Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm Sick

I'm sick.

I'm sick of people patting themselves on the back. I'm sick of people seeking my approval.

I'm sick of people not knowing who I am and what I need. I'm sick of not knowing what I need, either. I'm sick of knowing what I want but having no idea whether it coincides with what I need.

I'm sick of knowing there's a plan but not knowing what it is or when it will start moving or when it will stop.

I'm sick of being patient. I'm sick of understanding that there is a greater purpose but not knowing what my role is supposed to be.

I'm sick of the sheer stupidity and emotional irresponsibility of this country's business and financial sector. I'm sick of the blind, lemming-like response of the general public that upholds the fears that this sector generates. I'm sick of the media sensationalizing instead of reporting.

I'm sick of my feet being cold all day long.

I'm sick of my apartment complex trying to soak me for every penny they can get.

I'm sick of other people always having to be right. I'm sick of myself always having to be right.

I'm sick of eating.

I'm sick people driving as though common sense is just a baseless theory.

I'm sick of my workload wandering blindly from "shoot-me-in-the-head boring" to "shoot-me-in-the-head busy" with no stops in between. I'm sick of the inanity and vanity of the conversations that take place in my office. I'm sick of being able to work faster than my computer.

I'm sick of feeling bitter and unforgiving and unsympathetic with no reason, justifiable or otherwise. I'm sick of bouncing back and forth between those feelings and normal feelings and not being able to explain to people what is going on.

I'm sick of having the desire to be creative but not the motive. I'm sick that this is the best I could muster over the last month.

I'm sick of wishing for things that aren't going to happen and I'm sick of waiting for things to happen that I know will.

I'm sick.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


"Do I know you?"

That's what she said to me that night as I picked myself up off the concrete walking path in Corporate Woods. The combination of two small, white, energetic, puffball dogs and the long leashes they were attached to had conspired to tangle up my legs and send me sprawling to the ground. My hands stung from hitting the rough concrete and the cool Autumn temperatures just added to the discomfort.

After surveying my newly-textured hands, I looked up and saw what I thought were two more small puffball dogs, only these were brown and stoic. Except they weren't dogs at all; they were the footwear of choice for this unusual woman in front of me. Her slippers were topped by what appeared to be turquoise silk pajama bottoms, peeking out from beneath a brown, full-length fur coat. The kind of coat that gets blood dumped on you. A faint red glow emanated from the cigarette she was holding in her non-leash hand.

"Do I know you?" she repeated, followed by a cough that indicated she'd been smoking since the Nixon administration.

My irritation switch had been flipped on by the two-dog take-down and I thought to myself, "What a stupid question. How the hell would I know if YOU know ME?" I took a moment to brush off the damp leaves that had pasted themselves to my knees and collected myself. I couldn't really see her face as the only other light besides her tobacco rod was a streetlamp about 50 yards behind her. As it was, she was backlit and the only feature of her head that I could ascertain was her salon-fresh perm.

The dogs did us a favor and pulled her in the direction of the streetlamp. While the cotton ball canines relieved themselves on separate trees just off the path, the unforgiving amber light accentuated her sharp features. Her bone structure indicated that her presence during the Nixon administration was accurate, but any wrinkles, creases or crevasses that would confirm this assumption were conspicuously absent. Bright red lipstick punctuated and completed the portrait.

Before she could assail me with the question again, I said, "I'm sorry. I don't believe I've met you before..."

"Weren't you a sack boy at the Hen House before they shut it down?" she cackled.

"Um, no. I've never worked at a grocery store before."

"Why are you so fidgety? Are you some sort of pervert?"

I thought to myself, If I was a pervert, would I be copping to it now?

The dogs had finished their business and were concentrating on re-wrapping their leashes around my legs again. The odd woman put the cigarette in her mouth and started digging around in her front left pocket.

Through cigarette-pursed lips, she said, "I'm going to flip a coin. Heads, you're a pervert and I call the police. Tails, you're the sack boy at Hen House and we'll part ways."

I stood there in shock for a moment. When I saw her finagle the coin out of her pocket and place it carefully on her cocked thumb, I started extricating myself from my tangled dog-web.

"Criminy, lady! I was only out for a walk and your dogs tripped me up!"

The judicial nickle twirled in the air while one of the dogs bit into my pantleg and started tugging. The coin missed the woman's hand and clinked on the pavement.

As she bent over to read the verdict, I managed to pull away from the dogs, leaving them with a khaki souvenir. As I took my first few steps to escape this surreal scene, I heard her cough and say,

"Pervert? Nah, I don't believe that. Come back here, sack boy!"

I impolitely declined her invitation and ran home, deciding that mind-clearing walks were best taken away from the suburbs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Choose Your Culture

A while back, I bought a mini-fridge. I put it next to my desk at work. To begin with, it was a solution to a cold water problem. Our office, though a branch of the largest private company in America, decided they couldn't afford an ice machine. And the refrigerator's ice maker was broken and apparently not important enough to fix. Which left the employees with the responsibility of filling ice trays and dumping the ice into a bucket. And then digging into the ice bucket with their grubby hands to retrieve ice for their drinks. This is where my cold water problem started. So I bought the mini-fridge in order to store my own cold water.

A side benefit of having a mini-fridge next to your desk is that you can stock it with snacks and lunch items. In my case, I've taken to keeping a couple of weeks worth of Lunchables and yogurt close at hand. The side benefit to this is that it stopped my daily habit of buying a snack out of the snack machine. This was a two-fold benefit in that a) I saved myself some money by buying yogurt instead of overpriced vending machine food and b) the health factor of my snacks improved considerably. I went from spending a dollar a day purchasing items such as the "Big Texas Cinnamon Roll" and "Dunkin Sticks" and "A Honey Bun Only A Bear Could Finish" to spending sixty cents a day on a snack that boasts the eyebrow-raising yet generally accepted ingredient "Active Yogurt Cultures".

Yesterday, I burned through the last of my yogurt cultures but forgot to go to the store to refresh. So, this morning I was hungry but was forced to patronize the the vending machine. "One dip into the pool of sugar and fat shouldn't be too big a deal," I told myself. None of my usual favorites were in stock, though, so I went with some Dolly Madison chocolate cupcakes.

I got back to my desk and started perusing the Kansas City Star online. While reading about local events, I opened my plastic-wrapped delights and started munching on one of the cupcakes. It tasted a little odd, but I figured it was just because I hadn't had one in quite some time. I ate the rest of it with little thought other than agreeing with Jason Whitlock about the need for Carl Peterson to be fired.

I popped the second one into my hand while reading about Sherron Collins making the pre-season All-Big 12 team. I took a big bite and realized that this one tasted far worse than the first. It was then that I finally looked at the cupcake and saw some cultures I was not expecting: It was covered in mold.

I angrily chucked the remaining cupcake in the trash and proceeded to suck down as much water as I could. I then hoped and prayed that I wouldn't throw up because there are few things in life worse than throwing up.

When the guy sitting next to me offered me a FireBall jawbreaker, I jumped at the chance to eliminate the musty taste in my mouth. And while that worked pretty well, every time I burped the rest of the morning, my stomach reminded me of the cultures at work in my gut.

