just call me raegen

STUPID, MEANINGLESS LIVES UNITE TO DISCUSS UNPOPULAR OPINIONS

Month: September, 2012

Worthless Things of Worth

Downsizing is the closest I’ll probably ever come to an archaeological dig. In the process of cleaning out my garage, I’ve unearthed many things — some of which I may actually not have seen for a century. It’s strange to think that these things have been there all along, in boxes, being held on to but untouched to the point of escaping all recollection — and I have a pretty good recollection, I might add.

Archaeological dig at Sedgeford

Just found your baby teeth, Raegen! (Photo credit: Ian-S)

If one is lucky, the things one has held on to will become valuable beyond one’s own use and/or sentimental attachment; they will become vintage or antique items that command a decent amount of cash. Or even an indecent amount. Just some amount would be good, actually. But for most things, worth literally escapes as soon as one cracks the spine of a book, for example, and the pages take their first breath — which, incidentally, is one breath closer to their own degradation and a Dumpster-esque grave.

Dirty blue dumpster

Where good books go to die. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lots of things bug me (as you really should know by now), but few things are actually as sad to me — at least when it comes to inanimate objects — as items that really do have worth, but have been rendered somehow worthless by decay, obsolescence, or some other tragic, time-induced occurrence.

English: In the ghost town of , USA

At least we visit this on Halloween… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take the set of encyclopedias I have, for example. No one can say information is worthless — and if these books have anything, it’s tons of that. Yet no one buys encyclopedias anymore; there are decent and free sources of information online, even for those who (reasonably so) have little respect for Wikipedia. Shoot, no one even uses encyclopedias anymore — myself included, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve been in a box I’d forgotten the contents of.

A cardboard box that appears to look shocked a...

I’m shocked — yet honored — that you’d use me again before opening an encyclopedia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there are the ceramic birthday dolls I received every year to age 21, which, sadly, no grown woman — especially one living with another human being — could display with any amount of self-respect. Not that that’s really the issue, since my level of self-respect is founded more upon how much chocolate I’m able to consume in a day; it’s just that I’ve grown out of this phase of life. (For the record, I may still at some point re-display my She-Ra collection, just for S’s and G’s, but that’s different.) Still, these porcelain belles might be nice to pass on to my daughter one by one as she experiences each consecutive year of life — well, except for that whole issue of not having a daughter, son, or any kids to speak of in the first place, since I’m not into the whole kids thing in general.

I may have turned 16, but I can assure you, I wasn’t sweet.

If I was smart, I wouldn’t care about this in the first place. I would take this actually rather Zen-like opportunity to release my attachment to things to, well, release my attachment to things. But that isn’t happening, as I have this problem of clinging to the belief that all things have some value that should be recognized by — I don’t know — someone or something.

A collection of pogs.

Love us! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This being the case, the solution that first springs to mind is to have a garage sale and see what happens. Maybe — hope of hopes — someone else will have a real use for these things! Thing is, though, I highly suspect I already know exactly what will happen instead: namely, I will only be able to get money for functional items, like furniture, which I’m not even selling, thereby making the entire effort a waste of my time (which I’m calculating at an overtime pay rate, given that I’d have to do this on the weekend).

Garage sale

The fun practically never ends! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead, I could — and plan to — try Craigslist. The investment with that is minimal (no fees like eBay or Amazon); I was going to have to take those boxes off the shelf and tear them open to part with their contents anyway. Still, I suspect even this effort will be made in vain.

A screen shot of Craigslist.com censoring the ...

BBW (big book waiting) to turn you on… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a creative person. Yet even I am disappointed by my own lack of imagination when it comes to somehow dispensing with these things that should have (and do have, darn it!) worth. I should be able to do something with them to make them worth-ful again! But what? The only suggestion I’ve received thus far is to use the encyclopedias as tinder, which, as an avid reader and writer, makes me feel like a traitorous murderer.

Book burning

Noooooooooooooooooooooooo… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So… what to do? Thoughts?

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A Review of The Killers’ Battle Born: May Be Born of Battle, But It’s Mellowed By Age

Would’ve been cooler if it was mustang versus Mustang. Just sayin’…

OK, here’s how I’m going to break this down.

