One woman, lots of paint and hundreds of tiles. If you're here because you found a painted tile, it's yours to keep.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Penny's Passion for Matching

Sometimes Penny Petersen wishes she didn't have to be so color-coordinated. Her shirt always matches her socks, and her purse. Her very big walk-in closet closet is organized by colors, all the blues in one area, the pinks in another, the reds in yet another etc. She tries to never wear the same color twice in one week. She has a lot of rules about clothes, and even has color contacts so her eyes will match her outfits. If her colors don't come together in just the right way, she feels like her whole day is cursed and will go badly.

Sometimes she wishes she wasn't so damned rigid about these things, that she could just mix it all up ... pull different colors from all the sections of her closet and throw them all on together and walk out the door. But it's really hard for Penny to do that, even when she know her rules create boundaries. In fact, sometimes she wonders if she behaves this way because her rules create boundaries ... and somewhere deep inside she's pretty attached to those boundaries.

It's not like people think she's a freak or anything ... at least not much. The women in Penny's office are always praising her ability to put an outfit together, and they're always asking how she finds so many accessories that match her clothes so perfectly. But men, she found, were another story, especially once she got to know them and began discussing her passion for matching. By the time she gave them a tour of her walk-in closet, it was usually all but over. There was only one man who was a constant in her life and that's because George and his boyfriend Al were equally caught up in the matching thing. Not only did they like their clothes to match, but they also liked to match each other.

But they said Penny's closet was way bigger than their closet and that she had more accessories than the two of them put together. They jokingly called her Match.com, which Penny didn't know was a dating site. She found it because she was thinking of starting a blog called Match.com and posting pics of her color-coordinated finds. But she realized the name Match.com was already taken. Fascinated by all the people on there looking for dates, she decided to throw her color-coordinated hat in the ring and be very upfront about her little matching problem. That way she could weed out all the people who just could not tolerate her freaky little ways.

Within months, she met Colorblind Joey, who joked that he'd been looking for someone like Penny all of his life. He said he'd always dreamed of being able to walk out the door every morning knowing that his clothes matched .... of having someone to shop with and tell him what colors he could buy to go with what things. There's nothing Penny loves to do more than that. Penny and Joey hit it off grandly and have much fun shopping together now. In fact, they do most everything together. Penny still can't break her rules, but occasionally, just for fun, she'll tell Joey that none of the clothes she is wearing match, that somehow, despite all those things in her closet, she just couldn't find anything that went together. Joey doesn't know the difference ... he tells her that it's good that she's learned to mix things up a bit.

One day, Penny was a little bit mad at Joey about something, so when he did his usual little spin by her in the morning for color approval, she told him everything matched just perfectly, even though none of it did and he looked kinda ridiculous. She called him at lunch and apologized because she felt guilty but he said that everyone in his meeting just laughed and asked if Penny was out-of-town again.

Somehow, Penny's little oddities are working out OK for her now, and she doesn't feel so guarded about them anymore. She realizes now that if not for her odd little ways, she never would have met Joey. Just like her, he's not perfect, but he's perfect for her. They kinda match.

As for Joey, he matches almost everyday now, except when Penny gets annoyed with him, and then who knows what kind of colors he's going to show up in at work? His coworkers find it all quite amusing.

Penny is at Charlie's Bar-B-Q, a place that boasts that it has "Original Texas Taste," at 1571 S. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. They sell their secret barbecue sauce by the pint and quart. Penny's in the ladies room, just hanging out, trying to think of what color she's going to wear tomorrow.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

M is for Melatonin

Mick had a decent job writing his widget company’s blog and making YouTube video commercials for the company’s marketing department, but since the massive layoffs, Mick’s had a hell of a lot more work to do. He puts in very long days now, but doesn’t sleep much at night because he’s too worried about losing his job ….His boss is always telling him, "Mick, we have a good widget here. But if no one knows about it, this ship is going down and you have no job ... So try to keep that in mind, Mick." Like Mick had a choice. He lay awake at night wishing he could forget that, if only for a few hours.

