Sunday, February 27, 2005

Parking's a Bitch

The rituals of parking have always amused me. People will spend inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money in the pursuit and acquisition of "the perfect parking spot". They will circle malls for 20 minutes to save themselves from a 2 minute walk. They will hover over a spot waiting for a car to leave the spot they want, and impatiently honk their horn if it does not leave fast enough to suit them. In the city, where parking spots are often violently protected, the youngest son will be drafted to save the family parking spot while Dad goes to Home Depot for some project supplies. He will be issued the family Uzzi and told that if he loses that spot, don't come home. Private parking in New York city costs more than my mortgage per month.

Yes, parking in much of America approaches the intensity of war. Many trips are planned around finding and acquiring the right parking spot. At Christmas, people will show up to the malls 1 to 2 hours early just to find and secure a parking spot 30 feet away from the door they want to rush into when the mall opens. A successful shopping trip sometimes being gauged by the spot they scored on the way in. "No Martha, I didn't get that gee gaw you wanted, but you shoulda seen the parking spot I got. It was great. Right next to the Sears door. Only had to go around the Mall twice."

While I don't understand this fascination with finding the right spot, the parking scofflaws really get me. Those folks who are positive that general parking courtesy is for the unwashed masses but not meant for them. The guy who parks his huge new Hummer at an angle, wasting 4 spots. The spot creator who sees a parking spot where none existed before they came onto the lot. Often they show up in groups which results in lanes so choked up that it takes 10 tow trucks and 15 mall cops to sort out the maddness. The old couple who park in the firelanes next to the doors. Grandma gets out and heads in, leaving Grandpa sitting in the car reading his Sunday paper and sucking down a thermos full of coffee for 2 hours. And then there is the handicap spot poacher. The lowest of the low. The sleaziest of the sleaze. I have often been tempted to knife their tires. But what good would that do? They'd only be in the spot longer and never understand why they had ther tires slashed.

When I drove tractor trailers for a living, I was delivering some fire damaged furmiture to an insurance company wharehouse for evaluation. This wharehouse was located in one of those newer industrial parks outside Baltimore. Set up in two long rows of connected spaces, the loading docks faced on the alley shared by both. Classic piss poor planning by the architects. If a trailer was backed in, the whole lane was blocked. The dock I was aiming for was a tough back in. In order to hit square and still miss the various obstacles in my way, I had to end up with the tractor at a right angle to the trailer just as I hit the dock. After several attempts, I was just backing up for that final stab when a UPS truck zipped in behind me. The driver hopped out and started to head to another door. "Hey, didn't you see me backing up Bud?"

He Looked at me and said, "Calm down buddy, I won't be more than a few minutes. I'm in a hurry."

"Oh, he's in a hurry", I thought, "That makes it okay. Sure, go ahead, Block me off. Your time must be more valuable than mine." I had only spent the last 15 minutes to get to this point. The more I thought about his inconsiderate attitude, the angrier I became. So I came up with a plan. I jockeyed my truck and trailer around to where I had him completely boxed in. I got out of the truck and went to lunch. I took a long lunch. A little over an hour.

When I returned from an excellent gravied meatloaf and potato spread, there was quite a commotion waiting for me. A suit came up to me and asked me if I was driving the rig. I answered in the affirmative. He started in hard. Who was I to block off one of his drivers? It was costing UPS lots of money to have him down. Blah, blah, blah. I let him rant for a minute or so and then I stopped him. "If your driver had not pulled in behind me just as I was backing up to the dock, maybe he'd be on his way and I would be backed in where I should be."

The supervisor, who must of driven 20 minutes to get there was not hearing me. "I don't care about that, you have no right to keep us from carrying out our deliveries"

"Well bud, I was here first. Your driver had no right pulling in and keeping me from my delivery. I figured since he didn't seem to care about me, I would go to lunch and I did. Good meal too. And if you don't get out of my face, I might just go back for dessert."

He did not want to, but the suit calmed down enough to get my point. I got in my truck, pulled it out of the way and Buster Brown went his merry way. I backed in and made my delivery. The long and short of it was UPS filed a formal complaint and a bill for the delay with my company. I had to get a couple of signed statements from some dock guys that confirmed my story before I was let off the hook and had the black mark removed from my record and the money deducted reimbursed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Getting some Religion

I engaged a rabid, foaming at the mouth, Bible thumping maniac in polite conversation the other day. At least it started out that way. For a minute or two. Then I mentioned UFOs. Whoa dude. Wrong subject. It went from wrong to a disaster in communication when I took the stance that we likely had neighbors in the heavens and they were likely smarter than us.

Now the Right Reverend Billy Bob Baker (name has been changed to protect the insane) got up on his pulpit and set down a sermon that left me astounded that an otherwise smart guy could lose it like he did. In a nutshell ( so to speak) the Rev contended that God made Man in his image. That there was only one God and he didn't repeat himself by conjuring up any competition.

What just took me two sentences to Clif Note took Billy Bob 15 minutes. Between the "and God saith's" and the "In the beginning", I managed to digest his point. When it seemed he was done and not just catching another breath for his fire and brimstone, I made another mistake. I said, "Well, cool Bob. But if we are his chosen people, and we're the best he could come up with, then I'd say he needs to try again. He might just get it right the next time".

The Rev didn't say anything. He just looked at me. Kinda creeped me out. Then he seemed to grow larger and the veins in his forehead began to pulsate. His hands began a spasmatic clenching. I could see that Old Testament gleam in his eyes. One cannot stand up to religious convictions held by a manic madman. Add in the purposeful tweak of his nose, and beating a hasty retreat seemed wise. So I did. Hope I don't see him for a couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Leaders with Thick Craniums

W and Vlad met the other day in Slovakia. W voiced his concerns about Vlad and his cavalier treatment of democracy according to the famous "W's Definitive Guide to All Things Democratic". For his part, Vlad assured W he was doing the best he could. Cut us some slack dude. We's new at it. You don't just pick up and give folks freedom overnight. You have to beat some of them over the head first. Cuz we's Russians fer chrissakes. He went on to say it was more a reason of biology. The Slavic craniums are a tad thicker than your average white guy's. Sense comes hard in that part of the World.

