May 27, 2007

Yesterday I went to a cookout. You have all been to one of these cookouts. At some time in our lives we are required by law I think to attend a family cookout. By family I mean two or three families brought together by a common link, this one being my son's late fiancee of eight years, Liz. I have written a tribute to her memory but I cannot find the right words to describe her.

My son was invited as he was going to be the cook, and he is regarded as the dad to Liz's children, most likely because he raised them, and provided for them, and loves them as his own, and always will. This day also served as Allison's*, (the youngest of the children) twelfth birthday party. Now it should be a given that the first birthday following her mother's death is going to be a difficult time at best. I mean this is something you know from the get-go. Maybe a small 'get-together' with a few of her friends, a sleep-over, might have been the way to go. But I have no say-so, and neither does the man she calls her father. As he and Liz were never married, he has no legal right to Allison. Someday, he may pursue it, but now, he's as lost in some ways as she is.

Her maternal grandmother, we'll call her Grammy, is now her legal guardian. She is a perfectionist, as was her daughter, and the decorations, the planning, the food, the gifts, the whole she-bang was so reminiscent of Liz, it was surreal. And, like her daughter, she has that innate and unique ability to keep everyone around her in a constant state of piss-off.

The event, I don't know whether to call it a party or cookout, was held at Grammy's father's house. The man has five refrigerators. Not that this has any bearing on the subject at hand, but it quite amazed me. I immediately decided that when I became rich and famous, I would invest in two more refrigerators, knowing full well that to do this I would have to build an addition to my house, but what the hell, it just blew my mind for some reason. I did get busted for taking a diet Pepsi out of one of the refrigerators by Grammy, our hostess, as "those belong to the man upstairs.." Whether she meant God, her father, or a boarder, I didn't stop to ask. You don't ask questions like that of Grammy.

I know you have met people like Grammy. That particular person who is a walking time-bomb, waiting for the most obscure flotsam of implied criticism to float there way, and then throw a full-fledged rolling-in-the-floor, beating-her-breast, and finger-pointing-screaming match, fit. These people, quite frankly, scare the shit out of me. What is even worse in this situation is that Grammy has always had a huge dislike for me. Ok, she fucking hates me. Liz and I talked about it at length one day, but neither of us could quite pin-point the reason.

So EJ's chugging bears, and cooking hot dogs and hamburgers, taking orders from the master chef, Grammy, brushing aside her barbs and pot shots, like gnats at a, well, cookout, with his happy face on. This is his daughter's birthday, and come hell or high water, he is going to keep the peace for Amber.

So far, so good. Allison is hanging out with her friends, laughing, enjoying being the star of the day. Then, her big sister comes bouncing in, a Gothic hurricane if you will. Dressed for all the world like a an S&M madam. At sixteen, she is beautiful, without the massive eye-liner, spiky hair, black fingernails, any decorations. But this is her style. We just wish that her paternal grandparents, her legal guardians, who are currently feuding with Grammy, would monitor her dress a little more. Breasts are nice, but that doesn't mean they should be on display 24/7. I especially liked the knee high biker boots. Allison and her big sister have not been getting on well, and Allison immediately went into defense mode. Her sister brought a friend, Mandy, who had two diamond studs in her lower lip, and surveyed us all like we were the lamest group she ever had to deal with. I wanted to slap her, but, due to laws and things like that, I didn't.

I met Grammy's dad's lady-friend, an 85 year old woman, named Lucille. Refined and beautiful, I placed her age at no more than 65. When she told me she was in fact 85 I replied in my own unique way, "Hell, no, girl, you're shittin' me!" She giggled beautifully, and said no, she was really 85. We had a delightful conversation, that I soon realized everyone else was listening too, as they began to venture forth questions to this remarkable woman.

Then Lucille asked me the inevitable question. "So how are you related to everyone?" "Well, actually, I'm not. You know that tall young man with the dark hair? That's my son. EJ. Liz's ex-boyfriend."

Oh, she said, vaguely, waiting for me to finish. After a few more minutes of explaining, I finally said I was a related by association. "Oh, I see. Your son is so handsome," she said. We let it drop there.

The saving grace for me was Grammy's ex-husband's parents, a wonderful gentle, straight-forward couple who have had their share of hardships. The ex-husband, their son, died not too long ago of cancer, and it was devastating for them, and for EJ as well, as they had become great friends and devoted Texas Hold-em players. This lovely couple has always made me feel good inside, and I feel it is my duty to make them laugh as much as possible.

Anyway, at one point, Liz's brother's ex-wife, Chrysal and her two boys, came by. The brother was a no show as he is feuding with his mother, Grammy, which was extremely put out. And since he was not there, the target for her frustration became Allison.

Allison disappeared and I went looking for her, finding her sitting on the side of the house with two of her friends, tears in her eyes. I asked if she was thinking about her mom, and she nodded her head, but wouldn't let me hug her. So, I did what everyone else does when Allison has a problem. I fetched EJ, and they talked, and hugged, and little by little he made her smile. Grammy, of course, was not to be so easily pacified.

Allison later stated my thoughts exactly. "Grammy's acting like such a bitch.." Hey! Allison calls me Grandma too, and grandmas get to indulge, not necessarily correct. And in this crowd, this tinderbox of old hurts, thinly masked accusations and disapproving glances, damned if I'm gonna rock the boat. (But God, (or maybe the man upstairs?), knows I wanted to.) My jaws are still sore from clamping them shut so tightly.

However, I actually had a good time. I made new friends, didn't influence any people, and was spared the agony of attending yet another memorial service for my son and his fallen comrades in Brooks Park IL. Call me callous, call me selfish, call me an uncaring evil whatever, I don't really care, but I'm so tired of "burying" my son over and over again. I'll go to the memorial in Brook Park by myself, without the crowds, and mourn in my own way.

I told Allison when she was crying that I feel Travis is with us all the time, and so is her mom, "she is with you all the time, and she loves you so very much. That's how I get through it, Allison. That's how I can bear it. Knowing they are with us in spirit."

