The Future: A Poem

I love poetry. Somehow, it allows you to say just what you want to say and nothing more.

The Future

Would that you could see the future,

What would it be that you’d see?

A bright winter day half a year away,

Your unborn child,

Aged ten,

Up in a tree?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Would you cheer it or would it cause groans?

Would you feel the bliss of your betrothed’s impassioned  kiss

Or cry at the year’s-later scene

When  it was cancer’s choice,

Not hers,

To leave you alone?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Would your family be the one you dream of,

As if they were conjured from your mind one lonely night,

Brought to life in that moment by your very sight?

Or is family something we build piece by piece,

And the most important piece is love?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Your future self would say,

“Of course this is the future.

How could it have turned out any other way?”

 

Would that you could see the future,

Your wife and child smiling back.

“We’re waiting for you in the future, dear.

Confidence that you’ll get here?

Oh, honey, for such confidence we do not lack.

Timmy turns ten this Sunday.

He’s excited for the tree house you’ll build.

Meanwhile, your book just found a bestseller list.

Your publisher is absolutely thrilled.”

 

This last one is the future I see,

Beautiful yet incomplete.

The particulars and minutia have yet to set themselves.

But, as far as I’m concerned,

It can’t be beat.

 

I say that not knowing the truth

Of the future that will stand in its place;

Whether its hallmark will be

A warm southern breeze

Or an Alaskan night cold as ice.

No one can know the future.

Would that you could.

It comes down to chance and choice.

But I hope and pray that the true future day

Will somehow be

Just as nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What I Want For My Birthday…

Thursday will mark my 35th birthday. So now I can officially run for president! Yay! *Grin.* “I, Derek Eugene McFadden, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute…”

Everyone’s been asking me what I want for said birthday. So I thought I’d make a list. If you can make any of this happen, dear reader, whoever you are, that would be cool, and I would be forever grateful.

I would like:

-Scientists around the world to agree almost unanimously that climate change is human-made, so that we may finally go about doing something to fix it. (Wait, hasn’t that happened already? Oh, right, not the last part. The most important part.)

-For healthcare to forever and always cover those with pre-existing conditions, as I am, put bluntly, a walking pre-existing condition, and I kind of enjoy living a lot more than I’d enjoy not living. I speak for my fellow pre-existing conditioners in this belief. I was unable, after much reaearch, to find any pre-existing shampoos. *I am allowed one bad pun per blog. *

-All of my family to be happy and healthy and to be living the lives they always dreamed. That sounds simple. It. Is. Not.

-A new computer. Mine’s from 2009. It’s time for an upgrade. Just sayin’.

-To help the agent for whom I intern find that next great novel or memoir. That next great book everyone will be talking about tomorrow. And to have the author of that book know that, as far as editing and grammar and the like goes, I’ve got their back.

-To get to pet my loving Best Dog Ever again. I miss you, Scoot!

-For my Seattle Mariners to actually be relevant in the baseball world again. I don’t ask for much. I really don’t, though I fear this may be a bit too much.

-For one more phone call each with my Papa Dick and my Grandma Illene. So I can tell him about my book. He was always my first reader when I was a kid. If he thought it was good, I knew a story was good. And I can tell Grandma that it looks like her favorite show, American Idol, is on its way back! Seacrest… in? And she can tell me how she’s baking cookies in Heaven, and God Himself is a fan!

-Another trip to Disneyland. There can never be enough time spent in the Magic Kingdom. I love how invigorated I get when I walk in there. How creative I feel. How truly magical it is. Mr. Disney, I bow to you, sir. The place you dreamed of in the early 1950s is now the place of childhood joy and adult nostalgia and remembrance of childhood joy. And adult joy, too. Who are we kidding? *Grin.*

-But if there’s one thing I would love to have for my birthday, one thing above all others, it is this: My book, understood and loved by an agent and, later, a publisher in the same way that I love and understand it. They’ll want to collaborate with me on its words, its impact, its meaning. They’ll dream of possible covers the way I do. They’ll imagine that day when I’ll walk into Powell’s for the first time and… believe it or not… there’s my book, the hardcover, its dust-jacket gleaming in the mid-day light.

I will finally have the team I’ve always wanted behind my book!

