A FLOOD OF INAPPROPRIATE RAINY DAY MUSINGS

The rain fell hard with angry loud drops that blocked out the sound of everything else except the occasional crack of thunder. It was not a torrential calamity storm like the one that flooded my old friend Tom’s southern Louisiana neighborhood last week but it was a harsh enough rain that I kept checking the seals around my new skylight, watched the street for flooding and certainly wrote off any chance of mowing my shaggy lawn the next few days. My elderly dachshund opted to hold rather than risk a brief dog paddle through the belly high backyard puddles and the cats decided to skip part of their daily 22 hour nap schedule and stayed very close to me becoming an odd looking 12 legged shadow to my every movement.

The morning rains reminded me of those blistering Florida tropical storms the Miami weathermen would call gully-gushers where roads instantly turned into rivers. Those downpours were as blinding as an early morning English coast fog and felt like someone shooting a thousand BBs at the top of your head, which is a particularly uncomfortable experience for those follicly challenged folks like me.

Eventually my grey faced old dog’s bladder overtook his desire to stay dry and he started doing his ‘I need to go’ dance, which is very similar to his ‘give me treats NOW’ dance except it is performed a little closer to the backdoor with a few less spinning circles and a lot more grunting. I carried him to the small swatch of grass covered by the eaves of the house where the two of us huddled keeping relatively dry until a gust of wind shifted the angle of the hard rain. Already wet, the dog decided now was as good a time as any to prove again that he is hollow by emptying out so much bodily waste that he appeared to be breaking  scientific laws of weights and measurements by leaving behind what appeared to be double his own body weight and mass.

This gave me time to think. A sort of follow up ponder to my somewhat semi-self-motivating head trip I took late last night while sitting in my yard watching the clouds amass in between storm waves. Yes, the wife and I have a lot on our plates right now but lots of folks do. Many, many people have it way, way worse than us. I convinced myself it’s time to slip on my tight fitting big-boy pants (which unfortunately look like those stretchy faux-jeans that everyone’s grandmother seemed to have had at some point) and face the world with my usual optimism and humor instead of wallowing in the sticky mental muck that sloshes around one’s feet and drags you down when they are feeling out of sorts and overwhelmed.

I don’t have it so bad, hell, my friend Tom’s whole city was underwater, his parent’s house flooded, neighbor’s rescued by boat and helicopter, yet with his same twisted sense of humor that I loved back when we were in High School together, he posted a photo on FACEBOOK of multiple unearthed caskets washing down his flooded muddy deluged local streets with the caption “Looking on the bright side, I have seen old friends and neighbors I haven’t seen since before they died.”

That’s classic Tom; no wonder we always got along, he has the same warped sense of humor as me. Of course it’s even funnier nowadays because he is a judge! More important than that, he is a good guy. When the floods receded he rolled up his own sleeves and did back breaking manual labor to help get his family, friends and neighbors back on their feet again. I think both selflessness and wackiness are necessary reactions to adversity.

I am in general a positive person and my off kilter humor has always helped me. When I was working on my degree, the head of the Florida State Advertising department once walked into my office, looked at the guy I was working on a major project with and said “you just keep this guy around to think of wacky shit. Don’t you?” I was never more complimented.

Just yesterday as the day was getting tense around the office, I almost made coffee come out of a coworkers nose when I told him you could destroy any waiter or sommelier’s chance of selling you a bottle of wine, if you follow up their explanation of it, with saying “wow, that’s the exact same description I used for my last fart”: ‘A rich full-bodied bouquet with a lingering hint of fruit.” or ‘complex and oaky with an earthy opulent finish’. It’s like saying ‘in bed’ after reading a fortune cookie, it always works and it’s always twistedly funny.  My cubical neighbor mentioned that he will now never be able to order wine with a straight face again but more importantly he turned around and went back to work forgetting the issues bogging him down minutes before. Success.

So you might ask, what is the point of this blog entry besides rationalizing an appropriate reason to tell an inappropriate fart joke?   Well yeah, that was an important part but also it is to point out that for me, sometimes when things feel a bit overwhelming I need to stop and take a break. Stare at the sky, walk in the rain, crack an over the top bad joke… whatever it takes to break that cycle of negativity and put things in perspective and back on track. No matter how long a depressing rainstorm lasts, no matter how much damage it does, it will always end. The sun comes out, the world dries up, the broken can be mended and we keep moving on.

dan wine

Ponderously plummy with supple woody overtone.

