Friday, December 31, 2010

The End of the Year

Well, it’s the end of 2010 and as I sit back in reflective thought, I ask myself some very tough questions. Questions like; Are you a better person? Have you grown emotionally? Are you more responsible? Am I wearing matching socks? You know the same questions we all ask ourselves, right before we make insane resolutions for the upcoming year.

Speaking of resolutions, let’s see how I did with mine this past year. But first let me tell you what my resolutions were:

  1. Try to approach all conflict with a sense of good humor and level headedness.
  2. Write one blog a week.
  3. Write more fiction.

That’s it. Those were my resolutions. Just those three simple resolutions and here are my results:

  1. I can honestly say that up until June I was doing a pretty good job at maintaining good humor and level headedness. Then things went a little crazy. For the rest of the year I sort of put my restraint on the back burner. And by that I mean, I sort of just shrugged my shoulders in most circumstances and thought to myself “In 50 years, I’ll be dead and no one will care if I lose my mind right now.” Now, did this attitude hurt some people? Piss others off? Did I lose friends? Probably. Do I care? Very little. Should I care? Probably. I did not fully succeed but I didn’t fail completely either in this resolution.
  2. I believe that I’ve been successful in this one. Although I there were two distinct circumstances where I missed my personal deadline, I tried to make up for it by double loading the next week. Also, there are 52 weeks in the year and this post makes my 58th of the year. Now, I have thought about posting all the stats and ridiculous information that as a Blogger I have access to but it’s quite boring and I really don’t know what to make of all that data besides from the obvious fact that people from across the globe find some of what I say interesting. I succeeded.
  3. I have not written as much fiction as I would have liked. But, and this is a BIG but, I have submitted two stories for publication and have even received my first rejection letter/email. I’m sort of proud of that email. I still have not heard from the folks from the second submission. I have also finished a few other short stories and even some flash fiction. I succeeded.

So, to sum up this past year’s resolutions, I feel quite good at my successes. I hope you fared as well.

Now I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few folks who have helped me out through the craziness of 2010:

First, all of you, my readers, you guys and some of your comments have really lifted my spirits in times when I just felt I should quit. Also, some of you I have been able to reconnect with after many years of alienation through life’s demands.

Second, I would like to thank by old shipmate Brian for showing me that just about any old sailor could put down in words the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing, and have them make some sort of sense. Thanks Shipmate, your friendship over the past two years has been invaluable.

Third, Bob, you dude, truly were there for me when I was in a very dark place and I don’t know how I can ever repay your friendship.

Fourth, Qwee, Mozo, Gorebeast, Bamfer, the artist formerly known as DarkIntruder, Tom, Kurt, Kelli, Ron, Morticia, Jeff and the rest of my followers . You guys have kept me going when you didn’t even know I needed to be started up.

Lastly, I want to thank my family, every one of you have supported me and made me feel as if I was doing something that mattered. Which in this day and age where people across the world will grab onto any new fad or craze just feel some sort of self worth is quite amazing. And I thank you for allowing me the time to sit either on the couch, the dining room table or at my desk and pound my keyboard until hairs on my head turned gray.

Ok, enough mushy crap, now onto the tasty life bits:

This year I attended one wedding. Watched in joy and awe as two of my buddies each celebrated the birth of their little girls. I spent too much time at three different funerals, and observed firsthand the loss and pain death causes. Whether the death was expected and peaceful, or in one case, unexpected, bloody and chaotic, everyone involved experienced and shared in the pain of death. I worked approximately 3120 hours and took 80 hours of leave and 40 hours of sick leave from work. (These are truly approximations.) I traveled to Pennsylvania twice, once by car and once by train. Both experiences were quite different but equally informative and I can only hope that more trips north will be in my future.

Well, that’s it for now, I suppose. No great revelations, no ancient scabs peeled back for you to poke at with a stick. No complaints or bitches from me. I would like to take this time with you though, to wish you a Happy New Year and I hope that if you make any resolutions you achieve your goals. Also, if you’re so bold please post what your resolutions are. As of right now, I truly do not have any resolutions, but that doesn't mean I wont have any in the future.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Flatheads, Crescent Wrench's and Pliers (Part 3)

Fin hung up the phone and looked at me “He wants us to meet him at the hockey rink in a half an hour.”

“What time is it?”

