Friday, March 20, 2015

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part XIV: 675-651

As I nibble away at the 600s it occurs to me that I have a ton of good memories, and a ton for which I am thankful. Thinking it and typing it are but two pieces, though; I must act like it.

In trying to do so, I'm also trying to be more conscious of judgment.

I don't want to think something of someone or communicate said something because I think his or her whine or gripe isn't legit'. It's tough, though.

So many people in the world exist in shitty environments or are under the control of shitty people or simply cannot crawl out from the shit into which they were born.

If you're reading this my guess is that -- chances are -- you've got it pretty good.

That doesn't mean you can't want change or seek more. It just means look around and try to at least imagine being thankful for the food you have to eat. You might feel better about things.

Thank you for reading.

Six Hundred Seventy-Five: D.J. Hero

            My wife got me this game for our Nintendo Wii a couple of Christmases ago and I think my mom did, too. Regardless, I totally whooped and fist-bumped the air when I unwrapped it. Owning this item bore unusual merit; I needed another distraction to keep me from going in any sort of direction in life and a video game seemed like the perfect thing to request in a season of giving unnecessary gifts. I got pretty into it for a week or two, too. I stayed up late pounding beers, attempting to master this piece of newness, then overslept and went -- unrested -- to wherever I was supposed to be and repeated this for a stretch of days.

            D.J. Hero. For when listening to Daft Punk doesn’t satisfy. You’ve got to be Daft Punk.

Six Hundred Seventy-Four: The Dog River Riverdogs

            My rec’-league hockey team calls itself The Dog River Riverdogs. Whoever chose that used some hockey club in some dumb Canadian TV show for inspiration. Our roster has a bunch of good people on it and our team name doesn’t tend to land too high in the standings. This past season offered us a whole new flavor of disappointment and it just couldn’t end soon enough. Not that any of us don’t want to play every week, but sometimes losing can overtake the joy you get from playing the game.

            Either way, I started playing with the core of this group about 10 years ago. Awesome dudes. Glad I know them and play with them. Glad they’ll still have me, too.

Six Hundred Seventy-Three: unnamed friend #21

            This dude and I spent an incalculable number of hours together for three or four years. Sleepovers, Kansas basketball games, driveway hoops, video games, television, repeat. This -- and a ton of it -- comprised the basis of our relationship and by the time I had a job and a car our friendship all but ended. His family always treated me with warmth and affection. His grandparents pretended like they didn’t mind my tagging along everywhere and his mom -- a sweetheart to the nth degree -- tended to let us be, let us have our fill of Cokes, and on occasion made us the most amazing grilled-cheese sandwiches on the planet.

            Whether us growing apart or me growing up too soon made us drift I’m unsure. Perhaps both. Either way, I called unnamed friend number 21 my homey for a stretch and I’m so grateful for our endeavors together.

Six Hundred Seventy-Two: kale smoothies

            My wife makes these things most mornings and I cannot believe I’ve grown accustomed to them. Not that they tasted bad and I had to learn to like them. I just can’t believe they’re part of my routine now. While lacking in visual appeal kale smoothies make up for it in texture. Yes. Worry not. The texture factor has reached all-time highs. These concoctions have health perks, though, I’m told. They do satisfy my hunger for a solid 25 minutes and in all likeliness they probably contain more nutrition than everything else I eat in a day combined. Kale smoothies. Three cheers for you strawed culinary delights in a cup.

Six Hundred Seventy-One: my desktop

            That I’ve gotten eight years out of this unit blows my mind. Thankful I got such life out of this unit and its predecessor, too.

Six Hundred Seventy:

            My mother-in-law gave me a gift card for Christmas and I saved it until last month. I think I picked seven CDs and a book and when I clicked “buy” -- or whatever they call that final button -- it felt great. I’ve never been much of an Amazon impulse buyer because I’m too much of a have-to-have-it-now-impulse impulse buyer. Well, that and the lack of discretionary income. Amazon’s pretty amazing, though. I don’t mean to ignore what it has probably done to the small business owner, but I hope most of those folks have adapted. Some were probably undeserving pricks that had to get jobs in the tape factories that saw spikes in manufacturing or maybe they’re driving the trucks -- with pill addictions and road rage -- that bring us our nifty little packages.

            I digress.

   Nice invention, people. Nice invention.

