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Friday, September 28, 2007


Well, it didn't say "Rain" in the forecast yesterday. It said "72 and Sun," which is why I left my tools and sundry others out last night. It started raining around 5AM and bugger! Damned if we didn't get more rain in an hour and a half than we did all last weekend in the projected Storm Of The Century! (Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film.)

I love a good rain, actually. I love the sight of it, the smell of it, the sound of it at night as you lay in bed pondering the events of the day. What I don't love is the rust it leaves on the tools. Oh sure, most of my tools are stainless steel, but there are those few small parts that have just that bit of iron in them that when they get even slightly damp, my vast work environment takes on a burned and bloodsoaked crime-scene look to it by noon. How uninviting.

The weather's been quite nice, however, and I made it through yesterday without drinking 6 liters of Gatorade, but I was crestfallen at the sound of water dripping off the fascia this morning. It got me out of bed, though it didn't shake me awake enough to get outside and put a tarp over everything, unfortunately. I just stood there at the window with my mug of coffee, staring out at the mess in the rain. That's when the sprinklers came on.

Looking at the weather report now, it still says "72 and Sun" but it is reporting "Rain" in Oceanside. Thank you. Of course, it's not actually raining now, no, the sun is peeking through the clouds. I heard on the news the other day that the Water Company was going to start sending out notices to its customers asking them to start cutting back on their water usage. My immediate thought was to increase the sprinkler duration out on the landscape, so a month from now, when I cut it back to normal, my water bill would reflect that I had actually cut back my usage. Then I thought that this would be an unsavory act, so I let it go. Now, it's raining and the sprinklers are on. Well, it's not my fault! I read the weather reports!

I wonder how many unsavory people out here in SoCal actually did increase their water usage at the announcement. I mean, America's Finest City has to keep its lawns green, right? And, I do swear, every time I see announcements like this, I'm driving down the freeway that afternoon and some sprinkler head has broken off up the embankment and it's blasting Old Faithful into the number 2 lane. Does the ice plant really need to be watered, anyway? I understand it's a succulent, thereby lessening the need for water in dry times. I used to live in Arizona. All the freeways out there are lined with rocks, gravel, and cactus, and in some areas it's landscaped rather attractively. Anyway, I'm sure the mayor's house is xeriscaped to the property lines.

Most of my sprinkler heads are broken, anyway. It seems they launch the water into the air and then the stuff evaporates before it hits the grass, which lays there agape, yawning up at the sun begging for a drop. I figured I'd wait until after Christmas to fix it, as the whole landscape needs to be overhauled (or underhauled, as the case may be) and I hate to do a patch job on something I'm just going to tear out anyway. Also, the campaign against the ants continues, and I can stand the dryness more than they can. (I think.)

Speaking of dry, unwatered landscapes, the neighbor house remains unsold and there is not a green thing left around it, thus reducing the property's value all the more. A year ago the sodded owner sodded the whole sodded backyard in an attempt to sell the sodded thing and it looked beautiful from my upstairs bedroom. Now the bank owns it, I suppose, and they're no good at upkeep. Imagine all the foreclosures around SoCal right now, and how all these homes, with no one in them, are just condemning themselves with the slow smokeless burning of decay.

But think of how much water we're saving! (I'll take his.)

P.S. In the previous post I used the term "poofta". Definition follows.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Remember how the series frittered itself away until it came to that lasting image of Lee Majors chasing after Bigfoot in that revolving ice tunnel in Universal Studios?

Just thought I'd mention it.

Tonight we watched Bionic Woman, which is a new show on television which is based on the old show on television which was based on the show before that, The Six Million Dollar Man. It's horrible, of course, but there's nothing else on. There hasn't been anything else on in months! Not since LOST and 24 went off the air until January, anyway. We watch two or three shows here on Eastview Court, depending on how you look at it, and that's it. Anything else is just news, the adult-alternative music station, or AppleTV. And lately there have been spats of kids shows, Elmo and the like, but that's it. And Discovery. We watch the Discovery channel. Nothing else. Sometimes Science channel or Animal Planet. Or the old movie channels. Or Home and Garden Network. Nothing else. Maybe the Travel Channel, if it's not about poker.

No, really. This family watches LOST, 24, and House. And House we're not even a hundred percent committed to yet, for some reason (even though I'm convinced it's the best written show on television.) The woman watches Dancing with the Stars, which makes me queasy from all the pooftas, and I watch Survivorman, which only has a few episodes, so I've seen them all twice. The Mythbusters and Deadliest Catch episodes just seem to repeat unendingly, so it's not like we really sit down and watch those. And Sunrise Earth we're only half awake for anyway, so it doesn't count. But really, there hasn't been anything on in months.

We don't do Netflix, because we can't commit to sitting in one place for over an hour without nodding off, so from time to time there is the errant night where we've had dinner, the kid is asleep, and we're just sitting there and there's nothing on. When this happens, I just pick something at random because I know my wife is just going to nod off in the next few minutes anyway.

And tonight it was Bionic Woman. Wow, what dull, redundant blather. Do you remember the original series? It was originally six million dollars that made the man so bitchin'. Now it's fifty million, due to inflation. What's new and inventive about the series? Nothing. Well, she's hotter than Lindsey Wagner, but that might just be from the tight outfits she favors in every other scene (and often, it's raining.) And, if memory serves, Steve Austin had the bionic eye, and Jaime Somers had the bionic ear. In this one, get this, she has both! No kidding. The write-up in the cable guide said that "after a terrible accident, she is given robotic limbs and then is visited by the original bionic woman" which I understood to mean that Lindsay Wagner was going to be making a guest appearance in the remake pilot! But it was not to be. This new original bionic woman character is like the Terminatrix in Termintor 3, (you remember, of course) and she has an evil streak in her so the two hot bionic women were destined to duke it out in the final scene of tonight's episode. Towards the end, Mrs. Ditchman woke up for two seconds to say, "Oh, cat fight." Then she rolled over and went back to sleep.

So no Lindsay Wagner. This was really the whole reason I committed to the hour, and now I want my hour back. Seriously, I kind of feel sorry for Lindsay Wagner doing those mattress commercials nowadays. She was a superheroine on all the lunchboxes and whatnot, and now it's like she just wants to sleep. Tired from the drudgery of catching bad guys, day in, day out. Who wouldn't be? My job's exhausting and there's no good vs. evil battle all day long. Then again, isn't she bionic? Why would she be so tired? Boggles the mind, really.

So don't watch it. The re-emerged popularity of cliffhanger shows must've really ticked off the fans, as it has affected all of network programming, to the point that entire seasons are halved by sword and delayed for six months in order to avoid a "cliffhanger moment" that lasts longer than a week. So there's nothing on for half a year now!

Actually, this is a good thing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dennis Prager defended the Jews again today! He invited people to call in and explain to him why the Jews were so hated in the world and throughout history. Among one of the more common reasons was "They've cornered the diamond market!" to which Dennis replied something like, "Let's discard, for the moment, that De Beers is a Belgian company and that South Africa has a huge corner on the diamond market as well... So the Jews have cornered the diamond market. So what?" which sent the caller into a frenzy: "But every diamond out there was cut by a Jew!" It was an astonishing revelation. Dennis giggled. "The Jews are a tiny group of people, compared to so many other countries and peoples. Why is everyone so obsessed with them?" Dennis is right. The Chinese have the market cornered on the cheap, useless, lead-painted trinkets of the world and nobody hates them for it. Maybe they should.

Then there were the people who called in and claimed that the Jews were hated because they are so powerful. Dennis: "Powerful? So powerful they allowed ONE THIRD of their people to be slaughtered in the holocaust?"

Then someone called in and claimed that the Jews were hated for their Narcissism. Caller: "They're like Paris Hilton! She's so obsessed with herself that everyone becomes obsessed with her!" Dennis: "I don't follow." Caller: "Because they claim to be 'chosen by God', Dennis, they're always calling themselves the Chosen People!" Dennis: "Well, they are the chosen people. That's what the Bible says." Caller: "See! Unbelievable narcissism!" To which Dennis coolly replied, "The Japanese claim to get the sun first in the morning and no one hates them for it. It's tradition. The fact that the Bible says the Jews were chosen only means they were chosen for a task. They weren't chosen for their greatness. As a matter of fact the Bible goes to great lengths explaining what miserable failures they were. More so than any other people in the Bible!"

To which the caller hung up, and we were all the better for it.

Speaking of Jew-haters, the president of Iran says that there are no homosexuals in Iran. Huh. Imagine that. It may be true. I don't know -I'm not gay and I've never been to Iran. But it may be true because they've all been executed, according to this news report. There's a bright side, however, gays are given a choice of four methods of execution: hanging, stoning, halving by sword, or being dropped from the highest perch.

