January 30, 2008

Wife, Mother, and Angel: Part I

A while back I was watching a talk show featuring a popular male host whom anyone would recognize if you saw him walking down the street. I frown upon mentioning celebrities in this space; but suffice it to say that the program itself wasn’t important, yet the topic was. A prominent “psychic” was his guest and audience members were encouraged to ask her questions. A young woman, perhaps in her twenties described an experience she had at a toll booth where her car had a broke down and she needed assistance and the toll booth collector wasn’t very helpful. She went on to describe how she was startled by an attractive young man in an expensive sports car who came up to her from behind and told her where a gas station was. She turned to the toll collector, and when she looked back at the Good Samaritan, in her words “he was gone.” She deepened the mystery by saying that the toll booth guy said that he never saw the man. The psychic claimed that she was visited by an “angel.” The woman readily agreed.

Now, I’m not going to dispute the presence of angels in our lives; but I’d like to think that if they were able assist those in need, they can use their time more constructively and step in to stop an execution or find a missing child or something else important. All the woman with the over-heated engine had to do was use her cell phone to call for a tow truck. With that said, the phony psychic and the lady with the hyperactive imagination need to hear some tales of a real-life angel who saved lives by the side of the road. I know she is real because I have seen her in person. In fact, I married her.

Roughly a decade ago when our daughter was only two years old, my wife took our daughter, strapped into the car seat of our fuel efficient Honda Accord, to her mother’s house for a visit. She drove along the scenic route, entering the Sagtikos Parkway south to the Southern Sate Parkway. These parkways were designed by Robert Moses as thoroughfares to be used to visit Long Island’s many, beautiful parks and beaches. The shoulders are wide, grassy spaces backed up by trees, and the overpasses are constructed like Roman arches with stone facing. Commercial vehicles are banned from using these roads. The parkways are pretty to look at, but if you break down, you’re officially stranded.

At the point of the merge to the Southern State Parkway, my wife noticed a car on the grass and it’s occupants outside in apparent distress. At fifty-five miles per hour, they were like blips on her radar screen, yet she noticed the woman for several reasons. They were dressed in Middle Eastern garb, dark cloth fabric with their heads covered, and they one of them looked to be screaming. Something told my wife to stop.

With our two year old daughter in the back seat, she defied conventional wisdom to mind her own business and pulled off to the side of the road about one half mile from the scene of the trouble. She had to back all the way up, pausing within about twenty yards or so to have a better look. Immediately, she noticed one of the women holding a baby boy. From the distance she was away, she noticed that his skin was tinged with blue. With an eye on our daughter she backed up closer, and then paused again.

“Mommy’s going to be right back, okay sweety?” she said. Our baby girl didn’t react, but my wife felt queasy entering the situation. She opened the car door and the screams of the women hit her like a blast. My wife got out and went over to them leaving the driver’s door open, partly so our daughter wouldn’t over heat, and to make a hasty retreat if she had to.

None of the women spoke English very well; except for an older woman whom my wife learned later was the little boy’s aunt. What happened was they were all driving home, the mother was of the one year old was in the back seat with him and the aunt and another relative in the front seats. The mom was feeding her son when a chunk of food became lodged in his throat.

My wife took the baby from his mother, the poor woman was screaming, as were the other two women. The aunt with whom my wife was communicating with remained calm enough to tell my wife what was happening. The boy wasn’t breathing, which as obvious. My wife knew something was in his throat blocking the airway, and she had to clear the blockage. She turned the boy over on her forearm, tipped his head downward, and gave him a few quick taps with the palm of her hand between his shoulder blades. Within moments, color returned to the boy’s cheeks.

The mother provided a blanket and my wife placed the boy down and reached for her cell phone in her pocket book. The one we had back then was a primitive, early model which was a plastic hunk of a thing with a retractable antennae, and not much of a range due to the fact that cell phones were still relatively new. She dialed nine-one-one and told the operator what was going on. She was unable to give an address, of course, but using landmarks and road signs, she was able to give an accurate location of where they were. When she was done, she tossed the phone to the ground and went to our daughter. Our girl was okay and she returned to se another motorist, a young man giving the baby boy mouth to mouth resuscitation with the family of the boy looking on in earnest.

“No…stop, stop!” She yelled.

The man looked up at her. The boy had stopped breathing again.

