Tuesday SOC (Stream of Consciousness)

Riding the bus into work today I discovered that neither of the books I am reading were in my backpack.  Very bad.  Fortunately, and inexplicably, my iPod was – and even more amazing, it still had a charge.  So I started to listen to Rolling Stones, and right about the time “Mothers Little Helper” came on I noticed a Subaru with a  huge “Yale” window decal on the back window, along with a few lesser schools clustered around the periphery.  What I want to know is what happened to all the Volvos?  During my years in school, a broken down Volvo station wagon was the pseudo-intellectual vehicle of choice.  Now, apparently Subarus are no longer the exclusive domain of lesbians – although, I suppose they could still be owned by lesbians who went to an Ivy League school, or at least visited one of their bookstores.  None of the lesbians I know tend to be that pretentious, though… so the whole thing is still a mystery in my head.  I’m really bothered when I can’t pidgeon-hole people.

I dismount the bus and proceed on foot to the tune of “Satisfaction.”  I used to be in a band that played that song, but we played the Devo version.  It was far more forgiving, and the bass part was so easy that I could even blurt out lyrics on occasion without throwing the entire band out of whack.  

Close to work I spot an individual with extraordinarily springy feet.  I mean his head must move a good 8 to 10 inches vertically with each step.  Normally I could forgive this, but his hands are pinned at his sides as he walks.  This, I can’t overlook.  Our man is only here temporarily.  He’ll be the first in line for the Mothership when it arrives.  I’ll be left behind, but at least I’ll be normal – or at worst, anonymous.  My reaction to the whole scenario was exacerbated by the fact that I was listening to “Start Me up,” I’ll admit.

I stop by the cafe on the way in and buy a bowl of oatmeal.  At my age this is necessary food as it keeps my increasingly renegade bodily functions somewhat in check.  Of course Rolling Stones + Oatmeal = somebody over 50, but younger than the Rolling Stones themselves.  I imagine those guys are well past being helped by Oatmeal… but my God, with the exception of Brian Jones, they’re all alive.  Keith Richard looked like a corpse at age 21, and his deterioration has been linear all these years… yet he’s still stomping around on stage.  I wonder if he gets his diaper checked when he switches guitars.

Got home from work and my three year old posed a question to my wife and I:  

“Guys, why don’t big people like you have boogers?”

My wife has always accused me of social recklessness when nasal mining – i.e., she believes I suffer from a paucity of subtlety when engaging in this behavior.  Happily my daughter’s observation confirms what I have maintained all along – namely,  I am actually a skilled low-observable practitioner of the art.  My wife might very well claim that I would likely have been married at age 22 instead of 43 had I never picked my nose, but that’s poppycock.  

My wife made me a list for the grocery store after the kids went down.  I lost it and found it 3, count ’em 3 times, before finally leaving without it.  Still, I did my best and awarded myself the customary “beef” stick at the checkout line.  My model of choice is about 18 inches long, and is called “The Original X Stick.”  What’s not to like about that name?  True, the ingredients look more like what might compose a suede watchband, but this isn’t the food of nit-pickers.  You need to be comfortable with the fact that your life has been measurably shortened when you feel that first salvo of fat impact the back of your throat.  Such are the thrills of an unaccompanied man on the loose at the grocery store.

Okay, time to crash.

My Faith as a Motion Activated Paper Towel Dispenser

Ever get caught in the bathroom waving your hands frantically in front of the paper towel dispenser in the presence of several people only to discover that the thing is crank operated?  That whole scenario speaks volumes to my faith issues.  So often I feel as if my appeals to a higher power amount to nothing more than callous posturing, or perhaps a gluttonous appetite for pathologically good fortune.  Who am I to assume that a mere frenzied waving of my hands would produce a torrent of hot air, much less an unmitigated stream of good tidings?

But the faith thing works.  Pick your flavor – in my case it was Lutheran (ELCA) – but establish a dialog with that higher being.  Don’t let making an idiot out of yourself shake your faith. Hand waving is excused, maybe even encouraged – heck, gyrate your hips if you feel the need.  Being morbidly egocentric is generally allowed.  Results can happen.    I’d share my story with you, but it’s so gruesomely personal that I’ll probably post it on that other blog.

