Saturday, January 31, 2009

365 # 146: No Doubt

My son actually reminded me of you tonight. He's developed this annoying habit of shoving his plates away when he's done eating, or worse, when he doesn't want to eat what is being presented. So I told him that if he ever did that at a restaurant, he'd better be careful not to upset some crazy waitress. Not that you were crazy, but for some reason, whenever you waited on us at The Bake House, I always felt a bit intimidated. "Be nice to this one," I thought. "She'll cut you." Intimidating as you were, you were by far the cleanest least strung-out-looking employee in that place. Between the old woman with her hair dangling in the water glasses, the speed freak with the rotted teeth, and the one who liked to carry clean silverware with the table-wiping rag, you looked downright pristine. Um, what were you doing there?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

365 # 145: Chris T.

I think it was the first time I had ever felt embarrassed, not for myself, but for someone else. It was first grade, and you were the worst student in the class. You never raised your hand, and never had the right answer when called on, no matter how simple the question. I remember one day in particular, you just kind of gave up. The teacher called on you several times in a row, and you finally just stopped answering completely. Not a peep. You just stared down at your desk. I felt so awful for you, I wanted to somehow will the answer into your head. You ended up getting held back for the year. I hope success somewhere else.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Naked Protest

I had the boys all dressed and ready to go this morning. Henry was in a bad mood, but it was improving. I went downstairs to finish making myself reasonably presentable. When I came back up, I found my eldest sitting on the stairs completely naked, his clothes piled in a heap in front of him. I shrieked in disbelief. What are you doing?! He looked up at me with the expression of a protester coming face to face with riot police for the first time, that moment when The Man arrives and you have to stand behind whatever it is you're standing up against. That makes me The Man, which isn't such a great notion, but I can live with it. His cause? Choice. I had made the fatal mistake of choosing his shirt for him instead of letting him choose. The kid's learning to make his own choices. He's learning which choices are his to make and which will still be decided for him. And he's realizing that the choices that belong to him are precious few, and he's just not going to let them be taken away just because it's more convenient for somebody else, like The Man. He didn't want the striped shirt, goddammit. He wanted the froggy shirt.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

365 # 144: Emily

One night, you, Chad, and I were sitting around at my place. We were bored. Antsy. Full of creative energy just begging to be put to use. So we got an idea. I think it was yours, actually. We grabbed a camera and ran all over Hyde Park, taking goofy pictures of each other in various settings all over the neighborhood. This was back before digital cameras were very common, so the night was captured on actual film, which meant we didn't get to see how the pictures turned out until I got around to getting it developed. It also meant that we took a bit of care in the setup of each shot. I think Chad and I both got a crush on you that night.

Monday, January 26, 2009

365 # 143: Fudge

You always reminded me of James Spader's character in "Pretty in Pink." I know that's not a very favorable character to be compared to, but imagine if somehow, he had been sort of a nice guy and didn't think he was better than other people just because they weren't rich. Imagine if, when Andrew McCarthy had brought the lovely Molly Ringwald to the party, James had greeted her and been nice to her. Perhaps brought her a drink and chit-chatted with her throughout the evening, and then said hello to her the next Monday at school. Imagine if he had welcomed most everybody that way. That would be more like you. But still a rich party boy with that rich party boy expression frozen upon your face.

Every year at camp, you always grabbed the tent in the farthest back corner and set up the camp party area known as Fudgeland, as indicated by the sign that you set up at the entrance. This was the default gathering area many nights throughout the summer. You seemed to love being at the center of it all, all these people gathered at your place. Later back in the "real world", I went to a New Year's Eve party at your place, and you gave off the exact same vibe. I imagine the best way to drive you insane would be to put you in isolation for an extended period.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just straight-up linkin

Just a link to my latest post over at the DC, which I don't always do, but am doing in this case because I rather like it and think you might to. So give us a click, will ya?

365 # 142: Alison K.

We were childhood friends by virtue of the fact that our moms had been lifelong friends, and still were. Still are, in fact. We grew up into very different people, so most of my memories of us are old and a bit fuzzy, but they're mostly pretty nice. I remember we almost always went over to your house instead of mine because it had a pool, so going to see y'all meant swimming. I remember once I tossed a swim mask across the pool to you and it smacked you in the face, and you screamed like a little blonde banshee. I remember being the only boy at this big sleepover you had at your house and feeling remarkably out of place, but getting a little mini-crush on one of your friends. I remember your dad spanking both you and I once when he caught us doing something bad -- playing with the waterhose I think? Seems a bit severe. I remember being dumbfounded by all the hair band posters that you and your sister had on your bedroom walls. That's about it, and in fact I'm surprised I remember that much. Everything else is just imagery, cloudy pictures barely accessible to my conscious mind. It's cool that we were friends, but I wonder what we'd have to talk about these days.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

365 # 141: Tim T.

I don't know that we ever actually met in Stephen G.'s class, but nevertheless, that's where I first came into contact with you. I remember thinking you looked like you'd walked out of the 50's. I remember thinking that the professor was inordinately hard on one of your scenes. It seemed personal.

I later saw you play the part of Trotsky on stage, and the image just stuck. You are Trotsky. You are pale and smell slightly of vodka. You are a ranting Russian with an axe in his head.

Along with a few other friends, we went on to found Loaded Gun Theory together. Those were pre-child years full of script readings, late night rehearsals, and scrambles for performance space. For a brief period there, it seemed as if you and me would be the ones producing all the finished scripts. I valued everyone's opinions on my work, but I valued yours uniquely for some reason. Perhaps because I could see the results, the proof that you'd spent the same hours I had in front of the keyboard. If I ever write anything again, I imagine you'll be one of the first to see it.

You told me a while back that you were making a conscious effort to be less of an asshole. I had mixed emotions about this. It's true, you can be kind of an asshole sometimes. But I say this not with venom or anger, but with a smirk and a laugh, even a bit of admiration if that makes any sense. You and I have actually laughed about this very fact ourselves. It is a good thing. It's you. Again, the ranting Russian, but who isn't actually Russian.

These days, our kids play together and we're something like adults. Shall we go ahead and take bets on whose kid wrecks a car first?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

365 # 140: Amber V.

I can't explain it. Maybe I was in a bad mood that day. Or you were a little too cutesy. Or maybe I felt that the grand pursuit of the theatre was too important to be left to your pink-bowed bunny rabbit girly girl dreamy dreams. Whatever it was, when you got up in front of our acting class to introduce yourself and you told us all that you were there because you had wanted to be an actress ever since you were a little girl, I just decided then and there that I didn't like you. Which isn't your problem, of course. I guess this little episode says more about me than it does about you. Like a lot of these posts.

Monday, January 19, 2009

365 # 139: Clinton

It was as if you had a mild case of the old Tourette's. You'd reach the end of a completely normal series of sentences, then shudder a bit, and then blurt out "big fuckin' orgy!" It never seemed to get old.

Friday, January 16, 2009

365 # 138: Stephen G.

You sly dog. You master of the shiteating grin, you. I'm sure you had all manner of wisdom and knowledge to impart, but it seemed like you were saving it for your more important students, not us bumbling undergrads, 96% of which you figured probably wouldn't do anything with their degrees anyway, so why bother? I think the only thing I walked away from your directing class with was the idea that the director was just there Like some mysterious force for good that could offer occasional guidance and perhaps approval or disapproval. Sort of the way you ran your class.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

365 # 137: Janine

You were my girlfriend for like half a week at church camp and it was awesome.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Little boy, big world

I find something about this picture absolutely bewitching.

And here it is through the Tilt Shift Maker.

365 # 136: Mr. S. the Landscape Architect

No scout reaches the rank of Eagle without planning and carrying out a service project. And no would-be Eagle Scout completes their service project without an assload of help. When I finally determined that my project would be to provide some landscaping and greenery to the dirt patches inside and outside of the newly built elementary school, my mom got in touch with you through a friend of hers. Your business was landscaping, and from what I saw of your portfolio, business was blooming. You worked with me to devise a plan for turning those big patches of dirt out front of the school into something that teachers and students could enjoy walking by every morning on their way in, and those open air courtyards inside into little bursts of living beauty. You helped me pick out plants that would thrive, and to arrange them in ways that would look nice together. It was one of the most satisfying projects I have ever accomplished, and it would not have turned out nearly as well without you. By the time I was done, I knew that I didn't want to go into your line of work, but I had learned that putting a plant in the ground could be more than just adding a bit of green - it could be art.

Now if only I could get off my lazy ass and start applying that lesson around my own home.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

365 # 135: Mike C.

You described yourself to me once as "just a sad person in general." You said it with a no-big-deal shrug. And it was true. You seemed fine with being not so fine. Yet somehow, you were never a drag to hang out with. It was always great to have Mike around. One night, you got shitfaced and watched a porno flick at full volume, loud enough so that everybody on our hall could hear. There is no clever conclusion to that story, no ribbon to tie it up with. That's kind of it. I hope you've cheered up a bit....but not too much.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

365 # 134: Jimbo L.

There are those people who temporarily entertain the idea of branding their own flesh with hot iron, but then come to their senses and realize what a truly bad idea that is. Then there are idiots like you who get smashed and let their frat brothers brand Greek letters into their leg. Nice going, asshole.

Friday, January 09, 2009

365 # 133: Jonathan T.

You looked exactly like some kind of pretty boy sun-bronzed lifeguard, which is because you were, in fact, a pretty boy sun-bronzed lifeguard. The head lifeguard, to be exact. It was you who patiently taught me how to drive a standard shift transmission in that beat-up old camp truck. It was also your idea to smoke a peace pipe in the teepee. Best idea ever.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Because there's just not enough talk about human waste up in here

I don't know that I've ever seen my son so proud of himself as he was tonight when he showed me what he had dropped in the toilet.

Before I continue, I just have to say...I am a hypocrite. Of sorts. Whenever I detect that a post is about potty training or diapers or anything else related to somebody's kid's ex-food, I skip right over it. Your kid's awesome, I'm sure, and in a pinch* I might even change their diaper myself. But for some reason, I skip right over these posts.

And yet, here I am, about to drop a post on you about potty training. In my defense....who am I kidding, I have no defense. I am defenseless. Don't shoot me.

We've been having a bit of difficulty convincing eldest son to drop his brown bombs in the toilet. Potty training began in earnest over the holiday break, and progressed quite well for the most part. Progress was nudged along a bit when our friends Jay and Hayley came to visit from Minnesota. While they were here for dinner one night, their son ditched his pants and ran around in his underwear, a sight which we leveraged to peer pressure our own diaper clinging toddler.

But the act of toilet-crapping still eluded the little guy. He'd do it here and there, but for the most part, he put up a firm resistance. Firm like a constipated nugget.

But then tonight, out of nowhere, he demanded to go to the potty. I assumed he just needed to pee, but as he took his place upon the throne, he told me that he needed to poop. And then he told me to go away.

He told me to go away, people. He wanted to poop by himself on the toilet. He's on his way to discovering inner peace, that one.

I was called back in several times so he could show me the increasingly larger pile that he was creating in the bowl. Finally he was finished. As he flushed the toilet, I looked down at my little fellow and said, "Today, you are my son."**

*And by pinch, I mean a situation wherein you are completely unable to fulfill your parenting obligations for some reason. Don't call me about coming to change diapers. You'll get your shit hung up on.

**No I didn't, because that'd be a fucked up thing to say to a kid.

365 # 132: Kathie Q.

I'm so sorry for the loss of your husband. Cancer's a bitch and a half, and I hate that it took your man away from you and your babies. I haven't seen you since we were 20-something coworkers, but I started following your blog after I heard the news, and I have to say, your strength and your spirit are unbelievable. Not to mention humbling. My thoughts, my prayers, and many many good vibes to you and your family.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Don't keep your nose clean...

...stick it in your birthday cake.

365 # 131: Ryan S.

The play was "The Rapist and the Murderer." Penned by a mutual friend of ours, it consisted of only two characters, which were played by you and I. For weeks, we rehearsed scenes wherein you brutally tortured me in order to force a confession from my lips about a crime that I had committed years ago. Let's see, you tied me to a chair, burned me with an iron, yanked out my fingernails, shattered my elbow with a hammer, cut on me, stabbed me....I think that about covers it. What added to the fun was the fact that once you and I were cast, Brandon went back and changed the names of the characters to Ryan and Travis. So now we were Ryan and Travis, and we were relating to each other as Ryan and Travis whether we were in character or out. And for the icing on the cake, the play was set in the home of the character Travis, and we performed it in the house I was living in at the time. Boundaries....crumbling. In the end, everybody seemed plenty freaked by the images of gore that we presented. Good show.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

365 # 130: Stephanie M.

You were my best friend's baby sister. One day I was over at y'all's house -- you must have been about three years old at the time -- and you somehow managed to lock everybody out with just you inside. All the moms gathered at the window and tried with all their imagination to communicate to you the procedure to unlock the door, but to no avail. The look on your face made it clear that you had no idea what these adults were doing, what with their weird hand gestures and exaggerated facial expressions.

Your brother and I once arranged a series of stuffed animals in such a way so as to throw what we thought would be frightening shadows on the wall of your bedroom. The plan was to get the shadows just right, then cause some kind of a ruckus that would wake you up, at which point you would be horrified by the shadows of these otherworldly creatures in your house. The plan also included your brother and I laughing at your terror. What it did NOT include was getting caught by your mom -- or was it your dad? the memory's fuzzy -- and sent back to bed where we were supposed to be. You dodged a bullet on that one. You'd like, totally still be having nightmares of those stuffed Ewok shadows.

Monday, January 05, 2009

365 # 129: Lucas J.

You, Oanh, Jennifer, and I formed a strange foursome. An odd quad if you will, one which felt totally natural at the time, but which seems rather unlikely as I look back at us now. We vacationed together, went out together, crashed together. There's a period there where it seems like we were inseperable. You and I bonded over our love of the guitar and the music that could be made with it, though I have to confess that I found your sloppy technique really annoying. Probably a side-effect of too much metal, a musical taste which you did not share. Still, I envied your ability to sing and play all together, skills which seemed to come to you naturally. We spent many a hazy college night playing music in whichever dorm or apartment we happened to find ourselves. Sometimes Oanh and Jen would humor us and listen.

You spent a little time in jail following a hallucinogen-inspired romp through the country that included a stabbing and a declaration of your status as a divine being. Thankfully nobody died, and your freedom was only revoked for a short time. It was one of those deals where your jail time was scheduled ahead of time, and you were supposed to show up to the correctional facility of your own free will at a certain day and time of your own free will. You had told us all that you were going to jail, but we had to nag you for weeks before you would tell us what you were going in for. Easily the best "why I'm going to jail" story I've ever heard.

It sucked when you moved away. You and I and another friend were all going to move into a house together. We had grand visions of all day all night jam sessions, beer-filled fridges, parties, and just fun fun fun, all of which flew out the window when you backed out on our lease so you could move back home. I could have strangled you, especially since the next year ended up going so horribly. That year's ass suckage was only partly your fault, but I still choose to allot the biggest portion of the blame to you, dig?

Last I saw you, you were in town with your latest band. I'd love to jam with you again some time, though I should warn you, I'm horribly out of practice.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

365 # 128: Russell J.

I grew up in suburban Houston, which is home to a lot of assholes who like to dress all country and call themselves cowboys because they drive their dad's truck and maybe they rode a horse a time or two. You, on the other hand, were something slightly closer to the real thing, at least as close to it as is possible in the present day. The kind of guy whose boots actually get dirty and who has spent his entire life around livestock. You were the big bad rough tough ass kicking redneck, but the type who actually gives rednecks a good name as opposed to the racist shitkicker that we usually think of when that label is tossed out. On the other hand, you were still a boy looking for his dad's approval. I remember once when you and I were hanging out together, I was smoking a cigarette and you were chewing on a wad of tobacco. You asked me if I knew why you chewed tobacco, which of course I did not. You went on to tell me that you'd started doing it because your dad did it, and you wanted him to like you. Turns out he didn't give a damn, you told me, and just like everything else you had tried in order to get his attention and maybe some sign of fatherly approval, it had failed. All you had to show for it was an addiction. You spat with a bit more aggression after telling me that.

As big and tough as you were, as much as I liked you, I still ended up sort of causing your girlfriend to break up with you so that she could get with me. To be fair, you were treating her kind of shitty. I don't mind telling you I was a tad bit, uh, what's the word to describe how you feel when you're pretty certain there's an ass kicking in your future? Lucky for me and this remarkably handsome face of mine, you took the news well. You and I and a few other lads ended up going camping the next weekend. We got hammered around a much too large campfire, and in the midst of our drunkenness, one of the other guys mentioned that he was glad that you and I were still friends after what had happened. You and I just looked at each other and laughed. Hope you're doing well, cowboy.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Coming up next

It seems like the sentiments expressed at the end of every year sound pretty much the same. Thank God it's over, good fucking riddance, hope the next one's better, it couldn't be much worse. Much more rare is it to hear something to the effect of, wow, what a great year that was, I hope this next one is half as good. I haven't done any comprehensive research or anything, but from what I've seen, the emotions expressed over the passing of this latest 12 month go-round – the joy, the relief, the cautious optimism – were particularly strong everywhere I looked. From the sound of things, 2008 conducted itself in such a way as to suggest that it was putting its every last minute into becoming the archetypal shitty year.

Today we hosted a birthday party for our one year old son, Simon. His actual birthday was New Year's Eve day, which he spent mostly writhing in teething pain, the poor kid. We had some folks over, some family, some friends, and their kids. We let the little guy bury his face in some icing so as to make it look like he snorted a smurf. We got everybody nice and sugared up. We let the kids go wild on the playset that I busted ass all last week to get built. All in all, a nice way to spend an 80+ degree January afternoon. Somehow, the fact that we've actually now celebrated our New Year's Eve baby's birthday makes the old year feel truly past. Gladness.

The Ash and I closed out 07 by adding a new member to our family, which meant we spent 08 facing all the challenges that come with a new baby. On top of that, it's not like Henry just stopped needing us constantly, but his needs became much harder to meet now that that there was someone even more helpless than him under our roof. Overjoyed, overwhelmed, and overworked, that describes us pretty well. It was not an easy year for us. I dare say it's been the toughest one we've yet faced together. It wasn't all horrible, but it felt like even the good parts were difficult.

I'm glad we've made it to this point, and by this point I mean that I'm sitting on the couch next to my wife while both of our kids are nestled asleep in their beds. At this moment, things are easy. A lot of the aforementioned hard shit is still with us. That never goes away, that's just life. But there were moments over the past year that were unbelievably dark, ones that I wasn't sure we would see the other side of. And here we are. It's all too much to go into in one stupid post, and it's too late at night for me to expect my brain to hold out much longer. I'd just like to add mine to the chorus of voices bidding 08 goodbye, albeit belatedly, and welcoming 09 to the party. Let's hope you dance a bit more gracefully than your predecessor.

365 # 127: Sidney B.

You were a quiet gentleman that my mom hired to take care of her lawn for a while. You always came with lots of help and did an outstanding job. In addition to yard work, you also did a bit of preaching, and you always invited my mom to come out to your church some time to see you sermonizing. Every time she and you were arranging your next time to come do some work, you always said you'd show up at the appointed hour "if the Lord's willing." One Sunday, my mom and I got all dressed up and we drove to the neighborhood where your church sat. We were two of the only white faces in the congregation. The whole service was loud, hot, raucous, and real. But the shock came when you took the pulpit, and the quiet little man we'd known was replaced with a wholly different entity, one made of fire, energy, and spirit. I couldn't take my eyes off of you. I've lost a lot of the mental pictures that I've snapped over the years, but I still have the one I took of you at the front of that sweaty little church. Amen.