Friday, June 16, 2017

Fathers Day

It’s cool here on my front porch. The thunderstorm we had earlier washed away most of the humidity and heat. Now, it’s quite temperate out. the streets are quiet which is unusual. Normally I have to struggle to listen to music while I write as the neighborhood kids chase each other in made up games. Their screams and shouts scaring most of the squirrels, cats and birds away from them. Now, however, it seems the semi-wildlife of my adoptive city know that it is safe to move around.
I can hear the chirp and calls of birds over the frantic piano playing of Dave Brubeck and the insane rhythms of Joe Morello on drums, somehow the call of the wild seems to meld in with the great jazz. This brings a smile to my face. After all, it’s not often when two worlds fit so snuggly together. This is a happy experience for me. 

Which I suppose brings me to the upcoming non-holiday. What? Non-holiday? What is that? Well, I’ll tell you…

Father’s Day.

To me it has always been a non-holiday. After all, I can’t say as I really know any fathers who actually celebrate it like mothers do. Mothers get all the credit as they should. Us fathers, yes, I am a father, don’t really think about it too much. Well, in my experience that is. 

Sure as a child I would make a card for my dad and maybe buy him a gift every now and again. Then with a sheepish grin on my face and a anxious and fluttering heart I’d present it to him with shaking hands. He would of course take the gift from my hand, smile and tussle my hair. He’d open the card or gift, pick me up and hug me and thank me. Then I’d be off to my room to do a puzzle, play with my action figures or go outside and go on adventures with my pals.

Then came the divorce and my mother got custody of us kids. There was no more celebrating fathers day for years after that simply because we didn’t have a father around to give cheap trinkets, ties, cards or cologne to. Fathers day was lost to attrition. 

Then my mother remarried and us kids were expected to give her second husband fathers day cards and gifts. I never felt comfortable with that for more reasons than I wish to go into here. We obliged. Me grudgingly and mainly for the sole purpose of making my mom feel good.

When I left that home and moved in with my father and his family we celebrated in the usual way that families do. Cards and gifts and that was about it. While I went along with this ceremony, I still did not feel completely comfortable with it. After all, it’d been seven years since I’d really had anything to do with my real father and the man that had replaced him was in my opinion, a total ass.

Still, I cowed to the tradition and supplied a card or a token of respect or both and carried on with my life. I never truly understood why I was uncomfortable with this holiday until many years later.

I was in the Navy. Serving my country. Doing my duty and following in the footsteps of my own father. He served in the 1960’s and now I was serving in the 1980’s. During those years in the fleet, I can’t remember sending him a single card for the celebration of his contribution to my life. However; this time, it was not because I didn’t think about it or didn’t know it wasn’t coming up. After all, the Navy is one place where they do not allow you to forget Mothers or Fathers day. No, this time I do believe I made a conscious effort to not send warm thoughts and peaceful wishes to the two men who’d try to shape and influence my life in their own unique way. 

I was in a very arrogant and pissed off position. I was on a journey to prove to those men that I was in charge of my life, I would do something they said I couldn’t do and I would succeed without them and their views on who and what I was.

Did I succeed in this quest?

Maybe, but it wasn’t without help.

In 1988 I met a man who would change my life. He was an older man, grizzled, tough and wise. He had a family of his own and in fact, he was the father of the woman I was dating and would later marry. Through his quiet acceptance of me and his encouraging words and patience with my naive youth, he helped mold me into a better person.

Then I went to work at his machine shop for ten years. In those years he taught me more about mechanics, machinery and life than I think I could have gleaned from the wisest of men in the history of the world. Every day I found myself learning something new, and when I’d make a mistake he didn’t get angry and yell at me or hit me, although he most likely wanted to. Instead he took his time to explain my error and how to correct it and even how to avoid making it again.

This sort of reserved teaching was not something I was used to nor had ever experienced in my life. A patient master teaching an eager apprentice. He taught me more than he could ever know.


He taught me how to be a man and more importantly he taught me how to be a father. For that, I am truly grateful. 

So today, right now, I’m want to wish all you fathers day out there a “Happy Fathers Day”. 

