Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I’m sitting on my couch, slowly flipping channels and trying to not fall into another tryptophan stupor. It’s been a great day for me. No stress, good food, and several naps. A perfect day for me and during all this relaxation and overindulgence in culinary delights my mind wanders into the various nooks and crannies that hold memories that are near and dear to me. So, on this day of thanks I am going to make a list of the things I am thankful for.

1. My body for allowing me to abuse it so much.

2. My family for understanding my absence.

3. My friends old and new for putting up with my insanity.

4. My employers for helping me provide for my family for the past 17 years and 12 years respectively.

5. My Doctor for keeping me alive.

6. My buddy Brian for listening to my ramblings.

7. My co-workers for laughing at my jokes.

8. My friends with whom I’ve communicated with over the past year, whether it was by text, email, phone conversation or just old fashioned letters.

9. And lastly, I am thankful to all of you, my dear readers. You have shown me support by reading my blogs and I know some of you have even purchased the book my story is in. And I am truly thankful for your support.

I hope you all have had a great Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shared Pain

I received a personal phone call today at work. Now under normal circumstances I don’t answer my cell phone at work unless it is a call from immediate family or someone who is a very close friend. In this case, it is a very close friend.

My friend, let’s call him Steve, yeah, I like that name and you really don’t hear it very often anymore. So, Steve calls me, we haven’t spoken for over two months, not for the lack of trying on my part, I’ve sent him text messages, left voicemails, posted on his Facebook page. I did everything I could to get a hold of him except drive up to his home on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania boarder, grab him by his short hairs and drag him out into the sunlight kicking, screaming and cursing my name and my ancestor’s names too.

So, when I saw his name and photo pop up on my overpriced smart phone I immediately answered and headed for a private place in the museum. Now, let me clarify some facts for you my dear readers; Steve and I have only known each other for eight months and we spent three weeks working together every day. At night we would hit the local bars for endless hours of bullshit and bonding. It turned out that Steve and I have a lot in common; ie. Horror movies, horror books, work ethic and a deep desire to talk about anything BUT WORK!

And for three weeks we did just that. Even at work we managed to not talk about work.

You see, while Steve works for one of the best companies in a very small field and he is one of the best at what he does, he is also Staff Sergeant for Uncle Sam and has done three tours in Iraq over the past ten years. His job for Uncle Sam is classified but I can tell you that he is damn good at his government job and because he is so good at it his skills are in high demand. So is his friendship.

Now, if you have never been a part of a close knit unit who have put their lives on the line for each other twenty-four hours a day for endless years on end there are no amount of words I can use to express how close you become to the men you are serving with. The things your share with your fellow soldiers and sailors over the years can only be understood by those that have served. It’s a rough life, especially since the war on terror started. Steve has suffered but he has managed to maintain a living wage outside of military service.

Now that I’ve explained all this I can now divulge some of our phone conversation and why I will always answer phone calls from close friends.

Since the last time I spoke with my pal he has suffered some terrible losses. One of the members of his reserve unit died in a terrible motorcycle accident, another committed suicide and his units commander is now retiring. Basically, three of his closest and most trusted friends have disappeared from his life. It pains me to even think of something like this happening to me and during my conversation with Steve I could feel the pain he was trying to hold inside. He told me he’s been in “ghost” mode since he got the news. I couldn’t blame him. How could I?

Here is a close friend, a soldier, a hero, a brother in arms and a man I would take a bullet for in pain. I listened to what he had to say, we made jokes when with each other when appropriate. We talked about people we both know, new internet sites, future vacation plans, horror books, women and cigars. We talked about everything but the crap that causes us stress. It was a great conversation. A much needed conversation.

I hope it is not our last.

Steve is more loyal to the people he cares about than he probably should be. He will bend over backwards to help a buddy out when they are in need. Hell, he’ll even bail your ass out of jail if he isn’t in jail with you. He drinks Yngling by the case and Jameson by the gallon. He smokes his cigarettes by the pack and will stay out until it’s time to go to work. He is a hooligan who celebrates his Irish heritage with pride and knows more Polish jokes than I know Irish jokes. My pal is hurting and I hurt for him. I don’t know where he is tonight and I know he is working through a lot of crap that would crush most people. I pray for his safety and a guiding light to help him through the dark times that seem to have fallen on him.

