The EraserMate Life

Watching the television, I saw an ad for a GelMate pen, and it made me remember, something from my childhood, the excitement of new ball point pen. You might have experienced it, you are a child of 10, and you have been writing in pencil for the most of your life because you didn’t want to be caught not being able to spell correctly, or doing your math problems, you’d make a mistake and didn’t want to have to find the WhiteOut or cross out, and fix the problem. And then, BAM! You life changes when they PaperMate introduced the EraserMate. Mine was such a shade of blue, not too bright, not too dark. It was the perfect blue and black accents to match my Batman childhood disguise. The best part, erasing ink! I loved that pen for the greater part of my childhood. I must have taken it apart a god-zillion amount of times, fingered the spring, took off the cap, unscrewed the barrel, parked it in my mouth like a cigarette to look winsome while thinking of things to write.
Pens in my life are something of a history. My first love was my grandfather’s multicolor pen. Clicking and unclicking, trying to decide which color to use, what to write, where to write it. It was like being part of royalty to have a pen like that. And the few times I was allowed to use it, made me think twice about wasting the green or red ink. They were too special to waste on doodling or nonsense. These were reserved for great observations of a young child, or Christmas lists or the drawing of toys I wanted to present to my grandparents as a subtle sales hint; robot, calculator, pocket radio, remote race car. Black and blue were saved for prose. Immediately, I hated blue, it was so common! Bic was big back then. Cheap and plentiful. But I wanted something special to match me. From then on I would seek out to write in black ink, like a real writer, or so I imagined.
But then the EraserMate came along. Blue ink. How could I love this pen so much? I could erase my poor spelling, a concession would need to be made. There was something so innocent about those days, that I missed, seeing the GelMate commercial. I used to be excited about a new pen. I used to find wonder in the world unveiling itself in front of me. My world then was of school, friends, home, and parents, not of hate and disenfranchisement. Feeling older, worrying about money, and health and the world, I want that childhood wonder and my EraserMate back.

Back To School

Children at school classroom
Children at school classroom

One of the most traumatic days in my life was going to the first day of school. I would work my way into a frenzy, unable to sleep the night before. I’d be so amped up by the time it was to leave I’d be hyperventilating with a paper bag over my lips. My mother took us clothes shopping as the lead up to the day. I’d review my choices, looking over the “new” school clothes and wondering which outfit would make me look cooler. Because I was fat (and still am for that matter) back then there were only two colors for fat people, brown and green. I don’t know why that was. Every season, the same colors were trudged out as if large people couldn’t be colorful. As soon as I was able to get out of the green/brown hell that was my childhood, I wore red and blue like as much as I could. Then there were the jeans; Levy’s were the standard. Their commercials flooded the television and if you weren’t in them, well, you were a loser. It was difficult to look cool in Robuck’s (jeans from Sears), but they were new, and it had the possibility. The hope for me was that the oversized belt I chose would occlude the label from view enough for kids to know me, and not my clothesware. Kids can be so mean at the drop of a dandruff flake. Looking back I don’t see any less uneasiness as an adult, but I’ve worked at it.

Upon arriving, you would instantly know the class bully. He was the kid who had your friend in a headlock trying to get his lunch money. Somehow the teachers would be looking away, as if on cue, like the rest of the class, trying not to become involved in the incident or become the brunt of the next misdemeanor.  Then, there was the pretty girl, who pretended she didn’t know she was beautiful, but there were all these boys around her like drones in a honey colony. She was over made up to look like a contestant in a beauty pageant (or she fell into her mother’s makeup case and forgot to wash).   She would parade herself and her court wherever she’d go. The only thing missing was the trumpeters to announce her arrival.

Friends were very few and far between for me and I understood why. Trying to navigate the popular waters is a difficult time. You don’t want to be seen with the unpopular folks, cause that could cause negative repercussions. Being the pariah is not fun, but being just outside of the circle looking in at the clique you were part of is even worse. At least as a pariah you know you are going alone. Being a once-upon-a-time part of a group looking in seems even more pathetic.

