Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuck in the doldrums

  1. area near the equator, lacking in any wind, where sailing vessels can be stuck for weeks
  2. state of boredom, malaise, apathy or lack of interest; despondent, in a slump

Since I'm land-locked, obviously I am suffering from the second definition. It's been going on for some time now. I thought that maybe writing about it might help. It is something I feel I need to work through myself. Years ago, when I was going through a difficult time, I went to see a psychologist. I didn't get the feeling she gave a rat's ass about anything I was spilling my guts about, especially since she spent the whole time checking the clock. As soon as my 30 minutes was up, the only "help" she gave me was to refer me to a psychiatrist friend of hers, so he could prescribe me anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. I left her office feeling more fucked up than when I went in. So no more therapists for me.

But, to be honest with myself, I suppose I am experiencing some form of depression. Nothing so serious that I can't get out of bed, or feeling the need of blowing my brains out. But it has been difficult getting interested in anything of late.

I suppose I could ascribe it to a whole host of things. Our cash-flow issues, feeling sorry that my folks are no longer here, or maybe just good old existential angst. Actually, that last one has been weighing on my mind quite a bit.

Since I lost my faith, it's been hard trying to understand my place on this earth, and what the hell is going to happen after I'm gone. I just can't accept total non-existence. There just has to be something beyond! I would choose an eternity in hell to not existing at all.

Well, that's all I feel like writing about now. Maybe more later.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Weekend in the country

We left early Saturday morning to spend the weekend at our place in the country. We were greeted upon our arrival by the caretakers of our humble little cottage.

Wolf Spider!

Garden Spider!

Once pleasantries were exchanged, it was time to get to work, and cut some grass. I had cleverly hidden my riding mower in the woods, so the fucking thieves who have already stolen my air compressor and chainsaw would never find it. Unfortunately something else found it.

This was one of a pair of buzzards who were using my mower as a base of operations. Which means, of course, they shit all over it.

Nothing like the pungent aroma of buzzard guano. At least I had it covered.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Six Down

I had set myself the goal of reading 18 books for the staff summer reading challenge at the library where I work. It ends on August 31st, and I still have twelve to go. It’s doable. I have been putting up my thought provoking, profound reviews (where’s my tongue-in-cheek font when I need it?) on this blog. I sort of dropped off on doing that, and will get caught up soon. So many people follow my blog, and so look forward to these reviews, I hate to disappoint them.

When I was a kid, I had my nose in a book 24/7. My mom would periodically come in my room to check on me, to make sure I was still alive. I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on. I don’t know why, but in the last ten years or so, I stopped reading for the most part. Now that that fire has been rekindled, I’m finding I have less and less time to devote on the internet. And worse than that, I’m not really missing it. Sites that I used to be addicted to (funny or Die, facebook, etc…), I’m finding it harder and harder to work up the enthusiasm for getting on them. This bothers me, because I really like the people I’ve met on these sites: keibar, who’s had a fascinating life and has such great stories; Westside, who’s a true comedic genius (and I’m not just saying that because he’s one of the three people who actually follow this blog!); lucylieu, one of the coolest, hippest ladies I’ve never actually seen! And too many more to list.

And when you add to this, that what I really want to do more than anything is write something of merit, well, you get the picture. I’d like to get published before I’m too old to enjoy the accolades. Actually, the only accolade I really put any importance behind is writing something so original, fresh and witty, that I get invited to do an interview on Fresh Air, and meet Terry Gross. You haven’t really arrived until you get invited to be on Fresh Air: my definition of success.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Violent Bear It Away

Modern vs. past, urban vs. rural, intellectual vs. spiritual, words vs. deeds, and above all, secular vs. religious. There came a point where I saw this struggle as an epic prizefight between Tarwater and Rayber, and wondered who would be left standing.

Years ago, I experienced the battle of belief vs. non-belief within myself, and belief lost. So, naturally, I was on Rayber's side. And not knowing anything about O'Connor or her work, I had assumed she was as well. Obviously, I was letting my own experience and way of seeing cloud my judgment.

