Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Ex-Files: Rachel

Today we begin a new feature here on IYROOBTY, called The Ex-Files. In each of these posts, I will discuss a past relationship. This will, in turn, hopefully have a two-pronged effect on you, the reader. First, you will be entertained. And two, you will learn more about me, the man cowering behind the blog. But the best part of all is, none of these girls will be here to defend themselves. Giddy-up!

Close your eyes and journey back with me if you will... On second thought, you'll probably need to keep your eyes open--unless you have one of those cool computers which read aloud to you.

It is the spring of 1990 and I am in the eleventh grade. I come into class one day, and Ms. Dandridge, the voluptuous American History teacher was there. And... uh.... oh yes. And Lucy, one of my classmates, approaches me with a proposition. And a photo.

It seems that one of her fair-skinned, dark-haired friends had noticed yours truly around town and had been inquiring as to my situation and taste in women. Or, just my situation. A date was arranged and for the next six months or so, I would be in the throes of a relationship with one Rachel.

Rachel was a year older than me. She went to a neighboring high school and invited me to her senior prom. I had no idea about proms or pictures or anything. Actually, I've been to three proms and in several weddings, and to this day I'm still not sure what the purpose of a cummerbun is. Or how to spell it. But I went. And I think I will always remember how she looked that night.

She had an odd face, I remember. I honestly didn't recognize her on prom night. If she hadn't walked out of her parents house, I would never have known that was her. She had her hair done a way I never saw it again. And she never looked more beautiful than she did that night.

There were several oddities about our relationship. For one, prom night was the only night we ever hung out at her house. I normally wouldn't care, but at this time in my life, I wasn't knee deep in cash.

This was the same girl I would only ask out every other weekend, because I'd skip lunch at school and save up my lunch money for two weeks to be able to pay for our dates. So hanging out at home would have been nice. Especially since they had a pool table.

Most of our dates would consist of a movie and/or going out to eat. Then parking in front of an abandoned country store and making out until the last possible minute. And racing time to beat her curfew home. I remember one night she unbuttoned her shirt while we were making out.

Another oddity, I suppose, is that she would drive the majority of the time on our dates. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that she had a 1989 Camaro, and I had a 1984 Ford Escort with louvers on the back window.

She seemed to have control of the relationship for the most part. Maybe because she was older. Maybe because she was the first girl I ever really dated. I mean, I'd been on dates before, had girlfriends, made out in the 8th grade hall with the assistant principal's aide, but this... this was new.

We dated for six months, or seven, or eight. I don't remember exactly. Roughly from early spring until sometime in the fall of 1990. Rachel was also the first girl I brought over to have dinner with my parents.

As we didn't go out but once every two weeks, we spent lots of time on the phone. I remember her complaining several times that I never had anything to talk about. Although I'm sure I did, I suppose Nintendo and sports were not her favorite topics of conversation.

She complained so much, and I think maybe even threatened me, that I began making a list of things to talk about before I would call her each night. Pathetic, I know. But again, I was new at this relationship stuff.

So I would call her and just go down the list, one by one. I changed my oil this afternoon. Do you like that new song by Wilson Phillips? You won't believe what happened in Physics today. Do you want to go out again a week from this coming Friday?

Songs that remind me of her include "It Must Have Been Love" by Roxette, "She Ain't Worth It" by Glenn Medeiros and Bobby Brown, "So Alive" by Love and Rockets (I think), and "Here and Now" by Luther. Cheesy, yes. But at least I never made her a mix tape.

I don't remember the how and why we stopped dating. Maybe I ran out of things to talk about. I think I heard she liked someone else. Maybe she thought I didn't like her because I only asked her out every other week. I recall her mentioning it at least once, and I didn't want to tell her it was because I couldn't afford to.

I did tell her eventually, maybe after we stopped dating. I would describe her reaction upon hearing that as surprise with a tinge of guilt.

I asked a girl I worked with to the Homecoming game my senior year. We played Rachel's school. She called me and told me she had seen me at the game. Then I remember her coming by my house at some point and giving me a ten page letter she had written, and wanting to get back together. But I was over it.

As with most of my relationships, I mainly remember the good about Rachel and me. I grew and learned a lot from dating her. I gained confidence. And I'll always remember those nights parked under the stars. Steaming up the window. How good her lips tasted. And wishing time would stand still. Or at least slow down. But it never does.

When you're seventeen, you think of time in minutes and hours. Not months and years. When you're seventeen, parking is very good indeed.

"Sometimes I long for just one night of the way I felt back then. Ain't that just like a dream, it always ends..."

Monday, May 29, 2006

From a second story window

When I sit down to write, I twist the rod to open the blinds so that I can see the world outside my second story window. And if it's cool out, or if it's nighttime, sometimes I open the window. I like to feel the air and hear the sounds.

Tonight, the air reminds me of a warm, ocean breeze. The warmth envelopes you, and there's not the slightest hint of a chill. It makes me want to be there. At the edge of the Earth. Once you visit some place, once you experience something, you can always go there again in your mind. I close my eyes and remember.

I hear the steady whir of air conditioning units down below, intermittently starting and stopping. As I concentrate, I hear the almost constant sound of crickets chirping, which I hadn't noticed until just now. And seemingly far off in the distance, I hear a bird singing. It's such a beautiful song and part of me wants to do nothing else but go on listening to it all night. I wonder if birds sleep and if they do, why this one is awake.

I see two windows with lights on in the building directly behind and identical to mine. It's now after midnight. There is an empty lot to the left of that building. In the day, it's beautiful greenery. But now, it's only blackness.

There are two large trees in the lot, at least one of which I surmise to be an oak. But all I can see of them now is the partial silhouette of one against the peachish glow of a streetlight. Sometimes I see weird "lot people" walking thru in the evenings. I'm not sure where they come from or where they're going, and I'm a little scared.

Occasionally I see headlights and hear a car pass by on the main four-lane thru town, Highway 31, which is a couple of blocks away. It goes from Mobile to Michigan. I like to think about how far a single road can take you. And what is at the end. Yeah, the interstate is just five minutes further. But you see more on roads like this.

