2006: Good fucking riddence

It’s been a year; 364 days of peaks and valleys.
But more valleys than peaks.
And virtually no flat-line of the mundane.
But let’s be honest here, the highs were pretty fucking high – I got assigned to cover the Olympics in Italy, I won another national award for my work and (probably the most important) I sought therapy for myself and came to some very healthy self-realizations.
(Now is not the time to lose that, amid valleys that continue to drop lower and lower in elevation.)
It’s been a year:
Where I’ve struggled to find meaning and purpose after losing my mother to cancer;
Where I was an active participant in fucking up my marriage;
Where I watched a close friend drop dead of cancer (and in one explosive argument two days after his burial, said horrible, hurtful things to my wife, then to make matters worse when she said things back to me, asked her for a divorce, even though I was drunk, hurting and didn't mean it);
Where I had to focus after my dad was run over by a car;
Where I watched him struggle with the loss of his wife and truly ask why he didn’t die;
Where I watched – and listened – as my brother and sisters struggle with horrible things in their life;
Where my wife committed adultery;
Where I filed for divorce.
It’s New Year’s Eve and early this morning my dad called to say that there is a good chance that he’ll have his foot amputated on Tuesday (the day after his 79th birthday – there’s a present).
He’s got a pressure sore that won’t heal, and a staph infection that, quite frankly, threatens his life.
It’s a very fluid situation; he’s at a great hospital, but there are as many opinions as there are surgeons. Some agree that he’d be better off with the foot; others look at the situation and don’t want to give up (even though it means a few more painful surgeries for dad – and no guarantee that he won’t lose the foot a month from now).
I told him that I was mad at God. That whatever lesson there was in all of this, our family has gone through enough bullshit this year.
“You can’t get mad at God,” he said. “We’re going to need him.”
I took a long hike to clear my head (and my heart) and while I appreciate his strength in the face of this, I’m still conflicted. I do realize that every event in your life is presented as a learning experience, if you’re good and smart enough to listen. But it’s hard to listen where there is so much beatdown – any way not enough good things.
When the balance sheet is tilting toward misery.
Life isn’t fair. I’ve heard that my entire life. I get it now.
Life is mostly several swift kicks to the nuts, with the occasional reach-around thrown in so everyone doesn’t check out.
All I can do is seek more help for myself, continue to be a better person – and be strong for the people who need me.
And I need to be strong for me, ‘cause I need me.
It isn’t always easy, it isn’t always fun, but it is life as I know it.
And I know that things will get better.
Maybe 2007 is the year.
I'm not sure it could get much worse (but, I suppose it could).


NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – It has been announced that Thom G. and his wife have filed for divorce, after nearly five years of marriage.
Details of the separation, and subsequent breakup, were not immediately made public.
The couple was married on March 29, 2002.
They have no children together, but she has two children – loved and cherished greatly by Thom G. – from a previous marriage.
The pair met at work in 2000.

Sometimes it's OK to be me

So I go to the library after work on Thursday to browse for books to put on my 43 Things out-of-my-comfort-level list of reading for 2007.
I got some ideas, but picked up something that was more in my comfort range – and is a quick read.
“I’m sorry, but there’s a hold on your card,” Bonnie the librarian said. “You owe $11.20 in late fees.”
That’s embarrassing.
The boy took two books with him to his dad’s place; the fees just sort of added up.
Good thing no one was standing in line behind me.
I didn’t have any scratch.
And they don't take debit cards - yet.
“Hey, you’re Thom G!” she said. “I read all your adventures! You must have been out-and-about. Tell you what, since I know you’re good for it, just pay us in 2007.”
I told her she’d have it sooner than that (the library was nearly closed for the day, so there was no chance to run by an ATM).
Then I realized that the old library (the new, fancy one doesn’t open until March) has some sketchy hours.
It might not be until 2007 that the library gets my $11.20 in late fees.
And I’m still officially embarrassed.

Go grab some life, man

“It’s not so much the journey, but the destination.”
I’m not sure I agree with that.
Mortal man has but one physical destination – a six-foot hole in the ground, or in a decorative urn that will collect dust on some mantle (I leave it up to you to discuss amongst yourselves any spiritual destination you may believe in).
I’d like to think it’s the journey that makes the destination more meaningful.
(And, if all goes right, just before I die I will be granted a few moments of pure clarity; the chance to see through eyes connected to a brain that is operating at its full capacity. And I mean 100 percent synapse-firing brainpower.)
For me, now on the cusp of 2007 and nearing my 43rd year, it is the journey that is the teacher.
A Catholic nun kinda teacher (I’ve had my share). With a big scary fucking metal ruler who keeps rapping your knuckles from time to time (but actually manages to impart a lot of good wisdom, if you’d just shut the fuck up, listen and experience once and again).
With that in mind, I’d come across a Web site that dares you to journey.
It’s called 43 Things.
It is pretty simple, really. You write down 43 Things you’d like to accomplish (weight loss, book writing and travel are all top options).
Your list is shared with others.
Why do it?
Well, it is a proven fact that people who write their goals down have an 80 percent higher success rate of achieving those goals, as compared to people who just think about them.
At 43 Things, you create an account, like a MySpace of Facebook page, and start writing things down. You’ve got room for 43 Things.
Doesn’t mean you have to come up with 43.
“Everything needs a name. We think 43 is the right number of things for a busy person to try and do. Why not more? It’s too much. Why not less? You can do less, but it is still called 43 Things.”
Seems pretty simple.
Only, it is not.
I’ve had my page up on 43 Things for going on three weeks. The only thing I’ve done is put a picture up. (disclaimer: I had a few mental erections in the past 48 hours and now have 35 of my 43 Things covered).
But if you’re going to do something like this, the 43 Things you come up with better be pretty fucking special – like the desire to live in Italy for a year (OK, that’s one).
Or should they all be special?
Something as simple as read 12 books outside your normal comfort zone in 2007 (OK, that’s two).
I waffle.
I’m nearly 43 and I want my 43 Things to count for something.
Or not.
Some of my current 35 are esoteric; some are altruistic; some are a reach. Some are strange. Strangely, only one is sexual in nature.
But that’s what you get with me.
I’m complicated.
Here’s the real kicker: People look at your 43 Things and actually cheer you on (I cheered on a girl who wanted to live life without undies for a week; I’ve been commando since I was 15 and love it – betcha you didn’t know that did you, HA) and you can explain your position. It’s peer pressure, man. And it is all good.
You know what else is good? Just writing 43 Things down (and it looks like I’ll hit that easy) means I have a mathematical chance at completing 34.4 of the 43 things, if you believe the 80 percent theory.
Those are good odds.
Try it yourself, and see.
And see if it’s the journey that makes the destination much more interesting.
One last quote:
“The past is the past, the future is a mystery and the present is a gift.”

Maybe Stevo is right

Maybe I need to take a contract out on my cats (Stevo knows a guy who'll do it for $10 - no questions asked).
The little bastards (OK, one's a bastard, the other one's a little bitch) finally realized there was a Christmas tree in the living room. A tree filled with all sorts of fun stuff to bat around.
But that ain't the half of it.
For Christmas, I got them this scratching post thing that's filled with catnip. They've pretty much ignored it.
And continue to attack everything else.
I also got them a bottle of Pounce "Shake-It-Up" moist cat treats.
Christmas morning, I broke them out.
And they completely snubbed them (although Indy had a good time batting hers around the living room until a dog ate it). I left the bottle under the tree.
Fast-forward to 2:30 a.m., when I hear one of the cats playing hockey with something. I finally had to get it.
A lid.
I figured, in my sleepy haze, it was off some spice container that I dropped.
It was purple.
It was the cap from the treats.
The cap had two fang marks in it; the bottle of treats was missing.
I found the bottle under the chair.
Three-fourths of the treats gone.
Yes, one of them managed to bite and unscrew a plastic cap on the treats and consume most of them.
Which did explain the runniness of their stools when I cleaned the box this morning.
And the monkey bumps across the kitchen.

Fast friends

I am beginning to believe that people are put in your path on purpose.
Take Bill and Julie.
Pretty much out of the blue, Julie (an actress and voice-over performer from New York by way of San Francisco) emailed me to thank me for a story I had written – and to comment on the current king salmon season on the Sacramento River (or lack thereof).
Bill (a Ph.D chemist and former dot.com CEO) and Julie got out of the rat race of the Bay Area and opened a fishing guide service and bed and breakfast.
One thing led to another, and the offer was made to go fishing.
An invitation that I might have passed on as recently as three months ago. But one I happily accepted.
We had an absolute blast.
Not only did we catch fish (Julie and I’s first of the season, with just a three weeks to go), but we connected.
We became friends.
They are both foodies, like me, and we just had fun being in each other’s company.
And it is good to have friends.
I don’t know yet what I am to learn from Bill and Julie, but I’m not going to worry about analyzing it. I’m just going to let things unfold.
By the way, Julie’s fish went 17 pounds; mine went 22 pounds. It was probably the freshest, feistiest salmon I’ve tangled with in 10 years here. I fought her for 30 minutes, and have a huge black-and-blue bruise on my hipbone, where the rod dug in.
Fish and new friends.

Merry Christmas

Christmas is friends and family.
It should be Christmas every single day.
Because you need your friends and family every single day.
I only want one thing for Christmas.
All I want is you.

