30 July 2008

Lake House

It doesn’t look like much, but this house is the origin of a lot of good childhood memories. I learned how to jet ski on the lake this house sits on, and I’m talking about a real jet ski, not one of those sissy sit down wave runners that you see people zipping along on with no chance of falling off. We rode it one handed, no handed, backwards and even tried our best to submerge it. Despite running over our friends (and sometimes ourselves) no one was ever seriously hurt (a miracle in itself).

I rode my first tandem bike on the various back roads behind this house. We would pedal the heavy beast through the hilly and twisty tree lined streets that rarely had any traffic on them, starkly contrasting the busy boulevards of Detroit’s suburbs. Some of us would ride it down the hills from the back seat position, a feat that has not been replicated to this day (mainly because along with getting older, we have all gained an allergic reaction to unnecesaary pain).

It was near this house that I conquered “crazy hill” on both a sled and a mountain bike. The mountain is just the remnants of an abandoned ski slope that I never saw operate in all the years I visited there and we spent hours exploring the woods and trails nearby.

I did my first roofing job on this house. It doesn't look like much from the picture, but this house was as large as a castle with multiple rooms and passage-ways. And just like a castle, it needed a lot of regular repairs to keep her maintained, which we were all more than happy to do (as long as we got to take the jet skis out when it was too hot to shovel shingles).

I took my first sunset pictures on the dock near this house which woke up some internal primal need to purchase lots of camera equipment (although some would argue that the need is part of my genetic makeup).

The house represented freedom from the dangers of growing up in a big city and freedom from responsibilities of school work or a crappy minimum wage job which is why I am drawn to it now that I am older and saddled with the yoke of adulthood. What a better place to reunite with childhood friends and reminisce about the antics and mischief that made being a kid so much fun?

Being grown up sucks.

28 July 2008


Yes, this is a picture of an empty sack of White Castle hamburgers. It was devoured by yours truly in what one can only call a masochistic feast; not because it is painful to eat them, but the onslaught these tiny burgers impart on one's digestive system can only be described as brutal. There is a reason they are nick-named “sliders”.

The nearest White Castles to Texas is in St. Louis, Missouri. To say that I haven’t thought about making the 10 hour drive just to get a sack of sliders would be grossly untrue. In keeping with tradition, a sack of them are usually one of my first meals upon returning to Michigan. I highly recommend it as it is a great way to purge oneself of all the junk food one consumes while traveling cross country. Who needs Pepto?

26 July 2008

Road Trip

So what do you do with a pick up truck full of clothes, bikes, Little Debbie snacks, guns and ammunition? You head north. At least that is what I decided to do for a week long vacation away from the whoas of work and unpacking. There are approximately 1200 miles of road between Dallas, Texas and Detroit, Michigan, none of which are particularly exciting to see either. East Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio are the states that roll under the wheels of the Ford as I steered north to cooler temps. Why am I driving instead of kick’n back in the confined seat of an aircraft? Well, I’m traveling fully loaded with gear that, after the airlines finished charging me for all the additional overweight and oversized fees, would cost much more than dishing out the dough for a round trip ticket. Besides, the folks at the airport look at you kind of funny when you check in a box full of guns.

So what’s in Michigan? Although my parents live in Texas, most of my family and friends live in the Great Lakes. I try to make a pilgrimage there at least once a year for a visit and it just so happens that this trip will coincide with the annual gathering of “Canyon Men” which is the moniker for the group of friends I grew up with. We use to spend a lot of time together as teenagers but we sort of went our separate ways after high school. With the onset of jobs, responsibilities, families and old age, we decided that we needed to get together at least once a year to do something “manly” like climb a mountain or wrestle a crocodile.

The Canyon Man weekend was mainly about getting together and doing the things that we enjoyed as kids. Events included riding our bikes down a ski slope (in summer), jet skiing on a cold lake, consuming vast quantities of pizza bread and cooking dangerous canned food products (there is a story about chicken and dumplings in here that will make your skin crawl). We decided that we couldn’t just relish in youthful recreational activities without looking like a bunch of washed up 30-somethings trying to hold onto their youth. Instead we decided to up the ante by competing in a race or even to challenge ourselves (or kill ourselves in the process).

The first gathering was a few years back when we decided to do a triathlon together. Let me caveat this by saying that you would not have confused any of us as the typical high school jock of our respective high schools; I ran a little track, Ken wrestled, Brian read books and I think Ryan golfed. For the most part, we were not specimens of the athletically fit, so when we decided to go for the Lake Hubbard sprint triathlon, it was a pretty monumental task. That first year most of us trained for it and some of us even completed it (less the swim), but we vowed to reunite again in the following years. With the exception of my short stint in Iraq last year, we have followed through on our promise.

