Tuesday, December 30, 2008

365 # 126: Beth M.T.

Had I known that Slapdash Flimflammery was your very first acting experience, had I had any way of knowing that the processes put in place to make all casting decisions as random as possible would lead you to be cast in the scene that I wrote, then I may have thought twice about having your character be stuck with singing a bunch of idiotic songs, songs whose lyrics did not flow, that did not lend themselves to any kind of melody, and were practically unsingable. Yes, I might have thought twice about that, and then gone ahead anyway. Thanks for pulling it off so fantabulously.

I Build and I Sing and I Sing and I Build

My mom's Christmas present to the boys was a big backyard playset, complete with swings, a slide, a treehouse, the whole works. It arrived at my house in three enormous cardboard boxes, every piece separate, not a lick of it pre-assembled or labeled. I've now devoted approximately 2.5 days to its construction, and I estimate I've got at least another day left before it's done.

Most of today was spent working on the enclosed cabin part of the structure. This is the place where I predict the boys will go when they're mad at us. I expect those walls will be witness to many a hatched plan, conspired conspiracy, and gathering of small people. I wonder how long until one of them decides to snag some extra fabric from Mom's sewing room to hang in the windows so's nobody can see what they're up to.

Anyway, while I was sitting four feet off the ground in the cabin, Henry kept looking up at me and asking if he could climb up with me. I kept telling him that he couldn't come up until I had it all built, but then it occurred to me, aw crap, once thing thing is all put together, he'll be climbing all over it. I wonder how long before the first good fall? I gotta shred me up some tires before somebody breaks an arm.

So while I was screwing in the billion-odd wooden slats that make up the house's walls, I had rap lyrics running through my head, one of which was Talib Kweli saying "It's a small wonder like Vicki/that I'm picky..." and I don't remember what comes after that, but I got stuck on that part because my internal singer--you know, the little person inside your head that sings when you don't feel like singing out for all the world to hear? Well that little guy started singing the theme song to "Small Wonder." And before I knew it, he'd sung the whole goddamn song. I let my drill hang at my side and took my finger off of its trigger while I let that little fact sink in: Holmes, you know the entire theme song to "Small Wonder." Sometimes when I remember old shows like that, I'm not certain if I should trust my memory. Like "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" or "Square Pegs." I ask myself, were these shows really on T.V. at one point? Or do I just have some false memory of them? Could it be that perhaps I was the only person in the world watching them?

I was pondering all of this later on while I was rocking Simon to sleep. It occurred to me that I could've tweeted about knowing the "Small Wonder" theme, but the moment was passed. Ah well, I can live with a bit of tweetgret.

Tweetgret: noun. The feeling of regret that one experiences upon realizing that an opportunity to tweet has passed.

I shouldn't have been surprised that I knew that song. My brain is a magnet for lyrics that I don't want to remember. Like the other day, I was being silly and I started singing the chorus to a Tori Amos song, thinking that I would only sing a line or two, but then I realized that I knew the whole fucking thing. And yes, I sang it out. You might say I belted it. I'm not what you'd call a Tori Amos fan, more like an antifan. But somehow, every woman that I've ever dated, married, or otherwise had cause to exchange fluids with over the course of a significant span of time has been a Tori devotee. Which is why if you put on Little Earthquakes, I could probably sing along with 80 - 99% of it. And I'd do it too, just out of spite. Spite for who or what? Can't say, my friends. I just can't say.

Maybe I'll post about the holidays at some point.

Monday, December 29, 2008

365 # 125: Matt H.

I was such a jerk to you, and I'm sorry. When my friends wanted to ditch you that one weekend because they thought you were lame, I should've told them they were all assholes and hung out with you instead. I probably would have had more fun. But I went along with their stupid plan and felt shitty about it afterwards. Oh well, spilled milk.

On another hot summer weekend, an entire horde of us descended upon the Guadalupe River to tube its cool waters. Near the end of the course, you fell out of your tube, which isn't really surprising considering the amount of beer we brought with us. You would have been fine except that you somehow managed to rack yourself on a piece of tree stump hidden just below the surface of the water. To add injury to injury, when your sack came into contact with the stump, you screamed, which might have been okay except that your head was underwater at the time, so your voice was completely destroyed for about a week. Your sack didn't end up healing quite so quickly. You ended up having to go to the hospital where they found that one of your nuts was completely ruptured. The poor guy had to be removed, but in order to keep things in balance, you received a titanium replacement. Not long after your surgery, you went to a party and some hot chick sat on your lap. You ended up literally busting a stitch.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

365 # 124: Natasha C.

I'm a bit more outgoing these days. When I was younger, I wasn't so great at just speaking up. My expertise lay more in keeping my mouth shut. Then on the other end of the spectrum was you. I don't mean that to sound like I'm calling you a loudmouth because I'm not. I only mean that you were the type who could open her mouth and just let words come out, and they were often words that formed sentences that communicated shockingly open facts about yourself. I could just sit there in the passenger seat of that beat-up little hatchback you drove everybody around in and hear about whatever exploit you were in the mood to divulge. You might have been the first over-sharer I ever met.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Austin's bus system has problems

365 # 123: Derreck V.

You were a perfectly nice guy. A tad goofy, a tad sarcastic, often given to good-natured debate. Overall, perfectly well-liked by most everybody, including the rest of the staff at the camp where we worked, as well as the kids that you taught week after week. And then you went off to Texas A & M, joined the corps, and became a complete and total asshole, not at all likable except to others in the same asshole category as you. And I haven't seen you since. I wonder if you ever became aware of the fact that you had become an asshole, or if you just further embraced your newfound asshole-ism.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

365 # 122: Elana R.

I was so angry with myself when I realized I had lost you. Well, it wasn't you that I'd lost, but a drawing I had made of you, which was actually pretty good. When I remembered you and added you to the list for this x365 thing, I thought I would include it. I drew it one day in college when you and your boyfriend came over to my place so he could use my computer. Maybe you were tired or maybe you were just bored, but either way, you curled up on my bed and fell fast asleep. I've always envied people who could do that, like a cat, just find a spot and drop off to sleep for a little while. At the time, I was in a drawing class, and I had gotten into the habit of drawing any and every subject that caught my interest. Most of it was crap, a lot of it resembled the subject but had not a bit of originality about it, and a blessed few, like the one of you, actually seemed to capture a little something. When I saw you'd fallen asleep, I plunked myself down with my notepad and went to work. I even managed to get that little mole over your lip. I don't remember if I ever showed it to you or if I was too embarrassed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Me and Religion: A Post in Two Parts

So a bit of background first: I wrote the first part of this post back around September or October, several weeks into my most recent semester at the seminary. I set it aside, fully intending to finish it, but never got around to it. Honestly, I think I've been avoiding it. I've opened it up a few times over the last couple of months and thought to myself, "you know, Holmes, you really ought to finish that." And then I'd close it. I wrote it during a time when I was pretty depressed, which is perhaps another post all on its own. But now the semester is over, and I think it's time to revisit it, if for no other purpose than as an exercise in self-exploration. Having said that, this might be kind of long, sooo, yeah, do as you will. I'll indicate where the old text ends and the new text begins.

So I don't really know if this is "ha ha" funny or "oh hey what a surprise" funny or "I think I'll go be a super villain now" funny. But in whatever sense, it's funny. To me anyway. So to recap, I'm in my third semester at seminary, the goal of which is to move into the counseling field. I chose the seminary for several really good reasons:
  1. I fully believe that the spiritual side of the self is of great importance to many people's mental health and well-being, and so I wanted to be able to at least talk about it when and if it ever comes up. Not that everyone in the world is Christian, but rather that Christianity is one vehicle, a language, a symbology, through which to try and make sense of the divine. And it's a vehicle whose language I am somewhat familiar with. So it's a place to start.
  2. The decision to move into this field had a lot to do with something of a spiritual renewal of my own, though it was one that was fraught with questions. Thus, I wanted to put myself in an environment where I could grapple with these questions. I wasn't looking to be spoonfed easy answers - I just wanted a place where I could struggle with the questions, hopefully with other strugglers.
  3. It's cheaper than UT or St. Ed's.
But now, here I am in my third semester at this place, and while I can definitely say I've learned a great deal about the theory and practice of the field that I intend to go into, I also find myself realizing that any and all concepts of an interventionist God that cares one iota about the human condition simply doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me anymore. I've held off on writing about this because I've been trying to identify a narrative to plot how I got from wherever I was to where ever I am. But I can't quite see it. It's like a book with a bunch of the pages ripped out.

So that was sort of unexpected.

I have made one decision though: I'm not going to run from this.

And with that, I stopped writing and the post sat idle. What follows picks up where it left off.

