Saturday, February 7, 2015

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part VI: 875-851

I'm on pace to crank out a few of these in February, so thanks again to those of you that have joined me in this series. As I work my way through the 700s and into page 100, I'm trying to keep in mind how monotonous some of these might sound, and in doing so I find myself trying to figure out for whom I should feel sorry for the most: me the person for having such an apparent lack of diversity in my life or you the reader who keeps coming back to read about my lameness.

It's a tossup, I tell ya'.

Anyway: six down; 34 to go.

Seriously, though: Thank you for reading.

Eight Hundred Seventy-Five: Miami

            South Florida may have many mysteries. It may. I’ll include Miami in that mix.

            I suppose things always feel that way away from home, though. Navigating streets, participating in public transportation, clutching maps, punching in GPS locations, arrivals and departures. I also suppose that the size of a city either magnifies or shrinks the sensation, and Miami -- the Shaquille O’Neal of cities -- looms over Kansas City, more of a Steven Nash or a Chris Paul.

            Like ants in a sugar bag, we our way to and from, anxious one second, content the next. Uncle Peter told us that 80 percent of the population speaks Spanish, which appeared accurate. The monorail boasts signs in Creole; the 2:30 a.m. traffic suggests many live the late-night life, at least on New Year’s Eve.

            I haven’t visited Miami in 25 years. I struggled to recall my experiences as a 15-year-old, and I know that the kid I was then never once imagined what life would be like at age 40. I’m glad we went, though. Opportunities to see other parts of the country come seldom, now, with two little people at home. I felt blessed to step out of the shoebox we rattle around in every day, every week, every year, so I’m thankful for Miami. I’m thankful for what it  taught us in our short stay, and I’m eager to see more of it some other time.

Eight Hundred Seventy-Four: leaving the kids

            If you, as a parent, aren’t learning something new about emotions and feelings at least once a day, it might be time to reevaluate your approach. Our latest lesson came in the form of being away from our little people.

            Having shared the outlined details for child care with all of our people, we scrambled to get out the door, but not until our plane’s wheels lifted from the runway did we feel the immediate impact of missing our children.

            In the weeks leading up to our trip we worried about how things would go with our kids at home. We felt anxious about the logistics of travel. We concerned ourselves with finances, but the toll of distance between us and our children went unnoticed. The pain we felt being apart from them caused temporary debate to bail early from our trip and head home four days early. We perused photos new and old, re-hashed stories of our daughter’s preferences and tendencies, our son’s cuteness and needs. We -- for lack of better phraseology -- questioned our merits as parents.

            Everything, of course, turned out fine. We faced the difficulty and withstood it. Upon our return home we kissed them as they slept in their beds.

Eight Hundred Seventy-Three: culture in Miami

            I’m thankful for our time in Florida. I’m grateful for Aunt Marcia and Uncle Peter putting us up. I’m thrilled that we welcomed 2015 with four nights of Phish at the American Airlines Arena. I’m pleased that we enjoyed a week of warm January weather. I felt privileged to see the sights and log some quality time with my wife.

            More than anything, I felt blessed to have had my mind opened that week. Strolling in the Everglades, climbing the lighthouse tower at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, dinner at La Esquina de la Fama in Little Havana, and people watching on South Beach provided cultural exposure to a Midwestern mind that needed it. I don’t imply that Kansas City lacks culture, but Miami has a ton more, namely in its people. Hearing spoken Spanish as often as we did -- along with German, Austrian, French, and more than one Asian dialect -- refreshed.

            The escape from routine, the trends and tendencies of home awakened me just as being around so many different kinds of people did. Above all, splicing each of those cultural afternoons with the Phish scene at night provided a fascinating dichotomy.

Eight Hundred Seventy-Two: the ocean

            I graduated with a B.A. in psychology and I’m married to a therapist, so I should probably have the answer for this, and if I think about it, it’s probably nestled in my subconscious. Either way, the ocean scares the shit out of me.

            Go ahead and laugh. I don’t mind.

            It made me the butt of a joke or two during our stay, and regarding this topic, I’m used to that.

            I’ve always chalked it up to sharks, but I think it’s more complex.

            I think it’s the darkness, the vastness, the mystery, but I’m not sure.