And for you George, I want to say “Thank you, your presence in my life has been invaluable in more ways than I can express. I love you and while you are not my father but my friend, I want to wish you a very happy and wonderful fathers day.”

Have a great week.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Curds with Gwen...And Kay-O

The smell of a campfire fills my nose as I sit on my porch tonight. Someone, somewhere in my neighborhood is having a small gathering of friends over for an intimate night of conversation and good times. Sound bites of their conversation drift on the wind and land upon my ears and I almost feel apart of their group. 

This feeling makes me miss even more the event that I wanted to be at tonight. The event is called “Curds with Gwen” and it is taking place in a small town in Wisconsin. People I knew from another century and another high school are getting together for an ad hoc reunion of sorts.

And in case you’re wondering about the name “Curds with Gwen”, well, Gwen is the one who came up with the idea for everyone to get together and eat fried cheese curds… a staple in any Wisconsinites diet. The crispy, tender, golden crust hides the liquefied magma of melted cheese inside… damn I wish I had a pound of them right now sitting in front of me… I’d devour them and be thankful for the blisters on the roof of my mouth in the morning.

But more than that, I miss the folks who are there, and even the folks who aren’t. I don’t normally get nostalgic about my high school days. After all, I attended three different high schools, so it was hard for me to make lasting friends. But somehow, the kids from Roncalli High School, class of 1985 seem to have burrowed their way into my psyche. 

How do I describe Roncalli in the 1980’s… it’s hard… it… well… 

It was like a John Hughes film. Pick any of them, “Pretty in Pink”, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Breakfast Club”… that was Roncalli.

We had all the stereotypes in abundance. Jocks, Preps, Geeks, Dorks, Druggies, Greasers… you name it, we had it.

My first day there started halfway through the first quarter of school. I was transferred in and as soon as I stepped foot on the school bus I knew I didn’t fit in anywhere. After all, I saw in myself not just one stereotype, but all stereotypes. I was a geek, a jock, a greaser, a prep, a druggie and a dork. Within a week of attending classes, I’d made friends in each clique. 

I played chess with the chess club, I helped rebuild an engine with the greasers, I programmed computers with the geeks, I was on the wrestling team, for a short time, I dressed like a prep, I smoked weed with some of the jocks and I had a voracious appetite for the schools library.

My friends spanned the cliques and I had no problem talking to anyone. Even if it was someone I didn’t know. Well, with one exception… a girl…

A girl named Jody.

Our lockers were next to each other and I rarely said anything when she was around. Yes, I had a crush on her and it killed me. Anytime I’d ask anyone about her, they’d say she was going out with so and so, or she was dating a linebacker or that she was stuck up and wouldn’t talk to anyone.

So when she actually came up to her locker one day as school was letting out and asked me for a cigarette, I about damn near shit myself. I quickly fumbled for my pack and pulled out a Marlboro and handed it to her. She said thanks, turned and left. Her ponytail slowly swaying back and forth across the middler of her back.

I was in shock. So much so that I didn’t even see Brother John walk up and start scolding me for having cigarettes in the school. It wasn’t until he grabbed ahold of my arm that I realized he was standing there. I quickly apologized, shoved the smokes back in my pocket and ran away from him hoping he wouldn’t come after me and try to confiscate my illegal Marlboros.

On the bus ride home all I could think about was Jody. Did she try to set me up? Why didn’t I know she smoked? How come I’d never seen her at any of the parties I’d been to. Why the fuck didn’t I talk to her?

Teenage bullshit… that’s what it was. Being uncomfortable in your body and not really knowing where you fit in… I know that now. Then, not so much. I was awkward, a bit shy around girls I liked and definitely in fear of getting my ass kicked by the football team.

So, when the invite went out for this “reunion” I really wanted to go. To see these people and how they’ve changed over the years. Are they married? Do they have families? Divorced? Alive? Dead? Hell anything.

Social media only gives you the filtered information of what someone wants you to see. I’m not saying the person posting pictures of kittens, hiking the Appalachian trail, espresso under the Eiffel tower and shaking hands with some Hollywood star is lying, what I’m saying is that they are putting out what they want you to see.

