Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sock Puppets and Train Wrecks

It's late on a Friday night and here I sit watching TV on my tablet and staring blankly at the absentee ballot my trusty mail man dropped off while I was gone. There are of course the local vocal issues I can take my trusty blue ball tip pen to or I can leave blank. Same goes for the local diarrhea that call themselves civil servants who need my vote to either continue getting a paycheck or would very much like one. With the diligence of four year old I color in each of the circles where I think either my vote will do the most good or in the case where I'm less sure of which lesser evil I should take I rely on the St. Christopher medal in my pocket for guidance.
Taking it out with the reverence it deserves I flip it in the air and silently call "Heads." It's tails so the other guy wins and so it goes until all my choices at the state and local level have been made. Now that I'm done with the trivial I turn my focus to what matters the US Senate race. There is of course a handful of train wrecks that somehow have dodged their way through the Darwinian adventure of a campaign. None of the names on the ballot evoke strong emotions for my vote. There are however strong logical reasons to not only not vote for any of them, but shake my head in shame that this is the best we could do.
Taking them one at a time and in the order that offends me the most allow me to explain my choices.
Mike Rounds was a Governor who was term limited and had to vacate his seat. To be fair, he let the air from that particular narcissistic balloon deflate quite a bit before it was announced he would be running for the Democratically held seat of Tim Johnson.  And full disclosure my first instinct was to cast my vote for him. However the closer we got to November all he offered was then picked over GOP talking points I have heard all over the country. Nothing new nor substantive poured forth. However the nationally funded EB-5 program he ran while Governor did. This is a program that encourages immigrants with at least half a million dollars at their disposal to invest into the state's economy in exchange for a much faster pathway to green card heaven. But the problem winds up being that all that money just vanished. There are of course rumors of Rounds involvement. Whether or not he was for me is beside the point. Because when he speaks all I hear is talking points with no substance. Basically his whole campaign revolves around this easy premise. "Vote for me because I'm a Republican and my opponents are not." Might as well put out a sock puppet in his place because you're getting the same thing.
Speaking of that let me just say this when I watch the national news and they talk about low information voters I know exactly who they are talking about. This is a state where the apathy, disconnection and chasm between government, political races and candidates is so deep and wide it might as well be the highway to the moon. The same people who believe in the tooth fairy and Batman vote for the red candidate because the alternative is to vote for a Democrat and that is akin to getting your ass kicked by a Kardashion.
So voting for him is the same thing as beating off into the face of your favorite sock puppet. The only difference of course is at least you enjoyed it a little bit.
Then there is the Democratic challenger Rick Weiland. Here is a guy with all of the charisma of wallpaper paste. His deliveries are flat and unapologetically uninspired. He's the politician you see on the news during a natural disaster who announces there is no need to fear because the worst is past. You blow out your breath and swear at the TV while at the same time seeking refuge from the catastrophic events playing out in your front yard.
Ricks problem is he purports himself as a man of the people. A guy who will represent everyone in the state. But is immune from the big money interests that sway the many feet of clay in the House of Congress. But you hear he's happily taking outside money to combat the vilipended charges laid against him by his opponents and then there is the whiny, self aggrandizing crapehanger comments made during the trial... err, I mean debating and suddenly you are filled with the knowledge his lunch money was taken fairly often when he was a boy coming of age. And at least the smirk on Rounds face communicates to the audience, Rick Weiland isn't ready for the big time. So voting for him would be like asking the local hoods to frequent my house anytime they were in need of three hots and a cot or if they just wanted a good wank from my ole wife. Either way come big and or stay home because national politics isn't for the weak or the timid.
And then there is Gordon Howie. Oh, what a delight this guy is. He has an advertisement that says 'I'm for God, Guns and Gordon" A died in the wool tea party candidate. His main thrust for voting for him is pretty straight forward. He's for God, guns and the Constitution and Mike Rounds is a crook, he's more conservative than any other candidate and most importantly he's not a democrat. Well hells bells this is an easy one. I might could get past all of that, but when he sent out a tweak asking for prayers that would lift him into the Senate I had to beg off. News flash, if you sincerely think praying is going to get you into the Senate do all of us a favor and just commit yourself as soon as possible.
By the way when you have GOP candidates all professing to be more conservative than your opponents you know you've crossed a Rubicon that there is no coming back from. That's like the jihadist's professing they are more committed to suicide than the next guy. At some point you're just wishing a little for them to prove it so you won't have to listen to it anymore. I mean, do you ever hear Democrats announcing they are way more liberal than Harry Reid? Or independents screaming they are so completely separate from any party that their brains are actually outside their bodies. And just to prove a point that they are neither left of right their belly buttons makes the mark on the ballot for them. When I start to hear a RINO profess how right of center they are I do a mental head slap and then ponder what it would be like to be euthanized right at that moment.
Finally, there is my candidate Larry Pressler. Larry back in the day was in both the house and the senate. He lost to Tim Johnson in 1996. The times I have heard him speak, he delivers plans and points. And I thought this is my guy. He has a presence and ideas. Doesn't seem to be living off of pre planned talking points. Granted, he spent a good deal of time in politics in the 70's and through the mid 90's. But he's never really come back to South Dakota. In fact, he's lived in D.C. and New York since then, but he could be the prodigal son so what the hell. I'll vote for him.
But the money poured in and since he is running as an independent he got none of it. Instead, he was eviscerated by attack ads and his support waned and then fell apart all together. In one of the last debates he confessed to being dead broke and unable to mount a defense against the TV attack ads. I give him credit though, he asked for a grassroots campaign that would bring it home for him. Bad news for him was the debates were on PBS, and who the hell watches PBS?
I voted for him, though. I know it was just throwing it away and he's not electable for the moment. But if Uncle Sam frog marches Rounds into jail, then maybe he has a chance at another comeback tour.
The point though is this, every couple of years we the people allow the train wrecks of humanity to stand before us and plead their case for our votes and in the end we give it to them. But I'm getting a little tired of basing my vote on the lesser evils. We should demand more from the people who represent us. An accountability needs to be established that reads "If you become an embarrassment or the subject of a criminal complaint, then recuse yourself from the office so we the people can go about the duties of being represented with honor and distinction." Or words to that effect.

