December 9, 2006
Oh no, no studying tonight... yes, the Algebra Final is Monday, but that's what the case of Red Bull and 10 hours of Sunday night are for....
Tonight, was The Night. Anticipation ran high, we had talked and planned and double-checked our schedules. We made arrangements, synchronized our watches. We didn't know why, but we did. We worked out the specifics, after 10 years you don't just leap into it like crazed weasels anymore, we both made a few concessions, a few adjustments. We both know by now not to hold the past up as a model, to let our expectations get too high, to make any attempt at recapturing past glory. People change. You learn to settle. The last thing anyone wants to hear in this situation is "Well, it was the thought that counts."
"It's not your fault."
"It's ok, it happens to a lot of people. Come sit over here on the couch."
"We can always try again next year."
"You know, on Oprah today..." *
Yes, tonight was the night: Johnny Mathis, hot buttered rum, the candles all glowing... it's time to decorate the tree. Of course the classic tunes were quickly replaced by It's a Muppet Christmas and none of the lights worked, unless you count the plink! when they were stepped on, and it took all of 3 minutes for the tree to ever so slightly begin leaning... but it had to be done.
The tree choosing was probably our smoothest ever. These situations are rife with danger, a veritible minefield on the snowy (not literally, it was 72 and sunny, as always) path to holiday joy. The ghosts of christmas tree farms past: ... Three children running amuck in the muck, lost among the pines and firs, either falling on love with the largest most expensive tree -- look Dad, it's only 9 dollars and 495 cents! -- or the sad-sack dry bough found in the mud -- I'll decorate it Dad, I'll take care of it, pu-leeeeze! ... The Wife soliciting my opinion on which tree best matches the living room, or should she choose a shade of green to best match the ornaments? For which we now know the best response in a tree farm full of chidren and people in Santa hats is not along the lines of "they're all Tannenbaum green, they're all Tannenbaum trees, none of them will Tannenbaum fit and I have to Tannenbaum rearrange the Tannenbaum furniture six times anyway, so just Tannenbaum pick one!" We don't go back to that place anymore. ... #2 showing #3 the cute and cuddley farm animals at the petting zoo, and #3 being young and still adorable saying in his most adorable voice how cute the animals are, even the cute turkey, awww... until #1 chimes in, with his not adorable I have the faintest whisps of a future mustache and I'm almost a teenager voice, "They kill them all for dinner."
Nope, in comparison, this year was cake. Makes me wonder when the tree will fall over, tonight at 2am, or tomorrow when no one will be home to rescue the cat pinned underneath?
*ok, I know that last one doesn't really apply, but I hate to hear it anyway. Actually, she prob. did have a Christamas Tree show and everyone in the audience got their own 10 ft. Fir and an elf to string the lights.
December 7, 2006
December 6, 2006
anyway, end of year, time for year in review stuff. Teacher-Dad gives mis hijos homework to do over Christmas vacation, they love it, I swear. They answer questions, a poll if you will, what they did last year and what are their favorite moviebookshow etc etc... that damn H Potter has topped the charts for several years now... and also i have them look into the future, what they want to be when they grow up, that sort of thing. This is where we got the immortal, at least in our house, sorry it hasn't made it across the street yet, answer to what do you want to be when you grow up -- "1/2 Spiderman, 1/2 police dog, 1/2 cheetah" -- nevermind the math, gotta admire a man with goals. That was from #2 at the age of 3 or 4....
also saw one of you amazing bloggers (blog-ettes?) posted a letter written to herself 10 years ago. Cool. So I'll add that top the homework this year, bury it in the backyard as a timecapsule or something.
anyway, before I leap from "como jamon por que almorzar" to quadratic equations I stopped by to solicit ideas for the year in review slash look into the crystal ball.
oh, gotta go -- "1 new message"!!!!
(several hours later...)
ok, now I know what combination not to ingest... and yes, I believe the crispy jalapeno burger at Islands contributed to the debacle. Let's put it behind us, shall we?
As I was saying, I have the boys fill out a questionaire, to interview each other on what lies ahead in the future and to reflect on the past year. Being boys and being young, they focus on which toys, games, and books they liked and which toys, games, and books they want to get. Their speculation on future careers has much in common with their most recent Halloween costume, the holiday being fairly close to Year in Review, so I'm sure the answers this time around will be International Spy and Spiderman (does either profession provide health benefits?) -- #1 will write "gamer" as he has done for several years now, which leads me to accidentally lose his GameBoy for a few months. Ah, family traditions....
We do this every year, but by Jan. 4th every year I can't find them, so it really won't be a hell of a lot of fun in two decades time trying to remember what they wrote. But this year was/is different, seeing as TMW&BWITW and I turned 40 and celebrated our 10th anniversary -- nice round numbers, worthy of commemorating. I want something written down on nice paper, maybe that crinkly parchment stuff, and stored away in a safe place so that in another 10 year's time my Bro can call The Wife and her new husband and remind her to pull out the 2006 time capsule. She can gather the family around the hearth, or the kitchen table, or the bar at Jimmy Love's. If my passing was peaceful and the insurance was kept up, maybe my urn will sit on the bar next to a cold Karl Straus. If my passing was more "piece-full" they may need to include The Wife's parole officer in the party guests. Either way, it might be interesting to see how we each saw the world, and saw our future in the world, ten long years ago. Hopefully the boys' penmanship has improved. (Then again, in 10 years all they will need to do is think and a laser will project from an eyebrow pore and print the words on... crap, what will replace paper in 2016?)
So if you have any ideas for topics or queries, regarding the past or the future, let me know so I can add them to the time capsule homework. Trust me, they love this stuff!
*by the way, my latte Queen, -- he said, and I said, "density"
December 5, 2006
I've come to study throughout the night again
How could I have forgotten how much sheer joy final exams are? And whose bright idea was it to schedule them all for the same day? Do you know just how expensive Red Bull is?!?!?
November 29, 2006
It's a good habit to start: Songbird, Willie Nelson; That Was Me, Todd Snider; Picaresqueties, The Decemberists; We Were Born In a Flame, Sam Roberts; The Departed soundtrack; and The Animal Years, Josh Ritter.
and always open to suggestions....
The layer of dust on my CD's is getting thicker. I'm thinking of using them to tile the den or as wallpaper in the boys' room... coasters, anyone?
At the risk of echoing previous generational rants ("damn that Top 40 radio!" "who wants my MTV?" "kids these days..."), I do feel the need to decry the loss of status in my life and in my listening habits of the good ol' fashioned "album" -- has anybody listened to Exile on Mainstreet, 14 Shots to the Dome, or even M!ssundaztood lately? I don't think I've listened to more than two tracks in a row from the same artist unless I accidentally clicked off the random button. I listen more in themes now, my moods are playlists to be dialed and selected for the appropriate soundtrack. I listen in singles, buying tracks selected from Napster or iTunes, so while I have broadened my variety and purchased more artists than before, the last packaged cd in its jewel case I picked up at Target may have been... STP's Thank You? Los Lobos The Ride?
Financial considerations play a part, of course. Would you rather have the variety pack of 8 different flavors or pay the same price for a box that's all oatmeal raisin, and you only like the first one, and half of the third, before you get bored and toss the box to the back of the pantry? I listen to Pandora or Paste Radio, and I'll download anything you recommend on Napster, then make my selections as to how I'll spend my hard-earned 99¢ (...ok, TMW&BWITW's 99¢, but she wouldn't want me to spend it frivolously). This means if I want to listen to show tunes, not that there's anything wrong with that, I can do my best Gene Kelly impersonation without buying discs filled with Ethel Merman and Mandy Patinkin, and if someone gives Gorillaz or Bo Bice two thumbs up I can listen, hit "next track" many times, and quickly, then never subject my ears to it again.
But the last complete disc, "LP album" for you history majors, I listened to front to back, track by track, was an honorary listen, an aural celebration for the 30th anniversary of Born to Run.
I started this spiel to lament the passing of the album-listening experience in my life. Albums used to be a cohesive whole, tracks would relate to each other, feed off one another, lead the listener along the width of the disc, be it black and vinyl or shiny silver. There was a beginning, the first song or even an intro or prelude, and there was a last song, sometimes a hidden untitled track to reward patient listeners who took a second or two after the last note to savor the moment instead of rushing to change discs.
I don't know about you, but I sort of miss the days of eagerly anticipating the day a new album was released, or being able to pick up the missing disc in an artist's collection. I remember the debates of the early CD era, when there was sometimes a difficult decision to be made on how to spend that hard-earned 17.99+TX -- on the new Pearl Jam or a classic Pink Floyd? Get the new Poison or Bobby Brown, or replace the all-time favorites from the record collection? And was The Wall worthy of a CD, or would Dark Side... be enough? C'mon now, Picnic-'n-Chicken didn't pay enough to get both. Now I just buy songs, both old and new, some to play just once or to entertain/educate my boys, some beacause they're the newest from my favorites and I don't want to go to Wal Mart and spend all my allowance on a couple of discs. I like hearing new artists I never would pick up on a disc, until they were on sale or through Columbia House 15 months later, and I like being able to get a few new songs to mix into the "taco night" playlist when we, well, on nights we have tacos. I guess I need to designate an "album night" and listen to a few complete productions, turn the shuffle button off and appreciate the original track listing.
Tunnel of Love, Abbey Road, Damn the Torpedos, Diamonds & Dirt, The Score, Hollywood Town Hall, Late Registration, New Miserable Experience, Rubber Soul, Pablo Honey, Silk Degrees, Storms of Life... any suggestions? I'd better get listenin'....
Ah, I feel better already. Less fractured, distracted, busy. Listened to every track, one right after the other, on the same album from the same artist! It's almost like having a conversation with someone, sitting down on the couch without a lot of interuptions and distractions, instead of working the room at a party. So I feel like I've had a beer and chatted it up with John Legend, Once Again, J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton, The Road to Escondido, and Snow Patrol, Eyes Open.
*actually they ain't half bad, in a quirky poeticly poppy way (Champagne for Monkeys!). thanks for the intro, 2x4!
The "outta my %#$@*&!# mind" is a room full of loud, goofy, wiggling 4th graders all doing 10 different loud goofy things to not look at or listen to the tall nervous Dad standing at the front of the classroom. While my classmates, experienced aides and tutors etc., talk each week of the students they are involved with or the discussions they had with teachers, I try to work in a "once, on a field trip..." but usually, meekly, just bite my lip in anxiety and dread.
But today, drumroll please, I taught my first class. In a classroom. Full of kids. The loud goofy wiggling ones I think I mentioned. Ok, it was only for 20 minutes. And it was only art* -- angled lines and circles slightly resembling a plastic bottle, quickly deteriorating into abstract doodles or fish. But it was my first kinda teacher-like thing. I lived. It was cool.
Then the teacher had me haul some books and unpack boxes.
Gotta start somewhere.
*"only art" is a term of endearment, my future sister-in-law.
November 26, 2006
November 25, 2006
Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
Beside Still Waters and Tuesday Morning Quarterback, both by Gregg Easterbrook
...faith and football, this man knows what's Holy
Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, & Bull Riders Josh Peters
and for the ears:
Joe Henry, Kindness of the World
Neil Finn, One All
November 24, 2006
And now I've learned to never trust the Spanish translations on Wikipedia (or prob. any other site as well) -- glad I noticed the slightly out of context mention of a certain nightmare-inducing children's television character before I stood up in class for the oral presentation:
...al aquivocarse mando al libertador a caballo hasta asia, el cual aprovecho y libero tal pais de los teletubbies. cuando volvio, aplico las mismas estrategias para liberar...
Now I may be wrong, por que yo no se most of the other words either, but I think someone's messin' with my head, and my grade.
November 23, 2006
I am thankful, and guilty and still quite extended and swollen, for all the fantastic food I ate today. I am thankful for Fat Tire Ale and Starbucks coffee.
