Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thought of the Day

It is a sharp, sharp world out there friends, and our skin is perilously thin.

No Thanks Necessary

I took my kids to the zoo today. The 4 year-old had a marvelous time; she had to be pulled from every exhibit, destroyed an ice cream cone before the sun could, had a princess crown painted on her cheeks and forehead, and giggled her way around and around the classic carousel.  In the truck, buckled in for the trip home, hair pulled back to protect her face, that piece of art, she said, "Thank you for taking us to the zoo, Daddy," and glided off to sleep. I smiled into the mirror, watched her for a second, and said to her subconscious, "thank you, my sweet princess."

My family raised me to believe that I could never thank them enough.  It was rarely said, but always passive-aggressively present. "I am a great (grandpa, grandma, mom) and you don't tell me that nearly enough. Someday you'll understand all the things I/we do for you."  I was sure they were right, even though I was in the middle of an unhappy childhood, and it made me feel worse to realize that I was ungrateful on top of everything else.

It pleases me that my daughter knows that a great day should not go unnoticed;  it is good to be grateful for all that we have. But I don't need to be thanked for doing my job. Not this job at least. It was my choice to add my children to my family. They didn't have any say in the matter then, and they don't now. The least I can do is give them a fighting chance at a happy life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life is Fair

This goddamn oil geyser has me so disgusted I can hardly muster anger. A week ago, I would have written that this wasn't a political issue- that this was the rare catastrophe that brought us all together to take an honest look at how to prevent it from ever happening again. But now the usual suspects are all over the news. They (I won't name names; you know who they are) are mad because the government, which they do not believe in, has not done enough to fix this mess, and they're mad at the President for not doing enough, and then mad again when he gets BP to pony up $20 billion dollars, "He's doing too much!" Some of them actually called it a shakedown! Can you believe it? Of course you can.

Look, this hole cannot be plugged. It's going to gush until it has killed the Gulf, and its shores and the livelihoods of an entire generation of people who depend on those things. My mom always used to tell me, when I went to her with a complaint, "Life is not fair." That drove me crazy. And it still does. For the most part, we get what we deserve. And we are getting it, and getting it, now. Maybe some (I'm looking at you BP!) deserve more punishment than others, but the blame for this mess lies with all of us.

BP cut corners. Hey surprise! They lied to us. They knew it would happen sooner or later. And they gambled on "later"; after they had made such an obscene pile of money that they could pay us off and get the hell out of Dodge. A winning gambler, on a roll, plays his bet, but not his winnings. He leaves his bet on the table until he loses it. Then he takes his winnings and goes home. BP did that, plus stacked the deck.

Our government (Dick Cheney) allowed energy companies to write the policies under which they are governed. And under the watch of all of our fearless leaders, oil companies have gone on cutting corners, and fudging numbers, and on and on. And did our government protect us? It did not. The people who were supposed to be regulating the oil industry were instead doing cocaine with them. And fucking them. Seriously.

And we let it all happen. We're like mob lawyers: we may not be breaking the law ourselves, but we're benefiting from those who do, and we don't want to ask too many questions. But now those questions have been answered anyway. I wonder if we'll have the courage to cut our ties with these criminals and try to make it on our own.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup, and Being Kicked in the Balls

     The World Cup always reminds me of the time I was kicked in the balls, and not for the reasons one might assume. It was during the 1998 World Cup that my then wife told me she had a boyfriend. We had been married 10 months.

     Something had been wrong in our marriage for weeks, or maybe even months, before she told me. I had been trying to find out what the problem was, but she wasn't talking about it. In fact, we weren't really talking about anything.  We were able to not talk, I thought, because we were at home, and there was always something else we could be doing. So I planned a weekend away. I knew it didn't matter where we went, so we drove down to Rochester, and booked a hotel. At first, when we got in our room, she remained silent. I turned on the T.V., and discovered the World Cup.  To its great credit, it managed to hold my interest, despite my fragile emotional state.  Anyway, after hours of me prodding her to tell me what was wrong, she told me about her boyfriend. To give you some idea of what that did to me at the time, I will tell you that writing that sentence, these 12 happy years later, made my insides flip. We spent the weeks following that revelation in limbo, while she decided who she wanted to be with. I finally set a date. If she hadn't broken things off with him by that date, I was going to leave her. That date came, as those dates do, and she hadn't left him. I packed up a few things from our apartment, (including one of her CDs! Ha!) and moved back to my mother's basement.
     All things considered, I don't think it took me very long to recover. It was only a matter of months before I was able to tell this joke:  If you think it was hard for me that my wife had a boyfriend, just imagine how hard it was for him - his girlfriend had a husband!.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