I was neither popular nor part of a clique. I ran an independent campaign. There were some friends that I’ve kept in touch with since my early days of education. I value their friendships.   I cheer for their successes and am saddened for their losses. If anyone would have told me I’d have Facebook to know when my classmates are getting their colonoscopies, well I wouldn’t have joined. But it great to see all of their children’s smiling faces as they ready for their time at school. I hope their parents haven’t told them all they did when they were a kid, but I’d love to tell them.

Holiday Music

Old Music Notes   RetroI love the holidays! I look forward to the holidays, thinking of all the special food, getting reacquainted with old friends and even older family, and of course some people seem to go out of the way to be nice. It’s fun to see people think twice as they race out the door to hold it open just enough for me to get through. It warms the cockles of my heart and does wonders to the holiday spirit. And who can forget all those Rankin-Bass and Charley Brown Christmas specials on television. Nothing like that at any other time of the year. Classic movies! Cold weather! Snow! It’s all a feast for the senses. Nothing attacks the senses like the Christmas holiday music. No matter where you go, this holiday music bombards you as soon as you enter any public location, turn on the radio, or even if you walk into your own house. Music is so burned into your brain, it starts to play inside your head, even when it’s not being performed externally. Christmas tinnitus! Sometimes there is no stop to it.

I find this most annoying when I’m trying to fall asleep. Lying in bed, starring at an empty ceiling, my head is somewhere hearing and imagining 32 feet and 8 little tails running through the snow. Or perhaps it’s a Latin tune of a little boy singing “Mamcita, donde esta Santa Claus?” My head is weary of all the songs. “Jiggity jig, hee-haw, hee-haw, it’s Dominic the Donkey.” The songs all are playing in my head as well as old standards: Silent Night, Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, Silver and Gold, Here Comes Santa Claus and others. There must be a way of stopping this. There must be a way of getting these songs temporary out of my mind. “It’s the most wonderful time….” AHHHHH!

Deep breaths. I must keep my focus. It’s only a few more days left till next year at this time, when those songs get dragged out. “Simply having a wonderful Christmas…” There is much more to the season than just these songs. There’s the spirt of giving. “Children laughing, people passing….” NO! Must not give in. “Smiles on faces as folks rush home with their presents….”  STOP!

Well, I hope you don’t have same issues. May your holidays be happy and not blue. “I’ll have a blue Christmas without…”   Don’t get stuck in the same trap that I have. Limit the music. Don’t let it over take you like it has done to me. Be wary of department stores playing tunes, because you never know what your brain will trap inside itself, and bounce around your head like a rubber ball, never getting out. Medication can’t help you; you are on your own.

Merry Christmas. Buon Natale. Joyeux Noel. Frohe Weihnachten. Kala Christouyenna. Mele Kalikimaka. Kellemes karacsonyi unnepeket. Feliz Navidad. Prospero ano y Felicidad.

Labels

band-closeupIf there is one thing I don’t like are labels, because labels have a tendency to still stick even after the meaning for the label has gone. When I was a kid, every kid had a label, whether they wanted it or not. Some were good: brainiac, nerd (I suppose that is OK now, not so much back then), or jock. Other were not so nice: nose-picker, butt-picker, asswipe, skeeze, slut, whore, doofus, dumby, idiot, fat, roly-poly, blubber, elephant, kiss-up, brown-noser, skank, etc. You never knew where these labels would come from, but I imagined there was a 3M plant somewhere working overtime to keep up with the dumb-mand. When I look back now with my 46 year old brain, we were not very creative with our sharp tongues. Take for example Shakespeare. Now there was a man that could give a good put down, and still make it seem nice. Of course, most American’s believe that anything spoken in the King’s English is bound to sound better.