Christmas videos, Day 5

What's the deal with families wearing matching shit on Christmas?
Holiday sweaters - red and green, of course - with snowmen, Santa or a Christmas tree on them.
Take a family and dress them all the same and you'll look like retards.
Trust me.
My mom thought it would be a good idea back in the early 90s to get T-shirts made up for everyone. And everyone was home - two parents, five children and all their families (even two dogs) - for this holiday.
Guys got green T-shirts with Christmas trees on them; the girls got dressed in red.
There are pictures.
I left my T-shirt at home. I checked last month, it's still there. I smiled.
Thanks for the memories, mom.
Now check out the boys of SNL (dressed alike) singing a Christmas song:

Christmas videos, Day 4

I once - and only once - saw my mother completely lose her shit.
During Christmas.
It was part of the 10-year period where my father tried to drown his troubles in beer and Chivas Regal. And there was a meltdown.
My mom was so good at holding things together, even when dad made it tough to do so. I credit her with keeping my childhood idyllic and happy (my troubles, it seems, came much later).
But everyone cracks.
We had one of these fake Christmas trees that I think came from Sears. Big mother. Each branch was color-coded, at the end of the wire that made the branch. the idea was to put the stick into the holder, then pile each like-colored branch in a pile and work from the bottom up. the "trunk" of the tree was made up of two poles that fit together.
My little sister and I were the only ones home at the time. We tried to help. But the trunk came undone - and mom tumbled into the tree.
"FUCK!" she yelled.
My sister and I looked at her, in shock.
She made a wonderful recovery.
"Hey, how about we make cookies!"
The tree got put up, we made cookies and I think that was the year I got a unicycle.
So you can say fuck and still have a Merry Christmas.

Christmas videos, day 3

What's the worst, strangest gift you've ever received at Christmas?
I'm not talking about tube socks, or toothbrushes in stockings, either (you needed those things, you ungrateful sot).
Something you had to unwrap that had you scratching your head all the way through Christmas dinner.
For me, it was a bowling ball.
And a bag, shoes and one of those wrist thingies bowlers wear.
I wasn't bowling - or contemplating the game - at the time.
Granted, I am Polish and I am from Nebraska (where the heritage and locale predestined me to enjoy the sport). But it was such a random gift.
I was a high school senior, I believe.
My dad ended up asking if he could use the stuff, and had the ball - a beautiful blue marble job - re-drilled for his fingers.
And bowled with it successfully in team play for years.
I, interestingly enough, finally blew out my knee during a game with the kids in 2002. Karma being what it is, maybe I should not have knocked what someone decided was a thoughtful gift.
And speaking of gifts, here's the video for "Dick in a Box."
Careful what you wish for.

Six days of Christmas videos, Day 2

So, all hands got a holiday letter yesterday from our corporate CEO, who extolled the good works we had all contributed to in 2006; namely, we made the stockholders a SHITLOAD of money. How much is a shitload? Billions.
The kicker? You could hear the groans, sighs and moans at our property, as people began to open the letter and read it. Since, two weeks ago, we got an email saying that due to a lousy fourth quarter, there would be no Christmas bonuses for anyone (except, of course, the CEO and management).
What did we get last year?
Fifty fucking bucks to the mall store of our choice.
And that's my corporate "Fuck You At Christmas" moment.
But let's keep it light ('cause if you can't laugh at misfortune, you're seriously buggered).
Let's keep the fa la la in the here-and-now with another Christmas video clip (and since it's Surface Tension, warm and fuzzy has been beaten to a bloody pulp).
How's about Mark "Chopper" Read reciting "Twas the Night Before Christmas" from Australia's Ronnie John's Half-Hour TV show?
Have a Merry Fucking Christmas!

Raging Rudolph

What do you get when you mix a classic holiday favorite like Bankin/Rass' "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" with the the stylized gangland antics of a Martin Scorsese film? You get the MADTv animated hit, "Raging Rudolph."
Have a Merry Freakin' Christmas.

Evil is actually spelled N-E-O

It’s like he knows I dissed him here on Surface Tension.
Neo, my fat-assed black Manx cat (black as in dark and nasty), has been a one-feline wrecking crew since Sunday. Malevolent beyond words.
Sunday night, after I went to bed, he started this weird howling.
Then the crash.
I kicked off the covers to discover that he’d knocked over the shepherd, part of my Willow Tree Nativity set. The set my dead mother had been giving us for Christmas for a few years (which my dad completed this year).
Neo broke the shepherd’s hand, the hand that was holding his staff.
(This poor shepherd has had a rough Christmas this year; Indy, our lithe, bulimic cat - Neo hogs the food, so she ends up binging and purging - puked up on him last week.)
A little Super Glue, and the shepherd has taken his rightful place on the Creche.
Last night, I was reading Christmas card letters on the couch. Neo, in what I thought was a show of affection - a real bygones-be-bygones moment - climbed up on my chest, laid down…
and bit me in the nose.
Jesus, I gotta tell you that stings like a mofo.
Later, after a monster walk with Trinity, I decided to curl up in a hot bath and read Outside magazine. I dropped my drawstring Pjs on the floor and hopped in.
Neo came in, sat on the bath mat, and stared at me over the lip of the tub. All I could see was the little fucker’s black ears – and his evil yellow eyes (try this – go to your fence and peer over at the neighbors, just so they can see your eyes, and see how long it takes before they’re completely creeped out).
I splashed a little water at him and he walked past my Pjs.
Where he took the strings in his mouth and started walking out the door.
“Hey!” I yelled.
And he broke into a run.
Later, after I toweled off, I found Neo curled up on my Pjs – under the kitchen table. That’s at least 30 feet from the bathroom.
He probably monkey bumped all over them.
I put on a pair of sweats and put the Pjs in the washer.
And gave him a few treats, just to try and keep the peace.

Fruit pie and a mocha

That’s exactly what my best bud on this rock, Jason, is going to get – a fruit pie and a mocha – for his gritty performance at the Shasta Winter Cyclocross Series on Sunday.
Riding his spanking-new Redline cross bike (he entered his first cyclocross event two weeks ago on a borrowed bike and I, wrongly, made a prediction that it would take him until the third race to drop some $$$ on a cross bike), Jason finished first in the C (beginner) class.
The 1.5-mile course through Enterprise Community Park was a true nut-buster that had some vicious climbs, some nasty hike-a-bike areas, a dipsy-doodle downhill that claimed a few riders – and a giant pile of wood chips (Chips Ahoy!) the riders had to ride up and over.
Cyclocross is a mix of mountain biking, road cycling and an obstacle course. Nasty. But fun.
Fruit pie and a mocha? It’s an old joke, one that goes back at least eight years. As in, “Man, I feel like a fruit pie and a mocha.” Our-speak for walking over to the nearby Gas-N-Sip for some convenience store nourishment.

There was a time on course where Jason was kind of languishing.
“Dude, win this and I’ll buy you a fruit pie and a mocha,” I yelled over the cowbell.
A smile spread across his face.
At one point, he opened up a 57-second lead; he won by like 17 seconds.
Fruit pie and a mocha.
He got some really cool swag for winning – new clipless pedals, a pizza coupon and a DVD – but I’m sure he’ll appreciate the pie and coffee.
And he’s now done with the C class.
Win a class and you have to move up. Next up, at Anderson River Park, he’ll have to ride with the B class guys. Forty-five minutes on course, as compared to 30 for the C riders.
“Dude, I dunno, that extra 15 minutes is gonna kill me,” he said.
I think not. To make the progress he’s made (and he's dropped like 60 pounds riding his mountain/road/cyclocross bikes), I’m betting he holds his own.
Just in case, instead of a fruit pie and a mocha, I’m bringing a few cold Etna Porters to the Jan. 31 race. A cool salute for being so goddamn cool to put himself out there.
And thanks to my buddy Stevo for the pictures!

Monkey bumping

It is time to discuss the whole monkey bumping thing.
Sure, you can look it up on the Internets – the Urban Dictionary defines it as two women having sex (use your imagination) – but those in the know, those who have witnessed the truth (or have, at the very least, heard the truth first-hand) know of the monkey bumping.
It is, of course, the attempt to clean one’s anus by thumping it across a surface other than two-ply.
Scooting your bum across a granite outcropping in a high-mountain lake counts (this is where I first was made to confront the term; a witness to a backcounty ritual of a deranged backpacking friend. The experience seared an image into my retinas – and left a big mental welt.)
Watching your pet scoot his or her backside across the linoleum, carpet or hardwood floor counts as well.
If you wish to avoid the monkey bump, remember (and follow) these two rules:
1. Do not go backpacking with any of my friends;
2. Do not enter into a long-term relationship with a Manx cat.
I am fucked, on both counts.
Buddies who can put up with all your weird shit in the backcountry are hard to come by. Conversely, you let the monkey bumping go.
The cat, Neo, is part of a package deal; and I really love the other cat.
(I will fess up right here and now, I broke Neo’s hip three years ago – and he has held this against me ever since. Oh, he’s recovered – the vet said he might have arthritis in his old age, and I said, “Won’t we all?” – but any guilt I may or may not have felt does not excuse his monkey bumping tendencies.)
Manx cats have no tails.
And if you are to trust Cat Fancier magazine, monkey bumping is a trait of the breed.
(Just for argument sake, the Manx FAQ also says, “The Manx is a mellow, even-tempered cat, friendly and affectionate.” This does not, in any way, describe Neo, a surly lard-ass that, if made angry, will unroll an entire roll of toilet paper when you are not looking).
But I digress.
Here’s the question in question from the Cat Fancier FAQ:
Do they have bad habits?
“It isn't a bad habit so much as it is an unavoidable situation. Because rumpy Manx have no tails, sometimes ‘poop’ will cling to the close-lying hairs around the anus. This in turn may be smeared on the floor or whatever the cat climbs onto after visiting the litter box.”
And thus, the monkey bump.
Last week, I came in from a walk and thought I’d tracked mud across the kitchen. I made the mistake of swiping the mess up with my fingers.
The aroma of fresh cat shit assaulted my nostrils.
Soft food, according to Cat Fancier, will make the problem even worse.
I’m here to tell you that hard food ain’t a picnic.
Several times a week, Neo will leave the litter box with half a Toosie Roll sticking out of his ass.
You can expect to find these Neo nuggets wherever he can dislodge them (by monkey bumping, of course).
Mostly, they land on the kitchen floor (it’s best to turn on the lights when you walk around my place).
Twice in the last two weeks, however, I have found them in my bed (the last time, I hit the lights and jumped into bed; something lumpy lay under my back. A Neo nugget, thankfully desiccated. I changed the sheets – and showered.)
I must accept his monkey bumping. He’s part of the family, I suppose, the weird uncle figure who drinks too much Pabst Blue Ribbon and insists you pull on his finger until he rips one.
I just keep a keen eye out.
And the Clorox wipes handy.

