A follow-up to “What happened to LaserMonks?”

Bless the internet. I am constantly amazed at the things I see this wonderful network of computers do.

I got a notification that a new comment had been posted on my LaserMonks post, which you can read in full here, and lo and behold – an update of sorts! A commenter going by “faithfjord” shared a news story from a couple years ago from reporter Keith Strange with “The Mount Airy News”. Mt. Airy is a little town in North Carolina with a population of about 10,000. How “faithfjord” found this article… well, now you know why this post opened with me marveling at the power of the internet. Anyway.

The article, which you can see here, details the entrepreneurial endeavors of Vann McCoy, which the article notes he felt the call to serve, moved to Wisconsin, joined a Cistercian monastery, and went by Father Bernard. Guys. This is Father Bernard McCoy, the former CEO of LaserMonks. It’s him. He doesn’t name the company in the article but discusses his previous role both in a business and in the church. It’s him.

He explains what happened. He’s reflective and contemplative. It’s not terribly detailed. He says essentially that running the business and the monastery was a tremendous amount of work shared by too few people. They decided to close up the monastery. It was a crossroads for him and he left on a sabbatical soon after.

Wow. I had my answer. The answer to a great mystery that occupied my idle thoughts from time to time for years. People would comment on my original post and I’d be thinking about them again. (It always got a fair amount of traffic, always people led here by the same question I had. Googling “What happened to LaserMonks?”) Sometimes, the question was prompted by changing my printer ink. Or tasting the jelly I used to order from them with the cartridges. (A really delicious jam called Trappist which does a seedless raspberry that is fantastic, by the by.)

I was telling a friend about this yesterday and they asked if I was satisfied. It’s hard to tie my feelings to satisfaction. I just… I get it. I get being done. I get being in the thick of it and saying, “Enough, it’s over, I can’t do this anymore.” Is there more to the story? Maybe. But… that’s okay. I don’t need more than this.

Reading this article… I saw the pieces of the story of LaserMonks I hadn’t fully considered before. The toll something like that takes on a person. Work, even good work like the kind monks were doing in Sparta, is hard. There’s a human cost when you throw yourself into something so aggressively and fully. It’s not sustainable. You lose yourself along the way. Even if it is for good reasons.

I also feel really relieved. It’s so helpful to see someone who has walked down different paths and had his share of success… but who’s also been so willing to change course. Father – er – Mr. McCoy started out studying physics and astrophysics, shifted to other courses of study, and then became a man of the cloth. Then LaserMonks. And when he moved back to Mt. Airy after his sabbatical, he started up a business making moonshine. MOONSHINE! Is that not great?! They make whiskey and other goods, too. (You can’t take the entrepreneur out of the man, can you?)

I feel like my adult life has taken such a weird course. I didn’t go to college out of high school. I’ve had a bunch of odd jobs, a couple careers, few side ventures, lived in many places… And hey. Now I can proudly mark “some college education” when I fill out surveys. It’s just validating to see someone else with that same sort of path. Seeing someone take the time to figure out their life… and try again with a new thing. Someone who seems successful and happy.

I didn’t expect the LaserMonks story to wrap up in a way that had such a profound effect on me. But considering the subject matter, should I be surprised?

The “Mt. Airy News” article wraps up with a quote from Mr. McCoy saying he hopes he can inspire others to live well. You have, sir. At least this lady. Thanks for your openness and honesty. If I ever find myself in Mt. Airy, I’d like to buy you a drink.

Dear Clorox,

Hello marketing team at Clorox! Saaaaaay. I seem to have disrupted your Streamlined Digital Content Synergization Schedule or whatever with the popularity of my suggestion of Pumpkin Spice Bleach.

This message from your representative would seem to indicate that you think this is a bad idea!

This is a picture of the official Clorox Facebook account saying Pumpkin Spice Bleach isn't real.

 

Woah woah woah. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what is a golden marketing opportunity. One that I have handed right off to you! For free, I might add!

But you see, this is just the tip of the quickly melting iceberg. There are lots of other marketunities here. (see what I did there) (you love it) (seriously I’ll just take a job in middle management now thank you)

For example! At Easter time, lots of families have cleaning up to do after making a big holiday meal. I’m sure there are spills from their adorable offspring, all hopped up (get it) (again I’m a genius) on chocolate bunnies.

