Browse Category: Social Commentary

THE ROAD

20040423road

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

I RECEIVED AN EMAIL from classmates.com this morning. I signed up with them a few years ago. Periodically they send emails stating how many new people signed up from my graduating class. Usually I don’t bother checking it out. This time there were quite a few new people. So, I logged onto the classmates.com website.

An old girlfriend of mine from high school signed up recently.

Just a minute. I should clarify that. Another girl recently took issue with me. “It’s EX-girlfriend. Not ‘OLD’ girlfriend.” Whatever.

So, I found a former girlfriend’s name listed on classmates.com. I admit that the times I’ve logged onto the website in the past, I looked for her and a few other girls – a few who were ex-girlfriends, a few who never had the privilege. There this one sits, right there with a button that says, “Send Her an Email Now!”

“NOW?” What in the world would I say? How do I bridge the gap from 41 back to 17? Sure, I’ve thought about this particular person a million times throughout those years. But those thoughts have been about a high school girl, not a woman with three kids living in a far off state (according to her online profile). What do I say?

“Hi! Remember the freshman prom we went to when you looked so pretty in that gown and I looked like a dork in that blue corduroy suit?”

“Hi! I was just wondering if Stairway to Heaven was still ‘our’ song.”

“Hi! I’ve missed you – even though I only knew you for less than 1/10th of your life.”

“Hi! Why DID you kick me in the crotch and dump that soda over my head shortly before we broke up?”

“Hi! I am sorry I cheated on you that one night. But I don’t really have to say that because I did give you flowers the next day.”

God! It was all so long ago! So far away! It felt like so much was permanent at the time. That was a fallacy. Things were moving. Things were changing in bigger and faster ways than we thought. The instant we took something for granted, the momentum of life pushed us down the road. That which was taken for granted slipped through our fingers before we even realized that we had lost our grip.

This was the first girl that I really fell in love with. I felt it as soon as I saw her the very first time. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Both of my eyes agreed that she was beautiful. I liked everything about her: the way she smiled, the way she talked, the way she pinched me when she got mad. I wrote a million love letters to her, gave her flowers, jewelry, and perfume. We even had shirts made that said, “Sam Loves Girlfriend-on-classmates.com.” THAT is some pretty serious love!

I didn’t get this girl without a fight though. She had broken up with another guy a few weeks before I met her. He became a jealous maniac when he found out about me. For several weeks he threatened to “kick my ass” and “beat the shit out of me.” Therefore, I threatened him right back. We would pass each other between classes in school. He would be on one side of the hall and I on the other, a mob of kids separating us. “I’m gonna get you after school, Snyder!” “Bring it on, ex-boyfriend-of-girlfriend-on-classmates.com, you faggot!” We never touched each other. It got to the point that the mob of kids would just roll their eyes when he and I started yelling at each other. It was all just talk. Loud talk.

This girl and I “went out” for two and a half years. In high school terms, that is a long time. Translated into adult years, that equals at least six years, by my estimation. We saw each other each day in school. We spent nearly every weekend together. We talked on the phone every night. In fact, we both had our own phone lines in our bedrooms. So each night we would stay connected on the phone while we slept. Most married couples don’t even leave the lines of communication open like that. (Okay. That was a dumb joke.)

I will always remember the first time I met this girl’s family. Her parents were from England originally. I had a very hard time understanding their heavy accent. At dinner, I smiled and nodded my head at everything they offered me. Basically, all I did was smile and nod my head at pretty much everything they said. Her mom was very kind and seemed to like me. But her father… Well, he probably thought I was retarded because all I did was smile and nod my head.

During one’s teenage years, there are so many factors causing much confusion. There are hormones, zits, peer pressure, parental pressure, low self-esteem issues, exaggerated self-esteem issues. It’s a whirlwind, dragging you down the road of life when you don’t even know if you want to go. One’s judgements are ill informed. One’s hopes are idealistic. Many foolish things are done.

Yes, I cheated on this girl. Once. I kissed another girl after school one day. I was practicing my drums alone in the band room. The other girl came in and wanted me to play for her. A dangerously flirtatious association had been developing between us for some time. “What will you give me if I play for you?” “What do you want?” I played. We made out… while her boyfriend was out back at baseball practice.