The truth about masturbation

Good thing, then, that cats average four kittens per litter.
I've got my eye on you.

Fur of the dog (that bit me)

You have to admit, that's a pretty impressive fur sculpture.
And a tremendous amount of fur, too.
I'm so ashamed.

Please welcome, if you will...

Savvy readers of Surface Tension will no doubt notice there’s a new link in the link-o-rama section; one RachelRenae has been added.
Slide on over and read the “Raging, Ranting, Raving, and Rhapsodizing” of this Denver-based blogger.
How is it, you ask, that RachelRenae gets her own welcome mat on Surface Tension?
Three reasons:
1. She’s good, and I think a woman’s voice is needed to balance out the stench of testosterone and general male angst around here;
2. She’s in transition;
3. She’s been the first real blogger (other than my close personal blogger friends) from the vast Internets to post a comment on my little slice of blogdom.
OK, I got pretty darn excited to know someone from Denver took the time to read my blog, so I emailed her. Here’s her response:
“I have a lot of free time at work and I really enjoyed reading your blog today. I'm amazed no one else has read it!
“I was just dying reading your post about nasty getting even tactics,
though I must congratulate you on your new-found maturity. Of course
you can add my site your list! I'd like to add yours to my list, if that's cool.”
It is so very cool.

Hair of the dog (that bit me)

OK, I’m officially mortified.
I took the girls to the groomer today. A little day of beauty.
I told Kimberly that they were a mess. I told her I wasn’t kidding.
She blocked out the entire afternoon to work with the dogs.
I called at 5 p.m. to see where everything stood.
“Not good,” she said. “One is out of the bath, but the other one just got in. We’re looking at like 7:30 or 8.”
I had to be at a Forest Service meeting from 6-8 p.m.
My buddy who was going to pick them up had car trouble.
“Don’t worry about it,” Kimberly said. “Just go to your meeting. I’ll just busy myself until you get here.”
Of course, the meeting ran late. Then lots of people wanted to talk.
My cell rang.
“You on your way?” Kimberly asked.
I was still 20 minutes away.
(Stop. Look at those dogs. Are they not cute and beautiful?)
As I was walking in, I noticed that Kimberly had some sort of stuffed animal on the table.
“Like my dog?” she asked.
I said yes – then took a really long, hard look at it.
“I made it from Scully, mostly,” she said. “Just the white parts are Trinity.”
Yes, she had enough time to build a complete dog out of fur from mostly one dog.
“I’m going to spray hairspray on it, shellac it,” she said. “And take a picture.”
I tipped her, big time, and also gave her and her husband Toll House chocolate chip/pecan cookies and some tangerine bath salts I made Saturday for Christmas gifts.
I’ll get the dog fur dog picture and post it.
“Invest in a comb and really work it,” Kimberly said. “A brush will just get the surface.”
Good to know.

Manic's Little Helper

It has to be one of the best, most provocative, uses of placement marketing – or placement advertising – I have ever seen.
You know about placement marketing, right? That’s where advertisers place their ads in places where they already have high market penetration.
Like when advertisers put up Kool cigarette or Schlitz Malt Liquor ads in predominately black neighborhoods.
Or Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn billboards at the gateways to vast suburban home tracts.
I had to go back, twice, to my Safeway grocery store to see for my own eyes.
The four ads for the schizophrenia and bipolar medication Abilify (aripiprazole) on the store’s two pay telephones.
This Safeway sits across the street from City Park, which just happens to corral the largest concentration of the city’s homeless population (the rescue mission is two blocks south).
I think not.
Fully one-third of the homeless in the United States are mentally ill; U.S. Census Bureau estimates put the number of mentally ill homeless in California at 50,000.
A pay telephone outside a grocery store is the perfect place to plaster schizophrenia and bipolar medication ads.
Except the ads have too many words to be effective to the target audience.
They also show a well-dressed woman standing in a field of flowers looking toward a path that meanders into the distance. Please.
You really want to capture the market (and trust me, I’ve worked in advertising), the idea is focus, focus, focus on the message:
“Got shit and piss in your pants right now?”
“Tiny voices telling you things?”
“Anti-social to the point of screaming on the street corners?”
OK, I’ve just made fun of mentally ill people.
Express elevator to Hell? I think so.
But how do you explain the placement? I’m just keeping it real, here.
Speaking of real, I always love the safety warnings for medications (why do we insist on ingesting anything made by the giant pharmaceutical companies?):
“IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION and INDICATIONS for ABILIFY (aripiprazole) INDICATIONS: ABILIFY (aripiprazole) is indicated for the treatment of Acute manic and mixed episodes associated with Bipolar I Disorder; maintaining efficacy in patients with Bipolar I Disorder with a recent manic or mixed episode who had been stabilized and then maintained for at least 6 weeks.
“Elderly patients, diagnosed with psychosis as a result of dementia (for example, an inability to perform daily activities as a result of increased memory loss), and who are treated with atypical antipsychotic medicines including ABILIFY, are at an increased risk of death when compared to patients who are treated with a placebo (sugar pill). ABILIFY is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis.
“Serious side effects can occur with any antipsychotic medicine, including ABILIFY. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any conditions or side effects, including the following:
“Very high fever, rigid muscles, shaking, confusion, sweating, or increased heart rate and blood pressure. These may be signs of a condition called neuroleptic malignant syndrome, a rare but serious side effect which could be fatal; Abnormal or uncontrollable movements. These may be signs of a serious condition called tardive dyskinesia, which may be permanent; elderly: An increased risk of stroke and ministroke has been reported in a clinical study of elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis; Diabetes, risk factors for diabetes (for example, obesity, family history of diabetes), or unexpected increases in thirst, urination, or hunger. Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), in some cases serious and associated with coma or death, have been reported in patients taking medicines like ABILIFY. Ask your healthcare provider about the need to monitor your blood sugar level before and during treatment.
“Lightheadedness or faintness caused by a sudden change in heart rate and blood pressure when rising quickly from a sitting or lying position (orthostatic hypotension) has been reported with ABILIFY. Medicines like ABILIFY can affect your judgment, thinking, or motor skills. You should not drive or operate hazardous machinery until you know how ABILIFY affects you.
“Since medicines like ABILIFY can impact your body's ability to reduce body temperature, you should avoid overheating and dehydration.
“Medicines like ABILIFY have been associated with swallowing problems (dysphagia). If you had or have swallowing problems, you should tell your healthcare provider.
“If you have suicidal thoughts, you should tell your healthcare provider right away.
While taking ABILIFY, avoid drinking alcohol and breast-feeding an infant.”
Good to know.

I've been Warholized

Since TheRobRogers asked so nicely, I have Warholized myself.
I think it worked out quite nicely.

R.I.P. iPod, 2001-2006

It finally happened.
My iPod made a face.
The face of death.
That face to the left.
There is no hope. No cure. It's dead.
Rest in peace, little iPod, with your click-wheel and 5mb of storage. At your peak, you held 1,037 of the finest songs known to me.
Your service was commendable.
I will miss you, little buddy.

