Real Good English

iSometimes Forget

Things You Can Do with Your iPhone After the Battery Dies and You Don’t Have the Cord to Plug It In and Juice It Up.

1. Use it as a Paperweight.
2. Check your hair in the glass.
3. Use it as a thick bookmark.
4. Avoidance tool (talk to yourself; no one needs to know it’s not on).
5. Ruler/straight-line marker.
6. Improve-your-dexterity toy.
7. Juggling tool.
8. Check your teeth for crumbs in the glass.
9. Building block.
10. Collateral in a trade.
11. Have a staring contest.
12. Intimidation (shake it at someone as you scream at them).
13. Push its buttons.
14. Clean it. Clean it real good.

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Washing machine…

Washing machine. You,
clean so good when you’re plugged in.
I miss you. Love, me

Poetry

THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU’RE WORKING AT HOME PROCRASTINATING WRITING WITH YOUR DOG WHO’S WEARING A CONE

Brush your dog’s teeth
Shovel snow on the deck.
Watch the snowflakes quickly collect on the deck you just shoveled
Mop the floor when your cone-wearing dog pees on it because his potty schedule is all thrown off.
Drink three cups of coffee.
Make your annual call to XM radio to complain about the price hike so they’ll cut you a deal
Smile
Wash the sheets.
Floss
Think about building a fire
Eat some pretzels.
Ask your man to build you a fire when he comes home.
Get back to work

Mrawh

Happy Twenty Thirteen.

Dear Son,

I’d like to think I’m writing this letter for you to read when you get older. But your dad and I have given up hope that you’ll ever talk, let alone learn how to read. The doctors have told us it’s simply not possible. So I guess I’m writing this letter for me. But if you could talk, I’m sure you’d tell me that you’re having as much fun growing up as I am watching you. Your energy and excitement for life are simply contagious. Because of you, I greet the day before the sun rises to the occasion. Sometimes, I pull up a patch floor next to you and watch you sleep. When you started eating solid foods, I got up close and listened to your baby crunching noises. You were so silly.

I’ve gotten to know your little personality quite well. And I have to say, I love it. You’re growing bigger and smarter by the day. Someday you’re going to be too big to sit on my lap though I know you’ll try. Heck, I might even let you, just for old time’s sake. But before you go and grow up, before you’re too cool to be seen with your dear mom, let alone be showered with my affection in front of your friends, I have some words of wisdom to share with you. I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to save you from a rebellious youth full of mistakes. Or perhaps it’s me I’m trying to save. Regardless, these nuggets of knowledge are rather universal—I didn’t make them up. I simply paid attention along the way.

I learned multitudes from my parents; others were collected through trial and error. Mostly error. However you assemble yours, I hope that someday, you too will grow up and enjoy the things that big guys do. May you always…

Be curious. Sniff out every opportunity that presents itself. Turn over new leaves and ask questions, even if it’s just through a quizzical look.

Never forget where you came from and those that put you there. Though you’ll invariably change along the way, your heritage makes you who you are. Keep your head held high as though you could be the son of a champion.

Approach criticism and praise with a sense of humility. It will help you develop a balanced sense of self. Some people will like you, some people won’t. At the end of the day if you’re surrounded by people who love you—in your heart or in your home—then you’re a lucky guy.

Never lose your sense of adventure. It will take you farther than looks or money and past the front gate. Out in the big world, you’ll find lands to explore, convenient places to rest your head, and great people to spend your days with. Heck, you might even ride in an airplane someday.

Be nice to people. You never know when you’ll need a friend to bring you a hot meal or just go for a walk. Someday, people might even count on you to lend an ear or a shoulder. Be a good man when the time comes.

Don’t be afraid of strangers. Give them the once over to be sure they’re good people, but then open your heart. It will be filled with perspectives and adoration anew.

