Thursday, May 31, 2007

Prom Night

I saw my senior prom date's sister the other day and got to thinking back to prom night those hundreds of years ago when I was young.

My date and I were sort of friends but didn't decide to go to the prom together until a couple of days before the event. Up until the year before this the prom had always been held in the high school gym, with the classes decorating it and so forth, but now it was taking place some twenty miles away in a Holiday Inn. They gave out maps with directions from the school, so no one would get lost. Having successfully navigated my way to my date's house I was feeling a little less nervous than I had been, because it was the first time I'd been there, and she lived out in the sticks - as did I, but her sticks were many miles on the other side of the county from mine. Back then I was shy and not yet aware of how truly scatterbrained even the smartest of the female species can be, so when she said something like "It's easy to get there, just go through this town and it's right there", I assumed she'd been there and was guiding me in the right direction. Two hours later, lost somewhere on the Ohio side of the Ohio River, she unfolded the map and said "Ooohhh.. We were supposed to go the other way starting at the school." A half hour later, an hour and a half after the prom started, we arrived at the Holiday Inn with all eyes of the junior and senior population upon us as we were seated. Everyone else was just finishing their dessert and going to the dance floor, while a single bright light shone on our table so we could see to eat. I don't remember a whole lot after that, except a couple of people coming up to us saying "Don't feel bad, we got lost too and were fifteen minutes late!" I do recall eating as fast as I could so they'd turn that light off. Since I couldn't dance a lick, and she didn't either, we sat uncomfortably and tried to carry on a conversation, which was not easy because I wasn't much of a talker at all. But the evening wasn't as bad as it could have been... maybe because we weren't there that long, what with missing the first hour and a half of it and all. I got her back home without getting lost, and should have apologized for showing her a crappy evening, but she actually seemed to have enjoyed herself. I think she said something to the effect that we'd have to do it again. If I hadn't been such an illiterate back then I might have taken that to mean she wanted to go out sometime, but I didn't take the hint and we never went out again, but we did have a few laughs about our night before we graduated and went our separate ways.

Good luck to the Cavs tonight!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Whispers at a Funeral

"I heard it was a hunting accident"
"That's what they say but I think someone else was involved"

"His poor wife"

"He went out in the woods and shot himself. That's what I think."
"I always thought there was something just not right with him"

"I heard someone say he committed suicide. I'll bet he was having troubles at home"
"Probably at work too. He was under a lot of stress."

"He looks a lot older than I remember him."

"I feel so sorry for his kids. That's something that will affect them the rest of their lives, their father killing himself."
"What? I heard he was loading his gun and it went off."
"Not what I heard."

"Do you think his wife will remarry?"
"I think she's already got someone else picked out."

"He looks so young to be lying there like that."

"I never saw him wear his hair like that. He always had it parted on the side."

"I heard his wife was seeing someone else and he couldn't take it."
"Really? I heard that they were looking for someone they think might have been there, and maybe even pulled the trigger."

"He'd be pissed if he saw himself in that suit. He hated suits."

"Were you a friend of his?"
"No, I didn't know him. He's related to my wife somehow."

"Looks like a lot of people here. I hate waiting in long lines like this."
"Most of them are a bunch of gawkers. Just want to see a dead body."
"Yeah, buncha sickos."

"I don't know why we have to come out here to smoke. Why can't they let you smoke in the other room? Getting soaked as hell out here in this rain."

"Hey, see you later. I promised my kid I'd take him to McDonalds so I'm gonna split."

Well the Cavs finally caught a break and beat those pesky Pistons. Hope their luck continues Tuesday! Also the Indians beat the Tigers, so it was a double trouncing of Detroit on Sunday!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Rest of the Story

For Science class in eighth grade I had Mr. Williams as my teacher. Until then he had always seemed like a strict, mean, scary kind of a person whenever I passed him in the hallway or walked past his classroom as a seventh grader. He was short, stocky with a Hitler-type mustache and slicked back black hair. I had never seen him smile, but more than a few times had seen him yelling at kids running in the hall, so I was more than a bit nervous when I found out he'd be my science teacher in eighth grade.

Our school district was a small one, and just a couple of years before this they had decided to send the seventh & eighth graders to the high school, rather than keep them in the elementary schools until eighth grade like they always had in the past. It had been pretty intimidating coming in as a seventh grader, walking down the same halls as the older kids - who looked like grown men and women to me at the time, and trying to find a niche among all the confusion of being shoved in with kids I'd never seen before from the one other elementary school in the district. That seventh grade year was one of resentment on my part. It became apparent right away that they had sorted all the incoming seventh graders into two classes; the smart kids and the dumb kids. I found myself with the latter group, which angered me terribly. I had been almost a straight A student through the first six grades, and to be thrown in with this group which was comprised mainly of the poorest, roughest, hardest-to-teach kids was an insult to my 12 year old ego. I set out to show them that they were wrong about me and got A's in all my subjects that year. Looking back now, I'm glad I was put with that group because I met some really great friends who I would have never gotten to know as well otherwise. The next year I was transferred to the "smart" group.