'Happy, Happy Joy, Joy' song

Speaking of being happy, it's time to join my old pal Stinky Wizzleteats is a rousing rendition of the "Happy, Happy Joy, Joy" song from the much under-appreciated cartoon show Ren & Stimpy:

Be happy

There are those people out there who are perpetually happy; folks who just seem to have their hap-o-meter completely dialed in.
Then there’s the rest of us.
Confused, mostly, trying to find our happiness is a variety of ways (or a variety of substances).
The rest of us tend to fail more than we succeed in finding happiness.
That just sucks.
So I pose the question:
“Is it possible to make yourself happier?”
(And I’m not talking about the joy that comes from touching your special-happy place, either. It’s nice, but too short-term).
I’m talking long-term happiness, sort of what researchers call the happiness thermostat, and turning it up and leaving it there.
According to an Associated Press article, it is possible. New research into human happiness shows that we can ratchet up our happiness thermometers, with some simple mental exercises.
Here’s one of the best:
At the end of every day, think of three things that made you happy – write them down if you have to – and then analyze why they happened.
You’ll be amazed at the results.
You’ll start to notice a lot of things in your day that made you happy, and that picking among them for three starts to get hard. Yesterday, I had more than 10 things on my list. I do my analyzing in bed, during that time where I’m relaxing and waiting for sleep.
Since I’ve started the exercise, I’ve slept completely through the night (and I stopped setting my alarm clock, because that makes me happy – and my day will start when it damn well wants to) and I’ve stopped the anxiety and dry-heaving as I roll out of bed.
I wake up as happy as when I went to bed.
It’s simple. It’s pretty cool.
Combine that with this new-found talent to actually feel my emotions, rather than bury them, and I’ve got things more dialed in than I’ve had in years.
You can learn more about happiness research at the following links:

Try the 'Warholizer'

The Internets is such a vibrant place to lose one's self in.
Whether it's stealing songs on Limewire, or watching Johnny Quest clips on YouTube, the Internets is just good fun (and not all porn, as some cynics would have you believe).
Take, for example, this little gem of a program called "The Warholizer." Just upload a photo, click create, and you'll end up with an Andy Warhol original.
That's my dog, Trinity, by the way.
Try it for yourself at http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/warholizer.php

Forgive me, I wrote this under the influence of NyQuil

Gone are the days when holiday light displays ruled – and were the rule.
Gone are the old holiday lights, the ones that dads’ smoking Captain Black in their pipes attached to the house with nails, big lights that were real bulbs, the kind that screwed into a socket and if you weren't careful, could burst into flames. Multi-colored lights that screamed a festive “Merry Fucking Christmas” to all the neighbors who couldn’t afford them.
Technology advances. It always advances. And as it goes, so it goes with Christmas.
Simple lights gave way to icicle lights, then multi-colored icicle lights to blinking multi-colored icicle lights.
Those gave way to lit, wire-framed forms – angels, snowmen, reindeer (even female reindeer, does, with articulated necks that looked – if you squint – to be grazing).
Blinking candy cane borders. Spotlights with gels that project Santa or Rudolph or Frosty onto your garage door.
Technology never rests. Not even for Christmas.
Take a walk around your neighborhood at night – tonight, I dare you – to see the latest in consumer-driven holiday decorations:
The inflatable holiday character.
Twenty-foot snowmen and Santa’s. Nattily-dressed penguins. Reindeer in a variety of poses. The all-dancing, all-moving snow globe, with characters that rotate like a merry-go-round.
And a dazzling assortment of not-so-traditional characters, like the 16-foot Homer Simpson, or any number of Grinch inflatables, all complete with his dog, Max, in several poses (and with or without the single horn tied to his head).
Santa in a speedboat, one hand on a reindeer first mate, his other hand on the tiller (and, as we all know, Santa likes the boat option as a viable toy delivery system to tiny island nations, portions of the Great Lakes and some fjord destinations).
The most bizarre display in my neighborhood? The three cartoonish reindeer, looking like they just stumbled out of a liquor-filled holiday blast. And each one of them looked strikingly like Fred Flintstone, but with horns. I supposed it looked good under the fluorescent lights at Wal-Mart, but Christ. Blow them up and throw some darkness on them and, well, you get scary.
The interesting thing about the holiday inflatable is that you just don’t blow one up and walk away. These things have leaf blowers stuck up the ass-end of every character, and a constant stream of air keeps them erect and alert on manicured lawns.
Which makes for some daylight sadness.
For when these characters are deflated, they look like rounded piles of cow flop, multi-colored vinyl and garment just lying there in the yard.
Just waiting for dusk and another blowjob to keep them erect for another round of beating the living shit out of the Jones' (who could only afford a string of multi-colored lights to frame their home).

A short musical interlude

OK, I haven't posted in nearly a week. Get off my back. I've been horribly busy. Social calendar, the holidays, all that good shit. But to keep you all coming back, I promise to get something up very, very, very soon.
In the meantime, here's a tribute to my very favorite band, The Replacements, and the video for "The Ledge" (which is about suicide, not that I'm dark or anything):

And I'm going to those places

One of the better lessons I have learned from my current adversity is the number of lives each of us touch every day – and how each life, in turn, touches your own.
That friends and loved ones mean everything.
My hiking buddy, Leon, hooked me up with Backpacker magazine, and it’s Continental Divide Trail Mapping Project.
I read the Backpacker blurb; I applied.
Leon does some work from time to time for Backpacker; mostly detailed trip reports on his favorite Northern California treks (the man is out, under the stars, like 70 nights a year).
Just because, Leon sent a email, on my behalf, to Kris Wagner, Backpacker’s map editor, and Jon Dorn, the magazine’s editor-in-chief.
Here’s the email:
“When I told Thom G, the Outdoors Editor for our Redding newspaper, that the "Nelson Threesome" were applying to participate on the CDT Map Project, he promptly submitted his application, too!
“In that regard, I'd like to encourage you and BACKPACKER to give serious consideration Thom's interest in helping as a volunteer.
“I've personally had the pleasure of backpacking with Thom on numerous occasions. He's a Real Winner to be with whether it's in camp or out fishing! I've observed, too, that his buddies are more than OK with his cooking - he's even written several feature articles on the subject for his Outdoors section in the Redding newspaper.
“And speaking of writing, Thom might not have included on his application info concerning his having received quite a few awards from the Outdoors Writers of America Association, ranging from first place to first honorable mention. There's no doubt he'd be good for a story or a series on BACKPACKER's noble plans to create the much-needed map for the CDT!
“Thanks for taking time to read this, Kris. It's been my pleasure to put in a Good Word for Thom!”
I’m in.
I’m totally part of the CDT project.
Next year, I will be part of the grand plan, 200 volunteers strong, to hike, map and photograph all 3,100 miles of the CDT.
To be part of history.
To make history.
Here’s Kris’ reply:
“Leon: You’re the best. Consider the three of you in. You get the greenlight from me and Jon! We’re still hashing out details, and we’ll inform you as soon as we know more, thanks, Kris.”
I am happy.
I am humbled.
Oh! The Places You'll Go!

Oh! The Places You'll Go!

It just might be the ticket I need to fully get my head out of my ass.
My backpacking buddy Leon (he’s in his 60s and flat-out can hike me into the dirt) forwarded me a listing from Backpacker magazine. Seems that they’re looking for a few good people to take on the Continental Divide Trail and map it next year.
It’s the 3,100-mile trail that goes from Canada to Mexico, across Montana, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico. It’s called “The King of Trails.”
It links the Bitterroots, Wind Rivers and San Juan ranges; Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and the Weminuche and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas.
Problem is, no accurate map exists to take people across safely. More than 1,000 miles of trail remain unsigned, undetermined or simply unmapped.
Enter Backpacker.
Over the next few months, the magazine will pick 200 volunteers to spend a week each on the trail to get as much of it mapped. Maybe 2,000 miles, maybe the whole damn thing.
“It’s a unique opportunity to make hiking history,” said Jonathan Dorn, Backpacker’s editor.
Volunteers will be split into teams and give GPS units and training. The magazine will set people up with free swag and assign each team to a specific location on the trail.
During the week, the team records waypoints, take photographs and submit trip reports.
Next winter, the magazine will publish and post a downloadable version of the map on the Backpacker Web site.
I signed up. No thought process involved. I want this.
If picked, I’ll need to take a week off, and provide my own transportation to wherever I might get assigned.
No problem. I’d hitchhike to my destination, if needed.
And while difficulties swarm my life at present, I find myself excited about the possibilities. About being part of something that’ll make a difference.
About being out in the outdoors, where I belong.
Cross your fingers, readers, I need all the good karma you can channel my way.

She's got the Ph.D - and I don't

Sometimes, I am as dense as a fruitcake.
I killed my cell with saltwater, and I was working up an ulcer trying to figure out how to pay for a new one. My first chance at an upgrade doesn't come until March; I get a full upgrade six months after that.
I just couldn't see spending $190 - or more - for a new phone.
"I've got an old one, I'll send it to you and see if they'll transfer the service over to it," my sister, the doctor, said.
I dug my old cell out of the drawer, charged it up, and brought it into Sprint. Told them my tale of woe.
"Yeah, saltwater is corrosive to phones," the guy said. "You've killed this one."
And then he transferred service over to the old phone for free.
I like the old phone better than the one I killed anyway. I dropped it into the toilet once, and that didn't kill it.
They gave me a little plastic doggie bag for the old one. A plastic mailer to send it back to the factory for recycling.
Adios, crappy cell.
Hello cell that survived the crapper.

Salty cell

It is not a good idea to introduce salt water to cellular telephones.
It is very bad.
My cell is quite dead.
And really, it didn’t get all that wet. It’s not like I dropped it overboard.
The company’s $12,000 digital Nikon camera got just as wet, and it’s still working.
Oh, well.
I didn’t like my phone anyway.

