Tag Archives: youth

The Teen Center

What? The Teen Center is in trouble?
What? The Teen Center is in trouble?

Let me just start by saying that I’m not sure if I’m a shining example, or cautionary tale, but I said that I would write this, and write this I will. Sometimes there are things so important to me that I have to actually get out of bed and put pants on, that I can be taken just a little bit more seriously when I begin my long-winded defense of things I care about. Other times, I just say I’ve got pants on, and sort of go from there. But this is definitely a pants-wearing moment. For some reason, the one place that I actually wanted to spend time during those carefree years before adulthood (aside from in the high school bleachers with my girlfriend) is facing a possible closure due to the fact that… I don’t know… kids these days? Unlike so many other places that adults wanted us to go, back in the day, I still remember that we actually wanted to hang out at the Teen Center. Obviously, part of that was its prime location, not more than a couple of minutes’ walk from anywhere on campus, but more than that, it always held that feeling of being organically cool. No one there came out and stunk of old people trying to “get us.” More, the staff there engaged us like they would with any other human beings, and it engendered a level of mutual respect.

Don’t get me wrong, we were still teenagers, and not above testing the boundaries, and seeing just what, exactly, that we could get away with. I mean, sure, my girlfriend and I were asked to stop sucking face (on a couple of occasions), but we weren’t judged for having been making out. It’s easy to gloss over one’s memories of youth, insisting upon the adoption of a bitterness that comes with growing up, but that’s something that we never had to deal with. I remember always being treated with respect (and more than I deserved most times), and never told what I should do, but rather, encouraged to go out and make the right decisions. I can say that for a fact, I avoided so much more trouble than I otherwise would have, simply by having somewhere to go, and something to do. At home, I faced anger and disappointment for not being the person that I was expected to become, but in that little building, sitting beneath the shadows of those concrete bleachers, I was always warmly welcomed. And now, a couple of decades later, I realize that I really do miss that place, and those people, and I wish that I had something similar in my current life. Maybe what we need is a Wayward Adult Center, with snacks, warped pool table, and an NES.

Sorry, got a little off-topic there.

What really meant the most to me, and allowed me to become the adult that I am today (still alive, and moderately well-adjusted), were the staff members who chose to spend their time there. They were the parents that we wished we’d had, the ones who didn’t judge us. I can still remember Shannon taking time out of her day to sit and listen to me expound upon my heartbreak every time a new girl broke my heart, and she helped guide me through the dark times of my depression when even I didn’t really know what was going on. And it wasn’t just me that she took the time to help, nor just Shannon to offer. I always felt that no matter who was working, I had someone upon whom I could rely to help me through the most confusing years of life. And even though I began complaining about the “kids these days” beginning sometime around 1999, the fact is the Teen Center has somehow managed to maintain its youth connection and remain relevant to kids over almost a quarter of a century is a testament to how badly young adults just want to be accepted, in any generation.

Even the flannel-wearing, long haired Grunge generation!
Even the flannel-wearing, long haired Grunge generation!

The Teen Center was an exemplary alternative to the plethora of unsavory distractions of which we might have availed ourselves, and so it must remain. Perhaps the taint of time has yellowed in my eyes the character of youth, but I feel that more than ever, a place like this must exist, must reach out and help young adults make the bewildering transition from little kid to productive member of society. Even now the youth have begun to drift away upon the tides of interwebz, and it’s up to us, those who have made it through to the other side and come out alright, to help keep the doors open and get the kids off their internet machines and sat down upon a couch and talking to other people currently in the same room. Using their voices. And maybe even learning what a belt is for.

There are some who will say that maybe the Center’s time has passed, and that the kids these days no longer need an anachronism such as that. And here is where I must disagree. More than ever, we need someplace safe for the kids to go, where they can practice what it’s like to be grown up, before they face real consequence for failure. Those of us who were lucky enough to have had this resource available must stand proud and extol its virtues from the rooftops (or, should one wish to avoid a charge of misdemeanor trespassing, the streets), and help to keep The Center of the Cool Universe massive enough to exert its hold upon those who need it most.

As I have been preparing this, I was also asked to share any pleasant memories of the time that I spent there. Unfortunately, trying to remember specific happy things from two decades past is a little daunting, but I do have a quilt of snippets which I can share with you. The first time I went to the Teen Center, I believe it was following a middle school dance, or something involving Commodore, anyway, and I walked up to the this building nestled into the backside of the high school (how rad was that?) to see a show that some local bands were putting on. I used to spend my weekend evenings (because I was broke and had no girlfriends) at the Teen Center with my group of friends and played role-playing games- out in the open. For a date, I bought Independence Day on VHS and brought it to the Teen Center to watch with my girlfriend at the time, the logic being that the theater was too expensive, and this way, I’d still have a movie at the end of the date. It took me a few years to figure out the look that Shannon had in her eyes when I told her my Master Plan. It was amusement and sympathy. But, to her credit, she didn’t say a word as I sat my girlfriend down in front of the television set and proceed to the lay the groundwork for no longer having a girlfriend. She even gave us the room, though there wasn’t a whole lot of privacy, mainly, I believe, so that my shame would be more manageable. And I still can’t play pool, as I learned on a warped table, and if that sounds like negativity, then you’ve never seen me make the impossible shots, which somehow are the only kind that I can make.

I’m including humorous moments and self-deprecation, but the fact is that I spent the majority of my teen years there, and never once was I made to feel unwelcome. It was always nice to know that there was someone there to be on your side, to listen to your problems and nudge you in the right direction. Let’s come together now, and help out this institution. Let’s re-establish the Teen Center’s Non-Profit Status and get the kids back through the doors once more. It’s not a matter of telling them that it’s cool; it’s simply a matter of being cool. I know that it has been a while since we were cool to kids, as some of our own would most likely gladly tell the world, but these issues never really change, and if there is one thing that I believe in, it’s that the world will always need a Teen Center with someone like Shannon Buxton at the helm.

You! Get off Facebook! Help out a good cause!
You! Get off Facebook! Help out a good cause! Or stay on Facebook and help out a good cause!

After Dark: A Blast From The Past Presents: A Lesson In America and the English language

I know, I know. I promised you all that I was done with these After Dark: Blasts From The Past. But I saved out this one for two reasons: 1) It’s my anniversary, and I might just want to sleep in, and 2) I still feel the topic is relevant today.

Go ahead, enjoy it!


A Lesson in America and the English Language

October 10th, 2008

2:10 a.m.

When I was six years old, I received a lecture from my best friend’s grandmother. We had be running around like six year olds, and I had said that I hated something. I don’t remember what. But just seconds after I’d said it, my friend’s grandmother said to me, “Don’t use that word.”

“What word?” I asked.


“Why not?”

“Do you really hate [said thing in question]?”

“Well, no… I just really don’t like it.”

“Then say that. You should never say ‘hate.’ It’s such an ugly and violent word. Say what you mean.”

Feeling unjustly chastised, I agreed, and my buddy and I went on playing.

That memory has stuck with me for two reasons. The first, because we all hold on to embarrassing moments and remember them far better than our happiest. And secondly, the older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

In my life, I genuinely hate maybe only a couple of people. Trust me, they are very bad people whose names start with the letter “J”, and, honestly, hating them hurts me more than them. Unless I see them in person.

Why am I bringing this up? Proposition 8 in California. For those of you who either do not live here or are unaware, Proposition 8 wants to overturn the California Supreme Court’s overturning the previous Proposition 22 from 2000, which banned same-sex marriage in the state by amending the state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.

In the interest of transparency, I have always been against this proposition, and on November 4th, will cast the same vote.

What bothers me in the analysis, is the call for “tolerance.”

I tolerate the old person in front of me in the register at a fast food joint for counting out pennies for her senior coffee.

I tolerate the woman with 3 shopping carts at the 99 Cent Only store ahead of me in the checkout line, arguing with the cashier over obvious things (Why does this receipt say $5.95 for this item? I thought everything here was only 99 cents! (Mind you, she had purchased 6 of the same item)).


1. To allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit.

2. To recognize and respect (the rights, beliefs, or practices of others).

3. To put up with; endure.



a. To answer affirmatively: accept an invitation.

b. To agree to take (a duty or responsibility).

2. To receive (something offered), especially with gladness or approval: accepted a glass of water; accepted their contract.

3. To admit to a group, organization, or place: accepted me as a new member of the club.


a. To regard as proper, usual, or right: Such customs are widely accepted.

b. To regard as true; believe in: Scientists have accepted the new theory.

c. To understand as having a specific meaning.

5. To endure resignedly or patiently: accept one’s fate.

I have excluded medical definitions, although they are interesting in the context of this post.

So people talk about tolerance like its original meaning (from Latin): To bear. Whereas acceptance focuses on its origin: to receive.

Therein lies the difference. Are we only to bear the existence of those who differ from us, or do we receive them into our lives? If everyone is equal, then the choice is obvious.

Unless people are saying what they really mean.


Point After (In the spirit of Football Season)

Gay used to mean happy. Are we so self-loathing and morally bankrupt a people that we seek to demonize and ridicule happiness?

Just a thought.


See? I used to go on all sorts of moral and ethical rants back in the day as well.


I’ll be taking this weekend off to celebrate my anniversary, but don’t worry: I’ll be back on Monday with something that I’ve been meaning to write about: The Teen Center on Bainbridge Island, Washington. And if you absolutely cannot live without my rambling words, feel free to peruse any of the other 98 posts I’ve written since I started this blog.

Thank you for support, and I look forward to your continued readership.

Now go outside, and have some fun, and come back on Monday for my 100th Post (which coincides with the 100th Day I’ve been running this blog).




We’ll see how it goes, but I’ve been trying to give up smoking this weekend. Quitter! Beginning on Friday, I made a whole pack last until last night, which, for those of you keeping score at home, means that I tripled the length of that pack’s life. And thanks to my electronic cigarette, I haven’t really been going through withdrawal. And considering that “smoking” one of those is one of the more unsatisfying experiences I have had to endure. It’s similar to chewing nicotine gum, with the tingly, pepper sensation, but with the added benefit of never knowing how much vapor and nicotine I will be inhaling on any given draw. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that it’s helping with the chemical addiction, but is nothing I look forward to. It is my hope that by going through this, I may finally be able to give my lungs a small chance to recuperate. I will say that I am going to miss stepping outside on a perfect day, and enjoying a quick visit to Flavor Country. I will probably miss it less on the days when the sun is in full force, or the wind and rain are running horizontally like packs of wolves with bared and bloody teeth.

I’ve been smoking for close to nineteen years, and it’s finally gotten to the point that I’m tired of the annual visits from bronchitis fairy. Honestly, if it weren’t for the month or so every year that I spend feeling horrible and unable to breathe properly, I’d probably keep smoking. I like to use cigarettes to punctuate the moments of my life. It’s hard to do that with a metal tube. That, and I’m really never certain when it is that I am finished “smoking.” With a cigarette, you’re done when the cherry hits the filter; it has a built-in expiration. With an electronic nicotine delivery device, you just keep going until you feel like it’s time to puke. Also, the flavor isn’t terribly compelling. My son-in-law bought one of those fancy, expensive robot penises that he refills with various bottles of flavored nicotine solution. He was debating picking up a bottle flavored like Banana Runts, and I told him that he was the reason that we couldn’t have nice things. I don’t know, maybe I’m turning into Denis Leary.

I think that cigarettes should be “cigarette” flavored. Now we have nicotine liquids for every taste imaginable, and it just makes me think, Why? If you’re already smoking, and looking for an alternative to combusted tobacco, then be a damned grown-up, and deal with the flavor. It’s bad enough that some folks need their smokes to taste minty fresh. I mean, sure, I miss cocktail cigarettes (Izmir Stingers were delicious!), but I could understand the reasoning behind the ban on child-friendly flavorings. It’s not like nicotine itself is all that great for you, and I myself don’t see the need to entice new customers into a lifelong and health-damaging addiction. The science is only just beginning to trickle in for e-cigarettes, but I think we can all agree that they are a safer alternative to smoking, not a safe alternative. What a world of difference that little “r” will make.

When I was growing up, almost all the adults around me were usually smoking. I remember back when restaurants had smoking sections that were separated from the non-smoking section by a curtain of air conditioning (if it was a fancy place). Once I got to school, I recall harassing my mother and grandparents about the myriad dangers of tobacco use, and I also remember when my mother decided to give up smoking, and how much I hated her for years after. My grandmother quit a few years later, prompted by a heart attack and helicopter view of the Puget Sound. In the years that followed, everyone else began to quit, leaving me the only one who’d step outside into the rain to light up and “get some air.” While typing this, I have been dutifully puffing away on my e-cigarette, topping off the nicotine pulsing through my bloodstream, and yet the only thing that I can think of is how badly I want a real cigarette. It seems that March is the month to give up vices. I can’t imagine how I will endure it, but I imagine that I will not have any other choice.

There are no compelling reasons to take up smoking in the 21st century. Tobacco is on its way out, and no one looks cool fellating an android. I’m not one of those obnoxious idiots who think that we should expunge all instances of smoking from the entertainment from the past, nor do I believe that we should ban all future examples of smoking from the entertainment of the future. I think that may have been why I took up smoking in the first place. Even though I knew that it was horrible for me, I took a certain pleasure in defying the calls for outlawing this common weed. The more we try to demonize tobacco, the cooler we will make it seem to the children of tomorrow. It’s hard to rebel against the cold logic of scientific fact (despite what House Republicans so fervently believe), but a teenage mind can find the merest hint of traction and grab hold for all that it is worth if adults stray from factual representations and head down the path toward specious moralization. And contrary to my shouts regarding liberty for my lawn, teenagers are merely hampered by lack of experience, not stupidity. Remind me to hide this from David William in about six to ten years.

It’s not that I am suddenly overwhelmed by a desire to see what the year 2030 will look like, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world for me to see my son become a man, or my grandson and granddaughter grow up as well. I got the chance to be a grandpa in my early to mid-thirties, and that gives me a realistic opportunity to watch all the little babies become people in their own right. Maybe I’m just becoming overly sentimental in my deepening age, but I think I’d like to spend a just a tad longer enjoying their company. I hate finding reasons to keep on living. It just feels so… normal. Is this what regular people do? And all of this because last night, when I should really have been sleeping, I went out into the living room and spent some time with my toddler grandson. He had me pick him up, while he played with a butterfly shaped squeeze toy, and then, for some reason, we both broke down into a case of uncontrollable giggles, laughing without reason or self-awareness of a good seven minutes. It was a moment which reminded me of all the fun I used to have with David, and all the fun I’ll soon be having with little Jennivee. Maybe sticking around for a little while longer isn’t the worst thing, after all.


Modern Antiquities: My Impending Anniversary

I knew that I should have taken a nap first. I always get a little cranky unless I’ve had a decent night’s sleep. Well, cranky or incoherent, anyway. I was told that today was going to be my day to sleep in, which I was looking forward to because I haven’t been able to get much sleep due to this persistent hacking cough. Unfortunately, my wife mixed up her days off, and I was awoken ungodly early as she was rushing out the door to work. Sure, I promptly returned to sleep, but my alarm woke up sometime thereafter, and now here I am, pretending that I can still function like a human being. It’s comforting to know that I can still get my son up and dressed, fed and medicated, and out the door and off to school while functioning on autopilot. Sometimes I think that I am more efficient when I’m running on empty than when I’ve got a full head of steam. It probably has to do with trying to most effectively manage my dwindling resources, like trying to get the Apollo 13 command module up and running again on only 20 amps (and I can’t draw power from the LEM before cutting it loose). And yes, I did just watch the applicable bits from the movie again to get the numbers right. And yes, I know what I’m going to be doing as soon as I finish writing this.

I think that I almost miss working. And by that, I mean that I am beginning to feel nostalgic for those heady days of long commutes and the mindless tedium which filled my waking hours. Not that crafting moderately amusing rants isn’t work, of a sort, but it isn’t really paying the bills, and I am a master of finding literally anything else to do instead of being productive. I’m ready to start penning something in addition to what I’m doing here, but now that I’ve mastered the art of blogging (I have not), I feel too satisfied with myself, and as soon as I hit “Publish”, it’s like clocking out for the day. What I need to train myself to do now is take a little break, and then come right back and start working on something that people will actually pay me for the privilege of reading. I just wish I wasn’t so easily distracted by all the shiny things. And I wish that my office wasn’t equipped with a high-definition television and Blu-ray player. I suppose that I could move my laptop somewhere else, but then I wouldn’t get such wonderful Wi-Fi reception, and that’s kind of a deal breaker. Because I use the internet for research. And not for finding things to distract me when I should be doing literally anything else. Literally.


I have a little over a week to plan for my anniversary, and I really don’t know what we’re going to do. I missed the chance for us to repeat our best anniversary experience, as the VIP tickets to the Whiskies Of The World Expo in San Francisco were already sold out when my wife decided that she’d like to go this year. I knew I should have just bought them last autumn when they went on sale. But, at least there is a silver lining: My friend, Nerissa Lopez, is doing one of those pop-up restaurant deals this Sunday, and I’ve been invited (with my plus one) to come and enjoy the evening and review the experience on this very blog. It’s a zero-waste, gluten-free, vegan-style menu, apparently, which, if you haven’t been paying attention these past few months, is not really my thing. However, I can say that Nerissa was a wonderfully talented employee with mad skills in the kitchen, and it probably wouldn’t kill me to eat something healthy. Plus there will be booze, so there’s that. Depending on how both my wife and I are feeling Sunday, we’ll most likely be attending. And it will be an awesome anniversary dinner because it’s in The City, at a trendy (pop-ups are still trendy, right? I mean, I heard the kids on the T.V. talking about them, so they must be…) restaurant, away from the kids and we haven’t been out on a date together in practically forever. I even have a suit! Now if this cough would just go away, I’d be all sunshine and puppies.

I can’t believe that we’ve made it this long without a major stabbing. She and I are both incredibly passionate people, utterly convinced of their own infallibility, and completely unwilling to back down from. Compromise is something that we both believe is reserved for other people. Sure, we have different areas of expertise, spheres of influence, if you will, but we are also both convinced of the primacy of our respective bailiwicks, so it’s never really a fight over how a thing might best be done, but rather which thing would be best done now. It’s Irish temper versus Mexican rage, and more often than not we appear to be small children flailing about because we can’t have our way. But like grown-ups. We’ve been together as a couple for nearly a decade, now, and we’ve gotten really good at fighting. That’s another reason why I want us to go out this Sunday and have an amazing evening: I’d like for us to spend a night just focused on one another, having cast aside trivialities and worry, children and mounting bills, and just have fun together. Something to remind us that we’re more than just a couple of people who happen to live together.

My romantic muscles (not a euphemism) have atrophied a bit over the years, gone to the same place where I imagine that my hair has found its final resting place. I don’t think that it would hurt me all that much to spend a little time and energy on the courtship of my wife. I know that I’ve already won her heart, but it never hurts to give her reasons not to change her mind.


This evening, I’ll be posting the Fourth Chapter of Blast From The Past, my ongoing series exploring my past through snark. You can read the previous installments here, here, and here (I also have a bonus BFTP here. NSFW, language). I look forward to seeing you all back this evening.

And seriously, if you’re going to be in the Bay Area this weekend, come and check out the Tasting Event for Z’hara. Come and eat good food and keep me and my wife company. Please. Save us from the Youth of Today….


A young Tex Batmart and Bad Leon Suave

I was just glancing at photo of myself from the days long ago that are better off forgotten. I recognize most of the people in the shot, but I required third-party authentication before I could believe that the almost skeletal looking dude in the very center of the picture was, in fact, myself. Part of it was the luxurious red hair, thick, wavy, shining in the sun. And I was rocking the best attempt at facial hair which I could muster, which was more of a honey fire outline of my jaw and mouth than anything resembling an actual beard. I believe this was toward the end of the Dark Days, when I weighed about 110 pounds and felt that I had finally cheated the fate which normally befell members of my family: a transformation into a member of a pod of beached orcas. You know, this is the first time that I’ve seen a photo of myself and I just drew a blank. I simply cannot reconcile how that person looked with the man who I remember being. I suppose that’s a PSA all of its own. And I know that it wasn’t a healthy weight, but I am almost twice that now, and I wonder if I’ve really become twice the man who I once was, or have simply gotten fatter.

Oh, the hair. I remember my headbanging hair. Like my Irish great-grandfather, I’ve traded what once sprouted from my noggin to become a member of the Sasquatch family, but let me tell you: on cold days I get the worst kind of headaches. Don’t get me wrong: I love having a beard, and usually only shave annually. I started to dislike shaving somewhere around high school. And being bald means that I spend infinitely less time in the shower washing my hair. But none of that changes the fact that I miss my thick lion’s mane, and sometimes looking like a Mirror Universe Jean-Luc Picard is not enough.

In December, just before we traveled up to the Great Northwest, I began writing a blog entry which never fully materialized. It also had to do with my #beardedmanproblems:

I’ve spent a fair amount of time since I quit my job considering the finer points of beard maintenance. I plan to look for work while vacationing up north with my family, and I am aware that, although facial hair is hardly unique within the borders of the Emerald City, something must be done about my tangled neckbeard (Note to self: Tangled Neckbeard and the Soul Patch Quartet). Down here, in California, my beard is mostly just an affectation, at least in terms of functionality. But next when I’m up there, the temperature looks to be, on average, about 20 degrees cooler during the warmest parts of the day. So I’ve been ruminating on how much of my neckpelt I can trim and still not need to wear a scarf (I bought a new suit for a wedding I attended almost a month ago, and honestly don’t own any appropriately matching neck apparel). I should probably also get a haircut (the bald man said, with some regret).

And if I begin to trim, I’ll wind up needing a full shave, as I usually manage to over-correct until only tiny patches still remain. The downside to that, of course is that I’ll once again look only twelve, and have to place bare skin against the freezing wind. No, better to wear a nice shirt and a fancy tie to plaster down the fur below my jaw. I’ll still need a haircut, though, however sensitive a subject it remains with me.

I look back at that and think about just how hard it is to pound out a full column about beards. I’m actually only rescuing that fragment from its literary limbo so that I can use the title of its parent column for something in the future. Well, that and I wanted to share “neckpelt” with the world. But I suppose it’s time to gently drift back to my original premise: who was that dude in that picture from so long ago?

It was a different time back then. The world had not been thrust into a constant state of terror, and all of my friends were just setting themselves down upon the paths toward their futures. I was in a long-term relationship with a woman who I loved beyond all sense or reason. The very air itself was packed with possibilities, and we needed only to breathe it in to fill ourselves to bursting. My two best friends were both in bands and I’d written a song or two myself. Self-doubt was something that only happened to old people. These were the days free of hangovers and consequence when we were all poised upon the very edge of greatness and dared the world to prove us wrong. Note to my younger readers: Never dare the world to prove you wrong. It will, and usually not in ways which you are prepared to accept. Don’t tempt fate: Keep your challenges to reality to yourselves.

Over the next fifteen years we all got fat, got jobs, got new girlfriends, had those girlfriends break up with us, and found new women who seemed to actually give a crap about us and wanted to stick with us for the long haul. The world isn’t nearly as passionate as I remember it having been, but there is enough stability to more than make up for it. And while stability is hardly the poster child for sexiness, it is infinitely more rewarding. Oh god, I have gotten old. I know that compromise is something that is necessary to the running of the world, but it just seems so… I don’t know… grown-up. I know that I already covered the generational dissonance in growing up in Conversations in Time, but sometimes I still cannot believe how far I’ve fallen. Ah, screw it. I’m happier now than I really ever was before, and that’s got to count for something, right?


Tonight I’ll be writing up a supplementary post about an event my friend is hosting in the Bay Area on Sunday (just as soon as she emails me the rest of the details). And, assuming that I’m feeling better, and my wife is up to it, we’ll be attending the event, with a review appearing Monday evening.

What Kind Of Day Has It Been?

I came up to Bainbridge Island to spend Christmas with my family, as it could very well be my final opportunity. I don’t regret moving out of state, falling in love, and starting a family of my own, but each time I’ve come home to visit, I cannot help but notice how unkind that time has been. When you spend an extended period in the company of another, the changes which remold them are so gradual you really cannot see them. But when I left home, my grandparents were both active senior citizens. They couldn’t do all of the things which they once they had been able, but they were still the same people I had always known, and I figured that they could stick around indefinitely. I never felt the need to worry, safe in the knowledge that they were still years away from the age my great grandmother had been when she passed away. My first couple of trips back, I really didn’t notice any significant changes, maybe just an extra wrinkle here or there, but essentially they were unchanged.

Then the reports came in from my mother that the both of them had truly begun deteriorating, and I started to believe that I was running out of chances to come and see them. And before I knew it, they had somehow joined the ranks of the terribly and officially ancient. They have become, in the time I’ve been away, just paper dolls shaped like people that I used to know. I’ve seen the bite marks that the jaws of time have left upon them as it tore out ragged chunks of organ functionality and even their sense of self. I look at pictures taken back before I moved, and marvel at how young each and every one of appeared. My passage through the stream of time has come upon the rapids, and the landmarks have begun to blur. The years are gone before I know it, leaving only brief impressions, and I long to hold on to everything just a little longer, pause this moment for forever and never have to let them go.

I’ve complained that on my visits, I never get to go and have any of the fun that I’ve been putting off since the last time when I put it off from earlier. The truth is that, yes, I have neglected several friends that live on the other side of the water (and even some that live here on the Island), but it isn’t like some unbearable punishment, like it might have been when I was just a kid. Normally, I’m just up here for a week or so, and by the end of that vacationary stretch, I’m eager to be on my way. It’s easy to remember all the reasons why I left, petty arguments and the notions of being bound by rules merely by residing under someone else’s roof. But this has been a true vacation, both from work, and life itself. There’s nothing that I left behind this time that can’t live without me just a little longer. Except…

To not knowing how to smile for a school photo.
To not knowing how to smile for a school photo…
Leading the revolution at just a couple of weeks old.
Leading the revolution at just a couple of weeks old.

On the other side of the divide of time, there stand two little boys, as ravaged and consumed by aging as those I came to see. Of course, no one really sees the process at the other side of that same coin, we just call it “growing up,” but it’s just as fundamental of a change.

Between the moments captured in these photos, lay seven and a half years of my little boy’s life. In that time he has become an entirely different person at least a dozen times over, and yet the thread of his existence connects these two to make the same sweet person that I’ve come to know. But the truth remains that in blink, my baby boy was gone, replaced by someone new that I’d had a hand in shaping, and yet needed to get to know once more.

And then there is my grandson, who celebrated his second birthday just before we left. Each day he seems to learn something that he couldn’t fathom just the day before, and I’ve been lucky enough to see it happen right before my eyes. Even on the days when I only missed out on his company for the duration of my work day, I would invariably miss out on some new, adorable achievement. I cannot begin to fathom what I may have missed over the course of these past couple weeks. He’s probably begun speak in near-complete sentences, and learned to climb up and down the bookcases when his parents aren’t looking.


I’m not nearly ready to face what is inevitable: I know the sand is running down, and I haven’t much time left. I’m steeling myself against the day when I get that call I absolutely cannot bear to take. It was bad enough to lose someone that I loved, but never spent much time with. On the day I get that fateful call, I know that I’ll feel something breaking. I think that I might rather remain entirely oblivious, were it not for the certainty that I would tear myself apart in the days which followed, for not having done enough to prevent that which can never be avoided. So I wait, curled up into a little ball within myself, and hope that if I worry just enough, my fears might never come to pass.

My wife has been getting on my case for not engaging in more quality time with those I came to see, but I know that sooner than I’d care for, everything will suffer from a permanent rearrangement. So I’ve done my best to sink back into the role I played when I was younger, trying to make it all seem effortless, just like I had never left. It’s not that I am not aware of everything that’s changed, but I wanted my final memories spent in this place to resemble something close to normal, not the extended last goodbye that it could easily become. I want to be able to remember all the happiness to shield against the despair which I know will come.

This guy was so happy to have moved the hell out, and gotten started with his life,
This guy was so happy to have moved the hell out, and gotten started with his life.


Conversations in Time

I sometimes wonder how my younger self might judge me if he could meet the man that I’ve become, usually envisioning a heated discussion between my teenage and current selves. It had never occurred to me to travel further back in time to have a conversation with the boy who fell in love with writing and set his future out before him, until a game my son and I were playing earlier this evening. He was imagining that he was himself, now, in possession of a time machine, and that he’d come back along my timeline to meet me when I was his age. I, of course, played the role of my seven year old self as best I could, substituting obstructionism when my memories could not be accessed. It was a lot of fun, and I have to admit that I might have been on to something with the whole “undivided attention” thing I figured out yesterday.

But having a blast playacting a prior version of myself, and interacting with my time-travelling progeny forced me to come to terms with just how many of my previous temporal incarnations just might take issue with the choices I have made. Explaining to the boy my son met this evening that it would take 28 years until I actually did anything with the ability he’d just discovered and to which he’d already dedicated his life would be a disappointment. At that age, people in their twenties seem so grown up, and anyone over 30 is positively ancient! To tell him that he’d have to live 400% more just to get a shot might have discouraged me from even trying. Or it might have motivated me to get an earlier start. Honestly, it’s really hard to extrapolate my headspace from nearly three decades past. And this is only the first of many highlights as we travel along Tex Batmart through the ages.


Tex Batmart

Through The Ages

Age 8

A year later, I would have been crushed to discover that the first girl I ever kissed would not go on to be my wife, and even worse: within a year, she’d be moving out of my life forever! My utopia was coming to an end. No more escorting her to the bus stop in the mornings on the way to school, no more races along the street with her slightly younger brother. No more running off into the woods and teaching one another how to kiss like the grown-ups do. In terms of romance, this would mark the beginning of a particularly long period of loneliness in my life which would go on for another half-dozen years.

Age 14

I’d met a girl on the way home from school, and asked her parents if she could keep me. Seriously. She was pretty, funny, and she lived down on the beach! For her birthday that year, she invited me to her party at Skateland. I didn’t skate, but was super into her, so went along, and earned some serious Dad Glances from her father on the trip out there. Trying to warn myself any earlier would have been met with boredom and rebellion, so I would need to pull myself aside somewhere near the arcade, strongly urging barely teenage me against accepting the affections of a different girl at the party that night. He would, of course, ask why I cared (not bothering to question the paradox of my appearance, as he would remember from my previous visits six and seven years ago), and proceed to ignore me, as it would be proof he would be kissing a girl again, and even seeing boobs! Never underestimate the power of breasts upon a teenage boy’s mind. He would go on to kiss that girl, and see his first real life boobs since infancy. And then lose that girl, and then another, and then a few more after that. Having seen the uselessness of trying to prevent an adolescent from foolishness in his quest for romantic shenanigans, I would have to wait another couple years until I did something desperately in need of stopping.

Age 16

Skipping over the most impressively rebellious time in my life (January 1995), a time when only Trent Reznor could have soothed my inner turmoil, I would see my next opportunity for self-redemption in the late Spring of ’96. Again, my present self would be easily disregarded should I attempt to prevent him from doing anything short-sighted. There were things that had to happen (the records of which were expunged upon my 21st birthday), knowledge earned, and the groundwork laid for major events which would transpire six months hence. But I would have told myself that what I was going through: the searing clarity of emotional pain, the bursts of insight and inspiration, the nights of writing when I could almost taste an enduring literary legacy, these were symptoms of something called Bi-Polar Disorder. That although knowing that it was a chemical imbalance in my brain didn’t mean that everything I felt was in my head. And to hang on just a little longer, things were coming that would change it all. I’d give myself a hug, and fade forward to the beginning of June 1997.

Age 17

If you could go back and change anything in your life, would you? Are you willing to commit suicide, to erase the very person that you are, that you’ve become? This is the moment in my life in which I would be tempted to interfere. It was the beginning of Summer, 1997. Having almost completed my court-mandated punishment, and won over my Probation Officer, things were degenerating at home once more. I was more determined than ever to get out as soon as possible, and was making plans to leave as soon as I wouldn’t be imprisoned for leaving home. Things came to a head, and, through very little fault of my own, I was suddenly free… two weeks early… and in violation of the terms of my probation. I ran the situation by my P.O., and was granted a reprieve, assuming I could find somewhere new to live.

That summer, I fell in love with a woman just one year older than I am now. What began as simple companionship of Mrs. Robinson developed into my first adult relationship. And for a while I had everything I’d wanted. I was free of the tyranny of my Parental Unit, free of The Law, and living a life of domestic tranquility. I even had the good fortune to meet a boy who would grow into a decent young man, who allowed me to practice being a dad. I can honestly say that I didn’t have a lot of success, but I also didn’t manage to screw him up too terribly. I was happy. I was an equal of adults months early. I should have known better.

I’m not going to get into the particulars here: Eventually I’ll write a book about it, and actually do it justice. I will say that no other point in my life has influenced the creation of the man who I became more than the three years which followed. My innocence fell away, and I was forced to reconsider who I was and what kind of man I could and couldn’t tolerate becoming. To spare myself the pain which would define the era, would I give up everything I have now, including the wisdom earned from moments of overcome despair? I doubt I would have listened, for even if I believed myself, I was doing it for true love.

This thought experiment has taken on a rather melancholy aspect, and that was specifically what I was trying to avoid. I figured I’d have a few laughs at the juxtaposition of myselves, and call it a night. Suffice it to say that I would be forced to leave myself alone to face the world and wounds to come. But we’ve got one more stop to make.

Age 21

It’s now April 2001, and I’ve been out of the mental ward for a couple weeks. My relationship is deteriorating, and even I, Don Quixote, can read the writing on the wall. I don’t know it yet, but I’m about to move out of my apartment and leave the love of my life behind. I’ll only ever see her once more. This is the point where I might actually be able to listen to myself, hear what I would tell myself. More than any other impossible wish, I would sit down with myself over a Big Ass cup of coffee and a cigarette, and tell him this:

“I know you’re hurting right now, and nothing that I tell you will change that. There’s no point in telling you to wait for it to get better. Only time can tell you that with any credibility. But please know that it meant something; that everything you went through was for something. You’ll make plenty of mistakes, and do some things you’d rather not have done, but I can promise you that it does get better. You’re too smart for your own good, and all of your clever attempts at evasion only make the lessons you need to learn come and hit you harder. You will find someone, and barely have the sense to date her. She’ll put up with you for a few years, and then you’ll have to marry her to make her stay. The road ahead is hard, and it will feel like it will never end. But I swear to you, you will be happy! You just haven’t earned it yet. Be true, and step forward into world with your eyes finally open.”

I would watch my future self begin to dissipate, mulling the notion that I’d have to put up with this for who knew how long, when I heard that fat bald bastard say, “Oh, and just watch out for the super-hot Panamanian girl, she’s nothing but trouble!”

And that concludes another trip into The Vaults of Uncle Walt. It was a little darker than I intended, so I’m going to make you all a promise to keep it light tomorrow. Thank you again for joining me on this Great Adventure, and I look forward to seeing you here again!

From all the versions of myself, I wish you a pleasant evening.