It's now 3:20 in the afternoon. I haven't puked yet. But I think I may take off early and go buy some yogurt.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happiness Is...

* Putting on a sweater and grabbing a hot cup of cocoa on a chilly Autumn morning in a chilly office.

* Leaving work early on a rainy, dreary day--and spending part of the afternoon in a cozy coffee shop with a friend.

* Getting home from work early and watching Jeopardy!--and knowing a bunch of the answers.

* Having a boss that is cool with letting me leave early on occasion.

* My son telling me about how his football coach went off when some players informed him they would miss the next game because of a school band event--and then realizing that he will get a lot more playing time because of their absence.

* Anticipating a new, free phone, certain to arrive this afternoon.

* Finding one of my favorite cool-weather shirts at the bottom of my closet.

* Leaving the window cracked to allow the cool air in and wearing my favorite adidas jogging pants while watching playoff baseball.

* Finishing up a good book--and anticipating the next one.

* Stretching out sore hamstrings.

* Congratulating (and being congratulated by) my co-worker daily on KU winning the national basketball championship.

* Being so efficient at my job that I can take the time to come up with these little tidbits and write them up during office hours.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Human Magnet

I am a human magnet.

I attract and repel.

I feel like a puzzle piece whose shape clearly fits, but whose edges are magnetized and thus repelled by its counterpart. Now, I'm praying that God sees fit to reverse the poles.

Until then, I am the two-dimensional bald guy peeking out behind a pile of metal shavings and a thin layer of plastic. Someone has picked up the magnetic pen and arranged the shavings into an attractive mosaic of hair. And though pleased with the outcome, they decided to shake it up and leave it for someone else.

I am a dime store Etch-A-Sketch.

I am a human magnet.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Few Haiku

The Gray Slab has passed
Sunshine radiates again
Energy abounds

Deep blue skies and warmth
Summer's not quite over yet
Please keep lingering

Autumn beckoning
But birth still trumps decay
Life is found elsewhere

Stand by the window
Close your eyes, soak in the warmth
Forget you're indoors

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Chevette

"I really think you should get a Chevette."

That was what my Aunt Vicki suggested as an idea for my first car.

"Yeah, right."

That was my response as a 15-year old kid back in 1990.

"I would look like a total idiot," I said. "No way am I EVER going to own a Chevette."

She chuckled and said, "Oh, I think it would be really cool," and then chuckled some more.


Thankfully for my teenage ego I did not purchase a Chevette. I wound up buying my grandma's rust-colored, four-door, 1981 Toyota Corolla. Not a huge leap up on the cool scale from a Chevette, but still...

That car was like a Timex watch; it took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. I worked it over like an alum of Abu Ghraib. I busted an axle, bent the frame, warped the head and discovered several gallons of pooled water in the trunk. I don't remember ever taking it in for an oil change and I certainly never did that job myself. And yet it just kept bouncing back, taking me wherever I pleased and accepting whatever punishment I doled out.

It was a nearly-perfect first car. I made 16 monthly $100 payments to my grandparents and every single one was worthwhile.


Fast-forward nearly 20 years later. My most recent car, a 1999 Chevy Metro, has become temperamental. It doesn't like to start when it rains. Or if it has rained within the last six or seven hours. Or if it's a particularly dewy morning. Or if the Farmer's Almanac says this might be a rainy month.

As you might imagine, this can be very inconvenient. And irritating. And frustrating. Especially when you consider that this car has given me eight sturdy years of service. And it runs neck-and-neck with the aforementioned '81 Corolla in the race to be the favorite car I've ever owned.

But the life I lead requires that I have a car that works both in sunshine and in precipitation. Thankfully, a multi-pronged solution was made aware to me.


My friend Judson told me that his mom was getting ready to sell a couple of vehicles. He said they would be available at a "family discount" if I was interested. Considering the fact that my current car was hydrophobic and I had a son who was nearing driving age himself, I expressed my interest. He said that she was selling an early '90s Buick that ran smoothly but had a lot of miles. And he said that she was selling a 1976 Chevy Chevette that had only 40,000 original miles and had been used to teach himself and his siblings how to drive. I told him I was interested in both, thinking I would hedge my bets against my current car and have a cheap alternative for my son to drive when he was ready. But when Judson got back to me, his mom had already sold the Buick. He asked if I was still interested in the Chevette at the low, low price of $300. At that price, I just couldn't pass it up.

He drove it up from his mom's place in Pratt, KS and arrived at my place on a Sunday afternoon. It was a stunning orange marvel. The shape and color of the car reminded me of an orange Skittle. He had put on brand new whitewall tires and and a new pair of windshield wipers. It was a two-door with a hatchback and beige interior. The seats were faux leather and the steering wheel felt as big as an 18-wheeler's.

Being a product of the oil crisis '70s, it got 30 miles to the gallon. The emergency brake didn't work and when it was hot outside it wouldn't go into reverse. The radio seemed to work but the speakers didn't. It was a four-speed with no passenger side mirror and no rear defrost.

And I absolutely loved it.


When my kids first saw it, they picked up on my enthusiasm and they loved it, too. They wanted to ride around in it all the time.

But then I started dropping off and picking up David from high school. And football practice. And all of a sudden, he was meeting me out in the parking lot rather than near the entrance to the locker room. I asked him what he was doing clear out here and he said he was just making it easier on me to pick him up. I told him he didn't need to do that and he reluctantly grinned and said that he was a little embarrassed being picked up in this car.

I laughed to myself and decided I loved this car even more. And I told him he'd better get used to it because this is what he was going to be driving in the not-so-distant future.


Sitting at a light, I noticed a guy in the car next to me was giving the Chevette the once over. He rolled down his window and said to me, "Boy, they sure don't make 'em like that anymore, do they?"

A convertible full of high school kids was in the left turn lane when I pulled up. One kid had been eyeing me for about 30 yards until I came to a stop. I heard him as he leaned toward his buddy and said, "I want THAT car."

After picking David up from practice one day, he chuckled and told me about the reaction one of the football managers had when seeing my car: "That is a pimp car." Feel free to interpret that in whatever manner you choose.

One of the special needs guys that lives in my apartment complex mentioned this as he walked by one day: "I really like that car. What year is it? Is it a '74? Oh, it's a '76? Man, that's a great car."

These anecdotes only complement the vast number of incidents where people have been staring at my car. I've never experienced anything like it before. I never would have expected. it.


I was wrong. I DID end up owning a Chevette. But I was partially right, too. I know many of the stares I get are because I look like an idiot. But Aunt Vicki was right, too; it's pretty cool. And we'll see what David thinks once he starts driving it. He might give in like me and think it's pretty cool, too.

Monday, September 08, 2008


I just got done watching The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith. After seeing this, I couldn't be more proud of my own children. They haven't had it as rough as the little boy in that movie, but the movie sure reminded me of all the things they've been through in their relatively short lives. And it reminded me that they are truly great people.

They haven't had to sleep in a subway bathroom. They haven't had to wait in line for the chance to sleep in a shelter. Their mother did not leave them and move to the other side of the continent.

But they were each born prematurely, neither weighing more than six pounds. David even spent his opening days in the neonatal intensive care unit to make sure his lungs developed properly.

