Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part 9

It is amazing to me, and it will always be amazing to me, that Ashaki loves me even with all the dark secrets of my past exposed to her.  She does not flinch even when I express to her the inner conflict I feel about many things.  She does not shy away when I tell her that I have trouble "repenting" of some of my actions -- actions that most people would say were terribly wrong.  I think about situations I was in, relationships I had, and I still can't always see clearly.  I still can't say that I know I should have done "x" instead of "y."  Sometimes there are shadows when I reflect on my past -- shades of grey more than black and white.  I struggle with sorting and sifting the "right" from the "wrong."  I wonder if there even is a "right" answer to certain things.  Is there a moral absolute?  And, if there is a moral absolute, what is it and have I violated it?  I struggle with my conscience.  And I don't know if -- when I want to defend myself and what I have done -- it is out of a knowledge that I have acted correctly, or if I am simply avoiding the pain it would cause me to admit that I have acted in hurtful and selfish ways.

When I confess these things to Ashaki -- these deep, inner thoughts and movements of my soul -- she does not judge me.  She listens.  She holds me close.  And she quietly says, "You are good.  Your struggles show me that you are good.  Evil people do not struggle with themselves.  And trust that you are loved.  Trust in my love.  Love gives us the strength to face ourselves, because love assures us that we will be held close.  That we will not be rejected.  But, you must be patient with yourself.  You must allow yourself to struggle.  In the end, your struggle -- if it is an honest one -- will bring you clarity and peace."

So, with my secrets being secrets no more to this beautiful woman, she truly became MY beautiful woman -- my Ashaki, my wife.  And I became her husband.  We were married in the midst of her people -- our people -- one beautiful morning.  There was much laughter and food, music and dancing.  And the fact that I was this white guy?  Well, there was some eyebrow raising.  But, I have found that most people -- when the proverbial rubber hits the proverbial road -- want their children, their loved ones, and their friends to be happy, to be with a person who truly loves them.  And it was clear that Ashaki and I loved each other.  In my own heart, I was rather taken aback at the thought that I could love a woman as I love Ashaki.  I didn't think I had it in me to really want to spend my whole life with one person.  I never thought I could enter a marriage actually having confidence that it could last "'til death do us part."  Who believes that, anymore?  I mean, yes, you say it -- because that's what you're supposed to say.   But, I always figured that in the back of my mind there would be the thought that it might not actually work out.  Surprisingly, though, that thought was not in the back of my mind -- or in any other part of my mind.  I found that when I made my vows to my Ashaki, looking into her smiling eyes and her trusting face, I actually meant them -- every word of them.

I am sure that you will now all imagine that our lovemaking that night was perfect -- full of passion.  Well, if it was, it almost wasn't.  And that was my fault.  I can still be an idiot.  As my sweet new wife and I prepared for bed, she noticed the box of condoms I had placed by my pillow.  And tears filled her eyes.  We had talked about children.  As I said, Ashaki would often teasingly tell me that she hoped for four or five.  Now, though, I realized that she was not teasing.  Yes, she would say it in a playful manner, but she actually meant it.  I had also assumed that we would wait for a little while -- like maybe a year or so -- before actually "trying for a baby."  Well, Ashaki had not assumed this.  She had assumed the opposite.  Can you even believe it?  With all the things we were careful to talk about before our wedding, we had somehow neglected to talk about when we would start a family. 

"Why don't you want a baby now?" she asked me, the tears running down her cheeks.  "We love each other.  We are married.  We have a home.  What else do we need?  And I am young -- healthy and strong and fertile.  It is the perfect time.  What if we wait and something happens?  What if we wait and it ends up that I can't get pregnant easily?"

I looked at this lovely creature who was now my wife, and I could not refuse her.  I didn't want to refuse her.  I didn't really understand it -- this deep and unrelenting desire for a child -- but, I realized I didn't have to understand it.  Her desire was a fact.  So, I tossed the condoms in the trash and took my now giggling wife into my arms -- took her to me.  And she took me to her.  And we were together -- perfectly, happily, joyfully together.  For the first time, I actually made love.  I had fucked a lot of women, hooked up with others.  But, I had never made love to anybody before making love to my Ashaki.  And, in making love to her, I finally realized how you can be an 80-year-old man making love to your 80-year-old wife and still find the whole thing to be quite satisfying.

Now you know the story of how I came to be lying here in the hot, still darkness -- next to this beautiful woman who is mine.  This woman heavy with our child.  And I am happy -- and I am scared.  Will I be a good father?  Do I know how to be a good father?  Ashaki believes I will be.  I cannot let her down.  I refuse to let her down.  And so I breathe and I touch her softness and I wait for our baby to come...


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part 8

There is a part of me that is actually quite silly.  A part I had almost forgotten about.  It used to come out often, when I was younger -- in high school and college.  Even when Sammy and I were partners, before all the shit hit the fan, the fun side of me used to surface.  Filling Sammy's car with birds -- now that was one for the record.  Or duct taping his locker closed when he was in the shower, just a few minutes before roll call.  Priceless.  And I used to enjoy using my ability with a variety of amusing facial expressions and "cartoon character voices" to entertain friends and acquaintances quite often, back in the "old days." 

As I spent more time with Ashaki, this silly part of my began to re-emerge.  I could have her literally doubled over in laughter if I raised my eyebrows in a certain way or talked in what I call my "scooby-doo" voice.  And I can't lie.  It pleased me to no end to be able to make her smile and laugh with what seemed like very little effort.  And her smile and her laughter caused me to smile and laugh, in turn.

Time went on.  Ashaki and I spent as much time together as possible, though in socially acceptable ways.  Her family would have me over for meals quite often.  And then she and I would walk together at sunset, across the little valley and over the small hills, talking of many things -- our educations, literature, music, art, politics, religion, philosophy.  Did we agree on everything?  Most definitely not.  As I mentioned before, Ashaki has a strong faith in God.  In a God who actually loves us.  I have a harder time with that.  Also, she finds modern art "irksome" and "hard on the nervous system."  I, on the other hand, have a storage unit full of the stuff back in L.A. (My modern art collection is the one thing that I did not dispose of before coming to Africa.  Well, along with the pills.  The pills that I now knew I would never use.)  Ashaki told me, grinning mischievously, "We will have to make a bonfire of that 'art' of yours, if we ever have the opportunity."  Often, we would not be alone on our walks.  The children and young people of the village frequently accompanied us.  And the teenagers enjoyed joining our conversations, and we enjoyed their input.  I did not feel as though my time with Ashaki was intruded upon by the "company" we had on our evening sojourns.  I reveled in the presence of all these people.  And seeing Ashaki with them only made me come to appreciate her more.  I was falling in love with her, though I didn't want to admit it to myself.

