Monday, April 25, 2011

Oh Baltimore!

This is a photo blog of my recent family vacation in Baltimore, Maryland. I took a Saturday night flight out of Portland, Oregon and arrived in Wilkesbarre/Scranton Pennsylvania on Sunday morning. Mom & Dad picked me up at the airport and we drove back to Mifflinville, PA where they live. We stayed there for a few days and then headed down to Baltimore for the next few days. Mom, Dad, sister, nephew and me, together in one vehicle. We stayed in an upscale Marriott Hotel right on the harbor, which was nice, but a little too richy-rich for my taste. Day one was spent at the Baltimore Zoo, here are some pics:
Meet mom & dad.

Meet sister & nephew.



Good times! Let's move on. The following day was our trip to the Baltimore Aquarium, which was badass and my personal favorite of our three destinations. Here, have a look:









Our last day in Baltimore was spent at the Science Center, but I didn't get very many pictures there since I got food poisoning from dinner the night before. I'll add a few pics of downtown so you have something to look at:










Well there ya have it, lots of fun stuff to see in Baltimore! Overall we had a good time, minus the sickness and the family arguments and the miles and miles of walking. Although the walking reminded me how out of shape I am and that I must figure out a daily exercise routine for myself, else this body of mine will fail soon. And now I have to go meet a friend for a few beers, I've been away awhile and we have lots to catch up on, you understand I'm sure. Now go away and enjoy your day!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mirror Pond

This will be a life update blog with a few current events sprinkled in for good measure. I have so much to talk about, I really don't know where to begin. How about this: I just got back home (to Oregon) from a week-long vacation visiting family on the east coast, and let me tell you, it was exhausting. I feel bad for what I'm about to say, especially since there's a slight chance some of my family will read this (doubtful though, since I've been writing poems/blogs/short stories online for many years now and none of them seem to notice).

I should probably add an "in their defense" to what I just said in parentheses. In their defense, it's probably a good thing they don't read everything I write. I am well aware that some of the stories and poems I write are not G-rated, and quite often I tend to test peoples' emotional and personal boundaries, but all I really want is for them to recognize that I've dedicated myself to something my entire life and have actually become quite good at it. I love to write, I always have. Since the words of early encouragement from my favorite English teacher, Mrs. Lickey, the writer's bug has been moving around inside of me and has continued to crawl, and to this day it's the one thing I never let go of.

A short list of things I'm not good at:
  • long-term relationships (I'm 34 years old, once divorced, no kids, girlfriends come & go)
  • amassing large amounts of money and fame (I make 45k a year dumping garbage cans)
  • accepting modern day society (capitalism, consumerism, etc) as the one true path for humans
  • accepting any one religion as the one true path into a heaven that may/may not exist
  • voting for a President that will actually make a difference
  • believing in a government that will do the same
  • keeping abandoned newborn kittens alive (I tried, it died, and I cried)
I'm assuming that if I focused on one, some, or all of these things, I might actually gain the recognition I feel I deserve. It is deeply ingrained in us (as humans) to breed and make families, to work jobs and pay bills and taxes, to purchase homes and vehicles and clothes and motorcycles and boats and TV's and jewelry and furniture and take vacations abroad, to mix & mingle with the rest of our species, to worship a god and believe in an afterlife, to create business and commerce, to create laws and to govern accordingly, etc. I get it, this is what we have become, but I make no apologies when I say I don't buy into it. Not all of it, not 100%.

The people who do, however, tend to frown on those who don't. And this brings me back to my opening paragraph and why my vacation was so exhausting. The members of my family simply do not get along, and this past week was a trying experience for all of us. Outside of the nest, we seem to do okay with each other, but the moment we find ourselves back inside the nest... look out! Feathers ruffle, loud squabbles ensue, beaks are sharpened, the pecking begins, and finally one bird gets pushed out to make room for a winner. I think it's best if each of us simply fly around our own trees most of the time, occasionally dropping in for a visit.

