One Down, Two to Go

Stop me if you’ve heard this. I thought I’d told this story but I’m not finding it in my archives.

When I was about seven years old, Scornful Mother asked her boss if she could do the Janitorial work for her office of about 35 people for extra income.  Now, for SM this amounted to coming straight home after work and picking up the three of us kids, taking us out to eat at our then favorite restaurant, Bill Knapp’s, and then taking us back to her office where she put us to work.   She sat at her desk at the front and did who knows what while we cleaned.  I won’t go into all the crap feelings that surround that topic, but what I want to say is that even from a young age, I have always felt like it was stupid that she took us out to eat before taking us to “her second job”, effectively canceling out the additional income with the additional expense.

Dead Beat Dad, who was raised by parents who did seem to think that how other people in their lives spent money was somehow their business never hesitated to express his own judgment at Scornful Mother’s penchant for taking us out to eat and then complaining about not having enough money.  It’s funny how, despite my own feelings on the subject, I have the inherent need to defend her.  “She was raising three kids on a secretaries salary.”  “She worked all day and had to feed three kids, at night.  Who wouldn’t rather go out to eat than have to come home and cook after that?”

There was a disconnect in the story for me.  I remember Scornful Mother taking us to the grocery store.  We had to walk around in a single file line behind her and not touch anything, including each other.  I remember the grocery cart being filled to the top.  What was happening to all this food if we were eating out all the time.

A couple years ago, I happened to be in the same place with Dead Beat Dad and CPA Sis, and somehow this topic came up.  CPA Sis told him, “What you don’t know is that she’d have panic attacks about writing such a big check, spending so much money all at once.  She’d get to the front with her full cart and she’d experience anxiety about it and have to leave the cart behind, without buying any of the groceries.”

I never knew this.  From a rational perspective this seems ridiculous to me.  I know it’s not good money management, and yet I can understand it…

credit-card-debtIt is my goal for 2009 to pay off my credit cards and have no debt aside from my car payment which I do want to pay ahead on and get completely out of debt ASAP.  I received a very large income tax refund this year.  Not enough to completely pay off my debt, but a large amount all the same.

I’ve already written a check to Green M&M to pay off all the money that I know I owe her.  (Over the years there have been lots of loans which will never be repaid.)  I’m just waiting for the check to go through the bank.  Part of my “new leaf” has meant keeping close track of my expenditures, how much I’ve spent, when I spent it and when it comes through, and how much I have left to spend.

I just went on to the website for the credit card with the highest balance (and interest).  The balance on the account was $887.05.  I knew I needed to pay it off.  I knew it was a financially sound decision.  I knew I had to do it… And still, my finger hovered over the mouse button for several seconds before I clicked “submit”, with thoughts going through my head like, “But this is 65% of the money I have to spend.”  and “I won’t have any money left after I pay these off.”  Suddenly, I had a flash of understanding about what it must have been like for Scornful Mother at the prospect of writing those “big” checks at the grocery store.

I’m proud to say, I clicked the submit button, and in that one move, I wiped out a third of my credit card debt!  Yay, me!

Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cuddle up in the corner and wait for my pulse to return to normal and cry it out!

Mama Told Me Not To…

It almost seems like a cliche to me when people talk about that special teacher that changed their lives.  Maybe it’s because I was never on a bad path.  Hell, I was never on much of a path at all, to be honest.  I never knew what I wanted to do with my life because every time I suggested something it was shot down by Scornful Mother.  She always said I couldn’t do whatever that idea was and remain a solid, faithful Christian.  I don’t know if she was trying to get me to follow a particular path (ministry, maybe?) or if she just didn’t like the one, she felt I was on, but nothing ever measured up to her expectations, which is funny because she was an undereducated secretary my whole life.  Dead Beat Dad on the other hand was– Well, the moniker pretty well speaks for itself.

It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that he really made a showing of a home based business, and that was in the business of tree removal.  Let’s see, sun, bad weather, grass, leaves, saw dust, falling trees, debris to be picked up, not to mention power tools like chain saws, stump grinders and wood chippers.  Not a thing about that is appealing to this mid-western, mama’s boy, homo, who suffers from allergies year round and is so pale when you off the lights you can still see where I am for about 8 minutes.  I didn’t exactly have much in the way of an example to follow or a legacy to inherit.  No, I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life on my own.  (Sadly, I’m still trying to figure it out.)

So, I wasn’t on any path.  I wasn’t on course for a life of crime.  I wasn’t trying to make myself fit into an accounting mold, when I can’t balance my own checkbook.  On the other hand, I didn’t show any natural ability or throw myself whole heartedly into any particular program or task.  I was about to say that no intervention was ever needed for me, but the truth is, I really could have stood to have an intervention of a completely different variety.  I could really stood for someone to take a special interest in me and help me find my way in life.  Help to find the resources I needed to figure out what I wanted to do and to follow that path.

No I never felt like I had a particular teacher that made that sort of an impact in my life and so while there was always one teacher in particular who stood out for me as my favorite, I never thought of her as that teacher and in fact, I haven’t thought of her at all in quite some time.  So, it was quite surprising to me when I awoke the other morning and remembered my dream from the night before… Well, maybe not remembered the dream, I rarely do, but I remembered the subject.  I dreamed about this special teacher.

In 1987, Scornful Mother decided that she wished to attend Rhema Bible Training Center, in The Town Named for Damaged Naive American Weaponry, a smallish town just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I call TTNFDNAW “smallish”, because it had all the hallmarks of a small town (no highways, more stop signs than traffic signals, no malls, no public transportation, no noticeable government to speak of), and yet I graduated in a class of 868 people and it was the smallest class we’d had in five years.  We had been living in Edmond, a smallish town outside Oklahoma City for three years when she decided this.  While CPA Sis and I went to spend the summer with Dead Beat Dad in Ohio, Scornful Mother applied to and was accepted at Rhema Bible Training Center, or Rhema, for short, but had no idea how she was going to pay for it, or for the move.  She was trusting God that this was what she was supposed to do but she had no plan.

At the end of the summer, Dead Beat Dad brought CPA Sis and me back to Oklahoma so that we could start school.  The school year started in Edmond a week earlier than it did in The Town Named for Damaged Native American Weaponry and Scornful Mother allowed us to not attend that one week of school in Edmond.  I remember feeling so special because I didn’t have to go off to school when my best friend across the street did.  We made the move and got enrolled in schools three days after the year started in TTNFDNAW, but not with enough time to get class schedules or tours of the schools.  I was in the seventh grade and had never been “the new kid in school” before in my life.

It didn’t happen the way it does in the movies and on TV.  I showed up at the school twenty minutes before classes started.  I went into the school office and got my schedule, but there was no cool kid, no trouble maker, no first period office aid to be selected by the principle to show me around and keep me from feeling like a complete outsider.  They handed me my class schedule pointed in the general direction of the first room and sent me on my way.  No one even told me where the library or cafeteria were.

Somehow I made it through the first half of my first day OK, but I was late to almost every class.  Then, lunchtime came and I was lost.  I sort of followed the general crowd but wasn’t sure where I was going and at some point the crowd split and I didn’t know what to do.  It must have shown on my face because suddenly I heard a soft voice.

