Friday, December 17, 2004

Santa pictures!

Well, it wasn't easy. But I managed to race to daycare after work, haul Christina off to the hair salon for a quick haircut, run home to take out the dogs, feed us, bathe Christina and dress her up, drive out to the mall through holiday traffic, park a mile away from where we needed to be, and stand in line for 45 minutes to get her picture taken with Santa. Pheeew! In the end I was happiest with these three pictures I took of her myself with my digital camera. I posted the $24 portrait they sold me on my photolog, accessible through the sidebar.

Merry Christmas, everybody!!!


I'm thinking Audrey Hepburn when she was five?


Asking Santa for...everything!!!


Gotta love this guy!!!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Photos

Click here for mood music

Three years before I saw the outside of my mother's belly, my parents were busily taking dozens of pictures of my oldest sister. I've seen the albums and the stacks of loose photos that never got sorted out, browning away in old shoeboxes. A year later, my brother came around and they took several pictures of him too. Very photogenic kids they were. There's a ton of pictures to prove it.

Me, I was the third one. They were obviously burnt out on the whole photo thing by then, because I only recall seeing one baby picture of myself. Oh well. They had their hands full at that point, so who can blame them.

But then five years later, when all the kids were already out of their diapers and pretty much fending for themselves, my youngest sister was born. A beautiful little girl who's look was in itself a natural portrait pose. For her, my Dad went so far as to actually purchasing a photograph developing and printing machine. There were hundreds, nay, thousands of pictures of her! It's still hard to walk into my parents' home and find a wall without one of her pictures on it.

Anyway, all this to say that I've made it my mission in life to ensure that there is no lack of pictures of Christina. With the advent of digital cameras, one would be a fool to not take full advantage of it. Besides about 40 hours of live film, I think I have in excess of 1500 pictures of her (not all in print, mind you). There simply can't be too many!

I placed some new pictures of Christina in my photo log. You can see and access them on the sidebar. They're nothing special, but I think she looks cute as hell in all of them.

Proud Daddy! Yup!!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

What to do, what to do...

Click here for mood music

I met my lawyer yesterday.

A lovely woman. Made me think, why couldn't I have married a lawyer, instead of a waitress? What was I thinking? Of course, the smartass answer comes shooting right back at me: because when you divorced her she'd beat the shit out of you in court!

Anyway, we spoke at length about my situation (over an hour), and she cleared up some things for me. Primarily, and this is the most disturbing part, she made it seem as though I'm doing it all wrong. I'm falling behind, letting Cindy get away with too many things, endangering my daughter's wellbeing, and risking losing it all. Scare tactics. Obviously, she wants to sell me her services. What better way to have me sign up than to make me believe I'm sinking in an ever deepening pit.

But it's not that simple. If I had the kind of money she's asking for just sitting around, I'd hand it over to her and proceed with the court filing. I don't have it though. And I can't get my hands on it that easily. I would need to have it financed.

Before I do anything else however, it's important that I clear my head and try to view things objectively. Priorities need to be established and the possible consequences to any actions I take need to be carefully analyzed.

For instance, the moment I take any legal action against my wife, we will become enemies. We're not exactly buddies right now mind you, but we're behaving in a civilized manner for the sake of Christina. As soon as I try to gain full custody and lock her out of my house she will turn into a vicious tigress. I'm not supposing this, I know it. I've been with this woman for a long time and I'm well aware of how she reacts to things. She does not fight fire with water and she never backs away from a fight. No matter how beat she is. Her defensive mechanism is to close her eyes and scratch away at anything in her path. This would not be a good thing.

Another matter to consider is whether I stand to gain more from trying to continue to work things out amicably or not. What's that old saying? You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

I want my house. I bought it myself, I've done all the work on it, and I've paid for it. She's done nothing for it. Legally she's entitled to half its equity, I understand that. But I want to keep it.

I want my daughter. I have no intention of keeping her away from her mother, that would never occur to me. But I would like to be the one to make the ultimate decisions regarding her future.

I don't want to pay alimony. Some people may think she's entitled to it, particularly a court of law, but I don't think she deserves a penny. I'd rather not go into the exact reasons why I believe she doesn't deserve it, but I think I can make a pretty good case if I need to. Not only that, I can't afford it. Not if I want to keep a roof over my head.

So I'm weighing the issues. Trying to come up with some kind of clear plan in my head so I can take the next logical step. I'll admit I'm nervous, and a little scared. Kind of how you feel before going into a scrap, even though you're confident you can beat the other guy. There's always a chance you might lose. I'm in the unenviable position of not wanting to lose a thing.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Seasons

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Autumn colors, everywhere. They splatter the backgrounds, exploding in furious blasts of tone and hue, warming the coldest hearts.

I've felt their warmth before, when in the shoddy cradle of my lonesome youth I sought solace in such things as nature.

The thundering beauty of a fall sunset. Magnified by an ample horizon, clear and vast, and lousy with gentle clouds. Trying to block out a body so strong and powerful as the sun, in vain, hopelessly futile jabs at immensity. Only when the sun sinks down into the swamp land, becoming one with the Everglades, does she truly disappear.

The trees don't lose their leaves, not like they do in other places. Oh, many make their way to the ground and clutter our storm drains. But our trees remain remarkably full and alive. Disappointing at times. I crave the full cycle. The impacting change of season with its merciless swings in temperature. Cold, heat, the in betweens.

We bookmark our moods by the seasons, inadvertently. It's hard to feel like it's Christmas time when you're still walking around at night in shorts and sandals. "How does Santa come in the house?" my daughter asks me, in a momentary state of panic, painfully aware that our house, like most South Florida homes, has no chimney. "He'll probably come in through one of the attic fans," I tell her, uneasily. Her look of disbelief makes me add: "He can squeeze into just about anywhere, you know. He'll get in here, don't worry. Even if I have to stay up all night and open the front door for him. He'll get in here!" She smiles and says, "Yeah, because who's gonna eat the cookies and milk!!!???"

In the winter we'll turn the A/C off for a few nights. Crack open the windows and let some of that moldy atmosphere out of the house. Pull down a sweater from the top shelf and brush off the dust. A few times.

But we won't be making hot apple cider or roasting marshmallows in the fireplace. I'm sorry my daughter has to miss that. I'm sorry she has to miss the outdoor glare and beauty of a white Christmas, and the comforting feeling of a warm household when you're coming in from the cold, peeling off layers of clothing. The frost on the windows and the sight of your breath, the numbness in your toes and fingertips from putting a snowman together or making snow angels.

It's hard to have it all, isn't it?



Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A top ten list

Just so you know that I still retain a sense of humor.
I got these tips via email this morning and thought I'd pass them along. They might come in handy!


Ten Best Things to Say if you Get Caught Sleeping at Your Desk


10. "They told me at the Blood Bank this might happen."

9. "This is just a 15 minute power nap they raved about in the time management course you sent me too."

8. "Whew! Guess I left the top off the Whiteout. You probably got here just in time."

7. "I wasn't sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new business strategy."

6. "I was testing my keyboard for drool resistance."

5. "I was doing a highly specific Yoga exercise to relieve work-related stress. Are you discriminatory toward people who practice Yoga?"

4. "Darn! Why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out how to handle that big accounting problem."

3. "Did you ever notice sound coming out of these keyboards when you put your ear down real close?"

2. "Who put decaf in the wrong pot?!?"

NUMBER ONE best thing to say if you get caught sleeping at your desk........


Raise your head slowly and say, "...mumble mumble, Amen."

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Time to get busy

I took the plunge.

I'm meeting an attorney next week. A family law specialist.

I just want to make sure I know the proper steps that need to be taken, and what hopes I have toward securing full custody of my daughter and my personal belongings.

I have to admit I feel a little dishonest doing this; a little disloyal. To this moment Cindy has shown no inclination toward asking for custody of Christina for herself nor keeping the house. But I realize this could change overnight, especially since she's receiving infinitely wise counsel from all her divorced friends and newly acquired boyfriend (yes, a quick mover, isn't she?).

So next Tuesday afternoon I find out what my cards are.


It's going to be a long week...

Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving

Click here for mood music

We went in to the office for a couple of hours - Christina labored away on her coloring book and I tried to get some work done - then drove home, put the ham in the oven (my first ham, y'all!), brought down several dozen boxes of Christmas decorations and plenty of cobwebs from the attic, and took the dogs for a holiday walk around the neighborhood. It was a lovely day in South Florida!

The ham was delicious, the wine was fine, and the company was superb! The football wasn't too bad either. Before we dug into the food, we went around the table (both of us) and spoke aloud about the things we were grateful for. Christina finalized that portion of the afternoon with a moving remark that went, "And I'm thankful for my dear Daddy, who's pretty, and who I love so, so much!!!" It brought tears to my eyes.

After lunch we hung the outdoor lights, then came inside and put our Christmas tree together. It looks terrific!

Later there was still enough time for a bike ride. Then off we went to walk my sister's dog, who's house-sitting for a few days. My cousin should be picking him up today, if she gets around to it. Meanwhile, I have to go by there at least twice a day to let the poor guy out and check his food and water. It wouldn't be a big deal if we didn't live fifteen miles away. I'd bring him to my house but he's got this insatiable desire to rape my poor epileptic Rocky. Dude's got enough to deal with without having to worry about some 120 pound monster trying to hump him all day long.

All in all, a successful holiday. I'll admit that I got choked up a few times and may have even moistened my handkerchief a little, but overall I did okay. It is, after all, the first major holiday I've spent away from my wife in the last twelve years. It's hard not to feel a little nostalgic for the good years we've left behind. So many broken dreams...

I'd like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! Belated perhaps, but sincere nonetheless. Have a wonderful weekend!!!


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Working again

It always seems like I'm in the wrong business.

I don't recall a single job I've had, where I was off for a holiday weekend.

Had lunch with a friend of mine today. He's taking off with his girlfriend tomorrow evening, driving out to Orlando where he'll stay until Sunday at another friend's timeshare resort. How do all these people get so much time off?

I'm going to be coming in on Thanksgiving, at least half a day, if things go well. I'll have my daughter with me. No day care service on Thanksgiving Day. No big deal really, we don't have any plans. We usually had everybody over to our house, but this year things are different. My sister's out of town, but I'm still puzzled that we didn't get any invitations from anyone. Not that I feel like going anywhere, but it would have been nice to be asked.

I'm planning on buying a ham and putting up our Christmas decorations. Christina's been driving me crazy to do that, so she should enjoy it. That, and throwing up some balls on the new hoop I'm putting in tonight. It'll be okay. At least we've got each other.


Friday, November 19, 2004

It's another day...

Click here for mood music

I get up earlier every morning now, trying to pack more activities into
each day. There's more to do, and I've only myself to get it done.

Once showered, I begin to wake my daughter up. I turn on the TV and put on
cartoons, trying to get her attention. I shave. I wake her up again. It's a
slow process. She can't understand why she has to get up and get dressed
before sunrise. It may as well be the middle of the night.

I get dressed and nag at Christina to put her clothes on. We pick her
clothes out the day before, because she's so damn picky. Even so, she takes
forever.

Meanwhile, I let the dogs out. I set up Fluke's kennel cage, clean it up a
little and add fresh food and water. I ended up buying the cage two weeks
ago, when he ate half my couch after we were gone for only three hours.
It's too hot to leave him outside. The cage has worked wonders. He even
walks in voluntarily when I call him over. It's nice not to have my home
destroyed while I'm gone. He should be done with it in a couple of weeks.

Rocky takes his medicine. I fix Christina some breakfast and take out the
trash.

By this point I'm always running behind. No matter how much more time I
give myself. I start up the car to let it warm up.

I feed Christina myself, to hurry things up. She brushes her teeth. I fill
up Rocky's dishes with fresh food and water and hand both dogs some new chews.

The dirty dishes go in the sink to be washed in the evening. I leave a
light on and the TV on ESPN so the mutts have some kind of distraction.
Then we run out to the car and head out to the Day care center. We try to
make it there by 7am.

Not quite a routine yet, though I'm trying to make it one. I'm doing what I
can to be an efficient, self-sufficient single parent. I don't pay any mind
to the reality of my situation or the pain in the pit of my stomach.

See, she's left me. And though I'm ready for her departure, I can't just
stop loving her. I can fill my daily life chock full of activities, and
bury myself in work so as not to have a free second to give her any
thought, but I can't keep her out of my mind entirely. I don't want her
with me anymore, but it's hard to accept that she's no longer a part of me.

I have to take down her pictures I lay all our wedding photos face down but
when she comes around during the day she stands them back up Christina will
want some of them in her bedroom Cindy why do you keep coming by what's the
deal why isn't all your stuff outta here must you linger do you think you
can have it both ways try it out with someone else and if it doesn't work
come back home I don't think so I don't want you back you can't have your
cake and eat it too quit eating my groceries don't wash my clothes don't do
the dishes I'll take care of it here's the title to your car you pay for
the transfer your insurance expires next month I don't care what you do I
signed it off right there it's your problem you want me to haul your stuff
off somewhere I can bag it and put it in the attic anywhere just get it out of
my sight I'm trying to move on I'm trying to get my life back on track I
don't want you popping in and out of my life I'm not begging you to come
back can't you see that I'm ready to move on I want my privacy I'm not over
at your place barging in all the time let me have my space I don't want to
be reminded of you I'm taking the pictures down why'd you have to fuck up my life

Breakups are never easy.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I'm dyin' over here

Don't unreasonable clients drive you crazy?

I've got this one client who blames everything that goes wrong with the world on us. She is convinced that we are somehow responsible for every agency, airline, terminal, government official, trucking company and natural disaster that has any form of contact with her cargo at any given time. It drives me nuts!

We control her freight once it's here. Other than that, we've got nothing to do with it! But if for some reason, her agent in South America neglected to advise her that the shipment was delayed, or the airline it was flying on carelessly bumped her boxes off the booked flight, she expects that we (not the South American agency, and not the airline) inform her that there will be a delay. Give me a damn break!

When there's a hurricane approaching, she expects us to keep her informed of its progress. Not the National Hurricane Center, no, that would be too simple, we've got to keep her informed.

Why, why, why? Why is it we have to let people like her call the shots? I hate the fact that we're so dependent on her business that we have to bend all our rules and adjust all our practices. AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! It just drives me nuts!!!

I need a beer, but I'm on a diet. I need a smoke, but I quit six years ago. I'll settle for a hug and a kiss from my favorite little girl!



Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Thank you, thank you...to everybody, thank you!

Now that my title is back up, I'd like to thank Mia and the folks down at Ciao! My Bella! for the wonderful new design on my blog. It's nice that somebody takes pity on those of us who are HTML challenged!

And I can't begin to express enough appreciation for all the kind comments and emails I've received since my wife and I broke up. I never thought the blogging community could be so warm and caring. You've all been there for me, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It's made all the difference in the world.

:-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

New and improved Mick

You know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna knock off twenty pounds, buy a treadmill, eat better, feel better, and find myself a new woman! Hell, I've given myself for so long to the same person that I'm not sure how I'm going to go about it. But they're there, they're out there...I'm sure if I open up my eyes a little and stare through the mist, I can find somebody pleasant enough. There's no reason why I should waste away in loneliness because my marriage went down the drain. Is there? I mean, obviously it's not that simple, I have my daughter to think of. But shouldn't I have more? Don't I deserve more?

It comes down to confidence in the end. After a failed relationship, I can't help but feel undeserving of love and affection. Not entirely, no, I don't think I'm that awful. But I do have the nagging sensation that no matter what happens, if I get into another relationship, I'm going to fail again. Maybe it's because for so many years I thought my wife was my soulmate. She was the one, the woman I would grow old with. We envisioned playing together with our grandchildren some day. Your self-esteem has a way of falling apart when your dreams come crashing down.

But I can do it. I can break through the barriers that surround me and make it to another day. I've been down before. I've had my head knocked off but I'm still on my fucking feet. You.can't.knock.me.out. I refuse to go down!!!

It's the new Mick, I tell 'ya! Get outta my way people, I'm coming out!!! So you better get this party started!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Traffic ticket

Life is hard enough without these bastards lurking in the shadows.

I have nothing but admiration and appreciation for law enforcement. Theirs is a thankless job that requires them to put their lives at risk daily, just to keep law and order.

But those motor cops that sneak around barricades, hiding with a radar gun in their hands at carefully chosen spots where poor inadvertent drivers unwittingly exceed the speed limit - because it's always in a stretch where the posted speed limit is far below what it need be -I say OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!

While I'm driving, daily, I hold in my road rage and fight hard to keep myself from going postal on other drivers. These are the people who completely ignore yield and stop signs, right of way, left and right turn only lanes, double yellow lines, slow-traffic-keep-right PLEASE!, and are an endless source of frustration and aggravation. They cut into lines, delay the people who are patiently waiting their turn to cross, and often force others into collisions. Those assholes never get stopped! I deal with them every day!

But no, you have to set up shop in a deserted highway, non-residential, where nobody is any worse for it, and trap poor saps like me on their way to work on a Saturday morning. Damn you! A $355 ticket. Here I am wondering how I'm going to pay for daycare, and you have to justify your measly existence by trying to destroy my life???

I can't repeat here the insults I kept mumbling under my breath while he wrote out my ticket, or the ones that I hollered at the top of my voice as I drove away with my windows closed. This is a family blog, after all. But be clear on this, I think you are the scum of the earth, hiding behind the guise of official business, and I wish for nothing but misery to befall you and your family for generations to come!

I'll fight it, of course. I'll take a day off work and go argue in court. And I hope that blood sucking piece of shit is there to testify against me. I may get stuck with a hefty fine, but I'm going to tell that sonofabitch what I think of him.

There.

I feel better already.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Post Election humor

To prove that I haven't lost all my sense of humor, here's a little something I received via email. Sorry, I don't know who to give credit for it. But it's too damn cute to pass up.

The election is over,
the results are now known.
The will of the people
has clearly been shown.
We should show by our thoughts
and our words and our deeds
That unity is just what our country now needs.
Let's all get together.
Let bitterness pass.
I'll hug your elephant.
You kiss my ass.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Til death do us part...

Well, ain't life a bitch. On Sunday my wife moved out. I've got a million things to sort out right now, like daycare and such (my daughter's staying with me). It's all probably for the best, but I'm still looking at some emotional trauma in the coming weeks. I know I'm not that strong.

Not sure if I'll be blogging much these days. Thanks for coming by.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Eleven years

Click here for mood music

She proposed to me before I proposed to her. Kind of.

We were trying to get her dad to co-sign my new electricity account, so I wouldn't have to put down a deposit. He was justifiably reluctant. "Honey, I don't think so," he told her. "Next month you guys break up and I'm left as a cosigner for some guy you used to date."

"Dad," she told me she'd said, "I'm probably going to marry this guy."

Well, this sort of put the brakes on her story. Marriage was not a subject we had addressed. Suddenly Cindy felt embarrassed. This was an obvious indiscretion. I fell silent and looked away, unwilling to fall for the bait.

"Hey, I'm not trying to pressure you into anything," she said, "that wasn't my intention. It's just that I think we have something real here, don't you?"

I fidgeted, stalled.

"Sure, it's real, but lets not jump into anything here," I said.

"I'm not looking for a proposal," she stressed, then paused. Her eyes opened wide and they locked onto mine. "Maybe I'm proposing to you."

I was dumbstruck. I felt my back against the wall, I couldn't breathe, there was no room to move, nowhere to hide.

"Do you want me to get down on my knees?" she asked, with a smirk.

This was too much.

"Okay, okay, enough of that," I said, waving my hands dismissively at her. "I'm not about to get cornered into a decision like this. When the time comes, and I feel ready to take that step, I'll make the proposal and you can either accept or not. Until then I'd like to get one thing clear. I may not be a huge traditionalist nor a staunch conservative, but when I dance, I still prefer to lead."

We left it at that.

A couple of months later, while we were helping a friend move and we were sweaty and dusty and smelly, I sat her up on an empty table and asked for her hand in marriage. She said yes.

We set a date for October, calculating paychecks and weekends. Halloween. We would drive up to Lake Tahoe on a Saturday, buy the marriage license, and get married on Sunday. I would take two days off work and we'd return on Tuesday.

Right away we decided not to have any family or friends there. It would just complicate matters. Besides, my last relationship had ended over stress related issues brought about by wedding arrangements. I didn't feel like going through that again.

Through a travel agent (this was before the internet) we rented a lovely cabin in the woods; hired a reverend and a photographer, set a time and packed our bags. Then off we went in our rented car.

To anybody who's never been in the Lake Tahoe area, particularly in the fall, you have no idea how breathtaking the world can be. The colors that bounce off the lake's smooth surface, the thick forests and winding roads, the majestic houses built deep inside the brush. It's hard not to keep a permanent silly smile on your face when you're there.

Our cabin was lovely. There were pine trees all around us, and the grounds were covered in cones. Cindy had a blast collecting the nicest among them, when we'd go out for walks.

On Halloween she sent me out to find a flower shop. Anything to make a wedding bouquet with.

I looked everywhere. All the flower shops were closed. Finally, in a grocery store, I found some assorted gladiolus. That's it.

I was dressed and ready, and I didn't want to be around Cindy while she was getting dressed. That would just drive me up the wall. I timed things so I would be back at the cabin with only a half hour to spare. When I arrived she was still in her bathrobe. She hadn't even showered yet. She'd been working on the decorations, putting candles and ribbons everywhere. I wanted to strangle her on the spot. The reverend, the photographer, and the neighbors from a nearby cabin who were going to serve as witnesses would be arriving within the next thirty minutes. And I just looooooove to socialize!

She snatched the gladiolus out of my hand, and with some wild flowers she'd picked up outside, she made a credible bouquet. Poor thing.

The doorbell rang prematurely and Cindy ran into the bedroom to get showered and dressed. Everybody arrived early. I started handing out beers and telling bad jokes. We talked about anything you can think of. I kept saying, "Oh, she'll just be another couple of minutes." And, "I'm sure she'll be out any second now!"

They stopped believing me after awhile, and started looking at their watches. Pretty soon we ran out of beer, worked through most of the rum, and I began to eye the champagne. Finally, an hour and a half after the scheduled time, she poked her pretty head out the door and called me over. "I'm ready," she said. "Start the music!"

I put everybody in their spots.

Due to our distaste for regular wedding marches, and thanks to our somewhat bohemian tendencies, we decided on Ravel's Bolero for our wedding theme. I placed the boombox above the fireplace and pressed play.

What we neglected to keep in mind was the fact that Ravel's Bolero begins low, then grows through a magnificent and slowly paced crescendo, until you have a fortisimo blast blaring out in the end.

Well, the piece was playing but you could barely hear it, and Cindy kept cracking the door open, darting me mean looks that shouted "do something!" So I kept raising the volume, until she was able to hear it.

She was a vision. It was at that moment when I finally realized what I was doing. I was tying myself down to one person. I was vowing to never stray, and to honor and protect her, and defend her against an ever more menacing world for the rest of my days. I was getting married. And I was marrying the most beautiful woman in the world.


Eleven years ago...man, how time flies!!! Really now, have you ever seen a more beautiful bride?

She was glowing, and smiling my way. I knew she was nervous. No longer children, her and I, we knew much about heartbreak. We were taking a giant leap of confidence into eachother's arms. And we were doing so willingly.

However, by the time the ceremony got under way, the music was so damned loud that we couldn't hear a word the reverend was saying. So I had to leave my bride's side, turn down the volume, then run back next to her.

We exchanged our I do's, were pronounced man and wife, and kissed for the first time as a married couple. For months afterwards, we couldn't stop ourselves from referring to one another as "my wife" or "my husband." We were so thrilled to be able to say it, and to feel such pride in our spouses.

It was a long time ago. We've been through many ups and downs, but such is life. I still wouldn't have missed it for anything in the world.



This is the "Top of the wedding cake" picture!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Shoebox memories





Click here for mood music

I stumbled upon her picture recently, going through an old shoebox. It's faded now, and slightly yellowed. The years have passed and taken our luster with them.

Her letters seem quaint now, and disjointed. Like they'd been written to somebody else. It had to be somebody else, because there's no way I could've done the things I remember doing back then.

We were freshmen in high school then; we shared a class. Clara was her name. Alex, who was both her boyfriend and a buddy of mine, changed schools halfway through the year and left her as prey to hungry wolves.

It's not that there weren't other pretty girls around, there were. But we always tend to covet our neighbor's wives, you know. There is something particularly enticing about romancing a woman whom you've secretly yearned for in the shadows.

Clara was very attractive. She had a shapely figure, for a fifteen year old, and she walked like a woman; long, curly dark hair, great legs, a kind smile, and deep brown eyes. I had the hots for her.

With Alex out of the picture I offered her a shoulder to lean on. She'd say: "Oh, it's no use, we never see eachother anymore, he never calls me, it's just not gonna work out."

I'd reply, "Of course it is, you just have to give it time, he'll come around."

I've always had a charming smile. It wasn't long before she fell for me. Walking alongside the bushes after school one day, brushing our bodies close to eachother, I quickly curved my arm around her waist and pulled her lips up to mine. We kissed deeply, passionately.

She lived far away. I would walk her to the bus stop after school each day and we'd hold hands and make out along the way. On the weekends, I would take a bus out to see her.

Eventually, I got what I was after. She caved in on a Sunday afternoon when her mother left us home alone while she attended mass. It was quick and painless, and not very romantic. I remember taking off almost immediately. Teenage boys aren't very considerate.

After that she became very clingy, almost desperate to be around me all the time. Though I liked the adulation, all that neediness turned me off.

She planned this big night for us to celebrate our first month together. Her mother was going to be out and Clara was making us a candlelight dinner. She wanted it to be a special night, when we could exchange presents and maybe some kind of vows. I don't know.

The day before the big night, standing outside the room where choir practice was being held, with my friends waiting for me in the parking lot to go do some serious partying,I decided to break things off with her.

The cruelty of my words and behavior don't escape me now, but I don't think I saw it the same way then.

We were saying good-bye, kissing below a willow tree. I took her hands in mine and shifted my eyes between her and the parking lot beyond.

"I think we better call this whole thing off," I said.

"What," she asked, surprised, "tomorrow night? But everything's ready!"

"Yeah, I know," I said, glancing down at my shoes,"but I don't think I can make it."

"What do you mean? We've been planning this all week!"

"Well, see, that's just it. I don't think I want to be with you anymore."

She stared blankly at me, as tears welled up in her eyes.

"It's not that I don't like you, I do," I said. "Actually, I'm just scared because I think I'm falling in love with you."

"So this is what you want?" she asked, now sobbing and shaking, holding on to me in desperation, "now that I'm loving you and needing you, you want to walk away? Because you're afraid of where it will lead???"

She dug her arms into the insides of my sweater sleeves, grabbing onto my bare arms. I couldn't look into her imploring eyes.

"I'm sorry, I just can't do it any longer," I said. "I've gotta go. The guys are waiting for me."

I tried to pull away, but she wouldn't let go. I ended up dragging her over the grass, while she held onto my clothes and cried out like a lunatic.

