Sunday, May 24, 2009

Remembering Room 425

It started with a phone call from my mum. I was pooping. I answered with uh–huh’s, yeah’s and hold- on-a-sec. I covered the mouthpiece, flushed and took up the soul destroying, too-much information position by the window.

I loved the view from the 4th floor – it was almost parallel to the roof of the pool. Gravel, dirt and air conditioning bulk. It was always a nice contrast to the bright blue or black, but rarely in-between, Oklamhoma sky. The Radisson on 41st was a home away from home. One week every other week - I spent half a year in that hotel. I knew people at that hotel.

30 minutes later and I’m still saying uh-huh - thinking of the joint comforts of room service and internet porn. Then I notice a twinkle in the hallway. Closer inspection reveals a steady stream of water seeping from underneath the bathroom door and out into the hallway beyond. Oh shit! Literally.

I’m used to working hot issues. It’s what I do for a living. Software issue at a casino? Losing $1200 a minute in fines and lost revenue? No big deal. I’m the best at what I do. I’m the fixer… So I tell my mum that I need to call her back. I pick up the phone next to the bed. I call down to reception only to discover that I’ve lost my composure. And I NEVER lose my composure…

“Uh, yeah, hello… Hello Marcy, how are you?...”
“Good, good. Well I’m uh ok, I guess…”
“I had a long, uh ah, day at the office today…”
“How can you, um, help me? Oh yes, right… see that’s the thing…”
“I’ve flooded my room in poop water!”

I think she hung up. I didn’t know what to do next. I flung open the bathroom door like I meant business. A torrent of water ran between my ankles and instantly soaked my socks. Up to my ankles, I paddled around like a kid in a splash park. How is this possible? Water is flowing so fast that the trash can has been pushed against the door. I can do this, I tell myself. I look for the shut –off, shit-off value turny thingy. This toilet doesn’t have one! Now what? I know. I’ll call my mum…

“Mum, yeah, it’s me again. I think I flooded the room. The toilet won’t stop flushing. There’s poopy water everywhere.”… splash, splash, whimper “… help me… mum?”

Then my mum starts laughing. Big belly laughs. Then she’d stop, breath in, compose herself and start again. Bollocks! I could see she wasn’t going to help. I clicked her away and got back to the business of panicking.

I didn’t know what to try next. Staring at it really hard didn’t seem to do much so I decided to open the room door. I figured the maintenance man would be here any second. Even if he didn’t get the call from reception, he’d likely know there was a problem. In about 10 minutes, he’d be getting a shower down in basement. Isn’t that where all maintenance people live – down in the basement?

I poked my head around the door and saw my lil jobbies floating down the hallway towards the elevator. I closed my eyes and pinched myself. This couldn’t really be happening to me, could it?

Extreme embarrassment coupled with a profound sense of relief. I wanted to cry more at that moment than at any other time in my life. And then my savior arrived! Complete with a tool belt, tool box, builders cleavage and a shop vac. First a stroll in the far off distance. Power walking next. Finally he was sprinting towards me. Then he arrived. His first words were “Oh shit!”. Second were “out-of-way”.

In one fluid motion the maintenance guy had pushed me aside, paddled across the rapids, whipped the back of the toilet off and jammed a wrench somewhere dark and damp. With a gurgle and a grunt from maintenance guy the water slowed to a trickle until it finally stopped.

Maintenance guy called reception. All I heard was
“…unless you want to bring up a canoe, you’ll need to move him to a new room”… I took up residence outside in the hallway – upstream of course – and waited for further instruction.

I sat with my head in my hands. I stared hard at the floor and waited for it open up and swallow me whole. I didn’t have to wait long. My next door, downstream, neighbor opened her door. She shot a look at my door, down the hall and back to me.
“You did this didn’t you?” she said. Her face said the rest “…you dirty little boy!”
She was obviously disgusted, (and rightly so) appalled. I watched a bit of toilet paper glide past her feet. I nodded and started to smile. The smile gave way to a giggle. When I looked up she was still there. Then my giggle turned into full on belly laugh. I just couldn’t stop myself! She slammed the door.

I’m pretty sure that they had to evacuate the whole floor. On my way to my new room, I looked back and said to myself “oh yes, I did that”. I did that.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Surgery update

My mums spine surgery went well on thursday. She's still in a lot of pain, but not hooked up to the narcotics-r-us pump anymore. The last of the drains and IVs came out this afternoon. She even got up and walked around with a walker earlier today. I couldn't help but ponder her mortality as she shuffled and groaned her way to the nurse hole and back.

The wing that shes in seems to be a trauma hot bed. I haven't heard so much screaming, yelling and crying since the last episode of greys. Thankfully, non of this has been from my mum - she grunts and occasionally whimpers an "oooh". She's a trooper alright. Had I have been in her position, with two drain pain, piss tube pain, IV pain, pin pain, fusion pain, bone pain, brace pain, pain pain... well I know that I'd have turned the air blue... and if Susie (the worst nurse this side of daryl hannah) had got in range, I'd have... well I dunno... something involving nasty.

Health care in America is shit. Truly totally sucky. This country could be utopia if it is wasn't for the aweful healthcare system. I have seen lots of fuck ups already. I swear my mum would be a in a whole different situation if it wasn't for the eagle eyes of myself and my step dad. If US healthcare had a slogan it'd be "blinded by the dollar - black in the heart".

I'm sharing tonight with a nice dry (as a nun) and dirty (as jenna jameson) gin martini... Step dad is on watch and I'm ready for sleep without worry.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beatin' Pop-Pop

I think that most boys, at some point in their lives, want to beat up their dad. I’ve discovered, much to my surprise, that this is true for step fathers also.

