Friday, December 30, 2011

In Which I Come to Realize

Dear Baby Badass,

Today marks the third day I have gone without seeing you. Your daycare provider took this past week off for Christmas vacation (which they totally deserve), and with our jobs not permitting us to also take the week off, you've spent the past couple of days with your grandparents. At eight months old, this is the first time we've been away from you for more than 18 hours.

I wasn't sure how it'd be, with you being away for a few days. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn't expect it to hurt so much. When I woke up during the night these past few nights I've gone into your room to check on you, as I always do, the absence of your little snores scared me at first, but when I remembered where you were, the pain of missing you stung my heart. When I came home from work yesterday after a particularly rough day, all I wanted was to spend some time with you nestled into my shoulder and it pained me to know I could not.

From the moment you were born I've known that there was going to be times where I would have to let you go. When you take your first steps, ride your first bike, or when take off with the car for the first time on your own. There's your first boyfriend, your move out to college, and walking you down the aisle. I didn't think that having you stay with my parents for a few days would require much by way of letting go, but believe me when I say that it has.

The past few days have been a learning experience, something that I'll add to the list of things that I've come to realize upon becoming your father. That list is surprisingly long, and ever growing.

Your mother is picking you up tonight, and you'll be waiting for me when I get home from work. I cannot wait to see you, to feel my heart swell when you smile at me, and to hold you close. I just need to remind myself that letting go can be a good thing, as long as I always get you back in the end.

I love you, my child, so incredibly much.

Dad

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In Which I See The Spot

I saw this peculiar reflection shining on the house next door the other day:



If "X" marks the spot, then buried treasure allegedly lies behind that wall. Knowing what I know of the house, though, what is likely behind that wall is far from treasure. Unless you work for the government in tracking down and deporting illegal aliens, that is. 

My neighborhood is awesome. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

In Which It's Better To Give

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. Ours was low-key but very enjoyable. The gifts we gave were mostly pictures of Baby Badass, but with a face like this, it's hard not to share.



Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

In Which It's Almost Christmas

It being the Friday before Christmas, I'm calling this one in. I don't think you'll mind, though. It's a BAG classic from 2009. Enjoy.

---

Unless you've been living under a rock your entire life, you've probably seen the classic Christmas television special, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. You know, the original stop-motion version, with Burl Ives as the cheerful snowman with a banjo. As I'm sure it is with many, many others, it's pretty much a holiday requirement around here to watch it at least once. In fact, since we have a copy of it on VHS, The Boss makes a point to watch this movie a few times each Christmas season. I put up a stink about it sometimes, but deep down inside, I don't mind watching it. I grew up watching it, and it doesn't ever seem to get old.

This year was no different. It aired on TV a little while ago, and when The Boss and I were watching it, something occurred to me. And if you know me at all, whenever I say the phrase "something occurred to me", you know that it's just another way of saying that the maniacal wheels in my head started turning.

We were sitting there, watching Rudolph's father shame him for being born with a glowing red nose (which was probably his own fault, for sleeping with that doe in Tijuana a few years back, after too many tequila shots with that asshole Comet), and I realized that a lot of the characters reminded me of other people.

And so the idea for this post was born.



Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Look-A-Likes:




Sam The Snowman looks like:





Santa looks like:





The Boss Elf looks like:



Hermie The Wanna-Be Dentist looks like:







Yukon Cornelius looks like:





Charlie-In-The-Box looks like:





Dolly-For-Sue looks like:





The Abominable Snowman looks like:





Wilford Brimley





Billy Gibbons (from ZZ Top)





Guy Fieri





Carson Kressley





Monterey Jack (from Rescue Rangers)





Simon Pegg





The Wendy's Logo Girl





Dave Grohl


So there you have it. The Boss and I got a huge kick out of this while we were watching it and I was pointing out who all the various people look like. I doubt we'll be able to watch the movie again without thinking about this, but I'm okay with that. It sort of gives it a new aspect.


Have a good weekend, and Merry Christmas, folks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In Which I Pause For a Moment

I'm going to take a break from my normal fare for today's post and talk about the little girl who went missing from Waterville, a town an hour north of me, this past weekend. It's been all over the news up here in Maine since it happened, and has been getting national coverage more recently. This 20-month-old with a broken arm was last seen Friday night as she was put to bed, and was reported missing the next morning.

