Monday, June 24, 2013

Bucket List (Achievable)

         Well, this is a new experience for me. I’m morning writing. I know its morning because I am on my porch, the sun is on my right and I can hear at least eight different bird songs from where I sit. Those wonderful chirps and twills are drowned out by the occasional car passing by my house and the fire engine sirens a dozen blocks away on the main road but that does not change the fact the world around me is waking up and tackling the day. I say this as I watch a robin not so gently yank a worm out of my front lawn and gulp it down like a delicacy. I suppose worms are the Red Bull of the aviary world.
            Inside my house everyone is asleep still. When I woke up over two hours ago I made my way downstairs and turned on the television. The latest Batman movie was on so I sat down and watched some of it despite how I feel about all the plot holes in the film. I enjoyed the first Dark Knight movie, as for the second and the third, I always find myself rooting for the Joker or Bain even though I know they can never win I still like their style, their humanity and the disdain for all that the Bats holds sacred. And I’m a big fan of the Bats, just not the emo-bats he’s become. After the movie, HBO started a Bill Mahr episode, I have not watched him in a while so I tried, and I was quickly reminded why I stopped watching him. He has become so smug and self-important that I start to feel ill just looking at him. So I grabbed my laptop, a cigar and a Red Bull and headed to the porch. I’m glad I did.
            It means I get to spend time with you guys. Which is always cool with me. Which brings me to my point… well as good of a point as I always have.
            In another month I will be celebrating another birthday, and I use the term celebrating loosely, because I rarely ever celebrate my birthday. Now, I’m looking at less days ahead then I have behind and I don’t really feel too much nostalgia. I feel more maudlin than anything. I’m getting to the point I suppose we all get to in our lives. The point where I have more things I want to do but no time to do them. Also, I’m at a point where I want to take time off yet the demands of my time at work is at an all-time high. It is a precarious position to be in and one in which I hope you never find yourself in.
            However, I am going to take a bit of a vacation shortly after my date of birth and I’m planning on a nice road trip on my motorcycle. This makes me happy and gives me something to look forward to. I’m planning on going out alone and seeing some things on my bucket list. This is the point in life I seem to be at. I am going to try and check off the little things on the list. As for the big things… well, they will have to wait until I am much wealthier. As for the list, well, I figure this is a good place as any to post my dreams:

1.      Galapagos Islands: to see nature unfettered with minimal disturbance by mankind, to me, would be sheer joy. Plus I get to see my favorite bird of all time; the Blue Footed Boobie.

2.      Alaska: Ever since I was a kid paging through Nation Geographic, Boys Life and Popular Mechanics looking at the ads for young men to come work on the pipe line, I have wanted to get the largest state in the US. And with all the recent shows about Alaska on the Discovery Channel the desire to go is ever growing.

3.      Grand Canyon: One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world right here in America. I have books about this scar on the earth’s surface and it has intrigued me all my life.

4.      Mount Rushmore: A man made carving where the busts of our greatest leaders and took fourteen years and over four-hundred men to carve on the side of a mountain and not one person died… that is a must see!

5.      The Badlands: you have to travel through them to see Mount Rushmore, you may as well enjoy the scenery of some of Americas greatest wilderness.

6.      Monticello: a Greek house built on a leveled mountain by our country’s greatest mind, yes, I think this is a must.

7.      Poplar Forrest: Jefferson’s summer home which he received in dowry when he married his wife. He also used this home as a refuge from the public. And, it is in the shape of an Octagon; HOW COOL IS THAT?
8.      Painted Desert: I remember as a child watching old western movies and most of them were filmed in this amazing landscape. Another childhood dream.

9.      Four Corners: The point where four states meet: Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, one can literally stand in one spot and be in four states at the same time. It is a dimensional anomaly on earth and anyone can do it!

1.  Tail of the Dragon: this is strictly a motorcycle thing. It is in North Carolina and  has 318 curves in the short eleven mile ride. 

