Monday, July 31, 2017

New Terrain was your weekend? Since my last post on Friday(!) I had a roller coaster of mental health, which upon reflection makes me wonder if I might be bi-polar.

Friday night I felt okay. Commented on some blogs, caught up on some reading, and then went to bed early 'cause there was nothing on TV. My 5 year old has gym class Saturday mornings and so I stayed home with my 7 year old until they got back. Then, because I hadn't showered or dressed yet (and it was before noon) I went back to sleep for a bit. 

And when I woke up I still didn't feel like showering or getting dressed or waking up or doing anything, really. For reasons that can't be fully explained to "normals" like my wife, my mental state was in shambles.


I've mentioned before that my hobbies keep my mind occupied and away from dark, destructive thoughts. Well, my sports card collection is all sorted and I'm out of money. Also, we ran out of Mountain Dew and Monster late last week. And so by 2pm Saturday I was wandering aimlessly in my small, messy house at a complete loss for how to fill the next 8 to 10 hours.

I actually tried to go to bed again...but my body would not allow it. However, it would not allow me to do yard work, either. And my wife/kids hate it when I clean their things - even though every other room in the house is a FEMA-level disaster area, they will not let me clean the way that my A.D.D./Asperger's/probably just a neat freak because my mom owned an office cleaning biz brain knows how. They have many excuses reasons for this. But the simple fact is, I cannot stand to live in a filthy house, or sit in a filthy room, whereas they're totally cool with it. 

What they're not cool with is when I try to clean up their mess because within a minute of them walking into the newly-cleaned room, one of them will inevitably shout "What did you do with my ____?" And so, after finally learning my lesson, I have begun Operation Shutdown and trained myself to disregard even the smallest mess left by the females in my life - unless they leave a mess in my room. I still do the dishes and take out the trash but I no longer pick up their shit, and if I can't find something like the remote control or the tablet charger, I give up after a quick search.

What all this means is that I just wanted Saturday to end, and I actually wished it were Monday because at least I'd have a reason for getting out of bed - even if that reason was my crummy collections job. I honestly don't remember how I filled the afternoon/evening hours.. and it was two days ago. All I remember is pondering the meaninglessness of my existence a lot more than usual and wishing I had a (second) hobby.

Sunday is the only day all week that I don't have to wake up for any reason - but I had slept so much on Saturday that my body wouldn't let me stay in bed past 9am. I was a bit grumpy about this, but I soon forced my way out of my beleaguered mental state.

I still didn't have the physical energy to do yard work - and the last time I went out into the Life After People experiment that is my backyard I contracted poison ivy, scratched up my arms and legs, and my whole body was sore for the next three days. I considered walking a block or two to the store to purchase an energy drink, but two thoughts stopped me. The normal-functioning side of myself disliked the idea of using caffeine as a crutch (I do enough of that on work days) while the dysfunctional side of myself gave up on the notion of going out in public once I failed to find the exact pair of socks I wanted to wear.

Somehow I managed to convince myself not to waste both weekend days and so I ventured out into the backyard while wearing old socks with holes in them to build on the meager progress I had made two weekends ago. And you know what? I actually enjoyed it. D and I have owned this house for about eight years, and the backyard has always been a mess. We have a rusted old shed, a giant "Christmas" tree, and a row of bushes that shields us from our neighbors to the right. 

Our neighbors to the left have basically abandoned their house.

Apparently the house is owned by an elderly woman who lives somewhere else, yet refuses to sell the house nextdoor to us. She has (at least) one son, and I'm not sure why he doesn't live there, but once or twice a month the son will come and mow the lawn in the front yard only. Once a year he will rent a dumpster and dispose of the junk inside of the abandoned house. But they do nothing about the jungle growing in their backyard - and the trees drop seeds into our backyard, which quickly grow into thorned mini-trees all over our property.

When it rains - as it has far too often this season - the weedy thorn trees grow quite high and are too big to cut down with the lawnmower. Also, I obviously cant mow the lawn in the rain. So the backyard was quite a shitshow until recently, which is why I suddenly have an urge to maintain it. 

My father-in-law used to handle this kind of thing, often while D and I were working and my oldest daughter was in school. He had all the right tools, he knew what was poison ivy and what was just weeds, and he knew how to fix the lawnmower and/or weed whacker when it wouldn't work. But he wasn't the type of person to explain these things to me. I didn't even know how to turn on our hose, or if the lawnmower gas comes from the same place as car gas.

But now that he's gone, I've developed an interest in learning these things so that I can maintain my property. I still need help from the family (the fallen tree isn't going to chop itself) and I need to acquire some tools (I was using scissors to cut the weed-trees since we don't have gardening shears) but I may have found something with which to occupy myself on those days when I'm feeling completely worthless and detached.

Yorkshire Pudding, a.k.a. Yorkie, a.k.a. Y-to-tha-P asked me if I take any pictures, and after digging through D's pile of papers, coupons, and random gadget wires she finally found the camera cord so I could take some backyard pics and upload them.

This is the yard. The neighbors in the back fixed their fence today; the tree you see in pieces back there had collapsed on it (click to embiggen)

A corner view of the dead tree, and some branches I couldn't chop/carry:

 A closer look at the collapsed tree. It appears that the wood rotted out.

This is the right side of the yard, behind the "Christmas" tree. I still haven't cut down all this crap.

 Backyard of the abandoned house. See what we have to deal with?

The right side of our house is basically nothing, just this dumb staircase that bumps up against the neighbor's property.

As you can see, I've killed most of the weeds (but not all of 'em). My plan is to lay a tarp down and fill this with mulch or walking stones or something cheap to clean up this area.

If I am able to make any progress on my yard this summer I'll keep you posted. I'd consider these the "before" pictures - although I just mowed the lawn and did most of the difficult weed maybe these are the "after before" pics?

Hopefully this will go better than my plan to lose weight and eat healthy. It's a good thing I didn't take any "before" pics of that!


Friday, July 28, 2017


I have some random things in my head that aren't interesting enough for an entire blog post (I bought a 106 year old baseball card! I have poison ivy! I didn't take a nap today...yet) but my 7 year old daughter is bugging me to let her watch some Minecraft gamer video on YouTube and so I only have about an hour to write this. Which is probably a good thing, since I should really try to write shorter posts and focus more on commenting. 

I actually have a half-finished blog post in my head about how I never like what I write in a comment and so that's why I'm not commenting on blogs as often as I should - but I do read about a dozen blogs a day, and there's a good chance I've read your latest post and I just couldn't think of something decent to say. Because I hate my own words. 

Let's save that for another day. Right now I shall share my thoughts on the brand-new Fall Out Boy song/video "Champion". After hearing "Young & Menace" for the first (and only) time, I wasn't even excited that FOB released a new video, other than noting that it was fairly high on the YouTube trending chart (which I guess is like today's version of Billboard?) And then I saw this meme:

And then I thought welp that must mean this one's gonna be gooood. 

This is where I do another one of those running commentary things, like I've been known to do with Taryn videos. [I'm pressing play should do the same.]

Okay, so we've got two blokes sparring MMA-style. And the song is called "Champion" so I'm expecting another Jock Jam a la "Centuries"

Are you sure about that, Patrick? 

Anywho... back to "Champion" ...the song seems to fit along with "Young & Menace" on a theme of rage, frustration, adolescent trauma, feeling outcast or helpless or...I may be projecting here. But the video is kind of a mindtease, as the characters we see are virtual reality projections of another character's dreams. The MMA fighter is actually a high-strung (possibly coked-out) business guy, who is actually a stripper, who is actually... you get the idea.

if i could live through this, 
if i could live through this, 
if i could live through this
i can do anything

you will hear this chorus in commercials, movie trailers, and on the radio a hundred times this summer/fall  

Oh, look. They worked the album title into the video. Sneaky. (spoiler alert: it's the name of the tabloid)

Not sure why a cop would fantasize about being an award-winning actress. Being with an award-winning actress makes more sense  - which is probably why FOB didn't go that obvious route.

Yeah, cops, beat up a white guy for once! (Okay, I'm being unfair. I'm sure cops beat up white guys all the time. Right?)

The bully cop is actually a bullied kid. A bit cliche, but necessary. And it leads to my favorite scene - him and his friends jamming in a garage, having a blast. I dig that the singer is an African-American kid (we need more black rockers!) but his lip-synching could be better.

...which leads to Pete Wentz, backstage with his FOB mates. This is why I love the prior scene, the transition seems to indicate how much he misses the joy of just rocking out with his friends - without the pressures of fame. 

But being a world-famous rock star is cool, too. Ain't that right, Jaden Smith?

Oh man...I wonder what my favorite pop singer/VR enthuisiast would think about that last scene?

Well, it's 4pm and my daughter has been very patient so I'm going to let her take over the computer for a while...and maybe I'll take a nap ;-)

Hope you all have a great weekend!


Sunday, July 23, 2017


I went to a concert yesterday. it might be the last one I ever attend, so I thought I'd write about it. It's going to be a very long story so I'll spare you the preamble.

There was a dude who was in line with us before the show that was absolutely hilarious. I'll call him Drunk Guy because he was drinking and being very bold and friendly with everyone, but he wasn't sloppy or incoherent or anything. He will be the star of this story.

