Monday, January 29, 2007

Never Again

I took Jackson on a Cub Scout camp out this weekend. My wife packed the suitcase, which basically means that we had everything we could have possibly needed and more -- and thank goodness for that.

We stayed in a cabin with the other cubs Jackson's age, and all the parents. Since I am a frequent snorer, I brought along a vat of ear plugs to distribute. Turns out it was unnecessary, because I didn't sleep at all. Technically that's not true, but I think in order for me to snore, I have to pass through the first two stages of sleep. During the first stage, the brain begins to ramp down as the body switches to sleep mode. This is usually associated with shutting the eyes. This I rarely did.

The cabin bunks were rickety and squeaky. Mine in particular was missing a few tie backs to the frame, so that it sagged like an open mouth nearly to the floor. My son lay on the top bunk and couldn't fall asleep, so he fidgeted for what seemed like an hour and a half. Kids in other bunks had meltdowns for various reasons while their fathers got in and out of bed to console them. Once my son finally zonked, I put my "mattress" on the floor. I quote the word because this was more like a plastic wafer barely the width of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Then one of the boys woke and declared that he couldn't sleep, so his father got up with him and they chatted right next to my face for half hour stretches. Then the boy needed milk, then he had to go to the bathroom, then he couldn't sleep again. I felt like Arlo Guthrie -- I wanted to kill, Kill, KILL! His father, thinking I was asleep, stepped over my head wearing just his underwear, then bent over with his ass practically in my face to get into the suitcase to retrieve a flashlight so that his son could read under his blanket. But the kid didn't understand "under his blanket" until I explained it in no uncertain terms.

Finally, the kid buried his head and fell asleep.

Then Jackson woke up hacking -- a horrible sound the shook the dirt from the cracks of the ceiling. Thank goodness Beth packed cough medicine. That took a while to take effect. Then he couldn't sleep, and had to go to the bathroom, then wanted to read a book. I checked the time. 4:30AM.

Tick tock (kill, kill), tick tock.

Never again.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What's Up, What I Like, and a Cute Kid Story

Let's see.

Work is going much better since I proclaimed my independence from repression.

My writers group starts tonight. This is a very good thing. If I have any ability to predict the future based on accurate assessments of the motivations of people, I would say that this group will be composed of serious writers that intent to write a novel or short story for publication. The moderator will be the professor from the class I took the previous semester. He is a published author at St. Martin's Press of several mysteries and thrillers, and is talented in my estimation to boot (the two don't always go hand in hand, although one is obviously a strong indicator of the other).

I'll be reading the chapter I have been writing for two months now. Understand that I don't have much time to write seriously. As it is I have to cheat my lunch hours longer, and at home it is tres difficult after giving the kids baths, reading stories and putting them to bed. My brain at that point feels like a shriveled prune. I have just enough energy to watch one TV show (I know, that's cheating), then to crawl into bed and read until I fall asleep (I know, that's not cheating).

Speaking of, have I told anyone that you have to watch Friday Night Lights? The relationship between the coach and his wife is priceless. They are so real, and yet so perfect -- but not in a Brady Bunch kind of way. This might be biased male perspective, but she is in many ways the female ideal, in a realistic sense. She's no pushover, yet at the same time, she gives so much. When her husband decides he doesn't like what she is doing, he insists that she quit. What does she do? She tells him to deal with it. He laughs and says that there's never a dull moment. He's typically blind like men are when it comes to emotional nuance, and she is acutely aware. You just have to see it to understand. So tune in.

Oh, this is why I wanted to write a post today. A month or so ago, Emmett refused to let Jackson sleep in his bed. Jackson was crushed, and told me as I tucked him into his own bed that Emmett didn't love him anymore. I explained that Emmett is only three; that he is going through a phase that will soon pass. I also told him how much Emmett tries to be just like him, how he laughs at all his jokes. Why do you think he always wants to play with the same toys you play with, I told him. Nothing satisfied Jackson though, and I know he went to sleep with that weighing on his mind.

Emmett has refused to give him a kiss goodnight many times since. But two nights ago, Emmett and I tucked Jackson into bed first. "Emmett," I said, "do you want to give Jackson a kiss goodnight?"

Emmett leaned over the bed and did so. As Emmett turned and pulled a plastic dinosaur from the toy rack along the wall by Jackson's bed, Jackson said, "I love you Emmett."

I could see the anticipation in his eyes as he watched Emmett. There was a pause. It was a long pause for me too, time enough for me to hope fervently as well. For though I knew it was true, Jackson needed to hear it.

"I love you too Jackson," Emmett said, still fascinated with the Brontosaurus.

Jackson looked at me and beamed -- his smile comical for the missing front tooth, angelic in its unguarded radiance.

A coworker and nascent friend told me candidly that he doesn't like kids, and may never have any of his own. I feel sorry for him.

Monday, January 22, 2007

That's Entertainment

I'd like to say something deep today. But that's the trick, isn't it.

So instead, here is a random sample of what is flitting through my mind right now.

Mr. Schprock has finally posted the long awaited and much anticipated tall tale of Big John Mooney. Stop by and let him know just how talented a writer he is.

Shopping at Costco is at all times like food shopping when you haven't eaten -- you drive away with a pile of junk. That said, I am happy to announce that I am the proud new owner of a NCAA junior sized football, the original Star Wars trilogy (digitally remastered of course), and my very own copy of Tarantino's masterpiece, True Romance.

As much as I was rooting for the Pats (I played Metroid Prime Hunters on Nintendo DS during the fourth quarter), I have to say, congrats to Peyton Manning and crew. There is nothing more disrespectful I think than to denigrate a quarterback as prolific as he is for an inability to win the big one. Well now he's going to the Superbowl you armchair pundits, spewers of statistics and disgruntled wannabe couldabeens. So shut up already and enjoy the next game. It promises to be a good one.

And let me say this. What is up with Tom Brady? Before the game, he called Peyton Manning to wish him luck or some such. "It comes down to you and me once again, eh old buddy?" After the game -- a game for the record books mind you (see smash mouth football) -- where was Tom Brady when Peyton was combing the field looking for him? Belichick practically brushed Manning aside in his haste to get off the field.

Before you make excuses for their behavior, ask yourself this: what would Brett Favre have done? Listen guys, you just won three of the last five Superbowls, and have and still enjoy total dominance in the AFC. You just took out the San Diego Chargers and came within a Caldwell drop of winning a trip to Miami. I can't say I'm too impressed with your sportsmanship. How many times have you dashed the hopes of the team that just barely got by you? You could at least shake their hands, say good game, and mean it.

It's cold in New England. In her haste to warm up the truck, my wife leaned over from the passenger seat and started it up. I was strapping Emmett into the car seat in the back when her hand slipped and she did a face plant into the driver's seat.

That's entertainment folks.

Friday, January 19, 2007

My Little Star Wars Fan

My son Jackson has been playing a video game called Star Wars Legos, which renders all the characters from the original trilogy -- Luke, Han, Chewy, Leia, Obi Wan, Darth Vader, the Emperor, etc -- and in fact, the entire Star Wars universe, entirely as Lego constructions. When a character dies, it shatters into a pile of Legos. Jackson has really taken to it.

Previously, when he was a couple years younger, I tried to watch the first movie with him. If you recall, it begins with a space chase. The tiny rebel ship is swallowed by the enormous Imperial Cruiser. The tense John Williams score pounds in your chest as the Storm troopers blast through the door, and the evil Lord Vader chokes a man who refuses to talk. Jackson made me turn it off.

But last night, his curiosity peaked by the events of the game, he finally watched it with me. He peppered me with questions, all the while. Are those bad guys? Are they dead? Where is his light saber? Where is Yoda? Is that Boba Fett? Is this where R2D2 gets hurt?

Does Obi Wan Knobie die? No, he just disappears.

Where does he go? He becomes a ghost and follows Luke wherever he goes.

During the dog fight scene, Jackson pulled his knees to his chest and smiled for most of the time, until he noticed that all the good guys kept getting killed. But when Han Solo saves the day and Darth Vader spins off into space, he was elated.

