A Ride in the Park

Sometimes a new adventure is just a good nap away.


You always know when you're going to struggle for productivity. Most of the time, I can cruise along at a pretty consistent pace with stuff. Whether I'm a little tired or have an extra boost, I always do about the same amount of work. Not just work as in work work, but work as in household chores, working out, or even enjoying myself on a day off. By work I just mean getting stuff done.

Every once in a while, though, the planets align, the sun gets clouded out, those barometric bubble readers go the opposite of whatever is normal--who under the age of seventy knows how to read a barometer--and all systems shut down. I lose all ability to focus, all drive to accomplish anything, and become more or less completely empty headed. It's like there's zero thought processing going on behind my suddenly dull eyes, not even stream of conscious thinking. My brain is just a movie projector playing whatever crap is coming through the lens.

After however long it takes me to get the hell out of whatever situation I'm in and to some sort of comfortable place, I crash. The projector shuts off and the show's over. It could be ten in the morning, two in the afternoon, or eight thirty at night, doesn't matter. I have to nap. I fall like the dead King Kong down onto a couch, pillows, a blanket, grass, anything soft enough. Even mud will do. I once even took a nap on a pile of mulch. Blessed, warm, steamy mulch.

After sleeping in a crazy state--I always have dreams during these naps that are the kind of stuff psychologists ask for for Christmas--for what seems like days, I wake up recharged and ready to go. They're always actually only forty five minutes to an hour and a half, but still, it feels like days both in how long it's been and how rested I am. I call these naps "brown outs." They're just like power outages that happen in the summer, seemingly unexpectedly, though really when you'd totally expect them, if you know the signs.


It was a dewy Saturday morning mid-May. I woke up early after going to bed early, a good night's sleep, plenty rested and ready. I had a cup of coffee and a donut with my morning paper. I wasn't that hungry so I didn't eat much. It made the one cup of coffee hit me perfectly, optimizing the caffeine like a gallon of gas in a hybrid car. It had been a long week of late nights at work, which is why I opted to stay in and sleep on Friday night.

One night of sleep wasn't enough to cover the week.

An hour or two after breakfast it hit me. I'm really tired. The coffee was still buzzing, but I could feel the empty foundation underneath it. I started swaying like a Jenga tower, only a few brick pulls away from toppling. It's comingThe brown out is coming.

I was visiting my friend John out in his sleepy little hometown, a place I was barely familiar with but comfortable in. Too comfortable, just as sleepy as the town itself. What makes a sleepy town a sleepy town? A certain quality of inviting to nap. I unfortunately opened my handwritten invitation while I was walking in the park:

The residents of Wesley cordially invite you to take a load off, stop what you're doing, and just relax, rest your eyes a little. Here:

A Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow fell out of the envelope, the perfect pillow for my little head.

Now you can lie down anywhere!

It was such a nice, welcoming letter.

The grass was too wet to lie on from the dew. The sun felt nice on my skin, so cozy. It was just warm enough where it felt like a natural heat blanket covering all of my body. The man in my brain turned off the processor and turned on the movie projector. It was only a matter of moments before all systems were black.

The creak of a gate caught my attention. An older couple were leaving the tennis court. The warm, sun-bathed tennis court. My feet took me over to the court, through the open door. I watched it all behind my streaming eyes, completely in observation mode.

The screen went black for a moment, then came back on. This was no regular blink, not even an extended blink to moisten dry eyes. This was a sleep warning. Why don't I just lie down right here? I thought, a dumb declarative statement to myself meant not at all meant to be analyzed or discussed by the council of my brain. They were all off on break, anyway. Another extended black came before my eyes. The great ape no longer clutched the Empire State Building. He was falling.

I bent down and picked up a tennis ball to move it out of the way. A soft, fuzzy tennis ball. This is nice. Warm and soft, I thought, a thought only a few steps above a Neanderthal's on the cognitive ladder.  I held the ball to my face.

Another black screen. The ball was a giant dandelion head and I was a little lady bug. My red speckled butt needed a little break from bug stuff. A dandelion is the perfect place for a lady bug to sleep. Maybe I'd be on the cover of National Geographic, all cute and asleep on the flower some called a weed. Red looks great on yellow and green, especially with a nice camera.