Am I asking for too much? I think not. I put in the work. I am learning the business more and more each day. I try to be, for any author I work with–as an extension of both the agent I represent and myself–an integral part of the team behind the great art I believe in and a part of the team I imagine every author wishes to have behind them!

Working On My “Elevator Pitch”

If you’re not a writer, you might think of an elevator pitch as a person’s thirty second attempt–while in an elevator–to sell something. Themselves, a product, a TV show. An exec (or an agent, to put this back into writer-speak) may say, “You have thirty seconds. Go.”

I have been honing my elevator pitch for just this type of moment. (Since I can’t drive, I can’t get to a ton of writer conferences, so I need to rely on queries and any sort of networking I can do.) Those of you who either know me in real life, or read this blog and so know me virtually, will probably also know that I am attempting, with all I have, to sell my book, my labor of love for the past ten years. Recently, said piece underwent a title change. It is now called “Two Lessons For Terrence McDonald.” I love and believe in it with all my heart.

If you’ll indulge me for just a moment, I will share with you my elevator pitch. Here goes.

“When a middle-aged man dies unexpectedly, he must discover the two major lessons in his life. If he fails, he will not be permitted into Heaven and will never see his family again.”

What do you think, reader? I am genuinely interested in your opinions.

There’s a lot more to this book, but if I were going to distill it down to its barest bones… there you have it!

On a slightly different note, as I sign off, today, May 3rd, marks fourteen years since the passing of my beloved grandfather, Papa Dick. To him I say, “You always encouraged me. you never told me I wasn’t good enough, and when you’d hear something like that from me, you called me out on it. I am hopeful that, somewhere up above, you’re watching, and that you’re working just as hard as I am to find my beloved book a home. I love you, Pop. Forever and always,

Your writer and your proud grandson.”

Derek

Disneyland Is Where I Feel Freest

When I was a kid, there were certain things I took as gospel, even though none of them were in The Bible. These were:

-My Papa Dick could cook anything. (Always was true, always will be true.)

-Bob Barker would host The Price Is Right forever. (Until Drew Carey comes along and turns  slightly less than a quarter of the airings into shows with themes. It’s kinda weird, but the new games are kinda cool.)

-The Mariners would be in last place forever. (This particular belief was proven wrong in my thirteenth year, 1995, when the baseball gods decided to smile on our little hamlet.)

-My dad was going to be a famous writer someday.

-I was going to be a famous writer someday. (Not because of him, or thanks to him, but one of us might ride the coattails of the other, and that was fine.)

-Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth.

 

Of those beliefs, I’d like to briefly discuss the last three, the final one in detail. First, yes, I believed then, and believe still, that my father, and myself, can be famous authors. It is one of my deepest dreams that this will become so for us. I don’t know if I desire fame so much as the security that can be found in doing something you love and being paid for it.

I didn’t turn to writing because Dad was writing. I came to it because it was always easy for me, and I love it. Then, as now, I love it. I have finally written the story for which I feel I was put on Earth. It is mine to tell, and I’ve told it. The only mystery now regarding my book: Who will read it, and what will they say when they do?

Where did I learn to believe in dreams? From my dad and my papa and the people who love me, sure. But where else was this belief reinforced?

Disneyland.

The happiest place on Earth.

In my opinion, it’s part of the Disney culture to champion dreams. And I love that.

Being handicapped, you get used to hearing what you can’t do. It is a refrain, and nowhere is it louder than at amusement parks: “You can’t do that. Sure, it looks fun, and other people are doing it. But you would be a liability.”

“Why?”

“If you got hurt, you might sue, so it’s just easier to tell you no from the outset.”

It’s like places blame the disabled for being disabled, as if it’s something we did or let happen knowingly, with full knowledge of what our disability would mean in life going forward. So many doors will be closed to you, but you know that, right?

At Disney, they take this happiest place on Earth stuff seriously. They mean it. Being handicapped is no disadvantage. For once, when I’m there, I feel as though I’m on equal footing with the able-bodied.

This is a thank-you, not just to the folks of Disneyland but to all of Disney, for always making this handicapped guy feel welcome, ever since I was a kid and first walked with Mickey down Main Street U.S.A. Having just spent the better part of last week in California with my loving girlfriend, we made memories we won’t soon forget. Thank you all for helping to make that possible. I feel at home in your midst, and I always will!

A Handicapped Guy Who’s Always Loved The Fast Rides!

P.S.

If Hyperion Books (a Disney-owned publisher) ever saw fit to make my book available to the world, I would be eternally grateful. Just putting that little thought out into the universe and seeing what might come back, considering the fact that I’ve always felt a part of the Disney family!)

 

 

 

 

The Book I Love Most

Why Artists Are Artists

or

Why I Continue Searching For A Publisher For The Book I Love Most

The book I love most is homeless.

Searching for its shelf-home.

The book I love most is written,

But, like a vagabond,

It wanders and roams.

The streets of my mind are dead ends to it now.

For it is fully formed.

Nothing on these roads can aid it anymore;

Not even the bonfire of creativity that is

My newest story,

Unfinished,

Off to the side,

Can keep it warm.

It needs a place where it can be

Fulfilled,

Given autonomy

To achieve its highest and best.

Where it can parade into a reading of itself full of confidence of zest.

Its new lease on life will be courtesy  of

An agent who sees the merit,

An editor who agrees,

A publisher who puts it out

Without calling for any author-paid fees.

It will dance into the hands of readers

Who haven’t lived the story

But who have lived their stories and so,

Through lives that have seen similar fates

Can nonetheless relate.

Story, in all its forms,

Is connection.

It is: You are not alone.

Story invites you

To roam the streets of another’s mind

In search of a new thought,

A retrofitted, better home.

Where Does A Handicapped Man Fit In Donald Trump’s America?

The state of our union feels fragile today.

The five stages of grief are real. And I went through all of them yesterday when it became clear Hillary Clinton had lost her bid for the oval office and Donald Trump would be our 45th president. Mingled with my grief, in its various ebbs and flows, was a question important to me personally.

Where does a handicapped man like me fit in Donald Trump’s America?

I am frightened of what a Trump presidency will mean for me. Will he take my social security away because he doesn’t value the contributions of the segment of the population to which I belong? What I mean by that is this: Does he value us enough to see that entitlement programs like social security–entitlement being the wrong name for it, in my opinion; it truly is a social safety net–exist because they make life easier to live but are nowhere near some kind of financial windfall every month? Will he treat us like second-class citizens? I suppose I’ll have to wait to have my questions answered in full, and that has me beyond worried.

I realize campaigns are full of rhetoric. They’re full of bluster and bombast, both things Mr. Trump does well. But being president is entirely different. If he truly is going to be the president for all Americans, as he claimed in his acceptance speech, that means accepting that not everyone looks like him, walks like him, talks like him, or thinks like him, and being okay with that. I’m not sure, in my heart of hearts, that he can do this.

Just like a gay man or a black woman can’t change the qualities that make them them, nor would they want to, I will always be handicapped, no matter what I do. No matter how many books I write. No matter how many times somebody tells me I’m a brilliant editor. No matter how many people love me. No matter how many times someone says, “You’re normal to me.” I can’t imagine living in a country whose president would mock me with relish. While my disability doesn’t define me, it is a part of me. It contributes to my life-experience.  So when I saw Mr. Trump mocking a New York Times’ reporter this campaign season, it felt to me like a stab to the very heart of who I am as a man. Here’s a man in Trump who was mocking another with my same disability, and the mocker wanted to be–and now will be–the leader of the free world. I was, and remain, disgusted.

When Trump actually won the election, I was distressed. I cried. I’m crying now. I have never voted for a republican presidential candidate, admittedly, but I respect this country and the people in it. I simply want to know I won’t become the new kind of “forgotten man or woman” to whom Trump made reference in his acceptance speech. I want to know that, even though I can’t serve it, my love for this country is just as valuable as the love exhibited by someone who does.

In conclusion, whether you believe in an organized religion or not, and a fair number of people I know don’t, I thought it appropriate to end this post with:

God bless you, and God bless the United States Of America.

 

The Portion Of The American Electorate That Annoys Me Most: White Men

“How can you say that?” I can hear one of my former “Facebook friends” (read: antagonists) blurting in a comment at reading my headline. “Are you ashamed of being a white man? Is that why you’d write a blog like this?”

