Sunday, January 30, 2011


I should really write more often, but I've already run out of hilarious, poop-related childhood stories to tell. I'll have to think of some more. Or maybe just make them up.

I suppose I could talk about my father. Strap in, kids. This one's gonna get bumpy.

My dad just turned 57, which makes me HORRIBLY OLD. He and I didn't have the best of relationships when I was younger. He went to college and got a degree in sociology that he never used. Basically straight out of college he started working in factory settings. His longest stint was at American Greetings, where he worked the lines that made candles, stickers, plates and napkins. He would often bring home the "defective" items that looked just fine to us.

After AG moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, he had to find a new job. He started working at a factory that made Mrs. Smith's baked goods, but that ended shortly after as well. He now works at a factory that hosts men coming out of rehabilitation or jail (though he has never [to my knowledge] been in either.) They make important pieces for the army: tents, outfits, parachutes, etc. Anything that has to be sewn. It's backbreaking labor, hours that are far too long, and according to him, far too much work for the limited staff they have and the short deadlines they are given. But it's work.

In my youth, he consistently pushed me into things that I wasn't necessarily interested in. Baseball was the one thing I was ok with. In viewing his relationship with his own father later in my own life, it is easy to see why our relationship was so strained. There wasn't a lot of love shown on the paternal side of my family. I suppose they thought that it was a sign of weakness, as my father would often call me weak, pansy, pussy, etc. when I wasn't able to do something that he felt I should have been.

Case in point, one day he and his friend Roger had gone to get a case or two of beer. I suppose they had picked up other things, as I was asked to carry the beer into the house. Perhaps he was just being lazy. In any case, I was nine and having noticeable trouble carrying an entire case of Coors Light by myself. So about halfway up the steps, Timmy, Roger's middle child who was slightly younger than me, offered to take the beer from me. I smiled and handed it to him, only to have my father yell at me, telling me what I wuss I was for not being able to carry something so light. I broke down, ran through the house into my room, slammed the door shut and locked it, and cried my little eyes out.

My mother eventually made him apologize, but dad wasn't one to mean much of anything he said. Except the biting, snide "jokes" and names he would call us. He constantly picked on my mother, sister and me for our collective obesity. If you ever wonder why I have body image issues, it's because of him. Every day of my high school career he would tell me I needed to lose weight.

"When I was a senior in high school, I weighed 165 pounds. How much do you weigh? 200?! That's too much! You need to stop eating those Big Macs!" he would quip as he popped open another beer.

I asked my mother several times why she stayed with him after all the horrible things he would say, and she would always make excuses for him. He was just joking, she explained. Just picking at you because he knew it got to you.

My father was a bully.

It's amazing the memories that will randomly hit you while doing things you once did. A few months ago while watching an old episode America's Funniest Home Videos, I remembered that my dad would call him Bob Faggot instead of Bob Sagat. I never knew what it meant, and completely forgot that he used to do it until now. I also remember him making jokes about being a fudge packer, and other homophobic slurs and remarks. My dad is also a bigot and racist. Even today he makes comments using the N word, and talks about "spics" or "the towel head who owns the gas station." I don't say all these things to make you hate him; that isn't my intention in the slightest. I just want to paint a picture of the man that I have grown up with as my sole male role model.

Many years later when I came out of the closet, it had a seriously detrimental impact on him. My sister called me the night he found out and told me I needed to come home because he was in bad shape. I came into the house to find him staggering through the kitchen and dining room. The stale stench of beer hit my nose before he got to me. It was probably the most drunk I had ever seen him, which was saying something, as dad was probably a functional alcoholic at that point. He slapped his hand on my shoulder, and through tear stained, bloodshot eyes, looked at me and apologized.

"Curtis, I'm sorry for making you gay."

That's the only time my sister or I have seen him cry. Even during both of the funerals of his parents, his eyes only moistened. There was no sobbing, no strangled moans; only a resigned sadness. But this was horrible.

It's extremely painful to grow up in the south being different, especially if that difference is your sexual orientation. But it's nearly deadly when your parents blame themselves for something you can't convince them is not something you or they decided or did. It might have killed me if I had been closer to my dad, so maybe it's best that we were a little more separated than a usual father/son pairing.

