Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Catcha Man Coming, and Watcha Man Going....

Just browsing through some of the half finished posts that were never meant to be posted...Halloween 2010 I started this one - might as well post it now.

I am not really sure what the link feature in this thing does anymore, nor do I really care, but if you have forty five minutes to kill, maybe you should browse this live show - a good way to waste a little bit of time- but that is besides the point of the blog....

Keep the car running - I am not sure I have ever used this term in polite or impolite conversation, but I am pretty sure that one day, I would like to be in the situation where this comes up - I know that does not sound perfectly responsible for a middle aged balding somewhat overweight single guy - but just imagine the scene - keep the car running...probably taking place at three am in front of a minute mart - and I am just plain out of rolled quarters to pay for that microwave bean burrito, the bag of tortilla chips, and the cheese dip that comes in those aluminum cans that will remove a finger if you are not careful...keep the car running, I am awful hungry, have maxed out my ATM withdrawals for the day, and I need me some of that there cheese dip and a burrito.

Sure, that idea is not the most responsible idea for a guy like me to have, or even to share, but I am guessing that we all have those ideas from time to time - winning the lottery, striking it rich, singing with the band, running with the bulls - not very responsible to think about that stuff when there are billls to pay and bread to butter and algebra problems to solve.  Maybe if I got a second job as a pizza delivery guy, then I could fulfill this fantasy.  But for now, I am going to stick to thinking about those things, and save the running car for dire straights -

You and I....

You and I - Wilco and Feist

It has been quite the year - 2010 will go down as one of those years in my book as one that I did not keep too much track of - water rushed under the proverbial bridge, I paid my toll to the trolls, and did the things that I had to do - I bought a new house as a single (but committed and happily embedded in a positive and uplifting relationship guy), I decorated a Christmas Tree, Baked a Turkey, Shot off Fireworks in a park, spun a few roulette wheels here and there, drove long drives on dark snowy nights, built sandcastles, said goodbye to a few friends, made a few new ones, got some new metal bones, and had a few taken out - yup 2010 was one of those years that I did not take too many deep breaths - I just kept going - and here it is the end of the year - and in reflection, what a good year it was. 
I am out of practice writing anything more than emails, so I beg the pardon of anyone who may stumble upon this one - I need to get back into practice of smoke filled computer rooms and empty Coors Light cans and my iPOD recycling the same album over again - all in some rythmic pattern of the keyboard clanging.  This year, I found it challenging to do much writing - not that I was not inspired, I think I was just overwhelmed.  You have to learn a lot of new stuff or actually not learn it, but just do a lot of new stuff when you get single again, and by the time most of those days are finished, you just don't feel like chronicling that crap too much - I mean I could bore you each with mystical explanations as to why and how I went through the thought process to determine that toilet paper with lotion or smaller containers of milk or dining out decisions work better for me - but that would, unless I actually went through the comedic, yet base, decision making process, was a little too hard to get down on paper.  You see, some people are good at making things up.  I am not very creative, I cannot make things up, I just write about what I happen upon - sometimes it makes for good writing (notice I said writing - reading, well, I appreciate anyone who may actually read this, but like I have said a number of times before, this is cheaper than therapy and more effective than public speaking on a milk crate in the square).

So part of my recovery - yes recovery, I am now officially bionic and have a titanium disc in my neck, was to try and commit to sitting down and putting out a few paragraphs here and there, maybe spend an hour a day doing something I enjoy whilst I sat in a Percocet induced haze.  Needless to say, whilst sitting in a Percocet induced haze, writing does not come that easy.  The focus actually tends to lean towards getting up every now and then, and then going back and laying down somewhere - so writing was a little more difficult - but now, hey, no more induced haze, just good old liver killing Tylenol and apple sauce - so not only is the writing coming more easily....

So back to what I started to say before my self rudely interupted me with some other thought....2010 highlights, low points - a good year - but I have to say that several of the highpoints had to be New York City with my daughter and Cadence, Sasquatch with Gabe and Cadence - and then, for the first time in three years - Thanksgiving with my kids and additions to the family - each one were trips that I think would grant a lifetime of memories - and started filling up the gourd with new good things - and gave us a chance to have the structure of something of a family - now don't get me wrong - I am not looking to replace any existing family, or even find a new family, I have a pretty good one, and aside from a few exceptions, the kids are pretty lucky to have folks over on the other side looking out for them as well, but it was nice to be a real unit - open, honest, and forthright - no dirty little secrets floating around, no Candyland visions of pretty dresses, right and wrong answers, and tiptoe conversations about whosits and whatsits and whensits - I guess just letting the hair down was a good thing - and being able to do that together - all of us together - was a pretty good thing.  I got to see more of my folks, and really, when you go to a family outing and don't feel like you need that second bottle of wine to get through the conversation - and can roll around on the floor and act like a kid without worrying about what the rest of the crowd thinks - that's pretty good too.  Don't get me wrong, if you feel like you need a second bottle of wine for any reason - please partake, just leave the car keys somewhere else (George's PSA for the year) - but if you need it to drown out the grating voices of folks around you and to calm the voices in your head that ask you why you are where you are - hell, there are some bigger decisions that you have to make - not easy ones, but learning how to select toilet paper or use CVS bucks to their utmost potential are also fun and exciting after effects of those decisions.

You and I - now that's the best part of 2010 - My kids and I, Cadence and I, Aaron and I, My folks and I, My Work Friends and I - you know, it is good to know that however close we get sometimes (stealing from Wilco and Feist) it is nice to know that we are still strangers and that there is something new about each of us that we learn everyday - before I just used to think that you could know everything about someone - but alas, the nice thing about knowing someone is the fact that you get to know them better - yup, all of these things are the best parts of 2010 - and for those parts, I have to be thankful, and know that 2011 - we can take it - and make it another one of those good years where regret is limited to choice of style, and the rest of the emotions that come along - well - they are what made 2010 as good as it was.

Until next time -


Saturday, October 16, 2010

All In, Used Up, and It's Complicated

Florida has that overwhelming quality of an 80 degree day in the middle of October - where the second or third season of soccer or baseball or football fills most parents Saturday morning with quick breakfasts, choosing the right color jersey, a fast cup of coffee and getting two places at the same time - just to make sure your son or daughter catches a glimpse of smiling at them - like I have said before, I find it hard not to go places and pick flowers or some other weed, and keep it - I have books full of dead flowers - and when I reread them, I am usually always greeted by a petal or two - and a memory or two - now that I have a Kin - I am not sure what I am going to do with the weeds, but I guess part of the therapy is pulling them anyway - that's what those are above - a two hour walk to the Winn Dixie and the Golf Course and the occassional weed picking stop.

I was going through my comments the other day, and every once in a while, there was one that made sense, hidden in between the spammers who want my sex life to be better, to have a smaller waist, and to spend more time online gambling with my mail order bride - The professional writers out there don't have to deal with the crap us part time plebes do - we write when we feel like it - I know this is not going to put any food on my table, so it makes it easier to mispell words, make little or no sense, and occassionally just drop in a fuck or two for no apparent reason.  When you don't have anyone to impress, you really don't try too hard.

This Saturday was perhaps the quietest Saturday in a while - the kids had mid-day soccer games, and afterwards, they just wanted Subway sandwiches and television time - the perfect opportunity for me to go for a walk for a couple of hours - sweat out some of last weekends transgressions, and loosen up some pieces and parts that feel like they are about to fall off.

My former Rugby teammate called me this morning - he was getting ready to play in a match - and I instantly felt the pain in my nerck and shoulders - but even more so, I honestly knew that I would not see myself on the pitch again - two weeks ago, I spent more hours in an MRI and with doctors explaining to me why my left arm feels like a paperweight, and why playing Rugby for 13 years was not the smartest idea that I ever had - I have had worse ideas - and have acted out on them as well, and aside from probably loosing a few down payments on a house, a boat, maybe a new car, and my kids college education, I have to say that physically I came out pretty well.  That was the transition into the title of the blog if you did not catch it - the rustier I get with writing, the more my introductions to new themes start to resemble explosive diaherrea.

Vegas - that city has everything that anyone could ever ask for - straight from illegal immigrants peddling someone's daughter to sidewalk evangelists trying to save the masses from stumbling over some cliff that they put themselves in front of.  There are midgets who spit fire, and folks dressed up like Elvis in all stages - fat, skinny, high, dead.  It has smells that range the Dante's Inferno sulphur and flesh to the ultimate seasoned meals served only in palaces and at Tyco office parties.  That city is a microcosm of global society - an oxymoron dedicated to morons like myself who honestly believe that eventually you will hit - and the lights and bells and acoutrements associated with follow you with parrot feathers and rose petals as you cash your winnings...deviance is the only thing that pays there - even the pros know that they are lucky to get a little edge, a little piece of the action - and the only folks who are winning are the ones who open their doors, and gladly welcome me in to follow their rules - and happily get kicked in the nuts and part ways with my dough....

That's what All In is for - that is what life is for - walking up to the edge of the Grand Canyon and swallowing the little bit of bile that pushes its way up, and looking over that edge - that's all in - stepping up to a table, laying down your last twenty, and hoping that it becomes your next to last twenty.  Somewhere in my primitive brain, I get off on that - I like the feeling of despair afterwards, I like the exhilaration, I like knowing that I gave 100% to gamble on something - I mean really, look at us - we do it at work, we push more hours into a day than God originally intended by TiVo'ing what we might have missed.  We sleep three hours a night, we live at the extremes - and most of us, are only one pink slip away from not being able to do any of that luxury All In .  You stand in front of a flourescent pink table every single day, and someone brings you something akin to Lennon's Reliogion, Sex, Drugs and TV - and you push to become the working class hero - and you go to bed at night, a little more tired, a little more happy, occasionally a little more accomplished - but for the most part, you just dropped 24 hours of your dwindling bankroll - and if you get ten out of 24 right and good, then you ain't doing so bad.

