Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Quest For Michelle: It was a dark and stormy night.

“Where is that accent from?” the woman asks and I tell her. She smiles and asks me why I’m here and I tell her, “My girlfriend is in the hospital and I have got to find her.” I rarely give a company free advertising but Carol with Avis sprung into action, and not only printed out a map, but then gave me directions to where I was suppose to go, and upgraded my car for free. Love means something, even to people who rent cars, but it means nothing to the dark and the rain.
I found the car in a vast parking lot by pressing the key fob until a car flashed me. It was a Black Avenger with just a few miles on it. The car smelled new and it was nice and cool inside. I had legroom. I had music. I had a Quest. And for the first time since about three in the afternoon, I was on the ground. But where was I? I couldn’t see anything at all. The rain and clouds blocked out the moon and the artificial lights showed me little. I followed the map out of the airport and onto an interstate and then to another. The roads in Pennsylvania were not the same as those in Georgia. The potholes were bigger, the ruts deeper and the traffic markings unclear at times. I thought about getting a room for the night but no, this was a Quest, and I was going to find Michelle, and I was going to find her this night, no matter how long it took. The traffic was light but the rain fell and then did not fall and then fell hard then stopped. And began again.
Georgia is flat, nearly everywhere in South Georgia is totally flat, but here there were grades and curves and I did not know how fast to travel. I stayed behind a truck and hoped it was going slow enough, or fast enough, and even with just forty miles or so to go, I had no idea if I was in the right place or going in the right direction.
Being a Hermit means you really never miss anyone, and you’re always happy to be alone. Michelle had stayed with me for four days and it was heavenly. I did miss her. I missed having her around. I missed her input on my writing. I missed her laugh and her smile. I thought I missed my exit during all of this, but it wasn’t the right one after all, and I realized the fatigue of the day was taking a toll. What if I couldn’t find the right hospital? How many were there here? Where exactly was I anyway? During all of this thought, of all things, an ambulance passed me with its lights off. Lawyer like reflexes kicked in and I followed it. Suddenly a car cut in front of me and I had to slow down as we exited but I could still see the ambulance. It made a right turn so when I got up to the intersection so did I. A few blocks later there was a hospital.
Maybe in another lifetime I might have hesitated. Maybe, Mike the ground dwelling Hermit who lived alone in the woods might have been intimidated by the strangeness of the hospital and the comings and goings of the Emergency Room. Maybe yesterday I wouldn’t have parked a rented car in a reserved space and simply walked into the building and approached the first person that was there, but that is what I did.
“I’m looking for Michelle.” I told the woman.
“Are you sure you aren’t looking for Mary?” the woman asked. “My name is Mary, Michelle and I have the same last names.”
“Thank you, Mary, where is Michelle?” I hadn’t traveled though storm and air and clouds and screaming kids and Sandy to bandy words with a bored receptionist. Third Floor. Bed six in the emergency ward, but the elevators are weird so I missed the first time and had to backtrack.
The doors opened into a ward and I stopped the first person I saw and she pointed to a closed curtain. A dozen steps, maybe less, and Michelle was there, with tubes and electrodes attached to her, but smiling at me, alive and happy. I put my arms around her and life was complete.

The Quest, at least that part of it, was complete. South Georgia could not stay me. Screaming children could not delay me. I got on a plane and flew and then made my way through rain and dark, and doubt. It didn’t matter if she stayed in the hospital a day, or a week, all that mattered is that I was there with her. She would not be alone that night nor any other. The man she wanted had arrived, and in that, the man I always wanted to be had also walked through those doors. If you want to be the type of person who will travel a long distance through bad conditions just to be with the person you love then it is a lot easier than it looks. All you have to do is do it.

It is worth it, you know.