            Something that massive just makes me think of death, which means a) I’ve got a lot of work to do until I get to a spot where I’m happy with everything I’ve accomplished, and b) I’ve got some fear-related stuff to address. Swimming in the ocean, though, leaves me leery. Walking in the sand can never be that simple. Driving over huge bridges makes me anxious, and the idea of a boat -- at its basest -- petrifies me (even though they astonish).

            The simplicity of the ocean, its intricacies, layers, life forms, and food chains. The joys it has delivered, the sorrows it clutches, the glory of existence it resembles. I’m stunned trying to imagine a similar paradox of pure complexity.

            All the while I’m grateful for its presence. Whether you view it as parceled oceans or one massive body, it’s an icon of fury, the epitome of majestic, the ultimate reminder that life is in fact fragile.

Eight Hundred Seventy-One: a firm mattress

            I’m not sure if 20 years of working atop the cold, unforgiving floors of restaurant kitchens did it to me. Perhaps the culprit comes in the form of countless cheap-shoe selections. Genetics, old age, occupational shifts from standing/hustling/pivoting to that of driving, and -- heck, even my old friend -- LSD all line up as suspects, too. Maybe some form of combination did it. It’s possible my lack of exercise did. And maybe I’m just plain getting old.

            Whatever the case (or cause) may be, I’m left with only one certainty: A shitty mattress will wreck you.

            And believe me: I’ve slept on them all.

            For years as a kid I nestled in to my twin mattress, knees and elbows positioned between protruding springs. For most of college, I counted sheep on some form of frameless, cobbled box-spring/mattress combo that I schlepped around (or abandoned) as I moved from home to home. And for a spell in the early ‘00s, I collected shuteye on the hand-me-down queen of the parents of a short-time girlfriend whose folks needed the 20-year-old pieces out of their house once they’d purchased a new set. When you stood above the sheetless relic, their imprints glowed beneath my bedroom light, negative-space chalk outlines of murder victims who spent two decades on their backs.

            Over that span, occasional back weirdness grew to routine discomfort, which gave way to difficulty getting in and out of bed, and finally, morning paralysis.

            I had to splurge.

            I worked extra. I severed my spending, and I saved until I could shop and purchase.

            It took my spine six months to get used to sleeping on firmness again and I’m convinced I can never go back.

            I know this, because I used to be able to log 10, 12, 14 hours on any old horizontal surface. Now, if I flop on a squishy guest-room mattress that gives in the center, I struggle to fall asleep, and am up every two or three hours, aware of the strangeness going on inside my spinal cord.

            Mattresses have an alleged shelf life of eight years. I bought mine 10 years ago, so I reckon I’ll be laying down in public again soon, eager to recharge my sleep support system. Like I said, though: I’m not sure how I got to the point of having a quote/unquote bad back, but I feel like a ton of circumstance contributed. In hindsight it feels like I might have been better off sleeping on the actual floor for some of those years. Who knows, though. All I can say now is that I’m thankful to know what I need in a mattress and that I’m now capable of procuring one.

Eight Hundred Seventy: cat pictures on Facebook

            Thinking, feeling, and expressing gratitude should happen without judgment and cynicism. It should. Let’s face it, though: Writing about 1,000 of them sans contempt just ain’t happenin’.

            Lemme get real for a minute, then.

            We have a cat. My wife likes to tell people I hate our cat, which reeks of inaccuracy. I like our cat. To some inconceivable degree, I love our cat. As a member of our family and the loved one of a deceased friend, a level of commitment and responsibility binds me to the Maine Coon that lives in our home. Where she gets tripped up comes from observations she makes of my behavior in response to our cat’s habits, which -- via no fault of his own -- are feline in nature.

            What I don’t like:

1)      being howled at at 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., every day of every week, of every month, for eight years…to be fed…while meals at both times of the day are underway for a) at least one other animal, and b) one, then two, then three, now four humans
Shut your fucking hole, cat. Not only are you not going to starve, you have never missed a single meal.
2)      the extra hair
3)      engaging with intent in specific activities you know I don’t want you to engage in -- getting on the kitchen counter, knocking my blanket off of the back of the couch, drinking the dog’s water, just to name a few -- because you want to and because you want to see if you can get away with it/them
4)      constant cleansing (which I know you must do) that results in your puking -- two piles of liquid, followed by your turd-looking hairball -- on the floor
5)      the litter box, and when you get out of it, spraying granules in every direction, with the occasional piece of crap that stuck -- in brevity -- to your fur

Regardless of all that, I love the guy. He’s sweet. He seeks affection (on his own time, of course) and he enjoys his life.