I’m going to give you the skinny first, so those of you who have no attention spans can —

If you’re looking for Hot Fuss or even Sam’s Town (which is looking less and less like a departure from their beginnings with each consecutive album), save your money, because you’re going to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of Flamingo, Flowers’ solo album, this should be right up your alley.

Era Hotel Bahau's bowling alley

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that we got that out of the way…

The rest is for fans like me who’ve been following these guys for at minimum eight years (you’ll have to forgive me, but I wasn’t following them before, as I didn’t live in Vegas then and had no other way of knowing about them) and want to have a more in-depth discussion about the album, the band, etc. Keep in mind that my taste can be best encapsulated by listing my very-hard-to-narrow top 10 favorite Killers songs (in no particular order), so you may disagree with my overall assessment if you disagree with this fundamental basis for judgment:

1) “Mr. Brightside”

2) “All These Things That I’ve Done”

3) “Midnight Show”

4) “Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll”

5) “When You Were Young”

6) “Read My Mind”

7) “This River Is Wild”

8) “Sweet Talk”

9) “Spaceman”

10) “This Is Your Life”

So, Battle Born. Well, first off, for those of you who don’t know, this is a reference to the state of Nevada. It actually appears on the back of our driver licenses. It refers to the fact that the state entered into the Union during the Civil War. This is an interesting and fitting title for the album, then, since many of these songs seem to be about another kind of Civil War – the more domestic kind.

English: The Bennett Sisters

Catfight! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before I go any further, let me just say that, as a creative writer, I do not make the mistake of assuming any of these songs are autobiographical; still, there is a sort of story or theme to each album just as there is to any book — fiction, nonfiction, or otherwise — and I’m speaking to that.

This is a band who’s been telling a story, album by album, of what growing up can be like. Whether it’s their “real” life story or not is somewhat irrelevant… unless you’re hoping to marry one of The Killers, in which case, I completely sympathize with your plight.

Just kidding. Sort of.

Brandon Flowers of The Killers

Who could resist a mug like this? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hot Fuss was the somewhat typical portrayal (though still well done, IMO) of the 20-something relationship experience — filled with all that fun angst, betrayal, bitterness, revenge, awkwardness, and yearning to be more (or at the very least something else). There’s a definite distance between the characters speaking the lyrics and the person/people those characters are speaking to, but this actually serves to make the songs more accessible to the audience; in other words, this could be us talking to a lover, friend, or even ourselves in many cases.

Cover of "Hot Fuss"

Because I’m all about the limited editions, b*tches!

In Sam’s Town, you see youth’s naivete about the world dissolve even more, but there seems to be a newfound confidence that accompanies this awareness. The characters speaking seem to have something they want to teach us, and only with a few exceptions do the songs seem meant for one particular party.

Sam's-Town

Which Vegas looks nothing like, I might add. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Then came Sawdust, but that was really just a compilation of tracks that hadn’t made the final cut for the first two albums, so that didn’t really have a theme, per se, except to say that the songs were similar in sound to the other 2001-2006 stuff.)

TheKillers-Sawdust(B-Sides)

Closest to Hot Fuss they ever came again – probably because of the age of most of these songs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Day & Age, the problems of superstardom surface lyrically every once in a while — which is hard to relate to as mere mortals, though there still is a large focus on telling a variety of stories that could describe many of the types you would meet in a place like Vegas (although you don’t need to be in Vegas to meet any of these types by any stretch of the imagination).

Day & Age

I heard a rumor that you quit this day & age. Is it true? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But with Battle Born, many things have changed. Whereas the songs on Day & Age and even Flamingo seem to be a bit more “in this thing together, facing the world and all it’s taken out of us now that fame and fortune have come into the picture,” the songs on Battle Born seem to reflect cracks in the very foundation of any “we”; life, celebrityhood, or whatever else the universe has thrown this way is finally taking its toll. The attempts to maintain normalcy seem to have been ineffective, and there is a sense of loss when reflecting on the past and “the way we were.” The songs very much feel like they’re intended for a very specific beloved possessing a very specific history with the character singing, which at times makes the tracks unusually inaccessible to listeners.

knocking to door

You keep on knockin’, but you can’t come in. (Photo credit: Daniel*1977)

If we depended on The Killers’ characters to get us past the bouncer and into the private area of the club to see what’s going on behind all the smoke and mirrors (Hot Fuss), we’ll have to find some other connections now, because the old ones are too busy staying at home being domestic — raising kids, fighting to save marriages, and the like — to hook us up.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a band like any other that’s changing and evolving. This feeling of¬† being “all grown up now” just seems to me to be peculiarly noticeable on this album compared to the others, and that’s not going to jive with everyone. And them’s just the breaks.

Even the pacing of the music on this album reflects this. While at times, you have the whole band rocking out, it doesn’t really trick the listener (at least not this one) into noticing these aren’t slower songs overall. Perhaps angst is fast-paced and despair is slow-paced — I don’t know. But regardless, this album is the mellowest of all they’ve put out thus far as a group.

mello yello

Mellow… but not yellow. (Photo credit: Simon Lieschke)

Let’s go through the individual tracks, shall we?

1) “Flesh and Bone”: This is a weird song about coming into one’s own but recognizing there’s one battle none of us will ever win. It’s a bit schizophrenic, but this makes sense in a poetic sort of way; after all, flesh is very different from bone. It’s refreshing, in the sense that it takes a lot of risks, but it ends up being sort of mishmash to this listener.

Reminds me most of: If “Sam’s Town” and “Human” had a kid.

2) “Runaways”: This is one of those songs for an audience of one, but if you’re all about that, it’s pretty good. It’s interesting to hear a love song that seems like it’s for adults only; I don’t find that this track has any sort of ageless, timeless feel to it. It’s also interesting to note that it seems more important to tell stories outright on this whole album than to be clever in the lyrics (like how things are communicated in “Somebody Told Me,” for example).

Reminds me most of: “Crossfire” off Flamingo — which I think makes it a weird choice as the album-promoting single for a Killers album.

3) “The Way It Was”: Not surprisingly, this is one of my favorites. It reminds me of a few of my current favorites, and I like more melodic, steady songs in general. It’s another love song, but again, this is an older (as in “been together for a while,” not “senior citizens”) couple we’re dealing with here, so its accessibility it going to be limited. (Nice reference to watching planes at McCarran, though. Locals will definitely enjoy that.)

English: Heart of Las Vegas from the taxiway o...

Just park here! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reminds me most of: The sound of “This Is Your Life” and the mood/subject of “Read My Mind.” A bit like “Only the Young” off Flamingo, too.

4) “Here With Me”: I am convinced most people will like this slow jam, though there is something about it that reminds me of Richard Marx, and I’m not sure how to feel about that. Also, technology references in songs are romantic in no way ever. “Don’t want your picture on my cell phone”? I know my boys can do better than that!

English: Plantar wart, very painful. The 51-ye...

Don’t want THIS picture on my cell phone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reminds me most of: “A Dustland Fairytale.” Also reminds me of “Hard Enough” off Flamingo.

5) “A Matter of Time”: The flip-flopping lyrical themes of malaise in the present and fonder reminiscence over the past are matched well by the music in this track. Lyrically, we get a touch of that bitter cleverness we know well from a Hot Fuss love song — only this time, the sense of doom is not in the character’s head, but out there in the open with respect to this aged relationship.

Reminds me most of: A mellower variation of “Midnight Show” and “All the Pretty Faces”… and, oddly enough, a mix between the beginning of a CSI: New York and a CSI: Miami episode. (And you should watch this CSI-related link just for the hell of it.)

David Caruso

Man made the glasses; glasses never made the man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6) “Deadlines and Commitments”:¬† From an aural perspective, this one didn’t immediately remind me of anything The Killers as a group have done before — which is not to say it’s a departure from The Killers’ typical sound (like “I Can’t Stay” or “Joyride” are), but that it doesn’t really sound like any of the songs they’ve put out before. You can decide whether that’s a good or bad thing. The topic, however, is more familiar; it’s about the down and out — a common theme for Vegas in general. Just ask our “tourism” officials.