“About 9 I think.” He said as he hoisted himself up off the floor of the living room to sit on the couch. I rolled over from my spot on the floor and sat up. Leaning against the wall under the windows of the living room and scratched my head trying to get rid of the nights cobwebs.

The diffused morning light penetrating the windows above my head gave us a false sense of twilight and it wasn’t until we made our way into the kitchen did we realize how late it truly was. The clock on the stove read 9:15 and we needed to hurry, daylight was wasting. We each got ourselves a glass of orange juice, some toast with peanut butter, got dressed and headed out to meet Fish.

It didn’t take us long to meet up with Fish at the now unused hockey rink at Allouez park. He was sitting on the boards working his way through a cigarette. “Where you guys been?” He shouted, as we approached.

“Relax man; we got all day and the bike aint going nowhere. Got a smoke?” I replied.

Fish jumped off the boards, pulled out the smokes and we all headed towards the dump. “What’d you all do last night?”

Fin finally piped up “Nothin’. Watched Creature from the Black Lagoon on T.J. and the ANT. Skip fell asleep halfway through. My mom got home around 3 I think.”

“I saw that was coming on but I couldn’t stay up. My parents came home and we all sat around playing Monopoly for a while. My dad wouldn’t let me stay up to watch that movie. Shit, I should have come over to your house Fin. We could have hung out all night and watched the movie.”

“Yeah, that would have been cool. And, we could have snuck next door and spied on Skip’s sisters.” Fin brainstormed.

“Leave my sisters out of this would you guys? I really get sick of you two talking about them.”

And with that comment the ribbing and smack talk began full force. Fin bragging about how he and my sister Debbie kissed. Fish saying how it should be him who is Debbie’s boyfriend. Just basic harassment that I tried to tune out, I was mostly successful.

By the time we got to the junk yard behind the cemetery on Webster Ave their enthusiasm had waned to just an occasional verbal jab. The truth was, I had started to become numb to all the comments, wisecracks and jabs my buddies had been making about my two older sisters over the past couple of years. It’s not that I didn’t care, I did, but with no new material for me to hear or any falsehoods to correct I just let the comments roll off my back like water on a duck.

We stood at the edge of the cemetery looking down into what we called the “Junk Yard”. It was really just an unauthorized dump site. A place where people would take all of their broken household appliances, used mattresses, boxes of old books, shopping carts and crates of secrets, dump them and then leave. Hoping, trusting and believing no one would find their unwanted trash and secrets. But we did.

We’d been scrounging there for years and had built up quite a collection of go-kart parts, tools, magazines, books and fort supplies. The place was a treasure trove for any kid with an imagination and a tool kit. It also served as a great hide out when any one or all of us were being chased by one or more of the multitude of school bullies we encountered. I used it occasionally as a place to sleep when my home life was a bit too stressful and Fin or Fish’s places were unavailable.

“I’ll start near Riverside Road and head toward our fort.” I volunteered, knowing that the largest concentration of refrigerators, washers, dryers and stoves were located there and that it would be the most difficult terrain to navigate. “Fin, why don’t you start over to the left and Fish you start near the road on the right and we’ll meet at the fort.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Fish said and headed out. Fin just shrugged and walked off mumbling under his breath.

We spent most of the day combing through the debris and rubbish. I was successful in finding a set of handlebars and a broken peddle which I brought up to the fort. When I arrived, Fish was sitting on a wooden fruit crate trying to straighten a rear wheel. “Skip! Man, check it out, I got a set of wheels, we just need some tires for them. They aint in bad shape but we have to straighten them out. What’d you find?” He peppered at me.

“Uh, I found a broken peddle and handle bars.” I stated as I tossed my treasure in the middle of the makeshift shack and sat on another discarded fruit crate and leaned against the wall. “You heard from Fin?”

“Nope, sure haven’t but I’m sure he’ll be along soon. Shoot, we’ve been here for a couple hours at least.”

We hung out for a while wasting our time bullshitting about how cool the bike was going to be, what color we were going to paint it, how high we were gonna be able to jump it and whether or not we would be successful in completing it in time for our camping trip. Fish was quite confident we’d finish in time. I voiced some concerns which he shot down with just a look. A look that said “C’mon man, stop being such a whiny bitch, you know it’ll get done.” We stopped talking only to have a smoke in silence.

The sounds of the dump invaded our thoughts and made it impossible to think. The clicking noises of settling metal, the dripping sounds of liquid leaking out of half empty trash bags, the chatter of squirrels and rats, the hissing of feral cats on the hunt all made for a symphonic blend of industrial and wildlife I’ve rarely experienced since in my life.

After we extinguished our cigarettes I pulled out the parts checklist from my pocket and crossed off the wheels, handlebars and added tires to the list. “I really don’t think this peddle is a good find. I think I’ll keep looking for a better set.” And I tossed the broken piece of metal to the side.

“Sounds good. Hm, maybe we should try to get a matched set off a bike.”

It was at about that moment we heard Fin crashing towards us. The noise he was making was drowned out only by the slew of cussing he was proclaiming towards every creature under heaven and above hell. “Fin! Calm down!” I shouted, as Fish and I stood up and headed toward the front of the fort. I got to the doorway first and stepped out to see Fin dragging two bike frames that looked as if they’d been run over by a train.

“Get over here and help me dammit!” Fin ordered.

Fish came out behind me and we headed towards Fin, we got to him just as he fell into a pile of trash bags. The cussing commenced in earnest. Fish and I slowed, paused and looked at each other, and then we busted out laughing. Fish was laughing so hard he doubled over and fell to his knees holding his sides. I fell backward and landed on a pile of pallets, gasping for breath I looked down at Fin as he tried to pick himself up. He looked like a turtle stuck on his back. Only he had two twisted, rusty, broken bike frames on top of his chest and tangled up with his arms and legs. His screaming at us to stop laughing and help him, made the whole situation that much funnier.

Out of frustration, defeat or just plain exhaustion Fin stopped yelling and moving. Fish and I got ourselves under control and got up to help him. Fish grabbed one of the bikes and I grabbed the other and within a few moments Fin was standing on his feet, smoking a cigarette and complaining about dragging the newfound frames halfway across the dump.

“Fin, you ever have anything good to say about any project we do? Hell, last summer you bitched about building the go-kart and the summer before that you complained when we built this fort. I’m not even going to go into all the crap you said about playing baseball.”

Fin and I just stood there staring at Fish. You see, Fish and I had pretty much come to ignore Fin’s negativity and outbursts over the past few years. Fish and I even had a long talk about it one night in his basement about what caused Fin to act the way he did. Our conclusion was a simple one, he was an only child, and he lived with his mom, saw his father once or twice a year and only talked with his mom once a day. He had a lot to be bitter about. On the up-side, he had everything he ever wanted. Both his parents over-compensated for their absence in his life by spending money on toys.

In truth, we were jealous of his toys but not his loneliness. Fish, I believe, actually envied Fin’s loneliness from time to time since he had two sisters he was usually looking after or doing things for. On the rare occasion when we hung out in Fish’s basement we were usually interrupted by their persistent chattering and incessant questions of what we were doing. I suppose we were all conflicted from time to time about our own particular family issues.

Fin brushed himself off as Fish and I started to drag the frames the 20 feet to the fort. Walking behind Fish, I noticed the frame he had in his hands had a set of matched peddles and chain. Both peddles and chain were rusted but I believed they could be salvaged. I looked down at the frame I was dragging and noticed it had a good front sprocket, front and rear cantilever brakes. Hell, we really scored on Fin’s find.

When all three of us got into the fort we sat around starring at Fin’s frames. Fish spoke first. “Good catch man, lots of good stuff we can use here. Hell, you even got a chain we can use. Just have to soak it in oil for a day or two.”

“Yeah, Fin, good find. Man, where did you find these?”

“Shit, they were under a bunch of crap. But, I did find a box of Playboy’s as well.”

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas.

That is all.

Now, go enjoy time with your family!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Flatheads, Crescent Wrench's and Pliers (Part 2)

There it sat, in a garage smelling of oil, car exhaust and the decay of forgotten boxes filled with lost memories. Fin stood to my left and Fish to my right, the bike frame sat on the concrete between the two of them. We looked down at it through the dim light that had managed to make its way to where we stood. The paint was chipped and worn in some spots, there was rust and dust covering it and, apparently, some spiders had decided to build a retirement community in the joints of the down tubes and front forks.

“It aint so bad, we just need a set of tires, handlebars, some pedals and a seat…” Fish started ticking off a supply list.

“Man, this thing is a piece of crap. C’mon, where we gonna find all that shit? Skip, just ride your sisters bike until you get a new one.” Fin interrupted.

