Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This Should Be A Fun Season

"Hey coach," said A., one of my youngest son's teammates, "I won't be at basketball practice tomorrow."

"Why not?"

"I'm in a Knowledge Bowl after school."

"Me too," said K., another teammate.

"Wow, they must have been really desperate," the coach told K., who threw an empty water bottle at him.

My youngest started laughing.

"What's so funny?" the coach asked him. "They didn't even invite you."

"Now that's funny," I said.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Please

I've been friends with R. forever. Close enough, anyway. We learned to smoke and read Kafka and Camus and skipped school together. We set one car on fire and came pretty close to doing it to another. We double dated. I was his best man and he was mine. He held my oldest an hour after he was born and I did the same with his.

We grew up with each other. We're growing older together too, taking vacations and making college visits and talking school and jobs and families with each other the whole time.

When you're friends like that, you're also friends of the family. He watched my mother light Hanukkah candles and I hung out at his house on Christmas. His family didn't care, families didn't care too much about that kind of thing when I was growing up. What was another kid around the house?

When people talk about Italian moms being a saint, they're thinking of R.'s. We burned magnesium in her sink and killed a chipmunk in her kitchen and made all kinds of other bad choices in her neighborhood and her house and she let it slide, because what are you going to do, it's your kid and his best friend.

R.'s parents came to my wedding. They twirled around the floor and I came close but I didn't cry, I've only cried twice in front of R., my best friend.

When R.'s mom got cancer, she got sick, then better, then sick again. I stopped by her house near the end and kissed her on the forehead and went out to the car and cried in front of R. She wasn't my mom and I won't pretend she was, but I miss her all the time. She would have liked my kids, loved them probably. They sure would have loved her, pasta and heart and everything else.

Dads weren't so simple back then. They worked a lot in my neighborhood, not so far removed from the Great Depression. R.'s worked like hell and so did mine. Got up, earned a paycheck, came home. We were lucky, our dads, sons of immigrants, had good educations and good jobs.

And they were, they are, good guys. R.'s dad took us snowmobiling until we crashed into a ditch and fishing until he couldn't stand listening to us complain about the cold and now he asks about my kids. When we see each other, not often enough, we talk politics and art and theater and a little bit of sports. Christ, we've had some fights. He's a good man, though, and when I was growing up at R.'s house and his mother's, I was growing up at his dad's house too.

R.'s dad is having his kidney removed on Friday. Cancer. His wife will be there; she's great, I love her dearly, and she and the rest of us will all be pulling for him.

I'd like to see R.'s father dance at a few more weddings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good For Her

fish had a recent post about "The Man Who Could Save Wall Street," the CEO of J.P. Morgan, who earned $19,000,000 in 2008, down from $34,000,000 in 2007 and $41,000,000 in 2006. It was a nice story.

I was reading the paper online tonight.

"What the hell?" I shouted.

"Be quiet," my kids yelled from downstairs.

"Woman, come here," I demanded.

"I beg your pardon," said the Lovely Bride from upstairs.

"Come here, my precious," I said.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"Just come here."

She did. I pointed at the computer screen.

"Is that Martha?" she asked.

"Yes it is," I said.

"Good for her," she said. "Boys, come here!"

"What?" my kids shrieked.

"Just come here!"

They did.

"Look," I said, pointing at the screen again.

"Who's that?" they asked.

"Martha," I said. "She was over for dinner a couple months ago."

"She was cool," one of them said.

"She's more than cool," I said. "She's a rock star."

I talked with my mother later tonight.

"Hey, did you see that story about the teacher?" I asked.

"The one who got the Milken award?," said my mother. "What a wonderful story. What a wonderful woman."

"She's a friend of mine."

"Really?"

"Yeah. One of the nicest people in the world."

"How do you know her?"

"We used to work together."

"Why did she become a teacher?"

"It was in the paper."

"I feel like it's really hard to reach kids sometimes, but when you do, there's no feeling in the world like that,"she said. "I feel a little guilty sometimes because I get so much out of it. Hopefully the kids do, too."
"There is a prize that comes with that, isn't there?" asked my mother.

"Yes. $25,000."

"Good for her," said my mother.

"Good for her," I agreed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trust Issues

"Your mother said she's not coming to our youngest boy's baseball game tomorrow," said the Lovely Bride on Saturday morning.

"Grandma doesn't love you," I told the youngest.

"Ignore your father," said the Lovely Bride. "Grandma loves you very much. The weather's going to be bad, though, and she doesn't want to sit outside for two hours."

"I sat outside in a snowstorm for three hours this morning to watch the middle boy play soccer," I pointed out.

"That's a start," said the Lovely Bride.

"To what?" I asked.