No, I am not ashamed of who I am, or the life I lead. I’m proud of it. But I’d wager to bet there are a good number of white men out there, whether they be young, old, or middle-aged, who hold a great deal of regret about their own lives. This leads them to a vote for Donald J. Trump. Let me explain.

What was it that Ronald Reagan so desperately wanted when he first came into office? For the government to get out of the way of progress, out of the way of the business owner. And government did this. Regulations were repealed. Oversite largely dumped. But this also meant one simple thing:

With government out of the way, there would be no safety net. And that was fine, because these businessmen (Donald Trump among them) didn’t need safety nets. The assumption being that those who worked hard would succeed, those who did not would fail. And all would be right with the world.

In the years since, we’ve learned that Reagnomics doesn’t work, the middle-class is all but dead, and now people wonder how it all happened.

My response: It’s not about how it happened. It’s about how we fix it going forward.

A house divided on itself. That is what we are. Divided by class, by race, by political view. And we can not be expected to stand if we allow this condition to persist in our nation.

So we must root out the causes of our division. And, in this country, that means the use of democracy. we vote for the person–man or woman–we feel is best qualified to take the country in the right direction.

As Mitt Romney won them in 2012, Donald Trump is up with white men, especially the non-college-educated set. They see in him a savior of sorts. Someone who actually stated, at the Republican National Convention, that the country is broken and he alone “can fix it”. They believe this because, on the surface, Trump’s record is business-y, and if he wasn’t good at business, at fixing things, at continually succeeding, would he have gotten to where he is today?

I argue that, when you’re allowed to not pay taxes for eighteen years, it’s awful easy to look successful. Whether you are successful is another matter entirely.

Another point: There is a subset of this demographic angry with our current president. Now, the question is, are they mad at him because they truly think he wasn’t born in this country? If they still believe that, there is plenty of evidence, including his birth certificate and a beautiful autobiography, to prove otherwise. He was born in Hawaii in 1961. Hawaii became a state in 1959. End of discussion on that point.

Here’s the stickier question. Are they mad at him because he’s been more successful than they have, and he has a different color skin than they do? I know how I would answer that question, but before you spit out a response full of vitriol, take a step back. This is not an attack on anyone. It’s just a question.

Moving onto a different subject, let’s take a quick look at Mr. Trump’s opponent. Mrs. Clinton is far from warm. Her attempts to appear so often fall flat. She is dishonest at times. Find me a politician who’s been working thirty years in Washington and isn’t dishonest, and I’ll find you a unicorn. A live unicorn!

Hillary’s handling of her e-mails is not the greatest, either. She’s not all that tech-savy, we can agree.

And if you want to go back to her time as secretary of state, hers was not a perfect term. We all know that. The facts surounding this term have been litigated. Whether she’s been been proven to have done something wrong is a matter of personal preference.

What can be said as a positive for Hillary is this. She wants the job. She’s been preparing her whole life, whether she knew it or not, to be president.

As for Mr. Trump, he has been preparing all his life, too, in a manner of speaking; surrounding himself with empty-suit yes-men and women comfortable telling him he’s the greatest thing since Edison invented the phonograph. Should anyone deviate from this belief, they are immediately jettisoned.

He is allowed to do whatever he wants.

Decry women.

Brag about grabbing their genitals and getting away with it. This is not “locker room talk”, by the way. No one I know talks like that. If you’re honest with yourself, no one you know does, either. And if someone you know does, maybe you shouldn’t know them.

Mock the disabled. I’m disabled, sir. Let me tell you that being disabled does not mean I lack intelligence. I’m intelligent enough to know you’re the kind of man who grew from an insecure, sad little boy. No one ever showed you what it meant to be “different”. If they had, you might be a different person, maybe even a tolerable human.

But probably not.

This election won’t turn on what white men do, who they vote for. I’m just confounded by their choice to do it. While I’d personally love for them to consider voting for someone else if they’re leaning Trump, I understand that’s a long-shot. I’m just asking them to step back and ask what it is about Mr. Trump that so energizes them. What will he do for me?  Forget his success. What will he do for me personally?(Admittedly, what energizes me about Mrs. Clinton is her not being Mr. Trump, and I have no illusions that she will personally do anything for me. How could she? She doesn’t know who I am. Donald Trump has no idea who any of us are, and he wouldn’t care if he did, unless you want to donate to his campaign or something you do can be monetarily beneficial to him.) If you’re socially conservative and you don’t like how this country’s leaning, let me offer you an alternative to Trump.