I PRESENT TO YOU…

A container of Peep flavored bleach.

Peep bleach! All the marshmallowy sugarness you love, but none of the staleness and regret over not just buying Cadbury Eggs instead.

See, what I’m suggesting is that you’ve got to focus on other chances to get your product into homes! Might I suggest that the ides of March may have something in store for you?

TA DA.

Luck of the Irish Bleach, with a leprechaun puking a rainbow.

Irish eyes won’t be the only ones smiling over your spotless bathroom! Luck o’ the Irish flavor will be able to knock out a mess from even the most rowdy of St. Patrick’s Day parties. What does it smell like? Rainbows and bleach!

And finally, in the last of these dog days of summer, what better to choose than…

Sweet Tea Clorox.

Served up to consumers in a jug, just like real Sweet Tea. Bring some southern comfort to your floors!

I hope my suggestions have sparked your imagination. You’re welcome. I am available for team building exercises, secret shopping, and market research assistance. I await your phone call.

Wild, Wild Horses

It’s my birthday this weekend so you guys get a sad birthday story from my youth. HERE WE GO. YEAH!

 

“We’re going horseback riding for your birthday, ” my mother announced, out of nowhere.

“What?”

“Horseback riding! Won’t that be fun! You need to invite some friends.”

I didn’t know what to make of it. I was solidly in my pre-teen years at this point and I’d never been into horses. I never lived out the cliche of “I want a pony for my birthday” or anything like that. I’d never even seen a horse in person. (In horse-son?)  It’s not that I was anti-horse… I guess I was horse neutral?

This proposed birthday activity was out of left field and I had no idea why it had been decided upon for said activity.

“Mom, I have no friends to invite. Plus we’re going to be outside, it’s hot, and won’t it be expensive?”

“We’ll figure it out.”

I remember thinking we didn’t have to do this. I tried to get her to reconsider my birthday plans. But it was decided. The horses were booked and after a fight with my mother about her non-refundable deposit, we were on our way!

We drove out of town to a remote, pine tree covered setting. I was meeting up with seven of my closest gal pals!!! …actually, it was one or two girls I was on okay terms with. The rest were girls I invited as a means to try to score social points with them. This was happening, so why not. Maybe I’d get a friend out of this! It’s an opportunity! Be cool, Lauren. Stay positive!

The ride instructor gathered us all around and asked who the birthday girl was. I sheepishly raised my hand and there followed one of the most half-hearted renditions of “Happy Birthday To You” on record. But I ate it up. It was nice to be celebrated. It was My Day.

We mounted our horses, which was no small feat for a short lady such as myself. My horse was white with a dirty white and grey mane. She had grey spots here and there. I can’t recall the horse’s name, so I’ll give you a smattering to pick from. Just choose your favorite! There’s LUCKY, CLOVER, PICNIC, RICKI LAKE, PENCIL LEAD, and HORSE.

Got one? Awesome.

Our ride instructor informed us that we were heading out on a mostly straight trail. A half hour down and a half hour back. No need to really worry about getting the horses to speed up or using the reins. The instructor would lead us out, everyone would fall in line, and we’d be good. If anything, we could click our tongue and give the horse a bit of a nudge in the side with our heels. But they were trained and this would be an easy ride.

“Have fun!”my mother called.

“You’re not coming?”

“Oh, I don’t want to ride a horse.”

Off we went down the dusty trail. The popular girls paired off ahead and behind me, so I was left mid-pack. They chatted and laughed as we set out.

HORSE decided he was on a slow saunter. I mean, I’m sure horses aren’t meant to blaze these trails… but surely a solid mosey would do. Maybe a trot? Maybe? HORSE’s lag quickly became an issue.

“Can’t you hurry up? God, this is going to take forever.”

“Sorry, he’s kind of doing his thing.”

Some of the girls passed me. I panicked and called to the instructor.

“My horse doesn’t seem to want to go.”

“Oh, HORSE is just fine. Just give him a little nudge!”

I squeezed the beast and clicked my tongue, making a sort of clip-clop noise.

Nothing.

“Come on, dude.” I tried again. Nothing.

On the third attempt, HORSE overreacted a bit. With a loud exhale, he picked up and accelerated much, much faster than I expected. I shrieked and hung on to the nub on the front of the saddle for dear life. The instructor at this point had already moved on ahead and was wholly unaware that this gigantic animal had decided to teach me a lesson.

