Wednesday, February 21, 2007


My grandfather was a Titan. he was a creature out of myth and legend, and every time one of us grandkinds were in his presences, it was like being in the presence of a deity. I honestly believed, when I was four years old, that he was the one whose fleet of planes I rode on to come to California every summer to visit him, and it was he who kept the skies clear so that my parents adn I would have a safe passage. I also believed, because he told me it was true, that chocalate milk came from brown cows, but this post is not abou disillusionment.

He's gone now. He died Saturday, February 17th at 3:50 p.m. I would say that it was after a long struggle with cancer, but the struggle wasn't all that long, actually. He was diagnosed in September, went through a few months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, found out that the cancer was going to be untreatable, and then he suffered a fairly rapid decline. The last week he was mostly unconscious, the morphine keeping him out of pain as one by one his bodily sytems failed. He didn't want to linger. He didn't want to be paralyzed once the spinal cancer broke his back. He didn't want to be a burden.

He was born into poverty in Westwood, Oklahoma, moved with the westward migration to California logging country, started his family there before beginning his own business in the bay area. He built roads. That's what he did with his life. He left a tangible path behind him, as well as three children, ten grandchildren, and seventeen (and counting) great-grandchildren. He worked too damn hard his entire life, but in the end he was a success, mostly through sheer force of will. He began in poverty but he ended his life in affluence, solely through his own efforts. He loved music. He played the guitar. He knew every song Merle Haggard ever wrote, and would perform them in his living room with his best friend, John.

He wasn't perfect. He made mistakes. Some of them huge. But he owned up to them and made them right. He found faith in the latter half of his life, but once he found it he took it seriously. His role in his church was as the head usher, which he expanded to become something like the official host and greeter to anyone who attented First Baptist church in Cottonwood.

I owe him for many things, not the least of which is, of course, my life. He paid for my first year of college. It was his love of Northern California which caused him to retire here, and then, introduced it to me, and I fell in love with it too. He provided a place for me to run to when I needed a change in my life, offering me a home and a connection to family. He helped me buy my first house.

He had a way of seeing through the world's bullshit, mostly because he was a great BS'er himself, as he was proud to tell anyone who'd listen. And then he'd prove it. He was gragrious, and loved people, and if there was anyone my grandfather had no use for, you could be assured that there wasn't much use for that person at all. You could argue with him and tease him, and give his own nature back to him and he'd love you for it, and sometimes he'd even admit when he was wrong and you had a point. In his later years, he even came to be able tyo admit when he didn't know something. The times when we were really annoyed with him, though, was whn we knew he was right and we didn't want to admit it. This happened a lot.

He loved kids. You never had to beg him to babysit, he just loved having them around. He got energy from them, enjoyed their spirit and their adoration. And they did adore him. The picture I have posted is from last halloween. Already sick, he could not resist dressing up in his Superman costume (complete with Willie Nelson hair), simply to delight my son, who had dressed as Superman himself.

When it came time for the end, the Hospice nurse told my family that he was not the kind of man who could leave with us all watching him, so we all went into the otehr part of the house after saying our goodbyes. Then, within ten minutes, my grandmother holding his hand, he left us. My grandmother told us that he squeezed her hand thre times and smiled. He'd told my mother that he was ready to go, partly because he wanted to see my brother, Jeremy again. I got the chance to tell him that I loved him and that he'd always been my hero. He told me that he was glad we'd always been "buddies" and that I was to take care of Sarah and Drew for him.

And now he is gone, and the world doesn't feel like the same place. It's as if Atlas himself is no longer holding up the world. The way he lived, though, he taught all of us to hold up the world for ourselves.

So that's what we're going to do.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Goodbye, Molly Ivins

This is not written by me, but I thought it was worth posting. While I wait for one of my heroes to pass, it's worth noting the passing of another. At one point in my life, I wanted to be this woman when I grew up.

Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as “Shrub,” died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Molly's wisdom:

• The first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.

• What you need is sustained outrage…there’s far too much unthinking respect given to authority.

• Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.

• The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.

• Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.

• There are two kinds of humor.One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity — like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule — that’s what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel — it’s vulgar.

• I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth.

• You can’t ignore politics, no matter how much you’d like to.

• It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.

• What stuns me most about contemporary politics is not even that the system has been so badly corrupted by money. It is that so few people get the connection between their lives and what the bozos do in Washington and our state capitols.
Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don’t much care for.

• I believe in practicing prudence at least once every two or three years.

• I still believe in Hope - mostly because there’s no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas.

• One function of the income gap is that the people at the top of the heap have a hard time even seeing those at the bottom. They practically need a telescope. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt probably didn’t waste a lot of time thinking about the people who built their pyramids, either. OK, so it’s not that bad yet — but it’s getting that bad.

