On Good Service

Teri and I went to Gelson’s the other day to see if they had a particular brand of buttermilk we’ve been using, but has been discontinued at our local store. (Teri is a devote to The Perfect Buttermilk Pancake, and let me tell you, different buttermilks make much different pancakes) For those that don’t live around here, Gelson’s is an upscale grocery store. Not a natural one like Whole Foods, its a regular chain with a nicer look, and more amenities. While we were there, we happened to run into the guy who stocks the dairy case. He was helpful, friendly, and made it easier for us to shop.

Then, because we were hungry and it was past lunch time, we decided to stop by the Deli and pick up a sandwich. That is where we met Lillian. Lillian was standing off to one side of the Deli case, and obviously wore the dress/uniform of an employee. There was quite a crowd around the deli case, the customers were taking their little numbers, the ladies behind the counter were trying to manage the crowd, you know, the standard deli experience.

Lillian was different.

When we glanced her way Lillian smiled at us and asked if we would like to order on the iPad which she was holding. There was a large sign next to her telling us exactly what ingredients (breads, lunch meats, cheeses, condiments, etc.) were offered for making a sandwich, which made the complex task much easier. Lillian herself was knowledgeable, friendly, helpful, and generally made the ordering process pleasant instead of complex and overwhelming. In short she added to our experience while in the store and made our short stay much more welcoming.

So given the choice between dealing with the feeding frenzy in front of the deli case, with the employees removed from the consumer behind a huge glass case, or standing next to a smiling person who is helpful and friendly, you would think most people would choose the person over the counter. Only it didn’t work that way. I watched person after person walk right past Lillian, head right up to the counter, take a number, and enter the crazy, busy deli experience. I don’t know if having an employee in front was new, or that the other shoppers preferred their routine, or what. I hesitate to say what might be the cause, but I can tell you they were missing a chance to talk to a warm friend person, and not a busy harassed lady behind the counter.

In terms of customer service, Lillian was the tops. She made our stay enjoyable by making us feel like we were important and not just another number. Yet for all her gifts, she largely was ignored. I don’t know which is more sad, that an upscale grocery store had to hire a person just to offer a level of service that I think should be standard, or that the regular patrons ignored such service in favor of a less personable approach.

Which begs the question: Who is at fault if a customer consumes a less friendly experience? The store, or the customer?

Food Shows on the Radio

For some reason I love listening to food shows on the radio. The ones on TV don’t do a thing for me, but for some reason driving around and hearing 20 different things to do with macadamia nut oil just makes me happy. Maybe its because cooking is its on kind of story, only unlike writing, cooking stories are all short and end (usually) in comfort. They are a quick emotional fix, maybe a more earthy fix. If a short story is like a complex five course dinner, then cooking is like a cookie. Short sweet, and easily forgotten.

When you eat a good meal that someone has prepared for you, they have literally allowed you to live that much longer. They have nourished you, kept you from starvation. And the euphoria one feels after a good meal is nothing to laugh at.

And yet hearing about cooking on the radio is very removed from the more earthy action of eating. In that sense it is almost a tease. It leaves me with nothing but ideas, and most of those I quickly forget anyway.

You see, while I like to cook, I am also darn lazy. I don’t get the thrill from cooking my mother and sisters got. They can enjoy the making of a meal––the challenge of putting something together new, or well––almost as much (if not more so) than eating it. For me cooking is work. Even when I’m trying out something new, and being creative, it is still work.  So while I love to hear about 20 uses of macadamia nut oil, the truth is I don’t want to make any of them. Oh I might want to taste them, but to the thought of cooking them leaves me uneasy.

Yet when I am driving down the road, and someone is speaking knowledgeably and passionately about making food, I love it. It transports me to another place, another time. Just don’t ask me to remember what they said. And don’t ask me to cook.

Not knowing your future is a feature, not a bug.

