Tuesday, March 30, 2010

American Eagle.




I have a strange and sometimes unexplainable attraction to bald eagles and cougars.

Not the alcoholic, over forty, two-legged kind of cougar, but the mysterious cat that slinks around out west, virtually unnoticed.

But, yeah, I guess I like the woman version too.

I've yet to see a mountain lion in the wild.  God knows I've tried.

Someday I will.  Maybe even in my home state.  They've been sighted in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, so it's an eventuality that they'll be back in Ohio; I know people who have seen scat, tracks, and other evidence not too far from Cleveland.  With the Northeast Ohio deer population being what it is, a resident cougar population would make sense, as the food source would sustain a few of these big cats.

Anyway, I've seen sixteen distinct bald eagles in Ohio over the past four years.  Most folks don't understand my abject fascination with these birds. 

The women I've dated have all had the same reaction when I ask them to go see them with me.

It's just a fuckin' bird, they've all told me.

Wow.  Maybe so. 

But a bird and a species that was almost extirpated because of our influence.  Pesticides almost wiped them out until the government banned all DDT use in the 1970s.  We placed them on the newly-created Endangered Species list in the early '70s, and with time, care, and patience it's worked.

I read that, a few decades ago, there were only four bald eagle nests in the whole state.  Today, there are well over 250, and each year new chicks are born to add to the total of eagles soaring over the Buckeye State.

My son and I used to drive twenty miles each weekend morning to see the eagles in North Ridgeville.  It was a journey highlighted by the errant sighting of a coyote, or sandhill crane, or the eagles dancing on the thermals.

I've got a secret.

I found a nest not too far from my house.  I can roll out of bed, put on my shoes, grab my camera and walk to the nest in less than ten minutes.

Why do they fascinate me?  And how do I explain it the girlfriends that didn't want to share in this thrill?

Because they, like a Rocky movie, are about the underdog.  Due to our intercession, they've made a comeback.  They're thriving, and seeing them prosper gives me hope for our future.

Besides being our national symbol, they're a symbol of resurrection.  I hope someday these birds are as common as sparrows. 

I dare you not to be emotionally-affected when this bird, all six feet of wingspan, white head, and triangular tail, soars over your head with a fish in its talons.

It's a sight.  And I compare it to seeing something as rare as a dinosaur or a truly compassionate conservative.




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Monday, March 29, 2010

This Land is Your Land.

I was talking last night, over coffee and eggs, about some of the myths of American history.  How we're fed things as kids that stay with us throughout our lives even if they're 100% Grade A bullshit.

Ya know, things like Washington chopping down the cherry tree and Pocahontas saving John Smith from the wrath of daddy?  All BS, never happened.  But, they teach some kind of lesson to impressionable youngsters.  Like, don't lie to your parents or don't piss off the natives cuz they'll cut off your head. 

Our modern culture tends to reaffirm these lies, most notably that Disney flick about Pocahontas and John Smith from ten years or so ago.  In that cartoon, she was some smokin' hot tree hugger, in tune with the animals and trees.  Kind of like Dr. Dolittle or a Jedi Knight.  In reality, she was eleven years old and never shared a romance with the English captain.  Yet Disney "consulted" with Native Americans in order to tell an "authentic" version of history.  And Americans bought it lock, stock, and smoking musket barrel.

Plus, in real life, she was butt-ugly.

One of the biggest misconceptions, and the largest smack-in-the-face to the native populations, was that the Dutch purchased the island of Manhattan from the Lenape Indians for, like, twenty-four bucks. 

Cultural imperialism has perpetuated this story for hundreds of years.  And, when a teacher in a classroom of students relates this event, the kids always giggle and disparage the Indians with a joke or two about how stupid they were.

White people win.

We're better.

The reality is that the native Lenape had no concept of ownership; they prided themselves as stewards of the land.  How could they have possibly sold something to the foreigners that they didn't own?

There's a greater lesson in that story; one that should be taught in school. 

Man is greedy. And it ain't a white European thing.  All throughout our collective history there are examples of cruelty towards other peoples for gain.

The Maya.

Chinese.

