Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'm ready for my close up!

Lately I've been obsessed with making videos. Now granted, part of it has been fueled by the desire to document every waking moment of my new daughter's life. But I can't help but think back to what an astrologer told me many years ago when I was having my chart done. He told me that my chart showed that I was destined to be a "social documentarian" and wanted to know if I worked in a field where I was producing video. I shrugged at the time and thought he had sniffed one too many sticks of patchouli incense. Now, I'm beginning to think maybe he was on to something.
Okay, Steven Spielberg I'm not, but I am discovering that video can be a creatively satisfying way to express yourself. And the digital age we live in makes it relatively simple to shoot and edit video. Heck most of our cell phones now have video capability. Plus the video editing software available now makes it incredibly easy to produce a decent short feature out of even the rawest footage.
Unfortunately, I am discovering video now that it is vulgarly popular (need I say, "You Tube). I stumbled onto blogging in the same way and was quite smug about it until I learned I was unique along with about 14 million other people. So my video masterpieces will likely languish along with my blogging masterpieces. But I'm not in this for the fame. I'm in this for the money.
Ha, ha, ha, ha...
Cut!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Spirits of the season


I suppose we have Charles Dickens to thank for making Christmas seem to have more ghosts than Halloween. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past present and future permeate our culture. I can't even count how many times the story has been made into Hollywood or made for television movie. The latest iteration I saw was on the series Las Vegas (one of the most inane programs on television that I watch religiously). It was so bad I imagine Dickens himself was going to come back as the ghost of Christmas past and beat the screenwriter to death with a candy cane.

Regardless, I have always liked A Christmas Carol. It reeks of hope and redemption for the terminally jaded. Scrooge makes a remarkable transformation from a miserly hater of mankind to a kindhearted philanthropist. In reality this kind of shift in behaviour would lead to a diagnosis of bi-polar disease and a whole regimen of mood controlling medications. But you have to love the sentiment.

I guess I actually loved the story because of Tiny Tim. It was one of the few characters in books I'd found with my name. I was totally bummed when that Tiptoe Through the Tulips, ukeleli playing freak came on the scene on Laugh In in the 1960s and tarnished the memory of Tiny Tim.

But I digress.

Anyway, I love the story. I never get tired of Scrooge making that transformation and saving his soul. Sure it is a socialistic political allegory condeming capitalism, but it also is a swell Christmas story (and screw the politically correct reference to "the holidays").

I leave you with the immortal words of my namesake this Christmas season, "God Bless us everyone." Or "Higher Power Bless us everyone."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Elvis Tree (the video)

video
For several years now, it has been a tradition at our house to put up two trees, a normal one and my Elvis tree. This year I was able to introduce my daughter to the tradition and she loved it. So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen...

THE ELVIS TREE!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fading away 2


Although I don't intend to stop blogging, I am in a slump. I couldn't even squeeze out a decent post with a Juiceman. Even Photoshop doesn't inspire me. Used to be all I had to do to get my creative juices flowing was to slap a photo of my face on something and boom -- blog post.

Granted, being a new parent has been a major life-changing event that takes up a bit of my free time, but I don't understand why my blog world is fading away.

You would think it wouldn't surprise me. As I inch toward my 50th birthday, I have learned that the only thing certain in life is change. And I'm not talking about two quarters and a dime in your pocket change. I'm talking about nothing every staying constant. And the blog world is as transitory as the real one.

I guess I do understand why my blog world is fading away. It has to fade away to make room for whatever the next phase is.

So maybe I should put on my Nike's, whip up some Koolaid and go wait for the mother ship.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What goes around



I have come to realize that the blog world, as with the real world, doesn't revolve around me.

That epiphany sucks, though. Because deep down, I think everyone wants the world to revolve around them. At the same time, there are parts of the world I'd just as soon didn't revolve around me (or me around them). Denny's Restaurant is a perfect example.

On Thanksgiving morning we decided we needed to find someplace for breakfast so we could last until my brother's turkey dinner made it to the table. He promised a 2 p.m. meal time, but experience has taught us to always tack on two hours to my brother's dinner predictions.

Although you can find a million restaurants to eat dinner, Boise lacks places to grab a basic breakfast. Ironic as it may seem for a relatively small city, there aren't any diners that I know of and unlike the civilized world, most things close there on holidays. So we ended up at Denny's near the airport. I saw a comedian once who noted that no one sets out to go to a Denny's, they just end up there out of desperation. That was the case with us.

I liken Denny's to a near-death experience. I will take the liberty of generalizing here, but most of the clientele and employees at a Denny's are pretty much the walking dead. Let's face it, you aren't going to attract a master chef, 4-star servers or even decent dishwashers at a Denny's. People who work at a Denny's also end up there out of default. This Denny's in particular was ripe for attracting drifters. In addition to being near the airport, it was right off Interstate 84.

Tess and I had actually eaten at this Denny's several years ago for the very same reason we were eating there this Thanksgiving. It was about the only thing open. And I swear some of the same clientele were still propped up at the counter nursing a bad cup of coffee.

Nothing you order at Denny's ever looks like the photos in the menu. I foolishly ignore this and order what looks good. And while Tess ordered a basic eggs and hash browns I, being the perpetual masochist, ordered the Moons Over My Hammy just to force myself to say it out loud. It's almost as humiliating as going into an IHOP and ordering the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity breakfast. Despite it's embarrassing name, a Moons Over My Hammy is simply a ham and egg sandwich dipped in grease. Rumor has it that the people who make Lipitor and Crestor keep a statue of a Moons Over My Hammy in their head office and say little prayers to it in gratitude for keeping America's cholesterol level off the charts.

If the Moons Over My Hammy wasn't enough to tie my stomach in knots, I drowned the greasy hash browns that came with it in Tabasco sauce and washed it all down with coffee with a taste that can only be achieved by reusing the grounds 80 times and percolating it for three weeks.

Suffice to say the breakfast did the job of staving off hunger until my brother's Thanksgiving dinner was ready late that afternoon. The downside is, as the title of this blog suggests, what goes around comes around.

I apologize now to my brother's family for what I did to their bathroom.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Impressions of the fall


I cannot believe it is November and almost Thanksgiving. We are headed to Boise for the holiday and our annual dinner at my brother's house. This will be our first Thanksgiving with our daughter and the first time my 82-year old mother will get to meet her. I am excited about that.
It will be an important Thanksgiving. For so many years I was the weird bachelor uncle and now that I have a family, I can sit at the big people's table without feeling too guilty.

Still, Thanksgiving is an odd holiday. When I was a kid, it was simply the halfway point between Halloween and Christmas. I knew it was supposed to be a time when everyone was supposed to express gratitude for everything they had, but it didn't involve candy or presents, so it didn't really capture my attention.

As I got older, Thanksgiving was an opportunity to come home from college and lord my worldliness over my family that was still stuck in Boise. As you can imagine, that really endeared me to them no end.

And Thanksgiving was also an opportunity for my brothers and I to bring old grievances from our childhood. My niece and nephews can probably cite verbatim the stories of Ted hitting Dan in the head with a hoe, Dan chipping my tooth with a shotgun shell he threw at me or me almost chopping off one of the neighborhood kid's hands with a hatchet (it was unintentional).

Once I met Tess and started taking her to Boise for Thanksgiving, things took a turn for the better. We stopped bringing up the old war stories, and avoided talking politics and religion. Come to think of it, dinner became pretty quiet.

