Friday, February 26, 2010

Sarah Palin Made Me Think...Really

Last night, during a commercial break while watching the SyFy Channel, I flipped over to the next channel...where appropriately enough, is Fox News. And who was being interviewed by Sean Hannity? Sarah Palin.

Now I have learned from sad experience that the logic of most decisions made after midnight seldom holds up in the light of day. Last night's decision...or the conclusion I have drawn...makes even more sense now than it did when I made it. Its time to reconsider my voting habits.

I am a contrarian...its fun to be something of a conservative in Massachusetts and vote Republican as I am sure it would be fun to be a liberal and vote Democratic in Alabama. Additionally...its easy to vote Republican in Massachusetts...where most Republicans are typically socially liberal and fiscally conservative...and you don't have to hold your nose and deal with the religious right. Furthermore...the Republican Party in Massachusetts is ineffective to the point of harmlessness....I could comfortably host a dinner party for all of the Republican members of the State Legislature in my two bedroom apartment. But I digress.

About Sarah Palin...last night...while riding an ice cream high...I wondered to myself... What was John McCain thinking? Have I ever heard her express an idea using a compound sentence? I have I have ever heard her express an idea? Does she have super vision as she says she can see Russia from her house?

What was John McCain thinking indeed...I remember a conversation I had early last fall while sitting on my very good friend's back porch. I remarked that the conservatives used to be about ideas...think William F. Buckley they are about who can shout the loudest and pander the most...By the way...I am really, really, glad that I was induced into not voting for McCain...

I have never used this space to write about politics...and I hesitate to do it now...but sitting my home...watching Sarah Palin blather on sort pissed me off and made me laugh all at the same time. The issues we face are not simple...they are complicated...and cannot be reduced to a few talking points scribbled on one's hand. To argue otherwise is an insult to our intelligence to the extent to where it is almost is the idea of an empty headed hack who may or may not have super vision being taken seriously by anyone. Almost funny....but not quite.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Eating Food

I have established a little tradition on those Saturday nights when I find myself without plans. I grill myself a steak. So last Saturday I found myself in front of the meat counter at the local super market looking for a nice steak. Along with a baked potato and steamed carrots, I grilled a 12 ounce sirloin steak on my hibachi...4 minutes on one side....3 minutes on the other. The meal would have been perfect were it not for one imagine from the market that stayed with me as I ate.

As I walked to the meat counter I took a quick look at chickens....I had thought about buying a roaster for Sunday dinner. Next to the roasters and broilers were organic chickens. These birds were much smaller and more closely resembled the poultry I remembered from when I was a kid.

I grew up in a small, rural community in southern Rhode Island. We had a garden from where all most all of our vegetables came, we picked our own apples, we ventured into the woods to pick our own blueberries. For a number of years we also raised our own turkeys. We fed them, watered them, cleaned up after them, mended their coop, and when the time came, slaughtered them.

For me, this was not an idyllic part of my childhood...I hated the work associated with home gardening and I intensely disliked the business with the turkeys. However...I did learn something at a very early age from those experiences...that it matters what we put into the food that we put into us.

So thinking about those organic chickens I wondered about what we put into their non organic counterparts. What they are fed, how they are housed, and with what they are injected have contributed to these birds having unnatural proportions. And what these birds were fed and injected are now inside of us. Wrap your head around that one.

Food is very important to me and certain foods bring with them certain memories...homefries, roast chicken, sushi, and chicken marengo particularly so. For me it is a way of providing and experiencing comfort. If I cook for you I care about you...and if I care about you I will cook for you. However....I am starting to think that I need to think more about what goes into the food that I feed the people about whom I care.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday Night Fever

Friday was a long day.

So yesterday I was not happy to have my phone ring at the ungodly hour of 10:30 in the morning. It was my ex wife. As the phone rang I quickly took a self inventory....I was preoccupied. I have not had enough sleep. I have not had any coffee....Yup...the conditions were perfect for a blow-up with my ex.

I drew a deep breath...reminding myself that my impatience is usually the cause of many of my unpleasant interactions with my ex...and answered the phone. Our chat lasted for about two minutes and she only wanted one thing from me....could I drop our oldest son off at a school dance at 7:00? I told her yes and quickly got off the phone before the caffeine related DTs set in.

As I nursed my morning coffee it set a dance. My son is going to a dance. My teenaged pubescent son is going to a dance. I was assured by a Facebook friend who also happens to have children attending the same school as my kids that these were well chaperoned affairs and were far more tame than what happens at dances in public schools. She also told me that her husband was one of the chaperons. Thanks...I await his report.

That I have entered a brave new world of parenting a teenager is not news to me. Its having to do something about it is the challenging part. I spent yesterday afternoon with the kids and made the mistake of asking Oliver about the dance.

Dad "Hey pal...are you looking forward to the dance tonight"

Oldest Son "grunt"

Dad "Are any of your friends going?"

