Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthdays and Scooters

I always have the toughest conundrum on my birthday. See, I love having presents, but I hate birthday song. Its always a delicate battle between which of the two affect me more. Obviously, if I don't get the song sang to me, there's less of a chance for presents. However, everytime I hear that song, even when its not for me, every nerve attached to my spin screams with a burning pain and my mouth forgets how to smile politely and I get a stone cold frown.

I know, its such a happy song.

The only person that can get away with it is Grandma. Somehow she can call at 6:30 in the morning singing that song and I'm alright with it. This morning, she assumed that since I didn't answer I must have walked to the cathedral for the 9 A.M. service. Bless that woman for thinking so highly of me.

It was a good birthday. Lindsay came in town. We had drinks, pizza, Bachlorettes, and Cat, Jump! I've also discovered that I'm indeed a quarter of a century old. Saturday night, the bands didn't start until about 10 and I was already tired. By the time Cat, Jump! (Japanese Bat Bomb) got on stage I couldn't function. I was so tired I just wanted to sit in the background and not be bothered by anyone. If I wasn't going to get to go to sleep, I was going to enjoy the music in solitude. This didn't fly well with most the people there and by the end of the night I was angry and most everyone else was.

So you know how I told you about people feeling free to talk to me on the scooter at stoplights?

Well apparently that works both ways. A few days ago this skinny white kid cut me off and then jumped into the next lane. Normally in my self contained car environment I scream a few explictives and tailgate him for a quarter of a mile, but on a scooter I don't have any power. Honking the horn is actually worse than doing nothing.

So I didn't scream initially. Instead, we ended up right next to each other at a stop light and he had his windows down.

Now, I don't know where the rage came from and why I couldn't sensor myself, but this is what came out: "Hey, how would you feel if you got your ass kicked by a guy on a scooter?"

The skinny SLU student looked scarred, rolled his window up, and then didn't look toward my side of the car until the light turned green and he gunned it.

I figured I took all of his thunder by pointing out that yes, I was on a scooter, and yes, I could kick his ass. He wanting to leave his self respect intact, went for the flee option.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

OM-freakin'-G Michael Jackson was the best

A forest burns at a million degrees and despite the best efforts of firefighters they can't fight it back. The smoke is thick enough to make the forest dissapear behind the firefighters desperate and pathetic attempt to smother the flames with the thousands of gallons of water.

...and no one tells us about it.

The newspaper industry is in a perpetual downward spiral and I blame it on big business.

When papers first started, the eccentric billionaires that started them didn't care if they made money. It was about keeping people in check, pushing your own beliefs, and at least the good ones, print with intregrity. Newspapers used to have the power to bring down politcal machines or build heroes like Limberg.

If not for wire services like the associated press, we would have no news. The sad thing is, its easy to ignore the "Taliban captures British soldiers" headlines because featured on the home page of CNN is yet another Michael Jackson article, or the reprint of an unsolved mystery from 50 years ago, or tracking Michelle Obama's slave roots.

Where were the papers to call the Bush administration out on all of the ignorance and corruption or in that fact, besides Fox News attempts, no one has tried to dig up dirt on Obama. Every news station has the exact same headlines because they all pull from the same wires.

Then there are people like Sallie that believe journalism still has a place. They crave to change the world, but like everything else that is messed up in the world, some rich guy at some point bought up a ton of newspapers, formed a company, and now runs it like a business rather than an artform. An overpaid board of rich powerful people see numbers and charts and decide that yes, the paper can do without reporters and editors.

Its the same for every business actually. Let's not kid ourselves, the economy isn't getting any better. These big companies aren't making as much as they were before 2001, and they continue to cut support staff perpetuating the cycle.

If it were a real company that wasn't ran by greed, there would be stockpiles of money to survive an economy like this. Instead, that board of rich guys gave themselves millions of dollars in bonuses for the past decade instead of saving that money and keeping their staff during these hard economic times. Its becoming impossible to have any sort of company loyalty.

After the forest fire, after the destruction, loss of hope, in the burning embers is a sprout. The ashes fertilize the ground and the trees grow back stronger, more resistant to nature's disasters.

