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  • Writer's pictureBrandi Bird

Beard Wax & a Vape Charger

It's been another busy month. Market season is in full swing while summer thrums in all of nature's chords. From now until the first frost, my nights will be spent making lists and my days will be spent crossing chores and tasks off of those lists and inevitably coming up a little short. I even made a list of possible blog post topics, so just know the next few minutes of your life could have been less informative had "Shoes of the World" won out. (That's a reference from Derry Girls, but seriously my creative writing tank is running on fumes).

I love a good list. I was born a list maker and I will inevitably die a list maker, hopefully crossing off "witness an active volcano up close" right before I croak from the lava vapors. Most of my lists serve as a mental hall table for catching my thought keys so I don't lose them in the tremendous empty handbag that is my brain. Speaking of purses, I currently have five notebooks rolling around in my Hermione bag; like the Five Families, each notebook has it's own niche and racket. There is the General Ledger, the Good Ideas/Inventions, the Questions to Look Up Answers to Later, and the undecipherable Grimoire that is my Dreams notebook.

Flipping to a page in my Dreams notebook, I find this little gem:

"I am on the Titanic and I try to warn everyone that the ship is going to sink but nobody believes me. I convince the engineer to take me below deck where I show him that water is filling the vessel. We work frantically to repair the damage but the only tools on the Titanic are a spatula and industrial size container of Philadelphia brand cream cheese."

Besides my dreams, the only other fiction I write is the Appointment/Planner Datebook, because I assure you that any social events I commit to will eventually overwhelm me with enough dread that I will panic cancel if any wiggle room at all is given. If you really need me to show up for an event, your best bet is to take one of my houseplants hostage.

I can feel some of you rolling your eyes already. I JuSt TyPe In mY pHOne UnDR NoTeZ.

No, no, no. It is not the same at all. Not only are you giving up crucial data to the Chinese who are invariably poring through all your phones remotely in an effort to undermine democracy, but also you are also missing out on one of the most reliable pleasures of an orderly mind. Crossing items off a list. Sometimes I am a one firm line through the middle kind of person, but usually I prefer a few lines through so I can check my work. Too many scribbles and the dopamine hit wears off. It's all about balance.

I know there are people out there that just start their day without a list of tasks to be accomplished, or roll up to the grocery store without a plan, but these people are probably sociopaths and not to be trusted. These are the same people who will make you late for a dinner reservation or hold up a whole line of people at the airport because they thought the unyielding laws of mass and volume didn't apply to them and surprise, surprise they now have to check a bag.

Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum are people who write lists but then misplace the list. These are my favorite people because I get to find the list. It is in fact, both victimless crime and secret hobby and there are NOT a lot of those that overlap in the ol' Venn Diagram. The lists I find are few and far between partly because many list makers use bound notebooks (like I do) having been burned by traitorous and libertine Post-Its too many times before. Post-Its are pack animals and will not survive the wild long once separated from the sticky safety of the herd. I recently found this little gem in the Walmart hellscape.

So much to unpack here. Are those cases of Mountain Dew? Clearly burgers are on the menu (ground beef and buns) and there are some breakfast eggs and OJ, but what's for lunch? Why two milks? Is he drinking the milk? Are there adults that actually drink milk and if so, how much milk do they give you per day in the asylum you clearly belong in? Is the milk for the Nebo? Wevo? Mibo? cookies? Also what does beard wax do? I thought wax was for taking hair off. Is beard dye like hair dye? How long do you have to leave it on for? How did they test beard dye before it was approved for human use? Did they dye little goatees on mice? Do we have pictures? I have so many questions, but I also have a lot of conclusions.

This list has a very "Caleb" vibe to it. I'm going to go on a limb and guess that Caleb has at least one unlicensed firearm and possibly type 2 diabetes due to the sheer volume of Dew plus - clue alert - I found this list in the pharmacy when I was picking up my prescription toothpaste specifically made for people who are crybabies at the dentist (me). So Caleb was making a pharmacy pick up, but left that off his list. According to a quick web search the most commonly prescribed drugs are for blood pressure and diabetes although 15% of Americans are also on anti-depressants. We'll never know, he could have just been picking up toothpaste like me, then that would be the one and only thing we actually have in common, going off the list.

A lot of the lists I find will have "snacks" written on them and that opens up a whole other case to be examined. Snack definitions vary by household, and how many snacks, exactly, before it's just a buffet? Did you know that "snacks" were not a thing until the mass production of the late 19th century? People didn't need snacks until companies needed to sell snacks. Unsurprisingly, industrialized nations started packing on the pounds in the years after. Thank goodness George Washington didn't feel too hypoglycemic crossing the Delaware and stop for some nibbles thereby botching the whole surprise attack. Archeologists haven't discovered any Viking burial mounds of processed cheese and Takis. How did the Golden Horde maintain peak productivity without protein bars tucked into their saddles? And let's not forget it was the Last Supper, not the Last Snack.

The Ohio State University released a study in 2023 that concluded Americans eat enough snacks per day to constitute a fourth meal. Live Science and Forbes wrote follow up stories citing snacking as an 'epidemic'. Unsurprisingly, foods marketed as pre-portioned "snacks" are generally more expensive. The consumer pays for the convenience of a smaller portion. That is something our non snacking ancestors would have a really hard time understanding. But I digress, I have drifted from the list.

Not all my lists are practical or even necessary, but I have found that pulling out a notebook and pen just piques the interest (and sometimes ire) of others around you. The default thought strangers have is that I am writing something about THEM, when in reality I am probably drafting an alignment chart of my pets, the cats lined up on the chaotic axis and Roosevelt anchored securely in the Lawful Good square. Just because I am writing something down doesn't mean it is important or even interesting, but I have used my list making habit to serve me through many many meetings.

To the industrial overseers I might look like I'm taking notes on inventory control variables, but in reality I am ranking Starbursts from worst (orange) to best (yellow). In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams writes that carrying a towel prepares one for a multitude of scenarios and lends an air of general gravitas for an alien trying to blend in on Earth. I would beg Mr. Adams to consider the humble notebook and all it offers. Is it not the "blank page", after all, that invokes the spirit of all possibilities?

Maybe it's the historian in me, but I love the scraps of paper, the notes, the hand scrawled recipe cards that pepper a life. When I was researching my thesis, I had access to the personal papers of Justice James McReynolds. He wrote 93 opinions just against New Deal Programs, that's more opinions than Clarence Thomas authored in ten years. A notorious bigot, McReynolds refused to sit for an official court portrait with Justice Brandeis, because Brandeis was Jewish. McReynolds publicly announced that he would would not accept "Jews, drinkers, blacks, women, smokers, married or engaged individuals" as law clerks. Considering his nickname on Capital Hill was "Scrooge" I don't think it was a big loss to miss an opportunity to clerk for the old bastard. Rifling through his personal papers with a gloved fingers, I found stacks of faded recipe cards in his own neat hand. The guy really had a thing for homemade barbecue sauces, I gotta say. The penciled score cards tucked amongst his legal papers indicate he was a mediocre golfer at best, so maybe he was looking to diversify his hobbies?

We are losing these snippets of life to emails, texts, and other technology. I think that's kind of sad and makes us collectively a little more boring as a species. Give me a handwritten and heartfelt card, a hastily jotted phone message on the back of an envelope, an address on a cocktail napkin, a note folded into a triangle and passed during 3rd period Geometry, a set of handprints pressed into wet concrete. Unedited, unfiltered, unscripted. And meanwhile, write more lists so I can find them.


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