The day I moved into my college residence hall for the first time, my mom stood bawling at the car. She hugged me and told me she loved me and would always love me and to be a good boy and not to party and so on. My dad walked up to me and put his hand out to shake it. My mom snapped at him and told him to hug me. I don't know if it was because he felt awkward because I was gay or because he felt awkward showing emotion, but it was exactly that: awkward.

Ever since then, things have gotten better. I think the distance that I put between myself and my family helped to mend some of the bridges and helped him to realize that he cared for me and missed me when I was away. Our phone conversations still focus mainly on sports teams, but at least there are conversations. There's no more talk of losing weight; no more blame for (or even discussion of) my sexuality. Just the trappings of a father and son.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Breakfast of Champions

Well, I'm awake. And not horribly tired (damn you, three day weekend.) So I suppose I will write another story from my would-be novel.

The Breakfast of Champions

I have always loved baseball. It was the only sport that I ever had any true talent in, and the only one that I was willing to actually attempt to play. I was too much of a priss to sign up for the football team, even though during my freshman year of high school, the coach actually called my house and asked for me to try out. He only did this because I was about as wide as I was tall, but I digress. Basketball was also out of the picture for me. I wasn't horribly coordinated, so dribbling while running never worked out too well. I also had very little upper body strength: my "shots" were instead two-handed passes at the rim. And then there was the unfortunate accident later in life when my ankle touched the gym floor as I was coming down from a rebound. The echoing sound of my tendon snapping over the bone alone made me never want to touch another basketball. But that story is for another time.

Thankfully, my dad saw some sort of promise in my baseball talents and got me started at a young age. I skipped tee ball. Even then I didn't understand the point in playing a game where everyone got to bat every inning; everyone got to run around the bases; everyone got a trophy.

Horse shit.

Games like that develop a sense of entitlement in children that fosters ill manners and bad behavior later in life. If you suck at something, you shouldn't play it. Don't encourage it just because you think your child should have some sort of pass-time. Teach them to knit or something. Tether them to a pole out back. Encourage them to play in traffic, as my father did. But don't reward their inabilities with spray painted figurines on top of rainbow-encrusted plastic.

When I first started Minor League, a step above tee ball, coaches would feed the balls into a pitching machine, as no child on the team had enough power or accuracy to pitch properly. When coaches and parents argued that the machine was unfair (for some reason unbeknownst to me,) they switched to the coaches pitching to their own teams. If the ball was hit back to the coach, he should try his best to get out of the way, as if it touched him, it was automatically a single.

I've always been a good hitter. I bat left handed even though I throw right handed, which is a good combo to have. I also have always swung late, which means I consistently hit into left field (and for those of you who aren't familiar with baseball, coaches tend to shift the outfield toward right field when lefties come up to bat.) All this was beneficial to my baseball prowess. Oscar, however, was not.

Oscar was my coach for my first year of little league. He was probably 6'2 and weighed 140 soaking wet. If you pictured a 90s dad, complete with pedophile glasses and balding bowl cut, you'd just about have him pegged. He was one of the nicest men I'd ever met, and was a decent coach. He was also best friends with my uncle and dad, so we had known him well.

And then I broke his kneecap.

It was an accident, really. I was batting, he was pitching, per the rules. If my hits don't go into left field, they're usually line drives right back at the pitcher. And since a 40-year-old man doesn't have the sharpest reflexes, the sickening pop of the ball as it shattered his patella was enough for the coaches to decide that they would no longer be pitching the balls.

It was like I broke baseball.

They went back to the pitching machine, with the coach standing behind a net. If the ball went into the net, it was an automatic single. A much safer way of going about things, but a lot of good hits were probably stolen by that net.

With Oscar being out of commission due to his knee, one of the other dads took over coaching the team. He also happened to serve as my boy scout troop leader, so I got a double dose of Mr. Bidwell. He, also, was a nice enough man. His two sons also played on our baseball team. Once, I accidentally knocked his youngest son out by hitting him in the head with my bat.

I'd forgotten what a clumsy, hazardous child I was.

In any case, one night after a rousing game, the plan was to head to a boy scout retreat off in the Daniel Boone national forest. The others had already arrived, and the few of us on the team who were also boy scouts were the last to get there, with Father Bidwell bringing up the rear. Mumbles and grumbles spread throughout the camp as the fathers grew restless. I asked my dad what had happened and he explained that Bidwell had locked his keys in his car without getting any of his own supplies, including a tent, sleeping bags or air mattress. We offered our own tent, and he and his youngest son slept on the ground beside my father and me on our air mattress.

The night was horrible. Not only did I have to sleep listening to the whimpers of the boy I beat in the head with a baseball bat, but I had to ride out a night of severe storms in my baseball uniform. Obviously not a lot of foresight there. We found out later that there was a tornado warning for the area, with an actual touch down a few miles away. We awoke the next morning a little worse for wear, some of the campers drenched from faulty lining in their tents. But we still managed to put on smiles and build the camp fire. One of the older boys was asked to teach us how to make a "rugged scout's breakfast." This entailed us finding a suitable stick in the woods, wrapping a biscuit from a can around it, and allowing it to bake over the fire.

I. Love. Biscuits.

I always have, and probably always will (even if the anticipation of the popping sound when opening a can nearly kills me each time.) I probably ate four of them. So good. But you have to keep in mind, a camp fire is not the most effective means of cooking anything, let alone allowing raw dough to bake. So 20 minutes later when four biscuits-worth of mostly raw Grand's hit my intestines, it was show time.

I stood up calmly and began a very slow march to the bathroom which was situated probably 70 yards away from our campsite. If you're unfamiliar with the need to shit immensely, consider yourself lucky. With my cheeks clenched as tightly as I could muster, I began praying that I could make it before detonation occurred. I stared at the ground, wishing the earth would move faster under my feet. About 30 yards into my journey, I heard a high pitched, mincing voice that belonged to a fellow boy scout of mine named Chris. He was unnecessarily flamboyant, even for a child, and could have been the son of two drag queens for all I knew.

"Wait for me!" he squealed, and commenced skipping from where he stood some 10 yards from me. I began moving again before he met up with me, as I could feel my bowels beginning to anger. I made it probably another 5 yards before my first slip.

Just one. It's just a little. Easily cleaned up. Manageable. I'm fine. Just keep trucking.

Then another. Ok, really gotta hold it in now. No more slip ups. Gotta tighten, gotta squeeze.

Each step was another mini-explosion; another slip. I finally gave up and began to run the remaining distance leaving Chris in my dust.

I busted into the stall door of the bathroom, swung it shut, locked it with a shaky hand and grabbed my baseball pants. If you are unfamiliar with pants worn in baseball, they are made nearly entirely out of spandex, thus making them the perfect material for a slingshot.

Everywhere. Just... everywhere.

On the stall. On the wall. On the floor. On the door. On the toilet. In the toilet. Really any surface that was stationary long enough to bare the load. It was a Grand's nightmare.

I cleaned up as much as I possibly could, leaving my soiled tighty whities in the trash can before heading back to the campsite. I found my father with the other dads gathered around the fire and I snuck over to him to quietly share the bad news. I bent down and whispered and softly as I could in his ear.

"I pooped my pants."

I can tell you I haven't said that line too many times in my life. This was obviously the worst.

"What?" he responded in a harsh, hushed whisper - a disturbed look on his face. I repeated myself.

"I pooped my pants."

His incredulous stare bore deep into my soul, but he eventually raised himself from his stump/stool and followed me to the bathroom.

"Jesus Christ, Curtis!" he said, raising his voice. I attempted to hush him so others wouldn't be drawn to the clatter. I urged him to help me clean it, and tried as we might, there was only so much single-ply toilet paper could do. When the walls began looking more like an impressionistic painting than a bathroom, we cut our losses and gave up.

While washing our hands at the sinks in front of the stall doors, the door to the bathroom swiftly swung open and another scout came in. The bathroom was on the small side, but still held two urinals and three stalls within its cramped space. Like a blood hound, Robert made a beeline for the stall of no return. I watched in the mirror as he pushed the door open, and upon seeing my masterpiece, yelled, "Good Lord, what is wrong with people?" I caught my dad's eye in the mirror and we both nodded profusely in agreement.