Without placing blame squarely on the shoulders on any one individual, I wish everyone could step back for a moment and see what role they play in the scheme of things. Life isn't about money, possessions, or status, and it's not always about you either. It's about others. Adopting a self-centered lifestyle can only assure one thing: when you find yourself at a point in life where you need someone to be there for you, you may find yourself all alone. If you continuously shift focus onto you, it makes it hard for others to feel comfortable enough to open up around you. You aren't experiencing the people in your life to their fullest. And if you have a short fuse and allow things in life to anger you easily, the verbal display of rage that follows becomes a warning sign for others: steer clear at all costs! (It only takes one eruption to scare away an entire village.) And if you feel you have the solution to how other people should live or could better enrich their lives, based upon your own experiences or beliefs, be prepared for backlash and feelings of resentment, even if you are correct in your conjecture. Don't obsess on or pick apart the failures or shortcomings that you see in yourself or others, instead recognize their beauty and offer encouragement and nourishment to the soil in which it grows. And if you find it impossible to forgive and forget, or to acknowledge false blame placed on people instead of an unfavorable chronological order of birth, then you are cursed to live a life of constant angst and misguided anger.

I didn't finish college, and I sure as shit didn't educate myself in psychology or sociology, but I do recognize many of the problems humans have with one another, in my own family as well as others. I recognize many of my own faults too, and find it equally difficult in dealing with them as everyone else does their own. For example: I am a loner, I distance myself from those who care about me. I spend so much time pondering and writing about the world and the people in it, that I sometimes forget they really exist. I look around and I generally get discouraged with what I see. I've adopted an apathetic attitude to almost everything and cynicism runs through my bones like marrow. I am not an architect or a construction worker, yet I've managed to erect these giant walls that enclose me. I cower inside them with my stories and poems, sharing them with others at a safe distance using a keyboard and the click of a mouse. I do not possess very much self worth, even though I am fully aware of my kind heart and over-all love for others as I firmly adhere to the golden rule. I am a walking/talking, writing/fighting contradiction of myself.

*****

Holy shit, if that wasn't my biggest blog digression yet, I'd be very surprised. I truly did not intend to write so much about that, I only wanted to "briefly" mention the family turmoil and "quickly" move on to the good stuff. Now I fear no one will want to read any further, seeing how this blog is becoming a novel. I'm sorry, dear reader(s).

So check it out, if you read my previous blog entry you already know that I like to focus my creativity on things for my nephew, Kayden, when I can. Leading up to my vacation I had been working on a comic book project for him as well, which I have scanned into my computer and will share with you below. I gave it to him in person, and to say he loved it would be an understatement, which of course made it all worth while:
"The mirror pond is a magical place where dinosaurs can go and see their face. It is told that any dinosaur who drinks from the mirror pond, will stay refreshed forever!"

                                        "And so, Hefty & Lefty begin their journey..."





So there you go, the very first comic book I've ever drawn in my life. I must say, it was a lot of fun to do and I'm really glad I did it, but being an artist is definitely not where my talents lie. I was surprised at how hard it was to sketch out those little dinosaurs over & over, trying to get them right each and every time. And if you want to know how I came up with the mirror pond idea, well that's easy (for those of you familiar with Oregonian brew):
Alright, I gotta wrap this up, and I didn't even get to any of the current events I wanted to discuss/poke fun at. Next blog, I promise. Now go away and enjoy your day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Butterscotch Butterfly (for my nephew, Kayden)

Once upon a time there lived a butterscotch butterfly with beautiful wings that shimmered in golden delight whenever the sunlight would hit them. He would spend his days fluttering from one flower to the next, and every time his magical feet would touch down, the flower would instantly turn into butterscotch. All the little creatures of the forest loved this. They would hurry over to where it landed and lick the sweet butterscotch treat that used to be a flower.

This made everyone happy, that is, except for the butterscotch butterfly. You see, this little magic butterfly had only one wish, and it wasn't to turn flowers into tasty treats. He wanted to race go-karts! All through the day and all through the night, the butterscotch butterfly would dream of racing the go-karts that zipped around the go-kart track in the field next to where he lived. Every weekend the human kids would show up with their parents, and every weekend those kids would laugh and laugh as they raced their little go-karts around that dirt track, lap after lap after lap. They had a lot of fun, so much fun, in fact, that the butterscotch butterfly couldn't think of anything else he would rather do.

