He’ll Be There…


That old talisman mindset dogged my steps this morning, as I wandered, mostly ineffectively, around the house, half-mindedly applying myself to the little chores that need tending before I go to the café. The Café. That place to which I will be committing the lion’s share of my time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears as of about 4:30 this afternoon—June 30, 2006.

Talismans. Good luck charms. The rituals to which I turn when my control-freak self realizes I have no control. The last-ditch effort to court the favor of Things I Don’t Understand. And to which I have traditionally had only the weakest of connections.

I look upon today as if it were a day as momentous, if a tad tardy, as a college graduation. Of all the people past or present who were ever part of my life, the one person I ache to share this day with is my dad. He would be outwardly cautious and stoic but, just under the surface, bursting with pride and anticipation for our new venture. Which would be betrayed by a twinkle in his eye and a slight softening of the poker face he always wore when Important Things took place.

So, I was carefully planning what I would wear to this event. This signing away of my life. This sealing the deal on a dream. This meeting at which I will undoubtedly be the only one present who truly grasps the cosmic significance of the occasion. Conflicting thoughts of “dress for success” and “dress as if it were no big deal” butted heads in my mind. I finally settled on a simple version of what I probably will be wearing to work for the next umpteen months: a pristine white long-sleeved knit shirt and a pair of black pants. The trousers were chosen specifically for their capacity to make me look slimmer and taller.

And then it hit me. The Dad thing. I knew that I had to take something of dad with me today. If it was January, I might have chosen the scarf I knitted for him back when I was in high school. Or even the ridiculous “Elmer Fudd” hat that hangs by my back door, with the scarf…that pair of things that represents the presence of my dad’s gentle spirit wherever I hang my hat. But those things would be a tad conspicuous, here in the middle of summer. And Dad was anything but conspicuous. They wouldn’t do at all.

There was no help for it. I chucked the stylish, slimming pants back in the closet and dragged out a pair of black jeans. Black jeans with belt loops to accommodate Dad’s black leather belt. It’s wide, it’s worn, and it’s extremely seventies, but who cares? My Dad will be there with his arm around my waist as I step forth into this great adventure. Right now that’s the most important thing in the world.


So Close….


How, exactly, is one supposed to act when one gets within inches of attaining a dream? A dream cherished and nourished and treasured for so many years? Like a baby nurtured too long in an ancient womb…can something dreamed for decades survive the monumental strain of birth into the realm of reality?

The questions lurk in the shadowed pockets of my mind. I can’t address them…cannot even acknowledge them, for fear that the possibilities raised by the contemplation will be so huge that they will put an abrupt end to my forward progress.

It’s the commitment. The commitment overwhelms me now. Thirty years ago, I was on the threshold of the greatest commitment I had ever, would ever, make. And, same as now, I could not think in terms of forever. “If it doesn’t work out,” I reasoned, “we can always get a divorce. Walk away and start over. No hard feelings, just a clean slate.”

Not so simple, of course. Had I allowed myself to think about it, I would have conceded that. But I had to have the fallback. Needed the escape route. Because there was, is, always will be, that contrary little voice in the back of my mind that cracks the whip, hardly allowing me to dream. It scolds that nothing is forever. And nothing ever turns out as you hoped. Dreams are dreams. Reality is…. something else.

Edging away from the larger, more ethereal issues, I stumble over the more immediate sacrifice: I realize that I will be committing to a place that I call my home, that has been my home for the past five years. But to this chronologically-challenged aging child, it doesn’t feel like home. Home is the place to which I have been chained, and from which I have been running, for the past decade. Despite the words piled upon words, proclaiming the need to detach from that place, to break chains and cut ropes and burn bridges–whatever it takes to be free—I freeze. The torch is in my hand, I reach out to touch it to the closest creosote-soaked piling. And I shake uncontrollably.

I will stretch out my other hand, steady that trembling brand. I will set fire to that bridge. And to that part of my heart that has had so much trouble letting go.

…And What Timing!


I’m absolutely certain those Guantanamo detainees who killed themselves the other day did so purely for the PR value of the act. Obviously, a bleeding heart liberal whack-job sneaked into the prison, disguised as an Electrode Adjustment Technician. Leaned in and planted a bug in the ear of some strapped-down detainee, left momentarily unsupervised, wavering in and out of psychosis: “It’s Torture Awareness Month, Abdul. Think of the impact your death will have if you hang yourself tonight when you get back to your cell. And make a pact with as many other prisoners as you possibly can…the more deaths, the better the press!”

Abdul’s pain-dulled eyes cleared and lit up immediately at the thought of stretching his own neck for the cause of generating negative press for his captors. “This’ll show them…erk. ..llkk …aakkk …aughhhh!”

Liberals and ragheads. They’ll do anything to destroy America’s good standing among the nations of the world.

Where I Stand Now


Today, I delivered the non-refundable deposit the seller of the business we’re buying insisted he needed, in order to quit holding “other offers” over my head. So now, more than at any time up until now, this looks like a done deal. How I would love to be breathing a sigh of relief. How I would love to be looking forward, unconditionally thrilled, to assuming the captaincy of my own ship. But this whole exercise is turning out to be like a game of “Whack-a-mole.” Have you ever played “Whack-a-mole?” It’s the arcade game where you get a big padded mallet, and you use it to pound these little mole-heads back into the holes they pop out of. As soon as you whack one mole, another pops out of another hole. Sometimes two or three at the same time.

So, I whacked the “financing” mole. And I mashed the “mollify the seller” mole. And I’m working on wrestling the “OLCC” (liquor license) mole back down into his little hole. But, what’s this? A monstrous head just popped out of a crater the size of a manhole. Egad…it’s the “present owner’s overly-emotional manager” mole! Mr. Present Owner has gone out of his way to warn me that this girl’s family has lived in the county for a hundred years, and that even the appearance that she has been ill-treated in the transition could cost me big in terms of community relations for the next…century. Oh. Thank you so much, Mr. Present Owner!

I have met this girl. She is very nice. She is sweet. She is eminently likeable. In fact, everybody likes her—customers, staff and (obviously) Mr. Present Owner himself.

She is the absolute antithesis of me.

Nothing can strike more abject fear into my heart than the prospect of dealing with a sweet, likeable, fragile psyche. I am the personification of the bull in the china shop, when it comes to personal relationships. I have no guile, no political savvy, no off button. As a general rule, whatever is in my mind just falls out my mouth. I know enough not to be outright rude or abusive, but somehow that makes the situation even worse. It really hurts my feelings when people don’t get me. If I had a rhinoceros-tough hide to go along with my social ineptitude, it wouldn’t matter to me that I make such a god-awful impression on most people the first (second, third, gotta-know-me-for-a-year-before-you-can-tolerate-me) time I meet them.

Mind you, I only have to work with this girl for two weeks. And Mr. Present Owner has already promised her a generous severance package. All she has to do is work with me long enough to allow me to get my feet under me concerning the day to day operation of the place. But when you combine what he has been so “kind” as to tell me about her, and what I know from having interacted with her for a couple weeks a year ago, I know that she and I will get along like gasoline and a match.

I am scared shitless. My friends…. Any suggestions?

Taking Responsibility

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Reading a conservative blog this morning, I see that the few remaining faithful are crying that the Marines involved in the Haditha incident should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Does the concept of innocence even exist for our troops in Iraq? We attacked their country. Our leaders chose to dispatch our forces to a nation that had committed no crime against the United States of America, that presented no threat to our national security. The incumbent administration took full advantage of a political climate charged with 9/11 bloodlust to mount an invasion whose true justifications were back-room politics, power-lust, and avarice. An invasion they had planned for a decade and chose to launch the instant the political tide turned favorable. From the moment the first US jet aimed a missile or dropped a bomb that took one Iraqi life, the hands of the US military were irredeemably covered in innocent blood.

What a country! We’ll slap a fifteen-year-old in prison for the rest of his life because he sat outside in a car while his buddies used a gun he didn’t know about to kill a convenience store clerk. But when it comes to the deaths of tens of thousands directly caused by our leaders’ lust for world dominance, we cry “Innocent!” Make no mistake: All the blood shed in that country since we attacked –the blood of savagely beheaded hostages, the blood soaking the uniform of a soldier cradling the body of a tiny girl mortally wounded by an “errant” bomb, the blood of our own troops dismembered by countless IED’s, the blood of young Shi’ite men herded off a bus and executed by “insurgents”—every drop of that blood is on our hands.

It can come as no surprise that our troops are now in the business of heaping atrocity upon insult. War is atrocity. It’s not a damned video game, people. It’s not about a bunch of superheroes being dispatched to all corners of the globe to whup up on the bad guys. It’s about blood and guts and gore and murder, hatred and fear, aggression and insanity. It’s about every single thing that is ugly and hopeless about the human race. And we made a conscious decision to take that atrocity and release it in another country. A country conveniently distant from our own home shores.

Conservatives are ever so fond of the concept of “taking responsibility.” It is way past time for them to walk the walk when it comes to this war. We started it. Our troops are not innocent of anything that happens in Iraq as a result of the war we chose to make.

Overthinking It


For a moment, I consider that I am simply too old to be standing with a foot suspended over the abyss of the unknown. On the verge of leaning forward, about to shift the weight to that outstretched foot, confident that the resultant free-fall will be an escapade of the highest order. I have been there, and I have done that. Thirty years ago, that expectation of adventure was richly rewarded. There may have been accompanying bumps, bruises, a compound fracture or two….but they always healed quickly, and always the golden nugget of knowledge, of experience, was squirreled away into memory.

Perhaps there are, at last, too many of those little nuggets stored in the cupboards and closets of my mind. They are stacked to the rafters and oozing out under the doors and around the hinges; no longer golden, but turned to dross. Unrewarded risks, confident forays into mud or mire, heedless wagers placed on losing horses… They mock me; they haunt me. They drag me down. To safety. To uncertainty. To paralysis.

All I can do is strap on the blinders…allow no look back, nor to the side, nor too far ahead. Certainly no further ahead than the next footfall. Just make myself keep moving, and I will get There. And once I am There, the fear, the restraint, the immobility will be pushed aside by the process of contriving to make it from day to day…the simple groundwork of success.