Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nine Lives

I couldn't ever sit still. Most often, I went outside, where I'd coax Morley over to put his big, slobbering head against my neck as I lowered my head between my knees and tried to breath deeply. I'd inhale and stop short. In the silence I could hear my heart beating, feel it between two of my ribs and then I wouldn't, skip, skip, skip, and I'd panic, moving my hand around trying to verify I still lived.

And what I thought of, every time, sitting under that one light in the side yard, my bare feet in the dirt, was if everyone would know. Like, who would get the word to people that I'd died?

We've all had thoughts like that, right? Who would come to the funeral. What they would say. Who we'd really want to be there. We'd want to be able to watch it, wouldn't we? Who cried. Who kept looking at their watch.

Nobody dies just once. Think of how many lives you've lived already. High school. The things that were important to you then are silly now, all the energy we spent to swim in that hormonal fishbowl. College. Goals vastly different from those in middle age. Careers. Jobs and women you've left, or that left you.

We re-invent ourselves many times and we lose people in the process, people who were important at that time, maybe even the most important.

They won't be there, at the funeral, at the end. Your high school girlfriend. Your baseball coach. Your favorite professor. Your first boss. That woman you loved. If they think of you, maybe they've mourned already. A smile at a memory. Or a sting. Maybe they wonder where you are right now. For a moment. Idle curiosity.

Few months ago, I tracked down an old soccer coach. A man who once told my Mom I'd "run through a brick wall" had he simply asked me to. I was dedicated. This man convinced me that fearlessness and effort were the building blocks of success. I found him, living in the same house he did when I was 11 and in awe of him. He was larger than life, a longshoreman with a fu manchu, his broad chest and shoulders layered over his huge heart. I wanted to reach out and tell him what he meant to me. That I still think about him and the lessons he taught me. Yesterday, I sent him a letter.

Some people, you don't want to lose. Sometimes, it's not your decision.

I've written a few letters lately. Most, I won't send.

Something I Wrote That You Might Not Have Read


I watch her. I'm boundless
Though she doesn't know. She suspects
At times. Looks around
A buzz in her head that she shakes away and returns
To the flurry of her hands.
White flash. Slaps on leather.
When she stops, her shoulders sob. The effort.
Instruments in her lap. Shaking, she presses them there
Afraid of what they've done, amazed at what they do.
Worlds she's made. Will she's bled.
I watch her return. Her eyes strain amidst the blizzard.
She can't see me.
I beg her to look.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Call Me in the (Early) Morning

I always thought the whole "A-Lister" thing was hilarious. Tongue-in-cheek and silly. I'm not a big fan of exclusion and that's absolutely not what this community has ever been about, despite some contrary views (which I think are valid talking points, if arrived at via incomplete information). As with any large group, there will be smaller circles and what I think is missing in the analysis (that uses words like "cliques" and "inner circle") is that some people have forged very deep and meaningful friendships. It's just not possible to form that level of a bond with 100+ people. It does not mean the two, eight, 12 people are unavailable to the rest.

I'm certain I've never been invited anywhere by another blogger because of what I've written here or that these thoughts of mine elevated me to some rarified level or were, on the other hand, a catalyst for me NOT being invited somewhere.

However, when the Resident A-Lister calls at 2:58 a.m. to ask for love advice, two things become clear:

1. I need no other validation for A-List status
2. Said A-Lister doesn't read this blog, for if he did, he'd realize the magnitude of the Train Wreck that is my love life. Women don't just break up with me. I am so loathesome to them that they physically and mentally eradicate my entire existence.

It's fun talking to a plowed Rooster. KA-KAW! I gave it to him straight. People don't like to hear it straight. They take it personally. As if having an opposing viewpoint is somehow equal to control. If there's disagreement, that's simply another trying to bend you to their will.