Why didn't I want to admit it to myself?  If I admitted it to myself, I would have had to think about the dreaded "m" word -- marriage.  There was no way Ashaki and I could live together without being married, not in this place.  And neither of us wanted to leave this place.  Also, to tell you the truth, I don't think she would have consented to that arrangement, anyway.  Not that she was a prude, or anything.  She was raised for a good part of her life in England.  She had gone to university there.  She was a beautiful woman.  There had been men.  She never really spoke of them, but I knew there had been boyfriends.  In her move back to her homeland, though, in the way she valued the traditional culture of her people, I knew where her heart really stood.  She was the kind of woman who would want commitment -- as in the dreaded "m" word -- before moving in with a man.   She also wanted children.  She didn't speak of it that often, probably because she didn't want to scare me off, but she would occasionally mention her desire for children.  Four or five of them, she would teasingly say, with a rather whistful look in her eye.  And I would watch her cuddle the babies of the village.  I would watch her chase the toddlers.  And I knew she wanted little ones of her own.  And I knew she would be a beautiful mother.  The best kind of mother.  But, I wasn't convinced I could be any kind of a good father.  I mean, I loved our students.  I loved the children of my new home.  But, that was a completely different thing than having my own kids.  The thought of having my own kids, my own wife, my own family?  Well, the idea of those things pretty much completely freaked me out.

So, I just avoided thinking about the future.  I also avoided thinking about sex.  When it got difficult to avoid thinking about sex, I would go for a good 5-mile run in the heat.  That would solve my problem, at least for a little while.  I just struggled to stay in the present.  I just tried to enjoy being with Ashaki without having a physical relationship, without thinking about the dreaded "m" word.  And I was fairly successful.


Until I was given a little "talking to" one day by Ashaki's brother.  This young man was not quite as bright as his sister, but he was pretty smart.  And his English was very good, as he had spent a lot of time with some missionary priests as he was growing up.

He asked me if I wanted to have a beer.  Yes, there was beer.  Courtesy of some friends of Ashaki, who sent it over from Europe on a regular basis.  It was late afternoon on a day when school wasn't in session.  We sat in the shade and "chewed the fat" for a while.  And then he dropped it on me.  The bomb.  "You know she cries every night," he told me.  "She's been crying every night for at least a month."

"What?  Who cries?" I asked him, rather taken aback.

"Ashaki," he answered.  And he looked at me carefully, and then he continued.  "Finally, I asked her what was wrong.  At first, I tried to leave her be.  Thought it was a passing thing.  You know how women are.  But, it did not pass.  So, I went and spoke to her one night, as she was crying.  I asked her to tell me the cause of her sadness.  She didn't want to, but I persisted.  Got the truth out of her.  And the truth, Ben, is that she loves you.  She told me that she thought you loved her, too, but now she's starting to wonder.  Because, basically, you haven't 'made your move.'  You haven't said anything to her about how you feel.  You haven't said if you feel anything at all.  And she doesn't know what to think.  Or do.  And she can't bear the thought of losing you.  So, my man, it's time to 'take a stand,' if you will.  Do you love her, or not?  It's fine if you don't.  My sister deserves the best, deserves someone who truly wants her.  So, if you don't want to be with her, then speak up.  But, if you do love her, it's time to say it.  And, frankly, you've had plenty of time to make up your mind."

"I do love her," I told him, my voice barely above a whisper.  "More than anything.  More than anybody.  But, you know man, there are things.  Things about myself, my past.  If she really knew everything about me, everything there is to know...  Well, I don't know if she'd love me so much, anymore.  She loves the "me" that she has gotten to know here.  She didn't know me before.  She doesn't know what I was like.  She doesn't know what I'm capable of -- the bad things, the evil things I've done.  The things I did when I was a cop.  The things I rationalized."

"If she knew those things and still loved you, what would you want?" Ashaki's brother gently prodded.

I didn't answer immediately.  I couldn't imagine somebody knowing my past -- really knowing it -- and still loving me, still wanting to be my wife.  So, I didn't quite know what to say.  After a few moments, though, I replied, "If she still loved me, then I would want her to be with me always.  I would want to marry her.  But, I'm scared to tell her.  I'm scared to lose -- not only her -- but everything beautiful that my life has come to hold here."

"You need to talk to her, Ben," the brother of the woman I love said to me quietly.  "You need to trust her.  You CAN trust her.  This I know."

After a rather sleepless night, I walked -- rather slowly -- to Ashaki's home in the early morning sunlight.  She was standing in the doorway when I got there.  Perhaps she had been expecting me?  And she looked so strong, and yet so vulnerable, as she gazed up at me with those eyes.  Those eyes which seemed to hold an infinity in their dark depths.  I hoped the infinity they held would be one of happiness -- for both of us.

And so we talked.  And, between this woman and I, there were no more secrets...

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part 7

Ashaki quickly became an invaluable member of the team in our little one-room schoolhouse.  Her naturally joyful nature and quick sense of humor offset my more melancholy tendencies.  Although, I have to say that being in Africa, doing this new work, was slowly transforming my disposition into a more upbeat one.  I had always thought I naturally tended towards negativity.  But, maybe I was wrong about that.  Maybe I just needed to be around different kinds of people, in a different kind of environment, in order for my optimistic side to surface.  In any case, working alongside George and Ashaki -- teaching our enthusiastic young students -- brought a lightness to my heart and my outward manner that was new to me.

And this woman was so lovely, just being in her presence made me happy.  It was a new thing, too, being around a beautiful woman and not trying to get her into the sack with me.  As I said before, George had warned me sternly to "keep it zipped."  And that admonition applied to my relationship with Ashaki, as well as to all the other women among whom I was now living.  For even though Ashaki was my peer -- as a fellow teacher -- she was also a member of the country and culture in which I was a guest.  If she were to be caught in my bed, well...  The ramifications would not be very pleasant, for either of us.  Her culture, after all, was fairly traditional.  A local woman sleeping with a visiting American guy would have been unfairly and negatively labeled.  And the visiting American guy would no longer be very welcome.  The thought of being unwelcome in my new home was incentive enough for me to behave myself.  I loved this place, these people.  Having to leave them -- especially in disgrace -- would have broken my heart more than anything had broken it before.  Also, the thought of having Ashaki be treated with even a tiny bit of scorn by anybody was unbearable to me.  This woman was so kind, so gracious, so vibrant.  If her reputation were to be tarnished because of me...  That was unthinkable.

You may be wondering how this woman who became mine was able to become a university graduate, being that she was from the place in which I was now teaching.  A place in which virtually nobody had any type of formal education.  When she was a small child, her parents noticed that she was incredibly gifted.  She was eager and able to learn to read the few books that were in her family home.  She loved working arithmetic problems, and would beg the adults around her to indulge her in this pleasure.  So her parents, wanting what all parents want -- the best for their child -- made a great personal sacrifice and sent their daughter to a relative's home in England, as soon as she was old enough to make such a journey.  In England, Ashaki received a fine education.  And, thankfully, she was able to return home for many vacations.  Thus, she retained a strong identity as a member of her own country and culture -- an identity which led her to want to return to her homeland permanently when she completed her formal education.  Yes, Ashaki had no desire to ever leave the home of her childhood again.  She had a great love for her people and culture.  She still does.  She always will. 

So I found myself, for the first time in many years, becoming an actual friend to a woman I could not bed.  We spent a lot of time together, making excuses to stay in our little schoolhouse far later each day than what was actually necessary to prepare our lessons.  But, we were also careful to avoid causing any kind of gossip or "eyebrow raising" amongst the people.  Although, I'm sure many of them knew something was up.  As long as I behaved honorably, though, people were tolerant of my friendship with this "sister" of theirs.  And so we grew closer -- Ashaki and I.

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part 6

 ** For those of you who may be new to this blog and/or story, I am a great fan of the TV show "SouthLAnd" -- a show which was not renewed for a sixth season (boo-hoo).  The main characters of that show were left in a variety of states -- some good, some not-so-good.  And I started to wonder -- as did other fans -- what would have become of Officer Ben Sherman (played by Ben McKenzie) if the series had been allowed to continue.  After all, the series finale left him lying on the ground in seeming moral defeat.  So, I decided to let my imagination run a little wild, and I have been having a lot of fun coming up with a continuing story for Officer Ben.  It's probably a little cheesy, but I'm enjoying myself here. ;-) **

School had been in session for a little less than a month.  I was happier than I had ever been.  The kids were doing well, and were more enthused than any kids I had ever been in a classroom with during my childhood.  They actually seemed to enjoy learning the alphabet, learning how to put letters together into the words of a new language.  Using pictures -- and, of course, George's knowledge of the native tongue -- we taught them English a little at a time.  English that could actually be useful.  I remember learning Spanish back in high school.  I knew how to say "the lady has blue hair" before I could have asked somebody where to find a restroom.  I was happy that George's nonprofit was taking a this approach.  We were teaching our students how to apply what they were learning in practical ways.  I have often thought that if American kids could make a connection between their educations and their actual lives, the "system" would be more effective.  Here -- in a land far away from that in which I was born -- I was seeing the fruits of such a learning environment.

So, yes, we did a lot of the so-called "three R's" with our kids -- reading, writing, arithmetic.  But, there was also ample time for art, music, physical activity.  We didn't have fancy "equipment" for these subjects, but George's group provided good, basic materials.  And the kids themselves often brought musical instruments and art supplies from home.  We were, after all, living  in the midst of a culture where these things are valued.  We taught our students about the history of their nation.  We studied their culture.  And when I say "we" studied -- well, that's exactly what I mean.  I had as much learning to do as they.  But, as many seasoned teachers have said, "You've just got to stay one chapter ahead."  Not that we really had textbooks, to speak of.  There were a few of those.  Mostly, though, a generous number of seemingly random books were provided by George's organization.  Books that covered a variety of subjects.  I found, though, that when I put together my own ideas with the ideas and knowledge I found in these books, I could come up with some pretty creative lesson plans. 

So, as I said, I was feeling happy.  There were still nightmares and self-doubt.  Hell, there still are.  But, the tangle of negative emotions in my heart was starting to loosen a little.  And in the midst of this -- on one hot afternoon as I was trying to explain to my charges why the letters "c" and "h", when put together as "ch", make the unpredictable sound that they do -- I looked up to see a face in the doorway of the little schoolhouse.  A face I had never seen before.  A woman's face.  Young, but somehow ageless.  Breathtaking.  A face the color of chocolate -- chocolate infused with gold dust.  Eyes large and black, but open somehow -- open to life and love and joy.  High cheekbones that somehow managed to exude a pinkish hue, even for being so wonderfully and softly dark.  And that face was smiling at me -- smiling a kind, yet wise and knowing smile.  A smile that belied an understanding and experience of the difficulties and hurts of life.  A smile that also belied a willingness to embrace that life, as hard as it can sometimes be.  And I knew, somehow, that I wanted the life which that smile embraced to embrace me.

Her name was Ashaki -- which means "light".  She certainly became that for me, this woman who became my wife.  She was the aunt of one of my students -- a lively, bright 10-year-old boy.  She had recently graduated from University in England, where she studied linguistics.  Finally -- someone besides George with whom I could easily converse.  Why had she come back here?  Why didn't she stay in England, or even go to America?  She would be welcome in either place, given her intelligence, her education.  She had learned of the school George's nonprofit had started here, in the place of her birth, and she wanted to help out.  That was fine by me.  George was often in demand by the organization -- needed for various administrative decisions and tasks.  That left him with little time for actual hands-on teaching in the school, which meant that I was responsible for most of it.  Therefore, this lovely lady's assistance would be most welcome.  And little did I know, when I first set eyes on her, that she would not only be of utmost value in our little classroom.  She would become of utmost value to me, for the whole of my life.

To be continued...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part 5

** This is going on much longer than I expected.  But, I'm just having so much fun here!  Thanks to everyone who is reading! **

The first month of my new life was an adjustment, to say the least.  A good one, though.  Pleasant, even.  George and I were given a small home in the village where the new school was located.  Happy people provided us with good, simple food and were eager for our company.  Little children peeked out at us from behind door frames and their mothers' skirts, giggling and ducking when we smiled or waved.  The residents of the village seemed especially amused by me.  In fact, I believe the native word for "ghost" was occasionally -- though fondly -- used to describe me.  Let's face it.  Even for an American, I am rather pale.  But -- I am also quick and athletic -- and the local youngsters were happy to have me join in their games, often playfully arguing about which team would get to have "the ghost" as a member.  The male residents of the village would point at my biceps and grin, giving me the universally understood "thumbs up" sign, and flexing their own arms in a sign of masculine solidarity.  Occasionally, a bolder girl would squeeze my shoulder and smile becomingly, although any "hanky-panky" was clearly off limits.  And I wanted it that way.  I realized that sex had become less and less of a pleasure for me over the years.  A physical release, yes.  But a growing emotional burden, too.  So, George's admonition to "keep it zipped" was actually quite welcome, believe it or not.

George and I were also quite busy, during the first several weeks of our stay, getting the school ready for its opening.  The structure was intact when we arrived, but painting was required.  The local people wanted bright colors -- red trim and yellow walls for the outside.  For the inside, blues and greens reminiscent of the ocean were chosen.  The ocean which none of these people had actually ever seen, but which was alive in their imaginations.  George's non-profit provided tables and chairs, a chalkboard (including chalk), a modicum of books, writing tablets and pencils. 

The most difficult challenge?  The students in our little one-room schoolhouse would range from 7 to 13 years of age.  There would be twenty of them.  None of them had ever been to a formal school before.  So, we had to carefully plan out how to arrange the school day to accommodate the needs of all these different children who were entrusting their futures to us.  Maybe it sounds like a bit of an exaggeration to say that they were "entrusting their futures to us."  But, in a way, that's what they were doing -- academically, anyhow.  If they were to have any chance of having an advanced education -- of going to secondary school, or even university -- they were relying on George and me to give them the necessary foundation.  As a person who had always taken my own education a little bit for granted, this thought did weigh upon me.  George, though, with his outgoing ways, quick sense of humor, and positive attitude, proved a good counterweight to my more melancholy tendencies.  "Sherman," he would say, smiling good-naturedly, "you think you're making this about them.  But, you're not.  You're making it about you.  You always do.  Your ego is talking here.  Your ego is riding on our success or failure.  If these kids are actually what's important to you, things will snap into perspective.  You'll realize not everything is up to you.  Not everything is under your control.  You do the work.  You do the best you can.  The results are not up to you.  And if we get good results, that's not about you, either.  So, King Ben, climb down off that high-and-mighty little throne of yours and help me set up these tables."  Hell, maybe this little speech of George's is what Sammy was trying to tell me all along.  Maybe it was just a little easier to hear in this environment -- this environment with smiling, laughing kids who just wanted me to play games with them.  This environment where I didn't need handcuffs and a gun to survive.  Fuck that Sammy.  I'm not quite ready to forgive him yet, as willing as he was to throw me under the bus to comfort his own messed up conscience.

