Step back into my life?

I feel like one of those roadside carcasses.
All bloated and lifeless.
Even I can't just step back into my life. The Tension is messy, and it keeps getting messier.
I rolled in to find Trinity's eye swollen shut. It looked bad.
"We have a doctor in until six, can you come in now?"
I was at the vet's 15 minutes later.
"She's got an ulceration on her cornea," he said. "I think she'll be OK, though. There's no foreign bodies in there, she gave me a good look, and we'll see what the drops do. But I do want to see her again in a week."
Eye drops. One an antibiotic, the other a painkiller. The antibiotics have to go in her eye every four hours.
(Ever try giving eye drops to a dog by yourself? It's about as simplistic as giving a cat a pill.)
Trin's tussle with the skunk means I get to eat ramen for the rest of the month. But I'll gladly do it, if it means saving her eye.
I did pick up the bike. The Trek Fuel.
Looking at it, it probably is too small. But I need to ride it.
Which I wanted to do today.
But probably won't.
I need to get moving again. Two weeks of virtual inactivity has left me cranky and creaky.
I need to move.
Life has a way of imposing its will into things.
So much to do. So I'll make do. Move when I can.
Take care of the rest the best way I can.
Just do it.
And not complain.
(Looking around, I think I've got a night's work to do around the homestead, and we'll see how bad the office desk is, but it shouldn't be too bad.)
There is, however, a smile on my face.

In transit

Five hours in aircraft or airports. Another three in a car.
Fremont to Omaha to Dallas to Sacramento to Redding.
Oodles of time.
I bought a book to read on the plane, then I read it (damn).
The DVD I brought won't, for some reason, play on the laptop.
That leaves the entertainment options to the iPod.
And my over-active mind.
Shit, am I ever in trouble.
The end of vacations are like vacuums to me (like outer space vacuums). A place (where no one can hear you scream) and time to reflect. Choose a path, make a list. Enact change. Put it into play.
I'm already there.
Maybe I can just reaffirm things. Get some priorities straight.
Work on this poem that seems to have gotten stuck (it's a word thing).
Try and not drive myself nuts.
See you all on the flip-side.


The day has risen overcast and threatening.
And in a few, I'll be taking dad to the cemetery for a Memorial Day mass. But first, flowers must be purchased.
For mom's grave.

I don't understand cemeteries.

OK, I do; that's where all the bodies are buried.

What I don't get is the allure to go to them. To look at a stone, engraved with a name. To decorate them with flowers.

My mother is not at the cemetery. Yeah, her remains are there. But she isn't.

I think I'd rather the mass be said in the church - the one she helped build with money and very strong opinion - because that is where I feel her the most.

But memories on this Memorial Day are for the living. And that's why I'll be there for my dad. And stand on the wet grass looking out at a cemetery filled with silk flowers, pinwheels and plants. Headstones of marble and granite.

In my head, my own memories of mom and me. And here, too:

First grade and I sit in the varnished oak school desk, the one that opens up so you can stash your books in a cubby underneath; the one that is part of three more, all in rows that are screwed to the floor. Two lines of oak runners, so there's no moving around.

And I have to piss.

I raise my hand, but the nun doesn't bite. Too close to lunchtime, she says. I fidget, raise my hand again.

No, she says. Hold it.

And I can't. and I'm angry. So I unzip my pants and relieve myself. I remember the yellow rivulets of water streaking down the aisle, trapped by the oak runners that held the desks to the dusty wood floor.

Screaming, the nun sent me to the office. Mom was called from work. She had a look that told you just how much trouble you were in; hers was off-the-charts angry.

"Did you pee on the floor?"

"Yes. But I asked if I could go."

"You asked?"

"Yes. Twice"

The nun and the principal looked at each other, then looked at my mother, who was now beyond furious. At them. But she always had a way of composing herself. And saying exactly what needed to be said.

"One piece of advice," she said. "The next time this kid raises his hand and needs to go to the bathroom, you'd better let him. It means he has to pee.
"What were you people thinking?"

The story got put into the memory rotation around our house, around reunions. Nobody could believe that I had the nuts to pee on the floor, without peeing my pants. That I actually whipped it out and pissed on the floor. In front of a nun and everything. There was debate.

She never would say anything. But she always looked at me with a wry little smile and always winked. It was her way of saying that I was one pain in the ass.
But I was her son. And not willing to compromise.

Just like her.


OK, I feel better with a little coffee in me.
(The coffee bar at the gas station next door, the one with great Americanos, is usually closed on Sunday; the counter lady made me up a tall cup of goodness anyway.)

Signs are all around. This was Saturday's horoscope:

"There's not a single grudge worth hanging on to. Once you forget what you were supposed to be mad about, you're capable of spiritual levity and moments of spontaneous delight."

Not an hour later, I found out Social Distortion has a new single out, "Far Behind." Rumor was the boys in the band were working on a new album, hence the tour. It's a greatest hits album, nothing I need to get, if only for the new single. Which I finally heard like an hour after that.

And in that single, another sign.

Leave toxic people far behind. Let go of the grudge and the anger.
Embrace life as it is now, because it is fucking sweeter than anything you've ever experienced.
And yes, experience it.

Here's Social D, live, singing "Far Behind" (and yes, listen to the lyrics):

Time to get on the road

Things have wound themselves down here in Iowa.
Very anti-climatic.
We went out to dinner and watched a movie Saturday night; Sunday, it's mass, brunch and packing the Chrysler for the three-hour drive to Nebraska.
Dad and I are in a bit of a daze. Dad doesn't feel well - he's got an ear infection from his hearing aids and has a lot of phantom pain - and I feel like I'm going through the motions.
(I write this sans coffee; maybe I should take a break and pick up an Americano for fortification.)
My main purpose for being in Iowa - making sure First Sister's head didn't explode - is done; I feel like a shadow.
I am between time.
I am out of time.
Not in my own world, and trying to fit into this one.
(Friends have picked up on it in calls and emails; it's not like I'm sad or unhappy, just melancholy.)
I don't know that'll truly subside until I'm back in Cali.
This trip has been fun. It's been educational, too.
It's just at its end, that weird place that I think you get to on every vacation.
And I have two days to go.

Means to an end or gift horse?

Wing-gal makes and interesting point:

Word is that my new Trek Fuel mountain bike - the one I have seen only on display, but never ridden - is too small for my ample frame. And the word is that people are lining up to offer large dollars to take it off my hands.