           Now, as you can see, these are my top ten. Sure there are plenty of other things I want to do but I have had to trim down my list due to my age and my actual ability to achieve them. Numbers one and two are going to be the toughest for me since it is a money issue, but six through ten. Well, I could accomplish those with a nice long vacation. Unfortunately I don’t have long vacations but I am planning a trip where I will be able to mark off some of my list. The good thing is, I’m in an ideal location for three of them. All readily achievable. Which I hope to have at least two crossed off by the end of this year.
What does your Bucket List look like?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Growing Pains

                The school year in my family has officially ended. My daughter, whose last day of school was last week, received her report card today. It was a good report card, not stellar and not terrible, but a good report card. I have to say I’m proud of her for all the work she put into her education this year along with all of her extracurricular activities. She was on at least three different student activities along with playing the violin and going to dance class once a week.
            She is more involved in her community at the age of thirteen than I was at twenty-three. I’m proud of her and all her interests… well maybe not her taste in music, but I’m working on that. (I’m going to secretly load up some Led Zepplin, AC/DC and Iron Maiden on her iPod. Don’t tell her.) She truly is an amazing creature. I can’t believe I’m responsible for her and her upbringing.
            I remember the day we took her home from the hospital, I was pushing my wife in a wheelchair and my wife was holding this tiny bundle of hope in her arms and as we crossed the thresh hold of the hospital I leaned down and whispered in her ear “I can’t believe they are letting us take our kid out of here. Do they even know who the fuck we are? Are we even responsible enough to be parents?”
            My wife laughed and then said she was thinking the same thing.
            Now fast forward over thirteen years later and my teenage daughter, who when she is not sitting in her room texting, playing on her iPod or watching a video on the television or computer is talking about feeding homeless people, helping the poor, recycling, or complaining about classmates who think they are better than everyone in the class and are doing nothing but causing problems is asking me to fork over ungodly amounts of money so she can be a cheerleader or go for a ride on my motorcycle or even try to figure out how to increase her upper body strength.
            Where the hell did my little kid go who would sit and watch hockey and football games go? When did she grow up? When did she become interested in boys and wonder when her first kiss would be? I’ve missed a lot because of variables in my life but I’ve always tried to make sure to make contact with her. But, in this digital age, it is hard for me to maintain my objective outlook on her eventual adulthood. It sucks.
            She used to crawl into my lap every night and fall asleep and I would carry her upstairs to her bed and tuck her in. Before that she would crawl into my bed and color or read or play video games until she fell asleep and when I went up to bed, I would pick her up and carry her to bed and tuck her in. Now, I’m not even allowed in her room, I just knock on the door and say “I love you Goose.” And I hear her response through the door “I love you too Daddy. G’night.”
            The only time she wants to crawl into my arms is when she has had a bad day and needs consoling from her daddy. Or when we are riding on my Harley and she wraps her arms around my waist and hugs me tightly. This changes at the stop lights in our town, she will drape her arms over my shoulders with her hands clasped near my neck, I take this opportunity to kiss her hands and say “I love you Goose.” She always hears me and she always responds with the ever familiar words “I love you too Daddy.”
            Those moments, on my motorcycle have replaced the moments watching sports on television and the moments when she would fall asleep in my arms after a long day playing at day care, school, or even with the neighborhood kids. I cherish these moments and I realize that I have adapted to her ever expanding life and that soon I will have to adapt again. I will have to come up with another way to connect with her. These are the growing pains of a parent. The growing pains of an adolescent are much different and are a direct variable of what the parent has to go through to help their child.
            This model sucks.
            Not necessarily for the kids, but for the parents. As parents we are ill prepared for all the shit that our kids have to deal with. After all, we were kids when computers didn’t even have windows, unless you programmed them yourself. It is hard to keep up with all the websites, apps and various other bullshit that seems to come down the pipeline our offspring have to deal with. But, as semi-responsible adults we try. But I feel those efforts are all in vain. After all, how can you stop the speed of light let alone the speed of electrons?
            All I know is that I cherish the small moments of innocent intimacy I have with my daughter. Even if she drops the occasional “F” bomb or “S” Bomb in front of me. (Which I have to say, makes me even more proud of her.)
            To sum all this up, I’m going through middle age growing pains at the hands of a teenage girl. All the while I’m making sure I have plenty of ammo for my Glock, a good shovel and some very desolate locations in the local swamp.
            Have a great week.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Karmic Omission

