Hiatus

I'm on vacation.
In the wilderness (or soon will be).

More when I get back.
Much, much more.
In the meantime, peruse the archives, won't you?

Got your goat

"For .22s, they make what's called rat shot. It's not a very powerful load. Then I went out and popped all my goats in the butt with it, to get them back into their pen. Now all I have to do is (claps his hands together, loud) and they run back to their pen. You feel like a deity, very God-like."

You can't go wrong with a good goat story.
Or two.
Because everyone thinks goats are cute.
They are, but they're much more.

Went to a pity/birthday party Saturday night for a friend. She just turned 40 and had surgery to repair her shoulder. Drinks, dinner, great conversation.
Much of it centered on goats.
Well, for a time there, late, we were listening to our professor friend tell us about all his goat adventures.
It was hilarious.
He's taking a sabbatical and moving. And taking two horses, five dogs (not one a herder), a llama and four goats with him.
"I dunno about the hornless one. Bastard. He can jump 4-foot fences."
He told us about trying to catch the bastard, hornless goat with a noose near the horse pen.
"I don't want to talk about it. There are scars on my arm. He drug me through the horse pen."

His neighbor was excited when he brought the goats home.
"Goats!" he said. "But after a while, they weren't so excited. The goats keep eating their pot plants."
Goats eat anything.
"You're right, just like locusts. Bark off the trees, everything."
And it is hard to keep them contained.
"I went through a ton of money with electric fences. They decided they could take a zap or two. 'All we have to do is get zapped, and we're on the other side of the fence.' They're smart."
There are companies that move goats from one place to another to eat noxious weeds.
"This company came to Berkeley to work on the grounds," he said. "The groundskeepers are all union and complained that they were taking union jobs. The company signed every goat up - 1,000 of them - as union members. Since all it said was that you had to pay $5 to join. Diddn't say you had to be a human."
"Each of them got a little Union YES! T-Shirt," I said.
"Exactly."

Odd sensation

I did it.
For the first time in seven years, I dusted off the resume, got together a bunch of press clips, wrote a cover letter and mailed a packet to another paper.
I kinda feel like I'm cheating on where I work now.
It is an odd feeling.
I know it is the right thing to do.

It is a feature writing position. A bit of a change, but not much.

Part of me wishes - out loud, every 15 minutes - that it didn't have to come to this. But there is too much uncertainty. Not only at work, but in my life.
The trick is to know when to open a new door and step through.
A friend said I needed to follow my heart on this one.
Do what feels right.
And I'm letting my feelings guide this one.
I truly am.

Uhg

I'm sick.
I was in the office early and just started to feel horrible.
The head is pounding and the stomach is on rollers.
I headed home.
And the wheels came off.
I touched the wrong doorknob or something.
I can't keep anything down.

I'm going back to bed....

Welcome to Wibble

I know Peas' real name.
Forget the red fuck-me pumps and the serial crimson nail polishing. The hook-ups, fuck-ups, break-ups and cover-ups.
She's a real person, with a real career and everything.
(You can figure out her real name for yourself as well, but her secret is safe with me.)

Anyway, Peas has a new venture, and ThomG says you should check it out.

It's Wibble.

What's a Wibble? Google it and it could be "...the almighty force that will conquer the Earth and the universe."
Or it's how techies say www - as in "The site is at wibble(dot)thomg(dot)blogspot(dot)com."
And according to Peas and her minions, Wibble is "...a multi-user, multi-industry blog. If you are a thought leader in your industry open an account NOW!"
How can you resist an offer like that?

OK, sure, it is a South African site. But the Internets has no borders, we're one big unwashed family here. It's time to let your voice be heard.

"Wibble.co.za is an interactive website that offers users multiple communication options. Firstly, you can register an account absolutely free of charge. Better still, if you write a particularly enlightening, entertaining, informative, or interesting post – our moderators will automatically slap it onto the homepage. This means that more readers will be exposed to what YOU have to say.
"In addition, the public can vote for your post. We want you to do well – we want your products, your thoughts and your expertise in all matters business to thrive. Wibble is the site that rises above the white noise of the blogosphere and gets you noticed quickly."