"ThomG already has a kick-ass bike" was basically the sentiment.

And the money I would get from such a sale would get me even with whom I owe money. Sell the bike, and I'm pretty much out of debt.

Oh, but do I want that bike. I want to ride that bike, with its orange paint and custom flame job, across the finish line next year of the Lemurian Shasta Mountain Bike Race. I want people to clap and cheer me on and mention that I completed a race on a bike that I won in a raffle. I want them to point and go, "There goes one lucky bastard."

I deserve that bike.

So I asked the man who I owe the most money to - my dad - and he was philosophical:

"Do what you want to do with it, and don't let anyone else tell you different."

If the frame fits - it is a 17.5-inch frame - I keep it; if it is just too damn small for me, I sell it and get my "get out of debt free card" and break even.

It's one of those win-win things (but, boy do I want that frame to fit my big ass).

Congrats are in order

Stevo and his wife had a baby girl, Arden, on Thursday.

They are good people. And good people deserve to be parents. They are going to be awesome.
Go on over to the Gurg and wish them the very best. Check out the picture of little Arden, too.

She's a cutie (and Stevo, you ain't half-bad neither).

I looked it up, and knew that the Tambolina would get a name that had great meaning: in Celtic, it means Valley of the Eagle; in Latin, it means Great Forest. Shakespeare, in "As You Like It," made Arden a magical place. An impossibly beautiful place.

She's an impossibly beautiful addition to this world.

Road Warriors (true tales from the aspalt)

Editor's note: This post contains TMI about ThomG, but was way too funny not to write about, as this is real life.

“Do you cut your dick hair?”
Rooming on the road with dad presents all sorts of interesting ways to interact.
The room we’re in now has a shitter and shower in one room, the vanity in the other.
As in the room.
I don’t usually wear anything to shave (my face) in the mornings; no need to break that habit on the road.
Except that I’m standing there in full view of dad, in front of a huge mirror, and dad is reading a book on his queen-sized bed.
And behind me is another full-sized mirror (who designed this place?)
“I trim, yes.”
“Jesus Christ.”
Suddenly self-conscious, I walked over to my suitcase and pulled on a pair of pants.
“You don’t wear underwear?”
“No, dad, I don’t wear underwear and I shave my testicles. Anything else you might want to know about my personal habits?”
“Good God, no.”

I met a man in the Midwest who can make an Americano without fucking it up.
Steve owns the hotel we’re staying at (I didn’t talk to him about the whole vanity situation, but I thought about it) and he owns a string of coffee places. He bought a cool gas station next to the hotel, and put in a espresso bar.
He’s a former Iowa State basketball player who has his degree in journalism (advertising).
We hit it off immediately.
He knows First Sister well; his family hosted an Australian kid who played basketball at Ames High – and dated my niece.
“Best Americano in the Midwest,” I told him at my niece’s graduation party.
“That’s so cool, thanks for that.”
No, thanks for a damn good cup of coffee.

The party came off without a hitch. Even the severe thunderstorms didn’t dampen what was a fantastic event.
I was cutting up the last of the cheese for a tray when the first guests arrived.
We had mini cheesecakes, a sheet cake and these cool fruit and pound cake skewers that you dipped into chocolate fondue (all the skewers were attached to a palm tree made out of pineapples) from the paid caterer.
I made up cheese and fruit platters.
Mostly, I took off any and all pressure on First Sister, her husband and my niece, so they could entertain and enjoy.
If anything, I am anal/efficient.
Everything worked like clockwork, and when the party was over, we had everything cleaned up in 30 minutes.
Two parents asked for my business card.
So I could cater their parties.
I explained that I was just helping out my sister.
They were disappointed, and told me so.
So it’s good to know that if this journalism thing doesn’t work out, I have a bright future in catering/event planning.

"I'll give you a dollar if you wear your leg backward," I said as we pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Ames so dad could buy a hairbrush (I think he just wanted to secretly drive me insane).
"Can't. It's built to fit one way."
"It'd be a neat trick, though."
"Oh, yeah."
"Think about it, think of all the fun you could get into, especially at Wal-Mart."
"You're weird, you know that?"
"I am my father's son."
And his blue eyes twinkled.
And he smiled.

While away, my life gets planned

Emails like this are like getting that big Publisher's Clearninghouse envelope with Ed McManon's picture on it:

You o.k. out there? Is skunk stench out of your nostrils yet?

Well, just wanted to let you know I've planned your life for you while you're

Here's the steps to the Promised Land, T Daddy:

Step 1. Finalize your FUCKING Divorce!!!!
Step 2: Borrow guitar, join rock band, and write songs with Wing-Gal and Dyar.
Step 3: Get out of debt.
Step 4: Buy motorcycle.
Step 5: Get out of more debt.
Step 6: Buy eye candy of the moment some bad-ass Harley attire and put her on the back of your bike; they'll all look fabulous ;-)
Step 7: Ride your bike around, a lot, with eye candy of the moment and your new guitar.
Step 8: Start writing book as soon you're divorced, as in ON THE DAY YOUR
DIVORCE IS FINALIZED you WILL start writing a book about all your life
experiences to date. This is not an option, it is a direct order from Wing-Gal.
I still haven't come up with a title yet, but I'm sure I will have it figured
out by the time your divorce is finalized. ;-) I think “Surface Tension” would
probably be a great book name, actually. Either that, or “I’ve Planned Your Life While You Were Out.”
Step 9: Get out of debt some more, and start marketing/selling your CURRENT
book more!!!
Step 10: Sell your next book, become a paid blogger on the side, and get
fucking rich and happy.
Step 11: Take a lot of vacations, and travel more.

Amen, brotha.

Forget Publisher’s Clearinghouse; emails like this make me smile.
(Most) everyone is on my side, has my back, and that feels wonderous.

On the road, agian

The Chrysler's nav system is voiced by a woman.
We named her Lola.
She's a stupid bitch.

That was harsh.
One of the modes you can select is fastest route. Lola will look for that route, then (hen-peck) correct you until you do what she says. And she'll continue to recalculate the route.
In the backcountry, I'm a map-and-compass kinda guy. I don't own a GPS unit. I prefer seeing what I can see.
So when I drive, sometimes just following the signs is the best alternative.
I turned Lola off.
"I hope you didn't fuck her up," dad said.

"We are not listening to this shit all the way to Iowa."
And my experiment with the punk channel came to an abrupt end.
"Daddy, pick something we can all enjoy," said first sister, who hopped in the backseat for the 250-mile trip to Iowa.
His choice?
Rocking Roadhouse.
Shitty country.
I would rather have my testicles pinched by a midget transvestite than listen to country music.
I quietly plugged my iPod into my head and turned up the volume.
Of course, he wanted to talk.
He kept bumping my arm.
I'd take an earbud out.
It was his way of saying he wanted me to buffer him from first sister.
He made a new Sirius selection.
60s Vibrations.
I could live with that.

The plume of black smoke announced something interesting on the Interstate.
A car completely in flames (we suspect it was a Saturn).
Over pizza, first sister's husband and I talked about the flaming car; dad wondered if anyone got hurt.
"What car was on fire?" first sister asked.
"The car on the side of the road? The one in flames, melting right on the side of the road?"

I still don't know how you fuck up and Americano.
It's espresso and hot water.
Apparently, in the Midwest, it means something else. But I can't put my finger on it.
I will try again, until I succeed, to find a decent Americano in the Midwest. First Sister has high hopes for her place in Iowa, which I will try.
I'm not holding my breath.

And finally, the Chrysler only got 24 miles to the gallon on the trip up.
(I was speeding most of the way.)
Dad's been a wee bit focused on that. Positively anal about it.
And has bitched about the price of a gallon of gas since I've been here. We play the game, "Hey, Gas is (insert price and point); Christ That's Expensive."
(They have gas stations in the Midwest called "Kum and Go;" I snicker every time we pass one of those. I mean, c'mon. Kum and Go? I think I saw that porn movie.)
Before this roadtrip even started, I was having breakfast with dad's cronies at the Hy-Vee. They all were bitching and moaning over the price of gas.
Each and every one of them to a man voted for Bush, who brought in all his cronies - especially Cheney - and decided to fuck everyone else over, while big business post record profits.
Especially the oil companies.
I wanted so much to scream.
I just sipped my shitty Americano instead.

Hilda, and introduction

She's a babe in these woods.
So be nice.

Blogging isn't for the faint of heart.
You have to be either completely crazy, or something, to open up your life and invite the world in.
Lots of people fill notebooks full of their private thoughts and feelings, only to still be frustrated on why they still feel confused or incomplete. Because no one sees it. No one shares it.
Blogging has become the outlet of choice. I know it is for me. People around the world read it, and I am unashamed (and unafraid) when they do (I just wish more people would comment - just a hint).

Hilda has a lot to say. And I look forward to her saying it on Earth Junkie. That's why I've added her link to my link-o-rama.

I'm excited to see where she goes with it. It is my profound hope that she'll want to use it every day to explore thoughts and feelings.

(She's related to a very famous - and very cool - woman poet, so expect to see some poetry - and expect her writings to wring more poetry out of me.)

Because, isn't that why were all here? To post, yes, but maybe to inspire and illicit a reaction or a feeling.

She's way nervous about this link. She shouldn't be.
It's like skinny-dipping.
You're only self-conscious up until the moment your naked flesh hits the water (or should be).

Check in on Hilda, and her musings, often. I think it's going to be wonderous.

TDaddy's got a new ride

Bling, bling.

We interrupt this roadtrip for late-breaking news from back in Cali: TDaddy's got hisself a new ride.

Two weeks ago, I was on a ride with the Chancellor (who, I admit, I may be still a bit miffed at, but he could make it all better by picking up my ass from the airport), when the topic of the local mountain biking club's upcoming raffle came up.
"I really want to win that bike," I said. "I mean, I really want it.
"I think I deserve it."

It's a Trek Fuel with a custom paintjob. Worth something like $4,000.

Like everyone else, I put my money down on it through a raffle. Tickets were $5 each, or five for $20. I bought $20 worth at an Everest talk and bought $20 from a friend at work.
The club drew for the bike on Saturday, at the Whiskeytown Duathlon.

The calls, emails and text-messages began about 1:30 p.m. my time.
I won the damn thing.
"I believe the cosmic forces lined up some type of planetary apparatus absolutely perfectly," a buddy wrote. "You see, when Wing-gal approached me with her effervescent smile I just knew today would be a very special day. Next, my partner and I captured first place in the team competition! This is quite an astounding thing in itself coming from a perennial last place finisher (I speak the truth, my friend). When your name was pulled out of the rotating ticket container and read by none other than the Prez of (the local mountain bike club) himself, well, I knew then that whatever that planetary apparatus is, it is one with those who wear the Monster Dogs."

I really needed that bike. I really wanted it.
I felt like I deserved it.

During a quiet moment in-between graduation to-dos, I sat and thought about my good fortunes.
Not just about the bike, for which I still wear the biggest shit-eating grin; but for the wealth of friends who called, texted and emailed me with the news. Who shared with me, and my good fortune.
I am blessed, and I said a little prayer to tell the Man Upstairs that I appreciated everything.
And I do mean everything that has come into my life.

Roadies and roomies

So for the first hour of My Road Trip With Dad, the Chrysler's navigation system kept us on a two-lane blacktop to Kansas - and me in a darkened mood.

No Interstate. No super-highway. Just 168 miles of two-lane, through farm towns and fields and the expanse that is eastern Nebraska and Kansas.

It was cool. Way to go, Chrysler.

We didn't talk much. Dad's at a point where he's moody. He's tired of having been cooped up for nine months while he's recovered from being run over.

"You know, I don't mind losing my leg," he said, looking always straight ahead into the expanse. "But I sure do mind losing your mother."


We hooked up with my nephew, and he picked me up to go to the liquor mart. First sister put me in charge of picking up the booze for Saturday's graduation celebration (sucker).

"What's our budget?" my nephew asked the cell.

"She said to just keep it reasonable."

I can do reasonable.
We got nice beer - quite the variety, all micro-brews - two bottles of red wine, two bottles of white and "Mom wants us to get two bottles of cheap Champagne."
Partygoers will no-doubt be thrilled at my nephew's good taste in wine selection. I picked him up a petite syrah and an old vine Zin and two really nice bottles of California white wines (none of the bottles traveled into the $10 arena).