Halving by sword?

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's amazing to me that if you met someone on the street who said these things, you'd discard the guy as a kook. But if you're Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you say it at Columbia University, well... oh I don't know. He's the duly elected president of Iran, right? You figure it out. Also, the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews, the most documented event in world history, should not be treated as fact, but as theory, and therefore open to debate and more research.

It's a crazy, mixed-up world we live in, but as long as we all get our aluminum patio covers, there'll be nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yes, if you haven't heard via my better half over at Mundane Details, it is Rocky's birthday. He is eighteen now, which means we either kick him out of the house or continue feeding him and cleaning his litter box. Eighteen amounts to two or three hundred years old in human years (or something) so we'll keep him around for pity's sake. Mind you, the Little Ditchman won't be so lucky.

According to the official papers, Rocky is a purebred Persian and one heated spring morning in 1989 he was sired by "Smokie" and "Duchess", just the right mix of royalty and scoundrel in my mind. Evidently he was originally listed as a female, and Mrs. Ditchman (who acquired him when she was fourteen!) named him "Roxy". It was only later, at a visit with the veterinarian, that a trained professional would point out the truth of his sex and he would be re-named "Rocky", after the popular movie franchise of the time. This sexual confusion no doubt accounts for the perpetual scowl.

He is deaf as a cinder block, and in my mind this contributes to his longevity. When the Little Ditchman was born it was only Rocky who could sleep easy around the house, getting his daily 22 hours worth. He is good-tempered, friendly, and tolerant, never a glutton and rarely territorial. But he has his limits: let his water dish go dry and he will let you know, regardless the hour of night or day.

When I came in to the house I was the third wheel, and I can now say with rock solid confidence that after five years, I still am. Every night, every single night, there is Rocky in bed with my wife, snuggled in against her head, one paw on her shoulder. She will be fast asleep, and Rocky will be there watching me as I walk in and get ready for bed. I'll brush my teeth and so forth, take off my shirt, and just as I pull back the sheet to slide in to the bed, my bed, Rocky will remind me: Meow -as if to say, You may be married to her, pal, but I was here first. And I will always have been here first. And he's right, of course, so what's a guy gonna do?

For his birthday I gave him a shave. He hated every second of it. I was certain to wear my leather work gloves and Mrs. Ditchman held him down whilst donning the oven mitts, as we didn't want a repeat of last month's poor animal handling mishap. His fur had become pretty matted over the summer and there was just no brushing it out this time. In his old age, we let him traipse through the yard in the afternoon and he enjoys the sun and sniffing around the compost pile, but it's murder on his pelt. Anyhow, shame on me for not trimming him down before the heat wave, but he hogs all the spoon time with the wife -so we're even.

Rocky's a good cat. Never too demanding, let's you know what he wants and then goes and lives his life out of the way. There is the occasional poo-dangler from the unkempt hair around the backside, but I think his owners can be blamed for this and they take on the lion's share of the embarrassment at parties, anyhow. He doesn't like ants in his food dish, has never been known to beg, and never gives in to the lusty debauchery of catnip, though he has acquired a hankering for a nice greasy strip of Charro Chicken once in a while, (thanks to me.) And he'll let you know it if you've been away too long. Like a best friend, he lets you do your own thing, but won't stand for neglect.

Here's to Rocky.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Successful Oktoberfest Is The Only Way To Usher In A Terrific Fall

Welcome to The Fall! My favorite season, if not only for the metaphorical connotations of the season and the word itself, but for all Fall brings. Last week, when it was summer, I was at Lowe's and they were putting up the fake Christmas trees and very real decorations -I kid you not. Spare us, please! Just let me have my Halloween, the holiday where you get to dress like an idiot, demand candy from people, and if they don't pay up, you threaten them with tomfoolery (and all this is encouraged in the kids!) Also, there's Thanksgiving, an excellent American holiday by all means, and then there's that first Fall cold snap and those leaves changing color, and the big clouds in the sky that give it some depth and dimension for once (we just don't get that often enough out here in SoCal.) And what about that week or so of warm, dry Santa Ana winds that whip through town blowing the leaves in an upward spiral and bringing the ghosts dancing out of the brush? When that happens, there will be fires and another heat spell and the professional weathermen will be all worked up "a heat wave in October!" as if they'd never seen it before. This past weekend's Storm of the Century was a no-show, which would have been disappointing if it wasn't so gosh-darned pretty outside, and I don't see why the professional weathermen couldn't have just said, "This weekend is going to be the most beautiful one we've had all summer! You'll be glad you live in Southern California and the mere thought that the bubble has burst in the mortgage industry and that you're paying too much for a square of property on this side of paradise won't even soft-shoe through the back of your mind!" Of course, had they even forecasted such a thing, it probably would've rained a torrent -but then that would have been news! Biggest September rainstorm in twenty years! So it goes.

My favorite season is always kicked off properly with Oktoberfest, a beer-drinker's holiday in the ranks of St. Patrick's Day and the 4th of July (and Christmas, and Labor Day, and well, all of 'em. Though I prefer wine on Thanksgiving.) Unfortunately, I've had my health on the shelf for the past few, so it's been something of a let down. When that happens, I usually just drink Mexican beer with lime, or a nice hefeweizen with a slice of lemon, so I can get the Vitamin C. Anyway, I love beer, and drink a hearty amount. Imagine my pleasure upon seeing that the Construction booth at the Harbor Days Festival last week was just a booth away from the Oceanside Ale Works Beer Garden! Wonderful!

I prefer good wine by any stretch of imagination, but good beer is much easier to come by (read: cheaper) so I stick with being a connoisseur of the latter. I'm always trying out new beers, and when I run out of ideas, I go back to some old favorites to see if they still taste the same. They often don't, as microbreweries tend to adjust their ingredients or water source or whatnot from year to year and it can often have a noticeable impact on the flavor. I read recently about "flavor wandering" in Budweiser (and I mean the perennial American-made Budweiser, not the real German stuff) and they have a beer cellar at the Budweiser headquarters that goes back like 40 years or something, so they can keep track of it. Aged Budweiser! Somehow, it just doesn't sound as good to me as a 40 year old bottle of cab.

Also, I can be bought with a good label (it's only beer, after all.) I noticed that Bass had a nice new label and a canned version, so I got a few of those the other day. Man alive! It was the best beer I've had in a long time. They have perfected the can of beer! This is good news! I guess there is a new technology where they can inject nitrogen into the can without the widget, so you get that perfect pour and creamy head plus the extra sip of beer that the widget once took up! Brilliant! And last week I had a few He'Brew, the Chosen Beer, because it was Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Pomegranate Ale was interesting, not too bad, but their regular old He'Brew had a surprising tang to it that I liked. Also they have some great ads. Check it out. You gotta hand it to those Jews, man. L'Chaim!

Spent Saturday afternoon shaving the cat, but spent Sunday afternoon at a swell suburban Oceanside birthday party. One of the neighbors has a now 4-year-old, and they rented a jumper and had cake and a pinata. The kids ran around on the grass, the women sat at one table, and the men at another, and it was the sweet angel of good living making the rounds again. It's such a pleasure to have friendly folks on your street, folks who like beer. We seem to get together every couple of months or so, these kids have birthdays, and it's a good-humored event. Everyone's friendly and we chat about the goings-on in the hood; what did you do to your house, what's wrong with those guys who live over there, did you hear there was a snake in their kitchen, that sort of thing... The kids run around on the grass and every adult conversation is cut short by one of the parents running off to fetch one of the little ones for this reason or that, and then it's talk about the schools, the cats, and then you walk home. An excellent Sunday afternoon. I tell ya, nothing to complain about is an excellent day.

And Mrs. Ditchman ran eight miles this morning and didn't think twice about it. And she's still sick! What a woman, that Mrs. Ditchman,
W H A T - A - W O M A N !

I'm a lucky man.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Wow, now that's a real grabber of a title, George! I'm sure they're already lining up at the Grauman's Chinese for that one, eh? Puh-leeze... Has it been twenty years yet since the last? I would really have been looking forward to this about ten years ago, but now? Have you seen Harrison Ford lately? (Well, okay, I know you have, Matt.) How about Indiana Jones and the Lost Dentures? Indiana Jones and the Adult Diapers? Indiana Jones and the Convalescent Home of Doom? Indiana Jones and the... -you get the idea.