And that’s it. Simple stuff. There will be other lessons but for now just know this—our lives are forever changed because of you. And now that you’re here we’ll do everything we can to make sure you’re happy, healthy and wise. If you ever feel you’ve gone too far on your own, just turn around and you’ll see we’re behind you smiling, laughing and asking you that same dumb question over and over, “Who’s a good boy? Huh? Buddy? Yeah? Who’s a good dog?”

You are Monty.

In fact, you’re probably the best.

Low five.

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A Tired Puppy is a Good Puppy

I wonder what he’s eating and I hope it’s something special

Like Skin to a Band-Aid

If, when I was child, you told me that someday I would love sauerkraut soup I would have stomped on your toe. A soup made of something so sour it warned you in the name of the dish, floating in broth the color of a problem commode, could only be the food of starving people and those without taste buds. And Ukrainians. Particularly the Sedor-Ukrainians sentenced to eat such unenticing items and more as part of a traditional seven-fish, meat-less dinner my Mam Mam served every Christmas Eve. The meal was not my most anticipated in those days. My Pap-Pap would heap gooey spoonfuls of creamy pickled herring, pierogies (pronounced pit-oh-ghees by my family), peas and pigeons on my plate. Pigeons were the centerpiece of the meal and likely, not at all what you think. In Eastern European culture nearly every country has their own form of cabbage roll—some sort of meat and a binding agent such as rice or meal, wrapped in cabbage and stewed in a tomato sauce. You can be assured of those contents when any dish ends in –pki. Halupki, bawompki, galumpki; the list goes on. Owing to our Anthracite Coal Region heritage or perhaps just sheer laziness, we instead went with the appetizing moniker, ‘pigeons.’ And if you mention this word within a 20-mile radius of Centralia, Pennsylvania, any self-respecting coal-regioner will know that you are speaking about savory, delicious comfort food and not a dirty bird. But since this was a meatless dinner, the pierogi was filled with fish. Usually a cheap kind like chunk-light, canned tuna packed in water. As far as my childhood self was concerned, you could have filled them with shredded wet cardboard and not noticed much of a difference. Oh how we dreaded that meal. But it was a small price to pay for such high returns. After all, it was the eve of St. Nick and the first night of beloved paper-ripping rituals.

Christmas Eve was my favorite holiday when I was younger. It’s still relatively high on the list but now takes second billing behind my mid-summer birthday. On the day before Christ’s birthday, we idled until late afternoon when we would saddle up the old Jeep Wagoneer, pack the presents and travel over the hills and through the woods to Mam Mam’s house. I can almost hear my mom, hair set in rollers, makeup basket on the kitchen table, coaxing my dad to “get a God-damn shower already and put on something other than those brown pants for-crying-out-loud.” My dad isn’t one for large, loud family gatherings or dressing up and now that I’m older, I recognize his hesitance as a lazy attempt to mitigate the pain by wasting time. By this hour, my sister and I had been ready for what seemed like days. Once we were old enough to drive, we left earlier and took the back roads to marvel at the holiday light displays; in later years, it was to sneak in a stop at the bar before a dry dinner.

My dad is the oldest of four siblings and his side of the family is rather large when fully assembled. His brother Bob; his sister Terry, husband Joe and two children; and sister Lisa, husband Vince and six kids made for a raucous, spirited evening when together. And I loved every minute of it. From the moment we walked through the door, it was chaos. My Pap Pap would often be found holed up in the den watching a gunslinger television program and my dad made swift motions to join him there. Maybe it was to get away from the madness; maybe it was to get inside the head of the man he called dad. Mam Mam would be toiling over simmering pots of this and that and though she took the kitchen heat, I don’t think she’d eaten a hot Christmas meal since Christ himself last broke bread. And though she no longer holds supreme maternal responsibility for the big feast, I’m not entirely sure she’s known the pleasure of a hot meal. Ever.

