Memorial Day Weekend!
The kickoff to summer!
Lots of people will be traveling to kick-ass places and doing kick-ass things this weekend and The Bielanko Family of rural Pennsylvania is no different.
Well, except that we aren’t really going anywhere.
And, uhmmm, we don’t really have any ‘solid’ plans just yet.
But never mind all that! This weekend marks the gateway to the best season of the year, SUMMER!, and I have no intention of letting it slide by without a whole lot of American-style Patriotic Family Fun.
So fire up the grills, load the guns, get the rugrats out in the yard, and dress up in your best red, white, and blue Ed Hardy stuff!
And join me right here at He Said/She Said starting TOMORROW: FRIDAY MORNING, MAY 25th for an entire four day weekend of rapid-fire good ol’ fashion American family high-jinks and fun featuring me, Monica, Violet, and Hank ‘The Tank’ Bielanko!
Now…where did I put those M-80′s???!!!
Friday, May 25th
Serge, 6:16 am: Sitting on the couch and pretty much everything is quiet. Except Max. He’s over by the door making deep guttural whining noises that means he has to pee a laser beam pronto, Tonto.
Hold on, I will let him out.
Okay. I’m back. It’s really the perfect morning out there. Cool and clear and clean. Around here in farm country, lots of people are already awake, but the road through town is still pretty dead. Ever since I toured around in a rock band I have woken myself up as early as possible. I know/I know, that’s not the most rock’n'roll way to do things, but whatever. I used to call down to the motel front desk at 2:30 am and get some sleepy night clerk and ask for a wake-up call in in my room for 7 am.
You know why?
Because I wanted so badly to have a little time to myself, a little time where I wasn’t behind the wheel of a van or up on some stage or eating another Subway foot-long in the parking lot of a wind-whipped truck stop in the middle of absolutely nowhere, always within a twelve foot circle of the same 5 people. I loved them all in their own way, but my God…when you live like that, when you live VanLife…you either never have any time to yourself (except in the loo, which I actually came to depend on and look forward to the way some people take a shine to a wonderfully secluded National Park) or you get your butt up out of bed, even if you’re still a little tipsy from last night’s beers still hanging off your veins.
It worked out for me. It doesn’t for a lot of musicians. I could even name a few who it would kill like a sledge hammer to the chest, getting up before the sun, would. But me, I’ve seen London in the early morning. And New York, too. Madrid before the AM rush, when the streets are vacant except for a guy with a dustbin and broom on the far bank across the wide open sea of the Plaza del Sol. Berlin at 7:30 in the morning is a helluva different city than she is at 7:30 at night.
So, yeah. Early morning has worked out for me. And so here I am, up before the kids. Up before my wife. I’m wide awake in America, ya’ll. Time to make the coffee. Time to avalanche some Raisin Brand into a bowl and listen for Henry’s ‘baba’ to bounce off the floorboards upstairs, when he is up himself and pissed off that his milk jug is empty and throws it out of his crib in rebellion and protest.
Time to listen for Violet’s footsteps coming through the ceiling above me on the couch.
Pitter-patter/pitter-patter/thump-thump-thump. It’ll come/I’ll be ready.
Time to be awake, so I don’t miss a damn thing.
Serge, 7:14 am: Okay… time for a little history lesson, my peeps. Bare with me here because there is some cool Jedi-shit I am about to to share with you. You ready?
A’ight, let’s rock.
Memorial Day was started after the Civil War to honor the Union dead. Did you know that? No…you did not.
Wait, there’s more. It was called Decoration Day back then, which is actually a pretty cool name, I think. (Funny enough, there are a few people in my hamlet who celebrate a Decoration Day of their own, every day since Thanksgiving. These are the ones who still have a Christmas wreath on the front door and a Santa or two in the window. There aren’t many, but they are there. And they are having a hard time letting go of their decorations)
Anyways, the South had its own way of paying tribute to the Confederate soldiers, with tribute days that were held in different places at different times, mostly according to the weather. If people were living in a town in the mountains they could get away with meeting more in the summer months. But if they were down in the river-bottoms of Mississippi or something like that, they had to put the word out that they’d be meeting up to honor their war dead earlier in the year, so that they didn’t have to fight off pterodactyl-sized mosquitos and turkey-chiggers.
In some ways though, it was the South and their way of celebrating that led us to the Memorial Day we play out today. Down there/back then, families would travel from far away, from hundreds of miles even, to meet at the local or family graveyard to pay their respects with their kin. Then because they’d come so far, they’d all spend the rest of the day/days in a reunion of sorts. They have what they called a “dinner on the ground” which was basically what it sounds like: a big potluck picnic spread out on the grass.
