Thursday, August 11 2022

a new spider, ziggys birthday, and jordan

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Dear Journal,

Good morning - readers of words, clock punchers, and people silently and contently staring at their phone screens. I'm sending you good vibes on this Thursday morning.

Our living room shades hang closed, sealing in a comfortable pillow of darkness around where I write. This morning, I feel like leaving the room as dark as this cup of coffee... which reminds me, I have yet to take a sip of coffee this morning.

Sip. How has the week been for you? I had an action-packed Wednesday, which began with opening up a new spider in the mail. I caught the Fed-Ex driver on the porch just as he was leaving that little "we tried to deliver" sticky note on my door. I sliced open the box, unspooled the film canister free from a wet napkin cocoon. I grabbed our biggest mixing bowl from the sink and began the monotonous chore of breaking up a brick of cocoa fiber with my fingers.

Our choice creature substrate is cocoa fiber. It's cheap and widely available. You can order it to your door from dozens on vendors on Amazon, and it arrives tightly pressed in bricks sealed in plastic wrap. The only drawback of cocoa fiber is that it can be a little time consuming to turn it into something that resembles normal dirt.

I didn't make this tenth enclosure in my collection very fancy. Using a fist, I packed the dirt into the lower half of the plastic cube. I poked a plastic water bowl in the corner. I used my index finger to dig the beginnings of a burrow into the corner. At last - time to release the beast.


The beast was cowering in a wet napkin.

Un-boxing a new tarantula in the mail is always exciting. You don't know if they're going to eagerly bolt out into the open, stand their ground defensively, or - in Beans' case - reluctantly go along with your paint brush prodding.


Beans is a Brazilian White-Knee tarantula. Full grown, he might achieve a legspan of eight inches, and his species is known to grow pretty quickly. He'll be moving out of this box soon, so why even bother with fake plants or cork bork?

Yesterday was Ziggy's birthday, and I've already spent too much time talking about the other animals in the house. By her account, her birthday was an absolute disaster. First, Marissa set the smoke alarm off while searing a beautiful piece of salmon on the cast iron skillet - and Ziggy hates smoke. As soon as she heard the alarm, she grabbed up her new birthday toys and fled into the bedroom. Then she and mom got in an argument while practicing agility in the backyard.


Did she get the fifth birthday she deserved? We weren't sure, so just to hedge our bets, we gave her a little bowl of goldfish crackers and some pretzel sticks.

After dinner, I jumped in the car and drove to Wheaton. I would be sharing a beer with an old friend. Jordan, while briefly visiting the states away from his permanent home in Japan, tracked me down on Facebook and asked if I wanted to reconnect. I found him in the back corner of the noisy bar sitting underneath a speaker thumping with country music.

"I have to come clean - this was not the place I thought I was picking," I laughed after we had moved outside. My real choice was a low key Irish pub restaurant in downtown Wheaton, but carelessly running with the first Irish bar in the Google results, we ended up at this ruddy dive bar that was at least a five minute drive from the rest of the town.

"I barely remember anything from CLA," he laughed. "Except hanging out with you in seventh grade. We were constantly hanging out."

Jordan jogged my memory. In seventh grade, we were inseparable, and the pillars of our friendship were quoting Strongbad emails and avoiding talking to the girls in our class. Jordan finished high school going the home school route, and after a few on-and-off years seeing each other around church, we parted ways. Jordan would go on to move to Japan, meet his wife, and take a job teaching English. I came across an episode of his podcast he shared on Facebook.

"I can't believe you listened to that," he chuckled.

"I just put it on while washing dishes one night," I replied. "I couldn't tell you what you were talking about, but it sounded like you were really getting into it."

"We were mostly just testing the equipment," he added. "My buddy wanted to keep going, but... I lose interest in things unless I have a really clear vision for where it's heading."

A decade plus a few years later, Jordan and I have little left in common now. But I've learned that when you have the chance to reconnect with someone from your past, it's best to take it. In re-learning about someone, you often rediscover what made you friends in the first place. His decisions felt relatable. His interests felt familiar. Our choices took us in different directions, but the common threads still ran between us.

We got on the subject of creative writing - a shared interest of ours. "I heard a quote you would like," said Jordan. "Every person is a great writer - they just have to write a million words worth of bad literature first before they get to the good stuff." Needless to say, as a blogger, that sage wisdom resonated with me.

"HAWKS WIN," belched a bar patron who stepped outside for a smoke. With a burning cigarette hanging on his lip, he leaned in for a closer look at my t-shirt. "HAWKS WIN - HAWKS WIN - I'm a huge hawks fan."

Jordan and I shifted uncomfortably in our seats, but oblivious to our cues, the stranger continued to ramble.

"Huge hawks fan... bears fan... cubs fan... I have a cubs tattoo." He turned his leg, presenting a faded tattoo on his calf muscle.

Minutes passed as the guy continued to drunkenly ramble from the flank of our table. Somehow, he got on the subject of his own high school football legacy. He boasted of his own prowess as a defensive corner back. "It's my long arms," he said waggling his eye brows. "Look, they're even longer than yours." He sidled up to the table and held his arm against Jordan's.

"You know... I haven't seen my friend here in a while, and I'm leaving the states pretty soon," said Jordan, easing into the uncomfortable moment. "We are kind of in the middle of something."

"I'll fuck off," said the smoker. He put up his arms and took three steps backwards. "I'll finish this cig over here, and I'll go back inside - no worries brother."

Jordan and I parted ways. But before he jumped in his car, I asked to take a picture.

"You... want to take it in the dark?" he said hesitantly.

"You're right, let's take it on the porch where there's a light," I suggested.

Sure, the eerie green light looks like we were caught on a deer cam in the woods, but we had a great chat. "Look me up next time your in the states," I said. "You, me, and our new friend can play football or something."

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Thursday, everyone.