Then we took dad to a Thai place for dinner. He liked looking at the hordes of coeds (and, hey, so did I, but not in a pervy way; just admiding the female form).

All-in-all, a good start to a long road trip.

I just wish dad would let himself go, however. Have a little more fun. He gets frustrated at the smallest of things. He paniced when he didn't bring a pair of black socks. I have black socks.

That is where he is, so I respect it. Maybe my devil-may-care attitude will rub off a bit.

Oh, he let me listen to punk for a good portion of the trek.
"Shit, this isn't music," was all he said.

Things, unusual

"Hey, wanna come watch me put my leg on?"
It is a statement I didn't think I'd ever hear.
Dad just asked it.

"You've probably seen it before."

Actually, I'll have two weeks of witness him putting on his leg. We'll be sharing a hotel room for that long. He worries. A lot. I don't.

"I'm going to keep you up at night, I get up about four times a night."
(I brought earplugs.)
"I hope they don't stick us on the top floor."
(First sister got a ground-floor adaptive room.)
"We'll have fun."
(That's the spirit.)

It was trippy getting home. I walked in the door, and there's my dad's new leg on the living room floor, propped up on a wingback chair that faces the huge picture window.

"I put my pants on in front of the window," my dad said. "Give everybody thrill."

I don't want to see that, either.
He's in good spirits.
We're taking the Chrysler, and going to breakfast.

And an $8.50 Bloody Mary later...

At least the WiFi is free at the airports.

The Bloody Mary's are pricey, but the bartender remembered me from the last flight out. She snuck in an extra pour of Smirnoff.

It's nice to be nice to the nice. It all pays off in the end.

I am calm waters.

Trin is doing well. She's in fantastic hands.
I ran out and bought saline and eye drops at 4:30 a.m.
Let the vortex continue.
And stay tuned.

It stinks, to high heaven

Jeezus H. Mother-Fucking Chrissakes Almight Fuck. Piss. Shit. Fuck.
Double Fuck.

One minute, my interests and attentions are completely and totally focused on a certain woman’s earlobe; the next, I don’t have a ride to the airport.
And 11 p.m. has passed and I need to leave for said airport at 8 a.m. for wheels up to the Midwest at noon. That’s 12 hours from now.
And my fucking dog gets a hold of a skunk and gets completely, totally blasted in the face.

(Fifteen fucking minutes. That’s it. Zero to 60, as far as skid ratios go, for my world to ass-plode.)

It’s midnight and my house smells of skunk. I am not packed. I have been to the grocery store for Dawn dishwashing liquid and hydrogen peroxide (the baking soda I had). I have been standing in a hot shower, butt-nekked with my dog, rinsing out her eyes. Rinsing out her fur.

I have been butt-nekked in my garage, toweling her off. Squeezing lime juice on her.

And she still stinks.

The essence of a skunk comes from its anus gland, by the way. Which is how I feel right at the moment. Pinched by the anal gland of life. Fucked, as it were. Bent over. Backside.

I do not have time for any of this. I am livid, yet it is mixed with a sense of total wonderment, awe and – yes – humor. I’ve laughed it all off, since this is The Tension and my life is the vortex of the weather blender.

I make my own mayhem.
And I am in a world of shit.

At least I have a new ride to the airport (thank God for a wealth of true friends).
And a willing ear (and neck) to explore when I get back.

You take your loses, you stand there and take the shit life tosses at you, like the monkeys flinging shit at the zoo. You keep taking it, you keep coming back.

Because you are you.
And your dog can’t help but chase things when you’re not looking.

And life is messy.

(I’m still fuming over everything – and nothing at all.)

Give me a few. I’ll be right back…

Texas Hold 'Em

OK, OK, no.

Sometimes, it's best to keep your cards close. No peeking. No bluffing.

This is one of those times.

A guy can't spread all his secrets aross the Internets (but thanks for all the calls and text-messages seeking comment).

All I can say is that her eyes have this moonstone quality to them.
And her smile is infectious.
And she's tall.
And she smells nice.

And that's all you get.

The magical properties of household dryer lint

I've been hording dryer lint.
(But would never consider keeping belly-button lint, because that is gross).
After a load of cottons, I keep the lint.
Ball it up.
Stuff it in a 35mm film canister (yes, they still exist).

My mistake? Zippy's Disease.
I got in a rush.

I broke down and bought a new quilt (it's very nice, thank you, greens and browns and it's a Woolrich from Target).
It had this industrial smell to it. New fabric. I dunno. It didn't smell like "home."
So I washed it.
And dried it.
Man, what beautiful lint. Fluffy and clean and white.

In the backcountry, dryer lint is the tits.
For starting fires. A little dryer lint, a little tinder, a couple of sparks from a magnesium fire starter and you've got a warming fire.
So I collect the good stuff. I keep a little on hand, in the canister, to light my fires.
Backcountry camping is upon us in NorCal.
I hate being unprepared.

But Zippy's got the best of me Sunday night.
I balled the quilt lint up, but didn't take the time to get out the film canister.
I plopped it on the kitchen counter, next to the Mason jar where my pocket change goes and the wicker basket where I keep the onions and potatoes.

Dryer lint has many, many magical qualities, I've come to learn.
Expandability being the most amazing of its properties.
Tuesday, Indy the tabby cat found my little ball of lint.
The strip, when pulled from the dryer, measured 10 inches by 2 inches.
In ball form, it was the size of a cherry tomato.

I have never picked so much lint from so many places and so widespread as to make me get the broom and sweep three rooms of my house.
And there she was the entire time, curled up on her chair, the remnants of my fuzzy ball of dryer lint tucked under her chin.
Rendered unusable.
It was full of cat hair.

Back to the dryer.

Welcome to the karass

As created by Kurt Vonnegut, it means a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial linkages are not evident (thanks, Urban Dictionary).
As in, “The moment I met ThomG, I knew he was part of my karess.”
It’s a term that’s come up a couple of times in the last few days.

“Met a guy here this week in S. Taiwan, while interviewing aboriginals, who reminded me of ThomG,” Laowiseass wrote. “He knows himself, doesn't hide much from people he trusts, drives a truck, owns two dogs (plus two pigs & two children) and likes earth-tone pre-white man (Chinese man?) clothing.
“Maybe you belong to his ‘karass,’ to quote Vonnegut.”

I am fully convinced that people are put along your path for a purpose. It is your responsibility to find out why (but not in a manner that drives you nuts, or gives you an ulcer). Delicate balance. Try and find out why, but just let it happen, too. And be open to what they try to teach or impart.

I met a guy last week who I absolutely know is part of my karass.
He’s 61, Vietnam vet, ex-Hell’s Angel who has come to grips with his life. Completely knows who he is, what he wants and what it takes to get there.
Next to him, I am a rank amateur. A person who is a piece of clay in need of molding.

I interviewed him for a story. That lasted about 40 minutes. The next two hours were spent bullshitting.
He’s doing the NorCal AIDS Challenge bike ride, starting Thursday. When he’s done, three days after the ride, he’s going to have a total hip replacement. Meaning he’s going to ride 325 miles on a balky hip just to raise money for a cause he truly believes in (it’s his fourth AIDS ride; he’s raised more than $10,000 total).
“When I get going again, we’re going to ride,” he said. “We’re going to build you a bike, a single-speed, because nothing teaches you to be a better cyclist then a single-speed bike.”

And with it, he’s probably going to teach me to be a better person. In exchange, I get to teach him not to worry so much.
Pretty cool tradeoff.

And my karass grows.

Interesting reaction

So the doc called over the weekend with the results of my blood tests.
I have a moderately high cholesterol level, 225 total (180 is perfect).
That’s 46 for good cholesterol (HDL) and 148 for bad cholesterol (LDL). I know it doesn't add up, but that's the numbers he gave me.
“It’s a bit high, not horrible,” he said. “I’d stay away from red meats, cheese, salad dressings, fast foods, fried stuff, things like that.
“All-in-all, not bad. But if you have a history of heart disease of high blood pressure in the family, we may think about putting you on something to get those levels down.”
Now I’m pissed.
I thing I do a pretty good job of watching what I eat.
Except for that Jack in the Box run after the pub one night, I haven’t eaten fast food in months.
I’m drinking soy milk (jury is still out on that one) and use a little fresh olive oil and balsamic vinegar on all my salads.
Lots of chicken and fish – salmon I caught myself.
I eat fairly well.
I’m not taking any stinking pills.
I’m going to do this the right way.
The news just fortified my desire to eat well and exercise more.
Fuck cholesterol.
That's my motto.

Music soothes the savages

I didn't make it out to ride on Saturday (my apologies, Chancellor).
Too many fish (and a couple of cold ones and the pulled-pork sammich at the Billygoat Tavern in Mount Shasta).

I did, however, make it to the new music showcase (after a slight nap and a shower).
New signer/songwriters doing an all-acoustic set in front of a live audience at a packed bar.
It was totally cool.
My buddy Jim was there, just two weeks after his mom died. He dedicated a song he wrote for his wife to his mom, and mentioned that there was a couple of people in the audience that had recently lost their mothers as well, so he dedicated the song to our moms. Well, on the eve of Mother's Day, my eyes filled with tears. It's not a fun fraternity to be in, but the support system feels pretty good (and I so want to be there for Jim, when the days get the darkest).

Every single singer/songwriter was an inspiration.
It was powerful to hear these people sit in front of a packed crowd and belt out original tunes.
I decided that this was an outlet I needed to explore.
"I want to write a song with you," I said to Jim.
"You're such a good writer, that would be great, we should do it," he said.
And right there, right then, I decided what I really wanted to do was learn to play the guitar and join in.
Write songs and perform them (and I can't sing worth shit, but I think that's kind of secondary anyway).
"That's what you do when you hit a mid-life crisis, you pick up a guitar and learn how to play," Jim said jokingly during his last Klub Klondike show.
Certainly, it's not a mid-life crisis thing; it's another extension, another outlet to explore things in my life.
To be open and out there.

And speaking of open and out there, I fell in with a couple of women at the bar during the show. I didn't feel like sitting down - I was in a canoe for like five hours - so I stood and we got into some really good conversations.
I really wanted to get a telephone number from one of the women. Tall, beautiful smile, haunting blue-gray eyes. Yeah.
(And without Wing-Gal to keep me in line - she's in D.C. and promised not to cause any radical trouble while visiting - I completely forgot/ignored her last telephone conversation about meeting women at grocery stores. And bars. And Wing-Gal's implicit instructions to find someone who compliments me and my activity level. Oh, well.)
I was somewhat at a loss on how to ask one woman for her number, when the two of them came together, and were hanging out together. Maybe it wouldn't happen, but I knew enough about her that I could seek her number later (I am, after all, a journalist - and good at tracking down information).
She went to the restroom; I casually asked her friend if she was single. She is.

The evening ended. We shut down the bar. I didn't have a number, but was OK where we stood. I escorted the women to their car.
Where she presented me with a bar napkin with her number on it.
And gave me a great hug.

She drives a truck. She's educated and has a career that makes a difference.
She fishes. She hikes and backpacks. She has a bike, but admitted that she needed to dust it off.
Now, do I call today, or wait a day?

Happy Fish Day

I'm not much for tippy, two-person canoes. But that is what my buddy has to fish out of, so I didn't argue.
It was freezing when we got to the lake (hence the Nomex Cal Fire jacket).
It didn't warm up much.
But the largemouth bass I'm holding is pretty par for what we were catching (and between us, we figured we caught something like 45 fish).
Because he drove, I sprang for lunch. Burgers and fries.
Here I am, trying to pick out a good one:

Actually, there was a cattle drive on when we were leaving. All part of what makes Northern California something special.

Poetry showcase

It is impossibly, ridiculously early.
I’m going fishing.
Then I’m going for a ride.
Then a buddy is in a new songwriter’s showcase that I’m going to.
It’s a busy day.
But there will be more, later. Always more experiences for The Tension.

For now, Hilda has penned another poem, which she wanted me to post.
She’s not so sure about the last line.
Neither am I.
But it is what came out, so I respect that.

My Life as a Box of Chocolates

I've got this box
of chocolates
under my bed.

I take it out at night,
and ponder the selection.

I can't partake,
as they're all taken...
'spoken for' as they say.

My life is a box of chocolates.
Pure temptation,
and ultimate frustration.