That's not the way conflict resolution works, people. You talk it out, completely, with mutual respect. That means no low blows, no shots or purposeful skewers to hurt the other, put them off balance so you can "win." You don't run away when you hear something you don't like. You don't pull a straw man and deflect attention from the core issue to one that's more heated and emotional. It's not fucking about winning. It's about trusting others to hear what you are saying and if they don't accept it, they must at least give it weight and esteem. "Respect my word!" as Salk might say.

You may not reach a conclusion that's satisfying to both parties. It happens. But you won't make enemies on the journey, either, if you're straight, if you conduct yourself admirably.

I try to do that. Because then, no matter the outcome, you can sleep at night.

Well, most of 'em.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Three Hours of Bliss

Being at the ballpark with your son watching your favorite team destroy their hated rivals to take over first place is a feeling that is rarely topped.

I tried to tell y'all not to underestimate Billy Beane.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


The truest thing I've probably ever said about X was that I was "impressed" with her. That's how I answered when someone asked why I fell in love with her.

I've since repeated the same action. Attraction by impression.

While that word fits more than any other I can think of, the tangible result was both X and Alana made me feel larger than myself. Inspirational. Raised me up, infused me with purpose, with an all-encompassing urge to reflect the same back at them.


AJ and I had to go to Plan B yesterday. Our complex pool was closed on the hottest day of the year so far, so we went over to where X works.

"Who was that guy?" one of X's co-workers asked her after she let AJ and I into their pool area. "He's cute," she said, and...well...toting AJ around tends to elevate my looks.

"That's my Ex."

And they talked more and decided it was weird, but whatthehellyouonlyliveonce, so X asked me if I'd be interested in going on a date. I screwed up my face in disbelief. "I told her what a great guy you are," she said.

Which is decidedly different from the way she felt about me 26 months ago.


In a later, less descriptive time, I talked about "pressure." I couldn't adequately explain to Alana what I meant by that, not the way I understand it now. It has to do with that feeling of being bolstered by another and reciprocating. Giving it back as equally as it was received and, clearly, that was an area where I failed with X. I strove to fulfill her the way she did me and every step I took was in service to that end. All that focus forced outward, kinetic energy, like scaling a sheer face, that tenuous grasp on a bloodied ledge.

In a relationship that was abjectly devoid of communication, like that I had with X, this is a certain recipe for disaster. I continued to plow ahead with what I believed to be her needs, that of being provider, parent, equal partner in all matters family. That wasn't at all what she wanted. She wanted "new." She wanted adventure and grand gestures. I directed my pressure waywardly.

What transpired was, in over-inflated parlance, a Negative Chronology of Events. Every moment where, in her eyes, I failed to address her needs, became a black mark on my ledger. None of what I did do for her registered. She fixated only in those areas in which I fell short, as opposed that that which undoubtedly tended the day-to-day, the mundane, of our relationship.

That pressure has a second, more insidious to me now, ramification. The haphazard nature of my affection, my focus, was entirely directed at her fulfillment, her happiness. Its a Trickle Down Theory. Were she happy, than it would naturally follow that I, and AJ, would also remain in a similar state of bliss. What I realized afterward was that I spent so much strength tending to her needs, that I neglected my own.

I now believe this was by design. My own. Because I went and did it again.


"You do this on purpose," a friend said to me. Meaning I chose to fall in love with women who are, for lack of a better term, unavailable. To me, I mean. I think I can fall to my knees and give them everything they want. I will go to the end of the Earth for them without complaint. I will deny myself for them, not because I am selfless, but because my nature, my actions, deflect examination of me. If we are always concerned with the other, we, ourselves, become insignificant.

I want to be insignificant. I don't want people to see the shadows in me. Deflect attention, even good attention. Create a diversion. I am uncomfortable with praise. I'd rather lose myself in someone else.

And then it ends, abruptly, deafening stillness, and I'm left in a black hole. Nothing comes in. Nothing leaves.


Talking about my recent life changes, I claimed there was no epiphany, no Saul on the Road to Damascus moment. And it's true. I did not snap with a moment of perfect knowledge. I consciously trained my focus was AJ. My default position. Simple habit. But there was a seismic shift there. Our relationship has grown in the last few years, but for a month, we've been on some higher plane, some wavelength only we can hear. It's the one relationship I've had in my life where I haven't felt like I had to convince the other to join. His love is natural and unconditional, adoring and complete. And the way he feels about me is a way that I've never felt about myself.