Sit this one out. Come back in four years. If you still badly want to remove Hillary, find someone who will speak for you and vote for them. But understand that Mr. Trump speaks now–and has always spoken–for himself. Giving him the power to speak for all of us is giving him the power to ruin a 200-plus-year experiment that has gone pretty well so far, all things considered.

Please don’t derail it.

As for the Clinton voter who’s still debating whether they’ll turn out on Tuesday, because can they really trust her, my answer is simple: Trust her drive. Trust that she wants this job way more than a man who is probably privately shocked to find himself in the running for it. Trust Donald Trump himself when he said Hillary would make a good senator that she will also make a good president. Trust that, while no one is perfect, least of all Hillary, she will learn fast and be up to speed before President Obama has cleaned out the oval office. Come home to her.

Because we didn’t work this hard defending this country to let a petulant, ill-tempered racially insensitive, sexually frustrated, not-as-rich-as-he-claims, not-as-successful-as-he-claims bafoon dupe half the country–the half in which non-college educated white men still think themselves superior to more successful people–and wrest the reigns of power from a capable steward.

Open Letter To A Safeco Field Usher

This was a busy weekend for me. Attend the Mariners home opener on Friday. Hang with my mom and a couple of my siblings Saturday. Then hang with Mom back at the ballpark Sunday to see King Felix Hernandez make his first home start of 2016.

I go to a fair amount of games. This means that I–and the person I’m traveling with; on Friday my uncle, on Sunday my mom–are always well prepared. We bring a clear bag for easy searches upon entry into the park. In the bag is my binoculars and radio (important to me since I’m legally blind, and these implements greatly enhance my enjoyment of the game). Sometimes, you might be able to find a ticket or two to an older game loitering in the bottom of my bag, because I’ve forgotten, or haven’t had time, to toss the papers in my recycle bin.

Sunday I got tickets in section 147, row 10. Who knew my section marked the boundary line of the newly expanded King’s Court on days when King Felix starts? I sure didn’t. This seat location entitled me and my mom both to our own “King’s court” shirt and “K-cards” to wave like crazy people whenever Felix got to two strikes on a hitter. Mom was told to go to the team-store, take her ticket with her, and she would receive our merch.

So she did that.

While she was gone, a couple people came by and said I was in their seat. Now all of our stuff (my bag, my mom’s purse) were underneath the seats we had been occupying. I was sure Mom had simply made a mistake, and I told them once she came back and I could check the ticket for our exact seats, I would move. The people were fine with this. “We’ll go get something to eat,” they said.

The usher–the same woman who, not five minutes earlier, told my mom to go up and get the shirts, acted like she was about to blow a gasket. “You have to move! These aren’t your seats!” She then picked up my clear bag, saw the tickets for opening day that I hadn’t removed from the bag (I sat on the 200 level Friday night) and pointed out to one of her cohorts, “These tickets aren’t even on this level!”

“If you’ll give me a second to explain-” I tried.

“You need to move!”

“I get it,” I said. “My mom is-”

“Where is your mom?”

“She’s up in the team store, where you told her to go, getting our stuff.”

“Oh… and it’s probably busy in there, isn’t it?” she guessed.

“Probably,” I agreed.

Just then, a very nice woman came up to me, held out her hand and said, “I hear you might be moving down the row. My name is Cindy.”

I introduced myself and told Cindy I’d be down the row just as soon as my mom came back, and it was nice to meet her. The overzealous usher said, “What’s going on now? What’s going on?”

I felt like John Goodman in The Big Lebowski. I wanted to tell that woman to: “Shut the F**ck up, Donny!”

If the Safeco Field seating host (that’s a nicer title than I’d give this particular woman)  truly has the goal of making the Mariner experience the best in baseball, as the team claims, perhaps they could learn to respect the fans who occupy the park in which they make a wage and treat them like guests rather than unwanted trespassers.

It’s just a thought.

 

 

 

 

Internships And Spring Training Trips

Life has a way of changing, switching things up, and putting you right where you’re supposed to be.

