Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31: Spoiler Alert!

SPOILER ALERT:  Michael Phelps took the silver medal in the Olympic 200 m fly, losing to South Africa's Chad le Clos by .02 seconds.  The American women's Olympic gymnastics team won the gold medal, defeating Russia.  Katniss ends up with Peeta at the conclusion of the Hunger Games trilogy.  Luke is Darth Vader's son.  Michael Corleone has his brother Fredo executed at the end of The Godfather Part 2.  Anthony Perkins is his mother in Psycho.  Leonardo DiCaprio dies in Titanic.  Rosebud is Charles Foster Kane's sled in Citizen Kane.  Bella becomes a vampire, and Jacob imprints on Bella and Edward's daughter.  Kristen cheats on Robert.  Rhett tells Scarlett that he doesn't give a damn.  Dorothy uses the ruby slippers to get home.  The North wins the Civil War.  The American colonies revolt against Great Britain.  Socrates eats hemlock.  Jesus Christ rises from the dead after three days.  And Saint Marty always reads the last chapter of a book first.

I hate surprises!

July 31: Light as a Feather, Merry as a Schoolboy, Unreasonably Happy

"I don't know what to do!" cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings.  "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy.  I am as giddy as a drunken man.  A Merry Christmas to everybody!  A Happy New Year to all the world.  Hallo here!  Whoop!  Hallo!"

Scrooge is nauseatingly happy in this paragraph.  Returned from the spirit world, not dead, not without hope, Scrooge dances around his bedroom, overjoyed to be alive.  (By the way, "Laocoon" refers to a priest of Poseidon who was caught in a, well, compromising position in the temple with his toga around his knees.)  In the movie adaptations, this scene is the most comical, played for laughs by every actor who has ever portrayed Scrooge, from Reginald Owen to Michael Caine.  And there's happiness.  Lots of happiness.

Like Scrooge, I'm unreasonably happy today.  I have been sharing my good mood with everybody to the point of annoyance.  I know, when I'm not in a good mood, that I want to perform open heart surgery with a dull spoon on any stupid Laocoon that comes my way.  Today, I am the Laocoon, although I am fully clothed.  Perhaps my mood will change as the day progresses, but right now I'm as light as a feather and merry as a schoolboy.

I'm not going to go any further with this post.  I just want to enjoy feeling good and not jinx myself.  I very rarely experience the gift of unreasonable happiness.

Saint Marty wants to jump, skip, shout, "Hallo here!  Whoop!  Hallo!"  Don't be alarmed.

Preach, John!

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30: Kristen Stewart Begs Robert Pattinson to Take Her Back

This post has nothing to do with Kristen Stewart or Robert Pattinson or vampires or cheating girlfriends.  Sorry about that Twihards or Twihearts or Twiheads.  I will not be discussing Edward or Bella.  I will say nothing about Kristen's little fling with her married director.

The reason I chose to title my post thus was to see if it made any difference in how many views it got overnight.  I've noticed that posts that have popular movies or TV shows in their titles tend to get a lot of hits.  I've also noticed that blogs that have racier titles like "A Quickie" tend to generate some excitement, as well.  Therefore, I tried to pick the most trendy topic for my post title.  Thank you Stephenie Meyer and Twilight.  Now, I'll see if it makes any difference.

Not much to report this afternoon.  It's been quite a busy day, and I'm almost at the end of it, thank the Lord.  I have to stop and pick up some gardening soil on my way home for my pumpkin plant.  It looks like its roots are exposed, and I want to provide a little more fertilizer.  When I get home, I'm going to have to do some gardening.

Well, that's all I got.  Kristen Stewart is young and stupid.  Her director is old and lecherous.  Robert Pattinson can do a lot better.  (I hear Katie Holmes is free.)

Saint Marty isn't above shameless pandering to get more readers.

Kristen's cheatin' heart

July 30: Disappointment, Jordyn Wieber, "Carol" Dip

So I watched the Olympics last night.  Of course, there were a lot of events that were covered, but the one that really struck me was the women's gymnastics competition.  I think the term "women's" is a little misleading, because most of the athletes competing are these tiny little teenage girls.  That being said, I was really moved by the story of American gymnast Jordyn Wieber.

Here's a girl who's been working her whole life for this Olympic moment.  She's the reigning world all-around gymnastics champion.  She posts the third best score of the night, but because of a rule that only allows the top two scorers from each country to compete in the women's all-around finals, Jordyn Wieber will not be able to fulfill her dream of trying to win an all-around Olympic gold medal.

That wasn't the part that really move me.  The part that moved me was Jordyn Wieber's disappointment, which was immediately evident and immediately heartbreaking.  She alternated between tears and stiff-upper-lip.  As the father of a girl who dances competitively, I just about died watching Wieber's post-competition interview.  I've sat in an auditorium and witnessed my daughter receive a medal I knew she wasn't happy with.  I don't care if my daughter takes bronze, silver, gold, or platinum in competition.  I care about the disappointment she feels in herself.  That's what I saw last night with Jordyn Wieber, and I could barely stand it.

This post isn't about the United States being screwed out of a chance for a gold medal.  Or an unfair Olympic rule.  Or unfair Olympic judging.  It's about a little girl who isn't even going to get a chance to make her dream come true.  That's really depressing to me.

It is a Monday, and, therefore, it's time for a Carol dip.  I've been thinking long and hard about the question I was going to ask this morning.  I think it's going to have to do with disappointment:

Will I be disappointed with the employment contract that's currently under negotiation at the university?

And the answer from the ever-wise Charles Dickens is:

...The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever...

Wow.  That answer depresses me even more this morning.  Misery.  That doesn't sound very appealing.

Excuse Saint Marty now.  He needs to go take some Prozac.

I just want to give her a hug

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29: Summer Camp, Daughter, New Cartoon

I dropped my daughter off at summer camp this afternoon.  In previous years, I've had a hard time with this act, more so than my daughter.  This year was a little easier.  I helped her set up her bunk in the cabin, got her registered, met her camp counselors, and then left.

It's going to be a very quiet week without my daughter around.  This camp time always makes me appreciate her a little more.  I miss her.  However, I appreciate her confidence, her ability to feel comfortable in her own skin.  She's much braver than I was at her age.

Maybe Saint Marty hasn't screwed up his kid as badly as he thinks.

Confessions of Saint Marty

July 28 (sort of): Stones Were Cooking, Rummage Sales, New Cartoon

NOTE:  This blog was typed yesterday.  I simply forgot to post it.

In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.

Charles Dickens' description of Christmas evening, with the stores closed up and people safely ensconced at home, stuffing their faces with goose and plum pudding, pretty accurately captures one of my favorite times of the holidays.  The bustle of shopping and cooking and gift-wrapping is over.  Everyone takes a deep breath and relaxes.

I love that time.  I don't mind the preparations; I get some enjoyment out of shopping and making cookies.  But I don't like the sustained stress of the days before Christmas.  And last night, for me, felt like one of those pre-Christmas days.  In fact, it was like Christmas Eve, 2 a.m., when I'm surrounded by unwrapped gifts and half-drunk cups of egg nog.

I was helping my wife get ready for her rummage sale.  I was pricing clothing, hauling boxes, hanging up signs, and bitching the whole time.  I hate rummage sales and garage sales and yard sales.  If you've been reading my blog over the last couple days, you already know my feelings about these backyard flea markets.  They're a lot of work for a little bit of money.

