Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Kiss in Time

While I was at work today, I was given a rather long and tedious task to do by The Nose. I generally love this sort of thing, because I can immerse myself in what I am doing, get a rhythm going, and get out of my own head (by which I mean that my body is doing the task, my brain assigns enough resources to what I am doing to ensure that I am doing it accurately and quickly, but the rest of my mind goes wherever it likes...)

I was happily working away on my task when The Fly decided that I must have looked way too content and happy doing whatever it was that I was doing (and no doubt miffed that I was working on something that he wasn't privvy to..), and that it would suit him much better if he could wind me up a little... He began by throwing things at me from behind... bouncing hex nuts and other assorted objects off of my cruller (my noggin/dome/skull/head). This ceased entertaining him when I didn't respond at all, and simply continued typing away, seemingly without a care in the world.

His next ploy was to answer the phone when it rang (it is constantly ringing) and identify himself as me. If the caller asked for him, he would put them on hold for a moment, then pick up as him, which, honestly, was pretty fucking funny, because from the side of the conversation that I could hear, it sounded as though he was completely fooling everybody who called...

Finally, he decided that my response was nowhere near what he had been hoping for, and decided to kick it up a notch by leaning over my shoulder and putting his face about two inches from mine. He had just started to say whatever it was that he had planned to say, and I instantly decided to help this plan to backfire in his face... literally... without telegraphing my intent at all (or so I thought), I turned my face towards him, snapped my face in his direction, and did my damned best to plant a big juicy kiss right on his mouth! (He is the homo-phobe... I happen to be very heterosexual, and very comfortable with my sexuality... he on the other hand has some issues...)

Well. His eyes got about as big around as garbage can lids, and he pulled his head away so violently and so quickly that I missed the kiss entirely, which was sort of sad, because I would have paid money to see his reaction to that!!

(I kissed a Ranger Instructor, or RI, in Ranger School on a dare, once. He came completely unwound, but I was treated like a hero by the entire class, and received what is called a Major-minor spot report, which is a good thing, from one of the other RIs. (Spot reports are sort of like the points that the teachers award or take away at Hogwarts School of Sorcery and Witchcraft in the Harry Potter series....))

The Fly almost gave himself a concussion by inadvertently smashing the back of his cliggin (his head!) against a concrete support column that I was sitting next to. He covered about eight feet in one jump, and exclaimed, "You'd really fucking DO IT, too!! Wouldn't you, you fucking degenerate!?!?!?"

My response? "You betcha!"

I really wanted to plant a big wet one on him, and then constantly bring it up and discuss it whenever he started to bother me or break my chops. Because, although it would be mildly embarassing to me... it would be incredibly embarassing and uncomfortable to him.. and breaking my horns is sort of like mud wrestling with a pig; EVERYbody gets filthy and dirty.... but the pig loves it!

I had visions of telling him what a 'wonderful kisser' he was, or what 'soft lips' he had, or just about anything else that I could think of that would make him want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after him.

He is great at dishing it out, but doesn't really take it all that well. He was antagonizing one guy mercilessly about his new haircut, a crewcut... there wasn't anything wrong with the kid's haircut, The Fly just wanted to crank his nuts about it... He kept asking him if he got a free bowl of soup with the haircut, whether the barber was blind, etc. Finally, the kid got fed up and responded by saying, "What about your fuckin' haircut??! Get with it!! The Bee-Gees ain't comin' back, you know!" The entire place erupted in hysterics over that, and every time the Fly would start in on anybody, one of us would start singing a Bee-Gees song to him, i.e.,

The Fly: "You better hurry the fuck up, you're taking way too long at that!"

Bear: "I'm sick. I can't go any faster, I'm running a fever."

The Fly: (looking slightly puzzled) "You don't look sick... and you don't look like you're running a fever, either...."

Bear: "It's not that kind of fever. I don't run a fever during the daytime."

The Fly: "What?! What the hell kind of fever is that?!?!"

Bear: (bursing into song) "Night Fever... Night fev-er!...etc., etc."

The Fly doesn't take this all that well, and generally threatens to knock teeth out, or 'take somebody out', etc. It is generally considered funny that he will so easily antagonize others, but can't stand to be kidded in kind. Naturally, it is a tactical error to allow others to know about a weakness such as this in oneself, because others will constantly exploit it in order to encourage one to piss off and go bother somebody else... and we do, to great advantage!!

After 'The Kiss'(even though there was no kiss, I will henceforth refer to this incident as 'The Kiss', inferring that in fact there was in fact, a kiss... which can be exaggerated at will... It will be great sport to watch him do backflips in a futile attempt to deny that the kiss ever took place... A Fly should keep one's face to one's self, and if a Fly has nothing to do, he shouldn't do it in Bear's area of operation!)he left immediately, and we didn't see him for about an hour and a half. He was traumatized. It was absolutely hilarious!! If I had given him all of the reams of paper in a nationwide stationary store and asked him to list all of the possible responses to him sticking his face close to mine like that, I just know that that would not have been on his list!

That boy's brain ain't gonna be right for Days!!

Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses;
And being set, I'll smother thee with kisses:
'And yet not cloy thy lips with loath'd satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty,
Making them red and pale with fresh variety;
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty:

Of course, the thought of actually kissing his nasty ass makes me want to yark, but now he has been reminded that he can never really predict just what. the. fuck. I am liable to do in any given circumstance.

I reckon I'll have a little peace for at least a couple of days!

Hey... sometimes you kiss the bear, and sometimes the bear kisses you!! (Tee-Hee!)


Thursday, July 21, 2005

...As a Bee!

Some of my readers must think that I've dropped off of the face of the earth. A lot has been going on, and I have been busy as hell!!

We primed and painted the apartment that Elysia rents out, I installed new locksets/doorknobs on every door in the place, we had carpets installed, scrubbed and cleaned the place from stem to stern, ripped out the kitchen floor and installed a new one, scrubbed and revamped the appliances, and today I ripped out the toilet and the sink/vanity from the bathroom, installed a new floor, re-installed the toilet, installed a new vanity, faucet, and drain, and caulked everything. At the end of it all, I was a sweating, stinking mess... (This time, I managed to get everything done.. I have spent a lot of time learning, and preparing to do it all right this time... in my last post, I was frustrated and miserable because nothing would fit, everything was coming up shit, and I wanted to hurl myself off of a bridge.. Today I hit paydirt, and managed to get the lion's share of the big jobs that remained happily, blessedly, and completely DONE! Yay!!)