“He has something in his throat.” His eyes widened and his lips parted. He had the look of someone who knew they made a huge error; and then he stood up and backed away. Once more, my wife had to turn the boy over and deliver blows to his back. It worked again, but he had little room to breathe and foam appeared at the corners of his mouth.

Thankfully, at that moment she heard the yelp of an emergency vehicle. Looking up she saw a Suffolk County Police squad car racing towards them on the grassy shoulder. The car’s lights were flashing and the officer stopped a few short feet away. This parkway is ordinarily patrolled by the New York State Police, but in this emergency, the closest available officer answered the call. The officer checked the boy and he kept him wrapped in the blanket and monitored him until an ambulance arrived a few moments later. The boy was removed to the local emergency room and my wife followed the ambulance and the family, as she was desperate to learn if the baby was going to be okay. At the hospital, the family showed immense gratitude, hugging her, and kissing her cheeks.

I don’t remember where I was that day, but I do recall coming home before my wife did in the late afternoon, wondering where she was. She pulled in the driveway and I went out to greet her as I had been standing by the window waiting. She emerged from her car looking like she played football. He pants were covered in mud and her hair was frazzled.

Immediately, I became concerned and we went inside with our little girl who was as calm as can be. My wife told me what happened and I was both alarmed proud of her.

Days later, my wife called a telephone number given to her by the family. As they were recent immigrants to this country, they did not have their own phone and this line was for one of their neighbors. A woman answered the phone and knew right away who my wife was.

“Oh, you’re that woman. Thank you, thank you so much.”

What my wife wanted to know was if the boy was okay. “He’s doing great, thanks to you,” said the woman. A few more moments of chatting, and my wife hung up the phone and was removed from their lives forever. Their baby lived, my wife did a wonderful thing, and this is a documented case of an angel coming to the rescue of a family in need.

This story on its own would be enough to qualify one as a savior. But it seems that my wife found another person in distress. That’s the subject of part II to this story.

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January 27, 2008

Tales from the Notebook: Hello Neighbor

Dear Readers, It's time from another Mr. Grudge classic dug from the pages of one of his his old notebooks. This short story "Hello Neighbor" dates all the way back to 1992. I hope you all enjoy this one. Thanks for stopping by.

Hello Neighbor

This is a tale of woe. It began as after my wife and I moved into an apartment after we got married. We rented the top floor of a two family house with our landlords
living downstairs. They were quiet folks never bothered us. The street we lived on was a dead end and had very little in the way of traffic. It seemed to be the type of area where we could lead our own lives in private and be left alone.

That was not to be the case, though. Our neighbor across the street, a short, bald man in his sixties who lived with his mother and his ailing wife, gradually began to rattle our existence. At least mine, anyway.

During my everyday comings and goings he would stop whatever he was doing; raking, washing his car, painting, etc, and stare at me whenever I was outside. The ice finally broke one day, after weeks of this, when I was taking a sack of laundry from the trunk of my car. He was in the street, dangerously close to me, standing next to his car. I couldn’t help but peek over at him when our eyes met.

“Laundry?” he said.
Stunned, I hesitated.
“Laundry?” he said again.
Oh yeah,” I answered. “I just picked it up.” I walked over and stuck out my hand waiting for him to shake it. He smirked and then climbed into his big, yellow Caprice and drove away.

This began a trend. A few days later I was trotting towards my car when I sensed “Mr. Eye Spy’s” laser beams burning through me. I didn’t even look up. My latest practice was to jog directly to my car without even a glance in his direction.

“Work?” he said.
I kept going like I didn’t hear him.
“Going to work?” he asked again.

I had to answer him; I was steeped in Catholic guilt, and my parents taught me to always be respectful to my elders.

“Oh no, I’m off today.” Once again, I headed over to him to make conversation, but he turned and entered his house.

Later, when my wife returned home from work, I brought this up to her. I explained how every time I went out outside it was like dodging sniper fire with this guy. He was everywhere. Even at night at two o’clock in the morning he was on his lawn sitting in a lounge chair making another one of his frivolous observations: “Home from work?’ “Off to work?” “Groceries?” “Books?” ad nauseum.

“You’re paranoid.” she said.

“I’m telling you, the man watches everything I do and always asks me about it.”

“He never does that to me.” she said. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen him more than three or four times.”

“Well, I see the guy all the time. He’s all over the place. Hell, he might as well come live with us and study me more closely.”

“Now you sound crazy. Go over and talk to the man. He’s probably just lonely. The only people he has to talk to are his sick wife and senile mother.”