The questions are big, and not easily answered, perhaps not even answerable at all. Which then begs the question, do they even matter? Which, of course, is just yet another goddamn question. But I don't feel as if just walking off in disgust is quite the way for me to go. It's not as if the questions will just go away. I don't think humans are wired that way. And to stick with the metaphor, I have to wonder if much of the discomfort and unease that I feel is a result of the process of tearing out some of my old faulty wiring and looking for new ways to hook things up, a process that's been going on for a number of years now, and will probably continue for years to come, perhaps even until the day I die. Maybe that's life. Maybe that's the journey. Maybe it never makes sense, and we simply make peace with the fact that we just don't know, and that any one of us is just as likely to be as full of shit as the next person. To me, this inspires a sense of humility. Why doesn't it do that for everybody? Argh, more questions!

Maybe my problem is my perspective. I see a question, I feel the need to find its answer. If the answer is not forthcoming, then harumph and argh and well fuckall, etc. Sometimes, that is. Other times, I'm perfectly laid back enough to accept whatever. It could be, however, that the shift I'm making is larger and in a different direction than I expected. I definitely didn't plan to somehow become "more Christian." In a lot of ways, I haven't really felt Christian for quite a while, and that's only become more solidified over the past few months. But I've never before seriously considered that maybe, just maybe, This Is All There Is. But now I am. I'm not making that as a declaration. In fact, I'm running pretty short on anything much that I can declare. Instead, it's a new question, another one to toss in the old thought grinder for some mulling over for the next few...however long. Just another thing I just don't know.

In talking to a friend of mine about all this, she suggested an exercise to try to get at the heart of it, and it goes something like this: Ignoring external influences as much as possible, including other people's opinions, political leanings, religious background, etc, write down the things that you truly, deep down in your core, believe to be true. It'll probably only be a few things. Maybe even just one. You don't have to prove it, just state it. So here's mine, in no particular order:
  1. Everyone who has ever lived and ever will live is capable of great good, unthinkable evil, and everything in between.
  2. We are not the sole architects of our lives. We are born into situations with people and certain inheritances, and given certain advantages and disadvantages. Still, we encounter choices that are ours and ours alone to make.
  3. Our lives and our decisions affect other people. Ignoring this fact causes harm.
  4. The human race has discovered so much in its time, yet there is still so much we do not know and cannot presently explain. This fact should humble us each enough to treat others with respect.
So that's all for now. I imagine this list will evolve over the years. Perhaps it will grow. Maybe I'll find better ways to state things. Maybe some things will be shrugged off entirely.

And with that, I'm off to live life some more.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

365 # 121: Craig W.

Damn you, Craig. It's your fault that I can't make rude jokes about people who live in trailer parks without feeling guilty. That's because you were my friend and you lived in the trailer park down the road from my neighborhood. We met on the school bus in 9th grade. I'd gone to private school up until that point, so I didn't really know many of the kids from my 'hood that I was now sharing the bus with. You'd gone to school with 'em for the last eight years, so I don't know what your excuse was. Maybe there was some anti-trailer park sentiment going on among our busmates. Whatever it was, we spent the next few years sitting next to each other on the bus. You grew taller and goofier, while I pretty much stayed the same height and developed my smartass attitude.

For The Funk Of It

Sunday night, Hip-hop Show Buddy and I found ourselves downtown. It was a pleasant night, not quite what you'd call warm, but not at all cold either. You might say it was as close to perfect as the nights here ever get. It was great weather to catch an outdoor show featuring the legendary Ice Cube. I was particularly happy to be out seeing this show since just a few weeks before, I had skipped out on seeing Method Man and Redman due to the boys being sick. In that case, I'd already paid for my ticket, but when your baby boy is covered head to toe in hives, that becomes a bit less significant.

For this night, however, I'd spent not a dime. Austin Hip-hop Scene had held a contest, the prize being two tickets to see Ice Cube. So I dropped my name in the hat, and then forgot about it until one morning I went to work and checked my email, only to find out that my name was going on that guest list. Gotta say that was a good day.

At least, my name was supposed to go on the list. As we neared the door, I started wondering what the hell I was going to do if my name wasn't there. Sure enough, Clipboard And Stamp Guy flips through his various lists and can't find my name anywhere.

"Who was supposed to put you on the list?"

I told him.

"It's not here."

"Well, it's supposed to be."

We looked at each other for a second. Then he says, "Fuck it." He stamps my hand. He stamps Shayne's hand. Whether I was ever on that list or not, we were in for nada dolla. Gangsta, gangsta.

The opening act was an idiot named Trick Trick. I'd never heard of him before, but from the sound of some of his lyrics, he's got a bit of a homophobia issue. This is an ugly aspect of hip-hop that doesn't seem to get addressed much. For years, there's been a lot of talk about the gratuitous violence and the degrading portrayal of women in hip-hop lyrics, but homophobia doesn't seem to have been talked about nearly as much. One of the major exceptions, of course, was the hype that surrounded Eminem a few years back. For my part, I have less of an issue with the violence aspect than I do with the other two. I think the point has been made plenty of times that gangster rap is a close cousin of punk rock. They're raw, scary, maybe a bit mean. And both are intent on portraying the reality of worlds that are too ugly and too close to home to be comfortable enough for prime time.

Of course, both have been somewhat commodified, and have given birth to a number of artists that have become almost caricatures of the music they are supposed to be about. I mean, when you've got artists trying to portray their pasts as being more gangster than they really were, that's just sad. Still that doesn't take anything away from the impact that this music had when it first hit.

Wait, I was talking about homophobia, right? Yeah, the ugly treatment of women and homosexuals in a lot (read: NOT ALL) of hip-hop music makes me sick. I'm thankful that the music's gone in different directions over the years, with lots of artists taking the basic building blocks of beats and rhymes, and innovating them to create something new. It's as if more rappers seem comfortable being who they are rather than trying to portray themselves as some kind of ultra-violent gangster poet. Some artists have even spoken out against disrespecting women and gay people. And just as I think the tide will turn against bullshit like Proposition 8, I think it will turn against attitudes like these in hip-hop music. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if a gay rapper rose to prominence using his or her rhymes against homophobia. Homophobia may not be wiped out completely in our lifetime (I mean Christ, we still have fucking racism), but you just can't win against the power of an idea whose time has come. Still, seeing Trick Trick was a pretty blunt reminder that this problem is still with us in a big way. And the fact that he has him on his tour tells me that Ice Cube, who I've respected for years, must condone his attitudes at least to some extent.

All the same, Ice Cube's performance was incredible. He played some new shit, he played some old shit, he even played some N.W.A. It's one thing to be all Office Space about it and sing along with the tracks in the car, it's quite another to sing along with the dude that wrote it. At one point, I turned to Shayne and said "that's Ice Cube! He's right there!" That's one more "gotta-see" show I can mark off the list.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sometimes things work out exactly as you expect them to

Case in point:

This is the first Christmas where Henry has been the one to bring up Santa Claus. For the last couple of weeks, he's been talking about wanting to go see Santa, a feat we've never attempted before because, well, see above. Still, he insisted he wanted to go so that he could tell Santa what he wants for Christmas. And do you know what he wants, what he has said over and over and over he wants to find when he wakes up Christmas morning? No, not a Red Ryder beebee gun. No, even better: cookies! Like, the kind you eat! Score, yo. I'll swing by the grocery store on the way home. It'll be the best Christmas ever.

As you can see, Simon is, as usual, unfazed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

365 # 120: Dale C.

Allright, stop. I know. It was 1990. We were freshmen in high school. Lots of people had that Vanilla Ice tape and knew all the words to "Ice Ice Baby." Some people, like you, were even sporting the haircut, and even trying on the attitude for size. But when you were still sporting the same look senior year, it got to be a bit old. For your sake, I hope you found a new do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

365 # 119: Carolyn G.

You are, without a doubt, one of the finest managers I have ever had the pleasure of reporting to. I never thought I would find the business of business something to be impressed by, but I was continually impressed by you. You knew, almost as if by instinct, how to manage people, how to deal with difficult customers, and how to get crappy situations under control. On top of that, everybody on your team both liked and respected you. You seemed to care about each and every person that reported to you, both professionally and personally. When you announced to us that you were leaving for a new job at another company, you involuntarily broke into tears, and then got mad at yourself for doing so. Oh, that temper was awesome, I'm so glad I was never on the receiving end of it. I remember that time you took me with you to Toronto to meet with a client, and we missed our connecting flight at O'Hare. Oh, the string of profanity that you did let loose as watched our plane pull away. It was truly glorious. In conclusion, I don't know that I was necessarily cut out to spend my life in the business world, but I learned from you a lot of tools to help me manage my way through it.

Necessity is the mother of some such or something like that

Sunday night after the boys were asleep, The Ash and I busted open the boxes and decorated the tree that had stood in the corner all afternoon, naked, patiently waiting for our attention. Every year, somewhere during the tree decorating process, I find myself stepping back for a moment and considering the strangeness of this tradition. What might a visitor from another planet think of this practice of bringing a tree into one’s dwelling and adorning it with all manner of lights, ribbons, and bright shiny objects of various shapes? Not to mention the rest of the traditional Christmas decor. You know which one always cracks me up? The nativity scene with the kneeling Santa Claus. That’s just the most Christmasarrific mashup ever. Maybe at Easter, there should be a giant bunny dressed as a Roman soldier. Or maybe a wabbit pushing a stone away from a cave. I’d put that on my lawn.