Travis told me one time that if something ever happened to him, for me not to worry. He was "outta here". He was gone. He'd be ok, and there was no use to be all sad and "shit". I told him to hush up. Don't even talk about it.

So yesterday I remembered my youngest son, and went to a cookout with my oldest son. I imagined Travis being there, watching the whole scenario and laughing his head off, picking on his big brother, making him laugh out loud, helping him fend off all the little kids that gravitate toward both of them like a magnets. God knows, if he had been there, he would have had a blast, shooting zingers left and right, watching every one of them zoom over someones head. But, he would also, in his own way, make everyone feel more alive and joyful.

EJ does the same thing. Of course, its harder now. But he keeps the tradition. He keeps it well.

May 24, 2007

I have been reading my regular blogs this morning, and following links to others. I came upon a link from The Future Was Yesterday to One Pissed Off Veteran NSPD 51, and Why You Should Care, and got a real eye opener. We see the fall-out of the Patriot Act in all aspects of our daily lives now. From getting a new Social Security Card, to opening a bank account. We have to prove who are and if you don't have a picture ID, you are basically fucked. We are apt to blame the company or organization we are dealing with, but if you ask them, they will tell you what a hassle all of the new laws cause them.

Anyway, I followed another link to Patriot Act 2. That's what I call it anyway. One little tidbit revealed in this article states: " Allows government to operate in secret by authorizing secret arrests (sec. 201), and imposing severe restrictions on the release of information about the hazards to the community posed by chemical and other plants (sec. 202);"

I can't even fathom the need to conceal hazards to the community. What? A little more cancer or other bio-hazards make for a good living environment? Does that make any sense at all?

And, Secret Arrests, like the Soviet Union during its power days? Snatch someone up, in the middle of the night, and they, like disappear, man! "Where's Chuck?" "I don't know, his voice mail says he's on an extended vacation."

This is scary, scary stuff. This means there is no right to representation, no right to trial by jury, no right to anything, except probably confinement, and, dare I say it? Torture. Why else would they feel the need to operate in this cloak and dagger way? This means anybody, anybody, can be whisked away, because the powers that be don't like you. How much longer will it be before the people who argue against the current regime in Washington are targeted as subversive assholes who must be silenced?

This scares me to death. And, if I were a citizen of Middle-Eastern descent, I would be terrified. Think of making an appointment to see your cardiologist, and being told, "Well, he's not in today. We don't think he will ever be in today again...would you like a referral? Let me check to see who's still around.." This crosses all walks of life, all socio-economic backgrounds, and all political associations. Well, we know who will probably be targeted in the political world. The ass-kissers should be OK.

I never thought I would live to see the day that this would become a part of good ole apple-pie American life. Scary, scary, scary. Did you guys know about this? Am I the only fool left who didn't?

This is not what my son died for. He did not die defending the Secret Police. He died defending what he believed to be a supportive and free country. He died believing his skills would help enrich the lives of those under the thumb of a dictator. And, he died so his son wouldn't have to.

May 19, 2007

A Little Story for your Reading Pleasure

*written by Just me

She walked into the diner, scanning the lunch crowd for a man sitting alone. She spied two or three, actually one of them nice looking, but knowing it had to be the one with the scraggly hair, the little bald spot peeking out, looking as nervous as she was. Taking a deep breath, she approached the table, suddenly wishing she was thirty pounds lighter, and ten years younger.

"Excuse me," she said to the man, standing by his seat. "Are you Bob?" He stood up immediately, almost knocking his chair over.

"Yes, and you must be Sandy," he replied, holding out his hand. She tried to look into his eyes confidently, instead of watching her hand shake his.

"Yes, I am," she said, smiling that big smile, hoping it reached her eyes.

She knew at that moment he was deciding whether he was pleasantly surprised, or horrified. Hell, I'm doing the same thing! she reminded herself. She dropped his hand, and took a seat opposite him. "Well," she said. "It's so nice to finally meet you in person."

"Yeah," he said, looking at his cup of coffee. Was he wondering the same thing she was? Was he thinking he would rather be anywhere else in the world but here?

Ok, ok, she told herself, knowing she was not one to give up easily. This is just for an hour at the most. Then you can leave, and forget the whole sorry mess. You can do this. Just keep him talking.

"I was just about to order. Would you like anything?" he asked her. Did he always have a two day growth of beard on his face or was he just trying to impress her, she wondered.

"Why, yes, thank you, I would love a salad," she replied, feeling that eating anything was the last thing she wanted to do.

When the waitress approached them, they placed their orders. At the last minute, he called to the waitress, over his shoulder "And, hey, bring me a Bud,"

A little louder, please, she thought, the people in the back didn't quite catch that. Oh, stop, quit being so mean!

Then, Oh, God, he needs fortification. Do I look that bad? She knew she wasn't up to par. At 45, it was hard to appear as bouncy and flirty as she had twenty years earlier.

Ok, ok, she told herself. Maybe he just likes to have a beer with his meal. Doesn't mean he's disappointed.

"You want a drink?" he asked, questioningly. Yeah, bring me a couple of shots of Black Jack, and a draft on the side. I think I'm going to need it. "No thanks," she told him. I'll just have coffee.

As the silence fell over them, seeming to settle for a good long time, she wracked her brain for something to talk about.

Ok, ok, she said to herself. Let's just treat this as a friendly lunch. Pretend you're not thinking about sleeping with the guy. Which, quite frankly, she wasn't. Not anymore. Well, not that much...

"So, you're a carpenter, right?" she enquired.

"Yep. One of those guys likes to work with my hands, you could say." he replied.

What did he mean by that? Is that a sexual reference or just a statement. So he likes to work with his hands. Doesn't mean he's talking about working them on me!

"Oh, your a 'hands-on' type of guy," Oh, god, why did she say that! "Yep," he said, staring at his coffee. "Like to work with my hands. Yep."

Another long silent pause ensued.