This year I imagine Enya-Maria will be the center of attention. We'll also have the birth of my nephew's daughter Ruby Grace in Minnesota to talk about and further evolve the holiday into what it was intended for -- a time to be thankful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who Art in heaven?


My father's name was Eugene, but most people called him Art because his middle name was Arthur and his father's name was Eugene, too. Well his father wasn't actually named Eugene, too. His name was Eugene Chester H**** and my father's name was Eugene Arthur H****. So they called my father Art for short to avoid confusing his father by calling him Eugene. Though some people called him Gene for short. I just called him dad.

Even though my father was called Art, he wasn't really an artist. Though he did do alot of those paint by number paintings of horses and landscapes. But that isn't technically being an artist. He did take up macrame in his golden years. I got lots of plant holders as gifts. I don't think macrame is technically an art. It's more of a craft. So my father was more of a craftsman. Though he wasn't really a crafty person in a sly, fox-like way.

Sometimes explanations can get out of hand.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Statue of limitations


It's been awhile since I put my face on some random thing. There's no rhyme nor reason to it. Sometimes it just feels good to create something without it having to have any meaning or purpose other than to cause an emotional response. Then it becomes art.

I've always resisted the human need to dissect things. People go to art galleries and stand there in front of paintings or statues and stab into them with their scalpel eyes and pull the intestines out one by one. Then then walk away from the corpse shaking their heads wondering what they missed. The same is true with literature.

Sometimes to understand something you have to not think about it.

Like this blog for instance.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Nonsense of self



I snapped this photo of myself 11 years ago at a Club Med in Martinique. I may or may not have been slightly toasted. I doubt it though. Booze cost an arm and a leg and you had to pay for it with beads to surly bartenders who only spoke French. So getting a drink was a challenge (except at dinner when you could have all the wine you wanted...Club Meds are run by the French after all).


But I digress. The photo reminds me that I didn't really have a realistic image of myself even then. For one, I used to think people liked me. And I used to think I was incredibly clever (especially when I was toasted). Now that I am older and have become a daddy, I have more time to reflect on what kind of person I am and was. And like the photo above, it isn't really a pretty picture.


Oh, I don't think I am a terrible person. Maybe it is age or maybe it is being a father, but I just keep getting glimpses of myself through other people's eyes in my mind and it makes me cringe every time.


I am a sarcastic person. I have always been a sarcastic person. I used to think it was part of my charm. Now I think it is one of the leading reason I don't have any real close friends. I attribute my sarcasm to growing up with two older brothers. I truly believe that their way of letting me know how much they loved me was by calling me stupid at every opportunity. So I came to believe that insults were a way of expressing affection. In retrospect, not everyone appreciates that berating them is my way of telling them that I care.

Coming across as a curmudgeon is a hard habit to break. I've grown to expect that people expect it from me. But then it has also great affected my credibility when I try to be nice. So I try to keep my charitable acts and acts of kindness anonymous.

This leads me back to my lack of friends. Stepping out of myself, I can understand this. I sit there listening to this jaded, cynical man jabber on in a paranoid fashion about the latest injustice at work and the stupidity of mankind and I too want to retreat to my happy place. Viewed in this way, I really bring myself down and I can only guess how it affects other people.

I am also an impatient man. I don't suffer fools lightly. This is a curse because fools are all around me. I want to throttle people who can't figure out how to use a cash machine without methodically reading all of the instructions. Who in this day and age hasn't used a cash machine? It is not rocket science. And don't get me started about people in grocery store lines. Don't write a check. No one writes a check in this day and age. And don't engage the checker in small talk when there are 40 people in line behind you.

See what I mean?

For the longest time I really did think I was a witty and clever fellow. No one could say anything to me without some clever response. Then I started realizing how annoyed I was when some jerk would say the same clever thing to me over and over. I knew this one guy who always said, "Why, am I coming apart" when someone asked if they could "join him." Funny the first time. Mind numbingly annoying the tenth or eleventh time.

God don't let me be one of those guys who asks if the flowers are for me when he sees someone with a bouquet walking down the street.

Introspection sucks.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hanging on to dreams


Fame
I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly
High

I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry
Fame

I'm gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame
Fame

I'm gonna live forever
Baby remember my name

Remember
Remember
Remember
--Irene Cara, Fame


The 1980s film Fame was on Satellite last night. I remember watching it when it first came out and being fired up about the potential of my life. Now rewatching it for the umpteenth time when I am almost 50, I found the movie dated, trite and at the very best maudlin. Of course I'm sure this would be the case if I rewatched any film from the 80s, even such classics as Footloose and Flashdance.

I know that being middle aged jades me a bit. It is easy in your 20s to hold onto the fantasy that you are special and destined for greatness. But one need only look at the careers of the talented young stars of Fame to put things in perspective. I couldn't tell you what a single one of them did since that movie. Fame was literally fleeting for them (though Irene Cara did co-write the theme for Flashdance before spiraling into oblivion).

Want to make some wine out of those sour grapes, you ask? Okay, I'll admit that I used to be a passionate young man filled with dreams of changing the world. I assumed that I would do that with my writing. So I identified with those overachievers in the movie Fame, hopping around composing songs about the school cafeteria while dancing on the tables. Now I look at that scene in the movie and feel sorry for the poor custodian who has to clean up the mess.

Now that I can put aside my youthful optimisim, I realize that the truth is there are millions of people out there who don't have the luxury of basking in the glory of their artistic talents. When push comes to shove in the real world, talent doesn't always pay the rent. So little by little, you bend your dreams to fit reality.

In the real world, very few people make a living as a writer, musician or artist. Those who do are the ones that learn to play the game and produce what sells. I remember standing in line years ago at the University Bookstore in Seattle's U-District waiting to meet author Mark Helprin who was promoting his latest project, an illustrated book for children based on the ballet Swan Lake. Helprin was the author of Winter's Tale, a magical book I loved that I was sure that could only have been drafted by a extraterrestrial. It is an amazing, spiritually inspiring book. I didn't really want a copy of Swan Lake, but I wanted the opportunity to meet Helprin and stand in the presence of greatness. I figured he would recognize that I was talented young upcoming author and pass on some words of wisdom.

When I got to the head of the line, I looked around for Helprin, imagining this heroic figure bathed in divine aura. Instead there was this diminuative guy in a chair behind a table. He had thinning hair and coke bottle glasses. He didn't even look up when I stammered, "hello." He grabbed a copy of Swan Lake off from a stack next to him, opened it up and carefully wrote his name and the date. Then he dutifully noted the sale on a sheet of paper and handed me the book. Before he could move on to the next person and the next sale, I blurted out, "Do you mind signing a copy of Winter's Tale?" I had a dog eared copy in my pocket.

Helprin paused, and then looked up at me wearily and said (without feeling), "I'd love to. Do you have a copy?" I pulled out the book and handed it to him. He opened it up methodically the way he had opened up Swan Lake and signed his name and dated it. Then he handed it back and looked over my shoulder to the next paying customer. I walked away dejected.

The significance of this to me was that despite my romantic fantasy about what the life of a bestselling author would be like, the reality was, Helprin was just trying to make a living. He may have had a certain amount of limited fame in the literary world, but bottom line is you can't spread fame on bread and have it for lunch.

So applying this to my own life, I have realized that, although you may have certain talents for writing, singing, playing an instrument or dancing, you still have to survive. That entails acknowledging that the world doesn't owe you anything just because you can carry a tune or paint a picture. Sometimes you just have to work for what you need.

