Greg Bardsley


people watching

Creative MeMe — Lies and Truths

You can blame Shea for this one ….

Shea tagged me for something the kids are calling a “Creative MeMe — Lies and Truths.”

Idea is, you tell “six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth – or – switch it around and tell six outrageous truths and one outrageous lie. Nominate some more ‘creative writers’ who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies of their own. (Check the end of this post.)”

Shea has some doozies. What a dude. Damn, I love interesting people.

Okay, mine: One outrageous lie, six outrageous truths …

1] A while back, an unusual sequence of circumstances had me hanging out with Travolta in a nearly empty “waiting area.” We’re chewing the fat for a while, and when he learns that I’m headed to the same place he is, he gives me this look like I’m a space alien, showing me that big smile and eye-twinkle, and says, “Who are you again? And what’s your deal?” … Wish I knew, John. Wish I knew.

2] The summer before college, as a U-Haul desk jockey, I seriously freaked out a customer (a complete stranger) by correctly telling the man that I had seen him one year earlier standing in line with two ladies at a water-slide park, in a city 30 miles away, and that he’d been wearing a blue Speedo and puka shells, and that the ladies had been wearing matching one-pieces. I even told him the date I saw him.  … You should’ve seen the way that guy looked at me. … One of my coworkers spent the rest of the summer convinced I was magic.

3] My dog Venus once appeared on ABC News.

4] On a college road trip to a Sierra town east of Chester, I lost a bet to a local. To settle up, I had to go out back of this bar and squeeze into a small cage containing — I kid you not — this bobcat he’d trapped, and I had to stay in there for 30 seconds. My friends laughed so hard, one of them peed his pants. … Me? I still have the claw marks streaking down my left calf and across the small of my back [all I did was curl up and cover my face].

5] Back in the ’90s, the lead singer of Hootie and Blowfish sang to my wife for the better part of a 90-minute performance at the Concord Pavilion, and for some reason I never really felt threatened. … Me? Oblivious dingbat? Maybe, but she was going home with me, bub. 

6] In college, I circled the United States for three weeks … on $450.

7] As a teen employee of Hickory Farms, I once walked through the mall with my baggy collar shirt tucked into my too-tight pants. That would have been fine, if only my fly had been zipped closed and an enormous portion of my shirt wasn’t protruding through it — unbeknownst to me, of course.

Okay, name the lie, and after ample time, I’ll come clean.

Meanwhile, to continue the madness, I have been asked to tag a “creative writer.” And I want sick, I want twisted, I want perversion. I want Phillips!

Now I know

Now I know.

Now I know that when you’re visiting a communist compound deep in the heart of  China, you shouldn’t wander. It doesn’t matter if the grounds are lush and inviting. It doesn’t matter if the guards clearly saw you arrive with the your company’s delegation. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the West and you assume you have protections. It doesn’t matter that you have this open-mouthed, couldn’t-harm-a-fly goofball look to you as you saunter the grounds.

Now I know.

Disregard the fact everyone seems friendly enough. Disreard the fact you hear hundreds of men singing nearby and would love to investigate (and in that case, didn’t). You are a visitor from another country. You don’t stroll. You don’t investigate. You should just be happy that you’re experiencing something (visiting a communist compound) you never could’ve predicted six months earlier. You should stand there, stay put and appreciate the moment.

A couple weeks ago, I did not stay put. 

I had come to China on business. During the trip, my bosses had several meetings with the Chinese leadership in Chongqing (both parties are planning to do some good things that will help a lot of people of China).  I was more or less a fly on the wall. In the course of the meetings, we ended up at this compound. And because I wasn’t in that meeting, I had time to kill.

So, yes, with time to kill, I did go for a stroll. I don’t think I ventured too far, but in retrospect, after telling my bosses (and my family) that I had gone for a walk and even wanted to explore further,  I realize I should’ve stayed closer to the area where we had arrived. I guess you just don’t go for adventurous strolls on communist compounds, especially when you’re a visiting American. Luckily, I didn’t have to learn that lesson the hard way.

A mixed-breed, far from home

Last week, I went to a really nice place. I went to Scandinavia.