So one day he decided to flutter out of the forest and tried catching one of the go-karts, but it was a sad day for the butterfly, for he flew much too slowly. No matter how hard or how fast he flapped his golden wings, he simply could not catch them. Saddened by this, he flew back into the forest and landed on a nearby flower, which instantly turned to butterscotch.

"Ho there, little butterfly," came a voice from up above. The butterfly looked up and saw a beautiful hawk perched on a tree branch high above his head. "You have a wonderful gift, little butterfly. You can turn flowers into candy," said the hawk.

The butterfly sat quietly for a minute, blinking his eyes before replying, "Yes it's true, I can turn flowers into candy, that's why they call me the butterscotch butterfly, but this is not the gift I wish to have, you see. I wish I could fly fast enough to race the go-karts!" he announced excitedly.

The hawk shuffled his feet, puffed out his feathers and ran his beak up & down his body a few times before answering the butterfly. "I know the go-karts you speak of, and yes, they are quite fast. Much too fast for you, little butterfly, but not too fast for me!"

At this, the butterfly got very excited. He flapped his wings and floated up, and fluttered over to a flower closer to the fast-flying hawk who could race with the go-karts. As he landed, that flower too, turned to candy, and the hawk swooped down from his branch and landed right next to him and started eating the butterscotch petals.

MUNCH, MUNCH, MUNCH...

"You know, they call me Mr. Hungry Hawk, because I love to eat! Especially candy!" the hawk said as he bit off a few more petals. "Mmmmm... this flower is very yummy! I'll tell you what, little butterfly, since you provided me with such a tasty treat, I will do the same for you." Mr. Hungry Hawk grabbed a leaf with his beak and wrapped it around his body. "There, hold onto the leaf and I will fly you to the go-kart track and you will surely win the race."

The butterscotch butterfly was very excited and quickly hopped onto the hungry hawk's back, "Okay, I'm ready to go!"

And at that, the hawk and the butterfly flew through the forest and found their way to where the go-karts were still zipping around the dirt track. Without hesitation, Mr. Hungry Hawk tucked in his wings and dove headfirst right into the race. Together, they curved and cornered, rolled and rallied their way past one go-kart after another. It was the best day of the butterfly's life! He was racing with the go-karts... and winning! Round and round they went, lap after lap after lap, until finally the checkered flag came out and the hawk and the butterfly blew through in first place.

"Yaaaaayeeeee! We did it, hawk, we did it!" exclaimed the butterfly, "thank you, thank you, thank you!" Caught up in the excitement of the moment, the little butterfly reached out and hugged Mr. Hungry Hawk around the neck, instantly turning him into butterscotch. "Oh dear, what have I done?"

A deep sadness fell upon the butterfly, seeing how he turned his new friend into candy. And as he turned away he heard a faint sound coming from inside the butterscotch hawk:  peck.. peck.. peck.. He listened closer and heard the sound get louder: PECK.. PECK.. PECK.. and then a beak broke through and out popped the hawk, covered in flakes of golden butterscotch! He had eaten his way through!

"Ah-ha, you see? I told you I was a hungry hawk!" And at that, the hawk and the butterfly flew back to the forest where they remained best friends forever.

THE END. 





Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ankle Deep

     "I miss her," Mike said as he reached across the table and scooped up the dice. He held them in his hand for a moment, inspecting the black dots as he jostled the two white cubes against each other, watching them change from 11 to 4, then to snake eyes. "Shit, man, she was so cool. Remember that night you first met her? When she was allowed to play on our poker night?" He gave the dice a good shake and released them onto the table.

     Andrew looked down at Mike's roll and pondered for a moment before replying, "Uh, yeah, I remember, you dick. You're talking about the night when one unknown chick cleaned house and went home with all of our money, right? Most of us haven't forgiven you for that, just so you know." Andrew let a feint smile appear as he picked up the pencil and jotted down the new score. "She really was something to watch, I've never seen anyone play poker like that before." He grabbed the dice in both hands and held them up near his face as he shook them aggressively and said, "I agree, she was a cool chick, although taking me for twenty bucks was very uncool." He smiled a full smile as he unleashed the dice and watched them bounce and tumble their way across the table and land with two sixes showing.