Thanks for reading, and if you run into a short, dark haired Irishman who has had too much to drink and is looking for a fight tonight with some crazy tattoos from foreign tattoo artists. Try to gently guide him into a safe harbor.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Right, Wrong or Inbetween

Remember, remember, the 5th of November

The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.
By God's providence he was catch'd,
With a dark lantern and burning match

Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!

Hip hip Hoorah !
Hip hip Hoorah !

A penny loaf to feed ol'Pope,
A farthing cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down,
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar,'
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head,
Then we'll say: ol'Pope is dead.

In 1605 Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Parliament of England along with King James the VI of Scotland. Some say Guy Fawkes acted alone, some say he had some Catholic Conspirators. Regardless of which story is true, he was caught and burned at the stake. Now, every year on the 5th of November the people of England celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. They light off fireworks, burn in effigy Guy Fawkes and have parties across the island.

This is amazing to me.

Here’s why…

One man’s attempt to change the world and do what he felt was right for himself, his family and his country ends up getting him labeled a terrorist for eternity. Guy Fawkes considered himself a Patriot and Freedom fighter, but he goofed it up and now his name is synonymous with America’s Benedict Arnold. Which is funny to me. Benedict Arnold never tried to blow up the House or Senate. (Our version of Parliament) Also, if Guy Fawkes had succeeded in killing off King James and Parliament, who knows how our country would have turned out. Remember, our Fore-Fathers didn’t sign the “Declaration of Independence” until July 4th 1776. Those 56 founding fathers were also considered traitors of the crown after they penned their names to the Declaration. King George basically put out contracts on all of their heads and they were hunted and killed without prejudice by the crown.

History tells us Guy Fawkes was one of at least thirteen plotters who wanted to take out King James and company. Our founding fathers were at least 56. Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were caught, tortured, tried and killed. Our founding fathers, while 5 of them were captured by Brittish troops, 17 served in the Revolutionary war, 11 of them had all of their property destroyed, 13 became governors’ after the revolution and 18 became part of their states legislative bodies.

Guy Fawkes was drawn and quartered.

Guy Fawkes and his group of Catholics were fighting to reinstate the Catholic faith in England. Our forefathers were fighting not just for religious freedom but also the future of our republic.

Guy Fawkes was labeled a traitor.

Our founding fathers were labeled as traitors.

Guy Fawkes failed.

Our founding fathers succeeded.

I am not trying to glorify Guy Fawkes or what he did, nor am I trying to build a case for him. It just seems to me there are a lot of similarities in what he was trying to do and what we eventually did.

Yes, Guy Fawkes was acting as a religious terrorist against the King. Did the reasons for actions matter to the people of England? If you were Catholic, I would say yes they did. If you were oppressed by the government, I would say no.

Similarly, today across our nation, thousands of people are waging protests against corporate greed. If you have a job and are striving to make ends meet these protests mean very little to you. But, if you are jobless, feel oppressed, and have been downsized by some corporate guru who worships at the altar of the almighty profit margin. Well, then yes, these shenanigans affect you very much and you should be very concerned.

Am I saying you should plot to blow something up? HELL NO! Am I suggesting you join in a fight to change policy in America? HELL YES!

Look, we all know times are tough. Gas prices are out of control, homelessness is on the rise. Corporations are playing three card monty with retirement packages. Elected officials have proven time and again they cannot be trusted to look out for the best interest of their constituents. And, the holidays are looming and kids are screaming for new toys.

The pressure is building and I smell gunpowder on the cool northerly winds. Someone somewhere is going to do something stupid like the cops in Oakland and people are going to get hurt. And then, the masses will rise up and we will see what lies beneath the cool exterior of the face of American Complacency.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Happy Guy Fawkes Day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

End of Summer

I’m sitting on my couch, the television is screaming at me to buy things I don’t want and my attempts to brush the cobwebs, fog and shadows from my brain are failing. My lower back, knees, and neck are in constant, mind numbing pain. Empty and half empty bottles of aspirin, ibuprofen, and motrin are scattered around the house like the dust bunnies that seem to show up every week. These simple facts tell me one thing.

Summer is over, fall is here and the looming grayness of that overtakes our hemisphere for one hundred plus days of the year has arrived. It was trumpeted in with a hail of screams as I sat on my front porch on the evening of October, 31st and handed out the yearly bribe to the ghosts, goblins, princesses, super heroes and serial killers that had invaded my neighborhood.