“Fin, shut the hell up.” Fish and I yelled in tandem.

But deep inside me, I felt Fin’s doubt growing. Just where were we going to get all the parts for this thing? Hell there wasn’t even a builder’s plate on the frame. I couldn’t tell if it was a Huffy, Schwinn or Mongoose. It definitely was a BMX style frame but none of us had a clue what kind. “Fish, how long has this thing been sitting here?” I asked.

“Don’t know, does it matter?” He said with a shrug. “Let’s get it outside so we can see it better.”

I grabbed the front forks and Fish grabbed the rear tire brackets while Fin opened up the garage door. Once we had it sitting in the middle of the driveway we all stepped back and stared at it. It looked worse in the sunlight than it did in the gloom of the garage. I could tell by the look on Fin’s face that his opinion had not changed. Fish’s smile was slowly fading and I was starting to feel a bit defeated myself.

“So, we need to start getting this thing cleaned up.” Fish said as he walked into the garage. I stood there looking at the frame and then at Fin. We caught each other’s eyes and we both shrugged in defeat.

“I don’t know Skip. Two weeks aint a lot of time to get this thing together.”

“Yeah, well, I really don’t want to ride one of my sister’s bikes. Besides, we aren’t really doing anything this weekend or next weekend. Let’s just play it by ear and see what happens.”

“Hey! Guys! You gonna stand there and wish for the bike to fix itself or are we gonna get working?” Called Fish from the garage and both Fin and I headed in to see what Fish had on his mind for cleaning up our new project.

We found him at the near the back of the garage standing in front of his father’s work bench. A couple of the drawers were open and he was frantically pulling out some pliers, screwdrivers, rags, wrenches and sheets of sandpaper. “Hey, one of you guys grab some paint thinner from off that shelf over there.” Fish ordered and nodded his head toward a shelf filled with cans of paint, mineral spirits, stain and paint thinner. Fin headed over to the shelf and started rooting through the cans.

“What’s up Fish?” I asked.

“Ok, first we gotta get that rust off the frame and sand down some of the old paint. Then we need to clean it with the mineral spirits so the new paint will stick to it. While you and Fin do that, I’m gonna make a list of parts to look for at the junk yard. Oh, and all of us are going to carry a flathead screwdriver, crescent wrench and a pair of pliers until the bike is finished.”

“Why do we need to carry the tools?” Fin asked with his hands filled with paint cans.

“Cause man, don’t you know that every bike in America only requires you to have a flathead screwdriver, crescent wrench and a pair of pliers to either put it together or tear it apart?”

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah man, my dad told me about that. He also taught me how to fix up a bike and painting and all sorts of stuff.”

Fin and I both stopped and just stared at Fish, I can’t speak for Fin but I know I was a little more than jealous that Fish’s old man was around to show him all that stuff.

“C’mon guys stop goofing off and let’s get to work. Fin, you find that can of mineral spirits yet?”

“Yeah, I got it.” He said and walked past me, only to stop briefly and pick up a handful of rags and follow Fish out into the sunlight.

I scooped up a handful of sandpaper and caught up with them just as they were sitting down; Fin and I immediately started to sand and wipe all the dirt, rust and cobwebs off. Fish pulled a pencil out of his pocket and a started to write down a parts list and mumble to himself occasionally. I couldn’t understand what he was saying over the sound of the sanding that Fin and I were doing but once he finished writing he began to help us sand the bike frame.

It didn’t take long, maybe 45 minutes of grubby, nasty hard work. Once we finished there was a respectable pile of worn out sheets of sandpaper and dirty rags. Fish handed out some smokes, I passed around the book of matches and we all laid back to admire the result of our efforts.

“Not too shabby.” I said. “The frame looks ready for some paint. Fish, you got some we can use?”

“We’ve got primer paint but no spray paint and that’s what we need for this job.” And with that he got up and went into the garage. He came back a few minutes later holding a can of primer paint and some masking tape.

“You guys tape off the holes and any joints that need grease or oil. I’ll start priming the back of the bike. Oh, don’t forget the hole where the seat goes.” He ordered as tossed the tape to me and set the can of primer on the driveway and started to pry open the can.

I caught the roll of tape and Fin and I got to work. I taped off the handle bar hole and Fin went to work on the front sprocket. I looked up and saw Fish stirring the paint with a stick he had picked up from the grass; I glanced over to Fin, who was concentrating on the taping tasks. “Fish, you got any pop in the house? I’m getting thirsty?” I asked.