That's what I'm dealing with right now.  A lot of strangers on our lawn, rifling through all our old crap.  I can hardly wait for it to be over.  I just want my Christmas goose, and let's skip all the other stuff.

Saint Marty's for sale today.  Everything must go.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27: Holding On to Anger

I need to get moving right now.  I have grocery shopping to do.  My daughter is going to summer camp next week, so I have a whole bunch of items to purchase for her. She's really excited, but I always have a difficult time letting her go.  It's a daddy's-little-girl thing.  I can't really admit the fact that she's getting older.

I would like to reflect a little on anger in this post.  I've been thinking a lot about a person I've held a grudge against for a very long time.  I tend to hold on to past slights like a housewife holds on to her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.  I don't let go.  It's a trait I think I inherited from my father.  I had a creative writing instructor in college who was incredibly nasty to me.  She was so mean that I couldn't write anything for close to a year after I took her class.  She was that mean, and I have never forgiven her for close to twenty years.

I know it's not healthy to hold on to anger that long.  Chances are, that writing professor doesn't even remember me.  If I were smart, I'd say a prayer for her, forgive her, and then move on, hoping that she comes down with a case of permanent writer's constipation.  I know, I know.  That's not quite releasing my anger, but I just can't stand this person.  And, of course, because I refuse to forgive her, she still holds a certain power over me.  That power can still make me feel like an uncertain grad student.

I know all this in my rational mind.  In my irrational mind, I just want this woman to step into a busy intersection and get clipped by a speeding bus.

Thus, my word of wisdom for today has to do with anger:

Hold on to your anger.  It helps you remember who the assholes in your life are.

Saint Marty still has some work to do on forgiveness.

Buddha never had my writing professor as a teacher!

July 27: Customers, So Hurried, Rummage Sale

...but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes in the best humour possible...

This little excerpt describes a scene Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present encounter in their wanderings about the streets of London.  Dickens seems to thrive on details of the bustle and crush of humanity at the holidays.  He loves descriptions of bakers and poulterers and butchers.  Vendors selling things like roasted chestnuts and fuits of all kinds.  Dickens' city comes off sounding like one huge farmer's market.

I don't mind farmer's markets.  I don't mind community events where local people are selling wares.  I'm not a huge fan of white elephant sales or garage sales or rummage sales.  I just can't get into buying somebody else's junk.  I do watch Antiques Roadshow, and I do know that a lot of the hundred-thousand-dollar items are purchased at yard sales.  However, I just can't bring myself to sift through tables and tables of cast-offs in hopes of finding a work by a nineteenth-century master of the Hudson River School of Painting.  That's just not me.

My wife is having a rummage sale tomorrow.  She and my daughter have been preparing for this event for months.  We're selling baby clothes and old toys and tee shirts and books.  My daughter is hawking bowls of shaved ice, strawberry and grape and cherry and mixed berry.  They are both very excited about it.  I, on the other hand, am not looking forward to garage sale groupies knocking on my front door at 6 a.m.  I can't stand pushy people, and, in my experience, garage sale groupies are some of the pushiest in the world.

Thus, I will be keeping my distance from my wife and daughter's sale (garage/rummage/yard--it's all the same thing).  My only hope is that we don't lose money and my daughter sells a few of her shaved ices.  We have probably spent around twenty or thirty dollars preparing for tomorrow morning, so any money beyond that is all profit.

Saint Marty will not be selling his Rembrandt, however.

This sign says it all!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26: A Smile Thought

Tonight, my book club meets for a barbecue.  My good friend is hosting, and she has cleaned her hot tub just for the occasion.  I have bratwurst to grill, and my swimsuit is in the car.  Oh yeah, I also have the book with me.  It's Fannie Flagg's Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, which I am thoroughly enjoying.  No, I haven't finished it yet, but I have every intention of doing so.  In fact, I'm going to cut this post a little short so I can get back to my reading.

I do have a devotional thought to share with you today:

Always smile.  It will make people wonder what you have locked up in the trunk of your car.

Saint Marty needs to get back to his Fannie.

Hot dogs, hot tubs, and a little Fannie tonight

July 26: The Clock, an Icicle, Dislocation of Time

To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve; then stopped.  Twelve!  It was past two when he went to bed.  The clock was wrong.  An icicle must have got into the works.  Twelve!

This little paragraph highlights something that has always fascinated me about A Christmas Carol.  There seems to be some sort of dislocation of time that happens throughout the course of the novel.  When Jacob Marley predicts the arrival of the three Ghosts of Christmas to Scrooge, Marley says that the phantoms will appear on three consecutive nights.  The first at one o'clock in the morning on the following night, the second on the next night at one o'clock again, and the third at midnight on the third night.  When Scrooge wakes up for the Ghost of Christmas Past, he becomes completely disoriented with time because it appears he has slept through an entire day into the night.

This time warp never gets that much attention from anybody.  Readers prefer to focus on the more ghostly elements of the story.  Time warps are the thing of science fiction and fantasy.  Scrooge is not Luke Skywalker or James T. Kirk.  He's a Victorian businessman who happens to have fallen into some kind of wormhole of the space/time continuum, past and present and future coexisting in one place.  Even the twelve nights of Christmas are compressed into a single evening by the Ghost of Christmas Present.

This time dislocation happens to most of us.  I have reached that point in the summer where I look at the calendar and say, "Where the hell has the summer gone?"  Time seems to fly by like a hungry bat chasing a mosquito.  Fall is looming, and I haven't even had my summer vacation yet.  I'm not ready for the leaves to start changing color, but in a few weeks, the green maples will start transitioning to yellow.  Time is passing.  Pretty soon, the Christmas holidays will be upon us again.

I'm particularly aware of the passage of time this summer because of my eleven-year-old daughter who seems to have blossomed into this young lady overnight.  She's still goofy.  She still watches cartoons and the Disney Channel, but in the last few months, she has become willowy and beautiful.  She doesn't sit in a chair anymore.  She lounges.  And she has a friend, who's a boy, who follows her around like Lassie followed Timmy.

I'm experiencing a dislocation of time.  I'm still in May, and it's almost the end of July.  In my mind, my daughter is still three-years-old, sitting in my lap while I read Charlotte's Web to her.  She's actually eleven-going-on-twenty and is starting middle school this fall.  I'm still in the 1980s, when I thought Cyndi Lauper was cooler than Madonna and mullets were never going out of style.  That's how behind-the-times I am.

Saint Marty needs to join the present. or he's never going to make it to the future.  Ahead warp factor five, Mr. Sulu.

Not too fast, Mr. Sulu

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25: Power of Positive Thinking

I read several devotionals every day.  Sometimes, the daily devotions speak to me, and sometimes they leave me pretty cold.  This morning, one of the devotions I read was about the power of positive thinking.  If I may sum up its message, it said that as long as you believe in something hard enough, or want something strongly enough, you will have success.  It's just the power of positive thinking.

I'm not sure I agree with that sentiment.  I have wanted to be a publishing writer since I can remember, and so far, I've only published a few poems in some literary journals and one collection of poetry.  I wouldn't necessarily label that a roaring success.  Years ago, I honestly believed, by the time I reached my current age, I would have published at least three or four books and won the National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize.  That, obviously, has not happened.  Yet.  Instead, I'm working two jobs to support my family.  I'm tired all the time, and money is a constant struggle.  So much for the power of positive thought.

