Sunday, July 31, 2011

Front Porch Visitation

A few weeks ago a buddy of mine asked me if I would like some company on my porch. And before I knew what I was saying I said “Sure Irv sounds good. Just remember, you can’t smoke my last cigar and I may break out in song and dance at anytime during the evening’s festivities and if I do, you are obligated to join me.” To my surprise he agreed to my terms.

We picked a date, right in the middle of the heat wave that has gripped our nation for weeks and he backed out. Just as well, because on that particular night I did celebrate the pagan dance of heat stroke and sweat induced catatonia, which I believed worked. It was a good night for me. As for the rest of the nation, I have no clue. But then Irv called and rescheduled… for the following week and once again I agreed to give up my sanctum sanctorum in order to share time with a fellow traveler on this ball of compressed dirt.

My pal showed up promptly late but in his defense he was laden down with fried chicken and a cooler full of refreshing, frosty beverages which are designed to not just produce a stimulating and sated sense of comfort but also fill a person with a significant “reality is a falsehood” mentality. (God Bless that Pal-O-Mine)

We promptly loaded up his vehicle and went for a ride. A ride in which I knew the end result but he insisted was a surprise. (The curse of brain power) After our scouting mission we returned to the solitude and sanctity of my front porch. Thus commences the conversation… most of which I refuse to reveal to you all here. Simply for the fact that what is said on my porch stays on my front porch. So, if you have any deep, dark, repressed secrets and confessions that beg to be released from your soul, feel free to stop by, and know that your revelations will not go any further than what the crickets in my neighborhood can convey.

The conversation we shared never waned and served us both richly and deeply. Yes, Irv comes from a completely different background than I do. For example, he was raised in the Deep South by a set of parents. I was raised in the north by a broken family. It seems his financial struggles were minimal at best while there were times in my upbringing where I didn’t know if I would eat another meal for days to come. He is college educated and I went to the University of Uncle Sam.

Yes, there are many differences between Irv and I, but there are many similarities as well. Similarities that I just can’t write about right now; which is pretty tough for me since I would love to be able to get some of the codified knowledge of a person whom I respect and like down on paper. But, I feel if I do so it will lessen the bond we have come to share.

You see, and for most of you this will come as no surprise, I don’t like to write too much about the people in my life. Sure, I mention some folks in passing or throw in a minor descriptive blurb about someone I am in contact with but this time I feel it would do a severe injustice to the friendship we have cultivated over these years. And, since you kind folks will most likely never meet Irv for the simple fact that he is more protective over his down time than I am about mine, it just seems to be pointless for me to even try and describe the inner workings of a man who if you meet, you just may underestimate the depth of the person he is because he is wearing a pink shirt, shorts and flip flops while complaining about being eaten alive by mosquitoes. (Damn run on sentences!)

We stayed up late, that night, past my normal bedtime, and talked ceaselessly about the problems in our cities, state and country. As much as I’d like to say we solved the problems we discussed, I can’t. Simply because we both agree that it comes down to an individual’s choice to make their lives successful and right.

The time spent on my porch was truly a gem in my rough and tumble life and I hope and pray for more times like this. Since that night I have opened my porch up to all who wish to sit down and spend some quality time talking, sharing a cigar, good beverages and just enjoying the simple act of communicating in an uninterrupted manner that we seem to have lost in this day and age of high speed communication and 140 character snarks on twitter. I have become less protective of my time alone here and if any of you care to stop by, pull up a camp chair or even sit on the porch swing, please know the porch is open 24 hours for business. And who knows, you may even get lucky and be able to enjoy a beautiful cotton candy sunset over Scott’s Creek.

Have a great week.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stormy Weather

Its 2221 (10:21 pm for all you non-military personnel) Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 and I’m sitting on my front porch once again, listening to the crickets chirp in joy at the glorious dampness that is currently falling from the sky and cooling our city off for the first time in days. Yes, we have gotten a reprieve, however short lived, from the oppressive heat and humidity that has held not just my adopted city and state but the entire country hostage for the past few weeks.