As you can see, the opening act was Pvris (which is apparently pronounced "Paris", according to the people around me.) They're a pretty decent band with a good amount of energy. Possibly something I'd listen to again. And they weren't too loud, which I was worried about since we were about five feet from the stage and there were two rows of speakers directly above us.

The lead singer was a spunky girl with very blonde, almost off-white hair (I overheard someone mention she was prviously in Metric?) who bounced onstage in a black tank top - and no bra. Drunk Guy was quite impressed by this, shouting at her randomly throughout their set. Nothing too awful, stuff like "I want to go to Paris!" though I think he said "take off your top" once. 

I always feel for the opening act because you know they're up on stage killing it for a half-empty crowd of people who have never heard of them. But they sure tried to get everyone into it. The singer would shout a call-and response at us "How's everybody doing tonight?!?" and after a couple back-and-forths in her powerful rocker chick voice she'd then change to this sweet girlish pitch to say "cool."

We were closest to the bass player, a Latino-looking dude who I really dug because a) he's a lefty(!) and b) even though he had double-duty playing a keyboard for a lot of their set he played the shit out of that bass, head-banging and flipping his long spongey curls almost to the ground. And the singer did help him out a bit by playing a couple keys (she also jumped onto the drum kit and banged out some beats up there.)

When their half-hour set was over, there was quite a bit of downtime before 30 Seconds To Mars. But there was a lot going on around me. A young foursome behind me was trying to elbow their way up to the front by bargaining with the "Muse people" saying "as soon as 30 Seconds To Mars is over, we'll be out of your way." They didn't try to get past me - or the good-looking girl to my left. Actually, there was a good-looking girl to my right, too. 

Drunk Guy was in my vicinity when we reconvened in the pit and someone must have indicated him to clear room for this girl and her older companion (which I will assume was her mom) because he turned around and said "oh, she's cute" Maybe he was talking to her mom, I dunno. But she definitely heard him and he definitely did not care. Hot Girl would soon use this to bargain with the guy, explaining that she wanted to get on stage when 30STM did their last song. Naturally he volunteered to carry her on his shoulders to catch Jared Leto's attention when the time came. Throughout the 45 minutes or so these two strangers were plotting to get her up there, and he insisted multiple times that he would do it.

So yeah, I was the rancid meat in a hot girl sandwich. At one point I imagined myself throwing an arm around each one and taking a douche selfie, but even if I wasn't there with my wife the hottie to my right was obviously preoccupied. 

This is where I have to tell you that the drunk guy was not particularly attractive - and the girl most definitely was. This dude was stocky but not fat, and balding but not quite bald. Just sort of an average guy who made himself the life of the party. He was macking on this girl hard, but not in a sexually suggestive way. Before and even during 30 Seconds To Mars, they were taking selfies together (the girl's mom was in a few) and exchanging e-mails. I'm looking at this guy like there is a 50% change he gets laid tonight, and if he can get her on stage next to Jared Leto, those odds might double.

The girl on my left was maybe a half-notch below her, just enough that'd I'd consider her "attainable hot." She was tan but not too tan, skinny but not too skinny, and her long curls were all different shades of blonde, like the dye was halfway washed out or something. Because she was on my flank, I didn't get a decent look at her face, but I could tell she had pretty eyes cause her lashes were very long. And she wore these red Chuck Taylors that I love so much I gave them to Amber in my unfinished Lighthouse novel.

Attainably Hot Girl seemed to be there alone, but because I was there with D (and not filled with liquid courage) D talked to her a lot more than I did. The constant shuffling of the crowd coupled with my aching legs caused me to bump into her a couple times (giggidy) and so at one point I felt the need to tell her and anyone else around me "I'm sorry if I bump into you." She understood. [After the show, D would tell me that she was very nice, which was both reassuring and frustrating. Also, she was there with a female friend who was closer to the front.]

By this point I was becoming aware of the puddle of water on the ground beneath my feet. At first I thought that someone had spilled their cup, but there was far too much water. It was everywhere. And though it did rain during Pvris, it was little more than a sprinkle. This was a good three inches of water we were all standing in - and I have no idea where it came from. 

The roadies were setting up the stage for 30 Seconds To Mars (or, according to one roadie's shirt, Thirty Seconds To Fucking Mars) Drunk Guy was being a jokester, calling them "Ten Seconds to Saturn" and saying he didn't know any of the songs but Jared was great in Dallas Buyer's Club. "Have you seen that? He won an Oscar for that. Did you know he won an Oscar?" He said to a pack of women who were obviously superfans. 