Reminds me most of: “Bling.” And “Jacksonville” off Flamingo. And the typical ’80s Pet Shop Boys sound in general.

7) “Miss Atomic Bomb”: This is more universal, but it’s still a “What went wrong?” love song. It’s pretty good.

Reminds me most of: “Human.” But more “Hard Enough” from Flamingo.

8) “The Rising Tide”: Another more universal song than most on the album. It’s not overtly about love, so the interpretation leaves it more accessible to a general audience. It’s also one of the faster tracks.

Reminds me most of: A less catchy “For Reasons Unknown” or “This River Is Wild.”

9) “Heart of a Girl”: This one starts off very minimalist, with just vocals and an acoustic guitar, and the theme is accessible — yes, even if you’re not a girl. Like “Deadlines and Commitments,” it reminds me least of songs The Killers have done before… although it reminds me very much of something one of my exes would’ve come up. Well, him or Sarah McLaughlin, which probably doesn’t say much for him. ūüėČ

English: Quincy Mumford playing at The Saint i...

Those aren’t tears; my eyes are just sweating. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reminds me most of: “My List,” but even I admit that’s a big stretch.

10) “From Here on Out”: The Killers go country. Wait — The Killers go country? Yep, The Killers go country. Consider yourself warned. I predict an album from either The Killers or Flowers separately that will be entirely country at some point in the future. Again, you have been warned.

Reminds me most of: “The Clock Was Tickin'” off Flamingo. And nu country. And John Cougar Mellencamp, even though he’s not really country.

John Mellencamp On His Hometown Square

Country does NOT ride Suzuki! (Photo credit: Michael Redman)

11) “Be Still”: A pretty one. A bit generic lyrically, but a good, accessible message nevertheless. I happen to be fond of the re-envisioning of all the old cliches about being yourself in the lyrics “If they drag you through the mud / It doesn’t change what’s in your blood.”

Reminds me most of: “Goodnight, Travel Well” and “My List.” “On the Floor” off Flamingo, too.

12) “Battle Born”: A more playful song lyrically, but with a serious theme. And an American one too (a la “Sam’s Town”). And I just realized there are an awful lot of horse or horse-related references in this album.

Letrero de un jinete y caballo

Yee-haw! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reminds me most of: “Neon Tiger,” though I like that song better. And CSI again.

Overall, I found my favorites off this album (Tracks 3, 6, 7, 9, and 11) were the slower songs — which is strange, being a big fan of Hot Fuss. However, I think that’s mainly because 1) I found the lyrics of these songs more accessible, and 2) I’m not sure I’m on board yet with all the dramatic shifts sonically within a single song that appear in many of the other tracks. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my Killers a little more predictable and would prefer the style experimentations to take place across a whole album (so, one country song in there, if they absolutely must) instead of so many shifts within a single track (as we hear in songs like “Flesh and Bone”). If I can’t have the overall general sound of Hot Fuss, though, I’ll take less disjointed melodies, perhaps at the cost of those melodies being on the mellower side.

Also, while I do appreciate how the themes of the lyrics have changed — and I will always be a fan — it would be great if the band somehow managed to capture the pace, drama, and lyrical cleverness of the earlier albums while tackling those maturer topics that seem to intrigue them these days as well.

Dear Realtor, What Is It That You Actually Do?

Ah, the joys of property hunting!

It was only a few short years ago that I came to this freak of a city, looking for a place to call home. Granted, I was (and still am) renting, but I knew it couldn’t be an impossible dream to find a cozy little place to settle down for a spell. I still remember the first property that E, my realtor (and, yes, I refuse to cap that allegedly “professional” title) at the time, showed me.