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THEY’RE TOO THERE

I swirled my finger on the screen of an I-Pad creating a signature that looked more like a four-year-old’s Etch-A-Sketch doodle then something normally found on the bottom of a legal document. Next, with little fanfare but much difficult hammering, digging, poking and wedging, a metal For Sale sign was finally wrestled into the famous hardened Texas summer clay/mud lurking just below my semi- pseudo-manicured-ish front yard grass. Was this a mystical sign from Mother Earth saying ‘don’t go’ or just another example of how every easy task this year seems to have turned out more difficult than it should have been.

After a few more obsessive swipes of touch up paint, caulking and cleaning  the wife and I decided 9 hours of back breaking labor was enough;  at this point anything else we might do or not do was not going to affect the listing or sell price of our ex-home, so we called it day.  What happens is out of our hands now. I loaded the cars with that weird assortment of left for last odds and ends.  A mixture of ‘I might still need here’ tools, paint and cleaning supplies along with that last strange little pile of ‘do I move to the new house or throw away’ stuff that that did not make the keep cut on the previous dozen trips.

“Do we need this cut piece of 2 by 4 wood at the new house?” I yelled from the garage through the now oddly echoy empty entrance way. “What about the ¼ full bag of Quikrete, the mop handle with no pad or wing nut on the hinged paddle or the faded cracked thermometer still hanging on the back porch that I think was a housewarming gift from somebody nine years ago?” She replied with a quadruple ‘no’ that reminded me of my long ago single days trying to extend an evening with a possible new friend at a closing-time pub. “Okay… ummm, yeah” I said in a voice that sounded more like Lumbergh than I had planned, “I’m gonna take that thermometer anyway, okay?” Expecting a ‘why did you even bother to ask’ which again was the similar reply to single Dan’s late night bar propositions of yore.

And so went what likely will be our last full day together at the old house. Maybe now we can start dealing with the 500 boxes in the new place, also known to the cats as the coolest multi-level play maze ever.  I assume we will still be in and out of the old house a bit as our trusty realtor starts dragging critical eyed strangers through the sterilized, neutralized personality-less shell of our previous happy home.  She wisely recommended painting over our bright red, silver, blue and black accent walls along with removing the red bedroom carpet.  We understood not every potential buyer would like our Pee Wee’s Playhouse-ish decor sense.

About halfway through the move I noticed my wife had shifted to calling the old place her ‘dream house’.  I am confident our new home can be pretty damn dreamy too, once we get the kinks worked out, but I have been trying to resist the urge to slip into ‘guy fix-it mode’ and let her ease into the change at her own pace. The new Casa de Dan y Dawn has some pretty cool features and is in an amazing location but it is 30 years older than our last place.  Because of that, no matter how good a shape it might be in, it will always have more quirks. I think of how my body worked 30 years ago verses the way it is now. I still get around just fine, thank you, but I have a lot more aches, pains, creeks, cracks and plenty of things that work but just not quite as good as they used to three decades ago.

I really, really want my wife to be happy and I know she eventually will be but unfortunately every time I see her start to fall in love with the new place, something else breaks and I see that ‘I just bought a money pit’ look in her eyes. Nothing is critical and it will all get sorted out but we have been focusing so much on prepping the old house for sale that we have completely ignored the task of turning the new house into a home. All we have done is address problems so I think it has skewed our view.

Were those cracks in the wall always there? Are we supposed to have hot water? Are all the kitchen electrical outlets supposed to work?  Until we have the time to dig in, unpack and make a new dream house maybe I should try to use my old advertising skills to subtly put a positive spin on things like when you call an unsightly mole a ‘beauty mark’ or when you call processed meat leftovers ‘deviled ham’ or when you refer to a scary snake as a ‘danger noodle’ or when you call a spooky graveyard a ‘campground for those that have passed’. Of course that task is actually very easy here because the place really is crazy nice; it just does not feel like ours yet.

We moved to make our lives easier, which is hard to wrap our heads around when we think of how difficult the past couple of months have been, but given time I am confident all will be well… if we don’t kill ourselves or each other getting there. I was really hoping this major change would be a distraction to all the other stresses in our lives this past year but it seems to have had the opposite effect and just added and exasperated things. Instead of enjoying the process of cleaning out the massive excess in our old house, hunting for a new neighborhood and putting together a new fun place, our lack of sleep and a feeling of being overwhelmed by how much has to get done, has made us depressed, tired and snippy with each other.