When I finally got rid of her and left her sobbing in a puddle of tears, I could only feel relief. Relief that the scene was over, and relief that we were no longer involved. It's hard to explain, but my fear of commitment as a young man made it hard to feel relaxed if I had, at the time, any serious romantic entanglements with a girl.

My buddies were all high-fiving me when I reached the car. Whooping and hollering about how I'd left the girl, broken and humiliated, lying on the ground with her face buried in her hands.

As low as this was, I went even lower the following month.

The guys and I went to a party. I didn't know she'd be there. When we saw how few women were there, I decided to patch things up with Clara. Only for the night. She called me a few days later, and in what has probably been the most cowardly act I've ever committed, I handed somebody the phone and asked them to tell her to fuck off.

I went to another school the following year and never saw Clara again.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

It's Shaq-attack time!!!


We're going all the way this year, baby!!!

I've been waiting for this to come around for awhile. It's just what I needed to put that other silly contest to rest.

Go Heat!!!

A sad day...

Well, I actually broke my vow (no politics on my blog) and wrote an extra long rant on the election. But when I hit publish, Blogger ate it up and now there's nothing left. It's just as well. I imagine some people might consider it offensive. Particularly since at some point I referred to the incumbent as a steaming pile of human excrement.

But we'll survive. Hopefully there will be clear skies ahead and we can remove this ubiquitous election from our midst. Surely there must be more to write about.

I hope all you republicans get what you hoped for. I can only expect you hoped for something good, or at least better than the last four years. I don't think we could handle another four years of the same.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Halloween 2004!


Princess Christina

I'm back!

Didn't mean to disappear like that. Thanks for all your kind wishes and inquiries!

As some of you may know, I had my parents over last week when I took some time off to get some home projects done. Well, they were staying in my spare room, which ordinarily doubles as my computer room. So there weren't any opportunities to blog or answer my email, even if I'd had the time.

I've got lots to blog about, but I'll have to start tomorrow. Right now I'm still swamped with tons of backed up crap at work, and, well, though I'd rather be blogging, you can imagine which activity actually pays the bills!

So, I'll be posting soon, with pictures and all.

By the way, yesterday was my eleventh wedding anniversary, and I wanted to post something about that. I think I'll post one or two of our wedding pics.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Happiness...is a warm puppy!


Daddy, can I get a kiss?


Hey! What about me???

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Florida voting booth

Even though I've vowed to keep politics off this blog, I have to admit this is kinda cute!

Diebold voting machine

Ps. You can open this with Windows Media Player

Hard hat time

I mentioned a few days ago that I was doing some projects at my house next week. My good friend Edgar (we went to junior high together), who's a project manager for a construction outfit, invited me over to one of their sites so I could pick up a few donations.

They're building a fire station. He put together a makeshift desk out of some boxes and a spare door and placed it in one of the finished areas. An architect by vocation, he pulled out a paper pad and a pencil and stood across the desk from me.

"So, what are the projects?" he asked.

"I'm laying down a slab of concrete in the back yard. I'm putting in a new shed."

He drew the square slab on his paper. Wrote down the measurements, and calculated the area.

"You'll need four 2x4's, to place around it. Number 4 rebars to keep them in place. Two headed nails to hold the boards together, a wire net to pour the concrete on. Do you have a sheet of plywood to mix the concrete on?"

"No," I said.

"You'll need an extra 2x4 to section off as you pour the concrete."

He drew four different angles for the proper construction of the slab. "You'll have to go down 8 inches deep for an 8 inch wide space all the way around," he said. "Otherwise it'll crack under the weight of the shed. Bevel the outside 12 inches all around so the water drops off. That way you don't get a puddle in the middle. You also want to use a finishing troll around the outer edge, so it doesn't chip off. Water it once it's dried off, to cure it. Remove the 2x4's on the following morning."

"Okay," I said weakly.

"William!" he called out to one of his workers. He handed him the list of items he'd just jotted down. "Gather these things up for me and put them in the gentleman's van, please."

We went through the same process for two other projects. Again, he handed William the other lists. By the time we were done, my company van was packed tight with goodies, including metal sheet roofing for my pool pump shack, Tapcon concrete bolts for the shed and some metal strips to nail the 2x4's together.

"This is a tough project. You sure you can handle it?" he asked.

"Oh, sure," I lied. "I've got my Dad visiting next week, he'll help me out."

He eyed me, doubtingly. "I'll tell you what," he said. "You prepare the space, set up the 2x4's and have everything ready. Then call me, and I'll send you over a couple of guys to mix the concrete and lay out the slab for you. My treat."

Damn, it's good to have friends, isn't it?

"Thanks buddy!!!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Murgas

Click here for mood music

My friends signed me up for it a month before it happened. It was an interschollastic talent show, and it would take place in one of the city's largest theatres. More than a thousand people were expected to attend.

It fell on a Sunday. Mother's Day Sunday. I was seventeen, and flat broke. I promised my mother a trophy, weeks before it happened. That would be my present to her. But as luck would have it, I caught a bad cold days before the event. By that weekend my throat was shredded. I could barely speak - everything came out in guttural bursts, fighting through the phlegm.

I was entered in the soloist category. Nobody up on stage except me and my guitar. It was potentially disastrous!

I went to bed early on Saturday, with a bit of an ear ache. Took a few shots of firewater before hitting the sack. I decided to postpone any final decision until the following morning.

When I woke up, the house was filled with the smell of pancakes and bacon. My sister always made our mother breakfast on Mother's Day. I had nothing to give her. That made my mind up. I would go up on stage no matter what. If I made a fool of myself, so be it. At least I would be able to tell my mother I tried.

My head felt a little less congested, but my throat was still pretty raw. I showered, got dressed, grabbed my guitar and headed out there. Participants had to be there two hours before it began.

My friends were there for me that day. Even one of my teachers showed up. You had to pay to get in, so it showed a lot support on their part. One of my buddies smuggled in a flask of brandy, so I could soften up my throat. It worked wonders. It helped me build up my courage as well.

The competition began with vocal groups. There were at least a dozen of those. Then the bands went on. Then duets. Finally, the soloists.

I think there were about ten of us. I was called up somewhere in the middle.

The world is a very different place when you're standing alone on a stage. It's like there are a million spotlights on you; like the whole world is looking just at you. The crowds of young people were messing around, mostly there to party. But all in all it wasn't very unruly, and you could feel most eyes upon you. I was nervous.

I set the microphones up, for my guitar and myself, and did one quick final tuning off to the side. Then I began to strum my guitar. It was the only thing I could hear in that immense auditorium. I was playing one of my own songs. "Why," it was called, and it was a protest song. When my voice broke in, I could've sworn it cracked. But as I went on, I felt more confident and sang stronger. Though I was looking out at the crowd, and alternately glancing at my chords, I couldn't really see the people. It was all just one blurry mass of humans. I had no idea what kind of response I was getting.

When the song ended, the sound of applause filled my ears. I walked off the stage, only to find groups of people standing and cheering in my direction. A choir of female singers ran out to the passageway to scream and cheer at me histerically. People were cutting me off to shake my hand, and pat me on the back. It was a little scary, actually. But all in all, it was the most rewarding and exciting feeling I've ever come across. It was right there and then that I decided I wanted to have a future in music.

After the performance, we waited around for the awards ceremony. I wanted to get home so I could at least spend a little time with my mother. It wouldn't be much longer.

I took the bus home. Carefully cradling my guitar, because I didn't have a case for it. I knew my mother would be waiting for me, concerned that I would be feeling bad if I hadn't won. Concerned that I would be worried that she'd be upset because I didn't have anything for her.

I raced up the steps to our apartment building, and rang the doorbell for the guard to open. My mother must have heard me arriving, because when I approached our door I found it open. She was standing there with an inquiring look on her face. I made a sad look, an apologetic one, as if to say "I'm sorry, ma, I tried," and she nearly broke into tears, as she was stretching her arms out to comfort me. And right then, from behind my back, I pulled out the first place trophy and placed it in her hands. No expression on my mother's face has ever pleased me more. She was overjoyed, and hugging and kissing me, the trophy gently set off to the side, now only an afterthought.

I have fond memories of those days, now so many years later. I know they'll never come again.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Exhibition Game


Off to the Heat game! We got Shaq, baby, we got Shaq!!!

Team woes

Work weekend. Not much time to get any housework done. I had to mow the lawn between games. I'm taking next week off to get some home projects done. My dad's flying in to help me out. I've got a two page list of stuff waiting for him. Poor guy! I have to try to get the supplies this week before he arrives. We'll be too busy laying down concrete and putting in new drywall to spend too much time shopping at Home Depot.

Anyway, I am accepting any and all shows of sympathy for the apparent demise of my beloved Dolphins. Whatever your hometeam woes may be, trust me, they don't compare. I am in mourning!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Aladdin


Christina with Aladdin & Jasmine


Click here for mood music

A couple of weeks ago I bought the newly released DVD version of Disney's Aladdin for my daughter. She's since seen it several times, but I hadn't a chance to view it with her until last night. I'd only seen the original release in theatres years ago when I took my nephew. Quite a good show, as I recalled.

Either way, after T-ball last night, we had some dinner, got in our PJ's, brushed our teeth, read a story, then snuggled up together in bed to watch Aladdin.