I attuned this somehow. Our link forced it into me. These things about myself which bother me. Smoking, a nasty habit. A fucking weakness. Drinking. Home and alone. Escapism. Refusing to face me. Unhealthful. A latent self-hatred. Hastening death because there's no reason to stay.

Dramatic? Perhaps. But all fucking true. My shadows.


Loving these beautiful, dynamic, complicated women gave me a purpose and, along the line, I accepted my fate, believed I was perfectly cast for them.

Until I wasn't.

As I said, there was no bright light. My reaction was natural, not borne of revenge, of "I'll Show You!" but an organic urging I grasped without question. For myself.


It's dark here sometimes. Quiet. Today. Last night. I'm not keeping things from you any longer out of fear of what you'll think of me. The silence is the worst.

But, in the mornings, I'm not choking any more. AJ and I are light and smiling. When I sweat, I feel alive, almost like a purge. I run in place, but it doesn't feel like it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

130 lbs. of Fleeing Fury

So F-Train is quitting his job and starting his new-found freedom with a summer in Vegas...

Good luck and godspeed Pocket Brunson. I wish you all the best and, due to an increasing bout of wanderlust in my own life, also bid you a fond Eff You, lucky bastich.

I wish there were blogs like this one when I was growing up. I probably wouldn't have gotten married. Either time. Seriously, I'm giddy just thinking about the future enjoyment of reading it. I can see the whole of blogdom choosing sides, identifying themselves in public and private as Man Cavers or Artsy Lofties. There may even be corresponding uniforms.

Yes, the rumors are true. I quit smoking. I'm sure your reaction will be similar to my mother's ("Again?" she said, supportively), but while I make no promises about maintaining my present condition for life (life is a long time, at least for non-smokers, and one of my past issues with the quitting was the inordinate amount of pressure I put on myself which I am totally not doing this time), I will say this was the easiest quit period ever. I've had exactly one bad withdrawl episode and none of the previous hardships, like those uber-mood swings that lingered for weeks the other times. I've been universally even-keeled and have filled the dead hours of my quit with a healthier diet and exercise. I've even lost five pounds.

I've a suspiscion that my new diet has a lot to do with the ease of my quit as I've been more focused on the fact that I'm hungry than on my lack of nicotine. If you offered me a choice, free of repercussion, of a Snickers or a Marlboro, I'd take the Snickers in a heartbeat. If you offered me some fettucine alfredo, I'd blow you.

You're still laughing about "Pocket Brunson," aren't you? I know. Me too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Frank Thomas Redux

My, oh my.

Let's see. Sign Big Hurt for peanuts. Watch him have a Comeback Year and lead the club to its first playoff series win in 16 years. Let him go FA for a bloated contract. Pick him back up for pro-rated major league minimum 16 months later. Pretty good deal. Especially for a team that's been out-homered by Chase Utley so far (but remains in first place due to superior pitching and a lot of bloop hits).

Won't Medium Hurt be excited when I tell him tonight.

Update: Frank in the lineup today. Giddyup.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Naked Meatloaf

I just got back from the bookstore where I happened upon a display reminding AJ and I that Mother's Day is May 11. Stacked on the table of Mom-centric books was "Naked Lunch." I do believe my mother would never speak to me again if she read one paragraph.

A similar result may occur after I admit the following to you all, but mostly to Daddy. This morning, my breakfast included turkey bacon. Not in addition to regular or thick slab or peppered bacon, but in lieu of those. I can only hope this is a temporary affliction, but goddamn it, at some point in the last three months, I turned into what Donny Salk once termed a "Skinny Fat Guy," which is, in many ways even worse than being a Regular Fatty, because a Regular Fatty is proportionate throughout, whereas the Skinny Fat Guy remains slight in a lot of places, thereby exaggerating the effect of the plumped regions.

