January 31, 2008

Reports of demise? Don't believe 'em

Neither me nor my poor neglected blog have really gone anywhere. Indeed, I was quite pleased to remember my password. It feels, what, kind of nice to see the familiar blog-entry screen and to watch the letters march across the space.

Sorry for not calling or writing or anything. I was on trial. It was quite intense. 14-15 hour days were the norm. I worked every day of every weekend. I am happy to have it behind me but for the post-trial briefs. Those are coming down the pike.

I have re-grouped. I have slept through the night for the first time in weeks -- no more waking up between 2:30 and 3:15 to wonder about whether I should include a line of questioning in my examination outline or whether I somehow blew a pre-trial submission deadline (never). No, the alarm clock is waking me now. I am returning slowly to the gym -- which is painful. I am sending out emails to clients who I put on hold to let them know I am available to help them again. I am paying bills and attending to personal details (just beat the deadline to sign the Boy Child up for little league for the spring).

In short, I am attempting re-entry. I am still probably not quite the best company in the world right now and need some time to re-gain my usual patience with my children and their needs.

But, it is coming.

Anyway, point of curiosity. I have not blogged in weeks and yet site-meter claims my daily visits are rising? Why are you all coming to see the blank space? Or, heaven forfend, is the blank space generally more interesting than my writing?

Anyway, nice to be back, y'all.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:54 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 06, 2008

Pushed and pulled

I feel a bit stuck, whipsawed by life this weekend. On Friday, on a piercingly, achingly cold and beautiful day, I spoke to a group of some thirty people gathered together to witness the burial of my cousin, Don. I called him Donny, actually. I was the only one there who called him Donny. Donny was 69 years old when he was struck down by terminal bone cancer. I miss him, already.

I stood at the grave and remembered how when I was a senior in college, or just before senior year, my grandfather and Donny took me out to visit the two cemeteries where our families are buried. We had lunch in between the visits. We went to the first one, where my grandfather now rests, buried next to my grandmother, which is where my grandfather and his family line are buried. The second cemetery holds the remains of the family of my maternal grandmother's relatives, the branch Donny was part of. Actually, since Donny had no children, the family name of my maternal grandmother has disappeared. Anyway, Donny and my grandfather told me that they wanted me to know where the family graves were because one day it would be my responsibility to make certain that the graves were cared for, to make sure that those who came after me would know something about the people who were buried in these places.

I had not been back to my grandmother's family's graves since that visit, some 18 years ago. It seemed to me that it was too soon to be back now. 18 years? That would have put Donny at just over 50, only 10 years older than I am now. Donny seemed to young to die and too close to me in age for me to feel that it was ok for him to die, that it was part of the natural order of things for him to leave this earth. But, of course, he has.

I spent Saturday morning and afternoon consumed by the Girl Child's birthday party. She will be 7 quite soon and we held her party yesterday. As per custom, we went to a local gymnastics place and ran around before she had her cake. Her cake, per her request, was an ice cream cake with a picture of her dressed in her horse show clothes and sitting on one of her favorite horses. It came out pretty darn cool, actually. As for the party, I won't ask you to guess who was the only parent there who threw himself into all the games, chasing the kids around, being chased around, having balls thrown at him and throwing them back, and generally wringing every second of fun from the party that he could. Yup, that was me. The Girl Child, the Boy Child and the Baby all had an excellent time, as did I.

My father turned 65 yesterday, the same day we celebrated the Girl Child's birthday.

That evening, before we took my father out for dinner, we drove into the city for a packed house memorial service for Donny. Seriously, it was standing room only. That was quite a tribute for my cousin. All of the speakers who spoke about him spoke of qualities that spoke of another man, although they did not know this. See, Donny's father died so terribly young, in his 40's, of a heart attack. Donny's father, Sam, my grandmother's oldest brother, actually put my grandmother through college during the Great Depression. Donny kind of grew up in my grandfather's house and, as Donny himself told me, my grandfather, his uncle, became a father to him. Donny did his best to emulate my grandfather -- he looked up to him so much. The qualities they spoke of in Donny at the memorial service, those qualities were learned from my grandfather. It would have made my grandfather so proud to hear people speak of his nephew like that last night. Just the same, it would have devastated my grandfather to watch his nephew die from this horrible disease.

After the service, we took my father out for his birthday. It was generally quite nice, albeit quiet and even a bit subdued due to the circumstances.

And so, I feel a bit whipsawed. Pulled between the too early death of my cousin and the celebrations of the lives of my father and my daughter.