As a new father, I cannot imagine what it must be like to not know where your child is. Before my child was born when I would hear about a missing child, I would be concerned (like most of us would be), but it never resonated within me like this. In the pictures put up on news features and on internet articles, I keep imagining it being my child, and I am stricken with pure panic. I tell myself that I'd never let something like that happen to my beautiful daughter, but the panic isn't quelled by these attempts at reassurance.

As much as I think that I can protect my daughter from anything and everything, I know that in reality I cannot. There is just too much evil and bad things in this world for one man to stand guard against. The thought that a moment of distraction could be all that it takes for something to happen is every parents fear, but hearing that a child was taken from her crib while everyone in the house was asleep is almost too much to think about.

My heart goes out to the family of this little child. This is a heartbreaking experience made worse by the time of year. I hope with all my heart that there is a happy ending to this story. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Which I See Two Santas

Santa is everywhere these days. 

He's at the mall taking pictures with kids (which is probably the only time that a creepy old stranger in a rented suit can have children sit on his lap and be photographed and have it not be a felony). He's ringing a bell in front of a donation bucket outside a grocery store. He's in commercials for candy and electronics and beer and automobiles and just about everything else. He's posing for Christmas cards and animatronic noise-makers. He's in the movies and in music. You just can't turn around this time of year and not see something Santa-related. 

Like this creepy, demonic-looking Santa tree ornament.


He knows when you are sleeping or awake and if you've been bad or good, because he's got the Eye of Sauron and can see you no matter where you are.

He also can be seen hanging in the window of a fast-food joint, another victim of holiday stress and the high-pressure demands of his job.


With Santa Claus' absence, maybe Tim Allen can fill in for him. I just hope he reads the fine print this time, to save us from having to endure not one but two awful sequels. 

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, December 16, 2011

In Which It'd Be Easily Misunderstood

I was driving to work yesterday and saw a sign on someone's front lawn. You know, like the V&G/VAG Construction one I saw last year. Come to think of it, the sign I saw yesterday was in the same neighborhood as the VAG sign. It might even be the same house. Anyway, it was another low-budget sign made to advertise the services of a business. In this particular case, it was for snow removal. Here's a mock-up of what it looked like:


Simple, basic, and to the point. Clearly a no-frills kind of business owner, this guy just sticks to the facts and lets his work speak for itself. For that, this sign is effective. Except for one little thing. Because the description of the services offered isn't on the same line, I don't interpret this sign for what it says.

Instead of reading it as "Snow Blowing & Plowing," I read the sign as the business name being Snow and the services offered as blowing and plowing. And that makes me think that snow removal isn't being offered anymore. When you think of it that way, the sign takes on an entirely new meaning. 


Dependable 24-hour service in either field is hard to come by, especially when one of them doesn't usually advertise publicly. The unintended failure of the sign is probably not something that others are going to pick up on, but is a good example of foresight, or lack thereof.

Have a good weekend, folks. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In Which I Tie In

I was going to recycle this post at some point this month, but what better time is there to post this than after what I put up on Monday? Enjoy.

---


For some, this is the season in which
we should all be jolly,
and deck all of our halls with
obligatory boughs of holly.

For others it is the time
to simply drive around
and see the decorations
others have strung up over town.

Some displays are tasteful,
with twinkling lights serene.
Others have gone overboard,
creating a yuletide murder scene.

There's a poor inflatable Rudolph,
he's bleeding air over by the stairs,
and all of the other reindeer look
like they might have been attacked by bears.

Electric candy canes light up
a short makeshift runway,
but with no one on the ground to land it,
there's not much left of the sleigh.

There's a melted plastic Santa Claus
who looks like he's high on weed.
Across the lawn there is a manger that,
for repair, there is a great need.

The Nativity looks like a porno set,
with Mary and Joseph doing things obscene
while the three Wise Men look on, greedy-eyed.
They'll need more than holy water to get clean.

And underneath it all,
if you look at it really up close,
you'll see remnants of last Halloween
complete with witches, spiderwebs, and ghosts.

As for me, I stick to the basics:
a few simple stockings and a tree.
But when Christmas is done, I'll be the one
burning it in my backyard with glee.

---

To each his or her own, and to all a good night.

(Originally posted here.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

In Which I See Giant Genitalia

If you haven't already put decorations up outside your house for the holidays, let me pass on to you a warning: Think of what your handiwork is going to look like in the dark before you set about stringing up the lights. 