My plumped region is where one would routinely find a muffin top and is mostly the cause of beer (and a recently sedentary life). So, I've quit beer, too. Guess that's another person with whom I'll no longer converse.

Dry is definitely a temporary state. But one I expect to keep until I get rid of these extra pounds. I'm not offering any prop bets, nor go will I go into any depth of what my little makeover entails, but the primary effect of about 10 days of health-focused behavior has been an oddly serene mental state. It's even rubbed off on AJ, who hardly flinched when I served him pink meatloaf.

Eggless, with ground turkey (and tomato sauce presumably giving it it's pinkish hue). Those french fries are cut from a fresh potato and baked. AJ ate it up, even telling me how good it was, though I suspect it was simply his desire to support his father's strange behavior recently, what with the sobriety, the exercise and the addiction to carrot sticks.

Overall, it hasn't been very difficult. The biggest hurdle, the one thing that I want more than any other, is soda. Or maybe it's cheese. Or steak. I could go on. But it's time for some hummus.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I woke up from dreamless sleep with her name rattling audibly in my ears. I might have even been the one to say it. I don't know. I sat and looked around my room, dark and still as it had been since she'd left. Nothing here but the boy, shirtless and curled up in the blanket even though it's hot. I ran my fingers against the grain of his new haircut and the bristles playfully jabbed my hand. I moved closer and draped my arm over the sleeping bundle of limbs and comforter and closed my eyes. I fell asleep again quickly, ignoring the sharp void and listening to the timbre of her name drift away on his hard breaths.


I rarely remember dreams and this morning is no different. I wake early and well. Mornings are getting longer but everything is set up perfectly and I tick off my mental to-do list without burden. Something to focus on, tasks, instead of the clawing silence, which I can't ignore when I see her footprints. The note on the refrigerator door. Lipstick on the mirror that I remind myself to wipe away. Someday.

I let the boy sleep while I shower. I am unrushed, purposeful attention to all the details. Time passes like a backbeat. The water temperature fluctuates without warning. I have the faucet handle almost all the way to the 'C,' but the water is warm, then, briefly, freezing, before finding the rhythm again. It didn't used to be that way. I decide not to shave. The glycerin bar for washing my face is down to almost nothing and I rub my hands together to wring the last lather from it, even though I bought a new one. I jump out of the way as the water again goes cold like a crash cymbal.

Rituals. I get ready by muscle memory as the short ends of my hair drip water on my shoulders. Deodorant, lotion, body spray. Boxer briefs, v-neck tee, socks. Same order. I lay out his clothes on the bed and try the different ways to wake him up. I turn on the radio and then remember his request. The flute is on the bedside table. I bought it for him in Ireland when I missed him as bad as I did on Sunday, when I needed his hugs because I'd lost the rest. I give him a little shove on the shoulder and he snaps right back to his spot. I cover four of the holes with my fingers and blow into the flute. It cost me €6.

Before he even opens his eyes, he smiles. "You remembered," he says, stretching.


I check my e-mail real quick, before he's done dressing. Still nothing. I say, "You know Kent, you really are a fucking prick" and laugh. Inside joke. What a girl from college said to me when we broke up. Famous last words. There's a note from my Dad, who's taking a writing class at his local junior college. He's attached a poem he's written. Loss and grief. Perfect ghosts. I read for cadence and find a melody. He says to tell his grandson 'hi' and writes a poem about someone else. I reply. "It's good."

I make breakfast and my son sits at the table telling me what he wants to do for fun this weekend since I was so busy on Saturday and he had to suffer errands and boredom. I promised he sets the agenda for next weekdend because he was so good. He says he wants to have a "Burp Fight," and explains the rules.

He has cinnamon toast and OJ. Wheat toast with slices of tomato for me. I just started eating breakfast before I leave for work. Doctor's orders. Need food in my stomach so I can take the pills. I pack an apple and a corned beef sandwich along with my work files.