Why won't the companies just let things burn and keep people on? That company will be much stronger once this economy does actually turn around because it will have a population willing to go to war for it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Romantic Comedy Stars

Sallie and I were talking about this tonight. The only thing I miss about being a single guy is I can’t be the loner underdog hero chasing the woman of his dreams anymore. It’s a romantic concept right? Novels, songs, and movies are almost exclusively written about that person, whether man or woman. It’s a story that sells because we can all tell our own personal version of that story.

There’s the catch 22 though. That story is romantic unless you are that loner underdog hero chasing the woman of your dreams, because when you are him, life seems miserable. You might as well be a guy crying on a Smith’s record sleeve while Morrissey sings about never ending depression.

The single game is a bunch of alcohol induced random encounters just like cold sharp space rocks colliding, leaving pieces of them behind. When you’re there, you hope to Christ that you ram into another cold lonely asteroid and lock up. For the most part, the Sun’s gravitational pull just spins you around with the millions of other cold space rocks aimlessly wandering around space.

It’s strange being one of the few monogamous animals on the planet. Think about all the mental armor we have to wear to endure the rejection and games of “one partner” when other animals merely work as a group and only mate to procreate. That’s almost a weirder concept. We are so removed from animal instinct that we lock animals into cages to observe them as a strange beast when only a few thousand years ago we weren’t different. We have a psyche that needs to bond on an unattainably deep level. Think about the person you love. Now try to think about that same “love” as only a matter of procreation. Delete the dating process. Delete the emotional bond. Delete the pain that cuts so deep only someone that you truly love as a human can cause it.

All of it wouldn’t exist. Things would be simpler. Ninety percent of all the reasons you ever feel depressed is gone. You either mate or you don’t. If you don’t, there’s another mating season just around the corner.

Marriage has caused my writing to suffer. There used to be too many nights were I would come home after the awful process of dating beyond high school (High school is the last you can accurately describe a date with an adjective like “cute”) and just be fed up with the world. I would come home after five awkward beers with a girl, proving that real romance was dead, and chug another beer while I tapped out 30 of the most love bitter pages I could. (Can’t wait for my first novel right? It’s coming, trust me.) I treated life like I was the divorced amputated heart of love and it was turning gangrene long before the surgery. I started thinking I’d be alone when I was fifty. I would be one of those pompous, over-rated hermit writers like Salinger. (Just for the record, Salinger can never be over-rated. The man is great. Just read the short story “For Esme: With Love and Squalor. You’ll fall in love. He is however, somewhat of a hermit.)

I knew who I was going to marry. It was going to be this tattooed riot girl that was against marriage. We would only get married to stick it to the government and get their tax break.

Then Sallie came along and flipped everything upside down. It only took three beers and the next thing I knew, I was no longer the single underdog guy. I was a blissful walking cliché. I was another human connecting to that deep emotional bond. It was scary. I didn’t want to be that. I wanted to take on the man and be studied like an animal. Instead I bought collared shirts and got hired by a large company. The thing is, I don’t care. I’m happy. I wish I could write with the vigor I once had, but I remember that guy. That guy settled . That guy lived with four other guys just to have cheap rent. That guy didn’t do barbeques or family events. Even though I completely feel out of my element at all the aforementioned events, I can do them now because I know on the way home I’ll be sharing a car with someone who will spend the first fifteen minutes making fun of how awful it was and then crank up the Foo Fighters and sing at the top of her lungs with me.

“Everyone’s their own star of their romantic comedy, but they’re full of sh*t.” Even though Hank Moody is a fictional character, he’s onto something here. We all know how our story should end but we have trouble living in the middle of our movie. We want the attraction and the romance, not the hour of heartbreak, tears, and betrayal you have to go through to get there.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bellefontaine is the Place to Be

I had a dream last night that I ran against Mayor Marty Rudloff (who’s been mayor since I can remember) in Bellefontaine Neighbors, my old neighborhood. It’s created this insane nostalgia for the place I used to ride my bike around. Now, most people know it as the place you might get shot… or at least your bike will get stolen.

I’ve spent the past hour or so following some of the major streets on Google Maps and looking at their website to see what’s still around, and the patch of Bellefontaine that seems to still exist from my memory has dare I say… made me really want to live there again.