“You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” –Henry IV Part2

Can you imagine a child’s utterance to bully such words? Confusion abounds! “I tickle your catastrophe!” First of all, using tickle and catastrophe in the same sentence is bad ass. To put them together in this manner, beautifully ugly. The bully would no doubt beat the child to a pulp, just for not understanding such words. Next, the g-word would come out, because everything that is not understood is automatically listed as “gay.”   Now that’s a big word used quite frequently, from children. Still I hear it from adults as if it was a norovirus wrenching from their mouths. Again, from not understanding, who they might hurt. Gay is a tough label to drop, if you aren’t gay. Even if you are gay, and not loud and proud, it’s a tough label to move forward from.

I was mistaken on more than one time for being gay, in my life, as well as teased by family and friends, for my dainty ways. I’m sorry that I like show tunes and the theater. I don’t like to get my hands dirty (because I didn’t like to hear my mother yell at me as a child).  I wasn’t considered manly because it took years for a mustache to grow.   You maybe can imagine the anger and frustration that this book cover had to endure, because its contents were different then the label placed on him.

One incident at a Philadelphia Phillies game that I won’t soon forget. My friend Joe and I went to a Phillies game, he a Baltimore Orioles fan and I a New York Mets fan, both dressed in our respective team’s jerseys and hats. The New York Mets were in town, and we got tickets. For most of the game, other than for someone above us shouting, “Mets suck here!” everyone was nice. I didn’t have any trouble, until I went to the restroom. The Mets were losing, and there was slim chance that they might win, but being a fan for many years, they were not having a championship season. I slipped into the restroom and stood at an open urinal, when this guy comes up and stands in close, in his Phillies jersey, yelling every racist, sexist, gay-hating bile you could possibly imagine directed at me, the “queer” wearing the New York Mets jersey. I was standing away from him facing the wall, but I could hear others in the restroom becoming riled to his politics.  He was bating me. I was scared. Part of me wanted to punch him so fucking hard with all the pent up anger from my childhood, but he and his buddies would have had me on the floor beaten to a pulp. I instead, resigned to my situation, I said nothing. I finished up, despite his flailing arms in my face, and walked away. And then he spit on me as I left. Let me make this clear, this person was at least thirty years old, spitting like a two year old. He was obviously drunk, but that is no excuse. I made it out of the bathroom, and I went back to my seat, rattled.

My estranged nephew came to visit my parents two weeks ago, and I heard the same bombardments from them about him. I hate to hear it. I hate to think that my parents are still levying this level of anger, and for what? What has he done that is so horrible? Haven’t they grown up through years learning to accept people? That hate leads to hate? My dad talked about my nephew’s “wimpy” handshake. Dad, if you don’t like his handshake, how about giving him a hug? A big hug for your grandson, since you haven’t seen him in ten years, regardless of what you think of my brother’s ex-wife, or the whole divorce that put a wedge between the two of you. Perhaps you forget how “wimpy” my handshake was, and how easy for you and my brother to trample on my feelings, when it pleased you. You weren’t making me tougher, you were making me older.   Now, my parents see me in a different light. Why would you afford your own grandson the same chance to be himself?

Labels are bad. They are no good. Save them for your Holiday Cards, and not for you friend, relatives, and enemies.

Time Passes On

bettyI am no stone. I don’t have my head buried in the sand thinking that I or my relatives will live forever. There is never a good time for death, but the beginning of the holiday season is particularly unpleasant. First, the holidays are supposed to be bringing family together, not separating them forever. Many of my relatives died around the holidays, but thanks to selective memory, I try not to remember them when they died but as they lived.   The time ticks down from the time you are born. It is our destiny to die. We all try to cheat death for as long as we can, despite our vices, but eventually the clock rings.

This weekend my Aunt Betty died.

This was the second Aunt that died in my life time, both younger than my dad.  I didn’t think I would affect me as I heard the news from my mother. Aunt Betty had been ill for a long time. I won’t go into the details, but after a long struggle she succumbed, with her husband, John, of 47 years, at her side, her daughter, and her nephews. She was a matriarch to her two nephews after her younger sister died. She had a big heart that way.   John and Betty used to carry on the tradition of having parties, just like her parents, and invite the entire block. There were easily 75 people there at their parties, usually around St Patrick ’s Day. There was an abundance of food, music, singing, dancing, and there was always a keg. Those are the times I will always remember about her; her laugh, her humor, her generosity, and her dancing. You didn’t have to be anybody except yourself, and there was a must that you enjoy.