I worked from around 6:45AM until noon, when I scooted out of there and headed home for the carpet installers.. The Fly flipped out on me and cursed me out, even though The Nose, (who is The Fly's boss) had previously okay'd my leaving early. He was just pissed off at me because earlier, the psychotic cat, Mama (there are two: Gizzy and Mama - Gizzy is a sweetheart, and Mama is insane and vicious) got out and into our main office area... I picked her up (this is dangerous, folks..) and was carrying her back to the area of the building where the cats live, when The Fly, in his infinite wisdom picked up a broom stick and pounded it on the floor... (!!??!!) I felt Mama go completely tense and stiff in my hands... she was scared shitless and ready to flip out, and I would have probably gotten hurt in the process. I asked The Fly, in my not-too-polite-but-very-aggressive tone of voice, "What THE FUCK is wrong with you?!! Are you fucking insane??"

He laughed, and did it again, and she began to wriggle in my hands, digging her claws into my flesh in preparation to explode out of my grasp in terror.

I said, in my bordering-on-homicidal tone of voice, "If this fucking cat flips out, I am going to throw her in your fucking face and knock you out cold before you have a chance to react!!" That pretty much turned his knees to water and he left off of that shit immediately. I meant it. He knew it. And, he didn't like it one bit. He has some major power issues, you see... and didn't like feeling intimidated. I don't generally like to intimidate anyone, but considering the circumstances, and his asinine behavior, I suppose it's just tough shit. I felt like kicking a mud puddle up his ass and stomping it dry because he was acting like such a fucking jackass!

While I was working in the apartment, I realized that we had the wrong faucet for the connections that we had, so I headed to H*m* D*p*t to pick up another one... the correct one...

As I was driving through the parking lot on my way back, a large woman was loading stuff into the trunk of her vehicle. She bent over to pick something up, and both of her boobs flopped completely (completely) out of her top. Completely!

I happened to be looking right at her when this took place... from about twenty feet away, and getting closer at about ten miles per hour.

Her boobs were... well.... massive. They were exponentially larger than my head, which is freakishly large as it is!!

Two. Huge. White. Shapeless. Heavy. Floppy. Fish-belly-white. Cottage-cheese-lookin' Boobs.


She looked up, panicky, to see if anyone had observed what had happened, and of course I had to be right there. Naturally... welcome to Bear's world...

She was embarassed. I was embarassed. She began struggling with her two huge fun-bags... trying to wrestle them back into her top, while I tried valiantly, but ultimately unsuccessfully to appear as though I hadn't seen a thing.

Perhaps it was the look of abject horror and revulsion on my face that gave me away...

I kept right on driving. I am wondering if H*m* D*p*t will pay for me to attend counselling... mental anguish and all that...

My eyes are still bleeding...

I wonder what tommorrow will bring??


Monday, July 11, 2005

I Opened a Can....

Today was one of those days when everything I touched turned to shit. At least at first. I had high hopes of getting a whole lot done in the front apartment, so that it could be shown. I wanted to replace all of the locksets - three in total, plus two deadbolts, paint the fireplace hearthstone (it was a mosaic of disgusting triangular pieces of ceramic, in primary colors; red, yellow, blue, orange, white (blech!!)), clean the mold off of the luan subfloor in the kitchen so that I could then put down the linoleum tiles, remove the bathroom vanity, replace the bathroom floor, replace the bathroom vanity with the new one, replace the bathroom counter top/sink, and replace the faucet and drain.. replace the toilet bowl flush handle, and replace the kitchen faucet.

Here's how Bear's day went:

Every single lockset was about an eight of an inch off... which necessitated time consuming chiseling (while shitting pickles in fear of cracking the door which would mean the whole damned thing would have to be replaced...).

All of the flashplates were then off center, and had to be re-drilled and re-chiselled.

The mold refused to come off of the fucking floor... despite furious scrubbing while on hands and knees with a stiff bristle brush. (I managed to get about 70% of it up. That's about as much as I will be getting up, apparently.)

The fireplace hearth stone had some peculiar surface that caused the paint to be repelled from numerous spots. So I had to repaint it over and over each time a coat dried... hopefully it will work out with the last coat... (sigh)

The vanity was the wrong fucking size... I thought I could use the one I had anyway, and simply turn the P-Trap a bit, but when I did my measurements (thankfully), the arc of the circle that the P-Trap would describe would place it out of alignment with the drain pipe/t-joint assembly... so the vanity had to go back. (just as well.. the medicine cabinet would have been off-center, which would have driven me out of my gourd).

So... I got nowhere near what I wanted to get done, done.

I am sweaty. Sore. Tired. Cranky. And slightly nauseous.. no doubt from the paint fumes, funk from the drain, and the clorox.

I am off to have some sushi, and perhaps a rest.

At least I got two air conditioners installed in this room (the computer room), and the bedroom. Last night I was pouring sweat all night long. It was miserably hot, even for me (I generally don't mind the heat or the cold... I stay pretty comfortable regardless.. but I was hot and sticky all night. Elysia must have been suffering a great deal.. poor girl..). Tonight will be better. Cool, and breezy!!

Okay.. enough snivelling. I'm going out to have a yummy dinner, after a yummy shower, and last night we watched some kick-ass fireworks!

So what am I bitching about, anyway??

Tommorrow will be a new can of worms!!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I Have a Mook-Jong Once Again!!

I was able to take some time yesterday and get my Mook-Jong installed. Generally speaking, the height of a Mook-Jong is predicated by the height of the practitioner. I made a semi-radical decision to install my Mook-Jong about six or seven inches lower than it should be (according to my body configuration). This forces me to lower my center of balance as I work on the equipment, and helps me to strengthen my legs, and to tweak my body alignment at that lowered height. (Shorter opponents have historically been somewhat problematic for me... Of course I have to be weird.. everybody else has difficulty with taller opponents, because of the reach difference and the loss of power when punching up. Go figure). A second benefit is that if Elysia or my son should ever want to work on the Mook Jong, they will have a piece of equipment that is more suited to their height.

I started by clearing and grading a corner of the yard, and by erecting a fence section. The two four by four posts will serve as anchor posts for the mook jong. My Mook Jong will be a "live" mook jong, meaning that the horizontal stringers will serve to give it a small amount of springy movement (as opposed to a "Dead" Mook Jong, which is a post buried in the ground, and which, consequently, does not move at all). This is where the Mook Jong will go:

It is vitally important that everything not only be strong, but that it be level. The purpose of this equipment is to fine tune one's body alignment and to develop a strong structure and a type of springy, explosive, forward pressure. In order to have this type of springy energy, your entire structure and body alignment has got to be dead on. Here you see me measuring and doing the preliminary work. This was actually a couple of weeks ago.

Once the ground work had been laid, it was a relatively simple matter to mark spots for the lag bolts that hold the brackets, and to screw them in with a ratchet. I built this Mook Jong from scratch. The body is a PVC pipe, the arms were laboriously turned on a lathe and then hand finished, and the leg is steel, welded, and powder coated. I hand whittled the pins that secure the arms, and the pin for the leg is a piece of bronze bar. I peened one end of the bar to keep it from sliding through the receiving hole in the leg, and whipped a leather thong onto it. I used the leather thong to lash the pin so that it won't slide out of the hole (which is horizontal on the leg) while I'm working on the dummy. The stringers are oak 1 x 2 stock, and the brackets were Teco tie-straps that I bent on a vise to fit the posts I mounted the whole thing on. I attached two 2 x 4s to the front of the 4 x 4 posts to give the dummy some space in the back so that I could attach the arms and legs and so that it won't crash into the fence when I am training. All of the lumber is ACQ pressure treated so that it will resist rotting. The striking pads were a birthday gift from Elysia.

It has been a few years since this thing has been up and running, and in the meantime I have had to improvise by training against trees, posts, door frames, or anything that could be used for the purpose. I couldn't resist banging the Mook-Jong around a little bit!!

When I was a soldier, and later a cop, realistic training was vital, as I was often called upon to physically control individuals who did not want to be controlled, and in some instances to fight for my life. This is no longer the case, at least insofar as my profession is concerned. I can (happily) choose to walk away from a conflict now, because I no longer have a duty to act. Of course, If my safety or the safety of my loved ones is concerned, I don't have much choice, but, in reality, I don't get involved in arguments and fights with people. I generally get along with everybody, or, I avoid them.

Although I have no pressing need to train, it's something that I enjoy doing. I simply enjoy the challenge of the training, the feel of my body working, and the pleasant soreness afterwards. I like to push myself, toughen myself, put myself to the test. I don't compete with anyone but me, but, I am my best competitor!

I'm happy with my Mook-Jong, and plan on spending many happy hours slamming that thing around!!

But right now it's time for breakfast out in the garden!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Day 16,790, Mommer, Red Devils, Itchy Cats, and Wooden Men

Today is the sixteen-thousand, seven-hundred and ninetieth day of my life. Elysia's mom is here, we just spent about 45 minutes strolling around the garden with our cups of coffee looking at all of the new life, marvelling at the growth of all the old life, and discussing all of the different things we had done to help it to become as beautiful as it is, and planning and dreaming about the stuff we want to do in the future...

I slipped away and just quietly watched as the two of them talked and laughed and joked as they wandered here and there through the garden. I love them both.

Jack helped out however he could by winding through anybody's legs that seemed to need winding, and by flinging himself down and rolling onto his back in an attempt to get anybody to scratch his tummy. I fell for that one, and spent a good while giving him some TLC and scritcheling all of the parts that seemed to need scritcheling.

Folks will be coming over later today for a birthday get-together, so I'm naturally looking forward to that. We'll be making some shish-kebobs to cook up on the grill, and I am thinking about mixing up some 'Red Devils' so that everybody will have a great excuse to act stupid!


1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz peach schnapps
1/2 oz amaretto
1/2 oz Southern Comfort®
1 oz sloe gin
2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz pineapple juice
2 oz orange juice
1 splash grenadine syrup

    Ice up a Collins glass, mix vodka, peach schnapps, amaretto, Southern Comfort, triple sec and sloe gin, add pineapple juice and orange juice, shake, add Seven-Up™, and a splash of grenadine. Garnish with Orange slice and two cherries.

My mom is home from the hospital, and sounds much better. And, on top of everything, I don't have to spend much time standing, which, lately, has become sort of a 'Holy Grail' for me. Plantar Fasciitis sucks the big one. My feet feel as though someone has beaten them with a length of lead pipe until they are purple, and then forced me to walk on broken glass, so standing can be torture. This is part of my work day, however, so there is no escaping it. This weekend, I am off both days, and blessedly, will be able to sit down whenever I feel the need.

Mar sin, táim an-shasta anois! (Therefore, I am very satisfied now! - Gaelic)

Thanks to Mona (I'll be thinking of you when I have my first pretty drink and sending a toast your way!), and Kathy (I'm celebrating! Every single gorgeous moment!!) for the birthday wishes... you guys are great!!

We're about ready to hit the road and go to the grocery store to pick up the stuff that we need for the cookout.

I have high hopes of being able to put my 'Mook Yan Jong' up this weekend. I built this thing years ago, when I lived elsewhere, and when I moved here there simply wasn't anyplace to put it. Since we cleared a crappy corner of the property, and put up a fence section there, I now have the perfect place for it, and I can spend hours happily training my ass off and being happy!

Mook Yan Jong

This isn't My Mook Jong.. this is a Mook Jong. I will post pics of mine once I have it set up. Incidentally, 'Mook Yan Jong' translates as 'Wooden Man Dummy' or 'Wooden Post Dummy' or something like that.

I think it's going to be a great day!


Friday, July 08, 2005

Creepy Cool Ass Butter

Today while I was at work, The Nose called me outside. I expected to get reamed over some slight, either real or imagined, and, with a resigned sigh, headed outside to see what the deal was...

Nose: "Got a second?"

Bear: "I guess... what's up?" (what the fuck can he possibly want from me now?!?!)

Nose: "Do you think this company runs like a well-oiled machine?"

Bear: (two seconds of stunned silence) (You have got to be fucking kidding me with this...) "Well... I think that there are some things that we do fairly well, and other things that we could stand some improvement in... (nice... wishy-washy yet vapid... holy shit I'm a geek!)

Nose: "So you wouldn't say that we run like a well-oiled machine?"

Bear: (What the fuck is with the whole "well-oiled machine" bit?? It sounds like you want to ass-fuck a generator or something!) "Um... No. I think that there are some areas that need some attention. May I ask why you're asking me this??"

Understand that I am the newest employee in this company. I have not yet worked here a full year. I have never worked in this industry, and have been forced to learn a tremendous amount in a relatively short period of time. Although I have learned quite a bit, I am a far cry from knowing very much at all.... I'm not quite clear at this point why The Nose would be asking me this. Nobody really even talks to me all that much at work. I know that they keep track of what I do, because they gave me a raise not so long ago... even so, though... this is a freakishly strange conversation.

Nose: "It has been made apparent to me that the way I have been running things hasn't been working all that well. There are going to be some changes made, and I want you to help me."

Bear: (Okay... now what the fuck is this about??!) "You want me to help you... why me?"

Nose: "You have been in this sort of situation before. You know how to do this!"

Bear: "What makes you think that I have ever been in this type of situation, or that I have the foggiest clue how to go about fixing what's wrong in this company?"

Nose: "Well... you were in the Army and the Air Force, or the Navy or something... and you were a Green Beret and a Drill Sergeant. I just thought that a Sergeant in the Army would know all about administration and making people work as a team and stuff like that..... I never told you this, but I admire you in many ways... I look up to you..."
Bear: "Nose, my bull-shit-O-meter just pegged out on MAX-Bullshit'. What is it that you want from me really...."

Nose: "I want you to tell me how to get this place working like a unit, and how to fix the stuff that isn't working right. What do you think about what I'm asking you?"

Bear: "Honestly?"

Nose: "Yeah... honestly..."

Bear: "I think you're buttering my ass!"

Nose: "I'm not buttering your ass! Some changes are going to me made around here. This goes no further than between you and me. I want you to sit down with me and go over all of the different areas that you think should be changed, and I want you to tell me what you think we should be doing."

Bear: "I think you're talking out the side of your neck..."

Nose: "Can you make any suggestions?"

Bear: "I can make a number of suggestions. I can also guarantee that you won't like a single one of them. But, if you want to hear my suggestions, I will happily tell them to you..."

Nose: "Like what, for instance...??"

Bear: "Do you really want to hear this?"

Nose: "I do."

Bear: "Before I answer you. Before I go any further with this at all, I want to know what brought this on, and if you bullshit me I'll know, and then I will be the one buttering your ass."

Nose: "I got my ass chewed out for five hours last night. Everything's wrong. I have to fix it."

Bear: (I wonder what took so long for you to get your ass handed to you?) "Okay. Fair enough. The first thing you need to do, and all of your management people need to follow suit, is to lead by example."

Nose: "lead by example?"

Bear: "Yes, Goddamit! LEAD BY FUCKING EXAMPLE! The best order you can ever give is 'Follow Me... do as I do!', get your shit straight, set high standards, and demand that your subordinates meet your standards. Lead by example. This is easy to understand, and difficult to put into action. Everybody knows that rules are necessary, and they will follow rules, so long as the rules are fair and apply to everybody equally, and so long as the rules make some sort of sense or serve some legitimate purpose and aren't frivolous and nitpicking."

Nose: "Okay... anything else?"

Bear: "A shitload. Want more?"

Nose: "Yeah..."

Bear: "Communication is not the strongest suit in this company. People need to have whatever information that they need to do their jobs. If there are price increases, if we are carrying new products, or if we are discontinuing something or are out of stock, everybody needs to know about it. I'm not suggesting that we have long drawn out meetings that take valuable time from everbody's schedule, but at the very least you should have a huddle, or find some way to let folks know anything that is vital or otherwise important as the information becomes available."

Nose: "What else?"

Bear: "I hear a lot of folks making disparaging remarks about one another and about the way things are run in general in front of customers, in front of sales reps, and in front of other outsiders. In order for a group to be effective, they have to work and function as a team. This means that they have to display some degree of loyalty to the group. We should be projecting a unified front to everyone who is not a part of this company. There are channels by which grievances and differences can be aired and resolved. To make comments, complaints, or to cast dispersions, insults and negative criticism in front of customers is downright unprofessional. Besides, its easy to find fault with others. If someone has an issue, they need to utilize the proper channels for resolving it. If they cannot discipline themselves to the extent that they can exercise enough self-control to refrain from losing their composure while at work, in front of customers, then perhaps they don't need to be a part of this company. You are either a member of a team, or you are not. If you are, you support the team, and put the good of the group over the good of the individual, and everybody benefits in the long run. When we insult one another in front of customers, we look like undisciplined, unprofessional clowns, and the customer translates this as either incompetence, or as a potential weakness that can be exploited to their benefit. This is how you end up with some asshole selling stock out the back door. We don't need that kind of crap going on here. This is a managerial issue and a leadership problem. Put a stop to it. Don't tolerate it at all. If we look and act like a team, perhaps we just may be a team... and teamwork is one of our major strengths. Lack of teamwork can be a major weakness. It isn't good enough to just be knowlegeable and competent. You have to appear professional too!"

Nose: "Appear professional... how so? What do you mean?"

Bear: "Well. If you went to a doctor's office, say, to have some type of surgery scheduled, and you saw all of his certificates on the wall that attested to his competence and knowlege, and then when you met the doctor he was dressed like a clown and acting foolish.. joking around and making stupid remarks and such, would you want him to operate on you?"

Nose: "No!"

Bear: "Because he makes a bad impression.... even though he may in fact be a superb surgeon. You have to look and act the part. Once you lose a customer, they're gone. They don't have to consult you, or even let you know that they are no longer a customer. They just disappear. I have made a list of every account holder who hasn't done business with us in over a year. Some will have gone out of business... others? Who knows?"

Nose: "..... You made a list?!?!"

Bear: "Yes I did. It's over thirty pages long. There are more than 800 customers on that list. If each of them averaged, say, $2000 per month of business with us, which is a low estimate, we are losing approximately $1,600,000.00 per month. That would be somewhere around $19,200,000.00 a year in lost revenue. That is assuming that all of them are still in business, and still alive and living in the area. A more realistic number would be say, 60% of that, which would be around $11,520,000.00 per year or so. You need to find a way to get those customers back, and to keep them."

Nose: "Are you sure about these numbers?"