This weekend I got to live out a dream by hitting my step dad repeatedly, when he was down, with huge boxing gloves at Wookies birthday party. The best thing about this experience is that everyone, myself included, thought that this was the funniest thing ever. Step son and step dad in the kid’s bouncy castles – gladiatorial, punching to the end of the laughter. We punched each other until we couldn’t lift our arms anymore – at which point we resorted to charging each other. When we couldn’t charge anymore we just collapsed into a sweaty hug-slash-pile.

It was the best birthday party ever! And oh yeah, Wookie is now 4! He had a good time also.

Tornado Kick!

We of the Wheatley clan have a history of extreme behavior. We don’t parachute, race cars or backyard wrestle. We don’t white water raft, nor do we compete in marathons or any of that crazy, life risky exercise stuff. We are extreme suburbanites. Our extreme behavior is common behavior done extremely.

Let’s use last night as an example of this. A parent may encourage his 5 year old Taekwondo star to learn new techniques by watching his qualified instructors do it. Not me. I use youtube to learn moves and then attempt to “teach” the new cool move to a very skeptical child. Last night it was the mighty tornado kick. This is what its supposed to look like:

OK, OK, I lied... Although I'm sure there's a tornado kick somewhere in there. To be honest, the tornado kick is actually not that impressive and well, this guy Steve Terada is. So substitute him in the video for me and you'll get a perfect mental imagine of me in action!

Anyway, once I have the move down, I then attempt to teach it to Jake. Bless his cotton socks, he always humors his old man and genuinely tries not to laugh. He doesn’t roll his eyes when I suggest that we learn a new cool move together. He almost never ridicules me when I usually learn, 20 minutes into a painful unintended split, that the move is actually called ChonChopChop. He’s also very humble as I sit like a wounded bird with a broken wing and watch him execute ChonChopChop like Jackie Chan of Kindergarten.

Another problem with this is that I’m not very well coordinated. I don’t take direction very well and I don’t actually take any Taekwondo classes myself. I’m also very impatient and usually consider myself “informed” before the end of the video.

This is how I sprained my groin. This is why I hobbled out of bed this morning at 6am to get some painkillers and an ice pack. This is why right now, as I type this, I have an ice pack on my groin. This is also why my balls are turning blue.

I won’t be able to teach Jake any kicks today and this makes me sad. We won’t be able to spar today – him in his robokid pads and me in my PJs. I won’t be able to kick him in the head today. He won’t be able to kick me in the stomach, hammer fist the back of my head and then knee me in the nose like last week. Sad isn’t it? This is why today I’m going to teach him the thunderous spinning back fist technique… It’s easy enough. I just looked it up on youtube.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Shake your head and look away

The smell of violence is fear. The changing room stank of it. Barry held a small knife to my throat while he whispered sweet nothings in my ear. He asked me if I like that. He asked me why I was such a fucking wimpy fuck. He asked his audience – a group of 20 to 25, 14 year old boys – if anyone would notice if he cut me. His hard stare darted around the room. Each boy in turn shook his head and looked away.

A month before this day, Barry and his pals spat at me while I climbed into the PE basket – the one for stinky clothes that needed to be washed. I did it because he asked me to. I’d have sucked his dick if he’d told me to. Thank god he never did. I curled up in the fetal position as they flipped the basket over and kicked me around the changing room. They told me to stay there when they had exhausted themselves. Gavin said that he’d be waiting outside and that they’d be back to check on me. If I got out of the basket then they’d fuck me up. They told me that my mum wouldn’t recognize me when they’d got through with me. Barry added that she wouldn’t care because she’d be fucked by his knife. Barry asked what my mum’s name was. I lied and told him it was Barbara.
“Ugh, Barbara, you fucking like that? Huh? Knifed in the fucking pussy?”
Nervous laughs accompanied the role play. A few minutes later they all left me. The PE class finished at 3:30. The cleaners found me in the basket at around 6. It took me about three years after that to have the balls to ride the elevator again. My Mum shouted at me when I got home.
“Always so unthoughtful!”, she screamed…

A week from knife day, I’ll climb into my best friend’s attic. I’ll aim his rifle at Barry’s head and he’ll never know what hit him. He’ll never know because I never had the balls to pull the trigger.

A couple of months from this day, I’ll watch Barry get beaten with a large wooden bat. Tears will fill my eyes and I'll fear sorry for him. His best friend will stamp, kick and gnaw his way through Barry’s thick skin. There’ll be 20 to 25 other boys watching, shaking and slowing pissing themselves. There’ll be tears and the room will be saturated in the sound of violence: silence. And it’ll all happen in this very room. Just like today, nobody will say anything. Nobody ever does. That’s the rules.

Three years from this day, Barry will stab another boy with a screwdriver. The boy will be taken to hospital and Barry will be taken away, kicking, screaming and biting, by the local police. Nobody will see either of them again.

But today I’m back in that stinky room with Barry’s pen knife held against my throat. He didn’t cut me. He was just playing with me like a cat plays with a mouse. I didn’t know this. My ears filled with liquid. My mouth dried and I tasted violence. The metallic taste filled my mouth. Time slowed and I could hear my heart beating. Barry took a deep breath just as Mr. Bainbridge called from his office,
“Hurry up lads, get to your next class!”
Barry licked my face and slid the knife back into his pocket.
“See you next week”, he smiled.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

His Fatness

A few short years ago, I sat on an airplane and waited. I waited with baited breath to see if the fat man waddling up the aisle was going to be sat next to me. I didn’t want the blimp sat next to me. Who does? I didn’t want to be squished. I didn’t want to smell the BO. This guy was so fat that I’m sure that when he weighed himself, the scales read “to be continued…”.