There's a scene in the opening fifteen minutes (true to form, I fell asleep half an hour into the film!) in which a prince calls Aladdin insignificant and worthless. Afterwards our hero is visibly upset and somewhat depressed.

As is her manner, my daughter went right ahead and explained these matters to me. She said the following: "He tried to tell him he's nobody, but he thinks he's someone."

I stared at her blankly for a moment. I don't know if it's because I'm out of touch with today's children or if it's because I'm not particularly bright, but it struck me as such an insightful thing to say, for a girl who won't turn five until next year. In fact, I don't think I could have summed up what was happening any better myself.

I'm constantly being pleasantly shocked by my daughter's brilliance. Oh, I know she's no smarter than other kids her age, but dammit, I am amazed by the level of intelligence she challenges me with.

What a privilege it is to be a father!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Driving lessons

Oh, how wonderful it was to be young and stupid! However did we survive?

I've been in so many car wrecks that even the wildest among you would probably gasp if I threw out a number, while vigorously shaking your head in disgust and boring through me with stern, cold eyes.

Truth be told, I stole my sister's car when I was sixteen, and wrecked it. My father told me then never to bother asking him for his car keys. And I didn't. I would steal my mother's car occasionally, but never my Dad's. I hit her car against a whole bunch of stuff too, but I never totaled it.

The next thing I drove was a tank. Yup. The US government grabbed a snot nosed kid who's entire driving experience was limited to racing and wrecking stolen cars and put him behind the wheel of a sixty ton M1 Abrams tank.

The most important thing a person needs to know about driving a car with a manual transmission, is that all traction is lost when you put your foot on the clutch.
I learned my lesson too late on that one.

I was freshly moved to Altadena, straight out of Fort Riley, Kansas, into a rented room in a nasty little house. Living the dream. Working a security job and driving a red 1975 Buick Skyhawk, with bubble tires, no spare, and a hatchback without a latch. When you're twenty-two you feel invincible. I don't think I even knew about speed limits.

One fine evening, with sheets of rain and bolts of lightning thundering down from a dark sky, I was on my way back from the grocery store. I'd just spent my spare pennies on a few cans of food (I had then and have now very limited cooking skills). Though it was only a two mile drive back to the house, I chose to get on the freeway because it had an exit that left me only two blocks away from home.

There wasn't much traffic. I sped onto the on-ramp with characteristic recklessness, and darted out into the flow at full speed. There were a couple of cars blocking progress in the two middle lanes, so I slammed back into third gear to go around them on the fast lane. Twas then that I lost all traction. Since I was steering to the left, the car skidded in that direction, fortunately avoiding other cars but headed toward the median. With my feet slamming on both the clutch and the brakes, and my hands pulling the steering wheel sharply to the left, the car started spinning endlessly, once, twice, three times...until, facing oncoming traffic, the car came to a jolting halt when the rear end came slamming into the median.

I wasn't wearing a seatbelt, of course. Nor did I have insurance (auto or health). But luckily, I was fine. The hatchback had flown open and my precious cans were out on the wet road. After hesitating for a moment, I got out and gathered what I could. I still had to eat after all.

Traffic was still moving slowly, cautiously beside me, when I pulled out in front of them, turned my car around and carefully headed back down the road. I had the shakes, a small cut on my forehead, some bruised ribs on my right side, and general soreness all around. My car only suffered cosmetic damage. I don't know what happened to the median.

You think I learned to drive safely after that? Nope. Not quite. I was to have many worse accidents in the years to follow. But there is one thing I learned, even though it took somebody else to point it out to me. You lose all traction when you step on the clutch.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A serious dilemma

So, take my daughter out to see Shark Tale, buy her popcorn, candy and a soda, or stay in, catch the game and debate on TV, try to ignore her endless pleas for attention, and feed her a tuna casserole with a glass of milk?

I think my mind was made up before I phrased the question, actually...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Sally, interrupted

Sally's curly hair was tied back, but loosely. You could see blue and green highlights on the front, where her locks played weightlessly on both sides of her face. She always messed up her hair when she was painting, pushing it back out of her eyes with her messy hands. You'd think she was finger painting, the way her hands looked.

Her study was a colorful splash of work, with a multitude of canvas strewn together across the side walls, flanked by plastic covers and broken down easels piled up in a corner. Palettes of dried oils lay randomly on the floor, meshing with the thin, dirty carpet. And the sketches. Dozens of sketches were scattered about, waiting for completion.

She stared at us blankly for a moment and went back to her painting. Walter took me by the arm and guided me behind her. She was painting a field. An open field, in a prairie somewhere. There were trees and bushes, but it was mostly just open field with its contours.

"Sally, it's Mick," Walter told her. "You used to go out with him, remember?"

She didn't budge. If she remembered, she showed no sign.

We had gone together, her and I, in junior high. For a short while. Walter and I were friends, which had made things complicated. I wanted to sleep with her, but it went against the guy code. After high school she studied art. During her second semester she was violently raped in the campus parking lot. She was eighteen years old then. She never returned to school.

We stepped outside, into the living room.

"After the incident she became withdrawn. Hardly speaks at all, and then just enough to communicate her basic needs," Walter explained. "It's been almost ten years now, and all she does is draw and paint."

"Her memory?" I asked, gently.

"Oh, it's hard to tell for sure, but I think she remembers a lot of stuff. It's just that..." he hesitated. "Well, if she sees things the way she paints them, it's not hard to understand."

"What do you mean?"

"Her sketches are blurry. They don't have any fine lines in 'em. She doesn't commit to any definitive borders. Everything's cloudy. And she only paints with a wide brush, stroking gently and unevenly, allowing for a whole lot of interpretation."

"But, what's wrong with that?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all. But if she sees people and things in that same blurry way, it's not hard to see why she doesn't recognize anybody. If she doesn't give people any definition, they can't disappoint her. They can't hurt her."

I looked around at the bare walls.

"You don't hang any of her paintings?" I asked.

"She never finishes them. All her work halts at a midpoint. It gets interrupted, somehow, and is then left incomplete."

"Like her life," I whispered, shaking inside.

Walter smiled sadly. "Yes," he said, "like her life."

We said our good-byes. I promised to come by again, when I was back in town. He nodded. We both knew I wouldn't be back. It's too hard to look at human frailty that closely.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Old friends

Click here for mood music

It happened.

I had silently hoped, when I posted my AKA on my Blogger profile, that if any of my long lost pals from other lands and other times should google me, they would find my blog. And indeed somebody has.

Friends I haven't seen in nearly twenty years, and with whom I shared the kind of experiences that stay with you for life, have found me on the other side of the planet. I cannot convey the joy I've felt in hearing from them, and learning of their lives, and in exchanging pictures of our children.

Our lives go in so many different directions. Those we've known and shared our hearts with keep a special place in our memories. I'll never forget the people I've loved, no matter what I do or where I go. Reconnecting after so long is a happy continuation to an old relationship.

Never stop looking for old friends. You'll never make friends like them again.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Haloscan

Well, I finally caved in and installed Haloscan on my blog. But only after I copied all the comments I had here before, and saved them on my hard drive. I hope this makes things easier...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Your cheatin' heart

They were being ushered out, to the tune of "Happy Trails" and the glare of bright lights. No more last calls, and no more finishing up. "Let's go, everybody. It's time to go home," the bouncer urged.

Tom was still shooting the shit with a couple of buddies, as they put their darts up in their cases.

He saw her then, a beautiful woman. Long blonde hair, and immaculate face. Didn't think twice about her though, he just went about his business.

As the exiting crowd was funneled toward the front door and everybody got closer to each other, he locked eyes with her. He could see her now, clearly. "Janey," he thought. "It's Janey." Then they looked away uncomfortably.

They worked their way out to the wet sidewalk, greeted by the cold, dark night, still divided into the same groups.

"Can I tell you something?" Richard was asking Janey, obviously drunk off his ass and getting his face in hers, "I don't mean nothin' by it, and I'm not trying to pick you up or nothin', hell, I got my ol' lady waitin' for me back home, but you are a very beautiful woman."

She looked right through him, as if he wasn't there, searching for Tom's eyes again.

"Tom?" she asked gently, "is it you?"

"It's been awhile," he responded. "How're you doing?" embarrassed, Richard moved out of the way and joined his buddies.

"I'm good. Fine, actually," she said. "God, I can't believe it's you! What's it been, three, four years?"

"It's been awhile," Tom repeated. "How's your daughter? Sorry, I don't remember her name."

"Desiree's fine. She started school this year."

"Oh, is that right? She must be so big by now."

"Yes, she's growing up fast."

"What about you?" he asked. "What've you been up to?"

"I became a Jehovah's Witness. I gave up drugs and booze, and now I'm a lot closer to God."

"Well, that sounds great. I'm glad to hear you're doing well."

"I always wondered about you," she said, moving in closer. "I always wondered what happened to you."

Her girlfriend came up to us and asked, "You coming?" as she stole a glance at Tom.

Janey looked at Tom. "You need a ride?" he asked. "I can take you home."

She smiled, a million dollar smile. She hugged her friend good bye.

"My truck's over here," Tom said, showing her the way.