It was my luck that the group I was put into in eighth grade got Mr. Williams for science. Had I stayed in the not-so-smart class I would have had the very personable Mr. Duke as science teacher. I don't think I was the only one afraid of Science with Mr. Williams. His unpleasant demeanor was well known, and the fact that he was a preacher outside of school only seemed to add to his strict reputation. So, on the first day we all sat down and waited for class to start. It just so happened that our class started at about 12:05. We found out that first day that Mr. Williams was an avid listener to the Paul Harvey radio show, which ran from about 12 to 12:20 or so. For those first 15 minutes of class no one did anything but listen to Paul Harvey. Then we discussed what he'd been talking about all through class. The next day and every day that year we mainly listened to the radio and talked about world subjects that Mr. Harvey had brought up. We discovered that we had lucked out big time with our class starting at the time it did. I think he graded on how well you listened, or how interested you seemed, because one semester I remember that I took one test - only one the whole semester- and failed it. I got an A on my grade card for that semester. Not a lot of science was handled that year, and Mr. Williams wasn't the monster we thought he was... at least not at that time of the day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Well.. You Know

I haven't posted in a while because there's not a lot that's new going on, and I just haven't had the time to sit down for long enough to write anything.
Graduation is getting close, so there's everything to get ready for that; mainly sending out invitations and setting up for the party. My niece is graduating this year too so we're having the party for her and Nathan together, but there's still a lot of time and expense involved.
My oldest son is twenty-one today. A full fledged adult! Does that make me feel old? Yes! He's planning on going to King's Island, which is an amusement park in Cincinnati, this weekend. With gas prices approaching the cost of gold I think he's going to be spending more filling his tank than he thinks, which means I might be getting a call to send him some money because he's broke.
My wife bought me a new garden tractor the other day. We had looked at them at Lowe's and Sears and decided that we couldn't afford any right now because we have to have work done at the land, plus have a well drilled. Well, on my day off last week she told me to go with her to her friend's house because her friend was getting a new refrigerator and wanted me to hook it up for her. When we got there a truck was delivering a tractor which turned out to be for me. Her surprise pretty much backfired because it really irked me that she would spend that much money after we decided not to. The one she got was $1000 more than the ones we looked at, so that didn't help my temperament any at all. Eventually I accepted the fact that we were now three thousand dollars further in debt and took the tractor out and used it. The thing is, though, that we have to keep it at her friend's house until I either build a place to keep it in or until we get a trailer to haul it back and forth.
Her friend lives just down the road from our land, and to get it there I had to drive it for about a hundred yards on the highway - which is of course illegal- but I thought there would be no problem in that short a distance. Taking it out there was ok, but on the way back I pulled out on the highway with no cars in sight and my wife behind me with flashers on. The top speed of the tractor is about 5 mph, and soon there was a semi (a Wal-Mart one!) behind screeching his brakes. I pulled over to let him pass, then there was about a mile-long train of Hell's Angels -looking bikers right behind him that had to slow down and go around me. Every one of them gave me the evil eye for making them slow down as they went past. I finally got it across the road though. I think it's time to invest in a trailer.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's Thursday...Umm... That's About It

Ryan started his rabies vaccinations yesterday. They've changed from years past, when you had to get shots into the stomach lining. Now it's just a shot in the arm, so it went pretty well...didn't have to use a logging chain to hold him down like I thought we might have to do.

Ryan has a concert tonight. It's at the high school, so it's a big deal to him to be playing in the high school auditorium. He plays the baritone, and he's actually very talented, music-wise. He can play about anything he hears on his horn, or on the piano he has, or the guitar he used to have. Music is something he's interested in, and whatever he takes a liking to he dives into and learns everything he can. I wish he'd get interested in his school subjects that much, but oh well.

I finally got my deck done the other day, so the next project around the house will be redoing the bathroom, which I'm not looking forward to as it will involve a lot of plumbing work... something I'm not good at. But... since I'm a procrastinator by nature, maybe by the time I get around to starting it I will have sent my son through plumbing college and he can do it for me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Worry Worry

It's another beautiful day out. People mowing their lawns, kids riding bikes and playing games, jars of tea steeping in the sun. A great day to be doing anything except worrying, but that's what I'm doing right now.

