Thursday, September 4, 2008


Today is the day that people will look at you and say, "Hey, oh wait, sorry...I thought you were someone else."

A day at the office.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


The thought of stepping outside yourself and taking a good hard look may seem scary. But imagine doing it when you are even uglier.

Bad Coffee

The waiting room wasn't at all what I had expected. Despite all that I had seen to that point, I still held on to the fantasy that the waiting room would be pleasant. I was foolishly certain that it would be a softly lit, comfortable, quiet respite from the trials of the Charles Hacking and Lydia Coughing Memorial wing of Smells Weird General Hospital. While I was imagining Kevin Bacon struggling comfortably alone awaiting the news of Elizabeth McGovern's delivery, the reality was a room full of ill tempered, starkly distraught people staring at bad coffee and life changing news.

More like the waiting room scene from 'Beetlejuice', it was lit like a high school classroom on an overcast day. Each seated worrier was like a 3D cutout on a 2D background. Everything said or done was up a decibel; not because it broke a somber silence, but because everything seemed meant for the room. Everyone seemed so desperate, to me, to want everyone to know about their lives, and their fears and all the things that had brought them here. They wanted Mom and me to find them interesting.
I hated them. I hated their Midwest accents and their stupid Midwest lives. I don't know when I became a snob of this high order; and I may actually not be. But sitting in that tiny, smelly, loud room I hated those people down to the fabric of their souls.

Mom and I, along with finding two seats literally hinged together, also had managed to wrangle some coffee out of the Frank Hardwick Memorial Coffee Machine . We sat and tried to read our books. Hers The Power of Now, mine the first of the seven book Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

This little fucking kid kept running over my foot. Mom watched this with a Grandmother's smile. She was obviously delighted and overtaken by the energy; the 'kid-ness'. I, a single man with no prospects and a displeasure with my life, wanted the little fucker dead. I had even played out the rest his life in my mind. This kid would be kind of an asshole in high school, go to trade school and work on trucks. He'd tip a few at the local every night after work and cheer on the Lions (the closest football team to Toledo). Eventually he'd marry a decent enough looking girl from town and they'd have a couple kids. The wife would blow up to 200 lbs and he'd be chain smoking and drinking more and more and cheaper and cheaper beer. Then, 50 years from now, while he was in getting open heart surgery…his grand kids would be stepping on some other poor bastard's foot in this same waiting room. I wondered if he'd have any fun along the way.

A young woman came in and called our name. "Snyder?", she said. Weird. It had only been an hour or so. The surgery was supposed to take 4 hours. She walked us, and another woman whom she had also called for, into the post-op/recovery ward. Mom and I were confused and perhaps even a bit concerned. Why so soon? What's going on? We passed through the industrial sized, automatic sliding doors and in we went. It was just like the pre-op room. Patient after patient cubed off in their little curtained areas; their bodies wired into bags and machines. The difference here though was that everyone was unconscious. Everything here was quiet, except for familiar beeps and rings. The woman who was called in with us quickly found her loved one and was by his bed in a second. We were looking, but couldn't find Dad. We went to the cubicle where he was supposed to be. It was empty. A man was there mopping the floor. Limp wires hung from silent machines. There was no bed; there was no Vern. My God.

Mom and I stood there in silent panic. Well, I was panicking. We never spoke of this, so I have no idea what Mom was thinking. The young woman who escorted us was at the nurses desk, trying to find out where Dad was. Unbelievable.

Turns out he was, of course, still in surgery. This was all a mistake.

Sitting back in the waiting room, my mood was now much worse. I was almost daring that fucking kid to step on my foot one more time. Please, dick face, just step on me one more time. We can save the health care system the cost of your inevitable bypass surgery.

We got one update. It was to tell he was "on the machine" or something to that effect. I guess this is a critical part of bypass surgeries. The fact that he had lived through them putting him on life support and stopping his heart or whatever the hell happened was good news. It seemed things were fine. It was a little time after this report that two women were in the corner of the room crying. They were saying things like, "I saw him earlier, he seemed fine" and "I guess they just don't know yet".

Finally, we were moved into a smaller, private room. The surgery was apparently over and we were to meet with the doctor to get the status report. Again, I was trying to read every one's body language. They didn't seem to be hiding anything. I was 90% sure Dad was fine. But a few times, I did let the thought slip in that this little room could get really terrible, really fast.

The doctor came in about 10 minutes after we were moved to the little waiting room. Seemed like a nice guy. We shook hands. Even in this situation, I worried that my palms were sweaty. Mercifully, he quickly said that everything went well. He went on to talk about numbers being good and rates being fine and the slight possibility of stroke still existed and so on. But I could tell it was all the standard speak.

Everything seemed silly now. But again, as Mom and I had discovered, we worry most about things we think we can control, and feel fine leaving the rest to fate.

A Gift From A Friend


This is a little piece a friend of mine put together to let me know I am always in his thoughts.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Free yourself of rules today. Free yourself of your responsibilities. They can only lead to trouble.


The little girl was Asian. She was reading a book. Just the bright white tips of her red Converse All Stars reached the floor of the subway car. Gus leaned forward a bit in his seat and tried to see what she was reading. It was a hard cover book, red, almost the same color as her All Stars. He couldn't get a look at the title.

Gus suddenly felt self-conscious, realizing he was craning forward, looking at a ten year-old girl on the uptown C train. He knew he wasn't a pedophile or anything, but it's not a thought you want stirring awake sleepy-eyed commuters. He sat back and looked up at the ads begging for attention above the blackness of the train windows. He wasn't really reading them. Gus was trying to figure out what it was about this little girl that had struck him. What had made his stomach drop with nervousness and angst.

Glancing around the train, Gus leaned forward and briefly looked at his shoes, inconspicuously looking to his left to watch the girl. Her olive skin was without blemish. Was that it? Was he taken with her beauty? It wasn't the beauty of a beautiful woman, but more the beauty of a perfect blue sky or a brand new TV. She didn't seem to have a single blemish, as if her skin was yet untouched by the fray. She wore glasses with light brown rims. They were one size too big.

Gus again realized he was staring. Again he sat back and glanced around at the people on the train car. None seemed to notice, yet, his infatuation. Unable to resist, he leaned forward and slowly worked his glance back to her. Why was he looking at this girl? For the life of him he couldn't put his finger on what it was that made him want to study her.

Then it hit him. It was 5 minutes past 10 O'Clock on a Tuesday morning. Why wasn't she in school? Why was she alone? A hundred thoughts hit Gus at once. He imagined the story of a wonderful little girl, ignored by an over worked parent. No, she had both parents. They must have been the ones who ordered the glasses one size too big. She would grow into them. Maybe they were hand-me-downs in a family of immigrants who spoke less English than she did, if any. They had to work 2 or 3 jobs each probably. They couldn't be around much so she had been traveling through this huge city on her own since she started school.

Sitting back, Gus looked up at nothing in particular. He wondered if his imagination had found any truth.

At the 23rd street stop, two police officers got onto the train. Everyone looks at police officers on the train. It is like students straightening in their seat when the teacher walks back in.

Gus looked at the officers, a man and a woman, and then looked back to the girl. She hadn't noticed. He thought to himself now that she hadn't so much as moved. She had just been reading. A little girl, out of school, reading. That was it, he thought. Part of it anyway. She wasn't playing a video game or listening to music. This little girl was reading a hard cover book. It wasn't a children's book. It was a grown up book. A book Gus nor any of the other passengers had probably ever taken the time to read.

Something new had occured to Gus as he now blatantly stared at the girl. She didn't want to go to school. She was, in the eyes of ten year-olds, a nerd. She didn't know how perfect she was. She just didn't want to get off the train today. She didn't want to go to math or science. She didn't want to be purposely ignored by the other kids or worse; made fun of for preferring a book over lunchtime chaos. She didn't want to see the other girls and boys she didn't fit in with. The train must have reached her stop and she must have weighed the moment. The decision was right there and she chose to stay lost in the words and world of an author. She was safest here, in the relative silence of the uptown local C train.

As the 34th Street stop approached the female police officer walked over to the little girl. Gus watched in disbelief. Was she going to ask her what she was reading?

"Where are you supposed to be," the officer asked.

