Slim Shady

October 29, 2007 at 11:40 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  Guess who’s back, back in town–?
  After God only knows how long, Nigel is finally back up and running.  Detroit reminded me that we have basically had only one car since roughly July.  I’ve had some wheel-less periods in my life. . .this was actually not so bad.  We made do.
  Let’s see:  When Mitchell’s car broke down, I gave him Fred (the truck) to use, and we used Nigel.  It was all we needed, as Kim wasn’t working.  This was June, July.  Then, end of July, we needed the truck back from Mitchell to drive up to Michigan, and for a brief period, a week or so, both cars worked.
  Then we had trouble with Nigel.  Bearings and so forth.  Got that fixed, and then another bearing went bad.  I drove it for a while….and then it got scary.  So we parked it, let it set.  Sit.  Set.  Stay!  Stay….good boy!
  And Detroit started working at this time.  So, she would take the truck to work, and I’d get a ride from Bunny.  Detroit got off work before me, and she would pick me up.  When I had to work at the restaurant, we’d go home (I’d take a short nap), and then I’d drive to work, leaving her without wheels for the evening.  How long as this gone on?  Hell, it’s the end of October.  At least all of October, and probably most of September.
  But I got the money together, got my son’s car (nominally) fixed, and then it was time for Nigel.  You may have seen the fiasco we went through to get him out to the mechanic on Detroit’s blog….But it didn’t end there.  Jerry, my Nigel mechanic (he works at a Honda dealership, and fixes cars on the side–prefers to work on Japanese cars) ran into problems. 
  First, it took him half a week before he could look at it.  Then, it was worse than we thought.  Not only was the bearing completely trashed, but the hub that rides in it was essentially rubble.  When he took off the axle nut, they fell off and fell apart.  This is a sealed, pressed bearing.  What that means is, it’s not supposed to do that.  It wasn’t the WORST he had seen. .. .but it was close.  Yay me!
  So we needed a hub.  More expense, and wait time to get it ordered.  It also needed new brake calipers–mine were both seized up, locked up.  That certainly explained the issues I was having with the brakes, right?
  It was almost together, he said, when he ran into this unusual issue:  The bolts (or pins; I never was clear on that) that hold the calipers onto the knuckle wouldn’t come out easily, so they were more or less destroyed, and not reusable.  He was going to have to make a trip to the junk yard, which he finally did Sunday morning.
  Saturday afternoon, finally, he called me–Nigel was ready to come home.  I had my daughter for the "weekend"–actually just late Saturday night and all day Sunday–and it was time to take her home.  Jerry the mechanic lived halfway between me and where I had to take my daughter, so it worked out pretty well.  We all drove out in Fred, and me and my daughter got in Nigel and I took her home, and meanwhile Kim just went home.
  How is he?  Awesome!  At one time or another I’ve had to have three of the four wheel bearings replaced–which makes me wonder about the fourth, actually–but now that they all have been, Nigel is so quiet when he rolls, I can hear the engine, which has a low, quiet growl. Not like a lion, but a puma or a bobcat.
  And there must have been at least a substantial amount of friction involved with the bad bearings because not only is he quiet–
  He’s fast.  He’s just a little rat.  A little car (Mazda MX-3) that I can barely fit in, it sits low to the ground.  It is tiny and fast, and sporty.  With the friction gone, I get the feeling that he really–really–wants to *Go!*
  While Jerry was working on it, he also found some loose suspension parts that he tightened up, and he reattached the bumper that the tow dolly ripped off the car.  He re-attached it with zip-ties, which just adds to the rugged look of the car.. . with the discolored paint, the hood that is a completely different shade of green than the rest of the car, the white left front fender. . .and the back left, that looks like a medium-sized dinosaur took a bite out it, taking part of the rear bumper and quarter panel, and leaving exposed styrofoam that filled the bumper, and a wire–one that I don’t really know where it goes.  He looks like he’s been through Hell–took it, handled it, and is ready to dish some out.
  Nigel is my kind of car.