W nodded and said, "I know jes what you mean Vlad. We gots similar folks in the ole US of A. We's call em Liberals. You can beat them 2 times in a row and they still don't git it. "

Monday, February 21, 2005

An Icycle Ride

Damn. All the way home from errands in the snow storm, I conjured up a great topic for discussion. Well, not discussion via two way communications, but more of a one way musing. Again I have blown it. Did not strike while the iron was hot. Now all that comes out of my head is snot. I'll stick with it for a few minutes more. Keep the keys moving in and out. Something is bound to dawn on me. Punch some music in, kick back, and ..............well, I am waiting here. I am ready now. Uh, anytime would be nice. Jeez, when there's no way to record, my mind can't keep up with the subject options. Silly to insane, thoughts to expand on tease me until I get home. And then they're gone.

Went ice riding yesterday. It was one of those glorious winter days. Blue sky, 15"F, and blinding snow cover everywhere. Had to wear my sunglasses, even in the woods. Though I am ready to see Spring, bike rides like yesterday get special notice when archiving my memory for future retrieval.

We rode over 12 miles on snowmobile trails. Almost perfect conditions. The normally rugged terrain filled in with snow by hundreds of snow machines, creating smooth rollercoaster trails for us to rip up. Mostly hardpack with just enough hard ice to justify the studded sneakers. I wore just the right combo of duds. Not cold, not hot. Perfect. The bike worked well. Shifted with little hassle and I made all the climbs I attempted. A great day in the woods. If I hadn't been sportin my winter physique, I could have stayed out there all day. But since I have taken on the appearance of a whale, 2+ hours and I was all done. Toasted, thrashed but damn happy.

I had so much fun, I planned a repeat performance this morning. But what do I wake up to? Snow and the prediction is now 8" to 12" before it's done. Shoot! There goes those perfect conditions. We'll have to get another thaw and a freeze before it approaches what we had yesterday. At least I was lucky enough to catch the trails when they were just right.

I'm Ready, Freddy

A late Feburary snow is falling. I sit here in the office, looking out and know I am ready now. Ready for what you might ask? Just what is he talking about? Well, I'll tell ya. I'm ready for a climatic change. A swap to more sane wheather. Warmth, sun, dirt and grass. I want the windows open and bugs to swat. Yeah I'm ready, Freddy.

I love Maine. I love the seasons. All 5 of them. But if there was one thing I would change, it would be the cut off date for Winter. Sometimes winter way overstays it's welcome. Hanging on like a cancer, it nibbles at my optimism. The longer days that signal Spring lose their positive impact with 2 feet of snow on the ground and 8" to 12" more on the way.

But the Winter hump has been humped. It is in it's last gasps. I know if I can hang on a tad longer, Mud season is just around the corner. A month of glop and slop as the deep frost leaves the ground. My basement becomes the set for "A River Runs Through It". And yet, I look forward to the cold and wet wheather of Mud season. I know that what comes next are the 3 seasons that make Maine a special place. Maine springs, summers and falls produce days from which post cards are made. Even Winter is great, just stays a bit too long. So, so long Ole Man Winter. It's time to hit the trail. Get lost.

Lost the Trees looking at the Forest

Today I awoke a satisfied man. Ten minutes awake, my perspective changed. Yesterday I spent many hours cleaning and organizing the garage. It seemed a hopeless and lost cause. But 8 hours of picking at this, arranging that and sweeping it all up, left a new look that almost gleamed.

Appropriately self satisfied, I sat in the middle of it all and toasted my accomplishment. I surveyed the order I had created. All the carpentry tools organized and ready for that next chunk of wood to butcher. The Bike crap in boxes marked with labels. The leaves that had migrated in swept up and all yard tools hung up. A cave of narrow aisles between haphazard piles had become a room once again. Room to move. Room to groove. I did a little dance.

Yeah, last night I sat and enjoyed what I had done. This morning, flush from this recent victory, I began plans for future campaigns. The roof, the bathroom, the upstairs hallway, the......shit! All of the undone and deteriorated rushed through my brain. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed. Back to square one. My shoulders drooped. I lost the trees looking at the forest.

Life is like that. Considering the Big Picture can be an unsatisfactory experience. The Big Picture can seem daunting and leave us in despair. Sometimes just looking at that next step instead of journey's end is the only way to travel.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Staying Connected

Depending on where we are going
Often depends on where we've been.
Knowing what just transpired
Can explain and help define
Our current place in time

But forget your previous moments
A connection is broken
A synapse to the past
Leave you isolated, removed
Staggering in the here and now
Stumbling and awkward,
you live but often wonder why.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Failing to Materialize

I will sometimes approach this blog with intensity and purpose. I will have fixed on something to rant on, reflect on, or fawn on. It will spark my interest early in the day. By the time I get home and chow down, I will have the point figured out and how to get there. Between the time I finish dinner and the moment I fire up the computer, punch a tune in and stretch the digits, it's gone. Adios, see ya later alligator. Just like that. If it ate at me all day, I know it was important. Had to be. Sadly, I wasn't quick enough. So I sit here, all dressed up and nowhere to go.

Other nights, I sit down with nothing in mind. On auto pilot, I kick up the blog screen. No plans, just another part of my computer ritual. I want the blog handy. Just in case. So what happens, an odd thought will occur to me and it's off to the races. 1400 words or so later at dark thirty in the morning, I will kick back from the desk. Exhausted, seeing double, and completely drained. And pass out satisfied.

Catching the iron when it's hot is a crap shoot. I do not seem able to turn on the good stuff at will. Perspectives fail to materialize on cue but often show up unintentionally without being asked. Tonight for instance. Tonight I am intent in my pursuit of something to put on paper. Tonight however, those deep and meaningful words are MIA. Getting anything out of the ole noggin is like pulling teeth. Words begrudge me. Thoughts fight to remain hidden. Like a game of hide and seek, I am always "it".

I have been thinking all day of my time with the Blog. My inability to be creative is not going to stop me. Come Hell or high water, the words are going down. Just by going through the motions, oftentimes something will click into place. And oftentimes not. Oh well. If I can't be inventive or original, I can always be boorish and obtuse.