They have lived in no less than 10 different homes in their 14 and 12 years, respectively. Long-lasting friendships were sacrificed because they moved from school to school to school, six times in all. They have had (and continue) to endure the separation and divorce of their parents. They have had to adjust to being shuffled between their mother's and father's homes for over half their lives.

They survived their parents' simultaneous bouts with clinical depression. They learned how to fix their own cereal and do their own laundry when they were much too young because their father couldn't move himself off the couch. They had to share a room and even a bed for far too long.

Their paternal grandparents moved so far away that they were only able to spend as much as 60 combined days together in 10 years, with a week's worth of those days spent mourning their grandfather. Their paternal uncle has seen them only a little bit more. And their great-aunt moved away, too.

They trailed along behind their father as he worked cleaning office buildings. They trailed along behind their mother as she submitted to receiving her groceries from a food pantry.

Despite all these losses and challenges and hardships, they've managed to persevere and learn and press on.

After touring five different grade schools in six years, Samantha is starting to come into her own in middle school. After coming to know many children in many schools, she came to middle school unknowingly having built up a large network of friends. This has allowed her to feel more comfortable at school than she has felt in years.

David decided to pursue football in his debut semester in high school. And after a rough initiation, he appears to be embracing his new lifestyle. The amount of running, yelling and physical pain far exceeded his expectations at the beginning of the year. And though he wanted to give up, he has managed to hang on.

My kids have built up skills and character traits in their short lives that have taken me twice as long to achieve, if I've managed to achieve them at all. They are kind and compassionate and sensitive. They are funny and intelligent. The are polite and respectful. They are helpful. They are self-confident. They are selfless. And, above all, they are loving.

They are not all these things, all the time. They are not perfect. But they embody all these things at their core. And only by the grace of God are these things possible, because their parents are imperfect teachers.

It's been said that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We all know that's a load of crap. We've all been witness to people who can't seem to catch a break. We've seen people struggle with just getting through life. There are people who become homeless or sick who never recover, who never get stronger, who are utterly consumed by life.

My kids have been through an awful lot. But they've also been incredibly blessed. And, as a result, I've been blessed. And that brings me immense pride and happyness.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Presidential Limericks

McCain's VP pick Sarah Palin
Kept conservative voters from bailin'
She's a tough hockey momma
Throwing barbs at Obama
Creating some liberal wailin'

Democrats vote for Barack
Republicans think he's all talk
They think it quite strange
That he talks about change
But his donors continue to flock

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Freshmen

The freshman cheerleaders were soaked. The game hadn't even started yet, but their hair was plastered to their foreheads. The cute red and black ribbons they wore were rendered pointless. When they enrolled in high school and signed up for the cheerleading squad, they never pictured a day like this.

It was the first freshman football game of the season. Just the day before it had been partly cloudy and 80 degrees. But the temperature on this day had barely nudged above 60. Rain trickled down at a steady pace. There was just enough breeze to keep permanent goosebumps on any exposed skin.

"How many demerits will I get if I leave now?" asked the cheerleader with the strawberry blonde hair and pink-framed eyeglasses. The sponsor's reply was barely audible but it was satisfactory enough for the cheerleader to immediately grab her backpack and head for dry land.

Utilizing only their eyes, the four remaining cheerleaders asked each other if they should follow suit. They silently shared their fears and reassurances and came to a consensus: They would tough it out. The sopping-wet freshman cheerleading sponsor reacted less than enthusiastically. The sopping-wet freshman football coach might have recruited them instantly.



These words were being launched at the defense by the head football coach of the freshman squad. Moments ago, his kick return team committed the unforgivable sin of allowing the opponent to recover its own kick-off, deep behind enemy lines. Now the defense was backed up against its own goal line.

The ex-Marine's team was short-handed because twelve players had failed to show up for practice on Labor Day. And now the inexperience was showing up at the worst possible time.


One kid who had skipped practice that day was blocking out his coach's entreaty and staring blankly at the cheerleader who had justified the demerits in her life's economy and was retreating quickly to the parking lot. For numerous reasons, (some of which he wasn't even conscious of) he wished his own economy resembled hers. He stared at her while his team gave up another touchdown. He was completely unaware of his team's maladies until the freshman water girl came by and handed him some Gatorade.


Her friends were all on the cheerleading squad. But she didn't make the team. So to help cushion the blow, she decided to be a freshman football water girl. Sure, it wasn't as glamorous, but she got to talk to a lot more guys than her friends did. Plus, she really wanted to be involved in something. It was hard work filling giant water coolers and pulling a cart filled with giant water coolers and constantly being on alert as to when 50-some guys needed a water bottle. But she got to go to every game. And that meant she got to see her friends every game. And sometimes the distinction of their separation would eat at her. And other times she would feel just fine. And today she just wished it would stop raining.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

FOLLOW-UP: Mysterious

I decided to test the waters again at Adrian's Cafe. Instead of the normal egg salad on wheat, I went with seafood salad as a change-up. Of course, Adrian's Girl was on hand.

"Seafood salad? You like that stuff?"

"Yeah, sure. You don't?"

"Oh, I guess it's alright. Hey, did you go to the Royals game last night?"


"Too bad, 'cause you would have seen me there."

"Oh, really? How so?"

"I was up on the Jumbotron."

"How'd you manage that? Were you on the Kiss Cam...?"

(Notice my clever casting for information.)


"...Bad Hair-do Cam?"

She squinted her eyes at me and gave me a sly grin.

"No. I was just on the regular fan cam. I guess I'm just really talented."

"I guess you are. I'm sorry I missed it."

I sat down at my usual table by the window. I opened my book and started reading but I had a hard time concentrating. My mind was on her and my magnificent ability to construct witty banter on the fly.

After ten minutes or so, I had finished my sandwich and devoted my entire attention to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I had hardly gotten through a chapter when I noticed some shuffling in my periphery. I looked up and saw her standing in front of me, wearing an apron and a playful smile.

"Whatchya reading today?"

"The Bell Jar."

"What's it about?"

"I think it's about a woman who goes insane or something."

"Hmm. Have you read Blue Like Jazz yet?"

This is the book she recommended after I had completed her previous suggestion, The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis.

"No, I haven't gotten to it yet. It's on the list, but I have some other recommendations from friends that are higher in the queue. But I'll definitely get to it."

Just then, she realized that the cash register had been left unattended this whole time and scampered back to her duties behind the counter.

At this point, I figured she had given me more than enough evidence to show she was interested. I planned on introducing myself before I left. But as I still had ample lunch break left, I went back to reading.

After a few more scattershot minutes of reading, she plopped down in the seat opposite me.

"Well, hello there," I said.


I offered my hand across the table. "My name is Nick. It's nice to officially meet you."

"Hi, I'm Stacey. So, Nicholas, huh? Nicholas what?"

"It's not Nicholas, actually. Just Nick. Nick Blakeley. How about you? Stacey what?"

"Stacey Tennant. With two n's. It's Irish. Soooo...Stacey Blakeley........"

Cue the sound of tires screeching and my jaw slamming against the table.

"Uhhhh...whoa. That's a little forward, don't you think?"

"Oh, I'm just kidding. So what are you doing this weekend?"

"Ummm, uhhhh..."

