Thursday, July 31, 2008

365 # 31: Heidi D.

My Mom called yesterday to tell me that your long struggle with cancer had finally come to an end. If there is any kind of cosmic karmic justice at work in this universe we inhabit, you will be reincarnated as a koala bear. Koala bears have few worries beyond hanging out in trees, sleeping, eating, and basically just taking it easy, which sounds like a pretty good life to me. Which is exactly what you deserve.

But enough about your next incarnation, what about the one you just left? I don't know much about your life growing up in Germany, only that you met your husband when he was stationed over there during WWII. The two of you got married and you came back to the States with him...or vice-versa. You left everything behind to be with him and found yourself in Houston Yee-Haw Texas where you raised up two sons and a daughter.

We moved in next door to you sometime in the late 70's or early 80's. I don't remember, I was just a kid. You nicknamed me "Snapper" the first time you laid eyes on me. It sounded like "Schneppa" in your thick German accent. You offered up no explanations for this nickname, and you were the only one who ever called me it, but it stuck for good. I don't think you ever used my real name. And why would you when you could call me a great name like "Snapper?"

It would not at all be an exaggeration to say that you helped raise me. They say it takes a village, a statement that's doubly true when you're talking about single parents, and you were citizen # 1. I floated freely between my own house and yours. When my mom wasn't home, you kept an eye on me to make sure I didn't burn anything down. And because you had never learned how to cook in small quantities, you always had tons of great leftovers hanging around. Come to think of it, it might've been partly your fault that I was a fat kid, but I won't hold it against you.

So yeah, that koala bear thing...I'd say you earned it. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

365 # 30: Melissa M.

Damn, girl, you had me fooled with a capital FOOL. You seemed like a nice enough...well no, let's be real here, "nice" isn't exactly the right word to describe you. But you were cool towards me, and I found the particular brand of rudeness that you practiced to be pretty amusing most of the time. Between delivering faxes and memorandums en octuplicate we took all too frequent smoke breaks together on the loading dock of the building where we worked as lowly mailroom mugs. You and I may have been the only two who weren't planning on going to law school. I liked hanging out with you, and had I not been in a relationship at the time, I probably would have worked up the nerve to ask you out on one of those date thingies. Thank GOD that didn't happen because when you put in your two weeks at the law firm, it was because you'd gotten a job working for the campaign of none other George W. Motherfucking Bush. I was shocked! I didn't even believe you when you told me where you were going, and was certain that you were carrying on some kind of long-running gag until I saw the bumper sticker on your car. Talk about having your image of someone totally flipped on its ass. Sometimes when I think of the shit that's happened to this country over the last eight years, I blame it all on you, rational or not. I hope you're happy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Further Dispatches From The Holmesfront

Between all the rememberating that's been going on here on this little blog, there's also been a wee bit going on around here in real life, and some of it might even be worth recording for my posterity's posterity to look back on and think, "Damn, Grampa T wasn't always an incoherent ass-grabber." So let me drop a few bullet points.

- Crawlariffic - this kid'll be mobile soon. He sees his big bro on the go, and he wants to join in the fun. Once that happens, I get to join the ranks of y'all who already get to enjoy chasing multiple kiddos around. It should make trips to places like Target that much more life-affirming.

Oh, and let's not forget the sitting up:

So much better than the spitting up:

- Agree to disagree - so I knew kids could be disagreeable little beast dwarves at times. What I was not prepared for, however, was my child's ability to completely ignore any and all facets of this thing called reality, even when they are sitting right there in front of him, politely introducing themselves. "Hi there, I don't believe we've met. We're Facts. And you are?" Here are a few things Henry has argued with me about in the past few weeks:
    • Whether or not I am hungry...not him, but me.
    • Whether or not the dog is hungry.
    • Whether or not Simon is hungry/sleepy/upset.
    • Whether or not I'm driving the right way to Grandma's (I was, thank you very much).
    • Whether or not dinner is on the table.
    • Which shoes I wanted to wear.
    • Whether or not Yoda is a Jedi Master - I found this one particularly upsetting, so much so that I actually allowed myself to get pulled into the discussion. Always a mistake.
Not that his "arguments" are all that thought-out. They're typically just emphatic declarations that the opposite of what I said is actually the truth.

- I am beautiful in the mornings:

This is not so much news, but more of a reminder. Don't front, you know you'd love to peer over your morning coffee at this vision of manly loveliness.

- I am the best husband on my block - So we bought one of those little kiddo crawly tubes from Ikea so that Henry could have something to crawl through other than the underside of our deck. I stepped out of the shower one lovely weekend morning to hear my wife calling for help. I walked downstairs and found this:

I hummed "Mack the Knife" to myself as I strolled to the office to fetch the camera, grabbed it with a flourish, then danced back to the playroom to snap a few pictures. The awareness that I was creating photographic evidence of her predicament served as sufficient motivator for The Ash to work her way out of the child-sized tube, so you see, I was actually just helping her out. And creating blog fodder. It should be noted also that I asked her if it was okay to blog about this, and got the yeah-totally-for-sure on the condition that I point out that she was NOT stuck because she's fat, because she's not fat. No, she was stuck because the tube is made for a my wife isn't fat, she just doesn't think things through sometimes.

- Aesop Rock - Hip-hop show buddy and I headed out for another night of hipping and hopping, this time with the mighty Aesop Rock.

It's funny, I live in a city full of music, but on the rare occasion that I take a night out, this seems to be the music I'm interested in seeing lately. I may be on course for a bit of genre burnout, but no biggie.

- And one last thing - See this face? It's gonna rule the world.

365 # 29: Oanh L.