I am thankful I do not, for the first time in over 20 years, have to work tomorrow! "Black Friday" my ass, for me it's going to be sunny and warm and stay as far away from a shopping mall as possible Friday. I don't want to even hear the sound of a cash register or hear the words earlybird, coupon, or did you beat goal yet???? And in retail reality, if that's not some sort of oxymoron, after the sheer madness of the 5am shoppers it's not the busiest of days; the last two weekends before X-mas are usually much more intense and packed and endless. So I am thankful for TMW&BWITW* who lets me do her dishes and laundry and fix her leftover turkey sandwiches instead of earning a paycheck folding 70,000 sweaters this holiday season. Of course she'll be getting painted macaroni noodle jewelry for Christmas this year, but we all had to make some sacrifices.
I am thankful for my family, especially #3 who entertained us with "guess what animal I am" charades for hours, working his way through the entire ark until even he had no idea whether he was imitating a tiger or koala or walrus, they had all started to act and growl the same so he would just say "yes!" to whatever we guessed. And for my Grandmother, soon to be 85, who invited us all to drop in and visit her in Denver, even though she lives here. Guess she didn't like the pie.
* The Most Wonderful & Beautiful Wife in the World would like to be addressed as "Sugar Momma" from now on.
November 21, 2006
November 14, 2006
This is where the outlines and rough drafts have their start, the words and phrases written on grocery lists, envelopes, and PTA bulletins. When an idea comes to me, I do not want it to escape into the clutter and chaos that abounds in a life with three boys, I need to try to capture it, hold it until I can get home and unwrap it in the quiet of the house after bedtime. Only then can I empty my pockets and re-read the frantic penmanship and attempt to decipher the fragmented clues I have left myself. Tossed like a salad of post-it® notes, receipts and scrap papers, some of my notes make no sense at all, but other times I find the phrase I need to start a new paper or to summarize an assignment. In constantly channeling these ideas from my mind to the paper the writing process is kept fresh and immediate, so the writings I am working on are not allowed to lie stagnant in the back of my mind, waiting for a calm moment when I can sit at the desk and begin an outline.
I enjoy writing. I enjoy writing fiction, love letters, e-mails to friends, journals, comments and critiques no one asked for on their blog, and I even enjoy writing reports and essays for school. I most often write when the house is quiet, while everyone is away at school or work, or I write at night, after the boys are snoring and the wife is comfortable on the couch. Sometimes there is music playing, but only as a spark for creative writing, to set or jump-start a mood. Marvin Gaye, Barry White, the sultry Alicia Keys not only work when trying to set the move and get the groove, but also help the ink flow smooth when writing a note for her pillow. Goofing around in the blogosphere? Mash some Van Morrison, Dylan, Frank Black, Beck, James McMurtry, the inspiration of a genius lyric to spark the creativity. For NaNoWriMo it had to be RHC Peppers and Foo Fighters, quick and thumping, driving out as many words as possible, even if they didn't always make sense
For academic writing I need total silence to facilitate focus. I am easily distracted, and for all the benefits of Microsoft Word there are the temptations of too many buttons available on the computer. I will look for any excuse to go on the web and look something up, justifying my site surfing as research for the essay, when in reality it may take hours before I steer myself away from that damn "Next Blog" button and back to the assignment. I am also distracted and diverted from completing my writing assignments by my inability to end a sentence, either by refusing to use a punctuation mark other than a comma, or by revising and reworking, then rereading and rewriting again, each sentence. People have told me I can write well, and for the most part I enjoy what I have written, but there is always a nagging sense of inadequacy, a suspicion of whether I have put forth my best effort. Often my writing is too spontaneous, and while I can go back and read a finished assignment or an effort of creative writing and appreciate some sentences or phrases that began as brainstorming on the road to pick up the kids and have been developed into good solid examples of my writing ability, I can also see the lines or paragraphs where I did not pay much attention and towards the end simply lost interest, leading to poor abrupt en
November 11, 2006
November 8, 2006
You were watching Jordan lead the Bulls, Aikmen and the Cowboys, and wondering if the Yankees could get back to the World Series in the next few years... you probably went to see Fargo or Jerry Maguire, heard Seal's Kiss From a Rose for the first of 6 million times, and wondered if Tupac had recorded anything new before he was shot... you wondered if Tyson vs. Holyfield would be exciting, and you cast a vote for President Clinton, wishing him a smooth, uneventful second term.
For some reason I don't remember any of that stuff, because ten years ago today I was nervous, excited, so happy my cheeks hurt, and walking down the aisle of the Graceland Wedding Chapel to marry The Most Wonderful and Beautiful Woman in The World... and while we had planned, 10 years, 2 kids, and a mortgage ago to spend this glorious anniversary celebrating among the lights of Paris, I hope she knows how blessed and lucky and privileged I feel to be her husband, and to be able to tell her Happy Anniversary no matter where in the world we are.
November 7, 2006
To find the genesis of my life long passion for reading and writing there is no need to look farther than my mother’s refrigerator where the alphabet, in magnetic letters of various colors and sizes, has always been stuck to the door. Over the past 40 years the height on the door of the jumbled letters has depended on the size of the child or grandchild most recently in the kitchen, where my mom has been working on spelling or reading or simply playing. While she did the dishes or made supper, we spelled our names or created words and pictures, all the while making the sounds of the alphabet or singing the ABC song. The alphabet was not just a means to occupy our attention, words and language was part learning and part fun, it was something we could do together with our mother, it was time and an experience shared.
Further evidence of Mom’s influence and impact on my enjoyment of the language arts is on my sons’ overstuffed bookshelves, where three generations of treasured children’s stories are stacked and stuffed, well used and much beloved. There are inscriptions written inside many of the covers, in books that had been given as gifts over the years on holidays and special occasions, from “to Candy, 1945” to “for Joel, Christmas 1968” to “happy birthday Jace, 2005.” My mother always read stories to us, and most of the first books were ones her mother had saved from when Mom was a little girl. She read us those and we continued to add new works to the collection, many sent from my Grandmother. Recently I opened a box from my parent’s garage that had been sealed and stored for at least 25 years, and sorted through the books making piles for my siblings and our children, and I was impressed at how many very memorable books had been chosen for us by my grandparents. I should not have been surprised, since someone had to instill in my mother a love for reading so she could pass it on to her children, but I had not realized where this family tradition, the hereditary love for books had begun. I recently thanked my Grandmother for her good taste in gifts, and for the love of reading and appreciation for quality books she helped instill in me. I don’t remember ever discussing books with her, talking about what I liked to read, but having those books must have been a major influence. And not one of those books I received as a child and have now read to my children had been based on a movie or television cartoon, or had any type of fast-food kid's meal tie-in.
