Fuel to burn

"We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey."
- Kenji Miyazawa

Who says you can't learn anything about the world from Sports Illustrated?
I ran into Miyazawa's quote in a profile of golfer Tiger Woods.
And has stuck with me for days.
Many of us do not embrace the pain of everyday life. We ask "Why me?" when we should be asking "Where do I go from here?"
And that's the difference between survivors and those who are destined to perish.
I've thought about it and I believe Miyazawa wasn't talking just about physical or emotional pain, but the pain of the world as a whole. The shootings, the rapes, the wars the ugly side of life.
And those who can embrace their own pain, but the pain around them, have a journey that will be rewarding.

Speaking the bad words

I swear.
I mean I say the bad words.
(It puts some people off.)
The chancellor of the Institute of Applied Hedonism relayed an interesting discourse recently. He asked another reader of the Tension is she had read a certain post.
She had not.
“I don’t know,” she said. “So much profanity.”
In another conversation, I was asked if it bothered me to be spiritual – and a potty mouth.
No, no and fuck no.
(I threw that swear in there for the shock value.)
I am a man.
Who wears his emotions on his sleeve.
Who has labored long and hard to learn not to swallow those emotions.
I wear on my face the day’s kaleidoscope of emotion – happiness, sadness, sorrow, anger, lust whatever. It’s expressive.
Part of that expressiveness is the certain use of expletives.
(But not so much as to make a sailor blush; I am cognizant of social situations were a fuck or shit dropped on the unsuspecting would be uncalled for.)
But real life is messy. It is about expression. I make no apologies.
I tried over the last couple of days to substitute much less offensive words for curses.
It wasn’t me.

Prayer; powerful juju

The last rays of a setting sun hit the stained glass panel of the church; it left it a cavernous darkness.
Except for the candle glow around the alter.
Where flickering shadows from multiple wicks danced on the faces of parishioners who sat on the alter steps, or sat Indian-style on the wide spot in front of the alter.
The candles flickered across the cross that was laid out specifically for people to crowd.
“Welcome to the Taize prayer service,” Father Ed said. “I’m so glad so many of you took the time to come and be a part of this wonderful celebration of meditative prayer and song.”
I say hurrah for my Catholic parish to try something new and different.
Sure, I’ve got problems with the Catholic church; women should be allowed to be priests and the overall rigidity of the Church to try anything new and different to attract younger members bothers me.
But there was Father Ed, hosting 50 people in a Taize service (it was a start; Father Ed said he plans to host them once a month from now on).
Taize was never meant to be the movement it is today; Brother Roger (who died in 2005), began his ecumenical community in 1940 in Taize, within the Burgundy region of France simply for a life of prayer and community for men of all branches of Christianity.
It’s become a hit. Especially with the kids.
Many thousands of young people travel to Taize to participate in the daily prayer mediations. There is music. There are chants. There is meditative, quiet prayer.
Pretty powerful stuff.
And there I was Wednesday night, listening to members of the school choir sing - stretched out on the red carpet of the alter, quietly praying. It was wonderful.
It was powerful.
It was peaceful.
From the Taize Web site:

“By meeting other young people from throughout the world in a climate of openness and listening, participants discover that roads to unity can be opened up amidst the diversity of cultures and Christian traditions. This provides a solid basis to be creators of trust and peace in a world wounded by divisions, violence and isolation.”

Makes sense to me.
After the concluding prayer, Father Ed suggested that people touch the cross and reflect in quiet meditation; we were free to leave at our own pace.
I touched the cross and a swell of emotion came to me; tears welled up in my eyes that I had been open to attend – but also open to unlock the aquifer of spiritually within my soul.

Of course, after the service, I went to the pub for a beer.
But lest you think of me as a heathen, I went to be among friends. And one friend in particular, who has been fairly absent around town.
His mother died three months ago, and you can still see the jagged hole where his heart was; you recognize the look in his eyes in your eyes, the look of loss that fades, but never completely goes away.
(Death, especially your parents, is a fraternity that only those who have gone through it completely understand.)
We talked. He talked. I invited him on our annual beefalo backpacking trip, where he enthusiastically accepted. We walked out together and he thanked me for just being there.
And I knew that I was right where I needed to be.
Divine intervention?
I don’t know. This spirituality thing is new and different for me.
I’m just open to the possibilities.

Tripping on the patch

To curb my appetite for pain, Stevo gave me the patch.
"It's like a nicotine patch, only it's for pain," he said as he got ready to attach it, which will (hopefully) curb the current tendinitis crisis in my right forearm.
He had to shave my butt to do so.
(I kid.)
He did have to shave my forearm.
Which, apparently in a decent-sized physical therapy office, makes for good, clean voyeurism.
"Stevo, that's like the third guy you've shaved this week," one guy said.
(One therapist had her morning coffee while she watched; move along, nothing to see here, just one Asian guy shaving another guy.)
While not a Wookie, I am graced with an abundance of gorgeous arm hair. A thick, cut-pile carpet of fur that gets reddish as I tan.
And he's hacking at it with a cheap disposable razor.
"Sorry, sorry about this," he said.
What the heck do I care? As long as it takes care of the pain, the hair will grow back (by like, Tuesday).
The four-inch patch is a technological marvel. It's got this little watch battery in the middle of a reservoir of saline and medicine (Stevo said it was in the cortisone family, but only like 1 cc is in the patch). The fluids circulate and gets into wherever they are supposed to through my skin. The medicine is delivered constantly for 24 hours.
"Am I supposed to get high on this patch?" I asked in an email.
"Nothing that should make you high....it's from the cortisone family, and not very strong," he wrote back.
(I kid.)
But I do feel good.
In a good kinda way.

Water, in two parts

I have a problem with the bubbler at work.
The drinking fountain.
(Bubbler is a trademarked name that refers to a drinking fountain; people in the Upper Midwest still refer to drinking fountains as bubblers.)
I’ve stopped my bottled water consumption. Several times a day, I fill up my liter Sigg water bottle – the cool red aluminum one – and drink my fill.
(No, I am not drinking out of my fuel bottle; this comment ceased to be funny after the first time you said it to me.)
The bubbler in the office is chilled and it’s hooked up to a purifier – part of a former publisher’s push for her scribes to be more healthy.
The fountain sits outside the break room, near the main bathrooms.
When you’re filling up your bottle, and someone flushes a toilet, the stream fluctuates.
Now I know logically that it’s all a water-pressure thing.
But there’s just something creepy about it.


I peed on my dog.
Rather, my dog ran underneath the stream, like a kid playing in the sprinkler, and I was powerless to stop her (or the stream).
I had like five iced teas at lunch and filled my water bottle with toilet water twice Tuesday afternoon. I got home, mowed the lawn, then decided to take the girls for a walk.
In the 24-acre, wooded field across the street.
Nature called. In an industrial way.
I was in a wooded part of the lot, well away from the street.
(The world is a man’s urinal.)
I whipped me out and started to go.
That’s when I realized that Scully was vectoring in at a pretty good clip. I caught her from snout to tail, straight down her right side.
(No it is not possible to just ‘stop the stream.’)
She looked up at me like, “What the hell did you do that for?”
And shook herself off.
My dogs have been with me on trails, on beaches, on long snowshoe hikes over snow. They know that sometime, I’ve gotta go too. Usually, they give me a wide birth.
“Dumbass, that was your own fault,” I said.
And took her home, wiped her down with a soapy towel, and spritzed her with some doggie body spray.

