Friday, May 30, 2008

Unsolicited Advice

My wife took the kids to the gym this morning. They look forward to these mornings. The daycare there is an opportunity to socialize and the Boy and Girl enjoy the staff very much. This morning my wife got called down from her workout because the Boy had an accident. He pooed his pants and felt pretty bad about it, but accidents happen. It had made quite a mess and he had to be hauled off to the bathroom for a thorough cleaning and a substantial calming. His pants were unusable afterward.

Since this had never happened before, my wife, who is generally overprepared, had no spare pair of pants in the diaper bag. So the Boy had to exit the gym wearing only a shirt, shoes, and a clean pair of training pants - his big boy underwear. The whole thing, from the accident to the lack of pants, caused him great embarassment and consternation.

As they were leaving an elderly man standing by the door noticed them. He began to say to himself, but pointedly loud enough for her to hear, "It's too cold for a kid to have no pants. What kind of a mother would let her kid run around with no pants? He's wearing nothing but a diaper. He should have pants on." He just went on and on with his disapproval.

My wife, having just experienced the joy of cleaning shit from her son and feeling her own self-imposed guilt for not packing a spare pair of pants, came undone. "Hey, asshole," she yelled, "He doesn't have pants on because he shit himself and the pants are covered with it. He can't wear them now, so live with it." My wife is quite calm and not prone to angry outbursts of cursing - especially not in front of the children and certainly not at total strangers - so it goes without saying that this fellow got under her skin and really upset her. Not to mention the additional shame he saddled upon my son.

What is it with these folks who assume they are blessed with the right to comment on the presumed parenting failures of people they have never met? How much cowardice must he possess to make his comments, not to her, but about her, and within earshot? Who was this ass?

"Oh your baby must be cold without a hat."
"You need to feed that child."
"That boy could do with a haircut."

I'm a little tired of all of it. If I need your advice I will seek it out, otherwise assume I have it under control.

It's a good thing it was my wife and not me this morning. It would have been much worse: "If you're so worried about it, give him your fucking pants or shut the fuck up."

Show and Tell

"Daddy, Daddy, come look. I peed!" That is the phrase I have heard for nearly a month now. The Boy's pride in the accomplishment should not be diminished. He regularly disappears into the bathroom and does his job. It takes little prompting or reminding from us anymore - he's a self-starter in that respect. But after a month of wandering in to see his urine I'm losing my interest. "Yep, you peed. Good job, little man," is my standard response. It feels like a line. My wife and I are to the point where we flip a coin to see who gets the privilege.

It isn't just that we're expected to look upon his waste with awe every time, but also the fact that his announcements are delivered naked from the waist down, on a dead run. That is his process: pee, jump off, race to get us, show off his achievement, flush. It has a ritual quality now, like carving the Thanksgiving bird or hanging the stockings Christmas eve. Every 2 hours or so, another holiday.

I'm sure this phase will end soon... right?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Octagon

Many years ago, in a drunken, teen, moment of weakness, my pals and I traipsed off to the local multiplex one Friday night to take in a Chuck Norris movie, The Octagon. We laughed our way through it, at first annoying and then entertaining our fellow patrons with our comments. It was a film of such stupidity, and its martial arts, death match, plot so weak, that no one in the theater could take it seriously.

Here we are nearly three decades later and The Octagon has made a return. CBS, the former tiffany network (though that designation gasped its last with the premiere of Two and a Half Men) is airing a mixed martial arts fight this Saturday night. It's billed as a championship of sorts. Two men will duke it out and bloody one another until one succumbs or is knocked unconscious - hey, at least it isn't to the death.

This whole UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) thing has slipped under my radar, apparently. I have seen the various incarnations advertised on pay-per-view and Spike, but always assumed it was a niche. In our day and age, when boxing's fanbase is waning due to an increasing sense of the sport's brutality, I could not imagine a more brutal "sport" making such a splash. It seems wrestling fans, tired of the staged fights and fake blood, are demanding the real deal. So, we have The Octagon. Genuine pummelling, real blood, the last full measure of pain; that's what the public is clamoring for.

So set your Tivo, plan your party. Bread and Circuses are for everyone and The Octagon isn't so damned funny anymore.

Family

We are frightened by the provincial ways of Missouri. Black Jack, Mo, has refused an occupancy permit to an unmarried couple who purchased a house there. It seems unmarried couples can cohabitate if the children are related to both of the adults. In this case the man is not the children's father. That means, according to the town's ordinance, they are not a family. Thanks for helping us out. So the children are unable to have a father figure because you pinheads have a rather narrow view of the world. The "related" requirement probably isn't a problem for the other residents of Black Jack as it's likely they are all in-bred.

The Weight

The phone rang while I was shaving. It was quarter of seven in the morning, but a phone call wasn't uncommon at that hour. I would frequently get early calls from the office to let me know if there were problems waiting for me when I arrived. However, after the long Memorial Day weekend I really didn't want to start the week with issues. RC got the phone. She said it was for me. "Is it Tracy?" I asked as I walked to the phone. "It doesn't sound like her," RC answered, sotto voce.

"Hello?" I said putting the phone to my ear.
"Lex?" asked the voice at the other end.
"Yes."
"You don't know me, Lex. I work with your mom. My name is Rick," she said.
"Hi, Rick," I said.
"Kind of a weird thing to ask, I know, but do you know how to get a hold of your mom?"
"Uh, I think she's still in Washington. She took a long weekend there with a friend," I answered.
"Yeah, we can't reach her."
"I have a phone number she gave me. Let me get it." I flipped through the pad next to the phone and recited the number to her.
"That's the one we have, but no one is answering," she said.
"I'm sorry, that's all I have. They probably took the phone off the hook."
She was quiet for a while.
"Are you still there?" I asked, finally.
"Lex, I know we've never met, but I have some bad news." she said quietly.
"Oh," I said, a little confused, "What happened?"
"There's been an accident," she said.
Oh God, I thought, one of my grandparents has fallen and broken a hip. Great.
"I feel weird telling you. I've never met you," she said, obviously nervous.
"Well, you know, just tell me, I guess," I said, a little befuddled.
Her voice broke. "Your brother was in an accident yesterday."
"Lee?" I asked.
"He... he was killed."
"What?" I said quietly.
"Lee was killed."
"What?" I said, a little louder.
"An accident, yesterday, Lee was killed."
"What?" I yelled.
"On his motorcycle, yesterday, in Denver. I'm so sorry."
"What!" I screamed.
RC stood next to me and asked me what was I talking about. I said the words: "Lee is dead."
RC screamed, "Oh God!" and collapsed against the wall before sliding to the floor, her head in her hands. I turned back to the phone. Rick was just saying how sorry she was. I don't really remember listening to her much after that. I just remember mumbling, what, over and over again; a gut-wrenching mantra.

There was for me the sense of walking on a seabed in an old diving suit, the clunky lead boots tied me to the muck below as my body's buoyancy fought to push me to the surface. It felt like I had forgotten the helmet and I could not breath.

That phone call came 18 years ago today, May 29th, 1990. It was a stone thrown in a pond, changing everything, the ripples of which continue even now. Of course, it wasn't the phone call that did the changing; it was the previous day's death the phone call reported that did the destruction. Although Lee died on that Memorial Day, it's always felt to me like he died the day after, during that early morning phone call. It was as if all those whats I kept repeating were my desperate attempts to save him: a verbal defibrillator that failed.

By September of that year I would be running through most of Europe on a three month odyssey to escape that which I could not fix, could not manage away. It was a failed solution, the first of many, from alcohol to hermitage; none of which could make the pain stop (I even made a bitter and angry list, pages and pages long, of everyone that I thought a more just universe should have killed before him - in hindsight, a rather funny roll call).

For so many years after his death I saw the loss of my brother, my dearest, closest friend, as something I must get over - must move beyond - as if it were separate and distinct from myself, some obstacle thrown up in my path to be pushed aside or navigated around. That proved impossible, not just because my grief was so devasting, but because it would not be left behind. Only when I realized that it would always be with me did I see my way forward. The tragedy would be a sledge I hauled behind me for the rest of my days in exhaustion, or even an anchor that eternally tethered me to a horrible moment; or I could pick the grief up, pare it down, and stow it in a pack, to be carried forever as part of my baggage. I choose the latter; better to bear it on my back than drag it through the dirt.

Over time its added weight has strengthened me and expanded my endurance. The weight also means I move more deliberately and, on some days, more painfully, but I move. As I grow older I find, like backpacking through the mountains, I must rest more frequently as I tire more quickly. On the worst of days it can make me gasp for air, but that, at least, is breathing.

My son's middle name is my brother's first. My Boy looks very much like his uncle and his best qualities - his sweetness, his empathy, his laugh - remind me of his namesake. I see my sibling every day in my child. That makes the load both heavier and lighter. That is my life, after.

So, today, it is with me, as it is every day, and like that heavy backpack in the mountains I must shift it as needed to ease its burden, to maintain my balance, but I can not leave it behind. It is part of who I am and who I will always be.

And, on this day, I miss him, a lot.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kubb

This week's poll of backyard activities neglected one that's wormed its way into my heart: Kubb. A crazy little Norwegian creation, it involves teams tossing sticks in an attempt to knock down their opponents' castles. It's rather addictive and a lot of fun.

My cousin introduced me to it a couple of years ago and I'm finally breaking down and getting a set for us this season. Most excellent.

Chill

A weekend to remember; that's what it was. The weather continued its freaky ways. Where the previous weekend saw temps in the 100's and the first use of AC this year, this weekend we had to go back to the heat. The high temperature on Sunday was 55 degrees, the lowest high ever recorded on the date, which beat the previous record low high by 13 degrees. Add to that the beauty of rain, lots of rain. Here in Cali we see no precip from April to November. Oh sure, we might get a little sprinkle or even the rare, but not unheard of, thunderstorm during that six months, but mostly it's dry. It rained all day on Sunday, a good steady rain.

All that crumminess made for indoor activities. A cabinet in the laundry room, hung forty years ago with 16 penny nails from the rafters, collapsed on Friday. No one was under it, fortunately but I got to spend Saturday rehanging it. It is large and heavy. Two neighbors held it while I drove six inch screws. It required some effort to get them in. In the process of pushing with the drill I hurt my wrist. The next morning the wrist would not move, or rather it would move but it was excruciating to do so. I visited the urgent care ( I have my own chair in the waiting room now) and, viola, dislocated wrist and sprain. It's feeling better now and I'm grateful it wasn't broken, but it was just one more indication that I should have climbed into bed on January 1st and stayed there for the duration.

The weather is looking up and I'm learning to do things left-handed, so a reason to smile... I guess.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In-law Poll Results

We seem to like our in-laws, for the most part, with 7 votes in favor. 2 people just put up with their partner's parents. But 3 of you dread their presence. Aw, the joys of adopted elders. Personally, I've always liked the sires of my mates, sometimes more than the mate themselves.

For this week, with the official kick-off to summer and backyards, choose your favorite lawn sport.

Because There's A Website For Every One #60

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #59

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #58

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #57

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #56

click the image

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Quarter Past

My bout a couple of months ago with pneumonia was not my first encounter with that hacking misery. Twenty-five years ago, while in college, I took a beating from it as well. I was a theatre major at the University of Colorado and in the middle of rehearsals for a grueling production. The final week before opening I developed a fever, cough and exhaustion. I gave up going to classes and arose only at five in the afternoon for some broth before making my way to rehearsals. I got sicker and more feverish, but felt responsible to the rest of the cast as I was the lead and had no understudy.

By the time opening night arrived I was a disaster, but the show must go on. I asked a roommate to drive me to the campus hospital and see if they could give me some kind of B-12 shot to get me through it. I got to the emergency room and after an examination was informed I had pneumonia - I was very sick. I told them I knew that but could they give me anything for it. The doctor said they would start me on some antibiotics (in case it was bacterial) and get some fluids in me. They also thought some steroids and breathing treatment were in order. I asked how long that would all take because I had a call in less than an hour. The doc shook his head and said I no longer had any plans: he was admitting me to the hospital. I could expect to be there for a couple of days at least. Despite my objections he was firm. So the show was cancelled and I was admitted.

The hospital wasn't substantial. It was only twenty beds and was used for student illnesses. It had been there for years and though the staff was drawn from the medical school, the facility was old.

That night they wheeled me down to get some chest X-rays and while they set up the room parked me in my chair outside. I heard another wheelchair behind me and when I turned around there was another patient. Strangely enough, I knew him. A vocal music major, Scott and I had met at a number of social occasions as the theatre and music departments had a lot of crossover and often mingled at parties. As sick as we both were we laughed at the coincidence: we both had pneumonia. When she took me up to my room the nurse said it was a good thing Scott and I knew one another because we were the only patients in the hospital.

It turned out she was right it was a good thing - there were no televisions in the rooms. In between sleeping I got very bored so I wandered down the hall to Scott's room and we would chat. For the next couple of days we talked shop, gossiped, and bitched about teachers. They weren't long conversations; we both felt exhausted, but as sick as I was, he was worse.

On my third day there I woke up and tried to read, but couldn't stay focused so I slipped down to Scott's room. When I got there it was empty and the staff was cleaning it. I went to the nurse's station and asked where Scott was. She said he'd gotten worse over night and they had transfered him to Rose Medical Center in Denver. "Crap," was all I could muster. She offered me some more magazines. I took them under my arm and started back down the hall. As I passed his room I noticed how thorough they were in their cleaning. They were even scrubbing down the walls.

For the next two days I slept, had a few visitors and generally got better until my doc said he was sending me home. I was to stay in bed, however, for the week and not even try to attend classes. I did as I was told but after four days I felt well enough to take a shot. That morning, after I had related to my classmates the foolishness of suffering for one's art, I mentioned that Scott had been in the hospital with me. It got very quiet and they all looked at one another. Finally someone said that Scott had died three days earlier.

One month after Scott died, twenty-five years ago this week, on May 20, 1983, Luc Montagnier and a team at the Pasteur Institute published a paper in the journal Science that identified the virus which killed Scott. Since Scott's death an estimated 25 million more people have died from that virus worldwide. As many as 36 million people are currently infected.

Scott was by no means the first to die, but he was the first I knew. Since then I have known many more, some just acquaintances, some good friends. Mark was one of the latter, and he was my last mentor; my last teacher. A tall, handsome, hard-drinking native San Franciscan, Mark answered the phones where I worked. Older than I by a couple of years he dropped into my hands the lens through which I view all governments and social structures. I am forever grateful for his gifts to me of Debord and Vaneigem, usually left on my desk without notes or identifiers. His radical politics were kept close to the vest, but if you had his trust he would show you a delightfully subversive side of himself.

During the first Gulf War, as San Francisco became one giant protest march, Mark and some cohorts posted flyers all over town announcing Joe Montana would be a guest speaker at a huge rally scheduled for the Civic Center. It forced both the organizers and Montana to disavow their involvement. Mark felt that both sides participated in spectacle and not action, and that meant his job was to take them both to the edge. He was always the grinning monkey discretely disrupting things.

When he was diagnosed with AIDS it came as a blow. At the time the coctail was non-existent; the primary drug was AZT. He dreaded its side effects - the nausea, the headaches, the discolored nails - but most of all he dreaded the fact that he could not drink while he was on it. As his health declined he became more and more convinced of the futility of the struggle. He walked away from their meds and turned back to his own. He drank hard, and happily... for a while. The last time I saw him he had lost so much weight the wind practically blew through his bones. Sarcomas caused him pain and he was bitter. It so upset me to see how much of his bright and vibrant soul it had taken that I wept, and he rightly asked me to leave. He passed away several weeks later.

In the U.S. HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was. The coctail has turned it into a chronic, but relatively manageable disease. As a result we see it as we do say, diabetes. But it's not. The coctail is beginning to fail and has detrimental long term health effects of its own. Worse yet, it is completely out of reach for the vast majority of people in the third world. Infections are on the upswing and half of the new infections are in women. An entire generation of orphans has been created by this disease and there is no end in sight.

