Review: Motel 6 – Charleston SC

It was the cheapest option available and didn’t have any dog regulations. Walking in I could see why. There is very little the dog could do to make the room worse. It was clean and pretty spartan – the designers have clearly learned how to minimize risk based off of the typical motel 6 clientele. For example there are no drawers, which in hindsight seems more practical given the things I heard discussed by the other guests through the relatively thin walls. This is not the motel to take your sweetheart to unless you want to break up with her by telling her you want to start bringing scatplay into the bedroom. Though it appears as the the linens were freshly laundered, the bedspread had a couple small stains that are best not to dwell on. In summary: cheap, clean-ish, good enough if you just need a room to poop out some drug-filled balloons.

***

Meeting Minutes

Have you ever had that feeling during an important meeting like you’re not sure why you were all called together or why you are there? Like when you are called together for a meeting but then the organizer and everyone else you would normally recognize isn’t there, so you just sit there as a group and raise eyebrows at each other, wondering who everyone around the table is until someone finally says something like “well.. i’ll guess i’ll start us off.” Yeah. So long story short I walked into the wrong meeting room and accidentally took part in a meeting about frogs.

I wasn’t brave enough to step out of the meeting once we got going. Learned a lot.

Get me J.J. Abrams on line 1

I wish we had more mashup films like AVP or Freddy v. Jason, or at least some sequels that were willing to try something new. I can think of a couple dozen guaranteed hits right off the ol’ bean:

  1. Back to the Future / Terminator: Picture the T-1000 clinging to the back of the Delorean
  2. Big Lebowski / the Muppet Caper: The exact same movie but with muppets
  3. 90 minutes of Tom Cruise running / Speed
  4. Ken Burns: A Captain America Civil War
  5. Die Hard: Assisted Living Community
  6. James Bond cracks and turns into a villain – Jason Bourne tasked to bring him down.
  7. Shawshank Redemption, but they are all ghosts inside the Ghostbusters ghost storage facility.
  8. Christine / Fast and Furious
  9. Mrs. Doubtfire is The Fugitive
  10. The Jungle Book / Predator
  11. National Lampoons Addams Family Vacation
  12. Beetlejuice vs The Exorcist
  13. Bill & Ted phone booth breaks down in a concentration camp (serious)
  14. Con Air / Sully
  15. Conan the Barbarian Coming to America
  16. Edward Scissorhands / Barbershop
  17. Godfather vs. Godfather II
  18. Up / Gravity
  19. Gremlins / Waterworld
  20. 2001 / Her
  21. Highlander but the duels are face-melting guitar solos
  22. Indiana Jones and the Planet of the Apes
  23. Groundhog Day but from the perspective of Ned Ryerson, who is also trapped in the same day.
  24. Kong : Jurassic Park
  25. Two hours of Sean Connery working as a speech pathologist. First client: Stallone. Like a Finding Forrester for overcoming speech impediments

Love Magic

My wife is the strongest woman I know. In fact she’s a goddamn wild oak; steadfast and headstrong. Loyal and smart. Caring and kind, warm and quick to laugh with others. She can be loud; brash or intimidating some might say. Passionate about what she believes in and confident enough to always find her way. She makes friends easily and lives to see and be seen.

But what I really love about my wife is what doesn’t show on the surface. The things most people don’t get to see. The moments I’ve shared with her in private or amongst close friends over the last three (almost four) years I’ve known her when no one else was looking. Those moments when her confidence falters, or she seems unsure about what to do next. When she speaks softly in fumbled speech. When things around her fall apart. Those are the times I witness the real elegance and humility behind the eyes of my lioness.

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Nicole Frances “Beau” LeBeau is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. But most of the reasons I married her don’t show up on the surface. I love her for the grace and gallantry of a delicate balancing act she is performing before everyone, right before their eyes, without them knowing it. The act of facing every challenge with certainty. The act of taking every setback in stride. It’s a secret magic that only I can see, or rather, that she lets me see; with invisible strings and silver-glass columns holding her up, day after day. The magic of being both vulnerable and steady, smart and silly, wife and friend.

I am so happy to have the front row seat, now and forever. So happy to celebrate this first of many anniversaries.

The Masterful Gene Fomin

This September my father enters into his 70th year living among us common folk and it has gotten me thinking about everything I know about Gene Fomin and the impression he has had on my life.  If you’ve known me well for any length of time you’ve probably heard me tell stories, give impressions and recreate to the best of my abilities some of scenes and mannerisms that are brush strokes on the portrait of a ridiculous and endearing fellow.