And if you don't stop by, if you don't register, Peas will be out on her ass by October. And nobody wants that.
Trust me.
We want Peas to conquer the Earth and the universe. Because if she does, she's promised me a seat on the board of directors.
And a Wibble tote bag.
Crimson, of course.

The good and the evil

It isn't your classic struggle between good and evil.
There are no sides, no good guys in white hats battling bad guys in black.
I'm not so sure there are even sides.
I just feel torn.
In two.

I tried to explain it and did a horrible job.
"Ever felt like control of your soul was being waged by two forces - one good and one evil?"
She did, but tried a different analogy.
"Is it a struggle between your good side and your malevolent side? I mean, everyone has a dark side."
Slipping into the darkness is what I fear.

No, I don't plan a crime spree. I don't plan on going on a bender or for the first time in my life be open to tasting illicit drugs. I just feel like being bad.
Maybe malevolence is right.
Still, I'm too much of a goodie-goodie to really do anything Merry Pranksterish.
Oh, I have ideas. I always have ideas.
Then I stop to think how I can help this person, or that person or take a call from someone in crisis and render help - or just listen.
Because that is what I do.

But the darkness is out there.
Waiting.
"Dip a toe in. You'll like it."
But I won't.
Just recognizing the darkness there is thrill enough.
(Look, but don't touch.)

In the kitchen

I spent a majority of my Sunday cooking.
More like deconstructing, really.
I put together meals for two backpacking trips.
Both dehydrators were going.
I had to travel to WinCo (think Wal-Mart, but slightly worse; it is a grocery store) to raid the bin foods area.
Then package everything up and vacuum seal it.

I leave for the first trip on July 30, a week's hiking in the mountains of Northern California.
I leave for Wyoming on Aug. 11.
Instead of trying to explain a freeze-dried meal of Tahoe Chicken Curry to the good folks at American Airlines, I'm shipping the food to a store at our jump-off point. Meaning, I have to get that package out this week.

Eating in the backcountry is a challenge. Mostly to get any sort of fruits or vegetables in you. I added fruits and nuts to the oatmeal at breakfast, and put in a bunch of dehydrated veggies into the meals.
And we have some dandy meals planned.
(Friends like to pair up with me on trips, as I don't fuck around.)
Smoked salmon fettucini; spicy Thai noodles with shrimp; roast corn and clam chowder; vegetable beef stew.

The kitchen was a mess. Stuff spread on every available counter.
Slowly, surly, meals got done and moved to the "staging area" in a back bedroom.
And I went to bed around 1 a.m.
The price you pay for good eats.

It's a serious question

It's not like you can Google this one.
(Well, you can, but with eight million results, it gets even more confusing.)
How do you pray?

I struggle with this one. A lot.
(I guess I am reaching out here to Beth and Melissa and Rachel; you guys seem to talk so easy to the Man; it is a relationship I'm looking for.)

I was at mass on Saturday night thinking about this very question. Prayed for an answer. Cleared my head, cleared my heart, and asked God to show me the way. That I was his and if he wanted me to affect change in myself and others, lemme have it.
But I'm never sure that I'm ever heard.
(Part of being a realist; I have been aptly named Thomas as I am the one who needs to see the miracle.)

So, how do you pray?

The reality and the perception

Reality is the state of being actual or real; it also is the state of the world as it is, not as you wish it to be.
Perception is a way of conceiving something; usually by the senses, or by casual observation.
I had a discussion about both Friday night with a friend. And how in certain environments, the two seldom meet equally. That the reality gets swallowed up by the perception of what people see and hear for the briefest of periods.
"And that," he said, "Is where things get fucked up."

I am a realist. I see the world for what it is - not what I want it to be (that's what daydreams are for.) And all this real life, some of the time, makes me crazy angry.

(My parents were fond of saying, "Life isn't fair;" to which I replied, "Yeah, but it could be." As I realist, I know the first to be true; but as an optimist, I still hold out hope for the latter.)

