Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Frisco Kid

Tanya posted an interesting question on her blog yesterday. What characters from film or fiction still touch you every time you see or "read" them? My answer surprised me.

After the original Star Wars movie back in 77, Harrison Ford was only known as Han Solo. But unlike Mark Hamill and William Shatner, he would quickly distinguish himself as a talented actor. As storied a career as Harrison has, I doubt many remember or know of a movie called The Frisco Kid that came out in the midst of the Star Wars craze in 1979.

Harrison played a bank robber, opposite Gene Wilder as a rabbi from Poland sent to America to marry in San Francisco, and to establish a church. Wilder is devout, refusing to ride on Saturdays, and is a good man who guards his Torah with his life. He is naïve about the wicked ways of men, and is ill prepared to deal with the outlaw gunslingers of the old American West.

Like an angel sent from heaven to protect Wilder comes Ford. The two cross paths and circumstances keep them together, and the unlikely friendship is born. Ford is crass and foul mouthed, and Wilder is outwardly derisive of him, and they are constantly at odds. Ford is frustrated with Wilder, and threatens to leave him to deal with the Wild West alone, and Wilder reminds him that nobody ever asked him to stay. But Ford, ever with the heart of gold, is there at the end of the day, waiting around the bend.

After several tests and ordeals, with San Francisco in sight, Ford tells Wilder that it’s time for him to mosey on. But who will be my best man at my wedding Wilder asks. Shouldn’t that be for your best friend, one of your Jewish friends, Ford replies? But you are my best friend; you are my only friend.

This is where I pretend to have an itch on my nose. I’m weak, I know.

But later in a skirmish with outlaws, Wilder is faced with the dilemma of killing a man who will otherwise take the gun from him and kill both of them, and he pulls the trigger. Wilder no longer wishes to be a rabbi. In San Francisco, sitting at a table in a restaurant, the most personally memorable scene in movie history unfolds.

Again, this is just me, but this scene is vintage Harrison Ford, and the reason that I think he is the greatest. He’s not polished or likely as talented as the Bogarts and Stewarts of the movie world, but he is one of a kind. He is frustrated with Wilder because of the inner transformation that Wilder has put him through. Ford knows that on this earth, there is no person closer to God that the man before him, who forsook his personal safety to bring God to San Francisco. But Wilder feels unworthy of the post he traveled so far for, and Ford won’t let him walk away.

The scene is their exchange across the table. I can’t find the transcript, so it goes something like this:

Wilder: I’m not a rabbi.
Ford: Don’t say that. Of course you’re a rabbi.
Wilder: I’m not a rabbi.
Ford: Listen you stupid bleepin bleeper, I didn’t bring you all this way just to have you back out now.
Wilder: I valued the safety of a book over the life of my best friend
Ford (flashing his signature grin): But I forgive you.
Wilder (eyes glossy, almost crying): I know you do
Ford: So stop all this foolishness and tell them who you are
Wilder: But I’m not a rabbi
Ford (pointing his finger at him with a menace in his voice): I’m warning you, don’t say that again.
Wilder (pauses and seems to think about it): I’m not a rabbi.

Ford picks up a balled up napkin in a lightning quick motion and beans Wilder in the head and screams that scream you know so well, “Don’t say that!” That moment makes me want to cry. It is so raw and unguarded, and shows you at once how much he loves his friend.

Many will see it and chuckle, but for me it is a magic moment. Maybe I relate to it because I have father issues, and feel a deep void that yearns for that kind of friendship. I don’t know.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Reading Banville

I went to the gym this weekend and did a light workout. Unlike my previous first stints, I stretched out before jumping right in. I’m feeling a bit stiff…

I’m reading John Banville, or better put, I’m learning vocabulary from John Banville. I’ve downloaded some images of varying types of clothing cuts, such as collars, sleeves, and dress types. The man can describe what a woman is wearing as if he were an exclusive fashion designer; describe a sunset from a painter’s perspective, and quote history like a Harvard professor. My pen is scribbling as I reread entire passages. Sometimes I stop and let my eyes go lazy as my mental drum tosses his words around and around. At first I was annoyed with the lack of forward motion, but I changed gears. Banville isn’t a frosty cool one you throw back with your buddies; he’s that dusty bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Smell the cork and drink some water to clear the palette. And sip slowly.

Friday, February 24, 2006

What Dad Would Do

An hour before my presentation, the boss runs into my office and informs me that my document doesn’t have nearly enough information to convey the architecture of the system. Mind you, he has had this document in his possession since last Friday. He stepped to the white board and scribbled a picture.