"To making up for your behavior."

"What behavior?"

"Giving your children the finger is not acceptable."

"They think it's funny," I said.

"It is, sort of," the middle boy chimed in.

"It was funnier when you saw that sign," said the youngest.

"What sign?" asked the Lovely Bride suspiciously.

"Dad was taking my friends and me to a game and we saw a sign for a pumpkin patch and he said, 'Pumpkins galore, you freaking whore,' and we all laughed and decided he was the most messed up dad of all."

"Don't lie to your mother," I said nervously.

"You're a horrible person," she told me.

"At least I'm going to my son's baseball game," I said. "Unlike my mother."

"Do not start with her tonight," she warned me.

"I'll avoid temptation and wait in the car," I said.

"No you won't. It's your sister's anniversary and we're going to have a nice dinner."

We arrived at the restaurant right on time, which is to say ten minutes after my mother got there. My sister and her husband were also there.

"Would you like anything from the bar?" the waitress asked.

"God yes," I implored, ignoring my mother's glare. "Something red and Spanish."

The wine came and I settled down a little, at least until my mother and my brother-in-law began discussing left turns on red.

"A significant number of accidents happen during left turns at stoplights," she said. "Cars try to rush through before the light turns red."

"Really?" I asked. "What data set are you using as the basis for that assertion?"

The Lovely Bride kicked me under the table. "Eat your dinner and be quiet," she hissed.

"How was the food in Hungary?" I asked, rubbing my ankle.

"It was fine," said my mother. "Their goulash is very different than we see here."

"They used to serve us goulash in elementary school," I said. "It looked like a cat with a bleeding ulcer coughed up a hairball on the plate."

The Lovely Bride kicked me again. "Stop," she whispered.

"Prices were quite reasonable in Hungary and Vienna," said my mother. "I was able to check the exchange rate regularly at the ATM."

"You brought your debit card?" I asked.

"Of course," she said.

"Do you have it with you tonight?"

"Yes. Why?"

"What's your PIN?" I asked, grabbing for her purse.

"I'm not going to tell you that," she said, moving the purse out of my reach.

"Why not?"

"Why would I?"

"To show your confidence in me."

"Don't give it to him," said my sister.

"No, don't," said the Lovely Bride.

"I'm not stupid," said my mother as the waitress reappeared.

"Would you like another glass of wine?" the waitress asked.

"God, yes. Put it on her tab," I said, nodding towards my mother.

The Lovely Bride kicked me one more time. "I'm sorry," she said to the others at the table. "He wanted to wait in the car. Next time I'll let him."

"Do what you need to do," my mother told her.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Small World

I was a member of a panel discussion tonight.

"You look really familiar," said a guy in the front row.

"You threw me off a building yesterday," I replied.

"That's it!" he said.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My First Time

















I rappelled off a building at work today.

I haven't rappelled off anything in years. There hasn't been much need for it in my daily job. Today was definitely an outlier.

That wasn't always the case. The Army was big on rappelling. I'm not sure why, but there was a lot I wasn't sure about during my time as a soldier.

Rappelling never bothered me. I'm not particularly afraid of heights and I figure there are enough redundant safety systems in a controlled environment that I don't have to worry.

Not everyone feels that way, of course. In basic training, one of my fellow trainees was an Iowa farm boy, 6'4", 250 pounds. He was good with a rifle, good at making his bed, good at dealing with pretty much everything you need to be good at in basic training.

Except heights. He hated them. Which we all found out the first time we had to rappel.

"Let's go soldier, rappel," our captain hollered.

The rest of us had finished our rappel and were standing at the base of the tower looking up at the farm boy. Our captain was a Ranger, stuck on a stateside base while his buddies were in combat. He was none too happy about it.

"I will, sir," said the farm boy.

The farm boy was securely anchored to the rappel line. There was a drill sergeant at the bottom to pull the safety rope tight and stop any fall. If you're scared of heights, though, you're scared of heights.

"Soldier, you had best rappel down this tower right now," hollered the captain.

We could just see the back of the farm boy, standing sixty feet above us on the edge of the tower platform.

"I'm trying sir."

Bad answer.

"Rappel, you son of a bitch," the captain screamed.

Those of us on the ground saw the captain push the farm boy. He sailed off the tower and seemed to float for a moment, kicking and waving. Then gravity took over and then the drill sergeant, pulling the safety rope tight. The farm boy twirled aimlessly above us for a bit until the sergeant slowly lowered him to the ground.

"Jesus," the sergeant said with a certain amount of pity, looking down at the panting, pale farm boy laying spread eagled on the ground.

"Goddamnit, soldier," the captain shrieked from the top of the tower.

"I rappelled," whispered the farm boy to himself.