It's only a couple minutes til midnight, and'll probably be past that by the time I finish.

This is shaping up to be quite a happy new year indeed. Just half an hour ago, my parents' refrigerator died. This is the latest in a series of problems we've had lately; others include a water pipe leaking under the foundation, unnecessarily buying a new water heater due to believing the old one was causing the water problems, my brother's car breaking down, and so on.

I could make a lot of resolutions that I might not keep. I do intent to try to lose weight this year. Also to read more, and to write more, and to at least try to get something published. And hopefully, I finish my bachelor's degree this year.

One resolution I know I can keep: I resolve not to marry out of the fear of being alone, and if I do somehow find myself attached to someone who makes me miserable, I will not "stay together for the kids" - it does them more harm than good anyway.

This may seem like a strange thing to resolve. Unless, of course, your parents are as dysfunctional a couple as mine are.

There is a world, out there, and it is doing its thing like never before.

Turn, turn, turn.

Each day is a new beginning, each night a final end. The year means nothing in the grand scheme of things, one after another with never-ending certainty; what matters is what is done in that year.

Where was I a year ago and where am I now? And what about you? Was there progress or decay? Growth or deconstruction? For me, it was a bit of both, but mostly I progressed.

I am happier than I've ever been, heavier than I've ever been, healthier than I've ever been and more comfortable in my own skin than I've ever been. I am not as rich as I would like, nor have I been able to make much headway with that whole aloneness thing. But, for the most part, I'm okay. Not great, but okay.

I've quit smoking (mostly- except when I go to the cafe). I broke my 4-year sexual dry spell. I had a girlfriend for a month, which was kinda nice. I'm keeping my bills paid. I'm closer to my family, which is somewhat new. I am looking forward, more than ever, to starting my own family someday.

I learned that I am clinically depressed and, once I learned about it, I quit being depressed so much. When the blues come, I realize what it is, acknowledge it and then watch it worm its way out of my mental system. I've seen the world start and stop and take moments for respite for the most interesting reasons. Things have changed and they've stayed the same.

I am employed, housed, fed and financially solvent. I am quiet and calm and waiting patiently for my next adventure (and there WILL be one, of that I am sure).

I am writing far less than I would like and being creatively stagnant in general. This does not please me. If I believed in New Year's resolutions, I would probably push towards being more creative and getting back some of that magic that I miss so damn much.

I would also push to stay in better contact with my friends, the ones who really are worth knowing and keeping.

But, in the end, it is all pretty much a crap shoot. Where I am today is not where I will be tomorrow. Next year will be different, whether I want it to be or not. And, frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. As much as I have progressed towards the positive, I wouldn't want to repeat this year again. I wouldn't want to be relatively homeless for a month. I wouldn't want to be sick again. I wouldn't want to work a shit job that I don't really like. I wouldn't want to wait around on pins and needles to find out if the next day will be a battle for survival. I wouldn't want to set foot in another strip club. I wouldn't want to be anyone else's bitch. I wouldn't want to argue with my parents and then learn that they were being hypocritical. I wouldn't want any of that, not again.

Doubtless, though, this next year will provide me with a strange set of surprises and unforseen craziness.

I just hope that it won't drag me down.

Don't drag me down. Not anymore. Lift me up and let me fly.

... well, have fun, and I'll talk to you later, I guess.

Yea, definitely. Oh, and we need to hang out sometime before you go back to school... I'll give you a call tomorrow. K?

You bet. Have a good evening.

You too, bye.

Everyone knows those kinds of people that say that they'll call you back, or meet you somewhere for whatever, but never do. Everyone is one of those people at some point or another. It's not that they don't mean to make good on their promise, when they make it, it just comes down to a matter of importance. Are you the kind of person that is important enough to them that they can't help but call you? Do you linger always on the tip of their brain? Can they live with themselves if they don't call you back when they say they will? Do they count down the minutes until they hear your voice again?

