Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Life Lies Within Music

            Green Day
            Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
            Lou Reed
            Ringo Starr
            Paul Butterfield Blues Band
            Stevie Ray Vaughn
            Bill Withers
            These are the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. This is the first time in a very long time that I am actually very satisfied with all the choices. True, not every one of them is a “ROCK and ROLLER”. But then, I’m not really writing about rock and roll right now. I could, but I’m not going to.
            Instead, I’d like to say a few words about one of the inductees. Bill Withers. I’ve always loved his music. Not technically rock and not pop… no, he was more of a blues man and I love the blues. Why? Simple, because when you have the blues, you need to hear the blues. And blues is a truly American form of music. Bill Withers haunting baritone and slow pronunciation of words kept time with the rhythm of all his songs and when you listen to him sing, you know he is a man who has suffered.
            Suffered in life, love and the struggle for happiness. His music portrays the entire spectrum of human emotions. Truly brilliant.
            However; one song of his has been running on a constant loop through my brain these past few weeks. The song, “Lean on Me”. Why? Simple, if you read last week’s blog. I’ve needed someone to lean on. Actually, I’ve needed more than just one person. I’ve needed an army.
            An army of friends, relatives and co-workers. I’ve seem to have surrounded myself unknowingly with people who all are concerned about me. How I live, work and relate to everyone in the path of my life. I didn’t set out to do this, it just happened, much like your own life.
            As we move forward to our ultimate demise, we inadvertently surround ourselves with people we care about and without even thinking of any reciprocity, they end up caring about us. To me, this is a strange dynamic with countless rewards.
            I’ve discovered over the past week, that not only do I have the support of my family in my decision to slow my life down and smell the roses, well, since it is winter, the rotting leaves on the ground but also, my friends, coworkers and even some daily acquaintances are supporting this life altering decision.
            It is an odd place for me to be in. I’ve rarely relied upon anyone else in my adult life to help me. When I have had to ask for help, I felt nothing but shame and disappointment in myself for not being able to stand on my own two feet. I still feel this way. I don’t think I will ever not lose those feelings. It’s because I’m a prideful son of a bitch. I know this. I don’t like asking for help and I don’t like needing it. I like to believe I’m an independent Polack on this mudball.
            But I’m not. This is more than quite evident in my life right now. And you know what. It is a huge relief to me. Sure it took over a week for me to accept it but right now, I’m actually feeling better about myself. About my life and about the choices I’ve made. I’m not alone, and I never was as much as I thought to the contrary. Nope, I seem to have people around me that will not just help me move forward as a father, husband and man but also as a fellow traveler on this spaceship we call earth.
            Yes, there are people in my life I have recently come to lean on and I know if they ever need it they will be able to lean on me for whatever they need. So to them I say “Thank you”. And to Mr. Withers, your music and songs will live forever and there message will speak to millions more.
            I am truly humbled by this experience. Have a great New Year.
Lastly,  I will leave you with this for your New Years celebrations:

Lean On Me
By Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.
For it won’t be long

‘Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.

Friday, December 26, 2014

I've been Scrooged

            I don’t know how to begin this blog. Except for maybe saying “Merry Christmas”. For you see, I truly received a gift this year. Not a gift which contains a physical embodiment of our natural world. A gift one receives wrapped in thin, colored paper and tied gently and carefully with silk or nylon ribbon and edges taped together to hold it closed. Closed until that one fateful moment of anxiety and excitement allow the receiver of the gift and the giver of the gift to both feel the joy of the inevitable reveal.
            No, that is not the sort of gift I received. My gift did not come on the eve or even the day of the celebration of our lord’s birth. Instead, my gift was given to me late on Monday night during a conversation with a close and personal friend. His gift was guidance and an idea.
            The idea, once I thought about it, was not just one of what I was doing wrong or right in my life but how my life can be. Should be and hopefully will be. He showed me that my basic premise in life, a motto I’ve been living by since I was a boy of single digits and a motto I’m sure we’ve all heard in our lives that seems to have become a platitude in recent years, was somewhat flawed. My motto “Work hard, do your best, and you will succeed.” While a good motto, needs to be modified and amended.
            It’s no secret that I’ve been working long arduous hours four countless years. Years that seem to have never happened to me because when I look back in the fog of my memory, all I see is work. Solutions to problems others could or would not see. Endless tasks of moving things, repairing things and delivering things. Items, physical in nature with little or no value today. Objects both animate and inanimate while important at the moment they were needed have become lost to the oceans of memories and problems that came after them.
            These tasks, objects and issues which took up so much of my time, took precedent over my physical, mental and emotional health. They stole from me the opportunities to spend with my family. To go on adventures, experience joys, pleasures and pains with them. I’ve missed family functions, dinners, plays, recitals, and daily bonding time. All because of that motto. Work hard and you will succeed.
            The reason I followed that motto was always to provide for my family. To ensure they had everything they needed and some of the things they wanted. I refused to stop for anything or anyone. I always arrived early to work, did everything I could do to make sure my tasks got finished and only when I completely physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day would I return home to fall into an almost coma like state. Not communicating with my family, not taking an active role in their lives because I was completely incapable to. This is not my excuse, nor is it my reason. No, this is my crime.
            My crime of becoming all too consumed with the daily grind of living between a rut and a grave that stopped me from being the man my family needs me to be. The man my faith guides me to be. Through my endeavors of these years I’ve lost sight of not just what my family needs but of what I need as well. My need to feel more than a physical bank. A bill payer, a shell of a human who barely exists on this plane and a ghost of a man who is also a father and husband.
            A father who needs to be present in his child’s life, to watch that child grow and become a young adult. To observe and guide that offspring in becoming a healthy and happy young adult who will eventually turn into a prosperous and stable adult. I’ve failed there. I allowed my mate to pick up my duties and carry them as a yoke. Burdening her with more responsibility than one parent should have. Yes, I am guilty of this.
            As a husband I have failed even more so. I’ve been absent both physically and emotionally. When I was present, my replies to whatever conversations were usually primeval grunts in acknowledgement or dissent. Simply because thought at exhaustion is almost impossible. I am guilty of this as well.
            Yet my family, the ones who live with me, the ones who grew up with me and even my extended by marriage family all stood by and watched as I slowly traveled down my chosen path. It is not that they agreed with what I was doing, but that they knew there was no amount of words, actions or deeds that would make me change my southern tack. They stood by and prayed, hoped, consoled each other and occasionally, in desperate times, almost drug me to places I saw no financial or physical reward from. I placed them in that situation. A situation where the person they love was on a self-destructive path and that person could not even see what he was doing to himself or the ones around him.
            So, late Monday night, sitting in a smoke filled cab of a vehicle while it slowly rained outside and fog rolled in from the bay, my friend sat and listened as I droned on about how I had lost my way. How my motto had become my obsession and my obsession had turned me into a lost and empty soul. A soul who saw nothing good, nothing worth anything and all that he touched turn to dust and smoke. A soul whose very existence was to wake up before light and only retire after the light was gone. An almost vampiric existence. Which is to say, no existence at all.
            He listened to all of this, and when I was finished, he asked if I wanted his advice as a friend, as a pastor or if he wanted me to just watch him walk away into the night. I chose to receive his advice as my friend and as my pastor. After all, I knew if I let him go off alone into the mist, I may never see him again. He spoke not in platitudes or comfort. He spoke of wrong thinking, of missed opportunities because of faulty logic. He spoke of a grander design and how I am the only one in my own way. He told me nothing of what I wanted to hear, he told me what I needed to hear but did not want to hear.
            His words shamed me, humbled me, scared me and embarrassed me. He held a mirror up to my life of work and all I saw was a man who was underweight, hollowed eyed and lonely with no one to turn to when I needed someone to speak with, to give me comfort to just listen. Because of my actions, I had become alienated on a deserted island. Even though that island was filled with people who cared, I could not see it. The simplest acts of kindness towards me were met with suspicion and empty thanks.
            Yes, my friend gave me some very painful truths, harsh criticisms and humbling facts. His words were knives to my flesh and soul. I did not bleed red though, instead, I bled salty tears of pain and embarrassment. After all, when you face the abyss, and the person who is trying to talk you away from that dark and endless void is not offering you words of support or encouragement but instead only tells you what you’ve done wrong, it gives you pause. Well, it gave me pause.
            His words made me think about the premise of my life. And how that premise had caused me to push away the people I love and was trying to take care of. How my good intentions and deeds became twisted and bastardized by my own hands through my own thoughts. Somehow, someway, through my solitary focus, I lost all focus. My life had become a blur of endless moments filled with endless chores that obliterated all I should have seen.
            My way of existence and the man I have become it seems, has gotten in the way of the man I should have been and the man I hope to become.
            So this year, my Christmas gift was unexpected, unwanted and yet, completely necessary. It was also given with great love and honesty. It was the gift of my life. A gift I’d been taking for granted of for years. A gift I hope and pray I will never take advantage of again.
            As of right now, I vow to get of the way of others and my creator. I vow to take time for the people who not only need me but want me in their lives and have only my best interest at heart. I am now on a path that I hope will make me the man that is worthy of their love and admiration. Not by being a provider, but a supporter, a listener, an advisor, a friend and a companion.
            My gift it seems has also become others gift in an odd way. A gift of answered prayers, a gift of a friend, a gift of a father and a gift of a husband.
            So, on this day, my dear reader if you are still with me after this woefully long tale, I say to you, take the gift of your time. Love the ones you are around and share with them all that you can. Become the person you know you can be inside and enjoy being with those around you. Do not follow my path. It is fraught with loneliness and no one should ever feel alone.
            I hope you all have had a Merry Christmas and it was filled with love and that that you were surrounded by the ones you love.