So what about after Vegas - after the money is gone, and the lights start to dim, and the dealer who cheered you on earlier in the evening is just another automaton in a bowtie and the machines are just the gaurds to the treasure that you Don Quixote'd all night?  That;s the used up part - Bill Whithers was high when he said "If it feels this good gettin used, you just keep on usin me till you use me up" - either that, or he was just a little smarter than the rest of us and decided that it was worth it.  Now, now to say that I am smarter than the rest of us, but I have sort of drawn that conclusion as well - Used up does not have to be a bad thing - the bittersweet foolish feeling after going out on a limb, the uneasy discomfort of speaking up, the five o clock shadow of a hard dsys work - working at anything - but using it up.  I imagine that life is full of those dealers, and sometimes, we are even the dealers, encouraging those around us to give and give and give, and really hoping that this time it will be different for them - a wierd role reversal, but true - and the great thing is that we line up again!  We do it again the next day, we sit in traffic and wait in line at Starbucks and head to the office  - and somewhere aftter getting used up and bartering to an agreed upon amount - we rest.  Maybe Bill was right, but that just seems so damn complicated....

Yes, it's complicated.  That facebook relationship status that means fuck all is about what it amounts to - it's complicated.  At the attempt of dropping a few lines of humor - that has to be the understatement of the year.  Most things are complicated except to Economists and Scientists - they narrow their experiments down to one or two variables and explain the perfect situation in perfect terms in a double blind three scenario event - and take the bill paying, car fixing, dinner cooking, butterfly farting in South America out of the equation - Vegas is a complicated place - and, more like life than real life - all of that water in the middle of the desert.  All of that money being made out of sand.  All of that experience designed to baffle, confound, and confuse - but create the illusion that reality is what we make it - and that for a short period of time, we can control it - that's what is complicated about all of it.  I wish I knew a few more answers to the same questions I had twenty years ago - and the fact is, that I just have a few more multiple choices to consider.  I can run models in Excel seven ways to Sunday to show the statistical significance of why I should shower every day - or why I should feel the way I do - but at the end of it all - it's complicated.

That's all I have right now.  I could go read a book, or do some online gambling, but given that I would prefer to be all in on something that is not prone to use me up without a little reward, I think I will go downstairs, make sure the kids have finished their subway, and see what movie we should enjoy together tonight.

Until next time -


Friday, August 20, 2010

Welcome Home...

Five and a half hours by car is a long enough drive, where you think a person could come up with a single creative thought that was so profound that all world hunger would end, the universe would stop shrinking and expanding, and toilet cleaning would be a thing of the past - but I am here to tell you, it does little more than make your ass hurt.  Not that I did not have profound thoughts as I was driving - just that none of them were the notable kind that you would ever liken to something you would read in a philosophy book. 

The drive between the panhandle of Florida and the east coast of Florida is something akin to watching CSPAN - you know something could eventually happen - but after about thirty minutes, you are pretty sure you have seen what is going to happen - for the next five hours.  I dropped my clutch about four months ago in a small town called Lee - and was luckily bailed out of that mess by family - but having seen what exists between here and there (with the exception of course being Tallahassee) in full frontal detail - driving through in five hours beats the alternative of spending ten hours site seeing.

I have not had an original thought or inspiration in the past month.  Nothing new to write about - nothing new to get the wheels turning - there has been plenty of sensory excitement - but the past month mainly has been keeping up with things, not falling behind on others, and trying to keep new things to a minimum.  These days, most of the new things I run across are bill collectors, cavities, or wierd pains somewhere on my body - and at least these three, I have no choice but to handle - or pleasantly ignore. 

I have been on the road for pretty much the past thirty days - some work, some fun, but mostly work, mixed with a little fun here and there - a couple of rendevous with Cadence on slate lined sidewalks and loudly outfitted clubs, but mostly work - there was the week in Orlando - but then there was Toronto, and Omaha, and Toronto, and then Pensacola - I love going over there, and spending the time with my parents and kids - but mostly, we worked, all of us, on our jobs, on the yard, we enjoyed ourselves, and I once again, claimed my position atop the world's best bowler when compared against the pool of candidates who consist of my nine year old daughter and twelve year old son, we swam in the pool, never made it to the beach, and basically, just hung out - in between conference calls and spreadsheets - you know the drill, no need to bitch about that - it puts the food on the table, and keeps me from ending up walking Interstate 10 collecting pennies and aluminum cans.

That's what this blog is supposed to be about - the welcome home that us single divorced middle-aged somewhat balding slightly overweight guys get when we get home - generally, there is little pomp and circumstance, although I have to admit that I do a little dance when I open the fridge and see beer and milk and bread - and that there is still some lettuce that has not turned into a science experiment, and that no one has come and stolen my stolen bottles of hotel water.  Welcome home - when folks think of that - they see that picture of the sailor locked in a kiss on Times Square and ticker tape parades and ballons - but 99% of the time, welcome home means seeing the other folks (who don't travel so much) get met by their families at the airport with smiles and grins and happy kids smearing Cinnabon all over their faces.  My welcome homes are generally the sort where I get my bag, go to my mailbox, and read through three or four weeks worth of mail, have a beer, and listen to the silence of my house - before I go again - and grab the kids or catch the next flight or start the laundry.

That sounds terribly depressing - does it not?  For me, it is inspiring - because that is what it is - I own a 1,600 square foot storage unit that contains things that don't age - second hand leather furniture, a couple of flat screen televisions, a fridge, and most of all, comfort.  I like saying goodbye to my kids until the next time - I like them looking forward to the next time - they know it is going to be fun, and I know that I am going to be with them again soon.  I like coming home to a place where it is mine and it smells like me and looks like me and sounds like me - I like opening the fridge door and seeing what I left for me in there - and what I can do with it.  I like convincing myself that tomorrow, I go to the beach and go for a run, I go to the golf course and hit a bucket of balls, I go to the open mike night and listen.  That's a good place to be welcomed home to - my place.

Time to change the CD over, and dig through that box of Coors Light sitting in the icebox - I raise my beer to all of my fellow travelers out there - welcome home folks, I hope you are as comfortable as I.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Good Ole Days...

Remember when we had the good old days - when we were were eight, and the things we looked forward to were playing with sticks and cat poop?  A friend caught up with me on facebook, and my kids and I were laughing that I used to date her in high school, and that they, in their nine and twelve year old minds could not fathom their dad being young enough to go to high school - or even be amazed that there was high school with electricity and running water, even if we did have typing class (instead of word processing class) where we used actual dusty typewriters and were taught by a real administrative professional.  (Actually, I think it was the female gym teacher who was also the coach of one of the teams who had very few skills with the exception of womens basketball and typing...imagine that).  Let's think back to the Good Old Days for a thirty something - a very late thirty something - and see what was good about those old days (bear with me, my memory of those days is somewhat blurred by about twenty five years of liquor under the brain and water under the bridge, so if I mess up on some of these things, then I will blame it on the last functioning twelve brain cells that still have a relationship with their misfiring synapses)...

California Coolers in two liter bottles - colored bright orange, and exactly the same color when vomited on a blue Granada Station Wagon - that was a great invention - making alcohol that looked and tasted exactly like Sunkist soda - perfect, because you could walk into the grocery store, find the half blind cashier (we did not have those new fangled registers that ask for a date of birth back then) and have the hairiest guy in high school that you knew buy three cases of the magical spirit - and for me, in high school, I weighed about 11 pounds without clothes, so after one of those things, I always found myself cursing God, vomiting high speed orange sugar, and generally sleeping somewhere that I was not supposed to be - naked.  Now that I am older, I just find myself waking up every two hours, wondering why I had that extra vodka and cranberry with lime (not to be confused with the overused drink order of the Cape Cod - which is the same thing, but sounds really gay coming out of a 38 year old guys mouth in some dive bar in Portland, Maine) and having to take a leak without falling over my shoes.  That's when I actually care enough to get out of bed to take a leak, a few of my more unlucky friends have the tendency to piss anywhere - in suitcases, in stereos, in beds...

Curfews - now that was a novel concept.  I don't subscribe to the addage that nothing good happens after midnight.  As far as I was concerned - everything good happened after midnight.  There were parties where kids without curfews got to sit up and try to impress one another, and there was not such a sense of urgency about drinking all of the California Coolers.  There was the odd opportunity to get to third base after midnight - a home run was unheard of - even if folks said they had hit a home run - they were most likely lying, because those things don't happen before midnight - we all know that - now those things don't happen after eight thirty (well, that is not true) but on a weeknight - those things don't happen after eight thirty - because there are too many good shows on the food network.  Where do they find these people for Chopped, and why the hell does the food have to be so hoity toity - why not just give them normal ingredients - find a few construction worker judges, and then see who can make a freaking hamburger with cheese and mustard and cold pickles - without raspberry froth and a lemon zest edginess.  I don't think I am going to buy into the curfew model of things - I think for me, just knowing where they are is going to be the key - granted, six am is a little too late for them to show up at home, but telling them to be in by eleven seems a little old fashioned.  I know that being a good parent means being a hypocrit sometimes (this is possibly the worst parenting advice that I have EVER heard) and I choose to use honesty with them, so I hope they do the same for me - and don't end up like Palin's kid - knocked up, but still in love with Jesus. 

Whitesnake - who the fuck thought up this idea of half gay men in spandex with bleached blonde hair - I don't think I ever enjoyed Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Metallica, or any of those other androgenous looking rockers in zebra spandex telling me that every rose has it thorns.  At least now a days, we have iTunes - where you know the other nine songs on the album really really suck - but at least you can spend .99 and buy the one that you want - imagine trying to fast forward for six minutes on your cassette tape - just to find Hairshirt by REM.  Rock music these days may not be as grungy and as gutteral as it was in nineties - but it is a hell of alot better than it was in the eighties - it was almost as if every confused person that could wear lipstick and had a box of hair color not only started a band, but was actively searched out, and put in a band.  (Yes, I too bleached my hair blond and thought that I could look exactly like Billy Idol - what a fag I was).

