May 29, 2008

Poetry Friday Challenge: Rain

Mona the wanna-be nudist motorcycle rider swiped her idea for PF from a previous post of mine re: the rain, and far be it from me to snub my nose at her. Some of my best ideas are stolen, repainted, given new license plates, rolled out onto the lot and slapped with For Sale signs. Works for me.

Rain



When I was a kid, my brother and I had the greatest toy of all: Outside. The coolest part of having Outside as a toy? All the other toys that came with Outside. Animals was cool, and there were a lot of those. Trees was awfully neat too, because there was a lot of variety within the same sort of basic shape. There was even Wind which could be tricky to play with because it wasn't around nearly as often as Trees and only slightly less available than Animals but the best of all the toys that came with Outside was Rain.

Rain would sometimes be there and sometimes not. There were times when we had it to play with for days on end, and there were times that whole weeks would go by and it would not be there, and we'd start to think that maybe we'd done something wrong and it had been taken away from us. But our fears were always misplaced, because Rain always showed up again.

I can't begin to count all the times my brother and I would run around in Rain naked, or as naked as a pair of tightey-whiteys could make you. Warm or cold, with or without the rather scary add-on features Lightning and Thunder we'd be out there, running, splashing, playing with the water that poured from the eaves or in the ditches that would, if were really lucky, fill quickly. Then was the time that formerly empty holes and trenches would become swimming pools and mighty inland seas and so many other things.

One of my favourite toys from Outside was something that'd been put there by accident, I think. It wasn't so much a part of Outside as it was sort of just there. It was an old wooden Post from back when they were still made of wood and not aluminum or steel. It had been square-shaped at one time but had been Outside for so long it had rotted on one face, becoming a long, roughly cone-shaped thing, square at the back still but nearly pointed at the front. When we played with Rain and the ditches would fill sooner or later I'd separate from my brother to go and find Post from wherever I'd left it the last time.

A lot of factors went into how I played with Post in the Rain but invariably it was around the idea of it being a ship. At times it was a rescue vessel, slowing it's progression down the muddy brown river to pick up spiders, roly-polies or whatever other Animal had happened to be caught in the deluge. I'd have the ship hold it's position with a long, slender branch and assist the little waterlogged creature on board, and then we'd resume our course, carefully making our way through rapids and wide, slow bits until we reached a patch of higher ground, a mountain perhaps, or a plateau. Beaching the ship carefully I'd assist the creature back to the safety of dry land and, swinging around at the wide spot where two ditches converged I'd turn the ship around and head back upriver, endlessly repeating my patrols as the day ran on and the Rain fell.

Other times, when the water was very deep and the Rain seemed like it was never going to end the yard would flood enough that I could take the ship into new places, visiting strange and unusual ports not often seen by ship traffic. There I'd pick up unusual items of trade or persons of importance and while the Rain came down we'd take long excursions in and around the river, with myself as Captain and Tour Guide in one.

Inevitably though Rain would finally be exhausted and pass on, bringing back other toys like Sun and Puffy Clouds and I'd leave the ship docked safely somewhere on a high patch of ground. It never occurred to me that one day my father might throw it out, or use it, but he never did. I don't know if he knew that it was a ship or that it was one of my toys but it stayed there, ready, until I outgrew the call of the wild river and the seven muddy seas.

I still play with some of the toys from Outside. I've put aside a lot of them as I've grown older and slower, but I still have a few favourites to which I return, like Oak Trees and Bugs. Even though I don't play with them as often as I used to, and not nearly as often as I'd like I still enjoy them. Sometimes they strike me as fresh and new, and sometimes as I play I feel my mind thick with nostalgia's sweet mustiness. I even still play in the rain once in a while. The toys have changed, but the boy is still in there, shrieking delightedly at the patter and the roar, the cool and the dampness and the sensation of water on skin.

I don't think I will ever outgrow playing with that particular toy.

__________________

Don't forget, this Sunday afternoon will be the triumphant re-return of The Irrelephant Show. This week's guest will be none other than the irascible giantess herself, meno! A banner day indeed for the show, and probably a minor blip on meno's sonar. Be sure and join us! Simply click the white button on the left during the show (6-7 pm CST) or the blue box below that anytime after to listen to an archived edition.

HOPEFULLY the weekend after that we'll have Batgirl from The Legend of Batgirl in the secret underground (bat-filled) broadcast studio. Another can't miss!

May 28, 2008

Things To Do Before You Die

I've never made an official list like that for myself since I'm afraid there'd be too many things on there I'd NOT do before I died, but what I HAVE done is kept a list of things to do before I die as I DO them. That way I can check them off as soon as I accomplish them and write them down, and I don't feel like a failure!

Win-win!

One of those things that I wrote down long before I started a list is:


  • Ride a motorcycle in the rain.


I've done that a few times, like the Rolling Stones said in a song once. After my first divorce many years ago the only vehicle I had was a motorcycle, and I rode it to work and to the grocery story and to anywhere I didn't want to walk for the better part of three years. I rode in the rain and the cold and the heat and even once in a hailstorm.

I've had more close calls on the bike when it's raining than at any other time, but when it's open road and the rain is coming down and you're out there in it, living it, it's...liberating. I once heard a man say "The honorable man loves the feel of rain upon his face." I don't know what it means, and my honor may not be in the best condition currently but I do know that there is something to this riding in the rain.