Life here has been, at best just two millimeters from insanity. The heat has driven folks past their short-fuse-I’m-irritated-cause-I-just-saw-the-devil-buying-beach-front-property-to-open-up-a-new-level-of-torture-for-the-masses. Folks just seem to lose their mind over every small thing, for example, while I was standing in line at the grocery store I saw a lady pick a fight with another lady just because they were wearing opposing High School Alumni shirts. Now, if these ladies had been in their early to late twenties I could almost understand the angst they felt towards each other, but they were both clearly in their forties. Or, they had lived such a rough lives through partaking of legal and illegal substances that their bodies had aged prematurely twenty years since they graduated in early June.


What I was saying, the point I was trying to make is, it is hot! Very hot. And the rain was a much needed and welcome visitor. I can’t tell you how pleasing to all my senses the rain is. My ears marvel at the sound, my skin crinkles into gooseflesh in joy at the feel of t, my eyes are drawn to the prismatic laser show that is created as the droplets come between me and the light from the street lamps, my mouth is filled with a fresh, sparkling cleanliness that makes me smile, and the smell, oh the glorious scent carried down from the heavens by miniscule droplets of atmospheric bliss that holds no pollution of carcinogens because they were born at an altitude where our human debris cannot reach. A pureness that negates the invading aromatic coarseness of my cigar as I sit here and enjoy the gift of an earth reborn and refreshed from the heavens above by a creator who knows what he is doing, although at times it seems to us he is an absentee landlord.

You see, I love the rain and the storms that occur here on earth. The forces that congeal to create the temporary madness, mayhem and anarchy in an ecological system we as its caretakers have so blatantly tried to corrupt, control and coax into a manner that makes sense to us is purely a pipe dream we’ve been selling to ourselves since the first Neanderthal drew pictures on a rock wall. If you don’t believe in the amazing powers of our earth all you have to do is look at the devastation the storms create. Hurricane Hugo and Katrina, the tornados in Joplin, Tsunamis in the Pacific… I could go on and on and on but I know you get my point.

But to me, and this is a Skipism, I truly believe that the devastation a storm brings to a community it also brings out the best in people everywhere. One only needs to look at the brave men and women ready to go in after the carnage and clean up in the aftermath. Or even in the eyes of the people who selflessly give of themselves during the wreckage. A man who normally would turn his back on his neighbors just so he could get a good parking lot at the mall will risk his life to save an elderly person stuck in car about to be washed away by rising flood waters. A drug addict with nothing to live for will free a city councilman from under the wreckage of a building not for glory or money but because it is the right thing to do. These to me are miracles and with each passing storm, no matter how brief, the memories of the people who have lost their lives either trying to survive or trying to help others survive are brought to the fore front of my cerebral cortex.

Is it a curse, A blessing, A freak of nature, That I experience these things… I don’t know. But I am grateful for them. Simply because it proves to me that mankind as a whole is truly Man Kind and that regardless of the heat index, the storm surge height, the monetary value of devastation, we as a codified existence on earth are all connected to each other.

And that thought alone gives me hope in the survival of mankind. Who knew that a simple raindrop on a steamy night could stir such emotions and introspective thought from a guy who gets paid to play with trains? Not me that’s for sure. But as someone once said to me… “You are not as shallow as you want to be.”

What memories do the storms of nature and life bring you?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bonding in the Electronic Age

Monday was a good day, right up until I had to go to work. Now, as many of you know I love to ride my bike. It’s a great bike, a Gary Fisher Tarpon that I bought three years ago and on its saddle I’ve had some of the best rides in my life. These rides, while some have been solo the best ones are with my daughter. And Monday was no exception.

It was a rare day off from one of my jobs, not both, just one. The rarity of me having a whole day off free from responsibility to the task masters of my daily life are few and far in between. And the opportunity to spend those brief hours with my daughter was an even more rare circumstance. A serendipitous chance for a great ride and time to reconnect with my daughter of eleven years, that just could not be passed up.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I live in Southeastern Virginia, in an area surrounded by water and there are times where you will literally sit in traffic for thirty minutes just to move one city block. Traversing from one city to the next can take you anywhere from ten minutes to three hours. But, and here is a genius idea, from my city to the next city there is a ferry boat that you can take every half hour. It’s brilliant and I often use this as a mode of traversing the Elizabeth River. Not only does this ferry take passengers but they allow you to bring bicycles onboard. Mensa Level Genius I tell ya!