On the train, I start to drift off, even though I'm not tired, I'm really not, and the conductor wakes me up near the Covina Station to check my ticket. He does this every day and I show it to him. I want to ask him what he'd do if I didn't have it, if I somehow forgot, I'm not perfect you know. He knows I'm here every day in this same car, in this same seat and he knows I have a pass. I wonder if he'd cite me. I bet he wouldn't. I won't ask, though I want to know.

The dead girl in Dad's poem is my half-sister. The tone is good, I think, and he stretches himself to full height. I can't stand it. She died before I was born. I hope he'll remember his grandson's birthday this year.

I read a Tobias Wolff short story. Bob Mould sings over metallic strums in my ear. I use a baseball card for a bookmark. People lie to get the truth is what he sings. And its strange to watch the dreams we had all fade away. The woman across from me reads the newspaper. On the front page, the three of them are talking about one word and that's how easily the empire falls. I try to remember what I said. Exactly.

I pushed her. I'd hoped she'd push back, tell me I was wrong about her.


The pills make it hard for me to concentrate. My work is sloppy and I'm nervous. I keep looking at the clock behind my desk, but it's been broken for weeks, a fact I only recall when I turn and see it's still noon. I sneeze a lot. My head feels gauzy and I'm hungry all the time, but I'm not supposed to eat a lot of foods because of possible reactions. I drink a lot of water. Next week, I'll get tested again. Then two weeks after that. It'll be fine.



Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dream Girls

Kristin was the first. She was Duncan's date to our Homecoming Dance. I didn't have a date, so they set me up with Kristin's friend a few days before. I'd never met her. The girls went to a different high school. We arranged an introduction at Burger King during lunchtime. She was cute. Tiny and blonde with a Jewel tooth. She told Kristin, "I ain't going to no dance with a Hessian."

I had long hair and wore a Dio t-shirt.

We went though, and that's when I fell into that raging hormonal teenage infatuation with Kristin. Her family was well-to-do, an executive for a Dad, a business owner for a Mom and a junkie for an older brother. She had Brooke Shields eyebrows and long, thick hair that cascaded in classy waves down her broad shoulders.

I wore a dress shirt under a lavender sweater.

Duncan wasn't interested in Kristin, gave her the blow off soon enough, and in the interim period, I was the guy she called for inside information. I didn't have any, but we talked every night about the inane things teenagers talk about. When our rival high schools met weeks later on the gridiron, I sat next to her in the rain, giddy at her closeness, emboldened by the four Budweisers. Duncan and Rooty were at the end of the bench talking to girls and she asked me why I wasn't with them. I said I was interested in someone else. When she asked me who, I told her.

She was silly, frivolous. Two years younger than I. I put up with all of it. Her puking in the movie theater thanks to a bottle of smuggled gin. The spoiled tantrums. She wasn't allowed to date, but we found ways around that, out the back door of the roller rink, alleged sleepovers at friends houses, nights in her room when her parents were out. You'll risk a lot when you feel that tug of another.

Her parents liked me. Invited me with the family to see "Dreamgirls" in San Francisco. Had me over for dinner. Didn't kill me when her Dad came home from work early one day and found me with my hand up his daughter's shirt. It was maroon.

Four months in all, until a friend told me he'd seen her playing tennis with another guy at the club. It wasn't until a week later that she invited me over to her house and broke up with me on her front lawn. She also asked if she could borrow my "Love at First Sting" album. I let her.

I felt the overarching devastation one can only feel at 16. A good Southern Baptist, I figured it was my drinking, a new sin I'd undertaken, that was the root of my pain. God was punishing me. I quit drinking and my friends laughed at me and called me "Sister Christian."

I haven't had a drink since Wednesday.


Nice gag job, Memphis. Maybe you should touch the Bible verse on your arm a few more times, or add another hypenated name to your jersey.

When I originally picked my brackets, I had all four #1 seeds going to the Final Four. Which is a little like picking horses for a BBT3 event and choosing a pro for your side-bet stable. Tacky. So I changed it, leaving UCLA and UNC. Yeah, I'm good at picking brackets.

Speaking of the BBT3, I'm pretty much sidelined for most of 'em. Tee-ball season is in full swing, with practices on Monday nights (adios MATH) and games on Wednesdays or Thursdays during any given week (ibid Mook and Riverchasers). This is no hardship for me. Tee-ball is far less frustrating, though I take you all with me in spirit when I go to the diamond. Just the other day, after AJ served one out over the 2nd baseman's head, I shouted, "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!"

No, I didn't. If I had, I'd have killed myself on the spot. Some of you might consider a similar action.

Here's your Field of Dreams moment:

Sunday, April 06, 2008


As I wrote here last night to impart the news X is to become Mrs. Douchebag, I used all the powers at my disposal to dramatize the event and my reaction to it. Here was my typically over-wrought prose and tangible hand-wringing in all its glory. There was just one problem.

It wasn't true.

In trying to set up a satisfying (for you) narrative, I diverted off into dissemblance. The truth is, the news left me profoundly ambivalent.

Which is not to say I don't have an opinion. Several, in fact, and due to a recent event, my beliefs have only strengthened as to the viability of this proposed union. I was, however, correct, when I said, "It doesn't matter what I think," because a) X doesn't care and b) because it's really none of my concern. I have no influence on the state or veracity of the impending nuptials.

All that matters is how it affects AJ.


Lemme tell you a story.

We had a mixed birthday party for AJ last year. It included The Douchebag and members of his family. He's a "doofus," (my brother's word), if you want to know, but that's neither here nor there. At one point, AJ took a sock in the eye and tumbled crying out of one of the inflatable playgrounds. I happened to be right there, cradled his weeping head and soothed his hair, telling him it was going to be fine. In the middle of this, The Douchebag walked up behind me and started in. "Are you okay, AJ? What is it, AJ? I'm a doofus, AJ." I turned and looked at him and I think I projected incredulity--which I was certainly feeling--rather than the burning hatred of a thousand suns. Is this idiot kidding me? I'M HIS FATHER YOU DUMBFUCK. And I was right there, taking care of it and any assistance was unnecessary and unwarranted. For him to be so oblivious as to our respective roles in the child's life, not to mention the chance I was carrying something sharp and unable to stem the urge of plunging into his neck.

Even AJ assessed the situation and completely ignored him.


The last piece of bile stuck in my throat in this whole mess is that this asshole, who can't even be bothered to live within two time zones, let alone parent, his own kids, wants to play fucking house with mine. Considering his catalystic role in physically taking my child from me (and vice-versa) for half of his youth, one would think he'd be sensitive to the relationship between AJ and I. Perhaps he would extend an olive branch of some kind, participate in a discussion of the ground rules set forth by the divorce mediator, say, in his monosyllabic grunting, that he has the boy's interests at heart.

None of this has ever happened.


"AJ likes him," X says. Well no fucking shit. AJ likes everybody. Literally. He's downright worshipful to a good 85% of the people he's ever met. It's not what you'd call an exclusive club.

Dad. Me. That's an exclusive club.

But now, by virtue of this upcoming event, he will ascend to Step-Dad.

In my stoicism upon hearing the news, I did not raise my opposition to this term. Though it is but a term, though there have been exactly zero instances where I have been forced to take a submissive fatherly role, though AJ fully understands the difference between the Douchebag and I, this is like a chunk of stew meat jammed in my esophagus.

He is undeserving of the title, of any role in my child's upbringing.


My options? None, I guess. As I said, I'm unmoved by the news. Concerned? Sure. That this change of status (ain't I romantic?) might give The Douchebag some idea that he has a voice and I'll have to face down increasing stridency and demands from that quarter.

From where I stand, this changes nothing in regards to AJ. I hope that belief applies to all.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Unedited Conversations

"He proposed. I said 'yes.'"

"Uh huh."

"What do you think?"

"It doesn't matter what I think."

"Are you okay?"

"I can't believe you said 'yes.'"

"Neither can I."