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,


An Open Letter to Traveling Parents with Children Less Than 4 Years Old

Good evening,

Although I find your children horribly adorable, wonderful, and realize that they are probably, far and above the smartest children – so much so that they probably are those little wunderkind reading on those late night infomercials, I would like to pen a few advance notices for those of you who gleefully bring your little ones into the world of the traveler, and hope that you might find some advice on how to make your trip a more pleasant and peaceful one:

1. Yes, your son/daughter is great. The fact that they still shit themselves however is an indicator that they still have some work to do. The fact that they do this on airplanes indicates that obviously the apple juice you have been pumping down their gullet all day is not a good idea.

2. I understand that eye sight is developing at young ages. This does not give license for your Johnny or Susie to stare at the fellow traveler whilst drooling and coughing up chunks of Zwieback cookies onto the fellow travelers computer. Switch to water and saltines, and kill two birds with one stone – have you ever tried saying your first word with a mouth full of saltines?

3. Airports are not playgrounds. Believe it or not, some of us live and work there a large amount of time. Airports are more like cathedrals. Be reverent. Be awed. Be quiet.

4. First words are wonderful. Learning how to say those words in an inside voice is even better. Hearing “hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi” repetitively at a tone that is loud enough and shrill enough to damage ears protected by the newest Bose technology is neither pleasant nor cute.

5. Of course children that age need to exercise. This does not consist of you holding them up in the air to push the attendant call button, letting them exercise their legs by kicking the back of seats, or allowing them to run up and down the aisle. This consists of making them walk all the way to your gate, taking the stairs, and not trying to wedge them into a stroller onto an escalator.

6. The term “lap child” is the equivalent of “safe nuclear waste” or “good collateral damage” – there is no such thing as a lap child, nor does it imply that your child should feel free to wander with their toys, food, arms, drool, etc into my lap. I chose the window seat to see out the window. Next time, if you want your child to enjoy the window, and the aisle, buy both seats, and we can ignore “lap child” all together.

7. Being a parent of two former toddlers, I understand that you are tired, irritable, worn out, and ready for a break. This is your fault, not the other innocent parents who have lived through your hell and survived. Take your kids on a trip in the car, or better yet, get a swingset – Disney is not going anywhere, and take it from a kid who was there every year until the age of 5 – they won’t remember it.

8. The toys today are exciting, cool, and yes, those with batteries, are annoying. Remove the batteries from the Police Car, the Fire Truck, the Doll that coos, the Puppy that barks. Six am flights don’t mean because Timmy or Erica are awake then everyone gets to listen to their favorite toys.

9. Breast Feeding is a wonderful and healthy thing. Do it somewhere where that wonderful and healthy experience is shared with you and the child. Particularly with children that can walk and request to be fed. Two words – Pump/Store.

10. Finally, I love children. There is nothing I love more than spending time with my children and the children of others. I love taking them places and doing things with them, and appreciate their amazement at new worlds around them. Respect that just about everyone you pass in the airport at one time or another who is older than you has procreated, and in most cases, done so successfully. When we look at you with downturned eyes, we have sympathy – and we hope that you are seated well away from us. Just because we don’t want to be next to you does not mean that we don’t love you. We do – we wish you luck.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and hope that these few pointers will help you on your way to successful travels.



Pulp Non-Fiction....

Much does not pass these days for me without some mechanical scheduling procedures, whether it be getting the ex-wife to agree to disagree on verbiage contained in a sterile email regarding calendar dates for the summer (I would post the text of the email here; however, the reference to John the Baptist, Centurions, reflexive equilibrium, Western Philosophy, and The Grapes of Wrath are way to erudite and misunderstood by me to even venture into that realm) or it is working with the new and improved travel booking system at work that requires a little more time and patience than the previous system – but seems to be thinking of everything that I fail to think of – hell, I get meeting reminders on my calendar, phone calls with flight updates, emails with changes, and with some ease, it actually lets me select lots of different airlines for one trip, or it is actually looking at my Outlook Calendar and scheduling yet to be determined schedules for yet to be determined deliverables that repair yet to be determined opportunities for improvement….you all know the drill. If I spend less than four hours per week on scheduling, then apparently, I have scheduled poorly, and can rest assured that something is going to bite me in the ass (and trust me, that is not pleasant unless you are paying for it).