Comes out May 22, 2008. To be honest, I was kinda hoping for Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Atlantis, but whatever. I'll go see it of course, which gives me liberty to mock it thoroughly. Karen Allen will be returning (she was the fetching lass in Raiders) so that should be worth the price of admission. Anyway, I guess Lucas just can't let anything go as long as there's money to be made. It's funny to me that all these people who run the "LUCAS RAPED MY CHILDHOOD!" web sites (yes, they exist) will still be the first in line on opening night. Well, let's hope Indy dies in this one, that'd be good. I don't see him dying though, I kinda see him spending eternity in that cave in Last Crusade drinking from the Holy Grail with that aged knight ("He chose poorly."). Ford is 65, you know.

And there's this. So let me get this straight: they put a flag at the bottom of the ocean so now it's their territory? Fine then, we get the moon. Of course, there's not ten thousand billion tons of oil buried on the moon, as far as we can tell, so... I guess we'll have to fight them for it.

And another thing. Have you been to http://play.blogger.com/? It's a non-stop running slideshow that shows you every picture that is currently being uploaded to Blogspot. It's really kind of a trip watching it -it's like the whole Internet in all its mundane glory just passing before your eyes! Click on any of the photos and you will be taken instantly to the accompanying blog. Makes me want to Keanu. ("Whoa.") I'm convinced that if you watch it long enough you'll see someone you know. It's hypnotic for a minute or two, and then you kind of switch it off and forget about it and go back to ordinary living. I suppose all those pictures mean something to someone out there. Glad to be a part of it!

Well, it was a beautiful day, and this summer has really burned itself out, hasn't it? Rain is expected tomorrow -biggest September storm in twenty years, they say! Hey, wasn't I just complaining about the heat a few days ago? I actually pulled my slippers out of the closet this morning and put on some pants. Summer left in such haste it took off with my health, too, I was disappointed to discover last night. Feeling it bad in the sinuses, throat, etc. That's the way it goes, I guess. But maybe it'll be a nice wet winter here in SoCal. Enough of this global warming, we deserve it. Oh wait, I understand it's not "global warming" anymore, it's "global climate change", didn't you hear? As opposed to, say, "global climate stagnation"? That's it. I'm canceling my subscription to National Geographic. (They're gonna have to re-draw the maps of the Arctic continental shelf, anyway.)

Late addition: This is why America is going to win the Global War On Terror. Isn't the Internet great?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Ahoy, me haarrty!"

If you don't believe the world is coming to an end, then you haven't read this and this and this...

But then again there's this, so maybe there's hope after all.

Also, it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, matey! Arrrgh! Just the fact that it's "International" Talk Like a Pirate Day makes it all worth the cost of an eye-patch. Any excuse to enjoy a flagon of grog, I say.

There was a distant flicker of excitement today in the hood. Not actual "excitement' as in "surprise and alarm", but rather the lackluster hijinks of local teenagers. I could hear our neighbor on the phone with the police wafting all the way across the street and up into the office window, "...they lit a fire... out in the field... a couple boys..." So I figured I'd grab the Little Ditchman and get her out of the house for a few minutes, as she bores easily. (Takes after her dad.)

We went over to the neighbor's, "Any trouble?" Sure enough, there was a tiny fire about a quarter of a mile away out in the last undeveloped property in all Oceanside. "They ran off and hid behind those rocks!" I knew I could amble on down there and stamp the fire out with my flip-flop, but I thought I better leave this one to the authorities.

We had a good vantage point, as the neighbor's house stands atop a rise, and after ten minutes or so the fire was about knee-high. The land had been recently cleared of brush so there wasn't any obvious imminent danger, and soon enough we heard the sirens and then a few firetrucks pulled up to what amounts to the edge of the local prairie, off in the distance. The local heroes finished their sandwiches and hopped out, and made their way across the field. I nearly peed my pants from all of the excitement. What was cool, though, was the sound of all the coyotes howling down in the brush-filled gully. They got whipped up into a suburban frenzy from the sound of the sirens.

Anyway, I haven't heard if they caught the boys, but my money's on the neighbor kid who home-schools himself. The wife and I were having lunch out on the patio last week when a wine cooler bottle came flying over the fence and shattered into a million pieces on the pavers near us. I turned on the dad voice, and almost felt a bit guilty about it as it scares even me. Almost, that is, since I've got a little kid of my own now, and that changes things. Hey, I was young and stupid as a kid, too, and maybe if I'd been caught and held accountable more back then, it wouldn't have taken me so long to snap out of it. I made him clean it up, but not without intimidating him first.

And yes, I said "home-schools himself". This is the answer I got when I asked him why he wasn't in school. See? The world really is coming to an end. This is the generation that will be minding us in the Oceanside Old Folks' Home!

And three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have arrived in Lake Elsinore. Seriously, have you ever been there? Lake Elsinore is a miserable place, I drive by it all the time. So if you find yourself stuck in Lake Elsinore and a few guys named "Turk", "McCabe", and "Wayne 'No-Nose' Gardner" stop to help, REFUSE -BY ALL MEANS- REFUSE! You'll recognize "No-Nose" because he- well... check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Most Significant Thing

My friend, Jenn, lost her dad yesterday. I don't know Jenn all that well, and I never met her dad, but I was trying to think of something kind to say, a condolence, a wish of sympathy that might somehow ease the grief. But what words make anything better? I suppose it's the combination of words, and the teller of them, that can heal a hard moment, but no amount of words in any spectacular construct will bring her father back. Or any father back.

My dad died three and half years ago, and not a day has passed since then that I haven't thought about him. And though it happened suddenly, a phone call in the night, I had expected it for years. There was always a certain undefinable distance between my father and I, and I'm not sure if it was just a difference of perspective or a difference of personality, but we had our differences, to be sure. I remember one time when I was in my twenties we were working on some project and an argument ensued and he blurted out, in front of strangers no less, "You've never respected me!" which hurt me. It hurt because I knew that it was partially true, and it hurt because I'd always felt that he'd never done anything worth respecting. And he knew it.

I was a skinny, unathletic kid more comfortable with a box of crayons than a ball. My dad was a big, tough, football-loving type, a man who drank seriously and worked on cars. He had a tempestuous facade, one that could not be nailed down, and I was the quiet, thoughtful type that, too, could not be nailed down. It was just about the only thing we had in common. My father never lived more than 20 miles from where he was born and never left California. I wanted to see the world, and I only needed to survive until I could escape. There came an understanding in the last argument we ever had. He screamed, "That's the difference between you and me! I'm a loud bullshitter and you're a quiet bullshitter!"

"Actually, Dad, it's called self control," and he had none. It was obvious in the drinking, the angry rages, the lack of discipline in his job. His friends and family, and finally his health, all suffered at the hand of his lack of self control. He would die less than a year after my wedding, and I remember seeing his diabetes really taking its toll. He had no feeling in his legs and his vision was so cloudy that he could barely tell the difference between his kids, and this was such a striking contrast from the man I grew up with that he seemed another person entirely. In his weakness in those final years, he found that he had to rely on those around him nearly constantly, and it was obvious that this was difficult for him, as he had never been particularly reliable himself.

And one could tell that he had given up. Even years before his death, it was obvious that he wasn't planning on getting any better or making any changes, and as an adult I had a conscious moment where I realized that I was going to have to prepare myself for that day when he would die. I had no choice, but I was going to have to come to terms with our differences, and learn to love him in spite of everything.

At the memorial service, my mother, who is a saint for loving my father, decided to speak at the last minute. No one would force her to do it, of course, and we were all surprised to hear she had something to say. She got up in the church my father never went to and told us all of the happiest days in my dad's life. What were they? I was dying to know. She said it was each birth of each of his six children. And then she sat down. That's about when I lost it.

I remember thinking how grateful I was to have so many of my friends show up at the service, even though they didn't really know him. There were no words shared between us, but just the sight of them, this extended family, helped so much. And I remember sitting with my brothers and sisters and observing how each one of us was handling the death differently, and how we began to realize that it was just us now. But we had each other, and if there is ever a reason to have more than one child, that's it: You give them each other for when you're gone. One of the last things my dad said to me was how pleased he was that I was married so that the "Hawkins" name would be carried on. I thought it a proud and selfish thing to say at the time, but I don't think that anymore.

Before he died, I knew that when he finally did go that it was going to be difficult for me, and then when the day did come the pain I felt was not the pain I expected, and it had come out of nowhere. I had thought that I would be upset for all those words that I didn't ever say, those things that I didn't ever explain or forgive, but those things couldn't have been further from my mind. What I realized was that I really did love him and that I didn't want any of those things fixed, necessarily, I just wanted him back. And I wasn't going to get that. And it hurt.

I never heard my father say "I love you" and I never said it to him, but I know now that some things we do in our life we do in our fashion, until we can learn a way to do them so all can easily understand. That first year in my marriage I had to learn to say those words out loud to my wife, and now we have taught our daughter to say them, and so the generational curse will be broken in the Hawkins line.

