Sunday, June 27, 2010

25 Years and 3 Reunions

On Friday I came home after a fifteen hour workday to an empty house and a full mailbox. I dragged my weary self through the front door with my arms laden with mail, my backpack, house keys, car keys (Yes, I have two separate key rings),Nintendo DS, Zune and various other daily necessities that have seemed to overtake my need of a more simple life that does not involve any electronic gadgets and sundries.

I dumped most of my armload onto my desk and watched as some of the items decided that they would rather rest on my desk chair or the floor. I decided to let them. I was tired. Too tired to even try and think about picking up any mess that I had just caused in the avalanche of gear that has seemed to attach themselves to my daily life. I grabbed the armload of mail though as I headed over to the couch and flopped my 190 pound frame of exhaustion onto it and reached for my laptop. Why? Because that’s what people do when they come home in this day and age. They sit down, fire up the computer and tweet or facebook or myspace or check email and let the world know they are home and ready for a night of snarky comments and virtual bad behavior.

I do this.

You do this.

This is nothing new or shocking. And, while I am waiting for the magic box of communication to warm up I am sorting the gifts the postman has brought me. Bills, bills, bills, Spam, Spam, Spam…what’s this? Hmm, a letter from my Alma Mater? Wow, what could this be?

Rip, rip, tear, tear.

Once open I see the letter contains two pieces of paper, one is a form to fill out if you plan on attending the 25th reunion the other is a questionnaire. Funny, I think to myself, I’ve never gotten an invitation for either the 5th, 10th, 15th, or 20th reunion. But, here, sitting on my keyboard is an invitation for my 25th reunion. I set it to the side. I am gonna look at that later I tell myself. Now onto the questionnaire. Oooo juicy in depth questions from people not only do I not know but that I don’t even remember and they are all so “Politically Correct”

Who do you share your life with? Name of Spouse or Significant Other

Year met or married?

Tell us about your Spouse or Significant other? Where did you meet them?

Kids Name

How do you spend your time?

Current Job?

Most interesting job?

Places I have lived?

What do I do in my spare time?

Greatest High School memory?

One thing I know now that I wish I knew in High School?

Suggestions for 30th reunion?

I have to laugh at these questions simply because I went to 3 different High Schools and the one I graduated from I only had 6 classes in 2 semesters. I knew and remember only 4 people from those brief months of September 1984 to June 1985 and I have not communicated with any of them since I left Wisconsin four days after graduation on a bus headed for Milwaukee and then a plane to San Diego. I also truly believe that since the envelope had my Given name printed on it that there really is no one there that actually remembers who I am or what I did at that school.

Now, I am not complaining so please do not read it that way. It is just the way things are. No painful memories are associated with anyone from the Class of 85 from Washington High School in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Truly very few memories exist in my mind of that place and to tell you the truth, two years ago when I went back to my Alma Mater the place had been torn down and condominiums built on the land it had once stood. The new high school is located out near the interstate from what I am told.

All that being said about my third High School I feel I must clarify that I have also been invited to another Class of 85 reunion. This time though from some friends from Roncalli Catholic High School in Manitowoc. That is a reunion I would like to go to. You see I spent most of my sophomore and all of my junior year there and I met some amazing people and have even spoken at length with several of them over the past few years. Also, when I do end up in Wisconsin I inevitably run into at least one of the kind folks from that school and we always have wonderful memories to share with each other. Will I be going to that reunion? Nope.

There is only ONE reunion I am attending this year, only one I ever want to attend really, and it is with the men that I served onboard the USS Austin (LPD-4) with from 1985 to 1989. No school experience can come close to the education from Professor Uncle Sam or the University Of Enlisted Gator College.

As for my answers to those wonderful questions, I will only say that they are as vague as the relationships that I have with the rest of my graduating class of 1985. Matter of fact, keep your June 85. I will stick with the class of June of 89 when I actually graduated the Navy and knew that no matter what life threw at me I was prepared for it. All thanks to the men I served with.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cigars and New Experiences

I like cigars. I do. More to the point I like good cigars, the kind you buy from a reputable Cigar Shop or one of the good Internet companies. Not the kind you get from your local Convenience store or the checkout line while your picking up a gallon of milk and baby wipes on your way home. The kind of cigars that you have to keep in a Spanish Cedar Humidor. Something with an aged wrapper, hand rolled with a nice filler and decent spice, a good draw and adequate smoke. A cigar that when you finish it you immediately want another but you know it won’t be the same.

