Just Another Day

Darren was a bachelor, he would claim by choice, and he was also very particular. His life was lived like a sacred ritual, trying his best to make sure that each day was the same as the last. He woke each weekday morning at 5:20am sharp, showered, and shaved his salt and pepper shadow with a vintage chrome safety razor. He then brewed an extra strong cup of coffee and prepared breakfast which consisted of steel cut oatmeal with a quarter cup of blueberries and half a pat of grass fed butter, never more.

Although Darren was what most people would consider content he had always felt like his life was missing something indescribable. It was as though his soul was a jigsaw puzzle that was almost complete, the few missing pieces were where his heart was but he had no idea of where to find them.

Just before leaving for the office Darren always watered his bonsai tree, a ficus of the variety sold at Walmart, with one half cup of spring water, perfectly measured. For the last ten years Darren had cared for the bonsai like it was his first born. He even gave it a name, he called it Moe because the shape of the tree’s foliage reminded him of the mop top hairstyle of the lead stooge of the same name. His boss had given him Moe as a gift for his fifth anniversary with the accounting agency.

The first night Darren brought the bonsai home to his apartment he had the distinct impression that, in some inexplicable way, Moe’s well-being would forever connected to the security of this job. He believed with all of his being that as long as he kept the bonsai healthy he would never need to worry about the security of his job at the agency. In Darren’s mind his theory was substantiated the following year. He had overslept by only few minutes and was running late, as a result he had forgotten to water Moe. This couldn’t have happened on a worse day, it was the day of his annual performance review at the agency and his absentmindedness cost him dearly, that year he received a measly ten cent raise.

Each Saturday morning Darren allowed himself the luxury of one extra hour of sleep, he felt that any more would be wasting the day away. Upon waking his Saturday ritual was almost identical to the previous five mornings except for one: instead of taking the northbound train to the office he crossed to the other side of the station and boarded the southbound train to the Snelling Avenue stop. Just across the street from the Snelling station stood Wimbley’s Books and the hand painted sign out front, in bold red letters read, “Rare and Out of Print Books.”

Darren spent nearly every Saturday weeding through the stacks of books, intoxicated by the mustiness of antiquity. Wimbley’s was the one of the few places on Earth where he felt like he fit in. Sometimes he would pack a sandwich and a piece of fruit in his messenger bag for sustenance enough to spend the entire day there.

From the moment he got off the train he felt as though a magnet was pulling him towards the front door of Wimbley’s shop. His strides were a little more hurried than usual as he crossed the busy street. Sam, one of Mr. Wimbley’s clerks, had left Darren a cheery voice mail on Tuesday morning with the news that his book had arrived. It took all of his restraint not to continue riding right on past his normal stop that night after work to pick up the treasure. Darren worried over the matter for the rest of his workday that Tuesday but was worried that any deviation in his routine might throw off his luck for the rest of the week.

Darren turned the doorknob and stepped inside Wimbley’s shop and as he did the tarnished brass bell that hung above the door chimed alerting the staff he had arrived.

“It’s Darren, nine o’clock exactly…punctual as always. I have no idea how you waited four days to pick this up, you have more patience than me,” Mr. Wimbley said peering over top of his wire rimmed glasses, eyes squinting as he smiled.

“It wasn’t easy, Sir! I was just so busy,” Darren answered as he blew into his hands and quickly rubbed them together.

The treasure that Mr. Wimbley spoke of was a copy of a fifteenth century Irish illuminated manuscript obtained from an extensive book collection in Dubai. There were only three known copies of this ancient manuscript created by a lone Irish monk.

Legend has it that the monk, whose name had since been lost to history, lived in a two room stone house that stood alone amongst the craggy cliffs of the Irish seashore. The monk had befriended the two Gaelic tribes in the region he was put in charge of converting to Christianity by the Vatican. After living among the native people for only a few months the monk went rogue and adopted the pagan people’s dress and their way of life.

The monk was so taken by the power of these people’s spiritual beliefs he felt it his duty to meticulously transcribe the Gallic druids’ oral tradition word for word. Each page of the book was handwritten in flowing calligraphy; although it was officially untitled, the book was referred to in collector’s circles as The Gaelic Book of Wisdom. The book contained three hundred and sixty-five passages, one for each day of the year. The monk then made two additional copies of the book, he kept one for himself and the remaining two were given to the chieftain of each of the two tribes. When the word got out that the monk had been turned by pagans and failed in his missionary work, assassins were dispatched by the Pope himself to put a swift end to the monk’s shenanigans before a legend was born.

The Gaelic Book of Wisdom is now considered one of the grails of bibliophiles. A person had be in the inner circle to even know about, let alone, get a chance at owning something as special as this. Darren’s ticket into this rarified world was Mr. Wimbley and his admission was earned slowly over decades of patronizing his bookstore and thousands of dollars changing hands.

One of Wimbley’s long time clerks, Samantha Fletcher or Fletch as she was called by the regulars, came from behind the counter and handed Darren a pair of white gloves, “I know you’re a virgin,” her face turned a bright pink, “umm…I mean, uh when it comes to owning rare books.”

Fletch took a deep breath and regained her composure, “You’ll want to wear these gloves whenever you handle it. Otherwise the oil from your skin will discolor the pages. Always remember, this book is an irreplaceable artifact. It’s so easy to forget in today’s world of disposable things how fragile and valuable something like this is.”

Fletch was attractive in a waspy conservative sort of way. Her hazel eyes were studious and she wore her brown hair short in a fashionable bob cut. She was almost always stealing glances across the shop at Darren on Saturdays and he would occasionally sneak a look at her too.

Darren had the distinct impression that there was something meant for him in this manuscript and that it would somehow help him to feel whole again. He was hardly a man of means but he was so sure of the importance of this purchase he took out a loan against his 401k to buy it. The incredible details that Fletch had shared with him over successive Saturdays put to rest any reservations he might have had.

Fletch lightly placed her hand on Darren’s shoulder and glanced from side to side to make sure no one else was within earshot, “The auctioneer we bought this from said the previous owner of the book bought it nearly a decade ago a flea market in Paris and found an old letter written on parchment between its pages. The letter told of how the book had a way of finding the person who needed it most and shared stories of how past owner’s lives were magically transformed for the better after acquiring the book…” Fletch trailed off as the brass bell rang and a few new customers noisily filed through the door. There was a look in her eyes that told him there was much more she wanted to say.

“Well, I could really use some magic in my life,” Darren laughed nervously.

Mr. Wimbley wrapped the book carefully in brown paper and tied it off tightly with twine. Darren eagerly handed him a cashier’s check for ten thousand dollars. Mr. Wimbley removed his white gloves and held the check up and studied it in the light. He then paused, slowly twisting the end of this handlebar mustache.

The pause lasted a bit too long for Darren’s liking. He feared Wimbley was having second thoughts about the transaction. Wimbley then shot Darren a look of concern, flicked the check noisily with his finger and said, “Darren, you’re now among the ranks of a precious few. Do you promise to take good care of this book?”

Darren exhaled more deeply than he ever did in his life, he knew now he had crossed all of the hurdles.

“I do, “ Darren said.

As he exited the shop Darren cradled the book against chest as if it was a newborn baby. He decided he wouldn’t take off the wrapper until he was home but could swear that he felt the power in it as he held the book close.

He could remember nothing of the train ride home, all he could think about was unwrapping his treasure. He quickly unlocked the door of his apartment, slid on the white gloves Fletch had given him, then carefully cut the twine with his Swiss army knife. Darren held his breath as he slowly peeled back the brown paper revealing the book’s cover, it was an emerald green leather and was in remarkably good condition for its age, only slightly faded.

As Darren cracked open the book he was in awe of the richness of color on the pages and elegant flourishes of the calligraphy. The scent was a combination of old paper, leather, and the sea. He started to read and from the first few words Darren felt wisdom and vitality pour over him. Immediately he got the distinct impression that little by little the puzzle of his life was being completed and this book contained all there was for him to learn.

A few days passed and he read from the book religiously. Each day he arose an extra fifteen minutes early to allow himself time to mindfully absorb each new passage. Almost immediately he began to notice a great change in his life: men treated him with more respect; women began to notice him; and the day’s events seemed to suddenly flow effortlessly in his favor.

On Wednesday of the following week Darren’s phone buzzed as he was grocery shopping, he glanced at it and decided to pick up the call when he noticed, “Wimbley’s Books” flash across the screen.

“Hello,” Darren said sheepishly.

“It’s me, Fletch,” she paused, “I don’t know how to tell you this but I just couldn’t go through with it any longer.”

“I’m not sure what you mean,” Darren said dumbfounded as he continued bagging his pink lady apples.

“There’s something I need to tell you.” Darren could hear Fletch breathing heavily on the other side of the line.

“Sure, what is it?”

“I made it all up about the book,” she said as she started to sniffle. The sniffles then turned into sobs.

Darren tied off the plastic bag and dropped the apples into his cart, “Made it all up? I guess I’m still not sure what you mean.”

Fletch continued nervously, “I mean the book is old and super rare and it was written by an Irish monk but I concocted the whole part about the magical aspect of the book, there was no letter. There’s no magic in it either, Darren. Believe me, I had good intentions, all I wanted was to see you happy and get to get to know you a little better. I thought I might even have a chance to go out with you or something. Please forgive me.”

Darren’s face took on a look of bewilderment as he walked away from his grocery cart. For a moment Darren let his emotions get the better of him and completely forgot where he was.

“You’re lying. I feel the magic in it, I feel the change in me and nothing you tell me can convince me otherwise!” he yelled, now pacing back and forth in the produce aisle.

“Oh I get it, you probably just want the book for yourself, don’t you Fletch? This conversation is done!” Darren said as he forcibly tapped the end call button and shoved the phone into the pocket of his trench coat.

Oh my, after all these years now I have to find myself a new bookstore Darren thought to himself as he took a deep, controlled breath and continued shopping as though it was just another day.

 

~Eric Vance Walton~

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DON’T FALL FOR ANYONE’S BULL$H!T (ESPECIALLY YOUR OWN)

All of us can think of at least one talented artist (musician, writer, actor, etc.) whose creative prowess peaks a few years into their careers and they spend the rest of their lives chasing their former glory. As a creative person myself I always feel horrible for both them as well as the loyal fans who follow them down the death spiral of their careers hoping their heroes will regain their glory. Many times these people just can’t seem to free themselves from the gravity of the spiral and their work gets progressively more and more out of touch. They eventually become irrelevant, or even more tragically, a societal joke.

I’ve heard many excuses as to why this happens, among them are laziness, too much of the good life, a creative dry spell, burnout, old age. What do I say about these excuses? I call bull$h!t…quite literally. I think all of these excuses are merely symptoms caused by two different kinds of bull$h!t.

Let me elaborate.

I’ve been writing for decades and have recently had the good fortune to finally achieve a small taste of success. As a result of this I’ve suddenly realized how crafty bull$h!t is and how easily it can creep into your life. If you achieve even a small amount of success in this world inevitably people begin lavish you with praise and tell you how talented you are. Most times this praise comes from a altruistic place within the people who are doing the praising but occasionally it doesn’t. Sometimes people seek you out and will stroke your ego so they can manipulate you into doing things for them. These are the takers.

The truth is when you begin to believe the praise from either source that praise turns into poison for both your soul and your career.

As a creative person you must proceed with caution and become cognizant of which category the praise falls into. It’s difficult at first but gets easier to discern with practice. In a short amount of time you develop a sixth sense for spotting takers and they become easily avoidable.

The altruistic praise is ten times more dangerous. We feel that it’s sincere and after struggling for so long it feels amazing to get this kind of attention. This sincere praise creates an emotional high that we begin to crave more of, if we allow ourselves to believe it. Some people become addicts and surround themselves with people who lavish them with praise. So begins the death spiral.

The antidote to the bull$h!t is to accept the praise, be grateful to the praiser for it, then release it long before it has a chance to turn into bull$h!t.

You see, altruistic praise only is recycled into bull$h!t when you begin to believe it. Ego is our kryptonite. Each time you believe it makes you feel as though you’re as good as you need to be. You feel as though you’ve finally attained your long sought after goal and you no longer need to learn, grow, polish your craft, and evolve into a better version of yourself.

