Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sketching During Lunch Yet Again

I play off my unwillingness to be completely honest as a sickness. It's some overused sympathy extractor, and you'll work to convince yourself that I'm trying, always trying. You think you know more about me than anyone else and that some day the words will start to roll out of my mouth and you'll be there to help me collect them from the floor and we'll put them together into sentences that will reveal hiddent truths to us both. You will believe the words when they come, and maybe I will too.

But I'll be watching to see what my words grow into. I'll mother them through childhood and I'll worry about them as teenagers as they break the promises I made. In the end, I will have to let go and hope they become at least an inkling of what I had in head when I let them leave my tongue.

They never are.

Baby's Breath

Stepped out back to watch the dogs run through the yard and play in their early morning exuberance. Snow was falling and it stung my face. It felt good as it iced over my grogginess and made me wish for a moment I could be small like them and run around the yard in figure eights, nipping at their tails. The air was so clean and that it seemed to fill corners of my lungs that hadn’t been used in months.

I thought this must be like being a newborn, sucking in that first confused breath with infant lungs. I am a baby, gasping for my first mouthful of sterile hospital air. Just enough breath to be able to close my eyes and scream at you all for pulling me out of the damp warmth and dark that had been home.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Renaissance Man? I Have Serious Doubts...

What we thought would be a struggle to shed a bit of the hermit image Jen and I have developed for ourselves has actually been a bit more organic than we imagined. What normally would have been a long weekend in the house has turned into us getting out on the town a bit. Since neither of us are eating solid food yet (stupid diet) we've had to find other things to keep us occupied and this weekend we did an admirable job.

I took the day off Friday to hand with Jen on the last day of her Spring Break. After sleeping in and getting a start on "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy, we went bowling. It has been at least ten years since I have hit the lanes, and my performance reflected every second I was away. We bowled four games and it wasn't until the fourth that I broke 100. Sad.

What was fun for me was to be reminded of the subculture that is out there in the corners that you have forgotten while dealing with your own life. Bowlers have been poked fun at in film (The Big Lewbowski being my favorite of the few) but the characters normally shown are a bit over the top and lack some of the effortless creepiness that some hard core bowlers exude. My favorite people weren't the active seniors pulling towels out of their bags and tying their shoes just so, or the families taking advantage of a rare afternoon off with the kids. My favorite people to watch were the twenty-something males who were there to practice.

They arrive with over sized gym bags and reserve a lane for three hours of open bowling. They tie and retie their shoes and absently let their fingers trail over the air jet anytime they stand near the ball return. When they bowl, it is with the spinning flare of PBA tour vets. The shined bowling balls seem to hang over the right gutter and then at the last second pull back magically to slam through the pins in a sharp right to left movement filling the room with the characteristic sound of pins being smashed into oblivion mixed with exclamations of "Did you see that shit?" or "Oh, baby!"

I imagine walking up to them and saying "That is the most amazing thing I've ever seen. I'm prepared to give you sex." just to see their pleased reactions go to confused scowls as they try to decide if they would actually have sex with this large man who can barely break an 85. It hits me that Jen would get a much better (and more positive) reaction than me, and I'm on the verge of asking if she'll do it for kicks when she reminds me that she's killing me and I better focus on not throwing a gutter ball.

Four games later, we head downtown to this great bookstore called "The Book Loft". It's a really great place in the heart of German Village. While it was cool to look through, it was also really expensive so we decide to go hang out somewhere else. I suggest the Galleries in the Short North and so that's where we head.

We only made it through about 4 galleries before it was time to head home to take care of the dogs but we had decided that we need to win the lottery so we can afford some of the pieces we saw. It had been a long time since I had been through any of the galleries in the Short North and I was reminded of how amazing some of the artists in this town are. I was also reminded of how poor I am as the piece that Jen and I really wanted was almost $4000.