I present to you Exhibit A, a representation of what the front of a certain house in my neighborhood looks like. Harmless, quaint, and decorated with clear lights on the front shrubs and around the door.




As the sun sets and darkness prevails, this innocent and classic decoration takes a sharp turn as Exhibit B.




Well, now. Happy Holidays to you, too. We all like to get big packages around Christmastime, but this is taking that a bit too far. 

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, December 9, 2011

In Which I Define (Again)

After my last post (which I thought to be a bit clever), I had no intention of doing another post immediately following in which I'd define something else. And then I saw this outside the main entrance of the building where I work, and couldn't pass it up.

EXISTENTIALISM (noun): 1. a philosophy that places emphasis on individual existence, freedom, and choice, stressing the individuality of existence.


While I freely admit that this humble trashcan is welcome to its own opinion, this takes the pondering of one's own existence a bit too far. After all, I cannot state that I am not human and have it be accepted as such. You cannot dispute what you are, but only what your purpose may be. Thus, this trashcan, designated to hold a delicate sand/rock-salt mixture for the icy entrance area to the building, cannot claim to be anything else other than a trashcan. The only thing that is fluid is what it can be used for.

I'm guessing that the groundskeeper for my office was frustrated with pulling trash out of his over-sized sand bucket, and that his anger kept him from putting much thought into this message. Little did he know that it would spark a philosophical conversation that I would put way too much thought and effort into.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In Which I Define

TACT (noun) [takt]: 1. a sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations. 2. knowing what is appropriate or tasteful.

Basically, not this:




I found this sitting on a shelf in the book section of a local discount store yesterday, and found it too awfully perfect. But more awful. I mean, they could at least help out and try to talk an otherwise depressed individual out of said hanging by offering up some positive thinking.


And that, my friends, is how we turn tactless into tactful.

Monday, December 5, 2011

In Which It'd Be a Tough Choice

While watching TV the other night, a commercial for Netflix came on. It touted the amazing ability to watch thousands of movies and TV shows online through your computer, smartphone, or gaming device. They made a big to-do about their $8.00-a-month cost, about how affordable it is, and generally carried on about their awesomeness. 

Right after the Netflix commercial ended, a commercial for the World Wildlife Federation came on. They showed stock clips of endangered tigers to a somber soundtrack, and beseeched the viewers for help in protecting their dwindling numbers. More stock footage of poachers was shown, and then we were shown the innocent face of a mother tiger and her cubs. Just when you're at your most vulnerable, they ask for a monthly donation. How much, you ask? $8.00.

As a consumer having watched both of these commercials, I was faced with a dilemma. Do I fork over eight bucks a month to watch movies and TV shows whenever I want, wherever I want? Or do I send out those same eight dollars each month be able to rest easy, knowing I'm helping to keep an endangered species safe from poachers? 

Netflix or tigers? Mindless entertainment or warm fuzzies?

It's a quandary.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, December 2, 2011

In Which I Get Back Into It

A little bit over a year ago I started sharing bits of a story I had begun work on. I had an unexpected sick day home with Baby Badass yesterday, and while she was taking a nap I stumbled across this. It intrigued me, and since I had shared pieces of it before, I figured I'd share some more. 

---

Being the head nurse at Spring Meadow Psychiatric and Long-term Care Hospital was not the career Russell Miller had always envisioned for himself, but it paid the bills. With what he made on the side from selling what he could snatch from the on-site pharmacy and supply closet, he lived a pretty comfortable life. He never went hungry, which was a pretty big statement for a man of his girth. 

He was a tall man who wasn't always overweight. He towered over most with his 6-foot 6-inch frame, and in his younger years he was pretty lean. He got his green eyes from his mother, and his prominent chin from his father. Women were naturally attracted to him, and he used that to his advantage. He never was the kind of person to let someone get too close, because he knew that if he did, someone would notice that something had changed within him, but no one could put a finger on it until it was much too late. 

Russell Miller was introduced into the life of being a caregiver when his mother fell ill. He had just turned eighteen a few months before when he got the call at his job at Hamilton's only full service gas station, a two-pump facility named Skip's Fill Up. It was his mother's boss at the Country Kitchen bread factory in Lewiston. 

“You better get yourself over to the hospital, son,” her boss had said. “Your mother took a spill on her coffee break. Think it was a heart attack. The ambulance has already come and taken her over to CMMC.”