Family and friends gathered on the grass eating and talking and seeing each other for the first time in a while and probably having a nip or two of corn whiskey or car-battery moonshine or Miller Lite or whatever? Doesn’t that sound kind of familiar?
Yeah, it really does, huh? I frikkin’ love history.
Okay, I didn’t mean to bore you. But it’s Memorial Day weekend and we need to learn new stuff every now and then. So, I’m gonna throw some things in here and there.
(btw: I pretty much took my crash course in Mem-day history on Wikipedia and whoever wrote that entry is a Wiki-badass.)
Serge, 7:44 am: Ugh. Monica just brought Henry downstairs while I was sitting on the couch. This is bad. In our little wacked-out world, this is absolute heresy. I am supposed to get Henry in the morning, but I honestly didn’t hear his bottle hit the floor, so I didn’t know he was awake. Sometimes working from home just sucks.
Serge, 8:25 am: It’s the little things that keep you goin’, I guess. So, once or twice a day I check out Bill Murray’s Twitter stuff. hey, we all have our little airplane bottles of crap hidden away somewhere.
Here’s Bill this morning:
“RT if you kick ice cubes under the fridge after they hit the floor.”
PS…I don’t even think it’s the real Bill Murray but I don’t even care. I mean, define ‘real’.
Serge 8:45 am: Monica took Violet to the Y for her preschool. She seemed to have moved past the Henry wake-up snafu pretty smoothly, so there is some hope for me.
I am trying to watch some Backyardigans with Hank but he is too busy pulling every single book off of the bookshelf. So I am a 40 year old dude watching Backyardiagans alone. I am a fifty-time re-incarnated Roman Gladiator watching Backyardigans on a small blue couch that smells like sour milk/old puke/Febreze all by himself.
Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Good morning, America!
Serge, 8:54 am: Holy hell!
I just looked over from the show and Hank The Tank was full-on on top of his miniature piano! The thing is as tall as him, about two feet…and he was STANDING on top, teetering there like Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard back in the day!
I was so scared for a sec.
But then, it turned into pride/pure super-pride, as I wrapped my arms around his waist and gently lifted him down. He knew he had to go because he didn’t fight the airlift, but I think he knew that he had just resurrected a time when men burned their pianos in front of rabid Saturday night crowds and that that made his old man beam.
Serge, 9:33 am: Ha! Busted. He tried it again and this time I was ready. I gotta video this climb…it is really pretty impressive for a one year old.
Serge, 10;23 am: Monica just called and said that we are going to the big community dinner at an Amish house this evening. That should be cool. Probably, I will end up expelled from a sect I don’t even belong to, but oh well. I wonder what the food will be? The Amish are very good cooks and their gardens are pretty amazing, so I’m psyched for it. We are bringing the kids with us, so there will be high jinks.
Tomorrow is the giant auction that the Amish have in the town where we used to live. We’re moving back there in a few weeks (construction has been going on for months now) and so this will be sort of a round-about/inadvertent homecoming for us the next few days. At an Amish auction you van buy pretty much anything from a $700 handmade one-of-a-kind quilt to a 50 cent tray of strawberry plants. I will be on the lookout for hanging flower baskets.
WTF, Serge??!! Hanging flower baskets?!
Yeah, I know, but we have an awesome front porch at the old/new house and last year when we moved in I somehow found myself up on a hanging basket jag, buying them at auctions all over the place, and watering them every single night of the with Henry and Violet insisting on drinking from the hose every 3 seconds. I love it and I look forward to every evening because of these dumb plants, so whatever.
Monica just told me on the phone that they are getting ready to re-stain the old hardwood floors at the house and that she has to pick out the stain right away. I can’t even get my head around the fact that we are actually going to be able to go back there. It’s a magnificent thing in our lives since we loved that house/town so much and were honest-to-God brokenhearted to have had to leave when the fire hit last January.
It has been a pretty rough and tumble time for us since then, and although I know enough not to think that a simple house isn’t enough to make life perfect, I also know enough to believe that picking up where we left off is gonna be a really really good thing for this family.
PS: comment below if you wanna talk hanging baskets with a 40 year old stranger on the internets!
Serge, 11:21 am: Henry is napping and the house is in the midst of one of it’s rare lulls when time stands still. Just the occasional jingle of the dog’s tags and cars passing by out in the road. So I have a few choices to make:
1) Google image search: ‘original Daisy Duke’
2) Eat some food
3) combination of 1 & 2
4) Google image search: ‘Jessica Simpson Daisy Duke’
5) mix weed-whacker fuel in the yard
6) put in the first episode of Downton Abbey on blu-ray which I wanna see bad but which will undoubtedly result in Henry awaking immediately so I can’t watch hardly any
7) pick up dog dirt in the yard
8) Google search: ‘Serge Bielanko hot’
9) Google image search: ‘Serge Bielanko hot’
10) pick up plastic dinosaurs and kid books and crushed crackers off of floor
The excitement never ends.
