“Dad goggles” on? CHECK! And the things we see with them on….

Something about listening to “The Dark Knight” Soundtrack, inspires me to chill out & write a lil bit. It’s either that, or ride my bike. And my quads are screaming at me currently. So on my ass I sit, typing away. Hope all is well with you folks, as you navigate your summer. Of course, life for me is good here at the beach. Got my Eva-Bear, health, wine, a part-time gig & plenty of neglected yard work to keep me busy & entertained. The increased frequency of my medication (Humira), has me feeling really sleepy. Instead of every 14 days, I’m now on an every 10 day schedule. I feel my body getting stronger & healing; Inflammation of the skin is calming down drastically. I’m taking naps more frequently & going to bed early. This vegetarian thing is pretty easy. Although I gave it up for some authentic Mexican food recently. I was pissed off about having to leave the sushi joint we frequent; Brought us some burnt gyoza. I was insulted. Clearly, in my feelings too much, I informed the waitress that I’d be paying for Eva’s drink, but we’d “Be leaving.” Straight to the comfort food! Didn’t even feel guilty for “cheating.” But I’m back on it: Spaghetti using spiralized zucchini noodles & homemade tomato sauce w/ garlic, basil, oregano & jalapeno. NO LEFTOVERS!

The other day I was out for a ride on the trusty, ’83 Mikado 10-speed, through the small town of Surfside. Nice & quiet, with most of the homes being vacation homes. It was a fun ride that day. Lots of wind, rain & hail; Another June day on the Long Beach Peninsula. With a library of AC/DC classics at my disposal, I was a modern day “Lieutenant Daaaaaan!” At one point, I actually pointed my middle finger to the sky & yelled, “YOU CALL THIS A STORM?” I think I was wearing my “Scream” mask that day…. Just to paint the visual a bit clearer. During the ride, I realized I forgot to eat breakfast. So I stopped at the Surfside Market- A quaint convenience store, located within an old strip mall. Also within this strip mall, is a video store, a realty company & another business I forget. It’s of no consequence, I assure you. I walk into the market, grab my Kettle BBQ chips, Mt. Dew (true breakfast of champions) & meet the owner at the register, Jerry. And old man, clearly in his 60’s, standing 6’2″ & clearly hanging on too long, to the remnants of what I can only assume was a beautiful “head of lettuce.” Seriously, this guy had a full-blown cul de sac w/ about 10 strands combed over in an arch across the top- He was dedicated to the fight. In the corner of the store was his wife- A woman possibly of Asian descent & in her mid-40’s. Next to her & behaving as though he had yellow jackets in his pants, was her son- A small kid, probably 7-10 years old. I gave Jerry the greeting of the day along with my money, acknowledged his family in the corner & exited the store. At the bike rack, chugging my soda & greedily eating my chips, I see the kid running from the store & Jerry chasing after him, mumbling something inaudible. He turns around, clearly pissed off, makes eye contact with me, puts on a smile & says, “Where ya from?” I swallow what’s in my mouth & answer, “I’m from Portland.” He puts his hands on his hips, puffs out his suspendered chest & asks, “What brings ya way out here?” Now, I love this part. This is where I get to shock the hell outta folks out here. Proudly (And I do mean PROUDLY!), I respond with, “I’m retired military. I’ve actually been out here 30 months & patronized your store on 2 other occasions. You just weren’t working at the time.” Extending my ungloved hand, “I’m Roderick. And you are?” Visibly dismayed, he deflates his posture, shakes my hand & introduces himself as, “Jerry.”

After a few minutes of “small-talk,” Jerry proclaims, “Ya must be pleased with the direction the country’s headed in now huh? I mean, Trump has things really looking good for minority folks!” (I type his name & the blue heron that was near my dock, flys across the lake & out of view. Coincidence?) Quizically, I respond with, “Pleased? No. Surprised? No. Unaffected at the moment? Yes. And therefore, I’m just holding my head down, waiting out the storm.” He then gets into a series of “But he this…. But he that… But he is….” But that wasn’t the best part. He began rambling on about how the “Minority unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been in the history of the country….I would’ve voted for Ben Carson…. Do you know who (insert Black conservative name here) is? I would’ve voted for him before Obama, THAT PIECE OF SHIT!” But that isn’t all! In the midst of saying, “Obama, that piece of shit,” he’d scrunch up his face like we all did when we first drank beer/whiskey. And while doing that, he’d sway back & forth like a seizure-stricken Stevie Wonder. I almost spit Mt. Dew in his direction at least twice. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. When Jerry realized I was one of those aforementioned, “bleeding heart liberals,” he voiced his dismay, scratching his spacious scalp, “Most retired military I meet are Republican. Sorry, I just assumed.” I explained to him why that is & will for you all too, having seen it first hand: Democrats cut the defense budget when in office. That equates to closed installations, early/forced retirements at 15-18 years & low cost of living adjustments every year. Republicans in office mean quite the opposite. Increased defense budgets, higher C.O.L.A., longer enlistments & more money for the newest & best toys. There tends to be a monetary surplus is my point. And where does that money go? Your guess is as good as mine. So it only makes sense for military members to vote Republican. After the explanation & as a token of goodwill, I told Jerry he was “Correct” in his assumption. And that our differing stances wouldn’t prevent me from patronizing his store. “No hard feelings Sir.” He shook my hand, thanked me for my service & I was peddling off.