Meanwhile, a girl at the very front of the pit was taking pics of a buff, tatted-out Asian roadie. As she's giggling and snapping away I can see her friend give her this look like she's insane. Despite the fact that I had been sorta-kinda checking out the fine females nearby I whispered to D "Women are just as bad as men." 

After a good amount of people-watching and people-listening I suddenly became aware of what the roadies were holding and unrolling before us. Wires. And lots of 'em. And we were standing less than ten feet away. In water. I guess the barrier was raised enough so that the water and the wires were in no danger of electrocuting all of us. But still.

30 Seconds To Mars burst onto the stage - and boy did the women around me lose their minds. "Up In The Air" was the first song they played, and Jared came out in this shiny white collared coat, with a full hockey-player beard and his blue eyes bugging out. I don't know if it was the lighting or what, but he kinda looked like a cartoon character. D got some great pics and video - not that I asked her to, but I know her sister will appreciate it. 

I had heard that Jared really likes to get the crowd to sing - and he was constantly telling us to jump, get our hands up, etc... after the third time he said "hands up" I thought to myself wouldn't it be funny if we all shouted back "don't shoot!" Alternately I felt a little uncomfortable responding to all of Jared's commands, especially after he got everyone to chant This Is War to start the song of the same name, then proceeded to pose after singing the lyric referring to the messiah in his Jesus robe and beard, with a crowd of women screaming for him. Yeeahh.

Anywho, they played a fairly short set of songs I knew (except for one mellow tribute to Chester Bennington which he played from the far end of the catwalk.) 

As their set was winding down Jared spotted a fan on the opposite side of us holding a sign for him to call her up on stage. He read the sign aloud then jokingly said "No, sorry." And when he smiled to indicate he was kidding she started to walk toward him. But then he said something like "I didn't say yes," before finally saying "Aw fuck it, come on up." 

This was the cue Hot Girl and Drunk Guy had been waiting for. He crouched down and she awkwardly climbed on his back, then sat on his shoulders. By this point there was a guy on stage with Sign Girl, and before we knew it Jared was just picking people left and right - not all of them were girls, either. Some of our pit neighbors were pointing and shouting for Jared's attention to pick Hot Girl, but he never really glanced our way. A hundred people were on stage by the time he was done, none of them were Hot Girl. I shook my head at Drunk Guy

..but he did all he could. Near the end of the set, Jared asked the crowd if we're ready for Muse (or, in his words Muuuusssee!!) And when I shouted Yeeaahh! with both hands raised over my sweat-soaked 30 Seconds To Mars shirt Drunk Guy tapped me "You're here for Muse?" he said. I told him I like both bands, which made me feel odd - though the only people who left after 30STM's set were the young foursome who promised they would do so.

Before Muse took the stage the crowd had shifted and people had wedged themselves in and out until I was separated from D by at least one person. I was rapidly dehydrating and losing what little energy I had left. My knees were aching, my throat was bone dry, and I was still standing in water, which my shoes and socks were absorbing like a sponge. I looked at my wrinkled fingers and asked myself What are the symptoms of dehydration?

The pit was filling up with more people; at one point Hot Girl seemed to indicate to Drunk Guy that more people were coming. I thought they were friends of hers, but he bear-hugged them as they came forward, so maybe they were his crew. They ended up on my right, and I couldn't tell if I was smelling their sweat or my own - but it seemed to be getting hotter as the night went on. This was the sixth time I would see Muse live; I've never seen another band more than twice. And so I resigned myself to the fact that this was not going to be fun.

I was so aware of my sweaty clothes and hair that I no longer wanted to bump into Attainably Hot Girl. I couldn't drink the water around my feet, but if I could crouch down and rub some on my arms and face I might be able to cool off a bit. So I tried it, and naturally splashed her red Chucks enough that she turned to look at me like What are you doing?  

The clock on someone's phone read 9:09, and I assumed that Muse would play about 12 songs. Just hang on 'til 10:30, and then we'll have Gatorade. You can do this!

The first song Muse played was their new single, "Dig Down":


The second song they played was, um... I don't remember. I was staring glass-eyed past the action onstage, at a gap in the screen between drummer Dominic Howard and lead singer Matt Bellamy. This was to be my "safety check"; I was legit worried that if I reached total dehydration my vision would start blurring and swirling in a haze, and I needed to focus on something that would not move. 

I spent the next hour frantically trying to gather any saliva I had in my mouth and nonchalantly rubbing it on my dry, cracked lips. I was worried they'd turn pale pink. My knees were giving out from hours of standing on line before the show and my stomach was growling from not eating in eight hours. But I wasn't hungry. I was thirsty. Sooo thirsty.

