Farewell to Bob and Frank

Consider this post a brief biography of two men, whose names were Bob and Frank. I knew them both, though they didn’t know each other; sadly, they both died this past month, only three days apart.  They were unremarkable, unexceptional men, as measured by the skewed societal standards of celebrity or accomplishment. In reality, however, nothing could be further from the truth; both Bob and Frank held in common those ideals and characteristics that are the truest measure of the worth of a man.

Bob was born in Akron, Ohio in 1931; he was raised in the Christian faith, albeit in a stifling sect that demanded conformity from its members and the shunning of all outsiders, including other Christians. He owned his own construction business for a time, and built their first home for himself and his wife. He graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Chemistry and worked for the B.F. Goodrich Tire and Rubber Company. Ultimately, he found his church’s incursions into his family life far too invasive, and so bravely decided to move his wife and children away to Tucson in 1970. He worked as a polymer chemist for a local company until his retirement. Bob was my father in law; to me his single greatest achievement in life was his third child, of five, who would later become my wife.

Frank was born in Brooklyn in 1951, to a mother that didn’t want him; she gave him to her sister to raise.  His was a troubled childhood, bounced around between mother and aunt, neither of whom provided the best of care. He quit school at the age of fifteen and began to abuse drugs and alcohol. Later he joined the air force, and met a man who introduced him to Jesus Christ. Frank became a physical therapist, married a special woman and together they had four strapping lads and one lovely daughter. Frank was a friend, whose younger children attended homeschool groups and later Christian high school with my children. Most recently, he mentored and counseled my son (at Sam’s request) with respect to being a good husband for his future bride.

Within days of Sam’s wedding and of each other both men became ill and were rushed to the intensive care unit at Tucson Medical Center. Bob had contracted pneumonia; doctors soon discovered that his swallow reflex was so weak he was aspirating – food and liquids were being drawn into his lungs. A feeding tube was installed in his abdomen so he could be fed. Frank was admitted suffering from a blood disorder; in addition, there was an underlying diagnosis of bone cancer. In both cases, doctors did what they could, and eventually both men were sent to hospice within days of each other.

Frank died on August 21. Bob, though he had briefly rallied, faltered and passed on August 24. In life, neither had sought nor achieved fame at any level; no one who didn’t know them personally will regard their passing. Both provided well for their families, but neither man possessed great wealth. Their legacies, however, are far greater than those of the merely rich and famous, because both men lived as God would have men live.

Both Frank and Bob loved the Lord. Frank was the more unabashed of the two; spend any time with him, and he would soon know where you stood on matters of faith. My son found great encouragement from Frank’s premarital counseling, and had sought him out for his example. Bob took delight in the Word; as he lay distressed in his hospital bed, it was Psalms and verses read by his children and grandchildren that gave him comfort.

Each man took great delight in his family. Though even the most deviant among us can claim to love his own, few can say their happiness and personal definition depended almost solely upon them. Both men loved their wives deeply; Frank for over thirty five years and Bob for over sixty. Each of these men’s children grew confidently in the security of knowing they enjoyed the complete love and devotion of their fathers. Both Bob and Frank radiated contentment and joy while in the presence of their respective families.

Perhaps the most impressive quality inherent in both men was their humility. Though each were brilliant, thoughtful, engaging and quick-witted men, both Bob and Frank were content to defer to others in conversation and were genuinely interested in the lives of those with whom they were engaged. Often, over the raised voices, laughter and interruptions of a large family sharing stories around the dinner table, I would see Bob sitting quietly, smiling broadly and laughing silently as he watched his wife and children interact. On more than one occasion I found myself telling Frank more than I would have him know; I have no doubt that many others who have known him would say the same. How did he do that?

The families of both men are grieving; we have lost the very foundations upon which our relationships are built. We are deprived, as though things cherished but oft taken for granted are stolen forever. Typical of God’s grace, however, as we watched them slowly being taken from us, a sense of peace and acceptance settled in. We became aware that He was and always is in control, and that two men who were fully vested and faithful in life, at its end clinging to it solely for our sake, were freed to relinquish it and take their inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven. And now, for all our sadness, how great their joy!

Posted in Aging, Christianity, Death, Family, Friends, Health, Life, Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Few More Times I Nearly Died

In the past I’ve listed ways in which I’ve barely escaped death, either by physical trauma or embarrassment. (See Ten Times I Nearly Died and The Other Ten Times I Nearly Died). Here’s a few more, although through a dwindling base of experiences from which to choose and the wordiness of these particular examples, this list is shorter (by number, anyway). Without further ado (when “A” does that, does “B” step in it?), then, here are A Few More Times I Nearly Died:

1) Some years ago, I was enjoying a slice of pizza at home. I tend to inhale rather than simply eat those foods I find particularly pleasing, and pizza certainly falls into this shockingly ample category. So I did exactly that; in my gluttony, I inhaled bits of dry crust into my lungs. My windpipe shut down like a cheese eater’s pooper, and the frail, high-pitched squeaks that emanated from my throat enticed several amorous mice to appear from various hiding places in my home. I bolted upright from my chair, ran to my wife and mimed in desperation my mortal predicament. Her response to me, in a tone that decidedly belied the seriousness of the situation was, more or less, as follows:

“I read somewhere that if you can make a sound, you’re not really choking.”

