The Surreal Life Archives

May 4, 2007

Woof Tickets

Okay, here’s where we’re at with my neighbor’s dog:
There’s mostly good news, not the least of which is the dog himself has matured somewhat beyond the puppy stage, which doesn’t really mean he barks less, per se, but that the episodes do not last quite as long. What I mean is, when he first got here, he’s see another dog pass by and woof at him. Now, your average dog will woof for awhile and stop. Not my friend. 20 to 40 minutes later (I once clocked him, no kidding, at over 70 minutes) he’s still complaining about this passing dog, who was, by then, long gone. Cody does that far less frequently now. He’ll usually shut up after five to ten minutes, only railing on on those rare occasions.

Another neighbor, tiring of our childish bickering, called the dog’s owner (who is offended by my referring to him as Dog Man, and for winch I apologize as he now reads this blog; I meant no insult by “Dog Man,” other than, literally, shorthand for “The Man Who Owns The Dog”) and I to a summit where this neighbor negotiated a peace treaty between us. I made the guy what I considered the ultimate deal: if he would keep his dog quiet—not inside, I never asked him to keep the dog inside, just keep him quiet—on my two days off (Saturday and Monday), then he could do whatever he wanted for the other five days of the week.

Five days for two, I thought was a god deal. And, for many months, it was. If I was going out on those days, I’d call my neighbor and tell him he didn’t need to keep the dog inside that day since I wouldn’t be home anyway. We did the courtesy call thing and time management thing, and life was good. Then, over the course of some months, little by little, the armistice began to splinter.

Continue reading "Woof Tickets" »

May 5, 2007

Well-Known Crackpot

I did a Google search for something or another and turned up a message board comment referring to me as, “Well-known crackpot Christopher Priest said thus and so…” Crackpot? *scratches head* When did I become a crackpot? I wasn’t so much insulted as I was puzzled. I mean, of all the insults to hurl at me, “crackpot”? I did snicker, though: at least I was “well-known.”

Well, every place except here. Here, I am a piano player. I am a minister. That’s all these folks really know about me. I gave copies of my Green Lantern novel to my neighbors, they still don’t get what I do. All of which actually works for me, except that, now with a local ministry developing an independent film, they’ve pursued me to work with them on the film while, at the same time, not treating me as a professional. It’s a little hard to explain, but, it’s like, I’d do a first draft of the screenplay for little or nothing. Then when financing started to come in, the group looked to Hollywood and New York for a “real” writer, offering him $25k to do a re-write of my screenplay, for which I’d charged them less than one-fifth of that rate to do. And, I wondered, is this fellow they were talking to was five times better a writer than me. Or if his re-write, a couple weeks’ work, would be five times as good. Or five times as fast.

It just occurred to me that these folks, these wonderful, great church folks whom I love like family, just have no idea that I am, in fact, a professional writer. I’ve also discovered that slashing your rate to the moral equivalent of five bucks and a ham sandwich only reinforces that thinking. They thought the 25k guy was five times better because he charged five time more, rather than thinking the opposite, that we are likely peers, but Priest is all but donating his services while the other guy is not.

Working for almost nothing is a time-honored Christian tradition. It’s all about ministry, all about your tithe to God. The reality, however, is churches that actually *can* afford to pay you a decent rate but who choose to let you work for next to nothing, to always be broke and late on your bills. Dude, I can be broke and late on my bills working at Wal-Mart. I don’t have to write your movie to do that.

Continue reading "Well-Known Crackpot" »

May 7, 2007

Away In A Manger

Thanks, as usual, to my wonderful friend Elayne Riggs and husband Robin for being the Only Persons On The Planet To Send Priest A Christmas Card, an honor they’ve captured two years running, now. Merry Christmas everybody!!!!

November 22, 2007

No Thanks

Eric wrote:
Happy Thanksgiving, Priest.
Have a blessed holiday season.

Thanks, Eric. I actually don’t observe Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or Easter, or Groundhog’s Day...). I actually tend to use it as a day of reflection and remembrance of the uncounted millions of Native Americans who were slaughtered, enslaved, and robbed of their land.

I have nothing against Thanksgiving per se, but the specific origins of this day include feasts giving thanks to God for war victories—over the Native American tribes. There’s certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with gathering family and friends to give thanks for what we have and what God has done.

