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.