Perhaps devotional writers should be a little more realistic.  Instead of saying you can achieve anything you want with positive thinking, devotional writers should provide more achievable goals like this:

Don't ever stop dreaming.  It is the dreams that keep you alive and moving.  If you don't have a dream, you won't have a goal.  If you don't have a goal, you won't want to get out of bed.  If you don't get out of bed, blood will pool in your leg.  If blood pools in your leg, you will develop a deep vein thrombosis.  If you develop a deep vein thrombosis, you will probably die.  So keep dreaming.

There's definite wisdom I can get behind in that little devotion.

So Saint Marty will keep dreaming.

Think positive:  I DO look like Goerge Clooney!

July 25: Good...or Bad, Summer Finances, Tired

"Is it good," she said, "or bad?"--to help him.

"Bad," he answered.

"We are quite ruined?"

I've written about this little known scene in Stave Four of A Christmas Carol before.  It's between a husband and wife who are worrying over the debt they owe Scrooge.  At the end of the passage, the couple celebrates the fact that Scrooge has died, giving them more time to collect the funds to pay off their obligation.

I understand this couple's predicament.  When my wife and I refinanced our mortgage earlier this summer and learned we wouldn't have to make our first payment on the new mortgage until September, we celebrated, as well.  That little stroke of luck saved us this summer so far.  We wouldn't have been able to pay the rest of our bills otherwise.

Last night, my wife and I sat down to examine the current state of our summer finances.  It was not a very gratifying experience.  In fact, I would describe it as being just short of a morning in a Siberian gulag.  Times are not simply tight for us right now.  They are suffocating.  After an hour or so, I started having a little anxiety.  It made for a bad night of sleep, and I'm pretty tired this morning.  I have a feeling it's going to be a really long day at work.

There is going to be no Ebenezer Scrooge dying to save my finances.  The thing that I have my sights set on is the fact that my checks from the university should resume in a couple of weeks as the fall semester approaches.  That is, if the employment contract with the college is settled.  If it isn't, and there's a work stoppage (strike), life will pretty much suck.  The Cratchit Christmas dinner will look like a friggin' feast, and I don't even like goose or figgy pudding.  Yes, I'm praying for a contract extension or settlement.  Soon.

We are not quite ruined.  Not yet.

Marty, patron saint of worriers and underpaid college adjunct instructors, gives thanks for that.

What the hell is figgy pudding anyway?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24: Still Unmotivated

I'm still not very enthusiastic about writing today.  It's one of those times, as a writer, when one side of my brain is saying "sit down and write anything" and the other side of my brain is whispering "don't you want to finish reading that novel instead?"  I just can't shake off that stupid whisper.

However, I am sitting at my keyboard, pounding out this post.  I'm not going to say anything particularly smart or earth-shattering.  I don't really believe in writer's block.  I can always write something, even if it's not very interesting.  I know this post is not going to be interesting.  It's going to be simply done.  I will have composed one or two paragraphs about absolutely nothing.

That's the hard part of being a writer.  It's work.  Even if you don't feel like doing it, you do it.  You can't wait for inspiration to strike.  If I waited for inspiration, I would write about five posts a year, and approximately half a poem.  Instead, I sit here, typing away, not saying anything.

That's what real writing is about.  That's what real writers do.  They write and write and write, and, hopefully, something good appears.  Realistically, nothing good will appear today.  Instead, I'll just sound whiny and uninspired.

That's what Saint Marty has for hid disciples today:  a whole lot of zilch, with a little whine on the side.
Waiting for the panic to set in

July 24: Fatigues of the Day, Unmotivated, Upon the Instant

Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door by which the Ghost had entered.  It was double-locked, as he had locked it with his own hands, and the bolts were undisturbed.  He tried to say "Humbug!" but stopped at the first syllable.  And being, from the emotion he had undergone, or the fatigues of the day, or his glimpse of the Invisible World, or the dull conversation of the Ghost, or the lateness of the hour, much in need of repose; went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.

Scrooge isn't very motivated in this paragraph.  Jacob Marley has just departed, and Scrooge is exhausted.  He's had the crap scared out of him.  He's been told he's going to be condemned to an eternity of endless wandering and suffering.  He doesn't have a whole lot of motivation left.  He can't even get undressed, sort of tumbling into bed without even a last trip to the chamber pot.

This morning, I understand Scrooge's lack of enthusiasm.  I don't really feel like sitting down at the keyboard.  I have no real thoughts or insights to share, although that has never stopped me before.  I could just go back to bed and fall asleep upon the instant, without kicking off my shoes or draining my bladder.  I simply don't have much motivation.

I'm reminded of a Bette Midler comedy routine where she plays the most unmotivated person in the world.  She goes through a list of normal, daily routines, like washing hair, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and ends each item on the list with the question, "Why bother?"  It's hilarious to listen to, but it pretty much sums up my mood this morning.

Thus, I will be ending this post right here.  I could go on for another paragraph or two, discussing the reasons why I don't feel motivated.  I could talk about lack of sleep or sore feet.  I could talk about approaching weather fronts or feelings of inadequacy.  I could talk about the collapse of social ethics and morality in the world.

Saint Marty could talk about all these things.  But, why bother?

Tell me you haven't felt like this.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23: Being a Worrier

I am a worrier.  I have been a worrier for most of my life.  I can take small, seemingly inconsequential aches and pains and turn them into testicular cancer or a deep vein thrombosis.  These worries aren't just passing obsessions.  I can hold on to them for days, until a new worry comes along to replace the old ones. 

To prove my point, let me give you an example.  A couple years ago, I fell into the habit of purchasing a 64 ounce cup of Diet Mountain Dew every morning before I went to work.  At the time, it only cost one dollar, and I couldn't pass up the deal.  Anyway, after a month or so of doing this, five days a week, I started experiencing pressure in my chest.  Strong pressure, as if an elephant was trying to climb up my throat.  Having a family history of heart disease (my grandpa died in his fifties of a heart attack, my brother had a heart attack in his forties) and being diabetic, I panicked.  I went to my normal physician, and he ordered all kinds of tests, including a stress test.

When all the results came back normal, my physician asked me if I'd had a change in diet or lifestyle recently.  It was then that I thought of my beloved Diet Mountain Dews.  When I told my doctor of my morning habit, he diagnosed me with something a little less life-threatening than coronary disease:  acid reflux.  I stopped purchasing the 64 ouncers, and my chest pains went away.

That's just one example of me making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Today has been an exercise in worry for me.  First, I have a dentist appointment this afternoon, which is enough to throw any person off the pier into shark-infested waters.  I generally don't get too wound up about dental cleanings, but I happened to forget my toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss this morning when I left the house.

Second, and more troublesome, my home phone number has been busy since early this morning.  I just tried dialing home again a minute ago, and it's still busy.  Now, a normal person would probably think, "Oh, the three-year-old knocked the phone off the hook," and stop worrying.  Or, "There's probably some kind of trouble in the phone lines."  I am not a normal person.  As the hours have mounted, I have gone through scenario after frightening scenario.  I am currently at this one:  some pedophile rapist snuck into my house early this morning and has been holding my wife and son at gunpoint all day.

There are many other more likely, less violent explanations out there.  At the moment, however, I am driving myself crazy with the pedophile rapist thing.  Every time the phone rings right now, I snatch it up, hoping it will be my wife.  Every five minutes, I dial my number, hoping I will hear it ringing.

Before I go to my dentist appointment, I will be making a stop at home, just to put my fears to rest.  I will probably discover that my demolitioner toddler has pulled the phone out of the wall, and I will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Right now, Saint Marty is preparing for hostage negotiations.

Add a little hair, and this is me

July 23: Diet Mountain Dew Morning, Long Day, "Carol" Dip

It is definitely a Diet Mountain Dew morning.  My mind is about five steps behind the rest of my body, and it's losing ground.  By the end of the day, my mind will be back in Sunday while my body will be getting ready for Tuesday.  Therefore, I have a 52 ounce cup of the yellow nectar to jumpstart my week.  I hope it works, or it is going to be one very long day.

You know, when I started this blog about a year and a half ago (under the name Feasts & Famines), I thought it would only be a matter of time before some big agent or publisher discovered how witty and talented I was.  A book deal was supposed to follow.  Then a film adaptation of my book, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese (I'd settle for Steven Spielberg).  Well, here I am, almost two years later, no book or movie deal on the horizon.  I'm still holding out hope that these things will come to pass, but I'm trying to be a little more realistic.  I'm setting my sights on the Nobel Prize in Blogging (which the members of the Swedish Academy will create just so they can honor my brilliant writing).  Hey, a guy's gotta dream.

My point is that sometimes it feels like I'm writing in this little vacuum.  Aside from a few very supportive and kind disciples who leave comments, I don't know if what I'm writing is having any kind of impact.  I mean, I sound whiny and annoying to myself sometimes.  I'm sure I turn off more readers than I turn on (not in any kind of sexual or pornographic sense--the name of the blog is Saint Marty, not The Penis Blog or Adventures With My Other Head).  I guess the best I can hope is that my posts make a few people smile or laugh, maybe think a little about issues of mental illness, writing, poetry, and sexual addiction.  If I can accomplish that every day, then I'm doing something worthwhile.  I'm making a small difference in the world.

Well, it's Carol Dip Monday.  I already have my question picked out.  It has to do with something that's happening later this afternoon:

Will I have any cavities at my dentist appointment today?

And the answer from the great book of Dickens is:

...It gave him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried out in this.

That doesn't really answer the question.  Either I'm not going to have a cavity and will change my oral hygiene habits to insure I don't develop any issues, or I will have a ton of cavities and gum disease and will change my oral hygiene habits to correct these problems.

Either way, Saint Marty is going to have to brush and floss more often.

Not in this blog!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22: Watching "Chopped," Creativity, New Cartoon

Sunday.  Quiet.  Sedate.  Calm.  After church this morning, I went swimming with my wife and kids.  Now, I'm at my parents' house.  We're watching a marathon of the TV show Chopped on the Food Network.

Chopped has recently become one of my favorite shows on television.  What's not to like?  It's got food.  It's got people beating each other up gastronomically in a kitchen.  And it's got weird ingredients--stuff like pre-cooked pizza crust, sheep intestines, and cactus pears.  I love to see how the competing chefs cut each other down and get all catty.  It's the best show in the world.

I'm not feeling a whole lot of creativity this afternoon.  I'm feeling lazy.  And hungry.  Everything the chefs are preparing on Chopped, including the breaded sardines, is looking pretty good to me.  Usually, there are a few things I find disgusting.  Not today.  Even the yak steaks they just cooked up look damn tasty.  I guess the extent of my creativity right now is watching other people be creative on a cooking show.  No inspiration mixed with my perspiration.

Saint Marty is ready for his yak steak with sardine sauce.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 21: I Have Not the Power, Control Issues, Letting Go, New Cartoon

"Spirit!" he said, "this is a fearful place.  In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me.  Let us go!"

Still the Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the head.

"I understand you," Scrooge returned, "and I would do it, if I could.  But I have not the power, Spirit.  I have not the power."

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come wants Scrooge to move the sheet covering the face of a body.  The body is Scrooge's, and Scrooge knows it.  His powerlessness comes from fear and sorrow and remorse.  He doesn't want to behold his future self, cold and uncared for.  The Spirit is asking him to do something he, mentally and spiritually and physically, cannot do.

I've often confronted situations I have no power over.  Things that broke my heart in many ways.  When my wife was diagnosed  bipolar, I would have done anything in my power to make her well.  I couldn't do it.  When my wife became addicted to the Internet and sex as part of her mental illness, I wanted to do anything to take away those addictions.  I couldn't do it.  If my daughter or son develops bipolar or some other illness, I won't be able to do anything about it.  I have not the power, as Scrooge says.

There are things in life I certainly do have power over.  I have power over my weight.  I could lose the pounds if I ate less pizza or bowls of Lucky Charms.  I could get in better physical shape if I exercised on a more consistent basis.  I could make my house a little more livable if I sold or threw out some of the crap I've accumulated over the years.  If I sent my poems out for publication on a more consistent basis, I'd probably get published more.  These are things I do have power over, to some extent.  (Genetics and the taste of poetry editors also come into play, unfortunately.)

I am a person who has huge control issues.  I don't like feeling powerless, like somebody or something else is running my life.  As a Christian, I shouldn't have too much of a problem with this concept.  I shouldn't mind letting go of my life, giving it up to God.  After all, God is the ultimate decision maker.  God makes all the big calls:  birth, life, death.  Ultimately, it's what we do with our gifts (talents, money, property, health) that falls within our control.  If I choose to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, I am choosing to shorten my life.  If I choose to eat a box of Ding Dongs every day, I am choosing to become obese (and shortening my life, as well).  If I choose to spend an hour or two writing blog posts every day, well...

My point is that I should focus a little less on the things I don't have control over (my wife's mental illness, my daughter's quicksilver moods).  It's all about maintaining serenity.  You've probably heard this prayer before:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Saint Marty should have that prayer tattooed on his forehead.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20: Famous Last Words

This evening, Saint Marty is going to let somebody else have the last word for the day.

What follows is a list of the last words of some famous people;

Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something.
Francisco ("Pancho") Villa

I'll be in Hell before you start breakfast!
"Black Jack" Ketchum, notorious train robber

Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.
Voltaire (attributed), when asked by a priest to renounce Satan

Don't worry...it's not loaded...
Terry Kath, rock musician in the band Chicago Transit Authority as he put the gun he was cleaning to his head and pulled the trigger.

Is someone hurt?
Robert F. Kennedy, to his wife directly after he was shot and seconds before he fell into a coma.

Die, my dear? Why that's the last thing I'll do!
Groucho Marx

Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!
Karl Marx, asked by his housekeeper what his last words were

I have a terrific headache.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage

Drink to me!
Pablo Picasso

I have not told half of what I saw.
Marco Polo, Venetian traveller and writer

Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking towards me, without hurrying.
Jean Cocteau
Dammit... Don't you dare ask God to help me.
Joan Crawford. This comment was directed towards her housekeeper who began to pray aloud.

Lord help my poor soul
Edgar Allan Poe

Thank God. I'm tired of being the funniest person in the room.
Del Close, improvisor, teacher and comedian, died 1999

I have tried so hard to do right.
Grover Cleveland, US President, died 1908

I don't have the passion anymore, and so remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, Love, Empathy. Kurt Cobain.
Kurt Cobain (in his suicide note), Lead singer for American grunge band Nirvana, referencing a song by Neil Young.