This is not to say you shouldn't nurture your talents. Because there is nothing that says that you can't light up the sky in your spare time after taking care of business. Even us jaded, middle-aged guys have to hang on to some dreams.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Oh-Man


I'm not sure whether I believe in omens or not. Oh sure, some things you can predict using common sense. Like rain for instance. Dark, ominous clouds are an omen that you should take your umbrella. But I try not to read too much into other things.

My mother told me I was born face up. Apparently the normal way to be born is facing down. If you are born face up, you run the risk of drowning in amniotic fluids (or so my mother told me). I think I was born face up because I wanted to see where I was headed instead of where I'd been.

This is not to say I'd want to know exactly what the future holds. That would be like knowing exactly what each of your Christmas presents was. What would be the fun in that. Though my father had this nasty habit of giving me pretty clear hints as to what my present was each year (i.e."Oh we got you a toy camera" when they had got me a Polaroid Swinger camera or "Oh we got you a toy television" when I got a portable black and white television).

Anticipation is a great motivator in life. In my mind, knowing the outcome would be a major buzz kill.

I wouldn't mind hints about what is going to happen (maybe not as blatant as the ones my father gave me about presents). It would be nice getting an idea of what not to do before you blundered into it.

This being said, I don't believe in psychic ability per se. I believe in intuition. But I have no faith in people who do readings for money. Just last week we were at Seattle Center with my brother-in-law's family visiting the Children's Museum (Seattle Center is the site of the 1962 World's Fair). He stepped out for a cigarette and came back in saying some odd woman approached him, stared into his eyes and declared, "You work for the City of Seattle, don't you? Where is the psychic fair being held today?"

Okay, my brother-in-law isn't from Seattle and doesn't work for the City of Seattle. And if this woman was a psychic, why couldn't she "see" where it was being held? It's like that old joke about you not needing an appointment to see a psychic. They should know you are coming.

I think the ability to predict really comes from experience (as long as you have a good memory). Because one thing I've learned in life is that human behaviour is pretty darned predictable. This becomes readily apparent each year around election time. Campaign commercials are full of claims about what the candidate or initiative will do or wont' do. Then newspapers uncover revelations that both sides packed their commercials with lies. And each year people are shocked. Finally, after the election the winners ignore what they promised and the losers disappear into oblvion.

Now that's a predictable prediction.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Degrees of crazy



I'm sure there are people who object to the term, "crazy." I've been in government service too long not to know that if I used the term crazy in an official capacity, I'd get various written complaints about my lack of sensitivity. Then I'd have to write a letter of apology to all of the crazies that I offended (which in itself is kind of crazy, because how could you be offended by the term crazy unless you are).

There are lots worse things to be called than crazy. Whack job, psycho bitch and nut job seem a lot more harsh than crazy. Loony Tunes, touched and wacko are a bit better. But crazy seems to be a more playful term. It's less cold and clinical than bi-polar, schizo or mentally challenged.

Besides, I have never really viewed being crazy as a bad thing. And I mean crazy in a fun, lamp shade on your head type of way, not crazy in a climb a water tower with a high powered weapon kind of way.

Most of the time when I think of crazy I'm referring more to being eccentric or quirky. And I find that an endearing quality. I relate to mildly crazy people more than I do to excessively straight people. But I suppose as with anything, there are varying degrees of crazy. A little bit crazy is better than really crazy.

I think it is easy to tolerate crazy people if you live in a major city. Growing up in Boise, we more or less kept our crazy people in the spare room watching television like my Uncle Ira who thought the Red Chinese were tunneling under the house to get him. Oh, there was this guy who would walk down the middle of Broadway near Boise State University carrying on a rather boisterous conversation with an invisible person. He wore a tiny cowboy hat, horn rim glasses and shorts. He seemed harmless but he stuck out like sore thumb.
Downtown Seattle is Loony Central. I think the Boise guy who talked to invisible people would have found it uncomfortable to live here because of the number of other people trying to talk to his non-existent friends. After living here for 27 years nothing much phases me anymore. Shoot, I even walk down the street babbling. It helps me blend in. And bottom line, sometimes being crazy keeps me sane.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hound of Hell


As a new father, I have been exposed to a lot of new experiences. But no one warned me about the danger of possessed toys.

Enya-Maria has tons of toys already. Every morning we pull them out of their boxes and she moves from one to another at a rate of about one per every 30 seconds. Every evening, I stuff the toys back into bins. Most of them are benign and go without a fight. But one, the Learning Puppy, will not die.

It seems pleasant enough. Enya-Maria loves to hug the thing and it sings random songs for her. During the course of a day it begins singing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes; Wheels on the bus; the Alphabet Song (and a few I don't recognize) about a hundred of times. The trouble is that it never seems to finish a frickin' song. Sure, it may have an over sensitive sensor or on/off switch that EM keeps triggering that prevents it from finishing a song. But I really think it does it to mess with my head.

And sometimes it just blurts out things when no one is near. I can't tell you how many times it screams out, "Hug me," in it's whiny, dysfunctional voice that appeals to me as much as shaving with a cheese grater. And when I toss the thing in the toy bin at night it says, "Night, night." How does it know? Then as I walk away it screams, "Hug me!" It's like having Glenn Close in the house reprising Fatal Attraction over and over.

If EM didn't love this thing so much, I'd have it buried out on the desert in a heartbeat. But something tells me that even then I'd wake up because of a scratching sound on the door and a voice whining, "Let's sing and play games....HUG ME!"

Die Devil Dog, die!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sanctuary


I've always thought of a blog as a sanctuary of sorts. I come here to rant, vent, gloat, complain or pontificate in what I view as a relatively safe environment. I have been fortunate over the years not to have attracted trolls or other assorted Internet vermin. I suppose it helps that I can delete any offensive comments if necessary. I haven't really had to.

I bring this up because, although I've been burned out at times, I've never really wanted to stop blogging. From an artistic standpoint, it's pretty much the only canvas I have. And from a point, point, I've never really had one so I have never felt like a failure for not making one.

When I started blogging, I didn't have a clue what a blog was. I think that helped me. Because if you don't have expectations, you can't fail to meet them. But in retrospect, I think I actually exceeded my expectations for what a blog could mean to me.

In all honesty, I harbored the fantasy in the beginning that I would be discovered as a writer once my blog caught on. Finally faced with the reality that there are millions of blogs out there, I accepted that being discovered by a few quality people was more gratifying than actually becoming a blip on the radar screen of celebrity.

Blogging has brought me friends who I will likely never meet but who have been warm and supportive beyond many of the friends I have in my every day life. It has brought me new perspectives and ideas. And it has brought me an outlet for sharing.

Bottom line is, I don't think I'll ever stop blogging. The medium may change and the way in which we post or the technology, but I plan to hold onto my sanctuary as long as I have thoughts and can function.

And if there is nothing good on television.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Father Tim-E


Back in January I posted the image above after Tess and I returned from Guatemala after our first visit with Enya-Maria. It was kind of my way of acknowledging I had become a father without actually telling anyone. It seemed an appropriate image to use on my new blog, Father Tim-E: My adventures in parenting.

And don't get your hopes up. Dizgraceland isn't going away. It will always be the mother ship of fools. I'll just confine my baby pictures to my daddy blog and keep the weird crap here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I'm so tired



I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink
No,no,no.
--The Beatles, I'm so tired

I like being a father, but I wish babies liked to sleep until 9 or 10 a.m. And it's not like I'm jumping up every two to three hours with a new born changing diapers and popping bottles in my daughter's mouth (though we got to do that on our first visit with her last Christmas). But Enya-Maria does tend to keep us guessing about when she is going to decide to wake up. She tends to need a diaper change and bottle anywhere between 3 and 5 a.m. and then sleeps until anywhere between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m.

In all honesty, Tess is the one who pops up to tend to the wee hour (no pun intended) diaper change. On the days that I'm staying home with our daughter, Tess says she wants me rested and it gives her time to be with Enya-Maria before she has to get ready for work. But on the days Tess is staying home, she still jumps up comfort our daughter. I don't protest vigorously. I imagine my time will come.

Regardless of whether I get up or not, I wake up. I am not a sound sleeper. I've gotten so the mere rustle of our daughter tossing in her sleep puts me on a first level alert. A whimper raises that alert. When that elevates to a prolonged cry, I'm ready to jump up. The past few nights she has been waking up at midnight, 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. tossing, kicking and crying out odd things. I swear the other night she yelled, "Rosebud." But that could just be me projecting things on her.

Even after a rough night that leaves Tess and I feeling as though we've been through the Cuisinart at high speed, Enya-Maria wakes up smiling coyly as if she hadn't been wriggling in our arms with her head spinning like Linda Blair ala the Exorcist just hours before. I applaud her ability to do mornings. At least one of us is smiling.

I have found that taking care of a baby and blogging are not totally compatible. Even when she is napping, I'm too busy picking Cheerios out of the cat's fur to think about blogging. The evenings are spent catching up with Tess, cooking dinner and listening to the baby monitor in case Lind Blair decides to make an appearance upstairs.

I suppose I will get into the rhythm of it all. Some day I'll be able to feed Enya-Maria breakfast, play with her, get her morning bottle, walk her to Safeway to prime her for her nap and manage to squeeze in a shower and maybe some blogging. Until then I've given up worrying about my appearance. That's what jogging suits and baseball caps are for.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gotcha


My daughter is special. Not only will she get to celebrate a birthday each year on October 18th, she will also get to celebrate August 28th. That is our Gotcha Day. It is the day that we dressed her in a new dress I'd bought and packed for the occasion, and took her in a cab at 7: 30 a.m. to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City for our final visa appointment. It is the day that we waited in line with 15 or 20 other adopting families to be ushered into a small waiting room lined with windows where weary clerks called names and numbers and processed forms to legitimize in the eyes of the US government what we'd already known in our heart for months -- that Enya-Maria was our daughter.

"H**** family, please proceed to door number 11," was the announcement we waited for. We lined up by what looked like a closet door. Several families were in front of us. Each entered the door and returned a few minutes later smiling. Our turn came and we entered. It was no more than a closet with two chairs in front of a bullet proof cage where an Embassy staffer sat behind files stuffed with the paper trail that had led us here. He asked to see our passports and the bright new, red Guatemalan passport that had been issued for our daughter. He asked a couple of questions about how many times we'd visited and then stamped our file.

"Your application had been approved."


We went back to the waiting room in shock. Our name was called again to go to another window where yet another Embassy staffer had us raise our right hands and swear to something. I was in such a daze that I can't remember what it was. He then told us we could come back the next day at 3:30 p.m. and pick up our visa that was our ticket home with Enya-Maria.

We left the Embassy quickly and caught a cab back to the hotel. Enya-Maria seemed oblivious to the momentous occasion as Tess and I hugged her and reassured her that she was ours now and we'd never let her go. We took her to the pool once we got to the hotel and all of us played in the water. Tess and I recalled earlier trips to the Westin and the pool when Enya-Maria was much younger and much less enamored with the water. Now she splashed confidently, held up by her mother's arms and smiled with her gummy grin.

That night we went to dinner at the hotel restaurant to celebrate. We were seated in dining Siberia. It's one of those things we are learning as parents. You have a baby you are tucked away at restaurant in places where crying and food tossing will not bother the other patrons. That was fine with us. We each had a glass of wine and took turns moving things out of Enya-Maria's reach and placing non-choke able bits of food in her mouth.

We shared a cab the next day with another adopting father going to the Embassy to pick up visa's. This was his second Guatemalan adoption and he was pretty nonchalant about the process. We returned to the same waiting room at the Embassy and chatted with some of the familiar faces from the day before. Finally they began calling names. We heard ours and Tess went to the window with our passports to retrieve Enya-Maria's passport with her US Visa. Within minutes we were back in a cab for our last night at the Westin.


Then next morning we took the hotel shuttle to the airport. Both Tess and I breathed a sigh of relief when we had checked our luggage, cleared security and finally filed onto the plane to leave Guatemala with our daughter. There had been too many trips from that airport without her. The flight, Enya-Maria's first (I didn't take my first plane ride until I was 15). I had booked us in First Class. Coach is traumatic enough for adults on long flights. I wasn't going to inflict that on my baby daughter. She did reasonably well considering.

We touched down in Houston and Tess and I gave each other knowing looks. We had brought our daughter to the US soil. The unpredictable ebbs and flows of the Guatemalan legal system were behind us now. We went through immigration and handed them all of Enya-Maria's documents. They escorted us to a backroom where the documents were examined. Finally the immigration officer stamped Enya-Maria's visa and said we could leave. As we passed through the door we heard the officer mutter, "Congratulations."

It didn't matter. We heard marching bands in our heads and imagined fireworks and other sounds of celebration. We hugged our daughter close to us headed off to retrieve our luggage and catch the final flight home.

It has been two weeks now since our long journey ended. And already the pain and anxiety of the long process is beginning to fade. The waiting and worrying about when we could be with our daughter has been replaced with the day to day joys and worries about naps, feedings and dirty diapers. The process of adoption has been replaced by the process of parenting. And each time I place Enya-Maria in her crib I look at her peaceful sleeping face and whisper, "Sleep well, hija. I am so glad we finally 'gotcha." Te amo." Then I watch for a few moments to make sure she is breathing and tiptoe out.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hija - a homecoming, Pt. 2, the process of adoption


People ask lots of questions when you tell them you are adopting. 'Why Guatemala?,' is right up there at the top. There were many reasons we chose Guatemala when we started the process. It had fewer restrictions on age of parents. I am pushing 50 and Tess is in her early 40s. I'm too old to adopt in most countries.

Guatemala didn't require you to spend weeks in the country before you could adopt. Theoretically you could fly in, pick up your child and leave in a three-day period. Tess and I really laugh at that one now. Collectively we spent almost three months in Guatemala counting visits and the pick up trip. But that was our choice.

I think the number one reason we adopted from Guatemala was that most of the children are kept in foster homes rather than orphanages. Guatemalan adoptees tend to have fewer attachment issues. There are also almost no instances of fetal alcohol syndrome in Guatemalan children. Culturally, women don't tend to drink in Guatemala. And the poverty level keeps them from affording alcohol if they did.

'Isn't it expensive to adopt?,' is another one of the questions. Yes. But so is a pregnancy. So are fertility treatments. So is a car. So is a house. So is life. Once you are in the adoption process, cost and time become irrelevant. What is important is the child.

