The Worst First Date...Ever

Ladies, if a man tells you that men never tell tales you need to immediately call him upon the carpet and let him know that you know better. Because the reality is that we do share stories with our friends, colleagues and brothers-in-arms. We exchange tales of bravery and childhood stupidity. We talk about the girls that once were and the girls that are. And sometimes after a few beers the tales turn to those that we might prefer to keep under wraps.

I remember one such occasion with a mixture of clarity and confusion. It will be up to you to determine if the haze that lies upon my eyes was placed there by a bottle of single malt or the shifting sands of time. Up to you to decide if I have taken liberties to smooth and polish the tale or tales you might read here.

Time is fleeting, madness takes its toll so we must begin.....

Ten years ago when I was a younger man, so much younger than today I was a new father who attacked each day with vigor. Carpe Diem was a motto and a mantra. I was determined to suck the marrow out of life. I had many responsibilities and required but a few hours of sleep so when the call came it was easy to rouse myself from bed.

The man behind the call was a good friend who at the time was among the very few people I knew that was divorced. His mental and emotional state wasn't great and I had spent many hours listening to him talk about the end of a marriage. It was a sad thing, but for the best.

And I was more than a little excited for him when he finally began to date. He deserved to find a good woman and happiness. So when he called and asked if I could meet him at our favorite coffee shop I went expecting to hear a good story.

We sat down, ordered two cups of Joe and a couple of slices of pie. For a moment we did nothing but shoot the breeze and talk about how crazy it was for me to be a father. The baby hadn't come yet, but we were close to D-Day so it was starting to become real. I  laughed at how different our situations were. He was busy trying to find a woman to knock boots with and well, I had done some different knocking.

In a soft voice he began to tell me about his date. She wasn't the first he had gone out with but she was the one he was most excited about. They hit a quiet restaurant for drinks and a meal. He had intentionally made an early reservation so that if things went well they could hit a show afterwards. Aside from he and his date there were relatively few people there.

On the far side of the room there was a table full of older women that kept breaking out into laughter. Just to the right of them a server on break sat quietly eating dinner. About ten feet in front of the server a lone man sat with a drink and a copy of the Wall Street Journal.

Against this backdrop were my friend and his date. Things are going quite well. They are sharing thoughts and stories about themselves. She laughs at his jokes and tells him that she thinks he is quite funny. The meal comes and she makes a point to share hers with him. He starts to think that maybe there is something to this when life happens.

The front door bursts open and the Wicked Witch of the West waltzes in with a team of flying monkeys. She is clearly pissed off and he just knows that she is going to walk up to his date and demand that she give him her ruby slippers.

Ok, scratch that. There were no flying monkeys nor a witch. However, there was a woman. A woman who walked over to the table that the single man was sitting at. My friend watched as the man folded his newspaper and pulled out a chair for the woman.

Now you may be wondering why his eyes weren't focused upon his date and thoughts of book knocking. And that my friends is because the woman who walked into the restaurant just happened to be his ex-wife. Yes, his ex-wife showed up at the same restaurant as he did.

I asked him the obvious question and was told that they had never gone to this restaurant before. It wasn't like he took her to a place that he and the ex-wife used to hang out at. Rather, it seemed that through strange coincidence or a shared love of Italian food they picked the same place to eat at.

Perhaps it is an exaggeration to call it the worst first date ever, but it certainly ranks up there as among the strangest.

I Used The Television As a Babysitter

And now Uber-dad, the one and only Jack B. confesses that today he used the television as a babysitter. Ok, it wasn't just the television it included the Wii, an iPod Touch and time on a spare computer playing Webkinz.

Today was the kind of Monday that makes you tremble in fear, anger and frustration. It was the sort of day where you knew well in advance that life was about to sucker punch you in ways that you couldn't begin to imagine. And what really added insult to injury was the anticipation that came as part of the package.

Being a man who loves imagery I saw myself as a sailor on a trip around the world and not an inexperienced one either. No, I am an old salt who has fought off pirates and sailed through the craziest storms that the seven seas can throw at a man. I have taken on rogue waves and overcome the sweet song of the sirens. I fear no creature, no shark, whale or sea monster.

The kraken could rise out of the sea accompanied by Poseidon and I would laugh. Yes, I'd toss my head back and let out gales of laughter. No sea king or overgrown squid is going to take me down.

But as they say pride goeth before a fall and I saw this one coming. Saw it coming, planned for it and barely managed to come out alive. Perhaps that is a victory in itself.

You see I had a number of projects dumped in my lap with over lapping deadlines. They were a combination of simple and complex but nothing I hadn't encountered before. And until last night I was confident that there wasn't anything that would prevent me from hitting the mark. I had taken time to strategize and prepared a clever plan of attack.

What I didn't account for was a four tall whirling dervish. What I didn't account for was that this dark haired beauty I call my daughter was going to decide to develop a case of pink eye. It came upon her like a sudden storm yesterday evening and it soon became clear that there was no way she was going to school. And so she stayed home from school.

Stayed home from school with eyes that bothered her just slightly and more energy than 42 nuclear power plants. We sat down and talked about what the ground rules would be for the day. I told her that dad had to work and that it was important that she give me some quiet time. Promised that I would find some time to spend with her too, but that in order to do that I would need some space.

So I hooked her up on the computer and let her play with her Webkinz. She did that for a while and then told me that she didn't have breakfast. Super dad offered to make her scrambled eggs but she said no and asked for cereal. Bam, got it together and she decided that she didn't like it.  Told me that I didn't cut up her fruit properly and that I should have mommy teach me etc.

But we got through that and I hit the computer. A short time later when I was midway through a conference call I heard shrieking and barely hit mute before the stampede hit. The puppy had one of her dolls and was running full speed towards me followed by a very angry girl who wanted me to help get her doll.

Let me tell you, if you have never tried to negotiate terms under these circumstances than you haven't lived.

Time passed, the call ended and I jumped on top of writing assignments- got midway through them and was told that it was time to make dad beautiful. I must have made a face because she glared at me, put a hand on her hip and told me that a promise is a promise.

I am not a pushover. I am not the father that lets his children speak to him in a tone that is less than respectful, but I am not stupid either. I had promised to spend some time with her and knew that if I didn't I was going to be hammered for it.

So I convinced her to read some books to me instead and agreed that there would be a different time to make dad beautiful. It was a lot of fun and I was glad to take the time to be with her. Gradually I started feeling pressure again and resumed working.

I told her that today was her lucky day and that she would be allowed to watch more television than normal. We set up James and the Giant Peach. She loved the book so I figured that the movie would be good, thank you Netflix. What I didn't know was that she would turn that off and flip around the channels. Just my luck, she chanced upon some soap opera.

And because I am lucky she wants to know why people close their eyes when they kiss and a host of other questions.

Got about an hour left alone with her. One more hour to try and keep her busy. Right now she is playing with her dolls. I have to give her credit for her ability to entertain herself because she is good at it. But damn if I am not tired and thankful for my basketball game tonight.

It has been great to have her here with me, really I have for the most part enjoyed it. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I am ready for some quiet myself. Whew.

The Lonesome Kicker

I love this not just because it is funny but because it tells a story. And if there is one thing that I have learned about myself it is that at heart, I am a story teller and a collector of stories.

Were it a thousand years ago I might have been some sort of Bard or Minstrel. But it is not and I am not- but who I am today will not be who I am tomorrow.

Posted via email from thejackb's posterous

You Could Read These

What I Meant To Say

Sometimes the echoes of our past haunt the halls of our present. The simple tasks that I am required to attend to seem to require an extra step and the routine events are not quite routine. A superstitious man would say that strange things are afoot or wonder aloud if the universe was trying to send me a message. But I am not that superstitious man, at least not today. For today I am convinced that whatever happens is nothing more than simple coincidence.

