R. I. P., Friend

I could hear the motor whirring on his mobility scooter as he approached, a black flag flying behind him. At a glance, it looked like a Jolly Roger. On closer inspection, it was a Dia De Los Muertos styled skull, adorned with The Legend of Zelda imagery. He didn’t pause for pleasantries, as was his custom, but went right to the point.

“I started on your pen,” he said, rocking his head side to side, as was his characteristic, signature body language.

Probably about a year before, I’d admired some hand-turned pens he was displaying for sale. They were all very nice roller balls, beautifully finished exotic woods. I asked if he did any fountain pens, and he said that he could do a fountain pen, but he’d need to order the kit. He asked me about material, and I told him that I wasn’t picky. He had a good eye for that sort of thing. I offered him some pink ivory pen blanks that I wound up with, and he encouraged me to get a pen lathe and try my hand at it instead.

“It’s not that hard, and the lathes are cheap,” he said, “but, I’ll still make one for you. I’ll make it special.”

So here, a year later, I responded, “Oh yeah?

“I just didn’t want you to think that I’ve forgotten about you. Yeah,” he said, “you’re getting antler.”

I exclaimed, “oh, cool!”

He started explaining, “it’s taking some time because I had to rough cut the material and resin impregnate it…”

I interrupted, “because it’s so porous. That stuff is like bone sponge.”

“Exactly,” he nodded.

That was the weekend that my last thirteen posts have addressed. I’m pretty sure it was Sunday, April 30, because the lights were on in the building at the fairgrounds. It may have been that awful Friday though. The time stream kind of blurs in there. And, that was the last weekend we saw him.

Michael Logan was the kind of man that didn’t know a stranger. He would talk your ear off, and just when you thought you couldn’t take any more, he’d buzz off on his scooter, other people to talk up, other things to do. We were friends from the first time we met. I usually distrust people who are so friendly on first meeting, and I’ve been working on that. The back of my mind asks “what’s your angle; what are you trying to get from me?” I’ve since come to learn that some people just really are that friendly. Michael didn’t know a stranger. He was a cancer survivor, and despite his broken body, he would show up to the party anywhere his mobility scooter would allow. He was a very special person, and more alive than most people I’ve known ambulating on their own two legs. He would send me a message every now and then, at random, reading, “Good Lord, man! Go back to bed!” Most of the time, this had absolutely no context, night or day, but became a beloved surprise when he sent it. I’m sad that I’ll be receiving no more of those.

I met Michael through the Oklahoma Retro Gamers Society. Whoever says that video games have no redemptive quality has clearly never met in a room with like minded folks to communally enjoy the fandom. I feel loved by these people, and I love them in return. They’ve seen me at my worst, and maybe near my best, but they have always accepted me. If it weren’t for video games, I would have probably never met him.

I kind of always knew that I’d outlive him, but I could never be prepared. I found out last night via FaceBook that he had passed from this mortal coil. I was shocked. Numb. Of course, I was sad, but I couldn’t even fully feel that, if that makes any sense at all. He’ll be missed by many. He’ll be missed by me. The mutual friend who shared the news asked if we had any pictures of the two of them getting into “wheel chair races.” Regrettably, we do not. He actually wrote up a piece about Michael on his own blog here, which is quite touching. Said friend is not relegated to a wheel chair, but there was one available, and he likes to clown around like that. Michael was the kind of guy that saw the good time in such shenanigans. I’d love to have some pictures of that kind of silliness. Please do go and read Jennifer’s write up, if you haven’t already.

I don’t know what finally took him, but his health was poor, so I don’t even care to make conjecture. Still, I don’t even get my damned pen. My Michael Logan, antler, fountain pen. Not that the pen itself matters at all, but he was making it special for me. I guess I’ll have to pick up a pen lathe after all. As a tribute. R. I. P., friend.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 8: The Weekend

If you didn’t get to read about my visit to the ER, you can catch up on Part 7.

Before it was even bright and early, on Saturday, April 29, 2017, we loaded up our photo gear in a friend’s pickup. He drove us as well as one of our neighbors, whom we’d drafted to the team, and we all headed out to the fairgrounds. A tornado had hit the venue overnight. Trees were torn asunder. There was an arch that was a miniaturized version of the famous one in St. Louis. Was. For half a century that thing was a landmark there. Nature decided to flatten it. There are pics. The building had quite a bit of water in it, and an overhead door next to our main stage had been blown off its tracks. We had no power. Vendors and exhibitors had set up the day before, but they wandered around in the dark and hovered over their wares, guarding against looters in the dark; not a bad idea, but we didn’t have looters present. Local law enforcement was blocking con-goers from the grounds. It took some doing, some creative detouring for even we, officials, to get in. We got some interesting pics in the dark arena. When your cam rig is rocking clean ISO 12,800 and lenses ranging from f1.4 to 2.0, they don’t care that it’s dark. We weren’t there for very long. There was no point in it. Some plucky con-attendees made it to the building, but we were obviously turning them away at the door. It was heart-breaking. “Evyl, why do you carry a flashlight?” Um, this. This is why. Why don’t YOU have a flashlight in your pocket? We went home. The rest of Saturday is fuzzy. We got the car home and secured gear. I assume we ate something and went to bed. There was a party Saturday night, but we didn’t go.

When I crossed paths with our friend, she kissed me on the cheek, squeezed me and said, “loves you!”

I hugged her in return, “loves you!”

The con on Sunday was awesome, if also trying. The crowd of attendees was amazing. The vendors were out in full-force and having a great time. I admit that I purchased some really wonderful items, as did Jennifer. I didn’t get the quantity nor quality of photos that I wanted to, but I’ll fairly give myself a pass there. As you can imagine, I was feeling slightly less than perfectly steady. Playing ‘make up for lost time’ went well. I’d patched together a camera tripod dolly out of an old lady walker and some random hardware store parts that I broke out for a little while for some time lapse work. It did feel good to finally be shooting with a camera setup that I was confident with, Jennifer with her twin to mine, and our son with his upgraded DSLR as well. I put my hands in there. As with years previous, I visually documented, but I also got in and did the labor required of the volunteer group. Every time I bumped into the ball pit kid, who was there when I went down, he looked like he was looking at a ghost. At some point over the weekend, Jennifer told me that she had to wipe blood and bile off my face and ear before I came to, and that it was like I was trying to hit myself. Later, there was a nasty, blue and green bruise that blossomed on the inside of my right thigh shaped like knuckles. Yeah.
It had been a lot worse than I had realized.

Over the weekend, I didn’t feel that bad, but I felt like someone had beat me up. It wasn’t just a feeling. I had beat me up. My tongue hurt where I’d bitten it. Nobody would have blamed me for sitting out the weekend, but it was important for me to be there. For one, these friends of mine needed to see that it didn’t take me down. For two, I wasn’t going to miss out on the weekend. I have no regrets. I had a fight with my brain. And, I won.

Tomorrow, I’ll start getting into follow up medical appointments in Part 9.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 5: The Awakening

If you didn’t read about the last thing I can remember before this, go back and read Part 4.

I was laying on my back on the floor. There were people in the room; other volunteers. Jennifer was on one side of my head, with my arm in her arms. One of our dear friends was cradling my head in her lap. She was kissing me on the forehead and chanting in a shushing tone something along the lines of, “it’s going to be okay,” or “please be okay,” or “you’re going to be okay,” or maybe simply, “you’re okay.” I haven’t yet had the opportunity to ask her about this, and it’s obviously spotty for me at this point. She’s been in nursing school for a while. Between her and Jennifer, I was already in good hands.

When you have a seizure, your brain has a hard reboot. There is no consciousness in the event. Neurons fire at random. I understand that mine was quite a bit more violent than what I’ve witnessed in the past. They used to call this a “grand mal seizure,” but now it’s called a “tonic clonic seizure.” As it turns out, I just discovered a great new cocktail: rocks glass, ice cubes, pour in bitters and tonic water, SHAKE VIOLENTLY and bite your tongue!

After Jenni and our friend coaxing me into consciousness, the next thing I remember are the EMTs. Disclaimer: this is where memory gets really scrambled, so although I won’t claim anyone had tentacles, I’m probably not describing people or events accurately. A man and a woman whom I did not recognize were standing over me, big smiles and anime eyes.