The road is freedom. Sometimes I want to get on it and just drive. For an hour. Or a day. Maybe find a hotel, spend the night, and drive back tomorrow. I wonder about all the places I would see. Little towns I would pass thru. Maybe I wouldn't come back at all.

Those are some of the sights and sounds of my little corner of the world. And that's just what I see when my eyes are open...

"By the time I make Albuquerque, she'll be working. She'll probably stop at lunch and give me a call. But she'll just hear that phone keep on ringin', off the wall..."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Flashback: The Box

I hope you all have a safe Memorial Day weekend. If you get a chance, read Pia's post, the last half of which deals with Memorial Day.

I added a couple of new links tonight. And over the past few weeks have added several. Welcome to my sidebar Sage, Jennifer, Cora, Ms. Sizzle, Lauren, and Carmen. Say hello to them if you have time.

Today's flashback is an entry I wrote one night last year after a power outage. I don't know why I picked it. It's not an entry anyone ever mentions, but I like it. This was originally posted August 18, 2005.

There's a box in the top of a closet. I usually don't go near it. I know what's inside. Cards and letters and photographs. Memories of us.

At first, I would open it up every few months, and sift through the memories. Perhaps I thought it was some sort of therapy. It would hurt. But at the same time, part of me wanted to go back, remember how things were. And then, after awhile, I could only get through one or two or three cards and it would become too painful. The last time I opened it was months ago. Until tonight.

The power went out here a little after 9:00. I lit a few candles. And after a few minutes, I decided to get the box out of the closet. I sat on my bed, opened it up, and by candlelight, began to read.

Valentine's. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Thinking of you cards. Handwritten letters. So many beautiful thoughts. Phrases like "meet me halfway" and "I don't want to lose you." Sometimes I think that I just read right over them then, without really thinking about what she was saying. I almost know I did.

Reading all those words of love and forever, it is still hard to believe that I lost it. Maybe not hard to believe, but to accept. Even now. To look back on something and see so much promise, and know that it is gone. It's not easy. Even now.

Some of the cards and letters are from times when we were having problems or had gotten into an argument. It's hard to read those. To see the pleading in her words. Her apologizing to me. When I should have been the one apologizing to her. Too hard.

After five or six cards, a few pictures, and a letter or two, I can't handle anymore. I close the box and return it to its place in the top of the closet. I notice one corner of the box has split. I think to myself that I will have to tape that up.

Why do I do this to myself? As I said earlier, I keep thinking maybe it is therapeutic. I don't do it often. But maybe I shouldn't look back at all. It opens old wounds and puts that most awful of empty feelings back in the pit of my stomach. And I am back to beating myself up for mistakes I have already paid for.

She and I made our peace. We even became good friends. She has forgiven me. I guess the hardest thing to do sometimes is to forgive yourself. I thought I had.

A few minutes later, the lights came back on. But sometimes it feels like I'm still in the dark.

"Remember me when you're out walking. When the snow falls high outside your door. Late at night when you're not sleeping, and the moonlights falls across your floor. When I can't hurt you anymore..."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

An ode to summer

Ever hear someone say, "Can you believe this weather?" Yes, I can. "Do you think this weather will last?" No, I don't. This is Earth, where have you been? These are the same people who are always saying, "I can't believe what time it is." Why don't they just go outside and watch the bank sign. Then they can stand there all day going, "Can you believe this weather? I can't believe what time it is." - J. Seinfeld

Welcome to Alabama. Home of two of the five American Idols. Soul Patrol!!! Whatever that means.

Summer is here. No, you didn't sleep thru the solstice. And it's still four days until Memorial Day. But I passed by a bank sign yesterday that said the temperature was 93. That's proof enough for me.

I love summer. When asked what my favorite season is, I may give a different answer each time. Fall is nice. There's nothing like that first day in the early fall when you first feel the change in the air. That first chill. But there's also nothing like summer.

Summer is the beach. The wind, the waves, and the sand. It's the pool, the river, and the lake. It's holidays. Memorial Day, Labor Day, the 4th of July. It's baseball. It's being outdoors. It's vacations. It's cookouts. It's remembering summers of the past.

It's long days and warm nights. It's cruising with the top down or the windows down. It's freedom. It's shorts and flip-flops and tan legs and sunglasses.

Summer is a smile.

It's hot. It's here. And I'm glad. Tonight we're going to a minor league baseball game. And I'm wearing flip-flops.

"Temperature says 93 down at the Deposit and Guaranty. But that swimmin' hole is nice and cold..."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Don't leave me hangin'

I hate cliff hangers. And really, it's not the cliff part so much that I dislike as it is the hanger part. I'm fine with cliffs. Really. Don't mind cliff dwellers. Cliff jumping? Fine, if that's your thing. Thought Cliff Clavin was hilarious. Loved Cliff Huxtable. So, as you can see, I have no problem at all with cliffs. But these hangers are gonna have to stop.

Why did no one tell me that 24 would have a cliff hanger? And how did I not already know this? Because shows that I watch always have resolution. Seinfeld never had a cliff hanger. Neither did The Three Stooges. Not that I saw it during its regular run. But I'm certain there was never an episode that ended where you wondered, "Will Moe and Curly make up?" "Is Larry's nose broken?" Even with General Hospital, the most I ever have to wait to find out what happens is Friday to Monday.

It's bad enough I've been following this show week-to-week for four months to see how it ends. And what do I find? It doesn't end. So now I have to wait until January 2007 to see what happens to Jack Bauer on that ship to Shanghai.

Why? The show is good enough that I would watch next season without a cliff hanger. I'll even say that I'd probably be less likely to watch a show the following season if it ends with a cliff hanger.

What's the point of watching? I want resolution. That's why I never liked to-be-continued's. I don't watch TV to be held over. I watch for happy endings.

If I want something that just carries over from day to day that I have no idea how it's going to end, I have my life.