The next ten songs were a blur. I know they played "Plug In Baby" and "Hysteria" at some point, but the only memory I had of them is the voice in my head counting That's five. That's six. And so on. At one point I realized that D was now at least four people away from me. She looked back and mouthed the words "You okay?" I didn't want to tell her "No" since my father-in-law had said that just before he died, but I needed her to know I was fighting it. So I shrugged my "no" instead. 

Ten songs in, my legs were about to give out. I was dangerously low on saliva and the cinnamon gum I had been chewing to generate some more (and to distract me) was burning a hole in my tongue. Eleven songs, then twelve. I considered it a challenge to get through the night without using the bathroom, but that was nothing. If I could get through the end of Muse's set without having to duck out for a drink I deserved a fucking medal. Or at least a giant bottle of Gatorade.

When Muse played "Time Is Running Out" I could see the finish line - especially when the balloons and streamers popped. Confetti fell from the sky, mixing with droplets of rain that wasn't nearly enough to keep me hydrated - but it helped cool me off a tiny bit. 

But then, instead of ending the show they slowed it down a bit. Oh no. Not the Globalist. That's a ten minute song! And it's not a song they would end their show with. Also, it was their fifteenth fucking song (I think?). I'm not gonna make it.

And I didn't. Muse ended the show with Knights of Cydonia - another epic length track - and I had to squeeze my way out of there. No way was I going to faint and fall to the ground during the grand finale, only to be trampled on as everybody heads for the exits.

When I wormed my way through the crowd to the outer aisle I could barely feel my legs. There was so much pressure on my knees that I expected them to buckle any second but they held up - barely. I held the rail along the water's edge - is that where all the water came from? - and stretched my legs. I still couldn't drink anything, and I was unable to reach D to signal her. But at least I could breathe the cool ocean air.

A security guard noticed me, then an EMT. He shouted through the music "Are you okay?" I told him I was. "Have you had too much to drink?"

Uh... no. 

I couldn't let the medics take me away, since D didn't know I had wandered off at all. When the show mercifully ended and the crowd cleared out I tried to find my way back to where I was. The lights came on, making it easier to see my way through - but that was offset by the fact that the people around me had obviously vacated their spot. Eventually she found me, and I told her I was dehydrating and in desperate need of a drink.

We made it to the concourse, and stood in line at a beer stand that also sold bottled water (for $7.50) Unfortunately they sold the last one right in front of us, and they only had a bottle or two of Diet Pepsi left. I told D to forget it (I'd rather die than make her pay $7.50 for Diet Pepsi) and we got ice cream instead. I sat and savored my vanilla soft serve cup (only $6.00) while D stood in line for t-shirts. There was a bathroom nearby with a water fountain, and when I finished my ice cream (the thickness was soothing but not thirst-quenching) I headed over there. After lapping up some metallic tasting water I stood in the bathroom stall and watched as my once wrinkled fingers returned to their natural state. I was healing. 

Fortunately, D planned ahead and left a cooler bag of bottled water in the car. Unfortunately, she was unable to purchase a t-shirt before the place closed, and couldn't use the bathroom, either. For some reason the concert goers were only given 10-15 minutes to clear out, and the indecisive girls in the t-shirt line ahead of D sucked up every second. 

I chugged my bottle of water before we got back on the road, and took a few deep breaths. Took off my soaked socks and shoes, but left my shirt on. The long, winding parkways of Long Island were difficult to navigate in the dark (there's one called the Southern State Parkway which sounds odd given that New York is a northern state - but I told myself it was named after Taryn Southern. tee hee.) 

obligatory Taryn pic because i am an immature fifteen year old boy

Before we were even certain of where we were, it started to rain. Hard. The kind of rain I was wishing for during the show. The kind of rain that makes it impossible to drive through without splashing the car next to you. Driving on an unfamiliar, unlit highway road in a flash flood was not fun. But once we got past Brooklyn things calmed down a bit. 

D and I discussed the show, and I really didn't want my drama to dampen her night so I focused on the good stuff. The Line Lady in the parking lot, who barked at everyone to get in the proper line and sounded like Melissa McCarthy-as-Sean Spicer shouting at the press. Drunk Guy chatting her up (like a fan, not a flirt) and eventually getting her to break character and smile. The soccer scarf he bought just to get the attention of Chris Wolstenhome, the Muse bassist who hailed from the same hometown as this obscure second-or-third division club (Chris saw the scarf and pointed directly at Drunk Guy.) D informed me that he eventually threw the scarf to Chris, who held it proudly as he left the stage (I missed that while dehydrating, but D has it on video.) 

