What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gosling; Rarely

wrong Gosling...

“the Man that will make such an execrable Pun as that in my Company, will pick my Pocket”
–John Dennis according to an epistle written by Benjamin Victor in 1722

2 a.m. came with the caterwauling of two geese. I’m guessing the noise was a result of a fight they were having with a Bremerton raccoon. The prize for said was their eggs. I’m certain they lost, the geese. This is the nature of a Bremerton raccoon, they are not long on loss. They fight pit-bulls and Rottweilers for trash-can scrap lunch, in fenced yards, like a backyard cage-match. And they win. And this morning, a Sunday morning, we are deep into spring. Being on the business-end of Memorial Day weekend, I imagine that this time of year marks the salad days for the Bremerton raccoon.

Brief Aside: I’m not comfortable with the spelling of the word: raccoon. And I have no idea how to spell: brief, without the crutch of spell-check. I didn’t realize this until the raccoon became an integral character in this story. I am 43 fucking years old. My Vest Pocket Dictionary, prepared by the folks at Webster, is of little help. It does contain the word: rabid which is not ironic but it does strike me as counter-intuitive for reasons of comedy. Brief-adjacent, let’s move on.

The caterwauling was desperate but also a bit resolved to the idea that the geese were on the losing end of a battle for the survival of their line. They only get one shot a year. And they generally nest in the same spot every year. They’re territorial that way. And the blackberry bushes along the shore of The Port Washington Narrows are not easily protected from hungry raccoons. The geese lose this fight more often than not.

Maybe these are all clues to the ignorance of anthropomorphizing the geese and their actions, or lack thereof. But it must feel terrible to be so helpless in protecting one’s young. I would be terrified.
And isn’t all great parenting predicated, nay, motivated by fear? No? Okay…

When I was young, I can’t pinpoint the age exactly, but I remember the place, I was abused by a caretaker. Using the term caretaker in this context is both ironic and counter-intuitive. I’m aware.

Aside: I’ve tried to write about this abuse before. Several times. This is the point where I always lock up. I have countless unfinished drafts of this story. They all conclude with the previous paragraph…

…26 minutes pass as I watch the cursor blink at me disapprovingly…my stomach hurts.

The abuse wasn’t at the hands of my parents nor were they to blame. But when the events came to light and the dust had settled, it felt like I was being blamed. If not blamed per-se, I was never assured by my folks that it was not my fault. My entire life I’ve owned a portion of the responsibility for that violation. I still hoard some of it…jealously…

But this morning, in the cries of two roughly evolved dinosaurs, I heard the fear of my parents. The fear that I possess as a parent. The anxiety that these things happen, that some things can only be prevented in hind-sight with a DeLorean. I heard the cries of generations as they digest the horror that some predators cannot be stopped, that some bells cannot be unrung, and some eggs cannot be uncracked. Indeed, in a cruel world where: “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet” is a platitude, the cries of the geese were probably an annoyance to my neighbors as they were trying to convalesce from drinking heroic amounts of alcohol in celebration of remembering. But for me it was a moment of Zen. I was also recovering. My convalescing is quicker as I drink like a hero every day. A simple hangover was no match for my instant of clarity.

I am not protecting my kids reliably…

That was 2 a.m., it is now 5a.m. and the sun is up in earnest and people are moving. And I am tired. The kind of tired that sleep is powerless to remedy. I’m tired of struggle of survival of caretakers and geese and raccoons and eggs and omelets and kids and parents and cruelty and platitude. My fear is that rest is countless miles from where I sit. Miles not counted by my own weariness but by the blood and sweat that life requires of me, of us all. We got quotas to fill, kid…

But: for now…I’ll try…

Kris: My Friend

Kris' Pink Jesus and "Homemade Wine"

Kris’ Pink Jesus and “Homemade Wine”

“Someone asked me once if I knew the difference between a civilian and a citizen. I know now. A citizen has the courage to make the safety of the human race their personal responsibility. Dizzy was my friend. She was a soldier. But most important, she was a citizen of the Federation.” –Johnny Rico Starship Troopers

On a cold, rainy Thursday morning in January my friend Kris passed away.  He spent his last two months-ish in a hospice in East Bremerton.  It was a nice place on the inside, but as you pulled into the lot you were confronted by a towering rock wall that exuded a foreboding vibe…it was like the final battle scene in Starship Troopers…an uphill battle against alien bugs…

I met Kris at my friend The Ricker’s house.  He was The Ricker’s neighbor and had been invited to a guy’s group that had been meeting on Thursday nights at The Ricker’s place for some time.  I was made aware of this former radio personality by my friend Chris (different Chris…different spelling) and, being a lifelong fan of radio, I felt compelled to not only meet him but strike up a conversation about a love we both shared.  We became fast friends.  Little did I know the price of this friendship.  Had I known, I might not have committed.  Thank God I didn’t know.