Last night we went to see Grupo Corpo ( a Brazilian Modern Dance company that were debuting their newest piece for the first time in the US. For the most part, dance really isn't my thing and I will never claim to understand the symbolism that goes into the movement. It was something I knew Jen would love, and so I got us tickets thinking that if nothing else there would be beautiful women romping around the stage in uni-tards. (I know, I'm a bit of a lout.) So, while I was expecting it to be visually interesting I was not expecting to love it as much as I did.

While I knew that the first piece was an exploration between African rhythms and their close connections to Brazilian music (the program told me so, and I believed it) I found myself amazed that the human body could do the things that seemed so effortless to them. It was midway through the second piece that I found myself actually moved (not something I ever say lightly). A man and woman were crumbled into a ball on the stage, limbs tangled seemingly into knots. The man would try to stand, getting as far as his hands and feet, back arched, when the weight of the woman clinging to his chest would pull him to the ground with an audible thump. They rolled and writhed and the woman would try to stand, scrambling halfway across the stage before the weight of her partner made her crash to the ground. They continued this way, back and forth across the stage, each attached to the other, each trying to escape, each unable to make it happen.

While this is happening, four other couples are lying on the stage head to head. Slowly they push into each other, heads cradling each other and necks touching. Slowly, by pushing against each other, they were able to start pushing each other up. Without using hands or arms to lift themselves from the stage, they slowly stepped into each other, until they were full upright. They stood swaying in each other's arms while the broken couple crashed around them on the floor unwatched.

It was unnerving and sad. When that section ended (the couple never ever to accomplish more than scrambling off stage, I looked at Jen and could tell she felt the same way I did. At the height of the applause she looked at me and said "Wow". Yeah.

I always understood that dance was art, but it wasn't a form that ever inspired me like painting or film or books ever had. It never made me actually feel anything until last night. So, while there may have been many more educated folks in attendance that saw through the many different layers in what they were doing, I felt like I got everything I could have gotten from it. They blew me away.

Next Friday we see Stomp. I have a feeling that there will be less feeling in it for me, but on the plus side, I love watching people beat on shit. I don't think I can lose.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Doodling At Lunch II

She's the kind of girl that just starts talking and then looks around to find someone to listen to her. If you make eye contact you're done for. She'll focus on you and direct the rest of her thoughts at you, simply because you were unlucky enough to raise your eyes.

Head down, son. Focus on your screen and keep the music pumping through your headphones.

I hate this place right now

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Great Outdoors

Tonight I rushed home, got the bike rack on the back of the Jeep, loaded the bikes and boogied over to one of our many Metro Parks for the first ride of the year. It was pushing 60 degrees but was pretty chilly in the shade and there was the occasional pool of melted snow to spash through, but man it was just great to be outside.

We just got our bikes a couple of weeks ago and have been dying to get out get on some trails. We weren't out there too long, but it was nice to just get a feel for the new bikes and be outside. We made good time but stopped for a bit to watch four deer about 75 yards out as they stood around doing deer stuff.

Looks like it's going to be shit outside for the next two weeks. Lots of chilly wind and rain. Spring can't come soon enough.

Kurt Cobain was wrong. Mother Nature is not a whore, she's a tease.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mmmmm...More NASA Powder Please!

When fat people lose weight they become like children, measuring in fractions. Where a little girl might refer to herself as seven-and-a-half, a fat woman will tell you that she has lost 34.8 pounds. Everything is measured: Water ¾ cups. 1 packet nutritionally enhanced choco-flavored NASA powder. 100% daily balance. 30 minutes bike riding while watching Family Guy. Three sets of fifteen.

Like anytime you are getting involved in a new way of life, a vocabulary is learned. Most of the terms and words associated with weight loss are well known by all, but only fat people and the ones who work with them seem to use them on a regular basis.

I imagine it being the same for any group of people that come together while sharing an experience. Writers, homosexuals, kite enthusiasts, Scientologists, pedophiles and joggers all have invented languages and customs. Those who are new learn quickly or are left feeling out of the loop, grasping for common ground while trying to absorb what they can.

These are the things I’m thinking as I sit in a room full of people each week, all of us battling our weight. We sit in a waiting room that is ironically small with a matching ironically small television that struggles to capture a local channel with its brittle bunny ears. I try to watch the television that usually is tuned to the Columbus news while stealing glances at the people who share the room with me.