“Who are these guys?” I asked. That floor felt so comfortable. It was a good nap, apparently. Everything was kind of numb like I’d just had a really deep sleep. I recognized my friends, but not these two strangers. The man looked latino and had a goatee. I can’t describe the woman with him, but they were both sweet.

“We’re here to take you to the Emergency Room,” big smiles.

I slowly shook my head, “Why would you do that?

Still big smiles, “because you just had a seizure.”

“No,” I protested, “I didn’t have any seizure.” After the fact, Jennifer has said that I had an attitude like “nah, you’ve got the wrong guy.” LOL!

“Yeah, you did,” said Jennifer.

“Can you try to sit up…”

So, I popped up off the floor and crossed my legs, ‘Indian-style.’

“…slowly? Okay, then….”

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Evyl. Evyl Robot.”

“Do you know what year it is?”

“Um… Ummmm…. Wait, I’ve got this.”

I still didn’t want to go to the ER, and said so.

“Can you tell me who the president is?”

“Uh…”

The second-mentioned founding RGS member looked at me, concern in his eyes, “I really think you should go to the hospital.”

I looked to Jennifer who agreed. “Do I have to ride in the ambulance?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” she said, “I’M not driving you.”

*sigh.* “Fine.”

They coached me to climb onto the stretcher to whisk me away for medical treatment. *growl.*

On Monday, come back to read about the ambulance ride in Part 6.

KTKC Final Day

Here we are, in the last day of Kilted To Kick Cancer 2015. The team standings have been blacked out. I am still matching donations to Team Hast. Show me the money.

DSCN0913

That’s $1,000.00, folks. That is money that I’m matching your donations with. Last I checked, we were up to $400.00. Not bad. However, I want you to make me donate every last penny of this cash to KTKC. This money:

DSCN0911

Donate here. Mark your donation for Team Hast. As I’ve said previously, if you put me in the top three, I’ll wear the kilt for the remainder of the year. Get yourself checked and donate to the cause.

Why couldn’t I just be happy with the way things were?

Probably ten years ago, give or take, I bought an RCA tube TV at a garage sale. It’s something like a 27 or 29-inch screen, and it was ten bucks. I thought it would go great in our little bedroom, on top of the dresser, right next to our 30-gallon fish tank. For the first couple of years, we’d watch Adult Swim every once in a great while, but evantually the TV wound up forgotten, simply gathering dust on the dresser. We cancelled the cable, never bothered to get converter boxes when everything went digital, and it was utterly useless at that point. But still, I didn’t want to bother dealing with it at the time.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I picked up a second Wii. I had the brilliant idea to install Amazon Prime Instant Video on the Wii and plug it into that TV. Between Prime, web browser, and YouTube, that little TV essentially became a smart TV, and earned a new lease on life. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed streaming shows on that set when we want to be a little cozier than the living room. Still, I thought that I’d like to get us something with a little better picture (still standard definition is fine for in there), and the speakers on that RCA are pretty atrocious. I’d go to stream music on the Wii and Jennifer would complain until I quit.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I was at one of the local thrift shops, and they had a very attractive Sony Trinitron XBR. This was a late nineties model, and arguably one of the better standard-def tube TVs ever made. The folks in our retro gaming group are always on the lookout for such things for that reason. I took a phone pic of the beast and posted it to the FaceBook group wall with location and price. I thought for sure someone would jump on that, but a week later, I saw the same set in that store again. Then I started thinking outloud.

“That Trinitron is kind of tempting,” I would muse to Jennifer. “I hope someone gets that TV. That’s a nice set if that’s the format you’re looking for,” I’d say. “If it was a little cheaper, I’d be tempted to get it myself. It would go great in our bedroom.” At this point, I should have decided that the old RCA was good enough, or simply take the drive to the local Best Buy and ask what they had in a 36-inch. But no. I kept thinking about the stupid Trinitron.

Fast forward to yesterday. I wandered into the same thrift shop, and there that stupid TV sat, whispering my name for some stupid reason. Forty bucks. If it wasn’t such a pain in the butt to move big sets or if the price was lower, I might just go for it. Still, I asked the little check out gal if they’d drop the price on a TV if it sat in the store for long enough. Another employee must have heard me from the next room, where she pounced through the doorway to inject herself in the conversation, “you want a TV? We have TVs coming out our ears here. I’ll make you a deal on a TV. Which one are you interested in?” I told her that I might be interested in the Trinitron. “This one here? Twenty bucks and it’s yours today.” I explained that I’d have to come back for it, since my wife had taken the truck to work so I could take the car to the muffler shop. “Thats fine,” she insisted, “we’ll put your name on it and it will be here when you get back.” So, like a moron, I paid my $20, and drove the curiously quiet Tactical Assault Compact Sedan to Jennifer’s office to swap her for the truck.

They were waiting for me at the thrift store. That same woman grabbed a piano dolly and helped me hoist that set into the back of the truck, which responded by dropping about three inches on its springs. Noticing the way that big TV ominously made the truck looked smaller made my heart sink a little bit. Gah. It didn’t look that big in the store. It was heavy too. Probably about two-fifty. That scrawny little lady at the thrift shop didn’t have any problem horking it up into the truck though. She was certainly stronger than she looked. But, surely between my teenage son and I, we could have that thing in place, hooked up, and ready to watch Justified on Amazon by the time Jennifer got home. Right? Right? On the drive home, all I could see in the mirror was that hulking beast. Was it actually getting bigger?

My son has gotten a lot stronger than he used to be. He’s constantly reminding me that he’s taller than I am, and his voice has gotten deep and round. To his credit, he was able to help me get the TV out of the truck and onto the front porch. And, that’s about when he petered out on me. That TV looked even bigger on the porch. It was lunch time, so I figured we’d get some protein in him, and he’d be good to go, like Popeye and spinach. We tried. We really did. I cleared off the top of the dresser and made arrangements for the RCA. A 36-inch really isn’t all that much bigger than a 27-inch, is it? Still, I wanted plenty of space to work with. When it was clear that my son was not quite up to the challenge of moving the big set, I told him that we’d wait until his mom was home, and they could get the one end, and I’d get the other. After all, it’s not like anyone was going to walk away with it. When I moved the RCA out, I set it on the front porch to stage it for when its new owner came to pick it up. Seeing them side by side, that Trinitron absolutely dwarfed the RCA. My heart sank a little more.

Jennifer got home from work, and I told her my plan. Her response was only slightly more polite than, “hahahahhahaahahaa. No.” Now Jennifer, who is an easy to get along with trooper, started brainstorming alternate plans. “We really need a dolly,” she suggested. We tried to think of who we know that might have a piano dolly that we could borrow, which is really ironic, as my dad used to work on pianos, including moving them. But, last time I saw his dolly, it was pretty much worn out, and that’s been so long ago, I’m no longer confident he even still has it. Jennifer thoughtfully broke the silence that had settled, as we scratched our heads over our current, bewildering, and self-made problem, “would your mechanic’s creeper hold that much weight?”

“Well sure,” I answered, “it’s intended to scoot around with the weight of a grown man on it.” And as I thought about it, all the lights came on, “that’s perfect in fact!” I retrieved my creeper from the garage, and tilted the TV so Jennifer could slide it under. It didn’t roll perfectly, but we weren’t going very far. It was all going notably smoothly up until we made it to the threshold of the bedroom, where the carpet began. The creeper was not going to roll into our bedroom. Which was a bit of a moot issue, as there’s no way the set would physically fit between the queen-size waterbed and its surrounding furniture and walls. I knew that Teen Bot had just almost enough steam to manhandle this thing, and I knew that I could handle the other end, and we didn’t have far to go now. Jennifer and I decided that the two of them could take the one end as long as it was only the shot from the hall to the bed. If we got it to the bed, we could kind of walk it around the bed rails to the far side where the dresser waited its arrival.

The three of us were able to get it lifted into the air, and that’s about when kiddo started to give out again. His corner of the set started slowly sinking, with it positioned diagonally, mostly in the hall, in time with his gasping. my bottom left corner lodged against the door trim, his top corner gouged its way into the sheet rock on the other side of the hall, everything broke out in chaos, and the TV hung there, pinned between the walls. And again, the thought occurred to me, that I should have just gone and bought a new flat screen in the first place. Once we managed to extricate the set from where it was jammed (quite comically, I might add) against the walls, it was again clear that this plan need another adjustment.

“Ok,” I said authoritatively, “we need to think. And there’s whiskey in the kitchen.” Whiskey brain storming led to us putting the creeper back under the TV, but with the set hanging off the end. That would buy us a few more inches. We were going to win this thing, one way or another, even if that meant fighting for each baby step of the journey. When the wheels bottomed out against the carpet once again, as Jennifer began to say, “what now?” I grabbed the TV and dragged it off the creeper, sliding it onto the bedroom floor. Now, sitting beside the bed, it once again begged the question, “now what?”

Jennifer got the bright idea that if we tilted it up again, we could cram our Halliburton Zero suitcase underneath it, and when boosted that much, we could probably lift it the final few inches to the bed rail. “If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid,” I said, or something like that anyway. I tilted up the set, Jennifer crammed the Zero under it, and pushed as I rocked the TV back down. It worked like a charm. From there, we were indeed able to boost the TV onto the bed rail. Then, moving some six-inches at a time, we walked the thing around the perimeter of the bed, until it was directly in front of the dresser.

Exhausted, sweating, and panting, we looked at each other over the great expanse of that stupid TV. “I’m not sure I can lift anymore,” Jennifer said, as we steadied the Trinitron, perched on the rail of the water bed. I looked down at the situation. This thing was absolutely massive. What ever made me think that this would go over well? Just look at the sheer size of this stupid TV set! Why, it’s bigger than the expanse between the bed and the dresser! And then, it hit me.

“No, let’s do this the easy way,” I said. “You can be done lifting. Would you please just watch that corner and make sure it stays planted on the bed rail?” I pivoted my side of the TV onto the dresser and then kind of scooted it up onto the dresser from there. I had to kind of hug it across the front to work it in. When I came away, I had to laugh, seeing where the screen was fogged up from my chest. Of course, we had to catch our breath, and have more whiskey.

The rest of the story is that I managed to get the Wii and DVD player hooked up. The picture on this TV is enough better than the RCA that at first we were wondering if our color settings were off. The improvement in sound is night and day. Last night we played music through the Trinitron and probably kept ourselves up too late. I will concede that this was probably not the best way to upgrade our bedroom TV, but we’re both happy with the results. Well, except for the muscle soreness, the damaged sheetrock, and as Jennifer told me in an email earlier, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.” Even so, all’s well that ends well.

Dear Random, Shirtless Party Goer…

First off, let me say that the reason I allowed you to continue to flirt with my wife while I was standing right there is that a) I was not in the least threatened by your antics and b) she seemed to have the situation well under control herself. I have my myriad reasons for marrying a capable woman, and this is just one of many examples. Allow me to give you some tips on wooing women in the future, that you may one day have an opportunity to pass on your genetic code, as I already have.

1) If you have to inform someone of how “smooth” and “dead sexy” you are, it’s probably not true. It’s kind of like when a man describes himself as “a good Christian” or when a woman is wearing pants that read “bootylicious” across the seat. If it must be asserted rather than observed, you’ve likely already lost your audience.

2) I won this woman’s heart and made her my wife when you were like nine. Our marriage is old enough to drive. You are closer to our son’s age than you are ours. In case you hadn’t noticed by the way we hung around together, neither of us is exactly “looking,” and we keep each other fairly *ahem* satisfied. It’s obvious to everyone else, even if you didn’t catch it, so be more observant in the future.

3) If you are going to prance around shirtless and announce how “dead sexy” you know you are, you might consider hitting the gym once in a while. If you can’t afford a gym membership, hit up the local GoodWill and pick up a doorway chin-up bar and also do a few crunches. You probably didn’t notice that my abs are clearly visible through my shirt, and I see no need to go without it. It’s okay to not have as much muscular definition, or to have a soft spot here or there, but don’t be in abject denial about it.

4) When you approach a lady and proceed to lay out your “smooth moves,” starting the conversation by describing how you are “working on” another young lady and that you have “stolen” her from your “best friend” is probably a deal-killer straight out of the gate. Your approach was so amusing that we both wanted to see where you were going with this, from the perspective of sheer, morbid curiosity.

