A shadow with teeth


A shadow with teeth

The Mechanic shook my hand.
His hands were every bit as big as I remembered them.
He appeared to be genuinely pleased to see that some force within the universe allowed us to drift together once again.

“Maybe it’s appropriate to change my secret nickname for him at this juncture,” I thought.
The Musician asked one of the waiters to bring him a club soda.
“Did you like the band?”
“I truly did.”
And that was no lie.

This man in front of me didn’t bear a lot of resemblance to the person I last saw so many years ago.
Gone was the mullet and mustache.
He wore a close-cropped brush cut and sported some designer stubble.
I was amazed at how much weight he lost.
From certain angles, he almost looked gaunt.
But upon closer scrutiny, he came across as being sinewy and deceptively muscular.
He could’ve easily pulled off the “Careful boy, I’m old for a reason” T-Shirt caption.

“If I remember anything about you I would venture to guess you’ve not booked a return flight yet?”
I nodded.
“I’m wrapping up things and holding out for a cheaper red-eye flight back home.”
“Well then, do you fancy a road trip?”

Images of raising hell and pretending to be angels with just the right amount of ambiguity to remain interesting seemed like a great way of eroding some of the ennui that plagued me of late.
“I’m in!”

The man next to me always protected some deep recesses inside himself that I guess nobody has ever been privy to.
And what made this latest incarnation so much more interesting was how his erstwhile confidence had evolved— Or perhaps even mutated?

In earlier days he said he survived by having an unwavering faith in the abilities he knew he excelled in.
Now it appeared as if he drew strength from being acutely aware of how fragile he was in-between those moments that fool us into believing we can conquer a universe.

“Get your gear then!”
“You’re coming with me tomorrow, we’re going to pick up Elizabeth,” he said.
I recognized a familiar mischievous look in his eyes.
The Musician morphed back into a previous version of himself.
Tomorrow I would leave this place with The Mechanic.

(To be continued, of course…)

Read Part 4.


“What I create is mine, what you see is yours!”

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 4.

“What I create is mine, what you see is yours!”

My last year with the company was very eventful.
A merger with a smaller business created all kinds of havoc and led to the rumor-mill working overtime.
“Who would step into new positions of power?”
“Will we be able to co-exist with the new people?”

Later in that same year, a motorcar accident claimed The Mechanic’s son.
And ultimately that tragedy led to a series of events that contributed to the collapse of his marriage.
A few months before that black curtain was drawn over my friend’s life we found ourselves on-site, installing software and setting up factory-automation processes.

We were all set to see if our potato-crisp packager worked.
The Mechanic flicked the switch on my controller box but nothing happened.

The big guy was a part-time artist but a brutal realist nonetheless.
Paintings could be abstract but he felt his art only made sense if he grounded himself within his perceptions of reality.
I knew he often got annoyed by artists who convinced themselves that the mere label of “artist” automatically preceded a stereotypical array of mannerisms and a life that’s potentially detached from “uncreative mortals.”

He often said he had no compunction about flaying a dead body open to study the inner working of muscles ligaments and bones.
“If you wish to appreciate the smooth graceful movement of an arm or leg, it makes sense to understand musculature.”
He often spoke about the great masters of old to prove his point.
“Imagine the bloody mess Da Vinci made when he cut to the bone to understand human anatomy!”
“Pun intended,” he said.
“It’s no wonder he revolutionized realistic drawing!”

Unlike Da Vinci, he never really dissected a corpse. But I’m secretly confident he would’ve tackled something like that had he studied under the great Renaissance man.
The Mechanic was not only one of the most practical artists I ever stumbled across, but he was also one of the biggest pragmatists I ever met.
Let’s not beat about the bush though— That man could wax lyrical about the intricate patterns on a ceramic tile and manage to write an epic poem about it.
It’s just that he seldom allowed his artistic endeavors to feed emotion that spilled into the personal space of other people.
When he painted something it was always with raw emotion and a muse cracking the whip behind him.
But he never expected anyone to understand how he felt when he created the painting,
On occasion, I met artists who felt devastated when the “meaning” behind their work wasn’t as apparent to other people as it was to them.
If his art left anyone cold, that’s just how it was.
“What I create is mine, what you see is yours,” he would often say.

“So what would DaVinci do?”
We looked at the unresponsive packaging machine.
“I guess he would’ve cracked it open?”
It appeared as if I took the words right out of his mouth.

The best thing about working with the Mechanic was his practical no-fuss approach to everything work-related.
“It is what it is,” became his mantra.
As it turned out I made a rookie mistake when I updated the software inside our little box of tricks.
I didn’t initiate the monitoring service which in turn was responsible for kicking off everything else.
Fortunately, it was a quick fix.