            Have a great week.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What is Christmas?

            I don’t know. It’s that simple.
            Sure, as a Christian I believe in the birth and resurrection of our savior. But, science tells us that December 25th, was not the actual date of the birth of Jesus. Science also tells us that two thousand and fourteen years ago, by the Gregorian calendar he was not executed. Yet every year on this upcoming, nay, looming date we celebrate the birth of our Christian savior. I have faithfully followed these learned acts for the forty-seven years I’ve been breathing. Only because it is what I was raised and taught to do.
            However, knowing our history, human history, and its bloody roots, I can honestly say, I’m not a fan of how things are working out.
            Some say that the advent of Hollywood and its inexhaustible tentacles of propaganda have tinged the holy day of Christianity and its savior. This is somewhat true. To me at least. Also, I understand that our dust speck of a world in the grand scheme of the universe hold nothing to the knowledge of things we don’t know.
            After all, as a man I wholeheartedly respect once said to me, “You, Skip, are a pragmatist with a golden heart. Regardless of what you portray to the masses.” I have to think in those terms. After all, he was right. I am a pragmatist. I take things as they come. If there is a problem and I have a solution. I fix the problem.
            Right now, I have a problem with no solution. I know science. I know religion. I know that in the epic tale of Gilgamesh, written a thousand years before the Holy Bible, there is a tale of a great flood and a man who built an ark. An ark that housed all the species of animals we know today. Save for those we have either hunted to extinction or have passed on through natural selection. I know that in my heart there has to be some sort of design for our existence and that design was not meant for all of us to struggle on a daily basis.
            Our ancestors, the ones who stood up and said “I will no longer move my family from one hunting ground to another but instead I shall lay down my spear and knife and plow the land and plant the crops we need. I shall practice husbandry of animals and only slaughter that which needs to be slaughtered in order to sustain us.” Men and women who started the first cities and civilizations… men and women with foresight that is respectable and admirable. The men and women whose shoulders we do not stand upon but their offspring’s shoulders we elevate ourselves upon. They are the ones we owe gratitude for.
            Yes, the solstice of winter is here. We are all huddled close to each other in the warm confines of our homes. Well, except me. I’m sitting on my porch, it’s 12:42 am and about 38 degrees outside. Yet I’m here. I’m not tired because my mind is racing with thoughts that contradict each other.
            Thoughts that tell me, there is a greater meaning to life than just paying bills and surviving in a world where money means everything and a world where thought and ideas are the currency of the day. Where fact, hard boiled proven fact, means more than a ghost story about some guy in the sky.
            I know, I’ve written about this sort of juxtaposition before. I can’t help it. It seems I’m not done with my own issues about life, science and belief yet. I wish I were. I wish I could jump into one arena or the other and say adamantly and at the top of my voice “THIS IS WHAT I BELIVE! LIKE IT OR NOT!” but I can’t.
            How can I? How can you?
            There is more unknown than known in the physical universe. I won’t even go into the metaphysical universe. So how can a Pollack like me stand on one side or the other and vehemently state a universal truth? I can’t. It’s that simple.
            I believe in mankind and our ability to adapt and overcome obstacles that have almost no outcome of success. Why? Simple, there is a history there. We, as homo sapiens, have overcome some amazing setbacks in our history. That’s recorded history not some fairy tale of vampires, werewolves and zombie history. Yet, there is an almost primordial call to how we survived. How mankind managed to overcome the obstacles it faced even before it knew of any type of religion or zealotry.
            How can this be?
            Are we simply programmed to procreate, survive and multiply at all costs?
            Or, are we a chosen species of life form who has manage with little or no direction to create and bastardize the teachings of those who came before us. Men and women who were wiser and more intelligent yet we still ignore their teachings? Teachings that would vault us far beyond what we believe we are and into another category of existence?
            I don’t know. I wish I did. For if I did, I wouldn’t be in this position.
            Nope, I’d know stuff. I’d be more at peace with myself and mayby, just maybe, I’d be able to sleep the slumber of the knowing. Instead, I’m in a certain, self-inflicted type of purgatory.
            Yes, I’m a believer in the overall master design and plan of the universe. But, no, I don’t believe we as a species have been able to narrow down into one cohesive dogma that will save our silly, corporeal lives.
            We all have to believe in something, religion, science, nihilism, and atheism. I’m sure there are many more “ISMS” out there. But for me, at this time of year, when men, women and children are in good spirits, try to be better than what they are during the course of the other eleven months of our rotation around the sun, I tend to believe the we all, no matter what creed or race are just trying to be the best that we can be.
            Which gets me wondering, what could mankind do if that was our goal every month of the year? Where exactly would we be if we could set aside any and all prejudices in a full revolution around the sun? What would be accomplished? What sense of peace would we all have? Where would the industrial war machine be? An exactly how tranquil would our daily lives be if we had nothing but good will broadcast across the airwaves?
            I would honestly believe we would be in a 21st century enlightenment era where all things were possible and our existence to our own personal creator would be honored.
            But that is just a pipe dream of a madman in Virginia. I hope and pray all of you, my dear readers are having a great week and that you find your own peace and tranquility in your life. I wish you nothing but the best for this season, whichever season you may celebrate, either religiously or intellectually.

            Have a great week.