Monday morning, the boys discovered the tree. Our nearly one-year-old is plenty mobile and plenty curious, so we left the bottom foot or so of the tree undecorated. It’s like the tree is dressed in a short skirt. Just showing off a little leg, ya know? Hey, a tree’s got needs. So I watched as the nearly one-year-old, my little New Year’s Eve baby, eyed the lowest hanging ornament, a shiny silver bell with colorful stripes all the way around. From his sitting up position it was well out of his reach. He raised his hand towards it and attempted to stand. His legs wobbled for a moment, then he thunked back down on his little baby butt. He tried again, same results. I watched him try this maneuver again and again, never taking his eyes off of that bell. Finally, he stood up and held his stance firmly, long enough to reach out and pluck the ornament off of the tree. I have you now, pretty shing thing. With it safely in his grasp, he sat back down and inspected his find more closely. The bell remained stoic.

I suppose if all the good tasting fruit grew out of the ground, humankind would still be crawling.

Monday, December 08, 2008

365 # 118: Jimmy L.

You were the valedictorian of my high school class. You were also the first guy that I ever heard just come out and say "You know what? I jerk off. And I'm okay with that." And one by one, the rest of us all fessed up to the same. It was a new level of drunk bonding, all brought about by the guy with the best grades.

Friday, December 05, 2008

365 # 117: Mr. H.

I haven't checked the latest figures, so I don't have an exact percentage, but I don't need comprehensive data to tell you that most kids, if given the choice, will choose the top bunk on a bunk bed. I was no exception to this rule. My mom shipped me off to my first summer camp experience with the church youth group, and you were the counselor for my group. I managed to score myself a top bunk on one of the rickety metal bunk beds.

One night, I was awakened by the impact of my head with the concrete floor. I had rolled out of the bed and landed right on my noggin. You heard me crying somewhere in the darkness of the cabin. You found me, picked me up, and carried me to the health lodge on your shoulders in the middle of the night. Betcha got a headache, huh?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

365 # 116: Matt C.

The assignment was to write the most offensive scene possible. Each person was given a theme to work with, and mine was race. Gosh, how could you possibly offend anybody with such an innocuous subject? I ended up writing a scene about a rapping Ku Klux Klansman, complete with copious uses of a particular word that lots of popular rappers use in their rhymes, but that white people really shouldn't sing when they're rapping along, even if they're alone in the car. That's just the rule. Oh, and there was some abortion stuff thrown in there too, just to catch anybody that might not have been bothered by all the race stuff. I felt like I'd really nailed the assignment good.

So it came time to do a reading of these scripts, and Brandon says "Hey, my friend Matt could probably come help us out if we need some actors to read." It was only when I showed up for the reading and met you for the first time that I found out you were black, and it was only then that I stopped to think about how a scene like this might be taken by somebody who A) doesn't know me, and B) isn't white. Sure, I know it's meant to be dark and satirical and offensive, and people who know me would know it too, but what of everybody else? What would this look like through their eyes? Should I, as a writer, even worry about it? It's easy to brush questions like that off in a vacuum, but not when faced with an actual human being.

Thankfully you didn't get upset. I don't think you liked the scene very much, but you recognized it for what it was. Later on, I even got to direct you in another play. And those offensive scenes? Never saw the light of the stage. That's probably for the best. But don't tell self-righteous 23 year old me that I said that.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

365 # 115: Regina Y.

This may sound like it's disparaging to all the other fine actors who have participated in the plays I've written, but it's absolutely not meant to be. It's just that, on the two occasions when you acted roles in my plays, I felt somehow weirdly honored. Like, here was this incredibly serious actress who's done all this other stuff, and here she is kicking ass in something I wrote. You pulled off creepy religious woman and frustrated housewife beautifully.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

365 # 114: John G.

One handshake with you completely changed my life. We met one day in my 20th year when I was walking to class. I could probably go to the very spot where it happened. You just walked right up out of nowhere and introduced yourself. You had long hair and wore an Alice in Chains tee-shirt. We chit-chatted about them for a few minutes before you got around to telling me about this church you went to. The true motivation for your introduction was revealed. Normally I would have just let the conversation end and then forgotten all about it, but you seemed like somebody I could be friends with. And I was sort of in need of a friend. So I ended up going to your church.

A few weeks later, I was a full-blown member, just like you. It sounds crazy, but I basically let myself get brainwashed. I was actually convinced that this little church, with its little outposts here and there throughout the globe, whose Austin branch met in the ballroom of a downtown hotel, was what it claimed to be: the one and true church. Everyone else? Going to hell. I actually believed that. Yes I did. I went from lapsed semi-maybe-agnosticish person with a Christian background to hardcore believer. Yes I did. It boggles my mind that I let that happen, that there was a time in my life I could have been duped like that, but there it is.

Throughout my time with this church, you were my best friend, and the person to whom I was supposed to go when I needed to discuss spiritual matters. In fact, I was supposed to, oh my God, I can't believe this, I was supposed to confess my sins to you. How ridiculous is that? How ludicrous? How manipulative and conniving? Though I can't say it was your fault. It was the system, and you and I were both willing players in it.

The truth is, we really were friends, even outside the structure of the church that said we were all "friends." We hung out every day. We talked about heavy metal. You brought your bass over to my house sometimes so we could rock out. We were buds.

People who left the church, and there were many, were said to have "fallen away." Not only were they on their way to hell like the rest of the world, but their punishment would be particularly harsh because they had known the truth and chosen to turn their back on it. It was hard to find a group photo of people in the church without at least one or two people in it who had "fallen away." I bring this up because when I left six months later, I hated the thought that you would be thinking I was one of these "fall-aways." I knew you would blame yourself, that it would eat you up inside, and that the leaders would go on and let you stew in that guilt. But there was no sticking around for me, not after I learned what a complete and total lie I had given myself over to, what a sham this organization was, how theologically ridiculous their premises were, how manipulative and downright evil many of their practices were, and how much damage they had done to people's lives all over the world. I hated to leave, and I hated to leave you behind. I felt like I was making a jailbreak and there was no way to bring you along with me.

I haven't spoken to you since then, but I swear that was you I saw in the Ikea parking lot a few months ago. You were with a woman, presumably your wife. We made eye contact briefly, and I think that was a smile of recognition. That is, assuming it was you and not some friendly stranger who resembled you. Last I heard, the church had crumbled, so who knows what happened to you and everybody else after that. I can only hope you found your own way to freedom.

Monday, December 01, 2008

365 # 113: Aimee B.

I don't consider myself to be a hyper-competitive person. But I have to admit, I remember being thrilled about beating you in the competition to see who would represent our school at the spelling bee in the first grade. I went on to take first place, beating out all the other first graders from a bunch of other schools. So really, you never stood a chance. Was it just me, or did you give me a bit of the old cold shoulder after that? If it's any consolation, I still spell check everything I type. What, that's not consolation enough? Fine, here you go: mistkae.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

365 # 112: Wayne the Goalie

I was one of the worst, if not the worst, player on the JV soccer team. But my ranking went up by one the day that you tried out to be a goalie. Like me, you were awful, and every attempt you made at giving it your all only resulted in making things worse. I clearly remember one practice where you dove face first right into a goal post, after which you were immediately struck in the face by a ball. Dazed and bloodied, you quit the team.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

365 # 111: Brandon S.

I've known you for enough years that I could relate any number of stories about you, any of which would provide a tiny little glimpse into the you that is you. But on this day, I choose to tell how my most memorable and enjoyable Thanksgiving day ever was at your house, hosted by you, your then-girlfriend, and her two pugs. I was still reeling from the breakup with my first wife. My family wasn't really doing much of anything that year, and I didn't really feel like driving out of town anyway. I didn't really know what I was going to be doing. Lo and behold, you guys also weren't going to be spending the day with family, and so you decided to throw open your doors for all of your friends who were in the same boat, which included me. It turned out to be an afternoon, evening, and night of food, drink, and revelry, unlike any Thanksgiving I'd ever had before or any I've had since. Thanks for playing host to such a great holiday.

Oh, and I'm also excited you and your wife are about to join us in parenthood.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Toddler Show

Oh hey, I posted over at DadCentric for the first time in like, months. Go check it out to read about Henry's first experience with that beloved institution, the school program.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

365 # 110: Sara R.

After you moved out to L.A., I asked your boyfriend how you were doing, and he started telling me about this insane project that you and a friend were working on. It was so nuts, I thought for sure that he was making it up. Apparently, you and a friend had slipped into the offices of some film studio, rifled through some scripts that were under consideration, stole one, rewrote it, then returned it. Oh, and you filmed all of this, thereby providing the evidence for your arrest, should anyone ever decide to press charges. The script you stole was titled "The Sean Connery Golf Project", which was also the title you gave to the very funny documentary that you made out of all these adventures. Punk rock-ariffic.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

365 # 109: Ryan the Kitchen Slave

Wow, I've been slacking badly on the blogging and the 365-ing. Early on in this project, I had visions of really getting it done in 365 days. Then I thought, meh, it's okay to miss a day or two here or there. Now I've just started blowing it off entirely. But to honor all this slacking, I thought I would rope it in and make it part of the theme by going through my list of not yet documented peeps to find one who truly embodied slackerness. Surely there'd be one in there.

As I scroll through the list, however, none truly jump out at me as quintessential slackers. There just seems to be more to everybody than just one little label. Ryan, you're the closest thing I've got. You worked in the bowels of a summer camp kitchen, arguably the lowest of the low on the ladder of summer camp occupations. Rather than wishing you could do something else, you seemed to relish your lowly position, like a chimney sweep making fun of a room full of lawyers and businessmen. And your job kept you from having to deal with campers, whom you mostly hated on principle. You put in just enough work to get by, not a drop more or less.

The only time I ever saw you really put effort into anything was the weekly cleaning of the dining hall floor, which was accomplished by covering it in bleach, then playing hockey with brooms and a bar of soap. These games never ended without significant injury.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Am A Feminist

I've never been the kind of guy to tell the woman I was with how she should manage her appearance. If I'm asked for an opinion, I'll give one, and I'll throw out compliments when I think to, which probably isn't often enough, and I suppose if Ashley was about to walk out the door to go to something important like a job interview wearing sweat pants and a Hustler tee-shirt, I might *ahem* say something. But other than that, I've never really felt it was my place to tell a woman how I like her to dress or how I like her to wear her hair or which color lipstick I think brings out her eyes best or which heels, the 4" or 6", she should wear. But since you asked, go with them 6 inchers.

All that changed during our last pregnancy. About midway through, Ash went to her stylist and got her beautiful long black hair hacked off. Again, it's her hair, she can do what she wants with it...except she hated it. She was pissed at herself for squandering one of the good things about being pregnant, all those months of great hair days. And without actually saying it, she managed to make clear that, had I made some kind of preference known, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided.

Sounds like a green light to me.

Since then, I've been an adamant spokesperson for the long hair. Every time she brings up the idea of cutting it, I shoot it down like enemy aircraft. I've actually become kind of a jerk about it. The latest discussion, if by discussion you mean me ranting like a misinformed McCain supporter while Ashley nods and talks to me in the same tone she uses with our three year old, went something like this:

HOLMES: Keep your hair long because I like it long. Yeah, that's right, I said it.

THE ASH: Uh-huh.

HOLMES: You can put that on your blog if you want to. "Oh my god, my husband is so mean, he always tells me how I should wear my hair!"

THE ASH: I'll do that.

HOLMES: Yeah, that's right. And then I'll leave a comment on that post and say "Yeah, I said it. What's up?"

THE ASH: Okay.

HOLMES: Shit, maybe I'll just put it on my blog instead. Let the whole world know!

THE ASH: Okay, but only if you title it "I am a Feminist."

And there you have it.

365 # 108: Mr. Sanford

I got the theme to "Sanford & Son" stuck in my head today, and while you were neither a grizzled old black man nor the son of one, you still seem like the kind of guy who should have his own quirky theme music. You taught high school sociology, and everybody knew that your class was the one to take because you were the coolest teacher in the school. You managed to work stories of your free-loading hippie days into actual lessons about the finer points of sociology. Even though you kept your hair short and you wore a tie, the old hippie in you became apparent pretty quick. I typically find hippies pretty goddamn annoying, but you were an exception. You seemed like you were the kind of hippie to tell all the other fucking hippies to shut the fuck up, maaaann.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

365 # 107: Champ T.

Your first name was actually Thomas, but your middle name was Champion, so everybody called you Champ. It's weird calling somebody Champ day in and day out, even weirder working as a subordinate to such a person. You stood about five feet tall and had shortish dark hair. Add to that your penchant for jacked-up pickups and your impatience with people who didn't follow your orders to a tee, and it's no surprise that you were frequently referred to as "Napoleonic." Which is just a silly way to be when you're running a summer camp. It's not like we were operating a nuclear submarine.

One summer, I took The Reverend Horton Heat's classic tune "Bales of Cocaine" and turned it into a campfire song. Its rhythm just lends itself nicely to such a transposition. Of course, this song was not intended for camper consumption, but just as a special treat for the staff. By the end of the summer, most of the staff knew every word. It drove you up the wall, but everybody else loved it. Just my little way of saying "Fuck you."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

365 # 106: Matt B.

Remember that day you spent going around with my mom and I to local businesses asking them to contribute donations to my Eagle Scout project? My project was to landscape a newly built elementary school that had been left with little more than a bit of grass and some bare patches of dirt, so we targeted several nurseries, as well as any businesses in between to see what they'd be willing to give us. Me, I was nervous asking people to just give me something for nothing, but you seemed right at home with it. All told, we finished out the day with a few hundred dollars in cash, as well as a few hundred more payable in flora. That was really cool of you to help me out like that. It even makes up for the time that I was riding in your car, and you tricked me into getting out to check the tire, and then drove off, and then spent the next fifteen minutes letting me get within a few inches of the door handle and then speeding up the street. That...that was not so nice.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

365 # 105: Nadine

You got a tattoo when we were still in high school. It was situated dangerously close to your left boob and you loved to show it off. This officially made you dangerously magnetic....er, magnetically dangerous? Either way, you were not to be fucked with, nor could you be ignored. I was surprised you even knew my name. I wonder if you ever got all those other tattoos you talked about getting.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

365 # 104: Joe B.

I'm not going to apologize for having participated in the gang that ambushed you and threw you in the river that week that our scout troop went to summer camp. You were known as the dirty kid in the troop, the local pigpen, which wasn't so bad on weekend campouts, but this was a week of camping we're talking about here. You reeked, and you refused to shower. So we took things into our own hands. Not that being doused in river water had much power to cut through all that stink, but it made us feel better. I hope you've learned a bit about personal hygiene since then, because aside from being gross, you were pretty okay.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

There is a way

The baby woke up right before Obama's victory speech. I brought him downstairs and gave him a bottle while I listened to our future President speak. I looked down at him, and it occurred to me, he has no idea, no idea that he's alive during a moment of history. No idea how amazing tonight is. Just another night of little baby dreams.

Sleep tight little boys. The future's looking just a bit brighter.

And with that, a little Mos Def.

In the darkest depths of Mordor

Henry has apparently been getting into the Tolkien. How else to explain this creation?

Clearly, he has visions.

365 # 103: Chad the future lawyer

Based on my memories of some of the conversations you and I had on our drives to work, I'm guessing you're not too happy with the news so far this evening. Sorry buddy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

365 # 102: Wade B.

Halloween 1993. Perhaps not the day precisely, but the time of year and the state of mind. You and I were going around to all the local haunted houses to see if we could find any that could deliver enough concentrated scare to make us really feel alive. We'd been to a couple of lame ones already that night, but we'd heard good things about another that wasn't far from our neighborhood, so we decided to give it a try.

It was just a house on an otherwise empty lot. Standing in line outside, we could hear strains of Metallica and Megadeth coming from near the entrance. We agreed that this boded well, though what logic we were applying exactly, I couldn't tell you now. People emerged from the other end of the house, some of them laughing, some disturbed, but none complaining. This too seemed to bode well.

You and I went in together. The entrance was fairly standard, utter darkness on all sides until some monster or some such jumped out at us. I don't remember every twist and turn, but I do remember at one point, you and I were chased down a hallway until we ended up in a tiny room from which there appeared to be no exit. The door through which we had entered closed behind us, and no others were apparent. A chainsaw whirred to life, and next thing we know, we're trapped in this room with two dudes waving chainsaws in our faces. After a few seconds of this, an unseen hand pulled a curtain aside to reveal an exit where moments ago there had been a wall. I ran through and found myself in a hallway, but behind me, I could still hear the chainsaws buzzing and you screaming. Like a little girl. "Oh shit," I thought, my imagination kicking into supreme overdrive. "They're really gonna kill him. They must kill somebody for real every night in this fucking place, and tonight it's gonna be Wade!"

I ran back to the room to find that, in fact, you were not being killed. Rather, your pant leg had gotten caught on a piece of chain link fence that was used as part of the wall, and unable to get away from the twin Leatherfaces, you panicked.

Finally, one of the chainsaw bearers set down his weapon, pulled his mask aside, and unattached your pants from the fencing, but not without giving you shit for having freaked out. But fuck that guy and and his stupid judgment passing, Wade, because chainsaws are fucking scary.

Once he had you all detached, he pulled his mask back on. The four of us looked at each other and decided that we'd better get back into the roles we were all supposed to play in this particular setting, they as the scarers and we as the scarees. They revved their chainsaws and we ran.

