Wednesday, March 23, 2011


One of the things I've tried to do with driving for the American Cancer Society is to face my own fears. Cancer is a frequent cause of death in my family. It's killed or contributed to the demise of three grandparents and a couple of great aunts and uncles. It's even affected my sisters. It will probably kill me.

The worst part about driving is watching from the sidelines as brittle lives collapse under the weight of sustained strain. It's painful and demoralizing to see men and women with grown children and spouses essentially facing their end almost alone. It's not just poverty --though sure, I've seen plenty of that. It's witnessing the forced poverty of the human spirit.

This is the future I fear the most. It's not the dying. Everybody dies. It's after a life spent as a father, friend and husband being too much of a bother to help any more. It's seeing that no matter what you give, how much you try, in the end it comes down to how much the people around you are willing to put up with. From what I've seen, if you linger too long, you inevitably cross a threshold and exhaust their patience and kindness. Love becomes detached by exhaustion and guilt. They start quietly hoping you'll die, just so they can start to heal from the grief.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

I'd like my world to be a little kinder. I'd like when the end comes for me, there's someone there who doesn't mind so much. I'd like to be able to tell my stupid stories to an audience and if I want to feel lousy about circling the drain, it should be okay. I'd like to feel like there's still enough time to make one more friend.

So, I contacted Hospice and asked if I could volunteer. I don't have much in the way of skills to offer, but I can hang out. I can help with errands. I can listen. I can even talk if they want me to. I can be company and I can wait with them.

So, that's just what I'm gonna do.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bad Moon Rising

I am a man traveling under a curse. I believe this now. I may have believed it all along. I don't know.

Last week, in an effort to take control and manage my time a little better, I started making little lists in a convenient, pocket-sized notebook. The lists were just things I should accomplish: Get to the gym, go for a swim, start work on the taxes, call the circulation desk about just getting Sunday delivery, go to the library.

It started going south almost immediately. On the first day, the list had six relatively easy items to accomplish. I got to four. On the second day, there were another six. I managed two. On the third, the list was six, but nothing got done. By Thursday, there was no list and on Friday, I couldn't even find the notebook.

I could do no right --particularly, at home --and it seemed like, suddenly, the bad old money problems were back after I was sure they were gone. At work, someone else joined the exodus of fed up and worn out employees who were moving on for something with a future and it made me wonder, again, if I'd made the right decision to stay. I could have left months ago, taken a job with decent benefits, maybe 30 percent more pay and a lot less uncertainty.

But I thought, hey... it's just another rough patch and I did the math all over again. In less than six months, my weekly childcare bill drops to about half when my youngest starts school. In another ten months, I make my last car payment and with that, my car insurance goes down. All I had to do was wait it out --just a few more months.

And this was what I was thinking while I was driving Friday evening when the back end of the car began to violently shake and shudder. This was what I was thinking before I noticed I couldn't keep up with traffic, pulled over and heard the tell-tale slapping of rubber against the road.


I looked at the tire. It wasn't completely flat, but it was sagging. An exit was only another two-hundred yards. There was a gas station at the bottom of the ramp, but I squeezed the tire. It was as solid as a loaf of wonder bread.

Cars whizzed by on the highway and not so far in the distance, dark clouds rolled in like the tide.

I popped the trunk and started to work on changing the tire. I'm not very fast and by the time I had the lug nuts off the wheel, rain was pouring down. Cars continued on their Friday path home. Inexplicably, a few of them honked their horns as they passed in either solidarity for my plight (sorry, bro) or to jeer (fuck you, asshole). I don't know which. Nobody stopped.

The moment I put the deflated tire in the back and closed the trunk, the rain had passed. The storm had moved along and I stood there laughing. What a fucking cliche...

The damage turned out to be more severe than I expected. I didn't have any cash so I had to use plastic and Firestone couldn't offer too many options. Two rear tires and a very necessary alignment came to $310. With a coupon, it only cost me $260. The card is now, again, maxed out and this is probably my last save.

My super snazzy Neon is on its last legs and I have no doubts about this. A few months ago when I first maxed out the card with repairs, the mechanics listed a wide variety of needs. It will be lucky to make it another ten months.

