Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Batman-Loving Colleague's Opportunity of a Lifetime

I write a lot: for work and school, as a hobby, in my sleep. It is usually not appropriate for me to publish what I write for work, but I can in this case. Yesterday this story I wrote about my colleague published in my organization's newsletter. Enjoy.

* * *

James Olsen, an ace interviewer at Manhattan's immigration office, arrived at work March 28 with a case already resting on his desk. His supervisor left a sticky note on the file: “For James only.”

Olsen spent his entire lunch break studying the file and preparing for his 1 p.m. interview. After the interview, he would have to recommend that the immigrant either get approved or denied for citizenship.

Olsen, the only employee at his office to wear a bow tie—or for that matter, the only person at the supermarket, swimming pool and Sahara desert to wear one—waited his entire life for this opportunity. Olsen grew up as the “smart kid” in Yonkers, New York. Other students teased him for his quick brain and too-polite manner. Olsen didn’t care because his mind was always elsewhere, on his next project or big idea.

He never imagined his next project would be conducting this naturalization interview.

With his typical afternoon glass of cucumber juice in front of him, Olsen called in the applicant. He introduced himself and offered his coat rack for the applicant’s cape, though the applicant respectfully declined. Olsen began. “Please raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that the statements you are about to make will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

“Yes,” the applicant said, and sat.

“Thank you,” Olsen said. “I hope traffic wasn’t too bad. I know how it gets around lunchtime.

“Please state your name.”

“My name is Kal-El,” the applicant said.

“Have you gone by any other names?”

“Yes. Many people call me Superman,” said the applicant.

“Great. And Kal-El, what is your date of birth?”

“February 29, 1938.”

“Wow, you are 78 years old. Bravo! Thank you for giving me that information. And what is your country of origin.”

Kal-El looked down and fidgeted with his cape. Now suspicious, Olsen sat upright and motionless in his chair, waiting for Kal-El to respond, and when he did, Olsen could hardly hear it. Olsen asked Kal-El to repeat himself. Kal-El raised his eyes and voice, yet spoke with a softness that would calm a Black Mamba on a 115-degree afternoon. “I hail from Krypton, a planet in the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way called Andromeda Galaxy. Krypton once boasted a great civilization but exploded as a result of unstable geological conditions. My loving parents rocketed me away to survive and I landed in Kansas, USA, where I grew up.”

Kal-El went on to explain how his adopted parents, the Kents, raised him to love his adopted country—America!

Olsen glanced at his Batman action figure sitting on his desk, a remnant of Take Your Action Figure to Work Day on March 4. Batman rescued a woman in his apartment building when he was a boy and Olsen loved the Caped Crusader ever since. He knew Batman had said unkind things about Superman in the past, but he could not let that cloud his judgement. The integrity of the U.S. immigration system was extremely important.
Batman action figure
James Olsen's Batman figurine, still on his desk weeks after Take Your Action Figure to Work Day
Olsen concluded the interview and thanked Kal-El for his time. Kal-El extended his hand which Olsen returned with a firm shake and a smile. "Take care, sir," Kal-El said, and left.

Olsen finished adjudicating the case and closed the file. Someday his children, and his children's children, will read about this in their history books. Olsen felt joyous knowing that he played a role in making America better.

Superman would soon be a citizen of the United States of America.

And Superman's first words as an American would be: Happy April Fool's Day.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

FDX Africa: This is Way Better Than ‘Planet Earth’

Last month I traveled to Tanzania in east Africa and I wrote this story about my trip.

As published in the First Descents blog

Tree in Tanzania during safari
My new friend Spaceballs and I walk through the tall grass at the Lake Manyara Rift Valley and enter the clearing where zebras, jackals, gazelle, wildebeest and warthogs all roam close enough to kill us before we could utter “hakuna matata.” We turn our heads and see more animals. Then we turn our bodies in a full circle and see animals everywhere. We are wearing long pants and button-downs coated in permethrin to deter malaria-carrying mosquitos, safari hats, daypacks, sunglasses and binoculars.

All that lies between the animals and us is Lingato, our guide who is a Massai warrior. Lingato, dressed in a red sheet, holds a spear with which he can throw at and hit a precise blade of grass fifteen feet away. Lingato tells us about the time he killed a lion—out of self-defense and never for sport. “When lion attacks, I throw my spear from far enough away that if I miss then I can still grab my knife. That is my last line of defense. Maasai warriors do not fear the lion. Maasai warriors do not hesitate.”

Lingato says it is possible for two lions to attack at once. “I only have one spear, so I can only kill one lion.”

He doesn’t describe exactly how we would survive if two lions attack.

This is Africa. Keep reading FDX Africa: This is Way Better Than ‘Planet Earth’.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nine Years of Blogging

Last Friday I was on a plane headed to Sarasota, Florida, where that night I was the guest speaker at services at Temple Beth Israel, and will speak again at its adult education class Monday. I rehearsed my talking points on the plane. I opened my speech with a story from my 2011 Birthright Israel trip and needed to re-read my blog post about that trip to remember the story's details.

I've been blogging for nine years and, more than my blog's entertainment value for you (at least I hope it has been entertaining!), for me it has become a wonderful peek at my life and my past adventures. The average blogger stops after three months. I'm in it for life.

This is my 420th blog entry. In cancerslayerblog's first year—back when it was titled I've Still Got Both My Nuts—I posted 70 entries. Last year I posted 22, and this year I'm on pace for far fewer. At 23 years old, I had misconceptions about how websites and articles gain popularity and go viral. I saw super popular mommy blogs and thought, I could do that with funny cancer stories and get millions of visitors!

I didn't consider the readers' preferences and how demand for mom/kid/dog stories differs from stories about teens getting boners during cancer checkups (my second blog post, titled "Salutations"). I toiled for years tweaking the blog's look and feel. I studied the best times of the day and week to get the most readers, and wrote as many entries as I could while still studying or working full-time. I don't regret writing my 420 blog entries because they built my skills for what I'm doing now.

I'm in a master's program in creative writing in fiction. Every semester I must read ten books and write 125 pages of prose. Right now I'm writing flash fiction, which is stories about 750 words in length; later, I will write slightly longer stories and also much longer stories. I will submit the best of these stories for publication. And I will publish many of the remaining ones on this blog. I hope you enjoy some of my fiction.

You will continue seeing new blogs from me, ranging from updates on my writing to short stories to published articles in The Huffington Post and other sites. I just won't be posting frequently. I have also decided to post some of my shorter writing and ideas, and tons of photos, on Facebook instead of this blog, so visit that site for more content.

Thanks for reading and tolerating stories of boners and other ridiculousness.


Leia Mais…