Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year in Review

“God hates me.” I said half-heartedly.
            My wife shook her head with a look of disproval on her face. She then made a contradictory comment I didn’t hear because I knew as soon as I said it, the disproval from her would be overwhelming. Basically, I retreated into the dark recesses of my mind, a scary place for anyone, and I began to review how wonderful 2015 had been for me.
            After what seemed like endless hours, which was more likely twenty minutes, I came up with bupkis.
            Sure, I had my highs throughout the course of the year, moments of sheer delight and joy, time spent in fond recollection of my past and I even got to visit some loved ones halfway across the continent. Yet through all these past 365 days there has been looming doom, destruction, worry and pain. Those brief moments where I was able to forget the impending cloud of American disillusionment have truly been fleeting.
            This year started off with a plate full of crap and it seems to be ending with an even larger plate of crap. No matter how hard I try to get rid of it, it never seems to leave. Only grow, like some sort of self-replicating cancerous tumor that holds my life in its disease ridden palm. I’m not happy about this.
            I’ve tried to count my blessings so to speak. I’ve tried to meditate and look at the brighter side of life. I’ve tried to have a more cheerful disposition. Yet through it all, inside me, deep in the bowls of my mind, I know. I know what is waiting. I know that no matter what I do, how hard I try and what I sacrifice, I will never outrun the desolation and pain that is about to befall me and my family.
            I know, I know, I sound more ominous and over-dramatic than I should. But, that is how I feel.
            I’m not going to air my dirty laundry here. This is not the venue for it. Besides, the people who need to know about the craptastic year I’ve had, know. They are the people I lean on. The people I’ve come to depend on. Well, that is not necessarily true. There are still two people I need to talk to. Two people I’ve been putting off talking to. Why? Because this shit is painful to talk about. Also, no one wants to listen to some asshat who is on the edge of just letting everything in his life go to shit and walk away. Walk away to something different, something simpler, and something with less distractions and responsibilities. However; I know that this sort of action is not a proper response to life’s issues. You can’t escape your past, you live in the present and you hope for a better future. No, walking away is not a real option. But it is a nice fantasy.
            Fantasy is a real nice place to be. You can be who you want, be with whom you want, work when you want, pay bills and not worry about overdraft fees, not hear about third hand rumors about you, not be betrayed by new friends, not hear shitty news from doctors and not have people you care about die.
            Nope, in fantasy-land, it’s all sunshine, roses, prime rib lunches and lobster dinners with all the people you care about and need in your life. It is filled with endless conversations, great cigars, amazing books and the most amazing music you could want. In fantasy-land, you can sit down with Carl Sagan and Thomas Jefferson over breakfast. Ride horses with John Wayne and motorcycles with Dennis Hopper. In fantasy-land there is no disease, no rot, no ruin, no lies and no betrayal. In fantasy-land the weather is always 78 degrees and it only rains while you sleep.
            Yeah, I don’t live in fantasy-land. I live in reality. A reality that seems hell-bent on breaking my body. Not my will, for you see, reality knows it can never do that. I’ve proved it four times over. (This is a reference to the four times I’ve almost died.) Reality lost. Reality knows I have a deep and almost unbreakable will when it comes to survival and moving forward. However; reality knows that even I have my limitations.
            Limitations which will force me to do everything I can to complete a task or promise I set out to do. I don’t give up easily. I never have. If you don’t believe me, send me a message, I’ll give you names of people I’ve fought and never gave up even when I was truly beaten and bloody and the only way I stopped was when I was rendered unconscious.
            Wow, I just read the last 800 words I wrote, it’s pretty depressing. Sorry about that. Guess I needed to vent a bit. Like you need to every now and then. So, in order to remedy this, let me try and list some things that offered me some joy in my life this past year.
            I got to witness my daughter act on stage and it was truly amazing. I laughed, I cried and I was extremely proud of her. She has, for the past sixteen years, been a high point in my life. She never seems to not bring me some sort of happiness and accomplishment.
            Seeing my mother and spending three uninterrupted days with her. Being able to reconnect with her and even introduce her to some great friends of mine was an epic event in my life I hope to never forget. We got to break bread, go on long car rides, visit relatives and even bond over the most insignificant events. Hell, she even understood my sarcasm and vitriol when it unknowingly reared its head. I wish for more days with her. Although, I don’t see how that can happen.
            Spending time with good friends and new friends at a convention in Williamsburg. Being around people who enjoy horror books and movies, all the while never taking it too seriously is truly an honor to experience. I thank you all for being there and taking your time to hang out with me.
            Doing my second official public reading of a story I wrote with a legend of the horror writing community. Craig Spector. That was surreal at best. Truly an amazing night and I hope to be able to do it again. With Craig or some other great writers. Just thinking about that night gives me goose bumps.
            Watching my wife go through the learning of her new job, Spreading her wings, expanding her horizons and struggling through all the bullshit she has to go through just to survive. I can’t say I would hold up as good as she would given her physical limitations. However; she seems to be dealing with it better than I would. Hell, I’d probably have just checked out. Nah, I don’t think that is in my nature. My will wouldn’t let me.
            Talking with my friends. I’m referring to you guys. My constant readers. Trust me, this helps and I do look at my stats in how many view I get. I don’t do it all the time. I check a couple times a month just to see if I’m reaching anyone and whether or not I should continue posting my mind droppings. You guys do help me. Just knowing you’re out there, taking your time, reading what I have to say, means the world to me.
            Lastly, and this goes back a few paragraphs, speaking with two special friends I have. They help me understand my life, understand where I am, who I am and what I need to do. Yes, I know we need to get together soon. I’m not ready yet. I wish I were. I wish for a lot of things. Yet wishes are like yesterdays breathe, they are gone in the ether of life as soon as you wish them.
            Okay, so in conclusion, 2015 has sucked more than most years. I can’t say 2016 will be any better but I hope it will be. I have hope, not a lot but some. That is one thing 2015 has not taken from me. Hope. I have just a smidge left.
            So c’mon 2016, make 2015 your bitch and help a brother out.
            Have a great week and I hope your year was a thousand times better than mine.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ten Again

