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 EM 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

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

I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry

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

I'm gonna live forever
Baby remember my name

--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.