Please don’t take all this negative grousing the wrong way. We really did move into a dandy place in an amazing location for us. But it’s like the last leg of hiking up a mountain. You know just around the next few bends is that beautiful view from atop that will make it all worthwhile but that last part is steep, hard and tough to navigate. You constantly question yourself if it is worth all the work and effort. We will get up there and it will be great… but maybe I can take a short cut to that peak and make it easier by building a giant staircase out of our 500 unopened moving boxes.

the-pee-wee-herman-show-on-broadway-01-1024

PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE OR OUR OLD HOUSE… HARD TO TELL

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PICKLE PUSS AND THE FLIGHT BACK TO REALITY

All flight the stern faced women wedged next to me looked just ‘plane’ mean. By the angry dumbfounded expression she flashed me when I first pointed past the aisle seat she had glued herself into, you would have thought I had asked her to head down to the tarmac, chop off her legs and use the bloody stumps to guide the plane out of the gate, instead of just motioning that I needed to get passed her to the open seat by the window. Maybe she confused my red shirt with a Star Trek uniform and thought I could magically transport into my seat without her having to get up; of course being a red shirted crew member I also would not say a word and be dead soon.

Her puckered puss never changed from that ‘I smell rotten eggs’ expression the entire flight. I was not really in the mood for innocuous chit-chat either but it might have been nice to get a ‘bless you’ when I sneezed or at least a vague pleasant acknowledgement when I picked up her phone she dropped in the middle of her flight-long solitaire match. I guess with that attitude solitaire seemed the appropriate game because who else would would want to be around Ms. Sunshine.

My flight was only a few hours long but it still gave my head time to wander… which is usually a good thing I look forward to but now I’m not so sure. Between the non-stop duet of ear rattling ‘front-row rock concert volume’ screaming babies a few rows behind me, the delayed beverage service bladder busting stay in your seat with your belts tightly attached turbulence and the sardine-like over full airplane conditions on my late-night vacation-ending flight, I know my head was not in the best of places and, like my anti-effervescent angry-faced neighbor, I likely looked a bit surly myself.

I knew slogging around in my noggin like the ebb and flow of the tides was a mush and mess of emotions, fragmented memories and tidbits of feeling overwhelmed by my current plateful of reality. Luckily before I got swept under by the introspective undertow, my brain thankfully shifted from self-examination and mental flagellation to wondering why Ole’ Ms. Sucking Lemons Mug was so grumpy?

What was her back story? What caused that well practiced scowl? Is she actually happy but years of working in a pickle factory caused her permanent snoot expression? Was a life of misery about to cause her to snap like one of the mass-murdering loony de-jour constantly slapped all over the front page these days?  Is she traveling to funeral? Does she have a deep-rooted hatred of bald men with contrived beards caused by doing too much meth while watching Breaking Bad?

I thought about my little slice of the world. What kind of image was I projecting about myself? Despite all the amazing good in my life that I have to be thankful for, it has still been a very tumultuous year and I might be letting the bad overshadow the good. My difficulties have been playing with my head lately. I’m not enjoying the alone time that I traditionally longed for.  Lately, left on it’s own, my brain has been messing with my normal optimism as it obsesses over the death, sickness, moves and the job changes I have been faced with.

Of course the giant pink elephant dominating all my mind’s attention is that my wife and I are in the process of moving across town. The whole packing up the old place and sterilizing the bright colors of our fun old life with a few coats of neutral paint to prep the house for sale while at the same time slowly cutting through the packing tape on those just sealed hundreds of boxes in the so far vain attempt to turn the new place into something resembling what we call home, inside of a 60 day window has been leaving me in a permanent state of feeling tired, overwhelmed and wondering how to squeeze 48 hours of work into a 24 hour day.

I’m not sure if it was the best thing or the worst thing to do but this past weekend I ran away. I went on a long ago planned wacky boys trip up the California coast with a couple of my oldest friends.  It was a few days filled with drinks, silliness and good conversation among the beautiful scenery. Unfortunately I think I was like the lady in the seat next to me with the grumpy grouper face.

Try as I might, my head was at home where I felt I had left so much unfinished work on my wife’s shoulders. One afternoon I was teased for wanting a few extra drinks (actually I was picked on all weekend because I had asked to get a drink to hold us over while we walked to the next place to get drinks) but I think in hindsight I was just trying to flush my brain a bit farther away from reality.  Unfortunately, if sitting on a riverbed behind a cabin a short hike from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific is not enough to take me away from my realities at home, an extra sip of alcohol sure as hell was not going to do trick.  Great… now I’m also worried I’m turning into a vacation alchy.