On Christmas Day, 2015 I turned ten years old again.
            Now for those of you who know me are shaking your head and saying “But Skip, I know you are forty-eight. Which is true, however; as one of my gifts I was taken to see Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. You should know before you read this that if you haven’t seen the film, don’t worry. I’ll try not to spoil it for you.
            To be truthful, I was excited to see this new episode, even though I already knew the story and what was going to happen. But, I wasn’t so excited that I needed to see the film on opening night like most of the general public, nor was I so excited that I had planned on going to this film on this day. Quite contrary, I knew I was going to see it, but I knew I’d see it when I had the time to go and enjoy it. In other words, seeing the film was inevitable for me but not necessary for me to make time in my schedule to go sit in a darkened theater for over two hours when I knew I had other things to do.
            The movie theater we went to was not even a quarter full when we arrived almost thirty minutes early. Soon though, the place was packed and there were maybe a dozen empty seats by the time the trailers started. I spent most of this time eating popcorn and trying not to be irritated by the man who sat down in the empty seat next to me. He kept shifting from his left to his right. Bumping into my elbow and trying to gain a superior position on the armrest where my right arm was sitting. The force was not strong with him.
            To my left, my daughter was sitting, holding the popcorn bucket and leaning against my arm. You see, she has seen the movie. Hell, she works at a movie theater that is showing the film and I’m sure she’s seen it more than I ever will. Perks of working at a movie theater I suppose. I should also say, that in my household of three, I was the only one who had not seen this film and I’m a bigger Star Wars fan than the other two inhabitants put together.
            Once the opening of the film started… and we know how every episode starts…
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
            It was a long walk from my house on Memory Avenue in Green Bay, Wisconsin to the movie theater in De Pere, Wisconsin. It was summer time, it was hot and my mom had left me five dollars to go see Star Wars. I don’t think she had much of a choice. I’d been pestering her for weeks to let me go see it. The movie was a matinee and at a theater I’d never been to but I knew where it was.
            I left early, more than two hours early just so I’d have time to get there. When I arrived, there was a line of parents and children. I felt a bit out of place, being the one of a handful of kids there without any supervision. The line moved quickly, I got my ticket, got some popcorn and a soda and found a seat in a very full theater. It was an old theater, with three sections, right, middle and left. I found a seat in the middle section near the right aisle. I can’t say I remember who was sitting next to me, but I do know who was sitting in front of me. A girl named Karen. I knew her from school. She was with her parents and she was also the first girl I ever kissed. Okay, I didn’t really kiss her as much as I was tackled by her on the playground and she kissed me. But that is another story for another time.
            I remember her and I talking animatedly about how excited we were to see this movie and what all of our friends had told us about the movie. When the lights finally darkened and the opening sequence started; I was enthralled.
            The music was intense, it’s opening chords sending chills down my spine and causing goose bumps all over my arms and neck; the blockade ship being chased by the star destroyer was something I’d never even thought of in my wildest imagination; the first appearance of Lord Vader frightened me to my core; the droids made me smile with their lack of emotional understanding; the lightsaber’s tickled my imagination in their physics; the Millennium Falcon piloted by Han and Chewie, two smugglers with hearts of gold reminded me of old pirate films; and oh so much more. I never wanted the movie to end. But like with all good things, it had to end. I stayed and watched the credits. It was the first time I’d ever done this.
            I was the last person to leave the theater. I was confused, happy, sad, amazed and I told myself I’d see the film again as soon as humanly possible.
            I was so deep in thought about this movie and all its implications that I didn’t even notice when my Mom pulled over to the side of the road to pick me up a mile or so from the theater.
            She asked me what I thought about the movie, all I could do was grin and say “I have to see it again.”
            She rolled her eyes and drove us home.
            The next day, while hanging out with my friends, all we could do was talk about the movie. We were obsessed. We all hopped more films would be made, at the time, we’d never heard of a sequel. Almost all of us agreed on one thing, we wanted to be Han Solo. Only one of my friends wanted to be Luke Skywalker. Which is cool, I suppose.
            You see, we thought Luke was kind of whiny, kind of wimp, a sort of self-entitled kid who couldn’t see what a great gift he had. To us, he was the kind of guy we’d hang out with but never become friends with. While Han, well, what can I say about his character. He was, is and will always be the guy that made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs. He saved Chewie, He is the reluctant hero. He is the guy you know you want on your side when everything is going wrong. The guy who will eventually do the right thing, but only if you let him make the decision and not try and force it on him.
            Yeah, we all wanted to pilot the Falcon and smuggle goods from one planet to another.
            I saw that film three more times that summer. Not an epic number. Four times. I knew other guys who’d claimed they saw it a dozen times. They could have just been trying to one-up me and impress anyone in ear shot but I didn’t care. I had seen it, enjoyed it and was from the first symphonic tones of the opening sequence, completely and utterly in love.
            The movie inspired me to learn, coaxed me to tinker with things that were broken and fix them and it also taught me how to think for myself, listen to my heart and never give up. Especially when I believed I was right and others said I was wrong. It taught me to overcome limitations I put on myself and others put upon me. It also made me dream.
            Dreams of fantastic battles, epic technology, unbelievable journeys and amazing planets to explore.
            So as I sat in a darkened theater almost thirty-six years later hoping to catch a glimpse of the characters that inspired my youth, I was not disappointed. No, I was transported back to the young, ten year old Skip with second hand jeans, dirty t-shirts and worn out shoes who sat in a movie theater he’d walked to just so he could see what all the fuss was about. Only to walk out amazed and curious about life and what life will hold for him.
            I applaud J.J. Abrams and Disney as well as George Lucas for creating this wonderful, violent, love filled universe that tugs at my heart strings every time I think about it. (Except for Episodes I, II, and III. I didn’t like those very much.)
            This one film was like a reunion of sorts. Meeting new people you don’t know but connect with and catching up on your old pals who helped mold your life and who have also missed you as much as you missed them. It was amazing.
            I’m not going to tell you to go see this movie, because you most likely already have. I do know however, I will be going to see it again. I have to. I need to. Also, I need to watch episodes IV, V, and VI again.

            So, from ten year old Skip… May the force be with you.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Innocence Found

This week, well, one day this week that is, my offspring needed to miss a morning of school for a very important appointment. An appointment I am not at liberty to discuss but one that I am both proud and envious of at the same time. Also, I’m not at liberty to discuss here on an open forum. Regardless, I saw no fault or issue with her reason to miss half a day of high school.
            She knew that when she made this appointment that she would have to come to work with me and I leave for work around six in the morning. Which means she would have to get up by 5:30. A time most sixteen year olds have no idea or concept of. However; my child is a bit different, she has no problem getting up before the sun and getting ready to face the day. That is, as long as it is a weekday and not in the summer time.
            By 6:15 we had arrived at my work and she readily agreed to follow me and help out with the set up and checking of each and every exhibit in the museum. The first stop, well, my first stop, is always the bubble room. Simply because it requires no electricity and I don’t have to turn everything on to get this room prepared for a day of small children and their escorts.
            As I went about the set-up of the room, filling the bubble tables, the step-in a bubbles and the stretch a bubble table, she took all the bubble wands and tubes and placed them in their respective places. I began to make bubble solution, a task that is done at least once a day. We even have a special closet in which to perform this task.
            As the water filled the bucket in which we make the bubble solution the sound from the bubble room was drowned out by the sound of the water. So I turned and poked my head out the door to check on my daughter. She was standing by the bubble table, in one hand a bubble tube and she was blowing through it. A large bubble appeared at the end of the tube and she pulled it away from her face. She held it out in front of her at arm’s length and a large, innocent and joyful smile filled her face and eyes. She set the tube down and picked up a wand and began to wave it in the air, soon the air around her head and body were surrounded by floating, viscous orbs and the stark, florescent lights from above cast beams in the air around her. Her impossible smile grew even larger and she began to twirl inside the safety of the fragile, floating orbs. She was completely oblivious to my actions of watching her and the joy she was bringing me.
            That moment sent my mind spinning back in time. To a time almost ten years ago, a time when the museum was kicking off its Capital Campaign for fund raising to upgrade the museum and its exhibits.
            Part of the Capital Campaign was to film a video of children enjoying the museum and its exhibits. The initial video ran ten minutes and parts of it was used to build a thirty second commercial. I was asked if my daughter would be interested in being one of the children. I knew she wouldn’t mind and I quickly accepted the offer on her behalf. When I got home that night, I asked her and she did not disappoint me.
            When the day of filming came, she was eager, excited and ready to do whatever was asked. The crew doing the filming even made sure there were plenty of snacks for the kids to enjoy during their down time between takes. I was working that day and my daughter had been a staple in the museum for so long that she was perfectly comfortable to not have my full attention or the attention of other people as she went about her day of play and filming.
            Weeks, maybe months later, when the final cut had been fully edited and approved, I was handed a dvd with the full ten minute fund raising video as well as the thirty second clip for television. I quickly took the disc to my office, plugged it into the machine and sat down to watch it and take joy in the fact that my child was on the television.
            I sat in my chair, on the edge of my chair, my elbows on my knees and my eyes glued to the monitor so I wouldn’t miss a millisecond of my lovely kid on full digital, high quality film. I was disappointed. After nine minutes and thirty seconds I had seen every other kid who had been signed up to be in the video and not even a fraction of a second of air time for my child. I was getting ready to just eject the dvd and toss it in the trashcan when the bubble room footage appeared on screen.
            I saw several children from the video front and center on the screen, yet in the background, I saw a small, almost frail looking blonde headed girl with a short page-boy haircut. My daughter. Finally! She was standing at one of the old bubble tables playing with a bubble wand. A large smile adorned her cherubic face. I felt pride swell in me. I didn’t care she wasn’t front and center, I didn’t care she hadn’t been in the rest of the film, I was just happy to see her in the background. Then the scene cut sharply and my daughters face filled the screen. In her hand, a bubble tube and she was blowing gently into it. A large bubble grew at the end of the tube and finally released itself into the air in front of her face. Her eyes grew wide and gently she reached out with her hand, closed all of her fingers except her pointer finger and she touched the bubble. It immediately popped and her smile was replaced with a look of pure, unadulterated joy and fascination. The video froze and did a slow fade out on my daughters face.
            I was elated and exhausted. I slumped back in my chair and felt nothing but pride for my progeny.
            Then the thirty second tv spot started. No surprise, my daughter was not featured in almost any of the film. Except at the end. Where she pops the bubble. The commercial closed on her just as it had in the ten minute spot. I couldn’t have been happier.
            I must have watched the video a dozen times that day. Each time it ended, I felt the swelling of pride and joy.
            So, ten years later, after so many heartbreaks, disappointments and growing pains in her life, to be given a chance to observe the untainted, unabashed and sheer joy of childhood fill her again and see the wonderment and amazement that water and soap concentrate can still bring into her life makes me feel like I may have done something right in my life. As if all the hard work, the missed performances, the endless aches and pains I put myself through in order for her to have a better and more secure life has been worth all those regrettable moments of failure I feel almost every day.
            Yes, she has kept a sense of wonderment, yes, she still finds happiness in the little things in life, yes, she still dances and twirls when she thinks no one is watching, and most importantly, yes, she is still the greatest source of joy in my life and everything I have to suffer and endure has been worth it.
            As an epilogue, I was busted. She saw me at the end of one of her twirls. She stopped and looked me right in the eyes, he smile never faded as she waved at me from behind the floating bubbles that seemed to be orbiting the being that has been the center of my life for sixteen years.

