Sunday, February 15, 2009


Last night I went to see a Johnny Cash impersonator. There were several highlights. For instance:
The opening band sang country songs which made me feel like I was back home.
You could hear their New York accents behind their fake midwest twangs, which made me feel superior to them for some reason.
They ended the opening set with "Proud to Be an American"--which reminded me of a fateful November's eve in 2001.


We'd vanished two kegs and a billion boxes of wine. Instead of having a regular D.J., my sister opted for a Karaoke D.J. instead. She had just been married and the post-nuptial debauchery was in full swing.

An average man might think to himself, surely they won't sing ALL NIGHT LONG!? Perhaps it might be a good idea if some of my C.D.s were more than instrumentals. But our Karaoke D.J. was not average. For he needed no cd with audio words. His philosophy: "Any song worth hearin' is a song worth singin'." And that's what Ron did. He sang all the standard wedding songs himself (even the Chicken Dance and Cotton-eyed Joe). But what's to be expected? The guy was a professional. He was all business...until he turned around....

So it was late in the game. My Venezuelan friend just finished singing, "Tweeest and Shout" and everyone was pretty faded. For the last song, Mulletron had everyone gather around in a circle. "But We already did the chicken dance," is what I would have thought if I hadn't been so god-damn drunk.

This was 2 months after 9-11. My new brother-in-law's family was from upstate New York. It was an emotional way to end the night. Mulletron started singing, "Proud to be an American."

There wasn't a dry eye in the entire Parish Hall!

The following day people awkwardly passed each other in the hallway on their way to the bathroom or kitchen. Nobody could quite look each-other in the eye.

"Did we...umm...stand in a circle last night singing 'Proud to Be an American' while swaying back and forth with our arms over each other and crying...or was it a dream?" I said.
"Yeah...I don't want to talk about it." replied my cousin, Kaysie.

***Flashback ending***

As I stood there listening to the fake cowboys sing that emotional tune, I looked around and saw that virtually anyone can succumb to the embarrassing nature of public emotional patriotism. I will list three examples:
1) The man sitting right next to my co-teacher kept screaming (at the top of his lungs, "GO USA!!! I LOVE USA!!! GO AMERICAAAAAAAA!!!!"
2) The man in the front, right section of the theatre standing with his arms up, swaying back and forth as if he were being Saved by Jesus...if Jesus were Patrick Henry.
3)Last but not least were the two volunteers who held up an American Flag and POW Flag high into the air and walked from left to right (repeatedly) in front of the crowd...not really that cheesy? They were trying to do it in slow motion. It was like a scene straight from Napolean Dynamite.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Station Wagon

It's not that I want a station wagon. It's more than that. It just seems a given that I should own one.

It's not even a desire. It's as if a station wagon has always been waiting for me...and I am like Jesus, coming out of the desert. . .Sure I've been tempted...but I'm ready now.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sheep Meat

One of the best parts about teaching is realizing how much smarter you are than other people. Despite the fact that you maybe in your late 20s, 30s (and they are 12).

Most days, I leave school feeling like the smartest person in the world. There are days however when a student jumps out of his/her role as an ignorant being. This is a story about one of those days.

In the state of New York, the English State Test is the equivalent of Jesus in the Catholic church. The Holy Trinity is: English State Test, Math State Test,(and some days I pretend I'm the third part of the trinity--other days I pretend I'm atheist so I don't have to create analogies to understand what is important and what is not).

Anyway, we're preparing for the holiest of tests and I give my students a practice exam. It was your typical 6th grade test which explained the origin of how the border collie went from a sheep herding dog to a family pet.

When I came across Sue's (which is not really her name) paper, I saw that she highlighted every word. So my initial thought was, "you're an idiot". But she proved me wrong with her answers. "I am an idiot" I then thought.

The following are her answers to the questions. It's important not to skim, as you might miss the greatness of her answer.

Explain a Border Collie Trait
She wrote:

"They crouch and use a gaze to hold the sheep's attention."
"They run around sheep into smaller and smaller circles to gather them up."

How Trait Helps with Sheep Herding
"It makes the sheep come close to them so they can eat them. It makes them easier to capture and eat.


Moving on.
Use details from the article "From Farm to Family Room" to support the opinion that a border collie should not be owned by someone who lives in a large city.
She wrote:

"A border collie can not be owned by someone in the city. Because the city is a busy place and the border collie would want to go for a walk"
"But it would mean that it would probably want to go to a zoo and look for sheep and try to kill the sheep and eat him or a grocery store and eat up all the sheep meat."

Again...I feel strange, and cannot put my finger on the feeling inside, but this time it's a cross between: ??????... mixed with that feeling of suspended time when you're about to sneeze, but you never sneeze.

While reading her answer, my mind blew a circuit and thought: "Either she's a genius, or she's witnessed things in life that no child should ever see, or she's secretly a rogue border collie dressed up like a 6th grader, or she's really dumb, or she has an imagination that is sickly amusing, or".....and the thoughts continued for hours thereafter.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The New Neighbor-lush

In the morning time, I didn't have much to do in Padre because my shift at the hotel didn't start until 3pm. I did a lot of writing at my kitchen table and observed the palm trees swaying across the empty field.

Not long after the wet-lady and Mickey-the-crack-head were evicted, the view of my beautiful palm trees was obstructed by a hideous creature with leather skin, short hair and dark circles beneath her eyes that went on for days. The circles under her eyes were like the dark god of death staring into my soul...and that's what she was doing. Staring at my soul...or at least my face, through my kitchen window.

I opened my door and went out to her. I didn't invite her in. Not because I thought she was a vampire or anything (though her eyes suggested otherwise). I didn't invite her in because too many people who pass through my door end up spilling their life story about drug addictions to me. I guess I'd rather just assume that everyone's not addicted to ridiculous drugs (Crack, I consider to be in this category).

