Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My brown-eyed girl

It was one of those perfect days that I wish I could wrap myself up in to keep me warm forever.

The sun was shining, making the Pacific Ocean sparkle like the rarest of gems. The outgoing tide revealed a bounty of treasure in the sand. Starfish, in vibrant hues of orange and purple, clung in clusters to the craggy rocks on the edge of the surf. And there, walking in the wet sand, was my daughter. Head down. Hair, in tight waves of curl, obscuring her face, periodically revealing a bright smile or a concentrated stare as she combed the sand for agates. Resting on her haunches. Delicate fingers reaching just beyond her feet for tiny rocks. Her black polished toenails looking like smooth sea pebbles resting atop her tan toes and white flip-flops.

There are signs there of the little girl, on the verge of turning 6, sitting in rapt attention watching the Lion King parade down Disneyland's Main Street. But now, at 15, it is easy to see the young woman she will become. The young woman that she has already become.

It was just about the perfect day, shared with family. Beachcombing. Playing games. Soaking up the sun on a day that had been forecast for rain. Watching a whale spouting and breeching the surface of the sea a short distance from the shoreline in front of from the large picture windows of a hillside retreat.

For years I lived a long distance from my daughter, getting caught up with her life in week-long vacations two or three times a year. I told myself that at least the time we spent was quality time. Morning til night in concentrated bursts, trying to make up for all those times I was not there. Seeing how much she had grown. Enjoying each new stage of her life and trying hard not to think about all the stages I had missed.

We drew closer and closer every visit. The "I love yous" and hugs and kisses were no longer forced and were only occasionally awkward. The became real, sincere, heartfelt and warm. Each visit just got better and better and we grew closer and closer. But as the teen years hit and took hold I started to feel that slipping away. She was carving her own personal time with her own friends out of this planned family time, as teenagers are wont to do. That's when I knew it was time -- past time -- to come home. And it was just about a year ago now that I was finally able to make that happen.

The visits have been more frequent over the last 12 months. More milestones shared. Junior high graduation. Meeting her friends. I met one boyfriend and just as I was getting accustomed to his name and his presence he was gone. Then there was a new school and new friends and another new boyfriend. Halloween and Christmas. Her birthday and other family birthdays. Family gatherings and celebrations. Helping an aunt move. Normal life stuff.

But those magic moments have been more fleeting. A second or a moment or a minute amid the rush. Looking back on my own childhood, I suppose my parents must have experience something similar and we lived under the same roof for 18 years. Life can't be all splender and bliss.

But when you aren't there for so many moments, large or small, you spend a lot of time wondering what you've missed and missing imagined wonders.

But that day, that Saturday two Saturdays ago, was one of the special days. Not because of any single big thing, but hours upon hours of little ones. And because of that brown-eyed girl with curls and a smile as warm as the May sun.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

How do you like your Chicks?

It is rare that I rush out the first day a CD or DVD goes on sale and buy it. It's usually not that important to me. But on Tuesday, when the Dixie Chicks' new album "Taking the Long Way" was released, I did make a special trip to the store to pick up a copy.

I had purchased and downloaded their new single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," from iTunes a few weeks ago. Although I had only listened to it a time or two, I had heard enough in the song to tell me that I wanted to hear the new CD. Lead singer Natalie Maines' vocals sounded as powerful as ever and I've been a fan of their music for years.

I didn't think too much about the controversy that had surrounded the group a few years ago. Maines, a Texas native, pissed off a lot of people with a comment during a concert in Europe where she said: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Her comments came at a concert in London on March 10, 2003, just 10 days before Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Country music radio and many fans reacted with outrage. Dixie Chicks music was pulled from the air on stations all over the country.

Now, here we are three years later and armed U.S. troops are still in Iraq, still fighting and dying, and Bush's popularity has faded tremendously, as has U.S. citizen support for the war in Iraq.

But the Dixie Chicks' music is still not back on radio. Not their monster hits from years past, nor their newest single. According to an article in the May 29 issue of Time magazine, country fans and radio stations are still holding a grudge.

One country music radio programmer who was quoted, but not named, in the Time magazine cover story said the new single is "a four-minute fuck-you to the format and our listeners. I like the Chicks and I won't play it."

Well, anyone who won't listen to the Dixie Chicks, or play their music, or buy their album because of their politics is welcome to their opinion, but I find it all pretty funny, is a sad sort of way.

I don't often talk about politics on my blog or in my personal life, because I think people get stupid when it comes to politics. Everything in partisan politics get painted with a very broad brush, but the real artistry of statesmanship, and life, is in the details.

Life doesn't fit in tidy packages. Republican or Democrat. Red state or Blue state. Conservative or liberal. Pro-life or pro-choice. NRA or anti-gun. Rock or country. Pop or rap. East or West. North or South. White or black.

The last few times I've registered to vote I have not picked a political party to affiliate with. The truth is, I don't feel either of the major political parties represents me. I can be quite conservative on some issues and quite liberal on others. I certainly don't fit into the base of support for either party. And frankly the parties don't seem to know what they believe in either. The Republican party, which austensibly believes in smaller government, has in the current administration eroded personal liberties and allowed government to snoop on its citizens in the name of national security. And Democrats can't seem to do anything to set their own agenda except to be against whatever Republicans are espousing.

But what I find most amusing about this whole flap over the Dixie Chicks and their music is that people get so fired up over it, and yet it's a safe bet that many of them who get so passionate in their support for, or boycott of, a singing group's music probably don't even bother to vote with regularity.

Entertainers, like the rest of us, are entitled to their opinion. And thankfully freedom of speech, though perhaps an endangered species, is still allowed in this country. However, that does not mean that freedom always comes without pain or sacrifice or the slings and arrows thrown from others.

Another irony of this whole Dixie Chicks flap is that before the whole dust-up over the comment about the president, the Chicks and singer Toby Keith also got into a running public pissing match starting in August 2002 over comments Maines made about Keith's song "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)" in which Keith tells terrorists that the United States will fight back and put a boot in their ass.

Maines called the song ignorant. Keith shot back at Maines' abilities as a songwriter.

The irony is that Keith and Maines and the rest of the Chicks may be a lot closer in their politics than one might imagine. Keith, who is a Democrat, has also expressed reservations about the war in Iraq, even though he has been unflagging in his support for U.S. troops and was supportive of the U.S. action in Afghanistan.

Not all country music singers are Republicans. Tim McGraw is another high-profile Democrat in country music. And believe it or not, not all country music fans are Republicans either.

And that's the whole point. Stereotypes don't always fit.

Now the question is, where will the Dixie Chicks fit in the American music landscape. The group features a Southern twang and country instrumentation, but will country music accept them back? Or are they pop now? The Time magazine article says their new album "may be the best adult pop CD of the year." But the magazine also asks the question "Will anyone buy it?"

Well, sure some people will buy it, but will it sell millions of copies like previous albums have? That still remainst to be scene. The Chicks themselves seem prepared to accept a smaller fan base.

"I'd rather have a smaller following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, and people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith," said Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks. "We don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do."

Well, Martie, I have news for you. I've retired my five-disc changer, but my iPod does have Dixie Chicks, Toby Keith and Reba McEntire in it. Of course it has other stuff too, like Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Aerosmith. There rock, pop, blues, alternative and country

For me, I don't pick my music based on politics any more than I vote for politicians based on their musical tastes.

I still need to listen to the album a few more times to determine whether it will become a favorite, or whether it will fade into the background amid the hundreds of other CDs in my collection. But for now, it is in high rotation on the ol' iPod. If I like it enough I may even consider buying a ticket to their concert when they come to Portland in November. And if I don't like it enough, my music and concert money will be spent elsewhere, based on how the music resonates with me and my life, not pampered singers want me to vote.

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Going to the police dogs

It looks like every officer on duty with the Salem Police Department is in my apartment complex.

I got rousted from my bed by the sound of a voice over a PA system, telling someone to come out with their hands up. I thought maybe I better get up and see if I was the one supposed to be coming out.

It turns out it was one of the neighbors, who didn't want to come out, for whatever reason. After repeated warnings over the loudspeaker, the cops sent in the police dogs (I counted at least two on scene) and about 8 or 10 officers with guns drawn.

Now the fire department is here, probably to delivery emergency medical care for dog bites.

I've lost track of how many times the cops have been in the complex in the lest than a year I've lived here, in just my little corner of the complex. Who knows how often they get called in on the other side of the complex where I can't see or hear the commotion. There was a fatal shooting here not so long ago.

Have I mentioned how much I love living here?

All the drunks driving home from the bars in town will have a lot fewer cops to dodge this morning, thanks to the commotion here.

Update: 2:20 a.m. An ambulance was brought in and young girl was brought out to it on a stretcher. She seemed alert and was sitting up, so hopefully whatever injuries she suffered were not serious.

Things seem to be quiting down now. Some of the police cruisers have left, as has a fire truck and the ambulance. Earlier I saw one person in handcuffs placed in the back of a patrol car, but that was before the police dogs and officers went in to the apartment.

