Are You Afraid?

I’ve never served my country unless it was community service after a ridiculously stupid trespassing violation. Dropping dollops of mashed potatoes and gravy on a starving person’s plate wasn’t heroic, and it wasn’t scary. It was just the right thing to do.

My father served in Korea, and although I’ve read parts of books and periodicals about the Korean War, I always wanted to grasp how he felt in battle. Other than suffering through one of the coldest winters in Korea, he gave very few details. However, after being decorated as a war hero, earning the Silver Star, two bronze stars and a Purple Heart, he didn’t deem himself as a hero. He praised those fighting.along his side, who saved his life while dying on behalf of not only him, but our country.

I did ask him a fair question. “Were you ever afraid?” That’s a tough question to ask a man, especially when you want the answer to be “NO.” In my eyes, and in my heart, he was a hero, not just as a Veteran, but as a father and husband. His answer was not what I wanted. “Right down to my socks, buster.”

Even after that response, I still believed he was a hero. I didn’t understand then, and without serving or participating in a war, I can only try to understand now. Courage isn’t about being fearless, it is about taking action even when you’re terrified. Courage is moving forward. when you are afraid and moving on even when you are scared right down to your cold, wet socks.He wouldn’t have been a hero if he wasn’t afraid. Perhaps, when I asked him that simple question, he was afraid to answer it honestly to his youngest son, but he did.

That’s bravery at its finest.

Colors of Wonder

The Northern lights. As a ten year old, I didn’t know what the hell those were. It could have been a lamp hovering over a basketball hoop or a left field fence for all I knew. I did know this. When my mother would reach for a wooden chair and stare to the North, it didn’t matter. I’d stare with her.

Our mother spent decades in that yard watching and reluctantly participating in our backyard adventures, whether it was baseball, football, basketball or kick the can, she’d be there. One night, she asked me if I wanted to see the Northern Lights, and I didn’t care if was a 30 watt lightbulb. I said, yes.

She sat in the chair and I sat on the lawn next to her wondering when this light would turn on to illuminate our yard and house. Mom sat patiently, and I sat impatiently waiting for something I wasn’t sure I believed in or not. I tossed my impatience aside, along with my leather baseball glove, and decided to believe in her. Something I should have done long before.

An hour went by ( to me that was a day) and I saw nothing but dark blue sky. Usually, a chatter box, my mother was silent for that hour. I still sat by her believing something may happen which would define me as a man, child, infant or just a plain old earthling. Much like Sasquatch, the lights didn’t properly arrive. Yet, she believed, some day, they would. Therefore, I remained faithful as well, that one day they would arrive…just not that night.

Last Saturday, after hearing from the local news the Northern Lights could be witnessed at sunset, I sat alone on the grass waiting to see them in all their glory. I wasn’t alone. Although it was a beautiful sunset, the brilliant lights seen in internet pictures never arrived, much like Sasquatch. Yet, sitting they made me realize the most magical part of the northern lights was actually our mother.

Although we never captured it in its full brilliance, I thought there was more to Northern Lights than just the colors. It was faith and wondering what was beyond those lights. My mother always believed there was more somewhere else. At the time, I didn’t, but I do now. Still never seeing the Northern Lights, I went further and found out there was something beyond those lights which would make me happy. Thanks to her, I’m happy.

Powder Blue

Marital bliss. It’s a glorious time to celebrate two lovely earthlings pretending to become “one”. Beautiful bridesmaids, dignified groomsman, two pious alter boys, a priest and an innocent ring bearer all bathing in the confines of a Christian laden church.

Six years old and wearing a powder blue tuxedo doesn’t make you cute. Neither does a white blazing hot afro. It was 1979. There was a wedding for my. sister, and I was forced to attend in a powder blue tuxedo. I was Mr. AfroTux. Being the ring bearer, I couldn’t decline. And then, when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

I’d never been fitted, or, fondled, up until that time. What was this guy measuring and why? Couldn’t I just borrow a hand me down tuxedo with patches from the fifties? No. That would be too classy. Declining wasn’t an option.