Stuck between stations

The music of life is playing.
And I find myself…
Stuck between stations.
It’s a momentary lapse, like I should have a thought balloon above me that says, “Experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by.”
It’s the static between stations where I find myself (or within the past 24 hours).
The antennae have been pulled in, and I have not been receiving a constant signal.
The root causes are many:

  • My arm hurts. It doesn’t hurt in an “I am in constant pain, please put me down with a compassionate bullet to the brain,” but a nagging ache that simply is driving me nuts. Stevo wants to excise the tendinitis with physical therapy, which I am doing. But a big, ol’ needle full of cortisone sure would be faster. Ever see the movie “North Dallas Forty?” I’m the Phil Elliot character, who will do anything to get on the field – including the use of big, nasty-ass needles. Stevo is the rookie Deltha, who looks for a holistic approach to keep his body pure and functioning. What Stevo is doing for me I can never fully repay. I just have to put in the time, ice and rest, and let this one go.
  • The weather (at least on Monday). I’m supposed to be in training to climb Mt. Shasta in June. When I needed to train, it was pouring down rain (and yes, I could have done it with rain gear, but then there’s the issue of cleaning up and getting back to work). When the clouds broke and the day became gorgeous, I was stuck in editing hell. I never did get out (because, in the end, I did't make myself get out).
  • Inadvertently, I may have caused friction between two sets of friends. I didn’t mean to do so, but maybe this needed to happen. I thought about this long and hard throughout the night, and stand by something that I need to stand by (and others need to hear): I stand by everything I write on Surface Tension. And everyone else who blogs should stand by their statements as well. Self-censorship is the first step toward losing one’s essence and freedom.
  • I’ve got a cash-flow problem and I’m stressed over money. Yes, I know that worrying about this is bullshit, but it creeps in. Especially when there’s other things swirling (“Hey, why not worry about money, too, ThomG? Really give yourself a fucking ulcer.”)
  • I read something Monday that pissed me off by someone who used to be very close to me. But I thought about this one, too, and decided that in times of crisis and adversity, it is possible to find rewards. So I let this one go.

I ended up not receiving any signals Monday evening. It’s like I was in the meat-eating robot’s cave (and he wasn’t there to smack me in the ass).
No one was there to smack me in the ass.
So I just didn’t receive outside stimuli.
(Don’t adjust your ThomG, he’ll be back in short-order).
The signal, while faint - and I’m trying to adjust it to one clear channel - is back.
The sun is shining.
A friend invited me to lunch.
I will get a workout in.
Things have a way of working themselves out among friends - especially people who have such closely-tied interests (and maintain a friendship with a fuckstick like me).
And that wry smile on my face just now?
The last six songs that shuffle-played on the iPod were all songs that have meant something to me at certain times in my life.
The signal is clearing.

A moment of impact

It’s coming.
The moment of impact. A clash of will.
It will be like a car wreck, but it will unfold in super slow-motion; it will unfold with shards of safety glass that explode like a Fourth of July airburst shell. It will be so slow to be able to see the paint begin to crack and warp, metal actually bending as two forces collide.
That impact is coming.
And I watch from the sidewalk, where life goes on at regular speed.
I could probably lessen the impact, try and save all those involved. It’s in the back of my mind to do so (the former me’s answer to everything).
But it also does me no good to do so.
So I will do nothing.
But watch from the sidelines – and out of the middle of several parties – while this wreck unfolds. I continue on with my timeline, which is filled with friends, outings, work, renewed spirituality, family and numerous community commitments.
In short, my life has a richness in full-speed.
But I can’t help not look. Hey, it’s going to be one spectacular car wreck.
Am I callous for not being the rescuer?
No. I am being an advocate for ThomG. And I’m doing for ThomG what I must do. Let the impact come. Let the impact happen (because it’s going to happen, sooner rather than later).
And be there to listen.
But not to rescue.
I can’t save anyone.
But I can do what best for me – and best for those involved.
When it is called for; when approached. And only then.

Sheer randomness

Not once in 14 miles of Nordic walking this weekend did I hear one person ask, “Hey, where are your skis?”
That’s because I had the little, white earbuds of my iPod stuck in my ears.
Oh I saw the lips move, but I didn’t hear the comments (which ceased to be funny the first time I heard it; seriously it is a dipshit thing to ask).
Although I must say, getting out on the trail early Sunday, I didn’t even see anyone’s lips ask where my skis were. I met like a dozen people I know, but they were out exercising too, and didn’t stop to bother me – nor did I bother them.
However, I did get stopped twice.
“ThomG can you explain this wild new thing called Nordic walking?”
Which I was all to happy to explain. That’s what happens when your face is in the newspaper 52 weeks a year.
(If it bothered me, I’d stop setting foot on the river trail. But it doesn’t, so I don’t.)
I suppose it’s rude to seal yourself inside a bubble of music only you can hear, but I still said hello to everyone I passed.
Tangent time.
If anyone knows how to disable the sound-dampening function on the iPod, I’d like to know.
In 2005, an asshole in Louisiana sued Apple, saying the iPod and other mp3 players were inherently defective because makers don’t provide sufficient warning that hearing loss could result from listening.
Used to be, an iPod would deliver like 115 decibels; now, however, it is a lot less.
But – and this is the Libertarian in me – if I want to go deaf by the time I’m 60 by listening to Mclusky sing “Lightsaber Cocksucker Blues,” or the Dead Kennedys screaming “Too Drunk Too Fuck,” isn’t that my perogative?
So, John Kiel Patterson, here’s your fucking common-sense warning: If you’re listening to music on your iPod, and the sound coming out of the earbuds is physically uncomfortable, turn the volume down.
Fucking idiot.
This has been one random weekend.
On a whim, I moved my bedroom from the master to the (former) stepdaughter’s room. My next project is to remove all the wallpaper in the master and repaint.
But after I got everything into the other room, I’m seriously liking the setup. It reminds me of a loft I had in Memphis.
It has an economy of space that I quite enjoy. We’ll see. It’s a lot darker (and quieter) in the new room. We'll see how the master turns out (it'll be green too, but a softer shade).
And yes, I have a bed frame, but it is old and makes a shitload of noise when two people are wrestling around on it (if you get my drift). Enough that it seriously throws off the rhythm.
I’m building a platform bed this summer (another cool home-improvement type project).
I went to mass (and not because of the previous statements), and got singled out by Father Ed again (for my birthday). And when I took communion, he winked, gave me the host, then laid his hand on my forehead and said a short prayer.
Granted, I know I need a lot of spiritual help – I’m not entirely bankrupt, but somewhat short-changed – the stares I got walking back to my pew were uncomfortable.
Then I went to buy groceries.
I had plans to go out, but I looked in my fridge. And determined that man cannot live on condiments (and a brick of Velveeta) alone.
So instead of a night on the town, I dropped $152 on wholesome staples (except for the ice cream, which was buy on get one free, so I got homemade vanilla and some mandarin orange sherbet), got a $20 back so I could get a haircut and spent $40 at the Safeway gas station (spend $50 and you get 10 cents off each gallon of gas).
And got seriously anxious about dropping that much cash in that short of time.
OK, I have to eat. It has been hit-or-miss for some time, and after getting seriously dizzy Saturday afternoon, I knew I needed to do something. But chissakes.
I blew the budget.
And that lead me to this new spending dilemma: Every pair of shorts and pants I own either will crumple themselves around my ankles – or can be tugged down to my ankles – if not for my belt (which in October was cinched at the first hole; now, I’m cinching it at the fifth hole – and I am headed for the sixth).
I’m going to need to buy all new pants and shorts.
So I've decided to eat right.
And bake my own bread.
Seriously. Ever looked at the ingredients in a commercially baked loaf of bread? I think I’d be better off drinking a cocktail of household chemicals and chewing on sawdust.
I don’t want to avoid bread. But I want it to count for something.
So I’m going to bug my neighbor, who bakes all her own bread, for some help.
To save even more cash, I have decided to dump my land telephone line and just go with the mobile. Everyone (except for the telemarketers) calls the mobile anyway. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why I’m spending $43 a month for a land line.
I also seriously contemplated dumping the satellite television (but came to my senses and will keep Dish, but dump a lot of the programming).
Well, that’s enough randomness. I’ve got to clean Casa de Sacramento, but still leave time for a cruiser bike ride.
And have a barbecue.
And maybe watch a movie.
It’s all (randomly) good.