Over the holidays I got to see one of my nephews. He’s a fantasic young man, but visiting with him, especially in my home town, brought me back to when I was his age and trying to work out my place in the world. This post, and hopefully a few others that will follow are both a letter to him, and the voice of an older man attempting to pass on all the wisdom that 48 years of hard knocks and stupid mistakes can provide.

A long time ago, at least as reckoned in internet years, I worked in the software industry. It was an interesting field to make a living in, especially at the small “startups” where I worked. Its a field custom made for people who like to wear a lot of hats, can think on their feet, and can learn quickly. One of the phrases I learned from that experience was substituting the term feature for the term bug. It was used when someone complained about a bug in your software. What you did was deny there was a bug, and instead claimed it was an undocumented feature. The concept is nothing but pure marketing bravado. The phrase was referred to often by everyone in the industry, but I never actually saw it in use. It is an inside joke about the nadir of software marketing finesse, and it is an expression of the deep anxiety that one feels when they know they are selling a less than perfect piece of software.

That being said, the saying does have its uses. And one of those uses is in looking at your future.

You see a lot of people go around with the annoying confidence that comes of knowing what they want to do for a living. It is trifling easy to be angry at such individuals, especially if you are like me, someone who has never known what they wanted to “be”. And it is easy to look at yourself and assume there is something wrong with you for not being like those other “knowers”. After years and years of living as a “not knower,” I now contend that the bug of not knowing is actually a feature; that not knowing is actually better than knowing.

To support this contention, lets us first look at the causes of not knowing.

Not knowing your future avocation does not stem from a lack of ability. Far from it. In fact, not knowing usually stems from an overabundance of ability. It is when you can literally do almost everything and anything that choosing a direction has a consequence. Those poor mundane souls with less IQ and raw ability do not share our quandary. They do not wake up thinking, “Fuck! I wonder if I should be a brain surgeon?”  Why? Because they recognize it is not something they will ever be able to do. They understand their choices in life might be between being a auto mechanic and a security guard. Being a brain surgeon is simply not on their list, more importantly neither is the existential angst associated with making that choice. When your choices are fewer, you have a lot less to get wrong. Which can be translated to, when you have less options, you have less to be depressed about. True, you could be an auto mechanic, if that is what makes you happy, but you can also be a brain surgeon, and therein lies the rub. You at least, have the option for both choices, and because of this, have the anxiety that goes with it.

So not knowing is a position of ability, not disability. It carries with it an anxiety based upon a greater risk than most people face; a greater chance of success (and presumably failure) than your less well thought peers. Fortunately for us, we both have been though therapy, and have a decent idea of how to deal with anxiety. Who knew that depression would eventually prepare you for a career? Funny how that works, eh?

But there is another reason why not knowing is a feature, not a bug, and that has to do with a thing called change.

You see, one of the ever constants of the universe is change. It is easy to miss this as a young man (I know I did), or to discount its value, but either position would doing yourself a disservice. By change I mean that we all face several massive changes in our lives, and quite frankly most of them we are not expecting or well prepared for. This is just how life goes. An auto accident, a random chance with cancer, a bit too much alcohol, a casual word misspoken, all of these things (and more, much much more) can, and will, fuck up our lives. Hey, shit happens. The thing is, our avocation is just as open to big change as any other part of our lives. For you, having to change careers would be a pain, maybe even a major inconvenience, but it would not necessarily be crippling. Why? Because you are not “set” on a particular career, you are merely doing the one that came along (and looks best) now. Now imagine the poor slob who, unlike us, knew exactly what he wanted for all of his life, and suddenly discovers he can no longer work in that field. What will he do? Panic, I tell you. That and more. Depression would be the least of his issues, as his self-identity will be taken out from under him. Why? Because he is now facing what you and I have had to deal with for all of our lives; not knowing. Only he will be terribly unprepared for this ordeal as it will be new to him. And “new” is not a nice word to those who have their lives all planed out. In essence, change has brought this man down to our default position (not knowing) and it is terrifying to him.

So who is the strong one here, and who is the weak?

There’s more to my position than just the two arguments above. For instance, there is a very good chance that 20 years from now you will have a thriving career in a field that has not yet been invented. Don’t believe me? This is exactly my position. 20 years ago there were no digital retouchers. Today there are thousands. There was no school, no college, no way of learning what I do for a living, short of trying it out and seeing if you could do it. What engineers call trial and error. And yet, I make very good money at it, and find the job deeply fulfilling. I see no reason why you cannot have a similar experience as my own. Based on the rate of change I see happening today I suspect you have a much great chance than I ever did, of working a job which has not yet been invented.

And when such future jobs become available, who do you think is going to be better prepared to switch to them from the field they are in? A knower or a not knower? Who is going to be less entrenched in their field? Who is going to have less of their identity tied up in their job, and more of their identity tied up in themselves? The answer to all of these is the not knower. In other words, men like us.

So you see, knowing you future doesn’t necessarily give you one.

Solo or group?

The fantasy author Kate Griffin has an interesting blog post on what it is like for an author (normally a loner by nature) to work in a group environment. This came out the same day that Sarah Hoyt did a marvelous piece on maintaining the creative process, which she refers to as not being a machine. All of this reminds me of my own perilous attempts within differing milieus of creativity, and what I have learned from them.

For starters, one can create by themselves, or in a group setting. In some instances, one can do both. The dynamics for group creativity are significantly different from those of creating on one’s own. This difference is important, I would go so far to say essential, for finding one’s creative niche. However, before I get to this let me explain more about what I mean.

Solitary creative tasks are easy to spot. They are writing (especially fiction), song-writing, painting, etc. Anything that ones does on their own. Solo. Just you and your muse. This is different from a group creative environment, which ranges anywhere from playing music, to making movies, to designing advertising art. Yes, I am aware authors often collaborate with each other (making it a group process), and that song-writing also falls into both camps. This is because most creative forms can be done in a group, or by one’s self. Some however, cannot. For instance, one can play a mean oboe solo, but one cannot never play the oboe part of a symphony, and have it be a symphony. The same is true for any rock group. One instrument alone does not make the experience. Only a group can do that.

I make this point because how a person interacts with the creative process (group or singular) can be just as important as doing the creative process itself. For instance, I have been a musician on and off several times in my life, and have two close friends who both have followed music for most of their lives. What is interesting is that for my friends being involved in music is something they liked to do on their own. They are both happy to write and play music with no one else in the room. In fact they thrive on this. But see, I never could. Practicing for me, especially by myself, was just plain boring. I hated it. Even as an adult with a clear idea that it was a much needed ends to a much beloved means, I still had a hard time with it. But put me in a group, and suddenly whamo, I’m ready to go. Moreover, I’m ready to create new ideas, go off in new interesting directions, take on new worlds, as it were. But only in a group. Never alone.

The funny thing is, I am more than happy to work alone creatively as an author. Its not that I cannot create by myself, I just can’t do it well with music. It’s just not all that fun for me, especially compared to being in a group.

Way back when I was in my early 20s I was lucky enough to play in a band with a couple of really talented guys, Justin Souter, and Alan Williams. Playing with them was always a joy as they were so darn good. But what I enjoyed most about playing with them was the process we developed for song-writing. We would just start jamming, and run a tape recorder. Usually I played bass while Justin player guitar, but sometimes we switched. As we bumped up against each other’s ideas, the music started to blend and swirl until it would reach some form of consensus, and thus a section of a song was formed. It is a very democratic process to write this way. There is no form or direction. The ideas are tossed out, and they either stick or they don’t. Eventually something will click, and a piece of music will take shape.

Anyway, that was what I liked best about being in a band. The group creative process. I found it frustrating that Justin and Alan also found happiness in doing music by themselves, but I could never find that part fulfilling. Eventually our band broke up, but I carried with me that love of group creativity and when I eventually stumbled upon another creative process done as a group (advertising design), I made that field my vocation.

All of this to say, if you are doing something creative, and not finding parts of it fulfilling, perhaps you need to explore doing that work either solo or as a group. In essence, do the opposite of whatever you have been doing. You may find it doesn’t work well, you may find it does. Like me, you may find that it only works for you one way, but not another. That’s all well and good. In the end you will know more about yourself, and will have a better idea about what makes your creative process work. Both goals leading to the same thing, a better you.

mush for brains

My brain feels like it has been used as an ashtray at the smoker olympics. Just plain stinky mush. Too many things going on with our son, and his school, and their spectacularly ill informed view of homework.

We spent a healthy (if that is the word) amount of our time this weekend pulling together a project for his class. I’m glad Trevor got to study American Indians in more detail, but the work was WAY over the top. Its bad enough that its like pulling teeth to get him to focus, and do the work, but this much EXTRA work just makes him that much more resistant. I mean, if your goal is trying to get my son to hate his school, hey good job there.

Anyway, lots of other things going on, and not a lot of time to write. Not even for my fiction. Hopefully that will end soon. We’ll see.

9/11 ten years on…

I don’t like this day, and I doubt I ever will.

The first one, the original 9/11, scared the fuck out of me. Scared, like when I was in the Northridge earthquake, trapped in a small dark room, shaken like the inside a paint-shaker, and all to the sound of four freight trains rolling right over your head. If you have ever been really close to something VERY heavy, and moving fast (freight trains are the worst I have experienced) if gives off a subsonic that is difficult to describe, but will set the small hairs on the back of your neck alight because your body knows that if you make one tiny mistake, you are fucking toast. That kind of scary. The kind that makes you mind go OMFG! and you balls suck up into your crotch.

On the first 9/11 we woke up to NPR. I think my alarm went off at 6:00 back then, but I don’t recall. We had just moved into our first house two months before, and had a baby boy three months old. In short we were already stupid with fear, and way over our heads. The slow painful tsunami of parenthood had not quite peaked on the beach of our single lives, but already we were soaked, and the beach was covered in junk. So when the radio came on with the news, I almost didn’t believe it. “Big fire in the World Trade Center,” it said, but the boy was still asleep, and the TV still had regular analog stations, so I wandered into the living-room and turned the set on. About a minute later Teri must have heard the panic in my voice when I said, “honey!” We spent the rest of that morning alternating between sitting on the couch glued to the tv, or calling friends and family, and pacing back and forth on the phone.

Together we watched that first fire with mild fear, but mostly with dumbfounded ignorance. We didn’t know the cause (although it you go back now and look there is an obvious airplane shaped hole in the building) as the news reporters were being good cautious citizens, reporting only what they knew or could plainly see. The truth at that moment was still wrapped in euphemisms like “sources say” and “it has been reported”, and my personal favorite,”unconfirmed reports”. The great subtext of that day was yet to unfold.

So we watched a sky-scraper fire, nothing more. And we were having thoughts like, “oh, those poor fucks,” for the people trapped on the top part of the building. Then we got that collective “surprise!” moment when that second airplane zoomed right into frame of the camera, and smacked into the other tower with a puff of an explosion and a rain of fiery debris. It was as if in mid cut another director had taken over our collective movie, in this case a chick flick, and decided to make it a horror movie instead. Even the newspeople were thinking WTF! at that one, it was such a punch to the mental gut. I distinctly remember how sick-to-my-stomach it made me feel. It was bizarre, surreal. Like having a favorite 5 year-old niece or nephew jump up and say “surprise,” which you think is cute until you look into the closet they are pointing towards and see they have butchered your favorite cat, and smeared its bloody entrails all over the inside. It was that kind of surreal. Your first reaction is to think, “oh, um, okay,” and your second reaction is to puke.

But the day wasn’t over yet. The third surprise of the morning was when the second tower collapsed on itself. By then I was already having a discussion in the back of my head about high-temperature fires and modern sky-scraper construction, so I cannot say the collapse was a surprise to me. It was more like an “oh, of course!” Only this “of course” was punctuated by the deaths of thousands of people.

It was the collapse of the second tower that made me say out loud, “Damn. I’m glad I’m too old to be drafted because this must mean war.” I didn’t know who was behind this, but I knew then we would be going to war. It was that simple.

That was also when my balls tried to suck themselves up into by abdomen. Yep, scared.

***

You know, I think there should be an international limit on the number of OMFG!s on can experience on one day. After the first couple, the brain just goes numb, and then stays that way for a long time. Just like after being in the Northridge paint-shaker. One can only experience so much terror, and then the brain overloads. Perhaps this was Ossama Bin-Laden’s only mistake on that day. He could have gotten a much more dramatic effect if he had spread the four attacks over two different days, about two months apart. That would have been much more dramatic theater. I can only thank god he didn’t.

Anyway, there is another part to 9/11. Not the stuff that happened on that day, but the stuff that happened because of that day.  And it is this stuff, the political and social repercussions to that day, that REALLY PISSES ME OFF!!! It pisses me off so much that if I start to think about it for any length of time the rage starts to build, and I swear my eye starts to twitch. If Bin Laden may have made a mistake or two that day, by way of contrast our response was nothing but one mistake after another. With ten years of hindsight it is hard to believe how absolutely mind numbingly stupid we became. We did everything Bin Laden asked for, and wrapped it up for him like a Christmas present.

  1. Setting the situation up like it was an act of war, not a crime.
  2. Acting as if it was a war against Islam instead of a political war.
  3. Treating Bin Laden as if he was some “master villain” instead of as a religious lunatic hermit, high on crack, and living in a cave.
  4. For fuck’s sake, we even invaded Iraq over this. I mean, how stupid do you have to be?

Its like we got stung by a wasp, and our solution was to seek out every wasp nest we could find, smack them once with a stick, and then stand there and laugh. Of course if you act that stupid you’re going to get stung. I mean really, WTF? The English and the French both have these wonderful long histories of kicking the ant-hill that is the middle east and north Africa, and then getting covered in ant bites. Why the fuck did we feel the need to do the same thing all over again? Good Christ almighty, how dumb can one nation be? We’re supposed to learn from other nation’s mistakes, not do them over again for our own. Really, this is shit we could happily let someone else own. But we didn’t.

So 10 years on…

  • We are not any safer, and we are appreciably less free.
  • We have paid for the blood of our thousands spilled on that day, with the deaths of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Not to count hundreds of thousands of people that were displaced by out actions, made poorer by our wars, or lost loved ones and/or property for being in the unlucky position of being under the boot when our foot came down.
  • We have spent thousands of our precious lives and trillions of our national treasure.
  • We contributed almost nothing to democratizing the middle east. The leaders we did support now appear to be autocratic thugs, many of which have been overthrown by their own people. And the two places we did invade are not significantly freer then before we invaded.
  • The rest of the world (you know, the guys we do business with) thinks we’re either bullies or a bunch of newbs (or both!).

So good job, us. Get out your flags and wave, because  Yay, We Did It! Weee.

The sad part is, I think the only reason we are not doing more in the middle east right now is simply because we are broke. The collective conscious of our country still wants to cry and scream like a baby, pitching a fit, and stomping on every shadow. We haven’t learned that there is no “getting over” this day. There is no single bad guy to hunt down and kill like in a movie. There will be no final chase scene, and there will be no victory party when the credits roll. In fact, when the credits do roll we are going to see that we were not the protagonist at all, like we thought we were. No, in this film, in this reality, we’re playing the roll of the antagonist. That’s right, we’re playing the bad guys, we’re the ones with the black hats.

I say its time we turned in those black hats, and our sacred flags, for something much more appropriate; ashes and sack-cloth. Folks, we fucked up, and now its time we manned up and admitted it. I don’t think for a minute we were responsible for that terrible tragedy of 9/11, but we are certainly responsible for everything we did afterwards in response.