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

365 # 101: Half Face

The road leading into the neighborhood where I lived as a kid was a long two-lane stretch, bordered on either side by deep ditches. If a driver ever found themselves in the unfortunate position of having to suddenly swerve to miss an animal, there was practically no place to go. Cars and trucks ended up stuck in those ditches all the time. There was almost no room for a person on foot, but that didn't stop you from walking up and down that road damn near every day. My mom and I would spot you every now and then, your bag slung over your shoulder, putting one foot in front of the other, slowly making your way to wherever it was that you went every day. "There he is" one of us would say. You were an unsettling figure, tall, skinny, and old. You wore a plaid shirt on your hunched frame, a fisherman's hat atop your head, and a bandage across one entire half of your face. I can see you in my mind as clearly as I see this screen I'm looking at right now.

One day, my mom and I were at McDonald's and I had to go to the bathroom. I walked into the men's room and found you standing at the sink washing your face, bandage and all. You turned slowly to look at me and I froze. I was terrified your bandage was going to fall off, and I would see whatever it was you kept hidden under there. I ran out of the bathroom and went back to our table where I told my mom that I'd seen you. She seemed surprised. It was strange to think of you being any place other than Sellers Road. I remember the expression on your face when you looked at me. I think you knew that you were a scary sight, especially to a kid, but you didn't want to be.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

365 # 100: Aaron T.

The term "gentle giant" was created for guys like you. I can't imagine you ever having been small. You must have emerged into this world enormous. All that kindness may have come later.

You and I, along with Ben and a few others, founded the He-Man Woman Hater's Club. We didn't actually hate women. We just hated being without them, so we just decided to be pathetic single dudes together. It was therapy. It was necessary. It got us through. And fuck it, it was fun.

I haven't set foot in a record store in ages, but if you still lived here in Austin and worked at Waterloo Records, I would definitely still come by, if only to tell you about what I downloaded recently. Thanks for all the times you ignored your job to chit-chat with me. Austin and I miss the hell out of you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

uno dos TRES!

Guess who turns 3 today?

Dear son, please accept this blog post as a rain check for the copious amounts of cake, ice cream, and adoration to be showered upon you at your party this weekend. Love, Dad.

Monday, October 20, 2008

365 # 99: Doug H.

You couldn't wait to get out of high school so you could run off and join the Army. As you gleefully reminded us all on any number of occasions, you were going to "kill people for a living." My god, that joke got old. I wonder if you ever got your wish? Your enthusiasm to destroy all that was not America clearly makes you one of Sarah Palin's real Americans. Um, congratulations?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

365 # 98: Mrs. Smith

I'd have to say you were pretty much the quintessential cub scout den mother. It seemed like whenever I was at your house, whether it was for a scout meeting or just to play with your son, there were kids running around everywhere. You always seemed to keep things rallied, organized, and fun. If it ever annoyed you having so many wee'uns about (surely it must have) you never let it show.

Go to your happy place

This is a box that once contained patio furniture.

That's all it was. And now that it's sitting in the garage waiting for recycling day, who knows what fate will befall it. But for a brief shining moment, it got to be something more. And all I had to do was cut a little door into its side.

And just like that, this simple hunk of cardboard switched from the product containment and transportation industry to the business of child's play. For a time, it seemed as if the box was going to become a permanent fixture in Henry's little routine. It became his default hiding place. It was the place he would go when he was upset and just needed a moment.

Of course, I didn't typically ruin it for him by poking a camera in, but I had to document it somehow.

Alas, his fascination with the box was short lived, and it quickly devolved into being just another inhabitant of too much space. But before getting rid of it, I just had to check it out for myself.

And I have to admit, I understood the appeal. Though getting out was a bit of a challenge.

And with that, our days of transmogrifier ownership ended.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

365 # 97: Linda D.

Those who know freedom best are those who once knew bondage. You spent about ten years of your life in and out of destructive cults before you finally, truly, found your way out. I can't say what this did to your long term psyche, but I do know that you're one of the most independent and unbossable people I've ever met. You cherish freedom in a way that many do not and cannot. I have no doubt you're that way because you spent so much time being pulled by the strings.

One beautiful bright afternoon, you and I were kung-fu fighting on a moving motor boat. We were putting on a show for the rest of the passengers. The driver thought it would be funny to bank sharply to one side, a maneuver that sent you and I flying overboard into the water. I emerged to the sound of laughter, yours, the driver's, all of the passengers', and then my own. That was a beautiful day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

365 # 96: Nan B.

I don't know quite how to tell you this, but the day you were fired was a day of floor-wide celebration in the office. You had ruled over our department with a tiny iron fist, driven by your belief that just because you were a workaholic, your employees should be as well. More overtime was your solution to every problem that came up. The worst part, the part that really ate at me, the part that made it impossible not to judge you just a little bit, was the fact that you were putting in these insane hours by choice, not because someone was telling you to, and that you had a little boy at home who probably missed his mom. My only regret was that I hadn't come into my own enough at that point to tell you to fuck off when I should have. The first day without you, the floor was all smiles and good-mornings and it's-great-to-be-heres. Everybody was in a great mood. The witch was dead.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

365 # 95: Debbie

A whole pack of us had gone out to the lake to go cliff-jumping. There's nothing like jumping beer-buzzed off a cliff in the middle of the night into dark water to remind you that yes, you are still alive, and life is beautiful and never to be taken for granted. You wanted to get this feeling too, but you couldn't quite bring yourself to take the leap. All night long, you kept walking up to the edge, we encouraged and taunted, but you couldn't quite do it. The night and the beer caught up with us, and we all ended up passed out in tents, on tables, in the back of trucks, where ever.

The next morning, you were back at that edge. Most everybody had left, but you were riding in our car, so I was still there. Our encouragements were slightly less enthusiastic than the night before, tinged by an impatience to get on the road. But you made it clear you didn't want to leave without jumping at least once. False start after false start, but you couldn't quite make it. Finally, when all our patience had given out, when we finally stopped trying to make you just jump already, when all of us had basically just given up, you did it. And then you climbed back up and did it again.

So then she drops a drill right on his face!

I paid a visit to my dentist yesterday, and they did something new and weird and different. Once my mouth was all numb and they were about to go in to start tooling around, the nice assistant lady broke out a pair of sunglasses and affixed them to my face in the usual sunglass position. "This is nice," I thought. "A little protection from the blinding rays of that 'Flight of the Navigator' light that they shine into your face." As they get to work on my teeth, the dentist starts telling the story behind the glasses. Turns out he had run into a dentist friend of his -- I was surprised that dentists are actually friends with other dentists, but there you have it -- and this dentist friend of his told him this hee-larious story about how his assistant had dropped an instrument right into a patient's face! Ow! Fuck! He didn't specify which tool, but they're all metal, and many of them have sharp points, so chances are it probably hurt like a sumbitch. So he's telling this story to both me and his assistant while they're working on my mouth, and he proceeds to tell us how he asked his friend, "well what'd you do to the employee?", and his friend tells him he didn't do anything to her because she was his wife. "What's he gonna do, fire her?" At this, my dentist laughs a hearty guffaw, his assistant sort of titters nervously, and laying there with my jaw open like Pac-Man on a binge, I can clearly see the message that he is conveying to her, perhaps even clearer than he does: I ain't put no ring on your finger lady, so if you fuck up, I'm free to send your ass packing. I felt just the slightest bit awkward being an unwitting third party to his unconscious passive aggression.

I picked up the boys and still managed to beat The Ash home. When I saw her car in the driveway, I walked out with Simon to meet her. She was carrying a single plastic bag, out of which she triumphantly pulled a 24 ounce can of Budweiser, A.K.A. a tallboy. The explanation? Cheap American beer kills slugs, and slugs seem to be having their way with some of the plants in her garden. But it doesn't take 24 ounces of fine American lager (that's what it says on the can, it must be true) to kill a few slugs, so guess who washed down the rest of it? I immediately felt like I was tubing down the Guadalupe River in the summer time. It was like a gross-tasting Calgon moment.

Monday, October 13, 2008

365 # 94: Mrs. Dippel

What the hell were you doing teaching second grade? Making every little boy in your class fall madly in love with you, that's what you were doing, you saucy minx you. Ours was the last class that you taught at our school, as you went off to pursue a different kind of teaching career. But you didn't forget all about us. You came by the school one day to say hello, and you were nice enough to come in your work clothes for your new job as an aerobics instructor. None of us learned anything for the remainder of that day.

You think I'm locked in here with you, old man...

...but it's you who's locked in here with me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

365 # 93: Bill A.

I doubted you. I doubted you and I'm sorry. You were enthusiastic about this play I had written, unabashedly supportive, and determined that you were going to play this one specific character that you had fallen in love with. The only problem was that this one specific character was a 17 year old boy, and you are a bald bearded thirty-something. But you shaved down to a baby's face, stepped into the character, and rocked it. In fact, you've rocked every role that I've ever had the privilege of watching you inhabit.

When The Ash and I got married, you gave us a card, inside of which you had written a loving tribute to love. It rolled and rambled, and I suspect there was really good beer involved in its writing, but it was beautiful.