"Set me free, why don't you babe. Get out my life, why don't you babe. Cos you don't really love me. You just keep me hangin' on..."

Monday, May 22, 2006


I came. I ran. I'm sore.

Oh, and I finished. So that's something. But there are no trophies or awards for for 152nd place. Although I did get a t-shirt and a glass mug. There are no acceptance speeches, either. So I will make my acceptance speech here, in writing, to you, loyal blog readers.

After all, it was you who inspired me to get out of bed Saturday morning and run. In a sense. I was lying in bed at 6:45 thinking that I really did not feel like running. I really had not trained to run a 10K. And I really would like to go back to sleep for a couple more hours. Then I remembered.

I had blogged about running. I had to do it. Everyone would be getting to work Monday morning expecting to read about my race. And so it was decided. I could not let my blog readers down.

And yet another use is discovered for this thing called a blog. Motivation. Accountability. Perhaps I should try this with all my personal goals. If you blog it, they will come you will do it.

The weather was warm and humid. 77 degrees at the start of the race. I felt really good for the first 2.5 miles or so. And OK up until about 4.5 miles. There was a water station there. And shortly after that, as the sun beat down and my legs threatened to go on strike, I remembered something I already knew. It's all in your head.

Running becomes at least 90% mental at a certain point. From the 5-mile marker on, there was a constant battle going on in my mind. The lazy-Kevin-James-looking-Bone on my left shoulder kept reminding me how easy it would be to stop and walk. Or deposit my innards along the side of the road. But the fit-and-trim-body-of-a-taut-pre-teen-Swedish-boy-Bone on my right shoulder kept telling me to press on.

And so I did. It's nice to win that mental battle. At one point in the last mile, I began singing in my head the old gospel hymn "The Last Mile of the Way." And I may or may not have heard angels singing. I'm not sure if that helped. Or whether I thought it was referring more to the last mile of the race, or the last mile of my life.

There's a sense of accomplishment in just finishing the race. I had loosely set four goals for myself. Finish. Don't finish last. Run the whole way. And finish in under an hour. I did not know how realistic the latter was. Since I had not been training for a 10K, and had never run farther than 4.5 miles at one time. But I made it. By one second. Mission accomplished. Back to bed.

After liberally coating myself with generic Ben-gay (it's sad when you don't even have real Ben-gay), I took a short nap. The Equate ben-gay may cost twenty cents less. But it smells just as bad. And easily transfers from body to bed sheets. And lingers a bit. Even after one time thru the washing machine.

Went to see Poseidon Saturday night. Not something I was dying to see, but some friends were going and invited me. Had read poor reviews, but after seeing Richard Dreyfuss was in it, I was hopeful. But his role was all but pointless. What a waste of talent.

I wouldn't recommend it. It felt rushed. There was very little character development. Three of the female characters were all very similar-looking so that whenever they'd show one, I had a hard time telling which one she was. And while most of the special effects were good, a couple were cartoonish. The best part of the movie, besides the gratuitous Emmy Rossum wet-shirt cleavage shots... was... uh... oh, right. Josh Lucas. He was excellent.

The title of this post has a sort of double meaning. Besides being my time in the 10K Saturday. Tonight is the season finale of 24. I can hardly wait.

"You may need me there to carry all your weight. But you're no burden, I assure..."

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Flashback: Miss Nona

I am thinking about running my first ever 10K tomorrow. While 6.2 miles is not far for some of you, it would be farther than I've ever run. If you would like to sponsor a mile, let me know :-)

My week is almost up renting Pia's blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay on her sidebar. In honor of my first ever blog landlord (blandlord? blandlady doesn't really work), I am reposting what she claims is her favorite post of mine. And actually, it almost goes along with her legacy post from Thursday.

This was originally posted January 15, 2006:

In the town where I was raised, a quiet two-lane road leads away from the town square on the west side. Within two blocks, what few businesses there are give way to houses. The asphalt is faded now so that its much nearer to white than its original black.

Small houses dot each side of the road all the way out to the four-lane. About the only exception is the local park, whose ball fields come to life in the springtime with t-ball, baseball, softball, and soccer games and practices.

Almost unnoticed now, if not forgotten, is an old abandoned white concrete building which sits on the left side of the road just before you reach the park entrance. For the first two-thirds of my life, that was Miss Nona's store.

Miss Nona was a rather short older lady who, best I can remember, always had a tall bouffant-like hairdo, and almost always had a smile on her face. There were two gas pumps in front of the store, and as long as she was able, she'd come out and offer to pump your gas.

The inside featured an old-fashioned top-opening drink cooler. You'd slide the door open, reach down inside and pull out your favorite soft drink in a glass bottle. There was a bottle opener built into the side of the cooler.

Some of my earliest memories of the little country store are of running across the field after baseball practice and buying a Gatorade. Or before practice to buy some Big League Chew.

Miss Nona lived in a house right next to the store, and would open up for business before daylight. She ran the store all by herself the majority of the time. She was there open to close. For many years, she sold biscuits in the mornings. And around lunch, she would slice up stick bologna and hoop cheese and make sandwiches.

It seems like she was always busy doing something around the store. If there were no customers to tend to, she might be sweeping up, inside or out. Or stocking the shelves. I asked her for a job once when I turned 16, but she said she couldn't afford to hire any help.

I recall my Dad telling me about the time some man tried to rob her. I don't remember all of the details now. I remember it happened early one morning when no other customers were there. Short story shorter. She kept a shotgun under the counter. Fired a warning shot or two. And no one ever tried to rob the store again. I love that story.

Seems like my parents had always known Miss Nona. Although, looking back, I guess they only knew her from the store. More than once, during somewhat hard times, I remember Miss Nona would let my Dad buy bread, milk, and anything else we needed on credit. Just to get thru until payday, when he would pay her back.

Maybe because she knew my parents, I always felt safe when I was there. I liked to think she'd treat me like one of her own grandkids. Although she probably would've treated any young person that well.