It’s such a simple thing. One of the greatest gifts we have to give.
And one of the best to receive.
And I’m convinced that we need it, as much as we need food and water.
I bribed Kimbolina with grilled salmon (which I myself caught, cleaned and cooked), coconut rice and green beans, if she’s bring her magic fingers over and work out some kinks. Normal wear-and-tear from hiking and cycling.
She brought her massage oil and her little leg-raiser thingy (“I didn’t bring my table, it was in the closet and the legs were facing back. I couldn’t get it out without harming it, or myself,” she said).
She even brought the wine.
We ate and talked.
She took a call; I did the dishes.
And then worked me over.
My back and shoulders. My hamstrings. My hands.
“I haven’t done this in a bit, so tell me if it’s too much pressure or too little. Don’t know what I can do if it’s too little.”
It was perfect.
I’d let out a little sign or grunt, and Kimbolina would respond with one of her own (and she’s got a cute little sigh, like “uhmmmm”).
At one point, I was at that point near slumber, drooling on the sheet.
And the massage was done.
I was relaxed, happy.
I had been touched.

The ring of the telephone

“I’m at Holiday.”
“There’s a gorgeous women here. She works here.”
“Is she a redhead?”
“Nooo. But she’s got these big, beautiful eyes.”
“OK. So why are you telling me this?”
“Because! You just can’t ask women out at Safeway, that’s what I’m trying to tell you! You have to find somebody who does all the things you do, a woman who is active and wants to be out there! You have to hang out and meet women who actually do things!”

(And I’m thinking, there are several decaffeinated brands on the market that are just as good as the real thing.)

“Uh, huh.”
“Seriously, you can’t get into something like (former wife’s name here), who says one thing but does another and the next thing you know, you’ll crawl back under a rock and we won’t see you ever again! We need you around!”
“Ok, point taken.”
“OK? OK. I gotta go.”
“OK, bye.”

(Do you ever get the feeling that there's something going on that we don't know about?)

Mood people

Mood rings.
If you grew up anywhere near the 70s, you had one.
But if you think about it, everyone has a mood ring.
A circle of people who bring out certain emotions.

Side note: Here’s the color and meanings of the original mood ring (per Wikipedia):
  • Black: Stressed, tense or feeling harried
  • Brown: Tense, nervous, harassed, overworked
  • Grey: Anxious, very nervous, strained
  • Amber: A little Nervous, emotions mixed, unsettled
  • Green: Average reading. Active, not under great stress
  • Blue-green: Emotionally charged, somewhat relaxed
  • Blue: Relaxed, at ease, calm
  • Dark blue/Purple: happy, romantic, passion, in love

When I’m around Wing-gal, I’m blue-green. And she brings out the total smartass in me.

“That looks like food for good digestion,” I said as she unpacked a bran muffin with at least seven different kinds of nuts and seeds in it.
Then she pulled out a bowl of mixed fruit.
“I wouldn’t stray too far from a bathroom,” I said.
The Chancellor, picking up on this, starts in on a story.
“Stop it, no more bowel-movement talk,” she said, laughing “Talk about something different."
When I’m with her, I feel free to let the mischievous side of me come out. It's freedom. I don't know if she would agree, but it's fun to make her laugh so hard - 'cause I get to laugh even harder.

I also have a person who brings out in me some well-placed anger. She engages me, she argues with me and can get me worked up. But not in a rage kinda way. I feel the anger inside of me, we talk it out, and it’s gone.

Another friend can swing me from unsettled and slightly anxious to very relaxed and calm. This is an interesting friendship.

Another friend brings out in me total sadness.
It is as if a funk comes over, the black storm clouds of life, and you’re caught without an umbrella – for the shit-storm that’s coming.
This one’s hard to take.
It is very intense, and it’s hard to get out of.
This person doesn’t even know it.
So why hang out? Why subject myself to what I know will come, the funk and the melancholy?
Because these are valid feelings, too, and to not explore them would be … wrong.
You just have to be careful.

Everyone has this ring, this mood ring. We invite different people into our lives to explore that which is our emotional state. Realizing it makes it so much more fun to hang out.


That’s enough now.

I am thankful for dirt. And trails. And hills.

That’s enough now.

Inclines and sweat and the burn in the thighs as the steps make the pain go away.

It’s my own fucking fault. This need to rescue fucks up a perfectly sane individual. Let it go. Be there for yourself. Lend an ear. Be there. But do not rescue. Save only yourself; remember, the one - and only one - you have control over (ever so slightly).

Climbs the hills. Sweat. Don’t think. Pumps the legs.

That’s enough now.

And pray for pleas to be answered.

Not knowing the cosmic joke stinks

At some time, somewhere, Yahweh, Jehovah, Buddha, God, Allah, Jesus, somebody is going to let me in on the cosmic meaning of 12:34.

I woke to the nasty-ass stench of skunk as it wafted through my open bedroom window. Not just “passing through” skunk smell, but “I sprayed you, sucker” skunk smell.
I shut the window and looked at the clock.

12:34 a.m.

I lay back down, shut my eyes, cleared my mind and waited. I prayed that all would be revealed.
(I’m not looking for a burning bush here, or a booming voice from heaven on high, I just want to know why it seems I wake or look at the clock several times a week specifically when it’s 12:34.)

But I could hear the skunk digging and rooting around my foundation, looking for a way in (the stinky little vermin are nocturnal and love to hide in crawl spaces and the like; I have a pier-and-beam house, meaning lots of places to hid, if they can get in).
No way was I going to give shelter to skunks. Especially one that woke me from a nice sleep).

I got the BB gun.
And fired several copper BBs into various brush and tree lines (hey, it was dark, and I didn’t bring a flashlight). Nothing. No rustling, no skunk.
The smell cleared, too.
I went back to bed.
(Lest you think I’m cruel – or just an animal hater – I’m not; this is the same BB gun I got for my 12th birthday and its pretty much lost all killing-power. I have been shot with it, yes; it stings, but it's not life-threatening)

And I began to ponder – again – why 12:34 is so goddamn important.
No answers came.
Just slumber.

Outward, looking in

I really didn't know what to say.
A friend of mine penned a poem.
About me.
Basically, notes on a reawakening.
As the person explained it.
I was blown away. A bit embarassed.
Then I re-read it, and thought long and hard.
If this is the person I am, the person I project to the world, then I'm in a really good place.
And that person said I could share:

He's dashing.
Positively glowing.
Energy pulsating,
oozing from his pores.
His eyes twinkle.
He's suddenly very, very happy
with life.
With his life, actually.
He's confident, at 44, finally.
He's hitting his stride, again.
After a long journey,
through darkness and loss.
This has been a long-time coming,
and he deserves this, damnit.
The moment is finally his
to enjoy.