I was about to embark on the most ridiculously fun and contaminated wedding littered with debauchery of the nineteen seventies. To many, it was a ball with passed out bridesmaids vomiting and groomsman embarrassing their white selves on the dance floor. To me, it was a movie I wouldn’t be allowed to watch on HBO. For my parents, it was a 10 thousand dollar nightmare.

Walking down the aisle with a the ring on a goose down pillow, I didn’t know I’d be the butt of all jokes. I strolled down the aisle, not knowing the ring was sprayed with WD forty, and my hands were greased with extra virgin olive oil. While being dipped in sweat, the ring fell off my hands into the pew landing on an aisle close to the bride and groom’s parents, and everyone laughed. I was mortified. I didn’t expect or dream of the following. It was like a fortune cookie would determine the outcome of this wonderful, yet mind bending free-for-all-for-everything. “Cake. Booze. Pie. Booze. Cheese. Booze. Catholics. booze… Meat”….ok, we get it. That’s exactly what the fortune read. This was just prior to the wedding.

During the wedding, one of the maids of dishonor passed out while listening to the Lord’s Prayer. No big deal. A janitor swept her away like refuse and everyone allowed the procession to proceed, which it did with corny songs and sacred vows. At that point, my ring error was forgotten. We all fall asleep during the priest’s homily. (Usually, we’re just not intoxicated during the homily, just bored.)

Following the wedding, we were punished with obligatory pictures. I was a powder blue nightmare garnished with an explosive white disco hairstyle only a cartoon character from Mad Magazine could represent. Since I never looked in a mirror before the age of twelve, I didn’t really give a damn. It was 6 years later when I discovered the pictures, and said, “I could have used a haircut and a bath.”

My brother, Steve, entered the scene wearing a tuxedo, but was so uncomfortable with his platinum shoes sized too small, he wore red and white Nikes in the family picture. He borrowed them from the priest, presiding the wedding ( one of my father’s best friends) only to our father’s dismay.

The alter boys, brothers Tom and Greg, after disrobing from their black and white jerseys, then adorned Saturday Night Live Fever clothing purchased from the affluent J.C Penny for the reception. They looked like disheveled, crinkly like 1970’s porn stars not yet ready for prime time also not ready for dancing. On we went to the reception at the exclusive Knights of Columbus hall. That’s when many teenagers discovered America, and Spokane.

The beauty of living in Spokane, Washington is that the drinking age doesn’t apply to those below the age of 21. They only consider enforcement for those under 12. I was six, my next older brother was 10, and then the eldest of the lower third of my family was 12. I believe he had the best time of us all. The strange punch provided fumed his dancing skills, along with his breath, to levels accelerating to 12.0.

Cousins over the age of 11 began dipping, eating, dipping again, drinking and drinking again and staggering. It was a wonderland of fun filled pleasantry only a Catholic wedding could provide. Even Tiny Tim showed up and said, “God Bless Them….All of them…and a happy hangover to everyone.”

I suffered only from a cheese fondue hangover. Therefore, I witnessed things at the wedding only a sober party could remember. My father, paying for this magical procession of drunkenness, laughter and dancing, was defiant of the door which was required to be remained closed. According to our friend, Vic, it was well over two hundred and seventy nine degrees inside the sweat dowsed public place of glorious Catholic celebration. Therefore, when he suggested the door be left open, my father objected. Vic complied.

Vic said to my father, “I’m too drunk and you’re too old, and I have too much respect for you to fight.” The door remained closed, and the mass dehydrating continued.

I don’t properly know when the reception ended, but the residue still probably remains in the hallows of our family’s home. Vomit and clothing were strewn upon the bedrooms, laundry room, staircase, kitchens and basement….also a bedroom. There was so much confusion, and drunkenness, our guests staying at home didn’t know how to find their rooms. One of the cousins passed out in the laundry room, another on the staircase, two in each of our kitchens, and one in my father’s bedroom. This was before dad even entered the house, wondering if any stragglers, or. staggerers might show up next.

Along with mom and dad, my brother Tom and I remained sober and were capable of finding a place to sleep away from the others.

I remember, at age six, I hadn’t yet read the Bible, nor did I have any desire to do so at the time. I also remember seeing the Holy Bible kept in one of the rooms that night before falling asleep. It was then I thought, after the religiously matrimonial gathering accompanied by a raging party, this book may be a little more interesting than I had previously imagined.