After a few more plaintive squeaks were similarly discounted (the mice, however, were by this time almost blind with passion), I gave myself the Heimlich Maneuver with the help of a wingback chair, expelled the offending crumbs from my lungs and promptly called my life insurance company to change my beneficiary.

Mmm, Mmm, Gross. Courtesy Google Images

Mmm, Mmm, Gross. Courtesy Google Images

2) In high school, my friends and I would often forego our educational opportunities in order to drive up the local mountain and play in the snow. emboldened by cheap wine and the immortality of youth, we would fly down a narrow path through the pines lying face down on an inner tube. After our driver split open his upper and lower lips when he face-planted into the ice, he selfishly demanded that we leave immediately. Strangely, none of us seemed to realize the inherent danger of a drunk driver, bleeding profusely and in considerable pain, hurtling down any icy mountain road at breakneck speed. In short order, we hit a patch of ice, spun several times and crashed sideways into a snow-covered embankment; an avalanche of snow consumed the vehicle. Fortunately, some passers-by dug us out, and as I waited for them to finish the job, saw how lucky we had been: had we spun the other direction, we faced a free-fall of at least two hundred feet and certain death. (Apparently guard rails hadn’t been invented yet).

3) Many years later, my wife and I took our children up the same mountain for some sledding. In my excitement and haste to beat everyone to the slopes (always a child at heart or, more accurately, ever selfish), I pushed down my kids, ran and slipped on some ice, fell on my back, slid downhill and embraced a large, sharp-faced rock with my butt cheeks. I cracked (snicker) my tailbone (medically referred to as the “Coccyx” – again, snicker); for the next three months, every cough or daily constitution was an exercise in agony. Once, I did both simultaneously and cried for ten minutes. Amazing how thought-provoking and all-consuming those things one normally takes for granted can become.

Vienna, Austria -                        Google Images

Vienna, Austria – Google Images

4) When I was twelve, I went with my mother to visit my grandmother in Vienna, Austria.  One one particular day, we visited several museums; after some considerable time (literally minutes), I’d had enough and begged my mom to let me walk back home. I assured her I knew the way and somehow convinced her to let me go. She wrote the address down for me in case I had trouble and off I went.

Three hours later, I was struck with the realization that I was both an idiot and six thousand miles from home; I was hopelessly lost and began bawling like, well, a lost twelve year-old. I remembered the slip of paper my mother had given me and, looking around, chose and then approached the least murderous looking adult I could find. I handed an elderly man the address and, after looking me up and down and regarding me as an offensive little American turd (the Austrians are ridiculously good judges of character – Hitler notwithstanding), pointed at the subway entrance down the street.

As I descended the subway steps, I saw the street name for my grandmother’s house on the wall past the platform opposite my own. I was overjoyed, and after a cursory check for a speeding train,  jumped down onto the tracks to the shouts and shrieks of no small number of Austrian subway riders. I climbed the opposite platform and ran up the stairs to my  street. I attributed their collective concerns to the their culturally innate anal retentiveness (the Teutons are positively freaked out by any overt diversion from the social order); only later did I learn that the rails carry 600 volts of electricity.fountain

5) I would employ my son to install fountains with me during the summer, when I needed help with something heavy or if I wanted to show him what not to do for his career. On one particular occasion we were in the back of my box truck, with a four hundred pound fountain bowl balanced on edge between us. The weight of the bowl shifted toward me and I found myself falling backward out of the truck; my son reached for me as I fell.

“No! The bowl!” I shouted before I landed on the driveway with a sound like a load of watermelon spilling from a flipped produce truck. (This was a hand-carved stone bowl, worth easily a thousand dollars; my current worth at the time was arguably less).

As I lay on my back, breathless and assuming permanent paralysis, my attention turned to the bowl rolling steadily toward me; I could only imagine the horror of my son seeing my eyes, intestines, twig and berries spontaneously and violently expelled from every aperture of my body. Fortunately, my son was able to change the bowl’s course and it turned and then dropped, harmlessly, to the carpet-covered floor of the truck. Its inertia pushed him from the truck as well, but he landed on his feet, strangely enough.