Back to streaming vision, but this time it took a while to refocus the lens. I don't care where anymore, I just want to sleep. The last drop of water had been squeezed from the rock. It was go time. Stop time.

I dropped the ball and readied for the opposite of launch. The ball bounced toward the net, hitting it and rolling to the side, right into a serving machine. My peepers lifted their weighted shades to see the bucket attached to the machine. A bucket full of soft, fuzzy balls.

The film skipped ahead to the tiny little man crawling over the edge into the bucket of tennis balls. Hey, that's me, I thought as I stretched out over the neon spheres and...


The world is a red and black checkered plane. It only exists on this one flat plane, and this plane stands vertically among the infinite black nothingness that is everything else in existence. It is the Y-axis and that is the only axis. The plane is eight squares by eight squares.

The world is a chessboard.

I stand in one of the bottom two corners of the board. Gravity draws me down onto the board, even though I am technically sideways, I suppose. I can feel that I am standing out from a cliff, but I do not fall, and the blood does not rush to my head. This is just how the world is.

I am all alone in the world. If this were chess, I would be the queen, for the queen is the most powerful player.

"Screw the king," I say out loud to no one. The words float before me, a wavy red incarnated text that sails on a sine wave away from me, across the board.

"Wait, come back!" I call after the physical text, which moves farther and farther away. "I didn't know that I could create you!" My pleas against loneliness also materialize before me, much smaller than "Screw the king." They move much faster in smaller undulations, chasing after the first text. As they reach "g," the tail of the phrase, they slice all the phrase in half. My desperate requests float away into the nether. The original letters fall on the middle of the board, dead.

The board trembles as if awoken by my crime. In the opposite corner, the high side of the plane, the red tile opens up like a door. Out steps a triangular piece of yellow cheddar cheese. The door closes.

"I am the king!" yells the cheese.

New letters form in the air, bigger, bolder letters.

I watch as they charge at me, the "I" the head of the train. I look over my shoulder. There is nowhere to go but ahead onto the plane, for the world is only this board. As I turn, I am torn open by the "I." My chest rips apart as finally the "n" and "g" go through me.

I begin to melt onto the board, lower and lower. The last thing I see before I die is the cheese. He has two googly eyes. The black pupils roll around and around, like swimmers doing laps around a lake.

My final thought enters forth from my puddly body onto the board as the infinite black nothingness of existence covers the plane: I love cheddar cheese.


The brown out was over.

I opened my eyes. Before I could do anything at all, I felt the whip of wind on my face. I squinted and clutched at the ground I rested on. It wasn't ground, it was a soft, fuzzy ball.

I flew through the air over a field pressed against a tennis ball, having been launched from the machine.

A golden retriever ran as fast as he could below me. His tongue flapped like a ham in the wind as he raced along, keeping pace with my new plane, a traveling plane, a tennis ball airplane.

I wonder where he's going, I thought before snapping back into active thinking mode, the council back from lunch, the projector put away. He's going where I'm going, which is wherever I'm going.

The ball began to descend, having reached the top of it's arch trajectory. I'm going down, I thought.

I turned so my stomach faced the ball, holding on as tight as I could. Thank God the ball wasn't spinning but instead sailed like a knuckleball. Unfortunately, my weight altered its descent. I leaned forward as hard as I could, but it was no use. I was traveling butt first toward the ground.

I wish I were a lady bug, I thought. Then I'd have a hard shell to protect my fall. Wait...

Down, down, down I flew.

That's stupid, if I were a lady bug I would fly away. Even when plummeting toward death I think brilliant thoughts.

I looked down. There, like a Gold Glove winning outfielder, awaited the shaggy-haired dog, tail wagging, mouth open.

Flump. The ball went right into his mouth. I saw only blackness.

The infinite black nothingness of existence. Or rather, death. The void of existence, or is it the continuation of existence? I sure am wet.

I heard a hack from closer than anyone has ever heard before.

Wet! I'm not dead!

Another hack. I felt a slick, strong surface on my back. It pushed me against the ball, moving the ball forward. I fell out of the retriever's mouth. The world was no longer black.

I looked up from the itchy, uncut grass. Brown eyes looked down at me from an excited face. The dog panted heavily, making the corner of his mouth seem to smile.

"Good boy!" I said. The dog closed his mouth, cocked his head to the side, and tilted his ears forward. He looked at me quizzically, but not studying me.

I stood up. The dog dipped down, his head closer to the ground while his rear stood in the air. His tail zipped back and forth like a floppy windshield wiper.

I walked to him and scratched his ear. Upon being scratched, the dog lowered his rear and laid down, happy as can be.

"That's the spot, eh boy?" I said, working the area around his now relaxed ears. As I scratched him, I grabbed the silver ID tag hanging from his blue collar. Chloe, it read.

"I'm sorry. You're not a boy, are you, Chloe--"

Chloe was thrilled to hear her name. She scooped up the ball into her mouth and jumped back to her feet. My hand caught underneath her collar. She bolted forward. The force flung me by the arm on top of her front shoulders. She came to a sprint. I brought my other hand to the blue band and hung on for dear life.

Chloe ran full speed across the open field and I rode with her. After a moment, it wasn't scary at all. Quite the opposite--it was exhilarating. I didn't know where we were going and I didn't care. It didn't even matter. Chloe was my steed and I was a cowboy, a pair of wild animals free on the open range.


As we came to the edge of the field, Chloe took a hard right and went back to the tennis court.  She slowed down as she approached a woman. A short, very pretty woman.

"There she is, good girl, good... Oh, hi there," she said. Chloe dropped the ball at her feet and stared at it.

I let go of Chloe's collar with one hand and put it on my neck, unsure how to proceed in what I assumed was the first situation of its kind. "Uh..."

I looked at the woman. She had blonde hair cut above her shoulders. Her bangs were pulled and pinned back, revealing her face like a stage. It was the cutest haircut I'd ever seen. She had cobalt eyes and small, light lips. Her eyebrows were raised high. Rightfully so.

I could feel my own eyebrows raised high, except mine were from a feeling quite the opposite of confusion. "I got caught up in a game of catch with Chloe here."

Chloe again reacted to hearing her name. She promptly sat down. It caught me off guard and I rolled down her back onto the ground. I quickly rolled to my feet and leaned against Chloe's side, trying to save the remnants of my cowboy cool from moments before. "I'm, I'm Mac." I put my index and middle fingers to my brow and gave a slight wave like a cowboy would by pointing from the brim of his hat.

The woman giggled, bit her lower lip, and looked down. "Nice to meet you, Mac. I'm Lizzy. And it looks like you already know Chloe here pretty well."

I petted Chloe on the side. "You've got yourself a fine animal here," I said.

Lizzy rubbed Chloe's head. Content, she closed her eyes and shut her mouth. Her tongue hung out the side. "Well... Chloe and I are off for a walk. It was nice to meet you, Mac." Lizzy patted her thigh as she turned and Chloe followed.The two started off.

Embarrassed, I looked down. I put my hands in my pockets and kicked at the grass. No match for a cheese king and no match for a girl, I thought. The wind picked up and blew against my face. It made me think of riding the dog.  I really liked that. I felt like a whole new me.

I looked up, feeling the renewed confidence of a true pioneer. "Hey, Lizzy," I called.

Lizzy turned. Chloe looked back at her owner from several steps ahead.

"Would you like to go get a cup of coffee? I really felt something here and it'd be a same to let it pass."

Lizzy smiled.

"I mean with Chloe, of course," I said.

Chloe, again reacting to her name, trotted over to me.

I petted her glossy coat. "See what I mean?"

Lizzy giggled, bit her lower lip, and looked down. "I sure do," she said, looking back up. "Can't let a spark like that go."

I walked over to her, Chloe right behind me.


No matter how stressed out, floundering, or whatever else you are when you feel the brown out coming, don't panic. Just embrace it. A little nap always does the mind and body good. Yes, there's obviously times when you can't squeeze a nap in. But if you can, go for it. Nap! When you wake up, you'll certainly be recharged. More importantly, though, you might find yourself in an exciting new situation, facing a new path, ready for a new adventure.

Or, better yet, you might meet a pretty woman and go on a romantic afternoon date. An afternoon date that extends into dinner. A dinner that extends into after dinner drinks. And after dinner drinks that extend into...

That's a story for another time.

As for now, I think I'm feeling the need for a little nap.

Never fight the brown out.