The Mechanic simply shrugged when I apologized for the time wasted.
The eternal pragmatist smiled and nodded.
“At least I managed to get another look at the neat work you did.”
He could’ve been condescending, but he wasn’t.
Not once did I ever experience him belittling anyone who made a mistake.
“The best artworks are those with a few flaws,” he said.
“Sometimes an artist might even want to add a few planned imperfections.”
“Not only does a noticeable flaw anchor a painting, in reality, it also helps to prevent novices from scrutinizing every square inch for imperfections. The sooner they find a mistake that satisfies the human propensity for being a critic, the sooner they can stand back and enjoy the art.”

(To be continued of course…)

Read Part 3.

The lingering illusion of engineering a happy outcome

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 3.

The lingering illusion of engineering a happy outcome.

“Contentment is happiness’ more practical sibling, you find him whenever you produced something that you felt pleased with.”

Pragmatism was the Mechanic’s magic.
He could pave over a rough patch with a bit of smooth-talking and a bottle of scotch he pulled from thin air.
We ended up completing many projects with sterling results.
It’s not to say there weren’t things I could’ve sorted out by myself, but I was still lucky to have had the Installation-Whisperer next to me during the sensitives phases within many installations.
Maybe I got spoiled by having such a formidable wing-man?

The Mechanic was a maverick, a ladies man, man’s man, and just that generally-likable guy.
One of those all-rounders that simply defy categorization and definition.
He had his enemies in the office.
Everyone does.
But somehow even they ended up respecting him at least, even though I’m pretty sure the ever-looming green-eyed monster was always present.

If you were stranded on a desert island The Mechanic would’ve been the ally you wanted.
And of course, some offices are analogous to some of the most forlorn desert islands out there.
Nonetheless, this is the guy who always ran every scheme conceivable, and somehow managed to have his finger squarely on the pulse of everything.
When he ran some side-hustles inside the office nobody could help but notice.
Even the managers knew that reprimanding him for his unorthodox methods would serve no purpose— Because he always got the job done!
You often saw him outside.
At times he succumbed to chain-smoking.
He was a perfect office-slob.
Occasionally some parts of his projects lapsed.
Often his lewd jokes verged on boundaries being overstepped.
And then just when you thought he had finally taken things too far his boyish mustached-grin somehow made people forgive him for every scarlet sin and transgression.

But even the golden age of a demi-god can be transient.
Ultimately even The Mechanic couldn’t withstand the deluge of a river that serves no master except the inevitable pull towards an ocean.
And after the rainy season that slow meander transforms into a raging wall of water that sweeps away someone’s world indiscriminately— Oblivious about collateral damage and who’s to bless, or who’s to blame— It takes everything!

(To be continued of course…)

Read Part 2.

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 2 – Day One

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 2.

Day One

I first met the Mechanic when I went for a job interview at the company where he suffered through the slow suicide of a day job.
I couldn’t help but notice a big garrulous man smoking outside.
He had a portly girth, a mullet, and mustache straight out of a 70s movie but somehow the whole package seemed just right.
The Feng Shui of his appearance defied logic, but still created a harmonious impression.
He was the center of a very lively debate.
I took in the whole scenario for a few brief moments while I straightened my tie before heading up to reception.
“It seems the guys who work here are happy enough,” I thought while I signed the visitor’s register.

Later that morning I went outside to soak up a bit of sunshine.
Not much happened during my first day on the job.
While a technician was setting up my computer and network credentials I figured it would be a good time to assess the lie of the land.

The Mechanic was outside.
He religiously adhered to his smoke-breaks I later learned.
Neither Hell nor torrential downpours could separate him from his
unfiltered guilty pleasure.
His big hand engulfed mine.

He extended a burly forearm terminating in a large calloused hand.
I found it strangely refreshing that someone with hands as big as his didn’t automatically feel a necessity to crush someone else’s.
Not that my grip was weak by any standard, but I knew when I encountered a superior adversary.

“Look at this!”
The Mechanic pointed at the empty parking bays.
“Every single one of them is decorated by a Rorschach pattern of spilled motor oil”.
I soon learned the big guy observed everything.
“All cars leak oil at some stage. Nobody knows whether it was an overpriced sports-car or a busted Beetle that contributed to these stains.”

One of the patterns in a parking bay close to us resembled a humpback whale.
“We all make a mess on occasion, but it’s much better to leave a failed project or missed deadline behind than someone you wronged!”
The Mechanic flicked his cigarette but into a shrub.
“That’s profound,” he chuckled.
“But it’s true!”
“When you look back at your mistakes 5 years from now you’ll notice how they eventually flowed into a homogenous stream where a manager’s accounting glitch often becomes indiscernible from another employee’s filing error. ”
We could’ve exhausted that train of thought much more.
But our break was over.

I processed the gist of what he said, even though he didn’t need to say it in so many words.
Maybe it could even have been construed as a friendly, but thinly veiled warning.
“Don’t screw someone over just for the sake of looking good in this company!”

(To be continued of course…)

Read Part 1.