Either way, get out and vote would you please?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gargoyles In The Night

In the nocturnal hours gargoyles perch at my subconscious at least once a week. Their fingers stretching across my closed eyelids, making peaceful slumber an act of vengeance. I see the gun rise and the empty gray, dull eyes lose their focus as the barrel touches my forehead. I hear a voice plead for mercy. My lungs are filled with the smell of gun oil and cordite.

In my dream I can see each bullet nestled softly in its chamber. The heat of violence leaps off the end of the gun and leaches onto my skin. My heart slows down and my surroundings narrow to the dead eyes in front of me. I don't think about what comes next. Memories of family and good times at cooks outs and reunions blur into disjointed and scattered scenes that make no sense. There is no sound. His soul lifts and hovers at a distance and what is left behind is broken and fouled with the evil he is about to commit. There is a heaviness holding me in place. My feet rooted in place by unseen forces. 

There is a tug at my back. I can feel angry hands clawing at my back, but they are like whispers in the wind. They have no effect. As the scene plays out in front of me, I can see the apparition that is his soul begin to descend until it disappears back into the man in front of me. Slowly his eyes come to life and I can see the consequence of his next action take hold. It's as if an 8 mm film plays across his eyes. I can see the movie run across his brow like an afternoon matinee.

Slowly the hammer falls gently on the firing pin. I hear the ominousness click of the trigger as he sets it back in place. The barrel recedes away until it no longer poses a threat to my humanity. Sounds begin to flood my ears. I can hear the buzz of a fly, the wind gently buffeting the window. A neighbor's lawn mower picks up speed as he owner pushes down on the handle to turn it around and make another pass. The engine now muffled by the long grass. The cries and begging from the two women behind me grow louder and more insistent. 

The whispers of fingers have morphed into the claws of a carrion bird digging and scratching into my flesh until they pull me away. Then I am outside. Luther never spoke, never making a sound as I make my retreat to safety.