Now I am reading this book by an editor, turned author, about writers – and given that I have no editors, and carry on this whimsical hobby out of a sheer need to put my delusions onto paper (better than anti-anxiety meds any day) that goes into great depths about the process of writing – it does not really spend much time about the process of reading – but thankfully, the previous owner did a pretty good job of marking up the margins, highlighting areas that she/he found pertinent, and spent a particularly large amount of time focusing on making notes about the dysfunctional nature of many authors (this particular reader, through the margin notes, went so far as to hint to me, the current borrower of this book, that she may have issues with alcohol and drugs because her sense of longing is not being fulfilled through the literary arts and the masterpieces she pens – based on her notes, I would think that she would be fun to go out on a date with – once – but after that fourteen hour drug and alcohol induced rampage through whatever town she lived in, and then the five days of regret, and six months of therapy needed to heal your wounded and battered soul, you may choose not to see her again unless of course, you wanted to spend another six months in hypnotic therapy trying to recall why you woke up with a sore bum and a midget wearing a Viking Hat). The reading part to me is always the best part – I like to read other authors – I don’t like reading my own stuff – because, like this book says, I don’t spend the time outlining and parsing and diagramming and picturing an end result to these short essays – I just sit on a plane, type, and when something comes to mind – then I put it on paper. Some months, you might be lucky enough to get me sit down and scratch some crap out four, maybe five times – some months, once – so for me, I figure that I am saving the planet by reading other works that have made it to print – versus sending mine to the publishing houses – I print this stuff for free – well, with exception to the ninety-two cents that I am up to on Google AdSense – I must make another comment about AdSense – I think the only real way to make money on the Internet is to create a game like MafiaWars and get the anti-socialite in all of us to strive to be a level 263 Goombah (much like myself), sell penis enlargement pills, or advertise and publish some sort of twisted and sadistic sexual act – I consider this a fairly high brow blog, with plenty of hits and a few followers – but I bet if I were to throw in some nude pictures, a couple of anatomical enhancement ads, and some high quality hair replacement remedies, that I may actually be able to get up to about three or four dollars in hits. It amazes me that the most profitable models on the internet are porn and gambling – I am not surprised by it, I am just amazed by it – there is even a gambling site where you are electronically dealt blackjack cards by a naked dealer – now that my friends, is cornering the market on this here internet thing…back to the subject that will eventually lead to the subject that I first set out to write about (my writing, I have determined, is much like following a goat trail through the high grass – I am never really sure where it is going, and pretty sure that I am going to either run into water, a salt lick, or goat turds – but eventually you will get somewhere with it).

Without going into any more detail or fear of being sued by the lady who previously owned the book that I am reading, I will not foray any deeper into the mental anguish she apparently suffered from and shared in the margins. (Pardon me for the interruption, there is a four year old locked in the airplane toilet – but there was a fairly young mother standing outside of the door speaking in her best loud inside voice, “Push it really hard baby, no you have to push it hard, I cannot help, push it really really hard baby”. That, in any environ, would cause a few heads to turn, and just gave me a great idea for my internet money making venture – it has to do with penis enlargement, pornography, and airplanes – but, lest I provide too much of this excellent venture capital opportunity, I will keep the details to myself) Anyway, the other lady (not the young mother screaming push harder on the airplane) - she apparently took this book really seriously – and maybe I am considered a horse’s ass for the way I take writing – I don’t spend the time necessary to be a really really good writer – I just take the time to be a writer – that’s really not being a student of the art, it is more of being an abuser of the practice. Vocabulary lists maybe would help, and word counts, and remembering all of those diagrams that my half stoned English Professor taught me may create some sensibility in all of this stuff, but caustically, I just don’t give a shit enough to stop, delete, edit, throw out, re-do, re-visit, clarify any of these pieces. I figure my stuff is moonshine versus store bought whiskey – moonshine tastes like hell, but for the price, and for the slight risk of being made blind, will get you drunk or sterilize most wounds, and it takes half of the time. Good store bought whiskey on the other hand, may make you look cool to others, is smooth, and actually tastes better than gasoline – but takes about seven years to age in dark barrels. I am not interested in aging in a dark barrel, so I am going to continue to pour out glasses of crappy corn mash in old milk jugs. I am; however, interested in perfecting the casual art of being a casual author (the picture comes to mind of me sitting barefoot in a john boat somewhere next to my trailer writing pieces for the Penny Saver “Local Flea Market Sells Record Numbers of Guppies in August” or “Find Your Next Treasure in Trash”) – and am realizing that even to be considered an author, one must have published something – and loosely, with the minor exception of two or three technical pieces on a financial model, and the long forgotten community college poetry collection, I can hardly say that I am anywhere near the technical definition of author. Bullshit purveyor, comic relief, part time blogger, one line expert – but far from that picture of Hemingway, half lit in Key West, vomiting in a trash cash, and cursing the day he learned how to type in between twenty word spurts or brilliance. (I have the half lit and getting sick part down pretty good though)