A week ago my 11 year old got bitten by a cat that he was playing with. It was a stray cat and had been on our porch a few times eating with the other cats that hang around. Ryan petted it then picked it up. When he did that it bit him in the arm. We washed the bite right away, and took him to the doctor the next day, and also the Health Department, being concerned about rabies. The guy there said it was very rare to get rabies from a cat, but the doctor called and asked if we wanted to start treatment for rabies, since we hadn't seen that cat since. At the time it sounded like such a remote chance of him contracting it that we didn't want to put him through the torture of the series of shots required. However, a lady from the Health Dept. called today and was concerned that we hadn't seen the cat. Now I'm starting to wonder if we should give him the shots just to be safe. I hate to do it, especially since he gets so hyper about any little thing, but even if the odds are one in a million of him getting rabies I'm not sure if I want to risk not giving them to him since the disease is 100% fatal. My wife is at work right now, so I'll have to talk to her when she gets home. It's times like these that make parenting a difficult undertaking.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Don't Spare the Gravy

I always thought my father had a unique obsession with gravy. He'd dump it on his mashed potatoes, sure, but also on toast, bread, stuffing, and just about anything and everything on his plate. We had potatoes at most of the meals - we grew them and kept them in a big, open bin in the old cellar, so naturally we always had a bowl of gravy sitting in the fridge. Dad would have been quite upset if there was no gravy at the dinner table.

Several years later, when my two older sons were going to Catholic school, my wife and I helped out at the Thanksgiving dinner the school has every year. Our town is comprised of a great number of Italian descendants, many of the older folks coming straight from the old country when they were younger. When these older people, especially the men, started coming through the cafeteria line during the Thanksgiving dinner where it was my job to put gravy on the mashed potatoes as they slid their tray along, I discovered that my dad wasn't alone with his love of gravy. I'd pour some on their potatoes and wait for them to move along. "Gravy on everything" they'd say. So I put some on their stuffing and turkey and wait for them to move along. They'd look at me, narrow their eyes and repeat "Everything". The only thing left on their plate not covered was the green salad that came with every meal, so I would douse that and they'd move along with a pleased look on their faces. I half expected them to bring their desserts back for a dollop, but no one did.

I guess it might be an old man thing, the gravy obsession, or maybe an Italian thing. Either way, I've been finding myself going overboard with the brown goodness at the holidays lately. Also when I order biscuits for breakfast. And sometimes I put some on toast...burgers... rice... ice cream.... sometimes I'll just heat up a bowl and have it all by itself. But I'm not odd like those other guys.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Part of My Youth

There are a lot of things I regret doing, or not doing, over the years. One of those is my attitude as a teenager toward my parents. I wasn't a rowdy kid or openly rebellious but, as most teens I suppose, I felt a need to assert my independence and treated my parents with indifference, not appreciating all they did for me. One thing that came to mind today was the time my dad took me to my first baseball game. It was an Indians game at the old Municipal Stadium. His work got together a bunch of the guys and went in one of their delivery trucks. Although dad was not much of a sports fan and didn't quite fit in with the rest of the beer-swilling gang that we went with, he knew how much I loved baseball and sacrificed one of his valuable off days to take me.

It was an early June Sunday in 1975 and the Indians were playing the Texas Rangers in a doubleheader. The whole experience was one I'll never forget. Walking into the stadium I was in awe of how enormous it was. We had lower box seats, and batting practice was especially memorable. From that level each pop fly look as if it was headed for the upper deck, only to be caught by the shortstop. The ones that made it out disappeared into the blue sky and reemerged as a tiny white dot bouncing around the outfield seats. Both teams had plenty of power hitters, and I got to see Toby Harrah hit one out in each game, along with several other home runs, the longest being one that John Ellis hit into an exit ramp in left center. Pitching featured the likes of Gaylord Perry, and Dennis Eckersley as a rookie (who knew his career would last until just a couple of years ago).

Early June in Cleveland, right on the shore of Lake Erie, can get downright chilly when the sun dips low and the wind comes across the lake. By the middle of the second game I was starting to shiver in my thin denim jacket. The appearance of a streaker during the seventh inning stretch provided some laughs which seemed to warm me up a little, but the large quantities of pop that I'd been drinking combined with the fact that I hadn't gone to the bathroom made me that much colder, and I was hoping for a quick end to the game. That wasn't to be, however, as the second game went seventeen innings, making it a true game to remember. I still hadn't gone to the bathroom, and at games end the guys were ready to leave right away, so I had to pass on a bathroom trip and wait an agonizing hour more before they stopped for a rest.

That trip with my dad was one of the few times we did anything together, just the two of us, and I think he enjoyed himself as much as I did. I doubt if I ever thanked him for taking me, but I hope he knew I appreciated it. I just wish now that I hadn't had the attititude I did back then. I would love to be able to go back and not be such a pain to my parents.