“Yeah, there should be something in the fridge.”

I got up and headed toward the garage, “Get me one Skip.” Fin called

“Me too.” Fish added.

“Alright.” I called out as I head for the garage, leaving them to their tasks.

When I got back from the kitchen with the drinks Fish had most of the frame primed and Fin was picking up all the trash. I helped Fin with getting all the scraps of papers in the garbage then we sat down and watched as Fish finished the forks. When he finished, he sat down next to us and popped the top of his soda.

“Not bad.” Fish said “Tomorrow morning I’ll sand down some of the primer and then put on another coat. Then, we can go out and try and find all the parts on the list.” He then handed us a piece of paper with a list of parts. “These are what we need to find. So, keep an eye out. If you see a bike that has some of the parts on the list use the tools I gave you to get them. But, don’t take all the parts from one bike. Spread it out.”

I stared at him, trying to understand what he was saying. “I thought we were going to head to the dump tomorrow?”

“We are, but just in case we don’t find everything we need there we have to have a backup plan. That is, unless you have a bunch of money lying around?”

“Skip, he has a point.” Fin commented.

“Ok, well, can we talk about this tomorrow? It’s getting late and I need to get home.”

“Alright, can you be here at 10 tomorrow?” Fish asked.

“Yup, shouldn’t be a problem. Fin, you coming with me?”

“Yeah. My mom will be home soon and she doesn’t like me out late. Fish? Can we get a couple smokes for the walk home?”

“Not a problem.” He said as he pulled out his pack of smoke and pulled a couple of the sticks out and handed me one and the other to Fin.

We all stood up, carried the bike frame back into the garage. Then we went in, picked up our school books, and went back into the garage where Fish handed us each a flathead screwdriver, crescent wrench and pliers. Fish walked us to the end of his driveway where we lit up our smokes, said our goodbyes and left Fish home alone.

Fin and I walked home mostly in silence. We smoked our cigarettes and tried to act tough but we were both pretty beat with everything that had happened since school let out. “You wanna come by tonight and watch some TV?” Fin asked.

“Sure man. If it’s cool with my mom or my sisters. I don’t know who’s gonna be home when I get there.”

“If you can’t come by, I’ll come over. My mom is working tonight but she doesn’t go in until 8.”

We were approaching our houses, and as we walked down Memory Avenue we saw several some of our neighbors out playing pickup football games, street ball, riding bikes and skateboards. Everyone was laughing, screaming and having a good time. Some of our buddies were calling to us to stop by their houses but Fin and I just pressed on, ignoring the promises of fun and excitement.

I went into my house; Fin went next door to his. I washed up, made a couple sandwiches and realized I was home alone. No note from my sisters as to their whereabouts no note from my mother telling me when she would be home. I glanced at the clock in the kitchen and realized it was 7:30 and I was most likely going to have to fend for myself this night.

I made the decision to head next door to Fin’s. I packed my PJ’s a change of clothes, scribbled a quick note to my family and grabbed my BB gun. When I got to Fin’s his mother was just walking out to the car. “You gonna spend the night tonight? I made a bunch of popcorn and left out some sandwiches. Oh and there’s some ice cream in the freezer.”

“Thanks Mrs. Finnegan. I’ll probably spend the night. We have a lot of things to do this weekend.”

“Ok, have fun and don’t get into too much trouble.” She said, got in her car and drove away.

When I went inside Fin was sprawled on the couch sipping a soda and munching his way through a bag of chips. I dropped my bag on the floor, flopped down in the recliner and just stared into space until Fin asked “You spending the night?”

“Yeah, no one was home and I don’t feel like being there all by myself.”

“Cool. Hey, there’s a new kung-fu movie on tonight, wanna watch it?”

“Yeah, sounds good.”

And that was the extent of our conversation for the rest of the night, well, outside the cordial debate over what to eat, who was the better martial artist, Bruce Lee or Sonny Chiba and which one of us was going to have a girlfriend. Just basic, non-sensical bullshit. To tell the truth the biggest thing on my mind was the bike and I could tell Fin I’m sure had the same on his mind. We just didn’t know how to vocalize our concerns.

