Friday, December 30, 2005


Thankfully, it's Friday, but I'm not looking forward to this holiday weekend as much as usual.

New Year's Day has long been my favorite holiday. I can tend to be a bit of a pessimist, but I love the start of a new year because it is filled with so much optimist and hope. It's the one time of the year that I have had a chance to screw things up yet.

Well, except this year I have no plans for celebrating the new year. So if anyone has any suggestions I could use then. I'm not so good at solo planning. And the friends I'm most accustomed to celebrating a new year with are many miles away.

What the hell is there to do in Salem on New Year's Eve?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nicotine dreams

Several weeks back, I said I was trying to give up my nicotine habit -- chewing tobacco -- and I said I intended to chronicle the process of ditching the dip. I haven't done a very good job of that.
Part of my reason, or excuse, for this is that the cravings haven't really been that bad. The worst of the withdrawal symptoms have been mitigated by my decision to use nicotine gum to wean myself off of the Copenhagen habit I've labored under for about 22 years.

But lately, I've taken a bit of a step backward. No, I haven't put a pinch between my cheek and gum for that pure tobacco pleasure former snuff pitchman and former Dallas Cowboy running back Walt Garrison used to espouse back in the days when they still showed tobacco commercials on TV. No, I've been periodically buying -- and worse smoking -- cigarettes.

I certainly have no desire to give up one tobacco habit for another. And I will not allow myself to become a smoker. But during my trip to Vegas I often smoked while playing cards or slots at the casinos. And since I've been home, I've also been smoking, particularly while driving.

So today I decided, as I watched another pack of cigarettes dwindling down to a finally 2 smokes, that I was not going to buy another pack. Yea, I may go through more gum, which is more expensive, for a while, but the smoking is not acceptable to me.

Yes, I am still vexed by cravings. Not the kind that signal full-scale withdrawal, but cravings none the less. Anyone who has smoked or suffered nicotine addition would probably notice the pattern of the most intense cravings.

First thing in the morning -- Can't start the day without nicotine. It gets the blood pumping and gets the brain out of neutral.

After meals -- Nicotine, the dessert of champions. Nothing like a little dip, or smoke, or Nicorette to cleans the pallet after breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Under stress -- Anxiety fuels the jones. Will a little nicotine any crisis seems manageable. Without it, even moderate stress can lead to a virtual freakout.

Boredom -- Nothing to do? Now about a dip? Why twiddle your thumbs when you can burn one down to the filter? Why daydream when you can chomp on some nicotine gum?

Before bed -- Yea, got to have a little before calling it a day. Relax, wind down after the day and get a little more nicotine into the bloodstream before fasting through the night.

Well, I guess I'll wrap this up for now. I've got a little craving I need to satisfy.

No, I just haven't had dinner yet.

I love Ann Curry even more now

I learned something new today while watching the "Today" show. They were talking about the torrential rains and pounding Oregon and the Pacific Northwest on there this morning. Matt Lauer mention that news anchor Ann Curry was from Oregon and had family here.

I didn't know that.

It turns out Ann Curry grew up in Ashland.

When I was studying journalism here in the mid 1980s, Ann Curry was not the household name she is today. Of course from just seeing her on TV every day, I wouldn't have expected her to be. If anything I would have assumed she is younger than I am.

Back in my youth when I was an aspiring journalist, Curry had just left Portland's KGW TV. I found out that she spend some time, as I have, in Southern California. Unfortunately, I also discovered the Curry also is a Duck, a graduate of the University of Oregon. But I will try not to hold that against her.

But I guess the thing I see as most thrilling is not how Curry serves as an inspiration to people like me, as a fellow Oregonian and journalist, but how she may serve as an inspiration to people like my daughter. It could not have been easy to be a child and young woman of mixed race (Curry's mother was Japanese) growing up in Southern Oregon.

It gives me hope that my daughter, as a half-Latino young woman, will have every opportunity to overcome the prejudice that still exists in the world and achieve whatever she strives to achieve.

Curry is a good role model for women.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Holiday hangover

I hope everyone had a great holiday. I did. But I have to admit, while driving home last night, I found myself in a pretty melancholy mood. After a busy weekend with family and friends, the prospect of returning to an empty apartment was a bit overwhelming. It's probably a good think I didn't make a post last night, it might have been a real downer and not a true reflection of the nice Christmas holiday I was fortunate to enjoy. It's also a good thing that the mini-market I planned to stop at on my way home was closed as well, because booze would not have been good in that state of mind.

There are just some times when you don't want to be alone.

That said, I can't feel too sorry for myself. I was very fortunate to spend the better part of three days with friends and family, even if it required criss-crossing the northern tier of Oregon on consecutive days. I got to spend time with my parents, my 91-year-old grandmother, my two brothers, my daughter and part of her family. I got fed two amazing Christmas meals, and I got to spend Friday night with some old and dear friends.

It was a good Christmas. But what surprised me what that it was also a tougher Christmas than I expected. I kept getting bombarded by memories of my ex all throughout the season, and over the weekend in particular. I wasn't expected that. After all, this was the second holiday I've spend as a newly single man. I knew last Christmas would be tough, but I didn't expect to be assaulted by so many memories this year. I thought I was over the worst of it. And I suppose I am. But please, dear God, remind me if I ever do something as crazy as asking a woman to marry me again, give me the good sense to do it on a date not tied to some other holiday. No Christmas or Valentines or Independence Day engagement.

I friend of mine who has a Christmas Eve birthday was hoping to get an engagement ring this holiday. I don't know if she got it or not, but I sort of hope she didn't. I don't say that because I wish her and her beau ill. I just think that, based on my own experience, I would wish that her engagement, if it is indeed coming, would be its own occasion with it's own special date to celebrate. And if, God forbid, the engagement or marriage doesn't work out, her birthday or Christmas would not then be an ongoing reminder of that heartbreak. And if it did work out, then there is another special date on the calendar each year for them to remember and celebrate as a couple.

As for me, I'm looking forward to putting 2005 behind me. It's been a big year, full of major life changes. Certainly enough for one year. I'm ready for a new year and a new start. New Year's Day is easily my favorite holiday. It's a day full of promise, possibility hope and anticipation.

I also have a confession when it comes to this blog. For those of you who have been reading this site for a while, perhaps you've already been able to tell. But I've been holding back on the things that I write here.

Perhaps my reason for doing this is unjustified paranoia. But I've had this feeling that someone who knows me here in Salem has discovered, or may discover this site, and that has made me uncomfortable. I have grown afraid to say too much, so I've found myself not saying much of anything at all of late. I'm not happy with that, but I have not yet decided what to do about that. I've entertained thoughts of abandoning this site and starting over. I've debated whether to stop blogging all together. Neither prospect appeals to me very much. But I do know this, for the last year this site as been something akin to self-therapy and a bit of a creative outlet. It has also been something of a tool for social interaction as well, with some close friends having access to this URL and a few friendly strangers stopping in from time to time to share a thought or a word. And that interaction has been welcomed and appreciated.

Where I go from here I don't know. But for now I don't plan to abandon this site. However, I will let those of you who may care know if something changes.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy holidays Fishwrappers!

I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to post this weekend or not, but I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah.

I know this is a busy and sometimes difficult time of year for some, but I hope this weekends finds you surrounded by family and/or friends filled with love, happiness and good food and drink. If it is was in my power to do so, I would make it so for each and every one of us.

My thoughts are with all of those who have to work over the holidays, whether at restaurants, convenience stores or wherever that might be. A big thanks and best wishes go out to those who are working to keep us all a little safer this season, like police officer, firefighters, emergency medics, doctors, nurses and other emergency and medical personnel. A particular thanks go out to those in uniform and their families, particularly those who are separated by many miles. We are forever indebted to those who go in harm's way so so many of us never have to.

God bless us all this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mixed blessing

Winter begins today. I don't know whether to be excited or depressed.