Most of his friends are up half the night too because they’re all in their 40s too and once you hit the big 4-0, apparently, sleep trouble settles in. But Mick’s a pretty talented and resourceful guy and he knows how to turn things around, make the best of a bad situation. So while up late one night worrying, he started thinking about what special talents he might employ to change his situation, ‘cause that’s the type of crayon he is ... the purple one. a problem-solver.

Mick’s closest friends were always telling him he was extremely intuitive and tuned in to people, like he’d know what they were thinking before they even told him. But sometimes, even though he knew things, he couldn’t wholeheartedly believe he was right, because despite his charm and talents, he had moments, as we all do, when he was less than confident.

So Mick figured out a way to make the most of his insomnia hours by using his special powers in a way that might help some people, and since he’d make a few bucks in the process, he’d have a secret stash to fall back on if he did lose his job.

He set up a little psychic booth in a very busy area of downtown. His spot was right under a bridge near a sometimes thriving club scene packed with people, many of whom seemed more than a little lost. He was pretty psyched about this venture, and even watched a few old Charlie Brown episodes where Lucy had that little advice booth, for inspiration.

But it wasn’t long before he encountered obstacles. The lost people typically didn’t stray far from the clubs, and he was a whole block away. Sure, he got stragglers and some paid the $25 fee and got useful advice about their lives. But for the most part, the only people who interacted with him were the regular crowd of homeless people who called that area home. Being the kind of guy he is, he’d gladly share his talents with them free of charge, but the people unfortunate enough to be residing near the underside of a bridge, knew better than most about what the future had in store for them. They got a kick out of him, though, and started giving him advice. “Mick,” one older lady who lived under the bridge told him. “What the heck are ya doing out here, when you could be home sleeping, in a real bed in a place that has heat on cold nights and A/C in the summer?” At this, Mick would raised his upturned palms, shrug his shoulders and say, “Bertha, I wish I could enjoy that luxury. But I just can’t sleep for more than 3 hours a night.”

“Mick,” Bertha said. “I’m going to do you a little favor. I don’t typically give my advice away for free, but I like you even if you are a wee bit odd with your crazy ideas. I’m going to say one word to you and it is going to change your life entirely. Do you believe me?”

“I don’t know,” he answered with honesty. “But let’s give it a shot. I've got nothing to lose.”

“Melatonin,” she said.

“Does that mean peace, love and happiness in some foreign language?” he asked.

No, it’s a pill from the drugstore. Go now, buy it and never come back here late at night. I will take over your booth. I need a job anyway, and you, you just need to sleep.”

Mick did as he was told. He went directly to the nearest pharmacy and bought the pills. He went home, took one, laid his head on the pillow in his gigantic bed and off into the wondrous world of sleep he went. Some eight hours later, he awoke, wondering if the whole Bertha thing was just a bizarre dream from the M, as he soon came to call it. But it didn’t really matter. For the first time in ages, he felt completely and utterly refreshed. His little spirit was renewed. People noticed that he was a new man. “Mick, what the heck is going on with you?” they’d ask.

“Sleep,” he’d answer. “I’m sleeping.”

After they got through laughing, they’d jealously inquire, “How? Please tell me, ‘cause I’ve been really stressed and I can’t sleep either. What is the secret?”

It’s M, he’d tell them. I’ve started doing M.

At first they didn’t understand. They heard about kids at those rave parties doing X, but M? Nobody knew what the hell M was. “Is that like X?” they’d ask. “No, no, no!” he said laughing. “Well, maybe. M is like middle-aged X. Kids do X because they want to stay up and party all night, right? But M, that’s for the people who are beyond all that, and they’ve learned that the key to life is not staying up all night. It’s being able to sleep.”

“Can you get me some?” they asked.

“Well, you know …. Sure.”

He never did use the word melatonin, because it sounded very boring and technical, like the sort of thing people couldn’t wrap any real beliefs around. When pushed about what the M stood for, he simply said “Magic, of course. It’s all about the magic. The magic of sleep.”

Word spread quickly off Mick’s endless supply of M, and within the month, people who didn’t even know him were calling him with lines like, “Hey Mick, you don’t know me, but your friend Josie says you got an M supplier and I really need some M. I haven’t slept a solid night in weeks. I can meet you, anywhere you want. I know a lot of 24-hour diners. You name the place.”

Sometimes, the calls would come late at night. But Mick wouldn’t hear them, because he was sleeeeeeping, for a change.

Mick never took advantage of the situation. He didn’t overcharge for M. A bottle of 120 tablets cost about $3.50 and he charged his buyers accordingly. It got to the point where he’d awaken each morning to find his phone mail stuffed with messages. Eventually, he recorded a greeting: “If you’re calling about M, meet me at 6:30 a.m. at the Starlite. I’ll be wearing a blue sweatshirt with a big red letter M on the front. Can’t miss me. Seriously.”

Eventually, there would be a line each day. At first, it was just for the pills but eventually Mick set up a merch booth, selling M shirts and matching nightcaps that also had the big letter M. He thought of himself as Melatonin man, but since most of his customers were not familiar with the word melatonin, they just called him Magic Man. The merch booth really began taking off, and Mick started a Magic Man blog and started doing his own video commercials. Eventually, he quit his draining job. Finally, he was promoting something he truly believed in – the power of sleep, and people were buying it and loving it, and benefiting from it. It was beautiful.

When the big pharmacy chain discovered Mick’s little business, they wanted to figure out a way to cash in and hired some fancy schmantzy New York ad agency to try to take Mick down. They called the local and even national news stations to try to expose Mick. But Mick’s well-rested followers would have none of it. They thought the big pharmaceutical companies were evil, and that nightcaps with the name of a pharmaceutical company on them were not a good substitute.

With all the news exposure, Mick’s little business began thriving in a way that was beyond his wildest dreams, and he had lots of dreams now that he’d begun sleeping regularly. The business got so big that he began hiring some of the nightcap-wearing, well-rested believers to help keep the operation running smoothly. He also hired some of the people he met under the bridge. Bertha became his general manager, and franchised her booth out to Ed. Mick started doing what he does best …. Creating little slogans to make people aware of something he believes in. So far it’s working. New York may be the town that never sleeps, but Pompano is now known as the town that does. Then there’s Mick’s other increasingly infamous slogan: melatonin – the perfect nightcap.

For the record, this story was not funded by a major pharmaceutical company. I would not take their money or their prizes and I think they're inherently evil. Sure they have some helpful products. I just disagree with the way they find all those loopholes to bribe doctors with free televisions, lunches and trips to push their products.

This story is purely a work of fiction, loosely inspired by some real characters melded into the fictional guys now known as of Mick a.k.a. Melatonin Man, a.k.a. Magic Man a.k.a the man who inspired people to figure out what they really care about and pursue it so passionately that they’re able to quit their other life-sucking job.

Sleep well.

Mick's hanging out in a little nook in the men's room at Books & Books in Miami Beach ... It's a big spot for M sales, because people who can't sleep at night tend to read a lot of books. He's just trying to help.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Suzy Donut Knows

The look on Suzy Donut's disgruntled little face can only mean that Obnoxious Al, a.k.a. Donut Hole, had arrived. Nearly every day, the cranky little suited man struts into into Z Donuts with that darned Bluetooth phone thing in his ear and barking out orders via phone to his secretary, while trying to order donut holes for his staffers. In addition to the donut holes, he always gets himself an apple fritter, a chocolate glazed and a giant latte.

To make matters worse, he consistently addresses Suzy as "Hey, doll" or "sweetie," which makes her cringe. My name, she tells him sternly each day, is Suzy Donut. Much as she despises the little man, Suzy Donut always puts additional munchkins, especially the chocolate glazed ones, in the box for his poor office staffers. She gives Donut Hole the smallest stalest apple fritter she can dig up, because he's such a miserable little man.

Suzy Donut has keen observational skills and a very sharp memory. As such, she knows a lot of things about a lot of people. She knows, for instance, the best bosses to work for in the town. She can tell by the way they order their donuts. Some rush in and demand a dozen of "whatever ya got" and don't even bother to say please or thank you.

Bossman Bill, from the oil change place down on the corner, arrives like clockwork every morning and orders a strawberry sprinkle for Elroy, a jelly donut for Bobby and a cinnamon for Johnny, because those are their favorite donuts ... On Fridays he gets them the big box o' java too. His order never changes because his employers never leave. They like him. Bill's a very good boss.

Then there's Barry, a retiree who arrives every Saturday morning to pick up chocolate donuts and a vanilla latte for his wife Lou Ann. She could tell he was a good man. One Saturday Suzy finally got to meet the pampered Lou Ann ... You know, your husband really loves you, she told Lou Ann, who smiled and laughed and agreed. Suzy enjoys sharing her little insights when she feels like it's the right thing to do.

Another regular, Mr. Joe, has his clients meet him at Z Donuts, as if it were his own personal office. He has his papers spread out all around his laptop ... even has a picture of his kids in a frame. He buys each potential client a cup of coffee and a donut of their choice and then tries to get them to sign on the dotted line of a contract Suzy Donut knows no one in their right mind should sign. She always shoots his clients a look that says just that ... she raises her eyebrows and turns up that one side of her mouth and shakes her head back and forth. (For the full effect, do this while looking into a mirror) .... It works every time. The dishonest Mr. Joe can't understand why no one is falling for his dishonest sales pitches anymore.

Suzy's no barista. Don't call her that or she might slug ya. Not really, but she thinks the term is way too pretentious for a place like Z Donuts. She does take her job seriously. While sharing her insights is her favorite part, Suzy Donuts loves pouring coffee and hawking donuts, which she'll tell you are just as important as the coffee. She knows better than anyone that there's an art to ordering donuts. Some people do it with love and others try to rush through it as though they were filling up their car with gas.

Ordering donuts, she contends, is not something you rush through. It's something you think about long before you arrive in the donut shop, and even then you order the donuts slowly, thoughtfully and intuitively .... The experience cannot be clouded up with barking Donut Holes on cell phones, and anxiety and chaos. During the moment the final donut selections are made, nothing else should matter but that. Suzy Donut's got all the time in the world for that ....

Suzy Donut is in the ladies room at Dunkin Donuts at Southland Shopping Center on State Road 84 in Fort Lauderdale. She's hiding out in there because she had a few too many Donut Holes on cell phones to deal with this morning.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Victor's fiery new beginnings

Another little tile has made its way out into the world. With the help of two tile-helpers who rescued Victor from the sea of words he was drowning in .... the master wordsmith has carved out a new life .... or at least a very healthy diversion from the matters at hand.

Victor E. had been struggling for a very long time to find a place on his Scrabble board to lay down his seven letter word and score 50 bonus points. It's the same thing that always happened to him in Scrabble ... you get some big really special word and there's no place to put it. But who's going to part with any segment of a seven letter word that you know will get you 50 extra points if you can only find room for it?

Such is the dilemma Victor faced when, after years of word jumbles, crossword puzzles and Boggle, he faced the ultimate word dilemma of Scrabble. Victor had been trying to figure this out for so long that he'd reached the point where he felt like he needed a glass of wine, or two. So (enabler that I apparently am) I slipped him into a drawer in the ladies room at Total Wine in Fort Lauderdale. With 8,000 different kinds of wine there, who knows how much trouble he may have gotten into during the five weeks he lived at this store.

We do know that on Oct. 25, the tile-rescue team of Sherry and Rucci intervened and encouraged the stymied Victor to take a leap from his sea of words and delve into new territory.

In an afterpost, Sherry writes: "Victor decided to give his brain a rest and move on up the highway to try something more physical. He decided to take a big leap and get out of his comfort zone."

Victor joined Sherry at the South Carolina Fire Academy for a course in Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) and she e-mailed loads of pics that tell the tale.

"He stayed in a dorm with other firefighters from other places in the country, where he was exposed to a whole new world other than crossword puzzles and Scrabble," Sherry notes in her e-mail. "Wow, was he surprised at this whole new world exposed to him. Victor worked as part of a team and learned all about air crafts and emergencies involving rescue and fire. He learned how to operate a crash truck designed for aircraft firefighting. This class totally removed Victor from the game of Scrabble. Sometimes it makes sense to stop obsessing on something so difficult, and then when you go back to the 'game' your outlook is fresh and you have a better sense of clarity when trying to put your words together.

"Victor graduated with a certificate and was able to make his way far from the United States to exercise his new
training. Thanks to R and R, Victor found a new home, and will be able to live happy. Besides that, he has become an expert at Scrabble, and has no problem putting the words together anymore."

The firefighters liked the word-happy Victor. "Victor was a lot of fun to have at the academy," writes Sherry. "The firefighters and fire officers that I met welcomed Victor as one of their own. He was welcomed as part of the team and went through a lot of physical and mental training in a 48-hour period. His life has been changed forever."

C-H-A-N-G-E-D, as in seven letter word with 50 bonus points.

Sherry's right. Sometimes people do have to stop obsessing about things and leap out of their comfort zone and see where it takes them. Word has it that Victor is now finding more places for some very fine seven-letter words in his life ... words like gumdrop, firefly, mystery, romance, bubbles, flutter and loopydo. OK, so he sometimes makes words up ... so contest it if you dare. But remember that if it IS a word, you will lose your turn.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Paula's little painting problem

Sometimes Paula becomes so focused on the little things in her life that she forgets to see the big picture. Other times she believes that she hones in on these tasks so that she can avoid thinking about the big picture. She's a little picture type of person. But she's been in the same little picture for a very long time, and has grown bored with it.

She sees other people make major changes in their life ... just up and change it all ... look for a new job and then just sell their house, pack it all up and move to some new place, start their lives over in a completely different environment ... or just conquer some fear that has taken hold in their life and held them hostage.

But the very thought of all of that, and all it would entail feels incredibly massive ... she keeps trying to somehow make her little picture work for her, to just work around all of her stuff. Instead of making major change, she focuses on small improvements, like planting a garden of cleaning a closet or painting a room or washing every window in her house or ... well, things, like that. She's not sure why, but it makes her feel better to completely engross herself in such projects and to focus on them to the abandonment of any other thought. Sometimes the intense focus backfires, as it did recently when Paula literally painted herself into a corner.

Once she realized what she had done, she panicked, because in that instant she realized she was truly stuck ... not just because she had painted herself into a corner and was now surrounded by wet paint ... but because ultimately none of these things that she did to make herself feel better would make much difference.

Paula knew somewhere deep inside that it wasn't the walls she painted or the gardens she tended that most needed her transformative efforts. It was her fears, and she had no time to go searching for a wizard in Emerald City to provide the courage she needed to make change. She knew the wiz was a bit of a scammer anyway and that everything she needed in this life was already inside of her, just buried beneath layers of self-doubt that she now envisioned chipping away like old paint.

She knew she couldn't paint or garden or clean her way to happiness, yet oddly it was the painting that brought her to this little corner, pinning here there for a solid two hours in which she had nothing to do but look inside of herself and contemplate her life, and the things that brought her to this moment and all that it encompassed.

It's funny how these little yet significant life-altering moments come when you least expect them and in the places where you least expect them to happen .... in the corner of a tiny room surrounded by paint with nothing at all to do but think.

Dropped Paula under the mailbox at Southland Shopping Center on State Road 84 in Fort Lauderdale .... not because she's going postal. She's just thinking.