I've known her for what seems like forever, and I consider us pretty good friends. I think of her as my best friend. I'm sure that she means more to me than I do to her though. Every time I get ready to call her, my heart still beats fast, until I can hear my pulse ringing throughout my head. I still get slight of breath and have to stop mid conversation every now and then to catch it when I talk to her on the phone. No matter how many times she says she'll call me back, and she doesn't, I still hold out that hope that maybe this time is different. I still find myself waiting by the phone, counting the minutes, thinking that the next one will be more significant than the last.

She should be calling right about now.

Five minutes after.

Ten minutes.

Half and hour.

An hour.

The time passes excruciatingly slowly by flipping through the channels, reading a couple sentences in between looking up at the clock, eating a quick nibble. The minutes turn to hours, which quickly pass. Before too long, it's inevitable that she's out doing something else, her time elsewhere allocated, to activities that do not involve dialing my number.

Maybe tomorrow?

Nope.

The day after...?

...

Odds are, she just forgot. It's not her fault - she probably just had more pressing matters to attend to. It wasn't necessarily an intentional act. That sure doesn't make it hurt any less. Just once, I'd like to be important enough to someone that they want to call me back. I want to be the someone that people count down the minutes to until they're supposed to call. I want to be the name or face that they can't get out of their head.

Maybe this year...

Ah, New Year's Day.

All is Quiet.

The goats have been pleasured, and the wine has been tasted.

But I was in church last night.

And thus, while the rest of polite society nurses their hangovers tonight, I search for a pleasant and harmless distraction.

Suggestions? I can be reached at coffeshopcowgal@yahoo.com.

Coffeshopcowgal@yahoo.com with an "o".

p.s. please don't be creepy

The dumbest customer of the day award goes to . . .

My home phone rings. I wake up and pick it up.

"Umm, are you the boy that works at the drug store?" says an old woman whose voice I don't recognize.
"Yeah."
"Can you deliver some hearing aid batteries to me. I'm going to be out in a few days."

So this wonderful lady is waking me up on a holiday when I'm hung over to ask me to deliver something she won't run out of for several days.

Yeah, I'm sure my boss would just love it if I drove up to the store I don't own to unlock the door without permission and boot up the computer system without permission to generate a delivery ticket for a $3 pack of friggen batteries some old lady isn't even out of yet. And I'm sure my boss would love to pay me my minimum billable hours (1 hour) and pay all the related social security employer taxes on that hour's wage so I can deliver an item with a profit margin of one stinkin' dollar.

Thanks for calling, lady. Here I thought I wouldn't get to give out an award today. But guess what? You win.



If you're wondering how she knew my home number, I'll explain: This is a very small town, so most of the customers know my full name and I usually know theirs. She owns a phone book. I can't afford an unlisted number, especially not since I'm saving up to move the hell out of this town.

You came in a dream when I wasn't sleeping
Whispered because I wasn't seeing

A stranger I spent the night expecting

But we both knew all along.

Tall and supple you stood there naked
In all your glory, in full acceptance

Smiled when I said, "So, you heard me,"

When we stared from across the room.

You gave it all like none before you

Body and soul, let me wash over you

Kissed me deeper than the purple ocean

And I kissed all over you.

No rules, no wants, no expectations
Leaves no room for lamentations

Only two becoming one, whole...

When did you get those wings?

A New Year's wish for Ben.

I don't know Ben. I had never seen him before in my life and I probably will never see him again. Sometimes it is important that we drift into each other's orbits for a while and then lose ourselves in the sea of souls. Ben was one of those people, on the downside of life trying to hold it together and wishing someone would understand he isn't a bad man. He's just a man struggling with a lot of demons, trying to keep his head above water in the game of life, wishing someone for once would just be cool with Ben being Ben instead of judging him on his demons.

Ben had a rough 2004. His longtime girlfriend dumped him, he lost his job and he is wrestling with his alcoholism and his cocaine addiction. He went out for New Years Eve, supposedly to meet friends who never showed up, although I am not certain these friends exist. He is in his early 30s, but his lifestyle has given him the appearance of a much older man.