I'm not thrilled because I'm not a fan of winter. I'm not looking forward to the cold, wet Northwest days ahead.

What I am happy about is that this now means the days will start getting longer. I do like the longer days. So the good news is this means, after today we are getting closer to spring and more sunny days.

So, here's to longer, and warmer, days ahead.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Slip sliding away

The Willamette Valley is not known for having the greatest winter weather, that is unless you like rain and lots of it. But if there is one positive you can say about winter weather in the Willamette Valley, it is that it rarely gets below freezing. That means it rarely snows, which is good, because the valley, Portlanders in particular, are just not equipped to handle it.

But here it has been below freezing temperatures at least at night all week, and come Sunday it snows and sleets in Portland. A strong, blustery wind, whipped up the show and sleet that didn't stick to the streets. And idiots were out on the roads, apparently going to and from their Christmas shopping errands.

Unfortunately I found myself in that mess in Portland today, because I had spent the night up there Saturday night to do so dogsitting for my daughter's family. Fortunately, the people that were out on the roads were taking it slow and easy. But that didn't stop cars from slipping and sliding on the hills, sliding into each other on occasion.

Unfortunately, I have a pickup, which had nothing in the back. So, I stopped and picked up two 50-pound bags of dog food to have some weight back there, to try to keep the ass end from sliding around in front of the headlights. I'm not sure if it helped much, but I made it out of Portland, and the roads got better as I got closer to Salem.

It only took me about 3-4 hours to get home, including a stop for food for me and dog food for the truck. But that was nothing compared to my daughter's family. It took them 8 hours to get home to Portland from Pendleton, which is normally about a 4-hour drive.

Fortunately, everyone is home safe and sound. This afternoon I wasn't so sure that would be the case.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

One year later

Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog, for better or worse. So it seemed like an opportune time to take a look back at some of the posts of the last year. The highlights and lowlights so to speak.

first post wasn't much to boast about, but it got things rolling. There have been 282 post since then, according to Blogger, which I'm averaging a post about once every 1.3 days.

The most comments ever made to a post here was
16, but 15 of those were by 2 people (one being me) so I'm not sure if that should impress anyone or not.

I don't really know which posts have been the post popular. I haven't exactly kept track. But here are 10 of my favorite posts.

There are better ways to get wet and Better ways part 2

Just how do you masterbate with a magazine?

Maybe I've just got the song wrong

Good Friday? Says Who?

Girl, Girls, Girls!

How dare we love the people we like?

Inadequacy of words

Surreal World Palm Springs Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Out damned spot!

Saga with upstairs neighbors continues

If you have any other thoughts or suggestions, let me know. Thanks for making this last year a good one.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Now that's ironic

Earlier this week, I wrote a post entitled "Leaving Las Vegas," and now I just got done watching the movie by the same title. It was perhaps not the best movie to watch in my current frame of mind.

"Leaving Las Vegas" has to be one of the most tortured love stories every filmed. It's truly beautiful cinema and painful to experience at the same time. The movie and I have a bit of a
dark history. It reminds me of some of the best and worst times of my life. And this is probably about only the second or third time I've ever seen it, even though I own it on DVD.

On the positive side, it is a beautifully shot and acted film. And
Elisabeth Shue reminds me of a girlfriend from college -- similar facial features, figure, it's almost uncanny the resemblance. And Vegas is certainly a favorite place.

But on the negative side, it's a very dark story and perhaps not the best piece of cinema to watch when drinking your third glass of
Oro Azul reposado tequila of the evening, given the fact that Nicolas Cage plays an alcoholic bent of drinking himself to death.

I think when I watch the movie before I felt sorry for Cage's character. Why couldn't he see the love Shue's character had for him? Why couldn't he pull himself out of his fatal dive and appreciate the person who was right in front of him. But after this viewing, I felt most sorry for Shue's character. So lonely. Just wanting someone to be with. Someone to love and care for. Men treat her so badly throughout the film and yet she years for that closeness and compassion of another.

Sometimes you just want to crawl into bed and have someone hold you, or have someone to hold. I simple thing, sometimes so hard to find.

M*A*S*H reruns may have been a better choice for viewing tonight.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blame it on a brat

If you are lamenting the fact that there is no new Fishwrap post here, all I can say is Brat is to blame.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ice, ice baby

Isn't one of the benefits of living in the Willamette Valley in the winter supposed to be that it rarely gets cold enough to freeze here? What's up with this weather?

Yea, it is great that we are going to see sunshine today, but with the temperature only expected to reach about 42 degrees, that's not the sort of homecoming I was hoping for.

I don't like cold weather. Never have. And it's seems I've moved back to Oregon just in time for an unusually cold winter.

My body has a very difficult time crawling out of bed in the mornings when it's cold. The whole time I was in Vegas it was considerably easier to wake up and drag my butt out of bed, even on nights where I had far less sleep than I got last night, and I think that's just because it was warmer in the room. And the irony is, I don't think we ever even turned the heat on in our motel room. I know I didn't and I don't think my brother did either.

When I lived in Southern California, Palm Springs in particular, it was not unusual to run into people who said they didn't think they would like living there because they like having four distinctive seasons. For the record, I think those people are whacked in the head. Why would people want to be cold? I don't get it.

I guess I can't avoid it any longer. It's time to venture away from the heater and out into the cold -- 29 degrees. There's a bit of ice out there, which could make the drive into work a little more exciting than normal. Several schools and school districts are delaying their openings due to some ice conditions.

And winter hasn't even officially started yet.

Is it too late to turn around and go back to Vegas?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

Photos by the G-Man

(Top) The view from the Stratosphere tower of the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Above) Country music singer Terri Clark performs Saturday night at The Orleans Hotel and Casino.

The time and the money disappeared far too quickly. There was too much gambling, too much walking, too much drinking, too little sleep and almost enough fun.

I've lost count of how many times I've been to Vegas now but there is still so much I haven't seen and done in that amazingly decadent tourist trap. I try to see or do something new each time I go.

Among the firsts this trip:

* Checking out the aquarium at
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.
* Getting an eagle's eye view of the city from the
Stratosphere Las Vegas tower.
* Walking to the
Thomas & Mack Center after a power outage in a casino made me miss my bus to the National Finals Rodeo.
* Playing
Let It Ride.
* Hooters Girls.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Vegas vacation

That's it. I've had it with this cold Oregon weather. What's this temperatures in the 30s crap here in the Willamette Valley? I refuse to put up with it anymore. I'm heading south for a few days.

Yea, that's right, it's time for a trip to Vegas baby!

Maybe if it warms up here I'll be back. Maybe. OK, so I'll probably be back whether it warms up or not. The money can't hold out for ever. And money has a whole different meaning in Las Vegas. The only time I ever see or carry $100 bills is in Las Vegas. Of course, I don't seem to carry them long.

Sure, I have dreams, like all Vegas visitors do, of hitting the big jackpot. But no delusions about it. I'm prepared to pay, at least a little, for my fun.

I'll tell you all about it when I get back. Well, maybe not all about it. After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Particularly the money, that really tends to stay in Vegas.

Anyway, it's off to find some sun, some fun and well, whatever else there is to find in Vegas. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Monday, December 05, 2005

When you don't want a diamond to be forever

If I ever ask a woman to marry me again, if that idea ever crosses my mind, will someone please remind me NOT to do it on a major holiday?!?!

Two years ago on Christmas Eve I gave a woman a diamond ring and asked her to marry me. It made for a fantastic Christmas at the time, because she said yes. It was all very festive.

For a while.

She gave the ring back less than 6 months later.

Somehow, I got through the holiday season last year. Needless to say, I wasn't very much in the holiday spirit. I don't remember much about the holiday actually. I was with family, which was good, but it is mostly a blur. It was a date to endure.

Now, a year later, I wasn't anticipating this to be a particularly difficult holiday. The broken heart had healed. Right? And it's not like I'm a blubbering idiot or an overly emotional sap, but there are fucking reminders of that Christmas 2 years ago everywhere I seem to look. And it's starting to piss me off. All those damn jewelers and their holiday commercials are conspiring to torment me.

Now, I had waited 38 years before proposing marriage to a woman, so I certainly didn't expect it to become a failed engagement. And I certainly wouldn't want to go into another engagement, should that opportunity ever arise, thinking of what some date on a calendar will mean to me in the aftermath of another failed engagement or, God forbid, a failed marriage. But still. I don't think I would choose to pop the big question on Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, or any other date on the calendar society uses for social celebrations. You know. Just. Well. Just in case.

Perhaps that sounds a tad pessimistic. And lord knows when you are in love that is not a pessimistic time. So who knows. Maybe I would do it all over again if given the chance. And I certainly hope there will be (at least) one more chance.

Now if I could just get Zales and Kay and DeBeers and all those other folks, who are desperately trying to financially rape unsuspecting romantics by enticing them into buying outrageously overpriced diamonds and gold for their sweethearts this holiday season, to just go the fuck away this may not be a bad Christmas after all.


On another note, I'm sorry it has been a while since my last post. Things have been a bit busy. It's actually been kind of nice to have some social obligations of late, particularly this time of year. It's good to spend time with family, friends and colleagues. It's shaping up to busy a busy month. So, my apologies if the posts get a pit sporadic.

This month the ol' Digital Fishwrap will celebrate it's first birthday. I've been doing this for a year, and I'm still not sure what the goal, or theme, of this blog is supposed to be. And maybe there isn't one. Maybe it's just a way to puke some words onto a digital page and see what patterns they make as they slide down the screen. But sometimes it's fun, and it's led, indirectly at least, to "meeting" some nice folks who like to write, and have a knack for it. So, that can't be all bad, now can it?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Coasting along

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, this may qualify as my longest post ever.

Here are some pictures from my weekend trip to Oregon's South Coast near Coos Bay and North Bend.

Photo 1 (vertical): Umpqua River Lighthouse near Winchester Bay, Ore.
Photo 2: Cape Arago Lighthouse near Charleston, Ore.
Photo 3: Part of the holiday light display at Shore Acres State Park near Charleston and Coos Bay, Ore.
Photo 4: A wave breaking on the rocks below Shore Acres State Park.
Photo 5: The view from the South Jetty at near Charleston, Ore.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Gone fishin'

Took off early from work today and I'm going to head out of town for a few days. My quick trip to the coast last weekend left me wanting more. So I'm going to go play for a couple of days.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Pulling the stuffing out of the bird

Writers block. Everyone knows what that is, right. Staring and a blank piece of paper, or nowadays a blank computer screen, and the words just won't come. It evokes images of emptiness. A lack of words. A lack of expression.

It's much more insidious than that in reality. True writer's block is when you have feelings and emotions to express but the fluid is trapped behind the cork in the bottle. A vintage with so much promise gone to vinegar for lack of a corkscrew.

That's sort of how I feel today. So much I had hoped to express and an utter lack of ability to get to it at the peak of its flavor.

The problem is that I don't know how to adequately say thank you to so many friends and family members who have helped me in ways large and small over the last year and more. It is important to note that any difficulty I claim to have suffered and endured is nothing in comparison to those who have lost loved ones in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or who have had their family lived disrupted by the anxiety of long deployments with a spouse, or sibling or child or parent serving in harm's way every day. And certainly my little splinter of difficulty is nothing compared to those in the gulf states whose lives were uprooted and whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Those people still deserve or respect, our compassion, our help and our prayers.

I did, however, in a manner of speaking endure my own female-named storm spreading a path of destruction in 2004. Her toil was more emotional, but did involve major disruptions to life and career. She completely and literally changed the landscape for me. I can't say I'm thankful for that. Maybe one day I will, but I am thanking for my friends who helped me rebuild my life.

These aren't necessarily in any order, but I have to start by saying how thankful I am for my daughter. It is because of her that I came to understand what unconditional love truly means. She is my motivation to try to be a better man. She is my inspiration. And now, thankfully, after a lot of years living a long distance apart, I am now back in the same area code, a couple of counties away and I relish every moment spent with her.

I must also thank her mother and her family who have accepted me as part of their family and included me in on many gatherings, large and small. I love them all and appreciate the love and support they have shown to me.

I am also thankful for Brat. She talked me back from many an emotional ledge and talked to me about everything from the mundane to the magnificent over long stretches of dark day and brought me into the light. She helped me see hope and see a future when all I seemed to be able to do was dwell on a past that was long gone. I never deserved that compassion or the affection she has and continues to show, but I am grateful for it none the less.

My California posse was also instrumental in keeping me functioning in the real world when many days I wanted only to crawl into a deep, dark hole to either sleep or fade away. H, B, and L in particular took me out to eat and drink and dance and laugh. Oh God, the laughter was so damn important. And Gene, I thank you too for not giving up on me and being my friend even though I wasn't very good at staying in touch during the year-plus that I let myself get wrapped around a woman's finger. I miss our martini-fueled talks.

I was also fortunate to rekindle and old friendship and make a new one with M and B. In fact is was one year ago today that I was fortunate to share in their Thanksgiving celebration, with B home on leave from Iraq. They were truly an oasis in the desert. I hope to be able to repay the favor some day in some way, but I'm not sure if that will ever be possible. M was a friend from home at an important time, and now that I'm back home, in a manner of speaking, I realized that she helped me remember a lot of the things I love about Oregon and the area where I grew up and came of age. And equally importantly, she helped me realized I don't have to take the shit I don't like about this place so personally either.

OK, so I got the damn cork out of the bottle and this shit is flowing out all over my shoes now. There are so many people I'm thankful for, old friends and new, who have reminded me to get over my damn self and have a little fun. Mike in Colorado and 3T in Arizona come immediately to mind.

I really want to thank all of you who write a blog out there, particularly those listed on the right. I've spent many a happy moment (OK, way too many hours) reading your posts and drawing inspiration from them. Not so much the inspiration to write, although many of you awe me every time I point my browser your direction. But mostly, I want to thank you for the inspiration to live and laugh and love again and again.

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Weekend recap

When I was younger I had a habit of overcommitting to events and projects. I lived by my datebook. Sometimes it would get me into trouble and things would come crashing down around my ears. I never said no, and wanting to be popular, I would agree to any club, activity or social engagement.

In recent years I have gotten much better at saying no and protecting personal time. So good in fact that I am generally a slug on weekends. My couch owns my ass on many weekends.

Not this weekend though. I headed up to PDX Friday night after work to look out for 2 dogs and 4 cats my daughter's mom's house. Then Saturday I bebopped over to Oceanside for an early Thanksgiving dinner with my daughter's family. I am not sure there was a better place to be on the planet Saturday afternoon than the Oregon Coast. It was sunny and in the 60s. Perfect for a nice little cat nap on a deck overlooking the Pacific.

In traditional holiday grazing form, there was way too much nibbling on a variety of food all afternoon and a big dinner that night, before some game playing and family time. Somehow I got suckered into helping with dishes, but I didn't even mind.

Then it was back to Portland to check on the critters. I kept them (or they kept me) company until the family got back home. After some more visiting I headed out to meet a former SoCal friend for dinner in the 'burbs before heading back to Salem.

In there I got to spend some time chatting with my friend Brat and petting any 4-legged critter that came within arm's length all weekend.

And the only dipping involved all weekend involved chips and spicy ranch dressing. So far, I'm nearly 5 days into the no chewing tobacco campaign. And over the last few days I've only been averaging about 6 pieces of nicotine gum a day.

However, in the interest of full disclosure, I have had a few cigarettes on the various road trips while traveling more than 300 miles over the weekend. And no, I'm not taking up smoking instead of chewing. I've been known to light up once in a while on road trips or sometimes in a bar. But I have no desire to trade one bad habit for another.