The chundering herd

There are no mariners in my family.
No pirates in the woodshed, either.
No sea legs to speak of. None whatsoever.
I spent 12 hours on a 55-foot catamaran on Friday, fishing for rockfish and picking up Dungeness crab pots near the Farallon Islands, some 27 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.
It’s a two-hour ride out to the fishing grounds. I spent that time watching, trying to take notes, trying to take pictures.
And trying not to throw up.
Amid lots and lots of vomit.
The swells leaving the Gate were already kicking up to six feet; outside the bay, the swells reached nine feet.
I sat in the back of the boat and watched the waves nearly swamp the back end. As long as I watched the waves, I was OK.
But around me, 11 people were barfing into five-gallon pickle buckets.
I was too terrorized to puke.
All I could think of was my boss, and how I’d have to explain that I’d lost the $12,000 digital camera when the boat eventually sank. The movie, “The Perfect Storm” kept invading my brain.
There was this beautiful Japanese girl who got on the boat, and an hour into the ride, she looked like one of those apple carvings, all shriveled and gaunt.
She was next to me, her boyfriend at her side, chundering.
“Hey, what to I do with this?” he asked the deckhand.
“Isgot throw up in it?” he said.
“Give it here,” the deckhand said as he peered into the bucket. “Hey, turkey!”
He tossed the contents overboard and we shared a laugh.
“Wait until we stop,” the other deckhand said. “Then you’ll really see some hurling.”
A 55-foot catamaran on nine-foot swells – pushed around by a 4 knot current – is no place for sissies.
My coffee came up first. Then the contents of my gall bladder.
I had made the decision, early on, not to eat prior to leaving for Berkeley (at 2 a.m.) I did drink 10 cups of coffee (which seems like a lot, but, hey, I lost it all) and I resisted the temptation for an Egg McMuffin prior to boarding.
A wise choice.
Throwing up solids, I think, is worse than throwing up liquids.
But there were guys on the boat, guys who had done this plenty of times, who were drinking beer and eating roach-coach burritos. And smoking.
And throwing up.
And doing it all over again.
“Hey, you just gotta get through it,” one angler said. “Ain’t no big thing.”
We’d fish for a bit, throw up for a bit, and go right back to fishing.
It was somewhat surreal. On one hand, I was sicker than I had ever been; on the other, I was having a great time catching fish I’d never caught before.
In the end, I set new benchmarks for duration and volume of vomit (five hours, five, 16-ounce bottles of water and whatever fluids my body kept manufacturing for the cause) that I hope to never accomplish again.
Two days later, my sides are so sore that I can’t sleep on my back – I don’t feel I can get enough air into my lungs.
It was certainly Top 5 most brutal things I have ever voluntarily done to my body.
But it was fun, too.
Maybe there was a pirate in the woodshed somewhere.

My many thanks

I should be in the middle of preparing a huge feast for my family. Instead, I’m puttering around the house, waiting to go over to a friend’s house, one of several people who offered me sanctuary on this Thanksgiving.
I’m taking a break from calling people in my life who deserve a personal thank you for being in my life, and taking the time to give a damn.
To ponder Thanksgiving. To write down my thoughts.
I am thankful today to have friends and family who care for me – without judgment. I am thankful to have a career I love and I am thankful for the talent born into me to do it. I am thankful to have goofy pets who love me unconditionally, and can bring a smile to my face just by putting their furry head in my lap, or sit next to me and purr.
Most of all, I am thankful to have been able to love a woman and her children so completely that even with distance between us, my heart remains complete.
It is being able to love that will get me through difficult times that lay ahead.
Along with my burgeoning mental tool kit, I have the strength to face what lies ahead. It will not be easy, whichever path I venture.
But I will venture down a path.
Because I have loved.
And I will love again.
Thank you to the people who read this, for taking the time to take a peek and be a small part of my twisted – but, hey, if you get right down to it, fulfilling – life.

The state of my emotions

Somewhere between a Vulcan and a Neanderthal lies that perfect balance of good and healthy emotion.
With the Vulcan being cold and unemotional, suppressing every single emotion and supplanting it with cool logic.
And the Neanderthal full of anger and rage, raw emotions for a time when the world was raw.
I have been on a guided journey to feel my emotions, to be a good and healthy emotional being.
Problem is, I have always been someone who pushes my emotion aside, pushes it down and was under the impression that I was the master of it.
I am no master. I am under the influence. Weak.
And that has caused my heart, my mind and the loved ones who surround me to suffer. Too much. Way too damn much.
I may never get parts of my life back, and that’s a problem I’m going to have to deal with. Which I will, given the tools being presented to me on my guided trip through my emotions.
I am confident in that.
But here’s the problem: I think too damn much. I approach life as a problem to solve. My mind takes over and instead of feeling the emotion at the time, I suppress it in a manner that has built pools of raw emotion inside me.
Thus radiating a brilliant, white-heat of anxiety that that manifests itself by lack of appetite, stomach cramps, dry heaves, periods of restlessness, periods of no sleep at all and all manners of jitters, lack of focus and general depression.
I’ve done it so long that I no longer remember how to feel the emotions that well inside me.
I just know that they leak from me in fits and bursts.
And that is not a good situation for anyone within my radius. No good for me, either.
It has frustrated me to no end.
But yesterday, there was a breakdown.
I went from anger to sadness to grief to guilt to sorrow to more anger, more grief, more sadness…
And burst into tears and uncontrolled sobs for minutes, feeling each and every emotion physically.
And just as fast as the tears came, they stopped. And I laughed, then teared up again.
Tears of joy.
I was so calm. So tired. So drained.
It was the most horrific – and beautiful and cathartic – thing I have ever done for myself.
And I felt sure I could recreate feeling – instead of suppressing – each emotion.
Maybe not all at once.
But each as they come up, each by its own exceptional flavor.
Anger is by far the most seductive – thus the most repulsive (to me) – emotion. I always thought that I was just an angry guy, but that’s not the case. I just pushed enough down to fill a well of darkness.
Anger, if felt, can be a source of energy, a great tool for survival – and a powerful emotion to bury.
And when it comes, I will feel it.
Just like all the others, when they come up.
Like I said, it’s been a guided journey and a breakthrough happened. Doesn’t mean I’m cured. Not by a long shot.
As it turns out, the anxiety is back today. There is sadness and grief I need to feel, but not yet. Not now. So I puke, I feel knots in my stomach, I have less than optimal energy at work – and face the prospect of watching the darkness of depression creep in like the clouds and rainy weather outside.
But I now know I have the tools to face it.
I have just to face it.
Soon enough.

Bodies at rest, at motion

As a classical physics term, it means a body that does not move will remain at rest or, if moving, will keep moving in the same direction unless affected by some outside force.
But if apply it to one’s mental health, it means something completely different.
Sure, a body at rest will stay at rest – and sometimes that’s a good and needed thing.
But a body in motion needs to get knocked around a bit, for sanity, to keep it from continuing in one predictable direction.
Inertia has been on my mind these days.
To stave off a sure mental meltdown due to pressures real or perceived, you’ve got to keep moving. A body at rest will tear itself apart by remaining at rest – and letting that gray matter dream up all matter of dark and devilish thoughts.
You get out, you get on, you leave well enough alone and you survive.
Even if your life is in a weird state of limbo. And the darkness of depression hangs like the oncoming dusk, and you feel like giving in, cover up and pretend that the outside world can just kiss your ass for the moment.
A body at rest will remain at rest. It doesn’t mean the mind will rest. And this is dangerous.
A body in motion, getting knocked around, will travel from point to point and pick up energy.
Good and decent energy to go on and face the planet (without pills, even).
I spin, but I am not out of control.
I am at motion, willing to see where that singletrack goes, where that trail leads.
I am in motion.
Because I need the motion to keep me sane.

Marking time

Nov. 18 marked the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death.
I spent it outside, with a long mountain bike ride (Jason, you’ll get your shorts back when I get all the mud out), mowing the lawn, clearing the flowerbeds for winter and a stout hike with Trinity.
I didn’t really realize what the date was, until my neighbor brought it up.
Then I thought about it.
And knew that I am OK.
I still miss her, but you come to grips with the loss and you go on. You do the things that make you happy.
You live your life.
I called my dad, and even he sounded upbeat. My sister and her husband were there, and they were getting ready to go to the cemetery. He talked about missing her, talked about talking about her – but also said he was ready to start moving on.
Then I talked with my sister, who was marking the day at a conference. She said she would be using the date as a starting point to put some thing in her life in focus. She was going to reduce stress in her life, do for herself, starting with Nov. 18.
It seems everyone in my family got through the day, and got through it with plans to continue to heal.
It made me feel even better about where I was in all of this.

Organs for $ale

The RobRogers has offered up an intriguing question to Surface Tension – basically, what’s a kidney worth to you?
He is of the opinion I go with Sirius Satellite Radio – and sell my kidney to pick up an 80-gig iPod (20,000 song capacity) for $349.
I say a kidney is worth way more than $349.
If someone wants one of my finely tuned kidneys (hey, I drink at least the recommended eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day), we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars.
I did some looking around, and one kidney (in 2002 dollars) was going for $6,000.
Even that seems kind of cheap.
In 2002, more than 75,000 people needed kidney transplants in the U.S.; only an estimated 23,000 got them.
That, right there, dictates the supply-and-demand nature of selling organs.
Six grand?
I don’t get out of bed for less than $75,000.