Even though the ending left me feeling somewhat betrayed, still the work stands on its own as a great work of literature. I could go on and on about all of the symbolism, but won't. Suffice it to say that I find it a bit ironic that all of the acts of violence (arson, murder, rape) were vehicles on the side of religion, to carry it to victory. So I'm left feeling a bit justified that intellect took the higher ground; for whatever that is worth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

pounce and slither

“No, no, no, leave him there, he’s alright!” This is what I said to my father-in-law who was about to brush off a praying mantis that had jumped onto my back. I had a wannabe-Jeffer moment, and I definitely got my wish. That little bugger crawled all over me. Damn, they are fast! The best part was when he got onto my head. It was pretty cool to look out of the corner of my eye, to see him doing his little bobbing and weaving dance. I got this idea in my head of a symbiotic relationship with the mantis. I would never have to worry about a fly landing on me, or getting stung by a mosquito, as long as he was around. He could be my little bodyguard.

Everybody got a good laugh at watching him scurry over my bald head. Except my mother-in-law, who mumbled something about me needing professional help.

Little did I know, but this was only the beginning of run-ins with nature that was to happen that day. This was on the fourth, and we were at our place in the country, and all of the family was there. After most had left, only my cousin, his wife and daughter were left. They didn’t leave until almost nine. As they are walking through the back yard, to get to their car, one of them lets out a shriek. It think it was my cousin. Apparently they saw a snake. I went out there to investigate, expecting a little grass snake. It was kind of hard to see, but finally I saw a little triangular-shaped head poke up. “Uh-oh,” I said to myself, “that’s not good. “

I didn’t have a hoe nearby, so I went into the wash-house, to fetch a crowbar I had hanging inside. I pinned him down with it, and as he starts squirming around, I finally get a good look at him. It’s a copperhead.

Not full grown yet, just an adolescent. But with these nasty little buggers, size doesn’t matter. He starts striking the hell out of the crowbar. I yell to my cousin to get me something else to kill it with. In the meantime his daughter is standing on one of the patio chairs, practically hysterical. I told her to calm down, she was safe.

My cousin finally comes back with another crowbar he found, quickly hands it to me and runs off. I couldn’t get at his head with it, and no matter how much I was poking him with the crowbar, it wasn’t doing any good. So my cousin finally finds a pair of lopers, quickly hands them to me, and scampers off again.

“Dude!” I say to him, “How many hands do you think I have?” So I finally am able to talk him into operating the lopers while I try and get his head up. His head comes up, and my cousin, who is hopping around like a bunny rabbit, manages to take the head off, before he runs away shrieking.

We left back for the city the next day. On the way out, I needed to get the water meter reading. With the event of last night still fresh in my memory, I was a little more cautious than usual when lifting up the cover and putting my hand in. Good thing. There was another snake coiled up inside. I didn’t hang around to see what kind it was. I just closed it back up, and walked back to the car.

When my wife noticed I hadn’t written anything down on the paper, she asked me “Didn’t you get the reading?”
“Nope,” I told her, giving her a funny little look. She knew right away why.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Portnoy's Complaint

The second book in my summer reading challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will definitely have to read the rest of his books.

I finished it Saturday, July 4th. Not exactly a patriotic read, but then did illuminate a whole segment of America I've been pretty ignorant about. I know very little about Jewish Americans. Not surprising, I guess, growing up in Texas. Now that I think about it, I believe I've only had one Jewish friend: Mark. We were briefly friends in college. He was an interesting guy. He spoke so softly, that most of the time, I'd have to practically put my ear to his mouth, to what he was saying. And I will always remember him, due to the fact that his parents had estranged themselves from him. They had moved away, and never told him where they were going. I was so intrigued with that, since my parents were the polar opposite. To the point of suffocation. But I couldn't imagine why they did that, because Mark seemed to be a really nice, intelligent guy. Who knows?

Review follows:

I can only imagine that when this book was published in 1969, it probably caused quite a stir, due to the language and subject matter. And there are certain images I will always remember: the bread knife, his father's constant constipation, “The Monkey,” getting it in the eye, etc... He painted such a vivid picture, I leave the book almost feeling as if I had been the one experiencing much of it. And having grown up in a Catholic family, I always thought my parents were the experts at engendering repression and meting out guilt. They were rank amateurs compared with Portnoy's parents.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Of Mice and Men

The library where I work is having a staff summer reading challenge. I decided I would read all the short classic American novels that I haven’t read before. This was the first one.

I’m not quite sure how, but somehow I managed to make it to 45 years old without ever having read this book. My only knowledge of the characters came from the various cartoon treatments. Now that I’ve read it, all of those Loony Tunes spoofs really give me the creeps. I had always thought Lennie to be just a big harmless oaf. I had no knowledge of the evil undercurrent in him. And no matter what George may say, Lennie is a monster. And what makes it all that more unsettling is that Lennie doesn’t know it.