Maybe it’s easier for me to worry about what is wrong with that woman on the plane than to address my own issues. I know in a few weeks my universe will be much better. The old place will be sold and the mountains of boxes in the new house will be reduced to small hills as we slowly shift away from feeling like we are living in someone else’s space .

So what is the big answer? What is the big conclusion? How do I solve my woes and what about the snarling plane lady? I got nothing. It’s just one of those time things and eventually things will get better. Maybe the woman on the plane is just a simple reminder to me to focus on the good and not let life’s crap turn me into a dour sour grump.

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Dan in Big Sur this past weekend. Focusing on the good and losing any of the sympathy I got from this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THIS IS THE WORKING TITLE… I SHOULD CHANGE IT.

We did it.

We screwed up again.

Crap.

I admit it right here, in print, for all the world to see. We moved wrong.

Yup, that’s right, we did it wrong. I have heard my whole life that the best way to clean up/ toss out/ pare down is to move every few years.  And believe you me, we are in some desperate need of some good ole cleanin’, tossin’ and paren’ .  Well guess what kids, we just moved again!  Yeee haa, whoopee, rah rah… yeah and a la dee friggin dah becuase we moved wrong. We still have almost the exact same load ‘o’ crap, just with a spiffy different building around it.  It didn’t work.

Now part of it is that this came up very fast, so a lot of the time we were in that oh so relaxed and fun ‘SHOVE IT IN A BOX NOW!!!!’ mode. There was an occasional this or that, bric-a-brac tossed and a couple of boxes of old VCR tapes, a few books and some ill fitting clothes found their way to the donation box but with the size ‘Haul’ that I needed to get ‘ U-ed’, what we got rid of was akin to tossing out a Dixie Riddle Cup of water while shifting the Atlantic Ocean to the west coast.

My wife has this fear that we are living on the cusp of turning into ‘hoarders’. You know, those damaged compulsive people you always seem to come across while clicking through those depressing reality shows up on the high number cable stations. Hoarders feel the need to save everything, so they live among massive floor to ceiling mountains of crap-ola navigating their lives through the twisty tiny paths between the soul crushing piles.

I don’t think we are that bad. Okay, yes, we have some impressive box mountains of our own hidden away in our storeroom. And yes we do have a lot more stuff than most humans and yes it’s a lot of stuff we don’t need, use or look at very much. And yes… dammit dammit dammit… maybe we are a little hoarderish, or is it slightly hoadery?  Hoader-esque tendencies?  I know I can’t say I’m a little hoar.  I guess it does not matter how you say it, the point is after years of denying it after this move I’m starting to think that maybe she is right. We have large quantities of stuff tucked all around the place. Unnecessary stuff. Stuff we don’t need or use often. We even have stuff we actually don’t want but can’t yet rationalize donating or tossing.

I know some of my stuff I keep because of inertia; I have had it so long and it has moved with me so many times that the built up force to leave things unchanged is too strong to break. Those things have moved passed the ‘I might need it sometime’ stage and drifted into ‘well it’s always been there’ world. And that is not a good reason to save something. What happened to the Dan that could shove everything he owns into a car with the smallest U-Haul trailer hitched to the back and move in an afternoon… alone!

I need to shake this hoarding thing from my skull and deal with the fact. We loved our old house but our worlds have shifted a bit lately and we really needed to be closer to work and play and friends. After enough people comment that driving to your house is like traveling to another state, you get the hint.  We liked it up in the hinterland because you can get more house bang for the mortgage buck and it felt like you lived in the country. Well my wife like that country part; I’m more of a city boy. The farther from the city I am the more a Deliverance style skeeved I feel.  I’m a street light and sewers kinda guy.

You would think it would make me happy that the suburbs kept creeping up to our neck of the (now lack of) woods. The little two lane ‘farm road’ we drove home on passing cows and horses has, in the nine years of living here, become a six lane thoroughfare rapidly filling up with a Walmart, a water tower and a Whataburger. I got used to the open fields with twisty trees that are now being replaced with mini-malls, medical offices and multiple subdivisions of mass-produced McMansions.  We could have lived with all of that, but the camel busting straw was when we both our work offices changed to the complete other side of town quadrupling our commutes.