Send in the clowns

Clowns are bad enough.
But clowns with prickly penises?
Yikes, look out.
I seriously want one of these planters for my office desk.

Time to get serious

Headed home from a night out Saturday, I stopped to get a couple of cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
I do not need cinnamon rolls.
This I fully realize.
So they sit on my kitchen counter, ‘cause I cannot force myself to throw them away, either.
What I need to do is get my supple ass cheeks over a bike saddle.
Or up a trail.
Or slip ‘em into a kayak seat.
This I know.
And I’m off to do just that – go for a long ride with the chancellor of the Institute for Advanced Hedonism, then get cleaned up and go for a Nordic walk with the ladies (because I am their muse).
“You have to wear your backpack, too,” one said.
She’s (nagging) watching out for me, my fitness level, as well.
I fully realize what needs to be done.
I need to do more. Get up a half-hour earlier, go to bed a half-hour later.
And move.
(and move some more.)
I got picked up to climb Mt. Shasta. The climb is being comped, sponsors have been lined up.
still, it’s complicated.
I’ll be in the Midwest from May 17-29. On June 2, I’m leading a hike with dogs for a nonprofit.
The next weekend, I’m supposed to do a two-day climb on the mountain.
Time is not my friend.
And neither is my body, I’m afraid.
I have all the aches and pains of a 44-year-old who has been somewhat cavalier about the treatment of his body in the history that is me.
I’m beat to shit.
Beat down.
Beat up.
This is why I think I’ve gotten two major colds in the past three months.
It’s gotta stop.
The rolls are going to be donated to the first homeless person I run into on the way to the trailhead.
I’m going to eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day. And two healthy snacks.
I’m going to take my supplements. Every day.
I’m going to move, every single day. Rain or shine – I have new raingear, no excuses – whether I feel like it or not.
Because when I get done moving, I feel better. Fortified.
And those aches and pains will go away.

Rules of engagement (fraternize!)

There are rules.
And with these rules come opinion and analysis. Outlooks and advice (oh, chrissakes the advice).
Being newly (nearly) single is not for sissies.
(Disclaimer: technically, I am not officially divorced until Sept. 17, 2007; I however, have been given the “green light” by female friends to “date” in as much as I’m honest and open with the women I meet. I am.)

Rule No. 1: Do not sleep with any woman who is not single.
Given the recent past and personal experience with infidelity, this is an absolute. Even if that woman is dating, and that relationship isn’t really working for them. Single, unattached women. Got it.

Rule No. 2: The half plus seven rule.
This theorem, this equation, determines the youngest age of a woman I’m allowed to date (and not look like a total perv). Fourty-four divided by two plus seven is 29.
I still think, for a guy at the beginning of middle age, 29 is awful young.
Besides, selfishly, I don’t know if a 29-year-old has the life experiences I’m interested in for debate and discussion.
I will reject this one and go with my own 10-year theorum; any woman within 10 years of my age is fair game.

Opinion, analysis and advice. Oooffa. That’s where this all gets rather tricky. Especially between men and women.
Here’s how men offer advice or opinion in my situation:
“Fuckin’ anyone?”

Women want to discuss.
(Disclaimer No. 2; I enjoy each and every one of my dear, dear women friends who engage me in conversation about this; I always listen very politely to the advice. And do what is exactly in my heart to do. I’m a good guy. I trust myself to do what’s right.)

“Whatever you do, don’t just go out and screw everything that walks – just because you can.”
Ok. Totally not me, and that isn’t going to happen.

“You’re going to hate women for a good six months.”
I have a slight distaste for one woman (even still, I care for her), but I love women. That’s why I have so many of them as close confidants.
I am not damaged.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that I was in therapy already to deal with my mother’s death when the marriage blew up in my face; I just kept plugging away. Hell, I got kicked out of therapy for being “too good.”
I love women.

“Be honest, TDaddy.”
Absolutely. If you think about it, I am a commodity. I’m 44, single(ish), successful and sane. And I’m not gay.
I’m a catch (without having the big head about it, either).
Right now, I just want to hang out, have fun and keep it light with women. Doesn’t mean I’m not open to love and lust and a deeper connection with a woman.
I just want to be honest to where I’m at – and convey that openly.
What I’m saying here is don’t fucking worry about it. People worry too much. They take too much medication for worry. Chill out. I’m here for fun and friendship; let’s see what happens with that first, Ok?

And a final analysis, given to me by a very dear friend:
I scare some (most?) women.
I’m in touch with my emotions, I’m able to verbalize them, I know who I am and I know what I want. I’m a hopeless romantic and truthful as a Boy Scout. I believe in long, slow, wet kisses that last for days. Feelings? I can discuss feelings.
What’s to be scared of?
I thought women would welcome a guy like that.
This one confuses me.
It’s tricky out there.

It was Animal-Tastic

When doing live television, I think it best to fortify for the show with malt liquor.
As in a 24-ounce Old English 800 (the “Crazy 8”).
“So, Gabbo, what are you doing at, say, six o’clock?” my friend C-Lo asked as she strode up to my desk at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
(Remember, kids play dumb when it comes to questions like this.)
“Uhhhhh, I dunno. I think I’m going for a ride. What’s up?”
C-Lo hosts a 30-minute cable access channel show called Animal-Tastic. It’s live. It’s got animals. It’s 15 minutes of an interview and call-in questions, then 15 minutes of animals up for adoption at the two local shelters.
“Our guest crapped out,” she said. “You wanna do it?”
What the hell.
We’d talk about hiking and backpacking with your dog. I’d bring Trinity and her backpack. We’d talk about my book.
I’d still be at the pub by 7:45 p.m.
I went home to shower and get Trin ready.
“Uhh, how imperative is it that I bring Trin?” I called C-Lo at 5:30 p.m.
“Not at all, why?”
“She’s just puked for the second time today, and I don’t think that makes really good television.”
Fifteen minutes later – I’m just out of the shower with a half a Crazy 8 in me – C-Lo called back.
“Bring me a shot. Of anything.”
“What’s up?”
“The animals cancelled. It’s you and me. For 30 minutes.”
I can see this really going straight to hell.
So I stopped at the gas-and-sip on the way to the studio and bought another malt liquor, and a Smirnoff Ice for the host with the most, C-Lo.
We got replacement animals.
A woman who has an exotic bird rescue. She was to bring in a cockatoo and a mccaw.
I called everyone I could get on the phone and told them to witness what could be huge carnage.
And we were on.
Thirty minutes, no commercial breaks (this is, after all, cable access).
And it went great.
Until the woman with the birds came on.
First thing the cockatoo did was turn and shit down the arm of the chair.
Which made the cameramen laugh.
She handed the cockatoo to me, and she sat very nicely on my arm – and only went after my earring once.
Oh, and people kept calling my mobile all through the show. I had it on vibrate and it kept bizzing in my cargos.
“That’s a wrap,” the producer said and the cell bizzed again.
“I think we doubled the audience, we were all watching at work,” Airnboy said. “It was going great until the bird shit on the set.”
I disagree.
It was exactly the kind of thing you want to see on an animal program.
Maybe I should have brought Trin.

