Monday, June 27, 2005

A Tribute to Quiet Courage...

In the course of my life, I have had occasion to witness the many forms of human courage and intrepidity. In some cases, courage takes the form of steadfastness when facing physical harm or death, and in others it manifests itself as moral courage. Of late, I have been witness to a quieter, subtler, but no less admirable form of courage.

I am talking about the long-suffering, non-complaining, consistent, never-quit, never-say-die kind of courage. I am talking about the kind of courage that doesn't scream, wave its arms, or draw attention to itself. I am talking about the kind of courage that simply does what has to be done, without making a fuss over anything. In many ways, this is the most difficult and draining type of courage, because it isn't exhibited in short bursts... its a long standing courage that is constant and unceasing. You may have to look closely to notice this sort of courage, but whether it is noticed or not, it is still there, behind the scenes. It takes a particularly strong constitution to be able to maintain balls the size of church-bells over the long haul. But I know somebody who has done just that.

I have had the considerable honor of knowing somebody, who, without fail over the course of the past many years, has consistently faced all manner of difficult situations with a quiet, unswerving form of courage that I have come to admire a great deal. This person has been called upon to face a multitude of trying situations, ranging from extreme financial problems, to employment difficulties, to complicated family troubles. There have been deaths in the family, grave illnesses of close family members, and painful, incapacitating injuries. I have seen this individual prove their mettle in the near loss of their place of residence, and the subsequent flooding of that residence, and have seen how they measure up when moving an entire household from one state to another while suffering from a moderately severe illness. Through the days, weeks, months, and years, I have watched how this one remarkable individual has demonstrated calm determination, tenacity, and competence while facing both the large catastrophes and the small annoyances that fate has dealt them.

In each case, I have learned something about that person. I have learned that no matter how difficult, regardless of the circumstances, and without thought to their own personal comfort or convenience, that this is a person upon whom I can rely, in good times and in bad.

I have developed a deep and abiding respect for this individual. And I am proud to be able to call this person my friend. I consider myself lucky to be able to work alongside such a one, and am extremely proud of the fact that I have earned the love and respect of that person in return.

I'm talking about my wife, folks. She is a trouper. In all of my life, whether as a soldier, an airman, a cop, a fighter, or a martial artist, I have never known another to exhibit the quiet, gutsy, determination and tenacity that I have seen in this woman. She never nags, never complains, and never beats her chest or announces what she has done. She simply does what she has to, and moves on to the next thing. I think she is a badass!

This post is a tribute to Elysia... my friend, my partner, my life, and my love. I could never ask nor hope to have a better person looking out for me, and guarding my back.

Thanks, Baby, for always being there, and for always doing what you do; doing what has to be done, whenever it has to be done, in that low-key way that you have... you are amazing!


Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Difference

Yesterday at work, one of my co-workers called me a 'Fag'. This was simply good-natured needling, and wasn't meant to be taken personally, or to be insulting... it was just the status quo here... breaking balls.

It just so happened that there were a number of people in the shop, mostly contractors and sales reps from some of the distributors that we do business with. One of these lads quipped that we all (employees of my shop) looked a bit gay since we were all wearing identical shirts (we recently received new uniform work shirts - polo shirts with the company logo embroidered on them).

The Female remarked that if a gay man worked here, that he wouldn't be able to last more than an hour, inferring that he would be reduced to tears by the incessant insults and verbal abuse that are the status quo around here for most of the employees and bosses.

I thought about that for a few seconds, and being me, gave in to the compulsion to make a social statement on the situation. I gathered my thoughts, planned my strategy, and then, satisfied that my plan was feasible, I started in...

"How can you be so sure that a gay man doesn't work here, I wonder?"

Every head turned to look at me. Some faces were quizzical, others confused, at least one or two looked partially disgusted at the suggestion. Of course, this only fueled me to go on....

Female: "Who?! There's nobody here who's gay!"

Bear: "How can you be so sure??"

Female: "Cause I would know!"

A bunch of the guys looked very relieved and comforted at this, of course, this couldn't be allowed to continue...

Bear: "Do you think so? How would you possibly know, unless you were able to observe that person in private and see what their sexual proclivities happened to be? In any case, I have personally known many gay men and women who nobody would ever suspect of being gay by judging their appearance, any more than you can judge what type of food a person happens to prefer. You just can't tell by looking at somebody what their sexual preference happens to be. As a matter of fact, I would wager that this is the rule, and not the exception."

Female: "Pra-cliv-what?!?!"

Bear: "Pro-cliv-i-ties. It means 'preferences'."

Female: "So who's gay here then?"

Bear: "Could be anyone... could be that its me!"

Every eyeball turned towards me at this, and I could feel everyone in the room take a mental step backwards.. everyone was really looking at me now, very closely, to see if they could detect even a mere hint of my homosexuality... they were shitting, and this, my friends, is hilarious!

Female dropped the big logic-bomb; "But... You're MARRIED!!"

In riposte, Bear dropped one of his own into the mix; "So what? All that proves is one of three things: One: I am hiding my homosexuality, and married for appearances, or, Two: I am Bisexual, so you all have to watch out for yourselves and your partners!, or, lastly, Three: I am completely gay, so is my wife, and we both live our seperate lives while enjoying the benefits of marriage. How does being married prevent me from being gay, I wonder?"

This had an immediate and devastating effect on everyone's preconceived notions, which is fine with me because preconceived notions are generally shit, anyway....

I decided to take this one step further...

"In any case, anybody here could be gay... , if they decided to keep it hidden, and acted like everyone else how would anybody really know? Think about it!"

They were! And how were they thinking about it. Desperately trying to appear as though they weren't doing it, everyone began casting jaundiced eyes at everyone else.. it was pretty funny!

I thought it might be time to make my point... now that I had everybody's attention.

"What difference would it make, really? Unless you were having sex with that person, I mean...?? Think about it. Do we ever really see who is having sex with whom, and when, and how? Its nobody's business but the two folks having the relationship, so why worry about it or attach any importance to it at all??"

Contractor #1: "What the fuck is wrong wit' you??! Why're you sayin' all a dis shit!?!?"

Bear: "Hey! Is it my business who you fuck, how much money you make, what you think, or what you do, so long as it isn't harming me in any way?"

Contractor #1: "Nah... it ain't!"

Bear: "Exactly. Who am I, or you, or anyone to tell anyone who they should love, or when, or how much? Especially when it isn't a choice to begin with?? If someone told you that it was wrong for you to love anyone who didn't have the same eye and hair color as you, and your wife happened to have different color hair or eyes, would you leave her, just like that?"

Contractor#1: "Fuck no... nobody has the right to tell me who I can be with!!"

Bear: "So why tell anyone else that its wrong to love who they love? Why judge somebody when it sucks to be judged?"

Contractor#2: "That's a completely different fuckin' story... we're talkin' about fuckin' homos here!"

Bear: "Have you ever stopped to think that somebody that you love, or like, or care about in the slightest might just be, as you so eloquently put it, a 'fuckin' homo', and that you drive a knife into their guts every time you make a comment like that? You would never know.. because they would hide it from you... "

Contractor#2: "Nah... I don't know no fuckin' homos...."

Bear: "Well, I'm glad you're so sure of yourself. Because if you happen to be wrong, you are probably destroying somebody that you know every time you run your mouth.. but, it isn't any of my business.. they're your friends. I guess you've never been wrong. I sure have. Usually when I'm the most sure that I'm right."

Contractor#2: "Well.. I....uh.... .... .... Yeah...."

Salesman#1: "What're you, the 'Gay Crusader' or something? You think they should be allowed to marry and shit like that?"

Bear: "I'm not sure what you mean by the 'Gay Crusader', and it isn't my place to decide whether the laws should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry... I'll leave that up to the courts and the voting public, and when it comes time for me to make that choice, I'll do it in the voting booth, with the curtain closed behind me. But if you mean by Gay Crusader that I am an advocate for gay rights, then no... I'm not. But I am an advocate for human rights, and I don't particularly like having my feelings hurt, so I assume other folks don't much like it either... and, I'll be damned if anyone will ever tell me who I can love, so I find it offensive that anyone else should have to feel that they should have to hide or justify their feelings or the way they are, or that others hold disdain or animosity towards them over something that simply shouldn't make a difference. Period."

Salesman#2: "Weren't you in the military? I thought they didn't allow gays in the service."

Bear: "I was in the military. What's that got to do with anything? As far as I'm concerned, the military's policies concerning gays is nothing more than institutionalized discrimination. Just because they do this doesn't make it right. In any case, as a soldier, my feelings or beliefs had nothing whatsoever to do with it. If I had ever been required to bring somebody up on charges because they were gay in the military, I would have. As it turns out, it never came up, but, if it had, I would have done what I was required to do. That doesn't mean I would have had to like it. I was called upon to carry out a great many orders that I personally despised. But I did what I had to do, regardless of my personal feelings. In any case, if you are interested in my feelings and beliefs, I will tell them to you now; As it turns out, I'm not gay. I can't say honestly that I even particularly understand the lifestyle completely, because I don't live it, and I've never experienced it. I don't particularly get the attraction, because I don't happen to fly that way. So I don't really have a great understanding for what it is to be a gay man. I am however, human. I understand what it is to love, and I understand what it is to be judged by others. I think that people should be allowed to choose for themselves how they live their lives, and who they love, and what form happiness takes for them. I also think that anyone who presumes to tell anyone else that they are wrong when what they are doing is harmless (and, by the way, none of anyone else's fucking business) is a tyranical asshole with some major control issues that should be addressed without delay! In response to your military comment, I took an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States. That constitution guarantees each and every one of us certain inalienable rights. It may very well be that I wholeheartedly disagree with certain other people's choices, or that I don't understand them, or that I would not ever make those choices for myself. That isn't really important. What IS important, and what I would like you to consider, is that I have shed blood in order to protect the rights of those people to make their own choices, whatever they happen to be, and I still believe that the right to make choices regarding our own lives is one of the most important and valuable things that we have. If you want to stand by while folks trample other people's choices and lifestyles, go right ahead. But who will stand up for you when people begin stomping on your lifestyle, and your choices?? It is our responsibility to look out for one another when some wrong or some injustice is being done to any one of us. Does it really diminish you so much to accept that other people are different than you are, and that they may do things, think things, feel things, or express things that you would not?? In case you're wondering, it doesn't bother me at all. I am completely secure in who and what I am. I know myself, and I know what my strengths and my weaknesses are, and, most importantly, that nobody else's thoughts, feelings, or actions have any bearing on who I am, or what I am. I am me, and I love being me. I love other people, and want them to be able to find their happiness and to fulfill their dreams. I love the fact that we are all different, and that we can all do whatever the fuck it is that makes us happy, so long as ignorant assholes refrain from going out of their way to put unnecessary obstacles in our paths. And, just to be clear I will stand up to each of you alone, or all of you together, or anyone else, for that matter, in any way that I am able if you or anyone else should ever try to crap on somebody else's way of life in my presence. You asked, I told... any questions??"

Two full minutes of abject silence... then;

Salesman#2: "No, man.. you're right. I got no beef with you."

Contractor#1: "I never thought about it like that... I guess you're right..."

Salesman#1: "That's pretty cool, man..."

Female: "So... who's gay?"

There was a general nodding of heads, and murmers of grudging agreement, with the occasional "He's full of shit!" thrown in for good measure.

I don't care. I wasn't really trying to change anybody. I just wanted to make them think about how it would feel to be on the receiving end of that whole deal. It would suck, and everybody knows it.

I suppose it must be very exhilirating to some people to ruthlessly cut somebody down without ever giving it a second thought over some difference that they happen to exhibit.

I think that acting in that fashion is a sign of cowardice, fear, and ignorance. And I think it sucks.

People are people. Live and let live. I know that if it were me getting crapped on, I would hate it.

I only have one voice. But its my voice, and if I see or sense shit like that, somebody is going to hear it. Whether it does any good is anybody's guess. Maybe just once, it will make a difference.

The Difference He Made By Randy Poole

Amidst the morning mist of the swift returning tide
I set out on my daily run, my walkman on my side.
Lost within my private world apart from cares and woes
I ran along the moistened shore, the sand between my toes.

In the distance, I saw a boy, as busy as can be.
He was running, stooping, picking up, and tossing in the sea.
Just what he threw, I couldn't tell, I looked as I drew near.
It seemed to be a rock or shell - as I approached him I could hear:

"Back you go, where you belong. Your safe now hurry home.
Your family's waiting for you little starfish, hurry on!"
It seemed the evening tide had washed the starfish on the shore,
And the swift receding water left a thousand there or more.

And this self-appointed savior, was trying one-by-one
To toss them back into the sea, against the racing sun.
I saw his plight was hopeless, that most of them would die.
I called out from my private world, "Hey Kid, why even try?"

"Must be at least a thousand here, strewn along the beach,
And even if you had the time, most you'll never reach.
You really think it makes a difference, to waste your time this way?"
And then I paused and waited, just to hear what he would say.

He stooped and took another, and looked me in the eye.
"It makes a difference to this one sir, this starfish will not die!"
With that, he tossed the little life, back where there was hope.
He stooped to take another. I could tell this was no joke.

The words that he spoke to me cut like a surgeon's knife.
Where I saw only numbers, he saw only life.
He didn't see the multitude of starfish on the sand.
He only saw the little life he held there in his hand.

He didn't stop to argue, to prove that he was right.
He just kept tossing starfish in the sea with all his might.
So I too stooped, and I picked up, and I tossed into the sea,
And I thought, just what a difference, that this boy has made in me.

... And Keeps on Ticking!

I got word from my youngest brother that my mom is out of the ICU. He gave me a number where I could call her, and I did. She sounded strong, and in good spirits. She was talking about going home.

Like I said to the two younger lads, mom ain't all that easy to kill.. (sort of like trying to kill a vulture, or a rat, or hyena... something like that... they don't give up all that easily, plus, they're all stringy and gristley and such..)

Anyway, she seems to be doing better, and for that I'm glad. I don't know how this figures in to the grand scheme, but, for now, its good news.

Thank you to all of you who sent out prayers and hopes on her behalf.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

And Then There was Barbara...

I tended bar for a wedding last night... When I arrived, the managers warned us that this crowd were heavy drinkers, and that they wanted us to pour light on the drinks, and that they would be 'spot checking' us..

After getting set up (this is a process that takes about two hours.. there's quite a bit that has to be done to get everything ready since we have to set up two rooms; the room where the cocktail hour will be, and then the room where the reception takes place. We were standing tall in the cocktail room, ready to go, and in came the crowd... as they came up to my bar, in turn, I sort of recognized many of the faces, which was sort of weird.... after a few minutes, I started placing them; I had worked a wedding a number of months ago, and many of these folks had been guests at the wedding. I remembered the wedding, because it ended in a fist fight!

And now they were back... buckle up, lads!

While we were working the cocktail hour, some guy, dressed in snake-skin boots, lime green pants and shirt, an orange spray-on tan, bleached-blonde mullet hairdo and sunglasses started sidling behind my bar... I don't like this. When I'm behind the bar, I don't want *anyone* behind my bar except a bar-back, and I don't have one. I decided to address it immediately, so I engaged the gent in conversation; "Hey, Slappy! You look like you're trying to slide behind my bar, here... if you do, I'm going to have to kill you. Anyone who comes behind my bar has to be immediatly killed, and their body stacked out back like cordwood... just thought you might appreciate the safety tip..."

He laughed, and replied, "Well. At least I'm dressed for it, eh?"

(You are??)

"So.. Whatt'ya think of these boots??"

"Well, I suppose the rattlesnakes don't really need those skins... they don't even wear boots..."

Apparently, he didn't appreciate that comment very much and went ambling off in search of somebody else to annoy, which was fine with me.. (more on this guy in a bit...)

The bar customers started pressuring us immediately to "make the drinks stronger", or "Lemme get a bigga glass". This was ten minutes into the cocktail hour... it was going to be a long night.

When you do this job for a while, you learn 'tricks of the trade' or ways to appear to appease a customer while managing to follow the house's rules, or your own common sense. (Folks, I don't like cleaning puke up off of my bar, and I most definitely don't want someone I am serving to get hurt, killed, or to hurt or kill someone else... My job is to keep them happy without allowing them to get obliterated, if I can somehow find a way to do that... it isn't always all that easy...)

Once we moved over to the reception room, the crowd really started hitting the bar. I was hopping, and didn't get to look around much until the initial furor died down a little... Once everyone was in their seats and the waitstaff began taking dinner orders, I got a chance to take a bit of a breather and look around me a little. In front of the DJ, Slappy in the lime green outfit had apparently been hired to provide additional percussion to the CD music that the DJ was playing. He had a pair of conga drums, some cow bells, and maraccas, cymbals, and a few other assorted gee-gaws and doohickies. I found this somehow amusing, being baffled by the idea of somebody being hired to play drums along with recorded music... I said as much to the waitress who was working the station right next to my bar.

Bear: "So... what's the deal with the geek on the drums??"

Waitress: "Uh... I don't know..."

Bear: "I mean.. they actually hired this clown to play drums along with the music??? Doesn't it already have drums??"

Waitress: "Sure... I guess...."

Bear: "This is this guy's job??"

Waitress: ".... .... I s'pose so....."

Bear: "Who the hell would pay somebody to do that, I wonder?? I mean, do you think they asked for somebody to drum along with the music, or do you think they got hoodwinked into it by a sales person or something?"

Waitress: "Maybe they just like drums.."

Bear: "I guess... But, I mean... Look at this guy!"

Waitress: "Yeah........"

Naturally, it didn't occur to me to wonder why she seemed so reticent about this particular conversation until, during a break, the guy walked over and gave her a great big hug and kiss.... Niiiiiice! Great goin' Bear..!! (So! Bear! What's yer foot doing in your mouth?? .... Oh, its just a gag!) (sigh....)

Always making friends.....!!

There was one woman, who had come with her husband, and who, coincidentally, sat *exactly* where Katie had sat a few weeks ago. (I think the gods were trying to warn me..) She was switching between Vodka and Tonic, and Vodka and Seven, and once she got her drink, she would simply stand there at my bar, and smile vacantly at me... it was unsettling. Well... maybe vacantly isn't accurate... she would sort of moon at me... I'm not sure how this comes about. You see my photo up there, I'm not exactly Brad Pitt. I'm not a big flirt with the ladies, either, although I tend to be fairly outgoing and friendly with everybody. Nevertheless, here she is, standing in front of me, mooning... and me not knowing what the fuck to do.... !!! This happened every time she got a drink... about every five or six minutes...

Her husband was a big slob who was drinking beer. He pestered me to just give him a pitcher for about an hour, which is against house rules, and for an hour I politely explained that I couldn't give him a pitcher, but that I would happily give him a beer, or two, or even three at a time, if that was what he wanted... He would come up, get his beer, drain it, I'd pour another, he'd drain it, hand me back the glass, along with a nice huge belch that originated somewhere down around his scrotum, which, of course, I greatly appreciated... and I'd give him his third beer in twenty seconds, and he would waddle back to his table.

I quit asking folks if they were having a good time after about a half an hour. Instead of the usual, "Fantastic!" or "Yes! You guys are great!" comments that I usually get in response to this question, I got turned up noses and comments such as, "No!" or, "Nah.. weddings suck", and even, "Nah, this sucks. I wanted to stay home and watch [insert appropriate TV show] but my [insert appropriate power-holding family member] said I hadda come...".


The grooms mother was classy. She was in her fifties, bleached blond, and unhealthily smoker-thin with that leathery too much sun complexion. She was wearing a piece of string wrapped around her that was supposed to be a dress. As if this wasn't emotionally traumatizing enough, the cut of the 'dress' served to disply the huge mole on her back and the tattoo on the upper portion of her left breast that depicted a sign on a wooden stake, planted into a tuft of grass, which read "SOLD!".

SOLD!?! SOLD?!?! Who the fuck bought that!?!? Oh man... I think I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after seeing her dance with her son on the dance floor. She was gyrating and doing all these supposedly sexually alluring movements... I could almost hear her friggin bones rattling around in that dessicated wine-bag she had for skin... (in case you might be wondering, it sounded like two skeletons fucking on a zinc roof...)

The 'Mooning Woman' and her husband came wandering over for more booze... She proceeded to put her hand over mine (all over mine) when I tried to put her drink down.. this was sort of weird, I thought.. but then she continued.. by fellating an orange slice, and sliding her tongue all over it, while intently gazing into my eyes, and this with her husband standing two fucking feet away!! (Now that was some crazy weird shit!! And it only got weirder, folks....)

Just about then, one of the waitresses ran up to me, all breathless, "Bear, they need you up front right away... some big guy is beating up George!"

I headed immediately up to the front entrance. Apparently, some guy's car had been broken into, and he wasn't happy about it. He was hitting people and ranting and raving. George ran past me and back inside. The guy approached me moving at a fairly fast clip, but I stood my ground and remained in front of the door.
I said, "Your insurance should cover any damage to your vehicle, you know... the cops are on the way right now. They should be here in seconds. Why don't you just wait by your vehicle until they get here so you can make a police report. You'll need one for the insurance company..." (I wanted to let him know that the police were responding, and I wanted to suggest to him that he might not have to actually pay to have this fixed.... Of course, he wasn't really hearing much of what I had to say, being focused on crushing George's head, George being one of the owners of the place...)
He reached out to physically move me out of his way, which I didn't much appreciate, by the way, and I caught ahold of his two smallest fingers and twisted them, quickly and with enough force to stand him up on his very tippy toes... he gasped, and said "Aaaaah!! Let me go!"
I said, "You need to leave off attacking people and go sit in your car till the police come, before something bad happens to you..."
He was dancing by this time, and I walked him over to his vehicle, and using his fingers as a convenient handle, sat him in the passenger's seat (the door was open already...) "Stay there!" I commanded, praying that he would... and he immediately cradled his fingers in his other hand and nodding vigorously, promised that he would.
I approached George, asked him if he was okay, (he was), and asked if he needed me there, or whether I could return to my bar... (I don't make any money playing around with obnoxious drunks... I wanted to be at my bar slinging drinks, and (hopefully) making some tips!) ..
"Go on back to your bar, I don't think this asshole is going to be a problem.. and Bear?"
"No sweat, boss.."
I headed back to my bar, where the waitress that had originally sent me up front was just about frantic by this time. I let her know that everything was okay, and, obviously relieved, she went back to her work.

The bride and groom's table was directly in front of my bar, perhaps fifteen feet away. Something had happened with the train of her dress, and a committee of females were trying to fix the problem. I shined my flashlight on the area where they were working, so that they could fix the problem (and move away from the vicinity of my bar and find something else to do...). The groom suddenly said to the bride, in a loud and thunderous voice, "Hey, the bartender is staring at your ass!"
Everybody turned to look at me, to see if, in fact, I was staring at her ass... In a manner of speaking, I was, since I was focusing my flashlight in that general direction. But given the fact that she was a bride... on her wedding night.... and about six or seven months pregnant, the comment was sort of off-color in my opinion.
I replied, "Dude.. that was wrong, man..."
He said, "No problem, my man.... go ahead and look! She has enough ass for everybody to look at! Each person can have their own square foot of ass to stare at, and I'll still have most of it to myself!!"
"Wow, man... that was fucked up! That ain't right...."

As I was looking at the groom, I could just see over his shoulder as Mooning woman stood up, smiling her ass off at me, and began sashaying towards me... pocketbook slung over her shoulder, one hand pulling the top of her dress down ever so slightly... her attempt at making her eyes seem smokey and suggestive came off a little different than the way I imagined it probably was supposed to, but I got the general drift... She walked right up to the bar, and began licking another orange slice... and doing things with her eyes and her tongue that I am fairly certain were supposed to arouse me, but which sorta freaked me out....

I made her her drink, all the while being totally aware while trying not to seem so that she was staring at me while she rubbed herself off on my bar and went down on a poor defenseless orange slice... it was kind of surreal...

Mooning Woman: "My name is Barbara"

Bear: "Hi Barbara! Would you like another drink?"

Barbara: "You are very handsome!"

Bear: (embarassed) "Thank you! That's a nice thing to say.."

Barbara: "Are you Irish?"

Bear: (Where the fuck is this going?) "Well, I'm actually Scottish on my dad's side, and on my mom's side I'm Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and Gypsy". (Now that was a little bit too much information...)

Barbara: "Could you tell that I was Irish?"

Bear: "Well.... yeah.."

Barbara: "I like you.."

Bear: "How nice!"

Barbara: "I like you... a lot!"

Bear: (Not at all wanting to be involved in this conversation...) "Say... did you say you wanted another drink?"

Barbara: "I want to see you..."

Bear: "Yeah.... I .... are you related to the bride? Or the groom?" ("Please go away... please go away... please go away...)

Barbara: "I don't want to related to anyone right now...." (She started doing freaky scary things with her eyes again... I'm not quite sure what she was emphasizing.. and I think I may be lucky for this...)

Bear: "Ah.." ("Very eloquent, you fucking nitwit! How the fuck do I get her to leave?!?!)

Barbara: "Come with me after you get off work. I'll get a hotel room..."

Bear: "No. No-no. Sorry... I'm married."

Barbara: "Happily?"

Bear: "VERY! I am *extremely* happy and very much in love with my wife."

Barbara: "Just this once..."

Bear: "No! So... (desperately trying to get off of this subject...) what do you do for a living?"

Barbara: "I'm a Special Ed teacher for (County and School District)."

Bear: "Oh, so you don't live in the area!" (Wow.. that sounded a mite too happy and relieved... yikes!)

Barbara: "I am off for the entire summer... I would love to see you at the beach.."

Bear: "No... I'm married, sorry. Besides which, I don't ever get any days off. All I do is work!"

Barbara: "I want you!"

Bear: "Listen.. I think you'd better be off..."

Barbara: "I said I want you!"

Bear: "Look. I told you that I'm married. I don't want to have this conversation. It's making me uncomfortable."

Barbara: "I want to do things to you... and I know that you want me, too. You do, don't you? You want me... you want to touch me, and taste me...."

Bear: "Alright. You need to get the fuck away from my bar!"

Barbara: "Some day! Tell me that you'll see me some day...."

Bear: "No. I want you to go now."

Barbara: "Just hold my hand and tell me 'Some day'"

Bear: "Are you going to leave?!?!?"

Barbara: "Kiss me!"

Bear: "Would you get the fuck outta here?!!?"

Barbara: "Blow me a kiss!"

Bear: ... (Exasperated sigh. I simply didn't know what to do, where to go, or how to handle this... so I decided to ignore her and do some side work)
She just stood there... mooning at me... it was entirely freaky, and I wanted to throw a wet washcloth at her face... instead, I just went about cleaning the clean glasses, wiping the clean bottles, rearranging the perfectly arranged juices, mixers, and sodas.

Barbara: (Digging in her purse, and extracting a twenty dollar bill, holding it up, and placing it on the bar.) "Come with me tonight.. just for tonight...nobody would have to know..."

Bear: (Just shaking my head and giving her what I hoped was a withering stare -- I was bent out of shape, bigtime!)

Barbara's husband had sauntered up at around the time that she was asking me to hold her hand, and had been standing there with his empty beer glass in his hand watching all of this. I was praying that he would chime in at any time, and drag her off to wherever the fuck they came from, so I was somewhat disappointed when he finally decided to speak;

Barbara's Husband: "Could I have a beer, please?"

Barbara: "I want you... I want to see you... come with me... just for tonight..."

This was like a plot from some fucked up movie or something... holy shit.. I didn't know who was more fucked up; her, him, or me for still being there!

Husband: "Can I have another beer?"

Barbara: (To Husband) "Give me a pen and some paper."

Husband: "I don't have any.. whattya need a pen and paper for?"

Barbara: "I want him... I want to give him my number."

Bear: ( !!! What the fuck?!?!)

Husband: "I don't want some guy calling all the time..."

Barbara: "Just go away. Go call a taxi. I'm not coming home tonight. I'm going with him."

Bear: (??? WHAT!?)

Husband: "I don't want to pay for a taxi all the way to [TOWN NAME]."

Barbara: "Just go sit down. I'm doing something here..."

Husband: (To me) "Can I have another beer?"

Bear: (Completely taken aback by this whole thing..) "" (Holy Shit! These two are more fucked up than a football bat!)

Husband: "Thanx... I hate weddings...." (...and he went sauntering back to his table, leaving his wife to continue to come on to me relentlessly!! What the FUCK is going on with this shit??!?!?)

Barbara: "I want you.. I know you like me.... do you know how wet you make me?"

Bear: "FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!! THAT IS QUITE ENOUGH!!! Get the FUCK away from me before I throw you the fuck out onto the sidewalk!! NOW!" (Yes.. Bear came a little unglued... it happens... what can I say?)

Heads turned at this, and some woman came over and began urging fuckwad Barbara to go with her... I think she sensed what was going on, even though she didn't have all of the details....

Barbara: "Some Day, my love.... Blow me a kiss!"

Motherfucker! Will this woman ever quit!!??

As the savior woman led Barbara back to her table, the groom happend to walk over to the box which (had) contained all of the cards, which were filled with money, given by the guests... apparently, he discovered that the cards were missing. He began running around, approaching first this person, and then that person... I later found out that he somehow learned that the bride's father had taken the cards and he approached him and demanded that they be returned. The bride's father refused, and a scene ensued in which the groom immediately got in his new father-in-law's face and began screaming threats and obscenities at him until a number of guys physically restrained him and pulled him away from the father-in-law before he had a chance to kick the living shit out of the guy.

He ripped himself away from them, and went storming out of the room, yelling obscenities the entire time. About twenty people followed him out, and they were all out in the hallway arguing.

I quietly watched, wondering where this was all going to go... and knowing that this wasn't the end of it....

I could hear Barbara arguing with her husband, repeatedly telling him that she wanted me and that she wanted him to take a taxi home. He only agreed to take a taxi if she paid for the fare, which, apparently, she refused to do... I don't even know what to think of this situation....

Suddenly, the groom ran back in, and ran straight up to the DJ, and tried to rip the microphone out of his hand. The DJ tried to hold on, but the groom finally shoved him hard enough to send him sprawling. The drummer guy in the snakeskin boots tried to take the mike back but also got knocked on his duster. He promptly crawled underneath a table and stayed there.

The groom began verbally attacking the bride's father over the mike, until members of the family attacked him.... and from there things began to go a wee bit pear-shaped. Before long, the police were dragging folks out of there... the groom included. Party over, thank you for coming, have a nice evening.... good night.

Barbara was wriggling her hips and blowing kisses at me as she and her husband walked out together. (??)

After the guests had finally cleared out, while the waitstaff was cleaning up and breaking down, I heard snake-skin boots loudly stating how much he had wished that the groom would have 'brought it on!', and what he would have done if that had happened... I guess the waitresses were impressed, but I kept thinking to myself, "Dude.. remember that point where the groom ripped the mike out of your hand, knocked you flat on your ass, and you crawled under the table to hide??? Well.. THAT was your moment!!"

I decided that actually saying that out loud might have been indelicate, so I kept my thoughts to myself...

I took an extra long time cleaning up so that she would be long gone by the time I went outside to my vehicle....

Since I had worked my other job starting at about 6:30AM, and it was now about 2AM, it had been a rather long day....

I headed home to my beautiful Elysia, showered up, and we headed off to bed for a well-earned good night's sleep...

Today I slept in, and Elysia took me out to breakfast, and then off to buy me some new shoes for work. (I stand constantly, and my feet have been absolutely killing me lately... they feel as though they are infected, almost... so between the feet and the knee, I've been in quite a bit of pain every day of late... the shoes are going to help quite a bit, I think.... I have a great wife!)

So.... that was my weekend in a nutshell!!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

On the Threshold...

I received news today... my mom is in the hospital (she lives in a different state than I do..), and is in the intensive care unit. Apparently, she isn't doing all that well... My brother told me that she has a 25% chance of never leaving the hospital, according to the doctor.

Both of my brothers were having cows about this... When I spoke with them, they were both extremely upset. One lives in the same location as my mom, and the other lives on the other side of the country.. I called each of them, and said basically the same thing (I tend to take charge in these situations... people need someone to follow when they are frightened).

"Mom isn't doing so well, but I'm not ready to put her in the grave just yet. We will make preliminary arrangements to get there if the news goes south, but until we have more information, there isn't much that we can do. (No phone calls to the ICU). Obviously, the doc doesn't know her.. it takes a lot to kill that woman (she's been told that she would die more than once, and she's still around...) Running around freaking out doesn't help anybody. Start quietly making whatever arrangements that have to be made, in the event we have to move quickly, and we will all keep a line of communication open to one another so that we can be reached at any time. Don't give up on her so quickly..."

They both seemed to take heart at this...

What they don't know is what I know... and that is that a 70 year old woman, who just had a lung collapse within the past week, and who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and a lung infection all concurrently isn't really doing all that well... and while I'm not ready to put her in the ground at this moment, I am fairly certain, barring a miracle, that she isn't going to shake this off... although to be honest, she has pulled through things that nobody thought she would be able to survive...

... what I also know is that I can't do much of anything for mom, other than to hope and pray that she either gets well, or dies well.. either of which she would want, depending upon how it goes...

... and all I can do is to lead this family, and keep everybody together and moving in the same direction during a time of crisis. This is also what she would want, I think...

... I hope I'm doing the right thing.

You got to love these things that come out of left field at you, huh?

Once, when I was going through one of the most horrible and difficult situations in my entire life, I was talking on the phone with my mom, and I started to cry... she said "NO! Don't you cry! You reach down, way inside... you have a good deal of iron and grit in you.. find it, and use it. Be strong, and fight... and don't you dare start crying!"

I did what she said, and I managed to get through the rough spots, and move on...

That's the kind of woman my mom is.

I'll do what she told me to do... after all, she is my mom....

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Wow! Extraordinary! Fantastic!

Today was just great! We went to Borders Books as planned, and had a very relaxing day perusing magazines, reading, chatting, and enjoying refreshments together (Her: Honey Ginseng Tea, Me: Tropical Iced Tea ((Unsweetened)) Shared by both: A delicious Banana Nut Muffin).

The magazine that Elysia was looking for was not on the shelves yet, which only means that we will be forced to go back and hang out yet again! (Wheeee!)

Right before we left, I ran into two of my Boss's daughters, both of whom intermittently work at my shop. They both seemed to be very concerned about my knee, and I showed them the knee, and the brace, and explained what had happened that led me to leave work on Thursday.

I told them that the most likely cause was the interminable (and entirely unnecessary) standing while at work, and they asked why I don't pull a chair over to sit upon.

I explained that The Nose and The Fly have a joint policy about not sitting while at work that seems to apply mostly to me (translated as: Only to me). I also explained that The Nose would have a cow if I were to sit while working, but added that it is a very long day to be standing the entire time (between 10 and 11 hours, generally...), and they agreed. One of them said, "Well, we'll see about that..." and we headed our seperate ways... so, hopefully, they will intercede for me with dad, and perhaps the asinine 'no sitting' policy will go away... (for Christ's sake, they sit on tall chairs in Banks, which are about as stuffed shirt as you can get, insofar as tight-assed rules are concerned... our clients are mostly contractors. I don't think many of them would be overly offended by the sight of my ass on a chair, provided I get them what they want and do it quickly and accurately, and provided that I can address any problems that they may have. What is the fucking problem here?? Am I missing something??

In any case, I am sure that I'll see what's what over this coming week...

When we came home, Elysia planted some tomato and pepper plants that she picked up while we were out, so I see some yummy salads and salsas in our future! She had me park my ass on the couch, put an ice pack on my knee, brought me a drink and some ibuprofen tablets, and actually fed me grapes!

She banished me from the kitchen and began working on a mysterious dinner. I headed up to dick around online after the ice pack melted, and, after about an hour or so of drooling on myself from smelling her cooking, she finally called me down for dinner.

Holy. Fucking. Shit!!

She made the most fantastic meal I have ever eaten!! I was floored...

She made an Indian salad, with tomatoes, onions, green and yellow bell pepper, fresh green chili peppers, lime juice, and mint.

This was followed by a Chicken in Green Masala Sauce, garnished with golden raisins and fresh mint and cilantro.

On the side was a plate of flat bread.

I cannot describe this meal to you... it was delicious, refreshing, luscious... I could smell the tropics, and feel the warm breezes.. it was absolutely marvelous!! The way she plated everything was unbelievable!! All of the colors and textures... It was just fucking amazing!!

My review?

"The salad was spicy, fresh, and redolent of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables, with a subtle hint of tangy lime and cool refreshing mint. The chicken was tender and cooked to perfection in a light creamy masala sauce that was absolutely heavenly!"

"....Sex on a plate!"

I know that I'm a goofball, but, in all seriousness, this was a magnificent meal, made all the more so because it was cooked just for me, with love, by my terrific wife, right here at home in our cozy little cottage.

I feel like a king tonight!! Thanks, Elysia, for making my weekend so extraordinarily wonderful!!

And tommorrow? Ah... who cares?! Tonight ain't over yet!!

Summer Mornings...

When I woke up yesterday morning, it was sunny and bright and gorgeous (Just like today!). I stood and tested out the knee, and though it was a bit tender and hurt a smidge more than it had, the swelling had gone down and the bollicky weird feeling had subsided a wee bit.

I suggested to Elysia that we head to the gym. At first, I think she thought I was a barking lunatic for having suggested it, but when I explained that I could work on other parts of my body, and avoid stressing the knee at all, she agreed, provided that we pick up a decent knee-brace on the way. So, we washed-up, dressed, and headed out.

We got the knee-brace and headed to the gym for a hard, grunting, deliciously difficult workout, then headed home for a light lunch of yogurt and melon.

I was scheduled to tend bar for a party, so off I went. It turned out to be a bar mitzvah, which, as a rule, I don't enjoy because the kids tend to get unruly and out of control, and it is generally unpleasant. I take each job with the same mind-set however, and do my damndest to make sure that I give the very, very best service that I can possibly deliver. The folks seemed happy with me, many of them secretly slipping me tips (Host gratuity at these parties, which tends to not be very much at all, which sucks for the bar staff... because we usually work twice as hard at these parties for some reason -- one of those immutable laws of the universe -- the other downside being that if the host observes you accepting a tip, they get very offended, having already given what they consider to be enough. What they generally give is pretty much almost nothing in most cases... (sigh..)) The guests at this party, however, were extremely demanding, and when I managed to make their drinks precisely the way they preferred, and managed to keep them smiling and laughing in so doing, they apparently (well, quite a few of them, anyway...) decided that I deserved a little something extra... so they found novel ways to leave me tips without upsetting their host (I tell them right up front - "The host has already provided a gratuity, I can't accept any tips, but thank you very much for offering..." -- some folks, however (bless their generous souls!) decide to take this as a challenge on how to circumvent the rules... so they put money in a napkin, slip bills into my pocket, place a tip underneath the fruit platter, or under a bottle of booze, or any number of ways... the net result being that I did fairly well, and came home happy, if sore).

One of the games I like to play in my head at these parties is to match the kids to the parents. Its pretty weird how you can do this using personalities as a guide; arrogant kid - arrogant parents, timid kid - timid parents, sweet kid - sweet parents, kid you would enjoy drowning like a rat - parents that you would enjoy drowning like rats. You live what you are taught, I suppose. In this case, even though the people were demanding regarding their orders, they were also polite and pleasant, with very few exceptions. So, it was a good day.

Today, waking up next to my beautiful wife was delicious.. there was a soft breeze, the ever so light tinkling of wind chimes outside... birdsong, sunshine, and 'Sunday Baroque' on NPR. After a lovely morning of caresses, kisses, loving, and soft conversation, we showered up and Elysia made a pot of heavenly chocolate and almond coffee... which I am enjoying as I write this!

We are heading to Borders Bookstore today on a magazine hunt for Elysia.. 'W' Magazine is supposed to have an Angie and Brad spread that Elysia is hungering for... so hopefully we will meet with success in our search. We will sit and read and drink tea and chat and play chess and watch the other people and generally have a nice time.. for us, a trip to Borders is a much-enjoyed, and much looked forward to experience...we're weird, I know.

Tommorrow, I am sure that they will start in on me when I head in to work. That's fine. I'm prepared to jump right back in their faces. Fucking with me in a case like this is remarkably like mud wrestling with a pig; everybody gets filthy and dirty, but the pig loves it!

I have a bonafide injury, which was most likely exacerbated by their stupid fucking policy that only applies to me!, and if they think they are going to browbeat me or intimidate me in any way regarding the day and a half that I took to let the knee recuperate, they are very sorely mistaken and apparently have no clue what they are in for. </ANGER AND VITRIOL>

For today, however, I don't have to think about that crap.. I have the rest of the day to relax, enjoy my garden, enjoy the day, and mostly, spend time with my wife, which, when all is said and done, is the most valuable, and most wonderful thing of all...

Friday, June 10, 2005

What is My Worth??

After returning home from work yesterday, I received pages from two of my co-workers, asking how I was doing. One was from the Old Man, and the other from the Lad who I knocked across the room a few weeks ago (See Boundaries) They were both concerned, ribbed me about having to come home, but mostly just wanted to know that I was okay. I thought it was pretty cool. On one of the phone calls, The Nose wanted to speak to me. When he came on the line, the first thing he said was, "What's going on?" in a tone of voice that I translated to mean, "Will you be back to work first thing tommorrow morning??". I didn't much like it, so I decided to understand what he said to mean, "What's new?" (In the general sense..), and replied, "Not too much, what's up with you?", in my most innocent and sweetest of voices.

As I knew it would, this caused him to get hung up (it doesn't take much, folks..), and he spluttered for a few seconds before regrouping and getting right to the matter (Good old reliable Nose! - Dickwad!)

Nose: "Will you be back at work tommorrow?"

Bear: "I'm not sure.. I guess I'll have to see how it looks tommorrow.. If I can make it in without fucking my knee up any worse than it is, I'll be in, Nose." (Understand something here, folks; I am not making this injury up to get a day off from work. The knee is fucked up. I am extremely worried that it is going to be an issue.. so I am much more inclined to baby it than if it were a different sort of injury. If I wanted a day off, I would simply tell them I needed the day off, and either get it or not... I tend to avoid lying to their faces... I don't like being lied to, and I assume nobody else does, either... so, what's good for the goose..)

Nose: "So, what are you going to do??!! (I detect elevated stress levels creeping in to his voice patterns... bordering on panic. What's this about?? I am not all that valuable of an employee... I am basically the scullery wench and second assistant to the Peon's helper. I think it's most likely a control issue... Nose likes to have the upper hand, it makes him feel big. Most people don't feel as though they have the upper hand with me, even when they do, because I don't give much away on the outside...) He continued, "Are you just going to let it run its course?! You're going to have to go to a Doctor! How long is this going to go on!? When will you be back here at work?! Will this go on for weeks?!!?! (Voice level has officially reached Soprano at this point.. what a puss.)

Bear: (five second pause), then, "Nose.. My knee is the size of a cantaloupe. I can barely stand on it. My priority has to be my health. I cannot afford to run to a doctor... basically, I'm on my own. I will treat it, and if it doesn't improve in a day or two, I will have to reassess my situation. I'll stay in touch with you and keep you updated. Is there anything else?"

Nose: "I could advance you the pay to go to a doctor, so that you could get back in here sooner." (.... so we're back on this shit again... <SNORT!>...)
Bear: "Look! The knee is injured. I showed it to you. You saw it with your own eyes. Do you honestly think I have some way of causing my knee to swell up like a balloon just to trick you into letting me take a day off?? Be real! I'm going to stay off the knee.. keep it elevated... and Ice the shit out of it. It will either improve, or it won't. If it improves, I'll be back in there. If it doesn't I will have to re-examine my options. I don't know what else to tell you...."

Nose: (In a pissy voice)... alright.

Bear: Later. (Go fuck yourself!)

I cannot even verbalize how much I fucking HATE having my integrity questioned by this slimy, snivelling, invertebrate little moral coward... AARRRGH!!!

The fucking asspad never even asked me if I was okay, or told me to feel better!! In his world, everything is about his comfort and convenience. I would love to see him face some actual difficulties one time, just to see how he measures up. He is always talking about what a man he is, and I know for a fact that he couldn't ever hope to measure up to a number of women that I know, or know of, who are exponentially stronger than he will ever hope to be. If he ever had to face what Marcheline, Kathy, Cassa, my Mom, or countless other women that I know have gone through, he would curl up into a fetal position, put his thumb in his mouth, and sob like a little pansy ass... and, true to his nature, like most folks who have never faced anything more difficult than not being able to go out and play, or having to actually help somebody out once in a while, he has absolutely no empathy for others whatsoever... everybody else in all of the world is there to make his life more cozy and convenient for him. Fuckstick!! He has just about bottomed out on my 'RESPECT-O-METER'.

This, of course, has an immediate and visible effect on my Scottish Obstinacy, and now I'm not going in to work tommorrow even if it happens to be the only fucking place on God's green earth where the antidote to the deadly shellfish toxin that I inadvertently ingested is located! Fuck him! I'm staying right here. That shit goes right up my ass!

When I woke up this morning, I got out of bed and tested the knee out. The swelling has gone down, but it hurts a little more than it did. And, of most concern to me, it still feels strange and tight and weird to me. I called in to work, and The Fly answered. (The Nose never gets in to work until the crack of noon.. even though he is supposed to work the same schedule as the rest of us. Be five minutes late though, and he will flame your ass bald... he can be a real hypocritical asshole, I swear to god...)

The Fly: "Hello, [COMPANY NAME].."

Bear: "Hey, Fly.. It's Bear"

The Fly: "Don't even fucking start!"

Bear: (Shut the fuck up, you little bastard.. don't YOU friggin' start!)"I'm taking a sick day."


Bear: "... And I'm takin' one today!"

The Fly: "You're killin' me.. are you really gonna milk this bullshit and sit fuckin' home? What's wrong with the knee? Did you go to a doctor?"

Bear: "Fly.. It's still kind of swollen, I can just barely stand on it, and I don't think its a good idea to be standing on it for ten hours and carrying heavy shit around all day and climbing up and down stairs on it.. I'm staying home, I'm staying off the knee, I plan on keeping it elevated, taking Motrin, and icing the shit out of it. That's my plan, and I'm sticking to it."

The Fly: "How long is this FUCKING BULLSHIT going to go on for?!?!"

