Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

NO JOY IN TITLETOWN OVER SEATTLE LOSS TO PATRIOTS IN SUPER BOWL XLIX

 

I am a Green Bay Packer fan.  At times, I claim to be the biggest, greatest, most loyal Green Bay Packer fan of all time, even though I know that I’m not.  I don’t have time to be anyone’s biggest fan.  Having been born in 1970, the year the Packers went on a thirty-year hiatus from greatness, I endured the worst years in Packer history, save the 1950’s, and bonded with a team that could seldom finish better than 8-8.  I loved them anyway.

I am a Packer owner.  I own one share of Green Bay Packer stock… an investment which shall never earn me a dividend, unless you count bragging about owning a piece of my team as a dividend.  In this aspect, the purchase has made me rich.  Yes, monetarily, it is a worthless piece of paper.  But Packer owners don’t buy stock in our team for personal financial reasons.  We buy stock in our team because the team has asked us to do so, and because our investment has helped the team survive extinction, bankruptcy, and being forced to disband because our small town market couldn’t keep up with the big market teams.  We buy stock in our team because we love our team.  Most of us will do it again the next time the Packers come calling.

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THE PACKER ROOM, MY HOUSE

The NFC championship game that the Packers lost to the Seahawks on January 18, 2015 is still sitting in the bowels of Packer fans like a bad batch of pinto beans.  To have watched your team hold the lead for the entire game, only to give up 15 points in 44 seconds, plunging the game into overtime and then to lose that game in overtime is painful beyond belief.  But that pain isn’t just from the loss.  It isn’t ONLY because that loss kept your team from the Super Bowl and a possible 14th world championship.  The real pain is in the realization that such a loss shall go down in your opponents annals as their greatest win of all time, and that we Packer fans will have to endure the media discussing the game and its miracle outcome for the rest of our lives, much like Cowboy fans have had to endure the endless discussions of the infamous “Ice Bowl.”

Even so, many of the Packer fans I know were pulling for Seattle in the Super Bowl last week, largely because most of them are tired of the Patriots and their decade of success.  That said, a general neutrality fell over the state of Wisconsin during Super Bowl week, and many Packer fans refused to watch the game at all, as the pain was still far too intense to even get close to a football game.

We all know how the Super Bowl ended.  There needs to be no discussion here about play calling or blah, blah, blah.  But in the week since the Seahawks blew their chance at a second straight championship there has been a lot of talk and discussion — especially on social media pages — about karma.

The Cowboys shouldn’t have beaten the Lions; the Packers shouldn’t have beaten the Cowboys; the Seahawks shouldn’t have beaten the Packers; the Patriots shouldn’t have beaten the Seahawks.

Karma was responsible for all of it, evidently.

I’m not much of a “Karma” guy.  Generally, I treat people like I want to be treated, not because I think karma’s gonna get me if I’m an ass.

For a good example of the karma pitch, have a look at this link:

I find no comfort, no solace, no endearing emotions whatsoever in Seattle’s Super Bowl loss.  I’m not smirking, feeling smug, or resisting an urge to yell, “In your face!” to the Seattle faithful.  Likewise, I feel no sympathy, no remorse, and certainly no empathy for the Seahawks’ fans.  What is, simply is.

For a true fan of any team of any sport, there is never any real joy in the demise of another team.  Real happiness always comes from your team’s success, not another’s failure.

If there is ANY possible good that comes from the outcome of this football season, it’s that there’s a slight possibility that Packer Nation won’t have to endure Seattle’s version of the “Ice Bowl” quite as often as we would have if they’d have beaten the Patriots.

I doubt it, though.

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YOUR VENTING RECEPTACLE

Posted: August 9, 2014 in Life

I can be your lightning rod

Life is full of ups and downs, certainly.  Those around us, in the physical world as well as the virtual world, have an uncanny knack for making us feel small.  Sometimes we all need an emotional piggy back ride to get us through an event, a day, an hour, a moment.

