Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Feng Shui Trails

If you’re not looking down when hiking, you either have super powers or you fall a lot. The point is you’re constantly thinking about where you are going in order to plant the next step and the step after that, and the step after that. The trail could be rocky, muddy, sandy or covered in pine needles (my favorite), but you need to be looking down and making hundreds (maybe thousands) of split second decisions about where to plant your feet.

With all that concentration focused on remaining upright, it can be easy to miss nature’s feng shui efforts along the trail. You will encounter a log or root that crosses the trail at an angle with pine cones or rocks placed strategically in just the right position. You might see a natural step carved from a rock ledge that traverses the path. Even treefalls that block the trail have a natural symmetry that is unmistakably nature’s handiwork.

When viewed on a map, the entire trail can be an example of feng shui in that it conforms to the slope and topography of the land. Hiking trails were usually constructed with a nod towards finding the easiest line or axis. Given feng shui’s history as a forerunner of the magnetic compass, it makes perfect sense that there’s a real astronomical connection between the trail and the stars.

The English translation of feng shui is “wind-water” and both of these elements have a significant impact on the appearance of a hiking trail. Drainage erosion has created new trails and rerouted old trails, while wind blown sand covers up the path or forces the hiker to find a new line or route.

Is feng shui science or mystical pseudoscience? It doesn’t matter to the hiker who just wants to take the correct line or the right steps. Humans may create the trails but nature, and by extension feng shui, performs most of the upkeep. All we can do is try to take the right steps and be on the lookout for millions of feng shui examples one might see on any given hike.

It shouldn’t be that hard to see them. You are looking down at your feet for most of the hike.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Recliner Generation

Great news! Baby boomers are getting face lifts in record numbers, but even better than that, they have spurred a revolution in recliner chair design. That’s right, recliner chairs have gotten their own face lift.

Out of fashion are the big and bulky recliners your parents might have favored. They never fit in with your sleek d├ęcor anyway. But now that baby boomers are ready to recline, they want something more aesthetically pleasing and the furniture industry has responded.

A little history might be helpful here. La-Z-Boy (there’s something so perfect about that name) introduced the recliner in 1928. Apparently it was an immediate and long lasting hit with lazy men, and since they were often bought in pairs, there must have been a decent number of lazy women conjoined with their lazy mates.

The new and sleeker recliners not only have a smaller footprint, some are equipped with device charging stations and beverage coolers. They have even begun to motorize them so that the recliner will stand us up when we’re ready to get out of the chair (but why would we want to get up?). It’s not hard to imagine recliners that come with IV drips and other hospital-like features so that aging boomers never have to get up out of their chairs.

Four out of 10 recliners sold in 2014 were sold to baby boomers. Face it. Our generation is ready to get off its feet and stay off. But we want to do it in style. No more hiding the recliner. We want it out in the open for all to see and it has to look attractive. As usual, whatever boomers want, boomers get, as manufacturers clamor to please us.

Still, the old boxy recliner models are not going away. La-Z-Boy representatives say that they will never stop making the traditional recliner. So if you’re not jumping on the latest “sleek recliner” trend, La-Z-Boy can still accommodate your lack of fashion sense.

Either way, boomers appear ready to take this all lying down.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Camus to You Too

I ran into Albert Camus the other day. (it’s my fiction, I can meet up with anyone I want).

We were in front of Starbucks.

Quoi de neuf? I hailed.

“Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?”

Jesus, you go dark all the time. Lighten up, I replied.

“To know oneself, one should assert oneself.”

Come on Al. It doesn’t have to be like that. Are you working on anything new?

“Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.”

Oy, you’re killing me with these quotes. You’re like a one-liner factory. Just tell me if you’re working on a new book.

“Charm is a way of getting the answer ‘Yes’ without asking a clear question.”

See, this is why everyone thinks of you as an existentialist.

“We are all special cases.”

Enough! Are you seeing anyone?

“It is necessary to fall in love… if only to provide an alibi for all the random despair you are going to feel anyway.”

Can’t you ever be rational?

“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way.”

Totally! I have always admired the way you are in touch with your inner self.

“If something is going to happen to me, I want to be there.”

That’s what I’m talking about. And you know what you like.

“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.”

That’s absurd. But then you’re absurd. Has anyone ever told you that?

“I draw from the Absurd three consequences: my revolt, my liberty, my passion.”

Right, right. Not like you’re some kind of fame whore or anything like that.

“To be famous, in fact, one has only to kill one’s landlady.”

Seriously? You’re going there?

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”

Yeah, okay. Listen Al, it was great seeing you again. I know you’re still not speaking to Sartre but you know he thinks the world of you. Maybe it’s time you guys patched things up.

“Every man, and for stronger reasons, every artist, wants to be recognized. So do I.”

Okey dokey. Good seeing you again. You take it easy. Or take it any way you can get it.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hugging for Life

Around ten years ago I wrote an essay for this blog about not being much of a hugger. I theorized then that hugging is a learned response and no one in my family seemed to be enthusiastic about hugging. Who knows what went on behind parents’ closed doors but that’s another day on someone’s couch.

Only recently has hugging become important to me and what a revelation that was. Chalk it up to age or life changes or whatever, the point is that I now have come to understand the value of a hug. Now I know that it’s a vital connection that tells someone that they are important to you, and if the hug is reciprocally enthusiastic, you know that you are important to them. And that’s what hugging has always been about – I just didn’t know it.

I still have a problem hugging a tall person. Getting up close and personal with a sternum is not my idea of a good time or a good hug. But it’s a minor complaint in the scheme of things, especially when hugs are loaded with health benefits. Yes, when you feel close and connected to people you care about, studies have shown that this enhanced social support can mean you’re less likely to catch a cold.