Papa Was A Rolling Stone

October 16, 2007 at 6:08 PM | Posted in Personal | 1 Comment
  Mostly, I’ve kept busy and not thought about it. ..but it’s hard.  I have Detroit and The Dude (doesn’t that sound like a buddy/cop movie starring Mr T and Bert Convy?) who are on my side.
  Detroit says I’m too hard on myself.  But she, like The Dude, and like Bunny, are on my side.  She says I judge myself to a higher standard than I judge other people.  Maybe it’s true.  I will give other people a pass, let things slide, let people walk on me.  Because I know–*I know*–that people are basically stupid.
  I used to say that with malice, but now it’s with a road-weary acceptance, and wink and a nod that I acknowledge being one of them.
  This change I had recently in my life–the change that Detroit and I had in OUR lives–has affected alot of people.  Change is. . .hard.  It’s easier to stay at a crappy job than it is to get a new one.  It’s easier to stay in a crappy relationship that to get into a new one….
  Or just to get out, and be alone, even.
  I realize that I’m glossing over this, e’en now.  But there’s a point to make.  I saw that I needed a change.  For a variety of reasons that I won’t rehash now.  I saw what it would do to the family–the kids–I calculated the risk, and did it anyway.
  I was completely wrong in my "damage assessment."
  I thought the older kids would be against me, and drop me like a bad transmission.  They didn’t.  I thought Mitchell would be okay, and understand.  He didn’t.  I thought Miranda would be hurt worst of all–she wasn’t.  I thought the ex would be glad to see me go.  She wasn’t.
  I underestimated my value to them, but that wasn’t my fault, it was Linda’s.  My ex.  The Storm.  I really felt like they would be just fine without me, barely miss me, such was my feeling about my own self-worth.  She did it to me. . ..which is a big part of why I left.
  Selfishly, in the beginning I didn’t even think about what it would do to Detroit’s life, or those of the people around her.  Her husband?  I don’t believe it’s possible for me to care less about an individual.  It’s a thorn in my side that he’s even in my life, no matter how small a part.
  But her kids, like mine, have had their lives thrown askew.  Even Brandon. . .whom, honestly, I feel no malice towards, and with whom I feel I got off on the wrong foot.  His situation is painful to Detroit, and thus is painful to me.  And I feel some guilt over that, and over the things I said to him…and the fact that I don’t want him to live with us.
  What’s the difference?  Between my kids, who are problematic, and Detroit’s other son, and Brandon?  He’s an adult, technically.  And he’s a user, provably, and a sociopath in the very true and diagnosable sense of the word.
  And then there is my kids, all of them, and my grandkids.  My wife’s extended family, now my former extended family.  For almost 20 years, her family was what our lives revolved around–

  Aaah, me.  This is what this is all about then.  My family.  My kids.  My children.  My son and my daughter.  Not the step kids:  these adults a few years younger than me that–although they have been helpful–treat me like a child who needs to be controlled and told what to do. . .not them.
  My little ones.  My little 19 year old son, and my little 11 year old daughter.  You know, I ..I’m not trying to rationalize, because it’s not right, but what I’m saying is–so many families are dysfunctional. 
  We were "perfect" for a while.  But nothing lasts forever now, do it?  And the price of that perfection?  My…ugh.  Not my soul.  My self.  My identity.  I was in danger of disappearing.  In fact, I almost had.
  The price of regaining myself was losing my children, and my former life.  Even if only for a while…And it’s been a year.  A year without my children, growing more and more distant to them–having them resent me, hate me, and miss me all at the same time.
  It’s been a hard year.  But to me, it hasn’t seemed that long.  At times it does, when I look back in the past year and see all that has happened.  It hurts inside my heart, all I’ve been through, and all my children have been through.
  I don’t begrudge them at all, not one bit, the anger they feel.  They’ve hurt me too, but I feel like I deserved it, and, since I’m the Dad, I can take it.  I have to.  I have to take their pain, and make it my own.  Christ, what a martyr I am.  Bunny said that they (the kids) need to know that I’ve been hurt too, that I feel pain too–otherwise, they will think I just don’t care….
  And it’s not true.  I do.  Sometimes I just don’t know how to act.  Maybe I’m the sociopath.
  But, as I said, although it hasn’t been very long to me–a year is a very long time to a child.  A lot can happen.  Isn’t it funny how, the less time you have left, the less quickly it seems to pass?
  And do you now understand what I mean by this quote:

Life is short,
But the years are long. . .

