Friday, January 31, 2014

Garage Gang and Relief

I suppose it all started with a broken lawn mower, an insane work schedule and the offering of a sanctuary where one can literally tie an aluminum canoe to the back of a 1978 Chevy Suburban with parachute cord, load the boat with as many people that can fit. Then have a person strap some short skis on their feet and tie themselves off to the back of the canoe, place the loser of roschambeuax  in the bed of the truck and start filming as the driver does twenty five miles an hour down an ice and snow covered road at 10:30 at night. Oh, did I mention the tossing of fire crackers at the tail man on the skis? Yeah, that happened too.
            This is considered a “Normal” night with the garage gang, especially when it snows. We are a motley crew of mechanics, cops, fire fighters, line cooks, contractors, baristas, land owners, sailors, business owners, and various other rebels and rowdies. Everyone seems to have a nick-name and everyone seems to contribute to the beer fund, soda fund and food fund. The smoking lamp is always lit. The television seems to be stuck on either the History Channel or the Discovery Channel with the sound off and some sort of musical mix from Youtube blasting through the speakers.
            If you smoke, you can let your ashes fall on the floor and even snub your cigarette out there, in my case, it is my cigar. All plastic, aluminum and glass bottles however end up in the recycling bin. For holidays, there is usually a pot-luck feast with enough food for everyone to take home pounds of leftovers. If it’s your birthday… forget about it… the party starts by someone painting a happy birthday sign on the windows in the morning and ending the next morning when the booze and food is tapped out.
            Inside this denizen of friendship where the walls are covered with hand written quotes made in drunken stupors or laugh induced highs. The room has a desk, two couches, a van seat and a plethora of beach chairs. Next to the desk is a keg-o-rator with a skull tap. Scattered around the walls are house speakers, a decent sound system, and photographs, license plates, bar lights, mirrors, car parts, pellet pistols and remote controlled cars. Newcomers are usually over-whelmed by the decorations, camaraderie, laughter, inside jokes, and crudeness that is all wrapped up and delivered without judgment, prejudice, or snobbery. Everyone is equal and all are welcome. No one is turned away.
            If you survive your first visit and care to come a second time, you are welcomed with hearty handshakes from the men and warm hugs from the women. The children running around soon learn your name and suck you into their fantasy world of play which usually involves fire crackers or a motorized vehicle or two… or both in some cases.
            There are no conversational topics off limits but it seems anyone rarely brings up religion or politics. I believe it is because none of us truly care about that shit once we walk inside the haven of stress relief. After all, who wants to get upset, angry or even stressed out in a place that has been designated via popular lack of voting as a place to unwind from life’s daily strife? No one that’s who. I’ve yet to experience a person bring up in serious discussion those topics but if it does happen, I don’t want to be there for the carnage that will ensue by them breaking an unspoken and unwritten rule.
            It seems I have become fortunate in meeting this group of miscreants, derelicts, rogues and renegades. It has truly shown me how much I needed to stop being a person who lives mostly in his head and that friendship, no matter how close or distant can make one’s life just a bit better.

            Have a great week and enjoy the Super Bowl if you are partaking of the festivities that is.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fred's Legacy

