Still Here

I am constantly amazed at how fast time moves the older I get.  February, March, April, and now May have all come and almost gone and to me I still feel like Christmas was just a few days ago. I think of all the things that come with getting older that is the one curiosity that I keep coming back to. I try not to dwell on it to much because if I do I start to realize the if my life expectancy is anything like my father’s then I am two thirds done with my time on Earth and that scares me. Really and honestly it frightens me to a point that in those quiet moments in the day when I am left alone with my thoughts I can imagine myself going insane from the fear of death.  It passes and I move on but those moments are real and something I didn’t experience until the last year or so.

With that being said, in some ways I am happier than ever. I am really enjoying life with my wife and daughter. We are working well as a family.  We are having fun and most of the time truly seem to enjoy being around each other. Emily is reaching the age where she can talk deeply and knowledgeably about many things and we have some great discussions.  The three of us really work well together and have been having some wonderful family experiences. I look forward seeing how our family continues to evolve over time.

The year anniversary of my father’s death came and went and I did not really address it publicly. I just couldn’t find words that fit how I felt. I miss him a lot.  More now than right after when he passed. I am having a hard time with the thought of “never again” when it comes to talking to him and the further removed I am from his death the more real and painful that reality becomes.  He was a good person, better than I will ever be, and someone I didn’t have enough time with when he was here.

One of the great things in life is finding or understanding your purpose. I am not sure I have it right yet but I get the strong impression that my purpose is to be a father. I don’t know if I am doing it right but I enjoy the hell out of it and watching Emily grow up has been the real joy of my life. I don’t know how often it happens but in our case Emily really is greater than the sum of parts that came to make her.  I believe Cindy would agree with me on that.  She is smart and funny and has a kindness in her that I never had. I hope the world does not burn it out of her. If she can be that person when she is 30 then I would feel like I did my job.

Anyway, I am still here, alive and kicking. At least for another day anyway.  There are only a few hours left so I think I will be able to close this one out. We’ll just have to wait and see how tomorrow goes.

Revival by Stephen King

Revival

“Revival” By Stephen King

Those that know me at all know that I have been a Stephen King fan since I started reading “adult” novels. I remember my mom borrowing them from a library and I guess I picked up on the buzz surrounding his work during those early years. Eventually my mom even had a few of his books on the shelf at home. I vividly remember reading her copies of The Dead Zone and Firestarter to this very day. Reading those books was like watching an R rated movie when you were too you to really be doing so.  There was something forbidden and dangerous about it and that made it all the more interesting and exciting. Of course my parents never really censored books from my so I wasn’t doing anything off-limits but it still felt like it. I was hooked from the very first book I read and I have been hooked ever since.

I have to admit that I haven’t been as enamored with King’s work the last few years. I have spoken often about the change in his writing after his accident. His mastery of the craft has not changed but the stories just don’t have the same punch as what I remember from those early works. I will certainly admit that we are both older and that may influence both his writing and my experience reading his writing but I still argue that he has softened over time. The other thing of note is that those early books, the ones that really put him on the map, were written under a cloud of addiction. King overcame alcohol and drug addiction during his career and while this admirable and I am really glad he is still around there is no denying that mind altering substances can enhance the creative process. Whether it is age, the accident, sobriety, or just the well starting to run dry, King’s work doesn’t strike me in the same way it once did. There are always flashes of the old King in his more recent work but nothing every comes together quite like Pet Sematary or IT. At least not for me anyway and Revival is no different.

Revival is about a young boy who crosses paths with a minister that has come to his town to take over the local church. Reverend Jacobs is also fairly young but is married with a child and seems to have a very content life. It is a life, however, that hides a mystery and a very peculiar hobby.  The boy, Jamie Morton, encounters the Reverend Jacobs at several points throughout his life and although Jacobs helps Jamie out of a very serious situation the price that Jamie has to pay is very unexpected. It seems the Reverend might be messing around with things that aren’t exactly in the bible.

I figure that is enough of a plot outline to get you interested.  What I really want to talk about is my thoughts on the book after I finished it.  There will likely be spoilers scattered about from this point on so be aware.  I won’t warn you again.

I liked the book. I looked forward to reading it every day. Jamie is an interesting character even if he is all too familiar to King’s “constant readers”. What is regretful here is that Charles Jacobs is the more interesting character and way too little of him is seen in the book. He pops up that the critical points and then all but disappears. While I expect King intends Jacobs to be mostly a cipher I really would have like a little more with him. In fact, that is what I think this book is missing. There isn’t enough of the antagonist so there isn’t enough tension or intense beats within the story. It is just a slow build to the climax which happens about 15 pages or so before the end of the book. It is over quickly and then you get that very King ending where even though the danger has passed, nothing is quite back to normal and the hero always has some kind of debt to repay. For me it was just a kind of tired end and one that I have read many times before in other forms. I had the same criticism of Doctor Sleep and this book follows much of that book’s structure. It is so disappointing. I desperately want to have those same experiences that I had with King when I was younger but nothing seems to deliver. Maybe the experience is different for people that have not read a lot of King’s work. I wonder.