“Maybe he’s senile too?” I said. “Anyway, I’ve tried talking to him. He just walks away.”

“Then ignore him.”

“I tried that.”

“Really honey, you’re making a big deal over nothing. And, quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing about it.”

“But…” I stammered.”

“No buts. If I hear another word about this, I’m going to have you checked out.”

I didn’t respond. She was right. Maybe I was blowing this all out of proportion? After some thought, I decided that he was just some lonely old man who wants to make friends but doesn’t know how. I shouldn’t let him get to me, I thought.

A few days later I came home from the supermarket with some things for a special dinner my wife was going to cook for us that night. I was at the door with my arms fully laden with grocery bags and struggling with my keys. Suddenly, the door opened and “HE” appeared. I learned later that he was visiting my landlords. Surprised by his appearance, I tumbled backwards and my bags spilled everywhere. Luckily, I landed on the lawn, but my groceries didn’t fare so well. Everything hit the walkway and shattered or was dented. He walked up to me, careful not to step in the puddle of goo forming on the brick pathway, and looked down.

I raised my arm so he could help me up.

“Fell, huh?” he said. Then he stepped over me and strolled across the street to his house.

That night I told my wife the latest. Even she was miffed by his callousness. She speculated that even if he was physically incapable of lifting me up, he should have at least acted concerned. She did maintain, however, that with or without him there, I probably would have dropped something anyway being as that she thinks I’m a total klutz.

After dinner when my wife wasn’t looking I pored over the real estate section of the newspaper looking for a new apartment. My plan was to convince my wife that even though we were saving to buy a house, we should rent an apartment closer to where we worked to save money on gas. Yet, I was too chicken to bring this up. Somehow she’d make the connection that I wanted to move just to get away from the jerk across the street. Plus, I was afraid that she’d start ranting again about me being obsessed or crazy. Also, I was afraid that she was right.

About a week later I was leaving for work for the night shift. I was making my usual sprint across the front lawn to jump into my car before “HE” appeared. I made it to my Honda and was putting the key in the door when it dawned on me that he was nowhere around. Then, I heard a strange, gurgling sound, like someone choking. The noise came from his yard across the road. I walked over in complete defiance of every convention I laid down for myself.

By the bushes in his side yard, I could make out the figure of a man laying on the ground in the darkness. It had to be him. After going back to retrieve my flashlight from the trunk of my car, I entered his yard and ran over to him to try and help. His face was so pale it seemed to glow in the dark. Sweat poured off him and he was clutching his chest. For the first time, I looked into his eyes and saw vulnerability.

Stricken with panic, I stood there with my mind racing. Should I call 911? Start CPR? I was confused.

Then, total calm came over me. I stepped closer, got down on one knee, looked him squarely in the eye and said “Heart attack?”

Then, I got up and went to work.

His wife, good woman, made some tasty sandwiches after the funeral.

The End

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January 20, 2008

Yesterday's Son

The other evening when I returned home from work, I entered our kitchen to greet my wife and kids. My son remained in our den, consumed by a video game. It’s a rare treat for him to use the Game Cube as we severely limit playing time. I peered at him from the open serve-through and joked, pretending that I am his grandfather and he is my grandson.

“Hey, where’s your dad? I’ve got a few things to say to him.” I said in a gravelly, old man’s tone.

He barely twitched, still engrossed by “Lego Star Wars”.

“Um Dad? You’re my dad,” he said with his characteristic aplomb. He’s used to my teasing, pretending to be an alien, speaking in a made up language, and just plain acting silly. All of that in an effort to make my kids laugh.

Not satisfied with his response, I goaded him some more. “Hey you, in the den; you meet any cute girls lately?”

That was enough to make him lose his focus. For any eight-year-old boy is still in the “girls are stupid” phase, merely talking about girls is enough to cause static in his brain, let alone asking him if they’re cute.

Oh dad, you made me mess up.” He stopped short, set the game on “pause” and then came into the kitchen to say hello.

That little scene, that vignette of pretending to be a grandfather, gave me a chill. I thought about it that night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. With any luck, one day I would be a grandpa with a young boy or girl running around our home for a visit, I thought. But that is only a wish, not a plan. As much as we’d like to believe we could arrange the future, we really can’t.