My family has been closer since my dad died. There are many reasons for this, and undeniably one of them is that it is easier to be together now, without having to negotiate the baggage my father always brought with him, baggage he was never able to shake. Death can be a liberation, if we allow it, and for some of us who believe in a just God, death is the ultimate liberation, and it is what I wish for my father.

In the end I never knew him, and that is the biggest regret. I do some work on my family genealogy from time to time, and my father's lineage is an endless skeleton of blank spaces with no stories attached. It feels as if half of my own story has just been forgotten, just tossed out the car window driving down the road of life. I guess that's a big reason why I try and put all these words down -to get that story back.

There are less than ten pictures of my dad before he married my mom, before the kids came along. Looking through the old photo albums, it's as if his family is all that defined him, but in the end that's really all you have that matters. It's all you live for, and all you leave behind.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just Sleep

Mrs. Ditchman has not been sleeping well at all. Today she started to argue with me about what time it was that I came to bed last night, but then she stopped herself mid-sentence: she wasn't sure which night she was referring to.

We were discussing it because the little Ditchman was up bright and early and I got up to fetch her. I took her downstairs and we worked the morning routine -milk and coffee. An hour and a half later the Mommy came down for the morning, and upon sight of her I passed out on the couch for the next hour and a half. I needed more sleep. 

At one point this past weekend I was sitting in the booth, watching the world go by, wondering why anyone would really want an aluminum patio cover and I had a shocking thought that maybe this was the end. That this is what I've amounted to, the sum of all my life's labors -sitting here at some half-baked carnival, hawking schlock. And then this little 18 month-old kid came running up out of nowhere, laughing like it was paradise, and all the negative attitude just shamefully slunk away.

And again, we were reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and the reason we were reading it was because I was trying to distract her from mixing two insoluble childhood activities, coloring and reading, and I had to separate the books from the crayons. When we sat there on the couch and I began to read this old book which was brand new to this family, but I had had in my distant youth, I turned the first page to see a purple crayon slash drawn asymmetrically across the illustrations. There it was. One crayola mark, drawn as a dividing line in the sand between youth and adulthood. I wanted to scold her for drawing in the new book, and yet I was suddenly taken back to those Dr. Seuss books of my own childhood, the ones handed down to me by my siblings, with torn bindings and crayon slashes throughout -half of them probably made by me before I even grasped the stories.

And again, this morning I was off to work, in the middle of the routine, and the little girl said -and quite clearly and plainly- "Bye, bye Daddy," which was astonishing. It amounted to a whole sentence, subject and predicate, thought up on her own and expressed with intent. I was half way to Chula Vista before I remembered where I was going.

Parents always say, "Oh she's so smart!" or "He's really bright for his age!" but what they're really referring to is how different the child is from last week, from two weeks ago. It seems the older we get, the slower we learn, and we see little children do what comes naturally and we are amazed and impressed. Children get caught up in the moment and they are suddenly enlightened, their horizons broadened, and there is more to learn. As adults, we get caught up in the moment and it is a luckless distraction.

Every night I go in to her room, a couple times even, to see how she is sleeping. Somehow, she always seems to have her head on the opposite side of the bed as the last time I checked on her, but she is almost always dead out. I have to put my hand on her chest to see if she is breathing, and I wonder, why I can't sleep like that? And I figure it is the purpose of dream state, to process the data collected from the day. As we get older we focus more on the past: what she was like last week, last month... how much fun that was last year, how much better off we were back when -and we compare it all, which is nothing to dream about. It seems nowadays that there is less to process after another day's work -this day like yesterday, like the day before it, but kids know nothing of all that. They go all day, eyes wide open, taking it all in.

And they sleep like babies.

Monday, September 17, 2007

So there was the weekend, and what a weekend it was! Set up a nice patio cover at the Harbor Days Festival down at the old Oceanside Wharf. A nice little table, a couple of palm trees, and we handed out flyers. It was a corner space, about 30 feet from the water, right near the main stage, just next to the Oceanside Ale Works, beautiful weather. Families, dogs, military bands, pirates. It was a festival!

We sold the family wares. That is to say, Mrs. Ditchman did most (all) of the selling. She is the entire Sales/Marketing Division of the operation. I build the things. Give me a hammer and some aluminum and I'll bang some shade out of it in no time. Ask me what it costs and I wince and stammer, stroke my bald forehead and inevitably blurt out some number. That smacking sound you hear in the background will be my wife hitting her own forehead.

But the shows generally mean it's Daddy time, and I don't mind one bit! We play in the yard, chase each other around, the usual happy stuff. Today she fell asleep in my lap as I read the new book, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish which I hadn't read in, oh, 33 years. It's a pretty funny one. Much recommended. Best Seuss since Mister Brown Can Moo, Can You?

The show went okay. 60,000 people scheduled to attend! Why, if we sold a patio cover to each of those people, made a thousand dollars profit on each one... hold on... doing the math... that'd be sixty million dollars! Or something. Mrs. Ditchman said she handed out less than 50 flyers. But she made a few appointments. That's business.

We came home tired, and she was beat. Real beat, too, banged up and sickly. The kid is finally back to her old self, even joking around a bit now, but the mom, well, she's a mess. Aluminum poisoning, no doubt. I know the sickness. The cure is not what we had for dinner: beer sausage, grilled onions, and um, beer. She claimed it was her idea, which is fine by me. I loved every bit of it. Just like the bachelor days of my youth! With a side of mustard! Drew the curtains on the weekend by rubbing eucalyptus oil into her shoulder.

And O.J.'s in jail. Why, that'd perk up any Monday. The streets are safer! Seems he was trying to steal back some of his stuff, valuable souvenirs and such with his autograph, at gunpoint! I find this a fascinating metaphor for his pathetic life. His massive ego, long since tainted by his pop-criminality, has deteriorated to the point where he is effectively stealing back his own identity and he gets caught and arrested for it! It's as if his powerful ego alone convicted him! Maybe I'm reaching. You're right. The guy was just minding his own business in Vegas, just in town for a wedding for one of his buddies. He was the best man. I hate it when the best man ends up in jail at my wedding.

O.J. Simpson has buddies? By the way, someone please try and convince me that he was not guilty in the murders of Ron and Nicole. Remember O.J.'s glove found at the crime scene? The one that was in O.J.'s blood found at the crime scene? The size twelve Bruno Magli shoes and the bloody footprints? The cut on O.J.'s hand? Kato's and the limo driver's eyewitness accounts placing him returning right after the time of death? The blood of Ron and Nicole in O.J's car, house, etc.? And who could forget the slow-speed chase in the white Bronco and the thousands of dollars and fake beard he had in the glove compartment? Wow, what a ripe bastard. They say he could get thirty years for armed robbery. He's sixty. I'll live to see that release date when he's 90!

But I still say he's going to kill himself one of these days. I said it after the trial (the first one) and I still say it. You read it here first, folks. That ego will reach critical mass, one of these days. Looks like it did today, actually. What entertainment. Give that guy an Emmy. And did you hear about the book where he admits it all? Okay, well sort of. Anyway, it was number one on Amazon last I checked. Read the Amazon reader reviews and you can save yourself the time bothering with the book.

By the way, Al Gore won an Emmy last night. This is no big deal, however. Did you know that hundreds of Emmys are handed out each year? No one even knows the exact amount that are handed out, there are so many. Seriously. See if you can find out how many on the internet. No one knows. When I worked at Disney, it seemed every other person had an Emmy in his office. When I went to my ten year high school reunion, there were multiple Emmy winners in attendance. I was beginning to feel left out.

"What good amid these, oh me, oh life?" Man, what a low point in American Pop culture, the O.J trial was. Come to think of it, what was the high point of American Pop Culture? Season 1 of Firefly, no doubt.

Firefly- Emmy Award: Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series, 2003

Friday, September 14, 2007

I spent all day in the garage!

All day in the garage in preparation for this.

So I can't blog now -it'll be a busy weekend, arrrrrgh.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

oooh, look! Something shiny!


Watched another episode of Firefly tonight! The "Firefly" is the class of ship they fly. See? It even looks like a firefly with that shiny back portion!

My wife is thoroughly unimpressed by the concept. Went right upstairs to read Harry Potter of all things. Evidently she just feigned being a Star Wars fan so I would ask her to marry me. Sigh.

It takes place 500 years in the future and is a cross between Star Wars and The Old West! Oh, have I already blogged about that?

Let me add a few words to entice you to watch. 500 years in the future there are only two superpowers on Earth: America and China. They have become "The Alliance" and govern the newly discovered worlds in a nearby, however distant, star system. The planets there have been terra-formed and colonized by people from Earth, which has become over-populated (though it's never really explained -it only ran for one season, you see.) The people are pioneers, really, arriving after a long journey, their possessions consisting only of what they could carry, and having to make everything on their own. At one point, the colonies didn't like the way they were being governed and rebelled against The Alliance, only to succumb to a tighter-fisted rule ("either controlled completely or ignored entirely").