'Why does it take so long?' I hated that question more than any of the other questions. I wish it was a short process. It would be so much better for the children. But it is a process that involves two governments, lawyers, agencies and red tape beyond your wildest dreams. I wanted to scream at people, "We aren't buying a puppy, this is a child from another country." But I just smiled a fake smile most of the time and said, "That's just the process."

The long process starts by picking an adoption agency. There are tons of them. They all claim to have all the knowledge you need to complete a successful adoption. They have professionally done Web sites and promise they will hold your hand at every step. We chose a local one that didn't answer the phone, "Praise Jesus."

Once you have signed with an agency, you prepare a dossier with all of the documents required by the country you've chosen. You need certified copies of birth certificates that are then notarized and state sealed that they are indeed notarized. You also need the same for your marriage certificate. In general, you have to have at least three certified, notarized and state sealed copies of these document. Then there are financial records and recommendation letters. And you need a home study by a social worker that requires a biography and photos of you, your family and your house.

Oh and you need background checks by DSHS and homeland security. This includes fingerprints that are taken at one of the Homeland Security centers. Everything has to be sent to the Guatemalan Embassy in San Francisco where it is stamped and entered into their bureaucratic process. All of this requires processing fees and fed ex fees and fees just to process the fees.

Eventually you have gathered gathered every possible official paper you can and it is all sent to Guatemala. Then you wait for a referral of a child by a Guatemalan lawyer who has a contractual relationship with your adoption agency. Ours came on October 26, 2006. Enya-Maria had been born on October 18.

We filed an I-600 or whatever number it is with the US Department of State. This began the pre-approval process. During that time we were also signing powers of attorney and getting pre-approval for a DNA test. There was family court in Guatemala that included a social worker interview with the birth mother. Many of these things were going on concurrently, but they all were required to move on to the next step in the process.

We visited in December to see our daughter for the first time. That experience deserves its own post. The day before we arrived, the DNA was conducted on our daughter and her birth mother to ensure that they were biologically related.

We visited for the second time in February. While there we learned we had received our Pre-Approval from the DOS and the social worker from the Guatemalan family court had completed her report. We hoped at that point that we'd bring her home by March or April.

For some reason, our lawyer dragged his heels and didn't submit our case to the final step in the Guatemalan process until late March. The final hurdle there was PGN, an office similar to the Attorney Generals Office in the US that reviews all adoption cases. We entered PGN on March 23. On May 10, our case was kicked out of PGN for a typo on our Power of Attorney document. Our lawyer had listed the wrong province of birth for our daughter. After some scrambling, our file was resubmitted to PGN on May 30. It languished there until July 6 when it was finally approved. As far as Guatemala was concerned, Enya-Maria was now our daughter.

Tess quickly hopped on a plane and went to foster our daughter while we finalized our documents with the US government. This required getting final sign off by the birth mother. Then a new birth certificate needed to be issued with our names as the parent. This was followed by getting a Guatemalan passport. Once we had those documents, our lawyer submitted everything to the US Embassy on August 7. They added a new requirement at that time. We needed to get a 2nd DNA test to prove that our daughter was the same child who had had the first DNA test. This added two weeks to the process.

Finally on August 23, Tess went to the US Embassy to retrieve what everyone in the Guatemalan adoption world views as the holy grail: "Pink." Pink is the color of the piece of paper the Embassy issues when they grant you a final interview to get a visa to allow you to take your child to the US. Our appointment was August 28.

I scrambled to get roundtrip airfare for myself and one-way for Tess and Enya-Maria. I arrived in Guatemala on August 26. Our interview took place on the 28th and we picked up the visa on August 29th. We were on the plane home on August 30th. The final step in the long process was handing a sealed envelope from the US Embassy to Immigration Officers in Houston. They took us to a backroom, opened the envelope, stamped several papers and finally the visa in Enya-Maria's passport. The bored Immigration Officer handed us the passport and said, "There you go."

The process was over. Even now, I go numb when I think about it. I find myself writing about it clinically and detached. I think it is because now that it is over, I don't want to relive the pain of it. I don't want to pick that scab of emotions and ups and downs wondering if we would ever bring our daughter home.

But what is important to us now is that we are moving on with our lives together. Every night now I can kiss Enya-Maria good night and not her photo. I know that when I wake up (to her gentle cries and coos from her crib) our day will be one of toys and bottles and bibs, not endless bureacratic process and emotional pain, wondering when...when she will come home. Because finally she is home.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hija - a homecoming, Pt. 1



On our initial descent into the Guatemala City airport, the pilot had pulled up from his first approach, citing a warning light on one of the flaps. After a long ten minutes, he announced it was only a glitch and we'd be landing "normally" in a few minutes. I didn't breath easy until the wheels touched asphalt.

This was my fourth trip to Guatemala in eight months and my first trip there alone. I stepped off the airplane noting that the airport was never the same in Guatemala. As with most of Latin America, it was constantly under construction at a Third World pace that defied logic.

It is the rainy season in Guatemala. The airport was hot and humid. The customs agent barely looked up after stamping my passport and retrieving my immigration form. I walked into luggage claim and waved off the baggage handlers eager to help. I was only waiting for one bag. Fortunately it arrived quickly and I prepared myself for walking the gauntlet outside Guatemala City's airport.

I passed throngs of people waiting for loved ones. I scanned the several signs held up by drivers waiting for clients. I ignored the inquiries from cab drivers and tour operators. I had just reached the end of the lines of people when a young man of about 28 approached me and asked, "Are you Tim?" I nodded, shook his hand and let him take my bag.

He led me over uneven concrete and gravel walks towards a parking lot. He pointed to a van. I smiled when I saw my wife waving at me. In her arms was the reason for our many trips to Guatemala.



"Say 'hi daddy, Enya-Maria," my wife said, waving my daughters tiny hand. She shyly burrowed into Tess. They'd been together for six weeks in an apartment in Antigua, a small colonial town about 45 minutes from Guatemala City. I hugged them both and leaned to kiss Enya-Maria's head. She burrowed further into Tess.

We piled into the van. I sat next to Enya-Maria's car seat where she cast shy glances at me and smiled slightly with a heart melting toothless grin. We pulled into traffic and began the winding journey to Antigua. The van dueled with Chicken Buses, the colorful ancient form of public transportation most people in Guatemala commute on. I was reminded briefly of a scene from Ben Hur as our van's tires came precariously close to the hubs of one of the buses trying to cut us off. Driving in Guatemala is 90 percent horn and 10 percent steering. Somehow we avoided a collision.

I looked back at my daughter who began talking to me in a language that was neither Spanish or English. She looked back at my wife and then at me. The last time I saw my daughter was in April. It was torture not seeing her for four months. But that is one of the downsides of International adoption.

We arrived in Antigua, a centuries old Spanish town ripe with character and history. Two volcanoes rise above the town. One had erupted while Tess was there, lighting up the night sky like Roman Candles. When I arrived they were both shrouded in clouds.

Our van squeezed down a narrow cobblestone street lined with nondescript but colorful doors. It was hard to imagine, but the doors masked elaborate houses and courtyards with numerous apartments and businesses hidden from the street. One of doors, a red one, opened to the group of apartments where Tess had been living with Enya-Maria since mid-July.

I marveled at the contrast of Antigua with Guatemala City, the only part of Guatemala I'd seen up until now. All of our trips beginning in December of last year had consisted of shuttle rides to the Westin Camino Real, six nights in the hotel, and shuttle rides back to the airport. Another downside of adoptions in Guatemala is that when you visit, it is not really safe to take your baby out of the hotels. The adoption community is rife with stories of Guatemala City police stopping foreigners with Guatemalan babies or the foster mothers delivering them to hotels and threatening to take them away unless a financial resolution can be agreed upon.

