Friday, February 27, 2009

"The orbiter is programmed to go into safe mode when it encounters an unknown event."

Does this happen to you? Were you strolling merrily along, getting things done, and then WHHIIRRRRRRMMMMMMOOOOOM... [click] [click] *safe mode*. You don't even know what hit you. Thankfully, your brain decided to shut everything down before your consciousness realized it. Good lord, if that happened, why, we'd have a massive FREAKOUT, and then we wouldn't be able to get anything done!

If you're like me, then no, you are not programmed to go into safe mode, rather, you power on through right to utter despair mode. God bless the engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for thinking this up. I mean, what would happen to that hundred million dollar space investment if, when it got T-boned by a few cosmic rays, it just spun wildly out of control 35 million miles from earth? More cool-headed spacemen calling the shots, that's what we need.

And fewer "unknown events". These are the things in life that really confound, and if you're not questioning God's existence as a result, you're certainly wondering about his powers as the cosmic chef. I swear He's up there looking down at the cutting board and He thinks, That guy needs more Tabasco... and then the lid isn't properly screwed on and half the bottle comes out. Know what I'm saying? Sure you do. Unknown events.

I'm not going to get into the specifics. Frankly, I'm not sure I can focus on them at all, anyway. Gonna cruise in *safe mode* all weekend and reboot on Monday. You should too.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Working around the corner from this today:

Beautiful Coronado! Who knew the neighborhood was impoverished with a lack of aluminum patio covers? The elevation of the city of Coronado is 20'. We're building a nice cover on top of a house, impressively doubling that. The weather is beautiful, and conditions are calm, with an airy contentedness. Birds are chirping.

Of course, this will all be shattered by my arrival with the four eight-foot columns, each weighing several hundred pounds each, that have to be moved up the tiny steel spiral staircase to the rooftop. Chirping will be replaced with cursing, no doubt, and the day will only be a success if we can do the job without death, injury, or destruction of property.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

But it sounded nice, didn't it? I'm not one to indulge in Fat Tuesday, unless one counts the daydream of carefree wanderlust I am prone to on that or any Tuesday. It's that time of the year when you reach the limbo of your New Year's resolutions. You assess that January list, get slammed with the tax bill, look outside to see the dreariness of midwinter gray, and head down to Pat O'Brien's for a few too many Hurricanes. Oh well. Believe me, no one wanted it to be real more than me. Ash Wednesday will save us. (I'm late for work. I should give up this blog for Lent.)

The truth is I had yesterday afternoon off and could just as easily made it as perfect. Oceanside is every bit as beautiful as Santa Barbara if you're standing in the right place and facing the right direction. My old surfboard, though dusty, still works fine. I have a 2002 Windward "Monopole" I've been saving (it's a pinot) and I know everyone around here would appreciate a family day at the beach. So why didn't I? Not sure. Too many things to take care of around the house. There was a playdate. Random obligations. Dumb stuff.

Then again, it was perfect. The truth is I don't mind all that dumb stuff. I like being around the house and fixing this and that, repairing the mighty corkboard, organizing the photo library, and working on the backyard path. I think it's all swell here in the suburbs, with the adventure of life more figurative and less literal. It's easier to manage. You get more out of it. And it's not as dangerous as some exotic cave in some backward, third-world country. I've been to such caves. You can't take the kids. (Or shouldn't.)

Sometimes I pick up a toy and think, that spot right there is where she took her first steps, among other things. There's ghostly magic all around this place now, and I don't want to leave it. So perhaps my days of yanking the wheel in the unexpected direction and singing the song of the open road are behind me, at least until the kids are off to college (2027), and so what? We were actually at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway the other day. Out of responsibility and obligation, we went south. That's where Home is, and it ain't so bad, nor any less dreamy.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Went up to Los Angeles the other day to see the nice lady who does our taxes. After the deft use of a calculator and some clever manipulation of paperwork, we were informed that our burden this year would be thousands less than originally anticipated. Mrs. Ditchman and I have wisely accumulated cash in a special tax savings account at our credit union over the past year, and the news of the windfall sent our spirits soaring on the unexpected, warm February breeze. On the way home we found ourselves at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Highway 1. The light was red, and with both kids awake there was a strange unfamiliar quiet in the car. Mrs. Ditchman was checking her voicemail and I was just staring off into the distance at the blue Pacific on the other side of the asphalt. She hung up the phone and said, "Construction delay on the Morgan job. They won't let us start until next week." The light turned green and I impulsively turned right, heading North with all its promise of escape.

The hills of Malibu are just beginning to be dotted with the colors of Spring, like Seurat starting on a new canvas. The end of February is an uncommon time for a vacation, and this explained the lack of cars on the highway as we peeled away ever-so-slowly from the gray L.A. metropolis. It was nice, those winding highway curves around the tumbling palisades past Point Dume and beyond Zuma. The ocean had a soft, undulating surface to it like hand-blown, blue Venetian glass, and was interrupted by only a couple lucky surfers. I mentioned to my wife, after an hour of silence, how I'd like to get back to surfing, how my old garage-sale board was never a good fit for me, and what a pleasure it would be. "Just go," she said.

There's a Bed & Breakfast in Summerland, just before Montecito, that I've always stared at longingly from the highway when I used to make the drive to-and-fro, back when I lived in Santa Barbara and Ms. Ditchman lived in Huntington Beach. We were dating then, poor, and amused by all the hope and dreams we had put in the future: after we wed we would see every state! Journey to every National Park! Tour wine country every other weekend and become recognizable guests at that homey plantation cottage on Kauai! When we reached Summerland I pulled the 4Runner into the parking lot of that B&B. Mrs. Ditchman just smiled at me, and I ran inside to see if it was a family-friendly place. Came back with the owner, who took the bags for us. The kids loved their dogs.

So we spent a couple days traveling the back roads of Santa Barbara County wine country, touring the places that were just beyond the reach of the average tourists. The folks who run those wineries seem more laid back, more in love with their profession. They don't seem to care about making a buck or about making the tasters happy. They seem to care about the wine, which does little more for them than accentuate their serenity and wealth of spirit. "I envy myself!" One winemaker told me, as he plunged his tasting tools into a barrel. He sipped some, rolled it over his tongue, and held the glass up to the sky to inspect the density of the wine's color, or perhaps to toast the good God who made it. "This will be a fine year. Like every year before it," he said. Mrs. Ditchman bought a case.

Back in Goleta we drove past an old surf shop I used to frequent -and I did it: I stopped, I went in there, and I picked out a nice new surfboard and just bought it, paying cash. It was something of a miracle to see the stick leaning there against the wall, slightly taller than me, with an ornate hand-painted surface of blues and greens and blacks. It was exactly the board I was looking for, but when I pulled out my wallet I mentioned to Mrs. Ditchman that I would have bought anything today. Seriously, I would have paid a thousand dollars for an old hundred-pound paddle carved from a rusty wheelbarrow if it had a fin and a leash and looked surfable. I didn't care today. Nobody in my family did.

That afternoon at the beach, we cared even less. I was out on the new board by myself in the Pacific, drifting expectantly as surfers do. I looked back at the sand and saw my little family sitting there on the edge of the continent, waving. I was about to think how wonderful and lucky it all was when my wife pointed to something behind me. I turned to see a swell coming, so I moved to try and catch it. It wasn't big and it wasn't perfect, but the water crumbled over the top, churned up a few messy patches of kelp, and then left a smooth open spot for me. I was able to paddle into it, hop up, and sail off, feeling ten years younger. The Little Ditchman jumped up, screamed, clapped, and threw her arms in the air and yelled "Yay, Daddy!" as I rode that old dirty wave and waved back. Three godly waves that had come so far, so easily, over oceans of every kind, in a miraculous exchange of salutations. The waves arrived so simply, demanded nothing, and left behind only these smiling wayfarers of life, footloose and fancy-free.

Actually, none of the above is true. We owe the government thousands.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Out of town today. No iPhone, no blog.

Instead I give you more signs of the End Times: The Giant Snake of Borneo!


Friday, February 20, 2009

The National Review picked the 25 Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years. It's a good list, if you're into that sort of thing. I'm not sure what makes a movie "conservative" but NR readers submitted their favorites and there it is. I was surprised by some of the entries, but I suppose a conservative argument could be made for all of them. Of note: Brazil, which I consider a cinematic masterpiece, is on there at #22 (Terry Gilliam, its director, is an America-hating commie) and Forrest Gump is at #4 (don't get me started.) Also was pleased to see The Incredibles on there, which I still hold as one of the best films of the past few years. I've seen about 20 of the 25 and they're all worth watching again. Looking forward to catching the others (except Forrest Gump. I'm done with that.)

Sick of bad news? ME TOO! VFTW pointed out this radio station that is committed to reporting only the good news, and God bless them for it. "The national employment rate is nearly 93 percent!" Can't help but smile. I kinda wish they had a feed that I could post in the sidebar. Perhaps they thought of it. Perhaps there's not enough content.

Here's a happy piece. It's my church! A couple weeks ago everyone ditched church to help out around the county. 1500 people at 60 different sites, doing everything from picking up trash in the marshlands to feeding the hungry to repairing shelters to writing letters to soldiers. I would love to have just been visiting the church that Sunday, to find it totally empty -I think I would have joined on the spot! What is it that's so despicable about "organized religion"? I suppose one would prefer "disorganized religion"? These things are difficult to pull off!

SO, I currently have a crying baby in my lap and am typing this with one hand. The Little Ditchman has found the instrument box and is banging away. Woke up to my wife asking me, "Why didn't you tell me we were all out of coffee?" And it looks like I'm going to be late for work.

Have a sound weekend.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not a good day for environmentalists when the endangered species are lunch and the recyclables are really just trash. Next thing you know, they'll be telling us that the haze over the Los Angeles basin is the result of an inversion layer and the dirty water at the beach is from nearby river runoff. Don't believe any of it!

More alarming news, is this. Politicians want to raise taxes nearly 2000% -ON BEER! Fascists.

Also, the machines will eventually rise up against us, or so I'm told. This is not news to me, as my Mac and television seemed to have accomplished this years ago.

Did anyone else notice that Lost went all DaVinci Code-ish last night? That was fun. I forgive Lost for going for it on the whole time-travel story structure. I don't think they had a choice with all the Marty McFly stuff, since they had high-concepted their series with so many holes that it was the slack jawed envy of all the lusty prairie dogs in the known verse. Note to writers: don't announce that you're going to answer every question that your show has posed. You were brazen and courageous to be the first in tv-land to do so, but I think you scrooed yourselves. Anyway, good luck with that. It's still my favorite show on tv right now, not that there's much to judge it against. And I use the word "show" loosely, as a verb/noun constituting whatever images peel and spray out of that box.

I guess it's not a box anymore. Nor is it the "Boob Tube", since there are no tubes, unfortunately. "Boob Screen" doesn't really have the same catchy ring to it, and engenders thoughts of potential breast cancer or delays in airport TSA lines. We're gonna have to come up with a new derogatory term for all the plasmas and LCDs hanging around. Our beautiful $1000 42" Vizio is more like a "Window to teh Weird", than anything else. Still, it's amazing how little of interest can be on with a thousand channels. I stare out the back windows of my house all the time and watch the grass grow with more impressive effect. My kitchen windows are about the same size and height as the tv and eminently more interesting. No remote necessary. (But that would make it interesting.)

The Little Ditchman is starting to get The Remote, by the way, though she hasn't mastered the enigmatic combination of amplifier buttons, input source clicks, and cable box entries you have to punch in order to get the blasted thing to work. Once it's on, though, she knows the channel selection option. She wanted to pick out a show the other night during Bunco, so I just let her have at it to see what she would pick. Settled on hockey, of all things. "Skating!" she cried. We watched that for a while, and I explained hockey to her. Later, when we were putting on her jammies, she pointed at a shirt in the closet. "Look, Daddy. My hockey shirt."

Seems she had a Kings shirt in there. Who knew?

A final note of insignificant significance: my brother apparently keeps seeing Dean Cundey at the gas station. I told him to tell him "hi" next time he saw him, ask him if he remembers me, and to mention that I was watching BTTF last week and and that I still think the lighting was nearly perfect in every shot. He did and he did and he did and he did! My brushes with greatness have had lasting impact!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I have recast my appreciation for truck drivers. In my dumb youth (yesterday) I thought that truck drivers had one of the easiest jobs in the universe: load up, haul off, merge onto the highway with the radio on and lean back into your big bucket seat and let your ass grow. Now I know there's a lot more to it than that. It takes a constant concentration just hauling around a little one-ton, 14 foot trailer in rain and traffic. I feel for the big rigs and their multiple axles. I really do. I get out of their way.

After a day of driving through three counties in all conditions, man, I'm just beat. Shirking the trailer at the end of it was the best feeling in the world, like jumping in the ocean on an August Friday at sunset. Of course, it was a Tuesday in February, and today I've got to go build what I delivered. Big fancy columns, painted white. At least the job is local.