And then, there were presents. Back then, the meal pandemonium was a mere prelude to the craziness of gift giving. After the last pea had given way to pecan (pronounced pee-caan) tassies, coconut clusters and peanut butter bars, we would make our way to the sitting room to open the gifts. As I got older, I would pause in that room when upon arrival to admire the perfect tree with the perfectly wrapped presents spilling out from under its perfectly fake boughs. Sitting in the darkness, I’d marvel at the twinkling lights shedding just enough light for me to feel that perfect family Christmas, if only for those few moments. In a little over an hour the sounds of ripping Paper and my Mam Mam saying “WHAT?” would fill the room, leaving just enough airspace for laughter and reality.

My sister and I are the oldest of eleven grandchildren by nearly 10 years and as a result, were the center of attention for quite some time. Then the other adorable little attention-seekers arrived. So the gift-opening rituals I remember most centered around the little ones. Instead of gorging on gifts, we would wait patiently for my Pap Pap’s special gift bags. Our Pap Pap was such a quiet man. I remember one year when he left his presents, still wrapped long after the snow had melted, sitting on the chair by the door in their old Centralia house. I can barely remember anything about that house but that image sticks in my memory like skin to a Band-Aid. I couldn’t believe he didn’t want presents. What kind of person doesn’t want the joy and surprise that comes with tearing into shiny dancing deer wrapped around a new fleece robe? I always thought he just didn’t like the holidays. But the more likely explanation is that he just didn’t know how to handle all of the love, joy and prosperity he’d come to enjoy in his adult life, free from struggling to make ends meet, working the mines and worrying about much of anything really. His parents had given him that. And here he was giving it to us. We just didn’t realize it yet.

His gift bags were some of the most special gifts I’ve ever received. But not because of the contents. Depending on the selection, you might receive a whimsical calendar from the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists’ Association. More likely though, you’d get a chintzy desk calendar from some bank or a planner with days too small to record your name let alone an appointment. Corncob-shaped corn skewers, pot holders and other kitchen clutter were popular filler items. He’d collect gag objects throughout the year and tchotchkes from various businesses displaying their address and phone number. Just in case you needed to know the name of a good lawyer while combing your hair. You’d probably score rolls of quarters or a two-dollar bill and you’d definitely receive a savings bond, which was his true gift—providing for his family. His big, loving, chaotic family. But what I loved most was his signature on the card. Христос воскрес he’d write, which I believe means Christ is Risen. And though he had 30 tries before he left me, he’d never once managed to spell my name the same. But he put his heart into creating those bags. And that meant more to me than any gift I’d ever receive.

In recent years, the festivities have slowed considerably, yet the family has grown. Kids have moved away to make their own families and no longer travel home for the holidays. There are new moms, cousins, and boyfriends; and soon, husbands and great-grandchildren. And a little over two years ago, my Pap Pap enjoyed his last bowl of sauerkraut soup, God bless him. He still ate the stuff as though it were acceptable food.

The one thing that remains is that meal. Sharing that meal each year with my family has stayed with me all through these years. And as predicted, I too developed a taste for the soup, the herring and the pierogies. So much so that when Kristen visited me in San Francisco a few years ago, I sought out the peas, the kraut and the pierogies and put together feast fit for Sedors. I visited the Russian market for halupki and vodka. I made brown broth with sauerkraut and together we dined like children who could eat whatever we wanted, but chose not too. Because it’s about nostalgia—food is. My memories of Christmas are wrapped up in the traditions we cultivated around the table, talking, laughing, smiling knowing smiles. Even the smells are enough to send me through time and space to a era where Santa still existed, family could do no wrong and all was right with the world.

photo

happy everything.

happy everything

Metaphorically Speaking

Okay so think of it this way. It’s like we get the Dream House or a set of Legos. With the Dream House, we get everything. The expensive walls are flecked with silver. The carpets are spun from the golden locks of fair-faced virgins. The house has 15 costly stories and 84 rooms, each one with a mini-giraffe and direct TV. We’ll hang our coats on hooks made from casts of Michael Jackson’s hands and peer up at the crystal chandelier swaying daintily in the breeze from the state of the art Ocean Air coolant system. The Ocean Air coolant system works by boxing actual Hawaiian ocean air and shipping it to us where we release it into the house via green-wash air ducts. Doesn’t that sound expensive? We want you to breathe the best air possible though you know. The Dream House is luxury at its finest and if we choose this one, we will never have to look to another to satisfy our needs but we will pay for it. With the Dream House, there is no more going swimming at the neighbor’s pool filled with water. No, we can swim in our own pool filled with a mixture of Fiji water and coconut silk ions, which are amazing for the skin. You can’t swim? Oh. No bother – we can go on a road trip and get away from it all. Did I mention the Dream House comes with a fully loaded RV – kitchen, dining room, bathroom, boudoir – it even has a hair dryer built in for all that swimming we’ll do in sparkling ponds alongside the road to paradise. What? You’re going bald? I forgot you can’t swim. Forget about those things. Okay maybe we should talk about our other option.

With Legos, we might not get everything we’ve never dreamt possible, but we can build it however we want! It can be big or small and skinny and tall. We’ve got red, blue, green, black, maybe even some white around here… The possible color combinations are seemingly endless but not really! Isn’t this awesome? With the Lego set, we probably won’t get a lot of bells and whistles up front but did I mention we can Build It Ourselves?! Isn’t that great? I know it’s a bit simple to start but we can tweak it to our liking. If you don’t like it, we can demolish and start over, but I’ve found that if I just build right on top of what I’ve already done, it’s easy to block out the things we don’t want anymore and all the time we wasted on it. We can use the small blocks in red up front and the big blue ones for the back. The upfront cost is much less than the Dream House which is great since we don’t really have any money anyway. Which one of these yellow headed guys do you want – relentlessly happy or unfeeling blank stare? What you don’t like either? Well you have to pick one. We can change it later – we can try I mean. All of this is going to take a lot of time to get it where we want it, did I mention that? We can search for a different face once we opt for the Legos. I’m sure there are more out there, impossibly optimistic and blissfully ignorant maybe? Well, wait, you can’t build there. Why? There aren’t blocks for that. You can’t build things we don’t have the blocks for, sorry. What? What am I talking about?

What were you talking about?

Wings Upon My Bosom

I’ve closed the door on a plane. And I can’t help but feel a little special because of it. And really, why shouldn’t I? Even if it’s not on your bucket list, you have to admit it’s not a mundane everyday activity. It’s not like closing the door to the bathroom or taking out a bag of trash filled with empty beer bottles. It’s of formidable size and weight. It’s got a giant inflatable sliding board attached to it. And if you are lucky enough to touch it, you get to tell those proximate to you to power down their electronic devices and sit the hell down because you’re going to grab onto a mighty lever, swing and vacuum seal them into their area. I tremble at the thought of so much power.

Each and every time I set foot on a plane, I can’t help but think about how I almost worked here, inside the belly of my favorite machine. That and the fact that I’ve closed the door once. But as I stroll down the jet way again today, so begins my recurring daydream. I could have been flying through the air with the greatest of ease, doling out cokes and safety advice in exchange for money and free dry cleaning. I might have worn scarves around my neck and wings upon my bosom. These rows would have been my cube farm, this galley stocked with liquor minis – my water cooler, this abandoned People magazine – my TMZ, this plane lavatory – my um, lavatory. Hey, some things don’t change in the great big office in the sky. I tap the cool metal of the fuselage as I pass by. I run my hands along the pleather seat tops and think about the hundreds of people that likely touched the very same place just a few moments ago. Then I try not to think about all the germs in here. I take a seat among the civilians and settle in for my safety briefing for which I will not be compensated.

Yet on the sharp edge of what is now just another effusive blurb on my resume and the inevitable one to follow, I have no regrets about that or any job I’ve watched come and go. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have said 4 jobs in 9 months is too many. Now it is me. I’ve left another job. One could argue I have no time for regrets, what with all the job searching I’ll be doing. But really, regrets are wasted energy at any juncture. Who knows where I would be and what my life would be like had I taken a job as a flight attendant? I could have just as easily joined the circus and had 10 children by now. The mistake we make is not quitting the job or telling our boss to go to hell (though not advisable), it’s believing that one so-called wrong decision could possibly eclipse all of the other really, really good ones we’ve made. Is my life really so bad that I could have gotten it so very wrong that day back in Texas when I shoved a ring back in my nostril and said, hell with this I’m going home? Am I so sick with envy and the cure is packaged peanuts or discounts on designer clothing and outdoor gear? Hell no. Why? Because it was just job. And that other thing? Also just a job. All of them, just jobs and surely there will be more. In fact, I would be so lucky were there no more ‘just jobs’. So lucky that if my collective experience were a mere flicker in my rear view mirror as I speed away in hot pursuit of a special purpose in life, then I could somehow breathe a sigh of relief. But all I can do right now, all I should do, is enjoy the ride with the windows down. I’d be a fool to let one more setback on the job front keep me from marching forth. If I’ve learned anything at all it’s that a job or lack there of can’t get in the way of the really important stuff. Stuff like being a good friend. Like being a great partner. And being a damn amazing me.

The cliché goes when one door closes, another one opens. But what about the windows? Don’t we leave those open all the time? Some let in the light; some let in the rain. So the clichéd story goes. If you were ever on a damned plane, you could actually detach a window, throw it out its window-shaped hole and follow it to serenity. Or you could relax and realize that you’re not going down. In fact, it’s just some minor turbulence. If you can just be patient for a few more moments, the clouds will pass and you will see clearly again. And you will open many new doors. And behind the next one will be plenty of things you know not, and that’s okay. But because of many great decisions you’ve made, the door won’t be nearly as heavy as it could be. And neither will your choices.

Give me a Quarter and I’ll Tell You a Story

I pay attention.  The phrase sounds lucrative enough to suggest that some money might actually change hands in return for good quality attention.  Too bad I can’t actually be paid to be attentive.  I’m not talking about parlaying my attention paying into a career.  I’m talking about good old fashioned mental labor.  As in, holding up a will-pay-attention-for-money sign on the street corner, and I’ll come tell you a story about what I observed.  I’d like to walk down the street and have a nice old lady say, “Excuse me young lady?  Will you tell me a story while I carry these heavy bags up my stairs?”  And I’d say why of course.  But it’ll cost you.  Then I’ll tell her all about my exciting drive to Appleton in a huge stinky rental van with a broken antenna.  How I was forced to make observations and think rather than sing along with Miley Cyrus playin her song on the radio.  And then she’d pull a quarter out from behind my ear and give me a glass of milk.

I’m taking a writing class and the teacher strongly, no, vehemently suggests keeping a notebook so that I may jot down observations in the course of a day.  But I’ve been jotting down observations for nearly a quarter of a decade now and that’s what I’ve got.  A pile of observations.  That’s the problem.  I’ve got page after page filled with me, On the Rest of the World – one sentence at a time.  What I don’t have is a common thread to stitch through them and weave into story.  Or a plot.  Hence the writing class.  I’m hoping my professor is going to fold up her hands so I can step right up into them and on to my writing horse of greatness where I will giddy off into the sunset.  I’ll arrive at a country farmhouse at sunset, surrounded by orchards.  There will be a big wooden desk beckoning from an open window, curtains blowing all around.  I’ll collapse into a bed of observation and the next morning I’ll wake up and get to work weaving.

I’ll start with some noteworthy things I saw today on my drive: a customer successfully help himself to the phone at the U-haul rental office; countless roadside dead deer in various states of dismemberment and rigor mortis; two shoeless, dirty toddlers running around a gasoline pump being chased by a man with a tribal tattoo on his neck; a replica of the Wright Flyer; two handwritten signs for night crawlers; a frantic man retrieving luggage from the middle of a four-lane highway; and a gaggle of frantic teenage girls running, who obviously don’t know how to secure luggage to the top of an SUV.

It’s going to be one funny looking weave.  But where’s the fun in normal anyway.