Peddling South on the Peninsula, I was in search of William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.” Out of the blue one day, I asked Eva if she had read it. She reads everything! So I figured she’d read the “ONE THAT STARTED IT ALL.” Not up for debate either folks. “Hunger Games” has William Golding to thank. So does “Divergent.” The list goes on & on. The point is, I was losing MAJOR “Dad Points” because Eva didn’t have this book. Eleven & a half miles later, I arrive at Time Enough Books. Karla, always there for my Eva-Bear, searched in 4 different areas of her store to no avail. She put it on order. But that meant another 23 mile day on the bike for my regrettably gluttonous ass.

Waiting on the book for another week, went without a hitch thanks to the Ocean Park Library. Crisis averted thanks to Eva finding 2 books to suffice in the meantime. I received a call when it was in & was able to get there and back before Eva arrived home from school. Can I just say: Being able to bike 23 miles in under 90 minutes is pretty damn amazing! No applause needed. I’ll clap loudly enough for all of you combined. I feel that damn good about it. Eva with book in hand, gives me a hug & “Thank you” for the book upon seeing it on her bed. Twenty or so pages in, she’s hooked & already annoyed with “Ralph.” With “Dad Points” secured, I walked to my closet, threw on a button-down shirt & popped my collar.

The next 2 weeks were spent losing the points acquired from the book. Eva had mentioned back in February that she wanted to sell some of her art this summer. Being her biggest cheerleader, I’m in her ear almost daily, “I know you’re in your lab, making another masterpiece, but summer is here. You’ve got everything set up to post your art for the world’s consumption.” And like every creative person, she was her own worst critic. “Not yet. I’m not ready. I’m in need of more inspiration.” I’ll tell you what was going through my head.. I’m thinking: “Your life is pretty damn ROSY, EVA-ROZE! More inspiration? What brush, marker, pencil, watercolor, paper, canvas or pen, don’t you have? You’re supposed to tell me when you need something!” What came out? “Get the fuck outta here!” And then I walked off laughing. I never proclaim to be perfect. Sometimes unproductive words slip. My error was in the timing however. We had just finished dinner after her combat hapkido practice. Once she finishes dinner dishes, we spar, so she can practice what she learned from class on me. Sometimes I throw wrinkles in there, being a little rougher than usual. This night, she tripped me. But as I was falling, I took her back. And I did it laughing in the same tone as earlier. When she was sure of where I was, she threw that left elbow back & caught me right in that space between my chin & lip, lower left side. “OH SHIT! THAT HURT! TIMEOUT EVA!” With this enormous grin, way too big to hide, she says, “Oh sorry Dad! Are you ok? I didn’t even know I was doing it. It was just reflex! I didn’t know I hurt you until I heard my elbow hit your face.” I won’t lie: When she offered to help me up, I jumped a lil bit. I assured her it was fine. And that she did what she was supposed to do. I know that “Lil Ass-Kicker” did it on purpose. Because she did it again the next week!

In an attempt to encourage some inspiration, I took Eva on an excursion through Astoria; Exploring things we may have overlooked other times & for various reasons. Well, there happen to be several art galleries there. Before we get into the first one, I comment on a piece outside that it “Looks simple enough. Almost as though anyone could do it.” Wrong thing to say to a young artist! I had no idea! “You have no idea how much time the artist spent on that piece. Why would you say something like that? Art isn’t as simple as you want to make it!” Who the fuck is this alien I feed on a daily basis? The rest of the afternoon was filled with obvious tension. More on her end. I was like, “Whatever!” Three days later, I found myself in the same scenario after hapkido practice. Had I known she was capable of holding a grudge longer than a day, I obviously wouldn’t have been. The sound of her elbow hitting my chin was the equivalent of a baseball player getting good wood on ball. She gave the obligatory apology & showed proper concern on her face. But you don’t hit the same target by accident twice. “Lil Ass-Kicker” has more of my tendencies in her than she openly shows or knows. So we now have a non-verbal agreement: I don’t push her on publicizing her art. And I refrain from putting my face in the vicinity of her elbows.

Thanks for walking with me through a few of my encounters the past few weeks. Be well & enjoy your 4th of July holiday, if I don’t holler before then.

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