My magnificent ability to construct witty banter had evaporated much quicker than the sweat beads that were forming on my forehead.

My brain finally got up off the mat and I uttered, "Well, I'm going to see the "Bodies Revealed" exhibit at Union Station. What are you doing?"

"Oh, I don't know. I've got a paper to write for school..."

"Do you go to school up the street?"

"Yeah, also at Baker."


She got up to headed back to her duties. Against my better judgement, I asked,

"So what are you doing Friday night?"

"Oh, I don't know. Why?"

"Well, would you like to get together?"

The look on her face cued her own inner tire screeching.

"Oh! Umm, well, umm, uh maybe not right now, ahh, umm well maybe some time as friends, uh, umm."

As off-balance as I was after the appellation scene, I was now overly-corrected and in danger of falling off the other side of my chair. All I could think to myself was "What the hell am I missing here?"

I said, "Oh, ok. That's fine. Whatever. Alright."

She paused for a moment to regain her composure and said, "Well, I hope you don't stop coming in here because of that."

"Oh, no," I said, trying to remain polite despite the fact my brain synapses were re-creating the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. "You're right around the corner. Where else am I going to get a sandwich as good as this?"

She smiled nervously and retreated behind the counter. I made a lame attempt to read again, but mostly just rehashed the previous 20 minutes of my life. After a few minutes, I decided to cut my lunch break a tad short. I looked toward the counter and saw her busying herself and not looking in my direction. I decided this would be a good time to slip out the door and head back to work.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. Mysterious? Suddenly, I'm not quite as big a fan.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Day One

It's Day One.

I woke up late and flipped on the TV. Though it was creeping toward the noon hour, my favorite morning news reporter was still reporting live from a standoff in Edwardsville. There are plenty worse ways to start things off.

I flipped from the news to the telethon to the infomercial informing me of the latest breakthrough in exercise-related weight loss techniques. I flipped past Barney and Friends, through Montel and Maury, and landed on tennis.

The marquee matchup was not due to begin for another hour. Instead, there was an unseeded American taking on a guy who may or may not have been French. The possibly-French guy was getting his ass handed to him, even though the announcers had mentioned that he had loads of talent.

His body language was poor. His shoulders drooped. Every time he would hit a bad shot, he would spin through a Rolodex of reactions and choose one of his liking: drop the racket; yell; throw the racket; give a look of exasperation to no one in particular.

The American finished off his opponent with relative ease. During the post-match interview the American answered that he was thrilled to have advanced so far, especially having played so well against the allegedly-French player. This was a player, he said, that was more physically talented than anyone on Tour.


I flipped off the TV. I finished reading a story about a brutal, troubled, revolting French guy from the 1400s. The guy had all the resources he could ever want at his disposal, yet he still couldn't find what he thought would fulfill him. His actions devolved into the basest and most horrifying acts. He ended up being burned at the stake.

I got up from the couch and sat on the floor next to the movie that I rented last night. I still hadn't watched it and contemplated watching it now. My contemplation ended in my remembering that today was supposed to be the first day of my 90 Days of Writing project. I sprawled out on my stomach, feeling languorous. My inner dialog started up:

"What am I going to write about?"

"You have numerous sources of inspiration from which to choose."

"Yeah, but I don't know which one I should start with."

"It doesn't really matter so long as you just get started."

"But what format should I go with? A poem? Fiction? Some anecdotes with an interlocking meaning?"

"It doesn't make a difference so long as you utilize the talent you've been given."

So I sat up and turned on the computer.

I decided not to drop my racket. I don't want to be allegedly-French.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mysterious, Part Three

Continued from Mysterious, Part Two...

Adrian's Cafe boasts a mean egg salad sandwich. Adrian's also boasts an owner who does an unintentionally spot-on impression of Nathan Lane. And Adrian's Cafe boasts a particularly precocious counter girl.

I'd guess she's college age or so, but it's really quite difficult to tell these days. She's very chatty and enjoys engaging in conversation that delves into more than just the weather, often at the shock and embarrassment of the conversational participant.

Normally, I visit Adrian's flanked by a couple of co-workers, as it's one of our mutually favorite places to grab lunch. Recently, though, and on this day, I was on my own with only a book in hand as my company.

"So, whatchya readin' today?"

"Breakfast At Tiffany's."

At this point, she stopped what she was doing and stared at me as if I had just run over her dog. Repeatedly.

After about five seconds of being uncomfortably stared at, I said, "Is this a problem?"

She snapped out of her stupor as if a hypnotist had snapped his fingers.

"Oh! Oh, no; not at all! It's just that, well, I didn't think that you'd be reading a book like that."

The last time I was in, I was reading "On The Road" and she registered her disdain in saying she felt it was more of a "guy's book".

"Well, I like to read all sorts of things," I said.

She finally gathered herself and started ringing me up.

She asked, "So, what do you do?"

"I sit behind a desk all day, dreaming about the time that I get to go to lunch and read about more interesting things."

"Where do you work that you can dress like that?"

The definition of "that" was a gray and black striped collared shirt and reasonably fashionable jeans.

Rather than saying, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" I instead said,

"I work at Cargill in Corporate Woods around the corner."

"Oh! Don't we deliver sandwiches to you guys a lot?"


"Wow. You are mysterious."

This being the first time that anyone has actually recognized my innate mysteriousness, I was momentarily stunned. While she dreamily rang up my order, I tried not to ruin my newfound reputation.


So, like I said, maybe it's the stubble. There doesn't seem to be any other common factors involved in all three of the aforementioned encounters. That is, not unless you count charm, humor, respect and politeness. But none of those factors have worked a lick in the preceding handful of years. So, I really don't know.


Mysterious, indeed.

Mysterious, Part Two

Continued from Mysterious, Part One...

The only regularly scheduled exercise I get is playing Ultimate Frisbee on Sunday afternoons. Ultimate Frisbee is a game that resembles soccer but utilizes a Frisbee instead. Lots of running back and forth, if you're in decent shape; lots of loafing and walking if you're in my kind of shape. Our game is a co-ed game with players of various skill levels. Thankfully, my skill level is high enough that I can loaf when I'm tired. Or when I feel like loafing. Which came in especially handy on this day.

We had already played one game and we were sitting around drinking water and taking a short break before starting up the next game. I noticed a fit, blonde girl running the path that encircles the park. Nothing out of the ordinary. But as we started playing the second game, I noticed that she had come over to where we had just taken our break and was watching us play. We're an inclusive group, so we shouted out for her to join us. She ended up joining the team opposite of me and we just happened to end up on the same side of the field. Which, of course, I was pleased about.

Since we were on the same side of the field, naturally I covered her. She was still trying to figure out exactly how the game was played so we chatted about how to play as we leisurely went through the motions. This was pleasant for me on numerous levels, including the fact that I was able to save some energy for later. As it turned out, I was going to need it.

As the game wore on, we were becoming friendly and she was starting to catch on to how the game is played. Once she finally got comfortable with the game, she started putting her athletic ability to use. While we were lollygagging in the end zone, she put a juke on me and scored a point. She whooped it up and talked some trash as I smiled wryly and headed back to my side of the field in momentary defeat. Play started up again and she started running me all over Creation, culminating in my failed diving attempt to keep her from scoring the game-winning point. She spiked the Frisbee and celebrated as if she had just won the Super Bowl.