            PS. The answer to my initial question… Family.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sickness causes Hallucinations

            Yes, yes, I know I missed last week’s blog and I’m sorry about that. Well, not really, I’ve been busy and sick. As a matter of fact, as I sit here and pound the keys to my computer into submission, I’m still sick. The past five days have been lived in a fuge state filled with drug induced hallucinations of black golf carts flying overhead laden with spy cameras, sniper microphones and infrared mind readers. All with the sole purpose of keeping the middle class middle and the lower class lower while the higher class gets higher. (Maybe I shouldn’t mix my FDA controlled pain meds with over the counter cold and flu meds. But that’s a blog for another day.)
            So last Thursday night I’m sitting in an oversized pickup truck that gets about 0.3 miles to the gallon with a buddy of mine whom had asked for my assistance in moving some stuff. The cab was overheated, the outside temperature was in the low 40’s and on the radio was some sort of bullshit, cockamamie excuse for music that was making the headache I’d been fighting all day just grow into a large thunderstorm of oncoming pain. Basically I felt like the south end of a north bound dog that’d just left the “Acme Mad-Cow Meat Packing Plant” and leaving a trail of disgusting brown and red bodily fluids that even inspector Clouseau would be able to follow and eventually deduce the inevitable outcome the evidence points to.
            I tried to make small talk, but small talk with my buddy usually begins with the beratement of any and all individuals who want any type of gun control in this country and ends up just this side of fascism where the government instead of handing out bread in bread lines is handing out guns and ammunition to the starving masses. I tried to keep the conversations topics light and airy. I succeeded. We managed to not talk about politics, the rich, the poor, the working class and we even steered clear of alien abduction and the impact of Elvis impersonators on the economic development of Las Vegas in the early 1990’s and its gentrification impact for the masses in the form of family entertainment instead of the sleazy entertainment the city was once known for.
            Nope, we spoke only of family and family issues. We spoke of work and the troubles we’ve been having. Mostly it was just nonsense talk between two people who were venting the stress and worries of daily life in a manner that befits our stations in life. Also, you guys really don’t want to read what we spoke of. We just drove across town, had idle chit chat and upon our arrival at our destination, we got out and went to work. Efficiently and quickly we opened the bed of the truck, and in two trips filled the bed whilst ignoring the audible protests from our respective joints. All while the owner of the furniture stood in the dark, holding a cell phone up with the flashlight application on telling us to be careful not to trip over this log or that rock and beware of this hole and that dog. I bit my tongue in an attempt to not piss this guy off since he is related to my buddy. I just worked. It’s all I could do.
            We transported the furniture to its final destination. Placed it and left. That’s when my buddy offered dinner. I was hungry, felt like crap and definitely needed some reprieve from my life. I agreed. We found a semi-quiet pizza joint, sat outside in a tent with a natural gas heater blasting away the cold air like Bill Mahr blasting away at Regonomics. We were surrounded by young twenty-something hipsters smoking clove cigarettes, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer from pitchers and cans while discussing their college courses and the types of careers they looked forward to getting into once they graduated. We tried to ignore them. We sort of succeeded. Which means we didn’t get into a fight with any of these neophytes of life who are going to school on mommy and daddies dime while at the same time being disgusted with the way their parents make money and try to provide a better future for their progeny, fucking hypocrites. It was a true test of will.
            Instead, we ate over spicy pizza, drank warm beverages and spoke more of our lives and struggles. All the while, my head was swimming, my body was running between sweating and freezing and my stomach was churning with each bite I took of the food. When we left, the place had nearly emptied out. I’d like to say that my buddy and my indifference paired with my constant smoking of my cigar made them leave. But that would be a bit arrogant of me now wouldn’t it?
            We climbed back into the beast of a truck and headed down the road. After three blocks travel I was demanding my buddy to pull over. He did. I got out and quickly and calmly vomited up the food and drink I’d just tried to digest. I threw up all over the hipster sidewalk, garbage can, and some sort of hybrid car that I’m sure would fit in the bed of the truck I’d just jumped out of. A few minutes later, after wiping my face and boots off, I climbed back into the truck and expressed my sorrow for the street cleaner in the morning but not the hipster who now had a new bodily fluid paint job on his car.
            This was just the beginning of my travel down the road to my illness. I know a bit disgusting and outrageous but true none the less. This is the reason I’ve not been writing. I just haven’t been able to dig deep into myself and pull out the gooey cancerous thoughts that normally float around inside my Polish head. After all, it’s hard to keep your thoughts straight when you are making aluminum foil hats to wear in order to prevent the government controlled black golf carts from reading your mind.
            Have a great week and I hope to be able to write more later.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Memory Avenue

            It’s funny how memory works to me. How a sound, a photograph, a smell and even a taste one your tongue can transport a person from a walking, talking and semi-reasoning adult into a blathering idiot of a teenager. This sort of experience recently just happened to me. It was a strange journey to me. Long forgotten memories of my youth, and mind you, these are actually good memories, were jarred from my childhood id and released fully onto my hippocampus.
            So if you’ll bear with me, and be patient, I’ll take you down the road of the cause and results of this recent exploration into my teen years. More specifically, a trip to Port Plaza Mall with my family for Christmas shopping.
            I was standing in the kitchen of my part time employer, it was about 6:15 pm, there were only a few customers in the restaurant and the Chef and I were talking about nothing and everything. It was then that I realized the Chef had made a soup that in my fifteen years of working there I’d never tried. It was New England Clam Chowder. Now, it is customary for waiters and waitresses to try new dishes so that they can explain the food to the customers. It’s common practice, trust me. So I picked up a small dish, poured some soup into it and then took a spoon and placed a mouthful of the creamy goodness into my mouth.
            I don’t really know how to explain what happened next. I can tell you that I’ve eaten a lot of clam chowder in my past. Some from cans, some reportedly homemade. Some very unsatisfying. Some rather delicious but none as amazing as that first spoonful of my Chef’s have ever transported me back in time to the first taste of clam chowder.
            This soup was simply amazing. The diced potatoes were of the perfect texture, the crème didn’t sit heavily on the palette and the clams had just a hint of salt and tender enough that you could bite through them in one quick chomp. Seasoning wise, it was amazing, not too salty, the perfect amount of pepper and just a hint of sweetness. All in all, it was the trigger for my first taste of this under-appreciated soup.
            I felt like I was thirteen again, sitting in a department store cafeteria at Port Plaza Mall in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Alongside my teen self, my three sisters, my mother and my soon to be mothers second husband. He was the one who had ordered the clam chowder. I was curious about the soup. Because up until that time the only soups I could remember having were chicken noodle and my mother’s split pea soup. I hate split pea soup to this day, almost as much as I hate Brussel sprouts. I hate them so much that I truly believe that split pea soup is the piss of the devil and Brussel sprouts are the devils dingleberries. YUCK!
            In my mind, while standing in the stark white kitchen under florescent lights and surrounded by stainless steel counters, I was slowly dipping my spoon into a bowl of cafeteria style clam chowder not knowing what to expect. I remember taking that first tentative bite of the soup, how the pale looking meat of the clam seemed so foreign to me and the chunkiness of the potato stood out above the rim of the spoon and the little green flake of what I learned later was chives seemed very inviting to my youthful palette. I was stunned. Amazed and completely enthralled. I wanted more. The soup was salty, juicy, filled with pepper, had a nice earthy tone to it and in my mind, all I could picture were the sea-gulls screaming on the beach along Green Bay’s beaches and along the Fox River. I wanted more. I got it. I was told I could order a bowl for myself, which I did and as soon as it was delivered I devoured it like a starving kid in a third world country.
            The soup, in my youth was just the appetizer. Growing up in Wisconsin, the only appetizer I’d ever had was fried cheese curds. Tasty, fattening and filled with fat and bad cholesterol. In other words… the perfect appetizer. Also, you don’t really need any dipping sauces. When this balding, white haired man ordered a Rueben Sandwich, I immediately ordered the same thing. Even though I knew absolutely nothing about a Rueben Sandwich. Hell, the only sandwiches I knew were peanut butter and jelly, liverwurst on onion, bologna and cheese and lastly, the classic grilled cheese.
            So when the waitress delivered the food and quickly placed a steaming plate of grilled pastrami and sauerkraut in front of me and a mile high pile of fries, I had no idea what to do with it. I looked around the table, everyone was ingesting their meals. I saw this man who was soon to be my father figure smearing onto the edge of his sandwich some brownish-yellow mustard. I looked down at my plate and saw a small cup filled with the same mustard, I copied his actions. When he took a bite, I took my first bite of a Rueben.
            My mind was blown, the crispy, crunchy and butterieness of the bread, the soft succulent and sour flavor of the sauerkraut, the tender, pickled meat all surrounded by the bitterness and joy known as brown mustard made my taste buds stand up and applaud. My mind was literally blown. The things that were going on in my mouth seemed to have extended their tendrils of goodness throughout my body and I was certain I was convulsing uncontrollably. When I looked around the table at my fellow family members, it seemed my experience was solitary. Everyone seemed to be filing an empty void in their bodies while I was going through an epiphany of gastronomical proportions. Food I’d never heard of or tasted had been thrust upon my body at the order of my own voice and I was now experiencing for the first time what can only be described as a “foodgasm”.
            It was the first of many. But you never forget your first. Sure it may be buried into your cerebral cortex for endless years. However, it will be released eventually. Trust me it will.
            There are a lot of food firsts for me that followed that day. I discovered a veritable cornucopia of tastes, textures and styles of mouth pleasing and more importantly, mind and body pleasing sources of protein. I still try new stuff to this day in the hopes of actually going through a similar experience. And, truth be told, I’ve had many of them to date and I hope to have many more. But rarely do I have an experience that brings me back to my youth, my innocence and my first time with people where we are all relaxed, happy and filled with joy.
            Those moments, whether brought to you by food, music, television shows or even just a common agreement in views is a rare things these days. Yet they seem to happen when we need them most and they give to us a sense of hope and joy. Food and music are my choice of memory keys these days. What are yours?