Reading and writing in school has also been a major influence, there are several experiences with positive encouragement regarding my language development that helped me to enjoy language assignments. In 2nd grade my teacher held up my creative writing project for the entire class to see, saying she was proud of my good work. I don’t know how good the story could have been, since the paper was the type with the top half blank for illustrating the action of the story, and the bottom half for writing consisted of three lines over an inch wide for our gigantic grade school printing skills, which does not leave much room for plot or character development. In the 8th grade our English class had a writing assignment due every week, fiction or non-fiction was our choice, but no matter how good the story was, grammatical errors resulted in a failing grade. I received several large red F’s on the front page, but also earned comments like “are you going to be a writer some day?” This encouraged me to read and write as much as I could, I wanted to read and get ideas for my own stories, and I wanted to write the stories so well I would continue to impress my teacher.
I have continued to read as an adult, sharing and discussing new finds and favorites with my family as we pass along recommended reading to each other and spend a lot of gift money at the bookstores. Most of my writing over the past twenty years has consisted of Christmas cards, love letters, and performance evaluations at work, until I returned to school a few years ago and was re-introduced to essays and written exams. My brother has also been a great influence in my return to creative writing, as he began an online "blog" ( http://twobuyfour.blogspot.com/ ) to keep his friends and family, now spread out across the states, updated on the adventures of his family’s life and also to share some of his creative writings. Yes, his talent impressed me, but sibling rivalry mandates I must try to get more attention than my brother, so I have also began writing more, attempting to rekindle the creative spark I had when younger. So far I've succeeded in only producing a lot of smoke, but it's more in the effort and exercise, appreciating the process of putting words from inside my head down on paper (so to speak). There is also the strange sense of community when someone reads your words, even if they read from far away exotic locations like India or Canada, and a sense of connection when they share their own writing.
Returning to the roots of a life long passion for reading and writing is exponentially rewarding when you have children of your own to share the experiences. My sons were as excited as I was to open the box of old children’s books, and we had to stop ourselves from reading them all the first afternoon we took them home. It is with great joy that I read to my children before bed, or that they beg to stay up a little later to finish a chapter. Having passed the torch on to the next generation is a reason to be proud but also a challenge to myself, I cannot slack in my own reading, I need to be ready with recommendations and be able to discuss as they grow as readers and writers. I hope to echo the positive influences in my life into their experiences with the language arts, and to help create an impact that will last them a lifetime.
November 5, 2006
November 3, 2006
November 1, 2006
http://www.nanowrimo.org/ or http://www.nanowrimo.org/userinfo.php?uid=156310 *
so join me, or give me ideas. Lots of ideas.
I am trying to just write, no thought to grammar and sentence structure, apologies to Mrrs. Strunk and White, and as you can to tell no thought to an actual plot or sensible storyline. I am trying not to read what I write, but if I try not to spellcheck I get hives and a twitch in my right eye.
* if that doesn't work, look under Authors for JK2006
October 9, 2006
#2 is just plain goofy. He makes faces and strange noises, dances like a Bangle with two left feet in cement boots, and has the ugliest belly-button. He has the uncanny ability to forget every word I have just said to him within two seconds of going to do what I asked. He not only forgets what I sent him to do, he forgets we have even seen each other since I served his morning waffles.
Waffles, an exact science. If I don't cut #3's waffles precisely the way he requests them, we achieve total meltdown. Unfortunately his detailed requests change day to day, waffle to waffle, and come after the cataclysmic affront to his breakfast has been made. Some mornings the waffle is eaten whole, no butter, one square filled with syrup. Other days require a surgeon's steady hand to cut down the middle of the vertical (no, not the horizontal ones!) ridges. Other days he wants to do it himself. And no matter how long the last scrap of waffle sits soggy on the plate, don't even think of clearing his place.
#1 wakes up at 2am if the wind changes direction, #2 will sleep* through the big one. #1 is unable to make a choice -- which one superpower would you choose? Um, all the powers of the X-Men plus.... no, no, who is your favorite literary character? Harry and Ron in the first 3 books, and also... -- hope he never has to decide between girls, he'll have to move to Utah. #2 does not know how to blow his nose. His sleeves are dry, so who knows where it goes? #3 can curl 9 of his toes. #1 can have a conversation with anyone at any time, in any room of the house or any place in the city, at any time of the day, on any topic. And if he didn't have to eat or sleep, he'd still be talking. #3 finds snails for pets, and wants to be a marshmallow for Halloween.
I love my boys.
*glad I mentioned sleep, almost forgot the tooth under his pillow! Anybody got a quarter?
October 1, 2006
Hardy, if you're out there, please write and let us know how you're doing.
*Hardy is "Hardy" for the same reason all our various fish have been "Frank" or "Hart", the same names bestowed upon the many caterpillars and snails lovingly adopted as pets (albeit quite temporarily in some squishy cases) by tender-hearted #3.
Well, I guess there would be something wrong with that. I know I would have a problem with it, and I hope TMW&BWITW would try to convince me otherwise.
Of course I'm not. But I have found myself really enjoying cooking, and sweeping the floor every day, and stressing when the uglies touch my sparkling clean sliding glass doors -- and heaven help them if they don't put the right color napkin out to match the placemat!
With school and football and Los Chavos down the street I don't get to do the classic sit down dinner too often, but there are days we actually look in the cookbook and pick something requiring measuring cups and a cutting board, and more pots and/or pans than will fit in the microwave. My skills aren't mad, but as with anything worth doing, cooking well requires practice and experience. So the most enjoyable part of cooking a meal isn't the ecstasy on our tastebuds when we're at the table, it's all in the prep. I enjoy getting the ingredients spread out all over the countertop, cookbook propped up on some jar or bowl I'll be searching for in a minute. I enjoy a beer when I cook, and olives speared out of the jar. I enjoy the uglies on the other side of the counter, sitting at the bar ordering milktinis or apple(juice)tinis. I don't really want them helping, the kitchen ain't big enough for the two of us, and the temptation to add pepper to everything or crack open every egg in the carton is too great. I want them to sit on the stools and talk to me, or pretend to listen while I ramble or lecture, have a game or tunes on the radio, or just play with the measuring cups and be there. It's good to just be. I find myself planning our next kitchen, with more countertops for mixing bowls and more room for my helpers to help, with an open space between the chopping block and the barstools so as the uglies get bigger and taller I can look across at them and be amazed, be proud, just be.
