Dumb Advice for the Alternate

A stranger knocks on your door, asking for directions from your home to the closest gas station (or café, or library. Your pick!). Instead of the fastest and shortest route, give him/her the one involving the most fun detours.


Type, type, type…

Ironing out the latest WordPress task…

Slurp, slurp, slurp…

Drinking down the last of the milk in my cereal bowl…

Knock, knock, knock…

Someone’s at the door…

I put down my laptop, move the black cat away, and go through the kitchen to see who’s there.PTDC0073 (2)

A tall, handsome man, who looks about 20 with short brown hair and a fair complexion, is standing outside on the steps. He is wearing a Darth Vader shirt and looks exhausted. I look over his shoulder and there is a bike lying on the driveway; he must have come a long way to my house in a hurry.

I hesitate for a bit and then open the front door. “Yes? What can I help you with?”

This man, who looks oddly like someone I know, asks, “Do you have directions to success?” His voice is deep and monotonous.

The question shocks me at bit. I’ve never been asked one like it before. I look at him a moment, scanning his face, looking for his motives, but, after thinking, respond to his question.

“Get a job at McDonald’s and you’ll be all set.”

He looks at me with a funny expression. “Really, that’s it?”

“Yup. See, you can work your way up through the ranks and eventually become head of the corporation.”

The 20-something man looks at me thoughtfully. “How long should I stay at McDonald’s before I become successful?”

I try to hold back a laugh, a smug smile coming across my face. “I’d say about five years and then you’ll start seeing progress.”

(The man starts working at McDonald’s and gets fired the next day for causing a big grease fire).

The 20-something then nods appreciatively. “Well, thank you. I appreciate your advice. Is there anything else you have for me?”

I look at him curiously, still wondering why this man reminds me of myself, and respond again.

“Um, yeah, I think you should also try to start a musical career. Just pick up your guitar, or whatever instrument you have, take it down to the corner, and start playing. People will love you.”

The man puts his hand to his chin, stroking it and thinking deeply. “Yeah, that sounds awesome. I have a guitar and know some music and could earn some cash doing so.”

(The man plays his guitar on the corner of Windham Hills. Most people laugh or completely ignore him. He sounds horrible with his guitar way out of tune, no accompanying back-up, and not to mention him having a terrible singing voice).

The man is not done yet. “What about going to college or starting a business? Aren’t those big ways to find success?”

At this point I just want to get back to my life and start winging more bologna at the man. “No, college is overrated and no one has ever achieved much by going. As for the business, if you want to start one, I’d advise you to go into selling bootlegged copies of music.”

The man, brainwashed by my silly advice, also takes this last piece to heart. “Okay, so no college and selling bootlegged copies of music seems good, I already know how to get the music without paying for it.”

(In an alternate universe, the man would have been a multi-millionaire with two yachts, if he’d not taken my advice and had graduated from college. As for the bootlegged business, he was arrested, fined for at least $250,000, and sentenced to five years in prison).

“Well, I will take your advice strongly. Thanks for the help! But I have just one more question – what about finding the love of my life? What should I do if I meet someone and have a strong connection to them?”

This causes me to stroke my chin thoughtfully. “Hmm…well, I would not answer her phone calls and every time a date comes up, say you are out with some of your friends at a strip club getting rowdy drunk. She’ll appreciate it and love you more.”

The man makes no sign of seeing false advice here, not even giving me a scrutinizing look, but says, “Got it! Thank you!”

He retreats down the steps, waves back at me, and hops on his bike, riding away. I slam the door and a chorus of laughter erupts from my belly. What a fool.

That fool turned out to be me from an alternate universe, who was still taking people’s advice too strongly without any thinking for himself.


Daily Prompt 10/18/14

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My Hometown

Think about the town where you currently live: its local customs, traditions, and hangouts, its slang. What would be the strangest thing about this place for a first-time visitor?


Jackson, Michigan has been my place to call home ever since I came into the world 23 years ago at the formerly-named Foote Hospital (now Allegiance Health). It is a city that is quite low-key most of the time (at least in my mind since I don’t get out much). There is a lot about Jackson I am familiar with but quite a few places I have never even been to (the hotels and a couple of obscure restaurants and pubs mainly). As for the strangest thing about it? That’s a tough one. It’s not as though my city is a desolate ghost town with a series of grisly murders in the last couple of years…it looks quite innocent on the outside unless you take a closer look. And there isn’t anything too eccentric about it either. It’s just a nice town to live and grow up in. Peaceful for the most part.

I don’t know about our slang, perhaps that would point to one of our main superstores, Meijer, and how long-time townsfolk add an ‘s’ to the end, calling it Meijers either out of ignorance, long time habit, or it just slipping off the tongue better. My mom and many people in my closest family resort to ‘Meijers’ but I try to stray away from that as well as pronouncing Illinois with an ‘s’ on the end. What I’m betting is that this slang comes from the store originally being called ‘Meyer’s Thrifty Acres’ and then shortened to its present name (the spelling change is odd though) and the original ‘Meyer’s’ just passing down through the ages and sticking. I don’t know if it is just Michiganders either but we refer to carbonated beverages here as ‘pop’.

There are a couple of strange things a person going to Jackson for the first time might experience. One is our apparent lack of popular fan-friendly restaurants (Sonic and Red Robin are long due) and Jackson’s stubbornness to acknowledge this fact. Another is Jackson’s one “major” college, Jackson (Community) College being located in the middle of nowhere, away from the main city, and making it quite hard for people to get there every day especially in the dead of winter with an ongoing blizzard. I put ‘community’ in parentheses because the college recently dropped the word from its name, trying to come across as a legitimate higher prestige college when in fact it still is a community college at best (offering a couple of Bachelor’s degrees in some obscure field does not make it suddenly Harvard-esque). An interesting fact is that Jackson is home to the first prison in Michigan and was once the largest walled prison in the United States in both population and land area. It can be observed that people here seem to follow ordinary everyday routines, going about their lives in uninterrupted fashion. One of the first impressions an outsider might make is that they are all like robots, walking around with little expression and enthusiasm on their faces. It’s like they just live for necessity. The people’s voice is non-existent. Lifeless. Do we even hear from our mayor at all? No, I barely know his/her name without looking it up first. Where’s the connection among the people in this town? That’s probably the strangest part of Jackson, we are a city that is large and mostly distant, though this can be said about other cities as well. The one event that does bring us together though is the county fair every August, when the city comes alive with fun, music, and lively entertainment. I love Jackson, always have, but when it tries to adventure into the fields of movies and high-profile entertainment, things tend to get cheesy really fast, such as the time a movie called “Super Sucker” was filmed here in 2002 starring Jeff Daniels. It was our one shining moment in the area of big-time film making and having a celebrity like that in our town was a dream. The movie was a disaster on all levels but hey, what were you expecting out a crumby town like mine? Another strange thing that someone might find out about Jackson is that everything, in terms of entertainment and hospitality, seems to die at night, with large empty parking lots making this place feel very eerily like a ghost town which in my eyes is kind of beautiful.

P.S. The feature image for this post is from the Cascades Falls Park, where evening waterfall light shows dazzle audiences along with musical guests from around the state. It is our definite landmark and I view the place as a sort of meditative sanctuary for myself, where I can let the rush of the water engulf my thoughts in happiness and relaxation.

The video below really hits it home for me