Saturday, December 31, 2005

As I type this I am waiting for the last hours of 2005 to tick away. When New Years Rolls around I think we all tend to stop and take stock of the previous 365 and see how we did. I'll do that over the next few days as I re-read this years' blog entries to refresh my memory.

Right now the trailer seems emptier and more silent now that Johnny has gone back to his mother. After having him around 24/7 the leaving him behind seems harder to do.

He enjoyed both the original and musical versions of "The Producers" preferring the original. So much so he quoted from it while we were playing a video game. I love it when he does that! When he references something to where there's a deep rooted connection to me and it has made such an impression on him that he uses it off handedly.

Today we really didn't do much of anything. But then again, that's what most of our week was. Movies, games, DVD's, TV and just hanging out. Male bonding was the theme of the week and I believe it was successful for that alone.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Been having a fantastic vacation with my son. Started off yesterday watching the original "King Kong" before going to see the Peter Jackson version. It's no "Lord of the Rings" but it was good. It could have been shaved down by about 20 minutes easily and still been just as good. Does this man not know how to do a two hour movie any more?

Today "The Producers" came in the mail and he loved it. Tomorrow we go see the latest version of that in the theater. OK, I would have rather seen the stage production, but this will be close enough. I've been trying to get him to sit and was some classic flicks, either "Double Indemnity" or "His Gal Friday", but no luck yet. Heck, we still haven't gone through our annual Christmas tradition, "Christmas Vacation", so Fred Mac Murray may just have to wait.

We also did some male bonding while simply walking through the mall. It is still a time honored tradition for teenagers and I figured it would get us out of the house and away from the TV for a while. It was just good time spent together.

I took a little time away from him today to go see an orthopedic doctor. About a month ago I started having these odd pains in my right shoulder. It felt sometimes as if the bones in my shoulder were actually "catching" or grating against one another. This only happened a few times but it then developed into a constant dull pain; more of an annoyance than anything, but I wanted to get I checked out early. Dr. Phillips was a very genial and open man. They took x-rays and he explained all kinds of things about the joints involved and what might be the problem. The x-rays didn't show anything so we are waiting a while to see how thing develop over the next month before doing an MRI; which could show things not visible in the x-rays.

The one thing that did show in the x-ray which gave me a moment's pause was when Dr. Phillips spotted the noticeable beginnings of arthritis in my shoulder. There is a small, but noticeable, enlargement of the collar bone. This is very common and, according to Dr. Phillips, nothing to lose sleep over. Still, I was really hoping not to hear the word arthritis for a few more years.

My sisters are going to love this!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

All is right with the world. My son is here! And, oh, what an adventure getting him here.

First plan was, I was going to borrow a friend's car to go get him yesterday. That was fine until her car broke down Christmas Eve. Still, no biggie. Wore case scenario was I could go all the way down to get him via Tri-rail and the bus hopefully further proving my point that the commute would be no problem. Plans for this kept getting put off until this morning.

I got up bright and early and headed out on the 40 minuet ride to the train station. True to form Cameron, the van by name, started sputtering just as I pulled off the interstate. No problem I figured as it would have almost 6 hours to sit and relax.

Yeah, right!

Between being almost late for the train, the automated teller not working, not being able to get through to my son's house, having to get a friend back at work to call his house since I was completely unable to dial there directly, we did finally meet up. We filled the bus ride back with small talk and all kinds of catch up.

When we returned to West Palm Beach the van started right up. Phew! No problem, I thought. Until we headed out on the main road. With dozens and dozens of rush hour commuters behind me my van sputtered along at 20 miles and hour. I had placed a AAA call for a tow but was finally able to coax the van into keeping a good speed.

And just so you don't keep shaking your head at my "every car has a personality" theory. As the van was happily going along at the speed limit and not a single sputter or fart I decided to tell Johnny the story of my naming the van Cameron. (See 11/05/05 entry) Just as I finished the story, for no apparent reason, the van almost stalled in the middle of traffic.

"OK," my son said very sternly, "No more making fun of the van!"

With that the van sparked back to life and sped right back up to pace with the rest of traffic.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

It's the night before Christmas and something has just dawned on me. After hearing the Christmas song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Tear" for the past 43 years there's something in the lyrics which totally perplexes me.

there'll be scary ghost stories and
tales of the glories of Christmases
long, long ago.