The Write Stuff

I started Surface Tension to help verbalize all the emotions that had welled up inside of me for years and years.
Then I met a therapist – a psychologist, actually – who showed me how to feel my emotions - and thus not to bury them.
What a gift.
What a change in the way I see the world, face the world.
But I continue to write here. To chronicle a life, I suppose, and to just create something every single day.
(I’ve come to realize that the act of creating something – anything – on a daily basis is giving back to, I dunno, the spirituality of the world that I am a part.)
Close friends, the ones who read everyday, marvel that people in Beijing, Casablanca, New Delhi and Saudi Arabia have become faithful readers of Surface Tension.
I marvel at, “What makes my life so goddamn special that people keep coming back?”
The train wreck possibility of it all, I suppose; but one writer friend said it was twofold: the fact that I’m committed to posting every single day – and the writing.
And there lies a fundamental problem.
Right now, all of the writing that I’m doing that excites me to the core is going up on Surface Tension.
I look forward to getting up and letting my fingers fly over the keyboard of my iBook. I’m gleeful when stupid, weird shit happens in my life (which, thankfully, is often). I think about posts in advance. I plan them.
I want to begin posting something soon, something I’m very excited about, called flash fiction. Short stories of no more than 1,750 words (because if you go over that, it becomes ‘sudden fiction’).
So what’s the problem?
The stuff I write for a paycheck, in my opinion, sucks.
Big donkey dicks.
But nobody agrees with me.
“It’s still ThomG worthy,” a writer friend said recently. “You’re one of only three people at the paper worth reading anyway.”
(Case-in-point; last week I didn’t start writing my weekly column until after 2 p.m. on a Friday – my deadline for getting my pages done is 4 p.m. on Fridays – and I cranked out what I thought was a giant pile of monkey shit. One boss comment, one Web comment, three people who stopped me on the street, 14 emails and five telephone calls all said it was great – and supported me in my quest to solo hike the John Muir trail next year. So go fucking figure.)
There’s a lot going on in the newspaper industry and at our mid-sized, corporately-owned newspaper. The industry keeps looking around for the next big fix (abolish corporate ownership would be a fine start) and our paper just offered voluntary buyouts to employees (which started a flood of worry among the younger staff).
I’m not worried. I’ve got a plan if the shit hits the fan here (it involves getting on at a weekly newspaper somewhere in Montana, where the long arm of corporate ownership can’t reach, and create for a readership that cares greatly for its locally-driven news).
I feel somewhat bad that my “A” game is going toward a little piece of the Internets that a few people see.
But I feel energized – OK, I get all a-tingly – chronicling myself on Surface Tension.
I guess I shouldn’t bitch.
I get paid to create.
And I get to create for fun.
And sanity.

Discoveries, dipshit moments and, well, it's all for a good cause

So, Jason and the fams gave me a copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Haunted” for my birthday.
That’s the creepy cover shot.
It is basically a novel of stories. Twenty-three of them, written by 23 people who answer an ad that says, “Writers' Retreat: Abandon Your Life for Three Months.”
What happens to the 23 is seriously fucked up.
The stories are fantastic.
I’ve read it, but I didn’t own it. And I’m glad to have it.
Thursday night I was thumbing through it, and read a couple of my favorite stories (there’s one about a rich couple pretending to be homeless that’s very interesting).
I put it down on a stack of books on the nightstand and shut out the lights.
Then I got thirsty.
So I turned in the darkness and reached for my water bottle.
The book cover glows in the dark.
Just her face. In this eerie green glow.
Yeah, it freaked me out.
For a minute.
Then I marveled in how cool it was.

If your use Icy Hot (extra strength), do not keep it in the medicine cabinet in your bathroom.
Well specifically, don’t rub a huge glob of it into your tendinitis-afflicted right arm.
Then touch your penis for any reason whatsoever without washing your hands.
The company is serious when they say, “goes on icy cool to dull the pain, then heats up quickly to relax it away.”
I can tell you from direct contact that it heats up to a mighty uncomfortable burning sensation pretty fucking fast.
So I looked at the directions and while it mentions not getting Icy Hot near your mucus membranes or into broken skin, they say nothing of getting it on your penis.
Guess you have to find that out all on your lonesome.

I’m more of a mosh pit kinda guy.
But on July 14, I’ll be Dancing with the Stars as a benefit for the county women’s refuge and the YMCA’s mentor program.
Soon, I’ll be teamed up with a dance partner and a choreographer. We’ll have two weeks of practice to learn two dances (I’m hoping for hip-hop and the tango, because I think that would be way cool) and we’ll perform for a live audience at the restored Cascade Theater.
(Which holds 999 people.)
We’ll be judged.
This could be a tremendous amount of fun.
Or it could be a huge fucking disaster.
Could go either way.

This makes me smile

For all the right malevolent reasons.

Morning fog

I made a nice pot of Italian roast coffee this morning.
I had a half-cup while I got ready.
And left the rest in my travel mug on the counter, as I stumbled out the door toward work (at least I remembered the mobile).
I am a coffee snob.
If I had disposable income, I'd buy a $1,200 titanium Italian espresso machine and go to town on it every single day. Straight, fresh and creamy espresso in my little handmade Italian cups or an Americano every now and again.
I dream of this day.
I'm at my desk and all anyone has brewing in the building is Folgers.
Fuck me.
There's a fog around me. I need real coffee - stat.
I cannot work like this.
The desperation settles in.
Wednesday was an unproductive day. I need this day.
I need some fucking coffee.
Options, what are my options?
Call a sympathetic coworker who might take pity on me and swing by a shop?
Get in the truck and drive to a shop?
Wait until I can get into the boss' office and brew a real pot of coffee?
I currently weigh all options.
One thing I will not do.
Drink a cup of swill.
I have standards.

At the Grindhouse

I admit, I am a fan of both Quentin Tarantino (as a director only) and Robert Rodriguez.
They have teamed up to direct two movies that will be shown back-to-back ("Planet Terror" and "Death Proof") at "The Grindhouse."

The Grindhouse refers to the American movie term of a theater that shows exploitation films.

That is right up the alley of both directors. The movies - 21/2 hours worth of action - opens April 6.

Here's the final trailer:

It is a wonderful life

“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

That’s what Clarence the angel wrote to George Bailey inside the jacket cover of “Tom Sawyer” during the closing moments of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

No man is a failure who has friends.