Puberty - I don't miss the clusterscrew of hormones one bit.  One day, you felt like you were the king of the world, and actually woke up with no zits on your face, and were able to suck the air out of some girls face in the halls of your overcrowded school, the next day, you were trying to figure out why everyone hated you and why your friends all seemed so against your every effort - were they in cahoots with your parents to make your life misery? (I would go on to describe these situations, but the best thing I can remember is that this cycle repeated itself for about six years, and at some point in time just ended).  I like this age a little better.  Now, when you feel confused, you can actually do something about, like go read a book about Zen, or go to the gym, or surf porn.  Back then, the internet did not exist, the Victoria's Secret catalog was still five years off, and the world was still under the conservative spell of the Reagan Bush era - and Jerry Falwell was actually taken seriously - there were more ruffled shirts and blouses tightened around the necks of women than there were stray cats that needed a home - so hell, my puberty was encapsulated in days of frustration and wondering why my parents really really hated me and why they would make my friends their allies.

Minimum Wage - that was great creation- indentured servitude was a great idea too, but it seems like minimum wage has lasted a little bit longer.  It was great to work thirty hours throwing firewood out of a truck, and get a check for $83.00.  Not to mention that the car insurace was $81.00.  It was a good time to wear polyester uniforms and look like a raging dork, but be able to impress your girlfriend with all the free fish she could eat from the Captain D's drive through (preferably while she was blaring Whitesnake in her Dad's Brand New Chrysler K Car - what a bitching ride that piece of shit was).

The reality is, I am living the good old days right now - I have a beautiful girlfriend, two beautiful children, a great job, healthcare, and I actually like finding that there are new things out there - and the cool thing about all of it - is when it is really really quiet - it is supposed to be quiet - and it gives me time to appreciate for just a few short minutes that we are in the good old days - and not listening to Falwell and his buddies talk about the end times and not wondering what are behind those blouses and not getting $83 in a paycheck.  I can chat with someone in an instant, can get a phone call in my car, and someone can make me espresso in about three minutes.  Yup, I had fun when I was a kid - but in all honesty, the fun is only getting better, and the good old days - well, I will let you know when I run into them - because for now, these days are pretty damn rewarding...


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Panem et Circunses…

Pardon if the spelling is wrong, I am not all that good at spelling – it is one of those bothersome things that get in the way of getting words on paper – and so, much like most things that I attempt to rationalize through, I ignore spelling in hopes that the spell checker catches the mistakes. I know to every purist, this probably irks you and makes your legs twitch at night with that queasy feeling of uneasiness – but get over it, you can correct me in your emails that I occasionally get from some fuckwit concerning what I put in this thing, and how my improper usage of a noun as a verb or some other intelligent, but meaningless, comment that beckons me to take up artistic masturbation as a form of self expression, versus putting this out there. (Artistic masturbation – that’s a new one, from the inner part of my brain tucked way behind my eyeballs. Probably has some tissue paper, Elmers Glue, a couple of midgets, and some fireworks associated with it. Who knows)

No, I am not dead. That was another one that came across my Gmail account – “Are you Dead, because you are funny sometimes” – well, if I was dead, I would still be funny, in fact, I would even be slightly funnier, posthumously recognized as a wit and a prick – but well insured my friends, well insured. I am still here – and there, and just about everywhere in between – that’s what happens when you live in Saint Augustine, date a girl in Edmonds, are based out of Omaha, and work in Toronto – and frankly, I have not been too much interested in writing. It is a large amount of work to write. Talk to anyone that has to sit in a training session that I am administering – I tend to digress – you know, go off on tangents about the exhaust systems on antique cars, or better yet, what beer specials are running at the local pub. Writing, on the other hand, makes me focus. (Hence the reason the standing prescription for Xanax comes in real handy when I actually try to shoot a blog or two over your mental bow as a warning that I am actually focusing, and not able to operate heavy machinery). Nope – I am not dead yet – that gets to what I called this blog – Bread and Circuses.

That’s what my life has been this past thirty or so days – you know, we all have bread and circuses – that was the policy of the Romans back in the day – give them food, wine, women, and the occasional crucifixion – and there you have it – enough of a distraction to keep you going to work everyday making sure the lead lined aquifers keep getting water into the homes of the rich, or squashing grapes, or whatever it is folks did in Roman times for a living – that’s what I have been doing. Where I could not get some bread and circus – I went out and bought some – a drum set, with all accoutrements and attachments, some clothes from the Value Village thrift store, a couple CD’s, and a few books spaced over the past month. Between determining whether I am an atheist or just a really shitty Christian Apologist (imagine how dissimilar these two things are – rationalization of either position being the true question – one requires science, the other relies on history, and both, well in all reality, I guess if I have to try and explain what it was god was saying, then I probably have a slim chance of being the apologist) – I have filled the days with work and conversations about other peoples money and other peoples priorities. I flew from Omaha to Maine to Toronto to Seattle and then back again, and the whole time, filled the spare time with on demand movies and Sugar Babies and Stella and Vodka. I slept, I dreamed, I called my kids, I drank, I sang – I entertained myself with fancy dinners at Tom Douglas joints, I camped by the Columbia River, I walked to the grocery store with a four year old, I drank red AND white wine. I walked in a fourth of July parade in small town America. I over indulged, under indulged, and basically, just made sure my schedule was full of bread and/or circuses. Whereas in Rome, it was given to the people to appease the masses, for me, it was just to have bread and circuses. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was concerned about the oil in the gulf, and the loss of life in war zones, and expiring unemployment benefits, and whatever else Nancy Grace is spewing vile about on CNN (her and Anne Coulter – see previous blog) are both the most corrosive folks I have ever listened to or read – and both annoy me on a similar plane – they are full of hype and bullshit, but the good thing is that they are probably going to heaven. Amen. (I digress). I played piano on an antique upright with a few keys stuck; I sat in a bathtub with pretty scented bubbles and washed my feet with that fancy salt stuff. Bread and circuses – not such a bad approach to things every once in a while – and an even better approach to things when, all said and done, the legacy you leave changes little whether you leave a computer design or a working man’s debt behind – so, for me, the past month – bread and all out, balls torn, hell bound and bent, indiscriminate bread and circuses baby – feed me more of the panem et circunses – and I will be the first one to see how far I can distract myself –

I have not been to my place in five weeks. I have not slept in my bed, seen my kids, driven my car, eaten anything at my table, washed my clothes, or taken a shower in my house now for about 33 days. That, I suppose is the only issue with panem et circunses – the good thing is that a moving target is harder to find, but the bad thing is, now, that I am heading home, is the panic of 33 days worth of mail, the potential that bugs have infested my kitchen, the likely reality that the landscaping looks like shit, and the almost certainty that my neighbors have decided that I am dead – and I am sure the food that I threw in the garbage can in front of the house has pumped out enough odors to justify that belief (sorry folks, I forgot to take it to the street, the cabbage, milk, sour cream, chili, and fruit have probably all melded together to a very nice compost like material by now, or the biological hazard response team was called out and asked to remove the container from the premises.)

I have no idea if my power, cable, and telephone are still on – I know they keep taking money out of my bank account, so I hope they are. I have no recollection of what my bed feels like, and what condition I left it in. I am not sure if there is anything in the house to drink or eat. I don’t even know if I have toilet paper, laundry detergent, soap, or paper towels.

I don’t know if the place next door to me sold, and if new folks moved in, and are using my driveway as a spare. Hell, I just don’t know – I have been too busy with the circus and the bread –

We all have diversions – naturalist, hedonistic, spiritual, whatever you may choose as your distraction – but for me, not so deep and protracted – I want naked clowns and beer and food and music – spaced in between periods of intense work and deliverables – and then I want more – until the bread and circuses stop changing and being new and pretty and shiny – then that is what I want. Give me more bread, I will go to more circuses, and all the while – that is not such a bad thing.

By the way, to those of you who found more spelling or grammar errors – piss off – go to a circus, and enjoy yourself. And for the dolphin picture – ask one of them about the future, and they will say “Eke Eke a Reeky Eke” and eat whatever you throw at them, I like their spirit.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sandcastles and Yard Work...

Okay, so I was feeling a little tired, until the kids decided to stay awake until 10:00 on Sunday night, I could see it was going to be a long one after two long wonderful days together - they get worked up about Mondays - they get worked up about everything - they are nine  and twelve, and their energy level surpasses only that of a rabid hyena set for blood and preparing to raid some village of all of its newborns (I don't know where that analogy came from, except to say that after non-stop 110% energy, Sunday night seems like it should be that time when "winding down" is more natural than being ready to play Monopoly twenty minutes before Dad turns into an ogre and starts bitching about the chocolate chip ice cream that has become concrete on the linoleum floor - that sentence should provide some interesting auto ads that pop up to the right of this, I will have to check that one out...) 

We went to Mr. Aaron's beach on Saturday - we like Mr. Aaron's beach - there is always a parking space, and although Mickler's is certainly beautiful - it is usually about as crowded as a port a potty at a rock festival, and the folks there, well, they just don't seem to be that beachy anymore - in fact, they seem to be down right towny, and have found a good thing - note to folks who want a slower beach, with better food, and just as close (after factoring in the amount of time it takes to find a parking space and a clear area free of screaming children and those folks who think that going to the beach means bringing a screened enclosure complete with portable air conditioning and marking off their quadrant with enough beach towels to keep a sweatshop in India working on overdrive at Mickler's) you should head down to Anastasia Island - that is where the beaches are just as long and as beautiful as they are in Jacksonville Beach, but half as crowded, and twice as easy to get onto. 