Although reading many parts of the Bible through my youth and adulthood, I still haven’t found a story similar to what I witnessed that day and night.

The Ferry and the Bluff

Ferry terminals prepare us for Hell. You show up early just to hope and pray for purgatory. After paying the fee at the terminal with the grim reaper, you must then receive your line of destiny. You can only wish for any number but six.

When he or she says “lane two or three”, you exhale with dignity only praying for the nest step…A port a potty.

Once passing the porta potty protocol, you must then get a treat at the vendor which doesn’t accept your Visa. One doesn’t question this. You retrieve your card, take two steps to the left, and then sprint to you your car before the Ferry sounds its horn, beckoning you for departure. It’s frightening. While trying to get a large rice crispy treat out of the vending machine, a lady behind me asked, “Does it work?” My reply, “We’ll see, but let’s not take any chances.” The machine took my card, and I said to the lady behind me, “what do you want?” Reluctantly, she said, “Two waters, cool ranch Doritos, some ring dings and a coke….I’ll pay you back.”

The order came to somewhere around 15 dollars. I told her she would pay me on the spot, with cash, or she’d be sleeping with the fishes, along with her sugar coated children.

Without her recognizing my sarcasm, I gave her a break.. I said, “Seriously, don’t worry about it….you will be the only one sleeping with the fishes. Your children will be just fine.”

86 Beaches

Being kicked out of a beach with our dog simply broke my heart the other day. Technically, we were trespassing, but, we’ve been trespassing for the last two years! I know this doesn’t make it right, or righteous, but we’ve generally been given the allowance to use many properties on the beach they purchased from God. After all, it is God’s beach, and in my daily prayers, he or she never complained. Ultimately, a rather surly man in a motorized grocery store scooter impolitely requested we never return for trespassing. Laney, our dog, and I had to accept our lack of respect for property which was at least one hundred yards from any house in the area. It Ruined our day.

I’ve been kicked out of a variety of places, including my own brother’s bar, my high school reunion, a rodeo, a casino, a Chucky Cheese…(that was a mouse way out of line… The beer I spilled on him wasn’t stale.) I’ve been asked to leave a Barmitzva. Does that count just because I’m Irish? None of which I’m proud of in general. I was always sorry while being excused from bars, taverns, nightclubs, which I loathe. None of these were because of violence, but I did my share of dancing on tables and actually swung on a rafter, kicked out not only once, but twice when I returned the same night. Quite honestly, I’m not a late night person, and when my friends, relatives, or someone’s grandpa or grandma wanted to stay out until 2 o’clock in the morning, since they were my ride home, I adjusted to their plight by running us all out of the joints.

Deliberately, I was given the heave ho at a bar held at a Halloween party. I was dressed up as the Swedish Chef at the age of 30. Get real, and get me the hell out of here. Do you really want to stick around waiting for these people to announce the winners of best costume. Selfish? Yes. Practical? Also, yes. I guess you could consider me the practical, tired and observational guest of dishonor.

Being 86’d from bars and nightclubs was just me being….someone who wanted to find a bed after midnight. I was never offended, and felt I was doing a service for my friends. Secretly, they wanted to go home as well.

Oh yeah, I was also kicked out of a Senior English class for sneezing. I guess it was known as the sneeze heard round the school.

That can’t be worse than getting the boot from a beach for nothing but combing.

AARP

Approaching fifty isn’t so bad if you enjoy reading on the toilet.

My good friend, Vic, who has known me even before birth, sent me a periodical with another old friend, Matthew McConawho, the famous actor and well spoken southern fried heartthrob with Matt’s picture on the front cover just to irritate me. I wasn’t quite sure if he was making fun of Matt, or me and my age, which seems to elevate with each year. Father time is real, but the magazine, AARP, helps the elderly deal with it with grace, or simply understanding we are not from the planet, Crypton.