I step out of the car onto well-worn asphalt whose border can’t be deciphered from the gravel known as the complex’s “yard.” A child’s plastic trike sits, faded and long-abandoned, near a staircase leading up to one of the units of the gray two-story building. We walk up the steps, which I swear are bending beneath our every footfall. We get to the door, and wouldn’t you know it? The code to the lockbox wasn’t working! Good thing the door was already kicked in at the bottom; we could practically see the whole place through the gap!

kicked In

It looked like this, but with even less character. (Photo credit: Tattooed JJ)

I had one thought running through my head at the time, and it went something like this: Seriously, E, what made you think in a million years that it would ever be a good idea for Little Ol’ Petite & Very Single Me to live in a place like this? I understand not being biased against certain neighborhoods, but I also understand catering to your client’s taste and not wasting one’s own time.

Fast-forward a little over two years. Having avoided an inevitable shanking at Casa de la Scary by living with my mom, sister, and sister’s bestie instead, it came time to embark on my solo once again. I decide to give E one last chance to redeem himself by showing me some places I might actually feel safe living in. It became clear very quickly, however, that E was not going to be of much help, as it took him nearly a week just to respond to my voicemails. Perhaps he could squeeze me in to view a property once I had all my boxes packed and truck loaded.

English: Category:Ford vehicles

I think I might be ready to see a place or two now! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enter K. Deciding to do my best to take matters into my own hands, I did what any desperate computer owner does: I started contacting people off the Internet. Finding a place a mile or two down the road from my family’s, I call the number associated with it and meet up with K at the condo.

I realize quickly that the pictures online did not quite capture the overall ambiance of the community, to put it euphemistically. But K is kind, asking me if there’s any way she can help me find someplace I’d feel comfortable coming home to.

K becomes more than a realtor to me; she becomes my friend. She tells me about the different neighborhoods we visit. She tells me about the different property management companies in town — who’s reputable and whom to avoid. She even tells me about the guy she’s dating and gets me a housewarming gift when I do find a great place.

Pepper Spraying Cop vs Snooki

What is a housewarming gift these days without pepper spray? (I seriously couldn’t pass this picture up. Down with Jersey Shore!) (Photo credit: Rabblefish)

Things are good for the time I’m in that condo. I have a good landlord who gives a crap about her place, and I take good care of it for her. The property management official who comes to check in on the unit from time to time, G, even says it looks like a model home. My new boyfriend says it looks like I don’t even really live there; is this my second home — the one I take my secret lovers to — by any chance?

It isn’t, though, and soon my new boyfriend is just my boyfriend, and we decide to move in together. It’s time to go a-huntin’ again. I know the perfect person to call now, though, right? So I give K a ring.

Mysteriously, K seems to think I got my name changed sometime during the past two years we’ve been out of touch. Starting it off with an M instead — and keeping it that way even after my boyfriend corrects her — she gets the news that “Megan” is now looking for a place for two.

Megan Fox.

This is NOT me… but I’m happy to refer her to K whenever she’s looking for a place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Megan character, however, is apparently not too particular, because K only sends a list of, like, 10 properties that have to be to both my and my boyfriend’s liking. Needless to say, Raegen asks for a bigger list; we have no problem narrowing it down ourselves.

What we do have a problem with, though, is getting our selections to actually match up with what the pictures have depicted. One unit hasn’t even been cleaned; razors have been left in the shower, and the countertops in the kitchen have a peculiar stickiness to them that none of us dared touch with a bare hand, lest we catch some communicable disease (like the herp).

The majority of properties we see are actually like this, though they daringly call themselves “move-in ready.” For whom — poo-flinging monkeys? And who are these alleged “management” companies — composed of realtors and their minions, mind you — and what were they doing (you know, besides not managing properties)?

English: A drag queen impersonating Cher for a...

Realtor by day, drag queen by night? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So we look. And we look. And we look even more. So many properties were ruled out as soon as we opened the door. Still, I don’t blame K for getting frustrated with me after four weekends of searching. I was tired of the whole thing, too. But I just wasn’t about to get myself into a situation for a year or more with a company that obviously didn’t know what property management was.

But I did, and I did it even though I thought I was making the safest move I could possibly make; I did it by sticking with my current property management company. In a moment of desperation, I called the company I was currently renting a place from. It had a property available that had recently opened up, and it was even willing to cut the rate for me, I’d been such an exemplary tenant. My boyfriend and I saw the place and immediately fell in love with it.

A picture of a candy store.