Sometimes I think about Sammy.  I think about his little guy, Nate.  I did love Nate.  I was his Uncle Ben.  I loved Sammy, too.  He was my friend.  I would have done anything for him.  Hell, I did do everything for him.  For us.  For our partnership, our careers, our future.  And somehow, everything just got out of control.  I wonder if Sammy hates me.  Some nights I wake up -- hot in my bed, in this land far from everything I've ever known -- and I think about these things.  And I can't breathe.  And then I look at the beautiful woman, full with my babe, lying next to me and I put everything from my old life out of my mind.  I imagine my past as a dark cloud just blowing by me, a cloud which disintegrates into nothingness as it passes.  And then I can breathe again.  And I reach for this woman, for her softness, for her warmth -- and she smiles at me in the darkness, the darkness that is gently lit by the moon and the stars, and she takes me into herself.  Loving me.  Making me realize that nobody has ever loved me before.  Not really.  Making me realize that I have never loved anyone before.  Not really.  Not even Elena.  As I said, I did love Elena.  But it was a selfish, taking kind of a love.  Not like the love I have for this woman who lies next to me now, who will lie next to me every night for the rest of our lives.

You may be wondering how I met this incredible woman who became mine.  When did I first see her, speak with her, know that I loved her?  How did we come to be together?  How did she come to be my wife?

To be continued...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part 4

I was ready.  I had my pills.  The scotch with which to wash them down.  I had even made sure my "Last Will And Testament" was up-to-date.  After all, I wanted to make sure my sisters got that Trust Fund.  I didn't want it reverting to my son-of-a-bitch father.  And my mother?  She was taken care of financially, so she didn't need my money.  But, Olivia and Chloe?  They could use it.  I just had to make sure that, legally, there was no way that "actor" who married into my family could get his hands on any of it.  I also had all my bills paid.  My checkbook was balanced.  Even my laundry was done.  Everything ready so that my exit would be as painless as possible on everyone involved.

And then that phone call.  It was almost a "movie moment."  "Providence," my beautiful lady said. 

"Hey, Sherman!" said a familiar voice on the other end of the line. "It's George. What's up?"

"Not a whole lot, man." I answered, somewhat impatient to get on with my well-prepared plan, but a bit intrigued, as well.  I hadn't heard from this guy since college.  And he had been a good friend.

"I'm calling to collect on that debt," he replied, a bit of a playful tone in his voice.  George had always been playful.  Somewhat of a joker.  But, he knew when to be serious.  And he was smart as hell.  Magna cum laude smart.

The debt he was referring to?  I had been in an accident my junior year.  Bike versus car.  And I had been on the bike -- not the motorcycle kind, either.  The kind you pedal.  And I had needed some blood, which George very graciously donated to me.  He didn't want me taking chances on the "blood supply."  As safe as the "blood supply" is, George is a skeptical kind of guy.  He wanted 100% assurance that I would be receiving a safe product.  And being that he and I are the same blood type -- a fact we had discovered during a lab activity in a required undergraduate biology course -- he wanted to give me that assurance.  And he had teased me afterwards, when I thanked him.  "Well," he had said, laugh lines crinkling in the corners of his jolly brown eyes, "I look at it this way.  Now you are in my debt.  I think I got the sweet end of the deal."

As I heard George's voice on the phone after all this time, I felt a bit like making my excuses and hanging up on him.  But, he had given me his blood, for Christ's sake.  And he had been a good friend -- always.  A lot of memories of better times arose out of the depths of my mind.  So, I decided to hear him out.

"Ok, George," I said.  "What kind of crazy idea have you cooked up now?"  Because George -- in his "brilliance" -- had always been cooking up some rather crazy idea or another.

That's when he told me about this trip to Africa he was putting together.  George, evidently, had started a bank when he graduated from college.  And the bank had actually succeeded.  The bank became fuckin' PROFITABLE, in this fuckin' economy.  Leave it to old George to pull off a stunt like that.  And so my friend, always one to give it all away -- including his very own blood -- sold every single one of his shares in said financial institution and started a non-profit.  And this non-profit was opening little one-room schoolhouses in the midst of Africa -- the land of his forefathers -- and he wanted me to go over there with him as a teacher.  A fuckin' teacher.

"George," I said.  "I have a job."

"So I've heard, Sherman.  So I've heard.  You're a cop."  He sort of giggle-snorted.  "I have nothin' against cops, man, nothin' at all.  You know that.  But -- Sherman, my man -- you're no cop.  I remember when you were choosing between Teach For America and the Police Academy.  I figured you'd pick the cop gig for the gun and the glory.  You always liked that shit.  But, man, I'm betting you're pretty miserable right about now.  You know why?  Because -- I bet -- you're feeling not so appreciated by those whom you 'serve and protect.'  You always liked to be a little hero-worshipped, man.  Nothing against you.  Just the manly ego thing.  But, I bet you've discovered it by now.  Nobody appreciates cops too much.  Even when they try to 'make a difference,' which is what you always said you wanted to do.  So -- I'm giving you the opportunity, man -- to actually be hero-worshipped.  By a bunch of little kids.  And you know why they'll hero-worship you?  Because they're too fuckin' young to know any better.  Come on, Sherman.  How about it?  And remember -- you owe me.  You don't want my ghost fuckin' haunting you if I die in a plane crash on my way over there.  Because -- yeah -- I'm going over there myself.  And if I die in a plane crash -- you can sure as hell bet I'll be haunting your sorry ass if you renege on your debt.  And, my man, I just wanna see your puny pale self frolicking around over there amonst my beautiful dark-skinned brothers and sisters.  The memory of that sight will keep me entertained all through my old age."

As ridiculous as it sounds, I figured I might as well take George up on his offer.  I packed the pills away in a safe-deposit box.  If things didn't work out, I could still use them.  I resigned from the force, sold my house, gave away my stuff, got some innoculations, and was on a plane with my old friend in six weeks.  I already had a passport, and George's non-profit took care of the rest of the beauracratic nonsense.  I was even given "training" -- if you could call the stack of pamphlets I was given "training" -- in how to teach a bunch of elementary-school-kids a variety of elementary-school-subjects (including English).  I was actually starting to get a little excited. 

And, yes, in the back of my mind was the idea of atonement.  Because, when all was said and done, I knew I had "sinned," if you want to call it that.  And if you don't want to call it that, you can just say that I knew I had fucked up.  Totally.  Yes, I could justify myself, my actions.  Like shooting Ronnie.  He had pimped out his young daughter, pimped out and beaten the girl's mother, come after Sammy.  The guy deserved to die -- needed to die, even -- before he actually killed Sammy or some other innocent person.  But, deep down, I knew the crap that I had done.  I couldn't escape it -- couldn't escape the guilt.  And maybe that guilt, more than anything else, was what made me want to die.  So, perhaps, this trip to Africa -- this new work -- could be a way to atone.  Leave everything behind -- sell everything, give everything away -- and atone.  