I liken this modern world to a treadmill, things move so fast that to stand still means you quickly fall behind. The only way for most of us to be truly successful and create a sustainable career is to wake up to the fact that we will never truly “get there”. Our work will never be quite done. We will be honing our craft until the day we die. In fact if this seems tiring and it feels like work we probably shouldn’t be doing it.

I’ve learned that it’s truly never been about the destination, it has always been about the journey. This journey is exhilarating, I wake up every day with a new wish and a renewed sense of hope.

Enjoy each second of your journey but just be careful where you step and that your meter is finely tuned.

~Eric Vance Walton~
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Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by “liking” his Facebook author page at for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric’s new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook.

We Are Worthy

I laughed at the comic below and then almost immediately it reminded me of how unbalanced our society is. When is the last time a song, a poem, a film, or a piece of art moved you? It happens to me almost on a weekly basis. The truth is these creative treasures have the power to impact you so deeply they can actually change you.

We live in a world rich with life-altering creative treasures, many of them are accessible for free 24/7 from any mobile device. The unfortunate thing is a staggeringly small percentage of the creative geniuses who create these great gifts ever reap the benefits of their valuable service to humanity. Creatives infuse our world with beauty, positive energy, they shake us from our apathy and challenge us to think. How valuable is this? More importantly, how do you put a price on it?

This, is the hard part for us creatives. Our creative fruits…art, literature, poetry are all subjective, what truly impacts one person might seem like crap to another. To add even more complexity, you must make a reasonable name for yourself before most people are willing to spend a dime on your work. The truth is it can’t be done overnight but it can be done. I am proof.

First you must give yourself permission to be an artist or writer. You must also give yourself permission to ask people to pay a reasonable price for your work. If you work hard and create a quality product that sparks an emotional connection with others you deserve to be compensated…don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, you will have to give some content away for free at first but you shouldn’t do this for long. Keep honing your skills, continue to build your confidence, become a marketing ninja!

By the same token, if you encounter another creative person whose work moves you and you are in the position to do so, buy it. Become a patron. This is the greatest gift you can give someone who is struggling. It’s not just about the money but more about the validation of their talent. That item you buy could be the first sale they’ve had in a week or a month and it will give them the hope they need to keep pursuing their dreams. I know, I’ve been there, too many of us have. The age of the starving artist must come to an end. In reality we are all just one big creative family and it all begins with us.

Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by “liking” his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric’s new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook.

Article © 2014 Eric Vance Walton

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Losing Our Humanity

We hear it all the time…there’s no stopping change. We’ve been led to believe that you must either learn to be flexible and operate within ever changing parameters or be rendered obsolete. This doesn’t mean you always have to like it or it’s the best thing for all parties concerned.

In the last 50 years technology has thrust change upon us time and time again. One profession that is queued up to take a huge hit is that of the taxi driver. In America, car services like Uber and Lyft are the more immediate threats to the traditional taxi cab by offering what most would consider a better experience at about 20% less cost. The death blow for the whole taxi industry will be delivered by a bulbous little car that looks like it’s smiling. Google’s pod-like self driving car is expected to be on the roads in every major city within the next 10 years and for the taxi industry it will be disastrous.

Just think how nice it will be to pay a monthly subscription fee and have access to a car to meet you within minutes of wherever you are. You’ll be able to read the a book, browse Facebook (safely and legally), take selfies, or even enjoy a power nap while being driven to your destination. There will be obvious benefits to the elderly and it will be great for those who’ve had a few too many drinks and need to catch a ride home. Sure, this technology will provide convenience but like many of our recent technological advances I think it’s bound to make life far less interesting.

My wife and I live in a upper Midwestern city that’s so spread out we need to own cars to get around. The only time I have a chance to ride in a taxi is on the way to the airport which amounts to a couple of times a year. Still I’ve acquired a long list of interesting memories from these rides in a taxi. There must be something about the anonymity of the encounter that makes some taxi drivers willing to reveal deeply personal things that they normally wouldn’t.