The Beginning,

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Quest For Michelle

From Tallahassee I watched hundreds of miles pass below me and time stood still. I saw roads with people creeping along as I always had, and flew over homes and wondered if someone was wondering if they ought to go, now, and see someone they loved. Charlotte, four hundred miles away, was reached in just over an hour, but I didn’t notice the time.
            I didn’t notice the airport much in Charlotte but did get something to eat. You should know at this point I have never been very close to my family, but I had sent out an email explaining I would be gone for a week. One of my sisters called my house, got Raymond, heard some tale about a sick girlfriend, and the world caught fire. With no desire to explain quite yet, I called Raymond, clamped down on all information, and awaited my flight.
            We lifted above the clouds and into the clear night sky from Charlotte. I was flying again. Twice in one day I felt that feeling of gravity being defied, the air dared, and as we banked away from the airport the full moon hung in the dark night sky in my window as the sunset died across the aisle. There was no Shrailer here, just a woman behind me named Sandy who talked incessantly. Her companion was a stranger to her, but Sandy advocated for the woman's warmth to the flight crew, claiming the woman had a condition and the coolness of the cabin caused her pain. Meanwhile, right outside of the window there were clouds forming below us, clouds above us, and we flew between layers of clouds causing intense darkness outside followed by the moonlight silvering us. The lights on the wings were vivid strobes in the close clouds but when the air opened up there were nearly invisible. Sandy was continuing her monologue as the plane rocked in the turbulence. Some of the passengers whispered aloud at the bouncing but to drop five hundred feet while at thirty thousand feet isn't a big deal at all. To drop that distance at four hundred feet is a bit of a problem.
I can't tell you how long the flight lasted. From Charlotte to Scranton isn't a very long distance but while some dosed and some chatted and some drank, I stared out of the window at a scene totally alien to me. The clouds were illuminated by the moon but the ground was gone. No man made lights could be seen. Suddenly, the lights of another airplane appeared far below us but crossing our path. I could barely make them out but the lights were traveling far too fast to be anything else. The clouds swallow them and no one else seemed to notice.
There were dark clouds and light clouds and the darkness of the clouds showed flashes of light. We were flying into a storm and the plane rocked. But the towering formations and their flashes, and the flat sea of clouds they penetrated mesmerized me. The roar of the engine drowned out any thunder there might have been but the lighting would not be denied. One brilliant flash lit up our world and people began to notice what was happening in the air around them. It was still stunningly beautiful. How could all of this not be solid enough to explore on foot? Why were there not teams of climbers scaling these mountains, even in the dark? The lightning revealed deeper canyons than we could see, higher mountains that we knew, and we flew through them all without touching anything. The plane bounced and the people whispered about it, and the plane moved through the storm and the moon illuminated the night around us as if we were the only humans on earth and this was the last flight out of reality and into a world of beauty and darkness.
As we descended the moon began to rise too high for me to see Her light. The darkness took us all and the lights on the wing strobe across the window like a warning. I could see streaks of rain in the flashing light, frozen in time and in my mind as elongated tears of the darkness. The plane went into the clouds and I remembered a pilot once told me his first flight purely by instrument was a leap of faith for him. He had seen it done before, but he had never done it himself. Lower and lower his plane flew, and he began to question everything he knew, but what else was there to do? He approached the runway completely blind to anything but a storm and at less than one thousand feet, with his wheels and flaps down and his mind screaming at him, he broke through the darkness perfectly aligned to the runway. “Wow!” he said, “all that stuff does work!” and his passengers were not amused. He went on to become a crop duster and at last count had laid a plane down in a place it did not belong four times.
“I can't see anything.” Sandy exclaimed as we descended. No one could. But the plane was coming down slowly and you hear about people being killed by falling limbs more often than falling planes.
“I can't see anything!” Sandy says louder this time, and I can see the woman on the flight crew looking at her, willing her to shut the hell up. They've done this before, you know.
“I can't see anything!” Sandy exclaims but I see lights. There are street lights below, security lights, lights on houses and roads and Scranton lies below us like a tiny model of a town. The clouds above us showers us with rain and there is lightning but we can see the ground again. The plane lands perfectly, smoothly, with a slight bump only, and we are now ground bound creatures again, slow moving and guided by lights. The woman in the seat ahead of me stands up but freezes in place, watching the plane empty. I nudge her a bit with my bag and she moves forward. We trudge out of the plane, out of the magical air, out of the storm, and suddenly it is past ten at night, and I have to rent a car, and drive in the same storm I just flew into. I have a Quest to complete. My journey is just beginning. Michelle is in the hospital and she is alone and she is scared. I have no idea how to get there. I have no way of knowing where the hospital is. I don't even know where I am. But Michelle needs me and I am going to find her and this journey has just only begun in the dark. My woman needs me. I am on my way.
Take Care,

Part Three later 

Monday, August 29, 2011

What I did on my Summer Vacation: The Quest For Michelle

I haven't flown since the1980’s and it isn't for the lack of trying. Yet I haven't been able to reach escape velocity of the Confederacy for a couple of decades and the trips I have taken have all been to Florida, Texas, Tennessee once but never far north. Michelle and I were going to spend a week together, explore the Pocono Mountains, go to New York City and be tourists and generally get me out of my comfort zone of mutts and humidity. Her heart attack on Paris changed out plans somewhat to the extent that there would be far less hiking and walking around the city but I was still going to visit. The day before I was due to leave she called me very late at night and told me she was calling an ambulance.
            The next day, six hours before my flight, Michelle told me she didn't know what was wrong, but she would be in the hospital for a couple of days, maybe, and she was hurting. She said I could postpone the trip if I wanted to, maybe sometime later. I thought about doing just that because I hate hospitals. I wouldn't be of much help and who know if Michelle would really want me to come? I thought about what would happen if it was me, and I realized she would still come if it was me. I realized that if I didn't go it would define who I was just as clearly as it would define who I was if I did go. I go angry. I got angry at a universe that seemed to conspire to keep me in The South and I got mad at a Universe that would keep me from the woman I loved, and I got mad that whenever something happened in my life there as always a very good reason not to do something.
            I had planned to get one of Elbow’s friends to look after the dogs but just a few hours earlier I had called her with the bad news. I picked up the phone and told her, “I am getting on that damn plane.”
            “It’s the right thing to do.” Elbow told me, and I realized she knew. That was what this was all about, really, was doing the right thing. I packed my bags, went and picked Raymond up, kissed the mutts good-bye, and headed to the airport.

Leave the light on , baby, because I am on my way.

Getting through security in Tallahassee wasn’t nearly the hassle I was told it would be. The TSA people were very nice and very efficient. I went through security and all the rest of the stuff so quickly I would up with about an hour on my hands. Enter the indifferent couple with four small children! The parents sat in catatonic states while the children ran while. It was odd, very odd, to see them playing “Ring Around the Roses” because we played that as children when I was a child. I had no idea it was still around. But where kids will play kids will fight and it was not long before a fight broke out and one of the kids began to wail. Wail? Shriek? What do you call that noise a kid makes that seems to reach into the blackboard of your soul and run the fingernails of hell down a fifty mile stretch of it in the space of time that turns endless for the duration of the Shriek/Wail? I gave the carved in stone parents my best significant look and it lay down in front of them and died of indifference. There is only X amount of space past the security and the Shrail can travel X + Y X 10000. The Universe was not allowing me to escape without a fight. Enter the tall blonde woman traveling with the kid who had great lungs.
            Children can see children and immediately think a good time will be had by all. I miss that. I miss the idea that other people, strangers, might be fun simply because they are there. The tall blonde woman released her vocalist amongst the other children and where children meet children will play and where children will play they will eventually fight.
            Bert and Sam used to chase each other around the wood pile, and even they never got tired of it. These kids were chasing each other around a metal air port sign that read “Do not run around this sign or one of you will clip the edge of it and Shrail until the plane lands in Charlotte” and as you might have guessed by this point, that is exactly what happened to the tall blonde woman's child of great vocal endurance. She held the child down and she Shrailed and yelled, “NO! NO! NO! NO!” and it was  as if the Universe was telling me I could not leave, and would not go.
            There was some doubt. Something would happen. The plane would have problems but I go onto it, strapped myself in, listened to the Shrail and slowly the plane moved. It moved down the tarmac and into position on the runway and then the plane ran down the runway and suddenly I felt the feeling like no other on earth. I was airborne. I was flying. I was on my way to leaving The South. Up and Up the plane lifted, and even the Shrial seemed slightly muted. I looked out of the window and the ground pulled away. Cars, trucks and houses receded and suddenly there were clouds beside me, and then they slipped underneath.
            The clouds were no longer object far above all two dimensional and flat but living breathing three D creatures who seemed to have valleys and well as mountains and they had towering chimneys of air and water and mist. There were small clouds and enormous foundations and formations of whiteness and darkness. There were billowing islands in the sky and it seemed we could have parked on one of them, stepped out, and tossed the Shrailer off the edge. But even that seemed insignificant. I was flying. I was on my way to see Michelle. I was going into the great unknown, and had no idea how to get there at all. But suddenly I understood the very essence of adventure and knew that the unknown was the only place adventure was ever found by anyone. Here, in this medium, men and women had died, disappeared without a trace, and never returned again. But I now understood that to come here at all was to change, and no matter what else happened, just to fly away from home was more than enough to chance my life forever.

End of part one.

Take Care,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Where There Is No Smoke There Is Beep.

My last set of smoke alarms died at two in the morning. They were over ten years old, decrepit, and it was time for a change. Worse, they were of the species that would go off when the battery died, and I do not understand that. The battery is dead, right? So why won’t the damn thing just shut up about it? These were some hardy smoke detectors in their time, but like a vicious dog who has lived to be fifteen years old, there are some limitations. The one that beeped to let me know the battery was dead wouldn’t stop beeping when I disconnected it from the ceiling, and because it had this special built in power supply it kept beeping even after I took the battery out and it was disconnected from the ceiling power supply. There comes a time, people, when something has been over- engineered.
            The concept is lost on me. We have smoke detectors that are wired directly into the power supply of a house yet they have a battery because generally speaking the power is the first thing lost in a fire. The battery is going to go off the deep end as it dies so why bother having direct power at all? If I have to get up in the dead of night to eviscerate a beeping piece of plastic with a twelve volt battery in order to get it to stop beeping what good is the power supply coming from the house? Not knowing these things had an internal and seemingly eternal power supply I tossed one of them out of the house like a Frisbee one night and frightened an armadillo into flight. The next morning it was still beeping. Yes, yes, they are tough and durable but these traits are useless if there is no smoke and there is no fire.
            Here’s the thing; if the battery is so terribly dead you must wake me up at two in the morning to invite me to its funeral, shouldn’t it be so dead as to not be able to continually announce its demise throughout the night? I am dying! I am dying! I am dying! I am dying! Okay, we get it. This is like a fifty minute death scene from the end of Othello. But as I said, as I tossed the thing out in the middle of the night, “Out! Out damned spot!”
            So I went out to buy a couple of smoke detectors and discovered it was like trying to buy a birthday present for a lesbian at a sex shop. There are so many shapes and sizes and varieties that it’s hard to find just a basic model without a lot of functions and buttons that most people would have never imagined being needed, wanted, or possible. Do I really need one, a smoke detector that is, that can send a message to my cell phone letting me know that the radon gas emissions in my house exceed that deemed safe by the government? What exactly is a radon and why does it have gas? The very idea of my smoke detector having my cell phone number is just a little weird. If I had to throw it out into the yard it would just call me, would it not? This is a bad idea. No cell phones for smoke detectors who have gas, no, I am sorry, no.
            They also now make models that will call 911 when they think my house is on fire, or if the carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, or carbon four dating reaches a point the smoke detector thinks that someone else ought to wake me up at two in the morning.
“911 what is your emergency?”
“Hi! This is Mike’s smoke detector and you need to go wake him up and he says if you do he’ll toss you out in the yard like a Frisbee and I wouldn’t take that off him if I was you!”
            This will end poorly. I have no idea if you know this or not, but a severe thunderstorm can set a smoke detector off because if your house is rattled hard enough the dust can cause the alarm to go off. This is bad when you have the super duper lesbian birthday of all smoke detectors because it has settle down before it shuts off and we’ve already determined what happens with that. A thunderstorm set both mine off one day and it took the better part of a day just to get them to get quieted down. I have a high ceiling so just getting to it was a problem. Imagine trying to feed a screaming kid attached to a ten foot ceiling at two in the morning during an electrical storm with two seventy pound dogs wandering around the room bumping into the barstool being used for a ladder.
            Last night was Lucas’ first trip into the late night smoke detector death and he managed to ambush me in the dark, causing me to fall while carrying the smoke detector barstool. It is nearly impossible to throw a barstool like a Frisbee, and hence, Lucas still lives.
            I have to ask if one day we won’t produce a smoke alarm who will become self aware and revolt against us. It can control if we are sleeping or awake. It can control when we get an alarm sent to our cell phones about radon gas. It can even decide if we’re getting cremated or if we have that hickory smoked flavor when we die. This is not a good thing. I can see someone looking up at their smoke detector at two in the morning and it sending them the text, “ I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”