5) When you want to win someone’s affection, either platonic or otherwise, it’s best to keep the talk about yourself to a minimum. In fact, you might be better off just letting the other person do the talking and respond when appropriate. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

5) It would not be difficult for me to end you with my bare hands. The next husband you come across might not think your display was so humorous, and may not practice as much patience and restraint. If not for your chances of getting a date, then for your chances of seeing old age, do yourself a favor and leave wives alone.

6) Some people can handle flirting and alcohol. You are clearly not among those. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. If you want to get anywhere in the future, choose either flirting or alcohol. You probably don’t realize this, but booze does not make you more attractive nor charming.

7) At the risk of sounding conceited even if she were closer to your age and single, my wife is way out of your league. She said so to me in those words when we were laughing at your expense later at home. Failing my advice on developing your communication skills, drinking habits, and fitness, it might not be a bad idea for you to lower your standards or find girls with low self esteem.

So, as a man who has been happily married to a loving wife for sixteen* years, I leave you with these seven nuggets of wisdom. May they serve you well as you go out into the world. I wish you peace and prosperity, and great success in your future humility.

*Oops! Edited to correct the years of matrimony. It’s been long enough it’s easy to lose count!

Happy Birthday Jennifer!

One of Jennifer’s gags for years now is that she wanted to get a personal birthday greeting from “Weird Al” Yankovic, since they share a common birth date. This year, I rolled up my sleeves and reached out to the musician, explaining the situation and asked if he could help me out. What should come in the mail today?

Al

BOOM!

It may be a little late, but it still counts, right? So, what do you want for Christmas, Jennifer? *cracks knuckles* A unicorn? The Hope Diamond? Your own private island?

Guns, Games, and… …Misogyny?

My attention was recently brought to one Anita Sarkeesian. Thank you, JB! She’s a YouTube personality, a video gamer, and apparently a vocal feminist. Watch her whole video if you care to, but this link should take you straight to the money line. In case you don’t feel like clicking over, allow me to quote Miss Sarkeesian:

The belief that women are somehow a naturally weaker gender is a deeply engrained, socially constructed myth, which of course is completely false.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAHHA! I like her. She’s funny. Did you catch that, Jennifer? You have no excuses anymore. That I can do more sit-ups or push-ups than you is not actually a fact, but merely a social construct. You can’t draw my bow? Not so, that’s a myth! And, if I’m carrying more firewood than you? The idea that you can’t carry as much is completely false. In fact, when they’ve had to dumb down the standards for a woman to get into the military, that’s just the patriarchy in action. Granted, I’ve met a few gals that could mop the floor with my happy ass same as I’ve met a few guys that my lovely and girly wife could pound into hamburger meat, but these are the exceptions to the overarching rule that men are naturally stronger than women. Attempting to relabel that fact as a “socially constructed myth” simply does not make it not so.

I don’t want to be too hard on Sarkeesian because between her platitudes and stale talking points she does manage a couple of valid points, and every now and then even teases at even-handedness. However, one could probably make a blogging career tearing apart her screeds line by line. Without doing a full analysis of all her videos, I’ll spitball a summary and call her one of the tragic cases that could be quite the powerful egalitarian if she’d simply drop the stale talking points, buzzwords, and made up BS that’s so popular among modern feminism. Men and women are in fact different and that’s okay. It doesn’t make girls better than boys or boys better than girls. If I thought that women were inferior, I wouldn’t have married one. In fact, women have great power that they derive from sources other than their physical strength. And, I do love me some powerful women!

In the dating world, the shrinking violets never really kept my interest. It sounds mean for me to say that I got bored of them, but facts are facts. One of the big reasons that I was attracted to Jennifer in the first place, and one of the reasons that it’s been working so well for like seventeen years now and I’m still attracted to her is that she’s a powerful woman. Indeed, I’ve been known to say that when the zombies come, I would prefer to be back to back with her over anyone else. In the above linked video, Sarkeesian bitches about the recurring theme of the damsel in distress in video games. Let’s be real though. We men have an inborn desire to save the girl, stemming from eons ago in less civilized times when it was necessary for the survival of the species for the stronger to protect the weaker, and video game designers have been cashing in on that survival drive since there have been video games. Cheap trick? Perhaps. If you dramatized my life into a game, sometimes I’d save Jennifer but other times she’d save me. Most of the time, we’d be working through our challenges together. The thing is, video games aren’t supposed to be realistic. Games play off of fantasy because mundane games would be boring. If you don’t believe me, click that last link and I dare you to enjoy.