And then we talked about all the girls who went crazy for Jared Leto, including the young girl who was chosen to stand/sit on stage and cried as he walked by her. Then I mentioned the girl who didn't get up on stage - despite Drunk Guy's best efforts. I told D that I bet he's getting laid tonight anyway. That's when she told me that she overheard Hot Girl talking about the husband and two kids she has at home - and how this was her first concert on her own since seeing Bon Jovi (date/year unknown.)

And yet here she is, taking selfies and exchanging e-mail info with an average-looking dude, just so she can get closer to a much, much better looking dude. Her husband is going to see those pics and say "Who the fuck is this guy?"

I tell ya, women are no better than men. 

Also, I wish I drank alcohol like I drink Mountain Dew and Monster. I would have macked on Attainably Hot Girl so hard.

Just kidding... 



Sunday, July 2, 2017

Acts of God

I don't necessarily want to make this post about God, but it seemed like an appropriate way to frame this incredibly long story what the hell?

A short time ago I had sold things on eBay in order to acquire enough cash to buy a more expensive thing that I otherwise would not be able to afford. Ten other people were watching the auction of the thing that I wanted, and it was the least expensive example of the thing that I had seen in quite some time. 

The things I had sold left me about $50 short of the thing, which was a manageable amount to charge to the credit card. However, that was based on the assumption that I would be paid for the two things that I had sold on eBay prior to buying my thing. Buyer number one paid me $32 immediately, but after three whole days I had not received the $95 from my second buyer, and so I was faced with the decision to either buy the thing I wanted and assume I would be paid shortly thereafter (eBay warns non-paying bidders after two days) or allow the thing I wanted to fall into the hands of someone who actually had the money to pay for the thing.

I chose the first option. I bought the thing. Because life is short and I wanted the thing and I felt that I had suffered enough this year so I deserved some retail therapy.

I waited one more day for my $95 payment to arrive so I could pay for the thing that I had agreed to buy. That payment did not come. Six months earlier I had sold something on eBay for a nice chunk of change (about $70 or so) and the seller flat-out refused to pay. He told me so himself. Not because there was anything wrong with my item, mind you. He just didn't want it anymore. 

With that deadbeat bidder at the front of my mind, and a three-figure debt hanging over my head (oh, the irony) I could not sleep. And I did something I had not done in over a decade. 

I prayed.

Not for anything impossible or improbable or selfish*. I didn't even pray for a better job so that I could be a better provider for my family. I didn't want anything I wasn't entitled to already. Just make the man pay me the $95 for his item so I don't have to bankrupt my family over a baseball card. Kthx. 

*your definition of "selfish" may vary

I awoke the next morning to... a minor miracle. The seller had paid me late the night before, at 1:30am. Around the time that I had prayed.


Bleary-eyed from a lack of sleep (and my contact lenses) I went straight to my computer to happily pay for my thing. I only have to charge $50! This is great! Yay God!

And then...

After I pressed 'pay' I noticed something. eBay had defaulted my payment method to my credit card, bypassing PayPal altogether. The entire thing had been charged.

Oh, but the good lord was only warming up...

That Saturday was the end of my 7 year-old's soccer season and my 5 year-old's gym season. Initially the "soccer-rama" was scheduled to start at about the same time as the gym class and it would have been a logistical headache getting both girls ready for (and bringing them to) both things at the same time. Especially since I don't drive.

But by the end of the week soccer-rama had been rescheduled to start at 8:30 am, which is when it started last year. It's basically a one-day tournament in which all four teams play (abbreviated) games against each other while volunteers (including one very hot blonde volunteer) cook burgers, sausages, and other stuff and a DJ blasts kid-friendly hip-hop.

When the games were over all of the little girls from all of the teams danced to this dumb (but fairly harmless) song. My father-in-law couldn't help but complain "This is music?" He said to me, as every other parent filmed the dancing kids with their phones.

Once the trophies were awarded to the winning teams (definitely not my daughter's bunch of Bad News Bears) we had to hit the road for my five year-old's gym show. While everyone else headed for the car(s) I ducked into the school to use the little boy's room. When I left the school a minute later, a downpour had started. 

It's been a relentlessly rainy year here in Jersey, so this was no surprise. I was actually thankful that the rain had held off until after my daughter's games were over. Gym class was indoors, so it had all worked out okay. Until...

The girls wanted to go to their grandparents' house afterward. I was already exhausted from waking up early, and I expected that we'd go there the next day for Father's Day, so I decided to stay home. I took a nap, cleaned up a bit...turned my brain off for a while. 

My wife and kids came back a few hours later. "Uh..did you see the backyard?" 