Around midnight we fell asleep only to be awakened by a ringing phone. It was Fish.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Flatheads, Crescent Wrench's and Pliers (Part 1)

Summers in Green Bay at best are warm, and if you’ve ever lived anywhere south of Wisconsin you know this is true. This is especially apparent in the springtime, just before the end of the school year. The highs are usually in the mid 70s and the lows in the upper 50s. Perfect weather for kids to ignore what their teachers are trying to tell them and let their minds wander out over the great expanses of green parks, empty city lots, abandoned warehouses and the open waters of the Fox River and Lake Michigan.

Fish, Fin and I were not immune to these thoughts. Nor, did we hold any of them back from each other. During recess we would talk about how many fish we’d catch, how many home runs we’d hit and where the best empty buildings were to explore. Our thoughts were on anything but schoolwork, I suppose we took that cue from our teachers. You see they, the teachers, had already given up hope on getting us to calm down and learn anything. Hell, they had spring fever just as bad as we did, they’d even taken to showing films during class just so they could meet in the Teachers’ Lounge and discuss their summer plans.

With only two weeks left of the school year no one wanted to be at school. The air was so thick with the distaste for educational structure and organization that when a teacher called in sick the school couldn’t even get a substitute to replace them. We even had our mathematics class taught to us by the school’s librarian. Also, that very same day, our Vice Principal had to teach our gym class. Fish and I laughed hysterically as he tried to pace us as we ran laps around the peewee football field. Fish nicknamed him “Coach Heart Attack” because he was sweating and wheezing so much that we thought he was going to die. Fin missed all the fun because he had been diagnosed with asthma and was relegated to sitting on the sidelines. How we found out about his condition is another story completely.

On the walk home that Friday afternoon the three of us discussed more of what adventures we would have. Fin suggested a camping trip out to Green Isle Park with our BB guns, pup tents and all the old Boy Scout equipment we had accumulated over the past few years. “Great idea Fin!” Fish called out.

“I like it. We can go the first weekend we’re out of school. I even have some of my dad’s old fishing poles and a tackle box full of lures he left behind last year that we can use.” I said.

“Then it’s settled.” Came Fish’s response “On the last day of school we all head to Fin’s house, grab all our gear, load up the bikes and head to Green Isle. In the meantime we need to get all our stuff and store it in Fin’s garage.”

“Uh, guys,” I said, “We might have a problem.” And with that statement both Fish and Fin looked at me as if I had just kicked their pet dog and would never forgive me for doing so.

“What man?” Fin asked me.

“Yeah, you just said it was a great idea and even told us of all the fishing crap your old man left you that we can use.” Fish said belligerently.

“Um, guys, I don’t have a bike. Remember? Mine got stolen last year at Snyder Drug Store. You know, when Ricky got caught stealing all that candy.”

“Shit, that’s right.” Came Fin’s voice from behind me. “Your Mom hasn’t gotten around to getting you a new one?”

“Not yet, I’ve been asking for one for a while but she’s’ been so busy with work I never see her. Hell, I haven’t seen her in almost 2 weeks as it is.” I complained.

“Don’t worry about it man, you can use one of your sister’s bikes or maybe one of my sisters bikes.” Fish offered.

“Yeah Skip, you’ll look great riding a girls ten speed.” Fin chided.

“Stick if Fin, you don’t have say so in this. Your parents buy you everything just so they can piss each other off.” I said.

“Hey guys, knock it off. Who’s got some matches?” Fish asked as he dug out a few cigarettes from his jacket pocket and passed one to me and one to Fin. I pulled some matches out of my back pocket and lit my smoke and passed on the book of sulfur to Fin. Once Fin lit up and handed the book off to Fish who followed suit and then handed me back the sulfur infused cardboard which I then put them away. The whole ceremony took about 2 minutes and was committed in complete silence with total concentration.

Once we were all lit up we continued on our way towards Brookridge hill smoking in silence. My thoughts were on the end of school, getting into the seventh grade and a summer filled with hanging with my buddies and trying to figure out how to get a bike so I could go on all the adventures.

“Hey, Skip, when does the Pack start spring training?” Fin asked, interrupting my thoughts.

“Huh? Um, I think next week. I’m not sure, Debbie has a couple of the players on her paper route and they just came back into town. So I’m sure it has to be soon.”

“Sweet, man. Which players and why haven’t you said something sooner? You holding out on us?” Fish peppered at me.

