Doodles 'n' Drawings, On Writing

Win A Doodle! Woo!

Here it is! The moment you have been waiting for! It is time once again for…

Thank you for the fanfare, Mr. Elephant.
Thank you for the fanfare, Mr. Elephant.

A WIN A DOODLE CONTEST!

(Woo!)

IF YOU WIN, I WILL DRAW WHATEVER YOU WANT!

Don’t believe me? I have proof.

Past winners have asked for a Caffeine Gnome…

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

…a Protective Great Dane…

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

…a Yoga Practitioner Petting an Angel Dog…

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

…a Larcenous Cow…

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

…and a Raven Shapeshifter (whatever that is).

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

Also a gang of unseemly hooligans forced me to draw this guy:

As a consequence of this near-criminal harassment, my doctor tells me I now have PTSD (Post Traumatic Salamander Disorder).
As a consequence of this near-criminal harassment, my doctor tells me I now have PTSD (Post Traumatic Salamander Disorder).

So yes, I will draw whatever you want.

Well, I do have one exception; I will draw whatever you want provided that what you want is not pervy. I am a children’s book author, bucko, so take your dirty, filthy business someplace else!

HOW TO WIN

The winning name will be drawn at random. The draw-er is this guy.

That’s right, Daniel Craig will be drawing the winning entry!
That’s right, Daniel Craig will be drawing the winning entry!

HOW TO ENTER

To get your name in the drawing, leave a list of five words in the comments section below. They can be any words at all, but – and this is important – the words cannot be completely random. Each word must be connected to you in some way.

For example, here are my five words:

Capybara

Bert

Skipping

Juneau

Chip ‘n’ Putt

Here is how these five words are connected to me:

Capybara: The world largest rodent. Petting one is on my bucket list.

Bert: My favorite Muppet. If Bert was real, I am convinced he and I would be best friends.

Skipping: When I was in elementary school, my gym teacher called my mom to tell her some bad news: I was unable to skip. Mom’s reply: “Should I care?”

Juneau: Ellen and I went to Alaska on our honeymoon. We should’ve gone somewhere else.

Chip ‘n’ Putt: When I was unemployed in my 20s (which was distressingly often) I would round up my other unemployed friends and play rounds at the mini golf course.

See what I mean? The connection between you and the words doesn’t need to be deep or profound, it just needs to exist.

So give me five words for a chance to win!

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING

Want me to stuff the ballot box in your favor? Fiiine. I’ll add two more ballots if you announce this contest on your blog and link back to this page. That’s three chances to win!

Don’t have a blog? No problem. I’ll give you one extra ballot if you announce this contest on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. (Be sure to post links in the comments.)

PRIZES! (PLURAL!)

As I mentioned, the winner of the drawing will get a custom made, one-of-a-kind, Mike Allegra doodle suitable for framing! Woo!

But the winner will also get something else:

An original, one-of-a-kind, Mike Allegra-penned story! This story will contain all five of the words you supplied to enter this contest. I can’t promise you a good story, but I will do my best.

So do me a favor and choose fun words, OK?

DEADLINES, ETC.

Your entry is due on or before Tuesday, April 5. The winner of the drawing will be announced on Wednesday, April 6.

That’s it! Give me five words and get going!

GOOD LUCK!

On Blogging, On Writing

A Second Resolution Solution!

A lovely parting gift
A lovely parting gift.

When I gave my two-weeks notice, I was not prepared for how busy those next two weeks would be.

I figured my last days at Lawrenceville would consist of wrapping up a few loose ends. I also figured that the occasional work friend or acquaintance would stroll into my office to chat and say his or her goodbyes. And this is largely what did happen – only more so.

It turned out there were a lot of loose ends that needed tying. It also turned out that a lot of people needed to say their goodbyes. And some of those goodbyes took a lot of time. (One work pal just stood in my office silently, not knowing what to say, but not wanting to leave until he could think of something appropriate. That appropriate something never arrived. For all I know, he might still be in there.)

This was all well and good — and quite lovely, really — but as the days ticked away and those loose ends remained loose, my patience for such visits began to ebb. This was especially true during the last half of my last week. By that time all of my work friends and acquaintances had said what they had to say. Now the stream of well-wishers consisted exclusively of obligated almost-strangers and jocular irritants. When one such irritant visited and attempted to generate some last minute bonhomie, I nodded and smiled and uttered banalities (I figured I might be able drive him out of my office by being boring). My brain, however, wanted to try a different strategy. A yelling strategy:

“What is this? I don’t even like you! I haven’t spoken to you since 2012. Why are you here? Why are you keeping me from my loose ends? And, oh, God, hold on! Are you sitting down? Why are you sitting down?!”

The loose ends in question were the particulars of the spring issue of the alumni magazine I edited. I was leaving in the middle of my production schedule and that is kind of an organizational nightmare.

To the uninitiated, the task of putting out a magazine appears to be one big, ginormous job. In reality it’s more like four jillion little jobs — and I couldn’t  in good conscience take my leave until every one of those little jobs was accounted for in some fashion. I wanted to make sure that whoever the school hired would be able to quickly and easily pick up where I left off.

But there was a non-magazine-related loose end I had to deal with, too. And this loose end was far more important than a magazine. It was New Year’s Resolution Number Two: I had to find a vaguely amusing way to get rid of my golf balls.

Too many.
Sometimes I scare myself.

My desire to collect golf balls began in spring 2014. On my lunch hour I would wander around a nearby golf course and fill my pockets with any lost or abandoned balls I found. I would then go back to my office and put my quarry in an empty file drawer.