I'll write more about the "Bulls" soon. In the meantime... some humor. (I hope)

Naming a penis is not a job that should be taken lightly. Sure, you can go with the obvious: "Snake", "The Pipe Cleaner", or "Junior", for example. I'll admit that I am sort of fond of "The Kickstand" and "Third Leg". But with a little thought, one can do better, and make the name more personal. A movie buff could go with, "Yul Brynner" or "Kojak", to name a couple. And a fisherman could take, "The Trolling Lure". To wit: "When I go out, I just toss out the ol' Trolling Lure and see what I catch." (syphilis, probably). And don't be ashamed about naming your penis. Presidents do it for god's sake! Not a lot of people know this, but Teddy Roosevelt's quote was actually, "...speak softly and carry 'A Big Stick'." It was not about foreign policy, as is commonly believed. Rather, he was responding to the question, "Mr. President, what would you do if, while attending an opera, you needed to use the bathroom?" He replied, "I would speak softly and carry 'A Big Stick'." There was a follow-up question: "Why would you carry a big stick, sir?" History has largely forgotten his answer, because no one understood it at the time. He said, "So it didn't get stepped on."

Don't worry. I'm not going to be shy. I will tell you that I am considering re-naming my penis, "The Truth." (I used to call it the "Hollywood Pistol" because, while it looks real, it shoots blanks.) Why "The Truth?" Because if I ever get arrested for public nudity (which is only a matter of time) I can tell the judge, "Your honor, I was simply trying to bring 'The Truth' to light." And then there is this: While I hate lying, I will, now and then, massage the truth.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Bulls...A Love Story

If it was possible to pick your family, I would have seven brothers. In addition to my biological brother, Vargas, I would add Vinny, Fugwuh, Redman, Sug, The Doctor, and Rinji. Now, since you know that I consider them brothers, can I write that I love each of those men without scaring you away? My friends, my brothers, and I call ourselves the Bulls, for reasons that should be obvious. We Bulls have been together a long, long time. Now in our mid-thirties, I have been friends with all of them since before I could drive.

When I was 12, my family moved to Maple Grove, Minnesota. Redman lived near us and rode the same bus to school. He often overheard my brother and I talking about playing football, and would practically beg to be invited. Our games usually consisted of me, my brother, and a handful of his friends. Being two years older than my brother and his friends, I was easily the biggest player, and was used to being gentle with the "kids". I didn't trust Redman, who, like me, was 12, to be so kind. Finally I relented and, on the way home from school, asked him to join that evening's game. The game was underway when, from out of nowhere, Redman streaked into our backyard and knocked the shit out of me. He continued man-handling me the rest of the evening; eye-gouging, and kicking, he used his elbows and knees to horrible effect. He was gentle with the "kids, but Redman treated me very poorly indeed. Here's the thing, though: He is an only child. He thought that was how siblings interacted, I think. It was how he and I interacted, at any rate. And, while that is no longer the case, we are most certainly still brothers.

I feel the need to describe Rinji's physical features. When I write "now", I'd like you to close your eyes and picture a gay Frenchman. Ready? Now. Well okay, that's Rinji. Now, Rinji is not gay, as far as I know. He has a lovely wife, which of course doesn't in itself prove anything. But, I feel safe in saying that if he was gay, I would know. For starters, like many of the women I knew back then, it seems safe to say that he would have flirted with me; the more so because he is, quite literally, a genius. He became my brother when we were 14. Before then we had talked some, in school and on the bus, and had exchanged phone numbers. One day after school, he called me and asked, "What are you up to this fine evening?" (Remember: we were 14 years old! Who talks like that when they're 14? Gay kids. And Rinji.) Flummoxed, I told him we were going to be playing football, and invited him to join us. He accepted, showed up, and almost immediately had his nose broken by Redman. I'm sure it was a clean hit. He has lived on the east coast for over 12 years now. And, while I'm sure his style is less conspicuous out there, his presence in Minnesota is missed greatly, nearly every day.

I met Sug when we both worked at Burger King. In those days, Burger King had three main stations: the Burger Board, the Whopper Board, and the Specialty Board. Most people would spend their time on Burger or Whopper Board. The elite would patrol Specialty Board, where they were in charge of chicken and fish sandwiches, and chicken tenders and who knows what else. Sug was among those elite, and he knew it, which explains why, even though we met when we were 15, we were not friends for another year. I had to climb up quite a few rungs on the old ladder before he even knew I existed. But eventually we became work buddies, and then drinking buddies. And we have been brothers ever since.

