Friday, April 30, 2010

Dorks of a Feather...FLOCK TOGETHER!

It was 20 years ago today, that the dorks of a feather came to play.

Ok, maybe not. But I do know that 20 some years ago, there was a little thing called a Keg Race held, and I may or may not have had something to do with it.

And there was "Ten Guys Throwing A Party," "Guys Who Stuff Their Crotch Disco Party," "Frank Sinatra Birthday Party." A party for all occasions, and I may or may not have had something to do with it.

Bricks on the hood.

Bottle rockets buzzing Sgt. Randy Hansen's head.

The Oompa Loompa.

White Lines dance.

My circle of friends from Grinnell College are much more than just friends. They are brothers. We don't see each other often, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off, at least in spirit. There's no way possible for us to pick up where we left off physically some 20 years ago, when we may or may not have been involved with "that one time when... ."

Grinnell was a tough school, academically. But for some reason, my friends and I didn't let our classes get in the way of our education.

Underwear parties. Another great memory.

Night Train Party. Kamikaze Party. It's Clem's Birthday Party. We found a reason to get a keg quite easily.

At the time, we proclaimed of others that "dorks of a feather flock together!"

Now we proudly proclaim the same cheer toward ourselves.

We could have all achieved so much more in college. If only we had put down the beer stein and picked up our book a few more times each week. If only we had applied ourselves more.

To quote one of my Grinnell brethren, "Mmmm, nah."
My brothers and I all are in agreement these days that we wouldn't have changed anything. Anything.

I raise my glass to my fellow dorks of a feather!

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Slice of Heaven - Spearfish Canyon

As the summer inches closer to reality, my mind drifts away to a favorite spot that I don't take advantage of often enough.

My little slice of Heaven, nestled into the rimrock of Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota's northern Black Hills.

My brothers and I inherited our family cabin from our great uncle Herman. It is a place where I can essentially melt into the canyon's always changing colors and forget that a problem exists in the world.

Herman was quite the character to put it mildly. He stood all of about 4'10, I'd imagine, if that. He wore horn-rimmed glasses, and walked with a humpback gait. He'd always be telling jokes, even if half of us never got the punchline. He was known for squeezing your knee and saying "Do you like girls? If you like girls you'll squirm when I do this." As my oldest son, Nile, used to say when he was 5 years old "Herman looks like Yoda."

The cabin was Herman's pride and joy. He had hand-built it after moving to the Black Hills to work as an x-ray technician at the VA Hospital after serving in World War II. He went and collected every rock that forms the foundation. He found every wood plank that covers the floors and walls. He religiously chopped down trees on the property to provide fuel for the wood burning stove and fireplace, and to help take away fuel from the constant threat of fire in the canyon.

What makes the cabin so perfect is the tranquility. Hearing the gentle sound of the water cascading down the canyon in Spearfish Creek. Seeing in every direction that you look a watercolor mix of pale white, rust-like orange and charcoal gray rocks that have been chiseled down by years of Mother Nature having her way with them. The smell of evergreens and wild flowers from the creek bed combine to give a hint of nature's perfume to the air.

If you want to get groceries, you better plan for at least an hour long round trip. If you forgot something at the store, you're more apt to adapt and figure out a way to make something out of what you have.

Going for a walk at the cabin might mean ending up scaling down rimrock while only inches away from falling down to your certain hospitalization, if not death.

Time moves at it's own pace at the cabin. Nobody is calling you. No computers to distract you. There's TV, but that's really only for the rainy days, if you don't have a good book to read.

When the time comes for me to sit down and take my collective life experiences and craft them together into the great novel I know I have in me, it is a safe bet that you'll find me in Spearfish Canyon. Sipping my coffee or beer on the front deck, watching the world slowly pass by like the clouds above me.

And you can rest assured that somewhere in the book, there will be a humpbacked man with a "unique" sense of humor who looks like Yoda. Thank you, Uncle Herman.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm a one man guy

I'm gonna bathe and shave
And dress myself and eat solo every night
Unplug the phone, sleep alone
Stay way out of sight
Sure it's kind of lonely
Yeah it's sort of sick
Being your own one and only
Is a dirty selfish trick.

__ "One Man Guy," by Loudon Wainwright

When I went through my divorce four years ago, my good friend E.C. Fish, who had gone through his own divorce already, burned me a CD full of songs that have become very personal anthems for me. Included was the song quoted above and linked on youtube.

At the time, the song didn't really describe me. I was hardly living a life of solitude. After being with just one person since I was 18 years old, I did what any red-blooded man would. I was a dating whore.

Fast forward four years, with a few serious relationship gone bad thrown in for good measure, and this life is definitely me now.

But as the song states, it's not something you should pity me for. Hell, I know quite a few married friends who would KILL to be able to be in my shoes, though I'm not sure why outside of the "grass is greener" mentality.

Regardless, in the past 12 months plus, I've really become comfortable in my own skin (which doesn't mean I wish it to stretch or sag so much where it shouldn't, but I'm comfortable nonetheless).

Between frightening images of me as "the 80-year-old guy who sits his front porch yelling at kids who come in my yard" I have learned a valuable lesson. If you can't be ok on your own, you can't be ok in a relationship.

I didn't make a purposeful decision to be single the last year, it just felt right. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't worried about making someone else happy (other than my flesh and blood of course).

I was focusing on me. What made me happy? What kind of people did I want in my life? What were my goals for myself going forward in regards to my sons, my career, my social life, and how did the people in my life fit in with those goals.

Over the last year, as I focused inwardly, I began to get better at rejecting the bad energy around me. Pushing people out of my life who brought that energy with them. Most importantly, I learned to start saying "no" to people asking me for favors. Was it selfish? Maybe. But was it good for me to do it? A resounding hell yes.

So while I make my Hungry Man frozen TV dinner, watching infomercials at 3 a.m. in my boxers and a smelly t-shirt, I don't ponder for one minute why I'm here and not somewhere living a "normal" life with a wife, 2 kids, a picket fence, and a dog. I embrace it.

Do I want the good life, to know what it's like to grow old with someone and wake up every day feeling lucky to have them in my life? I'd be full of crap if I said no.

But I don't need it. And THAT is the secret to my happiness.

'Cause I'm a one man guy in the morning
Same in the afternoon
One man guy when the sun goes down
I whistle me a one man tune