Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Want QUIET!!!!

Although our 15-year-old dog has become the lethargic, quiet type in his advancing years, one early morning last week Doogie sounded the alarm. He started barking and barking at 5:30 a.m. until my wife was forced out into the backyard to retrieve him.

What so disturbed him in the dim light of early dawn we never figured out. With his failing eyesight, it could have been a branch fallen from a tree or the door left open on the shed. Whatever it was, our neighbors had to know about it RIGHT THEN.

I shouldn't fault Doogie for disturbing the peace in our suburban enclave. Disturbing the peace is a way of life amongst my neighbors. Almost every day is a chorus of lawnmowers, power saws, leaf blowers, power edgers and the like. It's like the flowers and the trees alone can't provide an idyllic setting in itself. We have to have freshly manicured lawns to rival the eighteenth green at Sea Pines Resort, hedges trimmed exactly parallel or vertical to the ground, and sidewalks that are spotlessly free of stains and stray grass.

My son said just this week that he has soured on city living. That after waking up Sunday morning to the machine-gun like staccato of an air compressor as our one neighbor was deep cleaning his driveway.

Unlike myself, Scott isn't one to suffer noise quietly. He even called the police one night when he thought the kids were getting a little rowdy with their pool party nearby. Wendy and I thought that a bit extreme, especially since it appeared the youngsters were making a concerted effort to keep it down.

But speaking of being extreme and calling the cops, the police have visited my nephew's home on numerous occasions with noise complaints emanating from just one neighbor. My nephew's offense? He's a music major and practices his drums during the day. Never mind that he does so quietly, even making efforts to soundproof his practice area. We've been by when he's practicing his drums and it's hardly noticeable from the street.

Yet it's okay to crank up the power yard tools to terraform your yard into something out of Home & Garden. Sheesh. I don't own a leafblower, gasoline-powered weed whacker, power edger, not even a snow blower. But maybe I should find some way to join the chorus. I think I'll take up chainsaw sculpturing. Or maybe buy a motorcycle, take the mufflers off and rev it up for a half hour or so each evening. Or how about using a jackhammer to break up that hard soil in the backyard so I can plant a few flowers.

Ever think of how extremely rare it is to have complete quiet? Maybe where you are, but not here in southeastern Michigan.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Nightmare In Iowa

How do you offer solace or comfort to those whose everyday lives have been torn asunder by the devastating floods rolling through our country's midsection? I've seen the TV news footage daily this week. It's terrible to watch, let alone trying to imagine living through it. Especially when you live a thousand miles away here in Michigan.

Then I got an e-mail from Iowa. It was from my buddy Bob, who normally teaches college in Virginia but who with his wife maintains a separate residence in Iowa as she teaches there herself. I haven't seen him in years, not since we took a rather harrowing canoe trip together in the wilds of Minnesota, but we e-mail eachother often as we complain about life's trials and tribulations. Just not in the summer when he's on break from his teaching duties. So this e-mail was a surprise. Here's some of what it said:

"Been in Iowa since May 20, what a nightmare here.

My wife is in Fla. reading SAT essays and I'm stuck here trying to finish a course, keep the two kids, and deal with a flood. People literally canoed down the street here. Could be worse; the flood waters literally stopped in the driveway. Of course the foot of raw sewage in the basement hasn't been any fun. Had to wade through about 10 inches worth to get to the circuit-breakers to turn off the electricity down there and save the Wii I bought the kids two days before. Probably not a smart idea but had no idea what else to do.

Trying to deal with this in a town where I know no one hasn't been fun. A couple of my wife's friends came to help get some of the stuff out of the basement after I had gotten lots of the sewage out. But dealing with sewage filled carpets hasn't been fun. Had to cut them up to get them out. Water from the high water table is still leaking in.

And just when I taught, screw this, I'll just take the kids to Michigan they closed off two interstates. And most of the roads to the interstates are closed anyway. And just when I think perhaps I'll get out of here soon I see the Mississippi has decided to flood.

I'm in the midst of a Presidential Disaster area and in places the water still hasn't crested.

Okay, venting off."

Gee, what a pickle. A stinky pickle too. True, Bob wasn't suffering nearly as much as those families whose homes are up to their attics in Mississippi muck, but I thought I should respond with something to lift his spirits. (Though I thought about telling him this was divine retribution for his years of bashing my fav U of M Wolverines, he being an alum of rival Michigan State).