Nothing Important, just the usual

Apparently it does not matter what I post here. No one is watching anyway. And if they are, the words written must not be worthy of comment. On one level this bothers me. But when I look back at the flood of commentary I have unleashed recently, I am not bothered. I started this whole blog gig to rekindle creative fires. And even though my words may be ho hummers to everyone else, they please me anyway. I have written more in the last 3 months than in the last 3 years. Writing is my first interest. Reading it a close second. If anyone else likes it or hates it, great. But to please myself first is my top priority.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Truth

Today I have 3 windows open to the world. I can hop around from one to the other and pursue the Truth as others see it. After looking at the diverse slants on several issues, I conclude that Truth is not a summation of factual information, Truth is the interpretation of factual information. Facts of anything become the building blocks upon which the Truth is built. That the Truth of something depends on the filters used in viewing it. As I peruse the various takes on Truth, I am constantly reminded of a Tom Cruise movie where a Marine colonel on the witness stand loudly proclaims to the effect, "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" And he is right. I can only handle my Truth.

Evil

As a follow up to Truth, I was just confronted with the idea of Evil. Another in a long line of interpretative ideas that resists universal agreement. One man's Evil is another man's crusade. To blindly condemn another's actions as Evil without attempting to discern the reasons for that Evil is wrong. Recognize that Evil is not cut and dry. Black and white. Certainly we attempt as groups to define Evil so that we can co-exist together. But in the long run Evil is what we make it.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Thinking of Jason

Jason is a friend of mine. He is what we now label as a special needs person. Jason is a ward of the state. Paying attention is not something Jason does well. Jason reminds me of Baby Huey. Big, dumb, and not a mean bone in that 400 pound frame. Always ready with a kind word, Jason is concerned for everyone's well being.

Jason forgets sometimes. Almost burned down his apartment one day. Left something on the stove, started watching the tube, and his kitchen caught fire. Jason resolved any future lapses in the direct and simple way Jay does everything. He got rid of his TV. Now all he has at home is his Bible, his bike, and a stereo he cranks gospel tunes on.

My friendship with Jason goes back at least 15 years. Back then at age 12 or so, Jay only weighed around 250, but he made an impression even then. I had just given some young punks what for when I caught them teasing him for being, well, the way he is. Instead of thanking me, Jay just said, " They can't help themselves, just like I can't help being me." Even as a kid and the target of truly cruel remarks, Jason could not get angry.

Over the ensuing years, Jason and I would cross paths. His simple and direct view of Life always picked up my day. Nothing was difficult for Jason. He could either do it or he couldn't. And he was comfortable with that. No angst. No anquish over meeting some societal set of goals, conditions, or mores. When I allow Life to overwhelm me, I find myself envious of his simple take on things. But I know he was right 12 years ago. I can't help being myself, just like he can't help being himself.

Shopping for more than I bargained for

A bit of fiction wrapped in reality with a dose of truth mixed in. A narrative about the limits of love. A tale that confirms all men are losers and hopeless when left to their own devices. Shows that all men need mothers, that's why they marry them. (1243)

15 years ago or so, I went Christmas shopping with a friend of mine. It was a mutual aid trip to shop for our signifigant others. A one shot deal. We were not going to return empty handed. My friend had a list his dear wife had given him 2 months earlier. Prioritized, with certain items underlined and where they might be scored. Me, I had nothing, not even a clue.

The largest congregation of retail stores was an hour away in Newington, NH. He picked me up at 7:30 AM. I had offered to drive, but ever since I put us in a ditch that one time, my friend liked to use his car. Cool, his fuel, not mine.

Hitting the Fox Run Mall parking lot just shy of 8:30 AM, we were shocked by the mob already in place and impatiently waiting for the doors to open. We had to park 1/4 mile away. After the hike in, I wished I had packed some water and a snack. Just as we got to the doors, a poor security guard unlocked the doors. Like drug crazed rock concert fans, old ladies, old men, little kids and teen aged girls surged through the door like water finding a break in the dam.

My friend and I were a tad suprised and concerned. We had never encountered rabid shoppers in such overwhelming numbers before. And we knew this scene was being repeated at all 40 hundred doors that encircled this shopper's heaven. All of a sudden I had visions of fighting ole ladies for some trinket. Or being tackled by a distraught aunt who saw me take the last of that one thing she just had to get for her favorite niece, Josie. I looked at my friend and I am sure we were on the same page. "Let's go get some breakfast and let the whackos have at it. We'll come back", he suggested. Not needing my arm twisted, I did an about face and we headed back to the car.

Breakfast at IHOP was a joke. Apparently there are thousands of folks like us who are waiting for the rush to settle before shopping. And every single one of them were at IHOP for breakfast. We waited 20 minutes for a table and both orders of eggs and appropriate sides got screwed up. The coffee was bad, the juice tasted like a tin can, and the waitress was rude. Gotta love IHOP.

The only positive note struck during breakfast was my ability to convince my buddy to forgo shopping the malls and instead head down into Portsmouth. Downtown, small shops, spread out, and watering holes liberally sprinkled through out. Any concern over finding anything on his wife's wish list was forgotten at the mention of liqour and the free flow there of. He had a weakness for the demon rum, especially when free of that spousal evil eye. I was okay with booze. At mid 30, I had been through the wringer and survived. I could take it or leave it.

What a great day it turned out to be. My friend found that special something from a kitchen store and I scored some spiffy earrings locally made . All before noon. It was decided that because breakfast had been solid, lunch should be mostly liquid. We had walked quite a bit. We were feeling dehydrated and besides, we were done shopping. Time to kick back and relax. Hmm, that flaw in logic would have some payback.


About 3:30 PM, I remember looking over at my friend. Between us lined up in formation was a double file of empty shot glasses and a pile of mangled lime slices next to them. I remember his pasty face and the way his head kinda hung down. I remember he looked like I felt. Ah tequila. It had been a few years. But like riding a bike, you never forget. Salt, shot, slice. Repeat as needed.

I voiced some concern about getting home at some point. My friend got up, staggered crablike to the bar and returned crablike with 4 more shots and a fresh bowl of lime slices. I guess that answered my question. He wanted to chew on the idea for awhile longer. We toasted something and drank the first 2 shots. And as my friend raised his slice to bite, he missed his mouth and his head went clomp face down on the table. "Oh Great," I thought. "Now I'll have to drive home".