Antigua is just the opposite. It flows in a slow fashion almost untouched by the modern world. That is why when our adoption was final in the Guatemalan government's eyes, Tess chose to go to Antigua to begin the bonding process. There are probably at least a hundred other American mother's fostering their Guatemalan children while the glacier speed adoption process moves forward (and sometimes backwards). They moved about freely in this city that caters to tourists and Spanish students.



Tess' apartment is smaller than I had judged from the almost daily photos she sent me. But it was comfortable and safe. Enya-Maria had overcome her shyness and was tugging at my pant leg while she played with Grover and other comforting toys. Tess turned on a small television and Enya-Maria laughed in delight as her favorite programs on the Discovery Kids Channel flashed by, albeit in Spanish. I would soon become very familiar with High Five, Lazy Town, Backyardagains and of course Barney.

Tess was anxious to show me the town she had grown to know so well in six weeks of exploring while getting to know our daughter's personality quirks. I pulled out the Ergo Baby sling I'd ordered per Tess' instructions and we quickly strapped it on me. Enya-Maria slid in and hugged my chest as if we'd been doing this every day. My heart warmed as I felt her tiny arms clutch me and her head nestled against my chest.

A gentle rain began falling as we stepped into the street. Tess handed me an umbrella. It was the rainy season and if you waited for the rain to stop before you ventured out, you'd never venture out.

Sunday's are very busy in Antigua. For some reasons marching bands were performing around the town square. We weaved in and out of Guatemalan families out for a stroll, teenagers in band uniforms, soldiers with ominous looking automatic rifles and American tourists. I was hypersensitive to the cobblestone streets and the delicate cargo I had in my daddy pouch clutching to me.

Antigua could be a scene from a Hollywood movie. Horse drawn carriages rolled by pulled by ponies that you could easily count the number of ribs on. Mayan women in traditional garb walked with unidentifiable loads on their heads. On a more sobering side, beggars with various deformities sat in doorways with begging bowls waiting for a few Quetzales to help them stave off hunger.

We passed shops, and ruins of churches toppled by ancient earthquakes. Squeezed in between were Internet cafes and finally a McDonalds that made the plastic molded versions back home pale in comparison. In addition to Happy Meals and Egg McMuffins, you could buy Guatemalan traditional breakfasts of black beans, plantains and eggs. American McDonalds have a lot to learn from that McDonalds.

Tess pointed out old churches and charming hotels where she'd paid to use the pool to entertain our new daughter. She took me into shops lined with masks, fabrics, and other crafts. I was relieved that Guatemala hasn't succumbed to the malady of tourist towns in Mexico. There were very few tacky t-shirts and shot glasses to be seen.

We stopped at a small cafe Tess had discovered and settled in for lunch. Tess extracted Enya-Maria from my pouch and a waitress brought a high chair. I scanned the menu. It was in English and Spanish. This was fortunate because neither Tess nor I are fluent in Spanish. And the waitress wasn't fluent in English. I ordered a Coke light and I thought I noticed a slight frown on her face. We also ordered a couple of bottles of water and some sandwiches and she hurried away, pausing a moment to pat Enya-Maria on the head and coo, "Bonita nina."

Tess began popping Cheerios into Enya-Maria's mouth as she worked the crowd in the room, waving and flashing her gummy bear grin. Few could resist smiling in return. "That's my girl," I thought.

A Guatemalan couple with their baby were seated in the table behind me. Enya-Maria began a conversation with the baby and they giggled back and forth. The sandwiches arrived with fresh fruit. Tess taught me to squeeze small bits of the fruit and pop them into Enya-Maria's mouth. She accepted them readily like a baby bird being fed bits of worms or grubs. I became fascinated with the process of foraging in my salad for things she could eat. Fatherhood does strange things to you.

We finished up, paid in Quetzales and returned Enya-Maria to her daddy pouch. As we past the Guatemalan couple and their baby, I smiled. The mother shot me a stony glare. I felt a twinge of embarrassment. Maybe it was my imagination. But I couldn't help but be sensitive to the fact that not all Guatemalan people are happy that more than 4000 babies a year are adopted by American couples and taken out of the country.

We wove our way home and I experienced the evening rituals that Tess had established for Enya-Maria. We played. Then I helped shovel unappetizing looking goo and applesauce into her mouth (well mostly into her mouth). That was followed by a bubble bath in the kitchen sink, changing into pajamas, a bottle and reading of Buenas Noches Bebe before bed. As our daughter slept Tess and I held each other and talked of the long time apart. Neither of us could believe that we were finally going to be able to bring our baby home.

We went to bed after checking to make sure Enya-Maria was breathing. I quickly crashed as the red eye flight caught up with me.

Around 6 a.m. I was aware of rustling from the Pack and Play where Enya-Maria slept. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her pull herself up to standing and then I heard a small voice say, "Daddy!"

I fought back the tears and rose to pick up my daughter.


Author's Note: Call me superstitious, but I didn't want to write about our adoption until our daughter was safely home with us. It has been an emotional roller coaster that has finally wound down. Enya-Maria was born October 18, 2006. We received a photo of her a week later and immediately fell in love. Our first visit was in December so we could spend her first Christmas together. That was followed by a trip in February and again in April. Tess went for another visit in June and finally went to foster her in mid-July. We brought her home on Thursday, August 30.

I plan to finish writing about our last days in Guatemala in future posts. I will be taking a couple days a week family leave through next June. I may start another blog to write about that experience. Somehow Dizgraceland doesn't seem to be the best venue for writing about how much I love my daughter.

Friday, August 24, 2007

An offer I can't refuse


I don't mean to be cryptic (well actually I do), but I'm probably not going to be posting for a few days. Let's just say that I have some...well...family matters to take care of. The next time I post, however, it should be a doozy. Capice?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rabbit run

I thought I was developing quite the rapport the bunny that was hanging out in my yard. I bought him some rabbit food at Safeway and a food and water dish. I figured rabbit does not live on grass alone. He/she seemed pretty grateful when I put it out with a couple of carrots Friday evening.

On Saturday, he/she even hopped up to me and let me pet him/her. So obviously this was a pet rabbit. I felt sorry for it even though it seemed to be enjoying relative freedom. Suburbia is not a safe haven for domesticated rabbits to roam unprotected. I hoped that as long as he/she stayed in my fenced yard no dogs would get him (let’s just say it was a him to avoid this he/she crap, okay).

I toyed with the idea of catching it, buying a hutch and curtailing it’s dangerous freedom. It wouldn’t be free range any more, but at least it would be safe from dogs, cats, raccoons and cars.

Circumstances made this impractical at the moment. I plan on taking a trip in the near future and although cats can fend for themselves, rabbits are a bit more high maintenance. I reasoned that if the rabbit was still there when I returned, I’d go the hutch route. Maybe I’d keep it in my garage. I'd name the rabbit at that time, too. I'm not sure what I'd call him though. When I had a pet rabbit as a kid, I called him Bunrab. I could do better than that now.

It's funny how you let plans hop on down the trail past reality.

It rained on Sunday morning and I saw the little guy hopping around in the grass in my backyard for awhile. That was the last I saw of him. Sunday evening, the food I’d left in his dish was mush. I tossed it and put fresh stuff out, under cover of my patio table, but it didn't look to be touched on Monday.