I took over this project from one of the guys that interviewed me for this position, and the minute I took the job, he tendered his resignation. On my first day, he presented his ideas for this architecture that I am now working on. His name was Omar.

“Why don’t you just tweak Omar’s document and bring that to the meeting?”

“My understanding is that this meeting is about requirements,” I explained calmly. “You can’t build a system when you don’t know what the software is supposed to produce.”

“But you aren’t going to hold anyone’s interest with this kind of presentation. You need more pictures of the overall solution.”

Couldn’t you have told me this yesterday? Or the day before? Or the day before that? “Ok, I’ll draw this diagram and append it to the document.”

My drawing software was inadequate, so I downloaded Visio, which is more than enough, but I couldn’t learn it in time. Meeting time came around and I was stuck. My hands were two frozen meat balls as I felt my impending doom.

Ten engineers sat around the table watching me as I sat down with my computer and plugged it into the projector. A black speakerphone lay in the middle of the table where members of the operations team in Buffalo waited to begin.

For those not in the industry, there is a process of software development called RUP, or Rational Unified Process. It begins with all the people who are affected by the development of the product sitting in a room just like this one, reviewing requirements in the form of use cases, which detail every nuance of every service the software provides. This is the time for non-technical people to get involved, to have a say before the engineers take off. Up until now, all interested parties have a say in the final product. Apparently my manager didn’t understand this, but by the end of the meeting he did.

My nerves calmed as I realized what a catalyst the document was for conversation. Ideas were like pennies from heaven, falling everywhere. My pen scribbled as people debated back and forth. After the meeting, engineers came into my office with new ideas, or wanting clarification on points that I brought up.

In all, my structure stood up to the scrutiny, but I’ll have to be wary. I see that what they are paying me to do is a process they don’t understand, or believe in, but I see the light bulbs over heads of some. I know this because of statements like this one, from a senior manager after the meeting: “I have to admit, this is a great way to do this. I had no idea how many ideas were in my head.” My manager just nodded his head with a guarded shade in his eyes. I don’t know what he was thinking, but what he said was, “Thank you Scott for all your hard work.”

My wife says to write emails so that there is an audit trail for everything I do. Watch out for him.

For me this is an application of a process I read in a book to bone up for the interview. I’ve never actually done it. I tried to sell something similar to my previous employer, but he thought it was swatting a fly with a trebuchet. I won’t get anywhere waiting for someone to lead me by the hand. I’ll have to get there myself, and drag this entire company behind me.

I’m proud to say that in this way, I’m not so unlike my father after all.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Today is the Day

Today at one thirty I present my first design documents to the company masses. I'm not nervous actually. All will be well.

I saw a strange movie last night, Broken Flowers. Bill Murray. I always like Bill Murray, even if he just sits in a chair with that blank look and says nothing. His interaction with his polar opposite, mystery loving, Ethiopian neighbor is priceless. This was a strange movie though, in the spirit of indy filmdom, it ends quite unconventionally, with questions unanswered. Or maybe I missed the flight. Has anyone else seen it? If so, can you tell me what the hell happened at the end? I won't spoil it by giving you my two cent opinion, at least for now. Just tell me what you thought.

I forgot to register my thoughts on the Lindsay Jacobellis snafu. If you didn't see it, or didn't hear about it from thousands of media outlets, Jacobellis had the lead in a four-person snowboarding race by such a margin that victory was assured. But she decided to get fancy over a jump in clear view of the finish line and did a stunt, landed funny and slid off the track on her tush. She managed to finish and win the silver, but nefariously went into the history books, a feature of future highlight reels. Remember the old ABC Wide World of Sports? The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. Insert Jacobellis. Not exactly what she had in mind.

I will say this to all the detractors: she's just a kid, so cut her some slack. And even if she wasn't a kid, go bleep yourself. She fought one hell of a race, and I for one was quite proud.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Atta Girl Sasha

It turns out that my presentation isn’t until tomorrow in the afternoon, but I got some feedback from my thirty-plus page document. The word is good. In fact, the commenter wants to use my doc as a template for future versions. Not bad. Some of my pre-interview studying has paid off.