As folks were packing up their gear and getting ready to head home, we exchanged typical post-game pleasantries. I complimented her on a good game and gently ribbed her about sandbagging early on only to stick it to me in the end. She returned the good-natured ribbing and apologized for outplaying me. Which was nice. Sort of. In a pride-injuring way.

Skip to next Sunday. Due to laundry choice, we were on the same team as dictated by the fact that we were both wearing dark shirts. While warming up, she came over and playfully pushed me around as we exchanged salutations.

Then, as the teams were heading to their respective sides to start the game, she literally jumped on me. I'm standing there with a fine, athletic, young specimen clasping her arms around my neck, feet off the ground, firmly attached to my left hip.

If there's a better way to start a game, I haven't stumbled across it. If there's a better way to completely lose focus on the game, I have yet to discover it, also.

She spent the rest of the game pushing me up the field, giving me congratulatory pats and finding whatever other excuses she could to lay her hands on me. I spent the rest of the game wondering if I had somehow become a test customer for Disney World-KC, A Place Where Dreams Really Do Come True.

Even so, that was not the last in this series of rare encounters.

To be continued...

Mysterious, Part One

Maybe it's the stubble. I don't know.

I say it might be the stubble because I've become quite lax in my shaving habits. I generally have an average of three days growth at any given time. And I recently saw the results of a survey that said women prefer men's facial hair in this order:

1. Stubble
2. Full beard
3. Clean shaven

Now, I didn't really believe that when I read it. Nonetheless, being a man of the people, I decided to allow my lazy ways to assimilate to the results of this highly scientific study.

And, whaddaya know: Women have started flirting with me. Three, in fact, in the last month. Allow me take you through each incident.


The population of available women in my office is low. The population of attractive available women in my office is zero. Which makes this first incident flattering, yet unfulfilling.

You see, she isn't ugly, per se. But she would blend in well within a community of elves or gnomes or some other race of diminutive, woodland peoples. I'm sure she was cute as a child. Now? Not so much. On top of that, she appears to be in her forties, has a hairstyle from the fifties and may or may not live with her mother who is probably in her sixties. The worst part, though, is that she's nice. I take that back; it's not that being nice is a problem, it's that she's overly eager. When most people pass each other in the halls, they acknowledge each other with a nod, a grin or a short hello. She looks longingly into my eyes and won't look away. When lunch is brought in for the office, she'll make a special trip to my desk to make sure that I get something to eat. To hell with everyone else, they can starve for all she cares. Somebody's fax didn't go through? Who gets the first visit to inquire if it may have been theirs? That's right, little old me.

But the incident that gets recorded here makes those minor irritations take a backseat. It wasn't a prolonged encounter, but the feeling remained for quite a while:

She touched me.

Bare hand on bare arm. For no other reason than I was just passing by. Now, I don't know about your office, but mine is not a touchy-feely place. Many of us have worked together for seven or eight years and could be considered friends, even outside of work. But we don't touch each other during work. Which is why this was so unsettling. In all my life, that was as close to feeling violated as I've ever come. And it made me understand why we have such strict sexual harassment laws in place.

I realize this might sound like an extreme reaction to a rather mild occurrence. But it just came off as really strange and uncomfortable. However, it was just the beginning in a series of events that one might find in an AXE deodorant commercial.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I just got up from my desk at work to use the restroom and felt a sudden surge of adrenaline.

"I'm free! I can walk anywhere I want to right now! I can walk to the restroom, I can walk out of the building, I can spend the rest of the afternoon walking up and down the stairs!"

It momentarily reminded me of being in school and having to raise my hand to ask permission to use the restroom. Or to get a drink. Or to get sick and head to the nurse's office. Not much freedom there, where you can't even fulfill your body's natural requirements without someone monitoring your every movement.

It then occurred to me that with freedom comes responsibility. I can run laps around my office all day if I choose, but I will probably lose my job (not to mention, my lunch and my credibility). It also occurred to me that my elementary school lack of freedom also required responsibility, namely being responsible enough to not lose control of my bladder during class (and, subsequently, causing my classmates to lose their lunches and me to lose more credibility).

So, what's the point of all this? I'm not sure except that maybe responsibility is overrated.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Observations from last night's ballgame out at Kauffman Stadium...

THE GOOD: The Rube Goldberg-ian machinations of batting practice.
THE BAD: Watching Justin Morneau audition for his 10th inning, game-winning homerun.

THE GOOD: Joey Gathright bunted for a couple of hits and stole a base.
THE BAD: Tony Pena, Jr. couldn't get down one lousy sacrifice bunt, his only tangible offensive skill.

THE GOOD: Zack Greinke pitched eight excellent innings.
THE BAD: Zack Greinke somehow managed to walk the un-walkable Delmon Young TWICE.

THE GOOD: The Good Lord answered my prayers and sent two single women to sit next to me at the game.
THE BAD: Both women were north of 70 years of age.

THE GOOD: The Kiss Cam didn't feature me and one of the blue-hairs to my left.
THE BAD: The guy participating in the 3-hat, hidden ball contest got it wrong.

THE BAD: A Royals fan tore in half the homemade sign of a Twins fan.
THE GOOD: Said Royals fan later apologized and made up with said Twins fan.

THE GOOD: The Royals offense woke up and scored eight runs.
THE BAD: The Royals pitching erased that positive occurrence by giving up nine runs.
THE UGLY: Five of those nine runs came in the ninth inning, further demoralizing the handful of Royals fans that still crawl upon the Earth.


Side note that helped lessen the blow of last night's catastrophe:

I arrived at Kauffman Stadium early yesterday to watch the Twins take batting practice before they tore the hearts out of Jose Guillen and myself. There were a lot of Twins fans around and some of them were hollering up to the press box to try to catch the attention of Bert Blyleven, who calls Twins games on TV.

These guys managed to pique Bert's interest and before long, Bert started throwing peanuts from the press box (a good 50-foot toss) in an attempt to get them in the Twins fan's cap. After a couple of misses, he started hitting the fan's cap with regularity and probably threw about a dozen before smiling, waving and returning to more announcer-ly duties.

When you're a Royals fan, you have to find joy in the little things, even if it means watching your opponent's broadcast team shoot 50-foot free throws into the caps of eager fans.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


While waiting for Dave to get out of school yesterday, Samantha and I joined forces and wrote the following piece. We mostly followed the pattern of writing every other sentence, but not strictly. See if you can figure out who wrote what:

One day there was a guy named Bob. Bob didn't like to throw up. But he liked to fart. So he would experiment with the foods that he ate to see which foods would make big, juicy farts but didn't make him barf.

So, the other day, he was in his front yard and he farted so big that he now lives on Mars. Except now he's kind of hungry because there isn't a lot to eat on Mars. He invented a machine called the "Fart Pack". When he farts in this tube, it blows him into the air and takes him to any planet. He made lots of money marketing his "Fart Pack" to people on Earth and the other planets he visited.