I had not. I had no idea why she'd even ask that - until I looked outside the back window.

Our tree had split in the storm, and a large, thick branch had collapsed over the neighbor's nice white fence. (I'd post a pic but my phone broke.)

I hadn't heard the tree fall, nor the neighbor who had visited at least once and left us a note written on an index card and inserted into an envelope.

My wife called her father immediately and asked him what we do. Because he always knows what to do in these situations. He told us who to call, and we informed the neighbor. The insurance adjuster would be available Monday, and we'd deal with it then.

It was decided that since the girls had visited Poppy on Saturday we didn't have to go there on Sunday/Father's Day. In fact, this was the first weekend day in at least two months that we didn't have to go anywhere. That morning my daughters gave me their custom-created cards, and my wife started cleaning the living room. She had all of the girls' toys sorted into piles so that we could discard some of the ones they no longer play with.

I used that time to call my mother (on D's phone, since mine finally died the previous week, and we had yet to set aside the time or money to replace it) About ten seconds after I handed the phone back to D, the house phone rang. Her mother called. Frantic. One of those "get over here right away!!" calls.

Pop had been celebrating Father's Day with his other daughter. He had just opened a Father's Day card when a sudden stomach pain sent him into the bathroom. She asked if he was okay. He answered that question with an unfamiliar and frightening "NO!"

And then he fainted. His 6' 5", 300lb frame fell headfirst into the bathroom wall. 

An ambulance rushed him to the hospital. I stayed home with my daughters while his daughters tended to their fallen father. My seven year-old asked me "Is Poppy gonna die?" I didn't know. I told her that. 

Around 4pm the house phone rang. My wife called with an update. She said he was responsive in the ambulance. She held his face and told him she was there. He grunted and nodded in acknowledgement. I told my daughter Poppy's going to be okay. They're running some tests. Mommy will be home soon and Pop will be okay. He's a veteran. He's tough.

Later that night my wife called again. "He's gone."

Pop was the closest thing I've ever had to a father figure. He could be a grump at times and a goofball at times, and I wasn't always thrilled with the stuff he would teach my daughters, or the junk food he'd feed them. But he was the glue that held our family together. His daily child care allowed my wife to go to her time-sucking job an hour away and allowed me to go to my soul-sucking job a half hour away. He fixed anything that broke, took our car in for repairs, and paid for everything out of his own pocket. 

The weekend prior he had bought us two brand-new air conditioners and installed one in our living room. When I tried (and failed) to install the other one in my upstairs room, he did so the next day. I had asked D if he could maybe finally look into putting together the elliptical machine that my mom had bought for me last year. She said he had looked at it, but that it was more complicated than he thought and so he'd have to do that another day.

That day never came.

Every time Pop gave me a ride to or from work (which was at least once a week) we'd talk about baseball. None of his kids ever cared about baseball, and when he started collecting baseball cards from the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers his wife had no idea why "You don't like baseball." She said. But he did, he just never had anyone to share it with. And neither did I.

The last time we talked about baseball he had asked about Aaron Judge, the gigantic rookie slugger for the New York Yankees. He asked me how much a Judge rookie card would be worth, and if I had any. I told him I had one

I was too embarrassed to tell him that I had sold my best Judge rookie card for $500 last year - when it is now selling for five times that amount. I also never told him that the Judge card I kept was from the 2017 Topps Heritage set, which was an exact replica of his favorite set from 1968. 

It would have been fun to share this with him, but my wife doesn't want her parents to know how much money we spend on ourselves. I don't have a working phone, or new clothes (she had to buy some funeral attire for me) or my own dresser. My mattress is ten years old and has a giant crater right under my lower back (as if I didn't have trouble sleeping already.) The living room couch is nearly as old, and even more damaged. I told D I'd buy her one for our anniversary but, as always, she declined. She said her father had mentioned that he'll get us a new couch sometime soon.

When I told my mother that Pop died, she offered to come to NJ and watch the girls so D and I could go to the wake, the funeral, and any other family functions. My mom will be 75 this year. She's overweight and her knees are shot. She can barely walk without a cane, and she can't drive too far out of her town. My sister had to drive her here, drop her off, and drive back to Connecticut.

Mom brought bags of clothes, food, and a blow-up mattress with her. What she didn't bring was her medication. She was even more achy and tired than usual. Her blood pressure was way up, despite the fact that the girls went to all the family funeral stuff and she didn't watch them as much as she'd thought.

The funeral was Friday, and it was muggy as hell. Mom was a sweaty mess in the church and after she rejected my offer of water four times I finally got up and fetched her a cup. I took a long look around the room - my father in law lying in a coffin in front of me, my mother dehydrating next to me. Holy shit. This is a dress rehearsal. This is practice.