6) I let my wife drive again last week. As the unlucky pedestrian spanned our front windshield, our eyes briefly locked; he looked at me as if to say “Why the sidewalk?”, before my wife turned the wipers on and he slid past my passenger window. I had always felt God had a special reason for keeping me alive; like the aforementioned pedestrian, who only seconds before had stepped outside, has my purpose now been served? Am I now a marked man?

Fortunately, as the years have gone by and I’ve become increasingly slothful, the chances of me dying in exotic fashion seem less likely. Admittedly, I could drop from a heart attack or aneurysm at any moment, but the odds of me croaking dramatically seem to be getting longer. I still eat Pizza, though….

Posted in Christianity, Death, Health, Humor, Life, Living, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Wedding Bells are Clanking – Again!

Well, it’s happening again. My son, who I introduced to you all a year ago (see That’s My Boy, Jan. 2012), is getting married. His relationship with a German girl, Julia, vexed by the daunting obstacles of both distance and finance, somehow endured and is blossoming into sam and juliapermanence. Sam’s genetic predisposition towards faithfulness and resolve (thank you, God, for recessive genes) has served him well, and his reward is a prize beyond measure.

The couple met in the summer of 2010, when Sam and a friend spent almost four months lost in Europe. There they met up with a friend from Tucson, who had been a German exchange student here; she invited them to her church in Berlin, where he met Julia – the Pastor’s  daughter, no less.

When Sam went to Europe, my wife and I were more concerned with him losing his passport, getting shanked in a Rome alleyway, having his wallet picked by a less than choosy gypsy, or hopping on a wrong flight and ending up in Calcutta with no money. It never occurred to us that he might find the love of his life there, and we couldn’t be happier. She is a bright, cheerful, beautiful and engaging young lady; just like his father, some twenty-five years before him, Sam has chosen wisely. Also, like his father, he could not have done better for himself.

How else are we alike, you ask? (Maybe you didn’t, but you should have – how rude of you). Well, he has my devastatingly good looks (clearly, he stole them from me, since I haven’t had them for a very long time); my sense of humor (many would argue that he stole that from me as well); and a consistent and very peculiar listing of the head whenever our pictures are taken. (See above). All of the other qualities – the ones that make him a great son, a strong and supportive friend, a fiercely loyal and loving partner – he got from watching television his mother. Know what? I’m okay with that.

So, in a little more than two weeks, I’m proud to say that my son will be a married man. Why no fear, no hesitance, no sense of dread on my part this time? Well, for one thing, he is my son; the last wedding involved my oldest daughter, and the idea of some guy (though, admittedly, a really, really good guy) putting his mitts on and worse, cohabitating with my precious, beautiful girl, was a little disconcerting. But because He’s my son, the idea of Sam putting his mitts on and cohabitating with someone else’s precious, beautiful girl actually makes me kind of proud. Admittedly, it’s not fair, but if you’re a dad you get it.

The real reason I anxiously await this wedding, though, is this: two people, separated by six thousand miles of land and ocean, met by chance, quite briefly, and each were intrigued enough to cross that considerable span no less than six times combined to test the resiliency of their relationship. To all that know them, one thing is clear: this is a union planned, nurtured and ordained by God.

There’s a flurry of activity as the date approaches. There was some concern that Julia might not get her permanent visa in time to make the date, but God has made certain she will be here in time. My wife has dealt with much of the arrangements in her absence; I have handled the considerable accompanying stress (strangely, I am only associatively affected) with knowing nods and timely shakes of the head.

It’s going to be an amazing day; God, who is in control, will make it so. My only son, of whom I am infinitely proud, and who I love as much as I am able, is marrying a beautiful and incredible woman. My daughters are just as dear to me as he; they are more precious than anything man can claim as such. Now, with Julia joining our family, my wife and I are blessed with another.

So, on July 27, offer a prayer if you’re so inclined, or simply remember that on that day, in a time where tragedy, sadness and despair increasingly take center stage, an event that relatively few will see, but one that exemplifies at least some of what is right with the world will take place, and I get to be there for it.

Posted in Children, Christianity, Family, Humor, Life, Living, Marriage, Uncategorized, Weddings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Struggler’s Guide to Dieting

I went to the grocery store recently, as I am often wont to do; my wife buys most of the groceries for our home, but her tastes tend toward earthy and healthful. When I look into the fridge all I see are grasses, weeds, sticks and roots. I’m a big man, with big needs; occasionally I need sustenance of a heartier and more indulgent nature.