I was on my way back from Florida. What’s funny is that this guy could have been baptized with Shamu! Ha!

The flight represented the end of a long family vacation. I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed that night. Florida family vacations are always tiring. This one was no exception. There had been theme parks and beaches. I’m sure it was the most exercise I’d had all year. Not that I needed it. Unlike today, back then I could turn invisible with a profile view. I could have been used as a toothpick for this guy. I didn’t need a belt. When I was 22, I wore kid’s clothes that fit like a glove. Funny that, in contrast, this guy’s belt could have been used to measure the equator!

I let out a sigh of relief when the fat bastard took a seat two rows down. He was safely on the other side of the plane. It’d throw the balance off for sure, but at least I wasn’t going to get squished!

A few moments later an incredibly attractive girl took the seat next to mine. She smiled with innocence that I’m sure I lost before I hit middle school. Short skirt, long legs, blonde hair – yum, yum, yum! Her makeup looked like it had been painted on, but I didn’t care. She had breasts that made me want to cry – nipples, I’m sure, that I could have hung a coat on. It was going to be a good flight!

Meanwhile, two rows down, the blimp was having parking troubles. His incredibly fat ass wasn’t going to fit. His face turned red. The lady in the seat next to him grimaced and pretended that it wasn’t happening. Her eyes were fixed on the tarmac. She began to sneer like it was going out of fashion. I smiled with something like empathy for the lady. I asked the girlie next to me if she thought they had a giant shoehorn for people like that. She left an uncomfortable smile hanging in the space between us. It was her way of letting me know that she found it distasteful.

Five minutes later the armrests were removed. The fat bastard folded layers of fat and slid in with an audible thud and creak. I'm sure that the lady sat next to him also questioned if this guy was really fat or just just 5 feet too short.

The entertainment started to subside when the trolly-dolly stewardess asked his fatness to buckle his seat belt. He couldn’t. Fully extended it barely covered half of Mount Belly. His plump face turned red as he apologized profusely. The stewardess grunted something about an extension and left him hanging.

By this time, everybody in the cabin was having a good hard stare. Those that were sympathetic were now just pissed. The comedians like me had shelved comedy for the time being. This fat fuck was delaying our flight!

The stewardess returned with a belt extender.
“Here’s your belt extender, Sir”
She handed fatso the belt as everybody in the cabin listened in. It still didn’t fit. The stewardess huffed as she watched him struggle. All eyes were directed to the guy that could have had his own zip code. He panicked and looked to the stewardess for help. She looked away, tapped her feet impatiently and waited for him to ask.

Then he started to sniffle and sob. The stewardess immediately reached over and released some more belt. Everybody else, including the ice queen in the seat next to his, threw a sympathetic look his way. It was too much for a guy who wanted to be swallowed up by the world. He bowed his head and cried. Big blubbery sobs drenched the cabin. Tears fell like grains of sand in the desert.

The girlie turned out to be 14 years old. Her parents were four rows back. I gave one word answers to her advances. My eyes were glued to the window. I spent the remainder of the flight pretending not to cry.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Punctuated by violence

Somebody is prodding me in the back. I open my eyes. The world is buzzing like a TV without a channel. Full of static. Anything but still. Head pounding. Whole body ice cold. I’m lying face down on cement.

“Mate, mate, MATE!”
Somebody is kneeling next to me and screaming. I hate it when people scream at me! As I turn to face him, he begins to heave. There are bits of reality missing. I can’t tell if I’m having flash backs or just blacking out every few seconds. Seconds could be hours.

The stranger is still here. Now he’s standing next to a tree. I see vomit hitting his bright white shoes. The trail of vomit starts to wind its way to me. I feel the warmth on my legs. I’m cold, crusty and ambivalent.

Peeling myself from the concrete, I kneel to face him. He’s still vomiting.
“Stay there!“ he gurgles more vomit. I wish he’d stop doing that!
“Blood… Fuck!” he’s still screaming. This guy is nuts!

Then it registers. Blood. He said blood. With the help of a railing I stand. He must be hurt. Maybe he needs help? I try stepping towards him and stumble - grappling wildly with a slippery railing that's as dry as a desert.

I manage to catch some light from a far off streetlamp. Looking down, I notice that the front of my pale green shirt is drenched in shadow. My trousers are damp. In a moment of panic it registers. The blood isn’t his. Its mine! There’s blood everywhere! I’m bleeding!

“Help me”, I whimper, “I’m fucking bleeding!”
He’s wipes his face as I slide down the railing to sit. I pat wildly at my face. Feels OK. I pat my chest. OK. Legs? Check. Feet, belly, balls? Check, check, check. I run my tongue around my teeth. Teeth? Check.
“Lift your shirt”, he suggests.

I do. I hold my shirt and do my best to turn around so he can see my back. He nods. I’m fine. I drop my trousers. Nothing. There are a few small cuts, some juicy bruises and scrape or two, but nothing to explain the blood.

“What happened?” I ask him. He shrugs his shoulders. My hands hurt. Bad. He gestures towards them.
“Fucked if I know mate. I’d hate to be the other guy!”
I look down. My knuckles are bloody – white in places. I recognize this. I’ve been here before. I’ve been fighting. By the looks of my hands, I’d say quite a lot.

“Do you remember what happened here? That’s a bucket load of blood!” He’s still wiping vomit from the corners of his mouth with his shirt sleeve.
“I thought you were dead! Oh, thank fuck you’re not dead. Fucking hate dead geezers!”
He smiles big white teeth. Dark skin. I smile back as he puts his arm around me. I thank him. He supports my body weight.
“Need the ozzie?”
“No hospital. I think I’m fine thanks. Just bruises”
“K. Name’s Keith, we better get you home. Where do you live?”
I point down the hill and he takes me home.

The night started off with a friend stopping by for some drinks. We usually did this to save money. My Dad did a lot of those beer runs to France. I was always well stocked. Whiskey, vodka, beer, beer, and more beer. Because of this, my place was often first stop for a good night. I remember leaving home with Colin in Glen’s motor.

I remember sitting in the back seat of Glen’s car. Bass thumping. Lagered up – four of us spitting songs through open windows, the sun roof and at passing cars.

I remember it being Jack special night. I usually avoided liquor unless I was on my own. It made me more me. More aggressive, more outspoken and less restrained. But hell, for 50p a shot, it was the best bang for the buck in town! I didn’t really care about the taste. It was all about the alcohol. Jack was an easy choice. Bad friends always are.

My new friend, Keith, found me at around 4am. My last memories were around 10pm. I wracked my brain for answers but only found questions.

Keith helped me to my room. I thanked him profusely. He left, letting himself out. I turned on the TV and watched the news until it was dark again outside. I was worried sick: terrified that I’d hurt somebody. Killed them maybe? You don’t get that much blood from a fist fight. This was serious.

I cried a lot that night. I always cried after a fight. There was a fear of myself and of losing myself. More than this was nagging self-loathing. I was disgusted with myself. The very same stories that I bragged about often cried me to sleep. That night I knew that things had to change. It should have been the turning point. Sadly, it wasn’t. It’s just another story. I have years of stories. Many of which are just as punctuated by violence.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter: Halleluiah, Amen and all that...

So what’s this Easter all about then? Today is Easter Sunday. It’s the day of Christ’s resurrection. He was dead then we he was alive again. Halleluiah! Amen and all that.

It’s also a day when non-Christians give their kids chocolate and wonder what they’re doing. I’m not a Christian. Not really. I don’t believe in God. I believe in goodness for goodness sake. So why am I watching my kids eat chocolate? And why did I feel like a needed to tell my kids a story that I believe to be little more than a fairy tale?

This notion of fairy tale intrigues me because I didn’t present the story as a fairy tale. I presented it as a belief. A selective fact: one to believe in if it tickles your fancy. It’s like the Easter Bunny and Santa, I guess – neither of which are any more real to me than Christ. So why did I do it? Hmm, the only reason I can come up with is a vague notion of fitting in. Of wanting my family to be like all the others today. Happy, fat and a little ignorant? Sure, I may feel like a religious imposter but at least the kids won’t.

But I just couldn’t shake this feeling of outsider. This morning I felt like a fake. Now I feel like a tourist. This transformation happened when I remembered that the story of resurrection is an old one. It’s a story of fresh starts. And it’s a story that is repeated in almost all other major religions. It may even have been borrowed from Zoroastrianism and early Hinduism. It was this realization that prompted me to dive into my bookshelf. It took me less than 15 minutes to find some comfort food for thought.

Psalm 82 of the Bible says, "You are Gods, sons of the most high, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince.” This is echoed throughout the story of Prince Siddhartha Gautama (historical Buddha).
The Buddha said, "At death a person abandons what he construes as mine. Realizing this, the wise shouldn't incline to be devoted to mine." Very Christian, don’t you think? In fact, thinking more on the story of the Buddha, its one big tale about resurrection, transformation and rebirth.

The Koran says, "To God belongs the East and the West: wherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah; Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing." This seems very Buddhist to me. It also reminds me of the Stigmata-made-famous Gospel of Thomas "…split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."

Now I realize that today presents an opportunity for my own rebirth. An opportunity to dust off the ego; box up anger and pack up for paradise.

Good days vs bad days. Disgruntlement vs contentment. Happiness vs sadness. These are all choices that I make each and every day. Today I choose to be happy. Today I choose to embrace the essence of Easter and resurrect the happy-go-lucky fun Dadda. Today I choose to make this the best day possible. Today I choose to learn from Jesus. Today I choose life. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tooping: unfortunate tales of texting while pooping

A few short weeks (or perhaps months?) ago I wrote a blog entry about dropping my phone stylus in the pot. It was an unfortunate little tale that turned out to be quite a giggle – at least to me. It was one of those cripplingly embarrassing things that happens about once a year to me… LOL – who am I kidding? This stuff seems to happen at least once a week to me! And last week it happened again!

Phone ringer off. Paper present. Lock secured. Seat present. Phone mute enabled. Phone stylus securely secured. Check, check, check. After last time, I’ve come to learn that satisfactory pooping takes preparation. Hmm, I’m sure there’s a snappy acronym in there somewhere…

Anyway, there I was. Calm, relaxed and prepared. Then somebody entered the stall next to me. Damn! Don’t you just hate it when that happens? It always turns into a modern-day O.K Corral showdown. Fifty paces at dawn: fifty paces after lunch - desk to restroom! Why does it always turn into a poop standoff? Nobody wants to be the guy to unload first.

These days (in the days of mobile phones) a standoff can take all day. OK, maybe that’s not correct – but it feels like all day. That’s if you’re not unfortunate enough to get a grunter next door – or worse – a talker! It takes just one Niagara-like episode followed by “oh mY GOD!?!” to cause any stall-neighbor to reverse-poop. Oddly enough, I’ve found discussion about gay porn to have the same effect on me?!?

But this time it wasn’t me! I didn’t drop my stylus or my phone. I wasn’t even tooping (texting-while-pooping)! I just sat there and listened to it all unfold in the stall next door.

First there was the call. He struggled to muffle an A-Team ring tone. In the process I heard the telltale tinny sound of the stylus hitting the floor. Then the phone… Off it went! It slid along the floor and under his door. I heard it all! I heard the frantic shuffle, the quick flush, the “I-gotta-get-out-here-before-somebody-sees-me” blind panic. I felt the heat from flushed cheeks through the stall wall. And then he was gone!

I burst out laughing. I had been there. I knew what he went through. The embarrassment! The shame! The comedy! Just when I was tiring of laughing at my own antics, I get rewarded with the stupidity of another! Isn’t life just brilliant that way?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Crow

Before the stop sign was a wheat field
A mighty old oak tree sat at the center
Its roots were scaffolding
And its limbs cradled the valley

In that tree sat a crow who watched the wind tickle the crops to bloom

Today the crow is perched on a rusty stop sign
Waste reflected in his beady, black eyes
He cries all day and night
Kaw! Kaw!
Kaw, in disgust.

Chasing carrots

Its 9:30 already. The kids have been up for 2 hours. All I can remember doing is drinking coffee. What happened? Where did my morning go? Hold on. Where did my life go?

A lot of what I see down memory lane is carrots. One of the biggest carrots was dangled by my father when I was 15. He sat me in the kitchen and asked me whether I’d be going to work with him when I finished school. I hadn’t really thought much about the future but I knew that I didn’t want to work in his factory.

My dad’s carrot took the form of a proposition. He said that if I worked hard that he’d put me through college and university. He also made it very clear that if it didn’t work out then I’d be working in the factory quicker than you can say backache. Head down, pen in pocket, I chased the carrot for five years until graduation. Then I went to work in the factory.

The next carrot came in the form of a job opening over 3 thousand miles away. I chased it relentlessly. In no time at all, I found myself skipping the pond from England to North Carolina.

Countless carrots later I find myself here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have a wife, 2 kids and lots of stuff. I have a sports car, a six figure salary: a handful of carrots. It seems on the surface that there’s not many carrots left to chase… But that’s complete bollocks. There are so many carrots left to chase that it makes me dizzy thinking about them all.

What’s really troubling me this morning is the thought that any day now I’m going to wake up in a hospital bed, dying, wondering whether the carrots were worth it. I hope that I’ll look back at all of this and scream “Hell no!” Then I’ll take a stroll down memory lane, enlightened with the realization that the journey definitely was.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No sleep lost

There’s something hiding down here. It’s way down deep. It sits underneath silliness, sarcasm and smiles. It never goes away. It’s ever-ready to darken even the brightest of days. It festers and stings. It is relentless. It is shame.

Sitting on top of the shame is reasoning. I draw some comfort from my belief that life has no beginning and no end. I take comfort in silly foreign philosophies and bath in religiosity. Who were you before your parents met? It’s a Japanese koan. Enso! I kid myself. Nothing provides an answer. Nothing provides relief. I feel love, hate, anger and pain but I understand nothing.

It started in a waiting room. I was waiting for my girlfriend. My future wife was seeing the doctor. It was a long wait but I didn’t mind. I was reading one of my favorite magazines. Motor Trend magazine was road testing the Dodge Viper. I wasn’t oblivious to what was going on. We had no choice, I reasoned. It was what had to be done. A doctor was aborting our child less than 100 feet away. I felt no pain. I felt no regret. In fact, I spent some time debating whether the Viper could best a Porsche 911 turbo in a quarter mile. There was no empathy. There was no regret that day. I lost no sleep.

Today is valentines day. Susan is sleeping in and our kids are playing. I hear them in the other room: Bakugan and Bob the Builder. There are tears in my eyes. My heart burns. I want it to hurt. I want to be punished. I want to be free but I know that I am undeserving. Undeserving because I know that this pain, this regret, this love, this humanity is all more than my unborn child had the opportunity to feel.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Live to poop another day

My ringtone is distinctive. It’s the soundtrack from Super Mario Brothers video game. Everybody in the office knows who has that ring tone. It’s a company phone and it’s the coolest one they have. There are only two people in the office that have it.

There are times when receiving a call can be embarrassing. Like Super Mario ringing on airplane, during sex, in a movie theatre, or in the bathroom. All have happened to me. But the last one seems to happen a lot more than it should. I just don’t know why people wait to call until I’m sitting on the John – but they do.

I expect to receive at most 6 or 7 calls at work during the course of an average day. Yet every single time I sit on the John my phone rings! How can this be? I only go once a day! Now, I’m a logical kind of guy. I work with computers. I know for a fact that, statistically, these numbers just don’t make any sense. It’s like I’m cursed by the God of pooping peace or something.

Anyway, yesterday at work proved to be no exception to the rule. I’m sitting there expecting it to ring. Knowing it will ring. I wait for it. I sit on the crapper, check my email and text messages and wait. 10 minutes later, still no call. I put it back in my pocket and get prepared to “get down to business”. Yep, you guessed it…

In a flurry of activity to press the “Ignore” button, I reach for the phone. It’s stuck. I yank it. Hard. Then in maxtric-like slow motion the phone flies up into the air. I grasp wildly, almost falling off the toilet. In an act of pure butter fingers the phone slips through my hands. Thunk! It hits the rim of the toilet and skims along the floor to safety. It even stops ringing! I want to punch the air in celebration! That is, until I hear the next sound. Plink! I open my legs and peek down. The stylus fell in! It’s sitting on the bottom of the crapper. I wanted to cry.

