Friday, February 5, 2010
Elodin Enterprises: Making Tomorrow's Mistakes a Reality Today.

Over the years, I've learned a lot about women.

When I was younger, I was the guy all the girls came to for relationship advice. Don't ask me why. I'd never actually had a relationship. But I was thoughtful, and a good listener, and I didn't openly gawk at their breasts. (I did gawk, of course, I just wasn't rude about it.)

These three things may not seem like much, but from what I understand they rarely come together in a 16 year old boy. The result was that most girls found me to be trustworthy, fun to be around, and neuter as a Ken doll.

But I learned a lot by listening to their relationship problems. I learned what irritated them, what they really wanted in a relationship (or said they wanted, anyway), and the sort of jerky things guys were capable of.

Eventually I started to develop a list of things you should never do in a relationship. Rules of conduct that should never be broken. I continued building that list all through college.

Now I'm not talking about the obvious stuff here. Rules like, "Don't sleep with your girlfriend's sister." or "Don't jab her in the eye with a pointy stick." Shit like that is obvious.

My rules were more specific, but other people had paid for them in blood.

A few real examples:

* Never tell a woman she looks like her pet.

* Never compare a woman to a cow.

* Never compare a woman to any sort of cheese.

Maybe those last two don't happen so much outside of Wisconsin. But trust me, you really can't pull them off. Dairy products are fine. If you're careful, you can use creamy or milky. You can even, depending on the situation, get away with buttery. But cheese is right out. It can't be done in a good way.

Later on in life, as I started to date more, I began to add new rules based on my own experiences. Things like:

* Don't break up with a girl then send her roommate a love letter.

* Don't invite four different women to the same poetry reading. Especially if one of them is your ex-girlfriend, one is your current girlfriend, and one is the girl who kinda wants to be your girlfriend.

That last one might seem a little specific, and it is, I suppose. But if I can keep even one other person from making that mistake, I will be doing the world a very big favor.

Now some of you may scoff at my list of rules. Thinking them bizarre and overly specific. I don't really feel the need to defend myself or prove the efficacy of my system. Simply look at me, then look at my past girlfriends, all of whom have been lovely, intelligent, and sexy as hell. My results speak for themselves.

I'm not claiming to have it all figured out. Far from it. I'm still adding things to my list all the time.

For example, the other day I'm laying in bed with Sarah and little Oot. Because Oot is a happy little bundle of cute, Sarah experienced a moment of what I call Mom Bliss. I'm pretty sure this is an evolutionary thing. Specifically, it's a rush of endorphins designed to make moms adore their children, rather than devour them.

So we're all on the bed and Oot kinda squirms around, looks up at us, and gives us one of his trademarked triple-distilled cuteness grins. Then he makes a happy little shriek that sounds like he's trying to speak dolphin.

This presses Sarah's mom button, and the endorphins hit her brain like a pixie stick dissolved in a jam-jar full of heroin.

"Oh!" Sarah says, her eyes all dewy with Agape-style love. "This is so great! I'm in bed with my two favorite people!"

"Yeah," I say, pretty much agreeing with her. "It's kinda like a lame three-way."


New rule: Do not refer to quality time with mom and baby as "kinda like a lame three-way."

Here endeth the lesson.

pat

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Friday, October 17, 2008
The Good Life

A while back I was in the grocery store picking up something to eat. I ended up behind a mom and her little boy in the checkout line. She was buying all sorts of grown-up groceries: hamburger, milk, celery, saltines, green peppers, tomatoes...

I was buying Fritos, some Mountain Dew, and a box of Fruity Pebbles.

The boy looked at his mom's groceries, then at my groceries. Back and forth. I could see him putting together the pieces. His mom's groceries were going to make meatloaf. My groceries....

That's when I realized how awesome my life is. I was living this kid's dream. Of course, I was living MY dream too, but I had forgotten it until this moment.

I looked at him and pointed at the Fritos. "When I get home, I'm going to eat all of those," I said. "and it's going to completely spoil my dinner." I smiled and pointed to the box of fruity pebbles. "That's my dinner."

He didn't say anything. He was only about six or seven, and I'm guessing that he was too stunned with my untrammeled glory to put together a full sentence.

But he looked up at me with eyes that said, I want to be like you. How can I do these things which you have shown me?

"Go to college," I told him.

I was just about to tell him that I was going to put the Mountain Dew on the cereal instead of milk when his mom hustled him away, probably because she thought I was some kind of pervert.

Which is only fair, I suppose. I probably am.





Later all,

pat

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Thursday, July 31, 2008
The Pat Rothfuss Escort Service.

Today I was driving downtown and I saw a momma duck walking down the middle of the street with six little baby ducks following her. Downtown Stevens Point isn't really a bustling place, but there's still two lanes of traffic, and she was walking right down the center line.

I did a quick job of parallel parking, which turned out even more lousy than my usual. Then I hopped out of the car and made sure that they got out of the road okay.

The babies were still really young. They still had their baby fluff, and were smaller than tennis balls. Mom was taking small steps to they could keep up, and they were all trucking along to keep up with her, none of them ever falling behind by more than a foot and a half.

The other thing I noticed is that if she stopped moving, all of them sat down immediately. They did it in unison, six little duck butts hitting the pavement all at once. Then when mom started going again, they all bobbed back to their feet and started following her again.

Momma duck eventually headed off the road to the sidewalk and hopped up the curb. I was surprised that the baby ducks could make it up there too. But they did, bouncing up a sheer wall three times taller than they were. It was really cute. Hallmark cute.

I walked with them the five or six blocks to the river, stopping traffic when they needed to cross the road. I thought I might need to herd them too, but momma duck knew where she was going, and I only had to steer once to keep her going the right direction.

That said, she really didn't like having me around and made it clear whenever I got too close. She would snap her beak, and the feathers on the top of her head stood up. I had no doubt that were I to cross some invisible line, she would bring all sorts of momma-duck wrath of god down on me.

A lot of the drivers I stopped of didn't care for me much either, and their mouths made similar snapping motions behind their windshields when I stepped in front of their cars and held out my hand for them to stop. Luckily, this is something I can do with incredible authority. I worked in a parking ramp one summer, and that was the skill I carried away. I can stop a car at thirty feet with a hand gesture no matter what the driver might think of me.

However, people didn't stay pissed for long. Once they saw what I was doing, everyone was full of smiles and willing to help. I believe, given the chance, the vast majority of people are eager to do the right thing. I believe that people are good, and that most of the ugliness in the world comes from folks being thoughtless, or misinformed, or simply inattentive to the world around them. No one willingly runs over baby ducks, but it happens all the time because people aren't careful.

Sometimes you need someone to step out in front of you and say, "No. Stop. Look at this thing that's about to happen. Think about what you're doing. Attend. Be mindful." Whatever you call this impulse, I have a great deal of it, and it's constantly leading me to step out in front of moving cars. Metaphorically speaking.

Everything said, it took about an hour for me to escort the ducks to the river, and the milk that I'd left in my car got hot from sitting in the sun too long. But the truth is this: walking those ducks to the river was the best time I've had in months. Maybe longer. I felt good afterwards, better than I've felt in a long time.

It's strange for me to admit this, but a lot of my life has felt very hollow lately. Many of my days are not particularly good days, though I would be hard pressed to explain why this is the case.

I've had fun, don't get me wrong, but a lot of it has been fun like eating one of those giant Pixy Stix. It's great while you're doing it, but afterward, you don't really feel.... good. It's not a substantial experience.

I need to think on this. If an hour spent helping some ducks feels like the most worthwhile thing I've done in a months, I probably need to re-examine my life.

That's all for now folks. Have fun, but look out for ducks while you're doing it. And if someone steps in front of you and holds up their hand for you to stop, you might want to slow down whatever you're doing and have a second look around, just in case.

Fondly,

pat

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Spring in Wisconsin


Today is April 29th. It is two days away from Beltane.

Today I made a snowman in my yard.






A careful observer will note that Sarah's lips are wet, and her cheeks are pudged out. That's because she was eating a carrot. (You can see what remains in her hand.)

I told her that wasn't a cool thing to do. Eating a carrot right in front of the snowman you're making is rude, and just a little macabre. But, as always, she didn't listen to me.....

Have a good day everyone.

pat


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Sunday, April 20, 2008
Following Diogenes

The other day I was getting dressed, and I experienced something unfamiliar, something I couldn't remember ever experiencing before.

For this to make sense, I need to explain something first. I'm a sensation seeker.

Some people with this personality trait call themselves "thrill seekers," but that's not really appropriate in my case. I don't feel the need to jump off bridges and go snorkeling with sharks. I'm not an adrenaline junkie -- I simply like to experience new things.

And if you have my peculiar type of curiosity, there new things all over the place. This is part of the reason I like meeting people and going places. It's why I like reading books, which is like meeting people and going places except you don't have to take a shower and find your pants first.

Hmmm.... I still feel like I might be giving the wrong impression. I'm not talking about going anywhere exotic. A few years ago I really enjoyed visiting a small town called Amherst - population: not much. They had a great river, and the locks on the public mailboxes were really cool. New York was interesting too, but despite all the museums and landmarks I saw, the thing that I liked the most were the pigeons and the sidewalks. The sidewalks in Soho are really great.

It would probably be fair to say that I'm a thrill seeker with simple tastes. If you've ever been driving around central Wisconsin and seen someone running his hands over the bark of a tree, or staring intently into the water that's running along the gutter and into a storm drain, it was quite possibly me.

The point of all this is that I am tuned to the sensation of a new experience.

So a few days ago, I was getting dressed. I was halfway thought putting on my socks when I realized that I was experiencing something new.... But for the life of me I couldn't put my finger on what it was.

It took me the better part of a minute to figure it out: I was sitting on my bed while I put on my socks.

The socks weren't the new thing. The new thing was sitting on the bed while putting them on. Normally I put my socks on standing up. Part of the reason I do this is because I have ninja-like balance that I use at every opportunity, lest I dull my keen fighting edge. But the main reason I've always done it this way is that for the last 15 years I haven't owned a bed.

Where do I sleep? Well, with the exception of a few years of futon while in grad school, I've usually just slept on a mattress on the floor.

I use sheets, mind you. I'm not an animal. I just never bothered getting all those other parts that go together with the mattress to make it a bed.

While I was sitting on my bed, thinking, "Hmm. This is different," I realized y'all probably have a terribly inaccurate idea of what my life is like. You've come in at the end of the story, so to speak.

It would be reasonable for you to assume that my life has always been this luxurious, full of beds, posh coffee drinks, and Chinese food delivered directly to my house. But the truth is, for most of my life I have practiced simplicity of living. As a philosophy, it is very appealing to me. And, as a bonus, when you aren't worried about making a lot of money, it frees up a lot of your time for writing.

Simplicity has come naturally to me over the years. It's easy when you don't have much money. I live cheaply, move often, and don't focus on frippery. Please don't compare me to Thoreau. While he made some good points, Thoreau was kind of a poser.

No. Ever since I studied the Greek philosophers, I've done my best to follow in footsteps of Diogenes. The man who threw away his bowl after seeing a boy drinking out of his cupped hands. The man Plato called, "Socrates gone mad." Brilliant, bitter, barefoot Diogenes.

This means for most of my adult life I've only owned one pair of shoes, one coat, and one pair of pants. I've eaten a lot of ramen. (Chicken Maruchen ramen, given a choice.) Before selling the book, I never paid more than $250 a month for rent, or more than ten dollars for a piece of furniture.

No, wait, that isn't true. I paid 80 bucks for a desk back in 1998. It was one of those plywood assemble-it-yourself kits. Two years later I moved, and when I realized it couldn't be taken apart, I just ripped the top piece off and laid it across of two filing cabinets. That's what I still use for a desk. That's what I'm typing on it right now.

Do I have a point? No. Probably not. Except to say that life is strange. I have lived most of my adult life happily poor. (Though I have never been truly desperate or destitute by any means.) Now I have a bed. A real bed with a box spring and a frame and everything. I recently bought a dishwasher. I have a house -- or at least a mortgage in the shape of a house.

I've been up all night, writing and thinking. And before I lay down in my new bed in my new house and catch a refreshing day's sleep, I'm going to go out and buy a couple copies of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. This is another thing I've never done before. I wonder how heavy three copies will be? How much does the Times cost?

I'm buying a Sunday paper because there is a full page ad for The Name of the Wind in there today. A full-page color ad. And though I don't know the specific numbers, I expect this ad cost the publisher more money than I made in a year of teaching at the university. It is terribly flattering. It is a glamorous gesture of faith and support. It shows that they really believe in the book.

Today I have a full-color ad in the New York Times, and my life is strange. This is not a bad thing. After I post this up on my blog, I will take a shower, put on my only pair of pants and walk downtown to buy a Sunday paper for the first time. Spring is finally here in Wisconsin, and though the trees are still dark and leafless, the ground has thawed. It is almost fifty degrees out. More luxury. More than I deserve. I will celebrate by leaving my only pair of shoes at home and make my way barefoot, pretending for a while that I am still following Diogenes.


Take care everyone,

pat



*** Edit - 9:45 AM ***


First off, it turns out it isn't a color ad. That makes me feel better, actually.


Secondly, they really don't want to let you into the grocery store if you don't have any shoes on. Even if it's just so you can buy a paper. Even if it's just for a minute so you can buy a paper that has an ad for your book in it.

If it wasn't for the authority of my majestic beard, I don't think they would have let me through....



Thirdly:



(Click to Embiggen)

Whoot!

pat

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Daily adventures: The Dentist.

So today I went to the dentist.

This might not seem like a big deal to y'all. In fact, for a lot of you, I'm guessing a trip to the dentist is no more of an event than going to get the oil changed in your car or buying a new pair of shoes. That is to say, its falls under the category of routine maintenance for your life.

But you see, I haven't been to the dentist in a while. A long while. An amount of while that would be considered obscene by many people.

Yes yes. I know everyone puts off going to the dentist. You're supposed to go every six months, or a year. But you forget, or you avoid it, and one year stretches into two, or three, or five.

But, as with all things, I've taken it to the next level. For me it's been so long that I can only dimly remember the last time. My last dentist was a huge Italian man with fingers like sausages. He looked like an honest-to-god mobster, and when he mentioned that I wasn't flossing, it sounded like something out of the Godfather. Like if I didn't floss, he was going to send someone around to my house to straighten me out....

Also, the brand name of the little workstation they had next to the chair? "Cavitron" I shit you not. The thing was called The Cavitron.

It would be funny to say that that experience traumatized me, and that's why I haven't been back for so long. But the it wouldn't be the truth. I thought all that was funny as hell.

The truth is, I just never think of going. And when I DO think of going, I worry that when I show up they're going to say something like, "Well, it's too late. Our only option now is to surgically remove your whole mouth in the most excruciating manner possible."

So, of course, it's easier to avoid the whole situation.

How long has it been? It has been, at my best guess, eleven years. Maybe twelve.

And I don't floss. At all. It would be impossible to floss less than I do, unless you somehow invented a machine that made negative flossing possible.

So, to cut to the chase, I went in to the dentist and got to experience the new tool. Apparently that sharp metal pokey thing was getting blase. Now they have much cooler high-tech version of that. It combines all the pokiness of the metal tool, with a tiny spray of water and a feeling like...

You know when someone runs their fingernail over a chalkboard and you feel it back in the base of your neck. It's like that. Except it's the pokey thing and my teeth making the noise. Huzzah for science.

But deep in my heart I know I've earned this. This is Penance. It's fair. This poor hygienist wasn't planning on dealing with this today and they probably scheduled my cleaning thinking that they'd only need the regular amount of time. I can't blame them for being a little rough and a little hurried.

Still, part of me wonders if there is an upscale dentist option out there. I mean, I don't think Brad Pitt goes in to the dentist and has someone scrape away at him like this. It's just undignified.

Anyway, it's good for me. Not only because my teeth did need cleaning, but because I haven't practiced my Buddhist meditation lately, and I typically only do that in situations like this.

Here's my philosophy. Any wanker can meditate at home, listening to Enya and sitting on his yoga mat. That's for sissies. You managed to clear your mind from all distractions? Wow. Congratulations. You want an organic, sugar-free walnut and raisin cookie to celebrate?

Me? I'm badass. My thought is that if you can relax, clear your mind, and contemplate the four noble truths while someone is drilling your teeth, then you've got your place in the universe pretty well sorted out. Meditating while under extreme conditions is like going running while you're wearing leg weights and occationally stopping to have a fistfight with a shark. Except, y'know, with your brain.

So I meditate in the dentist's chair. I meditate while flying through a thunderstorm sitting next to a mom with a screaming baby, while getting stitches with no anesthetic at the doctor's office, and, once, in the fourth row of a Gwar concert. Keep your circle breathing to yourself, hippie. I've got so much pranjna I don't even know what to do with it all.

And the end of the story? I'm fine. No cavities. No trouble. I'm the first to admit that this little story would work better with a moral at the end. But that's just not the way some stories actually happen.

Goodnight everyone,

pat

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Friday, December 21, 2007
Fried Rice and a new Interview....

So the other day I order some Chinese food, because having someone bring food directly to your house and eating it in your jammies is perhaps the most decadent pleasure that exists.

I ordered some food for my girlfriend as well. This is partly because I'm sensitive and thoughtful and awesome. But, truthfully, it's also because if I didn't, she would just eat half of mine and then I'd be sad and hungry.

Just as the food arrived, my girlfriend called me and told me she'd be late getting home from work. I tell her that I'll wait dinner for her, again because of the awesome, and resist the urge to open the bag to get at the egg rolls. Instead I set the paper bag on my bed and cover it up with a blanket to keep it warm until she gets home.

Eventually she does, and we eat it, and it's lovely.

But that's not the end of the story. The end of the story is that now my blankets smell like chicken fried rice. You'd think this would be a bad thing, but not so much. Truth is, it's kinda nice, actually.

Ah yes. There you go. Another little peek into my life.

Why am I writing about this? Hell, I don't know. Why do I write anything? I suppose because it amuses me, and because I hope it might amuse you too.

If you're looking for more odd ramblings of mine, you can find them in the newest interview I've done over HERE at the Book Swede.

We talk, among other things, about monkeys.

Later all,

pat

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Thursday, June 28, 2007
An evening in the life....

I don't drink, as a rule. Alcohol just doesn't do much for me. I also don't drive much. I've lived the majority of my life in a smallish town where you can get anywhere important by walking less than a mile. For about twelve of my fifteen years living here, I've never even owned a car.

This, combined with a tendency toward losing things, mean that I rarely carry a photo ID on my person.

These are the things you need to understand if you're going to appreciate this story.

I was in the grocery store buying food because I had company coming over. A few of the students I have come to know well in the last couple years are graduating soon. One of the best of these is leaving this Sunday. She and one other particularly bright and shining student have been good friends to me this last year. We go to each other's houses for dinner, watch movies, and talk honest talk into the late hours of night. We are comfortable and loving and non-judgmental with each other. They are graduating and moving on with their lives, and I am staying here and moving on with mine.

This, I think, will be what makes me leave my job as a teacher eventually. Not the low pay, or the high workload, or lack of professional respect because I don't have enough letters behind my name. Those things are familiar and bearable, like the smell of the papermill when the wind blows from the south. But good friends are rare to me, and I have no knack for letting go of people I care about. I can't imagine what will happen to me if this happens every couple years for the next decade.

But there will be plenty of time for me to be melancholy when they are gone. So now I'm simply glad of their company when I can get it, and I'm trying to catch as much quality time with them as I can before they leave.

Hence the grocery store. This is a purely recreational shopping run. My house is already stocked with everything I need to survive: ramen and pasta and microwave burritos. I have simple tastes, but I want to be a good host. So I buy cherries and apples and cheese and bread. I buy pistachios and chocolate and soy ice cream for the friend who has a lactose intolerance.

Then I think to buy some wine. My friends enjoy wine and I enjoy being a good host. I also occasionally like to try a glass of wine, like a child playing dress-up. It's fun for me because when I drink wine I get to pretend that I'm an adult.