And I continue to bask in the glow of one of the best birthdays on record.
The emails and ecards started to roll in about 6:30 a.m.
I got to work and thankfully, no one had decorated my desk (but I had a steady stream of well-wishers). A maple log was on my desk. Coffee. A coworker gave me a card filled with scratch-off lottery tickets (no million-dollar payoff, but what the hell).
Carl bought me lunch – panang curry pork at the Thai CafĂ© (and Jeff put in his request to buy Thai on Wednesday at Racha Noodle).
People text-messaged birthday greetings (knowing full well that I dislike text-messaging, but would appreciate the joke).
I began to feel overwhelmed by the attention.
I loved the attention.
(Then Kimbolina invited me after work for a glass of wine to listen to the one troubling bit of news to come my way during the day. I am grateful for the wine – she made it herself and that’s very sexy – as well as the ear.)
As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed that my trash bins had been pulled up.
Then I noticed that the house was decorated with streamers and balloons.
Courtesy of the two boys next door.
Their mother baked me - from scratch - this huge plate of cookies.
In front of the door was a gift bag with a bottle of wine and a card, from Mr. & Mrs. Hutch down the street.
(At this point, I am in tears. Big streamers that curled around the shit-eating grin on my face.)
The mailbox was filled with cards – well-wishes and iTune gift cards and coffee debit cards.
And it wasn’t even dinnertime yet.
A New York strip at Jack’s, medium rare, with friends.
Jason and I walked to Market St. Steakhouse to toast 44 years with a bourbon.
“First, we got you a present,” he said.
Jeez, lovely parting gifts. An after-workout massage thingy and a copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Haunted.”
I hugged the big fella.
And as I drifted off – I let the girls, Scully and Trinity, sleep on the bed – I felt warm comfort and a peaceful clarity that I am not alone in this world.
That I have a wealth of friends (even new and very interesting ones who will help me celebrate Wednesday with wine and stimulating conversation – and no sad stories, we swore).
And I will never be a failure.

Even more derogatory haikus

Kimbolina has an aged cat.
With somewhat of an incontinence problem (and that skin thing, too).
He a very fine and noble cat, who prances (yes, he prances) like a Nureyev.
And he’s 14 years old.
Kimbolina asked me to pen a derogatory haiku for her everyday situation (namely, Gulliver began piddling on her carpet recently).

Gulliver travels
To the wet spot on the floor
Cat piss is so wrong

“I emailed it to my roommate,” she said. “He thinks we should get it translated into Japanese and get it printed on parchment.”
I believe that is a fine idea.
Do it in traditional Japanese calligraphy (called shodo).
Very Zen.

No pain, no gain

My right arm smells of citrus - that citrus smell that's like all those new cleaning products with orange oil (with a hint of Vick's Vapor Rub).
And it's all tingly.
Thanks to Stevo, I got a therapy treatment for my tendinitis (what a kind and thoughtful - and quite useful - birthday present).
The arm is feeling much better (even though he kept jamming his thumbs into my extensor carpi ulnaris).
I can hack it.
"Ice and rest it," Stevo said.
But it's interesting to note how much you do with your non-dominate hand.
And how much it hurts to grip anything with tendinitis in your elbow.
It's a bitch getting old.

44 is the new 20

Growing up in a large Catholic family, Christmas wasn't the end-all, be-all holiday it is for many people.
Growing up with three sisters and a brother, it was your birthday that was special.
And it was my mother who made it so (for me, anyway).
Anything I wanted for dinner (even if that meant going out to dinner); any kind of cake, with any kind of design (or pie, as I started to choose when I was in high school).
But it is what she did with me at the exact moment of my birth that I will miss today.
It started in college. I would call from whatever time zone I found myself in at exactly 12:29 p.m. CST.
She always was the one who answered the telephone, and it always went down exactly like this:
"(Insert birthday age that year here) years ago, I went into labor in winter and you came out in spring," she said. "You owe me for a whole season."
"Sorry to have caused you so much grief," I said.
"Oh, it's no problem. You were such a cute baby."
Then she'd tell me the story of my birth, and how when the nurses wheeled me up in the bassinet for my mom to look at me.
"You crinkled your eyebrows and pouted your lips and looked me up and down, very seriously," she said. "Then, when you looked satisfied, you stuck your thumb into your mouth, shut your eyes and went to sleep.
"I knew right then that you where special."
Today, I will miss hearing, "Forty-four years ago..."
But I carry my mother not only in my DNA, but in my head, my heart, my soul.
And even though I put her through two seasons to get to my birth, it was worth it.
All the way around.

My left feet (both of them)

Sorry I'm so late.
I was busy blowing stuff up.
I went away on a hunting holiday. I missed a wild pig (badly) on Sunday night, but shot many quail on Monday. It was kinda-sorta a work thing, but with a bunch of outdoor writer buddies (who, of course, gave me several minutes of grief over a very fine petite Syrah for missing a 30-yard broadside shot at a 170-pound pig).
I'm starting to show my age.
Which will be 44 on Tuesday (at 12:29 p.m. exactly).
I have horrible tendinitis in my right forearm.
I got asked if I always had that much gray on my temples.
My back hurts.
But I'm going to show everybody.
I got a voicemail from the head of the mentor program in town (like Big Brothers/Big Sisters), and she wants me to take part in a fundraiser between her organization and our county women's refuge.
Dancing with the Stars, Shasta County Style (which must mean Country and Western dancing).
I'm going to do it.
Great cause - and I've got several months to practice.
Plus, I don't mind making a fool of myself for kids and abused women.
Dance lessons, anyone?
Oyi! My hip....

These are days

“You won’t give yourself to me.”
My arm is in the crook of her arm, and she’s got her thumb wedged into my armpit. Her other hand is deeply working the muscle that is my right bicep.
“Trust me.”
We’re at the bar at The Squire Room, and I’m getting an impromptu massage.
And I’m liking the attention.
She knows me, I knew of her around town. But a slight nudge (at The Clover Club, of all places – it being a dive bar to end all dive bars – but a musician friend was singing “Danny Boy” every 15 minutes) by a mutual friend put us barstool-to-barstool.
We talked. We laughed. We compared massage techniques.
She’s a writer. She’s an actress in the local theater scene.
And she’s a certified massage therapist.
“I specialize in muscle,” she said. “I like your muscle mass.”
It's somewhere past midnight. The bar is packed.
My crowd was staying put at the Squire. Hers was headed to the 501 Club (a gay bar that's got a fantastic jukebox).
I was headed home.
“Norby told me to get your number,” I said.
“She said that, huh? She told me that, too.”
We hugged.
We exchanged cards.
“You’re going to call me, right?” she said.

Let's blow some shit up

In California, there is a 10-day waiting period to buy a handgun.
But if you want a cannon, just go down to the local antique/junk shop.
This cannon has been sitting out front of the store for a week now.
The owner came out while I was taking pictures and said the cannon was $125.
He'd let me have it for $75.*

*(Gunpowder and cannonballs sold separately.)

Crackity Jones

As you can tell by the crack of my ass there, I've been working on the digital cable - for my father, who is 1,600 miles away in front of the television.
I am not.
I am 1,600 miles west, driving in my car on Interstate 5.
Thursday, I got the fourth service call in a week to help with the cable remote.
I'm doing it from memory.
(The last time I held said remote was Feb. 4.)
Thursday's problem was a stumper.
The channel guide in the menu screen won't move up and down.
Somewhere, there's a button on the remote the has locked the guide out.
I don't know which button that might be.
Sorry to say, it's probably time to call in the fine folks at Time Warner.

All I have to say

is FUCK.

Fuckity fuck, fuck, fuck.

(This moment brought to you by the National Institute of Mental Health, and the good folks at Abbott Health, makers of Vicodin - remember kids, sometimes the painkillers make the pain even worse.)

And that's that

(Heavy sigh.)
I’ve managed to get every document and scrap of paper together that my attorney requested to file for divorce. She’s on the way to the courthouse with it.
Right fucking now.
There is no sense of triumph, no glee.
But no huge heartache, either.
Oh, sure, there’s a part of my heart that still can’t figure out why we’re not working things out – tossing a six-year love affair over basically a rough month – but there is no logic here. There is no problem to solve anymore.
There’s just reams of paperwork and a blueprint for the future.
Six months and one day from March 15, 2007, I will return to the status of “unmarried man.”
(September 17, for those scoring at home.)
I did all I could do.
It wasn’t enough.
And this day is the result.
Didn’t look forward to it – won’t celebrate it – but needed it.
Forward motion and all that.