To be continued...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part 3

Do you believe in God? I'm not sure I do. And if there is a God for me to believe in, I'm not quite sure what rendition of that supernatural being I should put my faith in. Does He care? Or did He just start this world a-spinning; and does He just look with amusement upon what we do with it, what we do with each other? Or is God even a He? Could God be a She? Or an It? Or is the universe somehow conscious -- being aware of and impacting us in an active manner? Some people believe that. You know what I don't believe in? Many Gods. They would have just wiped each other out long ago in some great, grand battle -- ending, along with themselves, what they had created. I mean, can creation survive without its Creator? I don't think so. I guess it is easiest -- for me -- to believe in a God people would call "He." Even if He contains female attributes. Logically, He could not create what He does not possess. So, He has to have female characteristics, I guess. If He exists. And it's easier to believe in this kind of God -- for me, anyway -- because He would be a God who could piss you off.  A God you could get angry with -- like your own earthly father.  And, "God knows," I have plenty of experience getting angry with my own earthly father. So, it's easy for me to imagine this kind of a God. A God whom I could call "He." A God who tells you everything He does is for your good, but to whom "your good" seems to involve one hell of a lot of pain. A God who says He loves you and is close to you, even though you feel quite ignored by Him most of the time. So, maybe I do believe in God. But, is He any better than my own biological father? I don't know.

The woman lying next to me, stirring gently, she believes in God. She believes He is good. She believes He brought me to her -- that I am His "gift" to her. Why she would believe that I am a gift, I have no idea. She knows my past, my secrets. For some reason -- that I don't understand at all -- I have always felt compelled to let her in on those things, the things I keep locked away from everyone else. She knows my faults. She knows I lack her kind of faith, and that I probably always will. But, she says I am a "gift." She says that there is within me kindness and gentleness. She believes -- foolishly, in my mind -- that I am good. She tells me that the evil I have done is because the good in me couldn't bear the evil I was seeing -- the evil I was experiencing on a day-to-day basis. Yes, I think she is a rather delusional fool for believing I have any goodness in me. But, I let her love me. I let her love me because it is a love that does not expect anything, that just accepts everything. Her love is my peace. And I can't help loving her back. Loving her and the child. The child who was so unexpected. The child whom I didn't even really want at first. But, she wanted him -- or her. And so it is to be, because I find that I cannot refuse her.

Why do I bring these things up? These things about God and faith and doubt and love? Well, they have to do with why I didn't die. I was determined to die. I had made my preparations. And then I was stopped by a phone call. A phone call from somebody I had not seen in years, or even thought about. The woman who loves me -- she believes it was something she calls "providence." What do I believe? Hell if I know. Hell if I know why God would have waited so long, watching with seeming callousness all of my mistakes, watching me hurt many of His so-called "children" before stepping in. That doesn't make any sense to me. If I were God, I certainly wouldn't have done it that way. If I were God, I would have either stopped me before I could inflict any damage, or I would have let me kill myself. And then I would have sent me to "hell" -- if such a place actually exists. For, if the Judeo-Christian version of God has any truth to it, "hell" is where that particular philosophy certainly would have said I deserved to go.

My beautiful woman -- she talks about "mercy." She says God treated me with "mercy." I have a really hard time believing that. Where is His "mercy" in the middle of urban Los Angeles, I would like to know?

So, back to that phone call...

To be continued...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part 2


It is already hot as the sun rises up over the valley in the middle of this ancient continent.  This ancient continent where families and lives were once ripped apart by those who thought bartering in humans was a God-given right. This ancient continent full of a multiplicity of cultures.  War-ravaged in some places, disease-ridden in others, but full of great beauty and majesty and life.  Life wild and free, alongside life shackled and oppressed.  Great poverty and great riches, sometimes in one place.

She lies next to me -- this woman, my woman -- breathing softly.  Her skin soft and brown and warm.  The dark curls of her hair gently brushing my shoulder.  Her belly swollen with the child.  Breasts full and ready to give milk to a new babe.  Soon he will come.  Or she.  I don't know.  The woman -- the lovely woman whom I love -- doesn't want to know, so the decision is made.   We will be surprised.  Isn't life just one long surprise, anyway?  We plan, God laughs -- isn't that what they say?

Who knew,  almost three years ago, that my life would come to this?   Who knew that my life would come to anything?   Fuck 'em all, I thought to myself back then.  Sammy and Cooper, Brooke -- fuck 'em all.

They were rather awkward, those initial days after my confrontation with Sammy.  I mean, we couldn't work together, anymore.  Not one more day.  Sammy pulled some strings, got us new partners.  Not too many questions were asked.  Hell, I thought.  I'm taking the Detectives' Exam, anyway.  I'll be out of this fuckin' squad car in a few months.  And I should have been.  I got the second highest score ever recorded in the department.  But, the promotion got "held up."  One fuckin' excuse after another.  No one ever said it directly, but I know that fucker Sammy was responsible.  It became clear to me that I was going to be riding in that patrol car forever -- or humpin' the pine.  I had been blackballed -- by the guy who told me that "you always have your partner's back, especially when he's wrong."  That fucker.

And then there was Cooper.  Brought down by his own team, he lived through it all.  But, after all that -- after his own psycho trip -- he still thought he was better than me.  The guy pistol-whips his neighbor, disgraces himself after almost 25 years on the job, and he has the audacity to treat me with disdain when I go visit him.  Maybe I stretched my authority a bit in going after a few bad guys, but they were the BAD GUYS.  Not some Joe Lunch Bucket who couldn't pay his electric bill.

The one bright star amongst all this fucked-up crap?  Elena.  I really did love Elena.  Not like I love the woman who lies next to me now, the woman large with my child.  But, I did love her.  She was the little bit of light in the middle of all my darkness -- as corny as that sounds.  And Brooke knew it, too.  I should have been more careful with Brooke.  Should have taken her unstable behavior more seriously.  I was a cop, after all.  But, I wasn't willing to admit to myself what I knew deep down to be the full extent of her anger, of her hatred.  Because if I admitted that to myself, I would have had to admit that maybe I was a little bit responsible for it.  Yes, she was crazy.  That wasn't my fault.  But, in how I treated her -- in how I screwed around on her -- I probably did tip the scales a bit.  Probably did uncage the beast that was inside of that tiny lady.  And now one lives in an institution, unable to even feed herself.  And one lives in prison.  Elena didn't mean to cause that trauma to Brooke's brain. Brooke, after all, did start the fight.  The fight that ended in a fall when Elena pushed Brooke away from her.  And when a head meets concrete violently, the head doesn't stand much of a chance.  I really didn't think Elena would face prison time.  It seemed a simple matter of self-defense to me.  Evidently, the D.A. saw things differently.  He maintained that Elena used unnecessary force.  And the D.A. prevailed. 

So, that's how it was.  That's where I was.  Trapped in a life I had never anticipated.  Looking for a way out.  The usual escapes -- sex, alcohol -- they weren't doing it, anymore.  And the other cops?  They were polite, professional.  But, they were no longer my comrades.