Thomas Merton wrote that he suffered what sounded very much like panic attacks as a result of the crushing weight of his own emptiness.  Panic attacks are a bad deal, trust me.  We’re not in this alone.  Go for the spiritual IV.  Get hooked up in some way, shape or form.

Guess I felt like preaching today… stranger things have happened.  Sorry!

Being disassembled by a baby

Okay, so we have this seven month old, Abby. She has a couple of things going on that are making me progressively uncomfortable.

First, she doesn’t treat my face with respect. I.e., all my facial parts, to her, are disposable items attached to my head with velcro. The fact that they haven’t come off yet she attributes to her own lack of strength. Mind you, that doesn’t keep her from trying. She figures with a few good yanks on my nose every day, it will eventually come off either from structural fatigue or an eventual increase in strength on her part. My nose isn’t really a good example because I can handle that without crying. Eyelids and mustaches are another matter.

Ever wonder why babies hands are so chunky? It’s because they have a brain in them. Abby has the ability to be totally engrossed in, say, what her big sister is doing while her hands are on autonomous missions of their own. The are generally engaged in the afore mentioned facial disfigurement experiments, but can at times be assigned the task of seizing tiny objects for the immediate ingestion of the mother ship. Sometimes that’s an M&M that’s been on the floor for 2 weeks, other times that’s a dried up dog fece that happened to blend well with our living room rug. Not an optimum situation no matter how you cut it. Her little hands are capable, independently, of patiently assessing and countering any obstacle to mission completion. I.e., the nose hair is going to get yanked – maybe not now, maybe not in 5 minutes, but at some point after you either lose heart in your defensive measures or become complacent.

Unfortunately counterpunching is one of those things that will land you at odds with your wife, if not in jail. So preserving my dignity becomes an exercise in learning how not to cry in the throws of Guantanamo like pain. It would really help if someone would just tell me that it’s okay to cry like a little girl sometimes.

Friendship 7 to Branson, Part II

Sorry I implied there was going to be a part II to the Branson story – I lied. Suffice it to say that we made it home in one piece with the help of several medications, none of which were forced on our small children.

Friendship 7 to Branson, Part I

Today we began our two day drive to Branson, Mossouri.  It was a trip organized by my father and mother in law, and although Branson is an unexpected destination for anyone without an oxygen tank in tow, the sheer oddness of it all proved attractive to us.  The three car caravan included my wife and I with our two kids, my brother in law with his wife and two kids, and my mother and father in law.

We have a two year old and a five month old – and a mere minivan to work with.  As a result the vehicle is loaded to about 119% capacity.  The driver and passenger seats, along with the two car seats in the back, are reminiscent of photos I remember of the old Friendship 7 capsule – wherein the the astronaut’s seat  was barely discernible amidst all the gruesomely analog electronic gear.  Likewise our seats appear as tiny islands of fabric awash in baby tools and toys and suitcases of all shapes and sizes.  Nonetheless we strapped the car on and went.  Forty five minutes into the drive we were faced with our first emergency.

Toxic fumes began pouring out of the rear compartment, in the immediate vicinity of our children.  We recognized the aroma to be that of a fully charged diaper.  We immediately radioed our caravan mates, and in short order we’d pulled over – only to find that the two year old, the suspected culprit, had a pristine diaper.  My sister in law posed the possibility that what we’d actually experienced was the bouquet of the Hormel meat packing plant in Austin, Minnesota (home to, among other things, the wonderful Spam Museum.)  We concluded that she was right, until we thought to examine the diaper of the angelic 5 month old.  There, in all it’s tarry glory, lay evidence to the contrary.  Would that the causality of our trauma was not so mundane, but there you have it.

We pressed on without incident to Camron, MO, where I sit this very second – hoping against all odds that at least one of our children will show the tiniest hint of being tired.  And thinking, Tumsless, that maybe I shouldn’t have devoured that entire freakin’ “chicken fried steak.”

Poop gives way to political ruminations…

It’s a beautiful clear evening here in Minnesota.  Tonight I was making rare us of my Sky Scout, which is among only a handful of technological achievements worthy of lasting note.  The factoid I brought away from tonight’s session was that Vega is only 25 light years, or 250 trillion kilometers, from earth.  That really doesn’t seem that far at my age.  Waiting is no longer a sensation I am familiar with.  I think I could probably hold my breath for the duration of time between now and when my 2 year old graduates from high school.  Time is a really sad thing for me to talk about, so I’ll move on.

