A little fiction for you

This one kind of got away from me. I tried to sleep without finishing it. I think I should have stayed up a bit longer and just finished it.

An Unremarkable Life
He wore his hair close-cropped to his head, in the style of athlete Lance Armstrong, or pop singer Rob Thomas. The gray in his hair was centered in the sideburns, which he neither kept too long or too short, and at the temples.
It was a sweet, silver-colored gray. His father, who was still alive and now dating, had a full head of silver hair – as silky and flowing as mercury – that was as distinguished a color as the silverback gorilla at the zoo. Hairstylists a third his age clamored to cut and shape his mane every three weeks.
Of course, he would lose his hair, in the end.
His mother, who also was still alive, but living in Bar Harbor, Fla., was born of a man who lost every follicle of his reddish-blond hair as a young man. And he knew that the baldness gene comes not from the pater-familiaris, but his mother’s side. And that the bald he will become will be the waxy head kind of bald, with a tight, sculpture-garden weave of hair a half-inch to the top of his left ear around the crown of his head to one-quarter above the right ear - a defect not detected unless he wears the new Invisaline bifocals – in the new, hip Oakley titanium frames – and you can see that his ears are misaligned and the glasses list to the right and expose the right eyebrow, still yet impervious to the advance of the gray.
He does not grow his beard anymore in the winter months; it now comes in white and feeble-looking, like the men who play chess at the YMCA and bitch about the tepid coffee served in little Styrofoam cups, with powdered creamer, imitation sugar in pink packets and cheery-red stir-sticks.
He opts for the under-chin goatee, what the French would call a “petite goatee” or “chin scruff” sported by skate punks and certain, pimple-faced grocery baggers.
On him, he thought, it looks regal, more like Freud than the greasy grocery clerk, who still can’t seem to tell the difference between paper and plastic, even though you bring your own African-weave, Earth-friendly cotton handbag to the store as a show of consciousness and shit.
That’s OK. He’s trying to “fit in.” Be part of what he hopes is a global community, in an “it takes a village” moment.
The bagger neither smiles, nor nods, nor acknowledges his existence – in so much as a Frege-Brentano view of life, you know, logic, for logic’s sake.
Or, more succinct, he is part of the existential quantifier, which asserts the existence of some object with certain properties. He is a man. He is wise.
He is a wise man.
Secretly, however, he yearns to be an existentialist.
He wants nothing more than to create his own meaning, his own essence of life.
And skip the absurd.

Thought for the day

Sorry, kiddies, but I have a huge case of Zippy's disease.
I'm trying desperately to leap back into my life, after having it on hold for two weeks. All that nervous, anxious energy propels me forward. Into the office, to see what carnage awaits me there. Feeling bad for the carnage that's still at home.


Anyway, this passage is haunting me (OK, maybe not haunting, but I keep thinking about it). I read it recently.

"Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

Agree or disagree?
Please discuss, or give me your thoughts.

Kill your television

I hate TV.
I mean, I watched my fill here in the Heartland, and I realized that a full 90 percent of what’s on is crap.
And I know there are people out there who plan their lives around television shows. Or they have a digital recorder and record every steaming turd out there.
Reality television is truly the worst.
And yet, I found myself watching “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila” twice. It’s like a car wreck; you want to see the broken glass, the carnage.
I’m so ashamed.

Yes, there have been – and always will be – television that engages and entertains. “Twin Peaks?” Brilliant. “Arrested Development?” It started out OK, but lost steam fast. “Lost?” First season was great; now, I can’t even watch.

There is one show that I kind of wish I would have seen since the beginning: “Pushing Daises.” I was getting ready to go to the pub and caught a bit of this show. It’s quirky, the writing is top-notch and it has some weirdness.
But I’m certainly not going to change my life to see it.
I can always order it from Netflix.
See you in the out-of-doors, not in front if the idiotbox.

The swing of the pendulum

I’ve reached the point in this vacation where the pendulum has begun to swing toward all the shit I left behind.
And the worry.
And the confusion.
I actually don’t feel any trepidation in going back. I’ve had a great visit with first sister and really didn’t do much. I relaxed. I let my body heal. I ate and drank what I wanted to eat and drink and slept and just vegged. It was exactly what I needed.

A note on the pendulum; I can’t get caught in an extreme swing when I get back to Cali. I need to see my life with eyes wide open. I don’t need to make any decisions – I’ve already promised myself that I wouldn’t make any sudden moves until the first of the year, as it looms out there anyway – since there are things that need to happen for me to move forward anyway.
There are the little things I need to sort out. Things to do for myself and for others. For my happiness and sanity.

