Only good cribbage hands
It’s morning and time for a shower. I stand under the stream of water and try to wake up. I lather shampoo into my hair and then turn to face the water again. My eyelids are closed but I suddenly realize that more light than before is now streaming into the shower. I cover myself with my hands and open my eyes and sure enough, there’s my son, holding back the curtain and letting water spray everywhere and the world in on my shower.
He laughs and runs away. I finish my shower and grab my towel. I dry off in a hurry and head upstairs to get my clothes. There, in the bedroom, are my cats. They are soaking up the first rays of morning sun that have fallen through the skylight. They look at me demurely for a moment and then go back to licking themselves. I’m glad they have no interest in me. I stop and think back to Mad Magazine for a moment.
Don Martin was one of my favorite artists. There was this great cartoon he did of a man jumping out of a window naked. A woman is in bed and another man is confronting her, saying he knows the guy is here, he saw his car, his clothes, he couldn’t just disappear. The man in question is hanging off a ledge by his fingertips, his bare butt sticking out for the viewer and the world to see, but in front of him, there’s a window to the apartment below. A kitten is sitting on the sill, his sharp little claws reaching out for the dangly plaything that has suddenly appeared before him.
I turn my back to the cats and get dressed quickly, still thinking about Mad Magazine. I read it religiously as a kid, first with my best friend, behind my parents’ back. Then when they found out, they bought me a subscription. I loved the fold-in covers and cartoons and movie parodies and read each issue cover to cover. There was one time, though, when I was in K-Mart and I saw a special issue I didn’t have and I picked it up and carried it with me to the front counter. My father saw it, and told me I couldn’t buy it. He said it was inappropriate and pointed to the cover. There was a model with a tooth blacked out like Alfred E. Neuman, and a headline that read Sports Titillated. I don’t think my father got the joke. He saw tit in the title and I had to put the magazine back.
I think Mad Magazine probably skewed my sense of humor. And I probably saw my fair share of actual swimsuit issues, among other magazines. As a parent, you can do your best to protect and censor, but it’s funny what sticks with you. I guess you can’t explain your deviancy to anyone.
At the end of the school year, she was asked out. A boy told a friend who told another friend that he liked my daughter. She liked the sound of this. She told the friend to tell another friend to tell the boy that she liked him. It got back to her the same way that he wanted to be her boyfriend. She agreed, and the grapevine held up, and just like that, they were fourth grade sweethearts.
My daughter told her mother that she needed to talk to me about it. She wanted to make sure it was okay with me first. Aside from the initial shock that my daughter was dabbling around with the hearts of boys, this was the first prick of my parental hackles. Such sweetness. Such innocence. I half expected to see the boy show up on the porch, a rose or two in his nervous and trembling fist, and ask the permission of dear old dad. This was the image I had in my head. It wasn’t too far off. I had heard good things about the boy. He was a nice boy.
Summer rolled around and the nice boy came to my daughter’s birthday party. He wasn’t sure he was invited. He had to find out through the chain of friends if he could indeed come, and then the telephone game continued when he wanted to know if his little brother could come, too. His mother called and asked, and we said of course. Such a nice boy. He came to the party and I watched as he and my daughter did not interact at all. Not one bit. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was like watching a scene from my own youth.
I was a nice boy. I had a fourth grade crush who would eventually become my fifth grade girlfriend. I did my best not to talk to her, either. I was shy, she was uninterested, and I tried madly to secure my future position with her through a series of desperate conversations with friends. Did she still like me? What was she doing this weekend? Could I call her? I might be able to talk to her over the phone. I tried it a few times. It was easier. If I froze up, she could fill in the gaps in the conversation and not see me sweating and stammering. I called the radio station and dedicated a song to her. That was easier.
Summer did its damage, as it has a way of doing, or undoing, in the affairs of young love. I asked my daughter when school started this year if she still had a boyfriend. She shrugged and said she guessed so. My little father’s heart was pricked again. All of a sudden, I was eleven years old, waiting in vain while my maybe-girlfriend spent the summer with relatives in Massachusetts. I remembered baseball practice with a buddy, cramming watermelon Bubble Yum in our cheeks, sitting on the bench and spitting on the ground as we pined away for our far-off loves.
As the kids settled into school and activities were planned and time slots filled with this and that, the word came down. My daughter did not want him to be her boyfriend anymore. She told a friend, who told a friend, and well, the rest fell in line. His mother called my wife, and she wanted to know what he could have done differently, and my daughter was not unkind, she said she just didn’t want a boyfriend. It was simple and clear cut. The nice boy doesn’t have to wonder anymore.
There are always perfectly good excuses.
I’m sorry I mistook a point of view for the wisdom of experience.
At some point, dissecting the life you live doesn’t seem as important as living it.
I’m glad a lot more people than ever have before took the chance on reading the words I put together. That will last me a while, and I’m grateful.
Reblogged from houseofjules2 :
I just ate half a bagel, not toasted, with nothing on it, and nothing to drink. I think it’s stuck in my system somewhere. Unlike last night’s burritos. I apologized to my wife this morning because I kept walking away from her while she was talking to me, but I told her I had to leave the burrito cloud that was surrounding me. She said she was wondering what that smell was. And, yawning, she told me there was egg salad in the fridge.
The egg salad was not from our chickens. Store bought eggs are easier to peel. They sit longer and release a gas that loosens the inner membrane. Gross, right? You wish you had chickens now.
I read today that we are all in our own biological cloud of germs, and it’s as unique as our fingerprints. It keeps us healthy. So we’re all Pig-Pen from the Charlie Brown comics, and that’s a good thing.
The IT guy at work just asked me if I had a spare Mac lying around. It just so happened that my old computer was sitting on the floor under my desk on an old phone book (two old things no one uses anymore) and I brought it down to him and he fired it right up. It still had my old Big Lebowski wallpaper on it. See, it’s good to keep old things around. You never know when you might need a barely-functioning G4 Mac from 2001.
My son is officially a kindergartener now. The first day was rough, I thought it might be. He was tired just walking up to his classroom. But he’s so well-known and so well-liked in school, it’s really cool to see. The nurse said it’s like following a rock star around just to get him from place to place. At the end of the day, his teacher sent us an email and said he was an absolute treasure. And his second day was even better. He woke up this morning and when we told him he didn’t have school for three more days, he was upset. He couldn’t wait to go back today.
Reblogged from lochguinessmonster :
It was twenty years ago. It seems hard to believe. I’d graduated high school and headed to college. I didn’t go too far from home, maybe a two and a half hour drive. I went far enough away that the terrain was different. I traded the salt box shacks and cedar-shingled houses sitting on wharfs overlooking the sea for the rolling farmlands and foothills of the western part of the state. It wasn’t that different. The scent of the ocean was the most noticeable absence. It was replaced with a dry, dirty cabbage fart smell of the paper mill a few towns over wafting toward us. And the leaves clung to the trees a little longer. But the snow stayed on the ground a little longer, too.
The ride to and from home was not too long, but just long enough to be a journey. Part of it was interstate driving, part of it was farmland. I didn’t have much experience with cows and silos and oxbow rivers slicing through fertile green fields. I just drove, enjoyed the foliage as the school year wore on, and listened to music. It was always the music that made it the most memorable.
I had a mix tape I would play that featured Suffragette City by David Bowie and Heroin by The Velvet Underground and Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads, the live version from Stop Making Sense. I think there were some contemporary songs on it, too. Counting Crows, stuff from August and Everything After. R.E.M. from Automatic for the People. Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains. The first thing I did when I got to school was set up my stereo and put in Welcome To Wherever You Are by INXS. It was my comfort album. When I found myself alone in a new and strange place, it centered me, gave me footing, offered me some direction.
I started meeting people and making memories in this new place that wasn’t home. I began to look forward to leaving the interstate and seeing the cornfields and county fairs. I grew to love the meandering rivers. I liked seeing the popular ski mountains in the distance, high and blue and far away. My ride home became mixes of songs I heard on campus. Anything by The Beatles. The Anniversary Collection by Jethro Tull. Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiaquarium. Van Morrison’s Moondance. Ani DiFranco’s Little Plastic Castle. Maybe You Should Drive by Barenaked Ladies. I still think of those trips when I hear songs from that time. I still crave hearing them when I drive past the exit I took to get to campus.
And now that school is back in session, I get in the car to drop off the kids, and ask them what they want to hear. I know they’ll pick the music that means something to them, even though I want to listen to the songs of my youth. No matter where I’m going, the music makes it a little better, a little more memorable.
I read Stephen King almost exclusively. I haven’t read everything he’s written yet. I devour his books, though, and then I move on to another one. I have a feeling I’ll do the same with Joe Hill, his son. I find their writing very satisfying. I’m sure there are writers out there that would fill my plate and satiate my mind as well, but this is what I’ve chosen to spend my time reading, and I enjoy it, so I read it. In lieu of picking my top ten favorite books off the top of my head, I’m picking my top ten Stephen King books. I’m leaving out series, sequels, co-authored novels, and books I haven’t read, so this is by no means comprehensive. Just my opinion.