I also want to address one specific problem I have with the book.  This is absolutely for those that have read the book and I would love to hear from anyone else on the subject. Jacobs is almost a sympathetic character. The kind of pain someone must go through losing their wife and child like he did must be almost too much to bear. Jacobs’s decent into obsession is understandable but there is something that King leaves out and it is bugging me. He clearly cured Con’s condition with the “secret electricity” at the beginning of the book. That is the only explanation of Con’s behavior at the end. Given that this is true then Jacobs had already acquired some of this hidden knowledge BEFORE he came to Harlow. How did he come by this knowledge? What inspired his experiments with this knowledge BEFORE his family was taken from him? I want to know more about how he ended up with this knowledge. If he was messing around with this stuff from a young age then it is harder to see him as sympathetic. This is the root of my disappointment with the book. Jacobs is the interesting character, not Jaime. I think if this had been written in King’s early career we would know more about what Jacobs was up to prior to meeting the Morton’s. It is frustrating to see threads of things that would have been very interesting but were never fully developed.

Negatives aside, I still enjoyed the book. I always enjoy King’s books, even the bad ones and this isn’t a bad one.  Not to me. I just think way too much potentially interesting stuff was left out.  That and the quick way things ended. I wanted something deeper and I didn’t get it. Oh well, it was still a good read and I certainly would recommend it. I am admittedly a harsh critic of King. I think the biggest fans of any creator tend to be the hardest on what they create. High expectations and all of that. I have two more King books on my shelf and there are 3 or 4 more out there that I don’t own. I still plan on getting to them eventually. Once a constant reader, always a constant reader.

Those Fleshy Parts

I have been trying to go to the YMCA after work.  I can’t seem to get into a regular schedule but I am trying.  One thing I don’t think I will ever get used to is the locker room.  I just can’t stand around and talk to other naked men.  It is just so darn weird to me to have a conversation with someone with all their bits hanging out.  I am so much of a prude when it comes to others of my sex that I try not to even make eye contact when I am in the locker room.  I just want to get in, get my clothes changed, and get out.  I don’t want to talk about Obama’s healthcare policy with Rupert right as he gets out of the shower.  It just won’t be something I will ever be comfortable with.  Does old many Willie and his Willie really have to step on the scale without pants on?  I vote no.

I never liked the locker room as a kid and I don’t like it now.  Oh, and by the way, if you are the guy at the Pelham YMCA that likes to dry yourself by standing in front of the big fan I suggest you go see a dermatologist about that mole on your ass.  It looks kind of angry.

Back to Nature

Yesterday’s excursion to Ruffner Mountain inspired me to do something I have been wanting to do for a while.  I bought Emily her first (of many I hope) real hiking style backpack.  I was about her age when I first got one and that pack was with me through a lot of fun outside.  My favorite memories of scouting are from backpacking trips and it is one activity that I constantly regret that I don’t make more time to do.  Mostly it has been because I haven’t had a hiking partner but also I have just been a little lazy.  I used to love going out for day hikes with our dog Sophie but as we both got older, fatter, and lazier we stopped going.  I miss it.  I don’t think our current dog, Mollie, is much of a hiker and Cindy has had multiple knee and ankle surgeries that makes high impact hiking troublesome.  I even tried to get Emily interested in it when she was much younger and she never really came around.  I am hoping now things will be different.  The first step in converting her to an outdoors-man…or rather an outdoors-PERSON is getting her some gear she can call her own.

The North Face Terra 40We went with The North Face Terra40 as her first pack.  This pack is specifically designed for a woman and we found that of the available models at Bass Pro Shops on Saturday that it fit her best.  I found it a little weird trying to fit a backpack to her because a lot of the things I care about were a little awkward for her.  I was especially flummoxed by the standard chest strap.  I like the chest strap as it makes the pack feel more stable on my back but I can see how a woman might have real trouble using it.  Otherwise everything else seemed to fit pretty well.

We had planned on getting up early today and taking a day hike at Oak Mountain State park but rain stopped that plan in its tracks.  I can say we were both fairly disappointed.  Ultimately though I am glad we went ahead and made the purchase because we now have the pack ready when the weather turns a little nicer.  I don’t think I am looking to do any over night backpacking yet but I do hope this is a start.  I find a lot of joy in being outside and away from all of the distractions of the modern, connected life.  There is always something new and interesting to find outdoors and I always feel a bit renewed after a long hike.  I don’t know if it is the same feeling others get when going for a long run or something similar but when it comes to athletic activity hiking always made me feel a little more alive.  I hope I get to share that with my daughter and I hope this kid, who has basically grown up indoors, finds something special about it as well.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve

We got out of the house on Saturday to FINALLY check out the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve.  We have tried on other occasions to visit this park but it seems like something always got int the way.  We tend to get out on Sunday’s more than Saturday’s and the park doesn’t open until 1:00 on Sundays and I think that is what has stymied us in the past.  No problem this time though as we got out of the house mid-morning on a Saturday.

Ruffner MountainRuffner Mountain is situated right in the middle of east Birmingham.  In fact, getting there is a little off-putting because you can’t imagine a nature preserve being so close to home and neighborhoods.  Once we got there, however, we were really surprised at how much area was available.  We first explored the nature center which has a few animals which have been rescued in the area.  Then we took off on the trails.  I found one particular bit of history quite fascinating.  At one time the area was being developed as a tourist destination.  A large cistern was built for swimming and quite a bit of sidewalk was poured but then the Great Depression hit and the development ceased and most of the project was left unfinished.  Most of the area, however, was used for mining and you can see some of that history along the many trails at the park.

Since we had not come prepared to go for a long hike, we left after a few hours with the hopes to return and explore some of the longer and more difficult trails at a later date.  I am especially interested in hiking the Quarry Trail which promises both a beautiful overlook of Birmingham and possibly the chance to spot fossils from a period of time when Birmingham was underwater.

As someone who has explored Oak Mountain State Park for years, this was a nice change of pace.  We got to see some different landscape and learn a little about the history of Birmingham.  I think it is a park we will certainly visit again.