I'm getting good at the columns. I have assembly-line tricks I use all day and it enables me to do three or four things at a time. Finished with a tool? Pack it up. Take it back to the truck when you need to go out there to get something. Never waste a trip. Because, I swear, loading and unloading the truck adds an hour to the day. It's a job where you use every tool at least once. I'm building a patio cover from the ground up, for crying out loud! And people are always impressed how fast it goes up. This emotion lays in stark contrast to the look of consternation I usually get from them when I arrive at ten o'clock.

I am not like other builders. If a job takes a day and a half, I see no reason to go in at 6AM on two days in a row, when I can just go in at 10 and work six hours without a lunch. I beat traffic both ways. I get office work done in the morning. We go on appointments. Sometimes I get a half hour in the garden before the sun goes down, or time in the hot tub if there was a lot of lifting. I believe I've finally figured it out, where before I couldn't stand it. Now, I hate it all less.

Oh, but I complain all the same. (Still working on that.) These routines of mine are only good if the jobs are landed, however, and some mornings I wake up and see all those inverted red triangles on the tv and I think, well, I'm gonna have to work harder for when it gets really bad later on. People think the economy only hurts rich people, but it's not true. I don't make a quarter million a year but a lot of my customers do. If they have less money, I have less work -and then less money. There's a lot of hardworking, everyday folks out there installing granite countertops and washing yachts. Of course, we're still trying to play catch-up on the winter slow season, and having two kids slows things down even further. It's a wonder any bills ever get paid around here. Mrs. Ditchman and I are a team, and six years into it, we're proud of what we've accomplished. We're not the best salsa dancers in the world, but I'm pretty sure we worked better together than half the folks out on the floor.

Last night was BUNCO night and Mrs. Ditchman lost. "How'd you do," I asked her as she staggered in drunk to the gills (just kidding) at 10:30 last night. "I was the biggest loser," she replied. I was surprised to hear it. She's usually pretty sharp at these things. Then she added, "But the biggest loser gets paid out $20!" Considering that the biggest winner takes home only 50-60 bucks, it's not half-bad. If I know my wife, she was down toward the end and played to lose with everything she had. Gave it her worst shot!

The baby, he cried inconsolably with an angry face -reddened cheeks, upturned bottom lip, shrieking in between gasps. The Other One, she's regressing on the potty training. Or something. They say some kids master one thing and then just move on to the next. Learn to walk and then ditch it after a week or so. Who knows? Parenting is not like herding cats, rather, it's the other way around. I picture myself out on the suburban prairie, actually herding cats, when I turn to the rancher next to me with the Joke Of The Year and say, "It's like parenting!" In parenting, it's not the kids that go every direction, it's the methods and theories. You try one thing, and then it doesn't work after a while, and then you try another. Mrs. Ditchman and I are constantly meeting about it: "How are you handling this now, so I can be in step with you?" and "Why do you think she flips out about that?" We believe in consistency and reliability as the two most important parts of the job. But, who knows, we may ditch that too. Being unreliable blow-offs has a certain attractive quality.

So yesterday was lame, but there's nothing like routine to get out of the routine, and work awaits. A friend recently described the last few miles of a marathon as "pondering your existence without attaining a memorable epiphany" and every long day of work is a lot like that. Even moreso for truck drivers, I imagine. In any case, today is a hot tub day for sure.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I looked up Wikipedia in the Wikipedia. What would you expect to find? I mean, how reliable is the thing? The entry was long and boring, but droll! And it's footnoted more than any other entry in the whole database! [Citation needed.]

I use Wikipedia all the time for its extensive pop culture references and find it to be a super handy tool with its 12 million articles. Is everything on it accurate? No, but anything free in this life is usually fake, useless, tasteless, and littered with advertisements. Wikipedia makes for interesting reading, when taken with salt. Some people read celebrity tabloids, I read Wikipedia -faults, salt, and all. Anyway, it's probably more accurate than this or any dumb blog.

I remember something funny. Senator Barbara Boxer was on a radio talkshow one day and the interviewer mentioned her position on some issue and had a problem with her reconciling the position with her having had several failed marriages. She denied that this was true and the interviewer said, "Well it's right here in Wikipedia!" They laughed, he apologized. She said she would get her people on it, which sounded like an utterly Sisyphean task. I don't envy celebrities. (Wait, maybe it was Dianne Feinstein.)

In addition to being unreliable, Wikipedia is broke. They don't make any money, they don't have any money. How the thing stays afloat is a mystery to modern man, but it floats like pumice. It's like water and electricity coming to your house and sewage going away -how does it all work? No one really knows, and as soon as someone figures it all out, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something else even more bizarre and inexplicable. [Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy]

I used to read the encyclopedia as a kid. It was a good book. My family encyclopedia was a thirty volume set from the 50s. I grew up in the 70s, so you might imagine that that presented a certain set of problems: country's names were wrong, presidents were missing, animals had become extinct, etc. Especially interesting to me were all the hypotheticals on space travel, totally outdated. In college I read the dictionary. (I know: YAWN.) But I always held that everything ever written was in the dictionary, it was just out of order. You know that old bit about the infinite monkeys at an infinite set of typewriters sooner or later creating the complete works of Shakespeare? Well, that would just be a happy accident. What the monkeys are really going for is The Oxford English Dictionary. Today I still read the dictionary, but I have a handy widget on my computer desktop. I don't even have to get up from my desk! (Here's a good word, though from a different language: "Ilunga". Utterly fascinating.)

I like all guides, maps, dictionaries, encyclopedias, summaries, definitions, and informational placards at museums and National Parks. Leave me alone and I will read every one, but nowadays I bring the kids along and I just fly by, looking at the pictures. No one has the time or patience anymore, myself included, but on the Internet it's all filed away for my retirement, when I can ease back the chaise-lounge and read everything on some empty Kauai beach. Hovering robots will bring me cocktails and a towel.

And I like databases. They are awesome. Good databases must be thorough and accessible. I'm making one now on our wedding. It has 1,928 photographs, complete with scans of all stationary, ceremony scripts, and itineraries. I'm almost finished. When I'm done I will put it in an exotic, handcrafted box and use it as a lampstand. It will be a nostalgic thing of wonder and beauty.

No one will ever read it.


Monday, February 16, 2009

I ruined Valentine's Day. It didn't seem like that big of an error at the time, but Mrs. Ditchman had to work on Saturday morning and I had the kids. The 3-month-old Little Digger I can handle, but the Little Ditchman didn't get down for a nap by 1:30, at which point Mrs. Ditchman arrived home to see the child, wide-eyed and awake. She looked at me with disgust. "It's too late now," she said. Meaning, there goes Valentine's. I love you!

She had picked up the prerequisite King crab & strawberries on the way home and I was looking forward to a nice night. I figured if the kid skipped the nap today, she'll just go to bed earlier and we'll have more time to ourselves. It doesn't work out that way anymore. It used to, but not anymore.