So today we put up our flag in honor of those fallen on this day 10 years ago, and to honor those fallen who bravely fought in the repercussions to the events of that terrible day. These were good folks, most of them great American citizens, and innocent, as near as I can tell, from any wrong doing. If there is any guilt in any of them, I say we let them take it up with their maker. I’m good with that. We also lit a few candles as a sign of our intent to peaceably remember this day, and what it means. Its not a parade, and we’re not waving the flag or watching some stupid crap on television. Really, I’ve cried enough, I don’t need to do more. There is no victory to this day, and by this point I doubt there will ever be. We had a chance for greatness, and we blew it. All that is left is for the rest of us to “get” that. For many Americans I doubt that day will ever come. Then again, I never thought I would see a black man elected to the White House, so I have to admit my powers of prognostication are not particularly impressive.

And… that is why I don’t like this day. I doubt I ever will.

Cool story snippet: The IBS

In the future everyone will have a internet blog score (IBS), which is maintained by a third party and is comprised of all of an individual’s internet input (included  any aliases they may use) and rates that person for integrity, politeness, mental health, aggressiveness, and other factors. This IBS is used in job interviews, dating services, etc, to help weed out the crazies and limit potential legal action.

On Roller-Coasters

I love roller-coasters. They are awesome, plain and simple. Hop on one and you get to safely come close to death; to cheat him, as it were, and still walk away without having to give him your soul at some later date. Sure it costs a few bucks, but that’s cheap compared to being dead or losing your soul.

But here is the real reason why you should love roller-coasters: They are the perfect metaphor for your creative process.

What? you say. What are you talking about? What metaphor? What creative process?

Well I’ll tell you. You know that feeling you get when you’re going down the track, and you can see it drop away in front of you? You know, when your breath catches in your throat, and your arms grip the cushions (or your boyfriend’s arm) really hard? Its that part where your body is saying, “oh crap. I’m about to be launched into space,” but your face is smiling because your brain knows it’s only going to last for a moment. It is that duel reality part, where your body is saying one thing (Holy Shit!), while your brain is saying another (Weee!) that makes the ride so wonderful.

You see most of the time we listen to our bodies, and do what they say. So when your eyes see a car coming at you while you are crossing the street, you jump when it tells you “Watch out!” Or when you see a cute girl (or guy) walking down the sidewalk, your body says, “hey, check that out,” and your head follows. Most of the time this is a good thing. Its good that we don’t get run over, and its good (or at least pleasurable) that we notice attractive people. However, the problem is that sometimes the messages the body sends are not so good for us.

You see, your body will respond with the exact same fervor when it senses the danger of a car trying to run you over, as it does when it senses the danger of a new idea of yours being criticized by your best friend. On the one hand, the body’s response is helpful and appropriate, but on the other had, not so much. Mind you, your friends criticism might be hurtful (although probably not as hurtful as a car accident), but then again it might not. In fact, it might be helpful. And therein lies the rub. Unlike the black and white response to a speeding car, there are levels of grey involved with the creative process. But the body doesn’t know this, and so you get the same “Oh shit, we’re about to fall” feeling when you’re on a roller-coaster going over the edge, as you do when you are creating something interesting.

So here’s why a roller-coaster is so helpful to the creative person. Because it teaches us to listen to the “oh shit, we’re falling” response from the body, and yet do nothing about it. With the creative process, that “oh shit, we’re falling” message the body sends is crucial. Not because you are about to die, but because you are on the right track. It is your body’s way of telling you that you are getting to the good stuff. That you have struck a rich vein, and it’s time to dig hard.

You see, creativity requires risk. Sometimes big risk. I will even go so far as to say without the risk there is no reward. But your body doesn’t know this. When your are hurdling down the roller-coaster track, and fly over the edge, your body can only see the track drop away, and then quickly calculate the likely result. In other words, the risk. This is all our bodies can understand. It is what they are trained to do. This is why you hold your breath, and grip the cushions hard. Now it is your brain, on the other hand, that knows perfectly well your body will be safe (far safer then the automobile drive to the amusement park) so it allows you to smile even while your knuckles turn white. The brian knows the reward will come at the end of the ride, and doesn’t panic even while your body is trying to.