The book does go step by step into what I am supposed to do to become a better author – and (much like this lazy leap from my last paragraph that I expect all of you are following with ease) I decided pretty quickly that I needed to at least give a solid attempt at defining my genre – now I have heard this word used frequently in conversations with lawyers at cocktail parties, fine misses at nice restaurants, and those really snobby dorks at parties with the former in-laws, but I have never bandied about in my Sunday finery in pleasant conversation with my pinky lifted ever so slightly whilst sipping a fine Earl Gray tea – that I pursue a more succinct definition of my genre – so pardon if I seem a bit miffed by having to choose something that is defined as “this is the shit you write about and how you get it out” – genre (don’t worry, you will not find that half-assed commoner definition in Webster, but if you are a friend of mine, or even not, feel free to use that type of definition with me – I will respect you more). Defined loosely, I am a Pulp Non-Fictionist. I am not sure what that means – but I am pretty sure that somewhere in the mix of cynicism, humor, satire, bleeding heart sleeve dumping, emotion, name-calling, and memoirs I throw into this thing, that anybody can understand what I am talking about – I don’t write high end pretty stuff. I don’t use big words because I don’t know big words. I am not good at making good stories because my life does not permit me to invent characters – I see enough of those everyday – and given the fact that I am limited in my ability to share about the ones I am with everyday, I generalize and marginalize them into a blog format, but they are all real. I don’t write to put out the next great hard cover self help book, or even one of those trashy novels with the naked dude carrying (I tried to use the word “rapturing” but the spell check changed it to “rupturing” and that mental image was too much for even me) the scantily clad woman – I don’t even aspire to put something out that hits the “inspirational shelf” somewhere in between “You Should Stop Drinking and Start Living” and “How to Become a Better Dad Through Medical Science” – (I know, that is a wild stretch to think that I would be allowed to hit the inspirational shelf) –

So now that I am well on the road to becoming a more well defined writer, and on page 26 of this book – I would like to be referred to as the moonshine of literature – just cheap, fulfilling, get the job done stuff that makes me for a little while, take my mind off everything else and dump some of this pulp non-fiction out in the never-never land of the blogosphere – and not spend a large amount of time hassling over the details. Besides, don’t the real writers have ghost folks and editors in large rooms to take care of all that bullshit anyway?

Until next time- and maybe in a more polished and refined authoritorical manner (I don’t know if that is even a word – but if George Bush can make up words, and Dan Quayle can misspell them, then damn it – so can I).


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Take Comfort in...

Quantity - that's right - some of us take comfort in different things - but there is nothing more relaxing than taking a little comfort in going home to the parent's house and walking into the pantry (for some strange reason I keep wanting to type panty - but that seems terribly inappropriate to get that mixed up with going to the parent's house, I have had to correct pantry several times or risk getting some very odd email comments on the trips back home to the parents house and what I do when I am there - I digress)...

I have to admit that it is a comforting feeling to walk into Mom's kitchen, and know that when I open the pantry door that there is going to be a stockpile of food - the kids and I joke everytime we make the drive over that Walmart has to send additional trucks to Pensacola just to supply Mom's pantry with all of the good stuff that we don't buy at home - vanilla oreos, the cheese dip that causes heart attacks (literally - six or seven different types of cheese, and bacon bits - but man, it is good stuff), different types of sweet, salty, sticky, and gooey treats, all the bread products you could possibly desire, hidden and rare oddities of food that are always good to eat - and at Mom's house, are readily available - what's even funnier, is that I usually end up with a trunk load of those things - Mom wants us to have comfort - whether we are there or not - and that is obvious when we pull into the driveway, and generally when we walk into the kitchen, there is something hot and ready for us to eat.  I know that there are ingredients for those foods that we grew up on, barbeque chicken and rice or ham or hot dog buns, but most of all, there is just about everything in there for us to feel at home - and for us to have some comfort...

I feel sort of guilty about not going to church on Easter with my folks and kids today, I don't frequent those places much anymore - but the kids went in their Easter finery, and I think that was enough - but none the less, I could have gotten out of bed, changed into something considered church going clothes, and headed on over - but the sleep and quiet was nice - and was good.

Taking comfort in quantity has never really been my thing - my pantry has the staples that get me through the six days per month at home - spaghetti sauce, noodles, dry beans, canned vegetables - you know, everything that can be fixed in about ten minutes -

I tend to take comfort in places - you know, I have seen a ton of them - and I know that there are more to see - and that is comforting to me, there are places with vistas and people and little dark bars and dives that serve cold beer and greasy food that I have not been to - there are folks with stories that I have not heard, small airports with only prop service that I have not been to - that's comforting to me - what is not so comforting is that I want to share them with my children and Cadence - and most of the time - they are somewhere else - and I am there - nothing to complex about being comforted by that feeling - the complexity comes in when there just are too many miles between those places and me.