The thing is, it does so with such a measured pace–sometimes that pace can still seem something akin to slow even when we’re living in a world that demands everything happen fast–that we might not even notice some of the changes it brings. Yet others are obvious, maybe even painful.

I’ve always been a writer. Truthfully, when I first begin dating a woman, my writing plus my humor are my secret weapons. I think they admire my forging on through life despite my cerebral palsy and eyesight that might not make Mr. Magoo jealous. But I have yet to find the one person out there who says, “I choose you. Above all others, and in spite of–or maybe partially because of–your struggles and the way in which you handle them, I choose you.”

Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads that you can only define as a crossroads looking back, after the fact?

I found myself at one of these crossroads recently. (It made me think of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, until I read a little deeper and realized that poem is not about what most of us think it’s about.) When my recent relationship of two years ended, I spent a while after the initial shock wondering what it had all been for. (Then I wondered, just now, why I felt the need to end a sentence with a preposition? My third-grade teacher is probably turning in her grave.) We had shared so much, this woman and me, yet I had not been enough. My writing, my humor, my sarcasm, the last of these a quality that feels built-in to me but was honed by my loving grandfather (a quality I would not trade for a chance to write a best-selling novel, or a poetry collection that gleams with something critics call brilliance, because doing so would mean having to forfeit the best things in my life; the joy of laughing even when laughing seems impossible and the love of a man who taught me the sentimentality that, certainly in part, anyway, defines me.). Those things, as much as I appreciate them, they had not been enough to keep a relationship I treasured afloat.

My relationship was a sinking ship taking on water before I ever realized I should be unhappy in it.

The contentedness I so rarely feel in matters of the heart that was my companion then was also the thing that blinded me to what was really happening, the way life was changing, switching things up without my knowledge or, more importantly, my approval.

A writer has control. His universe is what he makes it. What he writes it.

A man with cerebral palsy must give up control before he ever knows he lost it. “I’m a go-with-the-flow kinda guy,” I often say. Because that is who I am, but also because I don’t really have a choice.

I love words, and what they can do to people who read them, but I also love the control they give me. “Shape this world,” they say. “Make it what you will. Make it a world with great castles, or one with peasants living in tiny hovels.”

I know how to write. What I didn’t really know–until life let me know it–was how my ability to write could actually teach me about the business of writing.

The business of writing. To a writer, for whom telling stories is the ultimate escape and/or communication tool (Sometimes, a writer’s not saying, “Come with me into a magical land.” Sometimes they’re saying, “If you take the time to learn a little something about my life, it just might teach you about yours.”), thinking of writing as a business is not easy. But a business it is.

For me, loving the business of writing all began with TV. That’s right, that box that used to be square and then flattened out and lost its boxineess. Every May, the networks (whose relevance we can debate, if you’d like, though not today) hold what they call the “Up-fronts.”. They have new shows coming next September, and they want to get their friends the advertisers excited. They couldn’t be higher on their shows then. The network presidents will say things like, “This is the greatest show since Breaking bad.” (If you hear that, by the way, run the other way. Nothing will ever compare to Breaking Bad, and if a network tells you they have “the next Breaking Bad” they are severely over-reaching and should be punished with low ratings.)

Low ratings, of course, lead to cancellations. Shows that networks crowed about–that viewers knew to be crap–removed from eyeshot forever.

Books–and the business of books and writing–work a bit differently, yet there are similarities. An agent loves a story or a project. The agent is essentially a producer, whose job it is to then bring their new love and its author to an editor at a publishing house. (The publisher is the network.) If the publisher can be convinced, the book will see th light of day and the eyes of readers.

But before this can happen, an agent must read many stories to find those that they feel comfortable sharing with their publishing colleagues. And they might use a second reader to help in this endeavor.

That’s part of what I’m now doing as an internship, an opportunity that came to me through my father, an opportunity I never thought I’d have. I love forecasting which new network shows are doomed to fail, and I love even more reading stories and helping to determine their viability. Doing so makes me a better writer, because I can spot the “what-not-to-dos” in writing, and sometimes in my own writing.