So what do you do… you move. Yuch. I cannot think of a more miserable few months than spending most non-working waking hours traipsing through one bad overpriced house after another trying to outbid the zillion idiots that watch too much Home And Garden Network and believe they are going to make zillions of dollars flipping every house that pops up on Zillow. We want a home, not an impersonal patch-job, poorly fixed up on the cheaps, over-priced house.

Of course you think finding the perfect place is hard until you next find yourself spending every spare minute of the day  shoving your life into boxes. Dozens of boxes, hundreds of boxes, rooms full of boxes, mountains of boxes… I could build a new house out of the giant stacks of boxes. Hey that’s a good idea. I’ll stack all the boxes so they open in, put a roof across the top and then we never need to unpack. When you need something you just open the appropriate box flap on your wall and pull out what you need. Then when we need to move again, you just tape everything shut again and you’re good to go.

So what did we do wrong? We didn’t clean up/ toss out/ pare down. We were so anxious and time pressed to get out of here so we could sell the old house that we just shoved everything into those aforementioned mountain of boxes. All the clutter wasn’t sorted and trimmed and tightened and tossed. It just all moved across town to clog up our lives somewhere else.

My Dad has always been an impressive tosser. He is not attached to stuff. I remember his way of cleaning up the old New York house basement was to grab and toss. If it was not nailed down, it got thrown in the trash. Books, records, borrowed ice skates, my brother’s boxed comic books… if he was in a cleaning mood nothing was off limits. Any and everything got thrown away. He could get a room emptied in no time. No emotions, no arguments, tossed and done without even having time to add a ‘ho’ to the ‘heave’.

So for now I guess we are keeping the crap and the clutter. My wife is setting a goal of getting rid of a least a box a junk a month. Maybe by the next move we will be livin’ lean… if the next move is in 2092.

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WAIT-ER

I know when I’m standing around the bar all puff chested, chitting the chat while tossing back a brew, if I want to sound like a real ‘man’s man’ I need to say my top three movies are ones like The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption, Scarface or Dirty Harry. I don’t think I’d be called a ‘mary’ at an English pub if over a few pints I opined I was a fan of Reservoir Dogs, Caddyshack or any Bond flick with Sean Connery. Even at a tough biker bar I probably won’t get pummeled if I say my favorites are Pulp Fiction, Rocky and Animal House.

Believe me, I like all those movies and know them well enough to do that ‘man’s man’ thing where you trade movie quotes and even though you have nothing in common with someone, you still briefly feel like your old best buds. But instead of being a ‘man’s man’ I must be more of a ‘man’s dork’ because its those exact occasions I tend to boast that my favorite three movies are Vernon, Florida, Harold And Maude and Sid And Nancy. “Huh?!?!, LET’S PUMMEL THAT NON-MAN’S MAN DAN DORK!!!”

For those that I have not inflicted it upon and infected your brain, Vernon, Florida is a documentary by Errol Morris about a twisted little southern town inhabited by various fabulously freaky folks such as an obsessed turkey hunter, an easily excited worm farmer, a preacher who feels closer to God because of the word ‘therefore’ and a couple whose souvenir from their one and only vacation is a jar of ‘growing sand’ from the white sands missile base. I have seen the film hundreds of times, I can recite every line and I have never touched the fast forward button while watching it… ever.

In the mid1970s my Mother took me to see Harold and Maude for a buck at the then past its prime grand old Forest Hills Cinemart theater. I was around 12 and Mom already knew my sense of humor was twisted enough to love the odd-ball touching film that is a combination bizarre romance flick / coming of age story about an obsessed with death teen and a worldly wacky 79 year-old woman. A few years later, but still in the pre-VCR Cro-Magnon Man era, I started dragging my high school friends week after week to see midnight showings of it at South Miami’s long-gone lush Riviera cinema.

I was barely out of college when I saw Sid And Nancy with my friend Allyson, one of the grooviest chicks on the planet who also was on a few of those late night Harold And Maude pilgrimages, the love story about the clueless member of the punk band the Sex Pistols and his somewhat sycophant drug addict girlfriend. The film later became another midnight movie obsession for my buddy Charlie and I.

I drag this up not to show off my esoteric movie acumen; if I was trying to impress you I would have mentioned beloved but difficult films like The Andalusian Dog, Eraserhead and Citizen Kane. Again, all great stuff, but no, the point I am finally getting around to illustrating is that at times I really think my brain is a bit different from what’s rattling around in most other folk’s skulls. Not better, not special, just different.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I realized I love to wait.

Before you start circling me yelling ‘freak’ and grabbing rocks for an old fashioned stoning, let me explain. Obviously if I am in rush or short on time, sitting in traffic late for work or anticipating that already spent tax refund check, waiting for something can be miserable. No argument here but there are times that I find a nice trapped wait refreshing and creative. Really!

I was at the used bookstore the other day with a couple of boxes full to sell. I never leave the place without feeling ripped off but as insulting as their minuscule offer always is compared to what I think they are worth, it is always more than just giving them away. What other options do I have?  I can’t throw out a book without getting a 1984 –esque government manipulation wave of guilt. It’s printed damn words and even if it is bad printed damn words you can’t destroy a book. That’s right kids, in my brain if I don’t sell these books for pennies on the dollar verse what I paid, ISIS wins. I should go digital; I’ve never heard of Kindle and Nook burning yet. “WATCH OUT! MIND CONTROLLING GOVERNMENT GOONS ARE GOING TO PUMMEL THAT DAN DORK AND THEY HAVE GIANT COMPUTER TABLET HARD DRIVE ERASING MAGNETS WITH THEM!!!”

I had blocked out some time in my schedule to sell the books so I did not have to be anywhere or do anything else. I casually strolled around the store waiting for them to price my books. Surrounded by all those pages of words and pictures on every topic in the world, my mind started wandering like a nomad on the Appalachian Trail. I write this blog to have some creativity in my life and just letting my head go where it wants to is refreshing and enjoyable. It hit me just how much I was enjoying my wait.

I am visiting two of my closest old friends soon and like with a lot of fun things, the anticipation or wait is half the fun. In my old life as a traveling consultant I never let myself build up excited anticipation for a trip or event because I constantly had to cancel plans due to always being on-call for work. The letdown was not worth the joy of the wait so I trained myself to not look forward to stuff until I was physically on my way there. Nowadays my lifestyle allows me the simple pleasure of waiting.

Back then I had blocks of time off so it was much easier for me to wait for a car repair versus leaving it and finding someone to help me pick it up later. I would roam around carless and careless usually finding a nearby unknown place for coffee or breakfast.  Then I would just walk and think. I had no choice. When options and distractions are removed, my brain is free to play.

The wait became a little gift to my brain; some unplanned off time to mentally go where ever it wants. I’m usually too busy or all scheduled up to have a nice pleasant wait anymore. I think that is why I have grown to love long plane flights. There is no guilt about not getting something else done besides just the fun waiting to get there.

There is a brief scene in Sid And Nancy when a nervous narcissist singer is anxiously waiting in the back of a limo for Nancy. He sits clinching his fists and slowly exclaims “I hate… to wait”  I could not disagree with him more.  So yeah, add that I sometimes really enjoy waiting to the list of reasons you think I’m a Dan Dork, just don’t pummel me for it.

freddy mercury waiting for the parade

FREDDY MERCURY WAITING FOR THE PARADE

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I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. I FORGOT TO HAVE CHILDREN

I cant believe I forgot to have children.

For over twenty years I have had a framed copy of this print by Catherine Koetter hanging on one of my walls. Its humor is just twisted enough to consistently amuse me… but then again I’m easily amused. The same woman did a very similar Lichtenstien-esque style poster with a man whispering into a woman’s ear saying “Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy!!!” I don’t think that one would have entertained me for as long and I am sure somewhere along the way it would have really offended someone… like that has stopped me before.

Actually there was a little while last year that my lovely ‘hunk-o de arte’ was pulled off the wall and moved to the closet floor of the Lewbetorium, my friend Mike’s name for what previously had been known as the ‘room full of Dan’s crap that his wife made sure was farthest away from everything else in the house’ or what better could be described as a ‘man-cave without enough testosterone’. During that same visit that Mike also switched the ‘I forgot to have children’ piece with what he claimed was the much better (more testosteroney) option, my framed personalized autographed picture of Bernadette Peters. I found it hard to argue.

I am pretty sure that the deal I made with my wife concerning Bernadette Peters is still in place. Even though she is 69 years old now, I’m still comfortable with my choice. And yes, if you have to ask what deal?… well… then you either really don’t know my tastes or realize just how goofy my Wife and I can be.