Bear: "Fairly sure... I'm doing it in my head, so, I'm likely off somewhat, but I think its close. In real world numbers, it may be less than what I am quoting, but we are still losing over ten million dollars a year that we would otherwise be earning. That's a sizeable chunk. Look, you are either improving or you are going backwards. If you are going backwards, before long you won't be in business. Period."

Nose: "What would you do?"

Bear: "I would get on the phone and contact these people, and try to find out why they left in the first place, and see if you can't get them back here. If need be, I would offer them some incentive. Some type of savings or discount on their first purchase, or something... you'll get some back, probably not all. The most important thing is to find out what is pissing them off and fix the problems. You are hemhorraging money, Bro... customers don't like to be kept waiting, they don't want to be put on hold on the phone, and they don't want to have to wander around looking for someone to help them. They want to get in here, get what they need, and get the fuck out as quickly as they possibly can, and if they can save a buck doing it, that's even better! Everything else is bells and whistles. Concentrate on getting the first part right, and the rest will come."

Nose: "Wow... But how do you propose we do all this?"

Bear: "I can teach you how to build a team, how to get your administrative functions in order and how to improve customer service, but its going to take a lot of work on everybody's part. Nobody likes change, and most everyone will fight you every step of the way. You have to take it in steps, fix the most glaring problems first. When you have a success or two under your belt, people will begin to trust your judgement and will be more likely to follow you."

Nose: "Like they follow you?"

Bear: "Me?! Nobody follows me!"

Nose: "They do though. When you suggest things, people listen... its like you are the leader without being the leader. It used to piss me off, but you actually make sense sometimes.... so I started paying attention to what you do and how you do it, and to what you say...."

Bear: "That's the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard! What's the catch here... you have extra work for me.... what is it?"

Nose: "Well... we will all have to take up the slack. Like I said, things are going to change. But I need you to give it some direction. Can you do that?"

Bear: "Nose, its what I do best. I create teams, train them, push them, and lead them. Its what I was made to do. The problem is that it will involve a lot of growing pains, and I'm not sure you are going to want to go through with what I suggest. For instance, your files and admin practices are appalling. It has to be addressed. We spend most of our time chasing our tails and running over the same ground. Every business makes mistakes, but you have to limit them. The devil is in the details. You have to cross the T's and dot the I's. If you have time to do it twice, you have time to do it right the first time. You have to get these guys working as a team, and respecting some type of chain of command. Either they get with the program, or they go down the road. Following the rules is a condition of employment. The rules have to be fair. They must apply to everyone across the board, and that includes you... and you have to lead by example, like I said before."

Nose: "I will reward you if you can do this."

Bear: "Let me have a few days to think things over. We'll sit down and discuss it on Monday. If you think that my suggestions have merit, and if you think that they will help, then I will advise you on how to go about this. At the very least, you have to let me try to get some of the lost customers back, let me get my hands on the filing system, and let me get the banking under control. Its a start."

Nose: "Can you put some of this in writing and give it to me today?"

Bear: "It'll be on your desk by close of business. But it won't have all the answers. You have to take this stuff day by day and address the issues as they crop up. It takes a little experience and finesse, and we will be working against the tide... things have been the way they are for quite some time here.. you know?"

Nose: "You're right.."

Bear: "Um... I need to get back to work. I have a lot to do."

Nose: "Yeah.. sure. Thanks."

Bear: "No sweat, Boss!"

Nose: "Bear?"

Bear: "Yeah?"

Nose: "Where do you get this stuff from? Are you copying something?"

Bear: "No.. (??)"

Nose: "You're pulling this out of your ass right here and now?"

Bear: "More or less..."

Nose: "Wow.... you're whacked!"

Bear: "Thanks boss... you're pretty fucked-up too!"

So. I'm not sure what to make of this whole thing. It seems that no matter where I ever work, I end up eventually doing the same job. I'm not sure how it ends up in my lap, but it always does. Hopefully, I'll be able to make some difference here. We'll see. Most likely, this is a big steaming pile of bullshit, and once they get a long hard look at what really needs to be done, everything will revert to the way it has been for a great while. There aren't any shortcuts in anything.

I am quite honestly baffled by this whole situation. I know that it will mean a hell of a lot more work for me, quite possibly a much greater degree of responsibility, and a lot more headaches. For some reason, this sort of thing doesn't generally translate into a great deal more money.

I can never seem to judge whether this sort of deal is sincere or not. I think I really can fix many of the problems that plague us, but I can't do it all alone. Once the initial work is done, most of the problems won't exist because the system that is in place will eliminate them... this frees up time and resources to concentrate on what is actually important. The difficult part is wading through years of neglect and chaos and setting it all right while still managing to get my work done.

This is going to be quite a challenge. I hope I'm up to it.

What do you think? Does it sound like one big huge ass-buttering crock of shit? Or do you think it may be a legitimate request for help?? I'm a little caught up on the fact that he singled me out completely out of left field. It's very strange. But, its also sort of cool, in an eerie, Twilight-Zoney, creepy sort of way....


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Bad Rap

On New Year's Day of 2000, Elysia was still flying as part of her duties as a flight attendant. She was breeping about the country on a four-day trip and on New Year's Eve, during one of her flights, she learned that her schedule had been changed, and that she had a full day and overnight layover in New York. Her Crew was going to be staying at the Milford Plaza hotel on 8th Avenue, in Manhattan (which we lovingly called 'The Mildew Plaza'), and we arranged for me to meet her there and stay with her for the duration. We call this sort of thing 'stealing time'. We often 'stole time'; somehow managing to find time together whether measured in days, hours, or sometimes minutes (I have been known to drive the hour and a half to LaGuardia Airport, park, and pick up a couple cups of tea and two muffins so that we could sit down and enjoy them together during a 15 minute layover, and then drive back home) since we were living in different states at the time, and wanted every minute that we could to spend together.

I took an early train and arrived in the city early in the morning on New Year's Day, and sort of wandered around to get the lay of the land so that I would know ahead of time what was open, where we would be able to eat, etc.

As I was walking up Broadway, in Times Square, I stopped to listen to the Rasta Man who plays Steel Drums there (some of you who have visited Times Square may have very well seen him and heard him play on occasion).

On New Year's Day morning, he was set up just outside of the McDonalds restaurant. As he played, a man wearing a terrycloth bathrobe and pink fuzzy bunny slippers walked up to him, held out his hand and opened it. In his hand was a wad of crumpled bills and some coins. "Can you get my breakfast?" the man asked. It was quite clear when the man spoke that he was mentally retarded, and just as clear that he both needed help and intrinsically trusted just about anybody with whom he came into contact.

The Rasta Man stared at him incredulously for a few seconds... looked down at the money, back up at the man, glanced at me, then back to the man standing there in his bathrobe and slippers holding out his money, and appeared to reach a decision.. he sucked his teeth with minor annoyance, took the money, and asked the man, "Yah mon, I and I gwain catch-up wunna brek-Fass, wha'fa ye want?"

"I want an Egg McMuffin, the kind with ham, and some potatoes, and orange juice and a bun, can you help me? I don't know how to do the money.."

"Don' worry, mon, me gwain get de correc' ting"

The Rasta Man looked down at his open instrument case, which was almost overflowing with money that appreciative passersby had tossed into it, looked at me, giving me the once over, then said to me, "Wunna stay here watch de money, mon, me gwain get 'im 'im breakFass. Soon come!"

"No sweat, man..."

So, I stood there, out on Broadway, guarding money that belonged to a man I didn't know, and who didn't know me... while he took money from a man that he didn't know and bought him his breakfast, ensuring that he got all of the proper utensils and condiments, and the correct change back.

I stood out there, next to my man in his bathrobe, until the Rasta man came back with his breakfast. The Rasta Man handed Bathrobe guy his bag of food and his change. Bathrobe guy pocketed the change without even looking at it, and Rasta Man thanked me without a glance towards his cash. I stood and listened to him play for a while, then tossed a few bucks into his case, gave it a little thought and tossed a few more in, then waved to him, wished him a happy and prosperous New Year, and went on my way.

We none of us knew one another, but we trusted one another without question.

I think we New Yorkers get a bad rap, sometimes...


Ah-Po! ("Ouch!" or "It hurts!" in the Korean Language)

During my first tour in Korea, I was an enlisted man in the United States Air Force at the time and assigned to the 6903rd Electronic Security Squadron which was known locally as 'Skivvy Nine'. A member of Skivvy-Nine was known, predictably, as a 'Skivvy-Niner'. The unit was made up of Korean Linguists, Intelligence Analysts, Morse Code Intercept Operators, Printer System Intercept Operators, Cryptologic Specialists, and a number of other technicians and admin specialists.

The unit was fairly tight-knit, and we would often go out en masse on what were called 'Bucket Runs' or 'Bean Runs'.

Bucket Runs because we had one member of the unit, dressed in a red and yellow track suit and wearing a hard had with a battery powered revolving red emergency light mounted on top, who carried a large bucket in which the drink of choice (known variously as 'Jungle Juice' 'Bug Juice' 'Purple Jesus' or 'Electric Koolade' which contained, among other things, Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, Lime Juice, Triple Sec, Slo-Gin, Amaretto, Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Peach Schnapps, Melon Liqueur, Sour Mix, Grape Oscar (Oscar is a Korean made champagne), Peach Oscar, Soju (A clear grain alcohol), Orange Juice, Cranberry Juice, and Seven-Up (for the non-drinkers)).

The Bucket Runner in Charge would carry this huge stainless steel bucket in one hand, and a large ladle in the other, and would lead the group, light flashing, while banging on the bucket with the ladle, from club to club (There was a rigorously enforced schedule, as there was a 'goal' of sorts - meaning that we intended to 'hit' a predetermined number of clubs during the run. The schedule was published and posted, and any member of the unit could join up with the bucket run at any time. We would enter the club, everyone would plop money down into the communal kitty, and the requisite alcohol would be purchased and mixed into Jungle Juice, which would be ladled into glasses around the table, directly from the bucket. The requisite toasts and roasts would be made (new folks were known as 'green beans' older, outgoing hands were termed 'brown beans', hence the term 'Bean Run', which was also called a 'Hail and Farewell' - essentially, every month there was a bucket run to welcome Green Beans and say farewell to Brown Beans. There were jokes, awards, fake-awards, photo albums that had been compiled for the outgoing folk, and light hazing and put-ons for the new folk.

Generally speaking, a good time was had by all, and a good number got stinking, falling down, puking drunk. This was one of the hazards of a Bucket Run. Once the time limit was reached, the Bucket Runner in Charge would turn on his light, ladle out the last remnants of bucket juice, which would be downed on command, and the bucket would be passed between the green beans and the brown beans to drain amongst them. Once this was accomplished, the entire group would follow the leader to the next club, to the accompaniment of drunken songs, catcalls, and the claning of the bucket. I'm not sure what the Korean people thought of this, but most seemed to take our craziness in stride with the usual Korean good-natured acceptance of such things.

One of the new lads, who we had dubbed 'Sonar' became rather well acquainted with a young Korean gal and about three-quarters of the way through the run, the two excused themselves and left. In Skivvy-Nine parlance, Sonar had been 'Captured'.

The next day as we waited in the Skivvy-Nine Lounge and Rec Room for the shuttle bus that took the oncoming crew up to the top of Hill 170, where our operations compound was located, some of the guys began asking Sonar how his night went with his new lady friend. One of a group of Korean linguists began;

Skivvy-Niner: "Hey, Sonar.. so, how'd it go with your girlfriend??"

Sonar: "Okay..."

Skivvy-Niner: "Did you have a nice time?"

Sonar: "Yeah.. she was nice!"

Skivvy-Niner: "Did she teach you any Korean?" (Sonar was an analyst, and knew no Korean when he arrived...)

Sonar: "A few words..."

Skivvy-Niner: "What words did you learn??"

Sonar: "Well... I only remember the one..."

Skivvy-Niner: "Really?? What was it??"

Sonar: "Umm.... 'Ah-Po!' or something like that..."

Skivvy-Niner: "She taught you 'Ah-Po!', huh? Do you know what it means?"

Sonar: "Uh-huh.."

Skivvy-Niner: "Well.. What does it mean??"

Sonar: " 'Wrong Hole!' "

I they had to have been able to hear the laughter as far away as Tokyo....

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sunshine, Birdsong, and Sore Feet

I slept in this morning, which was wonderful... Yesterday was a fairly full day, I worked my regular job until 1PM, and had a 1PM call for the bartendering job, which is dicey, but luckily my boss cut me loose a little early, so I was able to grab a little something to eat before heading out again.