Hopefully Birthday Wishes

Jennifer and I have each been fans of “Weird” Al Yankovic’s work since we were children. His original songs are as well executed as they are silly, and I find his parodies to be not only witty, but often more complex and better performed than the originals he’s riffing on. Floating around the house, we have CDs, records, and even cassettes with his name on the label, as we’ve accumulated them over the years. More than once, Jennifer has expressed her desire to get a personal birthday greeting from Yankovic, owing much to the fact that his birthday is the same as hers. I’d very much like to see this happen. Considering yesterday’s release of his video “Lame Claim to Fame,” it seems only appropriate that I mention this now.

She has a very solid lame claim to fame of her own, and the shared birth date in question is just over three months out. We’re not expecting anything fancy here. Yankovic is no doubt a busy man, and nobody is expecting him to show up in a limo in person or anything of the sort, but a simple birthday greeting by mail, phone, or online would make her day and give her a great story that she’d be telling for years. Indeed, she’s never been shy about flying the flag on this lame claim, as she’ll mention it in conversation anytime either the subject of her birthday or Weird Al Yankovic himself, is brought up. Weird Al has a lot of fans that would also like such personal attention, but the vast majority of those don’t share a birthday in common with him. I will likely at least request a signed photo by mail, but I very much doubt that this option will get her a customized greeting. At that, I will ask you, my friends, fans, minions, and flying monkeys, please spread the word. If this message makes it far enough around the internet, perhaps Yankovic will get the message. If anyone out there has some strings they could possibly pull, please do so. Help me to take her lame claim to fame and complete it. Thank you!

I’ve Been Biting My Tongue On This Whole “Privilege” Thing…

I’m not providing the links here for the sole reason that it seems that anywhere I click on the internet people are going on and on about “privilege.” It’s apparently the new, hip point of contention to talk about lately. The context in which I’ve seen it used insinuates that being a pale-faced male puts me at an inherent social advantage over all non-pale-faced, and/or non-male individuals. This stance automatically assumes that there is universal sexism and racism ruling our society that overwhelms all other forms of discrimination, in every meaning of the term.

When I was young, we lived in a not-so-nice part of town. My friend, Reefer, would bicycle to my house with his Crown Royal bag full of marbles and we’d play in the driveway. My dad ran off a hooker getting high on spray paint on the sidewalk in front of our house more than once. Sirens were ubiquitous and the rowdy bar down the street provided the white noise to my sleep. One time, some guy driving a school bus stole the push mower out of our back yard. It wasn’t even a nice lawn mower. At my school, either the Latinos or the black kids had the whites outnumbered at least three to one. The term ‘minority’ didn’t make any sense to me until we moved the summer before I attended second grade. I’m not about to claim that I didn’t get special treatment back then. I was a good kid, but my teachers kind of babied me. Whether that was because I was sweet-natured and well behaved, or whether it was because I was shorter than the other students and looked like Opie Taylor, I have no way to say at this point.

Jennifer and I once ran a youth hot-rodding/performance tuning group at church. We modified and tuned cars for performance with the kids, and talked to them about personal character and God. It was a pretty special time. While we were working on an engine swap in a Civic, one of the boys called from under the car, “turn it to the left to loosen it, right?” One of the kid’s fathers tried to donate a Porche 944 Turbo to the group, but complications kept that from being finalized. Since this was a decently affluent part of town none of these kids were from extremely bad backgrounds, but we had a pretty good spread of upbringing. A couple of them lived in trailers and would not be seeing the halls of higher education without hard work and scholarships on their part, and others had dads with spare Porches that they wanted to donate to the cause. I can think of two particular guys in the group that became pretty good friends that could not have been from much more different upbringings in life, but on Saturday morning, with wrenches in hand, they were equals, and they were buddies. Both of these young men were white. It should be of no great surprise that one of them is a Representative in the Oklahoma House, and is running for the U.S. Senate. He was set up for success from the day he was born. I’m not saying that the other one has no chance as such accomplishments in life, nor am I saying that Mike hasn’t worked hard for what he’s done. I might not agree on every point in Mike’s political stance, but I’m proud of both of those guys.