One mudball at a time is how we build our sandcastles.  The mudballs come in three distinct sizes - one for my hands, one for my daughters hands, and one for my sons hands - we build them all day long - just adding onto them, digging a hole, taking a swim break, adding prisons and markets and bridges and towers and lakes - Saturday was no exception.  It was eighty four degrees, the breeze was blowing just hard enough to keep you from sweating, and the ocean is starting to get warm enough that you can actually enjoy it - I don't know what the draw of building these twenty foot long and three feet high sand thingys is - perhaps it is the way I get to hear my daughter dream and talk of her perfect house, with tennis courts and a place for kids to play where they can stay up late, or my son putting in his personal dojo for karate lessons - maybe it is the other kids who stop by for ten or fifteen minutes and gawk, or better yet, start digging - and soon, there are ten kids all building little castles one mudball at a time - my son is the fearless leader of those groups that show up - telling them there are simple rules - don't cave anything in, and you have to build it one handful at a time - no mass digging allowed - you have to place each handful of sand on the castle wall, and then, when you come back, it will be dry and sturdy and look like a real castle wall.  It is easy to build sandcastles with them - C.S. Lewis talks about living in the moment - and I think, when we are together doing something so simple as mudballs in linear fashion, that we don't have any other choice but to keep on building our dream castle - they do get bigger, and at the end, they are just as satisfying.

Needless to say, when we left the beach, we snapped the photos, named the castle, and left it for the other folks who happened by to inherit, and hopefully add to - or just enjoy.  Saturday night - pretty routine night - except the kids wanted Sunday dinner - they wanted to cook - and we did - I pulled out just about everything a single dad who travels most of the time would have in the ice box, and we figured out how to make cream sauce with cilantro, threw in some freezer burnt grouper, cooked up some angel hair pasta, and had a feast fit for someone who has not been grocery shopping in a while.  When you don't spend all of your time at home, it is a challenge to cook things - you don't have all of the spices you need, you don't have the fancy pots and pans, you just have two kids, an imagination, and the hope that if you slather everything with enough cheese that it will be palatable - don't get me wrong - they ate it (I am back on this thing of not being able to float in the water again, which means avoiding pasta and trying to get to a gym to do more than just occupy time) - and I am not a bad cook - but it does get frustrating when you have to substitute mayonnaise for whatever else, because you never bothered to by vegetable oil.  That's cooking though - we did the same tonight - we had a real Sunday dinner, just like every Sunday that they are here, and they look forward to it - we go to the grocery - we get fresh vegetables (tonight was Sweet Corn on the Cob) and pick out their lunches for Monday - we know where the whoopie cushions are (they are about mid-way through the cereal aisle - and of course, that is the first place we go - not for cereal, but so that my kids can walk behind me, and squeeze the whoopie cushion so that most folks either laugh or give you that ten dollar stare as you walk by them - for me, it is worth it just to hear them laugh...farts are funny at their age, and aside from being the butt of their jokes - I like for them to laugh at things as innocent as that) and we walk through and each one of them makes suggestions on the creations - tonight, it was dinner rolls and chicken stuffed with bread crumbs and bacon and cheddar cheese - there were scalloped potatoes and corn - my son was slightly disappointed by the lack of mashed potatoes - but was fine when he saw the "juice" from the chicken and scalloped potatoes - that gave him enough to sop his rolls in.  My daughter helped make the stuffing - her little hands mixing in the olive oil and the spices, eating more bacon than mixing, but that's okay - she actually helped stuff the chickens too - and looked up at me, and in simple terms, said to me - Dad - I love cooking with you - you are teaching me good things - it was nice to get that bit of reaffirmation - sometimes you wonder what you are teaching them - and then you realize that something as simple as cooking together is teaching them something. 

I kind of breezed through Sunday to focus on the meal - we cooked - but today we spent another three hours at the pool (in two separate outings - the kids wanted to swim while the chicken baked, and had just finished a rousing squirt gun fight) we went bowling - and my son, officially recaptured his title of bowling champion from his sister - he was disappointed that it did not affect her as much as his losing the title at the last outing affected him - but he still grinned all the way home and relished his "sitting shotgun" prize - bowling alleys are great places - but that's another story entirely.

That was my weekend, but that is not the only thing that I had on my mind - I pulled up to my house on Friday, well let me rephrase that in a more appropriate term - I pulled up to the house that I pay for - the house where the kids live, and lo and behold, my former father in law, Dan, is standing out front in a pair of khaki slacks and a blue pinstripe shirt, watering some new flower beds (apparently I was not the only one complaining about the yard) while Christy scurried about with a look of a pissed off boxer toting around garbage bags.  Confused was the first thing that came to my mind - I don't get confused that often - I don't have issues with confrontation or talking with anyone - whether they like me or not - that's a good thing about being a little stupid - I don't have a very good emotional intelligence quotient, so it makes it easier to be a little aloof in situations - whether I want to be or not.  Christy, with her apparent familial courage standing behind her with a water hose, came to the car, and in her best "You are a dick and I hate you" voice - said something to the affect of "St. Augustine Grass, flower beds, grunt, pshaw, frickle frackle, St. Augustine Grass" - her lip curls slightly when she is annoyed - her eyes get clear like a pool of water - and she attacks - if only verbally, but you can see it coming - it was my cue to turn up the Cake CD a little bit louder and see if Italian Leather Sofa could help me get some sort of footing to either ignore the scene around me, or make a decision to compliment her on the yardwork.  That's what I don't understand - Dan mouthed Hi George to me - now I understand lawyers are the cordial type, and have to deal with their own in the courtrooms across America - but a feeble mouthing of Hi George caught me completely off gaurd - I would think that after twenty months of contact being limited to a shitty email written in the form of legalese that he could muster one of two things - enough intelligence to realize that Hi George was about as stupid as a monkey making passionate love to a football, or that Hi George just really meant fuck you in Gallagher speak.  That's what I just don't get - sometimes you can go through your life spotting folks who really care - not the kind of care you see on the television commercial, not the self promoting care that you see when you go and have drinks at these charity functions that cost as much, if not more, than the charity check at the end of the night - just genuine care - I was literally and figuratively in a state of confusion.  Did he think that I had little more to say to him than, "nice shirt" - perhaps my reaction of turning up the stereo, and letting Christy snarl was enough - just enough to hint that I spent a good twenty years listening to them scrutinize my wife, my job, my child rearing skills, my wife's choices, my home decorating taste- twenty years - I listened to them as they talked about their family members as if they had not crossed any boundaries ever - and Hi George - that is what amazed me.

Yard work was tough when I was married.  Doing twelve loads of laundry and cleaning the house sucked after a long week of work - when I just wanted to enjoy my home.  Listening to stories about tennis, and hearing about the things Christy could have been doing whilst not doing anything but adding a few extra pounds sent me into a world where my lack of compassion was limitless and my hope was less than there - it was all a challenge - and it was even more of a challenge to feel like I had to do it by myself - and in most cases, I did.  I paid the bills, I cut the grass, and I made sure that everything that our children needed, they had - and in doing that, I forgot what they needed the most - a dad - now, I don't do any of those other things - the homeowners association dues pay for the yard work, the laundry, well aside from towels and sheets - most everything else goes to the cleaners.  I don't have to bother with stories of downtrodden friends or family members who are less than worthy of their love - but what I do have - and what Christy and Dan should both know, is much more valuable to me than their chidings and passionate hatred - I know that I have my kids back - and my kids know that they have their father back - and that, is worth every step that I have taken to get as far away from that life as a court case and child support can allow.

That was the weekend - sorry for the last couple of paragraphs - but I am still a little confused by it all, and it seems to help to write it down, maybe once or twice, and then move on - I love Sandcastles and Sunday Dinners...and don't miss the yardwork and all of the things that came with it - one single bit.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Literary Agent

No one, in fact, just about everyone that I have spoken with about trying this entire writing thing out professionally had much more advice than “good luck” – in fact, I think the best advice I got was write what you feel and what you like, and if it is true, then someone will read it, someone will like it, and you will be able to know that – I actually started looking for a literary agent, and in the most scholarly way, I studied up on what they would ask me, and imagined myself, sitting in their book lined office that was brightly lit with modernistic lamps and chrome curved ceiling fixtures with the smell of sage and mint gently filling the space, answering questions about the curious but intelligent choice of words, and placing my style into a genre and giving my readers an object – I actually imagined the perfect meeting would be simple – here, take this advance – we need you go back to your bottle of scotch, and your word processor, and we want you to do more of this – this stuff that you do. I actually imagined myself sitting next to my computer in a dimly lit space with a full ashtray of cigarettes and empty red solo cups wreaking of cheap whiskey – and me, struggling to find the next words to the memoir they so gracefully paid me for – that is what I imagined when I sent those emails and made those phone calls – that there would be a market – that somewhere, in some airport, all of the stuff and new improved stuff would be packaged together, bound crisply, and be sitting proudly in a bright and cleverly printed cover. I actually pictured myself being ashamed that it was in print, feeling like it was not good enough, that there were flaws in the machine, and that I had to focus on producing a better vegetable, more leafy greens and sweeter carrots and crisper apples for the readers to devour – yes, that was what I thought about when I sent those requests –

Responses, on the other hand, are not there – they are not there, and those images, better yet, youthful delusions above, did not happen. The reality is that this prescription I put out there is for sale – but it is also my panacea, and I suspect, that although I may not be the most effective hand at painting the picture, that there is enough impression in these words for those who also are not so verbose to go into the description of an ice cube in such immaculate detail to describe it down to the way the light filters through it as they pour another amber scotch over it – I am a simpler artist than that – drawing stick figures and mountains in black and white, and with some hope, expecting it to have a value – intrinsic and real value. Value that is defined more by the ability and character of a man, not just one or the other – not just product, but something that hopefully captures a few minutes of those words that we all aspire to, and the actions that we all control and create.

That’s my experience in the world of professional writing. Not much to speak of, other than giving up a little bit – afraid of sending more letters, more emails, more phone calls, not just of the critique, but of the other hard work – you have to feel to write, you have to really want to edit what it is you put out there, you have to make your thoughts cohesive and concrete – but leave enough space between the words so that there is enough room for the space between your readers ears to bounce around those thoughts, and either be taken away to a better place that you started as stick figures, or to pull them in to your place, and encourage them to take things as simple as I do.

Some pretty general entries these past couple of days, but remember, three nights down, fourteen to go, and progress, whether we choose it or not, is being made…


Blue Leather Seats and Somewhere over the Mountains…

The latest trend in things is to change them – change them faster than you can adapt to them, faster than you can actually keep up with them, faster than any human could hope to aspire to be a force that is proactive to embracing them - that’s what we like, change – things tend to get a standard flavor of peanut butter and jelly day in and day out unless we repackage it and label it something different. I don’t know why we are taught or are innately susceptible to enjoy changes – even slight ones – why we are constantly seeking some sense of newness that aspires us to a different greatness.

Think about it for a while – just ponder what changes we want to see – we want seasons, we want buffets of different food, we want new authors with new slants – reading or studying or simply being in the same place makes most of us stagnant and tired – I actually tried, just for a half an hour, to focus on one simple thing – I tried to focus on the positive aspects of work – not just my job, or your job, or better jobs, but the work that we all do as a general sense of the term. Granted, there are less desirable jobs than others, there are better paying jobs than others, there are jobs with different perks and pleasures – but the bottom line is that we, as a nation and a people that builds itself on its work – all focus on the things that we must do – not on the thing that it is we would do without the work – we all get tired, we all have families and friends, we all have our work – and aside from my sincere attempt below to spend half an hour contemplating life without meaningful work – and my mind wandered off to the newest iPOD downloads or the bands playing at next month’s concert – it wanted to change – because it had been trained to accept all change as stimulus and good…enough philosophy, now just plain writing about work.

Dressing in a plumbers outfit that was about two sizes too large, and pinned together at the waist to hold them from dropping to my knees is the first thing I remember about real work – hot summer florida days and waking up at 6:30 am – getting ready to go into the field in a real truck for the first time with a shovel, a knowledge of plumbing about as extensive as my knowledge of nuclear physics, and nothing more than a promise to make $3.00 per hour – cash. Now what was the basis of the motivation and excitement behind that feeling and desire – was it the cash, the job itself? I can’t think that any of that had anything to do with my desire to get up in the morning and go deal with shit (literally) all summer long. It was the feeling that I was a part of something larger – that I was contributing to something bigger and more important than I, that I was, simply put, doing what we humans are genetically programmed to do – work. There was nothing glamorous about that first job – replacing sewer pipes and wallowing in a hole filled with things that I care not describe were not the draw – but every evening, after stripping off those smelly dirty clothes and letting the hot shower run over my sore shovel trained shoulders – I cannot remember feeling that it was not satisfying. Waking up in the dark and pulling on sweat drawn leather boots and stiff cotton work clothes never was something to complain about – I knew I had a hole to dig, I knew by the end of the day it would be deeper, or wider, or longer, or whatever it was supposed to be – but in all honesty, cannot remember a time when it was not fulfilling. We all grow up, we all find new passions and downfalls where we spend our energy, and I, somewhat unaware of it, have forgotten those rewards that work give. The first blister on your hands after putting in a deck or a fence or a swing set for the kids. The first rush to the face when your spreadsheet works or your publication is accepted, or you lay on the floor and soak in the freshly painted walls. The sense of achievement that is there when you see your ideas and thoughts and passion become a reality. These are all internally derived things – they are within each of us, for the most part, until, somehow they become less than that – they become something that we need to “change” –

I spent most of the thirty minutes reflecting on where I am now – conference rooms and excel spreadsheets and team meetings and the normal trappings of a finance guy – and that same need for change started making my mind race in some Pavlov described reaction, and I wondered where that came from – who planted that first seed, or did it fall like some pine seed in a wind of self-doubt, and did I let it grow into unhappiness – perhaps the latter is true, and in that simple meditation today, I resolved to fetter out the underbrush, and see what could become of the thoughts of accepting work for what it used to be – fulfilling and complete – with little need for change, and more need for simple pleasure of knowing that I met a goal – and have more to meet.

The displeasure of walking into an office blackens some of the days that we have to file into where we go – some of us do a very good routine of consistent self rationalization, saying to ourselves, borrowing from Jim Morrison – everything must be this way, and we make it through the days. That is not what I want to feel, nor do I want to feel the anger that my own complacency creates – anger about a system or a process I don’t control – but inevitably rely upon for my livelihood is comparable to asking a dying man if he could change something in his life, what would that be – obviously, it would be more life – but he does not control that – nor does it matter.

Today, I walked out of that meeting knowing that I was rewarded, for the first time in quite some time, with the realization that I had contributed something meaningful to a group – I am not sure what that product was, or where it was headed, but I know that I led a personal internal effort to not leave it by the wayside and let it handle itself – it was odd, I went into the room with the idea that I would make it through the meeting, produce the widget, and move on – but I left today with a sense that there are bigger things that cause me to work – it is my need to work – to bury food for the winter, build the dam across the creek, to grow. For the first time in six years, I actually had a hard copy paycheck handed to me, and for the first time in a long time, it was a physical reminder that there was food for my children and warm clothes and vacations and safety – handed to me – and that although I received it from my company – I received in return for something I gave to them – work.

It is never easy to leave someone you love every ten days, it is not easy to fall asleep alone the majority of the time, it is not easy to spend dinners with the television as your companion, but obviously, it is better than not being given the opportunity to succeed. My life, although one, right now, made of a semi-comfortable blue leather seat somewhere over Colorado whirly birding through the air at 520 miles per hour, is not what I imagined it to be, but I can say that it is what I designed it to be – and for that, my resolute temper crawls back in embarrassment as I wonder why the anger and bitterness about the results of my designs. Why the feeling of pointlessness, why the doubt – because of change, because of the dream that we were all given that if we did all of these things right, then all of the other things would happen, and all that we wanted would be the result – that is an illusion for simple minds – that reality is that we should go back to the first day we walked on to the job site, with a shovel in hand, and were told to dig – not asked how to dig, not asked to dig better, but just to dig – and to go back to when that was enough – knowing that you had, and you would, wake up again, and work.

I am not going to apologize for writing prose – even the biggest sarcastic asshole (at times) may have some piece of literary function that just needs to be said.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cigarettes and Camelias....

That's what things seem to be about these days - you walk down a sidewalk in some city, and the Camelias have covered the sidewalk in a rosy pink carpet, and they still smell up the place with their perfume, they still make things a little fresher - and you walk down that same sidewalk, and the next thing you know, you step over the smoking sidewalk - and the camelias are replaced by cigarette butts - it was the same sidewalk, not ten feet away from each other - now you see, I am a smoker, but I am also someone who thinks that you should put your shit in the trash, and that you should not flick cigarettes into the gutter, and you probably should not stand in the same spot every day and drop your cigarettes in the same spot and build up a huge nasty stack of stinking waste -

That's life in most cases, you run through a pile of camelia blooms that have gathered beneath the tree, they move in the wind, they brighten up an otherwise dingy sidewalk covered with old gum and empty candy wrappers - and then, right next to it, a pile of old cigarettes stacked up - the two things could not be more different, but they exist in the same place.

I have been having a rough afternoon.  Dealing with both ex's - and neither of them seems to be rational, or even slightly reminded that they had a part in stirring the camelia leaves and dumping a few cigarette butts along - the way.  Some people just don't get it - they don't have to work everyday somewhere different, they don't have to try and make some sort of life on the road to bring home the salary or secure a better future for their kids - they believe that it is owed to them.  I struggle with this - and hope one day, that they wake up, and something tells them that they got a more than fair deal, that they did make a mistake - and that, all things considered, they ended up with more than they really ever deserved or ever gave back to those around them.  I hate to go into bitterness, particularly on Sunday afternoons, I don't get Sunday afternoons often enough, and to get a legalese letter threatening me for paying too much - and spending too much time - I just don't understand it.  I can imagine my old in-laws - righteous and shmarmy, standing in front of their Amelia home, making a point to tell their self righteous daugther that she has every right to take everything from me, that she somehow deserves it - that's where I have a hard time - what do I deserve - it is not a situation of fairness, it is a situation of that "reverse entitlement" - they believe they deserve it because they obviously earned it - what about me - I earn it every week - I put it in the bank every week - I send the payment every week - and in return, I get irrational conversation followed up by fits of batting eyes and smiles to get their way -

I hate the fact that I have to go to court to beg for relief.  I hate the fact that my money is her money - she did not do anything to deserve it - she had two children - that's it - granted, some might say dealing with me was enough - but dealing with them, I should get some consideration - instead, I get a roomful of family friend attorney's and their self promoting sense of "right" that permeates (and they are so openly exposed to) in their entrenchments in Julington, Vail, and Amelia. 

I heard a good song last night from Hank III - P.F.F.  - I have included it in this post - just for the sole reason that this is how they make me feel - I know it is a bit trashy, and little rednecky, but hell - they gotta understand this is how the last three years of marriage went - pretty much they (inclusive of the gang of them) got me to the point where the only fun things left to do were pretty much what Hank III says...

Now that I have a few more hobbies that are a little healthier - it sure would be nice to get some of my money back to enjoy them - and to be able to spend a little bit of money on my kids along the way.

Note to self - no one ever said getting divorced was fun, no one ever said that it was easy, and no one said you would never have to deal with those folks again, but thank god for agreements, and not having to spend the night ever again in that hell hole.

I feel better now, if only slightly.

Cashed Out, but Full Up...

