3 Thoughts in November

Thought 1: In Paris

Eiffel TowerI was in Paris for only two days. This was at the end of my six-week European adventure, the stereotypical college graduate trying to discover himself and the world.

My trip had begun in London and I spent a majority of my time in England, but my flight to return to the states was from Paris. So (possibly because of bad planning) I ended up in the City of Love exhausted and broke.

I didn’t drink little coffees by the apartment of Hemingway, I didn’t travel the same paths of Fitzgerald. I may have visited the Notre Dame and the Louvre, but today I can’t be certain. For my memories might be nothing more than a picture I saw in a magazine or something from a show or movie. Yes, I might have stolen my memory of the city. I can say with certainty I didn’t go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I walked past it, took a picture, and felt that was enough. It was like a box was checked in my head.

Honestly, I should have cared more. There is a lot of family lore connecting me to France. I can’t verify any of this but as the story goes through my family, on my mother’s side, I have French nobility in my blood. We were the ones that were smart enough to figure out that it wasn’t worth it to stick around during the French Revolution, scampering away to Ireland. Those very streets might have been walked by my ancestors! Of course, if they were nobility they were probably driven around in carriages and didn’t peer out of the windows at the riff-raff (which is exactly what I was as I stumbled around those streets poor and alone).

Instead, I spent most of my time sleeping on the bumpy bed (the bumps I remember) of the cheap hotel I had a room in. When I got up, after sleeping for 12 hours, I was starving. I was so financially spent by this point in my trip I was almost dreading my return to the States. My parents might be waiting for me at the airport, but I imagined also the credit card companies there as well with something the opposite of a hug. So when I wandered to the little restaurant under the hotel my choices were very limited.

Of course, everything on the menu was in French. And since France was not the big focus of my trip (England! Shakespeare! Authors! Venice!) I didn’t bring a French dictionary with me. I was, sadly, the typical dumb American tourist. I admit it. I ended up pointing at the one thing on the menu that had a word in it that I could translate: Ham. Continue reading

Snapshots of Decades: A Birthday Blogpost

Super BirthdayTurning 41

It’s my birthday and I am reading Stephen King again.

I do the book reviews for my local NPR station and I knew I would have to take on this very popular author at some point. After a year and a half and over 30 reviews the moment had finally arrived. A copy of his newest novel landed on my porch from his publisher (three weeks before its official release). They want my review. So be it.

I had an aunt growing up that was obsessed with Stephen King. My aunt in some ways was a King creation waiting to happen. She had fiery red hair; a loud, almost shrieking voice; and many of us kids were scared of her. When she got mean, she got really mean. I always did my best to avoid her, never spending the night at her house, trying to avoid being in the same room with her for too long. My aunt would spend her days either on the phone (always complaining), chewing gum or drinking Pepsi (she drank a lot of Pepsi), and reading Stephen King. When I was in 7th grade, she, for some reason, noticed me and gave me a pile of her Stephen King books to read.

I was not impressed and told her as much when I returned the pile a few months later. Rude of me? Yeah, probably.

We spoke even less after that.

Yet, here it is, 28 or so years later and I am once again reading King and I feel like it is a time capsule to that old me, right then. Mainly, it’s because King sounds exactly the same. His voice/prose hasn’t matured, even the plot and characters feel the same as those other books. I’m guessing for many of his fans (including my aunt) it feels like returning to a home.

For me, I see the cobwebs and I wonder why no one has done any cleaning… Continue reading

So-So-So (3 Days to 40)

Birthday CakeSo I was at the grocery store buying my wife a bottle of wine. The cashier (a broad-shouldered, older woman with a haircut reminiscent of something you would see in a lumberjack camp) took my ID. She looked at me, looked at my ID and then looked at me again. Immediately, I was overcome with a feeling of dread at the conversation coming.

“You got a birthday coming up,” she began. She sounded like a smoker, or she had a cold. Either way, her voice was rougher and deeper than mine. When I speak to people that have voices deeper than my own it always makes me feel like a kid and I should use words like “ma’am” and “sir.”

“Yup,” I replied simply. I hoped my short response with a word that wasn’t really even a word would end the discussion…. it didn’t.

“A big one,” she said with an evil smile. The smile was a tad disconcerting.

“Yes,” I  said with a nod. There was then this awkward pause.  Her, holding my license and smiling; me, doing my best not to make eye contact. After what felt like a minute, I added, “I’m trying not to think about it.” Continue reading

The Historical Resonance of Turning Two

With a baby...Sentimentality runs thick in my family. It has always been that way, carrying on that tradition from my parents to me. And when a holiday or family event arrives at our door, the past always arrives with it, shaking the snow off its boots, an escapable addition at the table.

Every Christmas tree is compared to a past tree, every gathering being a moment to remember those no longer there, and birthdays are always tainted with the feeling of a time gone that will never return.

This is not a bad thing.

In a way it adds to my family’s experiences along this mortal coil, since we view time and moments in such a special light. So at any event, look for me with the video camera trying to chase something down that can’t be chased down; the elusive kernel of a pure, real instant.

Every giggle, every dance, every story of my kids, I want to capture it, knowing that someday, with my sentimentality sitting beside me on the couch I will want to view it again… and again… and again…

That time that is just about to slip away. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Jane Austen_ImageToday is Jane Austen’s birthday. I won’t presume to argue that the best way to celebrate her big day is by buying my book, A Jane Austen Daydream; I don’t roll that way.

Jane inspired me to write my latest novel; wait, she just didn’t inspire it, she is also IN it. She is a writing hero, and I wanted to give her a better tale than the one life had chosen for her. Yes, it pains me that she didn’t have time to give us more great works.

It’s a good day to brush off your copy of your favorite Ms. Austen book and enjoy… Happy Birthday Jane Austen.

Nine Thoughts on Turning Five

My wife was in labor for 22 hours. 22!

It started the night before and I was deep in sleep when she broke the news we needed to leave for the hospital NOW. I was so deep into it that it took almost a minute of her waving at me, as I stood dumbfounded, that we needed to move.

I drove so slowly to the hospital, my wife was getting frustrated. I wanted everyone to be safe, I even avoided the highway, worried about drunk drivers.… Yes, it was a Sunday night, but someone could be drunk on a Sunday, right?

Once we were there my wife’s suffering began as future parents after future parents went in the delivery room before us. Finally, I had had enough. There are only a few times I can remember that I got all “extreme,” but this was one of them, as I confronted the doctor and nurse in the hallway. They said there were two ahead and I corrected them, without blinking, no, my wife is next… After five minutes of arguing, my wife was being prepped and ready to go.

One of my most vivid memories is of my son’s birth. When we first heard his cry, my wife turned to me, her mouth open in surprise, tears streaking her happy and tired face.  Then they showed him to us. His face was bright red from the screaming. I asked politely (and very overwhelmed) if I could see him; they of course said yes. I stood over him consoling him. At the sound of my voice he immediately stopped crying and then rolled on his side towards me.

You don’t forget things like that… Continue reading

My Remaining Years and the Birthday of Doom

I have always hated birthdays and I think part of the problem is I have always put too much pressuring on meeting difficult milestones.

I blame myself, but I also blame great writers for this. See, I have always put a lot on what others have done by my age and the older I get (and more great writers die off with each year I pass. I mean, come on! I’m almost a few years off from when Jane Austen snuffed it), the more this is getting difficult to do. Many of the greats have already hit their classic by this point. Me? I’m still struggling to get people to find my writing (and thank you for reading).

Looking back over my website this year it seems aging is a big theme for me. Maybe part of this is related to the fact I lost my grandfather at the beginning of the year. He was the last of my grandparents and with him an entire generation of my family disappeared. Yet, to be honest, I have written about aging before then. One of the first things I wrote for Green Spot Blue was a piece about being older than Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Yes, being older than Indy is a big deal for members of my generation. If you don’t understand what I mean, I can’t help you. (You can read that piece here.) I’m approaching Last Crusade now… after that there is a long draught until the flying fridge and the crystal skulls.

Before this becomes some kind of a great pity party for me, let me add here that I am very happy in my reality. My wife and I have created a wonderful life together and our kids are amazing. I know it’s almost corny to say one’s kids are their greatest achievement but… Okay… my kids are my greatest achievement. Continue reading

Losing Raiders

This weekend I turn old…

Well, older than I am right now and each year it always feels like it is has more of an “umpf” than the previous year.  I’m only 36 (if I do the math right, I’m about to be 37), and that still puts me at what could be considered my healthy, cool, and on a good day, possibly sexy years.

Yes I’m older, but I’m not voting Republican yet or watching Fox, but my back does bother me from time to time… but that may be more related to the 32 lbs., three-year old who expects to be carried on my back, or shoulders, or in front in a flying-type formation as if he is Superman (He also likes to make “zer” noises while he does it, making me wonder why Superman has a motor).

But 36 for me represented one thing…

This was the same age Indiana Jones was when he fought the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Yeah, it is Indiana Jones age!

That gave the age a certain slickness to it that I didn’t consider before for the other years.  Could I stand up to snakes or be chased by boulders?…


OK, probably not, but it is the same age and look at all of the cool stuff Prof. Jones did!

That was the age he was called upon to save the world.  And he did it with flying colors (Let’s be honest, he really didn’t do much to stop the Nazis and actually helped them find the Ark, get the Ark, and open the Ark, but he still fought them along the way and that should count for something, right?).

I know it is only fiction, I get that, but for a kid who remembers vividly seeing the movie for the first time (and attending the same college George Lucas did because of it), it resonates.

This was the age when bad-ass stuff could happen.

And now that age is going away and only 37 remains.

37… Three years until 40… and then 41, the same age Jane Austen died.

When I accepted the fact I was an atheist (with some leanings towards agnosticism on a good day), time seemed to mean more. It is precious. It is not a test, with a reward at an end.  It’s a moment to relish.

This is it, there is only this one shot each year and then…

Brr… I feel a little cold.

On Wednesday I had to get a new Driver’s License and picture, capture the image of my new age, my new time in life. And I even checked the box for an organ donor, darkly thinking of a part of me living on after my brain has stopped functioning. Yeah, this is what birthdays do to my thoughts.

Yet, being a parent, has given me a new way of looking at time.  Seeing my boy, get taller, vocabulary increasing, etc., the time there impacts me in a different way. I can understand why some would find faith at the moment of a child’s birth, but for me it seemed all very natural.  Like an instinct kicking in.

And that instinct, relates also to my parenting and how I view the little Superman flying in my arms.  There is an immortality there.  No, no, not the idea of heaven and judgments, etc., but of meaning.  See a part of who I am is there, I can see it behind his eyes and with what he does.  Oh, he is his own person, but I can still see some of myself there, along with my wife, and even some of his grandparents.

But it is more than genetics.  It’s in the things I take time to really give him. The things I emphasize in teaching him, or exposing him to.  That stuff carries on too.

So having my son, does help some with the whole aging thing.  And when they sing the Birthday song to me and bring out the cake, I’ll smile.

But I will also fight back at least one tear for losing Indy.