So, I made a decision.  A decision that involved putting into practice one of the things I had learned from John Cooper -- skimming pills from perps I took into custody.  (Of course, Cooper always denied that he did this.  I never fuckin' believed him, though.  No sane person would.  The guy was a fuckin' addict.  And addicts say whatever they need to say.)  Nobody noticed a few pills missing here and there -- especially when I made sure I was the one to book the things into evidence.  It only took a few months, and I had enough to do what I needed to do.  Kill myself.  You may wonder why I didn't just eat my gun.  Basically, I was too polite for that.  Didn't want anyone to have to clean up after me.  And there were Olivia and Chloe to think about.  And my mother.  Chances were, it would have been one of them who found me.  And I didn't want them to find a bloody mess.  With the pills, it would have been far more peaceful -- for me and for all the rest of 'em.  I go to sleep and they find me that way.  A fuckin' Sleeping Beauty -- guy version.  Except, no kiss could or would have magical powers in this rendition of that classic tale.

To be continued...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ben Sherman -- Epilogue, Part I

The recent series finale of "SouthLAnd" left our "hero" -- Officer Ben Sherman -- lying on the ground after being confronted by his partner, Officer Sammy Bryant, about his scum-bag ways.  Many folks were left wondering what would have happened to Ben Sherman if the series had been given a sixth season.  Would he have found redemption or would he have continued along his dark path?  It seems dubious that he could once again become that lovely, though rather haunted, young man we remember from the earlier seasons.  It would also be unrealistic for the show's writers to return him to that state.  For, after all, human nature does not work that way.  And the people who made "SouthLAnd" always remained true to what we flawed humans are actually like.  We flawed humans cannot undo our actions, either the good or the evil ones.  Our actions always impact our psyches, our characters, our personalities.  Our actions become part of us.  And our wrong-headed decisions never leave us entirely unscathed, entirely without scars.  But, what we can do is choose where we go from where we are.  So, what would the creators of "SouthLAnd," perhaps in collaboration with the actor who portrays Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie), have chosen?  I will map out what I see as one possibility. 

I realize I have been rather silly at times in writing about "SouthLAnd" -- in my "spoilers" and "predictions."  I have enjoyed doing that.  Humor has helped me deal with the heartbreaking intensity of Season 5.  It has been a coping mechanism, of sorts.  But, in what I write now -- though it will probably contain humor -- I will try to remain true to the spirit of the show and to the work Ben McKenzie put into portraying Ben Sherman.  And I am pretty sure Mr. McKenzie would not want Officer Sherman to have an easy out from his situation.  Maybe he wouldn't even want to see the character ultimately redeemed.  But, I do.  So, I'm going to go with that and I hope Mr. McKenzie won't mind if he ever happens to come across this blog.  I want Officer Sherman to have a "happy ending."  Not fairy-tale happy, but I want him to come to a place of peace.  Why?  Because I am a Catholic, and I also don't give up too easily on people.  I believe in grace.  I believe most people want to choose the good.  I believe that often, when people choose what is wrong, they do it believing they are choosing what is right.  We see this demonstrated in the final scene between Ben and Sammy in the series finale of "SouthLAnd."  Ben tries to justify himself to Sammy.  He tells Sammy that he has done "what any sane person would do."  Sammy, being actually sane, realizes what insanity this is and punches Ben.  This is the wisest thing Sammy could have done.  My dad would have said that Sammy was "knocking some sense" into Ben.  That's something guys have to do for each other once in a while.  Not that I condone violence, or anything.  But, occasionally, a guy with a good head on his shoulders needs to punch a screwed-up guy in the nose.  This is often the best way of getting the screwed-up guy back on the right path.  As we watch Ben try to justify himself, though, I think he actually believes what he is saying.  I think he has convinced himself of the rightness of his actions.  He has chosen the bad believing it to be the good.

So, as Ben picks himself up off the pavement, his desire is to choose the good...

To be continued... ;-)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why I Love The "SouthLAnd" Houses

There are very few studio sets built for "SouthLAnd."  Most of the show is shot in and around Los Angeles.  Accordingly, actual houses and apartments are used in many scenes.  And one of my favorite things to do when watching an episode for the second (or third) time is to pay close attention to these residences and how they are decorated for the show.  Those responsible for scouting and choosing the locations and setting them up for the shoots are very talented folks.  They are always perfect backdrops for the action and drama unfolding in the story.

Many of the homes used seem to be in working-class neighborhoods, for example.  Often a crime has been committed within the home. A victim, a criminal, or the family of a victim or criminal might live in the house.  Accordingly, the house has to be chosen and arranged in such a way as to reflect its history and the personalities and lifestyles of the characters who live there.  A home chosen for "SouthLAnd" is often quite charming, though older and a bit run-down.  The paint seems to have been selected, at some point in the past, with care.  The outside walls and trim might be of lovely, though somewhat faded, colors.  There might be a front porch, maybe a little weathered, but perhaps with a welcoming chair or two.  A screen door might be mounted in front of the main doorway, hinting at a time in the past when little children peeked out of it in the evening, waiting for their daddy to arrive home.  There is often a front lawn -- sparse, but trimmed.  Curtains might be seen through the windows, maybe sewn by a new mom home with her baby twenty years ago.  So, as we see Officer Bryant and Officer Sherman approach such a house, as we wonder what they will find within it, we are also made aware of the cultural backdrop and the socioeconomic situation of the individuals they are about to meet.  We feel for joys had and joys lost in the lives of these people.  We are attuned to the fact that there were better times in these places, and this touches our hearts.

As Sammy and Ben enter the home to search it or to make an arrest or even to comfort a victim, our hearts are further touched as we see the more intimate space of the people they encounter.  Furniture often harkens back to the era of my own childhood, indicating the rich family history of the characters -- and, perhaps, their poverty.  There are often built-in cabinets and shelves holding inexpensive, yet precious, knick-knacks -- trinkets carefully chosen on family vacations or given as gifts for special occasions.  Family pictures grace the walls of the home -- walls painted in warm colors by somebody who loves or has loved the victim (or criminal) in the story that is unfolding before us.  The house is usually clean and well-kept -- although, if a crime has been committed therein, it may be in disarray.  But, we can still see the careful housekeeping this disarray masks.  And this is a fitting reminder of the upheaval -- emotional and otherwise -- which crime inflicts upon innocent lives.  We imagine a family eating dinner, watching television, or getting ready for bed in a home that is rather poor, yet carefully kept -- when violence enters into that space.  And we can all feel in our guts what that would be like.  We all know in our hearts that we are potential victims.  And herein lies at least part of the power of "SouthLAnd" and the stories that it tells.  In carefully crafting these scenes, in their brilliant use of a home and its decor, the people who bring us this show make the victims, and even the criminals and those who love those criminals, relatable.

If you are a "SouthLAnd" fan, you have probably noticed these things, as I have.  But, if you haven't, I would encourage you to really take note of the work so meticulously done by the location scouts and set decorators of this courageous show.

Monday, May 6, 2013

#sammyandben4eva -- "SouthLAnd"

Or maybe it was #benandsammy4eva.  Whateva.

My daughter Bridget came up with this hashtag, as part of her "SouthLAnd" fandom.  As is no secret, Sammy Bryant and Ben Sherman are two of our favorite characters on this show.  And we have greatly enjoyed their partnership during Seasons 4 and 5.  That partnership does come to a rather painful end, but that end contains many lessons concerning the human soul, the human character, moral struggles, trust, and friendship.  And upon witnessing Sammy and Ben's last scene together in the Season 5 finale, Bridget stated, "Well, I guess my hashtag is dead."