Serge, 12:10 pm: I went with choice number two. I usually do, to be honest.
I hear a lawn mower cutting across the sky from a few blocks away.
Is there a better sound in the world?
I doubt it.
It’s like hearing a Skynyrd cover band kicking into their first song from the other side of the carnival.
It’s Summertime checking the mic, “Testing One Two. Testing One Two. Can you hear me? Is this thing on?”
Serge, 12:35 pm: Henry is awake. he’s right her beside me in his high chair eating shreds of bologna and cheese.
We are listening to the legendary flamenco guitarist, Sabicas on vinyl.
In at least three or four corners of the globe, bologna/cheese/and Sabicas all at once is considered a full-fledged party/fiesta.
Serge, 12:43 pm: Oh hot damn. Me and Henry went out in the yard for a little summer action and in the course of like sixteen minutes he managed to climb up on a picnic table, crawl inside an old recycling tub loaded with Cooties, kick a soccer ball almost into the crick, chuck several plastic jugs into the horse trough, pick some weeds/try to eat them, and knock over three Tiki Torches, spilling the fluid all over the place.
Then, he just quietly went ahead and swatted a line-drive over the shortstop’s head for the game winning RBI! Check it out at the bottom of this page…
Saturday, May 26th
Serge, 8:34 am: Up to a point, the Amish dinner seemed as if it was gonna be mega. Up to a point. I figured I would end up bonding with the man of the house and we would discuss farming and livestock and child-rearing without the bullcrap (or actually with real bullcrap and not fake stuff) and that by the time they served the Shoo-Fly Pie he would be calling me ‘Brother Serge’ and I would have my own room at the back of the farmhouse.
We drove into our tiny town yesterday through a haze of tour bus exhaust and the sight of many old people standing in a very long line waiting to hit the ‘Amish’ buffet. And even though I am certain that the food was probably great and that the company was as good as it could be, in the end we had to own up to the fact that we were in the company of tiny Bielankos and that the line to be seated would surely mean hell to pay were we to make them stand in it.
So we relented. We admitted defeat. We went to the inn for dinner instead.
They serve beer there….which also played into our final choice, in a very very small way. It was kind of sad to miss the Amishness. But I will be getting my fill and making up for it today.
After dinner, we headed down to my buddy’s place for a little campfire and a demonstration of his new yard sale stereo speakers which he has pointing out of his garage towards the mountain and which are so loud that they probably knock deer down when they are just cruising down the narrow trail three miles away up on the high ridge. While we were there, sipping from our lukewarm cans of Miller Lite and watching the fire dance, something happened.
Monica came over to me while I was holding Henry and whispered, “C’m here, you gotta see this.”
We walked across the dusky yard, over to the big playground set my buddy has for his three boys in the yard. There is a rock-climbing wall on one side of the thing. Not a little one either. I mean, it ain’t one of those four-story jobs, but it’s way bigger than the small ones that Violet and I have been practicing on. It’s like 8 foot, I’d say.
Anyway, we cross the yard and pull up to the wall and there is Violet…my Violet…halfway up the side of it. And she’s not panicking. And she’s not stuck. She’s climbing. She’s going up. She’s climbing the damn rock wall.
She’s never done this before. So, for me…for us….this is simply astounding and mesmerizing and bitterseweet all at the same time. Our little girl is climbing a big rock wall. The most she’s been able to accomplish so far lately has been to scoot up the thing with dad’s hands on her back and her butt, tenacious but tentative.
But now, her tiny pink sport sandals are catching each rock, thrusting her upward.
I don’t know what to say to her. I say her name. “Violet!, I squeal. “Look at you!”
It’s all I can manage.
Monica and I watch her reach the top and she nudges herself up over the edge and turns around to look down at us. No one else is watching, rally. This is a moment reserved for us, I guess. It’s our little time in our little corner of this gigantic humongous forever world.
Violet smiles down at her mommy and her daddy way back down there on the ground. Pride shoots between all of us. Then she turns and disappears with the other kids back into the fort in the sky.
Now, it’s later in the morning than I’d like it to be, but we are awake and organized (well, kinda). Henry has the freshly showered head. Violet is in the tub as we speak. Monica and I will take our deodorant showers and squash everyone into the Honda really shortly and we’ll be of and away on the hard-worn road to Hanging Basket City.
So, what’s the rest of America up to today? What are you doing?