1. The Stand
I’ve read both the original and unabridged versions, and I can say with all honesty that no book has affected me more. I picked it up at a time in my life when nothing was more interesting and heavy to me than good vs. evil, and this might be the best example in his canon of the impressive stakes of humanity in the face of something incredibly large and dangerous.
Also a great example of the delicate nature of small people willing to give their all to stop a great evil. One of the most evil characters ever created, in one of the most evil places on the planet. Something is wrong, very wrong, in Derry, Maine.
3. The Shining
Something is also very wrong at the Overlook in Colorado. A well told tale of unusual powers and the effects of isolation and madness. Doctor Sleep, which furthers the story, gets an honorable mention.
4. Bag of Bones
I made my mother read this. It’s a total gut punch. A lovely mix of loss and fear, ghosts and gravitas.
A friend recommended this as a great example of historical fiction. She could not get over how well King, who she normally doesn’t read, captured the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. To me, that’s the weakest element, and the little, everyday butterfly wing beats of life, filtered through the device of time travel, is the greatest. Goddamn Rolling Stones.
6. Lisey’s Story
Almost the opposite of Bag of Bones, told from the perspective of the wife of a writer. As a writer, I can’t think of a better answer when people ask where ideas come from than the one given in this book.
Talk about a left field hit. I did not see this coming. I read it so fast, it spun my head around. I might just pick it up and read it again. Sweet, sad, suspenseful.
Ever been completely terrified by a hopeless situation and simultaneously sickly amused at the same time? A nice stroll down horror lane right here.
9. Pet Sematary
I avoided this for the longest time because I saw the movie first. But a friend of mine suggested that reading it might erase the movie and the bad New England accents that turned up in it, and he was right. Plus, his dad had a friend who had a kid and the kid played the kid as a baby, before he was brought back, and you know, the book was just better.
This makes the top ten because of the friendship of the four men and their mind meld bond. I’ve never been so upset to see characters die. I think I screamed out loud. And the inclusion of the effects of Mr. King’s accident when he was hit by a car also solidifies its position. It’s not a great book, it’s half a great book, and that’s more than I can say about a lot of books.
I don’t hate Van Hagar. I grew up with them more than the David Lee Roth years.
I wear my dead brother-in-law’s sunglasses. He gave them to me in college, and I just found them again recently, and had to start wearing them.
I never quite got over a childhood crush on one of my friend’s sisters. If I saw her now, I’d still feel the same way, I think.
I put on my daughter’s deodorant today. She has stolen mine enough times, I thought I’d get her back. I really like it.
I feel like summer is almost gone by the calendar, by the school year, and by the weather. All three are different schedules, all point toward the same thing.
I heard on the radio that the average friendship lasts five to seven years.
I want a steak.
I feel a change coming on. Much like the daughter of the devil himself, or the angel in white, or the woman who’s a little of both, I can feel her, but she’s nowhere in sight.
I need more time. I don’t think there’s enough space to write my answer. I don’t think I did my best. I think I need an extension on the deadline. I want to try it again.
But first, we had to take my father’s truck back to his house. We got up early in the morning, didn’t even have coffee, just got out the door. We grabbed some breakfast on the road. Then my brother drove my father’s big diesel pickup, and I followed in my brother’s new extended cab. We left early, while the morning river fog still hung down around the valleys, and the dew was fresh on the grass. It was quiet on the road and we drove all the way to the home of our youth together.
We had to stop and fill up my dad’s truck at one point, and it cost more to fill the tank than I spent on all my kids’ back to school clothes. But soon we were crossing the bridge to our hometown and I rolled all the windows down so the smell of the ocean could fill the cab. Then we were in the driveway, and it was just the four of us, my brother and my parents, having coffee and eating pumpkin whoopie pies at nine in the morning.
Then we left in my brother’s truck and went to get the stove. It was in the garage of a beautiful house in a tiny little seaside village. We had directions and we followed them until we were in the perfectly landscaped yard. The house was right on the ocean, nestled in among some evergreens, a vast porch overlooking the sparkling waves of the harbor before us. We stopped to envy it and enjoy it for a few minutes, and then went to work.
The stove was insanely heavy. It was ceramic, strong and sturdy. We couldn’t budge it without ratcheting it to a couple of two by fours and walking it slowly, Ark of the Covenant style, out of the garage. We took baby steps until we reached the bed of the truck. Then we stood back, sweating and stupefied, while we tried to think of the best way to get it up into the bed. We needed to raise it more than three feet in the air, just the two of us. And we weren’t sure what to do.
Finally, we found a big thick plank and laid it down at an angle from the truck bed to the ground. Then we pushed the stove back so it was lying flat on the board. We used the ratchet straps to pull the stove along the plank and slide it up to the truck bed. It worked for a while, but I ran out of leverage. My brother, being a lot taller than me, could still pull when I ran out of room. I could only lift so much above my waist and we lost the momentum and the balance and the weight of the stove shifted on the board. We had no choice but to let go. We steadied it as much as we could and the whole thing crashed to the ground.
While we were regrouping and coming up with Plan B, a neighbor lady walked up the long gravel driveway and just stood there and watched us. My brother went into the garage and found a pallet. He brought it out while I looked at my hands. They were shaking. I was getting hungry. I tried to snap the fingers on my left hand and couldn’t. They didn’t want to move together. It wasn’t a good sign. I was running out of steam.
My brother laid the pallet down and we pushed the stove back down again so it was lying flat. We got another plank, longer this time, so our angle wasn’t so severe. We ratcheted the stove to the pallet and dragged the whole thing onto the board. The weight distribution was better and we had much more control over the stove. We slid it up the board slowly until we could both get behind it. We heaved on that thing and until we were only inches away from the truck bed. Then we picked up on the planks and jimmied it into place. We basically pried it, pallet and all, into the back of the truck. I don’t know how we did it. The neighbor lady didn’t, either. She shrugged and left while we high-fived in the driveway.
We were quite proud of ourselves and we jumped into the truck and checked the time. It was afternoon and we were starving. We headed right back into town and went to a barbecue joint we’d both been meaning to try for a long time. We ordered a couple beers and ate a plate of wings and giant pulled pork sandwiches slathered in sauce. We didn’t have to think about the stove until much later, when we got home. Then we had someone with a forklift come and get it out of the truck for us, and two more guys helped get it in the house. Needless to say, I’m sore today, but I feel very accomplished.
During our camping trip this weekend, I realized that I’ve been a bunch of times, and my middle daughter has never slept in the tent with us. She’s always with her friends or my brother in the camper. It’s almost like I only went camping with two kids instead of three. And this time, my brother took her, and taught her to ride a bike. By the end of the weekend, it was almost like she was not our kid, and we just took her home with us. We’d see her on the campground and ask her what she was doing and she’d tell us. It was a moment of pride to see her so independent, and it filled my heart with love, and made me realize just how cool a kid she is.
We sat around the campfire and had a few beers, and this kid named Chad was there. Everyone was asking who Chad was, and no one knew. By the end of the weekend, I got a Facebook friend request from Chad, and I was like, how did he figure out who I was? But it was a different Chad, so that was good.
My friend’s two oldest boys stopped by camp to hang out with the adults for a while. They are teenagers and close in age, and listening to them go back and forth at each other was the highlight of my weekend. One was never wrong, the other was never right, neither would admit it, both were full of shit. It was hilarious. And they couldn’t just argue about normal, everyday brother stuff. They fought about music. My friend, who is a blue collar, hard-working mechanic, managed to raise a couple of band geeks. Smart as whips, always at each other’s throat, arguing the finer points of bass and treble scale, and which note is which, and how they sound, and you dumb motherfucker, you don’t know what you’re talking about, I can read both and play them on four different instruments, and I’m over here trying to figure out how to transpose notes from trumpet to tuba while you’re still fingering in open G. We just sat around drinking.
The greatest high is music. I don’t get super excited about anything like I do a good mix. There’s nothing like sitting down with a collection of songs, whether you put them together or someone else did, and feeling the connection. Between the music and the person, or the songs themselves. It’s the greatest high.
Fin had kindergarten orientation the other night. He met his teacher and his classmates. He got to ride the bus, which was exciting for him. But the bus company informed us that they won’t be able to transport him to and from school. There’s not enough time during a regular stop to get him and his equipment on the bus. They can provide a van or pay us to transport him ourselves, which is what we’re going to do. So this was his first and last bus ride for the year, which was kind of awesome and sad at the same time.
Are you still reading? I don’t know why I do this, cram all these separate thoughts into one post. I would probably get more mileage out of saying all this in many different posts. But, if I did that, spread it out, I wouldn’t do it. I try to only write things when I have something to say, and I can add something to the mix. If you’re still reading, thank you. I might have given up myself by now.
I’ve never done it before. I mean, I’ve washed the car, but always the fast, automatic way. The kids have always loved that, anyway. Put the money in the machine, drive through, get a few minutes of tunnel darkness and water spray, then drive away clean. This time, though, I wanted to really wash it.
I looked out the window at my car and saw a film of dust, some dirty backroad debris, a layer of filth that needed to come off. I told my wife that the car needed washing. She said I should go do it. I raised my eyebrows. Yes, I should. And not through the gas station car wash or even the wash-it-yourself bays up the road. I was going out with a hose and a bucket and a cloth and wash it myself.
As I headed out the door, my middle daughter asked if she could help. I told her she could, and she ran happily after me. I gave her a rag and she unrolled the hose and filled the bucket. I had her spray the whole thing down and then I got out the stepladder and we started washing. I told her the best way was from the top down. I showed her how to scrub in a circular motion, making sure we didn’t miss anything. I pointed out the really grimy spots. She hosed it off after every panel and door and section was carefully washed.
Halfway through it, she looked at me and said I was being awfully particular. I told her that if we were going to wash it, we better do it right. I learned how to wash a car from my father, and now I was doing the same for her. I told her she’d appreciate it someday. If you wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself.
I hadn’t thought about it in years. How to wash a car. But I learned, and I remembered what my father showed me. I didn’t like it at the time, and as I got older, my parents would have to bribe me to wash their vehicles, but I always did it. I would rather have been inside in my room, drawing or reading or something, like my older daughter was now. I thought of my own childhood and how my younger brother was always eager to help my father. I was the stubborn, moody, difficult firstborn, always had to be dragged out and forced to do anything. And here I was with my younger daughter, washing the car. She was bright eyed, covered in soap suds, standing in front of me with the hose, asking what she could do next. I told her we needed to wash the hubcaps. I handed her the bucket.
I was working on the back door and I felt ice cold water hit me in the shoulder. It was only a matter of time before she turned the hose on me. I threw my rag at her. She sprayed me again. I told her that although it had been hard work, it had also been fun, right? She agreed. If I had enjoyed it, there was hope for us all. I told her she did a good job. I was proud. My own father would have been proud.
We drove to Fin’s pulmonologist and some friends took the girls so we wouldn’t have to contend with them at the doctor’s office. They can get antsy while waiting for the many doctors we have to see. So they went to the beach while we had our check-up. Then we met for lunch and had a grand day on the pier. We sat at a table on the furthest point, hanging out in the late summer sun, nothing below us but waves and wind. We had a good meal and a few drinks and declared that there was no place we’d rather be.
On the way back down the pier, my very good friend and cancer survivor, started complaining of soreness in her arm. She has lymphedema from surgery and a breast reconstruction, but it was compounded by a cut on her thumb that wouldn’t heal. We didn’t think much of it, and kept making runs to the bar while the kids played in the water.
Soon, though, my friend decided to call her doctor. We waited by the boardwalk and then I noticed a neon green piece of paper stuck under my windshield. I ran over to grab it. $250 fine for an expired handicapped placard. I hadn’t even realized we needed a new one. We decided to fight with the traffic cops about it and they said, hey, produce a new one, we’ll reverse the charge. In the meantime, move your vehicle. So I pulled out of the spot and drove until I could find a decent one. I ran in and out of stores on the boardwalk trying to break a dollar and get some coins for the meter. Finally, I made it back to the beach. My friend was gone, taken to the emergency room.
We waited around until nighttime. They put her on antibiotics in the waiting room and we stood around, trying to figure out what to do. Fin ran out of food. We didn’t bring enough formula for the trip. We didn’t think the trip would be this long. We watched The Smiling Lieutenant on Turner Classics in the lobby and ate snacks from the cafeteria.
They decided to admit my friend to keep a close eye on the infection. Our day at the beach turned into a nightmare, a day trip turned into a hospital stay. We had to go home and leave our friend in the hospital. We took our friend’s daughter with us. We needed to get Fin home so he could have more formula and go back on his heated moisturizer. I was glad we still had that with us, at least. I plugged it into the inverter in the car and started it up. Boom. Something popped. The heater wasn’t working. I dug around under the hood and found it was a blown fuse. We got back on the road and headed home, minus our friends. It was sad, and not at all how we expected the day to go. Then I hit a porcupine on the interstate and realized that was life, man. You just never know. One minute, you’re walking along fine, the next minute, something cleans you out and bowls you over. You take it as best you can. It’s all you can do.
Theme by Lauren Ashpole