            I don’t wear jewelry but I do have a string I wear around my neck that has two thumb drives and a Rosary Ring on it. I keep these with me at all times. Why? Because the thumb drives have all my writing and personal notes on them and I am not always at my laptop when a thought or new topic for a blog pops into my Polish head, or even a brief outline of a story idea decides it needs my attention. I am usually very diligent about the placement of this ad-hoc necklace, more so than I am of my glasses. But, on occasion I forget one of the drives in either my work computer or I leave it in my laptop and I don’t discover its absence until it is too late.
            Which is the case today. When I got home and pulled out my writings, I realized one of the thumb drives was still in my work computer. You see, early this week I sat down and punched out a blog to post for you to read. Unfortunately it was about midnight when I finished so instead of posting it I thought I would wait and post it in the morning or at a more convenient time of day. So, today without even thinking about it, when I got to work I had an idea in hit me in my head and I popped in my drive and jotted down my notes. Then the day got away from me. You know how that goes, office doors never being truly locked; it soon became apparent that my attentions were needed elsewhere. So, I went on about my day and by the time I left for work all I could think about was getting on my motorcycle and getting some wind in my face.
            Looking back now at the events of the day, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t post the blog I wrote. It seems now, looking back with 20-20 writing goggles, this particular blog may have been a bit too personal. Yes, I said it… too personal. I’ve always prided myself on not caring about whether a blog was too personal but today, this one seems as if it was. More to the point, too revealing on how I see things and how I think and why I can be cold towards others and the reasons why, so I’m sort of glad my subconscious made me forget my drive.
            So, instead, right now, you get to read this replacement blog. It’s not as revealing nor as entertaining as some of my others. But, it serves its purpose. What purpose you ask? Ok, I’ll try to explain…
            You ever say or do something and then later think you shouldn’t have? Well, that’s what this particular blog is. I don’t think I will ever post it, but I know I won’t erase it. I’m going to keep it and I’ll print it up and stick it in my blog binder along with the other umpteen hundred blogs I’ve written. I’m sure one day I will revisit what I wrote that balmy night, much like I revisit many of my blogs in those binders.
            I’m just thankful I was too tired to post it. This experience has been a karmic moment for me in my life and I’m going to believe someone or something somewhere knew I needed to keep this one for myself.
            On that note, I would also like to say that I try to never delete or alter the subject of what I’ve written. To that fact, I’ve only deleted one blog I’ve ever posted, that blog was written in anger and filled with the black ooze of emotional cancer we as a human race should try to avoid not just for our own sanity but the sanity of the ones we are involved with every day. So, on that note, I am going to finish this blog up. You all have a good week!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ascending Youth