My mind took me back to my own childhood where I, much like everyone else with dreams of growing up and starting a family, would lie in bed at night and imagine what it would be like to be married and have children. Well, it happened. I’m as far away from myself as a boy as I could be both physically and mentally, but the memory persists of the yearning I had to be a happy husband and father.

Somehow I made it. There were no clear-cut steps to becoming a family man. I sort of grew into the mold. The collective mass of scenes which shaped my life from childhood, through my teenage years, to young adulthood, amazingly resulted in me meeting the woman of my dreams and falling in love. That alone is worth celebrating; and, loving her was the easy part. For her to love me back was the surprise.

As far as a plan is concerned, there isn’t one. There is no destiny. All of the life insurance policies, wills, and healthcare proxies in the world are based on performance expectations. We’re supposed to live a long time. We should make a living, put money aside, and prepare for our survivors’ upkeep after we’re gone. The only eventuality is that we’re going to die. In fact, we’re dead already.

Look at the night sky and take in all of the stars, which burned out billions of years ago. Each one is a record of the past, as is our own sun which we view as it was roughly eight minutes ago. There is never a moment when we know what is happening to our very own star. We are always observing the world by the light of a star in the rear view mirror with nothing to guide us but our memories. In a sense, we are walking backwards through life, the eye we possess focused on what we leave behind as we pray that there is terrain where we place our feet next.

I’d like to cast a line to the child in my memories, myself as a young boy, and reel him close and tell him that he did well. He married a gorgeous woman and has two really great kids and he’ll mature into a happy man.

We are not in control of anything. We merely handle ourselves as though we have a vision, or that there is a destiny we search for. The moment I finish typing this piece I’m in store for nothing but the anticipation that I’ll draw another breath. I’ll stand up, go downstairs and eat dinner with that family I imagined over thirty years ago and was fortunate enough to have. Grandchildren? Hopefully, one day an old man will pull me aside when I not expecting it, and whisper in my ear “You did well.”

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January 14, 2008

Just Like a Person

My kids asked us for a dog again this past Sunday morning. The only objection I have to getting one is that no one will be around to care for the poor thing while we’re out all day. My wife isn’t a big fan of dogs, or cats for that matter; and that is another factor to consider. My family had two dogs when I was growing up, and my dad has a chubby, little beagle. Yet, this morning when my son and daughter pleaded their case for a puppy for the umpteenth time while my wife and I read the Sunday paper together, I remembered another dog I encountered a long time ago.

Back in the summer of 1991, before we had our first child, my wife and I were visiting friends in their new home. It was early Saturday afternoon and we were seated in the living room at the front of their home. Our friends, Debbie and Dave, had a large bay window, which overlooked their front lawn and offered a view of their quiet, suburban street. I was seated on a sofa facing the window, next to me was my wife, and they sat on the couch by the window. We chatted for a while, enjoying our conversation and Debbie asked us to stay and share and early dinner with them.

I was the first person to notice that there was some sort of commotion across the street. A middle-aged woman was screaming, running across the yard of the house directly across the street with a broom in her hand. She came to a tall, wooden gate leading to the backyard, heaved it open, and disappeared from view.

Dave stood up and turned around. The woman’s shrill voice was loud enough to be heard above the air conditioner and my wife and her Debbie heard it too.

Dave and Debbie were still new on the block and hadn’t been introduced to everyone on who lived on the same street as they did yet, but Dave knew the folks across from them.

Something’s going on the Dawson’s house.” He said, and then he looked at Debbie. In a second, all of us were peering through the window and we watched as a man ran into the backyard of the home where the woman fled, and then more neighbors, apparently husbands and wives came from the surrounding homes, all running to see what was going on.

You’d better go.” Said Debbie. She held Dave’s arm, but she looked at me. I was the cop, and it made sense that I go investigate. She didn’t have to tell me twice and I headed out the front door with Dave in tow.

Hon, be careful.” My wife called after me. She always calls me “Hon”, short for “Honey.”

Part of me was peeved for having to deal with some off-duty nonsense. The other part of me hoped that it was nothing serious and I can do my best “Nothing to see here, folks, go on home” routine and get back to my beer, which was getting warm.

As we approached the gate, the same one the woman charged through, I could hear the collective sounds of a lot of people chattering. The woman’s screams were the loudest, and it pierced through the clamor of the others. I rounded the corner of the house and saw a group of about ten or so people standing in a half-circle by a five-foot high stockade fence, looking grim. Many had come from the homes on the other block over the back fence. A woman who looked to be in her sixties had taken the woman with the broom who was screaming aside near a screened-in porch. The older woman was holding her hand, comforting her as she sobbed.