You people, though. You people think that the cuteness of your cat, be it in a fleeting moment that only you see, or in an instant you’re able to capture with a camera, resembles the beginning and the end of what cats are. The truth of it is that they’re disgusting animals that were never meant for domestication. You could make the same argument for any pet, but none come close to reaching the level of grotesque exhibited by the average household feline.

Cats are gross, plain and simple.

I’m glad that they can be cute and can be affectionate and can be sweet, but don’t think that posting one picture a day (or three) of the cute position in which your cat reaches for something, or looks at you, or sleeps dissuades anyone as to the true nature of cats: disgusting. I’m thankful that they’re a source of happiness for you, because sometimes, I wonder if that isn’t all that you have.

Eight Hundred Sixty-Nine: Bernie Federko’s wardrobe

            I don’t make it to St. Louis as often as I like, so tuning in to my Blues hockey games on Fox Sports Midwest tends to be the week’s excitement acme, and I enjoy the Blues Live coverage afterwards as well. They’ve got great interviews, analysis, and personalities, and I mean it when I say that I don’t have a favorite, but it’s hard not to notice the threads on one Bernard Allan Federko.

            I realize that all of the sports talking heads rock a suit and tie and perhaps Federko’s stand out because I see him (and the FSM crew) on the tube more often than any other, but the dude’s always looking dapper. I’m not sure how I started noticing, but I know that in the 2012-13 season I began to take note of the man’s attire. His analysis reeks of honesty and his mug cannot go unnoticed. Why, then, it would occur to me to always note the evening’s suit could only be for one reason: that the handsome items that hang in his closet each bear uniqueness. I’ve never dreamed of wearing a suit often enough that I’d need as many as a sports broadcaster, but in the event that I one day find myself employed in such a requisite fashion, I will attempt to model the man’s collection.

Eight Hundred Sixty-Eight: the Oxford comma

            I’m into punctuation. I’m not perfect at it and never will be. I imagine a few of my former professors might scoff at my writing style, but probably only if I asked them to; my guess would be they’d be pleased I write at all. It’s not necessary to plead my case in support of this necessary delight, because if you disagree then you can just continue to kick around the clutter in your leaky tent at Camp Incorrect.

            In short: Avoid confusion; eliminate ambiguity; let your content direct your readers.

            The Oxford comma. It’s like water. You don’t have to use it, but you ain’t makin’ it too far without it. Don’t stay thirsty, my friends.

Eight Hundred Sixty-Seven: the service industry

            Because I spent 20 of my 40 years within its walls, I cannot imagine my life without the service industry. No better gig to teach multi-tasking and problem solving exists. Not many factions of the working world can better illustrate how teamwork can lead to both failure and success. The service industry reveals the malleability of human beings; it can build character in an individual with a level of intensity that can just as easily destroy a soul.

            Staffs create and deliver food and drink -- the business lifeline -- to guests that fall somewhere on the personality spectrum between laid back and finicky. Their compensation packages range from odd wages to sometimes non-existent tips; perks may include bonuses or discounted product. These workers develop camaraderie with both their coworkers and their industry counterparts in their same towns and cities, and even in other places where they may or may not know someone doing a similar gig at a similar joint.

            Some stay in the game for years. They become professionals, masters of their trade, never seeking new lines of work. Others, however, identify with an industry shelf life, recognizing that the innumerable hours began to resemble the very products they peddle, the months and years eating their lives, the habits they employ gulping down their dreams.

            These gigs can’t be for everyone forever, but they should be -- at some point -- an experience everyone has. I’m thankful for the time I logged. I met tons of amazing people, learned a bundle from a select few, and discovered myself in the process.

Eight Hundred Sixty-Six: Phishheads

            I just closed out my 21st year of seeing Phish and if things go as I hope they might, 2015 will not be my final year attending their shows. I’ve caught Phish with dozens of friends, two of my sisters, exes, my wife, and my children. I’ve made friends out of strangers, helped people out, and people have helped me, too. We’ve shared the road, the air, the floor, the seats, the campgrounds, the show-town stores and restaurants, the waiting, and so much more. It’s impossible to attend a Phish show without a few of the young, the rude, and the over-served getting under your skin, but the good ones always outnumber the bad. I’m so thankful for all of those with whom I’ve shared, the ones I’ve met, and the ones I’ve yet to meet.