Together, Kris and I walked through some heavy shit…we learned a great deal about who we are before God in Christ.  We learned that there is no need for false pretense in Christ.  We learned that love means walking through anything that comes our way in the process of glorifying God.  Then we were tested on that material…pop-quiz, hotshot–what do you do?  I still don’t know the full scope of what God was trying to teach us all through Kris’ life.  I’m convinced it was something important.

I learned a great many things from my friend Kris.  He had the Zen attitude that comes from defying death’s icy-cold grip enough times to make a cat ask: “What the fuck?!”.  One evening we were all sitting on The Ricker’s back patio.  It was Summer.  Kris had just bought the fillet of a white fish that had been crab-stuffed by the skilled hands of some Trader Joe’s lackey.  When he told the story of his acquisition, preparation, and subsequent consumption of this dish, his face told the story of a blissful nirvana accessible to anyone with an oven and a working knowledge of rooting out Trader Joe’s locations.  I knew instantly that I needed the recipe for this fish dish.  He gave me all of the steps he followed.  I made note of them all.  Then began my journey toward the realization of this entree of which dreams were made, if one were to stuff one’s dreams with crab…which I do.  I told Kristy, my wife, all about it and she gathered the requisite ingredients.  The stars aligned and we came to the evening when we could enjoy this fish.  I sat down and, remembering the look on Kris’ face, I gleefully took my first bite.  Were evolution not so lazy my taste buds would have grown arms with shovels attached to them to clear my tongue of the hideous flavor that accompanied this fillet.  The trip to nirvana that seemed too good to be true, was.  During the ensuing three days, while I tried anything and everything that wouldn’t cause permanent nerve damage to rid my mouth of that repulsive flavor, I contemplated why Kris would’ve given me such horrible culinary advice.  Was it some kind of a prank?  Did Kris lack the sophistication to discern between good and bad dishes (dishi?)?  Did Kris not like me?  All of these were important questions as they’d all play a role in formulating the response I gave to the inevitable question: “How did you like the stuffed fillet?”.

In the end, I decided it was none of those options.  And what I learned through this contemplation was, prossibly (a word I invented to bridge the substantial chasm that the terms possible and probable leave between one another), one of the most valuable lessons of all of the things I learned from Kris.  You see the secret was, and is, that Kris didn’t let a mediocre meal taint his view of life…he used his view of life to change a mediocre meal.  When you live on borrowed time everything tastes better…but borrowed time doesn’t actually exist…or it is all that exists.  My point being: Kris’ close calls with death never changed the length of his life, anymore than my lack of close encounters has modified the length of my life.  We only have the time we’re given, but Kris experienced things that changed his perspective about the life he’d left to live, and I, by meeting Kris, also experienced something capable of changing my perspective.  If I allow such change.  I do…Sometimes.

The following Thursday Kris asked me: “How was the fish?”.  “Not bad”, I told him…it was a lie, but I just didn’t see a reason to contradict his view of the fillet.  Maybe that was wrong.  Time will tell; she always do.

Redemption is a subject that preoccupies the human experience more than anything else.  It’s in our songs, poems, stories, and movies.  We use it to understand the hero’s plight, and it is a hook upon which we hang our hope.  I had the opportunity to watch a hero strive toward redemption, and while I missed the beginning, I saw the end.  It was beautiful.  Thursday, January the 24th heaven received a new voice to join in the refrain: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty Who Was and Is and Is to Come.”  Kris: My Friend.