This latest swing through the Midwest (and the chance to step out of my life in Cali) has brought up an idea: I seem to be waiting for something. My next life, whatever.
And I can’t wait for something to happen.
I need to make things happen.
Which I will begin.
When I’m back.

Things to do in Iowa

Top 10 Things to do in Iowa in late November:

10. Eat things with lots of butter and cream that have their roots in Europe (more Spatzle? Hell, why not).
9. Drink.
8. Watch On-Demand movies.
7. Never go outside, because it's cold out (I didn't leave the house for two days).
6. Go outside, but pass from the warm car to a warm place, like a cafe to eat something with butter and cream, or to a bar and drink or to a movie theater to watch movies.
5. Read. I've just picked up Winson Groom's "Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans;" I finally finished "The Terror" by Dan Simmons (and was mildly disappointed).
4. Drink.
3. Watch television, even if it's drivel like "America's Next Top Model" or America's Most Smartest Model" or - GASP! - "I Love New York 2" and actually begin to care who goes and who stays (Heather, Assburgers or not, is creepy and should go).
2. Turn on the gas fireplace, sit in front of it and torture the cat.
1. Go to a political rally. See actual candidates running for president (You can't go anywhere without seeing a candidate; Dennis Kucinich offered to pump our gas at the Kum & Go), and get your picture taken with front runner Hillary Clinton:

Horoscope (what does it all mean)?

"Don't let your emotions lead you in the wrong direction. Let go of the past and stop trying to turn a situation into something it is not. Make things happen that are positive and forward-thinking."

Pretty neat, huh? That's my horoscope for Saturday.
As much as I like it - as much as it is positive - I have no idea what it truly means.

I still wish a burning bush or the skies would part and a voice would boom and lead me forward.

Be thankful for change, challenges

She has no clue how powerful and successful and beautiful she is.

She has questions. Dilemmas. Challenges to face.
She, like me, is 44 years old and stands on the edge of life changes she cannot fully comprehend. She cannot see past the hurt, the anger, the pain – the absolute confusion – to what she will become.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” - Anatole France

This is not an advice column. I can’t see my future, either. There are days that are filled true angst. True fear that drives all sorts of black thoughts. Demons that send us to places where we need not tread. Because to tread there is a waste of time.

“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive - the risk to be alive and express what we really are.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

In America, it is Thanksgiving. I give thanks for family and friends. For being on the edge of the precipice and not being able to see where I might land, if I take The Leap of Faith.

But be strong. Be fearless.
Find strength in my arms, my embrace; use it to go forward into the darkness, where the path is overgrown and the trail narrows.

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your reactions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trust, mostly, in yourself. Your strength.
The you in you.

“If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.” – Author Unknown

Even more Fiction in 58

First sister has put a moratorium on my blogging from Iowa. Restrictions.
"You can't blog about me."
I am in Iowa, where it threatens to snow. Low, gray clouds hang across the prairie and the wind's water content chills exposed flesh.
OK, I won't blog about the fams. Even thought it is Thanksgiving and where else can a writer mine so much rich human condition than surrounded by one's own DNA?
(I think I'm the most well-adjusted of the bunch, just so you know. We're all doomed.)

Here's a little Fiction in 58. I wrote it in a coffee shop, waiting for my niece's car to get an oil change (gotta earn my keep).

At Heart's Hope
The wind never stops.
It is, after all, a cemetery. Low headstones, wind-swept lawn, plastic flowers.
A place for the lost.
The grieving. The mourned out.
It’s an odd place to discover love.
But it happens. More than you know.
“I’m taking her to the Knights of Columbus breakfast,” he says with a wink. “After mass, of course.”

Photographic proof of a good time

The Loneliest Road in America, Highway 50, takes us east into Nevada

The shoe tree is outside of Fallon. Toss a pair yourself. There was a deer leg on it.

The truck, loaded down for a great road trip.

The Hot Springs Ranch at sunrise.

Man soup.

This photo does not do justice to Saturday's sunset.

A fun time was had by all. His new nickname is "Painted Desert."

"Are we there yet?"

