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Curly Hair - 12/15/09

Circles baby!  

Dash calls his curls 'circles.'  And there's no doubt about it; 'circles' are cool.  Curly hair has its own personality.  It's like having a neighbor follow you around, except the neighbor would be on top of your head.  Dash looks a lot like Meme.  In photos like this one, the resemblance comes out.  And the curls!  Dash once asked me: 'Why is other hair straight?'  What a Zen thing to say!  Why is any hair straight?

Also note how Dash and Meme both tilt their heads when they smile.  Tara does this as well.  Maybe I do, I'm not sure.  It's one of those mannerisms that makes us look similar, as a family. 

The Mall - 12/14/09


The mall is a fascinating thing.  Malls are a perfect of example of something that makes sense in concept, but in implementation becomes downright creepy.  Malls make sense.  You want to buy stuff?  Put it all close together and serve lattes; people will come.  Sweep the floor and add some sparkly lights for the ladies and put in some gadget stores for the guys.  But things go terribly wrong.  You end up with people in logo-emblazoned shirts, holding trays of pink yogurt shouting: 'Hello sir!  Would you like to try our candy cane mocha chip gellatinianno today?'  And some of these stores sell... exactly what?  A pillow case that doubles as an iPod holder with room from a built-in frog sanctuary?  Two for 50 bucks?  Well...  Now that we're talking price that doesn't seem like such a bad idea.  Where does all this stuff come from (I mean before it's made in China)?  Where is it all going?  When will we run out of plastic?

Brothers, part 1 - 12/13/09

Grant, Charles  

Grant and Charles have always been the 'west coast' brothers to me.  It's interesting, thinking that most of the family thinks of me as a west coaster now.  I don't know if anyone knows how much Grant and Charles have helped me.  When I moved back from France, Charles gave me a job at his law firm, while I was living at his house.  He never rushed me to move out, never complained about my stature as 'not sure what I'm doing here.'  That may be because he convinced me to move back, but that's another story.  We'd play guitar together, swap songs, it was fantastic.  Grant got me an interview with Constructa.  They hired me as a 'French Project Liaison.'  This was my first real job.  Before that....  well... before that there's a long story but I hadn't really worked much before that.  At Constructa, I worked for an absolute nut named Jeff Poetsch (whom I still talk to).  Jeff got me into programming and said: 'You should leave this translation thing behind and go full bore into technology.  You're damn good at it.'  I took his advice and got a job working for a pen software company in Atlanta.  So depending on how you look at it, these guys get all the credit or all the blame!

I still talk to these two a lot, and I'm thankful for it.  So even though I'm cynical this 4.0 non-web thing can be quite touching, even a little hallmark-y.  I owe Grant and Charles a lot!

This photo is from Charles' wedding last year.  Grant was the minister, a thought which sends chills down the spine of even a die-hard pagan like myself.  But Grant really rocked the part.  Charles looks quite dapper and the place he and Doreen got was perfect.  At dinner, everyone was sharing stories about Charles and Doreen.  As the best man, I suddenly realized I had to think of some funny story to share about Charles.  My challenge was not thinking of one; my challenge was which one.  Anyway, I stood up to deliver my eulogy and suddenly Dec reached across my lap and slapped Dash in the face - real hard.  It was a smack-down take-no-prisoners-I-don't-care-if-you're-on-Dad's-lap slap.  They both start fighting right there at the table.  It was all Mon and I can do to wrestle them away from the dinner party.  'Sorry!' I shout, over my shoulder, 'I'll be right back!'

I regret not telling that story, and also regret that I've forgotten which story I was going to tell!

Jump in every puddle you can find - 12/12/09


This is serious, mud-flying, boot-filling, teeth-chattering puddle jumping.  Dec pours water out of his boots afterward.  I suggest you jump into any puddle you can find.  I went record shopping with my Dad a long time ago.  I was hemming and hawing over some Thelonious Monk Japan pressed vinyl I had never seen before.  He said: "You gotta buy it.  You'll always have twenty bucks in your pocket, but you might never see this album again."  Well I didn't buy it - and he was right twice.

Jump in every puddle you can find.  If you're not pouring water from your boots at the end of the day, then you haven't lived.

Kids teach you to live life twice - 12/11/09

Dad!  Look!

There's a left-hand turn we take off seventh avenue.  The left-turn light is slow and we often have trouble making the turn.  Lately, the construction crews are 'improving' the road, which means they make the road so bad you wish it would just go back to its old terrible state, then they finish up and it's not much better, but it's way better than it was during construction.  So you think 'Well, they must have done something.'

Dash and I are in the car one day, waiting for that stupid left-turn light to turn green.  Dash says: "Dad!  Look!  They're dumping coal in that truck!"  I say: "I think that's tar-" "Quick!" he says, cutting me off, "Take a PICTURE!"  I fumble my phone and can't get the camera option to come up; the guy behind me leans on his horn, which makes me laugh.  Dash laughs: "Is that man upset, Dad?"  "I dunno," I say, "He's gotta be mad at someone."  I snap a couple photos (a great one has the cab of the truck - not shown here).