I rummaged through my pictures to find one of her for Facebook, and I found one of her and my dad. I cropped to just her. I posted it, and then it hit me. Tears. Not that I knew anything of Aunt at all, but I was sad. Sad that I didn’t have or take the time to know her better and sad that the world would not know of her. Perhaps her deeds will be forgotten, but I will always remember how she made me feel:

welcome

 

Reset in peace, Auntie.

 

Update (12/3/14):  Went to her viewing in NJ.  It was so good to see my relatives there, along with a room full of all of her friends.   She had so many friends, I was nice to see such a turnout for her.  It was a great send off.   RIP!

Fall

High angle view of a village Tobermory Ontario CanadaAs I get older I’ve noticed that time seems to go by way too quick.  I’m sure there are a lot of factors to this, other than my hair turning gray, but it seems strange.  It seems only like yesterday that we were celebrating the New Year.  Well, maybe not yesterday, but something close, not like we’d be seeing the first hours of fall today.  I saw some leaves on the wet roads this morning on the way to work, thus propagating that theory that fall is here.  On my trip to NJ, over the weekend, I was thinking that maybe I’d see some red, yellow, or orange foliage, but there was nothing but highways.    Apparently there is no foliage in NJ, just asphalt, black asphalt, and lots of it.  There were, however, multi-colored cars out there; most in an electric blue.   I’m not sure where that falls in the NJ scheme of fall, but in Pennsylvania, I don’t think we have any blue leaves.

When I was I kid in NJ, I looked forward to fall.  I looked forward to Halloween.  My parents, didn’t look forward to anything.  My mother, was born in October, and was sick of getting the ubiquitous pumpkin colored cake at her birthday, so she rebelled as an adult.  She hates orange, black, brown or any of those autumn colors, because of that fact.  Maybe that’s why she always got clothes in those colors for me and my brother as some subliminal mind fuck.  But I digress.   I was out only a few times Trick or Treating as a child, the rest of the time I pretended not to be excited about getting wads of candy from neighbors whose kids picked on and beat up my brother and I the other eleven months of the year.   By the time I became an adult, I’d gotten over the trauma, and I smile gleefully when someone comes to my door looking for a candy fix.   Halloween should be for kids.  When you see some seventeen year old kid, with a ripped tee-shirt and covered in blood, I do have to cringe and ask myself, is that real?

In grade school, there were those Halloween parties.  I don’t think they do that anymore.    I don’t know how they even allowed such things.  Kids are naturally high on energy, adding a shit load of candy to the mix any teacher would have to a masochist.  Kids would finish their candy before going home, because they knew their parents wouldn’t allow them to eat it all once they got home.  Their happy scary, amped up faces, covered in chocolate, and drool from the corners of their mouth, arriving at their home, bursting through the front door, and then bouncing off the walls.  Parents having to pry them off the ceilings, before they crash and burn.  Why wouldn’t parents like Halloween?

Although fall technically is here I will keep an outlook for the trees turning color.   We’ve had a few cool mornings.  The daylight has become less.  I go to work in the dark, and soon be coming back home in the dark.  Eventually, the artic chill will be on us again, I’ll be bitching about the ice, and then we’ll be talking fireworks for Fourth of July.  Time flies.   I need to pay better attention, or I’ll be looking at the calendar and it will be 2068.  2068?  Gees!  Wasn’t I supposed to be dead already?

Rain!

stormy sky

Sunday I was lying in bed hearing the pitter-patter of rain on the roof, feeling like blah, and wondering how anyone could be excited about that.  I find it all depressing, rain, humidity, black clouds in the sky blocking the sun from getting through.  I’ve had friends that were excited about clouds and rain.  It really has to make you think about them, doesn’t it?  Maybe it’s because of the way my parents raised me?  “No playing in puddles, keep out of the mud, don’t get wet, stay inside, keep away from windows because lightning might hit you.  Stay off the phones, because lightning travels through the telephone lines.   Stay out of the shower because it’s a target for lightning.  Turn off the air conditioner because, if the power goes off, you don’t want the air conditioner to come back on line in mid-cycle.”  I’ve been programed to be afraid of the rain.  It’s build in to my psyche.    I have no choice to be unhappy.  It’s my parent’s fault!   There is nothing as sad the sad face of a child pressed against a window when it’s raining.  Hopes dashed.  Anyway it used to be that way when I was a child.  Now, it’s just more time to watch TV and play video games.

What is rain for anyway; for those greedy little plants, trees, and flowers!  They have their time in the spring to get the water they need.  Summer is for humans, for the beach, for sun, and those little buddings just have to suck it up.  I deal with two months of rain in the spring; can’t I just get some sun?  How dare they spoil my summer, particularly, for the “last weekend” for summer!  They say the week is going to be hot and sticky this week, oh great!  I love me some hot and sticky weeks.  <eyeroll>  Maybe I should make a blanket statement here?  Yes, it’s been a moderate summer this year, and I shouldn’t be bitching, since the winter here was so harsh, but we did have hail.  In Pennsylvania!   I lived in NJ for sixteen years, and I saw hail once.  Just once!   I didn’t expect to see hail for the rest of my life, and it’s here.  WTF!  OK.  Twice in a life time is too much.  I don’t know how others deal with it on a yearly basis.  I guess they deal with it the same way we deal with mounds of snow and blankets of ice in the winter.  Weather is not fair, but it’s balanced or should be balanced; warm and sunny in the west, the northwest has rain, the south is dry and warm, and the east is temperate.  Yes, temperate; we see the sun, the rain, the snow, the heat, the cold, the wind.  We get it all, so there is no reason to have extremes in weather.   No hail!  I don’t want to see it.

I could live in the northwest where it’s raining all the time.  I suppose I should be glad.  I remember a neighbor telling me, she previously lived in Minnesota, that when the sun came out, it was party time and they dragged out the bar-bar-q, since it happened so frequently.   I need sun.  I count on sun.  I need the vitamin D it produces in my body.   Give me sun, or give me partly cloudy!  Weather has no excuses!

New Adventures of the Old Interns

business people work group in teamAs I’m looking through the resumes of potential applicants for intern this coming school year, I am reminded of interns past, the specter of them still haunting my writing room, filling my senses with wit, charm, and way too much perfume.  I thought this would be a good time to get you caught up on what they have been doing, and to make those applying feel vastly inferior, and tremendously insecure, although perusing these pathetic pages of prose it doesn’t seem that I need to try that much.  So, to catch you up on last year’s crew of three, Miss X, Mister Y (the man-slut), and Miss Z, all English students at a local college, you might remember that Miss X and Mister Y were having a thing.   Well that didn’t last.  I know, SURPRISE!  But I did get a high five for bringing them together.  They were happy while it lasted, but they remain bitter enemies.   Like cats and dogs, they have their politeness for a few moments and then like a scene out of Wolverine,  out come the claws.   I guess that’s what happens when you date a man-slut.   Here is a update to their status.

Miss X:  Still in college, looking to graduate with a Bachelors of Arts in English, in 2015. She’s on to dating someone new.  She’s changed her hair color to dirty blond, and she still likes to read James Patterson and Jodi Picoult, and writing poetry.  She misses the time she spent here, and is looking forward to hearing about the next group of people coming in.  I remember her as the organizer for the group.  She had a plan for everything, and was very organized.   Took great notes, and made me sound better than I should.

Mister Y:  Still in college, looking to graduate with Bachelors of Arts in Communications.   He has a job working for the Fightin’ Phillies (AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies), in the main office (getting coffee, donuts, etc.), but sometimes appears in costume on the diamond.   His band, Kudos, broke up, but he’s looking to start another, soon, before he loses the calluses on his fingers.  He is into the Robert Ludlum Bourne series, Tom Clancy and Tony Gilroy.  His times here will always be remembered, so he says!  We shared a love for whiskey, and the way he can put it down, I don’t think he’ll have many brain cells left.  I know I don’t have too many left, either.  LOL!  I miss the music jam sessions we had when we couldn’t think of things to write.