I am traveling under a curse, at least for now. Soon, I imagine I'll be walking.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


There's just something weird about going into a jock shop named "Dick's."

I don't usually go to sporting goods stores. I'm not really much of a sports guy, but my son is interested in playing soccer and I played soccer in junior high and high school. I loved it and have often thought about joining a geezer league, but so far... my schedule really hasn't permitted.

So, the two of us found ourselves wandering the aisles looking at soccer gear when I spotted the "outdoorsman" section, where they keep the gear for hunting, fishing and otherwise making a nuisance of yourself in the great outdoors. I do not fish, do not hunt and do not enjoy camping, much to the continued irritation of family who really dig it.

As a boy I was taught a whole set of skills useful if the modern world suddenly ended and the dinosaurs returned. Dad hunted, fished and trapped animals for their pelts. He brought me along and I learned some of it; enough to get by, if I needed to. I know how to fish, how to hunt and can skin animals if need be. I'm an okay shot with a gun, but better with a bow and arrow. I picked that up shooting arrows with the kid across the street. Sometimes he even let me take a turn with his compound bow.

We got the soccer ball and ambled over past the fishing lures and the paintball guns. It was like something was calling me and I moved with clear purpose.

In the lower corner of an aisle, there was a single line of Daisy slingshots --different sizes, different pulls, different prices. They were aluminum frames with yellow rubber tubing and a genuine artificial leather patch where you put the sling bullet.

My son looked at me as I picked one up then grabbed a bag of marbles, what you use as ammo when you don't much feel like picking up rocks.

"Is that for me?" He asked.

No. He was disappointed, but he's five.

Now, I have no idea why I wanted this thing. I have no idea why I bought it, except it was something I wanted.

Over ten years ago at a flea market, I bought a switchblade knife off a guy selling them from the hood of his car for twenty bucks. For almost a week I walked around, flicking it open --click-- then closing it. I felt like some kind of a bad ass. I just loved having it on me.

I got rid of it the day after I took it into a radio studio and nearly made the DJ working that afternoon wet himself. It scared the hell out of him and me a little. It was like I was looking for an excuse to use it and that bothered me because really, what precisely is the purpose of something like a switchblade? It only really has one purpose.

I sold it for what I paid for it and that was that.

A few years later, a friend of mine gave me a gun. His grandfather, suffering from dementia, lost his mind, attacked his wife and put her in the hospital. My friend and his father had to go, settle some affairs and put them in separate nursing homes. While going through the house, they came up with several thousand dollars in cash, plus a couple of guns the old man had hidden.

I was given one of them for no other reason than my friend felt like he needed to distribute them.

It was the same problem as with the knife. I spent hours fiddling with the gun, which was never loaded. I carried it around and probably once or twice I put myself in situations where I could have been in a lot of trouble if a cop searched me.

Eventually, I put the gun away, actually forgot about it for a couple of years, then got rid of it altogether when it turned up again.

So, now I have this slingshot. There's a symbol in all of this, something the wanting and needing of this specific item signifies, but I'm not sure what it means.

It is pretty cool, however.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Magical Thinking

For the kids' party, they had us cordoned off in a little room in the bowels of the Clay Center. Cupcakes and ice cream had been served, along with apple juice, and the kids were starting to feel the first rushes of the sugar buzz when a lisping slacker in a George Romero "Dawn of the Dead" t-shirt rolled out a cart. He said he was going to do some science tricks and wouldn't the kids like to see?

You bet.

Seats were taken. Parents and the horde of squirming five year-olds waited and watched as the scientist/magician walked the room through his presentation --something he'd done probably a hundred times by now. His enthusiasm was about what you might expect of someone asked to handle urine samples.

He talked about safety. This was why he wore the glasses, the lab coat and the closed-toe shoes.

"I wouldn't want to get any of this on me," he said.

However, this didn't explain the cargo shorts. Presumably, it would hurt just as bad if he got sulfuric acid on his knee instead of his big toe, but nobody pointed it out. We were all just going with it and if he did manage to dissolve his legs, well, that would be a show, wouldn't it?

He asked the kids, "You want to see a Genie in a bottle?"

Of course, we did and he smiled while pouring a little hydrogen peroxide into a two-liter soda bottle. He mumbled something about Robin Williams and granting wishes them dumped a spoonful of some white powder that was going to produce a dangerous middle eastern supernatural being.

The powder went in, then nothing. The clear liquid in the bottom of the bottle turned brownish.

Of course, I still made a wish. That goes with out saying.

Meanwhile, our scientist/wizard swirled the contents of the bottle. Nothing happened. He apologized, tried it again and nothing.

I made another wish. Fuck it. I have needs.

Everyone stared and suddenly, he seemed very aware that his lack of giving a shit was being rewarded. I suspect karmic forces were in play, which was fascinating to watch, but he tried to outrun them. He moved on to the next trick. It had to do with making elephant toothpaste. There was a long, tedious explanation he rattled out while pouring more peroxide into a tall beaker then asking the kids about whether he should add stripes. They said, sure. They liked stripes on their toothpaste. We all liked stripes on our toothpaste. Who doesn't like stripes on their toothpaste? Stripes rock.

He set the trick up then added some magic science powder to the beaker. The peroxide at the bottom turned black and a head of foam shot up approximately 3/4 of an inch, leaving about a twelve inches of glass beaker waiting to be filled.

By now, the guy's nerves were rattled. These were just stupid junior high science tricks and in a room filled with people (most of them around five years old) who might be in awe of such a thing, he was crashing and burning.

He apologized some more and promised he'd get to the bottom of this. They'd do it all over, he said, but first he needed to get help.

"I'll be back in about ten minutes."

Meanwhile, everyone sat around. The kids didn't care. They wanted to go jump off of things, yell and screech, maybe break stuff. This was a party. Somebody throw on a Hanna Montana record! Bring on the press-on tattoos! Break out the Hawaiian punch!

The sorcerer's apprentice brought back somebody who had a few more experience points to do the science tricks again. The results were equally fulfilling and the peroxide was blamed. Someone, they thought, might have washed the inside of the bottle and left water which would have diluted the chemical --what a bastard.

"We'll get some good chemicals and do this right," the more advanced magician promised. "We'll also get some animals for the kids to meet. How does that sound?"

It sounded fine and eventually they got the tricks to go off. The kids got to meet a snake, a turtle and a hissing cockroach. As for me, I totally enjoyed their earlier performance and didn't bother making any more wishes. I didn't want to be greedy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bliss: Until Morale improves

This blog isn't seeing as much action. It's not for lack of time or lack of desire, it's for lack of content. I haven't been back to the plasma center in over a month. I'm not taking my lunch at Manna Meal and there's a whole section of my life I don't blog about either for legal reasons or for a nagging sense of propriety. I'm working on killing that, but it takes time.

This blog is best when I put myself out there. Going outside of my comfort zone gives me space to move, to think and define my angst (among other things). Some of you like the angst. I like my angst. I like holding up my sad little broken heart for the world to see. I like screaming until all I've got left is a silly giggle.

I don't come here to complain. I come here to explain, to explore and to maybe make sense of it all --or at least have a couple of laughs at my expense.

So, I've been looking around for things to get into. Sure, I'm actually training for a triathlon, but big fucking deal. That's just exercise. I'm eating less meat. I haven't actually bought any animal flesh in two weeks and have only consumed a little incidentally, as I was trying to get rid of it. I'm rich enough to not have to sell my blood, but I'm too poor to throw away five dollars worth of ham. However, this is really just another exercise.

None of it makes me really uncomfortable. None of it alters my perception, improves my view or grants me an insight I don't already hold.

But I saw a sign up downtown, I need to find it again, it's for a rugby club. Do I know how to play rugby? No. My general impression is that it's a group of rough men fighting over a ball. It's an invitation to a beating, maybe. I don't know. Maybe that's what I'm hoping for. Maybe that's what I need: a reason and a means to riot.

Maybe it's not what I need, but I figure it's what I can have.