Afterwards, he took out the light saber we got him for Christmas, searched his feelings, and felt the force flow through him.


On a separate note, I've decided to get behind my home team, the New England Patriots. Dallas is my favorite team, and that will never change. What got me thinking is that Jackson's school has a Patriots day for the kids. My son, both of them eventually, will naturally become fans, and I don't want to be cheering against them, or causing them conflicting loyalties.

So good luck this weekend Pats. Or should I say, continued good luck.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sorry For Your Loss

The night I got married, my father had to be taken to a hospital. He was having trouble breathing. No longer was he the invincible man, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, able to outrun a locomotive. He was a man, a vulnerable man, afraid to die. His eyes were wide with fear when he said to me, "I think I had a heart attack."

I was a drunken sot, thanks to a night of open bar and that special concoction they make in Maui, the name of which I'll recall later. When I met up with my new wife in the hotel room, I had been crying like a colicky newborn baby. Thank goodness she didn't annul the marriage right there.

As it turns out, he just had the flu. But my perception of my father was changed forever. I knew now that he would die someday, as ridiculously obvious as that revelation seems. And as little as I rely on him for anything more than a pat on the back, which still puffs me up like dry sponge dipped in water, he won't be around forever to lean on.

So my heart goes out to my friend whom I've never met in person, who nonetheless has encouraged me in so many ways to be a writer, and is an inspiration to a great many others as well.

I'm sorry for your loss Janey.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Jeffrey Report

The name Jeffrey seems to have some significance in my life. When I bring the name up with my wife, she has to ask for clarification. Well, there are three that I refer to in varying frequency.

Jeffrey Roberts was my very good friend until he wasn't. He was like the lid on a mason jar of fireflies. Once removed, the fireflies scattered into the night, leaving me holding the empty container. I feel bad for my part in things, but my wife won't let me blame myself. Still, I know that for my part, I behaved badly.

But how much belly aching can I do? I hate losing friends, but sometimes it's a natural part of growing up. I was touched by a quote from Ernest Hemingway ala Tobias Wolff (which means Hemingway didn't actually say this):

Don't talk about your writing. If you talk about your writing you will touch something you shouldn't touch and it will fall apart and you will have nothing. Get up at first light and work like hell. Let your wife sleep in, it'll pay off later. Watch your blood pressure. Read. Read James Joyce and Bill Faulkner and Isak Dinesen -- that beautiful writer. Read Scott Fitzgerald. Hold on to your friends. Write like hell and make enough money to go someplace else, some other country where the . . . Feds can't get at you.

He later repeats the most important advice he gave in that passage: Hold on to your friends. The impression I'm left with, is that towards the end of the man's life, he came to regret letting go when it was in his power to do otherwise. That really makes me think.

As for Jeff Starr, I recently wrote about a phone message he left me declaring that he had found the one. Then, a couple weeks later, that he had run into the wall that too easily erects to staunch the invasion of true feelings. But I found out recently that all systems are normally functioning once again. It seems that she was only testing him when she asked for the month moratorium on what Clinton referred to as sexual relations, and was testing too when she asked to see other people. I'm suspect, but then again, I'm not a well man.

Last but not least, Jeff found my "hit me buddy" post and responded in such a way as to preclude any doubt that it was truly him, by correctly identifying the censored expression "(insert bad word)smack" as his inspired creation "cocksmack." Not even my word processor knows what it means.

It was great to hear from you old buddy. I've decided to post some pictures of myself and my family on Flickr. I'll post a link here in a couple of days. Some of my long time blog buddies will finally see the man behind the mask. This will discredit once and for all the rumors circulating the blogosphere that I moonlight as a Chippendale's dancer. For all my old college buddies, brace yourselves. I'm not a kid anymore.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Quick Update

A quick update.

If you have not watched Friday Night Lights, then I really think you should. Ostensibly, this show is about a small town high school football team -- the coach, his family, the players and their friends and family. But it's about so much more. As with Battlestar Galactica, this show is about drama first; all the rest is just setting. I'm not sure if it got nominated -- my wife thinks not -- and that's a damn shame.