Elder statemen

I consider myself an old soul.
I can go somewhere – anywhere – and within minutes, I fit right in. I know where I’m at, and where to go.
I also fit in with people older than me.
I always have.
And always will.
People who don’t see the benefit and value of hanging out with older people are missing out.
I was getting a haircut on Monday, and in the chair next to me was this very cool older guy with a long Arkansas drawl.
“Think I’m going to go visit Europe again,” he said. “See what’s changed.”
The first time he saw Europe, it was with the U.S. Rangers, part of the third wave on Normandy, France during a little skirmish called D-Day.
“He’s a hero,” my barber leans in and whispers in my ear. “Held off an entire company of Germans single-handed, saved his whole unit.”
And handed me a copy of the story that ran in Stars and Stripes in July of 1944.
The guy picked up the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR, a real piece of killing hardware) of a fallen buddy and killed 13 advancing Germans with it. He kept firing, even after being hit with grenade fragments.
“Shrapnel’s still in me,” he said. “Never did get it all out.”
Thursday, I got up early to meet an old outdoor writer for help with a story I’m working on about turkey hunting.
He had his posse with him, older guys who talked about this, that and the other thing. It was a hoot.
And I just melted into the conversation.
Mostly, I listened.
I watched.
And I consider myself lucky to be an old soul – one who recognizes the benefit of listening to one’s elders.

A movie for the masses (or stupid is as stupid does)

I didn’t put any electrodes on my nipples, testicles or any crazy shit like that, but I did do a little science experiment on Tuesday.
I watched 15 minutes of CNN Headline News.
Followed by 15 minutes of Fox News.
I did not lose what was left of my panang curry pork lunch (just barely, however).
But I estimate that I lost at least 100,000 brain cells.
But I’m not even sure of that, because for 30 minutes, I grew more stupid as the seconds ticked off my wristwatch. My intellect suffered (I counter-balanced the cell loss with a brisk walk with my go-to action dog).
If it wasn’t an update on Britney Spears or Anna Nicole Smith, there was a story that was meant to seriously frighten viewers. Or it was a story that was just plain fucking drivel, meant to titillate or inflame.
I am part of the media.
I am a reporter.
And I am ashamed to be part of “the media.”
(But, then again, I take full responsibility for the work I do.)
Society, I guess, wants it that way.
They want fluff.
They hunger for crapola.
They want 24/7 coverage on what “Crazy Britney” is going to do next.
This is supposed to be the new age of reason; with all the modern conveniences, we’re supposed to be able to devote more time to art, philosophy, debate.
We’re left with up-to-the-second updates on shit that absolutely does nothing to enrich anyone’s life.
Keep on this track, and by 2099, the U.S. will be full of imbeciles and social retards.
In 2006, Mike Judge (“Bevis & Butthead,” “King of the Hill” and “Office Space”) made a movie called Idiocracy staring Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph.
(Special trivia moment – Rudolph, a cast member on Saturday Night Live, has a very famous mother - Minnie Riperton, the singer of “Lovin’ You.”)
Anyway, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about a movie you’ve probably never heard of:
“A dark comedy, it features an ‘Average Joe’ and a prostitute subjected to a military experiment in hibernation, from which they are to awaken in one year. However, they are forgotten and, instead, emerge 500 years later in a world where dysgenics and cultural anti-intellectualism have resulted in a uniformly stupid humanity.”
It’s worth a look, just to see the transformation of Fuddrucker's restaurants to "Buttfuckers."
In fact, look at it here (it’s broken into six parts).
We’re already on this path, my friends.

Patience is a virtue (ack! ack!)

There is an underlying melancholy here at Surface Tension.
Not a debilitating sadness, but a light haze – like when you squint and the world goes all feathery and off-focus.
It is definitely on the outskirts of Happytown; it’s that dangerous part of town where you’re parents warned you never to go – but you went there anyway and had some wino buy you beer and you got in serious deep shit.
(And I need to clarify the moment; I went from night shift to immediate day shift and in the middle, had a girlfriend call me from Vegas at 2:41 a.m. as the city fathers imploded the Stardust casino and she wanted to share the moment with me, which is OK because she was so happy and excited to see it. I, however, remain in a droopy funk that no amount of caffeine seems to want to fix – and I have to be really creative and original today.)
But this melancholy has been out there, floating on the fringe, for a few days.
Physically, I feel great. Mentally, super. Emotionally, check. Good there.
There’s just this tiny little itch I can’t scratch.
Transition. Maybe that’s what I feel.
I remain open to new experiences, new love, new adventures – fuck, I can see them on the horizon, like a breaking sunrise that spreads from blackness to a sky-burst of brilliant colors.
I just can’t get there from here.
OK, I can’t get there fast enough.
(Too much debris from the old life to wade through; but I have to get through it to come out on the other bank and truly appreciate where I’ve been – and where I’m going. And having to live under the old rules, the old model of someone else’s life, grates on me.)
My soul, my intellect, my heart each have this slight little ache, because each is so ready to be filled with “what’s next.”
I am to be patient.
OK, I can be patient.
I just don’t have to like it.
And it's not an infinite sadness (thank God).

This just in

It was right there, staring me in the face.
The first song to play on the new (Product)RED iPod Nano?
Neil Young’s “Rocking’ in the Free World.”
Since that’s what is laser-engraved on the back.
(Sometimes, I’m not too bright.)
It is a thing of beauty.
But I don’t have much time to play with it.
I’m working a rare night shift and thus, can’t load everything I want to load onto it (like custom playlists and much of my library).
Besides, I’ve got to charge the battery fully, and read all the instructions (yes, I am a reader of instructions).
This little iPod had quite a journey since the order was put in on March 8.
Engraved and shipped from Shenzhen, China, it went to Lantou Island, Hong Kong, Anchorage, Alaska, Indianapolis, Ind., Oakland, Calif., Sacramento, Calif., and then to my doorstep.
If it got frequent-flyer miles, it would have its own free ticket by now.
To get started, I threw on 282 songs, 16.6 hours of music 1.18 gigabytes used - and 2.46 gigs left.
And just for the record, the second song played – in shuffle mode – was Los Campesinos! “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives.”

No boobies here

What Surface Tension needs is a good dose of boobies.
Drive those page hits through the roof.
I was playing blog roulette this morning, you know, clicking “next blog” on the upper tool bar. I ran into a site that’s (supposedly) written by a college girl back East. She writes some erotica (which isn’t half-bad), but mostly, it is pages upon pages of nekked ladies.
Ads run up and down both rails.
“She” (it’s probably some middle-age perv raking in some serious $$$) has been online a little over a year; in that time, “she’s” had 328,000 people view her profile.
(In comparison, I’ve had 376 people look at my profile since November 2005.)
This isn’t about making money, however. It isn’t about easy-access porn.
It’s about sanity. It’s about real life.
This is what I wrote in my first-ever post:
“This Surface Tension was rippled when my mom died in November. She was a rock, spoke her mind and didn't care what people thought of her. You lose something like that, it's bound to warp your already whacked sensibilities, right?
“So, I'm going to blog. Hopefully, every day (writers write, it's how you get better). I'm going to open up my life and see where this takes me.
‘The next thing most like living one's life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing.’
“Ben Franklin said that, and he was a pretty smart guy.”
I don’t need to work blue. I just need to be true.
To real life.