There were four of us in our group. I know we met because we were all theater majors, but I'll be damned if I can recall what it was that actually brought us together to form our little quad. I know there's a stereotype of the typical theater student, and I would certainly never
claim that embodiments of this stereotype don't exist, but the four of us were all so remarkably different from one another. Hell, maybe it was all that difference that made the difference. Whatever it was, it seemed like the four of us hung out all the time for a year or two there.

But enough about the group, what about you? For starters, you were big on keeping people fed. I recall more than one occasion where you had us over at your place to chow down on homemade Vietnamese food. Seeing as how we were in college, this was some of the best eating we did during those days...or at least it was for me.

And I'm rather certain that those trips that the four of us took to Mexico and Florida would not have happened without the aid of your mad organizational skills. You didn't even get upset when the rest of us decided that we wanted to deviate from your carefully crafted itinerary in favor of following the moment. Which was very cool, since in the movies, the bookish organizational character usually gets mad when their plans are thwarted by the non-planning slackerish characters in the group.

And I must say, I don't know whose idea it was originally to throw me that very late surprise birthday party in May (mine's in January), but it seems like the kind of thing you would dream up. So thanks!

Monday, July 28, 2008

365 # 28: Hunter

In the six summers that I spent as a camp counselor, I taught a whole lot of kids a whole lot of outdoorsy know-how. But for some reason, you're the only one whose name I can remember. It was your first year at camp and you were as homesick a child as ever I saw. You had begged your mom not to make you come, so she had struck a compromise with you whereby if you were not having fun by midweek, she would come get you and bring you home. To hear you tell it, she had sliced open her hand with a dagger forged from ancient steel and had sworn this oath on her own blood under peril of hellfire.

You were my shadow those first few days, your very first extended stay away from your mom. You tugged constantly at my shirt sleeve, repeating the same question over and over in a desperate plea for the reasurrance you had decided I had the power to bestow on you.

"You think my mom's gonna come? You think my mom's gonna come?"

And about every fifth time, you followed that up with a vehement, "She promised!"

Man, I didn't know what to tell you. I wasn't about to say yes, because for all I knew, your mom might decide to unplug the phone come midweek. All I knew to do was to try to do my part to make sure you did have fun. After all, that's what the Boy Scouts were paying me all that fat cash for.

Lucky for your mom and my stretched-out shirt sleeves, you did finally, grudgingly start having something akin to fun. Your mom's gamble paid off. I was glad as all get out to see it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

365 # 27: Tina D.

You were literally the girl next door, about 7 or 8 years my senior. One weekend, I was at some Cub Scout function, and my mom had asked you to come pick me up and bring me home. I had on the uniform and everything. You showed up in your dad's beat-up old truck clad in nothing but a white bikini. Ah, memories.

"Get in!"

You smoked cigarettes and shrieked curse words at the whole awful world all the way home. My little Cub Scout heart wasn't sure what to do with the toxic combination of abject horror and puppy love that flooded its chambers.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

365 # 26: Greg G.

You and I both played ridiculous Roman soldiers when we were in "Romulus" together, I as the lowly private and you as the general. You made us all giggle backstage whenever you pronounced your line "As minister of war..." as "ASS MINISTER..." Your temper burst out a time or four at rehearsals, but they never seemed particularly ego-based like the typical actor tantrum. I think you got on most of the cast's nerves, but I liked the bit of chaos that you occasionally introduced.

You signed up to be one of the directors in our 24 hour theater project, an undertaking that had basically zero budget, a ton of logistical challenges, and a reasonably good chance of going down in flames. One of the funniest, absurdest, and theater-iest moments of the night was when you yourself let loose with your falsetto version of "Carmina Burana" to accompany a slow-motion fight scene you had spent the day painstakingly choreographing. Nicely done, sir.

Friday, July 25, 2008

365 # 25: Nick the Telephone Rap Evangelist

Not content with just leaving a message on somebody's answering machine, you'd freestyle until the tape ran out. And even though it was off the cuff, every rhyme was golden. Hence that nickname up there. Sometimes during conversations, I remember there were times where it seemed like you'd gone off into a flow, but that was just how you talked sometimes. A rhyme animal of a quiet nature.

I had the pleasure of once sitting down with you when we both had guitars in our hands. We jammed some blues for a while, nodding, smiling as we played. You said, "I like that man" and I reciprocated sincerely. That was back when I was in practice.

I remember a bunch of us were sitting around playing Kings one night. You drew a 10, which meant you got to choose a category. You chose wack MC's. I think we went around the table for an hour before we ran out of names.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

365 # 24: Jai P.

Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. You loved music, or rather the idea of music, so much, you were so very passionate about this concept of organizing sound into pleasing arrangements, that it actually caused you to loathe 99.743% of the actual music in existence because it simply did not live up to the greatness that music could be. You yourself actually starting learning about and creating your own music out of frustration at the shortage of reasonably listenable tunes. That about captures it, right?

Now Jai, somebody might read that paragraph above and get the crazy idea that you were some kind of annoying asshole. And they would indeed be partially correct, but only partially, because the funny thing about you was that all those strongly expressed opinions, all that anger directed at other musicians, all that insistence that all music was shit, it was all somehow kind of endearing. It made you likable in the way that grumpy old men can be likable. Our friend Jai the music crank.

Of course, all your snobbery might have seemed a bit more plausible if your tastes extended beyond industrial thrash sci-fi dance metal dun-dun-dun-RAAAAHHH!!! or whatever you called it.

You came to one of my mid-twenties birthday parties and I hadn't seen you in years. You'd chilled out a lot, so much so that you even expressed appreciation for Tom Petty at one point. It took some getting used to.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

365 # 23: Jonathan M.

You know that saying about how work is called "work" because you go to work to do work, not to play or have fun or slack or engage in anything remotely pleasurable, because if you went to work for any of that stuff, it wouldn't be called "work", it'd be called "playtime" or "happy lazy goodness with comfy chairs" or "eight hours of sheer elation and oh yeah there's beer and hot girls" or something along those lines? Yeah, I hate that saying too, however it actually goes.

But sometimes at work you meet people with whom you sorta connect. Maybe you'll be talking about some work related nonsense, and somewhere in there you start talking about cool stuff and pretty soon you've completely abandoned the topic of work and you're talking exclusively about cool stuff, and it's like, "hey look, this dude's totally cool!" and next thing you know, you're like friends who happen to work at the same place. Every now and then you have to talk about work shit, but you get that ugliness outta the way quick, and usually with a smirk.

Such was the type of coworker you turned out to be, my man. I don't think we went from the topic of work to the meaning of life in one jump, but we got there pretty quick. Ramblers are not typically listeners, but you're one of those rare types who can not only ramble on with all of his own crazy ideas about every little thing, but you also had the capacity to listen to other people's jibber-jabber. You often talked with such a fervor that I got the feeling you didn't get too many audiences.

I was sad when you moved off to California, but you said you felt an intense pull to get there. I hope you found whatever you were looking for out there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

365 # 22: Principal R.

You, sir, are an asshole. You took over as the principal of my middle school in my 8th grade year, and promptly went about turning it into the kind of place where nobody wanted to be. It was a private Baptist school, so it was already more restrictive than your average educational facility, but you found ways to make it even more so because that's just the kind of guy you are, you with your pasty pervert's grin and that pathetic combover and those ridiculous powder blue polyester suits. Powder blue?! Polyester?! You were a full decade behind!

Case in point: you once expelled a kid for drawing a Metallica logo on the front of his binder. Not satisfied with having the little devil worshiper removed from your school, you contacted the public school where he was transferring to try to warn them against taking him. You also refused to send over any of his paperwork. In short, you attempted to prevent him from getting an education. You Christian fucking soldier, you.

I once heard somebody refer to you as a "dildo with a hairline." Being in 8th grade, I hadn't the slightest clue what a dildo was, but it sounded insulting enough. I repeated this statement to my mom while we were seated in a crowded restaurant. After choking on her coffee, she asked if I knew what a dildo was. Then she got to tell me. So I guess you could say that it's because of you that I first learned about dildos. Congratulations!

Monday, July 21, 2008

365 # 21: Bryan B.

You lived just a couple streets over from me, but we didn't meet until high school because I had gone to private school up until then. Wasn't it nice of me not to lord my vastly superior knowledges over you all? I kid, I kid.

You drove one of those little two-seater Fieros, which I was lucky enough to catch a ride home in fairly often. It was in that car where I first heard Pantera and Rage Against the Machine. Seeing as how those two bands occupied a heavy portion of my personal soundtrack for the next few years, I'd say I owe you big for that.

A few years after I moved to Austin, I came back to Houston to visit a few folks, and you and I ran into each other in a bar. I don't think it's an understatement to say you weren't looking too good. While we chit-chatted, you nervously kept your hands pinned in your lap, letting one loose only long enough to sip your drink, which seemed to require a bit of effort on your part. After a while, you asked a very peculiar, very telling, question.

"Hey man, you ever smoke crack?"

"Uh, no, I haven't."

"That's good man. Because that shit'll fuck you up."

Noted, bro. I hope you managed to keep your shit together.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

365 # 20: Shane S.

You walked around camp wearing a beat up Smokey the Bear hat, inside of which you had hidden a digital watch. When anyone asked you what time it was, you took off your hat and held it in the air so as to protect your eyes as you gazed skyward.

"Well, judging by the position of the sun, I'd say it's aboooooout.....three fifty-two."

It was good natured bullshitting like that that kept that up-to-something grin permanently planted on that face of yours. I remember once, you bummed a cigarette off of me. We stood there smoking, and you asked, "Hey man, you ever notice after you smoke a cigarette, you have to take a shit?"

"No, I never noticed that."

"Well, I'm betting you will now I've said something. And from now on, everytime you find yourself heading to the toilet after you smoke, you'll think 'damn you Shane!'"

And with that, you walked off cackling. But hey, you were right, I noticed. My, what an odd memory association to go for.

You came from a long line of bagpipe players. You had a lot of stories that revolved around family, whiskey, and the pipes. Every now and then, I'd hear you playing from somewhere across camp, that big sound echoing over the hills. Once, I was leading a hike, and I caught the sound of them from the trail. As I turned to head up a hill, I realized that we were getting closer to it. I picked up the pace, leading my charges as fast as I could make them go up the hill, the sound getting louder, closer, until finally we came around the last turn, and there you were, standing at the top of the hill, dressed in all your regalia, the sun setting behind you. It was nothing less than a Moment, man. It was goddamn majestic.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

365 # 19: Girl Who Slapped Me

Dammit! It is KILLING me that I can't remember your name. We got partnered up in acting class to improvise a scene of a couple having an argument. We practiced it a few times on our own and tried going a few different directions with it, but then all that flew out the window when we got in front of the class and launched into a full-blown screaming match. Of course, the class totally responded to it because everybody likes a good fight. The only logical way to conclude the scene was with a good bump-set-spike: witty insult, wittier retort, slap. And girl, you did NOT hold back. It was awesome.

Update: Monica! Your name was Monica. Yay memory banks.

Friday, July 18, 2008

365 # 18: Stewart M.

Man, I really hope you're still alive. We met in first grade, and you were already experiencing frequent health issues, and they seemed to keep up pretty steady all the way through middle school. If you are still walking this planet, I hope you're doing some kind of badass work involving your immense artistic and technical talents. Like designing the robots that will be our future overlords.

You were the first kid I knew that could draw. Even back in first grade, the stuff you churned out was awe-inspiring to the rest of us, though your subject matter back then was pretty much limited to superheroes and all things militarily vehicular. Oh, and those ninja training rooms! I don't know what inspired you to draw those, but I loved them. Immense underground caverns loaded with deadly booby traps through which would-be ninjas, clad in black, white, or red, had to pass. Flame-throwers, giant saw blades, machine guns, grenades...these were but a few of the tests that your two-dimensional subjects had to get past if they were to be true ninja. Not to mention other ninjas. I tried drawing some myself, and you always offered advice and encouragement, even though mine were not nearly as cool as yours.

For my birthday one year, you drew the ninja training room to end all ninja training rooms, and gave it to me for a present. You had clearly put a lot more time and care into this one than usual. It was my favorite present that year. Thanks again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

365 # 17: Diane J.

Yeah yeah, I know, you're Diane E. now, but you were Diane J. back when I knew you, and you're not even with the guy that gave you that E. anymore, so Diane J. it is. Plus it's my blog, so there.

You were the cute freckled redhaired girl who played the lead in the UIL play during our junior year. We had somehow managed to never have a class together, and thus had never met before this particular theatrical undertaking. But I had certainly seen you around school and knew who you were, so I was a bit intimidated being in your presence. Hell, I was intimidated around nearly all pretty girls, that's just how I did things back then. Turns out, you also knew who I was, which came as a bit of a surprise. I was totally shocked when you persisted in talking to me, then I was completely floored when you offered to drive me home after rehearsal one night, and I think my heart pretty much stopped when you told me you liked me. Such things had not yet occurred in my universe. This whole "being liked back by someone" was new and strange and kinda nice, and not without its own type of emotional turmoil, though it was much warmer and fuzzier than that whole unrequited love bit. "So this is what it's like," I seem to recall thinking. "Yeah, I like this. I'll take more of this. And then seconds."

Your character in the play was bound to a wheelchair. After rehearsal one night, Mrs. Morris took the cast and crew out to eat. When we got to the restaurant, you sat in your wheelchair and I pushed you inside. After we'd taken our table, you stood up to walk, and we all screeched "It's a miracle!" High school kids are fucking assholes.

You know, it just occurred to me...I'm not sure if I ever told you that you were my first kiss. Surely I must have, but just in case, uh, see above. Yeah, yeah, I know you probably don't read this, but that's sorta how I'm writing these things.

We stopped seeing each other after a while, but then started again senior year. We ended up going to prom together, but I think we spent most of the night hanging out with other people. Then it was off to college and we lost touch for a couple of years. Then in my third year at UT, we somehow managed to reconnect. At this point, we actually reached the point of using terms like "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." It was like some kind of a real relationship or something. And it was good. Great even. Obviously, it didn't last, but that had less to do with any of our incompatibilities and more to do with the fact that I had gone and gotten myself involved in some bad shit. Along with a few other friends, you were there to help me get out. That whole ordeal pretty much closed the books on our relationship, but it somehow brought us closer in a different kind of way.

You had always been told by your doctors that you would never be able to have children. I was ecstatic for you when I heard the news that you were pregnant. Jeez, I can't believe we're both parents now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

365 # 16: Mark LL

How is it that I still remember the course number, DRM 203K, of that stupid pointless pathetic waste of time class that every freshman entering the UT Department of Theatre and Dance was required to take? Perhaps there are some combinations of letters and numbers that simply stick themselves to your brain and refuse to be unstuck, regardless of their lack of importance. Brain barnacles, as it were.

Anyway, that is the class where I first, uh, encountered you. I won't say we met because I don't think we ever actually did during that entire time. You were surrounded by way too many followers for any such meetings to take place. For some reason, I just decided I didn't like you. Perhaps it was your charisma or the way people seemed to fawn all over you, but I developed an opinion, and the deal was sealed.

Fast forward 6 or 7 years. My friend Mike gets himself involved with this group of theater folk called The Bedlam Faction, and introduces me to them. Lo and behold, you are among their number, and this time, we actually meet. And talk. And become friends. And you are not at all the dancing monkey clown that I had decided you were all those years back. In fact, I don't think you ever were. You're smart and cool and witty as shit, and there's not a fake thing about you, and there I am once again getting schooled with that too-often-forgotten lesson about not clinging too tightly to perceptions of people you've never even talked to. At one point, I think I even confessed all this to you, and you just laughed. Shit, I think you even gave me a hug.

Besides being one of the dopest human beings to walk the face of this planet, you're also one of the most entertaining actors I've ever had the privilege to watch. It's just sad that the world only gets to see you on stage about once a decade.

I Still Miss Someone

This morning, I dropped The Ash off at the airport so she could catch a plane to the grand metropolis of Midland, Texas. I myself have personally never been to Midland, so it remains little more than an idea to me, the idea of Midland, the Texas that is that is the antithesis of Austin. It's as if Texas is Two-Face, with Austin on the one side and Midland on the other...and I'll leave it unspoken as to which side is which.

But she is off and away, and so she shall remain until this Friday night. It's some kind of conference thing for her job where she's supposed to get training and schmooze and hand out business cards and such. In my imagination, it involves lots of power suits and stiletto heels and big deals made over steaks and cigars and briefcases full of cash. Like, right now in my imaginary conference, Ash is buying some dude a stripper while shoving a contract in front of his face. I know it's nothing like that, but my imagination gets away from me sometimes, and who am I to argue with it? Nobody, that's who.

So yes, I'm single dad for the next couple of days...but not really. The boys still stay with their grandparents during the day while I head off to Tosche Station to peddle my power converters. Thus, this bout of single dadhood is limited to the evenings. Still, it's always remarkably rewarding to get both kids conked out in their beds all by myself, and then hear nothing but a nice quiet house. I miss my wife, and I know the boys do too, especially Henry, who made it pretty clear that he would prefer to have Mama putting him to sleep instead of me.

Ah well. We only gotta make it to Friday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

365 # 15: Mrs. Ryan

Our sophomore English class may have been a bit rowdy, but this wasn't your first rodeo. You had not the slightest bit of trouble keeping the lot of us in check. I hope you didn't take any offense because we called you "Chia Pet." I'm guessing you'd heard it a few times before, and since you never changed your hair, I'm guessing it didn't bug you all that much. The thing is ma'am, as much as we teased, as much as we horse-played, it was all totally good-natured. In fact, I didn't know a single kid who took your class that didn't love you. Thanks for everything.

Monday, July 14, 2008

365 # 14: Tentmate John

John my man, I am so sorry, but I simply cannot remember your last name. That probably has to do with the fact that we only knew each other for that one summer when we worked together at scout camp and were assigned to bunk in the same tent. What I do remember is that you and I became friends instantaneously. No sooner had we introduced ourselves than we were already talking away like people who know and understand each other quite well. Our senses of humor were freakishly similar, right down to the brilliant timing and the weaving in and out of sarcasm, all of which we rounded out with a constant undercurrent of homoerotic teasing. It was often enough to leave the unschooled scratching their heads. We simply exhaled our cigarettes and shrugged.

You started seeing a girl who worked at the neighboring camp, which meant that I pretty much had the tent to myself in the evenings. I was sad for you when she broke your heart at the end of the summer, particularly since I and everybody else saw it coming. Such is the way with them camp staff hookups.

You and I once received a summons to appear together in the camp director's office posthaste. We were in trouble, but weren't told what for. It was a long hot walk across that big dirt parking lot, and we joked nervously the whole way so as to help keep our cool. When we got there, he chewed us out for being so brazen about ganking orange juice out of the commissary, a minor crime that we had committed that very morning. As we walked back to our campsite, we both heaved sighs of relief and confessed to the following:

ME: I thought that was about the fridge full of beer I have hidden in our tent.

YOU: I thought that was about the baggie full of pot I have hidden in our tent.

Talk about a couple of relieved young men.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

365 # 13: Terry K.

Our tee ball team was called the Beetles, and our uniforms were bright green with white lettering. We won first place that year, which meant we all got trophies that were nearly as big as our pint-sized selves. I can remember the team photo in my head. We must have been facing towards the sun because everybody in the picture was squinting.

You and I were both the only children of single moms. I'd wager that our friendship came about because our moms started talking one day, either in the bleachers at a game or sitting on the sidelines at practice. They must have discovered that they had a few things in common and became something like friends, which meant you and I were destined to do the same. We spent many a night over at each other's houses, usually playing Star Wars, He-Man, G.I. Joe, or some combination thereof, because really, who says Jedis can't fight against Cobra? And speaking of Jedis, do you remember the day our moms took us to see "Return of the Jedi?" Holy crap, we could barely contain ourselves. Shortly thereafter, our moms armed the both of us with plastic lightsabers, which we employed in many a sidewalk battle. Of course, we went a little outside of the fighting style depicted in the movies by incorporating trash can lids as shields, but such was our right as little boys with big imaginations.

And speaking of imaginations, remember that whole aliens thing? Between you, me, and my other friend Chad, we were all convinced that there were aliens infiltrating various areas in and around our homes. We even had names for some of them. It would appear that their plans for takeover have not yet come to fruition. Or have they?

I remember having an understanding that you and I were somewhat unique from other kids because we lived at home with our moms and didn't have dads. Except that wasn't completely true because you spent some of your weekends with your dad, which seemed really weird to me since my own dad was so completely out of the picture. It didn't quite make sense to me that you lived one place most of the time, but occasionally you took up residence in some other place. It makes much better sense now.

I wonder if you still have your old Star Wars toys, or if you've sold them on eBay.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

365 # 12: Cynthia D.

T'was the decade before 2000 and all through high schools,
There was this music called alternative that all the white kids were listening to...

So that rhyme didn't flow as nicely as I would've liked, but I still think you probably would've found it funny. You're the first person that ever responded "alternative" when I asked what kind of music you liked. I didn't know what the hell you were talking about at the time, and in truth, I still think it's kind of a dumb label. In fact, I remember asking you, what the hell makes it alternative? Alternative to what? Couldn't you say that all music is alternative? Oh, you mean this stuff? Well why isn't it just rock? Or metal? Cuz this sounds like rock and/or metal to me.

I'm pretty sure you rolled your eyes at me when I asked questions like that. Who was this child, this dumb kid who was a whole 1 year younger than you who dared question your musical knowledge? After that, you probably ordered me to sing. That was a very strange habit of yours. In the middle of conversations, from completely out of nowhere, you would suddenly command me to sing. With an exclamation point and everything. Did I ever oblige? I don't think so.

Oh yeah, you were on the diving team at your school, and every year you gave me one of your pictures, which I gladly carried around in my wallet because hey, who am I to turn down a picture of a cute girl in a swimsuit?

Friday, July 11, 2008

365 # 11: Scott J.

Without a doubt, you are the most frightening storyteller I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. We met when you were cast to provide the voices for all the inanimate objects in the play I was directing. Many nights after rehearsal, you spun various yarns about one apparition or monster or another, always keeping the lot of us rapt with your narrative. I remember one night you told us about The Runner of the Road, a Wendigo-like creature that would run along the side of moving vehicles out on dark lonely highways. Afterwards, I pulled out onto Manchaca Road with the pedal to the floor. I had to laugh at myself when I realized what I was doing. Another time, we were driving to New Mexico in the middle of the night, and you had enough stories to get us most of the way there. Your tale about the Confederate Soldier's ghost that haunted your childhood dreams haunted mine for a long time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

365 # 10: Amy W.

In my third year of college, just a week or two after I broke up with my girlfriend, she called to say that she thought she was probably pregnant. In a panic, I called you because you were exactly the kind of friend that one needed to talk to in such situations. You pulled together the facts of the matter and concluded that I had absolutely nothing to worry about because she was lying, and you were ready to take her head off for it. I never determined whether she really was lying, but you were correct that I had nothing to worry about. Months later, you were still mad at her for fucking with your friend's head.

We met in tenth grade in Miss Luke's geometry class, but I don't think we actually became friends until we started doing tech theater in Miss Morris's class. I have a lot of very good, very random memories of you from those days. Like how you always seemed to get a kick out of the fact that my nose was extra squishy. Or riding around in your car listening to Danzig and making fun of his intensity. Or how you and Tasha liked to pretend you were gangster rappers, but instead of grabbing your crotches, you grabbed your boobs. And of course, the rowdy bus rides to Thespian Convention every year. Among many many others.

It seemed very strange when you started dating that sociopath guy. I don't know for a fact that he was actually a sociopath, but he did have that whole "killing people is cool" vibe about him, which seemed an odd match with your natural born caretaker persona. After you two broke up, I remember you got hilariously drunk and told me how it had come out that he was a closet cross-dresser. "Melissa, Travis! He called himself Melissa!"

And let us not forget that time I needed that intervention. Yep, you were there for that one as well. In fact, I think you bummed me my first cigarette and took a walk with me after the whole shitty ordeal was over. But that was you: always there for your friends when they needed help. Not like some kind of martyr or a saint. Just a genuinely good human being that cared deeply for the people around you. It made absolutely perfect sense that you went on to become a nurse.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

365 # 9: Robert R.

Hey man, remember that time you got that really pissed-off call from your boss in the Houston office because some smartass in the Austin mailroom had labelled one of the packages in the intra-office mail as a "Bundle of Shit" on the invoice? Yeah, I might've known a little something about that, but from the way you kept eyeing me, I'm guessing you knew that already. Thanks for not making a big deal out of it. Honestly, I had no idea anybody would get their shorts in such a wad.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

We are going to hell because hell is where we are going

I have a very nicely framed piece of parchment from the University of Texas at Austin that will assure any and all who gaze upon it that I have garnered unto myself a great many learnings in the ways of the dramatic arts. However, even with all this knowledge, there is one particular area that I have not studied much, and that is the art of dramatic improvisation. Thankfully, I have friends who have studied improv, and they've given me a few pointers on the basics. According to these most well-educated friends, the most important rule of improv is to never say no. Whatever your fellow improvisers do or say, go along with it. Take them lemons and improvise some lemonade. If you say no, you shut down the action, but if you say yes, you open up the possibilities.

Which brings me to tonight's dinner. It's often a challenge getting our eldest child to come to the table. Even at times when he actually does yearn for sustenance, the very fact that he's being asked to do something often elicits a contrary response. Tonight was no exception. He only came running, finally, because he thought somebody might be messing with the food that he wasn't eating. See how them logics works? That's MY food, be I eatin' it or be I not!

So little dude's seated at the table and we have our quorum. Food's making its way into everybody's mouth, everything's schmoove, everything's cool, and there's certainly nobody at this particular dinner table who's considering any kind of jokesmanship, least of all the brand that will get your ass blasted by a mighty lightning bolt of heavenly vengeance. That was the farthest thing from anyone's mind, that is, until Henry noticed the baby monitor receiver sitting behind him and decided to play with it. And the light bulb went off on top of my head....not the usual bulb, but the black one that's powered by the spirit of cunning and trickery that often whispers in my ear and tells me to do horrible awful things.

"I have to, uh, go do a thing." I mumbled. I stepped away from the table and slipped quietly upstairs into the bedroom where the other end of the baby monitor sat on the dresser, waiting to deliver whatever messages I spoke into it. I turned it on and prepped my voice.

"Hello Henry." I said. Smooth as silk. From downstairs I hear a small boy's gasp, and then "Hello?"

"Hello Henry." I say again. "You should eat your dinner." I hear Ashley giggling. I hear her ask "Who is this?" And before I can come up with an answer, I hear her ask "Is this Jesus?"

The rules of improv are clear. I have to say yes.

"Yes, this is Jesus." I answer. "Henry, you should eat your dinner."

"Oh my, it's Jesus!" I hear Ashley say.

"This is Mama." I hear him say.

"Hello Mama." I say. I hear Ashley gasping for breath.

"This is baby Simon." Henry is going through his introduction ritual.

"Hello Simon."

"I'm Henry."

"Hello Henry. You really should eat your dinner."

At this point, I'm wondering just how evil I am, not only for messing with my kid's mind, but for doing so in the guise of the son of God. No lightning's struck yet, so I cut the conversation short and head back downstairs.

"What'd I miss?" I ask. Ashley's face is as red as a freshly spanked bottom. Henry is staring at the receiver, waiting for more words to come out. Tonight's improvisational performance has come to a close.

365 # 8: Stephanie M.

You were sorta kinda dating my friend Robert, in a way, kinda. Well actually, not at all, but he seemed to think so for a while. It was high school, and it was the first time I remember thinking, "Hey, that person has a different idea of what's going on here than that person does. How embarrassing for one of them."

Either way, that's how you and I met. Seeing as how you were 6' 1", blonde, and on the drill team, I'd noticed you around campus already, along with everybody else. I don't remember how it started, but pretty soon we were talking on the phone nearly every night. Those conversations went on for hours, though I'll be damned if I can remember what we talked about, especially since we ran in completely different crowds, did completely different activities, and otherwise seemed to have nothing in least from the point of view of the casual observer. We must have talked about horses, seeing as how you lived on some kind of a horse farm, which was always a trip to visit. We must have talked about Robert since he's the reason we met. And we must have talked about Lenny Kravitz at least once or twice since we went to see him together, an evening which ended with probably the most awkward kiss in history.

During the summers when I was working at summer camp, you wrote me letters, all of which I read at least 50 times each. This was back in the days before email, which made each letter all the more precious. I loved the sight of your handwriting.

Monday, July 07, 2008

365 # 7: Bobby L.

The "L" stood for "Love", which meant you officially had one of the coolest names ever. You hooked me up with my first tattoo, the band around my right arm. The conversation over the design went something like this:

YOU: So you want this all the way around your arm, right?

ME: I think so. But I've heard the inside part hurts pretty bad, is that right?

YOU: Well, yeah man, I ain't gonna lie, it hurts like all kinds of fucking hell, but when you're done you'll have a kickass band around your arm. Or you can do it partway and you'll have a lifetime reminder of the time you were a pussy.

Very convincing, sir. Thanks for helping me see the light.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

365 # 6: Pete L.

College. Freshman year. The day I moved to Austin.

The paperwork from my dorm said I was supposed to be rooming with some guy named Jashin Something-or-other. It's a fair guess that he's Indian. So imagine my surprise when my mom, her then-boyfriend, and I walk into my dorm room to find a skinny pale blond guy passed out cold wearing nothing but a pair of tighty-whiteys. The nightstand next to the bed was draped with an American flag, on top of which sat several wine bottles that had been repurposed into candle holders. Poor Old Glory was covered with wax, and the floor was littered with ashes from both cigarettes and incense. The dorm had just opened up for the semester a day or two before, but it looked like this guy had been squatting here for months.

"Is that Jashin?" my mom asked, whispering so as not to disturb your slumber.

"I don't think so."

You woke up at some point while we were carrying my stuff in. You didn't get dressed, just sat up in bed, lit a cigarette, and dove right into conversation. Friendly as all hell, you introduced yourself as Pete. You spoke with the kind of drawl that's specific to the small town Texas stoner. I'm pretty sure my mom was horrified, but I had a feeling this was going to be a pretty good year.

We bonded over a love for classic rock, the fact that we were both Eagle Scouts, and a shared desired to keep the R.A.'s out of our room. You put up with my skronky guitar playing and I put up with you ashing all over the floor. Turns out, you were also a pretty amazing artist. All over our room, you could find pages torn from sketchbooks that were covered with your intricately detailed drawings. There was nothing you seemed to enjoy more than getting good and stoned, putting on some classic rock, and getting lost in a drawing. A few months in, you took your artistic pursuits to the next level and painted a mural of Jimi Hendrix across one entire wall of our room. It was an awesome piece of work, but I couldn't help but get a little stressed over the fact that it was in a room we were renting.

"Don't worry man, I'll paint over it at the end of the year."

I grew accustomed to having Jimi around. Of course, by the end of the year, you got kicked out of the place. I was never clear exactly why since you provided the management with any number of reasons. You'd graduated from having a little pot around to dealing all manner of shit out of our room. It got to where I didn't want to hang out there a whole lot. As such, I can't say I was all that sad to see you go. I couldn't listen to classic rock for a year after that.

I visited you the next year at your new place. Your drug issues had gone from harmless fun to being downright frightening. I never saw you again after that, but I recently heard through the grapevine that you found God, got all cleaned up, and have a family.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

365 # 5: Travis S.

We were both well aware of the fact that we ran in very different crowds back in the "real" world. You were on your way to the all out UT frat boy lifestyle, while I already had a year of college under my belt and had decided that fraternities were for idiots. But in the insulated world of summer camp, you and I were our own little clique. You could usually be found hanging out in one of the many lawn chairs that adorned the front of my tent, and you nearly always had cigarettes. Most of our conversations revolved around girls in one way or another. You came by one day with the first Foo Fighters album and played it for me, and I automatically decided to hate it on principle, even though I liked it. One weekend while we were off duty, you and I decided that we were going to hike all the way from River Camp to the scenic overlook on Ranch Road 32. Due to the lack of a trail, we had to bushwhack our way up that last hill, then crawl underneath the fence, much to the obvious surprise of the families who were taking a break from their minivans and enjoying the view of the Devil's Backbone. We must have looked like we had just escaped from somewhere. I guess we sorta had.

And while you're at it, have a happy 5th and 6th too

Hope everybody had a great 4th of July. I know we did. And this little dude's definitely feeling it today.

Friday, July 04, 2008

365 # 4: Jeff C.

You played the part of the Scoutmaster Father in my play, and did so quite to my liking. When the question of a cast party came up, you threw open the doors of your enormous house in the country and bid us all join you at your unbelievably well-stocked bar. You and your wife entertained us with stories of fucking your way across Europe. At one point in the evening when we were good and smashed, I noticed a picture of you with a young man. You said it was your son, and that this picture had been taken the day before he left for Iraq. You teared up for just a few seconds, then pulled it together. It was one of those heavy moments I'm always hearing so much about. Months later, I heard about a soldier from Texas with your last name that had died in Iraq. I became obsessed with figuring out whether or not it was your son. When I found out that it wasn't your son, I was relieved for a moment, until I remembered that it was someone else's. I hope yours made it back.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

365 # 3: Heidi G.

Oh Heidi. I done crushed on a whole lotta girls in my time, but if memory serves, you were the very first crush that I ever did crush. One of the first anyway. What was it, second, third grade? Fourth? You only went to my school for a year or two, but I'm pretty sure I never spoke more than one or two words to you that whole time. That other boy, William, he also had a crush on you. And who could blame us? You were the pretty little blonde girl in our class with the ever-present Mona Lisa smile. I recall that you always came to school dressed like one of the children from "The Sound of Music."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

365 # 2: Mrs. Dawson

Until the recital, it never occurred to me that I was the only one of your students to whom you were teaching the organ. The front room of your house had a piano on one wall and an organ on another, and every week when my mom dropped me off, there was always some other kid finishing up with a piano lesson. I don't remember why I opted to learn the organ instead of the piano. Maybe because that's what my grandfather played.

But here we were at the recital, all of your little pupils dressed up so nice, ready to show their parents what they'd been learning all this time under your tutelage. You wore a bright red dress for the occasion, complete with bright red nail polish, quite a contrast to your normally casual attire. The stage was set with the piano on the left and the organ on the right. One by one, each student walked up the aisle, veered left, and took their place at the piano to play one or two pieces to the delight of their parents. Yours as well, it seemed.

I was somewhere close to the end of the program. As each student finished, it became clear to me that I was the only one who would be touching the organ that night. When it came to my turn, I remember walking up the aisle and getting a slight thrill out of veering right.

Yeah, yeah, all your little piano songs are nice. Now check this shit out.

I rocked the house with my rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In", then slowed things down a bit with "My Wild Irish Rose." I had been practicing these songs for weeks in preparation for this moment, and now I was done. It had been worth it.

The last few students took their turns, all of them at the piano. Then, to my surprise, you took a seat at the piano bench, and oh my God, did you ever kick ass. Of course I knew on a theoretical level that you knew how to play these instruments. You were the teacher, after all. But you were never one to show off during lessons, and I had never, before this moment, seen you just rip into the keyboard. I don't remember what you played, only that it was amazing.

After the recital, people milled around and enjoyed some refreshments. I noticed that the piano's keys were covered in red nail polish. I was thoroughly impressed.

A Peculiar Declaration

It was one of those mornings where the house was filled with the sounds of sad little boys. The previous afternoon had been spent at the pediatrician's office, a visit that ended with both boys getting several shots, so their angst was entirely expected. Not being particularly caught off-guard, I was able to move through the sounds of crying and screaming to get done with the morning routine. Simon was rather easily appeased, but Henry was having none of my soothing. That's nothing new.

With Simon mostly relaxed and secured in his carseat for the ride to the grandparents' house, I sat Henry down on the couch to put on his shoes. This is a boy who loves his shoes. They're green with black trim, and just the thought of putting anything else on his feet amounts to blasphemy in his mind. Thus, the shoe putting-on ritual is typically one that he enjoys. He calmed down as I slipped them onto his feet, mentally checking "get Henry ready" off of my list for the morning.

Henry stayed seated on the couch as I finished with the last few bits of business. It was then that he said something that I found rather bizarre:

"I'm done crying now, Daddy."

What did he say? "You what?"

"I'm done crying now, Daddy."

"Oh. Oh. Kaaaaay."

I gave him a hug. I really didn't know quite how to respond because I didn't know quite what he was telling me. Was he really feeling better? Was he trying to pull it together? Or, oh my God, was I giving off some sort of gross "I'd love you more if you'd just stop crying" vibe? I'm not exactly a "men don't cry ya pussy!" kind of guy, so the last one seemed a bit ridiculous.

Still, it had me a bit bugged. Sometimes when I see joggers running by, my evil side creeps up and I imagine their inner voice goading them on with wicked encouragements along the lines of "Must keep running...must shed more pounds so as to be deserving of love and kindness." Of course, I don't actually mean it, but it gives me a laugh. I don't really know what this has to do with my son's oddball statement, other than the fact that sometimes I'm afraid I'll inadvertently interject a bit of my dark humor at an inappropriate moment, and just really mess the kid up.

The ride to the grandparents' was tear free. I guess he really was just done crying for the morning, and wanted me to know about it. What a little person.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

365 # 1: Chad McD

Aside from family, you are the human being on this or any other planet that has known me the longest. What was it, second grade, Ms. Dippel's class at Berean Baptist School where we first met? Remember how hot she was, even though we were only in second grade and didn't really know what "hot" was? I don't remember what brought us together originally. Perhaps our parents just figured out that we lived nearby and that we could each use a friend to play with. Whatever, it worked. We wore the badge of being each other's best friends all the way up through high school, even into college, regardless of the fact that we grew in different directions. We always managed to pick up where we left off. I hate the fact that we had a falling out a couple of years back, and I hate that things have felt strained every time we've spoken since then. Maybe I'll pick up the phone and see how you're doing. My memory is home to way too many cool moments that we shared to list them all here, but to name just a few...

- Standing on top of James's roof being in awe of the beauty of absolutely everything.
- Seeing Tool, The Flaming Lips, and Failure at the International Ballroom.
- The night you told me you were joining the Army. I about shit.
- Being convinced that there were aliens from outer space living in the woods behind your house.
- Randomly launching into "Darkness! Imprisoning me!" and so on and so forth at Diane's house.
- Just hanging out drunk at Sean's house.
- Going to the circus with you and your uncle.
- Smoking down by your suburban neighborhood's pool.
- My bachelor party campout.
- How Tool always seemed to come on whenever we were in the car together.
- Making Tasha's boyfriend buy us Mickey's at Fitzgerald's when we were underage.
- That time you guys all came to visit me that one weekend when I was working at scout camp.

Hope you're doing well my friend.