Gene Fomin has such capacity as a linear thinker as I’ve yet to witness up close in another person.  He can apply present circumstance and foresee a path to success well beyond the normal human horizon of planning.  That is to say, Gene can form a winning strategy to play out over a long time.  In chess, a good player is always thinking of the next move, not the current one.  Better players think three or four moves ahead.  My dad thinks ten moves ahead.  In cruder terms, when I first heard the expression “Russians don’t take a dump without a plan,” I knew immediately what they were talking about.  

My dad always has a very specific idea about how events are going to play out, and it’s served him well over the years, at least in some arenas.  In the world of chess, he was twice crowned the Seattle Chess Club Champion (a plaque he still displays with pride) and was a highly ranked player on the national level, one time beating the reigning champion of the state of California.  More recently he’s been recognized as a Contract Bridge player, competing regularly at national tournaments and holding down his position in the 99.6 percentile of Master Points. In fact whenever he applies himself to a hobby, he has earned accolades and awards for his intelligence, foresight and mastery of strategy.

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And yet, I have seen this man walk directly through a closed screen door.  I’ve seen him attempting to extinguish an enormous juniper bush on fire with a sprinkler head, attached to a garden hose, instead of just the hose by itself. I’ve seen, at best, questionable fashion choices not on a few occasions, but on nearly every occasion I’ve ever seen him in public. I’ve listened to his unwavering insistence that the word Klingon is pronounced Klee-on. I’ve heard the cries of anger and disgust from my father after being outwitted time and time again by the family dog.  This is a man who showed up to an important job interview in 1995 dressed in a powder blue leisure suit.  This is a man who invests his money in crystals and is perpetually at a loss on how to “do internet.”     

I know what you’re thinking. It’s easy to pick apart the people whom we see up close the most.  It feels kind of childish, and indeed as a kid I used to do it all the time with my dad.  Despite the fact that he acted for large swaths of time as a single parent, I never gave him any credit as anything more than the most unhip dad a kid could have drawn from the dad-lottery.  He didn’t have a cool job.  He was an outdated dresser.  He listened to terrible music.  Even by teenager standards my dad was lame, and that is how I thought of him for years until a high-school band concert in 10th grade.

While our band was waiting in the wings for another band to finish, a bandmate sidled up next to me and asked if that was my father in the audience, pointing to a man sitting dead center in the audience, head all the way back, snoring audibly enough to challenge the wind section of the band now struggling to get through their performance of the theme song to 1989’s Batman.  Needless to say, I was mortified. Until I looked back at the same bandmate and realized he was laughing, along with some others who had caught on. “Your dad is rad.” I looked back at my dad, who had now been prodded awake by some angry parents for not paying respectful attention to their budding artists. It was then I saw my dad for who he really was: the kind of character that people tell stories about.  

Whether by his own design or by sheer dumb luck, Gene Fomin is a man who leaves an impression.  I think now looking back at his many accomplishments the warmest memories of my dad are when his plans went awry.  There’s a certain cosmic comedy to it all.  The master tactician befuddled by a common plumbing fixture. The grand strategist not seeing the possible consequences of feeding the dog an entire expired birthday cake.  The curveballs of life that have been thrown his way and hit him square between the eyes in a blooper reel spanning decades.  

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When I began to see my dad in this light and total up the feats and foibles in equal measure, it’s kind of amazing what he’s managed to get done.  It’s a lot like a dog who you’ve come home to discover has figured out how to open the fridge and consume an entire wheel of cheese.  He has had no small amount of obstacles put in front of him but somehow managed to form and reform and reform his plans after every setback.  And his plan worked.  His sons, friends and companions can all attest to it in the form of a story or impression he has left along the way.  

The pieces on the board have come and gone and changed positions from time to time, but Gene Fomin has mastered the the long game.  I’m turning 37 this year and I can still catch moments of my dad “playing” when I talk to him.  I still hear new stories from people about my dad all the time.  That’s the kind of man he is – quite possibly the coolest dad ever to hypnotize himself. Very likely the most successful man to ever think it was a good idea to decorate an entire bedroom in a wolf motif.  I sincerely hope I get another 37 years of broken screen doors stacked up behind his house.

Love you, Dad.

 

Blankets and Bleeding Hearts

During World War II, my grandmother and grandfather were prisoners inside a uniqueGerman labor camp for captured soldiers and staff of the Red Army.  My grandpa was one of the lucky ones, in that since he had a college degree (in engineering mind you), he was pulled aside and granted special work detail to treat injured soldiers as a medical doctor.  I guess the Germans figured someone with a degree could figure out how to extract bullets, treat diseases and perform ghastly surgeries with little to no medical supplies. More likely, they just didn’t care.

It was while working in the camp that my grandpa met his one-day wife, a nurse.  The two of them worked almost continually each day from sunrise until well into the night, treating patients and witnessing the horrific injuries and traumas of the war.  The prisoners at the camp were malnourished, weak and received very little in the way of clothing or blankets, often freezing to death overnight.  One particularly harsh night, the nurse in question, my grandmother, gave out her last blanket to another prisoner who was shivering cold and sick.  To my grandmother she was just another cold and miserable prisoner in need, just like the hundreds who had come before. But that night, my grandmother saved a life with one simple act of kindness and empathy.  And that prisoner did not forget it.

As it turns out, that prisoner worked for the American Red Cross in the years after the war. She had never forgotten about that blanket or the woman who gave it to her, and lord knows how, managed to find her living in post-war Germany, in a little town called Rosenheim.  She sent a letter, asking them if they would like to move to America.  For my grandparents, this was an escape.  A way to put the horrors of the war behind them and give their new son, Eugene, the opportunities they never had living under one authoritarian leader after another.  The ink on their letter accepting the offer was hardly dry before it was shoved into an envelope and sent off.

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They immigrated in 1950, and soon after took residence in Rock Island, Illinois. Some years later they had a second son, Andrew, and moved to Washington State. They rarely if ever talked about the inhumanity they lived through.  They never sought any recognition for the lives they saved. They simply went about their business raising a family, working for local government and quietly supporting liberal and progressive causes for the rest of their lives.  They gave back to their community and they instilled one very important value to my father, who passed it on to me: everyone deserves freedom.  Freedom from fear. Freedom and the opportunity to live your life and make it better for the next generation.

And not everyone has freedom. And that’s a problem.  

I’m writing this as a sort of reflection of my own ideals.  I started out writing about how I think a liberal minded or conservative viewpoint is formed.  But as I delved into why families seem to impart their ideologies onto their children and how opinions coalesce over time I realized I was largely talking out of my ass.  The truth is I’m not oblivious to other viewpoints – I just think the people that hold them don’t have a story like the one above that is close to their heart.  The best thing I can do as someone who believes that fundamentally everyone deserves freedom is tell the story and hope that it gets passed on.

If I grew up in a different family, in a different part of the country with a different set of friends and experiences, I might balk at the notion of liberalism.  But conservatism I think boils down to a kind of pessimism masked as realism:  The system is bloated and corrupt.  People take advantage and abuse the system.  Poor people won’t do anything to help themselves. You could easily just merge those three statements into smart people are corrupt and poor people are lazy.  Sound familiar? It’s the veiled belief that some people are better than others.  And that easily gets twisted into the notion that some people are inherently more deserving than others, by choice or design, whether said out loud or baked into your brain with blind prejudices from infancy. More often than not it’s seen as a choice, because this is America, land of the free and home to equal opportunity.

But being liberal means you are also pessimistic. America isn’t free. Everything is not Bud-Lite and roses. America only aspires to be free. And that I think is a line in the sand.  As a liberal, you may cry wolf at both real and perceived threats to your rights and those of others at the drop of a hat.  But essentially, you believe in a brand of optimism.  You believe everyone deserves to be on an equal playing field, and that when given that chance, they can do great things. You believe that no one is inherently more deserving than anyone else, and no one chooses to be poor or imprisoned.  You believe in the rights of others to live how they want to live, because everyone deserves freedom.  And it’s everyone’s job to make sure we have it.

That’s what a bleeding heart is. It doesn’t mean you don’t believe in abusers, or criminals, or in justice for all. A bleeding heart wants to remove the obstacles put up in front of people in their pursuit of liberty. It means you think everyone deserves a chance. It means you try to empathize and to understand.  It means you go from thinking smart people are corrupt and poor people are lazy to seeing them as just another person that needs a blanket on a cold night.

Intimidation factor

I want to like football. I really do. I just wish more sports teams made hats out of what their home state is known for, just like the Green Bay Packer Cheeseheads. It makes a lot of sense since their coming from Wisconsin, the Dairy State.  I think the other teams could all come up with something pretty good if they tried. For example I’d really like to see some Dallas Cowboys fans with giant foam lethal-injection needles on their heads.