His head was flooding with memories of them, when he first got into town. She was gorgeous in her tiny miniskirt. Killer legs. His buddy said she was bad news. She didn't take good care of her kid. He thought she did speed too. Tom didn't care. She was hot.

He was without a job then, stuck in his buddy's house, living off his charity. She had a small efficiency, not far from there. Just her and her kid, living on welfare. They would spend the hours watching TV and talking. She wasn't too bright, the conversations weren't very interesting. But man, she was so beautiful!

They would make love on the couch, while the kid slept in the bedroom. It was a cheap date, and she was a good lay. Every inch of her tasted good.

"You got married, I see," she said, matter of factly, as they drove toward her place.

"Yes, I did. It's been a couple of years now."

"I never stopped thinking about you, wondering what happened, why you never came back."

"It was hard for me then," he said. "I had to watch out for myself, not get involved so quickly."

"And then you ran out and got married?"

"No, it wasn't like that. I got my life together and met someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with."

She changed the subject. "Are you working? What are you doing?"

"Yeah, I'm working. I got a job down at the mill."

"You like it?" she asked.

"It's alright. I'd like to get some money together and open up a little bodyshop. You know, where you fix cars and stuff?"


It had been only a couple of weeks after they met, when one day he came over with a couple of beer cans in his pockets. She was in a mood, bitching about everything, saying she was on her way out, she was going to some friends, and if he wanted he could come by tomorrow. His ego took a hit. He left and never went back.


There was no driveway where she lived, so he pulled the truck up to the curb. A quiet street, but not far off the main road.

"Thanks for the ride," she said, looking into his eyes.

"You're welcome. It was good to see you."

She went to open the door, then turned around in frustration, "Can I get a hug? Would that be alright?"

"Of course you can," he said without hesitation, putting his arms around her. "We can kiss good-bye too."

But the kiss happened on the lips, which parted and made things worse. He was lost in the smell of her, desperately kissing her from one side, then another, groping her breasts and feeling her legs.

She stroked him, through his jeans, arousing him until he thought he would burst. "Oh, I want you , I want you," she was whispering in his ear, then suddenly shaking her head, saying, "this is wrong, God, this is so wrong!"

He couldn't stop. He'd lost all sense of self control. There were no thoughts for anyone but the two of them in that truck, and consequences be damned, he wanted her.

She was panting on his cheek, driving him wild with desire. She would say, "No, we can't. You're a married man. This is wrong. Oh God, please forgive me!" but she never pulled away, never stopped kissing and stroking him.

She undid her bra and he unbuckled his belt.

A tap came on her window. They were both startled. It was a bearded guy, with a friendly demeanor.

His name was Paul. Tom knew him from the bars. He owned the house Janey was staying at.

"Sorry guys, but the cops have been coming around my house a lot," he said. "Why don't you guys bring it inside? We don't want anybody getting into any trouble out here."

Tom and Janey were busy trying to get themselves together. The presence of another person had brought Tom back down to earth hard. His only thought was all he stood to lose. He got out of the car and went around to Paul, to stretch his hand; to tell him he was just dropping her off, nothing more. No need to mention this to anybody, after all, nothing had happened, right? Just a harmless little hug between old friends. He'd be on his way now, and it would be like nothing ever happened. Right?

Janey stared at him, disbelieving. "Tom, you're leaving?"

He gave her a quick hug, "Good to see you. Gotta go. Bye!" and he climbed back in his truck. They were still standing there looking at him as he drove away.

They never saw each other again.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Just when you thought it was safe to go...

So my daughter knocks, then opens the bathroom door while I'm sitting on my throne, nose burried in "The shipping news."

She pokes her head in and says, "Daddy?"

"Mmhhmm?" I grunt.

Showing me our digital camera in her little hands, she innocently asks, "Can I take your picture?"

My reaction wouldn't earn me any 'Father of the Year' awards.

I'm gonna start locking that damn door!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Wallets and money clips

I need a new wallet. And I want a money clip. Never had one before, but lately I've thought I'd like to.

The thing is, those are never the kind of things you buy for yourself. Are they? Somebody usually gives you those items for your Birthday, or Valentine's Day, Christmas, Father's day, etc. You drop the hints that you need such and such a thing, and poof! It appears. Nicely wrapped and with a red bow on it. I know I'm always listening for (usually very unsubtle) hints as to what my wife and daughter need or want. She wants perfume? A new purse? She's got it! The Lion King? A game called Elefun? No problem! But do I get the same consideration in return? Nooooooooo...

I can pull out what's left of my wallet, to her total disgust, and she'll say: "Mick, you need a new wallet!" And I'll just smile sheepishly and say, "Well, there you go. Father's Day is coming up." She'll smirk knowingly and whisper conspiratorially with my daughter, but when it comes down to it, forget it. It's too easy.

I thought about tying up my loose bills in a rubber band, knowing that would make her cringe. Pull out a tight little roll of bills to pay the check, oh, that would really get to her. But I'm too chicken shit, I'd be too embarrassed myself. Besides, even that wouldn't make a difference.

My wife quite unapologetically decides what kind of gifts I should get. Not the drills, ties, electric razors, or hand tools that I crave but hate to splurge on. No, she comes up with, check this out: A horseshoe set. Not just any horseshoe set mind you, an Eddie Bauer horseshoe set. Bright as the sun on a clear summer day. Has she ever seen me play horseshoes? No. Have I ever expressed any desire, however remote, to play horseshoes? No. THEN WHY GET ME HORSESHOES???? Well, it seems that she thinks I should play horseshoes. Go figure.

So, I guess I'm going to stop at the mall and buy myself a new wallet and a money clip.

Sigh...

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Grand ol' game!


My little slugger!


Yellow uniforms this time around, folks. Doesn't she look cute?

You should see her out on the field, running after every loose ball. When the ball goes past her or runs through her legs, she can't always hold back the tears. I'll stand there looking perplexed, hands on my hips, doing my best Tom Hanks impersonation, "Are you crying?" disbelieving, shaking my head indignantly, "There's no crying in baseball..." looking around at the other faces for support, "There's no crying in baseball!!!" She'll either break into a smile or run over to me and hug my leg, desperate for a little sympathy.

It's gonna be a long, wonderful season!



Friday, October 01, 2004

Train ride

Click here for mood music


We gazed out into the open, looking at nothing in particular. Though the snow had melted, the cold air was still icy. I was wearing about five layers of clothing and I was still freezing.

Johnny crushed his smoke out and put his gloves back on, over the liners.
"Let's get going," he said.

We'd mounted the tanks on the train earlier. It took careful maneuvering. There were barely two feet of steel on either side of the narrow bed to play with. One false move and you'd have sixty tons of armor falling over the side of the train.

"Alright," I said, bouncing on my toes for feeling. "Be glad to get this shit over with."

We climbed up on the flat bed and started dragging the chain hoists and heavy duty chains off the rear hull of the tank. My fingers felt like brittle, cold and raw from the cold and the friction with steel, heavily clothed though they were.

"Let's latch it up, Mick," Johnny was saying. "Pull out the slack and bring the chain in close, as far as you can. I'll get the hoist."

I dragged the heavy half-inch chain and pulled as hard as I could, holding out a link for Johnny to latch onto. He shook his head, no. Try for one more. I leaned in with my entire body weight, standing like a slalom skier, at a 45 degree angle. After three or four attempts, we got it. The chain fell to the ground with a loud clang. Hard to believe how much slack remained. We ran the ratchet and brought it in tight, but still loose enough to work the other three corners into place.

Once we got the tank tied down, we locked the turret in place and strapped down the barrel. Another quick look inside to make sure everything was secure: the swing arm, the armor piercing rounds, the small arms ammo. We grabbed the night bags out of our duffles and threw them with the rest of our stuff inside; locked the hatch and did one more walkaround. Everything was in place. It was just after midnight.

Johnny and I ran to the sleeping coach, racing the other crews who were finishing up. We found a separate compartment with six bunks and claimed them all. Our buddies would be joining us soon. We always made plans to eat something and play a game of spades, to pass the time. After a couple of hours though, most of us would lay down and try to catch some sleep.

The train ride always lasted between five and six hours. It only covered fifty miles, but our trains had the lowest priority clearance on the West German railroad. The entire trip you could feel the train pulling up and backing out; latching on and off. It made for a very bumpy ride.

We did this every three months, when our troop had border duty on the Czeck front. The tour lasted 30 days, then we did the whole train thing in reverse. Nobody looked forward to it.

"How many cards you got?" Dwayne asked. "Bitch, get off me!" he yelled, at someone bumping into him from behind.
"Pork rinds? Anybody?" Ed offered.

We sat there, warming our sore bones up, and making the most of our company. We played cards, joked around, drank Cherry Coke...the camaraderie was genuine. We all knew these were the men we would die next to if we ever went into battle. Even when you hated each other, you felt akin to your platoon mates during maneuvers. They were your brothers.

When the train reached the border camp it was just before sunrise. The cold air slapped me in the face as I rushed out to unchain our tank. This was probably the last place on earth I'd choose to be at the moment. Motivation ran shallow at the end of those trips.