Do you see where this is going?

But there are no aliens. There is no light-speed. And there is no sound in space. Joss Whedon, the show's creator, was inspired by Star Wars and Post-Reconstruction American history (aren't we all?) -more specifically the story of those people from the south who lost the Civil War and then moved out to the frontier to start a new life. It's a concept I'd never considered before: you just lost a war in your own country, you gave nearly everything for what you believed in. Now what do you do?

The difference here is the good side lost. And so here we are in space on a spaceship with a captain who once fought in the failed rebellion and now has a group of passengers who make their way around this solar system looking for work, either legal or otherwise. There aren't a million spaceships, like Star Wars or anything like that. These are guys just trying to get along, all with a history, all with something to prove, all with no family but each other. There's the Captain, the Pilot, his wife (!) who is a bad-ass, and then there's the Engineer (some cute chick) and a Pastor, and a Prostitute (more of a Courtesan) and a few others. So it's a little contrived, but there's horses and bar fights and sawed-off shotguns and train robberies, and yet every now and then they get on a spaceship and you think, oh yeah, we're in space.

What really makes the show work, though, is that it sticks with the old themes of the classic western -chivalry, heroism, the challenge of free will, doing what's right when there is no reward to be had, subscribing to a higher law in a land without one. So it's pretty cool.

Also, since America and China have long since united, there's a strange Asian influence on the show's environment, which lends itself to an interesting outer-spacey look. They speak a bunch of Mandarin, too, which (to American sensibilities) gives outer space a certain alien texture to it.

Anyway, it made my day to watch and I have a few more episodes left. Don't worry. Unless they really WOW me, I won't mention it here again. Except... there is the feature film of the series, Serenity which, even though I own, I refuse to watch until I see all the TV episodes. Serenity, by the way, was named 'Best Science Fiction Film Of All Time" by the readers of SFX Magazine. Holy Mother of Oats, that's shiny! ("Shiny" means "cool" on Firefly.)

In closing, it must be noted that NASA astronaut Steven Swanson, a fan of the show, took the Firefly and Serenity DVDs with him on Space Shuttle Atlantis' STS-117 mission, which lifted off a couple months ago. The DVDs will permanently reside on the International Space Station as entertainment for the station's crews.

They have a DVD player up there?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September 12th.

And we go back to our lives, already in progress. Back to forgetting. Do you remember where you were on September 12th last year? Any year? September 12th: life happened.

But it was September 11th that finally got me interested politically, (though that 2000 presidential campaign was pretty interesting, I recall.). I've always been curious, about nearly everything I suppose, but after 9/11 it seemed to me we were suddenly living in historic times. How exciting!

I guess every century or decade is defined by something. The 20s -they were "Roaring" right? And then the 30s -Depression. 40s -WWII. 50s -Atomic fears and the Cold War. 60s -duh. 70s -umm... disco? Star Wars? 80s -bad hair and cocaine on Wall St. 90s -Clinton. The 90s, that's a good one. What happened in the 90s? Bring back the 90s! Boy, those were the good old days... Young, single, wasting time and money. Generation X. (Oh, brother.)

Enough of that. My friend over here is right. I don't mean to be all-political-all-the-time either, but Petraeus came back with his report and it's Sept. 11th, so the current events are kind of ruling the day.

General Petraeus' report is very positive, if you've been paying attention. He says he believes it is possible to deal a severe blow to Al Qaeda, assist in installing a viable democracy in Iraq, and building an ally in the Middle East. He's no dummy, either, as he admits it will take a lot of commitment on America's part, and it will be a tough haul, but he believes it is possible. This is the guy everyone voted that they wanted to hear back from (including the democrats) so I believe him, and not the MoveOn crowd. Good news for America. Great news, actually.

David Petraeus is a fascinating guy. He is super smart, graduated in the top 5% of his class at West Point and went on to get his masters and PhD at Princeton, among other things. If you've heard him speak, you know that he doesn't sound like a military commander at all, but a sharp, sensitive, polite guy. Like your girlfriend's Dad.

Interestingly, in 1991 he was accidentally shot in the chest during a live-fire exercise when a soldier tripped and a rifle discharged. He was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee where he was operated on by future Senator Bill Frist. The hospital released him early after he did fifty push-ups without resting, just a few days after the accident. A few years later, he broke his pelvis while skydiving when his parachute collapsed at low altitude. He has been described by his subordinates as "the most competitive man on earth" and "phenomenal at getting people to reach their potential". Those are high compliments. Yes, I agree with you, put that ass-kicker in charge!

So I have some confidence about the future. Let's just get everybody out of the guy's way so he can work. By the way, more people will die. It's war. But we have the greatest fighting force on the planet and they are all volunteers! So unless you can name a country more deserving, America always wins. Give the soldiers whatever they need to finish the job, and godspeed.

I thought I said enough of that? Oh, well. Today was a little rough. The orders were screwed up, it was a lot of driving, and this evening the kid was inconsolable, crying to no end. (Congressional democrats would think I was refering to American soldiers in Iraq, there. But, no, it's just my humdrum SoCal life.) What do you do? Just put the kid to bed, I guess.

Another night with a glass of wine, sitting in front of the AppleTV screensaver. It's the damnedest thing. I recently had the computer upload ALL the old photos (previously, it was just this year's) so it was like watching your whole life slide gently by on the television. It's nice after a rough day. It reminds you that though there are days like this, there will be more days like that. And those will be the ones we take pictures of. The ones to remember.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11th.

Just watched United 93 for the first time. We've had it on our shelf for a while, and never got out to see it in the theater, so we figured tonight of all nights we'd sit down and commit ourselves to it.

Every American should see this movie. It's good. It's gripping. My heart was in my throat for most of it, and it captures it all pretty right on, without all the fluff and bluster of a typical Hollywood film. I think it's one for the ages, actually. A film that will tell the real story 50, 100 years from now, and without anybody lamely having to interpret it. It's directed by Paul Greengrass, in my mind known as that film director who will spend a hundred million dollars on a flick and not spare a dime on tripod rental. Thankfully, United 93 didn't need one. It feels like a documentary, and my wholehearted, flag-waving, patriotic thanks goes out to Matt Damon, Sean Penn, and Johnny Depp for not being in it.

It's hard to watch. Those air traffic controllers in for the day of their lives that will haunt them forever. Those passengers calling home to tell their family they love them (what else would they say?) Those lost, evil young men with the bandanas tied around their heads, box cutters, blood full of adrenaline, praying to a god that would have them all die in a useless lie.

Of course, I remember where I was on 9/11/01. It was a Tuesday, like today, only I didn't have a family and a home and a business to run. I was housesitting. Doing odd jobs to pay off some over-the-limit credit cards. Staying up late reading pretend literature, drinking beer with my buddies, driving around in my beat-up old Honda Civic. I'd stayed up late on the 10th, actually, and slept in on Tuesday, waking to the phone ringing. I got the message "how terrible it was what happened" and turned on the news to see it all at once: the planes hitting the buildings, the buildings going down, the confusion. To be honest, I don't know if I had even turned on the TV before the towers had fallen. All I could see was everything at once, like coming home to your house burning down and arriving at the same time as the firefighters.

I remember thinking, who are we going to start bombing? And when? And it wasn't until a couple days passed and the gravity of it all really got me. That Friday there were people on every street corner. A man came into the brewery and played the Stars an Stripes on his bagpipes. The whole place shut up, for once. I remember going surfing on Wednesday morning at sunrise and there wasn't a plane in the sky. All the freighters were lined up offshore, not allowed into L.A. harbor. There must have been fifty of them. It was an unforgettable sight. People started saying "Never forget". And everyone had their flag out. That is to say, they had a flag out. I think September 12th was that historic day in America when a lot of people realized they didn't own a flag.

I brought my flag down tonight, put it in the closet until Veterans Day. I've decided to wave the flag at my house from Memorial Day until September 11th, as long as men are out there dying for our country. I'd fly it every day, but you know, people just get used to seeing it. Months after 9/11/01 people had still kept their flags out and so many of them were faded and torn, as if they'd been forgotten. It bothered me then, and it bothers me now. But that's just me.

And I admit it: I've forgotten. I forget every year. And I don't like it one bit. It's part of the human psyche, a post-traumatic reaction, to immediately forget the terror of a life-changing event. It doesn't help that the TV news won't show the planes hitting those buildings anymore, or those buildings coming down, or remind us of the gruesome fate of all those firefighters and police officers and countless innocents crushed and incinerated in the biggest mass murder in American history. But the news still reports "NEVER FORGET" on their title cards. Just what is it that they want us to remember?

Lileks will remind you, here, if you're wondering. Watching that now I can't help but think how different my reaction would be today if something so terrible would take place again. It's all different now, with a family to protect and a new world you're proud of and love so much more. Within a year of September 11th, many of my friends would be married and moved away, and a few months after that I would be married and moved away myself and the country would go to war in Iraq on the eve of my wedding. Looking back, September 11th is that pivotal event in my life that's hard to see past. For me, that's the day that marked the beginning of the big changes in my life. The day the old passions started being replaced. The day frivolity died.

Lileks adds:

It seemed right away like it would be a big war [on terror], three to four years – Afghanistan first, of course, then Iraq, then Iran. The idea that it would have stalled and ended up in diffuse oblique arguments about political timetables would have been immensely depressing. There was a model for this sort of thing, a template. Advance. But that requires cultural confidence, a loose agreement on the goals, the rationale, the nature of the enemy and the endgame. We don’t have those things. Imagine telling someone six years ago Iran would be allowed, by default, to make nuclear weapons. They would wonder what the hell we’d done with half a decade, plus change. What part of 25 years of Death to America didn’t we get, exactly?


And I may be a big conservative and all, but I've got a few questions that should transcend ideology: When are we going to get Bin Laden and Zawahiri? And what difference does it make if we kill Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or Iraq as long as they're all dead? And when are we going to fill those damn holes in Manhattan and build the biggest frickin' buildings in the world in the shape of two large middle fingers aimed towards Mecca?

Sorry. Sorry about the "Mecca" thing. I'm still a kind of upset about Sept. 11th. But where are the peace-loving Muslims condemning Osama? Every day those towers are not rebuilt is a day of victory for Al-Qaeda. And the day our troops come home from Iraq is the day Osama gets a thousand more recruits when he gives his grand speech about how the Americans turned tail and fled -like they did in Somalia, like they did in Vietnam, (he said just the other day.) Tell you what: we're not going home. We still have troops in Germany. We still have troops in Japan. We still have troops in Korea. And we still have troops up and down the Russian border. No troops are leaving the Middle East anytime soon. You don't have to like it. I don't like it, either. You can hope for the best in this world all you want, but not without preparing for the worst.

Someone called in to Prager today and mentioned that "There are a few bullies in this world, and then there are a few people who will stand up to the bullies, and then there is EVERYBODY else." America used to be the few in the world who would stand up to the bullies. Here's a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one." It would be his fifth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, who was on the opposite end of the political spectrum as Theodore, and who would stand up to the bullies of the world during WWII.

And today? I don't fear another terrorist attack, but I do fear that I, my friends and family, and this country, might one day tragically fall into that third, loathsome category of EVERYBODY else.

God bless the passengers of United Flight 93. They were not like everybody else. And countless lives were saved because of it.

~

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ever have one of those days when you wonder just where it was you lost control in your life, and then you pull back the curtain...



I just fell asleep on the couch.

And that was Monday.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Good Life and a Great Life

As much as I love and enjoy the house to myself, I love and enjoy my family returning to color it in. Mrs. Ditchman went straight to the couch, exhausted, she was, from the weekend with the extended familia (see?) and so I ordered her to bed in the afternoon, where she would nap excessively (or, as best she could) so she would have at least a semblance of the restful weekend I did. And without any of the rolling around in the dusty attic.

That left me to spend the afternoon with the kid. Same old sweet fatherly stuff, you know, blowing bubbles and chasing each other around. Awesome. We barbecued a nice pork roast tonight, and opened a bottle of Monticelli Brothers, a treat around here and which really is a good wine. My wife just can't bring herself to drink the lesser stuff anymore (not like me) so it's a tremendous complement. The kid finally fell off, and we had a nice candle-lit meal where it was commented upon: "Just like it used to be."

A little Norah Jones in the background and we swooned at our own good life. How happy we are in this home, which was such a regretful wreck when we bought it a couple years ago -and to some degree, still is. But a little bit more work on it every day, and we love it all the more. I spent most of the day cleaning out the garage and patching the holes in the walls from The Great Re-Wiring. At one point, blowing bubbles in the backyard, I stood upright to hear the music out on the grass and thought, "Hey. That sounds pretty good!" Wonderful. Top off the day sitting on the couch marveling over the AppleTV screensaver. Fantastico. I swear, it has a way of making a coherent narrative out of your life story. And that, one worth watching! (Are you sold on it yet?)

And I sit down tonight to find myself linked from another site. Click on it and you will find yourself in an infinite internet loop. To quote Keanu: "Whoa." And click here and you will find that there is a new freedom for me as a contractor. Sounds like a nice respite from the heat.

I still haven't decided if I want to take weekends off from blogging. It actually feels like I have more energy to get to it on the weekend. So for now, I persist. I think I have found that the toughest time for me to write on it is Thursday night, but that just may reflect my recent workload. I don't know. For now I'm just going to continue to try and do it every night, though some nights I am clearly more into it than others (tonight's not really one of those nights). Just please keep in mind that when you see the date mark in the entry, it really means that night. Though I have found myself posting in the morning if I missed a night. And, to be honest, I'm more thoughtful in the morning than at night, so I may change out my method entirely one of these days. Anyway, it's kind of an experiment for me. We'll see how it looks a year from now. (Wow, what a commitment!)

Hmm, what else? Yesterday I mentioned how I am a conservationist in the vein of Teddy Roosevelt. I thought, hey, am I really sure about that? So I did a little research. I'm sure. I feel the same way he did, so it's all cool. He started the U.S. Forest Service with the belief in a more efficient use of the natural resources, less waste, and a long-term perspective, as opposed to John Muir's philosophy of nature being more privileged than man. They came to their disagreements on this while Muir was showing Roosevelt around Yosemite. Boy, would I love to have been sitting around that campfire!

Roosevelt (pronounced "Rosavelt" -ha!) was an amazing man. Considered in the top 3-7 presidents evar behind Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and whatever liberal the historian wanted to enter into the next couple, Roosevelt was the only president to win the Noble Peace Prize and the Medal of Honor. His son won the Medal of Honor, too, at the Battle of Normandy, and there are only two father-son pairs in history who have won this honor. He was the governor of New York and then vice president. He was the youngest person to assume the presidency at 42 (Kennedy was the youngest elected) He and Jefferson are considered the most well-read presidents. And he skinny-dipped in the Potomac every winter. Sweet. He had a tough time raising his outspoken daughter in the White House and when asked to reign her in he said, "I can be president of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." This, of course, resonates with me.

Most touching, Alice was named after her mother who died two days after giving birth to her. Roosevelt was 26. His wife died four years to the day after they were married, on their anniversary, which was Valentine's Day. Roosevelt's mother died the same day. This is the entry in his journal on that day:


I can't imagine. And less than 20 years later he would be President.

As a boy he was sickly and asthmatic, but his father had a tremendous influence on him. Roosevelt wrote, "My father was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness." Roosevelt's sister later wrote, "He told me frequently that he never took any serious step or made any vital decision for his country without thinking first what position his father would have taken."

I want to be a father like that. To be a father like that, that would be a Great Life.

Roosevelt the younger was a guy who explored the Amazon, attacked corrupt Big Business, and hunted outlaws in the final days of The Old West. When Roosevelt died, the vice president at the time said, "Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight." There is more to tell, as these stories go on of course, and it reads like a Hollywood movie. Why hasn't his life been a movie? Not sure.

Probably because he was a Republican.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

What a day! What a! The hen and chick have flown the coop, and the rooster is left alone with the wire and hay!

The girls went away for the day/night to a family birthday party. I opted out, claiming I was sick and tired -things like that. Truth is, I just can't go away another weekend. Seeing as we've been away almost every weekend the past few months and the heat and work has just been killing me. I need to get some things done around here. The home is the place of solace, and I've been coming home to see all my unfinished business, which detracts from the solace, so something need be done.

So did I just kick it after the girls left? Barbecue up some steak and open a bottle of wine ALL FOR ME!? Of course not. I climbed up in the attic at the hottest point in the day and rolled around in the dead spiders and fiberglass insulation! In a word, it sucked. But good news: THE GREAT RE-WIRING IS FINISHED!

Okay, not really. I still have some minor patching and painting to do (count 'em: over 30 holes in the walls) and I haven't actually purchased the dining room ceiling speakers yet, BUT OTHERWISE I'M FINISHED! And there was much rejoicing. Take it from me, a General Contractor licensed by the State of California (#810162), if you ever have re-framing done on your house, just go ahead and pull extra speaker wire, coax cable, and ethernet connectors on through because any contractor who knows what he's in for is going to charge you a million, no, a BILLION dollars to do it. He will know how painful it's going to be. He will know how his life will be at risk. He will know you really want speakers in your back yard and dining room and that there is only one way to do it. Seriously. Even if you don't like music, just go on ahead and pull the stuff through while the walls are exposed. You will never thank me for it, but if you don't heed my advice you will one day come to me sobbing, and I will just stand there with my arms folded and nod.

So I now have TWO speakers in the back yard! Was it worth it? What, are you asking for me to kick your huevos? Anyway, it's a good story. Next time you come over for barbecue I'll probably tell you all about it even if you didn't ask. At that point, as we stand there over the barbecue, beer in hand, listening to Barry White, at that point, yes, it will have been worth it.

Tonight, I had leftovers for dinner (in an effort to save $20 and not buy a pizza) and a couple of Pacificos without lime (fresh out/limes on tree not ripe) and just sat on the couch and flipped through the channels, enjoying the silence. This is Heaven for a man, well, that is to say, a man needs a bit of time to retreat to the cave once in a while. And this is it for me. Get something done around the house, unencumbered, and then sit on the couch and watch TV. With beer.

I watched an episode of Firefly. Have you caught this? One season of sweet sparkling awesome. I have no idea why it wasn't picked up for more episodes, but I have to admit I love it just as it is -why ruin it with more? You can catch the whole series on DVD (I own it) and it is nothing but pleasurable TV. What's it about? Oh, it takes place 500 years in the future and is a cross between the classic Western and Star Wars, that's all. Genius! Seriously, though, it is worth checking out if you are of the uninitiated. It didn't catch on for further episodes, but they did make a feature film of it called Serenity which came out a while back. Go figure. Proves there is a vast disconnect between TV-Hollywood and Feature-Film-Hollywood, like I've always said.

On another note, I got my monthly newsletter from Hillsdale College, Imprimus. It's just about the best free thing out there, no strings attached, so go to the web site and sign up for it. This month's article is on Global Warming, and I don't know why I bother to put that in caps. I consider myself a strict environmentalist and I sincerely believe in conservation, as in, no waste. And by "strict" I mean 'as defined in the dictionary'. I'm someone who actually appreciates the outdoors; I mean I start to feel funny if I spend more than a few months at a time in the city. And I mean "conservation" in the sense that Teddy Roosevelt did, if you're wondering, but I swear, this global warming thing is just nuts. Sorry! Anyway, read this if you wonder what the flap I'm talking about.

That's all I really got tonight. Lots of attitude and I'm all out of beer. I'm going back to the cave. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Oh the horror! Of waking in the middle of the night to tend a sickly child! This could be another poem, one of woe and duress, but I'll spare us all.

I should have anticipated it was going to be a rough night. All at once: the stereo was blaring, the oven was beeping, the child was crying, the cat was meowing, and the wife stopped mid-sentence during dinner and interjected: "This meal sucks."

And I heard that the Weaver family had taken ill. Colds all around? I suppose if you're a doctor, you're bound to bring your work home with you, sooner or later. Well, I feel for you guys. Our little lamb was sick the week we brought her home from the hospital, and I can't tell you how we feared that this is what parenthood would be like. Thankfully, it's not. Nowhere near.

We think it's the teething, which has the baggage of a thousand symptoms. I shouldn't complain too much, though, the Mrs. will come down on me for it -since she bears the brunt of the middle-of-the-night workload. She spent last night on the floor of the kid's room, making sure the little one didn't choke on her own saliva, and to dole out half-awake comfort and consolation when the fever wouldn't break and the curt, successive little moans would drone on unendingly. Poor Mrs. Ditchman. She awoke every few minutes to kill the ants crawling on her. But that's another story, another problem altogether. One to tackle this weekend, once and for all! (Again.)

This morning I took the baby workload, and the poor thing was hot! Hotter than AppleTV! I dosed her with some baby acetaminophen and the fever finally broke after an hour, but we had to spend that hour watching home movies on the AppleTV, of all things. She begs for it, screams "apulteeveeapulteevee!" and we have to cut her off and say NO! but she just can't get enough. It's kind of strange. Elmo I can understand. Little Einsteins? Sure. Curious George? Yeah. But home movies? As if I didn't see enough of them during the editing process. Now I have to watch the finished thing over and over and OVER...

Most filmmakers never watch their movies after they're finished. They've seen them more than anyone already, watched them again and again in their heads, and in all permutations, too. With different music, different shot order, different timing. Hitchcock claimed that actually making the films was the most boring part -he'd thought it through in his head so much, that by the time he got around to putting the film in the camera he was looking for something else to do. And every director knows the old moviemaking adage, "Films are never finished, they are only abandoned." It's as true with me as it is with Spielberg, though I'd argue there were a few of his he should have abandoned much earlier on.

Still, I should be grateful to have such a devoted audience. Unfortunately, she's more than devoted, she's obsessed. She's like a Trekkie. I think I have a greater understanding (finally!) of how William Shatner feels. Someone comes up to you in a restaurant and says, "Hey, I really enjoyed you in..." and it's cool, you know? But then you go out to your car and there are six people in costume touching your vehicle and drooling, they see you coming, one of them passes out, the rest begin to pant and chant Roddenberryan sacraments... I'd get upset too, I imagine.

It's fun, though. My wife came home with a new Elmo video yesterday. It's called "Elmo's Potty Time". This really engenders a lot of odd concepts, when you consider that Elmo is made of felt and has an arm up his underside for all of life's breath. Anyway, I'm looking forward to that one!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Paean to Me and John Wilson

Oh brother, where art thou now?

Do you recall the impromptu days
Of trolling away from our church
Laughing on highways both trodden and lost?
The road unending would take us to friends
In other states, other lands, other third worlds.

Remember the wrong side of the road through Britainia?
And the edge of our own continent?
Places where one day we would return to be in each other's weddings
Only to go separate ways down the same path?

There were Pyramids and Stonehenge and Orleans on All Hallows Eve
And a desert where I refused to make you a sandwich.
And there was the Grand Canyon hidden in fog and snow
Cows sliding on ice in the divider
Another night in your car
And no fish.

Today it is the jokes that are in
But then it was a parade we were in
Uninvited, but welcomed with margaritas all the same.
The Goths with their matted hair and make-up
And you in your red birth-wig
Where you claimed to suddenly fit in.

And weren't we both in love with the same blonde girl
Who lived across town?
Who now lives across the country
In some other world
Down some other road
That resembles the one we're on now?
You with your children and I with mine
Still friends, despite that sandwich
And perhaps with more in common than ever.

I have it all on tape and film, nearly unrecognizable
Dusty video and negatives of us
Where I need some combination of technology old and new
To revive for a moment
That time where the future looked nothing like it does now.

Except that you are my friend in both futures.


For John Wilson, 9/6/07 - Today's his birthday

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Thompson Announces: "The New iPods Are Here!"



Oh, brother. Such headlines. Shock and awe. An utter surprise. It would be nice to get some real news, like: when is Apple going to sell The Beatles at the iTunes Store, or upgrade their AppleTV operating system, or replace the crappy new glossy screen on the iMac for a nice matte one? Or how about something like Thompson actually staking out a position and engaging in debate? And did you know that Giuliani was once the mayor of New York and that he lowered the crime rate? Really. If I hear Romney say "Gosh!" one more time I'm going to rescind my vote of support due to the Huge Nerd factor. Mike Huckabee is looking better and better. And not just because he's a marathon runner.

So that's my take on the news of the day. Speaking of Huge Nerds, I was on the web this morning and noticed that the Steve Jobs press conference was about to start so I tuned in to a live webcast, which I'd never done before. Wow, was that ever boring! Pushing [refresh] every ten seconds is not my idea of a good time. And if I had done a shot of beer every time Jobs said "iPod" or "iPhone" I would've been hammered before breakfast. And yes, wow, the iPhone now has ringtones for sale! Half the teenagers in America peed their pants when that was announced. At one point Steve Jobs actually used the word "ringtonable" which is easily the height of Geekdom. Also, the price of the iPhone dropped by $200! Am I glad I didn't buy one last week? Yes. Am I going to buy one next week? No. Why not? Still too expensive.

And I'm still waiting it out for my new computer, even though I think I have enough money saved up. Apple keeps saying they're going to upgrade their OS sometime soon, and I know that that's $150 I can save myself since it comes installed on the Macs when you buy them. Oh, brother.

Look at that picture of Fred Thompson up above! I'm trying to remember what it is I'm reminded of...

Is it this:


Or is it this:


No, no, I think it's this:



That's it! He's Tor from Plan 9 From Outer Space!

Okay, okay. You're right. I shouldn't be so mean.

