Thursday, November 29, 2007

Part of the Family

I remember when I was young that my dad used to say that his family considered us as, what we call today, "poor white trash" because we lived in the country and farmed. I don't think that was exactly the case, but I do see how he would think that way. He and his family would always get into arguments when they got together, but that was just their way, and his brothers and sisters were really closer than someone might think who was meeting them for the first time. I think his feelings probably came from some of his nieces and nephews, some of whom acted like they were descendants of Austrian aristocracy instead of the hard working laborers who were our forefathers.

My dad was like me, or rather, I am like he was, because I've felt estranged from my family since I got married. The closeness we had seems to have cooled over the years since mom died, and since her death and my marriage happened simultaneously it has seemed like my family shut me out, although the truth is that we all got busy and just don't communicate anymore. The fact that I'm not a very forward person - my father was the same way- means that I'm not one to initiate a lot of contact with the family, further adding to the separation I sometimes feel from them. While not the same circumstances as my dad, and certainly the times are different now, I know how he felt back then, and how lonely it was for him. Maybe that was one reason he and mom had so many children, to have a family where he would have no doubts that he was truly needed and wanted, the way that I have that feeling in my own family.

When dad got a little older, after his mother and two of his siblings died, his attitude changed when he was around his family. It was like they all remembered the early days when they were children... remembered who they were and where they came from. They all remembered that they were family.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Picture a Cabin Right About Here

I think we've decided to put a log cabin on our property instead of building a house. That's the latest plan anyway, but it still won't be up anytime soon as we still have a lot to do to get ready to build. It would sit pretty much right where the tepee is now. I took this picture from up on the hill to try to give me an idea of what it will look like, but once I get the land leveled and the septic and well put in I might decide - with my wife's input of course - that it would look better someplace else. The wet weather and short days make it hard to do much out there right now, and with next week being the start of deer gun season I probably won't be out there much then either. You take your life in your hands if you decide to go to the country during gun season. That's when people come down from the big cities with a new gun, a case of Bud, and an itch to shoot something, so it's best to stay as far away from the woods as possible unless you're armed and ready to shoot back. When, and if, we move out there it'll be an adventure walking outside at this time of year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wake Me When It's Time To Go Home

I have to admire the loyalty some people show at their workplaces in the face of raging bosses, irate customers or impossible production quotas. There are many people I know who have been at their jobs for twenty or thirty years despite constantly being pressured to do better. Maybe that's a comfort thing for some, to do their best to please someone else, or maybe they have been doing the same thing for so long that it scares them to think of making a change. I guess I'm wishing I was more like the ones who find a niche in being under scrutiny, then maybe I wouldn't be so emotionally exhausted all the time.

In the entertainment world you don't have to look far to find examples of company loyalty. My favorite has got to be Scotty, from Star Trek. How many times did Kirk give a seemingly impossible task to his engineer, knowing that somehow he'd pull it off? Just once I would have liked to have seen this unfold on the show:

"Kirk to Enterprise; Scotty, we're stuck on this planet about to get destroyed. We need that transporter fixed now! If you can't fix it in the next two minutes you're fired."

Three minutes later
"Kirk to Enterprise; Scotty, it's now or never, have you fixed the transporter?"
"Enterprise to Captain Kirk; Chekov here sir. Mr Scott couldn't get the transporter working and considered himself fired. He took a shuttle craft and went home."

I think it's a good thing Scotty was so devoted to his engines, Kirk, and Mr. Roddenberry. Somehow I don't think an ending where Scotty is seen relaxing in his shuttlecraft seat while singing "Take this job and shove it" would have been gotten him his own spinoff show.

How about Beetle Bailey, who has suffered countless whompings from Sarge for years and years but keeps re-enlisting, evidently. Maybe that not loyalty though, closer to masochism.

Or the Maytag repairman. Surely he could have taken a job with another appliance manufacturer, one whose products break down a little more often. At least he'd have something to keep him occupied and wouldn't have to humiliate himself playing Richie Cunningham's father, Mr.C. But, he did get to hang with The Fonze when The Fonze was cool so maybe it was worth it. Wait... Fonzie wasn't that cool.

Anyway, here's to all those hard working people who love their jobs no matter how much they hate them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Like a River

Carly Simon has been singing to me for almost as long as I can remember, and this song (click the title) is my favorite although it never gained the popularity I thought it deserved.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Being Catholic

I've found that people who are not Catholic look on those of us who are as being strange. Being one of only a couple of Catholic families in the whole school I discovered that the idea of confession was horrifying to my classmates, and our ridiculous rites, such as Confirmation, were no reason to miss baseball practice. Trying to explain these things got me dull stares from kids who thought it was ludicrous that we didn't eat meat on Fridays. Stranger still was the idea of the priest, who dressed funny and - did I hear that right - never had sex??? If they only knew how strange and different the priests could be.

Most of the priests I remember from when I was very young seemed cold and distant. Sometimes we would have them come to our house after mass on Sunday, and of course we kids had to be on our best behavior, which was easy because we were scared to death to misbehave. The first priest I can remember who was different from the rest was a tall balding man who came to the house one Sunday. When he lit a cigarette on the porch I'm sure my jaw dropped and I stared at him. Priests weren't supposed to smoke. Wasn't that a sin? No one in our family smoked. He reminded me of a used car salesman.
When I was in sixth grade we started going to another church because of staffing problems with our regular church. There were two priests at this church. One was the typical cold mannered type I was used to and the other was... different. He was fairly young and overly ambitious in trying to connect with the young people of the parish. At six foot four with a huge red afro which swayed noticeably from side to side as he went down the aisle he was someone who got your attention, to say the least. During our Catechism classes he would try to communicate with us on our level, dressing in regular clothes and always saying things like; "I hear you. I'm hip". I'm not sure if he left on his own or was helped along, but he didn't stay there very long.
Another one who was slightly different was a short, stern man who wouldn't marry my brother and his fiance in that church because he said my dad didn't contribute enough in the collection basket each week. He had only been there a little while and didn't last long either, possibly because he felt the wrath of my father. My dad was the strictest Catholic anyone knew and always gave his tithe no matter how poor we were.
Another of the priests had eyes that seemed to be staring at everyone in the church at the same time. He was not a great orator, and could be found too often at the bar in the bowling alley.

