I’m not going to keep doing this.

I’m not trying to milk attention.  And sometimes I can be — when you write about something it can get very me me me me.  I did this.  I saw that.  I felt this.  It can get pretty self centered.

But I write.  I blog.  This is kind of what I do.  So…

Good Saturday

It’s been a weird day.  Good.  A good Saturday.  The White House tour was a lot shorter than I thought.  Talk about cursory.  It’s kind of sad that we, as a society, have to be so guarded and security minded.  So much is off limits.  But it was nice.  Standing in the Green Room, I saw Marine One landing on the White House lawn to pick up the Obamas.  Apparently they’re going on vacation in Florida.

Then I went to Utrecht (the art store, not the the city in the Netherlands) and bought a few items for the trompe l’oeil class.  It was a beautiful morning to be in DC.  I really need to not sleep in on the weekends.  There’s a lot going on in the world.

I drove up to Patapsco.  I park at Rockburn Park now.  Every time I’ve parked there, there have been girl’s lacrosse, boy’s lacrosse, inter-state softball and little league baseball tournaments.  It’s such a nice vibe.  Very family oriented.  Clean restrooms.  Vending machines.  A concession stand.

Last weekend, though, it was empty.  Except for one family flying a remote mini-helicopter.  It felt — like NYC looked in the Will Smith version of “I Am Legend”.  Deserted.

But today it was full of youth football league games.  (A lot more black families, which is just the kind of demographic anecdotal observation that fascinates me.)

The stupid ergo grips that I bought went all bad on me.  Well, I tightened the loose one.  Whatever 4 NM is … let’s just say I exceeded its tolerance.  This is why it was a good Saturday.  Plenty of time.  Unlimited options.  I loaded the bike back up, googled bike shops and drove to Race Pace.  The guy working there said most people don’t have problems with them so I bought another variety.  The ones with little bar ends.  They did well.  But why do I keep crashing/wrecking/falling?  I’m averaging two spills per ride these days.

Scars and bruises are badges, but clumsiness and ineptitude suck.

I’m a bit raw still.  But that translated to interacting with people today.  With less mental interference than usual, which is a good thing.  That resulted in my doing something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  Get a road friendly bike.  What a sweet ride.

That sucker can move.

Hey, Sadie.  Do you remember the Patapsco hike?  And the old guy, complete stranger, who gave us a pamphlet about the history of the park + God.  I saw him today and we talked for a while about aging and bikes and weight loss goals.  He’s got a Trek 7.9 FX.  Wow.  Carbon fiber.  Sometimes I look at oldsters and I can envision what they looked like when they were young.  You know?  You can see the spark in their eyes.  He’s 79 and riding his bike around the park.  I should be so lucky.  You all know that it’s my goal/dream to live next to the park.  There are houses whose back gates open on to the trails.  That would be joy.  And other houses within a short pedal of trails or trails that lead to trails.  Me want.


I’m overflowing with thoughts and memories.  Ideas and daydreams.  Nostalgia and mourning.

What freaks me out a little bit is when I look at younger people and I can see what they’ll look like as oldsters.  In the face, I mean.  It’s haunting.  You ever notice that?

I’ve been having lots of mental flashbacks about Theo.  They just keep coming.  I guess that’s normal, though.  Sparked by the fact that, according to Linda’s recent post, Wayne Kelly Jr. is out on bail.  I think maybe due to his health?  I don’t know.

I was thinking about, well.  I’ll just say it.  Addiction is an illness.  It’s an illness brought about by horrible choices.  It’s not a blameless illness.  But what is.  In fairness, the city and state do provide counseling and opportunities to try to help people who are addicted to drugs to ween themselves off.  I think there’s some kind of job counseling, too.  Of course, in a tough job market — ouch.  But when they’re done with you, they’re done.  You reach the end of x units of time and that’s all they can do.  Then what do you do?  How do you find work?  How do you afford a place to live?

You remember how I finally caught up with Theo after so many years?  The first time I had seen him in some 11 or 12 years was when I visited him in prison with his sister and mom.  I’ve never been in a prison before for any reason.  Talk about demographics.  Security.  I didn’t know what to expect.  A lot of other people visiting were veterans of prison visits.  One woman who had a few kids with her was there to visit her son and then on her way to another prison to visit her other son.  Jesus.

I didn’t know if you had to sit on the other side of a glass partition and use a phone.  No clue what it would be like.  I was nervous.

I was nervous, too, of what Theo would think of me.  You know?  Me being the guy who had a lot of young friends.  What would he think now that he was older?  Would he look back and second guess my motives or something?  I worry about stuff like that sometimes.

Once we were inside there was a big open room with cafeteria style tables.  Each table had a prisoner and his visitors.  There were vending machines and an area set up for photos with a screen background.  As a prisoner you had to use credits you had earned in order to get a picture taken.