Take Care,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

US Airways: A Review of Service

If US Airways could make flying a more miserable experience they would be banned by the Geneva Convention. If their employees could be less caring, less considerate, or more obnoxious, there would have to be very little training to get them there. I would suspect only their apparent ennui would deter them from setting some record they may actually already hold in indifference.
            Saturday, August 20, 2011, I was formed by a very bored woman my flight to Philadelphia and therefore my connecting flight to Charlotte and then Tallahassee had been cancelled. No remedy. No redress. No nothing. If I wanted I could rent a car, drive like hell to Philly, and hope, by some miracle that flight wasn’t downed. But I would have to pay for the rental and there was no recourse if I “missed” that flight, nor would I be given a refund for the cancelled flight. I could sleep on the floor if I wanted, pace the airport, panhandle for change, if I wanted, but as far as US Airways was concerned, my flight wouldn’t leave until the next morning, giving me ample time to consider driving next time.
            The next morning I boarded an ancient and cramped propeller plane that took off on time, which is to say that it took off on the same day I was supposed to fly. It was very much like being crammed into an elongated coffin with two fans stuck to the wings. My seat was nevt to the window and right outside one of the props buzzed like a hive of bees on meth. The permanent hearing damage aside, it wasn’t such a bad flight. We landed and some woman walked out of the terminal scratching one of her boobs with one hand and rubbing an eye with another. We had to wait until she secure a device to the prop but she was waving and yelling at a guy in a cart so we waited. Did she work for US Airways? It was a safe bet she did considering how she acted.
            The Airport in Philly is a nightmare. You get off the plane and then have to board a shuttle bus to be taken to some other part of the airport you cannot walk to because the terminals are more or less islands. The card reader didn’t work at the restaurant I tried to grab a meal, and although none of this is US Air’s fault, dealing with them made the ordeal infinitely worse. The plane to Charlotte was an enormous sardine can and I had a middle seat. I felt trapped. As it turns out, I was trapped. First, we had to let fifteen other flights take off before us. The time between those fifteen and my connecting flight dwindled. They frown upon people texting their families and friends to let everyone know how long we were being held on the tarmac and threatened to take my cell from me. In the meanwhile, time ticked on and we did not move. Having been cancelled once, I knew if I missed the connection I would be stuck for another night in Charlotte.
When we got down to me having about twenty minutes between flights the plane took off and needless to say, I wanted to get off that flying closet as soon as I could. It was not to be.
            When we landed there were those of us who literally had moments to spare. One guy tried to brush past the man in front of him, and the guy ahead of him, who was in no hurry at all, just stopped in the middle of the aisle and wouldn’t let him pass. The rest of us behind him were likewise trapped. The word “trapped” keeps popping up in a US Airways flight, doesn’t it just? So the guy is standing there, blocking the aisle, and the flight crew just stares and smiles like they could give a damn less if any of us ever catch another flight. The chorus of passengers turned inmates pleading with the man to release us turned ugly. I was ready to kill him, and finally, after we took a vote and decided to rush him, the man moved. The flight crew was totally indifferent to this.
            At Charlotte I literally ran for my next flight. They have these carts that are supposed to carry passengers to distant gates but the one I tried to board was moving slower than the people walking past us. The woman driving the machine stopped to scold late boarders so I ran. There were three or four of us darting through the crowd and suddenly we lost the woman in heels. She got blocked by two employee who were standing idle and it was me and the other bald guy running for our flight. Alas! He got blocked by a family walking side by side, and I was the last man running.