Possibly my favorite was Father Engle, who was the priest who married my wife and I. He was disliked by a lot of people for being so rigid in his thinking, but to me he seemed genuine and caring. His baptism of our first child was memorable in a humorous sort of way. He preferred all baptisms to be done during mass, so the that whole community could welcome the infant into the church. When I called to arrange it- about a week ahead- he said to just come and sit in the first pew on Sunday. This was back when I was terrified of being toward the front of a crowded church, let alone having to stand in front of everyone for the ceremony. So there we were that Sunday, in the front pew with a wiggling baby dressed in white. Father Engle did the opening ceremonies then looked our way, stopped everything and came over to us and whispered "I'm supposed to do a baptism today, aren't I?". At which point he disappeared into the back, leaving the mass, and emerged carrying the baptismal stand. All eyes of the church were on us at that point, and that was before Xanax helped me get through those kind of panicky situations. After it was all over we had a good laugh about it, but at the time I thought it might be a good time to crawl under the pew because the priest had forgotten all about the baptism. This same priest was the one who would perform the ceremony at my dad's funeral. I still remember standing in the church then, barely able to see through the tears, and Fr. Engle saying " That's not Ed in that box, that's just his body. He's in a much better place. This shouldn't be a sad affair, we should be rejoicing that Ed's in heaven." He was a lot like my dad and maybe that's why I liked him. The priest who took his place is still here, and does a good job. Like all the others, he has his own mannerisms, and some people like him and some don't.

I still have people who call me a fisheater, and even after the brilliant reign of Pope John Paul II, who brought Catholicism to the forefront of the news on a regular basis, people still think Catholics are an odd bunch. I'm able to deal with them better than I could when I was young, mostly laughing off the fisheater remarks and realizing that every religion probably has to put up with some amount of ignorance from people from time to time.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Work is taking its toll on me. When you spend half of your waking hours doing something you hate is it time to get out?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Deal Me In

I think the reason I don't like the holidays as much as I used to is because so much has changed from when I was young. Thanksgiving was always a time for the whole family to get together. It was a warm, cozy feeling to be part of such a large family, where you were never lost for company or people who loved you. My wife and I try to create that atmosphere now, but it isn't quite the same. Since my parents died my siblings and their families rarely get together, and when they do the feeling isn't the same as it was in the days of yore. We usually meet at my sister's house because she has the most space, and although she's a gracious hostess and everyone has a good time, the feeling of "home" is not there. For me the holidays will never be the same, but hopefully when my children and their families get older they'll come back here and feel that there's a certain magic in coming home.

One thing that I miss about holidays back home is the poker game. After the meal the women would clear the tables off and do dishes while the guys would stand around and talk. Inevitably someone would always bring up the subject "So... you want to get a game going?". At which all the adult men would congregate around the kitchen table, or a card table if the ladies had taken control of the large kitchen table, and fish through their pockets - or their wive's purses - for loose change. I wasn't allowed to play until I was older, so a lot of times I would just sit and watch. It was usually a two-penny ante to start the game, unless someone got really brave and told you to throw in a nickle, at which they would risk drawing the ire of my dad. You see, he insisted that the bets be kept low because he was afraid of someone losing their gas money, or their kid's lunch money, or having to dip into their savings account, so any bets above a dime or quarter and you'd hear him raise his voice "Hey are you trying to rob us?". Also, I think, it was because he didn't believe in gambling and didn't consider small wagers as anything more than having fun. Anyway, when you got everyone at the table the game was usually secondary to the talk going back and forth. Usually, several times through the course of a game, play would get stopped while everyone was talking, then they'd have to backtrack to figure out who bet last, or whose deal it was, or even who won the pot. The game would eventually end when people started going home, the wives and kids with coats on waiting by the door while the guy finished out the hand and counted his winnings, declaring "Whoa! I won thirty four cents!".

The card game was an essential part of our holiday get together. Although we still play once in a great while the games don't last as long and the atmosphere feels different. Talk will almost always go back to those games we had when we were all younger, and I know it's not only me who misses the good old days.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Except For The Man In Black

Every so often the management of the store where I work will change the type of music that plays on the system throughout the store. Sometimes it's all 80's, sometimes a mix of all time hits, modern music, or classical. Right now I guess they are appealing to the "beer drinkin, truck drivin, coon hounds for pets" population with that twangy output called Country. I refuse to call it music because, with few exceptions, it all sounds the same to me. Yeah, I know... there are some people who don't share my views and would beat me senseless with jumper cables for saying anything against their country idols. One of the exceptions to my dislike of country is Johnny Cash. Although his music falls within the country category I can listen to about all of Johnny's songs. He had a way of telling stories through his music without the nasal twang of most of the country crowd. Whenever I hear Ghost Riders in the Sky I have to stop whatever I'm doing and listen, resisting the urge to sing along if I'm within earshot of anyone.

I think they're going to change the station soon, so hopefully I won't have to endure much more of that ear-bleeding noise......... Yeah, I'll get it for sure for that statement.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Day After Halloween

Another Halloween has come and gone, and that means it's a lot closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas than I'd like it to be. I'm just not ready for the holidays this year.

That's my wife and son, dressed like doctors for Halloween, with me in the middle. I decided not to dress up this year.