Nov 30, 2008

Unplanned Hospitality and a Scenic Ride on the Karma Train

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Typically, Thanksgiving is a holiday I don't worry too much about. Over the last 10 years I simply try to work it, as the pay is good and I get a decent meal to boot. This year was slightly different. While I actually worked on Thanksgiving, I was off the next day.

I brined my bird, I roasted it for most of the day, and it was solid. The food was excellent, and I have to say my turkey could not have turned out better. 23 pounds of juicy, tender goodness.
But I don't know that recounting the meal is what this is all about. In fact, I do know. Its about a small lesson I learned regarding a simple act of Unplanned Hospitality.

Wife and I don't open our home to too many people. In fact, we are somewhat reclusive in that aspect. I have always been this way. In high school I had a small group of friends who I hung with, but never needed any more than that. Once I left high school I actually found myself somewhat floundering socially since all my friends had gone their separate ways and I was about the only one who stuck around home. This has carried on into my adult life. I have a small group of friends who I am close to and don't need any more. Its my comfort zone. Wife is the same way really. I think she is even less tolerant of others (at times) than I am.

So we invite 2 couples over for a post-Thanksgiving dinner. Dennis and his wife, Duane and his wife. The same group we made our Disneyland trip with. This was a good plan. Our home is a little cramped at times, but we were prepared to squeeze in and have a good evening. Then the plans changed a little.

Duane, who apparently has a habit talking before he completely processes the impact of his words, invited someone we barely know to join us for dinner. Lynn is a nice person, she is the ex-wife of one of our co-workers, but we barely know her. Dennis and his wife know her even less than we do. Now, we have spent the last week reminding Duane of what a dumb ass he is, and about simple manners when you, yourself, are invited over to someone elses home. We have been fairly relentless. But I digress.

We could have told Duane to fix the issue, as we did not invite her. This would have taken a lot of the burden off of us, which would have been the easier thing to do. Or we could simply accept her into our home and make the best of it. I guess these statements are somewhat drastic sounding, but we really, rarely invite people to our home. So for us this was a bit of a leap.

We decided we would not turn someone away from our home )Karma would most likely hit us later like an atomic bomb of unhappiness). So we accepted that Lynn would be joining us for dinner. And she did, and it wasn't a big deal. One more person made very little difference, except a little less elbow room at the table. But the conversation was pleasant, the food was excellent (a little pat on the back for me and my turkey), and hopefully Wife and I are better people for simply opting to be better people instead of shutting the door on a person. And let me tell you, the door shuts very easily (its a pretty light door).

So Karma, dear Karma, hopefully when we meet again it will be on pleasant terms; after all, I'm doing my best to do my part.

Nov 27, 2008

Holiday work and holiday pay.

It is Turkey Day. The general world at large, as I am typing this, is sung in their blankets, maybe thinking about getting up and starting a pot of coffee in order to prepare for the day. Turkeys are thawed and ready for roasting, or smoking, or frying, or whatever form of cooking suits the fancy of would-be culinary experts across the country. Millions of casseroles are going to be prepared, and potatoes-a-plenty are going to be peeled (or at least there should be; there is no call for potato skins in mashed potatoes).

So why, oh why, am I at work? It’s a funny thing, you know, working shift work. About 10 years ago I started working this line of work. The application process is quite lengthy, and the application itself if long and overly wordy (much like me and my explanations of things). One of the things required to apply is the acceptance that you are required to work rotating shifts, night shifts, weekends and holidays. In fact, should you choose to mark this as not being willing to work these rotating shifts, your application will be stopped and you will not find yourself employed by your prospective employer.

So here I am. Its Turkey Day. It’s not even my shift. I am here because I don’t have a lot to do this Thanksgiving. My son is with his mother, my parents are out of town, and my sister lives in AZ. Wife’s parents are home, however we get paid a bundle if we work overtime.

A normal day of overtime nets me “time and a half.” Should you work a holiday, you get an extra 8 hours of “holiday pay.” On top of that, you get 8 hours of “bank time” put into your holiday bank account. So, was I to add all of that up, I actually get over double time. Not a bad gig.

So I am here. I am sipping a cup of coffee. We are telling war stories, and generally having a good time. The best thing about working a holiday here, is we all get the fact that there are probably other things we would like to be doing. Visiting with family. Watching football. Eating a large home cooked meal. Taking a nap. Playing bocce ball. Whatever suits your fancy. But instead, we are all here. So we stick together. We are here for each other.