Just move it to Friday, or, better, Sunday, and I’m there. It’s the direct linkage I object to, as well as any Thanksgiving feast that doesn’t include, at bare minimum, a moment of silence for the victims of the holocaust the feast symbolizes.

Happy Turkey everyone!!!

November 23, 2007


Ministerial training has taught me there’s such a thing as inconsolable grief: grief so heavy and so deep that there’s really not much anyone can do to lessen its impact or assuage its affect. It’s the kind of grief that can only hang around, like luggage, until time or circumstance robs it of its power. Losing a loved one causes inconsolable grief. It is the kind of sorrow that cannot be measured, that cannot be managed. The best help I or anyone can hope to be is to provide sympathy and support. Most of all, to provide patience and, most of all, hope to those who are grieving. It is, after all, grief they have earned, mourning their loved ones deserve, and a process God has, for whatever reason, ordained for us.

One of my neighbors lost her husband recently. I don’t know exactly when because no one told me he’d died. I knew he was sick, he’d been sick a long time. But I didn’t know he was gone. I knew his family were gathering and that surely things were coming to a resolution, but I didn’t feel it my place to present myself, in the midst of that personal time, and instead would pray for him—every day—and ask about him when I could.

I had the honor, and yes, I‘ll call it an honor, of spending a bit of one on one time with him when he was in the hospital. One of the few perks of being a minister is the access it grants you to hospitals—visiting hours mean nothing to a guy with a pastor’s I.D. I got to walk with him around the ward, and to listen to wonderful stories of a life well-lived. He talked endlessly about his wife, about his love for her. He spoke with clarity, with wisdom and with great warmth and humor. I kept trying to judge whether or not I was being a pest—it’s an acquired skill, to know the difference between providing comfort and being in the way. But he seemed to enjoy the company. I most certainly enjoyed his.

Continue reading "Sunset" »

November 28, 2007

Kids Play

MD wrote: “I always get frustrated when people blame me for things that I am guiltless of.”

Welcome to the party, pal. I’m thinking of having jackets made.

What I’ve discovered is, no matter how old we get, we are still, essentially, children. As adults, we’ve learned a certain behavior modification that is forced upon us largely by society. But I think wars are basically temper tantrums, set off by one kid who refuses to stop picking on another.

What really irritates me, if I’m really honest about it, is not the behavior so much as that the behavior now forces *me* to be the adult. In any given situation, *somebody* has got to be the adult. When the other guy beats you to the punch—when he starts acting like a moron or, more accurately, a six-year-old girl—he’s now taken up all the space in your universe that is available for that function. There really isn’t space enough in my universe for me to start acting like a butthead when this schmuck’s already beaten me to it.

And it’s really not fair. I wanna lose it just like he’s losing it, but now I have to be the adult. I really wish we’d all adopt some simple rules of decorum: if you got to be the butthead last time, I should be allowed a turn to be irrational and girl-like.

Being accused—no, found guilty—of wrongs I haven’t committed (or, just as bad, people having outsized reactions to perceived slights) is, more or less, the story of my life. I’ve got pretty thick skin about most things; insulting me is fairly hard to do. But it really burns me when I’m around immature, ridiculous people who both try and convict me without hearing a word—not one word—of what I might have to say about whatever they’re flipping out about.

Usually these are people who either do not know me at all, and therefore are assuming stupid and immature motives on my part (usually mirroring their own behavior; most people assuming all people think the way they do), or, worse, these are people who have known me for seven and a half years and yet chose, time and again, to distort my words or actions to fit some stereotype of me they’ve got playing in their heads. I mean, after seven years, they really should know better.

Which makes their accusations false and makes them liars because they know me and they know what I am and am not capable of. They’re just flying off of adrenaline and, like the six-year old girl with the cookie, stomping their feet and acting irrational. Or, even more heinous, glossing over things they know are true about me in order to make me fit some ridiculous caricature they are—seven years later—insisting on clinging to; a vision of who they *need* me to be in order to justify their prejudices, fears and childish outbursts, such irrational hatred having but only a few sad and terrible origins.