SCARY GHOST STORIES?! What kind of Christmas did Andy Williams have? With the single exception of "A Christmas Carol" I can not remember a single Christmas Ghost Story. When you think of the holiday season sitting around the campfire telling stories of the guy with the hook attacking young couples at Lover's Lane is not an image which springs to mind. Telling the story of the Three Wise Men did not involve holding a flashlight at your chin for dramatic effect.

Well, I hope you Christmas is completely devoid of ghosts, goblins and serial killers.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Today brought on of the best surprises I've had in a long while. As I sat at my desk a young man came up and said "Hello, remember me?" I looked at him and searched for something familiar. Thanks to my being in the company training video, I get people coming up to me all the time and I have no idea who they are.

"You might remember my mom, Darby". You could have knocked me over with a feather.

When I first moved down here I worked at a telemarketing boiler room which sold alarm systems and Darby was one of the first friends I made here. You can never explain how or why people click but we did. I spent hours with her and her family. I saw her through an ugly divorce. We spent hours on the phone together after I moved from that job to another but we remained friends. She has three children with whom I also bonded. The young man standing in front of me was her middle boy, Ben.

I took Ben out for his first time behind the wheel of a car. He had grown into a handsome young man, now 21. It had been 8 years since the last time I saw any of them.

Oh, what happened, you ask?

I had just lost my radio job in Vero Beach and with it a shared apartment with the boss' son. I had no money, no job and no place to live. Darby offered to take me in until I could get on my feet. It took me a month to find a job and then proceeded to try to save to move out on my own. Given I was just starting on a job, money was still tight. Money became an issue between us and she finally gave me an ultimatum. It was almost 8 years ago exactly that I moved from her place to a dive of a residence motel. I never heard anything more from Darby and I've been convinced that her anger hadn't subsided over the years. I tried once to get a note to her through a mutual friend but never heard back on it.

As Ben and I caught up on some of the basics he asked if I ever had thought about them. Every day on my way to work I would pass by the street which lead to the house she opened to me. As I passed by there I would always wonder where she was. As far as I knew, she was working in an insurance office. Each time I passed one anywhere in the area I would look through the window for her. If you've been reading this blog with any regularity you'll know how I like to try to hold onto friendships. This estrangement tore at me on a regular basis.

Now I have a chance to rekindle that friendship and I am overjoyed. I hugged Ben and gave him my phone number. He told Darby had tried to find me once but I had moved from that residence motel. Hearing that made me feel a little better.

I think I just got one of my favorite presents already this year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

As I type this there is a small group of folks gathered in a theater in Orlando watching the finished version of "Runners".

Excuse me while I go kick my van!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The van still isn't running perfectly. I haven't gotten back in touch with the guy who did the repairs mostly because the thought of continuing to try to fix it simply depresses the hell out of me.

The van problems and money situation mean that I am bowing out of the premiere of "Runners" in Orlando tomorrow. The project should be posted online soon and I'll out a link up on here as soon as I can.

The highlight to this week has got to be my Santa calls. I have done almost a dozen calls and each one seems to get better and better.

Just tonight I had a wallop of a double header; a brother and sister team which both posed challenges.

The 9 year old boy was beginning to doubt. He has been hearing things in school and although he has recently watched "The Polar Express" is having some major problems believing in Santa. He is trying to hold on though. His grandmother, who arranged the call, told me about how he recently heard a sleigh bell and wondered if it might be Santa; in a reference to the movie. When I told him that what he heard was Santa he let out a rather loud gasp. If Santa was supplying this information unsolicited, it must really be him on the phone.

His younger sister also made for a great call. She is bilingual, being raised in a house which speaks Spanish as well as English. Her grandmother has been telling her that Santa's' elves, or el duendas, have been coming by each night to make sure she goes to bed on time. When I brought them up she squealed with delight that I, or rather Santa, knew all about them.

I also called a 4 year old who could not get over the fact that Santa knew the names of her pet cat and dog. She wanted to get some new pets for Christmas. Since they were not already on the list supplied by her Mom I told her that Stormy and Chad Lee were probably enough pets for her right now.

I had a 5 year old boy singing "Santa Claus" is coming to town and promises of milk and cookie from almost every one of the children I spoke with. Hearing the excitement in their voices is astounding. It brings me back to my childhood. I can clearly remember my astonishment at waking up Christmas morning to find the avalanche of toys Santa had brought while I was sleeping. I held on to my belief for a long time. There are these very embarrassing photos of my with the bearded guy at the old Ann & Hope Department store through what I can tell was well into double digit ages.

I receive the nicest thank you emails from the parents and I always respond telling them that "I was happy to be a part of something which will be a Christmas memory for both of you". For as clearly as I can, at this moment with crystal vision, recall the look and feel of every package I opened on a December 25th somewhere in the early 70's that these kids will always remember that one Christmas Santa took time out of his busy North Pole schedule to call them. While I can still remember the smell of that tree in my living room where my mother's rocking chair usually stood these kids will be able to tell you what presents Santa promised and delivered on one Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

As if Tuesday wasn't enough!

My friend Jim, who had sold me the van, seemed to have come up with a fantastic resolution to all my problems. Well, it started that way. He has a friend at a junk yard who offered to replace the catylitic converter and radiator at almost no cost. Great words to hear two weeks before Christmas.

I was there bright and early to drop off the van and 7AM and had made arrangememnts with work for some time off. This is where we being to hit that whole “Best laid plans” area. It ended up by 11:30, with enough time for Jim to get to where he had to be for the day and when I was supposed to be back at work and the van still wasn’t ready. I decide to leave them to their work and I’d return to mine. The only bright side to the day was that the local bus service was running free for the holidays. I was saving a dollar!

Wait for it. You’ll soon see why this was a high point to the day.

I got back to work and waiting until 3PM to check on the progress. The guy there said he had discovered it was not the converter but the fuel pump. This was a part which had to be ordered. That, of course put it outside of the “almost no cost” department. That wasn’t, by itself, all bad. Then I called the bank’s automatic teller line to double check my balance and it told me I was overdrawn by over $500.

Hmmmm, let’s look at that calendar again! 12 days left!!!!!

What had happened was my other account had been overdrawn and they grabbed the money from my main account. On top of that they continued to let me use the one active account including getting cash out of it that very morning to cover the auto repairs. Wouldn’t it have made a little more sense to cut me off when it was already overdrawn instead of allowing me to dig myself in deeper? When I check it it the daybefore when I was planning these expenses, the money was there. And now…..BAM!

I’m weighing my options and how I can recover from this on time for Christmas. It will be a lean Christmas but I am trying to get through it without having to crawl to one of my sisters from some help. It’s been years since I had to do that and my pride is working very hard to keep me from groveling.

I finally picked the van up tonight and it is running better. I am going to take it on a test run over some distance and see what happens. Of course, I’ll keep it within the 90 mile AAA radius.

Just in case.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It always comes in three’s

I brought my van into my friendly neighborhood garage for a diagnostic of it’s continuing problem. I didn’t hear from my mechanic through lunchtime and I held out hope he was working hard to find me the cheapest way out of my trouble as possible.

Tim, my mechanic is great. I was first hooked up with him about 6 years ago after being ripped off and over charged by almost every garage in every zip code within driving distance. For the longest time he would even take payments from me on repairs. His business grew too big to continue that practice he actually hated doing that to me because I was the only person who actually paid him on a regular basis. He has always been truthful and kept my budget in mind with every repair.

After know him for so many years I could tell in his voice, when he finally did call, that it was not going to be good news. The engine hesitation was being caused by a clogged catalytic converter. Basically, the converter was choking the air from the engine. It was sorta like I was having Axel Foley pulling the “banana in the tailpipe” trick on me every time I got in the van.

Price tag for the repair…..around $300.

He was also nice enough to also add he had spotted a small leak in the radiator, which would mean replacement of the entire radiator.

Price tag for the repair…..around $250.

Two months ago I had the water pump replaced.

Price tag for the repair…..around $220.

All this for a car which was sold to me for $500.

The van was put back together and I was advised how to baby it through the next few weeks until I could save up the money for the repairs. I figured I had to spend money on Christmas before I could pay for the repairs.

Then came the second moment on the day.

I stopped at the supermarket for some shopping and checked some collected Lotto tickets gathering dust in my wallet. They have this scanning device next to the Lotto machine where you can check your tickets without bothering the clerk. Great time saver but more often than not it announces, in bright red lettering for all to see, “NO WINNER. TRY AGAIN LOSER.” OK, so it doesn’t say “LOSER” but it might as well.

I passed each ticket through….NO WINNER… NO WINNER… NO WINNER…


That couldn’t be right. I tried again and it confirmed I had a match of some kind on that ticket. My eyes widened. It wasn’t the big Lotto ticket so I could start planning my vacation home on the Riveria. It was, however, one of the games which, if the pot were big enough, would take care of my current money problems. I nervously handed the ticket to the clerk and waited for the results as I tallied bills in my head.

“You won a free ticket!” she said as if I was not set for life.

“Yeah, thanks,” I said shoving the ticket in my wallet walking back to my van dripping green fluid in the parking lot.

Moment number three awaited me at home.

As I put away my groceries I noticed a house fly buzz by my head. No big deal I thought, as I had noticed one or two over the weekend. I’ll grab a newspaper and hunt him down later. I emptied another bag and was dive bombed again. This time I tracked the little intruder back into the living room where I now saw a scene from “The Amityville Horror”. These flies I had spotted a few days ago had invited in some friends and were now numbering over a dozen.

As I stood there staring in utter shock at this third blow with my frozen skillet heat-and-serve dinner thawing in my hand, the flies starting circling my head and I swear I could hear them laughing and mocking me.

Not my best day.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Let me rant about the San Francisco Police “party” videotape. If you haven’t been following he story, a video recently surfaced which was made by members of the SFPD supposedly for a party. In it were scenes rampant with racism and the objectification of women. People are all up in arms. The mayor is screaming for an investigation and the chief is looking into charges.

Give me a break!

This is a simple example of gallows humor. These are people who, day in and day out, deal with the all the problems in society the rest of us would like to forget even exists. These police offices put their lives on the line on a regular basis. They are in the midst of the worst mankind can be and are fighting to keep all that at bay. They see things that would make a regular person spend the rest of their lives in a padded room.

To keep themselves from ending up in that same padded room they have to vent. Thus comes gallows humor. I do it in my job; I can make some of the most hateful of senior citizen jokes after dealing with a problem customer. Does that mean I hate the elderly? No. My mother worked in the Special Education Department of Rhode Island College and would regularly come home with the nastiest and funniest joke about any number of mental and physical defects. Did that mean she had any less compassion for them? No. The same goes for these police officers.

Nurses probably have some wonderful jokes about their patients. These are the same patients whose butts they have to wipe. Don’t you think they deserve to balance work like that with a little levity? The person on the other end of the phone at your credit card company probably has a whole battery of jokes about you after you hang up the phone. They just listened to you rant and rave about how you know you sent in your payment before the deadline but they still responded courteously and professionally. Don’t you think they deserve to balance work like that with a little levity?

When I worked in the police department I did the same thing. When I worked in radio I made fun of the listeners with other jocks. When I worked for the local newspaper I made fun of the readers. Every profession is fertile ground for satire. It in no way diminishes those who do the work; it just makes the tedium or nastiness of the job easier to deal with.

One of the clips which is getting the most exposure is a SFPD officer running over a homeless person with their police cruiser. I’m sorry; it’s funny. Get over it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

25 years ago. Not only is it amazing to stop and think that it was 25 years ago today that we lost John Lennon. It's amazing that it seems like yesterday.

Like many, I can remember exactly where I was when I got the news. We had our Christmas party for the campus radio station at Rhode Island College. It was held in the lounge in the Communications Department and at one point during the evening I had gone back to the studio to get more records to play. As I went through our library I pulled out "Double Fantasy". While I am a big Lennon fan, it just didn't seem the right kind of music for a party so I slipped it back. This was just around 10PM as John was returning to the Dakota.

I left the party soon after that and was at home watching Benny Hill when they interrupted the show with the news. I didn't leave the TV for hours after that. I was still watching when they made the announcement of his death and I continues to watch as the news turned into retrospectives. I can still feel the cold wind blowing down W72nd Street in Manhattan the day of the prayer vigil. I can still hear the complete silence that fell on the city. All crystal clear images as if they were this morning.

What would the last 25 years had been like if John had lived? Would there have finally been a reunion? What would Live Aid be like with him there? Would there have been as many tell all books from those surrounding the Beatles? And most importantly, what would the music had been like?

I now work with people who only know John Lennon as a name in a history book or a CD in their parent's music collection. My son knows his music because his father insists on taking a break from the thumping repetition of rap and wondering why his father still has a poster of this long haired Englishman hanging in his living room.

One of the reporters doing their retrospective this morning seemed to say it best. John was only human and he had his flaws. But he took his position in life and his talent to raise himself above what he was and to hold up a mirror to the rest of us urging to raise ourselves up as well. Can you ask any more of a person than that?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Here is a look at my cubicle at work all decorated for Christmas with 300 flashing lights.

Even Wilford and my trash can got the holiday touch.

On the right side you can see SpongeBob and yours truly.

A total of 28 Santas crowd my desk.

And the competition.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Saturday was our company Christm....Oops! Sorry. In the world of corporate America there is no Christmas.

Saturday our company had their Holiday Party and I got a heaping helping of karma. This year's theme was "Fire and Ice". We were gathered under large tents set up in our parking lot. I give the catering company a lot of credit; the moment you walk inside the tents you have no idea you are surrounded by asphalt. There were stilt walkers and fire eaters greeting you as you walked in and then food, booze and music all over the place. A very good evening.

I spent a majority of the evening with my friends Tracy and Patrick camped out near the martini bar. These appletinis were poured down huge carved ice slides into your waiting glass. There were delicious and as the evening went on seemed to be made stronger and stronger. Since I was driving, I gave up early. Tracy and Patrick had other plans.

The evening included making drunken laps around the restaurant trying to "walk it off", one of them leaving a lovely puddle of dinner on the table, stopping every 500 yards driving them home...well, you get the idea.

I now understand why everyone else around me has such fun telling storied about me the morning after. All in all, it was a good party. The remainder of the weekend was uneventful. Back to work and back to the grind.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

So, it’s been a while. What’s new with you? Between work and being sick I’ve barely had time to even know what day it is. I hate it when it gets like that.

I work all day, including some overtime, and when I get home I am exhausted. I do some of the online stuff I have to (and even with that I’m behind a little), watch my Tivo’d General Hospital episode, have dinner and usually fall asleep in my recliner. I haven’t even talked with my son since just before Thanksgiving.

I have just finished decorating my cubicle at work. I’ll bring in my camera and take a photo, which I’ll post in a few days. I’ll get to decorating my trailer soon. It’s just that I spend more time here than I do at home so it seems natural to decorate here more than at home. I have a collection of 27 Santa figures and 300 flashing lights. The outside wall of my cubicle is wrapped in a Santa themed wrapping paper. Can you see the motif I’m going for here?

I have completely given up on the new series “Invasion”. It was, since the beginning, a poor rip-off of the classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, but this week they “jumped the shark”. There is a sheriff deputy character who, up until this week’s episode, had lost an arm in the war. He is taken by the evil pods in the water and he returns with a new arm. That was bad enough, his boss, the apparent leader of the pod people, takes him into the everglades and hands him a chainsaw to chop off the new arm. The explanation the sheriff gives is that someone with a brand new arm is going to attract unwanted attention. I laughed out loud.

For you Star Trek geeks, I am dancing with joy over the news that Brannon Braga’s new show “Threshold” has been cancelled. A few weeks ago he sever ties with Paramount/Trek and now that his own project had bitten the dust we can hope for the day the Berman (the Anti-Christ of Trek) will be gone soon as well. If you’re a fan you’ll understand.

I am gearing up to do my Santa calls again this year. However, this year I am charging $5 per call. I didn’t set things up on the internet to do it for the general public but I should still make a few extra dollars with all the kids though work. It is such fun to hear the excitement in the kids’ voices. I’ll be reporting on those as the call s start rolling next week.

Well, there it is. A little rambling and pointless, I know; but that is how the last few weeks have been. Hopefully the holidays will start ramping up things for me to write about with a little more meat to them.