By the time 2014 came to a close, this drawer held 376 golf balls. That is a lot of golf balls. In fact, I would argue that it is too many golf balls. So as I rang in 2015, I vowed to find a way to get rid of them in a vaguely amusing way. Since my days at the job were numbered (and I had no desire to lug home 50 pounds worth of balls for a game I do not play) I had to come up with something fast. In the end, I decided to leave the balls behind. But that would be a loose end. I don’t like loose ends, so I also left behind a note:

Hi Editor!

I did my best to tie up loose ends on the spring issue to make the transition as easy as possible, but I may have overlooked something. If you have any questions about the job or my organizational system, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

By now you have probably noticed that this drawer is filled with 376 golf balls. You are probably asking yourself, “Why?”

And I have an answer for you: Because this is what crazy looks like.

Such a gift is not without precedent, by the way. When I started this job 11 years ago, I discovered that my predecessor left behind a closet full of mayonnaise jars filled with urine. So, really, you should consider yourself lucky. Golf balls are nothing compared to that.

In short, quit complaining and get to work.

Your pal, Mike

I was amused. And so another resolution gets ticked off my list.

Family and/or Autobiography

Fathers’ Day Find

My new hobby.
My new hobby.

When Fathers’ Day rolls around, I always feel a little left out. I don’t feel this way because I don’t embrace my fatherly responsibilities, because I do. The reason is because I can’t relate to any of the gifts that stores say are “Perfect for Dad!”

I don’t like football or watch a lot of TV, I don’t drink beer or want to learn how to brew it. I don’t wield barbecue tongs. I don’t camp. I don’t want to read thick tomes about Eisenhower. I have no desire to bench press anything. And I avoid neckties at all costs.

See what I mean? I am a dad, but I don’t do anything stereotypically dad-ish.

Until now.

I play golf!

Well, not really. What I mean by “golf” is that on my lunch hour, I stroll on a nearby course in search of lost or abandoned golf balls. It’s kind of like fishing in a stocked lake; as soon as I’ve plucked the course clean and head back to my office with my pockets full, new foursomes of lousy golfers tee up, thereby seeding the field for tomorrow’s search.

I recommend this hobby to anyone. You get good exercise and fresh air, you don’t have to drag a big ol’ bag around with you, and the quality of your walk is not at all dependent on how well you tap a little ball into a little hole. Also, there are hardly any rules to follow; I have only two:

1. Cracked or broken golf balls are not collected, for they are garbage.

2. Balls still “in play” are off limits, for I have no desire to spoil anyone’s game.

This activity also relaxes my body and mind. And when your body and mind are relaxed, some marvelously creative ideas can come to you. So I reserve a small space in my pocket for a notepad and a pen. You just never know when inspiration will strike.

But even without the mind and health benefits, I’d probably still collect golf balls. I’m not sure why, exactly, but if I were to guess, I’d attribute my newfound fanaticism to a childhood trauma:

Every year, my two cousins and I would take part in The Family Easter Egg Hunt, which was held in the cramped quarters of my grandmother’s living room. Cousin Celeste, who was only slightly older than me but alarmingly muscular for a girl, was very competitive on all matters large and small. (“I have never lost a game of Scabble!” she often boasted when we were kids. This was true, but the reason she never “lost” a game of Scabble was because whenever her competitor managed to wangle a seven-letter word, she would fling the game board Frisbee-like down the hallway.) Celeste saw Easter egg hunting as a full contact sport. Before my Great Uncle Bill would even finish saying, “On your mark!” Celeste would hip check me into Grandma’s coffee table.

My other competitor was my cousin Jason, who was younger, smaller, and fleet of foot. He could outrun anyone and had spent the bulk of his young existence learning how to dodge Celeste’s attacks.

To add insult to Celeste-inflicted injury, I was also a pretty crummy egg finder. This is a genetic flaw that my son has inherited. Fortunately, Alex has not had to suffer for it. Today’s kids live in a gentler age; The Family Easter Egg Hunt, now held in Auntie Susie’s finished basement, is no longer the free-for-all gladiator sport of the past. Now there are four jillion eggs to find — plenty for everyone! Every participant ends up happy and far, far richer for the experience. (Literally! Auntie Susie sticks dollar bills in some of those eggs!)

Back in the 1970s, however, the eggs numbered maybe a dozen and I was lucky if I could get three. Ever year I reaquatinted myself with the agony of defeat. I must have carried this agony into adulthood.

As I now patrol the golf course for stray balls, I have evolved into a sharp-eyed finder. Not only do I effortlessly scoop up the balls that had disappeared into the tall grass, but also the ones ground into the dirt by cheaters who didn’t like the look of their lie.

I have uncovered evidence of a lot of cheating, actually. Knowing that so many adults cheat at a game kind of disgusts me, but I’m also kind of glad the course is home to so many cheaters. Do you know how hard it is to find a half-buried golf ball? Those cheaters have turned me into a Finding Master.

All this leads me back to what I want for Fathers’ Day. It’s not a gift that one would find on a store’s “Perfect For Dad!” table, but it’s a gift that’s certainly perfect for me. I want another egg hunt with Celeste and Jason.

I have trained. I have become formidable. I have the eyes of a hawk. I have the Fire in the Belly. I no longer wear orthopedic shoes.

Better yet, I now have a desk drawer full of small, hard, and wonderfully hurl-able projectiles.

Game on, suckers.