The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Archive for November 2018

Plan B / The Last Hurrah (repost)

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Note:  This story originally appeared as a two-parter way back in 2010, shortly after the events that inspired my writing.  My good friend Joel Hutson is featured prominently in the action; unfortunately, I received word two weeks ago of Joel’s unfortunate passing.  Today is his memorial, so I thought it would be a good chance to repost this and remember my friend in the way I would like everybody to remember him.  Godspeed, Joel.  I miss you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

11:10am – New Buffalo, MI (approximately)

I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my silver 2002 Saturn SL.  Joel Hutson is driving.  We just switched places, and he’ll drive until we get to Detroit.  Signage indicates we are 240 miles away and closing.

When Joel drives, he sits closer to the wheel than anybody I ever met.  I’m not sure why.  He sits straight up, too, but I do know why:  He’s had back problems the last few years, and sitting like that helps his back.  He looks rather intense as he’s driving, even though he’s pretty laid back right now.

 

I drove out of Libertyville this morning starting at 9am, until we hit Michigan and stopped to refuel.  We’re heading to Detroit for the ballgame tonight, and we’ll head back to Chicago afterwards.  It’s a ways to go to see a sub-.500 team (almost 700 miles round trip), but this is what you do when summer is packing in its tents in a mere two weeks and you’re heading back to school (in my case), or when your wife and daughter head to Minnesota to visit family for the week and you’re left with nothing to do but hit the gym and study for the GRE (in Joel’s case).

Joel is from Michigan and has never been to Comerica Park, even though he’s a lifelong Tigers fan.  I’ve sold him on the idea that it is the best park in baseball, and we need to make the trip to see it.  This will be my fourth time.

12:12pm – Comstock Township

Joel wants salsa with the chips we’ve opened and put on the dash.  I can’t find a good place for the jar, so I tell him to put it between his legs.  He hesitates, “Is the jar cold?”

“Why does it matter?  Are you planning on having kids and you gotta keep your nuts within range of some mean temperature?”

He holds the jar in one hand and dips his chips with the other.  As he drives.  In the rain.

We’re listening to Feelin’ Alright:  The Very Best of Traffic on the stereo.  I’m lost in taking some notes on what we’re doing.  A few songs play, and then Joel comments, “It’s always good to reach climax.”  I look up from my journal and see him smirking.  He points to a road sign, and I see that we’re passing the exit for Climax, MI.  He’s amused with himself.  I don’t feel anything.

12:22pm

It’s raining hard.  I’m worried that the game might get rained out.  I’ve been to over 75 baseball games and never had a rainout.  I wonder if luck is catching up to me.

Joel and I used to work together.  He used to teach Science at ZBTHS, where I’m still a Reading Specialist.  We’ve been friends since 2004, at least.  My first memory of our friendship is him showing up at the pub crawl I host.  My second memory is the first time we went to a ballgame.  The Brewers were hosting the Mariners.  Ichiro went on to break George Sisler’s single-season hits record that year.  It was easy to see how he did it:  He laid down a bunt in the 7th inning, and was half way to first before the ball hit the ground.

I can’t remember how or why Joel and I became friends.  My best guess is that when he started teaching, we got into a conversation about something; saw each other around school a bunch of times.  Maybe we were with a bunch of other teachers for drinks after work and started palling around.  Most of my work friendships start that way.

12:45pm – east of Battle Creek

We make a pit stop at a Love’s gas station / convenience store.  I see a Lindt Black Currant chocolate bar, which I’ve never seen before.  I buy it.  It’s pretty damn good.

We’ll arrive in Detroit far ahead of the 7pm game time, which means we can walk around the stadium and Joel can take it all in.  I keep telling him that he’s going to be stunned when he witnesses the awesomeness of Comerica.  I guarantee it.  We can also watch batting practice, which I haven’t done for I don’t know how long.

Each summer, Plan A is always to take in a good deal of ballgames in Milwaukee and Chicago.  I usually manage 8-10, but those numbers have fallen since I’ve been saddled with a  mortgage the last four years.  Plan A is still in effect, but I’m feeling stale.  I haven’t made it to Wrigley yet this year, and I may well not given how god-awful the Cubs are playing.  I refuse to patronize the park, though if tickets happen my way, I’ll probably take them.  As for Milwaukee, I’ve just burned out.  They still have a hearbeat this season, but I’ve been to Miller Park five times already and need a change of pace.  So why not coax one of my buds into making a roadtrip to Detroit?  I call it Plan B.

Since we’ll get to Detroit so early, I think it will be a good idea to hit the casino.  Some winnings might pay for our tickets and more.  Otherwise, we’ll scalp some tickets.  If the game is cancelled because of rain, we hope that tomorrow is a double-header.  We’ll get a hotel room for tonight and go to both games tomorrow.

4:30pm – MGM Grand Casino, downtown Detroit

It takes me a half hour to lose $60 playing penny slots.

6:30pm – between Hockeytown Cafe and Comerica Park

I’ve done little more than aggravate most of the scalpers around the ballpark for the past ninety minutes.  They’re looking for more tickets, and we’re looking for any tickets.  We try to stay ahead of them as we walk around and see who has anything they want to get rid of.  They keep soliciting me; I keep waving them off.  One scalper offers us some super-cheap seats, “just so you’ll get outta my way,” he grumbles, but I refuse his deal when he changes his price as I reach for some cash.  Eventually, we settle for a pair of cheap seats in the 300s.

7:30pm – section 337, row 12, seats 3 and 4, Comerica Park

Joel just finished an entire 14” cheese pizza, minus one piece I ate.  I am never short of amazed at how dude can pack away the food.  I had to tempt him to even try the chocolate—“I don’t eat sweets”—but he inhales an entire pizza?

It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed Joel’s power-eating skills.  If you ever make it to my Casmir Pulaski Memorial Poker Game, be sure you eat some chili first thing, because once Joel starts on it, it will be disappear like water down a drain.  A few years ago, Joel busted early in one round and went for some food.  When I walked into the kitchen a little later, he was licking chili off the insides of the crock pot.  He looked up when he heard me enter.  His eyes were glazed.  Bits of tomato and onion were stuck to his face.  Beef juice ran down his neck.  I told him I had a snorkel he could use if he thought it would help him.

Since then, he has never stopped obsessing about that chili.  His wife says he brings it up at least every week.  His other obsessions include Mars Cheese Castle and digging up dinosaur bones.  You might say he’s a bit unusual, but that doesn’t get in the way of him being a good friend.

What continues to amaze me about Joel is that he is the most physically fit person I know– he’s 5’9”, 150 lbs, and has a chiseled six pack; even the most hulking muscle heads at the gym eye him with envy.  He still wears clothes he bought when he was in high school.  Yet he inhales food in a way that most of us would regret if we tried it.

9:45pm – bottom of the 8th inning

Jeff Frazier cranks a homer over the left field wall.  It’s enough to pull the Tigers within one run of the Rays and for us to hope we’ll be in for an exciting finish to what has been a pretty decent game.

10:05pm – top of the 9th inning

The Rays score two runs on four straight hits.  The game is now out of the Tigers’ reach.  They fall 6-3.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

12:30am – 15 miles east of Benton Harbor, MI

I think my Saturn can go 400 miles on the tank of gas we bought yesterday morning near New Buffalo.  I’m not sure, but I’m interested in trying because I like to test limits.  Joel isn’t as excited about this as I am.  He suggests several places to stop and refuel.  I ignore him.

The odometer reads 394 when a Michigan state trooper pulls us over.  As he approaches the car, Joel quickly informs me, “He can’t search your car unless he has a warrant or if you give him permission.  Don’t let him tell you he’s going to search it; he doesn’t have that right.”

The trooper taps on my window with his flashlight.  I roll it down a few inches.  He stoops, makes eye contact, and asks, “Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?”

“No.”

“Do you know what the speed limit is?”

“Yes.”

“What is it?”

“75.”

“It’s 70.  It’s not 91.”  I don’t react.  He’s waiting for me to comment or agree or apologize or I don’t know what.  This is true to cop form when they nail you for speeding–  they try to get you to incriminate yourself.  He wants an angle or an excuse or something more that he can act on, but I don’t budge.