Courtesy Google Images

Courtesy Google Images

I pulled into the store’s lot and parked, but lingered in my car for a couple of minutes: The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me (possibly the best song ever recorded) was playing, and my car’s air conditioning kept blissfully at bay the hell that awaited me outside (it was 110 F that day). As I idly scanned the parking lot and joined Roger Daltrey in a stunning impromptu duet,  I became aware of a most startling and disturbing trend: everyone I saw in the parking lot, either coming from or entering into the store, was – how shall I put this delicately – overweight. You know what? Forget delicacy; they were fat, obese, often morbidly so. It was a parade of cottage cheese come to life; of the Michelin Man, wigged and testing the limits of women’s capris.

I walked the to the store, determined to take my visual poll of American decadence inside. As I approached the doors, and before they thankfully swung open, I briefly saw myself in the glass and, to my horror, realized I was one of them. Inside the store was more of the same; I was one among an army of engorged zombies, fattened by feeding on the bodies of the dead (albeit those of cows, pigs and such, all dismembered and pre-packaged for convenience) and the myriad poor choices available aisle after aisle.

So, where were all the thin people? Perhaps we ate them, being the mindless fat zombies that we are. Maybe we sat on them and they sunk between the couch cushions along with the loose change that forcibly expelled from our pockets when we sat down on our giant bums. More likely still all the thin people were shopping at the Hippy Earthy Organic All Natural Stores my wife prefers, both to maintain their lithe physiques and to avoid being trampled at Unsafeway.

Me and the Mrs.  Courtesy Google Images

Me and the Mrs. Courtesy Google Images

Well, I want to look like the thin people; I just don’t want to eat like them. I am willing to concede that healthy looking people may be on to something, so I’m going to meet them partway. Herein lies the simple beauty of the Struggler’s Diet, which I unveil to you now, in its entirety and free of charge: I will continue to eat the way that pleases me (picture Jabba the Hutt, sans bikini clad, chained hottie) for most of the day, but for dinner I’ll eat a beer or a Gin and Tonic. If hunger meows at stomach’s door, I’ll shoo it away with some sliced green or red peppers, cucumbers or celery. At some point in the evening I’ll add a nice waddle around my neighborhood; if some of the more shady elements are out and about, it’ll turn into a full cardio workout, so I’ve got that going for me.

Sounds stupid, you say. You’re stupid. If you’re fat but are still somewhat mobile during the day, you’ll lose weight doing what I’ll do. My theory is that the evening, with its inherent tendency towards lethargy, is the wrong time to be eating, especially the bad (good) stuff. I work hard most days, actively and outdoors, so I’m confident that I’ll have burned off all of my Breakfast of Champions and most of my Lunch of Legions by the time dinner rolls around.

Not Mine(as far as you know). Courtesy Google Images

Not Mine(as far as you know). Courtesy Google Images

You’re a moron, you say. No argument there, but I do this every year after summer season ends and I’m done coaching basketball until November. It has worked to varying degrees every time, depending on my level of enthusiasm. With my son’s wedding looming just ahead (more on that later) and the highly reflective qualities of my local grocery store’s doors, I resolve to really stick to it this time. I offer you this image of someone’s gut as a “before” picture; I’ll post another picture of someone else’s gut as proof of my success come November.

Posted in Christianity, Diet, Family, Health, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Weddings, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Monday Sucks, Part ll

I consider myself to be a rational man, to the extent that if things go my way, I tend to be fairly easy-going. In actuality, I don’t tend to “lose it” very often, or for very long, when life becomes contentious. The waves of misfortune have crashed over me ceaselessly since I could crawl, so like a pebble in the surf, I am smooth as glass; the rough edges of my disposition have long since worn away.

Except every Monday.

As I mentioned earlier (see Part 1), Monday and I don’t get along. She is a weekly reminder that the carefree, What Shall I do for Fun Today lives of the independently wealthy are reserved for those with money. Moreover, she seems to take devilish delight in vexing me at every turn; I can’t recall the last Monday in which indentureship brought me joy or even satisfaction from a job well done. Still, as a Christian man I am called to forgive those who trespass against me; I resolved, therefore, to extend Monday the olive branch of peace so that I might always become the engaging, devil-may-care human so many clamor to be around from Tuesday through Sunday.

This past Monday I lay in bed, pondering as I do each morning the steps necessary to hoist my considerable self into a roughly vertical position with greatest efficiency and least crackling of bones and startled tendons so as not to wake my wife. Unintentional toot notwithstanding, I did so with measurable success; I resolved that this positive start was  portend to a Monday filled with possibility. She and I were to become fast friends from this week forward.

The footboard of our bed is a marvel of design, in the fashion of the Spanish Grand Inquisition and from Sear’s splendid Torquemada Chamber Collection. Otherwise rectangular in shape, its upper corners extend outwards like axe blades laid on their sides. As I pulled on my work shorts in the dark, teetering on one leg like a (big, fat) stop sign in a hurricane, I managed to run the shin of the other leg down the edge of the board from upper ankle to knee. The skin came off in tight curls, like that of a pared apple. Somehow, strangely, my wife woke up. I whispered whimpering apologies through clenched teeth for the spontaneous and colorful exclamations that had announced to her the dawning day, and stumbled to the bathroom.