Who says an actor can't be president?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Waterfall

Well, it happened again.

What's weird is this time I knew it was going to happen, and I wanted to stop it -but I didn't.

House is the best show on television.

I've been sleepy all day. My eyes were droopy at work. Up and down the ladder, up and down... The heat didn't bother me as much today for some reason, maybe I'm getting used to it, but today it was the sunlight. The light! And I had sunglasses on! At one point I held both hands up in front of my face to block the light from hitting me. I just couldn't take it. I was just so sleepy.

Which is kind of strange, because once I get going at work, I move. And move, and move. I don't want to stop moving, and I want to be done and out of there. I know this side of my personality resonates in my running marathons, as well.

But last night the little one woke up around midnight, just crying. Crying and crying like something was really wrong. I got up to manage her, feeble parent as I am -I wanted the Mrs. to sleep and I was awake at the computer- and when I went in to tend to her, I was suddenly helpless. The tears were flowing, and they seemed angry tears -she's a toddler now, and it wasn't a baby cry. At first I thought it was merely a bad dream and I stroked her back and talked to her in soothing tones, remembering the Cardinal Rule to not pick up a baby when she wakes in the night (she wants you then for sure, you know, and then she will never go back down) but I could tell it was something more than the unsavory mists of sleep. It was pretty hot, and easily a contributing factor, but there was obviously some kind of nagging pain. I guessed it was the teething again -she's got some big ones coming in right now, the last and the worst- and I fumbled around in the dark for the baby Tylenol, sugary droplets the kids love almost as much as the parents love their stopping crying. And that's when Mommy arrived, no doubt figuring I'd failed again, which I had. She said she'd dosed her some Tylenol earlier, so I should come up with something else. And there was nothing else, just the crying and crying...

Something was wrong. Your mind races. You consider everything she'd eaten in the past twelve hours. You suddenly remember the moments of the day when she was out of your sight and what could have gone wrong then? And she could have fallen. She could have hit her head. She might have a concussion. We should check her pupils. Did she get into the bathroom cabinet again? Did she suck on the bottles of hair sculpting gel again? Does it hurt her when you press on her stomach? Now you're awake.

When Mommy can't settle her down, you really start to worry. We've long since acquiesced on the not-picking-her-up rule by this time and we are rocking her and singing to her, we've even brought her to our bedroom, which ordinarily we are loathe to do at night, but it doesn't help in the slightest. The child just cries and cries, she can't get comfortable and something is wrong. That's all. Something is Wrong. So Mommy and Daddy pull out the last resort: the pacifier. I actually had to go look for it, as we just don't use it anymore. I finally found it in the dining room, at the bottom of the baby bag, sticky, with dust and hair on it. When we gave it to her, she blithely accepted it, like an old friend with whom she wondered if she'd still get along. It didn't really take. They'd grown apart.

After some more time of worrying, crying, wondering if I should call a doctor, the Little Ditchman was anxious and wouldn't stop moving. The look on her tiny face was one of helpless misery. You couldn't hold her still, which is very disturbing when you're trying to calm a child, and so we set her down on the floor. She looked at us both, stood up, still crying, and got her bearings. Mommy and Daddy needed a clue as to what to do next, so we just watched her crying there, with this old pacifier in her mouth. She looked around the room, and grabbed Mommy's hand, then she turned and yanked Mommy into the hallway. It was dark, and everyone was pretty tired, so there was a certain amount of stumbling. She pulled Mommy down the hall and into her room, where she went to her crib.

She wanted to go back to bed.

And that was it. I think it all lasted about 45 minutes. Of course, it seemed to drag us on forever, but she was back in her bed. There was a little bit more crying, and a minor sense of relief on our part, but I didn't get back to sleep for a while. We laid there in our own bed and talked some, still unsure of the episode, trying to determine what was wrong, what was even going on. But the kid felt bad. She wanted us. And then she wanted to go back to sleep. That's all.

She woke us up again at some woeful, pre-dawn hour and Mrs. Ditchman is a light enough sleeper to be able to handle it, but I ended up having one of those mornings where a whole pot of coffee just doesn't do it and nothing will. Last night's crisis was quickly replaced by an all new crisis around 7:30am when I heard a KERPLASH and saw my wife run panicking out into the yard. Seems the kid had made her way outside somehow and thrown herself headlong into yesterday's fun, the kiddie pool. More crying.

And what good was I through all this? Well, if I had dropped face first into the kiddie pool first thing this morning, I doubt it would've worked any better than the coffee.

So I was nodding off as we were all saying our goodnights tonight, and I was thinking, hoping, praying, DEAR GOD I COULD USE SOME SLEEP and I went down to sit on the couch and House came on. Immediately I knew: click it off and go to bed, or you'll get sucked in. This always happens, dude. You know it. Just reach over and grab the remote. Now... Click. It. Off.

It was another stirring episode. And even though the formula is essentially the same in every show, (and how interesting can ANOTHER primetime medical drama be?) I still think it's the best written show on television. And tonight here was yet another episode with a suffering child (actually, a baby this time) and I don't know what it is about me, but ever since the Little Ditchman was born I just can't bear the thought of suffering children. Oh sure, it always bothered me, but now I know for sure I could kill another person if they touched my family. I can't take these stories of lost, abused, neglected, and stolen children anymore -I really just can't stomach them. And here you have House and the lead character is trying to diagnose, as usual, a suffering mother and child. I nearly lost it.

It's as if, when your child is born, the room you're in is muscled wider and higher, like The Hulk transforming out of his clothes. Your highs are higher, your fears are greater, and you become altogether more fierce and more sensitive than you have ever known yourself to be. The universe has grown, and that quite literally. Life moves ever onward, carving its way through your pride, however hard you try to resist.

A week from Friday, it will be a year and half since my world changed forever. I can't remember the world without her, what it was like before, who I was back then. I have moved downstream, past a point where I will never be able to turn back. Funny thing is, I have no interest in ever returning, not if I can ever help it.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Isn't Every Day Labor Day?

If you've ever wondered what it was we have to thank Grover Cleveland for, it's Labor Day. If it wasn't for him, we'd be celebrating May Day, which is what the communists celebrate, and I imagine we might still be in the Cold War as a result.

Millions of brutal deaths aside, anything cold sounds nice right about now. The family wisely spent the Labor Day afternoon at someone else's house today. Someone sober and thoughtful. Someone smart. Someone who has an air conditioner. And a pool. Someone like Great Aunt Barbara, who enjoys a good champagne pomegranate cocktail.

One is not supposed to wear white after Labor Day. Makes sense to me. In Canada, one is not supposed to wear Green after Remembrance Day, and that's just plain outrageous. Also, one is supposed to wear a straw cowboy hat up until Labor Day, and a felt hat after that and until Memorial Day. This is just plain bogus as all of my felt hats are white.

I love any holiday where you're actually supposed to do the opposite of what the day is named after. Labor Day, you take the day off. Terrific! I know there's some joke in here about not facing east on Easter, but I'm just not feeling it right now.

My brother, Dain, has enrolled in a college course! It's some business class. I asked him what he's learned so far (it's only been one class) and he explained to me the difference between a "job" and a "career", which is good to know. Unfortunately, his definition of a career required me to go back to college, administrate responsibility to a bunch of other people, (these are called "employees") and then demand I make a lot more money. So tomorrow I go back to my job.

Speaking of higher education, the Little Ditchman has a new word. (You heard it here first, folks! -as I compete with the Mrs. for the blogspace on our daughter's most recent cuteness.) The word is awesome!

No, that's the word! "AWESOME!" except it sounds more like "Aiysumm", which is a much better word. We're not really sure how she picked it up -it must have been something we were saying. The other day we were showing her a new toy and we said "Look! Isn't that fun!" and she said, "Fun!" and then one of us said, "Awesome!" and then she said, "Aiysumm!" So it's a crack up. Whenever you say "fun", she say's "aiysumm". I wish there was some way to do those little sound bite things on the blog like Lileks does, then I'd record her and play it for you on a loop. But I can't, so you'll just have to come over.

A couple other words tossed around the table (by the adults) today were "inertia" and "abstract". "Inertia" is one of those, you-know-it-when-you-see-it sort of things, so it was hard to grasp, and then "abstract" just couldn't be explained concretely. We all think we're such smart adults until we have to describe a word with other words, which seems to come so naturally to our kid. Oh, give me the good old days of being a kid. Something was either "fun" or it wasn't, and if it was "fun" it was "awesome". Interestingly, "fun" is generally an abstract concept and "inertia" usually has something to do with the "fun" taking place, but when you were a kid if you were at all aware of it, you weren't having fun at all.

So the inertia of another work week has us within its grasp, and guess what? Tomorrow is already hump day! Aiysumm!