Person of Interest

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Person of Interest:  The definition of a person that is seen as a possible criminal, usually, after the (alleged) act of murder.  But a person of interest could be a good person too; right?

Who is this ‘person of interest’?  When I was single, and on the prowl, I was fond of a girl that worked at a pizza store.  She was a ‘person of interest’ to me.  Actually, I was never “on the prowl.”  I was single and hopeful, but that’s another story.  You don’t really want to hear that sad story now; do you?  Let’s move on.  When this girl thought that she was being stalked (her words, not mine), I was seen by the police as a ‘person of interest’.  Just because I was single and hopeful doesn’t mean that I was a stalker.  Disclaimer:  I am not, nor was I ever a stalker.  It’s a sad fact that I have to even mention that in these politically correct times.

If I were surfing (an activity that I swore I would never do again) and a shark happened to take a bite out of me, which resulted in the unplanned amputation of my arm or leg, I would be a ‘person of interest’ to the media.  But, what of the shark?  I guess that would make the shark a Selachimorpha of interest (big fish with sharp teeth).  No I didn’t just pull that word out of my head – I’m simply an interested person who looked up that fact in Wikipedia; keeping me honest, looking out for your interests – so to speak.  There’s no need for you to look up that word; it exists.  I verified it.  It’s not good to be too interested, just interested enough.  You see, we’re all persons of interest in one way or another.

The goal, I think, is to strive to be a person of interest at the right time; like a bride or groom, the winner of the lottery or a just a girl who works at a pizza store.  Not like an alleged murderer, or a Selachimorpha (shark – remember?)


Who's Your Daddy?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Do my kids really know me?  Of course, they know me; I’m their Dad.  I’m the one that helps them with their math homework.  I’m the one that they come to on the weekends to ask, “Daddy, what are we having for breakfast?”  And I also get asked the following technical question when my oldest daughter has a new friend over, “Daddy, what’s the WEP code for our router?”  She doesn’t’ use the words ‘WEP Code’ or ‘router’; I’m paraphrasing, of course. 

My point is:  what do they know of me?  I’m not known as a particularly vocal person.  I over-think my words before I speak, and would much prefer to sit back and listen.  So I think I have one persona that is pretty obvious to them, and another one that lurks in the background.  My writing voice is completely different than my speaking voice.  It’s more fluid and coherent.  My shadowy sense of humor is edgier when it comes out of my pen.   

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  I have notebook after notebook of documented events from my life.  I don’t call it a diary, but let’s face facts; a lot of what I’ve written has ‘diary-like’ entries.  I’ve got the fears, the thrills, the spills; the problems at work, the first kiss and way too much information detailing the death of my parents.  My kids aren’t privy to a lot of this background.  In effect, they’re not aware of a lot of things that make up ME.  I’m troubled by this, and I think that’s why I am so intent on keeping up my journal entries. 

Does anyone really want to be known that completely?  Maybe it’s just too raw for a person to handle.  Sometimes when I re-read my own stuff it even gets me depressed.  But there are also the good times, the life lessons that have been uncovered either accidentally or by choice.  Those are the things that I would want to share most with my children.  There’s so much that I want to teach them and say to them.  I would love it if even a small percentage of the beliefs and ideals that matter to me will matter to them in the future. 

So, in answer to my original question, “Who’s your daddy?”  That would be me.  I’ve got strengths and flaws, just like everybody; they are unique to me, and I want to share them with you.  Let’s start with my pancake recipe.  We can make them together this weekend. 


Confessions of a High Roller

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hoarding, OCD, eating disorders and other sundry guilty pleasures are personal issues that we’d much prefer to keep to ourselves.  As long as they don’t get exposed to the public, we can silently revel in our little routines and proclivities.

I’m no different.  I’ll admit that I do some things; but I know that we all do things that we’d prefer stay out of public scrutiny.  OK, I’ve got some hoarding tendencies that I might not have realized if it hadn’t been for the show “Hoarders,” but I’m not an extreme case.  I could be; if certain aspects of my life were skewed a little to the right or left, but I try not to dwell on that too much. 

When our little secrets escape in broad daylight, that’s when our problems become real problems; because we have to admit that they really exist.  I came to this very realization the other day while visiting a friend of ours at their house.  The visit began simply enough.  I’m not really a drinker, so I didn’t have to worry about turning into an angry drunk.  I had eaten a light snack before leaving our house, so I didn’t have to worry about eating too much and leaving the other guests hungry (although I always save plenty of room for dessert).  I’m also not outwardly political, so I didn’t have to worry about pontificating my point of view concerning the upcoming election.  I do drink a lot of water, and that’s where the trouble began. 