Is it dead?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If there is a Season 6, we may discover the answer to this question.  If not, the answer will lie in our own imaginations.

I think it could go either way.

"SouthLAnd" has, over the course of 5 seasons, brought its characters through many ups and downs.  Each character has been faced with moral dilemmas and life struggles -- and each character has had to respond to these dilemmas and struggles.  They have made good decisions -- and poor ones.  They have faced the consequences of their choices and actions.  Most of the characters, after making wrong choices, have made attempts to atone for those choices.  They have striven to become better people after their falls.  We have witnessed characters be reconciled to each other, as in the case of Lydia and Russ.  So, there is more than one possibility as we look to the future of Sammy and Ben's relationship.

Will they continue to be partners in a Season 6?  Very unlikely.

Will they regain what could be called a "friendship?"  It depends.

When we last saw Officer Ben in the Season 5 finale, he was laying on the ground after Sammy confronted him with the "error of his ways."  Officer Ben was not ready to hear about his own shortcomings, and tried to blame Sammy for his own choices.  Sammy, though -- in his detective wisdom -- was not taking any of that shit.  So, as we see Ben on the ground after Sammy leaves him to himself, we wonder what is going through his mind.  Does he honestly believe he has been in the right?  Might he be having some regrets?  He has things to repent of, but will his pride prove to be an obstacle to that repentance?

In my mind, the major factor that would prevent Officer Ben from clearly seeing where he has gone wrong, and from trying to make things right with Sammy, is his tendency to be unforgiving.  And he does have that tendency.  We see it in his relationship (or lack thereof) with his father.  Yes, his father is a douche.  But, I think his father has made an attempt -- as far as he is able to in his douche-dom -- to have at least a little bit of a positive relationship with his son.   And Officer Ben has had none of it.  He has not given his father even a teeny tiny bit of a chance for even a teeny tiny bit of a positive father-son relationship.  Officer Ben has hardened his heart.  And we have also seen him harden his heart in regard to the man who assaulted both his mother and him.  Please don't get me wrong.  I don't think Officer Ben needs to have a relationship with that guy.  I don't think he has to like him at all.  But, the way he goes after the man after he is released from prison is a bit extreme.  The guy did the time for the crime.  Officer Ben's mom is willing to put the whole incident to rest.  But, not Officer Ben himself.  He is unwilling to let go of his anger.  And now his anger is directed at Sammy.  Will he be able to let go of that anger?  After all, Sammy is neither a douche-bag nor a criminal.  But, Officer Ben feels that Sammy has betrayed him.  He feels that Sammy has thrown his friendship "under the bus."  He blames Sammy for his own wrong decisions.  He feels that Sammy is ungrateful to him.  So, we will have to see if Officer Ben has the ability to let go of his self-righteous, prideful anger.  We will have to see if he can own up to his screw-ups.  We will have to see if he is able to have a forgiving heart, after all.

As I watched the last episode of Season 5, though, I did see one bright, shining, little spot for Officer Ben -- one little crack in the almost closed door of his soul.  During this episode, Sammy is up in a police chopper.  That chopper takes gunfire and it starts to leak fuel.  An emergency landing is required.  Officer Ben hears all this on the radio of his squad car, and he races to the location where the emergency landing will take place.  He is clearly alarmed.  His genuine concern for Sammy is apparent.  He has not, as yet, completely lost his heart, his humanity.  There are still some avenues for grace left.

So, as we leave Officer Ben laying on the pavement in the last filmed episode of "SouthLAnd," there is more than one voice in his head.  There is the "angel" and the "devil," if you will.  There is temptation.  But, there is grace.  He still has a choice.  And the choice that he makes will ultimately determine whether or not he and Sammy can be reconciled or have any type of friendship -- assuming, of course, that Sammy is willing to accept from Ben what would need to be a very sincere apology, made in a spirit of absolute contrition.

This, then, is one of the things I love about "SouthLAnd."  What we see in the "dance" of Sammy and Ben is an illustration of what happens to all of us in our humanity.  There are difficult situations.  There are difficult choices.  There are falls.  There are confrontations with ugly truths about ourselves.  There is our response to those confrontations.  There are opportunities for grace.  And we are reminded that "it ain't over 'til it's over."  We are reminded that we need to persevere in our own struggles, with our own obstacles, in order to become the kind of people we know we really should be.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sex -- Second Installment

I wrote a post a while ago about sex.  I thought I'd write another one today.

These are just my thoughts.  If you roll differently, that's cool.  I'm nobody's judge and jury.  Believe me, I know what it feels like to be judged.  And it doesn't feel too good.

I am Catholic.  Growing up Catholic, I was taught the Catholic ideas about sex.  Many people misunderstand the Catholic ideas about sex.  I have heard Catholicism referred to as an "anti-sex cult."  That makes me giggle.

Anyway, amongst all the theological sex discussion that I grew up with, there is one statement which still stands out to me to this day.  It was spoken to my by my Italian immigrant peasant-farmer-turned-candle-factory-worker Nana.  Before I tell you what she said, though, let me tell you a little bit about her.

My Nana was cool.  And she was no prude.  In the family, it was known that she and my Grandpa were, as you might put it, "into each other."  And she loved the handsome blonde guy on "The Lawrence Welk Show" and she loved her soap opera hotties.  I tell you, if "The O.C." had been on when I was a young girl, my Nana would have been right there watching it with us.  I think she would have dug Sandy Cohen and Jimmy Cooper (and, yes, even Ryan Atwood).  Although, as we watched it together, she probably would have injected some of her Nana-wisdom into the whole situation.  For example, she would have told us that the whole idea of Ryan in that poolhouse just wasn't good sense.  She would have made him leave all the blinds open 24/7.  And he would never have gotten away with taking off in the Range Rover in a fit of temper.  My Nana was like 5'11" and 180 -- and Ryan just would not have gotten away with crap like that.  Ryan would also never have been able to pull the wool over her eyes in his attempt to sneak across the border to finish off that Volchok character.  My Nana would have seen that coming a mile away.  And it just wouldn't have happened.  She would have sent him outside to dig post holes or paint the house until he cooled off.  That was her way of dealing with youthful passions.  The digging of holes was high on her list of techniques for coping with teenagers and their ways.  But, even with all that, she would have watched every single episode of "The O.C." and loved every minute of it.

When my Nana spoke, then, you listened.  Because when she spoke, she always made sense.  Because when she spoke, you felt like she understood you.  And she always had a little gleam in her eye when she dispensed advice, as she did comprehend the hearts and minds of young people.

So, here I present to you the one piece of sex advice she ever gave me.  I remember it clearly to this very day.  We were in her "TV room" -- probably after watching one of the soaps that she loved.  She was standing up, stretched out to her full 5'11'' height.  And she said:

"Why should you have sex before you get married?  If you have sex before you get married, then what will you have to look forward to?"

That was all she said.  Nothing about sin or hell or the Theology Of The Body.  Just, "What will you have to look forward to?"  And, boy, in the midst of the Sexual Revolution, that did give me pause.  Because when you are in the "middle of it" with a hot guy (or a hot girl, or whatever), it is hard to remember theological stuff, but it is not hard to remember a statement like that.