Not the skin on your arms being beaten red. Not the incessant noise the drops make on your helmet at 50 mph (or gawds forbid your skull.) Having a really good rain suit handy when you ride in the rain will make the pain part a little more bearable. No, what I'm getting at here is a sense of being a PART of things. When the thunder rolls you feel it in your chest. When the lightning flashes it's all around you, not filtered in through the window tinting and heard dimly over the roar of the A/C and the radio. It's a sense of being a tiny part of a very big whole.

You feel connected to life in a way that's getting harder and harder to come by these days. It makes you want to bare your teeth and howl at the sky. It makes you remember you're just another animal on the face of the earth. Granted, an animal with the good sense to come in out of the rain but only if you WANT to.

And with enough sense to invest in a good rain suit.

May 27, 2008

The Little Things

Someone once said “God is in the details.” I personally don’t believe in Her, but I do know how to keep my eyes open for the signs of Her handiwork. Just in case.

This morning I stopped the bike at the ATM (not the one with the crisp British accent but the mute one) and while I fiddled with trying to fetch my wallet out of my slacks while still wearing gloves (never an easy feat) my gaze was drawn to the side.

Ordinarily the only thing I see to my right when at that particular ATM is the back ends of a number of new Toyota vehicles. There’s a sizeable car lot there beside the bank, and the edge of their lot abuts a twenty foot wide grassy verge with a sort of low spot in it’s midst and a few elderly pecan trees shading the bank and the parking lot. Well, this morning it included two other items of interest: a pair of Mallard ducks.

I don’t know where they came from; there is no pond or lake nearby, not even a wide damp place but there they were, calmly waddling across the green grass toward the car lot in that sort of reserved, self-assured way that only birds in general can walk. They were quite a lovely pair; he resplendent in his waistcoat of green and grey, she quietly dressy in her brown and ivory spots. Unhurriedly they picked their way across the grass, up onto the pale concrete of the auto lot and began, so far as I could tell, to shop for a new car.

They looked at a few models but I think they’d already mostly decided on what interested them before they arrived. I can only guess that they finally attracted the attention of a salesman, because they were looking pretty seriously at a metallic grey Xb, one of those boxy little SUV things that Scion/Toyota makes. He seemed pretty impressed with the valve stems but I think it was the little Mrs. who decided the deal in the end, as it offered a lot of room in the back for storage of eggs, ducklings, and what have you.

Plus Scion offers (as a dealer-installed option) waterproof floor mats.

May 24, 2008

The Irrelephant Show

Just a reminder, there won't be a show this Sunday. I found out last night that I have ZERO signal strength at the campgrounds, so I can't call in.

So, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, eat plenty, play hard, and when I get back Monday I'll have a hot air ballooning story for you, full of my Own Personal Firsts.

May 22, 2008

Remembrance Of Things Past

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste.
William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 30" (verses 1-4)


My daughter is growing up.

She's thirteen now, and like the joke goes, she's thirteen going on thirty. She's trying out all these new adult emotions, and combined with her BFF who is a complete and utter drama queen she's having quite the run. On the phone tonight apparently the topic was "Divorce."

Quick back story. When we divorced, the ex moved back to Oregon while I stayed here in Louisiana. I fought for and won custody of my child, at the time a wee bairn of three or so. As part of the settlement my ex has custody of her for the summer months and every other Xmas, said holiday being one she often skips, so in actuality my daughter is here for the drudgery of the school year and vacations with her mother in the PNW.

For me this time of the year is definitely a black-tinged time. My daughter is leaving for the entire summer, and the reasons for this exodus all come marching back to me, lining up like soiled soldiers on the parade ground of my mind to be critically inspected yet again. When my child comes back she'll be two and a half months older, will have grown in height and is usually shrunk a little in diameter. She'll bring back with her an entire huge duffel bag full of dirty clothes, and most of the good clothes she brought with her will either not fit or will be stained. She'll also be bearing at least one artifact from the ocean that is only halfway done with the putrefication process and several hemp jewelry pieces.

She'll also be different emotionally. Different parenting styles and two months away from her father and step-mom naturally change her. Did I mention she'll be gone for over two months? This time of year always depresses me. This year, it seems, is also the first year that it's really bothering her.

Back to the story.

Weerelephant's BFF has a mother who is, to use the polite term, crazy as a shitehouse rat. Divorced several times and herself a veritable empress among drama queens, her daughter has picked up many of those traits. With Weerelephant's impending trip to Oregon pressing up close (just over a week now to go) she and BFF got to discussing divorce and the causes and circumstances thereof. Naturally, in the worst possible terms.

Since I've been working to pay for an airline ticket I didn't get to hear the discussion between her and her grandmother this evening, but from what I've gathered they discussed the reason her mother and I divorced. I'm not sure what reasons were given by my own never-divorced parent but I'm also not going to delve too deeply into the issue. I'm honestly afraid to find out what reasons my mother gave my daughter. The point being, Weerelephant and she talked about it and decided that it was better for her that her mom and I weren't together because we'd be fighting all the time, and that was that.

Then she mentioned something that could only have come from the scatterbrain of her maternal unit. The reason, she decided, that her mom and I were apart was because "my dad is grounded, and my mom is a free spirit."

Ah. Well, that must be it.