Nevada smells like ass.
It gets better.
But Reno, Sparks, Fernley, Fallon, man there’s ass in the air.
“Dude, the water tastes like ass,” J-Zone said in Fallon.
(A note on Fallon: the town’s motto is “Oasis of Nevada;” I’ve been to an oasis once, and Fallon ain’t it. The motto should be, “Fallon, We got hit by the Ugly Stick. Twice.)
We’re in Fallon, truck laden with camping equipment and gear, to hook up with two teams from Sacramento to road trip into the desert. To soak in natural hot springs. To abuse our livers. To relax with friends.
“Where is this place?” The Warden asked.
I have no clue. In the desert. Take Highway 50 – “The Loneliest Road in America” – for 300 miles and take a right. Go 10 more miles and you’re there.
We were in the truck for nine hours, traveling at an average speed of 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers for our metric friends).
We were deep into Nevada.
Road trips with friends are so cool. I’d forgotten just how bad a car full of your friends can be. Tunes, coffee, Rock Star (triple strength; I asked the boys to not let me have another, as I started having visions), stories.
Men, together, are bad.
Very bad.
We travel down this impossibly long stretch of asphalt, and finally, the lead truck turned on his signal.
And in 10 miles down a dirt road (and a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons) we’re at the ranch.
And the air is clear and cool and the sunset is beautiful. Stream rises from the springs.
And the air smells not of ass, but sage and dust and promise.

Attention to Detail Disorder

It’s an annoying habit. Probably. It doesn’t bug me so much, but it can really cheese off your friends.
Your female friends.
I’m an observer. Not a casual observer.
I look around, in most normal situations. Even if I’m talking to you, right to your face, I’ll break contact to look around.
OK, that’s probably really annoying.
But add a situation where there’s a lot of women walking around, and I’m just fucking lost.
And I can’t help it.
“Having a little trouble concentrating there?”
I was trying to listen to the conversation. I really was.
But the pub was filled with women who took full advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to break out all their cute tops. Spaghetti-strapped shirts. Low-cut blouses. Tank tops.
One woman had on what I can only describe as a tube top, black, that showed off her shoulders (I am a sucker for shoulders).
And no bra.
I am not dead. I looked.
“Man, it’s like having two sisters sitting at the table with you. Sucks to be you!”
Embarrassed, I vowed to concentrate on the conversation. And the woman in the tube top, black, that showed off her shoulders (did I mention that she was tall and had dark hair?) stood at the top of the stairs – in my direct line of site – to make a mobile call. She leaned on the wall and swept one of her long legs in front of the other.
“OK, I can’t help it. Not when they do stuff like that. I gotta look.”
“Do you need to sit over here? There are only guys out this way.”
“You can have one look. Soak it all in. Go ahead.”
Christ, it was just like having your sisters at the table.
Boots went so far as to draw the woman on a bar napkin. The Queen gave her a telephone number to give me. We all gave her name. Nikki.
“With two Ks.”
“And an I.”
I got the napkin, as a souvenir from the evening. It’s on my bulletin board. A reminder.
That I have an annoying habit.
I suffer from Attention to Detail Disorder.
So help me God.

Some fiction for your Wednesday

As long as I couldn't sleep, I might as well use that time to finish a little piece of fiction that's been troubling me. I didn't know how the hell to end this.
It came to me about 3 a.m.
Why was I up? I tore a muscle in my arm. Playing softball. Wicked bruise, from my wrist to well past my elbow. And it makes it hard to find a place to tuck my hurt wing and get any sleep.

Anyway, I finally finished this piece. Hope you like it.