I have hip problems. I’ve had them since I was six. Not Sixty, or ninety something, as my other dear friend is dealing with, and dealing with it with grace. (The nurses at the facility wanted to keep him around because he made older nurses only feel middle aged. God Bless him)

Back to me. I suffered from a rare disease called Perthes Disease affecting children, mostly between the ages of six and eight. I wound up in leg braces for two years, and they were very charming and helpful for an over active child also suffering from the love of baseball, football, and basketball. After two years, I was cured….so to speak. Upon being released from these shackles, the doctors told me I would have a steel hip as a replacement by the time II was legally able to vote or drink. I beat those odds. I thought the disability was just a minor league stepping stone to greatness, but greatness and goodness are two very different regions one must accept. I believe Goodness always conquers greatness. Goodness is when the common good, like cinnamon toast at home beats the 5.99 special at Thee International House of Pancakes doused in syrupy fruit and flour only a diabetic could properly appreciate. Goodness is thanking a veteran or providing socks to the homeless while sharing Thanksgiving with them, even if they would prefer a pack of unfiltered cigarettes. Greatness is overlooking a Puget Sound view with someone you love wishing not to toss them off the 400 ft. drop below. That’s when love, greatness, peace, understanding, forgiveness and all that other crap become synonymous.

It can be a good and great life. As long as you aren’t a terrible golfer. That ruins everything.

Heaven and Hell

My sister recently called me and told me the only reason she’s not going to Hell is because she’s picked up every bar tab for her sisters. Well, not all of them. It made me wonder how the Hell I’m getting into Heaven.

I responded, reasonably, by saying “The only reason I’m going to Heaven is that I don’t sprinkle sugar on my Captain Crunch in the morning.”

I’ve heard St. Peter is a very forgiving fellow.

The Next Day

After a day of writing, you wonder what you’re going to write about the next day. Sometimes, you wonder for seconds. Sometimes, you wonder for days….months, even years.

Everyone can write a book. Just ask everyone. I struggle daily writing. I’ve written things I’m not proud of and wish to vanish in the world of posts. Yet, I will press on, day after day, hoping the last piece is the best. That’s the lack of glory of it all. If it isn’t the best, it must be the worst, thus you must continue to write about animals you love, places you’ve been, suckers you’ve punched and people you love.

A wise man or woman once said, “A moron knows his strengths. A genius doesn’t know about his weaknesses.” Anonymous.

You better remain anonymous because I’m not exactly sure what the hell that means. Please, for the love of God and humanity, someone explain it to me. I’m sure as hell I’m not a genius, and although I’m a confirmed moron, I still struggle with the concept.

Whenever She Comes Home

My wife doesn’t like surprises, neither do I. Whenever she comes home, she does love the celebration…..to a point. She loves the rose pedals, the confetti, the music, “Hail to the Chief” playing, and the champagne poured into her eyes. Gratefully, she welcomes me with egg rolls from our local Asian cuisine haunt, Jack in the Box.

She also loves the new tattoos we all have representing our love for her. I have an “I love my gal” on my constitution. Our dog, Laney, has a “Feed ME” on her forehead, and the cats have tattoo’d paws reading, “Meow” on one paw, and “Claws R Us” on the other. They are bad ass kittens.

This is where my wife draws the line. Our 120 pound dog knocks her down before she can enter the door. After the 5th trip to the emergency room, I keep our dog locked up in a room with a tomahawk shaped bone. That’s her medication. After 5 hours, I release her and she strolls out of the room, a little uneasily, and gives my wife a delicate hug followed by wet kisses.

My wife does appreciate the affection, but further appreciates the lack of emergency room visits. I finally figured it out.

Wine Sauce

Pull over! When my brother, Steve, said, “Pull over.”, it was a command, not from the police, but from God. The police? Ahh. No big deal. God. Big deal. We pulled over because even God forgot one of the commandments. “thou shall not pull over unless I say so, or Steve says so.”

My brother, mike, was driving and semi sober. He pulled over and asked Steve, “why do you need wine sauce?” Steve’s response: “cuz wine sauce is goooood!!!! Wooooo!

After a hard and glorious day of fishing and drinking, the wine sauce, which never came to fruition, allowed us to let Steve drift off into this inebriated wine sauce world he wished to inhabit. He was the Willy Wonka of drinking. A world of pure imagination where he could make dreams come true at his tavern filled with watermelon pull tabs, Ribeye pinball machines and Dodger Darts. He did make dreams come true.

Right or not, the wine sauce I infused with chicken stock, garlic and onions, it seemed right.