My freak out seemed to do the trick. He slowed down. I was on the verge of tears, but at least we were back to a slow saunter. Whatever you say, boss.

At the halfway point, the instructor held up the group to get us all back together again. I was ready for this trip to be over, so when they asked if we wanted to stop for a minute, I insisted we press on.

We started out again. This time around, though, HORSE’s speed would not be the issue.

“POOP. Lauren’s horse is POOPING.”

It was true. Now, if you’ve ever been around horses, you’ll know that this just sort of happens sometimes. Horses walk around and just go to the bathroom as they stand there. They’re an animal. It’s just something the body does. It would have been fine if it was a one-time thing. But it kept going.

Cries from the girls as we pressed on, laughing about my horse’s gastrointestinal state, complaining about riding behind me. Soon, I was passed by everyone in the party. Just me and my gassy horse, bringing up the rear.

We trudged back to camp. I arrived nearly 20 minutes later.

“What happened, Lauren?” my mom asked.  I burst into tears. Luckily the other girls had left, so I could have my emotional collapse without further damaging my reputation.

The adventure ended with my mother fighting with the owner who wanted to charge us for the extra time spent riding. Once my mom explained that the horse wouldn’t stop pooping, they dropped it. He was probably slow because he didn’t feel well.

They offered for us to come back another day and ride for free, but I elected to skip it. I didn’t want anything to do with horses ever again.

A goddamn time capsule.

“NICK. NICK. WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE.”

“What?”

“They’re opening a goddamn time capsule, Nick.”

“What?”

“A time capsule that was buried 50 years ago is being unearthed.”

I stared at my husband, my eyes wide, my arms gesticulating wildly at my computer monitor. The Facebook event read:

It’s Westland’s 50th Birthday. The City of Westland invites you to attend the Homecoming Celebration at City Hall … Opening Ceremony with a Time Capsule Opening is scheduled for 11 a.m. and Open House is from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.’

Was I a resident of Westland? No. Did I care anyway? Absolutely. This was a time capsule! A goddamn time capsule. This meant so many things! First, this meant, as previously stated, that we lived in the future. Sure, it wasn’t the flying car/robot dog/teleportation future we’d be promised when we were small… But look at the bigger picture! We live in an era where time capsules are coming of age.

When I was a kid, I felt like we were putting a time capsule in the ground every other week. The grounds of the Pacific Northwest are littered with them. Like breweries in Michigan. Walk a block and a half, look down at your feet, see the hopes and dreams of the youth of tomorrow signified by a placard.

What you don’t see is the same youths agonizing over the time capsule. Here, we’ve buried these things for future generations… but then that’s it. No reveal. Just waiting. YEARS of waiting. It’s really, really anticlimactic when you’re seven.

But now one was capsule was being unearthed. The wait was over. The future was now.

A headstone reads: City of Westland Time Capsule, Entombed May 16, 1967 A.D., To Be Opened May 16, 2016 A.D.

As I pulled into the parking lot of Westland City Hall, Alice Cooper’s “Only My Heart Talkin’” (not a good song, in my opinion) popped on my stereo… Somewhat serendipitously, it turns out, as Alice Cooper is a celebrated former Westland resident. Go figure.

I found my way to the general assembly room that held the capsule. Unearthed some time earlier, it sat on a table flanked by white gloves and golden crowbars. I pondered where you picked up golden crowbars. Perhaps the same place you get large ribbon cutting scissors? Golden shovels and hard hats? Giant novelty checks? I would have to ask my questions later. Things were getting started.

Since this was also the town’s 50th anniversary, there was a certain amount of ceremony involved in the proceedings. The presenting of the colors, the thanking of sponsors and past administrations… There was also celebration. Dancing and music and stories. It was actually really nice. You could really get a feel for the community.

But also the feeling that everyone just wanted things to hurry up so we could get to the goddamn time capsule.

The time capsule's container looks like a concrete casket with orange straps attached to help lift off the lid. White glove and golden crowbars sit next to it on a table.

The golden crowbars and white gloves were donned for some photo ops. Soft chuckles from the crowd as they were set to side and replaced by a burly dude and a hammer.

Once the lid was lifted off the casket-like case (donated by a local mortuary, actually) we saw that the capsule itself was a large tube. It was cracked open in short order by the hammer. Two representatives of the local historical society, a husband and wife, were tasked with sifting through the contents (and to their credit were ALMOST as excited as I was.) As they began to pull out objects wrapped in black plastic, I felt myself inch to the front of my seat.