There is a logical explanation for all of these things and if not than it is nothing more than simple coincidence. I say these things because that is what I want to believe. I don't want to be asked to try to decipher hidden messages or to engage in deep philosophical thought about the meaning of life. I want it to be handed to me in plain detail with instructions that cannot be misunderstood.

There are rules and laws that I wish to follow. Laws of math and science that I can depend upon to be consistent are my friend and my ally. I seek their embrace because I do not wish to live in a world where they do not provide the structure and foundation of my life.

Yet I find myself being forced to question whether I have chosen the right path. Things happen and my faith is shaken and I find reason to question my position. Things happen and I wonder if maybe the better path is to say that I am an agnostic. Things happen and I think that maybe I must admit that there is something going on that is beyond my sphere of understanding, that maybe there is something more.

I don't like it. I don't want it because to accept it is to give up a piece of control over my life and I don't want to do that. I have little enough as it is and it is unacceptable to consider giving up any more than I already have. Of course if I could prove that there was something more that would be different. If I could apply some mathematical theorem or scientific formula I would feel far more comfortable.  Of course I could walk into a house of worship on Mainstreet USA and meet with clergy who would assure me that there is no reason not to believe.

They would have reasons and structure for me to follow. I wouldn't be the first to question their words so they would have answers to the pressing questions of my life. They could tell me where the great love of my life Ann Stacey has disappeared to. She who climbed into a covent tree with me has moved on to places and parts unknown. Or alternatively I could consult the mighty oracle of Facebook and see if maybe she has ended up there.

It is only 20+ years since our high school days so really, how hard could it be for the mighty oracle to locate her or someone who knows what happened to her. I can't help but wonder whatever happened to her and I suspect that she might be surprised by what has happened to me.

She told me many years ago many things about myself and suggested that I was being foolish not to listen to her advice. Hard to believe, but she was right about many things. Perhaps it is ego, but part of my interest in speaking with her is because I suspect that I was right about her too. I know things. I knew things then and I know them now.

But that places us back at the start. We have come almost full circle for the things I know aren't based upon science or reason or fact. At least they aren't based upon the standard ways. Yet I know without a doubt that were I to kiss dear old Ann Stacey her heart would melt and she would lose herself again in my arms and eyes.

So I wonder about this information and whether there is a point or a purpose to  it. I ask the universe why it would make this evident and whether it has intentions. Intentions of what and with whom I might add. As the poets say we started a story whose end must now wait, but for how long. Is it destined to be somewhere down the road or not at all.

See, this is why I don't like these signs but they are unclear and I seek clarity. I want to see beyond the haze into the valley below. I want to gaze out upon a verdant land and know what lies before me. There is much to do and many reasons why it must be done.

But who knows what will happen or if I will ever have the chance to say what I meant to say.

Priorities Vs Black Friday

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." Mark Twain
"I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one." Mark Twain
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." Mark Twain

This morning I woke up to a different sort of Black Friday than the one that many others did. For me it was Black Friday because I had stayed up far later than common sense dictated I should even though I had deadlines to hit. Not deadline, but deadlines. I suppose that ultiple projects all coming due at the same time could be seen as poor planning or a quirk of fate.

And I suppose that one could argue that it was a lack of discretion that led to my enjoying good Scotch and good company far longer than I should have. But the benefit of experience and awareness is such that I knew that I could find a way to get it all done. Knew that sometimes I work better under pressure.

So when I woke up in desperate need of coffee and some uninterrupted time at the computer I didn't panic or stress out. I simply sat down and prepared to give these projects a shot of shock and awe. There was only one kink in my plan, one detail that I hadn't considered.

Or maybe I should rephrase that and say that the kink is 75 pounds of boy, not just any boy, but my first born. He came to me early on and asked if we could have some time to hang out. From business/planning perspective I should have quietly told him no. Should have explained that I couldn't give up that time because it would require me to be up far too late making up the hours I lost.

It would be a lie to say that I didn't consider telling him that we couldn't do it. I did. I thought about it. I didn't want to be stuck burning the midnight oil to get it all done. But sometimes you need to make like Tom Cruise in Risky Business and say "What The Fuck." Sometimes you need to adjust your priorities and today was one of those days.

So we made a deal that I would work through the morning and hit the movies to see Megamind and I couldn't be happier. The two of us of had a great time together. It didn't hurt that I enjoyed the movie either. Afterwards in spite of my promise not to hit any retailer today we made quick trips to Target and Costco.

He wasn't thrilled about it and wanted to know why I chose to do it. So I explained that I want to buy a new camera and that being a smart shopper involved a little legwork. I pointed out that we wanted to compare prices and packages. He nodded his head and I could see the wheels spinning.

Now several hours later I am working hard to tie up some loose ends and meet the deadlines that are fast approaching. I am tired and ready for bed, but I wouldn't change today. The look in his eyes and the smile on his face were well worth it.

He'll remember this day and know that dad made time for him. It is important because there will be a time where I can't get away so today will be a good reminder but that is not why I did it. It wasn't to gain favor for a future moment. It was because we don't know what the future holds. Things can change overnight so it made sense to take advantage of the moment and we did.

The Year Is Almost Gone

It is another Friday night and I am back at the computer again. Back because I have work to do, stories to write, bills to pay, and a million other things that require my attention. Back because I can't rest or relax. Back because sometimes this is how I relax.

I sit down at the keyboard and start typing out my thoughts, feelings and ideas about whatever tickles my fancy. And so I am back here mulling over the end of another week and the realization that 2010 is just about over. It is hard to believe that the year has come and gone with the kind of speed that this one has passed through.

If you look back at the beginning of the year you'll see that I shared two thoughts/themes for the year. 2010 was supposed to be the year of Jack and the year of the daddy blogger. I called it the year of Jack in response to 2009. I called it the year of Jack because 2009 was the easily among the worst years of my life. If life mirrored bad sitcoms than 2009 ranks right up there. I turned 40 and found myself mired in hell, trying to figure out how to keep from going under.

Sometimes when I look back I wonder how it is that I kept things going. I shake my head and think that it must be a combination of being stubborn and stupid. Too stupid and or too stubborn to give up I kept on pushing forward. Kept on walking when it felt like I was getting my ass kicked and there was nothing that I could do but take a beating. Kept on walking when my nature told me to turn around and give as good as I got- but the thing was that there wasn't anyone to fight. It wasn't one thing or a person. It was a million little cuts and I was one of a million who was getting battered.

So here I am at the tail end of 2010 and I can say that things improved. I can say that in some areas I made exceptional progress and for that I am grateful. Still, there have been some very dark moments and I know that I am not quite through it all yet. I suspect that I am going to be required to pour gasoline over my head and jump back in the fire.

It sounds ridiculous and feels stupid to write those words but that is what it feels like. How absurd is it that I have to engage in some stupid fraternity initiation in order to get beyond the challenges. Yet this isn't a fraternity, club or gang that I am pledging. This is just life and I can't get around some of these things. It is not for lack of effort, plans or careful strategy. Sometimes the only way to get beyond the minefield is to walk through it.

If that is what it takes to push ahead and forge a new future than so be it. But let's be clear, I wouldn't bet against me. Wouldn't bet against me because I am a father and fathers do what they must, Wouldn't bet against me because I am still just as stubborn and stupid as before. Wouldn't bet against me because I can see the shore and experience has taught me that success is predicated on being able to sustain your effort and that I can do.

I can persevere and I can sustain. Though it is challenging and at times painful I have done it and will continue to do so. So perhaps 2010 hasn't been everything that I would like it to be, but there is nothing saying that I can't hit 2011 like a demon. Nor is there anything that says that 2011 can't be what I hoped 2010 would be.

Is It Blogworthy?

Here is some unsolicited advice for any who wish to take it. It is always worth considering whether the post in your head is blogworthy. Take a moment to consider what you are doing and what you hope to accomplish. Spend a minute asking yourself if you could say the same thing in person and you'll likely save yourself some grief.

In the early days of my blogging career when I was completely anonymous I had very few rules for what I was willing to post. If I felt like writing about something than I did so. Since I had almost no readers it didn't occur to me that there was any reason to censor myself. And for the most part I really didn't.

Over time my feelings on the matter evolved and I found that I was beginning to develop unwritten rules for what I was willing to discuss online and what was left unwritten and unsaid. You can attribute the genesis of this to having people who know me discover this place. It wasn't so much that what I said was so embarrassing, but there were topics there that I didn't want to discuss with real people.

One of the other factors was in how I viewed The Shack. It wasn't just something that I had done for a lark. No longer was it solely a short term project that I was going to fumble with for a while. It became a real hobby and something that I enjoyed.

As I became more serious about it I also became more concerned with the quality of the posts. It became more important to me that the things that went up had a bit more substance than some of the earlier crap. That's not to say that crap doesn't find its way onto these pages. It does. But now there is sort of a formula that I follow.

I am more conscientous about trying not to post things that would embarrass others. Since I am willing to say just about anything to anyone that leaves a lot of room. But even so it doesn't mean that I am willing to go hog wild. It also means that I try not to engage in angry blogging.

Still I have to say that there are going to be contradictions. I use this place to air out the thoughts rolling around my melon. I use this place to document my life and to practice my writing.

With all those things in mind I am also careful about how much rewriting and editing I do. You can almost always improve a post by running through it several times. But since I like to use this as a workshop I am less inclined to do so. I kind of like to give things a rougher look.

Thankful for My Health

I didn't want to answer the phone and most of the time I wouldn't have. The call came through on the house line and had I responded the way I normally would have it would have gone straight to voicemail. Those who I wish to speak with are given my cellphone- the direct line that I carry upon me most of the time.

The other line is still active for emergency purposes. It is proven technology and in the case of an earthquake or some other disaster it is there for us to use. But ten years or so ago when we first got that number it was the primary line so some friends and family still use it.

When it rang twenty-five minutes ago I glanced at the Caller ID and noticed that it said Incomplete Data. Usually that would have been enough to ignore but this time I chose to answer it. Chose to answer it because I needed a two minute break from work and because I was curious.

I recognized that voice on the other side instantly and wondered why they chose to use the house line. They had come down with the kids to spend Thanksgiving with their family. Ninety seconds later I understood why they chose the house line. Ninety seconds later I learned that my dear friend is in the hospital and about to undergo emergency surgery.

It is the night before Thanksgiving and I am grumpy, irritated and frustrated. I have a long list of reasons why and had I not received that call I would be stationed here at the computer with a bad headache, a stomachache and a chip on my shoulder.

Frustrated because in spite of my best efforts certain things haven't gone as I wish. Irritated because I have been diligent in attending to them and have gotten stuck because of someone else. I am cleaning up someone elses mess. Their screw up has become my problem.

But that telephone call provided perspective. It provided a reminder that I am lucky. It was a sign, a beacon that I can hear clearly that it could be worse. I don't always respond to those things. Yes, it is true that life can always be worse but my problems don't go away because someone else has problems.

I don't say that without sympathy or compassion for others. It doesn't mean that I don't believe in trying to help lend a hand. It just is how I operate. The fact that it could be worse doesn't typically motivate me to be happier or work harder. Those things come from different places.

But this call changed that and reminded me that sometimes it is important to remember that it could be worse. This time I'll take an extra moment to be thankful for what I have and remember that I while I may not look like I am still 20 I am in decent shape.

So I am thankful for that and for the health of my family.I am grateful. And here on Erev Thanksgiving, the night before I say thanks again and pray for my friend because it really could be worse.

The US Civil War- Old Photos

The US Civil War or The War Between the States is something that has always interested me. For a brief timeline of the war click here. Those of you who are not from the states probably are less familiar with this and how many Civil War buffs are still walking around today.

Many of them spend copious amounts of time involving themselves in reenactments of battles and life as it was during that time.

Civil War Reenactment HQ offers a collection of information about this including a lists of events, units, and a beginners guide to reenactments.

The Civil War Reenactors Homepage has a lot of information as well. But what I really wanted to write about here are those old time photographs that we see from that time period. Photography was much more time consuming and difficult than it is today.
"During the Civil War, the process of taking photographs was complex and time-consuming. Two photographers would arrive at a location. One would mix chemicals and pour them on a clean glass plate. After the chemicals were given time to evaporate, the glass plate would be sensitized by being immersed -- in darkness -- in a bath solution. Placed in a holder, the plate would then be inserted in the camera, which had been positioned and focused by the other photographer. Exposure of the plate and development of the photograph had to be completed within minutes; then the exposed plate was rushed to the darkroom wagon for developing. Each fragile glass plate had to be treated with great care after development -- a difficult task on a battlefield."
Pictured above Cold Harbor, Va. Photographer's wagon and tent Between 1860 and 1865
Aside from the difficulty in taking photos I always find it interesting to see how serious so many of the subjects of the photos were. Few if any appear to be smiling.Thanks to the Library of Congress I have a few samples to share here. This link takes you here:
The Selected Civil War Photographs Collection contains 1,118 photographs. Most of the images were made under the supervision of Mathew B. Brady, and include scenes of military personnel, preparations for battle, and battle after-effects. The collection also includes portraits of both Confederate and Union officers, and a selection of enlisted men. An additional two hundred autographed portraits of army and navy officers, politicians, and cultural figures can be seen in the Civil War photograph album, ca. 1861-65. (James Wadsworth Family Papers). The full album pages are displayed as well as the front and verso of each carte de visite, revealing studio logos, addresses, and other imprint information on the approximately twenty photographers represented in the album.
If you are not familiar with the story of President Lincoln's assassination I would recommend that you read more about it here. It is a fascinating story and a reminder that Booth was not alone.
[Washington, D.C. President Lincoln's funeral procession on Pennsylvania Avenue]

[Washington, D.C. Hanging hooded bodies of the four conspirators; crowd departing]

[Atlanta, Ga. Gen. William T. Sherman, leaning on breach of gun, and staff at Federal Fort No. 7].

Fort Monroe, Va. Officers and ladies on porch of a garrison house].
Regarding credit for all photos:Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-B8184-3287]

A Midweek Wrapup

Here is what you have missed:
And your blast from the past:
Inside the Blogger's Studio- A Dream, Er Nightmare
You are Not Funny Nor Wise

    Johnny's Thanksgiving

    There were moments where Johnny thought that one of the great tragedies of his life was his inability to sing or play an instrument. He was a man of passion and intensity who had known tragedy and triumph. He believed wholeheartedly that he had stumbled onto one of the great loves, if not the great love of his life. Fear and uncertainty had taken her from him and that was something that he had been unable to reconcile with himself.

    For a long while he had foundered between anger and sadness. Most of that was directed inwards, which if you knew him was to be expected because he had no bigger critic than himself. There had been more than one occasion upon which he sat in the dark and stared into the black wondering what if. It was an easy trap for him to fall into albeit a foolish path for him to tread upon.

    It was easy because hindsight made it clear that there had been a better way to do things. It was easy because looking backwards he could see the path that he should have taken and he didn't know how not to hold himself accountable. It didn't mean that June held no stake in this or that she wasn't culpable because no relationship is completely one sided.

    But Johnny always saw himself as her hero. It was what he wanted to be and he suspected so did she. In fact he was certain that it was how she had seen him. So he shouldered the burden of expectations that may not have been completely reasonable and did his best to try to understand how it was he had fallen from the mountaintop that he had once walked upon.

    His pain was significant and in many ways far worse than it would have been had it been of a physical nature. A broken bone would have ached and stung but there was medication that one could take to numb it all or to at least take the edge off of it. There was no such salve for a broken heart. You couldn't drink or smoke it away all that you could do was try to live through it.

    She wasn't the first woman to break his heart but she was the first to shatter it. For a long while he was convinced that there would never be a time where it would feel better. It made him angry and bitter. There were moments where he wondered if it was worth it. Moments where he thought that when he didn't know that June existed he was happier.

    But Johnny if was nothing else, he was a fighter. He didn't walk away from battles or give up just because things got hard. In his younger years he would have approached this as a war that could be won via brute strength. His stamina and tolerance for pain were considerable and he would spent a significant amount of time attacking the problem from that angle alone.

    However Johnny was no longer a young man who was led solely by emotion. Time and life experience had provided him with a certain amount of wisdom, enough to make him sit down and consider his situation. And in this case one could be confident that he had spent many hours examining this from all sides. One could be certain that he had taken the time to consider whether this was best left to rest or if the situation was something that could be salvaged and if so, how.

    And so it came to pass that he found himself laughing at the absurdity of it all. Laughing because for the longest time he and June had argued over whether one could apply logic and reason to relationships. She had often maintained that she was both and he had laughed. He took great pleasure in teasing her about it and told her that logic/reason had a tenuous grip upon affairs of the heart.

    Yet, here he was groping for strands of logic and reason that he could weave into a tapestry that made sense. If he wasn't careful he would suddenly proclaim his love for Barry Manilow and calculus. The thought made him laugh harder and had you seen him you might have described it as gales of laughter emanating from him. And for the first time in a great while he felt joy and happiness.

    He still loved that crazy woman. He loved her with the same fierce intensity as he had. She was still the woman he never knew he wanted or needed but this time he had developed a new understanding and appreciation for her.

    It was easy to admit that he loved her but frightening to realize that he had no control over anything but himself. Easy to admit that he wanted her back and kind of thrilling to think of the future. Terrifying to realize that it might never happen and that he would just have to find a way to fill the hole.

    Yet he couldn't help but believe that she felt it too. Couldn't help but believe that they weren't done yet and that there was more than a little magic left. Couldn't help but believe that maybe this time apart was what they needed and that it was going to be a key ingredient in helping them to forge a bond that was deeper than before.

    And that made his heart pound. The two of them had loved each other more deeply than any other. They had gone to a place that few couples reach and thought that they had reached the top of the mountain. It almost seemed crazy to consider that they could get closer than they had before. Crazy because they weren't together not by any definition of the term- not to mention that it seemed silly to tempt fate by suggesting such a thing out loud.

    But relationships aren't based solely upon the heart any more than just logic and reason. Rather they are a meld of all of that- a magical alloy that you can't find listed in the periodic table. Call it the 107th element.

    Johnny stretched his arms above his head and smiled broadly. Still smilingly he grabbed a coat and stepped out into the cold dark night. Alone with his thoughts he looked up at the moon and sent out thoughts of love and joy into the night. With care and great effort he directed them to find a woman working in a kitchen far from his.

    He didn't have to call, email or text her to know that she was working hard to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Didn't have to close his eyes to see her move gracefully from refrigerator to stove or to picture how good her food would smell.

    There beneath the moon he thought again about how he wished that he could play an instrument and or sing. The two of them were living a silent symphony and he wanted to sing or play it for her. Still he couldn't help but smile because he knew that she could hear the song of his heart and that was more than most.

    Happy Thanksgiving June- I will see you on the other side.

    Cookie Monster Auditions for Saturday Night Live

    Here at the Shack we are huge fans of Cookie. You may recall that we included a post about how he cures writer's block and Cookiegate among others.

    The Search For Answers About Our Ourselves

    One of the things that I love about blogging is the opportunity it affords to search for answers about the questions that bother me. The web is filled with similar blogs, thousands of souls like mine searching cyberspace a communal quest to find that thing or thing that provides fulfillment.

    Some are looking for something to fill the empty space in their beds, some in their hearts and others are not quite sure what they are looking for, they just are.

    I have had my heart broken several times. It was ripped out from behind my ribs and my chest was sown back up, devoid of the thing that made me human, or so I thought. I grew accustomed to being sad, to looking at others with a longing to just be normal again, to wonder how they could laugh and how they could still see a world full of colors.

    And then one day I woke up and realized that I had lost a companion, a old familiar friend had left me. The pain that I carried with me was gone and I hadn't realized that it had left me. I no longer needed to walk around in a world of gray skies, the fog had lifted and I rejoined the world.

    It was a terrible experience and like many things, I made it worse, I complicated the issues and made my own life more difficult than it had to be. But in some ways it was wonderful. It helped to teach me that I was tougher than I thought I was. My will and desire were like iron and would not break. (Can you tell that I think in very graphic terms.) I knew that if I let myself, if I gave myself permission to be happy and whole I would heal again and I did.

    Since then I have been through some terrible moments, times in which I wondered why I had ever allowed myself to feel for anyone again. I considered myself a fool and there are some people out there who unfairly bore the brunt of my anger and my sorrow. But I never did fall back into the same hole that I had initially been in. I learned from each experience, added knowledge and scar tissue to my being and kept moving.

    And if there is one thing that I did take from everything it was to stop beating myself up over not knowing the answers. I don't know why some things happen. I don't know why some women loved me and others could not or would not. I don't know why so many friends and acquaintances have died at such a young age. I don't like not knowing, but I don't have to know everything because sometimes you cannot. And if you allow yourself to foster unhealthy ambition for too long there are consequences.

    So what I have found is that by easing back on the throttle I am a happier man and many of the answers I seek have come to me. I don't always like them or find them to be incredibly satisfying, but they are answers.

    Here is what I know for certain.....Nothing and everything. I know that I have friends and family whom I would die for. I have known and know love that burns so fiercely it leaves me gasping for breath. I have experienced passion that leaves a sharp a pain in my side and a burning feeling that does not diminish with time.

    What I know for certain is that I am alive. I feel it and I live it. What else can a man ask for.

    Is Social Media Making You Anti-Social

    Social Media has made it de rigueur to talk to people in ways that once were considered rude or inappropriate. We no longer encourage eye contact because that removes our ability to check our email, tweet, blog or update our Facebook status.

    It has gotten so bad in my house that I once made my 6.5 year old daughter scream in terror. You see, I walked into her bedroom and told her that if she didn't clean up her room she wasn't going to be able to go on her playdate. It seemed like a rather innocuous request and certainly not one that was going to make her scream.

    However I had forgotten that she no longer recognizes my face and consequently was frightened because she thought that a strange man had broken into her house. Fortunately I am quick witted so I whipped out my BlackBerry and looked down at my screen. Having become intimately familiar with the top of my head she immediately calmed down and requested that I never scare her like that again.

    Still I was concerned so I made a point of sitting next to her on the bed so that I could show her pictures of her daddy. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do because she immediately screamed and said that the stranger was back. Fortunately she could smell my cologne (Polo) and recognized my hands as belonging to daddy.