Eight Hundred Sixty-Five: unnamed friend #10

            I spent about five years living in the same town as this dude. We attended school together, we worked together, we partied together. I’ve seen him a few times in recent years and we never seem to miss a beat. This dude has always managed his emotions well. He’s grounded, intelligent, motivated, and happy. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, a sense of humor similar to mine, and he’s just plain good people. No idea when I’ll see him next or with what frequency our paths will cross in the future, but I’m so happy to have met him, worked with him, and laughed with him. I’m certain the people in his current circle feel the same way.

Eight Hundred Sixty-Four: Amtrak

            The family and I try to get down to St. Louis for a weekend at least once a year. We try to schedule a couple of fun things to do while we’re there, but really -- we’re there for Blues hockey. We don’t always take in a victory at Scottrade Center, but we always have a good time. We enjoy eating out, using the light rail, and exploring the city. What makes it all worth the while, though, has everything to do with leaving our car at home. Taking the train rocks. No bathroom stops. No refueling. No cramped-up feeling, and of course, the freedom to drink while you travel. Boarding an Amtrak means leisure, productivity. It means stress-free travel, and good people watching. I’m grateful that trains still operate in 2015, and I’m thankful that Amtrak runs where it does.

Eight Hundred Sixty-Three: Jack Kerouac

            I don’t hold the beatnik star on quite the platform I once did, but I reflect upon my Kerouac phase with great fondness. I’m pretty sure I didn’t knock out all 14 of his novels (or however many there are) but I came close. I knew -- whether I knew it or not -- at a young age that I wanted to write, but it wasn’t until I read Kerouac that I the adult realization aspect took hold. The man-I-love-this-and-want-to-do-it feeling resonated with, of course, On the Road, and even more so with The Dharma Bums. He had a few other decent books, too. None of them topped The Dharma Bums for me, but the fact that he was able to crank ‘em out for as long as he did really grabbed me. I’m glad I discovered him when I did. I’m thankful for what the beats did for writing, even if I realize now that it wasn’t as big as I once thought it was.

Eight Hundred Sixty-Two: skydiving

            A little over 20 years ago I jumped out of a plane from 9,000 feet. Getting to that point almost topped the actual act on a level of ridiculousness. I had a gig serving tables at a place called The Dark Horse Inn in Estes Park, Colorado. The place had a few problems, and ownership (or lack thereof) was one of them. Around the time I started patrolling the dining room attached to Chef Rich’s kitchen, these two dudes bought the service piece of the operation from the owners. One oversaw the bar; the other managed the restaurant. The bar guy hired me for a few drink-pouring shifts when I wasn’t fumbling over tableside wine service in the other guy’s dining room.

            The bar guy found the dining-room dude a joke, which proved an accurate assessment. The bar guy, I discovered, wanted to buy out the dining-room dude, and one day wrote me a check for $200 to not show up for a later-in-the-week dining-room shift. I had no idea how to feel about that, so I sat on the check for a minute. Less than 24 hours later, I found out that a group of friends were driving to Loveland to skydive and their fourth had backed out of the package deal.

            After an ethical internal debate that lasted all of an afternoon, I cashed the check and agreed to take the spot.

            When we arrived, the scheduled plane still had not. Once they got the bird there, we were missing one other element: a pilot. He showed and we were airborne a little later. As we climbed, we practiced the official position: arms and legs bent at 90-degree angles. At about 6,000 feet, I sat in front of my tandem professional as he fastened the four carabineers, one at each shoulder, one at each hip. At the predetermined altitude, my tandem guy scooted to the edge of the plane’s rollup black-tarp door. This positioning left me dangling outside of the plane. As he hollered reminders of the position into my ear, I felt one certainty: death.

            When he launched himself out of the craft, we went hurling through the air. I remember seeing the ground, the plane, the ground, the plane, and then I wanted to do one thing and one thing only: scream.

            Except I couldn’t. I struggled for most of our entire free fall to get enough air into my lungs, and once I did, my tandem professional -- I think his name was Bill -- yelled into my ear.

            Bill: “Pull!”

            <me, silent, flabbergasted at the sudden inability to draw air into my lungs>

            Bill: “Pull!”

