Rain and Sound

Last night amid rain, wind, and storm we watched my brother play football. My interest in the game cannot match my father’s immersed obsession; his impatience and anxiety before a game are akin to a junky awaiting his next fix. Unfortunately, as a hybrid man and geek, possessed with my father’s basic understanding of the game yet mired with my mother’s complete lack of interest, I can sympathize with the obsession but not obsess about the game. However, tonight was an exception. The opposing team had purchased an announcer.

Thankfully in the midst of this drought, the storm never abated. The rain came in waves, alternating drizzle with heavy downpour; the wind thundered in gales of spray and yellow leaves. I had brought one of my wide-rimmed hats (a peculiar penchant of mine) for just such an occasion; however, eventually the makeshift barriers of hats, towels, and umbrellas were invaded by rain and wind. Everyone got soaked. Yet the greasy eloquence of the voice announced the events of the game with such skilled bias that all discomfort was quickly forgotten. With each slip, sack, and fumble, I anticipated a new commentary. His voice, a strange inflection of Macho Man Randy Savage mixed with Duffman and the Kool-Aid guy, flowed from speakers with near-perfect melodrama and mounting tension. Each sentence crackled like a rock song, punctuated with a trailing grunt or groan. His diction splashed with corn and cheese too delicious to admonish:

“NUMber FIFTY-six SMOTHered by a HORRible SWARM of DONS [my brother’s team]”

“Oh and the KICK was BLOcked by a HOARD of RAMpaging Gauls [the opposing team], oooh-ahh uuhhhh,”

“The first-PLACE Dons trail the unRANKED Gauls by fourTEEN with EIGHT MINutes and FIFTY-seven SEConds left to PLAY in the HALF, OHhh YEah!

All in all, a fun night despite the weather.

Just a few thoughts

Lately I have been feeling under the weather. Not physically sick, but just irritable, tired, and impatient. For those who know me, this shift in mood contrasts greatly with my normally optimistic (translation: annoying) self. Usually when I get this way, my body is telling me that I need to work out a bit. Nothing extreme, just an hour to an hour and a half of running or lifting will suffice to revive my spirits from their more somber depressing funk.

Yet my body’s method of communication intrigued me. In religion class, they taught us that suffering is a reaction to evil; in psychology, they taught us that anxiety is a reaction to stress; in gym they taught us that pain is a reaction to physical harm – which usually concluded my reaction to gymnastics. Thus, I discovered my body’s signals for languor: depression. And the immediate remedy for its cessation: exercise.

Or if funds allow, a visit to the bookstore . . . Or if time and money allows, a road trip to an unknown place.

For those of you, who have never ever ventured out to a Renaissance festival, I have three words for you: boostiers and bread bowls . . . Ok, that may have been four words, but if you happen to be scraping chicken and rice out of a bread bowl while young a lady trots by in a short period dress and a boostier, you too might discard some first-grade math to chisel that image in your mind’s temple. Albrecht Dürer clearly missed out on the medieval centerfold market; St. Jerome just does not possess the hips.

Seriously though, forgoing the tantalizing costumes, Renaissance festivals excite me each year. The fair grounds are set among the trees, the food tastes delicious, and the shows are always filled with bawdy quasi-British humor. With hot apple cider in hand, we can sit beneath several large oaks and watch short Shakespeare plays or shop for goblets and immense six-foot long swords. Although, personally I pass on the period weaponry; after twenty-five years on the job as big brother to seven siblings, I need not buy fuel for a possible funeral pyre. My voice creaks and groans from years of screaming lengthy portents:

“Sean! Do not play with the sheet-metal! You’ll cut off a finger!”

“Kevin! Stop playing with the bug-zapper! You’ll fry your tongue off!”

“Alright just so we’re clear: no one is ever EVER to attempt anything Macaulay Culkin does in this movie, ok? If you do and manage to survive unscathed, afterwards I will kill you. So Ryan, please return Mom’s good ornaments to the box. Thank you.”