The big one is coming. Once my mother goes.. that's it. Game over. I got next.

As it is, I can count on one hand all of the things that bring me joy in this world:

My daughters even though they fight and they don't listen and they're on YouTube way too much - especially my 7 year old, who spazzes out if she cant play Minecraft or watch Minecraft-related videos. 

Baseball cards even though D continually guilt trips me about any purchase over $10. I've consolidated much of my collection, narrowed my focus, and sold a great deal of great cards (often prematurely) to self-fund, because I cannot and will not stop collecting. It is the beating heart of my meager existence. 

Fall Out Boy even though I listened to their new song exactly once and have no plans to buy their forthcoming album. Also, D informed me sometime last year that we have free concert tickets due to some class action lawsuit against Ticketbastard and she asked me if I wanted to go see FOB when they were in NJ. I decided I was too old and uncool for that crowd, and so I passed.

Caffeinated beverages which is pretty much Monster at this point, since I've lost my taste for colas, and Mountain Dew is starting to wear on me. Apparently Monster discontinued my favorite flavor because I can't find it anywhere anymore. But I still buy the other ones, because it's nearly impossible to get through a work day without one.

Sleeping which is much harder to do on my worn-out mattress. After another argument with the wife last night about how we can't afford a new bed/couch because I can't stop spending money.. I decided to flip my mattress over rather than simply turning it around. That seemed to work okay - for one night, at least.

There are some things that can be occasionally enjoyable, depending on my mood. And then there are other things that I've lost my passion for, such as:

Writing/blogging which I'm never able to do anymore because I'm constantly busy and/or interrupted. I've been writing this since noon, and I know it's waaay too long, but I've had a lot on my mind and I'm not sure if/when I'll write again. Four day weekends don't grow on trees - and even if they did, the tree would probably collapse in a storm and all the four day weekends would blow away. I had hoped to return only when I had something positive to report, but apparently that's never going to happen.

Sports I rarely even watch the games anymore, and I can't remember the last time I looked at the standings. My father in law knew more about who had won the night before than I did. "The Tigers won, the Red Sox won, and the Yankees lost. Great day!" I'm pretty much done with hockey, for reasons I won't bore you with. A major hockey card and memorabilia purge is well underway. 

Taryn My previously cynical view of so-called "internet celebrities" has reasserted itself. A few months ago she dropped a couple hints on Instagram that had me on the edge of my seat. I really wanted to know what was going on with her (I had even planned to write a blog post addressed to Sam Lupin asking for her expert medical opinion) but Taryn never explained herself. Well, that's not exactly correct. She apparently decided to share whatever it was on Instagram Stories, not YouTube. I do not have access to Instagram Stories. I was quite annoyed. 

And then she did the same thing with a second topic. After weeks of not posting any videos on YouTube she promised one would be coming soon. Finally she bestowed upon us a video about... Trump's tweet typo. Bor-ring. (Also, when some of her followers suddenly discovered that the "Hot 4 Hillary" girl had political opinions that didn't jive with their own they spewed venom at her - and her half-hearted defense was disappointing.)

It's like...if you're trying to please your audience, then be more present and accessible. If you're just going to travel the world, drinking fine wine and staying in five-star hotels then why do you care if some asshat decides to unfollow you? (Also, how the fuck does she have the coin for this kind of lifestyle? She's a "content creator" who hardly ever creates content. Who pays these social media stars anyhow?)

At least she distracted me from obsessing over Joy. I still peek at her Insta from time to time, just to see what's up. She moved from a blue state to a red state and she posted a workout video which got an alarmingly low like/dislike rate. In fact a comment someone left on her video got as many likes as the vid itself - and I dont think "holy hell you're skinny" was meant as a compliment.

I think of her a lot less than I used to, but I've always wondered how she can trust in God through all the dark times in her life. She's still single (which is a sin in and of itself) and I assume she's still dealing with her mental and physical health issues - though she's got a hell of a lot going for her. 

What does she think of God when innocent people are murdered in a school, or a church, or a movie theater? What does she think about the crumbling discourse in our country, the total lack of respect and empathy we have for anyone who has differing opinions, the countless ways that technology (which Taryn has so much faith in) can destroy our social skills, our democracy, and our society? What the hell does she think about our godless "leader" and those that obey his every word above all else (like some of my in-laws.)

This is why I'll never forget Joy. Because long after any personal feelings for her have faded, and long after I've stopped envying her health and fitness regimen, and long after I've lost the need to know what's going on in her life, I will take stock of my life and wish that I had her optimism, her resiliency, her faith.