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Friday, Mar. 05, 2004
For a couple of days, or maybe weeks, I’ll try to update that certain amount of lost time due to the demise of my internet connection last fall. Using stories, anecdotes or whatever you choose to call them, I’ll try to re-acquaint and fill in some of the gap for a while. Your patience with this self-promotion is gladly accepted. Although I must caution – sending e-mail is chancy at best. Try the guestbook instead.

Wow. For every one of you that ever had a horror story about the prickly effects associated with Cable TV and Internet Problems let me just say this. I’ve got ten more just like ‘em!

But since the little demons residing in my cable modem have decided to take a few hours off for lunch, or to go to an Internet Café where they themselves can use DSL or some other useful form of web access, I’ll try to sneak in a few minutes. Before they, you know, get wise to me.

And a rousing thank you, most sincerely, to all of you that took time to wish me well or just say hello and welcome back. I am humbled at the quiet hands of your graciousness and the humanity of your good thoughts.

I’ve been relating some pretty painful times for you here lately, and I suspect this will be the last of the those types of stories. Dwelling on bad times never accomplished much, and I don’t want this to be some sort of angst filled bog (get it? As opposed to Blog?) that will serve only to depress me and you both. That said . . .

I went through the holiday portions of the fall and winter pretty much on automatic pilot. There was the trauma of nearly losing the business that I’d worked my bovine parts off for, seeing the first born wing her way out of the house, and a host of middle aged issues that dogged me night and day. It was nearing Christmas, and the thought of pretty things and green candles weren’t making me feel any less listless.

I accepted Ally’s list of potential Christmas presents for the kids with a kind of grim humor. In years past, running up a thousand bucks or more worth of gifts was just standard operations around here. In good times, the entire living room would be stacked with wrapped artifacts, to the point that the actual wrapping became a small business in itself, the little gleeful poke-in-ribs that Ally would give me on Christmas Eve when we sat back at midnight and contemplated a mountain of goodies was a reminder that yes, we had actually done it again.

In 2003, there were no mountains of goodies. None at all. There were peaks of doom. A list of Christmas presents evoked a raspy and irritated “Gee. Maybe they won’t turn the water off if I buy a few things for the kids. Maybe they’ll be just as understanding as all the other bastards who’ve been so thoughtful this year.” It was irritating, it was dysfunctional sarcasm, but it was true just the same.

I proposed to my wife on Christmas Eve in 1979, at least I think I did. I know I gave her a ring. Seems like we’d talked a lot about the whole marriage thing before that. Anyway, it makes for a convenient date to remember, and ever since, I’ve tried to get her some sort of jewelry item for Christmas as a way to remember that time some 23 years ago. Some years it was something very simple, other years it was up in that rare air of a gasping “Oh my god! Oh my god, look at this!” as a months salary appeared in the form of a small velvet box.

To be succinct, baubles were not going to make it under the tree this year.

The romantic in me quailed at the thought of this, I like traditions, this was a good one. As good as turning on a Christmas radio and listening to cathedral services with small voices bounding off endless ceilings in song. The realist in me muttered about groceries and car taxes and kicked the romantic in the shins for good measure. In the end, it made little difference. It just wasn’t going to happen. I scraped enough together to get a couple of small things for the kids and Ally wrapped them and the deed was done.

I looked out the front door on Christmas Day and saw a gray day forming, a cold and breezy one with cheerless leaves chasing their way over lifeless lawns. And I stood and looked, the only one awake on the entire block, maybe the entire town, and felt the emptiness of one who has grown old and had things snatched away. I wrote entire sonnets about that, in my head, standing with a nose to glass and feet bare on the cool floor. But I was finding no poetry in it. I was finding little or nothing but sadness for the day, and the days to come. The romantic dying off, the hardness of gray rising.

Ally moved in silently behind me and laid a head to the back of my shoulder and wound arms around me without words. There is a small beauty in being with someone for so long that talking is not really necessary. That every hunch of shoulder and small breath speaks for, and we stood and talked in this way for some time. Looking at the same street and yard where we’ve been living for so long.

I think that might have been my low point, and as much as I sneer at modern day thinking and how Christmas is, or perhaps has been hyped to be, a time of sadness for so many, there is no getting around the fact that I was feeling pretty darned bummed out by it.

And a few days later, still in the throe’s of holiday time and slackness and sleeping late, I stopped in at the Watering Hole where Chief Mo and all the regulars were waiting in a patient excitement. “Step up here, Outfoxed my lad,” he boomed. It can honestly be said that Chief Mo never talks, he booms. “Here’s a beer,” and he slid a frothy Coors Lite in front of me and adjusted my stool and inquired about my comfort. “Now then”, the Chief said to the assembled. “You all know why we’re here. Last year Outfoxed won the football pool for the year and walked off with $600 and we all swore to get even. But I guess the only way we’re gonna do that is if we learn how to make better picks every week, cause he did it again. The sumbitch did it again,” this in a tone of wonderment.

‘Twas true. It was close, but once again the prognostication wizard in me had stepped up and delivered. Won the Watering Hole football pool, as close to prestige as it gets for a place where hot water in the Men’s Room is but a fond and distant memory. I’m not good at a lot of things, but by golly don’t mess with me when it’s time to pick a winner for football.

“And it’s $900 this year for the winner!” Mo continued. “What are you gonna do with the cash, big guy?”

“Well, unless I’m mistaken the winner usually buys a few rounds,” I said. The winner, in fact, did just exactly that, to a chorus of cheers and jukebox feeding and eventual mayhem.

I took Ally out for dinner twice and bought tires (sorely needed) for her car and a few more rounds. For a week or so, I was the king, the swami of football and heads nodded in my direction when I entered the bar, as a sort of “Jeez, there he goes now, that’s the guy I was telling you about. Won the pool two years running. Guy’s a freaking genius I tell ye. Do you know how hard that is to do?” And more rounds were purchased and friends were made. The $900 was water and Outfoxed was pouring with a heavy hand.

What, you thought I went out and bought the Christmas jewelry?

That would have made a good story, and I did think about it. I really did.

Somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to buy something for her with football money. Part of me said that earning it with the sweat of my brow was the more proper thing to do. That I’d be back, that things were going to get better.

I am, and they are.

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