I had lost the urge to poop by now. I had other things on my mind! I retrieved the phone and sat there contemplating just how badly I wanted that stylus. It took seconds for me to reach an answer. Not that bad, I thought.

So I flushed. It didn’t move. I waited and flushed again. And again - Flush! I even bundled a wad of paper and tried flushing that. Nothing. It just sat there looking up at me. So now I was forced to ask myself another question. Did I actually want to leave the stylus in there? Everyone in the office would know that it came from my phone. It’s sculpted stylus perfection. It could only fit one phone. I had no choice. I rolled my sleeves up and dived in!

I’m sure that the complete stranger that saw me walking towards the sink with rolled up sleeves and dripping hands thought that I was quite mad! Thank God for perfect strangers, I thought! Anyway, what did I care? I had the stylus! I’ll live to poop another day, I thought.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sock Drawer

Suz and I took the kids for a walk yesterday. We constantly had to herd the kids out of the way of manic power rangers and tubs of lard on wheels. They came from the front, the back and the sides. Always clad in Lycra. Always going way too fast. Always looking as bent as a corner. They used to make me laugh. Now they make me mad.

Why oh why do cyclists feel the need to dress up like power rangers just to cycle around the neighborhood? I understand that it’s highly important that their happy sacks are aerodynamic; but does everyone else really need to see it? I’m just so tired of throwing up a little in my mouth at the sight of a 300lb, Lycra-clad fruit tart consuming a bike seat – the hard way. They must be masochistic. I mean, why else would you sit on something that is guaranteed to make you impotent as it slowly slices you in two? I'm sure some of those seats have to be surgically removed.

Cyclists are role-playing. I get that. They are playing Lance Armstrong like my kids play cowboys. But enough already! I don't dress like Jeff Gordon to drive to the grocery store!

They are also a polarized group. If they're not channeling Ken Doll then they are the complete opposite - looking more like Drew Carey than Lance Armstrong! Either way, dressing up in Lycra doesn’t make them look more like Lance – it makes them look like shrink wrapped turds!

No more. I’ve had enough of smiling and pretending that it’s OK to put my life in their hands. I’ve had enough of their egos, the unsightly bulge, the lard on wheels. I've had enough of them endangering my kids. The next time one of those Armstrong-alikes almost hits me or my kids, I’m going to act. Act like a talent finder for PlayGirl perhaps? Or that show on TV - The Biggest Loser? I dunno what I'll do, but I've got to do something before they take over the planet - one walking trail at a time.

- mobile sock drawers or alien balls? -

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Disease

God is playing with the remote control again
I was playing at normal speed just yesterday
But now I’m stuck in slow motion
Drowning in life’s ocean and watching the world pass me by
I’m too tired to care anymore
About a 1000 pin pricks running through my panicked legs,
Frightened, I’m sure
That if they don’t move soon
They never will again

This mind numbing fatigue whitewashes all the color out of the day
Everything is softened and blurred into shades of gray
Voices, clicks and ticks have lost their edge
And the whole body of existence has been sanded,
Rounded and molded, as if from clay
Woven into the fabric that I call today

Yet as I stifle the 100th yawn of the morning
My illness cries back at me
That I risk the loss of opportunity
For I to catch up with me
So I light some incense and offer thanks for the good days
And listening closely to the soft pounding of fatigue at my door
I extend some compassion for those who would consider
That my worst day is often their very best

Only after abandoning the rhyme of reason do I see
That it’s only ever another love that rescues me from forever’s rest
So now let’s feed each other as best we can
With all the gushing love that we can find
Project it forth from this shallow mind into the absolute all
Let’s fall at its feet in servitude
Bow to each other and drink all the love that we can stomach.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Numb-O-Wand

When I was a kid, ChupaChups lollipops were the most expensive lollipops you could buy. I only knew of one place that sold them and that was the local pharmacy. They were 50 pence. Consider that Cola-Bottles were 1 penny at the time and you’ll understand why, to a 10 year old, a ChupaChups lollipop was the high of decadence. Like Lucozade (read: fizzy sugar water believed to be the elixir of health), Chupa Chups were reserved for only the sickliest (or spoilt-rotten) kids.

Yesterday I found a new lollipop to topple Chupa Chups. It’s a lollipop that’s so special that you have to get a prescription from a doctor for it. It’s called the “Compound Tetracaine 1% Sucker” and it costs $30.

Ever one to outdo the missus, who just last week had a nasty case of Laryngitis and Bronchitis... I now have a cough, cold, aches that befit an old git and a nasty case of Strep. The doctor gave me a prescription for some antibiotics and a lollipop. This is what he said,
“…and here’s a prescription for a lollipop…”
And here’s what I heard,
“…and here’s a prescription for a fantastic new medical marvel. I’m going to call it a lollipop because, quite frankly, you’ll never be able to pronounce the true name for this orally administered numb-o-wand”.

I was excited. I’d never had a numb-o-wand before. I imagined that it’d shoot Strep fighting nano-machines down my throat or something. It didn’t even occur to me that what I had a prescription for was actually a lozenge on a stick that was going to cost me $30. Hmm, I’m finding myself repeating myself here. But, hell, $30 for a lollipop is daylight robbery!

