Thursday, August 31, 2006

Proud Papa

No, this isn't bullshit, unconditional pride. This is earned pride. I'm proud of his character. He made a hard choice and made the right one.

A couple of weeks ago the Kid (15) called my cell and asked me to take the short way home from a group ride because he needed to talk to me. I walked into the house and the Kid had a very concerned air about him. From head to toe, he was covered in angst.

Turns out he and his girlfriend had been busted by her parents while they were having sex (she's 16), and now her parents were forbidding him from coming over to her house. The immediate request was that I call her parents and let them know that the Kid really cared for their daughter.

Here I lower the veil of secrecy and keep a lot of our conversation secret, but it was a good talk. Fast forward to last night. I get home extremely late and the Kid tells me that he has found a way to see the girl. He tells me that he's planned to get up really early in the morning on Friday, like 3a.m. and go over to see her before school starts.

'Wow, her parents are okay with that?' I ask.

'They don't know,' he says. 'They won't let me visit with her,' he says.

'You realize your planned action is based on dishonesty,' I say.

'Dad, they're not going to let me see her!' he says.

'Ultimately, I'm not able to stop you, you know. You'll do what you want, but I can't help but think that being dishonest is a bad move in most situations and certainly in this one' I say.

His eyes are full of hurting.

Tonight I come home late (as in the past few nights) and he's up chatting away on the internet. I ask him who he's chatting with. The girl, he says.

'We're not going to meet up in the morning. I'm pissed off about it, but I think you're right,' he says.

Proud Papa, that's me.

On a totally unrelated (well, slightly related) note, I remember when he got his first girlfriend (at 13) and his mom's mom (mee-ma) found out. Mee-ma is an interesting character, steeped in the Church of Christ tradition and scared of her own farts. She grilled him for all the details of his girlfriend, and he related her unrelenting questioning during the ride home.

You know what that's all about, don't you, I asked.

Yeah, I think I do, he said. If I'm straight they are going to thank God, but if I'm gay they are going to blame you.

He got it. At the age of 13 he got it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More News from the Rush

Day two of the college retail madness and I make it through using the internal 'I like you' technique. I keep the irritable veneer thin, but my face registers the fatigue. I'm sure my voice follows suit. I'm not a good actor.

I've been reading a book by Anne Lamott titled 'Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life'. I'm hooked. One of the appealing aspects of the 'blog' is being on display yet remaining intensely private. I like the attention, but shy away from the limelight. Feels like it would be a good fit, if I can keep at it. The point she makes is that you have to be honest.

So in the event that you stumble across this space you will have to put up with a lot of shitty first drafts. I'm committed to writing a little bit every day, regardless of the quality (since I'll rarely have that much time to edit), and to make it brutally honest. Brutally honest shitty first drafts.

I'm fairly certain my mother will stumble across this at some point. She's really talented with the mouse, and google seems to be made for her brand of curiousity. Hmmmmm. Well, so be it. She's one of the voices that hangs around inside my head, forever reading over my shoulder and offering advice whether she's present or not. And many if not all of my actions to this point have been something of an attempt to get her approval, if not just her attention.

That tells me something right there.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Buttered Bread

The start of the semester at our college is always a hard, stressful time for me. Today I tried to blunt that intensity by saying an internal 'I like you' to every person I met. It's a technique that I applied willfully, and it worked. Instead of the 'edge', when my personality is covered with a veneer of irritation, I was more pleasant and for the most part felt at ease and less tired when I got home.

Still, there's always this pressing feeling that I've missed a calling, that I should be doing something else in life. These days I go in at 7a.m. and get home at 10:30pm. There are only a few of these long days, thankfully. Usually the days are a retailer's dream, plenty of time off and with a Thanksgiving and Christmas break! That time is spent handling book listings, returns of overstock, typical retail stuff. Market, market, market... numbers, look at the numbers, always drive the numbers higher. Our profits are earned on the backs of the hopeful who still believe a college education will lift them out to a higher standard of living. I see a darker side, where a college education serves as the gateway to crushing debt. It is precisely this moment when the banks start owning your ass. That hurts me to be a part of the machine that way.

The thing that hurts me most, however, is the feeling that I have no control. During one of my breaks (I can't really call it a lunch break, more like a furtive excursion to stuff something down my throat) I was thinking of a friend's question to my expressed interest in living simply. She asked if I thought this nascent paradigm shift would take me to a new 'place.' This happened 4 weeks ago, and I'm still tossing the many meanings of 'place' around in my head, trying to find sense of it.

I hate putting this post out there without more editing, but I need to write a little every day, and if I wait until it is perfect this week I'll not get any sleep. So whatever. The question of 'place' isn't going away.