When I wake my lungs are sucking in more air my arms and legs moving frantically. The blood rushes through my veins and I can hear my own heartbeat. My eyes flutter open and I search the darkness for the gargoyles. But they aren't there and I wonder where they have gone.

The demons that who come out to play in my nocturnal hours were invited into my dreams when I was still a boy struggling with the identity of manhood and what it meant to defend the honor of a woman you loved. 

No, that's not right. The first time the gargoyles appeared on the kaleidoscope of my dreamworld it was with the same brute force invading army. They appeared with the same ethos of locusts. My dreams becoming the main course for their insatiable hunger. Their bellies fat and protruding after they had engorged themselves on my synapses. 

Days after the red indentation of the fixed site and the rifled barrel made its mark faded from view. It became common for my dreams to morph into the events of that warm summer afternoon. As a youth my first love had a mother locked in a loveless marriage. Her father had the mental stability of a soap bubble. 

What I failed to realize until much later was that both of them were in a struggle for control of our lives. Luther was old and thin. The pale blue eyes were usually hidden behind the dull gray bangs of hair that would slide in front of his face. His emotions were attached strongly to the tentacles of his wife's emotional urges of the moment. 

I was to learn then what it was to be a pawn in a live action Shakespearean play. It was also my introduction into what it was like to be on the business end of a skilled manipulator. 

There was never complete approval of our courtship by her parents. The religion that governed their lives dictated my conversion if we were to have a future. For my part the religion I converted to was neither in my heart, mind or soul. I confess my feigned belief was of a carnal nature which is probably the worst reason to take a vow in a belief.

On that warm summer day I arrived to at my girlfriends house to find Luther in a murderous mood. I'm not sure I ever knew the reason for his rage on that day. When I pulled my 1977 four door nova to the curb, my girl Friday rushed outside with her mother in tow.

"You've got to come inside and talk to my dad!" She exclaimed.

Kathy her mother cried out "He's lost it. Please come inside and see if he will listen to you."

Emboldened by their pleas and because I didn't know any better I followed them inside. Her mother led the two of us inside. Both women fell in behind me. Luther was seated behind the kitchen table. He had an old.38 beside him. A dinner plate with a sandwich in front of him a glass of milk off to the side. His eyes focused on the plate in front of him.

I stood tall, waiting for him to speak. His eyes drifted upwards looking at me for a long time. My focus went to the gun. Then, without speaking, he pushed the chair back and in a fluid motion I can't ever remember him doing before standing up and looked at me as if I had committed an unspeakable transgression. His hand going to the gun, picked it up and moved from behind the table. A smile playing out on his lips as if a punch line to a joke had moved him.

My feet were heavy and refused to move. The floor felt as if it had opened up and dropped me in a primordial court of judgement. I watched the casual way his arm swayed back and forth. The gun sticking obscenely from his hand. The barrel pointed down.

I could feel the ticking clock of my own mortality counting down to the zero hour. In three steps he was in front of me. As he came to rest in front of me the gun barrel swung up until it was pointed at my head. A sneer broke across his lips. His arm stabbing forward until the barrel rested against my skull. His expression falling flat and his eyes going dead.

We stood like that for a long time. My eyes transfixed on his. I would like to say my bravado carried the day and somehow brought about a change in his decision to kill me. But I would be lying if I did. In truth my fear was so complete that I was unable to move or speak. I'm not sure if the fear in my eyes changed his mind or the cries for mercy from his wife and daughter swayed him somehow from ending my young life. But whatever it was that changed his mind, I knew it instantly.

The color that had drained from his face and the cold, lifeless eyes gradually came back. The barrel falling away until it was back again at his side. Then, as if nothing had happened, he turned around and went back to the table where he sat down and began eating his dinner. The gun no longer beside him, but tucked away from the prying eyes of his family and me.

I wish I could say I remembered what happened next. My own conscience thought returned to me as I was pulling into the driveway of my parents house.

Later on I would confess to my mother what had happened. Together we agreed to keep it between us. Years later I would tell my father what happened on that day. His anger was immediate, but he understood why we had withheld it from him.