I’m only in Ohio now, taking a well needed stop over at a friend’s house near Cincinnati. Assuming that the evil Ohio Highway patrol doesn’t impede me, I’ll travel north to Dayton tomorrow to visit Alissa’s family and then move onto Michigan. I’ll gather up some folks and drive up to the lake where we’ll ride jet skis, shoot guns, and maybe even build a bonfire that can be seen from space. After that, we’ll head west to the West Coast (Lake Michigan) to watch some of our members race in the Steelhead Half Iron Man. The smarter ones in our numbers will only be spectators for the race.

Did I mention that I was smart? An arguably false statement but I still won’t be doing a triathlon until I overcome my handicap of swimming like a cinder block.

15 July 2008

Kick some grass!

Today I conquered the lawn.

When I closed on the house a few weeks ago, the grass needed to be cut. Almost 2 weeks later, the lawn grew to an unruly jungle that needed attention. I got my lawnmower from my folks house last week and I was a little apprehensive if it would work after sitting dormant for a year and a half, but after a tank of fresh fuel and few pushes of primer, it fired up on the first pull. Ya just gotta love Craftsman!

Oddly enough, cutting the grass is something that I’ve been looking forward to do since my return. I’m sure I have lots of friends and family who would have gladly let me cut their lawn, but that’s not what I was looking for. I wanted to cut my own grass. There is something about getting back into doing the routine things that makes me feel more grounded. I’m sure that the more I do them, the more weary I'll grow of doing it, but for now I am still a wee bit excited about it.

My mowing buddy

13 July 2008

Summer Moving

With the help of two moving trucks and some dedicated friends, I moved most of my worldly possessions into the new house this weekend. Let me start off by saying that I have some great friends and that I also have a lot of junk. What was I thinking when I packed all this crap away? Hauling gear out of a metal storage shed in 100 temps isn’t my idea of how to spend a summer weekend but I’m glad to be getting closer to that “settled” feeling. I’m not moving myself into the house just yet. I’m still missing some appliances and furniture that will arrive in the not so distant future, plus I’d like to do some renovations to the place as it is in serious need of a coat of paint or two. Who paints their walls a chocolate brown? I had some estimates done on the windows and the A/C system that might just dwindle away the savings I stacked up during my deployment, but hey, it’s only money, right? They say it doesn’t buy happiness, but for about $15,000, it will buy you some nice insulated windows and an air conditioning unit that turns off every once in a while.

I went from having relatively no monetary commitments to having a whole mess of them all at once. Couple that with the rising cost of gas and I think I might have to explore some alternative transportation options.

"I bet the $100 it cost to fill my truck would buy a lot of oats."

05 July 2008

Happy Independence Day

The last "American Birthday" I spent was in Iraq listening to a very different kind of fireworks, which is why this 4th of July that much more enjoyable.

That's an airplane at the local show here in Dallas

Ooooh! Aaaaah!

03 July 2008

In the saddle

I've been back to work for about a month now and I've come to the realization that I don't like to work. Oh I do enjoy the benefits of work - the sense of accomplishment, the contribution to something worthy, the paycheck - but the whole crawling out of bed every morning and dragging my rear into a job where I plop down behind a computer all day isn't what one would consider fun. It does pay the bills, of which I've acquired more of with the purchase of a house. That's right, I'm no longer homeless. I'm the proud owner of a cozy 1,600 sq. ft. 4 bedroom house smack dab in the middle of the DFW metroplex. It has a decent yard, lots of trees and a 30 years worth of payments.

Blogging was something I did to pass the time during my trip to Iraq and I'm finding it hard to transition my thoughts from military life to my Mr. Civilian world. My views and priorities are a lot different now that I've returned and if find that it can be challenging at times to get re-adjusted to my surroundings. Not returning home to a family or a house has made me long for a little bit of stability to anchor myself to. I've got a great girlfriend and wonderful friends who have helped to house me and my stuff in an effort to make my transition less stressful, but I still haven't shaken that transient feeling I've had for the past 3 months. I put a lot of hope that the purchase of a house would help me feel more settled, although part of me realizes that it takes more than a building with indoor plumbing and A/C to make it feel like home.

In order to outfit my house with the bare essentials, I strolled over to the "scratch and dent" store located at our local outlet mall in an attempt to get a good deal. In the midst of my hunt for a washer and dryer, I found these:

Either the popularity of this color is a reason they didn't sell so well in the retail store, or else they wash your clothes really REALLY fast!