Anyway, back in the local Walgreens, I gave the nice lady named Cranky Pitbull my prescription. She barked that it’d take 20 minutes to fill it. I said that I’d wait then immediately set off to explore.

It always amazes me what you can buy in stores like Walgreens. Back in the motherland, a Pharmacy sells medications and nothing else. Here they sell everything. Yesterday afternoon I found a set of “Real Stainless Steel Handcuff’s – padded for your comfort”. They were in the toy aisle.

The next aisle over sold magazines. I picked up a copy of Maxim for reading while I waited. I could have picked up National Geographic, but I chose Maxim because it had Hilary Duff on the cover and she looked hot.

On the way back to Cranky Pitbull, I walked down an aisle that sold all kinds of cool stuff like padded seats, heat lamps and personal massagers. I found it pretty funny that they’d sell anything called a “personal massager”. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling - so that’s what these corn fed Bible thumping Midwesterners call vibrators then, is it? Funnier still was the thought of one these grannies that I shared the aisle with actually buying one of these. “Ooh, I say, it’s a feisty little one, isn’t it?”. Knowing full well that all Grannies can read minds, I decided to move on before anyone got suspicious and I was subjected to “the look”.

With my curios-o-meter set to high; I set out to find something else to make me smile. If they had “personal massagers” then they were sure to sell other risqué items. I found one of these back at the Pharmacy’s Pharmacy. Just to the left of the Pitbulls hideout was a piece of equipment called the “dysfunction eradicator”. Actually, I can’t remember the real name, but I’m sure you get the idea. The picture on the box showed a plastic piece of tubing attached to a pump. A penis pump! Ha! “This is too much!”, I thought… And then I noticed that right next to it, and I’m not making this up, was a $29.99 paternity test.

I seemed to be doing a fantastic job of passing the time because a quick glance at my phone told me that I’d been wandering the store for 30 minutes. It was time to get my anties and numb-o-wand and hit the road. The Pitbull told me that it’d be right out and to take a seat. No big deal, I thought. I’ve got a magazine to read.

I sat down and started to read the silly magazine. It was then that I caught a “I hate you, you disgusting filthy pig” stare from a hairy-lipped tub-o-lard with legs. She must have seen the provocative cover and just couldn’t stop herself from passing judgment. What’s funny is that I wasn’t even ogling the girly pictures. I think its bad taste to do that in public. But when I caught that look, I opened her right up. Scantily clad Hilary in all her glory. Bam! I threw her a shit-eating smile for good measure and spread Hilary out on the chair next to me. This was, coincidentally, right next to where she was standing in line. I moved over to the massage chair (they were on sale for $99.98) and set the massage to the “oh yeah” setting to celebrate making her feel so uncomfortable. I guess it worked because she dropped out of line, suddenly remembering that she’d forgotten her Hostess cakes or something.

After a nice relaxing massage or two, I checked my watch. Much to my astonishment I had now been waiting for almost an hour for my meds. I went to the window only to find Pitbull gone. She’d been replaced a young guy who seemed confused about what I was asking of him. This isn’t uncommon. It seems that my English accent confuses a lot of people.
“What - do - you – want?” he asked as slowly as humanly possible.
“To… pickup… my… prescription…” I checked his face to make sure that he was following along before continuing. “I’ve… been… waiting… for… the… past… hour”.
Our conversation continued in slow motion for a few minutes until he suddenly realized what I was asking of him.
“Oh”, he said, “Wheatley is it?”, he said as he rummaged through a pile of bags. “I got it!”

This pissed me off no end, but I decided that I should let it go. My chances of being able to explain why customers don’t like it when they are forgotten seemed pretty remote. It had, after all, taken a matter of minutes for him to just to realize that I wasn’t from the planet Zod.
“OK”, he said inspecting the bags, “that’ll be 4.99 for the Maxim, 10 for the Azithromycin and 30 for the lollipop...” I wasn’t listening. I just swiped and paid.

It was on my way to the car that I realized that my numd-o-wand was really just a lollipop after all. It didn’t release nano-machines, nor did it have any cool drugs in it like Oxi-space-eyes or whatever its called. It was also the most expensive lollipop ever! I shook my head, threw it in the passenger seat and just knew that I’d be writing about it tomorrow.

Coincidentally, the lollipop didn’t work very well and tasted like a moldy cherry soaked in nasty. It numbs the whole mouth and not just your throat. If you like drooling on yourself, throwing money down the toilet and have longed to choke with every drink after it then I can’t recommend it enough. However, if you have even half a brain left then just buy the ChupaChups and call it a day.

Empty pockets

My mantra in life is that every day represents an opportunity to learn something. It’s not a very successful mantra. When I boil it down, I have really only managed to learn three things since I popped out. These are
1) No revenge is as complete as forgiveness
2) Nothing is ever what it appears to be
3) I really know nothing for sure

As a teenager, I knew stuff. I really knew (or thought I knew) everything about everything. Now, at 30-something, I find myself walking around in a daze. “Empty as a pocket” is how I like to describe this state. I like to think that the emptiness in a pocket is what defines its purpose. Since I know nothing at all (see 3) then I should take a little comfort in this very Zen-like self portrait. But I don’t. It goes against my every western sensibility. This is because deep down I have this feeling that a pocket full of stuff would be so much more useful. Like right now, for instance, I’m thinking that a pocket full of wisdom, humor or just plain fact would be more useful than this incredibly empty pocket.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Venue 68

I have visited many nightclubs. They are all loud and jammed packed with the latest audio equipment, hipsters and trendsetters. They often instill a sense of euphoria. I have visited cozy venues of less than 200 people. I have also frequented the mega clubs of Ibiza, where it isn’t unusual to dance the night away with 12,000 other clubbers. I have danced on the bar at the Ministry of Sound in London, suffered adventures in foam at Es Paradise and sprinted down the Champs-Elysees after a ruckus at Queen in Paris. However, I have never experienced a nightclub quite like Venue 68. This is because Venue 68 isn’t a nightclub at all. It’s a church.