By about halfway through the party, I was having a hard time standing... my feet were killing me.. I have apparently developed a condition called plantar fasciitis which is an inflamation of the tendon that runs from the heel to the toes. This is a little different from tendonitis, however... it is caused by numerous microtears of the fascia that are happening faster than the body's capability to heal itself. It is caused by prolonged standing, jumping, running, and shit like that... all of which I basically do on a daily basis. (I cannot sit at work... so there is no getting around it.. I suppose I will just have to either learn to live with this.. or find another job.) In any case, the pain is exponentially worse just after a period of rest, because the muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues tighten up and when you attempt to stand and put weight on your feet, it is absolutely excrutiating. It sort of feels as though someone beat the soles of your feet with a nigtstick until they were bruised purple.. and you are walking on broken glass.... yeah, sorta like that. When the condition has advanced somewhat, the pain worsens towards the end of the day... and this is what happens with me. I hobble in the morning.. and I hobble at night. It pisses me off, but I can't help it.

When I got home from tending bar, the plan was to quickly and quietly change into painting clothes and get my ass over to the apartment and work until I reached a good stopping point or a milestone of some sort, i.e., finished a room. Elysia caught me as I was slowly and painfully making my way down the stairs, and more or less put the kabosh on me helping out over there. She tries to fool me by making it sound as though she needs the break, but I know that she is looking out for me and trying to get me off of my feet. I could have put a few more hours of work in though... I think I could have gotten the entire kitchen at least primed and sealed judging by how much she had gotten done (she did a lot of work yesterday!). But, she insisted that we eat something and watch a movie, so that's what we did. It was nice to sit and hold her and just be close.

She surprised me with a brand new barbeque grill last night!! Our grill went tits up and we never replaced it. So now we are back in the cookout business!! As a matter of fact, we are going to have one today!

Its an absolutely gorgeous day here today! The sun is shining, and there's a light breeze blowing. Our garden is blooming with an incredible profusion of flowers of every color shape and size, and the birds are singing their feathered little asses off!! The windchimes are chiming, and I can smell the smells of ocean air, freshly cut grass, honeysuckle, and coffee. In short, it is a perfect day!

I hope it is just as wonderful where each of you are located. I know I have readers from all over the world who stop by here. Most of you just stop by and then continue on without leaving much of a trace. There are some of you who leave a comment now and again, and others who have become a part of my day... we have formed a little community, it seems, and I look forward to reading what each of you have say, whether as a comment here on my blog, or in the form of posts on your own. I laugh, I cry, I ruminate, and I carry your thoughts around in my head. For those of you who haven't yet taken the time to leave a comment or say anything, I invite you to take a minute and say hi. I like to hear from all of you folks.

Although we have a great deal of work that has to be done. I think today will be a day of relaxation and fun. We have a few clansmen (we are Scottish/Irish folk) coming over and we will eat and drink and talk and laugh. I will be able to stay off of my sore feet for a bit, so that's at least something, ay??

While I'm sitting here blathering, I hear Elysia ricocheting off the walls down there getting things done all alone. This can't be allowed to continue.. so I'm off to lend a hand. When you're a guy, and you have a girl, you take care of your girl and you help out.... or you're just wrong!


Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Scent of a Woman

While working a midnight shift a number of years ago, I noticed a vehicle driving behind a shopping center and decided to watch from a distance to see what the operator of the vehicle was doing in that location. Through my binoculars, I could see an elderly woman exit the vehicle and begin rooting through the dumpsters, extracting empty cans and bottles to turn in for the deposit money. "Ah... 'Land-Clammer'..." I thought... and, considering this particular type of denizen to be basically harmless, continued on with my business.

Not more than a few hours later, I happened to see this same vehicle behind another shopping center. I was on my way to something or another, and I simply continued on my way.

Later on during my tour of duty, at approximately two or three in the morning, I saw the vehicle yet again. At this point, I decided to stop the motorist and have a talk with them. I wasn't comfortable with an old woman wandering around behind shopping centers in the middle of the night for a number of reasons....

As the vehicle pulled out of the shopping center, I followed, and, after a short distance, I turned on the emergency lights on the police vehicle, and initiated a vehicle and traffic stop. The driver pulled over immediately, and after pulling the police vehicle up behind them, I approached the vehicle.

As I walked towards the car, I could see the motorist staring fixedly at me in the sideview mirror. Normally, this is a cause for heightened suspicion to a police officer. Accordingly, I moved a little closer to the vehicle in order to force the driver to have to turn further around in the seat in order to be able to aim a weapon at me with any accuracy (the plan being that it would afford me a split second more time to perceive and react to the threat, should one present itself...). I approached the driver's window and introduced myself;

'Officer' Bear: "Good evening, Ma'am. I'm Police Officer [Bear] of the [Department Name] Police Department. My reason for stopping you tonight is that I have observed you driving behind a number of shopping centers in the vicinity. To be honest with you, I am somewhat concerned for your safety. Do you live in the area?"

Motorist: "I....ah.... yes. Um, I mean... no.... ah... officer..... Is there a problem?"

'Officer' Bear: "Well, I just asked you whether you lived in the area, Ma'am, and you answered both 'yes' and 'no'... which one is it?"

Motorist: "Do you have to make a report about this, officer? I don't want any trouble..."

The woman looked very nervous, and didn't seem to be willing to answer my questions regarding her place of residence. This would naturally cause any street cop's level of suspicion to be raised a notch, and I was no exception. I decided to cut to the chase and avoid a long drawn out verbal dance which would only afford the motorist time to get her emotions all worked up, which I wanted to avoid.

'Officer' Bear: "Do you currently possess a valid New York state driver's license, ma'am? If so, where in the vehicle is it located?"

Motorist: "Um.. yes, officer... I do. It's in my wa... ah... in my pocketbook, I mean."


'Officer' Bear: "Where is your pocket book?"

Motorist: "It's on the floor over there in front of the passenger's seat, officer."

'Officer' Bear: "Would you get it please? Put the pocket book in your lap before you reach into it, okay?"

Motorist: "Why, officer? Is something wrong?"

'Officer' Bear: "I just prefer to maintain control of the movements of any person with whom I have a police contact for safety reasons. It keeps me safe, and it keeps you safe, and that's good for both of us, right?"

Motorist: "Uh... yes... of course..."