We share the indignity of the waiting room, taking turns talking to the dietician and the doctor, then getting our approval to continue with the program for another week.

“How are your bowel movements?”

“Having any muscle cramps?”

“Any changes in your medication?”

“Keep up the good work.”

One more week of transformation. In my mind I’ve ripped of Thomas Harris and started calling it “The Becoming”.

I am…becoming.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Great White Death

Columbus is a town that effectively shuts down when we receive more than three inches of snow. The moment a dusting of the white stuff collects in the gutters cars magically flip off the road and burst into flames. Roofs collapse and children get unexpected nose bleeds. We run screaming from our cars to the safe warmth of our local grocery stores where we will gladly punch the elderly in the throat for a loaf of Wonderbread. We marvel over the piles of snow in the parking lots and talk about how we never realized how many schools there were in the city until you start seeing their names spaced out over the News Crawl at the bottom of the screen.

So, with this in mind, you can imagine the devastation that followed the 20.5 inches we received this past weekend. Our local news reported that we had over 1900 reported motor vehicle accidents in 48 hours. 1900! That means that every hour almost 40 people were smacking into guardrails and each other like slam dancers in the pit of a Nirvana concert. Magically there were only two reported deaths during this time, a statistic I was stunned by. I would have assumed at least 14 deaths due to people freezing to death after licking flagpoles. I even drove around a bit on Saturday expecting to see entire families of people hanging from their flagpoles, upright only through the indescribable strength of their frozen tongues. Alas, none were to be found. See? People are smarter than I give them credit for. I should be ashamed.

So, we survived. Even my two dogs made due once I shoveled out a place in the yard for them to take care of bidness (the snow towered over their heads). I ran out for some movies Saturday at Blockbuster and then bought a handful of $5 films at Target and headed back for a marathon movie session on the couch interrupted by stretches of Wii while Jen napped. It was tough, but we made it through the Blizzard of '08. I'll be watching the mail for my commemorative t-shirt.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Table Top Garden

Earlier in the day, Edward couldn’t drink enough beer. One after another they were drained as he sat at his desk, staring out the window overlooking the front yard and refusing to count the collection of bottles piling up beside the dormant printer. From the computer’s speakers played some mostly forgotten blues song from a CD Edward purchased because he didn’t have enough Blues in his collection. None of the songs were exactly grabbing him, but he listened anyway, feeling that he was supposed to like what he was hearing even if he didn’t.

Edward opened another beer and resumed his gaze out the second story window overlooking the front yard.

Dandelions are waging war against the sidewalk in front of my house.

Each day, more and more of them shoulder their way through the cracking concrete. Mustard smudges from his view on the second floor, and little more. While the cracked and ragged sidewalk seems stuffed with the rusting blooms, Edward’s yard, un-mowed for the past week and a half is devoid of them.

“Why wouldn’t they just come up where it’s easy?” he mumbled to himself, reaching for the bottle at the edge of the desk. Three feet to the right, and the soft ground would practically push them into the sun, plus they’d avoid his neighbor Dan and his German Shepherd Daisy on their frequent mile long walk into town.

“Dan and Daisy. Ha!” Edward looked away from his translucent reflection coming from dormant computer monitor.

With teeth shrink wrapped with gelatin from too much mouth breathing, Edward felt groggy and hot. Suddenly feeling weighed down by the clothes he’s wearing, Edward shifted uncomfortably in his chair while pulling absently at the chest of his T-shirt. He felt as if the cotton sticking to his skin was soaked in honey, and it stung like a cat scratch. He wanted to be naked, but didn’t want to chance seeing his own body reflected in the monitor to his right. That, and he know the chair would against his naked skin would feel like rolling in gravel.

