It’s been several years, and by several I mean like twenty. Yet, those mornings still stand out even though not one of those men is active in my life anymore. Once a week, usually a Thursday morning, we would meet at Burger King, order a sausage biscuit, hash rounds, and a strong, steaming cup of coffee. After getting settled into our window booth, the food opened up and the coffee tugging our eyelids awake, we would spend the next hour just talking. Our time wasn’t structured. There was never a topic. Most mornings we would just follow one tangent after another, chasing rabbit trails of our thoughts until another path appeared and then we’d take that one. However, quite a few mornings we would sit there, sip our coffee and unburden our hearts.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Women hug each other. They also go to the bathroom together, probably to talk about us, but above all, women are huggers. Happy. Sad. Coming or going. It doesn’t matter. They hug. Sometimes, they even give kisses on the cheek in conjunction with their hugs, but a hug is almost always guaranteed.
Men shake hands. True there are a few huggers out there, but those male embracers are quickly ratted out to other men who want no part of masculine arms wrapped around them for a tight squeeze. No, we are quite happy shaking hands with a firm grip and two quick, short pumps. To be honest, that’s about all most men can handle.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I have been accused in my life of being a snob. Several times it was my mother who made the accusation, while at other times it was the kid in need of a bath using his food stamps to purchase energy drinks. The words sometimes sting because, the truth is, I never saw myself as a snob. Since high school, I have always been the type to befriend the underdog because most of my life, I had been that very person. I’ve known what it felt like to have people gaze down on you with contempt because you simply didn’t measure up to their standards.
Monday, August 27, 2012
The party ended and the last guest stumbled to their car and drove away to their own bed anticipating a comfortable night’s sleep. The girls and I begin the task of taking in the empty dishes, abandoned cups, and wilted decorations. We begin the cleanup process, so we don’t have to wake up to a mess. It makes the night longer, but the day easier. Therefore, it’s worth it.
As I stand in the middle of our living room I breathe in deeply through my nose. The house is filled with a myriad of scents. A cheese dip that stayed in the crock pot just a little too long. Spicy wings. Beer. Scotch. My cigar intermingled with a few cigarettes. Sweat. However, above all the other smells that assault my nostrils one overpowers the rest and it’s this one I will fall asleep remembering. It’s the lingering aroma of friendship.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
“You really need to get rid of that shirt,” she said with that look that made me wonder if I had stepped in dog poo and was wearing it. I was wearing an old shirt with some witty coffee saying blasted across the front. There was a hole over one of my nipples and my underarms had sweated out the fabric that used to cover them once upon a time. The neckline and hem were frayed with surrendered strands dangling down. There were paint stains and grease stains covering most of it. I own a pair of jeans in about the same shape with most of the crotch missing.
“But it’s comfortable,” I pouted. “I’m just going to the back porch. Who is going to see me?”
“We will. Here let me get you another shirt.” And before I can escape to the cigar and coffee waiting for me on the back porch, I am completely redressed.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
“Wow. That really looks good, but it’s way more than I can eat. I’ll just have a bite of yours.” I had to admit what she wanted looked delicious. It was a double chocolate cake with a rich pudding middle and drizzled with thick chocolate syrup. I gained five pounds just by looking at it. However, it wasn’t the dessert I had been planning on ordering.
“Oh, what are you having?” Her voice had a disappointed tone. I had settled on a cherry smothered cheesecake with the syrup oozing off the sides and onto the plate. “Well, I’ll just have a bite of that then.”
I glanced down at the menu. The cheesecake wasn’t that big in the picture. “It looks too small for two people. If you want that chocolate dish, then get it, honey.”
“Oh, I couldn’t possibly eat all of that alone. I just wanted a bite of yours.” I had told her to go ahead and order her own, that it didn’t matter how much she ate. She couldn’t waste that much food, however, especially with starving kids in third world countries. I’m not sure what that had to do with anything, but parents have used it on children for decades, so it seems to be a conditioned response. My sharing a dessert wasn’t going to get food in someone’s stomach three time zones away.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
A friend of mine was giving away some fancy power tool the other day. To be honest, I don’t even remember what it was other than some type of saw. I think the word “bench” was in the name as well, but I could be mistaken. I usually am when it comes to tools. Anyway, I was about to say I’d take it, when the thought made even me laugh and I just kept my mouth shut. What would I ever need it for? I don’t build things and for the safety of my family I try never to repair anything, either. When something needs fixed, I call my friends.
Monday, August 20, 2012
“Bless you,” I said. I mean, I can be polite - sometimes. When someone sneezes that’s what you say. Bless you.
“Excuse me?” Char just stared at me as if I had two heads. It’s a look I’m used to from the girls. Obviously, I’m not as nice as I thought I was if Char wasn’t able to perceive my manners.
“Bless you. You sneezed, so I said, ‘Bless you.’ That’s what you say when people sneeze.”
“I know what people say, Robbie.” I’m used to the rolling of the eyes, as well. “I didn’t sneeze.”
“Yes, you did. I heard it. You two were discussing your outfits for tonight and you sneezed.”
“Oh for crying…I didn’t sneeze, Robbie. I said fuchsia.”
Saturday, August 18, 2012
While standing at the water cooler a lady is groped by a coworker as he passes by. Another is propositioned for a lunch break rendezvous while she is busy at her desk. A gentleman who has just finished working out hears a whistle and a call to “shake it.” However, that water cooler is really a water fountain in the middle of a crowded high school, the desk sits in the middle of a classroom, and that gym is actually a high school locker room. The aggressors aren’t coworkers or bosses looking for some extra perks. They are classmates. Furthermore, it’s not just kids teasing around with one another. It is sexual harassment and it happens every day of the school year.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
There are a lot of good teachers out there in our school system, both public and private. Sadly there are also quite a few bad ones. However, a great teacher is one who realizes that the ability to shape the future lies in their hands and they strive to make the most of it. It’s not in their lesson plans or even in the knowledge that they hope their students retain past the test that Friday. Thirteen years from kindergarten to graduation and what I remember is that I went to school ten months out of every year and that when taking a multiple choice test “All of the above” is usually the correct answer.
Okay, so maybe that’s not really fair. I do remember some things from those prison camp years. I know how to write, after all, and regardless of what my check ledger looks like I can do basic math. I don’t know a damn thing about chemistry, however. I tried in the beginning, but Mr. D really was not the best teacher. He even looked at one kid and told him that it was all right, “we need ditch diggers in America.” That’s not motivation; that’s demoralizing a teen. My dad went to see Mr. D when my sister had him and this tall man with one eyebrow that went across both eyes showed my dad his grade book.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Schools will always have certain personalities - the highly intellectual geek, the extra perky cheerleader and the lunch money stealing bully. I wasn’t any of the three even though I resembled the nerd at 98 pounds and thick glasses. Although I would have loved the affection of a perky cheerleader, it was the attention of the bullies I received. I can remember their names and cocky personalities as they never picked on anyone more than half their size and quite often I have visions of them dying a gruesome death in prison. This was one of the reasons I took up writing, so that my enemies could die the way I wanted them to. It was a great outlet that has paid off quite well.
School should be an exciting time in a child’s life. However, fear of facing a bully can make it the place he fears the most. I know, because I spent almost my entire ninth grade year hiding around corners and dreading physical education. Something was going to happen sooner or later and it was my goal for it to always be later. I never understood bullies or why it was funny to harass a kid half your size that wasn’t bothering you one bit. Yet, bullies have always existed and I don’t see them vanquishing the scene any time soon.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
School is back in full swing and the classrooms are packed to overflowing with rambunctious children. The teacher has an abundance of young minds eager to learn, papers to grade and lessons to plan. They are responsible for shaping these young minds for an unknown future and they need help. Parents need to be active in their kids’ school and be a volunteer that teachers can rely on. In order to do that, however, parents need to follow a few simple rules.