     "Booyah bitch! That's gonna be game, I think." Andrew slid the pad of paper closer and started doing the math.
     "I'm going to text her. Fuck, I just can't stop thinking about her!" Mike exclaimed as he watched his friend erase a few numbers and redo the tally. Andrew snapped the pencil down and looked up.
     "Shit, I still need six more points to win this. Now listen, bro, I know you loved her. You had a fun go for awhile, but it's my job to point out all the ways the two of you weren't compatible. You guys fought from day one, and ya'll broke up more times than the Apollo mission. She was a little crazy, you have to admit. And hey, didn't she hide the keys to your car in a mud puddle during that last break-up? I mean, come on man, who does that?"

Mike grabbed the dice and prepared for another roll. As he shook them in his right hand his cell phone vibrated on the table next to his elbow. Still shaking the dice, he picked up his phone and read the message that awaited him: "I'm sorry, baby... I love you." A tear welled in his eye as he set the phone down and let the dice go.
     "Yeah, she was a little crazy." He could feel his heart pounding excessively, his feet began to swell within his shoes. His armpits started to sweat as his brain began remembering all the things he loved about her. Like the way she used to look at him with absolute certainty, with love that was unquestionable, as if she knew something that he never possibly could. Or the way she used to sing him to sleep, whispering lyrics to their favorite songs while he dozed off into the unknown, keeping the beat on his chest with her fingers. Or the tears she would shed while listening to the stories of his abusive past, and how her arms would find refuge around his body.

     Mike jumped up from that table, almost knocking over the beer near him, "Dude, I gotta go!"
     Andrew looked over at his friend and replied, "Well shit man, go already. Don't let this silly little dice game keep you from what's important. I'll kick your ass next time." And at that, Mike grabbed his phone and car keys and headed out the door.

***********

There were a few more things that belonged to her. Two bras, some bath-time bubbly stuff, a pot and a pan and a few other kitchen utensils. He gathered up these things and placed them into a plastic Fred Myer's bag. He then stuffed the note he wrote into a waterproof zip-lock baggie, added a few rocks inside and tucked it into his pocket. He was all set, and off he went.

Mike arrived at her house late in the evening. Her mother's white Ford Taurus was parked in the driveway, as was her father's Econoline van. He pulled up close to the Taurus and left the engine running as he got out. He placed the bag of left-over memories on the front step to her house, and as he turned to go back to his car he reached into his pocket and removed the zip-locked baggie from his pocket. Inside the baggie was the letter he wrote, explaining his love for her, and his sorrow for how things had ended. He looked over at the mud puddle, where just a few days ago ago he fished out his car keys, and he tossed the letter in. He hopped back into his car and began his three point turn-around, and slowly exited out into the street.

Sometimes love is only ankle deep.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Expendables

I've been trying to keep an eye on the recent developments in Libya, trying to determine whether the good ol' Red White & Blue will be ensnared in yet another war. Obama says "No!" to implementing ground troops, I say he's full of shit and will do it anyway. We already have covert CIA operatives within the borders doing who-knows-what to who-knows-who, so it's just a matter of time. This puppet is no different from the others, and the military industrial complex is very, very hungry. I can hear it's belly growling even from the solitude of my apartment:

"Me hungry! Feed me! Gaddafi... Muslims... Al Qaeda... Iraqis... Afghans... Feed me!"

Speaking of Al Qaeda, I heard they are fighting with the Libyan rebel forces, which is odd, because I was lead to believe Al Qaeda was the terrorist organization responsible for 9/11. So, if they are on the rebels' side and we are on the rebels' side, that means we're aiding them in their onslaught against Gaddafi, which means we are helping terrorists, right? Oh man, this foreign relations crap is so tricky-dicky! I have a headache...

I also heard on a podcast today that Jesse "The Body" Ventura would be willing to run as V.P. to Ron Paul if he decides to run for President, but only if he signs on as an Independent instead of a Republican. That would be an interesting ticket,one I would seriously consider voting for (aim arrow.... steady.... fire!).

Oh, and one more thing I noticed upon studying this whole Libya thing. Is it just me or does Muammar Gaddafi bear an uncanny resemblance to our beloved Mickey Rourke? You decide: