Wednesday, June 25, 2003

The Phantom Regiment show went well. We sat near Andrej Jestafie, Andy’s Dad, and his wife, Dee. I also saw Skeeter, a mom chaperone during my marching days with the Phantom Regiment Cadets. I told Andrej I’m a bit jaded now and don’t really enjoy the small corps as much as the bigger ones, and applauded his patience sitting through all those PRC shows. The Cadets of Bergen County performed in Rockford for the first time in 20 years. It had been more than 10 years since I’d seen them. Other big corps included the Colts, Cavaliers and Phantom Regiment. For the first time ever, I left without seeing the scores. I thought I could read about them in today’s Rockford Register Star (after all, they are a major sponsor of the competition) (hmmm… for the second day in a row I mention the Register Star), but the scores were not present. Guess I’ll have to get online…

Esther and I got up and walked around after the first two corps performed and watched the next two from either side of the stadium. We left a fenced-in area and sat on the grass outside the stadium. Esther had a bright, fluorescent green bug land on her arm. I watched the Phantom Regiment alumni tent for familiar faces, and saw plenty. I’ve voluntarily excluded myself from Phantom alumni activities because, well, I failed to make it in the big corps in 1989 and defected to the Cavaliers the next year, and my allegiance lies with them. I am a traitor to many who knew me in Phantom Regiment. At 17, all I wanted was to march in big corps, and Regiment wouldn’t let me because of my heart condition. But most people don’t know that story. I did write a story about Regiment that appeared in the Beloit Daily News last year, and confronted Dr. Dan Richardson, the man behind the decision to not let me march in 1989. I told him I had surgery for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome in 1998. I made my peace with him. The bitterness of 1989 is long gone… ancient history. But I’ll still never visit the alumni tent.

Todd’s visiting today, so I must prepare for muchos tennis, music and loud talking. I think he’s gonna kick my ass today because I’ve got to mow two lawns this morning. Two big lawns. And temps are going to be in the 90s.

I called Steve Hardt last night after the show. He said he’s leaving at the end of the week to go back to trucking school and drive a big rig. He said he’d be gone 6 to 8 weeks, but will be home here and there in that time. The training is in Dallas. This is something he’s wanted to do for a long time, and I’m glad he’s doing it. I hope he sticks with it this time.

Yesterday I ran over a rock and blew out the cylinder in my mower, basically killing it… I got depressed and slammed a few beers in the afternoon mulling my fate as lawnmower man. I talked to Steve last night and he said he has a lawnmower he hasn’t used for months and offered it to me. Sweet fate. I’m glad I drank. The afternoon plan was to buy a new lawnmower.

We visited Dad at Swedish American Hospital. He told me he did the same thing to a lawnmower when the family lived on Riverside (where there is now a bike shop). But back then it cost less to repair it. A guy at Tractor Town told me it would cost $200 to repair a broken cylinder. I paid $100 for the mower.

Dad’s doing much better. On Sunday he looked weak and unhappy, and he needed a drug to lower his heart rate, which was in the 130-150 bmp range. Yesterday I saw him sitting for the first time, and he’s got fewer tubes and IV’s attached. I also saw the staples in his chest for the first time. He was in good spirits. Pastor Mitch at Forest Hills Free Church visited the same time we did.

Monday, June 23, 2003

I’ve been a bit depressed lately, and I thought it was because I was in a time of transition, which I was when the school year ended… two and a half weeks ago. But the funk I’m in persists. My father is in the hospital recovering from quadruple bypass surgery. I’m mowing lawns, making less money. I like the work, but I have to deal with the low status of the employment. Thinking back a year ago to when I was a newspaper reporter, not making much more money, but in a prestigious position. I wasn’t happy with the job then, pining for simplicity, clarity and the outdoors. Right now I’m where I want to be. Damn status. You know what you’re about outside of all that.

It is a sunny Monday morning and I admit I haven’t written much outside of e-mails in a little over a month. And maybe that’s why I’ve been in a funk. I’ve denied myself the magic and creativity of my true craft. I was burned out a bit after finishing Thru, my collection of six short stories about the Appalachian Trail, and editing the Ice Age Trail guidebook. But writing is a continuous exercise, and if you stop doing it you lose the practice. Thank God for e-mails or I’d be even rustier.

My writing goals for the summer include non-fiction nature writing about my hometown and Winnebago County. I’ve thought about pitching this whole outdoor columnist thing to the Register Star, but don’t want to do that until I can master what I really want to do with the thing. Once I get off my lazy butt and back in the saddle I’ll put together some sample columns, photographs and dazzle ‘em with presentation, storm the walls of Gannett. Tell ‘em about my plans for the Pacific Crest Trail in 2004…

I am also writing fiction this summer, a short story a week or 10 pages of a novel. That has always been a worthy goal, but I’ve never quite lived up to those production standards. Might be time too. I’ve just got to set time aside in my day, every day, to accomplish this. Make sure it gets done before the evening. I’m always busy at night. I’m too social. Too cramped in to this apartment. Too antsy.

It is a Monday morning, sunny and warm, going to be in the high 80s. I’ve got at least one lawn to mow, possibly two. Then I got to pick up Esther at 1:15 p.m. and go visit Dad at Swedish American Hospital, then back home for more writing or lawns. Dinner @ 6, Drum Corps Show starts at 7. Keep busy. Keep happy. Keep writing. Yeah, baby.