I don't think much of it, until later.  Dash asks to see the photos, so I load them onto Mon's computer.  He's very serious about the whole thing, not real excited, a bit grim actually.  He explains to Dec what the trucks are doing.  We all talk about the road.  Dash really thinks about this.  It's important to him to have these photos.

It makes me think of all the beautiful things I breeze by because I'm so focused on the horizon.  Stop and smell the roses?  I have better ideas...  Stop and hear the dump trucks.  Stop and smell the grime.  Stop and taste the acid rain.  It's all a beautiful circus.  Without kids, I think I'd miss most of it.

When you can't be funny, steal a joke - 12/10/09


My friend Al sent me this photo and an email from someone at his work.  I really hesitated before putting this on the 4.0 non-web site.  It's not my joke; the photo is not from our family.  But sometimes, something is simply too funny.  I cannot be improved.  I cannot be altered.  It must be passed on.  After much deliberation, almost as much deliberation as my PFO, I decided to include it here because Bruce (whom I've never met) would fit right in at Centre Farm.  It comforts me, in fact, to know that Bruce is out there.  When I wonder: 'Is there anyone in the world crazier than I?'  I will now hear a resounding: "Yes!  Bruce Addis!"

We shall henceforth celebrate April Fool's Day in your honor and call it 'Bruce Addis Day.'  We will celebrate by taking our humor 'outside.'

Thank you Bruce!   

From: Bruce Addis
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2009 2:26 PM
To: Al Burdulis
Subject: Merry Christmas

"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever.  Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Bruce Addis

Neighborhoods - 12/09/09


For those of you who don't know Declan's friend Nate, all you have to do is look at this picture.  You see that yellow-hooded blur with a smile?  That's Nate in his natural habitat.  He's a ball of energy and smiles like you would not believe.  Many have tried to photograph Nate, and many have failed.  That neutron squashing machine in Switzerland is 1/2 the speed of Nate.  Years from now, we will measure distances between galaxies as 'Nates.'  But I digress...

Declan considers this cafe his.  It's called Trouble Coffee and it's the best coffee you will ever drink in your life.  We live in the Sunset, which is the best neighborhood in the world.  If you walk the length of Judah Street, you will hear 4-5 different languages and most signs will be in Chinese, with some in Russian.  Irish bars still survive (I mean, who ever thought an Irish Bar was a bad investment?)  but they're disappearing.  From our house west, it's all nicely trimmed homes and over-cast skies.  When you hit the 40's, you begin to see the surf community.  If there's good waves, you'll see commuter-sized groups of people in wet suits walking down the street, headed for Ocean Beach. 

A couple blocks west of Trouble Coffee, the Pacific Ocean.  It opens like a blue lawn stretching the horizon.  I often walk to 30th Ave and peak over the hills at the ocean.  This is where we live!  Declan and Dashiell will say 'I grew up in the Sunset.'

How cool is that?  A neighborhood. 

Marriage - the great catastrophe! - 12/08/09


If you want to worry about your marriage, look no further than this long-winded article in the NY Times.  I just finished it.  It's not really worth the read, but for someone out-of-work, it certainly made time pass.  But look at these two here in this photo!  One time, when visiting Dad at Sunrise, I told Mon: 'Get ready.  This is where I'm headed.'  She said: 'Ok.  I'll bring my knitting.'  I had no idea what that meant, but a few weeks later I had a stroke.  And Monica brought her knitting!  She stuck with me big time.  Read the blog if you don't believe me.

Marriage is such an interesting thing.  Were Mom and Dad masters?  Did they even know what they were doing?  Since their generation had less tolerance for 'choice' (whatever that means), did they feel compelled to make things work?  Did they ever think: 'We have no choice'?  Did their faith 'force' them to stay together?  Only they know for sure, but here are some key things I saw.

 - Dad always talked about how great Meme looked.  Always.  He would compliment her 20 times in one dinner.  You would have thought he had just met her and was trying to woo her away.  He flirted with her endlessly.  She would smile, knowing he was hers.

 - Meme always knew what Dad liked.  On nights when he didn't have to go back to the hospital, she would open his beer and put the newspaper by his dinner plate.  I knew this meant that Dad had the night off.  On nights when he was on call, she'd put coffee and no newspaper (not sure why no paper).  A small thing that I'm not sure Dad noticed - maybe he did.  Not sure.

 - They laughed a lot together.  The only thing I saw Dad enjoy immensely, while Mom scowled, was The Benny Hill Show.  It still amazes me that Benny Hill was on PBS.  Anyway, Dad loved this show and he used to let me watch it with him.  Mom did not approve.  Otherwise, Mom and Dad really seemed to laugh at the same things.

 -  Dad always bought Mom stuff, surprises.  He always kept her guessing, which I think she enjoyed.