Today I can still feel the heat and smell the gun oil and cordite. The cold dead eyes that met mine across the top of a.38 still send shivers down my spine and keep me awake until the predawn hours at least once a week.


I sometimes wonder what it was that caused him to veer away from the ruination of so many lives. But as the light of the day breaks across the horizon, I inhale deeply and give thanks for another day.

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Open Door

I'm 43. Going to be 44 in a few days. In that time I've always lived by a credo. Never allow others to control your own future. It has served me well. But the last several years I've hung back and gotten complacent when I should have been working on the next opportunity. In the life I lead at work my role has fluctuated between that of the mentor and guide to that to the servitude to those who hold my leash.

I've lived through a few set backs mostly due to the misguided notion that my actions were pure and just but when judgement befell me I wallowed in the self loathing of my own victim hood. It's not because I didn't recognize my own culpability. But because I believed my actions belied a higher calling. No that's not right. I believed my actions were not only justified but necessary to the greater good of my humanity.

To many times those closest to me warned against my full throttle approach when it came to my interactions with others. I was cautioned to reserve my ability to call out the ineptitude of others. But the warnings and the lectures went unheeded. The belief I have always labored under was the certainty of righteousness. The words and fast pattern speech I have flung unabashedly at others had always had the intended affect. But the fall out of the barbs I inflicted in others over time had made certain unalienable consequences that those around me could see lining up to seek their revenge a galaxy away. I was never so certain the seeds I have sown would ever come home to roost.

But come home to roost they did. My world was upended in a manner I never could have predicted. Pick your metaphor. Any number of which could be seen as not only correct but fortuitous in their nature. Sadly the  motto I have lived by has betrayed me in ways only a Machiavellian sonnet could predict.

I was suspended not once but twice both times equaling a year in duration. But the last one is the one I have to fear the most. It's the one that harm the family I have grown. I still have a job that hasn't changed but it could. The thing that has provided a roof, clothing and food now rest in a fragile state. One misstep could land me in the bread line. So I have been forced against my will to take inventory of my core.

What I have found is this honesty comes with a price when it is delivered in a manner that is lacking in the empathy of those on the receiving end. The message gets lost in the emotion of those who feel the brunt of a verbal assault. For that a bounty must be paid to those who have become the fodder for their public victimization.

So I was forced to take inventory of my approach. What has emerged for me is no less than the rising of my own Phoenix. For the last month or so I have basked in the light of both my peers and those who control the destiny of my future. Two things changed for me. Both of which I can attribute to people whose thoughts I hold dear to me. The first was the acknowledgment of my potential for greatness. The second was to never lose sight of who I am at heart.

A friend of mine told me if I was to harness all that I am into reaching my full potential the boundaries for me will become infinite if I were to find a dose of grace and humility. Another told me to hang onto the complete honesty with which I do everything. They were both right but for different reasons. I have always felt that grace and humility were for those who lacked the conviction of their actions. But for a myriad of opaque reasons I myself can not begin to grasp or explain how it was I missed the boat so entirely on that score.

The other piece of advice about honesty above all else reinforced my own belief system but for the better and not the worst. My parents instilled in me to tell the truth even when doing so meant I would pay a price. But the part I missed in my upbringing was the valuation of the humanity in the message has to be without guile or the caustic instrument of the message which can inflect damage or harm to others. I wish now as a man I had listened more closely to the lessons they sought to instill in me,

Slow as I was to learn those valued lessons when I was but a tot I have now brought forth what my folks had so long ago tried to instill in me. Now for reasons I can't explain my behavior has changed to accommodate the audience that stands before me.

But maybe it started with a tattoo. For a while now I have wanted to pay homage to the vessel which provided me with boundless amounts of life's lessons. So I got a tattoo. It's my design but to be fair the artist who crafted the image that now adorns my left forearm did a far better job of rendering what I wanted than what I presented him with. I'm proud of that tattoo. Its a Celtic cross with an old time ships anchor resting against it. The cross and the anchor are both resting in sand with splashes of ocean breaking around the edges. The anchor has a rope which wraps around the cross. It means something to me to see it every day. I am reminded of a time when I was part of something that was greater than anything I had ever done before then and even now.