It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about; watching some good friends screaming “LET ME OUT!” –David Bowie
            It has happened again. I didn’t mean for it to but it did. What am I talking about? Simple, I lost my thumb drive that has ALL my writing on it. Not just my blogs, but all my finished short stories, my unfinished short stories, story ideas, character list and crossover spreadsheet, edits of my stories by other writers, edits of other writers stories by me and so much more. Like most people, I didn’t mean to misplace my thumb drive, it just happened. I have a back-up so to speak but it isn’t up to date, I wish it were but it isn’t. I’m going to have to fix that and I will once I find/if I find my old thumb drive.
            This incident has brought to a head something I’ve been tossing around in my mind for quite some time. By time, I mean two or three months now, maybe less, maybe more. I can’t really tell because when an idea comes to my mind I usually shelve it and let it marinate for a while in the gray matter of my skull. Sometimes, certain topics don’t allow me to let the thoughts rest and I end up just spewing out a diatribe of unsorted, unfiltered and mostly inane randomness tied together with bits of found string and tape all for you to read.
            Ok, the prequel is done and I’ve yet to tell you what it is I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been thinking about legacy. Not necessarily mine, but legacy in general. I have tried most of my life to be a realist and accept things as they are. I know very few people in the world are in a position or even talented enough to leave behind a legacy in words or actions. Actions or words that eventually travel forward through time and ignore the biological deterioration we all succumb to eventually. We can all readily point out a dozen figures whose fires have been extinguished over a hundred years. I’m sure we can also point to figures in the past fifty years as well. Musicians, politicians, writers, actors, inventors, philanthropists, businessmen and many more, I know I can. All of whom who have influenced my life in one way or another.
            This blog though, isn’t really about them. This blog is about “Fred”. I know, you’re sitting there glaring at the incandescent screen, scratching your head and saying “Who the hell is Fred?” The answer is simple, Fred is the guy delivered the milk, picked up the trash, stocked the shelves, cut the grass, swept the floor, trimmed the hair, drove the taxi and delivered the mail for any of the people who actually moved and shook the world in which we were thrust. Fred is the person in the background, going about his business, doing his job, providing for his family and making the best out of things in his life and those he is responsible for. Fred doesn’t really seek out fame, fortune, and power. If Fred has any talent, it’s usually hidden or almost unknown to anyone in Fred’s life.
            We all know a real life Fred but we don’t really know him. Fred is quickly forgotten, even by his own family. I have a theory about that too.
            You see, here’s the thing, I have a fourteen year old daughter, if/when she gets married (hopefully when she is thirty) she will have a kid. If she has a kid at thirty as well, I will be sixty. By the time my grandchild is old enough to remember me, I will most likely be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. When my grand-child gets married and has a kid, my great-grandchild, I will not know who that kid is and that kid will not know who I am. My legacy will most likely be lost. I can’t count on my friends to remember me, hell, how can you? I mean really, friendship is as fleeting as the food we ate last week. Sure, once in a while we bond with someone, but the way life works, separation will follow eventually. Ask yourself, how many times have you heard your Grand-parent speak of their best friend from their childhood, teen years, twenties, thirties, forties… I know I don’t, and I don’t think you do either. It’s just the way of the world. So our legacy is usually one, maybe two generations long.
            At least if you are a Fred.
            But, I do have one thing going for me that a lot of people don’t. I’ve actually been able to leave my stamp of individualism on a few things that will most likely outlive me. I’m not referring to my writing but things I’ve done at the museum. I didn’t intentionally set out to do this, it just happened, which now that I think of it… it’s pretty cool. But, like all things, eventually what I’ve done will turn to dust and my footprints will fade. Such is the way of life. No one can remember everyone in their lives nor should they be expected to. I do however believe that there are certain people we come into contact with that influence us in ways that we can never fully understand.
            How could we? I mean after all, a kind word from a stranger at the right time could mean the difference between bitterness and a life of solitude and joy with a life filled with friends. That is, if you are seeking a life filled with friends. I’m not like that. I view most of my friends in a seasonal transition. Meaning, they, my friends, are in my life for the period of time that I or they need to be. Then, like the passing of summer, they are gone. Their purpose fulfilled and their time in my life has passed. Transient Pals so to speak, and years later, we may or may not remember who they were or why you were friends with them but you will know that there was a time when there was something. When that person passes on it is most likely you won’t even know about it until days, weeks, months or even worse, years later. After a bit of mourning, you will forget about them and move forward with your life. After all, the earth is for the living and the task of living. Soon, you forget completely who that person was and their influence in your life and their legacy disappears into the ether of your life.
            Now, I know most of this sounds pretty depressing and truth be told, it can be, but, remember, we are here to live. We are not here to dwell and be morose. Fill your life’s cup to the brim and drink from it. That is, if you want to. If not, then don’t, but remember, when you are gone, you won’t get a chance to do it again. Also, fifty years after your death, no one will remember what an ass you were, hero you were, lover you were or even what a bastard you were. Because earth and life are for the living, not the dead.
            Now, where is Fred? My trash needs to be emptied. Oh, that’s right… I’m Fred.