September 21, 2006
Anyway, the point was just what is my favorite book? Which leads to just what does "favorite book" mean -- favorite of all time, greatest book ever written? The one book to have on a desert island? Favorite book as a child? Most influential book? The book I cannot wait to give to my son(s) and hope like hell they like it so I don't feel stupid building up what a cool/important book it is?
... Help me out here: what is the criteria for
Hey, what's your favorite book?
*and there is no way in hell I like asparagus, I don't see how you people can eat that slimey stringy stuff. But I'd eat it before I'd ever eat brussell sprouts again. or eggplant. or lima beans. My Mom was mean.
A Primate's Memoir Robert M. Sapolsky
All The King's Men Robert Penn Warren
the 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear Walter Moers
bizarre, too long by 300, mebbe 400 pages, but the drawings crack me up
Hit List Lawrence Block
September 13, 2006
Can't blame the child, the shoe-burying avalanche was comprised of his Father's desk overflow: algebra problem scratch paper, file folders, bills, ESPN the Magazine, post-it notes (used and tossed to the side until I really really really need them), notebooks, dictionaries, Charlotte's Web, post-it notes (unused but I can never pull just one from the pad, there are always at least 17 others desperately clinging to the one I want), catalogs, newspapers, most of our cereal bowls, scotch tape (for sticking notes to my computer: "find that post-it!!!), lists of things I needed to to do 2 weeks ago, lists of songs I need to add to iTunes, lists of stuff due tomorrow, shopping lists (post-it notes...), and several blank calendar/organizers.
I suppose a little cleaning and organizing would improve the academic atmosphere, or would it just be another bout of procrastination? Haven't touched my algebra in 6 days, but did bueno on the Spanish test today. No, I still have no idea what you're saying, but if you point to a clock I can tell you what. time. it. is. Or was, 8 minutes ago when you asked. Azusa: great food, wonderful people, I have no clue how to write an autobiography. Gonna just copy one from the library, change a few names and dates, and get the family to rehearse their lies in case anyone calls to check details.
September 12, 2006
September 4, 2006
no nudity, I promise, despite the title.
This dude's hilarious. And now I've used the word "hilarious" twice in 15 minutes, and I never use the word "hilarious". I also never know where to put the period, inside or outside of the quotes?
and while you're at it, check out Dylan's newest, especially Rollin' and Tumblin'.
August 31, 2006
Teacher Man, Frank McCourt
Going Postal, Terry Pratchett
Reading Lolita In Tehran, Azar Nafisi
actually, just started this one, but it's sitting right here.
Charlotte's Web, E.B. White
(the E is for "Elwyn" -- which is why he went by "Andy")
technically a text book, one of 8 books sitting on my desk the first day of class.
Speaking of the first day of class... Is it considered counting tassels before they're hatched to mark April of 2008 on the calendar in order for you to not forget my graduation gift? Cash will be fine, since I will still have more school for the teaching credential (details, details...) and since I'll probably be doing my final exams from a cardboard box along the San Diego River if I don't get a job. So far TMW&BW has been too impressed with the sparkling kitchen counters and dinner on the table to notice I haven't dusted off my resume, much less put on a tie [shudder, grimace, hold fingers up in a cross to ward off evil] and actually looked for employment.
I'm actually progressing quite well with the self-rationalization deal, y'know, the I'm doing this for my family, I want to spend time with my kids, yada yada ya ya... If I have a job I have to either be at work or be studying when they are all home. So the quality family time around the dining room table would be compromised. How would my sons hear my cherished Dad-isms, words of infinite wisdom passed down for generations*? How would the Wife compliment my citrus ginger chicken breasts? If I have a job all semblance of a normal happy family life is lost, and the boys will grow to be burdens on society. I'm staying unemployed for you, the taxpayer.
*if you're going to blog until midnight with the big boys, you have to sleep late with the big boys. Or I'll give you something to cry about!
August 26, 2006
Started my math class, online!, so I can bring snacks, put my feet up on the chair next to my desk, and turn on the NFL Network while learning how to find the absolute value of quadratic equations. I tried popping on the headphones with some Van Morrison, put that proved distracting. And I can get up and go to the bathroom whenever I want.
Also started espanol. Comienzo clase de espanol. Can't wear my underwear to that one. I mean, I do wear underwear, clean every day, but I can't just wear the underwear, I accessorize with a color-coordinated short/tee/flip-flop ensemble. And usually a hat, 'cause when you're unemployed* you don't have to comb your hair, sometimes all week.
*or a "kept man" as TMW&BW likes to say, usually before reminding me to clean something.
August 23, 2006
August 21, 2006
Whether I am ready for school or not, school is ready for me: Math tomorrow, Spanish Wed, and Azusa Pacific (go Cougars!) next Tuesday. The biggie is Azusa, degree program and all that, and I already have homework (see "my autobiography"). So why am I not doing my homework? Why have I not opened the Spanish book I picked up last week to get a head start (cabeza principio)? I could blame Reggie Bush -- Cowboys 3, Saints 0 -- but it's probably genetic. Thanks folks.
For some reason I just don't feel confident enough I really can or should do this. What do I know about teaching? What do I know about kids, except my own uglies? Deep down I KNOW I can teach, I feel I should teach. I'm not worried about a hard road getting there, I just think most people will be in the fast lane with a lot more extras on the vehicle. So... I guess I should do some homework.