Because the perception of others - the ones who know nothing about me or my life or my beliefs or my situation - are such that they only see snippets of a life that they perceive to be one big fucking party.
The reality is, I choose to lead my life by a strict code of dedication, duty, honor, faith, love, laughter, hard work and truth.
I do not do anything half-assed. That is the reality. Whether it is cooking a dinner for friends or writing a story (or blogging), I hold myself up to a standard that no one else could possibly match.
And with that, I've never had anything handed to me. I've worked - really fucking hard - for every single thing in my life. Thank God for parents who were realists too, yet let their son, who by their own admission marched to the beat of a different drummer, find his own path in this world. By instilling a great dose of reality - yet teaching him to be open to conceive a world view gained by all the senses. Perceive the world as it is not by a casual glance, but getting down and dirty in all the senses over vast amounts of time.
My friends - the ones who are closest to me and who have gained a perception of me by spending time with me and know what I'm really about - know this to be true. They know me to be a person wealthy in substance, in honor, in faith, in love and laughter.
And yet they don't understand, they can't fathom, why someone's quick perception of me from a casual glance or a short conversation should bother me so.
"Why do you care?"
"It's their loss."
"Fuck 'em, if they don't want to get to know you."

The reality is how the casual observer picks up his or her perception of my world. How I joke, or how I work (or seem to not work; try having a job where the lines are so blurred with your life that you never quite know where one ends and one begins. It is an exceptional situation where real life becomes work and work becomes real life and there is no longer a time clock you punch to travel between the two.)
I'm a smartass and I like to have fun and I like to keep things light. But I don't take anything for granted. If you want something in this life, you're going to have to bust your ass for it. It is as simple as that.
But oh, those perceptions. What you see or hear briefly isn't a true gauge of who someone is. Especially me. I'm deep, way too deep for some people who only want to judge the surface.
And that is why perceptions cause my teeth to grind. Because it seems like those quickly gained perceptions lead to policy. And the reality is, I function perfectly fine on my own - because I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. Just leave me the fuck alone and everything will be alright. Trust me on this one.

That is the reality and not the perception.

But if you're curious and you don't really know me (and have a perception of me from a certain time and place frozen in your memory), I offer a challenge: Hang with me for a day. All of 24 fucking hours. See how I interact, how I work, how I play and how I conduct both my private and public life. How I carry myself in the real world.
But the reality is, that's never going to happen. No one is going to take that challenge.
Because reality is tough. It is hard work.
And perceptions are too easily formed.

I'm back

Ah, gentle readers of The Tension.
I am back from Point Reyes.
No telephones, no cell service, no TV, no Internet.
Just cool weather, great company, fine meals, kayaking (more about that later), hiking (we saw a ton of tule elk up close and personal) and a hot tub.
Christ, do I need a hot tub of my own.

It is exactly what I needed to do. Get on the road. See cool stuff. Relax. Recharge.
Since I hear that the shit might hit the fan at work today.
Does it scare me?
No.
Interestingly enough, whatever happens is going to happen.
I just need to take care of ThomG.
And everything else will work its way out.

More later....

Dancing with the Stars

The paper just put up a slide show from Saturday's Dancing with the Stars fundraiser.

If you follow this link, you can see us in all our glory.

On the road (again)

In a couple of hours, I'm leaving for the coast.
(I convinced work that I needed to go to Point Reyes and check things out.)
I am stressed beyond belief.
(This is my life; I'm traveling for work, to fuck around and I'm getting paid for it and I'm stressed.)

Monday was pretty much a wash. Long day, not very much sleep and now I've managed to convince myself that this trip is going to be a lot more trouble than it is worth.
(That'll change, once I'm there, but you can see the problem - I'm troubled.)

The faster pace of my life is what's doing it. Learning to adapt to being on the go much of the time. Learning that it is OK to leave at a moment's notice and do something fun.

Anyway, there may or may not be a post on Wednesday. Depends on WiFi access.
(And if I'm having any fun.)

(And yes, this is a bullshit post. Part of the trick to this road trip is to kick my own ass. Bear with me.)