I was up until midnight watching the Olympics. It’s cliché I know, but I love watching the women’s figure skating, and in the Summer Olympics I am a sucker for the women’s gymnastics too. I’ve heard women complain about my demographic, that we are a bunch of lecherous old men. For me there is just so much beauty, such grace, heart, determination, and excellence bundled in a small package. Some of these girls are just sixteen, and yet they are performing under enormous pressure such that we will never experience in our lifetimes. I find myself rooting for all of them, and I feel sad when they fall and pride when they land without a bobble.

I watched Emily Hughes, younger sister of Olympic gold medal winner Sarah Hughes skate wonderfully in place of the injured Michelle Kwan. As good as she was though, the Russian Irina Slutskaya made her look like rookie, who is favored to win the gold—was I think, before Sasha Cohen started her routine. All I can say is: you should have been there. She is in first place after the short program, but it is within four one hundredths. Stay tuned for more competition.

I’m going to start working on another short story based on my post about the man in the wheelchair. I came up with an ending in the shower this morning, and when those hit me, it’s time to start writing. That’s how my mind works I guess: I need a basic premise, a sprinkle of theme, and a nice twisted ending.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pack The Gym Bag

This weekend we signed up for a gym membership for basically the cost of one mortgage payment. I know everyone says this, but I will use it. Riiiiiight…

It all started when my wife and I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I don’t need to tell you girls out there that Brad Pitt looks great with his shirt off. My wife looked at me and said, “Do you think you could ever look like that?”

“Well, I never have, but I’d like to give it one more try.”

We’ve both been feeling a little heavy. Inactivity and late night eating are catching up with us. I’ve never been perfect, but there was a brief time in my young history when I took my shirt off and liked what I saw. Today I look and think things could be worse.


On NPR this morning, I heard a story about a website that is connecting young men and women, boys and girls, with the wisdom of the elderly. This is an astounding idea. Maybe it’s because I’m climbing in years, but the elderly are largely overlooked, and any forum that gives them a voice is aces by me. They’ve adapted and survived everything life has to throw at them, so who better to consult?

The questions asked of the elders at first were simple, often mundane. Then they became more complicated, harder to answer. One was from a little girl whose parents leave her alone at truck rallies with predatory friends, who are becoming increasing overt in their advances. She wants to know what to do. Or another, a letter from a girl explains that she is best friends with a boy, and although she has zero sexual attraction for him, she feels that a real boyfriend would eventually come between them. She wants to know if she should marry him. Can you just see this discussion at a nursing home? I would love to be in that room.


Back to work for me. I’m not sure when I present my designs, so more on that later.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Busy Today

Just a quick note to anyone dropping by. I am working hard at finishing some software design documents that I have to present tomorrow. I cranked out a data model today, which means absolutely nothing to anyone reading, but to me and hopefully to my peers and superiors, this is going to look finger-licking good.

More tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have the good news that my client was quite impressed.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Thanks For Making Me Blog On The Weekend Eve!

Current clothing: Long sleeve cotton shirt, Old Navy pj-bottoms, socks, slippers

Current hair: Flat top. My wife has taken over for the local barber, bought her own shears. I used to have long moppish hair, but I got sick of it and cut it all off and loved the look.

Current mood: Recovering from a cold and a day with my cranky two-year old

Current refreshment: Poland Spring water

Current annoyance: My son won't let me go downstairs until he goes to sleep, and there is no way to sneak down because the stairs creak.

Current avoidance: Good question. Writing anything of substance.

Current smell: Popcorn that we just ate downstairs

Current thing you ought to be doing: Sleeping

Current thing or things on your wall: Picture of my kids, two traced hands, an old Mattise print from my single days of an indistinct naked woman

Current IM/person you are talking to: Nobody

Current jewelry: My wedding band

Current book: The Sea, John Banville

Current worry: Wow, none really

Current love: My children, my wife

Current longing: To write

Current disappointment: That I haven't written anything

Current lyric in your head: All I want is you, The Cars

Current music: The sound of my son caughing in his room

Current Favorite book: I'll let you know when I read it. I have lot's of historical favorites, but right now I am in desperate need.

Current undergarments: Spiderman underoos. Just joking.

Current desktop picture: My kids at Christmas

Current plans for tonight/weekend: Watch our recording of Friday's Battlestar. Then sleep the sleep of the gods.

So what are you currently doing? I told you that I owe you one. Tag Moni, you're it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Little Poop Humor

As much as you try parents, you can’t avoid it. You might as well tell the Greenland icecaps to stop melting. Sooner or later you are going to find the key to that creaky old box that holds your childhood memories, blow off the dust, open it up and pull out a few of those old poop jokes that caused you to spit Cap’n Crunch all over your sister at the breakfast table.

Or maybe it’s just me. I read in the Pocket Parent, or rather it was read to me by my wife after interrupting my own reading of Terry Pratchet for the fifth time, that one technique parents have adopted is to take one night off from discipline and let the children reprimand them for bad behavior. The parents play with their food and belch, and probably make other bodily noises I imagine, and the kids run out of breath laughing so hard.

My wife resisted it for a couple years. It started when I came home with a volume of Captain Underpants books. My wife put her foot down, and the books went into the darkest recesses of the catch-all closet. We gave it to Jackson for his sixth birthday, and now, every night before bed, Jackson and I read them together.

If you can handle a little potty humor, these books push the silly button for a young boy. The author Dav Pilkey is like Tom Hanks in Big, who is a young boy in a man’s body. This guy remembers what it was like.

Some people won’t like these books because the heros are two young boys who cause trouble, always pranking. They get in trouble with their principal Mr. Krupp, so they hypnotize him with a hypno-ring. Now every time Mr. Krupp hears the snapping of fingers, he becomes Captain Underpants. Later he acquires actual super powers by drinking Super Power Juice found in the cockpit of the space ship of alien invaders. Sounds silly? You bet. That’s why the kids love it. My son laughs so hard that he falls into choked silence for long stretches and his mouth wide open.

Last night we read this joke:

Why did Tigger stick his head in the toilet?
Because he was looking for Pooh.


Knock knock?
Who’s there?
I’m a pile-up.
I’m a pile-up who?
That’s not true; don’t be so hard on yourself.

Jackson is still laughing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A La Moni

Ok Moni, here you go:

Four jobs I've had:

Windshield Washer at Chevron
Bagger at a grocery store
Burger flipper at McDonalds
Car Salesman

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over again:

Breakfast Club - It's in my profile, but it's my favorite
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Outside Providence

Four TV Shows I Love:

Battlestar Galactica - The new one. The best drama on TV of any genre.
Deadwood - Seth Bullock is the man I wish I was. Perhaps he could simmer down just a bit.
Six Feet Under - May it rest in peace
The Sopranos - It can't end well

Four Places I've Lived:

Juneau, Alaska
San Francisco
Couer d' Alene, Idaho

Four Favorite Dishes:

Beef Stroganof
Cheeseburger and Fries
Prime Rib
Pot Roast

Four Sites I Visit Daily:

The Dallas Cowboys Blog - Even in the off season, I just have to know the scoop.
PowerLine - Nothing liberal about it, and no bullshit either. These guys busted Dan Rather when he and his cronies tried to pull a fast one.
RealClearPolitics - A good spread of various news sources to quickly catch up on the breaking stories
Victor Davis Hanson - You might not like him if you're a hard-core liberal, but I challenge you to descredit his logic

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now

Sitting in the cockpit of my new MiG figher jet
Watching the Dallas cheerleaders taking a shower
Sitting on a rock I found atop Mt. Tamalpais that had a perfect saddle
Seeing San Francisco from Twin Peaks on a clear night, or from a vantage point on the Saucalito side where it seems you could reach out and touch the Golden Gate, at Fort Point where Kim Novak once dove in to be pulled back out by Jimmy Stewart
With my mom the day before she died

I Swear I'm Not A Stalker

Yesterdays post got me thinking about the ones that got away, and there have been a few of those. Of course nobody has ever believed me when I told it before, probably because I’ve always had a flare for the dramatic.

The funny thing about love is that when it fell overhead like a cloudburst, I usually had to ask if it was raining. Of course at home, soaked like a sea sponge, I was once again capable of basic math, but by then I didn’t have the numbers to add up.

I lived in Santa Clara some fifteen years ago. My friend Bob and I decided to buy mountain bikes in Santa Cruz, but we had to stop by his bank which was just down the street from the bike shop.
Bob had the personality that I would classify as type ice-breaker. Every group needs one; somebody who is fearless of beautiful women, able to introduce himself and his friends in the most intimidating of circumstances. The teller at the bank was vintage California, lean, tan, sparkling blue eyes and sun bleached, sandy blonde hair. She was the kind of beauty that severs the neural network connecting the mouth to the brain, unless of course your name is Bob.

In two or three sentences, the entire staff of Bank West was gathered behind the counter, laughing and cheering Bob’s decision to buy a mountain bike. I was dimly aware of all this as I watched her mouth, that bright smile that doubled her intensity.