Siruis vs. iPod for control of my musical soul

I stand at a musical crossroads.
And no, I am not talking about whether to offer my soul to techno or country and western (the only way that happens is if I suffer some horrific closed-head injury and then, well, I couldn’t help myself could I?)
Christmas is coming, and I’m in a pickle to whether to ask for a new 30-gig iPod, or a Sirius Satellite Radio receiver for the car.
My original, first-generation 5-gig iPod is giving up the ghost. It often forgets its program. It gets to songs that it refuses to play. In shuffle mode, it’ll shuffle for a time, then refuse. Poor little thing; it’s given me years of trustful service, it’s got more than 1,000 songs on its brain (punk songs, by virtue of being short and sweet, has allowed me to surpass its estimated song capacity).
But do I want another one?
Like I said, I’ve got more than 1,000 songs on it – a 30-gig iPod would increase that to 7,500 songs – but even I don’t want to listen to a particular song at a particular time (although, yesterday, the dB’s “Any Old Thing” came up and boy, I hadn’t heard that in a while and gave me a big smile). I tend to scroll through the shuffle play to find something that fits my mood.
(And, please, don’t talk to me about playlists; I could make 100 playlists and still find something I don’t want to listen to at a particular time.)
With Sirius, I get new, exciting stuff all the time. If I don’t like the new alternative stuff, I can switch to one of 193 channels of music, sports or talk radio. All commercial-free.
But, Thom, what about listening to a little Ramones or White Stripes or The Replacements at work? Sirius is satellite radio for your car. With the iPod, you just walk in, plug in and listen.
Well, I get Sirius for the car and I also get Sirius Internet Radio. Fully-streaming music right from my laptop (I’ve been pirating my dad’s subscription since February).
Here’s the biggest dilemma I face: portability.
I can’t take Sirius into the grocery store, or in the backpack when I’m fishing (unless I get the Sirius mp3 player that allows you to record your favorite songs).
So, I am conflicted.
I do know that I’m leaning toward getting the Sirius radio for the car (I have Dish at home, so I get Sirius there, meaning I’d have commercial-free tunes most everywhere I find myself) and a two-year subscription.
And then saving my pennies for a 4-gig iPod Nano ($199) for the portability.
It’s a win-win thing.

And now for something completely different

Alex Baldwin talking about his "Schewdy Balls" on a SNL skit:

Truth in PSAs

This is the real Mark "Chopper" Read, Australian gangster, in a 30-second PSA against violence against women. If only they did PSAs like this in the U.S., there - I believe - would be a lot less crime:

Just say no

Today is a travel day; I’m a couple hours away from returning to California.
And I’ve been to Wal-mart twice already.
Dad needed to fill a prescription.
He felt that 20 minutes was too much to wait.
So we left, drove over to Walgreens and got some vitamins he takes (and, surprisingly, they don’t carry at Wal-mart).
And we drove back to Wal-mart.
To do 20 minutes of shopping for groceries – before picking up the script.
I make this solemn oath and pledge: Unless I am with my father in Nebraska, I will never ever, never, never, never, not once, even if my fucking life depended on it step foot in another Wal-mart for as long as I live.

Sadness in familiar places

I saw something recently that truly made me sad.
My dad and I came down with a bit of stomach flu, which for me is no problem, but when you’re 78 it’s not so good. We were having a bit of gastric distress and I finally got him to agree to take some Imodium.
I had to go to Wal-mart to fetch it.
At 7:10 a.m. on a Sunday morning while the rest of my family got ready for church.
And while you’d think another trip to Wal-mart would be sad enough (my dad just hollered that he was ready to go “anytime you’re ready,” so I guess I’m going to Wal-mart – again) but no, this was worse.
At 7:20 a.m. on a cold Sunday morning in Nebraska, a couple was doing their shopping.
In their pajamas.
How fucking sad is that?
I mean, they consciously decided to go shopping – and made a conscious decision that dressing for the occasion didn’t mean dick.
They both had on flannel sleeping pants and fuzzy slippers; I couldn’t tell what they had on top, since they were bundled in their stocky winter jackets.
It just made me really, really sad.

A test of faith, you say?

The skies of eastern Nebraska are today as leaden gray, dark and foreboding as my spiritual self.
And I know, for some of you out there, that is hard to hear.
Spiritual crisis?
Spiritual thermonuclear destruction is more like it.
After my mother died, I felt her presence so strongly in church, that it made me re-think my commitment to God.
Then I visited Catholic Central – Rome – and again felt a renewal in my spiritual self.
I decided that I need more God in my life.
I have always been a spiritual person; I do believe in a power higher than myself. God, Yahweh, Jehovah, whatever.
I just didn’t necessarily think I needed to be in a church to believe. To get my signals. To pray.
I have been a person who has always believed in the church of nature and in the church of being a good person. In the church of leading by example.
But in the past year, I have come to realize that church is a comfort of my youth, a comfort that guided my mother through cancer and her death.
I started going back to church. I was asked to be involved. I was asked to become a reader; the priests welcomed me and welcomed my spirit.
Truly, I have never understood why man was made to suffer, if they believed. If they were good and led a good life.
And when my life was turned upside-down recently, I took to prayer to help solve the crisis. Granted, I was asking for a specific thing.
It does not look like my prayer will be answered. To God, to St. Jude to my mother – and any other saint I thought could help.
And I now find myself in spiritual crisis, a thermonuclear meltdown of my faith that threatens to turn my heart to a fiery pit of hate for faith. For God.
I am not like a petulant child who does not get the prize and now will pitch a fit.
I am seriously looking at faith and where my heart – and my head – fit in it.
I have a friend, a brother, who says not to give up, to keep praying since God has a plan for me and it will be revealed. That this past year is a test. A test of faith.
But I am a mere mortal. And my heart can only take so much hurt.
Before I just say fuck it.
And spin down a path that probably will not be good.
For my heart.
For my soul.
For my spiritual self.
I am lost.
And the path is starting to become overgrown.
Tangled with feelings, like thick, sharp brambles.
I hope I can find my way back.

Saving grace

As much as I’d like to think so, I cannot save anyone.
Hell, I can’t even save myself.
There have been times where I thought I could save people, just by my loyalty and my fierce protection. By listening to them, and giving them wise advise.
We’re all alone here.
Oh, I’m still a good listener, I still will be there for anyone who seeks my counsel.
I will remain fiercely loyal and protective for those I love.
But I can’t save anyone.
We’re on our own here.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but one I’ve needed to take for some time now. The idea that you can make an absolute difference in a life, when all you can do is hope for the best.
Hope that person listens.
How that they seek further guidance.
And truly think about – truly see – the situation before them.
But, in the end, the decisions we make are individual decisions – which can affect more than that one person.
We have to make the best decision possible for ourselves.
And hope that the fallout doesn’t destroy those around us.
Oh, I wish I had the power to save.
But I don’t.
I can listen.
I can do things to make myself a better person.
In the end, we are responsible for ourselves.

Nebraska, my Nebraska!

Here’s what comedian Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Nebraska (and Nebraskans):

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by, you might live in Nebraska.
If you're proud that your region makes the national news 96 nights each year because it's the coldest or hottest spot in the nation, you might live in Nebraska.
If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March, you might live in Nebraska.
If you instinctively walk like a penguin for five months out of the year, you might live in Nebraska.
If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don't work there, you might live in Nebraska.
If your dad's suntan stops at a line curving around the middle of his forehead, you might live in Nebraska.
If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you might live in Nebraska.
If your town has an equal number of bars and churches, you might live in Nebraska.
If you have had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you might live in Nebraska.

1. "Vacation" means going east or west on I-80 for the weekend.
2. You measure distance in hours.
3. You know several people who have hit a deer more than once (and some who when back and picked it up; it’s legal here).
4. You often switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again.
5. You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.
6. You see people wearing camouflage at social events (including weddings).
7. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
8. You carry jumper cables in your car and your girlfriend (or wife) knows how to use them.
9. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
10. Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
11. You know all 5 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter & DARN HOT!
12. Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a deer next to your blue spruce.
13. You were unaware that there is a legal drinking age.
14. Down South to you means Kansas.
15. A brat is something you eat.
16. Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new pole shed.
17. You go out to a tailgate party every Friday and every Saturday (if the Huskers are playing or not).
18. Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors because your fireworks melted.
19. You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.
20. You find 0 degrees "a little chilly."
21. You actually understand these jokes, and you forward them to all your Nebraska friends.

All of the above is true, by the way.

What's wrong with this picture?

An Americano is shots of espresso (usually four) to which hot water has been added.
How do you fuck something up like that?
I admit it, I am a coffee snob; since I've been here, I have refused to drink the HyVee (it's a Midwestern grocery chain) standard swill my dad drinks.
I turn, instead, to the little Starbucks kiosk that's also in the store.
Granted, I hate Starbucks too, but there is no other option for coffee here. There is no mom-and-pop shop.
So I order my regular, a large Americano.
And I've been disappointed each and every time.
The problem is twofold; first, they've got people working the machine who should be stocking the produce aisle; second, there's probably a Starbucks-mandated single serving of espresso that the servers can't go over without squeezing some of the profit margin out of my very expensive $2.50 coffee.
These Americano's taste like they've taken house coffee - and added hot water to it. Weak. Bleak.
Today, I tried an extra shot in my vente Americano (55 cents extra). It still wasn't as good as the gals at Breaking New Grounds in Redding can do with a 20-ounce Americano.
So, tomorrow, I'm going all-out. I'm getting a grande house coffee - and having them put three shots of espresso in it.
It'll cost me in excess of $3, and they'll look at me funny, but at least it'll taste like coffee.

