Friday, March 30, 2007

...In Which I Interview Other Bloggers

C'mon, you know you want to play along!

Feral Mom:
1) For each pair below...
A) Mr. Rogers or Cpt. Kangaroo - which would you watch?
B) Aragorn or Legolas - which would you have?
C) McEwan's or Guiness - which would you drink?
D) Lily Tomlin or Ellen DeGeneres - which would you be?
2) If you and Mr. Feral could take your "dream vacation," where would you go?
3) What are three movie characters who have had a big impact on your developing psyche?
4) What cars have you owned in your life?
5) What are your three favorite TV shows of all time?

1) All things being equal, you can either be "the next" Jean-Pierre Rampal, David Sedaris or Rodney Yee. Which would you choose, and why?
2) A related question: you get to rise to the pinnacle of success either with your flute or your writing...but have to forsake the other forever. Which would you choose?
3) Would you ever run for public office?
4) What do you consider to be the biggest indicator of the downfall of society?
5) If you could study any indigenous music in the world, where would you go?

1) If your dream job existed, what would it be, and where?
2) You get to sit front row at the concert of your choice; who are you going to see?
3) What do you dread the most about Jamie's teenage years?
4) Give a short list of discs you'd want if you were stranded on a desert island.
5) How did you first develop your relationship with Jesus?

1) You get to spend the weekend at Camp David with any U.S. president, living or dead; who is it, and why?
2) What's a book (or an author) that had a huge impact on your life?
3) Is it harder to run a shorter distance and really push yourself, or a longer distance at a comfortable pace?
4) What are your three favorite things about camping?
5) If you could take back one stupid thing you ever did, what would it be?

1) If money and space were no object, what brand and size of piano would you own?
2) How do you and Stu go about splitting household chores?
3) What's your favorite thing about parenthood so far?
4) If neither age nor longevity were a factor, what other careers would you like to try?
5) What's your favorite way to spend a Friday night?

Interview by Madtown Mama

Hey, it's the "new thing" in blogging: P2P interviews! Why, not since the heady days of lists & memes has the blogosphere been so laden with good stuff to read! (And by the way, what the hell is a "meme" anyway? Do I pronounce it as if it's French? Or, you know, like an excited school child hoping the teacher will call on her? "Me, me!")

Anyway...this batch o'questions comes courtesy of Madtown Mama, who in real life is Stephanie K.'s cousin Susan. I started linking over to her blog once I got caught up in the stellar writing on Sweetwater Journal, and I stayed linking over to her blog due to her OWN catchy prose. I've especially been enjoying reading about her new family, as her son Daniel (hilariously nicknamed "Danimal") just recently turned 1. It's interesting to see where Miss Tessmacher and I will be very soon. Suze is a complex woman: a new mom, a musician closing in on her PhD, a hella-good knitter (my fave: the "cat-barf scarf")
and, to judge by her recipes, a pretty fine cook. This is what she wanted to know about yours truly...

1. Where do you look to find inspiration to compose?
I can find inspiration just about anywhere, frankly. I think I'm one of the (perhaps) rare people who truly experience a "calling" in life, and am both lucky and talented enough to answer it. Stephen King - my fave author of all time - once wrote in a book forward that he writes because he can't NOT write; to try to ignore the stories in his head would cause his skull to expode. That pretty much sums it up for me: there's music in my head, and it's gotta come out. I also try to follow his sage advice from ANOTHER book, which is to "write what you know." Hence, I have a flute/cello/vibraphone trio about Mackinac Island, and an early symphonic work titled Midnight Over Gary (brought on by repeated trips over that desolate city via the Skyway), and lots of percussion music. Christopher Rouse wrote a piece titled Bonham that is basically a tribute to the late Led Zeppelin drummer; I totally stole that concept for my upcoming percussion trio, Criss. So, composing for me isn't really a matter of looking for inspiration; rather, it's a matter of occasionally needing to HIDE from inspiration so that I can attend to other know, like blogging, and (soon) changing diapers!

2. What do you dread/look forward to the most about fatherhood?
Hey, how timely! I don't think there's anything I really "dread" about impending fatherhood; but, there are some practical things I'm not really anticipating positively. Changing shitty diapers would probably be one, especially since Tess & I are all "green" and we're getting cloth diapers that need to be swirled in the toilet and not just handily disposed of. I don't really relish being tired all the time; that rings espeically true as I read about Suze's headaches trying to get Daniel to take a friggin' NAP, for heaven's sake! Never having experienced a vagina in quite this way before, I wonder: how do you keep explosive poops out of there? That first post-midnight trip to the emergency room with a feverish Roz already makes me embarrassed ("Ohh, look at the first-time parents!"). And, since we told everyone about her sex, I'm really wincing that people might inundate us with pink shit. NO PINK SHIT! Primary colors - particularly black & silver! ;-)

Boy, for not dreading anything, I really churned out quite a paragraph, didn't I? But, you know, that stuff all strikes me as worries ANYONE might have. What I really think about Roslyn is all the great stuff. You know, I get to MESS with her. Like, sing "Strutter" to her as a lullaby. I can dress her in a onesie with Gene Simmons on the front, and the tagline "Demon Child." I get to make stovetop pudding for her, teach her how to catch & throw a baseball and ride a bike, and be with her as she explores the fields around Grandma Sandy's house and the forests at Mackinac Island. I get to teach her to read: first Dr. Seuss, then Spider-Man. I can watch her play with friends in the snow, then make hot chocolate for everyone while they pile up in the living room, and I can pretend to be mad when I tell her & her sleepover friends to QUIET DOWN, DAMMIT, DO YOU GIRLS KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?!? All that stuff. Mmmm.

3. Are you going to video the birth of your child?
No. From a very selfish (and snide) standpoint, I don't need video proof that my playground serves a far more biologically practical purpose. From a serious point of view, I feel a little squeamish about bodily "stuff" and so I plan on being "up top" during the birth. And, legally, I hear that lots of hospitals disallow videotaping in case anything "goes wrong."

4. Have you ever had an embarrassing moment due to public flatulence? Please describe.
Public flatulence? Oh, sure! Embarrassing? Uh...why would I be embarrassed? I'm a BOY. Farts are FUNNY. That's why we SHARE THEM WITH YOU. Seriously, I farted just a litte *blurp!* in my First Year Experience class in late September; I was quick enough to not show that I'D heard anything, and then I squeaked my shoe on the floor several times thereafter. I don't honestly think I FOOLED anyone, but since I didn't make a big deal out of it... Typically I fart a lot in class, especially right after lunch. These sneaky little stinkers are silent, but WHOOO! I always have to hurry to meet a student who is aiming to ask me a question after class: I can't have that poor soul entering The Zone behind my podium!

But, what you're really looking for is 6th grade. I don't know what started it, but I let a loud one go right into the hard plastic desk seat. Meredith Whipping (seriously!) started to laugh, which made ME laugh, which made little fartlets shoot out of my bum like an automatic rifle. Meredith laughed so hard she literally fell out of her seat. Good stuff.

If YOU need a good laugh, click HERE.

5. What's the last good book you read?
Right now I'm embroiled in Why The Christian Right Is Wrong, which is good in the sense that it drives me batshit. I've also been picking up the trade paperbacks of Brian K. Vaughan's series Y: The Last Man, which details the adventures of Yorick after a mysterious virus literally kills every other y-chromosome creature on the planet. But, the last really good NOVEL has to have been The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Beautiful story, cool concept on time travel. This book makes the rounds of chick reading circles and Oprah book lists, but don't let it fool you: it's a sci-fi tale thinly disguised as a love story. A favorite early quote, as Henry is about to bed Claire for the first time: "I now have an erection that is probably tall enough to ride some of the scarier rides at Great America without a parent."

So, that's it! Don't worry, folks: I'll play the game too, and get some interview questions for Feral Mom, Suze, and all the rest. But first: there's eBay stuff to list, and carpets to vacuum, and fertilizer to spread...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Interview by Feral Mom

I've been reading "Gone Feral" for quite a few months now. When I first started blogging I was merely reading what friends wrote, but soon began linking over to see what THEY were reading in turn. I'm sure most of us cyber-writers do the same thing: "Hey, what blog is THIS that my friend John likes?" And we click away, expanding our blogoverse and ignoring the far more compelling work that we OUGHT to be doing. ("What's that you say? Finish my doctoral thesis? Pshaw! I'm much more interested in surfing over to 'Rate My Poo!'") Anyway, I'd noticed that several friends-of-friends had stumbled upon the filthy ramblings of Feral Mom ("Vinnie Fitzpatrick" to her friends), and I was immediately drawn in by her compelling prose, coupled with a 12-year-old-boy's bathroom humor. She seems really smart (apparently working on a PhD in English), and has a fondness for wine, cats, and good rock-&-roll. ("Good" being a relative and highly opinionated term here...) So, when she recently gave an interview for another blogger and offered to do her OWN version, I couldn't pass up the chance. Besides, as Suze correctly put it: we all love to talk about ourselves, don't we? I don't blog under a nom de plume (or guerre, for that matter), and so I feel pretty transparent to my handful of readers. But, for those of you who didn't know me before "Cranial Flatulence," here forthwith is the interview from Feral Mom. Enjoy!

Whence the name, Animal? And which animal?
There are two sources of inspiration behind my longest-lasting college nickname. The first comes directly from Muppet fame: I'm a drummer, and while I'm not neon pink and fuzzy, I do tend to move around my kit quite a lot. I follow a drumming heritage from Peter Criss back to Gene Krupa. Peter has said that he considers himself to be a swing drummer, only playing in a rock band. His style is certainly that of Krupa, but he doesn't MOVE like Krupa did; I do, only amped up a few notches.

Basketball Band - 1990ish

The second - and more deviant - meaning behind my moniker comes from marching band. I eschewed with great disdain the social Greek structure in college, but I will admit that the Marching Chips (hooo-WAH!) was its own "club" of handy friends and bed mates. The "animals" (as a collective) were a subgroup of the band, dedicated to raunchy behavior and good times. On road trips, we even had our own bus! We were generally the hardest-drinkin' folks in the band, with the dirtiest minds, who loved to sleep around and engage in all sorts of purile endeavors: singing dirty ditties, hazing new recruits with silly sexual pranks, etc. Perhaps only coincidentally, we were also generally the best MARCHERS in the band. Anyway, when I first joined the Marching Chips, the percs kept themselves pretty well apart from the rest of the band...much to my dismay, as I discovered that "perc parties" consisted mostly of getting stoned and listening over & over to Vinnie Colaiuta drum licks, two activities which pretty much precluded any chance of getting laid. During my sophomore year my girlfriend (a trumpet animal herself) convinced me to ride Bus 4 back from one of the road trips, and I apparently created something of a sensation on that fateful eve. The rest of the animals took VERY kindly to having a perc "defect" to the other side, and so was born my "public" drumming persona. The rest is not only history: it's classified, and further attempts to unlock what we did in those days will be met with a stern "No comment!" that would make Tony Snow greeeeen with envy.

Marching Band: 1987ish

If you could be a member of any rock band, living or disbanded, which one would it be?
Truth be told, I'd rather be MYSELF in a rock band, rather than taking on someone else's mantle. But, for the sake of the question, I'll give it a try. Musically the logical answer would be "Peter Criss," since he's been my drumming guru since I was a wee lad. But, honestly, I like the spotlight MUCH too much to be trapped behind a drum kit, so the more honest answer would be (surprise, surprise): Paul Stanley. He's a great front man, he's a great singer, and for me he just epitomizes what a successful rock star ought to be.

What was the most frightening moment of your childhood?
Hmmm...that's deep! Uh...I don't know? I honestly had a pretty idyllic childhood (hence my constant bouts with nostalgia), and I also have this habit of either avoiding or forgetting unpleasantness. I DID feel a lot of stress during one year of elementary school - 3rd grade? 4th? - when I was missing a lot of school due to a common tonsilectomy. My mother was ALSO sick around the same time, with gall bladder issues, and I was giving myself stress-induced stomach aches. Ahh, the harbinger of pent-up stress panic to come! I gotta loosen up more...

Alien abduction stories—utter baloney, eerily convincing, or the story of your damn life?
I'm a split personality: my left brain insists that when we die, we feed the worms. My RIGHT brain wants to believe that I'll be met in the "afterlife" by everyone I've ever known & loved...including pets. Hence with alien abduction: while I believe utterly that "aliens" (i.e., non-human, off-Earth life forms) DO exist, I kind of think that the concept of a shipful of them taking some redneck from the plains of Texas aboard and "doing stuff" to is him pretty hard to swallow. Hauntings, alien abductions...there's some tantalizing, hard-to-otherwise-explain "evidence," but I suppose it would actually have to happen TO ME in order for me to drop my subscription to Skeptical Inquirer.

What are three random things that piss you off?
Oof, you want me to limit this to JUST THREE?!? Okay, if you insist:

1) I hate it when I've made plans days in advance, and then something happens to cause the plans to change. I HATE IT. This could even be a GOOD change, it doesn't matter. Something about the way I think of the future - and what I'll be doing in it - makes me totally incompatible with change. Gosh, that makes life FUN for me, doesn't it?!? Since, you know, pretty much anything can happen. I try to roll with it (cue REO Speedwagon here), but Miss Tessmacher can attest to the fact that I'm just squelching my irritation and stress. See *above* for "panic attacks, History of."

2) Careless driving. I've already posted about this, so there's no need to elaborate. And I KNOW that most of the time these incidents aren't directed at me PERSONALLY. Still: I view careless driving as one of the harbingers of the downfall of society. People who only think of their own needs while driving are simply telegraphing that that's how they go through LIFE: thinking only of themselves, and to hell with how their actions affect other people. Grrr!

3) Little incidents which prove I'm not "in control." Case you hadn't noticed by now, I'm a bit of a control freak. So, when little things happen to pull that delusional rug out from under me, I tend to blow my top. Gotta fill the water jug, but I'm kind of in a hurry? GUARANTEED that some water will sploop out the spout, thus necessitating a clean-up. Tired & just ready to get in the damn bed? Sure enough, I'll have forgotten to bring my bite guard downstairs to clean while I was getting ready for bed. You know: those kinds of little things. Ugh. Drives me bonkers just THINKIN' about 'em.

So, there ya go, Feral! Thanks for the invite, and for reading: I still figure you blog circles around me, so I consider your interest in interviewing me to be a compliment of the highest caliber. Cheers!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Circle of Life

Ahhhh...spring is in the air, baby! Only the most desperate piles of snow are still lingering, clinging to the sides of ditches in an attempt to stay out of the searching sun. I say thee NAY, foul mounds! Away with thee, for thou shalt not dare...

Ohh, fuck it. I was never any good at Thor-speak, anyway. I'm much more of a Ben Grimm kinda guy...but I guess that's whatcha git fer readin' Smilin' Stan's witty dialogue all these years.

I'm wandering.

I guess this spring weather just sort of treats me like the full moon...only, instead of turning me into a lunatic, I guess I become...what? A "primaveratic"? are some true signs that cranky ol' Winter is on the way out, and lovely Mother Spring blooms again:

Hello! These little lovelies were waiting for me when I got home from work on Thursday. Mmmm...crocuses. And...what's that? Litte ragged-petal tulips poking through as well? Hell, if you wanna see tulips, check out THIS progress: that size, this photo REALLY doesn't do justice to what I see near my driveway! That sad little line of green flugh are the dark-orange day lilies shooting up their greenery. What you're SUPPOSED to see - what I see when I stand on the porch, or when this photo is a ginormous 40mb - are the blue tulips making their presence known in BETWEEN the lilies. See what a flower-guy I've become? Plant the bulbs in BETWEEN the perennials, so that the tulips can show off in April & May, then fade back for the lilies come June & July. Well, shuck my corn & call me "Cobby!"

Here, too, is an important sign of spring:

That there little pile of ever-whitening fluff is m'beard. Yes, I've shorn back to the Van Dyke, which I keep in the deluded hope that it somehow hides my icky double chin.

NATURALLY, this burgeoning feeling of life about to begin anew would hardly be worth it if Roslyn wasn't on the way. (Editor's note: I just now discovered that "Roslyn" is kind of hard to type: "R-o-s" is easy, but that peskly "l-y-n" means ya gotta get the last two letters with the same finger. Hmmm. I should talk to Dr. Tessmacher about perhaps changing that.) Here's a recent photo of the little munchkin:


Naw, I'm just kiddin'. Gene didn't make Tess #4,392! He's way too busy filming "GS Family Jewels", which, in case you weren't paying attention, starts up again in April. Watch it. It's seriously funny. It works because the lovely Shannon Tweed and their two great kids consistently make the God of Thunder look like the King of the Dipshits.

We have some great photos of Roz from the last couple of visits, but we're due to go in on Tuesday anyway, so I'll let this photo (suggestion courtesy Mike) tantalize you until the new batch gets here. I will say that she has filled in a LOT in just the month between February and March. The head-on face shot that I so evilly doctored here actually kind of looks like one of those Mexican "Day of the Dead" skull masks...but, the last time we were in she had really fleshed out, almost to the point where we can see details. For instance: we got a great profile shot, and Roslyn seems to have Tess' nose. Which is good, since it's little & buttony & overall very cute, whereas mine is kinda straight & severe-looking. Grrr.

Okay. That's enough of my bullshittin' for now. If you're somewhere in the Midwest, and you're reading this: go the fuck outside, willya?!? Geez, it's BEAUTIFUL out! And, if you're somewhere that's pretty temperate all year (and here I'm thinking of Jenn in San Antonio), then you can pretty well piss off. San Antonio. Sheesh. Can't even SKI there!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Random Stuff

1. Running. This is kind of a "tip of the hat" to my friends Mike and Lisa who have taken up running in recent years. I myself hate running. I always feel heavy & awkward, and a little part of my brain keeps whispering to me "You KNOW this is horrible for your knees/hips/ankles, don't you?". But, I HAVE run for about ten years now, because it's about the ONLY exercise I'll actually do. It's easy ( the door & go) and it's cheap (pretty much the cost of shoes), and I can do it without a lot of thought. I have my father's damn physique, which while not precisely "heavy" still means I have a nice A-cup set of man-boobs goin' on, and we all know how hot that AIN'T. So, I need the exercise, because clearly I enjoy what I eat far too much. But...well, I'm just not a big fan, and so I get really picky about WHEN I'll run. That is to say, pretty much when there isn't snow on the ground. Yesterday St. Johns hit the mid-70s, and so I wanted to get out of the fitness center I've been frequenting this winter and actually put shoes to pavement. Ugh. I'm shocked to discover how little going to the gym has upheld my running stamina! I have drastically reduced lung capacity (despite regular time spent on elliptical machines) and a shameful lack of muscle (even though I always rotate among several different weight machines). I got through about HALF of my regular 3-mile run, and I was beat. So...a hearty virtual "high-5!" to my friends, who now run circles around me as they train for their various marathons. "Hooooo-WAH!"

2. Spring weather. Yeah, I know...we're due for snow this weekend, and even by the CALENDAR spring is still a week away. Whatever...with the sun & gentle breeze yesterday, and the fact that I was HOT outside in just a t-shirt & shorts, spring was all I could think about. I've discovered that I really enjoy watching spring develop via the bulbs I planted the previous fall. I'll usually put down 80-100 a year, which actually doesn't take that long: maybe a couple hours. Having done this for 3 autumns now, we have a nice crop of crocuses that are already flowering, as are the little snowbells over by the driveway. Our daffodil hill (daffohill?) is completely covered with little sprouts coming up, poking their way through insulating leaves & a scrim of snow. The day lilys by the OTHER driveway are sending up greenery, even though they won't bloom until nearly the time Roslyn gets here. And the tulips...well, we'll just have to see what the squirrels didn't get. I try to plant anti-squirrel flowers nearby, and I always put a little cayenne pepper in the hole with the bulb...but them critters, they don't take "NO!" that easily.

3. Northern Exposure. We're both big fans, and the seasons just keep getting better! We recently completed the 5th and have started on the 6th season. (The FINAL one! *sniff!*) I can't help but watch the show & wonder that it ever made it onto TV at all. Toward the end of Season 5 there was a wedding...between Ron & Eric, the gay owners of Cicely's B-&-B. Radio host & resident philosopher Chris Stevens (John Corbett) married the guys, even PRONOUNCING them "married." I just kept thinking "Wow, this was before the whole gay-marriage fiasco even became hot, politically speaking." I doubt that such a scene could even BE shown on TV today, without some knuckle-headed "fundamentalist" pipe-bombing the station. (Didn't Jesus preach to "love thy neighbor" and save his most dangerous anger for religious hypocrisy?) Anyway...the show is just a joy of humor and deep meaning and existential hoo-ha. Good. Stuff.

4. Being calm. Without getting into TOO much detail, let me just say that Miss Tessmacher & I are doing a concert series with friends in the Folias Duo; this is titled the Latin Dance Project, and one of the pieces calls for me to play a bombo leguero, which is a large Andean drum. I did a buy-it-now through eBay, from a seller who lives in California but acts a representative for a company in Bolivia. The drum didn't show up when the item description stated it should, and I sensed that the seller was being a little too reluctant to answer email questions. I started the dispute process through PayPal and eBay, but through it all I stayed calm & pleasant. There were no words of recrimination ("Where the FUCK is my drum, you nitwit?!?") and no posting of negative feedback. I'm a big believer in standing my ground when I feel like I'm not being treated fairly by a company, whether an eBay seller or Target or Verizon...whatever. BUT, I also feel like too often people just get all bent out of shape and throw harsh words around, and then NO ONE feels good about the process. So, the seller & I went back and forth a few times, but nothing was getting done and I was JUST getting ready to up the ante in the dispute process, when...lo and behold, the friggin' drum showed up yesterday! I have NO idea why it took so long to get here, but documents indicate that the seller DID ship it when he claimed to, so I quickly ended all the disputes & left him positive feedback. See? Now I feel good, HE feels good, and there's more positive energy in the universe. Remember that the next time you feel like you're being shafted.

5. Baby shit. Not LITERALLY "baby shit," which I'll post about with great regularity come August. No, I mean the crap you can and/or need to buy for your baby. Tess & I are big non-believers when it comes to those sorts of industries that seem to exist only to ensure their own continued existence. Weddings come immediately to mind. There is SO...MUCH...SHIT you can spend your money on for a wedding, and most of it is just SO unnecessary. The wedding industry exists to make sure you feel guilty for NOT spending money on all this crap, that it's NORMAL to spend money on all this crap, and that spending money on all this crap is what you've DREAMED about since you were a little girl. Bleah! So, baby shit looks pretty much the same to me. Tess & I spent a delightful afternoon last Friday going out & about town to window shop for Roslyn. We pretty much found the crib we want, and we now know we should do beaucoup research on car seats, which at this point all pretty much look the same to me. Ditto strollers. I HAVE to pay some exorbitant amount for Precious Moments sheets? Why can't I just buy PLAIN sheets for the crib, preferably in an unbleached organic cotton? (Turns can! Yay for!) I just don't like the concept of "buying into" all the crap that mainstream retail stores are peddling. I can pick & choose a few items from store shelves (a Björn baby carrier is high on the list), but I rather suspect we'll be doing most of our shopping from online merchants that cater to folks who view Wal-Mart as the devil.

That's it! A random brain-purge! Now, where's that corkscrew...?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Cleaning

The outside temps reached the lower 50's yesterday, and the shining sun turned the fresh snowfall of Tuesday night into piles of tired-looking, dirty mush. Hmmm...I guess that means it's time to fire up the gumption and begin the monumental task of tackling the annual Spring Cleaning job!

Oof. What a nightmare that basement is! See, that area is the penultimate receptacle for all the detritus of the previous year. What happens is this: stuff comes into the house, necessitating the rearrangement of OTHER stuff that was already here. (If you'd like a good laugh, check out the classic George Carlin bit A Place for my Stuff, wherein he makes such time-honored observations as "That's what a house is: a pile of stuff with a cover on it." and "Have you ever noticed that YOUR shit is stuff, and somebody ELSE'S SHIT?!?") Eventually it is decided that SOME stuff is no longer wanted and/or needed, and so the sad journey begins: the March of the Unwanted Stuff.

Some stuff ends up in "handy" storage: that's a drawer maybe, or in a good box that gets stashed in the half-attic over our dining room & kitchen. Other stuff makes the move to the basement, sort of akin to being taken to a "holding cell" the night before capital punishment is carried out. Stuff can really pile up in the basement: I'm much too busy during the summer to really care about how things get stored down there. As long as I have easy access to the tools, the rest of it can go hang as far as I'm concerned. Fall, too, comes with a fairly loose attitude toward the growing pile of stuff in the basement. Can I reach the orange-&-black tub with the Halloween decor? Check. Can I drop that tub just sort of at the bottom of the stairs and still finagle the red-&-green tubs of holiday shit upstairs? Check. Then the inevitable cold sets in, a time when no one really wants to hang out in the basement; hey, it's handy storage, but with no heat vent and more drafts than a Storyville whore, we're lucky to keep the temp down there somewhere in the 50's!

Ultimately, though, a nice day hits and I realize that I need to get shit straight so that I can get to the tools in only a month or so. I'll head down, usually not even knowing where to begin: eventually I just grab something and find a place for it. That leads to the next thing, and the next, and pretty soon I'm making some headway, clearing off a few precious square feet of floor that I can sweep and use as a foxhole of sorts while I attack the rest of the stuff with a vengance. This is where the hard part comes in: some stuff, like 15-year-old cans of paint left by the previous owner, can make that final trip down the green mile to the garage, there to await our town's Free Pickup weekend in mid-May. Some stuff, having innate value (but not to ME anymore) joins the pile of eBay-worthy things, to await a new home with a more desiring owner. Other stuff, though...other stuff is harder.

Here's a box marked "Keepsake Shit." Hmmm...inside it is...WTF? Report cards from grade school?!? Concert programs from college?!? Holy crap...what do I DO with all this stuff??? See, that's the hard thing: I'm a pack-rat at heart, and a saver as well, and so I have these random shoe boxes filled with shit that I've stashed away. Notes and love letters from Miss Tessmacher? Check. Old concert ticket stubs? Check. Having saved these items for "so long" now, I find that it's very difficult to part with them. But...the logical part of me wonders: who am I saving these things FOR? Will I look back from 2034 and say "Hey, a Ringo Starr ticket! Yeah, that night was GREAT!"? Mmmm...doubtful. Will I show it to Roslyn someday and say (with pride) "Hey, yer old man saw a Beatle once!"? (Her reply: "Daddy, what's a beetle?" D'oh!) Who WANTS these things?? Finally, unable to part with the past while paradoxically clueless about who will enjoy it in the future, I'll put these orts of who-I-once-was back into their shoebox, and mildly entertain the notion of building some shelves under the stairs...yeah, that'd be good, get all these boxes up off the floor so that spring runoff doesn't seep in & ruin them. Gotta keep 'em safe, for...well, for someone...

Basement clean, I'll end up turning the garage into a warren of lumber scraps and flourescent light tubes, things precariously balanced in such a way that I have to be careful opening the overhead door, lest a light breeze waft in and tumble my piles, Jenga-like, to the floor. And thank HEAVEN St. Johns has that Free Pickup weekend: everyone schleps THEIR shit out to the curb during the week, and worse pack-rats than I could ever be drive slowly around town in their Sanford & Son-era pickups, trolling for unseen treasures or useful bits of electronics. I actually threw away most of my kitchen last year: cupboards, countertops, bags of ripped-up sheet vinyl...all gone. Then, on Saturday, the last of the unwanted stuff gets picked up and unceremoniously tossed into the garbage truck, to clutter up a landfill somewhere. (The eco-friendly guy in my shudders at this.) Basement clean, garage clean, I can now go about the business of renovating the stairwell, stripping the rocker so that we have somewhere to collapse when Roz wakes us up in the middle of the night, and all the outdoor stuff that needs to happen: mowing, trimming, weeding, planting, and all the rest. But next spring...what do I do with this CRADLE my mother made?!?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Invincible, Invulnerable, Invisible

Just returned from St. Louis, where I spent a wonderful long weekend in the company of my best friend & his family. Heh. "Best friend." What am I...12?!? But, when you've grown & shared experiences with another person who's not your brother for, oh, I guess 33 years now, you get sorta stuck in that pre-teen mindset. This is not to dis the frantic, fantastic relationships with other people whom I've sweat with, and drank with, and...well, shared other fluids with. Ahem. But, if pressed to point a finger at that person who has been my FIGURATIVE brother for as long as I can remember, that digit would come to rest on Eric.

We met the first day of kindergarten. And that's a "no shit" thing to say: I literally met this man in early September (remember when school still started in September, without any laws to require it?), back in the latter years of the Nixon administration.

The Boyz: 1973.

WOW. That sounds like a long time ago, even to ME! By my recollection - and I'm notoriously bad with early memories - I was the shy kid playing by himself, and this NOT-so-shy kid just came up and asked if I wanted to play. How humbly such things of great importance often begin. We went through elementary school together, sharing classes as often as not, and while we were certainly each friends with other folks, there was definitely a Butch & Sundance thing going on with us. My mom says it was always easy to pick me up after school: she'd look for the tallest kid, and I'd be walking right next to him. At first I lived far enough away that even though we went to the same school, we never "hung out" afterwards. But, those years of the late-70s I'm always so nostalgic about found me living in town, and so ensued a magical time of sleepovers and comic book trades and colossal, universe-wrenching battles with our "guys." (It would have been FAR too sissy to call our 8" Mego toys "dolls," and the term "action figure" hadn't been invented yet.)

My folks bought a house together in 1980, and so I finished out junior high and high school a healthy distance away: nothing too great to drive, but those are tender years for a boy, years when the friendships of your kid-hood often fall away. When rivalry for girls and sports stamina often outweigh the memories of battered Star Wars toys gathering dust in a corner of the basement. So what did we do, before we got our licenses? We wrote letters. Yes, two boys separated by 80 miles wrote letters, taping new acquisitions for each other's coin collection to the backside of lined paper torn from school notebooks. Each winter a willing parent would truck one of us over to the other's house for a nice weekend during Christmas Break, and summer usually resulted in another get-together or three. Once I got my license the visits became more frequent, allowing us to continue an evolving friendship: one based on current experience and the creation of new memories. Too often old friends can only rehash the past, but those dippy letters saved us, as did the removal of any sort of same-school rivalry.

Oof. Drunkity-drunk-drunk! 1985.

College, for me, was a time of new friends and experiences, but Eric & I still got together as often as we ever did, even though his approach to college was stop-&-start. We lived together for one precious year, my last as an undergrad, sharing an apartment with his then-fiancée. My memories of that year are as golden as anything I've ever known: smokers all, we'd spend Sundays sitting in the darkened living room, watching movies and spreading a blue haze through the air as first one would light up, then the next, and so forth. He forgave me my dipshit choices of bed mates, and I forgave him the requirement of needing to be shaken awake to open McDonald's while he snored blissfully through his 4 alarms.

Christmas, 1988. Neither of us is enjoying this
as much as it seems. Really.

Our real "down" years happened during his first marriage. His wife was alright, I suppose, but not terribly bright and something of a hick. Eric, while never completing college, is one of the smartest, most canny and world-wise people I know, and this woman seemed to be steering him toward a life that was small and easily contained. When the inevitable divorce happened, the two of us flared bright and we made it a point to hang out once a week in the summer during the mid-90s. These were times of playing blackjack at the nearby casino, and replacing our epic "guy" battles with similarly-long and neverending games of Magic: The Gathering.

When I was presented with the news that he'd knocked up an old high school sweetheart with whom he had restarted a relationship, and was moving down to Missouri...well, I was devastated. We went to a Rush concert in October of 1996 and then, just like that, he was gone. But, as it ever has, the friendship survived, and more: it flourished beyond my wildest expectations. Rather than driving us apart, the greater distance made it so that get-togethers were even MORE highly anticipated, and I've made trips down to see him and his growing family nearly every year. They all make a drive back to Michigan in the summer as well, and the eventual plan is to make one of those trips permanent...something that, like world peace, I pray for but never quite expect.

2002: My best man. Not quite so
dark as we used to be!

There are lots of people in my life whom I love, and an even wider circle of casual friends, coworkers, and acquantances. Most of these people have "been there" for me in one way or another, but the true anchors in my life, those who really KNOW me (because they help define me) are rather few. Eric is one of those anchors: he is the yin to my yang, tall and dark and outgoing, so insanely funny I could never in a million years hope to keep up. He makes me feel invincible, as if no harm can come to me no matter what we're doing. No cigarette could EVER give me lung cancer if I'm smoking around 70+ mph drive down the snowy left lane of the freeway could EVER result in a crash as long as he's driving. He supplies me with a feeling of invulnerability, making me strong when I feel weak and filling me with the knowledge that, if such circumstances ever arose, he'd have my back no matter what the odds. When in his presence, I am invisible to whatever Green Man may come calling: worry, stress, and bad luck...they all take a holiday when when Eric is present, knowing that his aura protects me from their sight, just as it did all those years ago when we would "sneak out" at night and hide from cars while pulling harmless pranks around the neighborhood.

Thanks for the good time, my friend. Here's to more to come, my brother.