            Have a great week. And if you have kids, go give them a great big hug.

Friday, December 11, 2015

____ward Bound

The sun was setting in the west and our planet was tilted on its axis in a manner so that the hemisphere I live in was farther away from the sun as I drove my car to pick my daughter up. The air was cool but not chilly so I had the windows down and the autumn scents filled my nostrils with the earthy sweet smell of decay and overrode the scent of exhaust from the vehicles I was sharing the road with.
            The sun was low on the horizon and the sky was remarkably crisp in its clearness. A few cirrus clouds dotted the rich blue hue of our atmosphere and I smiled. The clearness reminded me of my days in the Navy when my ship was at sea, all our work was finished for the day and I’d find a quite place to sit outside with a book and a cigarette and relax in the glory of just being.
            As I scanned the sky I was surprised to see the air filled with vapor trails. More than a dozen filled my view as I counted, even more appeared. Jets filled with people traveling from point a to point b across our country. Across our globe.
            Where were they going?
            Who were they?
            Why are they traveling?
            Which is when I remembered that the holiday season is upon us and many of those travelers were heading home to see loved ones and not so loved ones and enjoy or at least try to enjoy, the place that helped make them who and what they are.
            What is home? Where is home? Who helps create our home?
            It seems, to me that is, the mythical place known as home, is an ever changing place. As well, it is a place that seems to move from one geographical location to another, almost random geographical place.
            Home is a place, as a child, we rush to get to when we’ve had a good day at school to show of our grades. It is a place to run to when we’ve had a bad day outside and are in pain. A place where we receive praise and comfort, a place where we can hide from the boogey man and a place where our imaginations are born out of fear, disappointment, success and love.
            Home is a place, as a teenager, where we try to run away from because of shame or embarrassment. A place where we only feel safe in one, lonely room where the curtains are always drawn and the window will never open. It is a place where we learn how to speak out against what we feel is wrong. A place where what we believe is true, is never really true. A place where we learn that sometimes, what we dream will never come true. It is also the place where we learn to hone and shape our dreams into what we one day hope will come true.
            Home is a place where as an adult, we leave behind. We venture forth into the world in an attempt to make our own home. Be that home a shitty, one bedroom apartment on the seedy side of town as you work an even shittier, menial job, or a dorm room in college where you spend endless frustrating hours trying to cram as much knowledge into your booze soaked and sleep denied brain as possible or even on a large, gray Naval vessel with one thousand other men who are on a mission of peace by force under a renegade president.
            Yes, homes change for various reasons. They are like the ether that way. Always shifting, always moving, always fluid, always just out of your true physical reach and yet, always within you. In a place you can never quite understand and never quite tangibly grasp with your hands.
            Home is a place you think you are leaving when you walk out of one parent’s house, get in the car of another parent and take the almost eternal drive to their new home. A building that is as alien to you as the earth beneath your feet is foreign to a fish in the ocean. Yet, slowly and eventually, that new place soon becomes a second home to your young mind. A home that can chase away the bitter tears of loneliness and confusion at the actions of adults as the car ride becomes shorter and shorter with each commute.
            Home becomes a place you make yourself. A place where you are comfortable in your own skin and with your own random thoughts that you believe prove you are as crazy as everyone says you are. It is a place where you place your memories, a place where you build new memories and it is a place that transcends the chasm between the physical world and the unseen, earth real world of intangibility.
            Home can be a place of great stress and great comfort at the same time. It is a place of constant growth, in both birth and death. Home is a place of contradictions, illogical thinking and behavior and a place where we know we will eventually be accepted and loved. A place where the stress put up on us in our lives away from home can be miniscule when compared to the stress we put upon each other when we are home. Yet, we wouldn’t give our home up for anything or anyone.
            Home, it is where you are and where you are going as well as the place you just left. We all can be home wherever we are if we just take a few moments, calm and stead ourselves by changing our thinking and realize, we all are trying to get to the same place even if that place is not in the same location. We share that with our fellow travelers.
            I can only hope, that all those people who are traveling realize this and maybe, while stuck on a tarmac somewhere or at a stoplight or even in a traffic jam, that they are truly not alone. Everyone wants to be with their own loved ones in their own home.

            Have a great week.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bing, Gayla and the Goose

In 1945 Bing Crosby released a Christmas album comprised of ten songs. After a few years, and advancements in technology, the album was re-released. However, this time, there were only eight songs on the album. This album’s release coincided with Bing’s hit holiday film “White Christmas” The album has become a huge success over the decades and I can honestly say that the songs have become a part of the American psyche for the holidays ever since.
            Yet two of the songs from the first album seemed to have fallen through the cracks of time. One of them being quite interesting and unique even though it was an old standard, the song is “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
            You see, Bing changed some of the lyrics. Modernized it a bit, jazzed it up so to speak. Especially the ending, which, I’ve overheard some say it was not just a bad version of the song, but he had no right to do what he did.
            When I first heard it, I loved it. Of course, I have an odd view on some standards, not just in music, but in general. Now, I can’t really remember the first time I heard Bing’s version of the song, but I always remember the ending. “The big fat man in the long white beard is coming to town.” Said with almost no consideration of the songwriters or even the sentiment of the season. It was as if Bing is saying “Don’t worry, even if you’re bad, things will work out.”
            Another song I can’t remember my first hearing of but always loved was “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” recorded in 1953 by a young lady named Gayla Peevey. I do remember, however, waiting every year at Christmas time to hear her sing that song on the radio. I knew it wasn’t Christmas until my ears were assaulted with her almost nasally and raspy voice belting out how she wanted to creep down the stairs and see a giant hippo standing there.
            To this day, in my middle age, both songs still fill me with child-like joy and wonderment.
            So, when sixteen years ago my daughter was born, I did my best to introduce some of my favorite music to her while she was completely unable to understand what was going on in her life. Yeah, infants just don’t understand music, time, life and how sights, sounds and smells can bring happiness. Nope, they just live in the moment and enjoy everything.
            It wasn’t until years later, when she was four, that she finally caught on to the impact of music. You see, we, my wife, myself and our daughter who was strapped in to her car seat in the back of our mini-van, were driving somewhere, and the Hippo song came on the radio. My bride and I quickly started singing along with the radio. When the song was over a small but clear voice from behind us vehemently answered our lyrics with “I don’t want a hippopotamus for Christmas!”
            I looked at my wife, she stared at me, our jaws both hanging agape and then, as if on cue, we both busted out laughing. So much so, we almost drove off the road.
            Not so many minutes later, Bing’s song about Santa comes on the radio. We sang along, even our small child piped in here and there. Yet, when the end of the song came, and Bing went into his non-standard ending my lovely, talented and amazing offspring yells “That’s not how it goes!” with great disappointment at what she had just heard. I laughed.
            Fast forward to today, my child is now a young lady, driving, writing, going to school, working, directing student films and listening to all sorts of modern music that sounds like a bag of cats fighting to me. Yet, she loves her music and it makes her happy so I’m happy.
            Which is funny, because now, her taste of music being that of a young lady in this country, she seeks out new music as well as finding old songs sung by new artists and I find myself shaking my head on what some of the young singers are doing to old standards. I guess I feel like she must have felt when she was four years old and was introduced to music that she thought was one way, but ended up another. A bit disappointed, a bit offended and as if the world had just played a cruel joke on me.
            Which is funny, when I think about it; you see, here I am, two years from half a century in age and my offspring, a full thirty-two years younger than me, has been able to strip away all my years of wisdom and maturity and made me feel like a four year old child. I feel like a child who is just discovering how the world can zig when you expect it to zag, which is an awesome feeling for someone who has become tainted by life when it comes to the wonder of this celebrated season.
            It is a good thing, in my opinion, learning from a younger generation. I’ve grown too comfortable in my likes and views of society and the world. . Like the student becoming the teacher. Her younger eyes, attitude and sense of wonderment have become her teaching tools that I seem to have lost over the years.
            So, here’s to her and the up and coming generation of thinkers, dreamers, inventors, musicians and writers she calls her friends. Keep shaking the tree of standards like so many before you. I will try to sit back quietly and understand and enjoy watching you make this world yours.
            Why? Because the big fat man in the long white beard is bringing me a hippopotamus for Christmas.

            Have a great week.

Friday, November 27, 2015


It’s the time of year when people seek out the flesh and blood of their past. In some instances these meetings end up in fights, bloodshed and general civil unrest. In other cases, everyone has a nice time and goes on about the rest of the holiday season no worse for the wear.
            If you believe the mass media, movies, music and television shows, this is the time of year where people stress out, party too much, make fools of themselves and then through some miracle, all is forgiven and everyone sort of lives happily ever after.
            This is not about any of that. Nope, simply because it is a well known fact that in my life I am not a big fan of reunions of any sort. I try to avoid them. Especially this time of year. So, when plans were being made for the holiday of overeating, me and my family sort of fell through the cracks. Sure, we could have gone somewhere, a friend’s house, a distant relatives home or, even to some large, national, eat all you can for a hundred dollars restaurant.
            But we didn’t. We stayed home. Just the three of us, and this is what it is all about.
            We slept late.
            I made breakfast of bacon, eggs, cheese, juice and milk.
            We watched a parade on television and came up with different scenarios on how to release the captive but wild balloon creatures back into their natural habitats. Also, we hoped and prayed for the death and destruction of the talking heads on the black box. We enjoyed the marching bands and scoffed at all the lip-syncers in attendance. Then we watched a bunch of dogs get judged on the national airwaves.
            During all this, I cooked up a feast that seems a bit obscene. Albeit, delicious. Then we ate, did dishes, turned on a football game and took naps.
            When we woke up, we repeated this behavior.
            Near the end of the night, we realized we needed some condiments from the store. We were unsuccessful at the first two stores we went to. They were closed. So we ended up at a large box store with the entire population of Virginia.
            People were fighting, yelling, screaming and being the worst selves they could possibly be. I shook my head, grabbed my groceries and tried to get out alive. Which I did. So, I treated myself to a milkshake. (Yeah, I know, already ate too much.)
            The rest of the night was spent in food induced bliss while sitting on the couch trying to stay awake. By midnight I was fast asleep, for the fourth time.
            It was a perfect Thanksgiving. Food, no stress on my behalf and everyone in the house was content, fed and happy.
            So, when I woke up at two in the morning with my brain going ten thousand miles an hour, I knew I needed to write something. So I jotted down some notes, and went back to bed. Here are my interpreted for the public versions of those notes.
            I’m grateful for my family. A family that understands my need to seclude myself on my porch with my laptop and cigars in order to sort out my thoughts, a family that knows, even when I’m surly, grumpy, manic, tired, joyful and absent because of work, I’m doing it all for them.
            I’m grateful for my friends. The ones who tell me like it is to my face. The ones who read my stories and my blogs and tell me where I’m off base, goofed up in the head or just plain nuts. And the friends who don’t read my schlock and still tell me all those things. Friends who actually answer my texts, emails and phone calls when I make them to their respective contacts.
            Lastly, I’d like to thank my church family. The ones that are there for me and my family when we are in need, when we are struggling or even when we are just doing fine and don’t need anything in life. They unknowingly offer us comfort and a sense of belonging whether we know it or not.
            These are the things I’m grateful for. Have a great week and I hope your Thanksgiving was a memorable and joyful one.
            P.S. I wrote a blog last week and didn’t post it. It just didn’t seem to be the kind of blog I wanted to share with the general public.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Long Short of it All

Ever since I was a young boy I’ve read just about everything I could get my hands on. From classic literature to horror and everything in between. Yes, including some romance tales. I didn’t really have a choice in that subject because I was pretty much raised in a house of women and when there was nothing else to read… well, I read what my family was reading.
            However; when I discovered I was old enough for a library card, be it at the public library or the school library, my appetite for reading increased exponentially. Yet it wasn’t until my sophomore year in High school that I discovered the joy of short stories. The book that started this passion rolling was from my English Lit class. I wish I could remember my teachers name but I can’t, he did however give us large, hard covered tomes bound in a denim like cloth. It was almost too big to carry. The damn thing must have weighed six pounds.
            The first story he assigned us to read was “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. Now, up to that point in my life, my only exposure to Vonnegut had been Slaughterhouse Five, so when I read that particular short story about a future filled with dystopian equality and a rebel fighting his entire life to prove how wrong things were and to ultimately pay for his decision with his life, well, it just blew my hair back. After class, I quickly made my way to the school’s library and checked out every Vonnegut book in the library and over the course of a week I read them all.
            He, Kurt Vonnegut, became my all-time favorite writer. So much so that to this day, when perusing the shelves of used book stores and library book sales, I tend to purchase any copy I can find. Which has landed me several first editions of his work. I’ve still yet to get my hands on a signed book by him even though I’ve found them for sale, I just never have the money for them.
            Yet out of all of his works, it are his short stories I love the most. I read them all almost every year. I don’t do it all at once. No, I scatter them out through my days and savor each and every word he put down on paper. They are like plasma to me. So rich, so full, so mentally invigorating that each one has a special place in my heart.
            Which led me down a path of detective work. I sought out other writers I liked and their collected short stories. Any time I found one of those books, I immediately obtained it and read it cover to cover. Be the topic science fiction, horror, literature, and what I’ve come to know now as speculative fiction. They were all good and I never felt cheated by the tales not being longer. Even when I wanted them to be longer, I somehow understood that the author had told the tale he wanted and that was enough for me.
            That is when I started finding hints to other stories scattered amongst the short stories I was reading. It seemed to me, that the writers liked to take main characters from one tale and use them as secondary and tertiary characters in other stories. When I figured that out, I knew the stories never really ended… they just kept going with different protagonists. I was gleeful.
            Which brings me to five years ago, when an old navy pal of mine encouraged me to write, I didn’t sit down and think whether I’d be a novel writer or a short story writer. Nope, I just sat down and wrote the story I wanted. I let the story tell itself through me. And what I wrote were short stories. I didn’t realize at the time that the short story market was almost zero and so competitive that for every story published a thousand others slowly die of rot on computer files across the globe. To tell the truth, I didn’t really care then and I don’t really care now.
            Nope, I still write the tales and let them dictate the length. Also, I use what I’ve learned from the great writers of my youth. Write with as much passion as you can and don’t use too much unnecessary descriptive narrative or unnecessary dialogue. Get the tale written, down and dirty.
            Which is what I seem to do. For you see, last week I was invited into another anthology. When I read the pitch, I knew it was something I could do. So I readily agreed before I even had an inkling of an idea for a story. Yet, not thirty minutes later the idea had formed and I knew I was on the right track.
            Four writing sessions later I had typed “The End” on a ten thousand word short story. And, I’m happy with it. The only thing left is to have the editors go over it with red pens and then make the proper changes and the get it off to the publishers. Then the waiting game really begins. The release date and the paydays.
            However; I’m not too concerned withthe pay, no, I’m more concerned with getting a copy of the book in my grubby little fingers. Not for pride or bragging rights, no, I want to read the stories of the other writers in the anthology. I want to delve into the minds of my fellow page mates and see what they wrote and how they wrote their tales. I want to be stunned, amazed and impressed with the talent and skill of my fellow wordsmiths.
            Don’t get me wrong, I still read novels. I have fourteen bookshelves overflowing with books to prove that. It’s just that when I’m reading a novel, whether for the first time or the second time, I tend to read a paragraph or chapter, then reread it only on the second go through I skip over anything I feel is unnecessary. Which makes for quick reading on the second go around but takes me twice as long on the first reading.
            Now, this is not a criticism of any writers writing, no, it is just me putting myself in the writers place and trying to strip away everything I feel doesn’t need to be there and rewrite it in my own head. Some books you just can’t do that to though. For example, the unabridged edition of Stephen Kings “The Stand” or “It” are true masterpieces and I love every last word in them. Of course most of his work is like that. His “Firestarter” book is still one of my favorite and I’ve read that at least a dozen times.
            So, in conclusion, I like novels, I like short stories and I truly love the written word. It’s powerful and sparks a person’s imagination in ways that are rarely reached. I don’t know if I will ever write a full 300 page novel. I hope to one day. But for now, I will stick with the fact that I write the way I write and I allow the stories to flow from my muse and onto the page in a manner that is as true to the story as can be.

            Have a great week, now, go read some short stories.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Halloween Special

Tom Welling once said “I have so much chaos in my life, it’s become normal. You become used to it. You have to just relax, calm down, take a deep breath and try to see how you can make things work rather than complain about how they’re wrong.”
            I can relate to every aspect of that quote. From the chaos of my life to wanting to complain about people and things that are wrong. However; it took me traveling halfway across the country, on a semi-unexpected trip to actually realize how tense and stressed out I’d become over the past year.
            Actually, truth be told, I have not had a real vacation in quite some time. Sure, I’ve been getting a lot of days off from one job this past year. Only because I earn too much time a month to be able to stay under the mandatory leave carry over date. Also, I should say first and foremost. I don’t really care for time off. Simply because I like to be productive and I know there is plenty of work waiting for me and I should not put it off. Yet, last Thursday morning, I found myself climbing aboard a plane and headed for the great Midwest of the united States of America.
            The trip was uneventful. I had one transfer and both seat-mates were more than happy to not talk to me. Not that I am much of a talker. My communication is primarily through my blog. Which you are reading right now. So, kudos to you. When I arrived at my destination, my relaxation finally kicked in. I knew I had no financial or work pressures on me. My family, who I was there to see, were more than happy to allow me any amount of time I needed to decompress.
            Which I did.
            In the course of three days, I soaked in a hot tub no less than five times. I smoked at least six cigars and I ate more food than I had in probably a month. I also visited a car museum which housed no less than twenty original Hudson’s and one Tucker. I bonded with my mother, my sister, my niece and even my brother-in-law.
            I tried to convince my family that on Halloween they should watch horror films and tried to introduce them to “The Evil Dead” by Sam Rami, but they opted out for more saccharin films about the upcoming Christmas season. I balked. I protested and in the end, I went outside to smoke a cigar. Yet, I enjoyed every moment of this happy-go-lucky-fantasy-land.
            This all being said, one high-light of the trip was taking a journey with my mother to Dearborn, Michigan to see some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in the horror community. The “RudderRabbits”.
            At first, on Friday, when I informed my family that I had been invited to a Halloween party not thirty minutes away from where I was staying, I thought they would balk. To my surprise, they didn’t. My mother even asked to go with me to meet some of my more dark friends. When she expressed concern about where we were going and who these people were I quelled her fears by saying “In the horror community, there is a saying, If you don’t like the Rabbits, then you won’t like me.”
            She, my mother, calmed down.
            On Saturday, when it came time for us to hit the road, I don’t know who was more excited, me or the woman who gave me life. I bet it was my mom.
            Upon our arrival at the Rabbits house, my mother immediately picked out the black flamingos with the skeletal outlines. She was impressed. I just smiled and knew she would have a good time.
            Now, I should preface the rest of this story by saying that only one of the Rabbits knew I was coming. If you don’t know, there are at least four Rabbits at any time living and breathing in the horror community. Each one as awesome as the next. However; the primary Rabbit had no clue that I was going to be lighting his doorstep for the Halloween party. When I walked in, Mrs. Rabbit smiled and called my name, so did two of the smaller Rabbits. When the elder and masculine Rabbit turned around in his chair and his gaze fell upon my face, well, all I can say is that he was completely surprised.
            The grin on his face, the twinkle in his eyes and the almost clumsy way he got out of his chair and almost knocked it over told me how stunned he was. I just smiled and gave him the biggest hug I could possibly give. A few minutes later we were in his sanctum sanctorum. His book room. Not just me, he’d invited my maker. She, my mother, was more than happy to stand by and watch us drool over limited, lettered and first printing books by some of the best horror writers of the twenty-first century.
            My mother expressed interest in some of the things we were saying and Mr. Rabbit quickly dug through his shelves, pulled out a tertiary copy of a book he had and handed it to her. “Enjoy. It’s an amazing story.” He said.
            My mom, perplexed and stunned by the generosity of my pal, took the book and thanked him. I took the book from her hand and added it to the pile of books he’d set aside for me. A pile that I’d not asked for nor even expected. A pile of books that I’d simply expressed interest in.
            Later, on the ride home after three hours of basking in the joy and energy of books, horror and kids dressed as fantasy ponies and adults dressed as classic horror figures, my mother admitted to me that this was one of the best Halloweens she’d participated in. The kids, the friendship, the laughter and even the embarrassing stories she told about me as a young lost youth in Washington, DC. Had made her realize that even though some people read and watch things that are dark and disturbing, they care about things that are important to the further existence of life. (That is a summary and not a quote.)
            When we arrived at our destination, we were both happily satiated and filled with comfort and joy. Our Halloween had been one of the best we’d experienced in years. For me, it has been over twelve years that I’ve been able to immerse myself in the wonderful and horrific world of death and hopelessness that awaits us all.
            So, in conclusion, I want to thank my family in Michigan for giving me a great vacation and my pals, the Rabbits, who have renewed my full enjoyment of the hubris of humanity. You, the Rabbits and my family, are totally awesome. I only hope that other travelers on this mudball will know how awesome both of you are.
            Okay, too many words and not enough space, have a great week and I hope you all had a great Halloween!