    Ok, this story is a bit of an exaggeration. She screamed because discovered that the puppy had chewed up one of her dolls and not because she didn't recognize me. But that doesn't change the question/comment about how social media can make us all antisocial.

    Humans are social creatures and we need to interact with others. If you don't believe me I recommend that you take a moment to think about the psych class you took in college. You know the one, it was that lower division course that you had to take as an elective to fulfill your general ed requirements.

    So it makes plenty of sense that we would be interested in using tools and applications that provide a method for that interaction. I love to write and would do so even if no one read or commented on these posts. But I gain far more pleasure out of it when there is interaction. I use Facebook to stay in touch with friends I might not otherwise speak with.

    But I also make a point to try and talk to my friends. Call me a dinosaur but I prefer verbal communication. I am not satisfied with just text. It is nice to see photos on Facebook, but I want to hear about the trip too. Yet what happens with increasing frequency is that verbal communication is becoming infrequent. It is often not the norm and instead of social media fostering interaction it is helping to build little cocoons of technology.

    We are becoming a world of "boys in the bubble" where we don't sit through a meal without checking our email or tweeting about how good our steak is. There is nothing profound about this. I am not the first person to complain/comment nor will I be the last.

    The world we are creating is what makes it possible for a woman to spend to engage in a social media experiment where for 30 days her interaction with people will be limited to that which is provided by technology.

    As a father I wonder and worry about this. Though I have had a cellphone for more than ten years and a computer for far longer I know what life is like without it. I remember the time when I wasn't constantly connected. It is a world that my children have never seen and that concerns me.

    It is not always good to be so connected. I say that as someone who constantly is. Work requires me to be at my computer throughout the day and when I am not tethered to it I have a BlackBerry that helps out. The BlackBerry is a great tool. I love how it makes it possible for me to have more mobility. I love being able to go sit on a beach or hang out at a park and work.

    Yet it is also an electronic leash. Those people who know I have it expect immediate or semi-immediate replies to their calls/emails/texts. Instant gratitude leads to instant impatience.

    So I have made a point of turning it off. I have made a point of disconnecting from that bells, beeps, whistles and dings because I have been trained to respond just like Pavlov's dog. Even when my phone is off the sound of an alert in my general vicinity makes me reach for my pocket.

    And though I would very much like to share more with you I have found that I cannot. Because I haven't updated my Facebook status in hours nor have I tweeted about what I had for lunch. So ciao for now, social media is calling my name.

    Monday Morning Music Thanksgiving Week

    Under Pressure-Queen & David Bowie
    Sympathy For The Devil-The Rolling Stones
    The Night Is Still Young- Billy Joel
    Resistance- Muse
    I'll Have to Say I Love You In A Song- Jim Croce
    We Can Work It Out- The Beatles
    Prodigal Blues- Billy Idol
    Knockin' on Heaven's Door- Bob Dylan
    The Fire Inside- Bob Seger
    Baby, I Love You- Aretha Franklin
    Do You Wanna Hold Me?-Bow Wow Wow
    Mud On the Tires-Brad Paisley
    Telephone Line - ELO

    I Hate The Holiday Season

    Yes that is right. I hate the holiday season. 

    • I hate being told to be of good cheer.
    • I hate reading about the fake war on Xmas.
    • I hate being assaulted by all of the crass commercialism.
    • I hate being told that we should be nicer now than during the rest of the year.
    • I hate emails that are blindly sent out without regard for whether the message is of interest to all of the recipients.
    • I hate all of the stupid decorations. Gaudy is not cool and I don't care if they are Jewish or Xtian. I dislike them all.
    • I hate fighting crowds at the mall.
    • I hate reading about knuckleheads shooting each other over a video game system.
    • I hate the stupid elves that try and get my children to take a picture on Santa's lap. Don't they know that I wished Death upon Santa.
    • I hate knowing that my cousin the Grinch rolled over and gave in.
    • I hate most Elmo toys. That little red fiend's voice grates on my nerves.
    • I hate all of these stupid battery operated toys that beep, squawk and whistle. The next person who gives my kids one of those toys is going to wake up to the sound of a marching band outside their home.
    • I hate the stupid holiday music. If I could I'd kick that little drummer boy right in the ass. And that kid who made that dreidel out of clay can bite me too. What the hell is up with a clay dreidel, the best are made out of wood.
    • I hate fake snow. I don't like the real stuff, but the fake crap is even worse. I live in California for a reason. If you need snow to feel like you are a part of the season get the hell out of here. There is too much traffic anyway.
    • I hate, I hate, I hate.
    Phew. I feel better now.

    (originally posted here.)

    Dancing With Reckless Abandon

    Two weeks ago the Traveling Jack show left the comfortable confines of the home office in paradise for a quick trip across country. A lovely experience in which your favorite father's plane departed California at 10:30 P.M. and arrived at Dulles at 6:30 A.M.

    Twelve hours later the crazy man boarded a plane back home. Stuffed full of coffee, a bagel and 17 gallons of Pho he spent the entire plane ride wondering if the crazy clevelander behind him would do him a favor and swallow her tongue.

    Ok, in the interest of disclosure I don't know where that woman was from nor did I pray for her to swallow her tongue. Rather I silently begged G-d to sew her mouth shut or make her move to a different seat. I blame that upon extreme fatigue and the foul smell of caviar that was emanating from her bag. Who brings caviar on a plane and more importantly, who eats it while sitting in coach. Really.

    But none of that is important nor tied into the real point of this post. Because what this is about is dancing with reckless abandon. Yep, it is about standing up and shaking your ass without any regard for rhythm or rhyme. It is about being completely unaware of just how awful you look.

    It is standing in a room with no one but your children and you and finding out that three of you are moving your bodies to the music. You don't know how or why it started but you don't care. Don't care because your daughter is laughing so hard you wonder how she hasn't wet her pants. Don't care because her big brother is a part of this moment too.

    This crazy and special moment that has spontaneously appeared. You are smart enough not to run get a camera because you don't know how long it will last and you fear missing it. You don't stop to blog or tweet about it because again it is unclear whether it will be 30 seconds or 30 minutes.

    For a moment time stands still and you who are exceptionally self conscious about dancing move because you don't care. The kids haven't a clue and more importantly they are having way too much fun. You do all you can to enjoy the moment for no other reason than just because. You smile because you know that this is something that you will all remember. You laugh because it is contagious and you can never laugh too hard or too long.

    For that moment in time all is perfect in the world and there is no doubt that you will all pass through the coming storms. And again you are reminded that a life is made up of these moments in time. Pieces of a puzzle that you continue to build and shape as you go.

    And so you dance with your children and wonder if their laughter isn't the same sort of sound that the angels in heaven might make.

    Wii Party Like Bad Bad Leroy Brown

    "Well the south side of Chicago
    Is the baddest part of town
    And if you go down there you better just beware
    Of a man named Leroy Brown"

    Sunday was what you could call a watershed day for the blog. You see for the past 6.5 years of my blogging career I have ignored opportunities to try and court brands. I have ignored the PR pitches that have come through. With the exception of the WebAds banners that have been running here I have done nothing to monetize this place.

    I write because I love to write. I write because it is a big part of how I vent. I write because words help define Jack. Don't you just love it when people refer to themselves in the third person.

    Don't ask me to tell you why I didn't push for monetizing this joint sooner. The answer is a simple because I didn't and because I was irritated by the way a lot of other bloggers did it. I looked down my nose at them and sneered because I thought that they were unprofessional and that they cheapened it all. Read through the archives and you'll find my thoughts.