Ok, ok...think of something else. Let's keep it rolling. We're just getting to know one another, I mean... suddenly, she realized he was speaking. What did he say? He was looking at her, obviously waiting. Quickly she searched for the perfect coverup for I-Haven't-Been-Listening-to-a-Damn-Thing-You-Said phrase she used at such times.

"Is that right? How interesting." she smiled, watching his face, wondering if he knew she hadn't heard a word.

"Well, yeah, I guess you could say that, but house-framing's pretty straight-forward."

Shit, she thought.

Ok, ok, let's make an attempt here. "Well, I've always found the building industry fascinating." Did she say that? Did that come out of her own mouth?! Quick, a smile.

Yeah, he bought it! She watched him square his shoulders, a small satisfied grin on his face. Oh, my, just can't wait to see you with your shirt off. Girl, please...

The food arrived, and she looked at the huge salad with dismay. It came complete with those hateful little plastic packages of ranch dressing. Watch me squirt this in his face, as she attempted to open one. Ah, no squirting, lucky guy.

Gamely she grabbed her fork, and stuffed some lettuce in her mouth. He chomped away at his club sandwich, actually seeming to taste it, relish it almost. How can he eat? She had never felt less like eating in a good long time. Actually not since that stomach virus that everybody and his sorry-ass brother had.

"That's a good size salad," he commented. Tell me about it, she thought, as she smiled around a wad of lettuce and tomato in her mouth. "MMMMM," she managed, smiling, nodding her head. I can't take it anymore she thought, I can't. I just can't.

"You're not what I imagined," he said. Oh great, she thought, here it comes.

Swallowing, she said, "Oh really, in what way?" Did that sound defensive? No, it didn't. Did it? Well what if it did? I can be defensive if I want. Fuck.

"Well, you're a lot bigger, you know, taller than I expected," he continued.

And exactly what part of five-foot-eight is it that you don't understand, knothead?? she wondered to herself.

"And, I pictured you being more blonde." Now, you would be wise to just shut the fuck up , she thought. I didn't expect you to look so old and bald, either. But you don't see me running my mouth about it!

"And I pictured you as being a little, well, a little less heavy. But, that's ok, I mean I like a little meat on a woman." he blurted out. Well listen to you, you scrawny looking chicken-legged bastard!!

"Really," she said, trying very hard to maintain that smile. And that comb-over's not working too good for you now is it, Prince Charming? Oh, god, did she say that out loud? No! She didn't. Good. Well, hell, why is that good? You can be offended you know. Why are you so damned polite all the time, she chastised herself, silently. Take a few shots at him! Your entitled!!

She pushed her plate away. "You want some of these french fries?" he offered.

"No thank you, Bob, I believe I've had quite enough." Suddenly she wanted nothing more to dump his ketchup-covered fries in his lap.

Ok, ok, maintain, ole girl. Remember, this is just one hour in your other-wise fun-filled life.

"Actually," he continued. "You're much prettier than I thought you would be." he smiled, warmly, winking, giving her a final stamp of approval. Oh, what the hell did you expect? she reminded herself.

Suddenly she felt ill, sick, like she had worked too much in the hot sun. She felt defeated. Why was she here? Am I that desperate? Yes, she admitted. After two years, who wouldn't be! Two years?? Jesus. Has it really been that long? Two years?! Maybe you should just go for three... Hell, go for the gold, make it ten!!

She started to giggle, trying to cough it off, but suddenly the whole thing seemed so absurd. So amazingly ridiculous. 'Here I sit, at forty-five, picking up men in a quaint little dive.' Oh, god, how low I have sunk! She felt the laughter rising up in her. Pretty soon she would be howling.

"What's so funny?' he asked her. He wasn't offended. No, after all he's the freaking judge here. With his comb-over, and club sandwich, and second Budweiser. Maybe I should buy him another one, get him drunk. Hell, I'll probably get purtier by the minute. No, wait, I'll find him a good hairdresser. The right cut, a little color...

Oh, lord, here it comes! Don't, don't! Suddenly she erupted in huge guffaws. Loud, long, conspicuous guffaws, a few snorts thrown in for good measure.

"Oh," she gasped, between guffaws, "I'm, hee hee, haw haw, I'm just, snort- snort...remembering...hee sister...haw-haw... she told me something...SO funny..." Now other diners were looking at her, which just made her laugh harder. Is this really me, she wondered incredulously, Sitting here, making conversation with a man she met online for Christ's Sake? Hell, for all I know he might hide in his closest, wearing his grandma's giant underwear, grabbing his dick, shouting, "Die, Die!!"

I really must have issues, she thought, and soon a box of tissues, another burst of laughter bubbling up, spilling wildly from her lips.

Ok, ok...Stop! Stop this now! Finally, she managed to slow down to a few giggles, sipping some water, trying to put a damper on her hysterical thoughts.

"Well, what did she say?" he asked, expectantly, smiling.

"Who?" she replied, suddenly bewildered.

"Your sister.." he reminded her. He was still smiling but now with a little suspicion curling around his thin lips. She watched him lean back, folding his arms across his narrow chest. Is he really this clueless, or is it just me?

It's time, girl. Make your move! She looked at her wrist where a watch should have been, and exclaimed, "Oh, my, look at the time! I have to go, I, I have to get home and, you know, uh, take my dad to the doctor." Or beat my head against the wall for a few hours! "It's been such a pleasure, and you take care. We'll do this again sometime." When pigs fly, maybe.

Grabbing a ten from her purse, she put it on the table, and hurried out the door. She made it to her car, opening the door, waiting for the blast of heat to subside. Quickly she was inside, starting the car, turning the air-conditioner up, full blast. She pulled out of parking lot, into traffic, not exactly burning rubber, but close enough.

She began to giggle again. God girl, let's not do this again. Please? Turning on the radio, she heard the wonderful Cajun voice of Sammy Kershaw, singing one of her favorite songs, Third Rate Romance...Now, if he had looked like Sammy, she thought...Yeah, in my dreams, maybe.