OK, it didn’t quite look like this, but this is as close as it gets to heaven on Earth for me. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, as you may recall from a blog I wrote earlier this year, it turns out I’m renting from a slumlord. And the property management company, also disgruntled with this difficult client they could’ve easily turned away (but chose to represent instead), refuses to manage the property properly as a means of passive-aggressively getting back at her — only there’s no sidestepping taking things out on us as well in the process. A conversation about it back in May went a little like this:

S (looking at our pictures of the damage from a leak): Wow, I had no idea it was this bad.

Boyfriend: S, why haven’t you come to see it for yourself? I mean, don’t you at least have to take pictures for your records?

S: It’s not my property.

Boyfriend: But it’s your listing.

S: But it’s not my property.

Boyfriend: But it’s your listing.

S: But it’s not my property.

(Insert awkward silence among the three of us.)

Which brings us to our current state of affairs. The boyfriend and I are looking for a new place, which will hopefully be managed by a company that actually knows the definition of property management and which we will lease from someone with a decent sense of pride of ownership. Because being duped into thinking we were working with a good management company by virtue of having a good landlord associated with a previous rental obviously worked out well for us.

7089 Lego Dark Helmet Force-choking Me

“Fooled you!” (Photo credit: kbaird)

So here we are, starting from scratch… but not quite. Armed with Dr. Gunther VonStractenburg (my computer) and the Interwebs, I contact at least 20 realtors on Zillow (kick-tush site for those in search of homes to buy or rent). I’m feeling pretty good about being able to finally take matters into my own hands, at least to a degree.

But what do I get from reaching out to people myself? 5 responses, people. 5.

At first, this rate seems pretty decent, though, right? But it’s not just quantity, folks — which, by the way, I haven’t really gotten, either, if only a quarter of 20 replied back.

The first reply does seem promising enough, though. We go to check out the property, and it’s doable, but we’re not ready to commit quite yet, since it’s the first property we’ve seen this round. I ask F, the realtor, if he shows properties besides those his company manages. He tells me yes, but then goes on to say that it really isn’t worth his while to take the time and help us out by doing so, because he only makes $250 in commission off the rental of someone else’s property.

Pause. Let me just break that down for you, for those who might’ve missed it: He gets $250 just to open a door and show someone a place he doesn’t even have to manage, then he gets to claim credit and collect cash for referring that person to the company that is managing it. But it’s not worth his time.

English: Douche available to use.

I am fairly certain that if a surgeon were to cut open a realtor, this is what would be found inside. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another, W, calls me, too… but I’m pretty sure he’s completely wasted every time he does — which is a lot, actually, because he can’t seem to decide whether or not he’s available the days he says he is. We’re allegedly going to see one of his company’s properties this Sunday after 10. That’s the most I could get him to commit to — probably because he’s not sure how hungover he’ll be that morning yet.

One tells me the property isn’t available anymore. Doesn’t even sign a name. Almost as classy as F and W.

One tells me to contact the office. I do and never hear back.

One is actually a Zillow inquiry about whether I ever got a response from a real person regarding a property. I reply no, thinking I just busted someone out, so I’ll definitely hear back from someone at that office regarding the rental now. I still hear nothing.

Red phone

You have a better chance of reaching Batman than a realtor using this. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Granted, I don’t stop at that, because I still need to find a place. I reach out to someone who’s been recommended to me (since this whole Zillow thing doesn’t seem to be something most realtors can handle) and get that person lined up for some viewings, but there’s a lesson to be learned here, folks.

After living 4+ years here in this Battleborn state, I’ve gleaned something very important: 99% of realtors (who typically also have or work for property management companies) do nothing. As in zip. Nada. Niente. Well, except perhaps stand there with an open, outstretched hand, waiting for you to put money in it for no reason. They may very well be slot machines in human form — except slot machines are way more fun.

Slot machine.

Just looking at one is more fun than dealing with a realtor. Come on, sevens! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And I apparently got into the wrong line of work.

“But what about No. 5?” you may ask. The last one — the generous 1% that has crossed my path recently — finally does the right thing. Realtor M, whom I contacted via Zillow, wrote back, “This property has been leased out. Would you like me to help you look for something else?”