So we have a veritable feast of a potluck. We are going to be watching movies and football games. We are going to sit around and tell ridiculous stories about each other and have a good laugh at our own expenses.
What more, being here at work, could we be more thankful for?

Nov 23, 2008

A first for me.

Well, Wife and I have been at the house now for nearly 5 years. Most of that five years, the only people we really have been to the house are family and a few close friends. I don't know that I would say we are reclusive at all, but we certainly don't go out of our way to entertain many guests.

I'm sure it has something to do with the size of our home. We have enough space for the two of us. We have enough space, almost, for 2 guests. But even at 2 guests, it gets a little crowded. Now we look at a new range and little rearranging of the kitchen, and suddenly I am going to have 4 people over and prepare a post-Thanksgiving meal for everyone. Fortunately, no one is bringing their children (they will be at a different location with pizza). I honestly couldn't imagine 6 adults and 7 kids at the house. There would just not be enough room to move, let alone prepare a whole meal for everyone.

So there are a couple of firsts here.
  1. I have never hosted a large dinner like this before. For one thing, I have never had to feed 6 people before. I generally cook for 2, maybe 3 on occasion. But now I am preparing a full meal.
  2. I am brining the turkey. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of brining, I'll discuss it in more detail below.
  3. I am actually cooking and carving a turkey. I have cooked chickens before; however, it was on a Ronco Rotisserie (which I was able to "set and forget"), so I don't think really counts.
So, I have a few worries. I want things to turn out nicely. One of the things I am concerned about is simply the amount room I have at the house. It will be manageable, but it will also be cramped. I am OK with this. We are used to it. Our friends, however, may not be. But hey, they'll just have to live.

The brining is really a brainless process. They idea is simply this: submersing the bird in a sort of marinade. There is a lot of salt in the marinade which opens the bird up and allows the marinade to seep deep into the bird. So this will, for example, leave the breast meat extra juicy, which I typically find to be rather dry. This process doesn't make me nervous at all. In fact, this part of the planning stage I find to be the easiest.

Last is actually cooking the bird. I need a roasting pan, since I don't have one right now. I have a meat thermometer, which I will insert into the thickest part of the thigh. I plan to brush the skin with a light coating of olive oil (which should create a nice golden color as it cooks). And after a few hours of cooking, we'll have a veritable feast. After that, there is the carving of the bird itself. I'm not too scared of this. I have sharp knives and a little skill in carving, I just hope I don't crack under the pressure.

So, we go shopping tomorrow. It should be a pretty good weekend.

Nov 15, 2008

Tom Sawyer Strikes Again; or,I knew then I hate waxing cars, apparently, I still do.

So, when I am down here at my parents house I usually take the time to wash the car.  I don't know why, but almost every time I am here I wash the car.  I drove Wife's care here, and it was pretty dirty.

So I got the ball rolling and washed it.  Then I vacuumed and wiped the whole front down with the armor all.  Then, I got the crazy idea to wax it.  This is where my grand plan seemed to go awry.

Let me rewind life a little bit.  I am about 13 or 14.  I was in the stage of life where I was looking for a way life that I would fit in to.  At the time, I thought of myself as something of a skater.  I had the skateboard, I had the crazy haircut and I had the complete inability to dress myself in a way that was generally socially acceptable (I went on a date once with this girl who was mortified that I wore plaid shorts and a striped shirt, how tacky could I be? And by the way, I never got anywhere with that girl.  Such is life).

So, being so armed with my impeccable pathetic fashion sense, I was loosed on the world many times with my cousin Nic.  He was a couple of years older than me, and now that I am thinking about it, he still is.  When Nic turned 16, he was given a 1969 Camaro.  Nic loved his '69, and it was indeed a nice car.  A good looking blue, a loud throaty engine that let out plenty of power, and me sitting in the passenger seat with my impeccable pathetic sense for fashion.  Quite honestly, I'm not sure why Nic was always so willing to let me tag along on outings, but he always was.  I remember many times going places, like Hot August Nights in Reno (and driving at insane speeds across the NV desert).

But anyway, I digress.  So, back to the waxing (no, not that kind), and how all this ties together.  I started with the hood, and it seemed like an easy task really.  Do one section, let it dry while I apply a coat to the next section.  Return to the fist and buff, and so on.  After what seemed to be about 456 minutes, I realized I had gotten myself into a bit of a project and quickly realized why it was I don't ever wax my vehicles.