            <me finally screaming>

            Bill: “Pull the cord!”

            <me, still screaming>

            Bill: “You have to pull the cord now!”

            <more of me screaming>

            Bill, finding his instructions moot, pulled his own cord, and that’s when the joy of the thing hit me. Regardless of the seven-second clown show he’d just endured with me, Bill guided me through a flawless lesson of how to clutch the steering harnesses and maneuver us through the air. As we neared our landing area, his instructions grew terser, but we touched down right in the center of it, and as it turned out, were the only twosome to stay on our feet through the landing.

            Lots of people do lots of crazy shit while they’re alive on this planet, and skydiving may or may not be high up on the list. For my money, it doesn’t get much crazier, and I’m glad I did it in my youth, ‘cause there ain’t no chance you’re even getting me in the car at this age. Insane experience. So thankful to have had it.

Eight Hundred Sixty-One: hitchhiking

            While we’re still in the chapter of my crazy early 20s, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the time I hitchhiked from Ashland, Oregon to Rifle, Colorado. It never occurred to me to look it up before just now, but those were 1,062 of the nuttiest miles I’ve ever logged as a United States traveler. In short: a crackhead took my dog and I to Sacramento; a lady with a tree in her back seat drove us as far as Reno, and we spent a couple of days holed up in the back of this couple’s Blazer before getting back to The Centennial State. It’s amazing that it only involved three vehicles, and the second two were fine; that first one fucked my shit up, though. My parents kept telling me (before I embarked (without telling them I was actually going to do it)) that this wasn’t the 1950s anymore, that it wasn’t safe in this country to pull off such a stunt. And I’ll say this about that: It was dangerous and dumb and I’m glad I had the experience. I’m especially glad I lived to tell about it. That was 1995. Two thousand fifteen is a whole other animal.

            Don’t even think about it, kids. There’s a boatload of crazies out there, and they’re not just smokin’ rock. They’re killin’ people and dumpin’ ‘em in lakes an’ shit.

            Jesus, that was nuts.

Eight Hundred Sixty: McConnell the Irish German Shepherd

            My boy entered the world on the sixth of October, 1994 and logged 14 and-a-half magnificent years with me and there wasn’t a damn thing Irish about him, but I once had a landlord include him as a tenant on a lease with that very verbiage, so why the hell not.

            McConnell christened me into the world of pet ownership and took the both of us on a wild ride. He snuggled as an infant, whined as a puppy, ran (when he could) for most of his life, overcame carsickness, killed a couple of chickens, got hit by a truck, swallowed some nearly fatal carpet, and once barked at Bela Fleck in Telluride. He stole pizza from a stranger’s hands, loathed thunderstorms and the fourth of July. He loved my wife, took our puppy under his wing at an elderly state, accompanied me on most of my hair-brained adventures around the country, and never asked for more than two squares and a little bit of affection.

            I’m only on my second dog, but I’ll be damned if they get much better than ol’ McGrupp. He was the bees’ knees. I’m stupid lucky that my path crossed his when it did. He taught me to appreciate life. He taught me about fear and loyalty. He taught me how to care for someone, even as I still learned to care for myself. Beyond giving thanks for him, I hope that in doggie heaven his every last worry subsided, the green pastures are vast, and the pizza is plentiful.

            We miss you, buddy.

Eight Hundred Fifty-Nine: Louis C.K.

            Whether he hates Kansas City or not, I love Louis C.K. I’ve been watching stand-up comedy for over 25 years, and as a kid, Jeff Dunham was pretty good. Not Eddie Murphy good, but good. I’ve watched a lot of greats since those days, and I didn’t think anyone would ever top Chris Rock. Then Jim Gaffigan did and I didn’t think anyone would ever best him, but Louis C.K.’s stuff had already been there, simmering, until his shit boiled right out of the pot and onto the floor. Now I don’t think anyone will ever top him. The honesty in his material, the precision with which he describes human awkwardness, his filthiness as a man and a dude and a guy…I think this time might be the time where no one does surpass.

            His perpetual writing style produces always-fresh bits. His show -- Louie on FX -- might be the best program on television. The control-it-all approach he took to producing all of his work just to keep it more affordable for his fans commands respect. That’s it, really. He’s just the best. He’s the brightest, the funniest, the boldest, and the best, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have absorbed a good bit of his acts over the past few years.