“Are you lost?  Do you need some help?”  It was an “older” woman, not much taller than my 12 year old self and quite rotund.  She had on large, square framed glasses and had wild curly hair and she had the most comforting, welcoming smile.

“Yes, please.  This is my first day and I don’t know where the cafeteria is,” I said, rather shyly.

She smiled, placed a reassuring hand on my back and pointed toward a single door just across and slightly down the hall from me.  “Well, there’re two choices.  We have what they call the slow food cafeteria which is right here.  That’s the side door for it.  There’s also the fast food cafeteria down there.”  With that she pointed down the hall.  I thanked her and walked into the door she’d pointed at.  I was on the “free lunch” (there really is such a thing as a free lunch) program and didn’t know if it applied to the fast food cafeteria.

I finished eating my lunch and put my tray away and pulled out my class schedule to find my next class, music.  I walked out the same door I had walked in and looked up at the first door I saw, just across and down the hall from where I was standing.  Lo and behold, it happened to be the same room I was looking for.  I walked into the room to find the teacher and show her my schedule so she could tell me where to sit and wouldn’t you know, it was the same kindly “older” lady who had helped me find my way to lunch.  Her name was Betty Griffith and she felt like my lifesaver.  She was so kind and inviting and made me feel like I was welcome and normal and had nothing to worry about.

Mrs. Griffith was, in a lot of ways, my best friend that year.  She helped me find my way around the school, quelled any fears and embarrassment I was feeling for being lost and feeling like a spectacle.  She welcomed me into the choir and made me feel like an important part of the group.

We had our ups and downs for sure.  Shortly after school started I asked if I could come to her classroom after school each day and help her clean up or whatever she needed.  (I don’t think I ever told her it was because Ex Con Older Brother was abusive and I didn’t want to go home and be around him)  After that I spent nearly every day after school for 45 minutes or so, straightening chairs, collecting music, cleaning the chalkboard, straightening papers and talking to Mrs. Griffith.  When it came time for the school play, she directed because the drama teacher was out on maternity leave.  androcles_logoI auditioned for the play, Androcles and the Lion, (deliberately showing up at the very end so no one else would be around to hear me) and then told her I’d rather be behind the scenes.  The first of many mistakes on my part regarding my interest in the theater.  I was the curtain puller and an unofficial part of the chorus, so I was always there for rehearsal.  She asked her husband who was an amateur thespian to come and help us.  He was always very serious and direct, coming across as mean and grumpy, I thought,  and I found it uncomfortable.  Somewhere in my adolescent 12 year old mind I thought it was a good idea to tell her this.  Not only did I tell her this but I told her at a  highly stressful time for her.

I was at my post, ready and waiting to pull the curtain (hand over hand so it’s not jerky) and she came bursting through looking for someone who was supposed to be on stage but wasn’t, when I stopped her and said, just as pleasantly as could be, “Mrs. Griffith, no offense, but, I really hate it when your husband is here.”  I think I was even smiling.  I’d heard “no offense” many times and knew it took all the sting out.

She, on the other hand was not smiling, “Well, you know,” she said rather tersely, “I really do take offense to that.”  And with that she stomped off in search of the missing cast member.

I felt like a shit and couldn’t believe that “no offense” hadn’t worked.  She taught me a valuable lesson that day.  You can’t just say whatever you want to a person and expect there to be no consequences.  The next day before class, I apologized to her and all was forgiven.

Once she needed help posting something to a district owned marquee at a very busy intersection.  I of course volunteered to assist and to repay my efforts she took me to the local 7-11 and bought me a 1/2 pound bag of M&M’s.  The bag was still open and partially full, in my coat pocket the next day when I arrived at class and at some point I had gone to the front of the room and then dropped something on the floor.  I bent over to pick it up and M&M’s went flying all over the floor.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to have them in class and she was angry at me for making the mess and having them there.  I was all the more embarrassed because she had bought them for me.

When the year was drawing to a close and we had to select the classes we wanted to take the following year I had decided to take Drama.  The only problem was, you had to audition for the class.  I signed up to audition but I wimped out and did not go. When Mrs. Griffith found out about this she told me I had to audition and she would talk to the Drama teacher about giving me another shot.  For one reason or another, the boy who was playing Androcles in the play also had missed the audition and so he and I went before school one day to audition for the teacher.  We did a scene from the play where he played Androcles and I played his wife, Hermione.  (Go figure!)  I made the class and he did not.

In the 8th grade, I opted to be her student aide, instead of taking choir.  I wanted to have the best of both worlds.  I wanted to be in choir but I wanted to be special and she tried to accommodate me.  I was her first period student aide and I was late almost every day.  (Not unlike now!)  One day, I noticed that in her attendance book she had me marked as being tardy every day.  After eight tardies I was supposed to get detention.  When I mentioned to her how much I appreciated that she hadn’t given me detention, she said that she had to, and she would, she just hadn’t gotten around to it.  She never did and I don’t know if she just honestly didn’t get around to it, or if she only said that to “scare me straight” but after that I tried much harder to get to school on time.

When I moved on to the 9th grade and a new school, I tried to come back and visit her periodically but it was difficult to do and then she moved to another school.

I exchanged a few letters with her after I got engaged, and moved to live with Dead Beat Dad temporarily.  I told her of my engagement and of the young child I would to step-father.  She told me in a return letter that married men were adults and as an adult I was entitled to call her by her first name.  I don’t know if I ever did.  After six years of calling her Mrs. Griffith, I just couldn’t wrap my tongue around “Betty”.   Not long after that, we lost touch.  I think I was embarrassed to tell her that, what I suspected she thought all along, was true, that I was too young and immature to get married and it was obvious by the fact that my fiance had cheated on and dumped me.

I miss Mrs. Griff–  Betty.  She is a wonderful, sweet woman.  She may not have shaped me into the man I am today.  She may not have affected the path I would follow in my life, but she helped me, and she made me feel special and important and for that, I will always be grateful…

And I’m so excited because in the course of writing this post, and trying to find out if she’s even still a teacher, I found an e-mail address for her and tomorrow I’m going to send her my first correspondence in 15 years.  I hope she remembers me.

Living A Lie

My parents separated when I was two years old and divorced when I was three.  For as long as I can remember Gigi the Home Wrecker has been in the picture.  I found out when I was about 8 years old that Gigi the Home Wrecker is the reason my parents separated.  A few years later Dead Beat Dad and Gigi the Home Wrecker married and have been together ever since.

I don’t have a tremendously strong relationship with Dead Beat Dad and we go months if not years at a time without communicating, not out of any sort of animosity, but because there’s nothing for us to talk about.  So it has come as somewhat of a surprise to me, in the past, to hear when CPA Sis informs me of things such as this.  The following comes from an e-mail that CPA Sis sent to me recently:

I can tell you from past phone conversations that his relationship with her is more a mater of coexistence, now, then true love.  But he is determined to tough it out rather then make the same mistake again.

“The same mistake” that CPA Sis speaks of is walking out on his family, divorcing his wife.  Dead Beat Dad has carried around a considerable amount of guilt, for years, over what he did to his family.  The guilt, I think, is justified.  It’s also ancient history.  It’s been 30 years.  The rest of us are over it.  Maybe he should be too.