“No Fish, nothing like that. Hell, Debbie didn’t say which players she delivered to, but she has roped me into helping her a couple times a week. I do the houses in our neighborhood and near the school and she takes the ones further out.” I explained

“That’s cause she has a bike.” Fin chided me, I tried to ignore him but his ribbing was starting to get to me.

“Don’t worry Skip.” Fish said as he exhaled more smoke into the atmosphere. “We’ll figure something out. Hell, we’ll build you a bike if we have to.”

“Build a bike? “Where are we going to get tires, handle bars, rims, a chain and all the other crap that goes on a bike?” Fin complained as he ticked off the different parts of a bike on his fingers.

“There’s plenty of stuff at the junkyard behind the cemetery on Webster Ave.” Fish said and then added “Remember all the wood, tires, rope and tools we found there last year? Hell, we built an entire tree house out of that stuff. I’m sure we can find some bike parts there.”

“Guys, we don’t need to go all that trouble. I’ll just use my sister’s bike for our camping trip and ask my mom for a bike for my birthday.”

“To hell with that. You’re not going to be riding around on a girls Sana Fe or whatever kind of bike Debbie rides. Cause if you did, Fin and I would have to stop being your friends. I have an old bike frame at home that you can have but I don’t remember what it needs so let’s go check it out.”

We headed straight to Fish’s house and once there we tossed our school books on the kitchen table and followed Fish out into his garage. At the back of the garage, near the door to the backyard, was a gray tarp covered in paint splatters and dirt. The tarp was covering what appeared to be a small mountain of boxes. “Grab the other end Fin and help me get this tarp off all this crap.” Fish ordered.

As Fin and Fish each grabbed an edge of the tarp and began to pull it off the boxes, I stood back and watched. Clouds of dust exploded into the air and glimmered in the rays of sunlight pouring through the windows of the garage. Each speck glimmered and danced in the air with promises of fulfilling every boy child’s hopes and dreams. New bikes, skateboards, baseball bats, footballs, radios, smokes, and the hottest party in the neighborhood. Thoughts so contrary in nature that only a youthful mind in a state of ignorance can come up with them at one time.

My buddies dropped the tarp with a dull thump, “Here it is.” More dust billowed up from the cloth obscuring my vision and bringing my thoughts back down to earth. I cast my gaze down towards where I assumed the bike frame lie. All I could see through the fog of a winter’s layer of forgotten dirt were Fin and Fish’s backs. “Man, how are we gonna fix this piece of shit?” I heard Fin’s voice from beyond the haze.

“Shut if Fin. Man, you are so fucking negative sometimes.” Fish defended.

“Guys, I can’t see shit through all this dust. Move out of the way.”

And they parted…

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Break.

I was supposed to work today but my doctor had other ideas. I received a “Z” pack, a vicodin prescription and a day off of work note to get some rest. So, here I am, sitting on my couch, watching old movies and updating my blog. A much needed update considering I have not had the opportunity to do so in over a week. Welcome to my world.

I suppose that living the way I do it is only fitting this is how I end up. Funny, I rarely ever get sick and when I do I normally just plow through it with the same vigor and bull-headedness that I bring to my jobs. But, for the past few weeks I’ve been going so fast and so strong that I’ve barely had a chance to really stop and rest. Even on Thanksgiving, which I mostly slept through, I was doing something. Nothing major, a long walk by the railroad tracks with my sisters dog. A hot meal, conversations which took so many turns and twists it would be impossible to recreate them here. Kids playing, food cooking and of course the plethora of photos were taken. Fun was had by all.

This brief respite from duties was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it gave me some much needed rest. But a curse because it made me realize how much I miss just being able to relax and be with my family.

It seems, to me at least, I've been wrapped up in doing so much for so many that I suffer from not being able to catch up with what is going on with my friends, sisters, brothers, mother and father. Sure there are phone calls made between us. Those calls are usually brief and filled with the obligatory questions of health, finances, grades, work and all the other mumbo jumbo that can fit into a 10 to 15 minute conversation. In other words, one person talks, the other listens and rarely does anything of substance get spoken.

Now, I’m on mandatory rest for 24 hours and I have drugs to help! YAY! Being here, stuck on my couch and my 3 bedroom mortgage, it makes me wonder if there is something out there that I’m missing. Something bigger, something intangible, something that is sitting on the tip of my tongue and in the front of my mind and I just can’t put a name to it. I know that one day I’ll figure it out. But for now, the drugs are kicking in and I need to sign off before I things get even goofier.