Anywhere, here's some of what I wrote back:

"Holy cow! I concur 100 per cent--sounds like a nightmare situation. Wish I could help. Maybe you could load the kids into a canoe, head up the Mississippi and I could pick you up somewhere and drive you here to Michigan. Those canoeing skills might come in handy yet.

I don't know though. It does sound like you're in deep sh--, er, sounds like you're in deep. With all the tornados, flooding, earthquakes in China, cyclones in Burma, Wendy and I believe the apocalypse is nigh. You'll just have to deal with it I guess.

I'll get this out quickly before the floodwaters wash away your computer too. I see you have the sympathy of the President if that's any consolation. I wouldn't worry too much about the Wii. You're sure to get federal disaster aid so that can be replaced, probably at little if any cost. Course those who have lived through Katrina might argue with me there."

Then I offered some family gossip from my end, though nothing nearly as newsworthy. Hard to say whether trying to inject some humor into the situation made it better or worse. But as I often like to say, hope it helped.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Twenty-Minute Blog

Our local library recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. Part of that meant an upgrade of computer services. For some computer users now, internet access is timed. You have 20 minutes to do whatever you need to do on-line.

So I thought it would be neat to do a twenty-minute blog. Kinduva cool writing exercise. Blog express! I only have 17 minutes left, but here goes . . .

Uhhhhhhh, mmmmmmmm, guess I could blog about the highlights of my past week. I have this gloriously oversized plant above my desk at work. It's a talking point among my work team members.

Unfortunately, the new growth this year all decided to "go to the light", a fluorescent row of lights next to my cubicle. That created an unbalanced situation and my big plant toppled over onto my desk, burying everything there. My calculator was buried and dead (dead and buried?). It no longer worked. I had to get a new one.

(I have 15 minutes left) . . . Since this plant had been working with me for five years or so through thick and thin, I decided to try a rescue. I re-potted it in a larger pot, with more dirt, then watered it and put in on a bay window sill at home.

Enter Simon, my son's Boston Terrier whom I spoke about earlier when he killed a rabbit and dragged its carcass into our house. My wife and I dog-sat Simon this past weekend, keeping a close eye on him. But not close enough.

"Oh my God." I heard my wife's voice call out from downstairs, waking me up on Sunday morning. Simon had "un-potted" my plant. Again, dirt everywhere--on the window sill, ABOVE the window sill, on the sofa nearby, on the carpet, etc. Bad dog! Bad dog!

(11 minutes left) . . .

I've blogged here recently on my coin-hunting expeditions. I like to look out for the spare dollar or dime lying about. On Saturday, I was riding my bike when I spied a cache of quarters. Six of them strewn about in the middle of a busy intersection, all glistening in the light of the early evening sun.

It took a real-life game of Frogger over the course of several minutes, but I got the quarters. All of them.

So you would think my announcement to the family would bring some congratulatory responses. Not to be. In fact, family members chided me, saying I probably stole some child's ice cream money.

That's speculation, but it has some basis. The intersection is a block away from a Dairy Queen and it was a hot day. A kid could very likely have been hurrying to cross with the light when his handful of quarters slipped from his sweaty palms, rolling out into traffic.

(Seven minutes . . . )

But why guilt me? Do you ever see a reporter ask a mega-million lotto winner, "Sir, do you realize that by winning the lotto, you probably took the dollar of a man who was hoping and praying that he could win the lotto to pay for his life-saving liver transplant?"

No, you don't do you? So why should I feel bad. Kids eat too much ice cream these days anyway.

(Still five minutes; gee I'm quick when I rant) . . .

(Four minutes now . . . )

Let me end with a joke. That Simon who dug up my plant is going through a digging phase of puppyhood. I found a big hole he dug next to a tomato plant. In the hole he had dropped a rock. Not a bone, a chew toy or something like that. A rock!

So here's the joke. What do Simon and George W. Bush have in common. Answer: They both have a plan to save Iraq (a rock).

Well, what do you expect for 20 minutes. I have three minutes left. (two now). Forgive any typos or misspellings.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ghosts Of Journals Past

Every five years I keep a journal for a year, starting with my birthday. It’s a diary of sorts, which I started doing when I turned 35. Then at 40, 45, etc. Since I just turned 55, I started my latest chapter a little over a week ago.

Here’s some entries from years past. Though I write about anything and everything, I culled from my "archives" entries having to do with our boys, Greg and Scott. There’s nothing that better demonstrates the passing of time than watching your kids grow up . . .

June 14, 1988-(Greg is 8, Scott 5) I figure there must be a thousand toys easy in this house. Amazingly, the chances are 50-50 that both kids will want the same toy at the same time. And both will kick, scratch and bite to play with it. Even if only for five minutes. They say kids can make you feel young. But at 35, I believe that you need the stamina of someone less than 30 to keep up with kids under 10.

December 8, 1988-Greg lost his "firth" tooth on Tuesday. The tooth fairy gave him a dollar. Greg didn’t know it but the tooth fairy had a tough time finding his tooth under that pillow. Good thing Greg is a sound sleeper.

March 21, 1989-Like me, Scott has a great interest in watching horror movies and loves to curl up on my lap when we watch, tucking his head next to my armpit during the suspenseful parts. When you tell him about a particular movie monster, he’ll ask, "Does he eat blood?" Tonight he drew something for Wendy. She asked, "What is that, a fire?" Scott responded, "No, it’s a teeth monster." Then after pausing he added, "But it’s a nice teeth monster."

Five years later . . .

June 6, 1993-One game our little family plays during long waits, either in the car or in a restaurant, is the A-B-C game where we each think of a word that begins with the designated letter and fits a particular category. Yesterday, the category was "something to do with sports." Scott is surprisingly good at this. At Pizza Hut, he came up with "Ultimate Warrior" (a pro wrestler popular at the time) for U and "varsity" for V. Greg stole my U word, "underdog."

October 6, 1993-Having a little dog is just like having a little kid, at least with our new puppy Doogie. He does seem to be responding to his name now, probably because that’s all we seem to do is shout out, "Doogie!" He scratched Scott, bit Greg on the nose, scattered newspapers around and flees into the neighbor’s yard anytime we let him outside to go to the bathroom.

October 11, 1993-So far no messes in the house today. Maybe Doogie is turning the corner. Greg said that Doogie even stood at the patio door scratching to say he wanted to go out. "You mean he can talk?" Scott asked, seemingly serious.

Five years later . . .

August 13, 1998-Scott gave a birthday list to his aunt Denise that included "Area 51 scientists to check for inter-dimensional portals in our living room." He feels that too many of his toys have turned up missing. I think cleaning up after himself would bring more promising results.

August 20, 1998--Tonight both the boys’ hockey sticks are on the roof, Greg having thrown them up there over the garage when Scott locked him out of the house for a couple hours. We thought they were both mature enough to stay at home during the summer by themselves while Wendy and I worked. Now I wonder. School can’t open a minute too soon for me.

Five years later . . .

May 29, 2003--Now it’s going on 10:30 at night. Greg went to deliver a bologna sandwich to Scott who is hungry after getting called to do a full shift at Blockbuster video tonight. He wants the money, of course. Greg and I matched up one-on-one in basketball tonight with myself surprisingly taking a 10-7 win. Don’t know if he was going 100 per cent on me but he seemed to contest every shot. Our next door neighbor, young Breanna, asked to play, but I said it was one of those macho contests, with a 50-year-old facing off against a 20-year-old. "I’m the 50-year-old," I declared. "Well, duhhh," she replied, to chuckles from Greg.

June 13, 2003-Back at work after two days off to attend orientation at Michigan State University. While educators and administrators took turns lecturing us on what to expect with billing, Scott was getting his own session on what it means to become a Spartan. So at home, in the middle of the night, the phone rings. I answer it but nobody’s there, so I hang up. It rings again and an AT&T electronic operator asks if I want to accept a collect call. But the person on the other end does not give their name and I hang up again. Wendy, who is up now too at after 3 a.m, believes the caller is Greg, who was supposed to return at 2 a.m. from "clubbing." Sure enough, a third call comes through and this time Greg identifies himself as the collect caller. I accept the charges and Greg tells me that his buddy Jimmy has left him stranded in Ypsilanti. He had to walk through some of Ypsi’s more run-down neighborhoods just to find a phone.

Five years later . . .

June 2, 2008 (two days ago)-Greg’s girlfriend Lindsay called Wendy to say that Greg proposed on the third anniversary of their first date. Even got down on one knee. No wedding date yet-probably next year. So that’s great. I think she’ll make a wonderful daughter-in-law even if her birthday present to me a week ago was a plain gray shirt with NERD prominently emblazoned on the front.

And life goes on . . .