I’m only human.  After about two bottles of water, I started to get that feeling.  You think for a moment, “Am I going to be able to wait until we get home, or should I go the bathroom here?”  I didn’t want to torture myself, so I decided to use the local facilities.  I never knew that I had such a strong obsession with toilet paper before, but something about that roll didn’t sit well with me.  It was leading from the bottom.  In a moment of unmistaken clarity, I decided that the direction of the roll must lead from the top.  Without hesitation, I turned that roll of toilet paper to the correct rotation and thought, “Oh my god! I’m a high roller.”

My wife and I left shortly after, to return home.  I didn’t say a word about it during our drive.  How could I?  I had just imposed my unsolicited beliefs on our unsuspecting friends.  You can’t take pride in that.  I had not only discovered a new irrational “issue” of mine, but I had exercised it in a public place:  a friend’s house.  This is clearly a violation of character that I am finding hard to forgive. 

I can’t say that I won’t do it again; I mean there is a right direction for a roll to sit, and I might not be able to tolerate anything otherwise.  But next time, I’ll try to limit my secret sleight of hand ritual to my own home or to an acceptable venue - like a high roller convention. 


The Pen at the End of the Block

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Write.  Just Write.  Write on.  Is this what we’re reduced to when fighting the symptoms of writer’s block?  Do these cheap, motivational mind tricks actually work for anybody?  “Let me try to describe this orange.  It’s round.  It’s orange. It has a bunch of crater-like dents in it, known as ‘orange peel.’ When you squeeze the peel, some orange essential oil squirts out.  It stings if it gets in your eyes.”  Are you kidding me? This isn’t writer’s block; it’s stupidity and boredom.   

We never stop thinking do we?  Do we get “thought block?”

A writer has to please him or herself first, by describing something in a unique way.  Seinfeld may have had it right.  Sometimes less is more.  Sometimes nothing is the best approach.  A writer’s job is to pick out little isolated elements of life or fantasy and assemble them in a way that entertains someone on some level. 

I’m with my daughter right now, at her swim class.  There are five little swimmers in the pool.  I see three parents, plus me, watching their kids.  One of the parents is sitting outside the pool area in the snack bar section.  He’s sitting alone on a bar stool, no snacks, looking at his kid through the glass.  He looks bored, but that might just be the way he looks; I don’t know him.  One of the moms is putting on makeup.  She does this every week.  I’m not a woman, nor do I wear makeup; but I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t pick this humidity filled swimming area to do it.  One guy is playing with his cell phone.  I don’t get very good reception in here, so I can only assume that he has a different cell carrier than I do.

My daughter finishes her lap and looks up at me.  We smile.  I like this.  It gives me a good feeling inside that, as a writer, I should be able to describe in better detail.  The day will come when my daughter will no longer look to me for that glance of support with that reassuring smile.  Because of that I’ve got to take the time now to see it, feel it, experience it and write about it.  I don’t have time to deal with writer’s block.  Life’s too short. 


Too Hot to Handle

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alright, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way; no animals were harmed during the writing of this post (although I can’t speak about afterwards).

I like to barbecue as much as the next guy.  (I think it runs in our genes.)  It had been a hot day and the thought of grilling hamburgers had filled my head for most of the afternoon.  When I got home from work, I went right to the kitchen to begin the process of creating my burgers.   This is not a food column, nor would I ever consider disclosing my secret recipe.  Many have tried to duplicate it, and many have failed; let’s just leave it at that. 

With raw, formed burgers on the platter and a matchbook in my hand, I stepped outside to my trusty grill.  My anticipation was growing as I lifted the lid of the grill.  But wait; something’s not quite right.  There are some leaves in my grill.  As I reach for the grill-top, I hear some rustling.  This, I admit, catches me off guard and startles me.  After a moment composing myself, I see that there is something that looks like a tail.  It’s a long tail.  I don’t yet see a body attached to the tail, but I conclude that it is not a mouse.  No, this is something bigger; something that I know I am not going to be comfortable negotiating with. 

Upon further examination, I see a bunch of pink things huddled together in the center of the leaves.  I discover, after counting, that there are eight little baby rats in my barbecue.  They are bright pink, eyes closed; apparently newly introduced to the world. 

There is clearly only one thing for me to do.  I plug in my George Foreman Grill.  There is no way that I am going to be able to forcibly remove eight newborns and their protective mom.  This situation will require some additional thought. 

My youngest daughter starts up almost immediately, “Daddy, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, honey,” I answer.  “What do you think we should do?”

“Can we keep them?” she asked.

You can hate rats, but still love a child’s innocence. 


Batteries Not Included

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I’m rebuilding an electric guitar.  “Do I play the guitar?” you might ask.  Let’s say that I aspire to play the guitar.  I own two guitars, plus the one that I’m rebuilding.  I bought my first guitar at Linens and Things, of all places.  I had a discount coupon; and during one of our visits there, before they went out of business, I bought it on a whim.  It still seems strange that a store like Linens and Things would even be selling guitars.  But I figured, “it’s only $45.00, if I don’t like it I can always throw it away.”   I found out what I had already known; you get what you pay for.  The open strings are in tune, but when you put your finger on any fret it goes sharp.   Just like a broken clock having the right time two times a day, my guitar is perfectly in tune whenever I play an open string. 