When Theo came out I didn’t know to act.  Like, I don’t know anything about prison other than what I see on TV.  Is it like Oz?  Is it a constant melee of anal/oral rape, beatings, stabbings and tribal power politics?  Is the brutality you see on TV real?  I didn’t want to risk being emotive or something in case other prisoners would see it and it would reflect badly on Theo.  You know what I mean?  That’s what I was thinking.

He came out, hugged his sister, hugged and kissed his mother.  I put my hand out to shake his and he ignored it and hugged me.  You know.  A seeing-your-friend-for-the-first-time-in-12-years hug.  He was built from working out and had tattoos everywhere.  Mostly prison ink tats.  A lot he had done himself.

He couldn’t believe that I still have the sketchbook he gave in ’93.  I couldn’t believe that he was — like — a man.  And keeping it together regardless of the circumstance.  Like I said before, he was still drawing and apparently having a skill in prison makes you valued.  People tend to leave you alone.  Theo would make cards for the other prisoners to send home.   Or design T-shirts or tattoos.  He made a little money to buy art supplies from the commissary.  Being Filipino and Caucasian kind of kept him out of cliques, which I’m sure is a good thing.

Anyway, prison is rough.  A little more controlled than jail so I think it’s a little safer.  It’s a very controlled and regulated environment.  And it is brutal.  Theo told me that there were some messed up people in there.  The day I saw him someone had been stabbed to death a few days earlier.  And someone was raped.  Broken people.  Or young guys would come in being aggressive and starting stuff.  You know.  Trying to carve out their space and back everyone off.  Theo said he had to talk to a few of them.  Tried to get them to calm down.

For the most part, people just want to do their time.  Good behavior.  Get out as soon as possible.  Mind your own business, stay out of trouble, stay alive.  But some guys don’t have anything to lose.  And sometimes dudes will try to mess with you and start trouble if they know you’re getting out soon.  Just out of resentment.  So you keep it to yourself.

But that’s not … I don’t want to leave you with thoughts about prison.  That’s not the sum nor the most important part of his life.  Writing letters back and forth, I asked what his favorite food was and we decided that when he was out we’d go someplace.  I think it was a burger.  The whole point of this is to say that I enjoyed getting to know him.  Again.  The little things.  The differences and the similarities.

He cut up his burger into quarters.   That was new.  The laugh was the same.  Inflections.  Little stuff.

And don’t think for a minute, reader — not for a second — that I don’t remember you with the same detail and appreciation.  I do.

The Latest (8/16/2010)

I wrote everything above on Saturday.  After a typically meditative bike ride (when not crashing into things and eating dirt) your mind clears and opens.  And of course I’ve been experiencing intense nostalgia.

Last night I got one of those family calls that send you running to the hospital.  Luckily, I wasn’t too far away so when my sisters called, left messages and text messages I was able to get there with no delay.  My father is in ICU and is unresponsive.  You know.  You keep putting things off.  “I’ll stop by next weekend.”

It was good to see my family from my father’s side despite the circumstances.  It’s been years for some of them.  Decades for others.  Something like this … puts things in perspective.  I guess it’s human nature.

I will say this.  I mean, I appreciate the support my friends have offered.  It has been a rough week, y’know.  No doubt.  I’ve said many times how the next decade or so is going to be rough with my family aging and not taking care of themselves.  Not confronting their own self destructive habits or behaviors.

But I was thinking that this is something just about all of us will go through.  Your parents aging and eventually getting very ill and ultimately passing away.  We all become orphans in the end.  But I guarantee  you, regardless of how natural this process is, it resonates deep inside you and touches the child that you were.  It makes you remember the safety you felt clinging to your father’s leg or in your mother’s arms.  The sadness and fear you feel when your parent(s) may be on the verge, you’ll feel the same thing I’m feeling now:

Please don’t die, Daddy.  I’ll be good.

He may pull through.  There have been some positive signs, whatever that means.  Even so, there may be consequences.

I was listening to Fred Hammond in the car this weekend and he’s got a song that’s a good reminder.  You know, a song won’t necessarily change what you do on any given day, but the ones you related to sit in the back of your mind as an ethos.  Especially when your procrastination catches up to you.  I’ll leave you with that and then … I’ll be off the radar for a few days, most likely.

Hopefully I can report back soon with good news.  My father is a tough old bird.  He can do it.  If he has a chance he’ll fight for it.

Not just what you say
(It’s mostly what you do)
Not a game that you play
(To keep the winning hand with you)
Not just wasting time
(With empty words that don’t mean much)
Not just how you feel
(When others need your tender touch)
So can you take out some time
(To help somebody else in need)
And when this is done
(Love of God is truly seen)
Then above all
(We need to cover and forgive)
Then we can act like
We know what love is

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