The Worst Thing About Summer

IMG_3212Even though it’s not officially summer yet, the devastating heat has crashed the party, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going anywhere. There are some things I love about the Summertime, the fact that it stays light later so I can enjoy doing things outside after I get off of work, the traffic is considerably lighter during my morning commute with the kids out of school which is definitely a plus, and then there’s the vacations I’m fortunate enough to get to go on every year, but while these are all big positives, I still hate summer overall. I’ve always been a man who prefers a cold wintery day to a hot sunny one, and there are a lot of people that disagree with me. I know because most often when I comment on what a beautiful day it is when it’s overcast and in the mid forties, people scoff at me in disbelief, but I experienced one of their ideal days last weekend, a sunny day in the upper eighties, and I have to say, it was pretty awful.

I went to the zoo just to walk around for a bit with my dad, because it was a perfect day as ascribed by the masses, and on a day like that, you really should get outside and “enjoy” it. As the weekend approached, virtually everyone that came into my work was talking about the weekend and how they’re going to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather, which is a positive attitude that isn’t completely meritless, and in fact I was so hyped up by all the talk about the weather that I was actually excited about the possibility of doing something outside. Dutifully, my dad and I set out to enjoy the beautiful day that mother nature had blessed us with, only it became evident fairly quickly, at least to me, that it was already too hot for my liking. Nobody in their right mind would set their in-home thermostat above eighty degrees, yet here we were willingly walking briskly in the heat, which might even constitute as exercise in some states.

Once we were nice and hot and ready to die, we left the zoo, but then, instead of walking a few steps to the car in the parking lot, we had another several minutes of walking ahead of us, because we had the bright idea to leave our car at the park and walk to the zoo, what with it being such a beautiful day and all. Who could have blamed that decision? This day was talked up so much and everyone kept saying how beautiful it was going to be, so we would have been stupid not to walk through the park on such a fantastic day. We get back to the car, which was a level of hell in and of itself because the interior felt like a brick pizza oven, the heat punching me in the face and pulling me inside to drown in it as soon as I opened the door. The windows were rolled down and the air conditioner was turned on, and it only took a couple of minutes to feel like I might actually make it out of this situation alive. As I sat there, suffocating in the heat, I thought to myself a terrible thought, that we aren’t even actually to summer yet, and then I wished for the heat to go ahead and finish me off right then and there, to spare me from the agony that lies ahead in July and August.


Jack Attack: Love at First Bite

IMG_5073Jack is a good dog, most of the time. There are times, more often that I care to remember, where he completely ignores me, but his disinterest in my presence without food, while incredibly disheartening for me, doesn’t make him a bad dog. It does make him an inconsiderate dog, because he seems to give no thought whatsoever to how I’m feeling, or perhaps I’m just a selfish owner. He’s his own animal, so it’s pretty selfish and stupid for me to have these expectations for him in the way he acts towards me. Just because I feed him, give him a place to live, and take him outside so he can use the bathroom on the grass rather than soiling the comfort of my comfort, does that mean he owes me his undying gratitude and unwavering attention in adoration? It might be nice if he felt this way, because then I wouldn’t have to plead with him every day to jump up on the couch with me, although I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t mean as much if he did feel like he owed me, so he jumped up in my lap out of obligation rather than doing so simply because he wanted to.

In the same way it would be unfair for other people to heap their expectations onto you, because you are your own person, and should be treated as such, so an adorable dog should be given the same consideration. Luckily, the other night was one of the times Jack wanted to be my friend, more than likely because he smelled the lasagna that my wife and I just ate for dinner, so he jumped up on the couch with no hesitation. He sniffed around for a little while, his nose tickling as he sniffed my neck as he looked for crumbs that may have been dropped, but there were none, and pretty soon he gave up. He took up his position in my lap as my wife and I watched whatever we’d chosen on Netflix that night. I really love when Jack sits with me because petting his soft fur and mindlessly scratching behind his ears can be very therapeutic, but there comes a time, after I’ve buttered him up with all the petting and scratching, when I put my hand under his belly and raise him up then flip him back so that he’s sitting with his back against the couch, like me.