'Like a bull in a cathederal'

The opportunity to explore more of my faith has presented itself.
I was the first lector at mass on Saturday. Old Testament stuff. Exodus, namely the story of Moses and the Burning Bush.
First lectors have to walk in the opening procession with the priest and alter(kids).
So I’m standing with Father Ed, getting ready to go – and he stops and ushers me back into the Sacristy (for non-Catholics, that’s the room where stuff is kept, like the priests’ robes, the chalices and such).
“We have a parish that needs to be shaken up, we need fresh ideas, fresh people to do that,’ Father Ed said (it’s now after 5:30 p.m. and people are starting to fidget). “We need you, ThomG.”
And Father Ed pulls out a piece of paper and a pen and tells me to write my phone numbers down. Right there. As people grew anxious for mass to begin.
“People like you ThomG, you have the power to reinvigorate this parish.”
And I’m looking at father Ed with my mouth agape.
I have a pronounced malevolent streak that is as dark as coal.
I like to swear (when a good cuss word is called for).
I’m sharp-tongued, and as I have aged, I have lessened the need to censor myself – and say all sorts of things right to people’s faces.
I am not the kind of guy you’re looking for to reinvigorate a Catholic parish.
“ThomG, this parish needs you, I need you. You’ll be great, there are so many places I see a need for you, places where you will make a difference (Father Ed said as he put my numbers into his vestments).
“I will be calling. Calling you.”
I read Exodus. I didn’t screw up.
And Father Ed spent the first two minutes of his sermon talking about me, and how I came to join the parish and has stepped right in and wanted to read. And how he will be calling on me.
“We are expecting big things from ThomG.”
Funny thing is, I left mass, I dunno, lighter. Uplifted (that mood has since passed Sunday morning and turned a bit gray at the present).
I felt like this was a chance encounter for me. A mark in time to learn more about faith – and myself.
Shake things up?
Hell, I’m likely to break something

Decisions, decisions

It is a day of decisions.
A weekend full of 'em.
According to the good folks at FedEx, my Nano reached Sacramento at 4:19 a.m. on Saturday. It is a tantalizingly-close 142 miles from my hot little hands.
So the decision here is what song do I play first?
The last song my first-generation iPod played (poorly, I might add) before the sad face of death came was AFI's "Miss Murder" (as it would only play tunes alphabetically).
Murder and death. Not a good and happy choice to play on the new (and super-cool) (Product)RED Nano.
I don't have a "favorite" song. I have songs that fit my mood, songs that are favorites of the moment, but not one overall tune that I can point to and say - that's it, that's my favorite (on my iTunes are 300 artists, 234 albums and 1,597 songs - which isn't a third of my music library, I'm just too lazy to import everything).
So I have a music library of 1,597 songs to choose from.
The Replacements "Can't Hardly Wait?" Hmmmm.
Something new, like Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks?"
Some Social Distortion, in honor of the big show on April 14? "Mommy's Little Monster," perhaps?
I remain solidly undecided. I have time. Like 48 hours. It's all good.
Then, my eyes opened to a most beautiful sunrise on Saturday. Another weekend where anything is possible (and I'm blogging - procrastinating).
(OK, I do have homework before I go out and play. My attorney needs one more form to fill out, so we can get the divorce good and started. I've got to fax it back in, before I do anything fun.)
Nordic walking? A long mountain bike ride? Fish? Take the dogs to the lake for a little swimming? A paddle in the kayak?
Endless. Endless possibilities.
Might as well get started on my homework.

We interrupt this hissy-fit…

I spent much of the lunch hour doing the penis dance.
No, not really.
(Six-year-old Morgan has yet to teach it to me.)
I did, however, spend it up to my nostrils in white, latte-esque foam that was provided by the myriad of bubbles churned up by the powerful and efficient jets of a hot tub.
Being talked off the ledge by my best friend, Jason.
(Actually, I had calmed way down before I got there; the hotness of the hot tub and the great conversation were just added bonuses.)
We discussed meanness – and the general weirdness of life.
Surface Tension has allowed me to off-load several tons of anger and various other baggage from my soul. It has allowed me to drop situations that would have funkified me for days.
It has allowed me to get closer to the happy-go-lucky kid I was in my youth - the one who jumped into the abyss with both feet - whistling a happy tune.
It’s also where (some of the) weirdness goes (no, not all; trust me, my life plays out in Brilliant Technicolor and even I have to edit myself).
But, that being said, I am still very much a cantankerous prick (see there, I was trying not to include one swear, and there you go) who can’t stop poking the beast (authority?), just to see if it’ll respond.
That’s why I love my little patch of the Internets.
Because I’m feeling very much better now, thankyoueversomuch.
Trying to salvage what’s left of the workday.
I feels good. I feels like getting out after work for a Nordic walk.
Release some endomorphines.
Besides, Apple engraved my Nano (no doubt Bono put in a good word on my behalf) and my iPod is currently in transit at Lantau Island, Hong Kong, according to the good folks at FedEx.
And, Jason burned me a copy of Peter Bjorn & John’s “Writer’s Block.”
And he gave me a new sticker for the 4Runner.
You’re right, R&R, “Knock, and the door will be opened for you” (I truly admire your faith).

Blow your cool

And to think I was going to wax all funny and poetic about the poster at Winchell’s – the one that says, “With a donut in each hand, anything is possible.”
Until the fuckstick called to complain about a picture in the paper.
Which has derailed a perfectly good mood.
I was the third call he made about it (and I doubt it was his last).
The picture shows a guy holding up a steelhead for a picture before releasing it back into the river (steelhead are a protected species in Northern California - but you can still catch them).
“You OK’d that?” he asked.
“Yes, I did, we run pictures of big fish and trophy game.”
“That was the worst thing I think I have ever seen. It is your responsibility not to show stuff like that – people see that and condone it as the way you’re supposed to handle a fish.”
He called Fish and Game to report a crime (“Trust me, they are very interested in citing this guy.”) He called the local fly shop to protest – and rally support for them to call an complain.
(I wish I had that much free fucking time).
“I could run – every day – the proper way to catch-and-release a fish, and someone is going to do it wrong,” I said. “If you feel strongly about it, write a letter to the editor.”
“I’ll write a letter to the editor, you bet I will. You’re a jerk.”
It was a 10-minute conversation (where I nearly lost my cool and rained a flurry of F-bombs on this prick - thank goodness for a little release valve called Surface Tension).
For fucksakes, kids are getting killed with sickening regularity in Iraq, gas is over $3 a gallon again for no good fucking reason, genocide in Darfur (huh, where’s that?) and AIDS is killing millions in Africa. The world is going to fucking Hell in short fucking order.
And this guy’s life has been turned upside-down Thursday over a fish (and so has mine, which pisses me off to no end).
At the end of the day, it's a fucking fish.
Go get yourself a fucking life.

Derogatory haikus for everyday situations

Here are some derogatory haikus for everyday situations, submitted by readers.
I am a disturbed individual, I know.

For Carl:

You want it when? Fuck!
It’s not like we planned ahead
Next, you’ll want my spleen

Hey, it’s not our fault
Swear donkeys and elephants
Ooohhh, look – it’s Britney

Big truck grease my hip
Chissakes, I’m on a bicycle!
Ice picks do great harm

I must say, I had a lot of fun with R&R’s situations (and yes, I couldn’t pass up the wedding of the year):

Knock, knock, who is there?
It’s the asshole from downstairs
Shove a sock in it

Troll from down below
Sissy pansy man with sounds
Consummation’s coming!

(This one’s for the future Mr. & Mrs.):

Headboard bangs and bangs
Brit complains about the noise
Really, it’s the dog

Welcome to Shell Oil
Badges, we need no badges!
Just wear the damn thing

Write my name, what for?
To conduct your business, ass
Now be off with you

“FUCK!” from down the hall
Wait for the silly guffaw
Asshole does no work

Trucks down the hallway
Cops a smoke, but never eats
Jerk’s an autobot!

