“I call that a bargain”

It’s 9:33 Sunday evening and I’m at the end of another good weekend. You just gotta like that. There’s something mindless playing on the television, but I’m not paying attention to it because my Ipod has results of my latest playlist creation playing. Shall we have a musical interlude? Why yes, I think we shall.

Run your car off the side of the road,
get stuck in a ditch way out in the middle of nowhere...
Get yourself in a bind, lose your shirt off your back,
need a floor, need a couch, need a bus fare...
This is where the rubber meets the road,
this is where the cream is gonna rise...
This is what you really didn’t know,
this is where the truth don’t lie 

You find out who your friends are,
somebody’s gonna drop everything,
run out and crank up their car,
hit the gas, get there fast, never stop to think
“What’s in it for me”, or “its way to far”
They just show on up…with their big ‘ol heart...
You find out who your friends are…… 

Not a whole lot to report about my work week. It sucked, but that’s why they have to pay me. Tuesday night however was rather interesting. Our local SCA group is/has been suffering from some internal communication problems that have manifested themselves in various ways over the last few months, and Tuesday night we held the second of a series of ….I guess you could call them “discussion” or perhaps “philosophy” meetings designed to address those communication problems. It went very smoothly, lots of good points were made and nobody got angry or got their feeling’s hurt.
Saturday was the true highlight of the week. Barbarian Brawl is a wonderful one day event hosted by the Barony of Small Gray Bear, and one that I always enjoy going to each year. This year in particular I was looking forward to it because two very good friends of mine were serving as autocrat and feastocrat for the first time. It was a great time. Let me tell you about it…..
I awoke after three hours sleep way to early Saturday morning. The reason I only had three hours of sleep is that I had promised Lady Deahe, the autocrat, that I’d make a chain to use as a prize for one of the tournaments, and I didn’t get it finished until late Friday evening. So, I was awake at 5:30, and unlike a work day when I have to get up at that ungodly hour I was full of energy. Showered and dressed by 6:15 and ready to roll. Kat arrived about 6:45 and we got her gear loaded and left to go pick up Her Highness Kenna. After picking her up we then crossed the Mighty Mississippi heading west. A short stop for breakfast and to pick up Duchess Linnet and Brandi in West Memphis and it was on to the site location at ASU Bebe.
We arrived about 10:00 AM, and quickly trolled in. It was a beautifully sunny day, but very, very hot. I stayed outside watching the fighting for a while, but frequently took breaks to get back inside, in the air conditioning. Her Highness was well attended, so I didn’t have much entourage duty, so I spent the day doing what I like most at SCA events: talking with old friends and making new ones. I was able to spend some time talking with Paul and Kat, with Neal, with Cucullin, and many, many others.
My class was scheduled for 1:15 Pm, and I had a whopping three people show up for it. I can’t claim it was a real class, but it was four people sitting and talking about about a topic for an hour, and I enjoyed it. I hope the attendees did as well.
The rest of the afternoon was spent the way the morning was; talkign with friends. I got some ideas for a couple of different projects I want to pursue from Brandr and from Hrothgar. Had a rather spirited discussion with Gresch. Watched some of the afternoon heavy weapons tournament, some of the rapier tournament, and before I really knew what time it was, it was time for court. Their Excellencies Hrothgar and Brianna hold a rather interesting court that combines feast with court. It is historically accurate for their time period, and it was unlike any court I’d ever been to before. Much less formal, and very, very entertaining. I was particularly moved by the attention they gave to Liam, who will soon be again departing for Iraq. That was very, very cool.
The feast itself was truly excellent. Lady Eithne and her staff outdid themselves. My particular favorites were the beef served in a bread bowl, the pork, and the bleeding fish pie.
After court it was time to load up and head for home. Again the trip home was filled with conversation and laughter. It was a great, great, great day. And it reinforced a thought I’d had last week while driving home from Cerridwyn and Gordon’s home: There are a great number of things about the SCA that I wish were different. There are lot of things about our Society that I wish would change, etc. etc. However, if dealing with those things are the price I have to pay to have days like I had that day, if that is the price I have to pay in order to spend time with good friends, well that’s a price I’ll gladly pay. To steal a line from one of my favorite musical acts, “I call that a bargain, the best I ever had”.


Weekend Happenings.

It’s Monday afternoon, and I feel fine. That kind of surprises me, but it is very true.

Let’s see, so much to report on since my last post. Where to start, where to start? Well since my last post was on Thursday, I guess I’ll start with Friday.
I worked the night shift on Friday, so I got off work at 9:00 and headed for Davis Kidd. As anyone who has been reading the Harry Potter books for the last ten years knew, the last book in the series went on sale at midnight Friday night. There was a Harry Potter pre-sale party at Davis Kidd and Linnet and her family were going, so I decided to join them. This was not one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. Don’t get me wrong, it was good to see Linnet, and I did truly want to devour the book as soon as possible, but I had a slight problem. You see, I don’t handle very large crowds well, and there were easily 4700 people in that store. You couldn’t walk, couldn’t move without bumping into someone or being bumped into by someone. It was like that for almost two hours. When they finally started actually distributing the books I got mine and got out as quickly as possible.
I quickly went home, and despite the fact I had to be at work at 7:00 AM Saturday morning I stayed up all night reading. I didn’t get it finished before going to work, and didn’t get to read at all Saturday, but I did finish on Sunday. I won’t post any spoilers here, but I will say I thought it was magnificent. I laughed, and I am not afraid to admit I teared up a bit, and at the end I cheered. Ms. Rowling, I salute you, thank you for sharing your creation with me, and I don’t mind at all the money I spent on any of the books.
As mentioned earlier I had to work Saturday morning and that was not particularly fun. Of course not having any sleep before going to  work didn’t help. However the five hours went quickly, and I came home and slept for about three hours. Woke up, took a shower, and then hit the road to Tupelo.
We were going to Tupelo because it was  Ceriddwyn’s birthday and she was having a party at her and Gordon’s home. We got down there about 6:00 and left sometime after midnight. I guess there were about 30 people there, and I knew most of them. In addition to Gordon and Ceriddwyn there was Hod, William the Bastard, Avis, Dometta, Charlotte, Hod, …and lots and lots of others. We had good food, and good conversation. You can’t really ask for more than that.
Spent Sunday finishing up the Potter book, and doing nothing else. A great weekend.

Long day at the office…

Today was a very long day. Twelve hours spent sitting in an uncomfortable chair at an uncomfortable desk calling people that are not paying their student loans. It was NOT a good day. However, in the attempt to be honest and take responsibility, I must state that the long day was entirely my fault; I kind of forgot to make up some hours earlier this week.  Specifically some people realized I had not worked five hours last Saturday, as I was supposed to and therefore I had to make up those five hours between today and tomorrow. Since I’d much rather get out of work as early as possible on Friday, I decided to make up the greater part of the time today.
During the course of the day I came to several realizations:
1. Based on the names they give their children there are a whole lot of people that obviously hate those children. I see a wide variety of odd names every day. Names that make me go, “what the hell were their parents thinking?” just about every day. However today I saw a couple of true mind boglers: Needa Schitz and (the real winner) Chastity Cummings. Now I remember I remember jr high and highschool all to well , and I can only shudder when I think of what those two poor people must have endured in the way of teasing from their classmates.
2.  One should neve, ever, underestimate the ability of deliberate human stupidity to explain just about anything.  I collect student loan debt. That means that these people I’m calling have spent at least a little time in college. In many cases they have graduated from college. You would think, at least I would that they would be able to understand that “borrowing money”, what you do when you sign a contract for a “student loan” means that they do, in fact, have to repay that money.
3.  A surprisingly large percentage of the population that does owe debts can’t seem to understand that a debt collector is not a “customer service” employee. Further, they can’t understand that they are not my customer, they are the people that owe my customer money. Yelling at me, suggesting I perform anatomical improbabilities, etc. are not going to make me stop. I’m not customer service, I don’t have to make you happy. You are not my customer.
Now, I know everyone has rough times, and most people get behind on their payments on things at one time or another. Hell, I’ve been there myself. However, I worked very hard to get my bills paid.  I’ve taken absolutely lousy jobs at one time or another because any job was better than being unemployed.  I honestly don’t have any problems working with and helping people that are genuinely facing hard times.  I have issues with the people that are working, but not paying their student loans because they went on vacation, or bought a better car, etc. Further, I know that in my line of work a lot of people are going to be rude to me, and a lot of people are going to lie to me. I don’t mind it, unless they do it badly. Like the guy that owed my client about 5,000.00 that I called AT WORK, the guy who’s secretary transfered the call to him, the guy who, when I explained who I was, and why I was calling said, “you know, I’d like to pay that but I’m unemployed at this time”.
“Really? Have you been let go in the last ten seconds? Might I suggest that you consider the location I had to call you at since you never answer your phone at home”, I asked.
“Oh, I guess that is not going to work this time, is it?”, he asked.
“No sir, it’s not’, was my reply.
If your going to lie to somebody, could you at least try to be good at it?

In the words of Porky Pig, “That’s All Folks!!”


A Winter Memory on a Summer Day.