Miss Z:  Graduated this year with a B. A. in English and is looking for a job (any takers?)  She keeps up her blog site on cheese making, and is spending her down time writing her first novel, about nineteenth century French monks who developed specific cheeses.   I’ve given her all the encouragement I could, about the novel, and she still asks me all kinds of questions!  She reads historic novels and has some stories (I hope none make it to her cheese blog), about her intern time here and researching Malaise and (what became the) Mariline novel.   She was an excellent researcher, and the fastest Googler in the west.  If you needed an answer for something, she would have it before you could even ask.   I’d like her on speed dial if I ever made it to “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

I wish them well.  I miss them writing the blogs for me, organization, and researching, but with a new group, there is new blood, and that brand new car smell.  So if it seems like I’m not myself, well, you’ll know why.  Here is to the new interns!  See what you have to look forward to?

SUN!

little girl outdoorsThe day is beautiful.  There must be something redeeming in that statement but I’m afraid that means nothing while I’m sitting here inside.  I did a bunch of bitching when the weather was no so great.  Last winter was either ice or snow for the most part.  Technically we are still in spring, but it’s a lot more like summer out there and I’m here at home, only stepping outside to have a smoke.  The weather is beautiful.  No rain.  No hail.  The few clouds in the sky are afraid to even show themselves on a day like today.  Only the most brave and puffy are lingering in the spring fresh air.

Most of you are probably screaming through the monitor to get my butt from this house and get some sun.  I have the option of going to a pool for Chrissakes, but I’m still here typing.   Don’t get me wrong, I love the beautiful weather.  There something so simple as to get into my car and not have to worry about whether I will have to have a cover on my skin, or even have to trudge through feet of snow, dig out my car, and pray I don’t become the a tree’s worst nightmare, sliding out of control on ice.  Maybe it’s too beautiful.  Yeah, I’ve set it.  With a week of rain coming up in the forecast, I need to take advantage of this perfect day, or living with the Noah effect will make it all the more precious.

I’ve thought about it.  I really need to get out of here.  But here is my dilemma, what am I going to do?  With all these options what could I do? What would I want to do?  If I lived in Key West, I know what to do, go to the beach.  What else would you do?  Here in mostly landlocked Pennsylvania there really isn’t much to do.  I don’t want to spend money, for what?  Sun?  Most of the time it’s free, assuming there is enough sunscreen on you that you don’t wind up paying for it in the end.   I know that is just my negativity talking, but there is something to be said for stage 3 melanoma to ruin a guy’s day.

Sun has always been a component of my family; picnics, outside parties, etc.  It was the great gatherer; start the grill and they will come.  Hot and sweaty sizzling under the great orange ball in the sky was part of every childhood summer.  There was always a weekend holiday party to be present at.  Meeting the relatives.  Chowing down on food, going home, and lying in bed realizing kind of what it was like to feel like a lobster in a pot of boiling water.   I look back fondly, although at the time I was wonder what the fuck did I do to deserve all this itchy peeling skin in places I didn’t know I had.   If I wanted peeling skin, I could have avoided the sun and put rubber cement or Elmer’s glue on, wait for it to dry and then peel it off.   NO PAIN!

Cars are whizzing by, I can see though my window.   Trees are all green and smiling, are caressing the gentle breeze.  Joggers run up and down the hill next to me.  Squirrels jump and frolic in the high dandelioned grass, playing tag.  A bird just bumped my window.  Mosquitos are even on the job, sucking blood from unsuspecting naked arms and legs.  This could be a great memory.  I could be lying in bed later in the week, unable to get up because of the drearies brought on by the copious amounts of rain thinking of this time, when once I decided to step from the safety of my apartment, to bask in the rays of the great life giver in the sky.  I could, or I could just watch more television.