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.