I remember one frigid February morning, my wife and I were heading to the airport to catch a dreadfully early flight. The cab arrived at our door and standing next to it was a gruff man who appeared to be in his sixties with about two days of gray stubble on his face. We said good morning and he only grunted. We told him we needed to go to the main terminal of MSP. He said nothing but radiated this immense irritation. As the cab pulled away from the curb he clicked on the radio and the station played nothing but 70’s love songs all the way to the airport. We think we saw a small tear spill out from his eye during Hall and Oates’, “Baby Come Back”. As he was getting our luggage out of the trunk we handed him a pretty sizable tip, his face lit up in one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen and he politely said, “Thank you.” It was a complete transformation.

On another occasion, again on the way to the airport, a taxi driver of about the same advanced age came to pick us up. He was eager to talk and seemed like an average grandfatherly type. We chatted it up for a few miles and he told us about how he got into the profession. Shortly after he asked if we’d mind listening to the radio and we obliged. We were fully expecting light rock or oldies but no, he prefered to listen to something much different, gansta rap. We felt as if we were in a movie scene. The cab driver’s head was bobbing rhythmically to the beat. He told us later that his stepdaughter was a local rapper and he was introduced to the music this way. Again, an experience that totally blew away preconceptions.

On a trip to Chicago we were picked up by cabbie in his mid-thirties. He was already seasoned, you could tell. In our short ride to a Bucktown restaurant he told us all of the exciting moments of his career including the exploits of a few national celebrities and local politicians who he had driven. No detail was spared. All I can say is I hope he embellished. If not, then the world is even more twisted than I imagine it to be.

I have more taxi stories but I’ll save them for another time. The point is we’re about to lose this. In just a few years this experience of getting into a car with a stranger that you’ll likely never see again will be gone forever. Yes, the experience is awkward and it’s uncomfortable at first but in the end you walk away with a memory that enriches your life and maybe just make you rethink a stereotype. It opens you up to new possibilities.

Change for the sake of change isn’t always a great thing. As a species we must progress beyond this honeymoon phase we have with technology. We’re transfixed. It’s a love affair and we’re mad about the newest, the fastest, the best. We must learn to have the foresight and the courage to think deeply about how change really impacts us and make appropriate decisions accordingly. One thing is for sure, little by little we’re losing our humanity. When you consider our traits sometimes this isn’t a bad thing but let’s be careful not to lose the good.

~Eric Vance Walton~

The Cure for Common Road Rage

I consider myself a peaceful and easy going individual most of the time, I’ve meditated and practiced yoga for almost twenty years. There are few things anymore that rile me up but one of them left are bad drivers. When I’m driving something transformative happens that reduces the level of my patience nearly to zero. It seems that drivers, more than ever, have their minds on anything and everything but driving. Rules of the road to them are mere “suggestions” and this would include lane markers, signs and traffic lights.

Yes, I admit was one of those horn-beeping, finger-flipping barbarians who would call you out for cutting me off, running a red light or drifting into my lane while steering with your knees, sipping your latte and checking your Facebook news feed. 

My cure came in the most unassuming way. Just recently I bought a used 2010 Honda Fit. This car is perfect for me in every way and inadvertently has ended my decade long, love/hate relationship with driving. I believe what this car has taught me could possibly cure road rage on a global level.

I’ll never forget the first day I discovered it. It was just a regular day and I was on the way to work. From the other direction someone turned left in front of me, nearly shearing off the first few inches of the front of my “new” car. I was furious and instinctively slammed my palm into the center of the steering wheel and then it happened… “eeeeeeeeep”. Just as a succession of fiery expletives were about to leave my lips I laughed instead. This was no normal horn, in fact it reminded me of the one on my old 1983 Tomos moped, if the battery were dying. The sound was embarrassingly dreadful and actually the antithesis of what a horn should be.

Just like that I’m a changed man! As my father so graciously taught me, the gestures and the expletives can come in any order but the horn beeping must proceed them both. That’s the way it is, there’s no other way. 

Instantly, years of anger were wiped clean. All it took was the embarrassment of a wimpy horn.

~Eric Vance Walton~