            Have a great week.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


The weather has become inclement. Cooler temperatures, rain, sleet and occasionally snow. The ground is littered with the multi-hued debris that once festooned the oxygen making machines of our planet. Everywhere you go you wear an extra shirt and bring a coat, maybe a hat and gloves as well. Just so you get wet, catch a chill or even be discomforted in any way.
            Where ever you go, you see sparkling lights, cheerful music and ads for sales that seem to assault your every sense. Ads designed to make you pull out your wallet and spend money you don’t want to or don’t have. You do this, happily. You can’t help it, you’ve been trained over the years to respond this way. It seems to be almost un-american to not do so. To not go out and spend money, to not dump countless dollars, time and energy into the season that has been so forcefully shoved down our throats. I’m guilty of it, and so are you.
            We’ve all gone out and bought things for people we barely know for reasons we can’t truly fathom. It has become an almost Pavlovian response in our culture. In spite of this deluge of commerce hype, for the past few years, me and mine have chosen to not partake of any of these shenanigans. Instead, we simply sit at home, eat our meals, watch football and feel good films and at one moment or another, we reflect back upon the year and count our blessings. I, myself, have been known to reflect upon situations where there was nothing but a grim outcome and yet, somehow, someway we came out of the mire of life without a scratch, scrape or any damage of any sort. We survived and we are better for it.
            This year, after weeks of endless tasks for the upcoming not-to-be-mentioned-holiday, our planning was minimal for our day of thanks. Food was bought and prepared with little or no discussion. Plans of visitations of family members and travel arrangements were an afterthought. Instead, a quiet day of familial peace and tranquility was enjoyed like a warm blanket and a hot cup of cocoa on a frigid day. Comfortable places were claimed on the couch, warm food filled stomachs and the background noise of parades on the television, truly bliss and the American dream.
            But what of all the hype for crazy sales, long lines and impending affection yoked to monetary displays of affection? Simple, the commercials will be ignored. They have to be. After all, in this day and age, what with the advent of instant updates on one’s phone, television and computer for sales of goods and services offered at discounted rates for one day only, or is it two, or three, and in some cases a week, why even bother. After all, we have a warm home, a fridge filled with food, lights and power at the will of our fingertips. What would the pilgrims think of such excess and convenience? I believe they’d be flabbergasted and start some sort of witch trail. But that is just my thought.
            Once again, I digress. I’ve gone off again on a tangent. So back to the show.
            I believe in our way of life. I believe that if a person works hard, does good things and tries to not goof up too badly that he or she will be rewarded with a better and more comfortable way of living. This means that one does not simply follow the heard, does not buy into the hype of all things commercial and definitely does not take for granted the gifts and blessings bestowed upon them. Yet we are human. We are susceptible to the metric-fuck-ton of shit that comes our way. We can’t help it, we’re like the squirrels, and we have short term memory in what makes us truly happy and grateful to be alive. When shown something new and shiny, we immediately have to have it and believe that once we have obtained said new and shiny that we will be happy. Only to discover we are not. That in truth, we are emptier and hollower than before. There is a void in us that can’t be filled with material objects. Yet we insist that void can be filled with a piece of plastic or paper.
            We don’t learn. We should learn yet we can’t tear ourselves away from the blitzkrieg of bullshit to truly learn what will make us feel whole, true and right. This is the fallacy of our lives. This is democracy gone awry. This is the American life.
            Now, I’m not saying that one should not want things in one’s life. Hell, I want shit all the time. But if I break it down, if I cut out all the fat and look towards the lean, I only want and need a few things. Those things are different for each and every one of us. What might be right for me, may be wrong for you. So, I won’t divulge my truths here. But I will say, we all need to focus on our compass points, figure out what we need to survive and thrive and that will give us a starting point.
            On this day of thanks and wonderment, I’ve narrowed down what I’m thankful for which has given me a direction for my future endeavors. One, I’m thankful for you, my dear reader. I’m thankful for my family and I’m thankful for my ability to work, survive and wake up every day. I’m thankful for the people in my life who’ve taken time out of their lives to become my friend and get to know me for who I am and what I am. I’m also thankful that I live in a country where I can voice my opinion and say disparaging things against those I don’t care for without suffering any ill effects.
            Mostly, I’m thankful for all the men and women who came before me. The people who not only built this country but also laid the groundwork for how open and honest we can be. So, if you’ve ever stood against the crowd, believed something different from the masses, chose the underdog over the sure fire winner, then I’m not just thankful for you but I’m grateful as well.
            Like the ending of the warm season and the oncoming war of the frigid cold, we will all fight to survive in the dark hours of our lives. The only ammunition we have in the cold, dark, and lonely places is the knowledge that we do not go alone or quietly into the night. No, we have the generations of our fore-fathers and our family and friends to help quiet the ill will of the darkness and voices of ill will.