            See you next week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

For Mike S.

Johnny Cash’s gravely and deep baritone voice fill my ears right now. He’s singing about the Grim Reaper taking souls. Which is fitting, the Reaper took a friend of mine today. I’m not happy about it. I’m not pissed off, just saddened down to my soul.
            My pal’s name, Mike S.
            I remember the first time I met him, we were at church, I was working in the audio visual booth, well, on the cameras actually. I was getting my headset and preparing to head out to my box where my camera was set up. Mike was escorted into the booth by our director. Mike had a big grin on his face.
            But it wasn’t his smile that caught my attention at first, no, it was his full head of neatly trimmed, stark white hair. As white as Santa Clause’s. He was about my height and only a few years older than me but I felt an immediate connection to him. When he was introduced around his smile grew bigger and his quiet voice greeted us each as if he’d known us for years. His handshake, firm and confident. When he spoke to you, he looked you directly in your eyes.
            We didn’t become instant friends, which was fine with me. For you see, we had that in common. Like me, he never judged a person on first impressions, no, he took his time, observed you and if something was amiss in your world and it showed in your actions, he took the time to figure out what was wrong and see if he could help.
            Him and I worked the same shift on the cameras every third Sunday. When our church expanded, him and I stayed on the same shift even though we had an influx of cameramen. Eventually, his family and mine became friends. He had a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. All of us went out to lunches, and occasionally, dinners. And, on rare occasions, when the Green Bay Packers were playing the Chicago Bears, we’d get together at his house and watch the games.
            My daughter was much younger then. Barely seven, I remember her sitting on the floor of their living room and playing with their pet dog while we sat on the couch and ate nachos, tacos and various other football food. Mike and his wife made us feel welcomed and comfortable, even though I rarely feel comfortable in social situations.
            Mike was able to break through those barriers.
            When our work at the church increased, he was the only other cameraman who stepped up to the plate to work almost every Sunday for two services. Between services, we’d go up to the A/V room, sit on the floor, eat yogurt, granola bars and bananas and talk about work and how things were going with our family.
            When he confessed to me the troubles and pains he was having with his wife’s fight with cancer, we prayed, we hugged and we cried. When he expressed frustration with work, or with life in general, I comforted him. Just as he did with me.
            When our church started falling apart, he and I were the only two A/V guys left standing. I felt bad for him. I had been promoted to director, he was still on cameras not a few weeks before. When the dust of destruction settled, him and I would meet before church, discuss how we would block the shots. One of our pastors’ had gotten another director to come in and help out. We liked him and his wife, yet we didn’t always agree with what they wanted to do. But we remained.
            Then, one Sunday he dropped a bomb on me. His family was leaving the church and going to start attending another. I was heartbroken but I couldn’t stop him. I knew there was nothing I could say to keep him or his family in our flock. I just nodded and wished him and his family well.
            When I found out his wife was cancer free… I rejoiced.
            When I found out he had cancer… I cursed and prayed.
            When I found out his treatments weren’t going well… I cursed more and prayed more.
            When I found out he was in the hospital… I cursed so much I got hoarse. Then I prayed.
            When he got out of the hospital, I reached out to him. It wasn’t the first time I had done so, but I was hoping to hear from him. I called and left voice messages, I texted and even posted on facebook. He never answered back. Can’t say as I blame him. I know when I’m ill, the last thing I want to do is talk to anyone.
            Then, when I found out last week he was back in the hospital, I cried, I prayed and I cursed. I wanted to go see him. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to tell him how much he meant to me. But I didn’t. Instead, I went to see older friends.
            Friends who I believe could have waited.
            Then, I found out things were going south fast. But I still didn’t go see him. Instead, I headed out to see my older pals once again.
            When I found out he was going home for hospice care… I was empty inside. I cried.
            When I found out he died… I was frozen.
            My friend, a man who had been in my life for barely a decade had expired without me telling him how much he meant to me. To my family and how not a week goes by and I don’t think about him and his family.
            I know he left in peace and tranquility. But I am anything but peaceful and tranquil about this.
            Another person who actually took time out of his life to get to know me and still liked me for who I was is now gone. I am down one more friend. No, I am down one more very close friend. I don’t have many. Three maybe four left in my life and I’m getting to old to even try and find another.
            So I’m going to say it here and now what I should have said at least a week ago:
            “Mike, you were a true friend to me. Your friendship meant more to me than I will ever be able to express in words. Your faith was something that I wished I’d had. Your commitment to family was enviable and your service to this country and church was admirable. I love you and I hope that you are in a better place today.”

            As I wrap this up, Johnny Cash is now singing about meeting again. I suppose that is a fitting ending to this blog. Because I can’t wait to meet Mike again.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Interview