I refused to let this mishap stand in the way of what would surely be the best Monday in memory; after all, while I sat on the toilet and screamed unmentionables into a towel, the dog had licked the blood and bits of shredded flesh from my shin and the blinding pain had withdrawn to a steady and dull ache. I washed up and resolved to embrace the coming day. I let the dog outside into the back yard and went through the side gate and into the front yard to retrieve the morning paper.

At this point it would be prudent for me to explain that I am a tenderfoot; that is to say, my feet are tender. On occasion, I’ll step on a small pebble or Eucalyptus seed on my front driveway and drop quicker than a white heavyweight boxer. If I try to put shoes on before going to get the paper, my dog will whine and yelp as though hit by a shovel (I know this, because she makes exactly the same sounds when I hit her with a shovel); she’ll wake the entire household and half the neighborhood. As I waddled out for the paper, I scanned the concrete in front of me, hyper-vigilant to avoid anything that might hurt my delicate platforms.

I don’t know how I missed it; perhaps it blew across my path as I looked further ahead. I stomped neanderthalically upon a goathead, which jabbed itself to the hilt into the ball of my foot (why there was a goat loose in my neighborhood and why it couldn’t keep better track of its noggin are both questions for the ages); I dropped faster than my last stock pick and let loose an unbridled verbal assessment of my predicament. The little kid who waits for the school bus across the street likely made an impression on his teacher later that day with his newly expanded vocabulary, resulting in an extremely awkward and confusing parent/teacher conference and which hopefully explained the later home visit from Child Protective Services.

After a hearty breakfast and extremely gratifying morning constitutional, my attitude was once again hopeful. I climbed into my truck to begin the workday and slid into the seat – literally. Where I sit is really more a crisscross of metal bars and wire; the actual cushioned seat one expects in a motorized conveyance had long since eroded and disappeared. I cover them with an old t-shirt, both to offer some protection to my nether regions and to hide the shameful sight from those who have no business looking into my truck in the first place.

Often my truck gives me a poke or pinch upon entering; I usually consider it a playful act of affection, as she and I go way back and love each other deeply. (See an earlier post, The Other Woman). Apparently, though, she hates Mondays as well and today her mood was foul; I was gaffed both fore and aft by two separate wires. Two spikes of searing pain from my southern hemisphere were exceeded only by the one of panic in my chest. Sliding forward for relief would result in a spontaneous neuturing and, in moving backward, a camera-less colonoscopy. Only by wiggling and undulating gently side-to-side like a painfully shy hula dancer for a terrifying few seconds was I able to free myself. I dropped my head on the steering wheel and whimpered like an abandoned puppy for several agonizing minutes.

I had extended to Monday the olive branch of peace, and she had taken it. And beaten me with it. She had seen fit to attack me three times already, and I’d yet to leave the driveway. A friendship takes two agreeable parties, and it was clear that Monday preferred our relationship the way it had always been. As I leaned against the ropes, wobbled, arms at my sides, face swollen and bloodied, I watched her emerge from the fog in front of me, hitting her gloves together and advancing, her eyes dancing with murderous intent. Monday, here she comes…

Posted in Careers, Christianity, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Monday Sucks, Part I

I hate Monday. It hates me, too; so much so that it creeps invariably and insidiously into my precious weekend, hiding stealthily in the background and then suddenly jumping up and down, arms waving and teeth bared in a Cheshire grin, a shameless attempt to muffle any sense of joy I might glean from two days away from the burden of service to others. Monday is a pile of steamed broccoli plopped unceremoniously in the middle of a plate of Saturday Steak and Sunday Mashed Potatoes and Gravy; both are ruined by its offending juices.

You see, I am a man predestined to a life of leisure; an existence without care or responsibility is the only one to which I am well-suited. Sadly, I so embraced this predestination in my formative years that I now lack the means with which to pursue it. As a result, I must press on, much like the rest of you born to strife and indenture. Most of you long ago reconciled your plight, since it is all you and your ancestors have ever known. Many of you may have even been bewitched into thinking that you enjoy your service in whatever form it takes. It is for these that I weep the most (figuratively, of course). You have been robbed, since the time that you were old enough to think for yourself, of any discernment as to what constitutes a meaningful life. Granted, for those of you who have chosen service to those less fortunate, there is some gratification in your work, but only if you’ve taken the time to see what it is that you’ve given up. I have spent a precious hour or two in this pursuit, and I can see the resultant pain absolutely magnifies the pleasure of the pursuit of oneself and is therefore a somewhat worthy endeavor in limited form.