Six Hundred Sixty-Nine: human-complexity example #1: project delays

            Sometimes, when I’ve put myself in the chair to work on this thing, I struggle to come up with a gratitude. This sets off a chain reaction wherein I a) look around the room subconsciously looking for something to write about, b) realize that my subconscious has made me do that, c) chuckle, and d) feel foolish that coming up with 1,000 gratitudes could be this difficult. (Note: I just did it again after finishing that sentence.) The complexity of our minds makes me both insane and grateful that we have such analytical ability.

Six Hundred Sixty-Eight: South Park clip #1: Token plays bass

            There’s no way in hell I can limit my thankfulness for this program to one gratitude. The audacious crassness with which Trey Parker and Matt Stone have written this show warrants a high level of admiration and limitless appreciation for all of the laughter it has given me.

Six Hundred Sixty-Seven: Mike Myers

            This Canadian has made me laugh more times than I can remember. From his Wayne’s World skits on Saturday Night Live to the haggis bit in So I Married an Ax Murderer to his Don Cherryesque character in Mystery, Alaska to General Ed Fenech in The Inglorious Basterds to the Austin Powers series, Myers has always impressed me with his wit.

Six Hundred Sixty-Six: Comets games

            We went to a ton of these Kemper Arena contests as kids. Those early-‘80s Kansas City Major Indoor Soccer League squads had a ton of dudes on the roster to love, mostly because of their awesome names: Gino Schiraldi, Ben Popoola, Enzo DiPede, Tasso Koutsoukos. What an experience, though: the laser-light show, the proximity to the field, the crowd enthusiasm, the team song, the fog. I’ve got a bunch of great memories from those games. I remember hating the Wichita Wings, the Tacoma Stars, and especially the St. Louis Steamers. I don’t think the Comets ever dominated the league, but for a minute there, somebody caught some fire with that product.

Six Hundred Sixty-Five: the time I didn’t die in a fire in Samantha Vigliaturo’s bed

            During my stint at McCoy’s, I dated a server or two. One of them liked tattoos and bourbon. Or Scotch. Or whatever brown liquid she drank. She also liked to show her tits to whoever wanted to see them which made me wanna choke her and toss her corpse in a dumpster, but at the end of the night -- for a minute, anyway -- she went home with me.

            One evening when we probably got over-served and stayed out until 3:00, we passed out with a whole bunch of candles burning in her bedroom, which constituted a mattress on the floor, camouflaged by dozens of piles of clothes, shoes, and randomness. Anyway, I have no idea what woke me up, but it either had to do with the quilt that covered us being on fire, the fact that said quilt had begun burning numerous areas of my skin, or both.

            I screamed.

            Waking up to fire sucks. So does getting burned.

            I wanted to freak out, clean the room, dispose of the quilt, eliminate the smell of burnt fabric and flesh. She thought the coolness of the moment meant cause for a cuddle.

            I got out of there and then I got out of there.

Six Hundred Sixty-Four: when my fiancée and I took dancing lessons

            I can’t remember the name of the place, but during our engagement, Anna and I took a whole bunch of dance lessons. We started out with Jen as our teacher, who seemed fun and cute and nice. Then she left or got knocked up or something, but another gal -- Brook, I think -- took over. Not that we didn’t find Jen great. We did. Brook, though, seemed a bit more professional, a bit less distracted, a bit more organized. Regardless, we paid a pile of money for several months worth of lessons and sometimes stressed out about having our appointments and getting to them on time, but overall we enjoyed it. We also -- under Brook’s guidance -- came up with a pretty cool first dance for our wedding. Something to some day consider again.

Six Hundred Sixty-Three: Jim Gaffigan

            As I mentioned many pages ago, I used to think Jim Gaffigan held the best-active comic title. I still dig him and find his material hilarious and I’ve spent a ton of hours watching his stuff. Fewer comics do a better job of analyzing the silliness of human tendencies and none use a cleaner delivery, with perhaps the exception of Brian Regan. Gaffigan’s career has exploded in the last 10 years with constant touring, acting bits, books, and the somewhat-regular production of new material. Grateful I discovered him long enough ago to have a serious portion of his bits on reserve.

Six Hundred Sixty-Two: the sound of the furnace

            I can’t imagine how I’d feel about our furnace’s noises if I didn’t know what it did, but I love the sound of it firing up, running, and -- albeit less -- finishing its cycle.