In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first -- attempted suicide.
30-year-old anchorwoman Christine Chubbuck, who, on July 15, 1974, during technical difficulties during a broadcast, said these words on-air before producing a revolver and shooting herself in the head. She was pronounced dead in hospital fourteen hours later.

It's very beautiful over there.
Thomas Edison

Now why did I do that?
General William Erskine, after he jumped from a window in Lisbon, Portugal in 1813.

Don't worry, relax!
Rajiv Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister, to his security staff minutes before being killed by a suicide bomber attack.

No! I didn't come here to make a speech. I came here to die.
Crawford Goldsby, aka Cherokee Bill, when asked if he had anything to say before he was hanged.

I really need a therapist'
Christopher Grace, an actor who killed himself during a matinee performance of Grease

I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man.
Che Guevara

I'm tired of fighting.
Harry Houdini

I see black light.
Victor Hugo

LSD, 100 micrograms I.M.
Aldous Huxley To his wife. She obliged and he was injected twice before his death.

Let me go to the Father's house.
Pope John Paul II

I'm bored with it all.
Winston Churchill, before slipping into a coma and dying nine days later.

I know not what tomorrow will bring.
Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese poet

Don't disturb my circles!

I hope the exit is joyful and hope never to return.
Frida Kahlo

Dear World, I am leaving you because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool - good luck. (suicide note)
George Sanders, Actor

They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance.
General John Sedgwick, Union Commander in the U.S. Civil War, who was hit by sniper fire a few minutes after saying it

Dying is easy, comedy is hard.
George Bernard Shaw

I'm losing.
Frank Sinatra

Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius. Will you remember to pay the debt?

My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.
Oscar Wilde

Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.
Mother Teresa

July 20: Cold Roast, Sir Roger de Coverly, Quiet

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer.  But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, where the fiddler (an artful dog, mind!  The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up "Sir Roger de Coverly."  Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig.  Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.

I have no idea what "negus" is.  Cold Roast doesn't sound too bad, but Cold Boiled sounds a little disgusting.  I've never heard the tune "Sir Roger de Coverly," and I dislike beer, preferring a good Tanqueray and tonic instead.  But I love this description of Fezziwig's Christmas party.  I love the Victorian food details, even if they do foster thoughts of salmonella (Cold Boiled meat--I don't think so!).  I love knowing the title of Victorian dance music.  I kind of picture "Sir Roger de Coverly" as being the "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" or "Macarena" of Scrooge's generation.

I like a good time as much as the next person.  I certainly enjoy good parties (and Fezziwig seems to know to to throw a good party).  However, this weekend, I'm just happy that I don't have anything to do.  No parades to watch.  No concerts to play in.  No fireworks to attend.  Just a normal weekend.  Maybe I'll get some reading done.  I'll probably go running a couple of times.  I have a couple church services to play at.  But, no huge event that involves crowds of people (unless I decide to go see The Dark Knight Rises, which I don't really have the money for).  Nope, I don't plan to do anything.  Fezziwig would be sorely disappointed in me.

Then again, my favorite time at Christmas is not when the kids are running around in fits of yuletide greed.  It's not sitting in a crowded church, singing Christmas hymns.  It's not even playing with any new toy I may receive as a gift.  No, I prefer the quiet times, the "in-between" times.  I prefer the times when the gifts are wrapped and the cookies are baked.  Before I have to head off to the relatives or get dressed up for worship services.  I like to just sit down and take a deep breath.  Stare at the Christmas tree.  Listen to some quiet Christmas music.  Peace and solitude in the middle of all the craziness.

We have reached the silent time of summer.  After July 4, things slow way down.  The days get longer, and the nights get calmer.  This is the time of summer I enjoy the most.  Nothing is pressing in my schedule.  I don't have any big plans until school resumes at the end of August.  It's an "in-between" time, and I plan to take full advantage of it. 

Don't expect to see Saint Marty dancing to "Sir Roger de Coverly" on his lawn in the next few weeks.

Anyone want a swig of negus?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 19: Trying to Keep Ahead

It took me forever to write this morning's post.  It could be because the editor for Blogger kept freezing up.  I couldn't type three words without having a four minute computer hiccup.  Yes, I'm still complaining about the blue circle of Blogger doom.  It is so frustrating.

I was supposed to go see some friends play in a band at a local Mexican restaurant this evening.  However, the babysitter cancelled on us.  I was really looking forward to it, too.  Now, it's just going to be an evening at home, watering the pumpkins and reading.  Any other night, that would sound really good to me.  Not tonight.  Not when I could have been sucking down three-dollar margaritas and listening to live music.

I just had another break, courtesy of Blogger.  Whenever the editor comes back from one of those hiccups, I type like crazy, trying to keep ahead of the next one.  It's like rushing to get the wash off the clothesline before the rainstorm hits.  Sometimes I'm successful, and sometimes I get stuck in that little blue whirlpool of static.

Yes, I don't have too much to add after this morning's post.  That subject (finances) is still pretty heavily on my mind.  If I were a better Christian, I'd be able to trust in God and stop worrying.  I can't do that.  I've always been a worrier.  I don't see that changing any time soon.  That's what I do.

Now, I'm trying to bring this post to an end before the next blue Blogger cyclone.  I'm looking for a graceful exit.  A great egress, as P. T. Barnum might have called it.

Saint Marty just wants to take a pill and make his anxiety go away.  Valium might work.

Worry bites

July 19: Tremendous Family to Provide For, Tight Times, Cheapness

"You have never seen the like of me before!" exclaimed the Spirit.

"Never," Scrooge made answer to it.

"Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?" pursued the Phantom.

"I don't think I have," said Scrooge.  "I am afraid I have not.  Have you had many brothers, Spirit?"

"More than eighteen hundred," said the Ghost.

"A tremendous family to provide for!" muttered Scrooge.

This little exchange between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present seems pretty trivial, an offhand joke to lighten up the proceedings.  After all, the previous stave had ended on a pretty serious note with Scrooge basically smothering the Ghost of Christmas Past.  The current Phantom is decidedly more jovial, resembling the Victorian version of Santa Claus.  Yet, this Ghost also touches upon one of the weightier themes of the novel:  the plight of the poor and working class.  Bob Cratchit has a tremendous family to provide for, and he does it on the measly salary Scrooge pays him.

In election years, I get a little annoyed with all the rhetoric that's thrown around.  For instance, this year, one of the hot button issues in the United States is unemployment.  The tactic that annoys me the most is blaming the unemployed for being unemployed.  For the most part, people who are unemployed aren't lazy freeloaders, looking to live off welfare and unemployment checks and federal assistance.  No, most unemployed people want to work to provide for their tremendous families (as Bob Cratchit does).

You may be wondering where I'm going with this discussion.  Times are pretty tight for my family right now.  I don't teach during the summer at the university, and I depend on a lot of overtime at my other job to make it through June, July, and August.  My wife isn't employed at the moment (not from lack of trying to find a job), so these twelve-hour work days are making me really cranky.

The hardest part, for me, about not having money is disappointing my wife and kids.  I have a vacation coming up the first week of August.  We're not going anywhere.  We're not doing anything.  My daughter thinks I'm cheap.  She doesn't get that it has nothing to do with cheapness and everything to do with her mother's unemployment checks running out.  And no checks coming from the university.  And the checks from my other job barely paying the summer bills.