I practiced on it and tinkered with it to make it better than it was, but it will always be a beginner guitar.  Then after a while, since I hadn’t thrown it away, I decided that it was time for me to invest in a real guitar, a real guitar that would allow me to grow as a closet guitarist.  I spent about $90.00 more than my beginner guitar, but it is light years ahead in quality and tone.  I had a friend who is a “real” guitarist play it and he was very impressed.  His optimism made me feel good about my investment. 

So, do I play the guitar?  Well, I play scales, some pentatonic exercises and some chords.  My personality inspires me to swing for the fences, so I am trying to learn things that are way out of my league; the beginning of Here Comes the Sun, some bluesy song intro and some Dire Straits solos.  Do I play well?  Don’t ask my family to answer that question.  I’ll just say that “I’m getting better,” and let’s leave it at that.  I was convinced that I’d never be able to play the “F” chord, but now I can play it with relative ease.  I can’t stick the landing, but I can play it upon command. 

What inspired me to buy an electric guitar?  I thought it might be fun to see how the other half lived.  We were walking around at an open air flea market where they sell a lot of birds, rabbits and other fun things.  I saw this black electric guitar just hanging there in some guy’s booth.  I looked it over and asked the guy how much he wanted for it.  He answered $45.00.  It had a couple of visible scratches, and was missing a tuner, so I offered him $35.00.  He reluctantly said yes, a selling tactic that is supposed to make me (the buyer) feel better about my purchase.  I didn’t know anything about electric guitars, but I had a good sense of pride in my purchase. 

At home, upon further examination, I noticed a few more issues that weren’t so minor.  It needed a lot of work; major refinishing, new tuners, re-wiring and filling and re-drilling many of the screw holes.  If I had known anything about an electric guitar I never would have bought it.  But what’s done is done.  I like to make the best of things; it’s a challenge for me that nourishes my mind. 

So, the saga continues.  I’m not quite done with the reassembly, another weekend or two should do it.  Pretty soon I’ll have another outlet for expressing myself musically.  Maybe then you can ask me again, “Do you play the guitar?”  I’ll probably say something like, “I’m getting better,” and perhaps I’ll add, “And I’m playing louder now, too.”


The Coffee Grinder

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Mother absolutely hated coffee.  She hasn’t been with us in a very long time, so I don’t remember all of the things that she liked and disliked; but I clearly remember that she hated anything related to coffee.  She was always a tea person; hot tea, iced tea and always with her little traveling container of saccharin.  I probably got my sweet tooth from my Mom, but the ‘real sugar’ sweet tooth – not the fake stuff she used to use. 

My Dad drank coffee and my grandparents drank coffee.  I don’t know which person(s) guided me into drinking coffee, but my primary hot beverage of choice became coffee in my late teens.  I had some isolated tea phases, but usually tea drinking was reserved for my sick days; a ritual that still lives on to this day. 

We used to have a percolator at the house.  Drip coffeemakers hadn’t become mainstream yet for personal consumers; they were more commonly used in restaurants and donut shops.  Many times, it was easier for us to make instant coffee.  Yes, we had Taster’s Choice and Sanka; and yes, there was a time when I liked Taster’s Choice.  I’ve revisited that a few times over the years, but have been sorely disappointed. 

So the tea thing and my Mom’s hatred for coffee probably threw me off a bit when she got me a coffee grinder as a gift.  I think it was a Hanukkah gift, but it could just as easily have been a birthday gift.

“What am I going to do with this?” I asked.  It was one of those stupid throwaway lines that an older teenager might say to his Mom – except I was the one that said it.  The line probably didn’t mean too much to me back then.  I can only hope that it didn’t mean too much to her either, because I am ashamed of myself to this day for saying that to her. 

The “rest of the story” is that I soon began to use that coffee grinder, experimenting with different coffees and blends.  I started to buy whole bean coffees almost exclusively.  I began to take my coffee making very seriously, and have taken pride and compliments over the years.  There was even a time in my marriage when my wife thought I was insane anytime I bought a new coffeemaker.  I was just honing the craft and process of coffee making, trying to brew the perfect cup. 

These days I’m using a percolator again, partly because of my vintage mentality and partly because I’m happy with the coffee flavor.  And I’m still using the same coffee grinder that my Mom gave me.  I pray every day that it will continue to work forever, because it keeps the memory of my Mother close to my soul.  My Mother got me the perfect gift one day, but I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate it.  Thanks Mom, and I’m sorry.


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