31 August 2005

The Big Breezy

I don't know where to begin.  I never thought I would read a story about residents of the United States being referred to as "refugees" but I suppose that is exactly what the people of New Orleans are right now.  The devastation is overwhelming.  How ironic that on the morning the storm hit, I heard so many people on TV say that the city got a break when the storm turned slightly east at the last moment.  They forgot to tell that to the levies holding back Lake Pontchartrain (the coolest name for a lake in the entire country; Champlagne is a close second).

I had to turn it off this afternoon, because I was suspended between states of anger, disbelief, and unmitigated sadness.  I think disbelief and sadness are easily understood; I feel so badly for everyone down there.  I can't imagine not being able to go back to the city I live in possibly for several months. The anger might have to be explained...

Well, first, it was so nice to see our "Vacationer-in-Chief" finally get off his brush-clearing behind and get back to Washington to actually manage a crisis.  I avoided comment on the whole "let's take five weeks off" deal because it was a complete non-surprise to me (though now that I think of it, don't the French do the same thing?).  I was especially touched at how the President described flying over New Orleans and Mississippi today to get a first hand look at the destruction.  Perhaps someone threw some garbage on him as well, so he could get even more of a feel for it. 

Since I bash him there will be those that read this who think I am blaming the president for all this.  While our fearless brush-clearing leader has been responsible for plenty of shit storms these last five years, even he can't be capable of such a calamity.  I do wonder, though, how many in his precious far right Christian base think these people got what they deserved, since it was New Orleans (liquor and sex) and Mississippi (gambling).  I have yet to see any comments to that effect, but then I don't think Pat Robertson has made a public statement yet.

I do blame the government for something though, and this is truly a bipartisan faulting: if memory serves me correctly, there were FOUR hurricanes that hit the US last year, the most active hurricane season ever.  And every forecast I saw for this year said it would be worse.  I can remember my father telling me twenty years ago that if New Orleans ever got hit directly by a big hurricane, it would be a mess.  He explained to me why: (it took several hours) the city was below sea level.  My father was an extremely smart man, yet I doubt he was the only one in the nation who knew what would happen to the Big Easy if it got hit by a Big Breezy.  Given the events of last year, wouldn't it had made sense for someone to say "you know, this is bad, but if it hit New Orleans, it would be a whole lot worse.  Are we prepared?"  Why wasn't there a plan for the aftermath of a hurricane hitting this city?  The local, state and federal level seems to have dropped the ball on this, big time. 

I give credit for the call for an evacuation ahead of the storm, but in hindsight, given that in parts of New Orleans people live in poverty, wouldn't it have been best to have a plan to get everybody out?  Did anyone really think that putting 20,000 people in a domed stadium would be a good thing?  It was a good thing, I suppose, in that it kept people safe from the storm, but surely, the powers that be knew that with no air conditioning or plumbing, things would get nasty there in a hurry.

One wonders what might have happened if instead of spending 300 billion to invade and (maybe) repair a country that posed no threat to us, what could be happening in New Orleans right now if perhaps a third of that money was spent on higher levees, or a new pumping system.  I see know that it takes many Americans dying at once
to get this administration to care, instead of a lot of Americans dying over the course of two years.

You can't prevent acts of God.  I know that.  And I think it is silly to ridicule or blame people simply because they live in a place where this could happen.  Anything can happen anywhere.  Still, there's nothing wrong with being a little prepared for extreme situations when it is likely to happen someday.  Like they say, it's not a question of if, it's a question of when.  I can't help but think that New Orleans had about four opportunities last year to have a significant case of the "what-if" hee-bee gee-bees.

The thing that angers me the most though are the people who have no respect for the place they live in and take this as an opportunity to break the law.  I was completely disgusted to see videoof people looting their local Wal-Mart yesterday.  If I were seeing desperate people taking food and water, I'd think they were being resourceful.  It's the electronics, cigarettes and toys that make me hope the National Guard shows up, starts shooting, and forgets to ask any questions.

Maybe that's a bit harsh.  I'm a big believer in karma, and I know those people who have shown themselves to be complete savages will get theirs eventually.  And that is the best thing I can think of about that.

I heard someone say yesterday that this is "our tsunami."  No, it isn't.  It's not even close.  Have about one hundred more Katrina's hit with the same amount of death and destruction and it might be about the same as what the tsunami did last December.  Why do people have to exaggerate?  It's "your hurricane," and let's hope the rest of the world responds to your needs the way it did in Asia last year.

I've never been to New Orleans.  A cousin of mine has always talked about us taking a trip there, but we've never been able to make it happen.  I did drive through it once, in June of 2003.  I was taking the scenic route back from Tampa and spent the day driving west along Interstate 10.  I've seen some of the places that they have been speaking of the last few days; I drove on the bridge over Mobile Bay that is currently closed because an oil rig slammed into it.  I saw some of the casinos in Mississippi that are no longer there.  What I remember most about that drive is the stretch of I-10 just before New Orleans.  The road turns southwest as it butts the east end of Lake Pontchartrain, and I drove this part as the sun was starting to set.  The sky was clear.  It was just me, the water, a deep blue sky, and a radiant red sun.  It only lasted ten minutes or so, and I was in no position to pull over and take a picture (no shoulder), but the images will stay with me forever.

I chose to stay in Baton Rouge that night instead of New Orleans.  It was a Friday night and I did not have a place to stay, so I figured it would be easier to find someplace in the capital.  As you drive west past New Orleans towards Baton Rouge, you see quite a bit of Lake Pontchartrain.  It's a lot like driving along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago-you see nothing but water.  Lake Michigan, though, does not have the electrical towers rising out of it like Lake Pontchartrain does.  I'm still not sure how they managed to do that. 

I'm going to make it back down to New Orleans one of these days, probably not for a while now though.  I'm kicking myself for not spending a day or two there when I had the chance.    


30 August 2005

Great thoughts ripped off in the middle of the night

I don't know

how a man decides

what's right

for his own life.

It's all a mystery

27 August 2005

Dang chickenhawks

1. What is your current desktop picture?  What made you select it? My nephew hamming it up at PNC Park in Pittsburgh in summer 2004.  I was trying to get a decent picture of him, he was not cooperating and I asked him to look like he was enjoying himself, so of course he exaggerated and posed like a six year old who just unwrapped the biggest present on Christmas morning.  Maybe I will make this the first picture I have ever placed in my journal...

2. A close friend who you consider to be up to date on fashion suggests that you should update your look and offers to pay for a session with an experienced hairstylist you've never dealt with before.  Knowing that it's free, would you go? Yeah, I guess, but my hair is only a few inches long.  Don't see what anyone could do with it.

3. When you do look in a mirror, what is the first thing you usually look at? How much gray hair I am accumulating.

4. Take this quiz:  Which Bugs Bunny character are you? I-I-I say-say-say that I am Foghorn Leghorn.  For the record, I predicted this as soon as I read the question, without even knowing if it was an option.

5. What label seems to describe you the best as a whole? Wordy. 

6. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #60 from Stacy: Is there a specific person that you credit with your successes? and HOW did they help you? Not really, and I say that mostly because I cannot give credit to just one person.  And this will sound weird, but my father assisted me greatly by dying.  Not that I asked him or wanted him to, but when he did, it made me realize that I was not living the life that I wanted to.  That was three years ago, and I have been changing constantly since then.  Would I go back to how I was if it meant he was still alive?  Absolutely, but he's not, and life goes on. 


1. Other than the "Saturday Six," what weekly or daily memes do you play most often?  (Please give a link to that journal.) Could someome please tell me what a "meme" is?  All I can think of is something someone does when they are warming up for an opera performance. 

2. If you could look back at photos you know of that were taken during your childhood, from your first school pictures to snapshots taken ten years ago, which one do you think would be the most embarrassing and why? Oh my, so many categories...let's see, as a young school child, I had  hard time smiling.  I thought I could smile, but instead I grimaced.  There are quite a few pictures of me where I look like I am passing a kidney stone.  And the outfits...I love my parents and appreciate all they have done for me, but I can say that if and when I am a parent, I will not be purchasing clothers that come in a "set", you know, where the pants have to be worn with a specific shirt.  Then at around the age of ten, my hair started doing wacky things.  I believe it is my seventh grade picture where the hair around my right ear resembles Cameron Diaz's in the gel scene of "There's Something About Mary" (I would like to clarify that my hair did it on its own, with no added help, for those of you reading with filthy one-track minds).  Then, as we metamorphized into high school, the war between my face and its pores became the highlight of any and all pictures.  But the winner is...a picture that was taken my senior year of college, spring 1991, when for some reason I had decided to let my hair grow over the winter.  One word: (I can't say it...it starts with "M", ends with "T" and has a ULLE" in the middle).

(Yeah, this was a great question all right.  And I didn't even get to the picture of me dressed as "Cinderella" when I was 2...) 

3. What was the last thing you made yourself do, even though you really didn't want to? Answer question #2

4. Take this quiz:  How do you live your life? I'm honest and direct.  And that shirt you are wearing is quite ugly. 

5. What was the last book you started but never finished (aside from any you're currently reading)?  Why did you stop reading it? "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich."  I bought it because it was in one of those clearance bins where they are practically giving it away, and I am interested in history, but it's huge, over 1000 pages, and the type is so small that I just could not see myself reading it.  I might finish it one day, though, especially if I have to keep living under Republican presidential administrions and Congressional majorities.

6. Are you named after  anyone?  Has anyone ever been named after youI have the same name as my father and grandfather.  Rather than being named after one, I assume I am named after both.  No one will be named after me, at least not by me, as my name is too common in my family and needs to be stopped.


26 August 2005

This is all

I've spent the last five days in the Kansas City area.  My wife's grandfather died.  While it was not unexpected, everyone thought he had a little more time left.  A lot of people in the family did not get the chance to say a proper goodbye while he was still living.

I am reminded of my own horror I felt three years ago when my father was alive one moment, and dead the next.  I was fortunate to have spent most of the evening before with him, not knowing what was to occur half a day later.  And while I am thankful for that, I also know that if I had been unable to see him for an extended period before he had died, it would have been all right.

When you have a strong relationship with someone, quantity of time spent becomes over rated.  All that really matters is quality.

And so it goes...this is the first time that I have spent an extended period of time with members of my wife's family because of a loss.  I have found it to be just like the time I spent with my family following the loss of my father; we found ourselves enjoying each other's company, able to laugh and have fun, in tribute to the person no longer with us.  We may feel like crying on the inside, but there comes a point where you realize that life is all about the living.

People die.  Memories of them do not.  In what I can only describe as an odd feeling, I consider myself to be closer to my father today than I ever have, even though I can't have a conversation with him over breakfast.  I can't seek his advice.  Anything I say to him gets left hanging in the air like a broken spider web.  But the bond is still there, still strong.  It is something I can't explain.

And I saw many examples of that this week.  Call it strength, fortitude, character; it amazes me how people rise to the challenge of their lives at times, when they could just as easily disappear into a fog of depression and uncertainness.

Because of that, I feel very close to a man I met less than two years ago and saw only three times.  I feel like he was around a lot more than that.  It's because I am lucky to be a member of another family that appreciates whatever it is that we have here, and has been kind enough to involve me in the stories and details of a time when I never knew any of them existed.




17 August 2005

Aw, man...

Why can't politics be fun?  Seriously, I was all set to be as involved as ever for the 2008 presidential race because of Walken2008.com, but now, sadly, it has been discovered that the news is false-Walken is not planning on running for President.

Do you realize what we will be missing out on?

-Dressed as The Continental (from SNL) for the State of the Union, Walken begins the speech: "You know, the State of our Union is strong, strong like the bubbles in a glass of fine champagnya..."; he then proceeds to hit on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

-It's been a tense few days at Camp David as President Walken continues to meet with the leaders of Israel and the PLO.  After some tough, bitter negotiations, two different peace plans are still being considered, but both sides still are not happy.  Walken sees the opportunity for peace in the Middle East slipping away and knows he has to do something.  Does he offer increased economic aid?  A promise to not deploy the US military?  No.  He goes over to the CD player, pops in Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice", and lays it all on the table-"You can go with this, or you can go with that"-complete with three minutes of spectacular dance moves.  Peace reigns forever.

(Side note: Watch the video, and then someone tell me how that is not the greatest music video in history?  In fact, why do they still bother making them?  At the very least, MTV ought to redesign the video music award trophies.  Ditch the astronaut and cast a mold of Walken thrusting his hips out with his hands in his pockets as he walks through the lobby.)

-President Walken, Trivial Psychic (SNL again): During a cabinet meeting Secretary of Defense Dennis Hopper approaches the President, leans over to say something quietly to him, and places his hand on his right shoulder.  Walken grabs Hopper's hand, sits up straight and says: "Today, after lunch, you're going to be five minutes late for a briefing on the Sub-Saharan Africa situation.  As you rush back to your office at the Pentagon, you decide to make a quick stop in the bathroom.  Since you're running late, you decide to zip up as you are walking towards the sink to wash your hands.  You're not going to be paying attention, and you're going to catch little Hopper in the zipper.  It's gonna hurt real bad."

-Does anyone think that the War on Terror would last another two weeks once Captain Koons from "Pulp Fiction" was on the job?  If the guy will hide a watch in his ass for five years, what's he willing to do to defeat Al-Qaeda?

-And finally, President Walken is meeting with leaders of both the House and Senate to try to find a way to fix a budget impasse which threatens to shut the government down.  He leaves the Oval Office for a moment, and the remaining politicians squabble.  After a few minutes, Walken returns and says "I got a fever!  And the only prescription is a balanced budget...and more cowbell!"  Later, when the press praises him for bartering such a quick and successful resolution, he says "I'm just like anyone else.  I put my pants on one leg at a time.  Except, after I put them on I balance federal budgets."

(If you have no idea what this is from, and really, if you don't, you need to get out more, watch this.)

I'm telling you, after just one year of this administration, we'd be banging down the doors of the US Capitol to get the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution appealed.

13 August 2005

How long until Election Day?

I can't tell if this site is serious or not.

If it is, I know where my vote in 2008 is going.

Four play

It would appear that I have some catching up to do:

From July 23:

1. Who was your first best friend? His name was Tim.  How old were you when you two met? Five, we met the first day of kindergarten. Are you still in regular contact with each other? Nope.  We were close friends until the end of 8th grade, and then he became very, very strange.

2. Other than the "Saturday Six," what weekly or daily memes do you play most often?  (Please give a link to that journal.) None.  I do this one because I find the questions to be rather thought provoking, and Lord knows I need all the provoking I can handle.

3. Which of the following likely has the bigger mess underneath it:  your stove, your refrigerator, your couch or your bed? I live in a house with two cats.  I'd bet there is enough fur under the bed for at least two more.

4. Take
this quiz:  How long does MSN think you'll live? 71.  It also says that I need to lose 61 pounds!  If I lost 61 pounds I don't think anyone would be able to see me. Then take this one:  How long does Blogthings think you'll live? 79.  I want to know why I get years shaved off for not owning a dog?

5. Do either or both of these motivate you to make any changes in your lifestyle?  Not really.  I think what may finally motivate me to change my lifestyle is the presence of a toddler or two, and how I will feel after chasing them around for a day.  Though I still don't see how I could ever lose 61 pounds...

6. Name five things you would like to do by December 31, 2005.  1. Become an expectant father.  2. Write an entry that gets more than 20 comments.  3. Hear George W. Bush admit that he has made a mistake-any mistake.  4. Stop caring about the Chicago Cubs.  5. Find a job.

From July 30:

1. What was your favorite childhood movie?  When was the last time you saw it?  "Star Wars"-I think I last saw it in full about ten years or so ago.

2. Who is your worst enemy at the moment?  (First names only, please.)  Why is that person your enemy? I don't really have any enemies.  I'm not in a position to affect anybody's life negatively at the moment, which is what I think being an enemy is all about.  Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed being the enemy at times, but I don't have reason to be one or have one right now.

3. Which one of the following annoys you most when you encounter a new blog?
    a. Constant grammatical errors.
    b. Constant spelling errors.
    c. Contrived "street" language.
    d. Too many "nothing happening today" entries.
It's really, really hard for me to read anything written in street.  It jusy drives me insane.

4. Take this quiz:   Which alcoholic drink are you? I'm a "There was a bottle of Smirnoff here, but they made us take it down."  I'v never heard of that drink before.  Funny, about the only liquor I do not like is vodka.  Too Russian.

5. What is the last thing you said to a person face to face?  Who was that person? "Yes, you did."  To my wife.  Two seconds ago.

Debi:  When you shower, do you ever think of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, "Psycho?"  No.  There was a tim when I was younger that it was a little bit of an adventure for me to take a bath without thinking a big shark was going to come up through the drain, but I've never been spooked about taking a shower.

From August 6:

1. Besides your parents or siblings, what family member do you most resemble?  My cousins in Ireland.  The first time I went there, it was like walking around with a mirror. 

2. Check out this
interesting website:  Is your hometown newspaper featured?  What is the top headline of that paper or the one closest to you? Both Chicago papers are featured, and both have the same story for their headline.  There was a man who was being sought for a 1996 murder who was captured in Mexico.  The Tribune's headline: "96 slaying fugitive captured in Mexico" while the Sun-Times is: "Fugitive's decade on the lam ends"-guess which paper is considered a "tabloid"?

3. If you knew it was completely tame and there was no danger, what zoo animal would you most like to pet or come into physical contact with? I'd go swimming with the penguins.

4. Take this
quiz:  How weird are you? I'm only 30% weird.  I'm thinking that this is off by at least 69%.

5. Which of the following causes more stress in your life:  your spouse, your kids, your boss, your co-workers, your friends, your parents or other relatives? Stress?  What is this thing called stress that you speak of?

6. You find an old lamp containing a genie:  the genie decides to give you a single improvement for yourself, mind or body.  It must be something to improve within you and no one else.  What would you ask the genie to fix?
 I'd like to be half a foot taller.

And finally, August 13:

1. A reader to "Men's Journal" recently wrote about technological innovations, stating that there isn't any gadget he couldn't live without:  "To see how vital technology is, spend a few days in the backcountry without your phone, pager, PDA, laptop, cappuccino machine, or MP3 player.  You'll emerge cleansed and refreshed."  Could you go a whole week really roughing it with no modern conveniences?  Would you want to? Of course I could.  The only thing I would miss is my laptop, but there's nothing I couldn't do without for a week.  Would I?  Depends where I was going. 

2. What is the most you've ever paid for a:
    A) Shirt $40
    B) Pair of Shoes $80
    C) CD or Album $25
    D) DVD $25
    E) Book $60
    F) Vacation No clue.  I've taken some long vacations that added up, but it was worth every penny.

3. Looking back at the answers to#2, which one was the most foolish? None, though I probably could have planned the vacations a little bit better.

4. Take this quiz:   Which snack food are you? I'm an apple?  Somebody want to insert a fruit joke here?

5. There are three wells:  Love, Beauty and Creativity.  If you could only drink from one of them, which would you choose and why?  Creativity.  I wouldn't even look at the other ones.  Love came into my life late, and while it's great, I had already proven to myself that I could live without it.  Beauty?  No way.  I'd rather have three million warts and be creative.

6. If you were another person, do you think you would be friends with the person you know as yourself?  Why not?  I'm pretty easy going.  I would at least be friends with me so that I could take advantage of me.

12 August 2005

Every freakin' year...

The Perseid Meteor shower occurs every year around this time.  As the Earth passes through the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle, particles burn up in the atmosphere, creating a show of shooting stars.

I've been trying to see the damn thing for at least the last decade.  Every August 12 around 2 AM, it's the same thing: a sky filled with nothing but clouds. I just checked Intellicast.com (the best weather website in my opinion, no matter what those punks at the Weather Channel might say) and the Chicago radar shows nothing but rain lasting well into the daylight hours.