The screaming started at about 3:30 and lasted into the night. No amount of consoling or cajoling or refering to The Big Book of Premeditated Threats can contain it. You just button up and head into it, like hiking into a storm. She's a smart one, this kid, and the smart ones are the worst. They know your buttons. They bandy NO around like a pistol in gangland. They use the potty-training against you. When our little smiling wonder turned two, we were buoyed by the clearly evident fact that the "Terrible Twos" didn't seem to materialize. We mentioned this to the pediatrician. "Nah," he said. "They come at three."

Or 2 years, 8 months. The ranting, raging, warmongering truculent defiance of toddlerhood, which is here for an hour, gone for a moment, and then rears up on its hind legs and attacks you from behind while you're looking for a burp cloth, is a very real thing. We thought we had it easy, with our healthy, attractive, bright child. Since I am clearly the weaker of the two parents when it comes to the faculties of nurturing, I go straight for the smiling infant when I hear the screaming two-year-old. This always gets a nasty glare from the missus, but hey, I'm actually helping!

The screams are about the most mundane things, (I DON'T WANT TO WEAR THE RED SOCKS! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!) but have the force of wailing only heard at the Apocalypse. Within seconds the screaming becomes about the screaming, as in "Honey, calm down and stop crying or you're going to get a TimeOut." followed by "I DON'T WANT A TIME OUT! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" If the kid doesn't eat a good meal, it's worse. If the kid doesn't get a good nap, it's worse. Skip both and you will then accomplish neither, and from there you just gotta let it burn out on its own like a refinery fire. This is what was happening for most of Valentine's Day.

Later, when the toddler was subdued, chained and declawed, we sat down for King crab. Mrs. Ditchman was thoroughly spent. I could hear the muffled cries of my little girl's unjustified (in my mind) screaming going unheeded upstairs in the distance, behind a closed door. I tried to make light conversation above the din:

"Man. Two is more than twice as hard as one. No one told us this! The baby is easy compared to this. And then to have a toddler and a baby! Man, that's what's hard. For the first time, it occurs to me that having twins would be easier than having a baby and a toddler. Man."

Mrs. Ditchman looked at me with that you're-so-dumb look and said, "Yeah, but then you'd have two toddlers."

I nearly fell out of my chair at the thought of such horror. Then she told me a story of going to Costco the other day. The story had no beginning and no end and no plot. It was all setting: her at Costco. Screaming two-year-old in the stroller. Baby in the Bjorn, facing forward. Her leaning over to lift a case of soda. And then another case of diet. Strangers moving in to help. Thanks, but I can manage. I've been managing. I always manage. You really want to help? Take the kids.

I cleaned up. My lover cut out early, knowing that she'd have to get up in a few hours to nurse the baby. I went back to scanning photos of our wedding which punctuated the day with a certain unfunny irony. I recalled years ago when I first said "I love you" to that woman who became my wife. It was on a Valentine's Day. She was getting ready to break it off with me, but I showed up with King crab and strawberries and wine and I said "I love you" and I meant it.

I still mean it, of course. As a matter of fact, I mean it more now than I ever did. But it's a wild road that takes you here.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Remember all the boxes? Well, there's one in particular that I've left out of the attic. I've been going through this one box, and trying to file everything away somewhere else, somewhere proper. I found in it an old folder of articles, essays, and newspaper clippings that I'd saved over the years, back in the cumbersome days before the Internet -those long slow days of the library microfiche. So I came across an article about the virtues of being a handyman. I was a handyman at the time, and I guess the little piece had a profound enough effect on me that I cut the thing out and saved it. I think I got my contractor's license as a result, actually. Back then I was miserable as a handyman, and I was miserable as a writer, too, but I was inspired by the piece and eventually figured I could get my license and go legit.

I showed the article to my wife, who read it and nodded, "We're a success!" We don't have fancy cars and granite countertops, but we've got a big backyard, don't have to put our kids in daycare, and have time enough together to take salsa dancing lessons on Friday nights. Life is great. Is this as good as it gets? Not sure. That's something unsatisfied people ask. It could get better, but I don't need it to. It could also get worse, and I don't need that either. Grateful every day for every day, that's the goal.

Anyway, it doesn't have the rusty charm that the torn, faded old newspaper clipping does, but it's here if you want to read it. (It's short.)

I mention it to balance out all the complaining I've been doing, both vocalized and in my head -which is the worst kind. As happy and satisfied and successful as I am, I'm a Complainer. It's possible I've just been doing it too long and have gotten good at it, or perhaps it's in my genes. Whatever: I don't want to be one. (And I have a funny feeling no one else wants me to be one either.) I try to redeem my complaints with some semblance of humor, but sometimes you just get too tired to be funny, and, God help us, too tired to laugh.

I had a customer recently who was filled with complaints. She had a nice home (granite countertops) and a nice yard and nice things and even though I thought her patio cover looked perfect, nothing I did seemed to make her happy. For people like that, the sun is too bright and the rain is too wet. And then I had another customer who had a leaking patio cover. I'd built it a few months ago and it was an unusual application, so a few leaks were to be expected when the rains came. I met with him and asked him about the size of the leak. He laughed and said, "It's a waterfall." We chatted for a while. He just got out of back surgery and had to go back for shoulder surgery. Hadn't been to work in months. The guy was in pain enough that he was unwilling to move a few steps up the ladder to see how I repaired the leak. "I trust you. I'll call you again if it doesn't work," he said. Nice guy. Grateful just to have me return the call.

Today is Friday the 13th, not a blameless day. A perfect excuse for complaining. It happened that my in-laws, who are no strangers to the fine art of complaining, were over yesterday. Now, these guys are gambling aficionados and believers in Luck, and I mean "luck" as the handy always-at-the-hip tool of the gods, the all-pervading Force that both enables and undermines, and the object of all complaints when no one else can be blamed. So, just for fun, I mentioned that Friday the 13th was coming. I expected a loud, long-winded, plaintive diatribe about the day, but what I got was a cheerful "I love Friday the 13th!" which totally took me by surprise. I expected Friday the 13th to be a baleful day of incremental contempt and dismay, a day best spent in bed, but instead I think they went to the casino. I guess I have a few things to learn about when and where to place my complaints. It all just goes to show: you can't rely on a Complainer to come through for you, just as you can never come through for a Complainer. They're as unreliable and inconsistent as bad contractors.

Hey, life is good. I like the rain. I can't complain! Or at least, I shouldn't. The problem with complaining is that there's always someone who has less than you and never complains about it. The other problem with complaining is that there's always someone who has more than you and nothing to complain about, but they do it anyway. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, which in my house means watercolors and chocolate and king crab and strawberries and candles and a nice bottle of cabernet at home. How can you complain when you have so much to look forward to? Perhaps that's the secret. That, and gratitude.

I still don't like Forrest Gump, though.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sorry about the ranty screed yesterday. I should just stick with cute pictures of the dinosaurs on the floor. Chalk it up to mid-week blues, or something. It's cold in this house. I'm kinda sore. Babies are crying. It could have been worse: I could have gone off on the democrats' "stimulus" package. Did anyone notice the markets tanking yesterday and this morning? That's a hella coinky-dink for the Obama administration. I know nothing about this stuff, so I take it out on Forrest Gump. An easy target.

In this house we try and get some news in in the morning before the Little Ditchman demands something more enlightening like, Happy Monster Band. She puts up with the news a little bit, and tries to find something fun about it, so she watches the little numbers and arrows go up and down on the side of the screen. Some time ago I explained to her that the upside-down red triangles were bad and the green triangles were good. She has no idea why they're bad or good, I barely do myself, but she'll sit there watching the news with us for a little while and just call them out, "Green triangle! Red triangle! Green triangle!" This morning she got up early and got down to the tv couch before I got out of bed, and I woke up to "Red triangle! Red triangle! Red triangle! Red triangle!" -my little Wall Street WakeUp alarm. So the news didn't sound good. Happy Monster Band it is, then.

Remember when they slurried my street? Well, in a genius move of civic planning, today they are scheduled to return and slurry the bottom of the hill at the entry to the cul-de-sac. Why they didn't just do the whole street the first time is known only to slurry professionals, and this means that the whole street will be closed at 7AM, so I've gotta get the truck loaded up and moved out of here with the slurry guys. I have to take the BIG LADDER to work today, as yesterday's six footer wouldn't cut it. If I stand on the Not-A-Step of the six foot ladder, the top of yesterday's cover is at my face. It's a high one.

Up with the slurry guys!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oh, this just strikes me as hilarious:

Whoever made that should be given a medal. He just nailed why I don't go the movies anymore. Yes, yes, I know there are still some good flicks out there and that this phenomena is nothing new in showbiz, but I just don't have the time and money to waste like I used to. I'm sure Button is a wonderful film, with its thirteen Academy Award nominations, but Forrest Gump was nominated thirteen times, too, and I wasn't a fan.

Heresy! Yes, I know. I think I was the only one who thought Gump was thoughtless and overwrought. I've seen it several times. The photography is terrific, the acting is wonderful, the music and effects are unforgettable, but I still have no idea what the movie was really about, or what, exactly, the main theme was. I mean, it's all over the place! Was it saying that we should just live life simply, and hope for good luck? I don't understand why everyone around him suffered, while the dumb guy with the dopey voice lived a life of serendipity. Was it just a fantasy? What was the moral of the story? Are we supposed to be more like Forrest Gump, a man who never judged, but also never endured the temptations that all of us do on a daily basis? It was a nice, soulless story, vaguely anti-American. (And it didn't help that all the characters with conservative, traditional values were portrayed as stupid, and the liberal, counter-culture types as victims.) But what do I know? It won Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Writer, and Best everything else, making millions along the way. Some day someone will enlighten this obstinate pagan, and I will be forever grateful, but for now I whine and complain from the comfort of the suburbs, with my own failed Hollywood career behind me.

So Eric Roth was nominated again for his Benjamin Button screenplay -and all the power to him! He's not stupid -he sticks with what works! He's an established, accomplished, and successful writer. I thought The Insider was excellent, and I forgive him for the epic drivel that was The Postman (only redeemed by Tom Petty's cameo), but seriously now, did you watch that video above? Did it exaggerate? I find self-plagiarism to be a sad lack of integrity -one I admit I'm guilty of from time to time- but that's the art that Hollywood has perfected, and the filmmakers cry all the way to the bank. Maybe some day audiences will catch on to the old tried-and-true Hollywood formulas, but I fear that they already have and just don't care. I think this is what becomes of a society that doesn't teach Shakespeare in high school classrooms anymore: the endless pursuit of the quick buck via benign, bland, tasteless, repetitive mediocrity, stereophonic and in technicolor. All spectacle and no substance. But it's the feel-good flick of the year! Feel good for only ten dollars? What's wrong with that? When's the sequel?!

Oh, I'm just in a bad mood this morning. I've got to go to the dump and then I've got to go build an aluminum patio cover that's eleven-and-a-half feet high and then I've got to go repair some leaky cover that was poorly built (by me.) I'm sure Benjamin Button is a great film. Perhaps today it would be ten dollars well-spent. Oh, I'll catch it one of these days. It's probably even better than Forrest Gump. It looks to be an awesome spectacle!

(Thanks to Sean over at VFTW for pointing out the funny vid!)


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This just in: Steve Wozniak to appear as one of the contestants on Dancing With The Stars. Programming genius? Run-of-the-mill broadcasting folly? I give him two shows before he's out. Ever since I dedicated myself to the fine art and grandeur that is salsa dancing, I have newfound respect for the craft. This man won't be able to cut it compared to me.

Wozniak is one of the founders of Apple, computer geek l'originale, if you didn't know. His story is a colorful one (here's the Wikipedia link.) He and Steve Jobs fashioned the original Apple computer out of used pinball machine parts (or something) in Jobs' garage back in the '70s, and when their little garage band went public in 1980, the two Steves became multimillionaires overnight.

A year later, Wozniak was in an airplane crash (he was piloting a craft illegally) and suffered amnesia. He credits his girlfriend and computer games for resolving his memory. (I find this hilarious, because if there's anything that messes up my memory, it's women and computer games.) Anyway, he didn't go back to Apple after the accident. He went back to college and finished his undergraduate degree. Obviously, he was sufficiently traumatized in the plane crash.

My cousin knows him! Or claims to know him. I have a bunch of relatives living in Silicon Valley, of all places, and most of them have worked for Apple at one time or another. My cousin has hung out with "The Woz" on several occasions, and was telling me about it over Christmas. I don't know if they're really buddies or if it's just a groupie sort of thing, but it was a crack-up hearing the stories. Evidently, Woz doesn't really have a job anymore -he just works the professional lecture circuit on Caribbean cruises and such, and nowadays spends a lot of his time perfecting practical jokes. My cousin told me about one time where Wozniak had several hundred (real) two-dollar bills glued and bound together in notepad form. I understand he got busted by the Secret Service in Vegas when he was tearing off one bill after another and handing them out as tips. Evidently, they thought it was some brazen counterfeit money pad. Ha!

I hear he's a nice guy, though, active in several charities and a member of the Segway polo team, the "Silicon Valley Aftershocks."

Segway polo. Good Lord. If I only had the time...


Monday, February 9, 2009

The rain started at 3:30AM, I was later informed by the household mommy, who mentioned it with the authority of someone who had witnessed it firsthand. In the dim morning twilight you could hear it smacking the window, and impossibly so, given the state of endless drought and global warming we're in. Our house was up to 2 inches by yesterday afternoon, and we're looking for a couple more today, but that's not what got me out of bed. The Little Ditchman got me out of bed. She came down the hall and climbed up on top of me and whispered, "It's raining again," and then, "Come on Daddy, let's go downstairs so Mommy can sleep just a little bit longer." She's so considerate.

But she wouldn't let me watch the news with my coffee, she wanted me to read her a book: Franklin Says Sorry. It wasn't my first choice. I'm not a fan of these "Franklin" books, with their eerie animals, always smiling, talking, walking upright. The bear, the fox, the turtle, the beaver, the snail -they're all friends, see, not like in real life. But just like in real life, one of them screws over the other ones and then has to say he's sorry. I read the whole thing, but by the time we got to the end, the part where Franklin says he's sorry, the Big Finish, the Little Ditchman was done with it. She was distracted by something else.

So what would you do? Finish the book anyway? Force her to pay attention and get the lesson? Make her apologize for dominating your coffee and wake-up time? A real life lesson! I let it all go, of course. I'm pretty sure she's been through this story before. I was just bummed that I had to start the day with those pictures of Franklin in my head. They spook me.

Anyway, Handy Manny was on. This show rides the line of exploiting the Mexican laborer stereotype, has anyone noticed? No one seems to be complaining about that, but hey, at least Manny can get consistent work. The show is one of a score of those new children's series where the things look like they're drawn and animated by faceless, unfeeling robots, with characters every bit as engaging. (At least Disney had the wherewithal to employ Los Lobos to write that snazzy theme song.) I bring it all up because I wanted to mention that there is a curious sexual tension between Handy Manny and Kelly, the hardware store owner. No, really -my wife noticed it, too. Don't believe me? Even Wikipedia mentions their mutual attraction, played in the shadows, as subtext. I try not to picture anything too lusty in my head. The images have all the sensual form and romance of mating Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloons.

Just thought I'd mention it. What's on the agenda for this rainy day? More of the same and then more of that: work, phone calls, orders placed, potty training, and the usual odd tasks that keep piling up around the house. Add to that the regular periods of laughter, followed by the whining and whimpering, and then more laughter, and then more screaming, crying, and the incessant belligerence of toddlerhood.

And, hey, someone pick up these toys!

"No, Daddy. It's a Dinosaur Trip!"

Which is exactly what I'll be doing later if these aren't picked up.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Overheard downstairs this morning:

"Don't clean up, Mommy."

"Honey, I can't not clean up. It's what mommys do."

I don't know why the Little Ditchman wanted mommy to stop cleaning up, but it would be easy to get her to: just stop leaving a mess around! I think Mommy was cleaning up in front of the tv while Tigger and Pooh was on. Oh, can't see the tv? Hold on while I get some compression bandages for my bleeding heart!

People don't realize that when you decide to have kids, you're really applying for the worst janitorial job in the known universe. (I'm waiting for the Dirty Jobs episode where Mike Rowe becomes a single father of two for a weekend. He will run screaming.) You work 24/7 for twenty years straight, no pay. Job responsibilities include: the preparation of all food, followed by the cleaning up of all eliminated food wastes, the washing of perpetually soiled laundry, the bending over and picking up of a vast array of small plastic objects, repeatedly, until your knees and back scream out in anguish. Hazzards include being urinated upon, vomited upon, berated, incensed, and ignored by your subordinates. I could go on and on. I won't. It does.

WE HAVE A MILLION TOYS. We don't buy any of them, they're just given to us, mostly by people who don't have kids, and they accumulate in baroque piles in the corners of the house -upstairs, downstairs, everywhere. The Little Ditchman knows each one and if a tiny part is lost, she is aware of it. Sometimes these toys break and we have to pry the wretched things out her little clenched fists. She's two, and we've started her early: "Oh, honey, looks like that toy is broken beyond repair. We're going to have to throw it in the trash. Come on." And then we walk her to the garbage can, toss it in, and say farewell. We didn't have a choice. One day a while back the kid opened the trash can and saw one of her old things, which we hated and had tried to get rid of. We caught her reaching in for it. "Hey! Did you put this in the trash, Mommy?" Busted! Sometimes I find things in the toy pile that I know I threw away yesterday. For a while I was sneaking busted kidstuff out to the curb to cram in the trash can, under the cover of night, during bathtime.

Anyway, these little girls will turn in to your grandma with their piles of junk and newspapers stacked around them until their dying days, if you're not careful. You've got to start them early. Have little funerals for the toys. This item has run its course and served its purpose, child. Say goodbye. It was fun while it lasted. Hold my hand and sing with me: "To everything turn, turn, turn... There is a landfill, turn, turn, turn..."

The act of picking up the toys is a daily one, inescapable and unrelenting. To those of you who claim that they will teach their kids to pick up after themselves, I congratulate you on the millions you will make when you publish the book on it. A good child will clean up some of their mess, surely, but a smart child doesn't make a mess. There is a singular purpose to the meticulously organized array, and the child will explain it to you, speaking from her high horse, shaking her head at you, oh dumb and feeble-minded parent. You just don't get it.

An example.

You come around the corner:

A mess of toys on the kitchen floor, right? Well, clean it up!

But wait... Not so fast. Upon closer inspection...

Yes, that's right. Clearly, it's a dinosaur breakfast. Do you want to interrupt the dinosaur breakfast? Believe me, the wrath of the little girl will be much greater than that of the brachiosaur and the dimetrodon. You let it go for now. This mess is cuter than the others. Get the camera.

So it goes. I often clean up the toys after I do the dishes at night so I can sit on the couch in peace. I move them to the other room entirely, so I don't have to look at them. It's haunting, those dolls piled up in the corner staring back at you with their lifeless eyes. Every now and then one of them will make a noise, totally spontaneously, uninitiated by you. Just the other day I was shutting down the house at the stroke of midnight and I turned off the last light at the foot of the stairs. Out of the silent darkness, the tiny mechanical voice of a Little Einstein cackled from beneath something else: "HOORAY FOR ROCKET!" and my heart skipped a beat. I quickly turned the light back on and saw... nothing. I shook my head and flipped the switch off again, and immediately the voice of another Einstein: "GREAT JOB, ROCKET!" Damn these toys! They're messing with me!

Turns out it was some new-fangled talking puzzle (a talking puzzle!) that was being activated by the ambient light in the house. Of course. Right. Knew that. All the same, the fear lingers: one day you're going to throw away one too many toys, and those things are going to come alive at night, looking for revenge. It'll be after a long day and an extra beer. You'll feel a bit wobbly from exhaustion, and something plastic with wheels is going to do a slow roll over to the top of the stairs and wait there in the dark. And wait....

And wait...

Try not to think about it. Have a splendiforous weekend.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

"I'm not making dinner tonight," was how she put it, unambiguously, when she arrived home from work and I was handing off the kids to her and leaving for my own late afternoon appointment. It struck me as odd since I knew she had nothing else going on this evening.

"You're not making dinner tonight?" I asked, with only a hint of supplication. And she said, "No." which I observed as very plainly and simply put, given that what she meant was I worked all day and I'm sick and I'm sore and I haven't had more than three hours of sleep at a time in months and you're leaving me here with these kids who won't stop screaming and if I have to make dinner tonight I'm going to throw that six quart stock pot through the dining room window with such force that it will ricochet off the neighbor's SUV and imbed itself in the tree where it will stand for all eternity as a symbol of this mother's rage and as a call to all mothers in suburbs across this land to rise up and not take crap from anyone anymore especially overly demanding family members!

To which I responded, "Okay."

I love to cook, though I stopped years ago when we started the business and I began to take making a living more seriously than making dinner. Before Mrs. Ditchman and I wed we would cook together, which makes for a sumptious courtship. I bought her an elaborate set of pots and pans for her birthday back then, and we use those things to this day. They're all bent and scorched and beat-up now, but they still work. She toils over them day in and day out, like me on the job site with my tools. I noticed her boiling baby bottle nipples in the sauté pan the other day, and I thought of the time back when we were dating and we sautéed scallops and in that same pan we made that unforgettable creamy red sauce with the freshly chopped basil (that was the secret.) Back then we would try out a new fish recipe every week and a new bottle of cabernet every evening. We've come a long way, it seems.

So I stopped at the store on the way home from work and picked up something for dinner. I gave the meal some thought and struggled to come up with a desireable dish that would impress and subdue. I found myself crossing the store from corner to corner, diagonally and twice back (which is absurd in a supermarket), picking my ingredients and keeping it as cheap and simple as possible. Pork chops, mushrooms, cauliflower, rice... It was obvious to the other shoppers that I was as wobbly and rusty at this as the old shopping cart I was pushing.

Got home and set it all on the counter, actually looking forward to the process. An old friend once told me that if you can convince yourself that cooking dinner is a relaxing endeavor, it'll add years to your life. "Seriously. You leave the day behind you, you take in the scents and sizzles, you relax. You'll find you digest your food better," he said. "And if you learn to love to cook, you won't ever eat that greasy, overpriced pigswill you have to tip them for!"

I don't think he had kids.

But I do like to put on some old music, (like The Pasadena Rooftop Orchestra, a new favorite) open a bottle of wine, (a 2005 Adelaida Cellars viognier) and light a candle (the pretty, white one on top of the Sparkletts bottle.) This all makes a difference, (especially the wine part) even if everyone is screaming like caged banshees. I lathered some finely-tuned spice rub on the chops. I sliced the mushrooms into perfect qaurters. I melted butter and crushed garlic. I took the kitchen flashlight out into the garden and stole some fresh parsley from the gods. And I cut an onion and browned the rice with a manly, graceful flair. It was awesome.

This is not the way Mrs. Ditchman makes dinner. She makes it hard and fast, with a baby in one arm and a toddler pulling at her leg. Oh, she'll light the candle on the Sparkletts bottle, too, but she does it and it won't fall off and spill hot wax on the Little Ditchman's head. My wife: she's got her eye on the ball and throws her back into the swing, and with the other eye she winks at the pitcher. Dinner plates go a-flying and every cupboard stays open until she's done. Dishes get washed as she goes, and sometimes she's on the phone negotiating our mortgage policy or our health insurance or tomorrow's playdate. If you get in her way to get a beer out of the fridge, the glare from her will keep you from enjoying it, and you'll be left with a full bottle in one hand and your dignity in the other, while you try and act grateful. Cheerful. Anything.

So I poured her a glass of the viognier and took it to her on the couch. She had a sip, enjoyed it, and was busy with the kids again. Then she carried them upstairs for bath time and bed, leaving her full glass on the window sill and me to my own devices, with a nearly ready, perfect meal. I sipped the wine, blew out the candle, and turned down the music so the kids could sleep.

She returned later and suggested we eat on the couch. The rice and the cauliflower were cold, the chops were a little dry, and the sautéed mushrooms were good, though a bit on the soggy side. She was grateful, and didn't have to be. I put on Lost. A moment later she was leaning back, chin up, mouth open: asleep, dead and away.

At least for the next hour or so.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' "Doomsday Clock" currently reads five minutes to midnight, indicating how close the world is to total nuclear annihilation.

I am about half way through the Great Archival Project, Wedding Edition. Over 500 pics have been scanned, and it takes about four minutes a pic. My scanner can go four pics at a time and it's the perfect project for the past week, as I've been home with the chillun whilst Mommy is out selling the warez. I can start the scanner on four negatives (2400 dpi), walk away for fifteen minutes or so, and then return whenever and swap out the negative. Except for the Photoshop corrections, I've got it down to a habit. But it's an interminable one.

I'm in a hurry because the end of the world is coming. I feel the need to report on this, since this blog has always been titled what it is, and there are few things as significant as TEOTW. First, this warning sign: "Mystery Roar Detected From Faraway Space". Has that ever been a good thing? Large, friendly, gentle whale-like creatures bellowing "bonsoir" from the nether reaches of outer space? I think not. Then there's "Powerful Solar Storm Could Shut Down U.S. for Months" set for 2012, or thereabouts, for all of us wondering about that Mayan calendar mystery. By the way, if you're wondering why a solar storm is so dangerous, it's because the very large "Magnetic Field Hole Could Cripple Communications". Put Al Gore on it. If you were planning on the results from the LHC to answer some of those galactic "roar" questions, well, "Scientists Not So Sure 'Doomsday Machine' Won't Destroy World" (You have to just love that title.)

This was all found on the FoxNews web site. Not sure why they're big on TEOTW type stuff, but I'm sure it has something to do with their right-wing agenda. If you aren't convinced yet, FoxNews has this article just to hammer it home: "Five Ways the World Can End". Don't bother reading it, I'll spare you: nuclear war, volcano, asteroid, black hole, and expanding sun. Pick any two for good measure. (Note right-wing agenda: "Global Warming" not among the five.)

Also, there is the ongoing alien problem. Seems there's been a lot of this lately, did you notice? First there was the "Video of 'UFO' at Inauguration Gets Internet Buzz" and then there was "New Jersey Under Alien Attack — Maybe" and then there was "British Wind Turbine Possibly Hit by UFO" and for good measure: "Alaska Town Abuzz Over Mystery Sky Explosion". All of these stories just in the last month! Coincidence? Coinky-dink? You tell me.

Also, President Obama predicted trillion-dollar deficits for years to come. Spend like it's your last days on earth! Come on world, it's not so bad, we're just in a global rut! To paraphrase Emerson: I know in my head that it's Doomsday, but in my heart it's the best day of the year.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

So I've been sucked into the realm of "Facebook" which casts you into cyberspace in a manner (at least partially) of your choosing. I mean, how much time does an average person spend on selecting the photo that reveals themselves to long lost acquaintances (now upgraded to "friend" status)? My brother doesn't have a photo of himself on Facebook. He's just an empty cypher with a name. He might be my brother, now that I think of it. Anyway, he hasn't accepted my friend request.

I love all these people who show up from the distant past whom you thought never noticed you. (I am one.) They have so many friends, too! And all the people whom I regularly hang out with, people who were in my wedding, like my wife -they have so few friends by contrast. I am at once more popular and less popular than I ever thought.

The social graces of cyberspace have yet to be sufficiently elucidated, by the way. Do I really want to be "friends" with people that are in my family? If I turn down a friend request from an in-law, I'm pretty sure my wife won't write on my "wall" for a week, much less share my bed. Imagine how the whole network would change overnight if, when you received a friend request, you could just click NO THANKS. MAKE ACQUAINTANCE. Then again, it probably already exists as a feature for established users. I haven't heard back from a few folks.

Yes, it took me a while to get hooked up on Facebook, I mean, obviously I'm a dinosaur, still spending my time in the Jurassic blogosphere. My immediate instinct is to blame my age (Verging on 40! There was no email in college!) but then I noticed a bunch of my friends' parents on there, so it seems I've arrived late to the party. "Izza 'bout dang time!" someone scribbled on my wall. I can see it: a month from now I'll be like where'd everyone go? and everyone will be over at "Spacebook" or "FaceReunion" or "MySlice" or whatever the hip domain is. Me, I'll probably still be over here with the blog. So passé.

But it's been fun connecting with all those people I haven't seen since high school and college and summer camp and Starbucks yesterday. I admit there's a part of me that wishes I had just picked someone more popular and successful than me and started an account with their good name and an old high school photo of them. (Wait a minute: who says I haven't?! And I'll resist the temptation to do a Facebook search on myself, as I doubt it's happened to me.) Anyway, it's amazing how so many people who've crossed paths in the past can come together so easily and so often and have so little to say. Does anyone out there ever just stop and go, Whoa. We're all here sitting inside staring at our screens. Why don't we meet at the beach? And then I realize I'm the only one with perfect weather in February, ten miles from the beach. I've been online with the service for only twenty-four hours and people are coming out of the woodwork, and from around the world. So it's Facebook: the phonebook that writes itself!

Of course, there's always the virtual beach invite and all the "poking" that goes on. Poking? Are we back in class? Is this what "friends" do? Okay, so, it's cute, but I'm not sure I need cute. I've got cute here in droves: my two-year-old just peed on the couch. And yesterday someone on Facebook requested to "kidnap" my profile and -I'm not sure- either hold it for ransom or molest it altogether. Request denied. (I put a lot of thought into what year I didn't graduate from college.) But I will buy a virtual round of exotic cocktails from a virtual Polynesian pool bar at sunset, brought to you on a virtual gold platter by erotic models of the opposite sex, for everyone I've ever met, and redeemable until the end of the ages.

It's just a matter of time before I make a complete steer's ass out of myself on Facebook, as I do here on Blogger on a weekly basis, so wait for it. At least I have another venue to share eccentric interests with long lost friends without having to exit the house or spend a dime. Leave it to the Internet to drag meek nerds out of the cellar (or leave them there) and organize them into some sort of community. I propose an Internet collective for those of us with interests in all things botanic, but who are too embarrassed to join local gardening clubs because they can't get anything to grow. I will call it: "Faceplant".


Monday, February 2, 2009

February came yesterday and wasted no time in upturning the routine with the wild interceptions, irreverant gestures, and blinding stagelights it has such command of. It was a beautiful day, a Superbowl day, if one cares about such things, and we headed out to church with the demanding Little Ditchman in the back seat. She's the vociferous DJ of the highway, if you didn't know, and I was forced to withstand the head-swelling sounds of the Veggie Tales, which is like the Alvin and the Chipmunks for the faithful. Seriously, it sounds like a high-pitched miter saw cutting through metal at full volume, and somewhere in there are the lyrics: JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN ALL THE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD... It's awful. It compels one to sin.

In the pew I was able to collect myself, late, near the front. No sooner than we sat down did Mrs. Ditchman get up and have to cart off the Little Digger to the cry room, and when you notice everyone watching you, you want to head there as well. But I stayed put, and the choir had a hymn of their own that put my heart at ease, and seriously so. Midway through the song my eyes actually got a little watery, and I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the blessings of life, seen and unseen. Anyway, strangers noticed, but I held my head up, unashamed. I mean, seriously, isn't church just the big Cry Room of the world?

It was a communion Sunday, and I was relieved to see the Holy Host up there at the altar. The pastor suggested we pray in earnest for a multitude of things, and I obliged -so much so that when the bread came around, broken for me, I masterfully passed it to the congregant next to me, whispering with authority how this was "...Christ's body, broken for you..." -at which point I realized that I had forgotten to take some.

I think everyone around me noticed, since of course they'd been staring at me since I entered the sanctuary. Poor soul, they must've thought, Look at him with his head bowed. The man must really be hurting. Won't even accept communion. And that poor little family of his!

When the wine came around (Christ's blood shed for me...) I was so confused, I didn't know whether to accept and take some or just let it pass. Does half a ritual do any good? It's not really wine, anyway, it's grape juice -which Jesus Christ decidely did not use. Did everyone think I'd completely lost it? Did God Himself care? I decided I needed it, asked for forgiveness, and went on with life like the rest of the dumb sheep. At least I had the wherewithal not to take two. I'm pretty sure both God and Mrs Ditchman were shaking their heads.

Got home with a thousand plans, shattered in an instant by my wife with plans of her own -but it wasn't so bad. We put the game on, explained football to the two-year-old, watched Springsteen at halftime with her on my lap, ate guacamole and barbecued some tri-tip at sunset. Opened a bottle of wine, unconsecrated. Drank some. It tasted good. Started a Facebook account, and suddenly had a hundred more people staring at me from the ether.

What a world.