Surprisingly the nicotine cravings have not been as bad as I feared. Although I concede that I am still taking in nicotine, but I'm not chomping on the Nicorette as much as I thought. I'm averaging much less than a piece every 2 hours and often substitute a piece of regular gum or hard candy for more nicotine. I can't say I have this thing beat yet, but so far I'm ahead of my program schedule.

Fingers crossed.

Friday, November 18, 2005

On the upswing

What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four hours ago, I was not in very good shape. I would have been happy to crawl in a cave and sleep for a month or two. It took me 8 pieces of nicotine gum to get through the day, and I was still close to just giving in. I came pretty close to just rummaging through the trash can for the last can of dip that I tossed out, half full, the other day.

Today, as I was leaving work, I took a count of how much gum I had gone through. Only 5 pieces so far today. In my euphoria, I thought to myself I will be completely off the chew and the gume in just a matter of days. That's probably not realistic. The program calls for cutting down over a period of 12 weeks. Oddly, I'm feeling pretty good, except for the parts of my mouth that are sore from biting my cheek while chomping on gum, nicotine or otherwise.

Well, no time to bask in the glory. I'm spending the weekend in Portland, so I need to head out. More updates as warranted or inspired.

Day 2

So far, it has been 30-plus hours without tobacco, although the evening hours yesterday were a little rough. It took 8 pieces of nicotine gum to get through the day, which is about what the manufacturer recommends for the early days of the quitting program. My jaw is sore from chomping on gum.

I woke up a couple of times during the night. The dreams seems to be more about work than tobacco, so that's good. The brain is shrouded in fog this morning, but I'm not sure I can attribute that to the lack of Copenhagen, because morning fog is typical. I hate mornings.

Maybe a shower will help.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

So far, so ... oh shut the fuck up

I've survived nearly 12 waking hours without tobacco and it's setting tough. I'm feeling jittery and impatient. I think it's about time for another piece of nicotine gum to take something off the sharp, jagged edge drilling into my, well you name it, it's tweaking.

I feel like I've just snorted coke, all jangley and hyper. My body feels like it's twitching even when I'm trying to sit perfectly still. And when I do move, I suddenly become obsessive compulsive. I can't scratch my nose just once or twice. It's like I have to scratch it for 10-15 seconds.

I thought of a million things I was going to describe about this experience on the way home, but God knows I can't remember what they were. The brain just doesn't seem to be wired right. Even trying to so something like simple addition or subtraction in my head is impossible. Periodically I can hear a ringing in my ears.

I am very happy I made it this far, but I had work to keep me distracted most of the day. It may be a long evening. I'm tempted to just crawl into bed and try to sleep for about 4-6 weeks, until the nicotine withdrawal is completely over.

OK, I have to get off of here. I can't type. I am struggling to construct a sentence at a time in my head. Maybe a little heroin would take some of the edge off.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Minute by minute

D-Day is less than 2 hours away. I’m in the waning hours of my last day as a tobacco chewer.

I hope.

I know I should be more positive about this. Not leave room for doubt, but I also know that this tobacco addiction is a powerful thing. It’s going to take a lot of inner strength to beat it. I want to beat it. I plan to beat it. But I also know that not all things go as planned.

I stopped off after work today and picked up some stop smoking aids. Nicotine gum. Regular gum. Hard candy. Breath strips. Things to put in my mouth other than tobacco.

There is the habit of chewing, and the nicotine addition that I need to overcome.

For more than 21 years I’ve gotten used to having something in mouth, tucked down between my cheek and gum, at virtually all times. Yep, all the time. Except when I eat or when I sleep or when I’m involved in some intimate activity with a member of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours a day to sleep, only 2 or 3 meals a day, and most unfortunately, there has not been a lot of intimate time with a woman either for long stretches.

The last time I was able to kick the habit started four years ago. I was single, but it was a woman that pushed me over the edge and back into the can.

I had gone for several months without dipping and started spending some time with a young woman I met at work. I had a major crush on her, but it was an ill-fated relationship from the start. She had moved to town from the Midwest.

I found out fairly soon that the reason she moved is because she was divorced. But not too long after that, I found out that she was not actually divorced, just separated. And the reason she got separated was because she got caught cheating on her husband.

And not long after she was telling me that she wasn’t going to be able to see me much because a friend was coming to town. She later confessed that the friend was actually her husband.

For a while, she was just unavailable. Out when I called. Maybe this weekend, she’d say. But then the weekend came and went. Then she cut off contact completely. Wouldn’t return phone calls, wouldn’t turn e-mail. It took me weeks to realized for sure that I had really been cast aside. Every time I pursued some contact just to find out for sure, I was ignored.

At the time, I was paying about $35 bucks a pop for nicotine gum 2-3 times a week. And I wasn’t exactly heart broken, but I was bruised. My crush was crushed. And I made a decision to control the one thing I could control at the time. I could control how much I was paying for my nicotine. I could cut my costs and just buy a can of Cope. And I did.

I still remember the feelings I experienced during and after the Great American Smokeout 2001 when I started my long hiatus from the dip. The physical and emotional reactions were intense. I felt like a starting man deprived of oxygen. The cravings gnawed at my guts, and my mind was in a fog. Like I had been sitting on a carousel had spun far too fast for too long. I couldn’t get my bearings. I was dizzy, disconnected. I couldn’t hold a thought in my head for more than a few seconds at a time. Well, except for the omnipresent knowledge that I needed nicotine.

Every second without it felt like an eternity. Every single fraction of a second was palpable. Like a clock ticking in my head. I wasn’t sure I could last a single second longer. But somehow I did. Second by second. Minute by minute. Hour by agonizing hour.

I’ve only felt anything at all like it once. And that was the pain of a broken heart. The pain of craving the one thing – or the one person – you don’t have. But I got through it. Second by second. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by Day. Week by week. Month by month.

And maybe that’s why I think I’m finally ready to try to kick nicotine again. I survived the broken heart. Not that there aren’t still some occasional pangs of craving, but they pass quickly and virtually painlessly.

I know kicking nicotine won’t be easy. And I’m not sure I’m completely ready. But I wasn’t ready to deal with a broken heart either and somehow I did. So I intend to use some of the same things I learned there to help here. I plan to turn to friend for support when needed. And I plan to get through it minute by minute, hour by hour, and hopefully day by day and month by month, until the craving is but a memory.

In the meantime there will be a lot of gnashing of teeth and chomping of gum.

And so it begins.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Countdown to quitting

Things are a bit busy, so I'm not sure how often I will be able to post the next few days, but I do intend to write about the experience, the process, of kicking the tobacco habit. Maybe it will help me get through it, or give me something to do when there are cravings. Or maybe it will help someone else.

Tomorrow, I need to get some nicotine gum to take the edge off the cravings starting Thursday during the Great American Smokeout. This time I'll actually read the directions about how to use them as part of a real program. The gum is too damn expensive to stay on that stuff very long. Far more expensive than the actual tobacco.

The adventure is about to begin.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Putting the can on ice

It was not well planned out. In fact it wasn't planned at all. It was a spur of the moment thing.

I seem to have a knack for picking cold, cloudless nights to walk to the store. It's 39 degrees outside, and there I was walking to the market down the street. I was going to drive, but for some reason, as I was walking to my parking stop in the parking lot, I changed my mind and decided to walk. It's a short walk, and lord knows I can use a little exercise.

Although it is perhaps ironic to think this little jaunt had anything to do with improving my health, especially given that I walked to the story to buy tobacco. Chewing tobacco. But, there is a health component to it, in a roundabout way. My intention is that this be my last can of chewing tobacco -- ever.

I'm not proud of it, but I've been a tobacco user for nearly 21 and a half years. I started chewing when I was 18. I did sort of stop once a few years ago for about 6 months, but I still was using a pretty big crutch. Nicotine gum. And my use of the gum was just not going down. But it gave me reason to think that perhaps quitting for good is really possible. So this year I'm going to try again. Starting Thursday, Nov. 17. The date of the
Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

When I decided to go without nicotine during the Smokeout a few years ago. It was sort of on a whim. I had been thinking about trying to quit for a while. My employer encouraged people to participate in the Smokeout, and I woke up that morning and decided to try to go without tobacco for the day. Many times during the day, I was certain I wouldn't make it. But somehow I did.