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 1 – Soul Food

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 1

Soul food

“Every explanation warrants a good story, but good stories are so easily watered-down by explanations!”

The Mechanic was often masterfully creative when it came down to creating quotable quotes.
Quotes are great in the sense that they often defy explanation, seeing that interpretation often finds a clever way of supplanting the need for banal clarifications.

These memoirs of sorts will therefore not strive to offer any explanations, but they’ll merely serve as a preamble to how I rediscovered “The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life!”
So without further ado, before the disclaimer about “not explaining” morphs into a diatribe that defeats its purpose, let me carry on with this story.

When I ran into The Mechanic again after so many years he was neither a mechanic nor a poet but a soulful blues guitarist.
He was excellent, and for an instant, I pictured him on stage, playing to a packed stadium.
But the yacht club within a landlocked African country was as good a venue as anything else.
The setting was surreal.
Bamboo torches cast long shadows.
Each dark splotch in between the islands of light held the promise of harboring a wild creature of sorts.

I didn’t recognize the first song the band played.
And it didn’t matter.
It was every song I’ve never heard and yet every note felt familiar.
The Mechanic channeled the gods of rock with the ease of confident indifference.
Maybe the local beers added to my overall perception of the set, but that was also fine.
The lead vocalist was a beautiful big woman who proved to be a dead ringer for Tracy Chapman.
Between songs, I heard sounds from the pub.
Glasses, utensils and indistinct chatter.
The smell of fried chicken reminded me of how hungry I was.

The band wrapped up a brooding song from the 70s.
The Mechanic put down the guitar and walked over to come and talk to me.

I recalled a discussion we had in a previous lifetime and a thousand miles behind us.
“You were born with a soundtrack etched into your very being, and you are fortunate whenever you stumble across an artist who manages to articulate the lyrics and melodies associated with your sweetest moments of deja vu.”

(To be continued of course…)

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life.

Two days ago a good friend told me that I should write a book.

Maybe I only needed that last person’s words of encouragement to kick-start what I’ve been putting off for the longest time!

Well, why not?
How hard can it be?

As it turns out merely writing a lot of words isn’t all that difficult.
Look back at the wake of text you created by traversing social media streams last year.
Imagine viewing an amalgam of every comment or post that left your keyboard during that period.
The sheer amount of content you produced might surprise you.
Continue reading

The golden squid relinquishes the stranglehold of a thousand sunsets!

“The golden squid relinquishes the stranglehold of a thousand sunsets with the birth of one lonely star!”
I like motivational quotes.
Actually, no! Occasionally I love them.
The wordplay— Clever imagery and a few thought-provoking snippets can be enjoyable!
But I often deconstruct them as well.
I’ve seen thunderclouds that transformed into downright ugly beasts before they were swept away by cyclonic winds.
None of them had the chance to be turned into cute and inspirational fluffy “silver-lined” analogies for imminent good fortune!

How are quotes working for you in real life?
Just when you thought it was safe to cross the street a Hollywood-styled typhoon hits but you’re prepared!
You have a quote!
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Unfortunately, the storm doesn’t care about your quote and you’ll have time to reflect on the wise words while you’re erased from existence.
I’m guessing you’re not going to take a defensive stance and mouth off to the storm.
In all probability, you’ll run away or start praying!
Are “words of wisdom” therefore worthless?
Of course not!
Quotes can be inspiring though— They can kick you in the gut or prod you to try a different approach to thinking.
Quotes and things from self-help-motivational books can be quite entertaining if nothing else?
But I guess the main idea here is that inspirational words are as useless as vapid insults if they don’t become catalysts for action.

Forge these self-help snippets of wisdom into a proper sword and learn to wield it— Then it becomes valuable.
The trick is to make the words part of your armor.
You can’t search for the correct weapons during the fight— You should already have something in hand.
Words and wisdom are the same!
You need and understand that stuff before you go into battle.
If you’ve not assimilated “words as weapons” into your very fiber you can’t go scuttling about and anxiously searching for the “right thing to say” when push comes to shove!
Continue reading

Nothing you could conceive will be new! So what?

Something that stops thoughts about creativity dead in its tracks is the fear that you’ll be doing something that has been done before!

Everything might have been “done” already.
But it doesn’t mean you’ve invested your blood,
sweat and tears to create something yet!
You might as well do it because you feel driven to produce!
These days everyone is a musician.
But you know what, there’s still enough ways in which to
rearrange compelling notes.
With some imagination freed from fear you can still
paint something that will make people look twice.
We have enough digital space for your words as well.
Just write them down.
Don’t subscribe to the illusion that people expect you
to invent the next new genre.
Rather focus on doing something you can feel proud of.
But even before you judge the merit of your work, ask yourself if you enjoy it!

Write whatever you want to write.
You don’t need someone’s permission.
And your ideas can be worth writing about!
But you won’t know what you’re capable of unless you do it!

Make this day the day in which you create something with only one audience in mind…