            Have a great week and a great Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2014


            I like science. I can’t help it. I like to learn how things work and why they work. So much so that I listen to at least four science podcasts a week. Read a ton of internet articles on science and even watch a bunch of television shows on science. It doesn’t really matter what the topic of the article, show or podcast is. I find it all very fascinating. One of my favorite scientific websites is maintained by NASA.
            Why NASA? Simple, above all of my interests, space has been one of my favorite topics. I suppose I got bit by that bug by being a kid in the 1970’s and watching all the rocket launches, and in the 1980’s the Space Shuttle launches. Whenever a new photograph of some discovery in space pops up, I usually end up staring at it for minutes without end. A new plant or planetoid or planitismal is discovered… I read about it.
            Some people, when told or shown the vastness of not just our solar system or galaxy but our universe, seem to shut down. Truth be told, I was explaining, or better yet, attempting to explain, how miniscule our little mudball is in the grand scheme of the vastness we are floating around in and they sort of shut down on me. When I paused in my explanation, the person in question simply looked at me, shook their head and said “I can’t handle all this information. Not only that, it hurts my head to even think about it.” Then they walked away.
             I stood there a bit dumbfounded. After all, I could not comprehend how someone couldn’t or wouldn’t even try to understand how crazy our lives are on earth in comparison to the stuff that’s going on amongst the stars. Or for that matter, the stuff that’s going on just outside our door in nature. I suppose this person’s attitude towards the universe was mirrored in me being incapable of understanding their position. (Touché Karma)
            All this thinking about big stuff really gets my brain synapse going. Then, I start thinking about my life. More to the fact, the pressures in my life. The bills, the seemingly endless hours of work. The small tasks to perform around the house. The weather on cold days, rainy days and even sunny days when I want to be out riding my motorcycle. You know, living my life with myopic glasses. Not thinking about the people around me, their problems or their lives. This seems to be a common theme of all people. After all, how many folks do you know that are out there that are dreaming and thinking of a larger life? Not many that’s for sure.
            Sure there are scientists and genius’s that are part of think tanks and large conglomerates who are devising, discovering and implementing deep thoughts, ideas and inventions. Things that make our lives easier and supposedly better. Me, however, I don’t believe all new things are good for us. How could they be? After all, I’m a guy who was raised on three channels of television, no cell phones and no computers. If anything, I believe a lot of modern things do nothing but hinder our lives by separating us from the people we are supposed to be interacting with. (Note: I don’t like to interact with a lot of people. I’m sort of a hermit that way. I don’t like to become attached to folks because life is a transient existence.)

            All that being said, I do believe in interacting with people you want to interact with. Yet, it gets me thinking…
            I have a house, a mortgage actually, I have bills and requirements I need to meet every month. These items of interest seem to keep my focus grounded on creating a life not for myself, but for my family. I know I can’t be the only person who has ever existed that has seen the insanity of this way of life. How could I be? After all, there have been many people who are smarter than I that have come before me. Folks that have dreamed larger, lived bigger and done more for humanity in one week than I’ve done in my entire life. I’m talking about board certified genius’s.
            So what happened? What happened to humanity and our way of life that pulled us from looking up and out to looking down and out? I wish I could give you a simple answer. I have a one word answer prepared but I feel the explanation goes so much deeper than that one deadly sin.
            Truly, ask yourself, why are you where you are? Why haven’t the ideas you’ve had been taken advantage of and why aren’t isn’t there a mob of people outside your home with fist fulls of money and throwing that money at you just for your thoughts?
            I have an answer for all those questions, yet those are my answers, you have to find your own. So where does all this leave me? Simple…when my corporeal body leaves this earth, the only thing I truly have left behind is a slew of bills that may have been paid in full. I also will leave behind a generation of people who will end up paying their own versions of bills.
            While elsewhere in our galaxy, our star cluster and our universe, suns will be born, planets will be giving life to strange and unique creatures and life, not necessarily as we know it will go on. I hope and pray that one day, we, as a race of humanity will realize that our mundane lives of are scaled on the miniscule will one day realize there are more things unknown and worth our attention than the daily needs of our masters.

            Have a great week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Vets Rule (or they should)

I served four very happy albeit stressful years in the United States Navy. Four of the greatest years of my life. I met scores of amazing people. People with talent, brains, attitudes and ideas from all walks of life from across the globe. Most of them were my shipmates. We were all serving for one reason or another. Some were trying to escape from their past, some were patriotic, some were not really given a choice and some felt serving was the only way out of a miserable life. Me, I was trying to escape, trying to reinvent myself, trying to see the world and lastly, I felt it was my duty as an up and coming citizen of the my country.
            I didn’t serve for gratitude. I didn’t serve because it was right. I didn’t serve because someone wanted me to. I served for my own reasons. It’s as simple as that.
            Which brings me to recent postings on facebook, twitter, and a fuckton of other websites, newspapers and local news broadcasts. Each one advertising free coffee, free donuts, free meals and discounted consumer goods and services. I avoid these like the plague. I don’t want free anything. I want to pay for what I need and want. But, you know, it goes deeper than that.
            You see, I am a lucky vet. I have a house and a family. Two jobs and if I want I could easily get a third. Some vets aren’t so lucky. Some vets struggle with the demons from their service. Demons that have taken a deep rooted hold on their lives. Making them almost completely incapable of holding a job, having a family or even a place to live and food in their stomach.
            Men and women who have served in war zones and seen the atrocities one human is willing to bestow upon others in this world with no conscious about the terror they are instilling in the observers. Soldiers and sailors who’ve followed orders from their superiors because that is what they were trained to do. Not fully realizing the future repercussions they will eventually have to face in the mirror.
            I feel terrible for these vets. I know I’m not alone in these feelings. However, I don’t think our elected officials do. Cuts to Veterans Affair Benefits, cuts to mental and health care. Endless miles of paperwork and red-tape bog down a system of care that was instilled to help the transfer from military life to civilian life.
            Hell, if you’re brave enough do a quick internet search on the care of veterans in our country. It will scare the hell out of you. I know it did me.
            Which brings me to my point on this whole blog. I don’t want free or discounted shit from anyone because of my service. Why? Because I can get what I want on my own. Instead, take all that free food, those discounted goods and services and sell them to the regular customers and then… and here is the crazy thought… give all the profits to the men and women who served who are incapable of providing for themselves. Help the ones who served who can’t help themselves. They deserve it more than I do.
            After all, I still have all my appendages. I have my mental acuity, which is a bit skewed off of center, but I still have it. I have my will to live and a family who cares more than they should about me. The vets who are homeless, limbless and are broken mentally, need more help than I do.
            Hell, I’m sure we pass them every day on the street, or see them in the bars or outside a local convenience store panhandling for change. The change is not for food, nope, it’s for cheap booze that helps quiet the demons screams inside of their heads.
            I don’t know how to implement this idea. I wish I did. I wish I were smart enough to be entrepreneurial enough to implement a foundation that would go out and find the broken servicemen and women who need the help of countless dollars and food. But, I’m not. I’m just a Pollack with a thought. A Pollack who served and survived. A Pollack who is part of a brotherhood that helped build this country and is pissed off at how a lot of my brothers and sisters in arms have been treated.

            Have a week. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

C is for?....