When he got back to Earth, he ate twelve pounds of beans and packed a bunch of food. Then he made a huge fart that too him past the Milky Way to some old solar system. He landed on Planet Zarnack and met some of the aliens that lived there. They tried to eat him but when he farted, the air turned orange and green. So the aliens passed out and left their spaceship available. He was glad that he didn't become a Zarnack snack and decided to see if he could operate their spaceship. He got it turned on but when he pushed the gas, it went full speed into the Moon and the Moon hit Earth. The Earth bounced closer to the sun and affirmed Al Gore's fears about global warming.

The North and South poles started to go bye-bye and the water said, "Hi-hi!" Soon, there were beaches in Bob's home state of Kansas. When Bob went to the beach, a huge tsunami hit and killed Bob. Uh, oh.

Bob's family was stricken with grief over Bob's death and worried about the Earth's imminent demise, so they strapped on some "Fart Packs" and traveled to Pluto. They got there and they all dressed up in leotards, tutus and ballerina slippers. Then they all started jumping around and dancing. Bob's granny was old but she could jump and dance really well because of the low level of gravity. But Grandpa, on the other hand, fell off Pluto and landed on a meteorite. It crashed into the Earth and he drowned. Since Grandpa was old and had lived a full life, they weren't as upset as they were about Bob's death. So instead of crying, they had a party because they didn't have to clean his dentures any more.

This was a great celebration because his dentures were always covered in mold and slime and barnacles. So, in memory, the lake was shaped like open dentures with a spider in between the two front teeth. The spider was named Earl and he would decide who would and who wouldn't swim at his lake. He only let the two members of the family that were left (Grandma and Aunt) swim. Mom and Dad crashed 50 years ago in an airplane. Aunt Trudy could only doggy-paddle, so she would climb trees instead. She accidentally fell off one and broke her neck. The doctors had bad news.

Trudy was dead, leaving poor, poor Granny all alone, swimming in a lake shaped like dentures and guarded by a talking spider. The spider was secretly stalking her, so after an hour, the spider attacked her and ate her hair. Grandma died from shock and baldy-ness-phobia!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Ode to Distraction

As I sit on my couch
With my notebook in hand
And the radio tuned
To the A.M. band
I would like to create
And God knows that I've tried
But I can't concentrate
Guess my brain must be fried
You see, all my attention
Has been grabbed by the game
And my sheer lack of focus
Will keep me from fame
My love for the Royals
Divides my weak brain
And to root for this team
Has rarely seemed sane
But this year is different
As they've really been good
The pitching's been solid
Not so much for the wood
And now my pen has failed me
It literally broke
Frustration increases
The M's bats have awoke
It was a tie ballgame
But we're now down by six
And my pen's replacement
Learned the former pen's tricks
The ink has stopped flowing
Just the same, Royals runs
And as for this poem
I believe I am done

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Gee Whiz

The first four batters in the Royals's lineup today are:

Gordon, and

Batting seventh is:




Gee Whiz

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Walking Home

This week, I began in earnest my plan to ride the bus to and from work on the weeks that I don't have to take the kids to school. I've always enjoyed using public transportation, probably because I've lived my whole life in a city that doesn't really use or value public transportation. And, being an infrequent patron, I've probably romanticized the notion.

But today, the part of my journey that struck a chord wasn't the bus ride but the walk home.

It is a bright, sunny, cloud-free day. According to the Mission Bank thermometer, it is 58 degrees. The sunshine makes it feel warmer, but an occasional breeze reminds me that summer isn't making an early appearance. The breeze makes my hooded sweatshirt proud to do its job.

I push the cross-walk button and wait patiently for the red hand to give way to the white stick figure. Birds are singing. People are out walking. A police car rolls by with its lights flashing, but not in pursuit of anyone. The final bits of another eight hours of work day experiences start to blow away while the first tiny particles of "I'm home!"-excitement sweep in behind them.

All of this suddenly reminds me of walking home from school in second grade. It was days like this when I would stuff my jacket in my backpack in mini-rebellion towards Mom and in reverence towards Spring and the warmer days to come. Of course, I'd pull out that jacket and put it back on a block from home so that Mom wouldn't know I hadn't been wearing it. Of course, she would find out anyway.

There was a crossing guard that would guide me safely across the street then. In addition to birds singing, I would hear geese honking; one house kept several of them as pets rather than the more conventional dogs or cats. And I would stop the police if they were driving by to see if they had any Royals baseball cards left to hand out. I would look forward to getting home and riding my Big Wheel in the driveway or playing with my Star Wars guys in the front yard.

A lot of things have changed since I was in second grade. Today, I kept my jacket on and didn't encounter any geese. And my Chevy Metro, while small, is no Big Wheel. But I'm glad some things remain the same.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

National League Haiku

Pittsburgh has both sides
PNC Park is gorgeous
Pirates? Not so much

Griffey's twentieth
He still flips his cap backwards
Hey, baseball is fun!

Ausmus still employed?
At least the 'Stros have Hunter
To squeeze the Juice Box

They've got Prince Albert
And arguably best fans
Denkinger haunts, though

Wrigley Field is great
Almost as good as Fenway
Less World Series wins

Bernie Brewer goes
Down slide, into the beer mug
Sausage races? Eh

Nationals are dull
MLB stole the Expos
Thanks, Commish Selig

Miami has flair
Only Hanley's got it, though
Please give him some help!

Smoltz keeps on tickin'
Glavine's back, but not Maddux
Glory days still gone

Ryan Howard rakes
Jimmy Rollins sure can burn
Sounds more like yardwork

Most talent in league
Wright, Reyes, Johan; Oh, my!
Mets are Amazin'

So long, Barry Bonds
Giants will sink to the depths
Of McCovey Cove

Edged by the Rockies
San Diego was not pleased
Pads will overcome

Joe Torre in town
Can he bring Yankee magic?
Just play the youngsters

Rocks had a great run
All the way to the Series
Won't happen again

D-Backs battle heat
And some tough division foes
To rise once again

American League Haiku

Spring's almost here
Royal blue optimism
Only exists now

I hope Zack Greinke
Continues his improvement
And finds his eephus

Sweeney hits the road
I'll surely miss his heart but
Not his injuries

Chicago Pale Hose
Totally uninspiring
Royals could pass them

Traded their best guy
Play in a dump of a park
Twinkies fans are screwed

"Mistake By The Lake"
No longer applicable
Cleveland boys can play

Tigers grow more claws
Picked up Miggy and D-Train
Motown is Go-town

A's roster gutted
Of stars by genius GM
Potential simmers

Not Subway's Jared
But Saltalamacchia
Rangers hope bat's fat

Ichiro is fast
Seattle gets lots of rain
Death, taxes exist

Inside, outside or
Completely over his head
Vladdy will connect

Tropicana blows
Hurricane of young talent
Rays still can't catch Sox

Toronto Blue Jays
I can't think of a single
Interesting thing

O's look to the youth
Miggy and the ace are gone
Pass the crab cakes

ARod is unreal
The other guys should step up
You, too, Cap'n Jetes

Hard to argue with
The success of Theo's Sox
Dynasty in place

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Smoke Scenes

Three people are huddled together. They stand outside the rear entrance of their office building. One doesn't have a jacket, the other two are bundled in their warmest winter wrappings. It's 12 degrees above zero outside.

"Why aren't you wearing a coat?" one of the swathed says to the hunched and trembling one.