He never seemed to get his glasses clean. Through the greasy lenses the dandelions Monet themselves. Edward takes a long pull off his bottle of Shiner and closes his eyes to the harsh Texas sun and the sidewalk battle taking place outside. When he was a child, Edward would pick what seemed to be hundreds of Dandelions, stuffing the stems into ever-dirty hands that smelled of earth and their overgrown lawn. When he had as many as he could carry in small hands he would take them into the house and give them to his mother. With her thick glasses low on her nose and her brow creased with worry, she would smile as she saw me coming.

“What a nice gentleman you are to bring your favorite lady flowers!”

In a home without a vase, the flowers would be stuffed into a Mason jar filled partially with water where they would stay until they browned and wilted. During dinner in the evenings she would point them out to the family.

“Dave, did you see the flowers Edward brought me today? Aren’t they pretty?”

“Yeah, I did. Real nice, Eddie.”

Edward opened his eyes slowly to the sun. Looking back, Dandelions were the only flowers that ever came through the door of that house when he was a kid. He never remembered his dad surprising his mom with even a simple bouquet of spring flowers or a pot of mums in the fall. Not sure why he was even thinking about these things, Edward stood unsteadily to head downstairs where it was cooler.

Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset

The other night Jen and I were watching an episode of what has become one of our favorite shows: Intervention. (It's fun to watch people fall apart and get put back together again.) On this episode a girl was talking about how she didn't want her pill-addled sister ruining her wedding. She kept saying how it is supposed to be the greatest day of her life and she wanted it to be just so.

I have no issue with the fact that she wanted shit to go down just the way she wanted. It is her wedding after all, and it's a huge event, but something about "the greatest day of my life" thing hit me funny. I stopped the DVR.

"Hey. Would it bother you if I told you that our wedding day wasn't the greatest day of my life?" I asked.

Not even a pause. "No."

"Phew. Good. Cuz, it wasn't."

The day Jen and I got married was a great day. I love being married to Jen and will continue to be until she wizens up, but it wasn't a fireworks-in-the-heavens-touched-by-the-hand-of-God kind of day. It was small and sweet and we were surrounded by the people that we love most (and who manage to love us back), and I wouldn't change a thing about it.

That got me thinking though. If that wasn't the greatest day I've ever had, what was? I didn't and don't have an answer.

If I were a parent I could fall back on that and say it was the day my child(ren) were born. Because I'm not a parent (or a woman) I have no idea what giving birth is like, but I have a hard time believing that passing a nine pound bloody crying mess through a place reserved primarily for passing urine could ever be the greatest day of your life. As a man married to a woman, I couldn't imagine watching my wife go through that and be able to say it was the greatest day ever without expecting to get hit.

"Honey, you took a dump on the table in front of a room of strangers, but wheeeee! What a day!"

I've had some success and a few achievements, but nothing worth noting within the context of "The Greatest Day".

The things that make me happiest are a work in progress, and I have a hard time limiting them into one day. While getting married wasn't the greatest day of my life, it was definitely the best thing I've ever done, but that was a reality that took time to get a hold of. While I can't imagine giving birth as being fantastic fun, I can imagine looking at my kids and being amazed that I was luck enough to have something like that in my life. Maybe I'm just slow or a bit gloomy, but real joy tends to take awhile to soak in to me.

Not that I think people are wrong to pull a day out of their life that means more to them than most of the rest, I'm just without one of my own. I love hearing the stories of what actually makes other people's lists, because once you get past the marriage and kids things you can really get to know someone.

I know it's not original, but I find myself believing the idea that life is a very small handful of life changing decisions hidden in months and years worth of time that is spent dealing with the repercussions of how those few moments were handled. It's those stretches of time that I managed not to fuck up too badly in between those big days that I cling to. And if that is the yardstick that I am going to use to measure my life by, I think that I'm in the middle of one of my greatest Not Fucking It Up Too Badly periods.

I'm grateful, because that can turn on a dime.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

No Coffee, Thanks. Please Pass the Downers

Sunday morning I step out on the porch and take a sleepy swipe at the paper and catch it by the end of the platic bag pulling all eight glorious pounds of it into the house. I'm not a huge newspaper guy as a rule, but there is something about Sunday morning a cup of coffee and a dog at your feet that just feels like home. It's a ritual that puts me at ease and while I don't go crazy if I'm too rushed to spend an hour or so flipping through the sections that interest me (Arts, Metro, Travel & the advertisements) it's a good part of my day anytime I can work it in. It relaxes me.