            Normally, this time of year I write about Guy Fawkes and revolution. It’s true, check out my previous early November blogs. Why do I talk about revolution in November? Simple, Guy Fawkes and his failed attempt at revolution. However, some strange force in the universe has guided me along another path.
            Growing up, as a child of the 1970’s, when television offered only three corporate channels and one public access channel, my entertainment came either from prime time programing or the Children’s Television Workshop. Sesame Street to be exact. For some reason I didn’t connect with Kermit or any of the feel good Muppets. Instead, The Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch were the characters I identified with. Not the normal connection a young child should make.
            To be truthful, I think that, at the time, CTW placed unsavory characters in their shows to instruct kids how they should not be. Grumpy, greedy, one sided and maybe a bit self-centered. A monster, no, a person in touch with their inner selves and life.  Someone or something that truly knows what makes them happy. Someone who knows what makes them happy in life. Be it cookies or the suffering of others. Yup, they were the ones I identified with were the outcasts and the disenfranchised.
            Then they introduced Mr. Snuffleufagus. His first name, Aloysious. A name I’m more than familiar with. This character was usually depressed and felt like he was invisible. Another trait I could identify with. Muppets with a singular purpose. A goal in life and the knowledge of what makes them happy. Yup, that is what I felt streaming out of the fluorescent information of the cathode ray tube of small screen, large box televisions.
            I was a quiet and surly kid. A child who revolted and rebelled against any and all authority that I came into contact with. My teachers, my parents, the neighbors and the local police held any control over me. All I wanted was to feel normal, to be accepted and to feel as if I was not as fucked up as everyone told me I was.
            Doesn’t seem like much to ask for, but ask yourself, “How do I explain to the world at large and the folks in my life who and what I am?” You can’t. After all, how many people in your life would really accept you for the person who stares back at you in the mirror every morning? I mean seriously, what sort of fucked up secrets that are rattling around inside of your head can you truly divulge to the people in your life? You can’t. It’s simple math. Really, it is. Reach down inside your most heinous thoughts and desires and then divulge them to the person and people that are close to you.
            My bet is that you won’t do it. But, in this instance I can. I like being an outsider. A person who is not in touch with his co-workers, their inner machinations of life choices or the secret and unsubstantial jokes that provide a daily recognition of one’s personal need for acknowledgement in life. Nope, I prefer to be the one outside, the one who observes and sees the writing on the wall of others path through this existence.
            It is where I am most comfortable. Like Oscar, like Cookie, like Mr. Snuffalapugus. I prefer to be a ghost in the machine. After all, I know who and what I am, where I belong and my eventual path will lead me. So, I will break all of this down for you…
            I have maybe two or three friends I can talk to completely unshielded. If you think you know who you are, then maybe you are. I have about fifteen acquaintances who are right now thinking they are amongst the two or three folks in my inner circle. Then there are the rest of you, the ones who read my blog, who I talk to occasionally and we both walk away from the conversation feeling better about ourselves. Then there are the people I’ve never met, who if they met me in real life, on a day when I’m surly and cold would walk away thinking I’m nothing like the person they thought I was.
            Basically, I’m Oscar the Grouch with a large portion of Cookie Monster thrown in and a dash of Mr. Snuffflupagus. Yeah. I’m a muppet for the ages and I like it that way.
            Recently, some co-workers told me I said something that I don’t recall saying. I trust them in what they said and in the context of how I said it. Do I remember what I said? Nope. I don’t. Are they at fault or am I? I would like to think they are but I know differently.
            I know who I am and what I am. I am a man, a frustrated and sometimes angry man. A man who tries to hold the ever changing world at bay and fails miserably. I’m a person who doesn’t accept change readily or easily. I like the status quo and I don’t want to diverge from it. No matter what the cost, the benefit or the detriment. I like to keep things true to the nature of what is going on in the world as I know it.
            I am Oscar the Grouch, I am the Cookie Monster. I am a disgruntled and frustrated middle age person who longs for a simpler time. A time before mass media and instant gratification of the internet. Even though I benefit from the later more than I do from the former.

            Which muppet are you?

Friday, October 31, 2014

High School Confidential

            It is the last day of October, the air is cool, and the streets are filled with super-heroes, zombies, mad-scientists, princesses and snowmen. This year, instead of sitting on my porch, smoking cigars and handing out candy to the creatures of the night, I attended my daughters first High School Homecoming. It was a bit odd, to have a Homecoming football game on Halloween, but, truth be told, it was completely appropriate. Especially since her school colors are orange and black. Which added to the whole feel of the night.
            The schools clubs even had a “Safe Trick or Treating” event. My daughter, a member of the film club, helped set up her booth, provided candy and dressed up as “Sandy” from the movie “Grease” and her current boyfriend dressed up as “Danny”. At first I was a bit confused about the costumes but then I remembered going to the theatre with my mom when the film first came out, I recalled the homecoming scene in the movie. You know the one, where it was homecoming and Sandy was dressed in her cheerleader costume and meets Danny again for the first time since summer? Yeah, that one. That’s when the costume made a lot of sense to me.
            To get back on subject… I believe in my high school career I only attended two homecoming games. My freshman year at my first high school, where the game was held during the day and followed by a dance after. Then I went to a homecoming game my senior year at my third high school. I spent most of the time at that game under the bleachers with my buddies smoking and drinking. Afterwards we went to a house party. No dance, no watching of the game and a total lack of school spirit.
            What I do remember, or should I say, my primary memory of those two events was the concession stand food. The rubbery hot dogs that were too hot and overcooked sitting in a soggy bun. Then to help kill the over salted taste of the meat tubes you’d end up dumping as much ketchup, mustard and onions on it just to fool your palette into thinking you were eating something else. Then there was the luke-warm soda pop in a three ounce cup followed by the cold, stale and once again over-salted popcorn.
            In order to get these glorious gastronomic treats you’d have to stand in a line fifty people deep and hope no one tries to jump in front of you. Back then, in the early to mid-eighties, I was about five foot four inches tall and weighed a whopping one hundred and fifteen pounds, was unable to stop anyone from jumping in front of me. But it wasn’t just my size, I was a bit shy, unless directly confronted. So I kept my mouth shut, my head down and waited… and waited… and waited. After all, I always seemed to be the new kid in town, or in school and pretty much anywhere I went. However… I always seemed to find a good party, filled with greasers, stoners, jocks and wall-flowers. I got along with them all, yet never really fit in with any of them. After all, there was no place for a motorcycle loving, camping all summer, partying, rocker with an affliction for reading to fit in. Nope. There sure wasn’t.
            Fast forward to today, as I sat in the bleachers, making snide comments that bordered on the rude and perverse and bringing laughter to the one or two people who could hear me, I reflected upon those long lost days of my youth.
            A youth filled with pain, loss, laughter, great rock music, constant moving and a sense of total alienation. I don’t really feel that way now. Those feelings disappeared when I was in the Navy. That’s where I learned your past doesn’t matter and that when people ask you questions about who you are and where you are… you don’t have to tell the truth, nor do you have to lie. All you have to do is give cliff notes and deflect the answer and let the questioner fill in the blanks and then you just have to sit back and let the tales get taller as they get passed on down the line.
            About this time in my train of thought I looked over at my daughter, she was huddled up in her pink ladies jacket, and under the arm of her boyfriend. They were talking, laughing and drinking hot chocolate. She didn’t appear to have any of the awkwardness I had, nor did she display any of the disenfranchised emotions I had at her age. Nope, she was enjoying her first homecoming and absorbing all the craziness a homecoming football game has to offer.
            The cheerleaders screaming and dancing and totally distracting the onlookers from the extremely amateur game being played on the gridiron. The costumed kids walking by in all sorts of modern character driven extremes. One kid, dressed in a green nylon suit from head to toe must have walked by us thirty times. There were a few zombies, a couple super heroes and even though the temperature was a tepid forty-eight degrees, some kids were barely wearing any clothes at all. Shorts and t-shirts were in abundance. (I believe there will be a large population of my daughter’s school whose kids will be sick next week.)
            One of the biggest differences I discerned was the lack of participation from the high school bands. Back in my day, the bands were everything. The marched the field, they played loud and crazy when the home team scored. And they definitely were the biggest instigators of crowd noise during the game.
            Yeah, there was none of that. They were present and even sitting in the bleachers, but I didn’t hear one single note come from any of their instruments. However, there was a DJ. He was sitting in the announcer’s booth playing hip-hop music so loud my teeth were rattling. I didn’t hear a single common sports song. No “Crazy Train”, no “Rock and Roll Part 2” and no school fight song. Nope, instead we were accosted with club music. The cheerleaders were happy to bump and grind to these tunes. Their gyrations made me feel a bit uncomfortable because the last time I saw girls dance like that was in a club, overseas, with chrome plated poles that went from the ceiling to the floor. Not at a High School football game.
            I guess I’m just getting old. I suppose that Mr. Jefferson was right when he said “The earth is for the living.” My life is past its half-life and I don’t think when I have a grandchild I will attend his or her homecoming game. I don’t think my ears could handle it, I don’t think my mind could handle the machinations of the younger generation and I know that the football being played will be so far away from where I’m sitting that I wouldn’t be able to see it.
            So, just prop me up on my porch, put a lighted cigar in my lips and let me drool uncontrollably as I attempt to curse at the kids walking in my front yard.
            Have a great week.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pre-Digital Holiday

            So, here it is a week before Halloween, the streets are filled with people moving to and fro dressed as ghouls, goblins, zombies, werewolves, vampires, cups of coffee, mad doctor’s, zombie killers and serial killers. The weather is cooler, the leaves on the ground crunch pleasantly under my boots and on television there is seemingly no end to any and all horror movies available to the young fear mongers and elder fear aficionados.
            It is truly one of my favorite times of year. Ghost stories abound as people light camp fires in their back yards and celebrate the ending of summer and the beginning of the end of the year. So what am I doing? For the past two weeks I’ve been carrying elves, Victorian figures, Christmas trees, train sets, sound systems and garland by the acre. Yup, I’ve been getting ready for the impending festival of green and red lights, mint flavored everything and an unabashed consumer mentality that borders on the obscene.
            It appears that I’m not the only doing this however; Nope, not at all. Two weeks ago when we started all of this, on a trip to the local big box hardware store, there were two aisles dedicated to the season of overindulgence. Yet, only one small display, not fifteen feet square for the night of the dead. It is a bit disheartening to me. I suppose it’s because I don’t have much time in my life now as I did when I was younger to immerse myself into the make believe culture of terrifying thrills.
            It’s not that I ever really dressed up in excess. Not like some folks. Nah, that wasn’t me. I just enjoyed people watching. Sitting back in a pub or at a party and marvel at the creativity people put into their costumes. I also enjoyed popping some popcorn, flipping channels to find a good or fun horror movie, or curling up with a nice scary book and in some cases, sitting by a campfire with friends and family telling ghastly stories and even some funny ones of days gone by.
            I suppose what I’m trying to say is that when I was younger, had too much time on my hands and not enough work and responsibility, I lived in the moment. Most of those moments were at this time of year. The time, in the Midwest, when all the farm work was pretty much done, food has been canned, dried, smoked and stored. The cords of wood, all chopped, split and stacked from one end of the house to the other and stood six feet high and four logs deep. Enough to keep the cold wind of Wisconsin winters from permeating the house.
            No matter where I went back then, during the fall season, I always seemed to end up surrounded by friends and sometimes family. Although some friends seemed like family and some family didn’t seem like any relation of mine at all.
            Then there were the Octobers where I spent with a special lady friend just curled up under a blanket on the couch, sipping beverages and watching the latest installment of Halloween, or Nightmare, or Zombie series. Nights that ended in sleeping with the lights on because she was a bit more afraid of the creepy crawlies than I. Nights where I had to call home and tell them I was not going to be home but instead I’m spending the night at a friend’s house.
            Of course, my memories also bring me to the days when I was a kid back in Green Bay, where me and my buddies would rush home from school, don our costumes, grab pillow cases and rush out to meet each other under the street light just to go door to door demanding candy in exchange for not egging the house once the darkness set in. After our initial round, we would switch costumes and head out again. After all, most folks would remember a five foot tall Lone Ranger and a four foot five tall Batman, but when you look and see a five foot tall Batman and a four foot five tall Lone Ranger, they readily give more candy. Then again, maybe they did know and just didn’t care.
            Then later, sitting in our basement, our candy splayed between our legs the trading began. No one wanted the gum, everyone wanted the Snickers and only one or two wanted the 3 Musketeers. Yeah, we swapped our goods and no one ever fought about it. We respected each other tastes. Although one of our crew loved the Pixie Stix, while the rest of us thought they were the worst damn things in the world. His name was Ricky and he would give away whatever he could to get every tube of powdered color sugar he could get his hands on. We were more than happy to give it to them.
            Yup, I have plenty of fond memories of this time of year. As well as a yearning to make more. To experience more, to fill the void in my heart for this time of year. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon. How could it? As a man in the middle age of his life, much like most people at this station, there are bills to pay, plays to see, work to perform and four hours of rest to get to each day.
            Hell, in this world of instant information, streaming videos, dvr’s, gratification of anything you want at the tip of your fingers, shouldn’t we have more time to live? Wasn’t the information age supposed to simplify our lives? Give us more freedom? Not constrict our lives to the point where you can barely breathe without being charged data usage rates by some cellular company, information delivery system or satellite or cable service.
            Which brings me to another point, or epiphany, I believe that is what I miss, yet in some strange way I seem to be a part of the greater problem. After all, I spend time writing these blogs and communicating with you instead of seeking out the things I miss from my life before the digital age and the age where Christmas had yet to take hold of the American people as soon as the school year starts.
            Maybe, one day in the hopefully near future, we as a group of disgruntled consumers, horror fans, family units and all around citizens have had enough, we will stand up and with one great voice shout “Enough!” We want our holidays separate yet equal. Give us time to enjoy the moments that lead up to the holiday without forcing the next one, two or three down our throat. No more commercials for car sales, furniture sales, toy sales, and clothing sales to celebrate a holiday whose roots are anything but commercial. After all, to me at least, each holiday is supposed to be a time of reflection for that particular event.
            Of course these are just the reflections and opinions of a middle aged man who sits on his porch hoping and praying he gets to yell at some kid to get off his lawn.

Have a great week and enjoy some good scary movies and stories.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Saturday Scares

            This weekend, on Saturday the 18th, I will giving my first and most likely last public reading of one of my stories. It’s not a long story, just a bit over sixteen hundred words. I can’t say I’m nervous about standing up in front a crowd of people, nor can I say I’m worried about my reading of the tale. I overcame any fears of speaking in front of a camera, or live audiences a long time ago. Hell, you can’t be an effective waiter, public servant or even a one-time actor if you have those issues.
            The thing that does give me pause is whether or not anyone will understand my story. Is it going to be scary enough? Creepy enough? Will it be too vague? Will anyone actually like it? Yeah, those are the things that make me second guess myself. Less than a handful of people have pre-read and edited this particular tale and they all liked it. Hell, I even like it. So much so that I wish I didn’t have a time limit and could sit down and expand parts of the story to see whether or not it has the makings of a short story or novella.
            Unfortunately there is not much I can do about the piece of fiction I’ve created because the person in charge of the reading has already accepted the tale as is. We are also not allowed to lengthen or make changes to our accepted works. This, from what I understand about these functions, is pretty much standard. I can’t say for certain those are how all the rules go for all readings, but for this one, the rule applies.
            That all being said, during my countless re-readings of the story out loud in an empty room, I’ve made certain tweaks so the story flows easier for the spoken word. Which is something new to me. I’ve never read aloud my tales and I’ve come to realize, when I do read aloud, I find many things I want to change. Nothing that would affect the stories plot or tone, but changes of audible flowing words. Clunky sentences I hadn’t noticed before have been rewritten so my tongue won’t stumble upon the recited words.
            This little epiphany got me thinking about how things are said in real life. Like conversations, body language and how communication in general works between people. It has given my mind a lot of food for thought so to speak. Sure, I’m still a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-cerebral-cortex kind of guy. I’m known for saying inappropriate things at the inappropriate times and that bothers me not one iota. But it has given me a certain… leash, yes, leash on what I say to people and when I say it.
            So much so, today I had the opportunity to actually rip into someone and feel no remorse about it but instead of saying what I wanted to say, I substituted with something a bit less cruel. Then I walked away and realized what I had actually done. It surprised me a bit, but I chalked it up to growing older and wiser. (Yeah, right.)
            I guess what I’m getting at, the enlightened moment where my sharp edges have been softened over the decades so that I have become a more congenial was a surprise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a long way away from being a civilized person, and there are moments where I want to verbally tear into someone so deeply that when I turn and walk away all that is left of them is a greasy sludge like creature with no hope for a decent life left in their eyes.
            Yeah, I’m getting softer as I step ever closer to my eventual demise. But I’m not as soft as some people half my age and I don’t think I ever will be.
            Finally, if you’re in the Hampton Roads area on Saturday night, stop on by the Portsmouth Arts and Cultural Center and hear several stories that will hopefully haunt you until the day you die.

            Have a great week.

Monday, October 6, 2014


You ever have one of those days? You know the kind, where you wake up feel rested and ready to face the day. Take care of all the chores, and when done relax in your favorite way? Yeah, that was me this morning. I woke up knowing I would get the bathroom cleaned, the dishes done and change the burned out tail lights in the Jeep.
And this is where it all went wrong. I knew it was going to be a relaxing and easy day. And this is how it all went down…
Instead of taking the Jeep up to the parts store to get the light bulbs I figured I’d take my motorcycle, Bernadette. But when I went to start her, she wouldn’t turn over, so I pulled out the jumper cables and used the Jeep to get her started. I let Bernadette idle for a bit, then I went for a ride, instead of going right to the parts store I pulled into the Chick-Fil-A drive through for an egg, sausage and cheese biscuit. I then drove to the parts store with my breakfast stuffed inside my leather jacket. At the parts store, I parked in a parking spot, put Bernadette into neutral and let her idle why I ate my breakfast.
Now, this is my second attempt at digesting a Chick-Fil-A breakfast biscuit and I have to say it was awful. The biscuit itself was soggy and undercooked, the egg was tough, the sausage seemed undercooked and I believe they use Velveeta cheese instead of American. After two bites I tossed three quarters of the disgusting, over-priced meal into the bottom of the bag and ate the hash browns that came with the meal. Those little Betties, were awesome. When I finished those crispy spuds I stuffed all the trash into the bag, turned my ride off and went into the parts store just a few minutes before 8:30.
In less than five minutes I had the bulbs and was paying for them. The clerk at the counter looked at my leathers and my helmet and asked “What sort of Harley do you have?”
I answered “2013 1200XL Custom.”
“I ride a ’73 Shovel.”
“Why a Sportster?”
What ensued was ten to fifteen minutes of biker talk. I won’t bore you with the details because unless you’re a biker, most of what we spoke of would be Greek to you. Needless to say, we bonded. His name is Matt and damned if he didn’t know his shit. From bikes to four wheel vehicles, he was on top of his game.
When I left, I knew I’d made a friend who travels on two wheels and would have my back in any bar in America. When I got to Bernadette, I stuffed the light bulbs in my jacket pocket, put the key in the ignition and turned it, flipped the start button, waited for the injectors to inject and then hit the start key. What followed was just a loud set of clicks. No ignition, to engine turn over, no rumbling and low thumping and beautiful aroma of American made pipes kicking out the sensual scent of exhaust.
I hung my head. Shook my head. And pushed the start button again. Same results.
I took my key out of the ignition, dismounted Bernadette and walked back into the parts store. I walked straight to where Matt was standing talking to a customer, I ignored the three other employees and there salutations. When Matt finished with his customer, I told him what happened. He grabbed a battery charger and we went out to try and jump start my ride.
It didn’t work. The battery, not two years old was kaput. Matt assured me he had a replacement. We went inside and $120.00 bucks later, I held in my hands a ten pound motorcycle batter as Matt pushed a cart full of tools out the door.
Two and a half hours later, Matt walked away frustrated. My old battery was still stuck in the battery box, the instructions for replacing the battery had been followed by the two of us yet the battery refused to be removed. I sat there, frustrated, upset and close to getting a jaws-of-life to cut the damnable and useless plastic dry-cell from the frame.
That’s when I thought to myself “What would I do if I were at the museum and had to trouble shoot an exhibit that had no instructions?”
Five minutes later, the old battery was sitting on the ground next to the new battery. However; the new battery was taller, wider and the terminals were on the opposite sides. It was the wrong battery.
I took both plastic cased energy sources back inside the building and showed Matt the differences. He quickly tried to find a battery similar to mine. He failed and reimbursed me my money. I called for a ride to the Harley dealership. Once there, I spent another $120.00 bucks on the proper battery. Back at the parts store, within five minutes I had the new battery installed. The only problem, the battery housing cover wouldn’t snap back into place. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I smacked the metal plate, nothing worked. So I tucked the plate into my jacket and drove the mile and a half up to the dealership. After thirty minutes of waiting my bike was road worthy.
By the time I got home it was 1:30 in the afternoon with only a few minutes to get the bulbs changed and go pick my wife up from her appointment that her father took her to earlier in the day.
Now if you’ve never changed the tail-lights in a Jeep then you’re in for quite an experience. Torque screws and plastic retaining pegs make it a delicate and time consuming evolution. Which I performed as quickly and delicately as possible.
So quickly in fact I had enough time to consume a Red Bull and sit on my porch trying to decompress from a day full of aggravation, comedic errors, lost nuts and bolts along with endless hours of head scratching.
While my day was consumed with all the negativity of a pessimist giving a speech to the deaf ears of congress, I managed somehow to survive. I completed one very important task. Even if I didn’t clean the bathroom or do the dishes. The lights got replaced and my motorcycle received a new battery.
I was rewarded with fried food and a watered down soft drink for my endeavors. Which is better than no reward at all.
Lastly, while I was riding Bernadette to my part time job tonight, I made a deal with myself. It went like this “Skip, no matter what happens, no matter what is said, no matter how poorly you may be treated tonight, nothing and I mean NOTHING will top the comedy of errors and the level of frustration you experienced during the daylight hours. So put on a smile, laugh at the grim tidings of people who’ve had equally bad days and try to bring just a bit of joy into their lives.”
And you know what? It worked. During my shift, I was cheerful, I spoke with my coworkers, I chatted up my customers and I had a good night. Matter of fact, I’m still in a good mood. Which leads me to believe in the old adage “Attitude is everything.”
Have a great week.