Monday, June 22, 2015

Father's Day

It’s the dead of night as I sit here on my front porch and write this. Father’s day has passed. The incandescent glow of the street light a half a block away and the night songs of the nocturnal birds are my only company. The smoke of my cigar keep the insects at bay and I can’t help but be awake. After all, I did have a three hour nap not an hour ago.
            Inside, on the television David Tennent and Billy Piper are stranded on a space station outside a black hole and are fighting off the Ood and Satan. I love that episode. Actually, it is two episodes. Yet, here I sit talking to you. Yes, you my dear reader, and I don’t really know or understand why.
            Especially the ending, where David looks into the eyes of Satan and says “I know who you think you are but I don’t believe in you.” Or some such words. Very powerful stuff. If you’ve never watched the current Doctor Who then I can’t expect you to understand but if you have or even if you are religious then you may or just might understand.
            After all, who doesn’t want to look into the face of evil and not just shout it down but stare it down as well.
            Today, well, yesterday, I’d like to think I did something of that nature.
            You see, I went to church. I like church. My back doesn’t but I do. Normally, I can’t sit in the seat provided for the parishioners so I end up sitting in the lobby listening to the music and sermon on the speakers. Today though, the speakers were turned off. So I sat there mostly by myself and then my wife joined me. We talked, we laughed, we joked and we bonded. It was a really nice time. It made me very happy.
            After the service, my wife who takes care of the pastor’s kids, had to take them to the waiting area. This area is not where most people leave the building. Nope, it is in the back by the storage rooms. We went there and I sat against a wall talking and playing with a bunch of kids. After all, I am nothing but an eight year old trapped in a forty-eight year olds body. We had fun. We laughed, joked and smiled. I felt human. I felt great. I felt like all the worries of the world were beyond me. That nothing could ever hurt me, that no one could harm me and that I was immortal.
            And, truth be told, for those brief moments… I was.
            It was very refreshing being surrounded by youth and exuberance. Being engulfed in a world of possibilities that held no strife or pressure. I didn’t want it to end. We made up games, poked each others bellies, gave noogies to one another, laughed, talked and held ourselves in a bubble of seclusion that no adult would or could penetrate.
            Yet, as all things, this ended. My wife and daughter and I went to lunch, we talked, we poked fun of each other and laughed. We hung out long after our bill was paid and when we left, them in their Jeep and I on my Harley, we made sure we would see each other in the not so distant future.
            Not two hours later I was home as was my family. We watched television and conversed during commercials. Then they left to pay their respects to my Father in law. Can’t say as I could blame them. I was invited but I backed out.
            Father’s day is a very odd day for me. You see, and I’m going to get kind of raw here so I hope you don’t mind, I really don’t like this day.
            Growing up, mostly without a father or dad or even a decent father figure, I never really had much cause to celebrate this day. If you knew me and my past you might understand, and if you don’t, well, let’s just say that the television and my friends fathers showed me what dads were supposed to be.
            Sure, for the first six or seven years of my life I had a dad, he was always working and rarely home. When he was home, we all walked on eggshells so he wouldn’t get upset, yell or smack anyone. (Mind you, this was in an age when it was okay to smack a kid or a spouse.) Yet I do remember those rare times when my dad would take me fishing and leave my sisters and mom at home, but for the most part, my dad was someone to be feared.
            Now, so many years later, I’ve taken what I’ve learned from my youth and instilled it into my own life as a father. Instilled it as an example of what not to do.
            You see, for the past fifteen years, almost sixteen really, I’ve talked with my offspring. I’ve listened to her, I’ve tried to be supportive in all her ideas and cultivate a relationship of openness and honesty that I wish I’d had as a young person. I believe it is working.
            As an example, my child has no qualms about sitting in my lap, giving me hugs, speaking to me about difficult decisions in her life or even telling me secrets her and her friends have. She knows I won’t judge and I won’t interfere. She understands that I am a sounding board for her own life and conscious. She feels safe with me and I her. We have developed a level of trust over the years that I hope and pray will last both of our lifetimes.
            This is something I can’t say I ever had with my father. I can say this is something I have been able to cultivate with my mother over the past fifteen years. It has not been an easy thing to do since we were estranged from each other in my teens and when we finally met up in my late twenties I was somewhat of an asshole. Yet we managed to form a relationship, a bond that makes us actually like and respect each other as humans and adults.
            I wish I could say this was true for all men and women. But I can’t.
            Sure I know plenty of people my age with parents but few who have open and honest talks with their folks. Partly because of them and partly because of their parents. I’d like to believe, yet I find it hard at times, that I have that open and honest relationship with my parents.
            I don’t. Not with both of them.
            One I have to coddle and think about feelings and try not to upset the proverbial apple cart. The other, I can pretty much say whatever I want, which is pretty fucking cool, even if it upsets their sense of self respect. I know I can be as crass, raw and as sensitive as I need to be and not be judged. Which after all, is what all children want.
            We just want to be accepted, to be loved no matter what, good, bad, warts, beauty, success and failure. We just want to know that someone out there loves us and will be there to pick us up when we fall and to laude us when we succeed.
            I hope my offspring knows she can expect nothing but love and compassion from me and I hope yours, if you have them, know they can expect the same from you.

            Have a great week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tempered Heat

It’s 90+ degrees in the restaurant and all sixty-four seats are filled and there is a line at the door. Each customer was told our air-conditioning unit had broken down and the service man had been called. Twenty percent of the customers left immediately. The rest decided to take their chances.
            Glasses of tea, water, soda pop and beer were emptied almost as quickly as they were filled. There are three of us working the tables. A small blessing on an otherwise two waiter night. All of us are wearing black cotton shirts, black pants and a tie. We are all sweating profusely as the four ceiling fans rotate at twenty miles an hour give some semblance of coolness to the patrons. We are all miserable including the people who just needed to eat seafood tonight.
            Fortunately, we are all on our A-game and everything is going smoothly. Hell, we each even took turns standing in the thirty degree walk in refrigerator in an attempt to cool down. Little good that did because not two minutes after you came out of the refreshing respite of heat, you were once again covered in sweat. I can’t speak for my fellow waiters but I know I must have drank ten glasses of water in an attempt to stay hydrated.
            The owner and chef’s words rang in my head that he said before the shift started “I’d have closed down but I didn’t have any numbers for the fifty-four reservations on the book.” Oh, how I wish he had closed down. I felt as miserable as my co-workers looked.
            All of our hair, slicked back, tied back and plastered with hair spray was coming unraveled and we did our best to look presentable and professional. It wasn’t working. We all tried to stay out of each other’s way and when we did have the brief moment to interact we tried to make light of the situation. It was a lame attempt at best. We could all tell that each one of us was on the edge of snapping at each other, the customers and any inanimate object that decided to not do what it was supposed to do.
            I kept my head down, tried to stay focused, do my job, deliver my customers food and get my side-work done in an efficient and timely manner so I could leave as close to nine o’clock as possible.
            Then, at eight-thirty, the last table came in and they were seated in my section. I wanted to yell at them to leave. But, I didn’t. I mustered up as much cheer and joy as I could and introduced myself to them. They knew who I was, I’d waited on them before, people I’d call semi-regulars.
            The man made a comment about the heat, I told him about the ac unit going down. He said him and his wife would stay. “Great” I thought, “I just hope you leave soon.” Not a nice thought to have about people who give you money, yet how were they to know I’d been there for almost five hours in the sweltering heat with almost no relief. They couldn’t know. So I performed like the overgrown monkey I am and gave them the best service I could.
            They ordered, ate and left before nine. A wave of relief passed over me as I finished bussing the table and setting it up for the next day. I then went and cashed out. My numbers were negative, meaning the house, aka the restaurant owed me money. I informed the manager, collected my money and left.
            By the time I got to my motorcycle, put my helmet on and started her up, I realized it was actually cooler outside than it was inside the restaurant. I shook my head and roared down the street in an attempt to get as much wind over my body and dry off the sweat I’d been wearing since four o’clock.
            This sort of worked. By sort of, I mean I got behind a car that believed doing ten miles an hour in a twenty-five mile an hour zone was safe and lawful. I cursed. I would have gone around this idiot but we were on a one lane road. I tried to calm myself by saying I’d be home soon. That I’d be able to sit on my porch and relax. All the while knowing I had to stop at the store to pick up medicine for a sick family member.
            At the store, only two checkout lanes were available. The 12 items or fewer and the regular one. More people were in line for the 12 items or fewer and I looked down at the over the counter drugs in my hand and got in that line. The four different customers in front of me all had at least the regulated 12 items and each one seemed to be having difficulties working the credit card machine. I tried to calm myself. I tried to tell myself I’d be home soon. That my front porch and a tasty cigar were waiting for me. It wasn’t working.
            After what seemed like thirty minutes but was closer to five minutes, the cashier finally rang up my purchase and gave me my total. I handed her a ten dollar bill and exact change. She looked at it as if she didn’t know what to do with it. “Three dollars.” I said.
            “What?” she answered with a look of confusion on her face.
            “My change. It is three dollars.”
            “Huh?” she said staring at the money I’d placed in her hand.
            Instead of arguing with the girl. I opened my wallet, pulled out a five and two ones, took the ten out of her hand and said. “Have a good night.”
            The girl rang up the transaction and tried to hand me the receipt.
            “Keep it.” I said as I began to walk out the door while putting my helmet back on.
            Which is about the time the security officer stopped me.
            “Sir, what is that bulge in your shirt?”
            I looked at the man, he was/is about twenty-eight years old, at least fifty pounds overweight and on his hip a 9mm pistol.
            “You want to know what is in my shirt.” I asked the man who clearly hadn’t shaved in at least three days.
            “Yes, you have a bulge in your shirt.”
            “If I told you it was none of your business or that the bulge in fact is my colostomy bag would you let me go?”
            A look of confusion spread across his face. I laughed. Not out loud but inside my head and to myself. I could also see he was not amused. “Look man, if you have the notion to believe I am a shoplifter then you are sorely mistaken. However, I can say for certain that what is inside my shirt is none of your business and I can guarantee you that this store does not offer for sale what I do have inside my shirt. I would appreciate it if you would let me leave now.”
            He looked non-plused or convinced at what I’d just told him.
            “Sir, I just need to know what it is you have inside of your shirt.” He commented and put his hand on his pistol.
            “Well, since you are such a nice guy and are acting in such a nice manner I’ll tell you. I have two Gurkha cigars and a Batman and Robin comic book. All three items this store does not carry. If you don’t believe me that is fine. However; if you make me unbutton my shirt and expose these items to you for your own curiosity without any probable cause then I shall demand you write an apology to not just me but the entire population of motorcycle riders in America.”
            I made no move to the left or right. I just stood there staring at him. “Sir, I will need to verify what is in your shirt or else I’ll be forced to detain you and call authorities.” It was at this exact moment, standing in the air conditioned entryway of the grocery store that I realized I had a deep desire to fuck with someone and that desire was in direct contrast to where I so sorely wanted to be.
            “Okay. I’ll tell you what. I’ll open my shirt and pull out the aforementioned items and show them to you. And when I do, when I prove you wrong, I want an apology from you.”
            “Just open your shirt sir.”
            I did. I unbuttoned my shirt, pulled out the Batman and Robin comic book and my cigar case, I then opened my cigar case and showed him the Gurkhas. I then placed the items back in my shirt and stared at him.
            “You can go sir.”
            “No, I most certainly can’t. You owe me an apology.”
            “I will not apologize.” He said.
            I then looked over at the customer service counter. I saw a woman there that I’ve known for over twenty years. She looked at me and I motioned her over. She came. I told her what had transpired and that I felt I was owed an apology.
            She looked at the security guard and said “Apologize to Mr. Novak.”
            “I will do no such thing. I was doing my job.”
            “Mr. Novak has been a faithful and loyal customer for years. You will apologize or I’m calling your boss and requesting you never work here again.”
            The man looked perplexed. Lost. I could tell there were a dozen things going on in his mind at the same time. I sort of felt sorry for him. Then again, my entire night had been filled with heat and uncomfortable working conditions so now it was my time to turn up the heat and make someone else feel uncomfortable. I know, it is a shitty way to treat someone, but I didn’t care. All I wanted was to get home. Home with an apology for some knucklehead thinking I was a shoplifter.
            The man hung his head and mumbled his apology. I was fine with it. My old friend was not.
            “Look Mr. Novak in the eyes and tell him you are sorry.” She said through clenched teeth.
            The security guard looked at me. On his face was a look of total humiliation. I felt sorry for him. “I’m sorry Mr. Novak. You have a nice night.”
            “Thank you.” And sidestepped past him.
            My friend called out to me. “Skip.”
            I stopped and turned around and looked at her.
            “I’m sorry too. If that means anything.”
            “Don’t think anything of it. He was just doing his job and besides, I know I look like a hoodlum. But I’m not a hoodlum who steals. I’ll see you later. Thanks for your help.”
            She smiled and wave to me.
            In less than five minutes I was home, on my porch, cigar lit and writing this to you, my dear reader.

            Have a great week.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wireless Peace

So I’m doing something I never wanted or thought I’d do. I’m sitting outside a coffee shop, sipping on a strawberry smoothie and writing this blog. Why am I doing this? Because I don’t have internet at home.
            You see, it all started about six years ago when I bought my house. We had no choice but to get our internet through our cable provider. A company that seems to have a stranglehold on both television and internet in this area. I suppose you could call it a monopoly, since there are no other options other than putting a satellite dish on your house but even then, you won’t get internet service. Which really sucks. Cause as you know, we Americans love our internet.
            So, normally what’d I do is just write a blog at home, go somewhere that I could pick up a wifi signal and quickly upload it and then disappear. However; today is just too nice out to sit inside and mope about my plight. I know, first world problems.
            This all being said, the shade I’m sitting in is nice, the breeze is perfect and people walking up and down the street are a pleasant distraction. There are even some patrons, four of them, two men and two women, sitting a few tables away from me that don’t seem to mind my cigar smoke. I suppose you could say is that the biggest distraction is that I’m camped not too far from both of my jobs and I keep seeing people I know. People who stop and talk with me. I don’t mind really.
            Well, except when they want to hold a conversation with me. To prove my point, some guy, a Coast Guard sailor, just sat and talked my ear off for about twenty minutes about his BMW motorcycle and opinionated that Harley riders were mean. He then saw my helmet and asked what sort of bike I rode. I told him. Then he made some excuse about having to be somewhere and left in his volkswagon. I just laughed. Not out-loud but inside as my sarcastic inner voice screamed that this guy is nothing but a complete and utter idiot.
            So now, it is just me, my thoughts and the breeze. Really kind of like being on my front porch except I don’t have a cigar ashtray and I can’t play my music. If I’d brought my headphones I’d be able to play music or even listen to one of my podcasts but I didn’t think of that. All I could think of was getting a strawberry smoothie and enjoy its refreshing taste as it cools my inner core temperature.
            Where was I going with this?
            Oh, yeah, I hate big companies that on a whim decide to increase your bill for the same shitty service they’ve been spoon feeding you for years. Then, when you have a problem, they come up with every excuse in the book to not help or infer it is your fault and not theirs. When you finally convince them to send out a technician and they finally arrive, they say there is no problem on their end. They suggest signal boosters, rewiring and spout off so much technical mumbo jumbo that in your mind a countdown timer starts. When the timer gets to zero, you are sure your head will explode and repaint the inside of your home with red and gray matter.
            So, I got rid of the cable and internet. I got a satellite and no internet now. My bill is three quarters less than it was a couple months ago, I get more channels and I have crystal clear clarity on my television. Which is funny, because truth be told, I don’t watch a lot of tv. I rather enjoy the internet and watching shows on the pay service I have there. But, alas, I’m sure eventually I will get access at my home someday soon. After all this isn’t the 20th Century anymore.
            Yeah, I guess you could say me and mine are missing unfettered access to the digital life. Not so much now since the satellite has been installed. But quite nights sitting on the couch surfing the web while some mindless show is playing on the black box and an occasional grunt is emoted from one of our mouths is not too sorely missed. Now, we have to look at each other, make polite conversation and such. Well, not so much me. The lack of luxuries in my life has not hindered my time on my porch or even my writing.
            Truth be told, without the unfettered access of the web, I’m getting more done in the writing aspect of my life. I finished a story I’d started a year ago. I’ve gone through another tale that was partially finished and I’ve started working on that again and… This is actually my second blog this week. I wrote one last night but I have no idea if I’ll ever post it. You see, I do that. I write things and never post them. There are more than a dozen on my flash drives that will most likely never see the light of day. It’s not that they are terrible, or too revealing or even offensive. Nope, it is just that I don’t feel like posting them.
            Maybe I’ll save them for another day, another week or a time when I don’t or can’t write anything and use them as a bank blog. Either way, it doesn’t matter much to me. I’m just happy to be able to enjoy a day off, write a bit and not have to worry about being entertained.
            I hope for you that one day, if you’re in a similar situation, you wont freak out, get stressed or even go through some sort of withdrawal of modern technology. Instead, I hope you will enjoy the time away from the light speed distraction of the 21st century.
            Now, I’m going to go for a motorcycle ride, have red bull and a cigar and then maybe I’ll watch some television.

Have a great week.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Almost Three Years

            Next week starts a new chapter in my life. Well, not necessarily new, for you see, almost three years ago my wife had over the course of three days, five strokes. Rendering her mute, paralyzed and mentally damaged. It took weeks to get her back walking and talking. Given her speech was stammered and filled with silence as her brain tried to reroute its synapses so she could find the correct words to use. Her walking was slow and staggered. She developed a great fear for stairs. I had to help her in and out of the bath, up and down the stairs and in and out of bed.
            However, from the moment she came home from rehabilitation to today, she has been getting better. Healing. Learning. Reading and reeducating herself in every aspect of her life. It has been quite a process to observe. A full grown adult approaching middle age suddenly stunted in growth having to rebuild all of her life. Fascinating yet painful to watch.
            There have been times when I see her struggling to find words, trying to walk, trying to think, trying to do menial tasks and I want to jump in and help. But I didn’t, or wouldn’t until asked. This was by no means an easy task. No, mostly my heart would break just watching her. But I knew if I did for her, assisted without being asked, I would only hinder her healing process.
            Now, she is pretty much back to where she was a few years ago. Sure, there are some differences to who she is now as to who she was then. But those differences are minor. Yes, it’s true; her personality has also changed a bit. That is okay too. I think these changes have made her more interesting and yes, I pretty much had to relearn who she is becoming without trying to compare it to who I knew she was prior to the strokes.
            I’m proud of her. I’m amazed by her tenacity to relearn all she had lost. Also, and I say this with all love and respect, I wish it had been me who had suffered instead of her. Simply because there have been times where it has been heartbreaking to watch the struggles she was going through. However; this was not to be. This was not reality. Nope, she had to go through this process for herself. She had to trust and rely upon not just herself but to rely upon those closest to her to have her best interest at heart. To be tough when toughness was required and to be tender when tenderness was needed.
            Yup, three years of recuperation for five strokes that have pretty much killed off part of a human brain and yet, she keeps motoring on. I’m impressed and fascinated by the fighting spirit of the human condition. I’m sure that a hundred years ago, her recovery would not have happened. That the medicines she is required to take had not been invented. Those medicines keep her circulatory system stable and strong. They keep her body healthy and stops it from turning on itself. Yes, a hundred years ago I most likely would have been a widower. Thank God and science for keeping her safe and healthy and alive.
            Sue, I’m proud of you and good luck next week.
Have a great week everyone. (Especially you, Sue.)