I've been wanting to quit for a long time. I think now is the time. It's at least the time to try. Is the timing ideal? No, but then it never will be, so it seems as good of a time as any.

So, I walked to the store to buy what I fully intend is, and hope and pray truly will be, my last can of tobacco. But if I had thought about walking to the story before I actually left the house I might have decided to dress differently. Black sweat pants and a black jacket are probably not the best things to wear walking along a dark city street at night. I probably would have opted to wear socks too. Underwear might have been a good idea too, you know, just in case. Of an accident. Don't moms always to advise wearing clean underwear. Moms probably don't advise walking around in public without underwear.

Maybe I haven't planned out this quitting thing quite well enough. But I've still got a couple more days to work on it -- and to find some underwear.

Bad to be good

I tried to do the right thing. I went to bed early and fell asleep fairly quickly. But for some reason I kept waking up. It was like I couldn't get comfortable in my sleep. I woke up again about 1:30 a.m. and was having trouble falling back to sleep.

I tossed and turned for well over an hour before somehow mercifully falling back to sleep.

I tried to do the right thing, getting a good, restful start to the work week, but here I am on Monday morning fighting to jumpstart my brain and get the day rolling.

But all I really want to do is crawl back under the covers and sleep the morning away.

So much for trying to be good.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

In the midst of controversy

There seems to be a bit of a controversy brewing about who the 8,000th visitor to the Fishwrap site was.

Brat swears it is her. She sent me a screen shot to make her case with the little visitor counter showing the No. 8,000. But according to my Site Meter stats, the milestone visitor appears to be 3T.

Now, I have no desire to piss off a woman by telling her she is not visitor No. 8,000, so I'm at a bit of a loss. So I will congratulate them both and thank them and all my visitors. I'm just glad I didn't offer a prize on this one, not that I have anything either of them would want.

Do I?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Salute to veterans and a new milestone

Eighty-seven years ago today, on the 11th hour of this 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War I ended. About 20 years later, Congress finally got around to making the day a federal holiday, then known as Armistice Day. Sixteen years later, in 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor all veterans, including those from World War II and Korea.

Congress, being Congress, decided in 1968, in the midst of the Vietnam war, to move Veterans Day to October. That went over like a lead balloon, but it was easier to get American troops out of Vietnam than it was to fix that date problem. It took another 10 years for the date to be moved back to Nov. 11 in 1978.

Today we honor all veterans of service from those wars and the additional conflicts of Grenada, Iraq I, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq II as well as those who served during times of peace.

The only time I've ever worn a military uniform was as a kid, after finding my dad's old stuff from his days as a Marine when he was not much more than a kid himself. I used to love wearing his field jacket with his, and thus my, last name on the patch above the pocket. I also liked wearing his khaki shirt with the private first class stripe on the sleeve. He wasn't in the Marines very long. A knee injury earned him a medical discharge. And I've never heard him tell stories of boot camp or any other service lore. No Semper Fi stickers ever adorned our cars. It was like a closed chapter in a book lost on the back of the bookcase.

Others in my family served as well. One of my dad's brothers was in the Army, part of the time spent in the Big Red One and he served at least two tours in Vietnam. His old foot locker, with mementos of his military service, is now in my dad's possession. I would have loved to have my uncle tell me the stories behind all the photos and plaques and papers in there, but he died a couple of years ago. Some of my most treasured possessions as a child were the insignias off of one of his uniforms that he gave me after he retired.

I had a cousin in the Navy during Vietnam as well. Another uncle, my mom's brother, was in the Navy after Vietnam.

We weren't what you would call a military family. Just a pretty average American family of modest means and sometimes that meant some of the best opportunities for young men in our family involved working for Uncle Sam.

In many ways I was pretty lucky. I was one of the few people in my extended family to get a chance to go to college. I briefly flirted with the idea of joining ROTC, and had many friends in college who did join up to either pay for school or to chase a dream of becoming a military pilot. I had that dream as a kid, but never had the eyesight or the physical prowess to pursue that dream. And once I got to college and learned that everyone pursuing a career as a jet pilot was studying engineering, which I had never even heard of before reaching campus, it was pretty clear I was out of my element with the spit-and-polish crowd.

I'm not great at blindly following orders either. I have a nasty habit of asking why, which could have led to trouble before ever earning officer's bars. And I can't say I have always understood why our nation's leaders send young men and women in to places where the odds of getting killed, and the necessity to sometimes kill, is a daily fact of life. But I have an enduring awe of military aviation and deep respect for the men and women in uniform.

I remember when Operation Desert Storm began. It was not long before my daughter was born and I used to spend hours glued to the TV watching CNN and other news network's coverage of a war on the other side of the globe. I couldn't believe that my generation, in the latter part of the 20th century, was engaged in a war.

Today, I have a couple of friends who are lieutenant colonels in their respective branches of the service. One has served in Iraq, the other will be deployed in the near future to Afghanistan. I wish it were not so, but I am proud that they have gone, or will go, nonetheless.

Today I salute those future veterans, and all the other men and women serving with them and who have served before them for their service.


On another note, sometime today, in all likelihood, a milestone of sorts will be reached on this blog. Someone today will be the 8,000th visitor. I've turned on the visible counter so whomever is the "lucky" 8,000th visitor will be able to know they have made that milestone visit.

I'm not sure what to make of this "milestone" though. I never started this site to be popular, but 8,000 visitors in 11 months seems pretty underwhelming. When the Fishwrap was born, it was partially as self-therapy and it was partially to get me back writing again.

So I'm not sure where to go with this thing from here and I'm looking for your help. There is a small but loyal cadre of people who visit here virtually daily. I have to say that amazes me. The question is: Why? What is it about what you see here that you like? That keeps you coming back? And equally important, what suggestions would you have on what you would want to see going forward?

If you are so inclined, let me know which posts on here you've liked. I've always wanted to have a "greatest hits" section on here, but I have very little idea which posts are "hits" and which ones are misses. OK, I have a pretty good idea which ones are misses. Maybe that's what I should do, have a "greatest misses" section. That might be funny.

I life funny.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great Veterans Day and thanks for spending part of it at the Fishwrap.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Too cold at home

Brrrr! It's 28 degrees this morning here in Salem. Yes, 28. That's below freezing people! I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually looking forward to the return of the rain.

I made the mistake of looking at what the current temperature is for my friends in Palm Springs, where it is already 63 degrees.

If I can resist the urge to crawl back under the blanket and comforter, I am going to take a long, hot shower.

Global warming my ass!

Monday, November 07, 2005

A cold hard look in the rear view mirror

The brisk air assaulted my lungs like a foreign invader. Bronchi were shocked into waking by the chilly air just a few degrees north of freezing. I could see my breath huffing out of my mouth as I walked the few blocks to the convenience store.

On a night chilly enough to store perishable food on the patio, I inexplicably decide it was a good idea to walk to the store. An array of sensations, seemingly forgotten, came flooding back. My house keys wriggled around in the pocket of my slacks, feeling like an ice cube melting against my thigh. I felt the tips of my ears turning red. I fought against the cold air by lighting a cigarette from a long-ago purchase bar pack found on the inside pocket of my coat.

I walked at a swifter pace than normal, which increased the wind chill against my face but raised the heart rate, keeping shivers that threatened to penetrate my ribs from breaking the skin.

When I arrived at the corner store, before I could get to the counter I was sniffling like a coke-head after a trip to the restroom. Why does your nose run when you come in from the cold?