Again, this is not a judgement on anybody.  Everybody is free to make their own decisions about sex.  It's just something I present for your consideration.  And it is a memory that brings a smile to my lips.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Wildfire Prevention Filing Superstition

I am of Italian heritage -- well, mostly.  There's a bit of Irish thrown in, too, for good measure.  And as I was growing up, as a mostly Italian little girl, I spent a lot of time with my 100% Italian grandmother, who came here from that great land when she was about 19 years old.  My Nana was raised in a little village in Italy.  Her family were peasant farmers.  As such, she was raised on a lot of superstitions, mixed in with her Catholic faith.  Therefore, I was raised on a lot of superstitions, mixed in with my Catholic faith.  For example, I was told that if you accidentally put an item of clothing on inside-out in the morning that you are required to leave it that way for the entire day, lest you bring bad luck upon yourself. 

Anyway, as an adult who has a biology degree, I have pretty much freed myself from this superstitious mindset.  Although, I admit, I have not entirely overcome it.  And -- hence -- there is my "Wildfire Prevention Filing Superstition."

I bring this up today because it is EXTREMELY hot, windy, and dry here in SoCal.  In fact, there is a big wildfire raging north of us.  Many people are being evacuated.  Please keep them in your prayers.  And this post is NOT intended to make light of these fires and their victims.  It is just my way of coping as I keep peeking out the windows for smoke.

You see, we have been threatened and have had to evacuate during two previous wildfires.  Big, huge, out-of-control wildfires.  One of the fires actually destroyed our backyard, singed our house, and cracked several of our windows.  And it is out of these two fires that my "Wildfire Prevention Filing Superstition" was born.

In a drawer of my desk that is in my bedroom next to my bed, there is a box.  In the box, I keep papers that need to be filed in my Official File Box.  My Official File Box has within it Official Files with Official Labels -- such as "Utilities" and "Taxes."   As such, the papers that need to be filed include utility bills and pay stubs.  There are also such things as insurance forms, bank statements, and home repair receipts that are stored in my Official File Box.  You may wonder why I don't just file these things in my Official File Box as I get them.  My answer is, "I don't have a clue."  So, every couple of weeks, I get the box out of my desk drawer and file the papers it contains into my Official File Box.  Once in a while, though, I get lazy.  And two of the times that I was most lazy were before the two major wildfires that we ended up fleeing.

"Why does this matter?" you may be wondering.

If you live in a place where there is a high danger of wildfires, you must always be prepared to flee.  And when you flee, you are told to remember the three P's -- pets, pictures, and papers.  PAPERS.  And this is easy if all your papers are where they belong -- in your Official File Box.  But, both times we had to flee a fire, many of my papers were not where they belonged.  So, I spent between one and two hours -- both times -- organizing and filing important papers into my Official File Box in preparation to leave.

And this is where the superstition part comes in.

We have "fire weather" often.  Usually, though, when this type of weather occurs, my filing is all up-to-date.  On the days when it would be quite simple to pick up my Official File Box and put it in the car, without worrying about papers that have not been properly stored, we NEVER have a fire.  Therefore, I have concluded:


And so you have it:  my "Wildfire Prevention Filing Superstition."

And if you did not realize before how silly I am, now you do. ;-)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mr. Shawn Hatosy And Life With Littles

Mr. Shawn Hatosy is an actor and a husband and a daddy.  I first saw him in the TV show "Numb3rs," on which he played a character named Dwayne.  Dwayne is guy with serious issues, who gets our hero -- Colby Granger -- into shitloads of trouble.  Although, in the end, Dwayne does go out in an ultimately self-sacrificing Blaze Of Glory.  And even when he is being kind of a douche, you've got to sort of love Dwayne.  He's just that kind of a dude.  The next place I encountered Mr. Hatosy was on "SouthLAnd," playing the good-hearted, faithful, and rather oppressed Officer Sammy Bryant.  Since I started watching "SouthLAnd" mid-way through Season 4, it took me something like a month to realize that the guy playing Sammy was the same guy who had played Dwayne.  It seemed as though Mr. Hatosy had embarked on a rather rigorous work-out schedule in between the two roles.  (Not that he was ever out-of-shape.  He had just become rather Mr. America-like since the days of "Numb3rs.")  I then started following Mr. Hatosy on Twitter and found out how hilarious he is.  I also discovered that he is a husband and a daddy with two young children; and he will make amusing, warm-hearted comments having to do with family life.  And that got me to thinking about Life With Littles.

It is easy for me -- at the ripe old age of 50, with three twenty-something children -- to look back at my own days as a mommy of babies and toddlers through the proverbial rose-colored glasses.  It is easy to remember the sweet times rocking in the rocking chair with my sweet babies, the daily walks in the fresh air and sunshine with my little ones in the stroller, pushing my toddlers in the swings at the park, having graham crackers and milk at the picnic table in the back yard.  And those are all wonderful things, memories to be treasured.  And if you are currently in the situation of having babies and little ones, I encourage you to treasure all those moments.  Even though it may not seem like it now, they are fleeting -- as are all of life's moments.

But, Mr. Hatosy, through his amusing Tweets Of Wisdom -- concerning crying and poops and the licking of electrical outlets and dog crap on stroller wheels -- gives me a reality check.  Now, please don't get me wrong.  He is no d-bag.  He very, very obviously loves and enjoys his children.  But, he is in the midst of Life With Littles.  And Life With Littles is not all serenity and Sesame Street and Raffi.  It involves stress and boredom and worry and sickness and LOTS of messes.  Sometimes many simultaneous messes.  I remember having messes radiating out from me in all directions and I would have no idea where to begin.  Little children are quite good at leaving a path of destruction in their wake.  They also can seem hell-bent on the idea of endangering their own lives.  And this is all very exhausting to mommies and daddies.

I remember one day when I had a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and an infant.  Nobody was potty-trained yet.  (I was not good at potty-training.  I pretty much sucked at it.  So, my kids were in diapers for longer than usual.)  I had just changed probably the tenth dirty diaper of the day.  After washing my hands in the bathroom, I went into the kitchen because it was time to fix everybody a snack.  (It was constantly time to fix everybody a snack.)  And what did I find there?  Two-year-old Bridget had colored the bottoms of her little kid sneakers with blue marker and walked all over the white kitchen floor.  Yes, the white kitchen floor was COVERED with blue footprints.  I wish I could say that I took it well and with good humor.  I wish I could say that I snapped an Instagram photo and put it on Twitter with a cute caption.  The fact of the matter is this -- I did not take it well.  I am ashamed of this, but it's the truth.

As I look at my grown-up kids, I am relieved to find that they all seem to like me.  At least, most of the time.  And this makes me very happy, because I know there were many times when I did not shine in my role as a mum of little ones.  And there are -- of course -- many times when I don't shine in my role as a mum of young adults, either.

But, back to Mr. Hatosy.  He reminds me not to be the kind of older woman who lords my motherly wisdom over the parents of babies and toddlers and young children.   Because even though being a parent of little ones is lovely in so many ways, it is also hard at times.  Damn hard.  And what I want to be is the kind of older lady (and maybe, someday, a grandma) who is actually helpful to younger parents.  Somebody who is encouraging.  Somebody who is understanding.  Somebody who is not a douche-bag. ;-)