Thursday, November 30, 2006

We are sitting around the table at the coffee shop. Bobby V is behind the bar. We are always sitting around the table, Bobby V is always behind the bar. We look to the TV when the conversation dies out. Something on the TV will spark another conversation, we will each speak, as experts, on whatever topic the news is on. It could be drugs, Johnny Cash, terrorism, beauty pageants, child molestation, doesn't matter. A conversation will be started.

"Johnny Cash was a pussy, he sang about doing time but he never did any except for some bullshit charge for drugs."
"What the hell kind a woman gonna let her children run around a bar."
"Why the hell she leave her kid with that sick motherfucker?"
"Can you believe that dumb sonofabitch got caught? You know he was bragging, that's how they got him"

The conversation will slowly begin to take on a life of its own- it will start to hum and can be disconnected from life support (the TV). It almost sounds like an old VW bus we had, it would start out slow, build some momentum begin to roar and slowly sputter out and die. When the conversation died we'd all look to the TV searching for a new topic. Taxes, political corruption, spouse abuse, rape something would come along that we could discuss at length and end an uncomfortable silence.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Meanwhile I keep track of the guy with my name that went missing in Florence. There have been 5 more sightings, only 2 seem noteworthy.

One sighting was on the ferry from Glasgow to Ireland where a woman said a guy who looked like him got scared when they announced they would be checking passports. Another sighting took place when three Scottish guys met him in Galway. He asked them directions to a hostel.

It would make sense ot me to go to Western Ireland. If I was looking for myself, I would start by going to where my ancestors originated. Galway is the biggest city near the parish of Kilfree, Gorteen in Western Ireland, where our family name can be traced.

I went on a similar pilgrimage that I imagine he is on. In my early 20's I spent time in Kilfree, Gorteen. I was looking for some kind of connection to past. I believed that a connection to the past would give me a connection to the present- which I sorely lacked. I was convinced that when I got off the plane and my feet touched my ancestral homeland I would suddenly feel complete, the part of me that was missing would magically appear. It didn't. I wasn't worried I knew that when I ran my hands over the ground that my ancestors farmed or held a stone to the cottage an overwhelming feeling of wholeness would sweep over me. It didn't.

I can only assume thats what the missing Misplaced had hoped for. Had he gone to the graveyard next to the abandoned church? Was he as interested in the grave of someone with his name born 1864, died 1888? He probably spent time at that grave and imagined it being his own grave just as I had done. Was he reminded of his own mortality and how quickly he'll be forgotten. Did he become depressed questioning what is the purpose of all of this?

He probably did what I did and stayed in Kilfree Gorteen, soaking up the atmosphere, waiting for any connection until boredom consumed him. He would then leave it for greener pastures, just as his ancestors did.

The loneliness became overwhelming for me when I was there. To always believe that
this is where you belong and to discover that you are only a tourist and that is all you will ever be. I wanted a wife for the first time, in that loneliness. I wanted to force myself into this ancestral homeland.

I wonder if he is as wacked out as I was- probably more so. Did he make his way to a larger city, Dublin maybe, to meet a girl. I didn't go to Dublin, my vacation ran out. I'd spent my time in Western Ireland and then I came home. I touched the ground with my feet when I got to the Midwest and felt nothing.

He didn't go home and still hasn't. He isn't on vacation, he has the time and the balls to discover his place. What will he do when he discovers that his place is to be lost and disconnected? Will he get a job in advertising and drink until he falls asleep every night? Why am I idolizing a 24 year old kid that ran away from home?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Like a lot of other people I have googled myself. It is a form of delusional vanity to assume the world is discussing you. I have also googled all of my friends and anyone else that has had the misfortune to cross my path. Many of my friends have long lists about them, usually work related and quite impressive. My only claim to fame is being quoted in a lawsuit where a Township sued the company I worked for, hardly notable.

I did find someone who shares my name involved in a mystery. A young man moved to Florence to study art. He went out one night to have a few drinks at the local bar and never returned to his apartment. His passport and credit cards were found in the apartment - he just disappeared.

I followed the search for him on internet for several months and I'm reminded of him whenever I google myself. According to Google I still haven't done anything noteworthy, except not disappear. Unfortunately, they don't write stories about people who don't disappear.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My parents have a great tradition that I will, one day, try to duplicate. They invite 3 couples over for dinner. Picking the couple is crucial- it's important to pick people who would not normally mix. Each person is requested to bring something to read- 10 minutes or less.

This party has evolved over the years. While most people will read a short story or a poem many have pushed the envelope to keep it interesting. One women, an actress, read the tax code for 2003 in dramatic voice. Another man read some of the Burma Shave rhyming advertisements from the 1930's.

One elderly couple, Emil and Carolyn, brought a cassette which they played. What the dinner guests listen to for 10 minutes was meowing noises made by their cat. The elderly couple waited in anticipation for someone to 'get it'. No one did.

"Can't you hearit?" Emil asked shocked that no one understood.
"Our cat is able to speak. Listen closely, those are words she is pronouncing"

The tape was rewound and again played but to no avail. While it was true the cat chattered for an unusually long time the guests could not distinguish actual words much to the dismay of Emil and Carolyn. After several tries Emil realized the problem. Their cat spoke French and the other guests couldn't speak the language.

So, there you have it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving went without a hitch. The food was excellent, the fire roared, the cat stayed upstairs and a quiet truce was called between warring parties for the night.

A few things that I have learned.
1. Cooking a turkey is easy. Your mother didn't want you to help because she didn't want you to know how easy it was.
2. Timing the side dishes is hard but not impossible.
3. Spending a day in the kitchen sounds horrible but in fact is quite nice.
4. Compliments on the meal are much appreciated.

I'm at work, it's 10:15 am friday morning. No one, including the boss, has shown up yet. I'm beginning to wonder if we have the day after Thanksgiving off.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I used to think this was a nonsense holiday. A day of eating too much food and being thankful didn't make much sense to me. The goal now, of course, is to remain thankful everyday, without being a pig.

This year we are preparing the Thanksgiving meal for the first time. Six people will be our guests. These six people may or may not be talking to each other which will make it especially challenging.

I wrote yesterday about change and the fact that traditions, such as dinner at my childhood home were no longer possible. I'm all for mourning this loss, but it is now time to start a new tradition.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I have never been a big fan of change. I like some foundations to remain unshakable.

I grew up in the house I was born in. Six kids spent the 60's, 70's 80's in this house. In the 80's and 90's those six kids became 6 adults with 12 children We would gather, from around the county to reconnect in that house over holidays. No matter how bad things got, I could sit at the kitchen table of my youth and for a moment it would be ok.

As my parents got older the house became too large. The stairs to the 2nd and 3rd floors became more and more difficult for my parents to climb. The gardens, once a joy and a place for meditation, became a chore that was hired out.

They sold the house and rented an apartment downtown. When a light bulb burns out my dad calls down to the front desk and they send someone up to change it- he loves this. They are content and are thankful for the move and the simplified life. I know the move was the right thing to do but I will miss the house this holiday season, in the same way that I would miss a family member.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mandy Lee told me a story from her youth as we drove around town. She was showing me all the places she had been in rehab, foster care and jail. We stood outside the jailhouse as she counted windows to find her cell. I called it the 'Mandy Lock Down Tour of '98'. I was going to have t-shirts made up but I must have lost interest. It's surprising to me the number of people who have been to jail and didn't find it all that bad. When I asked one crusty old woman why she didn't mind jail she said, "what's not to like it's three hots and a cot." Seems like there would be easier ways to get three hot meals in a day but I digress.

Mandy Lee was telling me about the time her mom brought her to the symphony, I believe it was the 1812 Overture. Her mom got the tickets as some sort of 'bringing culture to welfare cheats' program or some such thing. Mandy Lee was young and that particular day she was hungry. Being a child at the symphony, even one with cannon fire, is bad enough but add to the mix hunger and you've got a wicked combination.

Mandy Lee kept asking her mom for a snack, but her mom was having none of it. As she got hungrier, she complained more and as the symphony got louder she complained louder. Finally, in an effort to be heard over the music she screamed,


Of course the music ended right before she began to scream and everyone turned and stared at her mother.

I haven't seen Many Lee for many years, maybe the aliens have taken her home. I hope she packed a lunch for the trip.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I met Amanda several years ago. Although, now that I think about it her birth name was probably not Amanda as she was named after a soap opera character named Mandy Lee. So I guess she is a Mandy Lee. Neither here nor there (or is it) She swore to me that she saw a UFO.

She and her boyfriend lived in a rural area (it may have been a trailer, but that would be too perfect) One evening in summer Mandy Lee heard her boyfriend give a scream and she ran outside to see what had happened. There, as plain as day, was an Unidentified Flying Object hovering directly overhead. Her boyfriend ran back into the house but Mandy Lee did not. She stood there. She was not scared, excited, nervous, or mystified. It made perfect sense to her. The UFO was coming to take her home, of this she had no doubt.

She laughs about it but she also seems sad when she tells the story. The UFO did not take her home. It flew off as quickly and silenty as it appeared. Mandy Lee had to come to terms with the fact that she was home already and that her feelings of being misplaced were something else- also unidentified.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sports, I don't care for them. Playing sports makes sense although I don't do that either. Watching them for hours at a time is beyond my understanding. I don't particularly care if others choose to live that way- it's just not something I have an interest in. I wont judge someone who watches sports and I expect the same consideration for not watching them.

I also don't like when people try to engage me in conversation while I'm in the locker room getting dressed. If you are naked or I am naked leave me the hell alone. I'm not interested in your take on current affairs while your penis is in view. I don't think it's prudish or modest- put some pants on.

These are two things I'm not wild about- combine them and I get annoyed.

I'm finishing up in the locker room after working out. A pale, naked guy approaches me, he puts his hands on his hips and says,

"The Steelers are really kicking the Bengals ass. "

Usually I'll say something that could be taken as an agreement but doesn't lock me into a long conversation, 'yea it sucks' or something as non committal. But this pale naked guy with his 70's haircut was annoying.

"I don't know I'm not that interested in sports and I didn't see it today"

His eyes got wide and he could hardly contain his glee

"Today!!" he said, "the don't play on Saturday, you really are clueless!"

Pale naked guy with hands on hips and scary 70's hair is calling me cluelss in a locker room.

"Yea I guess, I just think its a waste of time to sit in front of the TV for hours on end watching other people play a sport.- Read a book or something"

Naked guy begins to defend television, curiously he does not take offense at the 'read a book comment'.

"It depends on what you watch CNN, History Channel those are good stations."

Why am I in a conversation with naked guy?

"Yea maybe but its been my experience that people who justify how much TV they watch always say they watch Discover or The History Channel or some other educational programming. Notice how no one ever cops to watching re-runs of Three's Company?"

I said this as I walked away and didn't hear his response. I occurs to me that I might need to chill out a bit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I bailed Aaron out of jail after he robbed a convenient store. He reached over the counter and took a handful of twenties and ran. He called me and we met at Highland Coffee House. The problem wasn't that he was remorseful; the problem was they had already identified him it was only a matter of time before they picked him up. I told him that I didn't know shit about this stuff but that he should get a lawyer. I also suggested that since they know it was him and he was going to get caught anyway he might as well turn himself in. I figure they would go easier on him if he pretended to be have second thoughts about his actions and marched over to the police station. He took my advice and called me back at 1:00 AM asking me if I could bail him out of jail, which I did. I thought it was sad, he’s in jail and the only one he could call was a guy who he barely knew. I was explaining this to Bones the next day when Bones enlightened me on how the process works.

“He called you because he done fucked over everyone else. Family, friends you name it he used ‘em up. Who else is gonna bail him out except some sucker that don’t know him”

“Well it was only $100” I said, trying not to show that I began to see that I was screwed.

Bones smiled sadly at my ignorance, “It’s $100, that’s 10% of what you’ll owe if he don’t show to trial”I tried my best to look as though I was well aware that I might be out $1,000.

“...and if you don’t pay it they can take your house”

This was unsettling and I suspected Bones was lying about the property but I wouldn’t let on.
“Bones, sometimes a guy has just got to have faith in someone else, it will all work out the way it’s supposed to”
Bones wasn’t buying into my new found spirituality for a minute. He just shook his head. Even as I was speaking I was scavenging for the bail paper I signed. I needed a little light shed on this cocksucker who was about to fuck me out of $1,000.

Aaron did show up for his court date and got a little slap on the wrist. Since he just reached over the counter and grabbed some $20’s without violence or a gun and the fact that he turned himself in they let him off.

Aaron had to laugh, the guy that he shared a cell with while I was bailing him out spent more time in jail for an unpaid parking ticket than Aaron did for robbery.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Aaron came in to the coffee shop and made a point of marching directly over to Bones. He looked him right in the eyes, stuck his hand out and said, “Hi Bones” Bones raised his head, grunted and reluctantly shook Aaron’s hand.

Bones and Aaron do not care for each other. Aaron is probably a smoother character than Bones when Bones was his age. But Aaron is probably every bit as tough. The one difference I see is that I suspect Bones didn’t bother too much with the ladies where as Aaron will bang anything that moves. You’d be surprised by some of the woman he has gotten. He has no prospects, his history with women is sketchy at best but he is a good looking guy, about 23 with a smile that reminds me a Ray Liola. He is from the street, but probably not successful street. He's the one who is up for anything but will always be caught. He has the gall, but not the guile. There is a constant smell of BO to him. He is unemployed, has a child that he doesn’t support, an ex-wife or girlfriend that has a restraining order against him and a terrible temper. He has short dark blonde hair, wears T-shirts with the sleeves torn off.

I organized a canoe trip with a few of the people at the coffee shop. It didn’t occur to me that he’d be interested ot that he'd have the money. He came into the shop and headed directly toward me. He wanted to discuss why he hadn’t been invited. I tried over and over to explain that I didn’t invite anyone. I was going canoeing, anyone interested meet me there. He finally settled down, and said

“You know, it just hurt my feelings is all”

It was an unsettling thing to hear. I've always suspected that young street thugs had feelings, It just never occurred to me that they would admit it

Friday, November 10, 2006

It will always be difficult to discuss the bible with someone who truly believes the bible was written by God. They will, inevitably prove their point by quoting the bible. But can you use the bible to prove the bible? Probably not, that's when "faith" is brought up and the conversation is basically over.

We were discussing the war and someone quoted Jesus. I personally am inspired by what Jesus said as well as other spiritual revolutionaries. Unfortunately this guy quoted Jesus and expected the argument to be over. It was quiet as everyone considered the latest development in what had been a very spirited conversation. Bones looked the guy, waved him off and said "Jesus was just a hippy on a stick".

There was another awkward silence and then the conversation resumed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In the park I’m watching 6 older men hunched over a picnic table. They are contemplating moving that table. It’s more complicated than it would appear. There is a fair amount of coordination and working well with others. You can’t have one guy hold the table over his head and the other one dragging his end on the ground. Speed needs to be monitored and readjusted every so often. Carrying a table up a flight of stairs is rocket science. The only difference is that rocket scientists don’t ask each other repeatedly ‘you all right?'

The older men stand around the table, their large belly pushing against the sides of the table. They lift the table and immediately set it down. That was a practice run. They are ever mindful of their aching lower backs. They straighten up, confer, regroup and laugh at something one of them said.

“Hold up a second,” shouts a lady wearing a maroon apron as she runs towards them. She has been working the grill and shouting out orders in a fast paced but good-natured way. She is full of the joy that comes with being very busy with thing you know how to do well like cooking and bossing others at a picnic. She kids the men and seems to chastise them. The men look at the ground or the table sheepishly. They are more than willing to play the part of naughty boys caught doing something they shouldn't. A couple of the older men play the part of the grumpy curmudgeon but you know it is all an act. They aren’t curmudgeons, curmudgeons don’t go to picnics. Curmudgeons stay home and curmudge; there isn’t time for much else. They smirk out of the sides of their mouths with each wiseass remark. The discussion is over. Five men get on one side of the table and push while the 6th gets on the other side and pulls. The 6th probably realizes that he is not really moving the table at all but there is no more room on the other side and no one likes to feel left out at a picnic, including or perhaps especially curmudgeonly older men.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This is our cat Ponette. She will always be our little kitten, snuggling and bunting against our legs but don't be fooled -she is, in the words of our vet, "a tri-colored bitch." She will lure you in with purrs and soft meows and then she will bite your nose. Just ask my sisters-in-law or our neighbors.

God looked at her funny once and she bitch slapped him...true story.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

There is something comforting in the first fire of the season. I love the whole ritual of gathering the wood and getting the fireplace ready. It becomes fall. Cool, crisp. The sound and smell of dead leaves, hot soup, down comforters, flannel sheets and shirts. Sitting in front of the fire in this season feels like being in the comfort of your bed, under the covers, on a raining day.

Grabbing an armload of firewood, I feel like Charles Ingalls of Little House fame (although he actually had to cut the wood and I just pay to have someone bring it over and stack it...ok its not like Little House at all.) Indian food is the perfect compliment as the first meal in front of the fire. The house fills up with the smell of cedar- it's absolutely lovely.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I have been keeping a journal for many years but I’ve never kept one continuously. There will be a few months in 7th grade or all of 1998 but nothing for 1992. The college years are represented in spurts reminding me that I was miserable.

It’s strange to look at the years of half begun notebooks and Moleskins. An entire Moleskin will be blank save for 5 pages- it stops as quickly and mysteriously as it began. What do you do with all of these loose journals? I thought about consolidating them all on the computer but that seems like being a little to focused on the past.

Rereading these journals is fun and sometimes a bit unsettling. Creativity will flow in one set and depression is obvious in others. Should these be saved? If so, why? I will not become a celebrity in which these journals will become a fascinating look inside the man. The only people that will have interest in them are my family. Should they have an unedited look inside my head? The thought of having my great grand fathers journal would be interesting but I don't want to know everything about him.

Does keeping a journal mean we have automatically signed away our privacy after death? If these journals are around after us the answer is yes.

I remember years ago, I was living in Chicago. One drunken evening I was looking through my junior high and high school journals and thought, “I need to get rid of this shit” and I did. I burned them all. It is not something I would have done sober but ultimately I think it was the best decision. Since I no longer drink the editing of any journals will be more difficult.

If I were to die tomorrow I would want all my journals, diaries, short stories, poems and any other written evidence of the inside of my head burned. Unless I do this myself there is no guarantee this would happen. The problem is that it's difficualt to destroy memories even if some of these memories are disturbing.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Buttcrack is the new cleavage. This photo is from Rome. Note the Muffin Tops (fat spilling over the waist of the pants).

There was a time when only plumbers would show their butt crack and their Dunlop's Disease ("his belly done lop over he's belt"). Now it is all the rage with the teenage girls. Who knows what will influence fashion?