You are never too far away from a Johnny Cash song - and Friday night in Ballard was the perfect example of some of that twangy raw nerved emotion that Johnny Cash put on vinyl over the course of his long career - plucking guitar and singing for folks - smiling and laughing for crowds - that would have been someone I would have wanted to see play if I had the chance - I never had the chance - but could only imagine that there were plenty of smoky honky tonks that were full of folks enjoying music a little too loud and beer a little too cold. 

The Tractor is a yuppie something kind of place - eclectic, in a thirty something community just North of Downtown Seattle - there are shops that sell just about everything, and to anyone, and mostly at anytime - it is the kind of place where you feel safe wandering at three am and two pm alike - a place where the cafes and shops melt into the sidewalks and push sights and smells of different countries into the streets.  In the spring, the flowers are blooming in the terra cotta pots, and the hanging baskets, and on Friday nights, when the temperature climbs above sixty degrees, the bees milling around the snapdragons are the only thing more plentiful than the folks milling about the storefronts. 

We decided to go see a Johnny Cash tribute band - playing at the Tractor, and used some of my hard earned Hilton Honors points to get a room downtown, and that meant we both could enjoy ourselves without the fear of having to operate heavy machinery after a few tall cold drinks.  The afternoon started slow enough - both of us anxiously trying to get out of the office, rush to the apartment, grab some clothes - we were ready to start the evening together - we know what Friday nights can be, and we seem to look forward to them just the same.  Getting to Ballard through the parking lot known as Interstate 5 was not helping us temper our excitement, but it was time spent together - even if it was sucking exhaust from the other folks who were trying to get somewhere to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

Peso's Cafe is this rustic Mexican place with a Gulf inspired menu, everything tweaked to the high end of spicy, but tempered enough by cold Margarita's that the food does not steam so much.  Dinners with Cadence are nice - they are nice in that I don't mind sharing my meal, in fact, I like it, I don't mind having a conversation - they are intelligent and thoughtful conversations - somewhat foreign to me, but I do want to know what the thoughts are that are going on inside of her head - I want to know where she thinks she might be in three years, where we might be in three years - what she wants to be in three years.  I really never thought that far in advance - I never had the desire to plan anything - I did not think it was worth it, I was end a dead end relationship with a dead end person and there were nothing more than U-Turns and laundry and overweight discussions to look forward to - it was sad.  Now, it is not so sad - the only sadness I typically feel is on those Sunday afternoons, like this afternoon, when all I have are some photographs of us holding hands and the answers to the questions over those long dinners - I like the questions - I like that we have the same thoughts and the same ideas - maybe another child in three years - maybe living in the same city in three years - maybe all of this other stuff will be behind us in another three years - maybe.  Just a huge bag of maybes - but still, it is fun to talk about and even more interesting to enjoy the time for a little while.

So after a couple of crisp lime drinks and some spicy hot Mexican food - we worked our way to the bar - stopping at points along the way - getting sidelined by some less than coherent Swedish Lady - the resident racist who was not so sure why the Germans lost the war, but made it pretty clear to me that there are a few folks out there that I would prefer not to associate with - reminded me that you have to be careful about who you run into - and who you decide to sit next to at the bar - the rest of the evening, we just kind of strategically missed that couple - and wondered about the poor folks who had to sit next to them - the bar they were in was a fishermans bar - the tequilla tasted like a mix of hairspray and gasoline - but we managed to finish those drinks without anymore racist slurs, or innuendos - and moved on to the next place, a little gift shop with quirky things and baubles and trinkets that make a semi-buzzed thirty something go nuts - so I bought a few things - some pens with nifty little sayings, a couple of friendship bracelets, and then - there we were - walking into the Tractor to hear Johnny Cash sound and look alikes pump out music while sipping tall boys of Olympia beer - (we were drinking PBR - which is extremely popular in the Northwest, and thus far, I can find only one bar in the Southeast that serves the stuff - Pete's Bar and Grill - but that is another bar for another weekend on another side of the world -

Johnny Cash tribute bands are not that original - in fact, they make a living off of not being orignal, but being as close to the real thing as possible - and the Cash that we got was a pretty good likeness - his voice had that deep bellowing soulfull feeling, and the sweet sticky feeling of my dance partner pressing up against me to Get Rythm could not be surpassed - you could see the smile in her deep brown eyes, and her laughter as she tried her best to let me lead in some drunken coordinated dance on a packed dance floor - and then the slow songs - Sunday Morning Coming Down - her cheeks pressed tight against my neck, her humming to the song, I knew she was happy, and I hope she knew that I was happy - I am sure she knew that I was happy.

The rest of the night - well cab fares and crazies, but that is all in line with a Friday night and a Johnny Cash Tribute band - but I do have to admit that this Sunday, when I woke, there was not a reason in the world to feel any emptiness, or even think that I was not full -

So where will you be in three years?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bureaucracy at its Finest…

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am a smart ass, and a pretty good one, when I really put my mind to it, and shut off any concern or real worry about what affect my being a smart ass might have – perhaps that has been the stopping point in many of my personal and career oriented endeavors, but shock value has its uses, and as long as I drop the occasional F Bomb in polite conversation, people tend to keep listening. Now that I think about it, perhaps I may have had a better shot at getting the laundry done in my past life as a married guy if I would have politely said, “ Honey, I think the pile of clothing in the laundry room is going to take an awful long time to finish, shall I help you get it started”, instead of, “That fucking festering pile of dirty shit in the laundry room is not going to walk into the washing machine – hell, it might, as long as it has been sitting there –don’t worry about it, I seem to be good at keeping up with it”…hmmm, I wonder. Not that I am a chauvinist pig, I do my share of chores, believe in an equal split of responsibility, and think that all good things require give and take – but in that case, hell, that is just another story.

But that thought, and the way the trendily named “Stev-O” the flight attendant served drinks and picked up the trash tonight reminded me of the beauty of bureaucracy – (I know Stev-O was named Stev-O because his apron said Stev-O on it, and I suspect that if you are going to have an apron with your name on it, or even your commonly accepted nom de guerre crisply embroidered over your left tit, then you either have been shopping the Sky Mall catalog a little bit too much, or have bins at home that are labeled “left socks”, “Right socks”, “spoons”, “butter” – you get my drift…)

Some people need that extra level of organization of paper pushers to make sure that everything that is done is documented for the next poor sucker to come along and either:

1. Improve upon it – trust me, I have seen several times where I have read something, said this is stupid, and realized that what I was changing was something that was written by someone who has never actually applied the knowledge in a real life situation.

2. Use it as a coaster – this is more apt to be true, when was the last time you caught yourself browsing through the CFR for the latest and greatest releases in all things Federal.

3. Give themselves a Cause – if step 17B says to shove a pitchfork up your ass before setting yourself on fire, then damn it – you need to do that.

Me, I don’t crave that level of organization – in fact, I think the best things come out of chaos – sure, there need to be a few things written down and sketched out and filed for later use – but some people make a living out telling people how and when and where and why they should do things – but don’t actually do anything. I wonder who wrote the guide on how to serve sodas on an airplane – I can assure you that someone wrote a guide on how one should go about opening the can to reduce repetitive finger motion strain. I am sure that there is a quality control standard on the flammability of the little plastic cups and the size of the ice cubes. I am reasonably sure that someone probably sat down and had a vision meeting to discuss whether the attendant should say, “Can I serve you a drink” or, “What can I get for you” – now I don’t know any of this to be true – but I am pretty damn sure that some of it is.

I live in a world of documentation and steps and procedures – that’s what I do in many cases. I am a bureaucrat – but I also have the luxury of seeing what the poor folks who I write this stuff for have to go through on a daily basis – nothing pains me more that seeing them try and take the instructions that were clearly written, (in my opinion), clearly stated, (in my opinion), and have them get to the point of asking themselves what their purpose in life is, and that there has to be a better way to spend their time – hell, that’s enough of the deep thinking.

Top Ten Rules that Everyone Should Follow –

1. Don’t dance naked or clothed inside a predators cage or environment. This could include lions, cheetahs, alligators, large animals with teeth, small animals with teeth, starving cannibals, or venomous snakes. If you find yourself in this situation, you have failed the general rule of survival of the fittest, and probably will not have the opportunity to check yourself into the rehab that you obviously need.

2. Never pick on anyone your own size, or any size for that matter – Two things in life you cannot outrun, a bullet and a cell phone call to a friend who may own a gun with bullets. Best thing to do, just leave folks alone, and only step in when one of those great moral evils is being done. * A great moral evil is something where someone is in physical danger – if you are getting pissed because your girlfriend is getting hit on, you should repeat high school.

3. Try not to sleep with Married folks. Trust me, I knew someone who did this once, and it can be a real pain in the ass.

4. Give something to somebody who needs it – and no, most folks don’t need STD’s.

5. Don’t take a dump on airplanes. This one is just common sense. If you get the stink eye from every passenger because you just made aisles 17 through 38 smell like dead raccoon, you deserve it.

6. Celebrate something – but just don’t make other people celebrate if they don’t want to, and don’t be a prick if you don’t like what they are celebrating – in other words, if folks want to drink at Christmas or Kwanzaa or whatever, leave them alone. You go off and celebrate National Masturbation Week – and you can rest assured that you will be left to your own devices.

7. Eat and drink and sleep and stuff. I remember from eighth grade biology that you have to do this. If you choose to do too much of it – buy two airplane seats so your sweaty man tits and side bags are not in your neighbors space.

8. Clean up your crap – Don’t show up for work in a shirt that looks like it got pulled out of a thermos, brush your hair and teeth every so often, throw out your trash, keep your yard clean. Just by doing those simple things you at least come across as a functioning member of society. Why do you think there are so many jokes about trailers and cars on blocks and rednecks – because it looks like shit – and everyone else has to look at it.