Don’t worry. It caught up with me that very night. No, her boyfriend didn’t find out and beat me up. Instead, a totally unrelated incident happened with someone who didn’t even know what I had done that day. He beat me up. It was more embarrassing than it was painful. He was bigger and tougher than me (still is to this day). I don’t remember all the details of the fight. But I do remember that somehow he flipped me upside down, held me up by the ankles, and used me as a battering ram to open the door. I kept swinging though! However, the whole incident felt like some kind of instant retribution for my sneaky afternoon tryst. While our phone lines were still connected, in the middle of the night, I pressed the buttons until my girlfriend woke up. I confessed what I had done. She cried and hung up the phone.

A year later we broke up for different reasons. I am the one who ended the relationship because I was going through a lot of changes. I was being led down a different road. My thinking was changing. My heart was changing. Rather than fight and argue, it was better to end things and move on. It wasn’t easy. There were a lot of attachments between us. It killed me when I saw her with another guy in my senior year of high school. I didn’t becoming a raving jealous lunatic, just a quiet one. I had to walk the road I chose.

Now, the question is, should I click that email button?

THE FACT IS

20031225dadChristmas2

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

THE FACT IS, my father has cancer.

It was not the shock that came first. It was the dullness, like the feeling you get after a bully punches you in the stomach. First, you cannot breathe. Then you get dizzy. Then the actual pain, the shock, from his fist connecting with your abdomen is realized.

I tell people about it. The clinical details leave my mouth. My ears hear my own voice, but they do not believe I am talking about my own father. It cannot be. Surely, it is another man’s pancreas being talked about. Certainly, it has already spread to another man’s liver. Someone please tell me that the details are about another person’s father because I cannot believe my own words.

The fact is, it is true. My father has cancer. It is already at stage four. It is already spread to his liver. It is inoperable. Chemotherapy cannot beat its aggressiveness. Neither can my denial make it go away.

My father came to see our new house in the beginning of February. He was in a great mood, probably happy that I had my own place again. We talked for a while as he flipped through one of my MAD Magazine on the coffee table. My drum set impressed him. However, my seldom used Fender 12-string acoustic guitar caught his attention. “When are you going to teach me to play?” He said he had been desirous of learning to play the guitar.

During that visit, my dad told me that he was having pains in his stomach for a few weeks. It had gotten to the point that he was fairly uncomfortable. He was scheduled for an ultrasound a few days after that.

A week went by before the results came back. Yes, there was some type of mass on his pancreas. A biopsy was to be done next.

After the biopsy, another week went by. Then, the evening before my birthday, I received the call from my stepmother that my father had cancer. It was confirmed that he had what we all feared, what we all prayed he would not have, what we all could not believe.

My father is only 65 years old. Other than continuous, mild back trouble after falling from an electrical pole in his days as a lineman, he has been generally healthy. A few years ago, his physician detected a minor sugar problem. Still, he has maintained an active life since retiring at the age of 55.

How then is it possible to go to the doctor because of pains in your stomach, only to be told that you will die in two months if you do not start some type of treatment immediately? How do you move from a casual visit with your son to your first appointment for chemotherapy at a hospital in just a few weeks? How do you slip from the false comfort of presumptuous immortality to the stark realization of your inherit mortality in the amount of time that it takes your doctor to pronounce your diagnosis?

A few days after his diagnosis, my kids and I went to see my father. We bought an acoustic guitar for him, complete with a digital tuner and a nice leather case. Though he was surprised and happy to receive our gift, he still gave me the “son, you shouldn’t have spent all that money” lecture. I told him not to worry about it because it only cost a few million dollars and, “Heck, Dad, I make that in two hours of work!” The money was inconsequential. We only wanted him to know how much he meant to us. We regretted not doing more thoughtful things for him years ago.

The by-product of a terminal disease’s discovery is regret. As soon as you begin to realize that a person is not going to live forever and ever, the “should’ves,” “would’ves,” and “could’ves” start piling up in your mind.

“I should’ve picked up the phone and called him just to say hello.”

“I would’ve gone fishing with him every weekend if I knew he would one day be gone.”

“I could’ve told him I loved him more often.”

We assume that the people in our lives will always be there. Death is too frightful to keep in our minds. It is dark, scary, unknowable, and final. It seems easier to cope with life by having a mindset that assumes that the people we love will always be in our lives. We think of them as constants. They are reference points that delineate the boundaries of our lives. Another online writer expressed the same thought when her father passed away not too long ago:

“We all knew it was going to happen. It was both expected and unexpected, expected because of the bad health and unexpected because goddammit, there are certain constants in your life, and your parents are supposed to be one of them.”

Though it may be easier to cope with life for a time by conning ourselves into believing that the people around us are immortal, in the end, the fact of death has to be faced. As it turns out, our self-deception in the matter is the seedbed of many regrets. As long as we continue to think that there is always tomorrow to make the effort to communicate our love to someone else, we continue to sow seeds of regret. The more we procrastinate, the more our regrets will grow and spawn. It is inevitable. The fact is that death comes, sooner or later.

The fact is that we need to love and care about those around us in concrete and substantial ways now. Tomorrow is promised to no one. It may not be the easiest thing to do. It may require forgiving someone. It may require asking for forgiveness. It will require our best effort. To neglect to do so will seem easier for the moment. But the day will come when that neglect will require a more sorrowful effort in the end.

I saw my father this past Sunday. He had had his second chemotherapy treatment two days before that. One of the constants in my life began to tremble as he opened the door and then tottered a little due to his weakened condition.

“You see what I was talking about, son?”

Yes, Dad. I see.

Hanging Out with My Bronchitis

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

20031220gamefarm

Is there anything of significance to write about today? I am sure that today was a significant and even life changing day for many people in the world. I am sure that people died. People were born. People celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. People made love. People treated each other badly. Things probably went on just like they do every other day.

I, on the other hand, hung out with my bronchitis and didn’t do much of anything today.

I did manage to do a little Christmas shopping, just a few things. When I took my daughter to work, I walked around the store and found a few things for the kids. But I couldn’t take too much of being in such a crowded place. If you don’t feel well to begin with, don’t get yourself into a situation where you are surrounded by rabid last minute Christmas shoppers, half of which look and smell bad. Just don’t do it.

* * * * *

20031220caMelGibson

Meet Gibson. He’s a camel. Get it? CaMEL GIBSON? He is also a puppet. Go ahead, click his picture to see a larger one. I found him while I was shopping today. He has little black camel hooves, hair under his chin, on his tail, on his hump. Yes, he has a hump. You can’t see it too well in the photo though. There are some things that you really shouldn’t put pictures of on the internet. Your hump is one of them.

Gibson is a cool camel. He’s down with all the ladies around the oasis. Ya know what I mean? He’s a hard worker too. Always bustin’ his hump. (Duh.) He’s well edumacated, has a sophisticated fake British accent, and is one hell of a drummer.

* * * * *
During the course of shopping at Best Buy for a gift for someone, somehow I ended up with a System of a Down CD for myself. Tremendous! Love it! Fast. Aggressive. Sounds best at ear splitting volume in the car. You know it’s loud enough when the guy in the car behind you is banging his head in time with your music, even though the windows in your car are all the way up. That’s the way I drove to and from the store today. Then again, that’s the way I drive almost all the time.

* * * * *
I spent the rest of the day reading “Hammer of the Gods” and watching “X2” before falling asleep for a few hours. I don’t know… Halley Berry with white hair? And when she does that frosted eye thing? I don’t know… I liked Halley Berry in the Flintstones movie. She was sexy in a primitive way. The whole white hair, frosted eye thing is a little too fa-reaky for me.

* * * * *
One last thing. The photo at the top of this entry is Rockport Game Farm. I happened to drive by there today. I tried to get closer for a better picture. But the pheasants started running enmasse in the opposite direction. It was quite a ruckus. So I had to settle for this photo taken from the side of the road.

I hit a duck with my car one time at Rockport Game Farm. I didn’t do it on purpose. Sorry.

Posted at 11:30 PM (EST)

As Graceful as a Gorilla

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

So, yesterday I got slapped up side the head by a migraine. I suspected one would be coming any day now. I’ve been pushing myself and not getting much rest lately. So I wasn’t surprised when this one came along just after 1 in the afternoon, just after lunch and just before I spit in the face of the girl who sits next to me at work.

What?

What happened was this…

I got a typical migraine that started off with blind spots. No big deal. It’s only half of my field of vision that gets wiped out. I stood up to get my migraine medicine out of my drawer. Big old pretty green and white capsules. The girl who sits next to me at work happened to be standing up in her cube, looked at me over the wall and said, “Man! You look bad!” I said that I just got a migraine, popped a capsule in my mouth and took a big mouthful of Arizona peach iced tea. I second later, while still looking at the girl who sits next to me at work just a few feet away from me, I gagged on the pill and sprayed her in the face with the iced tea. Oops! The look on her face was classic! But I felt like a moron! I couldn’t apologize enough for the rest of the day and all day today.

So now I am the target of tasteless spit remarks at work.

“Hey! You’re the spitting image of…”

“If you don’t do as I, the team leader, say, I’ll spit in your eye.”