I'm not sure why the Army made us go through this exercise, when we could drive the tanks in an orderly convoy and reach the camp in an hour and a half. It must have been an agreement with the West German government, or something along those lines. I assume they didn't want our tanks destroying their roads.

Years after I left, the Soviet Union fell, the Iron Curtain was drawn, and the Berlin wall came down. All those old border camps were rendered useless. I received Border Certificates for guarding the East German and Czech borders. You don't see too many of those around anymore. I wonder if today's teenagers are even aware that those borders existed or why they needed to be guarded.

I'll write about the border camp experience sometime.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Blogging crisis!

I can't blog!

Every single attempt, however slight, to post something has been interrupted by some inconvenient, urgent, can-not-wait issue that requires my immediate attention!!

AAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My work is interfering with my blogging!


I'll be back when time permits...

Friday, September 24, 2004

Revolution

Click here for mood music


There are many pages to the book of my life. Some that I am proud of, others that I would change. But there are no regrets and I bravely claim every move I've made as my own.

Though I was born in the U.S., I grew up in a major South American city, surrounded by poverty and the deep rooted classism that emerges in people's subconsciousness when surrounded by an utter lack of upward mobility in most non-professional jobs. Those who were born underprivileged stayed that way, and passed it on to their children.

The only realistic expectations the country places on the public school system is to teach the poor to read, write and add. Those poor, deprived children (not because they don't have Gameboys or Air Jordans, but because they live on dirt floors and sleep on rush mats) will grow up with the modest hope of finding labor in the cities, migrating from the fields and countryside in search of better possibilities that never materialize.

The cities become grossly overcrowded and polluted without the means to offer employment to the ever growing masses, who eventually turn to crime in a desperate effort to survive the streets. It's a vicious cycle of vastly complex consequences. The causes of which are hard to determine and control, especially in a third world economy that doesn't offer the resources needed to create positive change.

I grew up in a middle class home, a family of four children with both parents. Upper middle class, actually. My father was an airline executive. We attended private schools, lived in a guarded community, and enjoyed membership to the Country Club, where we learned to play and compete in golf, tennis, and swimming. On the weekends we traveled away from the city to our home in the country. Our farm, we called it, but it was more of a vacation home.

At the young age of sixteen I became an enlightened being. Coupled with a new found love for universal literature, I discovered a gift for guitar playing and songwriting. I fancied myself an intelectual and an artist. Always weighed down by heavy volumes and an ever present six-string strapped to my back. I eagerly espoused leftist ideologies and glorified them before those who would listen, and sang protest songs wherever I went.

It's easy to renounce wealth and private property when you have none of your own, yet you live handsomely at your parents' expense. There's no real sacrifice involved. Your theories are entirely subjective, and awaiting to be put in practice during a distant future. It's safe to subscribe to radical beliefs, because your occupation is understood to be that of a student. You're allowed to be an activist who doesn't practice what he preaches.

My friends and I renounced our families' names and wealth, but only in spirit. We descried the establishment and condemned their policies. We wandered around in the parks and bazaars, singing and preaching, pushing marxist ideas and denouncing the church.

Our heroes were the post-revolutionary cuban troubadours, who sang of unity, patriotism and revolution. We played their records and sang their songs.

But ours were romantic notions. Though we wanted change, we stopped short of condoning a violent revolution. The marxist guerillas that populated our rural regions, who recruited the poor to carry out their murderous work and provided no positive political agenda for the country's benefit, were never viewed as anything other than outlaw groups looking to support their anarchic endeavors by kidnapping and killing innocent people, and participating in the illegal drug trade.

We were angry young men, and we were pretentious enough to think we'd be fighting the system forever; deluded enough to believe that our ideas were the right ones, and that we'd continue to cherish and develop them for the rest of our lives. So blurry the road that lie ahead is, but so sharp and clear we thought we saw it.

Eventually life takes over, and we mold our creed to our situation. Our needs define and limit our immediate desires and our hopes are drawn from our "best of all futures" scenario. The fire inside us subsides, and we give way to the comforts that modern life offers us. In essence, we sell out.

I'm not sure how I got here, or what triggered my ability to derive pleasure and contentment from an average, normal life. I always viewed satisfaction as failure. But I've no longer a need to change things, or to pursue a different outcome for my life. I've learned to accept survival as a worthy objective.

Now, I keep my political idealogies to myself. What's more, I've made a conscious effort to keep my opinions on politics and religion off this blog. And though I'm plum full of opinions on every subject under the sun, I'd rather express them in a different forum.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Coach of the Year!

Click here for mood music


I'm in a state of panic.

I'm coaching my daughter's Peewee Teeball team this season. Well, not really coaching. Assistant coaching. The coach conned me into it a few weeks ago. I figured, what the hell. Maybe it'll help my daughter feel more comfortable out there with all those boys.

We've only had three practice sessions, so far. Coach told us the first game would be a week after they gave out the uniforms.

Well, a couple of hours ago my wife phoned me. She said,"Sorry babe, I forgot to tell you Lisa (the coach's wife) called yesterday and said you were having practice today."
"Today?" I asked. "But we always practice on Fridays."
"You've got your first game tomorrow."
"Tomorrow??? Are you kidding? But, we don't have any uniforms!"
"They're handing them out today."
"But...but we're not ready!" I stammered. "We haven't even learned how to run the bases properly yet."
"She also said that they were going to need your help today, getting ready for the big game. Coach Larry can't make it."
"Whaaaat???" I yelled. "I don't know the first thing about coaching! I'm just there to help keep the kids from running off! How the hell am I going to get that pack (I meant to say team) of 4 and 5 year olds ready for a game?"
"Oh honey, I'm sure you'll do fine," she said, as we hung up. Leaving me disconcerted and apprehensive.

So, here's my chance to show my mettle. We'll see if I'm cut out to be a Lil' League Assistant Coach after all! Oh, the pressure...!

If you don't hear from me by tomorrow, send out a rescue party!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

We're getting older...

I don't want to be very graphic about my activities, late yesterday afternoon. Suffice it to say that having several gloved medical personnel prying open your buttocks so that another may cut and scrape away offending blood clots from your anus, is not an enjoyable occurrence. I rank it up there with root canal or having my toenail removed (I had hemorrhaging below my big toenail and it was getting infected - they had to remove the entire toenail to get to it).

I guess it's a sign of age, that the last few years I've had to undergo so many procedures. Things that ten years ago I barely knew existed. How we change...

My wife turns 39 today. I turn 39 on Sunday. I married an older woman.

This will be our last year before we hit the big ***40***. Funny, how I used to consider 40 as being old. Now, I'm vigorously trying to view it as a new beginning. We'll see. I have a whole year left to ponder it.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Puppy blues

"Daddy!" she yells in delight when I walk through the door after a hard day's work, running into my arms and planting a big sloppy kiss on my mouth, successfully diluting the day's sour remains.

"Hi baby," I say, smiling from ear to ear in pure, unsurpassable joy. "I missed you! Did you miss me?"

"Yeah," she says, matter of factly and moving on to more important issues. "Today Fluke went out through the right door. Can we give him a snack?"

"He did? Through the puppy door? Are you sure?" I ask incredulous.

"I opened the door for him."

"And did he go potty, like a good dog?"

"He only went peepee!" she says, frustrated. "Can I give him a snack, and Rocky too?"

This has been one of my biggest problems with the new puppy. He doesn't want to get out of the screened patio and into the yard through the flapping pet door. He insists on tearing right through my screen door. I've had to repair the damned thing at least six times already. And then when he bounces off the taut screen, he proceeds to ram it until it gives way. Man, it drives me nuts!

So we've decided to reward him for using the pet door, but he'll only do it if one of us holds it up for him. So, Christina goes and holds it open while he goes out, she waits for him to take care of business then lets him back in. If she doesn't hold the door for him, forget it! He's going through the screen.

The most frustrating part of this is that he sees the other dog go through the dog door before him, every time, but he seems to think that, it's just not for him. He needs his own door. He's special.

"Well sweetie," I tell my daughter, "the snack only works if we give it to him right after he does something good."

"But, I saw him!" she insists.

"Why don't we let him out now," I say. "Maybe he'll do it again and then you can give him a snack. Okay?"

"Okay!" she says cheerfully. "Fluke! C'mon! Let's go potty!"


She's doing a lot better job of training the mutt than I am.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Hog Heaven

Click here for mood music



Ruby caught the ball and faltered briefly, bouncing for balance with one foot, then slid back onto her pinion seat.

"You knock over ma' horse, I'm gonna knock you over, woman!" Kevin yelled from the garage. He was helping Artie put some padding on the back of his saddlebags. Artie didn't want to mess up his paint job by throwing the saddlebags bareback on his bike.

Ruby threw the baseball back at me. I caught it with my helmet. Didn't even have to tilt my hog over.

The helmet law had just become effective in California, courtesy of Pete Wilson. We wore the helmets, but only after we'd placed stickers on the back that read: "Fuck Pete Wilson."

"Let's go, let's go!" I said to the guys, impatiently, "I wanna get moving!"

"We're waiting on Ron and Dean," Artie mumbled, without looking up.

I tossed the ball back at Ruby. A bad throw. She stretched her right arm out to find it, tiptoeing out of her seat and nearly knocking the bike over again. The ball flew past her, into the street.

"Goddamit!" Kevin yelled. "I swear I'm gonna kill both a' you mothafucka's!"

Ruby and I locked eyes and giggled like conspiring children.

None of us were allowed to bring women along for these weekend rides. Kevin brought Ruby, but that was because he wore Hessian colors and we felt privileged to have him tag along, and besides, he had a habit of doing whatever he wanted to do anyway.

Ron and Dean pulled into the driveway. They both rode Vulcans, but they were friends, so we overlooked it.

"Bout time!" I said, getting off my bike to greet them.

We slapped hands, and patted each other's shoulders.

"Whassup! Whassup!" I was saying.

"Not much, man," Ron replied. "Wha's goin' on here?"

"Waitin' on Artie, as usual," I said, turning to Artie. "Hurry up, you slow fuck!"

"I got it, I got it" Artie said. "You ain't been waitin' on me, anyways! These two motherfucker's jus' got here."

Kevin was putting on his helmet, so we all followed suit. Meanwhile, Artie was closing the garage door and strapping his saddlebags on his rear fender.

I fired up my engine, and started a chorus of sweet music for the whole neighborhood to hear. The rumbling boom-boom-boom of a Harley can be the most deafening noise a person can hear, but to a rider, it may as well be an angel's harp.

One by one, we got them all going. The road was looking at us, as we headed off the driveway, past the corner traffic light and onto the highway. A band of brothers for the weekend; fair weather riders to be sure, most of us, but feeling like conquering heroes on the road to fortune and glory.

There's no sensation like having the strength of a thousand cubic centimeters between your legs, more than making up for any shortcomings you might possibly have in the area. There's nothing like it. Some might prefer the more speed efficient crotch-rockets, but they just make you go fast, and get from point A to point B quicker. If you wanna ride, and really feel it and enjoy the scenery and your company, you ride a hog. You let the roar of your engine and the bumps on the road become one with your kidneys and buttocks.

For several years we would go out almost every weekend. Sometimes less riders, sometimes more. Up to twelve of us on one occasion. Often just two or three. But it was always great fun. Even when we ran into trouble, it was always fun.

I miss those days, and the sense of freedom they provided me with. I miss my friends, and the camaraderie between us; the sense of brotherhood. Can't quite replace that later on.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

About Home

Rather than leave a long comment on this post by Standing Naked, I felt inspired to seek out some answers to her questions on my own post.

In my daily frame of my mind, I consider home to be the tangible house I own, where I reside with my wife and child. The place where I eat and sleep, and where the bulk of my income is sunk into.

But on a more subconscious level, I think of "back home" as the land I grew up in, my parent's house, the farm we spent our weekends at, the schools I attended and the streets I was reared on. Rather than a specific place, home consists of a series of memories.

As George Webber finds, in the events so eloquently narrated by Thomas Wolfe, "You can't go home again." As trite and overused as that saying may be, it is one that is true on a multitude of levels.

The most obvious and common of truths - and the one I am primarily concerned with here - is that the home we leave behind is never the same as the one we return to.

I can relate particularly well to that notion on a personal level, since I left my family and country behind at the age of nineteen.

I have been back many times, and I've never found the same place twice. I've become a guest at my parent's home, a visitor at their farm.

Gone are the days when I felt comfortable driving in third world traffic, or walking defiantly through their rough streets. When I'm there, I think of home as the place where I now live.

So where is home?

Presently, I can't think of home as being anyplace other than where my wife and daughter are. But I'm well aware that it is an ever-evolving concept, not restricted to time and place, and not subject to marginal definitions. Home may very well have been a shelter last week, if the weather had been less kind toward us.

But it's not due to a matter of unity, or the strength of the family nucleus holding it all together. I base it more on the fact that my personal comfort and well being are decimated when not in their presence. My levels of concern and stress rise exponentially when they are outside my easy reach, beyond my immediate protection. Having them outside my view makes me jumpy and uneasy.

Though it is literally impossible, or at the very least highly improbable, to be with them at all times and to ensure their safety, by sharing quarters with them I am able to secure my own night-time rest and the suggestion of peace of mind during my waking hours. When I am away, the presumed thought that I will be with them again soon, allows me to stay focused on my responsibilities and not dwell on the uncertainties life brings. Thus home, is a state of mind, wherein we find comfort and shelter from the world around us.


Just some scattered thoughts on the subject, really.


Monday, September 06, 2004

We made it!!!

Hi Everybody!

Well, we got through it okay. Pretty windy, loud and drawn out, but my only casualties were a banana tree, two screen sections around the pool, a whole bunch of different branches, and a tarp covering I had over the door to my outdoor workshop (which will now be replaced by a much sturdier piece of plywood!). Not too bad, considering.

Before I go any further, I would like to thank all those of you who expressed concern for my family's safety. Every kind comment and email was very much appreciated!

The damned hurricane was sooooo slow that we were holed up from mid-afternoon on Friday through Sunday morning. Our power came in and out periodically, but was never out for long. We were one of the lucky ones. Many homes out there are still without power.

Our phone line went out early on. In fact, I still don't have a dial tone. Since this afternoon, my DSL is able to use the phone line to grant me internet access, but I can't use the phone. Go figure. Anyway, in the age of cell phones, the only true reason I need a landline is to go online, so who gives a damn.

All my shutters held out, and that was vastly gratifying. Particularly since I wasn't able to anchor all of them down completely. They were so much of a struggle early on, that I decided if I had four out of six holes nailed down it was good enough for me. Still, late at night, the constant clanging of metal on masonry was enough to drive you bonkers.

During varied stretches of the storm, I would stick my camcorder out and film short bits of action in my backyard and past my front door. The results were far from spectacular and much less impressive than anything you might have seen on TV, but the surroundings were familiar enough to make the footage an interesting personal documentary of the events. After some editing and the addition of a musical soundtrack, I came up with a nice little DVD to send to friends and family in far off lands (six minutes of wind and rain!). Silly, but I enjoy doing that kind of stuff.

I was back to work this morning. Trying to make up for lost time - a lost cause from the start, to say the least. Northbound flower connections haven't gotten much easier. They probably won't until tomorrow, and by then all the flowers we've been storing since last Thursday will be toast. Oh well, not much that can be done there. But I still have to listen to all our customers complaining like it was our fault.

Tuesday is "Brush pick-up Day," so I had to bunch up all the fallen debris on the side of the curb. At least it'll be out of our sight soon.

Now they're saying Hurricane Ivan may be coming our way. We'll see, but I doubt it. Either way, I'm sure as hell not bringing my shutters down until I know for sure!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Update


Closed for Business!





Well, it's been a struggle, but I finally got the house ready to weather the storm yesterday.

I meant to post last night and let everybody know we're doing alright, but every muscle in my body aches - I feel like I've been run over by a semi - so I let myself pass out watching the endless TV coverage.

If you've never been through a situation like this one, let me explain to you how it works.

No matter how prepared for a hurricane you think you are, when one approaches you discover there are always a few things you still need to get. Inevitably, things like drinking water, canned foods, and essentials such as milk, eggs and bread. Enough supplies to get you through a week.

Gas. The moment it becomes evident that there will eventually be a landfall, even if it's north of us, the fuel trucks stop coming down here, afraid they won't be able to drive back out. So the lines at the gas stations that still have fuel become unreal, with people trying to fill their tanks up.

Boards, anchors, batteries, drills and bits, etc.

Since Wednesday, it has become unbearably hard to hit the grocery store or Home Depot. After work Wednesday, I stopped off at the grocery store to pick up a few things. I had to park in a neighboring parking lot. No shopping cart. You couldn't move inside there. The aisle with the drinking water had been stripped dry. I threw a bag of dog food over my shoulder, grabbed a couple of bottles of wine and some cans of food in a basket, and went through the express lane. By the time I got to the car, that 44 pound bag of dog food was destroying my shoulder.

I had metal shutters fit for the house some time ago. You don't realize how many windows you actually have until you have to hang those damned shutters on each and every one. That's a lot of work! And the thing is, I never put in the anchors for the front windows (those you see in the pictures). So now I needed to purchase about 48 concrete anchors, a new drill (the one I had was a rechargeable one, and it would never make it through 48 holes), and some fresh batteries for the flashlights and radio. The hardware department at Home Depot was packed. There didn't seem to be any concrete screws or anchors left, but I found a box of 50 wedge anchors hidden away by someone in a different section. The drills were almost all gone, but I found one.

Thursday night after work, I began to drill the holes. I wasn't even halfway done when I'd stripped the new drill. I pulled out the old one and stripped that one too. It was already ten. I was exhausted. I showered and went to bed.

The following morning I went back out to Home Depot to purchase a new drill. They didn't have a single one!

I waited until mid-afternoon when my brother in law finished putting up his mother's shutters, so he could bring his drill over and help me put up the remaining shutters on my house.

Due to the fact that the storm has slowed down and taken so much longer in getting here, it's given us more time to prepare. It also looks like Frances has turned its attention up north some, so we won't get a direct hit. In fact, besides the high winds and rainfall we're getting now, we might not get much else at all.

Thank you all for your kind wishes! I expect this will all be over by tomorrow. I just hope all the Palm Beach residents get through it okay.