I finished it last night. I started it the previous evening, and almost read it through in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down.

And I had a nightmare that first night. I haven’t had a nightmare since I don’t know when. Coincidence? Probably. It’s not like the book is horrific. But I did go to sleep with a feeling of unease. Like something bad was about to happen. And the book has left me with an uneasy feeling. How can such a short novel leave such a long impression?

Monday, June 21, 2010

A dram to your health

Currently enjoying a rather healthy dram of a very fine Single Malt, pictured at left. Ardbeg 10 year old. It's got such a wonderful nose, it's almost a shame to drink it. Almost.

After a long hiatus from Single Malt Scotch, I've recently rediscovered my love of this fine type of whiskey. Not that I'm giving up on Bourbon. But there are so many single malts out there, I'm having a blast going through them now. And with more of an appreciation than I had before. Appreciating a single malt scotch is very similar to tasting a fine wine. Well, the terminology and approach, anyhow. We're looking at color, nose, mouth feel, palate and finish.

The nose of this Ardbeg has got plenty of tar and smoke, to be sure. But there's also honey and lemon in there too, somehow. So complex.

This whiskey epitomizes scotches from Islay: strong, in-your-face, no apologies. The palate is medicinal and seaweedy, but also comforting and reassuring. The finish? loooooooong.

I'm sure this would be the perfect whiskey for a cold, winter's night. But it's not out of place now, in an unforgiving Texas summer.

Before this bottle, I finished a Laphoraig Quarter Cask. Am I a slave to Islay, or what? It's such a manly dram, I really don't want to drink anything else right now. So what will be next? Hmmm, looks like I've got some research to do.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I am so clever

Clever? The title is sarcastic, obviously. If I'm so clever, how is it possible to have been on this planet for 45 years, and still not know who the hell I am? And what I mean by that is that I don't feel I have any substance or essence whatsoever. What is my purpose? What am I doing here? I've always felt like a misfit, like I've never quite fit in with this world. I suppose that's not so rare. If you happen to believe the tenets of existentialism, and that we are thrown into this world without a purpose, then what I'm feeling is perfectly normal. That doesn't make it any less stultifying, though. And I still feel like a moron.

You know what my biggest problem has been? Wanting to know everything. And as a result, I don't have enough knowledge in a single subject or topic on which I could carry on a meaningful conversation with someone. I've never been able to settle on anything long enough to be able to get the gist out of it. Something else will come along and seize my interest, and I've already moved on.

I remember reading one of Seneca's letters to his little friend. In it, Seneca dissuades him from trying to read a bunch of different authors in the attempt to be well-rounded, and encourages him instead to pick just one good writer, and read and re-read and really get to know and fully understand his thoughts and ideas.

Me? I've got a whole library full of books I haven't even read yet. You can just check them out on my app to the right, and see just how spastic and unattainable my desired breadth of knowledge has been.

Well, I've finally had enough. I've decided it's time to re-engineer myself. I should've done this years ago, but fuck it; better late than never, right? I've been doing some self-examining today, and am going to force myself to focus my concentration on a few select subjects/interests. What these particular subjects are, I'll save for another post. Suffice it to say, I've picked them.

Obviously, I'm writing all of this for myself. It feels good to get it out of my head, write it down, and see it in print: my alternative to therapy. It only took me one session with a psychologist years ago to know that no matter what problems or obstacles I happened to be dealing with, going to a shrink to try to solve them was not an option for me. But if any of the multitude of the three people who might happen to check in on my inane ramblings once in a while would like to leave a comment, feel free. I'm still surprised when anyone shows any interest in anything I have to say.

That's it for now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Six years and 50 pounds ago

Today is our daughter's sixth birthday. Can't believe six years have gone by since she's been born. A lot has happened in those six years. And a lot of weight has found its way to my 45 year old frame. My wife posted a picture of me holding our daughter shortly after she was born.

I was lean, mean fighting machine! Now I'm a fat, lazy ice-cream eating machine.

I've decided it's time to lose those 50 lbs., and get back to fighting trim. Easier said than done.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The worms are biting

Today, my new employee, Joe, brought in the head of a rattler he killed yesterday. The head was huge, so he must've been a big one. It seems this is going to be a bad year for snakes. I even saw a story on the local news about it.