Places - that's about right - too many places, too much time, and too little of everything else to get to them all - but there is a list of things to want to do - and want to see - and that, for me, makes a huge amount of comfort available.

Until next post...


Gathering up Steam...

Writing, along with exercise, diet, reduced alcoholic intake, and budgets - has fallen by the wayside over the past couple of months.  It gets harder to write when I go into one of those status quo modes - you know the place, where you are happy with the long work weeks and the short weekends, and are distracted by other things like taxes and anything that is brightly colored or smells really pretty.  The routine sets in, and much like anything, it gets harder to sit down or get up and force yourself to get back in the habits that you know make you a little better in the space between your ears.

It is a quiet Easter morning - not that Easter holds much for me by way of holidays, but for the kids, it does, and right now they are at church with their grandparents, and are probably wondering why the Easter Bunny forgot to put baskets out last night - well, that's easy, the Easter Bunny slept in, and the super soaker squirt guns and other assorted easter stuff is sitting in the trunk of the car.  This weekend is the first holiday that is a "repeat" as a single dad - first one that I have done twice, and honestly, I cannot remember where the kids were last year, or what we did, or if the Easter Bunny actually dropped off anything, you know, the first repeat.  I have to admit, I miss certain things - but in general, I have gotten to a point where I don't really miss anything about those holidays - it has taken a little while, but redeveloping relationships with my family, spending more time with them, well, we have new traditions and new places to visit, and for the most part, the kids have the best of both sides of the fence - so no, not really missing dragging the kids to Amelia Island for an afternoon of excessive wine intake, pointed questions, and condescending remarks.

Driving over to Gulf Breeze this week, the car broke down - and I realized how draining a divorce can be - you see all of these commercials about folks who get the "Bankruptcy, Divorce, Bad Credit, No Credit" - and I did not fully understand that concept until I was stuck on the side of the road in Lee, Florida, wondering how in the hell I was planning on replacing the clutch, and trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to hide that fact from my kids.  During the entire process, as it gathers steam, someone has to lose.  In most cases, both folks lose - financially or emotionally, at the beginning - but the emotional part quickly gets on a level playing field - but financially - well that's a different story - you have to go back to court to get all of that taken care of, and for an additional $364 dollars and lawyer fees - seems like a mountain to climb to potentially get anything changed -

None the less, we made it, the car got repaired at Jim's Auto Repair right off Highway 129 (I am sure all of you have visited it - it is right near the American Legion close to Roberts Auto Repair) - and the kids and I have figured out a way to enjoy a week of Spring Break without Carnival Cruise Lines or Mickey Mouse hawking us goods and services...and they have enjoyed it - days in the pool, or the beach, or visiting the Gulf Breeze Zoo (which, for $36.00 for a family of three) is an expensive undertaking - it is right across the street from the flea market, and minor recommendation, the people watching there is free, go buy yourself a hot dog, and watch folks stream in and out of there - Gabe somehow gravitated directly to a hatchet - and aside from the pellet gun he got for easter, I figured sending him home with a hatchet and a pellet gun could only be topped by sending him home with those two unapproved items, and a pit bull puppy.  (Although the temptation was there - I skipped both the hatchet and the puppy) -

We did, however, make the front page of the Pensacola News Journal - one of the days that I actually turned off my computer, phones, and avoided working during the vacation - we actually received accolades for our sand castle building skills - of course, online, our picture was snuck in between the photo of three bikini clad twenty somethings, but in the hard copy, we were right there on the front page - with the caption - Where ever you are - wouldnt you rather be here?  - and I would have to agree, the three or four hour sand castle building was therapeutic, if not a good way to entertain the kids with dirt and water (your basic mud pie parenting strategy - the only thing missing were sticks).  That's the photo above - the three of us, in a hole, surrounded by our towers and ramps and assigned quarters in each of one of the three segments of our make believe world - this year, we did not name the castle - but we each made wishes out loud about each place, and what our place would look like and what would be the coolest part of it, and if MTV Cribs would come visit it.  (I personally think that would be a pain in the ass - because then you have to stage everything, and I don't like staged anything).

So for now, that's it - pretty boring post, there is another coming, but I wanted to get a normal, plain Jane post out there - just to prove to myself, that much like the elliptical in the gym, that I could do it for about thirty to forty five minutes, and that it was not quite as painful as I thought it would be - Happy Easter everyone, and don't forget to drop a line every once in a while just to let me know that you are okay.