Now, that all being said, I try not to smoke too many of them but lately my occasional vice has become a tri-weekly occurrence for which my daughter has been giving me a hard time about. Which is good. I am proud of her for harassing me to stop smoking and to live a healthier lifestyle, I have been telling her for over 10 years to “No smoke, don’t drink, don’t have sex, don’t do drugs.” You know, all the things “We” have done all of our lives and have thought that the people who told us not to do them were nuts. Well, my daughter actually listened to me. Go figure. I still can’t believe she actually listened to me.

So over the course of the last year or so I have “Come Out” as a cigar smoker and most people in my life have accepted it and some even support it. The reason for their support I can only speculate on but I do know my reasons for smoking them which I am going to post here;

  1. They FORCE me to stop doing things and relax.
  2. While relaxing I get to thinking.
  3. Thinking helps me organize my thoughts and figure out what to do.
  4. By organizing my thoughts I take the opportunity to write. Hence I smoke more to get more thoughts organized and things to write about. (See the definition of Vicious Circle.)
  5. I truly enjoy the time, about 60 minutes or so, that I normally would spend running around like a madman just by myself. (I find my own company quite pleasant.)
  6. I really like it when people stare at me as if I am committing a mortal sin by having a nice smoke. It makes me laugh at them.
  7. I like the way a good cigar smells and tastes.

So, those are some of my reasons for enjoying my particular vice. I know we all have vices, some people are gamblers, shop-aholics, choco-holics, alcoholics, foodies, shoe collecotors, sex addicts and I am sure many other things that I have no clue about. Me? I am a cigar chomping, long haired opinionated Pollack.

So, you may be asking yourself, where is he going with all this? Well, I will tell you. The other night I was watching the series finale of one of the few television shows that I have been able to keep up with over the past several years when the main character opens up a box that was given to her last season and low and behold inside that box were some cigars. But these were not just any cigars. They were Gurkhas. The brand that is my favorite and you would see dominate my humidor if you ever opened it.

Before I go any further though I want to take this opportunity to thank an old salty shipmate of mine for introducing me to the Gurkha line because before he told me about them I was strictly a Davidoff, Montecristo and Romeo-Julietta smoker.

Thank you Brian! Much love and appreciation goes out to you for broadening my cigar horizons. And by opening the door to the Gurkha line you have also gotten me out of my rut and into trying other brands I overlooked for so long.

Back on track.

So, when I saw Holly Hunter as “Detective Grace Hannadarko” open up that box and I saw for the briefest moment a glimpse of what was inside I almost peed on myself. These were not just any cigars or any Gurkha, these were the “His Majesty Reserve” Gurkha’ they cost $750.00 a stick. These are rare and you just don’t see them anywhere.

“$750.00 a cigar? Are you nuts?” Grace Hannadarko

“They’re Gurkhas’. They are worth it.” The devil

Those are the two lines that pretty much ended the show for me. I had to agree with the devil on that one. Gurkhas’ are worth it. Especially the Nepalese Warriors, they taste like butter! Of course I will never have a $750.00 cigar. Shoot I feel bad for spending what little money I have on cigars and I can think of a lot better things to do with that kind of money. Still, I really would like to know what one of them things tastes like.

Ok, I am wrapping this up because it is going nowhere fast and I really want a cigar. No big revelations this week, no huge gut busting laughs, no anger or rage, no insights to the way I think. Just some cigar talk and the fact that I tried something new and I liked it. Hmm, maybe that is what all this is about, trying new things and having experiences because of the people in your life. On that note, I think I will try something new this coming week. Anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fish Revenge III (Fish's Gifts)

Ok, where was I before I was interrupted by life…Hmmm seems that Fish, Fin and I were in Fish’s basement sucking down an illegally obtained Old Style and some unauthorized smokes after being chased by the Green Bay Police Department and one very irate owner of a really cool Trans Am who now had to replace his windshield.

An uncomfortable change came over us as our laughter was absorbed into the concrete walls of Fish’s basement and our “Devil may care attitude” was replaced with a bit of nervous tension. We were all thinking the same thing, who saw us? Does anyone know Fin threw the snowball? Will the cops be able to track us in the snow? Is our Christmas over? Are we going to jail? Then, Fish stood up, grabbed the empty beer can and said “Who wants to see my presents?” as he headed toward the stairs to the kitchen. Our worries about our future were quickly dispelled by that one simple question. Fin and I glanced over at each other grinned and raced to catch up to Fish.