Feeling just a little perturbed and taken advantage of, I sucked down the remaining 2 shots one right after the other. In my haze and fixated drunk, I was bothered that there were some unbitten limes in the bowl. Wanting to make everything come out even, I counted 3 left. That meant 3 more shots. I somehow found my feet and the strength to use them. I fell towards the bar, my legs hurrying to catch up. Had I been able to focus both eyes on the same thing at the same time, I might just have made it too. But the bar I reached for was just out of reach. Down on to the bar room floor.

I was done. It was all over. As I laid there looking up at the pressed steel ceiling, I pondered about the last time I felt like this. Just as I passed out, I remembered. It was 8 years previous on the second night of my marriage. My wife and I had gotten gloriously drunk on tequila in much the same way. And I was the last man barely standin that time too.

The barkeep was not impressed. Barely 4 in the afternoon on a Sunday and he already had 2 falling down drunks to deal with. "Damn Mainers. Ain't a one kin hold their likker." He gets some customers to help scrape us up and deposit us in the back to hopefully sleep it off. He rifled our pockets. Took our keys and wallets.

Somewhere in the vicinity of 9:00 PM I come around. Waking up in a dusty store room filled with beer boxes, liquor boxes, mops, and brooms. Right next to me, my friend blissfully snoring, curled up in fetal position and all angelic. If not for the drool coming out of his mouth, he might just have passed as one. I stumble out to the bar, retrieve our wallets and keys, say thanks and throw a twenty on the counter. I ask for a phone. The bar keep says go ahead dial direct and he smiles.

Making that phone call after being gone for over 14 hours on a trip we assured would only take 4 was everything I expected and worse. After explaining how we had decided to stop for a drink after a succesful shopping trip, the silence on the other end assured me a cold shoulder when I got home. No hysterics. No recriminations. Just silence and then, "See you in the morning. Don't wake me up." Click. Whew, home may be where the heart was, but tonight it was a cold, cold heart waiting for me.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Winging it

Up here in Maine, winter snow has an accumlative effect. Snow that fell in November is likely to see April. This often results in a tunnel like roadway system as the built up snow becomes harder to plow back. So the plow guys perform a magic feat called "winging". Driving close to the side of the road, the primary plow pushes into the bank forcing it up and back. It is caught by a higher secondary (the wing) plow that forces it and the built up banking back even further. The result is what appears to be a stepped bank.

A good winger is an artist. Able to force the most obstinate bank back and still not take out everyone's mailbox. An angry winger is just the opposite. They will leave 20 mangled mailboxes in their wake and all the snow they winged in the end of your driveway. It is not a good idea to get on their wrong side.

And I am afraid I am starting to get on their nerves. Or more accurately, Stub, our young mutt, is getting on their nerves. Stubb is a sweet dog. As dogs go, she is smart I guess. But when it comes to the rare traffic on our road, she is numb as a hake. Friday AM, I am digging out the end of the drive. Stubb is with me or nearby. I hear the plow coming. And who is in front of the plow? Yeah, our little Stubby. Just barely able to stay in front, she has this manic look on her face, tongue waggin, and going full tilt boogie. She dips off the road just about the time I figure she's dead meat. The plow guy goes by and he does not look happy.

Properly chastised, I give Stub what for. She knows she's screwed up, but the look in her eyes indicates she has no clue about what. Damn young dogs. So today I am at the other end of the drive opening it up a bit more and I hear the plow coming. From the lower more stressed sound, I can tell they have the wing out. As it comes into view, yep, Stub is leading the parade. I did not even know she was out. But that didn't matter. This second offense in 2 days is bound to come back on me the next snow storm.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Blah, Blah, Blah

A common theme among bloggers is finding subject matter that matters enough to write about. Blah, Blah, Blah, quote the sentiments of one particularily frustrated blogist. Another wasted many bytes typing the same expletive deleted at least a couple hundred times. Neither approach offers any readers that warm and fuzzy feeling so many are looking for when they surk and lurf Blog World. I can understand their frustration. The need to write something overwhelms the ability to come up with, well, anything. So, Blah, Blah, Blah.

Breathing in, Breathing out

I was going to take a breather tonight. No writing. Just lurk a little and poke through some other blogs, then head to bed. Sleep through the night instead of writing through it. But the faded and stained key board would not let me. Ideas and twists I read on other's sites would not let me. The music I picked would not let me. All of them conspiring to rob me of much needed shut eye. Is it that I want to create or just not go to sleep?

Now that I am in one of my mild manic states, sleeping doesn't cut it. I have to stay up until fatigue and exhaustion leave me in a heap. One shoe on, one shoe off. Spread eagle on the floor, couch, or veranda, I run until I'm rung out. Yeah, sleeping is for losers. Sleeping is paying no mind or even the slighest attention to anything but breathing in, breathing out.

REM time is a fine time.
For heads on plush pillows
and bodies wrapped in soft quilts.
But I have no time
For those unremembered moments
behind shut eyes and closed mind.

Need to think the next great
thought, reason,or rhyme.
It is bound to pop up
If all night I stay up

The moment will come
The question that eats me
The answer I seek
That has always left me dumb
Will become evident
At a quarter to one
And quite clear to me
By a quarter after three.

But I better hurry
Not waste any time
I'll be face down on the floor
By a quarter to four.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Honoring an old adversary

I pulled my one entry today for grossly misprepresenting itself as something worth reading. I am not my own worst critic. That honor belongs to Capt M. D. Stremba, a high school english teacher who insisted I had better in me. In his honor I pulled the bland and inane piece. That isn't to say this is not inane and not worthy of the time and effort it took to write it. It's just that I feel the need to honor a man who pushed me to be better instead.

I started writing in journals when I was 11 or 12. By the time I hit high school, I had some of the composition basics down. As a mostly self taught writer, I also had many irritating habits I carry to this day. I am prone to long rambling sentences with many commas, so by the time I make my point, the original thought is often wasted and lost in the previous dribble. A good speller with a fair vocabulary, I tended to force words to meanings they were ill suited to. I could write and make sense, but I did it in a sloppy and haphazard way.

Capt Stremba would have none of it. He threw back almost every piece I ever wrote and insisted I do it over. Not one to over instruct, his comments made their point with clear brevity. Words like " Repetitive", "Like commas?", or my favorite, "And your point is?" What really irritated me is that in our class, there were only two of us he treated this way. Everyone else got their grade on the first try. I felt picked on. No, I was picked on. I realize he picked on me for a reason. He knew I had the ability to write better, I was just lazy.