Eight Hundred Fifty-Eight: random moment #1

            A few months ago I drove south on Prospect Avenue. I’d just left my last customer; the day’s final errand of retrieving the children from their schools meant my windshield time would soon conclude. I park in front of this last customer, my vehicle facing north. To leave I u-turn. The final driver to whom I had to yield before executing swerved from left to right, drawing stacked number eights with the tires of his light blue motorcycle. The handsome bike had a hearty rumble to it, but not that obnoxious kind whose open throttle makes you wince. As this bike approached, I double took then looked again, still uncertain.

            As he approached, LeVert’s “Cassanova” played, growing louder by the second. When the motorcyclist passed, the song’s volume almost made me flinch, but because I didn’t I caught of glimpse of the guy’s rig: Instead of saddlebags behind his seat, the guy had small platforms sticking out around mid-wheel height. Atop each sat a 30” speaker; both bore some form of housing around them for protection from the elements.

            The motorcyclist and I shared the same stretch of rush-hour road for most of 20 minutes. He swerved back and forth, carving his circle eights in the pavement, getting glances, nods, smiles, gestures, and waves from every pedestrian and motorist he passed. For every acknowledgment he received, his grin grew. I’m not certain he had a destination beyond these interactions. I like to think he didn’t. He rolled south on Prospect in front of me, “Cassanova” on repeat, with volume so loud I had to call somebody back later so that we could hear one another.

            That’s the whole story. Dude got on his light-blue bike with built-in house speakers and cruised the ‘Spect, exchanging good energy with whoever would have it. By my tally, that included everyone within a 12-block radius. So, thanks, dude. You subtracted a track from the list of obnoxious ‘80s songs that got overplayed. I’ll never again think the same of “Cassanova.”

            Eight Hundred Fifty-Seven: my father-in-law

            Besides trying to figure out life and wade through the week’s challenges, the only difficulties of not having my dad around that still weigh on me come in the form of the three faces that live under my same roof. Everything else in life I feel like I either can or one day will navigate. That I never got to watch my wife and my dad interact, that I never got to see him gush while he squeezed one of his grandchildren creates a piercing sensation behind the left side of my breast bone every time I think of it.

            As often as that hurts, the pain deflates when I think of the silver lining: my kids’ grandpa doesn’t have to share the spotlight.

            I dig Joe Saviano. He figured out life long before I met him. Like anybody else, he has his tendencies, his preferences, his beliefs, joys, and frustrations. When I think of good people, Joe’s near the top of the list.

            From time to time, I feel for him, though. It’s not that he doesn’t have a good life. He does. He’s married to a beautiful, wonderful woman that loves him. Together they have raised two incredible girls. Joe and his wife have jobs and a nice home. They both travel and engage in activities they enjoy. They have a lot for which they should be -- and are -- thankful.

            He does, however, come from a pack of nine children, all of which have needs and opinions, and he spent most of the last 30 years being one man in a house of women, meaning his voice probably got heard last for about 20 of those years. I’m not clear on the accuracy of that claim, but I have often -- in the last 12 years -- felt compelled to stick up for him, as his women can tend to let their criticisms of him suffocate any praises of the man that they might have.

            Hence, the silver lining: I know Joe Saviano loves my kids and I know my kids love him. He gets to be grandpa. He gets to be the only grandpa. He doesn’t have to share the title -- or any variation of it -- with anyone. I’m not saying that’s my first choice, but given that that’s the way things turned out, I’m glad that he gets that all to himself. I look forward to watching my children’s relationships with their grandfather strengthen and develop.

            I dig Joe Saviano for many more reasons than just how my kids see him. He treats me like a friend, like one of his own kids. I’d guess that he doesn’t get parts of me, but he doesn’t judge me for them, not to my face anyway. He helps out our household in more ways than I can count. He’s an honest man who takes care of his family and manages to enjoy himself, too. As far as I can tell, I did pretty well in the father-in-law sweepstakes. I’m thankful for the one I got; I wouldn’t trade him for anyone else.

Eight Hundred Fifty-Six: household balance

            My wife handles a lot of business in our home. It’s impossible to think about all that she has on her plate and not wonder if the responsibility distribution resembles fairness. In fact, it’s impossible to think about all that she does and not think about what that distribution looks like in other homes. I know that our home and what happens in it should be the only scale I evaluate, but it’s not. Truth be told, we both do plenty, and we do a good job of making up for one another’s shortcomings. We can also display flexibility and change things if need be. Granted, that hasn’t happened much, but we’ve at least discussed it. Anyway, I think our responsibilities represent our strengths and needs, and I’m thankful for the fact that -- to date -- it’s been as easy as it has.

Eight Hundred Fifty-Five: my boss

            I could’ve done worse and I’m thankful I did not. And in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Eight Hundred Fifty-Four: how my kids get along in the morning

            Without implication that my children don’t get along in the afternoon and evening, I give thanks for how they get along when they clear those a.m. cobwebs. Elihu arises first; his still-dark rustles, rattles, and coos jostling the household silence. Depending on the day, his mother retrieves him so that his sister and father may enjoy extra slumber. Some mornings, though, we -- and by “we” I mean my wife -- leave him be. He creates enough of a ruckus to wake even the soundest sleeper, so his sibling in the bed adjacent his stands no chance.

            On these mornings where we allow his goings-on to stir her, she will sit, work her plodding way out of bed, and engage in a precious repetition of entertaining her brother and allowing him to amuse her. Depending on the combustion level of her morning’s octane, she will either a) bring him things for him to throw, b) distribute books to the both of them to peruse, or c) climb into his crib with him and engage in an assortment of shenanigans.

            From either the dining room or our bed, I hear two things: 1) her constant referral to him as “buddy” and 2) incessant laughter.

            Their relationship consists of more than rainbows and unicorns, though. At other times of the day, she will rip things from his clutches, he will smack her in the face, and with high frequency, she reveals a sort of envy from any direct play or laughter shared by her brother and either one of her parents. That morning stuff, though, delights me, and I try to take mental snapshots of those moments, so that I may revisit them later when my patience with them resembles a lightning bug’s flicker.

Eight Hundred Fifty-Three: The String Cheese Incident

            I haven’t seen these guys live or bought an album of theirs in seven or eight years, but they took up a huge portion of my late 1990s wheelhouse. Before they got big, an old roommate and I used to catch them front and center in tiny Durango, Colorado venues. I played all my favorites -- probably more often than listenership desired -- on the college-radio-station show I hosted. For some time they anchored the number-one spot on the list of bands that could one day usurp Phish as my favorite. Things happen, though, and for a number of unimportant reasons, Phish still holds the undisputed heavyweight championship belt. I had a great run as a Cheesehead, (Note: Sorry, Packers fans.) though. I still dig the band a lot. I recognize their talent, their longevity, their contribution to the bluegrass, newgrass, and jam-band scenes. I wouldn’t trade my experiences with that band and its music for anything. That I have enjoyed them for as long as I have, I give thanks.

Eight Hundred Fifty-Two: unnamed friend #11

            Unnamed friend number 11 holds the distinct pleasure of having shared a roof with the quote-unquote adult me for a longer stretch than anyone but my wife. I’m not sure if I owe him an apology for that or not, but I should take this opportunity to thank him for tolerating my immaturity, stubbornness, and lack of financial responsibility for a long stretch of months. This guy’s got smarts in his brain folds that I always envied. His level of creative talent always garnered my admiration, and the energy associated with his opinions and emotions almost always jived with my own.

            I don’t harbor sorrow for where I live, but the moments in which I long for the days of my previous locale occur often enough to prompt a search of the soul. The place possesses a gorgeous backdrop and a long list of fine institutions, but the people I met and knew made it real and invaluable. Unnamed friend number 11 batted cleanup in my lineup of incredible friends, and that I earned the opportunity to call him a crony warrants an offering of gratitude.

Eight Hundred Fifty-One: turning 40

            I hit the big four-oh since starting this project, and the amount of thought I gave the alleged milestone resembled a summer horizon’s gnat. The other day, however, I filled a pint glass from the kitchen sink, and had a fleeting thought: on my next significant birthday I turn 50. That shit froze me for a moment, had me staring out the window with a sense of -- for lack of having a clue -- fear.

            I don’t know if people that have no fear of dying exist. I think we’re led to believe that they do, but you can only know how you feel. I’m not ready to die now, and the thought of turning 50 years old cannot be called anything shy of a total freaking trip. Stay in the thought too long and it all just gets too heady. So, for now, I’m thankful I’m 40. If only for the reason that it isn’t 50, 40 fucking rocks.

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