Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Birthday Insight

I have begun my forty-seventh year on this mud-ball today. I officially turned forty-six today, yes, my math is correct. A person is not born at one year of age. But I digress. I’ve taken this week and done some introspective looks at myself and I’ve realized some very interesting facts about myself.
            First off, I’m not as angry as I used to be and it takes a lot to get my ire up now. I never was super angry about politics, since I figured most politicians don’t necessarily tell the truth and compromise is never understood by the masses. What really got under my skin and sometimes still does is the idiocy of peoples actions or inactions that cause endless amounts of stress in not just their lives but the lives of others around them. I don’t get as mad as I used to, but it still aggravates me. I’m just less vocal about it. I seem to have come to a point in my life where I take things in stride. It’s a good place to be.
            Mostly though, I’ve become more of an introvert, you wouldn’t know it by reading my blog. While my day is filled with interacting with people both professionally and socially. So when I get home, or when I’ve had my full of talking and joking I sit on my porch, smoke a cigar and write or watch Netflix or play on the internet. It is my way of decompressing and it seems my family understands my need for solitude.
            I’ve heard that a lot of writers are almost hermits by nature, don’t read me wrong, I don’t think I’m a writer by any means. If anything I’m just a hack who has found a way to be creative without putting forth a whole lot of effort. None-the-less, I have found that I do fall into a hermetical category. So much so that I don’t watch much television anymore and as for listening to the radio, I don’t. I listen to podcasts and the music on my Zune. Yes, I have a Zune and I love it. I don’t have an iPod nor do I want one but I am sure one day I will eventually have to get one to replace my Zune when it finally dies. Which I hope is NEVER! I don’t mind being alone nor do I crave social circumstances, even when I’m in them I am usually sitting in the corner listening and watching the rest of the group.
            This fact, my search for solace in solitude, has not really changed. As far back as I can remember enjoying my own company more than I enjoyed the companies of others. Simply because I never understood the politics of people when more than two people are involved, I don’t know who said this but it is true “Friendship is between two people, politics is between three or more.” This applies to me in my everyday life.
            So much so that I when a new person is hired at work it usually takes me six months to a year to learn their name. Simply because I don’t want to get attached to anyone because I don’t want to deal with the pain that comes when they leave, because they always leave. This behavior is different than when I was younger. When I was younger I tried so hard to meet people who I would become friends with. Desperately forged friendships in times of stress and loneliness whose futures were destined for failure because the people you befriend are just as desperate as you are. I don’t do that anymore.
            Although, the firewalls I’ve put in place sometimes don’t work but for the most part, they do.
            Also, I’ve found myself in a more of a gentle minded state lately. Meaning, instead of scowling, ignoring or avoiding people, I’ve found myself smiling, waving and actually greeting people I would normally ignore. I’ve seen these small changes in me, I don’t know if others have and I don’t really care, maybe that will change one day but for now, I don’t.
            These are the biggest changes I’ve found in myself, sure there are others. But as of this writing I don’t think they need to be spoken of.
            Also, I will say this, there have been many well wishes cast my way today and I appreciate them all. I also am grateful for each and every one of you readers and I hope that I never run out of things to talk about here with you.

Have a great week.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Internal Scars

This past week I received an email from a friend who had taken some time to jot down some childhood memories and wanted my thoughts on them and hoped I would respond in kind with some childhood memories of my life. I found this request a bit funny in an odd sort of manner since I’ve written about my childhood here on this blog. Albeit, it has mostly been non-traumatic shenanigans of me and my friends, I’ve tried to stray away from the stories of the feel good nature or the too disturbing for readers genre.
            That being said, the three tales in the email struck a chord in my own personal history, a chord I can’t ignore. An ear worm of a memory which has been haunting me and I wasn’t quite sure I’d ever want to share. So, without further ado…
            I was sixteen and I had been grounded for reasons which escape me right now, but I’m sure it had something to do with me being a total ass at school and pissing off a teacher, or maybe it was because I’d stayed out too late on more than one occasion. Or it could even be the fact that I’d been caught drinking beer and wasn’t really sorry for it. The reason doesn’t matter nor does the fact that I actually enjoyed being grounded. Simply because it afforded me time to sit undisturbed in my room and read my books, draw pictures and listen to music without interruptions. So my punishment by not being allowed outside or to hang with my friends allowed me to spend quality time with myself. I’ve always been my best company. It’s true and I rarely get bored when I’m alone.
            I remember coming home from school to find my step-brother Brian already home and watching television. I said hi and went directly to my room with my most recent school library books and started to read. I don’t know how long I was in my room reading but a knock on my door drew me out of my reverie of one of the R.A. Heinlen stories I was reading. I sat up and said “Come in.”
            My step-mother poked her head in my room and then flipped on the light “Honey, I made some sandwiches if you’re hungry. Also, Brian and I are going to the movies later, would you like to come?”
            “Ma, I’m grounded. I can’t go to the movies.”
            “Well, we can’t leave you here alone, so you are going to come with us. I’m sure your father will understand. Now wash up and eat. We are going to be leaving soon.”
            I got up, washed up and ate. Then we all piled in the car and drove to Manitowac to the theatre. I can’t remember what film we saw that Fall Friday night but we all laughed, ate popcorn and had a good time. I even made a joke about getting to go to the movies while I was grounded. Both Brian and my Step-mother laughed.
            When we got home and settled, I in my room, Brian watching t.v. and Ma, doing whatever it is she was doing, the phone rang. I did not have phone privileges so I ignored it and a few minutes later my step-ma knocked on my door and said my father wanted to speak with me. I went into the dining room and picked up the phone. “Hi Pop. What’s up?”
            The conversation went downhill from there. That is if you could call what was said a conversation. Basically, he was pissed I went to the movies and made a joke about being grounded and being allowed to see a film. He also threatened to kick my ass when he got home in less than an hour. I tried to explain it was a joke but he was having none of it. He was pissed and I was his scapegoat.
            After the phone call, I was upset, pissed and not ready to fight with him again. So I did what any disturbed teenage boy would do, I packed up my duffel bag with some clothes, books and what little money I had and hightailed it out of the house as quick as my feet could take me. I knew if I stayed on the roads I would get caught so I cut across all the plowed over corn fields, hey fields and alfalfa fields away from Two Rivers and towards Manitowac where my girlfriend lived.
            Unfortunately, about halfway there, I had to walk down a dark stretch of country road which is where my family caught up with me. I saw car coming but I didn’t know who was in it so I crossed the roadside ditch and started cutting across a hay field when the car stopped and my dad got out. He was shouting for me to come back and if I didn’t he would kick my ass. I knew regardless of whether I came back now or later, I would get an ass kicking. So I ran. He tried to follow but the legs of my sixteen year old body were a lot faster than the legs of a fourty-something year old truck driver. He didn’t catch me, but to say I got away unscathed would be a lie. I fell several times, cut my knees and my hands and even scrapped up my face a bit.
            When I arrived at my girlfriend’s house and explained my situation she in turn got permission from her parents to let me sleep on the couch for two nights. It was after all the weekend and I really had nowhere else to go. I showered, changed clothes and sat uncomfortably on the couch next to her while her entire family watched television. I felt uncomfortable and was afraid to move. By eleven everyone had gone to bed except for me and her. We stayed up late talking about what I was going to do and where I was going to go. I told her I didn’t really have any plans but I would call some friends in the morning to see if I could stay with them if it was ok with her. She thought it was a good idea.
            By Sunday morning I had exhausted all my contacts trying to find a place to stay and I knew I couldn’t stay on my girlfriends couch anymore so I woke up early and headed out to try to find a place to stay. Before I left, I made myself some sandwiches, took some canned food out of their pantry and left. I knew I would be expected at school on Monday and I knew of no place else to head towards so I headed there. About a half a mile from my high school was an old junk yard and as I was cutting through it I found a beat up old station wagon and I thought, why not? After all, every night on the news it showed people living in their cars across the nation so why not me? I could do it. After all, it’d be just like camping, only instead of a cloth tent, it was a metal one.
            I stayed in that car for three days before my school figured out I was not living at home and since it was a Catholic High School, I was offered to stay with the Brothers that taught there. I figured a warm bed and hot meals would be better than a cold car and cold canned food. So I spent time with them. I helped clean up the school after hours, took hot showers and even helped work on some of the lawn mowers and cars in the auto shop that belonged to the Brothers. I was also given a lot more homework than I normally would have had and it was checked, double checked and then I was made to fix any mistakes I made.
            I also was allowed to smoke, it turns out most of the Brother’s smoked but never in their apartments. We had to smoke outside. I also learned that one of the Brothers who had the reputation of being a total hard ass was actually a pretty nice guy who liked to feed birds and walk in the woods. Him and I would go for walks and we would talk about all sorts of things. It was an odd friendship to suddenly have, one I was not really prepared for but one that did help me out.
            After a week of being away from my family the school called my father and step-mother and arranged for us all to have a sit down meeting. When my folks arrived I could tell my dad was still pissed and my step-mother worried. We talked for over an hour with the school’s Principal serving as mediator and a couple of the schools Brother’s seated in defense of me. By the end of the meeting it had been decided that I would pack up my things and go home and that corporal punishment would not be dispensed but I was to remain grounded for the foreseeable future. It was also mandated that I would enlist in the Delayed Entry Program for the United States Navy and take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery as soon as possible.
            I agreed to these terms and conditions simply because I knew in less than a year I would brush the dust of Wisconsin off my boots and never have to go back to a life where I felt uncomfortable all the time.
            I can’t say I never got my ass kicked again by my father nor can I say I didn’t throw a punch back but I can say that I felt I had earned a little respect from my family by not backing down from what I felt was the right thing to do.
            Have a great week.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pressure Valve

            My mind is racing this week. I don’t know what to write about, my mind is filled with a deluge of thoughts and ideas. So much so that I’ve thrown myself into my work just to drown out the din of insanity that dwells there. To say that some of the stuff I’ve produced during this assault on my gray matter is mediocre would be an insult. Hell, I’ve performed some miracles with small motors, welding and modern remote electronics. Not to mention my unfamiliar sunny disposition at the restaurant I work part time.
            But all those distractions, work and of course the occasional phone call to some folks I find myself calling “friend” has done little to help me when I’m alone or in bed chasing down a dream only to find myself staring at a slowly rotating ceiling fan or worse, the minutes creeping at a snail’s pace towards dawn. Sometimes my mind is a curse and sometimes it is a blessing. Right now it is the former rather than the latter.
            Disturbing thoughts of what’s happened in Florida, regardless of the side you are on, is mind numbing. The knuckleheads antics in Washington almost pale in comparison to the knuckleheaded actions and comments I hear from the people I walk past daily or even see on the news. Should I worry about all the filth on the internet and how easily it invades each of our lives and the life of my progeny? What about all the crud that is being produced on the left coast and the crap they try and pass off as music? How about the insane heat that seems to have our country deadlocked in deathly stillness and the thick humidity that gives one swamp ass in less than five minutes of standing outside? Is it global warming, climate change, or is it just another of the endless cycles our blue and green planet seems to be in?
            I have no answer. I can’t go down any of the rabbit hole questions that deal with things larger than my own family. My family… wow, there is a double edged sword with no hilt. If you’re a parent or even if you’re in a committed relationship you know of the issues and stressers of which I imply. Bills, health issues, food, happiness, varying opinions and daily strife of an ever changing world seem to add more than salt and pepper to the stew pot of life we all seemed to be trapped in. Our own feelings, frustrations and joys seem to add more than just seasoning to our personal existence. It seems to me, all these “flavors” seem to spill over into the lives of everyone we come into contact with. Whether the seasoning is a friendly “hello” or in some cases a gruff “fuck-off”, our spice spills into the stew pot and make those around us react at a chemical level accordingly.
            I know what I need, I need wind, mind numbing air blasting in my ears so loud that it drowns out the din of the voices of worry and strife in my head. I need the road. It seems to call to me and yet, here I sit, late in the evening, on my porch sucking on a cigar on my front porch and wishing for an end of the morrow. Because I know that with the end of my next work day I may, if I’m lucky, be able to put endless miles beneath my leather shod feet and let the Scorcher tires of Bernadette eat as much asphalt as she can handle.
            And, while I know this is only a brief suspension of reality, me, the open road and the miles that I can distance myself from life, it is the only thing right now I can look forward too. A refreshing reprieve from an otherwise responsible life, a life that if you and I are not careful, will quickly disappear because we are so busy trying to pay the mortgage, the phone bill, the electric bill, the gas bill, the endless parade of unknown people holding a hand out just so one can live a peaceful existence. Like the mafia of old. You knew they were right around the corner but you never could put a face to. That is what life is to me this week. A nameless, faceless Mafioso who has invaded every aspect of life and if you don’t pay the protection money, shit gets fucked up.
            Which is why I need my escape. I can’t think straight for all the crap that has fallen through my microscopic mental filters. Coherency be damned. We all need a break from the endless myriad of crap that fills our mail boxes, our email, our televisions, computers and not so smart phones.
            I have a plan… I don’t know if it is wise for me to share it with you  but I think I shall. This is how I see it… For in truth, it has already happened and it shall continue to happen in my life until the day I grow feeble minded and my arthritic hands or “BOB” stops me.
            It’s night time, I’m fighting my own ID for a break from reality in the hopes of dreams laden with water lapping against a ship. I wake up, walk to the pier, hop on my bike and start her up. The thrum of the engine is more pleasing to me than any high I’ve ever had and the sound emanating from her pipes is more joyous than all the angels singing in heaven. I steer her down the pier and onto a back road full of twists and turns. The night air greets me like a long lost lover and her welcoming tendrils of cool air fill my body with energy and joy.
            I see the open road in my single headlight and I feel the stress of life get whisked away from me like the sweat that had coated my body only moments before. Night birds, crickets, cicadas and all other nocturnal life here the thunder of my approach and quickly find business as far away from the oncoming storm of freedom, I sense this change in the wildlife and a slow, close mouthed grin spreads across my face. I can’t help but feel the primal freedom of our cave dwelling ancestors or, if that is too far of a stretch for you, I feel like a cowboy from the wild days of our country when we didn’t have so many laws and restrictions.