Dave said something to me and I waved him off. Without thinking, I stepped through the crowd saying “Excuse me, excuse me” in my deepest, most commanding voice. The people stepped aside. What I saw at the center of the throng was a large German Shepard laying on it’s side, lifeless.

A man spoke up when I approached. “She took off after a cat, jumped the fence, and her collar got hooked on one of the fence posts.” He was tough looking; a hard working type, with weather worn, tanned skin, which comes from toiling outdoors for decades. His eyes were moist, and whoever I was to him, he was asking for help.

I kneeled beside the dog and touched it’s side. The animal wasn’t breathing and I moved it’s front leg and put my ear to the dog’s chest. Everyone was staring, watching, and they fell silent. What could I do for this poor dog? I didn’t know, but I could still hear sobbing, muffled, barely audible crying coming from that porch to my left. It was her dog.

Katie, oh Katie,” said the woman.

No heart beat. No breathing. I picked up the dog’s head and cupped her snout in my hands. I puffed into her mouth with my lips pressed against my thumbs and I saw her rib cage expand. “My God it works,” I remember thinking.

After some klutzy maneuvers, I developed a rhythm of giving one breath to every fifteen chest compressions which I managed to do by moving the front leg up and pushing down on where I believed her heart to be, one hand over the other. It didn’t take long to become winded, and soon I was dripping in sweat.

Katie, oh Katie” I could still hear the woman.

Then, someone tapped on my shoulder. I stopped and looked up, the sun blinded me momentarily, and I saw a woman dressed in surgical scrubs standing over me. Her nametag, which also had her photo, said “Nurse.”

Is it just like doing a person?” she whispered. I nodded. “Yeah. That’s how I’m doing it.

She kneeled beside me. “I’ll do the compressions,” she said.

Apparently she’d been watching me because she placed her hands like I had mine and waited for me to breathe into Katie’s snout again.

We kept this up until I couldn’t breathe any longer. At one point, I took my glasses off and tossed them on the ground by Katie’s head. The man who first spoke to me was on his knee on the other side placed his hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay, buddy. Take it easy.” I looked at him. What he wanted to say was “I think you did all you can do.

The nurse looked at me, I poked my head up and saw the woman by the porch. Her hands were clasped together, and the older, gray haired woman who comforted her was watching me.

Could you go a while longer?" I asked the nurse. “Yeah, just tell me when to stop.

I tried. I tell you I breathed and gasped and cajoled young Katie, but she was gone. My heart raced and I had beads of sweat dripping into my eyes. Finally, I gave the nurse a nod. It was over. I remember the nurse saying something like “We did everything” and pursed my lips. Using the fence for support, I stood up, pulled my tee shirt down, and found the distraught woman at the back of the crowd.

Her eyes said it all: “Go back, try again, and keep going, why aren’t you doing something?” I could read her mind. As I drew near, her shoulders sagged and she wept aloud.

I’m so sorry Ma’am. We did all we could do. I’m afraid she’s gone.” She fell into the arms of the other woman and I turned and walked away. As I did so, I was stunned to see two, solemn looking Suffolk County police officers stationed near the dog. I learned later on that the older, gray haired woman called them while I was doing CPR on the dog.

Hey, what happened?” One of the cops asked. I told him about the cat, the fence and her collar hanging up. It was the man’s yard, the woman’s neighbor who found Katie dangling there and took her down. He called the dog’s owner and told her what happened and she ran over, screaming, with her broom still in her hand. That’s where Dave and me came into the picture.

You’re a better man than me, doing CPR on a dog,” said the other officer. I eyed at him to see if he was being sarcastic. But, he wasn’t. He looked down at Katie’s body and shook his head. There was to be no investigation. No crime scene. There would be no notifications made to any other agency. The officers weren’t even required to write a field report. It was a dead dog. They could call in the job to the dispatcher and go to lunch. In the background, a woman could be heard wailing.

Back at Dave and Debbie’s house, my wife and her friend waited by the door.

What happened to you?” My wife looked frantic.
It wasn’t good,” said Dave.

Oh my God. Go, go the bathroom and look at yourself in the mirror.” My wife put her hand over her mouth as I walked past her. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I was too dazed to argue. I could hear Dave tell them what happened as I walked into the bathroom and turned on the light.

