Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stlange Intellude.

It started with a phone call, just I was walking out the door.

I wonder what it is that possesses us to pick up the phone, when we are for all intents and purposes, out the door.

But, it was just a few feet from the door, and kind of on the way out, if I took a right at the fridge instead of a left, so I strayed from the course to answer the telephone.

It's the boss.

"Have you ever wanted to do the blah blah blah blah blee bloo blahblah?" he asked.

I've inserted the "blah blahs" because there are some things I can say, and some things I can't.

Well, needless to say I was always intrigued by the "blah blah etc."

"Okay, go there." he said.

"Is this temporary?" I asked.

"Yeah. It's only until you die." quoth he.


Here I am, wading into strange and turbulent "blah blah" waters, tasking my brain a little to learn all the lingo, and learning that there is, in fact, no end to the frustration that comes from the battle between man and machine.

And I feel a little like they showed me a picture of Michael Phelps, told me, "and that's how you swim" and threw me into the deep end of the pool.

Eventually, I should ask somebody what the perks are. Do I get more money for this? Have you ever NOT asked that question before starting something?

And that RED button over there....should I push that?

How was your day?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Catz is funny.

Ever have one of those moments that AGAINST ALL LOGIC, you find yourself laughing harder and harder at something that most people wouldn't find that funny?


Me too.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's the bottom half, two down, 3-2, and I got no heat.

Did you ever have one of those days when you begin writing something, and as you proof you realize that it sounds suspiciously like a suicide note?

No, of course you haven't.

Either have I.


I don't know if it's the work, or the lack of space between the work, or the fact that the weather has turned (again) or that I'm feeling a bit under it. But, as I said to my dear Iowa friend yesterday, "my 'screw it' voice is getting louder."

So, as is my usual tendency, I go to the computer in the morning, scroll the news, scroll the mail, click over to WFUV from the campus of Fordham University in NYC, to listen to Claudia Marshall, a woman I've known since just about the fourth grade, and she's playing The Doobie Brothers.

Minute By Minute. Not their best work, certainly, but certainly not their worst.

And I wonder if the Universe really DOES send messages.

Or, maybe Claudia is just messin' with my head.

Or, it COULD be that Claudia is sending messages, and the Universe is messin' with my head.

At any just feels as though I'm out on the field, and I'm envying the folks in the dugout. I'm gettin' shelled out here. And perhaps the DL wouldn't be such a bad place to spend some time, for just a while.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's the headache talkin'......

There's nothing wrong with me that a tree falling on me couldn't cure.

The Powers That Be at my place of employment are no longer asking, but simply assigning. I'm finding this a somewhat overwhelming trend that I'll attempt to address in the very near future.

Sometimes, Nelson DeMille disappoints.

Faulkner is like spinach. I had a bad experience with both, and haven't really touched them since. Faulkner and spinach enthusiasts, accept the apology for my shortcoming.

If you've never had a fresh Sweet Roll from the Hilltop Cafe in L'anse, MI, then you don't know what it's like to eat a planet-sized breakfast delicacy.

My study of Socialism has brought me to the following: The tenets of socialism are A) helping ones neighbor, and B) thinking about other people, as well as yourself.

My study of Christianity provides me with the same tenets.

And I said to myself, "Sit Down! Sit Down, you're rockin' the boat!"

I don't think that Socrates actually said, "I drank what?"

There was a time when I could say, "well, you've always got me." Now, I realize that the currency has devalued, somewhat.

Is it possible to be a savant, and not be an idiot? And vice versa?

Dying is hard; Comedy is easy.

In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is probably robbing you....well, blind.

Writing a list of random things is always easier than putting together coherent paragraphs.

Unless you're Faulkner.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pages We Were Years From Learning.....

The other day, I posted a simple phrase on another societal web page; it was about the fine line between thinking and feeling. And I got a few comments, though none very helpful in the debate between intellect and emotion.

It's amazing what I'll fixate on, isn't it?

There are some times when you really could use a definitive. That phrase that will help you deal with the growing weight, and the lack of any real relief in sight.

There are some days when you think, if you can just get your hands around it, it will be okay. With the proper leverage, you will have nothing to worry about.

So, here is what I've come up with.

The people you surround yourself with, the people with whom you choose to spend what little time we have on this big blue marble, are the keys.

And in the long run, it's not just the way they make you feel.
And it's not the way they can make you think.

I think it's the way they make you a better person.
And the way they can make you believe that there is no ceiling on "better."

I hope that when the current takes me further down the river, that somebody can say that of me.

"He made me better."

I could live with that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Oh, Lord...Didn't He Ramble?

It's gray here in ND this morning.

It looks like it wants to rain, but like a patient just out of rehab, it's going to deny itself the pleasure.

The snow has finally disappeared from my yard; just a few short days ago, there was a drift about three feet high on the south fence. All that remains is the squalor that comes with the thaw; old leaves, papers and other trash that got mixed in when the blizzards hit and ran.

Mighty gray, though.

Not conducive to happy thoughts. Puts one more in mind of.....introspection, I suppose.

I would like to go a week without disappointing somebody. Or myself.

(I did warn you about introspection, didn't I?)

I would like people to stop volunteering me for assignments, without the common decency of asking me first. I know I work for the government, but I DON'T work for the military. But at the same time, I find it amusing (in a sarcastic way, not a truly funny, feel-good-movie-of-the-summer way) that the talents they rely upon couldn't get me so much as an interview when a position opened where they could actually USE those talents. But. That's the government.

There's a book, staring at me like one of those obnoxious GEICO commercials. It's saying, "It's time to do that research." And I'm saying, "But there's still cake in the fridge."

That made more sense in my head then it did on the page.

Mark Twain, in his waning years, actually wrote a few chapters of a book, chronicling the lives of Tom and Huck in their old age; apparently, it was a book about the futility of life after the age of adventure, and what happens after the imagination is overcome by the realities of life. According do one biographer, he consigned the manuscript to the flames of this fireplace. I think that's a pity, but at the same time, it would diminish the images of our youth; where we did imagine ourselves as pirates, and steamboat pilots, and prospectors of gold in the fields of California.

Sometimes, I would give everything I have, everything I ever had, and everything I will EVER have, just to I do.

And other times, not.

The preceding ramble was brought to you by a lack of coffee, a lack of deep sleep, and the prospect of a long day.

But I'm reminded of something my friend and former student Greg Owen wrote about the retirement of John Madden...

"...So you got this fat guy over here babbling on about football and then BOOM! Retirement comes along and and the fat guy, he's not talking about football anymore which is okay, cause you got the fans over here and they haven't listened to a word he's said in years..."

If you here it in a Madden voice, it's much funnier, I think.

A good day to you. Ramble on, my friends.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


If you haven't seen it yet, go to Youtube, and type in "Susan Boyle."

If you're not misting up by the end of it, you have no feelings at all.

Oh, Envy those that live the dream.

The Best Medicine.

I can't say that I'm in love with my job.

But, my wife reminds me from time to time that in the decade we've been together, she has never once heard me say that I was ever in love with any job I ever had, or talked about.

And that included all the acting things I used to do.

It wasn't actually the work that got me down, most times. It was usually the people I had to deal with AT work.

The best jobs, for me, included a small circle of people that made me laugh; made me think; made me feel something outside of the idea that life is boiled down into getting conscious, walking on the treadmill, and then getting unconscious. And, I was fortunate enough to find some of those people, pretty much everywhere I went; people who would actually crack the shell and look inside, not be appalled by all the crap I surround myself with on a regular basis in an attempt to CREATE the very distance that they seek to broach, and tell me joke.

And the laughter is what brings me out.

I never required compliments; the truth is, I never really knew what to DO with them. But if you could make me laugh, I was your friend for life.

Case in point: There lives in a faraway land a lovely woman that can still make me laugh with a brief description of the Seven Days War. I can't remember now if it was me or she who started it, but by the time we were done, we were literally on the ground, laughing. Nobody else would ever find that funny, really....but the Lovely Woman and I have that as an eternal bond.

There is a man of many faces out there in the wilds of the Midwest, who is the only person who has EVER made me corpse. And because of that, and his reaction to an wig malfunction during a Star Trek sketch, the man with many faces and I have an infernal bond.

I remember an episode of The West Wing (I believe it was the second season, perhaps the first; it was definitely during the Sorkin years, because the dialogue was crisp) when Barlett says to one of his daughters, "Don't you know that all you had to do to make me happy is come home at the end of the day?" I paraphrase the sentiment; All you need to do to make me happy and be my friend for life is to make me laugh.

Come on, somebody.

Make Me Laugh.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Everybody's heard about the Bird.....

It is reported this morning that Mark "The Bird" Fidrych has passed away, the victim of an accident on his farm.

For those of you that don't know, The Bird was a hero of the terrible Detroit Tiger baseball season of 1976. He was everything that the team, and the city needed; he threw hard, won ball games, and was a complete lunatic, for the times.

He would talk to the baseball.
He would do his own mound maintenance.
He would stalk the infield, working himself and his teammates up.
He would shake every teammates' hand at the end.

He went 19-9 in '76, pitched 23 or so complete games (remember complete games?), pitched the first three in the All-Star game, won the Rookie of the Year award, and was the toast of the town in Detroit. They had T-Shirts, bumper stickers, you name it.

The Tigers finished 5th that year.

But every time The Bird pitched, the old stadium at Michigan and Trumbull was FULL.

My father took us to see a Monday night game that year; the Tigers playing the Yankees. It was during that time when ABC ran the Monday Night Baseball, and this was the headliner game. Now, keep in mind that the Tigers finished 24 games behind the Yankees that year....

Beat them 5-1. The game lasted less than two hours.

He took two curtain calls. The crowd wouldn't leave.

He didn't pitch much after that season; he hurt his wing and was never the same. He retired in 1980, attempted a comeback with Boston, and finally returned to his farm somewhere west of Boston.

I read the story this morning. And the sounds heard on a June night in '76 by a fourteen year old boy echoed in his 40-plus year old ears, and the old ET heartlight was burning bright.

The Bird-Bird-Bird-Bird-Bird-Bird's the Word.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Plea to those who read in the Shadows.

Annually, I go into my riff about wondering who's out there, reading this.

Everybody has got that innate curiosity. At least, I hope so. I'm firmly convinced that the death of active curiosity will be the death of our civilization; when we're done exploring outside, we explore inside, and when we're done with that, we can explore how the exploration of inside effects the outside, and vice versa and so on and that should keep us going as long as this sentence keeps going.

Breathe, and continue.

Today, I find myself curious about who's reading all my run on sentences, dangling participles, hanging chads, and opinionated musings on the world within and without my head.

Case in point: "Without my head?"

Sitemeter tells me that I have readers in a few places; some I recognize. Others, I suspect. Some just stump me.

And I know that the person that looked in from Washington State was simply looking for a Bill Murray quote I used ("Everybody get out of here, there's a LOBSTER loose!", and another from Ontario Province was looking at the stuff I wrote about great Canadian Folkie Stan Rogers, but I want to know who the rest of you are.

So, let's do it this way: Just leave me a little comment, right here, right now. Tell me how you are. Tell me why you read. Tell me how to make a really good Cannoli filling. Tell me about the last good book you read. Tell me about something you care about. Just leave me a little bread crumb.

I'm not a stalker. I'm not going to hunt you down. And if you're reading along because you used to know me, or currently know me, or want to know me, just say....hi.

I'll start.

I'm saying hello, from here, to Kizz, Zelda, Gert, Don, Puddinhead, and Reg. Constant readers. Fine companions. Good friends. These people, you want around a dinner table; especially if you want to make the dinner last into the wee small hours, and walk away laughing.

Who else?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Blah Blah Blah Blah Bloo Redux.

When I was a younger man, it was not beyond the realm of possibility that I would lose track of the time. And the date. And there was one time, after a particularly nasty collision with a low-hanging beam, that I lost track of the year....

Doctor: Can you tell me your name?
Me: John.
Doctor: Can you tell me the day?
Me: Saturday.
Doctor: Can you tell me who's President?
Me: Ronald Reagan.

Keep in mind, that this was 1992.

Sometimes, it wasn't so bad to lose track of time; everybody does that. I especially love to lose track when I'm in the middle of a great conversation, or when you're with old friends, and the like. I can remember a couple of lunches I wished would last forever.

But today; well, I was completely disoriented. I had lost track of everything.

And I know the reason why.

There is no more color in my life.

And when you're walking down an endless white hallway, there is no way of knowing how far you've gone, or how long you've been walking, and I got to tell you: the interest in the scenery ended for me a looooong time back.

It's kind of like wax fruit today: it's as close to being lifelike without ACTUALLY BEING life.

It's pretty much existence.


In other news, the local cable provider has gotten into a feud with the FOX affiliate, and I can no longer watch HOUSE. So, I missed the demise of Dr. Kutler. I'm pissed. I understand that the actor is going to work for the White House, and more power to him.....but I'm holding my cable provider and the local FOX affiliate in contempt.

Pirates in the 21st Century? And why isn't the Navy simply blowing these people out of the water? Where is John Paul Jones when you need him?

The Tigers won a game yesterday! And Detroit breathes a temporary sigh of relief. They really need a good season this year; for no other reason that it would give the city the kind of hope they need these days, 'cuz it's looking rocky in the mitten state.

I'll be off now.
Hope all is well with ya.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Somewhat worse than an Alarm Clock

Awakened from a deep sleep by two things; one, my wife, accidentally dropping something heavy on the west side of the bed, and two, the young feline who had fallen asleep on my chest, aroused by the aforementioned dropping-of-something-heavy, doing the Flintstep* on my chest, and if you've never met a young feline, or a feline of ANY kind, you should know that they have six ends, and five of them are pointy.

There was a little blood, and some yelling. Oh, and did I mention laughing? Yes, there was laughing as well.

There's something about pain that is inherently funny; much of the allure (if you could call it that) of the Three Stooges or even Laurel and Hardy is from the pratfall, the bucket to the head, the slap, the poke in the eye....etc. The secret success of America's Funniest Home Videos comes from the almost mind-numbing amounts of kicks to the groin that people have recorded for future reference; which makes me wonder why people always have a camera around when somebody is taking a kick to the crotch.

I believe it was Charlie Chaplin that talked about the use of pain in comedy; he stated that there had to be some kind of distance between the act and the observation of the act: that a man taking a bucket to the head and falling down a manhole during rush hour is funny; but if we approach to closely, and see that very real pain on the face of the victim, it ceases to be funny, our empathy kicks in, and we feel the pain, and well.....'taint funny, McGee.

So, there I am, stomping my foot on the bed to distribute the pain, holding those places where the cat has cut huge gouges into my skin, wondering if I'll be able to salvage the shirt; wondering how a cat could cut the skin under the shirt without actually cutting the shirt, and my wife is laughing.

I have no real point.

Except that it was kinda funny.

And before I drifted off to sleep, I was kinda laughing, as well.

*Flintstep: The movement of Fred Flintstone's feet as he "starts" his car, or begins his panicked running. Usually accompanied by a "buddabuhbuddabuh" sound effect. Basically, running in place, like real people do when they step on a patch of ice.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Give me a C! A Bouncy C!

I've been thinking on adding a soundtrack to my life.

Most people have one, you the days of my youth, they were called "Walkman", or is it "Walkmans?" "Walkmen?" Anyway, people would put on their headsets and off to the races they would go.

In the early days, it was fun watching people with them on. They had no real awareness of how loud they would talk with their headphones on. And they would sing along, unaware that the general public around them could not hear the music. Endless hours of fun.

We have the 21st Century equivalent in the the MP3 player. I have one. I put my complete music library on it. It's still only half full. But I can carry my whole library in my pocket. Or in my car. And people are still fun to watch; not as fun as the people with cel phones, but still.....

The soundtrack of a life is, of course, very personal. It should, and does, say something about you in the silences between the times you ACTUALLY saying something about you.

I would hope that there is a kind of majesterial quality to the soundtrack of my life; orchestrations, like HENRY V, or GLORY.

Or, a kind of modern heroic, like HOOSIERS.

Folk music slips in: Stan Rogers, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Harry Chapin, Bruce Cockburn, Joe Henry. Usually in my "down to earth" periods.

It is, of course, filled with music from my youth; The Band, Skynyrd, The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, the Eagles. Sometimes, a little 80's drops in, in the form of Buffett, or Huey Lewis and the News, or Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Mostly, that music is for the flashback episodes that come from the occasional calcium deposit shifting in my cranium, bringing up some moment with HD clarity.

I have no delusions, though. I'm pretty sure that the actual soundtrack of my life contains more slidewhistles and rimshots than it does majestic horn sections. Perhaps I should get a recording of the Barnum and Bailey Band to help me out.

I've always been curious about the music people choose for their memorial service, if they have the opportunity to put in their two cents. Peter Sellers requested IN THE MOOD, because it was a song he hated more than anything. My old friend Krisi Nissen put in TOMORROW. And of course, in the BIG CHILL, there was the Stones on the organ.

I once told my friend Regina (this was quite some time ago, Reg, so if you're reading this, I don't hold you to the memory) of a list of music I would like played at my funeral. I can't remember the entire list, but there was one song in particular, from Don Henley. Among the lyrics were....

Like every young man,
I had some things that I wanted to say;
Ere I could begin..
You know the world got in my way.

We spend so much time
Weeping, and wailing, and shaking our fists;
Creating enemies
That really don't exist.

Oh, Lila:
The fields lie fallow;
And ere you sow, so shall ye reap.
Oh, Lila:
The ground we hallowed
Was ours to tend but not to keep.

But I think, in the long run, I would be better suited if somebody played Spike Jones' COCKTAILS FOR TWO.

Boom Shakalakalaka, Boom Shakalakalaka, Boom Shakalakalaka, BOOM!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Treatise on the Availability of Hope in a Cynical Age, and the Lack Thereof....

It's an interesting title, but not realllly relevant. Much. Okay, a little.

A light snow is falling, and I am not, not, NOT answering that call again. I've put in my shovelling time, and I'm going to sit here and let the flakes fall where they may.

I haven't really been able to focus my mind to writing anything resembling coherent thought these days. There seems to be a lot of things going on. If I cared a little bit more, I probably would be worried.

Long ago, when I and the world were younger, I believed that eventually saner heads would prevail; that the generations in power, those of the old guard, would eventually have to retire, and place the decisions in the hands of a younger crowd, that could see to the horizon. In my own short-sightedness, I believed that the fear and the paranoia wouldn't rub off, and we could make a clean break from that cold war mentality.

And along came the new century.
Here's the new boss; same as the old boss.

I wrote a little something about socialism and the apocalypse recently, and I don't want to beat the dead horse, but there are tests being conducted these days; everybody is testing the limits. And alas, we've put ourselves in the position where we have to be the cop/parent/teacher/buttinski for the entire planet, and even though I STILL have faith in the whole, "saner heads prevailing" theory, I wonder sometimes if it isn't time to let somebody else play bad cop for awhile.

BUT...and I'm just putting this out there, for the sake of fairness: If some other nation with the capacity for warheads with the ultimate "boom" decided they were going to shoot our missiles out of the sky as they flew away from Vandenberg Airbase, don't you think we'd be juuuuuust a little pissed off about it? Certainly, with the exception of our blue jeans and television programming, we are not ACTUALLY seen as a benevolent father-nation. Are we?

My barometer for trouble in this country is based upon my Father's emails. And they are becoming very mean-spirited. KarlRovian(TM), if you will. And that NEVER bodes well. We're at least three years away from a bi-partisanship that resembles something other than the war we got going now.....and that's only if the people start seeing movement on the money front.


I didn't want to get into that.

I just wanted to say:

You can't tell by looking out my window, but the Boys of Summer will soon be at it again, and I can't wait to see how it goes.

I get tested today, and I believe I'm prepared, but don't actually care if I am or not.

And I just wanted to throw in my own goodbye to Andy Hallett. Too soon, always too soon. Thanks for the laughs.