“You’re going to be interviewed at one o’clock today.” My supervisor informed me upon our first meet up this morning.
            “Interviewed? For what? I can’t be interviewed. I haven’t shaved all week, my shirts a mess and I don’t interview well.” My excuses peppered out of my mouth like bullets from a Gatling gun.
            “Doesn’t matter. They want to know about the trains, the collection and the winter wonderland layout. You are the expert, you get interviewed.”
            “C’mon, you can’t make me do this. You stand on camera and I’ll feed you the answers.”
            “Nope, I’ve got to talk about other things. Also, they are going to ask about your qualifications and how you got started here.”
            “I’m sick. I need to go home.”
            “You’re not sick. You’re not going home and you will do the interview.”
            “I’ll give you a hundred dollars.” This made him pause. Then he shook his head and said “Nope, this is all you.”
            “I hate you.”
            “Olive Juice too sugar pants. Don’t be late, it’s at one… and in case you don’t understand that, thirteen hundred hours.” And with that, he turned and left.
            I walked back to my office and looked for something I could break. I couldn’t find anything so I sat at my desk and seethed. Pretty soon, my thoughts of suicide or “accidentally” breaking a non-essential body part faded to the tasks I needed to do for the day. Also, one of my volunteers showed up and he was full of energy and looking for work to do. Which is good, this provided me an excuse to forget all about the interview.
            By the time I was supposed to be on hand to do the interview, I’d forgotten all about it. I was actually in the midst of building a scene for Winter Wonderland and gathering up supplies I would need to finish the task. Which is about the time my walkie-talkie squawked and a disembodied voice requested my presence to the interview site. I cursed under my breathe and tried to come up with an excuse to not show up. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t come up with an idea outside of calling in paramedics to the museum. So I trudged down to the interview room.
            My supervisor was standing there, a rictus grin on his face made me want to punch him. The interviewer was standing beside his camera man and they both were grinning at me. The LED lights from the camera was casting an eerie glow on the Christmas train layout I designed and built with the help of several people.
            “I hate you.” I repeated my sentiments.
            “You’ll do fine snuggle bear. It’ll be over before you know it.”
            “I’m not your snuggle bear today. Eat hot death.”
            “You two done with your mating ritual?” the interviewer asked.
            I stared daggers at him and wished he’d spontaneously combust and that his flames would leap onto the cameraman and they’d both go up in a fiery winter fueled blaze.
            “He’ll be okay, just tell him where to stand and ask him questions.” My boss said and then turned to me and pointed a finger at my chest “No snark, no wit and no dick jokes.” He warned.
            I shrugged and realized I would rather be on death row at that very moment.
            “Stand here.” The cameraman said.
            I looked at him. He was pointing to a spot on the floor between his camera and the front of the train layout.
            I shrugged and moved my feet to the spot. I then looked at the man performing the interview and said “You sure you want to interview me? I don’t look good. I take terrible pictures and video. I also have very little control over what comes out of my mouth.”
            “You’ll be fine. Besides, no one knows more about the collection or trains than you do.”
            “Not true, I know several guys who know more than I do about trains. If you want, I’ll call a couple of them and have them down here in an hour.”
            “Just how many guys would you have to call to be able to give me all the information you have about this stuff?”
            “No clue. But I can get them here for you.”
            “Nope, no time. You’re here. You’re approved and you’ll do fine.”
            Moments later I was being interviewed. It took half an hour. When we were done, I started to walk away and then the cameraman stopped me.
            “We didn’t mic him. The audio is shit. We need to do a retake.”
            My blood froze. I started to head for the exit. My boss stopped me, pointed back to the camera and like a big wimp I turned and slugged my way back to the one eyed monster I loathe.
            A few moments later, I was miced up, and being asked the same questions again. However, this time, I was informed I could shorten my answers. Which I did. When we finished I was told my first interview, the one without the mic was better, more eloquent and more touching.
            I informed the interviewer that I can’t recite verbatim what I’d previously said nor should I be expected to. Which is about the time he told me he interviewed me a couple years ago and that I told the most touching story out of all the people he’d interviewed. He was hoping to catch that magic again.
            “Then ask me different questions.” Was all I could answer.
            His response was this “Tell me how you feel when you see people looking at what you do.”
            Here was my answer:
            “How do I feel? Good. I love being able to stand in the background and listen to parents explain to kids what they are seeing. To hear squeals of joy and gasps of surprise when they walk into a room where I’ve worked for endless hours to create something that will bring to the surface of their consciousness the joy and wonderment they felt as children. I don’t want credit, I don’t need to be acknowledged, I just need to know that what I’ve done, what I’ve toiled at is appreciated. Nothing more, nothing less. I feel a great sense of pride when return visitors from years past recognize changes that have been made and I’m there to overhear the comments be they good or bad. I feel pride in knowing I helped create a sense of wonder in kids of all ages as they walk away from their experience and I feel a sense of satisfaction when I hear people talk about going home and trying to create something similar to what they’ve seen. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see the wonder in visitor’s eyes. I feel like I matter in some small way in the inspiration they have garnered from not just my hard work but the hard work of my co-workers. That’s how I feel.”
            “Perfect. We’re done.” Was his answer.
            As I walked away, I silently kicked myself in the ass for actually being human for a few moments.
            Have a great week. And avoid interviews.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Our Own Petard

Anger, frustration, disappointment and defensiveness… where do these emotions come from? I have an inkling of an idea but that is all it truly is… an idea. See, I’m not a brain doctor, or a social expert or even a human relations board certified mentalist. Nope, I’m just an observer of human behavior and interactions.
            A voyeur so to speak. For example, if I go to the mall, airport, park or even at either one of my jobs, if I’m not careful, I end up watching people for endless hours. Usually it starts of innocently enough, just wondering where they are coming from, where they are going, what they are buying and if they are truly happy. Then, my maniac gets loose from his chains and all sorts of guttural thoughts come to mind. Is that man cheating on his wife with that woman? Has that kid just stolen something from that store? Does that young girls parents know she is not at school in the middle of the day and that she is at the mall with someone who is at least twenty years her senior?
            Yeah, and those are just the light thoughts. What I don’t see is a young couple out shopping for items for their first apartment. Or the fact that this young kid just finished his shift at the store he is currently employed at or even that the man is taking his daughter our shopping for her birthday and also to celebrate that she is an honor roll student. Nope, my head goes right to the dark side of human nature. Which can suck in life. Always seeing the bad and fighting to see the good.
            I could blame television and social media. It would be easy. After all, if any of you ever sit at home during the day and flip through the endless channels that are available to us, you will see what I mean. Steve Wilkos, Oprah, Maury Povich, Whatever-Court, any reality show and the news is enough to drive you to the dark side and call Emperor Palpatine your daddy. However, if like me, you get disgusted and try to find something on the internet to watch, like youtube videos or shows on demand, it just gets worse. I don’t understand how a video with Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking to congress on space exploration only has a few hundred thousand views and some idiot teenagers fighting in a school parking lot over something inane has over two million views.
            Actually, that’s a lie, I do understand why. It’s because at our core, as human animals, we would rather see conflict and ass-whooping over trying to educate ourselves and learn something that could be helpful to our future existence. Which is why I suppose I avoid popular shows on the black box and on the internet.
            I find myself listening to debates between creationists and atheists or watching informative videos or programs based on the advancement of the human race. No, I don’t watch cat videos, or fight videos and I try my damndest to not watch any reality based programming. It’s not easy, simply because there are times when people in my life are watching them and I can’t avoid them. When this happens, I usually end up just replaying what I’ve heard or seen on an educational podcast or video and replay the information in my head and try to understand a deeper meaning to what was said.
            I suppose my point to this so far is, we, as a human race, as americans, end up taking our cue from what we input into our own brain. If we see on television or internet men and women fighting and bickering over trivial bullshit even though they are not married and the woman has four kids from three different daddies and the man has five kids from four different women yet they both expect each other to be faithful to each other seems like a contradiction in human intelligence. After all, how can you expect someone to live up to your expectations even though you can’t live up to those expectations yourself? You can’t. And I’m sure I could look up on the internet the probability numbers on this situation, but I don’t want to. Because it just makes my head hurt and my heart ache for our future.
            Which brings me to my initial point, where does all the strife come from? I’d like to be able to just point to the media and blame them, but I can’t. Simply because the media only broadcasts what is consumed by the public. If the public likes to watch idiots fight on television over paternity tests or misdemeanor damaged property, then they’ll give it to them. If the public wants to watch half naked self-proclaimed celebrities argue the trivialities over who has the best smelling vagina, then so be it. But be warned media, I won’t partake. Sure, I’ll eventually get the information through the social networks weeks, months and sometimes years later, but to expect me to stay current on the comings and goings of the shenanigans of the media decreed kings and queens of the world at whatever moment they feel. Also, these pronounced rulers of pop culture seem to change not just on a daily basis but on an hourly basis as well. Which even writing about gives me a migraine.
            This is the crux of my problem. You see, I believe that this is where most of all the bad shit in life comes from. Not the media, they are just corporations trying to make money. Which they do through commercial sales. The only way to get good commercial sales is by showing the numbers of the people watching the programming they have. Which means, the corporations are subject to the wants and desires of the general public. Which means, we, as media consumers actually have the power to improve what we watch and what is programmed for us on not just the airwaves but also the internet. I have little faith in the American general public though. It seems they, as a whole, more than relish in the travails of the trivial.
            So, when I feel angry, frustrated, defensive or even insulted, it would be easy for me to point the finger at the media but I’d be pointing to the wrong culprit. The true culprit is the wonderful men and women of this country I served to protect and serve not just in the united states military but also as an employee of a law enforcement agency. For they are the true guilty party.
            Guilty in the fact that they demand to see people more devoid of humanity than they themselves are, just so they can feel better about their lives and how insecure in their positions they are. They thrive on the angst and frustration of people they deem less intelligent, less righteous and even less moral than they are, and those feelings in turn become a spark for their own lack of self-control when a situation comes up where they should act level headed and sane. Nope, they shelve those thoughts and dive head long into an empty pool of disaster because that is what they have seen and learned from. They end up imitating the information they themselves have demanded. Then, when the outcome is more explosive than what they thought it should be, and they are surprised… I laugh, because I know, they are only responsible for their own actions by their own actions because of their own actions.

