Saturday, September 27, 2008

Moley Moley Mole

Jen's mole turned blue. Tucked under the jawline, it was barely noticeable among the other small moles and shadows thrown across her neck, but she saw it and asked me what I thought. While I don't know much, I have heard that moles randomly swapping shades of blue might not be the best thing, so I encouraged a doctor visit that she quickly scheduled.

I took last Friday off and we went to an appointment where they shaved the mole off the side of her neck and shipped it off to a lab. Yesterday, we get a call.

"This call is for Jennifer Merryman. You have been left a message in your secure voice mail box. Please call 1-800 blah blah blah for your results."

This is something new. You get a secure voice mail that you call and enter a code that was given to you at the time of your appointment. When the doctor gets the results, the receptionist calls and records a message for the patient. Jen's message went something like this:

"Hi Jennifer, this is Sally with Doctor Jenning's office. The results of your biopsy were received, and they were positive for Basal Cell Carcinoma. The doctor is going to want to see you soon, so please give us a call so we can schedule your next appointment. Have a great day."

We spent the rest of the morning laughing about what an odd job that must be, and how we would do it differently. "Good Morning, this is Sally with Doctor Jenning's office. The results of your biopsy were received and...well, honey I just don't even know how to say this. That mole was just ten different kinds of fucked up. I mean really, there are like twelve other kinds of cancer that are scared shitless of the stuff you have growing on your face. You best get your butt in here with a quickness."

Seriously, if you can't laugh at cancer, what can you laugh at?

And, to be fair, calling it cancer at all is an insult to the invasive horrible shit that other people have to go through. It's more like cancerish. They'll cut it off, she'll have a couple of stitches, and we'll just have to be more careful about watching for more of the same. It's a bit of a freak out the moment you hear the word cancer at first, but we're still pretty flippant about the whole thing. I imagine that will change closer to her next appointment, but it's how we deal with stuff round these parts. We poke inappropriate fun at the issue until it's actually time to get down to business.

So, in the meantime, I'll make fun of her scar by calling it her "cancer dimple" and she'll finish every outlandish inconvenient (to me) request with "But I have cancer!" We're very lucky actually. If you had to pick from a list of cancers from a menu, this is the one you would choose. We'll take it. Then, we'll get rid of it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My New Lunch Spot

We moved to a new office recently. On the grounds there's this strange place. I don't know what it used to be, but it appears to be some sort of foundation. Regardless, perched at the top with my ham sandwhich and bananna is where you'll find me on nice days. Feel free to stop by, just don't talk. It's better quiet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Mighty Hunters

Jen and I went for a walk in our favorite park tonight after dinner. As we were walking along one of the paved trails that connect the two nature trails we often walk, we came across an old man and his very small dog walking around one of the large grassy areas. It was impossible to tell who was older, the man or his dog.

The dog was at the end of his retractable leash, slowly chasing the ducks that had come up into the grass to spend the night. With a slowly wagging tail, the dog would march the best he could towards the ducks, causing them to waddle off just out of his reach. He would then switch his trajectory, forcing the ducks to head back the way they had just come. Far from panicked, the ducks seemed to take it all in stride, seeming to know that if the dog did actually get too close he wouldn't be able to follow through on any threats.

The man had a small smile on his face, and the leash shook slightly in his hand. He never let the dog get close enough to test his mettle. At their age, to be in the hunt at all is good enough.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fear and Loathing on the Bike (Gang) Trail

So, Jen and I started out on a ride through the late morning. We had planned on getting an early start, but had a hard time getting out of bed, so we made it a lunch time ride. The day was perfect. Just perfect. The sun was bright and hot, and the breeze was cool, and we started out slowly talking and riding side by side.

We made it through the soccer fields and over the second of the handful of bridges that we cross, when we started to go under the overpass for Rt 161. Ahead there was a jogger, plodding along down the middle of the lane, struggling to hold his pace.

The man appeared to be marching into his mid forties, and possibly just realized it himself, prompting the early afternoon jog on a Sunday. His form was sloppy, with arms flopping at this sides and his feet just skimming the pavement. I was worried he would trip and fall. The distance between us and him was closing fast.