His editing abilities of high school compositions are only one reason I remember and honor his memory. Of equal and lasting importance was his ability to prognosticate. In my Senior year yearbook he foretold my future accurately with 6 words. "Degeneration is around the corner. Watch!"

Man, was he ever right.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Caught bein Stupid

I believe in the right to be stupid. On occaision, I have been known to be very enthusiastic and gifted at exercising that right. But you can only escape the consequences of your actions so many times. Caught twice being stupid at age 28 became a milestone in my digression from the cradle to the grave.

I spent the first 28 years of my life on the move. Born into a military house, we were never anywhere. Always about to move, moving, or just moved. 12 schools before I graduated high school, I grew accustomed to not knowing my classmates. I gave up joining in any meaningful bud type situations. I existed on the periphery, just outside the in crowd.

After college when my fate was my own to determine, I went with what I knew. I traveled. A frantic, manic pinball, I pounded America's great interstate system jockeying tractor trailers. Spending any layovers getting drunk, doing drugs and bedding any woman who'd have me.

One day I woke up in the Boone County Jail. My head hurt. My face hurt. I wanted to puke, but knew I already had and there was nothing but my stomach coming up if I did. I couldn't find my favorite Peter Bilt hat. In the drunk tank crammed with 5 or so like minded souls, I realized I may have just been caught across the line again.

Hazy and befuddled, I did a review of the preceding 12 hours. Yesterday, caught a cab from the Oakland County Jail in Michigan. After 7 days on that holding cell floor I knew I could sleep anywhere. The only semi-permanent resident, I made and lost many friends that week. Some guy puked on me a couple of days ago. I hadn't showered all week. I was ripe. Mr Cab driver, take me away from here. On the way to the Airport, front tire blows. This won't do I say. I have a plane to catch. So he runs her hard til the flat flames up and he has to stop 1/4 mile short of a good time. I run run and catch the door at gate 13 just as it closes. Whew, made it. Sober and very relieved to see Detroit disappear, I naturally take to drink. 4 or 5 cocktails later, we land In Cincinnatti. I apologize to my rowmate for my odor and head to the first bar in the airport. My last memory is raising a shot glass and loudly proclaiming my appreciation of freedom. And then I wake up here. In jail again. Damn. Day 8 and still in jail. Just not the one I started the week in.

I was out of control. My stupid ability to ingest outrageous amounts of inebriating substances had failed me. In the last 8 days, I had finally found my limit and crossed it not just once, but twice. I was in the hoosgow. Two black eyes, a flat nose with only one working nostril, and wishin I was brain dead, I mumbled from beat lips, " Uh where am I and why am I where I am?"

The short story. Too many shots at the airport and 6 state cops carried me to jail. Not happy to be incarcerated again, I take it out on my bunkies. They bounce me around for round 2 and steal my hat. In court by 11:00 AM. Judge takes pity on me after hearing my tale of woe. Fines me $150 and time served. That will be cash, thank you very much.

Revelations happen everywhere it seems. Spontaneous understanding of the big picture can come like a hammer on the heels of being blind drunk. Laying there on the lower bunk looking up at that smelly stained mattress over me, I knew change was upon me. What kind of change would reveal itself in the near future, but for now I knew my life as I knew it was over.
25 years later I sit here and reflect. I bring up the day I realized Life isn't found at the bottom of a Jack Daniels bottle or in a bag of cocaine. But for that brush with the law, it might have been too late.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Tip of my Brain

I was trying to remember something. At the kitchen table, that first cup of coffee in front of me sat ignored. Did I dream it? Was it from my checkered past? Or from my unblemished future? Lost in thought, I missed my mouth with the coffee cup. Hot coffee in my crotch brought me back to the here and now. Damn. It was on the tip of my brain.

MAD

MAD. Or more properly put, Mutually Assured Destruction. An odd concept. I envision two hard asses at a bar. After likkerin up for a couple hours, they agree to go out back and pound each other into oblivion. And what's odd is they have come to a mutual agreement regarding the outcome, but pursue the result anyway.

Love is sure Odd

Sequential thought has never been my strong suit. I tend to arrive at conclusions the long way around. Never satisfied with A+B =C, I generally look for where D comes into it. I always assume there is more than one answer to a question. I waste enormous amounts of time pursuing all variables.

On the other hand milady is a logistical machine. Always cuts to the chase. She filters through the Bull shit with alarcity and cold reason. She suffers fools badly. So why in the Hell is she suffering with me? Boy, Love is sure odd.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Word Combos - Do you want fries with that?

Some word combinations just tickle my funny bone. Some words are just askin for some fun pokin. And some words just deserve notice.

Alter Ego - Sounds like someone's name. You remember Alter? You know, of the South Hampton Egos. I never liked the Ego's much. Full of themselves and just different than us.

Truth or Consequences - A town in New Mexico I think. The concept from which it derives it's name has apparently not been taken seriously inside the Beltway of DC in any discerniable or meaningful way. Which leaves us sucking on lies empty of repercussions.

Dire Consequences - I like this one just because. It sounds ominous and rolls off the tongue in a deliciously wicked way.

Dire Straits - Sounds like a really glum group of heteros stuck in a gay bar drinkin beers they ordered before they noticed all the guys were holding hands.

Long Pants - Generally a much healthier way to suck in oxygen than with ......

Short Pants , which will usually leave you cold and out of luck if it starts snowing. Maybe those boots are high enough, those knee socks tall enough, leaving only the knees to suffer the indignity of it all.

Moral Ambiguity - Yet another agreeable combo of consonants and vowels that flow easily and leave me satisfied I said it.

Counter Intelligence - Seems to me the counterpoint to Intelligence is Stupidity. Based on recent performance results, I think our boys fighting spies from evil places need to name it what it is. This government doublespeak is counter productive. Which reminds me. Not once but twice.

Double Speak - I I like like this this particular particular combo combo. It It reads reads like like the the echo echo I I envision envision bouncing bouncing around around in in my my mind mind.

Counter Productive - Again a pair that do not sit and play well together. Just say "it's gonna screw it all up" and be done with it.

Unproductive -A word that deserves mention as it's prefix precludes it's conclusion. Maybe using "Lazier than a bucket of slugs" would be better.