So the rabbit is gone. I loved that rabbit like it was my own. I’d like to think he found his way back home. I’d like to think that.

It’s better than the other possibilities.

I miss that rabbit.

Friday, August 17, 2007

My morning



I was waiting for you
I was sat in the sun
I could picture your face on the tip of my tongue
I woke up laughing
--Robert Palmer, Woke up Laughing


I didn’t really wake up laughing. I woke up staring at the clock, dreading the digital tick from 5:44 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. I don’t use an alarm. I always just wake up at the time I’m supposed to get up (or almost always). I don’t know if it is a gift or a curse.

The cat was agitated this morning for some reason. Normally she just lays at the foot of the bed just out of range of my tossing and turning feet, curled in a cat ball. This morning she complained to me in a series of staccato meows and followed me into the bathroom. This was full moon behavior, but it isn’t a full moon. It is a waxing crescent. So I haven’t a clue why she stared at me intently while I brushed my teeth with the Sonicare and then ran under the bed.

After showering and dressing, I went downstairs. My other two cats appeared unimpressed by any of the weird vibes going on this morning. They lounged around on various couches. I was just grateful neither had puked on the carpet. This seems to be the drill every other morning. One of them bazooka barfs on a regular basis and I spend quality time with a bottle of resolve and a cleaning rag.

I washed down my morning regimen of pills (two for blood pressure, one for excess stomach acid, one for cholesterol and a few vitamins) with a diet Dr. Pepper. Then
I threw a Jimmy Dean breakfast croissant into the microwave and marveled that the box stated it was “meal sized.” It was barely the size of a hockey puck and has the same texture when you eat it.

While I waited for breakfast, I walked out to the mailbox to send back my latest random Netflix choice. It was a stupid, low budget movie called Zzyzx:

“Out in the middle of nowhere, on a remote desert road, the lives of three people are forever changed in this sinister tale. Heading to Vegas, Lou (Kenny Johnson) and Ryan (Ryan Fox) take a detour onto Zzyzx Road, a supposed hangout for extra terrestrials. But as they drive along searching for Martians and Klingons, they accidentally hit a man and must find a way to dispose of his body. Their problems only increase when the man's wife shows up.”
Zzyzx sux’d.

But I digress.

When I popped the Netflix into the mailbox, a rabbit hopped out of the bushes in my front yard. I wasn’t surprised to see a rabbit. He’s been hopping around my yard for a couple of weeks now. I assume he is someone’s pet who busted out of the hutch and became free range. He doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother him. He steers clear of me for the most part, but this morning he hopped right up to me. And right behind him was a big orange Tabby presumably trying to figure out if this was a mutant mouse or another cat with big ears. I watched them for a couple of minutes to make sure there weren’t going to be any skirmishes and then went back inside to take my Jimmy Dean breakfast croissant out of the microwave.

At precisely 6:45 a.m., I shouted goodbye to the cats, hopped in my Nissan Frontier pick-up, and backed out of the garage. The orange tabby and the rabbit were still facing off in the bushes. I watched the garage door close and told myself out loud, “The door is closed,” so I wouldn’t turn around a block away and come back to check it. Sometimes I still do. I waved at the bunny and the neighbor’s cat and drove to the train station as I unwrapped the Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich.

At 6:55 a.m. I pulled into the train station parking lot after waiting for a garbage truck to inch gently over a couple of speed bumps to avoid damaging his load of trash. I pulled into my spot, hopped out of my truck, beep locked it twice so I wouldn’t come back and check to see if I locked it, and walked to my spot on the train platform. The loud mouth know-it-all transplant from the East Coast was pontificating to some guy next to him about when they were going to build another train station in a nearby town. He was spouting information I had told him a couple of days ago. It was almost verbatim exactly what I had said. I wished I had given him a few outrageous facts just to see if he would have parroted those back too.

Twit.

The train arrived at 7:05 a.m. I dashed on board and sat in my seat and immediately begin checking my e-mail on my new pocket PC that has replaced my Blackberry as my favorite OCD activity. It basically combines all of the characteristics of the Blackberry, a Palm Pilot and telephone in one blinking package.

My train arrives at King Street Station in downtown Seattle at 7:30 a.m. I walk up the stairs and make the light at the crosswalk without waiting. This is a good sign. I am at my desk at 7:35 a.m.
My day has begun.
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: I realize that this post was about as entertaining as watching paint dry, but it represents the truly great thing about blogging. You don't have an editor asking you why the hell are you submitting this kind of crap and telling you there is no way they will print it. Besides, sometimes I like to watch paint dry. Just don't eat too many of the paint chips.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Taking a stroll


Anymore, my strolls down Memory Lane require a walker. I used to have an incredible memory. Now I have a so-so memory. I was dropping some shirts off at the dry cleaner last week and the clerk asked me for the last four digits of my telephone number. I can normally recall my entire telephone number, but I was having a hard time just isolating the last four digits. Of course this could just be the way my brain stores information.

My personal theory about memory is that, although we have tons of excess brain capacity, the librarian in the brain gets sloppier and sloppier about where he or she files things. And the older we get, the more crap we have to remember. So although all the information is there somewhere, it sometimes takes awhile to find it.

“Okay, where did I put my bank card pin number…I think I left it over by the name of my pet parakeet when I was in 5th grade. No, maybe it is there next to my SAT scores. If that is the case, I’ll never find it…wait there it is, right next to my junior high locker combination.”

Sometimes I try and recall my first memory. I used to think it was sitting on a blanket in my front yard as a baby with our dog Lucky sitting nearby. But I think the real reason I think that is my earliest memory is that it is one of the first photographs I have of me.

I actually think the best memory is a photograph. I remember things better if I have a photograph. I think we will remember things better now that we have the digital age and can snap photos with our telephones.

But then again there is also Photoshop and we’ve all seen what Photoshop can do when placed in the wrong hands.

But I digress.

One of the ironies about our computer age and the ability to store more and more memories in hard drives that have more “memory” (I saw a portable drive last week with 1 terabyte of memory or a trillion bytes) is that we still have to remember a password to access them. Then we have to remember what we named the file and where we stored it. Then by the time we find the file we forget why we wanted it.

Oh well, there was a point to this post when I started out. I just can’t remember what it was.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Reflecting


I don't know how others see me. I just know how I see me. So I am surprised at times when the worlds collide.

Living in a larger city such as Seattle, you tend to keep your guard up, especially when you are walking down the street in Pioneer Square (our historic downtown neighborhood that typically attracts the less affluent citizens of our city). I have always liked Pioneer Square with it's 19th century buildings and 'been around the block a few times' attitude.

A couple of days ago I went to lunch with a friend at a pizza by the slice place in Pioneer Square. We sat outside and ate our slices New York style, folded down the middle to contain the grease in the pizza. There was the usual crowds of tourists fresh from the Underground Tours clutching their maps of the area and looking vaguely desperate as they searched for something historic to photograph. They stuck out in sharp contrast to the street folk who heckled them from benches around Occidental Square.

My friend, who has been quitting smoking now for about three years said he needed some matches so we wandered over to a small store sandwiched between Dome Burger (named after the King Dome that was imploded about 7 years ago) and a bass guitar store. I waited outside while he went looking for fire sticks.