Paper Mache head
Nothing says pure and true love
Like Darth Vader’s skull

Ninja love is slick
Marriage should be forever
Odds are not so good

In karate duds
Bride and groom profess their love
We give it six months

She presents a staff
Groom wears a sword for fucksakes!
High karate love

And a bonus one, for First Sister, who called this in:

One controlling bitch
Soccer queen makes me crazy
Kick her ball-like ass

If pornographic haikus are your thing - and I admit, it's an acquired taste - you might want to check out Banana Smoothie.

March indulgence(s)

It’s March, which means it is time again to consider an indulgence for the month.
(For those new to Surface Tension, part of my 43 Things is to indulge myself once a month with something I wouldn’t normally do or buy.)
But here’s the wrench: It’s also my birthday this month (March 20; ThomG likes humorous cards filled with unmarked, small-denomination U.S. bills).

Do I indulge myself twice?
Do I get one big honking indulgence?
Or do I get one honkingly spectacular birthday present?
It’s enough to give me gas.
Excuse me.

A suntan would be nice.
I am certainly very, very white (except for my face and arms). I would really like to fake-bake, because I’m tired of having the farmer’s tan. But then I think, “Why fucking pay for something that is free every time to sun is out?”
Because a fake tan is faster than the sun.

I decided against the aquarium, since it’s a lot to take on right now. I’m scaling that idea back to a Siamese fighting fish (Betta Splendens), which doesn’t exactly take up a lot of space.
And I don’t really want – or need – anything.
In fact, I think I have too much shit.
(You come to one of those life-altering changes, and it is the perfect time to jettison scads of stuff. I mean scads. And I am jettisoning shit left and right.)

All I really want is a new iPod and a new kayak.
(And maybe a massage. Oh, and sex.)
That’s it.
The iPod, I suppose, is in my price range.
The kayak is not.

I tried to trick my dad into getting me the iPod for my birthday.
“Nice try. I’ll send you $70.”
My boss reminded me that I’ve got $100 coming for a story I wrote for our marketing department.
Fucking A.
I went with the one honkingly spectacular birthday present.
I just dropped the hammer on the special edition, (Product) RED 4GB iPod Nano.
It’s red.
I got free engraving (ThomG; Rockin’ the Free World).
I got free shipping.
And Apple gave $10 to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.
U2’s Bono will be proud.
And I’ll get my Nano in seven to 10 business days.
Fuck the suntan.
(But bring on the massage; hey, I deserve it).
I just won't eat until next payday.

Music and The Perfect Pop Song

So far as I know, music hasn’t touched off any global conflicts, like politics or religion.
But it can lead to some rather heated discussions.
Because with music, everyone’s got an opinion. A favorite. An interest (how else do you explain Celine Dion or Britney Spears?)
Over at The Rob Report, TheRobRogers likes to blog from time to time about the perfect pop song.

“I was having a conversation with an old editor and the idea of the perfect song came up. You know, the idea that for the listener there are a handful of songs that don't have a wasted lyric, a missed note, nothing. They are perfect. It got me thinking about (some of) my perfect songs. And now I will share a few. Oh yes, sit back and enjoy. And don't worry, I'll update this thread frequently. Because I know every last one of you is eager, eager, eager to know what songs out there I consider perfect.”

Rob’s Perfect Pop Songs Volume 2 has been released, and since I commented, I snagged a copy. And while he completely ignored every single recommendation I gave him for the perfect pop song (hello, The Replacements), the disc is filled with good stuff, top to bottom.

The final lineup:
  1. "Saving Grace" -- Tom Petty
  2. "Sister Jack" -- Spoon
  3. "The Late Greats" -- Wilco
  4. "Back to the Party" -- The PushStars
  5. "Til Kingdom Come" -- Coldplay
  6. "Disappear" -- INXS
  7. "Collarbone" -- Fujiya & Miyagi
  8. "Talk Amongst Yourselves" -- Grand National
  9. "Black Magic" -- Jarvis
  10. "Feel Us Shaking" -- The Samples
  11. "No Ha Parado de Llover" -- Mana
  12. "Satellite" -- Guster
  13. "Waiting, Watching, Wishing" -- The PushStars
  14. "The Way We Get By" -- Spoon
  15. Bonus Track (hint: It’s U2)

I find that I really got behind Spoons and the PushStars. Especially the PushStars “Back to the Party.”
Here’s what TheRobRogers had to say:

“The Push Stars do two things very, very well. They write pop songs that sound at once familiar yet new and different. And they effortlessly blend melancholy sentiments with bright, happy-sounding songs -- melancholy without which the band's music would be unlistenable, syrupy messes. 'Back to the Party,' of course, is the perfect example. I love the song's opening line: 'Boy and girl, you're not the same any more.' It's like some throwback to those cheesy intro-to-puberty film strips you watched in elementary school. The tune itself is a love song, in a sense, that's upbeat, fun and dark around the edges, very cleverly making the point that the fear of following your heart just leads to regret.”

I find myself hitting the replay button on this song, just so I can get the lyrics down cold. For me, it’s the perfect song to sing along to, like Elvis Costello’s “Alison” or The Replacements “Can’t Hardly Wait” (which was my best recommendation for the perfect pop song).

And here are the lyrics for “Back to the Party:”

Boy and girl you're not the same anymore
The boy strolls in and makes the girl hold the door
She slipped me a party smile
That I could see thru
I got nothing to lose
Mary what's happening with you

So Mary said lets go get some fresh air
My eyes cut to him, she said "Don't worry he'd never care"
So we left that crowd behind and got lost in our lust
Shook off the dust
Mary what's happening to us?

In the middle of the pouring rain she said
"I'm going to leave him and he'll never see me again"
I said "but you never really know"
We didn't build this city, we didn't paint this town
Seems like we spend half our lives running around
Wanting somewhere else to go

Back to the party after an hour or two
Gone that long and the boy never knew
'Til he looked down and found grass stains on her knees
Now he's chasing me up the street!
Mary what's happening, happening to me?
What's happening, happening to me?

In the middle of the pouring rain she said
"I'm going to leave him and he'll never see me again"
I said "but you never really know"
We didn't build this city, we didn't paint this town
Seems like we spend half our lives standing around
Wanting somewhere else to go

Well I see your face
Put on the wrong way
If you want to leave this place
Walk home with me the long way

Boy and girl you're not the same anymore
Boy and girl you're not the same anymore
Boy and girl you're not the same anymore

Definitely worth checking out for yourself.

Rockin' at the roadhouse

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the just-completed Happy Fun Weekend began with a rollicking show by the Jim Dyar Band at the nearly-famous Klub Klondike in Lakehead on Friday.

A roadhouse with dollar bills stapled to the ceiling. Steak and rib dinners. A beer on tap called “Leon’s Freon” in honor of the owner. Wood floors that have seen a lot of beer and tears spilled over the years. A poster in the men’s room featuring the backsides of four women in string bikinis in the back of a pickup with “Haulin’ Ass” underneath. A pool table and a shuffleboard table.

And – of course - the musical stylings of the Jim Dyar Band.

“What, no love on the ThomG blog?” Jim Dyar asked Monday.

I was simply waiting for photographic evidence of the good time that was had by all.

And a good time was had by all (photos courtesy of Big Kat Lou).