This e-mail wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this.  It’s also ten days old, so I don’t know why it was on my mind this morning, but it was.  I thought about what it must be like to live with a person, share your home and your bed with them, and not love them.  I’m not sure how much he likes her and maybe I’m making assumptions about that part, but I know that he finds lots of fault with Gigi the Home Wrecker.  I’ve seen that for as long as I can remember.

At first I thought his dedication was admirable.  It shows a maturity that he didn’t possess when he was married to my mother.  But then I thought more about it.  I started to think about it from a different angle.  I started to think about how I could relate to what he might be going through.  And I started to pity him.

You see, I can relate to the idea of living your life with feelings locked up that you can’t let out.  I understand how it feels to have something inside you that is life altering and detrimental to the status quo.

For me, it’s the fact that I’m gay and that my family can’t handle that news.  The fact that living openly is a challenge that’s difficult for me to face and which would be life altering.  Challenge the status quo.  For him, it would be the fact that he’s not happy in his marriage.  That he doesn’t want to share his life with this woman.  The circumstances are certainly not the same.  But I can imagine a lot of the feelings and effects are.  I can imagine that for him, it’s scarier to consider telling the truth and getting out of the situation than it is to deal with the daily impact of living a lie.

I would love to be able to bring this post to a close with  some brilliant revelation or realization.  I’d love to be able to say that looking at what he’s dealing with gives me the strength I need to live unafraid.  I’d love to be able to make a declaration that from this moment on…

I can’t.  The fear is real.  The danger is real.  The compromise is real.

But for just a moment today, I understand him a little better.  How ironic that I can’t share that understanding with him and have him understand me better as well.

It’s Just Emotions Taking Me Over

big-edenLast night I watched another gay themed movie I recorded to my DVR, off the Logo Network, Big Eden.  I didn’t really know anything about it other than what I’d read in the very brief description on my DirecTV programming guide.

henry

Henry, Big Eden

sampa1

Sam, Big Eden

Big Eden is the story of Henry Hart an out artist living in New York City who is about to have a gallery opening when he receives a call from a friend in his hometown informing him that his Grandfather who raised him had suffered a stroke.  Henry abandons his opening to go back to see Sam, who he calls “Sampa”.

dean

Dean, Big Eden

Not long after arriving back in Big Eden Henry finds out that his childhood friend – and unrequited love – Dean has moved back to Big Eden after his divorce, with his two young sons so that his parents can help him raise his children.

pike

Pike, Big Eden

grace

Grace, Big Eden

Henry is introduced to Pike a Native American man who operates the local general store.  Pike is known to be very shy, but Grace, the friend who notified Henry of Sam’s stroke asks Pike to assist Sam and Henry by picking up meals from the local busy body widow and bringing them to Sam’s house for the men (apparently Henry can’t cook).

The movie has a rather predictable element to it; a love triangle between Dean, Henry and Pike and an unsurprising outcome with Henry and Pike falling in love.

There were several things about this movie that I was surprised at how I felt and reacted to them.  To start with, Henry has never told “Sampa” that he’s gay.  It’s never really explained why this is, it’s just clear that Henry is afraid.  It seems as if everyone knows the truth except for Sam, or does he?

Henry is asked at one point, “Do you really think he never figured it out?”  And that question is answered in a scene late in the film when Sam confronts Henry about what his plans are.  Henry came back to Big Eden to check on Sam after his stroke, and stayed for a year.  Sam tells Henry, he’ll be “joining” Henry’s Grandmother soon and he’ll need to know what to tell her.  After Henry attempts to avoid the conversation, Sam says to him, “You won’t tell me who you really are.  Why?  Is it shame?  Did I teach you to be ashamed?  ‘Cause if I did, I did a terrible thing.”  Henry responds by bursting into tears and laying his head in his grandfather’s lap, allowing the older man to comfort him.  After Sam dies, Henry says to Grace, “I never told him.” to which Grace replies, “Well.  He knows now.”  I was a little confused and maybe slightly annoyed that no one pointed out that clearly Sam already knew.

It is clear from the beginning that Pike is attracted to Henry and wants a relationship with him, but Pike has always been a very stoic and quiet man, easily rattled and embarrassed, unable to adequately express his thoughts and feelings.  For a time he seems almost to dislike Henry as he avoids contact.  Day after day, Sam and Henry invite Pike to join them in the meals that he brings and he declines.  Then one night, Henry is out and Sam invites Pike to stay.  Finally, Pike accepts.

After just a few days of delivering meals to the men which have been prepared by a local widow, it becomes clear that the meals are not very pleasant tasting.  Pike takes a book entitled “The Joy of Cooking” from his lending library and studies it.  The next day Pike prepares a delicious meal and delivers it to the men.  The regular invitations are extended, the usual declination given and Pike returns home where he himself eats the unenjoyable meal provided by the widow.

As the movie progresses it becomes clear that Pike has feelings for Henry which he does not know how to express.  Many of the peripheral characters begin to see what’s happening and attempt to help.  Eventually, Pike comes by with a meal for the men but Sam is asleep.  Henry invites Pike to join him and after a few attempts to escape, Pike finally agrees.  They have a very pleasant conversation and a friendship grows.  Naturally, as must happen in such a story, Henry does not see what’s happening.  Henry is learning more and seeing more of Pike but does not understand Pike’s feelings.

Midway through the movie, Sam has a medical episode and has to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.  Henry spends the night at the hospital with Sam, awake all night.  In the morning, Dean comes and takes Henry home.  It’s been clear that there is a relationship developing between the two but it’s slow and awkward.  Until this moment, you’re not really sure what is going on with Dean.  After returning to Sam’s house from the hospital, Dean offers to cook some eggs for Henry and while he is cooking there is a moment of vulnerability and tenderness when Henry places a hand and then his head on Dean’s shoulder and places his other arm around Dean.

dh-kissDean pushes the pan aside and turns toward Henry.  The two embrace and there is a brief kiss before Dean turns his face away and they hug.

“I can’t,” Dean says.

“I know,” is Henry’s reply.

“I want to.  I just can’t,” Dean repeats.

“I know,” Henry says again.

There are a few things about this movie that affected me.  The first is the relationship between Henry and his “Sampa”.  It is so clear to the viewer and to everyone else in Big Eden that Sam knows Henry is gay.  There’s even a scene when Henry is away at a town picnic so Pike stays and shares dinner with Sam.  After they eat, the two men go out by the lake outside Sam’s house to watch the fireworks.  They’re still outside when they hear Dean’s truck pull up to drop Henry off.  Pike and Sam observe what might be construed as a tender moment between Henry and Dean but but is in actuality more a push-me-pull-me exchange about the nature of their relationship.  Sam looks at Pike and says, “I’m sorry, son.”  He knows that Pike has feelings for Henry but they both assume there’s something there between Henry and Dean.

