All this happened, more or less...

My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gathering 'Round the Hearth

I like to travel pretty much anywhere. I'm into going new places, meeting new people, and seeing things I would never, ever see at home. Normally, I make it my goal to visit one new place every year. This summer, I'm adding four new places to my "Been There" list: London, Dublin, Seattle, and Hawaii. And yet, somehow, I always end up back here. I even got surprisingly pissed off at my boss the other day when she implied that I was kind of a leaf in the wind who may not be around long. I raised my voice to her. (Good thing I'm in a union. Shit.)

At first I wasn't sure why I got so upset. After all, I consider myself a Citizen of the World, and I detest the idea of being tied down anywhere by anything. But lately, that seems to be changing, and I can only think of one little reason why...

My All Star

This is my nephew, Aaron. As I'm writing this, he's four and a half days old.

I am smitten with him. He is perfect.

The truth is that the farther I travel from home and the more people I meet, the more I like my family. Of course, over the years in my travels I've met lots of fantastic people I adore, but taking people for granted is much easier when you grow up fighting them for the bathroom. Now that I'm old(er) and wise(r) I've realized how rare cool families are. I have three siblings who rock, two gorgeous sisters-in-law, two parents who are still in love with each other, five aunts, three uncles, three living grandparents, four kick-ass cousins, a dog-nephew, a cat-nephew, and now, finally, a real nephew. Everybody's stable; everybody gets along. Even the dog and the cat. We even know and love my brothers' families-in-law.

Brother #2 entertains his niece by pretending his weight clips are earrings. She digs it.

The amazing thing Nephew's coming has done is give us all an excuse to spend more time together, especially my brothers and sister and I. We're all grown-ups with pretty demanding lives. Brother #1 is an engineer who schmoozed his way to the top of his company inside a few years, which means more money and less free time to spend it. Brother #2, in addition to working to support the Wife and the Little Guy, is a law student. Sister is a historian, and her projects take her all over the country to dig in the dirt and polish dusty things. I currently teach at my alma mater and hang my hat about fifteen minutes from the homestead, so I see the Parents pretty regularly, but when the Siblings come back to town, the party is on.

My cat-nephew, Guinness, takes a snooze in the bouncer seat. We've tried to explain to him that it's for the REAL baby, but he just gives us a confused look.

When they arrive, I'm sitting on the living room floor, restringing my little Epiphone. I have to do this at my mom's house because I need to borrow her tuner... and because I inevitably ask for her help at some point. I set the guitar down to exchange the customary greeting hugs and to gather up the little bundle of Aaron. Within minutes, one of the brothers picks up my guitar, finishes restringing it, and starts strumming. The other slips down the hall and returns a few minutes later with our mother's sacred Gibson, a guitar we were hardly allowed to touch until we were teenagers.

Over the course of the evening, the baby and the guitars are passed steadily around the living room. The brothers play around, poking fun at each other and putting on thick country drawls to croon "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" while their wives laugh and roll their eyes. My sister, who in her own words "wields a guitar like a drunken polecat wields an abacus", attempts to play a song she has dubbed "Mostly Only D" on account of the fact that it mostly has only one chord -- D. Every other line, the chord shifts to an A, and she predictably flubs the rhythm each time. She gives up before long, trades me the guitar for the nephew, then sits and improvises flawless harmonies to everything I play.

With some coaxing, we finally convince Mom to sing, which is what we've been hoping for all evening. She acts shy and embarrassed, but eventually she starts playing "All the Pretty Horses". If you don't have a mother who sang you lullabies, and this lullaby in particular, then I'm sorry. You've missed out. We all lose track of the time as she reaches back across years (and -- it makes me feel so old! -- decades) and pulls forward all the songs she sang to us in our childhood -- a handful of Joni Mitchell melodies, old campfire tunes and folk songs, and my father's favorite: "Kisses Sweeter than Wine".

Every day, the world is getting smaller. I want to see and experience a lot of it. At the same time, maybe it's not such a bad thing to be a little bit tied down here...


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ask My Kids III: The Apocolypse

*Disclaimer: This first drawing was done by my cousin. I feature it here because I favor her shamelessly. And because the guy with his head on fire is funny.

In conjunction with studying e.e. cummings' "what if a much of a which of a wind", I asked my juniors to sketch and/or describe how they imagine the world might end. I expected to get some religious reflections on the Second Coming, perhaps some geopolitical analyses... I pretty much got action films, but a few seemed worthy of sharing with you.
For your enjoyment, Expatriate Games presents:

"The End of the World"
*cue foreboding brass theme*


My favorite on this list is "massive floods", although the guy warding off aliens with a slingshot is pretty sweet too.


"The end of the world will be like a light getting switched off. All of a sudden, everything will go dark and everyone will be dead."



"George 'Dubya' will launch a 'nuculer' missal at China or somebody. They'll launch one back. And everyone will die. Dumb@$#!"

"Either we'll discover that iPods give you brain tumors, the entire population of every developed country will die, and the world economy will collapse into another Stone Age, or this will happen:"


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ask My Kids II: Relationship Counseling

A conversation between two of my 17 year old students about the nature of love:

"You ever cheat on your girl, man?"

"Naw, man. I love my girl. I am a man in love."

"Yeah, I hear you, man. I love my girl too. But you know what I'm sayin', sometimes even if you in love, you still be tempted, you know?"

"Naw, not if you really in love. I mean, everybody tempted, but if you in love, you don't do nothin'. You don't act on that temptation."

"How you stop yourself? You know, like, some ho gettin' up on you, and your girl ain't there, whatchou do?"