My good friend Charlie suggested a cure for my writer’s block, “Tell us about your most memorable family holiday.” Well that’s easy, It would be Christmas. Specifically I think it would be Christmas of either 1980 or 1981. Now, I know Christmas is the major holiday for most people,  as it should be. But  Christmas in my family was kind of different for many reasons.
I guess the first reason is that my family didn’t travel at Christmas. The year I was born my parents told their parents, that would be my grandparents, that Christmas should be spent at home, and if they wanted to spend Christmas with their grandchildren they could come to our house. Now, both sets of Grandparents had grandchildren all over the country so some years they would come for christmas, some years they would be off visiting other grandchildren. That was fine. The point is, we never had to decide what place we were going for the holidays. THe holidays were, ALWAYS, at home for my sister and I. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how truly special that is. How truly tough it must have been for my folks to make that commitment and stick with it through pressure applied from various family members. It was just the way it was.
The other way that Christmas at our house was somewhat different was that my parents collected strays. Although we were not military, the town we lived in was home to a very large Air Force base (Offut Airforce Base) and most of the people we socialized with were military, or military dependents. Every year there would be several people that we knew that wouldn’t be able to travel to be with their families for Christmas, and somehow Mom and Dad would find out about them, usually a friend of a friend…Or perhaps somebody they worked with. So they would get an invitation to Christmas Dinner. It was not unusual for us to have 20 people for Christmas Dinner.  Four or five of them might have been blood family, but for that day each year, they were all family.
And what dinners they were!! It was not until many years later when I had been to several SCA feasts that I had comparable meals. Mom and Dad would cook turkeys, usually two, and usually a ham, as well as several other dishes (to this day I still think my Mom makes the best dressing/stuffing in the world), and most everybody else would bring a dish; either a vegetable dish, or  desert, or some kind of drink. There would be so much food we could have probably fed large portions of Ethiopia for the day. However, the food was just a reason for us to gather at the table (ok, in reality there were usually three or four tables put end to end) and socialize. Another tradition my parents always insisted on  was that EVERYONE ate at the table. There was not a “children’s table” downstairs. We’d eat, and talk, and tell our version of “no shit, there we were” stories.
So, what made that one particular Christmas so memorable? Well, It was one of the last that my family would have in Nebraska. We moved in 1983.  The more I think about it the more I’m sure it was 1981 and it was  a true Nebraska December day: Bright and sunny, clear sky, and bitterly cold. I don’t remember the exact temperature, but I’m sure it was somewhere around 20 below zero without counting the wind-chill factor.
That particular year we had 23 people for Christmas Dinner. It wasn’t the largest number we’d ever had share the day with us, but it was close to it.  People started arriving around 11:00,  and we sat down to eat at 3:00 P.M. My main gift that year had been a video game console, the top of the line Atari console and several games. Gods, Atari? How many years has it been since anyone heard that name?
About 23 minutes after unwrapping it I had it installed on the television in the family room, and for the rest of the day, right up until it was time to go upstairs for dinner I was playing my games. I played with Kris, my sister, and as guests started arriving, I played with various guests. One of the games was a type of target shooting game, and I/we were having a lot of fun.
One guest was an Air Force Lieutenant  named Duncan (I never knew his last name). He was a friend of Major Springer, our next door neighbor who was also attending along with his wife. . Major Springer and his wife always came to dinner because their families were in Arizona, and I don’t think they liked them much. Duncan was a Jr. Lt. , not married, and so young that i now realize he couldn’t have been out of college very long. As we were playing, blowing the bejesus out of something, he told me that his family was in Georgia, and for some reason he didn’t have enough leave to go visit during the holidays. He didn’t really have a lot of people he knew in Bellevue. I think he said he’d only been there a few months.
So, he stayed downstairs with Kris and I playing Atari most of the day, and tromped upstairs to eat when the call came out to take our seats. The dinner was huge, as always, and we had a lot of fun. Afterwards it was back downstairs to the family room to play some more, at one point Duncan and I took turns playing against Dad and Major Springer. Whipped their combined behinds as I remember. It was a a GREAT day. But the truly memorable part didn’t happen until about 9:00 PM that night.
You see, Duncan and the Springers were the last people to leave.  Duncan shook my hand,  and hugged my sister. He told us that we reminded him of his brothers and sisters  and that he had enjoyed himself. Then he turned to my parents, hugged my Mom, and shook my Dad’s hand and said, “Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher. You have made what was shaping up to be a very lonely, depressing day into one that I’ll remember, fondly, forever. Thank you”.
I never saw Duncan again. Soon after that I heard from Major Springer that he had been transfered to another base. But I’ll never forget the way his voice almost broke from the emotion he was feeling as he thanked my parents.
See, that is what I think the holidays should be about: It shouldn’t be about the presents (oh, I like presents, but it shouldn’t be the focus of the Season). Nor should it be about stressing about what part of the family you are going to  spend time with and what part you are not. Nor should it be about trying to outdo the neighbors for brightest lights. It should be about spending good times with good people, and building good memories. It should be about helping those that for whatever reason can’t be where they want to be. I think it was at that particular Christmas I began to truly understand that.

Thanks Charlie. I had not thought about that Christmas in a long time. Thank you for causing me to think about it tonight.

Still Here

I just realized how long it has been since I posted anything. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
I’ve not gone anywhere, or anything, I just haven’t had  anything I’ve felt like writing about.  I need inspiration.
Actually I think I need a quest. Something to focus on, cause gods know I’ve not had a lot of success focusing on the things I think I should be focusing on.