Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Backyard bananas

We're growing some serious bananas in our backyard.

Anybody know if these things become edible at any point???

Sick baby girl

My baby's feeling sick today. She's been throwing up all day. I spoke with her on the phone earlier. She sounded terrible, the poor thing. Like somebody had stolen her teddy bear.

My wife says she doesn't have a fever, so hopefully it's no big deal.

I recall feigning sickness for as long as I've been alive. Crying for attention, belly aching to get out of eating, coughing to get out of school. I even faked having the mumps when my brother and sister had it.

But my daughter never wants to be sick. It's like the life gets sucked out of her for a short while. She lays in bed, without an appetite or enough energy to draw or color, watching TV or sleeping. Pissed off because we won't be able to take the dogs out to the park when I get home.

I'm sure she'll have plenty of opportunities to fake illness later on in life. Right now it just breaks my heart to see her this way.

I just went out at lunchtime and bought her a copy of "The Lion King 2." She's dying to see it.

I hope she gets better soon. I hate to see my little girl without a smile on her face.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Jack's Place

In a small juke joint off Sunset Boulevard, in the spot where Hollywood and Sunset are only a couple of blocks apart, I was drowning my sorrows in a warm mug of beer.

The air was laden with smoke and bad smells, heavy with the endless yelling and bickering of two ugly broads who were strutting their stuff for the male patrons. One of them, as it turned out, was the bartender's daughter. Missy was her name.

It was hard to tell if she worked there, or just simply helped out her old man a little. But she'd bring people their beer, every now and then, with a scowl on her face and a wise-ass retort to whatever was said. I'm sure you know the type.

I was sitting at the bar. Jack, the bartender (an older man of 60 plus years), was exchanging greetings with another guy. I overheard their conversation.

"How you been Jack? Everything alright?" the visitor asked.

"You bet! I'm feelin' good," Jack said. "I'm celubratin' tonight, cos my youngest's gettin' marry at da end o' the munth!"

He gestured at Missy with his chin.

"S'at right? She's getting married?" he asked, watching Missy working the room.

"Yup," Jack answered, "she's a' las' one too, I'm gonna give 'dis up afta' that, fo' shore! Dees ol' bones are gettin' tired..."

They nodded to eachother in silent assent, and quietly toasted with their beer mugs.

Missy kept rubbing up to me, whenever she walked by. After the third beer, she was starting to look a little better. I began to pay more attention. Finally, she returned an empty mug to the bar and stood beside me.

"So wha's your name?" she asked.

"Mick," I answered. "What's yours?"

"I'm Missy," she said, as she waved her long, oily hair around flirtilly.

She was wearing nothing more than a black bustier, sandals, and what we used to call 'fuck-me' shorts.

"Heard you're getting married," I said.

"I might," she said lazily,"haven' made up my mind, yet. 'Sides, I still have to say yes." These last words she said while she gave me one of those "it's up you, buddy!" looks. Then she went off to flirt with somebody else.

Meanwhile, I noticed this heavyset guy sitting next to me. Dark skin, "probably Mexican," I thought.

We nodded to eachother.

"How 'ya doing?" he asked.

"What's goin' on?" I replied.

"The name's Suarez," he said, offering me his hand.

"Mick," I said, as we shook hands.

"You a cop?" he asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

The question surprised me a little, because I couldn't imagine why anyone on earth would ever think I was a cop. Primarily, because I wore a head of curly hair halfway down my back.

"No, no," I said. "I'm a student."

"Oh," he said. "I am."

I nodded in appreciation, not sure what he expected me to do.

We got to talking, and he told me he'd been going to this bar for awhile. Gotten to know all the characters. You gotta know what you're up against. Eighteen years in the force, he added, and he'd never fired a round. This, he believed, was due to the fact that he was always prepared.

"You see that guy over there?" he asked me, motioning vaguely with his eyes toward the bouncer, Tony. "You can see the bulge there, under his shirt. That ain't his dick, I tell ya'. He kills."

I nodded, just going along with what he was saying. Unsure of how to respond.

Pretty soon Suarez was buying us another round, and we were talking about all kinds of things.

As most cops, he thought he had it all figured out. He knew who did what, why they did it, when they did it, and how to stop them from doing it. The reason he didn't intervene was because those people were usually "protected" by other cops. Dirty cops, it was implied.

I hadn't realized how late it was when he got up to leave. We shook hands and said good-bye. I thanked him for the beers.

As I sat there sipping my last drink, Tony, the bouncer, came up to me behind the bar and said:"Hey man, I know yur a cop, but we wanna get outta here. Ya' mind?"

I suddenly felt uncomfortable.

"What are you talking about? I'm not a cop!"

He was shaking his head, looking away while waving his hand in a dismissive gesture.

"We know yur a fuckin' cop, we know yur a cop, but we wanna fuckin' close up, so les get goin'!" he said, much more impatiently than before.

"But I'm not a cop," I insisted, frustrated and unsure of why I had to bother stressing this.

"He busted me for pros'itushon las' year!" Missy said, coming in from behind.

"You took ma' lil' gurl in for hookin'?" the bartender yelled at me.

Now I really started to feel uneasy.

"Jus' cos yur a fuckin' cop ya thin' ya can come in 'ere and do whutever ya wan'?" Tony was asking.

"I'm just gonna get the hell outta here," I mumbled, getting up without bothering to finish my beer.

"Don't you cum back 'ere, you biiitch!!!" Missy was yelling. "We don' wan' your kind roun' 'ere!

I walked out of there, then picked up my pace briefly. In fact, I may have run a little.