Oldest Son "mumble"

Dad "what was that?"

Oldest Son "EVERYONE is going" in an exasperated voice that bordered on mutinous.

I then decided to go hang out with the son who still likes me.

We rode to the dance in silence, with my son periodically checking his hair while providing monosyllabic grunts as responses to my impertinent questions. It was a lot of fun.

When we arrived, he quickly wished me a good night, bolted out of the car, and strode into school like he owned the place.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Namaste...I think....

My approach to Lent is different from that taken by many Catholics. Since I became a Catholic I have tried, during Lent, to acquire a positive characteristic rather than give up something. Usually, however, this impulse usually dies somewhere during the first burger I eat on a Lenten Friday.

Gathered around the table at a local diner last night, my kids and I talked about what we were up to over the last few days. The kids had spent the last three days and two nights at my brother's where my sister-in-law indulged their preferences for cupcakes and mac and cheese. In addition to being a great wife and mom she is a terrific aunt and always invites my kids over during vacations....this is a woman who already has four boys of her own.

Anyway...the conversation wheeled around to me...and I told them that I tried two new things while they were away...Indian food (which I have not had in twenty years) and yoga...that's Oliver...who is very good at piecing things together...asked the obvious question...why?

Why indeed. I gave him a sanitized and simple answer....because it could be good for me and because its good to try new things. Same with the Indian food...instead of relying on my usual diet of meat and potatoes (and chicken, fish, and pasta)...I wanted something different. Oliver...again...the one who is good at piecing things together...noted that I am creature of habit and routine and that I only accept new things with resistance. Even my daughter said " hate new things."

For my kids to have pegged me so accurately is more than a little unsettling. Stubbornness and resistance to change are not exactly flattering attributes. As I explained to my kids....there are times in life when its good to shake things up and try new things and to be open to the help and advice of others.

Being bounced from one doctor to another over the last few weeks has been an informative, albeit tiring, experience. That I need to take charge of my own self care is evident as is the fact that I need to listen to those around me whose well meaning and informed suggestions I have either poo pooed or ignored. New things can be good as is being open to good advice. the spirit of Lent...yes and a sleep health study....are on my menu...along with lamb somosa...except on Fridays.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

So...Tomorrow is Valentine's Day?

For the first time in years I am not spending at least part of the day before Valentine's Day buying trinkets, ordering flowers, and searching for that perfect heart shaped box of chocolates. While my daughter is my Valentine ever year, it does feel sort of odd not to be doing something this year that I have done for much of my adult life...and its just as well.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with Valentine's Day. It does feel like we are compelled to make a compulsory show of affection and attention for the special person in our lives. In doing so...I think...we trivialize the very emotion we are supposed to be celebrating.

Valentine's Day is in part cause and in part symptom of what we have done to love. We have packaged it, marketed it, and reduced it to a sentiment. We have dampened its fire, removed its teeth, and deadened ourselves to its possibilities. We have reduced it to a heart shaped box of candy and a dozen overpriced flowers.

Love is a verb. Its an action. Its a way of being. It compels us to put others first. When we tell our children, parents, partner, or lover that we love them...we are committing a revolutionary act against our own selfish inclinations and against the isolation that is a permanent feature of human life. We are telling them that we will be with them come what may. We are promising to look after them. We are also sharing with those we love the most precious thing we have, ourselves...and only when we love can we truly be ourselves.

Love is not a sentiment. It is not a box of candy. It is not a bunch of flowers. It cannot be expressed in a card. Love is hope. Love is a high stakes gamble. Love is the cure for what ails us.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Double Life

I got home at midnight. Highly unusual for a Monday but then again...there has been a scarcity of usual around here lately. I walked into my apartment. I had forgotten to leave the light on by my chair. Its dark. I stumbled over the cat, broke a coffee cup, finally managing to turn on the light over my kitchen island before I did any more damage.

I took my dog outside. I got dressed for bed. I poured myself a drink. Johnny Walker Red. Neat.

I am returning from my ex-wife's house where I was watching my kids while she worked. They are usually with me on Mondays, but, as I have an early train to catch in the morning she agreed to take the kids overnight and bring them to school in the morning. Unusual times call for unusual measures.

When I told my kids goodnight, my oldest remarked that he was glad to spend a Monday in his own bed at home and not at my "place."

I...and those of us like me...lead double lives. Typically...I have my kids Monday through Thursday...and my ex wife has them for the rest of the week. When I have the kids my mornings and evenings are all about school lunches, ironing uniforms, cooking, cleaning, and settling fights over who gets to use the Xbox next or whether we watch ICarly or Cakeboss.

My life is quite different when they are not here. For one home is quiet...very quiet. For another...I get to watch what I want and when I want on television. I have been known, on occasion, to indulge in the social opportunities afforded to single other words I have dated. And I confess...I find that there are times when I struggle to fill my time.

I have lived this dual life for almost four it struck me have my kids. They now have two places to keep their stuff. Two beds in which to sleep. Two bathrooms in which to bathe. Two dinner at which to eat. Different food. Different rules. Different expectations. No wonder I encounter resistance when I pick them up to bring them here.

When I moved here a year ago I had wanted to emulate what my erstwhile dear friend had created in her home. She had created an inviting, warm, and loving environment for herself and her kids. I hoped to do the same for me and mine. year later it is clear that my kids regard my home as my "place."

I chose to lead a double where I am single parent for part of the time and bachelor for the kids...are unwilling passengers on this ride.

I lead a double life. And I have made my kids accessories after the fact.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stress Test Stress

So....the other day...about to undergo what feels like my twelfth echo cardiogram in the last two weeks...the technician joked..."lets see if you have a broken heart..." I laughed.

Anyway...I am in this chamber....and my mind starts to wander...which is seldom a good thing. During the last two weeks I have been in something of a limbo...waiting for something to be discovered...something to happen. And while waiting for something to happen I have been doing a lot of thinking...and not about what you would think I would be thinking about....

Its never the big things that occupy your least for me anyway...even now I do not think about the big things...or even much about my health...but I have been thinking. About the little things, about the loose ends, the hanging threads...the bits of unfinished business I have. That we all have.

I should file my taxes early. Oliver is old enough for me to teach him a 12 to 6 curveball. I should go to the gallery and make peace. Fiona and I need to take another art class. I need to see my erstwhile dear friend and make things right. To lean how to dance. I should, ought to, need to, have to...the list goes on and on and on.

My father once accused me of putting off until tomorrow what can be done today...and in this instance he was right in that I have what could prove to be a terminal case of the "Mananas." So....lying there...about ready for another stress test...I asked myself...why wait until tomorrow to have a game of catch? To spend some time drawing. To learn how to dance. To say I am sorry. To say I miss you. To say I love you. Why wait?

I think we all feel stress about the the little things...the loose ends....the hanging threads....the bits of unfinished we deal with them is the real test.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In The Desert

For someone dear to me...a story.

I had been advised to pack two things for the trip to Palm Springs....sunblock and out of two isn't bad...(I had a cooler full of water) least I had a hat....anyway...that day I had decided to leave behind the beach, the palm trees, and the traffic that characterize southern California for the desert. In truth, much of southern California is desert....except that we have decided to drain dry the Colorado River in what will probably prove to be a futile effort to make green what God made brown...anyway...I wanted to go to the desert...

On that particular trip to California I had rented a baby blue Chrysler Crossfire convertible...a two seat sports car with a 215 horsepower engine under the hood. The car effortlessly reached speeds in excess of 100 mph....I know this as I hit 120 mph late one night on the was more car than I was accustomed to having and I relished the opportunity to take it into the desert.

With hot sun overhead and the top down we left the interstate and drove past avocado and orange groves and through Temecula, the heart of southern California's wine country. Past creeks, gullies, gulches, and arroyos. Through Indian reservations and past ranches...through the scrub land...and up into the mountains...and into the desert.

Being from New England, California is like another planet to me. The people are certainly different...but was struck me most was that the land felt different...and seeing southern California in its natural, non irrigated state brought this home to me. As we drove through the desert there were places where there were beach ball sized boulders as far as the eye could see. It was in that landscape, alien, untouched, foreboding and at the same time alluring did I understand why men went into the wilderness feel free.

With the top down, the hot wind blowing past me, the sun beating down on me, the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street blaring on the stereo, I drove through the desert, lost in the experience of being in a strange and foreign place. Free from care, free from worry...and looking forward to a margarita.

Monday, February 1, 2010

On Ice

As has become my Friday night tradition, I settled into my chair with a hearty he-man sandwich, fries, pickles, and an ice cold glass of Pepsi, and watched a movie. That night's showing was Lawrence of Arabia.

I like Lawrence of Arabia for a number of favorite part is in the beginning when Lawrence (played by Peter O'Toole) sets out into the desert to find Prince Faisal (played by Alec Guinness). You see immediately the magnificent desolation of the desert. As for Lawrence's feelings about the desert...they can be best summed up in one of my favorites; "I like the desert...because its clean."

I have been to the desert in southern California a few times. On my first visit I became enraptured by the desert. I understood immediately why the Prophets went into there to find God. Friday night I had a compelling urge to go to the desert.

Mountains do it for some people. The woods or the ocean for others. For me...its the desert. Perhaps its because of that first experience I had, or maybe I know a bit too much of the Old Testament...or...because in the desert its just you and the elements. Here in New England you are hard pressed to capture that desert experience...except perhaps...on a frozen lake.

So yesterday...bundled in several layers of clothing... I strode across the largest lake my neck of the woods has to offer. In the middle of the lake I stood, and soaked in the wind, the sun, the cold, and most importantly...the silence. On the ice, far enough away from houses, cars, and people...I found that you can escape the roar of life's white noise that is our constant companion.