It’s so awesome because we’re both sitting on the couch in the exact same way, watching TV together, just two bros, hanging out together. He doesn’t love it, but he usually doesn’t mind because it gives me easy access to rub his belly while his flipped up like that. It’s probably my favorite thing in the world, so I have to probably do it just about every time he’s on the couch with me, and it’s never really been a problem, until the other night. After at least fifteen minutes of scratching to show Jack what a great person I was, I put my hand under his stomach to maneuver him into the sitting position, only when I tried to lift him up, he snapped his head back and bit my hand. Sometimes when he gets annoyed he will nip at my hand, where he acts like he’s going to bite me, but really only jabs me with his nose. It’s a warning, that lets me know I need to stop wherever it is that I’m doing for him, or else I’m going to be sorry, I assume. I’ve never actually gotten far enough to find out what actually happens if I don’t stop, because the growl and nip is enough to make me not want to find out, but I didn’t get the warning this time. Jack bit me, and it hurt, and it completely took me by surprise. I guess I’ll have to be a little more cautious next time I try to make him sit up on the couch like me, because there’s definitely going to be a next time. It’s just too awesome for there not to be.

The Lawsuit

I got a pretty interesting phone call earlier today, or rather my wife did, who forwarded the voicemail along to me, since it was I whom the caller was looking for. It was a brief message, claiming to be an attorney with a company that I previously worked for in Florida and asked me to give him a call back, so intrigued, and a little bit worried, I did. As I dialed the West Palm Beach area code, I scanned my brain, looking deep into the recesses of my mind trying to think what this could possibly be about. My first instinct was that it was something bad, because the default setting in my mind is negative, and when is an attorney calling you out of the blue good news? Although I was about a thousand percent sure this wasn’t going to be a fun phone call, I had no idea what it was going to be about, until on the third ring the attorney answered and informed me it was in reference to an incident that happened at the store where I was working several years ago that they were being sued for. You would have thought that would have cleared things right up, but no, I still had no idea what he was talking about, but I held onto a secret hope that grocery store that used to employ me had been running a massive illegal gambling ring in the back of the store and somebody was suing because their left pinky had been chopped off when they hadn’t been able to pay what they owed at the end of the night. Sure, it would have come as a complete surprise to me and there would be no helpful information that I could provide, but it definitely be a case that drew my interest.

I’m glad I didn’t blurt out anything about my theories on illegal gambling rings taking place in the backroom of a respectable grocery store chain, because I would have looked really stupid when he said that it was in reference to a woman who slipped on a piece of fruit, and I was the first one on the scene. As quickly as I rushed over to the fallen that day, the memories came rushing back to me, sort of, in the sense that I vaguely remember the incident happening but any specific details were left behind when I left Florida nearly two years ago. Aside from remembering that the customer had slipped on a piece of fruit, I do not remember anything else about it, not even the type of fruit that caused the fall, but selfishly I hope it was a tomato so that it can be relentlessly reminded to everyone involved in the case that tomatoes are fruit and not vegetables like too many people believe. I think it’s important to learn as much as you can, and if nothing else comes of the case, at least a lesson on which food group a tomato belongs in can be learned by all.

The reason this man was calling me after all this time, is because the other lawyers, the ones suing my former employer on behalf of the woman who slipped, said that they have been in contact with me and have scheduled my deposition in Fort Pierce Florida, and the company’s attorneys figured that if I was going to be talking to the other lawyers, then they should at least track me down to get a statement of their own. I hope you’re sitting down for this, because I wasn’t and it completely threw me off guard, but this was the first time hearing about the lawsuit, I haven’t been in contact with any lawyers, and I haven’t been to Fort Pierce in nearly two years, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have agreed to go down there for a deposition about an event in which the details are completely forgotten to me. I don’t know who those lawyers have been talking to, but it wasn’t me, something that shocked the attorney on the other end of the line, although there’s no way he was as shocked by this revelation than I was, given he at least knew that a lawsuit was taking place.