In the meantime, I'll pay attention to what butters my bread.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Face of Leadership

Riding home from work tonight I was zipping across the final stretch of asphalt before I got home when I saw some movement along the sidewalk coming towards me from the left. A closer look revealed a bicycle with a very faint light, barely discernable in the dark. I slowed down. Then I saw another bicycle that had already crossed in front of me, also unlit. Then I saw the faint light was a cellphone. Finally I saw that they were both police officers. In the dark. On the sidewalk. On duty. One of them talking on a cellphone. They were not in stealth mode, they were in stupid (or uneducated) mode. Tsk tsk.

In this small town there aren’t really that many traffic issues for me, but I’m an experienced commuter whose been riding in a vehicular manner for many years. I’ve never had a wreck involving a car. I’ve been fortunate, sure, but I’ve also chosen my routes with care and employed common sense riding techniques, avoided busy roads and behaved as a vehicle should. Even so I’ve had drivers yell at me to ‘get the Hell off the road’. I’ve been buzzed with inches to spare on my left. I’ve had drivers look right at me and still turn in front of me. I’ve even had one guy play ‘cat and mouse’ with me once after he buzzed me. In all fairness, I did flip him off immediately prior to the ‘game’ because I was pissed, but I also learned a lesson: the vehicle will win, don’t engage them. It isn’t worth it.

Thankfully, these incidents are rare. Most motorists are kind and considerate and patient (and even perhaps a little envious).

I’m not really a big proponent of the idea that we model our behavior from the police I’m not a huge fan of wearing black or carrying guns or confronting criminals, but in this case I expect some leadership. I expect police officers to model proper behavior on their bicycles since I know that law enforcement officers riding their bicycles are uber-visible. Folks may not think twice about me or any of the ‘unseen’ cyclists in the city, but trust me, they notice law officers on bikes. If they see them riding on the sidewalks they will erroneously assume that this is where bicycles belong, and that will make my life and the lives of my friends in the cycling community less safe.

Get your ass off the sidewalk, light your bicycle if you use it at night, use some reflectors while your at it, and for the sake of all of us, hang up the cellphone and pay attention to where you are going.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

About that Fag thing

I was thinking today about the word 'fag' and why I opted to use it prominently on this webpage, blog, online diary, whatever. It's a harsh term, used with derision by those with no understanding of just what it means to be gay, queer, homo, or, yes, fag.

I'm a gentle guy with none of the rapier wit or mannerisms I associate with the word 'fag'. I think of a FAG being someone who struts above the din of the ordinary and possesses a wicked ability to pull the perfect rejoinder to any situation out of his ass. I'm not that person.

But I have had FAG spray painted on my house before, and that caused me to have several nervous nights wondering what was next. Evidently nothing was next.

I've been called FAG by guys whose asses I could easily have kicked with both my arms tied behind my back (let me keep my legs free, however).

So I took ownership of the word. Consider me the face of FAG. Just another guy trying to find his place in the world.

And a fairly ordinary one, too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Too Tired to Type

I had a good road ride tonight, and right now I want to sleep. No more rides for a couple of weeks while the retail sunami hits.

Help Me! Please!


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Kid Gets a Haircut

What's so special about a haircut? Well, it's been about a year since the Kid had his last haircut, and a few days ago he asked for another one. It's a big deal.

Because of work, I missed my evening lung-buster with the hill riders, so I talked (semi begged) the Kid into riding his bike with me to the promised haircut appointment. We ended up going to one of the local boxmarts, a move that hurt my spirit since I really dislike giving any coins to the bigboxretails, but it turned out to be nearly 9 miles, a stretch for him, enough to (sort of) satisfy me.

At an intersection we saw a lady with a nice commuter bike and a basket with a small load of groceries. I pulled up beside her and said 'Hi, I'm a bike person too! It's good to see other bike people out!' I think I made her nervous. She was anxious to scurry away, and that left me scratching my head a bit. Oh well.

Over at minuscar I wrote an essay, a simple, embryonic composition, to articulate my thoughts and feelings about trying to live simply, and that changed me. I feel more committed as a result of taking the time to write it out than I did before. Years ago a guy named Tamas told me to write, just write, that the act of writing was transformative. Tamas was scary, a stalker and a hosebag, but that advice, to write, was like a pearl from a sewer. I should have listened then, I think. Today I left another comment there that I'm nearly 50 years old and I've never had an intimate relationship (i .e. boyfriend) that was satisfying to me. No connection where I truly felt understood, safe, or cared about. Not one. That's fucked up.

I felt vulnerable putting that 'out there' - but stronger and richer too.