And while we're at it

Why is it, when I'm trying to get out the door, that two of my four pets should decide to vomit - profusely - in the living room and my bedroom?
Thank goodness for Clorox wipes.
And hardwood floors.

In crisis of concerns

I have a bedding crisis.
(OK, maybe too harsh.)
I have a bedding concern.
(I’ve got all sorts of “concerns” currently.)
I have a down comforter. For nights like last night, when it was rainy and cool and the house got into the lower 60s, it was great. Saturday night, when it was hot, I was uncomfortable.
I have a down comforter.
That’s it. Nothing else in the closet to cover up with.
I need a quilt. Or a coverlet. Or a Matelasse (WTF?).
But a quilt is about the last thing I want to drop $$$ on.
Same goes for sheets. I’ve got two sets (I finally found the other non-flannel set in a tote in the garage) of cotton sheets.
A friend said I could babysit her spare quilt, but it’s floral.
(I have nothing against flowers – big fan – but on my bed? I dunno. Kinda says I'm a little too in touch with my feminine side. Can’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right?)
It’s a stupid thing to be concerned about, but there I was yesterday scanning the Internets for hot deals on quilts.

I’ve got to get off the sauce. I’m no alcoholic by any stretch, but even a beer or a glass of wine during weekday nights hampers my ability to shape up.
I recently was asked to climb Mt. Shasta for the “Go Red for Women Campaign.” They really want me to go.
It’s June 8-9.
From May 17-29, I’ll be in the Midwest, elevation 1,201 feet above sea level – but flat. Very, very flat.
I need 15 days of altitude training – and no sauce – before I fly out.
And my expanding social circle keeps me engaged in conversation, camaraderie (and booze).
I don’t want to give up Wednesday nights at the pub. I don't want to give up going out at all.
I just have to drink water or an alternative, non-alcoholic beverage, when I'm out.
And, of course, I screwed up royally with the director of the campaign. It was explained to me as a climb for cancer. I wrote a very passionate letter on why I wanted to go (and have my climbing fees comped).
It’s a climb to bring awareness to women and heart disease.
Fuck me.
They still want me to go – sponsored and all – to write about it.
I just don’t know if I can be ready. It’s 7,000 vertical feet of climbing to the top, at 14,162 feet.

Finally, I’m about to walk into the boss’ office and lay down a mighty huge bitch.
(OK, I woke up full of piss and vinegar; I have begun to temper myself with a third cup of coffee.)
It concerns me that “we” keep trying to report the news, but include the line, “Blah Blah did not return a telephone call seeking comment.”
Oh, that bugs the living shit out of me.
Because it says to the reader, “I was too fucking lazy to actually leave the office and go seek a comment.”
I’m old school when it comes to my profession. You know, I actually interview people face-to-face. And write what they say into a cool little notebook that fits into the back pocket of your trousers.
But is it my place to bitch?
It is another concern. I’m sure the editor probably doesn’t want to hear from me that some of the reporters are lazy sots.
But then again, I’ve been doing this for 22 years now, and 10 at this newspaper.
Maybe I’m exactly the guy to speak up.

Because, you know, I create my own mayhem.

Personality, tested

I think Peas was joking, but she took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, and found that she’d make a good assassin.
I want to be an assassin.

The Myers-Briggs is a personality test that helps people track personal preferences. It was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers during World War II, and its criteria follow from Carl Jung's theories in his work Psychological Types.

I took it and I’m an ENFJ:

“ENFJs are the benevolent 'pedagogues' of humanity. They have tremendous charisma by which many are drawn into their nurturant tutelage and/or grand schemes. Many ENFJs have tremendous power to manipulate others with their phenomenal interpersonal skills and unique salesmanship. But it's usually not meant as manipulation - ENFJs generally believe in their dreams, and see themselves as helpers and enablers, which they usually are.

“ENFJs are global learners. They see the big picture. The ENFJs focus is expansive. Some can juggle an amazing number of responsibilities or projects simultaneously. Many ENFJs have tremendous entrepreneurial ability.

“NFJs are, by definition, Js, with whom we associate organization and decisiveness. But they don't resemble the SJs or even the NTJs in organization of the environment nor occasional recalcitrance. ENFJs are organized in the arena of interpersonal affairs. Their offices may or may not be cluttered, but their conclusions (reached through feelings) about people and motives are drawn much more quickly and are more resilient than those of their NFP counterparts.

"ENFJs know and appreciate people. Like most NFs, (and Feelers in general), they are apt to neglect themselves and their own needs for the needs of others. They have thinner psychological boundaries than most, and are at risk for being hurt or even abused by less sensitive people. ENFJs often take on more of the burdens of others than they can bear.”

Can I be an assassin?
Apparently not:

“Myers-Briggs personality tests correlate you with careers where harmonious, warm and friendly relationships are required. You can sacrifice your self for your duty. You love structure and order not only in your personal life but also in the surrounding world. Some of the considered careers include:

“Psychologists, Personal Consultants, Politicians, Diplomats, Social Workers, Teachers, Religious Leaders, Sales Representatives, Human Resource Managers, Event Coordinators, Writers, Comedians, Artists, Journalists, Librarians, Program Designers, Translators, Small Business Executives, Sales Managers.”

Well, at least I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.
Take the test for yourself here.