where were you on that fateful day?

17 years ago to the day
I can’t see the world
quite the same way
disgusted by how far
some will go
to destroy those
they don’t even know
it escapes me
it really does
the hatred and venom
their twisted cause
For some the anger has faded
not me
I’m eternally jaded
where were you?
on that fateful morn
when buildings fell
and hearts were torn
I still look to the sky
I stop and ask myself why
airplanes staying in the air
are no longer a given
our only crime?
our way of living
lives changed forever
innocence was lost
the widows and orphans
such a tremendous cost
if broken spirits were the goal
the bastards failed
Old Glory’s still on her pole
It brought out the best in us
the tables were turned
we rose to the occasion
as the buildings burned
First Responder’s responded
with soldiers and regular Joe
reacted with a fierce resolve
that we had yet to show
for a short, glorious time
we were all brothers
put aside our differences
respected each other
came together as one
hatred can only conquer
if you choose to let it
hang your head today
and always remember
The weight of your heart
on this day in September
mourn for the lost
the brave and the strong
celebrate those that fight for us
all the year long
on this anniversary
of an event so heinous
may faith, hope and charity
always sustain us

Home sweet home…conclusion A Mike Valentine tale

Mike got up, his swollen legs screaming in protest, and moved to the sofa to sit beside his son. Lady dutifully followed and plopped down at his feet. He wrapped his arm around the boy and they watched TV. It wasn’t long before his wife appeared in the doorway and told D that it was bedtime. Mike looked at his watch. It was 9 already. He reminded himself that that’s what happens when you sit in a bar, dreading coming home. He told his wife that he would take care of bedtime. She gave him a sarcastic “thanks” and went back to the kitchen. He forced himself off of the sofa and motioned for D to follow him, told him to brush his teeth and put his pajamas on. He didn’t put up a fuss, he was a great kid.

He went upstairs with the boy, poking his head in his oldest daughter’s room. She was lost in a book. He went into her room, leaned in and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
“I didn’t hear you come home” she said.
“Next time I’ll make more noise” he joked. He kissed her again. She gave him one of her famous smiles, the gap between her front teeth front and center. He loved that gap, it was cute and reminded him of her as a toddler, mugging for the camera. She was such a happy child. He also observed that she would need braces soon.
“Good job on your report card” he offered. “I’m proud of you.”
“Mom went ape on the boys.”
Mike could only imagine. Yet she took them out to dinner? It must have been her friend Lisa’s idea. Lisa’s kids probably got shitty report cards as well but she didn’t believe in disciplining her kids. She wanted to be their friends. Mark hated that she and his wife were so close. He thought Lisa was a terrible influence, but his wife fucking loved her. Almost to the point that he wondered if she switched teams. He chased all of that out of his head and returned his attention to his daughter.
“Jeez” he said. You couldn’t have saved the old man a chicken finger?”
She laughed. He kissed her again on the forehead and walked down the hall to the boy’s room where he found R at his desk, furiously scribbling on a notebook. He looked miserable.
“Hey bud” he said. “That’s enough for today, nothing will change overnight.”
“Mom is pretty mad.”
“I know. I already bumped into her. See the burn marks?” he said as he showed his bare forearm. It was a bad joke but Ry laughed. He wasn’t trying to denigrate his wife. He just wanted to cheer the kid up. It seemed to work. He sat with the boys as they went through their nightly routine of procrastination. Fearful of his wife getting angry at the time, he went to the banister and listened for signs of life. She was talking to Lisa, the toxic friend. No doubt talking about what an asshole she married.

He went back into the boy’s room and said goodnight. He made a couple of silly faces, drew a laugh and turned the light off. He went downstairs looking for his youngest daughter. He poked his head in her room, she was fast asleep. Shit, he thought. I didn’t see her at all today. He sat on the edge of her bed and just watched her breathe for a while. She looked so peaceful. She was the unplanned one but immediately shot up to I can’t imagine my life without her status. She was cuter than a duck wearing a hat. His heart welled. He got up and closed the door behind him and headed for his comfortable chair. He had to walk through the kitchen in order to get there and he ignored the glare of contempt his wife shot at him as she babbled into the phone.

As he sat down. Britt appeared in the doorway.
“My asthma is acting up. Can I do a treatment?”
Mike got up, went to the closet for the Nebulizer and a capsule of albuterol. He set it up, placed the mask on his daughter’s face and sat down beside her. The hum of the machine soothed him as he watched her, glued to the TV as the mist gently wafted from her breathing treatment. He had changed the channel to Nickelodeon and had found Spongebob. Perfect.

He let her stay with him for about 15 minutes after the treatment was done. He didn’t want the moment to end. He knew, whether she knew he did or not, that she wasn’t really having an asthma attack. It was her sneaky way of getting an extra half hour with her dad.

This, Mike Valentine thought to himself, this is the good stuff. The rest of it doesn’t matter. He squeezed his daughter tight and waited for her to fall asleep.

Home sweet home…a Mike Valentine tale

Mike Valentine pulled into his driveway a bit too fast. He heard the scraping of the undercarriage as it met the small dip at the end of his driveway. It was just another moment in his 15-minute drive that he was reminded of how reckless it was for him to have driven home. He was half in the wrapper. It occurred to him that he was driving a company vehicle, a DUI would equal no job and no car. Smart. He put the car in park, popped an Altoid in his mouth, took a deep breath and walked to his front door. Every night he tried to ignore the crumbling masonry adorning the walkway and the ugly door that desperately needed a coat of paint. It was his daily reminder that he lived in a house that he couldn’t afford to maintain. He was in over his head. He went in the house.

Right on schedule, his hyperactive Springer Spaniel tore around the corner and jumped all over him. He enjoyed this part of the day. A dog always loves you unconditionally. If only other people in my life were this happy to see me he mused. After Lady (named after the Disney dog of course) calmed down a bit Mark took off his shoes, stumbling slightly and went into the kitchen. His wife was sitting at the kitchen table, a stack of envelopes before her. Her face said it all. He was about to have the money talk. Mark reevaluated his condition and decided that he may not have drank enough.
“You could say hi, you know. You must have heard me come in” he said.
“We need to talk” she replied.
“Not now”, Mike said with a defeated tone. “I know where this is going. Talking about it isn’t going to make a money tree grow in the back yard.” He regretted his snarky tone as it left his lips.
“If not now, when?!” she yelled. He knew what was coming, She was boiling and she wasn’t in the mood for the verbal foreplay. She wanted to fight.
“I’m doing the best I can.” He knew she didn’t believe it and he wasn’t sure if he did either. “You don’t know what it’s like out there right now.” He tried to change the subject. “Anything for dinner?”
“We went out.”
“Of course, you did. After all, why would you eat any of the food that is in our fridge, we only spend $200 a week on groceries after all.” He immediately realized that he was a raging hypocrite, he was just out himself. And she hasn’t asked where he was and why he was late. Is it possible she doesn’t care? Yeah, he didn’t want the answer to that one.
“Fuck you.”
“Nice. Where are the kids?”
“In their rooms doing their homework. Report cards came out today and with the exception of Britt, the boys are looking at a long time in their rooms. Don’t bother them.”

Mike dutifully obeyed and left the room. He walked into the family room, plopped down on the plush cushion of his chair and turned the TV on. He peeled off his socks and put his feet up. His swollen ankles hurt like hell and without rolling up his pant legs he knew that his legs were swollen as well. As if he didn’t have enough shit to worry about, his condition was getting worse.

He noticed a change of light in the room and he looked to see his oldest boy D, in the doorway with a Miller Lite in his hand.
“I got you a ‘water bottle’ Dad” he said as he tucked the can under his arm and did his famous quotation fingers.
“Don’t you have homework to finish?”
“I’m done. Did mom tell you about the report card?”
“No specifics but she didn’t paint a rosy picture.”
“It wasn’t that bad. Mine, I mean. I can’t say the same for Ry.” He sat down next to his father, handed him the beer and said “The Sox lost.”
“Yeah, I saw.”
“Weren’t you at work?” Mike hated lying to his son.
“Between you and me I knocked off a little early.” He and D were close. D rarely told mom much of what he said when she wasn’t around. He wasn’t proud of that, he didn’t encourage it. The kid just favored his dad and somehow knew the politics of the household. Mike wished he didn’t. He also wished his kids didn’t bring him alcohol and joke that they were water bottles. He was some fucking example of a father. Yet his children loved him. Despite the fights they witnessed between he and their mother, all of the hurtful words that can’t be taken back, they seemed to understand him. He hoped the same for his wife, he didn’t want to be the favorite, he just wanted their love.

to be continued…

the Lake Walk…conclusion A Mike Valentine tale

this is the third and final installment in a series. I hope you enjoyed it. To catch up, you can here and here.

As he got closer he could see that it was a boy, maybe 8 years old standing near his car. He must have seen Mike approaching yet he made no move to retreat or even acknowledge his approach for that matter. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck standing up, something seemed off about this kid.

“Hey kid”, he called out when he was less than 20 feet away, “can I help you?”
The boy was gazing intently at the sky. Without looking down or away he replied, “no Mike, I’m just fine thank you.”

Shocked, Mike Valentine could only respond,” how do you know my name?”

“It’s not important”, the little boy replied, still not moving his gaze from the sky. Mike looked in the direction of the boy’s gaze and all he could see was the setting sun.

“What are you looking at like that, kid. You’re kinda creeping me out.”

The boy, without shifting his gaze, said, “I’m looking at the sky. Do you ever just look up at the sky? It’s quite beautiful actually. The clouds, the birds. The sun, the moon. Did you ever look at the top a tall tree and just wonder what it’s like to be a bird looking down?”

“That’s a lot of questions kid. And yes, I suppose I have. Well, I know that I used to.” Mike was reminded that he was talking to a stranger, an unaccompanied minor at that. “Are you lost? It is getting dark.”

“No, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

Stunned and at a loss for his next move, Mike leaned against his car to stretch his legs and assess the situation. It was more than just a little odd. He studied the boy. His clothes looked like they were from another generation. His hair looked like the “bowl cuts” his mom used to give him. It then occurred that the boy must have parents looking for him. But he sure didn’t seem scared or lost, he looked oddly comfortable.

He decided to play the quiet game and see who made the next move. He continued to stretch his tired body. Minutes passed and the boy said nothing. Mike was tempted to leave but his curiosity instincts were piqued and instead walked over and stood next to the boy. ‘Ok”, he said, “I give, what are you looking at?”

“Í told you, I’m looking at the sky. It’s quite beautiful isn’t it?”

“Yes”, Mike replied. “We’ve established that. But you haven’t looked away once. Aren’t you bored looking at the same thing?”

Without hesitation, the boy shot back. “Bored? That’s what kids today are. Always need to be occupied and entertained. Not me.”

Kids today! The statement resonated with Mike. Did he just say that!

“Aren’t you part of ‘kid’s today’?” There was something really strange about this kid. He was tempted to end this and take off. His phone had rung two more times since he got to his car and he knew that every ignored call was throwing logs on the shit bonfire that awaited him at home. In spite of this, he remained glued to his spot.

“Let’s just say that I’m here, but I don’t belong here” the boy deftly replied.

“Then where do you belong?” Mike replied, despite feeling that he was better off not asking.

“A different time”, the boy exclaimed as he lowered his fixed gaze for the first time, turned his head and stared directly at Mike. Mike felt as if he was staring directly through him. Spooked but insanely curious, Mike pressed further.

“OK, what time do you mean?”

“I asked you if you ever looked up at the sky a few minutes ago. I asked because I wonder if you looked up once during your walk. Did you even  notice what a beautiful evening it is?.” He studied Mike’s face.

He then continued, “I asked you if you ever wondered what it was like to look down from a high tree. You had no answer. Why is that?”

“Because I don’t know who you are, where you’re from and how you know my damn name!” Mike Valentine was getting angry. He almost felt bad about raising his voice to the young, albeit creepy kid.

Unfazed, the boy continued. “I asked you about the trees because from the height of the tall tree you must look small. We all do. Minor. Insignificant. Yet all you are focusing on right now is how big your problems are.” He paused.

“See, the world is bigger than the size of the screen of your phone or laptop. If you looked around you would see that. But you need the phone and the computer to make money. To buy stuff, stuff that you will put in your house. The one you don’t want to go home to. That stuff will further take your attention away from a beautiful day. It’s just stuff, but it’s ruining you.”

Mike was beside himself. What the hell is this kid talking about? “How do you know this?!”

The boy sat down in the grass Indian style. “Did you ever sit just like this?  Playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt until your mother called you? You hated to go home, right? Just like now. But then it was because you were having fun. That’s not why you don’t want to go home now, is it Mike?” His tone was less inquisitive and slightly sarcastic.

The matter-of-fact look on this kids friggin’ face was killing Mike. He was looking right through him again. Yet he had no reply.

The boy continued. He was on his back now. “Did you ever lie on your back like this for hours looking at the sky? Wondering about the clouds, the stars at night. The possibility of a Heaven. About God. Do you think about God Mike?”

“Not as much as I should.” Mike was powerless to question the utterly bizarre nature of this conversation.

The boy was standing now. “You used to be a happy kid, right? Lots of friends. You knew where they were without Facebook. You would look for the yard with all the bikes in the yard. Your mom knew where you were because you called from a phone in that house, a phone mounted to a wall, right? A phone that you didn’t feel the need to have in your hand all the time. The streetlight was your curfew, or maybe you were close enough to home to hear your mother call you.” He paused and looked at his feet.

“It’s not too late, Mike”, He continued. “There’s still time to be that happy kid again. Look up, look around. Chase butterflies, smell the flowers. Find happiness like you used to. Remember the view of the bird, to him you are small. Look down on your problems as the bird looks down at you. Small, insignificant. It will work out.” With that the boy turned and began to walk away.

Mike Valentine, who had been at a complete loss for words for what seemed like forever, finally blurted out what he had wanted to ask all along.

“Kid, How do you know this? I mean me. I mean, this is impossible! How can you possibly know all of these things about my childhood? Is this mere speculation or a theory of yours? Do you think or do you know all of this!”

The boy, turning as he walked, said, “I know it. Think about where we’ve met before”. He then winked at Mike and continued walking. For the first time, Mike Valentine noticed that the boy had an old-fashioned Slingshot in his back pocket.

He used to have one just like it!

He looked down at the ground, he then gazed to the night sky. It really was a beautiful evening. I’m going to get into a brawl when I get home. I may be out of a job tomorrow. I’d have to get two promotions just to be a broke asshole. But I do have this beautiful evening.

The kid was right about that much.

He got in his car and turned the engine on. He bathed in the AC and observed that he felt a little better. Despite the Episode of the Twilight Zone he just starred in. The conversation played out over and over in his head. The kid was weird, but in a non-threatening way. And he looked vaguely familiar. Shaking his head in disbelief, or to make sure he was indeed awake and conscious, he put the car in gear.

It suddenly occurred to him that he had some old school pictures to go home and look at.

He pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.

Enter Sandman

sandman

I was inspired to write about my nightly “battle of the Z’s” after reading this great post by Andrea. She’s got a great blog if you haven’t checked it out yet I recommend it. You can read her article here

Ugh
It’s 11:00 and I’m wide the fuck awake
You shouldn’t have napped in the afternoon dumbass
But I was tired…
The house is quiet, too quiet
If I stay downstairs I’ll keep them awake
If I go upstairs I’ll still keep them awake
those wood floors betray my every footstep
I’m overthinking this
Just go upstairs and watch Netflix on the laptop
But if I stay down here I’ll fall asleep in the recliner
You’ll get leg cramps in the recliner dummy
I’ll get leg cramps upstairs also
30 minutes go by, I’m sleepy.
Begrudgingly, I climb the stairs

I climb into my supposedly comfortable bed
The sheets aren’t right
The pillow’s not right
I’m getting annoyed
Fuck, I’m wide awake
Of course you are
You do this every night
I fire up the laptop and load Netflix
Need a show I’ve seen before
One without a laugh track,
it wakes me every damn laugh
But you’re awake anyway, aren’t you?
Yes, but I plan on falling asleep at some point don’t I?
One episode down, still wide awake
Guess I’ll watch another
It’s only sleep after all
What do I have to get up for?
The credits roll on another episode
Now I’m getting annoyed
Should I make a sandwich?
How about a nice glass of Scotch?
Oh yeah, I don’t do that anymore. Shit
And you don’t sleep anymore since you stopped, right?
I don’t have any Scotch
A turkey sandwich at 2 AM it is

I wake in the recliner
TV on low
crumbs in my lap
The sammich did the trick
What time is it?
3 AM?
This has to be a joke
I stumble upstairs again
Crap.
My water bottle is empty
Downstairs I go again to fill my bottle with water and ice
Did I actually drink a liter of water since I went to bed?
Knowing that I’m going to piss ten times makes me more awake
I’m thirsty and my kidneys don’t work
what am I supposed to do?

I’m upstairs again
I turn Netflix off
Now it’s too quiet
It’s back on again
Dammit.
I have to piss
This is getting old
Back in bed, taking deep breaths
I need to unwind or I’ll never sleep
I start thinking about every stupid thing I’ve done since 1st grade
That helps nothing
At some point, I fall asleep

I snap awake with a searing leg cramp
Practiced at this, I scream in pain on the inside
I throw the covers off
Force my locked, screaming foot to the floor
The calf muscle finally relaxes
I sit on the edge of the bed
Staring at the dark
I’m wide awake again
and I have to piss
Crawl back into bed
The absurdity has worn me down
I finally sleep

The first of 3 alarms go off at 7
No fucking way
I shut it off
I was having another of those dreams
About a person I knew, at a job I no longer have
I wasn’t having fun
if memory serves
I try to shake it off
When my head hits the pillow
It starts again, I can’t turn it off
I sit up and try to chase it away
Exhausted, I sleep again
I pick up where I left off
How is this possible?

My last alarm goes off at 8
I need to get up
Why?
You’re unemployed
Where the hell do you have to be?
Good point
I put my head down again
I wake again at 9:30
That was the best 90 minutes of sleep all night
and now I have to get up

Downstairs I go
Coffee is in order
The aroma pleases me
but does not wake me
I’m more tired than when I went to bed
I ponder over my steaming mug
the knowledge that in 13 short hours…

I get to do it all over again

Instant regret

I don’t know why I bother, I truly don’t.

I was on Facebook yesterday and Boston.com, along with every news and pseudo-news outlet ran a piece on the firing of Roseanne and the cancellation of her show. It certainly was the topic of the day.

Against my better judgment, I posted a comment about the firing. I strongly feel that the way bad behavior is handled is extremely uneven in this country and I felt compelled to voice that sentiment. So, without weighing in on the content of the remark or “tweet” in question I remarked that it is hypocritical to cancel the show but not to cancel or censure certain shows like The View, Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel and Samantha Bee, who routinely say horrible things about Conservatives and our President in particular. My comment was very to the point and politely stated, my point is that it is handled differently depending on what side is being attacked.

You, as my reader may disagree with me but I’m pretty comfortable with my statement.

I was immediately attacked as a racist, a Nazi, a “Trumpite” and a “Snowflake”(If you can imagine that). It became immediately clear that of all of the vitriolic responses were as if they never actually read my comment. I never endorsed her comment, it was despicable. I never said that it’s ok to liken African Americans to Apes. I simply stated that it’s a different ball game when someone attacks a conservative.

I am proud of myself for not lowering myself to the level of the commenters. I didn’t devolve into name-calling or the exchange of insults. I implored my commenters to read my comment again and finally turned off notifications.

I’m disgusted with the whole thing and I’m even more upset with myself for not refraining. See, I forgot that we no longer live in a country where reasonable discourse and civil conversation are allowed, even encouraged. We now live in an age of butt-hurt, overly sensitive and overly opinionated people who never learned to open their ears and eyes before growing “keyboard balls” and calling anyone who doesn’t agree with them names.

I am so glad to be a part of the blogging community. The people I encounter here are rational, tolerant and capable of disagreeing without long-term consequences. You all are truly special.

As for Facebook? I think I may have made my last comment ever on that platform

the continuing saga of the misplaced morning wood

I’ve posted a few times about my Mom’s boyfriend. I’ve had some fun at both of their expense. I try to keep it light but it’s actually a pretty sensitive subject for me because I have some concerns.

If you have been following me you know the story. My mother has a boyfriend. He is a decent enough guy, my mother likes him and that is what should matter to me. After burying 2 husbands in a matter of 3 years I encourage her to be happy by any means, including a dating website. After enduring several lunch dates with many men who hadn’t updated their profile pics in 10 years, dodging “I love you’s” via email and politely declining very inappropriate advances she settled on Dave. Not knowing, of course, that he carries more baggage than a Kardashian on a day trip.

It didn’t bother either of them that Dave lived almost 2 hours away. They hit it well enough that Dave was invited to stay the weekend when he came over, because of the distance. I warned my mother, perhaps uninvited, that this was a terrible idea. Once the guy had stayed at your house, you have just gone from a casual, “let’s see where this is going” situation to something else entirely. I was right, the shine is off the apple and she sees it. His issues are coming to the fore.

He makes cracks about the “ghosts” of my father and her second husband. He is very “handsy” and touchy-feely. He doesn’t like her wearing her wedding ring. He constantly makes subtle “jokes” about moving in. 2 weeks ago he tried to lay the wood to my mother at 6 am, prompting a big argument and the impromptu packing of his shit and leaving. I was almost happy, although I kept it to myself and focused on my mother. Historically, she suppresses her emotions and I couldn’t tell if she was ok or not. I was hoping that Mr. Grab ’em by the p*%^y was gone for good. In the days that followed, Mom confided in me her issues with him. She was concerned about the groping, the lack of boundaries, the jealousy and, here’s a new one, her lack of physical attraction to him. I told her that she should take advantage of the break they are on and assess how much these things really bother her. What did she do? She made a lunch date with a persistent fellow she had met before she settled on Dave. She likes him a lot.

And then Dave called, begging for a second chance. And she gave it to him. Now she’s confused what to do and I can’t help her.

He is being better, I will give him that. He is less handsy and more careful with the morning wood (at least so I am told I personally stay away from that topic unless it is brought up). But the underlying issues are still there. Mom is still concerned that there isn’t much of a “spark” (they’re 72, compromise will you?) and he is pressing to make long-term plans with her such as traveling and buying property together and making subtle cracks about moving in. Mom wants none of these things with him and refuses to say something. I want to. I know something is up and when I see him I almost want to tell him what she won’t, it’s only fair. Every time I see him I think to myself here comes Mr. Dead Man Walking. I don’t even want to get close to him because I know it’s temporary.

Of course, there’s another reason that I have cooled off on him. Last month he and my Mom went to California. He wanted to visit his son and my mother’s family is concentrated in the same area so it was a good opportunity to see them. They got along well by all accounts and had a good time. When they returned, my mom was curious what her cousin, whose opinion she respects deeply, thought of Dave. The response was staggering. Apparently, they liked him at first, they later found him to be whiny, selfish and a bit petty. One nugget that my mother regrets relaying to me is that he made a point, when mom left the room, to mention that he’d like a little more privacy but her son (me) is always there. I admit, I fixated on that. Mom heard all she needed to hear to decide that he’s not the one and I was just plain pissed.

Apparently, I’m just a 240-pound cock-block to this guy. Excuse the fuck out of me!?! Forgive me for standing in the way of him walking around our living room at 2 in the afternoon swinging his dick like a yo-yo but yes I do live there so fuck you, buddy. I’m sorry that my life collapsed and that I am sick with nowhere else to go but I do live here so deal with it. This revelation has changed how I act around him. Of course, I’m not supposed to know but I am colder than my ex-wife’s side of the bed to this guy now. I wonder if he know’s that it’s actually my house, per her will. Maybe I’ll work that nugget into conversation over coffee someday.

I saw mom earlier today and asked her what she was up to. She has a lunch date with another guy. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the show for now.