Just when I thought I'd found a cool little joint to hangout at.

Friday, August 27, 2004

That's it!

My little Butterfly!

Click here for mood music

That's it. No more posting today. This is my off weekend and I'm going to try like crazy to get something done! From here on out, all I have time for are my ladies!

It's been an awful Friday so far, so I'm going to try my damndest to change the course I'm stuck on.

(If I change my mind later I'll just delete this post!)

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

What time is it?

I came home from the office and started emptying out my pockets. I took off my watch, as I usually do, and put it in my watchbox with the others.

My daughter stands there staring at my watches.

"Would you like to have one of my watches someday?" I ask her.

She holds out her wrist and says, "No, that's alright. I've already got one," showing off her Winnie the Pooh watch.

"Well then, I'll just give my watches to your cousin Emma," I say, pretending to be hurt.

"She can't tell time!" she says, mockingly.

"Can you?" I ask.

She looks pensive for a second, then smiles and says: "I can tell chocolate time!"

I had to laugh. "You sure can," I tell her. "You can always tell chocolate time!"

Here's the link for those of you who don't know about chocolate time.


Click here for mood music

Due to what happened to Helen today, I'm wondering aloud about the "Comments" we leave one another on our blogs.

I'm sure most of us pay close attention to what's said there, as it's a reaction to what we've written. Usually, when a comment is left, we feel flattered and appreciated, however slightly, and complimented that someone would bother to leave an opinion about something we've written. It's encouraging and invigorating.

However, and this hasn't happened to me yet, there are visitors who come to criticize. We're a fair mark for criticism and disagreeing points of view, those things are within the rules. But personal attacks are not. Spiteful challenges to our characters are not.

Some people tend to "cross the bounds of civility," to quote our good friend The Random Penseur, without asking for an invitation. Overstepping those boundaries is unforgivable but, due to the nature of the internet, entirely probable. It is also something we willingly expose ourselves to, by posting -what amounts to- personal diaries online, full of private disclosures that many of us wouldn't dream of discussing even with close friends.

But we can't expect for it to be all chocolates and roses, all the time. There are a lot of people out there who are just plain mean; who would jump at an opportunity to step on our published weaknesses and ridicule us before our blogbuddies. We musn't let them get to us. It is imperative that we stay above it, delete or ignore discourteous words, and ban the culprits when possible.

Someday I plan to write "The Blogger's Social Contract," where I'll get a chance to discourse and bore you further with my preaching on the subject.

I would hope that nobody in our blogging community would allow somebody's hurtful or inconsiderate comments to cause them to shut down their blog. That would be granting them far too much power over all of us. And it would deprive the rest of us from a beautiful voice.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hot chocolate

Click here for mood music

Some years ago, when my wife was eight months pregnant, I was working as an import manager for a cargo airline at Miami International.

It was Christmas Eve and we were keeping our offices open until noon.

I left our apartment around 7 Am. There wasn't a soul out there. I was driving an old beat up BMW 325, that didn't have a whole lot going for it, other than the fact that it ran. The A/C came and went and the radio had a short. Still, it was fully automated, including controls for the side rearview mirrors on the doors, and for the windows behind the shifter, in between the seats. The only thing it was really missing was a cup holder.

I got off the expressway halfway to the airport to get gas and some hot chocolate. I don't usually stop but it was a beautiful day, so I figured what the hell. Why rush to the office? I bought myself an extra large cup. I also picked up a danish and a paper while I was at it.

I got back in my car, tossed the stuff on the passenger seat and held the cup in my right hand. I got back on the road and as I approached the on-ramp, noticed I'd forgotten to buckle my seat belt. Well, usually that wouldn't have been a big deal, but I'd recently been fined for driving without one. So in a moment of complete insanity, as I'm making the turn onto the ramp, I slowed the car down, placed the extra large styrofoam cup of burning hot chocolate on the dashboard while I secured myself to the car.

I know what you're thinking: "What an idiot!" , "What a moron!!" , "What a dumbass!!!" and you're right. But the truth is that I'd placed beverages on there before, albeit for infinitesimal amounts of time, and it had worked. The dashboard could be used as a temporary table in case of emergency.

The moment I placed the cup there and went for the seatbelt, a car appeared behind me and tailgated me up the ramp. In an instant of panic, and to get this guy off my ass, I hit the gas ever so slightly. That, coupled with the incline of the ramp, made the cup of chocolate slide off the dash and bounce off the shifter. Through some crazy reflex, I managed to catch the cup on its way up. But a hole had formed below it, where it hit. It was pouring out like a busted water main, flowing like an oil strike.

With the windows closed and the controls at my right, tossing it out the window was out of the question. Here I am, left hand on the wheel, a busted cup of burning fluid in my right hand, and a car trying to screw me from behind. I pulled into the emergency striped area to the left, the one that divides the road and the on-ramp before they merge together.

The scalding hot chocolate kept pouring out like there was no end in sight. My pants were soaked, my legs were burnt, my right hand was FRIED!, the case of CD's that I had on the passenger floorboard was wasted, and once I stopped, the window controls were stuck in place. Hot chocolate was flying everywhere!

Finally, the cup was empty. Just as I managed to open the door so I could toss it out. I sat there and surveyed the damage. I had to laugh. There was nothing that could be done now.

I was going to have to drive back home and change, but I had to get some of the stuff cleaned off before I went anywhere. I pulled out the keys and went to the trunk to pull out the roll of paper towels I kept there. Right after I closed it, I realized what I had done. The keys were in the trunk. Of course. How else could it have gone?

I got back in the car and started to wipe everything off anyway. Thirty seconds later the car alarm automatically went off. I closed the door and eventually it shut off. But the windows were closed and I was suffocating, so I had to open the door again, and then...WHHAAAAAA, WHHAAAAAA, WHHAAAAAA...

I called my wife from my cell phone and asked her to bring me the spare keys. She wasn't happy about this. No matter what kind of a mess I was in, she was going to be bothered by this. Apart from the fact that she's not much of a morning person, she was also very pregnant and had been waiting on tables until 1:00 Am that night. "I know...I'm sorry...don't know what else to do..." and so on and so forth.

She showed up a half hour later (a ten minute drive!) and brought the keys with her. Her mood improved considerably once she saw me. In fact she couldn't stop laughing. She said I looked a lot like when I worked in the oilfields, covered in oil and mud. That helped to lighten up my mood as well. Certainly this wasn't even half as bad as things were back then.

We went home. I showered, got dressed, kissed my wife and her belly good-bye, and was off to work again. It was still a beautiful day!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Burger steaks

Last night for dinner, my wife made some ground beef patties for my daughter. In our never-ending quest to find things Christina will eat, she cooked the patties and told her they were "burger steaks." Steak is the one thing she'll always eat.
I was given some tuna casserole thingy, put together quickly before Cindy darted off to work.

"Yay!" she said. "I love burger steaks."

"They look yummy," I volunteered.

"You can have one," she offered.

"That's okay, sweetheart," I said. "Mommy made me something else."

"No, but you can have one," she insisted, caringly. "There's too many for me!"

"Thank you honey," I said, "but I'm already getting full."

"What about you take one for lunch tomorrow," she said, with the air and manner of one who's just discovered the perfect compromise. "You can put one in a bag, like a sandwich, you close it up, you put it in the fridge - because you have to eat at work! Then when you get up in the morning, you put it in the blue lunchbag and you take it to work!" She finalized this point with her arms spread out and both her palms pointing upwards, and gave me one of those "you get it?" looks, like an MIT professor might do after explaining a complicated mathematical formula to his students.

"Why, that sounds like a spendid idea!" I told her.

She flashed me a satisfied smile from ear to ear and went back to her food.

Me, I sat there and marveled at the thought of my 4 year old daughter mothering me at such a tender age.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

A promise not made

Click here for mood music

A storm brewed above us. We could hear the thunder gaining momentum, rumbling in the depths of the clouds.

We held eachother closely.

Dan and Melissa were eagerly engaged in conversation down by the road, maybe forty feet away from us. They had driven the four of us out to the countryside, just past the city limits. I was on leave from the Army, visiting my parents. The following day I would be heading back to West Germany.

"It's cold," Angela said, wrapping her arms around my torso, inside my jacket.

We sat on the grass, listening to Cyndi Lauper wailing from the car radio below.

The wind blew around us, surrounding us with the whistling whispers of the tree leaves. Evening was quickly approaching and we both knew our time together was coming to an end.

"Get closer," I told her, pulling her even tighter to me. I could feel her breath on my face.

My old friend Dan had introduced us the week before, when I first arrived. He wasn't trying to fix us up or anything, she was just a friend of his. I was smitten though.

Angela had the most beautiful blue eyes I'd ever seen. Deep and magnetic; they held my gaze captive when I swept past them. Still to this day, I can't recall seeing a dreamier blue.

When she smiled, you felt compelled to smile back. Her frecklish complexion and her propensity toward blushing; her posture and her perfectly proportioned figure; her feminity and fragility; all these things brought me to make a move. A move that I would usually be reluctant to make, because I knew I'd be gone sooner than later.

"I love you," she said. "You know that, right?"
I hesitated for a second.
"Yes," I responded languidly, "I know."
I looked away, toward the darkening clouds in the horizon.
She pressed her face against my chest and squeezed tightly. I knew she wanted to hear more than that, but I couldn't say more.

The week before, we'd gone out to the movies. Then dancing, a picnic, and a fireplace gathering at a friend's house, where I played some guitar. Every activity was crying out for romance. I couldn't help it. I let myself get carried away and swept up with the possibilities. After all, I wouldn't be in Germany forever.

"Will you write?" she asked. "Will you let me know how you're doing?"
"Yes, of course," I said.
"Everyday...?" she added, with a smirk.
I smiled at her, and breathed her in. We kissed - soft and long, tasting eachother's
"Maybe not everyday," I said, looking in her eyes. "But I'll write often enough."

She was a dental student, second year. Very bright and very ambitious. The oldest of five sisters in a close-knit family. Yet, I could tell she'd leave it all in a heartbeat if I asked her to come with me.

My future was sketchier. I had a year and a half to go in the Army. After that I planned to hit the road to California in search of fame and fortune, with nothing but my six-string and a change of clothes. I yearned for that freedom. It was the one thing that kept me going during those long, lonely days in the service. Having somebody along would destroy those plans. And though women seem compliant and supportive at first, they grow obstinate and selfish about their own needs as time goes by. It's a natural progression.

I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her face up to mine, our cheeks meeting warmly. I nibbled on her ear, gently, breathing on her. She shivered.

"I don't want to make you any promises I can't keep," I told her. "I don't know what's going to happen when I go away. It wouldn't be fair to make any plans now."

"You don't have to make any promises. Just tell me the truth. Please!" she implored.

I hesitated. Who knew what the truth was? I couldn't be sure that the way I was feeling then would be the way I'd feel later.

"I can tell you I want to be with you," I said. "I can tell you I'm going to think of you and miss you when I get on that plane tomorrow. I can say that you've made me whole these two weeks, and that I feel like I'll be leaving a part of me behind when I go. I can tell you that."