            A time when a man only had his wits and his weapon to conquer his own life. When a man could go about life and his business without the interference of the more gentler life we lead now. More primal. Where if you didn’t kill an animal with your bare hands, you’d go hungry.
            That seems to be where I am now, my life, hell, all of our lives are so complex that when we are shown the ease of a simpler life, we gravitate towards it like moths to a flame. A place where people don’t take offense to a person’s tone of voice, or the cut of their clothes, or even a person’s belief system on this planet. A time where a person could live peacefully in the endeavor of just trying to be happy and not have a metric-fuck-ton of worries. Can we please get back to that? Or has that bell been rung and the waves of sound emanating from it invaded every cell of our being?
            I’ll be forty-six in couple of weeks and I can’t help but wonder, what if mass communication and the consumer mentality never had been invented? Would we be happy? Would more people understand that judging someone gives others the right to judge you? Would be the people we have always dreamed and hoped we would be?
            I don’t know, I can’t answer for others, all I know is that in less than twenty-four hours I will take to the road for a much needed ride. A ride where I will try to outrun my life all the while knowing it will be there waiting for me when I pull back up into my drive-way. When I do, though, this time I will be more relaxed and the pressures of life will seem as if they are but a minor pittance I pay just to have the opportunity to enjoy the ever vanishing freedoms we seem to take for granted.
            Try and have a great week.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pride of the Father

My daughter, a sailors daughter, is currently involved in a fund raising event for her cheerleading crew. I’m not really a big fan of cheerleading, I’ve never dated one nor have I ever really wanted too. But, she wants to be one and of course I will support her in all of her endeavors. So much so, that in the past I have almost strong armed people into purchasing magazine subscriptions and selling all sorts of candy and wrapping paper. This time though, it was a bit different.
            You see, this time, I did not lift a finger or open my billfold. Well, let me codify that, I did open my wallet to make change. You see, my daughter as well as all the other young ladies on her squad were tasked with raising four hundred dollars to cover the cost of uniforms, weekend camp and other as sundries I have no idea nor do I want to.
            But, to my child’s credit, she went out and knocked on doors, went to businesses and basically strongarmed anyone within listening distance to give her money for sponsorship or for a coupon for a fresh fried box of Krispy Kreme donuts. She raised all but sixty-eight dollars by the time the donut sales were due. Something no other cheerleader was able to do. I’m more than proud of her. I am estatic for her. She had a goal and the desire to complete the goal. I can’t say I’ve ever been more proud of anyone’s actions in my life.
            As a kid I was a newspaper boy, and I went from house to house in various cities of Wisconsin trying to get people to subscribe to the paper I delivered. For all that effort I was compensated in money and trips to local theme parks. But, it seems to me I was never driven as much as my offspring is driven right now. She has wanted to be a cheerleader for so long it seems to be ingrained in her DNA.  I can’t imagine wanting anything so badly that I would go out and knock on complete strangers houses for fifty percent of the profit just so I could wear some clothes that others wear. But it is important to her and she is doing everything in her power to make sure her dream is becoming a reality. I can respect that.
            I am sure there are times in every parent’s life where they wish their child would just do what is needed to become an adult and not go above and beyond to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack. I’ve always wished that for my child. Simply because I do not want to see her suffer the disappointment that comes with growing up and the inevitable failure that precedes success, yet, she constantly amazes me with her tenacity and will to succeed in endeavors she feels are important to her. Failures we have all experienced and have either beaten us or made us stand up and fight even harder for what we want. But right now, I don’t see failure on the horizon for my child, instead I see a steady stream of success.
            She has shown great stamina and energy in her endeavor, more so than most of the kids I see these days who basically just wait for someone to come along and make their dreams come true through kindness or pity.  These traits are admirable and I don’t know when or where she got them. Hell, she won’t even clean up her room given a monetary incentive but tell her she needs four-hundred bucks for cheerleading and she is out the door with a hand decorated shoe box under one arm, her cell phone in her other hand and a popsicle in her mouth shouting over her shoulder “I’ll be back in a couple hours.”
            And she did come back, with more money than I would have thought possible. The grin on her face and the air of success exuding from her was contagious. The look of confidence she has now seems to have dashed my fears and worries against the unknown shoals of life. I hope she remembers these days and this success not for my sake, but for her own. For I know, regardless of everything I try to protect her from those monsters of her future will inevitably show up. When they do, I hope and pray she will remember this first and greatest success she has achieved. If not, I hope she will remember the success when she is alone and feeling defeated on a dark night when she feels she has no friends and has been faced with what may seem and insurmountable goal.
            Goose, I love you and I am proud of you. Keep up the great work, you have my respect and my undying love.