• It’s like, duh. Just when you thought there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you’re wrong.

• In the real world, there are only two ways to deal with corporate misbehavior: One is through government regulation and the other is by taking them to court. What has happened over 20 years of free-market proselytizing is that we have dangerously weakened both forms of restraint, first through the craze for “deregulation” and second through endless rounds of “tort reform,” all of which have the effect of cutting off citizens’ access to the courts. By legally bribing politicians with campaign contributions, the corporations have bought themselves immunity from lawsuits on many levels.

• Any nation that can survive what we have lately in the way of government, is on the high road to permanent glory.

• I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Confluence of Events

The book is done. 217,000 words. 534 actual book pages. A year and a half of my life. And it is done.

Well, the rough draft, anyway.

And at the same time, my grandfather is, to put it bluntly, dying. He's at the end of his fight with lung, liver, and spinal cancer. He can no longer use his feet, there's a rattle in his breath, and his liver has shut down, sending toxins to his brain so that most of the time he doesn't know what's going on.

In October, when the diagnosis came down, he was a relatively robust 74, and still even had his full head of dark hair. Now he is this. It happened so fast.

He's at home. Hospice is helping my Mom take care of him. We're told he has between 2 days and 2 weeks left.

It's strange how things come together sometimes.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The AIAC Awards: TV 2006

ok, finally done. And with the only real category I am probably qualified to talk about, because I watch so damn much of it, TV! Sorry. Anyway, I had some ambitious plans for this entry, but have novel fatigue has forced me to decide just to name my top 5 shoes and call it a day. Or an entry, whatever.

Anyway, here are my top 5 shows of the years. And Jennie, I am sorry, but Jericho did not make the cut. I hope you can live with the disapointment :P

5. Ugly Betty

Yes, Ugly Betty. Seriously. And I know that I mentioned earlier it needed a new time slot in order for me to watch it, but that was before discovering the full episodes on Awesome! It started out as a whim, something fun to watch while I was folding laundry in the bedroom. (Yes, I fold laundry, because I am the perfect man. I cook too. sort of) and it soon became an addiction. I even forced My Name is Earl off the TiVo and consigned myself to watching the Office online to make room, so my wife and I can watch it together. I realize that loving this show means I will have to give up my Y chromosome, or at the very least promise the Guy union that I will watch an equal number of hours of the Ultimate Fighter (which is its own type of soap opera) but it's worth it. So, why do I love it so much? It is SO over the top and unrealistic, but it's characters are so funny and lovable and bitchy, and it has a heroine that you cannot help but root for. Seriously, if you're watching this show and you're not rooting for Betty, there's something wrong with you. This is the show that proves ugly is beautiful, and there's nothing wrong with that.

4. 30 Rock
I really don't have much to say about this show except that is it sick and twisted and wrong and demented as all true works of genius are. Plus, Tina Fey is every geek's ultimate dream girl, or should be.

3. Heroes.

Yes, I'm writing about Heroes, again, some more. As before, it continues to intrigue me, it shows true promise that its writers really have thought about things ahead of time, and Hiro is the ultimate geek-tastic Avenger, Peter Petrelli the quintesential self-destructive kid on the Heroes journey, and I have a thing for strippers with multiple personality disorder, espeially the kind that can rip me limb from limb. What? I'm a guy.

2. Veronica Mars.

Sun-drenched noir, starring the world's smartest college student and her awesome dad. The series moved to college this year, and the season-long mystery format became a series of linked arcs, but it remains the most brilliantly written (its a tie! see below) show on television, so of course, it's struggling in the ratings and may not see a fourth season. Which would be a shame, because there's a lot of life in these characters and this setting. Seriously, people, watch this show!

1. Battlestar Galactica

What if the world ended, but you didn't. What if you survived armageddon, summoned fourth the will to start again on a new world, only to have the destroyers come again and this time instead of breaking down your body, they broke down your soul instead. That's what happened this year on this, one of the most frak-tastic shows of all time. The new Caprica arc jumped things forward, advancing the conflict between the survivors and the cylons, drawing uncomfortable parallels between both the holocaust and the Iraq War. This is a show that does not run away from how messy life is. There's an old adage for writers: create characters people like and/or identify with, put them up a tree, and then throw rocks at them. Well, executive producer Ron Moore had some incredibly big rocks this year, but still, they keep moving, they keep running, and somehow manage to see one more day. Without losing hope, which is the most miraculous thing of all. This is another show too brilliant for its time, and rumors circulate about its cancellation, so I live in hope of two more years to complete the story. So Say We All!