Rule number one in any big city is that you don't stop moving. Rule number two is that if you do stop moving, you don't let your guard down. If you violate both rules you quickly become visible and a magnet.

I violated both rules. I stopped and began daydreaming about god knows what and my street face slipped off. Within seconds I noticed someone approaching me out of the corner of my eye. I tried to slip my street face back on, but it was too late. I looked over and there was a semi-normal looking woman approaching my personal space zone. I say semi-normal because she wasn't pushing a shopping cart and she was dressed in normal street clothes, but I sensed she had fallen on hard times.

Then she spoke.

"Would you buy me some chips?"

It took me a few moments for this to register because I was expecting a pitch for spare change.

"Chips," I asked?

"Yes," she responded. "I need something in my stomach to absorb the alcohol." I looked up at the store and saw a row of potato chips.

"What kind of chips do you want?"

"Any kind," she said. I began heading towards the store to buy her some chips and she waited like a patient stray.

Then I heard her call out after me, "Cheddar cheese and sour cream."

I scanned the rows of chips and sure enough there were the cheddar cheese and sour cream variety. I grabbed a bag, paid for it and walked outside. The woman hadn't moved an inch. She lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw I hadn't scooted out the back door. I handed her the chips and a couple of bucks. She looked so happy and yet so sad, I did something I never do, I hugged her. Then I turned to join my friend who was on his second cigarette by then staring at me quizzically.

As I walked away the woman called after me, "God bless you. I'm going have a chip right now." She tore open the bag and held one of the chips and saluted me with it." I waved.

"What was that all about," my friend asked.

"Poor thing, " I said. "She needed some chips."

"Why did she ask you?"

I thought about it for a minute and then answered, "Because she knew I would buy them for her."

My friend nodded and we walked back to work.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bobby


In June, 1968 I was 10 years old. It was the last day of school. I was in bed thinking I was dreaming the sound of a radio announcer saying, "Robert Kennedy is dead, the victim of an assassin's bullet." It wasn't a dream. My parents were listening to radio that morning.

At ten, I was old enough to feel the pain that the nation was feeling that year. It was a bloody year. Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed before Bobby Kennedy. The death toll in Vietnam was daily part of the evening news and the Democratic Convention in Chicago was destined for riots.

I watched the movie Bobby last night. It brought back those memories of waking up to that announcement that yet another Kennedy had been murdered. It was an amazing film. It recalled that night at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles through the lives of several characters who had nothing in common except those fateful seconds when Sirhan Sirhan pulled the trigger and ended a great man's life and the hopes of millions of Americans.

Even though I was alive when the events took place and knew how the movie had to end, I cried anyway. I cried for what might have been if Bobby hadn't been killed. Maybe the Vietnam war would have ended sooner. There wouldn't have been a Watergate. Civil Rights would have come to our nation sooner. And we might have paid attention to Global Warming earlier.

I cried because of what is happening to our country now. We are mired in a senseless war that is Vietnam without the jungles. We have a President that makes even Nixon look like a better deal. We've let our environment tank and we live in an even more violent society than we did in 1968.

Where is our Bobby Kennedy?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Waning gibbous moon

“The waning gibbous moon is just past full and illuminated generally from the left.”
--Anonymous

We are in the midst of a waning gibbous moon. "Gibbous" means "rounded or protruding" and comes from the Latin word meaning "hump." I had a hunch that I would eventually be led back to writing about “humps.”

Every day on the train home, we pass through BNSF train yards and I see this one train car that has “DO NOT HUMP” on the back of it. I know it is just a railroad term for a car that should be treated with care because of a fragile load (rail cars are sometimes rolled down a hump to form a train). Still, it makes me giggle sophomorically like Beavis and Butthead every time I see it.

But I digress.

I like that an almost full moon is called a waxing gibbous moon and a just past full moon is called a waning moon. I’m not sure why. It just sounds cool.

I’m not sure why dropping your pants and wagging your butt at someone is called a full moon, however. I don’t suppose anyone refers to the practice as giving someone the gibbous.

Obviously it is a slow blog day.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tides


I am always fascinated by the ebb and flow of life. It is a fluid thing, moving in and out like so many breaths. Always things coming and always things going -- people, jobs, possessions, emotions, thoughts, memories. Try to grasp it and it slips nimbly through your fingers. So most of the time you stand on the shore and watch it.

Even watching, though, you are part of it. Breath in, breath out. When you are a child you hold your breath and wonder if by doing so, you can freeze time in cubes to be thawed out later. At least that is what I wondered.

Everything we value, flows. Words flow, music flows, love flows, emotions flow and thoughts flow. Or they should. Funny that when something doesn't flow we say it is blocked. We have writer's block or we are emotionally blocked. "Go with the flow," should be our mantra (unless you are a salmon, because in their world only dead fish go with the flow).

But I can't help but feel a little sad at the tide-like nature of things. Everything eventually seems to slip away into the horizon. No matter how many times you write "forever" in the sand, the waves will ultimately erase it.

So I write my messages and seal them in this bottle and cast them into the tide. I suppose they will wash up on some one's shore and mean something before they drift on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Walking man



And the walking man walks. Doesn't know nothing at all.Any other man stops
and talks but the walking man walks on by, walk on by.
--James Taylor, Walking Man

I am a walking man. I am not a running man. I do not enjoy jogging. I do not think it is a physical limitation. I will walk on a tread mill or elliptical machine for an hour, but I can never bring myself to run. I do not like to run. The only reason I have ever embraced for running is if someone is chasing me.

I may have liked to run when I was a kid. I remember dashing around the playground. But when I hit 7th grade I learned to hate running. It was Mr. Ackley and 7th grade P.E. that was the straw that broke this running camel’s back.

Mr. Ackley had been a mediocre jock in college. And like most mediocre jocks with miniscule brains, he majored in physical education. When he realized he was never going to turn pro, he took his jock degree and became a junior high P.E. teacher. And because he was bitter about his own failure, he took it out on the 12 and 13 year old puberty bound boys in his P.E. classes.

P.E. was traumatic to me on more than one level. The first challenge for me was that you were required to take gang showers in the locker room. I was a shy kid who grew up in a family where nudity was a private thing. Stripping down in front of 20 or 30 kids was humiliating to me, especially at age 12.

The other challenge was P.E. itself. I have never been a natural athlete. I would always try hard at sports, but I just didn’t have that raw talent that some boys had for hitting balls, throwing footballs or making jump shots. I even sucked at tether ball. Mr. Ackley looked at boys like me with the ultimate disdain.

Mr. Ackley had this rule: the last kid out of the locker room to get to the gym for role call had to run two cross country laps once we went outside. A cross country was once around the play field and then a lap around the school’s outside track. Every one in class had to run one cross country. I dreaded them. I developed a phobia about running cross country laps. I thought I would be coughing up blood by the end of them. And I was usually dead last in finishing them. I’d get berated by Ackley or his assistant every time.

It got to be mini phobia of mine that I would be last out of the locker room and have to run double laps. I started wearing sweater vests so I could unbutton my shirt in the class before PE and strip quickly. It didn’t help that I had this English class right before PE with a teacher who wouldn’t let us leave until she dismissed us regardless of whether the bell had rang or not.

I was never the last person out of the locker room, but sometimes Ackley would punish the whole class for some infraction and we’d all have to run double laps. Instead of enjoying running as exercise, I learned to hate it as humiliating punishment. Thanks Mr. Ackley. You were a great role model.

So that's why I am a walking man.