Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Summer of My Discontent


Somewhere in the farthest corners of my memories, I remember my own days as a dirty little crumb snatcher playing with the other kids during the summer months with all of us pondering the frustrations of being in the five to seven year-old range. Nothing seemed fair with older kids having many more privileges while younger children, still in the helpless and cute phase and pandered to every waking second, got all the attention and care. Almost unanimously, our greatest desire was to grow up and live the life of an adult with the god-like ability to stay up as late as we wanted and to make our own choices on the foods we would or would not eat. These great kiddy conferences were especially common during the middle of summer when the glamour of being free from mean teachers and the drudgery of homework collided with soul crushing boredom. While the hypnotic affect of modern video games and cable cartoon television networks are rightfully condemned small children really could only play so many games of hide and seek, tag, jump rope, and marbles before it all became sickly repetitive. Yes, those were the simple, good old days of being free and bored beyond all ability to measure and I swear to God in Heaven right now I wish they were back.

All through my life summer has been special to me even after I had moved into the realm of adulthood when the carefree days of childhood boredom evolved into the never-ending survival requirement to hold down a job so little things like food, clothing, and shelter stayed little things in the background. I admit entering that mythical realm of adulthood that had once looked so attractive when I was a small child was not as appealing when the alarm clock kept going off every morning even during the hot summer months demanding that I get up and go to work. Still, some sort of balance was struck that held fast even after I got married. The addition of my own crumb snatchers didn't alter that basic equation for several years with them dutifully warehoused and under the command of paid caring adults. Except this summer the equation has been altered making it a serious pain in the ass at least until both my son, Darth Spoilboy, and my daughter, Miss Wiggles return to school in late August.

The troubles are caused by two changes in the normal routine, the first being that I work third shift now and the second being that I have to play dad taxi for the better part of the morning when all I want to do is go to bed. So she could be with her friends while school is out Wiggles' is attending a different day care this year, which opens at 8:00am. It is a popular daycare among the suburbanite moms who do not have to rush to get up in the morning and can lazily drop off their children before going to the country club for their all day tennis lesson with the hunky pro. Since Dragonwife has huge responsibilities at her job and has to leave for work early this requires me to rush home from my job to drop Wiggles off so she can be a part of the planned activities for that day. Darth Spoilboy, in the middle of his teenage hormonal avalanche, nearly always wants me to drop him off at one of his friend's homes around the same time so they can do whatever teenagers do that hopefully does not involve drugs, sex, or interaction with the police. Sometimes his requests even involve me picking up several of his friends and dropping them all off at another location. It is quite the experience to be driving around a car full of teenagers during a hot, humid morning, listening to the strange sounds they call music coming from the CD player still wearing your work clothes that feel as though they are crawling across your skin. Especially bad are my socks that are old and constantly fall down around my ankles, which is a very miserable feeling for me because I remember my grandfather complaining about the same thing driving me around when I was a teenager.

At least when this week is behind me I can at least say the worst is over, Wiggles is attending a math camp at her school requiring me to first drop her off there then pick her up two hours later and rush her down to her daycare. The kicker for this camp is that they charge ten dollars for every ten minutes a parent is late after the pickup time. With all the conservative drones around here who worship only the dollar it's a mass panic to grab their children after that last bell has rung. Once the camp is over at the end of this week the morning rush can be reduced a few levels.

Not directly affecting me but making the summer an even bigger irritant nonetheless like the state of the world does little to soften the insane and rushed times we seem to live in. An oil well in the Gulf threatens to turn every beach from Louisiana to Key West, Florida into a toxic mess with the head corporate lackey whining about wanting his life back. Every fishermen, business person, dolphins, sea turtles, shark, fish, plankton, and every other life form that inhabits the Gulf waters should be ashamed of themselves making the rich dickhead suffer because they happen to exist in the first place. Adding to the fun is nightly news about the American economy that can't seem to get its feet again but doesn't stop the bankers from restarting their casino-like behavior that about destroyed it the first place. Moreover, the politicians and terrorists (the difference between the two is tough to see sometimes) are always good at stirring up trouble both here in the United States and overseas.