I made my purchase and headed back out into the night. I decided it was time to take the gloves out of my pockets and put them on for the return hike. Trying to soak in the moment, I was both repulsed and intrigued by the chilly autumn air. I stared at the fogged up windows of cars parked along the street, wondering how long it would take the fog to turn to frost. I looked up above the street lights and saw a few of the brightest stars penetrating through the haze of light that hovers over the city at night. Days of rain and clouds gave way this afternoon and evening to mostly clear skies. There was no protective blanket of clouds tonight to hold in the earth's warmth. Suddenly I wished the clouds were back.

When I got back to my place, I walked into the door and my glasses immediately fogged up, like the windows of those cars parked along the road. I didn't bother to try to wipe them off, I merely placed them on the table and walked away, letting them acclimate to the radical change in temperature.

They made the adjustment much quicker than their wearer has.

Spending nearly 10 years in the California desert seemed to virtually wipe out any recollection of what life was like in the before time, when I was an Oregonian. Now, seemingly daily, I'm bombarded by memories -- names, faces, experiences, locations -- that make the last 10 years melt away, like a dream upon waking. It all seemed so real while I was in it. Now, the memories, names and faces of a decade of living and working are slipping away. It's a mixture of the movie "Groundhog Day" and the end of Daylight Saving time all wrapped into a wool blanket. I keep falling back in time, over and over again.

I feel like I'm navigating my course ahead through a fogged windshield and the only clear view I have is in the rearview mirror, at a life mostly forgotten here in Oregon that is slowly coming back into focus and another life left behind in Southern California that I am reticent to let go of, yet it keeps receding away.

It's good to look back at a life lived once in a while, but I'm growing wearing of squinting through the fog and looking backward. I want to look forward again and find the road ahead.

Who'll stop the rain?

It has been raining heavily and dreary here for days. Oregon's famous "liquid sunshine." I am tempted to continue my blogging strike until the weather improves, but I'm not sure I can hold out until April or May.

But the darks skies and rain are sapping the energy. Some people here proudly state they love the rain. I can't relate to that. I can't imagine liking rain for days on end and dark skies.

It may sound contradictory for a self-professed night owl, who often finds my mind the most active in the hours after sunset, but I NEED the nourishing, healing warm and illumination of the sun.

Friday, November 04, 2005

On strike

No post today.
Blogger on strike.
Blogger protests unreasonable working conditions and poor pay.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

40-year-old teenager

If you were to see me now, which thankfully you can't, you would probably laugh. My complexion looks like I just went through puberty.

I've recently been beseiged by a weird sort of acne. I'm not sure if it's the old-fashion zits 16 year olds get or ingrown hairs or what, but my face and neck are starting to resemble the Pacific Northwest landscape with white-capped volcanic peaks popping up all over the place. Unlike the Northwest mountains, of which currently only Mount St. Helens is rumbling, I have periodic eruptions all over the place. Oh look, there's a new one. Stand back I think she's gonna blow!

Could it be the change in weather? I don't know. But I'm pretty much a mess. Fortunately I don't have a hot prom date coming up or something.

I was pretty lucky in the acne department as a teen. Yea, I had zits, but nothing too severe. No scarring or anything, physically nor emotionally. So I won't complain about a lost youth spend in shame or despair or with my head in a bucket of Benzoyl Peroxide or anything. But my face is probably worst off now that it ever was in my school days.

Well, if I'm getting this part of my youth back, I wonder if that means I can get my virginity back too. I promise to give it away more wisely this time. Oh, wait. That would make me a 40-year-old virgin. Sounds like the name of a screwball comedy or something. Who would pay to see that?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Tricked into treating

My efforts to dodge rugrat trick-or-treaters on Halloween was only partially successful. I gratefully accepted an invitation to dinner by my daughter's mom, which kept me from finding some other location to hide out in the after-work hours.

I'm not a big fan of getting up every few minutes to hand out candy to kids. And who knows how many kids might come trick-or-treating in an apartment complex here in Salem. So I was more than happy to get out of town.

Dinner was good. My daughter's mom and her partner had a few friends over, and my daughter was there, so it was nice. But there were a lot of trick-or-treaters coming to their do. So many so that at one point we were running low on candy, so I made a quick run to grocery store to pick up some emergency candy rations.

And after returning back to the house I made the strategic mistake of being the closest adult to the door during one period of the night. So I ended up handing out candy anyway.

So, just when did kids quit asking the age old question, "Trick or treat?" when trick or treating?

And some of those costumes were lame.

And some of the kids were damn cute too.

I hate it when I get tricked into giving up my curmudgeonly ways.

The lesbians tricked me!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Shuffle up and deal

Sorry I haven't posted in a couple of days. I was up in Portland housesitting for a family member.

Well, to be honest, that isn't the only thing that's been consuming my time. I've got a new addiction.

Yes, I'm hooked. I've taken up gambling online. Playing poker. Texas Hold 'em.

I've been entering tournaments on
Bravo's web site.

I just finished by best showing so far. Out of 1,196 entrants in that particular tournament I made it to the final 4 tables and finished 35th. Pretty fucking cool eh?

OK, I'm going off to bed before the urge to sign up for another tournament hits me.

I'm feeling a little guilt about the poker playing. I think I got Brat hooked too.

I'm such a bad influence.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bad ride cowboys

I like music. It’s not as important to me as it once was, were most of my free time was spent listening music, either on the radio or some other recorded format. I used to make party tapes, or tapes to fit some other mood, spending hours getting the song mix and the recording just right.

Nowadays, it much easier to record music. You can burn a CD in a matter of minutes, rather than spending hours setting sound levels and recording each song track by track.

It’s easier to take music with you too. With portable CD players, MP3 players, iPods, even cell phones allowing you to take your tunes with you wherever you go.

But somewhere along the line music became something of a periodic soundtrack rather than constant accompaniment.

Back in the day, I was a rocker. A head banger. I liked my music loud and proud and with screaming guitar licks and a pounding beat. But somewhere along the way my taste in music changed as well. Country music is more a part of my soundtrack than rock, or pop music, today, although I still listen to them. And I've added blues and a smattering of jazz, maybe even some classical from time to time.

I’ve never turned my back on music, just put a little more distance between us. But I’m beginning to think that the music makers and sellers have turned their back on me -- on us.

I was in Target the other day, looking through the music aisles because I wanted to pick up a CD while I was there getting a few other household items, but I found steam coming out of my ears in the New Release section.

Several of the CDs on the shelves boasted that they had “Target Exclusive” bonus tracks. I don’t want artists or record labels putting tracks on some CDs and not on others that I may or may not get based on whether I bought my music at Best Buy or Target or Tower Records or Fred Meyer. In the long run, fans aren’t getting something more, they are getting less. Less choice on where they want to shop – or in cases of people living in small towns, where they can shop – and missing some songs they may like by some artists because they bought their CD at the “wrong” store.

One of my all-time favorite artists and another mega-retailer have taken this insane trend to a ludicrous extreme. This summer Garth Brooks announced that from here on out new music would be sold exclusively at
Wal-Mart stores.

This shouldn’t be a major issue for me because Brooks is “retired” and is supposedly not going to be “un-retiring” until his youngest daughter is out of high school, which would apparently be sometime in 2015, according to one published report I read. Well, 10 years from now Brooks will be all but irrelevant as a “contemporary” recording artist and probably have at least some trouble getting anyone willing to sell his music, because the only people who may then give a shit about his music will be people 50 and older. Yea, baby boomers are swelling the ranks of senior citizens, and I am not a music industry expert but I know enough to realize the gray-haired set is not an important demographic to the music industry. Music is a young man’s and woman’s game, for the artists and the buyers/listeners.

When I first heard about the Brooks deal, I didn’t give it much thought. Brooks is retired and not putting out new music. I have all of his old stuff already. So the fact that I don’t shop at Wal-Mart won’t matter. I have only been in a Wal-Mart once or twice in the last 5 years. With Target and Best Buy and malls, and now Fred Meyer, in the towns I’ve lived in, there is no need for me to go to Wal-Mart anymore. I like other store’s quality of merchandise and selection better than Wal-Mart, so I don’t think I’m missing much. And I don’t shop much anyway. So, Brooks’ deal was no big deal to me.

