts

“Eleven facts about me” isn’t as easy for a storyteller as you might think. Most of the things I’ll note will need air quotes around the word “facts,” if you know what I mean. If they are real (which, of course, they all are), they are going to come with a story. Which means this post will take a year to write and a week to read. Let’s get started.

1 – Traveling. I’ve been to 23 countries in this fine world of ours. I was naming them the other day with my wife (who has been to 13 countries herself) as a way to pass time on our road trip. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the final country I had been. I resigned myself to the victim of bad math and poor fact checking until the next day when Dana reminded me of the vacation we took a year ago in Jamaica. How does one forget Jamaica? It was an all-inclusive. That’s how.

2 – I’ve been married to the most awesome girl in the world for just about three years. She chose me even though that means her children won’t be half Finnish. Sacrifices, right?

3 – Birthdays are my favorite. Mine comes with an awesome story. One fact about my birthday: I share it with two cousins on my Dad’s side of the family. Different years, though.

4 – I wrote my first story when I was seven years old. It was about escaping a dungeon with a nail filer. The protagonist replaced the window bars by gluing them with Elmer’s Glue-All so when the guards chased him they would be stuck in the cell. He saved the princess, too.

5 – I am a sick, sick man. We don’t really know what’s wrong with me because I still don’t have health insurance. We’re working on that.

6 – I grew up in northern Minnesota where winters are cold and long. I have never gotten used to the cold. When the temperature is less than mid-80’s, I’m unhappy.

7 – I used to walk to the cemetery near my parent’s house in the middle of the night to look at the stars and smoke cigarettes. I had visitors who would tell me stories about the underworld.

8 – I went to seven colleges before finishing my bachelor’s degree. Well, six. I went to one of them twice with two year between both semesters.

9 – I believe in aliens. Not from personal experience, unfortunately. Well, a little personal experience (see fact 7).

10 – I used to pride myself on the fact that I don’t like sports. But then Dana took me to a Wild game and I got completely sucked into hockey. Also, the FIFA World Cup starts tomorrow, and I filled out a bracket. I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately.

11 – I believe I am the only extroverted writer on the face of this planet. One time I sent a message to a writing group I’m apart of asking if anyone else has similar struggles of being an extrovert in an realm that lends itself to introverts. No one replied. I think I got my answer.

 

Channyn asked me some questions:

1.) Why did you start your blog?

I started this blog because I needed an outlet for my stories. One of the biggest regrets I have is not writing down the stories my grandpa used to tell me. He’s the one who taught me how to tell a story, but I can’t really remember many of the amazing stories he told. So I decided to write down my stories.

 

2.) What is your favorite post that you’ve written? (Please provide a link.)

A satire piece on Segways.

 

3.) What’s your favorite dessert?

A family favorite: chocolate cake with mom’s homemade apple sauce and a splash of milk.

 

4.) How do you take your coffee/tea?

Coffee: black

Black tea: with cream

Herbal tea: honey

Iced tea: lemonade and vodka

 

5.) What’s your biggest dream?

I would love to write books for a living. I don’t know what else I’d rather do with my life.

 

6.) If money wasn’t a concern, where would you choose to live?

Southern Europe. Preferably France, but I would settle for Italy, I guess. Honestly I’d be happy anywhere that doesn’t get winter.

 

7.) What’s your favorite thing to cook or bake?

I make a kick-ass stir fry. Dana makes the sauce for it, but I cook the veggies. Tricky business there.

 

8.) Mountains or the ocean?

Mountains. No, ocean. No. Ugh!

Mountains are beautiful, but can be cold. I think I’ve made it clear how I feel about cold. But I don’t really like swimming, either. I love being on a boat, though. Sailboat? Ok. I’ve made my decision. Mountains. Shoot!

 

9.) What’s your favorite book?

Favorite book?! How does an author decide what his favorite book is? I’ll just tell you what I’ve been reading lately.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Harry Potter. Always Harry Potter.

 

10.) What is your go to snack?

Cashews, almonds and dried cranberries. Such a delightful combination.

 

11.) What’s your go-to recipe on a weeknight?

Sweet potatoes, black beans and salsa. Maybe a little quinoa on the side, too.