August 19, 2006
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
Naked, David Sedaris
The Baseball Un-cyclopedia (was Nolan Ryan great, or just good? and the candy bar was named after the slugger)
The Time Warp Trio (various books, #2's recommendation)
August 18, 2006
Actually, what a lazy relaxing chill it's been: pool, beach, pool, just hangin' out. Most days I couldn't even tell you the date or day of week w/out concentrating. I can see how easy it would be to get trapped in the fog, the miasma of summer days and unemployment, a lethal combination. I have set the alarm clock, I need my quiet morning coffee time. I achieved one goal, watching season 4 of 24. I've cleaned out half the kitchen cabinets, throwing away 43 plastic cups from kids meals and 71 boxes of stale crackers. No one is happy I combined the 38 partial boxes of cereal into 6 full boxes (Cheereatiecrunchchex, anyone?), but it all tastes the same when it's soggy in milk. Then there's the DAILY football practice, 2 hours searching the mass of identical helmets and jerseys tripping over each other for my very own future Hall of Famer -- oh there he is, on the bottom of the pile. Again. And my final excuse for not doing much at all: broke my right elbow falling off #1's skateboard, so this is the first day my left hand had any help with life's daily chores.
Another countdown begins: school starts next week! And I think I'm supposed to be looking for a, um, whatcha call it, a job (shudder).
August 4, 2006
July 27, 2006
I can't decide if I should go in late tomorrow or leave early? Hey great idea, I'll do both! Those of you who know me might have the slightest hint I may be a bit on the emotional side, but I assure you my tears will be controlled, no public displays of sadness or nostalgia. Just firm handshakes, thank yous and goodbyes, and a quick wave and I'm out the door.
Just gonna have to be a different man
It's not like I'm leaving the city, I'll be back to the mall many times and of course I'll stop in to visit. I'll probably hang out at Starbucks every day about 10:05 (9:05 on sale days) or I'll bring my homework to the lunch court and you can all stop by and say hello.
Ok, gotta go pick out a tie for tomorrow, one that hides tear stains. I love you all, and I miss you already.
July 25, 2006
But I am quitting, in a matter of hours I will be unemployed, because I want to be a teacher.
I know, teachers don't get paid a lot. ...But they get summer vacations.
It's a thankless job, no one appreciates teachers. ...They have 2 weeks off at Christmas.
Teachers teach kids, and kids are loud, silly, rude, loud, smelly, snotty, loud, goofy and loud. ...But there's no class on the weekends, or holidays, or special classes that last until midnight throughout the month of December. And there are no coupons!!!!
TMW&BWITW* and I have talked about this for years, especially when she came home from "work" one day and said for the one millionth time how she really loved her job. After 500,000 times I had gotten the point, at #732,006 I used the classic retort "so why don't you marry it?", and after #872,340 I threw my hands in the air and gave in: if she was going to love her job then I wanted to love my job too.
I did try. But I did the math: working 5 days a week x 48 weeks a year x 25 more years until I can retire = over 600,000 shirts to fold! Yes, there are certain things I would like to do 600,000 times in the next two decades of my life, especially if I'm getting paid for it, but I'm not sure how we would explain it to our tax guy. But I just don't love folding shirts, and it was affecting the quality of my laundry skills at home. The basket of clean clothes would sit there, day after day, waiting patiently for me to sort and fold and stack, but it was getting harder and harder for me to apply myself to the task. The cat didn't mind, he had a nice soft place to lounge, but the boys were getting teased at school for their wrinkled, fur-covered tees and shorts.
So I need a job I can love. And hopefully a job that will love me back.
TMW&BWITW = The most Wonderful and Beautiful Wife in the World, of course.
July 24, 2006
July 17, 2006
I was standing outside the south entrance, looking up at the guys in the cherry picker taking down the "Robinsons-May" sign on the side of the building, and I know I was standing outside the safety cones, or maybe leaning up against one of the cones but still not technically inside their danger zone, and I was watching carefully the whole time, it's not like I was daydreaming or talking and smoking with The Girls, when all of a sudden the guy shouts "Look out!" but by the time I could figure out it was the guy up above me in the crane, the guy supposedly holding the 4' tall "R", the guy with the look of panic and lawsuit and unemployment on his face, this huge glass and metal R meteor crashes down right on my foot. My left foot. The foot that already had scrapes on it from my new flip-flops. The foot that was already sore now has a giant R on it, with shards of glass and metal shrapnel flying out in to the parking lot, landing on top of the cars and knocking the security dude off his ten-speed bike, and as the butter-fingered guy 15 feet up is hollering at me "are you okay? are you okay?" I'm looking back up at him trying to yell back "no you freakin' idiot I'm not ok I got a ton of R smashin' my foot into the asphalt why do think I'd be ok --" and I see behind him, this suddenly safety-conscious guy worried about everybody down below his alphabet missiles, I see the rest of the letters start to peel off the stucco, like your science project photos because Mom bought the cheapest glue stick, and the letters are still connected to each other and pulling each other off the wall, free at last! they've been bolted up there for 20 years, and the S smacks into the crane basket so the guy turns just in time to catch the O straight in the chest and he's hanging on like it's a lover but he's heading for the sidewalk followed by NS-MAY and everyone is screaming and running, except the guy that can't run because there's a huge R pinning his foot to the ground (that would be me), and then the last letter breaks free from the wall, the Y lets go and like alphabet soup down the drain the letters crash to earth, sending the clumsy construction worker flying into me, knocking me, except my left shoe, free from the R. And but for a few scratches and a lot of dust, everyone is alright. There is a mess to clean up, but it's not my job.
The sign guy apologized, and I went in a picked out a new pair of shoes, free of charge.
But they really did take the sign down yesterday. I wonder if they recycle the letters, sell them cheap to a store called "MOORS AN NIBY'S" or something.
July 16, 2006
July 12, 2006
A little background music, please...
start at the beginning? With chicken and a blue checkered shirt, looking like a greasy tablecloth and eating bbq'ed potato salad sandwiches to avoid another bite of chicken?
or the beginning of retail sales -- would that fall under the category of
"Blessing" or "Curse" ? 22 loooong years later. Wait, how could it be 22 years? That's impossible! Hmmm, recheck my math... 40 (but a youthful 4o) minus 18, carry the 1, divide by # of promotions, add 6 for each midnight shift... yep, 22 years in retail. Shoot me now.
or the beginning of my current post, my banishment to the outskirts of the city. Who knew there was a mall in El Cajon? Feed stores, pawn shops, trailer parks sure, but a shopping mall? But there it was, right off the 8, my new temporary (I thought) place to work until transferring to a cool and beautiful store in Fashion Valley or UTC. Then came the customers, the man with the tiger face, the superhero in a yellow cape and waaaaaay too small tights, and all our special friends dropped off by bus every morning to hang out at the mall. Throw in a few insults, questions regarding the sexual orientation of a male working in a department store, and I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. And I had not yet been exposed to the other personalities of The Boss, the yelling and throwing, the notes written in red ink letters 6" high underlined and tearing through the paper, the withering glare, the "No, no, no, no, no, no!!!"
But the best was yet to come, and I mean The Best: the people I worked with every day. My co-workers, my associates, my partners in crime, my teammates, my friends. We won't count the flakes & weirdos, the thieves & losers, the liar & the gossip. Not worth the time and energy. The people that are worth remembering are the people that made coming to work each day worth any and all black clouds that may have come along. The people I worked hard with to get projects done, the people who worked together to get through busy days, who helped each other through midnight shifts, working on Christmas Eve, working during 9/11 and earthquakes and personal tragedies. The people I laughed with, counseled and commiserated with, cried with, laughed with some more, disagreed and argued with, bitched and complained with, celebrated with, and always kept laughing with are the reason I came to work every day and those are the people I will never ever forget. How do you forget family?
First, I believe the people who added the life-altering addictive to Starbucks "coffee" also are involved in the "NEXT BLOG" link, paralyzing the web community for hours at a time until one realizes the entire night has gone by and one has read 6 thousand entries on yarn, crocheting knit caps, the World Cup, or all three in one awe-inspiring post! Second, why are 80% of all blogs in a foreign language?!?!? How am I supposed to know what they ate for dinner and which friend stopped by and how Ronaldo scored twice on a banana kick and a diving header while doing a garter stitch when it's in Croatian or Thai? C'mon, people.
Ok, a little over two weeks left to work and to be honest and quite frank, I'm bored. I enjoy walking around and talking to everybody, even though I'm supposed to be telling them to stop leaning on the counter and talking. I usually enjoy catching people chatting, the excuses can be amusing (a nickel for every sentence starting "I was just...") and being the evil bastard always picking on the poor over-worked associate makes the evening go by quicker. But I am trying to be extra nice these last few weeks, I want to feel loved when I leave. I could spend 8 hrs a day going from dept to dept, checking on how things are going, answering questions or just listening as they talk. Sometimes I get the "move along now, shouldn't you be doing something" look, but for the most part they tolerate me. I work with some very interesting people with stories to tell or points of view on everything from our customers to reality shows to geo-political issues, people who have lived all their lives a bus ride from the mall or people born on the other side of the planet. Those of us working on the 4th of July would have rather been off, outside in the sun with family and friends, but we appreciated what we shared: hotdogs and potato chips in the breakroom, watching the Space Shuttle launch then the World Cup on the Spanish tv station, and counting how many different languages could have been spoken in the room. Amazing....
July 10, 2006
Who says I'm depressed? Or did they just mean depressing? I have no reason in the world to be down, moping, or sullen. I have it all, and I appreciate every minute of it. Sitting on the couch right now is The Most Wonderful & Beautiful Wife in the World, watching HBO on the 32" flat screen in our air-conditioned Spanish-tiled Martha-Stewart-would-approve home while the Boys are snoring upstairs in blissful slumber. The cat's snoozing somewhere around here too. I live in the most beautiful city in the world (isn't "el cajon" Spanish for "garden of Eden with 90 degree heat and a tattoo shop on every block"?) surrounded by family and friends, beaches and mountains, Disneyland and Tijuana. My kids are smart and good looking, just like their Dad, and The MW&BWITW tells me every day how happy she is. So not only is she Wonderful & Beautiful and Happy, but she's very good at her job and makes enough money to put gas in my truck and still be able to let me quit my job and go back to school.
For the day I die, I'mma touch the sky -- does it get any better than this?
Obviously, I have no reason to be depressed. I didn't even start listing my own stellar qualities, any number of which would lift a lesser man from the darkest depths. (Ok, I could work on humility.) I really do appreciate the blessings and treasures in my life, even the most mundane aspects of life should not be overlooked or taken for granted.
So what do I appreciate? Hmmm...
- cereal with cold milk
- Ringo Starr
- taco night!
- my skateboards
- no broken bones
- watching Her sleep
- the Pacific coastline
- TPetty & his Heartbreakers
- remote controls
- my truck
- post-it notes
- #1's good nature
- #2 taking care of #3
- #3's imagination
- Roald Dahl
- strawberry pizza
- the Bro's writing
- OHP breakfast
- the sun
- sand + water = beach
- Her smile
- double plays
- John Steinbeck
- road trips
- Van Morrison
- Balboa Park
- Her soft skin
- pecan pie
- family sayings
- digital technology
- street football
- movie night
- all-time all-star team debates
- Ford Prefect
- sunday mornings
- late summer evenings
- Abbey Road
- coffee breaks
- bare feet
- greeting strangers
- Her humor
...and all without mention of Prozac or Pacifico. See, no depression here! Of course we close with Van Halen's Happy Trails to you....
July 8, 2006
There is more than one way to skin a cat, so they say, and there is more than one way to cause a man to take a long hard look at his life, measure his worth, search his shallow soul, and entertain thoughts of mortality, destiny, and whether his life has been worth spit.
One way, as you might have guessed, is to turn 40. "About 60 years left" sez the Bro. I estimate, based largely on what I eat and the exercise I don't do, I'm good for half that. 30 more years puts me at 70, probably the upper limit of this mortal coil. So I'm on the back side, heading downhill -- slowly at this point, no real momentum, but there is no way to go backwards to that half-way peak. I'm ok with that. What's more fun, waiting in line for 45 minutes behind 80 wet and screaming kids and a fat guy with a hairy sunburned back, or the wild exciting rush of the water slide?
Another way to get a man's attention is through the miracle of Fatherhood; a new dad is made quite aware of his place in the cosmos, how insignificant he is when it comes to the wants and needs of his children and their mother. The blessed event often leads a man to poetry, exalting the beauty and joy of his baby's toes, or to letters, a volume on his new-found maturity and the responsibility of ensuring his wit and wisdom is passed to future generations of his seed. Of course this birth-inspired literary bent is quickly stamped out by the reality of diapers, teletubbies, sibling rivalry, and six billion legos sprinkled like grass seeds throughout the house.
Litigation, jail time, jury duty, any intrusion by the legal system into a man's life. Combat, medical emergencies, divorce. The realization your son is now the better athlete, as your best fastball clears the fence or your fadeaway jumper is smacked back into the gardenias. The loss of a parent. Hair loss. Traumatic events in a man's life lead to introspection, to the search for explanations, a sense of reason and significance in the universe.
Not having a job, a career, a calling. Not collecting a paycheck. Resumes, applications, interviews. Peel a man to his core, expose his deepest fears and weaknesses. Underqualified, overqualified, not what we're looking for, nothing available at this time. We'll get back to you.
I will be out of work in 15 days. Fifteen days not including weekends, so three weeks left as a man bringing home the bacon. Fifteen more days of work until I am out of work, off the payroll, unable to come in pick up a paycheck. All those jokes about not coming back when someone goes on vacation? I'm not coming back after my vacation. Call in on Sunday to check my schedule? I'm not on the schedule.
July 4, 2006
When you turn 40 you're supposed to take a long hard look at your life, both back down the road traveled and up ahead to see what the traffic is like; if you're lucky/talented/rich both lanes could be smooth and clear, with fresh blacktop and no speed limit, easy to read road signs (children 3 miles, stock split 12 miles), no boneheads cutting you off so you miss an exit and have to make a u-turn at the next one, 8 years and a divorce down the road. If you're like most people (which most of are, hence the term) you look back at a twisted path of potholes and hills, up and down and up and down and how did we make it over that last mountain, how did we make it through that 7 car pile-up? The road ahead doesn't appear any more clear, the construction crews are still laying asphalt and through the clutter and haze there's no telling which way the turns will take us.
But we have to look.
I don't want to. I repeat my mantra of "no regrets, no worries" and appreciate the moment, enjoy where I am and what I have right now. Not one of us is promised tomorrow, right? But there must be an innate self-review board, triggered by the 40 candles to convene and take stock. This Internal Committee reviews photos and press clippings, culls highlights for a video montage, and takes a red Sharpie to The Checklist of Goals and Achievements. Hmmm, not a lot of checks in my accomplishment column, and actually there are quite of few items completely crossed off the list with the notation "not ever gonna happen" ...although to be fair some of those goals were stretches from the beginning, involving Heisman trophies and/or an entire crew of flight attendants. So again I try to avert my eyes, focus my gaze any direction but inward, even though the introspection enzyme is already coursing through my bloodstream, compelling me to rank and rate Past Present and Future.
So as I Ebenezer my way through my life, I have to narrow the search or be overwhelmed. Actually underwhelmed would be more accurate, or simply room temperature-whelmed. It's been ok, nothing to brag or wail about, and that's the way I like it. But I can't get away with it, the ghosts don't let me pull the covers over my head and fake snore until they leave, I have to actually get up and take a look at where I've been and what I've done, how the whole Consequences concept shakes out. As Dad always said every action needs an equal yet opposite reaction ...or was it every action gets a reaction so act fast ...? Something like that. Really, I was listening.
June 30, 2006
What becomes of that success, and that man, when his achievements can be erased in an instant, reduced to ashes or rubble no matter how tall the tower and richly appointed the halls, or rendered moot by mere whispers and doubts no matter how pure and stout the heart? What can a man hold in his hands, cradle in his arms, or lift high for all to see where he stood and what he built? Most of our life is wind and sand and water running through our fingers and vanishing at our feet.
the glass must be half empty, cracked twice, and leaking all over the counter tonight...
June 29, 2006
Well, that all depends on what answer you want, what you really and truely mean by "how are you?"
Do you want the standard "good, and you?" or are you looking for details, maybe narrowed down to a specific category: how am I doing my job, how is my sore foot, how do I feel mentally or emotionally? How is my life overall, on a scale of 1 - 10? And when you're interested in my life, do we just get a sense of the overall, the general everything-ness of my existence? Or do we break it down into categories again, home/health/career/bowling average? What should be the time frame -- last 2 weeks, 6 months, or a composite of the last decade? This could lead to some lengthy replies....
For the record, I'm fine. How you doin'?
Break a life down, separate out the components, divide everything onto categories, and a man can focus on what is really important:
Sex, Sports, Family, Career.
What else is there? You could make an argument for Faith, but you usually don't ask your friends how their walk with the Lord is going, at least not while getting coffee before the marketing strategy meeting, or in front of the family when everyone gets together to meet the new girlfriend. Besides, you're not going to get an honest answer (oh man, sinned with the secretary last week, He is pissed!) or you'll turn the BBQ into a prayer meeting (As a matter of fact, He just burned that hydrangea bush out by my back gate, and told me to share these verses with you...).
Yes, the categories do blend at points: sports and career can be the same, and without sex there usually is no family (for example, my first marriage). In fact sex should be an integral part of each aspect of a man's life, without it the rest will suffer and we have to deal with those "over compensation" issues (see HumVee owners). Unfortunately some people mix the sex/sports/family too heavily (see NASCAR fans).
How do we judge if a man is a success? Or more importantly, how does a man measure his own success? And why would he do it publicly, unless he wanted to sell you something or get elected (I know, same thing).
I cannot speak for anyone else, the public self-humiliators with the dirty laundry tossed out all over the www, or the drama queens baring their souls in a pathetic effort to scrub away guilt or attract chicks, but in my case it's simple: I crack myself up, and no one reads these things anyway.
Bottom line, the high point of my life, career-wise, was being the editor-in-chief of our high school newspaper. Athleticly, it was the Pop Warner championship game in 6th grade, won 18-0 with all three TD's behind my devastating blocks from right tackle. Sex? Well let's just say it had nothing to do with me having the Most Wonderful & Beautiful Wife in the World, or if it did she fell for me in less time than it took you to read this sentence.
Moving right along...