Africans sold their brethren to the Europeans, feeding the slave trade.

Spanish Conquistadors.

French Privateers.

American genocide.

Profit motive.

We've all, at some point, been put under the sword or rifle by another group.

Yet, what screams for attention is what the Lenape Indians knew several hundred years ago.  Mother Earth, our lifeblood, can't be bought or sold.  Yet, we're wholesale raping her for our gain. 

I laugh when I see some guy on TV proclaiming sovereignty towards his "land."  He'll bitch that his grandpappy farmed this land and it's been in the family for a hundred years.  That a man ain't nothing without land. 

That man, and his kids, won't live to see the land in another hundred years.

But, guess what? It'll still be there, and practically unchanged from today. 

The pissed-off landowner?  He'll be dust in a forgotten grave.

Our "ownership" of the national parks is fantastic; I love how millions of acres of wilderness have been preserved for the common man to experience.  Yet, putting a label on it, the "U.S. National Park Service" is rather arrogant. 

The Grand Canyon will be here long after the United States no longer exists.

We are stewards, not owners.  We should get used to that and teach our children a respect for the environment and the world around them at large.

Respect the land and water.  Quit dumping toxins into the soil because we can save a few bucks here and there.  Understand that the Earth is one giant organism and that it feeds off of each and every ecosystem. 

People talk about "killing" the Earth.  If we keep polluting on the same scale we are now, it won't be the Earth that dies.

 Maybe just us. 

The planet will heal and it will be fine.  But the parasite infestation will be eliminated; another species will take over.

And the Grand Canyon will still be there, not even aware of our disappearance..





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Friday, March 26, 2010

The Teacher Has Left the Building.

Well, a few nights ago I hit a new milestone in my life. 

I was just sitting in the cave trolling around Facebook when I decided to take a peek at my son's page.  There, something popped out like a 3-D James Cameron monster. 

It said, in bold black letters, "Alex is in a relationship."

I knew he was talking with one of his classmates.  I knew he thought she was kind of special.  But seeing it there, on my monitor, somehow made it very real. 

And I felt, well, a little ancient. It was probably the first of many Holy-Shit moments to come over the next few years.

So we talked about it the other night when I picked him up to watch our weekly fix of "Survivor."  Of course, like any fifteen year old, he was reticent to give up any information.

I felt like Joe McCarthy at the HUAC hearings back in the '50s.  "Alex, are you now or have you ever been a communist?"

They're going on a date tonight; she's in Westlake High School's production of "Grease" and he's going there to watch her light up the stage.  Then, I imagine, Applebee's or a cast party afterwards.

Here's the really weird part:  Tonight, I have a date as well. 

It's a little unnerving when your son is experiencing the same things that you are.  A new person in your life.  Unfamiliarity, awkwardness at a potential first kiss, and so on.

I guess this would have happened at some point, but how serendipitous that we would be doing this at the same time?  It makes me a little nervous that now I've got a whole new set of issues to worry about.  He's a smart kid and has a good head on his shoulders, but I remember when I was fifteen.

Oh God.

He and I have traversed many obstacles.  His young life, of which he has no memory, was filled with court dates and animosity between his mother and me. 

We're very close and I am lucky to have such a wonderful person for a son.

I used to hold his small hand as we walked across streets, parking lots, and any other place that I felt I needed to keep him safe. We would lay in his bed late into the night and talk about the Titanic, Gettysburg, Star Wars, or Spyro the Dragon.  He would ask me questions about mom, Santa Claus, or why Darth Vader wore that outfit. 

I treaded water in the deep end of the pool for seeming hours while he mustered up the courage to jump off the diving board.  And, finally, he did.  Right into my awaiting arms.

I helped him make his mother breakfast for Mother's Day when he was four.  He served it to her with a smile and almost dropped it into her lap.

We planted trees together.  Small, two-foot pines.  We watered them, and in time, watched them grow.  Three feet.  Five feet. Eight feet.

We walked into Bryce Canyon at dawn, smack in the middle of mountain lion country, as I shot pictures and kept an eye on him in case any big cat decided to make him a happy meal.

