KingMidget's Ramblings

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My Rugrats

My kids are 23 and 20 now. We’re having some adulting issues and complications surrounding what I’d like to see them doing and, well, their willingness to do those things.

Raising kids to become adults is a challenge these days. There are so many distractions and ways in which modern society puts roadblocks in front of responsible parenting and raising responsible children. I’ve done my best, but it’s a challenge these days. It’s not where I thought I would be when my kids got to this age.

Meanwhile …

A couple of co-workers had their first children within the last couple of months. As they and their wives have approached the birth of those new little beings, I’ve enjoyed sharing my views of the thing with them and seeing them experience the joy of a newborn. Things like this …

… the moment you hold your firstborn is unlike any moment you will ever experience again. There is a purity and a light. In that moment, you experience unconditional love at a level that cannot be matched. There really, truly is nothing that will ever match that feeling. Nothing. You realize that everything that mattered before pales in comparison to what matters now. And you also commit to the idea that you will do anything to keep this little thing you hold in your arms safe and well. Your self no longer matters. There is a different center to your universe and you are good with that. Better than good. You embrace it.

… that it’s all very difficult, exhausting and beyond your imagination of how it can be so hard. But it’s all worth it. All so incredibly worth it because.

… of the magic that ensues.

My niece has two little girls. A blogging/writing friend has two little girls. They are in the same age range. Each with a girl around or nearing four and another around or nearing two. I get to see my grand-nieces every now and then and they are the picture of cute. And both my niece and my friend share pictures of these little girls on social media and my blogging/writing friend writes such incredible pieces about her experiences with her little girls and both the trials of parenting and the incredible magic of parenting.

Because those little ones are at that age when the magic truly begins. They are talking and you can begin to see how their little brains work. They are exploring and you can begin to see what might interest them. They are arguing and dreaming and establishing their personalities and their independence … they are just so much and all of the potential the world has to offer them is before them and you can dream too. And believe in the magic.

And I miss those years. I miss the magic. I love my boys more than they will ever understand. It is a love that fills me and hurts at the same time. It is both pleasure and pain and I would not be complete without it.

my rugrats

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The Best Example

Of the divide that exists in this country.  The writers and commenters on the right wing blog I follow on a daily basis think this video is just great.

When I first heard about it, I was convinced it was fake. Although reputable news organizations were starting to report its existence, I couldn’t believe it was true.  We would soon found out this was all made up and wasn’t the mainstream media stupid for falling for it.

And then the Washington Post reported that it was shown to reporters in Singapore.  The reporters thought it was North Korean propaganda until the video was over and Trump came out and confirmed that it was produced at his request and shared with Kim Jong-Un.  So, this was real and intended to accomplish something … other than get a passing grade in a 6th grade video production class.  And the right-wing is eating it up.

Give up hope.  There’s no reason left to have any.

This Is Us — An Update

I wrote a week or two ago about This Is Us, the excellent NBC show I decided to start watching based on what I had heard about it.

Last night, we finished season one, episodes seventeen and eighteen.  The last episode was, to be honest, a bit of a dud. I get what they were doing — building up to a cliffhanger. It’s kind of like the ending of a movie where you know there will be a sequel. The ending, the drama, the ultimate event is postponed. What the final episode really was about was creating a bridge between season one and season two.

But episode seventeen? Damn. I didn’t just have the watery eyes going, I had tears down my cheeks. At least two or three times. I’m weak. I know. I’m a softie. I know. But this show is just so … over-dramatic, filled with trauma, every character has a story line fraught with peril and despair. And it continues to strike chords with me.

The kind of person I am …

A few years ago, I went backpacking with my brother. I’ve written about this trip before. It was while we were hanging out by Granite Lake, enjoying the peace and quiet, that he told me that a few times a year … he’s a diabetic … he wakes up in the middle of the night with low blood sugar. He has to eat glucose tablets or consume some other sugar to get things right, but sometimes he wakes up in the grip of the thing and can’t quite get his mind and body to work.

At the time he was married and living with his wife and step son. He told me about an incident a week previous where it happened and he tried to get his glucose without waking them but he could not get the container open so he finally screamed until his wife woke up and helped him.

He then disclosed that it happened the night before — while we slept in our respective tents. And I slept through the whole thing.

Fast forward a few years. He is divorced now and just moved to a foothill community about an hour away where he lives by himself. I called him a couple of weeks ago and asked him how it was going. “Every day is a vacation,” he replied.

So, today he had his family up for a barbecue. An incredible gathering. Our parents; my wife and I; my sister who lives five hours away, but happened to be nearby this weekend; our niece and her husband and two little girls; and his stepdaughter from his first marriage and her husband and two children. It was just an incredible opportunity to be with family.

But before that happened, I tried to get in touch with him a couple of days ago. I left a message on his landline phone. He didn’t call me back. I waited a day. On Saturday morning, I left a message on his cell phone. And waited all day.

As we sat down to watch episode seventeen of the first season of This Is Us, I had not heard from him yet. Yes, I was convinced that something had happened to him. I told the missus that we were going to leave early today so we could get to his house before anybody else did. All I could think of was what he told me on that backpacking trip and him living up there by himself with nobody to help him if he needed it.

Of course, a short time later he called. He was hiking near Tahoe. Of course he was. That is what he does. He leads a healthier, more active life as a diabetic than 99.9% of the American population.

But these are the things that I connect to in shows like This Is Us. The loss, the pain, the suffering, and the fear that something like this will happen. Episode seventeen revolves primarily around the memorial for a family member that died and it is just so painful to watch these scenes and the pain, even though I know it’s fiction and they are actors and that it is all made up, and not see it coming for me as well.