So I go to the liquor section and browse around. My knowledge of wine could very easily be written entire onto the palm of my hand, so my choices are based on educated guessery and how cool the bottle looks. I pick out a swirly bottle and something with Asti on the label, because I'm pretty sure that means sweet. I like sweet.

When I get into the checkout line, I realize I don't have my ID on me. This usually ends up being an issue whenever I get it into my head to buy liquor. Sure, I look like I'm of age, but looks don't count for much. Once, when I was 26, I had an undercover policeman pull me out of a liquor store and ask to see my license. When I showed it to him, he raised a surprised eyebrow and shrugged, vaguely apologetic. "You weren't acting like you were old enough to be in there," he said. I took it as a complement.

So there I am in the grocery line with booze and no ID. I've been in this situation before. As I've mentioned, I rarely carry one. I never think of it until I get into the checkout line carrying a bottle.

I have a number of strategies for dealing with this. Normally I just play it cool, hoping that if I act like I buy booze all the time, they'll just let me through and not ask any questions.

This is my first line of defense, and it works about half the time.

When people ask to see my ID, it's usually all over. At that point my strategy varies depending on what mood I'm in. If the booze was an impulse buy, I usually just put it back. If I'm feeling particularly cussed, I'll argue. This doesn't work, but I do usually achieve a vague moral victory wherein I get the teller to say something along the lines of, "I'm only following orders."

Once, when somebody asked to see my ID I just raised an eyebrow and gave the teller a look. It was a look that said, "Come on. Just look at me. Witness my full and manly beard. I'm not some punk kid buying a bottle of strawberry Boone's Farm. I'm an adult." She gave me a sheepish, apologetic grin, and scanned my bottle of Baileys.

I smiled and said, "Thanks." But inside I was jumping up and down thinking, "Ha! I fooled you! I really am a punk kid! And I have a bottle of strawberry Boone's Farm at home in my fridge!"

So, again, I'm in the grocery line, running through my options and trying to pick my best strategy. I get to the front of the line, and I'm getting ready to try the raised eyebrow thing again, when the teller looks at me and says, "So when is book two coming out?" She scans my bottles without asking for any sort of ID.

I try to play it cool and say something suave about my revisions. But the truth is, I'm thrown by this. I'm not used to it. In the last month I've had people come up to me in at the DMV, at Best Buy, at the video rental place, and at the local ice cream shop (twice).

I know it's just a local phenomenon. Stevens Point is pretty small, and there have been a handful of "Local Boy Does Good" articles in the papers with unflattering but rather accurate pictures of me. Once you know what I look like, I'm easy to recognize. Generally speaking I look like a Russian dictator, or a Harry Potter character. Or a homeless guy. Or a Muppet.

That's all. I just wanted to share my surreal moment with you all. As with all my stories, I've wandered, but we do have an ending. This is the good place to stop if you want a happy one. There, at the store, things end with me feeling famous and cool, though somewhat flustered and uncomfortable. Possibly the first time in my life I've ever had anything resembling a fame-related perk.

If you keep following the story later into the night, the ending is bittersweet. A nice evening. Talk. Food. Wine. But it's the last evening, and the three of us know it.

Keep going and it the story ends dark. All stories do if you follow them long enough. One friend leaves sooner, the other later. We promise to stay in touch, but we don't, because that is the way of things. We'll try e-mail, but it won't be the same. Distance doesn't allow for intimacy. You can't chat over e-mail. Not really. You can't drink wine. Or hug. Or pretend to be grown-ups. Or pretend to be kids. They won't call when they're bored, and we won't get together to watch movies and give each other backrubs. They won't come over and ask for advice and bitch about the transient, incompetent men in their lives. I won't be able to lay on the couch with my head in someone's lap and cry because I miss my mom.

Early on it will be hard, and the absent ache of them will be constant, impossible to ignore as a missing tooth. It will get easier, because that is the way of things. Moving on is what people do. We're designed for it. We'll forget the feel of it, the closeness of dimly lit conversations, the smell of each other. In time we'll only remember each other in a vague, colorless way. Then even that will fade, and we won't realize that anything is missing from our lives at all.

Goodnight all,

pat

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