I don't need a millionaire President of the United States telling me how he's going to make my life better.  I don't need millionaire senators and representatives telling me how they're going to provides jobs for everyone.  I don't need a millionaire governor telling me how he's going to control state labor unions.  I don't care about any of that shit.

Here's what I need:  a job, one job, that pays my bills.  That pays for my daughter's dance lessons.  That maybe buys me a good book every once in a while.  That allows me to spend time with my family--good, quality time.  That lets me write without feeling like I should be doing something else, something more productive.  That allows me to sleep in past 4 a.m. every once in a while.  That makes me feel good about myself.

That helps Saint Marty provide for his tremendous family.

Does anybody out in blog world really care?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18: A Day of Struggle

It has been a day of struggle.  I forgot my keys to the office and was late clocking into work.  A half hour of frustration.  The dictation system for the doctors was not running properly.  Another half hour or so of frustration.  I had to deal with some pretty difficult patients during the course of the morning.  Let's say two hours of frustration in total.

Then there's Words With Friends, which I'm currently playing with several people, and I'm losing every game.  Every game.  I'm an English professor, and I'm losing every game.

I just discovered I have to pay a medical bill for labs my doctor ordered.  In the past, these labs were completely covered by my insurance.  No longer.  I have to fork over the money, to the tune of almost $200.  Major frustration, bordering on rage.  At my employer, the insurance company, a country that lets health care providers charge patients so much money for preventative medical tests.

Tonight, I have practice with the band I'm in.  Another hour--hopefully not of frustration.

Saint Marty has had a really long day.

I suck at this game right now!

July 18: God Bless Us Every One, Tiny Tim, K

"God bless us every one!"  said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

Yes, I went there.  I had to use the most famous line from A Christmas Carol to describe my time with K last night.  It was a great night.  We went to Burger King for dinner.  I tried the bacon ice cream sundae.  I don't recommend it.  Then we went to the playground.

The kids loved the huge play structure.  Plus, there was a rock band playing down by the pier for teen night.  The band wasn't that special, but K's older daughter loved the music, and the rest of the kids made friendship bracelets and played croquet and ate Doritos.

Tiny Tim had it right.  God bless us.  Every one.

Saint Marty will say the rest with pictures.

K looking pensive
K's older daughter
K and her younger duaghter

K and my wife

K and Saint Marty

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17: Rain, Rain, Go Away

Well, it's raining right now in Marquette, Michigan, which puts a little kink in our plans of meeting up with K and her daughters.  We won't be able to play at the playground.  We may not be able to go swimming in Lake Superior if there's thunder and lightning.  For the last week or so, the temperatures have been in the nineties with patchy rain.  And now, when I'm actually depending on nice weather, God decides to unload some crap.

However, I am not going to let this little setback ruin my evening.  I will pick myself up, dry myself off, and figure out an alternative plan.  Hopefully, the alternative will not be too expensive.  I can't afford it, and neither can K.  Perhaps we will hit McDonald's or Burger King.  Some place with a play area.  I'm not sure if K will go for that.  K is a wheat-germ-and-yogurt kind of gal.

That's all I have tonight.  No news about poetry contests.  No raises in salary.  No offer of a full-time, tenure-track teaching position at the university.  No sightings of Bigfoot.  No close encounters of the first, second, or third kind.  No winning the lottery.  No book deal.

Just Saint Marty.  Saint Marty's family.  K.  K's family.  And rain.

Not in my future tonight

July 17: Forfeits, Friends, Happiness

Scrooge's niece was not one of the blind-man's buff party, but was made comfortable with a large chair and a footstool, in a snug corner, where the Ghost and Scrooge were close behind her.  But she joined in the forfeits, and loved her love to admiration with all the letters of the alphabet.  Likewise at the game How, When, and Where, she was very great, and to the secret joy of Scrooge's nephew, beat her sisters hollow:  though they were sharp girls too, as Topper could have told you.  There might have been twenty people there, young and old, but they all played, and so did Scrooge; for, wholly forgetting in the interest he had in what was going on, that his voice made no sound in their ears, he sometimes came out with his guess quite loud, and very often guessed quite right, too; for the sharpest needle, best Whitechapel, warranted not to cut in the eye, was not sharper than Scrooge:  blunt as he took it in his head to be.

This is one of the best scenes in the novel:  Scrooge losing himself in the festivities of his nephew's Christmas party, playing the games, yelling out answers, dancing and singing.  It's the comic relief, showing the gaiety and frivolity of the holiday, and demonstrating Scrooge's fun-loving side, which has been trapped inside him for decades.  It's also one of the first scenes where Scrooge becomes fully human and empathetic.

I love the scenes with Scrooge's nephew, Fred, and his wife.  I love reading about Fred's friends laughing and enjoying themselves.  I like the goodwill exhibited by everyone.  It's obvious that everyone has true love and affection for Fred and each other.

This evening, I'm meeting up with one of my best friends ("K") who's visiting from Washington state with her two daughters.  We're going to go to a playground and then swimming in Lake Superior, weather permitting.  K is, literally, one of the best people I know.  She's patient, kind, and giving.  She has a special needs child, and watching K deal with her daughter's meltdowns and outbursts is pretty amazing.  K can connect with a little girl who seems disconnected from the world.  That is the miracle of K.

So, I'm really looking forward to being with her and her family.  It's going to be a good night, the kind of night Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present would have enjoyed.  It's all about selfless and unconditional love.  K makes me a better person, teaches me what real friendship is all about, accepts all of my small (and large) imperfections.

I can almost hear K right now:  "You don't have imperfections.  Not you.  You are the most perfect person I know."

That's why Saint Marty loves K so much.

Love's all about selflessness, until it effects you in some way

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16: End and Beginning

I'm at the end of one period of my working day, ready to launch into another.

The work at the office was unending.  Phone calls.  Schedulings.  More phone calls.  Faxes (yes, we still get faxes).  More schedulings.  I barely kept ahead of everything.  I finally stopped for lunch around 2 p.m.  In the time I took to eat a chicken sandwich, another pile of work showed up for me.  I prefer my Mondays to be a little more sedate, easing me into the work week.  This day was like a sharp blow to my temple with a hammer. 

Now the second part of my day begins:  church meetings.  Really, all I want to do is crawl into a big glass of...water when I get home and call it a night.  That won't be happening.  I'll be lucky if I'm home by nine o'clock this evening.  I'm really beat.  I hope I don't fall asleep in the middle of a meeting.  That would be bad. 

I had every intention of working on a new poem today.  Didn't happen.  I was also going to order my textbooks for the fall semester.  Didn't happen, either.  I had a lot of intentions today.  None of them are going to come to pass.

Saint Marty will be lucky if he remembers to brush his teeth before he goes to bed.
A typical Monday

July 16: Searching My Mind, Coming Up Blank, "Carol" Dip

Usually, when I sit down to type my morning post, I perform a little inventory, searching my mind to see what subject preoccupies my thoughts.  This morning, when I sat down at the keyboard, I took inventory.  Then, I took inventory again.  I checked a third time, just to make sure my results were accurate.  They were.  My shelves are empty.  I'm coming up blank.  My cup is half-empty.  I can lead a horse to water, but I can't make him give me a subject.  The grass isn't greener over my septic tank.  Life is giving me lemons, and I don't know how to make lemonade.  My well is dry.  I've been through the desert on a horse with no name.