9. Love your family. This rule does not apply to in-laws. I mean you need to be nice to them and all – but they are the ones who did that to your spouse. You only have one family, and even though they think they can get rid of you, they pretty much are the only ones who are going to visit you in prison or leave silk flowers on your tombstone. And yes, even if you are the biggest dumb ass in the world – your kids still look up to you. Turn off the damn game, and go to one with them.

10. Don’t believe everything you see, hear, read, touch, taste – there is not a single bit of cherry in a cherry popsicle, and the banana flavoring and scent is some chemical from somewhere in China and probably contains lead based paint. If they can make frozen water taste like cherries and smell like bananas – then anything is possible. Only believe it after you actually learn about it – in other words, you don’t know anything until you know everything – good luck with that one – this is the one that I find bites me in the proverbial hindquarters everytime.

There, that should be enough bureaucracy for now – don’t see much need to go into anything else for now. Gotta flag down Stev-O and see if has anymore regulation ice cubes in a regulation size cup that I can pour some flavored water over.

Until next time…


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Screwtape Letters...

Passing by the bookstore in the oddly designed A Terminal in Memphis, and opting for a good book to read versus a plate of hot steamy greasy and delicious barbeque may have been the first indicator that I was going to pick up a read that traditionally is better saved for those of us who aspire to be real thinkers – you know those men and women of real dedication who never blindly go about things, the ones who set out a plan, and to some of us, seem obstinate in their search for charity and peace – it should have been a sign – but a better sign was that C.S. Lewis has come up in random conversation lately in my circle, and although I am probably the farthest image of what one would call a Christian (or vaguely imagine as subscribing to a philosophy of any religious type), I do have certain innate spiritual qualities that remain undefined – it is not a good or commonly accepted thing to say you are an atheist, or an agnostic, or more transcendental in your beliefs – the mention of those phrases is taken about as wildly as saying that you do believe aliens impregnated Mother Earth with Demon Seed and we were brought upon the world to control it – the scowls and twisted faces that you get from most after those comments is enough to say that you have offended the sensitivities of your peer group, and pushing the button on a lack of belief sets the nuclear reaction of distaste exploding in their heads - that was a long sentence to say that C.S. Lewis does at least make you think – make you wander through thoughts – that even to the most far removed from Christianity, cause some speculation of whether there are two sides to every approach to life – and if they are founded in some greater or lesser good – I have a hard time believing in pure unadulterated evil – I believe in purely evil acts – I believe in sociopaths who have developed a keen sense of sickness that leads to those acts – but I wonder, if somewhere down the line, Wormwood and Screwtape came in the form of Mom and Dad, or Teacher, or even worse, religious leader. Now, I can’t say that without saying that the same could be said for pornography or drinking or drugs or any number of things that create that illusion, if only for a short period of time – an illusion of self worth – followed by, loathing, as Wormwood says (and I paraphrase) one of their greatest weapons.

We all, I think, once had goals to become great. I never believe for any human being, that we have not considered being the best yo-yo player, or the best sportsman, or the gold medalist - we all, at one time in our lives subscribed to an ideal that we could be at the top of our chosen life – and stand atop and look down at those that lifted us there, those that gave us the hand up, those that we may have climbed over – and maybe, just maybe perceive that we are able to become a benefactor for those seeking to reach the top, to stand on our shoulders rather than climb up our backs. Age plays odd tricks on men – I cannot speak for women, they think differently than I, and I do not mean that offensively, but they do think in patterns that for the most part are foreign to me. Men, and speaking from a limited collection of those men that I see and associate with, are still the ten year olds on the playground – they are still searching for that opportunity to climb the monkey bars, or get picked as team captain, or get the newest toy with the best pieces and parts. Age starts to weaken that desire to achieve and to be that one shining star – at least it weakens the desire to be recognized for it – it strengthens the need to succeed, but a more internalized success – one where the gray hairs and the crows feet and the dark circles under your eyes in the bathroom mirror are replaced by a brimming wide smile and an inner satisfaction that makes doing worth the effort, and makes sleeping an exercise in peace not one where staring at the ceiling (or the dead fire described by Lewis) until finally weariness takes the place of worry. Having forgotten what I started out to become and trying to figure out what I will become are those struggles that many deal with and many have given up on and many have just surrendered to. Perhaps that is the draw of the peace that C.S. Lewis speaks about – the sense of just being and it being as it was intended to be – and the sense of steering that ship in the greatest gale towards something larger, more inconceivable, than all of us.

Human emotion – the only emotion I am aware of, is talked about in books – I read too many of them, they all prescribe to different philosophy – one speaks of chemical reaction, one speaks of religion, one speaks to seeking until found, they all speak to ways to find some contented place that you can stop and exhale – if only for a short period of time. We all used to know that feeling – the unquestioning ability to sit back and exhale – temporarily, and look at our reflection and decide that what we have done was good and right and strong. Oddly enough, it is arguable that once we exhale, our place of solitude is interrupted by the need of another to find that place – whether through a glance, a “joke proper”, a temptation, a need. We wander off the path just for a small while, and voluntarily went down a road – but refused to turn around when we ran into the briars – we just marched into them and let the knicks and cuts and thorns become our comfort, instead of the clearing and the warm sun and the need to exhale.

I was 18 years old when I met my ex-wife, I was 37 when I left my ex-wife. Mistakes can be deconstructed, reconstructed, opened, parsed, examined, dissected, and inevitably are not changeable – mistakes are cancers that no room full of Christian Apologists can explain away – they happen, and they move through us. Falling in love with things – and I say things in the sense of baubles and finery and fancy – was my mistake. It paved a path that once on, I was not full of enough courage to correct – I numbed it with sport, and drink, and cards – but given the confession booth of the internet, that is what my downfall became. Out of some divine grace, I was able to have two miracles – they are still here – and I am not quite sure where that grace originates – but my children hopefully will have the benefit of what little I have learned in so many years of hiding the obvious. Whether it be Christianity that says pursuing the right is wrong, or reversing the years of being stuck in thorns – or just plain common sense, I cannot subscribe to the altruistic notion that a decision I made twenty years ago, ignored twenty years during, and finally recognized could be considered any such thing as a sin.

Hope does spring eternal for most all of us – there are those that have much less hope for themselves than others – the terminally ill, the widower alone, the motherless child – but even they have hope – and from what I have seen, when this hope dies – they too follow in perhaps lesser a physical sense, but more so an emotional sense. To see a sixty three year old man sit on a couch numbed by pain pills and mood pills and sleeping pills and not be able to lift his arms to hug his grandchildren – that is hope that has died. That is, oddly speaking, a catalyst for hope for each of us – that we don’t take things around us and build a wall of appearance – that we build from the inside out – and have what most go without – a little hope – hope that their children will grow and succeed, hope that one day they will understand, hope that they can go through a day and love each person the same without regret and malice creeping in. When I, from a purely selfish perspective, think of myself losing that hope – there are few things left, other than numbness left to prescribe to.

I know why I picked up that book – let me assure you, it was not to find the answer to my wavering or any remaining religious convictions. It was not to pacify a need to feel more intelligent or seem more exhalted in my literary studies – it is certainly not the book to make you want to sing or dance or play fiddle – I picked up that book as a reminder to myself that very little in our lives goes without a choice – and most choices, we rationalize, we live through, we ponder. I picked up that book to remind myself that perhaps, there are other forces at work, but the reality is that internally, the struggle between those forces is a moot point – it is the decision I make in each of them that makes the difference – all hope springs eternal, and the fact that you can change most choices and have little control over consequence makes the rest of what we do day in and day out insignificant, except to say that at some point – we had the control to decide. I have done just that, and that, my friends, is where hope comes from.

Here is to the next open field and bright sun and exhaling.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Wallace Falls Hikes and Bowling Alleys….

Weekends run by pretty fast – last week, Pensacola, then Jacksonville, the Calgary, then Vancouver, officially stopping by every time zone in the lower 48 – and the lower Canadian Provinces (I don’t really know if there is a different time zone in Alaska, but I will keep this on my list of things to Google when I get somewhere there is internet connectivity) – with my body not quite catching up to figure out where I was, but staying on the natural circadian rhythm that I always seem to have – I sleep when it is dark, I wake up when it starts to get light – and in between, I doze off when I am tired – generally on Sunday afternoons after eating chicken wings and Velveeta Cheese Dip loaded down with Sausage and Rotel canned goodness – but the weekends, no matter what I do to prolong them, move faster than a normal workday – strange how that happens.

See, most weekends, I am with Cadence or the kids – I don’t do weekends by myself or just hanging out with the family, or taking some peaceful free time alone – I just don’t do that – not because I can’t (okay, so honestly, I can’t do that) but because I like to fill that time with those people – they are what I enjoy – and what takes me out of the mindset I carry during the work week and to a place where flip-flops and shorts and t-shirts and doing the dishes later are okay. This weekend, I was up North, and, given that the Seattle weather was warm, sunny, and free of rain – was a great weekend to do just about everything outside – until the sun went down – and then it was just as good to do those things inside –