Earlier in the evening I was walking my dog, as is my practice.  As usual, he gets to a point in the journey where he begins to run in little circles, indicating that he is about to assume a poop hunch – at which point he labors through a payload delivery on a neighbor’s yard.  I’m usually carrying something to drink on these walks, so when he gets down to business, impeccable neighbor that I am, I put my drink down on the sidewalk and begin to prepare the plastic bag in my pocket for poop collection.  Lately the dog has taken to meandering over to my drink and sampling it with a single surgical thrust of his tongue while I dutifully collect the fruits of his labor.  I truly hate it when I catch him doing this, but hate even more the idea that I might not catch him every time.

Tonight as Jesse’s bomblets softy impacted the wet grass of Pat’s lawn, politics, naturally enough, came to mind.  What are we doing voting for these people?  Witness how they act progressively more childish and vindictive as the hour of truth approaches.  Consider the fact that the number of criminals in congress far exceeds the percentage of criminals in the population at large.   I contend that it is NOT possible for a genuinely honest person driven by a passion for doing whatever is best for the country to become elected to any public office of import.  I further maintain that since campaign ads, such as as they are, seem to be effective, that our country is not suited for democracy.  Would we give a class of eighth graders the option of controlling their own destiny?  If we respond to campaign ads or are otherwise inspired by, for instance,  the scripted drivel generated for political conventions… are we not in need of some higher power’s care?  How about  a benevolent dictator – determined, perhaps, by a national round robin ping pong tournament?  Or maybe the tallest or shortest citizen?  Or he or she that can hoist a loogie the furthest?  Selection processes such as these seem to hold so much greater promise than what we have to work with these days – where talking heads with souls long since sold to the devil prevail.

Keep it simple.  Vote for someone that you’ve never heard of.  Odds are they’re lagging behind in the polls – if we are to take this as evidence that they are inept politicians, then they are statistically more likely to be at least felony free, which constitutes a rare plus in an ocean of minuses.

Tails from the Checkout Line: Caught Between Planets

We’re on a budget trip – herding kids at the Super 8 in Decorah, Iowa.  Upon our arrival, to our horror, we realized that we’d forgotten our 4 month old‘s nookie.  Being in a budget frame of mind, the local Walmart seemed like just the ticket.  I found the relevant mouth attachments without much problem, then parked myself in the checkout line behind a mountain of a woman with countless 8-packs of toilet paper heaped precariously in her shopping cart.  The cashier was staring off into space, quite catatonic while the woman in front of me pawed noisily at the dried skin on her heel.  As usual, I selected the checkout line with some form of price check in progress.

I never found the google maps client to be of much use on my blackberry – it always seems so self assured, but is almost almost terribly wrong unless I’m building a route from points of interest so popular no one needs directions to or from them anyway.  But still it’s fun to watch the thing spin it’s wheels and bravely declare where it believes you are.  That’s what I did to kill the time while our price check ensued.

What I didn’t notice was what must have been a certain degree of gravitational pull generated by the Zeppelin of a woman gliding in behind me in line.  Kudos – her cart was filled almost entirely with vegetables.  My admiration for her dietary preference notwithstanding, the practical side of me began to fathom the ramifications of 1300 feet of vegetable eating colon.  I didn’t have to fathom long – I was enveloped in a toxic cloud faster than you could say f-r-o-m-p.  The cashier awoke from her coma with a furrowed brow and frenzied motions for a manager.  Suddenly she seemed inspired to move this line along.

My accusatory glance at what I believed to be the source organism behind me confirmed my suspicions – she quickly averted her eyes and feigned interest in the Joli twins, prominently depicted in some rag on the magazine rack.  Mountain lady in front of me stopped servicing her dried up heel and began to pat her brow with what appeared to be a heavily used kleenex tissue.  It’s amazing the noxious fumes didn’t set off some form of Homeland Security alarm.

The odor was penetrating and tenacious, and induced a doomsday torpor over all the  customers and cashiers in about a 40 foot radius.  I no longer took pleasure in tinkering with my blackberry, but instead prepared myself to ride out passage of the collective kidney stone that bound, we the damned, in a wretched fellowship of lost souls.

The sun rises, the sun sets.  And so too passed the rank shroud in due course.  I emerged from Walmart today a wiser but a sadder man.