Get high on life, man

Endorphins are crazy, powerful stuff.
Especially on an empty stomach.
After you’ve hiked 11 miles.
(Kids, don’t try this at home.)
If I talked to you on Sunday, and it sounded like I was high or drunk, I was.
On endorphins (or more correctly, endomorphines).
Yes, that’s right, the biochemical the body produces while exercising mimics opiates, producing a powerful painkiller - and a sense of kick-ass well-being.
By the time I talked to Jason (he of the meat-eating robot), I was flying.
On nothing but endomorphines and tap water.
“Dude, you sound like you’re having fun,” Jason said. “You sound good.”
The crash was bound to happen.
I had a small bowl of edamame and some spicy California rolls and two more bottles of water around 7:30 p.m. I let the dogs out and settled with Chuck Palahniuk’s “Survivor” (I stopped and checked out the new city library, which is very cool – and they upped their Palahniuk collection by three, but still not “Fight Club,” which I find disappointing).
Four hours later, I woke up having to pee, still dressed, dogs still outside, satellite radio blaring Panic! At the Disco’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” and the bed lamp blazing.
Crash. Bang. Boom.
I know I shut everything off, let the dogs in, got undressed – but the memory of it is quite fuzzy.
I simply slipped back into a deep sleep, one that lasted until 6:30 a.m. Monday.
Endorphins. Endomorphines.
I likes em.

More happy fun day

You live for the weekends like this, where the sun shines, the weather is warm - and you've got no "entanglements."
Sunday was Happy Fun Day II.
I slept in (until 7:30 a.m., which is great for me) and went fishing. I caught nothing.
I drove 15 miles to Lake Shasta and hiked another four to fish the points of Bailey Cove.
I had dreams of a fish dinner (I bought take-out sushi and edamame later and will be just fine).
I relaxed.
I smiled.
I saw roughed grouse.
I stepped in bear shit (yeah, I know, look where you're going; I was looking at the water).
Mostly, I cast lures for fish I knew were there (I'm good, just not professional good - I don't have a boat, but I can flat-out fuckin' fish) and didn't care if they bit or not.
I tried for trout; I tried for bass.
I slipped lures off and on my Emmrod (seriously, click on the link - that's me in the masthead casting the Emmrod fly rod in the silly Peruvian wool hat) Mountaineer backpacking rod (I have a three-strikes theory on lures; if it isn't working, I'll cast three times - at 10, 12 and 2 o'clock, then change lures).
I like that it's called fishing and not catching; I would have been totally OK with a couple of grilled lake trout with fresh rosemary and lime, or bass tacos, but it is what it is. I cast; I lost (today).
Talked to dad - he's doing great without half a calf and no foot - and then went on a seven-mile hike with the Nordic poles.
I did the Sacramento River Trail loop from Diestelhorst Bridge to the north parking lot in 85 minutes (for those scoring at home, that's a 12-minute mile - not too fucking shabby).
Hyped up on endorfins, I braved Costco for edamame, sushi, three pounds of French roast coffee - I have a vacuum-sealer - latex gloves (hey I cook, I use them for prep work, sickos), and dog biscuits.
I mowed the lawn, then sat on my ass and talked to friends and siblings via cell phone (international incidents are brewing - and I thought I was over being the family pariah, but I guess not) .
It is somewhere near 5 p.m. as I write this; the sun is still up, but it is setting - it isn't raining yet, but the clouds are gathering - and I'm going out to sit in my front lawn (slathered with mosquito spray as the tiger mosquitoes are out) and watch the sun set over Shasta Bally.
I've talked to old friends, I've talked to siblings; I talked to my boss, who reminded me that I'm watching his three boys on Tuesday night (I promised we'd get in all sorts of good trouble) and I've got pre-packaged sushi and edamami in the fridge for when I freaken' feel like it.
I'm wearing sandals, a favorite old shirt and my "action pants," (put up for months in the closet because I had out-fat-assed them), because it's March 4 and I can.
Happy Fun Day, indeed.

Happy fun day

Saturday was one of those unexpected surprises - like finding a $10 in your jeans pocket or having the waitress bring the table an appetizer because the wait got a bit long (but you were with friends, so who cares?) - sunny and warm after days of rain and clouds.
The new city/county library opened and I was among an estimated 2,700 people who lined the streets to pass some 600 books from the old library to the new one. Passing books a couple of miles takes a lot longer than anyone cared to guess - and the "official opening ceremonies" went long.
Some friends and I just wanted to see the inside of the place (I turned down an exclusive walk-through for reporters recently). They wouldn't let anyone in until all the talking heads spoke (and it was a big list).
We went to lunch.
Our favorite sushi place was closed, so we ended up at this hole-in-the-wall fish place where everything is fried. I had clams and fish.
My gall bladder hurts.
My friends walked to our station in line for the book passing, so I dropped them off and stopped by a friend's who lives like a half-block away. He was at the book passing too. We had a cup of coffee, then he asked if I had my Nordic poles. I did.
We went over to the Sundial Bridge and walked three miles.
"I'm testing out some new trekking socks," I said. "They have a left sock and right sock."
"What happens if you put them on the wrong feet?"
I was stumped.
After the hike, I put the Mountainsmith X-Socks on the opposite feet.
It's like wearing your shoes on the wrong feet. It's just wrong.
I walked the dogs in the field and then just sat and did nothing for 15 minutes (try it, it's really neat).
Then, I remembered that next Saturday, daylight-saving time starts.
And days like Saturday will stretch another hour or so.

I am honored

It’s been a great day.
Found out that my book, which has been out a year, is going into its third printing (some money would be nice, but hey, if it's still in print, it means there's still royalties to come).
Then the mystery guests showed up at 10:20 a.m. Friday.
Three members of the Shasta Sundial Strollers, the local Volkssport walking club.
They presented me with cool glass paperweight - and took a group picture for their newsletter.
See, a year ago, there wasn’t a local Volkssport club. I did a story for the paper and now there’s like 50 people in the group (I’m an honorary member).
“We just wanted to say thank you,” the president said. “Most all of our members, one way or another, found out about us through your stories.
“You do so much for the Outdoors, ThomG, we just wanted to come by and say thanks.”
And people wonder what I’m still doing here.
I live here because people care.
I’m getting all misty-eyed.

'Derogatory Haikus for Everyday Situations'

Everyday situations call for creative haikus.
Derogatory haikus.
But what sort of situations would you like to see made into a haiku?
(R&R, you started this, so you need to come up with at least three situations.)
For each situation submitted, I will make up a derogatory haiku.
Or try, I suppose.
And post them all (before making that huge book deal).

Elusivity (I made that up)

“ThomG, are you going to be here between 10 and 10:30 a.m. tomorrow?” the receptionist asked.
I hate questions like that.
The same goes with “What are you doing Saturday morning?” or “Can I run something by you?”
It is best to remain strictly noncommittal.
“Uuuhhhhh, I dunno, why?” (Brilliant!)
“Someone wants to know.”
(Oh, chissakes.)
“It isn’t a process server is it?” thinking that it could be divorce papers.
(And no, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. At least the clock would start ticking toward a life single. But at work? Cooooold.)
“Nooooo, this is good. Very good.”
“Uuuhhhh, I guess so. I mean, I think so.” (Sharp!)
“OK, I’ll tell them.”
I now have two choices.
Be at work between 10 and 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Or not.

Cultural diversity

So we’re sitting with three 20somethings at the bar Wednesday night (I had a soda), and they were talking about my town.
Each had been living in Redding less than a year.
“This place has so much potential, dude,” one said. “I mean, the mountains, the river, it’s an outdoor place.
“But it’s missing something.”
“Look around this place,” a friend said. “What do you see. What’s missing?”
“COLOR!” the kid finally blurts out.
Sadly, my community – the 2005 U.S. Census estimate had us with a population of 89,641 – is something like 96 percent white.
This is not good.
Cultural diversity brings new ideas to a community. It prepares people to live in a world where borders are always shrinking. It opens people to different cultures, different ways of thinking.
“What this community needs,” I said, “is a college campus.”
I dream of that day.