We wore our ribbons for a while (as if that was going to do anything in the first place). We read about it and cared and saw Philadelphia. But we moved on to whatever new shiny caught our fancy or new annoyance stoked our fury. So now the quilt is falling apart with no place to store it and hormonal teens imagine they can fellate their way to safety.

25 years and it's still here. It didn't go away. Scott and Mark and 25 million others deserve better. 36 million expect more. It will get worse. It's only a quarter past.

15 Billion

How do I get in on this scam?

"In one remarkable instance, a 320-million-dollar payment in cash was handed over with little more than a signature in exchange."

Well, I guess I am in on it - just the wrong end.

More party tricks

Or just laundry tricks.
And to think, you laughed at all those Gap clerks.

Friday Tricks

It's Friday and that means?
You guessed it - party tricks. Thank me later.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Of Wedding Bells And Zyklon B

So the California Supreme Court tosses Prop 22 to the fire and gives a big thumbs up to marriage equality. Hear, hear. Now come the nutjobs. The Campaign for Children and Families (oh, please) is urging county clerks in the state not to issue licenses to same sex couples.

In their argument they toss off a few howlers...

Ask your county clerk if they were a Nazi officer during WWII and had been ordered to gas the Jews, would they? At the Nuremberg trials, they would have been convicted of murder for following this immoral order. And should have states obeyed the 1857 Dred Scott decision designating black slaves as "property," not "persons"? Abraham Lincoln reacted with disgust to the ruling and was spurred into political action, publicly speaking out against it. Several state legislatures essentially nullified the decision and declared that they would never permit slavery within their borders, no matter who ordered them to do so. Likewise, the ruling to destroy the man-woman definition of marriage should not be obeyed.

Yeah, permitting a loving couple to marry is the equivalent of participating in the holocaust. Please, somebody help these twits. Really, send them some meds.

They complain (of course) about activist judges legislating from the bench; going against the will of the people. When will these lunatics learn that we do not live in a democracy? Hello? We live in a constitutional democracy. The constitution is designed to stand against the will of the people. The masses would always get their way in a democracy. The constitution is not for them; it's for the minority. It keeps the majority from running roughshod over the minority. Prop 22 was exactly that which the constitution is there to prevent.

Once again, send them some meds, please.

Regional Yucks

True Midwestern humor.

I was in a Missouri convenience store a couple of years back. Man in front of me is buying a sixpack. As he pays, the clerk asks if he wants a sack. "Nope," he says, "I'm no Methodist."

In Iowa, they're laughing their asses off right now.

Snip, Snip

The kids are off with their mom this morning for haircuts. The Boy is objecting. He does not want to go. He is fearful. As a result he is referring to it as a "scarecut."

Here It Comes

I stopped by my local Chevron this morning to pick up a paper. The owner, Mike, and I had a little chat. He informed me gas was going up 20 cents a gallon today. Seems he gets a fax from his supplier a couple of times a week giving him his wholesale cost. This week he has gotten one that raised his cost every night since Monday. The fax last night and the night before each raised it 8 cents. He expected another tonight. Today's increase will take regular to $4.35 a gallon.

Overnight crude oil went to $135 a barrel.

This is going to get bad, folks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blow The Man Down

Things change. The unseasonable 100 degree temps we've endured for the last week have moderated, but in exchange we are now suffering wind - lots of wind. Where we once were sweating like pigs, we now are back in fleece and raking unlucky leaves from the yard. The blow is expected to continue, and increase, through tomorrow. The kids, who were kept inside through the heat of the day, must now be battened down for fear of ending up in Oz. They're bitter. I'm just windblown. Nature is a bitch.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

The previous post got a comment from mom. For some reason I was reminded of one of her little jokes from my adolescence.

Out sick from school for a day (legitimately) I needed an excuse note from her the following morning. I hounded her as she got ready to go to work. She finally sat down with pen and paper.

It read:

To whom it may concern,

Please excuse Lex's absence yesterday as he foolishly got his finger stuck in a faucet spigot and we were unable to remove it for quite some time. We hope he has learned his lesson.

Sincerely,
Lex's still very young looking mother

She would not provide me with another. I was forced to turn it in. It remained pinned to the school office bulletin board for the remainder of the term.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The One About The...

Thirty years old, and rarely shared during the last twenty, the dust is thick upon this story that is part Waiting For Godot, part No Exit, part Oliver Twist, part absurdist cautionary tale, part dream, part magical realism, perhaps even part ghost story; but all true. If there were only one witness the veracity of memory could be questioned, but there were two of us. Though it does have a minor punch line, you will likely cull nothing from this tale. No lessons lurk within. There is no epiphany. It has no moral. There is only its truth.

My brother and I drank and dined on this story for ten years after it happened. It was performed – yes, performed – for family, for friends, for barflies, for complete strangers. We had a routine, first one would speak, then the other; we knew our lines and like a long tennis rally the audience would shift from me to him and back again. It was rarely embellished; there was no need. After several years it was a standard, and in gatherings, usually late at night, usually full from a good meal and properly intoxicated, after everyone else had told their stories and it was finally quiet, someone would, especially if there was a virgin in the group, inevitably look to my brother and me and say, “Tell it. Tell the one about waiting for the bus…”

The Setup

Denver is a sprawling metropolis. Although the city proper is no larger than it was forty years ago, its surrounding bedroom communities spread up and down the Front Range, making it almost one giant metroplex from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins. Downtown Denver is bustling with nightlife after the renovation and gentrification (read: loftification) of its old warehouse district and the addition of Coors Field next to the Platte. It is an action-packed urban center, albeit rather homogenous.