Sort of makes me long for the days when all we had to really worry about was nuclear annihilation from the thousands of nuclear weapons the Soviets had targeted on us. Overall, I can wait for the summer to be over and feel the return of the chilly winds of Autumn. But wait a minute we have mid-term elections this year….dammit I need a drink.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Under the Night Sky




The stars have always been a source of fascination for me since I was old enough to hold a pair of binoculars up to the night sky in my grandfather's backyard. During those times lights from homes had yet to overwhelm the stars and planets and I spent hours staring at the craters of the moon, the tiny disc of Jupiter circled by its largest moons, and even the faint wisps of the rings around Saturn. These were real places to me long before the Pioneer and Voyager probes sailed by sending their pictures back to Earth.


As much as I enjoyed it I never delved deeply into actual astronomy. One Christmas I did receive a telescope as a present but its lenses were weak compared to the old binoculars my grandfather owned and the tripod mount could never be tighten enough to allow a steady view. Many times I would have it pointed at an object only to see it slowly drift downward before I could look through the eyepiece. Another reason I lost interest was that in my hometown I was the only person who showed any curiosity in the subject. You spend enough time outside at night in any suburban setting and eventually some busybody will become convinced you are trying to peep into windows. So as I grew older I moved on to other things less likely to have the sheriff called out on me.


That was the case until one night out in the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, California. Fort Irwin is the National Training Center which during my time in the active army in the late 1980's taught soldiers what to expect if the Soviet Union ever crossed the Fulda Gap and started World War Three. During my visits brigade sized units faced off against a similar sized opposition force trained in Soviet tactics and who used aircraft and vehicles that were altered to look like their Soviet counterparts. It was extremely fast paced during the daily battles, for those lucky enough to be assigned to a maneuver unit, and very fun to a much younger and gung-ho version of myself. But like anything to do with the military one hour of sheer terror, or fun in this case, is nothing compared to the other twenty-three of utter boredom waiting for something to happen. It was in the God awful, dark hours of the very early morning while in the desert that I noticed the stars again.


We were a few hours away from the armored vehicles in the lead maneuver unit moving into position for the battle that morning and I was lying on top of an old M-113 armored personnel carrier trying to catch a few more minutes of sleep. During that time strict light discipline was being enforced as part of the training to prevent anyone from giving away our position. The other guys in and on the track vehicle with me were trying to sleep themselves and despite the events about to happen a deep silence hung over everything. Looking up at the night sky unable to sleep it was then that I noticed the stars blazing above me like I had never seen them before.


Back home on the best nights the Milky Way was a faint haze stretching across the sky but at Fort Irwin it flowed like an intense river of light above me and I would be a liar if I did not say I was in awe of what I saw. The Orion constellation, the only one I really knew how to find, stood out bright and clean and it was only then that I could see how the ancients had come to describe that grouping of stars like they did.


With the naked eye alone everything above stood out in its full glory as it must have from the earliest days of humans walking the earth. But given my location and what I was doing I had another instrument that would add another astounding level to what I was seeing. The vehicle I was on had a pair of night vision goggles on board and with a little effort I was able to get my hands on them without disturbing anyone.


After I got the device turned on and looking skyward what had been awesome with the naked eye became unspeakably beautiful as the instrument gathered the weakest light from deep space and amplified it many times. A multitude of stars that were too dim to be seen with the naked eye shined with a radiant beauty that again left me bewildered and nearly drunk. During those quiet moments as everyone around me made themselves ready for the training that would teach them how to kill as efficiently as possible I was struck with the futility of the whole endeavor. Looking up and seeing all those stars and the galaxy itself staring back down on us it occurred to me in an almost a painful way how damn small and unimportant we were in the true scheme of things. The idea that anything we could conceive would be significant enough to kill each other over was ludicrous when something far greater than us screamed each night to be notice. Like all moments of epiphany and revelation the more mundane affairs of humans soon demanded attention and it wasn't long before I was speeding across the desert with my fellow soldiers.


Tonight as I arrived at work the hospital was its usual center of human foolishness. Standing at the top of the parking garage I looked out below as people screamed, yelled, and cursed each other over any number of things. From my perch I could see a couple clutching each other walking toward the emergency room with fear emanating from them like sound waves. Two nearby men walked away from the entrance with one holding a heavily bandaged arm with a spot of blood visible on the bandages even from my location. Beside the people machinery hummed in the distance, lights from a hundred empty windows burned, and a steady flow of cars entered and left the parking lot it was then that I looked above me and saw only a few stars and planets visible and able to overcome all the man-made light that was trying to snuff them out.