The whites of my eyes were filled red dots, as well as my face, which was covered with them. I looked like I was beaten with a sack of quarters. All I could think about was I had to report to work the next day and explain my complexion to my superiors and tell the story of how I performed CPR on a dead dog. I was in for a lot of teasing, and I’d be dishonest if I didn’t regret doing what I did at that moment as I gazed at my startling appearance in the mirror.

I never saw that woman again, as much as we still visit Dave and Debbie. Yet, every once in a while, such as when the kids tug at my wife and I for a puppy, I see Katie.

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January 12, 2008

Meme: Questions, Questions, Questions...Some Answers

My buddy JD over at "The Uneasy Supplicant" tagged me with this meme, a "confessional" where I answer a series of questions about what Ii like and where I was, and what I am doing, etc. It was fun to answer, and after reading my response, I think you still won't know a whole lot about me. Anyway, here's JD's meme:

1.Name one person who made you laugh last night?
A friend of ours at the restaurant we dined in last night.

2. What were you doing at 0800?
At 8:00 am I was home putting my son on the school bus and at 8:00pm I was out to dinner with my wife and other couples.

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
I was reading JD’s blog “The Uneasy Supplicant.

4. What happened to you in 2006?
I took my family to Disney World in June, then shortly afterwards in August my mother died after a long battle with Systemic Lupus and colon cancer and my friend Steven died that December.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?
“Good night” to my wife.

6. How many beverages did you have today?
I drank lots of water (don’t ask how much), three cups of coffee, one cup of tea, and two glasses of diet soda; and I spent a considerable amount of time running to the restroom at work.

7. What color is your hairbrush?
My hairbrush is silver, and I don’t want my wife or my daughter to forget that.

8. What was the last thing you paid for?
I tipped the parking valet at the restaurant where we ate dinner...after we divided the enormous bill.

9. Where were you last night?
At a nice Italian restaurant. Good food, a bit cramped, and wine bottles everywhere…I mean they have a huge collection of wine.

10. What color is your front door?
My soon to be replaced front door is white.

11. Where do you keep your change?
I dump all of my change into a bucket behind my armoire. And cash it in once a year. I’ve had as much as $1,300.00. I also toss in singles and five dollar bills with the change, it takes about two hours to roll the coins, and the tellers at my bank hate me.

12. What’s the weather like today?
It rained like Hell.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor?
Mint Chocolate Chip.

14. What excites you?
My family and baseball…in particular, the New York Yankees.

15. Do you want to cut your hair?
I want a haircut, but I don’t want to cut it myself if that’s what you’re asking.

16. Are you over the age of 25?
I am forty-four years old and I act the same as I did when I was eighteen. At least I think I do until I observe actual eighteen year olds in action and become disgusted. So that’s what being middle-aged is all about?

17. Do you talk a lot?
I talk all the time. Constantly. Every minute that I am awake. Non-stop.

18. Do you watch the O.C.?
I take pride in never having watched a single episode of the OC. I am only sorry that I’ve been subjected to the insipid commercials advertising that pathetic excuse for a TV show. Every time I see the actor who plays the main OC guy, with that semi-dazed, “I can’t act to save my life,” strained, and constipated look on his face, especially when he’s looking at a girl, I want to slap him. I wouldn't watch that show for cash incentives.

19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
Let’s see, my older brother, my brother in law, my friend, and my wife’s best friend’s husband who’s kind of a friend, my friend who passed away in 2006. There’s also a guy working at the place where I work who’s name is Steve. Oh wait, sorry. His name is Ed…I think.

20. Do you make up your own words?
Yes, always. I do it to tease my kids but they are on to me now. I'll ask my son to get me a screwdriver and “frontabulator” just to see him slink off to the garage and emerge ten minutes later all confused and reluctant to admit that he doesn’t know what a "frontabulator" is. I also make up terms and items that don’t exist to torment those who give me a hard time. I’m willing to bet there are a few people out there checking for a “clogged delete valve” on their computers every time it freezes up because Mike in IT told them that it happens every once in a while. Just pick up the computer case, give it a good shake, and all of those words, characters, and photos and stuff you delete on your computer gets jarred free and you can go back to sending funny, inter office e-mails again to the person sitting at the desk next to you.