Why, yes, M, yes, I do. Let’s get to work this weekend.

Meditations on Death and Dying

When I came back to work from the long Labor Day weekend, I noticed a bird lying face up on a portion of the roof visible from a window I regularly walk past. I’d seen dead birds before, but never one like this.

This one was rested on its back — a position that should’ve seemed awkward to me, I think — but honestly, it looked peaceful: a little body shaped to a heart by its parted wings, the tiny stem of a head tilted to the side, its eyes closed — a fallen fruit still so fresh it looked as if it might wake up from its sleep any moment and return to its tree.

It’s strange to me that I thought this the first day I saw it. Thinking of it this way makes it somehow unreal to me, like it didn’t really happen.

Yesterday, I walked by again. The bird was still there. But now its chest had sagged in a weird patchwork fashion, the parts lumpy and uneven. The head was flattened, and I couldn’t see the beak anymore, couldn’t distinguish the features.

It occurred to me again that it was strange I was thinking these thoughts about the bird. Perhaps it was because I didn’t know this bird that I could study it almost scientifically, as if this — death — wasn’t really happening, but was more like something out of a movie in which no animals were harmed in the making.

Today, I saw the bird again. The feathers — once so organized, almost synced with each other — are starting to part ways. The heat has flattened and shriveled the scalp and neck into something that can’t even be considered a head — no semblance of resemblance anymore.

I know this is still a bird — or was a bird, was a life in bird form. Viewing and describing it the way I have doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything for it. A coworker tells me she thinks the property management should clean it up. This to me seems perhaps a more “normal” response than my own — one that calls for the removal of that thing serving to remind us of the nature of this life we live.

Yet I don’t feel a need for it to go away. There’s something about this that feels important.

Maybe it’s because our family pet is dying.

We’re lucky in the sense that we know it’s happening. To look at her now is to know with absolute certainty — to know with every bone in our body that, like hers, will someday return to the earth. Our dog’s skeletal structure seems to stretch her skin, suddenly too small for her body. An ultrasound has identified the culprit: a vampiric tumor draining her nutrients.

We know time is short.

Being this close to the dying reminds me of something I studied in poetry: duende, a term popularized by Federico Garcia Lorca, a Spaniard whose vision of the experience encapsulated by the word required a “heightened awareness of death.”

I’ve thought of this concept often while writing.

But today, when it’s so close, so irrevocable, so imminent — and in many ways, so un-human to me — everything feels stupid. I respond to this feeling by making jokes with my coworkers about self-important industry folk who act as if they invented the whole business we’re in; I imagine them at a roundtable with each other, smoking pipes, saying this or that, then crossing their arms, content with their self-important drivel, leaning back into the comfort of their own smugness and the chairs they sit.

It feels stupid that I’m taking this so seriously, so hard; that I feel this way about an animal — our animal — when I generally don’t even feel this way about most humans (obviously, based on what I said above). There’s something so innocent about animals, I guess, that makes their death feel completely unjust.

But it feels stupid to care about anything, since everything just dies anyway. Yet here I sit now, close to her and my family, as if half-expecting one of us will leave with her.

And it feels stupid that I’m even writing this. It seems like a waste of time.¬†What isn’t a waste of time, though, when you really think about it?

Either nothing is, or everything is. And such is life. And death.

There’s nothing like death to remind you of how¬†bewildering, tangible,¬†embittering, comforting, important, meaningless, abundant, empty, ceaseless, terminal, dazzling, dull, delicate, harsh, complicated, simple, glorious, despicable, substantial, absurd,¬†fierce, pathetic, fascinating, inane, frustrating, relieving, mysterious, ordinary, just, wrong, beautiful, terrifying, invaluable, measly,¬†nebulous, palpable, painful, joyous, banal, poignant, trite, unique, powerful,¬†defeating,¬†enchanting, gruesome,¬†delicious, rotten, remarkable, and impossible life is.

This coin has inseparable, incongruous sides. Nothing is more of a contradiction.

And we all have to live (and die) somehow with that.