Speaking of beer, you remember that time we drank those pints together? Oh, I guess I should be more specific. My point is, you and beer go together. You're the guy who shows up at the party with his own cooler of beer so that he doesn't have to worry about space in the fridge. Your beer is always good and you're always glad to share. Saint Bill.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A fact of Texas life

No matter where in Texas you live, you will occasionally find yourself behind an obnoxious truck. No exceptions to this rule are granted just because you live in Austin, because even in Austin, you're still in Texas. It's not like The Vatican.

The other day, I happened to find myself behind two such vehicles, and I had the presence of mind to snap some pictures for your enjoyment*. What did I do before I had a camera phone? Just remember things and describe them with words?

Offender # 1: Cowboy Vanity

I would be interested to know the percentage of full-sized trucks on the road that are actually used as work vehicles as opposed to those that are only meant to make the owner feel more like a big strapping cowboy, even though he works in an air conditioned environment, buys all his clothes from the mall, and he hasn't ridden a horse since he was six years old. 40-60? 30-70? The specimen pictured above, what with its dual chrome sphincters, squeaky clean mudflaps, and dent-free exterior, appears to be the latter. Granted, it may have just come from getting detailed and unloaded, but from where I was sitting, the only functions it was fulfilling were the taking up of excess space and increasing Austin's obnoxia** quotient.

Offender # 2: Burnt Orange Nightmare

They say everything comes with a price, and one of the prices I pay for living in this city that I love is that I have to put up with the sight of burnt orange everywhere, especially during football season. For those that don't know, burnt orange and white are the colors of The University of Texas. The clothing, bumper stickers, and flags are one thing, but I'm still amazed at the number of burnt orange vehicles in this town. It's one of the most putrid colors imaginable. In the case of the truck you see above, the owner not only selected burnt orange for the its color, but has also adorned it with multiple UT-related burnt orange decorations so as to create an even greater burnt orange impact. This is the vehicle that I imagine driving me to my own personal hell. It'll be blasting Toby Keith, the passengers will be serving near beer, and everyone will be talking about how Obama is a Muslim.

*Yes, I was at a full and complete stop when I took each of these. I was not driving through the phone's viewfinder. That would be dumb.

**So I made up a word. What of it?

Friday, October 10, 2008

365 # 92: Vince

You were the spitting image of Clark Gable, right down to the perfectly groomed mustache, and you sang like an old time country star. About the only thing that would wipe the smile off of your face was having to go to work. I remember one night, you, me, a few other guys, and a cooler of beer, all sitting around a campfire, getting drunk, a bit rowdy, all swearing the bonds of friendship that alcohol and a starry sky tend to inspire. Every now and then you'd launch into song and we'd all stop to listen. I can still remember the sound of your "Pancho and Lefty."

Unexpected Vacation

The last few days have been unexpectedly relaxing. It's not that I was stressed about being by myself with Simon for six days straight. I don't quite consider myself a seasoned vet at this parenting thing (I don't think you get to do that until you have teenagers in your house), but I ain't no rookie either. It's just that I didn't at all expect Ash's little vacation to be much of a vacation for me. Rather, I figured it would be a most necessary decompression for her which I would contribute to by taking care of the baby, a contribution that would later be gladly repaid through a series of no-questions-asked sexual favors.

Here babe, put on this Marge Simpson mask and let's go upstairs. Or better yet, let's go outside.

I was never alone with Henry for more than a day at a time when he was Simon's age, but taking care of him back then was a constant and desperate effort to convince him that life was not all misery and pain, that it was okay for him to be happy every now and then, that he could stop screaming and crying for perhaps a minute or two, maybe even sleep. It was gutcheck parenting, and it usually made any kind of relaxation or distraction pretty much impossible. Ultimately, I think it helped to make us better parents, but at the time, we found ourselves wondering how the species had ever advanced this far.

Simon's a tad bit easier. We've always known he was an easier baby, but interestingly enough, having Henry out of the house has thrown their differences into even starker contrast. Simon is the stoner roommate to Henry's revolutionary poet, the Bob Marley to his Henry Rollins, the bong to his crack pipe. He eats at eating time, sleeps at sleeping time, goes at go time, and quits at quitting time. It's been fun, it's been easy, it's been chill.

I hope I'm not jinxing it by blogging about it.

By the way, Ash just texted me. Henry's with the grandparents, and she's at Pat O'Brien's with her sisters getting her drink on. I think she's having fun.

Can your kid do this?

I shall now levitate this corn...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

365 # 91: Toby

You arrived at school in the middle of our eighth grade year, the new girl, far cuter than any of the other girls in our class. On top of all that, you were outspoken and didn't put up with any shit. No wonder you received such horrendous treatment from the rest of the class.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

365 # 90: Kevin the Cub Scout

You were one of two mentally disabled kids in my Cub Scout Pack. The other kid was perfectly nice and everybody liked him, and we were all glad to help him out whenever he needed it. You, however, liked to hit people. And nobody would ever hit you back because who wants to be known as The Kid That Hit The Retarded Kid, even if it was in retaliation? I'm not accusing you of using your disability as an excuse to be a little asshole, I'm just...well actually, yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing. I hope you stopped doing that.

Holmeses Aloneses

This morning, The Mighty Ash and The Indomitable Henry climbed into a blue minivan with The Mighty Ash's Parental Units of Unity, also known as The Goodtimes Grandfolks. The minivan, which was blue, was facing south at the time of departure. It was, however, promptly navigated to a multi-lane highway where it could be pointed in an easterly direction, which is the very direction it proceeded to travel all throughout the day until it finally reached its destination: New Orleans, Louisiana.

I do not know what direction the blue minivan is facing at this time.

For our part, Simon the Jovial and I, Simply The Holmes, remained behind in Austin at our house, the location from which the aforementioned departure took place. It was decided that a roadtrip of such length might be better traveled without a not-yet-one-year-old. We did at one time consider the possibility of all of us going, but in truth, this is a trip for The Ash's mother's side of the family. See, while New Orleans may have become a political symbol for the current administration's domestic failures, it is still something far more profound to many people, and that is Home. And to yet many more, it is the Place From Which Their People Hail. This includes my wife and her sisters, whose mother, aunt, and late uncle grew up in New Orleans. The Ash's mother and aunt will talk endlessly about what it was like growing up there, enough to drive you insane. Her aunt, who now lives with us, left it all behind on the eve of Katrina's landing. To her, it's still home. She just lives in Austin now.

So they've all gone to spend a few days wandering around the city that their family once called home, and to which they are still linked. Or at least what's left of it. Thankfully, all the plagues that had rained down upon us over the last month lifted in time. Since we pulled Simon out of daycare, and since the grandparents are part of this big excursion, that leaves only me. Truth be told, I was happy to take the vacation days. From now until next Monday, it's just the two of us. I did have some grand designs on accomplishing all manner of projects ranging from home improvement to self improvement. And I might get to some of that. But I'm thinking instead that maybe I'll spend some time showing Simon around the city of Austin, the city that is his Home. We'll take a few excursions of our own.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

365 # 89: Corey P.

I called in to work yesterday because I was as sick as one of those sick dogs we're always hearing about. I spent most of the miserable day in bed, but around 4:00, I couldn't stand to lay there anymore, so I got up and started doddering around. I decided to make myself useful and fold up some laundry. In bending down to pick up a pile, my well-rested but very not-stretched back seized up on me. So in addition to being sick, killer back pain. Score.

So yes, Corey, the first paragraph of this post that bears your name is all about me, and you don't even get a mention until this here second paragraph, but that's only because I needed that first paragraph to tell everybody about the godawful back pain I suffered, which is relevant to this post because back pain always reminds me, that's right, of you. I know that's not a very exciting thing to be associated with in one's memory, but Jesus Christ man, by 10th grade, you had already experienced as many back-related issues as guys in John McCain's age bracket. You were always missing school because you had to have yet another surgery or some such. Maybe my spasm yesterday was a bit of karma coming back to me for calling you Backflip. Speaking of nicknames, I believe it was you that christened Mrs. Ryan "Chia Pet." Very nice. Whereever you are, I hope your back's not giving you too much trouble. That shit hurts.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

365 # 88: David H.

My God, did you ever love being on student council. From what I could tell, it was your absolute favorite thing in the world. You were naive idealism embodied. I wonder if you ever went into politics. Assuming you did, I wonder if you've been corrupted yet. That would be like watching "Beaver Cleaver: The Dark Years."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

September has always hated me

I'm tired. Profoundly tired. Not to mention sick. If I were cell phone reception, I'd have maybe one bar showing right now. I'm connected, but not by much. And it's not just me, but my whole household as well. We tried out sending the boys to an actual daycare around the beginning of September, and we didn't make it through a single week without one or both of the boys being sent home sick. And since we're raising them right, they were thoughtful enough to bring their ick home with them. I know, I know, that's par for the course with daycare, but that doesn't make it suck any less.