"I don't want it to stink."

The trio mutters succinct anecdotes about their work day to each other between drags. Somehow, this both calms and exhilirates them.


Your buddy picks up a twig from your yard and lights the end on fire. He puts the non-flaming end in his mouth and encourages you to emulate him. You are confused as to why this seems like a sensible activity in which to participate.


Jack and Becky are a little on edge. They've been in the air for nearly seven consecutive hours. They've been to Hawai'i numerous times, but this time they're going to stay and start a new chapter in life.

The plane touches down in Honolulu and proceeds to taxi to the gate. Jack fidgets in his seat and repeatedly think to himself,"C'mon! Hurry it up!" Becky digs through her purse, locates a new pack and moves it to the top of the pile.

Finally, the paggengers deplane and Jack & Becky have one thing on their minds: The open-air terminal!

They hurriedly drag their carry-on luggage through the bricks-and-mortar until they reach paradise. Becky has already begun peeling off the silvery packaging while Jack rummages in his pocket for some matches.

At last, they each light one up and take a deep drag. After a pronounced exhalation, Jack says, "God, I love the fresh, clean Hawai'i air!"


A kid sits through the "Just Say No!" presentation. He fills out the survey that asks him about his reactions to drinking, smoking and drugs. He feels like it's pretty much a waste of time, but he understands the message they're trying to convey. He hands in his questionaire and heads out the classroom door.

He drops his bike in the yard and enters his front door. His backpack gets flung into room and he makes his way to the kitchen for something to eat. Before he gets there, he pauses at his mom's office door. Since neither his mom nor his dad are at home, he walks in and opens the bottom, righ-hand drawer of the desk. It's no secret -- this is where she keeps her supply. He takes a pack out of the carton and shuffles the rest of the packs to look as if nothing ever happened. He runs to the kitchen to grab a pack of fruit roll-ups and call his mom.

"I'm going to play across the street, Mom."

"Okay, honey; just be back for dinner."

"Okay, Mom. Love you!"

"Love you, too!"


Dad lays dying in the tiny emergency room. As the doctors prepare to run some tests, one of them pulls us aside and says that if there are any other family members that would like to say goodbye, you should get them here, post haste. I turn to my mom and brother and we all have a frantic look in our eyes.

I said, "I'll go home and grab the kids."

Before I left, the three of us stepped back in to see Dad. We each said, "I love you!" and Dad mouthed "I love you" back to us three times.

I rushed to the car and hurried home. The rest of the family piled in the car and we made for the hospital as quickly as possible.

Once we got back, the doctors were moving Dad to a more private room so that we could all be together as a family. But on the way there, Dad couldn't hold out any longer. He left us in the hallway.

Mom screamed, "Hurry!" as we were walking towards the rolling procession. We ran to catch up, but he was already gone.

Dad had finally quit smoking a couple of years back, but the forty-plus years preceeding finally caught up to him.


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Airplane Observations

This guy's haircut evokes a caricature of Elvis. A little flip in the front, a sideburn for each side and perfectly jet black. The red fleece pullover and burgeoning bald spot slowly dissipate the comparison...

This other guy wears a hunting shirt. Who the hell wears a hunting shirt? Not a hunting vest or a camouflage, multi-pocketed jobby, but a shirt that at first glance seems camouflage, but is actually just depicting some kick-ass bow hunting scenes. So as to not hide himself completely in the wooded environment of an airplane cabin, he dons a Sesame Street-green ballcap. He does keep a neatly-trimmed beard, so he's got that going for him. As he flips through the SkyMall magazine, I wonder if he secretly wishes that he'll stumble across the one rifle scope he's been dreaming about his entire life. I'm secretly hoping that he doesn't happen to look back at what I'm writing and start pummeling me, air rage consequences be damned. While I wouldn't mind being mildly famous, I don't desire the infamy of landing on the national news becaue my plane had to touch down in Des Moines to allow the flight attendants to scrape my bloody carcass from my seat in Coach.

Now we're taxiing toward the runway. If you think about it, it's a little confusing. I normally equate the word "taxi" with a taxi cab. Yet I don't see too many folks standing along the tarmac, arms outstretched, lips pursed and whistling, attempting to hail an airplane. I also like how we call them "airplanes". Are there planes that don't fly through the air? Maybe we should start calling boats "waterplanes" and cars "roadplanes".

This is starting to sound like an Andy Rooney piece. I guess I shouldn't complain; I'd love to get paid to come up with one semi-coherent rant per week and still be revered as a clever old curmudgeon.

I look out the window and realize that I'm staring at an engine. I've always been fascinated with the occasional occurrence of an engine falling off a plane and landing in someone's yard or on someone's roof. I think it would be fun to witness something like this first-hand. Maybe not smashing through my roof and certainly not injuring or killing anyone. Which makes the recent story of a mid-air collision of two planes both disturbing and morbidly interesting. Apparently (obviously), body parts were dropping from the sky.

I have nothing else to add here.

Dreams & Onions

As I sit alone in the back room of the coffee shop, rubbing my face in dismay, I realize my fingers smell like hamburger and onions. What a shitty thing to discover about yourself. I smell like onions.

The permeating punk music isn't helping matters. But then neither does the deafening roar of the recently-activated furnace. Oh, yeah; my iced chai tastes like somebody forgot to wash the glass.


So I sit here thinking about what an overwhelming task it is to actually follow my dream when I finally decide to just write out what is most immediately annoying to me. Friend of the coffee shop owner? Your voluminous ranting has just deposited another ounce of ink to my pen. Milky shadows gliding along the wall? You give me axiety that your owner will walk in and see me staring at you. Kitschy lampshade emblazoned with constellations? You remind me that I only recognize Orion and his freaking belt...

Mmm...another sip of dishwater. With any luck, there will be just enough soap residue in my drink that I'll wake up in the middle of the night with diarrhea. Which would be great because I have to be up two hours earlier than normal to get to the airport. To travel to Minnesota. Where it's -6. At least I'll be back the same day. Just in time to miss three quarters of the KU basketball game.

I think I just saw a guy who lives in my apartment complex. I didn't see his face, but I recognized his walk. He walks on his tip-toes all the time. I wonder if he walks like that because he is eager to get to what's next. I wonder if he knows any other star formations besides Orion. I wonder if his drink was mixed correctly. I wonder if he is following his dream. I wonder if he smells like onions.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Toy Box

It is time to try something new. In my constant search for inspiration, I have found something worth exploring. The concept of artistic collaboration has been an underlying theme that I've been looking to experiment with. But until recently, I didn't know how to go about executing this process. Now, after doing some reading and conversing with a fellow artist, I've found a small toy chest of opportunities to play with.

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It's taken a while to figure out when was the best time to write this one. I've been thinking about it off and on for some time now. And since Dad would always tell Seth and me “Remember, your mom's birthday is coming up,” and “Don't forget to get something for your mom,” I thought this would be a pretty good time to finally put these thoughts down.

I learned to love Dad. I didn't think he was the greatest dad around when I was young. And I suppose he wasn't. But he was a lot different then. At least it seemed that way to me. He could be gruff and blunt. He didn't always seem interested in what we were doing. He definitely wanted us to be quiet and not cause a lot of racket. But there were a lot of unique things about him, some that I picked up over time and some that I didn't realize until much later.