It  represents something in me that I am at a loss to articulate to others the full meaning. During those years when I served on board the Forge the men I fought side by side with meant more to me than anyone in the world. And now years later I find myself in a place where the camaraderie of my own by gone era has emerged in a different form but feeds the thing I have been missing for so long.

To be surrounded by people who share the same mythos I do has ignited in me a spark that for so many years I feared was extinguished.

It started with a tattoo and from that I was presented with an opportunity to move in a different direction. And while that is still emerging I found another doorway that led into an arena I have ventured before but on a far grander scale.

And today another path presented itself which I graciously took. I don't know where these paths lead or what other doorways I will stumble upon but I know this if I hadn't taken the opportunity to seek out my own destiny I would still be languishing in a void of stagnation.

Life is good at work and at home and for that I am thankful which by itself doesn't begin to give weight to the freedom that lays before me.

Happiness may be judged by the ownership of possessions or the mantle of hearth and family. Or maybe it lies in the certainty of what lays ahead. But for me happiness lies in the opportunities of the unknown. Either way it is judged in the end it can only be the importance of of the subscription of your own internal guide and the assertiveness of the view of the road that lays ahead.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Texas

I am generally against all things Texas, however after spending the last several weeks in places where the sun and blue skies are more endangered than a dinosaur in a meteor shower. It was nice today to step off the plane and see the deep blue sky and a nice yellow fireball in the sky. Bonus material was the heat. No jackets needed, in fact the jeans I am wearing are too much for the spring time Texas sun.

Having never been to the Austin airport, I was surprised by a couple of things. First was the live music coming from not one, but two bars on the concourse. Now I can't say they were star material or that I will ever hear them on the radio, but it gave the terminal a different vibe that is the departure from the norm in airport terminals. I have heard that Austin is the new music mecca of the western hemisphere and to be frank that may be true because in the Memphis airport you surely don't hear Elvis or a dyed in the wool blues man strumming a six string or moaning into an open mic.

Another item in the win column for Texas is the speed limit on the highway. Not the interstate mind you, but the state freeway. It lists on the GPS as 70 but the road sign says 80. And yeah, I had to see it again just to be sure I wasn't seeing things that would earn me the disputed point of a johnny flat foot in a wide brim hat.

But for the moment let's stick with the airport for another minute. Austin in general has an LA feel to it and I don't mean the LA of the swamp people either. The people you see are friendly enough, but they are dressed to impress someone I'm just not sure who. Not one cowboy hat or boots did my eyes run across. Which, given the weather I shouldn't be surprised. But as I am now in the land of boots, belt buckles and wide brimmed hats, I'm just a little let down by the lack of the stereotype. 

I spent a long weekend here this past January and the impression I had then was the same one I have now. It's a town that is filled with opportunities and optimism. In fact, it reeks with elation and advocacy of the re-born. I'm not just saying that either it really gives off the vibe of heightened expectation of walking into fame and fortune.

But mostly it's about the heat and blue skies its been a long winter. Not real cold, but it's way past time for it to heat up and the gray and dreary sky to clear out and let the beads of summertime fun take its place.

But I digress about the music. Memphis and Nashville have always been the king of the mountain at least my view of musical wonderlands. Sure, there's NY and even LA but the land of Elvis and The Grand Ole Opry have always been synonymous with Booker T, Eddie Floyd and Isaac Hayes. Or Mel Tills, Merle Haggard, Kenny and Dolly just to name a few.

But now I guess my thoughts about musical empires will have to include Austin as well.

Any who, this part of Texas is a lot like the rest of this western part of the state. The ground is flat and barren of any great rise in elevation unless you're on an airplane. It's also a shade of brown I would normally associate with winter, but the brown grass is due to the lack of rain so it's hard to hold that against it. In the summer time the heat will bleed you dry of moisture, unless the humidity is up, in which case no amount of deodorant is going to save you from feeling like you just stepped out of a shower and then donned your clothing sans a good and proper toweling off. Buts it the Lone Star state and everything here is bigger and better or so the advertisement goes. 