I'm an astronomy dork.  A casual one, but a dork nonetheless.  I'm not the type of person who would book a cruise to the Southern Hemisphere to see a solar eclipse visible no where else, but I do enjoy the opportunity to observe celestial phenomena.

There's another meteor event that takes place in November, the Leonid, and I havent had much luck with that one either.  I had the chance to see some of it about five years ago, but is was so cold that I only lasted fifteen minutes.  The Perseid is a more abundant show.

As I read about this year's display, I noticed a blurb mentioning that next year's will be difficult to see because of an exceptionally bright moon occurring at that time.

I need to find a bookie who will take bets on the weather.  I guarantee that in the early hours of August 12, 2006, the skies will be clear as a bell over the near northwest 'burbs of Chicago.

11 August 2005

Time for T.O. to G.O.

I may not get them often, but when I get what I think is a great idea, I am only too happy to share it with the general public.

Let's ship Terrell Owens to Iraq.  Let's see him try to "hold out" there.

This is a guy who will make SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS this year to catch footballs.  Of course, that isn't good enough for "T.O." (Totally Obnoxious?  Truly Offensive?  Tenacious Otter?), who thinks he is under paid.

Last year, Owens signed a contract that will pay him $49 million over seven years.

$49 Million.  I'd guess that you could combine the lifetime earnings of everyone who will read this entry, and you won't come anywhere close to $49 million.

You can have you whining, over paid, under educated NFL.  I'll stick to the college game.  However, this year I am going to try something different and not mention the team that I have forsworn my allegiances to.  Seems something bad always happens when that info becomes public.

I apologize...

...to anyone I may have rustled from deep slumber at this late hour after reading Thursday's "Pearls Before Swine."

Thank you

10 August 2005

A day late

August 9 is one of those days that I never think about until it actually arrives, and then I recall that it is an action-packed 24 hours.

Well, sort of.

I have a friend that was born on August 8, and another that was born on August 9.  I always assume that the friend with the birthday of August 8 was born on August 9, which means that when I remember his correct birthday, I am already a day late.  This year, August 8th turned 40, and I remembered that his actual birthday is the 8th.  Alas, he chose to be out of town on both August 8th and 9th, so I will not be able to acknowledge his birthday until August 10th at the earliest.

It is so extremely difficult being me.

I never forget August 9th's birthday.  This is someone I met in high school, one of the most down to Earth people I have ever known.  Alas, he moved away from the area in the early 90's and I lost touch with him.  I knew he was out west and contacted him when I was there in the summer of 2003, only to find out he was in Africa for three years.  We did eventually exchange emails, but when I tried to respond to his, I got a message that his address was no longer valid.  As I said, I never forget his birthday, but I also never get the chance to acknowledge it anymore.

This year, August 9th is the 60 year anniversary of the last time a nuclear weapon was used in society, the bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki.  The Hiroshima bombing of August 6th always gets more attention than Nagasaki, because it was the first time a nuclear weapon was used.  I think it's more fitting to acknowledge the last, since it is the last example that the world has as to what we are capable of doing.  I remember being a teenager in the early 80's, wondering if and when the US and Soviet Union were going to go to war, and I have to say that it kept me up more than a few nights at times.  My father was somewhat amused by that.  He always told me that I shouldn't worry about it, because if the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 18-29, 1962 didn't lead to annihilation between the Super Powers, nothing would.  Of course, this being my father, there were several charts and articles that went along with his reassurances, but he ended up being right, it would appear that neither the Russians or the Americans will ever launch a nuclear strike at each other.

Most people think that if there is ever another nuclear detonation, that it will be a terrorist attack.  Forgetting about what we have seen on "24", I think it will be very difficult to ever pull that off.  The threat is there, I realize, but I think the world is much more likely to see some type of nuclear event in the Middle East or in Asia, one initially not involving the United States.  Pure speculation; I hope above all hopes that the world has seen its last mushroom cloud.

Also this year, August 9th is the ten year anniversary of the death of Jerry Garcia.  My interest in the Grateful Dead is meek at best.  They made some good music, indeed, but the worship status that they achieved has always puzzled me.  The thing that I am most thankful for about Jerry Garcia is the fact that he was the inspiration for Ben & Jerry's awesome "Cherry Garcia" ice cream.

But I will never forget where I was when I heard that Jerry Garcia had died.  I was in Berlin.  I was sitting in the lobby of a guest house where we were staying while one of my friends talked to her sister back home on the phone, and she mentioned to us that her sister had just told her that Garcia had died.  Her sister was a huge fan of the Dead and was seriously bummed.  I wasn't all that affected.  When I read today about the ten year anniversary, I spent a good half hour reminiscing about the three days we spent in Berlin, and the 27 days we spent traveling around Europe:  London, Ireland. Bruges, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Salzburg, Venice, Florence, Geneva, then London again.  It was absolutely the trip of a lifetime.  I left the States as a certain person and came back someone very different. 

I could spend the next month writing about that trip.

The best thing about it was that it gave me an itch that I will spend the rest of my life scratching (it's a METAPHOR, people): since the summer of 1995 I have had the desire, the urge to get out and see as much of this world that I possibly can.  My biggest regret when I die, no matter if I live to be 50 or 150?  That there will be places that I have not seen on this Earth.

You know, just in case anyone asks.

04 August 2005

The adventures of Aquaman

Yesterday (8/2) was my wife's birthday.  She took the day off from work.  Last week, she walked into the room I was sitting and reading in and announced that we would be spending at least part of her birthday at a water park that is just around the corner from our house.

Oh, joy...

I'm not much into water.  I appreciate that it is the essential building block of life.  I try to conserve it, and I drink it when I'm thirsty.  That's about it for my relationship with H-2-O.

And I have memories of swimming pools when I was a kid: I wandered into the deep end on vacation one year and realized quickly that I wasn't six feet.  Fortunately my sister was close by and yanked me back into shallower water; I didn't learn to swim until I was twelve.  I tried to learn to swim many times before that, but, well, let's just say that I managed to fail swimming lessons over and over and over again.  When I finally did learn how to swim, I was the biggest kid in the class...because I was at least three years older than anyone else.

And sunburn.  I don't want to talk about it.

But I aim to please.  It was Kristen's birthday, and she loves to swim, so away we went.  The park opened at 11 and we were there shortly afterwards, on a clear, very hot (96) and humid day.  After finding a place to sit and applying gallons of sun block, we headed off to the "Lazy River", where you sit in an inter tube and are carried by a current around and around, until you're fed up with it.  We spent about 45 minutes floating around the water.  It was rather enjoyable.

We spent about a half hour after that sitting in the sun, which was hot, but I had gallons of sun block, remember, so I felt all right.  In fact, I felt great.  So much so that I asked Kristen if she fancied going over to the water slides.  She said that she did, so off we went.

The park has two water slides, side by side, that are about five stories high.  They looked the same, a series of twists and turns culminating in about a seven foot drop into a pool.  I've done water slides hundreds of times.  They're no big deal.

But this was a special day...

I went first and chose the slide on the right.  After a quick turn, I found myself in a tunnel, unable to see anything, but anticipating that the slide would continue to corkscrew in the clockwise direction I was traveling.  It didn't quite end up that way, and as my body went in the opposite direction, there was a splash, and a very large quantity of water went into my nose, and down into my lungs.

For a brief moment, I was in total darkness, unable to breathe, and feeling water in my lungs.  I have to admit that it was kind of a rush.  Then I saw light, came out of the tunnel, continued to slide, and entered another tunnel.  Since I was nearing the end of the slide, I expected to keep traveling in the same direction; there wasn't enough time left to switch.

I was wrong, and the same thing happened.  I swallowed more water.  At the end of this tunnel, the slide ended, and I saw the drop into the pool.  I barely had time to suck in a breath before hitting the water.

I must have looked like an idiot hitting the pool, but I also (strangely) enjoyed the trip down, so I suggested we go again.  This time I let Kristen go first, and we went down the other slide.  I was prepared and determined this time to not lose my bearings.  As I entered the first tunnel, I was ready.  I wasn't going to suck in water this time.