He was a morning guy. An early bird. Some of that had to do with the fact that he had to be at work so early in the morning, but I'm sure most of it was just his personality. The early mornings were his quiet time. He would spend that time sipping coffee, reading the newspaper and getting ready for the day. I never much understood the allure of this lifestyle, being a late night person, myself. I found it particularly distasteful when he would wake me up before I wanted to be up. His signature move? Flipping on the light and going back to the living room, making me get up to turn off the light, subsequently ensuring that I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep. I also remember early Saturday morning lawn mowings that seemed to linger right outside my window. At least I thought they were early. He'd probably been up for over four hours by then.

Because he had to be at work so early in the morning, this meant that he was finished with work fairly early in the afternoon. This enabled him sufficient time to partake in one of his favorite chores/hobbies: fixing dinner. The kids at school thought this was a little strange, having your dad cook rather than your mom. But I didn't care so long as somebody was making dinner. Of course, he had his favorites and sometimes it seemed as if we were on a never-ending cycle. Monday was pork chops. Tuesday was cube steaks. Wednesday was goulash. No matter what day it was, though, there was going to be some sort of meat served. The weekends were reserved for other meat-themed treats. Saturdays often found dad out on the deck grilling the biggest burgers you'd ever seen. And Sundays were always pot roast, slow-cooked in the crockpot all day. Unless he was feeling adventerous. Then he would give the crockpot a little variety and cook up the best chili in history. Whatever it was he was cooking, he enjoyed the process, the creativity.

Creativity was something that I had no idea my dad possessed when I was young. I always just thought that he was a slave to routine and didn't want to venture outside the unknown. But looking back, I realized that this wasn't true at all. Dad seemed willing to take on new things and try out new ideas. Not all the time, but often enough to make me understand that he wasn't as boring as I thought.

He and his buddies built a deck in our backyard. I remember thinking how cool it was that my dad had all those tools and actually knew what to do with them. He had a quadrophonic stereo system, basically surround sound for the 70's. I always wanted to duplicate that in my own place. When he had an addition built onto our house, he employed alternate energy sources, like passive solar and a wood-burning stove. He built the coolest bunk beds that two kids could ever want. He embraced soccer before the term “soccer mom” was ever invented and even bought season tickets for the local indoor squad, the Kansas City Comets.

His passion for soccer, though, was a mixed bag for me. He thought the sport was so great and fun that he wanted Seth and I to play. And we did. A lot. And it was fun and we were good. Dad even coached my team for a while, which was great. What I didn't realize at the time, though, is that my great passion was being squelched.

I had always loved baseball from as far back as I can remember. I owned a 1980 “George Brett for President” bumper sticker and a Hal McRae t-shirt. I had a sack full of 1982 Fleer baseball cards. I played Whiffle ball in my grandparents front yard, drawing up the lineup cards of the current Royals teams and pretending to be each one of them as I threw the ball up to myself and hit it around the neighborhood. But I never played organized baseball as a kid because Dad had convinced me that soccer was the greatest thing going. And, like I said, I was good so I didn't really complain too much because it's always fun when you're good at something. But as time passed and my passion for baseball grew, my interest in soccer waned.

I told Dad and everyone I knew that I wanted to be a Major League baseball player when I grew up. Dad always did his best to keep me well-grounded by reminding me that the chances of becoming a baseball player of that caliber were slim to none. Regardless, he took me to the batting cages and even bought me time with an instructor. I fought hard and made the baseball team at Shawnee Mission North my junior year, but by then I realized that he was right; I might be good enough to make my summer league all-star team but I wasn't going to the Major Leagues unless I bought myself a ticket.

The best thing about playing baseball for those few years came one summer when my summer league team was short on pitching. My coach asked if I would be willing to try pitching. I had never done it before and I knew my arm wasn't particularly strong, but I agreed to do it anyway. Since I knew very little about how to pitch, I asked Dad. I had heard stories about how he was a pitcher when he was a kid in Little League, so I knew he would be able to at least give me the basics of what I needed to know. So, out to the yard we went. He would tell me how to set up on the pitching rubber, how to throw from the wind-up and the stretch, how to keep an eye on the baserunner to keep him close to the bag. I would throw and throw, doing my best not to chuck it past him or throw it in the dirt. He would occasionally grimace when the ball would hit his glove. Of all the times he tought me how to do something, this was the only time I can remember not really getting frustrated. I somehow managed to appreciate the moment of him taking time to show me how to do something he had once done in an area of interest I loved so much.

And while I never became good enough to play baseball beyond high school, Dad still managed to connect to my passion through another one of his creative ideas: He decided to buy the baseball card shop that I'd spent so much time (and his money) at as a kid. The baseball card industry was booming at the time and he must have figured that it would be a decent risk to get in the game. I was like a kid in a candy store. I was now required to spend my time at the baseball card shop now, instead of having to beg to go there. My expertise was leaned upon as Mom and Dad learned the ins and outs of the baseball card business. I learned a lot about retail business, people, baseball and my dad because of that shop.

By this time, my dad had become less gruff and more personable, less irritable and more patient. I appreciated the fact that he listened to and respected my input regarding the shop, even though I was still young. Of course, he would still get on me if I did something stupid. For instance, the time that he came to the back room of the shop and asked my opinion on whether Walt Whitman was any good or not. I was sitting right by the door when I laughed and said that, yeah, I'm sure he was a pretty decent poet but I didn't know about his basketball skills. Dad shot me the evil eye and whispered at me to shut up, that the customer who had asked about Walt Williams was standing right outside the door and that I should be more respectful of customers and less of a smart-ass.

The shop seemed to be successful enough that eventually Dad decided to retire early. This was another decision that wasn't exactly by-the-book, but one that I thought was cool nonetheless. He didn't have to work the crummy job he'd been working at for over 20 years and that seemed to breathe some life into him. Enough life, in fact, that he started drawing up designs on his next big idea: permanently moving to Hawaii.

After the baseball strike in 1994, the shop took a hit and never quite recovered. Eventually, Mom and Dad closed it up and started figuring out how to take this next big step. Dad had seen his mom die young, crushing his dad and their dreams together in the process, and decided that he wasn't going to let that happen to him. So up they moved, Mom and Dad, to Hawaii to live out his dream. I thought it was a bullshit move at the time, because my two kids were under the age of five and I wanted them to know their grandparents like I had known mine. But after I had visited them their the first time, I realized how right it was. And while I still wish that we would have been able to spend more time together, I'm proud of my dad for taking the risk and living out his dream.

Unfortunately, he didn't get to live his dream as long as he might have wanted. While he got to spend a quarter of his adult life (10 years) with Mom out in paradise, he didn't make it to his 60th birthday. But he lived his life pretty fully and I learned a lot from him. I may not have learned how to change the oil in my car from him or how the stock market works, but I learned that it's okay to pursue your ideas and dreams, even if they're unconventional. He and Mom bought me the computer that I'm writing this on as an encouragement to keep pursuing my other passion, writing. And I know that he was proud of me for what I've written and what I will write. And I know he loved me. And I know that I loved him and still do.