On the roadways the landscape is dotted with large pickup trucks and speedy two seater roadsters made for cruising with bullets. There is a sense here like no other that the American spirit and liberties are an almost tangible entity. If I had to pick a state where I thought our forefathers would at least have a passing familiarity of what they intended it would have to be here.

But don't get me wrong Texas like a lot of places in the south is home to past indiscretions the state would just as soon not acknowledge existed at all. And current lackluster standings that tarnish this state as well. They also house some of our nations most deep seated principles. Guns and religion right at the top of the list.

What I do like about this part of Texas is mostly its not Dallas. And that is a good thing. I wouldn't just openly admit this to anyone but if pressed I will happily tell you to just put a large fence around the whole state and then give it back to Mexico. 

But that is disingenuous. Actually, if the panhandle of Texas and Dallas were converted into a large piece of glass or made into a free fire zone for zombies then I would be OK with it. Really, I do harbor a serious disdain for both parts of Texas.

Probably the best things to come out of Texas are my niece, nephew and my divorce. It's an eclectic list, but it's my blog and my list so piss off. And I didn't list my brother because thankfully he was transplanted.


Texas is bigger than most places, but as far as I'm concerned it will never rival that of my beloved South Dakota. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Live to Fight Another Day

When you're young and in school there are few things that dissuade us from the utopia of our future. Nobody tells us that after decades of service we can be left outside in the cold without a net. You realize that after years of faithful servitude to your employer you are nothing but a number that detracts from the bottom line.

I have spent 14 years working for a master who uses the changing tides of a weather vane for guidance in the fate of men. Too many times over the years I have survived the blood letting of organisational changes in management. They paint the walls in blood of hard working men and women who have devoted their waking hours to the advancement of the bottom line.

But when you stand in witness to the deeds of others whose only purpose is to make more money on the backs of others it gives you pause. Makes you reevaluate your own moral conundrum. Too many good men have been sacrificed because of economic well being. There have been many times when I have wanted to leap off the merry go round and into the sweet oblivion of the unknown. To make my way in a world without borders and free of men who come dressed in smart suits whose allegiance are to others.

How many times in our history have we left our fate to others? For me it has always been to many times. The human relations people who guard the doors of big money at the expense of our Constitutional freedoms have never had the interest of their fellow man.

There is a reason why you both fear and loath those whose jobs are to see the company move forward. It is because they are not part of us. Their paycheck like their masters are earned on the blood and sweat of those who toil in anonymity.

While I am both too young and without the experience of living hour to hour in hostile worlds. I understand the actions of those who take it upon themselves to rid this mortal coil of an unseen enemy who take the lives of our brethren without remorse or the benediction given at the alter.

There is in me the belief there will come a time when the backs of blue collar workers will have suffered enough and rise up to smite those who sit in judgment of our futures. I understand the desire to weep at the fallen and to seek justice for those who now stand in the bread lines. It is a hard thing to give so much of yourself to a company who views your contribution as a necessity for their well being.

As a man I was raised to stand up to tyranny and to smite those who would exercise their will on others. But when you have a family there lives in you an impotence to do what is right for your wife and kids. To stand in witness to the needless slaughter of so many people whose only crime is to reside on a list is insulting. It is now more than ever that I wish the power to undo so much harm would rest in my hands. Damn those cast aside others who have given so much but lose much more when HR comes a calling.

Today I mourn the loss of those who yesterday worked beside me. I call out to the gods for retribution and wish upon those who wreak so much destruction the reckoning of sleepless nights and destructive bowel movements.

Pray not for mercy but for solace and peace in the burning chest of those who no longer have a paycheck. Let them find good paying jobs to feed the empty bellies of their offspring and see to the needs of their families. Hope may spring eternal for those in splendor but agony rests in the bosom of those left behind.

I loath days like this. Because I am forced to realize I am nothing more than a puppet on a string. At the same time I rejoice my life is still whole. The hard decisions others are facing is not my cross to bear. I have to wonder how many times can I win the lottery? What is the number of years I can serve without having to extend myself to other options?