And now we are departing on a new journey together.  But now, as opposed to me being the teacher we are on the same path.

At the same time.

And he starts driving next month.




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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Idealistic Youth. Bitter Old People.

On one of our trips out West we stayed with a friend in Vegas.  Fun if you're by yourself.  Not so much fun if you've got a ten year old in tow. 

How many family-friendly things can you do in Sin City?

Not many.  So, we went to the MGM to show Alex the lions on display.  Then, we saw what became more spectacular to my son than our time at the Grand Canyon or Death Valley. 

The magnet store.  There had to be about ten million magnets; the walls of the store were metal and magnets were displayed from floor to ceiling.  Everywhere.

Naked lady magnets.

Spongebob magnets.

Sin City magnets.

You name it...

I think I dropped more there than in the slots that night.  Alex walked out with a bag o' magnets that still adorn our fridge. 

My favorite, and the only one I bought for myself, was one that showed an off ramp.  One sign, pointing left, said "Idealistic Youth," while the other sign, pointing right, said "Bitter Old People."

Get it?

That magnet pokes me in the face every time I open the fridge to get the fat-free cow juice to pour on my Cap'n Crunch, breakfast of champions.

I got involved in the 2008 election with a zeal.  I followed Obama from the primaries up until election night and shed a tear of joy when he won.

For various reasons I felt re-energized.  I mean, how could a forward-thinking person not?  Our nation's first Black president, which would have been almost unthinkable twenty-five years ago.  His opponent in the primaries?  A woman!  Un-fuckin'-believable.

Bush and his cronies were gone.  Thank God.  Maybe we'd see some progress now that the Dems had regained power over a Congress and legislative process that was firmly out of control.

I felt proud to be an American that night.  Not in a NASCAR, country music, flag-waving kind of way, but rather in my beliefs that some real progress could be made in restoring the Constitution to its former glory.

Well, here we are sixteen months after that early November night. 

Have we made some progress?  I don't know. 

It remains to be seen if this Health Care bill will have any real teeth.  As a matter of fact, it might be horrible and cause real problems with our economy.  The truth is no one really knows yet.  Once the dust settles and the demagogues quiet down we'll see the real impact of it.

The Dems have proven time and time again they have no spinal cord.  The bitter truth may just be this:  they're as corruptible and greedy as their friends across the aisle.

Corporate America is an evil.  It's taking over America and no one--Dems alike---are doing anything to stop it.  The Supreme Court, the pillars of wisdom and objectivity for over two hundred years, just recently gave every corporation a free pass on doing whatever the hell they want to our election process.

Corporations can now donate money to elections.  Holy Shit.  Think of the impact this will have from local council person elections all the way up to the presidency.

Imagine this:  You're a local mayor that's up for re-election.  Your platform?  Renewable and sustainable energy.  You want the city to become more "Green,"  You're going to hold certain companies to a higher standard than what they've been held to for, oh, decades.

Your opponent?  Could care less about that.  Gets McDonald's or a major corporation whose best interests don't embrace the green movement to fund his campaign.

Think about those ramifications.  In every town in every state in this country.

Who is gonna be running it all soon?  Not us.  Not the American people.

What's to be done?

I wish I knew.

Real change comes slowly.  Obama is trying.  He's not a socialist; he cares about the American public.  I don't think I can say the same about the former administration or the corporate entities that seem to be swallowing us whole.

Only time will tell.




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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Crystal Balls.

What's that commercial jingle?

"Life comes at you pretty fast," or something like that.  I think it's an insurance commercial.

Last February I was driving a comfortably-used Chevy Malibu with about 225,000 Brian-induced miles on it.  I was living the solo life in the man cave.

By March 15th I had a new car and a girlfriend. 

Huh?  What the hell happened?

I didn't want to get a new car.  But, the Internal Combustion Gods had other plans.  After driving all over Hell's Half-Acre for seven years it gave up it's six-cylinder ghost.

A girlfriend?  I was comfy and content with my existence.  Of course I was happy at this interruption to my routine. 

But, like the commercial says...

Life changed really fast.

Perhaps too fast.