I need to go build a barn now, and put the plow horse away. Ayuh, ye be having a good evening now, Good Folk.

May 21, 2008

The Irrelephant Show

Because I suck, and because I've been dragging arse here of late, and because of a lot of things like my email going awry, I present a much-delayed The List from 5/11/08, the Mickelodeon/Strange Cousin Susan Interview show.


  • fondue
  • Menudo
  • do the "Irrelephant Polka"
  • "You don't get treats just because you're wearing a dress."
  • Geography is not Irrelephant's friend.
  • How big is your posse?
  • dorkleganger
  • the "bas irrelephant" roast! - that's exactly how Stucco typed it
  • frilled irrelephant, served w/ ivory toothpicks
  • fornicating elm trees
  • This should be the lightening isosceles triangle.
  • porkitosis
  • crickets wearing sweaters
  • rogue jar of peanut butter - Mickelodeon
  • Dr. Whom?
  • Charlie Chaplin gone bad
  • f u Irr
  • Nissan Figaro
  • Maybe it's just meant for the little man in the boat?
  • Talkies Tuesday
  • Throw that beet in the garbage can! - Mickelodeon
  • clear like a scientologist
  • I feel like I audited this episode. - Stucco


Whew. Okay! Be sure and join us this coming Sunday for more fooooooolishness! And maybe this time the List will be posted more efficiently. *snort*

Summertime, And The Living Is Easy

Summer isn’t on the way anymore, it’s already here. The humidity is already wrapping the air with it’s oven-warm damp blanket, and if I still had long hair, anything longer than stubble it’d be frizzy.

The redwing blackbirds are out and about, filling the air with their raucous trills. There’s one brave male, his shoulders splashed with bright red who likes to spend his day patrolling our front porch. He’ll land and strut about, glancing around with the imperious, black-eyed glare that only a male bird can muster. He walks about, pecks at whatever fresh insects are in the cracks and crevices around the wall and the sill, and he always stops to cast his imperious gaze at the tinted glass of our doors. He’ll stand there, draw himself up to his full height, flash his scarlet epaulets and trill loudly, putting his entire body into the effort as if to demand we fling the doors open to his august presence. It’s obvious from the tone in his voice that he’s demanding we allow him to gorge his royal self on the piles of juicy insects that we’re no doubt keeping hidden from him.

This morning the spot where I park my bike was covered with pale, lacy-winged bugs, all dead. It was the pale green insects that I think are called “lacewings” because of their gauzy, ephemeral green wings and miniscule bodies. It was the spookiest thing, seeing so many of them dead, literally dozens and dozens. I’m accustomed to seeing the front walk covered in dead bugs, especially after the hated Orkin man sprays his toxins all over, but never so many in the same place, as though they had been poured into a loose pile from a macabre envelope.

I stooped down to see what was going on and realized that they were all shells…shed skins. Dozens and dozens of them, perfectly shaped and empty. I guess last night was the moment for them all to shed their old outer garb and start anew, and they had chosen this place to host the grand unveiling. I can only wonder what it looked like; so many fresh, pale green bodies emerging from old, yellowed chiton, stretching out into the warm, moonlit air. Unfurling green lacy wings into the starlight, ready to take flight anew.

How I envy them that moment of rebirth.

May 19, 2008

Cry Havoc!

And let slip the couch potatoes of war. Yeah, the Bard has nothing to fear from me.

Lure Coursing. When I first heard the name I had no idea. The proliferation of abbreviations that follow show dog's names is mostly Greek to me, and the ACK Greek is no exception. But dear Belle, the other blonde in my life, has earned my respect and a couple of letters to tack behind her name now.

This weekend. Texas. Hot and dry and big. Texas is damned big. A local rancher there loaned a group of AKC lure coursing people a sizeable pasture of theirs to use as a lure coursing grounds. Nice fences, privacy, and plenty of open grassy ground that went up and down a lot. Before I get too much farther, though, let me give you an idea of what lure coursing is all about, other than being yet another way to put your registered dog to work as a money siphon.



(I couldn't help it, the grass and flowers were just too pretty not to stick my dog in the midst.)

You start with a Ford starter motor, about 1000 yards of heavy nylon twine and a handful of pulleys mounted on long metal spikes so you can secure them at ground level. Mix in a few acres of land. Sprinkle liberally with a Huntmaster, a lure operator and some judges. When you've got that all stirred up you get an irregular, angular pattern in the grass in pulleys around which the nylon line runs, you've got three white plastic grocery store baggies tied to the line a few feet apart (the "bunny") and when you hook the starter to a battery and a switch and loop the line around the starter motor's shaft a few times you get a line that runs the pattern very very fast, hauling the bunnies around at breakneck speed.

Then you get a couple of dogs that like to chase things and you slip them. Hence the Shakespeare reference. *g*

The thing is, we didn't know if Belle would chase the bunny. We'd tried it a few times in the yard with a tennis ball in a white baggie, and she was rarely impressed. She'll chase the squirrels and cats, though, so we figured we had an even chance.

Now, I've never seen a lure coursing event. Never been near one, so this was all new to me. Honestly, I had a lot of misconceptions, too.

It all starts at one end of the lure line, with the Huntmaster and your dog and what's called a "slip collar." This is just a wide, soft collar that lets you hang on to your dog while she flails around desperately trying to tear the plastic guts out of the bunny and is arranged so that all you have to do is let go of two fingers and the collar slips away, leaving the dog free to run. The lure operator flips the switch, the lures go screaming off across the ground and a few moments later the Huntmaster says "Tally Ho!" and you slip your hound.