Oddly Compelling

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” –Aristotle

I never got around to writing a post for Sunday evening’s deadline, part of the reason for this is because I went to a Men’s Retreat held by the folks at Seaside (the church that I attend) and The Refuge (the body of believers connected with the Coffee Oasis).  The idea of a Men’s Retreat is the reason for today’s title, Oddly Compelling, because it is not easy for me to put my finger on what exactly draws me to these events.  Most of the things that motivate me in normal life are not present at these gatherings.  The food is good, for camp food (which is an apt qualifier, as the food at my house is just actually good)—there is no T.V., which is a real struggle for me…I love T.V.—the beds suck, which is a terrible reality for a guy who is almost forty (40) but has the back of an eighty (80) year-old, and the knees of a sixty-two (62) year-old, combined with the sleeping habits of an infant.  The equation is summed up thusly:  40+40-18×.6≠sleep.  All of that to say, if the things that come together to make the sum of any given Men’s Retreat were made into bullet points and thrown onto a brochure my answer to the invitation would be: “thanks, but no thanks” (wow a Sarah Palin reference) regardless of how beautifully appointed said brochure was.  But I never regret going.

Sometimes the guest speaker is engaging and is solely responsible for my not having regretted the sacrifice of the weekend…actually that is not true…rarely do I find the guest speaker to be all that compelling, and even when I do, they are never solely responsible for my enthusiasm about the event.  I have a hard time with most speakers as they have a tendency to speak Christianized English, in which many terms are glossed over without definition and leave me wondering whether or not I agree with what was communicated.  Because I generally have the type of a relationship with the speaker that a few interactions in two days can provide, I lack a long-term barometer that I can use to fill in the blanks of a given sermon…this, to me, is off-putting.  It is in no way the fault of the speaker.  This is my hang-up.  At the end of the day, it is not the speaker that draws me to these dealings, there is something else.

If not the food, television arrangement, the sleeping quarters, or guest speakers—then what?  Why on earth do I go to these things?

It is the chance to be around some of my closest friends without the constraints that time and the pressures of everyday life put on us, that I like best about these things.  It is a chance to just allow relationships happen.  I must be honest, I don’t show up prepared for this—it takes me at least half of a day to warm-up to the idea that I can talk to one of my friends about a given subject for as long as we want.  Sometimes having distractions is great when a conversation gets too personal.  Eventually, I am reminded about why it is that these guys are my good friends.  The conversations are safe.  I begin to realize that I can be who I am without threat of recourse and that is refreshing.  Once that comfort is established, something magical happens…not in a Harry Potter fantastical way…more of a unicorn and popcorn flavored jelly-bean kind of way (I know you thought I was headed a different direction with that one…but here we are).  The retreat becomes greater than the sum of its sub-standard parts.  It’s a little like what happens when you take an eighties (80s) Trans-Am, mix that with some red lights that swoosh from left to right, add to that a dry-humored English speaking voice with a British accent, and throw in a dash of David Hasselhoff—you end up with a strangely compelling television series.  I know what you’re wondering: “Does The Hoff represent human relationships in this analogy?”  If I were you I’d treat this analogy like the sun…don’t look straight at it.  It’ll make you cry.

We get to explore absurd movie premises without wondering if our children are running out into traffic or drowning in a toilet or a half-full five gallon bucket of water (or is it half empty at that point?  I always get my optimism and pessimism mixed up in these scenarios).  No matter, you get the point.  We talked around the campfire about whatever subject came to mind.  One absurd movie premise had to do with the rapture being a person, that person being me, me being played by Sam Jackson—the rapture (which is me played by Sam Jackson) decides it is okay to steal car stereos during itself.  The result being that, at a Christian Camp, most of the people and all of the car stereos go missing in the blink of an eye.  No of course it’s not funny here…but there, it was hilarious.  We get to play games.  Actually, speaking of absurd premises, what do you get when you combine nine snooker balls and a table that is shaped like the water troughs used in 19th century gold mining?  A game called Gutter Ball, a name which belies the game’s addictive nature.  You and an opponent line up four balls, one set red the other white, in any arrangement you choose, then you both take turns using a white ball with a red spot to try and knock each other’s sets of balls off of the playing surface of the trough by rolling it at the balls and striking them.  It’s a game that is both absurd and oddly compelling.  This game could have no better home than a Christian Camp.

What is the point of all of this?  Really, not a very Zen (writer’s note: MS Word insists that one capitalizes the word Zen in order to spell it correctly, which is also not very Zen) question.  But, if I were to toss together a summation, it would probably follow thusly: I love the men’s retreats because they are the evidence that relationships are important.  The only way that these times could be considered remotely enjoyable is if the relationships, whether revisited or newly built, were important.  And they are…or are they?  The answer is yes…