 

My Nominees: 

1 – Jackie Lea Sommers, who has been a great inspiration during my writing journey: Jackie’s Blog

2 – Anna Palmquist, another inspirational YA author. Her blog gives voice to the struggles of being a writer: Anna’s Blog

3 – Marit has left the barren cold of Minnesota for the warm summer days of California. Visit her culture blog: Marit’s Blog

4 – Becca’s blog lives up to its name: Big Thoughts from a Small Girl

5- John Fournelle is a queer theologian with fascinating writing: John’s Blog

6 – David Ben-Ami writes fiction in hilarious prose: David’s Blog

7 –  Another French Lass In London writes about her experiences in a foreign land. I’m a big fan of France and England. Great combination: Anna’s Blog

8 – Bridie Hall just published her book in January: Bridie’s Blog

9 – An author who has been rightly recognized for her many accomplishments: HD’s Blog

10 – Frederick Anderson is a charming author: Frederick’s Blog

11 – G. Vera Ryder write contagious posts on the subject of writing: Vera’s Blog

 

Eleven questions for my nominees: 

1 – What is your favorite memory?

2 – What is your favorite thing to talk about?

3 – What is your favorite thing to write about (this is very different than the previous question)?

4 – What is your favorite thing about yourself?

5 – If you could live anywhere for three months, where would it be?

6 – Why do you write?

7 – What keeps you motivated?

8 – What type of books do you read?

9 – What’s your second favorite hobby?

10 – Do you believe in aliens?

11 – Tell me a story.

End of the world

It’s not really the end of the world, but sometimes it feels like it. I’m employed full-time again, and I rarely find time in my busy schedule to write. I have been trying to keep up with all of the inspiration I’ve been experiencing, but by the end of the night I just want to go to bed. Though, I do have an adoring public with which comes a demand for production. It’s been a very long time since I’ve written on my blog and for that I apologize. Please stay interested in the writings of Benjamin Brede, because he hasn’t thrown in the towel yet.

The inspirations include a semi-autobiographical short story about a boy whose sister leaves on her first deployment. Also a story about an actress who was so good at pretending to be other people during high school that she had to decide between becoming a con-artist or becoming an actress. Through the help of good people in her life, she made the decision to become a famous actress and use her gift to inspire others rather than cheat them. Though secretly, conning was her first choice. I’ve already posted about a book I have started about Finding Grandpa’s Asparagus Patch. And finally, an Orwellian-esque story about a hippie commune in the middle of a booming metropolis.

Maybe I shouldn’t give away all of my book ideas in one post, but if I don’t have a community of writers and believers keeping me accountable about all the stories I want to write, I may find myself at age 65 with nothing to show for my dream.

And that’s what this is, isn’t it? I live in America for God’s sake. The land where dreams come true, right? So if this is going to become reality, I’m going to need a kick in the pants. Send some encouragement, dear readers. Mr. Brede needs to hear your voice.

 

Until then, I am ever gratefully yours,

Benjamin

Stretch

Today I saw someone put his manual shift S10 into neutral before turning it on. It reminded me if my dad’s S10 and how he loved turning it on long after we started rolling down the driveway, or how he’d shut it off and coast into the parking space a mile before we got there.
We used that truck for farming purposes for as long as I can remember, and I’m pretty sure it’s still running today. I don’t know if it’s ever been insured or the tabs ever were updated. That’s the beauty of living in the country. I started driving at 5 years old sitting on Dad’s lap. When I got too big, he just sat next to me and told me what to do.
My parent’s house is heated with an outdoor wood burning stove. It has a little shed, and before Dad starting buying a cord of logs, we went and gathered firewood from the woods with the truck. My brother and I would try to get into as much trouble as possible while working for Dad.
One time while fetching firewood, Dad had to run home to fix something on the chainsaw. Travis and I found a potato fork and decided to play a game our grandpa taught us.
5102
Stretch.
The basic idea of the game is to throw a sharp object into the ground as close to your opponent’s foot as possible. Your opponent will slide his/her foot to the place where the knife/sword/potato fork stuck into the ground. This goes on until one of you fall. The faller wins, because the other couldn’t stick the blade close enough to the faller’s foot.
So Travis and I are chucking this potato fork at each other’s feet. I’m winning, because the fork is stabbing RIGHT next to his foot. In fact, it was making little cuts in the side of his shoe. My legs were getting further and further apart. I’m sure you know where this story is going. I threw a wild pitch, and I cut off my brother’s baby toe.
Or at least I would have if Travis hadn’t been curling his toes closer and closer to the opposite side of his shoe. Instead, I simply gouged out a healthy chunk of skin.
Travis and I raced home for him to clean up the wound, laughing the whole way and calling me mean names that I deserved. He put on a bandaid and proceeded to bleed through two pairs of socks.
We were back at the woodpile before dad had any idea of what was going on.
Image Credit: DeWit