But regardless of what Brooks is saying publicly, he appears to be coming out of retirement. In fact he has a new box set of previously unreleased material coming out sometime this fall. And he’s been making special appearances performing here and there, like a recent Grand Old Opry anniversary appearance, which was a bit odd given he rarely showed up there after he became a big star and was actively touring and recording. Then there was his public engagement to long-time girlfriend and singer Trisha Yearwood. He also performed with Yearwood on a Hurricane Katrina benefit show.

Now, Brooks has a single out, which was released earlier this month. The song "Good Ride Cowboy," is a tribute to the late Chris LeDoux who died earlier this year. The song is all over the Portland radio station I listen to, KWJJ, The Wolf 99.5 FM.

That’s a lot of activity in the last few months for a guy who is retired. The song sucks, in spite of the fact that it debuted at No. 18 on the Billboard chart, the highest ever debut for Brooks who at one time owned the music charts.

I wanted to like this song. I am a Garth Brooks fan. I admired LeDoux’s music and career. I wanted to love this song.

I don’t.

The more I hear it, the more irritated I get.

According to what little I could find about the song, it was written by
Richie Brown, Jerrod Niemann, Bryan Kennedy and Bob Doyle, and it definitely sounds like a song written by committee. And Brooks certainly did not tap into his powerhouse stable of songwriters who have written some of Brooks’ more powerful songs. Doyle is a music publisher and Brooks’ co-manager. Brown and Niemann appear to be relative newcomers on the scene. Kennedy is the only one of the bunch with any writing chops, as he wrote or cowrote six song on some of Brooks’ more recent albums including No. 1 radio hits "Beaches of Cheyenne" (which is a powerful song) and "American Honky Tonk Bar Association" (which is upbeat is catchy, but features silly plays on words, not unlike “Good Ride Cowboy”). Kennedy also wrote or cowrote the lesser-known Brooks’ songs "Cowboy Cadillac" "The Old Stuff", "Rodeo or Mexico", and "The Fever".

Frankly, I would have expected more than a silly song with a catch beat. And LeDoux certainly deserved a better tribute. The fact that "Good Ride Cowboy" is a successfully marketed radio hit from a popular artist listeners have been dying to hear something new from is not enough to make this a good song.

Frankly, the song "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," which mentions LeDoux in the lyrics and was Brooks’ first single and co-written by Brooks, was a much more fitting tribute to the former professional cowboy turned country crooner.

The song definitely doesn’t leave me wanting more of Garth and certainly not wanting enough to venture to Wal-Mart to get it once his box set comes out.

If Brooks or any other musician wants at chance at my entertainment dollar they need to be where I do, and quick fucking around with those "exclusive" deals. Decide what to put on a record, put it out where I can find it easily and maybe, just maybe, I'll buy it.

Garth Brooks

Thursday, October 27, 2005

They do eat their young

I finally figured out why ultra-conservative Republicans are opposed to abortions. They would rather eat their offspring.

As proof, I offer the Harriet Miers nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Miers withdrew her nomination today because members of the Republican party torpedoed her nomination because she is not known to be conservative enough.

Not long ago, Republicans were lambasting Democrats for not allowing President Bush's judicial nominees to even get to a floor vote in the Senate, and here the Republican part, using different tactics achieves the same result.

Hurricane hypocrisy is flooding the capitol.

No matter who Bush nominates now, Democrats will surely fight the nomination to the death.

I almost feel sorry for Bush.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Games insomniacs play

You'd think someone who hates mornings as much as I do would learn to go to bed earlier, but no. Not me. My cure for a rough morning yesterday? Stay up even later last night.

You'd think the least I could do was write a decent blog post with those extra hours in my day. But no, I didn't do that either.

So, here I am struggling to keep my eyes open, and here you are, reading a pathetic post. Can I blame the World Series going into extra innings?

Well, at least now I know how much my blog is worth (see bottom right of the page). Anyone want a used blog? I'm willing to give a discount.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

There's not enough coffee in the world

Ugh. I hate mornings. And waking up when it is still dark outside is just wrong. When it's dark outside and cold in the house I want to smash the alarm clock and crawl back under the covers and slip blissfully into a coma.

Do you think that means I'm not a morning person?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Follow up to parenting by MSN Messenger

My daughter changed her quote.

I don't know if it was my influence or not, but today, when she logged on when I was online, her MSN Messenger quote had been changed. It was still a line from a lyric, or appears to be based on my online research, but it's not the Tenacious D song about a threesome with a reference to fucking to '70s music.

The new line appears to be out of a song called "Such Great Heights". My guess is my daughter is familiar with the cover version by Iron & Wine off the "Garden State" movie soundtrack, not the original by Postal Service. I'm not sure I could tell you which is which, although I have seen "Garden State" and actually bought the DVD of that movie that is now somewhere in my daughter's house.

Anyway, she changed the quote. And when we chatted online today I didn't mention the quote at all and made no reference to our conversation last night. And she talked, or typed, back. We had a nice little chat. And when I said I loved her she said she loved me too. So, maybe I'm not the highest ranking member of the shit list after all.

Parenting by MSN Messenger

I spent the day with my daughter and her family on Saturday. Well, I should say part of the day. The part of the day we spent at my daughter's mom's house, my daughter spend in her room. Not exactly the picture of family togetherness.

It's getting harder and harder to have much quality time, even though I'm now living closer and getting to spend more frequent time with her.

I got copies of her new school pictures, which is great. Unfortunately, picture day was about a week before she got her braces off. And she's had her hair highlighted, so she already looks different than her freshman year photo.

It was a nice day. The family took me out to lunch and made me dinner for my birthday, which was nice. And I got to see my new niece for a little while and her big sister, so that was nice too, even though I missed my older niece's soccer game. So I'm going to try to go up and see her last game of the season next week.

The rest of the day we spent just doing ordinary family stuff. I help my daughter's mom and her partner build the computer desk we bought back in the spring and which has been sitting in its box for months.

When I got back home a little while ago I logged on to find my daughter, where she was when I left, online and sitting at the computer. MSN Messenger allows you to add a personal quote to your screen name. My daughter changes hers quite often. She had a new one tonight. It reads:

"Put on a cool '70s groove, a funky groove to fuck to."

My daughter is 14.

I was not amused. So I asked her about it.

Apparently she was amused, because she answered me back with an "lol".

She informed me the quote was from a Tenacious D song. I, being tragically unhip, do not have any Tenacious D in my musical library.

I told her I didn't think it was funny and I think it may give guys some bad ideas.

There was no response.

I told her I just wanted to let her know I made it home (not that she was losing any sleep about it). "And please consider changing the quote."

No response.

So I said I loved her and I would talk to later.

Still no response.

So I said goodbye and waited.

Still no response.

So I logged off.

I keep in contact with some friends and family by IM programs. But it feels pretty damn inadequate to try to be a parent over MSN Messenger.

Oh, and in case your curious, the Tenacious D song is apparently called "Double Team", and yea it's pretty much about what the title would lead you to think.

Look, I'm far from a prude. But I am scared shitless about my daughter trying to be "cool" and ending up doing something she's not ready for with a boy, or boys. Lord knows, I will probably never be ready for her to have an active sex life, but 14 is much too young. And not that listening to songs about sex means she's doing any such thing. Lord knows at 14 I was probably saying things and listening to things that would have shocked my parents. But I just don't know how to do this. I don't know how to be a parent of a teenage daugher. I don't know if it's appropriate to try to act like a parent when I have been not much more than a sperm donor and a periodic visitor for her entire short life.

But I didn't move back here just to share sunny days at the park with her. I came back to be here for her, in good times and bad. Does that mean I'm merely a silent observer and walking ATM machine?

I don't know.