Bear: (Why don't you sniff my butthole??) "Well, I guess I'm going to have to see how it goes. If it doesn't improve within a day or two, I will have to start making some phone calls and go see a doctor. Either way, though, you're not going to see me in there today.. are we done?"

The Fly: "Goodbye [CLICK!]"

Wow... I'm really feeling the love there, too. Frankly, I don't give a flying fuck whether they are happy with me, or not. If I was milking a bullshit injury, or otherwise fucking around, I would be concerned. Hopefully the knee will heal up, and I'll be back there bright and early Monday morning. I guess I have learned just how much they care about my wellbeing.

Having been a combat leader, and having served in leadership capacities for most of my adult life, I have to say that my opinion of their leadership skills is absolutely abysmal at this point. I am fucking appalled!

Neither one of these twats could lead a pack of ravenous wolves to a fucking pile of fresh meat. Jesus Holy Screaming Roosevelt Jumping Christ! What a pair of inept fucking weasel-turds!

Leadership is a learned skill! Nobody is a born leader.. that's crap!! You have to learn how to deal with people, how to show and thereby earn respect, how to care for the folks that are placed under your care and leadership, and how to motivate them, get them to submit to your will when necessary, and how to get the very best out of your resources, be they personnel, material, time, or circumstances. But first of all, you have to give a shit enough to recognize that a problem exists.

I suppose when you are a 'Legend in your own behind' your shit smells too sweet to you to realize that you ain't all that you think you're cracked up to be.

Well... it isn't my place in the grand scheme of things to teach these guys how to be better leaders. What I do know, from experience, is that in any organization there are official leaders, - those appointed to a leadership position, and de facto leaders, - those who everyone looks to for leadership and guidance.

What I also know is that it is a fatal mistake to piss off the de facto leaders in your organization, because they can make life exceedingly difficult if they so desire.

Of course, the curse of being a leadership-minded person is that you take the good of the group over the good of the one to mind, and that sort of petty bullshit is counterproductive, unprofessional, and asinine.

... But, sometimes I wish....

How can you be a boss, and not give the slightest fuck about the people who work for you?? How can this be?? At what point do you lose your humanity??

Granted, people will take advantage. They will! Its human nature. And when you are running a business, you have to demand that folks will do what they are required to do, or you have to make the difficult decisions and either reprimand them or send them down the road. It is also possible, however, to set high standards, demand accountability, and still care for your charges. I have done this year in and year out with very few problems. It isn't rocket science.

For example:

Employee: "Boss, I hurt my knee.."

Supervisor Bear: "What happened?" (Start to gather information: What?, Where?, When?, How?, Who? -- Determine if a problem actually exists, and identify the problem.. this is always the first step in solving a problem)

Employee: "I'm not sure.. I think I might have twisted it, or something. It started to hurt about an hour ago, and now it's all swollen and I am having a hard time standing on it."

Supervisor Bear: "Do you think you need to go home and get off of the knee? Or do you think a rest will help it?"

Employee: "I'm not sure.. I don't want to go home and stick you like this.. I don't want to leave you short-handed."

Supervisor Bear: "Don't worry about leaving us short-handed. The first priority is taking care of your health. You are no good to me here if you are injured. Listen, go on home, get off the leg, and see how you make out. Call me either by the end of the business day, or tommorrow morning. If you need to go see a doctor, do that and let me know what he said. Can you drive? Do you need me to get someone to take you home? Can I call anybody for you, or is there anything else that you need??"

Employee: "No, boss.. I can make it home alright, thanx. Sorry about this."

Supervisor Bear: "Don't worry about it, things happen. Listen, if you injured yourself here at work, I will need to get some information from you to fill out an accident report. Once you get home and get situated, think about what you did and how it may have happened, okay? The sooner we do the accident report, the better, I will start one now, just to cover your ass, and if it turns out that you didn't get injured here, I'll toss it.. good enough??"

Employee: "Yeah, boss.. thanks."

Phone Call Next Day:

Supervisor Bear: "How are you doing? How's the knee?"

Employee: "Its better. I'll be back to work tommorrow."

Supervisor Bear: "Great, see ya then. Take Care."

Problem Solved. Or, if the call went differently;

Supervisor Bear: "How are you doing? How's the knee?"

Employee: "Its still swollen. I think I'll need a few days off."

Supervisor Bear: "Take what you need in order to get better. Your health comes first. Do you have any idea at this point how many days you may need, so that I can make whatever arrangements I need to make on this end?"

Employee: "Um... I'm not sure, maybe two or three?"

Supervisor Bear: "Okay. Good enough. Listen, this sounds like it may be more serious than we thought. Before you come back to work, I'm going to need you to make an appointment to see a doctor, and let him (or her) examine you. I will also need you to bring a note back with you from the doctor saying that you are cleared to return to work, and outlining exactly what you can and cannot do, physically, okay? This way we can be sure that you aren't going to make the injury any worse. Plus, it will cover you, and cover me and the company as well, okay? Do you need anything?"

Employee: "Ah... No, I guess everything's okay. If I come in tommorrow, do I have to bring a doctor's note?"

Supervisor Bear: "Well, see how it goes. If you feel up to coming in, come on in and we'll see how you're doing. If you need to leave and go to the doctor, I'll cut you loose. If you simply strained something, a couple days of rest should help, but if you have a serious injury, it isn't going to get better on its own, so you will have to see the doc and do whatever he says is best, okay?"

Employee: "Yeah, sure. Thanks, boss. Hopefully, I'll see you tommorrow, then."

Supervisor Bear: "Good enough. See you then. Get better."

Employee: "Okay.. thanks. Bye."

Supervisor Bear: "Take care."

Was this so difficult?? I managed to hold the employee accountable without either pressing him or her to exacerbate the injury, and at the same time was able to let that individual know that they are the most important consideration, and that I am willing to work with them until the situation is resolved, provided that they keep me in the loop, and simply act honestly and responsibly. I have done my best to avoid the appearance of having made any value judgements, and I have not in any way questioned the employees integrity or otherwise attacked them. I have simply set a standard, and gently reminded them that they are expected to adhere to that standard to the very best of their ability. The standard is the same for everybody - me included, and they know that. What I believe is inconsequential. It isn't about what I think or believe. They have said that they need time off to tend to an injury. Period. There is a way to go about handling this type of situation, and, of course, there is a certain amount of discretion that a supervisor will have in how they go about handling it. If it is suspected that the employee is not trustworthy, the problem is of much greater magnitude than a couple of free days off and needs to be examined. One thing is certain, if you question an honest employee's honesty and integrity unneccessarily, you won't have an honest employee for very long.

This is what I expect from my supervisors and leaders. And this is what I would expect from my subordinates. I don't think it is either too much to ask, or too much to give.


Thursday, June 09, 2005


Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!!!

I am so screwed....

Last night at the gym, my left knee was feeling very slightly wonky... It didn't hurt, exactly, it just felt... well, bollicky and weird.

The only thing I can connect it to was leg presses last week... after the last set, my knee hurt a little... but, honestly, after most sets of just about anything, everything fucking hurts... so I blew it off.

When I got to work, I went about my business, and at about 8:30 or 9:00AM, my knee started to let its presence be known... it felt off somehow... the joint felt tight, and strange...

By about 10, it was bothering me. I limped into the men's room and dropped my drawers to take a look at my knee, and it was all swollen and sort of tender to the touch here and there...

I thought about it for a little while, and told my boss that I had to take off and head home. I need to get off the knee and put some ice on it. By boss, I am talking about The Nose. He started getting panicky, and trying to find other solutions in order to keep me there... "Can we put a chair up there for you to sit on?" (This by the same guy who generally has a cow if he sees me sit down to eat my fucking lunch...). Thankfully, the owner, who is The Nose's boss, was there, and he quietly instructed The Nose to send me home. "Go Home, Bear, and put some ice on it. See if that helps. Let us know if there's any problem." Thanks Boss. (He's a great guy... the others are somewhat questionable about certain things...). The offer of a chair was nice, and I'm sure that The Nose was trying to be helpful, but, the thing is, I don't give a mosquito's fart about my comfort, I'm worried about the knee thing getting out of hand....Again!!

You see, I tore this knee up in January of 1983 by executing a bad PLF (parachute landing fall). My body was upright, and my left leg was horizontal on the ground from the knee down. It was great fun, and I completely fucked my knee up. It was operated on in October of 1983, but I was pulled out of the hospital, against medical advice, to go to Grenada, though I didn't know at the time why I was being taken out of the hospital in such a rush, or where I was going. I had had a spinal block, and was basically dead and numb from the waist down. By the time we jumped into Grenada, I could move my legs and stand and all, but the knee was swollen and sore, and I was very wobbly... I felt like a new-born fawn or colt or something... Needless to say, I fucked the knee up over the next few days, and had to have it re-operated on the following April. I walked with a very pronounced limp for the next year and a half, and wasn't able to go to Ranger school during the time that I was actually IN the Ranger battalion because of it. (I subsequently attended years later, and graduated.. I also attended the Special Forces Qualification Course ((SFQC)) and passed that, too, knee not withstanding!!). It took a good while and a great deal of pain to get the knee right again....

So, I am looking at it now with a great deal of trepidation. I don't want to go through that again. It sucked then. It is sucking now. I hope it won't suck next week....

If it just hurt, I would chalk it up to overtraining, or something, and suck it up... but it doesn't feel right, and dammit, I know this feeling...Gutting it out if it happens to be a bonafide injury will only make matters worse, and prove that I'm a complete fucking asshole.