Originally my parents attempted to completely secure the house: bubble-wrapping all the table corners, buying only dull knives, corking the electric sockets with plastic plugs, and vacuuming daily so no dead bee or wasp become the next appetizer to a crawling infant (that reminds of the old line in To Have and Have Not:

Eddie: Say, was you ever bit by a dead bee?
Beauclerc: I have no memory of ever being bit by any kind of bee.
Slim: (interjecting) Were you?
Eddie: You’re alright, lady. You and Harry’s the only one that ever…
Morgan: Don’t forget Frenchie.
Eddie: That’s right. You and Harry and Frenchie. You know, you got to be careful of dead bees if you’re goin’ around barefooted, ’cause if you step on them they can sting you just as bad as if they was alive, especially if they was kind of mad when they got killed. I bet I been bit a hundred times that way.
Slim: You have? Why don’t you bite them back?
Eddie: That’s what Harry always says. But I ain’t got no stinger.

Yet somehow, the kids always seem to avoid the protective coating usually by stepping outside now and then. Though convinced that complete security is impossible – particularly in Nature – I avoid placing long sharp pointy-daggers within reach of small children and Kill Bill-enthused teenagers. The way I see it, if protecting my family from prowlers requires the implementation of a medieval sword, if an army of undead ninja prowlers lie in wait outside my door, forcing me don my authentic Grendel-skin, Son of Cain cape, and to unsheathe my authentic Beowulf dragon-hide sword, then I am probably doomed anyway. Luckily enough that will not happen. From my experience, the undead masses just are not that organized.


On Friday, Desad and I completed the Xbox 360 game, Gears of War, in co-op mode on Hardcore. For those unacquainted with the video game lexicon, it marks the third Friday in a row in which Desad and I electronically fought evil subterranean monsters called Locust for five hours straight, while yelling random phrases like “Boomers flanking left! Flank! Boomers! Left!” and “Help me up! I’m geared. Hurry before the Berserker . . . ah s**t!” as well as the ever popular “What happened?! You died again?” We chose this over getting wasted with a lot of pretty girls.

I am the Renaissance geek, a man for all obsessions: anime, comics, biochemistry, video games, elves and dragons, epic literature, manga, word games, black and white movies, and Ren faires. I’ve done it all. A lover of all trades, yet admittedly a master of no one. Yet these multitude of distractions bare far more importance as I have begun school again and my obsessions are interfering with my homework . . . in a good way. This is particularly the case with a rich story, the essential read. For example, tomorrow I have a midterm for which, though open notebook, I have prepared very little, the cool autumn climate drawing me outside among the flame-colored woods and to another yearly reading of The Hobbit. Honestly the whole of human scholarship would benefit if instead of midterms it dedicated the whole month of October to reading beneath leaf piles Bradbury, Tolkien, Poe, Gaiman, Stoker, Alexander, Conan Doyle, and that wonderful unknown monk who inscribed Beowulf. Along with a vast multitude of other authors, who I consider “autumn writers,” these masters of the macabre and fantastical harvest such wondrous tales that for me makes this time of year so magical, so beautiful and necessary like the scent of wood smoke, crackle of leaves, and smiles of jack o’ lanterns.

Thus, teachers and professors out there must forgive me my departure from the syllabus, as I abandon papers and forget online discussion boards (who can remember to check the growing host of statements, opinions, and rants anyway?). Come see me again mid-January when the frigid cold and icy roads keep me chained to my assignments, and boredom snaps its whip to “Write! Write! Write!” lest I go mad with inactivity. Now is my time of the year, a season into which I can throw myself with great abandon.


 Wow, what a view . . .