    Anyway, to quote my grandfather, there comes a revolution. And in this case the revolutionaries convinced me that there wasn't any reason not to be open to working with brands and agencies. In what you could term a great coincidence around the same time I decided to open things up I was asked to become a brand ambassador for Nintendo.

    And that my friends is how I found myself hosting a bunch of friends at a Nintendo Wii Party at the 'W' Hotel in Hollywood. Cosponsored by the American Heart Association the gang and I spent time playing Wii Sports Resort and using the Wii Fit Plus.

    Did I mention that I was excited to have the chance to play these games with adults. It wasn't because I lack for adult conversation but because the damn kids have been kicking my ass. I figured that the big kids would be like me, just semi proficient. Imagine my surprise when I got my butt kicked by a 38 year-old ringer.

    We were playing Wii Sports Resort and engaged in a duel. I sincerely hope that no one taped it because if they did you will see the two of us swinging wildly at the screen, not to mention that some guy who looks like me kept making that light saber noise and talking about the Dark Side of the Force.

    Anyhoo, we took a break for lunch and listened to Hank Wasiak talk about Asset Based Thinking and followed up with a panel that included a dietitian and cardiologist.

    Go to Hank's site and spend a few minutes reading about him. He is an interesting guy. The cardiologist and dietitian were solid. I appreciated what they had to say, but frankly I knew everything that they spoke about. In a different life your old friend Jack taught CPR and First Aid so I had some need to know a little bit about health and the heart.

    But I also am well versed in this because of my father's heart attack and the impact it had upon me as a son and a father. It is a very personal reminder that I need to be aware of my own mortality and my health. I have been good about exercising regularly and lousy at dieting.

    The talk at the 'W' was a reminder that I need to focus a little bit harder on my diet. And the laughter that was generated from screwing around with the boys on a Wii was a reminder that I like playing Wii with my kids. It is not  as good as getting outside on the bikes or running with them on the soccer field. I don't see it as a substitute for "real" exercise.

    Nor can I say that boxing on the Wii will teach you how to survive an encounter with Bad Bad Leroy Brown either. However it is a good supplement. It is possible to work up a sweat and it does offer teaching moments.

    More importantly is that it provides the opportunity to play a game with the kids, family moments. And that is something that I can always get behind.

    DISCLOSURE: As part of my role as Brand Ambassador. Nintendo provided me with a Wii Fit Plus kit and the Sports Resort game.

    Most Popular Posts of The Last 30 Days

    The most popular posts from the past 30 days in no particular order:

    Writing To Connect With Others

    "she runs from my words and hides from my heart
    and all the while it weeps endlessly
    while my soul reaches for hers
    and wonders why it doesn't answer"

    Someone asked me why I have devoted so much time to blogging and whether I thought it was worth it. The underlying message was an unspoken accusation that I was wasting my time, using it unwisely. It is not the first time that I have heard such words or felt someone judge me for how I choose to engage with others. It didn't bother me then and it doesn't bother me now.

    Engagement with others is what makes the blogosphere so very interesting. Interacting with other fathers and hearing their stories about their lives, desires and interests. Walking amongst the mothers and listening to what they say about their lives and their roles is so very interesting to me. We are all parents and people yet our perspectives can be so very different.

    It doesn't matter whether we are both witnessing the same event at the same time our experiences, thoughts and ideas provide very different filters through which we process and account for what we just did. That is a sterile way of saying that we might be staring at the same picture but we have different interpretations of what happens. I find that fascinating.

    Engagement is undoubtedly a big part of why you see me here day in and day out. I write to connect with others. I put pen to paper and try to paint a picture of the things I see and hope that you too can see the images that are splashed across the mental canvas inside my head. Radiant colors intermixed with a symphony of sounds are constantly parading before my eyes.

    Somewhere out there the song of my heart sometimes takes a moment to check in and read what I have laid down. It doesn't happen as often as once does but it still takes place. I suspect that in part it doesn't because there is power in these words and images. These words serve as a secondary bridge that we use to connect in places that words can't occupy nor describe.

    Call it hyperbole but I think of it as a spiritual and emotional connection that cannot be understood unless it is experienced. There is a depth and an intensity there that lies beyond my ability to describe but that doesn't preclude me from trying to find the words that will demonstrate it in a fashion that can be understood. Perhaps it is that lack of understanding that I find so intriguing.

    Sometimes I try to describe it as a that burning ring of fire that never is quenched. Other times I think of it as being similar to holding water in the palm of my hand. If I hold still and am careful for a moment I am granted a chance to stop and stare at it, but I dare not squeeze. For if I try to hold on too tight it slips out of my grasp and runs between my fingers to places unseen and unknown.

    It is the ultimate fishing trip. I throw out my line and hope that the bait is taken so that I can ever so gently reel that line back in. It is an incredible exercise in patience for that is not my nature. If I gave in I would start turning and pulling as fast as possible using speed and brute strength to try and obtain that which I seek.

    Here in cyberspace I use this sandbox of mine as a place to explore the alternatives. A safe oasis in which I can explore and examine thoughts, ideas and execution. Here in cyberspace is where I am affirmed and reaffirmed for beliefs in ideas that are different or unconventional. It is where I am challenged and questioned.

    Sometimes the challenges come from the outside but more often than not I find that my accuser is someone who knows me on an intimate level and is well acquainted with both strengths and weaknesses. They know which barbs will sting the most and when false bravado is being flashed instead of truth.

    They know because they are me and I am they. Like I once said I am my greatest critic. You cannot find anyone who is harder on me than myself. Here in this corner of cyberspace I engage in the great debate and find answers to the questions that plague me or at least I try to.

    Here in this corner of cyberspace I record family memories and thoughts about it all. For better or for worse it serves as a chronicle of life and a place that I use to connect with others. I have not exaggerated when I said that I write for myself but it would be wrong not to say that my writing is also a way to connect with others.

    The People We Miss

    I often complain about the holiday season. I wished death upon the Easter Bunny and Santa. Some of that is serious and some of that is nonsense.

    This morning as I bounced around the blogosphere I stumbled onto a bunch of posts in which people reflected on life and some of the loved ones that they miss. It really made me think about some things that are going on now and the people that I care about because there are a few whose absence I really notice.


    Some people play too big a role in our lives for us not to miss them.  They come into our lives and they change things, or maybe things change. I am not alway quite sure how that works.

    I am not talking about the obvious ones. This isn't about parents or siblings. It is understood that they play a huge role. Rather I am thinking about the unexpected impact that others can have upon you.

    I am thinking about the people who enter your life and whose presence fills up empty places that you never knew or didn't realize were empty. The people who make you feel whole and joyful. Those folks whose presence just makes your body and soul tingle in ways that aren't based upon lust alone.

    Sometimes you read these sorts of posts and you shake your head because you don't really believe that such a thing can happen. You think that it is an exaggeration or something else. Maybe to some it is, but others know differently.


    I have heard people talk about people coming into your life for a reason or a season, or something along those lines. I don't know if I believe that. Not sure that I believe in destiny or that I don't believe in it. What I do know is solely based upon my experience.

    There are people who come into your life through unexpected means who hold a place that is significant in your heart. And since you never know what can happen you need to take advantage of that time for however long it is because you'd miss them if they were gone.

    I like to visualize it all as a journey.Blame it on an overactive imagination and having read Tolkien too many times. But I almost always picture myself riding/walking through some amazing land. Sometimes it is a forest or meadow, other times it is a beach or desert.

    Along the way I encounter many different people. Some are friends and some are foes. Some become companions that join me on my journey and we share adventures. Sometimes you lose those companions or sometimes you part ways for a while and rejoin each other at a later date.

    Don't ask me to get more descriptive of who I see myself as. Definitely not Gandalf, Sam or Frodo. Not Boromir or Legolas or Aragorn. I am just me, some guy who finds himself in all sorts of places and predicaments. Sometimes they turn out incredibly well and others not so well.

    All I know is that Some people play too big a role in our lives for us not to miss them.  I know who I miss and so do they.

    Who do you miss?

    (yeah, this is recycled)  

    A Decade of Dad

    Bathed in sunlight streaming in from the window behind him he smiled, shook his head and wondered like all parents do where the time has gone. It has been about a decade since we pulled the goalie and released the hounds he said in that not so clever way of his. They are silly, trite and overused euphemisms that the boys throw out when we talk about trying to get our significant others pregnant.

    It is a curious thing this memory, wrapped up in a combination of reverence and irreverence. I sit here with a partial smile gracing my lips and images of  Gene Wilder screaming "Give My Creation Life!" I can't speak for other men, I just know that there was something amazing about it. It was awesome, frightening and natural. I always wanted to be a father. There was never a doubt that I would do it but for so many years the objective had been to avoid doing that very thing. Be safe and be smart.

    Now ten years later I sit here surrounded by pictures of my children, not child...children. Ten years of daddyhood. Technically my oldest won't be ten until next month but I like to round up. I remember this time...ten years ago that is. It is the week before Thanksgiving and I am enthralled with the idea that this is my last time at the Turkey Table minus children. I have all sorts of images running through my head of faceless kids running around a house- it doesn't seem real.

    Later that week I'll hit the mall with my wife and go crazy trying to prevent everyone and anything from crashing into her pregnant belly. I'll lay down one of the greatest blocks of my life on a man running towards her. He is not looking and I can't take the chance that he'll knock the wife over and hurt my kid. Not going to happen on my watch.

    I am a good twenty-five feet away but primal instincts kick in and I am gifted with wings upon my feet. I start running and realize that I can't make it so I drop the shoulder, push off the ground and send myself flying at him. I am so wired that I don't feel the contact, don't notice his head snap back and slam into a pole. All I know is that primal instincts have kicked in and I have stopped the hungry bear from eating my family.

    Ok, that is an exaggeration. I didn't launch myself like some sort of human missile and leave the poor schmuck crumpled at my feet. But I did prevent the collision I feared. He really wasn't looking and since pregnant women aren't known for their agility it was necessary for me to physically prevent him from slamming into her.

    I suppose that if you know me it is not surprising to hear/read this because I have a serious protective streak running through me. But it sticks out in my head because it is a moment when I began to realize the depth of feelings that being a father would bring.

    All the jokes that I heard about dad being a bodyguard or member of the Secret Service took on a new reality. A reality that I was just beginning to learn about. I didn't know yet what it meant to be afraid. I didn't know the relief that I would feel after learning that my son was on a plane that had to make an emergency landing. Didn't know how hard it would be sleep when at 13 months he had to be hospitalized because of a nasty virus.

    I was just beginning to understand how crazy life could truly be.

    It is nighttime and I am standing next to my son's bed. His little body is tucked inside the blankets and he is fast asleep. In the morning I am going to catch a flight back east. In a hospital across the country my father lies unconscious and breathing only because of the machine he is hooked up to. They don't know if he'll live through the night and I can't do a thing about it.

    So I sit on the floor and listen to my son breathe. His breathing is soft and rhythmic. This little guy is 3.5 and he will not be happy to see me leave. In the morning pudgy arms will wrap around my neck and a soft voice will insist that I cannot leave. It will tear me up to hear it but I can't stay. I have to go to my father because I can't accept not trying to get to him. I am not a doctor but I feel like my presence can help my dad and my mother needs me.

    It is a crazy moment. I am a son with a father who is stuck somewhere between life and death. But I am a father with a son and a pregnant wife. I have responsibilities that are pulling upon me from every direction.

    In the weeks to come my grandfather and I will sit together and engage in a game. He knows that my father, his son, is seriously ill but he won't ask many questions. He knows that he can't do much to help, that physically the trip might be too much for him. He can't be told how serious it is because without that fiction he will be forced to try do more.

    So he'll rely upon me to do what he can't. Later on we'll talk turkey and he'll tell me that if things don't change he is going to get on a plane and bring his son home. I remember far too well having to tell him that my uncle has died and though it is not my fault, I feel like I made him cry.

    This is not something that I ever want to do again. In some ways it makes me miss my father more as it is exactly the kind of thing that I should be able to ask his advice for. Later that day my own son will talk to me about the baby and ask why it refuses to come out and play with us. I'll tell him that the baby is still growing and he'll look at me like I am an idiot and tell me that he is too.

    I can't fault his logic. He knows that he is growing and that he is not in mommy's tummy anymore. I know that this is one of many discussions that he and I will have but I don't realize that I'll blink and discover that the 3.5 year-old is now 75 pounds of boy. I don't realize that one day I'll wake up and discover that he is 4 foot something and in need of help with fractions and decimals.

    Or that I'll need to explain why it is inappropriate to repeat that so and so's father is a stupid asshole. (That whole question comes to me courtesy of the mother of a child in his class.) That comment will lead to a follow up question in which he'll ask if it would have been more appropriate to call the father a "stupid fucker." I'll explain to him that "Jimmy's" parents are very angry with each other.

    Later on I'll shift the discussion and tell him that one day I want him to play basketball with me. If he grows like I did he should be big enough to get out there and run with the guys in about five years. It blows me away to think about that. You can't see the picture I am looking at now. You can't see me holding him in the crook of my arm. You can't see me staring at this baby boy.

    Nor can you see a different picture of the two of us running side by side on a soccer field. It is a recent shot. He can't beat me yet in a foot race but my time is so limited. I look forward to the day when he can finally beat me, but I'd be lying if I said that I was totally ok with it.

    Because there is a part of me that wishes that somehow when he turns twenty that I could be the same age too. There is a part of me that I see in him, a joy that we share when we are running/wrestling together. And I wish that for a day we could have it in a way in which we are sort of equals.

    But it won't ever happen and I am ok with that. Besides, I am his father and that means that we aren't friends- at least not now. One day I hope we are but for now that boundary is important. I have a lot to learn and a lot to teach him.

    So strange, so magical and so amazing to think that I have been doing this dad thing for a decade now. Wonder what will happen in the decade to come.

    Things to Read

    Words Left Unspoken

    "she runs from my words and hides from my heart
    and all the while it weeps endlessly
    while my soul reaches for hers
    and wonders why it doesn't answer"

    Late Night Music

    Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald- Gordon Lightfoot
    Without You Here- Goo Goo Dolls
    Californication- Red Hot Chili Peppers
    The Wings- Brokeback Mountain
    Canto Della Terra-Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman
    All I Ask Of You- Phantom of The Opera
    How Do You Like Me Now- The Heavy
    Just Another Day- Oingo Boingo
    Jack and Diane- John Mellencamp

    More Than Just Words

    I dusted off the shelves and looked inside my head. I stared in the mirror of my mind's eye and played the films of the great loves of my life. I watched as I laughed and cried. I stared intently at the boy whose heart was filled until it would burst and a part of me wept as I watched that same heart tear itself apart. It made me sad to see a part of him die and to remember that empty feeling, that hole that felt like it would never heal.

    And then I watched in amazement as he found his way through the desert and rebuilt what was broken. Even though I knew the story I couldn't help but smile as I watched him rediscover what it meant to not just love, but be in love.

    I rejoiced with him as he remembered just how love could be the finest addiction around and that he knew that it didn't have to die. There are some loves that surpass time and can survive death. It sounds hokey, it sounds like a cliche, but I know it to be true.