"Umm..Hi! I'm your new neighbor. My name's Sheila," creature said. "I was wondering, do you have a phone?"

"Yes, would you like to use it?"

"Oh yes!" she said with a far too much enthusiasm. 2 silent minutes pass. "Darn it. They didn't answer."

"Would you like to call back and leave a message for them?"

"Oh could I?!?!?" she said in wonderment, as if I were Alexander Graham Bell. So she calls...

"Hi Betty! This is Sheila. I'm at Chris' house! He's letting me use his phone! He's SUPER cool. Just give me a call when you get this."

Okay, I'm not sure if I mentioned that hideous-death-eyes just moved in next door the previous day. When I suggested she leave a message for her friend, I assumed it would be, "Meet me at my new place...I made it here's my address...."

Nay. She merely wanted to tell her friend (whom I'd clearly never met) that she was at MY house and that I was super cool...and that it was okay to call my phone back.

At this point, nothing surprises me about these people called neighbors, so clearly designed to be caricatures of themselves. The phone call ends.

"Thank you so much! Here's a Sacajawea dollar...." ... . awkward silence as I try to slip back into my apartment......."So..." she says, not letting me get away that easy. "I don't know what you're up to right now...but I've got a bottle of Jack if you want to........." At that point she flashed a smile, which was meant to be coy and accompanied with a head nod back into her apartment.

But it's hard to be coy when you don't have a full set of teeth and when you nod your head, you start hacking up so violently that it resembles the mating call of...I don't know...Satan?

"What are you talking about!? It's 9:45 in the morning! Who drinks this early?"

"Oh, well, see my foot just has this problem..."

I looked down at her foot. I don't know why. I knew that looking meant being grossed out. I looked. Grossed out isn't the proper word. Dry heaves might substitute well. PTSD--yes. That it. Because HER FOOT WAS DEAD! I mean, you could see dark veins creeping their way into her foot as a place to go to die.

"Oh! Lady! You need to go to the doctor! Not drink Jack Daniels!" I'd never been so concerned with the well being of a foot before in my entire life.

"Umm....yeah. Well, I'm 42, and you're how old??? I think I know what I'm doing." She exits dramatically back into her apartment.

I went to the beach that day and came back around 4pm. There laid Sheila, on her first full day at her new residence, passed out in the front yard, wearing nothing but granny panties and a bra in the front yard...with a dead foot.

42-year-olds seem to have life down to a science!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jackie-O's Part II

You may recall from previous stories that Padre is filled with colorful people and colorful addictions. How I came to be surrounded by such charming spirits (if by charming you mean strung out derelicts and frightening) was a combination of lack of funds and....that was it really. I guess there's no combination for it at all.

In any case, the day after Crack-head Mickey came over and tried to rob me of my Apple Jacks, the Landlord changed the locks on his apartment. As it were, it wasn't even his apartment. He was staying there because his girlfriend--a gal that my landlord said (and I quote)-- " had been put to bed wet a couple of times, if you know what I mean". **Chuckle chuckle** in response. Although deep down inside....No.? I don't know what that means. Was she known for getting drunk and falling into the bay? Perhaps, like me, she had an affinity for the beach and passed out there frequently--only to have the tide come and get her wet. I'm not sure. But she was my true neighbor and her crackhead boyfriend was house sitting while she was on vacation in Seattle.

When the landlord locked the door on Mickey, he started sleeping in the apartment complex laundromat (that is to say, in a garage with a washer, dryer in it).

Two weeks past and not a stir from the apartment next door. At 2:30a.m. I woke up to a pounding next door. It went on for 5 minutes. Silence...but not lasting silence. A calm before the storm silence. CRASH!!! Hooray, I was correct! A storm was brewing! Not only was I entertained by the breaking and entering taking place next door via the broken sharded kitchen window...I was also in fear of my life, thinking I would be next.

After calling the police and the landlord, we found out that it was the maiden who owned the place (own = rent). She had just gotten back from Seattle. Instead of going straight home and unpacking, when she arrived, she headed to the local watering hole, got drunk, and came home to a locked apartment and soon found out her keys no longer worked. Logically, she broke the window to get inside so she could sleep (but I didn't check to see if she was wet).

She was evicted the next day, but her boyfriend continued to sleep in the garage.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Boat Show

In those days, Coffeyville Kansas was a small town that didn't ask for much. Aside from a demolition derby here, and a reenactment of our towns' folk killing bank robbers there, we didn't have much for entertainment.
So the perplexing question my father must have asked himself daily..."How do I entertain these 5 kids of mine?"

What better way to bond with the family, than to load into an aerostar, drive 1.5 hours, to look at boats inside a convention center. (There is no water inside this convention center. The boats just sat there lifelessly).

I was four. In my lust for boats at that age, I must have gotten really excited by all the boats...or shall I say, mom and dad must have gotten really excited by all the boats, because the only true memory I have of that boat show is being carried by a man in a cowboy hat to the lost and found children (apparently cowboys don't like children wondering around boat shows unattended).

I was put in a play pen with other kids whose parents too, had been caught up in the hype of a still boat on concrete. Later I was reunited with my family.

The next day I was given a friendship bracelet from my mom...It looked like any standard velcro, wristband, bracelet of the decade...except this bracelet was extra special. For this bracelet had a curly chord (like that of a telephone) which connected to moms wrist. At four years old, I had never been so embarrassed.

I looked so uncool playing in my front yard with (literally) a leash tied to my mom's arm.

The leash came in handy later though when we all played house. Naturally, I was the dog.
In today's society, neighbors might frown on children running around in the front yard, while tied to a tree.

But in those days, they smiled and waved as I barked when they went by.