Today I took a nature walk along the reservoir with my brother Kevin.  Lately over the past four years or so, I have attempted to become more acquainted with nature.  A fortuitous meeting several years ago with a young lady from the West Coast spurred me to drop the books, hike through the woods, bike trails, jump into heather, make imprints of angels in the grass, collect patches of sun burn and colonies of deer ticks, that sort of thing.  Ever since then , with a fool’s enthusiasm and abandon I have never refused a opportunity particularly at this time of year to romp outside.
Ooooh . . . .
Now a year ago, Dasad and I depart on the most manly of adventures: a road trip to the Grand Canyon and Vegas.  Hiking through the canyon proved more arduous than I planned.  A mile and half down along the serpentine paths, I suddenly realized that I had no energy to journey back to the summit.  This photo – lovingly taken – sums up the experience pretty well:
The three and a half mile walk to the dam is paved but not straight or flat, that is to say minus the vistas and donkey droppings, I felt like I was in Arizona again.  Moreover, after a year of training and work-out regimes, my legs still burned like rubber left out in the sun too long.  Vultures circled overhead, apparently more aware of our health than we were.  I could almost hear them laughing as I said “Just another mile to the car.”
Our Motivators
Now the dam itself was pretty impressive.  Obviously having witnessed the glory of the Hoover Dam, our miniature concrete slab paled in comparison, yet this dam is mine and within walking distance to my house; moreover, it noticeably lacks the pomposity of its elder western brother, which has been advertised to single-handedly curing malaria and ensuring Allied victory in World War II.  No such achievements here.  The dam practically hides itself in the outer most corner of the reservoir, humble in its purpose.  “Yeah, I hold back the flood.  That’s it.  Yet I do my job well.”

Finally the dam . . .

My journey was not without criticism though.  At one time, visitors could venture further onto the dam, onto concrete observation posts which allow a much closer and detailed view of the dam, yet now this whole section has been gated off, surrounded by chain fence and barbed wire.  Apparently this is another post-911 security measure, and though I understand the reason and intent (terrorists and super-villains love to poison wells and water supplies), these precautions not only destroy a beautiful view but appear a little naive as well.  Come on, if you were a world-class terrorist, would you be daunted by a wire fence and a video-camera?  However, if the fence was implemented to prevent teenage dares or recklessness (“I dare you to walk out onto the dam and stand on your head!”) then I say we look to the Darwin Awards for judgement.  There just comes a point, where you have to say, “If you’re stupid enough to do it, you probably deserve what’s coming to you.”

Security Measures

The Sky at Dusk

Every now and then, my mind takes a fancy to description. Results vary, but experimenting with words and imagery typically end in something rather unique and beautiful in itself:

I watched so many beautiful shapes gather in the sky today. The sky was a blue and white canvas, foaming with gray mountains of cloud. Against this, black specks raced across clay rooftops; sparrows and mockingbirds like miniature rockets darted between orchards. Ten at a time. Hundreds of black birds sailing like ink soaked paper folded into the shape of jets along unseen waves from tree top to trunk to ground. Formless singing, squawking, buzzing, whirling, and clicking emanated from tangled branches like whistles of a thousand mechanical toys.

The bells of the nearby cathedral rings six. A train whistle bellows behind a stone castle, a noisy monster anxious to consume and move on. Underground passengers ignorant of the light-show in the sky.

Clouds float above like air-borne islands. Gray mittens warmed by a fire, glowing ever brighter as the darkness advances. Gossamer gloves, they are now, gathering heated balls of flame, as if creating new suns and trapped stars. Dawn may come twice tomorrow bringing two mornings, two awakenings, and two breakfasts. The Western sky now shatters into a million hues. The suns break with the color of melted cotton candy collected into pools of thermite red, jack o’ lantern orange, and bruise violet. Slowly they drain away over the horizon, leaving stains of darkness and the speckled fragments of broken crystal in its wake.

Hard of Hearing

Of all my senses, my hearing manifests itself as the most distracted, absent-minded simpleton. Not worthwhile enough to be deaf, for that would at least augment my remaining senses; no, I hear just enough to be comical, like an old pantaloon in Medieval dramas with a funneled brass horn permanently attached to his ear drum and gumming his shouts of “Huh? What he’d say? ”

Song lyrics in particular are my bane, leading me to make up most of what I hear. Pat and Katie laugh whenever Live’s “Turn My Head” airs whose refrain I once passionately interpreted as “termite head/ termite head/ it’s aimed at you.” Bush’s “Glycerine” became “kiss the rain,” a favorite line of mine apparently. In Toto’s Africa, I have re-imagined “I bless the rains down in
Africa” as “I kiss the rains . . .” or “I miss the rains . . .” It all depends really on my mood and what I want the song to say.

The biggest reinterpretation though comes from my sibs, Pat and Katie, who on the way to school one morning heard Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets:”

“She’s got electric boots a mohair suit/
You know I read it in a magazine.”