The little girl sat motionless, not looking up. She kept reading.

"Hey," the officer raised her voice a little, "Are you supposed to be in school?"

The little girl looked up. Gus, eyes wide open, was anxious to hear her speak. The others in the train car were looking now.

The little girl spoke, but in such a timid whisper Gus couldn't hear what it was she had said.

The officer leaned in for a moment then straightened and said, "At this next stop I want you to come with us. Get your things."

With her index finger, the little girl pushed her glasses firm to her nose and stood up, turning around to grab her other books and gingerly place them in her yellow canvas bag. Gus hadn't noticed them beside her earlier. The officer, bracing herself with her left hand on the steel pole, grasped the little girl's left arm. The little girl stood with her arms wrapped tightly around her bag, her head tilted slightly down as she looked at her red Converse All Stars. And for the final excruciating minute before the train reached 34th street, Gus watched as a train full of gawkers stared at the sweetest, most perfect little girl in the world. A train full of twelve year-olds, silently picking on the nerd. Gus saw her glasses, one size too big, slide ever so slightly down her nose. A tear hung from the corner of her left eye. She was doing all she could to hang on to it.

As he watched them escort her off the train, Gus realized she wouldn't be alone anymore. Not alone how she had chosen to be. She couldn't be alone. She wasn't allowed. She couldn't read her book. She could no longer sit quietly and safely on the uptown train, with her heroes and friends on pages of white and black.

It was back to the wolves of young life.

Now she'll be late, Gus thought. She'll be in trouble.

Gus sat motionless. He finished his subway ride with a broken heart.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

GEMINI Friday, January 4th, 2008


***A note on this post. I first heard the term silent assassin while watching Dennis Miller's HBO show. I give credit to him for the term...although I have no idea whether or not he actually originated it***


Just so you know, the only guys who DO brag are guys who get no action. This is a natural law. The guys who get laid all the time don’t say peep. It’s the other guys who see them in action that brag for them. It's like telling another guy's sex stories somehow means they’ll rub off on you; paying homage to a God or something. You need to stay in the good graces of the masters. They’re called silent assassins. It is an amazing phenomenon. All guys have at least one of them in their circle of friends.

You all go out. Then you will all see THE GIRL. Every bar has a THE GIRL on any given night.

Anyway, we all start commenting on THE GIRL.

“Oh man, look at that girl dude!”

“She looks like (insert celebrity) but cuter”

“I would lick every inch of that girl” (Some guy always says this, and it privately makes everyone else uncomfortable)

“Jesus.” (That’s my ol’ standby)

Everyone comments…except the assassin. He busies himself with something else, ie: getting drinks, sees someone he knows(assassins always know somebody, they’re mini celebrities), finds a table, etc…

Then we all sit down and sneak peeks at her when we can, trying not to be busted by our friends. For some reason, it becomes embarrassing to get caught looking after the initial look, even though we are all doing it. Same rule applies to masturbation.

The assassin looks…I think, but he never gets caught by ANYBODY…not even strangers. There is an assumption that he must.

Then the night wears on…and one guy is hitting on a girl and two other guys are arguing about sports or politics or some fact from an old college story that they can’t agree on. After a couple hours, right at the witching hour(which is the hook up hour, usually 1:45 to 2 hours after the bar/party really got good), when the girls are on that drink that can either send them home or continue a conversation, the assassin strikes. But the thing is, you don’t see it. You don’t see him approach her, you don’t even see him look at her. It is just…like magic…you look up, look around, and there he is…talking to her as if they had been friends for years.

To describe the emotion that wells up in the rest of us when the assassin hits is difficult. There is plenty of jealousy, yes, but there is an awe and a respect that surpasses that. It takes us beyond hate or resentment. It leads to this conversation:

“I can’t believe he is going to hook up with that girl, dude.”

“Yeah…he’s the man.”

“He’s the man alright.”


Thursday, December 20, 2007

AQUARIUS Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

You will lose your remote today.

The Bar

With the TV still on from the night before, I stumble and regret my way to the bathroom some ten feet away. As the dark yellowness of a dehydrated man falls to its death, I look through the crack in the fogged window, down to the street two stories below.

What are the people wearing today?

From the looks of their sleeves, it seems to be about 65 maybe even 70 degrees. Lovely. No, more than lovely. It's perfect. I really don't say lovely anyway. Lovely is for the Brits. And they only use it to sound British in front of Americans.

70 degrees is enough to shake my hangover. 90 degree shower water is the next step.

I lather and I rinse and all of the other shit. I don't waste time. I am not one to stand and contemplate the day. I get bored.

I can't help but appreciate the smells though. I have watermelon shampoo and apricot soap and glacier snow deodorant. We are more educated about these things now, aren't we? We know it needs to be natural. That doesn't mean I read the ingredients. If it says 'All Natural' below the picture of the pear tree, well, then I am just fine.

Out of the shower I am quickly into a bright yellow shirt (although today it is gold) and black baseball cap.

I look like a bumble bee with two chins and I smell like a bowl of fruit salad.
It's time to go to the bar.

I stand in my shirt sleeves and look through the neon beer sign at the bartender. The doors are chained still, so it is awkward that I am here. But there are territories to be established. The early bird gets the worm.

She giggles a bit. I am way too early. I won't always be this early, but today I am. Walking towards the gate, she smiles wide and wipes her hands on her towel. The clink clank of the unlocked chain is as sweet a sound as bells from a campus square.

"On the ball are ya this year hon," she says with a great Irish accent.

"Hey Julie!" I exclaim, looking past her to 'our' seats.

"You're all set," she continues as she walks around the 40 foot bar,"You need a Tums?"

"Nah," I reply, "Didn't get too bad last night."

And so it goes.

All of these places are as much different as they are the same. They smell of mop water and despair at first; and slowly they fill up with smells of pizza, beer and wings. The bartenders and patrons are friendlier than at most other social scenes. There are no lounges or VIP sections or dress codes or ropes. It is where captains of industry sit next

I drape my coat on one seat and place a water in front of another.

Julie grins and and says, "When are they comin'?"

"Probably right before," I say.

After 15 minutes and half of a Bloody Mary, I get my first text. 'On my way'.

A couple of other guys are in the bar now with the same territorial waters and coats.

I get another text. 'B thr n 5'.

The place is starting to fill up. People are looking at the two empty chairs flanking me. They have the same respect for me that I had for that guy at the party other night who spontaneously started playing the piano. Sure, I was jealous of the attention he was getting from the girls, but that by no means meant I wanted to be him.

My boys show up, filling the empty chairs flanking me on both sides.

"How's work?"

"Good. You?"

"Same shit."

"What's up with that girl?"


That will be about the extent we will talk about real life for the rest for the afternoon.

After looking around, I notice there are a couple of the same folks from last year. There is the guy with the jersey tucked into his jeans who walks up and dowen the lenght of the bar all afternoon.

"Hey, douche is back," my buddy tells me after I'd already seen him.

"Yeah, looks like we are wearing an away jersey this year."

I see that the other crew is here. They are the most like us. I still feel a general respect, but we could take them down if need be.

There are some guys in dress shoes. Whoa. And they brought a girl. Looks like we are up in females this year, from 2 and 1/2 to 3.

The loners are back. I think to myself how I love these guys. They sit alone, they watch and that's it. I worry they are somehow better than us. They don't have any social reason to be here. It is just their team.


Another football season begins.

We are alive.

The games go on. Our game isn't close. We are winning big. The discussion turns to the season outlook. What are the problems? Who looked good? We try and say things the experts will say later on TV.

And so it goes.

The weeks and months pass and I exchange shirtsleeves for a heavy coat and the ball cap for one of wool. The bartender won't look at me through the window anymore and the gray skies weigh on me heavily. I am tired of the mop water and the beer. I am tired of saving seats. I am tired of the people here. I am tired of that guy with the away jersey tucked into his jeans.

But the games remain. The team will make the playoffs. But we with saved seats know they will lose. The end of this journey will be a sad one. But it will end here, at this perfect place, far enough from the seats obsturcted by taps but centered enough that we don't have to crane our necks to see. It will end in front of our TV. At least for now. At least until I am back in shirtsleeves.