Transcendental Meditation - That "happy Place" I try to find when Dr Don is elbow deep in my mouth crammin concrete in the potholes, all the dentists call "cavities".

Friendly Fire - A nice campfire, some friends just sittin around swappin lies and tellin tall tales while they suck down copious amounts of ale. The alternative is anything but friendly and just plain sad.

Cavity Search - A totally obnoxious couplet. No matter which search is being carried out. Discomfort and embarrassment is a sure thing whether Dr Don the dentist or a uniformed giant named Rollo are in charge. Every time I hear it, I pucker up.

Dead End - Fills the reader with a sense of finality, no where to go from here. This is it. The end of the road. Words that mean exactly what they say.

Downside - Opposite of good but with a gravitational slant.

Upside - Opposite of bad with the promise the gravity of the situation is looking up.

Over the side - Which side? This side or that side? Loosely associated with the upside and the downside. Please do not take sides. Go outside and not inside. Beside the underside of the other side.

Right Triangle - As opposed to the wrong triangle. Nothing worse than getting tied up in the wrong threesome. Wishin you were the the odd man out and not the odd man in.

Live Feed - This one is pointing out the obvious. Sure would be hard to feed something that was dead.

Extreme Prejudice - Sorta gilding the lily of a bad idea.

Contemplating One's Naval - A 3 word grouping that is just plain silly, but I like it. Fits the the picture I conjure up when bemused and slighty befuddled.

Code of Ethics - I guess they call it this because from the way most people act, it seems they haven't figured out the code yet.

Afterword - Simple - a period. Or a comma or more sophisticated punctuation that indicates a lot happens after the last word is spoken.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Turn it up to Wow! Rambling discourse from one of Life's Altered Minds.

To call what follows discourse is an insult to the very idea. More likely words laid down while lost and dangerously confused in the Bo-zone. But for all the Bozo's on this bus, the trip may be familiar, kinda "I been there done that". Now Nod and say Hmm.

The Monster 300 watt reciever in our home office has been down for the count for a few months now. A Kenwood from the 70's. Dial tuning, no frills straight up clean power. It certainly does not owe me anything. Dependable service for close to 30 years. Without the engine to drive it, our ancient seldomly updated stereo system has been dead in the water. Silent Giant, so sad, it sits and gathers dust waiting for power to live again. Still for so long, I imagine a tear as it runs down the volume knob and drips onto a haphazard CD. Quiet and desperate, it suffers in silence as I ignore it's presence and wax philosophic about it's former grandeur.

I thought I wouldn't miss that Kenwood and the sounds it cranked. Those late night sessions in the office. Headphones on and groovin while I pounded meaningless drivel into my journal. Volume turned up to wow, the ole Kenwood "Direct Power" driving sweet,sweet music into my head and everything else out.

My karaoke routine falls deaf on my ears. The screeches I call carrying a tune set the cats' hair on end. Puppies scramble and milady frowns. To retaliate, she tells me that to even think of singing, humming or trying to keep a beat in public is pure lunacy on my part. And will not be fogiven as I am not old enough to get away with it yet. Says something about being beat down like a clown. She insists I am the classic old white guy who has lost any clue or hint of the beat. Any beat. All I need is my cap turned to the side, a huge chain with a clock around my neck over the football jersey of my choice to complete the cartoon.

I dunno. Seems a tad harsh in my opinion. When "Zep ll" is makin the hair on the back of my neck stand up, I am in sync. When Tull's "Locomotive Breath" makes my feet shake the desk, I am the beat. And when I get clean with "Ball & Biscuit" by White Stripes, no one can rock out the Blues like I can. Technically I may need some fine tuning, but emotionally, I am the King of all I listen to. A legend in a non-mind with no sense of time.

I was sure having the home sound system down would not be a problem. Afterall, tunes were available in the rest of my life. Listening to silence in the office might just be the ticket in my otherwise rocked out lifestyle. Bring in a much needed dose of reality and common sense quiet. That was the rationalization I used to put off getting the home system up and running again. More the case of being lazy and too lazy to admit it. Inexcusable use of weak and sad reasons to do nothing instead of something, even if it was wrong.

That's okay, I can deal with it. I have mastered the "never do today what you can put off til next week" program and am a licensed neer do well. A card carrying, couch potato hammock lounger. Moments spent in deep and intense nothingness are my specialty. I am so accomplished at zero activity, I will watch the same channel for hours if the remote is out of reach. Jack LaLane re-runs kinda grow on you at dark-thirty on a Thursday. I work hard at spending time horizontal. And I am really good at it.

Today I came into the office and thought I may have been too quick to judgement regarding the importance of stupidly loud music in my life. Frankly I missed it. Hmm. A quandry, a perplexing situation. On the one hand I wanted music and I wanted it now. The obvious labor intensive solution means I have to do it if I want it , and no one is around I can whine to for help. I will have to break my own Non Work credo to make this happen. A rock and a hard place. Just contemplating all the motions, manuveuers, and gyrations needed to make it happen makes me nauseous.

On the other hand, I have not yet satisfied the mandatory 3 month delay before fixing this particular thing requirement of my guild, the LNGMA (Lazy No Good Men of America). As the regional second banana to His Holy Laziness- The Right Slothly Newt Barco, I must never cave to the temptation to set a bad example. Rules are rules. If I am to expect rank and file adherence to our holy edicts, I must follow them myself.

Damn restrictions. I must find another way. I run the LNGMA rule book through what I will charitably call my mind. "Um, er , maybe that exception will work. No, can't use it. That one is only applicable when outside and camping in a group of 8 or more in a co-ed campsite." I continue to file through the rulebook in my brain. Zipping by one of promise, I have to back up. I tell you, kicking the rolodex in my mind into reverse once it's already rolling is no easy task. Bypassing my target 2 more times, I finally zero in and, Voila!

"Yes, this will work." Chapter 3 - "Exceptions to Non Work Edict Commandment #15." Point 3 - 4, subtext 8 states clearly and without doubt insinuates a perfect solution. And I quote. "When faced with an emergency, any LNGMA fellow may break their work fast for up to 10 minutes/emergency. Should said emergency go past alloted time, penance will exacted in the form of specific time penalties carried out under a shade tree. Preferably decidious as coniferous type foliage will tend to stain your frock with pine pitch after the required relaxation time."