In the 1970’s, however, things were different. After 6:00 pm, downtown Denver died. The bankers and oilmen slipped out of the offices, returned to their suburban homes, and left the center of town empty; a wasteland. Not a soul could be found save the occasional character from a Bukowski poem and the odd, lost visitor looking for something akin to nightlife. The sidewalks rolled up in that cowtown. Buses would rumble through but only so they could get from one side of town to the other in the most direct fashion. Cars were nonexistent, preferring the freeways. On particularly desolate and windy nights one could see tumbleweeds blowing down 16th street. It would have been an ideal location for an end-of-the-world film.

In 1978 I was going to high school in Denver, although technically I shouldn’t have been. We were living in another school district - another county - west of Denver. Fate had dropped a bomb on our family. We were homeless. We had moved in with friends who put us up while our mother worked as a waitress trying to save enough to get us on our feet. I had no desire to add yet another institution to my curriculum vitae (it was the third high school I had attended by my junior year) so we lied to the district and I continued to attend my old school. My brother, Lee, still in junior high, had felt the same.

Our commute was huge. Every morning we would rise at five and get a ride into downtown where we would catch a city bus, transfer to another and then walk eight or so blocks to our respective schools. In the evening, we would catch the two buses back downtown where we would then catch yet another bus for the 45 minute ride back home. It made for long days and, due to the lack of district residency, discrete ones as well.

For anyone who has ever taken the bus on a regular basis, depended upon it for their transportation needs, there is an understanding of the kinds of passengers with whom one shares a seat; the kind of people one meets at a bus stop. For us there was the regular with the tinfoil hat. There was the guy who smelled of last night’s rum and yelled out the bus window every morning at the same elderly jogger, “Keep it up, you ain’t got much time left.” There was the wino who, one morning as we walked to the stop, begged us for last 35 cents he needed to purchase a bottle of Night Train. When we obliged him, he said, “Bless you. I been waitin out here since Jesus died.” There was the homeless guy who, upon spying my brother taking pictures at the bus stop one morning, offered to let Lee photograph him getting into and digging through a dumpster, all for the small fee of one dollar. My brother gave him the buck, but declined the reciprocation. We met all kinds back then.

In the early spring of 78 I was doing a play, rehearsing after classes until five or so in the afternoon. My brother would meet me at my school and wait impatiently for my rehearsals to end before we began our long jaunt home. A couple of times I had run late and we had been forced to wait longer than usual for the bus out of downtown; a bus whose schedule became less frequent after rush hour.

The Performance

One night in March I was again late getting out of rehearsal. As a result my brother and I got downtown just a little before six. We waited at our usual stop as the sun slipped behind the mountains to the west and the air began to chill. The last of the commuters were fleeing and the streets were seeing less and less traffic. We ignored one another the way teenage brothers do; the staring off into space interrupted only by an occasional comment from one or the other of us. Time dragged on. It grew darker and darker. Eventually no traffic went by on the street in front of us and, more importantly, no buses arrived. After an hour or so we began to bitch and grumble. We were getting cold, hungry, and the bus was most certainly late.

We sat on the bench and began to argue about whether we should, and which of us would, find a payphone, make a call and get someone to pick us up. The sticking point being that the bus could come and strand the unlucky phone hunter. The argument took some time and no resolution came from it, but by that time it was 7:30 and still no bus.

The wind and trash blowing down the street were the only noises we heard until…

From around the corner came the sound of singing; children singing. At first we ignored it. Either we weren’t aware of its oddness or we just didn’t care, but later we both agreed that it was curious that we didn’t investigate immediately. As it got louder and was accompanied by a rattling we finally perked up. I got up from the bench and wandered around the corner to take a look. A block or so away, in the middle of the street, was a shopping cart. Pushing the shopping cart were two children; a boy, maybe ten, and a girl, eight or nine. Within the shopping cart was another boy, perhaps four. As they pushed, the older boy and the girl were singing a version of Happy Birthday, but squeezing in the syllabically unsuitable Valentine’s Day for Birthday. They rolled merrily towards our corner. Were it not for their modern dress they would have been described as Dickensian; grubby, unwashed, urchinlike. One expected Fagin to be leading their parade.

I walked back to the bench and sat down. My brother asked me what was going on and I told him there were three kids and a shopping cart coming our way. He got up to take a look, but ran back to the bench saying they had spotted him and were now running to the corner. The increased rattling confirmed it.

They came around the corner, this ominous trio, a song in their hearts and one of their asses in the cart. They were excited to find we had not run away. The older boy had badly cut hair; chunks missing here and there. The girl wore jeans and a jacket, both filthy. Her hair was long, dark and hung in strings in front of her face. The boy in the cart had on an ill-fitting shirt over a t-shirt and no pants, socks or shoes – just his underwear. He drooled from one corner of his mouth.

“Hi,” said the older boy, pantingly, “Whatcha doin?”
My brother and I looked at one another. “Waiting for the bus,” I said finally.
What’s your names,” asked the girl as she pushed the cart along the curb in front of us.
“Lex,” I answered. My brother ignored the question so I answered for him, “That’s Lee.” There was a long, strange pause. “We’re brothers,” I finally added.

