Friday, February 29, 2008

Why can't it just all be over?

Really? Why can't it? There are so many things I want to be through with, some of which I can't even mention here because you never know who's reading. It would be nice for winter to be over. Having this damn cover story done with would also be nice. Doubt could leave and never come back. Class being over would be ideal. The presidential election, lest we run the risk of having to sit through another debate, could end any time now. Stress? Be gone with ye!

Seriously. All this stuff could be over with and it wouldn't bother me a lick.

"But then what would make life interesting, man?" Shut up, whoever asked that.

Being able to finish reading a book would be awesome. Not feeling guilty about paging through the Onion or Architectural Digest instead of editing stories or painting or ironing or shoveling would be outstanding. Watching the nine movies I own that I've never once seen appeals to me. I bought myself the "Planet Earth" BBC miniseries for Christmas and haven't yet pulled it off the shelf.

Why do I want to do everything I don't have to do but none of what I have to do when I have to do it?

Wait, what?

See! Taking the time to blog about not having enough time to blog is turning my brain to jelly! See what I'm up against? I keep telling myself that I'll have time soon, that the busy period is almost over, and it actually worked for a while. Now I'm not so sure. Hey, I know! Why not put my house up for sale and start looking for another one! Maybe throw in some desperate attempts at home improvement while we're at it! Sweet! Now we're talking! What's that? We'll barely break even when we sell the place because the real estate market sucks? Okay! No problem!

No wonder I drink.

(Image above from "Stressed," a 1994 animated film by Karen Kelly)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

See, what had happened was...

I have to admit, almost any amount of work can be avoided to watch pretty people receive accolades for altering our perception of the world just a little.

It's been tough for me to continue progress toward my goal of simplifying my life and doing less when I'm reminded of talented people whose own goals necessitated working harder, smarter and longer rather than less.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Yes we can.

I spent this morning avoiding the profound amount of work I have waiting for me on my desk and attended a rally in downtown Milwaukee for Barack Obama. While this post couldn't compare to the effusive, moving and well-put commentary offered by my friend Erika on her blog a couple of days ago (read it here), I will attempt to put into words what being a part of this moment and movement mean to me:

A fellow from a local talk-radio station known for being a bit right of center walked along the line of people waiting to get in and asked a guy a few feet in front of me, "why Barack Obama? Why are you here today?"

Though I don't know how he answered the question, it got me thinking about how I would have answered it. When Obama took the stage and began speaking, I understood that even though I've supported his candidacy and campaign for some time now, his present momentum makes the possibilities that his presidency would offer all the more real. He made reference to the phrase Dr. King used in the 60s that has become a mantra for this campaign: "the fierce urgency of now." It rings true when you're standing among 6000 people for whom this man represents not only the best choice to lead our nation, but the best choice to bring about a better quality of life.

Many of Obama's critics, including Senator Clinton, claim that all the rhetoric about change is just hot air. He addressed this criticism directly today, saying that he agreed that articulate speeches and invocations of hope don't bring about change and progress on their own; action does. But without hope, without the belief that a better future is around the corner, without the conviction that it takes to make tough decisions, without the desire to undo the damage that has been done by an arrogant administration, we can't get to where we need to be.

Though I came to see him speak and to be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I was there to see the man who made history, I found myself looking around at the expressions on the faces of those who feel as I do. I wish I would have photographed them instead of him. I know what he looks like and will be seeing a lot more of him to come. It was in their faces that I saw the excitement, the anticipation and the hope (yeah, I said it) that will propel him to the presidency.

I think this sentiment was best exemplified in the sartorial choice du jour of six young women who ended up sitting just below the banner that hung behind the stage. Each one of them wore a different colored shirt with a letter on it. Standing together, their shirts said more about Barack Obama and the hope of a nation that any blog ever could:


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

These places exist.

Though you might find it hard to believe, aliens are out there. Sometimes, they even set up shop right here in America. In places like Bismarck, North Dakota, where the locals are friendly and people like me are drawn to gaudy neon signs and sloppy brisket platters. Who knew that aliens are known for their award-winning barbecue?

"Let's get awesome."

On Monday night I was in class, sitting in between two of my beloved former group mates, Jon and Dwayne. Our class was in the midst of a discussion about lessons learned from our group projects, which just wrapped up last week.

Dwayne (at left) was relaying to the group his personal feelings on the genesis of our group's project and said that, despite all of us being busy people with our own priorities, we were willing to take on a project that allowed us to help kids. He then related that sentiment to a greater context and said something to this effect:

"If I'm busy but you come at me with something totally awesome that I could spend time doing, then, you know, let's get awesome."

It couldn't have been said any better. So to all of you who lead busy lives but yearn for that fun, creative, collaborative and enriching experience that will likely take far more time and energy that you have to spare, I say:

Screw it. Let's get awesome.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's hardly fair.

There are moments in life where we are given to whining and carrying on about how we got the short end of the stick; a raw deal; screwed. But frequently, those moments are really just the result of our imaginations conjuring a dramatic coda for some ultimately innocuous event... "Oh! I got a speeding ticket today! The gods are colluding against me! That cop was profiling me because I have a blue car! He never showed me the radar! He wasn't even wearing a uniform! That bag of weed wasn't even mine! What the hell!"

But every once in a while, someone gets what they don't deserve while the person who deserves it walks away.

As I stood stranded last week in the Minneapolis airport, my homeward journey dashed by a blizzard, all flights to Milwaukee cancelled, my companion's luggage MIA, I get a phone call from my mother inquiring as to my whereabouts, condition and Doppler Radar coordinates.

I'm stuck here for a while, I say. Okay, she says. We're coming home early from our trip, she adds. I'm waiting for the punch, because I know my mother well enough to know that the tone in her voice indicates not just an early return, but a reason for it. Not a good one.

Before I continue, let me paint you a picture: An ex-con in his late thirties, having lost years earlier both his driver's license and his father to lung cancer, has cleaned up his act. Living on the righteous path free of drugs, alcohol and prison food, he likes to visit his mother, a kind woman who tells things like they are. One recent night, not wanting to bother the friend who would normally give him a ride to Mom's house, this man mounts his trusty bicycle and pedals himself to see her. In February. In Wisconsin. On dark country roads. For the three-hour bike ride between his place and hers.

Fast forward to my mother on the phone, me standing like a hapless tourist next to a baggage carousel.

"Your cousin Vince was killed by a drunk driver," she says.

I'm thinking, shit, that's horrible. And I'm also thinking about what she might be thinking. See, my mother was nine years old when a man knocked on the door of her family home and said that he had hit a man walking on the side of the road about a mile away. The man who knocked was drunk, and the man he hit and killed was her father.

The man who killed Vince, bundled against the weather and pedaling south to see his mother, was 23 years old. The guy was on his way to a friend's house when he hit Vince. He fled the scene. Upon arriving at the friend's house, he takes the friend aside and out of earshot of the lady of the house, to relate what happened. While this useless fucking bastard is having his crisis of conscience, the woman - apparently the only one with any sense - dials 911. When the paramedics arrive, Vince's body is still warm despite the cold. They declare him brain dead almost immediately.

I couldn't help but think that at least the guy who killed my grandfather had the balls to own up to what he did. The guy who killed my cousin had to be ratted out by a friend. No wonder we're all on the brink of losing faith in humanity. Not to turn this little soliloquy political, but people wonder why a guy like Barack Obama is an attractive candidate to lead the free world? Look around you. We're at war and spiraling toward recession, oil we invaded a country to get is above $100 a barrel, global warming is fucking up weather all over the globe and innocent people are getting shot in shopping malls, classrooms and courthouses. Hope is all we have. Glass half full. Better tomorrows.

I wasn't close to Vince. I can only recall seeing him a few times in my life and chatting about nothing in particular. We greeted each other at my cousin's wedding last summer and exchanged pleasantries. We called him "cousin Vinny" and shook our collective heads at his past. But family is family. When history repeats itself in such heinous fashion, you can't help but notice.

Not to get all soap-boxy, but that's kind of what blogs are for: don't drink and drive. I don't want to have to write this story about my wife or brother or parents or cousins or friends or the guy who works down the hall. If you think it can't happen to you, think about Elmer and Vincent Greuel.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Random thoughts and birthday wishes

1. Hats off to the New York Football Giants. I told everyone I wasn't scared of Tom Brady.
2. The current temperature in Bismarck, North Dakota is 21 degrees. On Tuesday it will be 9.
3. Wives are cool.
4. Happy birthday, Mom. (She's the one on the right.)