Fortunately, in case I wasn't going to be relaxed enough on my Sunday puttering around the house, the good folks at the Columbus Dispatch teamed up with Advil to help take even more of the edge off my morning.

That's right. Handily included with my morning dose of death, destruction, and half-assed movie reviews were free sedatives. Hot damn! The writing turned poetic. The sidebar detailing tips to stay comfortable, even on the longest of flights, was especially poignant. I giggled through the book reviews and managed a nappy guffaw at Family Circle. The Real Estate section changed my life. Oh, the colors, children!

That's right. I, like many other Central Ohioans, crushed my free Advil PM into dust and snorted it right off the Business section. From that moment on, I knew I would never read the paper any other way.

The rest of the weekend was great, although less chemically enhanced. We bought the new bikes we had our eye on. Jen got to bring her bike home, but they are waiting for mine to come in. Our little bike shop managed to get me the last Raleigh Venture 4.0 available in the manufacturer's warehouse. I can't wait until the great white death outside melts into puddles so I can go racing through them in a cloud of muddy spray.

The last thing of note from this past weekend was the introduction of Christianity into my home from a rather unexpected source. First, some background.

Until my father decided to run through a string of additional wives/pre-built families, he was a minister. In his early years our family was Nazarene, but over time he became less picky and would go to work for any church/denomination that would overlook his checkered past. This is not as rare a thing as you would hope. Anyway, the point is, I was raised in the church until the time I turned eighteen and left home at which time the church and I parted ways. While my father passed a little over a year ago, my mother and sister remain very involved in their respective congregations.

My brother and sister-in-law are looking for answers and seem to have found some with this Christian motivational speaker guy (sorry, forget his name). From what I can gather, the gist of his message is "Ask God for favor, and you'll be amazed at what you will receive". They are way into receiving, not unlike me. We just go about it different ways.

My wife also is looking for answers. She would like to believe in the traditional spiritual avenues the majority of Middle Americans travel, but in the end she just can't bring herself to buy into anything. As a result, she's moved on to philosophies, primarily Buddhism. While she doesn't claim to be a Buddhist, she is learning more and more about it and has started some meditation. It brings her a bit of comfort, and there is no way I would ever do anything to take that away from her. Plus, add the fact that I know very little about it, and I don't have too much to say on the subject.

This weekend Jen brought home a Buddha head just because it looked cool. The Buddha she got was not the happy "Let's have another cheeseburger and get high" Buddha I tend to love, but rather a skinnier more femininely serious version that I'm told leans more to the Thai model.

I like it. A lot. I like it because it doesn't fit in our living room (its new home), it looks aged and cracked, and I know that my father would have hated to see it. You know, false idols and all of that. You see, when I was a kid, the idea that people would even want a Buddha in their home was laughable. Who could believe such horseshit? These people need to smarten up and get down with a believable religion like Christianity. Right.

Well, she brought it home, put it on its shelf and we all loved it. Well, all of us but one.

Otis, my ten pound Silky Terrier, caught the fire of the Lord and rebuked that stone Buddha head all evening long. He would lean forward to sniff at its nose and growl. He would take two steps back and bark at it. When he walked away from it, it was always while throwing nervous glances over his shoulder. We thought he would let it go the following day, but no. He still had things to say to the passive hunk of ceramic.

If you had asked me before this, I would have told you dogs would make great Buddhists. They are all about living in the moment. On the other hand, apathetic agnosticism would probably be the best fit; they don't know and they don't care. What I never would have guessed would be that a dog would display such a visceral reaction to Buddha and it leaves me convinced that my dog is Born Again. So be it. If it brings him peace, who am I to criticize?

Still, I'm more curious than ever about his beliefs. I plan on getting busts of Obama, Freud, Stalin, Woodie Guthrie and George W so I can figure out exactly what I’m up against.