More specifically, I went to beautiful country of Finland for too short a time — two days and two nights — as part of a video project I’m producing. In short, it was the farthest I’d ever gone from my native California, and the signs of it were everywhere. This place was green in late June. It had street names like Pohjoinen Makasinkiinitu and Kaisaniemenkatu. I got lost, and loved it. The sky was blue at 11 p.m. The brunettes had blond roots. I felt like I was perhaps the only person in the greater Helsinki metropolitan area with Mexican-American blood. It was a pretty special feeling.

My time in Helsinki, followed by two days in London, also presented a chance to learn a little more about myself. Some things I learned:

I only speak English — One would think I had realized this much earlier in life. But it wasn’t until Helsinki that I realized just how pathetic my monolingualism is. Maybe I was fooling myself. Maybe I was thinking my two years of high-school Spanish made me something more than I was — a simple man who can’t pronounce “Vuorimiehentie” to save his life.

I smile a lot — Of course, people over the years have told me I smile a lot. My mom says I was a big smiler right from the beginning. I guess I can’t help it. And hell, what’s wrong with smiling? … Well, apparently, in Europe, my level of sidewalk/bar/restaurant smiling is just plain weird. On one occasion, a Finnish man gave me the international sign for “cut it” — wagging his flat hand at the base of his throat — as I smiled at him with an open mouth. … I never was able to cut off the smiling.

People don’t like Americans — Now, I have known this, too. But again, there’s nothing like experiencing it firsthand to truly understand what it really means. And what does it really mean? People don’t like us. They don’t like our over-smiling, they don’t like our brash confidence, they don’t care for our down-home ways, and they don’t like our politics (I kept telling everyone I’m for Obama). Of course, not everyone felt this way (case in point, the Finns), but I got the message loud and clear in London.

So now I’m back, and I have to admit I’m smiling like there’s no tomorrow. And I’m doing it with a new appreciation for all the great things that make us, as Americans, so unique. I’m also smiling with the realization that, at the rapidly ripening age of 41, I’m still such a babe in so many respects, with so much more to learn about myself and my country. Looking forward to it.

I like to look

Hey, what can I say? I like to look.

I like to look at people. They interest me. What they do interests me. What they look like can be fascinating. I guess the way I see it, looking at people is one way to really “get” a person. And hell, it’s just fun to look.

The family next door put a hot tub right outside our bedroom window. My wife Nancy says to me, “Stop looking over there. What if they see you?” I turn the lights off and keep looking, gazing out the window, whispering, “I wanna see what Jim looks like with his shirt off.”

You can’t blame me. Jim and his family have lived next door for eight years. We adore them. They’re quality people. But come on, let’s be honest here — I wanna take a look at Jim in his trunks, and I bet you would, too. And why can’t I look out my own bedroom window? Should I bow my head and gaze at the floor whenever I pass that window?

When we’re out and about, I really like to look. We’ll be walking, and I’ll be looking, and then I’ll say something like, “Hey, there’s that guy from that salsa-dancing class in ’95.” I’ll wave to him while Nancy pulls at my arms. “Please don’t,” she’ll whisper. “Not here. Please don’t. It’s not him.” … I will admit that on several occasions (or maybe it’s more accurate to say, on many occasions) these people aren’t who I think they are — rather, they’re complete strangers, and it makes for some awkward moments. Really awkward moments. Nancy doesn’t like those.

Now, to be fair, I do have a freaky way of remembering faces. As a teen at a water slide park, a friend and I spent about 40 minutes standing in line behind a very amusing fellow in a blue Speedo. He was about 50. The two ladies with him were in their 30s. My friend and I had a wonderful time standing behind them, taking note of this guy’s “scene.” A year later, this guy walks into the Dublin Uhaul, where I’m working behind the counter, and I say, “Hey, you were at the Manteca Water Slides last summer, the last Sunday of July, and you had this blue Speedo on, and there were two women with you, and you had this puka-shell necklace and … and … and.” When this stunned man confirmed this was all true (and confirmed that he’d never met me in his life) one of the Uhaul lifers walked up to me and mumbled, “Dude, you’re psyschic.”

Nah, I just like to look.

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