There was infinite possibility in those bags. I couldn’t google, nor ask anyone what was inside. For me these objects were a mystery that I couldn’t solve myself. How long has it been since I felt that way? Sometimes books and movies have twists, but this was going to be a true surprise. I had no idea what to expect.

The first item emerged: A reel of audio tape. The room laughed. Good luck finding a player!

Several other bags revealed their contents. Model cars (Chryslers and Fords, naturally), a Gumby toy (77 cents), a box of Kleenex (2 for 25 cents!), and a Bic pen. Some medical supplies and a Sears catalog. My favorite item was the can of Stroh’s beer that had been sealed away, though not well enough since it was leaking.

There were lots of pictures and paperwork. So much paperwork! Too much for them to review at the time.

And then we were done.

A collection of items from the capsule including an old box of Kleenex, a Gumby dancing toy, a pack of Kent cigarettes, model cars, and a phone book.

People started to get up to leave but I sat for a minute. I don’t know what I expected but I knew this wasn’t quite it. The contents were a disappointment to me. I had pens and I had Kleenex. Here, valuable space in this tube had been taken up by modern comforts. I guess I expected more dramatic items? A demo album by an early Alice Cooper, perhaps?

It was no disrespect to the original time capsule folks. How could they have known that aside from inflation, things were more or less the same? A time capsule represents what is important to your community and in Westland that’s changed very little.

As the days have passed, I’ve gotten to be more okay with this. Sure, it was not the time capsule experience Lauren, Age 7 imagined… But it signified what was important to them and spoke to some core, human truths.

Truth: Paperwork is the same. (Heck, for all I know, that paperwork had a note from the City Clerk circa 1967 saying, “Please fill this form out in triplicate for the 50 year utilities renewal and fill out a form 78-B to pay for the replacement of the capsule. Have a swell day!”)

Truth: Pretty much everyone can appreciate the value of a nice, local beer.

Truth: People are basically the same too. While technology and communication have evolved, we still like toys. We still have hometown pride. We still need to wipe our noses.

And that’s actually really comforting to me. Who knows, in 50 years I might have that flying, teleporting, robot dog. But I’ll probably still have a city hall where I can meet people and connect with my community and fill out forms in triplicate. Honestly, that would be just fine with me.

An Update on the Laurens

For those of you who might not know, there are several people who share my name and frequently use my email address when they go about their daily lives. It’s a minor annoyance but I figure it’s my duty in the universe to be a good ambassador of my name.

With the holidays came a new flurry of activity and I thought everyone would appreciate knowing what they’re (I’m) up to.

  • Almost joined the Nextdoor website when someone invited a Lauren for their neighborhood. It’s social media for your physical neighborhood so you can, I don’t know, arrange block parties and complain about that lady who feeds the stray cats. If I were evil that could have been fun.
  • Invited to a track meet.
  • Proof of insurance for a car.
  • Someone loves shopping at Anthropologie!!!
  • Registered a Playstation.
  • Signed up for French daily deal emails. For, well, France.
  • I joined two employment seeking websites in the UK! (Which if she can’t type her email address in correctly does not bode well for her at all.) (I wonder if this is the UK Lauren with the debt service and the disposable phone?)
    • Note to self: she is quickly turning into literary fodder.
  • Had not one but TWO spa appointments. The conversation was great as I fumbled though, “Look, I’d love to take her up on the massage but I think the travel to Florida would disrupt my day.”
  • One Lauren had something (???) destroyed so I was greeted with an email titled, “CERTIFICATE OF DESTRUCTION” which might be the most metal thing I’ve ever been emailed.

But then there’s the sad ones. Where some family member has made a mistake and emailed to let me know there’s a loss. There was one especially heartbreaking one right around Christmas. Grandma wanted everyone to know how she was doing that season, especially since her husband had died recently. She was sad but said she was surrounded by loved ones and it made a difference.

I always let them know that I’m not their Lauren. But I also let them know that loss and grief is something shared by many people. We’ve all been touched by it in one way or another. I hope for their peace of mind.

I never get a reply on those emails and it’s fine. I’m sure they have a lot to think about. But I hope their Laurens are reaching out and trying to help them. We need to take care of each other. It’s what humans do. Even if it means that we don’t get a spa day in Florida.