Not a few people passing stared at the middle-aged woman, convulsed in laughter, driving 60 mph, in the 45 zone. "Damn, where's the fire, lady?" they thought. "Crazy-assed bitch!"

Seeing the blue lights behind her, she pulled onto the shoulder. Please don't let me laugh, please don't let me laugh, God, please!!!

May 18, 2007

You are The Wheel of Fortune

Good fortune and happiness but sometimes a species of
intoxication with success

The Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. You are lucky in all things that you do and happy with the things that come to you. Be careful that success does not go to your head however. Sometimes luck can change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Ok, I stole this from Enemy at (I tried to shorten the link, but it didn't work. Anywho, I don't know if I agree with any of this. I am grateful for the things I have. My son, my home, the food in my cupboard, the water that pours from a faucet, the natural beauty I see everyday, and my books. I am totally grateful for Vincent D'Nofrio just being in the world. But, I don't think success has ever gone to my head...well, just writing that makes me think that maybe it has.

I used to be extremely competitive, whether I would admit then or not. If someone did something praise worthy, I had to bust my ass to go one better. Now, I am learning, (note learning) to be more tolerant of my abilities. I know you don't want to hear it, but being bi-polar means you believe at times there is nothing you can't do. That all of your thoughts are reasonable, and your advice is priceless. Whether you know the person you are advising or not, is neither here not there. At these times, I feel I am the greatest success in the world. My solutions to the great mysteries of life are the correct ones. Such as, "I know how to end all poverty!" I forget what it was exactly, but I knew I must contact the president immediately to discuss my theories.

However, as my mind was racing so fast, a new idea popped in my head. I used to be able to create rhymes effortlessly. Whether they were good or bad, I can't say, other than that "clanging", or random words that rhyme came easily. Even in conversation, I could speak in rhymes. However, its not because you choose to. You just open your mouth and here they come.

But, with the recent events in my life, I am re-examining every thing I thought I was good at. I can't help it. I guess its part of the whole process.

With regards to luck, the only thing I can compare it to would be the superstitious belief that certain talismans I wore or had in my possession would protect the ones I love. A necklace, a cross, a letter I received, and never hanging the phone up first. I still do this with my son. Any phone conversation we have, he must be the first one to disconnect. He knows this now, so its not a problem. And even though it didn't work for another, I still do it.

I wore a little yellow band on my wrist that said "Faith" for months until one day it broke, and I was devastated. I started to purchase a new one, but felt it wouldn't be the same. A few weeks later, I received the news I didn't want to hear. Prayed not to hear. I kept thinking of that yellow band, and how it had broken. I try to tell myself it played no part, but deep down inside I will always wonder. Sounds insane, I know.

I really think that we make our own luck. Meaning if we want something to happen we strive for that. But then I realize no matter how much we want it, we don't always get it. Perhaps the tarot is right. Sometimes luck does play a part in the grand scheme of things. And sometimes luck can change.*

*And another depressing post from the mind of just me. Hoorah, Hooroo, Hooray!!!

May 15, 2007

The Sit-in Revisited

I was sitting here playing Mahjong, which I must say is one of my secret vices, well, not now, cause I just told everybody. But, anywho, a thought popped into my head. It started when I thought how frustrated I was getting. Which made me think about how many things frustrate me today, which made me think about what other people are frustrated about. And it hit me! George Bush. Wouldn't it be great if he just made an occasional appearance, and then, poof!, disappeared like Kaizer Soze? Became a myth parents used to frighten their children to make them behave..."Better be good, Johnny, because George Bush might get you!" Oh, right, that wouldn't work, because parents probably do that already.

So, I thought what we need is a good old-fashioned sit-in. For those of you too young to remember, that is where a bunch of people supporting a certain cause, sit in a prominent place and sing weird folk songs. Of course, back then most of them were high, but I think it would work OK if you were straight. You would have to leave your cell phones at home, because all of the personal rings would interfere with the singing, and could possibly result in a spin-off of the original sit-in, where sit-in members start another sit-in protesting cell phones. That group would probably consist of older people. This is because older people seem to consider "jewelry" a fashion accessory instead of cell phones.

Anywho, we would sit there for days, if necessary, so we would need a porta-potty, or access to a wooded area. Everyone should bring a cooler, with snacks and drinks, probably one of those cheap disposable kinds so we won't have to worry about it when we get arrested.

Now, don't be shocked. That's the whole purpose of the sit-in. We sit around singing, and snacking, and protesting, until we annoy the protestees (the people we are protesting) so much, they send in the swat team to beat us severely about the head and shoulders. Hopefully, if its a particularly hot day, they'll turn a firehose on us, so at least we'll get a free shower. Which we will probably need after all that snacking, and frequent trips to woods. (Toilet paper would be a strictly BYO thing.) That's where the being high part was so helpful. All you needed then was some 'grass' and beads, and you were set.

Pennsylvania Avenue would be our target location. Of course we might be deemed terrorists, so we would need to have a few people familiar with something called civil rights, as most of us have forgotten what we knew about this subject. Or, perhaps, we are just so confused about it we would need an interpretor. I vote for Sean Penn. But, we'll all have a say as to who you choose, so don't get your under drawers in a knot.

Oh, yeah, we'll probably need blankets, particularly ones with a Navajo accent, you know, with a lot of turquoise and stuff. I think you can get them pretty cheap at Walmart. Nobody will know you didn't get it in New Mexico, or Arizona, or out west somewhere. You don't really want to spend too much, as they will probably need to be disposable like the coolers. Waste not, want not!!

We would have to meet somewhere, maybe rent a stadium for a day, and discuss our goals, and develop a game plan. I mean the parking alone would take a good sized committee to sort out. We have to remember that this is a team effort, and there is no I in team. There's an e but no I. What that means, I'm not sure.

We'll have to schedule our vacations about the same time, preferably paid vacations, getting your check upfront, for emergencies, such as bail, and what not. This could really be a fun experience. I mean, everyone would have a bad hair day, so that wouldn't be concern.