As a road warrior my life is a gamble my fate rests in the hands of the unknown. My mission is to make the flight and to enjoy the company of my wife and kids. I subjugate my needs and desires to keeping the those who hold my leash happy and sated with my accomplishments. It was not the dreams who gave so much many decades ago for our people to live in constant fear of joblessness and uncertainty.

The world we live in today is controlled by unseen masters who decide our fate by nothing more than a roll of the dice. As a people what are we to do? Many times I have seen talking heads on TV pontificate on the open market and the fairness of competition. But never does anyone talk about those whose lives have self destructed by the gargoyles who sit in ivory towers.

But on this day like so many others I will carry forth and live to fight another day.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Decade + 1 Year

Bogey said it to Dooley Wilson about Bergman "Of all the gin joints in the world she had to walk into mine." I doubt when those words were spoken it carried the same meaning as it does for me.

11 years ago on a whim and more of a charade if I'm being honest, I took up a ridiculous wager with a close friend. After completing a grueling 300 days on the road I returned to my meager 800 square foot apartment with plans that extended no further than my couch. The only real plans for decamping from my couch, I had extended to my mountain bike (I had it in my head I was going to bike my way to a slim waistline over a two week vacation) and perhaps to the store for supplies. Other than that I had no intention of leaving what at the time I referred to as home.

When the call came in from my good pal Sean my intent was to humor his meager attempts to draw me out. However, he was not to be placated with a round of insults, jokes or wagers that no sane individual makes two days before Christmas

The winner of our wager if I recall would be supplied with a case or maybe it was two cases of bottled liquids that were amber in color and whose ingredients contained fermented barley and hops. The wager? "Find me a date and I'll come on up."

I felt safe in making this bet because what starry eyed lass wants to participate in a blind date two days before Christmas? Turns out I was not only to lose that bet, but was actually going to win it at the same time.

The first time we talked on the phone I made her cry. I would love to say her tears were the product of my dry wit and easy charm. But it was not the case. How I managed to make her cry and she still wanted to not only meet me but was willing to bring me along as plus one to Christmas dinner. A saner man would have begged off from a plus one date to a family dinner but it has been my experience that when you stand tall and issue the challenge of "Feel safe because I am your prince charming." You either follow through or shrink into oblivion. Or at least it's what I told myself.

So bundled in my trusty chariot I packed a bag and headed north. At the time I had never been to South Dakota and if you would have preferred to me I was to visit this state for the first time to see a girl well I would have happily taken your money.

The first time I saw her, she said to me "Take your glasses off. I want to see your eyes." Who says romance is dead? I obliged her request and was greeted with a radiant smile that reached all the way to her clear blue eyes. Sonya's eyes had no bottom and were vacant of guile or any cruelness. I felt vulnerable as if she could see all the way to my soul. My heart sped up just a bit, and my words came out in a rush.

The few days we had together weren't enough and soon it was time for me to head south and re-enter my world of airplanes and hotel rooms. As the days went by and we talked more and more I couldn't wait until it was time for me to return home. Our courtship was quit a mere six weeks and when I proposed it wasn't on bended knee or complicated in any way. I asked her over the phone and she said yes.

At the time I had been married and divorced three times so i knew what I was getting into but this time felt different than all the rest.

On our wedding day I wore my favorite tropical shirt and jeans. She opted for a nice sweater and jeans. We were married in, Vegas style. Except our chapel was a single wide trailer and none of us were sporting Elvis attire. But was as memorable as any large wedding with a million guests.

My best man was the guy who had set us up. Her maid of honor was her closest friend. Sean and his wife brought their two kids and Sonya brought along little Paige. Sean and I drove together in my jeep and the girls rode together with all the kids.

The ordained minister conducted his ceremonies in the living room of his single wide trailer. I had expected some sort of sign out front which tell me we had indeed arrived at the right location. But there was no sign or any other indication we had arrived at the right location. I looked at Sean and he looked back at me. We both shrugged. Picking up my cell phone I called to confirm the address. I also asked about the location. He verified both.