I don’t mean to alienate anyone with the gist of this discourse; good for you that you are “happy” in your work. I merely mean to say that I am a king without kingdom, and Monday is a constant reminder that I am denied my birthright as a preordained appreciator of all that should be rightfully given me. How much more benefactor; how much more servant to the poor; how much more uplifting to the people so much less deserving than myself would I be, were Monday (and the other four maidens of service) the same as the two days I’ve been given to rest my considerable mind and body?

More, I dare say. More.

Posted in Blogging, Careers, Christianity, Health, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Struggler’s Shameful Return

I returned today to my site for the first time this year and was appalled at what I found: cobwebs everywhere, dust on every surface, some pizza crust on a paper plate (still edible!…which is to say, I ate it) and a general sense that the place had been abandoned in short order, like a Chernobyl kiosk. Now that I’ve tidied up a bit (note said pizza crust), it feels good to be back. I’m sure you’ve all missed me terribly. What?…well, I didn’t miss you either, then! How rude!

I doubt this is the beginning of any sort of consistent writing. Admittedly, I’ve been kicking around the thought of starting up again for the past month or so, and have given no small measure of time to what I might wish to say. Some of my “best” ideas in the past were conjured up during happy hour, but as it’s recently been expanded (now 5-11p.m.) at my customer’s (my) request, those little seedlings are less likely to be sprouting with the same springtime fervor. Furthermore, cultivating any during this critical time of reflection would first require writing them down, lest they be lost forever; this would necessitate at least some effort on my part, not to mention the organization of pen and paper beforehand. The whole process would seem to defile the very purpose of happy hour; frankly, at present I see no practical way around this conundrum.

It may also be that I’ve nothing left in the tank; after eighty or so posts, perhaps I’m spent. It seems odd that after an almost four-month hiatus I seem to have so little to say. What’s going on between the ears, anyway? Well, picture a mostly barren desert, with no discernible movement among a few tired weeds and scraggly bushes….wait: a lone tumbleweed rolls slowly past; we focus hopefully upon it, wishing for some visual transition to something more interesting, only to watch it slowly disappear out of frame.

And so it is. What goes through my mind at any given time? Well, with the top down, it is the wind; whilst frolicking in the surf, the sea; between you and the nearest lamp, it is the light; and with furrowed brow, chin in hand and pensive in countenance, it is Judas Priest’s Victim of Changes. If you want to dip your toes into the depths of my mind, you’ll have to jump off the dock and go straight in. Careful to go in feet first; you could break your neck.

I look forward to visiting those who have followed and whom I’ve followed in the past, and if you’re new and pay a visit, I’ll check out your site as well. After all, I might find something worth stealing and passing off as my own….Oh, look! Almost five hundred words; that’s a post in my book. Woo-hoo! I’m back, baby!

Posted in Blogging, Christianity, Humor, Life, Living, Music, Rock and Roll, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Resolvable Resolutions

Galations 6:7-10.

I have to admit that I’ve taken to the notion of creating resolutions for myself as a new year approaches; it’s kind of funny, and oddly pathetic, that the tossing of a simple calendar somehow signifies a chance for a fresh start in one’s life. Still, there is in January a convenient starting point for the measurement of change. (“I resolved to change my appearance. Look: since the first of the year I’ve become quite a bit fatter, and so I’ve had to buy new clothes. Success!”). Resolutions are all about self-improvement; I take this to mean improvement of my existence. After all, if my life isn’t any better for it, what good is a resolution? For that matter, if my life isn’t any better for your resolutions, what good are they, either? Sadly, I likely can’t compel most of you to improve yourselves for my benefit, so I’ll stick to those things whose influences directly affect my well-being and whose courses I can reasonably expect to change in my favor. To this end, I declare the following resolutions for 2013:

Galations 6:7-10.

1) I resolve to lose some weight. Assuming my life’s about to get better, I certainly want to be around for it. Begrudgingly, I admit my substantial girth could begin to eat away at the quality of my later years; then again, they are the last ones and logic dictates they’ll likely be the worst, at least physically. Still, I have often thought how fun it’ll be to be the funny, cantankerous old coot of the family. (Some would argue I already am). Finally, my innate sense of crudeness and impropriety can billow forth, like bats from a cave at dusk, under the full protection of advanced age. In this there is something to live for; I’m going to eat a little better, move around a little more, so that I can take in all that old age has to give.

Galations 6:7-10.

2) I resolve to have more fun. I bet I didn’t play golf ten times this year. Though I’d probably kill someone if I played every day, once a week or so would be fun. I deserve it. It seems like I’m always doing things that I don’t want to, or letting others dictate how I spend my time. Well, no more. I could get hit by a meat truck tomorrow. If I do, I want to be able to grab a few sausages and scarf them down while I’m laying there, without someone always scolding me about bad choices. Life is for living, and that’s what I’m gonna do.