So The Ash and I are dragging. It doesn't do good things for us as parents or as partners. We bicker, then remember that we're in this together and cling to one another for dear life. We are in survival mode. Simon has got himself an ear infection that has been tormenting him for the past week. The symptoms are gone, but we're still administering antibiotics, and when he screams and clutches at his ear, we place some of the drops in his ears that the doctor prescribed for pain. And we hold him until he calms down, and try to forget that we'd rather be in bed ourselves. It's all we can do.

For Henry, daycare was a horrid experience from day one. I've read other parents' accounts of having their kids in daycare and how their kids would cry at dropoff and pickup time. Rest assured he did that, but every day when I picked him up, it looked like he had cried the whole day long as well, and then he cried all evening. He woke up crying, begging not to go back. There's no way I'll accept that this is somehow good for him.

Thankfully, we've found a Montessori program for him that seems to be having the completely opposite affect. He's gone from insisting that he's never going to school again to wanting to go. He's gone from spending the morning commute in tears to singing. Ashley and I are delirious with happiness over how much good this school seems to be doing for him. So there's a bright spot.

I've got two months and some change left in a brutal semester. Honestly, it's beating the shit out of me. I'm going to finish out the semester and reassess. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Is it worth it? What's most important? All that shit.

I'm glad September's over. Here's hoping October's better.

Friday, October 03, 2008

365 # 87: Kenneth the English Teacher

Your name was not Kenneth, but I can't remember your name and I have to call you something. You taught my English literature class my freshman year at UT -- you very much looked the part, by the way -- and I remember you strolling into class one day singing, "What's the frequency, Kenneth." You asked if anybody had heard the new R.E.M. album. The reason you still inhabit one of my memory cells is that you helped to reenforce that college was a completely different educational environment than any I'd previously experienced when I ran into you at one of my first college parties. It was at one of the many lovably rundown houses near campus. As we walked in, I heard a drunken, but still familiar voice. I know this voice, but from a different setting. I looked up and there was my teacher, holding up the wall.

"How ya doin? Your paper was great, by the way."

Welcome to college, Holmes.

365 # 86: Dolores D.

I still haven't forgiven you for that godawful mask dance you made us do at the beginning of The Empty Bowl. Even thinking about it now makes me want to commit murderous acts of stabby stab. Way to make a horrendous experience out of a perfectly awesome play. If you're going to keep directing plays, I hope you learn that you don't have to make them all into The Dolores Show.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

365 # 85: Colorblind David

You once were foolish enough to let Robert and I talk you into driving your car offroad. It ended up getting stuck in the mud next to a bayou. This was in the days before everyone had a cell phone, so we had to walk back to school. Robert drove both you and I home, and all the way to your place, you seemed really worried about how your dad was going to react. Later on, we found out that you had told him that you had been kidnapped and forced to drive your car back there at gunpoint. They filed a police report and everything. The old man must've been a really scary fucker for you to make something like that up. I wonder if you went all the way with it or if your story cracked under the strain.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

365 # 84: Kenny G.

Your first name-last name initial combination is, shall we say, unfortunate. Lucky for you, you don't have long curly Sideshow Bob hair, and your musical tastes don't venture anywhere near light jazz. In fact, I think you know the lyrics to damn near every rap song written before 1992.

I think it was our third or fourth year working together at summer camp when you got the extremely unKenny-like idea that you wanted to brand yourself. Like a piece of cattle. You wanted searing hot iron applied to your flesh so as to leave behind a permanent mark, the mark in this case being the brand of the summer camp/ranch that had employed and come to mean so much to us over the years. And you wanted me, your friend, to man the irons, to be the guy to put brand to flesh.

Come on, Tee-ravis, you gonna do it?

It seemed like a joke at first, the kind of thing you could never possibly go through with. So I humored you.

Sure buddy, I'll brand you. Why the fuck not?

As the summer passed, it became clear that even if it had started as a lark, the idea had taken on a level of grave seriousness in your mind. It was some kind of test, a portal that you felt you needed to pass through. When I realized that it was no longer a joke, that perhaps it never had been, I did what any reasonable non-frat boy would do and stated emphatically that no, I would not place red hot metal against your skin, and that I didn't think anybody else should either. Brands are for cows, cows have much thicker skin than people, and I'm not even sure they enjoy it all that much. You really think a cow views getting branded like it's a fucking vision quest?

My failure to come through on my commitment pissed you off so much that you threatened to just do it yourself. You got as far as fetching the iron and a bag of charcoal from the quartermaster before you pussed out came to your senses. Thank you for not being a fucking idiot.

Monday, September 29, 2008

365 # 83: Jennifer S.M.

I remember the first time you took me over to your parents' house. They seemed like such nice people, I'm glad I didn't know I was about to become an accomplice to theft from their home. After introducing us, you called me into another room to "look at some of your old yearbook pictures." When I walked in, you were rooting around in the back of a closet, out of which you emerged, grinning ear to ear, bearing half-full liquor bottles. "Here's me in band" you said, loud enough for your folks to hear, as you quietly tucked the bottles into your bag. You were clearly pleased with yourself. "Oh, and look at this picture!" I got the feeling you had done this before.

We've known each other for fourteen years now, but somehow, that story kind of sums it all up.

Friday, September 26, 2008

365 # 82: Jason S.

You were a white kid from the suburbs who wore his hair in a skater cut across one side of his face and carried upon his shoulders the weight of all the guilt and sorrow for every wrong ever done to the Native Americans down through history. So passionate were you about this subject, so enraged were you by the sins of our ancestors, I swear your voice was sometimes close to cracking when you would describe one atrocity or another. It was like it had happened last week. You would reach the end of your story and then flip your hair out of your face so you could use both eyeballs to glare at your audience, daring any and everyone to, to...well I don't know what you were waiting for exactly. I'm not saying you should just get over it, but, well, just stop yelling, would ya? I didn't do anything.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

365 # 81: Inappropriate Randy

You perpetrated one of the earliest acts of extreme inappropriateness that I can remember. But really, you could hardly be blamed, for you, like me, were only a child at the time. Like the rest of us, you probably had only the vaguest awareness that the spaceship that had disintegrated that morning over the Atlantic Ocean had been carrying real-live people, all of whom were dead now. I can't remember if it was the same day or the next, but the teachers decided to show us a videotape of what had happened and then talk to us about it. We watched as the Space Shuttle Challenger launched into the sky, raced towards the heavens, and then exploded into a massive plume of smoke. The whole class was silent, but you had one word to say.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

365 # 80: Varick F.

You were interviewing me for a job, one which, I might add, did not require all that much in the way of mental math skills.

VARICK: So, what's twenty-five times twenty-five?

ME: Six-hundred twenty-five.

VARICK: Allright. What's twenty-six times twenty-six?

ME: (thinks for a few seconds) Six-hundred seventy-six.

Varick takes a moment to work it out on paper, eyeing me suspiciously the whole time.

VARICK: Nope, not quite. Okay, I'll send the next guy in to finish up the interview. Nice to meet you!

You left the paper upon which you had performed your calculations on the table in front of me. After you left, I pulled the paper over and checked your work. I had been right! I was going to be pissed if I didn't get a job because you sucked at math.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

365 # 79: Stephen K.

You were my age, the youngest son of the Scoutmaster of my Boy Scout troop. I was always jealous that you had such a cool dad, but I figured out over time that being your dad's son was no easy task. Expectations for you and your older brother were high.

I remember once on a campout, you let me borrow Cypress Hill's first tape. Wow, there's an image for you: two white boys in scout uniforms jamming to Cypress Hill. How gangster is that?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

365 # 78: Coach Shipman

The mustache. The sneer. The polyester pants wrapped tightly around the beergut. The Coors-fueled rage that often simmered beneath the surface, only to emerge on the sidelines in the midst of battle. You, sir, were the quintessential assistant football coach. Not to mention your math classes. Maybe it was just my high school, but it always struck me as odd that so many math classes were taught by coaches. Perhaps you were driven to it by the game, for with all the uncertainty that comes with sports, maybe you needed the absolute certain finality that only numbers could provide. A squared + B squared = C squared, goddammit.

Except I didn't play football, and I never sat in any of your classes. No, you and I came into contact when you landed the job of assistant soccer coach. It was immediately apparent that you knew very little about the game. But what you lacked in soccer knowledge, you made up for with your ability to make some motherfuckers run some laps. You also totally rocked at getting mad. We weren't the worst team in the district, but we were pretty far from the best, so we did endure a few ass-kickings. I remember near the end of one particularly bloody slaughter, you called a time-out so that you could scream at us. "I don't care if you have to punch somebody, just make something happen!" I'm pretty sure we failed you in that regard. Ah well, I'm sure you had a La-Z-Boy and a six pack to go home to.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

365 # 77: Kelly H.

We dated for a grand total of two weeks. The purpose of our relationship was for you to punish your ex-boyfriend, who you reunited with at the conclusion of the two weeks. I really surprised myself when you broke it off and I realized that I didn't care. I didn't know I was capable of such apathy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

365 # 76: Russell T.