  All of this is subjective, very cerebral.  But there are some real and concrete matters.  I just got the background check on Detroit, so now my daughter can visit overnight every other week.  It doesn’t seem like much, but comparatively–
  And my son’s car-this incredibly disasterously designed chunk of recycled crap hanging around my neck–has been at the heart of the distance between my son and I.  In fact, we haven’t spoken for about three months, I think.
  We bought it, it was a bad idea, it had a problem, which led to another problem.  I’m not a mechanic.  I fixed one problem and got stalled on the other.  Then I don’t hear from him, it’s about the time Alex moved down, he feels "replaced," and we don’t talk for a while.
  It’s hard for me to want to do something about the car when it’s for my son and I feel like he wants nothing to do with me.  On the other hand, he sees me not taking care of the car as a sign I want nothing to do with him.  Hence the impasse.
  First the older sister steps in, Miss Nosey-Know-It-All.  And then The Storm talks to me.  You know, my world is upside down when the most rational person I talk to is my ex-wife.  She saw the conflict between both of us, urged me to do something to work it out.  Hearing her be lucid is not something for which I was prepared.
  Anyway, the long and short of it is, we talked yesterday–my son and I.  It was good.  He picked up the car, which is "fixed," and I told him what else it needed and what to watch out for.  We talked about a few other things, and computers came up.
  Have you ever seen "City Slickers"?  The scene where the guys are talking about their dads, and they all agreed that whenever they couldn’t communicate about anything else, they could always talk about baseball.
  And so it was with me and my son.  We talked about computers.  He opened, he started, I have to give him credit.  He said, "So why didn’t you tell me Aunt Judy got a Powerbook?"
  "Because I was embarrassed for her–"
  It was a good talk, it felt good to begin to get the connection back.  One thing I am jealous of Detroit is that she has such a close relationship with Alex.  Even from 600 miles away, they are close.  They talk every day.  I wish I had that.
  (And maybe he did only talk to me because he got the car back.  Or maybe he did it because his mother talked to him as well.  In any event, while I’m not going to take it from my ex anymore, I’m willing to eat a little crow for my kids.  It’s good with potato salad.)

With Death Comes Promise

October 12, 2007 at 9:15 PM | Posted in Personal | Leave a comment
I felt compelled to revisit this, a poem I wrote last year.  My life was so different then.  I think.. . … I think I may have gotten my wish, mostly.

It’s not here yet,
But that smell is in the air.
I look to the sky–
and to the trees for a hint of it.
The Summer and the heat,
The mistakes I made–
They all kill me
From the inside out.

But soon, very soon:
I am hopeful that
The smell of Autumn
Will arrive on fairy wings
A fleeting first taste,
then gone, like so much of my life
But soon to return with gusto
With a certainty, with formality
A Finality that doesn’t last
Has Autumn always been so full of irony?

With death comes promise
and what is Autumn, but death?
Not the one we fear, but
The one we look forward to.
The change in seasons,
like so many cliches, has meaning.
Embedded, I yearn for the Fall,
And for this time to pass

Better or worse will be determined;
But not by me.  Only different,
And that’s all that matters.
Different from this, different.
New.  Change, excitement.
Tell me, is that what I seek,
Or something different? 
Different from the different?

I want the pain to be gone
The pain I feel, and 
The pain I have caused.
I want a new beginning, a do-over.
Remold the clay, rebuild the Legos.
Reshuffle the deck. Renew my life.
I want the time to be past,
and all that I have been through
Will be a spate of memories
This is what Autumn means to me
My timely rebirth.

Campfire Ghost Stories

October 7, 2007 at 12:57 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
school’s out
  The two–make that three–traveled in the truck, an hour and a half to their destination.  It was an unseasonably warm day in early October.  The roar of the wind from having the windows down made it difficult to listen to the radio or talk.  The dog lay in the back,
doing what dogs do; he alternately slept and sat up, looking about.
  The other two in the front were in their own thoughts as the exits slipped past.  Without warning, Bryan took the Collinsville/Fairview Heights exit.  "I want to take a little detour, show you something."
  Although he had been raised for the most part in the country, Bryan had lived in Collinsville for 2 and a half years in his youth, from roughly 75-77.  He could no longer remember….
  "I told you about some of this, remember?" he asked Kim. 
  So many changes.  After 3o years, the winding two lane highway was a straightened and manicured 6-lane behemoth, a foreshadowing of the other changes Bryan would find.  But they did find the famous Ketchup bottle water tower in tact, and took pictures of it.  They turned down a side street, and went straight up a hill.  The terrain around which this section of town was very. . . .uneven. 
  Although Bryan had had no sense of it when he was a child, this was the poor side of town.  The houses were little more than shanties.  Everything seemed smaller, dirtier, poorer than her remembered.  Bryan narrated as tour guide.
  "I had a friend who lived there; he had a mini-bike.  We thought he was cool.  There’s the back of my school–we’ll go by there in a minute.  See how that back yard goes downhill?  The other side, where it comes back up around the block is where my house is. . . .Oh, here’s the Lutheran church, and school.  They put a basketball hoop back up.  They had taken it down in the 70s, because us thugs hung around too much.  I guess having one there is better than having all the breaking and entering.  See this alley?  ‘Small Street.’  My street.
  "This is where my friend Randy, the trouble maker lived–but this is not the original house.  This empty lot here is where Edna, the crazy woman lived, and this . . empty lot is . . .where the house I used to live in used to be.  It’s gone.  Wow.  Okay."
  Perturbed, he turned the truck around on the tiny gravel street.  It was flat and level where they were, but immediately where the house used to be, the terrain was at an almost 45 degree angle, much as he remembered it.
  He drove up the street and around, he wanted to see his old grade school, the building that occasionally invades his dreams.  "And this is the school I went to.  This is the middle school, the new part, which I never went to.  Around here is the old building, the grade
school that I went to, and–shit!  It’s gone!  They tore down my old school!  What the–!"  It was true.  A modern, pleasingly shaped and ergonomically designed building now stood where his old brick and mortar three story early 20th century school had stood.  The
shape of the old building had formed three walls of a court where soccer had been played, morning, noon, and night.  Now–nothing like that.
  The whole time Bryan muttered to himself.  Kim tried to be understanding, but. . .things change.  He sighed.  "Uh…. okay,  and here was a nature area we used to go to when we needed samples for a biology or earth science project.  And here is the cemetary where
we used to fight after school.  My first fights were here–"
  They eventually drove out of town, and back to the highway.  There was more, much more that Bryan had wanted to see, but it was to painful, to hard to see this change in his childhood memories.  Didn’t they know they should have left it the same, to preserve his
  You can never go home again, because there is usually construction going on.

Noah’s ark–dogs float like turds–family secrets

  We get to my brother’s, and many people are there.  A lot of family, and just as many that I didn’t know:  my sister-in-law’s family, and my brother’s friends.  I talked with my Aunt Nina, who had gone on a trip to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, on a personal voyage of discovery, and to discover answers to the questions of our roots.   She had pictures, DVDs, brochures, flyers, and copies of newspaper articles, and a binder she had made.  I learned and read and saw much about my family.
  Mostly it was about my great-grandfather, Tom Sukanen, who had been deemed a crazy Finn:  in the middle of a drought and depression, and the middle of a vast prairie land, he built a ship.  Not a boat, an ocean-going ship.  Google him to find out more.  There is a museum there dedicated to him, and the ship stands at the museum.
  But I also found out more about my grandmother and her siblings, and got to see pictures, letters, and documents.  TB sanitarium commitment papers for her brother.  Adoption papers for all of them.  Marriage information for a sister whom I did not know had gotten married.  Letters to and from these people.  Parole papers.
  Genealogy is like a crossword puzzle that you have no idea how many pieces are in it.  While I did this, Kim visited with my niece and some other family members she knew.  It was nice knowing I didn’t have to babysit her and keep her from fighting with my family
like my ex wife.  We brought Mac along also.  He had fun.
  He found my brother’s very large pond all by himself, saw the clean, fresh water. . . .and found the muddy, mossy, dirty slough end and traipsed around in it for three or four hours.  Kim got him out, hosed him off, and later he was back in it. 
  She let him go for a while, then got him out AGAIN, hosed him off, and put him on a leash, and gave the leash to me.  So Mac drug me to the water….
  No, he didn’t.  But he wanted to.  He had a good day.  As fun as it was for us, he had the most fun.  It’s 1230 pm the next day, and he’s still sleeping.  Wore himself out..  . .. .
  And I had a chance to sit with some of my cousins, the hard-living, hard-partying, hard-ass group.  I listened and talked.  I always….I don’t have much in common with these guys.  Drinkin and gettin high, lookin to see whose as they would next kick.  But they all spoke fondly of my dad.  Dad was the favorite uncle for most of them, and they miss him.
  I do too.
  And hearing some of the stories, I know some of it’s bullshit, because I was there.  Every retelling, you were drunker, or higher, or going faster, or doing it more, or getting in more trouble. . . .Every story suffers from the Paul Bunyon treatment.