I remember going to Rinderer’s Drug Store or Riverview Dairy every weekend with the couple of dollars I could scrap up from couch cushions and my aunt Laura’s basement and buying 10 cent Laffy Taffys. I’d get a paper bag with something like 30 pieces of candy and then ride my bike up to my cousin Ryan’s house where we would go on a sugar bender and play Resident Evil on Playstation 1 until 2 a.m. when my uncle Tom would bring home malts from Crown Candy.

Then there are those memories of rollerblading up to St. Jerome’s parking lot to play the best street hockey the town had to offer. My friends Jason, Mike, and I would skate for hours ignoring the soreness in my back.

What about the Mayor’s Cup tournament where St. Jerome took on St. Pius? It was 35 degrees. The soccer ball stung like a bullet every time it hit bare skin and St. Pius has a red haired kid named Mike that towered over everyone and kicked the ball like a sixth grader. We lost, but we still got a trophy from the Mayor and that is still the only event that’s been televised on cable television that I was part of the cast. If I remember correctly, my uncle Tom recorded it and we soon found that I was picking my nose in one scene.

Then there was the pool that was already a pretty amazing sized outdoor/indoor facility, but soon a children’s area and waterslide were added. I remember having my long flowing Kurt Cobain hair and getting my first kiss from Shelley. Grandpa used to swim underwater like a whale, back and forth, without every needing a breath. No matter how hard we tried Ryan, Jake, and I just couldn’t keep up.

Halloween meant grabbing pillow cases because you were about to embark on a four hour collect-a-thon ending at the school janitors house who always had his grill going. Enjoy a free hot dog while looking onto his gruesome scene of an old refrigerator with plastic body parts filling the shelves. Then that weekend, you’d huff it up to City Hall for the best 25 minutes haunted hayride you could find.

There was soccer practice running hill drills at Tanglewood Park. There were the train tracks, the creeks, the child made paths that took us hours from our parents and brought us into a world we owned. It was still ok to drink hose water. You played in corn fields. Playgrounds were overrun with families. Sidewalks were filled with bikes and roller blades.

And then St. Charles happened.

People started moving away. The K-Mart and Grandpa Pigeons went out of business. The huge confederation of Catholic Churches and schools started dying one by one. It was no longer alright to roam the streets after dark. Bikes were getting stolen out of garages. Finally my street seemed to be the only place still intact. All of our friends were moving to St. Charles and instead of riding our bikes and knocking on the door we had to make dates for our parents to ferry us out to St. Charles.

I was looking on Bellefontaine’s site to see what remained.

Rinderer’s and Riverview Dairy are still kicking. Thank god for that.

The church section of the site is pretty empty. St. Jerome, Good Console, St. Pius, St. Sebastian, and St. Catherine are no longer listed.

I followed Google maps along one of my normal bike paths and just miss the simpler time. Bellefountaine is what a suburb should be. A tight-knit small city. It was designed to be traveled by foot unlike St. Charles, O’Fallon, and Wentzville where it’s a 20 minute drive to the nearest business or friend’s house and you have to navigate hundreds of lights in between.

Mom and pop shops still occupy the few strip malls in the town instead of Wal Mart, Sam’s, and E.B.Games on every corner.

You couldn’t beat the malls. Jamestown had everything you needed and with its several 1980s inspired fountains that looked nice and gave the mall personality. Northwest Plaza was this monstrous villa of commerce with the best Tilt I still have ever seen. Now if more than 10 stores exist in either, I’d be surprised. Mills Mall and MidRivers Mall both look as stagnant as the similar looking houses surrounding them.

I don't know if I actually miss Bellefontaine or just how life was then.

I miss the community. Every now and then I get this vision of spinning upside down on one of those caged ferris wheels. I’m looking down into the parking lot of city hall where thousands of people manage to come together as a community. Parents drink beers near the pavilion talking about how great the Blues are going to be and anticipating the upcoming school year. Kids are running in between parents, drooling over the pinball machines that are being raffled off. Jake is spending all of his money below trying to win that sexy girl poster. I look to the right of me and Ryan laughs hysterically as the cage flips back around and all the lights and people start turning to a streaked blur until I come back to reality. But in that moment, I’m happy. Truly happy.