This position is new, but I hit the ground running, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done so far. There isn’t anything better than feeling productive and appreciated. The agent I’m interning for (for whom I’m interning, my inner-editor is screaming) went on vacation recently, and she asked me if I wanted to take a vacation of my own while she was out. I don’t usually take vacations, but March is a big month, and my dad, my uncle, my second cousin, and I have been planning a trip to Seattle Mariner spring training for months, so while I didn’t take my vacation when she took hers–I kept reading, and I actually read something I love–I would take my vacation a week or so later. Our crew would drive to Arizona to watch baseball, do some casinoing, and revel in In N Out burgerness.

And–Dad and I are both writers, remember?–we’d tell stories on the road, too.

Stories of Papa, the man who gave me my sarcasm. Who showed me that my cerebral palsy only limited me if that’s what I wanted it to do. Who loved my writing–and showed me where I could make it better–before I ever knew people did that for a living. He certainly didn’t. He simply liked to read stories, and he loved and encouraged his grandson.

I was twenty when he passed. A week shy of my twenty-first birthday, actually.

My second cousin knew Papa in the abstract way that really young people know really old people. (My brother once wrote on the white-board in his hospital room, “Papa smells old.” He got a kick outa that.) The wonderful thing about that is that I got to tell my cousin just how much Papa loved him, how overjoyed he was that this new person would share his name, how Papa delighted when he would come over in the morning asking for “Hot Chocate milk”.

And, while on this trip, we made our own new stories. Some of which almost defy explanation unless you were there in the car with us, driving the twenty hours from Arizona all the way to the Oregon border. (Just an observation. Between Vegas and Reno, there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING.)

On this trip–this shared experience–I found in my cousin one of the best friends I kinda never knew I had. I had watched him when he was very young, but now he’s about to graduate high school, he’s a smart guy, and we make each other laugh. And it’s nice to meet someone whose first question isn’t, “Why do you walk like that?” I actually really liked answering his questions. One of them was something along the lines of, What was Papa like? I’ll answer that question any day, any time, because he was the person I wish I could be.

So, in the space of four months, I’ve found something I love to do–that’s reawakened my enjoyment of words and writing–and in the space of a week, I was re-acquainted with family and found a pretty great friend. And it all happened because life has a way of changing, switching things up, and putting you right where you’re supposed to be.

 

 

 

What Guys Say… And What They Actually Mean

So I’ve found there’s something of a disconnect between what women will ask of us men, what we say in response, and what we actually mean. As we approach another Christmas, I thought I might be able to help. At least I’ll hopefully make you chuckle while you pick up that last trinket for Aunt Mildred. (Does she like clocks? She’s getting a clock, because F this, and the store is closing in five minutes, anyway.)

A woman asks a guy, “Would you mind if we had a dinner party next weekend?”

The guy knows what the correct answer is. He knows that saying, “You know, I’d rather not; I’d like a couple of nights in this weekend” will get him a couple of uncomfortable nights on the couch. So he says, “Yes, honey, that’s fine.” Do not confuse this response for enthusiasm. It is not.

She asks him to go anywhere on a Sunday in football season.

He says, “Okay, honey. We can take a drive up the coast.” (for example). He has either A. Figured out the game he cares about will be on the radio, is DVR-ing it and will do all he can not to figure out the score before he can get back home and set himself before his TV’s glow, or he has slipped into a waking coma, out of which he will come the following Tuesday, after all that week’s football is played, and he will think, What have I done???

She invites him on a hike. He senses this is a test, kind of an Am I important enough to him that he’ll do this? and he wonders, Why do women test us men? Do I like hiking? No. Will I do it? Yes. Because I like her enough to gut my way through it. Hopefully she won’t mind next weekend, which I’ve planned to be, and during which we will be recovering from any and all injuries sustained today, in front of netlix. And that’s non-negotiable.

If he says he wants to go with you to a ballet or an opera, it’s because you asked, not because he offered, and he’s hoping you’ll want to go with him back to his place after. He’s also hoping he won’t fall asleep during the ballet or the opera, since in doing so he would lose all points gained.

By contrast, if a man asks a woman if she wants to watch football and she says yes, figuring it will earn her points with him, she is mistaken. All he will think is: Sweet. I found me a woman who likes football. And he’ll offer her a handful of Doritos while they listen to Joe Buck drone on about how good Aaron Rodgers is.

I write this blog as a public service.