I am sitting here icing the shit out of it right now, and hoping against hope that it will just be a blip on the screen, and begging the Gods that I didn't fuck my knee up again...

Man I hope this isn't anything to worry about...

Wish me luck, folks...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I Used to be an Artist

I used to be an artist.

For as long as I can remember, I have always drawn, sculpted, crafted, and otherwise tried to make beautiful or decorative things out of other things...

I haven't really done anything of this nature for a relatively long while, now... or at least it feels like a long while to me.

Usually, when there is something inside that needs to be created, it absolutely drives me nuts until I create it... whatever it may be... whether it happens to be a drawing, a cartoon, a pinata, a carving, an article of clothing, or a yurt, for that matter, anything at all. I make things out of fruit, wood, stone, metal, string, tile, paper, soap, cloth, or just about anything I can get my hands on.

I haven't made anything, or been driven to create anything in so long... not even music. I haven't written it, and I haven't played it.

I'm not sure precisely why this feeling, this need to create, hasn't been nagging at me lately, but it hasn't... I have to admit that its a strange feeling to not have the creative urge clamoring around in there, whether it happens to be in my guts, my heart, or my brain... I'm not sure... but there is definitely a vaguely empty spot in there now... there was a time, not so long ago, when, if I sat in one place for long enough, there would be something there that I had made before I moved on.... but not now.

I suppose that the greatest portion of the reason, if there has to be one, is that I simply don't have the time to sit down and get involved in a project... and when I am making or creating something, I just have to be involved, or it doesn't work.. I think I do it more for that feeling of mental focus, or release, or whatever it is than I do for the actual project at hand. For me, its sort of like a 'mental massage' or something, anyway.... I'm probably using a bad metaphor.

Ever since I was about five years old, I have wanted a drawing board. Not a cheesy one, but an honest-to-god real-life drawing board, with drawers, and a light, and a square, and a side desk with a lazy susan to put all of my pens and pencils and all that jazz into. I'm not sure exactly why I have always wanted one, but I always have... always, though, for one reason or another, it has never come to pass... whether it be due to price, availability, room to put the darned thing, or what have you. In any case, I never had one, I don't have one now, and I don't see myself acquiring one in my lifetime...

I'm not the only one... Elysia studied piano for years and years... she is a wonderful pianist! But she can't have a piano where we live. It won't fit through the door. I know she dearly would love to be able to sit down and just play at times... but she can't... and it sucks.

When we visit her mom, she will sometimes sit at the piano and play. But it isn't quite the same thing. She wants to be able to sit down, alone, and just play around, practice, noodle, and simply feel the piano and feel the music, and feel what she feels... I can understand that. I used to love to take my pipes, head off somewhere quiet, and secluded, and beautiful, and just play.

I have also had a visceral desire for a set of bellows-blown scottish smallpipes for years. I can feel the smoothness of the wood, the softness of the leather, and hear the mellow tones... but I will most likely never actually own a set of scottish smallpipes... unless I build a set. But the creative muse has apparently deserted me for now... perhaps later it will come back...

There are many projects that I have thought about, and talked about, but, that's about as far as it has gone... We want to build a chess table for our garden. The squares that comprise the board will be inlaid, probably tile, and most likely we will also put some sort of design on the table, but I don't know what that might be... nothing coalesces in my mind when I try to focus on it... I also want to carve a wooden celtic statue to put back in the garden. He'll be hidden for the most part, sort of tucked into the foliage... the idea being that finding him will be a pleasant surprise for the finder... sort of like finding an easter egg! But, he has no specific face as of yet. I was working on some embroidery projects, but, they have sort of faded to the wayside of late... it just isn't there, I guess. I've been tinkering around with a tattoo design for about a year and a half, but it hasn't really gotten off the ground. I have written most of a novel. It is story about a young boy in 5th century Ireland who becomes one of the last Draoi or druids, and who is forced to go on a difficult journey... but, I haven't sat and worked on it in a very long time. I just let it stall, and I don't know why. There are many other projects in the same boat. They are all half-conceived. I know enough not to try to force this sort of thing... when its ready to become whatever it should be, it will most likely let me know.

Lately, my main focus has been getting fit and strong, and writing blog posts. Most of what I write sits on a disk and never gets much farther than a draft. Some of it you folks see. Some of is still in my head.

I suppose if I am able to sculpt my body into something beautiful, then I will have expressed my creativity, but, so far, I am basically just sore, and my pants are falling off all the time. I am extremely tenacious, however, and will continue to work and to drive-on until I achieve my goals. The byproduct of this, of course, is that I'm just about constantly tired. I try my best to underfeed enough to lose weight, but not so much that I lose muscle-mass. At best, I am being met with mixed success at this.

The reality, of course, is that the bills have to be paid, and I have to remain healthy and fit and strong. Period. So, whatever time it takes to achieve those two goals, has to be spent. Something has to give, apparently....

I would very much like to feel that feeling when I need to create something, anything...

I would very much like to see my wife have a piano. Come to think of it, I would like to have a stand of bellows-blown scottish smallpipes and a drawing board. But, you don't always get everything that you would like. Besides, most folks that made the most wonderful creations ever did so with much less than they should have been able to work with... because when you have to create something, not having a couple of bells and whistles just doesn't matter. When you have that urge to create something, you find a way to do it.

I used to be an artist. I'm not sure what I am now.. but, I hope I will be an artist again someday....

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Right Stuff

As I go through my daily life, I come into contact with all sorts of folks. Being the type of person that I am, I tend to observe people very closely, and to then ruminate about my observations, either trying to construct a background for people, or making an attempt at determining their various motivations for doing what they do, saying what they say, wearing what they wear, etc., or trying to figure out what the image is that people are trying to portray of themselves.

Lately, I have taken to paying particular attention to couples. Married couples, boyfriend/girlfriend, same sex couples, etc.

I find that I am often surprised at how many different types and degrees of relationships exist between people. I think I started out by viewing everyone else as a slightly different copy of myself, but this was a flawed observation. There are very very few couples that are anything like Elysia and I. We have a relationship that appears to me, at least, to be unique in the entire world. Or, at least unique as compared to other couples that I have observed.

At first, I sort of made these comparisons passively, and as I watched and considered what I was seeing, I became intrigued... which led to even closer observations. Eventually, I began to try to get a sense of what people's relationships were like by listening to what one partner would say about their spouse or significant other, whether or not I had ever met the 'other half'.

While many couples seem to be very happy, and very much in love... it seems to me that many more are simply tolerant of one another, or, in some cases, are downright adversarial. This is somewhat dismaying to me. I suppose I want everyone to be in love and to share what I share with my wife with their own husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, or what-have-you. Of course, this is unrealistic... but, it is still my hypothetical world, of my own creation. If you want a different one, go create your own!

Sometimes, I am slightly disturbed, sometimes saddened... other times I am thrilled, happy, or downright infuriated by what I perceive to be the status quo in many 'loving' relationships. More often, I am baffled, dumbfounded, confused, and befuddled by what I see.... Granted, I am only ever seeing a snapshot of other people's lives, and where on the continuum of 'good-to-bad' that snapshot is taken is beyond my means to ascertain. However, that is one of the limitations of this type of observance, I suppose, so, my resources being limited to what I see with my eyes, what I hear with my ears, and what I translate to all of this to mean with my heart and my mind is a limitation that I have to accept, I suppose.

In order for me to be able to make comparisons, I have to have some type of benchmark against which to compare, so in my mind, I basically have had to come up with a few categories that I rank on some sort of sliding scale. I sort of come up with a score for each category, and, predicated upon those scores, an overall score. I have come up with ten basic categories, as follows: (often, it isn’t possible to make a determination regarding some or many of the categories. In this case, I simply calculate the average score on what I am able to demonstrate).

  1. Trust – How much trust is shown or demonstrated between partners?

  2. Consideration – Do the partners look out for one another? Do they primarily give or take? How considerate are they of one another’s feelings and needs?

  3. Care – Do they look out for one another, and take care of one another?

  4. Mutual Respect – How do they express their overall opinion of one another, how do they treat one another, how do they talk to one another?

  5. Sexual Chemistry – Is there a spark? Are they playful? Do they seem to be attracted to one another? Do they display affection and desire for one another? How do they look at each other? How do they talk about one another?

  6. Compatibility – Do they seem to fit well with each other? Do they make a good couple? Do they seem to compliment one another?

  7. Contentment – Do they appear to be happy with one another and with the relationship? Does either of them appear to be ‘on the prowl’ or ‘shopping around’ or do they seem solid and tight as a couple?

  8. Friendship – Do they like one another’s company? Do they share interests? If they have a triumph or a tragedy, do they feel drawn to the other partner to share the news or situation? Are they ‘buddies’? Do they prefer one another to outside friends? Do they feel privileged to be members of their own private club? Are they fans of one another?

  9. Acceptance – How have they learned to deal with and to tolerate one another’s foibles, quirks, and habits? Do they give one another room to be who they are? Are they judgmental of each other’s thoughts, behavior, opinions, beliefs, or actions? Are they open-minded with one another?

  10. Dependability – Do they ‘have one another’s back’? Do they stand united? Do they step up to handle whatever needs to be done when it is best for them as a unit? Do they put the needs of the both of them over the needs of either one? Can they rely on each other?

There are literally zillions of different attributes and qualities that could be observed and judged. I have simply settled on these… for no particular reason other than that these are what I feel are important qualities in a relationship. I rank them from one to ten with one representing the least degree of a particular quality being demonstrated, and ten being the most degree of a particular quality being represented.