January 2, 2008

To Whom It May Concern

I hope this note finds you in good health, in good spirits, in the arms of your family and loved ones. I wish you all the love and happiness God can bring us, and that your year, your life, your home is filled with laughter and with joy, wanting nothing, whole and complete within God’s mercy. Feed me Seymore!! Langston Hughes!!!

March 9, 2008

Dog Days

One of the main reasons I’ve not posted here is my neighbor, the guy with the dog, monitors this weblog and acts as postmaster for his friends, downloading, forwarding and/or printing out this text and stressing out the neighbors in a sophomoric attempt to defend the indefensible: leaving his barking dog outside my bedroom. For four years, now, I’ve been posting here about this persistent barking and problems with the dog’s owner, an otherwise friendly guy who has become my Lex Luthor over what ought to be a relatively simple matter. Lately he’s taken to oblique threats of physical violence, screaming and cursing at me, demanding answers and explanations without allowing me to get even one word, I mean not one syllable, in edgewise. “How could you discuss this stuff in front of strangers?!” he shrieked at me, referring to you people who are, for the most part, strangers only to *him* (and, of course, his dog). Over the winter, he called the cops on me because I was yelling at his dog, which misses the point (1) yelling at dogs is not a crime and (2) if his dog wasn’t barking, I wouldn’t be yelling.

Dogs are pack animals. They don’t respond to mealy-mouthed pleas of nice-nice. If I want this dog to stop barking, and his master is not around—which is the main problem, this man leaving his loud animal unsupervised—I have to bark louder than he does. I explained this to my neighbor in better times, and he seemed to understand it. You can’t hurt a dog’s feelings. He’s a DOG. You communicate with dogs the way they communicate with each other: they obey the commands of the pack leader. I am not angry at the dog. I am not ridiculing the dog. I am not being “mean” to the dog. I am not, in any way harming the dog. I am communicating with his animal because the dog’s master has wandered off somewhere, leaving me in hell. Again.

Having not heard of the First Amendment, I suppose Dog Man’s (thus far successful) efforts at suppressing my free speech here are seen, somehow, by him as noble and virtuous. However, threatening me with violence over things I write happens to be against the law. A serious crime. I need to pause here and remind folks: this is about a barking dog. It’s not about race. Not about a bank robbery. Not about selling dope or blasting music or running hookers and bootleg cigarettes out the back door. This is about a barking dog. And Dog Man’s irrational hostility has escalated this mess to ridiculous extremes.

It occurs to me this would make a great comic book. I’m calling Kyle Baker. No, I’m serious. I mean it.

Here’s a crude diagram designed to help explain why I and I alone seem to be having a problem with the dog’s barking. Click to enlarge:

Click To Enlarge

Meet The Neighbors
This is a great dog. I have absolutely no grudge against the dog himself. It’s easy to see why he’s so attached to him: this is the world’s greatest dog. I mean it, he should be wearing a cape. He’s friendly, he’s playful, he’s a giant puppy. I’ve been driving around, for two years now, with tennis balls and chew toys and doggie snacks which I’ve been prohibited from giving to him (Dog Man has asked me not to give him snacks, and the chew toy things require monitoring, which, of course, defeats the purpose of giving a dog a chew toy).

The dog means absolutely no harm to anyone (except, perhaps, the squirrels; but he’s never actually harmed one of them, either). This is not about the dog. This is about the dog owner. Who is, otherwise, himself a man of excellent character and integrity. I mean, this is the neighbor everybody imagines when they think of Fred The Neighbor. Great sense of humor, always willing to pitch in, takes care of his family, looks after the seniors on the block. This is a guy I otherwise admire, the kind of square-jaw family man boys want to grow up to be.

I can’t, for the life of me, explain his irrationality where this dog is concerned. I mean, if you met him, you’d enjoy talking to him. Enjoy hanging out with him. But, after enjoying being with him and hanging out with him, you’d retire to your adjacent homes and he’d dump his huge, barkity-bark dog outside your bedroom window, get in his van and drive away. I mean it, it’s like a bad CW sitcom.

Continue reading "Dog Days" »

March 18, 2008

New Things Priest Has Learned:

(72) You can't make fish sticks in a microwave.

March 21, 2008

New Things Priest Has Learned:

(84) When you hang around people who treat you like you’re nothing, sooner or later, you yourself start to believe it. It amazes me that it’s taken me 46 years to figure this out.

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