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.