The lives of people of course come before the hopeless mental meanderings of a country boy perplexed by the strange and self serving behavior of the naked primates that run things here on Earth but as I looked above me tonight I was struck at how our egoistical and mindless pursuits ignore the greater grandeur of existence. It's a shame really and I truly believe it leads to a banal and empty life which we try to fill with material things. Long story short, I miss the stars and planets I saw that night in the desert and hope one day to see them like that again.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Typical Teenager's Room


My son, Darth Spoilboy, is an all too typical teenager in many ways but none more than the usual condition of his room. As you can see in the picture clothes, musical instruments, video games, and things I can't identify litter his floor at any given moment. Especially worrisome are the abandoned eating utensils and food packaging which at times can take on the looks of an archeological dig site or crime scene.

You have not lived until you find a McDonald's Double Cheeseburger that has fossilized and harden to the point that if attached to the end of a rocket it would beat depleted uranium as an anti-tank weapon. Such is not the case for some snack cakes, I found a Little Debby oatmeal creme pie left on a plate under his bed one time that my son swears he forgot about months before. The texture and smell of the snack cake looked fresh and ready to eat like it had been made just the day before. No, at one time just out of brain-dead curiosity I would have taken a bite but my digestive track is just not what it use to be so I tossed the snack cake in the trash.

Some might wonder when or if my son ever cleans his room. Yes he does clean his room from time to time but if he is not supervised the assorted debris you see on the floor would just be pushed inside his closet to make one large mound. After such a cleaning I just accept that his room is uncluttered and ignore what might evolving in the mound on the other side of his closet door no matter what strange sounds might be heard.



This is his room after a complete cleaning and resulting genocide of several species of lifeforms that had emerged from biosphere consisting of the stuff in his closet. One species was close to developing nuclear weapons but with their eradication the intelligence of South Carolina again fell to its usual sorry levels.

You might be wondering is how long would his room remain in such a pristine condition? The short answer, of course, is not nearly long enough but I have actually timed the degradation from a healthy and orderly environment to complete chaos again to around two days. If such a clean up should happen on a Friday the usual rush of friends and video game playing can reduce the time to about an hour, even faster if pizza delivery or a Taco Bell run is involved.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lessons I Learned While on Vacation

The first lesson I learned is that inter-species relationships never work out. The lovely lady you see me with in the picture is Jenny and she flirted, kissed, and lead me on for several minutes before dumping me and moving on to someone else breaking my heart. Contrary to what I have heard Jenny felt more like smooth velvet than an old inner tube which the nature shows often say about the texture of dolphin skin.

Another pod mate of Jenny's did visit the small group Miss Wiggles and I were a part of during our dolphin encounter at Discovery Cove, his name was Gary and his skin did feel like an inner tube. It was also easy to tell that Gary had a thing for Jenny, which was one of the reasons the dolphin encounters for that day were so far behind schedule. The two dolphins broke off and swam away during my encounter only to return a few minutes later. What they did I have no real honest idea but from the shit eating grins of the staff I can imagine. As I wrote in the previous post, the entire Discovery Cove pod was reported to be extremely "flirty" that morning.

There are two segments to the second lesson I learned, one is that I will be joining the Hair Club for Men this Father's Day and the other is that after this post I will very rarely post my picture again.




The third lesson I learned was that never talk politics while on vacation when other might hear. Wiggles and I met a very nice liberal lady from Massachusetts who upon learning she and I were South Carolina wanted some sort of explanation of the strange behavior of people from the Palmetto state. For fifteen minutes I tried my best to explain some of the history, the politicians, and bad habits of South Carolina and ended up lost myself and just blaming all the craziness on the state's drinking water and how many babies use to be dropped on their heads during birth.

The only issue was when fellow denizen of South Carolinian, who happened to be nearby, chimed in declaring it wasn't drinking water or babies being dropped on their heads but the strange condition of nearly vertical family trees that happened to be common in the state. None of this was amusing to a family from Texas whose senior member was wearing a "Don't tread on me" pin on his neatly ironed polo shirt with highly starched khaki pants and stylish loafers. They quickly left the area to us sorry ass commie socialists.

Puzzled that two South Carolina liberals should accidentally find themselves on vacation at the same place and time my fellow criminal in wealth redistribution and social justice and I pondered timing our trips so the liberal population of the state would not fall so much in future. Oh yeah about the picture, that is me with a republican buddy I met while at one of the outlet malls Dragonwife forced me to visit.

A smaller lesson learned is that even when my wife cuts up her credit card before vacation so she would not spend any money leaving mine in one piece and active defeats the whole purpose of destroying hers. Plus, it ruins my whole day having to essentially follow her around in places I hate while in a good mood.