He takes my license and registration back to his car.  I tell Joel I’m probably going to get a ticket since I’m out of state.  Joel suggests that I roll my window down all the way because not doing so is disrespectful and is pissing off the cop.  I don’t think the cop is particularly pissed; nor would I say he is happy.  I don’t move the window.

The cop returns.  “Have you guys been drinking tonight?”  His tone of voice tells me he’s mastered what I suppose is a critical skill for a cop– making an accusation sound like a question.

“No.”

“Roll your window down some more.”  I roll it down more than half way.  “Are you trying to hide something?”  Again, an accusation.

“No.  Nothing to hide.”

He hands me my license and registration.  “Let’s slow it down.”

“Sure thing.”

We stop six miles later and fill up.  There was still a gallon and a half of gas in the tank.  We could have gone 450.  I smile and laugh, “I just got out of a huge speeding ticket!”

A flat smile breaks across Joel’s face.  He shakes his head, turns the engine over, and we start the final leg of the trip.

Before we got pulled over, we had spent an hour and a half talking about relationships, responsibilities, missed opportunities, and rare but satisfying victories.  Those conversations are half the purpose behind these trips; the other half is to experience the freedoms of life that sometimes fall in our laps.  Our karma gets jacked up, and sometimes crazy good things happen.  We’ll remember what we did as much as what we said within in the confines of my Saturn.  This is how men do it; not with cosmos while watching Steel Magnolias or while sipping a latte at Starbucks after a day of shopping, but in the wee hours on a dark highway after we’ve gnawed off a big raw hunk of life, while our hands are grimy and the juices are still running down our chins.

3:15am – Gurnee, IL

I collapse on my bed, no worse for the wear of the day other than being extraordinarily tired.  My cat nuzzles me and purrs.  It’s nice to know I was missed.

The deed is done.  Joel and I will still talk about this in ten years.  He’ll add it to his list of obsessions, below the chili and Mars Cheese Castle—his cerebral experiences will never outrank the physical sensations of food in his mind.  He’s a bit unusual, but a good friend.  As for me, I can wrap up summer and head back to school confident that I scored a substantive last hurrah.  Right now, I need sleep.

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Written by seeker70

November 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Protocol

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It’s that wonderful time of year again when I join hundreds, even thousands, of other poets and undertake the Poem-A-Day Challenge.  This round puts me in the five-timers club, and as usual it’s a strenuous yet rewarding experience.

images

One prompt last week was “Burn ________.”  We were to fill in the blank and then use the phrase as the title of the poem.  I came up with “Burn Notice,” but it wasn’t quite fitting the writing I was working on that day, which somehow because about the ways in which the Catholic church has handled the sexual abuse scandals that have caught up with them since they were perpetrated over the last several decades (or is it centuries?).  I got to thinking about the internal paperwork that could result from a localized scandal, and pretty soon a voice came to me as I was writing.  Thus, this ended up being a persona poem.  That’s not a form I use with any regularity, but I was feeling the voice quite a bit and having fun writing, so I let ‘er rip (side note:  “let ‘er rip” is huge in the PAD Challenge…  if you can’t get used to that, you’re going to be overwhelmed and fall behind).

Still, I  couldn’t use the title “Burn Notice” because it was inapt in that the term is idiosyncratic to intelligence agencies.  Did that disqualify my poem for the day?  Not exactly.  The prompt from the previous day was “write a poem that hints at something.”  Nothing worthwhile came to me that day, but the soon-to-be-renamed “Burn Notice” was hinting quite strongly at something.  I ended up letting that poem stand in where I had faltered the day before.  I was in need of a new title, though.  I ended up letting the issue simmer in my mind while I went about my daily business today, and pretty soon the proper title came to  me.

Protocol

In light of recent
circumstances, this
is to advise you
of your relocation.

The power inherent in
my office grants me
authority to absolve
you of these actions;

still, take caution to
not speak of this
outside the sanctity
of the church.

This matter is closed.
Neither local authorities
nor our parishioners are
likely to pursue the issue.

It is best now that you
are placed elsewhere to
allow for reflection and
the chance to start anew.

Written by seeker70

November 13, 2018 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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