When people use the middle of the trail, it's hard to know which side you should try to pass on. What's worse was a situation like today where the incline leading out from the overpass curves hard to the left, making it impossible to see oncoming traffic. Maybe Jen was thinking this through, or maybe she was transfixed as I was at the man's impossibly gelatinous gate, but she didn't signal a warning that we were going to pass until we were about 15 feet behind him.


Crisp and clean as a syringe out of it's sterilized packaging, the bell we picked her up a month or so ago rang out. A happy sound, the bell brought her joy when I mounted it to her bike, and brings here even more joy when she gets the chance to use it. It's the sound of money. It's the sound of an angel getting its wings. It's the sound that lets this rolling yay-hoo know that we're going to pass on the right since his stupid ass is occupying the middle of the trail on a blind curve.

Homeboy freaked. I don't know if it was because he had just made it to the other side of the overpass and had been uncomfortable in the dark. I don't know if it was because he had once been hospitalized and the cruel doctors had rung a bell prior to each session of electro-shock. Whatever the reason, he jumped a foot in the air and then bolted to the left side of the track where he yelled the words that would become the catch-phrase of the weekend.


Jen, completely bemused kept pedaling as she smiled and said, "Hi there."

I was grinning like a fool but was so taken aback by his reaction that I could find nothing to say. He was legitimately scared. His eyes tripled in size, and while he was already huffing and puffing from his jog, I thought it would be a very long time before his body ever caught up with the demands of his lungs. His chest heaved, and a white ball of spit flew my way as he exhaled. I watched it rise and fall landing on the pavement three feet from where I rode.

We tried to give the guy a break and not mock him openly in his presence, but it wasn't long before we were shouting "Wait a minute!" and laughing like the mindless sinners we are. Jen, who wasn't excited about the ride to begin with, declared that moment to be worth a whole afternoon of pedaling.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


We moved into a new office this week. It's strange doing all the same old shit you used to do in new surroundings. One positive that has come out of this move though, is I was taught that immortality is within my grasp. Check it:

Soap + Water = Immortality

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ike Lite

Sunday, after arriving home from my camping trip, Hurricane Ike came to Central Ohio. Compared to the force he displayed down south, Ike's arrival was more of a sigh or half-hearted fart but it was still enough to knock out power across the area. With a lot of our local crews shipped south to help the victims there, our crews here are short handed leaving a few places out of power still.

I don't know how we dodged the bullet. Normally our little neighborhood is among the first places to lose power and the last to get it back, but somehow we managed to only lose it long enough to have to reset the clocks once. We talk to people that we work with that talk about going out every day to find ice to put in their freezers, or who have gone to stay with relatives. We are very fortunate.

Speaking of fortunate, my lucky wife has been off work all week due to the power being out in most of the district that she works in. Each night we would get a prerecorded message saying that the buildings would be closed. Tonight it didn't come, so she headed to bed early to get ready for what she imagines will be a monstrous day tomorrow.

The damage is still everywhere though. Storms like this have the ability to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. Trees that appeared strong snapped in two like twigs, revealing rotten cores. They are everywhere along the roadsides, tottering on lower branches unable to quite reach the ground, and piled in back yards for seasoning and burning.

Last night we went for a bike ride and the trail was littered with leaves, sticks, branches and a slowly powdering mix of dirt and bark. We rode slower than usual, steering through the mess and smelling that wonderful earthy smell of already decaying wood. It's amazing how areas we have been so familiar with before have changed. The landscape has changed with the storm and in some areas the changes make you feel like you are somewhere new.

So, tonight we headed to another one of our favorite parks for a walk and though the trails had been cleared the damage in the woods was amazing. It was a beautiful night but we walked fast, trying to keep heart rates up, while we examined the fallen trees and counted deer. Tomorrow, it'll be biking again. Hopefully the crews have been out to clean up a bit. Otherwise, I'll start moving branches myself.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hi-5, More Dead Than Alive!

For many years my brother has asked me to go white water rafting with him. It's something that a handful of people in my family have done regularly, but for whatever reason I decided long ago it's just not my thing. So, every year my brother would go with a group of friends or family members and come home telling stories of how amazing it was.

"Seriously, bro. You should just come. You don't even have to raft if you don't want to. Just hang out around the camp with us, have some drinks and some laughs. It'd just be good to have you there."

I felt bad. I knew this was something that he loved doing and I hadn't at least given it a shot, so when he asked if I would be interested a few months ago I said "yes" almost immediately. I called The Rivermen and paid for my trip the day my brother called and told me the trip had been booked.