(That's the Huntmaster there, and Mrs. I preparing to slip Belle.)

Now, I thought that dogs would simply follow the lure, running full tilt until stopped, but there I was wrong. Most of the competing dogs I watched would get distracted, would run way wide in a sharp turn and simply never come back. They'd go here, they'd go there. And naturally, Borzoi are the world's best at this. Trained competition dogs with a will of their own, they're easily distracted from the lure by things like food, butterflies and the presence of trees, plants and other animals.

I watched a whole series of magnificent animals go roaming far and wide while distraught owner/handlers screamed and cajoled and pointed at the madly fleeing bunny. I shook in terror at the thought of my dog being compared to, say, a Basenji who decided that he wanted to head for the hills after turn 2. I was afraid she'd behave like most of her breedmates who simply refused to run, or wanted to run far away quickly when called for their return. What did happen was not expected.

The Huntmaster said "Tally Ho." The lure operator send the bunnies whizzing away. Belle's ears perked up, Mrs. I slipped her, and Belle took off like she'd been fired from a howitzer. She ran. My stars and garters did she run.



My sweet hound, who prefers sleeping to all other activities, my out-of-shape two year old pup ran like her very life depended on catching that plastic bag. She ran over 700 yards that Saturday morning in the bright Texas sunlight and my heart leaped and ran with her, struggling against the cage of my ribs. She was incredible to watch, a clockwork thing of flesh and bone and muscle doing what it was designed to do better than anything else in the world: run.



When the bunny whipped back to the starting point and stopped Belle was right behind it. When it stopped she spun around and tore one of the bags from the line, ripping it to shreds, then popped her head back up as if to say "Make it go again! I wanna go! I wanna RUN!"

The Huntmaster sauntered over, patted Belle and handed Mrs. I a green rosette ribbon signifying her first of two lure course tests passed. She'd run clean, with good focus and speed, and "completed with enthusiasm." Sunday was even better. For her second test run she spent the entire time alert, yelping and struggling to get out to the bunny long before it was her turn. She wanted that bunny with a vengeance! When it was her turn there was no question she was going to run, it was simply a matter of how well. Honestly, it was even better. The course was a little shorter but this time she seemed to expect the sudden changes of direction as the line whipped around the pulleys. She tracked with her eyes and her body followed, her muscles pouring out their all in a beautiful symphony of movement.

The Huntmaster, after the course was complete and Belle secured, complimented her on a beautiful run and complimented Mrs. I on an excellent handling job. Belle took it in stride, which is to say 'wading in the stock pond cooling off and having a drink.'



Now that she's successfully completed her two tests, to make sure she is physically able and willing to run cleanly she's now allowed to compete against other dogs. A regular lure coursing would pit three hounds of the same breed against each other, and they are judged not on who gets across the finish line first but on a number of things, such as how well they run, how accurately they judge changes of direction, how cleanly they perform (not crashing into each other) and with how much enthusiasm they finish. Points are awarded and eventually a champion is crowned.

Belle, however, isn't worried about all that.



Us? We get to put a pair of letters behind her AKC registered name now: Aria Svora Cascabel, JC. "Junior Courser." I couldn't be more proud.

__________________
For more on lure coursing or to get some clarity from my muddled descriptions and to see the silly pastel coloured blankets they have to wear in competitions with other dogs you can visit the AKC lure coursing site.

H'okay, pictures are up on Flickr!

May 16, 2008

Poetry Friday: Lean

It's Friday again. The week, already shaky on it's new feet has slipped and skidded and landed hard on it's arse on the concrete, sighing softly because it's almost over. It's almost in tears, sitting there on it's bruised pride, shaking it's shaggy head. 'At least,' it's thinking, 'it's almost over for another few days.'

Mona was right across the street when it slipped and fell, and saw the whole thing. Saw Friday get weak stumble, and was there just as it made it to the unyielding ground. She leaned over, slipped her hands under Friday's arms and hoisted it back up onto it's feet, dusted off it's back and bottom (never one to pass up a quick pat of a nice bottom, that's our Mona) and gave it an impish peck on the cheek and a bright smile before dancing her way back across the street.

Is it anyone's fault that Friday took a quick peek down Mona's blouse when she leaned over to help?



Say It All, But Say It With Lean

When you're a Man
The World expects certain things of you.
Don't give The World all of it.
Keep it guessing. Keep it
on it's toes.

Once in a while, though,
The World will ask something of you.
Something you can either give or not give.
You'll be measured by your response.
Not graded, simply measured.

Once in a while a Woman in your life
will need you. Will need your strong back
(and perhaps your weak mind.)
She likely won't even say anything.
She'll just lean.

She'll lean back.
The elegant machinery of her skeleton
will relax, settle, come to rest
and the sweet-smelling silk of her skin
will contact yours as she leans back.

Whatever you do:
Don't panic.
Don't leap about.
Don't turn it into a sexual invitation.
Simply stand there: a strong, trusted place for her to be.

Be her oak.



Lean

Borzoi do a funny thing. They lean.