Only the way it’s sung, it sounds nothing like this. Even if I knew what the heck a mohair suit was – which I don’t – “mohair” would not comprise my top ten guesses for song lyrics. Moreover, Sir Elton ends “magazine” with a bit of a grunt so that it sounds like “maGAzina-uh.” Thus, one can easily pardon the creative tykes for creating this version:

“She’s got electric boobs they all hang loose,and a pack-a, pack-a of hyENa-as.”

It makes no sense, but in terms of singing aloud the new composition far outweighs the original.

I wondered how common this “lazy ear” epidemic had reached so I visited www.kissthisguy.com (man-love ironically enough is featured in another story I’ll be telling later on), a website for misheard lyrics. Apparently this disease of mine is quite well-traveled and depending on your inclination towards profanity quite funny as well:

SmashMouth “All-Star”

The real lyrics were:
She was looking kinda dumb with her finger and her thumb
in the shape of an L on her forehead.

But I misheard them as:
She was looking kinda dumb with her finger in her bum
and the shape of a elf on her forehead.


Bryan Adams “Summer of ‘69

The real lyrics were:
Got my first real six string,
bought it at the five-and-dime.
Played it till my fingers bled.
It was the summer of 69.

But I misheard them as:
Got my first real sex dream,
I was 5 at the time.

Played it till my fingers bled.
It was the summer of 69.

Reading through those listed under the “Funny” section made me realize how perverse most people actually are. Many lyrics of these hardcore rockers are actually much tamer than what most people come up with on their own.

Another shock burned into my corneas yesterday afternoon. Pat, Ryan, and I had just stopped at Panera to pick up food for ourselves and Pat’s wife, Tiff, after a long and early morning of golf. I paid for the meal, which for some reason prompted the guy behind the counter to jokingly ask: “Is someone getting married?” I stopped at this; the words “Thank you” seemed to wander off and hold conference with the rest of my vocabulary to discuss what the heck to say in response.

“Uh, no, he already got married,” was the best that they do. I looked at Pat who looked just as confused, and before he asked where we lived or how old we were, we left with soup, sandwiches, and room temp tea in tow. Arriving at Pat’s place– a final bastion from the odd, I thought — I walked up the steps to find Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal naked and in bed together. After a seconds pause and some intense on-screen cuddling, Pat, Ryan, and I decided to escape into the kitchen for lunch, Tiff’s laughs chasing after us. Apparently Saturday Morning cartoons have been replaced by man-love hour, which did nothing to help our digestion. My ears may be faulty, but at that time my eyes remembered too much. Never disparage the curative abilities of mindless entertainment. Oscar winning dramas may broaden your perspectives, but Road Runner and Bugs Bunny can soothe any mood like the sweetest balm.


Guy Montag. The name suddenly popped into my head today while I stared down the price gauge at the gas pump, mentally willing — with great futility I might add — the spinning digits to slow down, to recede back to $0.01. However, nearing thirty dollar mark and just shy of half a tank, the pump seemed to laugh at my failed attempt at telepathy, and so my mind, now freed of probing latent mutant powers, refocused on yesterday’s mental block. Guy Montag. All day yesterday, I could not remember the name of Bradbury’s literate fireman from Fahrenheit 451. Spending several worthless minutes racking my mind for that name — looking it up would have been bad form; I wasn’t going to let my brain get the best of me; No Sir — I gave up. And then today, unbidden, without request, the answer appears as clearly as the sixty dollar gas limit at the pump and my not-quite-full gas tank.

Does anyone else’s mind function like a Chinese finger trap? I am certain that some people can recall information at a moment’s notice or twist and turn their mind enough that an idea or memory eventually will unfold. My mind at times can be as stubborn as a mule, resisting all recollection until it is good and ready, which may be hours or days after the question presents itself. Yet if I resolve to relax and allow my mind to wander a bit, in good time the answer or thought will present itself.