The fountain cups of discontent
Frosties are the worst. Especially if they’ve been left to melt some, so you get warm froth – and a freezing center.
And it’s a bitch to get out of natural fibers. A pea coat. Jogging suit. Hell, even the ubiquitous T-shirt and jeans, for chrissakes.
I’ve taken to wearing Gore-Tex rain gear these days. Hood up, too. Better to be safe than sorry, I say.
Especially when you get pelted with fountain drinks.
On a somewhat regular basis.
Funny, it’s never a can or a bottle.
Fountain drinks. Always the fountain drink. Waxed-paper cup, or maybe one of those flimsy plastic cups from the nearest mega fast-food palace. Lids, straws, ice and a mixture of high-fructose corn syrup, flavor enhancers, citric acid – a lot of times caramel coloring – and simple carbonated water.
The mixture of high-fructose corn syrup to carbonation is called the brix, look it up. Or Degrees brix. The measurement, the mass ratio, of dissolved sucrose to water in a liquid state. It’s measured in the lab with a saccharimeter.
In the real world, it’s measured by the width of your ass, as you waddle from the convenience store with one of those flimsy, wax-covered cups.
Soft drinks. As opposed to hard drinks. A soft drink - or soda, pop or fizzy drink, as it is referred to in England - is differentiated from a hard drink because it has no alcohol in it.
Just lots and lots of high-fructose syrup. A corn derivative. The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi both made the switch to HFCS, as it is known in the biz, in 1984.
It’s good to know your enemy.
Since fountain drinks are my sudden rain showers. And in my world, it rains several times a week. The high has been 17. The low, three. The average is 12.
I once was pelted with 27 fountain drinks - and one Frosty - at a high school basketball game. They had to send the janitor - with his yellow bucket and yellow cones with the little red stick-figure man slipping embossed on them - to clean up the mess.
“Boy, what the fuck are you thinking?” he said as I stood and watched. And got hit with the Frosty. The tannish-brown, bubbly glob just ran off the red Gore-Tex coat like a slug moves across concrete.
Clear is good. Clear comes out in the wash. Your Sierra Mists, your 7Ups – the Un-Cola, you know. Colas, if left longer than 30 minutes will leave a major stain, and will begin to eat through the copper studs in your jeans. Trust me, I know.
Root beer is unexpected, old-school. It is sticky.
So are those new “flavored” teas.
“I’ll order the tea,” you think, being all healthy and shit. When you might as well swallow a bag of sugar.
Milkshakes and frozen, carbonated drinks have their own category. Their own set of problems.
Milk solids rot and stink in natural fibers. Something to do with the lactic acid or something. Don’t get to a milkshake soon, and you’ll stink. I had to toss a nice London Fog overcoat because of a Jack in the Box Andes® Crème de Menthe shake once.
Hence, the Gore-Tex. The nice stuff, too. Mountain Hardwear, $500 worth of protection.
Frozen novelty drinks, your Tastee-Freeze, Slurpee, the venerable Icee, aren’t so bad. Unless any of the frozen drink finds a crease. A bit of Slurpee Fanta Orange Cream is cold and wickedly gross as it travels down your back.
Trust me, I know. I’m an expert on fountain drinks large and small.
Yeah, I bring it on myself.
Because around my neck, protected as it is by the Gore-Tex, is a sign, printed neatly front and back.
And it says,
“Fuck You”

This one's for mom

The second anniversary of my mother's death is Sunday.
I'll be in the middle of the Nevada desert, howling at the moon with friends.
I wanted to post this on the anniversary, but it's good no matter the date.
She knows she is in my heart.
I know she taught me to be the best person I can be.

I wrote this right after her death.

Lessons learned from a life guided by grace, humor and dirt
True, it was my father who taught me how to fish; but it was my well-manicured mother who showed me that dirt was good.
No, she didn't set me outside, pat my bottom and say, "go forth and make a mess." I was self-taught, a quick study.

She did grant me the latitude to figure out that these things are good: bare feet from March through November; fishing for bullhead with rotten chicken livers swung from a cane pole; campouts with friends along drainage ditches, where for dinner we'd steal watermelons and sweet corn from a farmer's field (what she didn't know never hurt her); and trees - most species - are for climbing.

All lessons absorbed on how life is supposed to be conducted (for me, anyway).

She also taught me to play hard, but play fair. Work past my potential, and have fun doing it. Be honest, be direct - and have a great sense of humor. Jump into everything feet-first, without hesitation. Be fiercely loyal to those around you who matter.

She also taught me that life isn't fair.

My mother, MarciaG, died at 1:45 p.m. on Nov. 18.

It was not, I am certain, the death she envisioned - in a hospital bed on a terminal arc from the complications of chemotherapy. My mother was an intensely private person. She didn't like people to make a fuss.

By the time I reached Nebraska, she was on a ventilator. As I entered her ICU room, she immediately tried to talk past the tube in her throat. The nurse and my dad said it was the first time she had responded to anyone all day.

"I can assure you she's chewing my butt right now for being here," I said. "Waste of a perfectly good airline ticket when she thinks everything is going to be OK."

The nurse and my dad looked at each other, smiled and dad said, "You know, he's probably right."

But everything was not OK. The side effects from that final chemo treatment were devastating - it killed all of her germ-fighting white blood cells. She developed pneumonia in her lungs and a yeast infection in her blood. Then her kidneys quit. We began to prepare for the worst.

As private as she was, my mom also was a huge, bubbling personality. She was the keeper of all the family stories - she told them so magnificently that my older sister wet her pants once (as an adult) - and she always had a new joke to share. My brother-in-law, tears streaming down his cheeks, said he would miss mom's e-mails; "How great is it to get off-color jokes from your mother-in-law?"

At her funeral - attended by some 300 people - Father spoke of how the G home - when her five children were little - was the epicenter of fun for all the neighborhood kids.

"It was a place to gather," he said, "but it was also a place where you knew the rules. Marcia kept a tidy home, and expected it to remain that way."

Clean and tidy, yes, but here was a woman who knew of my affinity for dirt - and indulged in the habit. Across the harsh winters of my youth, she kept two ice cream buckets full of rich Nebraska soil under the kitchen sink. I could dump those buckets on our newspaper-covered kitchen table and play to my heart's content - as long as I kept the dirt off the floor.