Serge, 12:29 pm: Auction Report: Monica bought a picnic table. I sweated all over our kids and anyone else who was unfortunate enough to get close to me. At one point I was covered in so much salty essence of Last Nite Miller Lite that I was preparing myself to drown in my own filth there. Luckily, I found the cool cavernous barn where whoever lives there keeps a cow and some horses and a couple of pigs…one of whose name was listed on a painted plank.
His name was Wilbur.
He and Henry stared at each other like a couple of long lost bros while I allowed my nuclear reactors to kick in over by a stone wall. It was a hot day today. The first real doozy of the year. And I suspect that I maybe wasn’t all that prepare for it.
Yet, the funny thing is: I love hot weather! Ive got way more in common with a leathery-skinned Arizona retirees these days than any cold weather fans I might come across. I have come to despise winter and its eternal greyness of the sky and the mind. When sunlight is scarce, so is happiness. I feel like it’s that simple. Of course, that isn’t exactly an original thought, but it’s the truth as far as I am concerned. I will take sultry long summer days over the Dark Crystal ones of winter any day of the week.
I used to quiver at the thought of a palm tree decorated for Christmas.
Now, I think it would be sort of divine.
Anyway, Henry and Violet were both real champs this morning at the auction and that makes life so much damn easier. I mean, it was still tough, don’t get me wrong. With a one year old and a three year old in tow, you pretty much have no leeway to do anything except keep moving around the auction grounds, from tent to tent, watching Amish lads heave shovels and blankets and rhubarb plants towards the sky as the teenage auctioneer talks so much freakin’ crazy country jive that it almost seems like a Saturday Night Live skit of an Amish auction, never stopping long enough to actually use the number that they give you when you register to buy because to pause for more than a few seconds results in the one year old/’The Wanderer’ spazzing out because he can’t feel the road moving underneath the wheels of his jogging stroller anymore, while the three year old is immediately involved in walking a course of ever-widening circles, around and around, slowly broadening her horizons, until you peer out through the hangover sweat waterfall Old Faithfulling directly out of your forehead like a horizontal volcano and notice that she is a half mile away standing two inches from an old fifty foot tanker truck sawed crossways to make the world’s largest single engine chicken grill which is currently burning at 700 degrees Farenheit.
So, Monica is still at the auction. And I’m here with one sleeping kiddo and another one watching Dumbo off the DVR.
My hanging baskets are hanging in the balance of my lady’s fickle winds.
Soon, we will know how fate plays out.
Serge, 1:02 pm: Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwww!
Phone just rang and it was Auction Mama and she told me that she is on a roll and that she has scored 4 hanging baskets so far (known to us in the Central Pennsylvania front porch biz simply as ‘hangers’). Now, she’s over at the tool tent trying to make a subtle nod at the auctioneer’s eye when the right wheelbarrow is presented.
God, waiting on a the perfect wheelbarrow. Does it get any better than that? Lucky lucky sexy girl. Win one for the Gipper, kid.
I’ll keep ya posted.
Serge, 1:08 pm: Smoke signals are rising fast and furious from up over the hill.
I just got a text from Monica. It reads:
‘Three nice rakes for $7″
My heart did an old-school Disney songbird flip.
Three rakes! For a seven-er!?? Man-o-man…did I marry the right gal or what.
I texted her back.
‘Awesome! I love rakes! And I love you too!’
So far….no response to that, so maybe it was all to much too soon. Story of my life.
Anyways, we got new rakes!
Serge, 1:54 pm: I like to laugh and joke around and poke fun at myself because life is too short to get too serious.
But sometimes I look at letters from Civil War soldiers for a bit of perspective in this world. Most of these guys who were infantry weren’t all that educated, yet quite a few of them managed to capture very specific fears and dreams and hopes and regrets with their words/their letters home. In fact, reading the letters of any soldier, from any war, at any given moment, are always liable to be the most powerful thing we have read in some time.
So, in the spirit of this weekend and Memorial Day, I’m gonna throw some of their words here and there. Because it ain’t about politics or bullshit when you’re freezing and mortified in some narrow dirt trench or marching across some farmer’s sun-baked cornfield or squatting down in some midnight rice paddy, far far from home.
It’s about living. About wanting to live more than anything in the world. And about the dying you just might have to do instead.
Here’s something I like a lot from a Union soldier named O.W. Norton. He was an infantry guy with the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers who were from the northwest part of my home state. I find it especially touching because one of O.W.’s injured buddy’s name was Henry, the same as my boy.
I hope you give it a read and a think. Thanks.
(Monday, July 7, 1862. Camp near Harrison’s Bar, James River. Virginia)
Dear Sister L. : —
I have missed your letters very much, especially for the
last two weeks, and I have thought that you might write
oftener. I am very lonely now. My two most intimate
friends, Henry and Denison, were both wounded on the
bloody field of Games’ Mill on the 27th of June, and left
on the field to the tender mercies of the rebels. Henry, I
fear, I never shall see again. He was badly wounded, and
everyone in the company except myself thinks he is dead,
and I am hoping against hope. Denny was shot through
the left hand, and I left them under a tree together. If I
should tell you of the narrow escapes I had, you, who know
so little of the dangers of the battle, would hardly be able
to believe me. Three guns, one after another, were shot
to pieces in my hands, and one of these was struck twice
before I threw it away. My canteen was shot through, and
I was struck in three places by balls, one over the left eye,
one in the left shoulder, and one in the left leg, and the
deepest wound was not over half an mch, and I came off the
field unhurt. God only knows how or why I escaped, but
so it was, and though I lost my knapsack containing my
little all, I lived “to fight another day.” Saturday night
I slept in a corn field in a rain storm with no shelter but
the clouds and no bed but the furrow. Sunday night what
little sleep I got was on a log in the White Oak Swamp
(From cool website I really dig called: soldierstudies.org )
Serge, 2:33 pm: I have a new text from Monica. She has scored like 6 hanging baskets and she is trapped in the hanging basket tent during a bad t-storm. That said, I am hoping she makes a few more impulse buys….maybe a Dangling Forsythia or a Tumbling Tulip.
We have to get over there to get her soon though. There are some wicked clouds hanging out over this valley and they are moving her way. And she is without a ride.
And I don’t want my hanging baskets to have to drink more than they need.
But, mostly I wanna rescue a damsel in distress.
So, I need to wake Hank up.
I need to wake him/hand him his ‘baba’/and get him out the door and into the Honda before he even has a chance to realize what the hell is going on. There is a window of about three minutes when he awakes where his face is still puffy with sleep’s last stand/his young eyes still a couple of half-open piss clams trying to figure out the beach. If I can get him away from the toys and the action in that period: I can have him come alive in the car;and things are a lot easier then than trying to drag him out for a ride when he’s just getting psyched up about maybe pulling his train around the kitchen.
It’s complicated, I know.
But, it’s strategy in my tiny world. And it’s all I’ve got to make the damn thing keep spinnin’.
Serge, 6:39 pm: Home, covered in dirt.
Monica did me so proud at the Amish auction. When I finally got Henry up and him and Violet over to the Candy Cane House (that’s our house that burned/the candy cane ribbon on the porch posts from Christmas were still there long after the fire so that’s what we came to call it to Violet/ I took it down a few weeks ago)), so when we pulled up there were about 8 prize-winning hanging baskets hooked to the old hooks on the front porch there. It looked like the beer garden at one of those English pubs where you could easily spend the rest of time.
I am pretty bummed that I couldn’t spend more time at the auction; I basically had about an hour there before both kids were showing signs of restlessness. In a couple years it’ll be easier for us,the kids will be older and more able to hang for the longer run.
Plus, we’ll have Zilanda…our live-in Swedish nanny/fly fishing guide/super model/wok chef. And that will make things a helluva lot easier.
We spent some hours then in the old/new yard, putting flowers in and digging out beds and pulling Hank out of a hole filled with muddy rain spout discharge that he entered and then refused to vacate like a hundred year old water buffalo in deepest Africa. He went down into the mud and I think he intended to spend the rest of his days there.
Luckily, Monica had some old cookies we could use to lure him out.
We are home now and Henry and Violet are bathed. Their skin squeaks if you rub it, that’s how clean they are. If you had seen them a half hour ago, you’d have swore they were some kind of Mongolian Dirt Goblins that had clung to the wheels of some faraway jet and dropped down into country-ass Pennsylvania to terrorize the people.
When we pulled up to the house, instead of walking through the front screen door like we always do, Violet, in nothing but her underwear now, looked at me and said, “Can we sit on the bench?”
The bench is out on the front side of the house, on the porch along the road.
“Okay, baby,” I said and we went over there.
And I have no idea why, but she wanted to lay her curls on my lap and she was really sweet just laying there, my hand in her hair. We weren’t saying much. We were just, “Waitin’ for da cars,” as she put it.
The sun was rolling down off the western shelf. The whole town was pretty quiet, there weren’t many cars to wait on.
I looked at her there, freckles of splattered mud still running up the side of her cheek and across the bridge of her nose and I knew right then and there that I was living in some kind of spectacular dream that I hope never ever ends.
No matter what.
Serge, 7:49 pm: The kids are in bed. It’s like standing on the stone bridge at Antietam today. You sort of still here the bloody screams and cannons in your imagination, but really you only hear squirrels farting high up in the oaks above you.
Me and Monica got some pizza and some bottled beer (ooooh la la, fancy pantsy!) she was looking real good today in her gardening dress and we are probably gonna get a little Saturday night buzz on and maybe watch some Breaking Bad or some Real House-hives of NJ and the moon is almost just right in the sky and you know what I’m gettin’ at, right? I don’t need to spell this kind of thing out for you of all people.
So, yeah…if I don’t do any more ‘live blogging’ tonight, don’t hold it against me, okay?
Because I’ll be somewhere out there hanging off a shooting star. Somewhere across the galaxy where the internet connection is ass.
Sunday, May 27th
Serge, 5:56 am:
I am awake and alive, so that’s so something.
Last night, I got out of the shower and got dressed and grabbed a beer and pulled the tired/horn-dog bus to the downtown side of the couch and sighed my airbrake sigh.
“Couch City,” I announced to my self over the scratchy conductor’s PA in my brain. “Ladies and Germs, last stop. Everybody off. Couch City”
Then I looked at Monica all the way uptown and I noticed that she was already talking to me hard about something. She had a beer in her hand and a dead soldier on the lamp table and she was looking at her Facebook page and I guess I just wasn’t ready for that, for whatever stop she had terminated her route at.
But I tried. I swear to God, I did. I muted the Two Fat Ladies on the TV. I didn’t get up and walk into the kitchen and toss a “Keep going/I’m listening!” back over my shoulder and take a slice out of the pizza box sitting on the top of the stove and come back into the room with a mouthful or anything like that. I just sat there and tried to listen but I was out of my f’ing league, I guess.
No, I was.
She was talking about some people who used to be in her life, people she once knew who she doesn’t really know at all anymore because so much has happened and the world has spun around like ten katillion times since that last time there was any real face-to-face moments between her and them.
And so the longer she talked the more shitty I felt, because I suck at yesterdays. I’m not proud of it. I just do. I haven’t spent much of my time trying to figure out why I can’t get a little more nostalgic either. I guess I was just kind of a loser when I was young. I didn’t have a lot of girlfriends in middle school.
Here’s how many I had: zero point zero.
I played a little baseball but mostly I rode the bench because there was always some dude who was way better than me at every position and when that is the way things are going then that is the way things go. I wasn’t a Columbine freak because of it. I rolled with the punches pretty good, I reckon. I eventually let go of the game I loved and took job cleaning golf clubs at a country club.
Instead of riding the bench then, I made a couple bucks.
In high school, I wasn’t much either. I got by with okay grades. I grew my hair out really long and began smoking, left-handed and right. I had a garage band with the five or six guys I hung with. We never played a gig.
I coasted like I was ghosted when half the time I was toasted.
I had a girlfriend for a while. She was very cool. I emailed her once maybe two years ago. She didn’t answer me back.
Maybe the past hates me. Did you ever think of that?
Eventually/inevitably, I said something during a conversation I couldn’t fall in love with and Monica got pissed and went upstairs. My evening, our evening: it hissed around the room and slapped at the walls and the ceiling a couple times before it flapped down dead in the dust behind the bookshelf.
I laid on the playroom floor and began to read some novel.
After five minutes, Monica came back and poked her head in the room and basically said,”Come out and watch TV.” I didn’t expect that. You have to understand, we wear so much armor around here lately that we can hardly see the other person mostly. You would have to walk up to them and raise the garage door on their helmet and squint into the sweaty dark to even meet their eyeballs halfway on anything and who the hell has the guts around here to do that?
Still, she did it, and I came out and it really felt the same as if Eleventh Grade ever decided to call me up and tell me that she had always loved me, that it had never gone away. It was something to lift my spirit up off the goddamn floor. We need that sometimes, whether we know it or not. Maybe that’s what a little nostalgia does for Monica…and for a lot of other people, too. Maybe I’m missing out.
I went out there and we watched Keeping Up With The Kardashians and drank our beers ate our slices together.
Just me/her/right now. It was cool.
Then, we did it for hours on the roof under the stars. *
Serge, 8:14 am: I made microwave pancakes for the kids. That’s like nuking a cool tradition, huh? So many people have really fond memories of waking up on weekend mornings to the rippling waft of Pappy’s Griddle Cakes or Grandma’s World Famous Bacon Fat Flapjacks. I used to take deep drags of my pop-pop’s pancakes while I was trying to come up with a fresh excuse to miss Sunday school.
Maybe I have to diss these microwave things and get me some Bisquick, huh?
There has been some great fly fishing lately in these parts, according to some reports I’ve gotten. I think maybe tomorrow morning I have to get out. But today we have gardening plans at the Candy Cane house. I will try and take some pics for ya.
OK, Violet was just this very second trying to stuff a plastic dinosaur under my shirt. I told her to wait. I told her I was busy typing. Now, I feel really douchey.
So I gotta go right a wrong here.
Serge, 3:14 pm: Well, we went and pulled the trigger on an inflatable pool for the kids at Walmart. It was a homerun. Thus, we managed to get some serious yard work done over at the Candy Cane House. We had to come home though because Monica is having a real problem with her eye. Maybe bad Pink Eye? Maybe something else, I don’t know.
Thankfully, my good buddy was around with his Polaris (which is like a NASCAR meets tractor meets dump truck meets golf cart hybrid), and thankfully he was game to help me haul a ton of clump out of the yard and up onto the mountain. Now we are back at the house and I am going to get washed up because I just went to scratch my head and there was more dirt crumbs up there than there was head.
An hour after we got the pool inflated and filled with some water I looked in it and someone whose name probably begins with Henry had tossed in about four handfuls of country dirt.
It looked like the Missouri River in spring.
Talk in a bit.
Serge, 4:24 pm: Down the valley, a 93 year old Amish man has passed. And what a show of people have been turning up at his farm. Not just buggies either, but a lot of cars/a lot of ‘English’. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live to that age. Or to be a patriarchal figure in a community where so many people, for many valleys, knew you and loved you in some capacity. As I was just driving by the farm there were a mess of buggies there and a lot of people walking down the road to the viewing.
And the sky to the incoming west was turned the color of a softball bruise, purplish camo threatening to bust open and unleash it at any second.
Still, it doesn’t matter to them at all. If it rains it rains. If the ocean falls out of the sky then so be it.
The Amish walk down the road, past their fields and their barns, past little roadside ditch idiosyncrasies that most of us here zip right by a billion times and never see. We will never know that there might be wild raspberries growing in one spot a few inches off the shoulder. We’ll never see the 5 foot black snake that curls up in the drainage ditch by where the road rises and falls so fast.
Wild turkey poults snapping up grasshoppers on the far side of a rouge hedge.
We’ll always miss ‘em.
The sigh an old cow makes when a semi blows by and throws dust in her face.
We will never ever hear that.
We move too fast for any of that stuff. It isn’t even a part of our world. But the Amish, they see those things. They roam less . They walk more. They crawl while we speed, and we laugh at them and pass them day after day after day, powering past them and their tired horse in a hard burst of country road grit.
They disappear in our rear-views and we move into the gas smoothly, making up for the ten seconds we lost when we were behind them in this world. It’s so strange too. We see them fading into history before our very eyes. We have no idea what they say when we blast by. We have no idea what they might say about us.
Or if they watch us disappear and smile.
He’s gone, thank the lord.
We have no damn idea about any of it. They drive down the road, real slow, through the summer vapors of honeysuckle and wild mint while the rest of us can’t wait to miss everything we possibly can.
93 years. Of Amish life.
I’m thinking that must be like 632 years of English breathing when you break it down, huh?
Serge, 5:26 pm: Jeez, I hate to follow up that last post with this one but life creates it’s own song order and you can’t just hit shuffle and change any of that.
I just asked Monica to tie her wifebeater in a knot behind her back, like at Hooters.
Serge, 8:24 pm: Do you remember the day you turned 21?
Did you get loaded? Did you puke?
Maybe, you went to the diner with whoever you were dating, huh? Hit a movie afterwards, played it low key, and smooth.
Can you believe we were 21 once? My God almighty, it seems so long ago now. You hit that number and the damn world is your oyster, isn’t it? You don’t spend even a second worrying about the day, somewhere way way down the pike, when your work will be done. When you will be gone.
It’s kind of a shame that we don’t get to be young twice. We’d be so much more awesome at it the second time around.
On September 11th, 1969, a young guy from Ohio named Larry Jackson was about 9 months into his tour as an Army helicopter mechanic (rank SP-5) somewhere near Binh Dinh in South Vietnam.
It was his 21st birthday. He wrote a letter home to his folks.
The next day, Larry was killed in action. He got to be 21 years old for less than one day.
Here is his final letter.
Dear Mom and Dad, Getting short, Mom, coming home pretty soon. Going to quit flying soon, too much for me now. I went in front of a board for sp/5 will know soon if i made it. I have now 20 oak leaf clusters and some more paper for you. I have flown 1500 hours now, and in those hours I could tell you a lifetime story. I have been put in for a medal again, but this time I have seen far beyond of what ever you will see. That is why I’m going to quit flying. I dream of Valerie’s hand touching mine telling me to come home; but I wake up, and it’s some sergeant telling me I have to fly. Today I am 21, far away but coming home older. Love, Larry
Serge, 8:12 am: Hey. Morning.
I don’t know what exactly I was thinking but I went ahead and scrambled three eggs for Henry just now. He likes scrambled eggs just fine but I don’t know that he would have ordered the entire Paul Bunyan Breakfast if he could order it up himself. Maybe I was still a little groggy. Maybe I just wanted to crack three eggs because once you get going it kind of sucks to stop.
Monica is helping Violet crack her eggs now. And V is hands-on, man! You can’t help out! If you do, she might put the stirring fork through the back of your hand and then you will be the star of the Joe Pesci Goodfellas Omlette Hour.
Violet came downstairs talking about the parade today, so that makes me happy that she is psyched about it. We’ll be out there at the edge of the road with a plastic bag, waiting for the firemen and the girl scouts and the 4-H gang to toss us their Tootsie Rolls and their tiny boxes of Nerds and whatever other loot they are flinging at the kids this Memorial Day.
I love standing there with her during these candy storms. This will be like the 6th parade we’ve had/hit since we arrived in Pennsylvania. Watching them with her is comical and exciting and chaotic. It’s been a long time since I would say that about a parade. And, now that Henry can walk I’m guessing that today could be his Candy Storm debut.
I hope so.
Although, he is going to lose his marbles and I just have to accept that here before it even goes down. For a Tootsie Roll, or even for a twig, Hank The Tank would easily dive under a fire engine wheel, no questions asked. And I really admire his gusto and his belief in his own Golden Godness, his own indestructibility.
But, we’ve decided we’re going to try and keep him around awhile.
Which means that this summer, if you see a dude with a sack of half-melted chocolate goop blurring by you with The Quickness, in a full-on John Rambo shoulder roll/ disappearing under brightly washed fire trucks and coming out the other side waving a baby covered in hot-tar warpaint and Charleston Chew and screaming, “I GOT HIM!” and tossing him to his mama on the sidewalk right before the State Trooper motorcycles run him over like a baby rabbit who was born to die….
…..you should come over and say hi.
Serge, 11:08 am: Here is an excerpt from a piece about Memorial Day that I just posted over at Dadding .
“Or, would those soldiers who left us all behind peer down from their cliffs, down down down, their open eyes tumbling down through the cold dark skies of space and then the warmer blues of home, slipping down unseen into their respective hamlets and harbors and farm lanes and city blocks to watch awhile from behind hedgerows or fat old trees, to see all those other heads dancing in the wind, all those hamburgers being savagely burnt/all that corn on the cob/ all those cans of beer sparkling in the early summer sun/all of those new babies falling in the grass/ all of those Wiffle balls/all of those fishing poles/all of those motorboats and RVs and four-wheelers and burning gas/all of that same flesh and blood that they used to carry around wrapped around other people, more strangers with each passing year, sitting in lawn chairs by the glassy lake/ their loved ones just out of reach, swatting their hands at the green flies of the living: would those soldiers look at all of that stuff and say, “Please don’t. You’re forgetting the real reason for today.”
You can go read the rest here if you want. Thanks.
Serge, 4:40 pm: The parade was terrific. Violet had a blast filling her plastic beach bucket up with the candy they were throwing and Henry was just happy about every tractor/every fire truck/every teeny Shriner car/every horse that came down the pike. My mom came over and so did some old friends and after the parade we all hung out in the yard and had some beers and some hot dogs/hamburgers.
No one fell off their chair.
No one got stung by a wasp.
The hot dogs were Nathan’s.
No one got in a fight.
It was a perfect little Memorial Day afternoon.
During the parade, Violet was marching in place whenever the marching bands came by. I was melting from the cuteness. We all were. Henry got himself a root beer lollipop from some sort of politician in a convertible. Then he sucked on it/dropped it/took it from my hands/sucked on it/dropped it/etc etc….until what I was handing him looked more like a chimney sweep’s tool than a piece of candy.
Still, he doesn’t look at the things he shoves in his mouth. Appearances mean nothing to him. And, in a lot of ways, I guess if you are eating something aesthetically gross but you never actually see it with your own two eyes, you really have nothing to worry about. Thus, the grossness is canceled out. So even the lollipop that has been dredged in the hair/filth/dust/spider boogers of the world is still just as desirable as the one still in it’s wrapper.
So, I learned that during the parade, too.
I’m really glad we got to be here for this. This town came into our lives right when we needed a home really bad. And now that we are getting ready to leave it after just a short while, I’m very happy knowing that it will always be a part of our family story.
And that it all came winding down with a damn near perfect parade on a damn near perfect afternoon.
Anyway, thanks for joining me this Memorial Day weekend. I hope you had a happy and safe one.