Last night, we went to a local Celtic Festival. It was drizzling, and a Celtic Band was playing in the Village band shell. One of the couples present had four boys. This is what I observed: The man was a youngish looking (early to mid thirties), reasonably attractive guy, dressed in jeans, but very presentable. The woman looked older, haggard, straggly, and unkempt. She was slightly overweight, and looked as though she hadn’t slept well in a great while. He sat contently, with one of the younger boys in his lap, and smoked a cigar while she ran around herding the other boys who were running wild, rolling on the ground, and generally misbehaving. The father never said a word. At one point, he asked her for something, and she got up, rummaged in a bag, and walked over to him, handing the object (whatever it was). When it was time to go, she folded up all of the chairs, packed up all of the bags, and got everything ready for them to leave, while simultaneously trying to keep the boys from killing one another. He sat and placidly smoked and watched her. When everything was ready to go, he stood and took one of the bags, and began walking towards their vehicle with the youngest boy. The wife was left to carry everything else. I’m sure that he viewed the night as enjoyable, relaxing, and interesting. I am equally sure that she was in hell the entire time, and would have just as rather stayed home.

This is how I would rate this couple.

1. Trust – 7 (he trusts her around 9 – she takes care of everything. She most likely doesn’t trust him much at all – 2 -- 7 overall as a couple)
2. Consideration – 2
3. Care – 2
4. Mutual Respect – 1
5. Sexual Chemistry – 0
6. Compatibility – 5
7. Contentment – 1
8. Friendship – 1
9. Acceptance – 8
10. Dependability – 2

So.. the raw score would be 29. Which is divided by 10 to get an average overall score of 2.9. I round this up to a 3. My overall take on them??

He is content because she takes care of all of the unpleasantness, and leaves him to relax and enjoy himself. All of the work is her responsibility. No doubt he feels entitled to this because he has remained fairly fit and attractive, while she has, due to giving birth to four children and running the household single-handedly, let herself slip and become somewhat less attractive, thereby, in his mind, welching on her part of the inferred bargain. She should feel lucky that he has stayed with her, and that he “brings home the bacon” so to speak. She is probably miserable, but loves her family, and also feels that she is unattractive and wouldn’t be wanted by anyone else, so in some sick way, she probably accepts his neglect as her lot in life.

They get a 3.

We went out to dinner with a Peruvian couple not so long ago. During the ride to the restaurant, and during dinner, I had occasion to observe them. Here is my observation for them as a couple:

1. Trust – 10
2. Consideration – 10
3. Care – 9
4. Mutual Respect – 8
5. Sexual Chemistry – 4
6. Compatibility – 10
7. Contentment – 10
8. Friendship – 9
9. Acceptance – 9
10. Dependability – 10

Raw Score – 89. Overall – 8.9 Rounded up to 9.
They get a 9.

Sometimes I rate the couple as a whole, by scoring one partner and applying it to the relationship, if that is all I have to go by, or by scoring each of the partners and averaging the score. Other times, I score each partner separately and see how they compare. If the scores are very different, something isn't right in that relationship, or my observations are flawed. Note that observations on different days and under different circumstances can result in vastly different scores for the same couple. This can be a good way of seeing where you are at in your own relationship... if one or the other is scoring low... it may be time to sit down and talk, or to work things out in some other way. In any case, it is a tool that can be used to monitor what is going on between you and your significant other. How much weight does it hold?? Usual disclaimer applies, individual mileage may vary. I'm not a marriage counsellor, and I don't claim to have all the answers... I'm just sharing my thoughts here, folks...

I give Elysia and myself a 10. (It’s my scoresheet!)

You can take this test and see how you measure up, or you can use it to rate other couples that you see. Mostly, you may want to take notice of the fact that folks like me may be watching you when you are with your wife or husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, and taking notice of how you talk to one another, how you treat one another, and how you get along and look out for one another. In my mind, if other folks wouldn’t give us between a 9 and 10, something is dreadfully wrong!

So… how do You measure up against my test??

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Why Fight?

During a recent conversation with my wife, something that was said has stuck in my mind and has been rattling around for the past few days....

As a little background, we had watched the Ali vs. Frazier fight (1964) on TV, and my wife had subsequently talked with her mom on the telephone regarding the fight. My wife had said to me that her dad had been a big boxing fan, and she seemed to recall that her mom had been one as well.

Apparently, however, during the conversation, her mom had told her that she had ever only watched one fight, and had never been able to watch another. Her reason was that she found the thought and the sight of two men beating on one another for money to be spiritually, emotionally, morally, and ethically upsetting to her.

My wife related this conversation to me as we sat in the local movie theatre waiting for the show to start. All through the movie, my thoughts kept returning to this issue, and the opinion and view that it expressed about boxing, and, by extension, about boxers.

Having been a fighter myself, and having a fairly accurate understanding of the 'insider's view' of boxing, I was actually quite shocked to hear this point of view. Granted, there is an 'inside' world of boxing, comprised of fighters and trainers, and an 'outside' view, comprised of everyone else. They don't often understand what we are about, because they are not really a part of our world. We, on the other hand, are a part of the other world, though we are often somewhat separated from it due to our chosen pursuit. We push ourselves, train ourselves, and commit ourselves to our sport to such a great degree that in many cases other facets of our lives suffer to some extent.

I blurted out, "But... it isn't about the money! It's never about the money to the vast majority of boxers! She's got it all wrong!" And, quite simply, this is true, in my opinion.

Of course the big names in boxing earn millions, and everybody knows this, and, naturally, the possibility of earning that kind of money is of course a great attraction to every boxer who ever fancies himself a future world class champion. The money isn't really why we choose to become involved in this sport. Not at all.
The simple truth of the matter, however, is that among the many thousands of boxers, very, very few ever earn anywhere near that kind of money, and most earn nothing, or not even enough to pay for their training and equipment. The heart of boxing isn't money, it is heart, plain and simple. We love to box!

Not many people actually step up and learn to box. Many fancy themselves to be boxers, even though they have never stepped into a ring. Some feel that they could be better boxers than most boxers, and, quite possibly, with the proper training, and a great deal of work and sweat, they could be... but they never do. It is a very, very difficult thing to 'toe the line' and stand face to face with another tough, fit, and skillful boxer and put yourself to the test. For those that do, the world is a very different place. Respect has a completely different meaning. There is no bullshit in the ring, for one thing. You can deliver, or you can't. You win... or you lose. It takes a special type of person to put the gloves on and fight over and over. Boxing isn't a pursuit for everyone. You have to want it, and it has to be in your blood.

When I watch folks who are not fighters watching boxing, I am always surprised at the beliefs and opinions that they express. They make suggestions to one fighter or another by yelling at the screen, usually, on how best to defeat the opponent; "Why doesn't he just duck and cover, and then hit 'im with a body/head hook combination?? That's what I would do!" It looks easy when you aren't in the middle of it. Simple! Just do this or that, and then such and such will happen. No problem! I think most fighters would respond, "easier said than done...". Basically, that foot to foot-and-half that you have to cover directly in front of your opponent is quite possibly the longest distance you will ever have to travel. Its a simple matter to watch a fight from the comfort of your couch and come up with remarkably sound strategy, and quite another to put that plan into action under the intense pressure that a tough, skillful opponent will put you under. Everybody has a plan... until they get hit!

There are countless movies, television shows, and books about boxing, and you can learn quite a bit about the world that boxers live in by watching and reading. About as much as you can learn about the taste of an orange, if you've never tasted one. You can articulate that an orange is sweet, juicy, tangy, zesty, etc., but, until you've tasted one, you don't know what an orange tastes like. Period. Perhaps if someone fed one to you after watching the movies and reading the books you would be able to identify this new fruit as an orange... but, until you actually experience it yourself, you really only have a somewhat distant approximation. The point that I'm making is that unless you have put the gloves on, sweated, grunted, bled, and felt the nervousness, fear, anticipation, agony, pride, pain and love that boxing incites in its practitioners, you just don't really understand what its all about.

Respect is a big part of it. You want to earn the respect of your fellow boxers, and you do! You learn to respect yourself, and your abilities, and you learn to respect others. You learn to respect the rules and the traditions. You learn that in order to be respected, you have to give respect wherever it is due.

Cameraderie and Espirit are also a huge part of the draw... you struggle and go through hell together, you face the same difficulties and misery, and share the failures and the triumphs with others... and it makes you close. Closer than many folks are able to understand.

To this day, when I meet someone and somehow come to learn that they are, or were, fighters... regardless of their skill level or record, I feel a bond with that individual. It doesn't matter whether they are male or female, black, white, hispanic, gay, middle eastern, asian, rich, poor, or ugly. They are special. They are a boxer. Just like me. They have walked the same road, and have faced many of the same challenges, if not more... and they understand certain parts of me in ways that nobody else ever will.

I'm not a terrible boxer, or a fantastic one. I can hold my own. I have nothing to be ashamed about, and nothing to brag about. But I have plenty to be quietly proud of. I worked my ass off, I improved myself, both in spirit and in body, and I faced my fears and conquered them. I learned how to win, and I learned how to lose. Mostly, I learned that hard work gets results, and that you have to risk something in order to get something. I learned also that life has a flavor and poignancy when you put yourself on the line that it lacks when you keep your head down and never test yourself. Lastly, I learned that the most difficult opponent I will ever face, is myself. And that, folks, is what it is all about.