We caught up to him at the top of the stairs and we waited impatiently as he crushed the beer can and stuck it in the recycling garbage bag that was under the sink which seemed to be overflowing onto the floor and mixing in with all the cleaning products his mother kept there. “Hey, Fish, we could get at least five bucks for that bag if we took it to the scrap yard on Broadway.” I said.

“Yeah and that would pay for some smokes and a six pack. I bet we could get some girls over for a nice party if we did that.” Fin chimed in.

“Nah guys, my mom keeps a real close eye on these cans and the aluminum foil. If we took it she would notice and it would be my ass.” Fish shot us down quickly. “Besides she uses that money to take us to the movies and get us popcorn. I aint gonna mess with that or my sisters being pissed at me for a month if we did take this bag.” He closed the door and stood up. “C’mon, let’s go in the garage.”

As we entered the garage from the chill of the evening hit us dead in the face, arms and any other exposed parts of our bodies. We had all left our coats, hats and sweaters in the warm, smoke filled basement below. As Fish fumbled for the light switch in the dark Fin asked “Is this gonna take long? It’s cold out here and my coat is downstairs?”

“We have to go into the rafters. So, yeah it is gonna be cold and it’s going to take a while so go get your coat and grab mine too. Skip and I will set up the ladder” Fish stated

“Grab mine too Fin.” I yelled as he disappeared down the steps.

By the time Fin got back with our coats Fish and I had gotten the ladder set up in the garage and Fish had pushed the access panel to the rafters aside. As Fin handed out our coats, Fish swore us to secrecy and reminded us that we were blood brothers and not allowed to rat each other out. Then he disappeared up into the rafters.

By the time Fin and I climbed up the ladder and crawled into the rafters Fish had managed to surround himself with several black trash bags of presents that seemed about to burst. Each bag had a piece of tape with a different name of one of the Minnow children on it.

Fish grabbed the bag with his name on it and started pulling out packages that had been wrapped in a multitude of Christmas paper. Some of the paper had Santa’s on it, some had snowmen and some even had Christmas lights. All the colors were stunning and amazing in the dimly lit rafters of the chilly garage. Fin and I could not take our eyes off of Fish as he slowly pulled the magically wrapped boxes from their hidden resting spot.

“C’mon Fish! Stop goofing off and show us what you got.” I demanded

“Yeah cat, get moving. What’s gonna happen if we get busted by your Mom or one of your sisters?” asked Fin.

“Relax guys, Mom is working and my sisters have already done this and if they say anything about me I will rat out them.” Was his reply.

Once he had all the wrapped packages out and piled in front of him he pulled out his pocket knife and carefully opened it. We all had the same knife a twin blade Buck and the only difference in them was that we had all used my wood burning iron to carve our initials into the wooden handles so we would not get them mixed up. Fish then grabbed a square box and started to gently slice the taped ends and slowly unfold the paper. Once he had gotten the tape sliced he showed us the box.

He held the box out in front of us, it was black with the words “Bell” and when he opened the box and pulled out the gift inside it was a Pith Motorcycle helmet with some custom flames painted on the top. The flames started at the spike that was on top of the helmet and worked their way down to the edges of the helmet. It was amazing. I wanted one!

“This is for when my dad and I go riding in the summer.” Fish explained “And, I will be able to use it when I ride the dirt bikes too.”

“I gotta get a motorcycle so I can get a helmet like that.” Fin cried out jealously.

“Man, your gonna have all the chicks screaming for you Fish.” I said.

“Yeah” he said “and the flames are custom too. I don’t know where my Pop found a Pith helmet but it is sweet.”

“What’s next?” I asked.

“Well most of the boxes are clothes but how bout I show you the BB gun?” he offered.

Fin and I nodded as Fish re-wrapped his new motorcycle helmet and tape the ends shut. Then he took a long thin box that had Christmas light wrapping paper on it and performed the surgery on the ends of the package. Then he pulled the paper away to reveal not just any BB gun but a Crossman Pumpmaster BB/Pellet gun! The one I had wanted but instead received a Daisy Lever Action Repeater which was a great gun but it did not have any control over the velocity or force of the BB’s like the Crossman Pumpmaster and the Pumpmaster also shot pellets, something the Daisy could NEVER DO! When Fin and I saw this beauty of American ingenuity we started to drool.

“That’s the one I asked my Mom for!” Fin cried.

I was speechless. I had nothing. I was so jealous I couldn’t say anything. I just stared and reached out my hand and slowly ran it over the box, caressing the picture of the gun on the cover that was being held by a kid with a huge grin on his face. A grin that said “Ha HA!! Don’t you wish you were me? Holding this weapon and taking aim at whatever comes into view?” I wanted to burn that kid on the box!