I handed her my dog tags. "I'd like you to keep these," I whispered.

She sobbed. Her tears wet my chin, and her cries touched my heart.

I knew I would forget her. It had happened before. One moment you're caught in the thick of it and you believe that it's real. The next thing you know, when you step outside the situation and go back to your regular routine, you stop feeling the way you did. It fades away; loses its luster. It's hard to explain.

We drove back to the city and parted ways. It was sad and beautiful, both in one. Good-byes can be that way.

I wanted to promise her more than I should. I wanted to tell her I loved her, and drop the classic "I'll send for you" line. But I honestly didn't want to hurt her. I just wanted her to love me a little, to believe that if it was meant to happen it would; that the possibility was real and I was open to it. She deserved that much, even though I already knew it was doomed.

The next day I was on a flight to Frankfurt. Within days I was back to being a soldier, and forgetting the person I'd been back home.

I wrote her once. She wrote often. Eventually she called, wondering what was wrong. She caught me getting stoned in the barracks, completely unprepared to respond to questions about us. I don't remember what I said, but she never wrote or called again.

About a year later, when already stationed stateside, I went back home to visit my parents. Through Dan, I learned that she'd heard I was coming and was hoping to see me. I even met up with her sister who was dating a buddy of mine.

But I couldn't call her. I'd done enough damage. And even though I knew she wanted to see me, and I wanted to see her, I couldn't put her through the whole ordeal again. That just wouldn't be fair.

Friday, August 20, 2004


This is Fluke. We've just adopted him. Christina named him. He's 5 months old.

Items atop my office desk

A calendar - one of those 'at-a-glance' calendars that you flip over a day at a time

Three picture frames - one that says 'Daddy's girl' of my daughter in her T-Ball outfit, one of my wife in the woods on our honeymoon, and one of my daughter at the beach which says 'BABY' and has a photo album behind it - in it I keep a chronological set of pictures of her going back to her birth. Proud Daddy!

A 17" computer monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse and mousepad.

Five paper pads - a regular post-it pad, a 6'x4' lined post-it pad, a stubby square pad of non-stick paper, and a letter size yellow pad where I keep my notes. The fifth one is a promotional paper pad from some staffing agency that came to see me last week.

A letter holder, where I keep my unanswered correspondence.

A Miniature beach chair where I rest my cell phone.

My PDA and docking station, and beside it my PDA leather case.

A stack of business cards waiting to get organized and filed away.

A large wooden case where I keep my personal business cards, and a small display holder where I place them for popular consumption.

A pencil holder where I keep a couple of cheap pens (the ones I don't mind if anyone steals), a staple remover, a highlighter, a sharpie, and a pair of scissors.

A large printing calculator.

A small desktop old-world globe (about the size of a baby's head) with fountain pen holders which have never been used - I keep it around because it looks good.

A stapler, a paperweight, and a correction tape.

An 8" tabletop fan (this is Miami!).

A rolodex.

A can of lysol (the bathroom's just down the hall).

A paper clip container, jammed full with jumbo size clips.

An office phone with 29 buttons, plus the dial pad.

A two-level wooden inbox, of which I've never seen the bottom.

The current copy of World Trade magazine - not my prefered reading, but it's appropriate.

A faux-marble coaster with an ever-present can of Diet Coke over it (I don't drink coffee).

Assorted papers scattered about.

A small bottle of clear coat finishing automotive paint - not sure why it's still here, I've just been too lazy to take it home.

A broken down Nextel phone waiting to be repaired, and a busted watch wristband waiting to be replaced.

And that pretty much sums it up. It's unbelievable what a bunch of crap I manage to fit on here.

I don't even want to tell you what I've got in my drawers (my desk drawers, that is)!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Blogger's lot

A poem

Today I have no tale to tell
no clever words to post
my beach is void of conch and shell
my brain’s a blackened toast

Forego the hits then, you might say
and leave the net to us
we merry crew who write and play
and every thought discuss

But alas, I cannot let my blog
mold, forgotten by my peers
I’ve toiled too hard, worked like a dog
to gain readers through the years

It’s a sad affair, the blogger’s lot:
must deliver or demise
and in frequent bursts of wit and plot
write that others might surmise

I will chance today, with nothing to say
and I’ll leave thee with my past
to both browse and view (in a bloggy way!)
all the posts I have amassed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Did I remember to tell you...?

Would I, that the stars were out tonight and gazing down upon you; they would be as moved by your beauty as I am. And would I that we had a private space to dine in, a candlelight dinner for two...one that you didn't have to cook yourself, and where you didn't get a reproachful and stern look from me for ordering too many margaritas before the entrees arrived.

I would, if I could, shower you with a million things: furs, and shoes, and multi-carat diamond rings; I would stuff your purse with credit cards, and buy you a brand new car; I would fly you off to Europe at the drop of a hat, and smother you with lavish presents along the way; I would sail the seas, fly the skies, climb the mountains if you asked, and yes, yes, I would lasso the moon for you as well.

But our daily lives leave little room for such adventures, and our responsibilities won't allow us to splurge carelessly.

It's easy to forget what brought us together once, now that we're so changed. But we musn't forget, not even for an instant, what's kept us together. The road has been long and we've grown comfortable, and in that comfort we've forgotten to coddle each other, and tend to our more selfish and personal urges. The need to appease basic necessities will do that.

Still, rest assured that I'm up for the challenge. Whatever dragon needs slaying, whatever nightmare haunts you, whatever wall stands before you, I will willingly confront. And be sure, without a second's hesitation, that I will give up my last breath in the endeavor.

Did I remember to tell you today that I adore you?

Monday, August 16, 2004

Uptown Saturday night

The smokers blocked the passageway to the Alehouse from the parking lot; bitterly adjusting to the new laws that ban indoor smoking. We entered through the crowded door.

The wait for a table, away from the loud music, was ten minutes. The three of us stood there, tired and sweaty after a long night's work in the breezeless heat, until they showed us to our table.

Ted and Fred looked worn out. I'm sure I did, too. It was well past midnight and we'd been out there since 5 PM. It's a little Saturday night gig I have every weekend to bring in some extra pocket money. But it's hard work and it takes its toll. Don't know how much longer this old body can do it.

We got a booth next to the restrooms. At least it was quiet.

After we ordered a pitcher of beer and some food, we took turns going to the head to wash up a little.

We observed the tables around us. Unusual people, as it turned out.

Across from our table, a couple sat facing each other. They were large people, in their late forties, I would guess. He sported a bald head and a sparkling earring; wearing a tight black muscle shirt to show off his chest and biceps - obviously a gym rat; an odd profile, to say the least, the kind of face I've always imagined on Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's assistant; he was pale as snow and he had a morose look about him. After they ordered, he slid over to her side.

She was a sight to behold. Blonde, with extensions down to her waist; the bulk of Schwarzenegger and the face of Stallone, with black spandex wrapped around her like cellophane; more makeup than Tammy Faye Bakker. Not the kind of girl you want to meet in a dark alley...

The whole time we were there, I barely saw them speak and I never saw them smile. Strange people, by my reckoning.

Our pitcher arrived and the waiter filled our three frosty mugs. We mumbled an unenthusiastic toast to the end of the day and took a drink. Then Fred spotted red lipstick on his mug; bright and clear.

We called the waiter back and displayed the mug. "Sorry, I pulled it out of the clean rack...I don't know how it could've happened...I'll get you another one," he stammered, and ran off to fetch a clean one.

The other table across from ours had another interesting combination of characters. A lovely young lady - slim, shapely, pretty and with long hair - sat with two gentlemen. She couldn't have been too far past twenty, if that. We noticed her extensively when she went to visit the ladies room, and strutted past our lustful eyes.

Upon her return, when she sat down, we noticed the company she kept. They were two men in their forties. Both looked very frail and geekish, but they had an odd confidence about them. One had a curly moptop for a head, and he looked slightly retarded; he seemed to emit a low volume Beavis & Butthead laughter every so often. The other one, who had summarily corralled the girl in the sitting space reserved for one person, was a skinny little guy; he wore glasses and held a laurel crown of hair on his head. He had a devious, almost perverse manner about him. He put his face up close to her ear each time he spoke. One could only wonder what they were up to.

Our waiter returned with a clean, empty mug, and proceeded to pour some beer into it out of our pitcher. I said: "Great, thanks. But you owe us another beer." The guy looked at me dumbstruck, like he'd never heard anything so absurd in his life. He looked at the dirty mug, which was still on the table for our viewing pleasure, and said: "Well, this is a half beer. I'll show it to my manager and see if he wants to comp you guys a beer, but I tell you right now, he's going to say this is a half beer." Apparently the sip we took from the dirty mug was bought and paid for, and it accounted for a whole half beer even though the beer level was barely an inch or so from the top of the mug. For a second there, I thought he was going to pour out the dirty mug into the pitcher, so we could have our damn beer back.

Well, he took off in search of the manager while we stared at each other in disbelief. Already we were picturing the guy spitting into our food. I wasn't upset about the cost of the beer, but it seemed ridiculous to me that we didn't get refunded for, what amounted to, damaged beer. This guy was either new at this or he was an idiot.

Of course, the manager just had him bring us a fresh beer. The food was delicious, and hopefully unspat upon. We tipped the guy well, as is our custom. Then we walked out, said our good-byes and went our merry ways.

On my drive home I thought about the people I'd seen, and how odd they'd seemed. I marveled at their strangeness. Then it dawned on me. Perhaps I'm the strange one; I'm the one who doesn't quite fit in. Maybe the things I see as unusual aren't quite as irregular as those I see as normal. Hell, it's not like I get out much anyway. What do I know what's going on in the world? I don't even watch TV that much. I wonder if those people there were looking at us and amusing themselves at our expense; fabricating stories about our occupations, sexual orientations or things of the like.

One thing I am sure of: the world out there is not the same one I knew growing up. Things have changed; people have changed.

As unconcerned about what people may think as I've always been, I can't help but wonder what they think of me now.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Beauty and the Beast

Though Christina was barely past her third birthday, we decided to venture through the Disney MGM Park live version of Beauty and the Beast. It was raining, it had been raining pretty much all day, and the rest of the attractions lost their appeal. The truth is, with the exception of The Magic Kingdom, the parks at DisneyWorld don't have many rides you can take a three year old on. We'd bought the DVD the year before, so she was familiar with the story.

As with every Disney attraction, the lines were phenomenal. We had to park our stroller out on the street and haul our bags and daughter through the rain. Oh, we had our ponchos on, but they didn't keep much of the rain off. All they really did was render us invisible in the sea of orange and yellow out there. You lose sight of your party for a second and you're screwed.

The show was terrific as expected. Christina was riveted throughout, mouth and eyes wide open. We were back a ways, but we could see the stage well. I kept Christina propped up on my lap so she could see. It was a pretty good workout, actually.

Toward the end, as Cindy and I were planning our getaway through the crowd in anticipation of the final bows, something unexpected happened.

When Belle kissed the Beast and a puff of smoke came up, only to have Prince Charming suddenly appear, Christina was devastated. She looked around the stage in a panic, and not finding what she sought she started bawling."Where's Beast?" she asked. My explanations were futile. "I want Beast!!! I want Beast!!!" she started to yell, at the top of her lungs. People were turning around and staring at us impatiently, telling us with their looks to "Shut the kid up!"

Well, I didn't know what to do. Certainly I was distressed at being the cause for such an interruption during the final scene, the supposed happy-ever-after ending. But when it came down to it, I said the hell with everybody. My daughter was crushed and suffering intensely for the poor, disintegrated Beast. She needed our comfort.

We coddled her and kissed her, and promised her that Beast was okay. In fact he was happier now that he looked like a normal person. "No!" she yelled. She couldn't imagine how the Beast could be any prettier than he was, a big fluffy teddy bear.

Inconsolable, we carried her out of there. We went to the nearest gift shop and bought her a Beast doll. That finally calmed her down. She snuggled up with him in her stroller.

If that was a sign of what kind of men she's going to like, I'm in a world of trouble!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Pedro, General Manager

We arrived in Miami in the spring of '97. I had secured a job beforehand working as an agent for a cargo airline at MIA.

When we went to meet my new boss, my wife found him to be very engaging. Her first aside to me was "I'll bet you he throws some wild Christmas parties!" As it turned out, he was a little too engaging.

His name was Pedro. An imposing man at 6'4", 325 pounds. He was well overweight. More than anything though, what stood out about him was his boisterous voice. Pedro usually spoke like he wanted the entire building to hear what he was saying.

"What the fuck, Mr Child?" he would say to me. "How does a man of your education and stamina stay so fucking thin?"

Most of what he said failed to make sense. He piled on words in no particular order and he tried to get his meaning across by sheer volume. Rarely did he let you speak, unless he thought you were going to agree with him. If not, he would continue with his barrage:"I used to be skinny bro, when I was a teenager, but as I got older, I was doing a lot more fucking, and a lot more exercise...I really don't eat much, I just have a lot of ulcers and shit, and I retain a lot of water, but I still fuck like a monkey, you know?" At this point I would just start to nod in agreement, hoping he would shut up. "Gimme a smoke, nigga'!" he would say out of nowhere, slapping me on the back.

Pedro harassed everybody, incessantly. The women were always feeling disrespected, and the men were usually feeling insulted. He didn't alter his language or demeanor for the sake of anybody, which made him into somewhat of a cluster bomb, hitting everything around him. An equal opportunity offender, some would say.

Some of the girls, particularly his poor secretary, would take so much shit from him (since he was the boss people rarely snapped back at him - those who did were quickly showed the nearest exit) that they would eventually blow up on one of the other employees over the smallest details. When things got out of hand, Pedro would call up a staff meeting to try and figure out what was going on. Then everybody would point their fingers at eachother, they would air out their grievances, and nobody would say anything about him. He always started those meetings with "I want you guys to help me get to the bottom of this...we don't want anybody showing the ladies any disrespect...it's important that everybody treats the others with integrity and good manners, without offending their sensibilities and clean upbringing...if anybody knows of anything I should know about you can tell me, now or later when we're alone, and I'll get rid of the bastard," or some nonsense like that.

He would call the Import counter where I worked, and while on speakerphone would ask: "Where's shit-for-brains?" referring to the guy who sat next to me.

With the attractive ladies in the office, he would invariably greet them by looking them up and down, licking his chops, while saying something like "Hmmmm, you look good enough to eat, Ms Smith."

How, you must be asking yourself by now, does somebody in America get away with that? Certainly it must have been raining lawsuits on that company!

Well, here's what it boils down to: this is Miami. Every employee came from a Latin American country. This kind of abuse is customary down there. Oh, not to this extreme perhaps, but it's the established general order of things. Nobody questions it, everyone expects it. The women grin and bear it, and the men swallow their pride. You hope either he or you will move on eventually.

I moved up as far as I could, then accepted a job offer from a customer. I thanked Pedro for all he'd done for me. I left four years ago and haven't spoken with him since. I sincerely hope I never have to.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

In the pool

Yesterday the clouds cleared and we saw the sun. Finally, after viewing dark, thundering skies daily for the last few weeks. Summer shouldn't be like that.

When I came home from work I was greeted by a "ready-to-go-job-hunting" wife, and an attention starved daughter. With a touch of blue hitting the early evening horizon, my daughter was obstinately demanding a swim in the pool.

I was wary at first, thinking the water would most likely be cold. But after stepping in to my knees and finding it agreeable, I acquiesced, and we ran to get our suits on.

We splashed around for a couple of hours. I poured myself a drink, played Eva Cassidy over the outdoor speakers, and let my little mermaid have her way with me. There was not a second when she wasn't smiling.

At one given moment I retreated from myself, and calmly observed the scene from outside. The pool, the music, and my daughter. As much as I whine about my life, and I feel so overwrought with debt, responsibilities, and work that I can't sleep...isn't my life wonderful? I mean, in the ideal scenario, would I ever hope for more than to be able to play with my daughter after work to my heart's content, wading and swimming around in my own pool, and my own house? Is there really more to it?

We got out as darkness approached, and dried off before entering the house. After we showered and had some supper, we snuggled up on my chair to read a story. She brushed her teeth and I tucked her in. Then with the sweetest mix of "squishes & kisses" you can imagine, she bid me goodnight.

Afterwards, alone, I'm left to ponder if my worries need be worries after all.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

A red rose for Claudia

I cut a red rose close to the head and removed its thorns. It was small, but fully opened. Its fragrance filled my air and made me think of Claudia. Carefully, I placed it on an open page from the book I bought her. Baudellaire's collected poems. Not very romantic, but we both shared the same love for dark poetry.

The rose found its place, evenly pressed by the weight of the pages around it. I kept the book for several days afterwards, to ensure that the rose took it well. When it works, the rose maintains its color and brightness with a trace of its aroma. Mine looked fine.

Claudia was sitting alone, reading, at a small cafe called The Place, not far from where she lived. She was still wearing her school uniform, but she had on a thick, white virgin wool sweater over the top. It was the button down type, with big brown wood-like buttons. She looked terrific. Barely fifteen, and she lit my world.

She was taking a sip from her tea as I approached.

"Hi," I said.
"Hi!" She smiled.
"You look beautiful."
"Thank you!"

We exchanged hello kisses, on the cheek.

"Were you waiting long?" I asked.
"Twenty minutes, maybe. Not long."
"Do you want to get something to eat?"
"I'm fine, thanks."

I sat down and ordered some hot cocoa.

"I brought you a present," I said, setting the book on the table. I had wrapped a red bow around it.
"For me?" she asked excitedly, as she grabbed it and turned it around to face her.
"Baudelaire!!!" she exclaimed in delight. "Oh, it's wonderful!" she said, as she stood up to kiss me.

I had made a habit of giving her small presents here and there, during the six months we had been going together. Nothing much really, just things like records, books, and chocolates. She was always so happy to receive them that it made the effort worthwhile.

"Will you read me one?" she asked, handing me the book.
"Perhaps later," I replied hesitantly, wanting her to be the first to open the book and find the rose."Right now, I want you to tell me how you've been."

Feigning disapointment, she pouted cutely and drank some tea.

"I've been sad lately, since my mother left for New York," she said. "I feel like I didn't spend enough time with her while she was here."

Claudia's parents were divorced, and they lived in different countries. She stayed with her father and grandmother, and saw her mother only twice a year. They had been close before, but they were no more.

"Won't you see her again at Christmas time?" I asked.
"Yes, but it's so far away. And I don't feel like we left on good terms," she whined.
"Why not? What happened?"
"Well, we were saying goodbye, and I started tearing up. Don't cry, my mother said, baby, don't cry. And I said, oh no, no, I've got something in my eye, that's all. So she turned away and got in the cab, and I just stood there like an idiot, pretending not to care that my mother was going away!"

She sobbed gently, and I offered her my handkerchief.
"No, no, I'm fine," she said, waving me off. She then dried her eyes with a napkin.

"Maybe if you had been more honest with her, if you had let her dry your tears..." I started.
"What do you know?" she shot back. "What do you know what it's like to only see your mother twice a year? You've got your parents right there, whenever you need them! What the hell do you know???"
"Claudia, I don't," I said. "That's not what I'm saying. Why are you getting so upset at me?"
"Because you think you know what's wrong, and you think you know the perfect solution. You always think you know everything!"
"I don't, I don't think I know everything," I offered,"I'm just trying to help you figure out what went wrong."
"Well I don't need your help. I only wanted your comfort! Was that so much to ask for? Was it?"

I shut down. All of a sudden I was unsure of myself, and scared. I thought I was offering her comfort. It now seemed apparent I was not. I had no idea what to do next. This was the first time I had experienced a woman's inexplicable ire directed at me. I wasn't prepared to defend myself against it.

She looked at me in disgust and got up, gathering her things. Then she reached into her coin purse and I said "no, I've got it," but she shook her head and threw some change on the table.
As she turned to go away I called out to her: "Claudia!" and held out the book, hopefully.
She stared at it for a long second, then snatched it out of my hand.

I never saw her again. I called her up several times, but there was nothing there. Something had happened between us then, in a matter of minutes, that would never be repaired.

I've no idea if she liked the rose.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The open road

This is a great little story.

I often dreamed of walking away from it all. When life and its responsibilities got too heavy to bear; when love was unrequited or unkind and the proverbial highway began to call, I considered taking that left turn and never looking back.

I'm not sure when it happened, that I allowed myself to be shackled by the comforts life offers. Or when I forgot the early realization that by giving in to those comforts I would forego the pleasures that freedom offers.

It wasn't always that way. I decided early on that anything too heavy to carry in a backpack was simply too burdensome to own. But then came things, and my love of things. Things like stereos and books, guitars and accessories, microwave ovens and CD's...what's a guy to do?

I remember once while still a bachelor, when I found myself caught up in that materialistic quagmire, that I chose to rid myself of all the objects that held me down. I separated 50 books and 50 records and shipped them overseas to my parents. Sold the rest. I was a free man.

But freedom brings a whole new set of responsibilities and expectations. You feel the pressure to do something worthwhile, like hitchhiking across the country, or traveling as a stowaway on a boat to China. Not doing something crazy and dramatic makes you feel unaccomplished and cowardly. I wasted my liberty in the pursuit of cash on which to survive with.

More than just our material assets, it's hard to cut away from the habits and routines we've developed in our daily lives. I have a certain need to read the paper every morning and watch the news before I go to bed. Shallow as these details may be, they are still real and they are a part of me. Though they are most certainly things that I could live without, as the creature of habit that I've become, the thought of altering these routines gives me pause.

Since the birth of my daughter, departing has become an impossibility because I can't fathom life away from her. But every now and then I can still hear the call of the wild, and I can see the open highway. And I tell myself, "maybe someday, maybe someday..."

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Have you ever had a day when everything seems to go wrong?

That's today. And everytime I think nothing else can happen, something else goes to shit. This is all work related, mind you. The personal stuff is already screwed up enough.

Right here and now, this is what I want out of life:

  • A raise or a new job
  • One single, small and unassuming, winning ticket to the Florida Lotto
  • My wife to find (and keep!) a job
  • My daughter to be old enough that she may be allowed into the public school system
  • The Dolphins to reach the Superbowl
  • My car to stop making noises like it's about ready to fall apart (with nearly 2 years left to pay on it)
  • More time off to spend with my family
  • A new shed for the backyard
  • Good health and long lives for my parents
  • An Ipod and a laptop
  • My old house not to have any major problems for at least six months
  • An endless supply of fine scotch and good wine
  • An ocassional steak dinner
  • My only remaining dog (I lost the other two to terminal illnesses in the last year and a half) to stop having seizures and allow his medicine to do miracles
  • A new diamond ring for my wife
  • Inspiration for my stagnant songwriting
  • Some outlet through which to release all this stress
  • The strength and stamina I had when I was 19, as well as the waist size
  • An ice cold beer, a fat cigar, a good book, and twenty uninterrupted minutes of peace and quiet to enjoy them while I float around aimlessly in my pool

There, that should do it. For now.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Slip sliding away

I've been around for awhile, and I've had my share of embarrassing moments. But one moment has always stood out in my mind.

I was fourteen at the time, and quite the dashing young man. I had good friends and a budding social life.

Our circle surrounded this one buddy of mine who had three beautiful cousins, all from different families, and all in our same age group. That made him a very popular guy. Besides that he had two lovely sisters, but those two, needless to say, were off limits to his friends.

As the years went by, I would end up going steady with all three cousins. But at the time we were all just flirting and developing into young adults.

This one evening we were out at a party somewhere, and I was having a great time. I remember it was one of those days when everything you do seems to go your way; everything you say sounds clever and charming; and all the girls are looking and smiling at you. I was feeling like a total stud!

I danced with one of the girls and swept her off her feet. Then the next one; then the next one. Everything was flowing smoothly.

At the end of the evening, my friend's mother was picking us up. We crowded into her car and drove off in the rain.

The girls were all spending the night at my buddy's house (lucky devil!), so I was the first to get dropped off.

Now, we lived in an apartment building. It was a small, six story structure, with parking underneath. The steps to the lobby were broken down into five sections: two steps, a flat six by six square area, then two steps to the right, another flat six by six square area, and finally four steps to the left that lead to the main entrance. The entire stairway was walled in by a short brick wall. When it rained, the flat areas flooded.

That was the case on this occasion.

Full of spunk and arrogantly pleased with the air of conquest about me, I was feeling nothing short of invincible. I'm sure by then everybody was getting pretty sick of me, but at the time I was foolish enough to think otherwise. It was then that we arrived at my stop.

Every guy knows there's a "cool" code of behavior for just about every situation. This particular situation was no different. After gallantly kissing all the girls goodnight, I stepped out of the vehicle, seemingly oblivious to the rain. See, this rainfall called for a quick dash to safety, but not so fast that I might appear hurried. That wouldn't be cool. So I got out of the car, smiled at them and softly closed the door. My buddy's mother was waiting for me to reach the door, to ensure that I was safely home.

Knowing that all eyes were fixed upon me, I graciously spun toward the steps and, in the way men will run when they wish to look cool and at ease (the guys know what I'm talking about), I picked up my shoulders and lifted my elbows and engaged in a little half trot to the steps. I cleared the first set of steps in a single leap and, as I was turning right to face the following set and give my adoring fans one final wave, the foot I landed on kept slipping on the surface, straight into what was now a sizable puddle and out from under me. Time stopped right then, as I realized that I was about to fall on my ass with all those pretty girls watching.

Slam!!! I hit the ground with a powerful thud and proceeded to slide into the wall. As I tried to bounce back up, I failed to get traction and, after skating in place for a moment, fell flat on my face.

Though I refused to turn to see them, I could hear their laughter through the rain. Or perhaps I just imagined it, but that makes little difference. When I finally got up, I summoned up a phony little smile and a vague little wave to make like I was okay, and I carried my sore ass up the rest of the stairs. Slowly.

I don't remember if there were any comments on that matter afterwards. I know I never brought it up again. But when people ask about my most embarrassing moments, this is the first thing that comes to mind.

Monday, August 02, 2004


Feeling a little down and dramatic...bear with me, please

It's been too long since I watched the sunrise.

For so many years now, I have missed the daily absence of light receding to cascading rays of sunshine, shuffling quickly over the vast horizon in its path. So fast as to be imperceptible if one was to turn away, or blink at the wrong time.

When the flaccid ocean gives birth to the bulging sun, and crowns its child in all its splendor. Oh, what a moment to enjoy!

It's been too long, much too long.

And where have those sunrises gone, I ask, that I shall never have witnessed? Behind me now, like the people I've abandoned. Forgotten and ignored, replaced by shiny new ones.

I somehow remain equivocally convinced, however subconsciously, that every sunset brings along a fresh sunrise. Yet, I'm slowly becoming aware of that final twilight that looms in the horizon - once so distant, now so much closer.

Mortality is far too complex for such a shallow soul to comprehend. I've wasted my youth on life and my adulthood on survival. In what way shall I waste my old age?

Truly it's time to watch the sunrise again. To make every day a new beginning, a new opportunity.

Only after a full life will I await the final sunset with ease.