Friday, August 31, 2012


Happy Labor Day.

Yeah, I know I'm a might early but I have a busy weekend. You see half the Erwin clan is headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico for some exciting U10 soccer action while the remainder of the family is staying home.

I can only hope this trip to The Q leads to me getting more sleep than the last time I was there ...

Taking One For The Team*

Last night me, my wife, our two boys 4 and 6, and the 13 year old daughter of some friends girl stayed in room 220 of the Old Town EconoLodge here in Albuquerque. An ex-cheerleader with singing ambitions occupied room 219.

You know that song Rehab by Amy Winehouse the one where she sings No, No, No over and over? Well the gal in room 219 had the lyrics all wrong. She sang Yes, Yes, Yes for half the night and let me be the first to say Simon Cowell would never let her go to Hollywood because not only did she struggle to hold a key but sometimes she sang loud and at other times her vocals sounded more like a moan.

And then she would fall back into her cheerleader routine. Urge the home team on to victory.
And let me tell you that cheerleader's room was furnished different than ours. I mean our room just had your standard everyday clock radio but I guess her room had a deluxe jumbo model because all night long that cheerleader raved about the BIG CLOCK. Why every few minutes she shouted to whoever was staying there with her to give her that BIG CLOCK.

This went on for a good long while before Jennifer nudged me. "Wake up," she whispered.
"I've been awake." I answered. "How could I not be?"
"They are going to wake up the kids,you should do something," my wife said.

"What do you want me to do," I whispered back. "I don't think he needs any help. Besides," I said. "As the cheerleaders rah rahs reached a fever pitch, "They are winding it up."

Truth is I'd been contemplating intervening. I thought about banging on the wall but figured that would wake the kids up even faster. ass would exiting the room to pound on their door. The front desk was an option, but truthfully I was taken aback by the duration of the cheering session. Their stamina was down right impressive

The ol' boy finally scored and boy you should have heard that cheerleader shout.

My kids were too young to know what was going on but I hoped that our friends daughter had slept through the ruckus. That hope died when morning finally dawned and I asked her how she slept. the sudden discoloration of her cheeks told me she'd been privy to the impromptu game in the room next door.

Of course I had my own fun that morning as we packed. I guess it was the lack of sleep that made me clumsy but for some reason I couldn't stop accidentally banging the wall between the two rooms. Once I even got confused and knocked on the wrong door. Yeah I was probably just tired, but then again, it could have been CLOCK ENVY. 

*A version of this post originally ran here on this blog on August 25th 2007.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

School Daze

School starts tomorrow in many places. My youngest still attends the private elementary where my wife teaches started last Wednesday. Here is a shot of him look oh-so-excited.

My oldest begins anew tomorrow morning. Not only is he making the leap from private school to public but he is also moving up to the ever dreaded ... Middle School.

No, my son will not be attending the middle school they named after me here in Amarillo. Okay fine, so it's namesake is actually William B Travis formerly of the Alamo but still it's a cool name. ;)

My son isn't fully aware of it ... but he is leaving behind bathroom stalls with doors on them and nice soft toilet paper for a world where a boy can;t take a dump in private and is forced to wipe with funky little squares of tissue paper that are too flimsy to remove poop but tough enough to chap your ass.

he is going from class sizes of fifteen and halls where everyone knew his name and his mom was right downstairs to jam packed hallways full of kids that think the only way to make themselves look good is to make the next guy look bad. Tarek is a big kid. A strong kid. So I'm not worried about him physically in any way but I fear that is too-trusting nature and every-one-is-my-friend/or-soon -will-be mentality will take a hit.

But it's gotta come sometime and what is middle school for if not for teaching painful life lesson and unabashed humility?

All this school thought has me recalling my school days and the stuff I thought was dumb then and in retrospect ... I still find asinine.

Like door-less stalls in the boys room. Come on it is school not prison. And how much trouble is a kid gonna get into behind a stall door that he isn't going to find someplace else anyway? Life is full of intrusions and every parent will tell you there are times when that brief respite atop the porcelain throne is the only peace and quiet to be found. Let kids shit in private.

And how many of you remember those pathetic paper straw they used to make you use in school. I'm pretty sure they were created from the same crappy (pun intended) paper as the toilet paper. Halfway through your carton of milk the damn things collapsed and clogged up like a fat man's arteries.

And the soap? Remember that white chunk of calcified perfume? you had to turn a little handle which ground up the block of soap and dribbled white powder into your hand. It was more of a workout to get a handful of soap than it was to climb that frigging rope in PE. And the stuff never produced any lather and yet you could skin a dead skunk and still smell the scent on your hand afterward.

And speaking of powder, remember the titty pink puke powder they used to spread atop the pile anytime some poor kid vomited int he hall. you could smell the stuff three wings over and why did they just sprinkle he stuff atop the upchuck rather than cleaning up the mess right away. I can recall times when the pile of powder topped puke sat there for hours before it was removed. WHY?

And here in the Texas panhandle we used to have tornado drills. Which consisted of all the classes gathering in the hall or a bathroom and bending forward so that our faces were between our legs.

If I'm going to die in a whirlwind of flying debris Id just as soon my last sight not be my own hairy ass. Of course in those days my backside was still follicly free but you get my drift.

The photo above is of my 6th grade year. Back then we stayed in elementary for 6th grade. I'll leave you to guess which one of these kids is me, but trust me when I say those days were far from my best image wise.

The good ol' days?

More like good ol' daze?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

People, Pints & Pedals

I'm a competitive guy. By competitive I don't necessarily mean driven. At least not driven in the way that makes people get up at the ass crack of dawn and run 82 miles before work. Or hop on a bike and ride to Timbuktu and back just to say they did.

No I mean I am competitive in a ... Oh yeah watch this kind of way. A ... hold my beer a second kind of way. Or better yet, in a ... beer on one hand/ horseshoe in the other kind of way.

My friend Aaron "It Tastes Like Dirt" Sage is similarly competitive, but he also happens to be one of the aforementioned driven folks of this world as well.

Just recently Aaron celebrated a birthday. He's a few years younger than me so unlike me 2012 does not mark his 40th year on earth, but he's close enough to that number that you wouldn't think his idea of birthday fun would be to hop on a bicycle in 103 degree Texas heat and ride across the city of Amarillo. Yeah you'd think that, but you'd be wrong.

Now I like to think of myself as a good friend, but when Aaron and his lovely wife Kim first suggested we do this very thing to celebrate his birthday I thought they were both batshit crazy. The one saving grace was they wanted to ride from bar to bar. Which meant many beers along the way and let's face it, every absurd idea is easier to swallow with an alcoholic chaser.

Somewhere in the discussion I discovered this notion wasn't just some hair-brained idea Aaron had cooked up in his mind. No it was an organized event. a fundraiser for Ambucs put together by the fine folks over at 575 Pizzeria. (If you go, I suggest THE BENDER. You won't find a better, meatier pizza)

So I reluctantly agreed, and last Saturday I made the harrowing ride.

The event is called P3-People, Pints, and Pedals.

We listened to some reggae tunes while sipping a few beers in 575's parking lot before embarking.

I partook in a Shiner Bock (tasty as always), an Oskar Blues G'Knight Imperial Red (way too hoppy for this dude), and some kind of English beer that I can't recall the name. (but it was a tad too sweet.)

So then we (somewhere around 300 of us) hopped on our bikes and pedaled to THE GOLDEN LIGHT.

At the Golden Light we had several pitchers of beer. Pabst Blue Ribbon (because Craighead, another sucker riding friend is a cheapskate), a pitcher of Shiner, and I think a pitcher of Coors Light aka Colorado piss water.

Then we departed for Crush in downtown Amarillo. and yes I will confess to nearly getting ran over by a big black pickup while pedaling across a busy street. I was still sober so I'll blame the sweat in my eyes for not seeing the truck when I dashed across the street.

At Crush I had a Stella Artois (a fine Belgium brew) and then I sampled a fancy martini because it had coconut rum in it. And despite being green it proved quite tasty so then I partook in another one myself

Did I mention it was 103 outside?

From there we rode to the Amarillo Art museum where we at pizza catered by 575 and checked out the George Rodrigue exhibit.

Despite my reservations going in I not only survived, but had a good time. The 7.1 miles we rode seemed like much less broken up as it was and given we had an hour or so of boozing time at each stop.

But I still feel obligated to dish up a wriggling bite of revenge upon Aaron for attempting to make me exercise. Those of you who have read my book THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES might have noticed Aaron "It Tastes Like Dirt" Sage was mentioned in the acknowledgements. He was listed because he had read an earlier version of the book and provided valuable feedback. (By the way Amazon is selling the print edition at 50% off for a short time)

For the first time, I'm going to reveal the origins of his nickname. It was a fall evening. October I do believe. A few beers had been consumed when Aaron began ranting about the grub worms ravaging his lawn. One thing led to another and someone challenged him to dig one up and eat it. A round of negotiations ensued. A $20 price tag was agreed upon and Aaron quickly swallowed one of the fat white wrigglers. But sadly the guy who challenged him had ventured off to empty his bladder, so Aaron ended up eating a second grub. he did so with a smile and the words, "Not too bad. It just tastes like dirt."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pin The Tail, On That Smiling Donkey

It strikes me that yesterday's post may come across as angst filled whining. And I really am going to try and post more often, so I decided to revisit an old spot about happiness that first ran on this blog nearly four years ago to the day.

Happy Happy, Joy Joy

I've often heard people say ... "It was the happiest day of my life."

I've got a confession. I can't designate any particular day or event as the "happiest of my life."

I can rather easily tell you when I was my angriest, saddest, proudest, or most scared. Matter of fact, for just about any emotion you come up with I can tell you the date, time, and place of my most extreme emotional output -- except for happiness. And I'm not sure why.

It's not that I'm not capable of happiness. Actually I am happy 99% of the time. I tend to be a glass-half-full kind of guy who doesn't let the small gunk of life cloud my view.

If anything I'm guilty of being too certain something good is just a stone's throw away. I'm quite the Polly Anna in that fashion.

I know a lot of parents will say that the births of their kids count as their ultimate moments of happiness, and I do cherish both of my boys, but confession time again. Their actual births were nerve racking affairs of futility for me. I hate to worry, but that is all I did those days.

Both boys were C-sections. The second planned, the first not. Being a life long hunter who processes his own meat, the blood and what not didn't bother me, but watching a doctor dig in my wife's innards isn't exactly a zen moment. And then trying to check on her, tend to a squalling bundle of placenta covered joy, listening to her doctor's instruction, the boys pediatrician, the nurses, ... all while family and friends chimed in ...

Well it was stressful as hell for me. I count the days and weeks later when it was just my family at home, when the boys cooed softly or opened the eyes to stare up at them as I fed them, or the first time a soft baby fist reached up to brush my stubbled cheek. Those are all much happier times than the big event everyone else seems to describe as wondrous and miraculous and the happiest day of their lives.

Yeah, I know as a dutiful husband I could say my happiest time was my wedding day. But I'd be lying. I love my wife and will forever consider myself lucky to have found a gorgeous and intelligent woman blind enough to overlook my many faults, but again the stress and pressure of that day keeps it from being my definitive moment of joy. The demands of trying to talk to every family member and friend I have, while decked out in fancy but uncomfortable duds, smiling for a thousand pictures many from an extremely irritable photographer, while waiting for everyone to go home so ... well I won't go into that.

Anyway I have so many fond memories with Jennifer that I couldn't possible designate one as my most happy time.

There was my big plan to propose at the top of a mountain, but halfway up she was out of breath and gasping from lack of oxygen, as was I, so my vision of the sun reflecting off her diamond ring atop a majestic mountain peak, actually became a yes under the shadowy pine covered side of a mountain slope.
There are the thousands of whispered conversation we've had and still continue to have each night as we lay in bed and talk about our day.There are the trips we've taken together, to New Orleans, Vegas, the mountains, to beaches. The many songs that remind me of her for a jillion different reasons. The memory that I ate spaghetti for supper every other day for the first month we were married. Not one of those memories overrides all the others.

Maybe my most happy moment is yet to come. Maybe I'm holding out for it. Maybe I'll never be able to define it. But I'm not complaining. If this is as good as it gets then I'm still pretty damn lucky, whether I have that one spotlight moment of happiness domination or not.

So how about all of you? Can you define your happiest day?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wonder How You Say We in Canada **

Yep, I'm still alive. Despite the longest hiatus I've ever taken in more than five years of writing this blog.

My absence wasn't necessarily planned and I've thought of posting often, but one thing or another has kept me away. That and the fact I STILL cannot talk about what I really want to talk about so to keep from saying too much I've said nothing.

If I've learned anything from the nearly 13 years of writing it is that waiting is the norm. And of all the skills one must possess to make it in this business I believe patience is the most vital.

We must have patience for the stories and characters we write. That small seed of an idea must germinate and grow or the story and its inhabitants will be as stale and tasteless as a bowl of lettuce.

We must be patient through the process of writing and editing. We must learned to step away from the computer on those days when every plot point, every character and every sentence seems like a waste of time. the delete button is deadly to a disgruntled writer, but trust me, premature ejectulation will only increase your disappointment.

When we are finished we must be patient with the editing process and remember it is not a race to send your manuscript out in the world. We must take TIME honing the perfect query.

And perhaps hardest of all, we must be patience once the manuscript is submitted to agents or editors.

Then if we are fortuitous enough to see out work published we must be patient for readers to find and discover our babies. We must be patient in reminding ourselves a writing career is a process not an event.

And as that process grows we must remind ourselves about non-disclosure contracts and the importance of continuing to write ... to dream ... to believe.

We must be patience and remember some things, perhaps even most things are beyond out control. We must remember why we started writing in the first place.

** PS. I'd like to explain how the title of this post relates, but yep, you guessed it -- I'm not allowed.