Yeah, she ran a strict house, aside from my dirt fetish. But she often had no clue what we did out-of-doors (nor did we tell her until the statue of limitations - we had all reached college age - ran out). "I'm surprised you all made it out of your teenage years," she often remarked.

One fall day, my brother and I were raking leaves when we got the bright idea to make huge construction-paper airplanes, light them ablaze, and fly them into the piles. Just as my brother let one flaming aircraft go, my dad walked out onto the porch and yelled, "What the hell do you think you're doing?!?"

I had slipped around the corner - lighter in my hand - through the garage and quietly sat down in our family room.

"Did you see what your brother was doing out there?" my dad bellowed.

"Nope," I said. "What did he do now - and how are you going to punish him?"

In those finals days, all her favorite stories where recounted - through laughter and tears.

While she could no longer tell them herself, she figured out a way to communicate volumes. With her eyes, her eyebrows, shrugs and nods, she let us know that everything was going to be fine. Even after she chose to forgo dialysis and succumb to the inevitable.

Her two journalists, first sister and I, were telling her an unbelievable (but true) catty story on the morning she died - my sister, while now a college professor, is still a pretty good storyteller - and I watched as mom followed along with the story. Yet her eyes were locked on my face. For an instant, I must have looked worried, stricken, for she tilted her head...

And winked.

I laughed. Then I cried. And I knew I was all right - and will remain so.

For I am my mother's son; and she left me with one more story to share.

A downsizing life

I’ve been busy, downsizing.
Thanks to the folks at the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento, who will have a truck in my neighborhood on Tuesday, I can jettison a lot of crap that has accumulated over the past 11 years.
I get rid of stuff.
For charity.
There’s a certain good synergy to that, I think. And I’ve not been shy about boxing things up. Sentimental ties or not, I’m clearing the decks. Of a whole lot of just stuff.
Why? It just gets me one step closer to the next chapter of my life. The next big thing.
I’ve taken a lot of words to heart, a lot of deeds, too, and truly see the good in being this close to being so unencumbered with stuff to be able to jump at a moment’s notice. To do and be whatever I want to be.
There’s a certain freedom is bagging up sweaters you never wore – and never intend to wear – along with spare house ware and various knick-knacks.
I cleaned the drawers of papers and all the stuff that gets stuffed in drawers. I’m taking a break before moving to the garage.
To find more stuff to shed.
Like a skin of a snake.
In order to grow.

Tales from the beer league

Such a simple trickle; a line, from eye to just under the chin, hat looked like it was painted by brush.
Except it wasn’t. The blood flowed from a cut. A gash no more than three-quarters of an inch. But right on the eyelid, just below where her eyebrow curved.
A violent collision. The result of the carnage when two people – people, mind you – smash together from 60 feet. On a dead run. Head-to-head.
The impact sounded sick and wet, like an unripe cantaloupe tossed at a cement wall.
Softball really isn’t for sissies.
Friday’s game was complete carnage for Team Carmargo.
The Queen of Valkyries cut her eye in the collision with Huskerette (who suffered a severe cheek bruise – “That’s going to be one helluva shiner, huh?” – and a small cut across her cheek) going after the same pop fly.
“My head hurts,” the Queen said.
It should.
(We will only mention here, in passing, that she also suffered a wicked rug burn to the ass on the play as well.)
“You’ll need stitches,” the field manager said.
“She doesn’t need stitches,” a teammate said. “ThomG, what do you think?”
A butterfly bandage and maybe some Superglue. A doctor might have put one stitch in, maybe.
(I applied the butterfly tape myself. We'll chat later today to look at the Superglue option.)
Huskerette also suffered a nasty strawberry on her knee and an attempt to round third, only to take a tumble on the slick rubber surface.
Our Man in the Outfield, who suffered like 18 stitches in the first game after being hit by a line drive to the mouth, took a softball to the head. The stitches of the ball were tattooed red welts on the silver-dollar-sized knot.
In what I can only describe as the most unluckiest of plays I think I’ve ever seen.
He hit a solid line drive and was headed to third and decided to slide. The catcher had the ball on an attempt to stop a runner at home, and threw a rocket to third. Just as he began his slide, the ball caught him right in the forehead.
Had he not slid, the ball would have hit him in the chest; had he started the slide a millisecond sooner, the ball would have sailed high and into left field.
“At least I got a home run out of it.”
We lost, 18-12.
“But it was a good loss; I feel good that we scored 12 – and had a couple of good rallies,” Blind P Willie said.
As for me? I have a severely strained muscle in my left arm. I feel lucky (and sore mostly all over, but I have discovered liquid gelcap ibuprofen. Yummy.)
People actually pay for the privilege to do this.
Softball is really not for sissies. And beer drinking is nearly mandatory. Pitchers of the stuff, just to anesthetize the aches and pains.
We shut the place down.
“If you can actually feel good about that,” Blind P said.

Know before you judge

So much junk hung off the bike, it wasn't for riding. Just pushing. And through the downtown streets of my hometown, Herman R. Jeseph - everyone just called him "Buster" - pushed his bicycle heaped full of junk in all weather conditions. He wore cast-off clothing - layers upon layers - and always wore a cap. He was unshaven most days and smelled of harsh tobacco that he hand-rolled into cigarettes.

Buster was my hometown's Official Bum.

He, as my mother loved to say, "Just decided one day to drop out." In the world of my youth, Buster was a huge question mark.

He remains so, to this day.

My hometown had and still has about 23,000 residents. A farming community, mostly. In town today, homeless people hold up signs on well-traveled corners, smoke cigarettes and huddle against the elements and residents tend to look away.

But in my youth, everyone accepted Buster, our Designated Homeless Person, for exactly who he was.

A man. Without a traditional home.

When the weather turned cold and in eastern Nebraska, winter temperatures routinely drop into the minus category the jailers would leave the back door open to the courthouse, where Buster would curl up on a broken-down recliner someone rescued from a county office.

Business owners never complained to the city council, to my knowledge, of Buster's circular movements through the wide-sidewalked downtown (this was before Wal-Mart opened a SuperCenter on the east side of town, but downtown continues to hold its own, thank God).

No one cursed at him, spat at him, or even shunned their eyes as he passed.

Not in my recollections. People - from shop owners to police officers - were instead fiercely protective.

They asked how he was doing, or asked about some new trophy that seemed to collect on a series of ancient bicycles he bought at the Salvation Army. I remember scuffed boots that hung from the handlebars like fuzzy dice; the series of busted lawnmowers he cleverly had in tow.

I saw it all because I spent much of my adolescence downtown. The junior high school was a block from the start of Main Street; my mother worked for an architect who rented offices above a women's clothing store. It was the same store where at 13 years old I got my first job cleaning toilets, emptying waste baskets and changing the ballasts in fuzzy fluorescent lights.

A couple of years later, I moved two storefronts down to the jewelry store, where I engraved watches, silver wedding plates and Optimist of the Year trophies. One year, I engraved it "Opomist of the Year," which led my boss an Optimist himself to lament, "I'm optimistic you can get that corrected today." Downtown stores stayed open late on Thursdays, which meant I worked late, too. During dinner breaks, I'd cross the street to the pharmacy, which had one of those cool, old soda fountains (it's now a stereo shop).

Most evenings, there sat Buster, drinking a cup of coffee and eating a hot bowl of Campbell's Ham and Bean soup. The steam would rise into Buster's weather-beaten features, and his nose would run into the soup Drip by Drip by Drip.

Yet, no one was repulsed, especially the counter help. They asked how he was doing, poured him another cup of coffee. No one ever put a compassioned hand on his shoulder, however. He hated to be touched.

Once, and I wasn't a witness, but it's a pretty good story, a well-to-do woman in the community walked into the place with her boots clicking on the hard tile.

"You sound just like a cowboy on a wooden sidewalk," Buster bellowed from the counter.

Not missing a beat, the woman, who I will not name, replied: "Watch out, Buster, or I'm gonna ride off with your bike!"

Another interesting observation on Buster's eating habits - he never touched anything with his hands. He loved those chocolate-covered Easter bunnies and Santa Claus figures. He'd cut a chunk off with a knife, scoop it up with a spoon, dunk it into his coffee and plop it into his mouth. Soup crackers were dispatched in much the same manner, except he would stick the salty square into the soup with his spoon then retrieve it whole into his mouth, where it would slowly disappear, much like a wood planer works.

Buster's life and times intrigued me through high school. How, without a job, a place to live or the march to accumulate all the latest must-have items the rest of us coveted (in the late 1970s and early 80s, it was Atari game systems, eight-track tape players and digital watches), he made pocket change certainly enough to live on from society's cast-off junk.

Senior year, I got up the nerve to interview Buster for the school paper. He was wary, I remember, but answered my questions. He was born and raised in Fremont. He had kin, but not a wife or children.

I never worked up the nerve to ask why he was "homeless." I inquired of my mother a few years ago if she still had the clipping I was curious about. She told me that was a million words ago.