3) I’m going to treat myself better. From now on, if there’s something I want, I’m going to get it. I deserve a treat now and then. I could get hit by a meat truck tomorrow. What would years of living within my means, of fiscal restraint, have done for me then? There’s things I want to do, stuff I want to see. If I wait until I can afford it, I might not ever do it. Touring Ireland in a diaper won’t be as fun. Going to sleep at 7:30 in a Vienna hotel sounds lame. Sure, someone else may have to do without, but that’s someone else.

Galations 6:7-10. Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore,  as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

4) I resolve to be a better man.I may have overstated the inherent selfishness in my prior resolutions, but only to a point; each of them, in some roughly congruent form, were on my mind. None of them would improve anyone’s life but my own. At church this past Sunday, these verses were of central focus. If I resolve to improve my relationships with others, to sow seeds of faith by example and by works, and to try to reinforce faith among the faithful, I can favorably affect the lives of many in addition to my own. Even better, I won’t have to worry about the last years of my life, because I’ll have it everlasting. I’m still going to try to lose some weight, though, if only so I can stick around long enough to enjoy what I already have, and to see what else He has in store for me and for those I love.

Posted in Aging, Christianity, Family, Humor, Life, Living, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Anterior Cruciate Ligaments: Who Knee’s Em? – Part II

The sudden, painful explosion of the ACL in my left knee on Thanksgiving Day, 1983 (see Part I), was a devastating occurrence for a number of reasons. First, it effectively ended, or at least drastically curtailed, a life-long predilection for athletics. Gone was the ability to play football or basketball at any level of competence relative to that of my peers; I simply couldn’t move as fast, and my ability to change direction became comparable to that of the Titanic. My body, once a sleek, twin-engined speedboat (I say this with full confidence, since few of you knew me then), began over the years to slowly add tonnage port, starboard, fore and aft, so that at present I more closely resemble said ill-fated vessel not only in movement but appearance as well. This story would have been tragic enough were it not for my apparent purpose in life as a depository for life’s evacuatory processes. God gave me two knees, with an anterior cruciate ligament in each; life still had opportunity for another squat.

December 15, 1994 dawned cold and bleak. The temperature never passed the lower forties; this was bitter cold by Tucson standards. From the low, dreary skies fell a steady drizzle of rain mixed with intermittent sleet. Normally, my partner and I would gleefully call it a day (upon waking) and stay home, but we had a deadline to meet and a full schedule in the coming days more resistant to movement than a herd of fat, contented cattle.

Cement work in these conditions is slow and tedious; most of our work with concrete and mortar is visible and commands a clean, finished look. In intolerable weather conditions such as the ones we now endured, the curing process moves slower than a broad-butted woman in a Costco aisle at Christmas time. We found ourselves babysitting wet, sagging grout joints that behaved like obnoxious little brats in need of a good smack and brisk shaking. Soon we were soaked to the bone, cold and shivering, and to make matters worse, the fifty-two ounces of coffee I’d consumed to combat the cold now assailed my bladder mercilessly. I had to pee.

Herein lies one of the truly great things about manhood: the world is your urinal. Try and find a man who hasn’t clandestinely marked territory in his own back yard a time or two. There is a certain peace, a sense of order in this otherwise chaotic world when man is free to openly engage creation with his most prized appendage. Still, in a public setting, he must acknowledge a certain need for discretion and decorum, lest he offend those fettered by cultural norms. I went off in search of a discreet location where I could let off a little “steam”, as it were (it was really cold).

I found a deep drainage culvert, perhaps twelve feet deep and lined on both sides with large, smooth river rock. Though no one seemed to be within sight, I felt an unusual shyness and need for stealth (customers tend to be almost universally disapproving of surreptitious tinkling on their properties). I moved carefully down one side of the ditch, walking like a geisha in a tight kimono, until it felt reasonably safe to proceed. It was here that things went tragically, painfully and yet comically wrong.

Things started well enough, with the process beginning in good order and with it the wave of relief and contentment in knowing that pathetically wetting one’s self was still likely years away. I was fully involved, employing said culvert for its intended purpose, when suddenly I lost my footing on the wet stones. I slid helplessly down the embankment; my right leg was caught underneath my body as I went. My knee sounded the alarm that I knew so well – a snapping sound like two people yanking on the wishbone of a California Condor – and then white sheets of pain enveloped my every sense.

It’s interesting how a sense of propriety can rule over even the most dire of situations. As I lay at the bottom of the culvert, covered in my own urine, and that which was most uniquely my own splayed out for all to see (admittedly, “splayed” may be a generous word, for as I mentioned before, it was really cold), I managed to keep my screams of pain between my ears. A more pathetic personal display I could not imagine, and at the time I simply wasn’t willing to let anyone else see it. (Strangely, though, I’m certainly willing to share it with you now).

Now, almost twenty years later, the full result of these two calamitous events may be coming to full bear. My knees bark like a couple of disobedient dogs. Every day I bust a move with the Pants Dance – one leg through, then a terrifying ten second display of teetering, pathetic hopping and silent personal encouragement before the other plops more or less into its appointed hole. Often the team I coach is a girl short in practice and I will “step” in; my girls giggle at my slothfulness and I make light of it, too. The reality comes later, when I mosey around the house like an old, bow-legged camp cook and each step is a reminder that things taken for granted may not always be there for you.

Posted in Aging, Christianity, Family, Health, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I Vote For Stupid

Drive around Tucson these days and your visual sense will be bombarded at virtually every intersection. Political signs have popped up on every corner, like mushrooms in the rainy season. Personally, I’m offended someone is betting that placing a candidate’s name in red, white and blue lettering on a street corner is all it will take to sway my vote in their favor. How little they must think of the electorate, and of myself in particular:

“Heck, I’s wishin’ I knew who and whut I’s s’posed ta be a-votin’ fer…Hey! Whut’s that a-yonder?…A sign! Ima Bigget for School Superintendent.  Now there’s someone usin’ their noggin; puttin’ their name on a sign and all. Her’s got my vote!”

Or is it recognition through attrition? As I stand in the voting booth: “Heck, I don’t know who ta vote fer county sheriff…hold on! This feller Will Blunder sounds familiarWhere’d I see that name duzzens and duzzens o’ times afore?…can’t rightly recall. Oh, well, must be someone special. Him’s got my vote; sure hope he wins.”

It’s even more strange that these signs are all clumped together, often thirty or more in all, and each use the same color schemes; if I’m so dumb, how am I expected to be able to focus on just one colorful name in a sea of names in red, white and blue?

Let’s assume for a moment that there is some benefit to bombarding the electorate with signs; in other words, we are that stupid. Now there is a tendency in television advertising to focus solely on the “shortcomings” of one’s opponent, to the extent that only their name and face appear in the ad along with their horrifying indiscretions and fascist inclinations. This seems counter-intuitive by historical standards of advertising; if Coke wants to sell more Coke, do they only show images of Pepsi? By the same logic that dictates I vote by virtue of name recognition, doesn’t it stand to figure that I’ll vote for the opponent featured in the commercial? After all, their name and face is the only one I see over and over again, and I am really, really stupid…

The whole process is messed up. I don’t presume to have the answers, but one thing is certain: Political strategists are confident that much of the voting public are really that stupid and that  years of polling and statistical analysis bear that out. For those of us who feel we are intelligent and not easily distracted by shiny things and pretty colors, how many of us can honestly say we are informed and knowledgeable when it comes to candidates and propositions? Blind adherence to party platforms is not knowledge, and the information that comes our way is invariably tainted and skewed. Is an uninformed vote better than no vote at all? I’m sorry, but that answer is unequivocally no. It really is why the party system exists, isn’t it? So that someone who represents our feelings on one or more central issues can tell us how to vote on each of them?

I have no party affiliation, because I have a functioning brain; I am too intelligent to embrace or condemn all the tenets of any one party. You are an idiot, or at the very least pathetic, if you do. I am a proud Greentealiberpublicommucrat. If you want my vote, you’ll have to do one or more of the following:

1) Extol  your own virtues. Do not speak poorly of the other candidate. In fact, say something nice about him; if he is good, but you claim to be the better choice, doesn’t that make you great by comparison? Telling me that your opponent is Satan’s spawn and that voting for him will hasten the decline of civilization does nothing to convince me you’ll be any better.

2) Show me you can work well with others. Promise me you’ll work for solutions, with elected officials from other parties and for the public good. If you vote purely for the sake of stalemate and opposition, you are not doing your job and you suck.

3) Work for Me. If I vote for you, I expect you to work for me, and by me I mean me. I want one of those golf trips to Aruba from those lobbyists who ply you with goodies; I want a chunk of the kickback from that mafia-owned construction company you got the building contract for; I want the same pay raise you vote for yourself; I want the same health benefits you get.

I’m not likely to get any of these things from any candidate; since I know that’s true, no one gets my vote based on merit. Some may get my vote because it’s clear their opponent is a horrible human being; there are several whom I consider the lesser of two evils. Most, however, will get no vote, for as I stated before, an uninformed vote is worse than no vote at all.

Posted in Elections, Life, Living, Politics, Uncategorized, Voting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments