Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012

Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012
Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas at Luche Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, March 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

It's The End Of The Year As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Yes indeedy, another year gone by in the blink of an eye. Amazing how that happens. 2012 was a great year though, probably the best year since, oh, maybe 1997.

For me personally, that is.

On the first of January of 2012 I was put in a position where I had to make a decision that would, for the most part, determine the tenor of the entire year.

It wasn't a life-or-death decision or anything like that, but it was a game-changing decision.

So I made the decision, and here I sit one year later, far happier than I had ever imagined I would be for it.

See, I'm a slow learner. Incredibly slow. I am learning stuff in my late '40's that most people, most men, learn in their '20's. Seriously.

Or maybe it's that now, I'm able to pay attention, really pay attention. To what I really should be paying attention to. 

Whatever the case, throughout the course of 2012 my decision making has been top notch for the most part, and even better than that, my decisiveness has been first rate.

He wrote in all modesty.

Of course, that actually just means that I'm now mentally entering my late '20's, at least as far as emotional maturity goes.

Oh well, better late than never.

It has been a long, long time since I have been this satisfied with how well life has been treating me. Not only am I far more comfortable in my own skin than I have been in over a decade, I'm far more comfortable with the world itself.

That probably reads as pretty damn Pollyanna-ish, especially in light of the 24/7 boatload-of-crap that the news media shovels down our collective throats. So what. I make no apologies for my optimism.

But I digress. 2012, while not a banner year in terms of accomplishments, was a year in which I got things done. I replaced the siding on the house, installed new windows, and painted the house empire yellow.

Yep. Empire yellow. take a look.

                                                I want my house to be seen from space.

I did a lot with the interior of the house as well, painting the living room and the hall closet. Tom and Brad painted the lower level and replaced the door leading out to the garage (with an actual, up-to-code fire door, too).

The house is shaping up rather well, finally. Considering my not-so-secret superpower is procrastination, I'm thinking a parade is in order.

Or maybe not. Maybe have to settle for the satisfaction of a job well done. Yeah, probably that.

There are big plans for 2013, big plans. With all that has been done on the house it may well be time to get over to Europe for vacation again. Or, dare I think it? Possibly Australia. Yeah...Australia.

Favorite things from 2012:

Book: The Orphan Master's Son - Adam Johnson

Song: Somebody That I Used To Know - Goyte (yeah, it was played to death, but that's what happens to catchy tunes).

Video: Somebody That I Used To Know, directed by Natasha Pinkus

Movie: The Dark Knight Rises

Television Show: Mad Men

Concert: The Hollyfelds at Rock*A*Billies, June 29th 

Sporting Event: The whole 2012 baseball season - I cannot recall a better season in my lifetime. A man older than me (Jamie Moyer) was the winning pitcher in a baseball game, Phil Humber, Matt Cain, and Felix Hernandez all pitched perfect games, 7 no-hitters were pitched (tied with '90 & '91 for most in an MLB season), Josh Hamilton hit four 2 run homers in one game, R.A. Dickey had a monster year pitching for the Mets, Aaron Hill hit for the cycle twice in a two-week stretch (becoming the first MLBer to hit for the cycle twice in a season in 81 years), The NL shut out the AL in the All Star game 8-0, brothers Justin and BJ Upton both hit their 100th career home runs on the same day (playing for different teams - they're the 6th brother combo to have each hit 100 or more taters in MLB history), Miguel Cabrera won the first triple crown since 1967, The Giants swept the Tigers 4-0 in the World Series, and last but certainly not least, Samuel F.B. Morse High School graduate Adam Jones lead the Baltimore Orioles to a magical 93-69 season, their first winning season since 1997 - and he finished the season with 32 taters, most by any Morse grad ever (he had hit 25 in 2011, which incidentally enough, eclipsed the previous record for a Morse High grad playing MLB held by Sam Horn, who hit 23 while also playing for the Orioles, in 1991).

Restaurant: Casa Vasca on Elm Street in Newark, New Jersey. Two thumbs waaaay up!

Drink: Breckenridge Bourbon (super smooth, Fred & Teri got me this for Christmas - it is my new favorite Bourbon).

Favorite New Quote: "You're 18. You don't know what you want. And you won't know what you want until you're 45, and even if you get it, you'll be too old to use it." - Walter Stratford, from the movie Ten Things I Hate About You. Yeah, the movie was made 13 years ago, but I just saw it this year - it's a charming, funny bit of fluff.

That's all I got. Here's to even bigger and better things in 2013!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sketch For Sunday Morning, 12-30-2012

                                                 Jill, who I knew in Glasgow

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Charles Dickens Knew His Stuff

In Charles Dickens's novella A Christmas Carol, Marley's ghost, draped in heavy iron chains, explains to Scrooge that he is wearing a chain he himself forged, link by link, yard by yard, during his wretched, misspent lifetime - the links representing his vices, shortcomings, defects of character, etc. - the things that doomed his spirit.

Marley further explains to Scrooge that Scrooge himself is forging a chain much like his own, though Scrooge's chain will be far more weighty, as Scrooge has been working on his for a longer period.

Old Charles Dickens was one insightful mofo.

Are we all indeed forging the chains we will wear in the afterlife? Well, no, I do not believe so, but I do believe we are all indeed wearing chains in this life that we have forged throughout the years. I see them on myself, and I see them on others.

The links of those chains are sometimes evident physically - I see people everyday with permanent scowls on their faces, eyes narrowed in sharp, distrustful glares, or with their bodies kept as compact as possible, arms locked to their sides, as if they were trying to take up as little space on this planet as possible.

It's a sad sight to behold, and one that begs the question, why?

If I passed away tomorrow, I wonder how heavy my chain would be. Not to get too neurotically confessional-like here, but there is no way I can get around the facts of my life. There have been a few occasions in which I wasn't the most upstanding of citizens.

Let's see...there would definitely have to be a link for being a total fcuk up as a kid...and another link for being a total fcuk up as a young adult. Maybe half a link for being an ass in a number of relationships (I'm not about to claim a whole link for that - most of the women I've ever been with were just as screwed up as me, so they get to take 1/2 the load).

There may possibly be a few links for not being as good a friend as I could have been, but then again, maybe not. There have definitely been times when I was a very good friend - there have been several times when I have gone well above and beyond ordinary friendship for a number of friends in fact, so no, there will be no links for not being a good friend. I've definitely been a good friend.

I suppose there would be a few links for the times I was a drain on society. I have to owe up to those times and carry the weight without complaint.

Should each of the seven deadly sins receive a separate link? I'm pretty sure I've been guilty of them all at one time or another. 

Though, in my defense, I haven't been extreme in any of them, not by any measure.

Well, maybe by my Mom's measure...and a couple of ex-girlfriends.

Moving right along, I'd say my chain would come in at around 17, 18 links. That's not too bad, is it?

Make a nice stylish belt, or a chain for a pocket watch.

Freedom Is Not...Easy

Some people spend a lot of their time
Deciding what exactly freedom should be
Seems like someone is always wanting to decide
What you should think, speak, or read

Some people just want to tell the world
What they should and what they should not believe
And there doesn't seem to be a shortage of those
Who apparently live to be deceived

Some people seem to live by the adage
"Freedom is okay for me, but not for you"
The history of the world is rife with examples
Of people who thrived by telling others what to do

The question, in this age of information & communication
Is who is to blame for the repression
There are those who call for death to the enslavers
And others who blame the enslaved for their condition

Friday, December 28, 2012

Just A Few Lines About A Guy Named Dave

His face always seemed about to fall apart
Eyes set deep in their sockets
A nose that sprung forward prominently
That combination of features made him look sorrowful
Though it's hard to recall if he ever was anything but happy

Twenty years on I can still recall how he laughed
Every time he had something to say
Not with derision, no, it was genuine mirth
He always seemed to believe the world was a funny place
Enjoying every moment for what it was worth

He told jokes that had no punchlines
That made you laugh so hard you cried
And though I haven't seen him in too many years
I still imagine he's having a grand ol' time 
Living his life to the fullest in the last frontier

Thursday, December 27, 2012

That Ugly Gratitude

The day before Christmas, as I was driving to work (I'm in retail - we work Christmas eve), I saw something that was extremely disturbing.

When I drove over the ramp that leads from I-25 north to Co. 36 west, brake lights on the cars in front of me suddenly lit up like a nuclear power plant going full melt down. As I braked to avoid mating with the truck directly in front of me I caught sight of the flashing emergency lights of several police cars to the right, near the on-ramp for traffic coming from southbound I-25.

My first thought was, "Are you kidding me? The cops in this town have nothing better to do on Christmas eve but set up a speed trap to catch hurrying last-minute shoppers and poor saps that have to work today?"

Then, as traffic crawled closer to the police cars I saw the reason the police cruisers were parked at the median with their flashers on.

Surrounded by a small group of police officers was a young woman, probably late twenties, maybe early thirties. She was sitting in a powered wheelchair, facing the direction of on-coming traffic.

It was surreal to say the least. Traffic was going slow enough that I could take my eyes momentarily off the road and look around at my fellow drivers in the lanes on either side of me. I caught the eye of one older man whose expression reflected mine. 

It wasn't a what the fcuk expression, it was an oh-my-god expression, as if the full weight of what this woman in the powered wheelchair must have been intending to do on that busy freeway hit us simultaneously, like an anvil to the head.

Traffic resumed speed as I drove past the strange tableau, but for the rest of the drive to work all I could think was that the woman on the motorized wheelchair had chosen the morning of Christmas eve to make her way to a busy freeway for the purpose of being met head-on by a couple tons of steel and glass in order to put herself out of whatever misery she was in.

And that made me angry. 

Not because she wanted to end her life - I sincerely believe people have the right to the death of their own choosing - no, I was angry that she was apparently choosing to involve innocent people in her plans of self-destruction.

Try to imagine driving along a road minding your own business and having a person suddenly throw themselves directly in front of you.

That happens everyday, or nearly everyday. We have all  read about the person who has jumped in front of a bus, stepped onto the subway tracks, challenged a cop to draw his weapon, etc.

All of the people who drive those buses, the subway car operators, the patrolman answering a call...those people are innocent, and yet suddenly they find themselves complicit in the death of a fellow human.

I realize I should of been thinking of the poor woman in the wheelchair, thinking of the emotional and possibly physical pain she must have been suffering from, a pain that I most likely could not begin to appreciate, something that must be so incredibly painful that the only conceivable release is death...

...but I couldn't feel compassion for her. I could only think of the people who would have been affected by her actions, perhaps emotionally scarred for life, and I was suddenly grateful to the police for interceding in her actions, and grateful it wasn't me in either position.

Reasons to be grateful can be ugly.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Left Over Leftovers

Everybody going back to work after the holidays will have to contend with one of the greatest threats to waistlines and overall health known to man.

Holiday leftovers.

If you work anywhere that has a breakroom, no doubt this afternoon every shelf, countertop, and table was covered with plates of leftover ham, turkey, casseroles, veggie platters, homemade cookies, fudge, bread, and any and all conceivable type of sweets, homemade and otherwise.

This is, of course, a problem for those of us who are trying to either keep from gaining poundage, or who are actually actively trying to lose weight.

Such as yours truly.

I know, I know, initiating a weight loss/fitness program right smack dab in the middle of the holidays was not the best move on my part, but trust me, it was necessary.

I have been doing pretty good since the day after Thanksgiving, having only missed two scheduled workouts and deviated from the structured diet only for Tom & Brad's birthdays and the Christmas eve and Christmas day dinners.

But the temptations being placed in front of me in the breakroom are nearly irresistible. I have managed to incorporate the high protein, low fat leftovers, such as the ham and turkey, into my daily meal plan - and some very delicious deviled eggs, too.

Not being a huge fan of sweets, most of the sugary, high fat stuff is fairly easy to avoid.

However...someone brought in garlic mashed potatoes...saturated with butter. Real butter, not that fake crap.

It's been a long, long day. I am optimistic about my chances of avoiding the carb bomb that is sitting on the counter in the breakroom, all innocent like in it's large, colorfully decorated ceramic bowl. Right there, next to the toaster oven. I have barely even taken notice of them.

The Devil is garlic mashed potatoes saturated in real butter. I need a priest, a minister, a vicar, a rabbi, a freakin' wizard for Zeus sake. Someone, anyone, to stand between me and that bowl of mashed and whipped culinary delight.

Fortunately, whoever brought them in did not bring in bacon bits. I would have already caved if there had been bacon bits. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

T'was A Pain Before Christmas

So it's the night before Christmas and what should I care
Just another night in what had been another tedious year
The tree was up so that the cat would have a place to play
While I whiled away the hours dreading yet another Christmas day

The past few weeks had been spent looking for gifts for loved ones
With hopes that this year I would actually get it all done
What is it about giving that is such a trial?
Why did I spend the whole year in gift denial?

The lights of the neighborhood homes all shining bright
While me and my compadres nit pick and fight
About which Christmas special we're going to stay up to watch
As we get loaded on cheap beer and even cheaper scotch

The weatherman had proclaimed there would be snow this year
And I crossed my fingers in hopes the drive would be too severe 
To go over hill and dale to my relative's casa
Where I was expected to eat ham and some peculiar pasta

Not one to be a Scrooge I had foolishly promised to show
Even if it meant making my way north through three feet of snow
Too much eggnog and rum will have you making promises like that
Even after a night that made you feel bloated and fat

There is much to be said about the charm of Christmas day
The joy of the season, the ostentatious display
Of love for one another by the exchanging of gifts
The false expression of happiness when you get the short end of the stick

"Oh Jimmy freakin' crimminy crum"
Why is it every year I feel like a bum?
Every single January I state I'll have it all done by May
Yet every single freakin' year I wait until the last day

To shop for gifts that will be perfect for each one of my siblings
Without having to pretend that the process isn't crippling
Occasionally I can find one or two small presents that work
But the majority of my selections make me feel like a jerk

At department stores throughout the city
I cry for help and hope the sales staff will have pity
On a discombobulated idiot who doesn't have a clue
About what his brothers and sisters might want for this Yule

Does she like candles, will he appreciate fruity soaps? 
As I scour the aisles I feel like a dope
It was so much easier when all I had to do was show up
Tear open presents and then dig into some grub

There wasn't much to worry about when I was only ten
Cheap perfume for the girls and Old Spice for the men
Now I'm expected to have matured in my taste
And to show my choices were considered and not made in haste

If only I had an inkling of an idea
Of what anyone desired or at least what they needed
But no, I was oblivious to what the people closest to me liked
Did Tommy prefer plaid or would he want striped?

With a firm resolve I set off to the only place that was open
Maybe I'd buy them all soaps or 'nilla scented lotion
Hopefully they wouldn't take that as a passive aggressive hint
That their everyday aroma wasn't eau de cologne mint 

Fretting alongside a few dozen others in my position
I suddenly espied an item that made my eyes glisten
Lo and behold! My Christmas shopping was not to be hard!
For all of my siblings would be getting gift cards!!

Twenty bucks each, tops.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Separating The Wheat From the Chaff

There are people who only seek the company
Of those with whom they agree
In politics, sports, religion
And even comedy

Seeing eye to eye is important to these blokes
They avoid those with differing opinions
And don't believe that different strokes
Should be acceptable for different folks

Me, I have no problem with anybody
Who brings something different to the table

                             Though I will confess
                             I still can't understand
                             How anyone could reasonably think
                             Garfield was ever funny

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Crazed Cartoonist Run Amuck

Lillian said to Walt it wasn't Mickey's fault he was too busy keeping tabs on Sody and didn't notice Bob was in the vault
That was the same Robert Emerson who armed a pig with a shotgun then sent him stuttering and blustering his way through the woods hunting rascally rabbits just for fun

Linda's father Chuck thought Bobby was a schmuck thought his humor was of the lowest order and as daffy as a duck
Of course Chuck liked to drop anvils despite the fact the coyote always fails at trying to slaughter roadrunners in the desert under the Arizona sun amid the stirring of dust devils

It was McKimson who suffered the concussion which, astonishingly enough increased his production but said he preferred to work with Bob and let uptight Chuck direct while offering up a southern rooster as somewhat of a concession

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Woe In Wooing

The dismay was evident 
                           Despite the sweet sounds of the serenade
She had hoped for someone slightly taller
                           And with a bit more hair
Those words he spoke, however
                           Were magical and intoxicating
Like a cheap whiskey mixed with diet Snapple
                           Just for tonight she would overlook 
The lack of a physical attraction
               Days then weeks then months passed
               During which he continued to be persuasive
               With his passionate pleas and enduring entreaties
                       His words had become heroin
               One morning she realized it had been over a year
                       And now they were living in sin
               She could not imagine her life without him
                       Unfortunately, it was then
               That he was suddenly struck mute

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas And Costco...Yikes!

       Apparently, everybody forgets about the ninth rule of Costco during the Holidays...

Had to go to Costco today. Didn't want to - oh god no, I did not want to at all. But I had to. Work will have me tied up every day until Christmas and there were a few things I just had to get - for the big dinner.

I went in braced for the worst. As you may recall, I posted the rules of Costco awhile back (http://cbakunasart.blogspot.com/2012/07/rules-of-costco.html). They are not harsh rules, they are not difficult to understand, and they are certainly not hard to follow. Except, apparently, by every single soul who is jamming the aisles looking for the first 5 seasons of The Big Bang Theory on DVD for little Bobby and a complete, professional caliber 229 piece tool kit for dear old Dad.

It was as bad as expected. Nay, even worse. People who hadn't been to Costco but once in the past year were pushing carts overflowing with huge stuffed animals and gigantic tin drums full of Almond Roca the wrong way down the aisles, and stopping to chat with neighbors they hadn't waved at since last Spring, all the while blocking access to the free sample ladies.

Somehow it reminded me of a few Catholics I know going to Midnight Mass.

Two items. That's all I needed to get my hands on. A pecan pie and a pumpkin pie. Shouldn't have taken more than twenty minutes, half an hour at the most.

Hah! I'm such a pathetic dreamer! I didn't get out of there a minute short of an hour and a half! Of course I ended up buying a few items I didn't need - more turkey meatballs, jalapeno poppers, and enough pierogi to feed half the neighborhood.

Com' on, had to get the pierogi. I'm of Lithuanian descent, what else are we going to eat on Christmas Eve? ('cept in Lithuania they are called Koldunai, accent on the u)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Me Vs.Waste Management, Part 1(?)

A little more than two months ago (On October 10th, 2012 to be legally, specifically correct). I was approached by a representative of GarbageMan, a trash collection and recycling service.

The representative made a pitch for GarbageMan's services that was, eh, adequate. Lower rates than what I was paying Waste Management were offered at the get-go, which is generally how one company usually goes about wresting customers away from another, but there were also a few other services that were offered that compelled me to make a switch from Waste Management to GarbageMan.

The biggie was the collection time. Waste Management always picked up the trash after 5:00 pm, sometimes as late as 7, 7:30 pm. I hated that due to high winds, inclement weather, etc., knocking down trash cans and scattering the trash left out in the morning on pick up days (Scheduled pick up times were supposed to be before 2 in the afternoon, and that never, ever happened).

To cut to the chase, I agreed to start using GarbageMan's services. The representative told me that GarbageMan would send a letter to Waste Management cancelling my service, and that GarbageMan would begin collecting my trash effective October 31st.

I signed the agreement and wrote the man a check for the first three months of service.

As the man promised, trash collection by his company started on October 31st and was done in the am. Smiles all around. Also as promised, I received a letter from GarbageMan that stated a cancellation notice had been sent on my behalf to Waste Management, and that letter even included the UPS tracking number. Bigger smiles all around.

Until this past Friday, the 14th of December, when I received a notice in the mail from Waste Management (A "Friendly Reminder") stating that my account was overdue and requesting immediate payment of $85.33.

Today, December 19th, I was finally able to call Waste Management to inquire about the bill. My call was taken by a customer service representative who I will refer to as "Bob" (primarily because that is how he introduced himself to me).

I explained that I had received a bill from his company for a service I had cancelled, and he responded (after verifying all of my information) that their records did not show a record of a request for cancellation of their service.

I told him a letter was sent and that I had the UPS tracking number to prove it. 

Bob then stated that Waste Management did not accept cancellations by mail, and that GarbageMan was well aware of that. 

Note: I did not tell Bob that I had contracted with GarbageMan to replace Waste Management - he just seemed to know that. I must assume Waste Management is employing telepathic customer service reps, as Bob had just seconds ago told me that their records did not show any request for a cancellation of service.

Bob then proceeded to tell me that Waste Management's policies do not allow for acceptance of written requests for cancellation of service due to them not having a means of verifying that the written request was actually coming from me, and that they only accepted requests for cancellation by telephone.

I resisted the urge to ask about the impressive voice-recognition software Waste Management must have that archives the legally-verified voice print of every single customer they have as a means to ensure that the phone caller cancelling the service was actually the person who contracted the service. It was hard, but I did.

Bob and I exchanged dialogue regarding the legality of that policy (I'm not a Lawyer, but I have played one on numerous occasions in actual Courts of Law, and won - legally representing yourself is a rush I recommend to everyone, but do your research first, esp. learn courtroom protocols - that's vital).