The problem is, when you start to do a creative process, your body senses the risk, and responds like it is supposed to do. “Danger, Will Robertson. Danger.” It senses the risk, and responds in the appropriate manner. If you are not used to this, you will sense this risk, and stop being creative immediately. The danger signal will overcome your creative impulse, and shut your brain down, just exactly like it will take over your thoughts to get your body out of the way of a speeding car. Alas, this is the exact opposite of what you need to do when you sense this risk, because the thing the body is of afraid of is usually the good stuff, the rich vein of ID, the mother-load of creative ideas. In effect, it is exactly as if your body is working against yourself, trying to keep you from being creative.

But this is true only if you are not expecting it; if you don’t know how to react to the “danger” signal your body sends. Once you know that the “oh shit, we’re falling” signal can be a positive thing (at least in terms of creativity) you can turn it around, and use it as a tool. It is a signal that you are on the right track. That you are digging down the correct mind shaft (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose). That you are going in the right direction. Yet to do this trick, you have to learn to separate what your brain is saying about your creative process, from what your body is saying. And that is not such an easy task. Which is why a roller-coaster is so darn handy. In a blink it does what no amount of thinking or talking can do; it separates the brain/body signal quite cleanly, and for very little cost. Certainly much cheaper than a session with your therapist.

So the next time you find yourself at an amusement park, ride the coasters, and dream great big dreams.

I dream of peaches

I had a strange dream last light. I was opening up a bag of frozen peach slices, and eating them. For some reason I knew these slices had been prepared by my paternal grandfather. The taste triggered a memory of his large wrinkled hands carefully cutting and bagging the slices, before putting them in the freezer. It gave me a sense of connection to him, the peach piece was something he had touched in his hands just last year, and now it was in my hand.

When I woke up I remembered that Pops, as we called him, hadn’t died last year. He’s been in the grave for 30 years come this fall. Funny how your time sense is distorted by dreams. i also don’t recall him ever freezing fruit, although I’m sure he did it. The man kept a HUGE garden, and was happy to pass off fruits and vegetables to us whenever we visited. As a kid we thought that anything grown by Pops was bigger and sweeter then anything else you could buy. This was a rule we all believed earnestly up until his death made it impossible to prove otherwise.

He did freeze the trout we caught every time we went fishing, but I don’t recall peaches. Except for last night.

Full fathom five

When my father died,
he took with him,
things I will never see,

Yet are as much a part,
of the man I am,
as these lungs which help be breathe.

-ERK
7/10/2011

For some reason the term Full Fathom Five fell into my head today, so I looked it up on wiki. Reading the Shakespeare poem/song that is the source brought to me a whole host of emotions, all associated with the death of my father, and my father-in-law. Hence the poem above.

As I write this, I am 48.  On the whole I have found being older to be a great benefit. Its as if the dross of your life is burned away slowly by time, leaving nothing but the hot undiluted self behind. Every year I feel like my thinking becomes clearer, at least in terms of being me, while my surety that the world runs only a particular way falls off more and more. That is, I am more sure about myself, but less sure about everything else. This I think is a wonderful trade-off, a nice balance of pride and humility. Something I actually look forward to, and see as a benefit that more than overcomes the physical imperfects that also come with age. But there are parts about becoming older that are not so fun. One of them is burying your parents.

It is easy to assume if you are male, and over 18 that you are in fact a man, but I will tell you right now, you really do not know what it means to be a man until the day you bury your father. That day, and all the days that come after. That is when you really sense the full weight of manhood resting hard upon your shoulders.

My father does not lie five fathoms down. One was sufficient. And let me tell you, that one fathom is the heaviest amount of dirt I have ever felt.