I knew I would have a good time. That wasn't really the question. I thought I would go hang out, have some laughs, and then survive the raft trip. I expected it to be something that I was glad I had done, but glad it was over. I thought the whole time I was out there I would be thinking about how I just wanted it done so I could say I did it. So, I was surprised when I really loved it.

This is us, skimming past Pillow Rock. I'm the guy in the blue helmet. Clicky-clicky makes biggy-biggy.

Being a hermit, it's strange for me to find myself in a mix of people that I might not normally hang with. When I find myself in that situation, I always say that I'm going to keep my mouth shut and just have a good time, but that never lasts for long. Sooner or later, I'm making fun of pretty much everything, and it's usually funny to everyone except the person who's getting picked on. Not, that I don't take my beatings too, I just seem unable to shut up sometimes. Oh well, so be it. I went rafting with my brother and some other really good company, and it was all a good thing. It was important for me to be there.

You know, for years I have drug my poor Van Halen loving brother to concerts that he had no interest in seeing, simply because I am a hermit and don't know anyone else to go with. Over the years he has been forced to see The Afghan Whigs, Radiohead, Silversun Pickups, Wolfmother, and Ben Folds. While he's usually a good sport, these are all bands that he couldn't care less about. There was one exception though.

I had tickets to see Ben Folds at The Newport Music Hall. I was excited, Paul was tolerant. We showed up early and the opening band hit the stage. It was a group I hadn't heard of at the time named Train. They were really good. I hadn't heard any of their stuff before, though some people in the audience were singing along. They were all jangly guitar pop, and sounded clean, so Paul was instantly hooked. We kept looking at each other saying "These guys are great" with smiles and appreciative nods in the loud club.

We were packed in on the floor with hundreds of geeky young men and sensitive looking art students, standing out like a sore thumb. The whole night I had been noticing that I no longer fit in with the usual concert goers and was slowly becoming the older guy that happened to like some cool music. Not exactly what I was aspiring to be.

Train ended their set, and my brother turned to me with his hand in the air and said "Those guys were awesome!"

Normally, I'm not a high-five kind of guy. It's never been my thing. Standing in that club, feeling like a geeky old guy, high-fiving was even less an option for me. I left my brother hanging.

As his hand came down, I grabbed it awkwardly and have him the man-hug mix of clenched hands and a pat on the back, but the damage had already been done. He had been left standing in the middle of a floor full of kids with dyed red hair with his lonely hand in the air.

I try not to lie to my brother ever. I've never done anything bad to him intentionally, though my own selfishness has hurt him over the years. So while it's a little thing, it's still something I think about from time to time, and I thought about it this weekend while we were out.

After the raft trip, we load back onto a bus with our gear and a can of beer and start riding back to camp. The bus was loud with mostly young men recounting their trips down the river as they downed cans of cheap lite beer. It would have been the perfect opportunity for a high-five, but there were none. Maybe this is because they have really lost their place in society outside of sports. Maybe because it's just fucking difficult to look cool when in the act of a high-five. But I wondered if my brother was holding back because of that night at the Ben Folds show.

Maybe he was sitting there in his bus seat, forcing himself not to stand up and start high-fiving everyone within arms reach. Maybe he actually stood, and then looked over to where I sat and then remembered I was there before retaking his seat. OK, probably not. He probably doesn't remember a thing about that. He probably doesn't know that I killed the high-five that once dwelt within his heart.

So, after arriving back in his house I gave him a hug and thanked him for everything. If it hadn't been for him, I never would have been in that beautiful place doing such an amazing thing. I wouldn't have had the chance to get to know some of his friends better. I made a point of making sure he knew how amazing it all was for me, and I'm going to make sure I remind him of it all again soon. And if we're sitting around the fire pit at his house or out somewhere at a restaurant or bar recounting the weekend, and he wants to high-five, I'll be right there with him, the sound of our slapping hands cracking through the night.

You're goddamn right I will.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Bike Gang 500

Yesterday morning I loaded up the bike and drove to the trailhead at Easton. It was still dark, but a thin line of gray was slowly seeping out of the horizon, and threw enough light onto the trail so I wouldn't be completely dependant on my battery powered headlight. Like all of my rides, it started out with me asking myself why I wasn't just driving the fucking car to work. And, like all of my rides, after the first mile I was feeling it and loving it.