Maybe things are quiting down now. So I shall try to go back to bed. Who says there's no excitement in Salem on a Saturday night?

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Finding a familiar plot

I haven't been to the movies in more than two years.

Oh, I've watched a lot of movies. I've lost untold hours -- OK, days, weeks or months maybe -- watching movies on cable. Some I've seen several times, some I missed along the pop culture highway.

But I haven't set foot inside a movie theater in more than 24 months.

I used to go to movies with some regularity, even alone. I had decided some time ago that I wasn't going to let being single, or having a weird work schedule, keep me from doing things I wanted to do.

Then for a while I had a significant other and we went to movies quite a lot. After the relationship ended it just felt lonely to even think about going to a movie alone. After I got passed that, there just haven't been many movies I was dying to see. I'm sure people would tell me I've missed some good cinema in the last couple of years, but off the top of my head I can't think of any films I really wanted to see.

Oh, wait, there was at least one film that I wanted to see and did go see: "Brokeback Mountain". So, I guess my whole not-setting-foot-in-a-theater line doesn't hold up to scrutiny. But the primary point is the same. I just haven't been going to movies, or had any real desire to go either.

But in the last few days I've been seeing some previews for a movie that has piqued my interest. It's called "
The Lake House," which reunites "Speed" stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. But it's not the stars that is the draw. It's the story, or at least what I can glean about the story from the movie trailer and details on

Here's the plot outline as detailed on the Internet Movie Database site: "A lonely doctor (Sandra Bullock) who once occupied an unusual lakeside home begins exchanging love letters with its newest resident, a frustrated architect (Keanu Reeves). When they discover that they're actually living two years apart, they must try to unravel the mystery behind their extraordinary romance before it's too late."

The storyline resonates with me. I can relate. It sounds a little like a story my ladyfriend Brat and I have lived off and on for a long while. In our case it's not time, but distance, that has kept us apart. We've had a prolonged correspondence and conversation across time and space. Perhaps there is something profoundly intimate about corresponding with someone, whether in letters written with ink on paper or in real time with pixels on a screen.

I've long known that I am better at expressing many things, particularly emotional things, in writing rather than with the spoken word. But I suspected maybe I was just weird or verbally inept. But for centuries, lovers separated by distance or duty have writing to lovers and loved ones with stunning clarity and eloquence. Perhaps technology took that away from us. Or perhaps technology is now giving that power and purity back to us.

Oh sure, there is a proliferation of typographical and grammatical errors all over the Internet and blogosphere. But there is some stunning writing out there as well. People write about the things and people and events most important to them. They write with passion, wit, style and flare. People let us see their heart and that's a powerful, poignant thing.

Brat has let me see her heart, even though she has tried to hide it or protect it from time to time.

And isn't that what we are all looking for? Someone to connect with? Someone who we understand and appreciate and who gives us those same things back? In an exchange of embraces, emotions and bodily fluids, of course.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Put it in a bucket, the 5-gallon variety

Ever have one of those days where you need to get drunk?

I'm not talking about wanting a drink, or even "needing a drink." I'm talking about wanting to drink well beyond the point of inebriation.

Fucked-up drunk, that's what I mean.

It's one of those days.

The rational side of my brain tells me that means drinking today would be a bad idea, given that urge.

The other side of my brain tells me I need to disconnect the wiring to the rational side of my brain and find a liquor store.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Descending back into a life of crime

Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to break the law right in front of a cop.

Fortunately, I got away with it.

The irony is, just moments before I had been thinking about another criminal incident from my past that I had committed without getting caught.

As I was driving home from work, I spotted an Interstate 5 freeway sign. I probably see those signs every day. I have to cross under I-5 every day en route to and from work. So, why the sign reminded me of a 12-year-old theft on this particular drive, I'm not sure.

But spotting the sign got me to thinking about the interstates I've lived near throughout my life. Interstates 80, 84, I-5 and as they call them in California, the 15 and the 10.

The early years of my life were spent along the 19th Century equivalent of an interstate freeway, the Oregon Trail, in a small town in Nebraska. But this town wasn't near a modern freeway. The closest interstate was Interstate 80.

When I was in grade school I moved to the other end of the Oregon Trail to a small Oregon town that was just off Interstate 80.

In 1980 Interstate 80 became Interstate 84. At the time, I thought that was pretty cool because I was set to graduate from high school in 1984. Got to love that, right? I loved it so much that in 1984, sometime around the time I graduated from high school, I pilfered an I-84 sign off a rural exit out in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as right near my hometown. That sign became a key decoration in my dorm room, frat house room, college apartments and the first apartment I had after college.

But my first job after college didn't go so well, and I ended up getting fired. Being flat broke and unemployed I did what any prideful, self-respecting 20-something person would do. I moved back in with mommy and daddy. And I hid the evidence of my thievery in my parents' basement and forgot it was there.

Forgot, that it, until my younger brother told me it was found when my parents did some remodeling in their basement. He of course, ratted me out.

All this stuff was rattling around in my brain as I continued my trip home. After making a quick stop for an errand, I approached an intersection a couple of blocks from my apartment and slid over into the turn lane. I thought the traffic signal gods must really love me, because signal for the turn lane went green just as I was getting close to the last car in line in front of me, and there were only three cars in line ahead of me.

SWEET! I'm gonna make the light.

But the light turned yellow as the second car was in the middle of the intersection.

Fuck it. I'm goin' anyway. I can make it before the light turns red.

I didn't make it.

As I approached the crosswalk I actually quit looking at the signal light. I didn't want to see it turn red. But I knew it was read by the time I entered the intersection. I could hear the audible tone for the visually impaired in the crosswalk at the intersection chirping just outside my open car window.

I felt a pang of guilt, but only a small one, for my traffic infraction.

Small, until I looked in my rearview window. There, directly behind me waiting for the light was a city patrol car.

I just knew I was going to see that patrol car on my rear bumper, lights flashing, before I turned into my apartment complex. Or worse yet, the cop would follow me into the complex, so my nosey neighbor could see me getting cited for breaking the law.

But, the cop never turned down my street and I got away, free and clear.

The G-man is just your average, ordinary scofflaw untouched by the hands of justice.

Well, except for that one time.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Imprisoned by insomnia

The insomnia is back. If it ever really went away.

I was so tired earlier this evening, I was about dozing off while talking to a friend online. OK, so perhaps putting a headset on and laying down on the couch may not have been the best idea. At one point she even gave up on me and was just going to go about her business and let me sleep.

So, I took the hint and said my goodbyes. I didn't even bother to close my IM connection. I just took off the headphones and closed my eyes. I woke up about two hours later.

So, after doing a few little chores, I decided to head off to bed. That was sometime around midnight. Now, here it is, more than three and a half hours later, and I'm wide awake.

You'd think with all this not sleeping, there would plenty of time for making posts on here. However, I've been employing the strategy that if I'm in bed and preparing to sleep maybe I will actually fall asleep and get more rest than if I sit up half the night on the computer until I reach the point of exhaustion, which used to be one of my more frequently employed insomnia strategies. Of course that strategy worked fine when I was working a swing shift and could fall asleep at 5 a.m. and still get 8 hours sleep before getting up to go to work. That doesn't work so well on a day shift.

Is it still insomnia if you get 6-8 hours sleep?

I guess I can't complain too much. I've certainly endured more fucked up sleep patterns. Some years back, I was working a job where I had to be at work even earlier than I do now. And in that job I was putting in a ton of hours. My days went, generally like this. Go to work about 7 a.m. Work til about noon. Go home for lunch. Take a nap for about half an hour to an hour. Go back to work until about 6. Go home for dinner. Take a nap for about an hour. Go back to work until about midnight. Go home and goof around on the computer until about 2 or 3 a.m. Try to sleep until the alarm clocks (I think I needed about 3 to get me out of bed at that time) went off. Jump through the shower and head to work to start the whole cycle over again.

It was fucked up, to put it mildly. Not that anyone set those hours for me. I was just Mr. Insane Manager, wanting to kick ass, take names and conquer my little corner of the world. Fortunately, after about a year and half of that I realized that schedule would either kill me, or I would lose any grip with reality and turn homicidal on someone else's ass. I already had a couple of potential victims in mind. Also fortunately about that same time, a colleague told me about a job opening in another city. I applied and got the job before killing myself or someone else.

At least I haven't started picking out victim here. Yet. But if I ever do, and if I got arrested, whether found criminally liable or mentally incapacitated, odds are good that I could still stay here in Salem, at either the state penitentiary or state hospital.

But I'm not sure if that's really a good thing or not. I can't get my family to come visit me in my apartment in Salem, what do you think the odds would be they'd make the trip to my cell?

It might improve the love life though.

OK, yea, sleep deprivation does some fucked up shit to the brain.

I think for now I'll try to maintain my place among the unincarcerated psychotics in Salem.

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