But that pain is a part of life. I’d rather feel it than run away from it.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough, but I’ll leave you with this one line from episode seventeen that hit on something else. When the mail man finds out about the individual who died, he cries as well and says that this individual would always stop and talk to him, that the neighborhood would miss him because “Nobody ever stops just to talk anymore.”

A truer line was never spoken. Stop and talk. To your neighbor. To your co-worker. To your son, your daughter, your spouse, your crazy Uncle. The barista behind the counter. Stop and talk. Connect. It’s better than the alternative.

First Albums

I have no idea what the first album was that I ever bought. But chances are it was one of the following:

  1. Boston’s first album, of More Than A Feeling, Peace of Mind, and Long Time fame. Released in 1976, when I was eleven.
  2. Queen’s Night at the Opera, of Bohemian Rhapsody fame. Released in 1975, when I was ten.
  3. Queen’s News of the World, of We Will Rock You and We are the Champions fame. Released in 1977, the day after I turned thirteen.
  4. The Eagles’ Hotel California, of title track, Life in the Fast Lane, and New Kid in Town fame. Released in 1977, when I was twelve.

I’m pretty certain it wasn’t #2 — I can’t see my mom letting me spend my money on a rock album when I was ten. But maybe a couple of years later? Maybe. Because by then, my brother who was five years older had his walls plastered with KISS posters and listened to Black Sabbath and who knows what else at full volume. And my sister was into Three Dog Night. And it was time for me to join the fray. Why fight it?

What those first albums taught me was there was so much more than what the radio stations played. That what you really heard on the radio, more or less, were songs that fit a particular formula. What you heard on albums though was what the musicians and singers and songwriters really wanted to be.

From The Prophet’s Song on A Night at the Opera through All Dead, All Dead on News of the World through … well, I can’t really give you an example from that first Boston album. Boston was what you got on the radio and what you got on the album. Perfectly engineered, guitar driven rock that never, ever strayed from its sound.

Hotel California was a bevy of these kind of songs. There were the three hits. Hotel California is an ageless wonder, the kind of song that cements its creators as legends. New Kid in Town and Life in the Fast Lane — both of which were just kind of meh to me.

But when I got the album home and tore off the plastic, slid the album out, put it on my old record player, and got through the three hits, I really learned the mystery and the magic of an album. Wasted Time and a reprise of the song that led off the second side – basically an orchestral version of the song. And then Pretty Maids All in a Row and a final song. A song that showed that what we hear on the radio is a fragment of what these performers can do. A song that was beautiful and sad and deep and inspirational and told a story was nothing like what you heard on the radio. I’ve been dipping back into this song a lot lately. There is just so much here.

Returning To The Scene Of The Crime

About fifteen years ago, I wrote a novel. It was all about a guy. You know, a guy who went and had a one night stand, regretted it, and then really regretted it when the woman accused him of rape. The motivation of the story was Kobe Bryant. Earlier in the year, he was accused of basically the same thing while he was in Denver for a basketball game.

My idea was to write a story about a run-of-the-mill guy going through the same thing, who unlike Bryant, didn’t have millions of dollars to afford the best defense attorneys. As I began to write the story, I pondered where to place it. Besides the ordinary guy theme, I also wanted to put the story in a small town.

I settled on Bridgeport, California, because of this:

bridgeport house.

The Bridgeport courthouse was built in 1880 and still serves as one of two active courthouses in Mono County. I liked the idea of an old, historic courthouse serving as the venue for the trial. And an old, grizzled judge on the bench holding Jack McGee’s fate in his hands.

I had driven through Bridgeport a number of times on my way to and from Convict Lake, where my family vacationed for a couple of summers. (Side note: if you want a quiet, beautiful mountain retreat, Convict Lake, just south of Mammoth Lakes, is a place worthy of your consideration.)

While I was writing the book, I took a “writing vacation.” I spent a few days in Bridgeport, staying at the Bridgeport Inn, walking around the small town, getting a sense of its landmarks and its history. One of the things I wanted to do is keep the story as true to the place and its history as possible. There were aspects of the town’s history that lended elements to the story that resulted.

I haven’t been back to Bridgeport since, other than a quick drive through on the way to Mammoth Lakes a few winters ago.

I’m headed back at the end of this month. It’s a solo vacation. I need some time to decompress from a lot of things. When I told the missus where I wanted to go, she told me I couldn’t because “bad things happen in Bridgeport.” I told her that it was all fiction and that “I don’t live a fictional life.”

No, there will be no one-night stands for me while I’m there. Instead, I’m going to walk the town again, take pictures of places that interest me, go for a hike in the Twin Lakes area, head to Convict Lake and kayak, stop at Mono Lake for some pictures, maybe head to Bodie for more pictures, and just be me for a few days.

I’m looking forward to it.

Who knows? Maybe something will happen that will strike the match again for me and I’ll be able to write fiction again. When I finished One Night in Bridgeport, I thought of writing two more novels about Jack McGee’s adventures. The first would follow him about seven or eight years later. He’s married and has an autistic son. While on a short hike with his son, he gets distracted and loses the boy. The second would be about another calamity in Jack’s life a few years later. I never got to those, getting distracted by other stories. Tales that are much more layered and complex than what Bridgeport was. I wonder if that’s part of my problem — I am biting off more than I can chew.

But just for the record, the possibility of inspiration is not why I’m going. I’ve pretty much given up on the idea that a moment of inspiration will crack the door open again. It’s either going to happen or it’s not.

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