You get the idea.  I could write about how I'm falling asleep in between each sentence, but I don't think any of my disciples want to read another post about how tired I am.  Every Monday is the same story.  I'm tired.  Need caffeine.  It's the mantra of my life.  Therefore, I'm going to cut my losses and get straight to the Carol dip for today.

After much thought, and a whole lot of self-reflection and moral wrestling, I've come up the the following question to ask the great book of Dickens:

Is Tom Cruise as nutty as he seems?

And the answer from Charles Dickens is:

...The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the credulity of human nature.  Knocking down the fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping up against the piano, smothering himself among the curtains, wherever she went, there went he...

There you have it, folks.  Katie Holmes got out in the nick of time.  Tom is nuttier than a jar of Planter's Dry Roasted Peanuts, an outrage on the credulity of human nature.  It's official.

Saint Marty needs a nap now.

Call the guys with the butterfly nets!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15: The Day After, New Cartoon

Back when I was in high school and Ronald Reagan was President, the ABC network aired a film titled The Day After.  It was about an all-out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  It was the height of the Cold War, and Reagan had everyone wound up about the "Evil Empire."  A nuclear holocaust seemed a very real and present possibility.

The reason I'm thinking about this film is because it is the day after the Big Brothers Big Sisters Fun Run, and I'm currently dealing with its aftermath.  I'm a little sore and tired.  The sore part is from the race.  The tired part is from being out until past midnight for a fireworks display last night.

Of course, it's upwards of ninety degrees today, and I did go for another run after church.  That could have something to do with my physical condition, which I would categorize as not quite nuclear apocalyptic.  I can still bend over and pick my son's toys up from the floor without getting stuck in the shape of a comma.  My hair all fell out, but that happened a long time ago.

It's a pretty lazy afternoon, recuperating and relaxing.  Hot dogs for dinner.  Perfect for a July evening.  The only thing missing is the watermelon or pecan pie.

Maybe Saint Marty could get Aunt Bee to whip up the pie and Barney to pick up the melon.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, July 14, 2012

July 14: Along the Road, Every Gate, Race, New Cartoon

They walked along the road; Scrooge recognizing every gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river.

This description is about Scrooge walking into his past, a little road that leads to the schoolhouse of his youth.  Of course, Scrooge is very familiar with these surroundings, even though he hasn't thought about them for decades probably.

This morning, I ran in a Big Brothers Big Sisters Fun Run, an event in which I participate every year.  This year, the two-mile race followed the same route it has followed for the past five years.  Like Scrooge, I know every gate, and post, and tree.  That's not a bad thing.  I like knowing when I'm reaching the next turn or hill, when the railroad tracks are coming up, signalling the end of the race.  It was a good run today.

My eleven-year-old daughter ran the race.  She took first place in her age group.  I pushed my three-year-old son in a running stroller.  He took first place in his age group.  I, pushing that stroller and pacing my daughter, took second place in my age group.  Don't be too impressed.  There was only one other person in my age group.  But I got a medal.

Tonight, there's a fireworks show in the neighboring town.  It's usually the best fireworks of the summer.  Plus, I'll be able to get some kettle corn.  I love small town life.

Saint Marty may be slow, but he's still a winner.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13: Good Luck on Friday the 13th

I don't believe in bad luck on Friday the 13th.  I've never had bad luck on any Friday the 13th ever.

Tonight, I'm driving up with a group of friends to a camp on Crystal Lake I used to be a counselor at when I was a teenager.  I haven't been back there in a long time.  They closed the place down when the son of the camp cook drowned in the lake one August.  I remember the cook.  Kind of a nutty lady named Mrs. Voorhees.  But, boy, could she make a mean meatloaf surprise!

All of the people I'm going up with used to be counselors with me at Camp Crystal Lake.  They were a wild bunch.  Sneaking off to empty cabins to screw each other's brains out.  Drinking all night long.  Skinny dipping off the dock at midnight.  None of them have changed that much.  It should make for quite a party this evening.

I'm leaving right after work.  It takes about an hour to get there.  Down a few dirt roads.  I hope they don't have the cabins all locked up or anything.  I've already packed all my stuff.  And I didn't forget the bug spray.  I don't want to get eaten alive up there at the lake.  I think it's going to be a blast.

The only thing I'm really going to miss from the good old days is Mrs. Voorhees' meatloaf.  She sure knew how to handle hamburger.  It really was sad about her son.  I can't quite remember his name.  I think it was something like James or Jay.

Any how, I can't wait to see our old stomping grounds.

No, sir.  Saint Marty doesn't believe in all that bad luck on Friday the 13th stuff.

Good old Mrs. Voorhees!

July 13: The Little Face, Low Blood Sugar, Emotions

He left the room, and went up stairs into the room above, which was lighted cheerfully, and hung with Christmas.  There was a chair set close beside the child, and there were signs of some one having been there lately.  Poor Bob sat down in it, and when he had thought a little and composed himself, he kissed the little face.  He was reconciled to what had happened, and went down again quite happy.

I know that I've written about this paragraph before.  Not many people are aware of the existence of this scene:  Bob sitting next to the deathbed of Tiny Tim.  Even though I know Tiny Tim survives, this passage of parental grief is still very difficult for me to read.

I'm not going to talk about infant mortality.  I'm not going to talk about poverty in developing countries.  I'm not going to talk about the severe lack of medical care for the working poor in the United States.  No, those subjects haven't even crossed my mind.  I'm going to talk about low blood sugar.

Having been a diabetic since the time I was 13, I'm very familiar with low blood sugars (or hypoglycemia).  Any diabetic can describe the weakness, cold sweats, ravenous hunger, and exhaustion that accompanies this condition.  It's pretty standard stuff.  If you are diabetic, you will have low blood sugars.

This morning, as I was working, I was listening to a song by the Irish Rovers.  I believe it was "The Unicorn."  As I listened, I started getting really sad, which is a ridiculous reaction to that song.  By the time the Great Flood came and wiped out the entire race of horned equines, I was ready to cry.  I thought I was going crazy.  Then, I tested by blood sugar.  It was 45.

Not every diabetic has the same symptoms for low blood sugars.  For me, a hypoglycemic reaction lowers my defenses.  My emotions, which I can usually hold in check, sort of bubble to the surface.  The dip in my glucose level alters my brain chemistry in some way.  I can start bawling like a pregnant woman at the slightest provocation.  A shampoo commercial.  A piece of gum.  A magazine article.  A song.  Low blood sugar simply eliminates the switch that protects me from sentimentality.

So, when I sat down to type this post, I flipped through my copy of A Christmas Carol and came upon the above paragraph about Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.  I had to close the book and go into the bathroom to regain my composure.  I felt like an idiot.  Thinking about Bob leaning over the bed and kissing "the little face" of Tiny Tim just pushed me over the edge.

I'm better now.  I've drank a cranberry juice and ate a raspberry fruit bar.  I have regained my natural cynicism and am ready to face the world, all of my tendencies toward compassion and sympathy walled away and safe.  I don't have to worry about being triggered into a crying jag by the fact that Ann Curry is no longer on the Today show.

Just don't show Saint Marty a picture of a kitty or a puppy.