I struggle on an almost daily basis with the idea of what it would be like to tell my family that I’m gay.  The situations are different.  Henry was just afraid with no real explanation as to the reason why.  I come from an extremely conservative fundamentalist Christian family which believes that homosexuality is a sin and to be gay is to be damned.  I do not share in their sentiments and do not have any guilt about my orientation, but being able to tell them the truth and to explain my beliefs to them is a far more difficult proposition with very unpredictable outcomes.  I watched this movie, and particularly the exchange between Sam and Henry about seeing “Grandma” and I thought, “Just tell him!  It’s clear he already knows and it’s obvious he will accept you!  What have you got to be afraid of?  Do you know what a precious gift this is?!?

I imagined what it would be like to be in a position of knowing that what I have to tell would be graciously and lovingly received without any judgment or condemnation, to know that I could be open and completely truthful about myself and my life with the people who are supposed to matter the most.  Unfortunately, I live with the knowledge that very much the opposite is true.

The real irony is that I suspect that most if not all of my family knows, or at least suspects that I am gay, so it would not come as a surprise to them, yet I’m certain they’re also hoping that I’ll never accept it, that I’ll never act on these feelings.  I’m sure they think that as long as I never act on the feelings and I never say “I’m gay” to anyone (including myself – too late), then it won’t really be true and I won’t be damned.

The second thing about this movie that affected me was the general existence of the character, Pike.  I could relate to him, in a lot of ways.  In the real world, I also tend to be very shy and socially awkward.  I don’t really know how to talk to people I don’t know very well.  I’m very awkward with my feelings and don’t really know how to communicate them effectively or productively.

The third thing about this movie that affected me, which actually relates to the second, is the scene I described between Dean and Henry.  When it’s finally clear to everyone that there is an attraction and feelings between the two, when they finally kiss, and then Dean backs away, saying, “I can’t,” a part of me screamed, “Why not!?!  What are you so afraid of?  Do you know how lucky you are to be loved?  Why be so afraid of your feelings?

And then I began to think about myself.  I began to think how I can’t relate to him after all.  I can’t think of a time when I have felt a powerful attraction to a person.  I can’t think of a time when I was just so overcome by passion that I wanted to rip our clothes off and make love, right then and there.  I can’t think of a time when I was so distraught, or was with someone else who was so distraught and in need of comfort, that the most logical course of action seemed to be sex.  I can’t think of a time when physicality was —

Well… I can’t think of a time when physicality was not a terrifying prospect.  I can imagine that, assuming I somehow found myself in a situation like Dean did, that I’d react very much the same way he did, assuming we even got as far as a kiss.  I can imagine I’d be just as afraid to act on my feelings.  And it makes me angry.  Why should I be so afraid to act on my feelings.

But the thing is, I’m inclined to say I don’t have feelings.  I’ve only been “in love” once and it turned out not to be real.  It fell apart at the first sign of trouble.  And I haven’t dated much in the 15 years since.  I’ve thought a bit lately about the relationships in my life and how I’d feel if they ended.  With the exception of my friend Eve, I don’t really imagine being terribly upset about the end of a relationship and I already know that relationship is going to end so I have time to prepare myself… I hope.

I’ve thought about what my reaction would be if one of my parents died.  I don’t think I’d have much of one.  I don’t think I’d be terribly upset.  I think I’d be relieved in a lot of ways.  I’ve thought how I’d feel if one of my siblings died.  I don’t expect I’d feel much differently.  I’d be a little more upset if CPA Sis died because she’s the only one I’m really all that close to.  But if Ex Con Older Brother died, I wouldn’t even feel like I’d lost anything.

What I’ve determined is that I don’t feel strongly enough about anyone, or anything, to have a strong reaction.  “I don’t feel anything” I thought.  “But wait.  I can be very emotional and passionate when I feel like I’m being mistreated or abused… So I’m only capable of experiencing negative emotions strongly?  That sucks.  And it doesn’t help my case any.  I’d like to date.  I’d like to fall in love and share my life with someone.  How do I do that if I don’t feel positive emotions?

You know, I was beginning to wonder how I was going to bring this post back around and this is it:

I don’t feel positive emotions.  I don’t feel attraction or affection and certainly not love.  So if I somehow found myself in a situation where I was so affected by and attracted to a person (male or female) as Dean was in this movie…  I’d have to be all over it.  I hope that I would not let that moment pass by.

When Something Ends Something Begins, But Now It’s Just the End of the Road

Lawaxana Troi as played by Majel Barrett Roddenberry

Lwaxana Troi died yesterday.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry and Gene Roddenberry

Majel Barrett who played Lwaxana Troi, on Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST: TNG),  died yesterday at the age of 76, from Leukemia.  If you care, and you want to read up on it, I’m sure you can find any number of stories about her and about her death (not to mention her life) on the internet today.  But what really bothers me, aside from the obvious sadness that goes with any loss of human life, is what this means for Star Trek.

The wife of Gene Roddenberry, who created Star Trek, Barrettt is one of the few actors who has been in every version of Star Trek ever to exist.  Most notably, she has provided the voice of the Federation Computer systems in every show (except Enterprise – I think) since the first Star Trek movie.  She is a Star Trek icon and things will never be the same.

Star Trek: The Original Series

I remember being a young boy in the ’80s, lying on my mother’s bed on Saturday afternoons, watching the original Star Trek series.  I remember thinking that this show must have been on forever.  I knew it wasn’t a current production but I honestly didn’t know the history behind it.  I didn’t know that the show was only on for three seasons.  I didn’t know that NBC canceled it after the first season and that it was brought back, only because of the outpouring of viewer objection and a letter writing campaign.  I just knew it was a fun show to watch and I liked Captain Kirk.  It’s funny how things change because in later years while watching The Next Generation, I remember reflecting on the original series as not being that great and thinking that the acting and the stories were lame and not liking Captain Kirk all that much.  For years, I have reflected on the original series as being hokey, and William Shatner as being a ridiculous caricature of a man.  His speech patterns and over-acting leave a lot to be desired, even now.  As Denny Crane on Boston Legal, he could only be laughed at for being such a buffoon.  But not long ago I watched a few digitized episodes of Star Trek:  The Original Series (ST: TOS), on HD Net.  I was quite surprised to see that I actually found Captain Kirk quite attractive, in his youth.

I have loved Star Trek for as long as I can remember.  Even when I did not like it, I loved it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

After those original series episodes became harder to find, I forgot, to some extent that Star Trek existed, outside of the movies and then one day my family was visiting another family and the kids were watching this new Star Trek series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation“.  I was roughly 12 years old and I thought it was really dumb.  More importantly, I thought it would never work, “There can’t be a Klingon on a Starfleet ship” we said.  And honestly, if you watch that first season or two, you’ll see that it was pretty hokey.  But then the show caught on and, I’m sure, got more money and it started really improving until it became one of my favorites and a can’t miss show.

About five years in, a new series was introduced, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (ST: DS9).  Being the natural born skeptic that I am I had a hard time imagining how a show about a space station could fit the Star Trek mold, but they made it work and ST: DS9 was another favorite, not to be missed show.  When ST: TNG went off the air two seasons later, I was disappointed.  It was, and remains to be, my personal favorite incarnation of the Star Trek Universe.  My disappointment that the show was ending, as All Good Things… must, was tempered only by the immediate announcement that there would be a ST: TNG movie coming out the following year.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9

Voyager

Star Trek: Voyager

ST: TNG ended in May, 1994 and in January, 1995 the third, and to date, final “Next Generation” series, Star Trek: Voyager (ST: V) premiered.  Again, I was skeptical.  The ship was flung to the far side of the galaxy which means, none of the usual alien species would appear.  The hoke potential was considerably higher as a result, however, it turned out to be really well done.  This series debuted at a time in my life when things were really rough and I was very unhappy in my circumstances.  ST: V provided me with just a little taste of what “normal” was like for me, a taste of my life before I moved to Dead Beat Dad’s house and before my fiancé cheated on, and then broke up with me.  ST: DS9 ended in 1999 and then ST: V ended in May, 2001.