And after an unceremonious hosing by my mother in the backyard, it was decided: I had to get a new pair of dark blue baseball pants.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Clean Break

I've always wanted to write a book. Well, I guess not always. I can't remember playing with Tonka trucks and postulating on the title of my first best seller. But for the last several years, I have wanted to pen my own novel, either fiction or autobiographical of sorts. The desire was really spurred on after reading "My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One Night Stands," by Chelsea Handler. Not only did she hilariously whip her life into a cocktail of sex, drugs and... more sex, she connected with me on a personal level and helped me to really take a look inside my own life.

Not really. Shit was just funny.

And I want to write that. I want to write a book about the hilarious stories throughout my life, family problems that people probably wouldn't even believe because of the ridiculous nature, the childhood drama of my voyage through puberty... all of it, pure gold.

I actually did write many of these stories in my years of high school for the writing portfolio forced onto us by the great commonwealth of Kentucky. They were funny, but written at a high school level. They need jazzed up. So I've decided to rewrite one here and see how it turns out.

A Clean Break

By the time I was 10, I was a veritable ladies man. I had a girl for each season, each holiday; all lasting approximately three weeks before spiraling to a quick, amiable end. Then, onto the next.

That changed with Beth.

We were in the 5th grade together. We shared all of our classes, as the same group of students would travel from one room to the next, so we spent a lot of time together. Sitting beside each other, passing notes, holding hands under the desk; it reeked of puppy love. Thankfully, Beth had her friends and I had mine. Recess was a time that we spent with our separate friend groups. I could often be found playing Power Rangers (me, starring as Kimberly, the Pink Ranger with a kick ass bow,) or Alligator, a game we had created that was like playing tag on a slide; she, with her friends on the swing set, putting on makeup from Polly Pocket Lockets or some other crap. I didn't care. Recess was my alone time.

Then she started getting clingy. She'd want to play my games with me. She wanted to be the Pink Ranger. She wanted to play on the yellow corkscrew slide. She wanted to do lemondrops off the monkey bars. If you don't know children, 10 year olds get sick of things quickly. I blame my short attention span and horrible memory on the hours of TV I watch(ed). In any case, I was fed up with this relationship. It was nearing Valentine's Day, and I distinctly remember thinking that it would be a waste to stay in this relationship only to have to buy her something, then end it. I was also a penny pinching child. So, since text messages didn't exist to 5th graders in 1997, I called her one afternoon and told her I wanted to break up.

"Ok," she said. Her voice didn't quiver. She didn't sound upset. No tears. Easy as pie, it seemed.

Too easy, really.

The next day was business as usual. We still sat beside each other, but there was no note passing; no hand holding. Things were going splendidly as we went to recess. Beth made her way across the mulch covered playground to the swing set and I raced off with my friends to the adjacent seesaws. Beth sat on a swing, alone, barely rocking back and forth with her head slumped down. She certainly didn't seem as happy and cheerful as she had the day before on the telephone. I watched as her friends, clustered into a large flock, approached her. I couldn't hear anything over the screams and voices of the other children playing, but I could read the lips of Megan, a mutual friend of ours, as she stood in front of the rest of the group.

"Did Curtis break up with you?" her lips formed. Beth looked up sullenly and nodded.

The shit had hit the fan.

Here is where my memory suddenly fills with fog and enters some sort of surreal time warp. As if in slow motion, I see the eyes of 15 girls lock onto mine, bodies twisting to face me in perfect synchronization, and the newly formed lynch mob replete with pitchforks approaching my very seesaw. I catch the eyes of my friends who are suddenly panicking, but I attempt to keep my cool. Megan's arrival by my side, the rest of her posse in tow, sends chills up and down my spine.

"Curtis," she said as my side of the teeter totter hit the ground, "could we talk to you over here for a minute?" She gestured to the clearing beyond the seesaw area in front of a chain link fence that protected the playground from neighboring houses. I agreed, shooting a fast and final look at my friends as I stepped over the wooden plank and walked toward the fence.

"Did you break up with Beth?" she asked in a calm tone. I turned to face this group of cross-armed, angry-faced females, and was suddenly very aware of my surroundings.


Before I could even finish the word, I was thrown backward, off my feet, into the fence. Only, it wasn't just a fence. Growing from the other side was a patch of briars that had looped and woven itself amongst the links, serving as the perfectly painful way of denying my escape. My shirt had become completely ensnared by the devilish thicket and I was now dangling openly in front of a group of vicious animals, lusting for my blood.

Maybe a little dramatic, but thus are the eyes of a 10-year-old.

The girls began screaming at me, none of the words discernible from the next in their high pitch squeals of incredulity. Finally, they organized themselves and instead began taking turns. One girl would step up, give a snide, biting remark, punch, slap or kick me, then head to the back of the line. This continued for a while until a girl named Ashley took her turn. Twice as tall and wide as the other girls in our grade, Ashley would have been something to fear if she hadn't been such a priss. She wasn't the smartest in our grade either, so I really never respected her much. When she asked me, "How could you be so stupid?" I really couldn't help but answer in any other way than, "How could you be so fat?"

The impact of her punch to my stomach was enough to rip my shirt from the fence and send me to my knees, breathless and on the brink of unconsciousness. Incensed by my comment, the girls encircled me and began kicking me, not only causing me harm but succeeding in covering my body with pieces of the painful mulch-covered bed I lay on. Once they considered me sufficiently covered (and I had passed out,) the throng turned and left me in my mulchy grave.

I'm unsure as to how long I was there. My friends had long since run off, leaving me to be beaten bloody (and woody.) My next memory is coming out of my unconscious state to see multiple shadowy figures bent over top of me. I screamed and attempted to protect myself only to hear the voice of my teacher calming me, explaining that everything was alright. As she picked pieces of mulch out of my hair, she asked what had happened to me. I explained the whole story, detail by detail, ending the nightmare in tears. I was sent to the nurse to check my injuries.

Thankfully nothing was broken. Just a pump knot, as my mother called it, the size of an egg resting on my head. The nurse made me hold a pack of ice on it for the rest of the day. I wore it like a crown. I headed back to class where my teacher said that, at her request, Megan had written me a letter of apology.

I opened the note to see six words scrawled by a quick, sloppy hand.

"I'm sorry for beating you up."

I folded the paper neatly, stuck it in my copy of "Where the Red Fern Grows," and adjusted my new diadem.

I haven't dated another girl since.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Perchance to Dream

Last night was strange.

It's rare that I remember my dreams at all, let alone two of them, and so vividly. I can really only remember pieces of the two dreams, but the first involved me being chased by a wasp and a yellow jacket around my childhood room. The strange thing about it is that the wasp actually landed on my head but didn't sting me, even though I was wildly swinging anything I could get my hands on to kill it. Maybe it did sting me, but since I've never been stung by any stinger-wielding insect, I didn't know how to react or how it felt.

The second dream was stranger. I was still in my house (but my sister's old room had turned into something I hadn't seen before.) It was Halloween, and I was attempting to go out to a party, but I wasn't sure where I was headed. There were already parties going on in my house (in each room, a different party,)  but I didn't want to go there. I remember being in the bathroom and there being blood coming out of me somewhere. Then I was trying out multiple toothbrushes to find out which one was mine (my parents hold on to old toothbrushes to use to clean the toilet and bathtub, and I know I used at least one of those.) Then my supervisor called and told the people in the bathroom party to tell me that I needed to come with her to her party at Wendy's (the restaurant) because I had a tab of a dollar that I needed to pay off.


Sleep has been extremely difficult for me lately. No matter how early I go to bed, how long I sleep, how many times I hit the snooze, I still wake up feeling exhausted. One day last week I slept for 8 hours and woke up the next morning feeling like I hadn't slept at all. It was a horrible feeling and it's extremely difficult to get through the day feeling like you haven't rested. I'm considering a trip to the doctor for blood work to see what might be causing this. And then there's always the fear of sleep apnea, from which my mother suffers. I know there have been times before (not recently) when I've woken up gasping for air because I suppose I had stopped breathing. It's not pleasant.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Behind the Back

Don't you just hate the feeling of knowing that the person you were just talking about may have heard everything you just said? The uncomfortable, twisting knot that sends your stomach spiraling downward. The nagging worry of wondering what they may have heard while standing there. The apathy of said person hearing your thoughts and the confidence you had moments before dissolved away, leaving you feeling merely inches tall. I do.

Let's face it: we all talk. If for nothing other than amusement or to pass the time, we make the lives of those around us and the way that others affect our own into our business. We complain about the things people do that bother us because it vindicates us. We vent to other because we feel safe and secure that they would never tell someone else about the private confidences we just shared. And then, occasionally and very suddenly, that one person you were just talking about walks into the room, seemingly out of thin air. It happens much more often than one could even imagine, and it happened to me today.

It wasn't anything out of the ordinary: sharing a story with Coworker A (which is how she has chosen to be referred) about another person and their ineptitudes. Name calling, laughter. And then, out of nowhere, the main character of my story appears and asks to use the phone. This person doesn't even work in a 10 minute walking distance of my office, yet here we are. Stomach-dropping, fear-inducing, stammering, stuttering, blinking. Questions fly a mile a minute: What did I just say? What could he/she have heard? Where the hell did he/she come from? Most are never answered. Just replaced with a moderate level of discomfort and a hope that the truly vicious things fell on deaf ears.

You'd think I'd learn my lesson. That obviously at any moment, the Pope could arrive and hear my bashing of the Catholic faith.  But I just keep spewing my venom-filled words and quips behind their backs because it takes too much effort to actually confront someone about what they do that bothers me so much, and when, in fact, I shouldn't have to because I thought we were all adults now and should be able to function in a mature, consistent manner.

I'm sure people say things behind my back. In fact, I know they do, because people tell me those things. I don't mind. I'm very secure in who I am and what I do, and I know that I do my best every day. And I would hope that people have enough respect, even if they say it behind my back 15 times, to say it to my face at least once in an appropriate and professional manner. For the record, the story I told was a subject I had previously broached with that person. I am nothing if not a man of my word.

You just may not hear all of them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Potty Talk

I was chastised today by a coworker for sending a text message while sitting on the toilet.

Sometimes there are important conversations that need to occur regardless of what is going on. And sometimes those conversations have to occur during private moments. More often than not, it's sheerly convenience that drives us to use our phones in the bathroom. She only knew I was in the restroom because I had announced it for her well being before I left the office moments earlier. Had I not told her, she never would have known it were a potty text.

I'm a little more understanding of those who are bothered by others who actually talk on the phone during their potty time. I, myself, am guilty of potty talk. It usually only occurs with my parents, as I would feel so absolutely horrified if I were to make some sort of bodily function noise while on the phone with a friend or even a stranger. Those conversations are often placed on mute by my end, and only unmuting when I absolutely must say something to continue the conversation. I know one day I'm going to fail to mute at an appropriate time and my strained grunts will be heard throughout the land, but that day has yet to come.

What's worse is when people potty talk in public restrooms. Not only are you talking on your cell phone in a public place where everyone else can hear your conversation, you are doing so while making the most abhorrent, rude, disturbing sounds in the process. And though some people may also utilize my mute-and-poop technique, I would say that for the most part, people just let 'er rip and couldn't give two... well, you know... about what their friend/loved one hears. It is not easy to hide the sound of straining in your voice. So even if you aren't an open potty talker, people know.

Oh, they know.

While using the restroom in a local bar the other day, I stepped into the only stall of a busy bathroom. We were on a break from the trivia game being played by the bar, so everyone had chosen that moment to urinate. As I'm unzipping my pants, I hear, "You look good, man." I whip around to see if anyone was in the stall with me, but I realize that the sound had come from outside the stall. Two men (cowboys, to be specific,) were standing at the side-by-side urinals, having a conversation that started that way. Apparently one of them had just been shot down by a younger woman (younger being apparently in her very early 20s, as these guys were mid- to late-20s themselves,) and it had hurt his pride. Nonetheless, it was quite an awkward-straight-man conversation to have in the middle of a crowded bar bathroom while peeing beside each other. There is an unspoken etiquette of the bathroom that they had obviously not heard.

1. Always leave a urinal between you and the person next to you. If this cannot be done, wait until a urinal opens up.
2. No talking.

Maybe these are just my rules. I usually use the stall anyway. So I can potty talk.