 -  They travelled a lot together.  I do think travelling bonds people.  You figure out directions, check into strange hotels, listen to the accents of the people, discover new music and art.  You eat strange foods and laugh at your belly aches.  Travel turns a couple into a team.  This was true for Mom and Dad for sure.  One time in Hawaii, Mom, Dad Tara and I were so lost (on an island!!) that we started following the setting sun, thinking it would at least bring us to the western part of the island.  At one point, we stopped at this lumberyard.  Dad asked the woman there for directions.  Trying to help, she came out of her office to point which way - and ended up locking herself out of her own office!  We four were laughing so hard, trying to hide our chuckles but unable to.  The funniest things happen when you travel together.

 - They read books together.  They didn't necessarily read the same book at the same time, but I remember them talking about books.  Oddly, I don't remember Mom talking much about Melville (whom Dad loved) but otherwise, I remember them talking about books a lot. 

 - They shared a faith.  I remember Dad once saying: 'I was reading this book about how someone thought God could be a woman.  How ridiculous!'  He laughed and laughed.  Meme said: 'Well.  She could, you know.'  And they talked and talked.  Dad's point was actually very interesting.  He thought that, since the spirit 'entered' us, then God had to be male.  I was pretty young when we were discussing this, and I thought it was fascinating.  I remember watching Dad pray at church and wondering at how weak he looked.  He would take his glasses off, holding them in one hand.  He brought his other hand over his eyes and bend his head low.   He looked so troubled, hunched over with some great weight.  I still wonder what Dad prayed for.  I watched him pray; I'd always sneak glances.  It terrified me to see him so troubled.

 - They didn't worry about money.  I never saw them argue about money.  While it's true that we certainly had a lot, I remember Mom telling me recently: 'People always thought we were swimming in money; they didn't know how far in debt we were!'  She said that with a laugh, and then explained to me how much they had to borrow to buy One Salem Street.  I was amazed.  Personally, I have not taken the same risks.  I don't have the guts.  They really were living on a string for a long time.  But I never saw them fight about it.  In fact, one year, they were audited by the IRS.  I remember this very well!  There were piles of tax files in the ballroom at Centre Farm. It was even more insane than normal.  At one point, Dad was explaining to Mom all the different files, which years they were, etc.  and he just started busting up laughing.  He and Mom were laughing hysterically for about 10 minutes.  It was all so ridiculous, so terrifyingly Kafkaesque that all they could do was laugh.  I think of that and smile.  They never took themselves too seriously.  They never fought about money. 

My favorite part of Mom and Dad is that they did not teach me by telling me.  They simply did what they did; it was up to me to follow.  I try to do this with the boys, but it's tough.   Other siblings will have their own versions of Mom and Dad and they're all true.

(And thanks to Lea for the photo!) 

We're lumberjacks, and we're OK! - 12/07/09

Cowboy Donovan

Sometimes, you're handed a little gem.  This is the barn at Centre Farm.  One day, in a stroke of genius, someone said: 'Hey!  Let's have a hoe-down in the barn and all act like we're from Texas!'  As you can tell from this crowd, it was probably Lea's idea. The only one smiling is Lea - and it's a big damn smile.  This proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the hoe-down was Lea's idea.  Maybe Protestants dress like this!

Let's take each of these characters one by one and savor the moment.

Meme.  Her smile is strained.  She's saying: 'I'm gonna get Lea for this one...'  You can also see that glimmer in her eye.  She's thinking: 'There's so much space in the barn.  Hmmm.  Should we go shopping after this?'

Lea.  I saw those pants on a homeless guy in 1987 and his friends we're making fun of him!  Look at those pants!  Those pants could start and then stop World War III.  Your hat is bigger than God and your hair looks fantastic!  You are savoring the moment of getting everyone to dress like cowboys.  Who can manipulate the wills of men like Lea?  Even now, if Lea said: 'Simon, you'd look good in chaps...' I'd resist, but I know I'd soon find myself, lasso in hand, singing Buck Owens tunes.

Me.  There's only one thing to do in this situation and that's give the peace sign.  You know, in London, this means something else entirely.  And my mouth, it's turned up at the corner.  I think I'm in the middle of saying: 'Please save me from these people!'

Ed.  He is thinking: 'I left med school for this?'  Also, Ed looks pretty dangerous.  Is he reaching for a gun?  And that vest!  Ed should wear that vest over his lab coat.  Advantages:

 - Keeps any blood stains discreet.

 - Who would mess with a cowboy doctor? 

Grant.  Does anyone know the band Phish?  Grant actually sings lead for them.  Grant looks thoughtful.  He just moved back from Steamboat and he's thinking: 'I leave, and everyone is normal...  I come back, and they all dress like people from Steamboat circa 1903.  Is this some strange welcome party?

Dad.  He's saying: 'You don't like these over-alls, then come over here and f..k with me!'  The only time I saw Dad looking that mad was one time when I told him I didn't think taking out the trash was work that suited me.  Of all of us, Dad looks the most like he actually came from the fields, tilling the earth on the farm.