“Can’t he talk?” the girl asked, “Jesse can’t talk." She pointed to the drooler in the cart. "His head got hurt,” she added, apologetically, “He’s our little brother.” She parked the cart with Jesse at the end of the bench we were on. Jesse smiled at us so that spittle oozed out over his lower lip and down his chin. I looked passed him for any hint of a bus.

I don’t remember the older boy’s name. After thirty years it has slipped away so I will call him Carl, but the girl said her name was Mary.

“Don’t you need to get home or something,” my brother suddenly asked.
“No,” said Carl. The wind blew and our unlikely groups sized one another up before Carl asked, “Umm, wanna squash some mustard?”
"Yeah, mustard,” cheered Mary.
Jesse became excited at the prospect.
“What?” I asked.
“Mustard. Wanna squash some?”
Carl pulled from his coat packets and packets of fast food mustard. He gave some to his sister. “Come on,” he said, “I’ll show you.”
He dropped a packet to the pavement and with a technique obviously refined through a great deal of practice, he stomped it. Mustard exploded up and onto the large window of a department store behind us. Gobs of yellow goop dotted the glass. Mary followed suit. Mustard shrapnel splattered the window.
“Wanna try?” asked Carl.
“Uh, no, thanks.”
“Come on, it’s cool,” taunted Mary, punctuating it with another stomp.
“Nope.”
Carl dropped three packets and hit them simultaneously. Gobs were hurled to the plate glass and oozed down its face. Jesse could hardly contain himself, bouncing up and down in the cart, as pack after pack exploded onto the window.

Lee and I just looked at one another. It was too bizarre. Where did these kids come from?

Mary dropped more and launched her yellow splats. The plate of glass was becoming pollocked from the frenzy. Carl stepped off the curb and into the street. "Watch this," he said dropping a couple to the pavement. He jumped into the air and both feet came down on the packets. Globs of mustard flew everywhere.

My brother leaped to his feet. "Hey, you little shit, knock it off!" he yelled, "You got mustard all over my pants." Mary and Carl halted, staring at the flecks of yellow that dotted Lee's corduroys. "Lee," I yelled, "They're just kids." "Fuck that," he countered, "I don't want mustard all over my clothes." "It was an accident, Lee," I said, trying to calm him. "Yeah, well they accidentally got mustard on you, too," he said. I looked down and my pant legs were dripping mustard. "Knock that shit off!" I yelled at the kids, "No more!"

Silence. The chided children looked harmed. In desperation to return to the fold of friendship they began their song again: Happy Valentine's Day to You. The girl and older boy danced as they sang, skipping in front of the bus bench. The words were an offering, an apology. They sang it quickly in their frantic desire to make things right and not lose us. In hindsight it was tragic; at the time it was merely annoying. And it became more so...

As they danced in front of us all I could think was: where is the damned bus! I scanned the street as far as I could see, unable to see anything moving. I turned to my brother and he was looking past me for the bus as well. I started to say something to him when I felt a hand grab my head. I knew it was the little boy. As I turned to him he used my head for leverage and pulled himself from the cart. Out of fear of prompting his fall I sat still as he climbed like a primate over my head, his fingers and toes grasping my clothes. His journey continued across my scalp and along the back of the bench. Carl and Mary clapped and laughed. Jesse spun his frame forward and dropped with a thud to the seat, comfortably nestled between my brother and me. I could feel his spittle in my hair.

"He really likes you!" exclaimed Mary.
"He isn't like that with everybody," explained Carl.

Jesse did seem extraordinarily pleased to be cozied betwixt Lee and myself. Carl and Mary returned to their song, much of the desperation replaced with a sense of glee. Jesse pawed at us and made noises.

"Where's the fucking bus? Lee whispered.
"This is getting too weird," I answered.

Jesse bounced on his ass while his sister and brother continued their ditty. The three of them were giddy, laughing. Then, I heard the noise; the distinct sound of water. I looked at my brother and he was hearing it as well. Bang, realization - we both jumped up. Jesse was peeing. Urine was pouring from his soaked underwear and through the bench slats to the sidewalk. "Whoa," was all I could muster as I skittered out of the splash zone. My brother got more out: "Oh this is one fucking great night." Jesse looked as if he would cry.

As Lee and I shook our pantlegs of their accumulated urine and mustard, we grumbled. Carl and Mary grumbled as well. Mary rushed to her little brother and exploded. "You peed your pants! You're bad!" And with that she slapped him. Across the face. Carl yelled at him too, but didn't hit him. Jesses screamed, in shame, in pain.

Lee yelled, "Don't you fucking hit him again."
"But he peed on you!"
"It doesn't matter," I said, "You don't hit him for that."
"You don't tell us what to do," Carl growled. Despite his age and size, in that place, at that moment, after everything that had happened, there was something legitimately menacing in Carl's tone.
"You don't hit him for an accident," I said as I patted Jesse, his crying trailing off some.
"I'm sorry, Jesse," Mary said, but she was looking at me. Carl glared.

"Let's go," Carl said.
"No, I don't want to," Mary replied, and then to us, "We're really sorry. Bout the mustard and Jesse and the pee. Can we wait with you?" She sat down on the bench with Jesse who was recovering.
"Yeah," Lee said, sitting down next to her, "You can."

I stood there. No one said anything for a while. Carl stood by the cart fiddling his hands in his coat pocket. Jesse burbled.

Then Mary asked, quietly, "Where you going?"
"What?" I asked.
"Where you going on the bus?"
"Oh. Home. We're trying to get home," I said as I looked up the street. I thought I saw something coming - way off.
"Is it nice? Your house?" Mary asked.
"It's not really our house," Lee said, "It's a friend's."
"Maybe your bus won't come and you have to stay here," Mary offered.
I squinted up the block and saw it; the bus was coming.

The Prestige

"That's it. Thank God. Lee, the bus," I said, grabbing my backpack.
Lee looked and sighed, "Finally."
"That ain't your bus," Carl said.
"What?" I said looking again. It was our bus. I was certain. "No it's our bus."
"It ain't gonna stop," Carl said quickly.
"You don't have to go," Mary said, getting up. "You can take another."
"No, we're taking this one," Lee laughed.

Mary was struggling to get Jesse picked up and back in the cart.
The bus was stopped, waiting for the light a block away.
Carl said, "It ain't gonna stop for you."
I ignored him, but moved closer to flag it just in case.
"Don't go," Mary said.
Jesse was shaking the cart.
"It ain't gonna stop," repeated Carl.
"Stop saying that," Lee yelled at him. "You're getting on my nerves."
The light changed and the bus started toward us.
"You wait. It ain't stopping for you." Carl was not letting it go.
The bus was getting closer and I held out my arm.
"Please, don't go," pleaded Mary.
"We have to get home. I'm sorry," I said. The bus was slowing and pulling to the curb.

Jesse was climbing back out of the cart. Mary was trying to keep him in as the bus came to a stop.
"Stay!" Mary yelled as she pushed Jesse down into the basket.
"Shut up!" Carl yelled at Mary. He tried to hit her but Mary was pushing the cart toward us as the doors opened. Lee shouted at Carl to leave her alone and would have gone after him if I hadn't dragged him on the bus. Carl bellowed, "Don't tell me what to do!"

Mary pushed the cart to the doors, pleading with us to stay. I told the driver to shut the doors and go. He ignored me and asked Mary if she wanted to get on.
"No," she screamed, "I want them to stay."

"Just go," I said. He had no idea what was going on but took me at my word and began to pull away slowly, watching them in his mirrors. Mary pounded the side of the bus, screaming. We ran down the aisle to the back of the bus, looking out the windows at Mary, and Jesse in his cart. We watched them from the rear window. Carl had stepped into the middle of the street and was glaring at us. He reached into his pocket and pulled something out of it. We squinted to see what he was holding and then it clicked - he had a gun. He lifted it and aimed it at us. Shock and disbelief kept us from ducking. He glowered at us, but he did not fire. We watched all three of them as they faded into the night.

The Epilogue

For years Lee and I argued about the gun. Neither one of us held firmly to one position or the other. It could have been a toy; it could have been real. We were never certain. Because of the uncertainty it was the one element we felt comfortable including or deleting depending upon the audience and our whims (you got the deleted, mom - sorry). Funny, that we would wonder about the gun's existence when we never doubted anything else about that night.

During the years we recited the tale Lee and I always let the graveyard humor carry it; the after-the-fact chuckle that comes from a narrow escape. It made the story pleasurable for us. I find now, it feels cowardly. Wrapped up in our own problems we left them to their own devices. We were, of course, not much beyond childhood ourselves, just boys, and so I forgive us our errors, but what of the three of them? 45 minutes was all there was between us and I still see them so clearly, hear her pleas so sharply. I am not haunted, but I am troubled.

Halfway home that night I moved up to a seat nearer the driver. He asked me what that was all about. I told him he wouldn't believe me. I asked him why the bus was so late. He said he didn't know about all the buses on the route running late, but he heard on the radio about one of them. "Bus had to get towed," he said. "Shattered the whole windshield. Coulda killed somebody. Nobody got hurt, but damn. Who would do that? Who would throw a whole big jar of mustard through a windshield?"

See No Evil...

Ok, having a bit of a quandry with this - all political correctness aside. Is this right? If people are selecting for other attributes in their children is this so wrong?

Jurisprudence

So much for passing judgement on others. Told to call the night before my summons date, the message said that I was on standby and instructed me to call again at 11:45 am the next day. When the time arrived the voice informed me that I was "no longer needed" (kind of rude) and would not be summoned again until the next calendar year. I'm not complaining about the outcome but it makes it difficult to plan one's life when the whims of the robed ones must be acounted for.

BUM BUM

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Because There's A Website For Every One #55

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #54

click the image

Because There's A WebSite For Every One #53

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #52

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #51

click the image

The Old Corpse Poll

Cremation is the preferred method of corpse disposal. A vote each for Neptune, lye, and dissection. Surprisingly, not one vote on the ballot for the standard hole in the ground; worms would be hungry with this group.

Interesting that there were three votes for "other". I would love to know what that other is.

Though my wife won't permit it, after my death, I want to gather my friends together in the wilderness somewhere, and once we get the goodbyes out of the way move everyone back - a safe distance. Then BOOM. Chunks o' Me everywhere. The mourners are given five gallon buckets and the one that collects the most of me (by weight) gets part of my inheritance. Not your standard service.

For this week's Poll: how do you feel about the in-laws?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Unwelcome

No Victorian prude am I, nor naive fool, but since having kids my live and let live attitude has developed some edges.

The whole sexual predator/pedophile concept took a queasy turn this morning when I discovered that some Brit, after finding my blog on an image search for baggy pants, perused a little and then did a search in my blog using the words "naked boy".