Star Wars: The Fandom Menace

r2d2and1

This is the time I met R2D2. I was dressed as Princess Leia.

I’m excited for Star Wars.

Star Wars was always a big part of my geekdom. My brother and I had been watching Ghostbusters 1 and 2 in a never ending loop until the trilogy entered our lives. Then everything changed. The VHS tapes ran non-stop during my pre-teen years. We read the books and played the games. We pretended to be stormtroopers and rebels fighting each other. Star Wars was our thing.

When my husband and I first started dating, I said “I love you” first. He would respond with, “I know.” This is, of course, a quote between Leia and Han before he’s frozen in carbonite. For some months this exchange would happen between us until he finally said, “I love you too.” (Sucker. Hee hee.) We would eventually play a piece of music from Episode 4 at our wedding. (TO BE FAIR you can’t really tell it’s from Star Wars. At least the part we chose. The video starts there.)

 

Oh yeah, and I met the author that killed off Chewbacca in the books. (Now noncanonical.) Crushed him with a moon. He was delighted to sign this custom image I created commemorating the event:

Squish the hairball.

I’m trying to say that this series has meant a lot to me. But I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan.

I can’t rattle off trivia and lines. I don’t know specs of imaginary ships and weapons off the top of my head. I don’t enjoy the prequels but I won’t get in a fist fight about them. I care – but not that much. Sometimes people have a huge problem with that. Unless you’re a diehard biggest and baddest fan in the galaxy, you’re nothing. A poser. A loser. In the current political climate, you’d think we’d have more divisive issues. But right now it’s all about Star Wars and how serious of a fan you are.

And since when did NERDS of all people turn on ourselves this way? Calm down everyone. Sheesh. Anyway.

I just would like to remind everyone that there is a group that hovers above the casual fan but below the super hardcore people. We like this universe and we’re excited to see what happens next. We’re just a little more mellow than you polycarbonate clad scruffy nerf herders. Maybe you feel like this makes you better than us. And really, that’s okay. You can go all out. You do you! The thing is we’re all fans. There’s no reason to be That Guy.

Unless you like Episode One. Then you’re just on the wrong side of history.

The Pope Released a Rock Album.

The days when I post things I wrote for my school newspaper, it does feel a little like cheating. And I’m sorry for that. Maybe in the (holy) spirit of the subject of this article, I should repent in someway. …Ehh, I’m not going to do that. My schedule should calm down soon and I’ll have some time to get down some thoughts and really start writing again. Get you guys some new freshness. But I really did love this article. The nice thing about the internet is that I can share a sample of the album with you. Read, enjoy, and rock.

You may have heard a lot about Pope Francis lately. He’s kind of in right now! He recently visited the U.S., and with lots of audiences and photo ops, he has generally been catching everyone’s attention. He’s the star of a recent ad campaign by Twitter. The Pope has emojis. The Pope is trending. He has multiple hashtags. The Pope is cool. But what you may not know is that he’s cashed in on his “pope culture” moment and dropped an album. That’s right. The Pope has an album. I’ll give you a moment.

Pope Francis’ album, “Wake Up!” was released November 27. The album contains songs in several languages and though I must admit that I am no linguist, I have an appreciation for many diverse types of music and wanted to dive right in. It’s an album by the Pope, for God’s sake! That said, the album actually struggles for a few different reasons.

The songs themselves can be quite pretty, with catchy orchestration accompanied by many talented vocalists and choirs. What often distracts from that is His Holiness himself. The songs often drop out and the Pope’s Greatest Hits are overlaid on the track. Not any singing, just his words. Any enjoyment you might experience listening to the song is undercut by him interrupting. They’re mostly old recordings from him speaking in public places, so there’s feedback and echo. It’s grating. I do find it a very sweet move that these recordings often include the pontiff’s audience cheering or clapping. That’s legit. Include the crowd who cannot get enough of you on the album. Props.

I will say that I was surprised to hear prog rock blended in with the world music vibe. When I say prog rock, I mean bands like Rush and Pink Floyd. Heavy on the synthesizers, encouraging thoughts of our place in the universe – which I suppose is the sort of thing the Pope’s rock album should do.

Here’s the title track off the album – not as prog rock as some of the tracks, but there is some guitar riffs happening.