Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pick a cliché, any cliché

I am standing in the middle of an eight-way highway interchange. Frozen by tonic immobility as the events of my life whiz by me at speeds that must surely be illegal, immoral, and fattening.

Tomorrow, I will engage with a new ‘smartphone’ that will tell me where I am, where I should go, how I should get there, who’s calling /where they are, and can surely measure my core body temperature if I only insert the appropriate Bluetooth device. In other words, I will be entering into a new relationship. I know this because I see it, everyday. Just now, my computer insisted that I capitalize “Bluetooth.” I have co-workers that stare blithely into these things seemingly at every turn. I truly do not wish to be assimilated as much as I want to just keep up; I too must have something to do while everyone else is checking their YouTube accounts, not just stand there with empty hands and something witty to say. Now I’ll be able to Twitter it for the entire world’s pleasure, just like this blog. My initial enthusiasm for all of this stuff has been replaced by a slight nausea. I think that’s healthy, although my blog continues. . .

I’m facing a practical problem when it comes to this space. I may have written about it, before -  I don’t remember, and am too lazy to either tag my posts for later search or look it up, now (Technology does not exist in a guiltless vacuum – it simply enhances it in new and exciting ways).  I know that this problem has existed as long as writing has. Mark Twain purposefully stalled his autobiography for 100 years because of it – it’s only being published now. I have taken some solace in this.  The problem is one of exposure. I am a pretty open person; I attribute that to being brought up in a Minister’s home where our lives were pretty exposed to a large circle of people -  in fact, many aspects of my personal and home life were used as sermon ‘illustrations.’ Just ask my Mom about Walnut Chicken. One of the things that I have learned in my life outside the parsonage is that there is a modicum of privacy available for those who choose it. Most of the things I’ve had to write about, lately, have involved other people, and I ultimately have not felt comfortable (or courageous, if one were to assume a militant stance) enough to make them feel as I often did sitting in those pews as a young boy. I’m not claiming psychic damage here, I’m just making a point. Not clever enough yet to mask my personal relationships with the polite fiction of a novel (that allows deniability), I struggle to write about my life without exposing theirs. It was fairly easy when Emma was more idea than ingénue – when it was mostly about me and how I wrap my head around the implications of her existence, rather than the practical realization that I’ve been changing diapers for nearly 14 years, now (yes, that includes Sam’s warm-up years). If I am to preserve this privacy for my family and friends, can I exclude Emma merely because she’s not ‘aware’ enough to be embarrassed or feel ‘exposed?’ I’m struggling with this.

Is it important (to whom? to me? to you? to my great friends whom I’ve met through blogging?) that I write about the realization that my 11-year old daughter is now beginning the process of becoming capable of reproduction (How’s that for taking ‘that’ to a new level. . . )?  Would any  ‘normal’ 11 year old girl be happy that her Dad had announced this to the world? Uh, NOT! I suppose that I should have, could have blogged about it before it happened, but there’s nothing like being in the moment to bring things into sharper focus. I can only imagine that, typically, this is a milestone calling for trepidation – any reasonable thinking Father would be thinking in terms of a triple-walled compound with guard dogs and underground sensors. For me, there are added dimensions of fear. I’m not going to enumerate them now, you’re all smart enough to go down that path as far as you may wish to. Those few ‘outsiders’ that I’ve shared this with give me a look that I haven’t seen in a long time – you can see the torment in their eyes as they need to respond to you, but would much rather be running down the street in the opposite direction screaming obscenities at the top of their lungs. It’s nice to share, if only for the moment as you see it flash across their countenance.  I say, “nice”, yeah it’s a guilty serendipitous pleasure, and I’m not sorry.

Well, since that ‘genie is out of the bottle’, I suppose I’ve given us all permission to talk about it some more, and I may. My reason for taking this particular liberty is that I’m trying to focus this blog on my experiences and thoughts about being Emma’s Dad. It’s a bit unique, and I have been told that it’s given some others insight. Although Emma may not ‘mind’ (gosh, that’s a loaded word, there), I do mean to mind her as a whole person. I think it’s why I’ve seen so many be so passionate, publicly, about their kids and experience at first; not so much as they get older. Passions wane, wounds (actual and perceived) heal, and the just plain reality of bumping through those diaper and bedding changes become the numbing ‘normal.’ It’s why I admire my friend Nick; he’s been able to get in position by virtue of who and what he is to make a real difference in the lives of many in Ireland – from my great distance I’ve seen him mold anger and pain into purpose.

These are just a couple of the ‘crossroads’  I’ve been standing in. 51, with all of the incumbent inhibitions. I have great family and friends, a home, and health insurance. I am, by just about any standard, content. Just Bittersweet, that’s all.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It’s the Next, Most, Wonderful Time, of the Year.

This is the time of year when things get out of routine, although it’s happened about 23 times, now. It’s when we go to Lake Mead for a long weekend on the houseboat.

By things, I mean stuff just happens around this trip. There’s plans to be made, stuff to buy. . .  this is the impetus for us to buy music to play on the boat, books to borrow/buy to read on the boat, things to float on (we have a large inflatable shark, for example, from a previous year), meals to plan/cook ahead. This year, it’s been a challenge to find folks to take care of the kids while we’re gone, but we did it. Leaving your children in the care of others for nearly five days is a mental exercise regarding probabilities and possible outcomes that frankly leaves me with a hollow feeling in my stomach. Bittersweet.

There’s a lot of other stuff going on, too. We’re just about mid-way through a project to make the garage a usable space for us. Let’s just say that we put a bunch of junk in there when we moved in 13 years ago and just added to it until it was ‘waste high’. Several trips to the dump and various recyclers has left us with a storage unit half full in the driveway and a nearly drywalled space soon to be filled with grown-up cabinets and, hopefully, some semblance of organization. There’s even talk of a shed for the landscaping accoutrements (that’s French, without the umlauts). There might be “after” pictures, but no “before” pictures were taken for legal reasons, and those who have assisted us are sworn to secrecy.

Friday, as I was cutting someone off on the freeway (hey, she’d jerked her car in front of me on the onramp, I was just returning the favor), Kar-ma  (made myself laugh) struck when my sudden acceleration (again joking because it’s a ‘91 Civic sedan, awright?) caused the alternator belt to shred. Savvy motorist that I am, recovering from the interesting sound of it flapping around for 5 seconds or so, followed by the illuminated ‘battery’ idiot light  - along with the lack of billowing smoke or remaining recognizable pieces in my rear-view mirror, I ascertained this truth and drove home. Those of you who have worked on Japanese cars will sympathize with me when I opened the hood to the realization that the alternator belt is the first of three belts attached to the main pulley. For the rest of you, this means that one (and this was the moment when I determined that I was not to be that one) must remove the other two to complete the task at hand. And need I remind you that my tools are distributed in about 5 boxes in the previously mentioned storage box in the driveway? So, another day off from work on Monday whilst a younger person with a lift, a real toolbox, and probably a hangover replaces all three belts, with the appropriate grunting and tension on them. Might as well change the oil, too.

In addition, today we’re driving up to Temecula to see an unusual mix of inlaws and outlaws. Another afternoon of chasing Emma around Pat & Oscar’s.

So I’ll need Monday to make the Green Chile Stew in advance; my boatmates are tired of watching me work on it on Saturday afternoon. How else am I to garner their heartfelt appreciation for my culinary efforts – now it’s just another frozen dinner from Costco. Big whoop. I’m.Just.kidding –it’ll taste better after that chemical thing that happens to soups and stews that makes them taste better the next day. Probably.

Like I said, stuff just happens around this excursion. The trip will be great – paying good $$ for a properly maintained boat with a marine radio to complain into (and that is rare) is a worthwhile investment -  it’s just the GETTING ON THE BOAT part that requires so much effort. We will not be moving Heaven and Earth, merely the contents of lower Manhattan back and forth over the next 6 days or so. We have gotten better at it, with practice. According to the Park Newsletter(pdf), the Bald Eagle count has soared; we’ll be on the lookout. We’ve seen wild asses (no, not just other boaters), bighorn sheep, and a few other wild things, but I don’t remember seeing our national bird,there. Gazing at the horizon for Bald Eagles is a worthy occupation onboard – it’s about the extent of what’s expected. Therein lies the beauty of the whole situation, if youse gets my drift, and we most certainly will NOT drift (inside joke, sorry).


Monday, June 21, 2010

Diva Dis, Diva Dat.

Emma's Grade School "graduation" was today. They have a lovely ceremony for the now middle schoolers, where they call each one to the front, present them with a certificate, and then let the parents take pictures of each class. It's age-appropriate.
Emma sat with her 'mainstream' class - she shares time between regular class and a special ed class - and clapped happily for all of the announcements and for her classmates as they were introduced. Then came the announcement  - "Emma Goble!". She immediately put her hands to her face, and started to cry.
Now, my little Diva rarely shuns the spotlight, but this, apparently, was just too much for her. I don't know if it was her runny nose, or if she just hadn't been properly introduced (I was told that there was a run-through where she'd done 'just great'), but she wasn't going to leave her chair. My expectation was that she was going to take her sweet time getting to the podium, like Meryl Streep, stopping to thank all the little people on the way. . .
The principal - who is a Wonderful Man, hardly skipped a beat. He said to the teacher, "We'll go to her," and they came down the steps of the stage and handed her her certificate. Applause. Ceremony continued.
I reached her a few moments later, and she perked up when she saw me. I put my arm around her and tried to prompt her to go up on stage, but she'd just pull my arm tighter around her. Let the rest of them stand up there. We were together in that crowded, noisy auditorium, and the rest of it didn't matter.
So, I don't have any pictures of her 'graduating'. Here's a snapshot apre~cake; chocolate cake is always good for celebrating.

You just never know what Emma's going to do; know that she's going to do it her way.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Beta Tester

I’ve discovered something.
I’ve been taking medicine to control high blood pressure since 1993. Over time, it gets higher, prescriptions change, side effects occur, weight is gained, lost, and regained, you know – the beginning of the slippery slope on the downward turn of the circle of life thing. I’m given a particular mix, sent off with sample bottles, and it takes 3-5 weeks to see if A> it has the required effectiveness (the Doc’s agenda), and B> it doesn’t make me sick, sleepy, not at all sleepy, and/or scream its' way through the synapses of my brain all day(my particular agenda). Sometimes, it has been a process that has taken nearly a year to properly implement to meet both our criteria. A trumps B ( I still maintain the will to live, most days), for the most part , which has produced the subject of this post.
Such experimentation has been underway for the past several months. One of the agents that has been steadily increased has been what’s known as a beta-blocker. In addition to its' overall effect on the cardiac system, it also has an effect upon emotional states, namely anxiety. It is used specifically by some for this purpose. I didn’t realize (I was not paying attention) to this aspect until the dosage reached a point where it was disturbing my sleep (it affects serotonin and melatonin levels), as well as making it harder to stay awake and/or focus during any conversation lasting more than about 90 seconds. Went to see the Doc, and he set me off on a different course, still including a lower dose of the beta blocker. I just happened to have a work schedule that included 3 days of off-site training – sitting in a classroom (i.e. a resting state), so I decided to do an experiment. I quit taking the beta blocker.
I literally felt my head begin to clear after about a day and half. I felt better, I had an attention span again, etc. -  I actually read something and teared up a bit. I started posting, and halfway long ones, at that, on the online places I inhabit. Sacre Bleu! I have an excuse for not writing! There has to be a reason for everything, right? This Level-headedness is also passionless-ness, and I realized that it has been hard for me lately to really give two hoots for much of anything enough to do something about it – whatever it might be. I quit playing any music – the guitar broke a string, I put it away. That was two months ago. I bought some strings, yesterday.
Relax, T, I’m back to  my full prophylactical potential. I don’t know if the veil will descend; my base med has changed, and the side effects seem manageable, so far. This latest round has fostered renewed resolve to do some of the things I should be doing that could conceivably remove the beta-blocker from the equation, entirely. I do so appreciate your continued interest. I do need to write. And some of you need to write, too. You know who you are.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

An Honest Mistake

I'm finding fewer and fewer reasons to endorse the Human Race, particularly among those who parade and promote in public. I was really quite pleased, then, by the events surrounding an umpire's blown call, that cost a Major League Pitcher a 'perfect game', this week.
This world has seemed so jaundiced, lately, so much so in the 'heroes' category. It seems that even Lance Armstrong cheated while deliberately misleading everyone - lacked even one cajone for the truth. California Ballot initiatives are written so that "No" means "Yes", backed by advertising and endorsements that distort the truth past the point of propriety. Everyone is willing to turn the economy to mush as long as they get theirs. BP turns a tragedy into another toxic lesson about corporate greed, including profits from selling itself the most environmentally damaging dispersant that they happen to manufacture.
How grateful I am, then, to see two men in prominent positions exceed our ever-crumbling expectations of how they should act. One man knew instantly that the other was wrong, along with a sizeable portion of the assembled crowd. In our current society, this was clearly an opportunity to exploit, to assert one's primacy via injury in full prima-donna fashion. Instead, the opposite happened. The player accepted the call, returned to the mound, and finished the game. This is not just good sportsmanship, it was a recognition of many levels of respect - beginning with the player for himself, the umpire, and the rules of the game - that it is a game, with what has always been the possiblity that sometimes the truth suffers. Truth, as it currently stands, is not paramount in Baseball. It has been and continues to be a topic of debate.
The umpire also demonstrated great integrity. I can only imagine what it took him to rise from the replay to go to this player's locker to look him in the eye and apologize. To do so, again, publicly.
To be forgiven, graciously.
Roger Ebert talks about the "elevation" of the human spirit that movies often provide. The conduct of these gentlemen elevate us all. As it should be, the particulars of a game pale when compared to the performance of character.
We needed the lift.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Read the best, then read the rest.

To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. -- Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! -- Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

- William Shakespeare, “Hamlet


To be or not to be is not the question, today.
One is, and cannot un-be. Unbecoming as that might sound.
One can do, or not do, but that which remains undone can lead to one's undoing.
There can often be quite the to-do about one's to-do list.
Who you be affects what you do;  what you do about it can be limited -- or can it be?
I tried to be, got a "B"; I could see that "C" was really a "D" for me. I said, "A!", but could never really make the grade. I sit in the hallway and wait for the bell to ring.
I see the genius that is Shakespeare, and loathe my generations who've squandered beauty for gadgetry and lubricants, discarding elevation in the name of equality, celebrating the mean.
Know what I mean by mean? I mean, 'mean' has many meanings. The average man can be mean, and he can do things that are mean, but this does not make him necessarily the mean of mean, or even mean to be mean, but it's close.
So, in closing, do we mean to do from being, or does our being inherently make us mean in our doing? Surely, most of us look for meaning, and mean to do well, but in the mean we all fall short. That's no mean trick - or is it?

Saturday, March 06, 2010


My apologies for not writing, sooner. I’ve been keeping my thoughts to myself, lately, for several reasons that I’m going to continue to keep to myself. Some of you are saying, “Thank you,” I’m sure.  I’ve also noticed a drop in postings from my regular haunts; I suspect that something’s in the air – or the water.

I had a quite bittersweet time, this last Tuesday afternoon. Roger Ebert is one of my heroes. If you watch movies, he is an inescapable force. If you appreciate great writing, his reviews and now, his blogging and online offerings are necessary. He continues to live an amazing life, and his writings reflect a mind cultivated by a wide world of experiences, transformed by extraordinary events. It’s difficult for me to write in the same ether.

Roger appeared on Oprah last week(I am going to assume that my European friends know who she is – if not, google away). If you don’t know, he has lost his jaw, along with his ability to eat and speak. Among other things, this appearance debuted a synthesized version of Roger’s voice, which no one had heard for quite some time. It was wonderful to see him, to see Chaz, and learn a little more about them both. I will confess I had tears in my eyes at the end.

That’s the sweet part. I had tears in my eyes before it started.

I get home about 10 minutes before Oprah comes on. I turned on the TV in the bedroom and began changing out of my uniform, ending that part of my day, getting ready to watch the show. It was then that the news came on that Chelsea King’s body had been found in a shallow grave. It was another instance of a community taking another punch in the gut, tenuous hopes giving way to grief. Grief and anger at the being (thankfully, in custody ONCE MORE) capable of such inhumanity. I did not know her, but our city was looking for her; she’d been a main focus of attention since her disappearance the Thursday before. Moments such as these should break every heart.

I’m presenting this to you, backward, because it’s really how I experienced it. I had been anticipating the “sweet” for days, the “bitter” was a 10-minute step into knee-deep sorrow, followed by the good feelings I’d been waiting for. Twenty minutes after that, I turned the TV off and sat on my bed in a moment of stunned silence at the breadth of human experience that I’d just witnessed. I didn’t dwell on it for long, there were things to do, and many of these thoughts are best dealt with alongside the grit and grime of the things we need to do. I’ll leave that thought there. 

Bittersweet. Exhibit 476-B, category – Humanity (apologies to Rod Serling)

Again, and as I put it here, I feel such a sense of mystery about what this is all about. Mystery that I should feel that need, that human need, to make it make sense. Can I accept that is not possible for “this” to reconcile?

Can’t dwell on this stuff too long. I won’t get anything done at all.