The write stuff

Pardon the delay.
I was salmon fishing (and thus got up at 2:50 a.m.).
(I caught one fish, but it was a doozy. It went four feet long and more than 40 pounds.)

Anyway...

The discussion began Saturday night - late - about me, my writing and talent.
"I'm telling you, we all decided that you were really good. And I hope you don't mind, but I told them about your blog.
"But, what are you going to do with it?"
And you feel like a superhero that has this really great skill - but refuses to use it.

I like my job. I'm good at it. The pay? Well, it leaves something to be desired.
But they leave me alone to fish and hike and hunt. I mean, I basically get paid to fuck around - and write about it.

And now, in the past three days, I've been asked "What's next?" "What are you going to do with it?" and "So, when are you leaving?"
Interestingly enough, I do have a decision to make. There's a larger newspaper in Washington that's looking for a features reporter:

"Ideal candidate will be naturally curious about the human condition, will be undaunted by tackling difficult and varied subjects, will be devoted to continually exploring the community with an eye to uncovering the extraordinary in the ordinary.
"Position is responsible for contributing both project-level feature stories and quick hits developed under deadline pressure. The writer needs to be comfortable writing in the narrative style and tackling projects that involve investigative reporting."

Sounds like fun.
And the other plus is, their Outdoors writer is in his 60s, and is talking about retirement.
And the paper is across the river from Portland, my favorite city on the West Coast.

So, do I put in a packet?
Or do I stay in Redding, do my thing, and continue to (maybe) squander my potential as a writer?
I've got some things to think over.

My two left feet

"How long are you going to be like this?"
"Bout a week."
"I don't know why you feel so bad, you did great."

My partner and I were the second couple eliminated during Saturday's charity dance competition. As in two couples had to go, while four couples went onto the finals.
Our waltz was great. Very smooth. Other than one small misstep (mine), it was clean.
It wasn't enough to get up into the second round.
Right or wrong, people had to vote for their favorite couples. Tickets were $10 a strand. I was told later that the first round of voting was very close.
But two couples still had to go.
And we still had to perform our swing number.
(Which I thought was a disaster; everyone else said it was wonderful. I admit, I was pissed having been voted out, and my concentration was, shall we say, lacking.)

Hours later and I still feel bad. In a total funk.
And I know I have no reason to be there.
I had eight days to learn two dance routines (and maintain my life at home and at work).
Then, I had to perform both numbers on stage in front of a crowd of more than 500 people.
Best thing is, we raised a shitload of money for kids.
That, I feel great about.
But here's the deal: I hate to lose.
I'm not sure where the other emotion is coming from. The part that has me feeling so blue. And that's the confusing part.
Instead of being happy for just performing, I'm trying to figure out how I could have been better. And that is a stupid place to be.

I'm sure, as the day goes on and my life gets back to bike rides and hiking trails, I will look fondly on the memory of the evening spent dancing.
I do, after all, have a new skill set.
I can dance.

Just chill

It's not like my head was under the Sierra Nevada beer tap.
(Although the thought had crossed my mind.)
I forgot my water bottle and I was dying.
All I really wanted was a spritz of Coke. High sugar and caffeine to get me through a full dress-rehearsal for tonight's show.

She was on a cell phone.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING BACK THERE? YOU CAN'T BE BACK THERE!"
She screamed this.
Not, "Hey, can I get you to not be back there?"

"Just hoping to get a little Coke, I'm really thirsty."
"YOU CAN'T BE BACK THERE! WHY ARE YOU BACK THERE? YOU NEED TO GET OUT FROM BACK THERE!"

Fucking bitch.

She was the theater's "house manager." A volunteer position by the way.
I guess absolute power does corrupt absolutely.
I put the cup down, began to walk from behind the snack bar (stuck my head under the beer tap for a long pull; no I kid) and walked passed her to the water fountain and guzzled.
"You know, all you needed to say was other than staff, no one else was allowed back there. Maybe in a lower tone."
She just stared, and walked off.