This habit of mental wandering has earned me the reputation of being rather . . . well, shall we say scatterbrained or absent-minded at times; however, it does aid in my writing now and then. Therefore, whether this habit can be considered an attribute or a detriment, I cannot say, yet maybe like Lestrade I should come to rely on the advice of Holmes when feeling a bit addled:

“A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it . . . Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones. ”

Then again judging from this blog perhaps the words of Lemony Snicket are far more relevant:

“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”


I slit the sheet; the sheet I slit;
and on the slitted sheet I sit.
– my grandmother’s favorite tongue-twister

Some days when I feel particularly analytical, I pull out that which I call my life, shake off the mildew and cobwebs, ready it for a little introspection. This is difficult business of course like trying to repeat Murphy family tongue-twisters five times fast without saying dirty words. As with any puzzle, timing, perspective, and sobriety are everything. Depending on my mood and state of mind, the tapestry of my life may end up looking like an old rag, stained with grease, leaking dirt and dust and sending everyone scurrying from the room in a fit of coughs and wet sneezes. Psychoanalysis after all is a messy messy business — particularly with Irishmen, who are totally immune to it.

Do you remember the old tag-line for those Marine ads? If your life was a book, would anyone read it? Well, that all depends on who’s doing the writing, of course. A very good writer could depict a very ordinary life story into an Homerian epic full of intense struggles, doomed love, and heroic couplets, while a very poor writer could transform a very interesting biography into a something dull and witless like a TV sitcom or a Jude Deveraux romance.

Take O. Henry’s The Green Door, one of his most famous stories, which can be summed up as follows: man walks down street, enters building, walks up stairs, opens strange door, finds girl, feeds girl, leaves with girl. Whew . . . the poor man and even poorer reader. Not one iota of excitement, mystery, or strange circumstances that suddenly fall across the path of a man, imbued with the true sense of adventure. George Carlin once stated that in the mind of a great comic, anything – even the most taboo of subjects – can be transmogrified into humor; thus I state that in the hands of an excellent writer, any life can be epic. You just need to know how to twist it

Disney Monsters

One summer long ago while on vacation in Florida, my Mom, Dad and grandparents decided to break our morning’s fast on an old river-boat- turned restaurant, later christened Fulton’s Crab House after the construction of Pleasure Island. My brother, Pat, and I were pretty young at the time, three and five respectively (the timeline of my memories usually are separated into two eras: the early times when it was just the two of us and then the arrival of the rest of the kids; the gradual accumulation of siblings cannot be recalled; it’s as if at some point they all just came together for a visit and never decided to leave). Excited by our first ventures outside the confines of the apartment, we (or at least I) nevertheless felt very anxious about what was to be a character-breakfast.

We’re going to be eating with Cinderella and Goofy and Chip and Mickey my Mom would say in encouragement. Well, this did not please me one bit. Giant costumed freaks patting me on the head did not seem like the best way to enjoy eggs and pancakes.

They won’t hurt you, my grandmother would say, They’re not going to eat you or anything. This oddly enough did little to assuage my fears. Everyone knew that monsters ate little children. It was common knowledge. Every story that you read had at least one goblin or hairy bed monster who tried to trick the little boy or little girl into reaching into the bed, climbing through the closet, or pouring ketchup on their heads. The morals of these stories are that monsters can be trusted to lie and eat children at every opportunity and that rubbing tomato-based condiments in your hair seldom helps in any situation.

Still my parents insisted that life-sized cartoon characters were not intent on harming me. However, somehow the fact that the freakishly large duck would not try to fit me into it’s giant immobile mouth frightened me even more. It dared to step outside the natural order of things, and therefore could not be relied upon to eat children like all decent monsters should. Werewolves, vampires, and dinosaurs left no secrets as to their intentions. Even if it happens to be prey, great reassurance can be found in knowing one’s role in the world. The Disney characters messed with this system, spreading more fear with each mute mimed giggle and silent vacant stare then all the closet-monsters or bogey-men of the world.

It was about this time that I decided that I had enough and slid underneath the table. Goofy arrived at the booth just as we disappeared from view (I spied his freakish feet from beneath the tablecloth). Pat wasn’t getting eaten either – not on my watch – so I pulled him down for his own good, while above my parents betrayed our whereabouts with an ignorant laugh and a clink of glasses. Traitors. Luckily our pursuers appeared indolent as well as evil, and waddled by us without harm. Dinner went rather smoothly after that. Pat and I ate eggs and pancakes on the carpet under the table. Our small hands rising up every now and then to grab a napkin or a utensil, scaring our waitress with each new refill of coffee.