It’s different then when you hear the stories from their lips and see the light of joy gleam in their eye as they tell you what they’ve done and how they've done it. That’s what I miss. 

That’s why right now, at this very minute I wish I were in Manitowac, Wisconsin, hanging out with a bunch of people I only spent two years of my life with. Because they are awesome to me, even if they don’t know or realize it.

Have a great week.

PS. I don’t normally  do this, however, my third high school, Washington High School, the one I graduated from, you guys, if you're reading this, mean as much to me as well. I love the friendships I made there and I wish I could give you all a big hug. We went through some crazy times together, both good and bad and this blog is written in honor and memory of friends, you guys are included as well.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Little Things

I was about a half a mile from my house when I realized something was wrong. I leaned forward on my motorcycle so I could hear the engine a bit better. No, she wasn’t misfiring. I pulled in the clutch and applied breaks, she slowed perfectly. I accelerated a bit, swerved a bit to test the tires, everything was fine. I shook my head and saw my shadow on the road do the same thing.

I took a better look at my shadow as I slowed to a stop sign. My shadow looked funny. the top of it was blurry and fuzzy. My shadow shouldn’t look like that. As I came to a full stop I placed my feet on the ground and looked closer at the dark silhouette stretching out from my bike. I laughed when I realized what was wrong. I quickly turned around, headed back to the house and fixed the problem.

At home I went inside, walked up to my desk and picked up my helmet and strapped it to my head. Another small chuckle escaped my lips and I went outside and mounted my trusty steed once again.

Seconds later I was blasting through the neighborhood streets.

This isn’t the first time I’ve forgotten my helmet. As a matter of fact in the forty years of riding I’ve done, I can actually say I only remember getting on a motorcycle without a helmet twice. Both times have been in the last six months.

Growing up in Wisconsin, where helmet laws are pretty much non-existent, or at least they were back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, it was not an uncommon occurrence to see people ride without helmets. I never did. Simply because my parents and my friends parents would not let us kids ride without them. Makes sense. After all, the last thing any parent wants to witness is their kids injured. 

So strapping on a helmet is second nature to me. It’s like putting on my socks or my boots. It’s something I always seem to do when I get ready to go somewhere. It’s just something I’m trained to do. 

As I’m sure there are things you’ve been trained to do, whether it’s double check the lock on the door when you leave the house or jiggle the toilet handle to keep it from running all night. It’s just something that we as humans learn to do to make our lives safer, better and easier.

So, what would cause me to forget my helmet and hop on a motorcycle and run pell mell into the abyss?

Simple, stress.

Well, in my case that’s what it has been. I allowed my mind to be distracted by all the craptastic events in my life and in doing so, I put myself in harms way. Lucky for me I didn’t get into an accident or pulled over by a cop and given a ticket. No, each time I figured out what was wrong and fixed the problem.


I forgot.

I put myself in danger because I was too concerned with things that truly don’t matter.

This is where I find myself a lot lately.

Thinking about shit that doesn’t matter. Well, won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. For some reason I’ve developed a strange sense of placement in my world. I don’t feel as if I actually belong where I am. As if I’ve been displaced by a ghost of myself and the real me is actually just an observer to the events that affect my ghost. Which leaves me standing by the roadside trying to figure out what just happened.

Its not a good feeling. It feels as if you’re lost on a strange planet and home is an obscure concept you think you remember.

I’ve no true idea how to fix this problem. I have an idea. And for now, an idea is good enough.

I’m going to have to shut down all the incoming bullshit in my life for a while. I feel this will act as a pressure relief valve for me. Just stop caring about all the unnecessary crap that seems to be distracting me. And, if somehow some crap starts to creep back into my life, I’m just going to have to smile and wave and send my mind off to a place where I don’t have to listen to the garbage that is in front of me.

This is my solution to my forgetful and dangerous behavior. I just don’t have the amount of concern for shit in my life that does not matter. If that sounds cold or cruel, it really isn’t. It is a form of self-preservation.
Which is the only thing all of can really do. Preserve ourselves and sanity for the ones that matter to us in our lives.

Have a great week.