“Maybe we need to build the walls of his cube higher or put a plexiglass spit shield all the way around the top of his cube.”

Ha ha. Very funny. No one seems to care that once I nearly died in the office while choking on one of my migraine pills. Go read about it here.

* * * * *
We had a department Christmas party at a nearby firehouse yesterday afternoon. It was a good time. The food was great. The wine was great. The desserts were great. The wine was great. The dancing was great. The wine was great. The dancing got even better because the wine was great.

I was feeling pretty wiped out by the time I got to the party. The girl who sits next to me at work and I had to park about five towns away by the time we got there. Well, it felt like that far away when we walked through the cold air. But we figured that was our punishment for not running at lunch lately. It was good to hang out and talk with some people. Eventually, after the proper amount of wine, I did get out on the dance floor for a little bit. But I was about as graceful as a gorilla with two wooden legs and faulty equilibrium. It was fun to be out there with some of the crazies and to have a certain fine young lady dance around me. “I’m just gonna stand here and look sexy while you dance around me, baby.” Right on.

* * * * *
It is a well known maxim of the ages…

“One’s perception of his own sexiness increases in exponential proportion to one’s intake of alcohol.”

The same can be said of a man’s perception of the women around him invariably in nearly every social setting known to science.

* * * * *
It is another well known maxim of the ages…

“With increased intake of alcohol many ideas suddenly make complete sense.”

However, writing and sending an email to a girl after imbibing wine in a profuse and lengthy fashion may not be the best of ideas. Even if your intentions were sincere and free of all creepiness, she may yet be “freaked out” by the event. (And no, it won’t be due to your slurred typing alone.)

But I wouldn’t know by experience myself…

Posted at 9:00 PM (EST)

Nothing

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

Did you ever have one of those days that feel like nothing? There is nothing very significant that happens. There is nothing very important to take care of. Nothing. That’s how my day was today.

But you know that you don’t actually do NOTHING on days like this. Unless you are in a coma or something. You have to do SOMETHING.

So let me think about this. What did I actually do today?

First, I took my daughter to see the doctor. No big deal. But it gave me an opportunity to read.

So, I read numerous pages in “Hammer of the Gods.” It is interesting to see how American blues in the 1960s influenced many British rock artists. It is also interesting to see how many well known rock artists knew each other when they were young and starting out in various bands, sometimes playing together in the same bands, sometimes playing as session musicians on other groups’ recordings.

Next, my daughter and I went to the Spinning Wheel diner, had awesome sausage/potato/onion omelettes. Of course, we find plenty to laugh about when we are out like that. And they really should not seat us next to mirrors. We got a few looks from the “patrons” for being a little silly. Patrons. Bah.

Okay. Then I drove her to work. That’s it. Nothing funny or anything about that.

On my way back to the house, a friend of mine called and said she was nearby. So I went to meet her.

Since there are no Shop Rite stores where she lives, and she is addicted to diet Shop Rite cream soda (???), we went to Shop Rite. The place was packed. When did all of these stupid people move into my area? I mean heck! And people, let me just say, when you are making your way through a crowded aisle with only a small clear path to manuever through, DO NOT stop dead in your tracks to search through your purse for your coupons! I swear, the next time someone does that in front of me, I am dropping my cart into gear and running them right the heck over. Stupid people.

After the Shop Rite torture, we went to Circuit City for CDs and more torture. I picked up two blues CDs with various artists on them for less than $10. Deal! I saw a few artists on there that were mentioned in the book I’m reading. So I thought I would check them out. Little did I know that it would take forever and then some to check out at the cash register. My friend jumped into a different line. We each had about 4 people or so in front of us. She was all the way through with her things paid for and I was still standing in the same exact spot. They opened two other registers. So I jumped into one of them behind someone else. I had no idea that cashier was going to suddenly turn into Mr. I-Am-The-Slowest-Being-On-The-Planet! I saw that the other newly opened register had a clear line again. But when I started walking over, the girl there said, “Sorry. I’m closed again. They need me to help in the back.” I gave her that look that said, “If there were not quite so many witnesses here, you know I would rip your friggin voice box right out of your useless throat!” Since my day was nothing anyway, I just went back to where I started and waited.

Well, then I went home. I played my drums for a while. Ate a bagel. Ate a piece of peach pie. Read some more. Just nothing. Then I fell asleep for about three hours and woke up just in time to write about nothing and post it on the website before the end of the day so that I feel like I did SOMETHING.

Posted at 11:40 PM (EST)