Buster's gone now, he died in 1984 at the age of 73. For a time, the courthouse displayed his bike, just as he left it at the Union Pacific Railroad depot where he passed, in a glass case. One year, the bike was put on view during the fair parade. The words on the float said, "We miss you, Buster." And so it came to pass that a whole town celebrated one homeless man.

What's the point? Nothing really.
Just celebrate who you are.
And celebrate those around you.
'Cause you never know what you might learn.

ThomG's Guide to Moody People

“You're just no fun to play with at the moment … So I'm just going to give you some space. I'm just sort of a puppy, and I need fun people to play with. If you're not playing, you're no good to me…”

Some people, sheesh.
They don’t know, or see, a mood when they see one. Or can’t fathom why anyone with so much going for them (HA!), has a dark cloud hanging over their head from time to time.
I am talking about the moody person.
(Of which I happen to be.)
I hereby present “ThomG’s Guide to Moody People:”

First off, we can’t help it. Most of us Moodies tend to wear our emotions out. This is messy. Throw in a mood, and it just gets, well, like a Jackson Pollock painting.
The dictionary defines mood as, “A state or quality of feeling at a particular time; a prevailing emotional tone or general attitude; a state of sullenness, gloom, or bad temper.”
A mood is different from an emotion. This is what Wiki has to say about mood:
“A mood is a relatively lasting emotional or affective state. Moods differ from emotions in that they are less specific, often less intense, less likely to be triggered by a particular stimulus or event, however longer lasting. Moods generally have either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people often speak of being in a good or bad mood. Unlike acute, emotional feelings like fear and surprise, moods generally last for hours or days. Mood also differs from temperament or personality traits, which are even more general and long lasting. However, personality traits (e.g. Optimism, Neuroticism) tend to predispose certain types of moods. Mood is an internal, subjective state, but it often can be inferred from posture and other observable behaviors.”
(Yeah, whatever. Moodies are independent and tend to have very highly-evolved brains, mostly in the frontal lobe. And are very sexy, too.)

Moodies are not bad people. We are not frightening. Just misunderstood.
We tend to like small gifts, including, but not limited to, candies, burned music from others’ CD libraries, fresh coffee, books, scented candles, lunch and the occasional pint of Guinness.
You should never attempt to run from a Moodie. Make slow, deliberate motions. If you must, walk away slowly. Throw in a couple of air kisses. Promise to go and get the Moodie a Rock Star or other energy drink.
And agree with everything a Moodie has to say. Shake your head in the affirmative a lot. Don’t butt in when the Moodie is on a rant; wait for your turn (Moodies will run out of oxygen at some point) and interject things like, “Yeah, she’s a real bitch,” or “Those fuckers don’t know what they have in a person like you.”
(Yes, by all means, swear around a Moodie; it makes us feel empowered and may lead to gleeful giggling.)
Above all, let Moodies wallow in whatever mood they are in. Wait five minutes, maybe 10. The mood will change.
But always play with us. We’re really quite cuddly, mostly.

Please Stand By

It was this, or nothing.
There was a post here about cowards who feel the need to stab a friend in the back (conveniently, when she's not around) to make sense of their own puny careers.
There was no point. There was nothing to gain.
So, intermission.

That's my theory, anyway

“Oooof, uhhh, shit!”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I feel like an old man, trapped in a young man’s body.”
“You’ve got a young man’s body?”
“OK, a body with a young man potential.”

You know you are getting older when you need to gingerly load your ass into your truck, because your own glut muscles are still screaming at you from Friday’s softball game.
Who knew softball was such a rough-and-tumble sport?
Who knew that at 44, I would have so many aches and pains?
Hell, if I knew it was going to be this bad, I would have treated my body much, much better in my 20s.
There’s a lot that hurts on me. And it is totally my fault.
And makes for a good time to review.
Not the aches and pains part; start with my head and work down to my toe, yep that hurts.
But where I stand with a little challenge to get to 199 pounds by Jan. 1, 2008.
Not very close.
OK, it's not that bad.
I weight 221 pounds.
I may not make it, especially with the holidaze coming up.
Yes, it is my own fault. I let a lot of stress strain my muscles. Too many days when by when I could have been sucking free endorphins, but was curled up in a fetal position in a darkened room trying not to feel sorry for myself (it wasn’t exactly that bad, but writer’s license and all).
I ate a lot of bad shit. And I ate a lot right before bedtime (you want to know how Sumo wrestlers get so huge? They eat massive amounts of food, then go to sleep).
I am here to say I’m back on the wagon. I’m back working out every day. Eating right, passing up the donuts and the bowls of candy at work (even though there are Milk Duds in the bowl and wow, Milk Duds are near impossible to say no to).
I probably won’t make 199. Even in Wyoming's backcountry, expending energy like it was going out of style, my weight began to stabilize at 212.
And that’s all I’m looking for.
The interesting thing about the body is, if you exercise more than you eat, your body will come up with – on its very own – its correct weight. That’s the cool thing here. No diet pills or books or Thighmasters or any of that. Eat right, eat balanced and exercise. And your body will automatically find its correct weight.
That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