We bought the bikes and rode them back to the bank, because for some reason, Bob needed to get more money from the ATM. The bank was closed now, and I felt a stab of disappointment that I wouldn’t see her again. I was a little short on cash myself, so I put in for forty dollars and stuffed my wallet in my bike pack.

“Is this the bike?”

I looked up and there she was, dressed casual now with her dad standing behind her. “Yeah, how do you like it?”

I got off and tilted it towards her. She ran her hands over seat, and then tried the gear controls and brakes. “Oh, this is very nice. Very nice.” Her face wasn’t more than a foot from mine as we looked at one another. I may not have been the Love God, but there was something carnal in that gaze we shared.

“Is there a good place to ride nearby?” I asked her.

“There are lots of great places to ride.” She was so excited as she explained to me a set of mountain trails she liked to go to. I wanted to ask her to come with me, but I felt a little weird with her father standing nearby, who was not threatening in anyway. Rather he seemed quite friendly. But I didn’t pull the trigger, and I went home a frustrated guy.

I couldn’t get her out of my head, so a week later I drove to the bank and waited outside for her to come out, feeling suddenly like a stalker. I saw her finally, so I got out of my car and walked to the ATM, as if I just got there. She looked at me as I went by and gave me a friendly hello. I did the same—and kept walking.

Insert chicken clucking here.

It gets more embarrassing, trust me.

So a month later, I actually opened an account. I went to her counter and she directed me to another window. If she recognized me I don’t know. My home address was thirty miles away, and it must have seemed very strange. I walked out frustrated again, but with a bad feeling this time. It was too late. I closed the account a month later, and vowed to at least say something to her.

“Aren’t you the one that gave me directions to some mountain trails,” I said like a total jackass. The Monte Python knight with a flesh wound had more sense.

“Probably,” she yawned without looking up.

It was one of those moments, and I’ve had quite a few, that I wished for the power to snap my fingers and simply disappear.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Right Thing

I heard a story on the radio today told by a handicapped man, not totally paralyzed but bound to a wheelchair. He met a woman who saw through his disability and married him, because just like a woman, she fell in love with the intangible. He explained about the prejudice he has to endure; people are always assuming they are brother and sister; that she is his nurse, etc.

At a small Irish pub on Geary Street in San Francisco, in the twilight of my single years, I met an amazingly beautiful woman who was escorting a diminutive, legless man in a wheel chair. I had all the same thoughts the man on the radio described, but my internal censor stopped me short of asking the question; and as a result, I left without even attempting to get her number. I felt a strong connection, and yet I was trapped. Even if the two weren’t a pair, which I highly doubted, I could have turned out to be an insensitive prick for assuming it. The man was in a wheelchair, and undoubtedly, at least in my mind, he must have looked at people like me at the time--strong, healthy, and impossibly handsome (cough)—and wished to trade places, even for a day. Hey, there could be a story in that…

So out of respect I walked away. But the way she looked at me that night--you know the look guys. Normally we're like salmon swimming upstream, crashing into the rocks; she politely laughs while scanning the room. Not always though. Sometimes she really finds you interesting and often funny, which inspires the inner comedian. Maybe you get the slight touch on the arm that you pretend not to notice. She was all those things. And while I enjoyed it immensely, I was ever conscious of him, and I felt his helplessness and pain.

I used to think of that night a lot, but since I met my wife those coulda-beens don’t haunt me any more. The story on the radio however made me feel somewhat vindicated. I may have done the right thing after all.

Monday, February 13, 2006

No Beginning

Good morning all; good afternoon or evening to others. There was an interesting mix of reactions to my last post, and I’m grateful for every one of them. I’m not depressed or anything like that. I’m starting to realize that I’m much older now, and my memory is fading; outing the unneeded, such as those of the faces I took for granted that composed the landscape of my immortal and unchanging world. It was a glimpse inside of my mind when someone is telling a story to my slack-featured face and I say, “I’m sorry, what were you saying?” I partied a lot when I was younger, but definitely not anymore, for what should be obvious reasons—wife, kids, responsibility. All good reasons, for whose lack of probably had me sidled to the bar. Still, mix one part full moon and two parts free time and I’ll ride like Paul Revere.

One thought that arrests me is the concept of no beginning. God has no beginning, if you believe that. When I was a teenager, and most likely stoned—which I cannot verify for sure, but this kind of revelation is in line with that state of mind—I stared at the stars while laying on the hood of my friend’s car, in his driveway, waiting for him to finish getting ready. The impact of no beginning hit me like a wrecking ball through a shelf of fine china. How is it possible? And yet it has to be. My heart felt like a gyroscope as those two thoughts churned inside me until I was forced to shut it off. My mind is too simple to ever understand the basic nature of our existence. How can a computer program know what it is?

Think about it. We are just like software, unique from one another in many ways, but in the most important ways we are no different at all. We live, grow old and die. In between we struggle with the same issues, yet deal with them differently according to our programming. When backed to the wall we will almost to a man fight with vicious ferocity. We read stories that capture the human condition, that bit of programming that makes us all the same. We all want to love and be loved, and how successful we are with these basic tenets shapes the person that we are.

If there is a God, he made the laws such that we will never travel the breadth of this universe. The way out is one that we haven’t considered, to which we are incapable besides. Perhaps we have been banished to this place, a prison surrounded by the infinite vacuum of space, and given fragile vessels inside which we must adapt or die. Perhaps we are being tested, the last rite of passage into a holy fraternity. Hey, am I starting to make a case for heaven?

I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Often I think about how temporary life really is. Not just life itself, but the communities we belong to that form and dissipate like clouds. Everything for which I laughed, cried, and raged no longer exist, as if it never did. I'm only connected by a frayed thread in my ravaged mind, which has been pummeled over the years with alcohol and deadened by apathy and the will to survive. Sometimes I reconstruct a friendly smile, or the ghostly image of a girl stumbling from the dance with tear soaked hands covering her face, and I feel a sense of loss, that maybe I should have paid more attention.

Perhaps heaven is lacing those shoes again.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lunch With A Friend

I met the inestimable Mr. Schprock yesterday for lunch. It was a bit surreal at first; meeting someone I’ve only known by merit. I guess it’s like meeting a disc jockey or a famed author. There is a certain mental image you draw of a person, and it is always interesting to see how close you came to the target. Mr. Schprock has posted pictures of himself on his blog, so his was probably the bigger adjustment. I don’t look much like Wyatt Earp, the likeness of whom I chose as my avatar, after all.

As an aside, don’t you think Wyatt Earp looks a little like Kurt Russell?

Mr. Schprock is as likeable and personable as you would expect from someone who delights his blog buddies with wonderful posts and thoughtful comments. It was an honor.

Today I need to make some progress at work. I got lost on the way back from lunch, which challenged the inner navigator in me—and of course, like the guy I am, I didn’t ask for directions. So I was gone more than I had planned.

Jackson called to say good morning. He handed me over to my wife, while he and Emmett rewound a scene from the Wiggles of Greg prancing in a tutu. Just one more advantage of Tivo. Emmett gave my wife a kiss this morning, then looked her in the eyes and said, “High five momma.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Oxen is Slow...

One of my favorite movies from my teen years was High Road to China starring Tom Selleck and Bess Armstrong. I fell deeply in lust with Bess when she wore a bikini in The Four Seasons, and I’ve been waiting ever since for her to be so bold again. She was frustratingly clad in High Road to China, but I loved her just the same.

The point? Oh yeah. There was an ancient Chinaman who gave some advice to the intrepid heroes of this yarn: The oxen is slow, but the earth is patient. At the time I laughed at the inanity of the statement, and have used it in conversation where advice is needed and I have none to offer.

Him: My girlfriend dumped for some other guy.
Me: The oxen is slow, but the earth is patient.
Him: Huh?
Me: Exactly.

Maybe listening to NPR has broadened my horizons--*tongue in cheek*--but in the last couple days that phrase has been on my mind. For years a thread has been spinning in my head, trying to make sense of it. Perhaps I always knew.

Last weekend we took Jackson’s top bunk out of his room and put it in Emmett’s, replacing the crib which has been officially retired. Emmett has been sleeping in our bed for almost a year now. Believe me, this is the absolute best form of birth control there is. Beth and I didn’t hold out much hope that Emmett would sleep in the bed, but he did. For the first time since time immemorial I need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. Gone is the foot in the small of my back, or the sudden back handed bitch slap.

He got just a little older, like the slow drip-drip-drip of water into an empty bucket—except it isn’t empty anymore. Time moves slowly, like the ox plowing the field, and yet it flies when you’re having fun. Soon I’ll have to steal my kisses when he is sleeping.

Before Jackson, when we found out we were having a boy, I had already planned his life. I couldn’t wait to teach him to throw a football, to build a model airplane; I wanted to juice my soul and serve it to him in a silver chalice. Now he is six, stretched out and skinny, no longer a baby, but a little boy with a mind of his own.

The earth is patient is another way of saying what’s your hurry? My answer of course is, there’s plenty of time for that later. Right now my boys want to be silly, to hide in obvious places, to run at half-speed just to be caught.

Emmett “calls” me at work now.

“Hi daddy.”

“Hey little buddy, what are you doing?”

“Haburbity glub ker go go.”

“Oh, you’re watching Go Diego Go?”


“Ok, I love you, let me talk to mommy.”

“Lubby too daddy.”

That my friends is as good as it gets.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I was a tall kid growing up, and very outspoken, a combination that amounts to an outstretched hand and yelling ooh, pick me, pick me. Ironically though, I wanted to be invisible, above the rules. I didn’t want to grow up—to think about girls, to be serious about school, or to fight with the other boys for accidentally making eye contact. I may as well have willed the sun not to rise or a dog not to bark.

I have a natural fear of fighting; and that’s probably an insight to my active imagination. In an after hours diner once, I saw two men square off in an exchange of shouts. One got the better of the other and grabbed him by the hair and slammed his face twice into the floor. Both times there came a hollow, bone crushing thud, like you might imagine from a dropped coconut. The fight was gone from the man, who amazingly was able to sit up, bleeding and wondering why he was on the floor, likely trying to remember his name.

I was teasing a boy once on the school bus. We were friends—or so I thought. He warned me a few times that he was going to beat me up if I didn’t let up. Boyd Gardner followed me off the bus, which struck me as odd because his stop was well after mine, but I didn’t get it. Mike, the boy sitting with Boyd on the bus got off at the stop before mine, which was only a block away, and sprinted up the street. Still, I didn’t get it.

“Why did you get off at my stop,” I asked Boyd as we walked along together.

“I’m going to visit a friend.” I still didn't get it.

“Ok. Hey, I’m sorry about all that business on the bus. I was just joking around.”

“That’s ok.”

“I was starting to think you were taking me seriously.”


"Friends still?"

He looked at me and smiled. "Sure."

Up ahead, at the intersection of two streets, Mike came to a halt and stared at us together. He was out of breath.

“I thought you were going to kick his ass!”

I turned to Boyd with a quizzical look. In one fluid motion, he dropped his school books and balled his fist and hit me square in the face. I can't remember what hit first, his books or his ham fist. What an odd sensation it was, not at all what I had imagined. With some amount of relief, I realized that it didn’t hurt. But still, I had no interest in letting it happen again. I tried to reason with him, but he had the battle lust and swung at me again. I ducked him easily and tried to hit him back, but he swatted me away like a pesky insect. It didn’t take long to reach the conclusion that I needed to get away, or I was going to get really hurt.

He was easy to avoid, being big and slow, but he was half again my weight, so he used that to his advantage and wrestled with me and threw me to the ground. He straddled over my chest and raised his fist, and there was nothing I could do for it.

Then suddenly he was gone in a streak of red, brown and white. This is one of the advantages of having a St. Bernard. I called Baron away and let Boyd get up, who decided to try this another time. He followed me off the bus a few days later, but I just kept walking. A day later and we called a truce.

There was another Mike at school that liked to harass me by hitting me from behind, then squaring off and offering to fight. I always refused. Then one day I wasn’t thinking when his familiar jolt surprised me out of my reverie. I chased him around like a broken windmill. Boyd walked up behind him and shoved him against a brick wall.

“You want to fuck with me?” Boyd offered.

“N-n-n no!”

“Then don’t let me catch you messing with him again, or you’ll be sorry.”

And that was that.

Monday, February 06, 2006

You Aint Seen Nothing Yet

Congratulations to the Steelers, now five time Superbowl champions.

Congratulations to Troy Aikman, who has been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is not so easy to achieve, as there are only a select few that can be voted in each year. Some very good football players are still waiting to get in. Can you say Michael Irvin? Or how about the man for whom the zone defense was created for—Bob Hayes.

Enough football talk. The commercials during the Superbowl didn’t live up to the expectation. Nor did the halftime show. Hey Mick, hang it up buddy. If you performed like you did last night at the beginning of your career, you would have been a shoe salesman or a truck driver instead. My advice for you is to go back and watch the tapes of Paul McCartney, who knew how to bring his A-game to the really big show.

Has anyone seen the news about the offensive cartoons depicting Mohammed teaching suicide bombers how to strap on the vest in a Danish newspaper? A couple European rags reprinted the cartoons and now there are demonstrations, on the violent side mind you, across Europe and even in the states.