My daughter and I ventured off into the great unknown wilds of our city with an idea of making a trek to places we had not seen before on our two wheeled adventures. I can’t speak for my daughter as to what she expected to get out of what we did, but I can speak for me. I wanted; no I needed to spend time with her sharing my passion for riding and seeing the sites of my adopted community at the leisurely pace our legs afforded.

We rode about a mile, past the oldest Naval Hospital in America, past sail boats berthed in modern marinas and homes that had housed troops during the Revolutionary War and Civil War. We rode past a Starbucks and a 7/11 and other modern shops and antique stores only to stop at a genteel bank to pay a bill. When we came out of the bank we saw the Ferry sitting in her berth and decided to ride to its next stop. Six dollars and twenty minutes later we were the proud owners of two round trip ferry passes and in the city where everything is available to anyone who knows where to look for what they want.

What did we want? Simple, we wanted to ride! Enjoy the beautiful day, the sunshine, the breezes, the cool shade of tree lined streets and the freedom of being in a country where anything is possible. We rode past schools closed for the summer, colleges with students attending summer classes, and teachers escorting summer camp students around various parts of the city. Sandwich boards that littered the sidewalk created an obstacle course for pedestrians and bikers alike and as we navigated the mine field of the city streets we talked to each other, and more importantly we listened to what each other had to say.

I won’t go into the details of our discussion because they are gems for my soul and sharing them with anyone seems to be a violation of Father-Daughter priviledge.

It seems we both look forward to these rides. Me, for the opportunity to relive my childhood in Green Bay and the freedom that having a bike gave me as a kid and my daughter for the chance to spend time with her father in a nontraditional paternal manner where I am barking orders all the time. (Yes, I bark orders like a drill sergeant in boot camp. I blame my Navy training for that manner of communication.)

We made the occasional stop and took a photographic record of some of the cool and secret places we came across. Like a hidden garden with a pond that had the coolest and bluest water we had ever seen. We made plans to go back there one day for a picnic and to soak our feet in the water. We found an old bicycle that had been painted pink and made into a planter. The night club with a graffiti painted entrance and a school that was built in the 1950’s with 100 foot columns. By the time we reached our destination, a really sweet comic book shop, we were hot, tired, sweaty and in desperate need of some cool, canned air and a refreshing beverage.

We didn’t stay long, just enough time cool down and buy some comics, quench out thirst and then it was time to hit the road. We had four miles to cover and several more sites to see. We stopped at a pawn shop so my daughter could see the glamorous world of used goods bought and sold as portrayed on television. When we left the owner of the shop walked us out to our bikes and asked us to come back soon.

We road to our lunch rendezvous and enjoyed pleasant conversation, good food and a relaxing 45 minutes of self indulgence in a friendly atmosphere with good people. But the afternoon was fading and I needed to get home to get ready for another shift of part time indentured servitude. We raced to the ferry and got there just before the river boat departed. As for who won the race… let’s say it was a tie.

Once back in our home city we rode straight home talking about all the wondrous things we had experienced in our four hour journey of local and personal discovery. It seems to me we created a deeper bond between our rolls in each others life, me as a father, her as my daughter and our relationship as a family grew richer for this experience. If you, my dear reader have an opportunity to share or even pass on a personal passion to your child, I highly recommend you take the time to teach them your particular past time. You will be thankful for spending the time now and be rewarded later.

Have a great week.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Updates for July

Ok, I was asked to do a guest blog on a buddy of mines website (He held me at gunpoint)... so I gave him (At gunpoint and with the threat of some incriminating photos which are PHOTOSHOPPED!) a story I wrote over a year ago. I think you all may enjoy my tale (Since I can't post it here for you cause he STOLE it from me at GUNPOINT.) So head on over to Chris's website... read my story, leave a comment (Cause he said he would steal my computer if you don't leave a comment.) (that is the website, just click it and have some fun.)

Please do this for me... Chris can get very angry and has very little control over his emotions. (I think he was dropped on his head a lot as a kid or adolescent.)