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Irma the schnauzer, supporting her friend, Trixie

 

What’s got you down today?  Is something eating at you?  Who went and made you feel small?

Go ahead and tell me.  I’ll be your sponge, your receptacle, your lightning rod, your schnauzer.  Go ahead… you may feel better for the effort.

THE WORDS HE NEVER SAID HAVE STAYED WITH ME

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JOHN LENNON’S BLOOD-STAINED GLASSES

A long time ago I was watching a piece on television about the assassination of John Lennon.  The report was claiming that, after taking two bullets from Mark David Chapman’s pistol, Lennon had staggered into the lobby of his apartment building, the Dakota, and exclaimed to a nearby concierge, “They’ve shot me.”

Apparently he never said, “They’ve shot me.”  Doing a search online about the last words of John Lennon will get you a couple of different stories.  One will claim that instead of “They’ve shot me,” he uttered, “I’m shot,” before collapsing on the steps inside the lobby of his apartment building.  Another story says that he was conscious but incoherent in his last moments, answering “yeah” or “yes” to officials asking him if he’s John Lennon in the back of an ambulance.

What a stupid question.  “Are you John Lennon?”  As an EMT, I’ll have you know that — Oh hell, that’s for a different blog altogether.

No matter which story is true… no matter what his last words were… it’s all irrelevant to this post.  I’m still hung up on “They’ve shot me.”

As witnesses to history, we are (usually) provided with information after the fact that tells us how and when things occurred and the motivations behind those things.  Today, we know that Mark David Chapman was an obsessed fan of Lennon who had planned on murdering the former Beatle for more than three months.  Chapman had other celebrities in mind for termination as well, including Walter Cronkite, Johnny Carson, George C. Scott, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Chapman’s grievous act caused him instant celebrity.  Anyone who followed the career of John Lennon also knows the story behind his assassination.  Notice I’ve used that word — assassination — twice now.  Does it seem out-of-place?  Most use the word “murder” when talking about the death of John Lennon.  Assassination is usually reserved for those who hold political office.  Lennon, although often political, did not hold office.

Today, Chapman’s motives are obvious to history.  This does not mean they’re condoned.  We simply understand why, even as we can’t empathize with the why.

“They’ve shot me.”

This simple misrepresentation of Lennon’s last words are always what I go to when I think of the death of the musician.  We might understand who Chapman was and why he did what he did, but his victim will never understand anything about his own assassination.

Yes, I get the whole “afterlife” thing.  I’m a Christian myself.  To die is to gain knowledge of everything.  This post is about the here and now.

How would Archduke Franz Ferdinand look upon his own assassination?  I’m sure he’d gladly die if his death could have prevented a world war, but what about starting one?

I feel like part of Len Bias might be waiting to wake up from his first experience with cocaine.  “Man, this buzz sucks. Let’s go to IHOP.”

I’m no conspiracy theorist.  I know there was nothing more than the work of a madman at work in the death of John Lennon.  But Lennon had no way of knowing who killed him or why they did it.  “They’ve shot me,” could mean so many things.

“I’m shot,” although more basic, can mean just as many.

We’ll never know what was going through John’s mind as he lay dying in the lobby of the Dakota.  I would like to think it was about Yoko and family, but I imagine it was something like, “Who the hell shot me?  What did I do to deserve this?  Holy shit, I’m bleeding out.”

RIP John.

The Unexpected Side-Effect of Creating My Blog

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I just read a post about Naomi and Logan battling for the Goblet at the Genesis Fencing Club.  That’s so damn ridiculous.  I don’t know anything about fencing.  I hadn’t planned on a fencing education.

I have as much time for reading about fencing as I have for bronchitis.

I’ve been at this blogging thing for two weeks or so now.  I didn’t get into this willingly.  Long story made short:  I did it because the publishing industry tells me I have to do it.  Am I really writing about this again?  I’m still trying to polish my manuscript and then begin my second novel.  With my job(s), my family, my hobbies, my whatever, I don’t have time for a blog.  Besides, who’ll read it?  What will I write about?  You get it.

Alright, I’ll write occasionally on this “WordPress” thing.

Woah, there’s a lot of people writing on this “WordPress” thing.  I don’t have time to read what anyone else is writing.  Too bad for all of them.

Hey look, some guy wrote a poem about aluminum siding.  Hang on, I’m gonna get me a cold pop.

An hour later, I’ve read posts about Joe Buck, Mount Rushmore, CSS guidelines, and Dungeons and Dragons.

I haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons in 27 years.

I get lost in topics like icebergs, iceberg lettuce, heat waves, and riding waves.  I’m fascinated by someone’s passion for table tennis and someone else’s lack of passion for passion.  I blushed at an excerpt from an erotic novel.

I read about “MAN STUFF,” like monster trucks and football.  I read about “WOMAN STUFF,” like doilies, and Longaberger Baskets.

I’ve been misty and angry about lost loves, cancer, rejection, betrayal, rape, and attempted murder.  I’ve been amazed by the resilience of people who have survived the most dreadful events possible and yet can still see the good in God, the world, and their fellow-man.

I’ve read posts about diapers and menstrual cycles, my brain absorbing each one like a….

Sweet Brown!  Did I really almost make that joke?

I’ve spent more time reading YOUR blogs, my fellow bloggers, than I’ve spent in working, writing, editing, eating, and driving in this past week.  Yesterday, someone accused me of “spam liking” posts.  Is that really a thing?  Spam liking?  I promise:  If I liked your post, I read your post.  I may not have understood it, but I read it.  I am guilty, however, of “following” more bloggers than I could ever legitimately follow.  Need a follower?  Just cough.  I’ll probably jump and click it.

I’ve read spectacularly worded posts about the most boring, trivial things.  I’ve read posts in need of spell-checks and major grammatical overhauls that tell the most fantastic stories.

I’ve laughed, cried, cringed, yelled, smiled, frowned, shared, screamed, and rolled my eyes because of YOUR posts.

I stopped reading books when I started reading your posts.  Last year, I read 108 books.  I was in the middle of “Intelligence,” by Susan Hasler, when WordPress kidnapped me.  I’m wondering now if I’ll ever get back to it.  Right now, I don’t give a shit.  No offense to Ms. Hasler.  I was enjoying her book.  If she’d share chapters of it in a blog I’d be sure to read them.

When I’m not reading blogs, I’m thinking of tags to enter, such as “leotards” and “Casper Weinberger,” just to see what pops up.

God, help me.  This is addictive.

Alright!  Everybody stop writing for the next four years or so.  That’ll give me time to catch up.

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As writers, we struggle every day with our image.  If we’re not writing then we’re thinking about our writing and what others are thinking about our writing, holding our breath as we click on the comments or open the email, worried that the criticism will be negative.  We exhale audibly when it isn’t… grit our teeth when it is.

Many critics, qualified or not, will always find the good.  “Keep at it,” or “You’re almost there,” or “I like your snarky sense of humor.”

Many critics, qualified or not, won’t.  “That’s interesting,” is the BEST compliment they can offer.  “That’s interesting,” is about the worst thing someone can say about your writing.

Does any of it really matter?  Who are YOU to judge my work… and who the hell am I to judge yours?  Should I worry about whether or not you like my article any more than whether or not you like my Christmas sweater?

Case in point:  When I was in grammar school, I was pretty darn close to the boys who lived across the street from me.  One is a year older than me, the other a year younger.  When I was about ten years old, they moved across town and our relationship, although still intact, diminished in frequency of visits and such.  By the end of high school, we seldom talked.

After another ten years or so had passed, I made attempts to contact those old boys.  Those attempts were ignored… and I didn’t think much about it.  Then, with the advent of social media, the means I use to connect with people I hadn’t EVER spoken to while in school, my attempts at rekindling our friendship were rejected.

What had I done to them so long ago?  What is wrong with me?  Why would they shun me so?  Maybe they didn’t like my Christmas sweater?

More years passed.

Recently, an uncle of those boys passed away.  My wife, through her employer, knows the deceased’s wife pretty well, and they had become pretty good friends over the years.  In order to support her friend, my wife and I attended the funeral.  Of course, we’d long known of the widow’s association to those former friends of mine, but my showing up at the funeral was a complete surprise to them.

The greeting I received was cold, at best.  That’s okay, I wasn’t there for them anyway.

My wife and I spent nearly an hour at the funeral, socializing with a few of the mourners, and I had a good amount of time to observe my former friends socializing with their extended family.

Now, this post is supposed to be about me.  It’s supposed to be about how I feel about myself and how others see me as a writer.  It is not intended as a passive-aggressive assault on some former friends who wouldn’t talk to me.

They’re standing off to one side, talking to each other.  They’re greeting their OWN FAMILY as they greeted me.  They’re having difficulty engaging in conversation with their own kin.

HOLY SHIT, THEY’RE SOCIAL MORONS.

See, sometimes, when you’re sure it’s about you, it isn’t about you at all.

This doesn’t mean that you should blow off criticism as the advice of an idiot.  Criticism can be the meteor that changes history.  But if the criticism isn’t of the constructive kind, then it’s best to consider the source, rather than the words.

Believe in yourself.  Have faith in YOU.  You can accomplish anything you want, regardless of what others say.

I have never owned nor worn a Christmas sweater, by the way.

INSPIRATION COMES IN MANY FORMS

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I am inspired today by the heat of the sun and water in the street, the sound of rushing fluids draining into the grated iron on the street corner.  I may have forgotten that snow is mortal.  Its death brings new life to me at this time each year.

I am inspired by the generosity of those closest to me, their words of encouragement and motivation, their smiles, their warmth, their selfless gifts of time spent, confidence, and optimism.

I am inspired by the hospitality and kindness of strangers.  People who have taken a moment or a minute, perhaps a quarter-hour of one day of their life, to offer comfort or wisdom, faith or criticism, or maybe a one-word vote of confidence such as, “Nice!”  It is a travesty to label such people “strangers.”

Today, I am inspired by you simply because you’re reading this.

Thank you.

Trespassing, Vandalism, and the Undead Automobile

 

I’m inspired tonight by “Ghost Hunters.”  It’s not that I watched an episode or anything, I just caught a preview of an upcoming episode with its scary sound effects and weird, green light that’s supposed to somehow authenticate the series or perhaps lure the viewer into buying into the scariness of the episode.  I wasn’t impressed, even as the principals were running away from some unseen entity that must have gone and said, “Boo.”

There’s a ghost in my house, too.  There’s been a running story going around my family for about ten years now that a ghost can sometimes be seen traversing the small hallway between the half-bathroom and the basement stairs.  Nobody takes it too seriously, however, as she has only been seen a handful of times and even then, only in the periphery of one’s vision.  I can claim to have seen her a few times, her billowy off-white clothing resembling those outfits that Stevie Nicks would proudly claim as her own.  She’d float on past, disappearing behind the wall above the steps in the one second of time that it took for me to turn my head in response to this phenomenon in my peripheral vision.  She’s never made a sound.  She’s never moved an object.  She’s never appeared in plain sight before anyone.

We don’t really believe, any of us, that there is a ghost in the house.  We all realize, especially those who have seen this ghost, that the visions are just a trick of the eye or the light or of our own imaginations.  There’s a light fixture in the basement that has a short in it, causing the light to flicker at inopportune times, sometimes adding to the illusion of it all.  My wife has her own ideas about the flickering light and the spirit that inhabits it, but this is my blog.  She’ll have to tell you that story some other time.

I think that most people can tell a good personal ghost story.  Whether or not their experience contains a real ghost or not is irrelevant.  After all, an unexplained ground phenomenon is no different from a UFO sighting.  It’s simply a situation that the witness can’t explain.   I also think that those who have the best stories to tell tend to keep them to themselves.  It is my opinion that those that are the most outspoken about these things are the least likely to be telling the truth about the matter.  These are the people whose stories are debunked.

I don’t know why people who see such things would want to go on television to tell their stories, unless it’s for the paycheck.  It seems to me, that by announcing the presence of a spirit (or an alien), you’re going to piss that entity off and it just might come looking for revenge.  I mean, who’s to say that a ghost has to stay in one building?  They might come across town to get you if you go blabbing your mouth too much.

So here’s where I’ll be careful.  I have a REAL unexplained ground phenomenon to tell you about.  Shhh.  I’m not out to wake up any dormant spirits.

When I was 14 I was messing around with a couple of neighborhood kids in an old, abandoned barn that was not far from my house.  We were engaging in general mischief, vandalizing the few leftover items that were lying around and chopping through a wall with an old, rusty hatchet we’d found.

Twenty years prior, someone had walled off a section of the barn and had put in a concrete slab, essentially turning that portion of the barn into a cozy, one-car garage.  There had once been a door that offered access from the barn to the garage, but the door and much of the drywall had been removed, leaving the skeleton of the studs exposed along the length of the wall.

What I’m about to tell you I’ve only told a handful of people, maybe as many as eight.  Certainly no more than that. At first, I couldn’t tell anyone simply because we’d been up there destroying things, engaging in chaotic and disruptive behavior.  I needed time to distance my behavior from the event, even though I’d known that nobody had set foot in that barn since.  I was careful.

When I finally did tell the story, those who listened would usually stare blankly at me before telling me something like, “Woah, that’s radical,” or, “Geez, that’s crazy…” which it was.  It was outrageous.  After telling it to those I most wanted to impress, over a period of perhaps seven years, I put the story in my pocket and left it there.  I started to realize that the story wasn’t impressing anyone.  It was so unbelievable that I wouldn’t have believed it if it had been someone else’s story.  Telling ghost stories is a good way to lose your credibility.  Even now, I fear that more than I fear any ghost.

I had separated myself from my cronies in the barn.  As I remember it, they were in the loft.  29 years have passed since this episode.  As I’m telling it now, I have no recollection of where they actually were at this moment, except that they were not with me.

I passed the open doorway to the garage with my focus on something ahead of me.  In my periphery, I caught a glimpse of something on the concrete slab to my left, pulling my gaze in that direction.

There’s that “periphery” thing again.

Only this time I had turned my head in time to see what was on the slab.

Please, don’t get your dander up.  This is probably going to be a bit anti-climactic for you.  I didn’t see a person or a body or a zombie or a vampire.

What I saw, in the split second or two that my eyes were engaged, was a light blue Volkswagen Beetle.  It was running.  I know it was, because I heard it… and the room was filling with exhaust because the main garage door wasn’t open.  I could smell sulfur and oil in the air.  The car, although visible enough for me to determine the color, was obscured like the moors in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

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In my memory of the incident now, I was walking past the doorway in slow motion, the car in my sight for an eternity.  Behind the wheel was a man who resembled Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult.  He was looking at me, grinning, and revving the engine, causing black smoke to pour out of the tailpipe.  I’d apologize to Mr. Bloom for including him in my ridiculous yarn, except that I really don’t think he’d mind being part of it.

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                                                                          Eric Bloom

This certainly adds allure to my story, except that I passed by that doorway in almost zero time and I know that I didn’t see anyone in the car as I passed it.  Besides, in those days I hadn’t even heard of Eric Bloom.

I did, however, become frightened.  Not because I thought that I was engaged in witnessing paranormal activity, but rather, because I thought that someone had purchased this property and had occupied it, and I was about to get caught trespassing and vandalizing their property.

I stopped, backed up, and peeked into the garage.  It was empty.  No car.  No smoke.  No Eric Bloom.

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking.  Cars don’t have souls.  Cars don’t have spirits.  Cars don’t leave their ghosts behind when they go to the junkyard.

I know.

I didn’t understand anything about what I’d seen.  All I knew was that I had to get the hell out of there… so I got the hell out of there.  I never went back.

Maybe six months passed, maybe a year. Then, a story about a man who had once lived on the property containing the barn had been brought up by a friend as we played video games on his Commodore 64 computer.  Apparently this man had committed suicide sometime in the 1960’s by asphyxiating himself in a running car in the garage portion of the barn.

My friend’s older brother had discovered the man the morning after his death.  That brother was now a grown man with a family of his own, living miles away.

“Was it a blue Volkswagen,” I asked.

“I dunno.”

“Would your mom know?”

“Maybe.”  He called to his mom in the living room.  A few moments later, she appeared in the doorway.

“What kind of car did Mr. ________ have when he, you know…”  I’m paraphrasing.  I’m not sure how he asked this question.

“Why, a Volkswagen Beetle,” his mother answered.

When pressed for the color, she described it as “powder blue.”

So there you go.  Either you’re creeped out or I’ve just destroyed my credibility with you.

Either way, I think it’s a pretty good story.

A LASTING LEGACY

Posted: February 10, 2014 in Life
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What would you like to be remembered for after you’re gone?

A service, perhaps, to humanity, wildlife, the planet, or a god?  Devotion to an individual, your family, a cause, a religion?

Maybe you’d like to be remembered for an idea, an invention, or a passion for something.  Are you aiming to be the best in your field, your sport, your genre, or your art?

Are you wishing to be famous… or perchance, infamous, which are similar and yet very different.  Famous is an “is” amid the living, and a “was” among the dead.  Infamous shall always be an “is.”  To be famous is to be acclaimed or illustrious, grand or renowned.  Being famous is glorious.  To be infamous is to be notorious and flagrant, overt and blatant.  Being infamous is scandalous.

Amelia Earhart was famous.  Bonnie Parker is infamous.

Are you struggling with the entire equation?  Are you looking for the meaning of life?  Are you searching for God, for Zen, for Karma, for your own spirit?

Do you look to your ancestors to predict your future, your descendants, your reason?  Are your everyday activities connected to your vision of how the world shall one day look at you?  Have you switched occupations because you don’t want future generations to see you as a clerk, a farmer, a garbage man, or a fry cook?

I can relate.  I’ve done it.  I’ve looked, I’ve worried, I’ve dreamt, I’ve changed course.

I’ve devoted half of my life to serving others.  I’ve worked with the less fortunate, the developmentally disabled, the emotionally disturbed, and the mentally ill.  I’ve been at five alarm fires and 3 am car wrecks.  I spend my weekends giving old ladies breathing treatments, dodging projectile vomit, and marveling at pitted edema.

I write as a means to put a permanent footprint on the world.  If my name’s in print or on the web or on the back of this napkin, then the world will remember, won’t it?

But what is it that  I  would like to be remembered for after I’m gone?

Simple acknowledgement.

Goodwill.  Obligation.  Recognition.  Indebtedness.  Retrospective sympathetic affection.  Gratitude.  Lots and lots of gratitude.

I want to be remembered for being thankful.  I want to be remembered for being so very grateful to God, to my family for being my family… to my dear friends and my not-so-dear ones, too, for being there for me.  Remember me for appreciating the small things, like sunny days and rainy days, a smile, a well-timed frown, a door held open and another one closed.  Remember me for making the biggest deal out of the smallest of favors.

Remember me for recognizing a badge of kindness and for forgiving indifference.

Most of all, remember me for never missing the opportunity to say “Thank you.”

Thank you.