The protestors are paying homage to their heroes, the perpetrators of 9/11 and the whacks that blew up the London subways—and governments are apologizing to them.

Do not adjust your television sets.

I am starting to see that maybe the war in Afghanistan and Iraq was wrong. We should have launched a cartoon campaign instead and dropped those leaflets all over the Middle East, and apparently in New York City, Denmark, England and France. Better toss San Francisco in there for good measure, or just the Berkeley campus.

I say cram this right down the throat of Islam. I know some peace loving Muslims, and I love them dearly. But their religion is being twisted for purposes they don’t agree with. I understand how painful these images must be to them, but the truth they tell is undeniable.

The whack-jobs have tipped their hand for the whole world to see. You can take smart bombs and military invasion, but dunk the Koran into the toilet…

I’ve got news for all you radicals. You just wait until the media wakes up and realizes that it has the power to smoke you out. In the immortal words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, oh b-baby you just aint seen nothing yet.

Friday, February 03, 2006

What I Would Say

A few words on the president’s State of the Union.

I know most of you hate the president, so take a step back for a moment and breath. You can resume your normally scheduled programming when I’m done.

Was it just me, or did I hear the president say that we need to invest in alternative sources of energy? This should be an issue that both parties wholeheartedly endorse. John Kerry himself espoused some of the same ideas during his campaign, and in a way, he should be proud that he had anything to do with it. All Democrats for that matter should pat themselves on the back—publicly.

But what did they do after the address? They blasted GW for not insisting that car companies demand better gas mileage from new cars and trucks. Good point for sure. In my mind though, the Democrats are sliding further and further away from being real contenders in any upcoming contests. Why? Because they have become clouded with hate.

I’m no politician, but if I were a well-intended Democrat, one that entered into public service to help America, I would have had something like this to say to the cameras afterwards.

Ah hem! The president has said what I think Americans have been longing to hear for a long time. It’s true that we have become drunk on foreign oil. In the interest of our security, we need to pursue alternative fuel sources and reduce to what amounts to our tacit support for hostile regimes. So I applaud the president and will support him with my vote in Congress. However, the president could go much further. By raising the standard of fuel efficiency for our fleet of cars and trucks, the president could cut our consumption by at least 50 percent. But the president has made it clear that our parties have to work together, and I am confident that by combining our approaches, we will resolve this all-important issue. I for one am willing to put aside my differences to do what’s right for our country.

Of course I would be shot before the upcoming elections.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Random Thoughts

Does anyone out there think life has a point? Do you think we were put here for a reason, however small? Do you believe in coincidence; or do you believe that there is a master plan, that every chance meeting was not chance at all?

Do you believe in God?

My answer to these questions varies on my mood—and I’m comfortable with that; because really, I don’t have to take a stand on any of these issues.

According to my Aunt however, I have until the moment I die to believe that Jesus Christ is my savior, and she will do everything in her power to save me. I personally think Jesus will understand.

I pray, even though I accept that I may very well be talking to myself. Which is ok. There is power in believing in yourself. Christians believe that God is in every man, woman and child, so praying to ones self is the same as praying to God, and with the same results perhaps.

They say there are no atheists in a foxhole, and I know this is true. When the chips are down my hands go together. Lately I’ve been praying at night—a faint whisper for the safety of my children. It can’t hurt. Even though I rationalize that it’s pointless, I feel a quiet calm afterwards that everything is going to be alright.

What is the value of a human life to God though? People die by the thousands, like herd animals at a slaughter house. Sometimes I think if there was a God, he would have designed us a little better. We have a few flaws, in case you haven’t noticed. Foremost is our overwhelming need to reproduce. I’m very Freudian in the belief. As men we jockey to be the herd bull. Growing up we struggle to find our niche market within which we shine the brightest. Women simply hate one another for the same reason, but for them the predicament is worse. While men can be appreciated for a variety of skills-- such as musical talent, intellect, swell personality—women, at least in the estimation of men, really only have one asset that care about. Do I need to say it? I didn’t think so.

I’d say something brilliant like Bill and Ted, like “Be excellent to one another.” But that isn’t in our wiring. We are doomed to be shit-heads by our very nature that makes us attractive to almost no one. If there are aliens that do happen upon our planet, what would possibly motivate them to make contact. I would seriously question their intelligence, which would lead me to question their motives, and then of course, I would have to advocate war.

This post knew not where it was going.