who are the these people

  Later, most of my family had left, and my sister-in-law Geneva most of her family left.  It was nice to just chat and visit and meet people with no expectation of who I was.  Earlier, I had told two of my cousins separately about the comedy thing, and they each
said, "Well, you should have plenty of material, just from this family alone–"  Yeah.  Not really.  You guys may be odd or quirky or excessively white trash, but nothing jumps out at me as being funny.  Like when my cousin died because her ex-husband ran her over
outside a bar after they had an argument?  Funny stuff.  The wife beating that goes on that no one talks about?  Yeah, fucking hilarious.
  You have to be a trained professional to know what funny is.  I know.  They don’t.
  So chatting with Geneva’s family around the campfire was pleasant and relaxing.  No one was in a hurry.  It felt. . . .pleasant.  I leaned back, and suddenly I was looking at the country night sky.
  "Wow!"  I nudged Kim, and she said, "Holy shit!"
  "Man, we have been living in the city TOO long!"
  We were in the country, miles and miles from ANYTHING, fifty miles from anything even resembling metropolitan.  The farm itself was isolated.  In the distance, a few miles away, you could see the lights of the next neighbor’s farm.
  The darkness we had, even with the blazing campfire, made the night sky light up for us magnificently.  I had forgotten–completely forgotten–that you can see the Milky Way.
  It was a very good day.

Hey, Hey, My, MySpace

October 5, 2007 at 5:08 PM | Posted in Notes on Society | Leave a comment
  Everybody has a MySpace page, apparently.  It’s like it’s your right, your personal duty.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of. . . dubious personal exploitation.
  So my GF (girlfriend, for those of you not in the know) tells me I *really* need one, because that’s how I can network with other comics, comedians, promoters, bookers, agents, and club owners.
  But she said nothing about pedophiles, perverts, and teenage girls with low self-esteem; I thought that was the whole point of MySpace.
  Resigned to my fate as a joiner, I relent. 
  And I discover that I already have a MySpace.  Oops.  Password?  How the fuck should I know?  I go through the loops, and whatdaya know!  I sure as shit do already have one.  I started it in January.  Of last year.  Stuff on the internet is like herpes; it never disappears completely.
  I allow Detroit access to it and let her fix it up for me.  Then, for the grand unveiling, I go to it.
  "Where is it?"
  "Saved under your favorites."
  "Which–oh."  I click on it, and expect to see a logical sounding name, like "MYSpace.This_is_complete_fucking_bullshit. com."  Instead, I see "myspace" followed by what looks like the VIN numbers to all the cars I’ve ever owned in one line.
  I had some questions.  "What is this bullshit?  What is my Myspace called?  How is anyone supposed to find it?  And what the fuck is all this ad space?  I can’t tell where my MySpace ends and MySpace MySpace crap begins!"
  "It’s there.  Look."  She shows me the rudimentary elements of navigating my MySpace.  The entire time, I experience difficulty, frustration, and fist-clenching anger.  In our den, we have our desks right next to each other, our PC’s bound by Cat6, holding wires, so we are right next to each other.  It’s romantic.  I have my monitor turned a little away from her so it’s less obvious when I look at porn.
  But at this point she is right next to me, listening to me as I curse every time I hit a link on my MySpace page.  "Fuck.  I didn’t want–Shit.  That doesn’t take me where I–   Fuck.  Okay, maybe–shit.  This is retarded!  Where’s the–Fuck.  Is that a goddamn ad?  What–Shit.  Can I–Fuck, no, of course not.  Stupid fucking…."
  So, I have a MySpace.  I’d give you the link, but on it I basically say to come check out *this* site.
  I have a fucking degree (albeit only a two-year associates’ degree) in goddamn computers, and I still can’t navigate the fucking MySpace!  And this is the blog of choice for people?  This is what the sweaty masses *want*?  On purpose?  It’s fucking stupid.  MSN may not be perfect, but it does what I want it to do. 
  I like to be able to write, and MSN seems more suited to that, honestly, than MySpace.  MySpace seems to cater to the people who write in IM style, short blurbs, and want to "meet people," or worse–"hook up."  For Christ’s sake, *why*?
  It’s like a party line phone call with video, text, and images.  And ads.  It was annoying in college 25 years ago when it was done because of rudimentary technology, and it’s vastly more annoying now that the technology has improved.  There is no end to the number of ways this can bug the piss out of me.

  But seriously, if you’re a cute 16 year old girl with low self esteem and "no one understands you", come check my MySpace.  You’ll be pleasantly creeped out.

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