So, here I am out on New Years Eve with a beautiful woman on my right arm and my closest friends by my side and I'm spending the hour leading up to midnight talking with Ben. I don't even remember what I said to him, but by the end of the night he was toasting me and telling me he was growing his hair long again as a tribute to me. The only thing I remember saying to him, because I repeated it several times, is that he isn't any less of a person because of his problems and that what other people think of his demons is not important. It is how he feels about them and what he wants to do about them. "You want to quit? Do it for yourself, not because someone tells you if you don't quit they're going to leave you. Do it for yourself because that is who you have to look out for. What do you want out of life, dude? If you're cool with what you're doing, do it, but if you aren't, then get to a place where you are cool with it."

"Okay, man, I am going to quit the white lady and smoking starting tomorrow."

"What, are you insane, Ben? You can't quit both of those at the same time. Be real, dude. One step at a time. Just don't forget. Do it for yourself, not because someone tells you that you 'have to' because you don't have to do anything."

Whatever you do and wherever you go, Ben, I hope 2005 is a much better year for you than the last. You're okay, my friend. Just get right with yourself and you'll find the way.

So, what do you do when you find your skivvies are thrown across a room that doesn’t look at all familiar? When your tongue is cemented to the roof of your mouth and nothing short of chisel will be able to pry it away from it’s perch? When your eyes blink open and neither the ceiling that you’re staring at or the person you’re sleeping next to you seem somehow strange at best?

When you finally find your pants and every dollar that you have to your name is wadded up and crumbled into little balls like some deep dark secret that you need to keep to yourself? When gravity is your enemy and the only friend in the world you seem to have just happens to be the cool feel of the porcelain as you rest your aching head in a failed attempt to find a little relief and to get your bearings? When you tiptoe around the strange surroundings and say something to yourself along the lines of “What the hell did I get myself into?” and try to make what feels like The Great Escape only to discover that the car you thought you drove to your final destination is nothing more than a cruel rumor?

When you try and deconstruct the foggy snippets of the evening before and they seem like they were taken from the cutting room floor of a Fellini film and that you were nothing more than an extra?

I wish I could offer some advice to those who might have found themselves in just such a state but as for me, I was home, sleeping alone and in bed by somewhere around 11:00.

On the day after New Years, I woke up fresh, but bored. It seemed that there was something lacking and with nothing to do but sit around by myself and watch the avalanche of bowl games and snack on whatever goodies I had stashed in the depths of the fridge, I decided to return to the scene of my many crimes. Like a trooper, I decided the best course of action was to march down to the local watering hole and hear the war stories of those who decided to take part in a night of revelry and to maybe envy and pity them at the same time.

Yes, it was time to let the crock pot do all the work and pay a visit to my second home. If memory serves, I guess it was around somewhere between 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. I figured that by then, most of the folks had shaken off the cobwebs of the evening before would be looking to see the regular faces doing the regular things.

Upon my arrival, I found the place to be deserted. Oh, there was a bartender, a server and a cook and they were all huddled around the end of the bar playing games of euchre and rummy. There was the odd dude who never talks to anybody but spends what seems to be an infinite amount of time pumping quarters into the video crack machine at the other end of the bar and there was the guy we call “Rain Man” sitting at his usual table asking for constant refills of his bottomless glass of iced tea. The jukebox was as silent as the night and the televisions, while on, seemed muted as if to pay homage to those who might come in and nurse away their hangovers.

”This “effin” sucks” whispers the young lady who had been called upon to take what seems to be the bartenders equivalent of the graveyard shift. The heads of her compadres nod in silent agreement.

Here I am, fresh as a daisy, looking to or for something that I can’t quite put my finger on but I’m sure this isn’t it. I settle in and nurse away the afternoon in the form of beers and bowl games. My mind begins to wander. There are thousands upon thousands who met an unfortunate end in the wake of the tsunami. There’s a good kid packing his bags and being sent off to a war and not knowing if or when he’s coming back. There’s suicide bombers and unfortunate fires that take more lives than I care to count. I sip my beer and think to myself “God bless America.”

The bartender was getting ready to end her shift, her duty done for the day and her replacement ready to man the taps. Being as it was so slow, she decided to sit at the end of the bar and have one or two for herself. A small personal reward for a dead day in which there was little or no money made and the only story she had to tell was one of boredom and how bad her feet ached.. And then, that’s when I heard it…

The laugh

It was pure, it was simple, and it was uncluttered by the problems that life throws at most of us, herself included. It came from the heart and it spread its way across the gap that separates the bottles from the trash. In retrospect, I don’t know what even caused it.