Still falling, now and forever

Today should be a day of joy. And it is. A bit sad, too.
It was six years ago that my wife first met me for coffee.
So simple a meeting; she walked into Starbucks wearing a black blouse and black slacks, her hair naturally curly and beautiful. Her skin silky and warm.
It was just a meeting for coffee, suggested by office matchmakers and confirmed by me through email (the chickenshit I was, I couldn’t walk to her desk and actually ask her).
We ended up talking for nearly 31/2 hours. We joked in the parking lot that we should have just continued at lunch; I was game, and so was she. We were awkward and cute and we parted ways.
And began talking on the phone every spare moment.
Then I started going over to her townhouse, after he daughter went to sleep, and never staying until morning (that would not be proper).
It would be almost three weeks before we had our first “official” date.
I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas as her guest at her grandparents’ house.
What started at coffee six years ago turned into a love affair.
I am apart from her today.
I miss her terribly.
I miss the joy of looking at her face, her hazel eyes. I miss burying my face into the mass of those blond curls, the smell of vanilla or coconut that warms me.
As much as it pains me to be apart, we are apart. In more ways than distance.
See, I was able to only give her 10 months of a fairy tale romance before life intervened.
Life, well, it came down hard.
And as much as we were strong individuals who came together to form this really perfect couple, we began to lose ourselves in the grind. Too much happened way to fast, and it got even worse 11 months ago when I lost my mom to cancer.
I suffered in silence a loss she could not comprehend.
And I lashed out when she didn’t understand. I became hyper-critical and hyper-controlling of things that I thought I could control.
When only I needed her shoulder to cry on.
He touch to comfort me.
Her ear to confide in.
I was arrogant; I’m Thom G. and I am in control of my emotions.
I needed serious help.
And I sought help.
Maybe six months too late.
But here I am, on the sixth anniversary of that day when my life changed forever. That day when I met the love of my life, the woman I consider to be my soulmate in this life. The person I know I can love and trust with my wrecked heart.
I miss her terribly.
And, in that, there is joy and there is sorrow. Knowing that she’s in my world.
Just not as close as I’d like her to be.
Not nearly that close.
But it is a test for us, to see if those two strong individuals still have what it takes to come together and form that perfect couple. Two people united in so much trust and passion as to be OK alone – and formidable together.
Our first Christmas together, six years ago, she gave us a journal to pass back and forth to chronicle this love affair. It was a beautiful idea, and there would be days when I would find the journal on my pillow, after we had grown comfortable and exchanged keys (I nearly fumbled the first time I told her I loved her; we were having lunch at my house, and I longed to tell her how I felt. I, instead, told her how much I liked her. We started to walk out to our cars, when in the garage I said, “You know when I said I really liked you? Well I really love you.” Amid the cobwebs and smell of dust and oil, she kissed me and told me she loved me, too).
The last entry I made was the night before we wed; her last entry was the night of our honeymoon.
Just before I left, I re-read every journal entry of our budding love affair, every card we’d ever sent to one another. It filled me with joy.
I left her a very long journal entry and gave it to her.
I took cards with me, to write down, in our absence from each other, how my heart and soul aches to be with her.
“Now and forever.”
That’s how I sign all my cards, for six years now.
She returns cards with “Still Falling.”
I sure hope so.
I love this woman with every atom in my being.
Today is a great day, but a bit sad, too.
Today marks the sixth anniversary of my finding the love of my life. I miss her.
And I’m still falling for her.

The clock's ticking

As I write this, it's 1:15 p.m. in the Midwest - and I've not been to Wal-mart once today.
I realize that it's early, but dad had two doctor appointments and a P.T. appointment. He's resting quietly.
Meaning he's got no reason to send me out to Wal-mart.
However, he did mention that he wanted to make a couple of pies.
Bet he doesn't have something.
And I'll have to go to Wal-mart.
The horror, the horror.

Let's do the time warp again

The Midwest is the place that time forgot.
It’s also a place where weather is more than idle conversation.
It’s a place where the saying, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 15 minutes,” was coined.
This morning when we got up (6 a.m., so we could make 6:50 a.m. mass), the temperature was 50 degrees. By noon, it was a balmy (for eastern Nebraska on Oct. 30) 65 degrees.
Now, at 3:30 p.m., the wind is howling and it’s nearer to freezing.
It’s supposed to get into the lower 20s tonight, with wind-chills in the teens.
But that doesn’t stop people from getting out, from living their lives.
It’s the middle of the afternoon, and Wal-Mart is teeming with people; the sidewalks are full of people dressed in red (the state has no pro sports teams, so the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers is how everyone rolls) taking a walk; kids ride bikes and skateboards up and down the tree-lined streets while others chuck a football around front yards that are still so green and lush.
Midwesterners get out. They ramble (and not just to Wal-Mart).
Doesn’t matter that the wind is gusting at 30 miles an hour, or the temperatures are freezing.
I took a walk last night around the old neighborhood – the only one I knew growing up – and got a real feel for how it’s changed since the days I ruled the back yards and drainage ditches.
Weird how it’s changed. My parents built our house in 1962; I was born in early 1963. The school where I went to kindergarten – and learned how to spell my last name the second day of school because Scotty Bond could – was torn down. Homes have sprouted on the site (our backyard touched the schoolyard). The fort platform – they don’t build steel structures like this anymore, sadly, because someone could get hurt – where I spent so much time is gone, replaced by a two-story home. Ditto for the sandbox. The jungle gym (sunk, of course, into asphalt) was replaced by a street.
I walked and counted the neighborhood homes I‘d actually been in. In a four-block radius, I counted 30 homes where I had seen the interiors (and not because I was a paperboy).
There’s a certain nostalgia for a town like this. People still know me, stop, talk and shake hands. They touch your shoulder; an old girlfriend sat next to me at mass on Sunday and where we offer each other a sign of peace, she hugged me – and kissed my neck (which surly sent a lot of tongues to wagging). It was innocent, since her son sat next to her, and my dad next to me.
I could like it here, the place where I was born and raised.
Since it offers a glimpse into the world I grew up in. Where old ladies would call me over to rid their gardens of garter snakes, where I stole watermelon, sweet corn, plums and strawberries from so many of the same gardens, where people wave and say hi, whether they know you or not.
Time moves pretty slow here, and it’s insanely flat, but it is home. I’ve forgotten that over the years.
Still, Redding is home now.
And home is still where my heart is.

Who knew?

From the land that brought us the un-funny likes of Yahoo Serious and Paul Hogan - Australia - comes the Ronnie Johns Half Hour. It's a sketch-comedy show that is as edgy today as SNL was 25 years ago. It is not politically correct. It is, therefore, good.
OK, the Aussies can swear on television. And when you work blue, some things just work.
But this is funny, funny stuff.
One recurring character is a parody of Mark "Chopper" Read, a real-life gangster who allegedly has killed 18 people, and never spent a day in prison for the crimes. Put Chopper in a few situations, and you've got comic relief.
Check it out:

Life isn't fair, part 63

Sometimes in life, you have to be a big faker.
I’m going through a host of problems. Huge, life-changing events are happening. Pain and grief and hurt and suspicion and lots of confusion.
“Hey, Thom, how’s it going?”
“Great, doing great.”
Big fucking faker.
Enough that I’m puking every morning when I get up (which, for the past six days has been either never or 3 a.m.)
I wear my pain, however. There’s no way to completely hide it. But I can’t tell anyone about it.
It’s embarrassing as much as it is painful.
Because I guess I didn’t do enough.
I didn’t see.
And that’s the fuck of this whole thing.
Being confused, and hurt, is the worst.

Buick. It's All Good

I see Buick Centurys.
It’s like seeing dead people, like the little kid in “The Sixth Sense.”
Buicks are everywhere.
At stop signs. At stop lights. I pass them on the highway and I watch as they pass my house.
Of course, this is the vehicle driven by the person who ran over my dad. And, I guess, after finding out what kind of car it was, I’ve been more hyper-sensitive to their presence on the road.
It’s like buying a brand-new car; buy a certain model, and you’ll notice how many other models out there of your car.
But the other thing I’ve noticed about the Buick is the demographic of the drivers: Blue-hairs and raisins.
Old people.
Really old folks.
My dad was run over by an 85-year-old; that seems to be the average age of the drivers I’ve seen here in Northern California.
Coincidence, or a clever marketing ploy by Buick?
By the way, the title is an actual advertising slogan from Buick.

Urgent update

OK, more than an hour has passed since my last blog post, and I actually opened up the file I’m supposed to be really working on. Feverishly working on.
I haven’t typed a single syllable.
But I have had a very nice conversation with my wife.
Ate some pistachios.
Listened to satellite radio (the new Beck is really cool, as is the post-Blink-182 project +44).
Called my dad (he didn’t answer).
Walked around.
Drank a bottle of water.
Sauntered out to my car.
Ate some pretzels.
Emailed my sister.
Meandered through the newsroom (started two conversations).
Asked if anyone had a deadline sheet for the profiles.
Found out the profile isn’t due until Monday.
Now, I am truly fucked.
I’ve got more than 72 hours to deadline.
Yes, Rob, after writing this, I’m going to watch George Washington

George Washington

Soon, my newspaper will launch a daily parody of local news. It will be bad, judging by the protype. It's not even good enough for YouTube.

And speaking of YouTube, here's my favorite video of the moment (and it is well done, and funny):


There are certain times – and they don’t come around all that often – when a guy can show off his more disgusting – yet amazing – "talents."
My wife was on the couch – breathlessly awaiting the debut of Grey’s Anatomy and a new season of “Dr. McDreamy” – when I came in and rested my head on her hip. We started talking, then we started kidding each other.
“Better watch it, or I’m going to fart on you,” she said.
My head was still resting on her hip, as she laid on her side.
“Go ahead,” I said.
She made like she was going to let one go, and laughed. She couldn’t do it.
“Can you fart on command?” she asked.
“OK, do it.”
And I let one go. Two, actually; one tiny poot and a pretty good squeakier.
“You just didn’t do that!” she said, laughing, as my daughter roller her eyes (she knows of my gaseous abilities). “How can guys fart on command?”
“You don’t know,” I said. “And I’m not telling.”
“Can you do it again?”
“Sure, but I don’t want to. I have no need, and I have tired of this conversation.”
And I walked out to get a bottle of water.
Honestly, I don’t know if I could have squeezed another one out or not. But I wasn’t about to tell her that.
When being disgustingly brilliant, it’s best not to flaunt it – or fail trying to show off.


The power of prayer, whoosh, that’s a tricky one.
Religion, in general, is an interesting topic. Especially in these red-state, blues-state, polarized times.
I’m kinda under the impression that talking about religion is on the same level as talking about hemorrhoids – best to be left alone.
It is a matter of personal preference. And, quite frankly, nobody’s business but your own.
Am I religious? I’m spiritual. I believe in something, even though I can’t often put it into words. I’m Catholic – I was raised that way, and I remain, because it is familiar – and I find comfort in the traditions and rituals. I went back to the church after my mother died – it was a big, big part of her life – and found renewed spirituality while travelling to Catholic Central – Rome.
I find, however, that my spiritualism tends to run toward an appreciation of the natural world, and how everything seems to be inter-connected. I used to say that God was OK with me not kneeling in a pew in some church, since I was kneeling in the cathedral that is the wilderness, overlooking a high-mountain lake as an osprey plucks a trout from the still water.
My dad’s accident has put a lot of things into sharp focus, and that includes religion.
He should not be here, plain and simple. A 3,400-pound car had him pinned to the asphalt for something like five minutes. I’ve seen the pictures, he has a tire track that runs across the back of his favorite blue shirt. The doctors, nurses, emergency staff all told him he should be dead.
He has a broken ankle, bruises, burns and a lot of road rash.
There is no explanation for this, except his Faith (and I put that is cap letters, because he has deep, unshakable Faith).
“It was like I was being drawn into a picture,” he said of the accident. “There were yellow flowers and birds. Then your mother appeared and told God, ‘You’re not talking another parent away from my children.’ And then the picture went away.”
He said he thinks he knows where the yellow came in, the yellow stripes of the firefighters who struggled to figure out how to get the car off of him.
But I believe his other explanation. The Faith-based one. I really do. While backpacking, I was awoken at 3 a.m. by someone who shouted my name, just once.
“It’s OK,” came and went in a whisper.
I slept soundly in the knowledge until 8:30 a.m.
Who was it? My mom? I hope so. My siblings have had moments of clarity with her, and I was beginning to think she was angry with me. Turns out, I was closed up to receiving the signal. I was angry and pissed-off. And I have moved past that, into a really good place (it’s funny how a few $150 sessions with a psychologist will help).
Still, it’s hard for me to have Faith – again capital F – because I am an “intellectual.” I think, therefore I have trouble gripping concepts I cannot explain with reason.
It doesn’t mean I don’t want to try to grasp what so many people find as a warm blanket on a cold evening. The Hand of God, I guess.
I am open to explore. My mind is open. My soul is open.
On Friday, I was at the Sundial Bridge, waiting for parents to pick up their kids after my daughter’s birthday party. A couple of guys strolled up and introduced themselves.
“We’re on a scavenger hunt,” the older gentleman said. “And funny, when we started, it was my mission to find a guy in a cowboy hat.
“And we’re here to pray for folks. Is there anything you’d like us to pray for?”
“My dad,” I said. “He was run over by a car last week.”
“Well, let’s pray for you, and we’ll send these prayers out to him.”
They put their hands on my shoulders and prayed for dad’s bones to knit, his bruises to go away.
It lasted for a couple of minutes. And it wasn’t hokey. It was OK.
I am open, Lord, yes, I am open.

The rundown

I’m lousy at hypotheticals.
You know, having to ponder questions like “What would you do if you had a million dollars?”
I’m unlikely to ever have a cool million and thus cannot fathom what it would be like to be flush with so much disposable income. Hypothetical situations have just too many variables.
Real-life situations are, I don’t know, tangible. You are forced to deal with things, whether you like it or not.
We had just pulled into Etna on Sept. 6, when my buddy’s cell phone came to life. It was my wife, Sharon, frantic that I get in touch with my sister, Diane, in Ames, Iowa.
My 77-year-old father, Ed, had been in a serious accident.
He’d been run over by a car.
Notice I didn’t say hit by a car. From what dad’s been able to tell us — he’s doing great, is in good spirits and took his first spin around his bed in a walker on Wednesday — he was out grocery shopping, and as he walked back to his car, he was allegedly struck by an older gentleman who was pulling into the open parking space dad was occupying.
Dad said the man then backed the car over him, pinning him to the asphalt.
“They admitted him in critical condition,” Diane said over the static on the cell. “From what I can tell, that’s just a precaution because of his age. They also put a breathing tube in, to help him breathe. They think he may have a punctured lung, a broken ankle and a broken wrist.
“I’m on my way to Omaha (where dad was transported from his hometown of Fremont in eastern Nebraska) and I’ll know more later.”
I was a few hours away from entering the Russian Wilderness Area for an annual backpacking trip with the boys. Out of contact. In the middle of nowhere.
So, what did I do?
I strapped my pack to my back, and walked into the woods.
After careful consideration — and another telephone call with my sister — I sought relief in granite, pine and trout.
Dad had a broken ankle, a bruised lung and was basically one big, human contusion (a bruise in the form of a tire track has appeared on his backside). But he was alive — and continues to show remarkable recovery skills.
“There’s really nothing you can do here,” she said. “Go have a good time, and try not to worry.”
So, how do you find joy in a situation that’s fraught with sorrow? The outdoors, for me, is that perfect outlet. Not a place of escape, but one of renewal. It was in a conversation with a buddy, while fishing, that gave clarity to the moment.
“Not everyone can fathom this, just being out here,” he said. “I’m so happy that you understand it.”
When I got home last Sunday, I gave dad a call.
“I’m doing OK, considering,” he said, recounting the accident for me. “I kept telling them, ‘Get this (expletive) car off me, it’s heavy.’ That damn car was on me for five minutes.”
“What kind of car was it?” I asked.
“How the hell should I know?” he said. “It was on top of me.”
Good point. Stupid question. And dad, thankfully, remains feisty as ever.
The car was a 2001 Buick Century, according to the police report. The 2001 Century weighs 3,371 pounds, I looked it up. It also has a ground clearance of 5.7 inches — roughly the length of a Bic Round Stick ballpoint pen.
Dad is a considerably thicker man than that. It is by the grace of God that he’s still here. But he is a man of considerable, unshakable faith (and one tough hombre).
And real life does what the hypothetical just cannot do — point out the obvious richness and color of our daily lives. What it means to be human, to care, to create. To love.
Soon, it’ll be my pleasure to fly home to Nebraska and do what I can for the man who taught me how to fish, how to embrace the natural world and to never let it go. He’s also the one who has steadfastly reminded me that life isn’t fair — and was good enough to smack me in the head hard enough 10 years ago to get back into journalism. A move that led to the Record Searchlight, the outdoors and the current richness of my life.
Real life is gritty. It isn’t fair. But it is an amazingly interesting journey.

Failure to launch

Our first attempts at a Mentos soda rocket were dismal – at best.
We tried a two-liter Diet Coke with five mint Mentos, which got us about 20 feet of distance – but no lift.
Dejected, and a little sticky, we went in, regrouped and watched a video.
And tried Diet Pepsi with one Mentos.
The cap didn’t come off, then it did, and the bottle just spun _ covering me with soda.
We even tried a hand-held mortar version with a 18-ounce sparkling water, but the cap held fast.
OK, it’s a little like being at the Goddard Space Flight Center. We will test again.
We will get it right.
A soda bottle will fly.

Mmmmmm, beer

When you’re in college, you drink the cheapest beer you can muster.
Carling Black Label (when I was at the University of Nebraska in the 80s, you could get a cold six-pack for $1.69). Shaffer. Blatz. Hamms. Keystone (and Keystone Light, shudder).
Milwaukee’s Best.
Some people never lose the taste for bad beer. That’s OK. Somebody’s gotta keep Bud and Miller in bidness.
But Milwaukee’s Best?
Man, I hated that beer. Still do.
But the Web site is funny.
Since it goes down to the most-common denominator for appeal for its target audience – downloadable posters of scantily-clad women, and videos of a few yahoos who built a cannon that shoots, what else, cans of Milwaukee’s Best.
You can witness the carnage at www.milbestlight.com/cannon.aspx.
Actually, if you think about it, a beer cannon is the perfect use for Milwaukee’s Best (Miller refers to it by it’s nickname, “The Beast;” we all know it as “Swillwaukee’s Piss”). Less bad beer that has to be drunk, more beer that needs to be spilled.
I was out of college, working for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, when I first realized that you could “launch” beer like a rocket. We were at a retreat for all the bureau reporters (I was in the far-flung outpost in Jonesboro, Ark.), tending to a campfire when I hit upon this phenomenon.
Put a full, shaken-up beer can - with the pop tab slightly pressed – in a fire upside-down and the heat will build to the point of a liquid-fuel rocket.
We were launching beers 40 feet in the air for hours. Beer that our metro editor had purchased for us.
That beer?
Milwaukee’s Best.