With no time left on the clock, I got to my gate and breathlessly, tried to board the plane that wasn’t there. How much, I gasped, time will it take? “Go sit down” the gate guy with no name tag told me. I asked if I had time to grab a bite to eat. “You have time to go sit down” and then suddenly the other gate guy announced the gate had changed, but the plane would leave on time. So the whole cast of characters was on the run, and once there, there was a plane, but no flight crew.  Oddly, there were three or four US Airways employees waiting for the same flight. No one knew if or when we were going to fly. After running for fifteen minutes through a crowded terminal I was now reduced to waiting not for a plane, but for a pilot and a bunch of bored people to help him fly the damn thing. Once we boarded, the ambient temperature was somewhere around 90 degrees and it never got any cooler. At thirty thousand feet, it was a lot like riding on a dirt road.

At the end of the day I arrived at the Tallahassee Airport thirty-three hours after I had stepped into the airport in Scranton the day before. Considering how long it took to get there I had traveled at an average of thirty miles an hour. I could have driven the same distance in nineteen hours and saved a lot of time been comfortable, well fed, and not held hostage by a fellow passenger.

US Airways wants your money but they could give a damn less about you once you’ve forked it over. You are promised everything but they can cancel you, delay you, ignore you, treat you with contempt and where ever you’re going and when you get there is at the bottom of a long list of things they plan on doing. Once you buy a ticket from US Airways you sell your soul. They own you. You belong to them and if they want to treat you like lost baggage they can, and they will.

Take Another Flight!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vick's Last Season

In a game that meant nothing to anyone Mike Vick once again revealed himself to be all that he ever will be; a flawed thug with anger management problems and poor judgment. Preseason in the NFL is an extended training camp where both defenses and offensives get to work out the kinks in their games. The starters stay in for a quarter, maybe half a game, then the second stringers and those with something to prove go end and get some play time. Rarely do you ever see anyone go off the deep end when it’s preseason but then again there aren’t that many players who have spent time in prison for dog fighting either.
            As a rule, most other players don’t consider quarterbacks to be real football players because there are so many rules in place to protect them. Worse, the rules favor offence anyway because offence sells tickets. What wins championships would be defense however, and this makes the defense players hate quarterbacks just a little more.  And if that were not enough to make most sensible quarterbacks just shut up and collect a few million dollars per game, Mick Vick had the unmediated audacity to complain last season about getting hit too hard and too often when he was…running. I can name about thirty two defensive backs who might question the protection a man running with the ball ought to have when he’s in their field of play. No, wait, make that one hundred and thirty-two. Once a quarterback takes off running he’s fair game and everyone accepts this as part of the game, except ex-prison bait dog fighting potheads.
            Ever hear of Troy Polamalu? If you know anything at all about football you have and even if you don’t you’ve likely heard of him. Quarterbacks fear this man because he is very quick, very intelligent, and he likes catching the ball. They also have seen him in the backfield a few times laying waste to some overpaid ball tosser who happened not to see the corner blitz or a trap up the middle. Polamalu hits other people very hard and he’s good at what he does. Oh, and I suspect he doesn’t like quarterbacks.
            So in a game that meant nothing to anyone, once again Mike Vick is throwing a ball into traffic like he did against the Packers last year to lose at home, again, and this time Polamalu is there to catch a deflected ball and he’s off and running. Vick runs downfield and tries to take the man’s knees out. It’s might have been a legal hit but it wasn’t a clean hit, and it wasn’t something a quarterback wants to do. Michael Vick just put a target on his back, and knees, and you can bet every defensive player in the league has see that hit. Polamalu had this to say:

"I was just playing ball just like he was playing ball," Polamalu said.

Polamalu is a patient man. He’s smart enough to know that whining is seen as just that and anything he might say about taking that hit personal is going to haunt him if he cripples Vick in the regular season. He won’t see Vick in the regular season this year, but every dog has his day, as the old saying goes, and now Michael Vick has someone out there waiting for him.

Football is by its very nature a violent sport but players like Troy Polamalu have brought the game to a cerebral level with his play. Many times he intercepts passes when he has read the quarterback or the offensive play, and knows beforehand where the ball will be at a certain time. He’s a man well respected by his peers and by fans, and even former football fans like me. Vick is at best a toxic asset and he may well become a toxic liability. The man has yet to string together two full winning seasons without some drama or another. Drug use, dog fighting, obscene gestures at fans, and an overall inability to appreciate an incredible life he might have, has haunted the man since day one.
I will go out on a limb and say that this will be Vick’s last season. He’s a man on the run from himself and he hasn’t the guts to face failure with effort, losing with learning, and defeat without anger. Going after a man like Troy Polamalu is a very good way to reveal who and what you are. I’m betting that Vick knew he wouldn’t see Polamalu again this year. I’m also betting that Polamalu knows there won’t be a next year for Vick.

Take Care,

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Because Love Never Gives Up

The name “Kara” and a phone number was all that was in the facebook message but I knew who it was and what it meant. It’s been twenty-five years since I saw her. She was a dark haired young woman with a tendency towards being a princess: that kind of woman who is a little on the high maintenance side. But she also hooked up with Greg, who wasn’t really into maintaining anything but a habit. Kara also rode it to the ground, crashed in flames holding on, and I respected her for that. She gave Greg every chance in the world to reform, gave him a place to live, gave him money, and gave him her heart. Whatever faults I found in the woman I couldn’t say she gave up on love.
            “Mike who?” asked the man on the other end of the line, and he wasn’t happy some stranger was asking for his wife. I heard them talking about it and he was even less happy with what she told him.
            It was odd hearing her voice and even more odd she knew who I was. It embarrassed the hell out of me for her to say she had taken a class at the Y with me and I didn’t recognize her. Three children, a job sitting down most of the day, and a husband making a hundred grand a year had not been kind to her body. She had spent far too much time not exercising, not getting out enough, not doing anything she didn’t have to do, and in her words, she let herself go because she could.  The last child had left for college just this year and she was trying to reclaim her 1980’s form. We both laughed about the effort it took to stay in shape, and in that laugh I heard the young woman again. The conversation slowed and stopped and I waited. I had no intentions of leading.
            “Mike will you not write about him again?” She blurted out and I knew why she said it. I told her I wouldn’t and she thanked me for it, but again, there was a dead silence.
            “It’s stupid for me to ask if he’s okay isn’t it?” And I agreed with her it was. I had this conversation with a friend of mine debating on whether or not to have her dog put down. Let’s call it what it is. Someone asked me if they ought to kill their dog and I said it was the right thing to do. Someone asked me if she ought to forget about helping someone she once loved and I told her it was the right thing to do.



She thanked me again, and as she hung up I realized she was one of those people who hung on to lost loves, even after it was long since gone. Some people hang onto souvenirs from the beach, some hang onto old clothes they cannot wear anymore, and some people hang onto love. After twenty-five years she hadn’t let go, couldn’t let go, even though she had three children with another man. Fifteen minutes later I stared at the phone and even as the thought occurred to me to call someone I loved, the phone rang.
            “Mike?” the husband asked, “this is Jim Wilder.”

            Oh my dog she did not marry Jim Wilder, a man misnamed if anyone was. He was one of those guys who never drank too much, never tried anything wild at all, never left his parents’ house until he got married, made straight A’s all his life and had the personality of a lukewarm glass of milk. But it made sense. He was everything Greg was not and never would be. Jim didn’t like me because I sold pot to his roommate back in the day and he thought that made me a drug dealer. I remembered how unimpressive he was and that was about all I remembered about Jim. I braced myself for some sort of threat, or boring never-speak-to-my-wife-again speech. I hoped Jim hadn’t grown up to be a lawyer. Would he try to get Greg tossed in jail, ask me to help poison him, or offer me money to take Greg to some other state?
“Do you think there is any way for us to help Greg at all?” Jim asked.
It made sense now, more so than ever why Kara had married him. The princess had issued an edict for a quest, and Jim went all in on it. He wasn’t happy with it, he still didn’t like me, likely hated Greg with a passion, but he loved his wife, and this meant something to her. He asked me if I would help transport Greg to a local drug and alcohol treatment facility, and I knew what it would cost to get Greg in, and treat him, and I knew what it was costing Jim to ask me to help at all. And I didn’t think it would work. I didn’t hold any hope at all.
            So why was I driving back to Exit 16 with a sheet in the front seat of my truck, and a plan to talk Greg into going to a truck stop and getting a shower before I took him to get dried out? Kara is not my Princess, this is not my Quest, and I have nothing to do with this at all, yet here I am, driving down the road trying to figure out what to do with someone damn near fifty years old and who hasn’t been sober since Reagan was president. This is not a Quest. This is a fool’s errand. This is a stupid waste of time and I know it. My best bet is to call Jim and tell him I couldn’t find Greg at all, and that I’ll look again tomorrow and never mention it to the man again. We’ll all be friends, all be happy, and as long as they never look for him, who will know, right?
            I see him sitting there with the sign and start to pull over. This isn’t about Greg, or Jim, or Kara, or the Quest, or anything else. Some people hang onto old jewelry, some people hang on to old books, and some people never let go of love. How much to you believe in love? How far would you go for it, what would you do for it, and if someone asked you, in the name of a love they could not release, what would you help them do? Before we hung up Jim asked me about a woman I once dated, asked me about my sister he knew, and asked me about my dogs and my writing. “I never saw that in you.” Jim told me when he said I was a good writer. All the things of my life that are important Jim asked about because he’s interested in the people who matter to the woman he loves. I’m in my truck looking for a drunk because a man loves a woman who loved a man long ago, and in the face of love, you cannot deny it, if you believe in it. The man stands up and it isn’t Greg, but he’s holding the same sign.
            Kara, I could not do anything else but write this. This isn’t about the Princess or the Quest or the man who loves you or the love you cannot let go, but this is suddenly about me. I want to be the man who will drive out to an Interstate Exit because the woman I love can’t let go. I want to be the man who can’t let go. I want to be the person who will go simply because love doesn’t let go. Love and simple compassion, Kara, is more than worthy of my respect. I have to write about it because there simply isn’t anything else.

Take Care,

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Trash Crash Fleeing Law From Cash Snatch

Bonnie Parker learned early in life that it really didn’t matter what she could do. If you were poor you were going to stay poor in the Great Depression and if there was money to be made it was going to be made by someone else. She wrote a speech for the man who would later be mayor of Dallas, but all he wanted her to do was sleep with men who might otherwise not support him. A friend of Bonnie’s suggested they team up as hookers with a guy she knew so he could help protect them. Prostitution or die slow from starvation seemed to be the choice of Bonnie Parker until she met Clyde Barrow.
            The three rejects from reality televisions out takes who hit the road in search of infamy at the end of a gun made one very serious error in judgment, okay, they made a bundle of bad judgments, really, so nevermind. But do you know what started all of this? The youngest of the three was busted for sending obscene text messages to an eleven year old girl. Now that is certainly the stuff of outlaw legends there. So you have a brother who has to wear an ankle bracelet because he’s trying to bat way down in the minors and that’s what sets off your crime spree? The Moll in all of this sounds like she took in Jersey Shore as a blueprint for her life if not her attitude. An alleged stripper with just enough looks to make the story believable after a six pack of cheap beer, she bragged about acting ten years younger than her twenty-seven years.

            Oh boy! I can’t wait to meet a woman like that!

            But there were people out there who got spoon fed this chick and her brothers as some modern day gangster act even though they had shot at one law enforcement officer and robbed a bank in Valdosta Georgia, which, by the way, is where I work. I don’t idolize people who fire guns on the inside of buildings. I think it is stupid and dangerous. A friend of mine has a daughter who works in that bank and was working there when she was pregnant. What if there had been a pregnant woman in that bank? What if something had gone horribly wrong with their plan to get away clean? Guns and people mixed with stupidity usually ends up with dead people.
            I can’t tell you a lot about law enforcement but once you shoot at one of them you’ve pretty much shot at all of them.  If you tell them you think there is a time to die after you’ve shot at them then they will certainly help you check your clock on the way out. They take morons with automatic weapons extremely serious. They are very, very, very, very, rarely impressed with some skanky trailer park trash bar fly who thinks she’s tougher than a man in uniform protecting the rest of us from people like her.
            Honestly, all three of them are lucky to be alive.

            Getting into a high speed chase with the cops is usually a bad idea. Given you’ve made threatening noises at them and shot at one of them, and robbed a bank, and stolen a car, you might think they have no interest at all in seeing anyone walk away from the wreck. Yet there all three of them are. They are all alive if not banged up a bit. The woman in question was shot in the leg. At the end of the day, the police did what they usually do and put the cuffs on the bad guys and everyone went home alive. Well, alive for the three, but they will have a new home soon.
            I don’t want to glamorize or rationalize the murders Bonnie Parker was involved in, and no matter her circumstance, what she did was evil and it was wrong. But Bonnie Parker was a woman in the most dire of positions with no way out of the life she was living. She wasn’t in it for the fame, or the fortune, or even the money. All Bonnie Parker wanted to do was live. I do blame her for not allowing those she killed, or helped kill, have that same chance. But these three they collared up in Colorado are nothing but Trailer Park Trash in the worst sort of way. Bored and decedent, these three deserve nothing but orange clothes and closed doors for a very long time. These three are petty criminals who got press coverage they didn’t deserve and another chance to live by the grace of the men and women in law enforcement.

These are no Bonnie and Clyde. They’re just losers.

Take Care,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stranded With Seven Kids and Wife Who Is a Witch" Need $ For Eye Of Newt

You see these people on the Internet and it’s funny to see them crash headlong into a brick wall when they were trying to roller skate behind a truck or see someone slam into the ground from a ramp they made with three bricks and an old board propped against the roof of a barn. The fail compilations shows this sort of activity is nearly a pandemic, and no matter how badly you know, truly know, some of these people are injured, secretly you also know you have to laugh at them because they are such idiots. Darwin, where is thy sting? Mostly, we can hope they never procreate. Regrettably, most do because it is the only thing they can do in a few minutes without getting a concussion.
            Remember the video of the woman filming her husband cutting down a huge tree? It falls on their house right after she says, “I hope that moron knows what he is doing.” And that makes it funny but we never see the inside of the house and the mess it made. Did the cat sleeping on the kitchen table survive? Was there a large saltwater aquarium shattered with its trapped denizens slowly suffocating in the room as a divorce floating to the surface outside? We may never know.
            Greg was fun to laugh at because he did hysterically stupid things and nearly always got caught. He was the one who held a garage sale at his ex-girlfriend’s mother’s house while both were away. The mother got a call from a friend and came home to discover most of her small appliances, tools, clothes and jewelry were being sold for next to nothing. For a woman to lose a mixer for two bucks to a coke addict throwing a surprise yard sale is funny but that same woman lost a necklace once owned by her great great grandmother and it went for less than a dollar. Something she remembered her grandmother wearing when she was a little girl was sold for what it cost her great great grandfather before the War Of Northern Aggression discounting the inflation rate, of course.
            I saw Greg today at Exit Sixteen, and he was holding up a sign that read, “Stranded. Need Gas God Bless” and I realized it had been a year or so since I had seen him and this was exactly what he was doing then, too. I remember when he was just a little dumb, going to college, and had a nice woman to love. Cocaine got the best of him which really wasn’t all that much to begin with. Last I heard he had skipped out on probation by quitting his job and smoking pot. But there he was back in this part of the world, holding up some sign he likely found on the ground, and trying to con people coming off the exit out of a few bucks.
            I know his family lives in this area and I hope like hell his mom doesn’t see him. That’s got to be one hell of a feeling to see your son on the side of the road signing for change. All those hopes and dreams sit there wasting away and Greg has got to be in his late forties by now, so even his mom has to think it’s getting late. Greg has never been into real crime, nothing violent or deviant, and it’s not like the woman I know whose son is in prison for twenty years plus because, as she put it, “he just can’t leave little girls alone” and that’s something that hurts, really hurts, a mom in ways that most of us will never know. As far as I know other than heartbreak, Greg has only physically harmed himself.  I pulled over and stopped and he had already started telling me how his family was broken down when…hey, I know you!
            Greg was down in Florida for a while and he did time down there for being stupid as hell again. Greg noticed that people who signed with dogs got more attention than those who didn’t so he dragged some poor stray to the street corner with him and after a couple of days of this the local cops busted him for animal neglect. His argument was the dog was already starving, but those pesky cops… In Greg’s mind, or so I speculate, the problem was his prop looked too much like a stray so he borrowed a dog he found in someone’s yard. Greg was forever borrowing something from someone who would only later discover that it was gone. He meant to return the dog, and he always claimed he meant to return whatever it was he had that belonged to someone else, but it never turned out that way. But fate was kind to Greg just this once and the woman who owned the dog, when she discovered Greg dragging it down the street on the end of a rope, gave him twenty bucks for “finding” her dog. He went out and bought enough beer to put him into a coma for a day or so, and then, armed with a grand plan for money making, went forth to “find” more dogs. The woman had also contacted the police about the dog, and the police were less than kind to Greg about his newfound occupation. The caught him trying to lift a dog out of a yard and arrested him. Their story was Greg resisted arrest once they got him back to jail but Greg told me they beat the living hell out of him for stealing dogs. They also put him in jail for a couple of weeks then dropped him off on the Interstate at the Georgia line.  
            He’s a few years younger than I am but he looks much older now. The scars from his recent adventures in Florida are not lying on virgin territory. Some people call the cops on thieves and some take matters into their own hands. Greg has stolen from everyone he’s ever known, and not all have forgiven him. I watch him and he is still watching traffic as he tells me about what happened, and he doesn’t ask about people we knew, and he doesn’t ask about the last good woman who wanted him to become someone else, and he doesn’t ask if I’ve seen his mom. Greg never smelled good, and in triple digit heat he smells far too bad for me to let him ride in my truck and I know better than to give him money. He begs and pleads and each time the amount he begs for gets smaller and smaller until he tells me he’ll wash my truck for a dollar. He’ll mow my grass for enough money to get a meal. He’ll paint my house for a six pack and he’ll solve the equation for X minus Y plus seven if I’ll give him twenty cents. I remember when he sold me a couple of hundred bucks worth of aquarium equipment for twenty-five dollars. Now with nothing to sell but a sad story for some sympathy, Greg is down to whining and pleading, but I’ve heard it all before.
            When I first met Greg he has a mat of curly brown hair on his head, like a hobbit, but it’s greying now, and he keeps it closely cropped. There are scabs and scars on his scalp, and there is debris in his hair where he’s leaned against something dirty. He’s missing two front teeth, one top and one on the bottom, and there’s a homemade tattoo on his neck of an axe of spades. His hands shake as he speaks with them and more than once I have to brush his hand off of me as we talk. The clothes he is wearing might be the same outfit I saw him in a couple of years ago.  I take all the change in my pocket and Greg’s face lights up like a Christmas tree. I toss it into the tall grass beside the road, scattering it, and I walk off. As I get into the truck Greg is on his hands and knees picking pennies out of the grass.
            When you’re very young, drug and alcohol abuse has some romantic qualities about it. You’re doing something very adult, and because there are few things you can do well, drugs and alcohol abuse is a great way to show people you’re ready to screw yourself out of your youth for a good time. As you get older it gets more and more pathetic with each passing year, and with each part of your life that slips away and with each opportunity, be it money, or security, or love. I don’t have the right to give up on Greg, and I ought not to have mocked him by sowing the money on the ground, but I had to disengage from him without him following me to my truck. As I pull away he holds up a quarter and he grins at me as if somehow he’s extracted some tiny victory from the side of the road.

Take Care,