Joe told me a story of when he and his family first moved to their current place out in the country. It concerned a family who lived nearby. One hot summer day, one of this family's kids, a six-year old girl, runs into the house to tell her daddy the worms were biting her.
"Don't be silly, honey," he tells her. "Worms don't bite."
She holds out her hands and there are punctures all over them. Seems she found a nest of baby rattlesnakes. She was dead before they could get to the hospital.

My little girl will turn six tomorrow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Batter Up!

Here it is, baseball season again. I've been getting more and more into it within the last few years. Prior to that, I couldn't care less about the game. I had been a big fan up until the strike. But that soured me so much about it, I had stopped watching.

My dad loved baseball. It didn't matter who was playing. If there was baseball on TV, he was watching it. I've got some really good memories from my childhood of watching Saturday afternoon games with him. It was the only time I didn't have to eat at the dining table. What a treat! We had a red card table my dad would set up in front of the TV, so we could eat while watching the game. I can still hear the voice of Joe Garagiola as he broke down a game.

My favorite team back then was the Reds, and it seemed that their games were always being shown. And with a lineup that included Johnny Bench (no runs, no drips, no errors), Joe Morgan and Pete Rose, what was not to love? I even liked the Yankees back then. What can I say, I was a confused little kid. My favorite Yankee player was 3rd baseman, Craig Nettles. Man, I can still see in my minds eye some of the spectacular catches he made. Of course, I despise the Yankees, now. As it should be.

In the evenings, when there wasn't a game on TV, he would go to his bedroom, and lie in bed and listen to a game on the radio. My dad was an interesting guy. The only time he watched TV was for sports, news, or Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Other than that, he couldn't give a shit. His only reading material was the four or five newspapers he subscribed to. I once gave him a book for Christmas, Jack London's "White Fang" and "The Call of the Wild." I thought he would enjoy it, since he was always relating to me stories from his youth about adventures he had had with his dogs. I don't think he ever read it.

My dad had a nasty temper. I don't think a day went by, when he didn't curse my mom out about something. He would scream at her, and tell her how stupid and worthless she was, until she was in tears. I hated him for a long time for the way he treated her. He never hit her, but the verbal abuse was unrelenting. There was a time when she couldn't take it any more, and threatened to divorce him. I cried, and begged her not to. She gave in, and continued to suffer, for my sake. How stupid and selfish I was.

I remember one time, when a tirade of his really went over the top, I got out my deer rifle, loaded it and sat on the front porch, contemplating killing him. I really wanted to. He walked by, saw me, and smirking, asked, "You gonna shoot me? You'd better go ahead and do it if you're going to." I lost my nerve, and put it away. Neither he nor I ever mentioned it again.

My dad seemed to mellow in his older years. And my mom even repressed the abuse to the point where she categorically denied it ever happened. Even after his death, she wouldn't allow me to say anything about it.

It wasn't until after his death, that I began to understand him. He suffered from severe arthritis most of his life from being hurt in the army. His spine and neck were completely calcified together, and he couldn't even turn his head. He was in constant pain. So it only stands to reason he had a short fuse.

The one thing we really shared and could talk about together was baseball.
I never told my dad I loved him. And he never spoke those words to me. But I know he did.

Monday, February 1, 2010

mens sana in corpore sano

It's been too long since I've written here. More than 2 months! I'm not going to let that happen again. I'm going to make sure I post something everyday. Even if it's only a few words. I'm including it in part of my new regime I'm setting out for myself: mens sana in corpore sano. Sound mind in a sound body.

I'm not getting any younger, and if I want to be around in decent health (with a healthy mind, to boot), to see my daughter grow up, (not to mention, being able to enjoy my retirement) I need to start doing something about it. Just sitting around, watching tv, or messing about on FOD, or worse (facebook!), is not a recipe for success. I've laid out a plan to address increasing my mental acuity, as well as getting my grossly-out-of-shape body into shape.

The sound mind side will be addressed as follows:
  • write in my blog at least once/day
  • start learning Latin
  • read the newspaper everyday
  • read everyday
  • hone up on math skills
  • brush up on programming (perl, for now)
  • start writing poetry again
Sound body:
  • go to the gym every weekday morning
  • go for a walk during lunch
  • take the stairs
  • stretching/yoga routine at night
  • strict diet
Now, if I can just stick to it. There's the rub. How many times have I started something along these lines, only to drop it in a few weeks? Too many. Well, here we go, one more time.