It was my fault, I guess. I forgot my water bottle and I was dying. While they're going to provide water and food for the dancers today (practice starts at noon; makeup at 5 p.m. and the show is at 7 p.m.), they didn't bring any for Friday's dress-rehearsal.
Funny thing was, the fat guy running the sound board - and his fat fucking kid running around the theater - were guzzling sodas.
Guzzling.
The house bitch even had one (and every time I entered the lobby, so did she; I guess you cross the line and you become a marked man).

Over the course of two rough-and-tumble years, I've learn a lot of valuable lessons.
One is to take care of myself and speak up when needed.
The other was to feel the physical aspect of emotions so I could let go of those, too.
There are people in this world who are just there to annoy.
House bitch was one of those.
I said my peace. I let it go.
(And thanks to Blogger, my muse, it all flowed out into The Tension.)

A Diva moment

“I can’t do it.”
“It’s easy. You’ve got this.”
(I’m thinking bullshit.)
“Seriously, I can’t feel it.”
The pace is plodding. The footwork too slow.
I feel like the product of a Holstein knocked up by Frankenstein.
And my Diva moment is complete.
I have refused to dance the West Coast swing to the music she picked.
Usually, I am the guy who goes with the flow; I’m the one who is accommodating.
(ThommyG Does What You Want.)
Pliable.
Then I thought about it. I’m putting in more than 100 hours of my time to do this. The soundtrack of my life runs on Social Distortion, McClusky, Dinosaur Jr. and Anti-Flag.
I am energetic. Outdoorsman. Forward motion.
“I’m sorry, I just cannot dance to this music. I don’t feel it.”
My partner brought over the instructor. We listened to the original piece. We listened to two others.
“This one’s faster.”
“It is, but I hate the song.”
(How’s that for being a Diva?)
“If he can’t feel it, and he doesn’t like it, he can’t dance to it.”
We listened to a CD I brought. OK, the Reverend Horton Heat song – my choice – was way too fast (but could you just imagine the crowd swinging to my buddy Jim Heath?)
Finally, we settled on a song by Cherry Poppin' Daddies.
“The moves are going to be a lot faster,” my partner said.
My point.
We got through the original choreography in a minute, 19. We added two more moves. We’re at a minute 30.
And it’s fast.
And satisfying.
And I can do it.
And it looks gooooooood.

In the swing of things

Fear is an excellent motivational tool.
Until that fear consumes you.
And it makes you sick (or you make yourself sick). As in anxious moments where you feel your bile rise; dry heaves in the morning, brought on by just thinking about the task at hand.
I’m anal retentive enough to know how many hours I have until Saturday’s big dance competition. The one for charity.
I’m sick enough now to really, seriously, consider psychotropic pharmaceuticals.
The heavy stuff.

As for the waltz, I am fairly confident I can move my partner around the dance floor with grace and dignity.
The swing? I suck huge donkey dicks.
“You’ve got the waltz,” my partner said. “The swing is easy.”
“It’s easy,” Moonstone said. “That was my favorite, when I took dance.”
The three guys in the competition all agree – swing dancing makes no goddamn sense whatsoever.
I’d rather be doing algebra problems.
It's a man-thing. We’re all over-thinking it.
It is easy. Slow, slow – rock-step. Slow, slow – rock step.
And if I do fuck up, I just have to move forward. That’s what my partner keeps telling me.
This need to do well conflicts with the need for survival.
And I’m making myself sick.

(Just for the record, I’ve got 85 hours to get my shit together.)

The well of sadness

It is a place of obligatory visits.
Thank God not often.
That dark place.
Where your mind plays tricks with you. Tells you you're not right. Tells you to worry.
It is a lonely place. Because it is inside. And you're the only VIP who gets to pass the purple ropes.
I hate this place. But there is no escape.
You have to go sometime.
And that time is now (for me).

I spent Sunday trying to avoid going.
But couldn't escape the pull, like gravity, to where I'm at.
It's a state of mind, but it's also a place where I'm supposed to feel emotion - and I don't. Not that I refuse, just that I don't feel much of anything.
And that's dangerous.