The first turn in the tunnel went well.  The second wasn't too bad, and the third was awful.  By the time I entered the third turn I had lost my bearings and had no idea what was going on.  I think I was turning left, but my body felt like going right, and I smacked my head on the wall of the tunnel.  If that wasn't enough to grab my attention, I then managed to suck in some more water.

I left the first tunnel and after a brief flash of sunlight went into the next.  And here is where I managed to completely lose it.  I thought if I just laid back and slid, the water would take me along the contour of the slide until the end.  I assume this is what happened to the other thousand people who rode the slide that day.

So I am sliding in the second tunnel, and it is here that I have my first ever "Top Gun" moment: I did a barrel roll.  I hit the wall on the right, thought I was balancing myself, and flipped all the way over.  Looking back, I am rather impressed with myself for pulling off such a stunt, but at the time it was quite frightening.  I had swallowed more water and had no idea where the end of the slide was.  By this time I was sitting up, waiting for the end, hoping that I would get a little bit of air before hitting the pool.

Kristen, who had completed the slide without incident directly before me, said afterwards that I looked like I was "coming to Jesus" as my eyes were closed and my arms were out, palms up.  Yeehaw!!!

After I got out of the pool I found myself unable to control my laughter, and I watched as about fifteen people came out of the slide.  Everyone had the same look: head up, arms crossed over their body, and slid gently into the pool.

Clearly, I have issues.  I don't belong within a mile of a water slide.  We might have to move...

We spent a grand total of three hours at the park.  Kristen said it was perfect, and while she would never say it to me, I am sure she was amused at my aquatic inabilities. 

As for my abilities at applying sun block, today I am dealing with a strange sunburn.  My chest is completely red from the end of my neck to about half a foot down, then it streaks to the right, like someone took a red marker and drew a "C" on my stomach.

Yes, I earned that merit badge.

01 August 2005

Taking a step back

I'm going back soon to being something that I never thought I would be again.

A student.

I graduated from college in 1991 and felt a great sense of relief in the thought that I would never be in school again.  I enjoyed school, learning and all that, but I was ready to get on with life and not have to deal with the structure of school.

I wasn't the greatest student anyway.  I did all right, but I could have done better.  When I look back on my academic performance in college, I regret some of the habits I fell into.

Since college, every once in a while I will dream that something I did then comes back to haunt me, like I lose a promotion, or have to go back and retake a class for no significant reason-I just do.  After having those dreams, I always felt the same way: thank God that part of my life is over.

Well, it isn't.

I graduated with a degree in English after spending the first two years of college as a business student.  I had to take a fuller than full load of classes my last semester to graduate in four years, and I wasn't interested in sticking around any longer, so I did not pursue the teaching aspect.  I went into a career in retail, because I had experience, I was good at it, and I wanted to get going in making a living.

I did that for twelve years.  I did it very well.  But it was not my life's work, not what I was supposed to do for the rest of my days, so when the opportunity came to kiss it all goodbye, I did.  I wanted some time off.  I wanted to wander.

I wound up wandering a lot longer than I ever anticipated.  I'm still wandering, and I'm going to be wandering for a little while longer.

I told myself that when I went back into the world, I was going to do so with a career that I loved, that I would look forward to doing every day.  It's an easy thing to say, but a little harder to find.

I've been writing as a hobby for most of my life, but I never thought I would do it professionally.

But as I continued to wander, the same question popped into my head: why not?

Why not?  So I tried it, but I knew little of it.  I thought motivation would be all I would need to be successful.  Motivation is a good thing, but people can't really see it, not when you are just starting out, when you need something to prove yourself.

If I heard it once, I heard it...well, I heard it a lot.  "Where'd you get your MFA?"

(That Masters of Fine Arts, not Money For Anything) 

So in about 18 months, when someone asks me where I got my MFA, I'll actually have an answer for them.  I'm going back to school.

I start next month.  And I am very much looking forward to it.  In some way and some form, I am going to be a professional writer.

About damn time.