She took her wallet out of her pocket book, and extracted her driver's license. When she handed the license to me, I noticed that her hands were shaking. Noticeably. In an elderly person, this isn't unheard of, but she hadn't been shaking a few seconds before."

'Officer' Bear: "Why are you so nervous, ma'am? If you aren't doing something you aren't supposed to be doing, you have absolutely no reason to fear me, right?"

Motorist: "...... I, ah, mmmm, ah, errrrr, ah... will this be publicized officer?? Do you have to make a report? I'm not doing anything illegal am I?"

This woman was coming out of her tree, and I couldn't figure out why... I quickly scanned the interior of the vehicle for anything out of the ordinary... just bags of empty cans and bottles, some trash and other detritus, and not much else.... but..... something just wasn't right. I had flags going up all over the place, but I couldn't put my finger on it. She wanted me to go away, and she wanted to be out of here. I wasn't going to let that happen until I figured out what the hell was going on to make her so damned hinky around a cop. One would think that an old woman, all alone, in the middle of the night, in a relatively crappy area would be thrilled to see a cop... but she wasn't... there had to be more to this story... I wasn't going anywhere... and neither was she.

'Officer' Bear: "Nothing that I'm aware of, but, to be honest, you seem very nervous when I would think that you would be happy to see a police officer so late at night, and you all alone behind shopping centers. Most reasonable folks would find that to be a little strange, don't you agree?"

Motorist: ".... I just don't... I.... "

As she was stammering and searching for a suitable answer to my question, I glanced down at the driver's license in my hand. The first name was clearly a male name, like George, or Michael, or John, or Charlie... and the photo was of an elderly man. There was, admittedly, a resemblance, but the operator of the vehicle was a woman...

'Officer' Bear: "Is this your license, ma'am?"

Motorist: ".... .... .... .... yes."

I looked at the place on the license which denoted the gender of the license holder... male.

'Officer' Bear: "You are [I read off the name on the license]??"

Motorist: "...yes. "

'Officer' Bear: "Is there anything you want to tell me?"

She (He) began to cry... to sob, actually... I simply waited for it to pass. I knew something wasn't right, and before I let this person go driving off I needed to know that he wasn't a danger either to himself, or to anybody else.

Motorist: "I....okay.. I'm so sorry for trying to deceive you, officer. I'm so embarrassed.... it's not what you think...."

'Officer' Bear: "I don't actually 'think' anything... I'm waiting for you to tell me whatever it is that you want to tell me. I'm not judging you at all, though, just so you know. It isn't my job or my function to make moral judgements. I just want to know that you are okay, and that everyone else is okay. Just so we understand one another."

Motorist: "I'm not a transvestite or anything, officer... I...." He began sobbing again... and I quietly waited for him to regain his composure. After a time, he continued, "Do you have to report this?"

'Officer' Bear: "Not necessarily, no."

Motorist: "You see, officer. I was married to a woman that I was very much in love with for over 50 years. She passed away 2 years ago, and I've been all alone for the first time since we were married. I just... ah... I miss her... so much, you see... and, I could smell her scent on her clothes... I began to hold one of her dresses, just so that I could get to sleep, you know? Eventually, I started to wear her clothes, but only in the house... It made me feel close to her... I.... I'm just so very lonely.. I know that this is strange, I'm not even sure how it ended up going this far... I started wearing her clothes from time to time out of the house... I.... I.... I just don't know what to do without her... I love her so much.... Please don't let this go public... please?? I'm not hurting anybody... I've never hurt anybody... I would never do anything to hurt anyone or anything.... I'm just very small man... an old, crazy small man.. who has lost his way.... I'm sorry officer... I know it must seem very strange to you... but it isn't strange like you think... ... ... am I in a great deal of trouble??"

'Officer' Bear: "No, sir. You aren't. You aren't in any trouble at all. As far as I can tell, you haven't broken any laws at all, and as far as what you are doing being strange, well... I have to admit that its a new one on me, but, you have apparently taken a pretty big hit with the loss of your wife, and I imagine you are groping for some way to deal with such a huge loss. I'm not sure if this is the best way available to you, but it isn't my place to tell you what you should do in this instance. I would suggest a grief counsellor, perhaps... or, if you are a church goer, maybe a clergy member. Honestly, I don't know. Some people seem to find comfort in talking things out. In any case, I hope you are able to find some peace, my friend. Here's your license. You're free to go. My chief reason for stopping you was concern for your safety, okay? I don't want to be the one to find you back here if something bad happens. Maybe it would be better to do this early in the morning, or in the early evening or something, alright??"

Motorist: "You aren't going to report me?"

'Officer' Bear: "To what end? You haven't done anything wrong."

Motorist: "But.... I'm dressed up like a woman!!"

'Officer' Bear: "Yeah. I couldn't help but notice that..... don't sweat it, my mom does the same thing... Have a nice night, okay?? Get home safe."

Motorist: "... ... Thank you, Officer. You're a good man. I'll think about what you said... the counsellor. I'm not sure if it will help, but maybe I'll try."

'Officer' Bear: "Whatever it takes to get you through the day, you know? Take Care."

Motorist: "You too. Thanks again. Goodnight."

He drove off, and as I drove around the empty streets, I couldn't help but think about this very strange little old man, and the terrible sadness that he must be feeling. To live with someone for fifty years, to have a loving companion by your side for eighteen thousand two hundred and fifty days and nights, and then to suddenly be heartbreakingly alone... I guess it would drive anybody to act strangely. I don't particularly understand the whole dressing up thing, but I can completely understand wanting to smell the scent of his wife on her clothing. I felt for this poor man. There wasn't a thing I could do to help him, other than to reassure him that I at least would not judge him.. regardless of what others might do. In the years since this encounter, I have often turned my thoughts to him, and wondered whether he found any closure, or whether he eventually crossed over and is back with his wife, wherever she may be.

The thought of being left alone should anything ever happen to my wife is perhaps the greatest fear that I have. I don't know how I would handle such a loss, or what effect it would have on me. Naturally, I hope never to be forced to have to find out.

We are, in reality, each and every one of us, when it all comes down to it... alone. Sure, we walk alongside one another for some period of time, if we are lucky enough to find somebody to share our journey, but, we all come into this world alone, and we all leave it alone. Nobody can do this for us... we have to do it for ourselves. I suppose that makes it all the more important to try to make the best of the time that we have on this earth, with the ones we love the most. Who knows when our time together will come to an end, right?