    There are people who are so very right for each other that you cannot imagine them ever being with someone else.

    Some Wounds Take Longer To Heal

    It is the early 80s and an olive skinned boy with hazel eyes and curly black hair is wandering through the halls of his school. A few moments ago he made a quick stop at his locker to pick up his math book and is now fighting time. If he doesn't hurry up he is going to be tardy.

    He is a good student and most subjects are easy for him but math isn't one of them. It could be one of his favorites. It could be something that tickles and stimulates his mind but it is not. Some of that can be attributed to bad math teachers and the bad attitude he has developed towards it. He is 14 years-old and has already decided that he knows as much math as he is going to need. But there is a bigger problem than his bad attitude and bad teachers.

    Her name is Denise and she teases him constantly. From the moment he walks into class until the bell rings she will be the epitome of the mean girl. For 50 minutes she will pick apart his clothes, the way he looks, how he walks and anything else that she thinks will hurt him. For 50 minutes he will grit his teeth and try to ignore her barbs, pretend that he doesn't feel their bite.

    If she were a boy he would be ok because he knows how to deal with that. Were she blessed with a dangling appendage he would threaten her with bodily harm. Were she male he would be in her face and the traditional methods that boys use to work out their differences would be in play.

    But she isn't and he is at a loss. He won't share his misery with anyone. It is junior high and he hasn't developed the thick skin that will protect him later in life. Appearances are critical and he can't afford to let anyone think that this girl has a thing on him. But it gets harder each day not to scream at her.

    Each day that goes by takes a little piece of his patience. Each minute that goes by feels like it is an hour and he begins to dream of attacking her with water balloons and shaving cream. He is afraid of going that route because he fears getting suspended. Yet, the idea is exceptionally attractive to him. Because the one thing that he knows for certain is that she works very hard to look a certain way.

    Time passes and she doesn't relent. Eventually he snaps and in the middle of class he throws her purse, backpack and books across the classroom and screams in anger. Her eyes get wide and then she bursts into laughter. For a moment he considers attacking her with the erasers from the chalkboard. There are two of them just a few feet away- in seconds she'll be covered in chalk dust.

    But before he can do anything the teacher is standing next to him. She hands him the hall pass and says to go take a walk. When he returns to class the girl will sneer at him and threaten him with physical harm courtesy of her boyfriend. She doesn't realize that this is much better, he knows how to handle that. Now he smiles at her and says that he will happy to give her an ice pack for her boyfriend to use.

    A few hours later the boy will replay the events of the day through his mind and wonder what he is going to do about the boyfriend. He has calmed down and without the surge of adrenalin running through his veins he is a bit more realistic about things. The boy friend is older than he is and drives to school. That car changes the equation a bit.

    Time passes and the sun sets and rises again. The curly haired boy takes a deep breath and walks back into his math class. It is the day after the incident and he doesn't know what to expect. He takes his seat at the table and waits for the usual outburst. But she doesn't say anything. There are no comments or threats- no words about what has happened.

    Almost 30 years later the boy has grown into a man. During a short trip to the mall he walks into a Ralph Lauren/Polo Store and looks around. He doesn't need anything there and doesn't care about designer labels but it is marked as an outlet store so he figures what the hell.

    A shirt catches his eye and he walks over to it. Suddenly he remembers that moment and feels a moment of sadness. He is both shocked and surprised by it. He is remembering that moment from junior high and for whatever reason the sadness the boy felt has come to visit the man. He can't figure out why, but he doesn't really care enough to try hard.

    It is only a moment and then the feeling is gone. Later on when he writes about that moment then and the moment today he'll remember that life is nothing but moments in time. Little memories intermixed with bigger ones and maybe that moment in the eighties was more significant to him than he realized.

    Hard to say and not really clear whether it is appropriate to classify it as being among the wounds that take longer to heal- but that is ok. Because when all is said and done part of the purpose of blogging is the opportunity to reminisce and consider that which was and that which may yet be.

    What Is The Most Challenging Aspect of Blogging?

    Hello dear reader,

    The question of the day is what do you find the most challenging part of blogging to be. Is it coming up with new posts, answering comments, finding new readers?

    What do you think?

    Dear June- Winter Comes

    A new insert for Fragments of Fiction:

    Dear June,

    Do you remember that note that I sent you where I told you that when you are thinking about me I am thinking about you? Do you remember my telling you that I would see you on the other side? Well, I have been thinking about it lately and I think that it was foreshadowing the future. I know, it sounds kind of screwy but it makes sense to me and not just because I want it to.

    I stumbled across this Jane Austen quote that thought was interesting:

    "It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others."

    I don't know which story it comes from but I really should find out. It made a lot of sense to me as it describes us. Was there ever a time where we didn't feel comfortable with each other. Was there ever a time where we didn't just get each other. Oh sure, we have been angry, hurt and confused and wondered what happened. We have screamed at each other and used the most graphic terms- but always we come back.

    We come back because of the depth of intimacy between us. That Ring of Fire is so apt and so accurate. We see the whole and the truth of each other and as the poet said, "it scares the fuck out of me." Really woman, I never have understood it and the fear that it sometimes causes inside me hasn't always served me well.

    Because I have desperately wanted to believe and accept that it was, that it is real but sometimes the whispers inside have taken root. Because though I may be a dreamer I have more attachments to Earth and reality than you might always realize. Remember when you first saw my hands and you told me how big they were. I laughed and said that they are and that they are really strong. I said it with a wink and a smile but also knowing that these fingers have an exceptional grip upon the reality I had known.

    It never occurred to me that someone like you really existed. I didn't believe that someone could effortlessly walk into my heart and make me feel like Superman. It was a dream that lived in movies and books not in reality. And then you did it to me. You just walked in and started singing the song of my heart as if you had always known it.

    But I did it to you too. I found myself walking through places in your heart that no other man had been to. I found a way to caress your heart and carry your soul just as you did for me. And time stood still for us. Wrapped in an eternal kiss and the warmth of a sun that never sets we stood there in our secret garden.

    Ah my love, you may think that I am crazy. I know that sometimes you wonder how I can say or write this. I know that sometimes you think that I exaggerate and that you fear my making you into something more than you are. I know many more things that I won't put down on paper as well. But I also know that I see you differently than you see yourself because I see the potential. I see what could be not because I am granted with some sort of magical powers but because of that special connection we share.

    "I remain convinced that obstinate addiction to ordinary language in our private thoughts is one of the main obstacles to progress in philosophy."
    Bertrand Russell

    Russell is onto something. I stopped trying to figure it all out. Stopped trying to apply logic and reason to something that refuses to allow the rules of math and science to manage it. Stopped trying to understand why because all it did was make both my head and heart ache. They have both been broken multiple times.

    Both have been ripped open and fed to wolves who have had a field day feasting upon that which they found there. And inevitably they have come back because I haven't finished this journey. Haven't finished walking down the path that I find before me. A path that I believe intersects with yours. The big difference between now and before is that I am not fighting it the way that I did before. It doesn't mean that I won't try because sometimes I get impatient.

    And though you have heard it a thousand times before, I will repeat it again. I will always be ready and willing to fight for you and with you. For a thousand years and more I have been dancing in this fire for you so why wouldn't I continue. I would storm the gates of Hell, swim through a burning river and more.

    I am not going to try to come up with a clever ending because we both know that there never has been one for us. Meanwhile, I am going back to what I was doing because I do have a plan and it is working. So when you are ready you can take my hand. I won't say anything about it because whenever you do I know that it will feel like no time has passed and time will stand still again.

    Almost 20 years

    Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of this spot. Hard to believe, not many have kept going since then. I have barely kept up...