We'll need to practice group chanting, such as phrases like Bush Sucks, or Impeach Bush, or even, Bush Lies. That shouldn't take too long. All of us are pretty familiar with these phrases already. What we really need to do is practice projection, because the louder we are in our chanting the more attention we will get.

The key here is preparation. We can do this. If we don't have enough people, I guess we could pay someone a finder's fee to round up more. Some of these may be homeless people, so don't forget to bring some Lysol and hand sanitizer. I don't think air fresheners would work, as we will ideally be out in the open, outside, all the time, and that stuffs supposed to really be bad for the environment. We certainly don't want protesters protesting us!! That's just too much drama, and could lead to all sorts of complicated situations.

So, I think we should get started. I'll talk with my people, who will get in touch with your people, and we'll get this ball rolling. Remember, we can reach our goals with a well planned and coordinated agenda. Hell, some of might even get a bonus!!

*This is satire. If you don't realize this after getting this far, your density factor is off the charts!
**South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone

May 14, 2007

There are a few movies I love to watch that the critics and everyone else has blasted. Some have received little or no recognition, but I watch them every time they come on. A few are recognized as noteworthy.

So here goes.

Beloved Oprah Winfrey, I know everyone loves to hate her, but her acting in this movie is so good you forget she's Oprah. The movie is haunting, beautiful, and every time I watch it, I take away something new.

Best In Show Christopher Guest is a comic genius, and all of his 'mockumentaries' are noteworthy. This one particularly steals my heart. His unique take on how we interact, and the idiosyncrasies of the average person, makes for hilarious and accurate portraits. If you liked This is Spinal Tap, you'll like this one too.

Orange County Wonderful cast and totally absurd plot line, which makes it worth watching for me. Catherine O'Hara is in it, so that means you have to watch it.

Bad Santa Billy Bob Thornton at his best. I know its raunchy, I know the dialogue is peppered with obscenities, but Billy Bob makes this character so believable, and somehow likable. Makes me laugh like a crazy person. Tony Cox, a truly gifted actor, also paints a colorful and memorable character. And Bernie Mac and John Ritter....who could ask for more.

The Usual Suspects I love this movie. I love Kevin Spacey. Every time this movie comes on I watch it, and always seem to pick up something new. The cast is fabulous, the story is intricate, and the ending is phenomenal.

The Suicide Kings Don't watch it if you're looking for that typical and uplifting ending. This is one of those movies that takes 'What if?' to whole new level. Christopher Walken, as always, is the character you want to watch. Enough twists and turns to satisfy the most ardent mystery buff, the first time viewer will appreciate it. But what makes it watchable over and over is the insanity of it, and characters. Dennis Leary is a hoot in this film, and the humor comes from the simplest things.

Be Cool A sequel of sorts to Get Shorty brings a wealth of characters, and is a wonderful satire of the music business. Poking fun at all aspects. Damn, it a funny movie.

Immortal Beloved If you like Beethoven, if you like romance, and mystery, you'll love this movie. Gary Oldman turns Ludwig into a tempestuous sex-symbol. A very, very romantic movie.

I could sit here and do this all day. I usually watch any movie with Christopher Walken in it, because I have loved him since the The Deer Hunter, and he just improves with age. That hair...!

Ok, now its your turn. Tell me your favorite off-the-wall movie. And, don't be ashamed if it's Bring it on. Its about what makes you intrigued or happy, and it stands up to time, where you want to watch it over and over again.

I'm waiting....

May 12, 2007

I have a little more ranting to do today, which will piss off a lot of people, but as I don't really care who reads this, (well not too much..) I still have my modified right to free speech as well. So there!

There are a lot of bloggers out there who denounce religion as the world's greatest evil. Perhaps, taken to the extreme of fanaticism, it is. Do I really need to give an example? But, like the evangelical preachers who stand at the pulpit throwing accusations left and right, those who denounce religion with every ounce of disgust in their bodies, are amazing like the religious leaders who they abhor. All they need to complete their picture is a pulpit.

Now, I believe in a higher power, and you may find that I don't take many opportunities to cram my beliefs down any one's throat. But the absence of belief, is also a belief system. When you try to convince everyone and his ugly-ass brother that religion, or faith, is a fool's device to explain whatever, then you are stating your beliefs. Hence the religion of the non-believer, bent on converting all who believe into non-believers. There are atheists, agnostics, and The-I-used-to-believe-but-now-I-don'ts. Now, not to sound like a hypocrite as all people of faith seem to be now, I have written a few times about why someone who espouses a particular religious belief feels a need to share it with me. But, I don't think they are particularly wrong in their choice of religion. I don't think atheists are going to "hell", nor do I consider them confused, or unenlightened, I just accept them. But, why they are hell-bent in an almost self-righteous way to convert me, I have no idea.

When you tell someone of a particular faith that what they believe is wrong, or ignorant, well what's the difference between that an a preacher telling you if you don't believe you are lost? Beats the hell out of me.

People say religion plays too much of a role in politics today. Well, illustrate a time for me when it didn't? Bush is in the office because we put him there. I didn't vote for the man, because I thought he was full of shit from the get-go. But, someone voted for him, and maybe even some of these card-carrying anti-believers. Remember the Dixie Chicks, and how they were shunned for saying the same things we are all saying today? Have we apologized to them? Hell, no. Why take the time?

I don't care what you believe, but don't shove it down my throat. I have stopped reading many a blog because that is all they talk about. The evils of organized religion, and how it is taking this country in a downward spiral. Religion is not the problem. The ignorant assholes in the white house are those who are taking the country down. And they will adopt any platform to excuse the mistakes they have made. If people worshiped the moon, they would say they did too. Though we are predominately a Christian nation, we are having to make room for different faiths, like the Muslim faith. Most cities have a mosque. It's not there for decoration. We talk of impeachment, but look who our next president would be then. Cheney? Please.....We're talking Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum here.

But if all these people who preach about how religion is so horrible or unnecessary, I say go to Jamaica (or probably Haiti, as Dawn pointed out) and tell all those who practice Voodoo how stupid they are. I swear, I would pay good money to see that. But, please if you are going to use every post you make to take a pot-shot at "religious leaders" remember you sound amazingly like those you criticize.

I'm not trying to convince anyone to change what they believe. If it works for you, fine. I'm just pointing out the similarities between the two extremes. If you want to worship trees like the Druids, go for it. If you want to believe that Christ will come again, and gather all those who believe in him to his bosom, sometimes referred to as the rapture, go ahead. You have that right. Which is basically why this country was started in the first place. (I don't recall there being any Druids on the Mayflower, but I could be wrong. I wasn't there, contrary to popular belief.)

I can almost guarantee you that this post will have no comments, or, if any, a passionate restatement of 'anti-religious' sentiments. No comments because it is not the popular thing to write now, as all free thinking and educated people feel religion is crap, (which is not a new concept, as there has always been a faction in society who felt the same, there's just more people in the world now to express it), or it will have a lot of comments telling me how corrupt the religious community is, being the war-mongers and power-hungry hypocrites they must be, because they worship God, who everyone knows loves to fuck with us. (Remember the Quakers? They don't like war. They are the original conscientious objectors.)

So...go ahead, tell me I'm wrong. Go ahead, make your day.

May 11, 2007

I recieved this inspiring forward from a good friend, and though I usually don't do this, I decided to share it with you. It actually made me wipe a tear or two, because of the wonderful story, and the tribute to mother's everywhere. Enjoy!

Mother's Day and Chapstick

*When my children were very small, we were fortunate to have a wonderful old cat named Jack. He was very tolerant of my three children, and though they carried him, pulled his tail, and aggravated him beyond belief, he never complained. He loved to sleep in our bathroom, on an old mat.

My children were 4, 3, and 1 at the time. This story concerns the middle child, **Eli. For some reason he developed a fascination with chapstick. He was always asking to use mine, but then he would lose it. I asked if was eating it, and he said, "Mama, you don't eat chaptik." Frankly I got tired of buying so much chapstick, so I showed him where I kept mine, and told him he could use it anytime, but to please put it back when he was done. What a relief when I didn't have to buy chapstick every other day!! He followed my instructions to the letter. I was so proud of my brilliant little boy.

Last year on Mother's Day, we were having the typical rush around and trying to get ready for church. The kids were carrying on, as usual. While I was putting on my makeup, in an equal rush, I was disappointed, don't ask me why, that everyone wouldn't behave and remember that this was Mother's Day, my day, the day they should all honor my hard work and dedication to the family. The day set aside to honor mothers. This was my day!

We finally got the older child in the car, and my husband had the baby, so the only one missing was my three year old. I ran in the house to look for him, searching everywhere, and I finally found him in the bathroom, where Jack the cat was lying peacefully on his beloved mat. Wordlessly, I watched as Eli lifted Jack's tail, and with great accuracy, and care, applied chapstick, to the little round circle under his tail. You know the one. His rear end!!

Eli, very calmly, looked right into my eyes and said "chapped." If you have a cat, you know that he is pretty much right -- their bottoms do look chapped in a way. (Though it is not my habit to check this on every cat I see.) Jack didn't seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to be used to it.

The only thing I could think at the time is whether this was the first time Eli had treated Jack's 'chapped' nether regions or the hundredth!!

I guess that is the one of most memorable Mother Day I can recall, because no matter how hard we try to civilize these glorious little creatures we call children, there will always be that day when you discover they've been using your chapstick on the cat's ass.

*author unknown, but totally sympathized with. If you have read this before, my most humble apologies. Oh, hell, I don't it again, dammit!!

**I don't know the kids real name. I guess it was changed because he's probably grown up now and threatened legal action if anyone ever repeats this story.

May 10, 2007

The young man who occupied my sofa for a long time has been evicted. As much as I care for this young man, (young meaning he's 35) I told him I couldn't support him any more. So, he found another person to take him in, his cousin, and packed up all of his belongings, and left. We still hear from him, and he harbors no hard feelings.

While cleaning up the mess he left behind in his bedroom, my son and I found drug paraphernalia. We also realized that all of my sons power tools, my digital camera, and other items, have disappeared. It's not hard to put two and two together. I guess, though I don't want to realize it, I am hurt by this news. I treated this man as family. But, I have thought about why I did this.

The only conclusion I have come up with is that I am too damned trusting. I actually believe what I consider my friends to be telling me the truth. Even though I have been shit on a hundred times, I still have trust in me. Of course, it is a dwindling, bit by bit. Slowly, I am cutting myself off from the world. I see it, but can't seem to stop it. I have always been a private person, except when I was off in lala land, pursuing all the plans a manic mind comes up with. Then everybody was my friend. Let the good times roll!!

The fact is I don't want to cut myself off from the world. I realize it's not a good thing. I tell myself its because my body is falling apart. And, I can't seem to stop the process. My newest diagnosis is rotator-cuff syndrome. Let me tell ya something, it hurts. I can tolerate pain. The morning after I had my hysterectomy, I grabbed my IV pole, stood up, and trotted down to the elevator, rode down to the lobby, walked to the smoking area and had me a cigarette. Yeah, I know, bad for my health. Of course the nurses chided me severely for my actions, and told my doctor, but I tell this here to illustrate that pain has usually been fairly tolerable.

But now, I actually feel pain, and I don't like it. I don't like using any kind of narcotic pain relievers, but you have to consider the quality of life. My son says that pain management is essential. He has chronic nerve pain from an operation to his ulna nerve, where they moved it around, and he has some prolapsed discs in his back.

Now that we have discovered our very good friend, his best friend, as a matter of fact, is a crack addict, well, we're both a little upset. He more than I. Just in the past year, he has lost his ex-girlfriend of eight years to a drug overdose, one of his closest friends, and a beloved aunt. His father continues to be a dick, (sorry, it just slipped out) and he's got all the signs of classic depression. He doesn't believe in medication, so I try to talk. But, see, I can't fix it. I wrack my brains for possible solutions, but I can't fix it. It is so frustrating.

I don't like to give up either. I spent 10 years trying to improve my marriage, tried everything, and I still didn't give up. He left me. I was relieved, but I couldn't give up. And, I still won't give up, but, it sure is getting harder not to. I think of all the people I have known who just accept the fact that they are afraid of bridges, or their health sucks, or the constant refrain of "I can't do anything about it, so fuck it." I can't grasp that philosophy.

There are times I wish I could.

Oh, will I go after the young man who stole from me, and violated my number one rule of the house? Probably not. It's his word against mine, and I will probably chalk it up to a learning experience. And, I still like the guy. He has a problem, though unfortunately, he doesn't seem to realize it.

Something else I can't fix. You can tell me to shut up anytime.

May 5, 2007

A little background here....

When my husband had his mid-life crisis, I guess that's what it was, and decided to leave and return to his hometown in Georgia, I was in the middle of chemotherapy. Not exactly the best time to quit a job, and decide to move. We were not close at the time, as he did not want to even acknowledge the cancer, or talk about it. An illness like this either strengthens your marriage or destroys it. Mine took the latter course.

He received a settlement from the company he worked for, packed up his shit, and took my tools, and the computer, that Travis loved, and left. He came back a few times, and the last time told me that he had found a house in his hometown that he thought we would like. The rent was cheap, and, as I was not sure where the cancer was going to take me, (had a 55 to 45 percent odds that it would come back) so I decided it might be the best move for the boys. They knew all their cousins and uncles and aunts down there, and I knew they would have support if something happened to me. I put our beloved farm house up for sale, found a buyer, who would make our mortgage payments until they got their loan, and we packed up and moved.

Of course the boys hated it. Changing schools was a disaster for them. There was no house, but all my furniture and belongings were stored in a house my husband's brother was restoring. We finally moved into a 10 by 50 trailor, and lived there for about 4 months. Child support was out of the questions, as my ex had not found employment. (You can't get blood out of a turnip, no matter how much you beat it.) Because the trailor belonged to a friend, he didn't charge any rent. The only thing about it that was a little uncomfortable was the size. The short hall way was so narrow, that if you met someone coming or going, you had to backup. No room for passing. EJ had his truck and when it broke down, his father didn't have the time to help him fix it, so with the help of his uncle, and doing most of the work himself, he finally got it running.

I soon realized this was probably the stupidest decision I had ever made. The boys father rarely came to visit, which frustrated them. Travis was content to visit his aunt, a wonderful lady who I love to this day, but EJ was miserable. He quit going to school, and decided he was going back home. At this point, I was in agreement. I would have to find a place to stay, but I was told I could stay with Jonathon's grandparents, until I got on my feet. So, after discussing it between the three of us, Travis decided to stay and see how things worked out with his dad. I said, I would miss him, but knowing he was staying with his aunt, gave me some relief.

We loaded up what we could stuff into the back of an old ford EXP escort, and set out for home. A 500 mile drive. Ej drove most of the way, as my panic attacks were in full bloom. I hated myself for the shit I had put my children through. A man who owned a junk yard, where EJ had worked part time, helped me find a place to live, after Jonathon's grandparents and I got into a huge fight about who should tell my son what to do. For a week or so, EJ stayed with friends, and I lived in my car. The junk man, who professed a deep and abiding love for me, rented a motel room for me, and once I got a job, things started to move along. I wrote to Travis and called him, and at first he seemed content, but finally I called and he said, "Come and get me." He never saw his Dad, and wanted to come home. So, after work, and being off the next day, I headed back to get my boy.

Travis packed the car with everything he could stuff in there, and insisted on bringing the big TV. I pictured going back and getting some of my furniture and other things, but never got the opportunity. So, I had my two boys with me, and I was content. Our cars were rust-buckets, and EJ took the responsibilty of keeping them running. He would say when he graduated and got a good job, I would never work again. Oh, blessed child, I told him I would be ok, and I didn't want him to feel he should care for me.

They graduated, and moved on with their lives. EJ met his girlfriend, who he stayed with for the next eight years, raising her children as his own. Travis became the essential traveler, going to Phoenix for a while, coming home, going to Richmond, then San Diego, where I finally got him to West Virginia where I was staying with my Dad. From there he decided to go stay with his father again as he figured he would be around familiar surroundings, and have a better chance to get a job. And it was from there he finally decided to go into the Navy. EJ was getting better and better jobs, and worked like a fiend until his brother died.

Since the fight I had with Jonathon's grandparents, I have never been able to get in touch with them. When a rich and doting aunt died, and left the Grandad a shit load of money, they moved to California, leaving Jonathon behind. I guess I knew when Jonathon moved to California I would lose touch with him, as well. It was not long after he moved, that he wrecked his car, so I never got his address. Now, I have no idea where to send flowers, a sympathy card, or anything. I have searched the net trying to find some info on him, but haven't turned up anything.

It is so odd that life threw us such a curve ball. We caught it, and ran with it, but things were never the same. I will always feel I didn't step up to the plate, and do enough for my boys. But if's and shoulds don't change anything, no matter how much you think about it. What basically happened was the boys went from living a moderate middle class life to a poverty level life. In some ways it was a positive thing, as they saw both sides of the coin, and learned the value of the most simplest things. But a parent wants their children to have it all. Do I hate my ex? No. I feel he payed his dues for 18 years, and that was enough. Unfortunately, he never hid the fact that Travis was his favorite. Which, as any parent knows, causes horrible reprecussions. Travis, however, did his best to encourage a dialogue between his father and EJ. The moderator, the 'let's all get along' philosphy, and he did a good job, but what a terrible burden.

I look back and try to tell myself, that when all of this started, I was sick, and wasn't making the best decisions. But, deep inside it doesn't cut it. I worked through most of my chemo but had to stop because I just couldn't do it anymore. Why my ex chose this time to leave, I will never really know. I know that my brother wanted to kill him, but, didn't.

My ex held a memorial service down there for Travis, and going back, after so many years, was hard on both of us, EJ and myself. My ex would not introduce me as Travis' mother, so I filled in the blanks for him. But just seeing the old friends, the people I had grown to love over the years, was wonderful. I rejoiced in the way they welcomed me and EJ back to the fold, and that is the memory I will hold onto. There were some who would not speak to me, as I had been in an interracial relationship. I was dirt in their eyes. That was their problem. Yes it hurt, but knowing how racist they were, I was not surprised. I thought, nothing could hurt me that bad anymore. I had lost a son. What could hurt worse than that?

I always thought my ex and I would grow old together. I pictured the Sunday dinners I would cook where my sons and their families would force themselves to attend, and look for the first excuse to leave. Which is as it should be.

Before we left our little trailor to come home, my ex wanted to work things out. I laughed. I couldn't help it. At the time, he had his girlfriend, Lavern, staying with him. Incredible, isn't it?

Somtimes all you can do is laugh, until the tears set in.

May 2, 2007

When my boys were in the first grade and kindergarten, respectively, they came home from school each day with some different fantastic tale of what had happened in school. At that age, they couldn't wait to tell me of their adventures. "Jaqueline stood on a table and pulled down her panties," my oldest exclaimed excitedly. Then as an after-thought, he said, "But I didn't look, Mama." Looking into those big brown soulful eyes, I knew he was lying through his teeth. But who wouldn't want to see the big show?

Travis of course had to come up with something equally fascinating. "Well, Jonathon stood on the table while Mrs. B was at the office? And, he pulled down his pants and everybody saw it all!!" This was the first I would hear about Jonathon Owney, and his escapades.

The next time I heard about Jonathon was from his own mouth. I received a phone call just after putting away the dinner dishes. Looking forward to the evening lull, before baths and bedtime, ("Travis, remember to use soap this time!@".) The phone rang and when I answered, a very young man, said, "Mz Youngblood?" "Yes," I said. "Who's this?" "My name's Jonathon and I want you to tell EJ to quit beating me up at school." "EJ beats you up at school?" I inquired. "Yes, he does, ma'am, everyday. Can you make him stop?" Jonathon made such a humble plea, that of course I said I would speak to EJ.

Ej of course denied everything, claiming it was the other way around. I just told him not to fight at school. I was not looking forward to hearing Jonathon's parents giving me a call. (I had already had a most impassioned and heated conversation with a woman on our street who accused EJ and another boy of stealing her sons sticks from her yard. "Sticks?" I said. "Can't he just find some others? I mean there practically everywhere..." But no, these were special sticks. The debate raged on ending where I told her to grow up and she said I was a negligent mother.)

The next thing I knew, Jonathan asked for Travis to spend the night. As it turned out, Jonathon lived with his Grandparents, and soon EJ, Travis, and Jonathon were fast friends. Jonathon spent almost as much time at my house as he did at home. However, as the years passed, the boys took special precautions whenever Jonathon paid a visit. Jonathon, when he was twelve, was approaching 6' and with a big build. He ate voraciously. The boys put all the good snacks in the dryer, and the good pop, especially Mt. Dew. Actually it was my idea, cause hey, Jonathon could go through some groceries. So they ate dinner and pop corn, and drove me crazy, but that's as it should be.

Oh, the stories I could tell you! The disappearing cigarettes, the neighbor's corn field that was destroyed, as they told me, "by a mean guy on a motorcycle who chased them up the drive.." I actually called the police on this one.

The night we caught them in their clubhouse, with girlie books, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and one beer. My husband snuck up on them and listened outside, as they said fuck this, and shit, and Goddamn that. Actually, just boys being boys. After we hooked them up to a battery tester, (which we said was a lie-detector) their emphatic denials quickly changed to "well, maybe I did chew some tobacco.."

The time EJ recorded Travis and Jonathon pretending to be male dancers, bearing it all for the camcorder. We found the tape, (which mysteriously disappeared after viewing) and laughed so hard, we thought we would choke.

Throughout their school years, of course they got into trouble. But nothing outrageous. (I did think suspension was more a punishment for me than for the boys, though.) Jonathon always went with us to Bush Gardens, and the movies, or where ever.

The boys watched while I busted my ass on rollerskates. I watched while Jonathon somehow managed to wreck his bike when he was at our house, or jump on a piece of glass, how he unerringly located whatever accident waiting to happen.

They developed their own game called doo-doo stick, which is pretty much self-explanatory, and they chased each other around the old farmhouse with it. Jonathon always had some wonderful new puppy that he nurtured until it grew big enough to get sick, or otherwise meet some horrible demise. The last time I saw him, when I went to make sure he had heard about Travis, he had a huge rottweiler standing in his living room, called Baby.

Travis, in one of our last conversations, before he left for Iraq, said when he got back, he was going to get an orange jump-suit, and visit Jonathon where he worked, telling him he had just broken out of jail. "With my tattoos, Mama, he'll just about shit!! I'll scare him to death. And beg him to hide me, please, their after me!! Dude, you got to help me!!"

Travis didn't get that chance. A few months after Travis' funeral, Jonathon moved to California. It wasn't very long after he moved that we learned he had been in a car-wreck, sustaining serious head injuries and was in a coma for two weeks. We anxiously awaited news, and learned he would be ok, but it would take a long time for him to recover. The last thing I had heard was that he was going through extensive rehab, and was learning to talk again.

Then yesterday, May first, two weeks and two days before his 28th birthday, he died. It hasn't even really hit me yet, or EJ either. The three boys had developed a bond that would remain intact through the course of their young lives. And, now he is gone, leaving behind a young wife and daughter, and it is yet another tragedy that we cannot grasp. There was something so innocent and appealing about Jonathon. He was like my "third" son, in so many ways. I cherish the memories I have of him.

The only comfort I have found, is that Travis will be there to help him when he crosses over. After the initial shock, it was the first thing I thought.