Thing of it is, the trigger this time are worries that I cannot control. There is no problem to solve. There are only things that I have to watch unfold.
And that's the dangerous part.
Putting on the happy face, the thin veneer of function, and go out in the world and do what's needed of me. When all I really want is to be in bed, with the covers pulled tight and the blinds shut. Shut out the world.

No one can help, either. It is a lonely place, one that I don't think anyone understands. But me. I'm not scared of it, I just don't like going.
It makes me tired. Grumpy. Introspective and morose.
And, I am fairly certain, a pain in the ass.

I had a friend who was visiting her dark place recently and I told her it was a mental and physical reset. She seemed to like that analogy.
I just wish, at this very moment, I could believe my own bullshit. that it is just a reset.
And I'll just reboot.
And I'll run just fine.

What you see around you

The band ripped through a cover of the Romantics, "What I Like about You" on a warm summer evening at the microbrew beer festival. Four bands, 30 beers (and $18 cover and a buck a beer) and people were everywhere on the backyard of the deli.
I like to people watch.
No, I am not a voyeur; I derive no sexual pleasure from the act.
I am simply a student of the human condition.
And I don't miss much.
Like the little kid in the lawn chair - he must have been all of 4 - strumming his guitar along with the band. Embolden, he strode to the dance floor with his guitar, and started to dance.
Or the kid who was just itching to fight. He got into a pissing match with a guy bigger than he was on who was going to move first to get through the crowd. The other guy just laughed and stepped aside.

OK, some have sexual overtones; not for me, but what people are willing to do when they've had a few and the music is really good:
Like the tall young woman in the back dress and heels; she stood at least six-foot, five-inches. And standing next to her was her boyfriend(?) who is all of five-foot, eight-inches and he's squeezing her ass cheek like a ripe tomato.
Or the guy who had his hand inside the back of his date's skirt, moving his fingers down the crack of her ass (we couldn't miss it; we were standing right behind them in the beer line).
Or the girl lying on a blanket, and her two young girlfriends who kept walking over her, bent over, shaking their butts in her face.
Beer does crazy things to people.

Satan said dance

My life is dance. The waltz, to be specific (that all changes Monday, when it becomes swing).
I mean it.
I dance every single day.
I'm going to dance practice all weekend.
Fear is a supreme motivational tool.
"Remember, it's for charity," we all say.
Because we all suck in one way or another.

I had a shit day on Friday. Just a lot of outside influences that I have no control over. The one place I didn't want to be was at dance practice, wearing my uncomfortable tuxedo shoes and stumbling through the waltz.
By the time we were done - after two hours of dancing where we picked out our music (Santa Lucia, by Mr.s Tony Bennett) - I felt great. Well, better.
Better, because I moved around.

My problem is, I hate to do anything half-assed. And even though the mantra is "it's for charity," I still want to do well. No, I want to win.
So I soldier on.
In fact, I have to get my butt in gear.
And go practice some more.

These lips are sealed

I am sure people think it is a safe topic.
They truly care about me and want to know.
But I'm tired of talking about it.
The divorce. The process. Her.

I have my own life now.
She does as well.
And it is not together. Not even close.
We are separated by more than a petition, and a settlement agreement.
We are separated by trust, commitment and morality.
And I don't want to discuss it.

I gave a friend the license to slap the living shit out of me.
If I talk about any of it; all of it.
She's not had to, yet.
But everyone asks.
(They want to gauge me, my mood, my happiness.)
I am better than good.
A little sad at times, but that's normal, I suppose.

Here's the update: We're close to signing a settlement.
That will end it. The judge will sign it.
The divorce will be final.
Then, legally in California, we wait out the six months and a day.
My lawyer says that's Sept. 20.

And so I'm done talking about IT.
If you want to talk, ask me about anything else.
But that.
I'm over and done.
I mean it.