I loved the new stereo...the i-Pod jack in my dashboard.  The 27 MPG and extra storage space.  But I missed the moon roof on my old Malibu.

I liked the man cave.  My Redbox fix every Tuesday night, "Lost" on Wednesdays, "Survivor" on Thursdays and "Battlestar Galactica" on Fridays. My trusty canine sitting with me and my son in front of the 51" HD/ DTS 5.1 glory that the man cave provides.

I remember hanging out with my buddy Tom in early March and telling him that if he would have said in mid-February that I would have a new car and a girlfriend within a month, I would have said he was crazy.

Anyway, time passed.

I got content with the new car and the new female appendage in my life.

Still got the car.  Don't have the girl.

Rox and I went to the Lube to watch the Cavs in the Playoffs.  We saw Lebron make that miracle shot at the buzzer and defeat Orlando.  She celebrated with me. We passed some small talk back and forth.  She went home.  So did I.  We didn't even hug goodbye because we still had a million more beers to drink and wings to eat.

If Tom would have told me this was the last significant conversation that Rox and I would ever have I would have told him he was crazy.

Still got the Lube.  Don't have Rox.

I had a few friends that I haven't spoken to in years.  Decades even.  I also have friends that I've spoken to every day for decades.  Some of those old friendships were rekindled recently.  Some of my old friendships have fallen away.

If Tom would have told me that I'd be talking to Karla, Randy, or Mary this year I would have told him he was crazy.

Still got my old friends.  Don't have some of the new ones anymore.

Life moves by you pretty damn fast.  Sometimes there's no discernible reason why some things fall apart.  Or other things fall together.

But all this turmoil gave me something unexpectedly.

Insight.

I realized it's alright to lose something as long as you get something in return.

I'll never get over Rox's loss.  A part of me still loves Becky very much.

I've grown and realized some things about myself.

I look forward to the future and the challenges that it presents. I have a new appreciation for the people around me.  And the new people in my life.

My memories of both Roxanne and Becky still put a smile on my face.

And Tom didn't have to tell me anything about that.






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Monday, March 22, 2010

Here's Looking at You, Kid...In Your Eyes.

Yep, I'm a romantic.  Not in the Byron or Shelley poetry fashion, but someone who likes the finer things in life.  Some Jazz music playing in the background, a low fire, great conversation and a dimly lit room.

Buying your significant other a dozen roses, just because, to let her know that she's special.

Walking in the snow holding her hand, watching her trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue.

Slow dancing on a giant chess board at one in the morning to the drumbeat of her heart beating against yours.

Running hand in hand in a Spring thunderstorm, trying to dodge the raindrops and keep her dry.

In some cases, it's not the person you're sharing it with, but the act itself that makes it special.

That's the essence of "romance."

As a guy, I suppose it's not cool to admit that.  But, ya know what?  I like what I like.

Is that weird?

Maybe being raised on an unhealthy dose of American movies where the guy always gets the girl, no matter how ludicrous the circumstances, taught me to believe that anything is possible.

Well, almost anything.

You know, the nerdy kid gets the prom queen because he perseveres and sticks to his principles?  At the end of the flick everyone who used to beat the shit out of him now respects him as the whole school rallies around him and starts one of those slow claps.

Then everyone cheers him on, including he guys who beat the shit out of him and the hot girls who routinely laughed at him for, oh, his whole miserable, young life.

I know that never happens in the real world, right? 

Oh well.  I guess it might be called a passion for the ordinary; I can't imagine a life where I don't take a few moments out of each day to respect a sunset, or listen for the chirping of a songbird, or just take a deep breath and bring it all in.

Life is about passion, and what better way to express that in what drives the human condition?

When Rick tells Ilsa to get on the plane at the end of Casablanca it speaks for all of us.  Ingrid Bergman was smokin' hot!  Would I be able to tell the love of my life to leave me, forever?  That if she didn't leave now she'd regret it.  Maybe not now, but someday and for the rest of her life.

When John Cusack holds the boom box over his head and blasts Peter Gabriel to Ione Skye in Say Anything, don't we all wish we had Lloyd Dobler's passion?

Of course. 

And, of course, she eventually sees that within him and they live happily ever after.  Or at least until the credits roll.

What makes all of that romantic?  We don't see what happens to Lloyd and Diane in London.  Chances are they broke up not too soon after arriving.  She's focused; she knows what she wants out of life.  He's listless, lazy.  After a while that kind of existence would become grating.  He probably got dumped, hooked up with some English chick for a bit, and then went back to Seattle and got a job at Burger King because kickboxing did not become the sport of the future.

Rick probably sat at his Moroccan cafe and repeatedly asked himself why he let her go.  And drank himself to death.

But what makes those movies so memorable is that the credits rolled before the reality set in. We don't see the morning-after the happily-ever-after.  Or what happens after the cowboy rides off into the sunset.

Wouldn't that reality kill the moment?

Passion.

Romance.

These are the two greatest endeavors a person can pursue.  They'll get you through the darkest of times because you'll think that someday, soon, life will become magical.

And when that magic sets in it will reaffirm what you already know.  You'll walk on clouds.  Hear bells ringing.  And life will taste even sweeter.

Maybe I'm weird for thinking this way.  But, I can tell you that on a gray day the thought of a beautiful sunset thrills me.

And I look forward to that evening after the storm clouds have parted and that big orange ball dips slowly over Lake Erie, sizzling as it hits the bluish-gray water.

The sky is lit up, ablaze with a million colors.

And so am I.







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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Crash of the Titans

When I was fifteen I knew everything.  My parents were idiots.

When I was twenty I still knew everything.  You couldn't tell me a damn thing.

When I was twenty-five I started to think my parents, maybe, weren't so dumb after all.

At thirty, some serious chinks started to appear in my rusting armor.  Maybe I didn't know everything.

I'm almost forty-four and have realized that I'm the fuckin' idiot.

Oh, I have a good grasp on the world.  I've been in sales for a long time and have a solid, concrete knowledge of the human condition.

I just wished the rest of my friends would admit what I'm about to admit here.

Are you ready?

You're sure?

I'm speaking on behalf of every man.  That has ever lived.

Ever.

We don't have a clue as to what make women tick.

Well, that's not entirely true.  I do know a happily-married couple.  They've been blissfully happy for over twenty years now. But I think they're aliens, or at least pod people. 

You know that thing about rules? There's always an exception, and they are definitely that exception.  They get each other, and they always have.

But, clearly, most men walk around with a giant invisible question mark over their heads, kind of like an Archie comic book character.

I've read some books over the years about this.  And, just when I think I've got it all figured out, somehow the rules change.  Being from Mars, I just don't get Venus.

I remember discussing on this blog one lesson that I learned last year.

I joked about it, but it wasn't funny.  Or so said the Fairer Sex.

The infamous "Toilet Seat Rule."

Here's how dumb I am:  I had no idea that rule even existed.

Until I broke it.

I'm a smart dude.  I think.  I've never been married so some of these things are new to me, but these Estrogenic Laws are more concrete than anything Newton ever came up with.

I love women.  I mean really love them.

I love the way they smell.  Their smiles.  Their hair.  Their eyes.  And, of course, everything else that makes them so ungodly special.

But I don't know if I'll ever understand them.

It's kind of like the sun.  I love the warmth, the heat, and the way a sunny day makes me happy.

But I have no idea what makes it burn.  Why is it hot?  I don't know.

I just accept it.

But, why do their moods change? From minute to minute?

Why do they say one thing and mean another?

How can they recall every detail from a conversation that happened months or years ago?

Why do they constantly compare themselves to other women?

Why do they expect us to read their minds?

Why do they get mad when we can't read their minds?

I guess it's all about some kind of cosmic balancing act, right?  If we really understood each other it would make it all too easy and maybe we'd all lose interest in the opposite sex.  Not that we'd all turn gay or something, but X-Box or football would become the only reason to exist.

Reproduction might stop and then cockroaches would take over the world.

I'm not saying we're easy to figure out either.  I've got plenty of female friends who can't understand what men think either.

Maybe the counterpoint to my dilemma is when a woman thinks how the hell could he be so insensitive to leave that damn toilet seat up?

I guess it's simple.  Maybe we should take the time to talk and understand what we each want or need.  As opposed to playing X-Box non-stop or bitching about little bathroom-related details, we should lay out our expectations.

Hmmm, maybe my alien friends did that twenty years ago.  That's why they're still going strong.

Communication? A logical concept, even for aliens. 

Or pod people.




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Thursday, March 18, 2010

An Urge to Purge.

Have you ever taken a good, solid look around your house and realize just how much stuff you've collected over the years?

Not just clothes, but totally useless things?  Twenty years of National Geographic magazines...DVDs that you bought because it was a great film when you were seven, but still sits on the shelf wrapped in the plastic wrap...old baseball cards or comic books, shoved away in a box in a spare room closet...

I'm sure at some point in your life these things had some type of meaning.  But, jeez, maybe it's time for a memorabilia colonic.

My dad was a collector.  He loved old Swing Band records.  He had thousands of them and would constantly order new ones via mail order.  When he died my mom and I counted about ten thousand LPs in our attic.

So I guess my DVD bug is genetic, inherited from a lifelong collector that showed his young son the ropes.

Anyway, I had this urge the other night to start purging myself of a lot of this crap that sits around, collecting dust.

I put a status update on Facebook that advertised I was selling some stuff: furniture, movie posters, my (unused) piano and big screen TV.

I must have gotten about twenty e-mails from friends worried that, yep, I had finally gone off the deep end.

I am grateful for their concerns, but no, Elvis has not left the building.

I'm just tired of defining myself by my belongings.  I have some cool shit, but honestly, how often do I watch my DVDs?

I haven't looked at the baseball cards or comic books in, oh, thirty years.  The Nat Geos?  I'll find a school and donate the whole lot. 

All eight thousand pounds of them.

So the purge has begun; I feel good so far.

I gave a cool framed Batman poster to a friend of mine that loves superheroes.  I think he'll get much more enjoyment out of it than I have. 

And that act alone made me feel good.

If I'm lucky, in a year I'll have very few belongings.

Oh, I'll keep the important things.  Last year I was asked the question, "In the event of a fire, what possessions would you grab before running out of the burning house?"

I'll keep those; everything else is just "stuff." 

And I'll replace my want of things with a need for more intangibles.

Like friends.

And new memories.

Money and time spent better elsewhere.

After all, friendships don't collect dust like baseball cards and movie posters.




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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A River Runs Through It...

I had a fantastic day today.  I took the day off from work and spent about twelve hours pub-crawling all over Lorain County.  We hit nine places in about seven hours and then spent the last several hours at the same watering hole.

I'm tired.

It was great tossing back a few beers with close friends and making some new ones along the way.

However, what would a day in my life be without a little rumination?  It's a goddamn curse, but it also helps me to put things into perspective.

As I sat at the high-top table, my legs dangling like a first grader to the floor, I took a moment from the reverie to go back almost a year in time.

Trust me, this wasn't my conscious mind doing this.  The sight of a table that was less than ten feet from me and my circle of friends took me back to last year.

It was early April.  It was warm outside and I had accompanied Becky and her young son to shoot some pictures in rural Lorain County.  While Becky shot I walked around the grounds of this metropark with her son exploring various ravines and hillsides.

We finished up, got into my car, and started to head home.  I realized we weren't too far from Roxanne's house so we called her.  I wanted Becky to meet her and we all agreed to get together at Church Street Bar and Grille for some wings.  And to celebrate Roxanne's 40th birthday.

My new girlfriend was about to meet my oldest friend.  I was nervous.  Roxanne hated all of my prior girlfriends.  Every one of them.

Without exception.

I was afraid she would hate Becky and I, of course, didn't want Rox to dislike her.

Rox met us there and it went well.  Becky excused herself to go to the bathroom and Rox told me, with a smile on her face, that she got a really good first impression.

"I like this one," she said.

I was happy that night.  I was in love.  My friend Roxanne was there to see me bask in that glow.

It's truly amazing how one year can make a difference.

Roxanne is dead.  Gone forever.

Becky and I are done.  Gone forever.

Yet that goddamn table sits there to remind me of that night.

And how happy I was at that one distinct moment in time.

I realized something a while back but haven't been able to put it into words until recently.

Life, it seems, is like a river.  And like a river it does its own thing.  It doesn't obey any laws or follow any rules.  It cuts its own path when the waters are raging.

As the heat and sun bear down upon its banks it dries up, the high waters recede and its flow becomes a trickle.

But we all know that, like life, the waters will rage again.

And cut a new path.

We are all on a journey.  It ebbs.  Flows.  And brings people to us.

Some of them stay for a while.   Others stay forever.

While there are those that are gone forever, their ghosts cut deep into our memory.

Maybe the sight of a nondescript table where you enjoyed a meal, friendship, and both romantic and platonic love can trigger a flood that brings them back to you.

And instead of happiness, you feel a sadness for what once was and the laughter of a friend that you'll never experience again.





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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And So It Goes...

The old haunts, the old hobbies, and the old standbys just don't cut it anymore.

Period.

Last year brought about a litany of change to my life.

During those times I was content in the man cave.

For several years.

I had a routine.

It wasn't bliss, but it worked.

I loved my little DVD collection, spending time with my dog and looked forward to those weekend jaunts to the local marsh to photograph bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and other interesting wildlife. I hung out with my friends at our then-favorite watering hole.

Even my national park fixation has lost its luster.

What happened?

I wish I could put a finger on it.

Is it always just one thing?

Does it have to be something traumatic?

It doesn't seem to be any one thing.

Ever see pictures of a massive iceberg, white as can be? Then suddenly it flips, exposing the blue underbelly?

For no reason, other than some small chemical reaction, it flipped at that moment.

Who knows why? Maybe too much heat, buoyancy compensation, a change in salinity or it was upset by an errant seal or bear jumping off it like a springboard.

That's how I feel.

Maybe it's just time.

The things that brought me such joy, such contentment, no longer hold any magic.

What new sorcery do you conjure?

I wish I knew.

Hocus-Pocus. Poof.
All better.






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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Desperado.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. 

Or something like that.

When do we begin to start giving up on our dreams?  Is it after the first child arrives and reality sets in?  The late night Taco bell runs give way to late night diaper changes; which, I guess is appropriate because one of their burritos feels and smells like a soiled diaper...

The endless possibilities end.

Responsibility trumps wishing.

Our future is filled with thoughts of our yesterdays.  We cling to some of the vagaries of our youth and then sullenly look back when we've hit forty and realized that we've compromised our ideals and dreams in favor of...

What, exactly?

A nice car?

A split-level with a finished basement?

Toys?  Toys? And more toys?

What happened to backpacking across Europe?

The undiscovered country?

The passion of a first kiss? 

The idea of something that lasts forever.

We get bogged down in the daily grind.  The laundry.  The dusting and vacuuming.  And, once again, the vagaries of adulthood.

Jimmy Carter gave a speech to the American people late in his term that proposed the American people were starting to become defined not by who we are and the deeds that we do, but rather by the things that we own. 

How prophetic he was a little over thirty years ago.

Can you imagine a president going on national TV today, pre-empting "Idol" or "Lost" and telling us to stop buying things?  Talk about controversial; he'd be attacking the basic fiber of our being.

And the media outlets, owned by larger corporations, would crucify him and blame him for state of the economy.

What did Bush say after 9/11?  Go on with your lives, he said.  Go to the mall.  Buy something.

Or else the terrorists win.

Hmmm.

Think back to when you were young.  Before the mini-vans and the cell phones. Before five hundred digital cable channels.  Before I-Pods.

Now think of swimming in a pond with your friends on a feckless summer afternoon.

Sparklers and watermelon on the Fourth of July.

Watching a small black and white TV that you had to adjust the rabbit ears because the higher band channels were always fuzzy.

Taking long walks with your best friend and talking about anything.  And everything.

Christmas caroling with your church choir at a nursing home.

The annual vacation with mom, dad, and siblings in a car much too small for all of you.

And, best of all, that first kiss.

All of these moments, and hundreds more, didn't involve texting, HDTV, or dash-mounted DVD players.

In our quest for happiness, we've fulfilled Carter's prophecy.

And, in the vagaries of adulthood, have these things made us any happier than when we were thirteen?

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Prior to Blockbuster and Netflix ruining the industry, I used to manage a video store in Elyria back when VHS and Beta were King.  I loved that job; spent many years there honing what would become the most important skills of my life.  I learned about money, inventory control, management, and most importantly, people.

My customers would routinely bring me Christmas cards, Easter eggs, birthday presents and a gregarious hello whenever I saw one of them outside of the store.  I remember one Christmas in particular.  One of my regulars, who had three kids, a suspect job, and not much money brought me a card.  Inside that Hallmark was a five dollar bill; she smiled and said that it wasn't much but I knew it was more than she could afford.

To this day that remains one of the best Christmas presents that I've ever received.

People, streaming in and out of that store, would ask my recommendations for a good Friday night flick.  Being kind of a film snob, living at mom's house with nary a care, I would tell them about the newest Merchant-Ivory "film" or a cool old black and white.  I then would get offended when they took home the latest Rodney Dangerfield comedy.

I had a philosphy professor in college that told me the "Arts" were a playground for the wealthy.  My twenty-one year old mind couldn't comprehend that.  What did he mean?  I'm not rich.

I love movies!  And music.  And Broadway...

I also didn't have a mortgage and had just recently acquired a car payment.  Most of my free money went to college parties.  Or my girlfriend's expensive desire to eat out every weekend.  And back in those days, twenty extra bucks had to last for more than a cheeseburger and a coupla beers.  But she was a good kisser so I let it slide.

Back in the academic world, I still didn't understand my prof's statement.

I sat in the man cave last night and watched the Academy Awards.

Sort of.

In between Facebook, work spread sheets and net-surfing I caught a few of the awards and the barf-inducing self-congratulations that these overpaid celebs spewed upon each other with no hint of irony.

The pre-Oscar show pundits were talking about the controversies.

Controversy?

What, exactly, was so world-shattering and hype-building about an awards show?

Did Fox News amp up the Terror Alert to "Pink" for all the Hollywood types?

Did they expect fights to break out if Jeff Bridges lost to Morgan Freeman?

Does any of this really matter to anyone?

I then thought back to 1994.  It was an early April night.  A Monday.  I got to Laurel's house to watch the Oscars. She was pregnant with our son and tired from being on her feet all day.  She was only a few months along and not even showing yet but her feet always swelled after a few hours of retail management Hell.

I plopped on the crisp leather couch to watch my "Jurassic Park" cronies take home a boatload of technical awards.  I saw Spielberg take home his first "Best Director" award for "Schindler's List." 

I was excited for people that I barely knew, but had dinner with a few times eighteen months before in the jungles of Hawai'i.

Then I looked down.  Sleeping in my lap was a beautiful woman.  Our child was growing inside of her and her warmth felt like a blanket on top of me as she was laying, comfortably and secure, across my lap.  As they announced the Best Picture winner Laurel woke up.  She glanced up, smiled and kissed me.

That night it dawned on me.

Movies had consumed a good part of my young life.  I liked escaping from Elyria, Ohio to the far reaches of space, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  I enjoyed being taken to Amity Island and helping chase a giant shark.  I liked watching Taylor discover the ruins of the Statue of Liberty and cursing those damn, dirty apes.

But now something greater was happening; movies didn't seem as important as they were before.

My son's birth and adolescence made me understand what that BGSU prof had said all those years before.  The Arts weren't just for wealthy people, but for those that had the time to enjoy what they have to say.

As a new father, I didn't have that time. 

And frankly I didn't enjoy them anymore.

Give me a Jim Carrey comedy.  Entertain me. Blow some stuff up.  Engage me on a guttural level.  And, as I've said before, some boobs would be nice.

Oh, I still love the damn dirty apes but the galaxy far, far away lost much of its draw.

After all, why would I want to leave this galaxy when my wonderful son is in this one?






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