Accidental fiction in 58

So I was having coffee with a friend and the following conversation happened. I got home and typed it up, it was so good. For shits and grins, I did a word count. Honest to God, it came in at 58 words.
Karmic, I think.
So it's not exactly fiction, but it does goes to show you that all great conversations are always better than any dialogue you care to make up.

Trouble with Canadians
“I don’t think she likes me, anyway.”
“Why is that?”
“I think maybe it’s because she’s Canadian.”
“Canadians, I think, tend not to like me.”
“That’s a pretty big country to piss off, don’t you think?”
“Well, maybe not all Canadians. Just female Canadians. I think maybe I’m too loud for them.
“So, there you go.”

Pets behaving badly

Transcript from an actual mobile telephone call:
“Ahhh, if you’re coming home, don’t use the front door. One of the animals made a mess in front of it.”
“What, crap, vomit?”
“Ahhh, that I don’t know.”
OK, the question is like asking a bachelor to chance a baby’s diaper.
But you gotta know what you’re walking into. Especially with pets.
Feenst has been here all of about two weeks and has been witness to every sorry-assed, disgusting, urpy detail of pet ownership.
Second day here, Scully decided to eat something she shouldn’t in the yard. A snail. And had a massive attack of diarrhea in her kennel.
Let’s just say uncooked escargot is a smell best left for wide open – and well-ventilated – spaces.
Between them, I think the cats have puked at least a half-dozen times. Hairballs, whatever.
Then there’s the cat’s ability to open doors and drawers.
“I was coming out of the bathroom and Indy was walking around and every cabinet door in the kitchen was open,” he said.
“Yeah, they both think it’s fun.”
I’m sure I’ve put him off pet ownership. For a very long time.
Transcript from another conversation:
“Did you know that one of your cats got in your bathroom and ripped up a roll of toilet paper?”
“I didn’t. Was it your bathroom?”
“No, yours. That’s what’s so weird. I saw that the door was open and looked in, and the cat had opened the cabinet door and got a roll of toilet paper out and just destroyed it.”
Yep, sounds like my cats.
New roll of toilet paper, individually wrapped.
Bastards kicked the shit out of it.
“At least when I let the dogs out, they go out and don’t do anything,” he said.
In a comforting voice. But one not seduced to actually get a pet.

Little Rabbit Fru-Fru

A crisp, cool night. Half a moon to illuminate the neighborhood. A frosty beverage and a comfortable chair to enjoy it in.
It was Halloween night, and sitting in a chair in the lawn is just asking for trouble.
But since most of the neighbors are Christian types, their children weren’t running around the neighborhood begging for candy (they were at Harvest Festivals at churches, copping feels with the "bad girls" in the janitor’s closet).
(I kid).
Just in case, I had a garbage sack filled with canned goods – none dented – to hand out to all manner of greedy little aberrations. And really, what parent can’t appreciate a can of dolphin-safe albacore tuna packed in water, or a can of low-sodium garbanzo beans for their sucrosed-out little monsters?
Anyway, the girls and I were taking in the world, daydreaming really, when a bunny came hippity-hopping into the yard.
Not a wild bunny.
But a domesticated, lop-eared, white bunny with black spots.
Trin stared at me with a look of shock and awe and let her pink tongue roll over her canines.
Who was I to quash thousands of years of instinct?
She took off like a white, heat-seeking missile. And so did the bunny – toward the other neighbor’s house. And disappeared.
Trin was perplexed. Hell, I was perplexed. Rabbit just up and vanished.
The neighbor came out for a smoke, and I asked her if she had seen the rabbit (I know, strange opening question, but it’s a strange life).
“You know, it’s been hanging around for about a month.”
You gotta hand it to this bunny.
Granted, bulldozing and then paving 24 acres of wooded field has probably tipped the predator/prey continuum, but I live near the river. There are hawks and owls and feral cats and coyote and fox and God knows what else out there looking for an easy kill.
Like a little white, lop-eared bunny with black spots.
“Hell, I can’t even get close to it,” the neighbor said. “Cute little thing, though.”
So of course now I’m totally rooting for the rabbit to stick around.