The final lesson learned is to always make the bartender your friend. While sitting around the pool all day viewing all manner of scantily-clad MILFs when the crowds start rushing back to the resort after a hot day in the parks making the bartender your friend assures that she will fill your request first as opposed to weary moms and dads tired of Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and those damn Disney chipmunks, Chip and Dale.

That's about it for now, can't promise I will not post more pictures but at least they will not be of me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Channeling my Inner Drill Sergeant on Vacation


Vacation fun with the family, marine mammals, and all the free beer I can drink.



Some think I nicknamed my son "Darth Spoilboy" just out of some strange attempt at humor, that my son could not really deserve such a title. Most of the time that is true to a great extent but he truly earned his screen name Saturday. After months of waiting, we finally began our vacation Saturday morning after leaving the in-laws. We left Columbia Friday afternoon to drive up to their house and spend the night just to give the kids some time with them. However, it was already easy to tell that Spoilboy was not enthusiastic about the trip, he was being forced to leave his friends behind and in fact Thursday night had come home around 10:00pm wanting to know if he could stay at his best friend's house.

Now understand this trip had been planned for months with a trip to Discovery Cove in Orlando already paid for which cost the entire family nearly $900. No, refunds were not available since we had bought the package under the 30 day time frame. When Spoilboy was told about the Discovery Cove trip when it was purchased he said "cool, sounds like fun".

Last Thursday night Spoilboy went into a panic about being away from his friends, which was understandable, but he wanted us to organize a way for him to stay with his best friend but with us leaving the house the next morning that was impossible. As far as Spoilboy's best friend was concerned it would be okay with his parents but neither Dragonwife nor I were about to call anyone so late and ask them to take on such a huge responsibility on such a short notice. While I am not the sharpest knife by any means I figured if what Spoilboy's best friend said was true about his parents being okay with their sudden plan I figure they should have called us.

Anyway, while on the road Saturday Spoilboy did everything in his power to make Miss Wiggles, Dragonwife, and myself miserable. After driving all day, we arrived in Orlando late in the afternoon still listening to Spoilboy whine between text messages he was sending to his friends back home. While we were at dinner that night Spoilboy finally crossed the line when he said he would ruin the vacation for everyone. Seeing my daughter, who was sitting beside him, begin to look like she would cry was the straw that broke the camel's back. This trip was all Miss Wiggles had talked about for months with the dolphin encounter she and I would have being the part she was most looking forward to doing.

My inner Drill Sergeant emerged and I went off on Spoilboy saying things that my wife would later claim had put the "fear of God in him." Seriously, I'm not proud of what I said, its not easy to get me enraged and when it happens the anger is soon spent leaving me feeling stupid and foolish. Never the less, Spoilboy has been amazingly easy to get along with since then and is doing his best to convince me he is having a good time, at least for his mother and sister's sake.

As for the picture above, it was taken today at Discovery Cove were I kissed a dolphin, swam with sharks and barracudas, floated down a tropical lazy river, played with stingrays, and watched a multitude of MILFs cavort in the crystal clear water wearing tiny bikinis. As everyone can see above, my wetsuit had a fantastic effect on my body with me turning all the heads in the place, or at least until told that I was wearing the damn wetsuit backwards.

Discovery Cove is part of the Sea World chain of theme parks which are owned by the Anheuser Busch company. Much is said about how they should not be confining marine mammals into small enclosures and putting them on display, there is something to be said about for that point-of-view but what I can say is that the general American public will never win any awards for knowledge of the oceans and the animals that live there. I honestly believe places such as Sea World and Discovery Cove provide an outlet of real education wrapped nicely in a family theme park which massive but delicate American egos will far more readily accept than blunt force preaching. No, it ain't pretty or full of warm fuzzies for the animals but right now we are just not in the position to turn away any possible educational advantage in a country full of Marching Morons.

After our dolphin encounter today I am convinced that the trainers truly care for the creatures under their stewardship and only wish to educate as many people as possible about them and their environment. Our schedule time with the dolphins slipped back twice with the trainers explaining that the animals really ran the show, if they did not feel like working they simply did not work until they were ready. The biggest reason for the delay this morning was that several of the animals felt "flirty" and had no intention of arriving on time. Wiggles was not at all happy with the delay but as long as someone was getting some I figure more power to them. My understanding was further enhanced since the adults were served all the free beer they could drink for the entire day, God bless their golden corporate hearts.