Six Hundred Sixty-One: unnamed friend #22

            I’ve known this dude for 30 years and we still hang on the reg’. Everyone in my family loved him 30 years ago and 20 years ago and everybody in my family loves him today. You talk about a big heart, a solid sense of humor, and clarity of want, you talk about unnamed friend number 22. If I could parcel happiness and give it as a gift, this dude would be at the top of my list. He always does for others, considers the feelings of others, and demonstrates support in all of his relationships. I love unnamed friend number 22 like a brother and give countless thanks that our paths crossed when (and how) they did in 1985.

Six Hundred Sixty: “Peaches En Regalia”

            If another smile-persuading goose-flesh-invoking instrumental number exists I haven’t discovered it yet. “Peaches En Regalia” leads off Frank Zappa’s second solo album, the 1969 masterpiece known as Hot Rats, his second release of the year and seventh in the last four. I don’t expect you to finish reading this and go give Hot Rats a listen, but if you’re not going to, you should at least read the album’s Wikipedia page and tell me (in the comments) how many sentences in you got before you went, Huh? and had to reread something. Also, random tidbit(s) about the woman on the album cover:

“Miss Christine died on November 5, 1972, of a heroin overdose…shortly after she had spent nearly a year in a full body cast to correct a crooked spine.”


            What a way to go.

Six Hundred Fifty-Nine: the Jim books

            I’ve written about these before, but Andrews McMeel took Scott Dikkers’ initially self-published efforts and turned them into books of comic strips that came to be known as Jim’s Journal. 

          My mom worked for Andrews McMeel and got me a copy of I Went to College (and it was okay) which came out around the time I would matriculate in Pittsburg, Kansas and I just about lost my flippin’ mind over its spot-on-ness. I loved subsequent installments just as much. Following Jim’s life brought me smiles, happiness, and laughter, three gifts of immeasurable value.

Six Hundred Fifty-Eight: my brother-in-law

            When my sister got engaged it occurred to me that I would have to trust her judgment. Reality doesn’t allow us to move in to a person’s life and live it for a while to figure out if you approve of what they’re doing or planning to do. I knew Jack and had known him for a bit, but not well, so I had to bank on the two-part wish that he made my sister happy and that he wouldn’t hurt her. Faith in my sister’s intelligence made me feel confident in my wishes, but anxiety -- begotten from a sense of helplessness -- lingered.

            They married a little over two years ago and things appear well for them. I wish we talked more and saw one another more, but when we do visit they seem content and I like Jack. I think the difficulty in getting to know him centers on the fact that -- when he wants to be -- he’s a man of few words. I like him, though. I’m hopeful that he loves my sister and takes care of her in their life together. I’m thankful for the time I’ve gotten to spend with him and look forward to spending more time with him. I should probably do the one thing that will make him feel really good about himself: have him play golf with me.

Six Hundred Fifty-Seven: Mrs. Loomis

            I have a vague recollection of what my kindergarten teacher looked like and I remember two specific things about her: 1) she protected me from a bully; 2) she wept on our last day of school as the decision had been made to close Sequoia Elementary. I think the sudden news came near the end of the school year and perhaps Mrs. Loomis’ age had had her considering retirement. Perhaps the news forced her hand a little sooner and as we gathered our things it occurred to her that -- at that moment in 1980 -- she would never again watch another class of kindergartners file out her classroom door. That’s about all I remember, though. I’m thankful for having a sweet lady as my first teacher.

Six Hundred Fifty-Six: Miss Gravino

            My mom and dad probably argued about where I would attend first grade. They probably argued about how I would get to school, who would pay for it, and how you spell the words “first” and “grade.” Either way, I wound up at St. Ann’s. I met a ton of cool kids there and had a wild year. I played Santa Claus in the Christmas play. I twice got caught with my pants down. I got scolded for pinching girls’ bottoms. I had to keep Patience Jacobs -- and her crush on me -- at arm’s distance. I tasted rejection when Lisa Carroll told me she didn’t want to be my girlfriend (or kiss me, or whatever dumb thing I asked of her). I got ridiculed by a pack of boys because I a) was new, b) bore all of the huge-dork symptoms, and c) befriended Jayson Molnar.

            Our teacher, however, rocked. Miss Gravino came to St. Ann’s new and fresh at her trade. She seemed to dig kids, our class being no exception. I liked her a lot, so much so that my mother alleges that I asked her over for dinner in front of the whole class. This probably didn’t help my efforts to escape the tag of dorkdom, but what’s a guy to do. I don’t remember inviting her over to the house, but I can see it happening as I do remember thinking she was pretty hot. Guess I had a thing for tall girls back then. I mean, if Lisa Carroll -- who probably had three inches on me -- said no, might as well go bigger.

Six Hundred Fifty-Five: Mrs. Holland

            I spent the early portion of second grade at Peachtree Elementary School and I don’t remember my teacher’s name there, but we moved and I spent almost three whole years at Annistown, entering Mrs. Holland’s classroom halfway through the year. She was cute, too. And nice. Not as tall as Miss Gravino, but she had a wonderful smile. She suggested my mom put me in “Focus,” the program for gifted students, so she was likely drinking on the job, but Mrs. Holland -- for one reason or another -- seemed to get that I had been shuffled around a bit in recent years and took it easy on me, whether I needed it or not.

            I’ll never forget leaving -- just as I’d grown accustomed to her, the room, and my classmates -- a day or two prior to Christmas break so that we could travel back to Kansas City. We returned a day or two late as well, and she greeted me when I walked in to the classroom.

            “Ah,” she said. “Our Kansas traveler. Welcome back.”

            I always thought that was cool. I’m thankful I started Annistown with Mrs. Holland. She was pretty rad.

Six Hundred Fifty-Four: Mrs. Sangster

            By third grade we had settled into our neighborhood and I remember a bit of hubbub regarding which of the boys my age would get Mrs. Sangster. My pal Lewis and I, deemed fortunate enough to get her, wasted little time becoming class clowns, and Mrs. Sangster -- I think -- favored me a touch, probably because of my susceptibility to his ornery influence. She pulled no punches, though. She meant business and let us know it from day one. She challenged and cared for us. Her boisterous personality got us enthused about education and while she let Lewis and I get away with some shenanigans, she kept a cap on their frequency. Even though I embarrassed myself by once proclaiming Wichita to be the Kansas state capital, I do feel lucky that I got Mrs. Sangster for third grade.

Six Hundred Fifty-Three: Mrs. Clemmons

            Fourth grade bored me a bit. Parts of it challenged my feeble mind, but playing, reading, and talking to girls had become more interesting than sitting in a classroom. Mrs. Clemmons didn’t compare to any of my previous teachers in terms of personality, but she once chose me for the student-of-the-month award. I’m glad I had Mrs. Clemmons. She didn’t suck.

Six Hundred Fifty-Two: Mrs. Jacques

            By fifth grade we’d returned to Kansas and my sister now joined me in being one of the new kids. Fifth graders at Somerset Elementary in 1985 either got Mr. Tracy or Mrs. Jacques. Neither seemed spectacular, but our class held the definite cool edge. I’m glad I got Mrs. Jacques, though. I made a ton of friends in her room, and I learned that not every teacher would be young and energetic. Some would be old and pithy, with one foot through the retirement door. Mrs. Jacques’ age prevented her from having enough energy to tolerate the jackassery of our collection of kids. We got away with a fair amount in there, and I got to sit next to Rebecca Mutchnick for most of the year, which meant she got to shoot me looks about my perpetual note passing, even when she accepted her title as my girlfriend.

Six Hundred Fifty-Two: Mr. Wallace

            My final year in elementary school meant one more school and the Prairie Elementary sixth-grade teachers couldn’t have differed more from one another had they tried. On one secluded end of the wing Joel Dempsey had kids playing handball and remodeling The Bard Theater. In the middle, Marie Torner ruled her room with strictness and on the other end David Wallace just tried to teach and be kind. Mr. Wallace’s challenges included: trying to keep David Flannery’s whininess under control; silencing the perpetual laughter that Aubrey Jahier invoked in me; and keeping the boys’ (or at least mine) hormones at bay: Courtney Meara, Keri Morrison, and Molly Rumsey all in one room? Sheesh! Mr. Wallace, though. He had a style all his own; he made the awesome sauce before they called it that.

Six Hundred Fifty-One: Mrs. Howard

            I’ve touched on elementary, high-school, college, and grad-school educators, so I figured  I’d better hit a few from middle school, too, and Mrs. Howard comes to mind first. She taught seventh-grade English for who knows how long -- 30 years, I’d guess -- and did a damn fine job doing it. She figured out a way to take my interest from doodling band names in the margins of my notes to taking notes on parts of speech, Beowulf, Ulysses, and Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition. Mrs. Howard took a special interest in every person in her room; she didn’t allow any of her students to be duds. For her passion, energy, and dedication, I give thanks for having had the luxury of facing her chalkboard.

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