21. Are you a jealous person?
I was once a very jealous person until it finally sank in that my wife not only loves me, and only me and she’d never leave me because she loves torturing me too much.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’.
I don’t have any friends whose names begin with the letter “A.” I know a guy at work who really does have a name beginning with “A,” and there are also one or two folks who work with me whom I refer to by a particular name of a part of the human anatomy which begins with “A.”

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’.
Okay, why don’t we just run through the entire alphabet?

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list?
Huh? On my cell phone? Hey, look. It’s a friggin’ phone. You know my number, you want to speak to me, punch in the digits, wait for the ring, and if I answer, you’re one lucky person. I don’t know anything about lists and stuff like that. 99% of the calls I get on my cell are from my wife telling me to get something from the store anyway. I hate talking on the phone.

25. What does the last text message you received say?
Text messaging? I have a PHONE. I use it to TALK to people. Text messaging is like buying a car and installing pedals. I don’t get it. Send me an e-mail if it’s that un-important to actually discuss using spoken words.

26. Do you chew on your straw?
I’m an adult who likes to drink from a “big boy” glass.

27. Do you have curly hair?
I have a full head of straight, blond hair. It’s a bit darker than when I was younger, though. But, I have all of my hair, unlike my two, unfortunate brothers.

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to?
To Bed.

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life?
There was one guy at my job but I settled that very quickly.

30. What was the last thing you ate?

31. Will you get married in the future?
I’ve been happily married for sixteen years, and been in a monogamous relationship with her for twenty years, and I would never, ever get married again, God forbid I was free to do so.

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?
HMMmmmmmm…”Fight Club.”

33. Is there anyone you like right now?
Let’s just skip right over this one, okay?

34. When was the last time you did the dishes?
Most nights. My wife cooks, I do the dishes.

35. Are you currently depressed?
Nope. Things are going well. I still haven’t won the lottery, but that could change too, right?

36. Did you cry today?
Come on, me? I’m Mr. Tough Guy. Get outta here.

37. Why did you answer and post this?
My buddy JD over at “The Uneasy Supplicant” tagged me with this meme. He’s a regular guy and I like what he writes. So, here’s all my answers, for what they’re worth.

38. Name five people that should be brought into confessional to respond to these questions.
Like all of the memes I am tagged with, I wait a while before tagging others. I don’t know why, but that’s what I do.

That's all I have for this one. Hey JD, this was a good one. Sorry I couldn't do the last meme you tagged me with, but you know happened then. When I think of someone who might get a kick out of this, I'll tag them, but good. Thanks for the tag, JD.

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January 3, 2008

Young, Dumb, and Full of Bud

After a small discovery I made on my home computer the other night, I now seriously doubt the future of our society. It seems that young people today are indeed...stupid.

My neighbor across the street is a hard working man who was laid off from three companies in three years and recently started working again. His wife is chronically ill with a debilitating disease for which there is no cure, and they are both working hard at their jobs to make enough money to raise their three children. Life is difficult; but, my buddy maintains that “Things can only get better.”

Introduce the oldest of their children, a teenager of seventeen who is also his father’s namesake. Just before the New Year, my friend came to me and told me that his computer was “having problems.” My neighbor is the type of guy who’d drop anything he was doing and help me if he thought I needed it. In fact, he recently replaced a bathroom door for me because there is no way in Hell that I’d be able to do it myself. I was absent that day in elementary school when the teachers took all the boys into the auditorium and showed them what tools looked like and how to use them. The irony is that I’m able to work in the Information Technology field but I can’t nail two boards together.

With that said I agreed to take his computer home and fix it so I could re-install the operating system and all of the programs and drivers at my leisure. I lent him one of my older desktop PCs for him and his family to use while his was “in the shop.” A few days later I fixed his computer and then hooked it back up it at his home; then returned to my house with my old machine. Before I put it back online on my home network, I wanted to boot this old computer up and see what damage his kids did to it and scan it for viruses and spy ware, etc. That’s when I made the discovery which caused me to doubt my faith in humanity.

One of the new bookmarks I discovered in Firefox was the MySpace page for his eldest son in the kid’s real name. He didn’t have the good sense to make up a something like “kewldoodx35” or anything like that. The page has his full name on it. Of course I checked his page out. There were the requisite dorky photos of him trying to look cool and icons of all his nerdy friends and some teeny-bopper girls who somehow associated themselves with him. Then, I noticed the “Videos” section of his page, featuring two homemade movies appropriately titled “House Beer Party I” and “House Beer Party II.”