There are more leaves on the trail now, though I imagine most of them were less the result of the beginnings of fall and more the result of the late summer drought we had. Still, I like pedaling through the satisfying crunch of them and find myself steering towards little piles of them and feeling like a little kid. I rode hard on my way to work listening to a mix of Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails remixes while watching the sun break free of the edge of the world. Dozens of rabbits scattered off the trail before me and the occasional house cat would glare at me suspiciously from the taller grass as I pedal past. The air is crisp along the trails and occasionally I can pick up the smells of dryer sheets as people do last minute laundry, and then along the streets the air is thicker and smells of wood glue and exhaust.

The ride used to take me an hour and fifteen minutes, but I've got it down to fifty-four minutes on the way there and then forty-five on the way home (thanks to the downward slope). My commute used to take me at least a half hour anyway, so I don't see that I'm losing anything. I can't believe there aren't more people out there.

The thing that amazed me the most was that I hit the 500 mile mark on my way home last night. I knew it was coming up soon, but I happened to glance down at my odometer and saw that I was at 500.33 total miles ridden. If you had told me that I would ride that far when I first bought the bike, I would have laughed at you. Now I'm wondering if I can get to 1000 before the end of the year. I better get to crackin'.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Drinking While Shopping = Mistake

It was a bad idea to start drinking this evening.

I think it's because I do it so rarely these days that when I break down and open a beer or have a Scotch, it feels like an event. So far tonight, I finished the Stella Artois I had in the fridge, singled out the lone bottle of Blue Moon, and have since moved on to the Guinness tucked away at the back of my fridge. Granted, my consumption isn't much compared to those who imbibe on a more regular basis, but I'm still at the point of feeling like I could be comfortable with some bad decisions.

First buzzed decision of the night is that I should really do this more often. Life is to short to be completely sober for all of it. Most of it, sure...but not all of it. I'll work on that. We all have room for improvement, and right now I'm convinced that the hole in my life could be filled with more beer. What of it?

Second, I need a record player. That's right, a good old fashioned record player so I can have a vinyl collection.

First and foremost, I'm a collector, so the idea of putting together a vinyl collection is way appealing. Second, there is just something beautiful and nostalgic about it. When I was a kid, my father had a massive collection of LP's. Granted, he was into Southern Gospel, arguably the worst music ever put on wax, but still...I remember going through those albums as a kid. There was something about the over sized artwork and the large booklets that sometimes came inside that was so appealing.

I still remember going into my local mall as a young boy, and seeing vinyl on the racks. The pictures were amazing to me. Kiss decked out in suits for the "Dressed to Kill" cover. Jimi Hendrix's over the top psychedelia of "Axis". Strangely, the album cover that stuck with me the most was the cover of Queen's "News of the World". That giant robot with the dead bodies in the palm of its hand grabbed me, and I remember being thrilled and intimated by it all at once. With my conservative Christian upbringing, that lone image was enough to incite all sorts of feelings I knew I shouldn't be having.

Hell, kids. I remember being young in a small Nazarene church in Hebron, Ohio when they brought in a special Evangelist to discuss the dangers of "back-masking" in popular music. This was, of course, the supposedly popular practice of musicians where they would inbed messages into their albums that could only be discerned when played backwards. Said messages would then prompt you to smoke marijuana (Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust", I believe) or to "Just do it" (Judas Priest's "Stained Class" or Nike...I can't remember any longer). This man actually played records backwards to us causing a sound of warped noise to fill the church, an essentially creepy sound to begin with, and then would have to translate the garbled mess to us all so we could be sufficiently scared.

So tonight, when searching through some stuff on Best Buy, I realized just how many amazing albums are available on vinyl now and it brought all of this back. Hell yeah. I want a collection. I want Queen to convince me to get high, or Radiohead to recommend a good anti-depressant. I need Judas Priest to tell me to do anything. Fucking anything for Rob Halford, just name it, sir. I want the big album art and the big rich sound of vinyl in my house.

Don't hate. Your house if full of useless shit too. Look around.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bike Gang, Talking Heads Style

David Byrne is gracing New York with several different versions of bike racks. What an amazing idea. I could totally see something similar to this here in Columbus. Maybe we'd have to settle for the guys of McGuffy Lane designing them or something but still...we could make the idea our own.