Monday, August 13, 2012
The house is peacefully quiet. The neighborhood streets are empty. There are no abandoned bicycles or scooters laying on their sides or basketballs left in the gutter. For a few hours a day I can drive without worry of munchkins darting out into the street or walk quietly without the screaming and yelling of “Tag! You’re it” when I’m not even playing.
Of course, all this peace and quiet comes with a couple of obstacles. Twice a day traffic creeps along at fifteen miles per hour in front of schools dotted along busy thoroughfares in order to protect small children and crossing guards alike. Sometimes police officers are staked out with their radar guns to catch the forgetful motorist.
Friday, August 10, 2012
That’s what Dylan, the seven-year old, asked me as she entered the house. “Are we going somewhere?”
I glanced down at my attire and wondered what she thought of my other clothes. I wasn’t wearing a tie or even shoes, for that matter, but I was “dressed up.” I always wear button down dress shirts, so that wasn’t it. The only difference in what I had on was that I was wearing slacks instead of jeans. Even my dress socks were normal!
“No, we’re not going anywhere. I have to finish a manuscript.”
She nodded. “Oh, well, you look nice.” And she ran off to her room to torture her Barbies.
“Thanks,” I said after her disappearing back. “I think.”
Thursday, August 9, 2012
I chuckled to myself this morning as I sat down to write this blog post because I had just gone through each of the steps that I was going to discuss. I couldn’t help it. I am truly a creature of habit. Of course, some will call them routines, rituals, or merely the boring traits of a middle-aged man stuck in his ways. That last one is partly true. I am middle-aged, but I’m not exactly stuck in my ways. It’s more as if I’m comfortable. Okay, very comfortable, but I’m not stuck. Stuck is what I am at night on the couch after two bowls of butter pecan ice cream and it’s time for bed. This is the real reason for those fat sofa pillows the girls keep buying to decorate the house with. It’s so I can simply roll over and go to sleep without moving.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
It’s usually the first question I get asked. Grant it, I get asked quite a few things when people find out I write, such as:
Have you been published?
Where do you get your ideas?
Can you write a story about me?
Do you walk around the house in your boxers all day?
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
I rewrite things to death. I fret over it, change it, lengthen it, shorten it, and then put it aside for a few months only to pull it out again and start the process all over. Until recently I have been a hoarder with my words. I know it’s fear. I’ve already written about it in Out of the Nest, but it’s more than just being afraid of people liking my writing. It’s a fear that it will look childish in its prose and grammar.
When it comes to the English language, I know I have several weak spots. For a writer this is a handicap to say the least. I study grammar books and browse advice columns and blogs and even follow several people on Twitter who tweet nothing except grammar rules and examples. I would love it if Word was perfect at catching all of this for me, but the software program and I still argue over fragment phrases and so I think it holds back on purpose.
Monday, August 6, 2012
This dream of being a writer started with the opening of a book when I was a tyke. It was the enjoyment I received of getting lost inside a story with characters that seemed to breathe real air. I read story after story when I was little - Dr. Seuss, The Bernstein Bears, as well as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew - and from there I took my Star Wars action figures and started acting out my own heroic tales of adventure along my bookshelves and window sills. Not being satisfied with acting out my stories, I soon began to scribble my imaginative ramblings down on paper and filled dozens of spiral notebooks with short stories and poems. Yet, it all started with opening a book.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
I am not a political person, and it took a lot for me to decide to stick my nose into the quagmire and make this post. I know I should probably be more involved, but I find the whole process reminiscent of a clown convention and even clowns after awhile become tedious. To be honest, I think government has grown beyond what it was ever intended for and, like my feelings toward the church, I believe they should practice what they preach. They don’t and I doubt they ever will, which is why stand up comics have so much material.
I am also of the mindset to live and let live. I don’t care how my neighbors live their lives as long as they keep their damn dogs out of my yard. I like to walk barefoot and I don’t need an early morning squishy surprise. You see, I don’t care if people go to church or not. I also don’t care if they are hetero or homosexual or if they love tattoos or piercings or like to dye their hair to resemble a snow cone. It doesn’t matter to me, because it’s not my life; it’s theirs. They have to live it and with their decisions.