Anywhatzit, It came down to Bob telling me that the best he would be able to do was backdate my request for cancellation to the 1st of December. I replied that if I continued to receive billing from Waste Management for services I had cancelled on October 31st, I would take whatever legal actions were available to me (puffed out my chest when I said that, too).

Now I have to study up on the legal limitations of Qualified Written Requests and Contract of Adhesion inequities. Yay.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just One...After Another...Until Christmas Is Over*

             More Jagerbombs, more Jagerbombs
             I can still hear my sister's voices
             Their words are shrill
                As they gripe at me
             For failing to marry and produce babies
             More Jagerbombs, More Jagerbombs
             Oh god, anything to drown out their voices

             More Jagerbombs, more Jagerbombs
             I don't know how much more I can take
             Isn't this supposed to be a loving and joyous time?
             Why chose now to compare me to my brothers?
             More Jagerbombs, more Jagerbombs
             I'm getting desperate enough to eat spiked fruitcake

             More Jagerbombs, more Jagerbombs
             It's depressing enough
                I'm broke and have no money
             Now I have to spend the whole damn evening
             Explaining why I'm alone again
                At Christmastime
             More Jagerbombs, more Jagerbombs
             Let some Red Bull and that spiced liquor
                Put me out of my misery

*This little parody is meant to be funny, not as an indictment of my sister's treatment of me at Christmas...hell, this goes on year 'round

Monday, December 17, 2012

Not A Chorus To be Sung

Dude is sleeping in the great outdoors 
                   With a concrete pillow and a blanket of newspaper
His snoring doesn't disturb his fellow
             Homeless men in the stranded caravan

Gotta plan, gotta plan
Going to make it big in Japan
If only he could get the attention
Of the deal breakers and the deal
Gotta plan, gotta plan
Used to live under a beached catamaran

Once lived in the desert in Arizona
                            Had a lizard for a confidant
Dated a schoolteacher from Sedona 
                    She's now an evangelist in Kurdistan

Gotta plan, gotta plan
Hard to do with this damn short attention span
Can't seem to pay attention
To who are the false and who are the real
Gotta plan, gotta plan
Fancies himself a Renaissance man

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cloth Made From Barbed Wire

Can't you at least be entertaining
If you can't be clever?

                        The masses shouting for amusement
                        Also cried out for substance
                                                The cat known for his sarcastic sting
                         Screamed back you aren't deserving 
                                                                      Of the endeavor
                                                               And the green-eyed man
                                                               With the artificial smile
                         Said to the hairdresser in Ventura
                                                 He liked her style
             As she danced brazenly around the living room in her
             Blue underwear 

Not one to be thought of as rude
The mermaid told the telephone operator
"Maybe if you let it ring a bit more...
...he might be running to the phone now."

                                    All of us 
                                    Have looked at the horizon
                 And wondered where the rainbows touched down

Jake York, you passed too soon

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Love's Labors Crossed

Everyday he told himself that this was going to be the day
When he would finally break down 
                                 And show her the evidence
He would summon up the courage, he would find a way
Reveal all of his fears and hope 
                                 His reservations made sense
And everyday he cracked open another beer as soon 
                                 As he walked in the house
Sat down on the sofa and stared at the TV
Went from planned conversation 
                                 To being as quiet as a mouse
His weakness the only thing causing him to stay 
                                 When he wanted to flee

How was he ever going to get out of this one
Would she ever see him for the failure he felt he was
Feeling less than worthy, feeling like a fraud
Sitting there next to her when he wanted to run
Aching to reveal himself, aching to be set free
From the illusion of the man he could never be

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sick Men Do Sick Things

                          I tried to imagine 2/3's of my 6th grade class gone in an instant.

Today, the 14th of December of 2012, at an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut, USA, a young man shot 27 people dead, 20 of them children. At an elementary school in Xinyang, Henan, China, a young man stabbed 23 people, 22 of them children (mortality not known at this time).

As I write this, I am still somewhat stunned at both events. The obvious questions raced through my head when I read the initial reports - Why? How? Where were the security personnel? How can crazed madmen get on a school campus and wreak such havoc? It's just not possible! It doesn't make any sense!

All the reports of the incidents, from domestic and international sources, followed the predictable pattern of recounting past incidents. It was a surprise to me to read that since 2010, there have been 70 schoolchildren assaulted by knife-wielding strangers in China, resulting in 20 deaths. 

I was, unfortunately, well acquainted with the statistics for North America - I lived in San Diego when the young woman Bob Geldof wrote "I Don't Like Mondays" about used a rifle to shoot 10 people (7 children) at the elementary school across the street from where she lived. She managed to kill two people before she was arrested.

Since that day in January of 1979, over 50 people have been killed in attacks at Primary schools in the United States. Worldwide, the number of people killed in attacks at primary schools is staggering. No country seems to be immune to this madness, as the attacks have occurred everywhere - Afghanistan, Belgium, Germany, Namibia, Angola, Latvia, Russia, Israel, Brazil...there is no safe haven.   

Why children? What can possibly drive a person so insane that they chose children to be their victims? How can anyone want to take the life of someone who has yet to have the opportunity to truly live?

I looked at my class pictures from my elementary years this evening. Most of the kids I knew in elementary school I went to both junior high and high school with. Looking at the picture from my 6th grade year, the one posted with this blog entry, I see kids I still know to this day. I see kids I grew up with and got to know as adults. I see kids that grew up in the houses across the street from me or up the block, I see kids I saw as adults at our 20 year high school class reunion.

I cannot imagine what life would have been like for any of us had we experienced anything like what occurred today.

I grieve for the children and the teachers that were killed today. I grieve for their families. I grieve for humanity.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Trapped Inside A Christmas Village

                                               Simple, to the point, and unpretentious

I live in a neighborhood that is kinda Christmas crazy, If forced to guess, I'd say fully 50 to 60% of the houses within a mile of my house are decorated to some degree. The lack of snow this year has probably had a bit to do with all the displays - much, much easier to get the lights up.  

                             Gotta love the "add-something-new-every-year" approach

Most of the neighbors have simple displays, with no fixed theme or intention other than to light up the house.

                                          Easy to put up, easy to take down

I like the icicle lights, though I don't put them up myself - they get all tangled up when you take them down and cause tons o' frustration the next year when you try to put them back up.

There are a number of neighbors who appear to add more every year. Must be the bargains at the after Christmas sales.

Spiral trees are making a big splash this year - might have to look into getting a few as they look fairly simple to put up.

A few of the neighbors, while sticking with a simple strand around the eaves of the house, go all out on a tree in the front yard. This tree is huge - at least thirty feet - and required a boom truck to decorate.

This house is down a few doors from me. They add an item or two every year. The blankets of lights on the right are new.

                                  I am the tree of terror, and I have come for your soul!

The tree of terror is new to the neighborhood this year. I don't think this was the effect they had in mind, but I kinda like it.

There are a few families from New Mexico in the neighborhood, and a few of them put out luminarias. My neighbors across the street, Fred & Terry (Fred's family is from New Mexico) put them out too, but they wait until Christmas Eve as is traditional in New Mexico.

There is a lot of randomness in some of the displays. This one looks a bit like a reindeer trying to make time with a candy cane.

Candy canes must be the big thing this year - these neighbors put them out randomly, with swirly trees. Is that a carnival ride on the far right of the lawn?

Luminarias and hand-fashioned swirly trees - I like this combination

This display with a solitary snowman and blue icicle lights is a favorite - eyecatching without going over the top.

Inflatables - sure beats having to hope for snow to make real snowpeople (and snowbears).

The lights on some houses are so unique I almost feel like knocking on doors and asking where they got them. I don't, of course, as there is the risk they'd actually tell me where to get 'em and I'd trap myself into having to decorate with them.

                            Lots of white light with red candy cane accent - sweet!

I like the tree-in-the-window display. It's a nice touch, especially if the tree is well decorated. 

                                              More swirly trees - and blue icicles

   Hard to see, but the group of trees in front of the house have their trunks wrapped in foil

It's impressive enough to light up one big tree - but two? That's just showing off.

That is one OCD-friendly tree.

The extra mile to create symmetry is appreciated - and envied a bit.

                                              Is that...yes it is, Homer Simpson Santa....

Adding an inflatable Homer Simpson Santa to the traditional single strand of lights around the eaves, and white lights around the tree trunk, makes for a cool yule display.

     Helter Skelter lights in the trees says "Season's Greetings" like nobody's business

                                                                    That is a very big tree

Some people don't go for hanging the traditional strand around the eaves, but go all out on a big tree with maybe a ready-made wreath and snowman thrown in to add balance. I think that's a Nativity scene to the far left, too.