He skipped out of work with barely a word to Skip Preston, the owner and namesake of the station, and made it to Central Maine Medical Center just as Ethel Miller was being wheeled into surgery. Hours later, the surgeon who pulled the clot from her brain told Russell about the stroke. 

Ethel's poor diet and her habits of whiskey and cigarettes had likely caused the blood clot that snaked it's way up into her brain. It wedged its way on up until it fully blocked a blood vessel in her brain, and Ethel collapsed in the Country Kitchen break room, shattering her Employee Of The Month porcelain mug. Apparently forty years of hard liquor and chain-smoking cigarettes can take a toll on a person. 

The benefits Ethel had from her job at Country Kitchen only went so far. Russell picked up extra shifts at the Fill Up when he could to cover the difference, but when it became apparent that she would never fully recover, Russell made the choice to move her home. 

He hired a part-time nurse to tend to his mother while he worked. The nurse looked after Ethel during the day, and Russell and took care of her at night. What he didn't know how to do, the nurse showed him. With Ethel's left-side paralysis, brain damage, and incontinence, there was a lot to be done, but Russell did it all with no complaint.

Russell's mother was all that he had. His father left town when he was still in diapers, so from an early age it was just the two of them. Money was always tight, even with only two mouths to feed, but Ethel saw to it that her only child had what he needed. She was a hard woman but she loved her son fiercely, and he loved her the same right back.

As a growing adolescent, Russell knew how hard his mother worked to provide for the both of them. He once offered to drop out of school so he could work, to help share the load and take some of the burden from her. When he suggested this one night over dinner, Ethel reached across the table and slapped him across the face.

“Don't you even think about leaving school, Russel James Miller!” she exclaimed. Whenever she spoke to him using all three of his names, Russell knew he was in trouble. “Education is your only way out of this mess. It's gonna be your ticket to college, and to a better life.”

And so he had stayed in school, studying hard to make his mother proud. His efforts earned him an academic scholarship to the University of Maine in Farmington. His first semester was just a few weeks away when the stroke happened.

Russell hadn't even given his scholarship and his pending college career a thought when he made the decision to bring his mother home. All he knew was that he couldn't afford for her to stay in the hospital, so home she went. When his neighbors and other people from Hamilton learned of what had happened, they all told Russell what an admirable thing he was doing.

For a long time, Russell wasn't at all bitter.

He dealt with the constant financial pressure of home care easily enough. He worked hard to keep the roof over their heads, and refused to let people help out or take assistance from the State of Maine. Russell Miller wasn't raised on welfare, and he'd be damned if he'd let his mother become dependent upon it, either.  

Everything they had Russell worked hard for. And for four years, Russell was the primary caregiver for his disabled mother. He grit his teeth through countless messy diaper changes, and force fed her hundreds of pureed meals. It was probably his young age and lack of life experience that led him to feel that if he did a good enough job taking care of her, maybe she'd get better. Her prognosis was made clear by the doctors at the hospital before her discharge, but Russell pulled that from his mind. If he kept working hard to provide for her, maybe he'd wake up one morning and find her in the kitchen making breakfast like she had done when he was younger. If he changed enough diapers or swapped out her IV lines more gently, maybe she'd at least stop drooling out of the hanging corners of her mouth and shitting in her rubber underwear.

But by the time Russell turned 22, nothing had changed with his mother's condition. The summer before she died she had developed a nasty set of bedsores, huge crusty wounds that oozed with pus. The daytime caregiver suggested that she be admitted to CMMC, but Russell demanded that she stay at home.

At this point, Russell began to realize that his fantasies of his mother recovering weren't ever going to happen. He had been fooling himself to think that she'd get better after this long. If anything, she was getting worse. She wasn't ringing the bell anymore.

One of his crowning achievements as a caregiver for his mother was that he taught her how to signal for help. On the secondhand hospital bed that dominated their small living room, Russell used a spare IV hook and hung a brass bell from it. He ran a length of string from the bell to a cloth band that fit over her wrist. He taught her to move her arm when she needed something, which rang the bell and sent Russell or the daytime nurse running. But now, with Ethel plagued with bedsores, the bell hadn't rang in weeks.

Bitterness began to seep in. Seeing all of his efforts to make his mother better be in vain turned a part of Russell's soul black. He began to get angry at his mother.