As I got older, I'd stop by on my way to work for a snack. My usual was a honey bun and a little Coca-Cola. I remember one day not long after I started driving, I stopped by to get gas. I would never let her pump my gas. So when I was done, I went inside to pay, and came back out to discover that I had locked my keys in the car.

First time that had ever happened to me, and I was a bit distressed. She, undoubtedly, had seen this situation many times. Brought a straightened wire hanger out and had my door unlocked in seconds. I don't remember if I ever thanked her for that. I hope I did.

Time gets thin. And as Miss Nona got older, she started closing the store a little earlier in the evenings. And then she stopped opening at all on Saturdays. And eventually, although I can't remember when, she closed the store for good.

Miss Nona had always looked exactly the same to me, for all the years I had known her. Except for the one time that I saw her after the store closed. I had heard that she was having some health problems. And she looked twenty years older than I remembered her.

No one ever reopened the little country store. Someone put a fish market in the building for a short while. But even that's been gone for years now. When the town grew, it did so on the east side. All the new fast food restaurants, and convenience stores, the Wal-Mart Supercenter, and other businesses, opened there. The west side of town has just kind of been forgotten.

Today, little stores like that one have become scarce. Big money and chain stores eventually put the little man, and woman, out of business. They call it progress. Feels more like we lost something to me.

Miss Nona is no longer here. Although I can't remember when she passed. The memories of that little country store, like the highway that runs past it, fade a little more each day.

Most of us will never achieve widespread fame. If you consider that an achievement. But to be remembered fondly by those whose paths we crossed years after we are gone. To have touched someone's life, even in a small way. That's something.

I suppose there have been thousands of little country stores in the world. Thousands of Miss Nona's.

But to me, there will only ever be one.

"Don't you remember the fizz in a Pepper. Peanuts in a bottle, at 10, 2, and 4. A fried baloney sandwich, with mayo and tomato..."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Follow-Up: Wolfgang & Little Joe

Some of you may recall when I blogged a couple of weeks ago about Wolfgang, who was going thru a divorce and was staying with my friend Little Joe. When we last left our happy housemates, Wolfgang had been gone all day. And Little Joe was contemplating calling to check on him and see if he was staying the night. Well, evidently Wolfgang made it back OK. Because I called Little Joe tonight, and he's still over there. Here's a bit of our conversation:

"You still got your... uh... roomate?"
"Wow, that's a long time."
"Is he paying you anything for rent or bills?"
"Not yet."
"Wow. Well that sounds like a lotta fun."
"Oh yeah."
"Is he over there right now?"
"Yep. You wanna talk to him?"
"Nah. I was just calling to tell you about poker night. I'll leave you alone so you guys can bond."

I'm still not sure exactly how all this came about. Whether Wolfgang asked if he could stay or just sort of imposed. In my mind, I've postulated that Wolfgang showed up one night saying he and his wife were fighting and he needed a place to sleep. They signed divorce papers a few days later. And he's still there. I do specifically remember hearing the phrase "until I find a place to live."

He started staying there April 19th. That's a month. That's too long. I could tell by the tone of Little Joe's voice that he wasn't overjoyed with the situation. From his short answers, I gathered that Wolfgang must have been in the room.

I'd like to help or offer some advice, but what can I do? I don't know what to tell him. And Wolfgang definitely isn't staying here. Besides, I'm more of a Beethoven man.

Any suggestions?

"He had debts, for he drank. But all the women loved him. And each one shouted, come on and rock me, Amadeus..."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

From Bone - Humor

I'm subletting Pia's place for the week. So far, I kinda like it. It has all the amenities of the big city while still feeling warm and homey. It's like the Stratford Inn relocated to Manhattan. Although I did catch a peek inside her medicine cabinet this morning. Yama hama! And before you ask, I didn't open it. It was already slightly ajar. I just nudged it a little. This is my first experience with the rent-a-blog feature. Hopefully it will go much better than my rent-a-date fiasco back in '97. It's definitely cheaper.

Here's a statistic for you: 90% of greeting cards are useless.

That's according to the field research I did last Friday. How many different ways can you say "Wishing you a day filled with happiness and love?" Evidently, at least eighty-seven. If my local Hallmark is any indication. Who's writing these cards? And how much are they getting paid? Whatever it is, it's too much. They all say the same thing! I would like to apply for that job.

There are basically three kinds of cards (since I can no longer seem to find any stores that carry Ziggy). First are those generic say-the-same-thing cards I just mentioned. The majority of the cards in the store seem to be of this persuasion. That leaves only the ever-shrinking humor section. And the deep, two-page-long mushy cards.

I was reading one of the latter Friday. The first page seemed OK. I was thinking this might be the card I go with. But then on the second page was a line that said something about giving you the praise and honor you deserve." To which I remarked louder than I intended, "Praise and honor? She's not the Lord."

Another part of the problem is that they are now having to make cards for every possible relationship and family situation. So instead of many from son, from daughter, and for wife cards to choose from, there are more categories now. Such as blended family, just-like-family, soon-to-be-family.

I even saw a placeholder that read "For Ex-Daughter-In-Law." Had to think about that one for a moment. As a man, I will never be able experience the closeness a woman feels with her son's ex-wife. What's next? For Ex-Son-In-Law's New Wife? For Tramp Son Slept With One Drunken Night? From One Of Your Baby's Possible Daddies?

The need for all these tremendously cuts down on the number of cards in each section, including my favorite section, the From Son-dash-Humor category. Which has all but been eradicated. The few cards that are left often seem to be lacking on the humor side.

For example, I picked up one so-called "humorous" card. There was a picture of a puppy inside and his tail was raised from the rest of the card so that it would "wag" when you opened it. Written beneath the puppy were the words "Happy happy happy happy happy happy Mothers Day." That's funny? Really? To who, the dog? What makes it funny? The tail or the six happy's? That's about as funny as (choose your own analogy: a catheter/a Jimmy Kimmel monologue/CSPAN).

And as long as we're on the subject, I cannot believe they're still making the card that doesn't open and has some stupid little message printed on the back. Even more than that I can't believe I'm people are still falling for it. How long is Big Greeting Card gonna milk that one? Boy, I bet the guy who invented the card that was glued shut is rich.

In closing, I know we face many issues and questions in these most uncertain of times. Illegal aliens, polygamy cults, Deal Or No Deal, how in the world Elliot is still on Idol. But first and foremost, we must attend to the greeting card problem in this country. It's urgent. Father's Day is June 18th.

"Daylight licked me into shape. I must have been asleep for days. Moving lips to breathe her name, I opened up my eyes..."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Things I remember about her

I know her favorite TV shows. She won't miss American Idol. Or Letterman. She likes Regis. And Nancy Grace. Her favorite candy bar is a Mounds. I know her favorite place to eat out. Her favorite singer? Willie Nelson. I've watched her many nights sit in the floor and cry when he was on TV.

Her favorite book is "A Farewell To Arms." She loves turnip greens. She likes sports. Likes Brett Favre. Doesn't care much about the NBA anymore. But she loved Michael Jordan. And Larry Bird. And Pete Rose. Loves Alabama football. I've seen her cry when they lose. More than once. Funny how much we have in common.

I remember when I started to preschool. I would cling to her waist for dear life. Crying. Begging her not to leave me there. Now I realize that she was crying, too. Probably a lot more than I was. As soon as she was out of sight.

I remember how she'd take my sister and me to see our grandmother. Seems like we'd go several times a week during the summer. Then it seemed like just a fun thing to do. Now I'm so thankful we visited so often.

I remember she'd always fix me soft potatoes and chicken noodle soup when I was sick. And I know it was only Campbell's. But she must have done something to that soup. Because I always got better.

I remember how she used to push me to excel. If I so much as made a B on my report card, she wasn't happy. At all. And I knew it.

I remember having frequent nightmares when I was a kid. And Mom would always be there when I woke up, with a wet washcloth in hand, telling me everything would be alright.

I remember any time I acted up in church, she would inconspicuously pinch the living daylights out of me. It worked.

I remember her always taking less so that we could have more.

I remember her giving. To anyone who asked. Loaning money to relatives. Sometimes never being paid back. Although she'd never bring it up to them. And would probably be mad if she knew I mentioned it here.

I remember her always making time to visit friends and relatives in the hospital. And sending flowers and visiting when someone passed away.

I remember how she'd yell at me when I pitched in little league baseball. At the top of her lungs. Pitch after pitch.

I'd almost forgotten about that until a couple of years ago when I was playing softball. And I was standing in left field and heard her yelling from the stands. It's not quite the same when you're thirty as it is when you're seven.

I remember everytime I've seen her cry. She usually hides it well. But there have been a few times when she couldn't hold back in front of me. There is no feeling in the world like seeing tears in your mother's eyes.

I remember the day I moved out of my parents' house. She stood in the driveway with tears pouring down her face. I didn't really get it. But she did. Even though I was only moving a few blocks away. She knew that part of life was over. And things would never be the same again.

In that moment, she was saying goodbye to all the years. And maybe even remembering some of these very same moments that I have mentioned today. I never grasped the significance of that moment at the time.

As the years have flown by, and they do fly... Well, I understand it a lot more now.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. And Happy Mothers Day to you, if you're a mom.

"Sometimes I think the devil has got me by the sleeve. Oh, Mama, don't forget to pray for me..."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The factory

Yesterday was National Nightshift Workers Day. It brought to mind the time in my life when I worked second shift in a copper mill. It was real manual labor for Manuel Labor, I guess you could say.

I took the job thru a temp agency, after being unemployed for nearly a month. It is the only time in my working life I have been unemployed. And the only time in my life I have worked thru a temp agency. And all this followed the only time in my life I have ever walked out on a job. Funny how those go together.

I hated the factory at first. Hated it. There was a feeling of dread every day as the hour to leave for work approached. I worked 4 PM till midnight. Usually six nights a week. Sometimes seven. And only occasionally five.

The summer was hot. And the winter was cold. There wasn't much in between. In cold weather, there were only a few space heaters located here and there inside the plant. Warmth could only be found standing directly below one of them. Or standing next to one of the large machines which gave off heat. We worked in several layers of clothing.

And in the summer? Inside a metal building with hundreds of machines running... Let's just say I never had to worry about being overweight. There were only small fans for cooling, which did nothing more than circulate the hot air. And even that, only sparingly. I drank 20 ounce Mountain Dews in two sups. I weighed 163 pounds when I left that job.

I'm not sure why I hated the job so much. It was new, and different. I was new, and lost. That's never too much fun. The hours no doubt cut into my free-wheeling Charlie Sheen-like lifestyle. (Actually, I got off at midnight, so it wouldn't have affected it that much). It was monotonous. At times, I felt trapped. There was a sense of hopelessness. I just knew it wasn't what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be forever.

But I learned a lot during my time there. About work, people, and life. I learned to operate a forklift. And a hundred other work-related things. It felt good to work with my hands. To sweat. For eight hours. Or more. I miss that sometimes.

It was also while working there that I rediscovered reading. We would get two fifteen minute breaks and one twenty minute lunch break every night. A lot of people would go outside to smoke, eat, talk, or some combination of the three. I would stay inside and read. I started going to the bookstore every week or two and buying new books. Reading led to writing.

Since leaving, I have come to appreciate my time there. I have a lot of respect for people who punch a clock and work 40, 50, 60 hours a week in that type of industry. It was a unique experience. One that I wouldn't trade. I even miss it occasionally. Especially some of the people.

I could talk about the people all day. Fondly. Clocking in everyday at 4:00. Clocking out every night at midnight. Five, six, seven days a week. Working. To survive. To provide. To be able to afford a new car. Or a short vacation. Or just to have a little extra money to spend on the weekend. When there was one.

I remember one girl who was working there trying to save enough money to pay for college. She'd been there five years when I left. There was a young single mother working to support her and her daughter. There were several single mothers.

There was a 40-something-year-old lady who had just gone thru a divorce and been forced to go back to work. Sometimes she'd bring food and share with me at supper. There was the plant bookie. A former Air Force cadet. A volunteer fireman. I could go on.

There are thousands of places like that all over the country. I feel like that is the soul of America. Hard working. Real people. Real problems. Real life. Men and women. Black and white. Young and old.

On my last day, one of the crane operators walked over to me and shook my hand. We'd never said more than a line or two in passing. But I'll always remember his words that day. He said, "It's been good working with you. You're a hard worker. But more than that, I can tell you're a good man."

That meant a lot to me. Still does.

Yesterday was also National School Nurse Day. I don't have a story for that. Honest.

"There are people in this country who work hard every day. Not for fame or fortune do they strive..."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Three day weekend

Happy birthday to SurrenderDorothy! I get the feeling she and I could carry on entire conversations filled with nothing but Seinfeld references. Not that there's anything wrong...

Also, Pablo turned one Saturday. Well, Saturday marked one year since I got him. So that's when we celebrate his birthday. If you want to get him something, he likes Betta Bio Gold pellets. And distilled water.

There's nothing quite like a three-day weekend. To recharge your batteries, allow you to escape from reality for just a bit, and make you wish you were independently wealthy. Which I might already be if I had signed up for google ads when I began blogging.

The weekend started off with Cinco de Mayo. Yet another example that Americans will pretty much celebrate anything. The highlight of the night was DNC, who will from thenceforth be known as Axl, karaokeing to "Sweet Child O Mine." He also unveiled his Axl Rose Snake Dance, which he's obviously been working on late at night in front of the mirror in his room. You think you know someone...

And no, I haven't googled the video. And no, I haven't been practicing the dance myself. In my red bandana. Nor will I be. And no, I'm not in love with Erin Everly. Nor was I ever. Just in case you're wondering.

Sunday afternoon, BE and I headed up to Carnton Plantation, which was turned into a field hospital and burial ground during and after the Battle of Franklin during the Civil War. We toured the grounds and the house.

Here are a couple of pics I took. The first is the view of the house from the cemetery. And the second is a picture of the gardens located there:

Monday, we drove up to the national forest. It was a beautiful day to be outside. A little overcast so that it wasn't too hot. We stopped off at the Pine Torch Church and cemetery. Then drove up to Sipsey River where we hiked for a bit before driving on to Kinlock. Here are a couple of pics I took while hiking in the Sipsey wilderness area:

Made it home in time to watch 24. It was entirely too predictable that someone was going to call before Logan shot himself. I think it would have been much more of a surprise if they'd let him go thru with it.

Anyhow, that's what I've been doing. I love road trips. And three-day weekends. And life.

"Her hair reminds me of a warm, safe place where as a child I'd hide. And pray for the thunder and the rain to quietly pass me by..."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Three years ago today...

Today is my three-year bloggiversary. I began blogging May 5, 2003. Actually, today would have been a good day to post my State of the Blog Address. Unfortunately, I posted that six weeks ago. But if you want to read sort of a summary of my blogging history, you can read that.

The difference in this past year and the first two years of blogging for me has been night and day. I thank each and every one of you for reading and commenting. Somewhere along the way, blogging has reminded me that I love to write. And that's a pretty cool thing.

I decided to do a combination Friday Flashback/bloggiversary post today. Tried thinking of my favorite post. Which led me to change up a few of the selected posts on the sidebar. I asked a couple of people what their favorite posts of mine would be. Some of the posts mentioned were Miss Nona, When two become one, My Town, and this one.

This is one of my favorites, too. I titled it "That City." It was originally posted June 29, 2005:

That city will always be her.

I have let go of the past. I have come to realize and accept what will never be. But I still remember. Everytime I drive thru that city, I am reminded all over again. She haunts the city streets. I can feel her. Everywhere.

Even before I reach the city, I think of all the times she must have made this very same trip. And it always gives me the same feeling. An odd mingling of emotions. Same place, different time.

I always wonder the same things while I am here. Where did she live? Did she walk these very streets that I am walking now? I pass a convenience store and wonder if she ever stopped there. I stop to eat at a little corner cafe. I wonder if she ever came here. And I wish that now was then. And that she was here.

The people I pass, the faces I see, I wonder if they ever knew her, one person in a sea of a million. Did the wind ever blow her hair into a mess? I imagine that it did, and I smile. Did she ever go to the movies alone? I think how that should never have happened, and it makes me a little sad.

I wonder if she ever got lonesome while she was here. She surely must have missed home. When she thought of home, did she ever think of me?

Before I know it, the day is drawing to a close and it is time to go. Leaving the city is a little bit like leaving her, losing her, all over again. Because part of her is still here, and always will be. I miss her more when I am here than when I am not. And yet I keep coming back again and again and...

I have picked up most of the pieces, the ones that I could find anyway. I have learned to live with my mistakes. I try and concentrate on the present, and the future. On what is, and what might be, rather than what will never be.

But that city... that city will always be her.

"Well I guess it's been a good year for roses and aggressions. For flowers and freeways..."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mister Clean

Jerry: "Let me ask you this. When she comes over, you cleaning up a lot?"
George: "Yeah."
Jerry: "Just straightening up, or are you cleaning?"
George: "Cleaning."
Jerry: "You do the tub?"
George: "Yeah."
Jerry: "On your knees, Ajax, scrubbing, the whole deal?
George: "Yeah."
Jerry: "OK. I think you're in love."
George: "Tub is love?"
Jerry: "Tub is love. So there you are. You've got a nice girl and a clean apartment."

Sometimes I wonder if I'd ever clean if I didn't have company. Of course, I would. But knowing someone is coming over is the kick I need to get started. And probably assures that cleaning happens more often. Which is a good thing.

The amount and depth of cleaning is directly related to the type of company. Mom, dad, or sister, I make sure there is no underwear lying in plain sight, and close the shower curtain. For extended family, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins, I usually vacuum, use the feather duster downstairs, and close the shower curtain.

For friends, it all depends on how long they are going to be there and the likelihood they will need to go upstairs. It can range from just picking up a few things downstairs to a fairly thorough cleaning. And close the shower curtain.

But the ultimate clean, the most I ever clean, is when I'm having a girl over. It's major I'm talking vacuuming, sweeping, moppping. Sink, stove, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room. Endust, 409, Comet, Pine Sol, and on and on. Until eventually I find myself on my knees in the tub, wearing an old t-shirt and yellow latex gloves, singing Bryan Adams and Richard Marx love songs, high on Tilex fumes. Or at least that's how it was last night.

George: "But it's a great building. It's two bedrooms!"
Jerry: "Two bedrooms? Why do I need two bedrooms? I got enough trouble maintaining activity in one."

Also on the agenda for the coming weekend is reorganizing my spare bedroom. Maybe. I'd like to convert it into an office. Right now it contains an ironing board, small desk, bookshelf, and assorted other items. Along with several boxes that have yet to be unpacked from the move. Most of which I probably don't need. I mean, if I haven't needed them in seven-plus months.

How did I accumulate so much stuff? I remember when I moved out of my parents house, I was begging for stuff to put in my first apartment. Cruising the streets hoping someone had thrown out an old couch. My living room furniture consisted of one couch and a red bean bag. My aunt had given me the couch. It had a pastel floral pattern and a couple of tears in the cushions.

I moved out in my early twenties. A lot of my friends commuted to college, as did I. And almost all of us moved out within several months of each other. Almost. It started when Little Joe's mom and step-dad came home from a camping trip and found alcohol in the house.

He apparently used to have these parties when they were gone. I really wouldn't know. They were sort of Nintendo-playing-drinking parties. Where you'd stay up all night and then go to school the next morning at 8 AM. I heard.

Anyway, he never had anymore of those parties after that. Just immediately started looking for a place to live. He never said, but I always assumed he was strongly encouraged to do so.

This was supposed a post about cleaning. Not sure how I got off on moving out. Although something Pia wrote yesterday reminded me of something I've always believed. That it's good to move out and be on your own, at least for six months or a year. Rather than go straight from your parents house to a spouse. Think you're missing a part of life if you don't.

It's one of those little rules or beliefs you have about life. Not really sure where they come from or maybe even what you base it on. I call mine Bone logic. Never got a chance to talk about them or share them. Until blogging came along.

I'm not sure how to end this post. I just keep smelling my hands every few minutes a la Mary Catherine Gallagher. To see if they smell like Comet.

I also do gymnastics. Superstah!

"Tell me what we got. Tell me it's a lot. Tell me it's the real thing..."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Handwashing in the 21st Century

Another in a series of posts from the world's 4th most respected expert on restroom etiquette... I write these not only to inform and entertain, but also to spark discussion on these topics. Often some of you might have ideas or habits that I find useful in the restroom. And vice versa.

Today's topic is proper handwashing in public restrooms, from a germophobic viewpoint. After all, some people refer to me as a germophobe aficianado. Well, except for they use freak or lunatic in place of aficianado. The four phases to proper public restroom handwashing are the entrance, washing, drying, and the exit. We'll look at each of the four in depth in this post. Did you have any doubt?

Upon entering the facilities, it is important to notice two things. The type of faucet, and the method or methods of hand drying that are available. If unable to determine the faucet is hands-free (i.e. motion detecting), you will need to make arrangements for turning on the faucet without actually touching it. While this may initially sound tricky, it is usually not that difficult. The preferred method is to take some paper towels, if available, and use them to turn on the water.

Washing is actually the easiest of the four phases. Simply soap up, preferably with warm water. You should also use a paper towel to avoid touching the soap dispenser. Once you are done washing and rinsing, leave the water running.

The key to washing, and maybe to this entire post is this. From the time you are done washing your hands until the time you exit the facilities, no part of your skin should touch anything in that restroom except for a paper towel!

And now it's time to dry off. The paper towel you tear off when entering the restroom may serve a four-fold purpose. Turning on the faucet, dispensing soap, turning off the faucet, and last but not least, it is your germ-shield for getting more paper towels to dry your hands. Be sure to go ahead and roll a few paper towels down before you wash. Then, all you have to do is tear them off when you're ready to dry.

Some restrooms have the automatic paper towel dispensers that do not require you to turn a handle or pull down a lever. I call these restrooms... Xanadus. Once you locate such a restroom, commit it to memory. And go back there, again and again.

For restrooms with hand dryers that are not motion activated, you will need to use a paper towel, tissue, or your elbow to turn on the dryer. Assuming you are wearing long-sleeves of course.

There is one additional situation we have yet to discuss. And that is, a restroom with no paper towels available. I call these restrooms sanitary nightmares. Or, Sheol. There are several options to handle this most unpleasant of circumstances.

Some people choose to venture into a stall and use tissue in place of the paper towel. Now on this topic, I speak not by commandment, but of my own personal preference. Since I never sit in the public stalls anyway, it follows that I would not use the tissue in them.

However, if you do, be sure to tear off and throw away the first several yards of tissue. This helps to ensure that no one else has touched it and that it hasn't been exposed to the bacteria-charged aura of the restroom. This also goes for the first paper towel or two. Tear them off and throw them away. Then you will will be more likely to get a clean, fresh one.

In lieu of paper towels, others might use the sleeve of their shirt or some other bit of clothing. This is acceptable since (1)you really have no other viable options and (2)you can always burn your clothes later. Still others, when presented with a restroom with no paper towels, simply leave and look for a better-equipped comfort station down the road.

Now it's time to make your escape. Before throwing away the paper towels, or whatever you have used to dry off with, you should use them to open the bathroom door. I know, you used them to dry off, now you're touching the door handle with them. Gross, right? But that's OK. Other people have done much worse in there. Trust me. This is one of the million reasons you don't want to touch the handle with your virgin hands in the first place.

Once you open the door, then and only then may you dispose of the paper towels. While using your foot to hold the door open, put the paper towels in the trash can. If the trash can is located too far away, then just throw the paper towels towards it. If you miss, you miss. This is not your fault. It's their fault for putting the trash can too far away from the restroom door. Get as close as you can. That's all you can do.

And there you have it. You're out of the restroom and on your way to enjoy the rest of your day. Another successful handwashing job completed. See how simple that was? That's how I roll. Or, wash.

I hope you have found this entry helpful. By following these and other simple rules, you too will be well on your way to a habitually neat, clean, and very normal existence.

"You are an obsession. You're my obsession..."

Monday, May 01, 2006

A friend's guide to the galaxy?

Kramer: "Alright, that's it. I gotta move in with you Jerry."
Jerry: "I don't know, Kramer. My only concern is that, livng together after a while, we might start to get on each others nerves."
Kramer: "Alright, listen to me. I've got a great idea. You're a heavy sleeper, right? Why don't we switch apartments?"
Jerry: "Or I could sleep in the park. You could knock these walls down, make it an eight room luxury suite."
Kramer: "Jerry, these are load-bearing walls. They're not gonna come down!"

I was over at Little Joe's house a couple of weekends ago, on a Saturday night. A guy who we'll refer to as... Wolfgang was over there. I would consider Wolfgang more of a friend of a friend. Normally, Wolfgang has his wife with him at least 80% of the time when he's around. But not this night. I was just about to ask where she was when he blurted out, "You know I'm getting divorced, right?"

No, obviously I hadn't heard. "Yeah," he continued. "I've been staying here since Wednesday." Apparently, the falling out had just occurred within the past few days. We sat there the better part of the night listening to Wolfgang go on and on about how his wife, we'll call her... Lorena, had gone off the deep end.

This is a precarious situation. I've lived long enough to know that you don't say anything bad about a friend's significant other while they are still in the relationship. Or while there's still a chance they might get back together. No matter what you think of her, how she acts, what type of whorish reputation she might have, or how thick her moustache is.

So while he was calling her everything but a white woman, I knew I had to be careful what I said. So we sat and listened as he went on for a couple of hours. And by listened, I mean, ignored as much as possible. For all we knew, they might be back together by the next day.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about my friend whose house it was. How uncomfortable was this for him? Obviously it would be somewhat inconvenient. How did this come about? How long would Wolfgang stay? What would I do if a friend asked me if they could move in with me indefinitely? Will Laura ever come back to General Hospital?

I don't have all the answers. I guess there really are no rules. It's a real life situation you just sort of figure out, or make up, as you go. This is why I think it would be helpful if we had a Friend Handbook to go by. That way, Little Joe could have gone, "Ah, OK, says here on page 38 that I am required to allow you to stay, if and only if you have no family within a 40 mile radius. And you're only allowed to stay a maximum of one week."

Jerry: "You wanna go with me up to the Bronx and see if there's any flyers on George's car?"
Kramer: "Sure!"
Jerry: "I coulda said just about anything there, couldn't I?"

Here's another situation. A few weeks ago, a friend called me around 9:30 on a weeknight. I was already in my bed clothes. Which, let's face it, I probably would have been in my bed clothes had he called at 4:00 in the afternoon. But that's not the point. He said his girlfriend was dropping him off at an exit on the interstate and he needed a ride home.

Well, I didn't give it a second thought. Immediately put some pants on and got ready to go. I'm quite sure that's what the Friend Handbook would have said. Page 77: "If a friend gets dumped off on the side of the road by a girlfriend/boyfriend/lover/spouse, you go get them."

Apparently, they had gotten into an argument in the car. And she told him they could either talk about it, or she would drop him off and he could call Bone to come get him. He called Bone.

George: "So that's it. All of my darkest fears, and everything I'm capable of. That's me."
Jerry: "Yikes. Well, good look with all that."
George: "Where you going? I thought I could count on you for a little compassion."
Jerry: "I think you scared me straight."

Zoom forward to last week. I'm having dinner with yet another friend. This friend is single, early thirties, etc. He tells me he's dating someone. Fine. Then he decides to drop this bomb on me. "You know, this is the first time I've ever really dated a girl." Do huh? How am I supposed to respond to that? That's not even in the handbook.

As my weekend wound down last night, I found myself over at Little Joe's again. Entirely too late. It was nearing midnight as I was getting ready to leave. This conversation, or something very close to it, ensued:

"Where's Wolfgang?"
"I don't know. He's been gone all day. Do you think I should try to call him?"
"He's been gone for nine or ten hours. I figured he'd be back by now."
"Aww, you're worried about him."
"No. But what if he's in the pokey?"
"The pokey?"
"You don't know what that is?"
"Yeah, I know what it is. But no one calls it the pokey anymore."
"Oh. Well what do you call it?"
"Prison. Jail. Cooler. Slammer. Big house. Lock up. Marriage. But not Pokey."
"Well, excuse me."
"OK, Marshal Dillon. Why would he be in jail?"
"He said he had to go see his ex-wife about something. Last time he went over there, she pulled a gun on him."
"Wow. I'm startin' to worry that my car is gonna get keyed over here or something."
"Why? She likes you."
"No, she did like me. Now she's a completely different person. When you break up with a girl, she turns psycho."
"Really? I don't think I ever experienced that. I guess none of my girlfriends ever liked me that much."
"Well, call him. I wanna see what he says."
"But if I call, it's like I'm checking up on him. I'm not his daddy."
"Hey, he's staying under your roof, he has to live by your rules."
"Eh, he probably just had a booty call, or fell asleep or something."
"Or both. Well, I gotta go. If my car blows up when I start it, call the police."

It was funny listening to my grown male friend agonize over whether or not to call and check up on this other grown man, his new (and hopefully temporary) roomate.

To call or not to call? That is the question. Where's your trusty Friend Handbook when you need it.

"Just three miles from the rest stop, and she slamson the brakes. She says I've tried to be but I'm not. So could you please collect your things..."