They learn trust slowly, as slowly as they mature, but eventually they will come to accept you with that blind trust that all dogs seem to know. One day you'll be standing in the yard and your Borzoi will wander by and you'll reach down to pet it. You'll run your hands along the bumpy xylophone of it's deep ribcage, slip your fingertips along the Carpathian range of it's spine, and you'll draw your hands lovingly across that elegant, long face.

While you lavish that attention on your wolfhound your moving piece of Art Deco sculpture will lean against you. Not insistently, not like a screaming child flinging themselves against you for help against the vile attack of a honeybee. They'll simply lean their weight against you; a soft, curly-haired pressure against your thighs.

When Belle leans against me I cannot help but think of the tenuous chain that she is adding a link to. The chain that stretches all the way back to Russia some hundreds of years ago. I can see Peter The Great, the Czar of Russia standing on a steppe in the hinterlands. The snow is blowing, the wind is making a groaning sound in his ears. I can see his Borzoi, his pack of wolfhounds scattered across the steppe around him. Their long, sharp faces are turned into the wind sniffing deeply, eyes wide for any sign of movement. I can see one huge hound, his favourite, with a name that is a mouthful of difficult consonants which flow from Peter's mouth like water spilling over jagged rocks.

I can see his beringed hand reaching down from it's furry coat sleeve; a wide hand, rough with hunting and the cold, stroking the thick curls of the hound's chest, burying it's gnarled joints in the warm coat. When Belle leans I can see that hound leaning against it's master, against this powerhouse of a man bestride a mighty empire, and I feel his smile under it's bushy beard echoed in my own smile.



Don't forget guys and dolls that the Irrelephant Show won't be broadcast this weekend only, as I'll be in Texas, the land of sweat and cowboy hats and leather-skinned women. We will return the NEXT weekend, however, and on Sunday, June 1 we'll be on air with the one and only meno as a most honored guest! More reclusive than Thomas Pynchon, she's graciously submitted to being interviewed on the air!

Be sure and join us!

May 14, 2008

Que Sera, Sera

I can't find Rachel Hunter. I was fully prepared to take a header off her head.

I got the email today, the "Thank you but no" one. *insert Gallic shrug* "Life," as my syster likes to say, "goes on." There's other jobs, other places. I still love my trains (as evinced by my taking several snaps of the local bringing a long string of brand new UTLX tank cars back to the yard today.*) I simply won't be working on them.

Not being the sort of person who points to signs and portents with a gasp and a quick defensive gesture I'm not going to say that it was ill-omened, because it wasn't. It was sheer coincidence that I had a panic trying to find the key to my brother's truck (my sister-in-law had moved the truck and moved the key, also.) I won't say that being stuck in what seemed like an eternally long line at McDonald's was a warning that perhaps this wasn't my day.

What I might point to in the "could have been a warning sign" was the fact that I arrived for my interview EXACTLY on time.

You see, I'm one of those people who suffer from chronic punctuality. I was raised to believe in the ancient axiom "On time is late" and so I usually strive to be at an appointed place ten to fifteen minutes early. Naturally it was with intense mortification that I watched the "Arrival Time" counter on the GPS stay firmly nailed to 3:01 pm for the duration of the trip, no matter how much I tried to press the speed. Granted, I COULD have made it much earlier but the 5-oh patrol those byways very heavily, so I sped in a very restrained manner.

Walked into the building just as the interviewers were walking out to see if I was there. Performed the necessary paperwork (release of info, background check, pint of blood) and did a quick detour for ablutions (I hadda pee) and went into the Baton Rouge Yardmaster's office.

It's funny. Over the years I've gotten very good at interviews. I know the right body language. I spent the entire time leaned forward in the chair, my open posture showing a receptive nature. Every time one or the other looked up from their notes at me they found my gaze meeting theirs with just the hint of a smile. Not challenging but welcoming. It also didn't hurt that they used the exact same interview system that was used on me just over three years ago when I interviewed for my current position at Very Big Home Health. I scored a possible 5 points out of 5 on that interview. I'm certain I scored the same because they asked the exact same questions. I'm even pretty sure I gave the exact same answers as I did three years ago.

They asked a few off-the-cuff questions designed to catch me out, which I batted back with aplomb. "What do you think is the most important part of a conductor's job?" Wow, could you give me a tough one? "Safety." Along with a detailed explanation on why. I swear, I need to teach a damned course on how to get through interviews. One of the interviewers even went so far as to walk me out and complimented me on my interview, my maturity, my obvious intelligence and my appearance (I guess I was the only guy thus far to come in wearing a polo shirt and slacks. Maybe it was the elegant moustache that won his attentions? *shrug*)

When it was all said and done I went home with a head-full of information and another two hour drive ahead of me.

In that two hour drive home I thought a great deal about what was told to me. That evening I talked it out with Mrs. I and I batted it around my head even more. I weighted and I analyzed and I came to the conclusion that the amount of time I was told I'd spend away from my family simply wasn't worth the eventual monetary gains. I was told that I'd work sometimes as much as three or four weeks straight without a day off. I was told that I'd be many states away from home for the better part of a week every week. Staring out I'd be the low man on the totem pole in an industry where "seniority is everything" and as such I'd get ALL the shite jobs. The nights. The weekends. The holidays. The bad jobs, the hard jobs. The distant jobs. The hire rate, I was told after I asked, was on average once every six months so it would literally be years before I had any sort of pull.