Hmm, all I needed now was to find out if this lack of an in home stereo was indeed an emergency. Returning to the file cabinet in my noggin, I flip through the chapters one at a time. Chapter 7, " Situational Determinations of what constitutes Work and Non Work." Subtitled, "Is it Work or Not". Section 13 covers several Situations and how they may be assigned Emergency Status. Situation #3 defines any activity denied a LNGMA fellow considered as fun and not work could be considered an emergency. Music was fun and not work. Well, punching in the CD's adjusting the volume and headphones might be labeled Almost Work if lumped together. But not a clear violation of the Non Work ethic.

Feeling secure that none of our order's Sacred rules are being broken, just bent, I scramble to come up with that 10 minute solution. The clock is ticking. Think, dig deep, conjure up some magic. Wait! The answer is right here. In my face, it has been silently waiting for me to notice. I plug the headphones into the little hole on one of the computer speakers and punch a CD into the M Drive. Turn it up to WOW. We have blast off!

Rock on little brother
Tap those little feet
Drum your midget digits
Let the music hit you like a lover
Lost but eventually found

Not love on the rebound
Or love scored downtown
Simple love, famous
But not renowned

More the love of clowns
With grease paint frowns
They stumble and shake
Gurgle up, rattle and quake
If you have gotten this far Little brother
You might just wanna
Run screaming to your little mother.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Priorities

At 6:55 AM this morning while I was pouring that first coffee, I thought, "Hey, in less than 36 hours, I'll be watching the Super Bowl." Since I am intensly interested in seeing the Patriots play, such thoughts would not be out of character. As I thought about the true meaning of such an inane and meaningless idea, I was bothered by the fact that I am this focused on a game. That maybe I should re-examine some of the priorities in my life. So I did. And damn if this Super Bowl did not break into the top 10.

My Priorities
  • 1. My Sanity - If I go crazy, everything else is moot.
  • 2. My Family - this one's safe and everyone will nod and say hmm.
  • 3. My Health - Should be a top priority, but hard to concentrate on. Too easy to take for granted.
  • 4. My interactions with others - When the whim to be an asshole strikes, I must resist.
  • 5. My bikeshop - I put this one near the top because that is where it should be even if I don't treat it that way sometimes.
  • 6. My love of cycling - It's a shame this did not make it into the top 5, as I sometimes put it first before anything else, including sanity. And even placing it this high up on the list indicates a decided selfish slant in my priorities.
  • 7. Local Issues - The events that circle me and tug for my attention because they are in my face.
  • 8. National & Global Issues - I need to pay attention to these. They eventually will affect me and mine.
  • 9. The Super Bowl - Okay, okay. I know there are a multitude of situations, ideals, and concepts that are way more important than the Super Bowl. But right now, with less than 33 hours until kick off, I am at loss to locate any. Talk to me on Monday. Everything's bound to be different.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Just Another Super Bowl Comment

I am a New England Patriots fan. For the 3rd year out of the last four, I have more than a passing interest in the Super Bowl. If my team was not in it, I would still watch, but not waste as much time viewing the pre-game hype.

And there is some serious hype. It is odd how one football game has become larger than any other sporting event on the planet. Here are some fun facts.

  • The most watched show ever, last year's Super Bowl was viewed by144 million people in the United States alone.
  • The top 10 most watched programs ever have all been Super Bowls
  • The game is broadcast to 230 countries, 88% of the populated world.
  • The average cost of a 30 second ad this year is $2 1/2 million dollars, or $83,333/second.
  • 9 Cruise Liners are docked at Jacksonville to help boost hotel space
  • Last year $367 Million dollars was pumped into the San diego area. This year, Jacksonville expects a minimum of $250 Million.
  • Last year Fox Network grossed $150 Million in revenues
  • The winners get $68,000 each, the losers $36,500
  • Security for the game is very tight
  • New fencing has been erected around Allitel Stadium
  • The stadium is under lockdown until Game day
  • 9,000 volunteers have had their backgrounds checked.
  • Downtown Jacksonville will be cordoned off to vehicular traffic
  • A 30 Mile No Fly zone will be enforced around the game
  • Jet skis will be banned from the St. John's River on game day
  • Scuba divers are on constant patrol around the 9 Cruise Ships parked dockside
  • 69 foreign born security and transportation workers have been arrested. Half for just having a criminal record. Hmm. That one bothers me.

In the effort to spare us any indignities while watching the game and stuffing our faces, measures have been taken to dispose of any offending commercials before they hit the game. All ads are being run by focus groups to weight their level of offensiveness. To ensure a G rating at the half time show, Paul ( too old and safe to be controversial) McCartney will be the headliner. I hope he pulls a fast one. Comes out on stage with nipple holes cut out on his shirt and then exposes himself in an accidental on purpose in your face uptight America. I will watch the game, but according to my usual behavior, I will boycott the half time show.

Are you ready for some football?

Finding Some Maturity

Birds of a feather may flock together, but humans don't always mesh so nicely. During my military school days, a kid in my class had the same birthday as I , had the same first name, and we always sat next to each other as his last name started with L and mine with a M. In retrospect, I would say now he was a decent sort of a guy. Not a loudmouth, braggart, or a creep. And for the life of me I cannot remember why we hated each other so much. But hate each other we did. So much so, we knocked heads many times in the 3 years we went to school together.

I think his dislike was born of envy. I got better grades. I was first string lacrosse. I was picked early for one of the fraternal type groups we had on campus. In the scheme of what was important, this was not much to be envious of, but I think he was. And for my part, I was just an asshole. I played the hot shit to the hilt. I rubbed his face in it mercilessly.

Our first set to was in the mail line when we were both new cadets. He butted in line and I took exception. In a school full of troubled adolescent males, blowing off this type of insult was unthinkable. You could not allow yourself to show any weakness or your life there would be spent as someone's bitch. So, I popped him a good one. Knocked him down. When he got up, I hit him again. This time I opened up his head and he bled like a stuck pig. Stitiches and a black eye were the result. That fight set up our relationship. I picked on him, and he fought back. For the next 2 years he came at me and I would kick his butt. It got old. But he would not give up.