      Luminarias, big inflatable Santa, roof framed in a single blue strand...winner!

If you don't have a big tree in the front yard, you can always get an inflatable one - or a few artificial ones that are fitted with LED's.

                       This yard is done up nicely - and that Santa looks like it's wearing a fez.

There is a neighborhood off Garrison that is still being developed. The houses are fairly big, and have Prairie home lines. This family did a great job with the lights on the various levels, and the giant inflatable fez-wearing Santa is pretty cool.

                                         Giant inflatable bears and penquins - oh my!

While I like the light-wrapped tree-trunk look, I can't help but think that this is done only because someone didn't want to climb a ladder.

                                                          Run, Run, Rudolph...

The reindeer look to be fleeing the Mr. Peanut-looking snowman, which cracks me up. I like the lights around the roof alot, as well as the candelabra's in the windows (I don't think they're menorah's...) 

                         Simple, but very effective use of a multi-colored strand of lights.

When I first saw this house I thought there was a burning tree on the front porch. I really like the large light bulb strands - reminds me of the old neighborhood. 

                                            Hanging lights and drinking don't mix....

Some of my neighbors have great ideas for decorating, but lack a bit in the execution department.

      A blanket of lights over the porch railing, and Santa's sleigh...hey, who stole Santa!

If you go through the trouble of decorating your mailbox you get big props from me.

     Snowflakes around the lower eaves and a strand of multi-colored lights on the ridge.

Most of the houses in my neighborhood are two or three story (or, like mine, tri-levels). That gives everybody many options for decorating, but it also creates the need to buy a lot of lights, Some of my neighbors seem to be taking the "bigger-lights-mean-fewer-strands" approach. Can't say I blame them. 
More candy canes and inflatables...and dangerous looking reindeer.

I'm sure this wasn't this neighbor's intention, but those reindeer look like they are getting ready to attack those snowmen...and the snowmen look scared...

                                                                Up, up, and away!

These guys go all out every year - they use the big tree in their front yard to maximum effect, giving Santa and his reindeer a lift.

     This house incorporates old and new - the plastic nativity was last available two decades ago

These neighbors decorate the interior of their home as well as they do the exterior. It's hard to see in this pic, but they have two trees inside, one in each window. 

                                        Let the competition begin...

It would be harsh to state that some of my neighbors are competing with each other, but...

                 A well-lit house with chubby inflatable Santa and Snowman - Weebles?

                                                              Just the minimum...

This...well, this makes me feel good about my one single strand of bulbs and the one plastic snowman. 

                          Spiderman does a bit of Christmas decorating in his spare time

There are a few neighbors who decorate, but they don't seem to have their heart in it. They make an effort, and that's appreciated, but still...

                               The Christmas greeting on the storage shed makes it
Then again, there are those neighbors that go way over the top, approaching Clark Griswold territory. These last few pics are the homes that are threatening to shut down the grid.

                              Inflatable snow globes and nutcracker Sentrys - plus swirly trees!

Now we see the houses that required far more that a single afternoon of work. I've got to admit I'm a bit jealous of these displays, but I'm also curious as to what the electric bills are for the month.

                  Overflow onto the driveway. Might have to consider reeling it in a bit.

The other question I have for these Clark Griswold level homes is, where is all the stuff stored the rest of the year? Seriously, some of these homes have enough decorations to fill an entire garage.

      The inflated Santa on a Harley in this display is cool...but so is the geodesic pattern on the tree

Without a doubt decorating on this level is labor-intensive, and I for one appreciate the effort. The winter months are fairly bleak around here, so seeing bright, cheery lights as I drive home from work is a big bonus!

                                   The tree alone would have been enough for me

Being not only dedicated to a display, but also having the creativity to pull off something truly spectacular, is commendable. This house is just up the street from me, and it looks this good every year. 

             I see this particular house on Kipling when I come home from the South store.

The patience to lay a strand of lights on every row of shingles eludes me - but not this family. They are true Christmas decoration artisans. The garage door is a nice touch.

                                                       The Grand Champeen

Finally, my favorite house. This house is right off Florida and Kipling, just west of the King Soopers. Truly a joy to behold, and not just because they found a giant inflatable Winnie-the-Pooh to add to the mix this year. Though it didn't hurt.