Enterprise

Star Trek: Enterprise

When I heard that there would be a new Star Trek series in September 2001, I was happy.  As far as I was concerned (and still am) there should always be a Star Trek series in production.  And then I heard that Enterprise (later known as Star Trek: Enterprise) (ST: E) was going to be a prequel.  That it was going to take place before the time of ST: TOS and I was really disappointed.  ST: TOS was created in the 1960s and the technology was far inferior to what we have today.  I felt that taking us back in time was a bad idea.  After we became accustomed to all the “modern technology” of that futuristic existence, how could they expect us to be interested in a show with switches and dials (instead of the touch screens of the TNG era) and how could they expect us to believe a “prehistoric” iteration of the show if it used the touch screen technology to which we were accustomed.  But it was a Star Trek series and of course I watched it.

I found ST: E disappointing.  They made some valiant attempts to keep the fans engaged.  The set designs and the technology of the times were actually successful, in my mind, though not as interesting because they weren’t so advanced as the serieses (seri?) that took place a couple hundred years later.  The show was fine for what it was, but it wasn’t a great Star Trek series.  Eventually, there was another television show that I wanted to watch that was opposite ST: E and I chose the other show.   (I wasn’t a proud owner of a TiVo or DVR yet.)

Enterprise ended in May, 2005 and for the first time in 18 years there would be no new Star Trek on television.  That is a void which still has yet to be filled in my heart.  Heroes makes an effort.  It’s an excellent SciFi show (though it’s quality is waning) and they keep bringing in actors from the Star Trek Universe (although it’s been original series actors only until this weeks episode with Michael Dorn) but it is no substitute.

Enterprise

Conner Trinneer, Commander Charles (Trip) Tucker III, on Star Trek: Enterprise

Recently I re-watched Enterprise on HD Net.  I had the opportunity to watch the entire series from beginning to end and was surprised to find that I liked it quite a bit.  I don’t know if I was just nostalgic for the good ole days of yore, of if the show really was that good and I just didn’t see it then, but I found the show very interesting and compelling and the two characters that once annoyed me, Hoshi and T’Pol, were now far more intriguing and appealing.  Of course with my new found certainty in my sexuality, I wasn’t afraid to admit that Trip (Conner Trinneer) was pretty fine to look at, as well.

The death of Majel Barrett, to me, solidifies the end of an era.  The Star Trek Universe has been slowly imploding ever since the 1991 death of creator Gene Roddenberry, when Rick Berman took over as head Trekker.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have loved the vast majority of the Star Trek Universe, but I have noticed on several occasions that Berman has not held true to Roddenberry’s concept.

It seems to me that Gene Roddenberry envisioned a show that would parallel the real world…the times we lived in, but with an optimistic, positive spin.  The Original Series so closely represented our nation in the time of the cold war, while simultaneously offering hope of a brighter tomorrow.  In my opinion, Star Trek was about hope, and faith, and peace.  Captain Kirk was a very physical man and often came to fisticuffs with the alien species du jur, but he was never the aggressor.  Violence was never the solution, it was the last resort.  Before Star Trek: Generations was released in theaters there was much discussion of the different temperaments between Captain Kirk and Captain Piccard.  Some speculation suggested there would be a physical altercation between the two men and whether Captain Piccard, he of the peaceful nature, could hold his own against, Captain Kirk.  In the end I think we saw that when pushed, Captain Piccard can hold his own against a good number of people.  But first and foremost these were both peaceful men.

Voyager

Species 8472 from Star Trek: Voyager

Gene Roddenberry once stated that all the aliens in the Star Trek universe would be humanoid, bi-peds.  Of course, this was at least in part due to technological constraints regarding special effects.  In the 1960s it would have been much more difficult and much more costly, not to have the aliens played by actors in costumes and make-up and certainly in the 1990s and 2000s sufficient advancements had been made to make it possible for producers of the shows to use CGI technology to include other types of aliens besides humanoid bi-peds.  Nonetheless, Gene Roddenberry, made the declaration that aliens in the Star Trek universe would always be bi-pedal, humanoids.  So when, in ST: V they introduced “Species 8472”, I was bothered by the disregard for his preference.  Fortunately, Species 8472 had very few appearances on this show and therefore didn’t impact the entire thing.

Star Trek:  Enterprise, started out innocuously enough.  It was “just another” Star Trek series and I enjoyed it for what it was, but many viewers lost interest fairly quickly, and by the end of the second season, there was talk of cancellation.  I guess Paramount, who owns the Star Trek Franchise, and UPN, the now defunct network that aired it, wanted to give it one more shot.  The final episode of the second season, starts with an alien probe dropping out of subspace in orbit of earth and firing on the planet cutting a swath from Florida to Venezuela and in the process killing seven million humans, among them the younger sister of Commander Charles (Trip) Tucker , Chief Engineer.

In that moment the entire series changed and grew dark.  The ship and her crew were no longer on a mission of exploration and diplomacy.  They were out to find the bastards who attacked earth and stop them before they returned.

Enterprise

Xindi, Aquatic Species, from Star Trek: Enterprise

Enterprise

Xindi, Insectoid Species, from Star Trek: Enterprise

The weapon that had fired on earth was but a test, and the next one, would destroy the planet.  The race responsible for the attack was called the Xindi (pronounced ZEN-dee) and they were made up of five species.  Three of those species were traditional, bi-pedal, humanoids.  Two of them were not.  The Aquatics and the Insectoids were CGI and made semi-regular appearances on the show. For me, this detracted greatly as it seemed a blatant slap in the face of Gene Roddenberry’s original intent.

Star Trek:  Enterprise also had very little to offer in the way of positivity and optimism.  Captain Archer became dark and volatile after the attack on Earth (not that I don’t think that a reasonable response.)  As I’m writing this I’m realizing that the story then more closely paralleled our times with the attacks of September 11, 2001, and our desire to see the attackers brought to justice, but where the original series paralleled something that was an on-going (I imagine, though I’m too young to know) threat with no real result, September 11th was a very real attack, with real destruction and real death, and in my opinion, it was very uncomfortable to watch this sort of parallelism.

With the exception of the occasional nod in the TNG films, the other TNG series, DS9 and Voyager, were not deemed film worthy.  Yes, The Doctor from ST: V makes an appearance in Star Trek:  First Contact, and a post-Voyager “Admiral” Janeway, gives Captain Piccard his marching orders in Star Trek: Nemesis, but beyond that those other series might well have never existed as far as the Star Trek Film culture is concerned.

The presumed final Next Generation feature film, Star Trek: Nemesis came out in December, 2002 and while this film included, what appeared to be a lot of finality:  Will and Deana finally got married; Will finally accepted a promotion and his own command, leaving the USS Enterprise; and of course the sacrificial death of Lt. Commander Data, we are left slightly hopeful by the idea that Data’s predecessor, the “cleverly” named B-4, shows signs of being able to learn and make use of Data’s downloaded memory engrams.

Six years later, I’m less hopeful of an additional installment.

Cast of the new Star Trek Movie, due out May, 2009

Cast of the new Star Trek Movie, due out May, 2009

There is another Star Trek movie on the horizon, and while it doesn’t go back as far in history as Star Trek:  Enterprise did, it is still what you’d call a prequel and I’m not really sure why we’re doing it.  This movie will be about James Kirk and his crew in their younger, academy or possibly immediately post-academy days.  I watched a trailer for it the other day and I must say that, as an incarnation of Star Trek, I’m not impressed.  It’s dark and ominous and it doesn’t visually fit the Star Trek motif.  And with the comparatively dismal performance of the last attempt at a prequel, I’m really not sure what we’re hoping for here.  Are they expecting a resurgence of interest with the hopes of starting a whole new theatrical franchise or are they trying to squeeze one final drop of monetary blood out of a dying targ?  If this film flops will this be the end of the Star Trek legacy?  And if it doesn’t flop, then what?

It’s a Star Trek movie, and I will go see it, but a part of me can’t help wondering, shouldn’t we leave well enough alone?  If it must eventually end, and it must eventually end, can’t we let it end with dignity?  Do we have to squeeze and squeeze until we’ve gotten all the quality material out and then keep squeezing to get all the junk out too?  Might we be better off leaving well enough alone?

Earlier this year, Star Trek: The Experience, an all Star Trek themed exhibit at the Las Vegas Hilton ended its nearly eleven year run, an event which made me very sad at it’s closing and, simultaneously happy that I got the opportunity to see it myself.

The Experience, Las Vegas Hilton

Star Trek: The Experience, Las Vegas Hilton

I was never particularly fond of Lwaxana Troi, and I don’t know anything of Majel Barrett besides her Star Trek work.  As for the computer, she was just the voice and of course that’s easily explained away, if not merely replicated.  And yet some how, I have been truly moved by this.  I’m surprised by how sad this makes me, but it does.

With Gene Roddenberry’s death in 1991 the helm changed hands and things started changing.  Today with the announcement of the death of Majel Barrett, I just feel like, on some level, Star Trek has died with her.  Gene Roddenberry is gone.  Scotty is dead.  Dr. McCoy is dead.  William Shatner doesn’t want to play anymore.  Data is dead.  Will and Deana have jumped ship, so to speak.  Star Trek:  The Experience is gone.  And now, the voice of the computer is gone as well.

Lwaxana Troi died yesterday.  And, I think maybe, Star Trek died too.

Man, Will I Be Glad When This Day Is Over

I hate Thanksgiving.  I always have.  I have virtually nothing but bad memories of Thanksgivings past.  I do not eat traditional Thanksgiving food for the most part, and I grew up in a Christian (Read: NO BOOZE) family so there was nothing to “numb the senses” or “dull the pain.”

I rarely spent Thanksgiving with Dead Beat Dad, and I was never really unhappy about that because the traditional meal at his house was something he learned about when he was a boy and Papa was working for Billy Graham and traveling the world.  I don’t actually know if it’s the official name for it but Dead Beat Dad always referred to it as African Chop but looks nothing like this. No, African Chop in the Dead Beat Dad house is some strange concoction of foods that amounts to a plate of white rice with a thick gravy composed of shredded chicken, chicken stock and peanut butter (yes you read that right) poured over it.  there was also a sickening array of items to top the plate off.  Everything from chopped, raw fresh fruits and vegetables to multiple kinds of nuts and toasted or raw shredded coconut.  Honest to God, I feel like I could barf just describing it and I don’t think I’ve had it in over 20 years.

Thanksgiving at Scornful Mother‘s house wasn’t a whole hell of a lot better.  She always thought that Thanksgiving should be the traditional meal, which I understand but since I don’t really care for any of the food it wasn’t really all that much better.  What it was, for me at least, was an extended week-end of concentrated time with an unhappy family.  Even Ex Con Older Brother who pretty much lived in his bedroom and hated the rest of us would “come out and play”, which to him, usually meant tormenting me.  There would be little or no food to be had for most of the day while Scornful Mother “slaved away” in the kitchen for the big meal which would come around 4:00.

This was a really brilliant strategy on Scornful Mother‘s part as the tradition always started with Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast…and only Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  So she’d feed us sugary carbs for breakfast and then expect us to not complain about being hungry and not fight amongst ourselves while she cooked all day and didn’t feed us for six to eight hours.  Then she’d feed us Turkey with Stuffing.  I don’t like Turkey, but I love stuffing (More straight carbs.)  There would be jellied Cranberries out of a can, yuck, yams, double yuck; green bean casserole, yuck and yuck (I don’t like green beans, on their own or in a casserole); and rolls or cornbread, I enjoy those, but again, carbs.  The only thing that I consistently love about Thanksgiving is the Pumpkin Pie.  And if you’re like me, you like a little bit of pumpkin pie with your Cool Whip.  And then as if all this weren’t bad enough, Scornful Mother always used the enormous amount of left overs as an excuse to not make real meals for the rest of the week-end.

The only part of this day that has ever held any kind of appeal to me, beisdes the pumpkin pie, is the cinnamon roll breakfast and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  So you can imagine my surprise, this morning, when I was sitting in my cold apartment, with my blanket over me watching the parade and eating my pan of cinnamon rolls, when I suddenly found myself fighting back tears.  I can’t really explain what happened other than to say that I’m going through a lot of changes in my life and my emotions are starting to rise to the surface a bit more.  It’s not really that I miss my family because I really don’t.  I wish I was able to spend a little more time with CPA Sis and her family, but I’m not really that bothered that about it either.  I do not miss spending time with Dead Beat Dad or Scornful Mother and I know that spending time with any of them on occasions such as this only serve to make family relations more tense.  I definitely do not miss those events.

I guess the tears came from the rush of familiarity.  For a moment I could imagine myself, nine years old, sitting on the floor in front of the television watching the parade and knowing the cinnamon rolls were in the oven.  I could smell them baking and I could imagine what they were going to taste like, and since the only time Scornful Mother ever made them was Thanksgiving and Christmas days, it was special to me.  I used to love to get up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I don’t know why.  It’s cheesy and the hosts, always the Today Show hosts as I recall, delivered line after corn-ball line about the floats and acts in the parade.  I don’t know what I thought was going to happen but I always watched with excitement and expectation, of what, I do not know.  No one else ever had an interest in the parade but Scornful Mother always made CPA Sis and Ex Con Older Brother leave me alone and let me watch it.  I was still young and naive enough to think that this was going to be a special day, but in reality, I only had until noon, when the parade was over, before the hellishness would really set in.

Watching the parade this morning I realized what ludicrous propagandizing it really is.  It really amounts to a three hour sales pitch for TV shows, and musicians new CDs, etc., interspersed with poorly written comic lines delivered by decidedly unfunny MCs.    Soon I was in sugar shock (living alone there was no one to help eat the cinnamon rolls), over the nostalgia of the moment and the tears were gone.  Gone, but not forgotten.