It is a true, unmitigated fact that some individuals start in a better position to succeed than other people. I know that I had a better start in life than my young friend Reefer. To that end, I’ve known a lot of people that were born with a silver spoon in their mouth that caused me the ache of jealousy. To claim that race is the sole contributing factor to an inherent life advantage is unadulterated, petty racism. Anyone who claims that boys are set up for greater success than girls have evidently never been in, nor even heard of a classroom; and that’s only one example to illustrate the fallacy of their sexist stance. If you believe that being a white male grants privilege over anything else in life, tell that to Sasha and Malia Obama. Those girls will get whatever education and career they ever want, and they’ll have an armed detail for the rest of their life. Now, that’s privilege. Indeed, “check your privilege” is a loser’s excuse. What the assertion boils down to is, “the only reason you’re successful is that you were born into it and I’m not good enough to seize the American Dream and make a better life for myself now.” I would be personally horrified to make such a statement. First of all, never compare yourself against anyone else. They didn’t steal the success that should have rightfully been yours. Secondly, if you’re jealous of a guy like Herman Cain because he’s such a successful businessman, instead of tearing the other guy down, tell yourself, “I haven’t made my first million yet.” Incidentally, I’m still personally in the process of making my first million.

Yesterday, after getting soaked in the rain and eating hamburgers with Jennifer’s parents, we settled down with Teen Bot and were enjoying some video games. The doorbell rang and I saw my neighbor from down the street in the monitor that feeds from the camera on the front door. He took a drag from his cigarette and immediately rushed toward the gate into my back yard. When I got to the door, I opened it to find multiple neighbors from all down the block walking in my front yard. Needless to say, I was a little confused. As I stepped through the door, the smell of wood smoke filled my nose. The man who lives across the street from me, let’s call him Joe, asked me, “is your house on fire?”

“No,” I said, “I didn’t smell it until I came out just now.”

“Well it’s coming from somewhere,” Joe said as I came out into the yard.

Just then, the other neighbor came back into my front yard with his cigarette, laughing, “it’s somebody’s grill. They’re across the fence trying to get some grilling in between the rain.”

In my confusion, I probably looked aggressive. In the rush, I failed to pull on a cover garment, and my M&P45 was in full view. Joe raised his hands toward me, and with big eyes he said, “I am SO sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“No,” I smiled and shook my head, “I appreciate you Joe. Thank you for looking out for me. That’s what neighbors are supposed to do.” I’d like to think that I’d do the same thing if the roles were reversed. I don’t know if he saw my gun or what, but he did seem alarmed there for just a moment.

Because of the topic on hand, I should mention that Joe is black. His recent bride is also black. Their kids are the best on the block, well-behaved, respectful, and confident. I’ve caught Joe when he didn’t know I was watching, gently giving them words of reproach or advice. They’re good people and a great family. His next door neighbors are another black family. She is the daughter of my next door neighbor. They were also in my yard, investigating the source of the mysterious smoke. On the other side, our neighbor is Native American. Frankly, I like my black and indian neighbors more than many of my white neighbors (but the one with the cigarette is a good guy too). :) I would hate to think that any of them resented me because I’m a white male, with “privilege,” in the same way that it would be quite bigoted of me to look down on them for their ethnicity. I like them for who they are and feel like they deserve no less opportunity than is granted by the privilege and benefit of living in this, the very Land of Opportunity.

The phrase “check your privilege” is insulting to all of us, all races and gender, and it should be an affront to any who ever hear it spoken. It’s a tool the talking heads and race-baiters use to fan the coals of the race war they want so badly. I don’t have time for people who give up on themselves so easily because they think their pigmentation has them locked into some kind of caste. That may be the way other societies work, but not this one. It’s an excuse to hate white males. It’s a way to give up and claim that everyone else is racist, although it is incredibly racist in and of itself. It claims that it’s impossible for me to have four out of eight adjacent neighbors that are very much not white. It’s a lie, and an ugly one at that. It’s a suggestion that when I do finally make my first million, I’ll have done it on the backs of minorities and not by my own talents, skills, and hard work; and that demeans us all, male and female, of all races. Check my privilege? No, check your attitude, friend.

*edited for grammatical and spelling errors 5/28
**and then again for the President’s daughter’s name.