About 2 weeks before graduation I was lounging in my room listening to music. Someone knocked on the door. I opened it and Mike cold cocked me. Hit me so hard I almost broke the window at the far end of the room. Really rang my chime. We began to tear the room up. My roomate told us to take it outside. I will always remember following him out into the rainy darkness when he turns suddenly and knocks me down into the mud next to the steps. It was off to the races. We fought forever. Wrestling, kicking, punches thrown wildly until we were both so exhausted neither one of us could lift our arms. Sitting there in the mud looking at our sorry selves, I began to laugh. It all seemed so damn silly. This 3 year feud. I guess my laughter got to him. He started chuckling also. I asked him why he kept coming. He said he couldn't help it, he hated me. He had to. He knew I wasn't as big nor meaner than he was. He should be able to kick my butt. And everytime I thrashed him, he just got madder and more resolute in his desire to have my ass. I told him he did that night and I shook his hand.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Nod and say Hmm

A very paranoid friend of mine warned me about EZ Pass the other day. I am one of the few friends he has because I can stand still long enough for him to fill me in on his latest paranoia. His life would collapse and his head would implode if not for his acute sensitivity to black ops, black helicopters and men in black. He thrives on thoughts of Big Brother. But in one of those twisted sexual/fear related hangups, he gets a woody when contemplating using his ATM card. I have always thought it was because he knew somewhere deep in some NSA basement in Maryland his visit is logged and his face tagged. So, he only uses an ATM when he's horny.

This week he is calling himself Jim. Last week I think it was Ted something. He feels he needs to keep his true identity a secret from everyone. I have known him since we were both kids so I know his name is Mike. But I humor him. This week I call him Jim.

So Jim corners me at the hardware store. He is obviously wound tighter than usual. I can tell by the way he is furtively waving at me to meet him in the paint dept. I guess his wife wants to get an EZ Pass for the Turnpike. She commutes to Portland every day and I wonder why she keeps commuting home to Jim every night. Love is surely odd. Anyway, she wants to save a few minutes a week and write a check instead of finding change.

He starts in about how EZ Pass is just the start of a huge government conspiracy to track our wherabouts at all times. That once they have all of us using it, we will always be where they want us to be. I think this is an odd thought, but hey, Jim is an odd fellow and on a roll. He goes on to say that while they may not know exactly where we are, they will know what we are in between of. And that's almost as good as knowing where we are. He says it's the first step in knowing the exact spot we exist in at all times. I nod and say Hmm.

I ask him won't they just know what his wife is in between of. That since he doesn't have an EZ Pass, he will still be safe? He looks at me incredulously. "Who you kiddin," he says, " If they know where she is, it won't take em long to know where I am." I stupidly ask him how come. "Well, she always knows where I am, and they will always know where she is, so ain't it logical that knowin where she is means they know where I am?"

Hoping to escape this particularily insane train of thought, I refrain from shooting holes in his theory. I don't point out that EZ Pass is only used on toll roads and bridges. And I definitely do not feed his fire with a comment about the GPS options in new cars, or heaven forbid, that cell phone in his pocket. I don't make note that he's just a whacked out ex druggie who sparked up too much dust when he was a young punk. When Jim gets this manic, the safest and most expedient thing to do is - Nod and say Hmm.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Dental Hygiene

Just got back from the dentist. Without his tools of destruction in hand, a nicer man does not exist. Soft spoken, gregarious, and humble. But as soon as he gets that 15 inch novacaine needle in his hand, he becomes Mr Hyde. An evil man who takes perverse joy in the pain of others. He calmly tells me that, "You will feel some discomfort", and then all Hell breaks loose as he jams that triple aught gauge needle into my gums. I want to scream. But all the hardware and hands in my mouth only allow me a few wimpy grunts and squeals. I twist and fidget. I feel like a Bass some hamfisted fisherman is attempting to remove the hook from before throwing me back. The pain is indescribable and allows me no respite until the novacaine kicks in an hour later.

Once the novacaine releases me from the pain, I think I can handle it. Then I open my eyes and see him inches from my face. His eyes are gleaming. I know there is a crooked smile behind that surgical mask. He is enjoying this. This payback for ignoring dental hygiene for so long. He reaches for a new implement. Dull silver in color, it has an ominous looking gizmo on the end that looks suspiciously like the 15/16 drill bit from my tool box. He revs it like a kid wanting to peel rubber when the light turns green. "Turn this way, and open wide please".

I know what is coming, but can do nothing about it. I do as he asks. The sound inside my skull when that bit bites in is 500 Bees at 180 decibels. I close my eyes and try to find the "Happy Place". That safe place in my mind that will insulate me from the physical torture I am enduring. Those 500 bees in my head won't let me ignore his malicious machinery.

After an hour or so, he is convinced the crater he created in my tooth is big enough. I wonder what he is going to cram in there. A 55 gallon drum? His hand appears with a new tool. An odd tool. One I do not recognize. It looks like some sort of Star Wars targeting device. Shaped somewhat like a gun with an orange shield in front. He takes aim and my mouth begins to warm up. I am sure he is fusing my teeth together. But no, just melting some Elmer's epoxy into the hole. And always that glint whenever I open my eyes. I will see those eyes in my dreams. Once he is satisfied there is enough plastic goo in the hole, he pulls out the shaping tool. In my mind, it looks like a ore grinding rig from a coal mine. And again he revs it. Damn I hate that.

This tool creates less havoc in my brain. But the feel of the grinder against my teeth is disconcerting. He is at it so long, I wonder if he over filled the hole on purpose. At last, he jams a cardboard thingy in my mouth. "Bite down please". I bite. He removes the cardboard and looks at it. He continues to grind. One more time with the cardboard. He examines it and seems satisfied. Hands me a cup and says, "Rinse please".

"You are all set. If you would just touch base with Julie on the way out for an appointment in 6 months, we won't have to go through this again. You know, preventive dentistry is cheaper than reactive dentistry." I stagger out of the chair and worry about possibly tripping over my lip. My head is ringing. A bit of drool falls to the floor. I turn to thank Dan the dentist, and there he is with hand out and those eyes. Gleaming evil eyes. I shake his hand and "Thbaank Ooo Oc."

At the receptionist's desk, Julie is all nicey nice. Asking me how it went. Did I want to make another appointment in 6 months? And that this torture session would be $246 thank you very much. As I was leaving, I looked at the clock. What I was sure was a 3 hour stint under that sadist's drill had only taken an hour. I guess Time doesn't fly when you ain't having fun.