So, all you parents out there, what should I have done? And what should I do?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Going ballistic

A relic of the Cold War, originally designed to carry nuclear warheads, has been retired. And in a warped and weird way, I'm sort of going to miss it.

Titan IV rocket was launched from the last time this week from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket has been one of the staples of the classified space satellite business.

I've never seen one of these 16-story monsters up close, well unless there was one on static display at the Kennedy Space Center when I was there. But, I've seen several launches or their aftermath from California's high desert.

For whatever reason, sunset seemed to be a popular time for missile launches. And even though Vandenberg, which is on the California Coast, is a long ways from Victorville, which is in the Mojave Desert, you could see the flame from these missiles rocketing skyward in the twilight sky quite clearly on a clear evening. And the missiles left some spectacular contrails through the sky.

It rarely failed that whenever there was a Vandenberg launch of some big missile (not always a Titan), people would call the newspaper where I worked. And many times those callers were convinced that we were under attack from Russia or that aliens were invading from outer space. Those launches at or after sunset can sometimes be seen as far away as
Tucson, Ariz.

There is something about people who choose to live in the desert, particularly some of the outlying areas in the Mojave Desert. I'm not sure if too much time in the relentless sun makes people crazy, or if the remote barren landscape and hardscrabble existence is a magnet for those on the psychological fringe. Maybe it's both. But desert rats are professional conspiracy theorists and a few Joshua trees shy of a forest. They believe in UFOs, Area 51 government coverups and mythical creatures called

So Cold War missiles like the Titan, Minute Man Delta blasting into space at sunset had a way of getting people's attention. The contrails in the evening sky made for some oddly surreal photos like
this and this and this.

And perhaps it is surreal that I would say I'll miss a missile first designed to rain destruction down on civilians. But I will.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Did you wake up wealthy?

An Oregonian, or at least someone who bought a Powerball lottery ticket in Oregon, won the $340 million drawing last night. Was it you? Was it me?

I like to think it was me.

It wasn't me.

When I learned last night that an Oregon ticket has won I had to check my tickets. If I won I certainly wouldn't be telling you people about it. I like you and all, but I think I would have other priorities with the second largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history coming my way.

Instead, I will be going to work today, thankful that I get paid this week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What's the news?

Why is the murder of attorney Daniel Horowitz's wife in the Bay Area of California getting so much media attention?

Any murder is tragic. I'm not unsympathetic to the victim's friends and family. But why doesn't the media work so hard to get at the story when someone poor or black or Latino is killed?

My theory is the media are following this story on the chance that the high-profile attorney gets arrested on this one.

Are viewers and readers really paying attention to this story? If so, why? Is it more interesting because the attorney has been on TV and obviously is wealthy?

I'm sorry, but I'm more interested in the weather.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Post mortem

OK, so I've written way too much about my birthday on here, which sort of shoots my assertion that I don't like birthday or drawing a lot of attention to them. And since is the first October that has passed on this here particular blog, you have no evidence to the contrary. So, you just have to take my word that I'm not a big fan of birthdays.

There is a reason for that. I think I'm mentioned that a bit before, but let me just say that my family sucks at birthdays. We are pathetic. We don't do cards. We don't do gifts. As often as not we don't even call to wish a happy birthday.

I've done my damnedest to break that pattern with my daughter. The time around her birthday has been a special time for us. Well, I can't actually speak for her, and who knows what a teenage girl's response to a query about how special her birthday is with her biological father. But it's a safe bet, there would be some eye-rolling involved.

But since she started school, her birthday has generally followed her school's spring vacations. And since I was living in California for the last 10 years, I have made it a tradition to try to spend her spring vacation and/or birthday with her whenever possible. That got screwed up a couple of years ago, when I got hauled off to Florida for my ex's sister's wedding. We were going to try to take my daughter with us, but a big trip like that for a week to spend time with people she didn't even know wasn't her idea of fun. The Florida beaches for spring break sounded good in theory, but as the date drew near, she opted out. I didn't blame her. I would have opted out too if I thought all my body parts would have remained attached to their rightful locations.

But the guilt of not being able to see my daughter near her birthday was pretty powerful and in an attempt to (over) compensate I bought her her first set of really nice earrings. I've been told you can't buy love, but until I see proof I'm taking no chances.

All that is a way of saying I've tried to make birthdays a fairly big deal for my daughter. They were never a big deal in our house, and as a kid, particularly as a teenager, that was a big deal with me. I'm not sure I've ever gotten over it. In fact I'm sure I haven't. There is still a lot of not-so latent hostility on my part. I now "forget" the birthdays of my parents, and brothers regularly. I mean, I know when they are, I just often choose not to recognize them. I do try to call my mom at least. She knows a slight when she feels one, and I don't need that guilt. And my parents' wedding anniversary and my dad's birthday are only a couple of days apart. So I try to kill two holidays with one call. But I don't do gifts for them. They don't do gifts for me either. It's a pretty equitable arrangement, if warped.

It used to really bug me when friends, some of them not much more than casual acquaintances really, recognized my birthday in a bigger way than my family did. Pissed me off actually. My friends say or do something nice and I react with more resentment toward my parents. Not good.

So, for many years I have tried to just ignore my birthday as much as possible. Oh, sure, I would still hope to find a card in the mailbox, but I would do my best not to expect one or get bent out of shame when none came. Instead I would try to do something for myself on my birthday and call it good. When possible, I would take the day off from work, which can be a nice little gift in and of itself. Sometimes I'd go for a drive. Maybe I'd see 2 or 3 movies in one day at the theater. Spring for a nice dinner for myself. One year I bought myself a computer and a digital camera to replace the home computer that had fried that fall. A couple of years I made plans to attend an air show at Edwards Air Force Base.

One year, my parent came to visit me in California. I had told my dad about the Edwards Air Show and he thought that sounded like a good excuse for a road trip. It was the only time my mom ever came to California in the 10 years I lived there. Dad made a few visits, taking detours on business trips and the like. He even came down to help me move from Central California to Palm Springs and he made at least one other visit while I was in Palm Springs. But that one trip was all mom managed to make in a decade. Oh, she had traveled to Europe once, Australia a couple of times, but California just wasn't in the cards I guess.

Anyway, my parents were visiting and we went out to dinner. The date: Oct. 17, 1997. During dinner Dad looks at his watch and says something like "What's the date today?"

Normally, I have to look at the calendar setting on my watch too, no matter how many times I've checked the date already, but that date I know. I had it cold.

"October 17th," I said.

"October? Don't you have a birthday coming up pretty soon?"

Now, if my dad had a better sense of humor, I might have thought he was pulling my leg. Dad's just not that funny. Not intentionally anyway.

"Yea." I said.

"When is it?"

About that time mom pipes in.

"It's today," she said. Well, at least she remembered. A little late, but hey.

So, anyway, birthdays I've come to expect nothing in recognition and have been rarely disappointed. And not to lay all the guilt on my folks, I've never got much in the way of recognition for birthdays or Father's Day from my daughter or her mom either. I was pretty sure they didn't even know when my birthday was.

This year, I got lots of pleasant surprises for my birthday. Some readers of this blog were kind enough to leave birthday wishes after I confessed my arrival at the big Four-Oh. I got three birthday cards from two different people (Brat sent me two. I'm not sure, but I think maybe she has a crush on me). I got birthday e-mails from one current coworker and two former coworkers. And to top it all off, I got a text message birthday wish from the guy that was my best friend from the time we were in grade school through being roommates in college, which completely blew me a way.

But that wasn't all. My daughter's mom sent me a text message wishing me a happy birthday, and my daughter did too (probably at her mother's urging, but I was thrilled none-the-less).

And when I got home from the concert, there was an e-mail in my mailbox from my mom, with birthday wishes from her and the rest of the family.

Yea, sometimes the people you love can rip your heart out without even trying. But sometimes they surprise you too.

Turning 40 may just have been the best birthday yet.

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