Although we did get it ironed out that I live in Tennessee now, the fact still remained that the woman’s lawyers were still going to want to depose me about the incident, since I was first on the scene. I guess I can be considered a first responder. You know what, I heard it, and that seems a little disrespectful to the real first responders who save lives, so you don’t have to call me a first responder if it makes you uncomfortable. The good news is, I’m not going to have to go to Florida for a deposition, so the lawyers will have to come to me and meet at my convenience so it really shouldn’t be too much trouble….for me. I assume it’s going to be a massive headache for the other guys, to come all the way here just for me to tell them I honestly don’t remember, but I guess that’s what they unknowingly signed on for when they took the case, so forgive me if I don’t lose any sleep over their troubles. I’ve never been part of a legal deposition before, and this morning, I had no reason to believe that I ever would be, and while this is the kind of random thing that seems to happen to me all time, blessing me with new stories to tell in my blog, it’s something I still can’t get used to, especially at noon on a Wednesday.

The Cost of a Burger

IMG_3328Have you ever looked at a chicken clucking around the barnyard, and thought to yourself, wow that feathery creature would be absolutely delicious dipped in honey mustard? Or have you ever looked at a cow, other than your wife, and thought to yourself how you would just love to gobble it up, hooves and all? You probably haven’t, because that would be incredibly weird to look at a living animal and see something that you want to eat, yet we eat those very same animals every day. So what if they don’t the same or even remotely recognizable as the creatures they were before their trip to the slaughterhouse, they are still the same animal. Maybe their feathers have been plucked and their hides have been turned into leather belts for the very cowboys that raise the cows and chickens just to one day kill them.

It probably happens on a day like today, with rain pouring down and thunderstorms rolling in. You wouldn’t want to waste a beautiful sunny day inside the slaughterhouse, no on the rare April day in North Carolina when the sun fought it’s way through the clouds, as a farmer, you had to take full advantage. When the sun was out there was no time for the animals, because there were much more time sensitive things to take care of, like getting all your crops planted early enough in the year, which took a good bit of skill to maneuver, because if you tried to plant too early, the ground would still be frozen from the winter and would be impenetrable, and if you waited too long the rainy season would appear leaving the ground damp and sometimes under water, for the majority of a month, and by the time it dried out again, you’d be behind schedule.

The animals could be taken care of before the sun came up, like the milking of the cows or the gathering of chicken eggs, tasks that didn’t require the natural sunlight to directly affect the business. If he really wanted to, he could have flipped the switches in the slaughterhouse and got things cranked up and ready to go after the sun went down and he was done working outside for the day, but the one time he’d tried this his kids, as told by his wife, were up all night screaming in terror at the horrible sounds that were coming from out behind the main house where daddy was “working.” In addition to the lifelong scarring of his children, slaughtering the animals overnight wasn’t ideal because once morning came he had to put his current project on hold while he went about his normal daily routine, and if there’s anything that he’d learned during his years as a farmer, it’s that when you start doing something that is very bloody and messy, it’s best just to push through until the end, because once you stop and you get that god awful smell washed off of you, it’s a lot harder to make yourself go back to finish what you started.

As the wind blew the rain in sheets that rattled the high window of the slaughterhouse, the cows stood in a line, not perfectly still, but as still as you’d expect a herd of bovine to be in a fairly tight and confined area without much wiggle room. Moos could be heard filling the space that was growing warmer by the minute as the cows exhaled, sending a small puff of steam floating purposefully up towards the ceiling. The clucking of the chickens were gone before the cows entered, and the furry beasts had no idea what was waiting for them on the other side of the door. One by one, the line moved forward slightly, and the cattle behaved like cattle, following the cow in front of them. Now all the animals are dead, but at least we get fried chicken and hamburgers. Seems like a fair tradeoff.

The Worst Part of Bowling

IMG_0061I was watching bowling yesterday, not because I wanted to watch bowling, but because it happened to be on the big screen television in the restaurant where I happened to be eating lunch yesterday. Whenever I’m at a restaurant with TV’s, it’s like I can’t help but to look over at them every twenty seconds or so, and it doesn’t even matter what is on. Of course if there’s a good football game on I’ll be looking at the television with more interest, but even if it’s an infomercial, I can’t help but continue to look over at it because that’s just the kind of focus that I have, the kind that can be derailed by moving shapes on a TV screen that I can barely see out of the corner of my eye. It demands to be noticed, and never the biggest advocate for self control, I give in.

So there I was sitting at a restaurant with my dad, and after some hillbilly country show that featured a room with a depressing amount of wood, the walls, tables, and chairs all made out of the stuff that looks like the decaying rot where you might find a wasps nest, bowling came on. I think USA was having a shows nobody cares about weekend marathon, and from what I saw, they were doing a bang up job with the lineup. If it wasn’t bad enough that I had to watch bowling, I had to watch bowling while eating lunch, and there are few things I can think of as unsavory to see while eating a smoked sausage dog than out of shape sweaty men lunging forward to roll their yellow jaundiced looking ball down the lane with disgusting grimaces of intensity.

As I kept watching, unable to pull my eyes away no matter how much I would have liked to, I noticed that surrounding the bowling teams were bleachers filled with hundreds if not thousands of apparent bowling fans. Due to my lack of focus and the big screen TV in the restaurant where I was eating, I was basically forced to watching bowling, but here were these people, these fans, who more than likely paid human money to be there, were not only willing to watch one of the most boring activities you will ever witness, but they’re willing to throw away their Sunday afternoon to do so.

Maybe you think I’m being a bit harsh about bowling, that it’s not really as boring as I’m making it about to be, but have you ever been bowling? Bowling itself isn’t so bad, and I actually enjoy going every now and then, but the worst part about the whole experience is having to watch everyone else your playing with while waiting for your turn. Am I wrong? Of course not, you bowl and then have sit in agony on the uncomfortable plastic chair bench while you have to pretend to be interested and excited for everyone else who is bowling with you, all the while you’re really counting down the frames until it’s your time for your thirty seconds in the stoplight before getting two gutter balls and starting the process all over again. And god forbid there’s a child present. Sure kids are cute and all blah, blah, blah, but have you ever been bowling with one of the little brats? The whole game has to shut down while the sixteen year old manager of the bowling alley brings out one of those special converted old people walkers that have now been twisted and reshaped to resemble metal ramps that the kid can push the bowling ball down to make the experience easier, and over all more fun for them. But what about the rest of us? Your three year old isn’t going to remember this two years from now, but I’ll take to my grave the hatred I have for that little punk who is drawing out an already unbearably long bowling game. Any way, my point is, I can’t believe people choose to watch bowling, and that they actually pay money to watch it. For me, it would have to be the other way around; if I’m going to waste my Sunday afternoon being bored out of my mind watching bowling, someone’s going to have to pay me to do it.

A Boy and His Gun

IMG_5059There comes a time in every boy’s life where they are given their first gun, or at least that’s the way that life works when you’re growing up in Arkansas. I remember my first, it was Christmas eve and I was probably nine or ten years old. My grandparents still lived on Bertha, which doesn’t hold any significance for you, but for me it’s a gauge for how much time has past, because that was two houses ago, before they moved to “the farm”, the house where the majority of my memories with my moms parents were made, and then moved away from Little Rock altogether. We always had Christmas at my grandparents house on Christmas Eve. The whole family would gather together, my grandparents, their three kids and their spouses, the nine grandkids, and while they were still with us, the great grandparents. Christmas was one of my favorite times of the year and Christmas Eve was perhaps the greatest day of all, because that morning I would be in Memphis with my dad and that side of the family, then that afternoon I would get to see my moms side of the family and open even more presents. Add in the anticipation about Santa bringing even more presents the next morning made it one of the most, if not the most, exciting days of the year.

So on that Christmas Eve in the Bertha house, we were going around the living room taking turns opening up gifts, and when it came to my turn, I picked up a long, rectangular shaped parcel, intrigued as to what it could be. I would like to tell you that I slowly unwrapped it, artfully pulling off the paper and preserving the beauty of the wrapping, but I was a kid so I tore off the paper with the same ferocity as the squirrel who clawed through my apartment wall last year. I was ecstatic as the bb gun materialized before me, and immediately I began imagining awesome scenarios in which I could use my new gun to save the day, much like the kid from A Christmas Story. I’d never shot a bb gun before, and most of the adults in the room stressed the importance of gun safety to me, and not to use it until I’d been properly trained how to do so safely, but luckily I wouldn’t have to wait for long.

Another Christmas tradition we had in my family growing up was having a big brunch on the morning of December the 25th and my grandparents would come over to eat with us, so this year, after the meal, on that lazy Christmas day, my granddad took me out to the backyard to teach me how to use the gun he’d given me the day before. The metal felt cool in my hand as he helped me raise it up. He showed me how to take the safety off when, and only when I was ready to shoot, and then standing beside me, he helped me take aim at a big blue tarp that he had hung from a tree limb. I pulled the trigger and heard the satisfying thwack of the pellet as it drilled a hole in the tarp. We stayed outside for a while practicing, on the tarp, and when that got too easy we set up a paper plate as a target, and by the end of the day, I felt confident that I was the best shot in the west, or at the very least the best shot in west Little Rock. That was a good Christmas.

Things I’m Terrible At

IMG_2089Today I want to talk about some of my shortcomings. I’ll pause here to allow you to gasp and recollect your bearings before reading on. I know, it probably comes as a shock to you that I’m not perfect, and I’m still not completely over it after finding out, but it’s reality, and if can’t accept reality then I’m destined to live in a fairy tale world of my own imagination where things are happy all the time, which sounds great, but apparently that would make me crazy, and I definitely don’t want to be that. I think it’s important, as painful as it may be, to really look at yourself and realize your own limitations. I also think it’s important to know your strengths as well, but focus on positive things isn’t really what this blog is about, mainly because it’s really not as much fun. As you can tell, one of the things I’m worst at is getting to the point, which is clearly evidenced by the fact that it took me most of this paragraph to actually start talking about my shortcomings.

Sometimes I ramble, and I know it’s not a good thing, and if I actually took the time to go back and edit the blogs that I write every day, then I would almost definitely cut out some things that I’d written, but writing on this medium, I like to leave the post raw without intense scrutiny or editing. Another thing that I’m terrible at is whistling. I’ve been trying to do it for at least twenty years now, and the only time I’ve ever been able to do it was once when I was exhaling after a yawn and my lips were positioned perfectly to let out a whistling sound. It wasn’t a musical note and there was no semblance of a tune but it was pretty exciting doing something that I’d never done before. Now, when I try to whistle I the only sound that comes out is a pathetic “pffffffffstf” that is incredibly embarrassing. Perhaps if I didn’t sound so idiotic attempting to whistle, then I would actually be able to whistle because I wouldn’t be so self conscious about the noise I was making and I could practice more.

The last thing on my list of things I’m terrible at, is going to sleep. It doesn’t matter if I barely got any sleep the night before, or how late it is, it still takes me a gargantuan amount of time to fall asleep. When I say the last thing on my list, I don’t mean like this is the only other thing that I’m not good at, but rather if I took the time to tell you about every single one of my shortcomings, then I would be typing this until the day I die, I’m afraid, which is why in the opening paragraph in which I rambled on, I said that I wanted to talk about some, not all of my shortcomings. There I go, taking forever to get to the point again, but I digress. So sleep used to come so easy to me, like within minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I would be out cold, but now it’s more like, an hour of me lying in the dark, twisting and turning and unable to fall asleep. Maybe tonight I’ll pull up this blog post and it can help me go to sleep, because admittedly it is pretty boring. That’s what I was going for though, so that’s not really a shortcoming.