Friday, July 18, 2003

Gone Fishin'

Be back in August.

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A Geek's Answer

It was the end of the day. We were chatting in his office after the work was done. It was time to go, but neither of us did.

You got any hobbies, he asked.

We had just met and were getting to know each other. It was inevitable that he'd ask the question eventually.

Hobbies. I've never had any hobbies. Oh, maybe a bit of stamp collecting. Or maybe a brief attempt at square foot gardening. The fact of the matter is, I've never had a good answer to this question.

This time, however, I had an answer.

Weblogs, I blurted out without even thinking.

And then I thought, What kind of lame hobby is that?

What is this guy with a house in the woods that he's building himself going to make of some guy who calls weblogs his hobby.

And I proceeded to talk his ear off.

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 Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Driving to Houston

He had borrowed a friend's Gameboy (a new, blue SP) for the ride to Columbus. It wasn't long after we left that the conversation fell off, and he began playing.

You have to leave it in the car, I said, looking over at the blue box in his lap that had so quickly absorbed all his attention. You can't take it to their house.

Ok, he said without looking up.


As you and I were saying hellos and goodbyes in the parking lot there in Columbus, he had a slight look of panic on his face. He leaned towards me and whispered in my ear with a silly grin on his face.

Dad... I only have this book for the drive to Houston. (He held up a paperback that was plenty thick.)

What he really meant of course was, Dad... I thought Jack was going to be here, too. Now I won't have anything to do in the car. Now I really DO need that Gameboy. Can I? PLEASE?

That's what he meant. He didn't have to say it. Without breaking our hellos and goodbyes, I glanced over at him with that grin on his face and smiled and shook my head at mouthed, "No." He nodded, acknowledging what he knew to be the inevitable answer.

So when you say that the ride back with him was great, when you talk about talking with him as the golden sun of early evening hit the hay bails in the fields and the llamas stood by the highway and a crested caracara flew overhead, when you say that his insights are good for a kid his age, I can only breathe a sigh of relief that I had the good sense to keep that machine in my car!

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 Sunday, July 13, 2003

When The Mailman Came By

She stood in the driveway in the shade as Saturday morning unfolded. She was talking to her mother, introducing her to a neighbor from across the street who had come to tell them that the city was about to turn the water off.

The three of them stood there in the shade while the workers dug in the dirt up the street and chain saws buzzed in the treetops two houses down and dogs all around barked at all the commotion.

And the mailman came by.

He stopped and hopped out of his truck and brought her her mail. He held it out. The three of them stopped speaking.

Are you going to check your mail, or what? he asked.

There was a moment of silence.

Yes, she said meekly,but I don't get much mail.

Well that's because I have to take it back, he quipped, walking to her mailbox at the curb.

Look. It's full. And this stuff is eight days old. I've taken to marking the date on the letters.

He walked back to his van.

But then I'm just the mailman, he said and sped away.

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 Saturday, July 12, 2003

What Am I Doing Here!?

I'm standing around looking at them. Most of them have meticulously chosen apparel. All of them have running watches, which they start and stop even on their training runs. And some wear heart monitors.

I'm standing there looking at them thinking, What am I doing here!?

And the coach on the steps in front of us says, I know you are all type-A's. Distance runners are just that way.

I look down at my dirty shoes and faded shorts and stained running shirt from a race in '97 and then look back up at the coach. And I look down at my bare arm, and I picture my Ironman running watch sitting on the dresser back home.

And I know that you're all nervous that we're changing our training plan.

I look around to see grim faces staring at him. And I'm standing there still thinking, What am I doing here!?

But they sure are fun to run with.

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 Friday, July 11, 2003


A water main broke on the street today.

I've been watering and watering, Trudy said when I got home, bucket in hand, sweat on her brow, gazing wistfully at the clear running stream running past our yard, gesturing to the satisfied bushes and flowers in the yard.

It's kind of like waterfront property. Too bad we don't have a pump.

And we look at the thirsty bushes down the hill by the house and then over at the hoses lying idle in the grass.

We take those hoses and connect them together. We lay them in the water and watch bubbles run out of the downstream end. And I put my thumb over the end when the air bubbles stop and slowly walk with the hose from the curb down the hill past the bushes[*] around the corner past blooming crepe myrtle thru the gate into the backyard. And we lay the hose down in the grass, where the water resumes its flow, where it will flow all night long.

We had a pump after all.

[*] The bushes aren't as thirsty as the pine tree in the back.

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 Wednesday, July 9, 2003

On the Back Porch

Oh these cats, the woman said. They're everywhere!

Her daughter quietly listened from 200 miles away.

They're driving me nuts. There's three little ones on the back porch.

The daughter continued listening. She probably pictured the back porch in her mind. She had gone up those steps and in and out of that door many times.