I cannot quite figure out where or how to end this. I am not sure I even started this post with a destination in mind. So, maybe, I will just stop here.

Rest in peace, Donny. If its ok, and I know from the memorial service that everyone else called you Don, I am going to keep calling you Donny. After all, and since you kept my father company in the hospital some 40 years ago waiting with him while I was born, I have only called you Donny. It isn't a bad thing to have people call you by the name you were known as a child, even when you are dead, is it?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:37 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 03, 2008

A chilly start (woo hoo!)

I knew, intellectually, it was supposed to be a bit chilly this morning. But as I left the house and turned on the engine to my car, I was a little taken aback to see it register 23 degrees inside the garage. The register dropped quickly from there all the way down to a balmy 11 degrees.

It is a decent illustration of how debased and strange I have become that my first coherent thought after my shock passed was: gee, it is just perfect weather for platform tennis, too bad I have to go to work.

I need help. It would help if I worked less and played more racket sports. I'm sure that the solution lies somewhere in there.

Don't count the fact that I have already played paddle once this week (twice if you count Sunday) and squash twice, too. That should not count at all in evaluating my claim of racket sport deprivation. Ok?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Farewell, Flashman

George MacDonald Fraser has shuffled off his mortal coil at age 82.

According to the AP wire:

George MacDonald Fraser, author of the "Flashman" series of historical adventure yarns, died Wednesday, his publisher said. He was 82.

Fraser died following a battle with cancer, said Nicholas Latimer, director of publicity for Knopf, which will release Fraser's latest work "The Reavers" in the United States in April. Latimer was unable to provide details of where Fraser died. He lived on the Isle of Man, off the coast of northwest England.

"Flashman," published in 1969, introduced readers to an enduring literary antihero: the roguish, irrepressible Harry Flashman.

The novel imagined Flashman — the bullying schoolboy of 19th-century classic "Tom Brown's Schooldays" — grown up to become a soldier in the British army. In the book and 11 sequels, Flashman fought, drank and womanized his way across the British Empire, Europe and the United States, playing a pivotal role in the century's great historical moments. A vain, cowardly rogue, Flashman nonetheless emerged from each episode covered in glory, rising to the rank of medal-garlanded brigadier-general.

Fraser thought his antihero's appeal was not surprising.

"People like rascals, they like rogues," Fraser told the British Broadcasting Corp. in 2006.

"I was always on the side of the villain when I was a child and went to the movies. I wanted Basil Rathbone to kill Errol Flynn."

The Flashman books were also praised by critics for their storytelling flair and attention to historical detail. Each installment of the series purported to come from a faux-biographical trove of memoirs — The Flashman Papers — discovered in an English attic in the 1960s.

Fraser proudly pointed out that a third of the first book's American reviewers believed the Flashman papers were real.

Some readers and critics found Flashman's 19th-century racism and sexism disturbing. But by the time the final Flashman book, "Flashman on the March," appeared in 2005, the critical tide had turned in Fraser's favor.

Fraser also had heavyweight literary supporters. Kingsley Amis called him "a marvelous reporter and a first-rate historical novelist," and P.G. Wodehouse was also a fan.

Born in Carlisle, northern England in 1925, Fraser served as an infantryman with the British Army in India and Burma during World War II, and in the Middle East after the war. He worked as a journalist in Britain and Canada for more than 20 years before turning to fiction.

Fraser was the author of screenplays including "The Three Musketeers" (1973), an adaptation of his novel "Royal Flash" (1975) and the James Bond movie "Octopussy" (1983).

Fraser also wrote several works of nonfiction, including a wartime memoir, "Quartered Safe Out Here," "Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border" and "The Hollywood History of the World."

His final book, "The Reavers," is a a historical romp featuring espionage and intrigue during the reign of Elizabeth I.

There was no immediate word of funeral arrangements or whether Fraser left any survivors.

This is really quite sad, actually. He was a brilliant author and his books were tremendous fun. No more Patrick O'Brien, no more Flashman. The world is getting smaller and smaller with every passing.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 02, 2008

Hard to fit it all into her schedule

I know kids today are often over-scheduled, but this is ridiculous. . .

I was putting the Girl Child to bed last night and she and I had the following exchange:

Me: Now that you are about to turn 7, your mother and I think it might be the right time to start giving you an allowance.

Her: [Very excited] Great! What can I start doing around the house?

Me: Well, we haven't decided yet but I think you could start by making your bed every day.

Her: I could do that [tone: earnest] but it would really chew into my time.

I had to leave the room when she said that so she wouldn't see me laugh.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:52 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack