Tag Archives: memories

My feet smell

For those of you that know me, you probably know I take terrible care of my feet. I hate wearing shoes, or socks, and one glance at the shoes I wear on a daily basis would make both the health conscious and the fashion conscious cringe. I bought a pair of $20 boots for my work in the bakery last year, and 5-6 months later when I quit I had blown out the side of the right shoe to the point where a small chipmunk could have burrowed in there and been safe from winter’s fury, warm and nestled up against my intrinsic muscles.

But I still wore them.

Yep, I wear shoes til they just can’t shoe no more. I finally dumped those boots when my wife saw the hole and, to be completely fair, they had begun to smell a bit like an old, wet, and possibly decaying dog. Between all the mop water and melted snow and rain I’d slogged through filling the delivery van, and all the sweat and toil and flour dust and the occasional dollop of poppyseed filling or garlic butter, they had absorbed such a cocktail of horror that I felt no pain in chucking them in the bin. But in that case, I could write off the smell as a result of the situations, the conditions, so I didn’t think it was something I was actually doing.

Until yesterday.

You see, the rest of my shoes aren’t doing so well, either. The newest pair I currently have are a pair of $9 Walmart specials I bought in desperation to help my sister move a few years back. After that, I bought a pair in desperation one day back in 2006 or 2007 when I had a singing gig and no black dress shoes to wear because I’d forgotten my old ones 300 miles away. Perhaps you’re seeing a theme in my shoe buying, mainly being that of desperation. I don’t like buying new shoes because A) It’s money I’d rather save to support a family or for that rainy day when a hospital bill or emergency causes both myself and my college-educated wife to scrape the barrel to avoid vagrancy, and B) because I grew up in a family where it was a point of pride to have a t shirt that lasted through three sons, or to superglue the sole of your Avias back on because it flapped and lolled like a dog’s tongue when you ran. When you don’t have much, you make it work for you rather than against.

All but one of my shoes (the aforementioned $9 pair) have been worn to the point of leaking when wet. And, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s been a rather wet winter. Whether it’s tromping around a playground on monitor duty as a substitute teacher or slogging down a sidewalk to another part time job, my feet are now like a pair of liquid-cooled engines, propelling me forward with each resolute step in each 15 hour day I choose to undertake. In another effort to wring as much money as possible from the clothes I wear, I’ve started doubling up days on my socks if they haven’t gotten too heinous the day before. Less laundry is less money, after all. However, I’ve noticed that as I wear my socks more often, and as my shoes get considerably holier, that an odd set of circumstances has arisen in that my feet smell. Well, obviously they will in this situation, but it’s most particular in how they smell.

They smell like my Dad’s used to smell.

Yes, I have many horribly fond memories of my Dad’s feet in those dark socks and that foreboding odor. They say smell is the sense closest tied to memory, and I believe it. It was a running joke in my family’s house that remains to this day, where we shake our heads in shocked amazement as my mother’s cat will playfully romp around my Dad’s shoes, no doubt half-intoxicated and half-asphyxiated by the smell. But as I peeled off my busted shoes last night and caught a whiff of the past, it made me think: did my Dad work through so many thankless hours in shoes that leaked, like mine do? Did he double up days on his socks, like I did? And if so… why? I like to think that he did it for much the same reasons I do it now: saving money, providing for the family, and personal pride. After all, what kind of man is going to complain that his widdle tootsies are getting cold and wet? Pas une!  So now a decades-old joke in my family has a new undertone, that of a man who possibly endured a rather uncomfortable situation as he slogged through muddy fields in spring, half-thawed cowyards in winter, and the soft, hot dirt of summer, not to mention the already decaying loam of fall, in shoes that probably felt horrible… but it meant we had enough to eat, and good winter coats, and at least for myself, we never felt as poor as we were growing up.

At least, that’s the story I’d like to believe about my Dad.

Oh, death in life, the days that are no more

I used to rent this video from the library all the time. Now, through the magic of YouTube, we can all laugh at Eric and how hopeless of a nerd he was.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Coincidentally, I also used to like watching that trippy Raggedy Ann & Andy Movie, and I probably wore out the Neillsville Library’s copy of the Rankin-Bass Hobbit on VHS. How about you folks? Anything embarrassing to post?

Why I’m Here

I wasn’t quite sure how to start off the new website here, finally moving off of Livejournal like a neckbearded trentagenerian from a suspect-smelling basement into a real, honest to goodness, paid with my own money website. Would I start with a happy “hello?” Would I give a welcome? Would I hype this site to the moon and ultimately fail to deliver? Would I just pick up where I left off, with bread and chocolate and Vulcans and Klingons and other things that make my mommy say I’m a great writer but leave literary agents curiously unimpressed? I had thought of exploring all of those options for my relaunch, seven years to the day after I first started whinging myself all over the Internet… but then something happened.
Brian Jacques died.


For those of you who didn’t know, Brian Jacques was the author of a series called Redwall, where simple creatures like mice and moles and hares engage in fantastical battles and voyages the likes of which you’d probably expect to see from the works of Tolkien or Weis and Hickman. Although, as far as I know, Tolkien never got the idea to turn Aragorn into a meager mouse and still have him swing a sword around as a perfect warrior. There was something about that idea that drew me to the cover of Martin’s eponymous volume one day in a Library (I refuse to call it an IMC) at Neillsville Middle School in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Up until now, I did not read. At all. I had been forced to by teachers, begged to by my parents, but I was finding it blisteringly difficult to find a book that would keep my attention. I saw that book, however, and my adolescent brain immediately jumped into Zombie-Pirate-Robot-Ninja territory: it’s a mouse, with a big sword, in an epic fantasy setting. Surely, that can’t be bad! Later that week, the book fair had come to my school, as it did every year, and perched on one of the shelves was that same book I’d seen before, along with another one featuring a majestic looking Badger in medieval armor, hefting a spear and cradling a helmet under one arm.

Something told me I needed to have these books.

As a rule, my parents had tried to avoid book fair books, having more than one literally fall apart and not be worth the money. Still, when they saw I was actually interested in a book, especially one topping out at 300+ pages, they bought them both for me. The rest, well… that’s why I’m writing this right now. I began to devour every Redwall book I could find, my personal crowning achievement being reading the entirety of The Bellmaker in two days, just under the deadline of school letting out. I had to. I couldn’t let school end and not know what became of Mariel and Dandin. They were my friends, my comrades in arms, all created by this delightful, grandfatherly-looking Englishman with a weirdly French-looking (but not pronounced) name. Brian Jacques became my Tolkien, he was my gateway into the world of fantasy and wonder and whimsy and, most of all, reading. It’s because of him I’m writing this right now, or writing at all, and why my fingers ache from having to split keyboard time between my creations and my awful job. Without Brian Jacques, I wouldn’t have my number one hobby, my number one dream, and I wouldn’t have an entire world to escape into when things go bad and the world looks its blackest.
The number one criticism I’ve seen levelled against Mr. Jacques (aside from the ridiculous assumption that he writes “children’s books.” To quote another dearly departed, “Any book is a children’s book if the child can read!”) is that his stories, evocative and engrossing as they are, are formulaic. To that I say, so what? I want my heroes to be heroic sometimes, and I want my villains to be villainous. I want the prophecies to be fulfilled, the clever riddles to be sorted, the idyllic life to be shattered by nefarious evil-doers, only to rise up and triumph in the end. There’s nothing wrong with these stories, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with hearing a similar story, as long as it is one that inspires the correct emotion. The world is saved, what is bad has been vanquished, and all is well. Good God, wouldn’t it be nice to say that happens somewhere outside of a storybook? Yes, Alan Moore is a genius who turns us in on ourselves to gaze and go mad. Yes, Dalton Trumbo exposed the evils of a unnecessary war. Yes, books can deliver that punch that makes you question everything that this world tenuously holds up and holds onto… but there will always be Redwall, and at Redwall, all goodbeasts are welcome.
I owe everything I am today to that peculiar book in that library, the goofy concept that made me realize that mice can be heroes, badgers can be Lords, and there is still a place in this increasingly necrotizing society for the good and the strong and the brave and the simple. I owe everything to Brian Jacques for making me want to be a writer, and giving me that route to escape. I cannot tell you how much it pains me to have never met the gentlemen, but as I write this here I will tell you that I will want to do his memory justice so, years from now, decades maybe, I can say that I am here because of Brian Jacques, and maybe another frustrated kid will read the books and be inspired. I will not stop writing, I will not stop creating, because I feel I owe it to him, after all he’s done to me.
Thank you, Mr. Jacques. Somehow, I know you can read this. And say hello to Rose and Methuselah and Mother Mellus for me.

“Goodbye, my friend, and thank you, thank you, thank you,
It makes me sad to leave you upon this summer day.
Don’t shed a tear or cry now.  Goodbye now, goodbye now.
I’m sure I’ll see you somehow, if I pass by this way,
For the seasons don’t foretell
Who must stay or say farewell,
And I must find out what lies beyond this place.
But I know deep in my heart
We are never far apart
While I have mem’ry of your smiling face.
Goodbye, my friend, and thank you, thank you, thank you,
Your kindness guides me ever as I go on my way.”

As Shatner would have said it…

Captain’s Log, stardate 070609.

I have been on this voyage for more than five years, now. The countless hours I have spent writing are among some of the best, whether for the sake of venting, distraction, or something in-between. Here in the vast, dislocated place that is Livejournal, I’ve managed to find a niche for myself writing some of the craziest and most interesting stories known to man. Within the confines of this site, you will find my baby, my love: my opus.

I do not know how long this authorial journey will last, but I hope that it will remain a constant source of amusement and inspiration for my compatriots. Perhaps, one day, it will lead to publishing.

Until then, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

Third Grade

Teachers remembered: Skiff.
I remember forgetting how to spell “said.” I an act of childish idiocy, I shouted out “how do you spell said?” and the teacher yelled at me.
I remember getting a buzzcut, mainly for simplicity of combing and whatnot. I looked pretty dumb.
I remember first eating paper.
I remember playing a geopgraphy quiz wheel game thingie, and mentioning to my teacher how the company printed it wrong. Gobi isn’t the world’s biggest deset.
I remember being sat at the kitchen table by Mom and Dad. They said “we’re going to the store,” the store being on the other side of town and we being about 5 miles out of town, “you will have your multiplication tables done when we get back.” I counted them out on my fingers, but I got them, one through twelve. School only asked through ten.
I remember writing a story involving Warton, Morton, and Bo Jackson.
I remember forming a tumultuous friendship with Ben Brey. It’s not my fault, Josh was in another class.
I remember Sarah Hamman spilling tea on her lap over one weekend and having serious burns.
I remember having a sink in the back of class, but never using it.
Second referral. I swear I really didn’t moon those people.
Almost a third referral for mocking a janitor.
I remember Tom, this gargantuan Cro-Magnon of a third grader who enjoyed bullying me. Also, he wore the school swimsuits, which were…teeny. Barf.
I remember feeling kinda dorky, because all the cool kids had their trunks in bread bags, I just used a regular ziploc. Then again, I don’t like breadcrumbs on my shorts.
I can’t for the life of me remember his name, but I swear this was the first year there was the option of a male teacher…didn’t get it. Was sad.
I remember playing NES at Brey’s. Also remember getting a Blaster action figure and a football helmet. They did this weird thing at his house where you mixed cereals if you emptied one box and started another. And they used skim milk. ew. They had a small trampoline in their breezeway, and we watched X-Men.
Arrowheads membership dwindled.
I got into Punch-out and Tecmo Bowl. Spent time at my sister’s babysitter’s because they had Punch-out. Played Tecmo Bowl at Brey’s. They also had a Game Genie.
Was this the year I formed Aqua Iguana?
I remember only having five hours for Nintendo a week. Tecmo Basketball, Zelda, Rollergames, all of it.
I remember seeing a girl and thinking someone had shot a staple gun at her face. It was all pinched.
I remember my first tornado drill, head between the knees, et cetera. Had a comb with me. Don’t know why.
I remember weighing 81 pounds.
I remember adding embellishments like some American Idol wannabe to the concerts. At least I got that out of my system early.
I remember Seth Langreck not really singing, but screaming every song from the back row.
I remember poppers being popular. Those folded paper thingies where you pick a number and flip through the possible outcomes. Never learned how to fold one, though. Got mine on the lend. Then they got banned.

Second Grade

New Teachers remembered: Lindner, Weirauch, Hartung, Gripentrog.
I remember the dinosaur action figures and the chemistry books I read in my spare time.
I remember getting my paper in first so it’d be the first handed out.
I remember finally getting my coloring on the back wall when I did it “like a girl.”
I remember getting 100% on a spelling test and getting a little neat skeleton toy for it. It was near Halloween.
I remember learning cursive at the end of the year.
I remember we almost had a tornado. I freaked.
I remember one of the kids went home with pinkeye. I touched his desk. I thought I was being brave.
I remember traveling trophy in Math, and hating to lose.
I remember the cocky Lucas, and my first referral fighting with Nathan Shaw, who was also being annoying via a game of playground football.
I remember the Arrowheads, a football team I attempted to create with all of my friends, complete with formations and plays.
I remember teaching Sarah Hamman how to play football. She’s married now.
I remember the dog magnet with my name on it we used for seating on the blackboard. Still have it.
I remember writing a poem about Wisconsin.
I remember copying a recipe out of our Math book that my family still uses.
I remember being told to use the stress card when I would get all flustered. I’d hold my thumb to the pad, and if it wasn’t blue or green, I couldn’t sit down. I used to get so frustrated I would cry. I still do.
I remember being particularly crabby one day and not participating in activites on the four cardinal directions.
I remember writing a sign and putting it on my desk: NO ONE BUG ME. I HAVE WRITER’S BLOCK.
I remember adopted a gray wolf, Nehani.
I remember making hats for endangered species. I made a snapping turtle. It was tricky to get the beak right, but it looked awesome.
I remember the song we sang for the manatee to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

I am a Manatee
They call me a sea cow
Once there were a lot like me
There aren’t too many now

I eat plants all day
I’m friendly as can be
I don’t do harm to anyone
So won’t you please save me?

I remember Reading Rainbow.
I remember being pulled out of Reading Rainbow one day to go to Gifted and Talented.
I remember watching a movie about Tornadoes. I still hate them.
I remember watching a movie about house fires. I still don’t like leaving lights on at night.
I remember my best friend’s phone number. Josh Spiegel. Ask me and I can tell you.
I remember going over to his house for my first sleepover. Watching the Beverly Hillbillies movie, Listening to the “Second Week of Deer Camp,” Playing rented NES games (he had the Flintstones which was awesome) and, of course, joking about how busty the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were.
I think this was the year Jerome Osborne tried to say we didn’t like him because he was black. Really, he was just a jerk and no one liked him.
I remember getting a black eye from a football thrown by my father. My fault, I didn’t catch it.
I remember fearing a second black eye during a playground scrum where I got a foot in said eye.
I remember accidentally saying “Hell” and Ryan Oldham (the kid whose drawings I had made fun of) threatening to turn me in.
I remember trying to recreate highlight music videos for myself and my friends like I used to see on TV.
On that note, I remember being obsessed with those sports compilation videos my brother would get from Sports Illustrated.
This might have been the year we played field hockey in the lawn with tennis balls and baseball bats, and I got one to the sensitive area.
I remember playing lots and lots of yard football.
Was this when Duchess died, our old Australian Shepherd? I think so.
I remember playing lots of yard baseball. My brothers were so nice to play with me.
I remember Legos, and lots of action figures. I’d set up things like an old arcade beat ’em up, with one of my heroes going through my room fighting them all in turn. The stairs were a waterfall stage.
I remember being so sad to leave that I tried to prolong the inevitable.
I remember reading Matt Christopher.
I remember first creating the Super League, an entire league with teams, players, and backstories. I still remember the Atlanta Armadillos star running back, Mike Smith, along with their wide receiver, BJ Spenglemeyer.

First Grade

I remember my teacher. She was awfully crabby.
I remember having older kids (fourth or fifth grade) coming in to read with us.
I remember having a teddy bear’s picnic, all the kids bringing in our own bears.
I remember my neighbor being in the class, but moved halfway through the year. Used to play telephone over at his house with his sister and my brother and sister…the kid would always lose because he had a speech impediment.
I remember one of my friends had 100 pencils in his desk. He moved away too.
I remember feeling like a penguin walking in the lunch line for one of the first times, little by little.
I remember that the food was ghastly, but I was hungry.
I remember making a salad with some horrible ranch dressing, and being upset that I had to throw it out. It was nasty, really.
I remember trying to covertly sneak my “Cowboy Stew” into the garbage without anyone seeing. Cowboy Stew was basically the last week’s food all smashed together.
I remember trying to say I didn’t want any Cowboy Stew (my brothers had warned me) but before I could say anything the brownish lump, complete with a tater tot jutting out of it at an odd angle, blomped onto my tray. After that, I literally held my tray behind me when it came time.
I remember playing in the playground, having three recesses, and seeing how high I could get on those old rocker/rider thingies.
I think the door was orange.
I remember having a lady who turned out to be my seventh grade geography teacher come every once in a while and take me out of class to do gifted & talented stuff. I was working on a story called “the Underwater Adventure.” Still have it. Made it on one of those ancient .bmp programs like Kid Pix or KidWorks or something like that. Never did finish it, she stopped coming.
I remember the solar system, but not teaching it.
I remember the bomb threat, which I didn’t know was a bomb threat, we just wound up sitting in the gym singing the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo.”
I remember trying out for the wrestling team, and being soundly beaten by one of the premier wrestling family’s progeny. I also remember that they didn’t have a singlet big enough for me.
I only remember a little bit about this creepy ass program they showed to the little kids about Nuclear Holocaust. Just a girl singing “Mr. President, will there be no more trees?” Seriously.
I remember thinking I saw my pre-K teacher in the first grade hallway (she was a first grade teacher also) but I only saw the person from behind and I was embarassed. It wasn’t her.
I remember lining up alphabetically by name.
I remember being able to eat outside on the last day of school.
I remember being sad that I missed Sesame Street now.
I remember doing a cut and paste for Martin Luther King Jr. Day
I remember the flip top desks.
I remember having my Mom come in and read the class the legend of the Indian Paintbrush. Later in the year, it came up and someone said it was someone else’s Mom who had read it, not mine. I didn’t say anything, but I was hurt.
I remember not quite having any social groups yet.
I remember going to music class for the first time, and loving it except for the stupid “ta-ta-tas” counting along to the music.
I remember making fun of another kid for his bad drawings. Then the kid got all upset and ran at the teacher, so I had to defuse it by discrediting my own drawings. I mean yeah, his were just heads on boxes, but mine didn’t have any fingers. That kid became my rival for years.
I remember not being all that happy, but getting my work done and stuff. The teacher’s attitude really didn’t help, she didn’t seem to want to be there, looking back.
Teachers I remember so far: Froegel, Rickard, Hamm, Myers, Abel.
I remember often being late for CCD on Wednesdays because there was no bus and I sucked at making the 1/4 mile walk in time. My brother wouldn’t slow down for me, either. But it’s ok. I forgive him 🙂

Kindergarten

I remember getting on the bus for the first time, and not having anyone to sit with. The daughter of one of the teachers let me sit next to her.
I remember the big things of glue.
I remember bringing in some brownies or cake or something at the end of the year because my birthday’s in July.
I remember the attached bathrooms and the sign language “T” if you had to use it.
I remember my teacher. She was old.
I remember the TinkerToys, and the plastic bucket stilts that were always so popular.
I remember being taken out of class to go to the library to read. I was the only one who could.
I remember my sister ripping up one of my library books, and I was so embarassed.
I remember Mr. M with the munchin’ mouth, I remember all the vowels being ladies and it bugged me because that meant E was a lady. Also, she liked to exercise. Blah.
I remember the green screen Apple IIe and playing Math games on honest-to-goodness floppies.
I remember two of the smelly, kinda icky looking kids sharing their first little-kid kiss in the hallway between the two classes. It was big news that day. Right next to the computer. Between the computer and the coat racks.
I remember how the two rooms were connected, and they were really white.
I remember wishing I had the other teacher, everyone said she was cool.
I remember getting home at just the right time to see Sesame Street. My Mom would often make me fried egg sandwiches, just like Mr. Strong liked. With ketchup, of course. Or sometimes fried bologna and cheese with chicken soup.
I remember often running the whole way up the driveway, so full of energy.
I remember bringing my baby blanket for show-n-tell, and then almost losing it crossing the highway from the bus to home. I was so scared it would blow away forever.
I remember my morning bus driver. Cool guy. I remember the late morning bus driver. She was scary and mean.
I remember snap button jeans.
I remember going over to the other class for some presentation.
I think the book was Max the Bunny or something like that. Also, it got all scribbled over with crayon.

Welles – found it.

“There is no such thing as becoming another character by putting on a lot of makeup. You may need to put the makeup, but what you’re really doing is undressing yourself, and even tearing yourself apart, presenting to the public that part of you, which corresponds to what you are playing. And there is a villian in each of us, a murderer in each of us, a fascist in each of us, a saint in each of us, and the actor is the man or woman who can eliminate from himself those things which will interfere with that truth.”

If I may return to third grade for a bit…

My brothers are so cool.
Although they seem, on the outside, about as different as night and day, they’re both really cool people that I hope to be somewhat as cool as someday. I mean, come on, I can go online on one hand and see my younger older brother’s mug as the Anchorman of a TV station out west, or go to another site and see my older older brother as front man to a punk rock band. And they’re both just good, honest, hardworking people… I just hope I get to be like them one of these days, and that some day some little kid can look to me like I looked to them.
In other news, I wanna be a fireman when I grow up!
Not really. No, that dream went out the window when I saw a little movie called Backdraft ^_^
Just wanted to let you know I think both of my brothers are super neato keen. I just think sometimes people forget to say things like that about their families, because it’s sort of implied. But I think it’s nice to say it about them anyway. No matter how much of a GQ one might be or how much of a maverick the other may appear, they’re still two of the coolest guys I know and I love that they’re my brothers.
Sorry, but after seeing my older older brother up there on stage tonight, rocking out and looking so sure of himself and so talented and so HAPPY… I just realized that I’d like to be looked at like that some day too.
If only I had a little brother to idolize me. Oh well, I guess that’s what kids are for.
Except, of course, for the process of making them, hee hee ^_~
Until tomorrow, I tenderly remain,
Eric.