Then there’s the fact that hugging can release oxytocin (also known as the bonding hormone) and that in turn reduces stress. Receptors under your skin can increase vagal activity that helps to put you in a relaxed state. The calming effect of a hug has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.

I’m not confident that our current state of polarization could be ameliorated by increasing hugging, but it might not be a bad place to start. It’s hard to yell insults at someone when you’re in a close embrace.

So I’ve come late to the party but that beats not being invited, or worse, not knowing there was a party. I no longer shrink from the hug. Quite the opposite. I’ve embraced the embrace. Don’t you think I even sound calmer?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Up In Smoke

Put down that bong or that doobie and listen up. According to the Addiction Journal (your read that right, there’s a journal for addiction. Once you start reading it, you can’t stop) there has been a 71% increase in marijuana use for people over 50 from 2006 to 2013.

Let that sink in for a minute. So maybe a fair number of baby boomers are smoking pot for medical reasons. Look at any alternative newspaper and the back pages are filled with ads for medical marijuana dispensaries (if that’s legal in your state). Boomers suffering with pain, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, nausea or loss of appetite have all benefited from medical marijuana, but what about the rest of you stoners?

Some baby boomers never stopped smoking pot. From their teen years until now, they have been getting high the same way others have a cocktail every night at 5pm. Then there are the newcomers who have taken to smoking pot because they are lucky enough to live in a state where it’s legal or they live in a state where it’s illegal but everyone can get their hands on it anyway. Marijuana does not have the scare power that it used to.

Study researchers see no particular harm in this increased usage by older citizens, as they assume that these pot smokers are experienced users who know their limits. The risk of falls was cited as one possible adverse effect, however you would have to think that baby boomers who are really high are also not in the mood to stand up. So there’s that.

Researchers believe more studies should be done to see there can be any actual harm to older Americans from continued use of cannabis. As they say in New York, fuhgettaboutit. Even for a publication called Addiction Journal, it’s a little crazy to waste any effort studying the effect of pot smoking on baby boomers.

My mother said it best. “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I’ll Give You A Driveway Moment

You want a driveway moment? I’ll give you a driveway moment. No, it’s not some sad, uplifting, or enlightening story I’m listening to on NPR. And it’s not a favorite golden oldie on WWAM. Nor am I out here in the car contemplating the theory of relativity.

I’m sitting in the car that is parked in my driveway because I don’t want to go inside my house – at least not yet. Because when I walk through that door I have to be an adult who worries about my spouse (who thinks I take our marriage for granted), about my grown children (who won’t leave home), and about my parents (who may soon need to go into a home), and about planning for retirement (a train that has long since left the station).

Driving home from work I was able to find respite from all these wonderful topics, but now that I’m in the driveway, the only thing between me and the boogey man is the sanctity of my car. It may be old and have over 150,000 miles on it, but the seats still smell leathery and I am comfortable behind the wheel. I know everything about this car. The new tires on the back, each of the disc brake rotors I’ve had replaced, the new radiator hoses, it’s all documented in my mind. Really, when I think about it, I realize I have replaced 50-60% of the car by now. But the sound system is still A-1 so I can listen to some soothing classical music while working up the courage to leave the comfort of my “cabin.” Might as well put the seat in the reclining position to see if that will lessen the throbbing sensation in my frontal lobe. That’s working. I can already feel my heart rate slowing down, my hands have stopped clenching, and the damp brow is drying off.

I feel transported to a better place – a place where no demands are made of me. When I’m hungry, food appears. When I’m drowsy, a soft bed is there for me. Everyone speaks softly and we are gentle with one another. The sense is that everyone is solicitous without verging on obsequious. This is good – very good.

A loud rapping noise on my window shatters the reverie into a thousand tiny pieces. My son is staring at me through the fogged up window and mouthing some words. I’m confused – I don’t know what he’s trying to tell me. He makes a motion that I should lower the window, and I comply.

“Can you move your car so I can get mine out?”

No hello. No how are you. Doesn’t ask if I’m okay. Just stands there looking idiotic wearing a backward ballcap, waiting for me to move on, so that he can move on.

Fine. Until tomorrow then. This driveway moment is over.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I Know Right?

Not really sure how to punctuate that title but I do know that it seems to be the millennial phrase of the moment. And it won’t last long, so you better catch it while you can.

I first noticed the phrase being used profusely by wait staff in restaurants. You would order a particular dish and when the waiter asked you if you enjoyed your meal you might respond that it was very good and spicy. To which the waiter would respond, “I know right?” I find this response very endearing, because the intent is right there on the surface. She is agreeing with you that it’s spicy and not in a condescending way, as though you’re an idiot baby boomer and you just figured out the green chile is going to be hot. Rather, the objective is to convey camaraderie. She has eaten the same dish and also thought it was very spicy. You two are now simpatico.

I’m not suggesting that millennials are intentionally using this phrase to establish a connection with customers or older adults. At least the different speakers that I’ve heard using it come across as very genuine. I put a question mark at the end of the phrase and no comma after the word “know” because there is no pause but there is a slight upward inflection at the end of the sentence (technically known as HRT….high-rise terminals). It’s also called “uptalk” and is generally popular with teenagers and millennials, but I’ve heard uptalkers all my life, so it’s been around a long time. I find that it conveys a shyness or unassertiveness, but some people think it conveys a lack of conviction. The speaker is agreeing with you but the upward inflection gives them a way out if you don’t agree.

Too technical? OK, that was a real question. The answer is maybe, but baby boomers better get used to millennial speech patterns because they are going to be talking to us everywhere we go for many more years to come. Linguists suggest that younger speakers will grow out of uptalk over time.

To which I say, I know right?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.