Songs in the key of G

She wondered about getting an iPod. Whether she’d actually use something like that.
It would be silly to say that I couldn’t live without mine; of course I could.
I just choose not to.
An iPod adds a soundtrack to your life.
Wherever you are, wherever you go, you’ve got a soundtrack. One that you control.
Happy or sad, tired or bored, you’ve got music that can either keep you on that mood – or bust you out of it.
Right now, I’m digging on Social Distortion’s new song, “Far Behind.” The lyrics are fantastic, in an empowering way:

With friends like you, who needs enemies?
you ain't right, you ain't never gonna be,
you're out of the car, I'm afraid you've been declined.
you shake my hand, while you're pissing on my leg
I'm cuttin you loose, I don't need this misery
your soul is toxic, you ain't no friend of mine.

You talk real trash when I’m not around
to build yourself up, you gotta to tear me down.
you'll have to excuse me, I’ve got better things to do.
you smile through your teeth, you talk out your neck
every chance you get you're gonna stab my back.
your time's run out, I’ve got nothing left for you..

[Chorus:]
I'm leaving you far behind.
I'm leaving you far behind.
So I've wasted all of my time.
I'm leaving you far behind.

So I'm pulling out the weeds, I’m taking stock
you can talk the talk, but cant walk the walk
Your narcissistic ways have gotten the best of you.
So I'm leaving you to sink, in all your glory
For you and me it's the end of the story.
Get out of my way, I've got better things to do..

[Chorus x3]

With friends like you, who needs enemies?
it means you ain't right, you ain't never going
your soul is toxic, you ain't no friend of mine.

Music helps me sort out the day's events. It helps me work. When I’m really stressed, on a tight deadline, the music is loud, fast and angry. When I mountain bike (alone), it’s catchy and fun. When I go shopping, I just throw the iPod on shuffle and see what comes up.

I know the iPod drives some people nuts. That it cuts down on human interaction (and that’s probably true). But sometimes, shit, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I just want to get my shit done and be somewhere else.
An elderly lady tried to strike up a conversation over the fresh corn at the grocery the other day.
“Oh, I see that you’re plugged in.”
I took the earbuds out, and we had a great talk about how California corn couldn’t touch the corn grown in the Midwest.
You can have it both ways.

Funny thing is, I have just scratched the surface of what my iPod can do. I mean, I have a couple of playlists and 361 songs loaded, but I’ve got room for 640 more songs. More playlists.
More chances to add music to my life.

ThomG on the radio

I will be a guest on Jefferson Public Radio's News & Information Service's Jefferson Exchange starting at 10 a.m. PDT Wednesday.
It's a call-in show.
I'll be talking about the outdoors.
Did I mention that it's a call-in show?
You can stream the audio HERE, just click on News & Information Service.
It's a call-in show, just so you know.
That toll-free number is 1-800-838-3760.

No sickos, please.

Strictly ballroom

The music was fast, scandalous. The dance it spawned – when people listened, there was no way you could not help but move – was even more shocking.
As people who danced it looked for contact. Craved it.
Sounds a little like the punk movement, huh?
Try the 1800s – and the Viennese waltz.
Of course, the dance was way too hot for the rest of the world; but the music, you couldn’t help yourself. So the British added things. So did the Americans.
And that’s what I have begun to learn – the American waltz.
Think Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers.
It’s not as bad as you’d think.
I’ve got two weeks to learn the waltz and a swing routine. For a benefit dance on July 14 that will help youth in my community.
A Dancing with the Stars kinda thing.
I’m not half-bad.
When compared to the others.
“You’ve got this on your iPod,” one of the other dancers asked me about the waltz music we stumbled around to.
“Oh, filled.”
I have no dance experience, save for what I picked up at high school dances, concerts and a few mosh pits.
(The mosh pit thing delights the rest of the "celebrities" by the way; they wouldn't know the Angry Samoans from NOFX and I think I scare them with what I might be capable of.)
At least my partner is a Professional Dancer.
My goal when first approached was to just get by.
Now, I want to win.
I downloaded waltz music this morning; I practiced.
For a minute after dance practice Monday night, with ice on my knee, ice in a glass of vodka and a few ibuprophens onboard, I considered going the other route; drop acid right before the show. I’ve never dropped acid, so I maybe could go skitzo.
Probably not the best thing for youth to see.
So, I’ll dance.
The waltz. The swing.
And make the best of it.

Conflict resolution

She had the fever, garage sale fever.
The absolute need to purview the wreckage, the flotsam, of someone else’s life.
And she would not look in my direction.
As I approached her Town & Country mini-van.
On my mountain bike.
Here’s what accident investigators would have determined: The garage sale was on the left, with traffic headed west. The Town & Country was stopped at a T intersection; the garage sale was directly across from the T. The cyclist was headed west.
I watcher her. She kept looking to her left, for traffic. And I realized she was going to make the turn – without looking in my direction.
So before I ended up a mass of blood and piss and shit and mangled bicycle parts, I yelled, “Whoa, lady!”
And she started into the intersection anyway.
I yelled again, “Whoa, LADY!”
She slammed on the brakes – at this point I’m even with her car door and stopped – and she flipped me off.
And continued through the intersection and parked in front of the driveway of the house.
I started down the street, shaking my head, and I couldn’t resist. I turned around.
“Ma’am, can I ask why you flipped me off?”
She ignored me.
“Ma’am, can you please tell me why you flipped me off, when I had the right-of-way?” and she picked up a napkin holder from the table of junk.
Ma’am, MA’AM!”
And she looked.
And I flipped her off.
“Backatcha!”

Certain reef fish off of Australia will starve themselves to avoid conflict within the school. Spider monkeys use well-timed hugs to head off conflict in the tree canopy.
Most humans, I think, just shut down.
I don’t go out and look for conflict. I don’t shrink from it either. I let a lot of stuff go, especially poor driving, but there just are things you can’t let go of.
Nearly getting hit on you bike is one of them.

Really, I don’t go looking for conflict.
I continued the ride, stopping to feed a friend’s dog, then I rode to the river trail. In the park, I watched four scrotes (the lowest part of the scrotum, the bottom of the nutsack, hence “scrotes” ) meander toward me.
Across the entire trail. Four abreast.
One tried to reign in a dog, which was tethered to him with a bit of yellow nylon rope.
I slowed, and watched the dog (since if you’re going to get dumped, that’s where the problem will be) and the guys would not clear the path.
I approached slowly, and they finally split – three to their left and one to the right. And as I’m to the guy with the dog – he had a scruffy beard, dirty T-shirt and flip-flops – I watched his mouth form the words, “Watch it, motherfucker.”
The Pixies sang "Alec Eiffel" as I ripped out the earbuds and stopped.
“What did you say?”
He stared at me.
Fucking hippies.
“You realize that this path is just like a road, you stay to the left?” I asked. “Or is there going to be a problem?”
“No problem, man.”
“Hey, I’m just trying to get a ride in, not be a dick.”

Yeah, I probably set back cyclist/motorist/pedestrian relations back a bit on Sunday.
But then again, I really wasn’t looking to spend the rest of the day in the emergency room.
And I certainly don’t like being called a motherfucker.
Well, for no good reason, anyway.

The mother of all roadtrips

I am very excited to introduce you to the Pringles.
No, not the chips.
The family.
A very cool family. Tom, Stacia, Emma Kelly and Gillian.
Stacia and I used to do the journalism thing together (and Stacia is one of the best writers I’ve run into in this biz) and now she’s got an even bigger job: stay at home mom.

And adventurer.
Tom’s always wanted a land-cruiser to take the family on roadtrips. A boat, like the Ford Galaxy 500 my parents cruised the country with in the ‘70s.
He found a limo for sale on EBay.
They bought it for $3,400.
Sight-unseen.
They leave this week for Buffalo, N.Y., the whole damn family with one-way tickets, to drive the limo – it with television and a wet bar – back to California.
“We’ve got three weeks,” she told me. “We’re going to see the country.”

I told her that she must blog. Nearly begged her to do so.
I got an email on Friday:
“Welcome to the Pringle Family Limo Blog Site!” she wrote.
“Seriously, take lots of photos,” I said. “This is going to be so cool.”
They’re even stopping at a few places in Nebraska – the Museum of the Prairie Pioneer high on their list – so I can get all misty-eyed for my youth.
You’ll enjoy her writing. You’ll enjoy the mayhem.
You’ll enjoy the ride.