I don't remember where this happened, but the act of waxing the car brought back an odd, somewhat random memory. I do remember stopping somewhere in the shade (because you don't want to apply wax in direct sunlight) and not to far off of some main drag (Nic want to make sure I understood waxing the car was a social event, and you wanted people to be able to see you).  And then he had me help him wax the car.  I don't know that I actually did a lot to help wax the car, however I must have done enough to realize that I don't particularly enjoy the project (after all, its been roughly 19 years since I applied wax to a car).  So thanks, Tom Sawyer, for teaching me early on that I don't like waxing cars.

I just wish I had realized it before I started the project today.  On the flip side, the car looks nice.  Its black, which unfortunately tends to look dirty about a nano-second after you clean it.  Next, its five years old.  So its got some wear and tear on it.  But its a Honda, and it runs perfectly.  So I suppose its good to show it a little love every now and then.

And as one last thing of note, I was searching my cousin's blog to see if he still owns the Camaro.  A quick search yielded the following information:  I found only one post that talked of the Camaro (not surprising since his wife is the author).  In this post the only information about the car of note is that it recently died and had to be pushed back to a garage.  As I recall, as a younger man, this same event happened on more than one occasion.  But I congratulate him on preserving the vehicle for this long as it is.

As for me? I don't plan to open a bottle of car wax for another 19 years.

Nov 14, 2008

Questions that might need answering.

(This post edited after a call from the boy's mother)

I'm here at my parents place spending the weekend with my son.  The original reason for timing it now was that his step-dad was having surgery and my timing would make things easier for them. Now I can't claim to always be so noble, but in the end, its a good thing I am here.

Wednesday I heard from Amy (my ex-wife) who told me Kevin's father was very ill, and possibly not going to pull through.  So, that night they hopped on a plane to Las Vegas (not the way I would like to spend an impromptu trip to Vegas, but you can't always pick the circumstances).  

So this leaves me with a bit of a quandary. If the boy's grandfather passes on, I will have to be here with Ben and explain death and how it affects us here. This wouldn't be his time dealing with someone he knows passing on, unfortunately he has had that experience already.  But I think this will be the first time it is a family member.  Kevin has been in Ben's life since he was about 2 or 3.  So Kevin's father has been too.  And Kevin and I don't always see eye to eye, he does treat my son well and I respect him for that.  And the possible loss of life to any person can be traumatic and tough. 

So I wonder, how will this affect the boy?  What questions will he have?  Will I be prepared to answer them?  I'd like to think so.  However, as with most quasi-uncomfortable situations, we don't know how its going to be until we are thick in the mire.  If we end up having this talk, I am sure it will be worth remembering.  If we don't end up having this talk, well, it will come up sooner or later, for one reason or another.  

So who knows.  Until then, we're just having a good time and trying not to think about it. 

(Here follows a Post Script)

I got a call from the boy's mother.  They will be home and would like to address the issue at hand with Ben, themselves.  I am fine with this, after all, its there family, not mine.  The issue is probably going to need to be addressed sometime in the near future, but its more appropriate for them to be involved, given the circumstances.

I am simply glad I was here when I was needed.  And had the issue arisen, and it needed to be addressed with the little guy before his mother got home, I would have been here to make sure he was OK.

And thats all that matters to me.

Nov 11, 2008

Ok, Fine. I'm getting on my soapbox!

For the last week, I have been trying desperately to post something of some sort of value. I also promised myself I wouldn't rant about the passage of Prop 8, no matter how disappointed and angry I am about it. Unfortunately for me, this has created somewhat of a blockage, and I have found it impossible to post anything since the only thing I want to post is something I promised I wouldn't. So I have broken that vow, and have now laid out my true feelings. I think this is something I have been wanting to do since November 4th.

In an earlier post I mentioned how I thought, at one time in my younger life I knew a lot. I thought I had opinions that were intelligent and well thought out. I thought my parents never knew what they were talking about. I considered myself a fine, upstanding conservative with a belief system set on a foundation of Christian values.

Now, there are some things that have not changed. For example, I still believe that I have opinions that are intelligent and well thought out (my friends may not always agree, but hey, its my opinion). There are a lot of things that have changed, though. One of these things I have learned: My parents actually do know what they are talking about. I remember as, a young man, Father started attending Toast Masters. For those unfamiliar with Toast Masters (and I hope I am explaining this correctly), it is a group that meets for the purpose of becoming better public speakers. As Father started attending this group his prowess at public speaking became evident, and I started getting a better understanding of my father as he expressed his opinions rather eloquently.

Now, maybe I was making an ass-sumption based on the fact that Father was in law enforcement. After all, anyone who knows anything about law enforcement, should know that these people tend to be fairly conservative in their beliefs. So perhaps I simply ass-sumed that Father was as well. And perhaps he was to some degree. As I said, I learned a lot about him over time and my general opinion of Father changed. I can say that I learned a lot from him. Sadly, I don't know that I can produce and memorable quotes that might one day end up on an inspirational calendar. I can, however, tell you I have learned from him a lot about being a decent human being, for which I am grateful.

Now I, myself, work in law enforcement. And still, people in this profession tend to be fairly conservative in their views. I respect that. It is their right to practice and believe as they see fit. What I have found over the last 10 years is that my opinions and beliefs are generally at odds with the majority of people I know. I am pretty sure it is because most of my values and beliefs are actually fairly liberal. This tends to leave me out of most conversations at work that involve politics (although I imagine I could go visit with the folks who work in our Mental Health department, I think we would get along just fine). And having stayed out of these conversations, I have held my tongue on more than a few occasions when I would have loved to bark at more than a few people.

There are two types of people here where I work. There are those I work with and those I work around. Those I work with are generally educated and have a belief system I can attribute to life experience, an actual education, and some sort of faith in a higher power. Those I work around, on the other hand, are generally uneducated. They have a belief system based on hate and a self serving purpose that benefits no one but themselves. So those I work around I simply ignore. I guess they have a right to believe what they want. However, I don't generally respect these opinions and simply write them off as uneducated, bigoted and simply wrong. Those I work with I have to respect, for the reasons listed previously. It is difficult for me, though, when my opinion is not respected in turn.

I was part of a conversation the other day I could not avoid. The question was posed, referring to Prop 8 (boo! hiss!), "They can do anything they want to. What can't they do that they can't do already?" So I answered back, "Can they get married?" After which, I was rebutted with something and I tuned the conversation out. I don't care to argue with my friends. Generally, we all get along and we simply leave some topics unspoken.

So now I have been stewing over the this subject for the last couple of days, and clearly I need to get it all out.

Since when do we let one person be persecuted by another in the name of religion? I am pretty sure were a group of people in another country persecuted and discriminated against by another group of people we would be up in arms claiming our high standards of tolerance and compassion should be an example to all. Bullshit.

Our standards of tolerance and compassion clearly only go so far. Apparently it is perfectly ok to enact legislation that sets a group of people apart, as "different," and make it so said legislation can keeps them apart as "different." Again, I say Bullshit.

In 1957, Little Rock, Arkansas was a hot bed of activity because 9 African Americans were going to start attending the Little Rock Central High School. In fear of this drastic change, the Governor of Arkansas actually had the school surrounded by National Guard troops in an effort to stop the integration. Eventually, they were removed by order of the federal court and replaced by the United States Army in order to provide protection for those 9 students. And so, 9 high school students made history by simply attending school. I would like to think that we, as a people in this country, have made a lot of progress since then. In many areas, we certainly have. For example, we don't see the National Guard surrounding the White House. In fact, we see that the overall vote in America has voted for our first African American president and many people celebrated in the streets at the confirmation of the President-Elect. Good for us.

Sadly, as I said before, our ideas of tolerance and acceptance apparently only go so far. Does the idea of a man and man being legally married scare us so bad that we enact legislation to legally discriminate against them? I suppose there are those that would argue against this, but I don't see it any other way. I have tried. I really have. But I can't see it any other way. We have made a legal discrimination. We might as well start putting up signs over water fountains that read "straight" and "gay." After all, we wouldn't want any straight people getting "the aids" from a dirty fountain, would we? The intolerance and ignorance of this issue astounds me.

Religions around the country have poured millions of dollars into a campaign to make this discrimination legal. I don't know that anyone can deny that this whole proposition is based on the biblical definition of marriage as being between man and wife. I don't understand why it is we are letting religion influence our government. We have changed our state constitution to reflect a religious intolerance. Have we actually taken a 232 year step backwards? I don't claim to be a historian, but I'm pretty sure one of the things that was firmly decided when the Continental Congress convened, was the separation of church and state. The Church of England ruled American government with an iron fist. We wanted to get away from that. I don't deny that there are many references to religion in the documents that were forged to "form a more perfect Union," there were many people there who were religious and good people. But that isn't the argument here. The argument here is our union has become less perfect.

Again, we have made legal a discrimination based on people that others see as "different." We might as well be surrounding churches that are happy to perform gay and lesbian marriages with armed troops because we are scared we might be affected, as straight people, in a negative manner.

I know people who were personally effected by this proposition. They are good and fine people. They don't deserve to be told that, although they love each other, are committed to each other and have been for years, they can't be married. I would urge anyone with a differing opinion to look someone in the eye and tell them they can not be happy because you view it as different and wrong. Don't look at them as a person of a different religion, that doesn't matter. Don't look at them as a person who lives an alternative lifestyle. Look at them as they are, human beings. Tell these human beings you refuse to allow them to be happy, and that you prefer to rate them as less than normal because of their difference from your own life. Now our friends have been told all these things, but lucky for you were able to hide behind the curtain of a voting booth.

So in conclusion, I say this: If you believe that as a man or a woman, marrying a person of the same sex is wrong, then simply don't do it. Is there a need (other than a religious need) to enact a legislation in order to force this opinion on others? Not as far as I know.

To those who I know who were hurt by this, I am truly sorry. I support you. I can't say that I always have been supportive, and of that I am ashamed. However, I can say that for a long time I have been supportive, I always will be, and of that I am proud.

Nov 8, 2008

Where have I been, and what haveI been doing?

Where the heck have I been? Its been almost full week since I actually had the time to sit down and post something, anything.

The most pressing question is, "What have you been doing, that you are so busy?"

And the sad truth is, I can't account for much, really.

But let me hit on a few highlights.

First off, election day has come and gone. I believe I registered to vote along with selective service, when I turned 18. Having said that, I have shirked my civic duties since. I don't have any grand, anti-establishment ideas that kept me from the polls. I think it was really just shear laziness. I didn't bother to learn about the issues. I didn't bother to get involved. I didn't feel strongly enough about the issues that I knew so little about in order to go and cast my vote.

Then I moved to Humboldt and never bothered to register to vote here. S0, nearly 7 years after moving here I found myself suddenly empassioned about a few ideas that were on the table. A veritable smorgas board of propositions and measures that directly effect me or people I know. So I sent my information in to state capital and got myself listed as a registered voter.

I'm not going to preach about what should have passed, what didn't and anything like that. To say the least, this election cycle left me happy and sad at the same time. Some of the things I voted for passed, some didn't. That's life in a democratic society. I may not like it. But I can live with it.

I do feel a certain amount of accomplishment in voting. One of the founding principles this country was founded on was giving a voice to the people. I let my voice be heard. I took part in a very old, and traditional way of making sure my government works the way I am wanting it to. So good for me and all those who made sure to go to the polls.

Second, hmm.... And secondly..... This is where I am at a loss, really. I don't know that I have done a lot to even comment on lately. Take today for example. Its cold and raining. It doesn't lend itself to any real meaningful activities, other than getting wet and catching a cold. Its been this way for about a week now.

So it seems I don't have much to say right now. That's not a bad thing really. It just reminds me that maybe I need to get out more often.

Nov 1, 2008

Remember, even when the World-Wide-Chips are down its ok to let your hair down and have a good time.

With all the election news absolutely everywhere, it seems it can be a bit overwhelming at times. There are signs, bumper stickers, buttons, fliers and TV spots all declaring the "Right Way" to think, act and vote.

I guess, I myself, have had my fill of it. I have my own convictions, and I will vote accordingly. No amount of commercials saying I'm wrong are going to change my mind. So with that in mind, I have reached the point where I think enough is enough. It seems like a little bit of relaxation and general debauchery is in order.

Que Halloween. People dress up in zany costumes and simply pretend for a night that the cares of the world are no longer there. Children run from door to door looking for sanctioned free hand outs and adults simply welcome them, send them on their way, and eagerly await the next roving band candy hungry ghouls, monsters, princesses, sports figures or whatever the child mind could think of the grace the porches of these willing givers of treats and tricks.
Some very good friends of ours believe whole heartedly in making the best of a festive situation.
This poor bugger has nearly lost his head, along with half his body.
The wife and I got into the spirit of things as well. Ahh, the mad scientist and his gorgeous creation.
Pumpkins lined the driveway and a good time was had by all. So, I guess the message here is, its tough times for many, sure. But in the end, we had a good time anyway, and to heck with the economy.
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