Beaten Like a Dog

November 30, 2005 at 12:19 AM | Posted in Journal | 3 Comments
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I don’t really know where to go with this, or where it will end up.  I feel…done.  I’m just done with it.  I’ve been beaten and broken.  I give up.  Oh, Christ, where do I begin? 

A guy I listen to on the radio,  a good guy–Glenn Beck, have you heard of him?  He’s on a political station.  He actually doesn’t talk politics too much, which is nice, I need a break from it.  But he does take on some social issues, and he is religious, and right-leaning.  He is very, very funny.  Anyway, he has a one-man stage show that he does around Christmas, about the true meaning of Christmas.  And he was touring, and coming to our town.   Humorous and serious, light and at the same time, heart- warming.  Feel-good kind of stuff, for most people.
Most people.  Aaaarrrggh.  I want to get this across with the right tone.  I love my wife, and we have been together for almost 18 years now.  That’s a long freakin time, nowadays.  How do I put this?  She is a cast-iron four-door bitch.  I swear, nothing pleases her, and if she’s unhappy, which is usually, she loves to spread the bad mood around to everyone, so they all know how she feels.  For fuck’s sake.
I hear about the show, and hear lots of good things about it, and decide this is the things I want to do, to help get the whole family in the Christmas spirit.  Last year, I felt a little left out of it all (see September archives, “The Week After Christmas”) and had worked this season on making things work out better.  I have a different job now, better hours, more family time, as well as participating in the holiday things, I cooked a lot of different dishes on Thanksgiving, which people liked, and over the holiday weekend, we put the Christmas lights up on the outside of the house.  I thought this would be a good thing, to add to the overall holiday spirit.
Well, when we get in, the first thing we hear is a song that He had redone, a Christmas carol “O Holy Night.”  To show what political correctness would do, and how the ACLU has filed lawsuits to remove any and all mention of Christmas from our society, he parodied the song, taking out all religious reference, or reference to anything special or holy, to show, to make a point, of how ridiculous it is.  I had heard the song on his radio show, as had many in the audience, so they knew what to expect.
My wife was ready to walk out of the theatre when she heard the song. She was pissed.  She was extremely upset that this song, above all others, had been treated in this sacrilegious manner.  She is a singer, or was, and this was one of her favorites.  From that point on, it was a losing battle.  He was funny, but she wasn’t laughing.  Although he wasn’t being political, the occasional aside he would make just made her boil up again.  She wasn’t willing to give him a chance at all, and instead felt the best thing she could do for everyone was sit there, angrily, and shake her head.  She would occasionally say things like “That’s not funny.  That’s stupid.”–Just loud enough to embarrass me.  My son tried to reason with her, and she just got louder.  I tapped his shoulder to indicate “leave her alone so she shuts up.”  She would occasionally spout off about how this was not “her” kind of humor, it was mine and his, it was “juvenile.”  That really wasn’t the case.  In fact I saw her smile a few times, and then quickly force it away.
Intermission.
Everyone has been enjoying themselves so far, everyone except for my wife.  I feel a kindred spirit, a connectedness with many of these people.  The show starts back up, and takes a different turn.  The first half was all comedy, telling stories about Christmas and his family. The second half started with a salute to our country’s men and women in the military, and she did clap and stand appropriately for that.
But the whole point of the show was the true meaning of Christmas, and so he took a somber, religious bent.  He is an excellent orator.  He related the story of his sordid  past and eventual redemption, and his belief in Jesus.  He told of his daughter, who had cerebral palsy, and her triumph over those struggles, and there was not a dry eye in the house.
Oh, yeah–one.  Guess who.
Sitting in stony silence, occasionally she would sigh, look at me, and give me a long, cold look followed by the slightest shake of her head before turning away.
It was a great presentation, meant to fill everyone with hope and a warm heart.  I wish I could have enjoyed it more.  As it ends, we get up to leave, and she says to me, “Don’t make me go to anything like this again.  I don’t like it.”

Believe me, I won’t.  And that’s what I said to myself over and over again in the car on the long drive home, never again.

JUST LEE

November 4, 2005 at 10:07 PM | Posted in Journal | 4 Comments
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  In 1988, I got married.  Many significant events surround that story, but I had an urge, a yearning, to tell my friend’s story.  I hadn’t seen Lee in a while, but after I got engaged I looked him up.  I wanted him to be my best man.  He was thrilled, and honored, and humbled.  Amazed, I guess, that I picked him.  I think to him I seemed more popular, and had more friends, but I never really felt that way.  Most of my time was spent alone or with him.  He was my best friend growing up, him and his brother. But at different times, because one would be their his dad, who lived in my town, and one would be with their mom, who lived in southern Missouri.  So I had alternating brothers.

  He was living in the town next to the one we grew up in, a bigger town, and I lived in St. Louis, an hour and a half away.  When I went to go see him, he was living with some girl.  He had already been in the Army and given a general discharge.  Not honorable.  Not dishonorable, either, because it has become unconstitutional to tell someone the truth, apparently.  Pee dirty a few too many times, and you are out.

 

  Some girl–some woman.  Some bizarre, controlling nut-freak creature with more emotional baggage than the small mobile home they were renting could hold.  To be fair, maybe she knew what HE was like, and that’s why she was the way she was.  I mean, he was my friend, but I’m not going to make excuses for him.  He very possibly might be a loser.

  Now, I did only meet her the one time, but that combined with what I picked up about her later gave me a pretty insightful look (I thought) into her character.  She was a possessive, jealous, moody, vindictive, hard-to-please bitch.  Since he was getting laid on a semi-regular basis he could overlook these few small foibles.  I brought my fiancé with me to see him, ask him, and give the invitation.  Since I did not know that he had a girlfriend, the invitation that I had carefully made out in advance obviously neglected to contain the name of Lee’s current true love.  Linda, my fiancé, said, well of course you are invited, please do come!

  I thought the matter was settled, but like Mexican food, it came back to haunt me with a vengeance at only the most critical time.  When the time came to get suited for tuxedos, he came into town without her (she was working) and I sported him the money for the tuxedo.  Mine was paid for with a certain size wedding party, after all, so it was no problem to cover him.

  I never actually had a bachelor party, which was okay, and Lee was not in the financial position to provide that type of support.  Not that it would have taken much, but he was dead broke, not working, and living off the girlfriend.  I had hoped he would have shown up the night before the wedding, which was the rehearsal and so forth, but such was not the case. 

  The day of the wedding, and several thousand things going on, which was when I realized that having the wedding at noon was one of the top fifteen stupidest things I have ever done.  Everyone and everything was pressed for time.  Early in the morning, I called Lee.  No answer.  Being ever the optimist, I took it as a good sign.  Obviously they were on their way.

  At the church, family and friends assembled.  Eleven o’clock.  No Lee.  My dad says, I need to consider alternatives.  This, I mused in later years, is why there is such a large wedding party.  Besides the bride and groom, there is best man, maid of honor, four groomsmen, four bridesmaids, ring bearer, flower girl, and maybe a few that I forgot.

  So I have several groomsmen to choose from:  my brother, my cousin, my soon-to-be son, and a young Vietnamese guy that rented a room from us.  All that was missing was elephants and a trapeze.

  11:15.  Just as my dad was about to insist again that I need to pick a stand-in, Lee shows up.  Plenty of time?  No, we had to go get his tux.  The church was by the interstate, and so was the tux place, so it was about a ten minute round trip.  No sweat.  We bolted.

  On the way, Lee told me what had happened.  His girlfriend–and honest, I cannot re- member her name–got exceptionally pissy that she was not named specifically on the invitation.  She took this as a personal affront to her dignity and her fine name and also,
apparently, as the last straw.  Lee didn’t care, I didn’t care, nobody, obviously, cared.  She was hell-bent on the destruction of any and all of Lee’s life that did not rise and set on her and her over-priced piece of ass.

  Never mind that she was going to ruin a wedding. 

  This was about her.  She wasn’t going.
  "Will you take me and drop me off, then?"  Under normal circumstances, for a guy, a perfectly logical question.  The next step is the last straw, when you are out of options.  So to reach that point, you HAVE to explore all those options.
 
Obviously, the wrong question to ask a woman scorned.  He left hurriedly, and walked three miles to the truck stop, and his sad story eventually got him a ride to this exit, over forty miles.  Then he walked to the church.
  He says, as he finishes his tale and we are walking into the tuxedo rental store, "It’s a real bitch not having a car."  That pretty much sums it up. 

  We get the tux, get him dressed, and get back, and its 11:40.  No sweat.  I worked in pizza delivery, with a 30 minute time limit over my head constantly.  We had made it with time to spare.  Meanwhile, it’s lucky there is no history of heat disease in my family, otherwise my dad would have had a coronary.  Others thought I had left for good and was not coming back–and were very reluctant to explain this to my fiancé.  In fact, she did not know all of this happened until about six months later.

  The music starts, Lee and I are getting last minute touch ups on the tuxes by my dad, who shakes his head in disbelieve that I put all my chips on this bet, and actually won.  His parting advice before he takes his seat, “You used up all of your luck.  Now you have nothing.”

  As Lee and I take our places in front, scarcely anyone noticed, because they were all looking behind them, at the main doors, for us.  We slipped in through the side door.  The reverend stopped sweating.

  One of my groomsmen, my cousin Kevin says to me quietly, "Are you going to be late to your funeral, too?"

  "I certainly hope so." 

 

Post script to the story:  I had scarcely seen Lee after the wedding, either.  He stayed at our house for a day, and then we took him home on the way out of town for a brief getaway that my wife refuses to call a honeymoon.  I heard that he stole a bunch of tools and things from his dad, whom he had lived with, sold them, and went to southern Missouri to live with his mom.  Really don’t know what happened after that.  His younger sister got a degree and got married, she was always very bright.  His older brother Charles was my friend also, he stayed in the army.  He may even be retired now, I should look him up.  Their dad is one of the absolute smartest people I know.  I have no theories on how that affects child-rearing.

 

Mid-Life Crisis for a Theme Park

October 17, 2005 at 4:59 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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Kim, if this comes out the way I intend, you may appreciate this, so I will try to get it right.  Much of the time, writing takes on a life of its own.  I try to direct it, but sometimes what I intend and what happens diverge.  It’s similar in function but different in origin to someone trying to draw a picture.  What you want to draw and what ends up on the paper is different, mostly because you don’t have the talent or experience, or control over your hand.  But in writing, for me at least, it’s very stream of consciousness, where it flows I have no control.
 
Six Flags. .. ..
  The name itself, like Disney Land, evokes a set of images and memories.  I seem to recall Six Flags Over Mid-America opening in the early-to mid-seventies.  In fact, In 5th or 6th grade our WHOLE SCHOOL went on a trip there.  I was going to Collinsville at the time, and it was 1975 or 1976.  The park was still fairly new.  I dont recall if I had been there prior to that or not, but I definitely remember this trip. It might have been a Saturday, and up at the School, 20, maybe 30 buses lined up, and we ALL went.  This is the best age to go to an amusement park:  12.  You are young, you have lots of energy, everything is fresh and new and exciting.  The park was MADE just for you.  The sites and sounds, colors and smells. 
  The emerging interest in girls.
  Especially Donna.  My first crush.  She acted like she hated me, and I hoped she secretly liked me, because I really liked her.  I never found out, although on rare occasions we found a common connection. But the mind of a twelve year old girl is a mystery to most, and doubly so to a twelve year old boy.  In a way, I suppose, it was the perfect relationship.  I never had a chance to disappoint her, and she never had the chance to break my heart.
  At Six Flags that fateful day was when my interest went from casual to pointed, after a fashion.  Her and some of her friends had gone on the Log Flume (still a classic–I recommend you try it) and had somehow managed to tip their little boat, or whatever it is, over.  Her and her friends, dressed in shorts and t-shirts of the standard ’70’s flair, where completely soaked.  Her hair was wet and straight down, her clothes were wet and clinging, Her face was wet and glowing. She was beautiful.
  Also completely ignored me, too, but I didn’t care.  I ran into her a dozen times that day, in passing, and it just thrilled me. One of my personal best days in that decade. I managed to go to Six Flags several times over the next few years, but none were as good as day.  Going with parents, who lag behind, and a younger sister, who wants you take her with you. . . .I was completely shackled.
 
  Once I got my driver’s license, however, it was a different story.  I then discovered the *other* best age to go to an amusement park:  17.  Probably the main reason is girls.  Older girls.  Girls our age.  A buddy to go with makes the difference, too.  Nobody goes by themselves, unless they are freaks or perverts.  But a couple of teenage guys, middle of summer, with wheels. . .The world was OURS.  And Six Flags was several sorts of playground.
 Of course, we never got any further than chatting or flirting with some chicks, but we really thought we were the shit.  One time, there was going to be a concert there.  Old Glory Ampitheater.  It’s not there anymore, I think.  The band was called Head East.  They had about 2 songs, one was a hit.  "Never Been any Reason."  Album called "Flat as a Pancake."  After this, they became a metal band.  This was, after all, early 80’s. 
  They had aspirations of being a hair band.  Long wavy hair, shiny clothes, hairbands–they looked very cool.  I can’t believe that look is no longer in.  We saw the show, at least 2 or three songs worth, then continued with the park attractions.  But later, the park was about to close, and we were in line to ride the Screamin Eagle, the big roller coaster of the time. 
  We are about the last, and these two girls asked if they could switch with us so they could go with their friends.  We said yes, and they went, and then we realized, "Fuckin Aye! We are going to be the last to ride, and we get to ride it by ourselves!"  And then, as we are waiting, the band and their babes came up, led by a park employee.  They want to ride the coaster.
  So it was very cool.  We got to ride with the band, and with their hot, unattainable babes, and, because they wanted to, we got to go on it twice.  And we chatted with the band for a few minutes, and then got to walk out of the park, in the dark, the last people there.  For a couple of young dudes, it was a very
rebel kind of feeling.  We glowed with internal coolness. 
  As I grew up, went away to college, flunked out, came back, moved, moved in with some different girls, and experienced a falling out with Six Flags through no fault of my own.  Or, to be fair, Six Flags either.  I mean, I don’t blame them.  I had no more than a passing interest in the Theme park, it was going
through adulthood pangs, as was I.  I followed with a mild disinterest the changes in ownership, additional rides, rides that changed, rides that disappeared because they killed too many people. 
  (And just how many is too many?  I think they follow the rule where, if just one person at a time dies, every 2 or three years, then the ride is okay.  Percentage-wise probably better than the airlines, considering the volume of butts in the seats.  But if a ride kills, say, 4 to 6 in one fell swoop–"fell" being the operative word here, then ix-nay on the ide-ray.  I am speaking of course, of the skylift.  The tram car that went from one side of the park to the other.  Like the train on the ground that stops at half a dozen places around the park, the skylift’s only real purpose was as a shortcut to get from one side to the other.  Apparantly that is not good enough for some people.  People who want more adventure in their lives.  People who rock a tram car until it slips off the wire supporting it and it plummets 200 some odd feet to the ground.
  (Here is my PC disclaimer:  I’m sure there was screaming on the way down, and I don’t mean to diminish the pain and suffering felt by the families of the victims, blah, blah blah.  But if there was one person in there, with a personality like my wife, it wouldn’t be enough for the guy who rocked it to die with
you.  He was going to get the living shit beat out of him on the way down.  One person screaming, the rest of them beating him until they hit the ground.)
 
  And then, of course, I get married, and have kids.  Dangerously approaching adulthood myself, Six Flags has matured and grown.  Added a waterpark, changed themes around, added more rides, got rid of others.  With the kids we already had, and the young one we just had, I would be returning to the park.  Much like an old girlfriend at a high school reunion, it was exciting and awkward all at the same time, at first.  Then after the initial getting re-acquainted, the discussion was mostly about the kids.  And then the fun is more vicarious.  Watching your kids have fun.  Being in the role of MY parents, seemingly holding
my kids back from having to much fun.  Fun is meant to be regulated.  Not too much, not too little.  Too much fun, all hell breaks loose and pretty soon you have anarchy.  Too little fun and no one will come to the theme park, because it JUST ISN’T FUN.  In fact, that is why, I believe, they have signs all over each ride, "No gum or candy on ride."  Because, especially when you are young, gum and candy can be equated to "fun."  And rides equal "fun" as well.  Therefore, if you have gum ON A RIDE, it is conceivable that you will experience TOO much fun, and completely explode into an orgy of fun-filled anarchy and disrespect for authority and ride rules, and they will have to sweep you up with one of those broom and butler things..  It is imperative to maintain the correct fun level. 
  Probably the purpose of parents at the park, too.  So I fell easily into the role of walking slowly, sitting down alot, denying money requests, and just in general saying "No," whenever a question was asked.  Just doing my part.  But the trips to Six Flags became sporadic at best.  Once one year, then not for two or three.  Busy in adulthood.  Much like myself, Six Flags became busy and burdened as well.  And then they added the Fall hours and the the Halloween season, we rediscovered each other, like old friends.  Autumn is my favorite time of year.  It is much cooler, and consequently, attendance is down from the summer peak.  Two BIG reasons why I like it more.  It actually seems more personal, and more personable, and the attendants could take a little more time with you when you need something.  But as the season so signifies in life, thusly, I suppose, it does with a park. 
  This last visit, this was the one that was like seeing an old flame from long ago.  We knew each, and both noticed that we had aged.  In some places, not well.  But we we both accepted each other.  I could no longer fit on some of the rides I used to fit on, the hills were long, and steeper.  The punks were more punkier, if that’s a word.  For Six Flags’ part, it seemed not as well kept, a little dirtier, a little run down, and the staff a little. . .lost. 
  But all in all it was a good time, and wistfully satisfying, like one last fling before I had to pick up my wife at the airport, and then get back to my regular life. . . .

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