I guess there is some ironic humor to the fact that I do not recall where or when I got that “I forgot to have children’ picture. I might not have my driver’s license and cell phone numbers committed to memory but I usually can recall ridiculous things like where I purchased a picture that has spent decades on my walls.

For all my frustrating short term memory woes, I do have a keen ability to remember useless factoids like what Washington Court House Ohio junk store I bought my bust of Elvis lamp at in the 80s, the Ft Lauderdale record shop I visited while skipping class in High school where I first discovered the somewhat shady world of Beatles bootleg record albums and the first time I played the Game Of Life (see last week’s blog), but for some reason the memory of where I got that damn picture did not glue itself to the bottom of some stray hippocampal cell hanging out on a dingy grey side street in my cerebral cortex.

I think part of the reason I find that picture funny is that I don’t have kids and never really planned to have any. When discussing it, I used to sloppily drag my fat butt onto my rickety high horse and preach that ‘having children is unimportant to me but if I married someone that wanted children, I think I could be a really good Dad’. In hind sight, I don’t think ‘because someone else wants to’ is really the best reason to reproduce; that attitude has caused a lot of unhappy emotionally dysfunctional people to be walking the planet.

Clearly, just because you COULD, does not mean you SHOULD. I mean, following that same logic that most people use about having kids, I COULD run outside in a lightning storm wearing nothing but aluminum foil underwear  waving metal rods in the air but that does not mean I SHOULD.  Since I have always been very indifferent about it, I think it is good I did not have children.

I’m sure there is some truth to my old Dan logic and if a little Mini Dan had popped out along the way I’d like to think I could have rose (or daffodil) to the occasion and not raised too scary a mutant, but at this point as I climb the stairway farther into my 50s I likely will never find out and I am very comfortable with that. Especially since my wife considers the sound of most babies comparable to nails on a chalkboard and often describes being around them as birth control.  Yes, she is kidding. Yes she is exaggerating. Yes she is just being a goofball … kinda.

My wife is actually very good with children. She won’t admit it but I’ve witnessed it with my own eyeballs when someone plops their kid into her arms. When people hand me their babies, I look about as comfortable as if someone handed me a dozen live hand grenades wrapped around a jam-packed diaper genie.

Folks with babies always seem to feel the need to shove them into other people’s hands. I’m not sure if it’s so they can get a little break or if the assumption everyone else on the planet wants to hold your kid is part of the same oblivious delusion that sets into new parents causing them to believe their spawn is brighter, better looking and more talented than every other kid in the universe. I’m not a math whiz, but apparently I’m better than most pediatricians because it seems 99% of the parents I know have been told their kid is in the top 10 percentile.  I’m still waiting to see the bumper sticker that reads “my kid is happily average”.

Just like me, child rearing has never been important to my wife. She told me very early in our relationship that she had her fill of babies and small children when she was a lifeguard and swim instructor many years ago. I’m sure she has some other deep seeded  reasons for her lack of desire to reproduce but I try not to prod and pry too much; I’m not a psychologist and I sure as hell don’t want to go all typical male ‘guy fix-it mode’ on her brain. That crap never works out well. Besides, if I’m too pushy she might rescind our Bernadette Peters’ deal.

Years ago some friends of my parents told me I was very selfish for not having children. They were not able to have kids themselves and told me that anyone with a good head on their shoulder that physically can reproduce must do so. I understood their unique prospective, especially not having a choice during the era where everyone around them was pushing out those bazillion Baby Boomers and defining their purpose of existence through their children,  but I find it even more selfish to have children for the wrong reasons.

Yes my Wife and I are good, happy and content being childless. We constantly communicate and run things by each other. Like just now; I was afraid to mention our goofy little Bernadette Peters deal here, so I asked if its okay to publicly print it. I do that out of respect and not wanting to sleep in the proverbial dog house or physical couch… which in 14 years I never have done.  When I brought it up to her, she said I could even mention the other half of our deal which involved her and Vince Vaughn. She continued ‘ your choice might be getting old but my dream got ruined. He recently had kids.’

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MORTALITY IS A DEADLY SUBJECT or ARE WE WHERE YET?

It is not wise to ignore death yet I think it is worse to become obsessed with it. Oddly enough my own death has never really scared me. It’s easier when you have not reproduced but I guess that alone isn’t a good reason not to spawn. I might lay in bed awake worrying about a whole lot of crap but it’s not usually due to a fear of a hooded dude with a scythe knockin’ on my door dispassionately asking ‘may I help the next in line’ like an ennui-laden pimply-faced teen taking orders at a two traffic light town Dairy Queen.

The death of family members, friends or the Wife spooks me a hell of a lot more than my own inevitable demise. If I’m here, I want you all stuck here with me. I don’t wanna play the game of Life alone. Moving a peg-less little plastic colored car around the three-dimensional board without any competitors can get miserably boring real fast.

Look, I certainly am not proposing one of those Jonestown mass poisoned Kool-Aid lets all go together because the Heaven’s Gate spaceship behind the comet is coming for us deal-e-o things. So somebody is going first.  I know it’s not fair to y’all for me to shuffle off this mortal coil before you, selfish or not, you can theoretically see the pain and unhappiness I would avoid if everyone outlives me just a little bit. Besides, if you need a Dan fix while I’m busy dancing off into the eternal void of non-existence, you got over 10 years of blogs to reread or you can dig out Killer Pasta From Hell and the Josh Tape to remind you of what a goofus I was.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m talking about the distant future here. I plan on hanging around for a while and when my number is called by the pearly gates ticket taker, I’m going kicking and screaming like the pushy old ladies at the deli counter who as soon as it’s their turn take forever adamantly demanding samples, paper thin slices and extra lean cuts from the back room. I know there is no way around it, death will happen and death sucks!

I understand why so many religions put so much emphasis on the afterlife. It makes the pain of losing loved ones a lot more bearable if you believe you will meet up again in another plateau of existence. Personally I love the idea of sitting my ass down in the heavenly clouds with the cherished ones I’ve lost to play an eternal Game Of Life or maybe Monopoly since that already takes an eternity. Of course if something like that actually does happen, I’m counting on souls not feeling the need to cheat and slip cash out of the bank. I hate dead angel cheaters.

Unfortunately it is human nature to push things too far. There have always been people that have found a way to rationalize killing.  These days you got misguided folks blowing themselves and others up because they think it will earn them a shortcut ahead of the rest of us to big rewards in Existence Mach II. Personally I don’t think that will work but I would also like to see the idiot that cuts off everyone else at the busy highway exit merge not get ahead of the rest of us patiently waiting our turn. Unfortunately I can’t stop either from happening.

Look I’m not mocking anyone’s faith; I have my own beliefs that work for me and help me get through my life.  I’m just an average guy muddling through my days on the planet and I know I have no inside information on what the ultimate right or wrong is. What I am sure of is that I have no guaranties about if or what is next. The other thing I know for sure is that everyone will eventually die and that fact sucks. Like I said, death sucks.

The first time I ever played The Game Of Life was at a friend’s condo back when I was in High School. Around that time is when that friend’s Mom passed away. The only real death experience that punky little Dan had prior to that was with the family dog and the recent passing of my Grandmother.  My folks took that second one real hard and I saw how it changed them. It was an important lesson. In typical Dan form I told my friend “I’m not good with death but if you need anything at all, I’ll find someone that can help.”  Also in my attempts to cheer her up, I said “no one should be without a Mom, so from here on I will be your Mother.”  I still get the occasional Mother’s Day card from her.

Oddly enough, I have been bracing myself for my folks passing ever since. I am happy to say 35 years later they are still making me wait. I learned a lot about death from my friend. She told me years later that she still talks to her Mom every day. It helped me understand that line about keeping someone alive as long their memory is in your heart. For me personally, I think that lesson is more important than all of the religion based stuff I have learned about death.

I heard this weekend that another old High School friend’s Mom just passed away. I have not seen her in a couple of decades but I clearly remember her effervescent personality. From my disconnected vantage point it is easy to see how her spirit lives on in the spunk and vitality of her children.  That said, she is still gone and the world has one less ‘vivrant’ spirit.  I assume it is the age I have hit but there just seems to be a lot of death around me lately. I guess from here on out that will only get worse. My folks feel it is the biggest curse of growing old.

I am trying to put a positive spin to all this in my head and use it as a reminder of how precious life is. How I have to live and do and experience to the fullest. Then I read more and more about all the senseless killing in the news lately and the two don’t match. Needlessly throwing away lives makes no sense to me. Death is bad enough when it naturally hits. No matter how many nights I stay awake trying to make sense of my world, I realize I’m not that different from the caveman trying to figure out how to climb onto a cloud to see beyond the hill where the sun sleeps at night. I don’t think it matters how many times I play The Game Of Life, I have no answers.

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