You were the first kid I knew who lost a parent. It was, what, 5th? 6th grade? You were absent one day, and the teacher told us that your dad had died, and that you wouldn't be back for a while, and that we should keep you in our prayers. And since it was a Christian school, there were prayers throughout the day, and you and your mom were mentioned in every single one during the weeks that you were out.

Your first day back to school was a field trip day. Everybody was so happy to have you back, I remember the morning assembly felt almost a bit celebratory. I still remember your great big oversized jolly kid face, and how it would light up when you shouted "Party hardy!" I think that was like your catch phrase. I hope you've grown from a great big dorky jolly kid into a great big dorky jolly adult.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

365 # 75: Chris H.

I had this really vivid dream about you once that, in my mind, captures the very essence of who you were. In the dream, you were the drummer in Louis Armstrong's band. Except Louis was playing a guitar. Maybe it was B.B. King, except I know you were playing jazz, not blues. Maybe this dream wasn't so vivid after all. What I do remember was that you guys would play these extended free-form jams, and then between every song, Louis or B.B. or whoever the old black fellow was would nod his appreciation back to you, at which point the whole band would produce various pot smoking devices and light up in preparation for the next song. You kept a bong behind your drumset. I remember telling you about this dream the day after I had it, and you really dug it. "Fuck yeah dude, I could go for that."

I can't say exactly why that dream was so perfectly Chris, I just know that it was. You were, in fact, a fan of jazz, and you did play the drums, and you did have some level of familiarity with bongs, but I hate to suggest that this was the be-all end-all of your person. Perhaps some real life examples of your Chris-ness could elucidate the matter.

Outside of the dream realm, you and I made friends one summer working at camp. It was my 18th summer, your 20th. I remember my age because I had just graduated high school, and I remember your age because you were just one year shy of being able to buy us alcohol. Every week, you and I were in charge of taking all the kiddos who had signed up to learn about wilderness survival out into the middle of the woods so that they could build shelters and get all survivalist with it. We'd build a nice big fire, then sit around and tell ghost stories until it was time to send the kids off to sleep on the cold hard ground under their lean-to's . Hey kid, it's the wilderness, them's the breaks. You want your merit badge or not? Once the young'uns were all down, you and I and whichever other staff members had tagged along would sneak over to the dried up riverbed next to the campsite to smoke cigarettes and shoot the shit until the wee hours of the morning. I'm going to estimate that about 48% of our conversation centered around girls - I even still remember the name of the girl that you were madly in love with at the time. Kara this, Kara that. I eventually got to meet her, and had to concede that she was pretty hot. Your crush was well-founded.

Another 33% of our conversation was about music. We didn't have a lot in common on this one, save for classic rock. You were a jazz fiend, not to mention a Phish fan, a lover of all things improvisational, free-form, and complex, whereas I was at the height of my metal obsession. I think 18 is a good age to do that. In spite of these differences, you were cool enough to give me a ride to the Pantera concert, though I wasn't able to talk you into coming with me. You missed a hell of a show, man.

And the other 19%? I don't recall exactly, though they probably had to do with cigarettes, drugs, coworkers, kids, outdoor skills, Austin...oh yeah, Austin! You were already living in the city that was soon to become my home and attending the school that would become my alma mater. In fact, it was you who told me about cooperative living, and who first took me the co-op where I would eventually take up residence and meet my first wife. Weird that I can draw a connection between you two on a timeline.

Oh, and how could I forget New Orleans? One weekend, we ended up getting an actual 48 hours off instead of the usual 24 due to the fact that they decided to schedule all of the Mormon troops to come the same week. They apparently have some sort of Sunday travelling ban. So you and I and a few others hopped into a truck with a camper on the back and took off to New Orleans. Your folks lived there, so we had a free place to stay after we were done getting rip-roaring ridiculous. It felt odd driving back to Boy Scout camp after such a debauch of a weekend.

You ended up moving back to Louisiana not long after I moved to Austin, but I didn't take it too personally. I've tried to look you up a few times, but you have one of the most generic names possible. Of all the people I've lost track of, you're one of the ones I'd most like to see again.

Just A Reminder: You Live in the South

I don't know how I got on these people's mailing list, but they want to make sure that I don't forget my ever so proud heritage:

Which reminds me, I'll say one thing for Sarah Palin: she's at least reminded me and the rest of the country that rednecks are not confined to the South. They're freakin' everywhere, even Alaska.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

365 # 74: Amparo G.

Some calls it a poker face, I calls it writing teacher's face. And you had it. Based on my experiences in playwrighting classes over the years, I don't think I would enjoy teaching it. You, however, were equipped with a whole host of qualities that made you good at it, not the least of which included your patience, your ability to keep from rolling your eyes every other line of dialogue, and your way of finding something positive to say even in the most wretched piece of script that your students dragged into your classroom festering and rotting, week after week. And of course, there was all that knowledge you dropped about structure, story, character, conflict, etc. etc. blah blah blah. That was helpful too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Do Not Feel Sympathy For My Children

By all accounts, this has been what officials would term a "rough week." It all started a week from this past Friday with the beginning of my semester, which means I'm back on the working schlub/dad/husband/student schedule which, if you're not familiar, is a rather tight one. Sitting in class last Friday and Saturday, my brain felt as if its little brain-legs were mired in swamp water, making it impossible for them to run fast enough to keep up with the pace of the information zinging past. Consider me mentally gut-checked.

Monday, the boys attended their first day of actual day care, actual in this case referring to an entity outside of familial relations. See, when The Ash went back to work a few months ago, we placed the little fellows in the care of their grandparents. T'was an arrangement that seemed agreeable to all of us at the time, but alas, we finally reached the point where we had to concede that it simply wasn't working out for any of the parties involved. So we found a nice little place whose philosophies we agree with, whose facilities seem conducive to learning, and whose tuition will not require me to deliver pizza in the evenings or sell drugs on the weekends. As nice as the place seems to us, it must appear as the Gates of Hell through the eyes of my eldest son, for he has resisted going there with every ounce of resistant strength he could muster. Which of course makes our mornings that much more awesome. He's denied, he's debated, he's even attempted escape on foot.

Now I know, I know, it sucks to be two years old and tossed into daycare. But what I need to ask from you now, good people, is that you take all of that sympathy that you might be feeling for my children and direct it towards me. And maybe some for my wife too. For you see, my kids get plenty of sympathy and loving nourishment from the many people in their lives. And it's not as if they read the nice comments and emails that you leave on this blog. In fact, I'll let you in on a secret: I haven't even told them I have a blog. I'm still trying to figure out how I'll drop that bit of knowledge on their fuzzy little heads. So yeah, your sympathy would be much better spent on me than on the younguns. You understand.

Where was I? Oh right, the daycare defense mechanisms. Yeah, when denial, debate, and escape failed to achieve the desired effect, Henry went all Potter on me by summoning his toddler magic to make himself sick. "Sorry pops, I'm sick...can't go to daycare today. Too bad." I knew there were some my-kid-is-sick days to be had in my future, but I didn't think they'd come in the first week.

As it turned out, both boys were sick as little dogs, which meant they got to stay home Thursday and Friday. Devious move, little Holmes.

Oh yeah, and my Mom stayed in Houston to greet Ike. I asked her to come stay with us, but she opted to sandbag her house and put her furniture up on blocks. It's impossible to get old people to do anything. She's allright and her house is still standing. I guess maybe you can send some sympathy her way too.

Today, I went to one of my favorite coffee shops to bang out some homework, and I ended up doing all kinds of eavesdropping on the table next to me. In my defense, these two women were talking rather loud. I would've had to put on headphones to drown them out, but then I wouldn't have been able to listen to their conversation. They were both lamenting the difficulties that they've been having with their teenage sons. One of them is apparently mother to some kind of musical genius, and the other day he came home and announced that he's going to become a shaman. "Like a medicine man?" asked the other bewildered mother. There was little elaboration on how he intends to go about achieving this goal, but it sounded like a serious concern. I started to laugh, but then I remembered that teenage boys are in my future as well. How would I react to a shaman son? Would I too cry about it at the corner coffee shop? Hard to say at this point.

The boys are both feeling better, so tomorrow it's back to day care. But don't feel too bad for the little buggers. They're gonna be just fine.

365 # 73: Neil D.

I couldn't help but think of you while watching "In Bruges" a while back. You weren't technically a midget, but you were very much on the short side, and you wore your racism proudly on your shoulder throughout high school. Except you lived in a nice house in the suburbs, so where all this hate came from is a mystery to me. We all thought that the whole yay whitey thing was just a phase that would fade after high school once you got out into the "real world." Sadly, I think we may have been deluding ourselves. The last time I saw you was on a campout one summer during college. I could tell you were about to go off into your rants, so I just asked, "do you really hate people just because of the color of their skin?" You responded "uh, yeah" as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. That officially cemented you as one of the most awful people I've ever known. I hope we never meet again.