Friday nights were a big deal at the Harris/Bennett household when I was growing up – we lived in a little house off of Merrill Road, on Dalehurst Drive – a baby shit green and white house with Terrazzo floors and those shutter type windows that were really high up on the walls – we had a normal backyard and could play in the street with little or no fear, and with exception to the groundings for playing “firefighter” and determining it was a good idea to spray water all over everything in the storage shed – life was pretty straight forward and easy. Friday nights, they were the easiest. That was bowling league night – and occasionally, we got to go to the bowling alley with my folks – this was when you could smoke, drink, and bowl all at the same time, and for a ten year old, the bowling alley was a mystical place filled with noisy laughing adults and video games and greasy good food and cold sodas and candy machines. I don’t ever remember bowling those nights, but I do remember wiping nacho cheese and chili from my face and the leathery tough skin of overcooked hot dogs – those were good times – easy good times. So when Cadence said “Let’s Go Bowling” this past Friday night, it stirred up mixed images of the dorky Kingpin nature of the sport, (let’s admit folks, sometimes we think we are just too cool to enjoy bowling), and those images of how much fun I had as a kid hanging out with my brothers and sisters at the bowling alley. For Cadence, saying yes was important (hell prying me away from a $3 table of Three Card Poker is like getting a crackhead away from free drug Fridays) – but it was important for me as well to say yes and head to the bowling alley for a few hours, I figured I could do anything for a few hours. Surprisingly enough to me, the bowling alley was not filled with dorks and deadbeats – it was filled with folks laughing and playing together, and a few of those really serious bowlers with their own custom painted bowling balls and hand sewn leather bags, brightly lit, no loud music or raucous truck stop types – just a bowling alley with a bar and a cafĂ© and pulltabs and beer – and bowling. We were put in Lane 6, next to four guys, who for the past 17 years, have bowled together once a month while their wives played bunko – they were a mix of good and bad sportsmen – but it did not matter – they were out bowling, and the devil may care attitude of those guys in their early sixties rubbed off on me – it was fun to be out somewhere different, somewhere not so pretentious or stuffy, just a fun evening. The first pitcher (not to be outdone by the second or third pitcher) of beer was cold, and the glasses were frozen just the right way – it matched perfectly with the mini corndogs, the cheese fries, and the mozzarella sticks – all fried goodness that provided the right amount of fat and sustenance to get through the grueling banter between Cadence and I. We bowled four games – each one progressively more competitive, each of us increasing our level of smack talk, smiling in between the comments, offering hollow condolences for a bad shot, secretly (and openly) making it a point to show that one was a much better bowler than the other – funny – our scores got progressively worse – going from somewhere in the 140’s to the final game high of 77 – but by that time, we were deep in conversation with the bunco husbands (Rock was one of the guys, the other names, I forget) and busy pissing away our jointly contributed twenty bucks on pull-tabs (to no avail). I can’t remember laughing that hard and feeling that good at something that did not have a million people surrounding you or bright lights, or loud music – it was just two folks, enjoying a game together – playing. No need to go on anymore – except to say that I hope Cadence saw the same smile on my face that I saw on hers – a little kid with a really heavy bowling ball doing the absolute best to knock over as many pins as possible – no worry in the world about how cute things were or how perfect things were – just laughing and playing and talking – and enjoying the bowling alley.

Waking up Saturday morning was easy – with exception to the rugby knees and elbows creaking a little bit from throwing a fourteen pound ball down the lane approximately 88 times – but we were going hiking. There was a lazy sense of urgency in what we were doing, sleeping in until ten thirty – I had to get the rental car back from my Vancouver trip, we had to get the supplies ready, and we had to motivate to get out into the sun. Things at first, admittedly, were slow because of my pace – I was, once again, half hearted about going up a mountain for 5.5 miles, and driving to do it – don’t get me wrong, I love hiking. I love being outdoors. I love how beautiful the Northwest is – I was just feeling the digestive lack of efficiency brought on by four pitchers of beer, cheese fries, mozzarella sticks, and the bowling ball. The coffee helped, the Starbucks always helps – I think they add meth to that stuff, because no matter what kind I buy for my coffee maker, it just makes me pee – Starbucks makes my heart beat faster, and my body want to sweat. That helped. I don’t think folks appreciate how much work goes into planning a weekend, at least I never thought that the folks around me never really spent much time saying “thanks” for making things happen and getting directions and finding the right spot and having it all laid out for the doing – that is what Cadence did for the hike – she actually found a moderate to difficult hike that was a good second hike for the year (the first was at Red Rock outside of Vegas – a short 3.5 miler through the desert on a windy hot day through the rock formations) – and good preparation for the next hikes with Gabe up in the Northwest over Memorial Day weekend. Cadence does things like that – not because she believes she has to – but because she wants to – she gets excited when people are happy and DOING things with her – and her efforts, I suspect, many times go unnoticed – but this time they did not – thanks Cadence – I appreciate the hard work you put into finding that place-

We made it to the airport, logistically figured out how to get me from the Rental Car deck to her car, and were on our way – I don’t remember talking too much on the way there – I am sure we did, and it probably covered one of the many topics that we normally discuss, future travel, schedules and weekends, frequent flier mile balances, hotel perks, homemade dinners, music, - who knows, I was happy I was not driving, she was happy we were driving somewhere, and that was damn fine enough for the both of us to not go into more serious discussions.

Although we had expected to get to the hike a little earlier, we pulled up about mid-afternoon, and were able to get a lazy parking space right next to the trailhead – and the bathroom – and signed in for our trek at about two o’clock in the afternoon. We hastily sped past the sweaty boy scouts who were waiting on the rest of their troop mates to get down from the falls, and made our way down a power line corridor to the trail – buzzing overhead –

I made Cadence wait to tell me the story of her Grandfather, and her father’s trip to Burma and Myanmar to dig back in that past – how his plane was shot down, he was turned over by the villagers to the Japanese for fear of losing their lives, how he had broken both of his legs, and died in that hospital. We talked about the amazing stories of that generation that go untold, and how, just now, they become more prevalent as we look at the technological advances and how much we are able to discount or not be able to relate to something so primitive as villagers, or propeller aircraft being shot down – and how much things need to be written down about these histories – that they are important, not just to Cadence’s father, but to a slowly disappearing generation of heroes- and that somehow we have a responsibility to honor their lives with our memories – we talked of going to India together to see the final resting place in the Village of the Airplane – and then, we turned into the woods, along the river…

Wallace Falls is nestled somewhere past Goldbar and Sultan and Startup down highway 2 in Washington State – it appeared to be a pretty popular place, we passed all types on the hike, but there was plenty of trail space and plenty of nature for everyone to view – the river itself clamored and pushed its way through heavy rocks and at the shoreline made metallic sounds against the smooth worn pebbles. The hiking was easy at first – the Northwest has a way of carpeting the trails with soft cool leaves and pine needles, and the shade provided by the hazy green forest made it perfect for the blue green ferns carpeting the forest floor and hikers alike – nothing too strenuous, just a stroll. Families congregated along the river banks, and snacked on lunches, taking caution with the smallest of them – to prevent them from experiencing the first snow melt of the season, older couples relaxed at smaller falls and lower elevation – not interested in pushing to the top, but more interested in finding peace at the bottom – and they appeared to be able to.

We came to the first set of falls – the Little Falls – a twenty foot high waterfall – hidden in the woods, on that proverbial “road less travled” but clearly marked by an Eagle Scout’s project – we stopped, took pictures, did the early hike routine – and giggled a bit –

The switchbacks started about another half a mile up the trail – we went from 200’ of elevation to about 900’ of elevation in a little over a mile – not too strenuous, but for some strange reason, it seemed like all of the gains were made in short bursts – those uphill parts where your knees start to complain, and your back hurts just a little, and your legs burn as your lungs try to keep up with the oxygen being spent – we took breaks for water, breaks for pictures, breaks for a kiss or two, breaks for the bird watchers rudely plugging the trail talking about the whimsical nature of the whatchamacallit bird. Most of all we took breaks, I think, to slow the afternoon down – to enjoy the conversation, each other, and the weekend in the outdoors – the fresh air.

The Lower Falls sort of sneak up on you as you push up one last uphill – there is a little yert and covered area – and it looked like this is where most of the families with young children stopped, and prepared to move back down the path – I snapped the photo above, sent it to my son, drank some water, but did not spend too much time – I was there to enjoy the hike, not to listen to children play Nintendo DS while they wolfed down Oreo’s and Doritos and asked their Dad if they could leave yet – I don’t think my kids were really ever that way – Christy and I both love being outdoors, and the kids pick up on that – they hike in Colorado every year, we spend time at the ocean, if anything, their complaints are with not being outdoors enough – and I certainly prefer to hear those complaints than to listen to spoiled children complain about being taken away from their PlayStation for an afternoon so they can get a little Vitamin D in sunshine form (versus Flintstone Candy Flavored Vitamins) – I don’t mind busy trails – just busy picnic sites.

We moved on – the Middle Falls was close – and probably the most difficult part, at least in my opinion – we moved away from the river, deeper into the forest, and the rockiness of the trail became a little harder to navigate, and a little harder on the knees – making all the more reasonable for us to stop on the occasional wood stump bench and drink a little water or share a granola bar – or just laugh at how that the first real uphill of the season is more challenging than the last of the season. The rocks were slippery and formed deep stairs that required you to push yourself to the top, not too many switchbacks, these were just straight uphill pushes, with the occasional break for passers coming down (and we, most times, were more than happy to yield to them) – my heart, in a few places nearly pounded out of my chest, not quite used to the hills, but happy to be on them – Cadence close behind or leading the way in some places – enough for me to make it over another hill – the middle falls were not too spectacular – but it was awesome to see the bowl of water at the bottom carved by years of melting snow and falling water – a huge log, like a stir stick in a cup of coffee sat upright in the splash formed by the falls, refusing to give way or break under the constant strain of the water.

Finally, the Upper Falls- and a precarious seat next to the loud crash of water – although the fastest incline of the entire hike, it was mostly switchbacks, we went about 900’ in less than a half a mile, but zigzagged through old growth trees and fern gardens back and forth – many of the folks we had passed never went much further than the Middle Falls, and they did not get to realize that the hard work had been done, the rest was more rewarding, and the quiet view of the entire valley with the trees swaying, the water fall as a constant backdrop – they missed that part – but Cadence and I smiled as we sat together and ate our lunch of cold pizza and granola bars and dried figs, and poked fun at each others selection of lunch foods (guess who brought the cold pizza) –

Getting to the top was good, healthy, and what those hikes in the preserved parts of Washington are for – being outside for a day, soaking up the smell of damp forest, looking at the green blue fern carpet and the yellow green of the moss on the trees – it made the course all the better – and the company didn’t hurt either.

Until the next hike,