Bring on the Kleenex!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12: Expectations

All day long I've been expecting something to happen.  I don't know what, though.  It's just been this feeling, like a buzzing at the base of my skull.  It hasn't come with a sense of foreboding or doom, so I don't think I'm in the middle of any kind of cardiac episode.  Quite the opposite.  It's as if I'm holding the final golden ticket from the last Wonka bar on the planet.

I have nothing to account for this emotion.  No expectations.  I could list a few things that would make me very happy:
  1. A tenure-track professorship at the university
  2. A cure for diabetes
  3. An e-mail telling me I've won the poetry contest I entered
  4. A cure for bipolar disease
  5. A month-long paid vacation
  6. A nap
  7. A pizza
  8. A notification that Saint Marty has been named a Blog of Note
  9. A notification that I have won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (or blogging)
  10. A bigger house (three bedrooms, two baths at least)
  11. A banana
  12. A pound of plain M&Ms
  13. An end to world hunger
  14. A hot tub
  15. A universal health care plan for everybody in the United States
  16. A grilled cheese sandwich
Any of these things would validate the sense of expectation I've had all day.  I may be able to pull of numbers 11 and 16.  That's about it.  Therefore, I will have to lower my standards and accept whatever blessing comes my way.

At the moment, Saint Marty would settle for number 6, with a small pepperoni number 7 on the side.
Number 16.  Check.

July 12: His Own Image, Queen Anne's Lace, Later Summer

He looked about in that very place for his own image; but another man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured in through the Porch.  It gave him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried out in this.

Scrooge is gazing into the future at this point in the story, looking for some new and improved version of himself, a Scrooge 2.0.  He has already resolved to make changes in his life, and he's hoping to see those changes reflected in whatever yet-to-come Scrooge he may glimpse.  Of course, the twist of this stave is that the future Scrooge is dead.  The only glimpse he receives of himself is a corpse, draped in a sheet, stretched out on a bed.  Abandoned, forlorn.

We all hope that future versions of ourselves will look like George Clooney or Susan Sarandon.  Fit, attractive, and ageless.  That's what Scrooge is looking for.  If you live in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this time of later summer is dominated by high school reunions and softball tournaments.  Basically, all these old people get together to relive the glory days of yore.

I avoid class reunions.  I prefer to think of myself as perpetually young.  However, reunions are exercises in trying to identify former classmates and friends who have gained weight, gone grey, and lost hair.  The one class reunion I ever attended, I spent the evening trying to put names and faces together.  I wasn't very successful.  I was like Scrooge, wandering around some Christmas yet to come, trying to find myself and my life.

This time of year makes me a little reflective, if you haven't noticed.  As I was driving home yesterday afternoon, I noticed Queen Anne's Lace sprouting along the highway.  For some reason, Queen Anne's Lace makes me think of getting old.  Perhaps it's because it usually crops up in August, when summer is getting long in the tooth and the yellow of autumn has started appearing.  It could also be that the blossom makes me think of a great aunt who used to create beautiful patterns of tatted lace.  I can still see her pale fingers working the thread like white spiders weaving in a corner.

Whatever the reason, I feel old and tired this morning.  I just want to sit in a field of Wild Carrot and watch the white blooms bob and dance in a July breeze.

That's the future Saint Marty wants to see right now.  Quiet.  Warm.  Lazy.

Care to join me in being a little lazy?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11: B.A.D.

Every person I have met today--coworkers, patients, mail carriers, old women in need of directions to the bathroom, old men in need of directions to the urologist--has had a bad atiitude.  Therefore, I have christened this day "Bad Attitude Day" (B.A.D. for short).

I am not immune to this malaise, either.  Bad attitudes are contagious.  Being around pissed-off people pisses me off.  I have been trying to maintain a positive disposition.  (I know, I know.  By nature, I'm a very contrary person, more of a pessimist than an optimist.  Right now, I can't stand being around people, because they're all doing things that irritate me.)

So, on this B.A.D., I have been hiding, avoiding conversations, and purposely ignoring individuals.  It is now late afternoon, and I have almost made it through the entire day without raising my voice or being sarcastic.  At the moment, my friend (a serial dieter) is discussing her newest eating regimen behind me, and I'm holding my tongue in check.  I'm finding it very difficult not to say something disparaging.

I want this B.A.D. to be over.  I want to get in my car and go home and not have to speak to another person for the rest of the day.  That, obviously, is not going to happen.  There are people who live in my house with me--my wife and kids.  I just hope I can shake off the B.A.D. before I reach my driveway.

Saint Marty needs a little injection of good humor.  Or a really strong gin and tonic.

Say it with me, "Screw 'em!"

July 11: How Are You, Non Sequitur, Casual Conversation

"How are you?" said one.

"How are you?" returned the other.

"Well!" said the first.  "Old Scratch has got his own at last, hey?"

"So I am told," returned the second.  "Cold, isn't it?"

"Seasonable for Christmas time.  You're not a skater, I suppose?"

"No.  No.  Something else to think of.  Good morning!"

Not another word.  That was their meeting, their conversation, and their parting.

A pretty insignificant conversation.  At least, Scrooge certainly thinks so.  He can't figure out why the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has made him privy to this tiny exchange between a couple of gentlemen he knows.  Of course, you and I know that the "Old Scratch" is Scrooge, but Scrooge himself is oblivious to this fact.  He spends the next few page of the novel completely baffled, unaware that he is witnessing scenes from the aftermath of his own demise.  As the stave continues, the weight of the words between the two characters grows heavier and heavier until Scrooge is literally standing at his own graveside.

You may be wondering why I've chosen to focus upon this particular series of conversational non sequiturs.  I mean, it's a greeting, a meeting, and a parting in five very short paragraphs.  During the course of the words exchanged, the men discuss death, weather, Christmas, and skating.  They themselves seem to attach very little import to their dialogue.  They're just two casual acquaintances running into each other on the street on Christmas day.  I could probably hear a similar conversation in the produce section of Wal-Mart during the holiday season, although the term "Old Scratch" wouldn't be used, I imagine.  The modern version might go something like this:

"Yo, Fred, how's it going?" said one.

"Hey, Barney, you're looking a little rough," returned the other.

"Too much Lambrusco last night!" said the first.  "Well, the old bastard finally died, huh?"

"Uncle Curly told me at the Wooden Nickel," returned the second.  "It's colder than a witch's tit, isn't it?"

"Not bad for December.  You going ice fishing tomorrow?"

"No way.  My girlfriend would have my balls on a platter.  Hey, have a good night."

My point is that, even in a small exchange, something important may be said.  Somebody may be embarrassed or hurt, intentionally or unintentionally.  Words have that power, even in casual conversation.  I know I don't always think about the potential harm I can inflict with remarks I make.  For example, I'm particularly sensitive to comments/jokes about people with bipolar, for obvious reasons.  Yet, I have a friend who just doesn't get it.  Mental illness frightens her, and, when she's confronted by it, she'll say something like, "he's crazy" or "she's out of her mind."  My friend has no clue how offensive these seemingly innocuous remarks can be.

My advice is pretty simple.  If you are a person who has never struggled with weight issues or food addictions, don't complain about your "fat" father-in-law.  If your life has never been touched by mental illness, be thankful.  Don't walk around joking that a coworker with mental illness is going to go "postal" one day.  (That statement manages to offend both individuals dealing with mental illness and those who work for the United State Postal Service.)  Think about your words before you speak, even in a casual encounter.

As a friend of Saint Marty said this morning, "You just never know how what you say will effect people."