            I’m sitting on my porch listening to the clicks, pings and pops of the engine and pipes of my motorcycle cooling in the night air. Thick citronella scent lingers with the heady smoke of my cigar creating an acrid yet sweet aroma that fills my nostrils. I can’t see much past the faded white handrails of my porch due to the pale light of my computer and the candles at my feet, but I can hear people not twenty feet away from me walking in the cooling air of Southeastern Virginia. Occasionally I will make out a word or two of their conversation and my mind wanders off on tangents with no end as I attempt to figure out what they are discussing.
            As midnight approaches fewer and fewer denizens of my neighborhood meander past, simply because the hour is late for them.  All that is left are the slinking, nocturnal creatures who rarely make their prescience known to me. A caterwaul is carried on the wind as it rustles the leaves in the trees and bushes. Night birds squawk out a baritone call looking for a mate or a meal and through all of this my mind desperately tries to suck me back down in a whirlpool of memories of a late night ride I just shared with my daughter.
            A daughter who I’ve been desperately trying to maintain in my mind at least is still an innocent young child. But those na├»ve thoughts have slowly been perishing like so many of my own youthful memories. She has always been the Goose to my Maverick, yet somehow earlier today I realized she will not always fulfill that role in my life. I’m not completely comfortable with this sudden fact, a fact that was made abundantly clear to me while I watched her perform with her dance troupe on a stage to “All that Jazz” from the movie “Chicago”, which was a play.
            While sitting in a back row seat, uncomfortable and surrounded by a thousand other parents, I felt a strange mixture of pride for my daughter and loss of the innocent young child she used to be. I was stunned at the confidence she showed in her ability and the control over her body and what she was doing. When the number ended, I sat through three other performances of dance troupes. While I waited the urge to bolt grew inside of me like the pull of the moon on the ebbing tide. But I waited, and waited, and waited. When she arrived I gave her a bouquet of flowers I had bought for her, told her how proud of her I was and how much I loved her. I tried to sit and watch more dance routines but I couldn’t. My mind was filled with thoughts of what was in store for my child, like the mistakes she will make, the successes she will have and the heartbreak, joy, fear and love that is in store for her in the coming years.
            I gave her a final hug and kiss, reiterated my pride and love for her and told her I couldn’t stay and watch any more. I blamed my knees and my neck pain, but in reality it was the heartbreaking realization that she never truly would be my innocent child who would need me to chase away the unknown creatures that live in her mind in the middle of the night. Creatures we all have faced in our own time but have long since grown out of.
            I hopped on my motorcycle and tried to ride back into the past. I couldn’t. The future is always coming and the past is always leaving. We suffer this forward existence and never really give much thought to it. But I did. I thought about how as every day fades with the rise of the crickets songs we lose that much more of our innocence. Be it in love, friends, religion, politics or the stunning realization that your parents are not nor were they ever perfect. 
            I found myself at my home wandering through my house and looking at all the drawings, notes, articles of clothing and toys that fill a family’s house. Once there were dolls, stickers, child games and baby shoes strewn everywhere. Now there are teenage clothes, pictures of boy bands and young adult novels stuffed in every nook and cranny. When did all this happen? Why did it happen? How could it have happened? What was I missing?
            I still have no answer for those questions, and I doubt I ever will. I just have to accept these inevitable changes and continue on with my life. So I did what I always do when I’m in dire need of escaping… I sat on my porch, lit up a cigar and tried to use the internet as a distraction. It didn’t work.
            My daughter soon arrived home with a look of pure joy as she ate her way through some ice cream. I decided then that I would need to go for another ride, but this time, I was not going alone. I asked her if she wanted to go for a “night-ride” and she readily agreed and changed into some biker clothes. As she stood in the living room putting on her helmet and asking if she needed a jacket I was once again stunned at how grown up she had become. I nodded and she grabbed a hoody and off we went.
            The ride was long by her standards but not long enough. I tried to let the wind and speed of the bike drown out all the thoughts in my head and get lost in the moment. I concentrated hard and I was successful. I felt her small arms tighten around my waist and her soft cheek on my back as we sped down the interstate towards a destination I knew she would like. My eyes were full of tears and I lied to myself by saying it was just the wind.  My mouth was clamped shut in a grimace and once again I lied and said it was because I didn’t want bugs in my teeth.
            I tried to fill my head with a myriad of songs that I’ve memorized over the years and yet my internal jukebox was silent. Instead, visions of holding a newborn baby at three in the morning while feeding her from a bottle so her mother could get the much needed rest so she would be able to perform her motherly duties while I was at work. Another vision of pushing her on a swing, and walking her to her first day of school, or the time I had to leave for a week to go to Wisconsin when she was a toddler. Her chubby little legs carrying her around the concourse of an airport in a pre-911 world and that last hug she gave me before I stepped on the plane. A hug I cherish to this day and when I think about it, I still get teary eyed. But that hug was not as good as the hug I got from her when I stepped back off another plane a week later.
            Thoughts of taking my young, wide eyed offspring to Disneyworld for the first time and the endless hours standing in lines just so she could meet all of the princess’s in the Rat-Kingdom stables. And after she had met one and gotten her picture taken with the character, the look of joy in her eyes as she made her way back to me was worth all the money and long hours of work I had to do just to make those moments possible. I was her hero.
            Today, I realize that one day soon I will not be her hero. There is no denying the future for parents, there is only the love and joy we had in the past. Kids grow up, we grow old. We go from being infallible to fallible in the blink of an eye. But tonight, as I drove down a dark stretch of highway with no other vehicle in sight and my daughters arms wrapped tightly around me, I felt like the father I was not so long ago. It felt good, it felt right and it felt as if we were meant to share those fleeting moments together.
            I know I still have my little girl for a while and I have made a promise to try and be more vigilant in my role in her life. I just hope life doesn’t have other plans.

            Have a great week.