“Man” Fish said, “I can’t wait till we can all get together with our guns and go get shoot some rabbits or squirrels by the soccer fields.”

“I gotta get one first!” Fin exclaimed.

“Ok, put it away Fish before Fin or I steal it from you right now.” I said.

A few minutes later Fish had the gun re-wrapped, taped and stored back in the bag.

“Ok, this is the last one guys. The remote control cars and not any kind. These are wireless. No tether.” He said as he put his Buck to good use on the last box.

When he showed us the box we were not disappointed. The cars were a twin set of red and blue Corvette Stingrays. They operated on two “C” cell batteries each and the remotes operated on 9 volt batteries. The picture on the box had the cars racing through some miniature traffic cones with smoke coming off the wheels and skid marks on the tiled floor. The box SCREAMED coolness!

“I asked for remote control cars this year.” I said to no one in particular. “I hope I get something even half this nice.”

“I got mine for my birthday.” Fin stated. “But they weren’t’ ‘Vettes. Fish, you got lucky this year. Makes me wish Christmas was here now. Let’s make a pact. We all meet at my house Christmas afternoon and you bring your cars and gun, Skip will bring his and we will have a blast in my basement till the batteries die then we can go out into the fields and scare up some rabbits.”

“Sounds good to me. How bout you Fish?”

“If I can get out.”

Fish wrapped up the cars, placed the boxes back in his bag and we helped place the bags back where they belonged. Once back down in the garage we stored the ladder away and headed back to the basement to talk about what sort of races we were gonna have with the cars and what sort of animals we were gonna hunt once the weather got warmer.

On the walk home Fin and I talked about how lucky it was that Fish and his sisters had a Family with a full set of parents that loved them and were around when they needed them. We really didn’t talk about the presents that much, just about having a Dad to show you how to ride motorcycles, shoot guns and just hang out with. Looking back now a little over 30 years later, I believe that Fish’s greatest gift that Christmas was his Family.

Monday, June 7, 2010

For Wolf

Dylan Thomas wrote:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I read this poem in the 6th grade and I memorized its verse and applied my own cadence to it and have said it to myself over the course of my 42 years. (Pay attention here, this is important) Go back and read that poem again.


If you don’t hear it, if you can’t understand it, if it DOES NOT speak to you, if your BLOOD IS NOT BOILING!!!!

You are dead.

I have raged all my life against anything and everything. I have raged against my family, my wife, my friends, my enemies, my closest confidants, my newest acquaintances, my co-workers and supervisors. I have raged against earth, Mother Nature, the devil and god. I have raged and ranted and I have tried to suck the marrow out of every day I have been fortunate enough to be here for.

Yes, I have had my down times where I was in locked in the unforgiving clutches of despair and have felt her icy cold fingers slowly clawing their way into my heart, my soul, my life. There was no solace to be found in my desert of emotional turmoil and loss of will to breath. And during those moments I could hear a whisper in an incorporeal soft voice…




I hear it when I need it. When my Muse or my Maniac get to feeling a little ignored, which can lead to trouble if not acted upon in a “Proper and Sane” manner.

Both got loose yesterday and today. I am to blame, I let ‘em out to play. They were trapped inside for too long. The Muse was pasty looking and frail and when I let her out she feasted upon all the glorious little nuggets of wisdom, energy, beauty, ugliness and the grizzly fleshy bits of daily life where you experience Love, Loss, Joy and Pain. She gorged herself on everything. She was everywhere, in the rafters dancing across the beams, in the kitchen sneaking tasty morsels of freshly roasted turkey, under the picnic bench admiring the curves of the human form, dancing in a wading pool with a 6 year old boy and catching imaginary alligators. She was a Glutton and she brought it all back for me to store in my memory banks, boy do I love her.

The Maniac…

Well, now he is a maniac and I am not going to apologize for him. He is raw, unfettered, uncensored, uncut and He is truly the one guy I know I can call upon when I need my Rage. The Maniac has been chained up to a brick wall in a straight jacket with his hair on fire screaming at me to get out and let go. To get more emotional. To stop holding things in. TO OPEN UP! TO STOP BEING HURT AND FUCK SOMETHING UP. He was a whole lot more fun to watch.

I watched as the Maniac tore through some cigars, make wise assed comments with no filter, grapple folks, yell, scream, laugh, cry, try to embarrass people, try to be embarrassed, try to get through my thick skull that it is OK for me to let my shit out. Which is what I am gonna do here. So things might get a bit long. Right now I just don’t care. I can’t care. I AM IN RAGE!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.


A man I admired, loved and respected took his life. I AM IN RAGE! NOT ENRAGED I AM IN RAGE!

He died with his bible in one hand, a gun in his other, the word of salvation on his lips, despair in his heart and a bullet in his head.

I want to burn heaven to ashes, I want to flood hell and I want to crush earth under the heel of my Chuck Taylors.

I want a do over. I want to stop this crazy ass ride and figure out what the fuck is going on.

I, I, I, this should not be about I. This is about Wolf.

He was the second man I met in my church. He understood my quiet observations, he understood why I was skeptical, he knew I had been disillusioned with religion. He knew, he understood. He did not pass judgment, he did not push a bible in my hand, he did not question my faith, my walk, my clothes my hair my life.

He was just there. He would open the door for you, get you a cup of coffee, a cookie, a donut, some cheese. He always seemed to know what it was you needed or wanted and how to get it quickly. When he smiled at you and waved to you his eyes had a spark in them that showed just how open he was and how much he understood you just by looking at you.

When time came for having a Super Bowl party, everyone went to see him. When you had a question that needed answering whether spiritually or secular you could always talk to Wolf. Wolf was not ordained at that time. He was just Wolf. He was there when you needed him.

But no one was there for him. He died in his backyard with his bible in one hand and a pistol in the other.

There was no one else there for him. No one knew his troubles, his demons, his moments of doubt and shame.

THAT PISSES ME OFF. He had our numbers. He had numbers to Pastors who would have gotten out of bed in the middle of the night, left their families and loved ones just to listen to him and help him. I would have. But I didn’t get that call. No one got that call.

No one talks anymore. Oh, sure we have 140 character tweets, short emails, Facebook status updates. But actual face to face, one on one conversation. Nope. It doesn’t happen. We’re too busy. PTA, Rec League Sports, Internet Blogs (Ooooo I went there.), Text messages.

Our days are packed. I know mine are and I know yours are.

Wolf had days like that. He spent almost 10 years doing volunteer work at our church, teaching, listening and learning. He got burned out. He took a vacation. But in truth it was not a vacation, it was a yearlong spiritual walkabout in the mountains of North Carolina leaving behind his wife and family. That took balls. But you know what? He grew and he started a new ministry for God. He was not seeking it out. It came to him. God sought him out and gave him a ministry and calling to help people in an isolated area where there was no light for the people who had pretty much been forgotten and lost by our modern society. He changed lives just by showing up.

Now he is dead.

Now I’m Pissed. I am ready to tear some shit apart, I am ready to take a flamethrower to the entire fucking system of religion and pressures it puts on people and I don’t feel that I am able to walk into my church with my head held high knowing that somewhere in our Faith system, in our Lives, our Friendships and our connections with one another where when one person is down and out, when they are at their worst and that they feel they can’t speak to someone. Can’t reach out and talk to someone. Can’t get any help from anyone.

I know I had no control over this incident. I am not responsible. I DID NOT DO ANYTHING TO MAKE THIS MAN DO WHAT HE DID. HE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OWN ACTIONS! I am however responsible for not letting him know how important he was to me. How he affected my life. How he influenced me. How he walked a path of Faith and Honor that I respected

Despair is a Bitch.

And the one place I find solace, the one inner calming mechanism I use to help me make sure that I have taken my time to ensure that I have the Peace in my soul so that I can function and that I have a love that I know I can never truly find on earth I can’t go to I can’t talk to. Because I am not ready to face him right now. I have been pissed off before at God. I have flipped him off. I have told him to fuck off and die, to stay out of my life and I will stay out of his. Rage. Different arrangements for a different man.

This should not be about me, this should be about Wolf but I keep coming back to my Soul and the pain I have there and the blood stains that are on it. Yes, my Soul is bleeding; I can see in my minds eye the slow trickle of blood as it stains the purity of my Earthly Ward. I am its caretaker and I feel I have failed. This should not be about me. But it is. I was in Wolf’s place. I was fortunate, I had a lifeline. I had a someone reach down in my pit and pull me out. Wolf had the same one. Wolf didn’t call. Now the world is a shittier place.


I am gonna post this now dear reader and if you have stuck around this long I feel I need to tell you one last thing; This is not my original post. My original post was a much stronger worded and a bit more spicy. It was also written at 4 am in the middle of Pennsylvania at a meeting with people I like, love and respect. Maybe one day I will post it. Maybe one day…