Thanks one and all. And look for a new blog in a day or two from me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

4th of July, 2011

The Unanimous Declaration
of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

Powerful words…very powerful. So powerful in fact that they are still the basis for our county today. I remember the first time I read these words; I was in the 5th grade at Allouez Elementary School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. These words set me on a course of life that I still can’t comprehend today. These words made me want to right the wrongs of not just our nation but the nations across the globe. They made me want to give hope to the hopeless, defend the defenseless, comfort the sick the wounded and the ailing people I came into contact with.

They are also the reason why I ignore people who refuse to help themselves out of situations in which they have control over. This is the reason why I don’t talk to some folks who won’t even bother to bend over and pick up a piece of trash that is lying at their feet. Look, I want to help, I want to be the good guy, I want to be a friend that is there for others when they need him. But, it’s hard to help someone who refuses to help themselves. (Shit, I just realized I re-wrote my opening sentence. Oh well, I’m leaving it in because I can and if you don’t like it. Stop reading.) And all this brings me to another point. That point? Simple, I don’t mind helping someone in need as long as they are willing to help themselves. If you want an ear to listen to you, a shoulder to cry on, and advice from someone who has been in a similar situation… then I’m your man. I’ve been through a lot of crap for this country and I’m a better person for it. Hell, this country of ours has killed me physically, spiritually and mentally and then resuscitated my carcass back to life just so it could abuse me some more. Am I thankful? Grateful? Appreciative? Yes, I am.



I ask, and this is a “Skipism”, why do we insist on helping people who neither want our help or refuse to help themselves out of situations they solely have control over? Why do we continue to send aid to countries that have asked for our help when they themselves refuse to try and get their own country out of the quagmire of corruption, disease, poverty and destitution they are in? It’s simple, I think. You see, it’s easier to take a handout than it is to work hard and make a living. Why put forth an effort when someone else is willing to do your work for you? It’s the causality of doing the right thing when all that is needed is a kick in the ass. But we as Americans don’t see it that way. Our vision is skewed to right the wrongs and injustices that plague the world, even at the expense of our personal freedoms and liberties. We believe our elected leaders hold our best interests sacred and chant the dogmatic “Pledge of Allegiance” every time we come into conflict with reason and logic.

But wasn’t our country founded upon principles contrary to popular opinion and status quo? Isn’t the reason we fought the Revolutionary War was so that we wouldn’t be oppressed by the King of England? Didn’t we fight a Civil War in an attempt to hold together a country founded on principles by men named Jefferson, Washington, Addams, Franklin and Hancock? Didn’t our founding fathers believe that the men and women whom they represented held sacred the truths and beliefs that we should all be able to earn a living without having to by terrorized by a totalitarian ruler? Isn’t that why Washington refused to serve more than two terms in office and thus setting a precedent for future leaders of our country? (With the exception of F.D.R.)

I would like to say that being contrarian in nature is an American trait, but I can’t. Although it is more prevalent in Americans than elsewhere in this mud ball, just look at the music we’ve created over the past 100 years. Well, maybe with the exception of the English punk movement.

I used to rebel against everything and everyone save for one exception, our country. The country founded by businessmen and community leaders who only desired to be free of the shackles and chains of an oppressive government. Leaders who felt that being on the streets of their cities and talking to the people on those streets was more important than figuring out how to be reelected and how much money they needed for the next campaign. I would love to say they were all honorable men in their personal lives but I have no evidence to state what their personal lives were like. I just know they tried their best to create a world for future generations to live in freedom and prosperity. In some areas they failed and in some they excelled, but remember it was an experiment like none other at the time.

I’ve learned over the years, and this was a very difficult lesson, that sometimes our leaders don’t really know what they are doing. They are actually just flying by the seat of their pants and hope they are doing the right thing. I can’t fault them for this, simply because I do this and knowing some of you out there that are reading this, you do this as well. Where does this leave us? Well, I’d like to say that we are the greatest nation in the history of the world. I’d like to say that we have lived up to the expectations of our fore-fathers and their dreams for us. I’d like to say that we Americans have exceeded all boundaries and obstacles put before us.

But I can’t. We still have a lot of work to do and as long as there is breath in my lungs and energy in my body I will continue to work for the dream of freedom and liberty that the foundation builders of our nation set for us. And with that, I will leave you with this second quote from the number one Hero on my list. He is the same guy who helped draft the Declaration you read earlier.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Happy Birthday America