[Preston, Lancashire arrived from blogger.com on "getting flak: Search results for naked boy"]

Domain Name

(Unknown)
IP Address

194.150.177.# (Lancashire County Council)
ISP

Lancashire County Council
Location

Continent
:
Europe
Country
:
United Kingdom (Facts)
State/Region
:
Lancashire
City
:
Preston
Lat/Long
:
53.7667, -2.7167 (Map)


It would have been one thing (not much better) if the person had been doing a general search for those words and landed here by accident, but they had already looked at the blog, knew what it was, and then searched within it.

I'm rather irritated right now.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Difference


















Boy says, "I have a penis."

"Yes, you do," I reply.

"You have one, too, daddy."

"Yes I do."

"And mommy has one and gramma has one..."

"Well, no. Mommy and gramma don't have penises. They're girls and girls don't have penises."

"They don't?"

"No."

Pause.
Light bulb goes off.

"Boys have penises. Girls have phones," says he.

Pause.

"Yes son, that's right."

Out Of Order

If you've been wondering; I live. Despite rumors to the contrary, no disaster has befallen me, no new plague or corporeal failing has been visited upon me. I am squared firmly on two legs and hack not. I stand neither at death's door nor an open window.

I am just taking an unscheduled vacation.

My mother-in-law arrived last week for a visit with her grandchildren and I have taken full advantage of the situation. I have turned off all but the essentials, and this blog is not essential. I have left the Boy in her capable hands as I have propped my feet up, cracked the spine on a substantial tome and... ahhh... relaxed.

So, if you need anything, get in touch with my service and I'll get back to you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eau D'Asparagus

Brunch with Moms, my children's and my children's mother's mother, or more clearly, my wife and mother-in-law. An ideal celebration of motherhood that might have been better only with the addition of my own. As they nap now, all the house, from kids to moms, I am left alone to ponder the effects of my brunch.

A side of asparagus on my plate that I most enjoyed. I like asparagus, but its lingering after effects I can do without. Why does it do that?

Well, it seems that there are compounds in the little stalks that the body breaks down, usually within 15 to 30 minutes after ingesting. One of those compounds, mercaptan, is sulpherous and that's where the smell comes from. According to Wiki, although we all make that odor, only 40% of us have the genetic good fortune to be able to smell it.

Lucky me.

Special Mother's Day Website For Every One

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #50

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #49

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #48

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #47

click the image

Because There's A Website For Every One #46

click the image

Fame Versus Loot Poll

Hands down, money wins. Fame sucks, though two votes went to neither.

This week, with a new method in the news, please vote for your choice to dispose of your remains once your mortal coil comes unsprung.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Stop The Presses

Holy Crap!!
He did it!
How could we have been so blind?

Next thing you know we'll find out Iraq was about oil.

Quote O' The Week

A dead whale got stuck under a pier in San Francisco this week. It attracted any number of gawkers; folks with strong stomachs.

Opinions were solicited from the tourists...

Sven Norlund said there is no shortage of dead whales back home in Norway, but that "it's always good to experience other cultures and their dead whales."

Friday, May 9, 2008

"I Move For No Man."

A Clinton Campaign Metaphor


I guess I have a little burr up my behind as regards Ms. Clinton.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Elephant Head

In a moment of boredom, and perhaps bad parenting, this morning we convinced the Boy that he has an elephant living on the back of his head. At first disturbed, he eventually decided that the symbiotic relationship isn't so bad.

"It just a baby, but it keep me clean."

Drunk Daddy's Double Duty

Scratch one more Republican from the House come fall.
Vito's mugshot

...he says right now any political decisions are "the furthest thing from my mind."

I would say they were pretty far from his mind most of the time.

The Impotentate Stumbled

Time has a good piece, The Five Mistakes Clinton Made, that marvelously details her great campaign errors, although it doesn't go into her gutter tactics and the "Bill" problem. Yep, it's her incompetent management skills that highlight this entire run. Welcome to the coronation that didn't happen. The monarch-to-be tripped over her train.

It seems likely to me that her continued campaigning is designed for only one purpose: to so completely foul Obama that McCain wins and thus gives her an opportunity to run and win in 2012. Regardless of her motivation to continue, doing so at this point is simply destructive . It's that complete disregard for us and the hard times we're in for that makes her so abysmal.

Her desire to lead the country is fueled less by a vision for us than one for herself. More than anything I think she wants to get out of Bill's shadow (or whatever it is one calls it when he shows up and sunlight disappears). She holds him in contempt, personally and presidentially and wants to show us all that she is better than he is. Sadly it is her desire to be loved and lauded (though not as pathological as his) that has been her undoing. They'll probably go broke trying.

Get out, Hillary.

Her fascinating distasters continue to pile up. She could lose millions. Her campaign has, by law, until the election to repay loans from the candidate to the campaign. The election in this case being the convention. After the convention, by law, the campaign can only collect $250,00 dollars in contributions (assuming she isn't the nom). That means more than 11 million of her loans aren't coming back. Most of her donors are either tapped or maxed out by law so she has nowhere to turn to get payed back. Thus her speech the other night pleading for cash.

Another report from McClatchy points out how she and Bill are using a minor loophole to get around campaign limits for the loans and to whom they may be beholding. Her first loan came from her funds, but the last 6 million came from joint funds that are the result of speaking engagements of Bill's. Corporate sponsorships of those speeches were substantial and came from - wait for it - the healthcare and insurance industries as well as investment banks. No, there wouldn't be any quid pro quo. How could we imagine such a thing?