Have a week.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Man Flu

This past November my work held its yearly influenza vaccination. As usual, I was compliant and partook of this event. I try to be as compliant as possible with medical issues; it is one of the few things in my life that I am actually compliant about. So imagine my surprise when this past Friday I left work early because I felt like total crap. Then, on Saturday when I still felt like the dried crusty mud that cakes the stand pipes of the overflow river basins, I had to call in to work because I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride in let alone function at not just one but both jobs. Sunday came and the waning of the sun from morning to afternoon brought my aches, pains and coughing to higher levels.
            Soon, I was sitting in an ER of a local hospital trying to describe my symptoms as a nurse shoved a five inch long cotton swab up my nose in an attempt to locate my brain. (In all actuality she was testing for the flu, but it felt like the damn thing touched an optical nerve. My left leg kicked out involuntarily and I felt as if I were being tortured by some medieval inquisitor.) A few moments later, I was half naked in a private room waiting for a doctor to show up and inspect my body.
            In less than twenty minutes the doctor, a large man in his late fifties, was standing in front of my telling me my influenza test was positive. He then proceeded to poke and prod me in a gentle but firm manner. After which he prescribed me medicine and pretty much a week away from the world by being quarantined in my own home. His reasoning, so I don’t spread my germs freely yet against my own will. I was in no shape to argue with his logic, but I will say I was unhappy with his sequestration of my work life.
            When I mentioned to the grandfatherly medical man that I had received the flu vaccine not more than three months earlier he informed me “You have type “A” influenza, there are at least three types of flu and the vaccinations are only for one type of virus.” I apparently caught one of the other bugs. I expressed my unhappiness and was informed that I should be grateful I had the vaccination or I would be in much worse condition. I did not want to think about being in worse condition.
            What followed next were four more days of sleep, food, sleep, medicine, sleep, shower, sleep and more sleep. Truth be told I lost track of time and days of the week. My sectional couch became my bed and the television my constant companion. I tried to read, I tried to surf the web, I tried to text and even tried to hold conversations… all to no avail. My mind wandered, exhaustion filled every pore of my body and when I did manage to wander more than ten feet from my respite, I found myself dizzy and doubled over in a coughing fit reminiscent of  the whooping cough plague of the early 20th century. Oh what joy. Oh what pleasure. Oh what a total degradation of humanity.
            Today, Thursday, my fourth day of internment, I woke up, felt almost human and made my way about my day. I even felt good enough to poke my head outside for a few moments. I then sat down and opened the laptop only to realize that in my fugue state of the past week I’d actually been productive in doing some pre-reading/editing for a writer pal of mine. As I read through my comments and insights, I laughed, I cried and I cringed. Then I shrugged my shoulders and figured, “What the hell, may as well finish this favor.” So I plowed on and within several hours I completed the task, emailed it off and felt good about what I’ve done.
            My sense of satisfaction for completing a job led me to step outside for a few moments, take a few puffs of a cigar and make a phone call. Much to my chagrin, my wife opens the front door and begins to scold me for my Neanderthal behavior. I finished my cigar and my phone call, then went inside. I was greeted by an almost surly yet exasperated spouse. I tried to work my charms on her and eventually she smiled.
            I know I’m still not completely well, to tell the truth, I don’t think I ever will be. I know I won’t always make the best decisions even when I’m at my best. I know this down in the pit of my being, and when called out about my sophomoric/moronic behavior I just shrug my shoulders and say “I’m just a man.”

            Have a great week.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Happy New Year

            We are now officially one full week into the New Year and I have as yet to write my first blog. There are many reasons for this but the primary one is that I’ve been exhausted from work. I know that is not much of an excuse but it is the truth and you have my apologies for not communicating with you sooner.
            Over the course of time since our last communication I’ve had plenty of conversations with people that have fueled me to write various blogs but I have as of yet to write any of them down. One of the main topics of discussion, as if this is going to be a surprise, is that of resolutions. I’ve heard the same ones from many people, lose weight, eat better, be more charitable… yadda yadda yadda. When asked if I had any resolutions, I calmly and politely say “Nope. I believe I may be abstaining this year.” The look of shock and stunned silence by my fellow conversationalist usually brings a small smile to my face. Then I add “Actually, I just want to survive this year. Ya know? Come out better at the end than I did at the beginning.”
            Almost everyone I’ve said this too doesn’t get it. The average response is “Don’t we all come out better?” I laugh and walk away.
            I’ve known plenty of people over the years who have not come out better at the end of three hundred and sixty five days of life. And I’m sure I’ll know many more in the future who end up feeling as if the past year has just kicked them in the teeth after sucker punching them in the gut. I myself have had years like this and I don’t like it one bit. But I don’t know anyone who does. So truly, my goal is to survive this year and hopefully be a better person at the end of our passage around the sun than when our mud ball first started its journey.
            After all, isn’t that what we are striving for anyway?

            Have a great week.