It was because of her that he lost out on his chance to go to college. All of his old classmates had gone and come back by now, their pictures showing up in the Lewiston Sun newspaper in their graduation gowns and caps, holding diplomas that made the rest of the world theirs for the taking. If only his mother hadn't had that stroke, Russell would have seen his picture in the paper as well.

For the month preceding his mother's death, Russell's life became a constant symphony of “if only”. If only she hadn't had the stroke, he could have gone to college. If only she hadn't drank so much. If only she hadn't smoked so much. If only, if only, if only. Russell's black soul twisted these thoughts around in his mind.

It became clear to his bitter mind that this was all his mother's fault. It was because of her that he worked his hands to the bone each day to be able to pay for her medical expenses. It was because of her that he missed out on college, and not just the education but the better paying career that it would provide. Russell was still pumping gas at the Fill Up, filling the tanks and washing the windshields of his old classmate's cars when they came to town. The way they looked at him made Russell's blood boil. Resentment for his ruined life settled into his heart, and one day an idea came into his mind. An idea that would be the solution to all of his problems.

Right from the beginning of her illness, the doctors at the hospital weren't sure of how coherent she was. The stroke had left a good portion of her brain without oxygen for a very long time, leaving only enough of functioning to run the basic systems of life support. The doctors were only sure of two things: her heart was still sound and she could breathe on her own. Everything else was presumably gone.

Knowing his mother as well as he did, Russell knew there was still something there. It was in her eyes. Most of the time they were blank and glazed over, her pupils dilated unevenly and glassy. There were times, though, where something would return. It was like an invisible lens had been retracted, and her eyes sparkled hazel green like Russell always remembered. The moments when her brain grasped onto whatever fragment of lucidity it could find were few and far between, happening only a handful of times since she had been brought home.

On the night that Russell killed his mother, her mind had mercilessly cleared. For the first time in years, she could feel everything.

As he stood over her, holding the pillow that he would use to smother her, he saw her eyes change. That invisible lens pulled back from her eyes, and she looked almost like her old self, despite her withered and frail frame. She moaned as she rolled her eyes up to look at her son.

“Welcome back, mother,” Russell said in a low voice. It was nighttime, and Ethel heard the crickets singing through the open window near her head. A small breeze lifted the curtain up, and it brushed against her forearm as it fell. The sensation set her nerves on fire.

Her mind, while the clearest that it had been since her stroke, was still considerably foggy. It was bombarded with signals from all of the nerves in her body, waking up from their long period of dormancy and relaying information that felt like bursts of radio static. Being able to feel again was overwhelming and exhilarating. Her mind spun dizzily. Trying to keep up with it all was like trying to follow every conversation in a crowded train terminal.

Waves of sound rushed into her mind, stealing her focus for a moment. She realized that she was recalling all of the words spoken around her during the time she had been disconnected from her body. It all came at once, jumbled together and chaotic. She mostly could only pick out her sons voice. It started out being kind and patient, and then it was laced with anger and hatred.

“Its been four years, mother. For four years I've been busting my hump to keep you alive. Four years of feeding you with a spoon. Four years of paying for a nurse to watch you during the day. Four years of wiping your ass and scrubbing clean that fucking rubber diaper. Lucky for me I work in a gas station, because gasoline is about the only thing that covers up the smell of your shit.”

Russell took a step closer and adjusted his grip on the pillow. His hands were getting sweaty with nerves.

“I lost out on everything because of you. Everything. I'm the laughingstock of this town... All because of you.”

Ethel finally understood why her son was holding a pillow. The anger and bitterness in her son's eyes was unmistakable. She tried to cry out for help, but her mouth was drooping down in a funny angle and wouldn't cooperate. She worked her lips and made a few rasping, chuffing sounds, but that was all she could muster.  

Russell Miller locked eyes with his mother one last time before holding the pillow down over her face. She struggled weakly beneath his weight, and as her strength flagged, the corners of his lips curled up into an evil smirk. He bared his teeth in a wolfish grin when he felt the last of his mother's life shudder out of her, catching the moonlight through the window in a way that made them glow.

He removed the pillow from her face and placed it back under her head. Her eyes were open wide in frozen death, but he closed them like he had seen people do in television and movies. She had made a bit of a mess with her blankets and coverlet with her futile efforts to free herself, and Russell straightened things up as best he could.

He wouldn't want things to look suspicious when the nurse came around early the next morning.

---

If interested, here are the other excerpts I've shared (here, and here).

Have a good weekend, everyone.