Maybe it was a comment made by one of her partners or maybe it was a thought that dashed through her mind but the sound that escaped, that laugh, sounded like the most beautiful music that I’d heard in a long, long time. It took me away to places that I hadn’t had the chances to visit for quite the while.

It’s funny how a little thing like that that takes less than a minute can have an impact on you’re whole day. I guess you take comfort where you can find it but somehow that was the sound I needed to hear. Whatever I was “searching” for throughout the day, whatever seemed to be “missing” now seemed somehow to be gone. Instead, the feeling was now replaced by my own smile of contentment and whatever was left to the day seemed to take on a new direction. Even stranger, I don’t even know what that direction was but I know it’s better than the one I walked through the door with.

I slept a little better than usual that night. The pillow seemed somehow a little softer, the dreams seemed somehow a little sweeter and the morning seemed somehow a whole lot brighter.

Before I went off to bed, I made a little note to myself…

I gotta tip more…

I will Become

I will become myself, who does not procrastinate. I was once told, “Hold your pee and tell me procrastinating doesn’t hurt.” It rings true to anyone, because no one can seriously hold in their bowels like that. I used to find myself doing homework the night before it was due, now this is okay to an extent, but not on a usual basis. Right before a test it is good to review, but doing all the work, the couple of hours of study, between the night before and the test is just a panic mode unusefulness of time. In AP Psychology we have been studying beneficial study habits. Being habitual in study habits such as, spacing, practice over intervals of time between each session, studying right before sleep, among other practicing techniques. Interference will often occur if I procrastinate studying, or if I study instead of sleeping. By instead placing myself first, with my objective goals in sight in front of me, I will not procrastinate.

I will become myself, who sleeps eight hours each and every night, comfortably in my own bed, which I have made in the morning. Every night of sleep lost is the next day of trouble just waiting to be awakened to. Instead I will sleep every night, a good solid eight hours, which means I would go through the sleep cycle, which lasts in five stages a good 90 to 100 minutes, at least four times. REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, is so beneficial, and I don’t get enough of it. If my blankets are unraveled and not tightened to my bed, I move too much in my sleep not reaching those important REM moments. Distractions must find their own place, outside of my bed. I will take the time to rid myself of distractions, which includes my first resolution of getting rid of procrastination, allowing pleasant dreaming sleep. Every time I remember a dream - I feel so much more refreshed as if sleeping solved an unconscious or conscious problem. Who knows exactly what a dream does? I mean the other night I had a dream about blowing my girlfriend up with my mind, but when I awoke I felt pretty refreshed because I remembered a dream. I still had lacking sleep because it was kind of like a childhood nighterror, not to be confused as a nightmare. Nonetheless sleep is essential, and I will get more of it, and more of it properly. This will strengthen my bones, and make Mr. No Play and All Work turn into Mr. I Dream Because I Can.

I will become myself, who becomes a better chess player. I’m not bad as is, but I want to be able to take state in the high school tournament so I can go down to the U.S. Open, being held in Phoenix, Arizona this year, and play in the Danker. I do have competition, jmielkeway, but even this opposition can be taken care of with en passant... I went to Florida, Fort Lauderdale, last July and had a blast there for the two weeks I was on my own for the first time of my life. Chess makes me a better man. Chess has expanded my mind, my positional and tactics on life, and my opportunities. When I was working for an accounting firm in SLC, I quit the job to go work for Schoolhouse Chess, who offered me a job to teach children chess. With this program, being involved with children, I have grown extensively. It wasn’t about ME, it was about teaching hundreds of little “ME’S.” Becoming a better chess player will expand my life, and thus my happiness.

The Missus: I've always felt what was important to me about Christmas was the music, and the smells. I have all these sense memories from Christmas.

Me: You know, last year Christmas was all about the smells for me. But this year, I think the weather's been too warm. I just haven't been getting the Christmas smells. I think cold air makes my nose more keen.

The Missus: Maybe the fact you've had a cold for two weeks has something to do with it.

Me: Oh. Right.

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