"I tell you whatchou do: you get on your phone and you call the woman you love. Soon as you hear her voice, you ain't gonna be tempted."

"Well, what if she don't answer her phone? My girl be busy, ya know what I'm sayin'?"

"If she don't answer her phone, you go to her. Wherever she at, you go."

"See, but I don't gotta car."

"Then you walk, man. Whatever you gotta do, you get to where your girl at."

"But she live on the south side. I can't be walkin' that far. I got asthma."

(At this point, a third party chimes interjects: "You got an inhaler, dumbass!" She is promptly told to C her way out of this A/B conversation.)

"Look, it's like this, man. When you really in love, you need your girl, like you can't breathe without 'er. So, you don't care if you gotta be a little uncomfortable on the way over there, 'cuz you know as soon as you next to your girl, you gonna be able to breathe easy."

"You full of it, man."

"You not really in love."


Monday, April 14, 2008

Ask My Kids I: Conflict Resolution

Some days I just can't find words to express how much I love my kids. They make me laugh 'til my sides hurt.

I was having a little trouble last week with my plans for traveling to the UK. First off, as you know, our housing arrangement in London fell through. S & I decided we're going to stay in a hostel. I told my kids. They think I'm insane. They insist I'm going to be robbed, raped, and strangled with my own intestines. They are genuinely concerned for my health and well-being. Of course, this all stems from the movie "Hostel" which they have seen and take to be Gospel truth.

A few days later, S emailed me and said her roommate, Tara, wanted to come on the trip with us. The more, the merrier, I always say, so Tara bought a ticket. The following day, we had a three-way conference call to discuss our plans. S and I had already decided we'd stay for a week in London, then spend a week in Dublin. We're both seasoned travelers and prefer spending more time in fewer places to rushing all around the countryside, so two weeks, two cities suited both of us fine.

Well, five minutes into our phone call, Tag-a-Long (which shall henceforth be the roommate's pseudonym) starts to whine about wanting to go to Paris. I've already been to Paris, and to be frank, I wouldn't cry if I never went back, but what bothered me about Tag-a-Long's little Detour de France was that it would add well over $500 to our expenses (each) and take time away from our stays in England and Ireland. Even that didn't annoy me nearly as much as her basic violation of vacation etiquette -- when you invite yourself on a trip and people are gracious enough to take you on, you do not whine about the itinerary. As a final straw, she insisted that she wanted to go to Paris because she'd never been there before. Unfortunately for her, that doesn't hold much water when you've never been anywhere before! I firmly believe everyone should travel, no matter who they are or what their station is in life. That doesn't mean I like traveling with rookies.

I tried to be diplomatic with her, but by the time we got off the phone I was seething mad. Naturally, the next day I told my kids. I asked them what conflict resolution suggestions they had. Their responses were as follows:

  • "Aw, man, Miss G. You shoulda callt me! I'da come ovah there 'n busted her in'a face straight up!"

  • "Naw, look, doh. Here's whatcha do, doh. She all like 'I wanna goda Paris" and you go "Fine. We goda Paris witchou. Da's coo. Butchou payin'.'"

  • "She can't come 'round like that bustin' up y'all's trip! Tell her she can stay the f*ck home! She ain't invited!"

  • "No, mira, Miss G, she ain't been like nowhere, right? So she don't know. So you jus' get to London and go like 'Wow, isn't Paris great? It's like so beautiful here in Paris.' And she won't wanna look, ya know, stupid, so she'll be like 'O yeah, it's so cool.' And she'll never know. Maybe pay somebody to like come up and pretend to speak French to her. That's what I would do."

  • "No, see, here we go. I got 'is, doh. You tell ya friend 'Okay, since you bringin' somebody on 'a trip, Imma bring somebody too.' And 'en we all go witchou!"

Remarkably, their advice actually helped me a great deal. I didn't take any of it, but I did have a chance to cool off and see the humor in the situation. The actual way I'm solving this conflict is thus: If Tag-a-Long really wants to go to Paris, she can go ahead, and I'll just hang back in London on my own. S can do whatever she wants too. We're all big girls.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring Break Phase II: The Photo Recap


Even on vacations, I still seek to expand my mind. This time, I learned the difference between herons and egrets: there is no difference between herons and egrets. Just as I suspected! Here's a great white heron (also called a great egret) perched near our boat at Burnt Store Marina.


I will never get over sailboats. I love them. And true love lasts a lifetime.


This osprey had to be my favorite of the thousands of birds I saw this week. He literally sat on this branch for over an hour making funny faces and letting me as close to him as the terrain would allow.


"The Little Fisherman" -- another shot to add to my "Strangers' Kids" collection.


Heading to the beach at Boca Grande to play in the sun and people-watch.

Click any pic for a link to my Flickr page.

A Recent Development

So, as fate would have it, the bloke who S and I were going to crash with for two weeks in London a) doesn't (and won't) have a place of his own and is therefore unable to put us up, and b) won't even be in London for more than a couple days while we're there. That was a right good spot of planning, wasn't it?

No need to panic, but as the plane tickets have already been purchased, we can't simply reschedule. Instead, we'll be hoboing it in hostels and on park benches and such. Not a total disaster, but it does mean that I'll be attempting to survive for two weeks with only the contents of a small backpack.

Who knows? Maybe this will open doors to as yet unforeseen adventures. Wish me luck!

(I'm glad I still have a couple months to sort out exactly what not to pack. If you happen to be one of my faithful UK readers, please don't hesitate to offer suggestions. Thanks Ta!)