My first roommates outside my family were Vinny and Fugwuh. We shared a two-bedroom apartment while attending community college. Fugwuh moved to Seattle after a year, leaving Vinny and I alone for another year. It was the first time any of us had lived away from home, and it was heaven. More importantly, here is what it was not: A recipe for disaster. There were times when we got on each other's nerves, but in all that time, there was never anything close to a fight. Fugwuh has not spent much time in the years since living within 1,000 miles of me, but I have not taken that as an indictment on me. I consider him my brother, and though my kids have never met him, when I speak of him, I call him, "Uncle Fugwuh." Vinny is a man of few words; fewer, even, than me. If you don't live with Vin, and sometimes even if you do, you are not likely to talk with him much. Luckily for me, I have lived with him for a total of four years, for he and I were reunited, along with The Doctor and Sug, at the "Bullpen". I don't talk to him much these days, but I know where to find him and he knows where to find me. And we are family in every sense of that word that matters.

I have known The Doctor a long time, but we have only been family since we were in our mid-twenties. As kids we lived only a couple blocks apart, but we pretty much travelled in different circles. There were times when we spent a lot of time together, though. And then, when we were both 24, we found ourselves back living at our childhood homes, licking wounds inflicted by, we thought at the time, vicious, vicious women. We bonded over too many evening cigarettes on my mom's driveway, where we put ourselves back together, one puff at a time.

After a couple months we hatched a plan to get the hell out of our parents' homes. We recruited Sug, who was home, having just graduated from college, and working a "real" job, and Vin, who was also graduated and living with his parents. We began looking for a home to rent. After a couple weeks, we found the perfect place: A split-entry, four-bedroom, with a big yard and a deck perfect for grilling and, more importantly, drinking. We found, "The Bullpen."

...To be continued

Coming next - A new game, "Rock Rock", is invented. And apartments and houses are thoroughly abused. And I am saved.

Thought of the Day

Here's the thing about love: It will make two fairly normal adults, and one normal 4 year-old, clap and cheer like fools when their baby rolls over in front of them. And do you think the baby knows he has done something for which he should be proud? There is no doubt.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Old Testament, or Bust

“Great show, er, service, Jerry!”

“You know I’d prefer if you called me Reverend. I’m a method guy and that helps me stay in character.”

“Sorry. Reverend it is.”

“Thanks, Eric.”

“Great gate tonight, too; over $40,000 I think.”

“Good. That’s pretty good. But remember, we don’t refer to the collection as ‘gate,’ okay?”

“Right. Sorry again.”

“How ‘bout parking?”

“I think about $2,000. Handicaps parked free today.”

“That’s right.”

“Plus we’re streaming on the Net; collections are still coming in there. And we air in a little less than an hour on the west coast. All told I’m going to guess we pull in about $60,000 today. Good idea going with the ‘Fire and Brimstone’ sermon tonight, Reverend. You sweating, sir?”

“Christ, son, this is Texas! Course I’m sweating.”

“I was saying I thought it was a good idea to go with the ‘Fire and Brimstone’ tonight.”

“Oh? Oh, yeah, of course. Yep, years ago, I used to preach the New Testament. Ha! Those were lean years, boy I tell you. There’s no money in the New Testament. You try teaching the Sermon on the Mount and then go to asking people to give all they can. Can’t be done, son. They may feel more generous, alright, but they’re bound to be suspicious of a pastor who has a private plane. You want to make real money, you gotta preach hellfire and damnation.”

“I guess it’s better to just leave Christ out of the service altogether?”

“Well I’d think you’d want to say his name a lot, but yeah, I wouldn’t bring up his teachings. What is that damn racket?”

“New neighbor, sir. All sorts of crazies over there.”

“Let’s have a look see. Jesus H. Christ! What in hells going on over there?”

“I don’t know exactly. That guy there, no the one under the tree there, with the long hair, see him there, sir?”

“Hmm mmm.”

“He seems to live there. The rest of ‘em just come ‘n go as they please. Drugs, I’m sure, by the look of ‘em. Whores, too, I’d guess.”

“Christ! And right next door to a house of worship! Ah, well, what the hell, uh? Say, I’m going out with Sue. You saw her in the coat check today?”

“Damn right I saw her!”

“Well, calm yourself down now. I’m going over to her place for a bit. If my wife calls, tell her I, ahh, let’s see, tell her I had to, ahh, tell her I had to go visit a sick old lady from the congregation!”