Mr. Schprock is promising to post again, squelching any rumors of his untimely demise.

I'm going to be a soccer coach next season. When I told my dad, he asked, "What do you know about soccer?" Good point. My answer: a hell of a lot more than the guy coaching my son today. It's a funny little society. I told one of the other coaches that I will be doing this, and she told that she already knew. They were desperate she said.

Ahem. My kids will be ready to play, so bring it!

I've figured out why I've been so down at work. I'm a senior guy doing junior work, but I'm taking a stand and doing what I was originally hired to do -- design a new system. They derailed those efforts and have been sabotaging me in meetings with "minor" objections to the designs I have presented for review, causing me major headaches. It's been dragging me down to the point of giving up. Now it's time for the old Scott to step up to the plate and start losing friends and pissing off people. So fuck you Dale Carnegie, I'm doing it my way.

I saw a news story this morning. A lady stands in front of a lions cage and knocks, waking it up from a deep sleep. It rears onto its hind legs, reaches through the bars and wraps its paws around her shoulders and literally kisses her. It was so touching. The affection was so human. The woman, as it turns out, rescued the lion as a cub from starvation and nursed it to health. Wow.

If I ever find a video online, I'll post it. You just have to see it.

*** Update ***
Toni found it on BBC. I can't link it directly, but look to the right of the screen and see the video called "Woman embraced by Lion."
*** Update ***

That's all the news fit for print people.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Flash Entry

I just entered Jason's Silent Grey flash fiction contest. Check it out here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Just a quick note to recommend this movie. I can tell you, as a right leaner, I have never liked Al Gore. But after this movie... I was moved. I'm not one to fall for political bullshit, but Al Gore has sold me hook, line and sinker. He cares about the environment, and every one of us better take heed--and soon. I've supported the administration about some things, but they have blantantly ignored alternative fuels, aside from lip service in the State of the Union.

I'm not a persuasive writer. Just see this movie, no matter how you lean.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Blue Jay

Out of the clear blue, an old friend called me up to say he was coming to Boston this weekend. I've written about him in the past. He was one of my beautiful friends, beside which I was nearly invisible at nightclubs and on our co-ed dormitory floor. Now he is engaged, and was here to visit with her family.

My wife doesn't like Jay, because he did this once before when we lived in San Francisco, but never showed. My wife wanted me to go with her to visit her Grandfather, who died soon after the visit. I stayed home and waited for Jay instead. She doesn't like him for other reasons. If you read about him, you will most likely understand.

It's like I told her before going out to see him, and several times after. My past is important to me. And what is harder to explain, is that despite all his faults--his ego, his selfishness, his need to be the alpha dog in our relationship--he was my friend. I could never sell that to my wife, and I understand how she sees it. I suppose any self-respecting person would see it her way too. But you had to be there.

You had to see what I was.

His fiance was just what I expected, and nothing like I expected at all. I expected her to be beautiful, and she was. But she was sweet, and quite moved when I told the story of how I met my wife. When we parted, she hugged me and said I was the highlight of her trip to Boston.

In many ways, Jay has found his opposite.

Jay looked the same, and nothing like he did before. I had a hard time seeing the young man that the ladies all swooned for. He still had his hair, but it was slightly disheveled. The old Jay was quite sharp and overly conscious of his appearance. He seemed slightly stooped with age, and his face, once smooth and perfect, was wrinkled and sagging just a bit.

He thinks I still look young. I thought he was just being nice, but when I look at my face in the mirror, in contrast to what he sees when he looks in his, maybe I can understand what he means. I'm not young anymore; nor do I look it. But I have aged gracefully. I'm not a sad reflection of what I used to be, though when I do see my old photos, I wonder why I had such a problem with my looks.

It was maturity that kept me from realizing any early potential. Jay helped me work through some of my issues. He wasn't perfect himself by any stretch, but he once told me, when I was on the verge of socking him in the eye, to stop being like my father. You're a better man than he is.

I reminded him that he told me that. His fiance kissed him when she heard this, and told me with no small amount of pride, that the people he manages at work would kill for him.