Venue 68 has many things in common with a nightclub. First there is the size of the place. It’s a huge expansive warehouse bursting-at-the-seams with the latest in audio-visual equipment. It houses about 600 people, which is small compared to the other two service centers on site. I attended the modern service. There was also a classical and contemporary service at the other buildings within the Asbury compound. In total, almost 5000 people got their holy on at Asbury church today.

The band was warming up as we arrived. The acoustically-sound warehouse hosts a complete band with electric guitars, lights, drums, video projectors and flat screen TV’s. No expense has been spared. It’s top-notch. The band sounded good. The lead singer, a pretty boy in his mid twenties; reminded me of an Emo rock star like Chris-thingy-ma-bob from Dashboard Confessional. I could imagine the female of the flock drooling over his syrupy vocals.

If you’ve ever experienced a nightclub at opening time then you’ve experienced Venue 68 before the show. It was like a night clubbing on a Tuesday night. It’s the same music as Friday or Saturday, just not the same atmosphere. As the sermon progressed I got a distinct feeling of the uncertainty from the congregation. Even though I suspect that many in attendance would deny this, I sensed a palpable question mark hanging in the air. It was like 600 people standing at the edge of a dance floor, tapping their feet, but not quite ready to jump in.

I expected to see people talking in tongues and shouting Halleluiah! What I got was an agreeable show with very little audience participation. We sang along to the syrupy Emo-God lyrics with the rock band, but really only because the band leader instructed us to. Red was for the leader to sing, black was for us. Much to my surprise, I even hummed and tapped along to a few of the songs.

I expected people to be dressed in suits. I always thought that’s what church people wore. There were no suits. There were however plenty of Coach Handbags, fake tan and gold chains on display. A lot of the women wanted to be noticed. This surprised me somewhat. I expected modesty and humility to be the dress code for the day – not bling. Thankfully, whilst sloth, envy and greed were clearly on display in some of the congregation, the clergy seemed unaffected. In fact, the Pastors appeared to embody a spirit of gentility and humbleness. In many ways, it reminded me of Buddhist sermons that I’ve attended. The Pastors, much to my surprise, were nothing at all like the Evangelical, egotistical maniacs that I’ve seen on TV.

The sermon wouldn’t have been out of place in a Zendo. Just replace God with Buddha-nature and the message is very familiar to me. Believe in the Word (Dharma), trust in God (or Buddha-nature) and embrace your spiritual community (Sangha). These are the precepts of Buddhism: to take refuge in the Dharma, the Buddha and the Sangha. There was no bravado or clever wordplay at work at Venue 68. No hellfire and damnation. No smoke and mirrors either - just honest messages delivered with sincerity.

A few hundred years ago, a Zen master (Dogen) wrote that the true person is not like any person at all, but like the blue color of a limitless sky. Now I know this sounds like a bad interpretation of a Japanese poem, but to me it describes a moment of grace. Without getting all psycho-babble weird, let me try to explain this in everyday terms. One night at a nightclub in England, I danced beside a 6 foot speaker and became the music. For a short time I felt as though I was indistinguishable from it. I was the crowd, the DJ and the light. I was the world. I was at peace and, as cheesy as it sounds, completely “at one” with my surroundings. It was an experience that I have felt only a handful of times so far in my life. Other experiences have occurred during more traditional settings like during meditation. These are what I perceive to be spiritual experiences: a brief glance into the nature of Heaven. For me this is proof that there is no single way to attain peace and it touches on the reason why I (a devout non-Christian) would attend a Christian service. Quite frankly, there aren’t many Buddhists in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Dalai Lama says that it’s best to embrace the Religion of your community than to look outside. I have heard him ask his western followers if they have given Christianity a chance. He argues that all religions are vehicles to salvation. I’m not sure whether I agree with him or not, but I do know that his message of inclusiveness is not shared with his peers in other religions. I just can’t see an Imam repeating a similar message to his Muslim flock. The Pope, for example, believes that Catholicism is the only path for a Christian to get to heaven. So the simple truth of the matter is that whilst all religions offer similar results, the method is very different. My morning spent at Asbury reaffirmed that Christianity is just another vehicle - one that I took on a brief test drive this morning.

I would love to call Asbury my church. Its buildings are magnificent and majestic. The spiritual leaders seem guided by the light and the followers seem like many friends in the making. I would love nothing more than to throw myself at the cross. At the end of the day though, Christianity just isn’t for me. It just doesn’t fit. Or more to the point, I don’t fit in it. I believe that we should question everything. I believe that God can only exist in the hearts of those who worship him. I believe in an interdependent, interconnected world. A deity separate from my own experience makes no sense to me at all. You see, it doesn’t matter how many times I attempt to make the exoteric esoteric. No amount of clever word substitution like God for Buddha-nature is going to cut it. My beliefs are just not compatible and it’s a terrible shame. I crave the comfort and community of likeminded people.

So what’s next for Dean? I was thinking Islam or Hinduism. Who knows where my next religious excursion will take me. No matter where I end up, I hope that I can remain as open minded and inclusive as the Dalai Lama.