CPA Sis, Mr. Fixit and Precious Nieces #1 & #2, are visiting Scornful Mother for the holiday and while Mr. Fixit does some more renovations of Scornful Mother‘s house.  Last night I received an e-mail from CPA Sis:

Tomorrow should be interesting.  I had a nice little fight with Scornful Mother this evening.  It’s a fairly long story.  Suffice it to say that Scornful Mother thinks we don’t communicate well enough with her and Mr. Fixit thinks she is judgmental and ungrateful and incapable of accepting any responsibility for problems and I think they both are being difficult and intolerant children. Mr. Fixit is ready to leave and never come back.  I am not far from the same position, but where would we go?  We can’t all stay at Mr. Fixit‘s parents’ apartment for the next 5 or 6 days.  Not to mention the fact that that leaves her with a house that still is unfinished-not that she has the money to finish it.  I really hate feeling like I have to be responsible!

Anyway, I need to get back to Precious Nieces #1 & #2.  I just needed to vent for a few minutes.

Man am I glad I’m not there.  Scornful Mother asked me to come back for Thanksgiving and I declined.  Definitely the right choice.

Despite my lack of desire to spend this time with my family, I can’t help but remember that it is a holiday on which families come together.  It’s a Thursday on which I feel perfectly healthy and I’m not at work, reminds me it’s a holiday.  It’s a Thursday and my otherwise bustling and noisy neighborhood is virtually silent, reminding me that all the people who are normally outside my house making the noise, have gone away or gathered in-doors, to celebrate the day and spend time together.

I receive only one invitation, each year, and it’s to join Green M&M and her family.  When I first moved to California, I accepted this invitation a few times, but I never really enjoyed myself.  It’s a noisy and chaotic environment which I really do not enjoy, and I don’t particularly care for a number of the family members that gather, so now I decline the offer.  Come to think of it, the offer wasn’t even extended this year.  Green M&M knows I’ll decline, so I guess she figures, why bother?

At times like these, I often think about the TV show Friends.  I loved that show.  Six individuals who are friends, with no readily accessible family to speak of (except of course for Ross and Monica) who make a family of themselves and spending the holiday together.  I, of course, would be the Chandler of the group, (doesn’t like thanksgiving food…  oh, and gay) but I would really like to have a handful of close knit friends who view each other as family and who actually enjoy spending these times together.  I’d like to have somewhere to go on days like today where I don’t have to feel like I’m intruding on some other families day, and where I’m not burdened by my own family.  At the vary least, I’d like to be able to feel like I’m alone today, because I chose to be, not because I have to be.

I’ll be glad when this day is over, largely so I won’t have to deal with all of this any more, but even more so because there is one, truly wonderful thing, that I absolutely love about Thanksgiving.  If today is Thanksgiving, then tomorrow is the day I get to spend with Eve, and that, dear blog readers, is what I am the most thankful for!

Batman’s Beginning

Until now, I’ve always made my closest friends in my workplace.  This goes back as far as I can remember.  Even to my senior year in high school when I worked at the grocery store that was in Scornful Mother‘s back yard.

I met Batman while working as a cashier at Price Mart (since bought out.)  He was a bagger.  He was handsome.  A few inches shorter than I, with sandy blond hair and a tan complexion.  He worked out and it showed.  He always wore the long sleeves of his white button down, oxford shirts rolled up to above his large, hard biceps.  He wore a perpetual, goofy grin on his face and he was completely endearing to everyone who ever met him.   I was instantly enthralled with his good looks and great attitude.

In addition to Batman, my friend who I have referred to on this blog as RNJ also worked at the Price Mart.  At the time, I believed I had feelings for RNJ but she had no interest in me.  The two of us were in choir together in school and had grown a friendship there.  She was, by far your traditional cowgirl with a rebellion just waiting to come out.  For a brief time, we were like the Three Musketeers.

RNJ and Batman flirted back and forth relentlessly while I looked on with despair and desperation.  I wanted to be loved.  I wanted to have a relationship with someone like these two had.  Batman was RNJ‘s prom date.  I went to dinner with the two of them and a platonic date, but because I was under 18 and Scornful Mother wouldn’t give her permission for me to go to Prom I didn’t attend.  (A story for another time)   I spent the entire evening lying on my platonic date’s parents’ bed watching Homefront and waiting for Batman and RNJ to come back and pick us up again.

Not long after graduation, RNJ entered a rebellious phase and she dumped Batman.  He and I had become friends though, or at least I thought so.  Looking back I realized that, at that time at least, Batman was the kind of guy who thought of nothing but you…  while you were in front of him.  But as soon as you left his sight, he promptly forgot about you.  Anyway, we were friends for a time over the summer.  I was out of school and probably held some appeal in that regard.  He was popular, funny, good looking and had no shortage of self confidence.  I really enjoyed being his friend.

One Summer, afternoon while at work, Batman invited me to come over to his house after we both go off work and spend the night.  His parents had this big, beautiful house with a kidney shaped pool in the back yard.  We stayed up half the night talking about all kinds of things, chief among them, RNJ, of course.  Batman deduced that I had feelings for her, and even though I flatly denied it, it seemed clear that there was something to what he was saying.  Certainly I had some affection for her, but there seemed more to the story.

We spent the next morning lying out next to the pool while he told me of all of his sexual escapades, of which there were many.  The part of my brain that was under Scornful Mother‘s programming was, well, scornful, of his behavior.  The larger part of my brain though, was enthralled.  I was impressed with his apparent prowess.  I was jealous of his nerve and adventurousness.  I was envious of his experience.  And I was glad that we were sprawled out on our stomach’s and he couldn’t see what was happening in my swimming trunks thinking about him in the various sexual endeavors he described.  Even then I couldn’t really accept what that might mean.

I decided a the last minute to go off to college in the fall and we didn’t have any interaction for several months and when I returned at the end of the semester, I had a wrecked car to pay for, a job to work full-time and before long a fiance to connect with (another story for another time.)  Batman had his senior year in high school, an untold number of girlfriends and a very emotionally – if not physically – abusive home life to contend with.  (Something I didn’t know about until years later.)  We grew apart during that time.

That October, I took Dead Beat Dad up on an offer to come live with him for a time while I earned money to buy a car and have more freedom and independence for when I got married the following year.  Batman joined the military, almost as soon as he graduated from high school and that seemed to be the end of our relationship.

I stayed at Dead Beat Dad‘s house for nine months, during which time, my fiance took up with my so-called best friend, started going partying at clubs on a regular basis, cheated on me with an unspecified number of men, broke up with me and got engaged to another man.  All this, while I was out of town on a mission we agreed was important to undertake for the betterment of our future together.  Not two weeks after I returned to Oklahoma, she married another man who she left six months later, just to take up with her boss and get pregnant with his child.

I lived in Oklahoma for six months that time before I got promoted to Store Manager and moved away again.  I was gone from The Town Named for Damaged Native American Weaponry for about nine months before I decided I couldn’t continue in my career path and I gave up my position to move back in with Scornful Mother and give school another try.  School never did work out but I’d been thinking about Batman a lot at that point, wondering what ever happened to him and missing our friendship.  So when I returned to TTNFDNAW I looked him up.  I was anxious about calling him.  What if he didn’t want to reconnect with me?  What if he was still cooler than I and didn’t want to have anything to do with me?  What if this person in the phone book, with his name, wasn’t even the same guy?

I sent him a letter saying if he was the same guy and he wanted to reconnect that he should give me a call at Scornful Mother‘s house.  A week later, he called and my heart danced in my chest!  He wanted to get together for lunch the following week.  He was working for an earlier incarnation of The Soul Crushing Telecom Company and invited me to come out for a tour of the site and lunch at a local eatery.  Naturally, I agreed.

I was sitting in the main lobby of the company campus waiting for him to come and greet me when I saw something I couldn’t believe.  Off in the distance I saw something that vaguely represented my friend known as Batman but was more reminiscent of The Penguin.  It turned out that, when Mrs. Batman got pregnant with Bat Baby they decided they were ready to exit Military Service.  Apparently, that was relatively easy for Mrs. Batman to accomplish, but Batman would have to be a bit creative.  Batman immediately stopped exercising and started over eating.  When it came time for his PT (Physical Tests) he was no longer able to pass them, and he was given an honorable discharge.

After filling me in on the years I had missed in his life; his marriage and recent birth of his six week old Bat-daughter, he told me about The Company and how they were always hiring.  He told me about their benefits.  I’ll never forget the moment he pushed his glasses up his nose and told me, “They offer really good Obstetrics coverage.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.  “I’m sure that came in handy for you, but I’d settle for some decent optometry coverage.”

Batman explained to me how they hire through a temp agency and how I should go there and register.  He’d put in a word for me with the hiring manager and get me in for an interview.  The rest of the story is fairly obvious.  I interviewed for a trainee position through the temp agency and was offered the slot.  I wouldn’t be hired permanently by the company till I finished the training program and proved I could handled the job.  I wasn’t concerned.

When I got the call that they were going to bring me in I called Batman to share the good news.  He was excited for me, and very encouraging.  And then he dropped the bomb.  “Unfortunately, I won’t still be there,” he said.  “Mrs. Batman and I are moving to California.”

Batman‘s entire family had moved away, and in fact he’d been renting and living in his parents house that he lived in during high School, the last of his multi-syllabic named clan in town.  Mrs. Batman’s mother lived in Turlock, California and she operated a day care center out of her home.  She’d made an offer to have them move in with her.  Bat-baby would stay in the day care while Batman would go work and Mrs. Batman would go to Dental Hygienist school while they concentrated on paying off their debt so they could buy a house.  I was, of course really disappointed that he was leaving after we’d reconnected, but what could I do.  I offered my support and encouragement and offered any help I could provide.  The week before I started the training program I helped him load a 26′ Penske truck with everything they owned in preparation for their cross half the country trip to Turlock, California. The night before they left town, after I’d helped load the last of their belongings in the truck and left them for the last time, I sobbed in my bed as I thought about what I’d gained and immediately lost again.

By the time I finished training, Batman had gotten hired and was fully established in a position with the same company, but in the San Jose, California office and he e-mailed me to keep in touch.  To keep a long story short, he helped me get my foot in the door with The Soul Crushing Telecom Company in the Bay Area.  That October, I flew to California for a week where I interviewed with Batman‘s boss and looked at a few apartments in the area.  It was at this time that the offer was extended for me to come to California and stay with Batman et. al., even if it wasn’t for the the position with TSCTC.

I chose not to accept the full time position that I was offered in Oklahoma because company policy would have prohibited me from being hired in California, even if I had quit the job in Oklahoma to move and accept the new position.  Little did I know it would take four more months for anything to happen.  Finally, in March of the following year, I was giving a verbal offer of employment and I quit my temp job and moved to California to stay with my “new family” and get started with the rest of my life.

While I was on my own half-cross-country drive from The Town Named for Damaged Native American Weaponry, The Soul Crushing Telecom Company announced that they had just bought out another local telecommunications company and that they were instituting a hiring freeze until all that companies employees had been assimilated into the population.  I was concerned, but mostly just happy to be moving to California (a dream I didn’t know I had, coming true) and to be living with my good friend.

It is a little known fact that there are three factors in life that tend to trigger depression in just about anyone.  1) Marriage, Divorce or A Death in the Family, 2) Career Change or 3) Major Relocation.  I had two of the three working against me, plus being already predisposed to depression, plus, as it turned out the Bat-Mother-in-Law was determined to come between Batman and his wife and was happy to use me to make that happen.

I lived with the Bat Brood for four long, hard months.  It was horrible for me, feeling like an outsider and seeing that my relationship with Batman was quickly slipping away.  When all was said and done I can only congratulate Batman for standing up to the Bat-Mother-in-Law and not letting her come between him and the Bat-wife, but it was at my expense.

By the time it was over, there was nothing left of my friendship with Batman.  He did make a few attempts here and there to remain friends but I couldn’t get beyond the fact that he had put his wife and her mother ahead of me, when they were doing such evil things to run me out.  (The Bat-wife got snookered, at least for a time, by the Bat-Mother-in-Law.)  Soon, his attempts to continue our friendship gave out and we stopped communicating.

In the summer of 2001, I was contemplating the idea of joining the California National Guard.  I was sick of my life (not unlike I am now) and I desperately needed to do something to make a change and to take control.  I was sick of my body, sick of my mind and sick of having my life.  I thought joining the CNG would 1) whip me into shape, 2) Help me find myself and 3) change my entire existence for the better.  I had no interest in going oversees or going into battle, but I was interested in getting the training and willing to take the risk of being involved in some disaster relief efforts, or God forbid, some police actions.  At one point I had a meeting with a recruiter and was seriously giving it some consideration but thought I should get some information from someone who knew stuff.  I sent an e-mail to Batman asking him to meet me for lunch so I could get some information from him.  He agreed to meet me and I drove to Stockton, California where he was working to meet up for lunch.  I sat in the parking lot waiting for him.  About ten minutes after I arrived, he came down the sidewalk in my direction.  He was just a sliver of who he had been the last time I saw him….  and he looked awesome!

He told me everything I wanted to know about being in Boot Camp/Basic Training and what he thought I’d be getting myself into.  I told him that I apologized for my part in all the hurt that happened when I lived with him and his family.  That I was struggling emotionally and the turmoil was just too much for me, but that it’s no excuse.  We said we’d keep in touch, and continue to work on our friendship and neither of us has made an effort to contact the other since.  And a few weeks later, some psychopaths flew two commercial airplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  I knew we would be going to war, and while I was as enraged as the next American at the events of that day, I knew I could not go to Afghanistan, or Iraq, or any of the other countries and fight a war that I felt had no purpose.  And I knew if I signed any enlistment papers, I would be doing just that.

My life has gone on since then, without Batman and without the military but not without it’s price.  I still think about him and about the friendship I lost.  I still think about how great he looked that day lying by the pool, and about how confident he was, everyday, even as a fat man, and how sexy that made him.  And I still miss that friendship.

About a year ago, I had a dream about Batman and the Mrs…

Part two of this story will follow in the next day or two.