Stepping out of the car sean and walked to the front door. We told the girls to hang tight. The trailer had the feeling you get when watching a horror flick. And to be honest, I kinda felt like we were about to enter a Rocky Horror Picture show. I reached up and knocked on the door.

We both stood there silently waiting. After what felt like years I knocked again. This time we heard footsteps approaching the door. Without meaning to Sean and I separated slightly and backed up. When the door opened, we were greeted by a man in his late 40's or 50's. It was hard to tell, he stared back at us without speaking. His head rotated from me and then to Sean and back again.

"We're here to get married." I said. He nodded and then backed away from the door to let us in. Sean looked back at the girls and waved them in. I hesitated and then stepped inside. Our minister, though wasn't to be found. He had disappeared from view. The living room was modest in decoration there was a faux leather couch against the far wall and lazy boy recliner canted at an angle on the other wall. He had a large composite entertainment center with a nice TV in the center. Off to the left and just below he had a sound system for the TV. The carper could have been shag but to be honest, I don't remember. The shades were drawn which made it just a little more creepy. There was a kitchen back behind us that looked nice enough. Those lights were on, which was a good thing because otherwise we would have been standing in the dark and I'm not sure if we would have stayed.

By this time Sonya her maid of honor and all the kids were standing with us. All of the adults stood looking at one another, but none of speaking. Sonya whispered "Where is he?"

I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders. We stood like that for what felt like a million years. At first it was awkward and then it became uncomfortable. Pretty soon we were snickering to relieve the tension and maybe a little embarrassment. The kids were great, but after a while they started to fidget and then of course the need for a potty break arose.

Paige tugged on her mother's arm and announced she had to go. Sonya looked over at me and offered me up as the designated escort to the bathroom. I hollered loudly "IS THERE A BATHROOM WE COULD USE?"

He answered back "Down the hall." I looked at her and she looked at me. I held out my hand and said "Come on Paige." She took my hand and we wandered down the hall looking for the bathroom. As we passed a makeshift office I saw him huddled over a desk. His back was to me so it wasn't entirely clear what he was working on. The good news was I didn't see any weird symbols or indications we were going to be sacrificed to the gods.

I led her to the bathroom at the end of the hall. Checking to make sure the bogey man wasn't lurking inside I moved out of the way and pulled the door shut to let her use the bathroom. When she was done, we traversed the same route back to the living room. His huddled form hadn't moved an inch.

When we got back to the living room, everyone wanted to know what he was doing I shrugged again and told them I didn't know, but I was pretty sure he wasn't working on a weapon of mass destruction. Thankfully, our minister appeared from the back office. He walked past us and said not a word. The minister continued past us and into the kitchen, we all looked at each other shrugged and followed him.

He walked through the kitchen and then towards the back of the trailer. We followed in single file behind him like obedient sheep. When he got to a back room, he knocked once opened the door and peaked his head inside. We stopped behind him and I heard him speak to someone. After that, he pulled the door shut and turned around. You could tell he was surprised to see us standing there, but he let it slide and then walked back past us and toward the living room.

All of us did an about face and followed him. When we were once again assembled in the living room, he reached down and turned off the sound system and then turning he opened the window shade near the entertainment center. The light that flooded the room didn't much make the living room looking any better than it had in the dark.

The minister then turned and stood up straight. He looked at each of us in turn, but didn't speak. I stepped forward and told him my name and then indicated which one was Sonya. He nodded and then said "Ok."

Now it was my turn to look around at everyone. Sean shrugged, but didn't offer to jump on Mandie was uncharistically quite and the kids were just kinda hanging out. Sonya's eyes sparkled with amusement and then she smiled at me and then I knew it was going to be just fine.

I reached out my hand and she stepped forward to take it. We stood side by side as he read us our vows and from that day forward she's been standing by my side every day since then.

That day was 11 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday, which is easy because 11 years later it still feels fresh and new.

She is the one who is for me now and always. Side by side from that day until our last I will love and cherish this woman until my final breath. Her strength props me up and gives me the courage to keep going even when I struggle she has always been there and I for her.

A decade plus 1 year and it might as well have been yesterday.

She is my best friend, my one true love and the one God saved for me.


I love you Sonya now and forever.