I don't know where they came from, the mother continued.

Wait, the daughter must have thought. There has hardly been a lack of cats on that porch in recent years, and we all know where little ones come from, don't we? She must have thought something like that.

Then the mother added, They're pretty cute, though.

They probably both had a good laugh.

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 Monday, July 7, 2003

Cindy's Father

Years ago, when going out to eat on the other side of town was a rare treat, and when going for a drive in the country was something families did for the plain enjoyment of it, my brother and I used to ask our parents to drop in on friends on the drive back home.

Sitting in the back seat, more often bouncing in the back seat, we would beg and plead and sometimes succeed in getting them to drive over to some friend's house and knock on their door and visit for a while. Uninvited, as I remember it. (Those were different times.)

One of the places we loved to go was Cindy's house, which was really three houses in three different places over the years. Her parents and ours were good friends, and so were we kids when we were young.

Cindy had a clubhouse in her basement, which seemed to me just about the coolest toy a kid could ever have. Perhaps it is crass to measure love by a toy. But in the eyes of this child, a clubhouse of her own in the basement was all the proof I needed of how much her father and mother loved Cindy.

Cindy's father died today. It was the end of a long, difficult trial for them all. Cindy's little boy, Nicholas, lost his grandfather.

Nicolas was very fond of his grandfather, my mother told me today.

I remember Cindy's dad's voice and his smile, and (crass or not) I remember that clubhouse in their basement, and I am not surprised that Nicolas loved him.

He will be dearly missed.

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 Sunday, July 6, 2003

A Spider on the Wall

Standing in the shower with the hot water beating on my back, I felt a presence behind me: eyes watching my every move. Slowly I turned...

Behind me against the wall, behind me on the wall, an eight legged stranger looked at me. With the hot water still beating down, I stood watching it. It watched me back. I turned back around and continued my shower.

Then I reached for the shampoo on the tray on the wall where the spider was. As I turned, the spider lept into the space between us. Suspended from an invisible thread, it tumbled violently downward as it passed thru the streaming water.

I stepped back and watched.

For a moment, it hung from its thread -- gathering its wits, I supposed. It hung there, and then gradually began descending. Descending to what? The bottom of the tub was filled with water racing to the drain. Still, the spider lowered itself and eventually landed in the water at my feet.

I stepped back and watched.

As it hit bottom, it curled into a ball -- so better to float, I supposed. And float it did, in the swirling water, going 'round in spirals approaching the drain. Once around. Twice around. And then the spider was gone.

I stepped forward and finished shampooing my hair.

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 Saturday, July 5, 2003

Norma on the Hilltop

The sky was dark. The clouds raced on a wind out of the east. The summer sun was mercifully held at bay.

At 6:00am the runners assembled, sleepy faces and stiff bodies. They gathered and listened to a few words from the coach and then turned to run. Five miles on the trail and then nine on Scenic.

Scenic Loop is scenic alright. At the top of the hill, with your heart racing and your legs aching, there's quite a good view to be had. But when you get to the top, the view is not what you're interested in. Instead, it's the cold water sitting by the road, put there an hour before by the coach making his rounds.

The runners come and go in groups. Some doing 14 miles. Some doing more. And some doing fewer. Some run fast. Some not so fast, content with the challenge of the hills. Some run in groups. But by the halfway point, many are alone.

Beyond Scenic, there's Balcones. And three long hills. The road climbs and winds under stately oaks extending their branches (and welcome shade on sunny days). At the top, where Balcones turns sharply and meets Mt. Bonnell Road, there's a blue jug of Gatorade. This is the turnaround spot. This is where you get to stop for a moment before you begin your descent and your run back home.

There at the top of the hill, by the curb, by the blue jug and paper cups, I slowed to a walk. A woman walked down from her garage to set out her recycling. She has lived there for 42 years, in that house on the hill. Seen a daughter grow up. Watching a grandson do the same.

She smiled as she limped. Her feet hurt. Her husband is very sick. Enjoy it while you can, she said.

And we talked for a while.

Thank you for letting us use your lawn, I said as I guzzled three cups of Gatorade.

You're welcome.

She slowly walked back to her garage. I turned downhill, facing into the breeze. The sky was black. The clouds were racing on a wind out of the east. And it was beginning to rain.

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 Thursday, July 3, 2003

Threatening Skies

Oh sure, rumble all you want. Turn the skies dark. Throw down a bolt of lightning or two. Knock yourself out!

I know better. It's been like this with you for some time now: 30% chance of rain, 40% chance of rain. Big rain clouds looming in the west. Rumbles. Flashes. Tantalizing drops of rain from the sky. And my rain barrels grow emptier each day.

I've seen it all. All bark. No bite. So rumble all you want. I'm not getting my hopes up.

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