Have a good week.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanks and Grace

Initially I had another blog to post this week, but, life being the fickle mistress she is, decided I should do something completely different. Enjoy.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the gentleman who slashed my wife’s Jeep tire on Friday night. No, I’m not being sarcastic and I’m going to let you know that it’s no big deal. Not to me at least. It was at first, when my wife called me upset, crying and scarred at 11:15 PM. That’s when I was upset. I was upset because I was in bed asleep and so was my daughter.

But, I got up, got dressed, woke my daughter up and got her dressed. Then, we both went out to my car. The crisp fall weather making its presence known with the fog of every breath we expelled from our bodies. We drove to the parking lot where my wife was stranded in silence. No radio, no real discussion, just the silence of our thoughts to keep us company. Our bleary eyed solace interrupted by the lights of the late night traffic sending rainbow hues of colors through our windshield and making the night shadows inside the car dance across our hands as they clasped each other in worry and concern for the safety of my wife and her mother.

Once we arrived and made sure that everything was ok with the Jeep and the Jeep’s primary driver, I commenced to changing the deflated, sad looking, steel belted radial. Now, let me take a moment and say that I COULD go on and on in a descriptive manner of all the antics, shenanigans and emotions that played out during the next 30 minutes, but I’m not going to do that. Nope, instead, like the good sailor I was taught to be, I’m going to take a different tack.

As I said before, Thank You Mr. Tire Slasher. Your anger and uncontrollable emotions afforded me a chance to teach my daughter a valuable lesson. I took those 30 minutes and showed her how to change a tire, how to go into a problem that someone else caused and categorize the steps that one needs to take to not just solve the problem but also ensure it gets done in a timely manner. I took that opportunity to teach her “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey.” On lug nuts. I taught her how to use a scissors jack. I taught her the proper way to be more self sufficient and that no matter how bad the problem may seem it can be overcome with logic, knowledge, assistance and I hope, forgiveness. I also took your anger and used it to make myself a hero in not just her 11 year old mind but also my wife’s mind.

Yes, I was tired and a little grumpy but I did not take it out on her or my wife. Instead I granted you forgiveness and grace. Grace. Funny that little word. I truly learned the definition of it a few years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. I hope I never do, either.

Grace [greys] noun, verb

1. Mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace

2. Favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity

3. Theology

a. The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

b. The influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

c. A virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian Graces.

d. Also called “State of Grace”. The condition of being in God’s favor.

Now, I know there are many more definitions to the word grace but these are the examples I am referring to. And you know what, Mr. Tire Slasher Man? I really don’t think I am talking to you right now. I think that right now, there is someone, somewhere reading this that needs to read it. Needs to understand. Needs to feel forgiven but knows they don’t deserve it. But they desire it anyway. And I hope that person is granted the forgiveness and grace they need.

Look, we’re all on this mud-ball together, and I fully understand the frustration that can come with the daily living, driving and bill paying. I UNDERSTAND. I know how it feels. The overwhelming, almost insurmountable pressure that comes with trying to be a responsible human. And how just one small act or perceived act of selfishness can make a person so angry that they resort to a short and violent act. The act or event that you believe will make you feel better but in the end only makes you feel ashamed of yourself and embarrassed of who you are. Makes you start to doubt that there is a decent person living inside you with the ability to love and care for someone else. Or that YOU deserve to be loved by someone else. Someone decent and caring. You doubt you are worthy of anything. Listen to me. YOU ARE! Really, you are worthy and you do deserve it. But, being callous and acting out like a child who has just had their favorite toy taken away is not the way to get what you want.

Now, I hope that if you ever find yourself in a situation where someone has hurt you or done you wrong that you feel you will be able to resolve the conflict without becoming a screaming maniac and that you will be able to grant someone Grace. It’s amazing the feeling of freedom you get when you do give Grace to someone.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get all preachy on you, now back to the story.

In the end, I was able to change the tire, hopefully teach a lesson or two to my child and endear myself to my wife. And it only cost me an hour of sleep. I was able to take your violence and not let it ruin my night or my day or my weekend. I was able to forgive you and not let your juvenile antics affect me. I hope you, my dear reader, will also be able to take a negative influence in your life one day and create a positive memory for you and your family.

Have a great week everyone and Happy Thanksgiving.