These masterpieces were shot entirely on location in his parent’s den, obviously when they weren’t home. Starring in these productions his dorky MySpace friends. At least two of them were clearly intoxicated. I was stunned, not because I found it difficult to believe that a teen aged boy and his pals were drinking beer. No. I absolutely could not accept he would be stupid enough to:

A)Publish on the Internet under his real name.
B)Show movies on the Internet of him and his friends drinking in his own home.
C)Bookmark the page showing all of this incriminating evidence on MY COMPUTER! Wow.

Does this dopey kid realize that the parents of the other children can watch these videos and then sue his parents? Forget the fact that he shouldn't be drinking in the first place.

I am considering telling the father. This level of stupidity is too caustic to go unchecked. He’s liable to do something else stupid like go shoplifting and ask for a receipt in case he wants to return what he stole, or go drag racing in the parking lot of the local police precinct. If I drove past the school yard and caught a glimpse of him and his entourage swilling beers and trying to be low-key about it, I’d consider pretending that I didn’t notice anything for like, maybe a day, and then I’d tell his father. This act of stupidity is so bold it’s almost like he’s screaming to get caught; or, he thinks I’m the cool neighbor who won’t say anything. If my neighbor had this kind of info about my kid and didn’t tell me I’d be fuming mad. So, I am going to call him tonight and inform of my discovery. I’m only annoyed that I have to get involved in his family business at this level. I’m sure my friend doesn’t need the world to know, including me, what sort of problems he’s having with his son.

My only question is a matter of etiquette. If my neighbor murders his son, do I get him a sympathy card or help him find and attorney?

Author's Note: I spoke with my boss (I mean my wife) and she told me to mind my own business and not to tell my neighbor as he has to "raise his own kids." After careful consideration, I decided that I would lay off and pretend that I never saw the videos. I like the father and I don't want to risk bad blood between the two of us if he thinks I'm meddling.

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January 2, 2008

First Name, Last name, Shouldn't be a Pain

Martin Spratt, Jonathan “Jack” Chase, and Roger Price are three names you’ve never heard of; but, they are folks who are near and dear to me. These three men are each protagonists in my unpublished novels. For me they are as alive as my family members are. It is as if they always lived, and because they exist in my stories, they shall never perish even if nobody reads about them.

They were all born through my inspiration; each taking on a separate identity in spite of the fact that they all have some of my personality traits within them. Unlike my own children who already wonder aloud about where they will attend college, who they will marry, and what they will do when they grow up, I was sure of everything about my characters the moment they were born. For one of them in particular, I knew when he would die. The only troublesome detail in conceiving them was what to name them?

In real life, I had a partner in naming my children. My wife came into our relationship with unique thoughts on what to call our babies and she also had a family history which held some sway on how we would derive names for our kids. There were ideas which we drew from my wife’s ethnicity, and there were, of course, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and other ancestors from whom we could take names. Ultimately, as we decided on what to call our daughter, and then our son, they became their name.

It seems silly, but my son looks and acts like what we called him. Pardon me for not wanting to divulge too much about the identities of my little ones; but, look at your own kids and see if you know what I am talking about. A parent would know. In as much as writers give birth to their characters, that person living within the confines of the plot which you, the writer, originated acts like their name. "Milton" can be a bit of a softy and not very good at sports, if you will. "Rocco" might toss you out of a bar for hitting on the waitresses. "Jerry Cholmondeley" will most likely spend his days spelling his last name for everyone and explaining that it’s a French surname meaning “the place at the gorge or neck of the mountain.”

The same considerations must be given to your character’s names. If you notice, for some reason each of my protagonists has a one syllable surname. This was entirely by coincidence, not by design. Roger’s one-time significant other went from Claire Malachowski, to Claire Mundey after she married her high school sweet heart. Claire’s daughter remarks at one point about her father, a New York City police sergeant: “Sergeant Mundey sounds like the name they give the dumb cop on some stupid sitcom.”

Take your time naming your characters. Take from their families, their backgrounds, and how they will have to react to others learning their names into consideration. A name is an important thing and not to be taken lightly. It can be the difference between getting noticed and slipping through the cracks anonymously. I grew up with a kid in my neighborhood that was locked up by the local police because he gave them his real name, John Smith, and they thought he was lying to them. Be careful about being provocative because the character might have to fight off a negative perception or a sterotype. This is especially worrisome if your start to get a lot of readers. Mr. Grudge can tell you all about that.

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