            Have a great week.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hopeful Birthdays

Next Tuesday marks the sixteenth birthday of my daughter. An epic birthday for just about everyone. I’m happy for her. She is seemingly well adjusted. Has good relationships with myself and her mother as well as just about everyone in her life. She likes school, has friends and is involved in several extracurricular activities. In other words, she is a lot more advanced at her age than I was.
            All of this is makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I mean, after all, as parents, all we really want is for our kids to have it better than we did when we were at whatever particular age they are. I like to think I’ve been somewhat successful in this goal. After all, when I was her age nothing in my life was concrete. Most days, I didn’t even know when or if I was going to eat, let alone where I was going to lay my head for the night.
            As for my birthdays, they were never really anything special and I don’t remember very many of them. However; for my child, I’ve tried to always give her what she’s wanted for her date of entrance into this world. I like to think I’ve been successful with this. Of course, I’ve always had help in doing making her special days come true.
            This year, her wish was quite simple. She wanted a girl’s weekend in a hotel at a beach. Since her birthday is in October it is off season for most beach front resorts. Now, financially, I really can’t afford for her to go off for a full weekend, or even one day. Yet, when I thought about her request I really couldn’t come up with a reason to say no. Aside from the bills. On the heels of that thought was maybe the maniac of my conscious saying “Do it. Damn the bills. Let her have her weekend.” Of course my pragmatic side attempted to skewer the maniac with a flaming spear gun. The maniac ducked, laughed maniacally and shouted “LET HER GO!” he then bum rushed the pragmatist in my head, kicked him in the junk and then proceeded to stomp the level headed imaginary sense of self into a greasy, bloody puddled of primordial ooze.
            Yup, the maniac won, and in doing so, my daughter won.
            She, my offspring, two of her friends and the mother of my child are all going on a road trip starting tomorrow. They have a beach front hotel room, a swimming pool, a metric ton of snacks, music and boy talk to catch up on over the next forty-eight hours of estrogen fueled reprieve.
            I couldn’t be happier for them. If not a bit jealous.
            I mean, I can’t imagine how much fun they are going to have. I can imagine what I would have done at sixteen with two of my best pals and my father or father figure in a hotel room at a beach resort for a weekend. Especially since where they are going is going to have a ridiculously large car show going on all weekend. Not that these girls are gear heads. Although my kid loves Harley’s and Mustangs, I’m sure she will see a few motorized transports that will catch her eye. Not to mention, she has her learners permit and wants nothing more to do than drive all day and all night. Yeah, I’m sure they are going to have a blast.
            I’m glad I could do this for them.
            Which brings me to this past week.
            I met a man and his mother this week. When I met them, they looked as if they’d been run through some sort of medieval torture device. I saw the stress and pain on their faces and in their eyes. So I talked to them. What I found out was tragic.
            I’m not going to go into too many details of their situation simply because I don’t have permission to do so. What I will say is that the man with the help of his mother are from another state and embroiled deeply in a custody battle for the man’s four year old little girl. It seems this battle has been going on for several years and across several state lines. Somehow, they ended up in my adoptive burg I like to call home. Also, oddly enough, they ran into me, the semi-self-proclaimed “Prince of Portsmouth”.
            I say semi-self-proclaimed because I never used that title until a good pal of mine called me it one day. That, however; is a story for another day. Regardless, once they laid their burden upon my shoulders I knew I had to help them in any way I could. When they informed me of their local attorney’s name, I recognized it as one of the best family practices in town and told them so. I also informed them that I knew the attorney’s personally and when they meet them again, tell them I said hello.
            When the mentioned the judge who is handling the case, coincidentally enough, I knew him as well. I assured them that they were in good hands and he is a just and fair man. Which is about the time the grandmother of the child pulled out her phone and showed me pictures of her grand-daughter. A small, curly blonde haired, blue eyed cutie, playing in the snow. Making snow angels, snowballs and hugging her grandparents. My heart leapt with happiness to see such a wonderful moment in life. Then it tore apart. Thoughts of this young lady growing up without the influence of her father or grandparents and all the joys of frolicking in snow, baking cookies, making hot cocoa or even just enjoying a walk amongst the fall leaves while holding hands of the ones who care for her was almost too much to bear.
            So I gave them more information about my fair city. I told them who they should speak with in the court system and who would help them. Gave them the names of the people who make sure the proper paperwork gets filed on time and filed properly and without mistakes. I encouraged them to look up these people and I also informed them that if they were religious and thought they needed prayer, I could help them in that aspect as well.
            They were grateful for the knowledge and then asked me where they could get pictures of the child printed. I readily told them.
            When they departed, they didn’t seem so distraught, so oppressed or even so hopeless. No, they actually seemed happy. Which is cool.
            Not twenty-four hours later, I got word that they in fact had gone to court, met with some people I had advised them to meet with and everything went off pretty much without a hitch. Also, I received a friend request on facebook from the father of the young lady.
            I don’t know why I did all this for them. Not that I really did much really. I just tried to help them work their way through southern politics and paperwork. Most days, I’d just wish them well.
            Maybe it is because my daughter is so near and dear to me. Maybe I can’t imagine a father not being able to have a healthy and wonderful relationship with their kid. All I know is that something inside of me compelled me to help them. So I did. And now, I hope for the best outcome for them.
            After all, there is no greater joy in a parent’s life than when they are able to make the dreams of their children come true. If you don’t believe me and you are a parent, just wait until Christmas morning when your offspring open that unobtainable gift that youscoured the internet for, fought other adults at the toy store for or even called in more than several favors to obtain.
            The joy, the love, the sense of accomplishment and the unadulterated bliss a parent feels at those moments is more than one human can humanly contain. Nope, it has to be shared. Shared with friends, family and passer-by’s. It’s what we do.
            We give the gift of small miracles in the hopes that one day our children will be able to do the same for their kids. A lesson they learn from the feet of their parents.
            Goose, Happy Birthday! I hope you have a great weekend and that you have a hundred more miracle birthdays ahead of you.
            For the rest of you, you know what I’m going to say…

            Have a great week.