So this writing 'thing' - I struggle with words, with the cadence and possible perceptions. Oh, and btw, just how honest do I really want to be, I ask myself. But this is more than just a narcissistic foray. Sure, it's 'out there' and sooner or later someone is going to stumble across it, but I have to find my place. I can't help but think that writing will help sort out the jumbled core of 'me'. (ok, so narcissism has a place here too)

If this blog is anything, it will be an honest place.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Snowflakes in August

First day as a petit juror in federal court but I didn't get picked. Normally I would enjoy serving on a jury again except that it's that crazy time where the students are crawling about the store like maggots on dying flesh. Ok, bad metaphor, but you get the idea. I'll move quickly to another metaphor.

After leaving the courthouse, but before returning to work, I stopped by the house to make sure the windows were open. However, when I returned from home after work, the Kid (my kid) had closed the windows and turned on the A/C just as he had done the past couple of days. The past couple of days I had left the A/C on, opting to keep the house quite cool and dry, breaking the streak of 8 days and nights without A/C. Tonight was going to be the start of a new 'streak'.

Why? I spent the morning listening to the conversations of my fellow jurors, and I was amazed (not really) at the amount of conversation that surrounded gas, gas prices, parking, and, you know, car culture in general. And the building was ungodly COLD. Unhealthy Cold. brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr cold. Cold on a day when it didn't need to be that cold and in a building with functional windows, large windows, a building made when A/C wasn't even around. So I entered the house with my rhetorical guns blazing for the kid.

'When I make an effort to open up the windows and turn off the A/C, I don't want you to close them and turn it back on. I don't want our house to be a 'no sweat zone'. You have an A/C unit that is perfect for your room (100 sq. feet) so if you can't live without the chill, then please close your door and cool your room only. Don't cool the whole house (all 580 sq feet of it) so you can sit and play video games in a small part of it. I'm passionate about this.. do you have a clue why?'

His face told me no, that he had no clue, and frankly, he was unsure as to why his dad was on a tear.

'When you get to school tomorrow and have a fast internet connection, google 'mountain top removal and coal' and check out the pictures of what happens to the mountains in appalachia. These mountains that took billions of years to form and only months to level because of the coal they contain. The coal that goes towards making the electricity that powers our addiction to our notion of comfortable. I really don't think I'm going to change the world, but I have to change myself or I suffer on the inside from cognitive dissonance.'

His face told me that I was acting all wierd and stuff, and that the term 'cognitive dissonance' was a 'WTF' moment for him.

It's like this, I said. 'No snowflake has ever claimed responsibility for an avalanche.' Do you understand that?

Yeah, he said. He got that, he said.

Tonight he closed his door and turned on his small window A/C.... but he did set his thermostat higher than before. I slept on top of the blankets, with a chorus of insects and night creatures singing me to sleep.

Small steps for two snowflakes.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Rainy Sunday - Reflective Mood

Rode the bike into work without preparing for the rain. I was in a predicament about having to ride to the church in the downpour when my secretary suggested I take her vehicle, a Hyundai SUV. That was awfully nice, but the experience reinforced every reason I've avoided cars. From the parking hassles to the sitting in traffic hassles I felt like I was going to go nuts. It's so easy just to ride right to the stockroom, push the bike in and go upstairs. Of course, the 'arriving dry' part was nice, but if I had been smart I could've done that on the bike too.

At the church this guy I used to date said 'oooooo... nice vehicle'. It was clear that somehow I had been elevated in his eyes with this SUV. I had a chuckle on the inside precisely because this SUV is the antithesis of everything that is me. I felt like I was doing the earth wrong, going backward just by accepting a generous offer. He thought I was moving up. Conflicting paradigms.

The service was especially calming today. The sound of the rain (and the absence of the air handler noise) provided such a fine ambience this a.m. that I let my fingers pick music to match the gentle feeling. One hanging tone turned into two and then a phrase and then counterpoint and then a conversation with a life of its own. Peggy S told me afterwards that she appreciated the offering, a comment that warmed me. In that moment I felt understood. I felt valued.

I so enjoy deep water.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Then there was another one.

Another blog out there in the vast rolling electronic sea of blogs. Woo hoo! Or is that more appropriately, Who's Woo(dog)?

Well, hell, I don't know who Woo is and I'm supposed to be Woo. Consider Woo a work in progress. I've tossed around the notion of writing a book titled 'Fag Diary from the Midwest'. I really think it's a good title and would make an interesting book - that is, if I could actually write. Perhaps this 'blog' will be that effort. A Fag diary from the midwest. hmmmmm.

When writing I almost always imagine 'vast hordes' reading what I write, but I'll be surprised if even one person reads this post.

Stay tuned, if you will. I'll write more. Maybe better, maybe worse.

But in the meantime, surprise me, please.