Yes, it is official, summer is over and the time of dying and rest is on the cusp of overtaking our lives. A time when the earth tells us all to slow down, pace ourselves and enjoy the rewards of our efforts from the rest of the year. But do we? Do we sit back and rest? Do we slow down? Do we listen to the quiet whispers of the primal forces that have been controlling mankind for over 250 thousand years?

Not anymore. Sure we used to, when our lives were lived at three miles an hour. But today, we live our lives at the speed of light. (186,282 miles per second, just in case you are wondering.) We can’t keep up or compete with metric shit ton of problems life throws at us. Especially with the over commercialization of the impending holiday and the stress we put on ourselves by trying to make everything perfect for the celebrations that have already begun to invade our calendars.

It sucks. I have always looked forward to this season of rest. But for the past seven years I have been unable to truly enjoy all the offers, tidings and joy that are afforded to others. It’s ok, I’m not really complaining, I just seem to be missing some of the good cheer I used to bathe myself emotionally in on a daily basis. It’s the whole speed of light living thing I suppose. I don’t know how much longer me and my fellow elves will be able to maintain the hectic pace set for us by others. We are all falling apart and chores that we once were able to perform without batting an eye, now take their toll on our bodies in the form of splinters, jammed fingers, twisted knees and ankles.

We self medicate with all the tried and true over the counter painkillers and occasionally with some not so over the counter medications. We stagger to and from our tasks in a shambling state of undead likeness. The moans of sorrow a low an guttural in nature and only drowned out by our recitation of the tasks we have yet to finish. As we gnaw our way through our home made lunch’s, our bodies creak, pop and stiffen in protest of the abuse that is waiting us in a few short minutes.

We joke and laugh to hide our pain but our wit is soured and tarnished by the disillusionment of the impending work schedule. We know we will rise to the occasion and make the dreams of others a reality. We understand our position and we know if anything ever happens to one or two of us these dreams would never see the light of day. But we go on. We have to. There is something inside of us that drives us to complete our work. To not disappoint.

I can’t speak for my fellow Polaks, I wish I could, but I can’t. For me, I know why I do it. I know why I put up with all the discomforts, the pain, the abuse and the sleepless nights. I remember the looks on the faces of the small visitors, the ones who don’t show the wear and tear of a life of disappointment and the tarnish of failure. Faces whose owners are drawn into the magical season and are so immersed in the wonderment of the coming solstice that their minds ignore the minor flaws in the scenes they are observing. The stray burnt out twinkle light, the animatronic figure that appears to have palsy, the chipped paint or exposed electrical cord. All these minor errors are overlooked.

This is why I do it. This is why I work to the point of exhaustion and then continue to push through the mind numbing monotony in an effort to finish the tasks at hand. We have only four short weeks to accomplish our magical machinations but we get our jobs done on time. We always do.

My only real regret, that is if you can call what I feel, regret, is that my life is so consumed with work at this time of year, I don’t really have the opportunity to enjoy Halloween or Thanksgiving. Sure, I get to have candy from the spectacle of spooks and I enjoy the harvest feast of the pilgrims. But I am not as in touch with those holidays as I would like. But these feelings of loss quickly fade with the setting of the sun and the passing of the shortening days.

Soon, we will be surrounded by a fantasy world of green, red, blue and silver. Music so saccharine and overplayed that we forget we ever really liked the archaic melodies. Smiles of false friendship and the monotone redundancy of “Thank you.” From exhausted shop owners and clerks dig their way into your brain like an ear worm on a bad 1980’s radio station. We will be tired, groggy, drunk from overspending and generally in a bad mood. All thoughts of the joy we are supposed to be feeling for the season will be lost in the never ending deluge of commercial sales and greed for our hard earned dollars.

For me, this year at least, I am going to make an attempt at abstaining as much as possible from the commercialism that has invaded this coming season and just try to enjoy my family and my friends. I am also going to try and focus most of my energy on why we celebrate this time of year and what it means to me. If I am successful, I will post my thoughts in a blog, if I am not successful, I will still post my thoughts in a blog. Either way, you will know what I have discovered.

Have a great week.

Happy Halloween!