I had a long hard talk with myself before I fell asleep that night and decided that it simply wasn't worth it to watch my daughter grow up in jumps and spurts rather than in a long, slow progression of days. I'd rather see her grow slowly rather than watch her as though I were watching snippets of a movie stuck on a staccato fast-forward. If that means I'll eventually have to be a greeter at Wal-Mart at age 65 then so be it. So, I wrote a very nice, politely worded email to the HR rep asking that my application be withdrawn from consideration.

About an hour later I got the generic, official "Thanks but no thanks" email. Maybe the job went to a guy who doesn't have a family, or doesn't care to be home with them. I hope he enjoys the job. Maybe one day I'll wave and take his picture as he rolls by.

But it's okay. It wasn't, as Schmoopie said, meant to be. I learned a lot more about the job I thought I wanted, and I realised something much more important: I've got a LOT of friends scattered out across the country who know me only by my words and pictures and occasional foray into radio broadcasting. Those friends care a great deal for me and want me to succeed and moreover, be happy. That knowledge, the sure and certain knowledge that you guys are out there rooting for me, THAT makes all the difference in the world.

Thank you.

______________________
Post scriptum: Weerelephant's choir group took first place in their out-of-town competition in Texas over the weekend. I was here to hug her when she got home. I'll be there with her tomorrow night when she has another competition locally. I'll be there to hand her a bundle of roses when she leaves the stage at her tenth year dance recital later this month, just as I've been there each of the prior nine years. I'll be there when she steps back off the airplane from spending the summer in Oregon with her Mom in August.

By gods I'll be here for her.


*

May 12, 2008

ACK!

Tomorrow is The Day.

My interview for the KCS "Conductor Trainee" job. Naturally, me being me I've driven myself to such a height of fevered pitch that if I don't get the job I'm going to be, emotionally, at the point of hurling myself off some very high place, like the top of Rachel Hunter's head.

Tomorrow at noon I slip out of work ostensibly for "an appointment." Yeah. An appointment with my destiny, perhaps. Or just a pair of HR reps from the KCS home office who want to grill me to see how serious a candidate I am. 108 miles one way to get there (the interview is being held several cities to the south of me in Red Stick*, our fair and overcrowded capital,) a three o'clock appointment and after that? Who knows.

Que sera, sera.

By the first of June either I'll be getting ready for an 8 week trip to a school starting June 2 in Kansas City, MO for extensive and intensive training in, er, trains or I'll be begging you guys to keep thinking positive that the local electric company will see my average math skills and my upper 10% in everything else scores on their aptitude test (remember the giraffe plotting?) and will give me a nod, a wink, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, something to let me know they've noticed me and want me to become a Power Plant Technician with them.

Either way I'm hoping to be able to leave Very Big Home Health's local agency with a rude gesture at the director who thinks I'm not very much a team player.

*insert Gallic shrug here*

Ye gods I'm a wreck.


____________________
* Baton Rouge - in French literally "Red Stick." I think they named it that because if you shove a pole into any bayou water in Louisiana and draw it back out it'll be reddish brown due to all the Tony Sacherie's seasoning floating around.

Honest.

May 10, 2008

The Giggling Irrelephant Show

Don't forget kids that this Sunday's show is going to be hosting the one, the only, the cinematic and Doctor Who obsessor that is Mickey Glitter! The usual cast of characters should be in, as well as a bit of jell-o wrestling. Sci-Fi geekery will abound!

Be sure and join us!

May 8, 2008

First Cut:

"So what made you interested in a job with the railroad?"

I think I answered her coherently, I'm not sure. I may have blithered a little bit. I'm certain I let at least one small giggle out. Whatever it was I said must have been enough.

I've made the first cut, you see. My resume and application were accepted by the Kansas City Southern Railroad Company, and an HR agent contacted me this afternoon to set up an in-person interview in Baton Rouge on the 13th for the position of Conductor Trainee at the KCS Latanier Yard just outside of town here.

So what I need now, more than anything, is for everyone out there who gives even the slightest whit about me to send good thoughts, pray heartfelt prayers, spin prayer wheels, burn incense or do stuff with your chakra for me.

Steel wheels here I come. I hope.

May 7, 2008

Donald Fagan Is Spinning In His Grave

The American Idol kids just sang Steely Dan's "Reelin' In The Years." Badly. With this horribly choreographed sort of "walk around the stage in simple patterns but don't practice it" routine.

Oh my stars and garters someone please help me? My ears won't stop bleeding.

I Has A Talent

Let me show you it.*

Parenting is a strange business indeed. When I found out that my first wife was pregnant a major part of my brain ran away, gibbering in terror. I had no idea how to be a parent! Other people's kids are annoying, what was going to keep MINE from being annoying? Snotty noses. Whining. Kicking the back of airplane seats. I really wasn't prepared in any sort of way: emotionally, physically, financially. But, the choice wasn't mine anymore. She was en route, and wasn't going to be stopped.

One of the main reasons I'd held off being a parent up to that point was that I was terrified that she'd grow up like I did, which is to say introverted, terrified, and ill-prepared to live in a world that was going to spend a lot of it's time showing her just how much It didn't care. Granted my mother had a lot to do with the warp of my woof. Having miscarried right before me I was, well, "sheltered" shall we say? If I breathed funny I was at the ER. I wasn't allowed human contact without having to wear protective clothing until I was twelve. I couldn't wear makeup or paint my nails until I was twenty. It was a tough life, and I grew up scared and shy and probably a little neurotic in a small, culture-free backward-arse town. Catholic education furthered that, as did a Baptist college. I was doomed from the get go.

So naturally when parenthood loomed, I was sickened by the thought that my daughter would have to live That Life. I was certain that with her mother out of the picture by age two and my daughter not being exposed to that (questionable) other experience set she'd not have much other choice than to grow up like me. I tried my best to get ready to try and help her through a life filled with fear and confusion. As she grew up, though, that stuff never arrived quite like I thought it would. Well, not entirely so.

My daughter, you see, is in a Talent Show at her school today. My shy, fast-and-quiet talking, book-reading, Naruto-loving** thirteen year-old introvert is in a Talent Show today.

By herself.

Performing in front of the whole (sizeable) school.

Dancing.

And singing. ("Singing In The Rain," if you're curious.)

Oh. Mai. Gawd. My child is doing this. My child is going to be up there doing something that I couldn't even consider doing until I was well into my late twenties, and even then it took a ton of makeup and a disguise*** to make me comfortable enough to do so. She's going to dance and sing her little heart out, and while I don't have huge hopes that she's going to come home with a giant gold loving cup in her arms I'm still astounded beyond words that she's DOING IT of her own accord. I didn't press her to dance and sing. I didn't know she was even IN the thing until last week. (She's so quiet it'd take a bone sticking out of her leg and arterial bleeding for her to mention to me that she might need some help.)

She's her own girl, surely enough. She's inherited more than a few of her father's traits, both genetic and developmentally. She's quiet and shy, and a voracious reader. She's got my nose, my eyes and that big, open curl that my hair gets when it's long but as sure as there'll be another day to survive she's gone off in her own directions, all my parenting efforts be damned. She's more secure in her skin than I ever dreamed of being at that age, she travels like a seasoned veteran (she's going to Dallas this weekend for a chorale expo with her class and she's telling ME when to be up Friday morning) and she's got a surprisingly large circle of friends in school.

The acorn is falling a lot farther from the oak's trunk than I thought it would, and it's one of the greatest joys I've known.

________________
* Actually I can't show you my talent, since the only talent I seem to possess is the ability to lick my own eyebrows, and I don't have a video camera.

** Anime, don't ask me to explain any more because I can't.

*** (All dressed up for a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.)

May 5, 2008

Up, Up And...

...not so away. More like a repeated failure to launch.



That's SkyBird, the hot air balloon that I groundcrew for. Again.

If you've read the blog for, oh, two or more years you might remember me talking about SkyBird and David her pilot and Jim the Ground Crew Chief. I'm sure I waxed rhapsodic about what a wonderful thing it is to be up in a balloon, how the envelope above you looks like you're staring up into a massive three-dimensional stained glass window, how your heart leaps when the the gondola first slips away from the earth with the lightest nudge. I even remember being warned in my comments at the time that the pilot/owner would likely take full and ruthless advantage of me, working me for nothing, and I defended my choice by saying, not once but repeatedly, that working with these two men was like being a part of a perfectly-functioning machine and for me being around this sort of excellence was by far payment enough.

Well, after four or five outings with the crew I suddenly stopped getting calls from the pilot asking if I could come help. No more text messages with times and meeting places. Nothing. Being a good Southern boy I didn't press the issue, didn't call David up making a big stir. I assumed something had happened, thought perhaps I'd offended somehow and let it drop.

Two years passed, with me wondering only occasionally what had happened, lamenting the loss of those early Saturday mornings. Once in a while I'd miss being up and around just before dawn, helping Jim unload the wicker gondola from the trailer. Only once in a while would I think about hauling the big blue canvas bag containing the envelope out, the rustling sound the blue and orange nylon material made as it slithered from it's bag onto the ground. How it would look, a wrinkled blue and orange twisted thing lying across the dew-damp grass. What it looked like to stare into the half-inflated envelope, like staring into a fantasy world rendered in warm light and dragon's exhalation.



Only once in a great while would I fondly remember the first explosive roar of the butane burner firing a ten-foot long jet of blue-orange flame up into the envelope's maw.



Not to mention the moment the envelope finally clears the ground, how it seems to hold still for a moment, still tied to the earth before it suddenly leaps in slow-motion into an upright position over the gondola.



Yeah, I only thought about it once in a while.

Then it happened. One afternoon the phone rang. It was David, wanting to know if I wanted to go crewing. I flipped out, completely. A few back and forth missed calls later and I finally figured out what had happened: long story short, a repairwoman who failed to mention she'd let her licensure lapse resulted in some 50+ balloons in a four state area (including SkyBird here in LA) being grounded until they all could be recertified. Red tape, FAA run-arounds and so forth stopped the business dead in it's tracks while it could all be sorted out.

But now? Now she's airborne again. Well, at least I think so.

I missed the relaunch. Last weekend we tried again. Saturday morning I was up at 5, bustling around, showering, dressing. At 5:30 the call came--too foggy to lift, rescheduled until that evening.

Thirty seven days later that evening finally arrived and found me standing with a fair-sized group of folks on a grass landing strip that dated back to pre-WWII days. The gondola was unloaded and positioned, the envelope's mooring cables and D-rings pulled out of the bag and attached, the burner put in place and...we waited. The wind, you see, was not cooperating, and when you lift off in a huge nylon envelope that's at the mercy of the wind you make sure you have some measure of safety, which we didn't.

Two hours passed, the wind never let up, so we quietly packed up again, and I've yet to see SkyBird go flying. Quite frankly it's KILLING ME!

So, I sit and I hope and I wait. I wait for that call telling me to be up bright and early one weekend morning, meet at the usual place. I wait for the careful, patient voice of David, the retired Air Force pilot as he calls out measurements of wind speed and direction, the careful charting of a likely course. I wait for the unpacking and the painstaking assembly. The click of D-rings and the soft rattle of the gondola being positioned in the still morning air. I hunger for the soft crackle of radio checks, both the main and the backup. The anticipation roiling around me, moored to the ground by David's dour, certain movements. The first red roar of burning butane.

I've yet to see her in the air again. So I wait, impatiently, for SkyBird to hang over my head like some wonderfully silent, hugely improbable thing, half of the earth and half of the air.

May 1, 2008

Poetry Friday: I

Mona has served up some self-referential Poetry Friday, and me, I's not sure where to go with it. Damn you, Mona! Just like a woman--half the time it's smooth sailing, and half the time it's a struggle against the very forces of Nature.

Okay, so I've been rolling this around in my head for several hours now, and still haven't come up with anything earth-shattering, anything with a "Wow!" factor, and certainly no Pucker Factor.


Roight. Here we go. Enough fiddling about.

Blogging is, by it's very existence, a shout of self. "I wrote this, pay attention to me!" I blog, therefore I want people to pay attention to me. I am, however, a somewhat introverted person, a quiet person. I tend to strip most of the really personal stuff out of here, or else cover it in such a garish overlay of silliness that you'd have to read pretty hard and with a pretty big grain of salt to find the core of truth in it. So, (some) full disclosure forthcoming, in the form of a whole lotta "I" statements.

I am sensitive. Wildly so. When I was a very small kid the sight of another child crying would make me cry. I'm still this way, tho not quite THAT bad. A very elderly patient called this morning to get some help sorting her meds out. She was distressed because she couldn't find her fifth prescription bottle, and started crying on the phone. It tore my heart out.

I won't, however, ever go back to the "mood stabilizers." I'd rather be near-suicidally depressed and manically high at times than a soft, puddingesque "okay" all the time. That's not living, that's zombiehood.

I publically and proudly profess that I do not believe in any god. This is true. My Catholic upbringing, however, was hammered in so deeply that even in the midst of my most certain moments I still think "Crap, what if I'm wrong?"

I think more than one sexual partner at the same time is highly over-rated and way too hyped by the pr0n industry. In my time I've been treated to several encounters with two partners and once, very briefly, to three partners and honestly all I could think about every time was "How do I make sure everyone gets a fair share?" I'm the sort of person who can only make one person happy at a time, sorry.

I often feel powerless. I don't know if this is a feature of my society as a whole or of my own sense of self, but when I can't fix something that is either within or beyond my control it irks the ever-loving shit out of me. By nature I'm a fixer. An unskilled one at that, but a fixer nonetheless. When I can't fix it I feel like another f word--"failure."

I used to be terrified of the dark. It wasn't until my late 20s that I finally got over that. Mostly. Once in a very great while I let a little of that "there's something following you" fear through, just to see if I've beaten it, and every single time it's just as strong as it ever was, if not stronger for all the time it's been spending locked up in my subconcious mind.

I often worry that my stories and my past events and all the things I've done aren't really that interesting. I fear I'm hopelessly ordinary, and that's a sad thought for someone who likes to think of himself as being the sort of person who, when he's old, people will refer to as "eccentric."

I think I learned how cool a pipe could be was from The Professor, Encyclopedia Brown's parental-type unit. And no, I don't inhale, and yes, I limit myself to no more than one serving of tobacco a day (cigar or pipe) and yes, it's my only vice. Well, that and women, but I don't smoke more than one woman a day either.

I think The Catcher In The Rye is one of the worst books I've ever read. Furthermore, I think the practice of making students disassemble books in English Lit classes is the main reason there are so few people who read for pleasure anymore.

I also find women who read a lot very enticing. Nothing is sexier than brains.

I dream, deeply and vividly. I wish I remembered more of them.

I still self-edit, even when I'm fully disclosing. I, you see, still can't bring myself to offend people. *wry smile* I've written and erased at least three statements from this post. I guess I'm doing good to have gotten this far. Baby steps. Baby steps.

The Irrelephant Show: Man's Quest For Meaning In The 21st Century And Beyond

Aaaah, May Day. If only I had a massive, erect pole to wrap ribbons around.

Don't forget, coming up this Sunday at 6pm CST I'll be back on the air (yes, again) with my special guest Clowncar from The Oort Cloud. Clowncar and I are fairly new to each other's company but he's an excellent writer and we share a few quirks so be ready for a show full of old sci-fi movies, some rubber monster ogling and perhaps I can sucker him into helping me with my math problems. Vulgar Wizard will be back with us after her memorable guest spot on Mr. Fab's show last Sunday, Stucco will have his glucose levels back under control and with luck we'll also hear from some of our other regulars!

And naturally there'll be some monitoring from BTR. Big Brother is all up in my Kool-Aid.